Review: A Touch of Death (The Outlands Pentalogy Book 1) by Rebecca Crunden

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Having to live with any type of chronic illness is not good for anyone, but fate usually has its way of kicking the strong in the behind. Add to that the type of society you would only get in a dystopian science fiction novel, then you have a situation that begs for indifference in the sense that a reader won’t exactly know what the author has in store for his or her characters. This is something readers can expect in A Touch of Death (The Outlands Pentalogy Book 1) by Rebecca Crunden, a novel that definitely has a shot of impressing whoever chooses to read it.

Being a dissenter is not something you would like to be in the Kingdom of Cutta, with the fate of being such a thing being death. Nate Anteros, a man who is the eldest son of the King’s favorite, is a prisoner who might have it in him to see the Kingdom brought to it’s knees. When he is outside of prison, his life involves a woman called Catherine Taenia. He has a little brother called Tommy who pays him and Catherine a visit. Tommy dies shortly thereafter, and Nate and Catherine end up getting infected with what someone they pay a visit to believe to be a military concoction from a man named Yosef Smith. They’re primary journey is to a freakish sounding place called the Outlands.

Crunden opens up with an introduction of her world which is quite fearsome in my opinion. She introduces the Kingdom of Cutta which consists out of ten countries which was established during what is known in this story as the Last War. With Anais being the capital city of Cutta, most of the countries’ names are original. I believe readers will favor the names Rinlow, Eyre, and Clearbow, three out of ten. Not bad and they help to give this novel its own place in the realm of dystopian science fiction.

Concerning Nate and Tommy, what is admirable on Nate’s part is that he did love Tommy, despite Catherine having been in both their lives as a woman that either of them could’ve ended up falling in love with. Nate is a man that has a difficult past. There is a scene where Catherine sees how he is troubled while sleeping and this makes him appear like one of those dangerous men that some women are usually fond of. Tommy, however, was more of the good variety, although Nate did have qualities in him that Tommy didn’t. When I first met Tommy, I liked, just as Catherine did, that Nate was more tolerable, as Crunden wrote. Nate’s family members are to be met which helps in making him more likeable. When it comes to Catherine, what cannot be denied is that Tommy was someone she greatly loved. One of the author’s many inventive lines, which shows readers how Catherine thinks, stands out for me: “Sad was a conscious, constant emotion.” Tommy’s death has left a big dent in her heart and she misses him a lot. Her fondness for Nate grows as they journey to the Outlands.

Nate and Catherine can both possibly end up dying due to the disease they both have. It was a horrible thing to imagine anyone having because of its unpredictability. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I were in either Nate or Catherine’s shoes. They are both inspirational characters who go on to achieve what they want despite what the illness is doing to them. For some reason, it harms Nate faster. It takes longer for Catherine to show the symptoms that Nate has; what worries her is how long it would take for her to do so.

The author is a passionate writer and her writing amazed me every once in a while. Some of her sentences made me pause and think hard about what she was trying to say. She is good at making readers sympathize with her characters. She also lets you know what het characters sound like when they speak and this is something I greatly like in novels because the characters become more realistic when authors do this. I liked how the interior of a man named Archie’s house was explained. It seemed as if the author angered herself with the way she described this house – something quite chaotic – and I sort of found myself in danger of falling in a fit of laughter.

I liked Catherine for the most part, but a certain section of her past didn’t fit in for me with the story. Her first kiss had been with a girl called Ciara and this is something that she talks about in a pleasant conversation with Nate. This part, however, reveals that there’s some sort of a rebel that resides in Catherine. Something for readers to look out for as they progress through the novel. The novel, meanwhile, might be unique in that Crunden’s world involves a world governed by a king, but when it comes to little things that stood out for me such as a conn, a type of communication device, I have to admit that it wasn’t that imaginative. In my opinion, the Kingdom of Cutta needed more of the old tongue for a better visual. The King is a man to fear because of strict laws that doesn’t leave much room for his people to rebel.

The possibility that either Nate or Catherine might end up dying will keep readers on edge. I wasn’t that worried about this because I was more interested in what the Outlands had to offer. Other than danger, their journey also leads them to come across a beautiful kind of innocence, but the last part definitely ruins things for these two. I liked Rebecca Crunden’s novel to a certain degree because I didn’t understand everything about her story. If there is one thing that I would say about this novel, it would be that we see at least how human nature can still prevail after a massive war has ruined the world.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Self-Published
Date Published: February 23, 2017
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Pages: 305
View on Amazon

Review: Miscreants, Murderers, & Thieves by Samuel W. Reed

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A collection of crime fiction short stories with attractive titles to read during daytime breaks in your living room is a great way to enjoy your time at home. This special collection of thirteen short stories, which I felt happy to review, is called Miscreants, Murderers & Thieves: A Collection of Short Stories About Devious Behaviour. The reader enjoys a well-formatted book with nice and simple art to support each story. It is perfect for breaks and short intervals from work.

The Temperature at Which Love Freezes by Katherine Tomlinson, which is the first short story, is a cold one. Readers get to learn what frigid Siberian temperatures can do to objects as well as people. Kaye, a brown-eyed woman who herself adores the cold, knows a thing or two about cold-related deaths and for her it is something that is not uncommon. After her and Jonathan’s last anniversary, she received a text from a burner phone in the middle of the night concerning a gift certificate. The story starts off with Jonathan slipping out at night while Kaye is asleep. This story puts the readers’ focus on the mess a lover’s unfaithfulness can cause as Kaye has to deal with things like nude pictures found in her husband’s computer.

For readers who are into insects, Don Bapst’s Equity, will definitely be a great one to read. This author, not judging by his somewhat strange sense of humour, was one of my favorites due to his ability to show readers what a young homosexual couple has to contend with professionally in this day and age. Wood-burrowing bugs is certainly no laughing matter as Sebastian, an intelligent Buenos Aires native who is in a relationship with a man named Carlos, sets his mind on an annoying creature in a new house seen as empty.

In Gabriel Didomenico’s Murder at the Magic Castle, Quinn is troubled by his first case: the victim had been thirteen years old and had been murdered in a violent manner. For twenty-five years he had trouble solving the case, but he had made connections to murders that were similar in fashion and went back even further in time. Initially, I didn’t know whether to like him or not as this LAPD detective is already sixty-five years old, missing a bit of his humanity, and haunted by the type of bad dreams I’m sure readers wouldn’t want. At least his likeable quality for me was that he didn’t give up, which makes him part of a story you just have to see through to the end. If you’re up for an eerie night coupled with a car chase and a disappointing lineup filled with magicians, I’d say that you’ll like DiDomenico’s story a lot. With more than one twist to keep the reader on edge, he doesn’t disappoint.

I usually like stories with nice setting descriptions and if I had to pick an author out of this book who is great with these descriptions, then Don Bapst, whose rendering of a historic district dotted with brightly painted old homes and patrolled by armed policemen charged with keeping tourists happy, would be my number one pick. He has a good way of making readers see the world his story is set in. I came across other authors, like Nicholas Zeman, the author of First Tools, who are also great with this sort of thing. Zeman’s story is about a burglary.

The types of scenes that are to be found vary and, judging by how the stories are listed, makes sense in a way that only editors can understand. For me, Samuel W. Reed did a great job editing this book. Samuel W. Reed’s own short story, The Scoop is number twelve on the list and precedes TADA! by Dane G. Kroll, a story about a city familiar to people with super powers.

One of the likeable things I found was seeing what makes a good detective story and how an author makes his detective come across something scary or unexplainable which made me more interested in the story. Learning how difficult detective work can become was also great and a bonus. Besides detective crime fiction, readers also get a taste of what medical crime fiction, something which I’m always freaked out by, is like. Other than reading a story in this specific genre, you get to learn how to deal with situations like blood loss and trauma. This comes from Mercy in the West by David Beeler, an author obviously rich in medical knowledge. What I liked from this author was that he had a simple way of describing his characters which fit in with the way he wrote his story. Please don’t pay much mind to the disturbing mental images you are bound to have after reading it.

I’d have to say that readers can come across something graphic and creepy; I wouldn’t even want to quote it as it may cause you to make a mess or keep you up all night with thoughts of things that don’t belong on the outside of the human body. If an unfaithful lover’s death is something that can easily be overlooked even though there might be enough reason and evidence to support the other one, then the first story is the one that teaches us something that is wrong with that. An unoriginal idea by an author who had a wonderful writing ability caused me to enjoy that author’s short story only a little bit less, but it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.

Though this collection is an enjoyable read for fans of this often nerve-wracking fiction genre, I’d point out that the human body and the people to meet in life are to be appreciated. Also, that some of the characters in this book shouldn’t be seen as role models. Things get dark, dangerous, and psychologically wrong in this gutsy collection quite quickly. Sameul W. Reed has here with him a fine selection of stories for readers with different types of personalities.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Reed Press
Date Published: January 25, 2020
Genre: Literary Anthologies & Collections
Pages: 267
View on Amazon

Review: The Long and Dark by Joshua Banker

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Though I myself don’t know much about sea travel, I’ve read a lot about how spooky the sea can become for unsuspecting sailors if they don’t keep their eyes open on the waters enough. I think, realistically, the mind can quickly play tricks on anyone, anywhere, but the atmosphere that the sea evokes can be so much more chilling. Dedicated to a wonderful father, The Long and Dark is a mix of fantasy and horror that is written by Joshua Banker, an author who has easily become a favorite because of an expert talent that allows him to quickly ensnare readers in fantasy worlds that are quite nerve-wracking to journey through.

Many seamen had refused Gareth Solomon’s request to take him to a place where some of the world’s greatest minds resided: Dineothan. Pointing towards the basis for my introduction, it is a tiny island that is surrounded by an impenetrable fog and the surrounding waters are rumored to be cursed by many fearful seamen. With the help of a woman called Naze, Gareth, who is a mercenary, has to get past a man who became some kind of dangerous creature after consuming someone called Sindex. His mission is to find a sigil key so that he can reach a place called the Grand College and find what he hoped for: either a doctor or a man of medicine or science. His homeland, which includes his wife Nattia and his daughter Shea, has fallen I’ll due to a plague. In Dineothan he learns how bad his timing to find a cure really is. Its inhabitants, due to something disastrous that happened scientifically, have been affected negatively, forcing Gareth to deal with more inhuman creatures while navigating this strange island.

Banker compares the island of Dineothan to a warehouse created for a strange collection because of how its buildings are stacked: tightly. The names of the places are kind of soothing to pronounce and each sounds like an attractive and sort of historical venue to visit. For example there is Boddenburn with its memorable parliamentary halls, the Golden City of Auewellian whom Gareth once worked for as a mercenary, and home to the eccentric, Upelstbohr. The island only becomes bigger and much more interesting chapter after chapter, stapling the author’s talent to build great and magnificent fantasy worlds.

My initial opinion of Gareth, primarily because of how a fishermen fears for the safe return of a sea vessel rented to him, is that he’s not an entirely rational man. In other ways, considering that he is a type of man that doesn’t let his mind wonder loosely when it comes to reality, he is. What I admire about Gareth as a person is that he is a man with restraint in the face of conflict who would not lay a hand on an old man even if he was boiling with anger. He is not the completely quite type, however, as most heroes with the sword tend to be. Rather, he is likeable, unique, and almost flawless regarding his mission in general.

After an adventurous time with a female character named Naze, Gareth is in Upelstbohr for a few days. This is where we meet a character whose description makes him out to be a freaky looking character. Naze herself, with her interesting way of talking, is a notable character unto herself who becomes a good friend and companion to Gareth on his quest that is bound for a moment of long contemplation later on. The man, however, is just a figure I’ve thought to focus more on as he emerges like a kind of spook when Gareth first lays eyes on him. He is described as being a good half-foot over Gareth and revealed to be ashy skinned, thin, and silver eyed. The author named him quite interestingly in that he is called Redbletter, of the Achoral Manse, who receives Gareth as a guest with a welcoming heart. From Redbletter, we learn about shades called the Umbral, beings that are less than human which can be referred to as either foulkin or Dalhakhu, as well as a good amount of history concerning the island’s citizens.

Concerning dialogue and how the characters go about delivering it, the author takes care to name every body part and announce every action. The main character discovers so many different kinds of monsters on the island of Dineothan to the point where he replies: “D’know. Don’t care, ta be frank about it.” From another species’s perspective, we learn that brilliant scientific accomplishments might not lead to one being rewarded with something simple and very valuable in a technologically advanced age which is just plain happiness. The author also focuses on the instinctive greed of mankind and how science and even its great breakthroughs can lead to the a breakdown of society.

Feminists may have a hard time with forgiving the author for his word choice in a paragraph describing how Nattia heals Gareth’s left arm in the beginning. It hints at something sexual, yet it can be seen as just a minor turn on as the two are in a relationship. He does prove to be a faithful man throughout whose eye is kept on his quest to find a cure for the plague only. Where Gareth disappoints is only in giving in to a sudden bad temper that I didn’t find it to be too serious a bad trait in this achiever of a main character.

Because Gareth Solomon is a character who does his fair share of travelling, I recommend this novel to readers who also love doing the same (mind their reasons, that is) and who have a thing for smart chaps – whether human or otherwise – inhabiting aptly named places alone who are blessed with knowledgeable tongues meant to sooth the minds of heroes on their journeys. Fantasy horror from Joshua Banker that stabs you where it counts, makes you gag when you dare to imagine clearly, and frightens you when you think it’s safe to take a deep breath.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Joshua Banker Books
Date Published: October 26, 2019
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Pages: 284

View on Amazon

Review: Dawn of the Assassin by Bill Brewer

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Money is not everything and sometimes people find it out the hard way. For example: ending up bankrupt all of a sudden, getting rich and still seeing problems pop up left and right, or loosing your job due to one bad decision. This last reason is that of David Diegert, the protagonist of Bill Brewer’s absorbing thriller Dawn of the Assassin. He is a man to follow with a close eye because of the route he chooses to take to change his life: enlisting in the US Army. However, his heart is not entirely with this decision. Thus, he is in for some major disappointment, but only to find a new, darker opportunity pop up.

David Diegert gets arrested after assaulting the store manager who had fired him from his low paying job in Broward County, Minnesota one chilly night. Luckily for Diegert, the sheriff of Broward County convinces the store manager to drop the charges and proceeds to give Diegert instructions for enlisting in the Army. After training, he ends up in Afghanistan, but a fight with his superior officer as well as a lack of a good enough reason to be in the Army causes him to be dishonorably discharged. This sets David on a course to work for a night club in Austin, Texas, angering the Russian Bratva, and murdering two men before learning what it takes to become a professional assassin. He becomes one, but can he deal with the hits his assassination missions make on his outlook of the basic value of another person’s life?

Major Carl Winston, a strong-looking African-American man whom David meets at the Army Forces recruiting center in Bemidji, asks David if he’s strong enough to be in the US Army. Responding with a simple “I think so”, inferring that he’s not serious about the military is easy. David’s love for money and often thoughtless attitude towards resolving conflict stems from a family situation where his brother is a drug dealer and his father is abusive towards his mother. What Major Winston intends for young men like David is to grow into capable fighters with integrity and strong values. Before him, he cannot see the dark path that Diegert has been set on.

David sports a black belt in karate, a status as state champion wrestler, and a good, albeit an interrupted experience in the Army. In Austin, Texas, Diegert, who works for a night club called the Dark Horse at this time, displays a fighting skill that impresses a mobster named Igor Dimitrov. The author illustrates his initial love for money as Diegert starts doing illegal work for him, but this sets him on the wrong path where a job causes him to end up as being held captive in a safe house by two other mobsters. These are the two men that Diegert murders before becoming a professional assassin. It is from these two men, especially the inarticulate one named Peotor, that Diegert learns how easy and profitable it is to become one in this day and age where technology has become man’s best tool for self-destruction.

Diegert’s first experience with killing is one that, as Brewer writes, gives him an animalistic sense of power. The passage itself is dangerous country for readers too much into violent thrillers, especially when the author uses the word “pulverize” to describe what happens to a man’s skull after Diegert pulls the trigger. I’d certainly say that Diegert was a man in strong need of some form of religion, but that religion alone is not the only thing that can help him since his family situation isn’t good to start with. Accused of a murder he didn’t commit, he reasons that becoming an assassin would be the best thing. The alternative would be jail for life. “Making a plan and thinking about the future as only a matter of hours was far more comforting than worrying about the rest of his life.”

The assassin lifestyle that the author pushes Diegert towards is filled with economic rewards, but it takes a massive hit on his soul and care for another person’s life. Paris is the first place that Diegert travels to outside of America as an assassin and what I liked about his arrival in it is his immediate homesickness, which tells us a lot about the possibility of Diegert’s good side having a substantial effect on this new cold blooded killer he has become and the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, it will allow him to stop killing altogether. A different job puts him in the awkward situation of questioning a girl that he is not sure of killing. The way the author lines out Diegert’s career as an assassin is systematic as he goes from travelling to various different countries, meeting people like Barney Pinsdale, and ending up in a training facility to further enhance his skills as a killer.

Brewer gives readers a view of Diegert’s high school wrestling days to give us a sense of how powerful Diegert always felt while fighting. He is a great fighter, almost too perfect in combat, but unfortunately for him, in the second half of the book, he faces better fighters than himself in a deadly tournament which pits assassins against each other.

What this book does which is wrong in my view is that it leans on the task of making the job of an assassin sound attractive and easy. It also promotes violence in an extremely gory and unhealthy way. The author has created a deadly killing machine in Diegert. His main flaw, however, is that the side of him that loves money can cause readers to become greatly disinterested in him in the end. I had a major problem with the ending because, though it reads at first glance like a happy one, it forces one to question Diegert’s intelligence.

If you’re into firearm action and expert combat skills, you should definitely dive into this one. Bill Brewer has an unbeatable recipe to keep the adrenaline going with his born to kill protagonist.

* This book is not available on Amazon yet and is set for release on October 15, 2019. More information about this book can be found on the author’s website: www.billbrewerbooks.com

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Melange Books LLC
Date Published: N/A
Genre: Thriller
Pages: N/A

Review: Article 15 by M.T. Bass

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Article 15 is a brand new novel by author M.T. Bass and the first book in the Griffith Crowe series. The title stems from what the main character learned while working in Africa during his military career. A lesson that boils down to how, when a citizen can’t do anything to fight government corruption, one should heed the words of a French motto which translates to “get it while you can”.

When Griffith Crowe first lays eyes on Helena Nickolson at an airport in Chicago – a stunning woman that possesses a priceless Jackson Pollack painting – she comes out of a plane wearing Jackie-Ohh sunglasses and a skin-tight red dress, a sight that is warrant to evoke sharp-set stares from a couple of line boys. From the moment that his ears are soothed by her seductive husky voice, Griffith falls head over heals for Helena. Cliff Nickolson, her father, was a wealthy and former military man who died not long before this. As he explains to her, his work includes solving a problem or two for clients. His latest job leads him towards ending up in danger of being convicted in a heated murder case after uncovering information that leads him to believe that her father’s death might not have been an accident.

The author adds a slight dose of humour to his setting descriptions that helps to sustain a clear image of what a reader is supposed to visualize. What the air is like inside a particular building unit is clearly defined along with histories that are given to show readers what has already or is still taking place inside them.

Working for a topnotch law firm called Stein, Baylor and Stein, Griffith Crowe is former Special Forces and lives on a ranch in Wyoming. Lance Baylor, who works for this company as well, is the one that informs Crowe about this client that is intent on getting back an expensive piece of art from his ex that he lost in a settlement. The manner in which the author introduces his protagonist is to portray him as this man with a background to proudly flaunt to those underlings if you happen to find yourself in an elevated position in your own career yourself. The author teases readers early on about Griffith’s military career. He owns a Siberian Husky called Rodya that he almost shoots when it sneaks up on him in his ranch home.

Griffith Crowe is certainly an interesting chap who is proud of the Cirrus S-22 airplane that he owns and that it at least takes him where he needs to go. He has an inside voice that is reliable and apt to take him out of tough situations with the opposite sex. His implacable facade stems from having done BUD/S training on the Coronado Beach. Helena is described as a blonde having blue gray eyes. Her attitude is pretty straight forward as she calls Griff tall, dark, and dangerous from the onset. She comes across as an extremely sexy woman and it’s not long before we see Griff making love with Helena.

Lance Baylor is introduced as a character that has mastered the art of entering and exiting rooms. Described as both a talented lawyer and rainmaker, he is a close colleague and friend of Griffith. My initial take of him was that he seemed to like Griffith a lot. He comes equipped with a sense of humour that gets you careening with a sore belly, but he can also be a bit rough and condescending with it. He ends one joke insensitively with the words “and sheiks love their sons”. One of those where you don’t know whether to laugh or shake your head in surrender.

Before the court case in which Griffith faces the danger of being convicted, he manages to get his hands on Cliff Nickolson’s journals that gives him a broader understanding of who the man was. The first entry is dated June 12, 1979. Cliff had been a student pilot at the age of sixteen. Griff also gets his hands on Cliff’s Naval Aviator wings, Dessert Storm campaign ribbons, Silver Star, and a Navy Cross. As a fighter pilot, Mr. Nickolson has a number of accolades under his belt. He became wealthy after his military career and lost his life due to a helicopter crash that took the lives of not only him, but Helena’s step-mother and a corporate pilot near Pebble Beach.

Griffith Crowe’s flying escapades are realistically described and, for someone who enjoys or who are interested in flying, these scenes offer something satisfactory and useful. One unique aviation strategy I learned about was flying IFR which means “I Follow Roads.” I liked the ending for how it surprised me with somebody’s viper-like appearance at just the right time to thwart an enemy. I can’t name this person. However, I’d just add that Bass is an author of thrillers with a God-given talent to shock readers when they least expect it.

Helena is an exciting character to meet, but she can also come across as a bit frivolous. Her attitude during a court scene can be disappointing for readers who have grown to like her. While questioned by the judge, she is not afraid to defend herself with snide remarks. One thing that this book offers is a lot of acronyms for those who are not fond of sitting with a headache problem while reading. ” Tomorrow, you and I are going to pay a little visit to the local FSDO office and explain to the FAA what exactly you did to the FADEC and nav systems software on Cliff Nickolson’s helicopter.”

For now, I’ll miss Crowe, a Navy SEAL who not only comes with an extensive collection of firearms, but with the most cleverest of answers as well. Plain flying pleasure and a stunning ending aside, I’d place this novel in the hands of readers who are entertained by the sometimes psychoactive and dangerous lives that wealthy men like Crowe lead.

* This book is not available on Amazon yet and is set for release on October 22, 2019. More information about this book can be found on the author’s website: mtbassauthor.wordpress.com.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Electron Alley Corporation
Date Published: N/A
Genre: Thriller
Pages: N/A
View on Amazon

Review: Why She Lied by Julie Coons

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

People who find it difficult to deal with bad things in life tend to mentally conjure up other or imaginary worlds to escape into. Living in something akin to a war zone can be tough for anybody. It can make you see things that you’re mind might find difficult to grasp as it can only take so much. This is where a wild imagination and daydreaming skill comes in for the main character in Why She Lied, a psychological thriller by Julie Coons which is based on a true story. This is the second book that I get to review by this amazing author. The first, a great read by itself, was a novel titled This Does Not Leave This House.

Julie lives in Oregon. Since her breakup with a man named TJ, someone who cheated on her for eight months during their relationship, she had a drop in self-confidence and self-esteem. An admitting clerk in the busiest trauma centre on the West Coast, Julie started dating a man named James, but if this man was right for her was a question that nagged at her from the very beginning. One night, he raped her and got her pregnant. After luring a little girl under the age of twelve out of a daycare center and sexually abusing her, he gets convicted. Can she move forward knowing that the man she fell for is a convicted child molester?

Julie is introduced as a single mother and an empath who has a daughter that nearly lost her life due to an illness called spinal meningitis. She is also portrayed as a hardworking woman that is glued to her job because of her daughter’s deadbeat father’s unwillingness to support her financially. Her portrayal is that of someone who can become quickly sad and depressed. Her history with guys isn’t great. Her rape experience with James is only the second. She was also raped in college. Her childhood experience wasn’t a favorable one: she learned rather to doubt than trust herself. But her strong motherly qualities allows her to tackle her life’s obstacles head on.

Coons writes in the first person narrative. The first scene vivifies a pretty hectic day in Julie’s life as it gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to work in a trauma centre. On this day a teenage boy looses his life due to a motorcycle accident; this boy’s brother is distraught to the point where he ends up running through her work station and jumping over her counter with one major leap. A short moment later a baby gets abused and flighted to a different hospital for a better chance to survive. She also describes the hospital environment in great detail. She explains, for example, what phone in the ER is meant for multiple trauma. This shift she works ends with her encountering a serial killer.

There are a lot of scary things that happened in Julie’s small town. Back in the 60’s, a serial killer named Jerome Brudos – he lived on a street not far from where Julie worked – was responsible for the deaths of several woman. He was known as “The Lust Killer”. Oregon sounds like a really creepy place to live in. One night, while driving home, she would spot a man in a hooded jacket that would show up on the evening news as being captured for questioning in relation to a recent murder.

While the author strives for an informative beginning, readers might feel that the details are a bit too much. The author focuses a lot on what life is like working in an ER department. The benefit of it is that getting this illustration out of the way is making it easier for readers to familiarize themselves with Julie Coons as an admitting clerk and showing readers all of the different things that she has to deal with for the day.

Ordered by the court to stay away from all children, James is a pretty misguiding character. I didn’t like the author’s initial lack of effort when it came to describing James physically. The author describes him only as not being a bad looking guy that is tall, dark and a little bit handsome. His friends view him as this really stand up guy whereas Julie knows what a monster he is. James has this friend that Julie ends up conversing with named Mike who is a father of four. Julie thus has a substantial reason for worrying about the safety of Mike’s children. James has this innate talent for getting people to both trust and speak highly of him.

Making matters worse is that James eventually makes it to Oregon’s top ten most wanted list by the FBI. I couldn’t help but notice that Julie’s empathetic personality makes it unable for her to see that James even made it to the list. The guy that Julie ends up crossing paths with is a detective named Joe, a man who turns out having an extremely gigantic heart inside him. Someone had been watching Julie and her daughter when she drove up to a secluded trailer in the woods one day. Quite a hair-raising moment during the story. Another is a sure threat that was made on her life through a phone call. “I’m wondering if this could be a lot bigger than just James being a wanted fugitive.”

The author writes that she used to think that the worst monsters were religious monsters and that priests and nuns are like wolves hiding behind habits. Though religious sexual predators are not unheard of, I thought this view of hers to be harshly worded and I saw it more as an attack on religion.

This is one of those stalker novels that gets your heart beating pretty darn fast every time you hear the phone ring. Julie Coons offers something indispensable, pummeling through this flyblown business that is child abuse and human trafficking. She inspires readers to stand up against these horrifying monsters that live among us.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Self-Published
Date Published: March 3, 2019
Genre: Biographies of Organized Crime
Pages: 170
View on Amazon

Review: Read to Succeed by Stan Skrabut

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Read to Succeed: The Power of Books to Transform Your Life and to Put You on the Path to Success is a practicable non-fiction novel by Stan Skrabut, a writer who has noticed that there is a strong rift between people who think about succeeding and those lucky ones that have succeeded. He also made a correlation between successful people and the books they read versus struggling people who do not. This is an interesting fact to take note of as I myself see this every day.

Successful historical figures must have a common reason for how they got where they were. Stan Skrabut jots this down entirely to a promising reading habit. He also implies that luck can increase due to this habit. His main intention for writing this book is to help people that will escalate their chances of success. Fascinated by all the great things he could learn from books, Stan Skrabut enjoyed reading from the time that he was a boy. His reading journey is educational and pleasant to read, setting readers on a path to learn what the benefits of reading are and much more. If you’re running out of ideas concerning your profession, than this book is meant for you.

Making use of famous quotes, lists, and subchapters, the format of this book is very appealing. This novel has thirteen chapters, starting with the one subtitled Why Reading Has Been Important to Me, which highlights the benefits Skrabut received through reading, and ending with the one Doing Something with What You Read, where Skrabut teaches readers how to put what they’ve read into practice. The author’s introduction comes in handy for showing readers what to expect throughout the course of reading this book. The order in which the chapters are listed also offers readers a clear vision of a path that readers should follow to become successful.

The author stresses the importance of developing a regular reading routine. It is good for expanding one’s ideas whether it be for professional or personal reasons. The third chapter revolves around a couple of famous people who have greatly benefitted in their careers due to reading. Some of the famous names includes those of former American presidents like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, and Barrack Obama. Obama’s own reading journey has given him a higher level of empathy.

Warren Buffet, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, is one of several business leaders whom the author uses as an example of those that have benefited from reading along names like Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Oprah Winfrey. Some of these business leaders have spent a lot of time reading and it’s a bit crazy to consider how much these leaders read. Buffet, who has spent eighty percent of his day reading, is a sure shocker. Mark Cuban, also a successful businessman, has read up to three hours a day. His reading materials only involved things that were relevant to his business.

“Like any skill, the more you work at it, the better you’ll become.” This is so true. My own reading capabilities started at a slow pace and I only became faster with time. In the fifth chapter of the book, the author explores methods of improving reading skills in general. He writes about ways to improve your vocabulary and even games (Scrabble, crossword puzzles, Boggle, etc.). The author also gives readers methods of bettering themselves as readers. In Chapter Six, the author gives readers ways for building their vocabulary. He explains how important building ones vocabulary is when it comes to understanding what someone is saying or writing. It is also good for improving ones communication skills.

People generally have different reading speeds. The author writes something in his introduction that is difficult to believe. “However, President Theodore Roosevelt would read a book a day on a busy day and two to three books when he wasn’t busy.” This sounds too unrealistic for me to even want to attempt and it’s something I just glanced over with my eyes. The author points a lot to the fact that books are good for learning. I didn’t find this to be overly annoying, but I felt that this is a point that the author makes too much. The pro that this offers is that it puts the readers’ focus on what this book is about.

While at the Air Force Academy Prep School, the author reveals that he picked up a reading skill known as speed reading. I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the term as I, as a book reviewer, had always wanted to increase my own reading speed. The speed reading techniques that the author learned increased his speed up to two thousand words per minute. It’s a magnificent amount of words to consider and I myself have never been that speedy of a reader. Other than how to improve your reading speed, the author also explores the importance of note taking while reading. In actual books, the author one hundred percent encourages readers to write notes in their books. He gives readers useful methods for taking notes in both physical and digital books.

One of my favorite things that the author writes is that books are idea containers. It sounds like a saying that I think I’ll remember for a long time. In Chapter Four: Benefits of Reading, a chapter that deals mainly with showing readers the many different things they can gain from reading books, another one comes to mind from this intense mental activity that the author says is: “… a gymnasium for the mind.”

Stan Skrabut’s knowledge is extensive thanks to the broad research he has done. Though he teaches us that reading is a sure way to improve our quality of life, we should absolutely share what we learn from the books we read. His novel surprises us with the manner in which it can interest people into taking up reading and also what they can gain from doing so.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Red Scorpion Press
Date Published: December 13, 2018
Genre: Academic & Commercial Writing
Pages: 267
View on Amazon

Review: Full Moon Knights by Matthew Danza

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Full Moon Knights (Book Three of the Fin Series) is another adventure horror novel by Matthew Danza featuring the venomous shark slayer Lee Elizabeth Kager as the lead character. She is a bit out of it and initially, an all new level of crazy. Danza, however, gets the ball of excitement rolling quickly, giving Lee a different type of monster to combat, steering this beautiful shark hunter towards breaking the boundaries of magic and folklore.

Lee, now attending Columbia University and member of its archery club, gets contacted by Andy, the son of Charlie Lockhart, a billionaire tycoon, who has a proposal for her. Heather, Andy’s mother, has a notable past involving archaeology. A cancer survivor, she had been a secretive person and, in her profession as an archaeologist, didn’t make any notable findings although she had been onto a couple of things. Andy is out on a personal mission of finding an artefact in Spain known as the Somme Spear, an object that carries with it it’s own amusing account and magical properties. He contacts Lee to help him find it. While tracking this magical spear down, what stands in their path are werewolves. They now have to fight for their lives if they want to find the spear.

Danza starts his novel off with the following quote by Deepak Chopra: “In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself”. There is a strong connection to be made between this line by Chopra and the point at which Lee finds herself currently. Humorously, when we meet Lee in the beginning, she is in the process of getting committed as a friend named Jen jokingly alerts her. Missing one leg due to a shark attack, she is seen doing some precarious behavior, running around town with a bow and arrow and affirming that she is with her boyfriend who is deceased. Suffice it to say, Lee has trouble dealing with her past, but will she become stronger to a point where she can let go of it?

Unable to dismiss anything carelessly, Jennifer Marie Fabiani, who has written a book that has done extremely good on the charts, is pretty useful to Lee as a friend. A former cop and now an author, Jen ‘s usefulness also comes in doing a background check on Andy Lockhart. A cancer survivor, Andy’s mother died due to an overdose around the time that he was thirteen years of age. He eventually ended up in an all-boys Catholic boarding school along with his cousin Zack. These two became well acquainted and joined the Airforce together. In 2015, Zack lost his life during a military exercise in Libya.

The author’s initial problem is setting his shark heroine on a path towards discovering something more out of this world. At first, she is a big skeptic when it comes to magic. It is something that she doesn’t initially believe in, but she is open minded. Especially when it comes to this spear that might be able to restore her. Andy has told her that this spear can get her leg back. I must admit that this sounds really unrealistic at first, but Lee seems to go along with this idea with ease. The spear does have it’s own interesting background: made from materials unknown to man, its origin is placed during World War One in 1916.

Enticing Andy about Lee further is her unusual resemblance to a woman named Vesper. The author writes that they were like twins separated by time. While having dinner before setting off for their hunt, Andy tells Lee that Vesper is the wife of Edmond Castilla, the Duke of Spain. He also shows her a photo which was taken in the early nineteen hundreds; she cannot deny the resemblance.

They are called the Untamed. The werewolf creatures that threaten Andy and Lee’s lives. “A subject that has been bitten by The Untamed will share their common traits within minutes.” Andy eventually gets bitten, and it is here that the novel takes an interesting turn as the man is in danger of turning into this abomination himself. He does have his moments, however. Andy has a memorable line that he utters, sort of lame to Lee, before using a firearm. One question that springs to his mind while he is concerned about turning into a werewolf is whether he will be able to control his actions if he does turn into one of them.

Readers can become quickly confused because of some settings that are not defined with precise precisian, but the main plus point remains the lingering eery feel that the author creates. Lee’s philosophy is a bit humorous and crazy: “Just fiddle with things until they worked.” This is a sure hit on her appeal as a heroine. Danza also makes the mistake of portraying her as this extremely silly person that would reach into her fanny pack to give protein bars to canines while calling herself mommy. This heavily conflicts with her ability to survive dangerous circumstances: as she combats a werewolf in one particular scene, she is quite vicious, she smiles maliciously while snapping its fingers back.

The last bits were rounded off smoothly. The novel reads partly like a mystery novel in which the true answers are only revealed at the end. The author leads his heroine on a path towards discovering a shocking truth and even a genius contraption of sorts that gets her thinking about her dead boyfriend. The eeriness of the novel is enough to make you fear what creeps in the dark. A read best enjoyed with as many lights on as possible.

Matthew Danza surprises with the mental smarts and determined fight of a woman haunted by her past and loved ones that she has lost to unusual circumstances. Readers are bound to encounter the most mystifying of characters. Meant for those that are fascinated by the possibility of having lived in a previous time and the mechanics of the legendary werewolf.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Self-Published
Date Published: May 7, 2019
Genre: Horror Comedy
Pages: 272

View on Amazon

Review: Traveller Inceptio by Rob Shackleford

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Having been a Scuba instructor, a college teacher, and a business executive in tourism, Rob Shackleford is an Australian writer who enjoys travelling. His book Traveller Inceptio, book one of the Traveller trilogy, begins with a man named Michael stumbling through a forest and falling on his hands and knees. Shackleford’s love for traveling brings with it his evident experiences which shows through his vivid setting descriptions. “Three venerable, colossal oaks spread their mighty arms to have their branches entwine like fingers, shading lesser plants from essential sunlight to create the open space.”

Michael encounters a devoted monk named Brother Oeric in a forest who leads him to a monastery in the humble community of Giolgrave. Brother Oeric is a Christian monk and his monk brothers are the first that Michael has ever seen and he aims to lives among them for a time, not knowing that he’s in for one hell of fight that is still far away at this point. The monks and the community of Giolgrave open their hearts to him in a rare way which eventually makes it difficult for him to leave because he has his own path that he needs to follow.

Getting connected to who Michael actually is and what he’s actually doing, a different storyline is set in another time and place and also in the field of science. What starts out as a low level research project gets funded by a generous benefactor and Fortune 500 corporation called Helguard Security. The man at the helm of this research project is Peter Conti. Building a time travelling device called The Traveller. Though time is running out for this project to be completed, what turns things from simple to complicated is that the sponsor has been involved in an espionage programme on their work. Shackleford gives readers a clear picture of how this time travelling works as well as what it’s limitations are, but only later on in the book.

Michael, who comes from the future and who we view as some kind of warrior at first, is schooled in the language of the learned. Living with Brother Oeric, Michael learns how exhausting the life of a Benedictine monk can be. A life which includes copious prayer, service to God, and service to community. He tends to keep his answers concerning his identity hush. When asked by Godric, a man who comes across as one carrying a heavy burden, if he is a Dane, he simply replies that he has travelled far and that he is a friend.

Not all things in the community of Giolgrave revolves around monk life and prayer, especially when it comes to Michael who tends to remind people of the Archangel Michael. Though Michael is initially a mysterious character, he is a trained and disciplined warrior of some sort. The author illustrates his sword practicing sessions with the eye of somebody who has been there. “Michael took solace in the exercise and the weight of the sword, with the hiss of the blade as it cut through the still morning air.” It is after this session that Michael wonders strongly about leaving Giolgrave.

There are different storylines to follow that takes place in different times and places, but Michael’s is the main one as he is a time traveller having gone back to Saxon England, or Aengland as the author writes. Shackleford has a pen for this historical time period. He writes realistically, placing obstacles that make sense. The second chapter introduces us to characters that live in the present time and this readers on a more scientific journey. In the second chapter, we meet a man named Phil Walker playing some pool. One of those cool characters we often meet in novels that involve major scientific breakthroughs.
Phil is part of a research team that gets sponsored by Helguard Security, the same one that Peter Conti, who is related to Mel Conti, one of Phil’s associates, leads.

One of the core subjects covered is time travelling and what effect a time traveller has on history. This relates to the time travelling project funded by Helgaurd Security. A Christian character named Craig opens an interesting argument, saying that there are two rationales to take into account. One being that a time traveller can change history and the second being that the traveller cannot have an effect on the history that he left behind. These two different rationales makes complete sense in that the deed of time travelling in general cannot come without a price.

Whatever charm Michael possesses throughout the whole of the book dissipates systemically after Shackleford’s careful revelation that he is a time traveller. I had him pegged for this mysterious warrior with some kind of history to hide that he didn’t want to reveal to the monks, but he becomes modern, this explorer type that readers have to adapt their minds to. Still, without his presence, it seems that the monks would’ve suffered a terrible fate at the hands of Vikings. Michael impresses again with his astounding and brave heroics. Not only that, he teaches his monk friends to fight back and he aids them in protecting a holy relic.

The last part of this lengthy read gets extremely exciting with the battles at the end. The battle scenes themselves can be a little too violent and gory. Definitely not intended for young readers. Besides making good friends with Giolgrave’s monks, Michael falls in love with a genuinely good woman named Tatae who has a healing nature about her. This romantic side to Michael’s journey was a good touch to the novel.

Michael’s own heroic nature is enough to make any reader cry. Especially when we see him rescuing a girl from a sexual assault. Rob Shackleford’s rendering of battle scenes are poetically and expertly delivered with the eye of someone who knows what it takes to write an epic science fiction novel that lingers long within the reader’s memory. I recommended this book highly to readers who might find themselves invested in learning about Saxon culture and what it means to stand with your family in the face of oppressive and invasive forces.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd
Date Published: February 28, 2019
Genre: Time Traveller Science Fiction
Pages: 431

View on Amazon

Review: The Wish to Kill by Janet Hannah

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A violent explosion is the volatile starting point of The Wish to Kill, the first book in Janet Hannah’s Alex Kertész Mystery series. Imagine sitting in your office and thinking about a colleague just moments before this colleague dies due to a sudden explosion. Gets you thinking about being a little more careful of your thoughts, right? You just never know what might come true.

Alex Kertész, who works as a biochemist at the University of Jerusalem, had been thinking about a man named Ilan Falk just moments before the man’s lab went up in flames due to an explosion. Even though the explosion seemed fatal, his lab had looked surprisingly intact, the damage only confined to the area around his body. Ilan was a man that wasn’t well liked by many of his peers. As for the police, the reason behind his death is difficult to see. This makes the true reason for what happened to Falk difficult to discover. Realising how easy it could be for someone to arrange Falk’s death, Alex decides to put this mystery to bed by doing his own extensive digging.

This novel is set in Jerusalem, which is actually the first I’ve read which is set in this country. When Alex parks in a street called King George street, the author goes on to offer interesting details about a stone windmill, it having been used as an observation post by Jewish fighters in what was known as the War of Independence. Hannah has the ability to describe a terrible and dangerous event to the point of foul drifting tendrils of smoke after an unexpected explosion. She delivers vivid sketches of the interiors of buildings. The historical account she gives about the Yemen Moshe neighborhood already shows readers that they’re in for a novel that doesn’t just leave characters at the door so to speak.

The son of a Hungarian surgeon who had been working in Budapest and a Jewish French woman who went to Hungary in the fifties to teach French, Alex comes across as a one of kind and charming character to meet. His family background is given in great and ample detail, quite early with nothing more for readers to want to learn. At the age of sixteen, Alex’s father lost his life due to a fatal heart attack. He had taken his family to a medical conference when it happened. They were in Paris at the time and Alex’s mother, whose parents live there, had wanted them to stay there.

Not long after Falk’s funeral service, Alex and a man named Mickey go to see Guelah Falk, Ilan’s daughter who lives in a hilltop suburb west of Jerusalem called Mevasseret Zion. He shows a comforting side to him as he tries to think of what to say to Falk’s family with the image of Falk’s body still vivid in his mind. His empathetic side is further revealed by when Alex explains how one of the minor characters makes vulgar remarks about Falk and how it upsets him.

Not many readers might be familiar with the term “ill-wishing”, but this is a concept that the main character aims to struggles with. Other than the fact that Alex had something on his mind just before the explosion, Falk’s research assistant – a woman named Shosh – thinks that she killed Ilan simply by wishing it. Alex does some further enquiries about this phenomenon that I’m sure will interest many readers just as it did me. He gets his answers from a man named Akiva whom Hannah humorously describes as a man having an extensive mental encyclopedia.

Elisha Tal is one of Alex’s co-workers who makes odd remarks when asked, in the first chapter, if he heard the explosion that claimed Falk’s life and if he he was at the building at the time. Making readers’ detective antennas spike up close to the ending, he is described as a big cunning man with an uncontrollable temper. Having already suspected Elisha, Alex thinks up a plan, and it’s invigorating to see how ill-wishing comes into play to make his plan work.

The author shows a keen understanding of Jewish military history with what she writes and the military situations she lays out for us. Alex turns out to not just be a brilliant biochemist, but a former soldier with his own military background. How his military background comes into play throughout the course of the story is clear to see in the beginning, but as readers move forward, it is clear and essential that more connections still have to be made. Alex lacks a bit here and there as coming across as a former soldier with his scientific intelligence and all, but the author makes it work.

There is a bit too much back story about Alex which takes away from the initial excitement readers start off with. The sudden explosion event that gets you excited for more flames and bullets flying, but eventually winds down to something more scientific coupled with a tiny dose of the supernatural. I didn’t find this book to be as full of suspense as I would usually in the thrillers that I read, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The true potential power of the mind is not something I know much about, but Janet Hannah certainly makes it a point for readers to realize how it can be used for your own advantage. That is for readers who wouldn’t mind dabbling with the possible power of their own minds. All the puzzle pieces about this relaxing murder mystery boils down to an unforseen conclusion that carries with it a foxy display of cunning and expedience. The author leaves readers with a question of import to ill-wishing at the end, leaving them assuming what her main character might learn about in the sequel.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Self-Published Author
Date Published: October 23, 2011
Genre: Occult Horror
Pages: 224
View on Amazon