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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review of Forgotten Children

Name:
Kelli Keith

Date:
November 26, 2017

Book Title:
Forgotten Children

Book Author:
Michael W. Davis

Date of Publication:
July 1, 2008

Number of Pages:
226

Main Characters:
Mark Daniels is a former college linebacker turned investigative journalist, married to his college sweetheart, Sara Daniels. Sara is a teacher and is intent on becoming pregnant.

Don (Don Juan/D.J.) Sanchez is Mark’s best friend and colleague. Known as the local Lothario, he uses his wiles to obtain information from Lawton’s single, female population.

Other Important Characters:
Jamie Andrews- a research assistant at BSSI and the character that sets everything into motion.

Dr. Matthew Thomas- researcher and former professor who discovers his findings are being used unethically by BSSI.

Edward Kerns- CEO of BSSI.

Setting:
Lawton, Virginia; Early 2000s.

Synopsis:
Biotech Skin Solutions Incorporated has a secret—one they are willing to kill to keep quiet. Dr. Thomas, a former professor at the University of Lawton, learns his research is being used for nefarious deeds at the seemingly benign BSSI. He contacts a former student-turned-reporter for help but before the meeting he is viciously murdered. Mark Daniels, his wife Sara, and Don Sanchez are plunged into a wicked web of cover-ups, lethal experiments, and the worst kinds of evil. They must expose the truth or die trying.

Key Points/Conflict:
In the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to Jamie Andrews, a reluctant employee at BSSI. He dreams of escaping the nightmare of his research assistantship. When he makes that dream a reality, he sets a pendulum in motion that begins to swing out of control. Andrews escapes with evidence of wrong-doing by BSSI and sends it to Dr. Matthew Thomas, a former university professor, and current researcher of anti-aging solutions. Dr. Thomas is stunned to learn that his research is being used unethically and seeks out the assistance of a former student, Mark Daniels.

Mark and his best friend, Don (DJ) Sanchez, are investigative reporters at the local paper (Winston Sentinel) and arrange to meet Dr. Thomas the following morning. Upon their arrival, they discover Dr. Thomas had been murdered. Before his demise, the doctor left clues for the pair to decipher. Although, the cryptic clues left more questions than answers.

Mark, his wife Sara, and DJ become embroiled in solving the case. As they dig deeper and deeper, they find that not only is BSSI unethically conducting research, they are doing so at the peril of the local children. As one mystery leads to another, the trio are faced with untold dangers and even more unscrupulous men. Not everyone will survive but it is a risk they must take to save the forgotten children of Lawton.

Analysis/Evaluation:
Mr. Davis masterfully crafted a riveting thriller! The information within the story was well researched and scientifically accurate at the time of authoring. It should be noted that some of the jargon/procedures have advanced and would be worth further exploration, if the reader was interested. Davis does an excellent job at explaining complicated terms and explaining them within the story. It never feels as though the reader is receiving a Science lesson or a dictionary definition.

The first few chapters are used to provide the necessary background information for the meat of the story. If the reader finds this tedious—stick with it—it’s important and all will reveal itself in time. Each scene is set with just enough description to allow the reader to recreate it in their mind but not so much that it is overwhelming.

The characters are well defined and believable, even if some of their dialog/terms of endearment feel dated. There were no errors in continuity and the story flowed at an even pace.

From beginning to end, I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how everything was going to turn out. Davis ends the story with enough closure to make this novel stand on its own but, open enough to continue into a series. If that is what he decides, I would be delighted to keep reading.

Forgotten Children is available on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review of Housetrap by Linda Workman-Crider

Book Review: Housetrap by R.J. Hore

Review by: Linda Workman-Crider

The Maltese Falcon/Dragnet type detective story combines with an entire encyclopedia of fairy creatures who travel in carriages and ox carts over cobblestone streets to catch their shuttles from Earth to Mars or Saturn in this who’s chasing who, and for what real reason, head-spinning mystery.

Private Detective Randolf C. Aloysius is approached by an Elven client, giving the name of Rose and her employment as the Assistant Headmistress at a college for quality young ladies. She says her boyfriend, Rupert, has disappeared, along with the ring she gave him as a token of her love. She wants Randolf to find the man and the ring. The ring, however, is a family heirloom and she is willing to pay twice the agreed upon fees to get it back. But Randolf discovers that Rose isn’t Rose, who turns out to be a missing Elven student who has fled Earth with her boyfriend, Rupert, to the most probable destination of Mars. Randolf decides to follow the trail of Rose#2 to find Rupert and the ring, which would satisfy his client, formerly-known-as-Rose, and lead to the detective actually getting paid. However, Randolf is now being followed by a Demon and a Vampire, who may be the same creatures who got to Rupert’s room ahead of him and tossed the place. Buckle your seat belts and keep your smart-device handy. R.J. Hore’s Housetrap is a vortex of fantasmic mystery laced with plenty of word candy for the intellectual reader.

This story-line, written in first person, is not one that could be followed easily by someone new to the fantasy genre, simply due to extensive inclusion of so many varieties of fantasy creatures and fairy tales. Even with some prerequisite knowledge, there were portions that had my mind swirling like the very first time I heard Russel Brand speak; in awe and in need of a glossary but loving the challenge of trying to keep up. As far as actual plot-line, Hore plays the reader like a cat plays a mouse. We are allowed a correct prediction or two and then killed with the plot-twists. The story line is a mystery plot but also a story that never seems to take itself too seriously. While I may seem to hype up the creature knowledge and the need for a dictionary, Housetrap, from start to finish, is a fun read.

Randolf C. Aloyius is mustached Mongrel with a self-described ugly mug and an Uncle’s charm. All those ancestral bits of magical talents from so many different races combine to make him a top-notch, though financially broken, private detective. He smokes a briar pipe, loves baseball and beer, and knows how to use all seven of his senses to avoid debt collectors. As the narrator, the characters voice reminded me of Sergeant Joe Friday, from the 1960’s TV series Dragnet, plus the additional class of 1940’s actor, Humphrey Bogart with lines like, “[She] slid into the battered chair opposite me like maple syrup poured from a mason jar.” And, “The Elf had the kind of face you see perched on a mantelpiece, thin bone china, pale, delicate, and carved by a Master.” Or, my personal favorite in regard to a goblin landlord making googly eyes at him, “[She had] a face that would make a herd of woolly mammoth stampede.” Randolf’s dialogue and narration will keep you wrapped up in the story, even if just to find out what he might say next.

As you may have noticed in the summary, there are two characters going by the name of Rose. Both are Elves, both are linked to a Rupert and an antique ring, and both are equally important to the plot-line. I am afraid it would get too confusing to describe either character further here, but it is important to note that this situation becomes much less confusing within the actual story. In complete honesty, I suffer some remorse in giving the detail of the two Roses away, but felt it was important for audience understanding of the plot summary. In either case, the characters are well written, but the first-person narration regulates our major closeness to remain loyal to Randolf.

In Housetrap, Hore takes would be trope characters and adds dashes of something extra until they’re so flavored that they become unique. They are neither flat nor rounded characters, but instead have bumps and lumps of human qualities that make them stand out as distinguishable from any other trope-based characters, so not really tropes at all. There is a genius behind these characters that poke fun at the genre without distracting from the storyline at all—Well, except for a Wolf driver of a carriage nonchalantly described as wearing a faux sheep skin coat. I had to back up three words before I could laugh out loud at that one. I almost missed it.

The world-building in Housetrap requires the reader to be capable of some suspension of belief to take in all the magic, fairy creatures, planetary travel, and some juxtaposition in the levels of available technology/magical creation limitations. Most fantasy readers will have the ability to sink into the world without any difficulty, and once there, Hore’s descriptions are consistent and connected in a way that world makes its own kind of sense. As an example, in one scene, Randolf is looking into his crystal ball and switching channels trying to find something to watch. It is explained that the wizards still hadn’t found a way to create audio and visuals within the same device. Now we know why a world that can send people to Mars doesn’t have something as simple as a television. It’s believable in that it is explained, and quite frankly, the real world still hasn’t found a cure for the common cold, though we are capable of splicing genes into organisms which causes them to produce human insulin.

Housetrap in an enjoyable quick read while, at the same time, being a great mental workout. R.J. Hore’s word choices and sentence structure are on a level with great literary works of fiction. While being fast-paced, the complexity of the writing style will increase the reading time and the amount of time spent lingering in pure awe at R. J. Hore’s mental capacity to contain that much knowledge and the talent to convey it in such an enjoyable way. I highly recommend this book to experienced readers of the fantasy genre.



Housetrap is available on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Inspiration for a Story with Ellie Lynn

Years ago, I wanted to write a historical romance, but my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t make it believable. Research wasn’t necessarily one of my strong suits, so I sat down to figure out the best way to accomplish a historical, without making too many period mistakes. My solution? A time travel. What better way to show historical times, but through the eyes of a modern twenty-first century woman?

Then I had to settle on a specific time period. I love westerns, always have. I mean really, who doesn’t love a cowboy? I grew up on Gunsmoke, with Marshal Dillon and Miss Kitty (le sigh), so I guess, in a way, the old west picked me.

Now that I had my era down, research was fun! I watched a lot of old re-runs of Gunsmoke and Bonanaza, watched movies like Tombstone, and every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood western I could find. Then there was Quigley Down Under, Cat Ballou, Maverick and Young Guns. But I didn’t limit my research to Hollywood. I spent hours at museums, looking at all sorts of frontier items. I’m the worst artist ever, but I made sketches of clothes, furniture and other assorted things that were used in the period.

Next was the most fun of all. Finding my setting. I decided that I wanted to use a real place, not just a made up western town, so I scoured the history books (which means I did an extensive internet search!) and found Calico, California. There was just something about this little town that sparked my imagination, so I took a closer look and fell in love.

Most of the layout of the town is my own creation. I did use some existing/former buildings in my version of Calico, though.











There really was a Marshal’s Office, and Lil’s Saloon exists to this day. If you look inside the interior of her saloon, you’ll see the tablecloths that Jenny O’Farrel gave Lil to use after Riley’s thugs tore up the place.























The old schoolhouse is still there, sitting at the edge of town, just as it did in Amy Mallory’s time (New Prints In Old Calico) as school teacher. This is the second schoolhouse, since the first one was burned down in a fire long ago. It was fun making up a reason for the arson, but in truth, no one really knows how the fire started that destroyed the first schoolhouse.

The backdrop of a real location really helped fuel the ideas for the two Calico novels (New Prints in Old Calico, Under A Calico Moon) and the one novella (Calico Bride). I’ve got another Calico story in the works and I’m sure there will be more short novellas as well because let’s face it, the people of Calico are not finished telling their stories yet.

And me? I’m just happy to share them with you.

Ellie
About the Author

Ellie Lynn always wanted to be a writer, and since every writer she'd ever met said to 'write what you know', she started out writing romantic comedy. She's since discovered a love of historical western romances as she channels Gunsmoke and Bonanza! Ellie writes under her own name, but often writes contemporary romance as Jennifer Lynn.

Ellie lives in rural Saskatchewan with her husband, two incredibly spoiled dogs and Horatio the salamander.

Ellie loves to interact with readers on her website at www.ellielynn.ca, on Twitter @ellielynnbooks or via Facebook www.facebook.com/ellielynnromance and if you'd like to keep up on latest releases, contests or assorted free gifties, sign up for her mailing list: http://eepurl.com/czwOCj

Ellie's books are available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review of FDA by Kelli Keith

Name:

Kelli Keith

Date:
November 19, 2017

Book Title:
FDA

Book Author:
Rick Giernoth

Date of Publication:
September 1, 2009

Number of Pages:
255

Main Characters:
Jack Randolph (a.k.a. Ryan Bennett) a reporter for the Chicago Tribune that regularly reports on cover-ups, conspiracies, and is a general nuisance for the editor.

Martini (a.k.a. Josh Gibson and Jonathan Taylor) is Jack’s confidant, mentor, and a seemingly anti-establishment hippie.

Other Important Characters:
Chelsea, Zip (William), Peter, and Tim are a group of “rebels” out to prove the agencies’ wrongdoings.

Setting:
The mid-2000’s in multiple locations throughout Canada & the U.S.

Synopsis:
Jack Randolph is fired from the Chicago Tribune when “the board” pulls his latest conspiracy story about the government eliminating cures for major diseases.  With the help of his long-time friend, Martini, Jack delves further into the investigation.  It started as a simple pursuit of the truth evolved into a wicked web of lies that cost Jack his safety, security, and love of his life.

Key Points/Conflict:
Jack is summoned to his editor, Mike’s, office and once again lectured on his performance as a reporter.  Mike points out that Jack is not a team player and chooses to ignore employer commands to follow his own hunches/leads.  Jack’s current story on a government conspiracy to cover up cures for cancer is vetoed by the board of the Tribune.  Mike, hesitantly, fires Jack for using one to many chances to do the right thing.  

Jack immediately runs to his friend Josh Gibson, nicknamed Martini, to find a conspiracy hidden in his firing.  It doesn’t take long for the paranoid, anti-establishment Martini to convince Jack that the government owns the papers and is truly hiding the cure for cancer.  Jack decides he must continue to dig so he can expose the truth.  This digging leads Jack to a Dr. Lamb, living in Canada, former head of Starfish Labs and receipt of millions in cleverly hidden grant dollars.  

Upon arrival in Canada, Jack, who has now adopted the person of Ryan Bennett, approaches Dr. Lamb with a disturbing story about his (fictional) dying daughter.  When Dr. Lamb ignores his sob story, Jack hunkers down, planning to work on him over time.  It isn’t long before Jack realizes he is being watched.  

He finally gains an audience with Dr. Lamb, only to be interrupted by agents who swiftly shoot Dr. Lamb and his wife.  Jack jumps through a window and narrowly escapes.  In constant contact with Martini, Jack sets out to find another source for his article.  Ultimately, it is revealed that Martini is part of the agency and is attempting to eliminate Jack by exploiting the years of “friendship” they developed.

This devastating revelation leads Jack to become part of a rebel team devoted to exposing the agency for what it truly is. Peter, Zip, Tim, and Chelsea accept Jack into their group and plan to kidnap Martini for information.

Once the kidnapping is complete, the dark secrets of Martini’s past are revealed.  A plot twist ultimately lends Martini to the side of the rebels where he plans to use his remaining life to atone for his past sins.  Martini secretly kept documents that could bring every level of the agency to its knees.  The team has to retrieve the items and hope that time and luck are on their sides.

Further betrayal, death, and misfortune plague the group as they take on an unseen villain that has poisoned every aspect of the planet.

Analysis/Evaluation:
If you aren’t a paranoid, conspiracy theorist at the beginning of this book, you will be by the end! For the first half of the book, it seems like the main character is a paranoid schizophrenic chasing imaginary shadows in the comfort of his own brain. Jack, although highly intelligent, comes across as extremely self-centered and doggedly persistent.  In the beginning of the book, it is mentioned that Kate is the love of his life and he promises her that he will be home that evening for dinner. Instead of keeping his word, he goes to Martini’s house and stays for two days sorting through corporations for leads on his cure story.  The next time Kate is mentioned, she has been murdered. Jack’s reaction was typical but more so of someone who had lost a security blanket, instead of someone he loved.

The character flaw also reared its head when he posed as a father with a dying daughter to gain the trust of Dr. Lamb and his wife.  For the typical reader, everything else aside, it was this act of deceit that made Jack unlikable.  

Continuity throughout the book was pretty on point, minus an issue or two.  The most prevalent was when Martini’s nose was broken, “His nose snapped; the crack echoed through the cabin (location 38.7%)” it is never mentioned again.  No discussion of cleaning up the blood, splinting his nose, or any later references like, putting on his prosthetics to cover his misshapen nose.

During the house fire, the description of finding Zip’s hip confused this reader.  The house was supposed to incinerate at 5,000 degrees yet, Chelsea was able to go in and pick up a titanium hip replacement with her bare hands, not even three minutes after the blaze ignited.  However, at this point, the reader is so engrossed in what will happen next that they are probably reading too fast to care!

(The mention of Circuit City in chapter twenty-four dates the piece.  The company liquidated and closed the final store in early 2009.)

The ending… ah, the ending.  Mr. Giernoth seems to have left the story open to become a series OR he was unsure how to end this riveting tale.  This reader will err on the author’s side and say he is going to wow us with more adventures where Jack is the lead character.

FDA is available on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review of An Alien’s Guide to World Domination by Linda Workman-Crider

Book Review: An Alien’s Guide to World Domination by Elizabeth Fountain

Review by: Linda Workman-Crider

If you are seeking mainstream Sci-Fi, this is not it. This is more along the lines of Literary Sci-Fi. If you are not sure of this difference, Octavia Butler’s short story, Speech Sounds, is an award-winning example of Literary Sci-fi and can be found as a free read online. To me, the main difference is the focus on the human condition, along with fancier word choices and sentence structures. For the gist of An Alien’s Guide to World Domination by Elizabeth Fountain, imagine the movie Men in Black, but rewritten so that the aliens remain in their human form for most of the movie (One of the characters in this book is named Thomas Lee Jones, a nod by the author which may lend some credence to my statement).

A boy and an old man, Uncle, secretly stow the boy’s sister and Uncle’s wife aboard their pod as they are being exiled from their planet. They randomly land on Earth at the Teton Dam just as it is filling for the first time. The automatic self-destruct timing of their pod causes the Dam to collapse and flings their wispy alien bodies in two separate directions, with the boy and Uncle landing together in Selah, Washington and the girls flung off in the opposite direction. They all eventually take over dead bodies as their new skins. The boy takes the name Jack Smith and goes off to find his sister. He eventually gives up searching and moves to Prague trying to forget her. Our main alien protagonists, Jack Smith and Louise Armstrong Holliday find themselves working for the same company, PPP3, and smack in the middle of an alien plot to turn all humans into cyborgs. It’s up to them to save us from our fate. Will they decide we’re worth the effort?

While the plot reads science-fictiony enough, the getting through to the alien plot points requires trudging through vast amounts of mundane corporate deals and the unappreciated lives of office workers; some of which is relevant to the story-line, but most of which is commentary on the human condition. I think it was while reading an entire page and a half of an email, sent to Jack from Louie, with the subject line: “Re: My theory about middle aged white men” that I realized this was a literary plot-line and that the guidelines for the mainstream sci-fi review were no longer relevant. My review is now biased due to my, shall we say, lack of enthusiasm for literary fiction. If I use a literary standard that requires some difficulty to, or more than mainstream standard of intricacy for the literary plot, I would label this, in my best professional voice as, “meh.” Some portion of this score is based on a lack of, in literary terms, verisimilitude (believability), on how we get from one plot point to another sometimes by miraculous means (If someone challenges me on this due to literary sci-fi not being based on predictability, but instead on description, I will concede the point. Literary works are often prized for breaking the rules, which makes none of the rules really matter anyway).

While we are given glimpses of most of our alien characters in their natural form, we spend what feels like ninety percent of our time with them in their human forms. Their alien-ness becomes more like an afterthought even as they fight to save our world from galactic invasion. Since the main function of literary fiction is to be a commentary on the human condition, it makes sense for the characters to be written in a way that focuses on their human qualities. Moreover, there is not even a need for our characters to be rounded. They are merely props to propel the statement of the literary work. In this case, “In the event of almost certain galactic doom, humans might not be worth saving.” Love, kindness, and compassion are presented as alien conditions unique to the protagonist characters of our story, especially in our main characters, Jack and Louie.

I would not trust my own review regarding the level of closeness developed with the characters by the reader. My bias against literary works in general would hinder the building of these relationships. However, I can say in fairness that Fountain’s characters all had unique traits and styles that set them apart from one another. Each character was interesting in some way, and with many given their own chapter of background, the architectural foundation for closeness, at the very least, has been laid.

Fountain’s world-building is where she lost me as a reader the most. She wrote the individual settings well and I could even accept alien junk dealers traveling the galaxy to sell pfootahns. I had a hard time accepting an inconsistent ability of “knowing” things that should not be known, of wispy aliens—that could just pop into a dead human body— developing (or needing) zippers to leave the human form, of the perfect dead bodies to match the alien character profile of old man or young woman to be so conveniently available, or of one alien changing into what could be called a fairy godmother and causing fairy-tale types of events to occur. These things push past the sci-fi genre limits, push past the fantasy genre limits, and land within the genre of fabulism. The reader is thus left never really understanding what type of world the story is taking place in.

My overall impression is that An Alien’s Guide to World Domination lacks a focus of genre that will alienate all readers with preferences to specific forms, but most closely matches the label of Literary Science Fiction. Unfortunately, I think a literary reader would find the word choice and sentence structure too mainstream for their liking. It’s quite possible that this book should more aptly labeled as Experimental Fiction and that this issue of mislabeling is the largest actual issue in terms of understanding and recommendation of this book. I believe my issue of bias has been solved. While I would not recommend this book to Sci-fi fans, I can recommend this book under the guise of experimental fiction to those who read literary fiction mainly for the commentary on the human condition.

An Alien’s Guide to World Domination is available on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Exclusive Peek at Under a Calico Moon

Under a Calico Moon
By Ellie Lynn
Historical Romance
$3.99
Amazon: https://goo.gl/8uaUD1
Kobo: https://goo.gl/rX4gpn
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/YanEkG

When everything you love has been taken, sometimes all you have left is revenge.

Excerpt:
He took her hands, kissed her fingertips then stared at them for a long moment. Tilting his head, he smiled at her with a lopsided grin. “You don’t know how to ride?”

She grinned. “Horses. Cowboys are a whole other beast.”

His smile faded, and he grew serious. After he drew her up and onto his lap, his lips touched her hair. “I love your faith in me Lil, but I’m afraid for you. I don’t know who is behind all of this, or even why. How can I protect you when I don’t know what the hell is going on?”

“I—” she started to speak, only to be cut off as Chet’s mouth touched hers.

He pulled his lips away from her mouth. “It isn’t safe, Lil. Until we can draw this guy out into the open, it isn’t safe. That’s why you can’t stay.”

“But I want to stay.”

“I know, and God knows I want you to, but you can’t,” he said. “First thing in the morning, I’m taking you back to Calico, and you’re going to stay there until this thing is settled.”

“I most certainly am not going to stay in town like a good little girl!” Lil snapped and jumped up from his knee. “You may think you are in charge, mister, but let me tell you something—no one tells Lil Kersey what to do. I’ll go back tomorrow because I have a business to run, but I’ll return to check on you in a few days.”

She raised her finger to silence him when he opened his mouth. “Furthermore, I happen to be falling in love with you, you big lunk, so don’t think you can keep me away from you.”

His eyebrows shot up. “You... you are?”

Tugging at her lower lip with her teeth, she smiled sheepishly. “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” he said and got to his feet. Lord, when that man stood in front of her, he was the tallest drink of water this side of the Rio Grande. And she loved it.

“I sometimes say things without thinking,” she said and waved a hand in front of her. “Pay it no mind.”

He grinned, tugging her toward him and lowered his face to hers. The last thing she heard before he gave her another heart- stopping kiss was, “Whatever you say, Miss Lil.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review of A Wicked Truth by Kelli Keith

Name:
Kelli Keith

Date:
November 12, 2017

Book Title:
A Wicked Truth (Book 3 in the Cady Delafield Series)

Book Author:
Joyce Proell

Date of Publication:
September 7, 2015

Number of Pages:
284

Main Characters:
Arcadia “Cady” Delafield is the administrator for the Women’s Prepartory School. With the wedding date set, one nefarious act after another threatens her happily ever after.

Doyle Flanagan is a wealthy businessman continuously cloaked in controversy. He was shunned from high society when his wife’s, Millicent, suicide was investigated as a murder—with him as the prime suspect. After his name was cleared, life seemed to be getting back to normal, when he is drawn into a new mystery.

Other Important Characters:
Sophie Newberg was the best friend of Doyle’s deceased wife. She comes to him seeking help in locating her missing sister.

Inspector Jack Dinsmore is the lead detective on the kidnapping and homicide cases.

Faith and Hope Delafield are twins and sisters to Cady.

Victor Masters is the voice coach to Sarah and Faith. He is also the unwitting liaison for the kidnappings.

Hollis Grover is a greasy conman climbing the societal ladder along with his brother, John (Grover) Gilbert. Gilbert is the long-time foe of Doyle, seeking revenge any chance he can.

Setting:
Chicago, Illinois; May, 1881.

Synopsis:
Young girls are being kidnapped into a brothel to service Chicago’s elite. When someone from Doyle Flanagan’s past requests his assistance, he becomes a reluctant detective into the seedy underworld of human trafficking, brothels, and cover-ups. When Cady’s sister becomes a victim, time is running out to solve the crime. Is it revenge against Doyle or happenstance?

Key Points/Conflict:
It should be noted that I have read the other two books in the series and will attempt a standalone review of A Wicked Truth.

Book 3 of the Cady Delafield series begins by setting a scene within a brothel. A young girl awakes, groggy and disoriented, only to remember she has been sexually assaulted and is now being held captive. A portly man (Police Chief, Vernon Lester) enters the room to repeat the previous night’s escapades, which robbed the girl of her innocence. Armed with only a weapon of opportunity, she stabs the man. The girl’s captor enters and throws her, causing her death. The captor disposes of Vernon and Sarah, by the river.

Doyle Flanagan is visited by Sophie Newberg, a friend from his past. She is seeking his assistance in locating her missing sister, Sarah. Rumors were flying that Sarah had run away with Patrick Driscoll, to elope. Due to Sophie and Sarah’s elite status in society, going to the police was out of the question. Doyle agreed to help because his sister is roughly the same age and he would hope someone would help if it were she that was missing. All the while, Doyle and Cady are planning a wedding for June 18th, much to the dismay of Cady’s grandmother.

We are introduced to Hollis and John (Grover) Gilbert, two half-brothers who have conned their way into a societal position. They began with nothing, scheming and lying their way to the top. Hollis is the mastermind behind all the dirty dealings, while John is the one who arranges for the kidnappings. We learn they are responsible for Sarah’s death and are on the lookout for a new virgin to service their clients. While John seems hesitant and quick to blame Hollis’s temper for the snafu, he goes along with the plan, especially because it may exact revenge on his main rival, Doyle Flanagan.

Detective Jack Dinsmore is the lead homicide officer on the cases. He enlists Doyle’s help to question Sarah’s family and on the cases in general. Sarah’s family decided to keep her death under wraps and tell people she eloped to keep suspicion and gossip at bay.

When a little girl (Molly) is kidnapped from the orphanage, John is suspected and thrown in jail. Upon his release, Cady’s sister Hope is also kidnapped. These events coincide with Cady’s grandmother having a horrible accident that results in a broken hip and a lengthy hospital stay.

With time running out to save Molly and Grace, Cady and Doyle must break societal rules to find them.

Analysis/Evaluation:

The prologue immediately draws the reader into the heart of the story, which begins May 12, 1881. Each chapter is subsequently labeled with a day of the week so the reader is able to keep close tabs on the timeline of the story. (Chapter 16, about 50% through the story, is one day short of two weeks from Sarah’s murder.) Although, this reader lost track of how many days had past!

As part of the series, this novel was the best as a standalone. The continuity was on point and the characters were well-developed. I found myself breathlessly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When Cady’s grandmother had an accident, it felt misplaced and more like filler. Four to five chapters later, it became clear it was being used as a way to repair the damaged relationship between Doyle and Mrs. Prentice—which was necessary for a successful marriage and family life for Cady.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is, by far, my favorite out of the series. It truly stands on its own and would not require any additional reading.

A Wicked Truth is available on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Sneak Peek at Upcoming Books Part 2!

So, last week's post was so popular with our new authors, we decided to keep it going for another week! Check out these awesome to-be-released books we have in our pockets. Remember, you can always check out what's new at the Champagne Bookstore.

February, 2018
Title: Storm Child
By KM Tolan

"Becoming a steam child was supposed to be fun

Red was meant to live a carefree life among the great steam locomotives as one of Hobohemia’s mischievous steam children. She leaves her human body behind, but not her childhood demons. A Gypsy blessing becomes an unintended curse, releasing an unbridled power inside her. Red becomes an unwilling sword in the hands of others eager to wield her anger. Before she can stop them, she must first defeat herself.

Title: Rush
By E Jourdan Lewis
Adult Urban Fantasy,

For centuries humans have been enslaved, oppressed, and demoralized by Shifters. The government has passed the Human Civil Rights Act giving humans the same equal rights as Shifters. Humans can now eat in the same restaurants, shop in the same stores, and attend the same school as Shifters. They cannot however, fall in love with one.

Jane, a twenty one year old human girl, spends every day battling against the oppressive rules of her mother’s house. Always teetering between what her parent’s expect and what she expects of herself. When her latest act of rebellion results in her mother cutting off her funds for college, Jane must figure out a way to get a job and pay for college in a city where Shifters are still far too superior to consider humans worth their while.

Rush, a Shifter living in an oppressive tiger streak just wants to lie low and protect his sisters from their abusive Alpha while earning his approval. When Rush is stuck with Jane as his study partner for the semester he keeps his distance to avoid the wrath of his Alpha. After spending time with her, Rush realizes that Jane isn’t what he expected. She’s strong, and intelligent, with an iron will. Things he was told the dimwitted humans weren’t supposed to be. Soon he learns they have a lot more in common than their shared oppression, and Rush finds himself wishing for more with Jane. The kind of “more” everyone warns them against. Jane may be the love of his life but if their secret is discovered by his Alpha there’ll be more than hearts at stake. There will be blood.

March, 2018
Title: A Knight in Distress
By Barbara Russell
Fantasy

Knights rescue damsels. That’s the natural order. So when Nathair, a knight in training, finds himself rescued by the princess he’s supposed to save, he’s annoyed. And when the princess proves she can fight like a knight? Well, that’s enough for a boy to think about a career change.

July, 2018
Title: Camouflage
By Ivy Keating and Scott Spotson
Science Fiction

Secrets, hidden for millions of years, are about to be unleashed in a small idyllic New England town. When Vanessa Strauss, the alluring owner of a faltering gift shop, reports a popular high school coach missing, the new headstrong police chief Sean Dermott is determined to solve the case. But when the investigation exposes a deadly force of nature, no one is safe. In the chaos that follows, everyone must find a way for nature, justice and love to survive.

Fall 2018
Title: Falling from Haven
By Carly Marino

Darkness lies in the most heavenly of places.

“When the Teraphim slays a Nephilim, the angelic empire will fall.”

These words haunt eighteen-year-old Coy—child of an Angel and a Fallen. She fights her demon side to prove the prophets wrong. When she’s attacked by a Nephilim, she inadvertently unleashes her Fallen nature, triggering the prophecy.

Imprisoned in Haven with her family, Coy must face her inner demon. Tested beyond endurance by the Nephilim’s vicious Prime, she realizes he desires more than preventing the Angels' downfall, and if they don’t escape, soon, they die. Hunted by the Prime’s Legionnaires, Coy must storm Haven’s defenses to rescue her family. Embracing her demonic half may be their only chance. But if Coy surrenders to evil, again, she may never return from her darkness. At the edge of despair, she finds Killian and his tantalizing promise of freedom. His angelic looks and devilish allure boost Coy’s strength and flutter her heart.

But trusting him is another matter.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Review of Traitor Knight by Linda Workman-Crider

Book Review: Traitor Knight by Keith W. Willis

Review by: Linda Workman-Crider

Morgan James McRobbie—Knight-Commander of the Legion of Kilbourne, Viscount of Westdale, damsel defender, friend to the king, and …traitor to the kingdom?

For Morgan McRobbie, being known as the Dark Knight due to his mixed heritage wasn’t that bad, but the new double meaning that included “traitor to the kingdom” was quickly becoming an issue. This becomes obvious when he rescues Marissa from the impending jaws of a dragon, an event which she treated as almost trivial, only to be horrified at discovering the identity of her rescuer. Still Marissa agrees to the obligatory dinner to show her gratitude, which turns out to be heart-flutteringly enjoyable for the both of them, until she questions Morgan’s loyalty to Kilbourne, a matter he has made an oath to the king not to discuss. A second date finds Morgan stabbed, Marissa kidnapped by Morgan, and both of them brought face to face with the Rhuddlani spy whom Morgan was trying desperately to avoid. From here, this mostly fast-paced tale includes enough court intrigue, espionage, murder, and mayhem to satisfy the intellectual, while the seemingly star-crossed romance and well-timed humor keep the rest of us involved and entertained. This is a Knight’s tale that satisfies childhood fantasies, as well as the adult mind.

The plot-line for this book is much more intricate and detailed than I had expected. While being an excellent knight’s tale, this is also probably one of the best spy plots that I have ever read. At one point, I had a mini-mental war with myself over if this might be more of an espionage novel that could work in any setting. I was surprised that I couldn’t untangle this plot from Morgan and Kilbourne. Willis has wed them together so naturally that it felt wrong, on many levels, to try to tear them apart. If you are a plot-driven reader, this plots for you.

A quote of self-description from Morgan: “I am no spy. I don’t have the subtlety necessary for intrigue. I certainly don’t have the thick skin required. Of course I’ve gotten used to the whole ‘half-breed’ thing over the years. But that’s something I have no control over—I am what I am, for good or ill.” Morgan will prove himself wrong on the first three sentences. He is delightfully rounded, containing as many human qualities as he does heroic traits.

A quote to understand Marissa: “Snaring a man is not my ambition, as you well know. And, considering the current crop of eligible men in Caerfaen,” Marissa observed with some asperity, “such a task doesn’t rate a particularly high priority. Peacocks in dress, peacocks in brains, the lot of them…” Marissa is no easy target for affection for any man, regardless of his station. Still she finds herself falling for a traitor, enough so that this damsel will desperately try to save her knight (a fact that I hope both the author and the reader will forgive me for revealing. This role reversal is just too good to leave unmentioned).

Keith W. Willis gives us almost complete backstories on our main characters. I could probably reveal more about Morgan and Marissa than I even know about some of my own family members. These characters are not just well-rounded, they are heftily weighted with history, experience, and emotion. Even the side-characters, of which there are many, hold dimension through unique traits, mannerisms, and styles of voice. They are intricate ingredients to the settings, scenes, and tone of passages. Willis creates believable textualized humans and not just merely props to propel the story. The only way a reader would avoid becoming embedding within this community, is if they suffer from anxieties which may leave them feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of people they are being surrounded with. These are not characters that are easily ignored.

I recently read an online article in The Conversation entitled, “How Kazuo Ishiguro Won the Nobel Prize in Literature – According to Research.” A portion of a quote from Ishiguro shared in this article comes to mind when I contemplate Keith W. Willis’ world-building in Traitor Knight. Kazuo Ishiguro said, “…We live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time and we can’t … forget one or the other.” Ishiguro and Willis (who graduated from Berry College with a degree in English Literature) must have this one thought, at least, in common when it comes to their writing and word-building. The world of Traitor Knight reaches outside of the bubble of our main characters, outside of court, spills out into the streets of Kilbourne, and reaches distant lands and leaders to span through time, generations, and history. On top of this expanse, lay tiny bubbles of smaller worlds, like the Legion, the Council, or the Watch. The amount of skill, effort, and talent to communicate these interconnected worlds to the reader is not small. As a creative writing student, I am in awe of Willis’ ability to keep all of these little worlds contained in a way that never harms, but only adds to, the telling of the main story. I would nominate Keith W. Willis for a Nobel Prize in world-building, if I could…though he might want to do something with the first two pages beforehand.

The first two-pages of this book are not any indication of the depths we will soon be diving within the realm of Kilbourne. In fact, the first two pages seemed a bit over-the-top and cliché. However, they are extremely important to the rest of the story. I look back upon them as a portal of sorts that allowed me entry to into Kilbourne. I view them as a key to and a caricature of the world that soon follows where humor and sharp wit abound, but where the reader has a bit of work to do to keep up. There is, as mentioned, a large number of names to keep track of, especially during a scene that contains a meeting of the Council. It is impossible to know who among these many names will be majorly important later on in the story. I feel strongly that if you are up to taking on this type of challenge, the enjoyment found in this book is well worth every effort. I also recommend buying this particular book in print form. Not only will there will be passages that you will wish to highlight and read again, I think that there is a unique quality to this book that deserves a physical presence. Keith W. Willis has earned himself a fan with Traitor Knight. I believe you may find yourself becoming a fan, too.

Traitor Knight is available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, at Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.