Beginning January 1, 2013

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Artie and the Green Eyed Woman by Jan Christensen

Artie and the Green Eyed Woman by Jan Christensen
The Artie Crimes
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (15 pgs)
Rating 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Artie is beginning to rethink his profession when he again meets a stunning woman outside the door of a store he has just robbed. This one only wants him to use his lock-picking skills to open a door across the alley. Until, that is, she's attacked, kills her attacker and demands Artie pull the guy inside. They're not quite even now, but close. She knows he robbed the store. He knows she killed a man. Then he leaves, thinking he'll never see the green-eyed woman again. Unfortunately for Artie, the woman soon reenters his life, and now she wants him to open even more locks for her. It seems Artie can never refuse a beautiful woman needing a favor. This one almost gets him killed. Will he ever learn? Another Artie caper combining the clever robber and a beautiful woman.

It's amazing what a talented author can do with relatively few pages.
I usually think page turners can only come in novel form, but this short story had me hitting the button on my e-reader trying to figure out what was going on and what the green eyed woman was up to. Just when you think you’ve got it all straightened out the author did a great job taking the story in another direction. I won’t give anything away because it would spoil the story for you but the ending took me by surprise.

It’s quick paced, dialogue is snappy and it’s peppered with interesting characters including Artie who I felt myself rooting for. If you only have time for a ten minute read and love a mystery, this is a good pick.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Golden Web Claim by Homer Eon Flint

Golden Web Claim by Homer Eon Flint
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Short Story (25 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Gold! Gold! Gold! Or is it?

Gold fever never struck early pulp writer Homer Eon Flint, but he understood the rare metal’s ability to change men and women, not always for the best. In Golden Web Claim he asked the question, “What’s a little greed among enemies?” As with much of Flint’s fiction, Golden Web Claim explores the human psyche.

She’s young and attractive and looking for an engineer to help her find gold in the mountains of the desert. He’s unemployed and looking for a job. However, he didn’t know exactly what he was getting into when she hired him…

This is the second Homer Flint story I have reviewed. The author died long ago, but his words are still alive and give the reader a tour of the old west. Guns spoke louder than voices in those days and it was easier to steal than to work. The lands were rough, men were mean, and life was tough. Mr. Flint’s stories show that truth and he always offers a mystery to hold your attention.

One of the most interesting factors in this story was the use of a crawler (as in Caterpillar) to get to the area where the claim was. In his previous story the sheriff used an airplane. The author appears to have had an interest in the new technology as well as the history of the west. They mesh well together.

The story of gold mining wasn’t new, but there is an underlying plot that isn’t revealed until the end of the story. This little extra twist makes a really good story with an interesting plot and a little frosting on the cake at the conclusion of the story.

He’s concise with his wording, he accurately describes the land, and his characters are no better than they should be at this point in history. I wasn't bored and the ending made me smile. Why not give it a read and see what you think?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Curveball by Jen Estes

Curveball by Jen Estes
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: suspense/mystery
Length: Full Length (314 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower


Baseball reporter Cat McDaniel specializes in exposes. Now that very talent has left her unemployed. Desperate to get off the bench and back into the lineup, she is thrilled to land an interview with the Buffalo Soldiers' General Manager Roger "Rakin'" Aiken--Baseball legend, eight-time All Star ... and oblivious father to a Major League bratty co-ed named Paige.


Aiken offers Cat the team writer position for the following spring, but the opportunity is tempered by a curveball of a caveat: she must first spend the winter as a blogger reporting on the Latin American training facility. She is also supposed to look out for Paige, nominally the team's newest scouting assistant. Being a glorified babysitter and chaperone still beats being an out-of-work sportswriter. Cat reluctantly leaves behind her gorgeous boyfriend Benji and accompanies the party girl to sunny Santo Domingo to balance baselines and conga lines.


Paige falls for Chance Hayward, an agent who plays hardball--the figurative kind. Joining them on the field is Paige's ex, Junior DeLeon, one of the coaches who'd really like to score with Cat. When an aspiring player turns up dead, it is up to Cat and Junior to devise a game-changing strategy. Will Cat's snooping work in her favor this time, or will she strike out ... losing her job, her boyfriend and her life?

Three words to describe Cat McDaniel: Sassy, smart, and sleuth. She's a sports writer who travels to various locations to get the scoop. What does she find along with it? Trouble. Don't the mystery genre heroines always seem to find trouble? Yep, they sure do. But without that trouble, it would make for a rather dull story.

Cat is on the verge of a new job. The problem with getting this job? How about a bratty, spoiled rich girl to tote along? How's that for getting the job done? Eh....not so easy. But Cat is feisty, and she's not going to let this girl bring her down, even though she wants to wring her neck half the time.

Curveball is saucy, mysterious, and a pleasurable read. Ms. Estes creates a lot of mystery and intrigue within the pages of this novel. I even found the bratty spoiled girl, Paige, to have redeeming qualities in a few parts of this book. She becomes Cat's “sidekick” to help with the mystery solving.

Even if you aren't a fan of sports, Curveball is so much more than that. Cat McDaniel is not a woman to be messed with, and she manages to make things happen in light of murder, scams, and much more.

If you're a fan of cozy type mysteries with a female sleuth, Curveball is a story you can curl up with and get lost in the pages for awhile. Why not grab a copy?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Four Books of Etretat by Matt Chatelain

The Four Books of Etretat by Matt Chatelain
Book Two of Four of the Sirenne Saga
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (293 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia


In 'The Caves of Etretat', Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne was thrust into a quest for answers in the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of 'The Hollow Needle', by Maurice Leblanc. Together with Leblanc's great-granddaughter, Sirenne unearthed puzzles, codes and historical mysteries, exposing a secret war for control of a cave fortress in Etretat's chalk cliffs.

In Book Two, 'The Four Books of Etretat', Sirenne discovers the reason for the hidden war: the secret of immortality. The Abbey, a thousand-year old organization, dedicated to chasing the oldest immortal on earth, known as the Greyman, has given Sirenne control of the caves and its secrets, apparently preparing him for a confrontation with the Greyman. Unfortunately, the serial killer who killed Sirenne's father, Weissmuller, has discovered this knowledge before Sirenne. Now an immortal and constantly dogging Sirenne's steps, Weissmuller seems to be playing a game of his own.

'The Four Books of Etretat' is the second in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.


Prepare to leave everything you thought you knew behind.

When I read the first book in the series, The Caves of Etretat, I thought I had a pretty decent understanding of the caves and the mystery surrounding them. However, Mr. Chatelain proceeded to blow my mind in The Four Books of Etretat, the second installment in the series. I discovered the real treasure of the caves is not mere gold and jewels, but something infinitely more valuable, the secret of immortality. Not only that, but the impact that the caves have had on human history goes far beyond what Paul Sirenne and his companions originally thought. As Paul delves further into the mystery surrounding the caves, he uncovers a history filled with half-truths and misdirection spanning thousands of years. Are Paul and his team smart enough to uncover the truth, and will they be able to handle the truth once they find it?

In this book, Paul, the self proclaimed “armchair detective,” is pushed even further out of his comfort zone. His intelligence is continually put to the test by complex codes and puzzles that sometimes raise more questions than answers, but Paul has always been comfortable thinking and puzzling things through. However, Paul now finds himself in the unlikely position of leading an entire organization of people in order to protect the caves and the secret of immortality from those who would misuse it. I have no doubt that Paul is up to the challenge.

One of the things I liked most about Paul in the first book was that he is an ordinary man called to do extraordinary things. In The Four Books of Etretat, Paul undergoes some physical and mental changes brought on by the nature of the caves. Paul is no longer quite as “ordinary.” I was a little worried that Paul’s new abilities would alter him in ways that would make him less endearing. However, I was very pleased to find that while Paul grows and changes quite a bit, he is still a good man at heart.

Paul’s relationship with Raymonde also continues to develop in this book. Their connection becomes even stronger as they both are changed by the caves. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the nature of their changes. However, I will say that Raymonde’s new abilities compliment Paul’s perfectly. I can’t help but wonder how they developed different abilities when they were both affected by the secret of the caves. Their different abilities seem too well planned out to be random chance. Was the reason genetic, or something else? I also look forward to seeing how the caves will affect Paul’s other friends.

O’Flanahan is still my favorite secondary character. As in the first book, his brash personality sets off Paul’s more introspective one very well. One of the things I like most about O’Flanahan is that he dares to say and do things that other people are probably thinking, but don’t act on. His outbursts of frustration and excitement breathe a bit of humor into some very serious situations. The scene of him gulping in air in front of an air vent was particularly memorable.

I don’t think the pacing was as well done in this book as it was in the first. While I did find the research and theories presented to be very interesting and thought provoking, the first half of the book is a bit slow at times, and there isn’t much action to break that up. However my patience was definitely rewarded. The pacing really picks up during the last half of the story. Everything comes together in a very intense climax that had me on the edge of my seat worrying about the safety of characters I’ve come to care about.

A review of The Four Books of Etretat wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the sections containing Weissmuller’s reflections. Weissmuller is a devious man who has used the caves to attain immortality and is intent on reclaiming the caves by any means necessary. I found Weissmuller’s actions very chilling. I never ceased to be shocked by the casual descriptions of the carnage he leaves wherever he goes and his utter disregard for life. As if one meddling immortal wasn’t enough, Paul and his team learn that another immortal known as the Greyman is on the loose. The Greyman is still a mystery at this point, but my curiosity is certainly piqued.

Reading The Four Books of Etretat was certainly an experience. The characters are well developed, the mystery surrounding the caves is well organized, and the last half of the book is a whirlwind of suspense. Anyone wanting to read this book definitely needs to read The Caves of Etretat first. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for the next book in the series. The Four Books of Etretat is a conspiracy lover’s dream, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to ponder the question “what if?”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tangled Ties to a Manatee by Kalen Cap

Tangled Ties to a Manatee by Kalen Cap
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (346 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A pregnant manatee is rare at any zoo, and a first for the Grove City Zoo in Ohio. Ankh is a delight to zoo patrons, a concern to its staff, and the unintentional victim of two con men. She has no idea how many human relationships, problems, and dreams tangle around her.

Jerry is a young developmentally disabled man who happily follows Ankh's pregnancy on the zoo's webcam. He has a shy crush on Janelle, a pretty college student who volunteers for his group home’s outings to the zoo.

Jerry's Aunt Vera also loves nature and runs an environmental retreat center. But all is not well, with Vera or the center. The center needs money and is under investigation as a cult.

Amid their college studies, Janelle and her friend Cecily try to help. Instead, Janelle re-awakens an old obsession in Vera when an innocent tarot reading hints at how the center might be saved.

Two bumbling con men are attempting to sabotage the region’s electrical grid as part of a lucrative scheme. But Jerry accidentally gets in their way and becomes their captive.

When the con men surprisingly succeed in bringing the grid down, it spells danger for Ankh, her unborn pup, and the many people tied to them both. With investigations of their own, Cecily and Janelle try to untangle it all to find Jerry, save a manatee’s life, and rescue Vera from herself.

Tangled Ties to a Manatee is a humorous crime thriller with environmental themes that is revealed through multiple points of view. The novel emphasizes college-aged characters, though not all, such as the developmentally disabled ones, are in college.

Have you ever seen the world through the eyes of a manatee? I started reading Tangled Ties to a Manatee knowing it would be told through multiple viewpoints, but I had no idea I’d be able to glimpse the world through the eyes of Ankh, the manatee, as well as more than a dozen other characters. Mr. Cap does an excellent job of clearly marking the transitions between each of the viewpoints. He even skillfully switches the viewpoint between characters within the same exchange, and I was never confused about what was going on.

However, I must admit that the switches between the characters did take a bit of getting used to. I felt like I would just get settled into reading about one character and then I’d have to move on to a different one. This unsettled feeling was brief and it wasn’t long before I settled into the rhythm of the book and was able to fully enjoy the windows into the characters’ lives. I was also pleasantly surprised that Mr. Cap was able to achieve real character depth with so many viewpoints vying for attention. Some characters are clearly more developed than others, but only a few are strictly “types.”

I really enjoyed watching many of the characters grow, or in some cases stay the same, as the story progressed. It was even more fun discovering how all of their lives were intertwined. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite character from this book, but if I had to make a choice, it would be Jerry. I thought that Mr. Cap presented Jerry’s life and developmental disabilities in a very real and yet sensitive way. Jerry knows he has a hard time doing things that other people don’t, but he has good heart and a healthy dose of courage and motivation to succeed in life. He is truly an inspiration. Seeing the world through Ankh’s eyes was also one of the unique parts of the book.

Though Mr. Cap doesn’t spend a lot of time in Ankh’s viewpoint, her simple and gentle thoughts seemed very natural to me and were definitely memorable and one of the things I liked most about Tangled Ties to a Manatee. Not only is Tangled Ties to a Manatee filled with a diverse group of interconnected characters, but the story also touches on a wide array of themes. Relationships are central in a story with so many characters and Mr. Cap touches on everything from simple friendship and budding romance to divorce. Each character and their actions ripple out to affect others in the story.

I must again commend Mr. Cap for being able to develop and manage so many characters in one story. Reading Tangled Ties to a Manatee was certainly an interesting experience. The longer I read, the further I was pulled into the “tangled” lives of all the characters. I highly recommend this Tangled Ties to a Manatee to anyone looking for a different kind of suspense.