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Review: Dark Hearts by Abby Greenwood

Dark Hearts: A Paranormal Crime Thriller“The mind of man is capable of anything.”  ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“And all we feared inside the night
shows true in morning’s biased light.”
― Garth von Buchholz

I give Abby Greenwood kudos for trying. The idea is solid for her book, “Dark Hearts,” and could easily be transformed to any situation where people fight and kill one another simply because they are “different.” Well, and to turn a profit, of course. Native Americans slaughtered by the whites who came to this land. Religious difference, skin color differences, the list goes on and on.

The thing is, there were too many issues with the book to allow me to completely enjoy it. First, I was expecting a tense, suspenseful crime thriller. What is here is a mild police procedural with a romantic bent, based around a serial killer, race tensions in LA, and two officers who are doing their best to track down who is murdering people and stirring up said race tensions, and why. The “bad guys” were easily spotted, however, and their reasoning was fairly blatant early on in the book. The story arc was also damaged by lack of continuity – first one, then the other, and it was irritating that there was no editing for continuity. It shows up very early in the book and threw me off. There is also a ‘dropped’ story line that disappointed me.

Then we come to the ‘police procedural’ backbone of the book, and the lack of procedural and logistical knowledge of the author had me crossing my eyes. If you are going to write about a profession, whether it be police work, firefighting, or computer hacking, you have to research – something that was lacking here.

Overall, if you are just looking for an easy read, this is quick, and as I said the idea is good. I wish I could have enjoyed it more than I did. Great cover though.

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Supernatural . . . with GIRLS! ;-)

wynonna-earp-comic-image-670x388Hey all you Supernatural fans . . . The COLT is back! Well, not “THE” Colt, but hey – she carries a long barrel Colt .45 so it’s all good, right?

From inquisitr.com: Wynonna Earp is the new Syfy channel action-adventure show set to premiere on April 1, 2016. The show goes all in by offering a good balance of action, comedy, and horror. Between episode 1 and episode 2, it’s non-stop action in a world where nothing is predictable, and no one is perfect.

“Wynonna Earp is written and produced by Emily Andras (Lost Girl, Killjoys), and adapted from the IDW comic of the same name, created by Beau Smith. In the comic, Wynonna Earp is the great-granddaughter of gunslinging lawman Wyatt Earp. Wyatt Earp did not only fight criminals of Earth but also fought against Demons with his magical Colt.45, 12-inch barrel six shooter. Because Wynonna is the oldest Earp descendant, she is destined to follow the way of the gun. Her mission is to eradicate the hellions of the town of Purgatory before they plunge the entire world into darkness.”

Sound familiar, all you Supernatural fans?

Back in 1835, when Halley’s Comet was overhead, the same night those men died at the Alamo, they say Samuel Colt made a gun…a special gun. He made it for a hunter — a man like us, only on horseback. The story goes he made 13 bullets. This hunter used the gun a half dozen times before he disappeared, the gun along with him. Somehow, Daniel got his hands on it. They say — they say this gun can kill anything.

John Winchester tells the legend of the Colt

Yeppers…. It’s Supernatural – With a GIRL 😉

And a gun!

What a way to spend her birthday, riding a bus through the desert. Of course it got more interesting when the bus has a flat. And a young girl gets off to pee. And, of course, it costs her her head. Yep. Welcome home, Wynnona. Seventy-seven criminals, all put down by Wyatt Earp. All coming back from hell to punish the town, and take down Wynnona.

It is on Netflix, so I can catch up on the shows. John Winchester bored me silly, but Wynnona? She has promise. But we shall see.

Birth Marked: Book 1 The Markers by Maria Violante

birthmarked“The world that we all knew before, could wake up in feeling safe… now it seems that everything has been turned upside down.” – Tori Amos

Charlie Kale’s life has turned upside down, in so very many ways. Her live-in got sick, so she took care of him, working her ass off as a semi driver. Then? He walked out on her. Don’t let yourself be fooled – yes, there is a lot of just sitting there, when you drive. But there is a lot of stress, a lot of people cutting you off and acting stupid. And when you weigh 80,000 lbs. or more, getting started and stopped can mean death for the idiot in the convertible, the minivan, the SUV. But Charlie (and yes, that is what is on her birth certificate) loves her new job and her coworkers. Yes, she is torn up over the loser dumping her, but she knows she can pull it together and get on with her life – and this time she can start spending her own money.

Well, for about five minutes. Then? She is hit from the side by what appears to be a drunk driver, hit hard enough to knock the tandems out from under her trailer. The truck flips, which is bad enough. Hey, at least it didn’t blow up and burn with her and the tiny dog she found on the side of the road not a half hour before inside. Her life is lying on its side, but they are both alive.

Annnd then . . .

What was that hairy black thing that slammed into her windshield? And then there is the guy with the blood on his shirt and the gun pointed at her head, seemingly determined to Shoot. Her. Dead. Wow. Attitude much? That is bad enough, but what comes next is a nightmare of unbelievable proportions. Everyone is apparently determined to murder Charlie, and her own body has apparently joined the party. An ancient secret society, populated solely by men, are determined to make sure that Charlie is put down before she can grow into who they think she is destined to be. Oh, and BTW?

Monsters are real.

Charlie is one of the most special female heroes I have run across in a long time, simply because she isn’t really a hero at all. Chubby from too many hamburgers and too many hours behind the wheel, she is perfectly normal. Yes, once ‘turned on’ she has a ‘superpower’. But it isn’t one she can control. She can’t kick ass and take names – she is more likely to trip over her own feet, which she does quite often. Stumblin’ bumblin’ trying to make it through the day, totally out of her element. But she is willing to at least try – though the whole idea of “Everyone is out to slaughter and I have no one to trust” and oh, BTW, that whole “monsters are real” thing? Yeah. Not so much fun. I love Charlie, and the supernatural storyline is unique and kept me reading way too long into the night, till I could barely hold my eyes open. And then? Well, I grabbed the second in this two-book series and kept reading, of course!

Monsters and Markers (The Markers Book 2)Monsters and Markers (The Markers, #2)

“I don’t know of any other creature on earth other than man that will sit in a corner and cry because of some painful experience in the past.” –  Pat Morita

Book 2 of The Markers series opens immediately after the first book. Charlie has finally escaped from the horrors of the Markers compound, but at a horrific cost. Oh, and let’s not forget the whole Just-fled-for-my-life-and-was-ambushed-by-Captain-Anger-Issues-and-Mind-Rape-Man thing. Cause, ya know, her life isn’t hard enough as it is, right? On the run, fleeing the most powerful secret society in the world, monsters beyond your wildest nightmares, weird glow powers she doesn’t understand. And then you are stuck in the back of a Buick after a five hour drive with no bathroom breaks listening to the world’s most annoying males bicker like preteens . . . can someone just please, please stop the world? Charlie is quite ready to get off and enjoy a little peace, quiet and safety, thank you very much. Instead, things go from bad to worse . . . to “Which one of these guys who are claiming to be determined to save me is really a traitor to our little group?”

I greatly enjoyed book 1, Birth Marked, and this second volume didn’t in any way let me down. Maria Violante did a wonderful job in creating a believable supernatural world set within our own, and some really vile bad guys who are at the same time truly believable. I had expected a good second book, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Supernatural Touch – 9 full-length books – FREE!!!

Found on http://www.freebookster.com

Supernatural Touch (Kindle Edition)

By (author): Cate Dean, Raquel Lyon, Stella Wilkinson, C.J. Archer, Jen Minkman, Stacy Claflin, Anna Kyss, A.M. Yates, Kimberly Loth
***9 full-length books in one supernatural box set.***
*Note: most of these books are the first in a series.*

Enter a world where monsters are real, where witches and sirens exist, where lives are changed in an instant. Where sometimes, love can conquer all.

Supernatural Touch explores all this and more, in 9 full-length paranormal romance novels that both teens and adults will love.

Come inside and discover:

Alex Finch: Monster Hunter (The Monster Files Book 1) by Cate Dean
Meet Alex Finch – tomboy, techno geek, monster hunter.
Reluctant monster hunter.

A Brush With The Moon (Foxblood Series Book 1) by Raquel Lyon
One moment is all it takes to change your life. For Sophie, it happened the day the fox attacked her.

Halloween Magic and Mayhem by Stella Wilkinson
How on earth did I end up here? I was supposed to be at a party kissing the boy of my dreams, instead I’m dancing naked on the town common, on Halloween, with a Coven of strange women who might be witches. Just yesterday I was an ordinary teenager…

The Wrong Girl (Freak House Trilogy #1) by C.J. Archer
When narcoleptic Hannah Smith is abducted from her attic prison by mysterious Jack Langley and taken to Freak House, she’s desperate to know what they want with her–until she learns they took the wrong girl.

Sound of Sirens (Tales of Skylge #1) by Jen Minkman
An ancient land protected by a Tower of Light, its people ever tempted by Siren song, and a girl who falls for the wrong boy.

Deception (The Transformed Series Book 1) by Stacy Claflin
Alexis Ferguson thinks she has everything figured out, but has no idea how wrong she is. Set up on a blind date, she meets a gorgeous stranger and feels that she’s known him her entire life, but she has never seen him before.

Wings of Shadow (The Underground Trilogy Book 1) by Anna Kyss
Meghan’s graduation gift is one that any eighteen-year-old would dream of: traveling abroad to England. Her journey turns into more adventure than expected when Meghan meets the mysterious Kiernan and accepts his invitation to a secret club, hidden beneath the streets of London.

Minor Gods (Summoners Book One) by A.M. Yates
In the secret tribes of the Core, humans walk a tenuous line, using ancient masks to channel the gods and their elemental powers. But the delicate balance between gods and man is fractured when someone resurrects the forbidden mask of a ruthless Earth Goddess and begins a war. Her goal . . . reclaim the natural world from human civilization. Her first victim . . . Josie Day’s mother.

Kissed (The Thorn Chronicles #1) by Kimberly Loth
Three boys. Two kisses. One devastating choice.

Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only
Release date January 29, 2015.

Review: Heart Collector By Jacques Vandroux

23387402One of my weaknesses in literature is reading books by non-American authors. They bring a different outlook, a different landscape to my reading. I also love the language differences – it adds a richness that is often missing in the more mundane voice of ‘American English’.

Heart Collector is translated from the French, and I was looking forward to the ‘quirks’ of French to add to the writing. Add in the police procedural and mystery, along with a slight undertone of supernatural, and I settled in for a highly enjoyable read.

The problem is, it really wasn’t all that enjoyable, for several reasons. I don’t know if it is because the translator couldn’t resist “Americanizing” the language, but the uniqueness of the French language was literally “lost in translation”. Disappointing.

The next thing that bothered me was Jacques Vandroux’s apparent lack of respect for his female characters. Calling a dedicated 30+ year old police officer a “young woman” (ad nauseum) is demeaning to the character. Again, translation issue, or does Vandroux really not feel his character is worthy of respect?

The overall story, a serial killer who takes human hearts, is actually quite clever. I just didn’t feel that the writer was truly involved in his story. You can tell when a writer likes his characters, when they wake up every morning excited to write once more. I didn’t get that feeling from this book. It was more as if it were a slog rather than a joy. Again – boredom of the writer, or just a really poor translation?

Three stars because I don’t want to blame the writer, but at the same time, control of the translation could have been better managed if that is the true issue and not poor writing on Mr. Vandroux’s part.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. With a better translation, I may be able to give it a better review.

Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish

23213197For me, I always wonder what’s worse: an emotional betrayal or a physical betrayal? That’s a really tough call. – Hilarie Burton

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Oh, Owl. You just can’t win, can you? One rule. Just one stupid rule. Don’t mess with the supernatural. Of course, if she could identify the supernatural, well, that rule would be a whole lot easier to follow. And maybe she wouldn’t have vampires chasing her all over the world in a vendetta for that one, silly mistake. You know, the one where she opened up the box she stole for a client. A client she didn’t know was a vampire. A box that just happened to hold an ancient vampire. Well, what do you expect when you tell a professional thief not to open the beautiful box before delivering it? There has to be something ‘interesting’ in there, right? And Owl is nothing if not curious.

Now, things just keep getting more and more ‘interesting’ – well, if you subscribe to that apocryphal ideology “May you live in interesting times”. And, sure enough, Owl’s life is about to get really, really interesting. The vampires are bad enough, but an ancient Japanese Red Dragon? Come on, you gotta be kidding me! Uh. Nope.

Her new job is to track down a scroll for said dragon – a scroll stolen more than 2,000 years ago, with no idea of where it went, or who took it. Meh. Gotta be an easy chore for a famous archeological thief, right?

With everyone and their goons chasing her around the world, from the US to Tokyo, Bali to Las Vegas, Owl scrambles to find the scroll before a very secretive, and very violent, competitor find it first. But what is really going on? Who are her enemies, and who are her friends? The answer to that may be quite different than what she thinks – and maybe the supernaturals are not whom they seem to be – in both good ways and bad.

Owl is a damaged character. Her default reaction to, well, everything is to break and run for the hills. Sure, it can save your backside to run away. But sometimes, you are just running further into the fire. And sometimes, the people you believe you know are not the people you thought they were at all. For good, or for bad. And Owl needs to learn the difference, quickly, if she wants to live, and to grow into something more than a child in a grownup world. Owl definitely needs to grow as a person, and as a character. She isn’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But, to be honest, that is what I like about her. She is damaged, frightened, and immature, but even in this first book you see her begin, just a bit, to grow. I look forward to watching her development over what I hope are several books. The storyline is interesting, the characters, while your usual supernatural grouping, are sharply and quirkily written. And Captain, her Egyptian Mau ‘battle cat’? Completely AWESOME!!  I would read the stories just for him! Overall, I look forward to more.

I received Owl and the Japanese Circus from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you enjoy my reviews, please let me know by clicking “Yes, this review was helpful” on Amazon! Thank you.

Review: Shifting Dreams by Elizabeth Hunter

Shifting Dreams | [Elizabeth Hunter]This was my first introduction to Elizabeth Hunter, and I am so happy that I found her through a book blogging friend of mine. I listened to the Audible edition, narrated by Liisa Ivary, and this is just another example of how a good narrator can take a good book and make it even better. Her smooth delivery led me through the book, introducing me to the characters and the world in a smooth and well-modulated way.

The story itself introduces us to Cambio Springs, a shifter town – a dying town since the military base closed down. Without something good happening, the town will disappear, and the safety of its inhabitants as well. A bar, a small school, and a tiny café are about it. Seven extended families started the town when one of their number had a vision of a crow flying over hot springs. And one of those springs is very, very special.

Jena Crowe is a single mother, trying to keep her two boys fed and a roof over all their heads. After losing her husband three years ago she is lonely, but so busy she has no time to make any changes to that situation. Here comes Caleb Gilbert, the new Police Chief – a normal, apparently. Well, maybe not.

The story is interesting, the mythology well written, and it kept my attention quite well. There are some congruency issues that should have been caught by the editor, but they weren’t enough to be completely irritating. As another reviewer pointed out the Caleb character was pretty dumb at times – an officer who makes the kind of mistakes he makes is a dead man – clearly illogical for someone with his background. I really enjoyed the world building the most about the book. Interesting world building, to me, is just as important as character development. Ms. Hunter does just that.

I will be trying out her other books when I get a chance. I picked up A Hidden Fire: Elemental Mysteries, Book 1 narrated by Dina Pearlman. Right now it is on sale at Audible for $1.99, what a great deal!

Review: Hard Spell: Occult Crimes Unit Investigations, Book 1

hardspell“My name’s Markowski, a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD’s Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit. I carry a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.”  – Markowski, Hard Spell

Death is when the monsters get you. – Stephen King

Scranton, Pennsylvania fifty years after WWII is a different place than one might expect.  When millions of Americans poured into Europe to fight in the war, they picked up a little something extra to bring back home besides war wives and interesting STD’s. Quaint little things like cases of werewolves and vampires and zombies (oh, my!) Needless to say, it changed the way life is lived in the good ol’ US of A. Instead of McCarthy going after ‘Commies’ he gets to do real, honest-to-goodness witch hunts – for real witches. . .

There is a lot to like about Hard Spell. There is humor and a great deal of creativity that I got a kick out of. Gustainis writes an engaging tale with a strong noir flavour which reminds me quite a bit of the feeling I get from the Nightside stories by Simon R. Green – one of my favorite series of all time. There is a feeling of reality in the very unreal situations of the book, which was pleasing. However, the role of women characters in the book was, well, I hesitate to say “demeaning” but it comes very close to the razor edge of treating women as lesser beings – something that I found less than enjoyable. Even the female SWAT team member was portrayed in a less than admirable manner – something that irritated me to no end. I wanted to shake the author and remind him that “noir” doesn’t equate with “testosterone poisoning.”

I listened to the book – the Audible edition. As much as I enjoyed Gustainis’ work, I cannot say the same for the narrator. He was, in a word, completely irritating. What narrator worth his salt cannot be bothered to check pronunciations?!?! The guy STINKS at pronunciation! Come on – you don’t know how to pronounce “were” as in “werewolf??” Weer (like a Bostonian we’re)  is not even close to correct, Peter. It is rather insulting to the author that you can’t be bothered to take a moment to learn pronunciations.  Especially for such common terms.

Overall, I knocked a full star off for poor narration. Another half star for some problems with trite characterizations (especially the handling of Markowski’s first partner) and with his tendency to treat his characters with something less than respect. Overall, however, this was a completely bad introduction to the series. I hope to find a more well rounded volume with the next in the series, Evil Dark: Occult Crimes Unit Investigations, Book 2 – though I won’t be buying the Audible edition. Five more minutes of Peter Brooke and I may have been forced to throw my reader across the room. . .

 

Review: Stray Ally By Troy Lambert – Suspense, Thrills, and the Love of an Amazing Dog

Stray Ally
Please see the previous post for more information about “Stray Ally”

We must maximize our efforts to counter violent extremism, radicalization and recruitment in the United States and stop using xenophobia and ethnic stereotyping. – Bennie Thompson

Time and again we see leaders and members of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate, and xenophobia – even inspire and legitimate violent and bloody conflicts.
– Hans Kung

Humans never grow up. – Me

It starts innocently, though horribly. A teenager, one of those most careless of creatures, so certain of their own immortality. A skateboard, a bridge over a highway, and a long, long fall. And a specially trained soldier, drummed out of the corps for reasons unsure and unknown, a victim of circumstance – a victim whose world will now start to spiral out of control.

What happens when a military commander goes out of control? When the good join the evil, and death and destruction are the outcome? And what if what seems simply a tragic accident is actually something more? Something horrific beyond thought or comprehension?

Lambert has written a military-based tale of murder and hatred, sociopathy and convoluted planning that would make the Gorgon weep. Set in Idaho, the poster child state for domestic terrorism and religious fanaticism, as well as fanatical racism, this could have been your standard tale of psychotic racial hatred and military misanthropy. However, this is more than that. For, within an outstanding story of suspense and terror, Lambert introduces a nearly paranormal aspect – the dogs.

Todd Clarke has escaped custody. When a teenager fell to his death onto the hood of his wife’s Mercedes, and the state police officer, seeing the child and recognizing him as his own, attacks Clarke, threatening him with his gun, Clarke’s training kicks in under the shock of the child’s death, and Clarke disarms and kills the officer. In hiding in the mountains, Clarke runs across a supposed hiker and his dog, Sparky, and the outcome is the death of the hiker – and the friendship of the dog. Chased by agents, both known and unknown, Clarke begins a race for his life, with the nearly supernatural assistance of Sparky – an assistance that comes with the help of many other dogs, mutts mostly, lured to Sparky by a force which Clarke does not understand, but which saves his life again and again.

I adored the part the dogs play in the story line. As the author states in his statement regarding his book: So I read this book the other day, about a man in some real trouble, at an uncertain and dark point in his life. He meets a dog, and that changes everything. The dog is no ordinary dog, but I ask you: what dog is ordinary? With the help of this amazing dog and some of his canine friends, the man finds the strength to keep going.

Much like Todd, I have my own story of a dog who saved my life, who drew me back from suicide and self loathing, who taught me what love truly was. I wouldn’t have made it with him, just like Clarke needs Sparky and his friends.

Another thing that truly dug into me was the story of military personnel gone rogue – men of power who convoluted and destroyed the very essence of what is good about the military, turning it into a twisted and evil power used for the worst possible reasons. Hatred and domination, and all that is wrong and disgusting about the sort of mentality that hates others in the name of their concept of a hateful and brutal god. I have always found it interesting – those who preach Gods goodness and power and mercy, and that all things “great and small” are created by this god – but will, in his name, murder and torture and terrorize all those whose skin colour is not the same as their own.

But my favorite part of the whole book? The dogs, those loving, loyal, and tremendously brave creatures who will lay down their lives for the right and the true. If for no other reason, if you love dogs, you must read this book. You will never be sorry you did so.

Whatever the evolutionary basis of religion, the xenophobia it now generates is clearly maladaptive. – Lawrence M. Krauss

I received this book from Lucy Felthouse at Writer Marketing Services. I have received no compensation for any postings which I have undertaken, or any reviews written. All thoughts and comments regarding Stray Ally or any other books reviewed for Writer Marketing Services are my own.

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