Unfettered Journey by Gary Bengier

Unfettered Journey by [Gary F. Bengier]

As a Book Reviewer, I received an ebook copy of Unfettered Journey by Gary Bengier free for my honest review.

Unfettered Journey by Gary Bengier is declared a speculative fiction story. However, I would consider it more of a literary fiction story.

In all honesty, I found the Unfettered Journey to be a very long book, and I didn’t really become engaged with the story until the final third, where the author wrote the bulk of the action and where my emotions also became engaged.

In the first two thirds of the book, the reader and Joe, the main character, spend a lot of time in Joe’s thoughts. Joe works with robots and spends a lot of time wondering if it’s possible to make AI more human-like. He talks with a lot of other techie people and the reader is fully immersed in technology, science, and philosophy. Eventually Joe meets Evie, a rebel, whom he becomes very involved with.

When Joe and Evie are banished from the world they know, they face new challenges. In their new environment, with their new challenges, I found the story more engaging, but still lacking in action.

Unfettered Journey is very well written, and, though it isn’t the type of story I usually read, I was interested in the characters enough to keep me reading, though not like “I couldn’t put it down”. Even the writing about technology was interesting to me. I was invested in Joe, and eventually Evie, enough to want to read the entire book. I highly recommend this book to those who really enjoy literary stories and technology, and I give Unfettered Journey four stars.

Against Blood by Jack King

Against Blood (A Detective Cliff Husto Thriller Book 2) by [Jack King]

About the Book:

Against Blood by Jack King is the second of his mystery series that has Detective Cliff Husto on the case. This time, Detective Husto is faced with a web of conspiracies and vendettas entangling Desert Storm veterans suffering from PTSD, a group of Islamic college students on the path to radicalization, and hard-line racist American nationalists.

My Review:

Just like Beyond Blood, Jack King’s first Detective Cliff Husto novel, Against Blood’s first few chapters introduce a lot of characters in a lot of settings, so Detective Husto readers need to be alert. However, after the first few chapters, it becomes clear that all of these characters in all of these settings are connected, and in this case, are all set in Houston, Texas.

As much as I enjoyed Jack’s first book, Beyond Blood, I was delighted to see improvements in Jack’s writing in Against Blood. Where I struggled to care about the characters in his first novel, there were certain characters in this story that I understood, cared for and rooted for right from the start. Of course, there were also a couple characters that I wanted to see get what was coming to them.

Just as in Jack King’s first Detective Husto novel, Against Blood kept me turning pages and held me in suspense as I tried to determine who the murderer was before reaching the end of the book.

One of my favorite things about Jack’s Detective Husto novels is that they have short chapters that are fast paced, and each one leaves the reader wanting more. Each lures the reader to keep reading. I’d reach the end of a chapter and think, “aw, the chapters are short. I have time for one more,” which then became one more and one more and one more.

I have to admit, there were times where I caught myself holding my breath as I read and waited to see what was going to happen in the suspenseful scene I was fully engaged in. Jack kept me guessing as to who the killer was almost to the very end. I changed my mind a couple times as new evidence seemed to point to someone else – exactly the kind of mystery I enjoy most.

I will caution readers that there is some profanity sprinkled in parts of the book, and of course, there is violence. However, the violence isn’t graphic or overdone. It is tastefully done.

If you enjoy a good, fast-paced, suspenseful mystery and a likeable, intelligent detective on the case, you will enjoy Jack King’s Detective Husto stories. Either story can be read alone and it doesn’t really matter which one you read first.

I give Against Blood 5 stars, and I look forward to more Detective Husto mysteries from Jack King.

Lander’s Choice by C. S. Wachter

As a reviewer, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Lander’s Choice, the sequel to Lander’s Legacy by C. S. Wachter is a great read! C. S. Wachter stories improve with each book she writes.

About the Book:

Lander’s Legacy was a great read, but Lander’s Choice is even better. Lander, Castor, Desma, Becky, and Michael remain in the Core under the control of the men who partnered with Aurelius Hunt sixteen years ago and have risen to power over the people of the core. As they are taken on a kind of tour of the Core, Lander notices that the people have been segregated into communities of “gifted”, those with special powers who get to rule and keep order over the communities of the “ungifted”, those with no special powers who are treated as slaves. Soon, Lander is separated from all of his friends because he is “gifted” and they are not. Lander is torn between his mother’s words about him helping to bring peace to the Core and his loyalty to his friends.

My Review:

C. S. Wachter does a great job of showing Lander’s internal struggle between his feelings for Becky and his loyalty to her and Michael along with the promise to get them back to the Surface, and his desire to learn more about this beautiful and unusual place that he came from and his mother’s words that he would play a part in bringing peace back to the Core.

The story is filled with adventure, struggle, and suspense as Lander and his friends are often in danger and Lander is forced to “play along” with the “gifted” until he can come up with a plan to try to make everything right. There are battles and lost lives. There are emotional struggles. There are twists and surprises.

C. S. Wachter grabbed my attention on page one and held it in a tight grip until the end of the very last page. I couldn’t stop reading until I knew if Lander would succeed in making difficult choices and succeeding in the things he most wanted to accomplish. And, in the end, would he choose to remain in the Core or return to the Surface? And what would happen between him and Becky?

The characters C. S. Wachter created in this two book set were well developed and endeared themselves to my heart. Even the bad guys had some redeeming qualities, which was a refreshing change from the norm.

So far, I have read every book that C. S. Wachter has written and I have not been disappointed, but I have to say that Lander’s Choice is my favorite, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next because this two book series, though still fantasy, is very different from her first longer series, “The Seven Words Series”. It will be fun to see how different her next story will be.

Lander’s Legacy and Lander’s Choice are appropriate for middle grade, YA, and Adult readers who enjoy fantasy adventure stories.

I give this book 5 stars.

No Place to Hide by Opa Hysea Wise

No Place to Hide Book Cover.png

As a reviewer, I received a request for an honest review and an ebook copy of No Place to Hide by Opa Hysea Wise.

About the Book:

This book is advertised as a riveting page-turner, a suspenseful page-turner, and a thrilling fast-paced new mystery. It also mentions that Smythe, the main character, seeks to find meaning in the events that threaten her life, and that she uses her past experience to find meaning in her present, and she begins to see beauty in the midst of chaos.

My Review:

This was not a riveting, fast-past, thrilling page-turner. There were a few moments of suspense, but the action was not well written or descriptive enough to create substantial suspense. Yet there were in depth detailed descriptions of rooms. The majority of the book covers Smythe’s internal struggles and includes mostly narrative and dialogue.

The mystery begins the story, then is left out, for the most part, until the last third of the book. However, the mystery is never resolved to my satisfaction.

I found the majority of the story repetitive and slow-paced. It was also filled with a lot of New Age and Eastern Mysticism ideas. It mentions Christianity in a critical light and pretty much dismisses it.

A lesbian relationship begins to develop between Smythe and her hired protector. Thankfully, the author didn’t make this a main point or present it in detail.

There were several places where the author changed character point-of-view without any warning and I found myself having to go back and reread one to three paragraphs to figure out whose point-of-view I was reading.

Therefore, in conclusion, I was mostly disappointed with this story, and I give it three stars.

Best Foot Forward by Bea Stevens

Best Foot Forward by Bea Stevens

About the Book:

Best Foot Forward is the first book in the “Liberty Lawrence” series by Bea Stevens. Liberty, or “Libby” as most of her friends call her, is the main character of this series of books. In Best Foot Forward, Libby lives and works in a large hotel. The story is told in her point of view in first person. Libby experiences many mishaps in the story and finds herself in the middle of a mystery. She is also obsessed with shoes, especially designer shoes.

My Review:

I’m not a fan of books written in first person. However, for Best Foot Forward by Bea Stevens, the first person point of view works well, both for Ms. Stevens’ writing style, and Liberty Lawrence’s personality and the story itself, as it adds to the quirkiness of the character.

Best Foot Forward is a unique mystery story, as it is a combination of a romantic comedy and cozy mystery. In the beginning of the story, I found Libby to be a bit self-absorbed and prone to self-pity. However, as the story moved along and Libby’s character developed, she became quite endearing as she suffered embarrassing mishaps, and showed a sensitivity and empathy toward other characters who were going through personal difficulties.

The story was believable and it was easy to relate to Libby’s feelings in regard to her love life. I found myself smiling at some of Libby’s mishaps and thoughts. She also warmed my heart in the care, concern, and help she offered to others. I also enjoyed the relationship that has begun between Libby and Police Sergeant James Harper.

The one thing I think was a bit overboard was the profanity. I’m not a fan of books with profanity, and often, the author wrote Libby’s thoughts and ended them with an exclaimed profane word, which I didn’t feel was necessary or added anything to the story. However, I am thankful that the author tended to stick to mild profane words, but still would have preferred fewer of them.

This book was a fun, entertaining read.

I give this book 4 stars.

Bell Hammers: The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt by Lancelot Schaubert

Bell Hammers: The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt, Illinois by [Lancelot Schaubert]

Bell Hammers: The True Folk Tale of Little Egypt

by Lancelot Schaubert

About the Book:

Remmy and Beth grow up in Bellhammer, Illinois during the time that oil and coal companies rob the land, stripping if of everything that made it paradise.

Remmy’s Grandad teaches him how to pull outrageous pranks on his neighbors, friends, and foes. Under his Daddy’s guidance he starts a construction company, which depends on contracts from the Texarco Oil Company.

Remmy has a fascination with “Robin Hood”, castles, and a round table. He builds his on band of “merry men” carpenters.

Then a faulty Texarco Oil derrick falls down on their house and poisons their neighborhood’s well.

When Texarco refuses to take responsibility for the poisoned well, Remmy hatches a plan that results in one prank after another, until he and his merry men pull the “world’s greatest prank”.

My Review:

Remmy is an endearing character, whom I cared about and rooted for from the very beginning of the story. His quirky personality was often humorous.

Lancelot Schaubert’s writing took the reader into the past and spanned the life of Remmy in Bellhammer, Illinois from 1941 through 2012. His writing brought clear feelings of nostalgia to the reader. Remmy and Beth took the reader back to simpler times that showed no times were without their troubles. The author did an excellent job capturing the dialogue of the time and area as well.

Remmy also often spoke to the “Good Lord” in ways that sometimes seemed to mock God. He also heard the “Good Lord” speak to him, and he didn’t always listen to or properly interpret what the “Good Lord” told him to do, just like any flawed, sinful human being. Remmy learned many lessons throughout the book and his life.

Lancelot Schaubert did an excellent job portraying a neighborhood’s struggle with big companies in another place and time. He made it relatable and entertaining. His sharing of true events, and maybe some familial myths, stir feelings of nostalgia, comradery, sympathy, and empathy, even as they occasionally make the reader laugh out loud.

This story does include profanity and crude humor as well. However, if you are a history buff or a person who enjoys cheering for the underdog, I recommend you read Bell Hammers.

I give this story 4 stars.

By Design by J. Boykin Baker

By Design: A Love Story with a Twist by [J Boykin Baker]

I am a book reviewer and was given a free ebook copy of this book for my honest review.

About the Book

Anne’s mother passed away when Anne was young, but her mother left her a very valuable legacy.

When Anne is grown, she becomes an interior designer and begins to do quite well, then moves to Atlanta to take a job at a very high profile interior design firm. Her plate fills quickly with jobs, one of which is for a surgical practice where Dr. Brad Young, Jr. is a partner with his father.

When Brad meets Anne, he is taken by her beauty and asks her out. However, Brad has a reputation as a player, and several people warn Anne about Brad’s reputation. But Anne feels the chemistry between them and continues to see Brad, until an emotional weekend creates a problem that Brad isn’t sure he can overcome to make this relationship work.

My Review

I found the Introduction to be very “telling”. It didn’t draw me in and engage me in the story, but I continued to read to find out what would happen to Anne as the story truly began. I was pleasantly surprised that the story itself, engaged me from the start and drew me in to Anne’s life.

As I read the story, I found value in the Introduction and knew why the author had included it. It adds important information about Anne and why Anne is who she is.

I enjoyed the relationships between Anne and all of the characters she interacted with in the story. Anne had a strong influence on others she met and interacted with. Then she met Brad, and her affect on him was strong and unexpected for him. He had never met anyone like her before and he wasn’t sure he liked how she made him feel and think.

I really liked the interaction between Brad and Anne. They had a chemistry, but there were obstacles between them. As I continued to follow their story, I found their way of interacting, as they tried to figure out if their relationship could be long term, delightful. The way they teased one another and spoke to one another of their thoughts and feelings were all engaging and realistic. Their banter often made me laugh. The scene where Anne finally lost her temper with Brad, as well as Brad’s reaction to the things she said in anger, also made me laugh. At the same time, I still hoped they would work things out.

J. Boykin Baker created deep characters and gave them real life struggles, one of which, though it still faces some young people in today’s world, seems antiquated, but Ms. Baker did a wonderful job showing the importance of the struggle and I was impressed with Anne’s strength even in the face of temptation.

I loved the fact that the story doesn’t end in the typical way of most romance stories, but Ms. Baker resolves the struggles in a very satisfying manner and takes the ending a step further.

I love sweet romance stories. They are one of my favorite genres, and I especially love a sweet romance story that dares to step out of the normal romance formula. Therefore, By Design by J. Boykin Baker and Anne and Brad will live in my heart and on my “favorites” list for a long time.

I was also thrilled to find that Ms. Baker continues the story of Anne and Brad in two more books and I can’t wait to read them.

I give By Design (Book 1) by J. Boykin Baker 5 stars.

88 Guys for Coffee by Diane Solomon

About the Book

This book covered a new-to-me topic: online dating. I know there are online dating sites, and I know one or two people who found their now-spouse on such a site, but I have never read a book about someone’s experience with online dating. It appealed to my sense of curiosity, which is why I decided to read it.

The Foreword makes it clear that this is a somewhat fictionalized account of the author’s online dating experience.

My Review

I’m usually not a fan of stories told in first person, but Diane Solomon did a good job writing this story in first person, and her style was very conversational. Therefore, the story was fun and easy to read.

The main character, Laura, takes this emotional roller-coaster ride, which causes her to question her self-worth and effects her self-confidence. However, she never lets go of hope.

As the reader, I couldn’t help but sometimes feel sorry for Laura and sometimes wonder why on earth she kept meeting guy after guy. Her determination kept me rooting for her.

Some of the men Laura met for coffee made me cringe, some made me laugh, and others shocked me, but every one of them was a believable character.

Some of the dating encounters seemed a bit too similar or repetitious.

If world view is of interest or concern to you as a reader, the world view in this book seemed to bounce around and not really come across clearly. Sometimes the main character’s world view seemed to be very secular, sometimes new age, and nearer the end, approached a Christian world view. Maybe Ms. Solomon did this intentionally to show a growth in the character of Laura, as she made her way through a period of several years of online dating, wading through disappointment after disappointment.

All in all, this book was very interesting. I enjoyed the conversational style. I enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the tips and advice that Laura’s two best friends offered her. The story also included some humor along the way. It was definitely a unique story, which, in my opinion, makes it worth the read.

I give this story 4 stars.

The Ravenstone: The Twain by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey

The Ravenstone : The Twain by [Diane Solomon, Mark Carey]

As a Book Reviewer, I received a free ebook copy of this book for my honest review.

About the Book:

The Ravenstone Part 2: The Twain by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey is the second book in their “Ravenstone” series. It is a fantasy story. The two main characters, thirteen-year-old twins, Nadia and Aidan must time travel several times throughout this book in order to do what they have been called to do. They must face dangers and an enemy they thought they would never see again.

My Review:

The Ravenstone Part 2: The Twain was even more exciting than the first book. This time there is more adventure and danger for Nadia and Aidan. A couple situations the twins find themselves in had this reader on the edge of her seat. There is a very fascinating chapter that involves a unique twist. The twist includes a dilemma that disturbs Nadia until closer to the end of the book, where another character explains what really happened to Nadia. I really liked that character’s explanation. The story is very well written, although I did notice more errors in this book that should have been caught by an editor than in the first book, there were not so many as to distract me from the story. Ms. Solomon and Mr. Carey did an excellent job creating tension and suspense in this story. They also created some interesting characters for Nadia and Aidan to interact with in the story.

This story addressed natural disasters and global warming in a unique, interesting, and plausible way. It was a fun and exciting read.

The story held my interest and kept me turning pages, especially in the last third of the book when the tension and suspense were at their peak. Before reaching the end of the book, I found myself hoping there would be another adventure for Nadia and Aidan in the not too distant future, and the ending definitely points to that possibility.

I highly recommend this book, as well as the first “Ravenstone” book, for anyone who enjoys fantasy stories that include time travel, suspense, and adventure. Also, both books are clean reads and are fitting for ages 10 through adult. I would also recommend them as family read alouds.

I give this book 5 stars.

The Ravenstone: The Secret of Ninham Mountain by Diane Solomon & Mark Carey

The Ravenstone is the first of a two-book set of fantasy stories by Diane Solomon and Mark Carey.

About the Book

Aidan and Nadia, thirteen year old twins, find a mysterious mirror while they are supposed to be cleaning out the attic. When the image of an old shaman appears and attempts to communicate with them, they are stunned. Then they find the Ravenstone, and this is the beginning of their adventure to a time and land of Celtic princes and a shapeshifting raven.

My Review

This is a delightful story about twins living in a wonderful home with loving parents. They have a quirky grandmother living nearby as well, and their family history is fascinating and holds a bit of mystery of its own.

Diane Solomon and Mark Carey did an excellent job of creating characters that pull the reader into the story right from the start. Their personal lives and their travel adventures keep the reader turning page after page. The story is very well written and well edited as there are no errors to cause a reader to stumble out of the story even for a moment.

As Nadia and Aidan travel back and forth in time, the reader is often kept on the edge of their seat wondering things like: will they get back to their own home and time; will they be captured; will they find what they are looking for.

The story is clean and acceptable for middle grade and up, and would even make a great family read aloud. It would also be a great gift for your avid reader.

If you like stories with mystery, adventure, and time travel, you’ll enjoy The Ravenstone.

I give this book 5 stars.

As a book reviewer, I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.