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Smashwords book reviews by Georgia

  • Kitsune-Tsuki on Oct. 25, 2012

    Kitsune-Tsuki is a short, interesting read by Laura V. Baugh. The main plot revolves around protecting the emperor from the kitsune (or fox spirit). The characters are well written and we follow them through a very Japanese folklore spun tale. I enjoyed reading this short story and was left wishing there was more. I think a collection of short stories by Laura Baugh would make a fantastic book. The only criticism I have is with the use of Japanese words within the writing. A glossary at the back would easily fix this however, but I can see people becoming frustrated with not understanding certain words. I myself am very fond of the Japanese language, legends and culture, so I was able to figure out a few alone, and a couple words are translated in text, but it would be wise to do so to the rest. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in folklore, Japan or just has an hour to kill. Disclaimer: This was sent to me by the author. I am not being paid and my opinions are 100% my own.
  • The Mystery of Smugglers Cove (The Mystery Series, Book 1) on Nov. 16, 2012

    Famous Five Meets Tintin The Mystery of Smugglers Cove by Paul Moxham is the first in his new The Mystery Series. Set in 1950's England, we follow a group of four children (Joe, Amy, Sarah and Will) on their adventures. The first book starts it all off. Three siblings meet a fourth member and together they explore the local caves and get a greater adventure than even their imaginations could have thought of. Reading the first book is very reminiscent of the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. The author himself states that he took inspiration from it and it really shows. I was a huge fan of the 1995 tv series and it was a large part of my childhood, so reading this book has the rosy tint of nostalgia added to it. Anyone familiar with the Famous Five will know what to expect from these books. Great childrens' adventure stories that never disappoint. I recommend this series to any younger readers, any readers nostalgic for the good old days and especially any fans of the Famous Five series. Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Framed for Murder on Dec. 13, 2012

    Beware of Walking Your Dog, You May Find a Body Road Kill by CM Spencer is a cozy mystery set in Chinook (a small town in Canada). We follow the life of Anna Nolan, starting with (while out walking her dog) literally stumbling across the body of her estranged ex-husband (Jack)- and then immediately being found my a local cop over said body. Evidence against her piles up and Anna has real reason to investigate his death. Which is to say, so she can prove her innocence. However- as she puts it- she's more of a liability to the police, bumbling around and damaging her case. Not only that, it puts her on Sergeant Charles Tremaine's (a British investigator brought in for the case) bad side. Constantly getting in his way and on his nerves. As her life unravels and she struggles to find not only Jack's killer, but also peace after memories best left forgotten resurface. When she had been married to Jack, he had had a string of affairs. Anna's response had been to look the other way. Her reason was simple. She now had a son and no steady job or income. Without Jack to provide either, she would have to live of welfare. So instead she turned a blind eye until, years later, she finally draws the line and ends it. Now four years after that, her determination to find his killer leads her to meeting some of his past affairs. There are suspects galore and she's determined to find the guilty party. Of course there are obstacles along the way. Meeting some of the women your husband cheated on you with is no small task, let alone trying to surreptitiously question them about his murder. Talk of Jack also brings to light his situation with Ben, Anna and Jack's 19 year old son. Having had no contact with his father for years, he is dealing with abandonment issues, hatred of the man his father had been and also love of the man who was the only father he had. There are humorous attempts on Anna's part to ferret out the killer and prove herself to the police, especially Charles Tremaine. As a cozy mystery, it's a pretty light-hearted read. Though usually cozy mysteries have two points of interest- the murder and a subject the protagonist is passionate about. Generally, these will be tea rooms, flower shops or similar things to which the murder takes a back-seat. However, in this book the cozy mystery feel comes from the same writing style as with Agatha Christie books. They tell of grisly murders and yet somehow are pleasant to read, hence "cozy" mystery. The ending is entertainingly Bond-ish. We have a dramatic villain who spouts all the usual cliches, even finishing off with an I'm-going-to-have-to-kill-you-now statement. Enjoyable to read nevertheless. The only criticism I have is that the story can be a little slow moving at times. Cozy mysteries often rely upon a second point of focus to help keep interest as the murder investigation takes place. As I said earlier, that doesn't happen here and the result is a missing second focus point. However, we do have some side-stories and entertaining events, so it's certainly not a reason not to read this book. If you're looking for a good cozy mystery, a little bit of romance or just a nice read this is great for you. Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • The Complete Monster Exchange Program on Dec. 18, 2012

    Vampires are Perverts and Detention Will Rob You Of Your Mind The Complete Monster Exchange Program by Terri Bogard is a collection of humorous stories about monsters in an average, human high school. There are sixteen tales in total, ranging from two serial killers debating which one of them should have the rights to a popular teen spot, the lament of the invisible boy or Bigfoot desperately wanting people to notice him, these stories are quirky and full of comedic moments. Terri Bogard seems to especially enjoy turning our views on their sides. An example would be with a witches' mother, whose worried her daughter doesn't dress enough like a "whore of Satan" and that she'll be uncorrupted at a normal high school. Something we can all relate to, right? There are a lot of sexual references in pretty much every one of these stories, so if that's not for you I'm giving due warning. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I got a little laugh out of the creative names for characters, such as Johnny Heartthrob and Darla Sweetheart- the generic prom king and queen couple, Cleats Longshot as the quarterback or Snaps Viewfinder- the captain of the yearbook committee. Some of the stories intertwine, while still being consistent and it's fun to see how some of the characters from previous stories turn out in later ones or are viewed by other people. Each tale has its own cover illustration (courtesy of Andi Bogard) and a few stories are written by guest writers (including one by Andi Bogard himself). This collection is funny, has some interesting alternate takes on reality and goes out of its way to be so stereotypically "high school" that you can't help but enjoy it. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, likes "slice of life" stories or supernatural/paranormal tales. There are some interesting takes on urban legends that are not to be missed. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100%my own.
  • Let Slip the Dogs of War: A Bard's Bed & Breakfast Mystery #1 on Jan. 11, 2013

    Let Slip the Dogs of War by Sara M. Barton is the first book in the Bard's Bed and Breakfast Mystery series. Starring Bea (Beatrice) and her retired husband Ben (Benedick), we follow their adventures in running a B&B in Vermont. But not just any B&B. No this is an establishment that specifically caters to the CIA and a few others to keep the ruse up. A little history of the place then. The B&B was founded by Uncle Edward ( who used to work in the OSS as an intelligence officer). Now retired, he created the Bard's B&B (so named for his love of all things Shakespeare- in fact he used to work at the Bard's theatre as a dresser). You may have already noticed the Shakespeare references in the book titles, but we also see them in the form of quotes and as aliases for people in the book, as well as room names. So, how did Bea and Ben come to take over? Well Uncle Edward needs a hip replacement and just couldn't take care of his guests anymore, while at the same time Bea and her bookshop, Marbury Books, were going through a whole heap of CIA mess. The CIA naturally thought of the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. The plot of this first instalment is terrorism. In fact, the second book's plot is terrorism too, so it may be a recurring theme. The first couple chapters are about the CIA, terrorism and explain how Bea got to where she is. Then one day, she finds a body under the bed (not her first apparently). The body is that of a young woman, who had her clothes removed and has two tattoos- one made with edible ink that is the image of a bee and one that is scented and shows the image of a rose. Ben and Bea figure it's a CIA code for something and the plot thickens as terrorists begin to show up, along with CIA spies. And who is the mysterious Yuri? This series reads like a cozy mystery, but this time with the added twist that the protagonists (and most everyone else) aren't exactly new to the game. The basic story is a little darker than your average cozy because of all of the terrorism involved. The plot itself is very fast-paced, A lot happens in this short book and I found it almost too fast-paced. There was never really any down time, you were constantly going from action scene to action scene, revelation to revelation. I don't often say this about a book, but it could have used a little extra padding. While too much can have a negative effect, a little goes a long way to helping the reader absorb all the information you give them, especially when throwing such fast-balls as this book does. I would've also liked a little more closure at the end. I don't know if the author plans to revisit that particular character, but the ending is pretty ambiguous and abrupt. But then I suppose it's a good thing that I want to know more. It's a mark of good writing if the reader wants more. The relationship between Bea and Ben I can see some people loving and some people hating. They are constantly bickering and Bea seems forever annoyed with her husband. Their form of bickering is quoting Shakespeare at each other, which is at least nice to listen to (or read in this case), but it's so frequent that it can get a little grating sometimes. While I am not a great fan of unresolved endings, I did enjoy this short book. I found the characters of Yuri and Wardah to be my favourites and wanting to know what happens to each of them is enough to keep me reading. Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • A Plague O' Both Your Houses: A Bard's Bed & Breakfast Mystery #2 on Jan. 11, 2013

    A Plague O' Both Your Houses by Sara Barton is book 2 in the Bard's Bed and Breakfast Mystery Series. A quick warning, this review will contain spoilers from the first book (as is the nature of a series). If you're interested you can check out my review of Let Slip the Dogs of War here: or on my blog at: Anyway, spoilers beyond here, so continue at your own peril. Returning to the Bard's the story this time centres around Linda Romano- a retired CIA agent, who specialised in chemical and biological warfare. To be accurate, her job was to find antidotes, but to know how to cure it, she needed to know how it was created. Linda is a crotchety, old woman dying of lupus and plagued with the inability to treat anyone with a shred of decency. She has a nurse (the lovely Manie from Jamaica) to care for her round the clock and cater to her every need. Linda is at the Bard's to live out her final days in peace and comfort. Being an ex-CIA agent, they set her up at a CIA specialising B&B, much to Bea's chagrin. Bea and Ben are their usual selves and are still bickering constantly. In this book, we are joined by the Turkmani sisters, Fatima and Wardah- going by the aliases of Emma and Rosalind (Rosie for short) respectively. It's been a few months since the events of the first book and the girls have started at school, while their mother recuperates in Boston and their father fights his brother in Syria. Again, terrorism is the plot here. When a letter that Linda sends off get intercepted by the CIA, claiming she's poisoned someone, the Bard's is soon filled with CIA agents from around the globe (all undercover of course) to find out the truth, most of which we are kept in the dark about. But then they are spies. Is the devious plot Linda's devised as simple as it appears, or is there a more sinister plan at hand? In my review of the first book I said it was almost too fast-paced. In this book, that problem's gone. We have some nice down-time in between all the action (which definitely build this time), though a lot of it is information about the first book. There's a lot of deja vu as we re-read the first story in small chunks. I know it's a recap, but it's almost as if we're expected to have forgotten everything about the first book. We do get some nice extras though, giving us a little more information we didn't know about the characters or events from the first book. I was a little sad that there was virtually no mention of Yuri, but maybe he'll be in a another book, provided the series continues. And we do get a few tidbits about the mysterious Afari. We also have a more complete ending and I can feel the books getting better as the series progresses. Again, I did enjoy this book, perhaps even more than the first. I preferred the plot of the first, but I prefer pretty much everything else about the second. If you liked the first, you'll like this second book. If you didn't like the first, maybe give this one a try- why not? The series certainly has a charm about it that keeps me following its progress. I can't help but wonder- what dastardly plan will be the plot of the third book I wonder? Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Arlo's Epiphany on Jan. 13, 2013

    Every Evil Doer Needs an Evil Animal Companion Arlo's Epiphany by Jane Oldaker is a short, little story starring Arlo the Barncat. Arlo is different from your average cat or dog though. He's a covert operative working for the Agency. What is the Agency? And why was it founded? Well all over the world there are villains and these villains train animals to be villainous and perform villainous deeds (enough with the villainous). So of course an opposing force had to be created. Like all Agents, Arlo can talk to various species (including humans). The Agency employs its own medical expert, Dr.Phelps, who works undercover as a vet. They also have handlers. Arlo's is Charlie, who debriefs him after every mission. Arlo himself is a "technocat". With his Stealthberry and skills, he's a wizz at all things technical and generally and all round fantastic agent. There is only one aspect that he falls short on- thuggery. Yes he can walk the walk, but not talk the talk. This worries his old friend (and retired agent) Mahoney. A mature, feral tomcat, his reputation precedes him and none dare mess with the infamous Mahoney. But when Arlo comes visiting and claims to have been attacked (with the bite marks and missing fur to prove it), Mahoney suspects none other than his long-time rival, McTavish. This attack has his MO all over it, but Mahoney must follow Agency rules and they clearly state he is not allowed to attack non-strategic animals. Maybe he can find a way around that rule without actually breaking it? A fun, little story with plenty of character. Any animal can be an Agent, so we get hilarious characters and situations, such as Agent Brenda Chicken- who can peck with the speed of a striking cobra. I'm not entirely sure what age group this book is intended for, however. My natural instinct would be younger readers, but there are some rather large words for small children. For example, here are some words I can see younger readers having problems with; avuncular, sporadically; incorrigible; insouciance to name a few. While I realise this could be a good method to teach children what these words mean, I still hesitate to say this is a book for small children. Also, Arlo may be the name on the cover, but it is Mahoney who we see through the eyes of for most of this book. Not that that's a bad thing (and it may only be in this book that this occurs). I'm assuming this will be a series and we'll hear more from Arlo and friends in the future. We do get a couple of nice illustrations of a few characters that are pleasant to spy as you scroll through the pages. I found the subject a little familiar too. For anyone who has ever read the Hank the Cowdog series, you will probably realise what I'm talking about. However, the main difference (aside from the characters and situations being completely different) is that Hank just believed himself to be "Head of Ranch Security", but Arlo actually is an Agent. He can talk to animals and humans and do all the stuff we read about. It's not the fantasy of an imaginative cat. There are some nice characters that make this book worth the read. If you're interested, why not give it a try? Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Elements of the Undead Omnibus on Jan. 18, 2013

    The Elements of the Undead: Omnibus Edition contains all three books in the trilogy by William Esmont. Those three being Fire, Air and Earth. I'm going to explain a little bit about each one (without giving too much away) and then conclude with my thoughts on the series as a whole. But first, a little background. The Elements of the Undead Trilogy is a horror series (though the horror is pretty tame considering the plot. I would call it more of a thriller/ adventure). A zombie apocalypse breaks out at the very beginning and we're brought along with the characters as they react and absorb all the information and struggle through each situation they're faced with. I'll start by saying there are a few graphic scenes, such as zombies eating people or sex scenes, as well as course language. If that's not your cup of tea, you have been warned. In book 1, Fire, we meet quite a few pivotal characters who, step by step, are brought together. First we have Megan Pritchard- a prostitute who works in a brothel in the desert, four hours outside of Vegas. She is planning to visit her sister in Tucson when the zombies start appearing. Meanwhile, we have very brief snippets of Alicia (who is more of a secondary character if that), working in a supermarket, when she witnesses a zombie attack outside the store. We then switch to Jack and his wife Becka in New Mexico, who have two twin daughters, Maddie and Ellie, who are in the process of building a birthday surprise for their girls, when Jack's mother calls telling him to look at the news. Then there's Cesar, the illegal immigrant from Mexico, crossing the border with a few others into the States in the hope of making it to Kansas. We then switch to Kevin Salerno, who has just landed in Idaho returning from a business trip to Shanghai. Then along comes Captain Mike Pringle, flying a Boeing with his co-pilot Marty Sellers, when one of the passengers goes rogue and starts attacking people. Switching again, we meet Peter Woo, a devout Christian who believes the apocalypse is the Rapture come again. Finally, we meet US Navy Commander Betty Hollister, who is the first woman to ever command a ballistic nuclear missile submarine in the Navy and her second in command, Andrew Pollard as they receive a message from HQ to bomb certain cities in the US to try contain the zombie plague. So you can see we have quite a few characters to keep switching between, but somehow the author makes it work. Bit by bit, we get brief, little snippets of each group before moving onto the next, slowly revealing more and leading them all, inevitably, to the same place. We are given more information about a few particular characters more than others. In the first book, I would say the key characters are Megan, Jack, Cesar and Hollister. With Mike, Peter and Andrew adding specific important plot points. However, as you can imagine a lot of the characters (if not all of them) end up in sticky situations and we're not always given the details of how they manage to escape. For instance, hopefully this won't be a spoiler, but Mike is in the cockpit of the Boeing. The last thing we witness of him before he crops up again later in the story, is a zombie banging against the door trying to get in. They're 30,000 ft in the air. Yet, we never receive any explanation of how he survived or got to where he was. Or what happened to anyone else on the plane. This happens for a few characters, but it's understandably considering how many of them there are. In this case, having that many characters actually works in the story's favour. Normally, I would say too many characters spoil the broth. They just make it confusing and distract from the main "flavours" you want people to experience. If done wrong, it can destroy a book, but if done right, like in these books, it creates the necessary viewpoints to get across the different reactions people would have and allows the author to mess with their brains the way it would in real life. Think about it, a zombie apocalypse breaks out. What are the odds everyone (providing they survive long enough) would keep their sanity. We all have a very different way of dealing with problems, especially one of this magnitude. Some people will harden up and become the nearest thing real life has to action heroes, some people will fold and lose their minds, some people with end it, rather than face the alternative. Those are just a few possibilities because the mind is so complex that you can never really predict how someone will adapt (if at all). That's where having a large cast plays to the trilogy's advantage. Not only can we get multiple reactions, but it also lets the author write some of the characters off without leaving too small of a cast behind. Pretty much all of the individual stories happen simultaneously, giving us a view of many different parts in the States. We don't ever hear much about the rest of the world, all we know is that zombies are global and likewise situations are probably happening everywhere. In Fire, we get some information about the zombies themselves. As pretty much anyone who has ever heard of a zombie knows, they can come in many different forms, with many different strengths. In this trilogy, we have simple, traditional zombies. They lumber along (with the exception of radiation-poisoned zombies (courtesy of all the bombs dropped on the States via Hollister's orders), who can sprint), are often missing limbs, organs or anything else, their vocabulary is restricted to moans and growls and you can only kill them with a headshot. They also travel in packs. Oh, and when food is scarce, they're cannibals. While we're never given any concrete reason for zombies appearing out of nowhere, it is suspected that "zombiefication" happens from some kind of virus or disease. The victim starts off with symptoms similar to the flu and then quickly becomes aggressive, before converting to complete zombie. It's quick and deadly. It also spreads surprisingly fast, in fact, the virus went global in only a few hours. Also part of traditional zombie lore, one bite is enough to turn you, with the added complication that any of their fluids (saliva, brain fluid, etc) can infect you as well- if they get into your bloodstream. So when you're fighting for your life, make sure to keep your eyes and mouth closed and cover any cuts or scrapes. They have no blood though, so at least you don't have to worry about that too. Unless of course you have to kill a human who has been bitten, to stop them becoming a zombie. Though most of the people in this trilogy keep a spare bullet for themselves in that eventuality. As the story progresses, we witness two survivalist camps forming (with a few stragglers on the side heading their way). On one hand, we have the Scorpion Canyon group in Tucson. A relatively laid-back (considering the situation) group, who are looking out for everyone's best interests. On the other hand, we have an aggressive group, run in military style. The two groups deal with the living dead and the people in their confines very differently. The first group survives on raids and equality, while the second struggles under a dictator for a leader, who is quickly losing the plot, but still desires power, authority and complete loyalty on penalty of death. As the two groups become aware of the other's existence, tensions run high as one group wants to co-exist and the other wants absolute dominance over everything and everyone. Throughout the books, there are some nice quotes from the likes of Robert Frost and Ezra Pound (among many others) which make for some pleasant, figurative palette cleansers between scenes. Now we come to book 2, Air. An original and unusual idea for a second book, Air has almost nothing to do with the first book and at only 10,000 words long, it's not a format I've ever seen in a series before. The only similarity in plot is the zombie apocalypse. But I found it an interesting way to backtrack and introduce a new character, without confusing the readers or relying on flashbacks. In this book, we meet Chris Thompson. Using another not-often-seen technique, the author places us in the middle of his story, without even a name to go on. Though considering this book is only 10,000 words, we're pulled up to speed rather quickly. It starts off with him on the roof of the Liberty Medical Centre, holding off a horde of zombies with the aid of a rather feeble door. He's contemplating what he believes are his final few moments and the choices he made earlier in the day to end up at this point. I won't give too much away (especially considering the length of this book), but it's suffice to say he came to the hospital to visit his brother, Dave, after he was in a car accident. Of course, considering how the virus starts (remember the flu symptoms), they have the bad luck of being in the exact worst place possible. What's the old saying? The worst place to be sick is in a hospital. This is quite a while back from the main story (a few months back in fact), as we return to the very beginning of it all. Short and sweet, Chris' story continues and ties in with the rest in the final book, Earth. There will be a few spoilers from the previous books below here (nature of a series I'm afraid), so if you don't want to know, stop reading now. If you're interested in the series, why not try it out? Final warning for spoilers below. Set three years later, not much has changed. Zombies are still everywhere. There are less survivors than before and those still around are more savvy than they were at the start. Straight away we're introduced to yet more characters. Ryan Franklin, his wife Paige and their 14 year old son, Luke. They live in an underground bunker in Arizona, courtesy of Ryan's brother-in-law Mitch persuading him Armageddon was approaching. Unfortunately for Mitch, he never made it to his own bunker. The only other members of their community are Jim, his wife Felicia and Jim's father, who live in an adjacent bunker. Megan and Jack return, along with another new character in the form of an ex-military retiree, Archie Henderson. They are planning to move the Scorpion Canyon group to another canyon across the valley, where they'll have more access to water and food. Immediately, we can see that something is different in the zombies' behaviour. They are gathering in swarms much larger than previously seen and all seem to be waiting for a command. They are now almost impossible to fight (due to sheer numbers) and are advancing upon all compounds. The Franklins are forced to decided whether to stay and fight an impossible battle or try to escape in their car, while a wave of zombies fast approaches. Meanwhile, Megan, Jack and Archie are still in the wilderness trying to survive more zombies than they've ever seen. Not surprisingly, the two parties eventually meet up. Drawn together by necessity, they discover something that leads them to believe there is another survivalist group in Tampa. Deciding, it would be best to find them, they start the long journey. As we start to learn more about the newcomers, the unease builds. As it turns out, Paige was on antidepressants long before everything went under and it's no surprise that zombies all over the world have put her precariously close to the edge. Dealing with a woman who only has brief moments of lucidity and a rapidly weakening grip on reality, while trying to survive impending death, is enough to make anyone nervous. Chris Thompson also returns with a brief explanation of the last three years. He and a few other survivors made their way to Galveston and then onto one of the oil platforms in the Gulf. Their group has been slowly growing since and (apart from storms) they are kept safe by the sea. The sea also provides plenty of food, they gather water from frequent rains and the generators provide ample electricity. Surprisingly, they also have internet. Some satellites are still functioning it seems, allowing them to keep a check on storms in the area. With zombies such a dominant presence on the planet and the number of living people dwindling by the second, is there any way to win or even to simply survive? The way these books are written is less like three books made into one story and more like one story made into three books. What I mean by that is that the plot flows almost seamlessly between one book to the next (with the exception of the second book for obvious reasons). Within the plot, the timeframes change often enough that even with the 'three years later' subtitle at the start of the third book, it could well have been part of book 1. It would even be possible to make it all one book without making any changes. What I'm trying to say is it's less episodic than some series. There's no obvious end to one book or beginning of the next, more just the start of the next scene. And I enjoyed it being like that. Often in series, the later books will be set some time after the previous ones and we get a lot of backtracking and flashbacks to fill us in. While we do get a little filling in at the start of the third book, it's done in a way that could've taken place after the end of the first. I actually didn't realise I was on the third book until I finished the series. The ending is a little abrupt and leaves no real conclusion. But then considering that the zombie apocalypse has broken out, there are very few ways to give a definitive ending, short of killing all the survivors. However, there are also a few unanswered questions. One, what happened to Hollister's group? The last we see of her she went stir-crazy, was drugged up and killed her second in command. Did she end up destroying the group through sheer ineptness? Did the zombies attack them at the same time as Scorpion Canyon? Did she kill everyone and then die herself? The final niggling question is the zombies themselves. In the third book, the idea that they're under command is introduced, but never expanded on. They seem to be getting smarter or are waiting for orders from a leader, but it's never explained. I don't know whether there were ever any plans for another book (perhaps Water based on the previous titles?), but I would've liked that plot point to go somewhere. Having said that, I did thoroughly enjoy the series. While I'm not always a fan of gore, it's handled well here. It is graphic, but not too graphic. At no point did I find the huge cast of characters confusing or distracting and they were all given surprisingly detailed situations considering the amount of time we had with each one. Each of their survivalist stories are basically the same, but then they would be. A zombie apocalypse breaks out and your first instinct is to get away from the larger cities. To try to find other people. To bunker down and try ride it out. And that's exactly what they did. While the stories are similar, they're all given just enough individuality to make them interesting, rather than reading the same scenario ten times. If you're a fan of zombies or dystopian worlds this series will be right up your alley. I breezed through it and, before I knew it, was at the end. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Where's Hansel and Gretel's Gingerbread House?: A Gabby Grimm Fairy Tale Mystery #2 on Feb. 17, 2013

    Where's Hansel and Gretel's Gingerbread House? is the second book in the Gabby Grimm Fairy Tale Mysteries series. Set around Gabby Grimm, the Deputy Sheriff of Latima Falls, who receives a call from her cousin, Nettie, asking her to come visit A.S.A.P.. So it's a long train ride on aching limbs (after a incident on a roof) from Vermont to NYC for Gabby. Once there Nettie spills her heart out about being used by (yet another) man, Joe Fortune, who has now mysteriously vanished. All he left behind was a phone number and when Gabby calls him (to give him a piece of her mind) she reaches not Joe Fortuna, but Mike Alves. Next thing she knows, she has her very angry boss calling her up, courtesy of the FBI, demanding she get both herself and cousin down to Vermont now. Nettie is a wanted woman and the FBI are coming for her. What has her cousin stumbled into now? Who is Joe Fortuna and Mike Alves? Are they the same person? Why are the FBI involved? And does it have anything to do with Nettie's job in real estate? It's a quick dash to gather evidence, hide it from prying eyes and prove both their innocence and uncover the conspiracy that unfolds. The story starts pretty slow, but starts to pick up later on. Considering the length of this novella, a slow start is easily read through. It's not slow or long enough to make you lose attention. The plot itself is pretty fun and enjoyable. The book is set around Christmas (though it can be read at any point during the year), but isn't about the holiday itself, it's more of just a simple backdrop. Nice snow, cold weather and a very important gingerbread house. The characters are likeable and very similar to the types of characters this author creates. If you've read any of her other books, you can feel the similarities between them. For one, a lot of her stories are set in Vermont. There's usually a confident, female lead who needs to help someone in trouble, usually someone who can't help themselves. There are also nice, little details (from the original fairytales this series is based loosely on) woven into the text. The plot of each book is set around a basic detail from the Brothers Grimm stories. In this book it's the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel. There are also other very small things added in. Gabby has a cat called Puss N' Boots. Her father runs a German style chalet called Black Forest. There are a few nice "easter eggs" worked in, that are fun to come across. I haven't read the first book (Snow White and the Huntsmen), but I don't think it affected my enjoyment of this book at all. I believe each book can be a stand alone story or read as a series, with each book having a different setting, but with a few recurring characters. A fun, light read. If you're a fan of Sara Barton you'll love these. If you're interested in cozy mysteries, why not try it? A quick read that will lead to an enjoyable afternoon. Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • The Cavern Kings on March 27, 2013

    The Cavern Kings by Jeff Bauer is an interesting book that looks into the world of diving- specifically cave and cavern diving. As a diver myself, I find myself drawn to the water and (judging by this book) the author seems to feel the same pull. The story begins in the small town of Wakulla, Florida. Josh is a scuba instructor working at Wakulla Skuba alongside his friend, mentor and boss, Kathy. Together they run the busy, little store and take interested visitors out to see the wonders of the sea. His best friends, Frank and Jon, always join him when they take a class out diving. The three friends learnt to dive together and have gone on every dive together since. Once a year, they have a celebration in honour of the anniversary of becoming 'legal' divers (basically, getting their certification). Each summer, they choose a spot to dive in the Key. However, this year their plans are complicated by their work schedules. Josh works full-time at the dive shop, Frank is a sales associate and Jon is a computer programmer. Between their three jobs, they find it hard to make time for their annual celebratory dive. Instead, they come up with the idea to dive closer to home, during the weekends. They're surrounded by natural springs to dive, but never tried them as the open ocean was more alluring. So, they head of to Blue Springs in Marianna, where they come across their first cave. None of them have any experience diving caves, which they soon realise they definitely need if they want to go anywhere near caverns or caves. During their amateur, first cave dive, they discover the allure of overhead diving, as well as the dangers. And thus we get the plot. The three decide to take a cavern diving course during their weekends off. Their tutor, Drew, was recommended through Kathy and is said to be one of the best. Their small group is joined by one other for the class, Astrid- a Swedish woman with just as much passion for diving as them. Josh is your typical lovably, good guy, Frank is the over-confident prankster and Jon is the quiet voice of reason. With Astrid, they add a kind, though a little intimidating, personality to their mix. This is more of a slow-read. Most of the book is description, with very little dialogue. But the description is so perfectly accurate of what you experience during diving, that I wouldn't call the slow-pace or basic plot a flaw. In fact the opposite. This is a love letter to diving, focusing more on the sensations and the way divers interact and view the underwater environment. It also acts as a cautionary tale, making sure non-divers and divers alike are all aware of the dangers involved, especially if you're a new diver or diving a new area or skill. Diving has an extraordinary amount of certifications because you need to study each specific skill thoroughly. None of them can be added on to another. Cave and cavern diving bring numerous more dangers. On an average open-water dive, the deeper you get, the more light will fade, the higher the pressure gets, the colder the water is, the more air you breathe. If you're in an area with few landmarks, getting lost can be surprisingly easy. In a cavern or cave, you add the threat that an overhead environment brings. There is no longer a direct line to the surface. Sunlight is completely cut off. That mixed with the lengths and widths that tunnel systems can be, poses an extreme danger in and of itself. All it takes is getting a little lost or stuck in a narrow tunnel. Then it's just a matter of running out of the small amount of air you carry on your back. Keeping track of time and air is crucial in diving. Underwater, time flows differently. You can check your dive computer and find you've been down an hour, when only 10 minutes seem to have passed. Not being able to see the light changing, makes it hard to tell how much time has passed. This book covers the many aspects of diving, from training, experiencing the first dive, becoming qualified, the first 'legal' dive, the experiences you have with the environment and the loss and tragedies that can and do occur. Sometimes, no matter how safe you are, things can still go wrong. Diving rules are built from the mistakes and misfortunes of others. You can never be too careful, especially when there's a hundred feet of water and solid rock between you and another air source. Some of the writing can be a little rudimentary, but the book pulls you past the occasional occurrence. A lovely mix of fiction and non-fiction and an enjoyable book that the diver in me can't help but love. Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • A Drizzle of Zombies on April 26, 2013

    A Drizzle of Zombies by Joshua Price is the first book in 'The Annals of Absurdity" series. Dr. Malevolent is up to her super-villain ways again. This time she wants to rob the bank (aptly named 'The Bank"). With her schizophrenic sidekick, Boris (aka Charlie, aka Cecil DeWitt, aka who knows) and a group of unnamed lackeys, what could possibly stop her? With her "employee of the month' winning" rod constantly at her side and the most unsubtle getaway van of all time, nothing can hinder her cause- taking revenge on human-kind for her father's natural causes. She will have vengeance. Enter Captain Rescue, the epitome of a spoof hero and arch-nemesis of Dr. Malevolent. Armed with a purple, spandex suit (with cape), plenty of unidentifiable (at least to him) Internet bought gadgets, and more neuroses than the average pollen-fearing bee in a florist's, he defends the citizens valiantly in the name of Justice. Or at least tries to. Captain Rescue is unfortunately 'one banana short of a fruit bowl' if you get my drift, and only succeeds in saving anybody through sheer, dumb luck. His idea to save the cliche cat in the tree, is to repeatedly ram his parent's truck into the trunk until one or both buckle. He travels in one of his many "Rescue" vehicles, but his most used is the "Rescue Machine", which he personally designed- with crayons. But why does he do all this? Why choose this path? His parents were killed by dolphins and now he must fight evil. They were very wealthy and it's their money that pays for all his escapades and funds his 'creativity'. During this latest battle between the two foes, Dr. Malevolent and her crew get captured. This is important because their cargo gets taken into custody as well. Among their bank spoils is a vial of strange, green liquid with enough warning labels to make anyone think twice. Well, almost anyone. Seems one of the police men cataloguing the inventory thinks it looks rather tasty. From the title of this book, I'm sure you can guess what happens next. Yes, our clever cop has a coughing fit and seconds later becomes a zombie. Luckily his partner has seen enough horror movies to realise what's happening. Unfortunately, this leaves him paralysed with fear and causes his demise. When the city actually calls for help from their resident "hero", he's in it up to his neck, literally- zombies love necks. And what's our Batman-wannabe's (seriously, he lives in a cave and has a butler called "Alfonso") first reaction when encountering a zombie? Spray it with mace! Now why don't any of the movies ever think of that? Oh right, because it does absolutely nothing. Who would've thought? Note to self: Mace does not repel the undead. Eventually, he works his way to the police station and runs into Dr. Malevolent and her cronies. Together, they agree to help save the world (in Malevolent's case it's because she doesn't want to rule the undead), along with a huge mountain of muscle (Freight- who's a cop with a bloodlust to match his size) and his shotgun, Courtney. Boris (Malevolent's right-hand man) equips himself with his precious bunny costume and becomes 'Charlie', a born leader with enough smarts to possibly save them all- minus a few lackeys. Along the way, this odd menagerie run into a zombie who's a little bit different- he can speak (plus he doesn't have a hunger for human flesh). He has no memory of his human life, but does get brief visions of how the zombie DNA (if that's what it is) was created. The group decide he might be useful and let him tag along. As he can't remember his own name, Captain Rescue 'kindly' names him Stubbs. Stubbs informs the group that zombies apparently don't like giant, fuzzy, blue bunnies and so Charlie is the perfect deterrent. Together they will battle through zombie nightclubs, a zombie birthday party and in general a lot than 'a drizzle of zombies', to find the creators and save the world. In case it wasn't already clear, this is very much a comedy. For this reason, the zombies are hardly threatening. I'm fully aware that that these two things aren't necessarily related. I know you can have scary zombies in a comedy (thank you 'Shaun of the Dead"), but these ones aren't. Just to make that clear for anyone out there who's only interested in zombies that leave you devoid of all hope and with a death wish. There are also a ton of pop culture references, from 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' and 'Doctor Who' to 'Jurassic Park', 'Monty Python' and 'Donkey Kong' (with many, many more), there's bound to be something you recognise. Of course, there are also the obvious references to superheroes, mostly Batman, and the whole 'saving the world' thing. I feel I have to make it clear- this is a spoof. It is in no way serious. Absolutely nothing makes any sense in this book. Things get stranger and stranger and if you're the kind of person who can't not question what's going on, this may not be the book for you. If you can go with the flow, you may find this book more appealing. Sometimes, the nonsense can be a little tiring, especially paired with the slapstick humour. Both are constant and unceasing, but they can be odd enough to keep you reading. Just be aware that if you're looking for something with even an ounce of seriousness in it- this is not it. Overall, a story with quirky (if a little immature) humour, that is reminiscent of old-school TV shows, such as 60's Batman and Doctor Who episodes, with a little video-game oddness thrown in. If you like pop-culture references or spoofs, this is for you. For me, there was just a little too much absurdity to fully enjoy this book. Everyone has a different level of craziness that they can tolerate and this book exceeded mine. If this book has caught your interest, you'll be pleased to know it ends on a cliffhanger and the next book is available. If you can handle more crazy than me, why not check it out? Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Elusive (Book #1 in the On The Run Series) on May 11, 2013

    Elusive by Sara Rosett is the first book in the "On the Run" series. Starting out in Dallas, Texas, we meet Zoe Hunter- a fiery, red-head (aren't they always) who spends most of her time trying to support herself. She does a lot of odd-jobs, such as dog walking, but her main sources of income come from books she copy-edits for an independent travel company and office spaces her aunt gave her as early inheritance. Her aunt promised they would be a great investment. She rents out two of the offices. One of those offices is rented by her ex-husband and his company (GRA- Green Recyclable Services). It's a company he started and co-owns with Connor (a man with great disdain for any digital technology). They have a secretary named Sandra and that's it. Three employees. Jack handles all the computer work (because of Connor's aversion) except the accounts, which Connor handles. Together, the three of them manage to scrape by and the company's stocks seem to be increasing in value surprisingly quickly. Zoe and Jack may be ex-spouses, but they still share the house. Not because they want to, but because they can't afford to sell it or get their own places. So they have a very delicate set-up designed to give them their own spaces and keep them apart. Zoe has the entire downstairs, while Jack gets the upstairs. Jack uses the front door, Zoe uses the back. This ensures they never meet. Jack doesn't even use the kitchen, he has a hot plate and mini-fridge upstairs that is apparently all he requires. Returning to his office after lunch one day, Jack finds something amiss. Sandra is out at the orthodontist and has been given the rest of the day off, but Connor should be there. He should be able to hear him from his own office. And someone has used his computer. As he stares at the screensaver and blinks the screen into life, he finds his bank account on the monitor. All of his company shares are sold, including ones he didn't own. There is now twelve million dollars in shares. Much more than they had. Opening his drawer he finds his gun, that he leaves at home, in the attic. Later, Zoe gets a visit from the police. They found Jack's car at the side of a bridge. Someone reported seeing a man getting swept away down the river. The story goes that Jack tried to seek cover under the bridge from the tornado that passed by earlier in the day. He must have slipped on the bank and fallen into the fast-moving water below. The police aren't hopeful. Zoe is in a daze. She doesn't know how to feel. Going to his office to let Sandra and Connor know that Jack's missing, she instead finds it empty. There's an odd smell coming from the office and she follows it to Connor's door. Inside she finds Connor, a bullet hole through his forehead. Now the FBI are involved. What started out as a search for a missing man has turned into a hunt for a fugitive. But Zoe can't believe that. Jack is not the type to cook the books then kill a man for the money and go AWOL. But now the FBI are very interested in her. She's the closest person to Jack. The only family he has is a cousin in Vegas. Zoe is his next of kin, which of course puts her in prime suspect position. Realising that situation is quickly going from back to worse, Zoe thinks it's best to contact his cousin, Eddie. She goes upstairs to find his computer and locate Eddie's details. But calling the number, she finds two shocks in store. One, Eddie is a woman and two, she claims she doesn't know Jack then hangs up. Trying to call back she gets put through to voicemail. Irritated she accidentally knocks over his lamp and finds rolls of money hidden inside the base. Determined to find out more, she thoroughly checks the house and comes up with more money and two passports, one for a woman named Irena and the second for a Brian Kenneth McGee- who's photo is that of her ex-husband's. Confused and afraid that the police will use this against her, she tries to make a decision. But when she finds the police coming back with a warrant, she chooses to run. Grabbing a few essentials, she decides on Vegas. If Eddie won't take her calls, she'll just have to go to her in person. Right now, she's the only lead Zoe's got. With one partner dead and the other missing under suspicious circumstances - along with millions of dollars-the question of fraud and murder are only shadowed by one question- Where is Jack Andrews? Or for Zoe- Who is Jack Andrews? Discovering the answer will take her on a roller-coaster journey through Dallas, Vegas, Rome, Naples and Venice. Well, she's always wanted to see Italy. The characters were typical of this genre. You have the bad guys, the good guys and the normals. Within the groups, you have the 'good guy who's not used to bad', the 'bad guy pretending to be good', the 'really bad guy', 'the betrayer', all the usual suspect that make this genre so formulaically enjoyable to read. I would put this story between cozy mystery and thriller. There are darker elements, but for the most part I would say it's more of a light-hearted read. The ending was strong. It resolves on, literally, the last line and is most definitely an incentive to check out the next book. I was enthralled by the story. Those who are familiar with me will know I can't resist a good mystery- whether it be cozy or dark. I will be checking out the next part of the story and thoroughly recommend this book for anyone who likes a good whodunit, with a little humour and romance thrown in. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Secretive on July 03, 2013

    Secretive by Sara Rosett is the second book in the 'On the Run' series. The first book in the series is 'Elusive' and I'll link my review of it here: There will be spoilers from the first book in this review. If you don't want to know what happens it that one, stop here. Spoilers of Elusive beyond here. Secretive starts off six months after the events of the last book. Zoe's life has mostly returned to normal, though there has been no contact from Jack since the letter in the last book. The FBI and everyone else believes he's dead, but Zoe knows otherwise. She just wishes she knew a little more. For now, there's her copy-editing job and a hole in the ceiling to occupy her. That is until she notices a strange, silver car tailing her and watching her house. Her mind goes on red alert. Her life on the LAM may have ended six months ago, but it seems like only yesterday she was running for her life. When she manages to lose the mysterious car, she believes she's safe. Until an unmarked, white van shows up when she's out for a jog, and the occupants come after her. At the same time, the FBI are interested in her once more, as the money from the frozen GRS account has gone missing again. Feeling increasingly unsettled, she decides to act when a package arrives with her missing wedding ring, and a string of numbers in it, and a postmark from London. It has to be Jack. She needs to lay low anyway, why not visit London? Maxing out all her cards, she picks up and leaves, with a brief message to Helen, so her best friend doesn't worry. At the airport, ready to leave, she runs into Sam- a man who rents one of the office spaces left vacant after the GRS affair. He has business in London and happens to be on the same flight, but the events in Italy have made her wary and cautious. How much does she want to tell him? Who can she trust? Is it just a coincidence? Meanwhile, Victor Costa (a man who used to be part of Camorra- the Naples mafia, and Francesca's husband) has a plan. He's been searching for Jack all these months, but it seems the American really is dead. With his scapegoat out of the picture, it's time to find another. His ex-wife will do. The plot of this book is very similar to the first, just against a different backdrop. Instead of Vegas and Italy, we have London and Germany. This book is not quite as fast-paced as the first, but it still does its job. I must also commend the author for her ability to end every chapter on a cliffhanger- forcing me to read the next one. For those who didn't read the first book, or those who's memory of it is a little foggy, there is some recapping of the events from Elusive, making this a stand-alone book as well, though things will be less confusing if you read the first book. Mort and Sato also return in this book, though they're not quite as prevalent in this one. Mort is a couple weeks of from retirement, so I'm wondering who'll partner Sato in the new book. As you may have realised, Victor Costa is in this book. The mysterious man surrounding Francesca from the first book, makes his first appearance. This story carries on the GRS plot from the first. Nothing was tied up, Jack is still a wanted man and nobody knows who the scammer was. The ending of this book finally brings it all together in a neat, little bow, and even manages to set up the plot of the next book (at least I think that's what it is) Deceptive- which will be out Fall 2013 according to the author herself. It's heavily implied that Zoe will again come under suspicion and I wonder how many times she can be incriminated before everyone gets fed up, characters and readers alike. For now, it's still as enjoyable as it was in Elusive. Speaking of, the characters are much the same merry band from the first, with a different bad guy plus henchman. If you liked them in Elusive, you'll like them here. Same goes for the plot. Like I said, basically same plot, different settings. An enjoyable, fun read, with likeable characters and a little sightseeing mixed in. I will be checking out the next instalment once it's released. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Sloughing Off the Rot on July 10, 2013

    Sloughing Off the Rot by Lance Carbuncle is a story with an odd mix of genres. First Paragraph: "And that night John went to bed without eating his dinner. Zonked on zolpidem and single malt scotch, wrapped tightly in his super-special 1,000 thread counts sheets and nestled comfortably on his newfangled memory foam-reclining- adjustable king-sized bed, John blacked out just after lying down. Peaceful nothingness swirled around him, tossing off flecks of gold and strands of cool blue. The ten thousand things fled and left in their place a cozy void." PLOT John wakes up one morning to discover himself no longer in any recognisable place. His comfy bed replaced by hard ground and his soft pillow by a rock. He is pondering how he woke up in a cave, and the strange, dark hole a few feet away when a voice comes to him. The voice tells him he is "John the Revelator", followed by some Proclaimers' lyrics and some very ambiguous, unhelpful comments. The voice tells John he needs redemption. To reach it, he must follow the path, never straying lest he lose the path and become lost to it forever. The moment John exits the cave, he is met by a strange 'prophet-like' being, in the form of an almost naked hippie, who calls himself Santiago. Santiago is there to guide John, to walk beside him on the journey. However, Santiago is not the most stable of people, and John is now thoroughly confused. He can remember nothing of himself or his past, and he certainly wants nothing to do with this crazy, little man or his plans. Lost in a desert, John just wants to find his way home. A burning bush tells him that he must follow the path to do so. This is John's second chance. He must follow the red-brick road of El Camino de la Muerte (The Way of Death) and never stray, if he wants to return. What happens on it and where it takes him is up to John. With little choice, John sets off with the 'wise' Santiago at his side. Along the way they meet a vast assortment of characters. They are hunted by the zombie-like 'lunkheads'- who are men stripped down to nothing but their base desires. They are not the only wants hunting him. REVIEW A very weird, sometimes off-putting story. The best way to get through it is to not question it and follows John's example- just go with the flow. There's an odd mix of humour, fantasy and disturbing, adult horror. There are graphic scenes that may not be for the weak of heart, but there is also plenty of warmth to offset it. Though there are horror aspects, the character' reactions makes them seem less threatening and sickening. In fact, the characters just brush them off like nothing. They're almost horror without the horror. Reading this book is like entering one of Salvador Dali's paintings- it's bleak, beautifully grotesque and utterly beyond description. Freud would have a field day. It's a bizarre mesh of adult versions of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Especially the latter. It can be hard to know what's going on, and there's a confusion to match John's own. There are also a lot of Christian undertones (even John's name), all added in in a playful, semi-mocking manner. Not in a offensive way (though I'm sure some would disagree), more in a misplaced, I-think-there's-some-relevance-to-this-but-I-can't-find-it kind of way. Pop culture references are also blended into the mix, adding to the complete acid trip that is this book. The characters themselves are synonymous with the many different sides of people. The ego, the superego and the id. I'll leave it at that, so as not to spoil, but suffice to say they are a look into the human psyche. Though I will add that Santiago reminds me a little of a more explicit Zaphod Beeblebrox, minus the snazzy outfits, spaceship and extra head. He's quite charming in his own psychotic way. Overall, I enjoyed this story. If this review got you interested, why not check it out? Though one tip? Don't overthink it too much, just let it be. Let it wash you through the pages, and only once you've finished the book should you think back and wonder what on Earth you just read. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • The Liar and Other Stories on July 21, 2013

    The Liar and Other Stories by Matthew W. McFarland is a collection of six short stories. PLOT The first is "The Liar". First sentence: "In the past twenty-four hours, I have convinced various people that I am a fireman, that I make my own shoes, that I am a qualified pilot, that my middle name is Wenceslas, and that I have an inoperable brain tumour." This story centres around (fairly obviously) an obsessive liar- though his lying isn't compulsive (according to his shrink), he just really enjoys it. Today he is a businessman, and heading for the office of a corporate hot-shot. But is he really so free of reason? Who is the man of a million faces? The next story is "Hospital". First sentence; "There is a UFO outside the children's hospital, a huge, mirror-plated disc thirty feet across set at an angle on top of several pylons." Four-year-old Sam had a bad experience, that left the young boy with a fear of blood tests. He is so afraid of them, that he won't complain unless the pain is too extreme. So when he says he has a sore back, they know it's serious. Told from the point of view of what I can only assume is his father, we get the adventures of Sam, going through the many hospital processes and the medical staff, with his parents getting more and more stressed as time passes. What could possibly be wrong with their little boy? The third story is "Making Headlines". First sentence: "The girl lay face down on the lawn, one bare foot nestled in the dark soil of a flowerbed." Told from the point of view of her deadpan killer, we get flashbacks to the night before, when she died. Kathy Rogers was a local celebrity. An actress who was just hitting her streak, heading for the top. But she wanted more, she wanted the world to know her name. Someone should have told her to be careful what you wish for. Next is "The Savant". First sentence: "No-one had ever called Hector Gutierrez smart." Hector is a regular Average-Joe. He works in construction with his two brothers, until (on their way to work one day) the three of them are involved in a collision. Hector wakes up in hospital, with a new talent. One he's not sure what to do with. The penultimate story is "Ripples". First sentence: "'Let me help,' said the old man, standing up from his seat." Anne is running. Running from a night she'll never forget. She gets on the first train she can, and meets the curious Stanley. Slowly she opens up, and tells him what horrors she witnessed the night before. The final story is "Toxic Love". First sentence: "My wife of close to twenty years is slowly poisoning me, of this I am certain." A man with an overbearing wife, believes she is slowly killing him, slipping something into every meal and snack she prepares for him. He is forbidden from cooking, and is struggling with the concept of her betrayal. All the tiny, insignificant hints he's found, have piled up into one obvious big slap on the face. A wake-up call. He needs to know why? Who can he go to? What can he do? How did it come to this? The story then switches to his wife's POV, before ending on their teenage son's. The revelations that come with each change seem to be vying for which can be the most extreme. How well do you know the people in your life? REVIEW McFarland is great at writing seemingly innocuous stories, that end up chilling and unnerving. He's very good at building tension and suspense, though sometimes tricking the reader with an unexpected plot twist or change of atmosphere. I reviewed his first collection, "50/50" and (though it still contains my favourite stories from him) these contain the same charm and enjoyability. My favourites are "Ripples" (which I could see making a great thriller- if only). There are some unexplained elements, but the power of imagination fills in the gaps and makes it more sinister. And "Toxic Love", which is a dark, twisted story, with almost comical switches in POV. Changing between the views- with their different levels of awareness- is somehow both humorous and unsettling. The characters are all very focused on the negative. During the story, I found myself imagining the cast singing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in my head. "Regrets, I've had a few.." My favourite character would probably be Arthur (if that is his real name) from "The Liar". A con-man, who makes charm his business, he comes across as very likeable, funny and a little insane. There's no doubt he's unstable, but that just adds to his psychotic energy, and sucks you right in. OVERALL An entertaining, short collection that fans of his previous book will no doubt enjoy. His writing style and immersive stories will have you reaching for that one too. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.
  • Deceptive (On The Run #3) on Sep. 08, 2013

    Deceptive by Sara Rosett is the third (and final?) book in the On the Run Trilogy (possibly series). First Paragraph: "The woman with long red hair appeared to be leisurely browsing one of the clothing racks in the Paris boutique, but her attention was less focused on the fabric and cut of the dresses than on the art gallery visible through the shop's front window. When a couple, obviously tourists- easily identifiable because of their camera case, sensible tennis shoes, and bright jackets- exited the gallery and wandered away to explore more of the Seventh Arrondissement, the woman abandoned the boutique and quickly crossed the narrow Rue Andre to the arched doorway under five stories of iron balconies." PLOT Beware: spoilers of the first two books, Elusive and Secretive, beyond here. You can check out my reviews of those two books here: and here:, respectively. Final warning. A few months after the events of the last book, and almost a year since those in the first, Zoe and Jack are back in hot water. At the end of the last book, Anna had devised a scheme using the painting she stole from Costa. All these months later, she's finally putting it into play. Disguising herself as Zoe, she is selling the painting in Paris. What makes the plan so perfect is that Costa set it up for Zoe and Jack to take the fall too. He created an account with the stolen GRS money that was the plot for the last two books, labelling Zoe as the owner of the account. Meanwhile, unaware of the events taking place, Zoe is getting used to having Jack back in her home and her life. Jack's made it very clear he wants to try getting back together-taking it slow this time, so as not to make the same mistakes as before. But Zoe isn't sure that's what she wants. She can't deny the attraction, but she's wary after how their marriage fell apart. They worked well together on the run, but there's a big difference between being a 'couple under pressure' and a real-life couple, capable of handling even the mundane together. All this is put to the back of her mind when she discovers the body of her occasional client, Lucinda. All she wanted to do was deliver the flyers ordered, but a note on the front door leads her to the garden, and the corpse with a knife in it's back- casually reclining on the chaise lounge. While trying to summon the courage to (unnecessarily) check for a pulse, she's knocked out by an unseen assailant- coming to in her car half an hour later. She immediately calls the police, but when they go to check the 'scene of the crime' all evidence Lucinda was ever there is gone. No flyers (which Zoe had dropped everywhere), no knife and no bloody Lucinda. Not even one drop of blood on the chaise lounge. When the police check with Lucinda's office, they tell her that Lucinda left on holiday the day before. Thoroughly confused, and facing chargers for wasting police time, Zoe explains the situation to Jack on the way home, but they're stopped short when they see 'Green Lawn Care' vans parked outside their house, with a strange man waiting for them- holding the missing flyers Zoe dropped at Lucinda's. Long story short, the man is Oscar. He works for Darius Gray, who believes they have something that belongs to him- the stolen painting. When they try to explain that Anna stole it in Germany, Oscar isn't having any of it. He doesn't care who has it, he only cares about getting it back- and has tasked Zoe with the job. Gray found the money trail leading to her, so she has to get it. They know the missing painting is valuable, but not just how valuable it is until Oscar lets slip that it's the missing Monet painting 'Marine', that was stolen from a museum in Rio de Janeiro in 2006. And either they get it back to Gray in three days, or he will pile up the evidence that Zoe killed Lucinda- helpfully pointing out that her body is buried in Zoe's flowerbed- courtesy of 'Green Lawn Care'. That and he'll kill all her friends and family. If they succeed, Gray will forget it ever happened, destroy all evidence of the murder, and leave Zoe and Co alone. With little choice, Zoe and Jack are off on another adventure. Her first instinct is to call Mort from the FBI- not knowing that he retired in the last book. When that fails, she decides to go it alone (with Jack of course), as she doesn't think the rest of the FBI will believe her story. Meanwhile, Sato is getting used to his new partner and missing his old one. However, when they finally discover the money trail leading to Zoe and the painting, the new boy may be Zoe's saviour, as he believes the pieces fall into place a little too easily. No possibility of questioning Zoe though, as she and Jack are off to Paris, following the only lead they have- Anna. REVIEW More travelling and espionage for the duo. This time through France and Italy, but the main focus of the story is the complicated relationship between Zoe and Jack. He wants to make it work, but she's afraid it can't- considering how badly their marriage went. There were many reasons it didn't last, and the air has to be cleared before they can ever have a second chance at working. Because the focus is mainly on them, this book has a slower pace than the last- very hectic- two. They do have a very short, definite deadline here, but there's less travelling and hiding from the law to add tension. The ending is suitably genre-savvy, full of warm fuzzes and dramatic revealing of emotions. Mostly, this book is a wrap-up to complete the series. The ending is still open to additions, and Zoe is awfully good at attracting unwanted attention, so though the trilogy has ended, the duo may return for further adventures. As I said, this is just a wrap-up mainly, with even Sato getting his own very mini arc. There are a a few tiny threads left dangling, but nothing important or overly relevant. By now you know what to expect plot-wise, assuming you've read the first two. If I had to add a criticism, it would be the villain. In the previous books, the villains were threatening and intimidating, as well as being major parts in the stories. In this one, while the villain is named, he is only in the book for a few pages at the end, and certainly never seemed that dangerous- despite the threats and obvious capabilities. On a small side note, the missing Monet painting is based on fact. The painting was stolen from the Chacara do Ceu Museum in 2006 in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Other pieces were stolen along with it, by artists such as Picasso, Dali and Matisse. In terms of ending the series, this one doesn't end the usual way- with a big finale. As I mentioned before, it wraps everything up, focusing more on conclusions that attention-grabbing. Both methods works- as long as they are done well, so no complaint from me with this ending. Overall a fun series, not necessarily suspense- more of a cozy mystery- based on fraud more than murder. There may be 'bad', but it's more shenanigans than danger. Mystery with pleasantness. In terms of the book alone, this was my least favourite of the series, but that by no means means it's bad, just that the others are better- in my opinion any way. They had more tension and more energy. If they're an all out sprint, this one is more of an amble. In terms of the series as a whole, I would give it 4 stars. It was enjoyable, had entertaining characters and beautiful scenery- even if the plots started to become a little far-fetched as the series progressed. A perfect read for when you want something fun and quick, and don't want anything too serious. Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.