Beneath a Scarlet SkyAuthor Mark Sullivan turns in an amazing story with Beneath a Scarlet Sky. It’s based on the true story of Pino Lella, a young man thrust into the big picture of World War Two as it rages around his country (Italy) and changes people’s lives forever.

Pino’s predicament and response are no more courageous than other war heroes, but his vantage point certainly is. After his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, he and his brother are whisked away to the relative safety of Casa Alpina in the Italian Alps.

However, instead of being a place of safety, Pino joins a group of insurgents working secretly to smuggle refugees and downed allied pilots to the safety of Switzerland.

Pino is both daring and clever, and he’s a teenager in war who falls for an older woman, a beautiful widow, Anna. It creates what we could accept as just another tragedy and blessing at a time when the whole world was in chaos. At least until Pino’s parents convince him to enlist as a German soldier, which they think will keep him from being sent to the Russian front.

Instead, Pino is injured and then recruited to be the personal driver for General Hans Leyers, the most powerful German commander in Italy. He knows the Third Reich’s strategies and plans for Italy, and before we know it, Pino is a most powerful spy suddenly inside the German High Command.

And still there  is Anna, his family, and the country that kept him happy and safe until the German occupation. A story that runs 526 pages. The book is currently $2.99 on Kindle and Free on Kindle Unlimited.

What the author presents is a tragic, gripping tale set against the backdrop of war. A thought-provoking and triumphant story that unveils the brutality held in the deep recesses of the minds of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, and the passion and love held in the souls of people all across the scared lands of Italy. Especially those highlighted in Mark Sullivan’s story.

In the end, this is a story of war, courage, but also the love Pino feels for his country and for Anna. The writing and plot-line is steady, sometimes much more detailed than others, with a hint of a memoir.

At Amazon, the book has more than 23,000 reviews. Mine is likely nothing new to the mix, but this is an enjoyable book, obviously loved by many. In fact, it has garnered 96% 5 and 4 star reviews, with 83% of them the highest available. Now that’s something!

I’ve also listed this book as Fiction, although the setting and characters are based on true events. I’m sure readers of this story understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction and are willing to accept this as a novel, not a definitive recreation of the events in every detail.

Five Stars

 

getting thin is murder - kindle coverEver been on a diet? Ever looked at someone at the beach or in a movie and said, “Wow, I’d die for that body.” Hmmm. Careful what you ask for.

Author Al W Moe brings characters to life in his private detective mystery Getting Thin is Murder. Set in Santa Barbara, California. Ex-ballplayer Blair Saxon makes a difficult and stilted transition to detective work, fighting real and imagined obstacles at every corner.

Best friend Megan, guides his thoughts and actions when she can, but Saxon’s got issues. He lacks a filter in public settings and his whit isn’t nearly as sharp as he thinks. So, he takes to investigating sideways, like a slow curve-ball, digging up more than he or Megan expect while fighting an over zealous police department.

The characters are well-motivated, if only slightly introspective, with the exception of Katarina, a tough local lawyer and as luck has it, Saxon’s sister. The pace is moderate to upbeat, building to an unexpected last few chapters that turn the story towards a surprise ending, but promising a sequel.

I’m reminded slightly of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher in this novel with colorful main characters in the forefront and rather shadowy back characters lurking behind secrets, lies, and corporate B.S.

Unfortunately, the corporate issues revolve around an all-too true narrative where healthy, natural products aren’t always what they are cracked-up to be. Is it worth striving for the perfect body when getting it might kill you?

Getting Thin is Murder is available in Kindle and is a Kindle Unlimited book, so it’s free if you are a member. Give it a look!

Four Stars

 

 

 

rotten magicAuthor Jeffrey Bardwell shapes a strange, complex world out of a bucket of words and gives us plenty to chew on in a metal and magic, steampunk saga. There’s some adverb gristle to chew through, but Bardwell’s writing is surprisingly good, making Rotten Magic indie gold.

The story begins in first person with Drusilla, an Artificer’s apprentice, mired in the enigma of a cold metal box of gears he can’t figure out. Not that it should be a surprise, since the other apprentices are also at a loss for what the box really is. Except for Devin, who joins us in the second chapter in third person.

Drusilla  musses while missing her old friend, “Devin was a human puzzle box….by the five gods, you were just starting to open up and then suddenly you go silent on me. What broke?”

We don’t know until later, when we find that the Artificers are revered, and those with magic, the Mages, are violent criminal outcasts. Or are they?

Eventually, Devin admits he loves the art of dragons and builds mechanical armor befitting the most godly dragon, but is that enough for him? Of course not.

Rotten Magic is the first book in the Artifice Mage Saga, a three book series. And, it appears it was originally written and offered as a much shorter lead-in to the series than its current 336 pages.

The cover may also have changed, as both Rebecca Frank and Les Solot added work. It would appear Les Solot is the artist of the new third edition, and I like the cover very much.

Characters are well developed in this story, with motivation for several to guard their secrets, and try to destroy their true or imagined adversaries. To make things better, the book is currently free. Amazon lists it now as:

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Gaslamp

Give it  a look. What are you afraid of?

Chasing the blue skySome things are simple for people. Others things are a bit crazy. For me, a big challenge is getting in the front door each night, and I love it. That’s because I’m greeted by my wife, and our girls, and our dogs. And while scuffles ensue from time to time with both the girls and the dogs eventually trying to escape between my legs or through the open door, it’s always great.

I know that feeling is something author Will Lowrey has for dogs, and his story Chasing the Blue Sky  proves it. Still, you don’t have to love dogs to enjoy the story of Toby, a puppy given-up to an animal shelter. The writing is solid, without being overly schmaltzy or animal-driven preachy. It’s a real story through the eyes of man’s-best-friend. From the mistaken kindness of taking an outdoor animal a new blanket, to the cold, frozen iceberg it becomes in frigid weather.

Most of us try our best to treat our animal friends well, but we make as many mistakes as they do in trying to interpret what each other needs. That’s life. But, we can always learn to do better. Chasing the Blue Sky made me want to do better.

The author presents a rich story seen through the tiny squares of chain-link fences, the  low level of cold concrete floors, and the love that comes from adopting a new family member. It’s a read, available on Kindle for just $2.99, and free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Give it a home.

Four Stars

Coven Murdersfront1025 (1)Author Brian O’Hare makes a daring move in the third book of his Inspector Sheehan Mysteries by setting the stage instantly with a ritual killing, and by gruesomely linking both crime and horror genre’s in The Coven Murders.

I’m a fan of both, and enjoyed the Inspector’s sharp insight and determination. And, since I’ve never been to Ireland where the story is set, I got a kick out of learning a bit about local customs, speech, and even the temperament of the main characters.

I came away feeling as though I’d watched a somewhat twisted episode of NCSI New Orleans, with Scott Bakula as the Inspector. And that’s not a bad thing, as Sheehan’s  investigators battle the local environment and political leanings, as well as strict religious views dependent on just who they come in contact with.

What’s left is a smart, well-honed story with a crew of inspectors doing a scary but believable job. And, the crew is manned by believable characters. They have friends, families, and a place to go after a hard day at work. They just can’t get the day’s work out of their minds.

The Inspector himself isn’t perfect, but he’s meticulous, inquiring, and well worth following along for the trip through Northern Ireland.

I enjoyed the novel and think you’ll feel the same way. And as a reward, there are other books in the series that let you follow Inspector Sheehan on similar investigations. So, give author Brian O’Hare a look!

Four Stars

Smugglers and Scones cover revealAuthor Morgan C. Talbot offers up a smart, smirky cozy mystery in Smugglers & Scones. As mysteries go, I tend more towards hard-boiled fare, but sometimes change is good. In this case, the change was very good! I honestly didn’t want to put my Kindle Fire down.

This is a first-person affair with Oregon Coast bed-and-breakfast queen Pippa Winterbourne running the show in Moorehaven. Well, at least when Rex and Svetlana, her feline fans, aren’t in charge.

I’ve spent time in Oregon, and my visits were always blanketed with fog and buffeted with cold. Probably nothing has changed. In Scones, Pippa’s business location is the former home of a world-famous mystery writer, and her guests arrive daily to wallow in writers’ block or finish their little darlings and get the pages off to their publishers. That sounds fine for me. Might as well be inside writing if the weather’s a bit blocky outside.

Of course I wouldn’t have kept reading without that tricky murder and the clues leading a call-back to Prohibition days. Yeah, there’s plenty here to keep you reading, and pondering what’s up next as you reach the end of each chapter. Really an enjoyable read.

Four Stars

HHow Speleology - book coverIf the title of Michael Bernhart’s latest book is confusing, don’t feel bad. Speleology is the study of caves and cave systems, and you already know about sex drives, but the snake? Well, I think Bernhart is selling himself short here because this is the third book in a four book series and it reads well, but the titles aren’t helping to get readers. That’s unfortunate, and while he almost lost me because of the cover, I did start reading the story, and it was interesting.

The truth is that How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive is a good clean (mostly) read about a family that travels to Georgia to hunt lost treasure left during the Civil War. It draws on a possibly true legend of lost gold and presents some characters with colorful back stories of their own.

Bernhart writes in first-person and the main character, Max, tells us about his wife Sally and their two twins, who somehow manage to convince their parents to go on the treasure hunt in the first place. Much of the story is tongue-in-cheek, although there are some serious issues involved when the foursome is forced to interact with the Ku Klux Klan, who is also searching for the same treasure. Needless to say, struggles ensue.

This is a 265-page, easy-reading book set in 1993. It’s available on Kindle for $2.99, and you are likely to enjoy the read.

Three Stars

 

Tess_photo

Being an author isn’t the easiest job in the world, but when you approach it with grace and determination, good things are likely to happen. Our interview with Tess Thompson.

Why do you love to write?

I love to write stories about redemption and second chances, particularly as they relate to finding love again. I’m always drawn to stories that are hopeful in nature, based on human decency and feature characters who are honorable and brave.

Where do your ideas come from?

I’m inspired by the stories of real people in my own life and those I hear about on the news. I’m amazed by what people can endure and still get up every morning to fight another day. The cruelty of some baffles me, particularly in the electronic age where we can hide behind computers and spread hate. But as disheartening as that is, all around us are people doing the opposite. Spreading love, giving of themselves with no expectation of anything in return, laying down their lives so that others might live, sacrificing of themselves for the good of others, loving despite incredible loss and pain. Ordinary heroes are all around us if you look close enough. They inspire me.

What is your background?

I grew up in a small town in Oregon surrounded in the love of my family and our community. After graduation from high school, I earned a degree in Drama at USC. With my degree in hand, I moved back to the Pacific Northwest and became a receptionist, which led into a fifteen-year career in business. During that time, I worked in small theaters in Seattle as an actor and director. My yearning to write, however, was always a primary goal. Once I figured out I was a novelist and not a playwright, everything fell into place.

Who is your favorite author or favorite book?

There are too many authors to name, but my first love will always be To Kill a Mockingbird.

What do you want say in your current book Riversnow

Riversnow is about courage. A particular kind of bravery displayed by women who must go on after suffering through sexual assault. I wrote it for all the friends I’ve known over the years who suffered through such experiences, often at the hands of men in their inner circle – men they should have been able to trust. It saddens me to think how many. However, like my character, Gennie, they fought hard to regain their lives after the violence, taking down the inner and outer demons who wanted to destroy them. These women are the embodiment of courage.

Author Tess Thompson is obviously unafraid of tackling serious subjects in her novels, but she surrounds her protagonist with real people, characters that have depth and lives of their own. They aren’t just background scene painting so the topic at hand isn’t the only reason keeping readers turning the pages.

Riversnow is coming soon, May 2, 2017 to be exact, and fourth in the very successful River Valley Series. The first novel in this series, Riversong, has more than 600, 4 and 5 Star Reviews at Amazon, so this latest book is much anticipated. It is priced at $3.99, but it’s free for those with Kindle Unlimited.

Riversnow_tease

 

 

 

Mysteries of the MacabreIn the world of Horror short stories, Stephen King rules all. His Kindle books dominate the top twenty list with six entries and 14 of his books are found in the top 40. What’s a new author to do? Dream on?

Well, there’s really nothing that can be done except offer up to the gods and the masses an exceptional collection of horror stories that capture a reader’s imagination right from the first words spilled across the pages like blood. And, it seems Jon Grimcrafter has done just that.

His book, Mysteries of the Macabre, is now available on Kindle with 176 pages of frightfully strange and eerie stories. Nine of them. Each better than the last. The book is part of Kindle Unlimited, so it’s free for those in KU, $1.99 for everyone else.

As for the author, the name is excellent. Really. Grimcrafter. So cool. As for the book, the stories remind me of Stephen King, maybe Clive Barker. Perhaps even Edgar Allan Poe, since the book starts with a poem.

Q: So, Jon, why do you write, and what do you want to say in this book of short stories?

A: Writing for me is cathartic: a method to transform my internal demons into dark plots and nightmarish characters.

Q: That sounds scary all by itself. Where did your idea’s for the stories in this book come from?

A: It is a mystery where my ideas come from for not even I can trace their origins. Perhaps they come from everything I’ve seen, heard and done all permuted and disfigured into one blob of horror, fantasy, and magic.

Q: I liked what you said about nightmares, that they can be beautiful if a master engineers them correctly. Want to give a lead-in to a couple of your book’s stories?

A: How about “Serial killer Jack has a severed human head in the freezer. That head will come back to haunt him,” and “Zendra’s own parents give her up to be sacrificed in a satanic ritual. She manages to escape, but why does everyone she sleeps with die within the hour?”

Thanks, Jon, those definitely fit the Horror genre.

You want a good scary book to read? Be careful what you wish for!

Pipeliner Book CoverThink of your days in high school and tell me you don’t wonder what would have happened if things had gone just a little differently; a different best friend, a better second date, or more success with the popular kids, sports, or other entertainment. Get the picture? That’s what Shawn Hartje shoots for in Pipeliner, a coming of age story about a kid growing up in Idaho (you da pimp) but “bound for glory in Portland and Seattle, exotic places where he planned to become a famous rock guitarist—once he escaped from Helen Springs, population 58,000 and hub town of southern Idaho.”

When you are 17, everything is possible, and everything you want is out of reach, even in  Jason Krabb’s world of the 1990’s, a punk/grunge guitarist wannabe trying to make it with a new crew in town, girls and guys, bringing gas lines through the land. Pipeliners.

Hartje has direction in his writing, a plan to bring some wit and sense to everyone’s younger days. The writing is descriptive, if slightly direct-narrative, the plot moderate and filled with the sex-topics of high school and after-high school in a “what did you do on your summer vacation,” saga. Nostalgic for yesteryear? Then this story is tuned to the right station for you.

Pipeliner runs 248 pages, published by Helen Springs Press in late November, 2016. Kindle edition is $3.99.

Three Stars