Book Review – Fallen Eyes

Fallen Eyes – Another Great Addition to the Series

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: J.K. Walker
Format: Paperback, Kindle

After the video of her transforming into a were-leopard went viral, Jazz and the supernatural community have been “outed”.  As if living under the scrutiny and spotlight by those who find her at best fascinating or freak wasn’t challenging enough, a series of new local brutal murders and her responsibility of pack Alpha push Jazz to a dark and lonely place.  Unable to fully recover from the effects that Sanguine ravaged on her body, Jazz is no longer able to perform even with all her power.  And when the hunt for this new killer brings her face to face with her past, a past she thought was long behind her, Jazz faces a force that she and even the most powerful person she knows is no match for.  How does one kill something that isn’t alive?

Fallen Eyes, by J.K. Walker, is book four in the Salt Lake After Dark Series.  With each book, the depth with which we understand the characters is further deepened.  Walker takes us into the mind of a young woman who questions who and what she really is and what she is becoming?  To protect those she loves, she has done and must continue to do horrendous things and the toll on her body is inconsequential compared to the toll on her psyche.  This chapter of the story expertly balances the introspective moments, the action, the tender interludes, all while building to the climactic and unexpected conclusion.  The more this world comes alive, the more convinced I am this would be a powerful series to produce for television.  If anyone from the CW is reading, take note – this series is a winner.

For loyal readers, book four is yet another strong chapter.  I continue to be impressed how Walker creates one impossible situation after another introducing antagonists more powerful than their predecessor leaving me wondering how Jazz and her friends can possibly overcome such foes.  Yet, he does so effortlessly and with no hint of “dues ex machina” most writers would succumb to for resolution.  Pick up a copy, this is yet another an excellent overall read!
Note: A complimentary copy of this novel was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – Sanguine Eyes

Sanguine Eyes:  Salt Lake After Dark – Exposed!

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: J.K. Walker
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Interning with the Salt Lake Police Department, Jasmine Bedeau sits in the police car with Detective Tabatha Granger when a call comes in regarding a nearby robbery.  They arrive at the scene finding the perpetrator they are sent to intercept is no ordinary criminal.  He moves with amazing speed, the sclera of his eyes are filled blood red, and after he fires multiple rounds, Jazz returns fire hitting him squarely in the chest with no effect.  A new drug is on the streets – Sanguine – it turns people into extraordinarily strong killers who feel no pain.  Its origins – supernatural.  Its implications – disastrous.  As Jazz uncovers the mystery of who is behind the drug and its distribution, an even greater threat to the supernatural community emerges, one that Jazz cannot stop.

Sanguine Eyes, by J.K. Walker, continues the Salt Lake After Dark series.  In this chapter of this ongoing saga, Walker masterfully draws the reader into Jazz’s world as it crumbles around her.  As the story progresses, Jazz loses one thing after another that is important to her – I would expound on this more but will refrain from doing so as to avoid mentioning any spoilers.  Suffice to say, Jazz world is shaken more so than it was when she first learned she was a were-leopard.  I also appreciate Walker’s ability to narrate a good fight scene.  With clarity and precision, Walker provides just enough detail with the appropriate pace to fully immerse the reader.

Readers of this series will enjoy this latest addition.  However, those who are new can read this installment and fully appreciate and enjoy the story without missing a beat.

Note: A complimentary copy of this novel was provided in return for a review.

Book Review: The Cure

The Cure: Sci-Fi Thriller

Rating: 5 of 5
Author: Douglas E Richards
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
After witnessing the brutality of a heartless psychopath on her family, Erin Palmer grows in her obsession to understand, identify and “cure” psychopathy.  As with any obsession, Erin’s actions become ethically questionable as she pushes the boundaries on experimentation with prison inmates.  Convinced she is getting closer to a Cure but at the same time jeopardizing lives, her breakthroughs come at yet another price – the attention of powerful forces who either want to help or hinder her progress.  Soon Erin learns the shocking truth – her reality is not what she believed it to be and the result of her work has implications far beyond what she would have ever imagined.  On the run to protect her work and her life, she is faced with the ultimate choice.

Douglas E Richards latest novel, The Cure, is a genre mashup. It begins solidly as a thriller and about a third of the way in introduces substantial sci/fi elements which carryon throughout the rest of the novel.  For those looking for just a thriller this might be a bit of a surprise, but for the reader who enjoys books of this nature, they will find it engaging and thought provoking.  For me, the subject of psychopathy, its prevalence, characteristics, and degrees to which it is exhibited as well as its implications was fascinating.  Questions of ethics in human experimentation – does the end justify the means, which in the abstract may seem a simple answer but when applied to loved ones, our family and friends, is quite different.  The discussion and references to “trolleyology” thought experiments were intriguing and I found myself Googling and taking the various tests associated with these philosophical questions.

To me a testament to how “good” a book is dependent on a few factors – if I can’t put it down, if I think about it long after the last page is read, if I do follow-up research on its themes after, and if I discuss it with others.  In the case of The Cure, all of these were true.  I look forward to Richards’ next book.

Book Review – Belmundus

Belmundus: A Complex and Compelling Tale

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Author: Edward C. Patterson
Format: Kindle, Paperback

Admired and captivating, young actor of stage and screen Harris Cartwright found the world his oyster.  Able to have anything or anyone – man or woman for that matter – Harris lived the dream of many until the day he saw her.  Something about her was different and he had to have her – Charminus Montjoy – she had him under his spell.  And after pursuing and finding her at Mortis House outside of New York, Harris experienced what was the most satisfying but bizarre encounter of his entire life.  He soon learned what he already believed to be true – Charminus was no ordinary girl and when he awoke not in New York but in an entirely different land, an entirely different world, Harris’ life changed forever.  Now in the land of Farn and one of the consorts of Septa Charminus, one of three sisters, Harris is determined to find a way home and become something more than just a consort.  He would become Lord Belmundus and his power and impact in this world would go beyond anything anyone would have fathomed.

Having read a number of Patterson’s books, what amazes me is both how prolific he is and how comfortably he writes in any genre.  I suppose I would put Belmundus in a fantasy, adventure, sci/fi mash-up genre.  This is quite the epic and the world building is substantial with its characters, politics, geography, animals, language, and so on.  In fact there are so many new words introduced that I occasionally had to double back to confirm my understanding.

What is consistent in any Patterson book or genre, is the exceptional character development throughout – never does one find a cardboard cutout in a Patterson novel.  I think my favorite characters are what I will affectionately refer to as the side-kick.  In Belmundus, this is embodied in Yustichisqua, Harris’ “Trone” or servant but oh so much more.  From a race made to be subservient, the Cetrones, Yustichisqua is offered to Harris who quickly raises Yustichisqua’s station from servant to something much more important to the dismay of many.

Belmundus is a complex epic and will be enjoyed by those who relish exploring new worlds and  races, and plots infused with political intrigue and rich deep characterization.  This is quite the tome, so block some major time to ensure your full emersion into all Patterson has to offer.

Note: A complimentary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – In My Time of Dying

In My Time of Dying – A Haunting Love Story

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: J.K. Walker
Format: Kindle, Paperback

In a moment, their lives and future changed forever.  David and Angel were settling in for what had become a favorite pastime of bad movie night when it all went wrong.  The gunshot sent David into action but it was too late, the pizza-man costumed assassin had already put one slug into Angel.  By the time their friend Jazz had arrived to help, the assassin had disappeared and David was moments from death.  His need to protect Angel followed him into the afterlife and now a ghost, David struggles to understand his new reality, how to protect his love from suffering his own fate as the assassin remains at large, but also how to let go before it is too late and his obsession destroys everyone.

“In My Time of Dying” is a thoughtful and heartwrenching addition to J.K. Walker’s Salt Lake After Dark series.  This installment continues on with the supernatural were-people we’ve come to know, and the humor and characterizations that make these stories so engaging remain; the added dimension here (no pun intended) is the intense love story and what one would do to protect those they love and knowing ultimately what is best for them may not be congruent with one’s own beliefs.

Told primarily from David’s perspective, I especially enjoyed his learning of what “rules” govern his new reality as he is mentored by one who came before him, but also the subtle downward trajectory David takes as he struggles to face the reality of what he can and can’t do and what love really is.

Those who have already enjoyed this series will appreciate this chapter and all it offers as the world Walker has created becomes richer with each telling.

Note: A complimentary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review: Destiny of the Sands

Destiny of the Sands: Book Two of the Series

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: Rai Aren, Tavius E
Format: Kindle, Paperback

10,000 BC: before the time of the ancient Egyptians – King Traeus leads his people, the Kierani, after the devastating destruction brought on by the betrayal of Lord Draxen and the detonation of a power Traeus wished he had never created.  The loss of the King’s wife and daughter haunt him and while rebuilding of the palace and city continue.  But all that changes the day he learns his daughter is still alive, though someone else thought long dead still remains to undo the King’s plans…
Present day: Having survived the harrowing experience of unlocking the secrets and the destruction long held dormant under the Sphinx – Alex, Mitch, Bob and Alex are once more called to action to save their colleagues as well as the world from the plans of a modern day Nazi bent on harnessing the power of the ancient Kierani.

In Destiny of the Sands, book two in the Secret of the Sands Series, Rai Aren and Tavius E once more take readers through a journey of two timelines – present day and ancient Egypt.  Whereas in the first book the voice in these two periods is very distinct and occasionally uneven, this book is much more polished with both story lines equally compelling.  The Kierani, their background and their legacy, is further explored and woven in the tapestry of an engaging tale.  I found the pace and action sustained throughout and the book moves along rapidly.  There are a couple of twists and turns at the end and while main story arc is resolved, there is just enough left open to provide the foundation for what is likely the final offering in the next book of the series.

For those who enjoyed Secret of the Sands, you won’t be disappointed in book two.

Note: A complimentary copy of this novel was provided in return for a review.

Book Review: Generation X to Generation Next

Lessons from Generation X to Generation Next: Snippets of Insight

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: McKenzie McPherson
Format: Kindle, Paperback

One of the greatest challenges a parent faces is to teach their children to avoid the mistakes they made growing up.  To see their progeny make their same errors is heartbreaking when they know how easily they could be avoided.  Unfortunately, children frequently don’t listen to their parents favoring instead their peers’ or other adults’ advice.  McKenzie McPherson’s “Lessons from Generation X to Generation Next” provides just this surrogate advice.

McPherson covers a lot of ground in “Lessons from Generation X to Generation Next” from Family and Health to Finances and Spirituality.  It is clear the author has made a number of decisions in her formative years that she wishes she could redo with the experience of hindsight at her side.  From this learnings, she wishes to impart her wisdom to others who still have a chance to make better choices.  However, the power of her experiences aren’t conveyed which then lessens the impact of her subsequent advice.  While each chapter starts with a few paragraphs of McPherson’s overall thoughts, the rest of the chapter is a series of small snippets of information – almost like a daily reminder – perhaps better suited for a desk calendar.  These reminders, are for the most part, good and appropriate.  Unfortunately, I’m not certain the target audience would heed them any more than if a parent said them because they aren’t tied to any personal stories from McPherson that readers can relate to.

Overall, the book provides strong positive messages though I would have preferred fewer snippets and more anecdotes for readers to connect to.

Note: A complimentary copy of this book was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – A Prairie Homicidal Companion

A Prairie Homicidal Companion – The Best Landon To Date!

Rating: 5 of 5
Author: Brian Landon
Format: Kindle, Paperback

After the on-stage murder of aptly named “Unlucky Larry” at the Fitzgerald Theater, detective Doyle Malloy is on the case.  What he finds is much more complex and personal than he would have ever imagined. Threads to his investigation point to a potential serial killer!  But a killer that had been put away and died years ago by Malloy’s own father.  So who could be perpetrating these new crimes?  Or was the wrong person convicted years ago.  Doyle must know.  Unfortunately, the danger is much greater than any of his previous investigations and when his Malloy’s girlfriend is kidnapped and his friend grievously injured, Doyle wonders if he is in over his head.

Brian Landon’s private investigator “Doyle Malloy” is a wonderfully rich character and previous installments in the series feature his unique foibles and humorous way of solving murders almost by accident.  As such, the mysteries themselves were the background vehicle to showcase Malloy’s unique Midwestern Pink Panther-esque style.  But in “A Prairie Homicidal Companion” not only does Landon stay true to Malloy and the quirky humor he is known for, but the serial killer and solving the mystery is in itself a very compelling story.  With this work, Landon has really stepped up his game and taken the Malloy mysteries to an entirely new level.  If you have read previous works by Landon, you are sure to be pleased with this latest volume.

“A Prairie Homicidal Companion” is the best in the series, in this reader’s opinion.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Book Review – A Dubious Plan

A Dubious Plan – Supernatural Nazi Hunting Mystery!

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: Gerald Kubicki
Format: Kindle, Paperback

Off for a weekend of fun, four friends find something they never expected during an intimate tryst in Death Valley National Park – the tail of old World War II plane buried under years of blowing sand.  Hoping to claim a reward, the friends soon find themselves in mortal danger as this is no ordinary plane.  Rather, it is the pivotal piece of one man’s dream to bring the Nazi movement to America and while he may be long gone, his followers aren’t.  This plane and the technology it could lead to could mean a change in world power, and Colton Banyon along with his partner Loni and their colleagues must find this power long before modern day Nazi’s do.

A Dubious Plan, by Gerald Kubicki, is the fifth in a series of books featuring Colton Banyon.  I have not read the previous installments and while there are references made to previous characters and events, readers won’t miss a beat if this is their first Colton mystery.  The plot clearly drives the story – a Nazi escapes with secret “wonder” technology at the end of the war to secretly setup up a new “beach head” in America but then both he and the plane are lost for years – I was immediately engaged.  The novel has the feel of a popcorn movie as the characterization is secondary and most of the women are, for me, a little too flighty but the action keeps things moving.

Overall, a fun beach or vacation read and if you like it, there are plenty more in the series.

Note: A complimentary copy of this novel was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – Getting a Flat Belly Sucks

Getting a Flat Belly Sucks – Quick Tips and Reminders for those Battling the Bulge

Rating: 4 of 5
Author: Maurice D Chuka
Format: Kindle

At the beginning of each new year, more gym memberships and exercise equipment are sold than at any other time.  Why? Well, clearly most of us would like to be in better shape.  But a few months into the year (sometimes weeks!) the motivation is gone – the treadmills become clothing holders and gym memberships go unused.

In “Getting a Flat Belly Sucks”, Maurice Chuka shares with readers those all too familiar excuses that will guarantee failure in the battle to loose weight and various tips to stay motivated.  This is a brief book which serves best as a quick set of reminders of those keys to success many of us already know but need to be prodded to follow.

Note: A complimentary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.