Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review: Reunion by Jeff Bennington

Reunion – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat

334 Pages
Nexgate Press
ISBN# 9780615450865

‘Breathing heavy from carrying the tote across the parking lot, David barged into the cafeteria, shot one round into the ceiling and shouted, “Attention everyone! Attention! My name’s David Ray, and some of you…are gonna die!” For a moment, the crowd sat quiet and still. David made a mental note of their blank faces. They probably think it’s a firecracker or a joke, he thought. I’ll show ‘em it isn’t a joke. Mr. Gardner strutted toward David, exuding his authority, but David pulled the trigger and shot a couple of the students nearby. Mr. Gardner threw his arms over his head, ducked down and crawled toward the wounded students to help. David squinted hard, looked into the crowd with dead eyes, and began shooting. Bodies scattered as the cafeteria erupted with screams, falling bullet shells, the squeaking of sliding sneakers and the turning over of chairs. He watched their scared bodies hide and tremble in fear and listened to their voices question who and why. Their fear gave him strength, feeding his adrenalin, pressing him deeper into the crowd. He knew exactly where to go. His tormentors’ locations were too predictable. The cliques always sat in the same places. David stepped forward and located his prey. He shot another round and heard another scream. He repeated the process, over, and over.’

The school massacre took place 20 years ago ending with eight students dead, several wounded physically but many more wounded mentally. Maria Vasquez lost her beloved Darrin, and to cope with her memories became a counselor working with PTSD patients. As the 20th anniversary of the killings as well as the 20th reunion of her graduating classapproached, Maria decided that there were probably others from her class that might benefit from a reunion as a way of facing their memories and fears.

Of those Maria was able to contact, only five responded and agreed to the reunion. Up until the day of the massacre, senior student Bryan Jacobs had planned to become a doctor. His plans changed and he became a policeman in hopes of helping to prevent the event from reoccurring. He would attend the reunion. Kate Schmidt Tooley still lived in the town of Crescent Falls and was married to Nick. Nick’s twin brother Randy was killed when David Ray mistakenly shot him instead of Nick. Nick deals with his memories by drowning them and seeing “ghosts” of David who he feels is trapped within the school Kate will be attending but probably without Nick. Lana Jones became a writer who, along with her daughter Zoe, travels around the country talking to students about the David Rays in the world. She will attend. Tanner Khan deals with his memories by creating challenges. He climbs mountains, crosses rivers and sails oceans. But when the invitation came to return to Crescent Falls for the reunion, he saw this as his biggest challenge and accepts.

These are the five who accepted the invitation to create a reunion. When it is decided to hold the actual event at the school itself, Bryan starts to have second thoughts. As part of his duty as a policeman he checks on the now deserted school. He has heard sounds and seen things at the old school that are out of the norm. But he also feels, like the others, that this may be the best place to start healing.

As I read Reunion I felt like I had stepped into a movie. As I followed each character’s story and their method of coping with their own tragedy I felt as if I knew them personally. This book is so well written that if it isn’t picked up to be made into a movie then the industry is missing out. The characters, story and events are so believable that you can’t help but picture each as something you’ve just read in the paper or seen on a news strip. For those of you who enjoy a great paranormal mystery, Reunion is a must read!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Ring of Lies by Victoria Howard

Ring of Lies
Victoria Howard
Romantic suspense
Available from Vanilla Heart Publishing
ISBN: 9781935407683
November 201o

Grace Elliott doesn't have a perfect marriage but she loves her husband. When he dies in a car crash everything she thought they had begins to unravel. It seems the conferences he's been going to lately have been trips with a mistress to a home he owns in Florida. The only person she knows in the USA, Jack West, agrees to try to help her resolve the increasingly dangerous dilemma she faces. It seems likely that her husband got money illegally to carry on his illicit affairs. Some very nasty people want it back.

Victoria Howard pens a suspenseful tale full of intrigue. Have to admit I guessed wrong about who the culprit was until near the end of the book. The trail gets complicated by Jack's involvement with the FBI. He's also in a relationship that gets pretty nasty and emotional when we see that motherhood doesn't seem to be a part of his girlfriends' makeup in any way. She's one of those characters it's easy to dislike even before we find out how despicable she really is.

This author is excellent in her use descriptive words that bring scenarios alive. Whether it's a flaming car crash or the wilds of the Florida Everglades a reader can almost feel the flames or the heat and humidity. It's fun to see Grace change. She starts as a housewife whose love for her spouse helped her deny the verbal and emotional abuse she has gone through. From there, even though panic attacks incapacitate her at times, she thrives and learns to fight her own battles in a good way. Ms. Howard is an author I want to read again.

Overall rating: * * * *

Sensuality rating: Very sensual
Reviewer: Dee Dailey
January 28, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: Love of a Stonemason by Christa Polkinhorn

Love of a Stonemason reviewed by Crystal Fulcher at her book blog My Reading Room.

Why I read this: The author sent me information about the book asking if I would like to review it, I was intrigued by the premise and agreed (and I am really glad I did).

How is the novel driven: Characters are the driving force in this book. It's about Karla, Andreas, family and friends.

My Thoughts: The first thing that went through my mind when I finished this book on Friday night was simply "Wow". I felt like I had been told a full story and while I wanted more of Karla and Andreas at the end, the story really was complete. I don't know when was the last time I truly felt that when I finished a book. Ms. Polkinhorn did a magnificient job crafting this story and getting it on the page. The characters, scenery and happenings in the book really came alive for me and I felt like I was watching and feeling Karla and Andreas through the full book.

How to classify this book - I first thought it sounded like a romance, but after finishing it, I would say it is more general fiction. Romance is key, Karla and Andreas' relationship is very key to the book. But most romance novels stop after dating and marriage usually, sometimes with glimpses of family life if there are several books in a series. The beauty of Ms. Polkinhorn's novel is that it continues through the years after they marry and delves much deeper into the characters of Karla and Andreas as they tackle the new ups and downs of marriage, of their art and of family.

Love of a Stonemason never lags in plot. Whether you are looking into depression, the ups of a great art career, the separation (distance-wise) of Andreas and Karla, starting a family, all of this flowed together so well and made a great story. I was never bored and wondering when something good would happen. It was all interesting and attention getting. It's as edge-of-your-seat as a non-thriller work can get. I was always wondering what would happen next, what aspect of life would be shown.

The realism is beautiful too. Love of a Stonemason truly shows the ups and downs of life, love and family. No family or person is perfect, there are always problems and always two sides to a story and that is what this book really looks into. I love that every aspect is shown and I really enjoyed the growth of the characters. Andreas and Karla are not superficial, you really get to know them through the whole book. I felt as though I knew them personally. The foreign setting and descriptions of landscapes and cities is also well-done. I also enjoyed learning about the art world, something that never really interested me before, but the author does a great job of making it interesting.

I laughed, I cried, I was frustrated with the characters (in a good way). I think I ran through most every emotion with this book. And what I love most is the feeling of the complete story and it's a story that will stick with me for some time. I found myself thinking of Karla and Andreas and the other people in their lives through the weekend. Really letting the story settle over me and how I feel now is that this is a definite reread in my book and that is saying something since I don't really reread books. My true hope is Ms. Polkinhorn will have another book on the way so I have another one of her books to enjoy. She brings realism to the story without it depressing you and leaving you down for days and I really like that. I do not have any complaints about this book and I think those of you who enjoy general fiction with a foreign-flair and romance will really enjoy this book.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

About the Book:

The young painter, Karla Bocelli, is all too familiar with loss. When she was five years old, her mother died in a car crash in the south of Switzerland. Her Peruvian father lives at the other end of the world, and a year ago, her aunt and guardian passed away. Now, at age twenty-four, Karla almost gets hit by a speeding car. As if this wasn't fateful enough, Andreas, the driver, turns out to be a sculptor and carver of tombstones. In spite of his profession, Andreas is anything but morbid. Quick-tempered and intense, he exudes a rough-and-tumble energy. After a tumultuous start of their relationship, Karla comes to see in Andreas the "rock in her life," the perfect antidote to her fears of abandonment and bouts of depression. Andreas, however, wrestles with his own ghosts: an alcoholic father who abused him as a child and his own fits of anger. Together, the two artists must confront the demons that haunt them. Love of a Stonemason is a story about the struggle of two artists with their past, their family, their creativity, and their love for each other. Told from the point of view of Karla, it depicts the world through her painter's sensibility. It takes the reader on a journey full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds from the south of Switzerland to Italy and the Peruvian Andes.

About the Author:

Christa Polkinhorn, originally from Switzerland, lives and works as writer and translator in Santa Monica, California. She divides her time between the United States and Switzerland and has strong ties to both countries. Her poems have appeared in various poetry magazines. She is the author of Path of Fire, a collection of poems published by Finishing Line Press. Love of a Stonemasonis her first novel.

Buy now at

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review: The Butcher's Boy by Michael Robb

Michael Robb
Four Stars (out of Five)

Michael Robb, the author of numerous fantasy stories published under the pen name M. R. Mathias, makes a successful foray into supernatural horror with his chilling new novel The Butcher’s Boy. Thirty-one years ago, William “Buxly the Butcher” Buxly, Sr., was put to death for killing his wife, daughters, and son, Billy, in their house. Around the time of the sentencing, young Billy’s best friend and next door neighbor, Tommy McMurphy, disappears. Fast forward to the present day: Divorcee Janet, her eleven-year-old son Michael, and his protective Rottweiler Lucy move into the Buxley’s old house, initially unaware of the mansion’s grisly past. Soon, however, they start seeing and hearing strange things. At the same time, Janet, Michael, and Lucy quickly befriend handsome handyman/father-figure Steve, struggling meth addict/painter Oliver, and chubby, sweet babysitter Maggie. Michael quickly realizes apparitions haunt his house. As the boy researches the Buxly deaths, the members of the group have eerie experiences with the ghosts, spirits who may wish them good or ill. Meanwhile, murders begin occurring that bear a spooky resemblance to Buxly the Butcher’s familial decapitations of yore. Michael and his compatriots must solve the killings, past and present, confront the spirits, and escape with their lives.

The novel is a suspenseful page-turner with well-developed characters. The creepy events start off with a bang at the beginning of the novel and ramp up further as the ghosts begin to materialize. The dead become as well-developed as the living as the plot weaves through unexpected twists, new layers, and false starts. Michael is a multivalent boy, brave enough to seek out a ghost story, yet still needful of supportive adults such as Janet, Steve, Oliver, and Maggie. Janet is a level-headed compassionate mom, keeping her wits about her in life and love. Steve is a charmer who quickly becomes a dedicated family man. Maggie evinces grit that makes her more than the stereotypical lonely fat girl. In Oliver, Robb creates an empathetic portrait of an addict caught between meth and sobriety. Even Lucy the Rottweiler is a round character, menacing and loving, yet fiercely protective of Michael. The specters, too, have solid personalities, and the strength with which they assert themselves renders them even scarier.

The terror and plot revelations mount until the book’s final third, in which everything spins somewhat out of control. After establishing that Lucy is Michael’s constant companion, she sustains an injury and disappears from the text, only to reappear in the epilogue. Its sad because the rapport between Lucy and Michael will touch readers. The fates of several of the living characters are somewhat over-the-top, yet simultaneously anti-climactic. The supernatural element becomes ridiculous; pendants whisper, ghosts change their temperaments, and the story devolves into an undoing of everything the author worked so hard to create. However, most of the novel progresses well, from unnerving to shuddersome.

Robb’s book is recommended for fans of horror who can handle graphic, sexualized violence.

Jill Allen-ForeWord Clarion Review

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review: The Chosen by Shay Fabbro

The Chosen
Shay Fabbro
RicaShay Publishing (January 16, 2011)

The Mekans were built to mine and collect resources. Somewhere along the way though, something went terribly wrong. Now these giant machines travel from world to world leaching the resources until there isn't much left.

The entire galaxy is in danger but a Gentran prophecy may hold the key. It would seem that The Chosen have the ability to bring down the Mekans and save the universe. A decision is made to help the prophecy along a little. Four specially trained Guardians are sent to four different planets. Their job: to collect, train, and protect The Chosen. Then, when the time comes bring these young beings back to Gentra where they will prepare to do the impossible.

As one would expect, The Chosen has a huge cast of characters. After all, each Guardian is responsible for a handful or more chosen. At first, I was a bit concerned that I would get a bit lost in the who's who of the story. In this the author did a spectacular job. I was surprised at how easy it was to remember each character (or set of characters with regards to the clones) once the groups met in Gentra.

Moreover, having such a diverse group allows for some very interesting interactions and personal conflicts as well as realistically accounting for the skills and talents that are necessary to undertake this enormous task. As this is the first book in the trilogy, we are just starting to understand what is expected of this group. However, already we have a good number of wrinkles and some hints that it's not going to be easy. by Tami Brady at TCM Book Reviews

Visit Shay Fabbro at The Independent Author Network

Friday, March 4, 2011

M.R. Mathias is Author of The Sword and Dragon and The Royal Dragoneers

M. R. Mathias is an author who, in his past, spent several years in a Texas prison for minor possession. While he was there, he wrote several full length novels, and read several hundred more. The novels were written in longhand, without the luxury of spell check, or word processors, or even a dictionary. 'The Sword and the Dragon (Book One of the Wardstone Trilogy)', his 700 page epic fantasy debut, is available through Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, and along with The Royal Dragoneers, was featured in the Publishers Weekly Indie Select Showcase in Dec. 2010. Both books were ranked as Top 10 indie fantasy releases of 2010 by Fantasy Book Critic. Several short stories, and his Dragoneers Saga series of novels are available as well.

Mathias has been clean and free since his release, and he has every intention of staying that way. He says: "Writing was my salvation. I was on a Maximum Security Unit for a while, over a few fights. I was in a modern dungeon cell 23 hours a day, everyday. Every word on every page of The Wardstone Trilogy was a moment of freedom."

The books:

The Sword and the Dragon- When the Royal Wizard of Westland poisons the king so that his puppet prince can take the throne and start a continental war, a young squire is forced to run for his life carrying the powerful sword that his dying monarch burdened him with from the death bed.

The Royal Dragoneers-Hold on to your dragon! An Ivory antlered demon called Gravelbone, has a plan for the humans who are invading his territory. Join some brave young men and a particularly clever magic wielding woman, as they traverse the wild frontier, and sail the sea to warn their king. Then hold on for your life as you tear through the pages, because the pure blood dragons they have befriended have a plan too!

M. R. Mathias also writes paranormal thrillers under the pen name Michael Robb. His haunting chiller The Butcher’s Boy is now available as well.

In the authors own words:

The jewel you see glowing in the ring in my author’s photo isn't really a jewel at all. It is the crystallized tear of a real dragon. In my novel "The Royal Dragoneers" you might find the moment where this wonderfully magical tear drop fell from a green dragons eye. It hardened on its way down to land in a mess of troll corpses that the dragon was laying on.

My grandfather died before I was born, but the ring was given to me by my mother, after my grandmother recently died. My grandfather had apparently won it in a poker game near the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma sometime in the early 1900's.

It has been a boon, the magic of the teardrop, for it brought you here to me didn't it? Now treat yourself to something fantastic and try out the free sample of one of my novels. I hope you enjoy the journey. It will be spectacular.