Slay the Dragon is an action-packed mystery about a man named Cesar Rosada. He is descended from a line of coffee farmers, a former professional athlete and now a rising politician with a single goal; to help the working class of his country. He is determined to fight for the rights of his people but there is one crisis he can not see a way out of, the opioid addiction. Working as the minister of finance he will stop at nothing to fight against corruption. This leaves him with a choice that will test his own morality.
This book was written by author Laura A. Zubulake who worked for years on Wall Street and is a frequent world traveler. She has written non-fiction before, but Slay the Dragon is her debut fiction novel. The prologue got my attention from the very beginning and is an engaging start to an intriguing novel that hits on a subject that is destroying families and individuals in America. Slay the Dragon does a fantastic job of using fiction to understand a complex problem, and helps you visualize the enormity of the opioid crisis today. I enjoyed how the world unfolds slowly, detail by detail, we get to piece together a seedy world reminiscent of the show Narcos. César’s character development reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s characters. They are characters changed, dramatically, by circumstances out of their control, and they’re just trying to adapt.
This story is exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and full of adventure. Cesar is the kind of character you can’t help but root for with his pure ideals and determination to help those around him. When his actions enter a moral gray area you can empathize. How do you find such entrenched corruption? Zubulake has written a world that feels real in its gritty depictions of South American politics.
From beginning to end this book held my attention and kept me guessing. This is definitely the book for you if you like political thrillers that leave you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.
Pages: 289 | ASIN: B07BH2VMNQ
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Historian-for-hire Wrenn Grayson takes on a difficult client in Kerry St. John. Kerry seeks justice for his great-grandfather’s lifelong heartache. Wrenn meets the renowned jeweler through words recorded in his tattered journal. The year is 1946. He writes from the tiny crossroads of Wyatt, Ohio, about the theft of a treasured locket and the identity of three possible suspects.
The cold case heats up when Lori Hammond arrives. The stolen locket was discovered among her mother’s possessions after her death. Lori refuses to return it to the St. John family, so Wrenn sets out to follow the locket’s path through history. Next, Lori is attacked and Kerry accused. If Kerry’s not guilty, then who is? That question sends cold whispers from the past down Wrenn’s spine.
In Designs on Ivy’s Locket, Connie Chappell focuses on the theme of parents and children, separated by death, by theft, and by design.
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Joshua Landeros is at it again with a sequel to his prequel series with Voice of the Crimson Angel Part II: Poison. Julissa Marconi is ready to take on the ultimate villain, Chancellor Venloran. All that stands between the United Nation Republic and Mexico is the rebels, who seek to resist the tyrannical influence of the more powerful country. This struggle will not end cleanly as Venloran deploys his cyborg soldiers, which leaves Julissa questioning if she can really stop this assault. She may have to become what she fights.
And once again Landeros hits it out of the park with this novel and there is a maturing of his prose in a way that should greatly satisfy his readers. Poison centers around the conflict, or rather, Expansion, that the United Nation Republic is forcing upon Mexico. There is a resonance here with the current events of immigration and Mexico with the US, which does not make this seem like an accident on Landeros’ part. The engagement not only of the struggle of soldiers, but of entire populaces, bumps up the stakes of what has been up until now, a waltz down memory lane to contextualize his main Reverence series.
This installment breathes new air into the series and gives the prequel series more weight going forward. In some ways the look at the national conflict tends to make the conflict become too political and the characters are lost in the back and forth, but it eventually re-centers and the story becomes an intimate tale about identity and duty.
The style of Landeros is largely unchanged aside from his deeper engagement with thematic elements helping his subtle prose along. Robert Heinlein would be proud as would Atwood with his struggle to both dignify the society he has created, and draw parallels from our world to the world of Reverence. For the science fiction reader, there may be more thriller, political drama than one is used to, but we can always count on Landeros to bring the fight to us.
In the grander scheme of his series and world building, Posion begins to show the end game that will follow, since the Expansion is only a piece to Venloran’s ongoing long game. We all know the players who are involved at this point and it’s really just seeing it all unravel. Truly, a pulse-pounding thrilling read.
Pages: 226 | ASIN: B07BNTQRTJ
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YEGman is a thrilling crime novel taking place in the underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Why did you want to set your story in this location?
I had several reasons why I wanted to have the story take place in Edmonton. I prefer to write Canada-based stories and I’ve spent a lot more time in western Canada than I have out east, so can craft stories in these locations easier. A second reason is the name YEGman itself. YEG is the airport code and a common hashtag for the city. It is easier to say than – for example – YYCman for Calgary.
I also have grown up in Edmonton and have seen the city change over the decades. It is a pretty (no offence Edmonton!) bland city when it comes to major issues. So it is a good thing. That raises the question, how can you make a tame city feral and gritty? This was an interesting challenge to me.
This story takes a uniquely gritty look at the Edmonton crime scene. What were some ideas you wanted to capture when developing this underworld?
For YEGman’s version of Edmonton, I wanted to paint a crime-infested city that has some similarities seen in superhero comics. Daredevil/Hell’s Kitchen and Batman/Gotham are examples. A city that is in dire need of help. It becomes a motivator for someone to become a vigilante when they feel the city isn’t making any progress.
The details of the drugs and music scene I wanted to make real by showing there are good people that get caught up in these dark worlds of gangs and violence. Either they feel trapped or do not know any better to get out and just try to keep their friends safe.
Where did the idea for YEGman come from and what were some book titles you considered?
YEGman actually was birthed from the album that accompanies the launch – Sounds of Society. Both YEGman and the album tell a story of someone who can’t handle the constraints of society and go off the deep end. They also share similar content in the lyrics. Originally I was working on this album in 2012.
The plot and character of YEGman came to me in the summer of 2015 when I was at a book signing in a comic store. It was a quiet period and was daydreaming about super heroes because of the increase in popularity due to the Marvel movies, DC movies, comic expos and I was in a comic store at the time. Personally I am not a huge comic book far so I asked myself – what type of superhero story would someone who doesn’t like superheroes read?
From there I drafted out the concept of the superhero YEGman. Quite quickly I decided against super powers and made him very earth-bound. This helped map out the ending as well. If he was just an average person, and didn’t have any tech toys, money or ninja training, he’s going to have a pretty difficult time being a crime fighter. After writing out the outline for the ending I reverse engineered the story – a process I do not normally do with writing.
In November of 2015 I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo but shelved the concept because my horror novel, Seed Me, wasn’t fully edited yet. That took a higher priority and I didn’t revisit YEGman until 2017 after doing some heavy research into police procedures and psychology. These two points of study helped craft the inner thoughts of Michael.
So overall, comic books were the inspiration and I looked at comics such as the Punisher, Sin City, The Watchmen, and Hellboy to name some.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I really need to wrap up the dark fantasy series Mental Damnation. Book three is coming out in the fall of 2018 and the fourth is in the works. I also am working on a slasher novella but it is in the early plot outline stage.
In the darkest streets of Edmonton, crime is around every corner. The police have exhausted their resources. Citizens are in a constant state of fear. The city is in dire need of justice. Someone needs to give the felons what they deserve – skip the courts and deliver their verdict with a fist full of fury!
At least that is what Michael Bradford tells himself. He struggles with violent tendencies while personally investigating the Crystal Moths, Edmonton’s most notorious gang. His vigilante methods get caught on film and are uploaded to the web with the hashtag YEGman. These videos catch the attention of a rebellious journalism student whose aspires to cover the developing story on the city’s underground hero.
Posted in Interviews
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Kiera Blake is a girl running from her painful past in Damaged by C.K. Green. It has been eight years since she suffered an attack that left her paralyzed with fear and afraid to actually live her life. She survives by controlling her environment and not allowing many people to get too close. She basically has her job and one real friend, Anna. Her anxiety and panic attacks keep her from truly connecting with anyone though. Then, along comes Ethan Parker, someone she knows from the past. This unexpected turn of events sends Kiera spiraling out of control and frantically trying to suppress her feelings about the past.
At the begging of the story Kiera seems a bit shallow. She struggles with the trauma from her past but she is still focused on her looks, clothing and makeup. She was a character I couldn’t relate to, but I could empathize with. The writing at the beginning of the book seemed a bit forced and awkward. I noticed several places where it seemed like the the wording was changed but the superfluous words remained. But as the story progressed the writing became much more relaxed which helped it flow better. The last half of the book was a much more fluid and enjoyable read.
Ethan Parker’s character was more relatable to me. He was the police officer who found Kiera after her attack and is still haunted by it. I felt like the connection these two had because of it was haunting but deep. He went to high school with her so they have history together, with each secretly having a crush on the other. He started his own security business and relocates to Nashville because of the music scene and the need for personal security there.
Kiera and Ethan reconnect while out dancing and their chemistry is natural and explosive. From there, a deep love story develops. Some of the wording seemed a little cliché to me. There was a lot of “staring deeply into souls.” Despite that, as the story develops, I started to root for them, empathize with them, and (here’s a twist) I was able to relate to Kiera. It is clear they fit together in a natural and easy way. It’s one of the stories that makes you want to shout at them, “But you belong together!”, before you realize you’re shouting at a book.
Considering that this is Green’s first book, I think the few grammatical issues are minor and could be fixed in subsequent books. Also, Kiera’s personality grew on me as the book progressed. Despite not liking her at first, I found myself looking forward to seeing what happens to her in the second book. Plus, the last half of the book really did have me flipping pages quickly to see what was going to happen. This book takes a few chapters to grow on you, but when it does it’s impossible to tear yourself away.
Pages: 298 | ASIN: B079LZW642
Tags: action, adult romance, adventure, alibris, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, ck green, damaged, ebook, fear, goodreads, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, love story, music, mystery, nashville, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, romance, shelfari, smashwords, story, suspense, tennesse, thriller, writer, writer community, writing
Sharon CassanoLochman’s Stranded on Thin Ice takes readers through a day-long class on Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Pre-teens Tanner and Richie quickly became fast friends on the day of an ice fishing derby. Tanner had bad luck at last year’s competition, but now has his eyes set on a brand new prize 4-wheeler and a fishing hut. Richie, a little less starry-eyed, is sort of dragged along for the ride with his uncle, at least at first. Reminiscent of John Reynolds Gardiner’s Little Willy of Stone Fox, the boys are thrown into a winter competition against big, burly, sometimes ornery grown men. They are met with one obstacle after another as they brace themselves against both the competition and the frigid, unforgiving weather conditions.
We meet loveable 12-year-old Tanner Phillips as he’s pushing his way through a mob of bearded, smoky-smelling men at Popper’s Bait Shop in an all-but-failed attempt to buy minnows. Tanner gets passed over time and time again as he juts his money out at Dom, the store owner. Tanner feels invisible to everyone over the age of 13. He feels overlooked by his father, the bait shop patrons, Dom, and basically everyone else in the world. He doesn’t feel like a little kid anymore, but he knows everyone else still sees him that way. He also feels that he is a failure in the eyes of his father. He made a pretty big mistake at last year’s ice fishing derby by letting a fishing pole get yanked down through the ice by a fish. He paid for it by staring into an ice hole empty-handed for the entire day, and still has not lived it down. He desperately wants to redeem himself and gain the approval of his father by winning the grand prize for the derby, a new 4-wheeler and a new fishing hut.
Tanner meets Richie Donald as he decides to just help himself to the minnow tanks. Richie is a tall, skinny boy in ill-fitting clothing. Not only are his clothes ill-fitting, but they are not a match for the frigid day he’s about to face. He is accompanied by a hateful uncle who doesn’t really want him around, but has been forced to spend time with him. He seems like he really needs a friend, and is lucky to have found Tanner.
It isn’t long before Tanner’s Dad has to leave Lake Oneida, leaving Tanner to set up the fishing hut and get started on his own. This is the first time Tanner will have to prove himself on derby day. It won’t be the last. Almost instantly, “whatever can go wrong” starts going wrong. Richie isn’t much help through most of the day’s obstacles, but they still work together to meet them head on. Together they face menacing competitors, an unrelenting winter storm, a fight against the possibility of frostbite, and of course, getting stranded on thin ice.
This fast-paced tale of determination, friendship, and redemption is great for readers of all ages. I cheered Tanner and Richie on from the edge of my seat as I watched them navigate through their horrific day. I also hoped for the redemption of some of the more menacing characters. Sharon CassanoLochman did not disappoint in either area. Comic relief provided by the boys’ dialogue keeps things from getting too heavy. The story is written brilliantly, and keeps interest piqued until the very end. I did not want to put it down.
Pages: 170 | ASIN: B07732BKVM
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In Hemlock vampires are returning with the intention of taking over all living creatures. What served as the inspiration for the theme of this novel?
Well, I was always going to do a vampire book. I think, as often as we see them, we still don’t understand them. Everybody that does vampires well reinvents them for their own world. This was my chance to do that, to create a vampire that was all mine. Vampires have been in my life through other genres as long as I can remember. I wanted to see what it would look like to have a vampire in a fantasy setting, wanted to see what the creature could do and how a wizard would go about fighting a vampire. I’m fascinated with other genres, but fantasy is my home. In the past, I’ve written fantasy adventure. I’ve written fantasy horror. I just am fascinated with other genres, but I know what’s in my wheelhouse. So I enjoy mixing other genres with the fantasy world to figure out how to make them one way or the other. How do you blend a fantasy and a western? Well, in a book I wrote not too long ago, but hasn’t been published yet, I write a fantasy western. In April of 2019, my fantasy romance will hit the market. Exploring other genres I think keeps a writer sharp. But the language I’ve always spoken has been fantasy. This was my chance to write a fantasy vampire book, and if you can, you should.
I always enjoy your characters, one stood out to me this time. Aaron the Marked was a fascinating character. How did you set about developing his character and how did it differ from other characters?
Well, this is the first time we’re seeing Aaron the Marked, but it was not the first book he was written in. Because of my method of writing, my books can’t be published in chronological order. If I tried to do that, I would have series spanning decades and decades. So I have to find another way to do it. Aaron the Marked’s origin story shows up in a book that will be published April 15th, 2026. We get more of his story than we have received so far in a book that will publish October 5th, 2019. It doesn’t back up to his origin, but it backs up quite a bit. Aaron is a character that really captured my imagination. I spent a lot of time in his skin, writing him as a point of view character. I fell in love with him. So far, as written, he spans five series. He’s a major facet of my world. Aaron the Marked is a character we’ll be seeing as long as I’m writing. One day, we will be able to take all of my books and line them up in chronological order, and at that time, we’ll realize that everything I have ever written in the end, boils down to the story of two men. One of them is Aaron the Marked.
I felt like we again get to explore the dark side of humanity in this book. Do you find that you are drawn to this theme, or is this where the story leads?
All of my books are about hope in some way or another. By the end of the story we find out that it was all built on hope. Because of the childhood I lived and my life as a young adult, I have a deep understanding of despair, of the darkness of the mind and the evil people are capable of. My work is about telling people that there is a way to rise above that horror. But in order to show the power of the light, we have to explore utter darkness. So my work ends up being very dark, very depraved at points, until we climb out of that and enter happiness and well, hope. A lot of people say that my work is really dark, but I hope when they think about it a second or third time, when they find themselves trapped in despair, that they think not of the horrible parts of Jesse Teller’s novel, but of the way people were able to overcome those things, meet their darkness head-on, and triumph over it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The next book of The Manhunters series is called Crown. It’s already been written. It’s currently with an editor. It’ll be ready to go very soon. I’m really excited about it because if you’ve read any of my work before, you’re most likely acquainted with a character who goes by the name Sob. In her last book, we find out her children were kidnapped and taken from her. In Crown, we get to see those children. We get a glimpse of how they overcame losing their mother and the effect it had on them. No event that intense occurs within a bubble. There are always going to be ramifications. In Crown, one of the stories we embark on is the telling of those consequences. So I’m very excited to be able to explore that section of my world. We get the final segment of the telling of the Manhunters, the things they suffer, the deaths within their numbers that they have to work past, and the challenges they have to overcome. We get to meet all new villains, and alongside Rayph, try to figure out how we can prevail over them.
The busiest pirate bay in Perilisc is newly infested with vampires. These monsters will soon overrun the world, but the Manhunters must try to stop them in secret. Agents of the king are hunting Rayph’s vigilante crew. With one false step, they could all end up at a royal execution.
Posted in Interviews
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Man with the Sand Dollar Face is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a thriller, mystery, and crime fiction as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I wrote the rough draft for Man with the Sand Dollar Face in less than twenty-four hours without concern for where the story was going or where it would end. I have written like this before, and I have always found it to be a wild and thrilling experience similar to watching a heart-pounding adventure movie. I laughed at Hattie’s antics and cried over the tragedies she faced.
Hattie is a quirky widow in her sixties when she pursues clues that get her caught up with drug traffickers. What were some themes you wanted to explore while writing her character?
Some of the themes that came through were issues of tremendous importance; for example, compassion and personal expression. Hattie was like a quirky aunt that you could not help but love. I wanted her rambling thoughts to drive the reader crazy as they unknowingly became emotionally attached to her child-like innocence.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
My favorite character to explore was Vic; he had a complex personality that was at times compassionate and other times terrifyingly brutal.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am currently working on the revisions for an adult fiction that delves into Quantum Physics that I hope to have ready for release in 2019 along with a sequel to Man with the Sand Dollar Face.
Hattie Crumford, a quirky widow in her early sixties, takes her first job answering the phone in a private investigator’s office. Running a little late one morning, she discovers an agitated man pacing at the office door. He insists he must see the PI immediately. In the midst of his anxious demands, he clutches his chest and collapses. Shocked, Hattie runs for help. Upon returning, the man has disappeared. Detective Hugo Gabby and Hattie’s boss, Wallace C. Woodard, are skeptical and dismissive of her story. To prove it’s not her wild imagination, Hattie sets out to find the missing manusing only the cryptic note he left in his place and his last words as her clues.
Meanwhile, the private investigator is onto something and tells Hattie to retrieve a disc in his file cabinet, which must be delivered to the police immediately.
When Hattie returns to the office the next morning, she’s met by two men who usher her out at knife point and drag her into a waiting limo. Abducted and held hostage, she’s drugged by her captors who are trying to get the mysterious disc.
As the story unfolds, Hattie Crumford finds herself embroiled in an international drug trafficking ring. Everything hinges on the man with the sand dollar face.
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I really like a good mystery. The Lethal Legacy by JL Phelan was just that. I was flipping through pages as fast as I could. That is always my highest praise. The book opens with the discovery of a death on a beach in Costa Rica in 1914. The dead woman is an heir to the Mariani Cacao Company. Her name is Briana Mariani Delaney.
The story then jumps to present day to the interactions between Dr. Samantha Delaney and Karina Mariani Ortiz. They are the current heirs to the Mariani fortune. They do not know each other, but that is about to change as they try to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Mariani family. What starts as a simple curiosity to know more about family history soon becomes something else altogether.
One of the main draws for this book is its varied setting. It goes back and forth between New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Costa Rica, Geneva, Caracas, Colombia, Paris, and Bordeaux. I found the descriptions of these cities very evocative. The action also moves seamlessly between time periods from 1881 to the present. Because of the skill with which the author moves between time period and characters, the reader never gets a chance to be bored.
Briana is at the heart of the book. She marries John Delaney and has 4 children. Despite the fact that she is a woman in a time when women did not take charge, she ends up largely running the Mariani family empire. As the Mariani family goes through many trials, Briana manages to keep them mostly on track.
Somehow, along the way, the family loses the company. This is the mystery that Samantha and Karina end up trying to solve. Along with the help of Samantha’s husband, Brett, Karina’s husband, Martin, and Karina’s father, Richard, they all become immersed in trying to find out what really happened on that beach so long ago. Nothing is what it seems though. Adding to the intrigue, they find themselves being anonymously threatened as well. Cryptic notes telling them to quit digging are left for them. They find themselves facing very real dangers along the way.
The book is very well written. It flows in a smooth and logical fashion, especially for a book with so many different time periods and locations. The author does an amazing job of keeping it all lively and interesting.
The only negative thing about the book is that, very occasionally, some of the dialogue felt stilted. At times, it seemed a little too formal. That was very rare though. It was very good. Any negatives were far outweighed by the positives. The fact that I could not wait to turn the page to see what was going to happen made this book a very quick read.
The book is also the third book in a series. I had not read the first two before reading this one. Reading The Lethal Legacy had me quickly adding the first two books to my “to read” list. That said, the book reads well on its own and didn’t require reading the first two to enjoy the story.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B07C2973M1
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A Memory of Solstice by Caleb Chandler opens in the middle of the night in a dark and eerie museum in Washington D.C. James and Billy are the night guards and the night will not be a successful one for them. There are some otherworldly forces at work; intent on retrieving a keystone the museum has in its collection.
This sets the stage for the reader’s introduction to Lincoln, a peculiar workaholic lawyer who lives alone with his three-legged dog, Sadie. All is not what it seems with Lincoln either. A strange man named Wes approaches Lincoln and starts a conversation about biology and genetics and genetic mutations.
Later, Wes approaches Lincoln again to inform him that the company Wes works for has been watching Lincoln for a while. He also tells Lincoln that he knows things about him that make him special. He then proceeds to ask Lincoln if he will help Wes and his company, Xelix, by approaching five more people who are like Lincoln to some degree.
While Lincoln is not happy at this intrusion into his life, he does finally concede and agree to help. He then goes on a journey to collect the others like him: Hannah, a woman who works with flowers and plants: Nathan, a paleontologist: Talon, a police officer: Bennett, a personal trainer for the body and mind: and Micah, a young, petty criminal who has not yet found his way in life.
They all find themselves gathered at Xelix. Nothing is what is seems and things quickly take a turn for the worse. The action really picks up at this point as the reader learns more about each character and different worlds are discovered and explored.
Although the story was a bit hard to understand at times, I think that can be attributed to the fact that there was so much going on. I think the book could benefit from differentiating the characters a bit more. At times, the way they spoke kind of ran together and I had to check to see who was speaking.
With that said, the story was very good. I found myself turning pages quickly to see what might happen next. The action never got boring. Each page brought more surprises and unexpected events. The book kept me entertained. The story felt very ambitious and although the twists occasionally were difficult to follow the author was able to deliver some moments that made me gasp.
I very much enjoyed this book for it’s thought provoking themes and elegant character development. If you like supernatural thrillers, this is the book for you. The story is especially effective when introducing new worlds and unusual characters that were fantastic but still authentic, which reminded me of Jim Butcher’s same ability in the Dresden Files. I was very impressed with the books attention to detail and the way the author painted pictures with words. Get ready for an adventure!
Pages: 503 | ASIN: B07D9WQXKQ
Posted in Four Stars
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