30 December 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]

27 December 2013

Free Kindle Books: Death in July and A New Dawn Rising by Michael Joseph (27/12 to 31/12)

Need a good book to get into whilst you hide from the in-laws over the holiday period. If so, then these two books are a perfect getaway - and even better - they're free!

Both Death in July and A New Dawn Rising are 4-star Amazon rated thrillers by British author Michael Joseph, and will be free on Amazon between the 27th December to the 31st December - great for some holiday reading or a late Christmas gift.

The books can be found here (or for UK readers) and here (or for UK readers).

Merry Christmas readers!

23 December 2013

Talk: Goodread's 2013 Reading Challange

I have a confession to make, every year for the past few years I have started the Goodreads reading challenge, and then promptly forgotten all about it until the end of the year. That's not to say that I haven't been reading, just that I haven't been recording what I have read. This can be somewhat of a problem when I come to decide on what to read next, as it often takes me a few chapters to realise if it's a book I've read before.

So, this year I decided to preserve with the reading challenge (and marking read books in Calibre). The rules I set myself were simple:

1) I would try to read 52 books, deciding that that was a 'normal' number of books to read.
2) I would only record those I read for reviewing or pleasure, not those for work, study or related to my hobbies.
3) I would not count any fanfiction or similar online creative writing, regardless of length.
4) I would count audio books, as long as they were listened to for pleasure (and I paid attention).

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Tome has completed her goal of reading 52 books in 2013!

Well I'm pleased to say that I completed the challenge in early December, and as of today have read 56 books for pleasure (I may add a few more over the next few days). What I found fascinating as a bit of a geek was the stats that Goodreads provides to allow you to analyse what you have read. So here are some facts about this years reading:

  • Most of the books I read were published since 2000, with the majority being post-2010 - I think this is mainly due to the fact that I'm a reviewer - so a lot of my reading is newly published works. 
  • Most of the books I rated 4 or 5 stars - I think this is due to being careful about what I read. I don't plough through a book I'm not enjoying just for the sake of it. So as I was only recording completed books, it seems obvious that the vast majority would have positive reviews.
  • The longest book I read was Ashfall with 576 pages - Most of the books I read were around 300-400 pages long -so pretty standard for crime/thriller fiction. The shortest book was only 54 pages - which I only read because I was mislead of the length/content. 
  • I primarily read fiction - This maybe misleading. As I discounted books I read for work, study and hobbies - which make up the vast majority of my reading and are primarily non-fiction. It does however show me that I tend to review fiction, and I'm going to look into if this is because I get more fiction requests or something else. The non-fiction I read tends to be personal accounts of things I'm interested in such as crime, mountaineering or teaching. 
  • I tend to read crime and thrillers - This is no surprise, as these are my preferred genres. I did read more zombie and Sci-Fi fiction than I have previously though. I hope this will help inform those who request reviews i.e. I did not read any pure romance this year, so am unlikely to do so next year.
Well that's it for this year. I'll be starting the 2014 reading challenge in January and I highly recommend you do too. I'd also be interested in what you've all read this year, so please do comment. 

18 November 2013

Review: Volcano Watch by Toni Dwiggins

Volcano Watch is the second book in the Forensic Geology series by Toni Dwiggins. Being a bit *ahem* of a science geek I thoroughly enjoyed the first book is the series Bad Water and was eager to get my hands on Volcano Watch. It did not disappoint.

Volcano Watch follows Cassie Oldfield as she returns to her home town of Mammoth Lakes which is situated on a giant Caldera. After years of the volcano being dormant, the rumblings begin - the volcano has awakened. To add to the town’s panic the mayor has disappeared, leaving only a cryptic note saying No Way Out. Cassie is sure that the note relates to the plans for an eruption, and decides to find out what the mayor meant before it is too late.

Volcano Watch has a nice cosy feel to it; the author creates characters that, in the most part, are well developed and memorable. The sense of small town America that Dwiggins weaves was easy to identify with, even for a big-city raised Brit. This focus on the characters and their back-story inevitably comes with a slower plot line at the start, while the scene is set and characters are introduced – there is still tension, but muted. Later on the pace picks up and you are pulled along in the fear and panic of the characters as the towns worst fears are realised. The only character that didn’t grab me was Krom – who felt a bit too stereotypical and cardboard for my liking. As with Badwater, there is the use of unusual spellings to convey accents such as “o-kigh” which was jarring for me as a reader, but is part of Dwiggins’ writing style. rt of a book like this, and where real world examples were used, these were true and precise. The only time believably wavered for me was in the actions of Krom, the emergency planner, who seemed to have his own agenda.

Overall, a almost-unique science-thriller, which will especially appeal to those with a interest in volcanology or disaster novels. It is available from Amazon UK for 77p and from Amazon US for 99c.

11 November 2013

Review: The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King

I first came across Laurie R. King as a teenager when I read her Katie Martinelli books, which became the first series I ever followed. I hadn’t read the Mary Russell series as historical fiction is not really my thing, but when I saw that King had written a new thriller I couldn’t pass up the chance to read and review it.

The Bones of Paris is an historical (1920s) novel following PI Harris Stuyvesant as he searches for missing American Philippa Crosby, a girl with whom he has previously had an ‘encounter’ with. As he follows her movements he comes across something darker than just a missing girl.

As I’ve said, I’m not a fan of historical fiction but King’s descriptions of old Paris drew me it. It was a little strange having so many famous people encountered or namedropped such as Cole Porter and Man Rey, and whilst these people were part of the artistes’ scene of the day in Paris, it did seem a tad overdone and each time drew me slightly out of the flow of the novel. I have to admit that King has tried to blend them in seamlessly with the fictional characters but for me it didn’t quite work.

The plot itself is slow to start but builds well and is full of intrigue and suspense. There is a dark, disturbing side to The Bones of Paris that I don’t remember being in the Kate Martinelli books, but it added to the reading experience; as did the weird and wonderful characters Stuyvesant encounters.

I had not read the previous Stuyvesant novel Touchstone, and at times, particularly in the first few chapters I did feel like I was missing something, but overall it did not impact my enjoyment of the book. I would however recommend reading Touchstone before moving onto The Bones of Paris.

Overall a good solid read that I really enjoyed. The Bones of Paris will delight fans of historical fiction and thrillers alike. You can get it from Amazon.co.uk for £19.99 and from Amazon.com for $15.60. 

4 November 2013

Review: Indecent Behavior by Caryl Rivers

Indecent Behavior is a re-release of a 1990 thriller by Caryl Rivers. It follows two investigative journalists who stumble upon a secret human experiment which has deadly consequences.

For me Indecent Behavior shows its age, and this really drags the book down. There is a huge focus on class and background, with ethnic slurs like spic, nigger and yankee used so liberally that they lose any real impact. The two lead characters seem obsessed with their class/ethnicity and those of others, and this gets boring really fast. Unlike most more contemporary books, there is nothing sophisticated or sarcastic about the use of ethnic stereotypes here, and this makes the characters seem wooden and, at times, made me as a reader feel uncomfortable.

The idea of using electric stimulation of the brain to control behaviour was an interesting one, but unfortunately this plot takes a backseat to the ethnic self-wrangling and rampant sex between the two main characters, and so you are often going pages and pages with nothing to advance the plot. Nearer the end of the book, there is an increase in the focus on the main plot and the action, but even the best of these scenes, for example when our lead characters break into an apartment to try to find evidence of the experiments, is then ruined by a shift of focus onto how aroused one of the characters is by the other one pretending to sunbathe.

Overall I did not enjoy Indecent Behavior. There just wasn’t enough actual thriller plot there for me, and I really did not like the dated use of ethnic slurs or focus on class. The reason that I gave this book two stars instead of one is that the actual writing is not flawed, and the concept behind the sci-med plot was good, even if it did not fulfil its potential. 

Indecent Behavior is available from Amazon.co.uk for £2.02 and from Amazon.com for $3.16.

[A review copy was provided through NetGalley]

28 October 2013

Review: That Day in September by Artie Van Why

That Day in September is a personal account of an eyewitness to 9/11. Unfortunately the first disappointment of the book is the realisation that instead of the book being written by someone who was in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon or a first responder, as I first assumed, it is actually by someone who was very close to the World Trade Centre that day but was never actually inside, and was in fact only in the area for a very short time after the planes hit. Indeed, very little of the book is actually a description of what he witnessed that morning, although some of the description he gives is harrowing, such as watching a pile of bodies grow as people started jumping from windows.

The vast majority of the book is the author’s life story, he talks about being gay and moving to New York, having a dead end job and eventually becoming an actor after releasing that life was too short to be held back. Unfortunately none of this is particularly interesting, and as Artie Van Why wasn't vastly more affected (in an overall perspective) than most others by 9/11, the post 9/11 events don’t hold the same draw as those told by those more profoundly affected like the victims families.

I think That Day in September is more of a cathartic experience for the author than a real attempt at producing a bestselling account of that day, and in this I hope it succeeded.

Overall, there is not really anything special about Artie’s short account, as he didn't really experience anything differently to thousands of New Yorkers, and wasn't really involved in the events of 9/11 for very long. As such it is not really an interesting read and is not a book I would recommend.

That Day in September is available from Amazon.co.uk for £3.85 and from Amazon.com for $5.73

[A review copy was provided by the author]

21 October 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.uk for £14.99.

[An ARC was provided through NetGalley]

20 October 2013

Guest Blog: Stephen Kozeniewski on the zombie genre

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big runner.  I quit the U.S. Army, in fact, due to my passionate hatred of running.  And getting up at 4 am.  And eating sawmill gravy.  And getting mortared.  Look, let’s not complicate the issue.  Let’s just pretend like the reason (or even the main reason) I quit was running. 

I don’t recall there ever being theme runs when I was a kid or as recently as a few years ago when I was still chuff-chuff-chuffing away daily.  (Well, if there was a theme, it was like, muscular dystrophy or something, and it wasn’t so much a theme as it was a charity we were running for.)  These days, though, everyone seems to be going on theme runs, and after several hours of closely researching my Facebook newsfeed I have classified these theme runs into three main types:

1)  “Spartan” runs which are to ancient Sparta roughly what Lucky Charms are to modern Dublin

2)  Mud runs which seem to degenerate into pun name contests (“The Dirty Birdies?  That rhymes!  But I still wish we had come up with Sticks in the Mud!”)

3)  Zombie runs

For our purposes today I’m going to focus on the third one.  Well, not really, since everything I’ve written up to now has been part of a throwaway gag that really just kind of ballooned out of control.  So let’s move on to the next portion of this blogpost.

Can you name a movie released this past year that grossed over a half a billion (with a “b”) dollars?  There are a handful, but I know of at least one: World War Z.

Here’s another leading question for you: do you know what the most popular show not just on cable today, but in cable history is?  Well, even if you didn’t before just now, you probably inferred it already from all of the hints I’ve been dropping.  I’ll just say it anyway, though: The Walking Dead.

Now let’s take this random assortment of half-truths and factoids and attempt to cohere them into some kind of unassailable unified field theory.  What we know at present is that zombie movies are still making big money, television has been reinvigorated by the zombie genre, and the shambling dead have so infiltrated our society that otherwise ordinary people are willing to get out of bed and exercise on their behalves.  Heck, I even learned the other day that the Centers for Disease Control here in the U.S. has a zombie preparedness comic book.

Regular old folks seem to love their flesh-munching corpses.  That’s my conclusion, anyway, and there’s no arguing with popularity.  Well, there is, but it mostly ends up with me getting sand kicked in my face and Cheryl stepping out on me with that stupid Elvis-looking beach hunk even though I paid for those French fries, Cheryl!  But nevertheless, let’s take this analysis one step further.  Name a popular zombie novel.

Got it?  What’d you come up with?

Obviously, we’re not really having a conversation.  I mean, we sort of can in the comments section.  You can call me a half-educated buffoon and tell me I forgot about <insert name of important zombie novel here.>  But if I had to guess, if you’re an average Joe, you probably came up with nothing.  Or maybe World War Z.  Although, to be fair, I did mention the movie just a few short paragraphs ago, so I’m going to claim the credit for that one myself.

Of course, World War Z (the novel) came out in 2006.  The other big zombie novel that jumps to my mind is The Rising, which came out even longer ago, in 2003.

The Newsflesh trilogy is a little more recent.  Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesWarm Bodies.  I’m not going to lie: after I kind of wracked my own brain I checked the internet and there weren’t a whole lot I was missing.  In terms of mass marketed, significant zombie literature it seems like there’s a bit of a drought lately.

There could be any number of reasons for that.  It could be that the zombie, conceived in folklore but born of filmmaking is an inherently cinematic creation.  Perhaps the walking dead just don’t “play” off the screen, either big or small.  For my own selfish reasons (which I will get to in a moment) I hope that isn’t the case.

Another possibility is that I’m focusing too much on big, popular, traditionally published books.  It’s entirely possible (and according to my GoodReads suggestion list, apparently true) that a whole shambling herd of self-published and small press zombie novels have filled the corpse-shaped hole in our collective hearts.  The death of a thousand bites, if you will, rather than a single killer app.

I’m *pretty* sure this last scenario is the case.  I can tell you from my own trials and travails trying to get my own, admittedly offbeat, zombie novel published that publishing industry professionals seem to feel the market is saturated.  I was perplexed by this attitude for all of the reasons I’ve outlined above: the living dead seem to be at the height of their popularity with the public and yet there aren’t a whole lot of big-time zombie novels that jump out and bite me on the fontanelle.  I think that people are satisfying their zombie fix with the indies.

But a third possibility, and an entirely self-serving one at that, also occurs to me.  Maybe it’s simply that no one has written the Great Undead Novel yet.  The reason that’s self serving is because my own novel, BRAINEATER JONES, came out last week and I humbly offer it to you, dear reader, as a contender for that title.  BRAINEATER JONES is the story of a man who woke up facedown, naked, and dead in a swimming pool.  With alcohol the only thing that keeps his brain functioning he sets out into the Prohibition-era urban jungle to solve his own murder. 

Has JONES got what it takes to become the ULYSSES (or, if you’re a philistine, the MOBY-DICK) of the living dead?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  But one thing it does have is moxie.  That’s a ‘30s term for, like, heart, except that, you know, zombies’ hearts don’t beat.  I guess I could’ve said “pluck,” too, but that didn’t really work out for that half-baked pun I just sort of made.

If you’d like to contribute to the groundswell, you can purchase BRAINEATER JONES at any of these fine retailers:

<links pending>

Or, to hear more of my disjointed ramblings, you can follow my blog at http://manuscriptsburn.blogspot.com or my twitter account at https://twitter.com/outfortune.

14 October 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.

6 October 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.

27 September 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 Antarctica after 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] 

22 September 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.uk for £3.45 and from Amazon.com for $5.13.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

16 September 2013

Promo and Giveaway: Standard by Dani Pettrey


 Stranded (Alaskan Courage #3) When her friend vanishes from a cruise ship, reporter Darcy St. James isn't satisfied with their explanation that she simply left her job of her own accord. Something isn't lining up, and Darcy believes the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby's position. Within days, Darcy learns her friend wasn't the only person to disappear mysteriously. Last summer, a woman vanished under almost identical circumstances. Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock for a few days of sightseeing. He's surprised to find Darcy working aboard one of the ships, investigating a troubling report. Something sinister is going on and the deeper they dig the more Gage fears they've only discovered the tip of the iceberg.


Author Dani Pettrey Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters.


  BookBlast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 10/6/13   Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   

14 September 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 clichéd. 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]

8 September 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.

[A review copy was provided]

4 September 2013

Promo and Giveaway: Lion's Head Deception by Chuck Waldron

Lion's Head Deception is a new dystopian novel by Chuck Waldron set amongst rioting and unrest in a destabilized city. Check out the trailer below: 

Purchase your copy:


Pump Up Your Book and Chuck Waldron are also giving away a Kindle Fire HD to promote Lion's Head Deception. You can sign up below for your chance to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one Kindle Fire HD.
  • This giveaway begins August 5 and ends October 31.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, November 4, 2013.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.
  • Only U.S. citizens can win the Kindle Fire but if you are an international winner, you will be sent $200 Paypal Cash.  Must have Paypal account to enter.

1 September 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]

29 August 2013

Giveaway: Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza by A.A. Bukhatir

One for all you Fantasy fans out there! Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza is a fantasy adventure for all ages that is getting great reviews around the blogosphere and I have one copy to giveaway to one lucky Tomes of the Soul reader (thanks to Jane Wesman PR).

All you have to do is comment on this post and say which you like more - dragons or fairies - then submit your entry via the Rafflecopter widget. That's right - no liking numerous pages and twitter feeds, just one comment. This giveaway is open to readers in the UK and US - for more T&Cs see the link on Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Below is a summary of Dragon Boy and the Witches of Galza: In a tiny village nestled between a haunted forest and a  magic mountain, lives an old woodcutter named Aijou.  Shunned by the other villagers, he mourns the death of  his cherished wife and spends his lonely days going  about his work in nearly total isolation. He never dreams  that in a flash his life will change completely, and that  his courage and strength will be profoundly tested.

 It all begins innocently enough when Aijou loses his  way  in the enchanted forest. Desperately seeking the  path  back home, he suddenly encounters two tiny  fairies  engaged in battle with fire-breathing she-dragon. Against all odds, the fairies prevail and with its last breath, the dying dragon assumes her human form. She begs Aijou to adopt her baby boy. Aijou agrees not knowing that the infant is actually a dragon. From that moment on, Aijou¹s life will never be the same. Filled with determination, he tries to escape the haunted forest.

But in order to return home, Aijou must obtain permission from the evil Witches of Galza.  With two fairy guides, Aijou and the dragon baby set off to find the wicked sisters. When they finally meet, the Witches offer Aijou a terrible bargain and he must decide whether he will accept.

If you can't wait for the giveaway, you can find out more and purchase the book from the following retailers: 

If you've read it, why not share your thoughts in the comments. 

25 August 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]

23 August 2013

Review: First Activation by D.A. and M.P. Wearmouth

First Activation is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which nearly the entire global population is turned into brainwashed puppets with one single purpose – to kill someone then kill themselves. Only a few people are unaffected, having been on airplanes when the phenomenon hit. Four of these, two of them soldiers, set off in a group to try to figure out what is going on and to survive. What they find is more horrifying than anything they can imagine.

First Activation had me torn, I felt at the end like I had read two different books in one. The first half of the book is gripping, powerful and terrifying. It seems at every turn our survivors are faced with yet another threatening situation; and the behaviour of the ‘killers’ is highly disturbing. It took a lot of effort for me to put the book down and go to bed, and I was ready to give it five-stars as soon as I finished it.

The second half of the book was less satisfying, mainly due to the pace and the lack of credibility of the plot. I found the story was rushed, and lacked the detail of the first half of the book. It was like the authors were determined to get to the end as quickly as possible, whereas I much prefer a more drawn out journey, especially when it comes to travelling in a post-apocalyptic world. This was not helped by the sudden lack of tension (for reasons I can’t go into without spoiling the plot), and the ‘threat’ in the second half of the book just never really seemed like a real threat. The actions of the main characters also start to unravel - two men who have refused to kill without great provocation just a few chapters before, suddenly turn into ruthless torturers, which is a tad unbelievable despite their military background.

Prior to the end of the book the cause of the phenomenon is exposed, although the reasons behind it are not fully explained, perhaps this will be in the obvious sequel. I didn't really like the cause as it felt a bit clichéd; I felt an opportunity for a more interesting explanation was missed. Maybe when a fuller explanation is given in the sequel my opinion might change.

Rating First Activation is very hard. As I've said, half of it was OMG and half of it was meh. In the end I have settled for a three and a half star rating (rounded to a four for rating on sites that don’t allow half stars). This is because I did enjoy it, and there were some great bits so I would recommend reading it, but the second half let it down, but not so much that it wasn't enjoyable or something I wouldn't recommend; it is also excellent value at 99p. Fans of sci-fi thrillers will want to ad this to their to-read lists.

On a side note, it was good to see some decent post-apocalyptic fiction coming out of the UK as most authors in this genre are US based, and I really hope the sequel is more like the first half of the book and slows down a bit.

First Activation is available from Amazon.co.uk for 99p and from Amazon.com for $1.55.

[Review copy provided by BookRooster] 

22 August 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
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