Friday, January 31, 2014

First Chapter Review: Good, Clean Murder by Traci Tyne Hilton

I downloaded a copy of Good, Clean Murder, a cozy Christian mystery, by Traci Tyne Hilton for free earlier this month.

BLURB: Hardworking and hungry Bible school student Jane Adler cleans houses to make ends meet. But finding the money to pay for the last semester of school is the least of her problems when she uncovers a body in her boss's bed.

COVER: Adorable. Though maybe the young lady shouldn't be smiling behind the sheet (I think that's what that is), I love the look and colors of this cover.

FIRST CHAPTER: Jane appears at the Crawford family home to start her Monday morning cleaning schedule. Things don't seem right, however: the newspaper is still in the box, no coffee has been made, there's no to-do list pinned to the bulletin board, and most importantly, no money envelope on payday.

Temporarily distracted by a phone call from her roommate, Sam, Jane makes her way upstairs to strip the bed, where she discovers the body of Bob Crawford.

KEEP READING: Sure thing. Not only do I like that the main character is a Bible college student who cleans houses to help pay for school, Jane is likable. She's happy and hard-working. She seems to have her head screwed on straight. Her roommate, Sam, is another story. She nagged me right from the beginning. The reader doesn't know why she has an attitude problem, but she does. Perhaps it will become clear as the story progresses. Hilton also brings in a contemporary issue when a newspaper article Jane reads about her boss, a burger chain owner, mentions the obesity epidemic in America. Nice touch. Not sure if this has anything to do with the plot, yet, but we'll see.

This has all the makings for a great cozy. I definitely want to see what led to Bob's death and how Jane helps solve the mystery.

File Size: 799 KB
Print Length: 382 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Proverbs 31 House LLC; 1 edition (January 9, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

I downloaded a free Kindle version of this book. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Chapter Review: Time and Forever by Susan B. James

Time and Forever by Susan B. James is a time travel romance novel. I read the first chapter from the sample on Amazon.

BLURB: When Sherry's best friend, Lorena, promises her a virtual reality adventure for her sixty-third birthday, neither of them expect a trip back in time. But when Sherry bumps into the handsome stranger she’d once kissed on a London train in the summer of ‘69, she knows it couldn't be anything else.

And this time she doesn't want to run.

COVER: What a superb cover. It captures the setting, the genre, and the ticket used to enter the virtual reality adventure in one attractive and eye-catching package. Well done.

FIRST CHAPTER: Celebrating her sixty-third birthday with her best friend, Lorena, Sherry admits to missing having a special someone around to share her life with. Now that she's alone, Sherry is looking for a bit of adventure. That's when Lorena mentions a place she's heard about that offers virtual reality adventures. So the two women decide to sign up to visit London in 1969.

KEEP READING: What a neat first chapter. The opening lines hook you right away and encourage you to continue. I like how James has blended mature women with adventure seeking and modern technology. You don't often find a romance novel featuring people in their sixties, so this makes it a fresh story worth exploring. The friendly banter between the two women is funny and true to life. I'm eager to see where the story goes from here.

File Size: 3651 KB
Print Length: 210 pages
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing (January 27, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

I read the first chapter using the Look Inside feature on Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

W...W...W...Wednesdays - January 29th

This meme was created by MizB at Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln's life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady's dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.

We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man's-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.

Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.

I'm not enjoying some of the vulgarity and obscenities in this novel, but I'm keeping an open mind since I enjoy Charyn's work.

What did you recently finish reading?

Maisy Sawyer is not your average fourth grade student. She is a detective with a special skill for solving mysteries. She loves black and white mystery movies, cherry lollipops, and her dog, Reesie. When a thief known as The Black Boot steals the school’s mascots and her lollipops, Maisy sets out to solve the case. Can she help return the mice to their home in the science lab? Will she ever see her beloved lollipops again? Find out in the first book in The Maisy Files series.

I'm reviewing this one for the author's virtual book tour. You'll find my review tomorrow at

What do you think you’ll read next?

Welcome to the Steampunk World of Regency…

…where the power of steam has already passed from the age of unsatisfactory experiments to the first country-spanning railways and ships that no longer sail at the whims of weather. Roberta Stephenson is the daughter of the ‘Father of Railways’…a girl almost raised in the engine works and through her experience, and education in the most advanced halls of Miss Mather’s Academy for Girls, is fit to become manager and designer at her father’s steamship yard on the Clyde.

And Britain needs Roberta’s expertise, for fate in this world has dealt more kindly with Napoleon, allowing him to extricate most of his army from Moscow in 1812, and granting him at least a draw at Leipzig in 1813. With developments of the steamships begun in France in 1783 he is ready to take one more gamble to rid himself of the interference of Perfidious Albion, and the island’s safety may depend on the steam powered rams Roberta is offering to their lordships of the Admiralty.

Complicating Roberta’s professional life are her romantic suitors: Lord Julian Bond, man about town and Admiralty spy; the enigmatic Symington Holmes; and Engineer Lieutenant Alfred Worthington RN. It seems that Roberta is destined to choose one of these gentlemen, but will she choose wisely?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In OR Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In OR
 Top Ten Characters I'd NEVER Want To Trade Places With

Panem and Katniss top my list. For the record, if I had to compete for my life in such a physical way, I would probably be dead within the first few seconds. Besides, I don't think I could kill anyone.

Beatrice/Tris. Having to live with the choice of a faction, being subjected to tests of physical endurance, and having to save those you love--I'm simply not cut out for that. 

Being married to a rock star isn't high on my list of things to do either. Like Julia Alexander from Toz's book, I'm a simple girl who is overly trusting. I want to believe the best of everyone. If I had a husband who was on the road all the time where I had to worry about his groupies and any possible outside-of-marriage activities, I would be miserable.

No desire on my part to be traveling through time and trying to avoid people--or things--that are intent on killing me. I'll leave that up to Charlie from Untimed.

Emilie Dalton doesn't want to see her nieces and nephew end up in the foster care system like she did, so she runs away with them and hides out in a vacant home in the small town of Bethlehem. Everyone is so nice to her that she feels bad lying to them, but what can she do? Definitely not a position I would want to be in.

What would you do if there was a murder in your town and your son was the prime suspect? Andy Barber had to face that issue in Defending Jacob. Even worse, a deep, dark secret tips the scales against Jacob. Talk about a parent's worst nightmare.

I'm sure there are times many of us wish there was a fountain of youth. But for Dorrie Donato, this blessing also becomes a curse. After her husband is killed, Dorrie accepts his boss' offer to be the first to try an experimental pill that will allow her to chose an age and hold it forever. But it also places her life in danger. Thanks, I'll just plan on aging gracefully.

Boone Drake has it all. He's a rising star in the Chicago Police Department. He has a beautiful wife and a young son who live with him in their adorable starter home. He's even got a great partner. But when tragedy strikes, his life spins terribly out of control. I hope what happened to Boone never happens to me.

I've never considered traveling to another planet, but Dax Rigby is strapped for cash, so he agrees to go on assignment to Arcadia in the hopes he makes it big and impresses Lexis' father. While trying to stay alive, he's hoping to uncover the reason so many people at Base Camp are sick. Oh, and it's also oppressively hot there, too. No thanks.

I'm also not making any plans to visit Dark Island anytime soon. DEA agent Reanita Geneva Register poses as the daughter of an oil baron to uncover illegal activities on the island. I'll leave the alligators, snakes, and vampires to Reanita. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Storytelling by Rudy Mazzocchi

Looking for a different type of book on entrepreneurism? You'll find it in Storytelling by Rudy Mazzocchi.

In this book, Mazzocchi shares an important part of the entrepreneurial puzzle: storytelling. It's one thing to have a dream, but learning how to share that dream and garner interest and create passion in others to help bring your dream into reality is another story.

In Storytelling, Mazzocchi shares decades' worth of experience with the reader in a conversational style with dashes of humor. This book left me feeling inspired and eager to proceed with fulfilling my writing dreams. Even though I've been published twice, I have bigger and better dreams for my career. And I feel this speaks to something else that Mazzocchi taught in this book. As you move along, your story evolves. It gets better each time you tell it. You learn how to mold the story based upon which audience is present. So, how do I, as a writer, keep evolving and improving how I share my dreams with others? How do I show or reflect my value to others?

Storytelling is filled with real life examples. At the end of each chapter is "The Nugget," a take away that summarizes the point(s) from each chapter. Mazzocchi includes a list of all "The Nuggets" at the end of the book. It's a great way to refer back to the powerful lessons you'll learn throughout these pages.

Mazzocchi states in the Acknowledgements that this is his first and might be his only non-fiction book. I hope not. He has a lot to offer readers on this topic, and they would be wise to listen.

Highly recommended.

Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Pages: 220
Language: English
Genre: Business/Entrepreneurism
Format: Paperback, Kindle
ISBN-10: 1606190075
ISBN-13: 978-1606190074

I received a copy of this book from the author through Pump Up Your Book. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Rudy Mazzocchi is best known as a medical device and biotechnology entrepreneur, inventor, and angel investor, with a history of starting new technology ventures throughout the U.S. and Europe. He's been privileged to have the opportunity to see the newest innovations in healthcare and work with some of the most brilliant researchers, scientists and physicians in the industry.

Authoring more than 50 patents, he has helped pioneer new companies involved in cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, neurosurgery and even embryonic stem-cell development. Through these efforts, he has become the recipient of many technology and business awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Healthcare (2004), Businessman of the Year Award (2005), and Global Entrepreneur of the Year Award (2013).

Combining these experiences and opportunities, with thousands of hours of travel and long evenings in hotel rooms, he found the initiative to start writing a collection of award-winning business/medical thrillers based on true events, known as The EQUITY Series. STORYTELLING was his debut non-fiction business book released in November 2013.

Visit his website at

Friday, January 24, 2014

New Release: The Execution: A Jeremy Fisk Novel by Dick Wolf

Ten days after the Mexican presidential election, twenty-three bodies are discovered beheaded on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Leading the investigation for the Mexican intelligence agency is 35-year-old Cecilia Garza, a raven-haired beauty who’s notorious for her intensity and take-no-prisoners demeanor. Garza has learned the hard way that a forgiving nature can be an officer’s worst enemy.

Upon the bodies of the cartel’s victims she finds a carved symbol—a Hummingbird—and recognizes it as the mark of an assassin known only as Chuparosa, a man both feared and celebrated for his brutality. Even Garza, who has been pursuing him for years, knows almost nothing about him. Except that he’s now headed to New York.

Meanwhile, it is United Nations week in Manhattan and a grieving Jeremy Fisk is dealing with the loss of his partner and lover and the trial of the Swedish terrorist responsible for her death. There’s no time for grief, though, when you’re responsible for the safety and security of the world’s most powerful leaders. Complicating matters is the startling news of a mass murder in nearby Rockaway, where a dozen people have been found dead.

Fisk may not like Garza, the pushy new arrival from Mexico, but they’re going to need each other if they stand a chance of finding and stopping Chuparosa. Soon they both realize that there’s more to this threat than meets the eye—and Fisk will have to learn the hard way that justice is not always blind.

Filled with electrifying plot twists, high-wire drama, and even a little romance—THE EXECUTION is an adrenaline pumping story that could have been ripped from the headlines, yet is enticing and entertaining enough to keep readers wanting more. As the mastermind behind one of the most successful and prolific television brands of all time—NBC’s Law & Order—Dick Wolf uses his dynamic storytelling skills to captivate audiences with his Jeremy Fisk series.


January 9
Upstate New York
Half a mile from the Canadian border,
somewhere west of Lake Champlain

The explosive noise of the guns had set off a chain reaction, sheets of wet snow dropping from the limbs of the pine trees surrounding Jeremy Fisk. Even after the gunfire stopped, Fisk could hear limbs snapping, snow thudding to earth, a circular cataract expanding, fading away from him like ripples in a frigid pond.

And then the endless forest . . . went silent.

My God, thought Fisk. They’re all dead.

Ten minutes earlier

The Swedes were late. Maybe they weren’t even coming.

Detective Jeremy Fisk of the NYPD Intelligence Division hated upstate New York. Hated the whole idea of it. Even though he had lived all over the world during his childhood, he had spent most of his adult life in New York City and had the passion of the convert for his adopted home. And as a confirmed New Yorker, he despised upstate on principle. Upstate was hillbillies and trailer parks and suicidal deer that plunged heedlessly into the headlights of your car, forcing you to swerve into the nearest ditch. Upstate was country living. Upstate was wilderness.

People who didn’t live in New York thought the entire state was paved from one end to the other. Far from it. In fact, the northern part of the state was as rural as Indiana or Kentucky. And right here, where Fisk and the feds were sitting, there weren’t even hillbillies or trailer parks or deranged deer.  Nothing but trees. Trees and snow. Trees and snow and four citified cops waiting to arrest a couple of Swedes sneaking over the border from Canada.

Fisk sat in the backseat of the unmarked Jeep, snow sifting down in heavy waves like shoals of tiny gray fish. The dirt road, now six inches deep in snow, was one of dozens of logging paths, unofficial border crossings that wormed back and forth like scars through the seemingly endless forest between the Saint Lawrence and Lake Champlain.

“They’re not gonna show, Fisk.” The driver of the car was an ICE agent by the name of Ralph Carver. “I guarantee you, those Swedish sons of bitches are sitting in a nice warm room at some Best Western in Montreal watching cable porn.”

A DEA agent, Ari Schaefer, sat to Carver’s right. FBI assistant Special Agent in Charge Mary Rose Palestrina sat in the backseat with Fisk, an empty Thermos and Fisk’s holstered Glock between them.
It was the usual federal alphabet soup of agencies who didn’t like or trust each other—the perfect recipe for a law enforcement disaster.

“That’s assuming these jokers aren’t just a figment of Fisk’s imagination,” the DEA agent, Schaefer, added.

The feds didn’t believe that the NYPD was capable of scooping them on a solid international terrorism lead, so they’d been baiting him relentlessly for four hours. Thus far he’d managed to resist the urge to tell them to kiss off. It was his source, his information—his case if you got right down to it—but the mandate across law enforcement agencies was to cooperate, to share, if only to show the media and informed citizens that fighting terror was a team sport. It was Fisk’s show, it was Intel’s interdiction, but still ASAC Palestrina acted like she was running the show. They tried to treat Fisk like a guest at his own party.

“I mean, look at this crap,” Carver said. “What kind of idiot would go out on a day like this?” He was running the wipers nonstop, the heater blowing full blast. They could see okay out the front window, but the side windows were starting to get choked with snow, obscuring their view of the road down which the Swedes would be approaching. The car was pulled off the shoulder slantwise, so their best view of the road was from the side windows.

“Goddammit,” said the DEA guy. “I have no visual. Whose turn is it?”

“Mine,” said Fisk. It wasn’t, but he was tired of being cooped up in the car. He suspected it was the egos clouding up the windows as much as their breath. Carver handed him the fragile pink plastic windshield scraper that was their only defense against the heavy white blanket, and Fisk pushed open the door and climbed outside.

The door closed and the silence was a balm. He stood still, exhaling a plume of thick carbon dioxide, refreshed by the cold. The temperature was hovering just below freezing. Heavy, wet snow had formed a crust of ice over every surface of the car, and Fisk began hacking away at the windows.

Fisk was starting to worry. Two suspects were supposed to be making the run across the border from Canada into the States—Swedish Muslim militants smuggling radioactive isotopes for an explosive they planned to detonate in New York City sometime in the next three weeks. If anybody had told him six months ago that there was such a thing as a Swedish Muslim militant, he would have laughed.

But nobody was laughing now, not after Magnus Jenssen had come within an eyelash of blowing up President Obama at Ground Zero last year. Fisk himself had personally stopped the bomber. Now two more members of the same cell in Sweden, undeterred by their comrade’s lack of success—and, in fact, motivated by his capture and pending trial—were on their way into the States carrying about half a gram of a highly toxic, highly radioactive isotope of the element polonium-210.

Half a gram didn’t sound like much. But one ten-thousandth of a gram was enough to kill a human being.

The original plan for the takedown had included six members of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team tactical unit, an Intel drone, a Border Patrol helicopter, and a team of ICE agents. But the HRT unit’s van had encountered one of the aforementioned suicidal deer on the way up north, causing the driver to swerve and the van to slide off the road, where it overturned, putting one of the team members in the hospital with a dislocated shoulder and ending any chance of the HRT team participating in the bust. The helicopter full of ICE agents had to abort due to the miserable visibility, and the drone was grounded, according to the civilian contractor, “due to suboptimal control surface functionality,” which was jargon for “remote control airplanes can’t fly in snow.”

So now it was down to the four people in the Jeep. On the positive front, the DEA guy had showed them the trunk guns he had requisitioned for the takedown: an AR-15 and a Remington 870 tricked out with so many lasers and flashlights and optical gizmos that it looked like something out of a science fiction movie. If things really went south, he’d said magnanimously, Fisk could grab the shotgun. “The AR’s mine, though, bro,” he’d added. “Nobody touches my AR. She’s my sweetness.” He’d picked up the carbine and dry-humped it comically. “Aren’t you, baby? Aren’t you? Huh? Yeah, talk to Daddy, you sweet little bitch.”

This was the quality of agent they had dispatched to the Canadian border with Fisk.

After a minute of chopping away at the snow, the cheap pink snow scraper snapped in half, slicing Fisk’s little finger. Fisk cursed and threw the broken scraper on the ground, then stared at the pieces, breathing hard. He would have traded half the gizmos in the trunk for one long-handled ice scraper.

For a moment Fisk vibrated with frustration. The extraordinary silence enveloped him, and he invited it in, hoping for some calming, some perspective. He stood motionless and just listened.

No motor noises coming from the direction of Canada. No voices. No nothing.

It occurred to him that he had never been anywhere quite this silent. Not once in his life. It wasn’t just the remoteness of the place. It was the snow itself. It acted like the acoustical baffling in a recording studio, sucking up every scrap of sound in the universe. For a cosmopolitan guy like Fisk, it felt more than a little eerie. It felt like that part in a movie when the sound track drops out . . . when you know something big is about to happen.

But there was something about it that was beautiful, too. The sun was going down and the entire landscape had faded into a curtain of soft gray: a blanket of cold, clean fleece. He could see only a short distance in any direction. It was difficult to even judge just how far he could see. Fifteen yards? Thirty? He’d heard of whiteout blizzards where you couldn’t see a car length in front of yourself. So this wasn’t that bad.

But still.

It was no kind of day, he reflected, to be taking down bad guys.

Bank robbers love snowy days. Fisk remembered from his days as a rank-and-file NYPD cop, every snowstorm meant at least a half-dozen note jobs. Because the perp could walk into the bank wearing a ski mask or ski goggles without drawing undue attention, and once the alarm was hit the police response time was easily four times the norm. He remembered fondly the brilliant spray of orange against a pure white canvas of fallen snow in Murray Hill, from a dye pack that exploded: bank crime deterrence as public art.

The windows were still coated with icy snow. Fisk dug the broken pink stub of the plastic scraper back out of the snow. The end of the scraper had broken off into a knife-sharp point. It had sliced his finger pretty nicely, cutting right through his leather glove. Fat drops of blood fell one by one into the virgin snow. He made a fist to allow his ruined glove to soak up the blood, and stood there, absorbed by the silence.

He realized that he didn’t really want to get back in the car. A bunch of alpha personalities trying to top the others with stories of how tough they were, what great cops they were, how they’d been the best guy on their football team in high school, the toughest guy in their platoon in the army. Blah blah blah blah blah. That stuff got real old, real fast. And the FBI agent, Mary Rose, the fastest sprinter at Fordham and the top shooter in her class at Quantico: she was the worst one of all.

Fisk checked his watch. Theoretically the pair of Swedes should have been here more than half an hour ago. Maybe they just weren’t coming. Waiting out the storm. Like reasonable people.

As he stood there stamping his feet in the cold, he felt pressure against his bladder. Another good reason to kill a few more minutes outside the car. He cocked his head and listened. No car engines, no sinister Volvo full of terrorists crunching down the road . . .

For a moment he considered the effect of warm urine on the ice-crusted windows. Kill two birds with one stone. He decided he wasn’t that stir crazy yet. He hadn’t cleared the windows on the other side of the car, but with the wipers going, they could still see out the front of the Jeep. And it would only take him a minute.

As he walked out into the snow, he was surprised at what a struggle it was to move. He felt ridiculous and awkward, high-kneeing his way through the drifts. But it was better than trying to piss in a Poland Spring bottle with Special Agent in Charge Mary Rose Palestrina sitting next to him bragging about her marksmanship.

The walking was slow, the snow forming around each deep footstep, gripping his boot. The high-stepping felt ridiculous, and he made a pledge to no longer make fun of people who wear snowshoes.
The trees stood brown and black just beyond the curtain of snow falling in front of him. He looked back once, the silver Jeep barely visible. He might have had trouble finding his way back if not for the stark red dots of blood he had left in the snow like a bread-crumb trail.

He reached the first trees and, after laying the broken ice scraper on the surface of the snowfall, made quick work of his belt and zipper. Afterward, zipping up, he felt better, determined to shake off the stasis of the stakeout and power through this job to the next. He looked at his finger, the cut starting to clot in the cold, and was stooping to retrieve the broken ice scraper when the gunshots ripped through the silence.

Fisk instinctively reached for his Glock. Of course it wasn’t there. It was tucked away in the backseat of the silver Jeep some fifty yards away.

He felt a blinding surge of emotion—anger and self-recrimination and fear. Then more shots followed—a terrifying number of them, a fusillade of automatic weapons, burst after burst in efficient succession.
The shooting was accompanied by metallic thuds and the sound of shattering glass.

He had just started to run back when the sudden cascade of snow fell upon him, descending from the treetops, knocking more snow loose as it plunged to the ground with a hiss and a wet, inevitable thud. Fisk was half buried, and then more limbs cracked above and a second load of snow dropped, a chain reaction spreading all around him.

He dug himself out with his gloved hands. The top layer was loose, but the bottom was already compressed, and he chopped at it with the scraper, almost losing a boot as he pulled out his left leg. He picked up a jagged pine branch near him and charged out of the tree cover—into white blindness.

He knew he was looking in the right direction, but no silver Jeep. No noise either, nothing over his own rapid breaths: no gunshots, no screaming.

How many had he heard? Thirty? Forty? Fewer than ten seconds in duration, but the intensity had been shattering.

He was moving forward. Stumbling through the deep snow, assuming the worst.

It was an ambush. Had to be. Somehow the Swedes had caught the feds flat-footed, comparing war stories instead of watching for trouble.

He looked for his own footprints, already smoothing over under fresh snowfall. He saw a drop of blood, from his own finger, and knew he was headed in the right direction.

Then another controlled burst of gunfire. Fisk stopped and froze, listening. The sound was so crisp and near, everything seeming dislocated, eaten up quickly by the swirling snow.

Were those thumps behind him? Another small clump of snow dropped from the trees. He looked back at the dim black trunks. Then back in front of him.

Two figures. Barely visible. Slashes of color—black and brown—moving in the whiteness. Maybe a scarf, a cap . . . a weapon.

They were shooting at him now. They had seen his footprints leading away. They were following his blood trail. Their first burst had missed, two rounds thudding in the tree trunks behind him.

Fisk turned fast. He was vulnerable out in the open. Only distance would obscure him. He tossed the branch and tore back toward the trees, waiting for the next burst of gunfire.

It came just as he bladed himself behind the first tree. He looked back, unable to see them for the moment. Focus, dammit! He hadn’t heard a car motor, or the crunching of tires. The only thing that made sense was that they had left their vehicle somewhere and come on foot.

The silence was excruciating. Because it told him that, regarding the feds, the fight was over. If they were still alive, he’d hear something, yelling, anything.

The three people he had just been sitting in the car with, swapping boasts and drinking coffee—Ari
Schaefer, Ralph Carver, and Mary Rose Palestrina—they were all dead. Of this much he was certain.

He had three brother law enforcement officers down.

And with this realization, his momentary confusion and self-disgust evaporated, replaced by a wave of cold, hard anger.

He glanced down at his hand. He was still clutching the sharp, broken stub of pink ice scraper. It wasn’t exactly a Glock 17. But it was something.

A burst of nausea. That’s how quickly the adrenaline surged. These two guys—if there were only two—were out to finish the job now.

Voices. Singsong, at least to Fisk’s ears. Fisk spoke Arabic like a native, fluent Spanish, high school French, a little German, a little Thai, some Bahasa Indonesia. His father had been a diplomat; Fisk had traveled a lot as a kid and had a natural ear for languages.

But he didn’t speak Swedish. He couldn’t tell what they were saying.

One man’s voice, low and terse. Another responding. They sounded near, almost on the other side of the tree . . . but it was a trick of the snow. They couldn’t see Fisk if he couldn’t see them.

They sounded like soldiers to him: calm, self-possessed. He could tell from the sound of the ambush that these two Swedes had military training, as opposed to being amateur goofballs who’d taken up jihad because they were bored with their jobs in IT.

His phone was in the car, too, charging. But it didn’t matter. Zero cellular service here in the ass end of nowhere. Mary Rose had a satellite phone, didn’t she? He needed that phone as much as he needed a handgun.

He saw the colors reappear, vague against the white. Under even sparse tree cover, their visibility would improve dramatically. Fisk tightened his grip on the broken plastic window scraper and took off running through the trees. The snow cover was more shallow here, around a foot deep. He expected gun reports at his back yet heard none.

He felt something expanding inside him, something he had experienced a half-dozen times before in his life but had never been able to put a word to. The threat of imminent death has a way of uniquely focusing the mind.

THE EXECUTION: A Jeremy Fisk Novel By Dick Wolf
William Morrow an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
On-Sale: January 7, 2014
ISBN: 9780062068491; E-Book ISBN: 9780062064851
Price: $27.99


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Attention Bloggers: Upcoming Review Blitz for Author Hank Quense

This following is a message from a former client of mine, Hank Quense. He has published a series of Self-publishing Guides that he is promoting this March. Read his message to find out how you can be entered to win one of the American Express Gift Cards that he is giving away.

I’ve written a series of four books to demystify the self-publishing and book marketing processes. I’ve spent a year on these Self-publishing Guides and now it’s time to get some book reviews for all four books. I have a plan to encourage folks to write and post positive reviews for my books. I’m calling it a Review Blitz and it will involve giveaways. I’ll be giving away American Express Gift Cards to be awarded via a random drawing.

Here’s the deal.

Step 1) Select one of these books to read and review:
Self-publishing a Book
Marketing Plans for Self-publishing Authors
Manage Your Self-publishing Project
Business Basics for Authors

You can find out more about these books on my Amazon page or on my Strange Worlds Online website. You can also download a brochure.

Step 2) Send me an email at telling me which book you chose and I’ll send a 100% discount coupon to download the book from Smashwords in the format you wish. (Note: this is a different email address than my usual email address)

Step 3) post your review during the week of 3/1 thru 3/7/14

Step 4) For extra credit (and rewards), write a blog and post it during the week of 3/1 thru 3/7/14.

Step 5) Send me an email at when the review is posted. If you wrote a blog post, send me a link to the site in addition to the review posting.

Here’s how the drawing will work.

  • If you write a review and post it on Amazon, you’ll get entered into a contest for a $50 gift card.
  • If you post the review on Amazon AND Goodreads, you’ll have two entires in the $50 gift card drawing.
  • If you post a review on Amazon AND write a blog post about the book, you’ll get an entry into a drawing for a $100 gift card.
  • If you post a review on Amazon AND Goodreads AND write a blog post, you’ll get two entires in the $100 drawing.

CAUTION: posting stuff outside the week of 3/1 thru 3/7/14 will be appreciated but will not qualify you for the drawings.


Hank Quense

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture by Anita Clare Fellman

I began reading Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Impact on American Culture in November 2012. It's a book I purchased from Amazon, and as with all things Laura Ingalls Wilder, I had to give it a shot.

While admittedly, I didn't care much for the earlier chapters, overall it was a satisfying read. Fellman discusses everything from a possible political agenda in the books, to the Ingalls family being racist, to how Wilder's memories created a different than reality version of frontier life, to current events during the writing of the books, to the continued impact Wilder has on modern society, and beyond.

Fellman didn't leave many stones unturned. The book is structured so the beginning two chapters are really about Rose and Laura and their collaboration. By chapter 3, Fellman is on to the discussion of how Wilder viewed her stories and how her memories might have been different than reality. The final four chapters show how the books are used in the classroom and at home, and then move into "The Little House Books in Public" and "The Little House in American Politics." Chapter 6 shows how Wilder has become a part of our heritage and the last chapter talks about Lane' views, the New Deal, Ronald Reagan, libertarians, and how "mainstream" values are associated with the Little House books.

I didn't agree with some of what Fellman had to say, but overall she provides an even-handed glimpse into Wilder's persistent impact on American culture, which is what she set out to do. I would have liked some historical photographs, but other than that I was satisfied. I'm glad to add this one to my Laura Ingalls Wilder collection.

Hardcover: 360 pages
Publisher: University of Missouri; 1st edition (May 21, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0826218032
ISBN-13: 978-0826218032

I purchased this book from Amazon. This review/discussion contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

For a more in-depth discussion on this book, you can visit:

This is the fourth book I've read for the following challenges:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they will post a new Top Ten list that one of the bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist

  1. More alternative history stories. I don't read a ton of them, but I enjoy them. What if the South won the Civil War? What if the British squashed the Colonist rebellion? What if Germany won WWII? All frightening thoughts, but interesting stories.
  2. Fiction featuring stay-at-home moms as main characters. Maybe a cozy mystery featuring a stay-at-home mom or any genre that lightly or even in depth deals with the issues facing these women today. 
  3. More Rock 'n' Roll stories. The few I've read have been great. I'm a child who grew up in the 70s and 80s, so I would prefer it set during those decades.
  4. More empowering fiction for children. Though it doesn't seem to be what they want to read, I'm still holding out hope that there are books out there or destined to be written that will empower kids without preaching too much.
  5. More fiction for children that doesn't feature fractured families. I know there are a lot of fractured families out there, but is it a sin to write a novel for young people where the parents are happily married and supportive of their kids? The parents can't be blithering idiots either.
  6. More fiction set during the Reconstruction Era. This is a fascinating, yet troubling time, in our history. Many books are set prior to or during the Civil War, but I would like to see more fiction set during these years, and also novels shedding light on the plight of African Americans after they were freed.
  7. Fiction or nonfiction featuring road trips. I'm not much of a traveler, though I wish I could afford to travel more than I do. I read My Life As Laura by Kelly Kathleen Ferguson and The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure. Both feature trips to the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites they knew about from their childhood. I've also read a mystery featuring two amateur sleuths traveling in an RV. 
  8. Humorous zombie stories. Does this surprise you? It does me. I've read one zombie story. Just one. But it was so funny, I would love to read more. I don't want gore and horror; but humor is fine.
  9. Romance during the Gold Rush. This was not a nice period in American history either. But what if two young adults met and fell in love, but wanted out of the whole panning for gold thing? What if their families tried to prevent it? What if they managed to escape anyway?
  10. More suspense books by Doug Hewitt. Hewitt wrote one of my favorite books: The Dead Guy. It's a book about insurance fraud, and a guy named Jack, who discovers he has an untreatable, debilitating illness. When Jack's best friend, Hal, is murdered, he vows to track down Hal's killer. While Hewitt has continued to write, he's writing science-fiction or nonfiction these days. Another suspense novel must be in that pen somewhere.
What is on your reading wishlist?

First Chapter Review: Dreamer by Phillip L. Davidson

Dreamer by Phillip L. Davidson is a gritty faith-based military thriller. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been paid by the author's publicist to promote this book through a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book.

BLURB: The fiery relationship between Captain David Eliott and beautiful lover and wife Sonny creates a drama that will cross continents. She is the light of his world and suddenly disappears under the worst circumstances, which causes David to again become the man that he swore to forget. This military drama is full of intrigue and redemption.

Phil Davidson's book Dreamer is dedicated to preserving the bond of brotherhood that military members commit to, shows the power of faith in overcoming life's most adverse situations, shows the strength of families working through challenges, and the healing from trauma that occurs by becoming bold enough to face the enemies of your past.

COVER: While this cover doesn't hint at more than dreams and dreaming, it's stunning. It seems an odd choice for a faith-based military thriller, but I feel it works because it's beautiful and because dreams are so important to the plot. Will the cover keep guys from picking it up? I don't think so. I believe the blurb along with the cover will make them want to give this book a try.

FIRST CHAPTER: David is dreaming again of his days back in Vietnam, his men, and those tense days when he tries to learn why Jude did what he did. Waking up alongside Sonny, he begins his day while she walks to the chapel for mass. Along the way, she feels an evil presence that disturbs her, and she knows events from her past are anything but forgotten.

KEEP READING: I'm definitely intrigued by this book. Though the language is not what one would expect in a Christian fiction novel, I appreciate that Davidson has maintained the realistic nature of soldiers in combat. Dreamer's opening is intense. David and his men are knee-deep in rice paddy water escaping to safety. Davidson also brings conflict quickly into the story, so the hook is there.

What soon becomes evident is that these events took place in the past and David is dreaming again. The reader is then pulled into the present day story of David and his wife, Sonny. And after David leaves, the reader learns about a secret from Sonny's past that ends the chapter with a cliffhanger.

I definitely wish to continue, but the book needs more substantial editing. Almost every--if not every--instance of the word "off" is spelled "of," and though the blurb says the wife's name is Sonny, it's stated as "Sunny" throughout the first chapter. And while typos and grammar errors shouldn't be the main focus of a book, if there are enough of them, they become distracting.

I'm thinking the overall story arc will win me over and I'll be glad I read it. Since I've been privy to author interviews from this tour, I know the message and intent behind the writing of this story and that makes me want to continue even more.

Those who enjoy military thrillers and books with supernatural elements will want to check this one out.

File Size: 615 KB
Print Length: 383 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1440149283
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Phillip L. Davidson; 2 edition (September 4, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

View the trailer at

Purchase information:

Phillip L. Davidson is an attorney who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Karen. He is a former infantry Captain who commanded a group of Cambodian and Vietnamese Kit Carson Scouts on a night ambush team in the Mekong Delta. Phil’s life in the military has provided him with a wealth of war stories. He has used his creative insight to produce a military action adventure of epic proportions. Dreamer is a must read book. He is currently at work on a second novel.

Visit the author online at

I received a digital version of this book from the author's publicist. This publicist paid me to promote this book via a virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include a review. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Review: The Thackery Journal by John Holt

In January 1866, Aaron Thackery sits in his chair reading--once again--his son Jacob's journal. It tells in great detail of the Civil War and Jacob's feelings of duty to protect the southern way of life. But after four long, hard years of war and the loss of so many of his men, Jacob is no longer that disillusioned youth fighting for a just cause. He merely wants to go home.

Blaming President Lincoln for the dreaded war, Jacob Thackery is pulled into a plot launched by some of Lincoln's generals to assassinate the president and replace him with General Ulysses S. Grant.

What an exciting premise for a novel. Several Lincoln assassination conspiracies exist. Holt uses fictional Union Army generals and the legend of the Confederate shipment of gold to create a conspiracy of Lincoln's own generals plotting to kill him so that Grant could be president. This would, of course, require the elimination of other members of the president's cabinet.

While the plot is fascinating and the numerous historical photographs allow the reader to connect with the characters, the execution of the plot is flimsy, the dialogue is stilted and repetitive, and the point of view is all over the place. In addition, the reader must read halfway (150 pages or so) through the book before the rumblings of a conspiracy are even introduced.

Let me back up a moment to explain. The book opens with Aaron Thackery reading Jacob's journal for the umpteenth time hoping to discover why his son got involved in a plot that led to his death. So, I was expecting the majority of the story to be told from Jacob's point of view. But it's not. Many things take place where Jacob Thackery isn't even present. How is the reader supposed to assume Aaron is reading about them in Jacob's journal? And because there is no depth to the point of view--no matter whose point of view you're in--the book lacks emotion. The reader feels some emotion while reading Jacob's journal entries, but other than that, the pushy narrator is telling you everything that has transpired instead of allowing the characters to lead the way.

It's obvious the author has performed research on the Civil War. Many historical details from the battles and the areas in which they took place are included. But at times, I wished the details had been cut back to allow the conspiracy to be introduced earlier. One hundred and fifty pages is a lot of reading to wade through to get to the main point of the novel. With an editor to help work through the structural issues, I feel The Thackery Journal could be a fine book. Many reviewers already believe it is. You can read their thoughts on Amazon. You can also learn about John Holt's numerous other titles there or visit the author's website at

File Size: 1720 KB
Print Length: 308 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Phoenix; First edition (November 7, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

This is the third book I've read for the following challenges:

I received a digital version of this book from the author through Dark Scream Book Tours. This review contains my honest opinions, which I was not compensated for in any way.

Friday, January 17, 2014

First Chapter Review: The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

I purchased the third book in Karen White's Tradd Street series over a year ago with some gift cards I received. The first two books in this series captivated me, so I was eager to read this one; but I was so far behind in reviews when the book came out, I declined taking it on when the publicist offered it to me for review. This is one of the books I want to read soon, especially since the fourth book in the series, Return to Tradd Street, just came out this month.

BLURB:  Psychic realtor Melanie Middleton is still restoring her Charleston house and doesn't expect to have a new houseguest, a teen girl named Nola. But the girl didn't come alone, and the spirits that accompanied Nola don't seem willing to leave...

COVER: Like all of the books in this series, a house graced with Southern charm and elegance is featured on the cover. And if you know anything about this series, that charm and elegance belies the evil spirits hidden inside. This cover is a bit darker than the others, so it adds to the ominous feel.

FIRST CHAPTER: Melanie is awoken early one morning to find writer Jack Trenholm on the doorstep of her Tradd Street home--the one still being restored and costing her tons of money. He has not come alone, however. His estranged daughter, Nola, is with him. Still working through the challenges of becoming an instant father, he begs Melanie to allow Nola to stay with her over the summer.

KEEP READING: Yes, yes, yes! Why haven't I made room to read this book before now? All the things I love about this series are present from the very first words of The Strangers on Montagu Street. Immediately hooked, the mystery, conflict, and hint of the spirits that will arrive later are all here. White has the uncanny ability to draw you in immediately and not let you go. I'm sure this will be the case again if the story continues along the same vein.

If you love paranormal stories and are captivated by Southern living, you won't want to miss this one.

Series: Tradd Street (Book 3)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade; 1 edition (November 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0451235266
ISBN-13: 978-0451235268

I purchased this book from Amazon. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.