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Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: The Moses Virus by Jack Hyland

In sci-med thriller The Moses Virus, Dr Tom Stewart, a professor and trustee of the American Academy in Rome, stumbles upon an ancient virus, more deadly than the Spanish Flu and becomes the one man who can protect the virus from falling into the wrong hands.

I do like my deadly pathogen thrillers, and The Moses Virus certainly fits into this category, although is a bit slower than most novels in this genre, with a lot of focus being put on the history side of the story especially earlier on. Like many books since Dan Brown, there is a bit of an ‘evil Vatican’ sub-plot that will appeal to fans of that ilk. One of the highlights of The Moses Virus is that it is beautifully written and features well researched descriptions of modern Rome.
My big problem with The Moses Virus was that the plot is flawed, why is Dr Stewart the one to investigate the virus? There is a weak reason given in passing but it doesn’t really make sense. Neither does the fact the police and the Vatican seem completely happy to have him investigate seemly with very little official investigation going on particularly on the part of the police. Then there is the fact that he realises that there are people who will kill to find out what is going on and that he needs to be discrete but then goes any around telling all and sundry about the virus. Later in the book, he seems to manage to organise a cross border raid in very little time, with his only contact in government seemingly a Rome based director of the Laboratory for Communicable Substances. I realise that being utterly realistic wouldn’t work, but the lack of realism really bothers me and detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Overall, an okay read which general fans of thrillers will enjoy, particular those who like a bit of history in the plot. Those who enjoy a bit more science in their thriller will probably be a bit disappointed with the lack of substantial science but The Moses Virus will still make for a pleasant afternoon’s read.

The Moses Virus is available in dead tree format from Amazon.com (January 7th) and from Amazon.co.uk(March 7th).

[An ARC was provided through NetGalley]

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Blood and Stone by Chris Collett

DI Tom Mariner decides the perfect cure for his grief after the death of his ex-girlfriend is to take a walking holiday in Wales. Unfortunately trouble seems to follow Tom and in short succession several people around him are dead. Is it the work of a recently released convict, a criminal from Mariner’s past or someone else entirely?

Blood and Stone has everything you need from a crime thriller – a realistic lead character, an interesting setting and so many interweaving threads that you’ll be kept guessing until the end. Tom Mariner is a very fallible character and like most in the book is characterised well. Collet switches between several characters when telling the story and so leads you on a merry chase which will have you swearing blind that you know who the killer is several times before the truth is revealed in a surprise ending. For those of you who have an aversion to gore, Collet gets the balance just right, not glossing over it but not going into every little detail.

This is sixth book in the DI Mariner series, and whilst past events are mentioned several times, I did not feel like I missed out having not read the previous five books, so Blood and Stone is fine when read as a stand alone novel.
Overall a very well done crime thriller which whilst thrilling leaves you with a nice cosy feeling at the end. Highly recommended for all readers – there is romance, murder and suspense.

Blood and Stone is available in dead tree from Amazon.co.ukfor £14.99.

[An ARC was provided through NetGalley]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: The Boy Who Was Born A Girl by Jon and Luisa Edwards

Based on the TV documentary of the same name, The Boy Who Was Born a Girl is the inspiring story of a mother and son coming to terms with gender dysphoria. When the documentary was filmed, Jon was just starting hormone therapy to develop more male characteristics. This book, written four years after the documentary, covers both the stuff seen in the documentary and the aftermath of the 'fame' and hormone treatment; as well as providing tips and reassurance to others in a similar situation.

Jon was born as Natasha in 1992, and spent most of his childhood feeling different to other girls, and experienced some social isolation because of this. At the age of 15, after having to deal with his mum's bipolar illness, his parents divorce, bullying and his grandmother's passing, he attempted to take his own life and was hospitalised in an adolescent mental health ward. During this time Jon explored his sexuality and gender identity and found solace in a community of other LGBT youth, and eventually found the confidence to come out as transgender. The later part of the book deals with some of the issues associated with being transgender, such as sexual relationships and starting hormone treatment, and Jon, here more than anywhere else in the book, comes across as a well adjusted, happy, mature twenty year old. The book ends with a tender, heartwarming letter from Luisa to Jon, that will bring a tear of joy to any eye.

The book is written with separate chapters written by Jon, and his mother Luisa, with them both offering different perspectives on events or periods of time in their lives. This is slightly off-putting at first, but the reader quickly gets used to the flips in narrator. The contents page makes it easier for those seeking information on a particular period of time to find that section; and there is a helpful glossary section for those new to the whole gender dsyphoria world.

Jon and Lusia Edwards
Overall, an informative quick read which will be of particular interest to those with gender dsyphoria and their families.

The Boy Who Was Born a Girl is widely available, including as a Kindle e-book at Amazon for £3.66.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Black Oil, Red Blood by Diane Castle

Black Oil, Red Oil is an Erin Brockovich style thriller following lawyer Chloe Talyor as she fights to prove that the local oil refinery gave her client’s husband cancer. As she struggles with her complicated personal life, her case starts to fall apart when her expert witness is killed days before the trial. With the big oil company and several in their pay trying to stop her, will she manage to get justice for her client?

If you like a story with a message then this one is for you. The author obviously doesn't like the petrochemical industry and the reader is well aware of this by the end of the book as the characters occasionally become puppets spouting anti-big oil rhetoric. There is nothing wrong with the argument, I just question how overt it was in this novel, and it does detract from the story.

The story itself is pretty much run of the mill for an action-thriller. There’s a conspiracy, there’s danger, there’s explosions. You are kept guessing over exactly who is in on the conspiracy and who isn't. I was enjoying the story up until the events near the end of the book, which were rushed and simply unbelievable.

For me the characters were a little 2D and stereotypical. Miles, Chloe’s paralegal, comes across almost as a caricature of a gay man, though he does provide a lot of humour in the novel. Nash, the detective, is your all American man, who Chloe falls for. Chloe herself comes across like Elle Woods from Legally Blonde; there is actually a scene talking about clothes and shoes!  

So, the good – it’s fast, it’s fun and there’s enough suspense to keep you reading. The bad – 2D characters, run-of-the-mill story and a strong political message. Overall if you are looking for a serious thriller then this is not for you; if you want a light summer read with a bit of action then give it a go.

Black Oil, Red Blood is available from Amazon UK for £3.35 and from Amazon US for $5.10.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor

Having thoroughly enjoyed The Deep Zone, I really wanted to like Frozen Solid, the second Hallie Leland book in the series. In Frozen Solid Hallie Leland is dispatched to Antarcticaafter her friend, carrying out research there, suddenly dies. Hallie is asked to take over the research with only a week to go before the research station is all but shut down for the winter. Almost as soon as she arrives people start dying. Will Haillie be able to find out the cause before everyone leaves?

The plot of the book was very much my cup of tea, and I did enjoy the idea of an outside group trying to control overpopulation in a ‘humane’ way but it all going wrong. The psychological aspects of the plot such as the isolation, the fear of being watched and the ‘accidents’, serve to heighten the tension, and I very much enjoyed this aspect of the book.

The character of Hallie Leland is well written and believable. She is strong, but not overwhelming so. She is intelligent but not all knowing, and there are some moments of weakness which add to the depth of the character. The characterisation of Hallie is a strength of Frozen Solid, and there are clear improvements to her character since The Deep Zone.   

Frozen Solid is not without its frustrations. As a fan of the more fast-paced thriller, and The Deep Zone certainly came under this banner, Frozen Solid was a bit too slow to get started for me. Things don’t kick off till over half way through. The first half of the book is a confusing kaleidoscope of different characters, almost random scenes and the author going off on tangents; this makes it quite hard work to follow and often left me feeling frustrated. It is a shame that while Hallie is very well characterised; the other characters are mostly unmemorable, which also contributes to the confused feel of the book, as you try to remember who’s who.  There is also frequent bad language, now I am not a prude and feel that using swearing can enhance the story if used correctly and sparingly, in this case it was not. 

The science is there for fans of Sci-Med, and in the whole is written in a way that shouldn't present a problem for readers who are not of a scientific or medical bent, although don’t expect the science to be explained every step of the way as it is in McClure or Crichton books. There are some more technical terms but one of the benefits of reading on a Kindle is that any terminology you don’t know can easily be looked up. Overall the science used is believable but there are some subtle mistakes – for example, the events are set in February and this is described as being dark and very cold, when in reality there is 24 hour sunlight and the temperatures at the South Pole are a more balmy -38°C rather than the -58°C found in winter.  I can see that having 24 hour near darkness is essential to ramp up the psychological tension, so why not set it during March-September during southern winter. It makes no sense to say February and then claim its winter, and it makes me wonder how well researched the book was.

Overall, a pleasant Sci-Med thriller that fans of the genre will want to read. Action/adventure fans may also want to give Frozen Solid a go but may be put off by the amount of science and the slow, confused start. This was a very hard book for me to rate as I did enjoy the story but it also frustrated me, I settled for a 3 in the end as I did enjoy it but would caution readers to be aware of some of the book’s issues before purchasing.  

Frozen Solid is available from Amazon for £14.97 for the Kindle Edition. 

[A ARC was provided by NetGalley] 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: How do we know? by Kenny A. Chaffin

How do we know? is a back-to-basics science book for the curious lay person. In a series of short essay like chapters it takes the reader on a journey from the start of our planet to then modern man and AI, explaining the basic science as you go.

The book is written in a conversational style, with a smattering of humour, which makes it easy and enjoyable to read. I even learnt some new things, for example it had never occurred to me that iron ore deposits were formed by Cyanobacteria in the ocean. The language used is generally accessible for someone without a background in science as Chaffin explains concepts in simple terms, however the general language used is still difficult in places, so for educators, I wouldn’t recommend this for students younger than GCSE/A Level.

As each chapter is merely a brief summary of the topic the author provides some helpful links at the end of each chapter, so that the reader can read around the subject. I was somewhat surprised to see that many of these links are to Wikipedia, which I find not to be the most accessible source of further reading in terms of complexity, and is a website that I and most other teachers discourage students from using, due to the sometimes erroneous information it can contain.

Overall an enjoyable and informative read.  How do we know? is available from Amazon.co.ukfor £3.45 and from Amazon.com for $5.13.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: The Cure by Doulgas E. Richards

The Cure follows graduate student Erin Palmer who due to a close encounter with a psychopath in her childhood now studies them to determine what makes them different to ‘normals’. Unbeknown to her supervisor she is not just studying psychopaths but is experimenting on them, and with her mysterious partner has finally discovered a genetic cure for the condition. There are some who would do anything to stop Palmer succeeding, and soon Palmer is on the run and unsure who to trust. Will she chose the right allies?

I really liked how The Cure began as it had a good balance of exciting action and science, we get to know and feel for Erin early on and this helps draw the reader into the story, which in the first third of the book is very believable. I was a bit perturbed when the story suddenly took a fantastic leap into the unknown and introduced not one but seventeen races of extra-terrestrials and a plot to save the Earth from humankind and an overwhelming alien threat. As a fan of more realistic Sci-Fi this jolted me, and whilst I did enjoy the rest of the story, the alien plot was just a little too unbelievable for me and also a bit clich├ęd. The sudden introduction of all of this lead to lots of exposition, which did become tedious after a while but there was plenty of action which kept me going, in addition to several interesting twists and terms.

Whilst not what I was expecting, The Cure turned out to be very readable, as long as you checked your disbelief in at the door. Aside from the psychopath thing, the plot is pretty run of the mill for Sci-Fi but works well. I would recommend this to fans of action-based alien Sci-Fi.

The Cure will be available in dead tree format from September 18th from Amazon.co.uk and from Amazon.com

[An ARC was provided through NetGalley]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: Buried by Kendra Elliot

A school bus full of children goes missing on summer’s afternoon and the children disappear without a trace. Two years later a lone survivor, Chris Jacobs, walks out of the woods and into the arms of his parents. He claims to have no memory of where he has been or what happened to the others.

Buried takes place years after the school bus goes missing and follows Jamie Jacobs (Chris Jacob’s estranged sister) and Michael Brody (the brother of one of the still missing children). The bunker where Chris Jacobs was kept captive has been discovered, along with the bodies of all but one of the missing children, Daniel Brody, Michael Brody’s brother. Michael makes it his mission to find out what happened that fatal day, but will he cope with what he finds out…

Buried kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, and was a book I finished in one sitting. The story has a good pace, and unlike some thrillers, I was kept guessing right until the end. There is a big surprise near the end of the book, which was very thought provoking and was something I would never have guessed.

I have not read the previous two stories in the series, but was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't required, and I felt like I didn't miss anything by having not read the rest of the series. It is always a sign of a good writer, when you can read a book either as part of a series or as a true stand alone.

The thing for me that let down Buried was the romantic aspect. I know, I know, it’s a romantic suspense novel so has romance, but I truly felt that the book was very strong without the romance, and that the romance (or random sex scenes) detracted from what was a very good suspense thriller. I fear the mere mention of romance in the genre will put off readers who otherwise would really enjoy this book.

Overall, a very solid read, and readers should not be put off by the romance, jarring though it is. A word of warning: apart from some explicit sex and language, this book deals with some difficult topics, and as such is not one for younger readers. 

Buried is available from Amazon for £3.99. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason

Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason is another in a long line of Scandinavian mysteries, and unfortunately is not the best example of the genre. It follows an aging police detective who is trying to find his dead brother and a young woman, both of whom disappeared many years ago into the vastness of Iceland’s wilderness.

I generally enjoy Scandinavian-set stories but was disappointed with Strange Shores. The writing was technically good but it was quite simply boring, and as such took me much longer to read than most books in this genre. As those missing are long gone there is no real sense of urgency and instead the book has chapters and chapters of tedious conversations and descriptions.

I would only recommend this book if you have read previous books in the series and don’t want to miss one out.
[A review copy was provided by NetGalley]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Viral Nation is young adult dystopian adventure set in a world where a virus has wiped out the majority of the population. Now people live in walled cities run by the company who invented the suppressant, a drug that prevents people falling ill with the virus. The cities are calm and orderly on the surface but is there something lurking beneath?

The plot of Viral Nation was not unique but it was interesting and well written. The addition of time travel made the plot less generic, and whilst I personally am not a big fan of time travel/alternate universes, here it was well done but the author did leave many questions about how it worked unanswered. The story was a page turner and I couldn’t wait to carry on reading every time I put it down.

The characterisation of the main characters was well done, particularly the relationship between Clover and West, and Clover and her dog. A big part of Clover's character was her autism, which did have a purpose in the plot but I felt it was unrealistic, for example in low stress situations she relies on her service dog but a few chapters later in a high stress situation she leaves the dog behind and has no problems. I feel this was a weakness in her characterisation, and is hopefully something that will be refined in the future.

The reason Viral Nation didn’t get 5 stars from me was the abrupt ending. This is clearly the first book in a series, and I understand the author wanting to have a ‘hook’ to get readers to read the second book but I felt ripped off after spending hours enjoying it to have the book just end with no real conclusion. This is a massive weakness for Viral Nation, particularly as the sequel has not yet been published, and I feel readers will forget the 95% of the novel which is excellent and just go away with an unsatisfied feeling, never to read book two.

Overall a fantastic dystopian adventure for both teens and adults, with hints of mystery and romance. This is really a book you should read, perhaps just wait until book two is available first.
Viral Nation is available in deadtree format only for £6.53 from Amazon.co.uk (and Amazon.com).
[An ARC was provided by NetGalley]

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Promo: Jack Cannon's American Destiny by Greg Sandora (Orangeberry Book Tours)

Take a Journey for the Greater Good in this intensely gripping, loving thriller. Join Jack Canon and his insanely loyal team of friends and family as they make their all-or-nothing run for the presidency. You’ll laugh out loud and have your heart ripped in two; all while holding your breath, sitting on the edge of your chair. You’ll become emotionally committed as you find yourself standing behind your new courageous – unstoppable heroes – forced to take unimaginable steps to reach their goal. You’ll be shocked at the heart-wrenching cost.
Meghan’s Review. this reader captured the essence of the Story of Jack Canon. Both men and woman will enjoy the book.
“‘Jack Canon’s American Destiny’ is one of those intense political thrillers that simply deserve to be made into a movie for full, complete enjoyment. This is especially true right in the wake of the recent Academy Awards and movies like ‘Argo’ and ‘Lincoln’ bringing home the bacon. But on its own, this book is immersive—you can live and breathe in the world of Jack Canon—his full range of concerns, from picayune to grandiose, consists of things that are close to every American’s heart.
Jack Canon is an everyman—you can relate to his positive traits, even his minor character flaws, and mostly you can relate to his will get the presidency. Cleverly written, sprinkled with the right amount of “spice” to keep the level of interest high, ‘American Destiny’ is a tale that grips your heart and squeeze it—Jack Canon’s mission to redistribute wealth and give everybody cheap energy is not exactly acceptable in the eyes (and pockets) of those whose businesses will be affected. And from there, the plot thickens.
Finishing the book, your heart aches because you know Jack Canon isn’t real—he’s an ideal, made magically alive by the sheer talent of Greg Sandora. But that doesn’t mean we cannot aspire. As in the book’s timeline, 2016, maybe the book is telling us to be really, really wise in our choices. Meanwhile, download a copy of this book and sink your teeth in the kind of literary entertainment I’ve never seen since Alex Cross.”
Joanna’s Review. “Jack Canon is an idealist. He’s on the road to fight the good fight and the only road that will allow him to do that is the one leading to the White House. Great plan, but plans don’t always end up going the way we want. This Senior Democratic Senator from Kentucky is a kind, smart, charismatic family man. He is a man of superior intelligence who isn’t afraid to admit to a mistake. He has always been faithful, but he has a very intimate, hands off relationship with Sandy his assistant. Hopefully this won’t derail his campaign…
“Jack Canon’s American Destiny” is a sly ride on a slippery slope. This fast paced thriller is packed with political issues that mirror what we have going on today. If you notice, the villains are a conglomerate of who we have deadly problems with right now, so it echoes what we deal with on the global level at this time.
The author, Greg Sandora, manages to introduce all this well written madness in a way that will keep you glued to this book. Sandora has used well flushed out characters, timely villains, an image of our present president therefore the actions are very relatable to the reader.
Want to have some fun? Want to read something that will have you dangling over the edge of a cliff in that good way that starts your heart pumping and your adrenaline kicking in?”
Diane’s review .“I rarely choose a book about politics, but since becoming addicted to the hit show Scandal, I thought Jack Canon`s American Destiny might be an interesting read. To my amazement, I totally enjoyed this political thriller.
Allow me to congratulate the author on his impressive debut. As a writer, he has a talent that allows an immediate connection with his characters, especially Jack.
The book moves at a relaxing pace. But I must admit, I became extremely absorbed when the author reveals an unexpected twist making it a suspenseful page turner!
I can’t wait to read the highly anticipated sequel.”
Jackie’s review. “Get ready to take a ride. The suspense, the loyalty, the inside world of politics all wrapped into a thriller you will not want to put down. I am recommending this to my book club and any book club who wants a good read for a change.” 
Terry’s Review. I have read this book in it’s infancy stage and was amazed. The final product riveting. Ben Affleck, you are the perfect Director, Producer and Actor to be Jack Canon. It is ready for the big screen. Read it now and you will want more of Jack. This book will inspire your next election choice. We need a real life Jack Canon for President. Move over Alex Cross, here comes a new generation hero. This is a story that can take many turns and always keep you waiting for the next chapter. It is written from the heart with passion, but with some hope for all Americans that fiction can be real if you only want it bad enough. So for you politicians out there that want to be the next President, read this book.
Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords
Genre – Political Thriller
Rating – PG
More details about the author
 Connect with Greg Sandora on Facebook & Twitter

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: Ingredients of Outliers by John Shufeldt

Ingredients of Outliers is part biography, part self-help guide. The author John Shufeldt, MD, JD, MBA is a doctor/attorney/entrepreneur who, using his own experiences as well as those of others, takes the reader through the traits he believes every successful person needs.

Each trait is given its own chapter which usually contains John’s thoughts and experiences with the trait in question, a few examples of successful people who have had the trait and how it is been demonstrated by them, a summary of the key points in John’s own words and then quotes about the trait from other successful individuals. This formulaic set up, as well as the author’s conversational and humorous writing style makes for a quick and easy read.

While many readers will want to read the whole book in one go, the book's set up allows a reader to dip in and out, as and when without any problems. Some chapters will appeal more to some readers than others, the chapter on humility spoke to me more than the rest, whereas someone who is going through a serious illness might want to read the chapter on being indefatigable.

Overall, Ingredients of Outliers was an easy interesting read, that will not only appeal to those looking for ways to improve themselves but also those generally interested in the background and traits of highly successful individuals. 

Ingredients of Outliers is available from Amazon UK for £6.91 and from Amazon US for $10.44

[A review copy was provided by the author]

Friday, August 9, 2013

Review: The Axeman of New Orleans by Hoffmann Books

As you might have noticed I'm a bit of a true crime buff and I couldn't pass up the chance of reviewing a new book in a new 'True Crime Collection' from Hoffmann Books. The Axeman of New Orleans is currently one of three offerings in the collection and tells the events of 1918-1919 in New Orleans that left residents in a state of panic.

The city was gripped by a series of horrific attacks and murders, where an unknown man or men broke into people's houses while they slept and bludgeoned them with an axe. Whilst several suspects were arrested, the true identity of the Axeman was never discovered and the crimes stopped as suddenly as they started.

The book covers the key points in the case, and has a very professional and easy to read narrative. It goes through the murders 'as they happened' and discusses possible suspects and briefly covers how the police and justice system handled the investigation. However perhaps due to a lack of solid case material (as the murders happened nearly one hundred years ago), the book is incredibly short and lacks the kind of insights these books usually have, either from victim accounts or from speaking to detectives involved. There are also quite a few instances where events are not clear, for example, there is uncertainty over whether one of the victims survived the attack. Not necessarily the fault of the authors, but detracts from the book's credibility and overall reading experience. The book also fails to include a key suspect included in many other accounts of the case. I can see no reason for this, as the name and details of this suspect can be clearly found in earlier accounts of this case, but is absent from Hoffmann's offering.

Unfortunately for The Axeman of New Orleans, it suffers because of the age of the material it is addressing. Whilst the material Hoffmann books has got is presented very well and makes an interesting read, it is lacking in the real detail needed to make a true crime book a success. As with most true crime accounts the same material can be found in numerous places on the web, although The Axeman of New Orleans does provide it in a much more accessible format and is arguably better written. This book would be perfect for someone wanting a quick overview of the case, or as part of a bigger collection should Hoffmann Books extend their offering.

The Axeman of New Orleans is available from Amazon for £1.96, but can be borrowed free if you have Prime.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: Winter Chill by Joanne Fluke

In Winter Chill the Larsens are your typical American family until their world is ripped apart by a snowmobile accident in which their young daughter is killed and Dan Larsen is paralysed. Whilst to their friends and neighbours the Larsens adjust to their daughter Laura’s death; behind closed doors it is a different story, both are struggling to cope. As the Larsens begin to self-destruct, the town has to cope with a series of tragic accidents that claim more lives in the rural winter idyll. 

Knowing nothing about the author or her previous works I requested this book to review solely based on the blurb, and the blurb makes Winter Chill sound like a fast paced mystery. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Very little action happens in the first half of the book, the early chapters are dedicated to the humdrum of the Larsens life – from shopping to cooking (after some research, I found out that Joanne Fluke is famous for a series of culinary mysteries, which explains the heavy presence of food). There are glimmers of what is to come, such as Dan’s sleepwalking and Marian’s mood swings, but these only really add to the story much later on, when they build into something more significant. The pace improves towards the end of the book, as does the action as we start getting ‘accidents’ happening to those close to the Larsen family, but the really good stuff is not until the final chapter.

Whilst slow, the story generally flows well, moving seamlessly between perspectives. There are two exceptions, both in the form of unneeded and out of place sex scenes. The adultery between Marian and Drew would be more fitting in a Mills and Boon story than in Winter Chill. It made uncomfortable reading (no, I’m not a prude), and what’s worse is that is simply swept under the rug after a few pages, despite Marian having confessed to Dan. The second scene between Cliff and Connie makes more sense, but doesn’t really advance the plot apart from providing a simple excuse to allow the killer access to them at the same time. Plot wise, there are some sticking points for me such as the lack of forensics and the seeming disinterest of the local sheriff in doing any investigation, despite clues pointing squarely at one family. The biggest let down was the fact that at the end of the book we don’t actually get told who the killer is, there are some strong indications but it could be one of two people depending on your interpretation. Some readers may like this, but for me personally it was frustrating and felt like a waste of several hours of reading.

There is a heavy emphasis on the psychological states of the two lead characters, and this provides an interesting dimension to the plot, but I feel it could have been used differently in order to maximise the effect. Also interesting were the notes back and forth between ‘Laura’ and Marian, particularly the last note.

Overall Winter Chill is a cosy mystery (if you overlook the sex) with an interesting psychological aspect. It’s not a book I enjoyed or would recommend, mainly due to the lack of pace and plot issues, but it should appeal to those who enjoy a slower, more character driven read (and must have done previously as this is a re-release of a 80s paperback). If you are not sure if Winter Chill is for you then you can try it yourself by reading the available pages on GoogleBooks.

Winter Chill will be available as an e-book from today on Amazon UK for £4.31 and from Amazon US for $6.63.

[A review copy was received through NetGalley]

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Snow Day by Dan Maurer

Snow Day reads like an old campfire story, and that is what the author intended. Billy, our narrator, tells the story of how, as a child, he stumbled into a horror story which left another boy dead and gave him nightmares every snow day since.

Snow Day is a novella, only 100 pages long, but that is the perfect size for this story, as any longer and it would loose the thrill with too much detail. If anything, it could have been a little shorter, as I felt the first section dragged and, whilst building the background of the characters, wasn't needed in a story so short. The first few pages also revealed a bit too much for me, as horrifying as they were. These two small points were the reason I didn't award it the full 5 stars - but they should not put off a potential reader, as they are soon forgotten as the rest of the book unfolds.

Although short, the story is substantial, and leaves the reader with a satisfied feeling when you finish the book, rather than feeling like there could have been more. The writing is elegant in its simplicity, and the innocent but slightly cocky voice of the narrator takes you back to a much simpler time, and also makes the story that much creepier. There is even a surprise twist at the end.

A great read when you want to finish a story in one go. I very much enjoyed it, even though I usually steer clear of novellas.

Snow Day is available from Amazon for £1.32 as a Kindle e-book. There is also an audio book version available. A sample chapter can be found here.

Giveaway: The author is currently running a giveaway (ends Sep. 28th 2013) to win a Kindle Fire HD and copies of the audio book. Details can be found on his website here. Note: Tomes of the Soul is in no way associated with the giveaway.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Post: Why Author Evan Ramspott Created the Book Label "Better Hero Army" as a Pen Name by Evan Ramspott

Yesterday I reviewed Evan Ramspott's five-star zombie feast Plagued. Eagle eyed readers might have noticed that instead of Evan's name on the front cover, the author is given as the label "Better Hero Army". Today Evan joins us in a guest post to explain why he has chosen not to use his name. - Tome Keeper

In February, I had an idea for a series of short zombie books, eNovellas of about 100 pages each. They would all be quick reads, enjoyable, well written, and at a consumer-friendly price point. In essence, I wanted to bring back dime-store pocket-novels in a modern format.

In early July, the first of these eNovellas hit the market on Amazon as an e-book for the Kindle reader platform. The cover, illustrating a beautiful young woman with hazy eyes, prominently shows the name of the book, Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment, and underneath the title a by-line that reads, Better Hero Army. There’s no mention of me except in the copyright notice page.

Something to understand about me is that I am not technically a zombie fiction writer. Far from it, actually. My debut novel that I hope to have published in 2014 is a historic fiction story that is written for a literary and mainstream audience. My second novel, currently being written, is a mainstream fiction story. Following that, I plan to release a modern pop-culture piece. The zombie world would eat a literary writer like me alive, and the literary world, well, let’s just say they don’t pick zombie book writers first when it comes to any lifetime achievement awards.

Yet I love zombie thrillers. I love science-fiction, fantasy, and adventure. Writing a zombie thriller is as fun for me as it is to read one. It shouldn’t preclude me from writing literary fiction either, but it’s a cruel world, and if one of my literary readers were to indulge in Plagued, I have doubts that they would return for my next mainstream book.

That’s why I started a label instead of publishing under my own name. That and to build a brand name that people could trust, controlled by me, with a single-minded goal of entertaining. The publishing industry would lead you to believe that there is a formula to successful literature, that by creating the appropriate story arc and following guidelines of characterization and dialogue you will appeal to the broadest spectrum of readers. Well, this is the zombie apocalypse we’re talking about here. Rules and stuff like that left when the grey skinned walking dead with their blue-green swirls of smoke wafting out of bullet-hole wounds in their chests started knocking on the door. They’re moaning for relief. They’re hungry for something with a little more meat on its bones than the formula that turned them in the first place.

Hopefully my Better Hero Army label will deliver.

Do you think that mainstream audience would reject a writer of zombie-fiction? Do you think that all authors should use a range of names when publishing in different genres? Add your comments below.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Review: Plagued: The Midamerica Zombie Half-Breed Experiment by Better Hero Army

Set years after a zombie outbreak has swept through the USA, Plagued follows Tom Jefferson, a privileged young man who lives in one of the safe districts of the new America. In this new world, de-venomed zombies are used as slaves and sold in large trading posts. Tom and his older brother are sent out to one of these posts to check the slave records in an attempt to find his sister Larissa, who was turned during one of the initial outbreaks. Here he finds a half-bread captive zombie, Penelope, who he thinks might know where his sister is. When zombies swarm the trading post Tom escapes into the wilderness with Penelope and a band of zombie hunters and visitors, and may have just gotten the chance he needs to find Larissa, but can he survive long enough?

I was extremely impressed with this first offering from Better Hero Army. Unlike some of the more formulaic offerings that fill the shelves of bookshops under ‘Zombie Fiction’, Plagued takes a very different path, although this is not immediately obvious from the summary. Better Hero Army takes some common plot elements, for example a survivor searching for a loved one and turns it on its head. I can’t say more or I’ll ruin the ending. The novella felt more like a snippet from a much longer novel but at the same time didn’t leave the reader wanting. I would however love both a sequel and a prequel.

The book throughout is well crafted, I could not fault the characters or the writing. If anything my complaint is that the book ended so soon! The background to the story is effortlessly woven into the story, which means there are no whole chapters devoted to back story to slow the pace down. The relationships between Penelope and Peske, and Penelope and Tom, are sympathetically written, although simple.

Overall an impressive novella, with an intelligent and unique take on the zombie world, which should be ranked up there with the works of Recht and Brooks in the Zombie genre. A must read for zombiephiles, and a rare example of the genre which should appeal to a much wider audience from thriller fans to romance readers.

Plagued is available from Amazon UK for £2.03 and Amazon US for $3.02. 

[A review copy was provided by the author]

Free e-book: Bitch Hollywood by Robert Bryndza and Jan Bryndza

From today until the 29th July, the authors of Bitch Hollywood are giving away their book FREE on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The book, which is a celebrity comedy, has been given an 4-star average rating on Amazon since its release last summer. More information on the book and the authors can be found here.

To download your copy please pick the relevant Amazon site:

Note: As will all freebies advertised on this site, please check the price on the Amazon site before purchasing. Information has been given by the author and I take no responsibly for inaccuracies. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Free e-book: The Unburied Dead by Douglas Lindsay

Get your hands on the new detective novel picking up lots of five star reviews on Amazon. The first book in Douglas Lindsay's new Thomas Hutton detective series, The Unburied Dead is currently available on Amazon free of charge.

Douglas Lindsay is no stranger to the writing game, he is the author behind the successful Barney Thomson serial killer series, the first book of which is also free to download on Kindle here.

There is already a second installment to the new Thomas Hutton series on the way, so this is a perfect opportunity to get yourself up to speed and to discover a new series over the summer.

The following summary is from GoodReads:

"A psychopath walks the streets of Glasgow, selecting his first victim. He sees his ex-girlfriend everywhere, and he will have her back.

When a woman is savagely murdered, her body stabbed over a hundred times, the police know from the nature of the crime that the killer will strike again. DCI Bloonsbury, the once-feted detective, is put in charge of the investigation, but as the killer begins to hit much closer to home and an old police conspiracy starts to unravel, Bloonsbury slides further into morose alcoholic depression.

In the middle of it all is Detective Sergeant Thomas Hutton, juggling divorce, deception, alcohol, murdered colleagues, and Dylan. He could use a break but the dead will not rest and the past will not be buried until he can catch the latest serial killer to haunt the streets of his city"

Choose the right site to download your copy now:

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Note: Always check the price listed on Amazon before purchasing. The price here was correct at the time of being posted but may change without notice. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

News: New Ken McClure book out September 5th

Whilst browsing Amazon earlier, I was very pleased to see that the next installment of the Dr. Steven Dunbar series by Ken McClure is due for release in September. The Secret (#10 in the series) will come out on September 5th. It is currently listed on Amazon as a hardback but publisher Birlinn does say it will be available as an e-book; fingers crossed that it will be a simultaneous release.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: Badwater by Toni Dwiggins

Badwater follows a team of forensic geologists (think CSI with rocks) as they race against time to stop a catastrophic release of nuclear waste in unspoiled Death Valley. The premise of the book fascinated me from the start, although, to my shame, I could not see how rocks could be that interesting. I was however pleasantly surprised.

The book has a trilling start, a road crash site in the middle of the desert with a murdered driver and a missing barrel of nuclear waste. The thrills continue throughout the book, which has a good pace, and whist the reader is aware of the culprit from the start due to his narrative in one of the first chapters, the reader is kept guessing as to who else can be trusted, which keeps things interesting. The forensic geology is well integrated into the plot, and is not just brushed to the side as can happen in these types of ‘CSI’ books; and I found both the geology and the nuclear science very accurate and interesting. I had a good chuckle at some of the more sciencey jokes in the book too – such as the analogy of the three types of radiation as the Three Little Pigs. There are numerous references to different places in Death Valley in the book – and the inclusion of a map at the start is a nice touch and makes it easier to picture the places when they are mentioned.

The only slight source of irritation for me was the, at times, heavy use of colloquial spelling such as “Shore Thang” which tended to jar me out my flow of reading. I can understand the author trying to get across the local accent, but I felt in this case it wasn't needed and was inconsistently used. There were also a few grammatical issues (such as mixed used of the first and third person) but these did not affect my enjoyment of the book.

Overall a quick, but very enjoyable read which should appeal to any fan of science based thrillers. I will be looking forward to reading the second book in the series – Volcano Watch. Badwater was awarded the 2012 Best Indie Whodunnit award from Wired.com.
Badwater is available as an e-book for £2.36 from Amazon, and is also available in dead-tree and audio-book formats

[Review copy provided by the author]