Deep Blood by Phillip Thompson

Deep Blood

by Phillip Thompson

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary Fiction

Four Stars

This story is a gritty, manly murder mystery tale, written about a time and place when men don’t cry and folks don’t take a picture of their dinner with Instagram. Everything fits to make messed-up characters, crazy backstories, and wonderful life to everyone in the story. Every character has character from Colt to Mr. Wofford, the kooky witness who looked like a “bloated version of Raggedy Andy”. “Just a little bit on the country side”, they called it. The main character’s description of spitting his chewing tobacco, the pleasure it gives him, and the satisfying irritation it causes in his father is a great example of the little, relevant details of the story. Somehow Phillip has made even the little things like this enrich the atmosphere .

Under the colorful atmosphere lie deep themes of shame, abuse, racism, family sins, and blame. Colt keeps his wounds to himself, but they follow him wherever he goes and color all his actions. Most characters are the same and it feels like a special treat when each one opens up. No character escapes the pain and scarring of a life in a poor town where racism and poverty have affected everyone.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to adults (some language, sensitive themes, and sex). I read the whole thing on a Saturday and every time my kids or the dog interrupted me, I couldn’t wait to get back to Deep Blood. I wanted to read more about Colt at the end. I hope Phillip decides to write more books about this character!

After reading Deep Blood, I realized how meaningful the title is. No, I’m not going to explain. Read the book! I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

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Thorn by Intisar Khanani

thorn

 

Thorn

by Intisar Khanani

Genre: Fantasy, Folk Tale

Five stars

The King from the neighboring land of Menaiya pays a visit to the humbler land of Adania. Princess Alyrra assumes they visit for trade reasons, but soon the naïve and reclusive princess understands that the king’s visit to her widowed mother is for the purposes of marriage negotiation. She will marry prince Kestrin and there is no argument she can make. Is this her escape from the troubles of her life or a trade-in for even greater problems? Alyrra doesn’t feel equal to the  increase in importance and responsibility.

Magic intrudes, first in the appearance of a mysterious mage one night in Alyrra’s room. He has but a moment to speak to her before his malevolent enemy, The Lady, appears with terrible and vague threats to her or to the Menayan prince.

All her fears turn on their heads on the journey to Menaiya and marriage, when her lady companion, Valka, appears in the forest with The Lady, who steals her identity. Switching bodies with the princess, Valka enters Menaiya as the bride. Alyrra must endure her displeasure as the superior power and is sent off to tend the geese. Now living as the Goose Girl called Thorn, is this the escape Alyrra longed for or is it condemnation for the people of Menayia? Can she ignore her duty as princess, or must she face the dangers together with Prince Kestrin?

Intisar has written a thoroughly enjoyable, beautiful story. Retelling the classic tale of The Goose Girl, she broadens the horizons of the story and adds depth to places one might not expect it. I especially liked Alyrra’s struggle with the relief of casting off an oppressive identity versus the responsibilities it still holds over her heart. I also loved the exploration of The Lady, her motivations and grievances, and how Alyrra appeals to her for mercy.

I read the same tale re-told in “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale, but it was entirely different. I truly believe that each author will write a completely different tale even if given the same plot as a basis. Thorn demonstrates just that.

The ending expanded the heart of the tale, in my opinion. The character of Alyrra was forced to wrestle with her yearning of a simple, peaceful life of obscurity, and the great need of the helpless people around her for someone to stand for them. A terrified, reclusive girl becomes a true princess and hero. Her heroism grew from her strength of heart and her compassion, and I really love that. Thorn is a truly enjoyable, rich read, both entertaining and challenging. I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

GoodReads: goodreads.com/book/show/14059999-thorn

Buy on Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Thorn-ebook/dp/B00869SADQ/

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thorn-intisar-khanani/1111104034?ean=2940016184708

Apple iStore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/thorn/id562695485

Syd and Marcy by Beaird Glover

Syd and Marcy

by Beaird Glover

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery

Five stars

This book is FREE for Kindle on the review posting date of this review 5/30/2013!

Syd and Marcy have found one another and seem to complete one another. Hollywood and fame call their names and anyone who gets in their way can just die. Literally. The clerk at the Zippy-Doo did, and look what it got him. Armed with a camera and a desire for renown, Syd and Marcy take Memphis by storm. But when Marcy appears on the news in a security camera video from the Zippy-Doo, the two begin to see the consequences of their recklessness. Syd’s backwoods family in Yalahoma Township, Mississippi seem like the perfect refuge. Syd’s uncle Enid is too much like Marcy’s abusive father, though, and before they know it, Enid has a bullet in his brain. Enid’s daughter/wife Sardis, mentally unsound and nonverbal, remains the only witness to the crime. Yalahoma Sheriff Litton Shaw gets involved when he accidentally hits Sardis in her panicked flight around town. Litton brings his good friend Blaine on to help solve the case. But Blaine seems to take it all too seriously. Litton just wanted to help the poor troubled Sardis, after all.

After some brilliant detective work by Blaine and some stupid mistakes on Syd and Marcy’s part, Blaine gets them in his sights. But will Blaine turn them over to Litton and the justice system with very little evidence to convict them, or will he take the law into his own hands?

This book was not at all what I expected. A tale of young love and idealism, this book is not. The cover and synopsis seemed to promise a crazy romp with a mischievous couple. But the story held a lot of depth. Each character seems to symbolize an important aspect of morality, acting out the natural result of their outlook. The bad parts are bad and compassion for everyone (except maybe Blaine) grows with each chapter. The characters screw up and do some bad things on purpose, and then feel remorse. Despite their strong link with their predominant trait, the characters are all very believable as people also. I felt my own connection to each one and the innate human similarities between us.

The mystery of the story is unique because it isn’t whodunit or how, but will Syd and Marcy get caught. Part of the time I hoped they would, but then the author would show more about why they did what they did and I would feel compassion for them. Even the villain, who wasn’t the one we suspected, suffered from a radical dysfunction. Beaird did a great job of making me wonder who was really the “bad guy” and then see that, like life, it was all of them and also none of them. Beaird Glover has crafted a smart and fascinating read. I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

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Love and Other Subjects by Kathleen Shoop

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Love and Other Subjects

by Kathleen Shoop

Genre: Contemporary, Women’s

Five stars

Carolyn Jenkins is a new teacher, brimming with optimism and ready to save the world. Well, she’s at least ready to save her class full of kids from a life doomed to illiteracy and menial jobs. Life, however, turns out to be more complicated and dismal than her idealistic vision. The reality of an inner-city school and a broken system threatens to ruin her dreams. Her personal life isn’t doing so hot either. After breaking up with her long-time boyfriend, Alex, her BFF roommates Laura and Nina aren’t necessarily supportive. When she meets a mysterious older man named Jeep, Carolyn gains the courage to move forward with her life-changing plan. Over the school year, Carolyn learns the dirty truth about the school where she works, Klein the sadistic principal who is also her boss, and about Jeep’s crazy family. Can Carolyn push past all this imperfection to grasp happiness or will she lose everything she hoped for?

Carolyn was a character of radical highs and lows. Her optimism and quirky courage warred with her negativity and over-analasys of the faults in her life, others, and herself. It was kind of annoying at first and showed her extreme immaturity. Kathleen uses all the awful setbacks in Carolyn’s life to expose her immaturity, aggravate her moodiness, but also to bring out her strength and mature her. I liked Carolyn more and more through the book as I left behind her spoiled whininess and sympathized with her.

The other characters served well to help Carolyn suffer more, but they were also her strength. I liked the juxtaposition of the different personalities of Nina and Laura, who Carolyn also worked with, and their different perspectives on life. Jeep, the love interest, was a great elusive temptation and ideal in Carolyn’s life. I don’t think I could have thought of a crazier name for him, and pairing him with a brother-in-law named Ford was just hilarious.

This book entertained me and drew me through the story without boredom. The pacing was great and I loved all the subtle details of conversation and background. Thanks for the great read, Kathleen!

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The Footloose Killer by Michelle Johnson

The Footloose Killer

By Michelle Johnson

Genre: Mystery, Law Enforcement

Lexi Sawyer and Morgan Pryce are a team of detectives for the Virginia Beach Police Force. They’ve been searching for eight years now trying to solve the case of the Footloose Killer. The heat is on and the Mayor demands answers as yet another dismembered right foot washes up along the shore. It’s been the same story at this time of year each year. They can’t let their personal problems overshadow this case or they could be out of a job. With the Chief threatening to put the blame on them if the case isn’t solved, Pryce battles his demons of alcoholism while Sawyer pines for her missing Navy Seal fiancé. Can they crack this case with no leads? Will their deep friendship blossom into something more in all the stress?

This was a great, quick read; short but sweet. The characters were well developed and I could identify with them (especially Pryce’s coffee addiction). I enjoyed Pryce and Morgan’s relationship and their hint of attraction to each other. There was a lot of case discussion over a restaurant table, which made me worry about the detectives’ waistlines.  I also enjoyed the way the plot unfolded and the great side characters that adorned it. The Hills were priceless! The action was all wrapped up in the quaint package of a resort town where the locals recognized their waitress.

This book was tight and well-thought. There was a ton packed into the small space, but I never felt like I missed out on anything. It was beautifully done. Bravo!

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Drayling by Terry J. Newman

Drayling

by Terry J. Newman

Genre: Science Fiction

Uri Graves is a government official in a Society purposefully and willingly cut off from communication and movement outside local districts. Under the Dunstan Heathfield Revolution, the BFF, or the British Friendly Federation, lives a life of peaceful tranquility. But Uri and his fellow Drayling district citizens are plunged into a disturbing position when the upper government begins changing their way of life. Is the new Archwitan, the highest leader in the BFF, corrupt? Why are these strange and unpatriotic changes being wrought? Is their lifestyle even what is seems to be–what it’s supposed to be? Uri, his son Marius, and a team of fellow Drayling citizens are going to find out, even if it means treason.

Set in the future permeated by the gentility of a time gone by, this book was a calm, dignified, fascinating political mystery. The peacefulness of the book’s ambiance didn’t detract at all from the enormity of the story’s tragedy. Despite a puzzling font irregularity, Terry presented a diverging tapestry of refined life and the precarious footing on which it stood.

The characters exuded childlike innocence and earnest desire for right. Uri was a mixture of experience and knowledge paired with naiveté and a trusting disposition. The characters treated every setback with calm deliberation and attention to one another’s feelings. I couldn’t help but like them and hope for the best for their sakes. I particularly enjoyed the ending which revealed their understanding of the sham their life had been and the colossal challenge of rectifying it.

You can even tell by my writing in this review how the book’s atmosphere affected me. I felt like I was reading a Regency novel a Sci-fi, and a political drama all at the same time. Bravo, Terry!

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Island of Illusions by Jennifer L. Jennings

Island of Illusions

by Jennifer L. Johnson

Genre: Mystery

Sara Woods is a masseuse with a budding new career as a private detective. Richard, the pro showing her the ropes, sends her and her husband on a faux golfing trip to Oahu, Hawaii so Sara can secretly help him track down the kidnapper of baby Toby. Will Sara’s crumbling marriage  stand the test of a vacation and the truth? Will she give into the mutual attraction between her and tech expert on the team, Max Stevens? Can they still crack the case when Murder gets thrown in the mix?

This was a well-crafted, realistic mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Through the story I wondered what was going to happen next and how they were going to figure it all out. I appreciated the realistic ending, not tidy black and white, but complicated, like life. The action flowed and the scenes were laid out just right.

Though the story stood by itself and I could easily discover the characters and their relationships, I think I missed out on a lot of the subtleties having not read the previous books in the series. Some relationships were unclear and some of the fallout of past interactions flew over my head.

I have mixed emotions about Sarah as a main character. I kept wondering why a masseuse would be better at detective work than a pro, and conversely why such an intelligent woman would choose a career as a masseuse. I identified with her feelings and her place in life, being the same age, but I had a lot of trouble liking Sarah as a character amid the ugliness of indifference in her marriage. Her eagerness to jump into another man’s…er…arms right away didn’t win her any sympathy from me either. I also didn’t trust the too-soon love interest Max. He  was just too conveniently eager for me to believe he was the catch Sara thought him to be. The tang of adultery ruined their romantic moments for me.

Sarah’s love of food gained me a pound just by reading them and her coffee moments made my mouth water. My own love of Hawaii was reflected in her delight at her surroundings, too. I don’t blame Richard’s wife for being upset she didn’t get to join them.  The details of this book were beautiful, and the attention to the subtle things really made this into an intelligent mystery.

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Flower Bowl Spell by Olivia Boler

Flower Bowl Spell

by Olivia Boler

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Memphis Zhang sees fairies. Sure, she lives in San Francisco, but that’s pushing the West Coast Weird Factor a bit. She thought she’d left her Wiccan past behind her and settled into the ranks of “normal” life. A push in a Metro tunnel puts an end to that, though, and suddenly the world comes alive with all sorts of supernatural activity.

Memphis can’t help but reconnect with the religion she was raised to and the unusual powers she possesses. Unfortunately, someone else also has powers — someone with sinister motives. A reporter who writes stories about entertainment, Memphis has to find the who, what, when, where, and why for an event that promises to be anything but entertaining. She has to protect her friends and two little girls who are tossed into the middle of it all.

Olivia has crafted an interesting tale with a lot of depth. Though I don’t share Memphis’ religious perspective, I could appreciate her openness, tolerance, and struggle for the truth. I liked her courage and faithfulness to those near to her. I also enjoyed the mixed-heritage confusion she shouldered like a pro, and her confidence in what she loved and what she knew about herself.

The fantasy element of the story sparkled, with fairies, statues blowing raspberries, and a hula doll that can drive! Interesting and sometimes hilarious explanations illuminated these wonders in scientific terms. Memphis and her open disposition absorbed them all and wielded them in the battle against the evil lurking around her.

The elements of past and present, history and mythology, culture and beliefs, all layered nicely to the book’s conclusion. This one was a page-turner! Thanks, Olivia, for the great read!

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Life in Death by Harlow Drake

Life in Death

By Harlow Coban

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, African American

Kari Marchant is a Social Worker caught in a deadly web of secrets and murder. During a crunch of cases when one social worker goes on her honeymoon, a little girl falls through the cracks. Detectives Nicolet and Cobb step in to follow the clues and find the person who killed Patience. The farther they delve, the stranger things become and the more people die. The murders are gruesome and the motives are worse. Can they find the killer before the there are no witnesses are left?

This was a fun read with interesting characters and a cool and surprising plot. Harlow kept me guessing about who did it and why throughout the book, and hit me with a lot of big surprises. The main phrase I’d use about the book, though, is “More, please.” I wanted more background on the characters and on the Liberian angle. I wanted more detail about the actual deaths and the investigation. I wanted to learn more about the terrifying villain and his sick agenda. I wanted more tension and detail about the budding romance between Nicolet and Kari. I wanted humor in those little places where it screamed for it, but was left out.

Life in death is an entertaining read with an ending that made me think wow, that was weird, but it could have been a really thrilling and gripping story if there was more of it.

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Revolussion by Kathy Bell

Revolussion

by Kathy Bell

Genre: Technothriller, Science Fiction

The Earth is in danger from alien species, and the only one standing in their way is Dawn Ingram. Oh and her two hundred and twelve kids and grandkids. Strange things are afoot between Dawn and her progeny as they work with the Three Eleven team and Storyteller Stew Singleton to prepare for 11/11/11 and the war with the Efigee. Can they defeat these heartless creatures and save the planet or will they be harvested to build their ships?

This book really shows how much Kathy Bell has learned about writing. The complexity of the book is unmarred by rambling or confusing descriptions. Kathy tells us just what we need to know with flair. The character of Dawn has matured into something other than human, but still relatable. She and her descendants share that touch of creepy that fascinated me. I loved the twists and turns as they scrambled to discover what was happening and how to set it right. The science was a blast and Dawn’s struggle with her maternal instincts, her desire to save humanity, and the enormity of what she has to do is compelling. I even liked the corny use of some of the more hokey science fiction traditions. They fit and added irony rather than corniness to groan about. Kathy’s ability to depict the individual feelings of the many contributors to the Pluman collective as well as their shared experiences was excellent, and the effect was really cool.

Kathy’s Acknowledgements said that it took her three years, and those were three years well-spent. Even if the first book makes you want to give Adya Jordan a wedgie, like it did me, I’d encourage you to push on because the second book was way better, and this one was a delight to read.

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