Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Amazon Book Reviews 2014


A little known factoid, I sometimes write Amazon Book Reviews. It was a confluence of Amazon probing me to write reviews of purchases, an overload of bad (free) ebooks on my Kindle, and the rest is, shall we say—history.

OK, so now you know I have a Kindle, and a pipeline for free ebooks from the eReader Cafe and BookBub—and I've been an involuntary invalid. I've been known to read as many as four books in a day... Sometimes escape fiction is the ticket. However, I just can't believe there's so much bad escape fiction out there. In self defense, I'm doing something about it review, by review. Maybe it's also self-inflicted punishment for reading so much drivel. Cat-o-nine-tails. Reviewing books is not an easy writing form for me.

So far, I've over 30 50 reviews under my belt. My reviews rarely get read, but when I strike a negative chord—the loyal fans of authors with dreadful books, vote en masse. On one particularly atrocious novel—from a woman who teaches creative writing in San Francisco, no less—the negative votes outweigh positive tallies 21 to one. Ouch! Must be her loyal students voting. Rule of thumb: the more atrocious the book, the more negative fan votes I garner. Fans reward bad writing.

I'm not one to write a fluffy review, I try to be fair. I also try to be entertaining, hopefully not at the cost of the author—but sometimes I wonder if most ebook authors have ever heard of spellcheck, let alone, editors.

At present, I am writing under the handle of MoH (it's a hot cross-pun on moh, and the mohs scale of mineral hardness). I'm awaiting to see if there's any kind of backlash—so far, so good. I may upgrade my Amazon user name to MoHurley. But the problem is that makes me traceable on Google—as that's also my Twitter handle. And I'm not sure if I want unwarranted attention. Amazon's a big place.
Moh (Sanskrit muh: “to become stupefied, to be bewildered or perplexed, to err, to be mistaken”) stands in ancient texts for perplexity or confusion as also for the cause of confusion, that is, avidya or ajnana (ignorance or illusion). In another context, it stands for “the snare of worldly illusion, infatuation. —Wiki

If you so feel inclined, mosey on over to my Amazon Reviews, and if you like them, click on the Yes button. (You do need to have an Amazon account in order to participate, however...)

I still haven't gotten the generic title thing down. They're pretty sucky. I'm open to suggestions. I also have trouble entitling poems as well. Most of those generic titles may change when and if I get inspired.

When I write a review, I often push the publish button (there's no save draft button) to save my first draft before Amazon crashes, or stalls and wipes out my unsaved review. It's happened. I generally lose interest and won't rewrite a review if Amazon crashes.

Then, when I do go back and revise a piece (and I revise early and often), it's often an Amazon-inspired nightmare as it sometimes takes 10 or more tries to save the updated version/title. I never could get my final version and title of Worse Things Happen at Sea to load.

I can hear you saying now—so why don't you write a review offline? Don't be so sensible. There's something about the pressure of writing live, and knowing that it might crash before I've saved a draft that spurs me on. Apparently I need whip & spurs coupled with the ephemeral threat of textual oblivion—in order to write, so S&M!
   

(Don't know how long I'll keep up with reposting my reviews here. And I'm forever revising them as well. I noticed that the copy and paste method isn't quite working but I'm not willing to reformat all of these. They still should lead to the reviews, if it's easier to read them there. And maybe vote or leave a comment? Love ya.
It's getting harder and harder to "save' these posts as I add new reviews. I think the HTML is choking Blogger. I might need to make a new blogpost in order to continue to repost my Amazon reviews. "Allison" may be the proverbial straw... )


TO READ MORE REVIEWS, PLEASE VISIT:

MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2016
MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015
My Amazon Book Reviews 2014
My Amazon Book Reviews 2013


Death by Desire (Caribbean Murder Series, Book 4)
Death by Desire (Caribbean Murder Series, Book 4)
Price: $4.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Death by typosDecember 20, 2014

Boilerplate novelist, Jaden Skye is a hack writer who has no respect for the technical aspects of her craft (or her readers). I can forgive an author's limited vocabulary, or clumsy sentences that change tense mid-stream. But when the writing's consistently slovenly, novel after novel, there's no excuse. Skye's typos and grammatical conundrums will have most readers e-ranting within the first few chapters. Most of the comments on her dozen Caribbean Murder novels, the same criticism is repeated: books are riddled with myriad errors. I guess Skye either doesn't read the Amazon reviews, or her persona is thicker than sharkskin. The novels read like first drafts.

There are the usual misplaced possessive apostrophes, and missing conjunctions; Skye arbitrarily capitalizes random nouns, and leaves proper nouns lower case--sometimes with unintentional meaning. "I'll handle this mother," Lynch tried to intervene. Is he swearing, or addressing his mother? (LOL, she's even got a typo on her web page: Jaden skye.) And when in doubt, Skye uses inventive spelling. I guess she's not aware of spellcheck and other resources on the the web.

In Death by Desire, Jaden Skye is name-challenged: she conflates characters--she confuses her protagonist Cindy with the victim, Tiffany. Sometimes the dead girl is speaking. Oops! Cindy's sister Ann becomes Anne, depending upon the paragraph. Another reviewer asked if the "victims mothers' name Meryl or Myrtle?" She also has conflicting gender issues: a guy named Frances vs Francis? The fiancé suddenly becomes a fiancée. Sex change? She uses the word heroin for heroine. Talk smack.

And Skye repeatedly repeats dialogue. Didn't I just read that? Skye's unsure of compounds words, so she separates them, which makes for tedious sentences: "he was an ego maniac." Forget using the word: redhead. That's too compound a thought. To shore up weak verbs and nouns, she uses a plethora of adjectives and adverbs. Skye should banish all forms of beauty from her limited working vocabulary. Especially the word "beautiful." In Death by Desire, she uses the word beautiful(ly) a whopping 70 times. Thesaurus much?

I've read most of the Caribbean Murder Series because they were initially offered free. Locales are all Google-generic, I doubt if the author's been to the Caribbean. Skye's stronger on dialogue than sentence structure. She has an interesting, if formulaic, storyline, and can cut a good yarn, but the plot tends to be thin and two-dimensional as the characters themselves. And the same old clichés and tropes become tedious after a few novels. For someone who lives out of her suitcase, Cindy is always stepping out in immaculate pastel linen dresses. Really? How does she do it living out of her suitcase, on the road, in the tropics, no less?

Note bene: This review is a revision. I came undone and wrote a compound review for book number 8, so some examples were pulled from several of her books. (See my review of Death by Obsession). I didn't have the heart (or stomach) to write a different review for each novel, as I'd need to revisit the books, and that would be pure torture.

Suffice to say Death by Desire is a particularly rough draft. I kept thinking that Skye's writing skills would improve over time. Not happening. My flabber is gasted. She needs to hire a boatload of proofreaders. Better to save your money, and especially your valuable time--for a more deserving writer



Time and Again (The History Mystery Series Book 1)
Time and Again (The History Mystery Series Book 1)
Price: $0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning: Dux ex machina at workDecember 20, 2014
Interesting cross-genre story that cleverly weaves tantalizing wefts of historical fiction with the warp of time travel (pardon the pun). Loved the characters, the stories within a story, the use of a non-analogous timeframe via a special computer program. Time and Again is well written for the most part, but sometimes transition paragraphs and pages are missing as the author shifts from scene to scene, making parts of the story confusing. An editor would've caught those omissions.

The author wrote that she used a light hand and didn't "believe secular readers will feel bludgeoned." She did a good job--at first. As a secular reader (love the term), I found the last third of the storyline heavily dependent upon Bible quotes. I felt cheated by the author's use of Godtalk to wrap up the storyline, and the story itself is not complete, there is no real, or satisfying conclusion. It just hangs. I had to read the preview of book two in order to find some sort of literary closure.

I rankle at being told HOW I should feel as a reader, I want to arrive at my own epiphany at my own speed, not be subjected to artifice in order to conclude a storyline. Whatever happened to the use of metaphor as a vehicle? I was reminded of Aristotle's tirade against untalented playwrights' use of Dux ex machina (when a god is introduced into a play to resolve the entanglements of a [bad] plot). It seems that whenever a Christian author gets stuck on how to resolve a scene, she rolls out the Godtalk, and hoses the reader.

As to the cliffhanger structure, of course, the point of a trilogy in cliffhanger format is to tempt you, Dear Reader, into buying book two (Unclaimed Legacy) in order to find closure. But wait, there also a third book (Every Hill and Mountain), so, unless you plan to purchase all three books, and you're also fond of young adult Christian lit, better save your time for another author.
Just for You (Escape to New Zealand)
Just for You (Escape to New Zealand)
Price: $2.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Half-baked prequelDecember 20, 2014
Rating: half-baked. Unless you're already a fan of this series, don't waste your time. "Just For You" is both a prequel and a novella. The writing is competent, the characters and locale, interesting. But most of the story is comprised of lengthy steamy scenes both in the bedroom, and on the rugby field. I really don't want that much information on a rugby game, thank you very much. Pages and pages of flat sports reportage. Why is it included? What purpose does it serve? How does the detail add to, or advance the storyline? Tedious to read if you're not a sports fan.

"Just For You" is a story low on plot and character development, it reads like an unfinished writing exercise. (Apparently this is the expanded and revised version.) Too bad, because there are many original and tantalizing and memorable scenes that could be developed. I was thoroughly irritated by the time I got to the end, wanting the time spent reading it, back. Not a particularly satisfying read, but prequel novellas are, at best, unfinished business. Luckily it's a quick read.

Sadly, the prequel did not entice me to be come a fan of the "Just For..." series, nor did it inspire me to want to read the the other books in the series, though I am very interested in New Zealand, and in Maori culture. Many things seemed too contrived (plug in cool Maori cultural artifact here, and here...), and because I didn't trust the veracity of the author, the "escape" part of escape fiction, eluded me.

I also found the included glossary pedantic--the author explains scores of common British idioms and phrases that really don't need translation, they aren't even Kiwi words. I can figure out "brekkie, bollocks, bush, chuffed, footpath, hoover, joker, lounge, pissed, sportsman, tea, ticker, shag, spew, whinge." Really, really. Besides, most of them already are included in the online Kindle dictionary.

Enough whinging about that: Maori words and customs absolutely do need explaining, and that analogue glossary (you had to go to the end of the book to find it), sorely needed expanding as there are only nine Maori words/phrases included. It would make more sense if the Maori terms had embedded hot links to the glossary. Better yet, the author could also include a working definition of Maori terms and context within the story, it would go a long way towards developing the thin storyline.



1.0 out of 5 stars A shipwreck of a writerNovember 11, 2014
Typos and grammatical conundrums will have many readers gnashing their teeth: Jaden Sky is a slovenly writer who cares little for the technical aspects of her craft. I've read most of the series because they were free, she's got a decent storyline, and I like the protagonist. But I'm about to throw my hands up in despair and toss the series overboard to the sharks. Silly me. I kept thinking that Skye's writing skills would improve over time. She needs to hire a proofreader.

I can forgive an author's limited vocabulary, or lackluster sentences that change tenses mid-stream. But when the writing's consistently sloppy, there's no excuse. If you read most of the comments for her dozen Caribbean Murder novels, the same criticisms is repeated ad nauseam: riddled with myriad grammatical errors. I guess she doesn't read Amazon reviews. A pity, because with an editor, Skye could become a decent writer.

What finally sent me off the deep end as a reader, is that Skye is incapable of distinguishing between common nouns and proper noun and these stories read like bad Victorian novels: his friend's Dive Shop, she went to the Police Station, they slept in the King size bed. Skye arbitrarily capitalizes common nouns, and leaves proper nouns lower case--sometimes with unintentional meaning. "I'll handle this mother," Lynch tried to intervene. Is he swearing, or addressing his mother? (LOL, she's even got a typo on her web page: Jaden skye.)

Skye conflates characters, in one novel (4) she confused Cindy with the victim, Tiffany, which made no sense at all. Sister Ann becomes Anne. And she repeatedly repeats dialogue. Didn't I just read that?

Then there are the wrong words spelled right. "For all we know you could be best." (Hint: best may be spelled correctly but it's the wrong word. Try next.) Why do I, the reader, have to stop, and supply the right, or missing words? Isn't that the writer's job?

She's unsure of compounds words, which makes for tedious sentences: "he was an ego maniac." Forget using the word: redhead. That's too compound a thought.

Misplaced possessive apostrophes: "people often blame the one's they are close to...." Add missing conjunctions, and a plethora of adjectives and adverbs--Skye should banish all forms of beauty from her limited vocabulary. Especially the word "beautiful." In book 4, she used beautiful(ly) a whopping 70 times. This volume, over 40 times. Thesaurus much?

And when in doubt, rather than look it up, Skye uses inventive spelling: hor doerves for hors d'oeuvres; St. Marteen for Maarten. Now I'm cringing. Especially when there's spellcheck and other resources on the the web. I won't mention the bad formatting issues.

Skye's strong on dialogue; it's fairly realistic. She has an interesting storyline, and can cut a good yarn, but the plot tends to be thin and two-dimensional as the characters themselves. And the same old tropes become exceedingly tedious after a few novels. For someone who lives out of her suitcase, Cindy is always stepping out in lovely pastel linen numbers. Really? How does she do it living out of her suitcase, on the road, in the tropics, no less?

BTW, sleuthing clues on Facebook is not realistic PI work. Almost everyone has their profiles locked down tight. But that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Better to save your money, and your time for a more deserving writer.


Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Prince of Tides is a king tide among books,September 13, 2014
Way back in 1986, Pat Conroy had me hooked with the opening paragraph of The Prince of TIdes. The first chapter is pure poetry.

The story is told by former high school football coach Tom Wingo, who quit teaching after a nervous breakdown. As Tom excavates his childhood to his suicidal sister's psychiatrist, to save her life, he unveils three generation's worth of tragic Wingo family secrets (death, rape, incest, abuse), so that the healing may begin--for all of them. Conroy introduces a large cast of complex characters, and a convoluted storyline, set in South Carolina and New York--rife with many bizarre and hilarious segues and flashbacks that will keep you riveted to the book until the wee hours to find out what happens next.

If you liked the movie, you may not like the book, as the 1991 movie, a romantic drama, does not do the novel justice. Streisand and Nolte's vapid love story as Susan and Tom, is a superficial portrayal of the novel, at best. Conroy's lyric prose is majestic as a king tide, and his lucid writing style remains a touchstone among writers. If I could give Conroy's Prince of Tides ten stars, I would. It's a full admiral among books.

Alas, the negative reviews seem to be from non-readers fluent in remote control technique (read: short-attention span syndrome). One nascent reader compared the novel unfavorably to a TV reality show: Cops of Alabama. The negative reviews cite that the story's over the top, unbelievable, too many big words (!), or made up. What they don't realize is that few authors can write with that depth and brutal clarity from mere invention. There is real history, autobiography, and first-hand real life observation hammer & tonged into all of Conroy's stories.

This book was written nearly 30 years ago; it was a milestone then, and it still holds. A modern classic. The Prince of TIdes is a real bargain at $1.99. Buy it. Read it. You won't regret it. It is a story that will stay with you and sustain you for decades to come.

See also Conroy's The Lords of Discipline (1980)about The Citadel, Beach Music (1995); an autobiographical novel about his father, The Great Santini (1976; and Conroy's memoir: My Losing Season (2002), chronicling Conroy's senior year at The Citadel--where he recounts many of the very real episodes portrayed in his novels. Also join him on Facebook. He often posts snippets of stories.

Allison (A Kane Novel Book 3)
Allison (A Kane Novel Book 3)
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling family saga, great readJuly 11, 2014
"Allison" is an emotionally charged teen angst story of a young girl coming of age. It's also an intelligent, well-written police procedural drama. Author Steve Gannon has created a realistic family saga where the complex, well-crafted characters are memorable. There's one small sexual encounter, so it's not a story for young readers.

I downloaded "Allison" last summer and never got around to reading it, so I didn't realize that "Allison" was the third book in a quartet about the Kane family. The book stands alone, and the necessary backstory is blended in so seamlessly, I had no idea that there were prequels: "A Song for the Asking", and "Kane." I like the economic reuse of setting and spin-off characters in different books, but I'm not a fan of serial books that are cliff-hangers, as they often end abruptly (read: badly written), and leave me, the reader, feeling unsatisfied. This book is a complete stand-alone story that won't leave you hanging, but it will leave you hungry for more work from this writer.

That said, sometime the revolving points-of-view were confusing. Allison tells her story in the first-person, but the omnipotent narrator also gets inside the heads of the other characters to describe their motives and thought processes. Suggest that Gannon use chapter headings or * * * whenever there's a major shift in perspective. Sometimes I lost track of who was speaking during quoted reportage as well.

Occasional prosaic writing verging on poetic prose is worthy of Pat Conroy's "Prince of Tides": "Past a seaside berm, racing to elude uprushing tongues of foam, a platoon of stilt-legged terns pecked at the water’s edge, their nimble dance with the waves casting flitting shadows in the slanting rays of the early morning sun." Lovely, lovely.

Gannon wove in pithy aphorisms that had me laughing: "If a woman talks in the woods and there’s no man around to hear her, is she still complaining?” and "If we can't show our feelings, we might as well be men." (LOL. Gonna use that woods one again.)

There are occasional awkward sentences that made me wince: "Travis seemed to me to have grown even more handsome over the past years. Working summer construction jobs had hardened his body," (to me to have grown?)
Um, a gifted concert piano prodigy would never work at construction jobs. His hands are far too valuable. Heavy labor could ruin his hands. Just sayin'. (Or is this problem addressed in the earlier novels? Or was Kane portrayed as a sadistic father in the previous two books? I did read the online samplers after I finished this book.)
Sometimes the wrong words came out of Allison's mouth in first-person-singular. Words like: youngster, young—would a 19-year-old girl describe a guy her own age (or older) as a "young man"? That threw me out of story. Who was speaking? An older man (the author), or Allison?

Some descriptive errors had me gnashing my teeth: "A troop of terns skittered along the shoreline, their curved beaks probing...." (Terns beaks are straight. Curlews and avocets have curved beaks.) And "patches of poison oak, recalling the rash he had noticed on Mr. French’s hand..... hidden behind a clump of sumac..." (Sumac is not poison oak, no sumac whatsoever in California—it's an East Coast plant.) Gannon clearly knows the LA Basin (and roads) first-hand, but he's no native. Also, some of Gannon's landmark descriptions feel like they're coming out of the mouths of relators. Better to have characters to also use colloquial names vs. legal names for authenticity.

There are tiny typos and punctuation errors: invisible of it,. (Not both at the same time). wedg e
A cool moniker: Dadzilla, (but if petunia is a nickname, it too should be capitalized.)
Loved the "whom/who" lesson. Made me look up the "m-word" rule of thumb: if it's him, then it's whom; he/who.

Odd formatting characters that made the book seem like it was rushed into eformat: Sammy + +, house materials leads” tips if they didn’t like it tough. Kate’s illness” show Coastal Living, But what” (This section had so many little ASCII squares, it looked like a checkerboard game) anything traits I had developed growing up in the Kane household. But whatever it was my seeming confidence, my cut-to-the-chase interviewing style, or even the spillover from my televised rescue effort at the wedg e  one balance (The Wedge, a proper noun, should be capitalized.)

Unlike many self-published ebooks flooding the cyber-market these days, Steve Gannon's debut book, "A Song for the Asking" was also previously released as hardcover by Bantam Books, 1997. That means the manuscript survived a cadre of agents and were vetted by editors before making it into print. I hope that Gannon plans to continue to use a cadre professional copy editors for his books—nothing worse than typos ruining a good story. And he missed a few.

It's getting harder to trace when/if an ebook was previously released, as Amazon Digital is often listed as the first release date. But I think it's important to know when the original publication date was as it places a story in a historical context. For example, I'm not entirely sure when the story of "Allison" takes place, is it time-present, or within a specific timeframe?

From other readers' comments, I've gleaned that readers should begin at the beginning with Gannon's debut novel: "A Song for the Asking "(A Kane Novel Book 1), and "Kane" (A Kane Novel Book 2). However, the story of "Allison: (A Kane Novel Book 3) stands alone. If you have Amazon Prime, then you can read the entire Kane series for free. Almost makes me want to consider using Amazon Prime. Gannon has a good thing going with the Kane family. I look forward to reading all Gannon's books including the forthcoming Kane novel, "L.A. Sniper" as well as "Glow," featuring a new protagonist, Mike Callahan (and possible series?), and a collection of short stories, "Stepping Stones." Fodder for other literary lineages?

FWIW, I rarely bestow a five-star rating on any ebook I've reviewed. Some ebooks are so awful, they deserve minus-star ratings. "Allison" is in a league of its own, and deserves a full five-star rating. Kudus Mr. Gannon.


Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry
Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Epic adventure that's somewhat hard to swallowJuly 10, 2014
Ireland of 1755 was ravaged by famine and a way of life was destroyed by the brutal occupation of the British. For Darcy and her brother, Liam McBride, life in Kerry was hand-to-mouth; their family died during the Great Frost and Hunger of 1740. But they were survivors. When villagers were caught smuggling wool for French brandy, the men were hanged, Darcy was put on a conscription ship and sold in sexual servitude to a British officer in the colonies.

Massachusetts was still the frontier and the British-French Indian wars were in full swing. The first part of the story depicts how Irish Catholics had to fight to practice their religion, and to survive. The second half describes how Irish Catholic peasants were routinely conscripted into servitude by the British. Being an indentured servant in the New World, meant one was a slave, with no rights. But Darcy makes it a brave new world with her fortitude and will to survive.

I had trouble getting past the introduction: the author informs us that the heroine's name, Darcy, meaning 'dark' i(from the Gaelic). Dubh is dark in Irish. No way to get Darcy from that. D'arcy (the archer) is an Irish surname from Strongbow's Norman invasion, not a girl's first name. There are other anachronisms, many threads and storylines.

One reader commented that Amanda Hughes draws a historically-challenged timeline of Famine Ireland and pre-revolutionary America. Another reader put it: "The transition to the New World was interesting, but somewhat unauthenticly staged."

I wonder if some of the confusion lies in the fact that several readers erroneously assumed that the famine Amanda Hughes refers to was the Great Famine, An Gorta Mór of 1845, but she's actually referring to an earlier famine. The Irish Famine of 1740–1741 was called Bliain an Áir, the Year of the Slaughter, (caused by extreme weather and poor harvests), not the Great Hunger (caused by a potato blight). By 1755, there was little by way of food. I quibble: "the repressive system" didn't cause the failure of crops—the weather did; coal was scarce and peat was the only source of heat.

Amanda got this part right: "the British had imposed severe constraints on every facet of a Catholic's life. No Catholic could vote, buy land or worship openly." And "the British paid paltry sums for the Irishman's wool. The government allowed the Irish to trade with no other country but Great Britain..."

This is a story of belief and determination where faith in God motivates and informs the characters, but it's not a Christian love story. The strong protagonist is passionate and courageous. However, i got rather tired of hearing about Darcy's amazing green eyes. it has some poorly written dialogue, there are missing words, punctuation, paragraphs, and pages. It's not evenly paced. An ambitious amazing debut novel with engaging characters. An epic adventure, it is not light reading or a fluffy romance. The author bit off more than she could chew. As another reader wrote: "the author broke every writing rule simply because she clearly did not know them." The story would have better served if it were split it into two books.


Wild for You (Tropical Heat  Book 1)
Wild for You (Tropical Heat Book 1)
Price: $0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars A real time killerJuly 10, 2014
Wild For You is a cheesy formulaic romantic suspense story set in Florida. I liked the setting, and the basic storyline. That's about it. There's a reason why I forgot that I read this book last summer. Like most books in this genre, it's on the forgettable side. A good escape read if you don't demand too much from a book, other than pure escapism, and have a lot of time to kill--as you'll be rereading sections to figure out what's going on.

The story begins well but the plot's contrived and convoluted. The premise that the main characters get married to dissuade a stalker--is just too weird and contrived. Add a quickie novella ending, and silly didactic dialogue, makes for an incredulous read. Your suspension of disbelief skills will be sorely challenged.

Characters are flat, and undeveloped. Detective Clay Blackthorne's a surly alpha male who's pathologically gunshy around relationships. Clay plays bodyguard for his friend's impulsive little sister. But Marcos Calderon doesn't want Marisol to find out that Clay's protecting her. They go to great lengths to keep Marisol in the dark. Clay and Marisol are polar opposites. Opposites attract. But beauty salon owner Marisol is such a twit, you'll wind up rooting for the stalker.

Like many Kindle serial books, the first one's free. So far, there s only one more book in the series: Sold on You (Tropical Heat Book 2). Sophia Knightly's got eight books under her belt. She is the author of the Heartthrob Series (3 books). She's also written under the pseudonyms of Victoria Marquez and Victoria Koch. Juvenile writing loaded with a plethora of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Kill some tired adverbs already. Glad it was (and still is) free. Meh. I wouldn't recommend her books--whatever name she writes under.


The Language of Sparrows: A Novel
The Language of Sparrows: A Novel
Price: $1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story & superb read (for Christian lit)July 4, 2014
Unlike most free ebooks, The Language of Sparrows is a real novel where the characters are well developed and the writing is top-notch. The story swoops and soars across a wide range of human emotion.

The Language of Sparrows is a dark story of three generations of flawed characters, a mother and daughter, a father and son—all driven by anger, betrayal and despair, as a consequence of trauma, who have managed to survive by hiding from truth. But do they have the strength to face their own personal demons and to forgive themselves and each other? It requires growth. Stepping out of the comfort zone.

Chronically upbeat widower, April, a classic enabler in denial, her brilliant, broken daughter Sierra; Sierra's teacher, Nick, and his bitter father Luca, a Rumanian prisoner refugee whom Sierra befriends—could be characters from a Flannery O'Connor story. They're portrayed that viscerally.

Granted, Sierra's self-absorption and April's anger with her dead husband are a bit tedious. Nick's wall of anger towards his father is annoying. But it serves to remind us that they are all tragically flawed characters. (As are we). Their present lives no longer hold. The only way out is through. It's a story of faith and redemption where the characters are forced to reexamine and let go of the past, in order to survive. Love is the answer. Love is what saves them from themselves.

In the first half of the book, Rachel Phifer's use of Scripture fits in seamlessly with the characters personae and storyline. I'm no fan of Christian lit—but I'm a fan of good writing. Most Christian lit ebooks are awful—Biblical quotes randomly plastered throughout the books. However, the story employs some heavy-handed proselytizing during the second half of the book and has a Sunday morning revival tent feel to it, and it sometimes reads like a 12-step program, but the story holds. It holds.

The book is well crafted and the author's use of poetic turns of phrase and vivid imagery are a delight to read. Convincing dialogue moves the story along. There are occasional misused words or idioms: (her blouse [sweater] was cashmere;
Luca Prodan and left Nick fatherless for all intents [and purposes];
I’m wasting [killing] time until I pick her up)
but the author, Rachel Phifer, daughter of missionaries, grew up in Africa. So her odd speech acts would definitely be related to not growing up in the USA.

I'm still puzzling over a storyline oddity the author employs as she obviously has good writing skills: Rachel Phifer suddenly changes perspective about half-way through the story, using proper nouns in odd locations—Mom, Dad—usually to set a descriptive scene, or when a character is thinking—interior monologue (my brackets)
[Nick's father] Dad turned away and made a noise that sounded too much like a sob.
[Nick's father] Dad pounded a fist into the kitchen cabinet, and then did it again so hard Nick thought the Formica would splinter. (Luca and his son, Nick).
[Nick's father] Dad studied it for a moment and closed the book, his face haunted. “Oh, Sierra,” (Luca and April's daughter, Sierra. The Dad thing doesn't work—Luca's Nick's dad, and would be the equivalent of Sierra's grandfather if they were related).
[Sierra's mother] Mom looked away and began chopping strawberries with a furious knife. (Sierra and her mother—this is an action scene, not recollected; is Sierra rewriting scenes in her head?

At first, I thought the author's odd use of the proper capitalized noun (she does know when to use dad vs. Dad) signaled a change in perspective. But that didn't explain its peculiar usage. Left to my own devices, and unwilling to let go of the storyline and seeking resolution, I assigned the author's strange use of proper nouns to the omnipotent voyeuristic ghosts of dead siblings/family members watching on from afar (or from above). Who was watching, who was telling the story? Who's listening?

The characters will continue to haunt you long after you've finished the last page.


Ms America and the Offing on Oahu (Beauty Queen Mysteries #1)
Ms America and the Offing on Oahu (Beauty Queen Mysteries #1)
Price: $0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Fluffy murder mysteryJuly 1, 2014
Mindless light entertainment, something you can read with a half a mind or half an eye and still enjoy the escapism aspect. Funny lines about hairspray and CFCs, and other occupational hazards of being a beauty queen. Snarkiness and clever dialogue had me tittering throughout.

The protagonist, beauty queen-cum-amateur sleuth, Happy Pennington, is a bit daft, but talks tough. She wants to be remembered for her brains, not her beauty--but working brains inside the collective heads of beauty pageant contestants are in short supply. Think Miss Congeniality, except Sandra Bullock had more smarts in her little finger than Happy and her gang combined. Happy, a murder suspect herself, manages to solve the crime: who spiked Tiffany Amber's lipstick with cyanide?

Lots of time is spent on clothes details, food, and product placement. But then the story is about the fashion/beauty industry. I'm not a fan of books that name drop clothing labels and shoe brands. It was so overdone in Sex & the City, it's a cliché; now most chic-lit authors pile it on like Crisco frosting. But I did learn a few fashion tips: don't use ductape on your boobs, use packing tape for that extra lift; and there's cheek adhesive spray for your butt to keep your bikini from thonging you to death. LOL.

Characters are flat and two dimensional. Quirky names will have you substituting them with real people's names: emcee Mario Suave, coach Rex Rexford and his blond bouffant 'do, Dirk Ventura he-man, promoter Sebastian Cantwell (Simon Cowell?), Magnolia Flatt (who's anything but flat) and lush Sally Anne Gibbons who fills out her ample muumuu.

There are a few typos and punctuation is haphazard. Author must've been a camera news reporter, not a writer. "The mongo cash is why I entered," Shanelle puts in. Did she mean mondo?

Not a book I'd ever reread or want to loan to anyone. No little grey cells will be harmed in the process but you may need to wake them up from deep hibernation when you're done. If this is your cuppa tea, then you'll love Ms America and the Villainy in Vegas (Beauty Queen Mysteries #2), Ms America and the Mayhem in Miami (Beauty Queen Mysteries #3), and Ms America and the Whoopsie in Winona (Beauty Queen Mysteries #4).



Forgetting Tabitha the Story of an Orphan Train Rider
Forgetting Tabitha the Story of an Orphan Train Rider
Price: $4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A brave attempt at a historical novelJuly 1, 2014
Forgetting Tabitha the Story of an Orphan Train Rider was an ambitious attempt at a complex historical novel but too many technical issues interfered with the storyline. It needs a good rewrite. The most annoying aspect was the novel's physical layout. Unexpected switching of character perspectives--rarely with a warning or chapter heading, had me rereading several opening paragraphs: who is speaking? Whose point of view? It didn't help that many of the characters used the same speech acts, so they weren't distinctive voices on their own. Sometimes the characters switched roles mid-paragraph.

General fact checking, necessary for a historical novel, is a particular weakness. Anachronisms litter the manuscript: the author uses 20th century vocabulary that wasn't even coined in the 19th century (perineal tissue, mantra, inner child, juvenile houses, zippers). Before the founding of the New York House of Refuge in 1825, youths were imprisoned with adults. They weren't called juvenile houses. Zippers, invented in 1851, were called "hookless fasteners" and "clasp lockers"; they made a public appearance in 1893, but weren't manufactured until 1913.

So when exactly is this story set? It opens in the 1850s with Tabitha's birth, then it seems to slither through several decades to the 1920s. Author doesn't have a firm grasp of the social mores of the times, and employs too many modern standards for her characters. Unwanted pregnancy was taboo and hush-hush even during the 20th century.In the 19th c. women didn't travel alone, and certainly were never seen in public in that condition. It just wasn't done. Women literally hid out during their confinement period. One was either "expecting," or "in a family way," but never "pregnant." Also, during this time frame, teachers were single women of exceptional virtue, and an unwed mother would never have been accepted as a teacher. Ever. A simple internet search for 1800s to 1900s reveals that: "Teachers are expected be virtuous and have extremely high morals. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed."

The California gold rush was over by 1850, massive hydraulic mining was over by 1855; the Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859; but by the 1870s, silver too had panned out. The Klondike Gold Rush wasn't until 1896. So, Scotty wouldn't be taking of going gold panning in the 1870s.

Tabitha, an Aramaic New Testament name, too is an anachronism. I get the metaphor: a woman who was raised from the dead by St. Peter, but...it's not one that an Irish immigrant family would give to a child. Tabitha was a common name in New England, between 1718 and 1745, but it was a Shaker and slave name. And Salt is an English name, not Irish. The saltmine of Carrickfergus was discovered in the 1800s, so the moniker couldn't have been passed down several generations, ca. 1750. So much for surname veracity.

Author attempts to set too many scenes with a liberal dosing of swearing, and overuse of body fluids and functions, gore and violence--that made for a nauseating read. We get that it's dirty time and place but so much of the description was contrived overkill. Almost pornographic and sadistic as Gangs of New York. So many extraneous scenes. Some of the descriptions seem like excess padding--like "Oh, I forgot to add a description of... That'll help set the scene." Whatever happened to the adage: show, don't tell?

Then there's the technical aspect of the writing: many regrettable typos and a plethora of homonyms had me giggling:
...Salt, our sir name, was... Did the author mean surname?
...for fear of flees and lice... Hopefully she meant fleas?
...please don't be mad at me! I couldn't bare it.... Bear it? Or maybe it was a disrobing moment.

Compound words (and hyphens) exist for a reason, for sentence clarity.
...over ripe bladder...
...make shift weapons... I double-read this sentence.
...did not over power the aromas...
...our land lady...

Misplaced punctuation:
The Wright's are good people;... Wrights. No possessive apostrophe.
...cowgirl, lasso's and fake guns... Lassos. Ditto.
There were many more typos as well. Agh!

The manuscript has great potential. I appreciate the time and the labor of love that went into the creation of this story. But the author needs to employ a decent editor, and a cadre of proofreaders and fact-checkers, as myriad technical flaws interfere with the storyline. She also needs to clear up the timeline anachronisms. A manuscript should not be slovenly--it should be perfect before being submitted to the ebook format. Let's hope that in future novels, the author pays particular attention to the details of her varied and sullen craft. Take care of the reader. Always take care of the reader.



Weddings Can Be Murder
Weddings Can Be Murder
Price: $0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Contrived murder mystery romance, June 30, 2014
Katie Ray was engaged to Joe, but their wedding planner was murdered. Katie and Carl, a private investigator were locked in a room by the murderer at the murder scene. Katie's BFF Les fell for a guy at a bar...who happened to be Joe. Meanwhile, the bungling murderer chased after the wrong bride. Murderous mayhem ensued. I enjoyed many of the subplots and vignettes: scenes of a demented grandmother Mimi streaking in her birthday suit were hilarious, as were some of the poodle scenes. The dishwashing scene (and getting busted) was original and fresh, as was the use of the pumpkin tablecloth dress as a sex deterrent, a case of mistaken butt identity, and the sympathy puker scenes all had me laughing.

But there were just too many inadequate descriptions with weak verbs and nouns, and repetitive physical character descriptions were tiresome. It's bad enough that the protagonist, Katie Ray was a nervous puker, but 25 repetitions of her family adage: "she was a Ray and the Rays don't..." do this, or do that... was a downright annoying storyline crutch.

I think I've just found my all-time favorite comedic typo: "The dick of a knob filled the silence..."; there were a few other sticky wickets too.

If you're offended by foul language, steer clear of this one. Like with the somewhat contrived sex scenes, the gratuitous swearing seemed formulaic and repetitive. Not exactly character development. What, after 100 usages of f and d words, the author couldn't think of another word for sex? There was even a doggy scene. Bleagh. It felt like the author was trying too hard to be edgy and relevant, which made it all seem so teenybopperish. Brady Bunch references date this story. (FWIW, a similar draft of this review was censored by Amazon. And I didn't even swear. LOL.)

Contemporary romance? Meh. Glad it was free. Not quite sure how Christie Craig got promoted to a New York Times bestselling author. Definitely NOT on my must-read list.

A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft)
A Beautiful Heist (Agency of Burglary & Theft)
Price: $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Adrenaline-pumping crime novelJune 30, 2014
Cat Montgomery, the Seattle cat burglar with a strong ethical code is a memorable character. Busy, improbable zany plot with many loony threads--but still a highly entertaining. Nice touch--with a tilt o' the hat to John Robie. Cat is a female version of Cary Grant, cat burglar extraordinaire in To Catch a Thief, meets the looniness of the Pink Panther, with a chaser of The Vinci Code. A great weekend read guaranteed to pump up your adrenaline levels.

Well written debut novel. Fast-paced dialogue. Lovely bits: "Stars dazzled in a tuxedo sky...." And then the author had to go and spoil it all by writing something stupid like "ajar of mayonnaise." Proofread, please!

Not to be confused with A Beautiful Heist by Paul Van Huffel

Free Falling (The Irish End Game Series Book 1)
Free Falling (The Irish End Game Series Book 1)
Price: $0.00

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost meets stereotyped IrelandJune 24, 2014
American family vacations in rural Ireland when the nuclear bombs begin to drop. EM pulses render electronics inert--including all communications and cars. They revert back to the wild west days in order to survive.

Imagine a "Lost" style post-apocalypic doomsday survivor story, set in an Ireland based on stereotypes from 200 years ago. This book is loaded with canards. Nothing worse than an American writing about Ireland from afar. Susan Kiernan-Lewis has modern Irish people living in dirt-floor houses. She mixes Irish and Scottish speech acts with aplomb, and fact with fiction.

For starters, she misspells Ballinagh--an alternative spelling is not optional. A quick peek on Wiki would've straightened her out. I had to look it up to figure out where the story was set, because the book references Southern Irish speech acts and then switches to Northern Scots-Irish idioms. Highly unlikely, also, that Ballinagh would be Irish-speaking. (She says Gaelic, vs Irish-speaking). We won't mention her references to distances. Ireland's just not that big a place.

What really had me seething was when the author conflated native Irish Travellers (Pavee) with Romani gypsies. Few, if any Romani lived in Ireland before 1988 (an estimated 1800 to 2400 Romani total live in Ireland today), and they sure wouldn't name their (red-haired) children with Irish names like Finn, Conor and Brendan. Travellers live in caravans (motor homes), not tents. The gypsy angle of the story's fairly racist as well.

BTW, the Irish don't eat corn, cornbread, or peanut butter. Hard to make butter from goat's milk. Many cars in Ireland don't have electronic circuit-boards, and so would still run. You could always pop-start an old car. Car batteries could be jerryrigged to charge electronics. Ireland has solar and wind power. Off-grid would be a short-term affair. I could go on....

The usual typos abound. "His Dad" vs "his dad" and "You're Da would be proud." (Should read "Your da would be proud). Affect vs. effect. Implausible storyline, American Rambo soccer mom meets bad gypsies. When Lost concluded, I felt cheated as it relied on an overbearing Christian element to wrap up loose ends. This story too leans heavily on the Old Testament (an "aye" for an eye) to carry the storyline--which is more Southern as in Dixieland, than Ireland. One's suspension of disbelief will be stretched to the breaking point.

If you read most of the four and five star reviews, they mention the protagonists as Sarah and Matt Woodson--and the disclaimer: the reviewers were given free books. The protagonists are now Sarah and David (as in Goliath), no Matt. FWIW, Kindle's freebie ebooks are teasers to entice you to buy into the series. Not gonna happen on my watch. Not even for free.

The Billionaire's Second-Chance Bride (The Romero Brothers, Book 1)
The Billionaire's Second-Chance Bride (The Romero Brothers, Book 1)
Price: $0.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful! Awful! Awful!June 24, 2014
This story is saddled with a weak plot, flat characters, poor sentence structure, choppy syntax, and just plain old weird writing. The author employs a vapid, stagnant writing style, and uses a shallow vocabulary riddled with a plethora of weak verbs and superlatives. Over 100 exclamation marks were used in place of a lack of working verbs!!! If I hear the word "hot" one more time, I'm gonna barf on my Kindle, ("hot" was used at least 60-70 times, "beautiful" and some variant of "sex" were used 50 times each). Shadonnna Roberts: get a thesaurus fergawdsakes. The inane characters say things like "Heck"; yet the author writes: "he was a sexy and as hot as hell..." as if the story couldn't decide whether to be a Christian story or a steamy romance. Who is the audience?

One tediously long sex scene. (There goes the teen audience). Far too many bad 80s iTunes playlists invoked. The unbelievable plot is shallow and riddled with loopholes, and there are few transitions. No segue to Lucy and Antonio's breakup and proposal. It's as if a huge chunk of the storyline went missing. We're told that the story takes place in Toronto, but it's only a placeholder for a locale—like much of this book. I tried to give it a second chance as I bogged down at Chapter 5, I managed to finish the book and now I'm really sorry I persevered.

So much for a fun birds themed wedding. Angry birds a la Hitchcock's The Birds is about how I felt by the time I got done with it. Don't waste your time. Many little grey cells will be harmed if you persist in reading this drivel. Teenage writing, at best. FWIW, no self-respecting Italian man would be called Toni. It's Tony.

Book One was so awful I can't imagine there are more of these things out there breeding. I can't believe I actually finished this book. Colossal waste of time. Not worth the price—not even for free.

The Last Call (The Bill Travis Mysteries Book 1)
The Last Call (The Bill Travis Mysteries Book 1)
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Gumshoe NoirJune 24, 2014
If you find yourself choosing new ebooks that you've previously downloaded, maybe it means that the storyline's compelling. The Last Call is a thriller novel replete with racehorses and quirky Texas characters that will stick with you tighter than a burr in your socks.

The hard-boiled detective story is narrated in the first person: Bill Travis, an unlikely hero (a maverick investment counselor by day—who likes to help people) rescues a green-eyed bimbo on the lam, Julie Simmons, who fleeced her mob boss boyfriend Archie Carpin of two million—and he wants it back. Bill uncovers a musty story of the old Carpin gang to boot. A story that should've stayed buried. You know the adage: let sleeping dogs lie. You don't kick them to see what happens next. But that's just what Julie did. And Carpin's henchmen are hot on their trail.

George Wier's witty and wry dialogue-driven writing style is colorful and he's not afraid to use simile: "her hair...the color of an east Texas sunset..rippled like the wind through the high grass." Don't be put off by the first few chapters, or look too closely at plot plausibility or character depth. I got tired of the "bitch glasses" and other overused stock phrases, but minor grammatical errors didn't interfere with the rollicking storyline. This is escape fiction in the vein of Hammett and Chandler. The page-turner plot is strong enough to keep you in the story.

Wier is a seasoned writer of 20 years. I can almost forgive the blerb writeup: "Julie Simmons...is deeply in trouble." Deeply? Suggest that Weir avoid weak book synopses in future. This is Wier's first book in The Bill Travis mysteries. Wier, a prolific serial writer, already has nine Bill Travis novels under his belt, and a dozen more in the works.

A Cat Called Cupid: A Romantic Comedy Novella
A Cat Called Cupid: A Romantic Comedy Novella
Price: $3.07

2.0 out of 5 stars Purrfectly Silly StoryJune 16, 2014
A sweet, simplistic short story about a clever cat named Cupid who lives up to his name and sets his Lady Ann up with a new boyfriend as she has purrfectly dreadful taste in men. Bella, a green-eyed Siamese, Cupid's lady cat love interest, has a nice owner, a downstairs neighbor, Craig, who's slovenly and single, so Cupid sets them up.

The short story is told from the cat's point of view. Lawyer Craig is a slob and her previous boyfriend, Jimmy the Cat Hater, is a real crook. Lady Ann and her girlfriend Flavia are annoying, whiny loquacious characters. Cupid the Cat is quite the British butler with his syntax, yet the tale is set in middle America, so it's a bit odd. But the premise that a cat can navigate a cellphone is also a stretch of the imagination. Siamese cats don't have green eyes. If they do, they're not real Siamesies.

Entertaining read as the author does capture cats' idiosyncrasies. One faked car accident, one tail stepped on, some unmentionable hairball talk, a real catfight, amore, cops and robbers. No foul language, but reading hashtages is ###### annoying. I found myself counting the number of hashtags to figure out what the ####### word or phrase was. Purrsonally, I prefer cursing. Author Mazy Morris claims this book is PG, hence the lack of cursewords, but Cupid's Lady Ann has the morals of an alleycat so, what's the point? It's OK to have 12-year-old readers learning about Lady Ann's X-rated sex life, but not see actual swearwords? Silly premise. A quickie read if you (don't) like cats and have some time to kill at the doctor's office. Engaging an extreme suspension of disbelief is in order, and you'll do fine with the tall tail. No hairballs were coughed up, or durty bums licked in the process. Mrrow!


Foreign Deceit (David Wolf Book 1)
Foreign Deceit (David Wolf Book 1)
Price: $0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Great cliffhangerJune 15, 2014
Ex-army Ranger, cop David Wolf, in the middle of an investigation in Rocky Points, Colorado, learns his brother John was murdered in Italy but the local police have ruled it as a suicide. So, without knowing a word in Italian, he travels to Lake Como to investigate, and gets mixed up with an international crime cartel.

Foreign Deceit is great escape fiction written in the tough guy style of James Patterson. A fast-paced cliffhanger. I was racing though it until the wee hours to see whoudunit. The conclusion took me by surprise, though clues were embedded throughout the story. I loved the idea of an American cowboy cop meets the Italian carabinieri, and the story within a story framework (plot, sub-plot). So, I was willing to overlook the fact that the protagonist couldn't really solve a crime in one week in Italy.

It's clear that the author has spent time in Colorado and the Italian Alps, and his veracity shines through in his writing. There's wit and intelligence. No fluff n' stuff; lean meat-and-potatoes prose. But too many awkward sentences spoiled the flow--especially in the scene where Connell tries to kill Wolf. Inadvertently comedic: "There were definitely three pairs of shoes pointing up the trail.." made me laugh. Shoeprints?

But Jeff Carson's new professional editor missed a few errors and typos. Wrong words and verbs: "Burton...had...given over the reigns to Wolf" and "Rossi took the reigns...". Reins, Dude. Reins. A horse bridle has reins, a king reigns. "
Wolf laid back fast, grabbed underneath the log," and "He laid back and rolled..." Laid? Really? Cluck, cluck, cluck. How about "leaned"? She..."laid down some coins.." is OK, but how about "tossed"? Avoid the layed/laid controversy altogether. (Lie is intransitive. lie, lay, lain (animate); lay is transitive. lay, laid, laid (inanimate)--two different verbs.)
Weak words: Jeff repeatedly used the word "property" several times, when he should've used "grounds" to describe the observatory setting. It's not a real estate listing up for sale.
There are other level words besides 'flat."
Wrong punctuation. "No dad." needs to be capitalized to "No, Dad" when it's a direct address. (Otherwise, it means he has no dad!). "My dad" (a generic noun) is lower case.
Jeff also needlessly capitalized generic nouns, (the Upper trail). Needs another edit.

Amazing first novel debut. I look forward to reading The Silversmith (David Wolf #2), Alive and Killing (David Wolf #3), and Deadly Conditions (David Wolf #4). David Wolf is an interesting, compelling character.


Where Two Hearts Meet
Where Two Hearts Meet
Price: $0.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Mind Numbing Christian Chick LitJune 14, 2014
An old flame,Tyler, seeking forgiveness and atonement, after brutally dumping Allie six years ago, tries to make amends by developing an ad campaign to put Allie and her sister Tessa's tea shop, Sweet Something on the Princeton map. Allie's latest guy, Peter who comes from old Princeton money, is a real material guy. Allie's faith comes first. Will she take Tyler back?

Carrie Turansky's writing style. though adequate, is pedantic and overloaded with mindless minutiae. I really don't want to know what every customer wore, or the delivery man's wardrobe if it has nothing to do with the story. The first novella (short story) Tea For Two, begins with such a blizzard of Christian words, I found myself speed-reading just to get through it. If Christian lit, peppered with Godtalk (ostensibly to deliver the character's frame of mind) and Bible verse quotes, melts your butter, then you'll love this book. I wish it had been labeled as Christian chick lit, I wouldn't have downloaded it. Besides, the Corinthians never wrote back.

Apparently there's a second short story of Tessa's trevails, Wherever Love Takes Us. I never got to it. The role of the short story is to get in early and to get out early, with a minimum of verbiage, not to drown the reader with excess detail, repetitive quotes and descriptions of clothing combos. It doesn't help that the author has a fondness for weak verbs, excess adverbs and adjectives. I got to chapter seven (and skimmed to chapter ten) before I gave up. Not enough storyline to hold my interest. Just not my cuppa tae.


A Bid For Love
Price: $0.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Escaped fictionJune 13, 2014
Cassi and Jared, two art gallery buyers from opposite ends of the country, meet at a bidding war to buy a bad copy of Buddha statue for their owners' galleries. But the bad guys seem to want that counterfeit buddha too. Cassi and Jared find love along the way as they outwit the bad guys and figure out what's inside the statue that's worth killing for.

Many readers are praising the book because it's a clean, faith-based romance. No smut, swearing or sex--but hey, theft, murder, violence and bloodshed are OK, right? One reader claimed it was a "good spiritual book," I had to laugh. Nothing particularly spiritual about it (except maybe to have a lot of kids). A pastiche of LDS Christian themes artlessly woven into the storyline doesn't enhance the story it so it's a tad awkward, but not overbearing. The fiction author's job is not to prosthelitize, or convert the reader, but remain true to their character's wants and needs.

The rather short story (or novella), is told from the alternating perspective of both Cassie and Jared. However, the somewhat daft but likable characters are flat, and two-dimensional; the plot has a few curious loopholes. Hence the three-star rating. At least Nunes' writing style is solid and lively, her grammatical errors are minimal, and it is an entertainingly light read. Simple summer escape fiction that won't make you think or blink. Not much by way of sizzle though. A light chick lit mystery/romance that's suitable for teenagers--if the story will hold their attention, that is.

Framed For Love, the second book continues the love story (Cassi and Jared's marriage, and the bad guys want revenge), and Love On The Run (the honeymoon, and other even badder guys) rounds out the trilogy.

The Skye in June
The Skye in June
Price: $2.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy writing, bad scholarship interferes with storylineJune 8, 2014
My neighbor lent me this book a few summers ago (she'd met the author), and I've tried to read it thrice as the subject matter intrigued me. Third time wasn't a charm. Nor was the electronic preview of any help. I foundered on the sentence where June MacDonald's mother, Cathy is "visually shaken." By the time I got to Chapter Three, I was seething. No excuse for shoddy prose:
"the cool night's air." The night owns the air?
"silhouette of the gibbous moon" A silhouette is a shadow.
"spring's late twilight?" Summer twilight?
"her boney knuckles?" Bony?
family members were "hung" Did she mean hanged?

After a few chapters, I found myself leaving a trail of postette notes throughout the book. I felt like I was grading a student paper. I kept putting the book down, at times it's unintelligible. I wanted to like the story--especially since the second half of the story chronicles the 1960's Haight Ashbury scene. But I never got there because of Ahern's writing style.

So much of the book is amateurishly written, I found myself skimming along to get to the next part. So I never really left the mean streets of the Glasgow story, (and what about the Isle of Skye?). Ahern certainly captures the prejudice and antagonism between Catholics and Protestants in Glasgow during the 1950s (alas, that vein continues to time present.) It's a dark, brooding story of a dysfunctional working class family hiding deep secrets, not chick lit, nor a bodice-ropper, though bodices were ripped. No Mean City captures the steamy undersides of Glasgow better.

I didn't know if I could bear waiting the storyline out to get to San Francisco to read about the tribulations of a Scottish immigrant family in America. (And to see if it compared with our family's Irish Catholic immigrant experience in San Francisco--my fey mother (a tarot packing psychic during the 60s), aunts and uncles frequented many of the the same locales--Playland, Sutro Baths, etc.) However, the emphasis on Catholicism, witchcraft and the occult to carry the storyline, did not intrigue me.

Also, the veracity of Ahern's Scottish informants leaves something to be desired--at least in the linguistic department. (I live with a Scotsman who grew up near Glasgow). I noted that the footnotes have disappeared in the electronic edition (I also read the free portion of the book online). The footnotes were distracting and often wildly inaccurate.

FWIW, many of the terms Ahern identified as Scottish, are actually Celtic--a shared tradition with Ireland, and the Isle of Man. Besides, most Catholic 'Weegie" families were originally from Ireland--especially in The Barrows. (Ahern is an Irish name.)

I wish Ahern would make up her mind with her character development. Is this supposed to be a novel or a thinly veiled autobiographical memoir? But myriad errors serve to constantly undermine the story. Makes me distrust the author's instinct. A Tinker (aka Traveller--Tinker is a pejorative term) is NOT NOT NOT a Gypsy. Ahern gives the Traveler Celtic attributes, then calls her a Gypsy. Argh! Travellers are not Romany, they are a Celtic peoples. Minor details, to be sure. But irritating.

DO avoid the printed version at all costs. It's clearly the author's first book, and it's really a rough draft. Glaring typos are more unforgiving on the printed page. This book is in need of a seriously good edit. That said, I look forward to reading the revised Kindle edition if she ever gets around to it. (Judging from the comments posted here, I'd say she didn't revise it).

Note bene: I wrote this blerb long before I began reviewing my ebooks on Amazon, and while cleaning out old files, I found these notes. Clearly, I was upset by the lack of editing in the book to write this. Since I've a few reviews under my belt, I decided to post it as well.

The Dream Jumper's Promise: A Paranormal Suspense (Dream Jumper Series Book 1)
The Dream Jumper's Promise: A Paranormal Suspense (Dream Jumper Series Book 1)
Price: $2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping crime mystery with a paranormal twistJune 3, 2014
Though the storyline is more intuitive, or paranormal, than supernatural, The Dream Jumper's Promise is a perfect summer read.

Recently widowed diveshop owner Tina Greene's plagued with recurring watery nightmares of her late husband Hank who was lost at sea while surfing off Maui. Jamey, a dream jumper, helps her to resolve the conflict, and resolve the mystery of Hank's death. Well developed characters. Interesting plot twists.

Though it's been a year since I've read The Dream Jumper's Promise, it stayed with me (I am still haunted by the ending); it deserves a review. (I wasn't yet writing Amazon reviews last year). I'm not a fan of the paranormal fantasy romance genre, I often find it insipid and boring. Lazy authors often boost up the Twilight Zone effects to mask bad writing and wading pool storylines. However, Hornsby's cinematically drawn story has real depth, if not the deeps.

This story's unpredictable plot, and dream jumping premise was so fresh and original, that I was able to overlook a litany of flaws: shaky grammar, repetitive lines, abrupt plot transitions, confusing scene leaps, orphaned ideas and subplots, and occasional geographical challenges. However, I found myself having to go back and reread bits, thinking I'd missed something critical in the storyline.

Because the book written with storyline set in time present interlaced with dreams, flashbacks and memories, some visual cues, such as italics, indents, and large paragraph breaks would be useful for the reader. (I once wanted Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury to be printed in different colors of ink to distinguish the threads. With electronic books, that would be a snap.)

The Dream Jumper's Promise could use a good, stiff rewrite (hence the three star rating) but still, it's a visceral page turner right to the very end. And it leaves an afterglow on the psyche. I look forward to reading The Dream Jumper's Secret in the The Dream Jumper Series.


Pretty, Hip & Dead (Agnes Barton/Kimberly Steele Cozy Mystery Book 1)
Pretty, Hip & Dead (Agnes Barton/Kimberly Steele Cozy Mystery Book 1)
Price: $0.00

54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretty dead & boringMay 21, 2014
Awk, I'm up to chapter 5 and I think I'll part company with this one. I'm not willing to invest another hour to read this triteness. Repetitive simple, choppy sentences, bad grammar, weak verbs, wrong use of words, and it was a boring read to boot. Got tired of waiting for the story to improve.

Flat, uncompelling characters. I wanted to off Kimberly the neurotic blonde bimbo and her weiner dog. I mean who TOSSES small dogs into cars? Shoes, maybe. At least shoes don't have fragile spines. Is that the best verb the author could think of? Toss? Poor dog.

I like my heroines to have an IQ above room temperature. I never did meet the senior citizens Agnes and Eleanor (who sound delightful) as the writing was so doddering, I gave up, Not cozy, not funny, and not light reading. More like amateur writing. Author Madison Johns needs to employ a good proofreader, a copy editor and a writing coach if she's planning on writing more books. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone--free, or otherwise. Awful. Oh wait, she had EbookEditing Pro (Editor), and Cindy Tahse (Editor). Suggest that she fire them.

If this were a paperback, then maybe the parrot would like it to line the bottom of his cage with it.


Slow Curve on the Coquihalla (A Hunter Rayne highway mystery Book 1)
Slow Curve on the Coquihalla (A Hunter Rayne highway mystery Book 1)
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rarified read--a gripping tale, memorable charactersMay 21, 2014
As I began reading the murder mystery, Slow Curve on the Coquihalla, I sobbed with unconscious relief: R.E. Donald's storytelling and intelligent writing style is superb. Donald's not afraid of using real verbs, nor afraid of simile and metaphor, and her working vocabulary is larger than a thousand words! YES! I didn't realize how starved I really was for decent writing as most of the Kindle Edition ebooks I've read on Amazon are, at best, meagre in word and plot.

Canadian writer R.E. (Ruth) Donald writes about what she knows firsthand and her writing style reflects her deep knowledge of the trucking world. Authorative polished writing, solid, well-crafted characters, great plot twists, pacing, and, of course, the prerequisite dangling red herrings. (Though I did guess who the murderer was, I still had doubts).

The protagonist, former Sgt. Hunter Rayne, a retired ex-Mountie-cum-trucker, reminds me of Canadian TV detective DaVinci, of DaVinci's Inquest--but he's more soulful, and self-reflective.

A complex, poetic character, Hunter, a lawman who retired after his RCMP partner committed suicide, and took to the open road as big-rig trucker. Hunter's still a detective at heart. When his friend is murdered, Hunter lives up to his moniker, and doggedly persues his elusive quarry, thus proving that the Mountie always gets his man. Indeed, old habits die hard: you can take the man out of the Mountie but you can't take the Mountie out of the man.

Alas, one reviewer thought the book was slow, another said it was over-written. Not at all. I suspect those readers haven't read anything challenging in a while, if ever. Not that this is a challenging book: Douglas doesn't insult the reader's intellect.

Bonus points for the lyrical prosaic passages--it's a love poem--a paeon to the Pacific Northwest. From the first paragraph, I was hooked: "Somewhere between him and the horizon, beneath the scalloped rows of gilt-edged clouds, the port city of Vancouver mushroomed along the shores of Burrard Inlet, her sharp edged buildings sprouted against the looming shadows of the Coast mountains." Or "His fingers played a scale on the steering wheel." (When I was young, I hitchedhiked those gorgeous roads). Douglas's writing style is a breath of fresh air.

I've not been compelled to give a five-star review for most of the free Kindle Edition ebooks I've read, but this one deserves it. And more. Douglas revitalizes the Kindle murder mystery genre. Kudus on your first book! You're rockin' it. Can't wait to meet Hunter Rayne again in Ice on the Grapevine.



Always with You
Always with You
Price: $2.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin foodie tale with little substance set on the Russian River during the 1970s.,May 11, 2014

Maybe I shouldn't have read this book when I saw the locale. See, I lived on the Russian River during the era in question, so I kept trying to ameliorate places and dates--especially since the author mentioned real people and places. I lived up the road from Speer's Market; Rosemary's Garden (by 1978, Rosemary Gladstar moved to Sebastopol), the Russian River Lodge, and Fife's Resort in Guerneville were all familiar haunts.

Even more awkward was discovering--at the end of the book--that Andrea Hurst was an Expressive Arts classmate of mine at Sonoma State. So I'm torn between Maybe I should recuse myself, to Yay! One of my classmates actually wrote this book! (Wow, she's a book agent, and writes for Writers" Digest? Kudus!). To--this book is positively boring. Let's just get on with the story, shall we?

Cathy, a hippie vegetarian cafe owner, has a chance encounter with a stranger, Jamie, a chef, who is married to Cat's best high school friend, Pam. They crashland on Cat's doorstep while he's being interviewed for chef positions. (It was love at first sight, or maybe first bite--since they're both foodies.)

I won't mention that in 1977, there were no tony five-star foodie resorts in Sonoma County, it was still an epicurean and cultural backwater). Cat does the honorable thing (more or less) and the brunt of the story revolves around will they or won't they acknowledge (and act upon) their mutual attraction? C'mon, this was 1977, everybody who moved to Sonoma County--straight, or gay--was pretty much grooving with everybody.

At best, Always with You is an overwritten and thin story, where the food was more real than the people. Hurst repeats lines over and over again, with an occasional prosaic burst. Cat's paramour Jamie is one-dimensional and is overly romanticised to the point of nausea. And if I hear how beautiful his eyes (or hands or biceps) are again, I'll rip 'em out. I also got right sick of hearing about the danged veggie burgers too. Is the author pushing an overt vegan agenda?

Also, in 1977, the Russian River was still economically depressed, the revitalizing gay scene hadn't kicked into overdrive, so the economy base just wasn't there. In 1977, chess world champion (and gay pioneer) Peter Pender just bought Murphy's Ranch, it wasn't yet Fife's Resort. I swam there when it was still Murphy's. It cost 50 cents a day. All the other gay resorts that Hurst mentioned, also hadn't yet come into being: Rainbow Cattle Co. (1979), Rusty Nail, The Woods (The Hexagon House--a conservatory designed by Walter Gropius), etc.

Though the author is pretty good a name-dropping locale, that's pretty much all it is--a thin veneer of name-dropping; the historical timeline is skewed. But it was fun to see my old Cotati hangout, Inn of the Beginning, and Monte Rio's Pink Elephant mentioned in print. FWIW: it's Duncan's MIlls, not Duncan Mills. The Blue Heron just opened in 1977--I used to produce Locals' music & poetry events there for Blue Monday. it's Wohler Bridge/Beach, not Waller (those other blogs you're lifting info from are wrong). In 1976-77, actor Fred MacMurray, closed down Wohler Beach, bringing in the long arm of the law (who were formerly content with peeking at us), and skinny-dipping was officially outlawed on the Russian River. That was the year I bought a bathing suit.

I fought long and hard to stay in the story, Always With You. After all, it's fiction, right? It 's a tale replete with a happy ending, if you have the strength to get to the end. I was feeling pretty peckish for a much meatier story by then.


Two Old Fools on a Camel: From Spain to Bahrain and back again
Two Old Fools on a Camel: From Spain to Bahrain and back again
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars British retired couple teach ESL in Bahrain during Arab SpringMay 11, 2014
I've enjoyed reading this memoir series, and I do admire the writer, Victoria Twead's pluck, as it is challenging to write an ongoing memoir series when there was little of note from one's former life to draw from. When Vicky and her recalcitrant husband Joe retired to a tiny village in mountainous Andalucía, Spain, from suburban southern England, it was a wild ride. Culture-clash with a side-dish of self-depricating humor drove the story. Her first memoir in the trilogy, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, is a screamer of a read.

In her second book, Two Old Fools on a Camel: From Spain to Bahrain and Back Again, Vicky's an astute observer of human nature. She's graced with a wry sense of humor, and she successfully mines humor in the unlikeliest corners. In this case, as English ESL teachers in Bahrain during the onset of Arab Spring, where chaos rules the day.

However, this book's a little more self-indulgent, a traveogue diary, rather than true memoir (Peter Mayle, she ain't). Though, the subject matter was tough to wrestle when one was stuck in the midst of revolution, Vicky doesn't have the journalist's edge, and is sometimes condescending of Muslim/Arab culture. Alas, this is somewhat of an ingrained English trait, so it may be unconscious on her part. Vicky was clearly out of her comfort zone in the Middle East, (a huge culture-clash), and I would've liked to see a little more self-reflection from the author.

I liked the book format with recipes links embedded at the head of each chapter, but I had no idea who the cookbook author Nadia Sawalha was, or how/why Vicky chose her recipes. There needs to be some sort of backstory to introduce the cookbook author, how Vicky met her, etc.

I loved the buried nuggets: Vicky's confusion dealing with myriad Mohammeds, students' crazy misuse of words that vaguely resembled other words (Mrs. Malaprop would've been proud), and the ingenious methods they resorted to in order to cheat on exams. (Ban cellphones from the classroom!)

However, the book was rife with glaring grammatical errors--from somebody who is teaching English ESL? Agh! Another reader noted: "Everybody graduated towards him" vs "gravitated." In this case, Vicky is no better off than her malapropriating Mohammeds, and English is her first language! No excuse.

Some authors offer money if a reader finds more than five legitimate typos, an ingenious idea. Because the book hasn't made the transition from roughshod journal entry to story, and because it's rife with myriad typos and grammatical errors, I've given it a three-star rating.

Two Old Fools --Olé! is a follow-up of Chickens/Mules/Fools (which I have yet to read). Hopefully there will be fewer typos and grammatical errors in her third book.

Driven to Date (Better Date than Never)
Driven to Date (Better Date than Never)
Price: $0.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A material girl readMay 11, 2014
Once I got past the first few chapters overladen with a twenny-something's fixation (author and main character) on rampant materialism, I enjoyed the story, but it's definitely a fluffy material girl read.

Jill Parnell, pushing 30, a lawyer hoping to make managing partner in her firm, gets passed over for the position by her boss's nephew. A cute love story develops when she asks the groom's best man to pose as her boyfriend to get a job at a rival firm. A comedy of errors ensues. The story improves, and the sub-plot with her parents is interesting.

But goal-driven all-work-and-no-play Jill is such a whiney, self-absorbed, shallow character, I wanted to shriek "Grow up!" several times. I get that's she's supposed to get a life and that part of the storyline is interesting. I also didn't find the supporting characters compelling enough, to be enticed to read any sequels in the Better Date Than Never series.

The central subject, a woman who is passed over for a job in favor of a man because of nepotism is serious subject matter (in a famous landmark case, my grandfather fought SF City Hall and won), but this "best-selling" writer is immature and repeats stock phrases throughout the book, rather than crafting compelling sentences of her own. Deleted.

A Temporary Ghost: A  Mystery Set In Provence (Georgia Lee Maxwell #2) (The Georgia Lee Maxwell Series)
A Temporary Ghost: A Mystery Set In Provence (Georgia Lee Maxwell #2) (The Georgia Lee Maxwell Series)
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting little mystery set in ProvenceMay 11, 2014
The title is a red herring; it's a clever play on the concept of ghostwriter, not on the paranormal. Paris-based freelance journalist, Georgia Lee Maxwelll, hired as a ghostwriter for an alleged Mommy Dearest murderess' tell-all tale, gets caught in the crossfire when things get stirred up. Threatening letters and death threats. A real death. Whodunit? Several red herrings. Everybody is a suspect.

I enjoyed reading the story. It's a quick, suspenseful tale. Michaela Thompson (the author) is a decent, solid writer, with seven mysteries under her belt. I can tell that she draws from her own life experiences. Good writing, great plot. That said, the characters, though true to form (their actions supported their personae), were a tad flat. Story could have been fleshed out a bit more. It feels a little skeletal. Author was spare with the details of Provence as well. For good writing the adage is to: show, don't tell.

Apparently this is the second novel in the Georgia Lee Maxwell series. I did not read the first novel, Magic Mirror: A Parisian Mystery (Georgia Lee Maxwell #1), so I've nothing to compare it to.The story stands alone. Another reviewer noted that the French used in the story was missing its punctuation. Hopefully Thompson will amend those grammatical errors in the ebook.

I found it hilarious that the author, writing about a ghostwriter, once wrote under a pseudonym, Mickey Friedman. Perhaps there's a tale to tell there as well.


All the Dancing Birds
All the Dancing Birds
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare glimpse into Alzheimer’sMarch 29, 2014
This novel is a work of fiction told in the first person perspective, it's the memoir of Lillie Claire Glidden literally losing her mind. It's so poetically compelling—I forgot that it was a work of fiction. I found the story especially disturbing when Lillie Claire's language skills starts to fail her and the words disappear. I wept. The use of letters as a means to hold onto her past was an ingenious, if contrived, use of backstory. However, the character was a poet and writer. The letters gave the character something to hold onto—as she had no control over the wanderings of her errant mind. The writing is luminous and spare, poetic and lyric. A difficult subject to tackle and render into light the unspoken fears we all face as we watch our loved ones age, and as we too approach that slippery slope. Without being didactic, the insightful novel serves to educate the reader and helps us to come to terms with our own inevitable aging process. And it teachers us to have more compassion for our elders quietly slipping off from their moorings. Reminding us to say Hello in there.

Death Comes eCalling (Book 1, Molly Masters Mysteries)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cozy mysteryMarch 29, 2014
Cozy murder mystery with clever, unexpected plot twists. Molly Masters, quirky freelance writer/artist and accidental sleuth, returns to her hometown, nearly gets murdered in the process of facing her past--and proves that you can go home again.

Leslie O'Kane is a witty, erudite writer who uses figurative language to flesh out her characters. Solid well-crafted writing, well-paced, and humorous: I found myself laughing out loud. So refreshing to read a story where the author has an IQ well over room temperature. A joy to read compared to the spate of freebies I've recently downloaded. Few typos--another reviewer complained of errors, but her review was dated Oct 2013; so I suspect the author has cleaned the book up extensively since then.

Apparently it's an updated rewrite of "Death and Faxes" (1996). If so, then it was extensively rewritten as the IT aspect of the internet was nascent in 1996. Kudus. Three.five stars, as it's a bit on the fluffy side of believable fiction, but because it was rife with hilarious puns, quirky similes and original metaphor, I'd rate it a four-star book. Entertaining, breezy read.


Price: $0.00



3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An old-fashioned western with a zealous Christian themeMarch 27, 2014
An old-fashioned penny western that centers around horse breeder, spinster Lee Morgan, who inherited her grandfather's West Texas ranch and bloodstock. The story is an examination of a Christian woman making a go of horse breeding in the Wild West during the 1870s, and the foibles it generates. Everything begins to unravel at the upcoming horse race between her black stallion, Slick, and a neighbor's bay stud. The gamblers and con-men all ride into town and take over, making her sweetheart, Marshall Ben Flood's job, particularly dangerous.

Like all westerns, everything is drawn in extremes of black and white. The bad guys are unredeemably bad, the heroine is virtuous (if a little unorthodox), and the good guys really do win in the end. Westerns are not my favorite genre, I was really there for the horses. Lee Morgan, the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Justin Morgan, who hoped to introduce a new breed of endurance western horse based on Morgan bloodstock. As a kid, I devoured horse books: Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, Mary O'Hara's My Friend Flicka, and particularly Thunderhead; my picturebooks, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, King of the Wind, and Misty of Chincoteague, all fell apart from overuse.

I agree with another reviewer, Erica, that the the Christian moralizing theme used to carry the story was a bit heavy-handed. I usually skim over those parts (or avoid those stories). But it was interjected so many times to explain protagonist's headset, and actions, it turned into a writer's crutch. Zealous Christians were also a part of the makeup of the West. I get that. But it also made for some tedious reading. This book is more Louis L'Amour than Zane Grey, who did a better job of getting inside his characters heads. The book is lean, and well written. An easy chair read. No sex, but definitely plenty of violence. And a lot of faith in Christian values wins the day.

I'm an avid horse buff, having grown up on horseback, I've attended my fair share of horse shows, rodeos, and gymkhanas (as a competitor). I too was thrown by the author's description of a horse with a white 'bib' I began to wonder whether he really knew horses as much as he proclaimed. Chrome, maybe. The rest seems authentic. Maybe he was at a loss describing a pinto or a paint. Horses don't have bibs. Blazes, stars, socks, yes, but not white bibs like a Boston terrier, or cat.

But author Paul Bagdon's bio indicated that he has an armload of 24 western books (and 250 articles and short stories) under his rodeo belt buckle, and he teaches for Writers' Digest. Hmmm. Other readers, Julie, Sam B. Wagner, and Packy Trucker, all noted that Bagdon didn't know his guns (I confess I know batsht about guns, other than they go bang), so I guess there's room for doubt, despite Bagdon's impressive credentials.

Apparently, this book is the first in a series (West Texas Sunrise Book #1), published in 2003, but there doesn't seem to be s sequel. Perhaps it hasn't yet been transcribed over to an ebook manuscript. Maybe he'll revise the rest and get the guns working right. I look forward to reading more about the horses, and whether or not Lee Morgan was successful, in the end. If she'd only introduce some Arab blood broodmares, she just might get that savvy western endurance super horse she's looking for.



Price: $2.99



2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A story in need of a lifejacketMarch 26, 2014
OK, so the protagonist's a total stiletto-heeled bimbo, and a real fish too--perhaps because her feet always hurt. She's also an excessive material girl--it's all about all surface appearances. She's a shallow wading pool, with no deep end, or endearing flaw like big-bottomed, big-hearted Brigit Jones.

I find it hard to believe that the protagonist, Beverley Wilkins, is head of an English Department. Really? And how does the protagonist find so much time to dash down all her inane thoughts--and teach at the same time? I can't fathom that the author, Beverley Watts, spent eight years teaching English as a Foreign Language, yet she doesn't seem to have a grasp on basic grammar and punctuation.

I was lost at sea. The author's writing style resembled flotsam and jetsam. It's far too much work for the reader to piece together fragmented sentences punctuated with excessive parenthetical (bracketed) journal entries--entered in military time--while narrated in present tense. I'd rather read Finnegan's Wake again. Backwards. Aloud.

And what's with the excessive punctuation marks--doesn't the author know the writer's adage? One exclamation mark per 50,000 words? Don't even get me started on the uselessness of the word "very" planted in the title. I'm being told how to feel? I think not.

I don't doubt the author's sincerity, it's clear she's worked hard on this manuscript, but she's a fledgeling writer in need of more exposure to good writing. Quasi-memoir is a tough genre to write, and sometimes changing the protagonist's name (barely), isn't enough to distance oneself from the mechanics of writing. A rewrite is in order. Writing should be transparent and not interfere with the storyline.

Sadly, if I attempt to finish this book, I'll need to take up drinking fish on the rocks just to recover. I'm woman overboard on this one. In the drink, and apparently in need of a stiff one. Not my cuppa. So sorry. I'm deleting it half-read and sending it down the drain to the briny depths of Davy Jones' locker. Bon voyage!

One starfish review.



1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring real estate readMarch 26, 2014
I can't seem to finish this book. It's loitered long enough in my Kindle to warrant a vagrancy arrest. Time to give it the old electronic heave-ho. So sorry that it wasn't a more entertaining read. I tried. I really did. I slogged through it, paragraph by paragraph, and I put it down between each and every paragraph, it was that uncompelling a read (and I'm a very forgiving speed-reader). It left me bored to tears. I expected so much more. But I just couldn't get into, let alone, stand the main character--and there you have it. It was far too much work just to follow the story. Characters were certainly not compelling, they were tedious, Mitzi was too ditzy, and after a while I no longer cared what the mystery was, let alone, who-dun-it. Agonizingly sloppy writing. Spellcheck is not an editor, nor a friend. So glad it was a freebie or I'd definitely want my money back-with interest. Maybe it picks up later, but I definitely recommend foreclosing on this one.






2.0 out of 5 stars Indigestible readMarch 26, 2014
I gave up about half-way through this book, as it was far too much work to follow the story. It gave me indigestion. Characters were not compelling, other than they talked a lot. Normally I can read most any book to the end as long as the storyline's strong. Not willing to admit defeat, I attempted to reread it again. I didn't get far. Same problem. I lost interest. But I did glean this:

Like a rotating potluck club, there's a bit of potluck with the introduction of characters, rotating chapter by chapter--introducing no less than eight characters (pardon the pun) all yakking on Like Gracie Allan in first person singular. No wonder I was lost.

I'll admit I don't do well with shifting perspective and stories told in first person as there's no narrator present, no one in charge, ergo, no rest from the verbal onslaught of characters spewing verbiage. Harder still to pick up the story threads when the story's split eight ways, with different perspectives, is confusing. So it's safe to say I've issues with the physical book format.

I'm also not fond of Southern style religion peppered throughout the story. I understand it's a cultural thing. Some people love lots of Jesus references peppered with evangelical prayer meetings. Me, I feel betrayed by the authors--like when a Jehovah's Witness comes knocking when you were expecting to find your best friend. I don't want to find Jesus in a novel. I want to find a story that doesn't smack of Sunday School for adults. It turns me off, makes me a hostile witness. Give me descriptive language, metaphor and simile--poetic language, please. Something to hold onto.

I loved The Time Traveler's Wife--a story told in first person segments with shifting perspectives, and shifting time frames (which meant I had to keep on my toes to see what era a character was speaking from.) But it was a compelling story. So clearly, stories told in the first person, aren't the problem. I didn't want it to end. The movie, though interesting, didn't come close. It all boils down to the characters themselves. Are they memorable enough for a reader to want to stick with it to find out what happens next. I can't get into the characters. Steel Magnolias or Ya-Ya Sisterhood southern women--these potluck women are not. Too pedestrian.

A nice touch--recipes are included at the end. The writing itself is good. Tedious are the pages of dialogue where speakers' lines are separated solely by quotes. There is little physical description, other than character reportage--and not enough reminders to clue the reader in as to who is actually speaking--will leave the reader baffled. Maybe part of the problem is that there are two authors writing this novel. James Patterson is successful in partnering with other writers. Not these two. Sadly, all of these things conspired to make this novel a chore, rather than a pleasure, to read. Do I attempt another reading in order to write this review? Or practice catch and release?

Just glad this book was a freebie or I'd want my money back.






1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uncompelling readMarch 26, 2014
Catered to Death had the underpinnings of a solid who-dun-it murder mystery, there were interesting subplots, but the story itself could use some well-muscled editing, and the last segment of the book was grossly unsatisfying.

It was as if the author too had a mid-life crisis herself while writing the book and just wanted to get out of the storyline, dumping the reader unceremoniously by the wayside. Unbelievable cheapshot ending. Not a cliffhanger, but throw the reader over the cliff type of ending. Not buying it. Generically weak characters, and a shaky writing style detract from the already compromised storyline.

Having worked with many topnotch caterers, it's safe to say that real caterers do not bring their grandmother's heirloom silver to a school luncheon, no matter how classy. Meh.






2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A memorable readMarch 26, 2014
Horses, romance, and a mystery to boot. What's not to like? Unlike most authors who pepper their bodice-rippers with horses, Bev Pettersen really knows her way around both ends of the racehorse--and that's straight from the horse's mouth. Nothing worse than misnamed tack and a general lack of clarity on gaits, to spoil a good story. I can't tell you how many authors have unwittingly turned their horses out to pasture wearing a bridle!

This is a story of a movie being filmed on a Kentucky horse farm featuring a horse that could be modeled after Seabiscuit, or Man-o-War. Aspiring actress Emily Murphy's pressing dilemma is fame vs fortune (love) when she falls for the hunky horse wrangler/trainer, Dan Barrett, but she also desperately wants to see her name on the big screen replete with a speaking part, not just as an extra, or background--but with a union SAG card. I've been background, and it's no picnic. MInd-numbingly long hours and low pay. My old truck (also an extra) got paid more than me on the Nash Bridges set!

Apparently Studs and Stilettos is a sequel to Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash, but it's a solid standalone book. A good plot, a rollicking read with a murder mystery to be solved. It reminded me of another book I'd read ages ago, Horses and Heroin, and I was delighted to discover that it too was written by the same author. Studs and Stilettos is not dressed in the same racing silks as the incomparable Dick Francis, but it's a memorable read, just the same. I look forward to reading Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash next.






4.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Pseudonym's best sellerMarch 26, 2014
A surprisingly entertaining sleeper--I was not expecting much from this book--judging by the title. It just shows to go you that one musn't judge a book by its cover--or by its title. A surprisingly innovative and original storyline and satisfying read. The story of Mr. Love pokes marvelous fun at the epublishing industry and the genre of chick lit escape fiction. Plus it offers the main characters, a failed novelist-professor, Gordon Rushworth, who bangs out a bodice-ripper bestseller under the non de plume, or should I say, nom de guerre, VIola Usher, but he can't get anyone to publish his epic opus, and the Manhattan literary agent/sleuth Jane Cooper, who ferrets out Viola Usher. They are both veteran bunglers of the heart, this story gives them a second chance at redemption, and love, to boot.





1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Franco-Irish romanceFebruary 4, 2014
Hot Gossip is a standalone sequel to Suzanne O'Leary's first book, Hot Property, set in the west of Ireland. We again meet the characters that O'Leary first introduced, as supporting cast, but they remain very much in the periphery. As another reviewer wrote, it's a: "cleverly economical re-purposing of previously developed characters and settings."

Hot Gossip is the story about Janine, a French model-cum-trophy wife trying to escape her past in the backwaters of Ireland. Janine, incognito, has flashbacks, that converge with time present. But her past returns to haunt her with a vengeance. The North African flashbacks, when she is on the run, are intriguing. The tension created in this story is when the main storyline and the backstory converge.

Janine Marchand is an interesting character and O'Leary did a good job on plot and character development for her heroine. But the supporting cast remains flat and one dimensional. Janine's love interest, Mick O'Shea (Paudy's brother) is a stand-in, but there's no depth, no character development. Her North African love interest, Jake the adventurer, is a black and white Bogey character, lacking dimension. Her rejection of him is the weakest part of the storyline. One gets the impression that Janine secretly wants to be found as she flaunts haute couture and stilettos in rural Ireland. We also meet again the stars in the first book: Megan and Paudy; and supporting characters, Boris and Beata, the immigrant odd couple. But they're not fleshed out.

O'Leary's writing style has improved tremendously, her few misplaced prepositions are forgivable in a country where prepositions do all the heavy work. My complaint about her first book remains the same in this one. I still don't get a authentic feel for the Irishness of Kerry. Protagonist could pass for an American with her speech acts--except for the occasional sprinkling of French phrases.

As I had mentioned in my review of O'Leary's first book, Hot Property, the author is Swedish-born, writing in Irish-English, but her writing voice sounds very American. Quintessential Irish dialogue has not yet percolated down to her soul. Her dialogue lacks poetry. She is still not hearing the music. Regardless, it's still a charming read. A cupcake romance, almost suitable for YA readers--except for the naughty bits. No little grey cells will be displaced in the process but they may suffer from a sugar overload.

There's a third story in the works for 2014 to round out the trilogy. I look forward to reading it.






Price: $0.99
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great psychological thrillerFebruary 3, 2014
Either Side of Midnight will keep you on the edge of your seat (or in the corner of your bed), with its ever-evolving cast of evil characters. Nothing is as it seems. A compelling psychological thriller that's a bit like Ten Little Indians where all the characters become suspects. I'll say no more about the intricately woven story as the charm lies in the arms of complex plot twists. It's a story of sisters, and of brothers, a story of loyalty, revenge and betrayal and a delve into the underworld.

An amazing debut novel for Tori deClare. Kudus. The story begins slow, but Naomi, the protagonist, is a likable character. At first, I was put off by the religious theme with her cross--religious fiction is so utterly predictable. But, TG, a religious story, it's not. Either Side of Midnight is about duality. But because the story jumps from past to present tense via flashback, and is told in multiple point of views, it requires some effort to keep it all straight. It's hard to keep track of myriad characters introduced, or make sense of complex family relationships. As the plot thickens, the reader follows many false trails.

Well written story in the noir style, but it needs some proofreading--there's one section where two characters are (accidentally?) conflated into one speaker--confusing. A few sentences are in need of unpacking, and a few well placed Oxford commas for clarity's sake, wouldn't hurt. Pacing is uneven, second half of the story seems rushed, glossed over, as if the author just wanted out of the manuscript. One reviewer noted that the female characters were unbelievable: an airhead twin, mealymouthed 19-year-olds without attitude, or an Irish girl with nothing to say. LOL!

Not a romantic thriller--the naive heroine grows up, and ultimately saves herself. However, the conclusion, though satisfyingly grisly, was not quite believable.


Beyond Grace's Rainbow (Harperimpulse Contemporary Romance)
Beyond Grace's Rainbow (Harperimpulse Contemporary Romance)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying, simplistic readFebruary 2, 2014
pulse Contemporary Romance should clue you in as to what kind of read "Beyond Grace's Rainbow" will be. A notch above Harlequin. Fluffy chick lit set in Dublin, Ireland. Believable characters and dialogue. Not too sappy though it pulls on the heartstrings like "Love Story" or "Terms of Endearment," with a side plot of "Thorn Birds." The construction of the story reminded me of BBC's group-genre ensemble, "Coupling" (a Brit versions of "Friends"); it's not too maudlin or overly clichéd--except for the over-the-top portrayal of the gay odd couple,Tom and Gerry. What really rescues this story is the mystery sub-plot. Single mum, Grace Devlin has leukemia and needs to find a marrow donor--but she's adopted; her ex-boyfriend Liam is an alcoholic. They get another chance at happily-ever-after, except the ever-after part arrives much sooner than expected.


Armoires and Arsenic:  A Darling Valley Cozy Mystery with Women Sleuths Olivia M. Granville and Tuesday (A Darling Valley Mystery)
Armoires and Arsenic: A Darling Valley Cozy Mystery with Women Sleuths Olivia M. Granville and Tuesday (A Darling Valley Mystery)
Price: $2.99

4 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars OMG, what a tedious readFebruary 1, 2014

The dust jacket claims: "Note that this is a newly edited version." Not. As one reviewer so succinctly summed it up: "Good story in desperate need of a proofreader. The sheer quantity of spelling, grammatical, syntax and just poor proofreading errors detracts to the point of overwhelming the story." Has this so-called San Francisco writer (Cassie Page is a pseudonym, like the story) ever heard of proofreading? Stupid punctuation: "And what do the Blackman's have against you?" to "She was as interesting as a chain-link fence..." was used and then revised, leaving both sentences to rub shoulders side by side, as if one horrific assault on simile wasn't enough. The story is marred with tedious, shallow characters, and some undergo name changes mid-story: Gotrocks becomes Gotshalks (a department store?) Ohhh kay.

Did said "San Francisco author" even bother venture across the Golden Gate to Marin County in order to become familiar with locale and story setting? Or did she just Google it from a trendy coffee shop on Melrose Avenue or Via Rodeo, and then call it quits? After too many geographic North Bay assaults, I gave up. I'd love to see someone try and attend junior college in San Rafael, or find Marin's answer to Rodeo Drive in Mill Valley, or Tiburon, or find a viable reservoir to sail on, unless of course, Novato is her fictitious Darling Valley with a coastal view and Tudor houses. I don't think so. Since when is Marin City the workingman's Marin? About the only thing she got right location-wise, was the Buckeye Roadhouse. I don't think I can bring myself finish this story, and I rarely put down any book until I finish it.

Farcical sleuthing aside, OMG, it was a tediously boring material girl read. An insult to intelligence. Not even a good story. I don't care whodunit. And the author, food writer, Helen Cassidy Page, claims to teach creative writing? OMG! Minus one star.

Note bene: if you can brazen through the first half of the story, the storyline picks up. First third of book needs major revision.





Gated
Gated
Price: $2.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written creepy thriller with a Stepford twistJanuary 15, 2014

British couple Michael and Emily Torrance move to an idyllic gated Mayberry-themed town called Eden, an improbable oasis in the American Southwest. But nothing is as it seems. Story itself is fantastical--a tale cribbed from Stephen King thriller meets Stepford Wives with a little Rosemary's Baby sprinkled in for seasoning. By the time I got to the end of the story, I felt duped.

Technically, the writing is a dog's breakfast of poor sentence structure, garbled grammatical conundrums, and repetitious words. Matt Drabble seems to be writing in phonetic English: he uses "would of" when he should have written "would've." Other reviewers mentioned his use of: "for all intensive purposes" instead of "for all intents and purposes." My ESL friend would dub Drabble's rabble as being functionally literate, and nothing more.

Most irksome is that Drabble is so out of touch with the language across the pond, that he had American characters speaking in UK English idioms. I'm sorry, but we Yanks just don't say "jumpers" for sweaters (an idiom lost in translation), or "torch" for flashlight, or "lorry" for truck. It's one thing to have the narrator of the story speaking in British idioms, but the quoted dialogue of American characters should convey the language of the country it represents.

I agree with the reviewer who wrote that this book is in need of serious editing, I don't think it was edited, ever. Another reviewer didn't mind the typos, because he liked the story. A third reviewer wrote: "Who does the editing, keyboarding, punctuation, and proofing for these ebooks, anyway? I am tired of having to decipher text." For those of us with dyslexia, those pesky typos and errors are not just distracting, they throw us out of the story. Sort of like tossing the baby out with the bathwater.

Minus one star.


She's Gotta Be Mine (A sexy, funny mystery/romance, Cottonmouth Book 1) (Cottonmouth Series)
She's Gotta Be Mine (A sexy, funny mystery/romance, Cottonmouth Book 1) (Cottonmouth Series)
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fifty shade of sillyJanuary 15, 2014

A quirky read, but definitely fluffy escape fiction. She's Gotta Be Mine (formerly Sex and the Serial Killer) is not exactly a poignant story. When mousy-haired Roberta Jones Spivey's husband Warren has a mid-life crisis and runs off with his high school sweetheart, Roberta bucks her traces, and has a bimbo makeover replete with a name change to Bobbie and then she regresses back to being a teenager. The ditz has a fling with next door neighbor Nick, who is a bad boy with a past--a painter-cum-potential-serial-killer.

The murder mystery portion of the story is quite good, but unfortunately it's dressed in a chick clit lit thong. The story doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up. The author (or her alter ego) doesn't seem to have much depth or life experience, and the writing suffers from it. How do you spell clichéd? Tedious "erotic" bits ramble on for pages and are awful. Fifty shades of graphic crap.

WHO is her audience? Teenagers might enjoy this book--except for the fact that Bobbie, the protagonist with her perky boobs, and amazing butt, is pushing 40, not twenny-something. I wanted to kick the tiresome, immature Bobbie to the curb. Can't believe Skully won awards for this. Fortunately few grey cells were displaced in the process but I needed to gargle and rinse my eyes out after reading it.


SETUP ON FRONT STREET (Key West Nocturnes Series)
SETUP ON FRONT STREET (Key West Nocturnes Series)
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic gumshoe noirJanuary 15, 2014

Local boy, ex-con Don Roy Doyle, seeks revenge but also fights the good fight in a corrupt little town at the end the road where Flagler's Folly meets the sea. It's a story of honor among thieves (not), where the good guys are really corrupt, and the femme fatale is a hooker with a heart of lead. Our flawed hero finds himself tailing at the wrong end of the Russian mob--whose vendetta tactics make the Italian Mafia seem like players in a spaghetti western.

I'm a sucker for a classic Sam Spade gumshoe noir genre. I am also fond of Key West, and I liked the story angles explored: believable plot twists, well developed central character, solid writing. Mike Dennis is a no-nonsense writer, the story is not encumbered with too many random descriptive passages, but it's a little tricky keeping track of all the characters that keep popping up to carry the storyline.

I've no doubt that Mike Dennis knows the itty-bitty city at the end of the road--where the next stop is Havana, or Davey Jones' locker. He paints the town in broad strokes. About the only thing missing are the notorious Key West roosters crossing the road. I rated the book at four stars because the writing itself is solid (unlike most ebooks), but its simple Fiftles style format means the characters and settings aren't fleshed out. It could've used a little more description and metaphor is always good. Closer to a John MacDonald than a Papa Hemingway story--a three point five read with no six-toed cats in sight.







Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools (Old Fools Series Book 1)
Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools (Old Fools Series Book 1)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty British memoir set in SpainJanuary 15, 2014

Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools is a witty memoir about suburban Brits from Southern England who retire to a tiny mountain village in Andalucía, Southern Spain--and the culture shock that ensues. Not quite in the same league with Peter Mayle's My Year in Provence, but a delightful read. I found myself cackling at 2 AM, trying to squelch a full-blown hee-haw. Vicky Twead is a delightful writer, with an apt eye for detail and the comedic.

I enjoyed Vicky's self-deprecating humor; cameos of her husband Joe's often mulish behavior, were hysterical. I found myself listening for the tap-tap paaaart of Old Santos making his rounds. Loved Mother (a bit like Lady Haversham), and the Gin Twins were priceless. Sometimes I even forgot Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools was a memoir, not a novel. The embedded recipes were neat too--loved that they were merely a link away, and didn't interrupt the story.

Vicky and Joe Twead's unexpected chicken farmer adventures are the hilarious crowning, er, crowing glory of the book. Vicky captures the angst of clueless city folks who suddenly become chicken farmers. Back to the land movement gone awry--replete with a chicken palace. I did wonder if some of those oddly-named birds wound up in the proverbial stewpot. Certainly should've been a fate for Cocky, the kamakazi bantam rooster--as he was always spoiling for a good cockfight.

My usual complaint about ebooks, is that they're always in need of an editor and proofreader, stands unchallenged. There were several sentences in need of a good overhaul, but the occasional bad sentence didn't detract too much from the storyline. Gripe: Vicky, please don't spell lightning correct one time, and then spell it "lightening" the next time. Yes, "lightning" is an old contraction, but "lightening" means something else entirely different--rather, um, placental in nature. Because the book hasn't quite yet made the transition from journal entry to story, I've given it a four-star rating.





Price: $2.99
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tinseltown thrillerJanuary 15, 2014

A rather disturbing potboiler replete with quirky characters. I saw the story cinematically as I read it--appropriate for the location. Flip, a Slovakian gay stylist, arrives in Timseltown with kilos of pork schnitzels and an American Green Card in hand. Recovering from a bad break-up, Flip's in search of the big stars, but gets caught up in insane Hollywood hijinks. His friend, Harry, who was supposed to help Flip land on his feet, and transition to America, tosses him the house keys and takes off for London, leaving Flip stranded in Crazytown. A chance encounter with a certifiable wealthy gay couple and a crazy washed up diva, drives the story. But it's more of a novella than a novel, like those old-school dime thrillers, told in the first person--emphasis on singular. It's a whacky story where Flip is the only sane character. However, after meeting Hillary and Derek, some of my little grey cells were definitely harmed in the process. A darkly comedic story reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard film noir meets Roger Rabbit--replete with a contractor's nightmare on the side. Apparently the book was previously released under a different title, Bitch Hollywood--which pretty much sums up the situation.








Don't Dare a Dame (Maggie Sullivan mysteries)
Don't Dare a Dame (Maggie Sullivan mysteries)
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful gumshoe taleJanuary 9, 2014
Sam Spade, I mean Maggie Sullivan is a delightful gutsy old-school gumshoe dick, I mean dame, who is a super sleuth in a rough and tumble man's world of ace detectives. No Miss Marple, Miss Maggie is a new breed of sleuth with plenty of moxie; she can slug it out with the best of them--at the risk of almost losing her PI license.

The story is set during the Depression era, but Miss Maggie investigates a cold case--a man's disappearance during the 1913 flood that ravaged Dayton, Ohio. Many unrelated story threads converge when the mystery of the two spinsters' missing father is finally solved. A thoroughly enjoyable read by a well crafted story by a writer who knows her way around the business end of a vintage typewriter. If you like brusque 1930s style hard-boiled potboilers, you'll enjoy this book.

OK, so the story might be more believable if it was dude gumshoe vs. a dame, the dialogue and action is pretty predictable, but it's still an engaging read. Don't Dare a Dame is the third story in the Maggie Sullivan series. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of M. Ruth Myers' books. I also highly recommend her full length book, Whiskey Tide. Three point five stars, if I could award it. But I'm feeling generous after reading a spate of ho-hum ebooks.


Broken Silence
Broken Silence
Price: $0.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A tedious read, but good storyJanuary 9, 2014

Broken Silence is a gutsy attempt at exploring serious societal issues involving child prostitution and pornography, as told by the victim and family. But the opaque writing makes this book a chore to read.

I am a tenacious reader but I bogged down twice during the first third of the story. The story picks up about half way through. I'm glad I stuck it out, for closure. But reading this book was hard work due to author's use of weak verbs, tired nouns, excessive adverbs and adjectives--that merely serve to dull the senses. Writing should be invisible, it should be a conduit to convey the storyline, the physics of grammar should not confound the reader.

Author Natasha Preston alternates the storyline between protagonist/victim Oakley's, and her boyfriend Cole's point of view, chapter by chapter in first-person narrative. I don't know if it serves the story, or does it justice. Many times I wasn't sure who was speaking.

Natasha Preston is in need of a good editor to iron out her sentence structure so the language doesn't interfere with the storyline. "The case had become high profile because the arrest of my father uncovered one of the biggest paedophile rings in our area ever." AWK! Even commas can't rescue this sentence.

Just because a word is spelled right doesn't mean it's the exact, right word: "...four orange hears on her left cheek" or "Since Oakley's been back, you've been attached heart the hip," or "Leona's nursery school fate for a few hours." I won't mention the extraneous apostrophes in "Friday's and Saturday's."

Not light reading for the faint of heart. In the end, it's a positive story as Oakley is able to overcome her obstacles, and not play the "victim card."







Price: $0.00
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A serial book in need of a stronger endingJanuary 9, 2014

An interesting story, about family, land, and redemption, but the book itself was sometimes a tedious read. Not a book I couldn't put down, or couldn't live without. I'd lost interest about a third of the way into the story, but I'm a very determined reader. So I went back and finished the story.

I'm gad I did finish the book, as there was some great action, but inane, shallow, undeveloped characters, too many repetitious descriptive, and flabby sentences detract from the storyline. "Angst feathered across her arms." Really? The story pivots around Delaney and her strained relationship with her uncle Ernie, who is cantankerous to a fault, as he "was raised by a hard man to become a hard man," but Ernie remains a flat, uninteresting character. The writer's adage: show, don't tell.

The manuscript also had its fair share of silly typos and punctuation errors. Just because a word is spelled right doesn't mean it's the exact, right word. "The sensation of Nick's mouth and hips ran together in her mind..." Perhaps she mean't 'lips"? Or "...she pulled the leather bridle over the horse's head and loosely tied it to the post." Perhaps she meant reins?

Dianne Venetta usually got it right when to capitalize those pesky personal nouns, and when to use apostrophes--but not always, suggesting that, as a writer, she knows better. Perhaps she has a sloppy proofreader. Then there's punctuation: "But like everything the Sweeney's touched,...". AGH! The Sweeney's what? Lose the possessive apostrophe already! Dianne Venetta should employ a good reader, or copy editor to weed out those pesky typos, and tighten up sentence structure. Venetta is a veteran writer with nine books under her belt, so there's no excuse for typos. Perhaps this was her first book. In which case, it's hard to revisit old work. But it is the first part of a series, so it might be time well spent.

The ending was unsatisfying, with no real closure (other than boy gets girl). At one point, I had assumed that I didn't finish the book, only to find I had indeed already finished it. Ladd Springs is a gateway book, a continuing saga in serial format. I'm not sure I want to invest the time to find out what happens to the characters introduced in Book One. However, I did find the second story teaser about Lucy interesting.
Three stars as it's a fairly solid story. (I found myself questioning some of the protaginist's actions as out of character.) But I'd like to split the difference due to technical issues, and rate it as 2.5 stars, if that were an option.

Picking Lemons: A C.J. Whitmore Mystery
Picking Lemons: A C.J. Whitmore Mystery
Price: $2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When life gives you lemonsJanuary 8, 2014

A rollicking read, Picking Lemons kept me enthralled to the very end. I did guess the murder motive, but it didn't get in the way of reading the book to the very end. Besides, there was a great twist in the plot that caught me off-guard. I'll say no more as I don't want it to be a spoiler alert. The book is well written, with rock-solid sentences, interesting plot, and character development, etc., replete with nuggets of droll humor that kept me engaged. The only part that gave me trouble was figuring out who the main character was until I was quite a way into the book. I didn't automatically relate to CJ, so I had to be coaxed into thinking she was the central character, and sleuth, to boot.

Itsy Bitsy Spider (Emma Frost Book 1)
Itsy Bitsy Spider (Emma Frost Book 1)
Price: $2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping horror tale--author in need of a good copy editorJanuary 3, 2014

As I devoured the horror story, "Itsy Bitsy Spider," I was struck how the central character Emma Frost, reminded me of another character I'd met in a series I'd read last year: Rebekka Franck. I wasn't surprised to find that both tales were written by the same author, Willow Rose.

Part of a mystery series, "Itsy Bitsy Spider" is a gruesome tale, as if written under the influence of Stephen King and Hannibal Lector as ghostwriters. The protagonist, single mother and aspiring writer, Emma Frost inherits her grandmother's house on a quiet little Island replete with buried secrets. But a serial killer, with a set of carving knives, and a vicious appetite, is bent on revenge. Many taboos are invoked as the dark secrets are brought to light. A tale of kidnapping, manipulation, and murder most foul.

The hardboiled storyline, set in modern Denmark, is frightening in its depravity. Something indeed is rotten in the State of Denmark. Not for the faint of heart, or those with weak stomachs. Lots of guts, gore, and spiders galore. As another reader pointed out, the epilogue was pastiched on to fill in missing plot details, and "editing was not what it should have been." You can say that again. A "NEW EDITED VERSION!," it's not.

As I had mentioned in my Rebekka Franck review, Danish-American author Willow Rose has a fertile imagination, a good sense of plot and decent structure, and a pretty good grasp of the English language. But punctuation and syntax errors abound. I can forgive the odd misplaced homonym, or the incorrect use of pronoun: "she," vs. "her," etc. I can even work with transposed, and omitted words, holes in the plot, and shallow, improbable characters. But when she tries to hammer Danish idioms and sayings into English word-for-word, it throws the reader out of the story. Not an optimum outcome in a mystery-horror book. Is she writing her stories in Danish first, and wrestling them into English--or is she having a go at it in a language not her own?

However, there's no excuse for lazy writing: Willow Rose often uses the same noun verb, adverb or adjective in linked sentences. A minimal employment of a thesaurus would work wonders for her writing skills. The role of the writer should be transparent--the writing itself shouldn't interfere with the storyline. To do her stories justice, Willow Rose could really use the services of a strong copy editor whose native language is English. I read the tale to the very end, but too much was lost in translation. Or rather, because of a lack of a good translation.

Willow Rose, have a little respect for the English language, and for your readers. PLEASE hire an American proofreader and copyeditor! I would strongly suggest that you have a good proofreader revise your previously published books as well. You have far too many books under your belt to continue to be such a sloppy writer. The technical flaws in your writing undermine your gift for storytelling.

Rebekka Franck Series Box Set
Rebekka Franck Series Box Set
Price: $8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping horror tale but author is in need of a good editor/translator,January 3, 2014

Rarely do I have the urge to to revisit myriad fictional characters I've met in the hundreds of mediocre free Kindle ebooks I've consumed. But I found myself returning to the central character portrayed in the Rebekka Franck Series I'd read last year, four linked short stories are packaged in a (hypothetical) box set.

Star reporter, Rebekka Franck is a compelling central character. A single mother, separated from her PTSD ex-husband, Rebekka leaves the travails of the big city for the idyllic rural life. In an attempt to mend a stormy relationship with her daughter, she moves back to her hometown, only to find herself caught up in a web of horror set in the sleepy coastal village. Rebekka stumbles upon a hot news lead with her punk hacker-photographer boyfriend, replete with serial murders, and a massive political cover-up. When Rebekka gets too close to the source, she becomes a target.

The storyline, set in modern Denmark, considered to be the "happiest country" in Scandinavia, is frightening in its film noir tale of depravity. This horror tale suggests that something indeed is rotten in the State of Denmark.

Danish-American author Willow Rose has a fertile imagination--a la Stephen King, she has a good sense of plot and decent structure, and she has a pretty good grasp of the English language. But punctuation and syntax errors abound. I can forgive the odd misplaced homonym, or the incorrect usage of pronoun, etc. I can even work with holes in the plot, or snags in the storyline. But when she tries to hammer Danish idioms and sayings into English, word-for-word, it throws the reader out of the story. it's too much work to decipher what the author is trying to portray. Not an optimum outcome in a mystery-horror book. It's hard trying to wrap one's eyeteeth around her odd sentence structure and wooden dialogue. Is she writing her stories in Danish first, and wrestling them into English--or is she having a go at it in a language not her own?

However, there's no excuse for lazy writing: Willow Rose often uses the same noun verb, adverb or adjective in linked sentences--minimal employment of a thesaurus would wor wonders for her writing skills. The role of the writer should be transparent--the writing itself shouldn't interfere with the storyline. To do her stories justice, Willow Rose could really use the services of a strong copy editor whose native language is English. I read the tale to the very end, but too much was lost in translation. Or rather, because of a lack of a good translation.

Deep Fried and Pickled (The Rachael O'Brien Chronicles Book 1)
Deep Fried and Pickled (The Rachael O'Brien Chronicles Book 1)
Price: $4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, fun, quirky readDecember 16, 2013

I liked much of the story, how it was written, the format (month by month chronicle of freshman year in 1986), the end of chapter notes to the character's self, and the mystery element. I was never convinced the heroine Rachael O'Brien was an art history major. We're told this about one third way into the story--so it required readjusting one's definition of the central character, and so much of the story is dependent upon this fact. I'm also not convinced of clueless Rachel's sleuthing skills. The introduction of the art theft and forgery ring was a great idea, but full of holes. One reviewer accurately noted that the story was carried by stereotypical drunken college parties, attempts to get laid, irresponsible behavior, and road trips. The story is very juvenile. Not exactly Cold Sassy Tree, but it was a sassy read. Better quality than the usual free ebooks. That said, I'm still deleting it from my library. Meh

The Riddles of Hillgate (Z&C Mysteries, #1)
The Riddles of Hillgate (Z&C Mysteries, #1)
Price: $3.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time, it's worth more than this free ebookDecember 16, 2013
To say this book is poorly written is an understatement. It's so bad, it made me cranky enough to want to write my first review, and a negative review at that. Reviewers who posted that this book a well-written great read and rated it five stars, must also find cereal boxes entertaining. Or, they're shills. Trust me, wonderfully written, this book ain't--and I'll read just about anything, including cereal boxes.

Many reviewers commented that this book sounds like it was written by a child, rings too true--only I suspect this ebook was dictated by a 2nd grader with an over-indulgent mother typing every utterance verbatim. I found myself gnashing my teeth and literally yelling at the author(s) over myriad goofy sentences and plot leaps. It's not exactly escape fiction when the reader is fighting with a poorly crafted book.

Virgin Shirley Temples? Really? Hmm, I thought Shirley Temples were already virgin. Odd appearances of other virgin drinks had me wondering if the mother-daughter duo had a secret drinking problem. And how does this relate to the plot? But there's plenty of booze under all the sinks, and plenty for rum cake too.

Wow, first, the mother & daughter duo are broke, then, with no money, they turn the mansion into a hotel, and then and a niteclub all in one fell swoop? Did I miss a chapter or three? We won't mention that the ditzy duo slept in the same bed, and their boyfriends in a separate wing. Really? Claire falls through the rotted floor--where a new washer-dryer were installed? Really? And how did the skeletons get in the basement? We also won't mention the contrived IRS scenario. Segues would be good. Whatever happened to the concept of the suspension of disbelief? Or pyramid structure of ideas? Myriad improbable scenes and dropped storylines galore are guaranteed to have readers gnashing their teeth.

Mother author: seriously? I think it's adorable that you're writing books with your baby daughter (insert awww-factor here), but whatever happened to fostering basic writing skills? At least take some responsibility for the readers who have to READ the stupid books.There's no excuse for this kind of bad writing. Even in a free ebook.

Utter lack of plot development and sequence. Lose the adverbs, adjectives--or at least place the dangling modifiers in the right part of the sentence. Develop plot sequence. Get an editor. Make that several editors: concept/plot; development/sequence editors, and a copy editor too. Attending a writers' group would be useful as well. Hint: spellcheck is not your friend. Just because a word is spelled right doesn't mean it's the exact right word.

One reader mentioned that it read like a Nancy Drew mystery. At least books FOR children are well-written. This one is not. Irritating writing--and as a writer in the schools, I've worked with kids of all ages--I know what they're capable of. Far better than this drivel. Thankgawd no trees were harmed in the process. A colossal waste of time. Minus five stars.



Seeking verisimilitude, I placed these last two reviews in 2013, since that's when I wrote them and began this process; I also moved the publishing date for this piece to Dec. 31, 2014, though I began posting in March. I will also do so for my 2015 reviews as well. It's too hard for me to find them buried mid-year...


My Amazon Book Reviews 2013



MoHurley's Amazon Book Reviews 2015

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