A Murder in Time / Spellbound (books 54 and 55)

A Murder in Time / Jonas Saul

Synopsis – Marcus is a guy who thinks he has little to lose. In his 20s, he knows he will develop early onset Alzheimer’s disease in a few years. His mother is dead, and his father is a broken-down alcoholic. He works for low pay in an adult toy store. So he figures he’s gotta grab that brass ring one way or another before his lucid time runs out. But when Marcus robs the toy store, his plan doesn’t go off without a hitch or three. He doesn’t factor in that actions have consequences. Enter the secret weapon – Marcus discovers he can travel backward in time to “fix” his actions. But each “fix” leads to another consequence, and the consequences quickly become unbearable…

Reaction – Smooth, fluid writing, but the storyline gets more confused as the novel progresses. Granted, it’s a paradoxical time travel book, but at the end I was wondering if Marcus was already displaying Alzheimer’s symptoms. Marcus inexplicably seeks help from a therapist he knows has been drugging and raping him for years. That bothered me. He also keeps making little jumps back in time to prevent little mistakes, instead of jumping back to prevent the big mistake which started the whole mess. That also bothered me. High suspense, and I really rooted for the guy, even though he was an idiot.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Time-Novel-Jonas-Saul-ebook/dp/B00GJ2IHAS


Spellbound / Tim Kizer

Synopsis – What if you drive to some podunk town, check into a motel, and within a few days, start meeting people who say you’ve been there for months? What if you start to believe them? After all, these people seem friendly and honest. Heck, the whole town is downright likeable. And the motel itself – you wouldn’t mind calling it “home.” Come to think of it, that’s just what you’re gonna do. Be a permanent guest. Just like all the other guests at the motel. Never mind about your spouse and job left back in your former hometown. Mind control or demonic possession – who cares, as long as you and your new friends are happy.

Reaction – The first half of this book was staccato and flat. The characters were dull and the action was monotonous. But still, the writing had a nice dream-like quality, and I gradually found myself getting into the zombie-like rhythm. The second half of the book got more active and exciting. The spouse of the main character concocted all kinds of craziness to try to break the motel’s spell, which made for humorous reading. The repeated “penis” and “erection” references, however, only seemed to add to the odd one-dimensionality. Then the end was a true WTF moment. The storyline “resolved” itself without real explanation, unless you count an oh-so-brief non sequitur thrown into the last paragraph.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Spellbound—Suspense-Novel-Tim-Kizer-ebook/dp/B00KN9FHS8


Blood Land / River on Fire (books 52 and 53)

Blood Land / R.S. Guthrie

Synopsis – The wife of a small town sheriff is murdered. The confessed killer? The victim’s brother. The motive? No motive, it was an accident. Or so it would seem. Generations of pride and prejudice run deep in this saga of steel-jawed ranchers gone bad(der). A family feud has boiled over and flame is still stuck on high. Personal demons and crippling self-doubt be damned, this sheriff must see the trial of his wife’s killer through to the bitter end. Which weaknesses will he choose to obey? And who is ultimately guilty in a family ruled by greed and guns?

Reaction – A fair amount of grandiosity and cowboy angst, but the seamy and mysterious undercurrent made this modern western highly readable. The characters were well-balanced and kept me on the fence. High plains suspense with a mysteriously likeable antagonist. Read this if you’re in the mood for a for a broken cowboy hero tale with a satisfying double twist at the end.

Recommendation – This book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Land-James-Pruett-Mystery-ebook/dp/B008J4NKA6


River on Fire / Scott Pratt

Synopsis – A boy, abandoned as a baby, grows up in an orphanage in the 1960s. As an outcast in school, and a victim of circumstance at the home, he learns to endure physical, sexual, and verbal abuse as a rite of passage. Through the tedium of years of abuse and mentoring, he transforms from a sensitive pacifist to a brawling army enlistee. On the cusp of adulthood, underneath his hardened exterior, he might still embrace a sliver of innermost childlike peace…

Reaction – This coming-of-age memoir-style novel lent itself to immediate empathy with this main character. As it was set in the turbulent 1960s, the cast of characters were swept up in intense social struggle and ideological transformation. The ending was wrapped up rather quickly, but upon finishing the book, I found my views on what it means to survive an abusive childhood had changed. Despite the harshness of the hardships, the story, as a whole, was uplifting. I highly recommend this book to those interested in exploring childhood abuse survival in a novel context.

Recommendation – This book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/River-Fire-Scott-Pratt-ebook/dp/B006ZPRRVY


Haunted House / Floor Four (books 50 and 51)

Haunted House / Jack Kilborn

Synopsis – Torture porn survivors are offered one million dollars each if they survive one more night of torture porn in a supposedly haunted mansion. All in the name of science, of course – a mad scientist wants to make an anti-fear serum from the torture porn survivors’ blood. But a real scientist wouldn’t really torture actual people, right? That would be unethical as well as illegal. Most of them survivors sign up and show up, and the torture begins. Damn. And when the would-be millionaires realize the mad scientist really is a mad scientist, the plucky band of survivors must figure out how to survive… again.

Reaction – The bulk of the first half the book vaguely describes the torture the survivors endured before they arrive at the mansion. The second half of the book describes the torture at the mansion. Gruesome stuff. But it’s unapologetic torture porn, and some people delight in reading it. One-dimensional characters, a predictable plot, and a cartoon ending. For torture porn fans only.

Recommendation – I guess some people would find this book worthwhile in some universe somewhere.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-House-Terror-Jack-Kilborn-ebook/dp/B00BOWPZUS


Floor Four / A. Lopez, Jr.

Synopsis – A serial killer is finally shot and dies in a hospital, leaving his ghost behind to haunt the fourth floor. And the killer isn’t done killing. It seems he’s figured out a way to alternately possess people and take on material form. There’s some mad ghostly skills right there. After the hospital is abandoned, a trio of junior high school boys get caught up in the ghostly aftermath. Why won’t these kids listen to their elders these days? And wouldn’t ya know it, a dang whippersnapper’s done got himself possessed.

Reaction – A juvenile story with juvenile writing which may appeal to pre-teens. Shallow characters, a clunky storyline, and an unclear differentiation between imagination and reality, which I suspect was unintentional. The saving grace was it had the ineffable charm of a campfire story. A scary tale safe for all ages. Read this if you’re in the mood for an endearingly goofy ghost story.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Floor-Four-Lopez-Jr-ebook/dp/B00CTF9OOM


Pulse / Thirst (books 48 and 49)

Pulse / Kailin Gow

Synopsis – Poor Kalina. Her weird boyfriend died in a DUI accident, and now her dead boyfriend’s two half-brothers show up at her place with the hots for her. What’s a super smart and sexy high school girl to do? Resignedly, she must choose between these two devastatingly handsome, yet weird and kind of creepy beaus. To make matters worse, it turns out all three of the brothers are vampires, and (the smell of) Kalina’s Life Blood is irresistible to vampires. It gives them extra super vampire powers. And to further complicate the issue, she’s a virgin, and her blood isn’t ripe yet. And now vampires are coming out of the woodwork to get a taste of her. Or at least a sniff, until she ripens.

Reaction – Lots of windy weather and rogue wind gusts blowing around this YA novel. A high schooler dating a man centuries older than her was kind of creepy, but at least they didn’t do the deed. Shallow, under-developed characters and a predictable plot. The ever-present sexual tension was as irritating as the constant air-sniffing. This breezy teen vampire book might appeal to Twilight fans.

Recommendation – I guess some people would find this book worthwhile in some universe somewhere.

Get it here – http://smile.amazon.com/PULSE-Vampire-Series-Book-ebook/dp/B0041D8CPC


Thirst / Claire Farrell

Synopsis – Ava is a human-vampire hybrid – an outcast from both worlds. She wants desperately to suck blood, but the thought of it is icky. So her life sucks. But Ava has special Daywalker powers, which makes full-blooded vampires jealous. One day she rescues a human from a vampire and inadvertently “charms” him into being her minion. Now she can’t get rid of him. So she enlists the help of the vampire world and its fringe characters. Then things really start to suck. So to speak.

Reaction – This YA book had a promising start with the main character struggling against a life-long compulsion which repulsed her. But then it delved into vampire history and politics and the plot stalled. It picked up somewhere with a confusing cross and double cross of alliances. The supporting characters were stereotypical and lacked clear motivations. Too much “vampire,” even for a vampire book. Where did all the humans go? An odd, unexplained cold presence kept feeling up the main character. A disturbing torture scene toward the end. For die-hard vampire fans only.

Recommendation – I guess some people would find this book worthwhile in some universe somewhere.

Get it here – http://smile.amazon.com/Thirst-Ava-Delaney-Book-1-ebook/dp/B004E9U9AY


Barbie Girl / Dollhouse (books 46 and 47)

Barbie Girl / Heidi Acosta

Synopsis – The queen skank ho of the local high school is failing another class. So she makes a deal with coolnerd. He tutors her, and she will make the popuprep of his dreams jealous by pretending to be his skanky girlfriend. Too bad crackpot high school schemes do not always go as planned. Despite the tutoring, she is still failing, and in the meantime, skank ho and coolnerd fall in love lust. But miraculously, popuprep claims coolnerd, and skank ho and coolnerd have a falling out. Can they reclaim the lust they once shared?

Reaction – Lots of smelling and touchy-feely going on in this tale of hormones and high school cliques. And apparently the characters skipped English class the day contractions were covered. Aside from the implausible jealousy scheme, this YA book had some riveting scenes, including a suspenseful OD scene, and a harrowing beating scene. A couple supporting characters added charm, and the ending was well-executed.

Recommendation – You are taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Barbie-Girl-Baby-Heidi-Acosta-ebook/dp/B00A1GHSCG


Dollhouse / Anya Allyn

Synopsis – Four teens take a hike in a forest to complete a class assignment. When one of them goes missing, the other three decide to camp out in the forest to find her. The teens are kidnapped and held prisoner in a giant underground dollhouse. They now live with other kidnapped girls in the dark, cold, and damp twilight zone. Can they survive being drugged and malnourished long enough to execute their escape?

Reaction – Three teens camping out in a forest unsupervised is a bit implausible, but once the story got into the actual dollhouse, the mood and pace fell into place. Lots of teen angst and suffering. This YA book slowly immersed itself into the fantasy genre as the teens spent more time underground. A slow start, magical middle, and abrupt ending. Note – the version I read is no longer available on Amazon, and this book is not a standalone book, but rather the first one in a series.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get a different version here – http://www.amazon.com/Dollhouse-Anya-Allyn-ebook/dp/B00IY6QXN0


This Perfect Day / Plague Zone (books 44 and 45)

This Perfect Day / Ira Levin

Synopsis – In the future, a supercomputer controls civilization. The supercomputer decides everybody’s names, schooling, and careers. All eat the same, all play the same. All are content, cooperative, and drugged into compliance. But now and then a few individuals glimpse through the unity fog and wonder about a life without the lock-step conformity. What life was like before the supercomputer, when people where violent and selfish and sick. And now and then a few of these sick-minded individuals break away to try to destroy the supercomputer.

Reaction – The first third of this book was a bit dull with mechanical writing and shallow characters, even considering everybody was drugged. An odd preoccupation with sex ran throughout the book. A child sex scene, creepy and awkward, disrupted the flow of the story. Further on, an unexpected male on female rape scene also didn’t fit the story, and just added to the general misogyny reflected in the writing. Aside from those flaws, the book picked up in its action and intrigue just before the half-way point, and presented unexpected and intelligent questions about the meaning and value of freedom and conformity. An excellent premise with several exciting plot twists.

Recommendation – This hit and miss book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/This-Perfect-Day-Ira-Levin-ebook/dp/B004XEC084


Plague Zone / David Wellington

Synopsis – A family man decides to be a hero after the zombie apocalypse. Not by destroying all the zombies, buy by destroying just one of them – the one who took out his wife and child. And if he has to annihilate a few extraneous zombies in the process, well, that’s the price he has to pay. Now if he can only escape the little pocket of civilization he was lucky enough to stumble into, and immerse himself into the zombie masses to find and kill one particular undead brain-eater…

Reaction – The characters were a bit hung-ho and implausible, and the revenge motivation was eye-rollingly ridiculous. Nonetheless, this was a rip-roaringly exciting zombie apocalypse story. Plenty of walking dead suspense and action. Gruesome and creepy zombie descriptions and edge-of-your-seat escape scenes. A must read for zombie lovers.

Recommendation – This book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Plague-Zone-David-Wellington-ebook/dp/B009HNKE3O


The Heartbreak Cafe / Bite (books 42 and 43)

The Heartbreak Cafe / Melissa Hill

Synopsis – An ensemble of women, some strangers, some best friends, are united by pregnancies and baby daddy drama. A Hollywood starlet, a suburban mommy, a spoiled housewife, a spurned mistress, and a jilted girlfriend. Star-crossed love, accidental pregnancy, a one-night stand, a morning-after pill, a broken marriage, and single motherhood. Who will end up happily ever after? Who will end up broken and bitter? Mix and match.

Reaction – High drama in mommyville. The start of this book was like reading the loose, scattered pages of several diaries. Half-way through the stories had intertwined. By the end, the fates had been meted. A lot of descriptions of motivations, and descriptions of emotions. Reading this book is like watching a Jerry Springer marathon without all the hair-pulling, bitch-slapping, and chair-throwing.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Heartbreak-Cafe-Lakeview-1-ebook/dp/B005IG6488


Bite / Nick Louth

Synopsis – On the eve of revealing a malaria breakthrough, a scientist is kidnapped. Her boyfriend gets little help from the police, and so must find and rescue her himself, with the help of his comrades. Of course, their plans are foiled by evil henchmen and even more evil BIG PHARMA. In the meantime, a new malaria strain starts sweeping the planet. Do the good guys have the grit and muscle to save the scientist? Will BIG PHARMA squash the new malaria cure?

Reaction – The book started out fast-paced and exciting, but soon got bogged down with long, drawn-out scenes with long, drawn-out conversations. Isn’t there a missing scientist and a possible malaria cure somewhere? Cut through the chase! Pages from the missing scientist’s diary of her previous kidnapping and torture were interspersed throughout. Well-written, but could’ve been half as long. Read this if you’re into overly wordy good guys VS bad guys scenes interspersed with overly wordy torture scenes.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Bite-most-gripping-thriller-will-ebook/dp/B00H9H7R1M


WWIV – In the Beginning / A Gift of Ghosts (books 40 and 41)

WWIV – In the Beginning / e a lake

Synopsis – A henpecked husband and downtrodden dad is living a ho-hum life in the suburbs. Living day in and day out, trying to do what’s right, then one morning he wakes up and the power is out. All the power. No electricity. No phone, no internet, the cars won’t even start. What the hell? Was it an EMP? Mr. Hentrodden has time to ponder all this, as the wife and kids are out of town visiting relatives. After hemming and hawing while his neighborhood slowly falls apart, he makes a couple dunderheaded attempts to hit the road to look for his family, now MIA. Finally on the road, the real trouble begins. Will he go from “zero” to “hero”?

Reaction – What would you do if a massive EMP struck, knocking out ALL power? Would you try to ride out the event at home, hoping the power would somehow soon be restored? Would you pack and leave for a less populated and ultimately less dangerous area? How long would you take to decide? What if you were alone, your friends and family stranded in another city? How long would you trust people? I pondered all these questions and more while reading this book. The story had a likeable main character and well-developed supporting characters. A slow start, a nerve-wracking second half, and a bittersweet ending straight out of The Twilight Zone.

Recommendation – This book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/WWIV-In-The-Beginning-lake-ebook/dp/B00JASCIB2


A Gift of Ghosts / Sarah Wynde

Synopsis – Akira has a gift of ghosts. Seeing and hearing them, that is. And they can see and hear her too. After she lets that info slip, she loses her job as a scientist. Lucky for her, she gets hired at a paranormal company across the country. Time to start a new life. Too bad all these dead people won’t leave her alone. And ghosts can be dangerous to the gifted. Will Akira find a way to make her gift work for her, or will she soon have her own transition to a ghostly existence?

Reaction – A steady pace with a lot of unexpected twists in this ghost story. I found the main character pleasant enough, but not quite likeable. Most of the supporting characters were serviceable, but clichéd. An eye-rolling “nerd sex” scene which didn’t add much. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the fresh take on the transition world, and the descriptions of “ghost life.” The blending of science and the paranormal was delightful. Read this for an unusual take on a paranormal romance.

Recommendation – This book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Ghosts-Tassamara-Sarah-Wynde-ebook/dp/B006KF645E


3:00AM / Killer Cupcakes (books 39 and 40)

3:00AM / Nick Pirog

Synopsis – Henry Bins is only awake from about 3AM to 4AM every day. So he has to pack a whole lotta living into that one hour. Like witnessing the POTUS leave the scene of a murder, and tracking down a killer. And evading the FBI so he can play cards with his dad. Not to mention adopting an intrepid cat who thinks it’s a dog and… you get the idea. See, Bins always loses consciousness at 4AM, no matter where he is or what he’s doing. Good thing he’s a fast learner and a careful planner. Usually.

Reaction – Highly implausible, and highly entertaining. The story is a bit underdeveloped and has an abrupt ending, just like Henry Bins’ days hours. A quick, surrealistic thriller with an urban fantasy twist. Read this if you think you don’t have enough hours in your days.

Recommendation – This book renewed my will to live.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/3-m-Nick-Pirog-ebook/dp/B00FV4IT7Q/


Killer Cupcakes / Leighann Dobbs

Synopsis –High-heelaholic cupcake baker Lexy Baker (get it? Baker?) gets in over her head when her ex-boyfriend turns up dead. What’s a smart and savvy independent businesswoman to do? How about hook up with the hunky cop investigating the case, who also just happens to live next door? Will the feisty cupcake maker convince the strapping Chippendalesque cop the only cupcakes she has worth investigating are the ones under her baker’s apron?

Reaction – Cupcakes and clues and killers, oh my! Lots of frosting and sprinkles, but the sugar rush comes quickly, and the sugar coma hits before the loose ends are tied up. A shallow book, but a fun read. A few kooky supporting characters, and an obligatory yap dog. Read this if you want an easy, breezy, beach read to help you zone out. There’s even a cupcake recipe! I’m gonna veganize it, of course.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Killer-Cupcakes-Baker-Bakery-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00A0NOF7G/


Misty Falls / The Woods of Red Hill / The Monkey Wing (books 36, 37, and 38)

Misty Falls / Shaun Whittington

Synopsis – Ah, the golden years… retirement, rest, and relaxation. No responsibilities anymore, just freedom and… er… forgetfulness. Kicking back at a retirement home, making a few friends, and reminiscing about the good old days. You know, back when you weren’t being verbally abused, threatened, and physically assaulted. The good old days when you didn’t have to worry about a rapist and a potential murderer walking around your residence, sadistically taunting you and your friends. And you really don’t have a choice, because who’s gonna believe the senile rantings of a bunch of foggy old senior citizens? But for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. It just takes a senior citizen a bit longer…

Reaction – This story had a strong voice, and I enjoyed the conversational writing style. I also sympathized with the main character quickly and easily. Most of the book was depressing and lacked hope (based on true events), but the paranormal twist at the end was merciful, and fit seamlessly, in my opinion. Overall, the book was a deeply disturbing – yet ironically charming – tale of triumph of mind over matter.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Misty-Falls-Shaun-Whittington-ebook/dp/B00DFMR45Y/


The Woods of Red Hill / Shaun Whittington

Synopsis – Who’s brave enough to pay a visit to the haunted house? The house where a man butchered his family? Three neighborhood boys are up to the challenge. But first, a bunch of adults have to set the spooky mood and create a creepy atmosphere… Are they ever gonna get around to it? Cue the escaped mental patient hiding in the forest already!

Reaction – At first, this story was like pieces of a puzzle which may or may not be fitting together. A lack of flow in sentences and from scene to clichéd scene. Initially, a weak voice and surface treatment. A thin, seemingly disjointed plot which only picked up at the half-way point. The closer I got to the end, the more interested I became… then a surprise ending which I absolutely did not see coming. Gave me a chuckle.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Woods-Red-Hill-Shaun-Whittington-ebook/dp/B0082DB2J0/


The Monkey Wing / Shaun Whittington

Synopsis – Some people are cut out for prison jobs, most people aren’t. Just like some prisoners do well in prison, and most don’t. Unless you’re talking about Hayden Prison. Everything is going to hell in Hayden. Sure, it has normal prison stuff – drugs, beatings, rapes – but Hayden also has a curse blessing of unexplained stenches, insect infestations, and the occasional shredding of a prisoner. Too bizarre to be real? Maybe, but it can’t all be imaginary…

Reaction – Believable prison characters with believable prison scenes. But this book suffers from a severe shortage of pronouns. Readers don’t need to be reminded of the MC’s name in every paragraph throughout the entire story. Other than that, the storyline progresses at a pleasing pace, with plenty of action and plenty of suspense. Read this if you hate pronouns and love paranormal psychological horror with prison violence.

Recommendation – You’re taking your chances with this hit and miss book.

Get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Monkey-Wing-Shaun-Whittington-ebook/dp/B00C5PU7JM/



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