Category Archives: Book reviews

Book Review: Hallowed Grounds

My love fest for Patrick J. O’Brian has been long and well documented. Well believe it or not, I still have more books of his to read and review. Hallowed Grounds is another one that I recently finished so let’s check it out!

The plot of the story centers around a protagonist, Jeff Lancaster, who comes to own and develop a theme park in southern Indiana, but before he’s able to enjoy his new duties of running the park, his previous life as a police detective drags him into a couple gruesome and brutal murders. As he investigates those murders, connections are made to the property that his shiny new amusement park sits on, complete with a sinister and ghostly past. Those two worlds collide, and Lancaster is left chasing down murderers and legends from his town’s past, trying to make connections in order to tie it all together, save lives, and put an end to the killings.

Hallowed Grounds starts off as a pretty straight-forward murder mystery. That is, until just before halfway into the story anyway; that’s when things take a potential supernatural detour. I won’t dive into spoiler territory, so I won’t reveal the source of the murders in my review. They could be the circumstance of an unhappy spirit, or they could be the result of a bitter rival. You’ll have to check it out for yourself and see! Continue reading

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Book Review: Alcatraz #1259

As a criminal justice professional, I sometimes get the opportunity to attend national criminal justice conferences. These trips offer a wealth of knowledge and help me learn about national trends throughout the justice system. They also give me some great opportunities to explore some really cool places.

Last year, one of the conferences was in San Francisco, California. I’ve been there before, but only for a day, so I was excited to spend a little more time in the city. My top priority was getting a tour of Alcatraz. It was a bit of an ordeal, but eventually, I was fortunate enough to make it to the island. Once the boat docked, an announcement was made that there was a book signing taking place that afternoon in the gift shop. One of the last living Alcatraz inmates had authored a book, and he was present to sign as many copies as people wanted to buy. I’m a sucker for a signed book, and the fact that it pertained to a federal prison, while I was in town for a criminal justice convention just made it that much better.

I soaked up the sights and sounds of the audio tour while I wandered through the cell house, but my mind was pushing me toward the gift shop the whole time.  I entered the gift shop and navigated through two or three different rooms and there was no sight of a book signing anywhere.  Then I turned another corner, and there sat William G. Baker, flanked by stacks of his books.  He sat peacefully at his table, signing books and answering questions as tourists from around the world approached him.  I’m sure he’s probably heard any and every question hundreds of times already, but he remained cordial and patient with every visitor, myself included. Continue reading

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Book Review: Circle City Publishing Presents: Fun Size – A Sample Anthology

Some may see this review as a little self-serving, seeing as how I created the theme, crafted the call for submissions, reached out to several authors to gauge interest, then collected, edited, and organized all the stories before formatting them all for the printer. Those people may be right. However, the point of this review is serving the same mission as the point of this collection, which is to benefit the authors and readers alike.

One of the biggest challenges for any independent author is getting readers. The cost of marketing your books without the resources of an established publishing company is prohibitive for most authors who are trying to break out. People who aren’t familiar with the subject matter and writing style aren’t typically willing to risk the money for a book from somebody they aren’t familiar with.

That’s where Circle City Publishing and the Fun Size Anthology comes in. By featuring a wide array of authors from all genres (minus romance), the idea is simple: the more readers this collection can appeal to, the more beneficial for everyone. The concept of this collection is to offer a sampling of stories from existing novels and series, so readers can learn about the writing styles and universes that the authors have created. Continue reading

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Fun Size Book Review: Die Laughing

This Fun Size teaser will take a bit of a detour from the previous posts, as we take a look at one of the series that’s connected to the anthology.  Die Laughing is the first book in a series following FBI Agent Benjamin Kroh.  It was also my first foray into Ben Oneal‘s mind, and what a fun trip it was.  The book was masterfully crafted, with some very unexpected turns to keep readers guessing.

As mentioned, Benjamin Kroh is one of the best the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit has to offer.  When a body turns up along with a cooler full of finger tips, Kroh gets called back to the area he grew up in, with his team in tow.  The body is staged and displayed publicly to appear initially as a suicide, with connections to the automotive industry that had closed up shop and moved out of town. Continue reading

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Book Review: Uncertain Terms

Here we go, folks.  My review of Patrick J. O’Brian‘s latest offering, Uncertain Terms.  Get to know a little more about this great book below, then pick up your copy at the link I just included!

***Mild spoilers below***

Michael Brogan was a good cop, unlike the rest of his family.  He moved halfway across the country, from Chicago to Boston, to distance himself from their mistakes and reputations.  Or so he thought.  His world all comes crashing down one afternoon when he wakes up in a cell while the local news runs the story of his murder.  Now it’s up to him to atone for his family’s transgressions.  He’s introduced to an unknown agency that likes to keep secrets and isn’t everything they lead on to be.  However, through working with them and their seemingly endless resources, he’s able to do some good work and have a positive impact on the world around him, even if nobody knows it’s him.  Continue reading

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Book Review: Blind to Blood 2: The End Game

I’ve been on a roll lately with my reading, and my latest conquest is the sequel to George Kramer‘s medical horror/thriller, Blind to Blood.  The first book in this series was my introduction to Kramer.  Book-wise, that is. We had met more than a handful of times before I got a chance to dig into one of his books.  I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and unique story behind the characters.  It had its flaws though, and I was hoping to see those fixed with the sequel, Blind to Blood 2: The End Game.

Ben Berstgel is truly a unique character.  From his mustard-colored birthmark covering half of his body, to an interesting and well-thought-out backstory involving his mother, Kramer makes it easy to understand where things went wrong for Ben growing up.  Throw in the idea that this serial killer doesn’t enjoy physically abusing his victims, and you have one interesting psychopath.  This story also introduces some intrigue surrounding Ben’s twin brother.  Did he have one?  Did he not?  I’m very curious to see where this brother story line goes and would’ve really liked to see it explored further in this book.

With as much as I enjoyed the story for both novels, unfortunately, the sequel still wasn’t able to break free of some of the mistakes that I noticed in the first one.

I was really hoping to see a little more attention to detail in the editing and proofreading process.  There were several spelling and grammatical mistakes that could be caught with a more attentive editor and more time spent prior to going to press.  These things are generally small errors and easy to overlook, but as a reader, they take me out of the story while my brain processes and deciphers the information, and it tends to break up the pacing of the plot.  I also struggled with a contradiction from the main character himself, Ben.  He mentions several times throughout the book how he likes to punch his victims in the belly in order to get them to bend to his will.  As mentioned above though, there’s the idea about how he doesn’t like to abuse his victims, beyond the slaughtering, that is.  Those two thoughts tend to work against each other and distracted me from being able to fall completely into the story.

The first person point-of-view is not a common story-telling method, and I have learned myself about what makes it so difficult.  It’s not a bad method when properly executed, and Kramer pulls it off pretty well.  The biggest draw back would be when the main character, Ben, breaks the 4th wall to talk to the readers, again, taking the reader out of the action of the story.

All of that being said, overall, Blind to Blood 2: The End Game is extremely original and entertaining.  At the same time, the gruesome nature is quite cringe-worthy – in a complimentary way.  It’s a short, fast read that’s easy to get sucked into, hard to put down, and before you know it, you’re at the end.  I’ll give it 3 scalpels out of 5.

I know I already said this once, but this time I mean it.  Next up: Patrick J. O’Brian‘s latest release, Uncertain Terms.

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Book Review: The Doomsday Clock

This one has been a long time coming, and I’m excited to finally get to share my thoughts with you.  As I’ve made abundantly clear, Patrick J. O’Brian is one of my favorite authors and biggest inspirations.  He’s also the most prolific writer I know, having almost twenty book credits to his name.  I’ve read most of them, but hold his West Baden Murders Series in high regard.  This is the series that introduced me to O’Brian, leading me to his other works.

So with that, it only seems fitting that I write a recap of my experience with the most recent entry into the series.  Right off the bat, you’ll notice that The Doomsday Clock (West Baden Murders Series Book 6) is a lengthy read and covers a lot of story line.  There are a wealth of characters, spanning across several of O’Brian’s other books and series.  The West Baden Springs Hotel takes a backseat in this entry, as the story bounces  from French Lick, Indiana, to the Bering Sea, the Kentucky Derby, and eastern New England. Continue reading

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Book Review: Princess Olive

It’s been awhile since I wrote a book review, and there’s a reason for that; it’s been awhile since I’ve actually read a book!  When I came across Princess Olive by Jonathan Degler, I had no choice.  I had to read it.  (Partly because he asked me for editing help, but there was never a question that I was going to read it regardless.)  So I did.  And boy am I glad!

**Oh yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I had a part in the editing of this book so feel free to be advised of that.  It doesn’t impact my overall thoughts on the story, but people tend to feel the need to know things like this.**

As a big, bad biker who works in the criminal justice system, books about teenage princesses typically don’t hit my radar.  Throw in the fact this title falls under the fantasy genre, introduces magical beings, is set in medieval times, and this story checks all the boxes for books that I generally ignore when I’m looking for my next read.  But when the author is a close friend, of course I had to check it out!  (For clarification, I’m not bashing any of those things that I just mentioned, they just aren’t usually in my realm of interests.  If magic and castles are your thing, then there’s nothing wrong with that at all – I just don’t happen to be a big fantasy aficionado.)  Continue reading

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Book review: If Only The Names Were Changed

Welcome to my newest venture into the writing culture. I’ve never written a formal book review, aside from my plagiarized reports about The Baby-Sitters Club and The Boxcar Children many, many years ago. Recently I was indirectly approached about the idea of writing a review for the first full-length book from author Andrew Miller, If Only The Names Were Changed. Never shy to try something new (totally kidding, I need to get back into my bubble immediately), I decided to give it a shot. So without further adieu, let me tell you all about it!

I went into this book with a completely open mind, not knowing what to expect. With the opening story taking place at the funeral of the author’s father, he grabbed my undivided attention from the onset. This book, or collection of personal essays, serves as a memoir of sorts for Andrew, and offers an honest and raw introspection into his being. It is truly an uncensored exploration deep into the mind and soul of the writer. Andrew gives the reader an uninhibited view into himself that pulls no punches – good, bad, or otherwise. Continue reading

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