Alana Woods ... the Intrigue Queen

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Alana Woods' book reviews: FOREVER YOUNG by Claude Nougat

Posted by Alana Woods on September 13, 2014 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In FOREVER YOUNG Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much.

The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never did learn the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age.

The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves.

You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts.

A thought-provoking, confronting read.

A point worth mentioning is that the cover art is one of Nougat's own works and depicts Alice, one of the characters in the series. If you click on the link below to my interview with the author you will see more of her paintings.


FOREVER YOUNG on Amazon


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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE BARTER AND RECKONING series by John L Work

Posted by Alana Woods on September 4, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

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You may well remember that I've reviewed some of John L Work's books previously. I've always meant to catch up with this particular series and now I have. A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE can be read as a stand-alone novel but it can also be read as a precursor to the three-part THE BARTER series. The author himself refers to it as a four book collection called THE BARTER AND RECKONING SERIES. For the purposes of this article I'm reviewing them separately.




A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE

I’ve read enough of John L Work’s novels to know they take you by the throat and don’t let go until well after you’ve finished reading them. This one doesn’t deviate from the mold. In fact it ramps up the tension by quite a few degrees.

In this gun-rights thriller he takes you to the United States in the near future, 2016, against the backdrop of a country descending into totalitarianism, and brings you the story of an ordinary man, Wesley Kirbaugh, seeking justice for his murdered daughter.

It beautifully combines a seemingly small story—that of one man—with a large story—that of a nation’s descent from greatness.

Unsettling is an understatement. But what read!



 

THE BARTER

This story was born from best-selling author and investigative journalist Jerome Corsi’s essay at World Net Daily titled China poised to play debt card—for US land. John L Work took the premise of a United States in so deep a debt to China that it trades the debt for US soil. The year is 2016 and the political scene picks up where it left off in A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE.

Once again Work sets one man’s story against world affairs and once again does it brilliantly.

Although A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE is a stand alone novel it is also a precursor to the three-part THE BARTER series, of which this is the first.

Benito Hernandez, a military veteran, has been working at a chicken processing plant for some years. The kids are grown up and have left home, so there’s just him and his wife Monica. The deteriorating political situation in the US is seen through his story and his eyes. And it’s horrific.

Work knows how to keep you turning the page and holding your breath.



 

THE BARTER 2: CRUSADE

Think George Orwell’s 1984 was a piece of fiction? Think again. In this second in THE BARTER series John L Work presents for your enjoyment and contemplation a story of the world going mad. The year is 2020.

He points out that the United States has gone from being the World’s biggest creditor nation in 1945 to the world’s biggest debtor nation today.

But as he also points out in his introduction, “This isn’t a book about economics. It’s a killer thriller.”

He’s right!

Benito and Monica Hernandez from book 1 are dead and we now follow their son Jamie. Private citizens possessing guns was outlawed years ago and there are harsh penalties for non-compliance. I’m not giving anything away by saying Jamie buys one so he can pursue his vendetta against the injustice of his father’s death.

I’m not going to tell you how Benito died but it’s all tied up in the Chinese now being the behind-the-scenes power in America.

You’re going to want to move straight on to book 3 when you finish this one.



 

THE BARTER 3: RESCUE

This is book 3 in John L Work’s THE BARTER series and picks up within minutes of where book 2 finished. America is now a country that today’s citizens wouldn’t recognise. In the not too distant future Islam and China will be battling for supremacy but for now they exist together in an uneasy alliance.

Jamie Hernandez is on the run from his own government for crimes committed in book 2. He’s aided by Australian Secret Intelligence Service agents. Rebecca Teals is one of them and she and Jamie get to know each other pretty well over the course of the rest of the story.

As an Australian myself it’s interesting to see a non-Australian’s view of us. Work obviously finds us engaging. It’s not the first time he’s referenced Australia as the last bastion against Islam in his novels.

Jamie and Rebecca escape to Australia where Jamie and two other Americans receive military training with the aim of returning to the US to wreak havoc. Then it’s back home to do just that.

Book 3 keeps up the pace and I found myself reading quickly to find out if Jamie and Rebecca survive.

 

The whole series of four books grabs you by the throat—as I said in my review of A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE—and doesn’t let go.


A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE on Amazon

THE BARTER on Amazon

THE BARTER 2: CRUSADE on Amazon

THE BARTER 3: RESCUE on Amazon



Take this link to my interview with JOHN L WORK

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Alana Woods' book reviews: COUNTERPOINT by Paul V Walters

Posted by Alana Woods on July 29, 2014 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

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COUNTERPOINT: Take Back That Which Is Yours is the third novel in the Jonathan Savage Trilogy


Something wicked this way comes … and, boy, is it wicked.

This is the final book in Walters’ Jonathan Savage trilogy and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact it ramps up a dozen rungs or so on the ladder delivering a non-stop fireworks show, burst after pyrotechnic burst.

The main players from FINAL DIAGNOSIS and BLOWBACK unite to meet their varied ends. The villains are villainous, the heroes are real and, given what’s happening in our world, the scenario is all-too-terrifyingly possible.

The pace never slackens and the words flow effortlessly to create scenes easily conjured into images.

A really good finale. Thanks for the entertainment, Mr Walters!


COUNTERPOINT on Amazon

 

Take this link to an earlier interview with PAUL V WALTERS.

Take these links to my reviews of FINAL DIAGNOSIS and BLOWBACK.

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Alana Woods' book reviews: BETTER YOU BETTER ME by Jason Matthews

Posted by Alana Woods on July 20, 2014 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

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I’ve read this book twice now, the first time as a beta reader and the second time after buying it to review. It’s a book I’m not going to get tired of. I’ll be returning to it often because the message resonated deeply with me.

 

The author describes himself in the introduction as a mess for much of his life. He intimates troubles that threatened to overwhelm him. He thought life was conspiring against him. He wondered what the point of it all was. Then after a particularly harrowing episode he woke to the fact that it was within his power to help himself. And that’s where his journey to a better self began. Not by trying to make big changes immediately but by focusing on striving continually to become slightly better. After a while he noticed that the little changes were accumulating into big ones.

 

In writing this book Matthews is documenting the steps he took to remake himself into a person he liked. He is sharing those steps in the belief that others will also be struggling and will find the information useful, even valuable.

 

So what is he talking about when he says we can be better versions of ourselves? He looks at all aspects of life: the physical, as in our bodies and our environment; the mental, as in our consciousness and happiness; our relationships, both personal and professional; and much more.

 

Matthews doesn’t talk at you, he guides you. There are plenty of scenarios and examples to highlight his points. At the end of each chapter he itemises the key concepts made and the questions we need to ask ourselves.

 

If you take only one thing from this book it might well be the message that happiness is a choice. I now remind myself of it every day. But that isn’t the only lesson I’ve learned and to remind myself of what are essentially the easy things I can do to be happier and a better person is why I’ll be returning to it regularly.


 

BETTER YOU BETTER ME on Amazon   US   |   UK  |   CA   |  AU   |   India


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Alana Woods' book reviews: FLITHER LASS by Graham Higson

Posted by Alana Woods on July 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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FLITHER LASS is incredibly atmospheric. The further I got into it the more I became convinced it would not end well, I couldn’t see how it could be otherwise. Without giving anything away I will just say that when the ending came I thought ‘How apt. Perfect.’

 

The wildness, of characters and setting, is consistent from start to finish. The bone-chilling cold of the sea and terrible weather wafted out of the pages and into my bones. I had to put the heating on. The language was like a pop-up picture book opening up scene after scene. The dialogue of these illiterate and mostly ignorant fishing folk did its job in revealing their characters to me. Higson is a helluva story teller.

 

The story? It follows a few days in the life of Amy Trott, a 15 year old living in a poor fishing village on the wild UK Yorkshire coast. Everyone ekes a precarious living looking out for themselves. There’s no room for caring about neighbours. Anyone thought to be even a little different is treated harshly and Amy is that little bit different, thought to be simple. Her only protector is her father. There are two young men who also have soft spots for her but neither knows how to show it and don’t have the courage anyway. Amy collects flithers, limpets, from the rocky shore for her fisherman father to use as bait on his lines. It’s back-breaking dangerous work. The year is 1915 and paranoia regarding the Germans abounds. So when Amy finds one washed up on the rocks her life becomes very precarious indeed.

 

This is the story of people struggling to exist and find their place in that existence. Wrap your hands around a hot coffee or chocolate and let Graham Higson immerse you in Amy’s life.


FLITHER LASS on Amazon   US   |   UK

 


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Alana Woods' book reviews: DIAMONDS AND COLE by Micheal Maxwell

Posted by Alana Woods on June 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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A tale of regret and coming to terms with it told in a very well-put-together way.

Cole Sage is a newspaper hack working for the Chicago Sentinel, having worked his way down from a top-flight award-winning career with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine. The fire had gone. Then the love of his life, the woman he let slip away, contacts him asking for help. And so his path back to caring begins.

The story encompasses diamond smuggling, money laundering, horrible husbands, sincere cops and eager journalists, the forgotten residents of nursing homes and a crook with a good heart. Beginning with what Cole believes is the simple matter of making sure his ex-love is cared for while she succumbs to a terminal illness, he soon finds himself on the receiving end of threats and a beating.

Maxwell knows how to keep his readers interested, unfolding the story evenly without any dips. I liked his fleshing out of the secondary characters as well as the primary with, among other things, natural dialogue. Combined with a fluent use of language and good plotline it made for a well-rounded story. One I enjoyed.

This is the first book in the Cole Sage series.


DIAMONDS AND COLE on Amazon   US   |   UK

 

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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE FOREVER GIRL by Rebecca Hamilton

Posted by Alana Woods on June 7, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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This is the first in a fantasy series that could at a superficial level be compared to the Twilight series in that the central character, Sophia Parsons, is a young human who becomes involved with supernatural earth beings including vampires.

However, while I considered the Twilight series to be light reading I found this one more absorbing because of the intricacies of characterisation and what those intricacies added to depth of plot and story.

The Universe is a ‘they’ never explained but obviously sentient beings of some sort who created Elementals to watch over the human race. Earth elementals, vampires called the Cruor, were the first to be created. Then came Water, Fire and Air. Along the way some of the Cruor became corrupted and as we enter the story the battle for supremacy is beginning. Sophia, a practicing Wiccan, is drawn in through her attraction to Charles, a dual-breed Strigoi, a Water elemental who is also half Cruor.

Told mostly in the first person from Sophia’s point of view the storyline follows a satisfactory arc to the end which, this being the first of a series, is obviously only the struggle’s first stage. I liked Sophia who had already overcome quite a lot in her 22 years including the suspicious deaths of both parents. Like Charles, her love interest, she is well-fleshed out. Less satisfactorily drawn is Ivory, a major secondary character responsible for much of what happens to Sophia. We learn her history in what is a departure from Sophia’s point of view. It’s brief and encompasses centuries so we only see snippets that, while revealing the motivation for her actions, doesn’t allow us to really get to know her.

This was one of those reads that I didn’t like putting down to get on with other things. I wanted to keep reading.

Well written and entertainingly told.


THE FOREVER GIRL on Amazon   US   |   UK


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Alana Woods book reviews: THE BRIDGE CLUB by Patricia Sands

Posted by Alana Woods on May 3, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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This is a well-constructed storyline that follows eight friends for 40 years on get-togethers for their monthly bridge club meeting.

The prologue plunges you in at the end. Something momentous—but not divulged—has happened at the annual club ski weekend away.  The only clue is an approaching hearse, meaning someone has died.  Was there a skiing accident?  Did someone hit a tree like Sonny Bono, or fall and hit their head as did Miranda Richardson and Michael Schumacher?  It’s not until the end that all becomes clear.

Chapter 1 jumps back to the beginning of the weekend. The eight are driving through a winter snow storm and the laughter is forced, so you know there are undercurrents. Subsequent chapters focus on each of the members at a time of crisis, when the support of the others has been crucial.  Each chapter is finished with a bridge hand that, not being a player, I didn’t understand but nevertheless appreciated the thought behind.

As I say, it’s a well-constructed story that draws you in to the characters’ lives and world. The dialogue is natural and the location descriptions atmospheric. The emotional impact of the ending was, for me, not as satisfactory as full disclosure would have been.  I’m not going to explain that because it could be construed as a spoiler.

All in all a good read.

THE BRIDGE CLUB on Amazon


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Alana Woods' book reviews: SHANNON'S LAW & COP'S KITCHEN by Emma Calin

Posted by Alana Woods on April 19, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (4)

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SHANNON'S LAW by Emma Calin

In the premise at least this reminded me of The prince and the showgirl, except it’s the earl and the policewoman. And what a policewoman—every bit as feisty as Marilyn Monroe’s showgirl.

PCW Shannon Aguerri is shunted out of her London jurisdiction and into a country PC Plod situation after acting independently on a case. Immediately she arrives she meets the local lord and, boy, is he a hunk. However, he has a history. His wife died some years before in a skiing accident and his 15 year old son has a police record for possession. Sparks fly between the earl and Shannon almost from day one. But she’s a working class girl with a mechanic father and cleaner mother. How on earth is she going to get on in the earl’s world?

There’s some very steamy sex scenes and that’s usually a turn-off for me. Those I’ve read before usually have a weak storyline that seems to be an excuse for all the sex and it pulls me out of what little story there is. I’m happy to report that isn’t the case with this book. The story is so strong that I could read the sex and then get back to what was happening. Which is a lot. Murder, money laundering, slavery, trafficking, drugs, kidnapping—you name it, Shannon has to deal with it. She also has to contend with Elvis and the Royal Family.

The dialogue during the sex scenes was a bit over the top for me, but other than that, the story, the descriptions, the characters—I liked them all.

The strong story held me.




COP'S KITCHEN by Emma Calin

Man! Emma, Emma, what a treat. Not only the story of SHANNON’S LAW but an accompanying recipe book with the food your characters enjoyed as well! How spoiled we are. The bonus Cauliflower crisp is a real bonus—I love cauliflower! But so many others as well that I’m just going to have make: the kedgeree, the desserts, cakes and little sweet things, and Sausage toad—gotta try that. And those triple cooked chips! Yum. And those blinis and the Pimms—I absolutely love Pimms.

Fabulous idea, well done!

 

SHANNON'S LAW on Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Smashwords   |   iTunes

COP'S KITCHEN on Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   iTunes   |   Smashwords


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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE LONG CUTIE by Dan Alatorre

Posted by Alana Woods on April 5, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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The title to this book, THE LONG CUTIE, was of immediate interest. I figured it must be something to do with a child because of the cover, and something medical, also because of the cover. Was the child extra tall? But no, it’s not that at all. The words are the phonetic pronunciation of a medical condition called Long QT Syndrome. It’s a cause of sudden death in predominantly children and young adults and is caused by a fault in the heart’s electrical system.

Given that, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether you really want to subject yourself to reading a book about it but I’m happy to report that although it tugged at the emotions it was a good read.

It’s an uplifting and delightful diary of sorts; of a father’s day-to-day enjoyment of his life with his three year old daughter Savvy. That she has Long QT is by-the-by. That he has Long QT is by-the-by.

Interspersed with his stories of Savvy are contributing chapters from others around the world who live with Long QT. Some of the stories are funny, some heartrending, but all touch you.

The author’s laid back style makes it an easy, if emotional, read. I remember a news item last year about a 14 year old boy literally dropping dead after a football game and wondering how that could possibly happen. Now I know. At the end of the book the author invites those affected by Long QT Syndrome to join the Facebook group—you don’t have to suffer it alone.

An inspiring read.


THE LONG CUTIE on   Amazon   |   Smashwords


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Alana Woods' book reviews: CHARLIE'S ANGEL by Samantha Fury

Posted by Alana Woods on March 15, 2014 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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CHARLIE'S ANGEL is the first in Samantha Fury's Street justice series.

Charlie Anderson is on the run after being beaten up by her sister’s boyfriend. To escape she took his gun and cash and caught a bus to Chicago to the safety of an aunt, only the aunt is not there, she’s gone to Florida. A good Christian, Charlie’s situation becomes even more dire when she becomes involved with a prostitute and her pimp. Then she meets Angel Morganson, the pimp’s bodyguard, and there’s instant attraction between the two. How can Charlie reconcile her beliefs with the world Angel lives in?

This is the first in the Street Justice series which, I believe, features Charlie and Angel. I’m not an avid reader of Christian fiction but I’m happy to read any story that’s told well. Charlie’s Angel is, I believe, the first novel by the author and I have to say I felt the writing to be not as accomplished and deft as her later books.

Be that as it may I liked Charlie and Angel and will be buying the next in the series (TIDAL WAVE) to see where their next adventure takes them. I think from that you can deduce that despite the shortcomings I was sufficiently taken with the series to want to continue with it.


Take this link to my interview with Samantha.


Samantha Fury also writes under the name of Samantha Lovern.


CHARLIE'S ANGEL on Amazon   |   Smashwords   |   Barnes & Noble



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Alana Woods' book reviews: MAID FOR MARTIN by Samantha Lovern

Posted by Alana Woods on March 15, 2014 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)


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MAID FOR MARTIN is the first in Samantha Lovern's California love trilogy series.

Randi Sanders is employed by an agency that provides temporary maids to the rich and famous. She is their most trusted employee because she treats the clients with respect, doesn’t fawn, and works hard. Randi keeps the temptation to be awed at bay by avoiding films, TV and the media, and therefore doesn’t have a clue who most of the clients are. Martin Taylor is the latest. Drop-dead gorgeous up-and-coming film star, in a going-nowhere relationship and a fast deteriorating situation he can’t avoid—Christmas and New Year with his and his girlfriend’s families. Randi is hired for the 10-day period and spends most of those days believing Martin is the chauffeur Mike and, of course, falls for him big time.

The scenario is totally implausible but the author gets away with it and had my admiration for doing so. It’s her deft handling that makes the story believable. She keeps you hanging for pretty well the whole book and, believe me, I was hanging. Approaching conflict begins right at the outset. With every page turned I expected the denouement but I was kept waiting and waiting. It certainly got me in.

The story is told from third person multiple points of view. It’s mostly from Randi and Martin’s perspectives but other major characters also make themselves heard. The language style is a little different—I think it’s the author’s Southern roots making themselves heard—and it added to, rather than detracted from, the overall. There’s plenty of realistic dialogue that drives the story along.

As well as paperback and ebook editions, this book is also available in audiobook format. I listened to the sample chapter and was impressed with the quality of narration. The author obviously used a professional and it shows.


Take this link to my interview with Samantha.


Samantha Lovern also writes under the name of Samantha Fury.


MAID FOR MARTIN on Amazon


 

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Alana Woods' book reviews: Annie Seaton's DE VARGAS FAMILY series

Posted by Alana Woods on February 22, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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Since reading these novellas I have learned they're in the Steampunk genre. The term isn't used in the reviews because at the time of reading and writing them I had no idea—not having read anything in the genre before.


WINTER OF THE PASSION FLOWER by Annie Seaton (first in the de Vargas family series)


    

 

This one threw me in the opening chapter. I thought I was reading a Victorian period piece when all of a sudden a submarine put in an appearance. I thought ‘Hello? There were submarines back then?’ Then comes biome domes and time travel and I settled back, knowing I was in for a sprinkling of sci-fi shaken over a romance with thriller background.

It’s the first in the de Vargas family series and follows the path of the elder of two sisters, Indigo, living in Cornwall who is dedicated to advancing science, but not without finding Mr Right along the way.

It isn’t a long read, I fitted it very nicely into a quiet Sunday afternoon relaxing on the balcony with a cold white and a cool breeze blowing on what was a very warm day. The story isn’t a brain-taxer, rather it’s an easy and entertaining read. The language was suitable for the period but not overdone, adding to the atmospherics. The dialogue I wasn’t so sure about, feeling that it could have been just a little less period.

Overall it was a good read that I wanted to finish in the one sitting.

 

SUMMER OF THE MOON FLOWER by Annie Seaton (second in the de Vargas family series)





I read WINTER OF THE PASSION FLOWER, the first in the de Vargas family series, before turning to this one so I knew what I was in for, meaning the automata and dirigibles didn’t take me by surprise.

The story follows the younger of two sisters, Sofia, as fair as her older sister Indigo from Summer flower is dark. Indigo lives in Cornwall UK, Sofia in Vienna. She is as committed to science as her sister but given that she’s seeking immortality it’s a pursuit she’s keeping to herself lest her enemies in the form of the Knights Templar discover it.

Once again the story is a sprinkling of sci-fi laced with romance and thrills. Her enemies send a young Scots nobleman to kill her and, yes, you should be able to guess the outcome.

I liked the juxtaposition of future technology and Victorian era. It made for an entertaining read interspersed with the unexpected.

As with the first in the series I wanted to finish this story in the one sitting. Very achievable as it’s not a long book.


Take this link to my interview with Annie Seaton.


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Alana Woods' book reviews: The Detective JD Welch series by John L Work

Posted by Alana Woods on November 30, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)





Two reviews this week of books from the same author, John L Work


A DARK OBSESSION TIMES 2 (a Detective JD Welch story)



The author spent 20 years in law enforcement in the US and the believability level in all of his stories and novels that encompass crime is sky high.

This novel, like most of his others, once again has as its protagonist Detective JD Welch. I’ve read all of the Welch books now and have enjoyed following his career. To me this one actually comes across as a thinly-disguised accounting of Work’s own career—although I could be wrong about that—and it makes for compelling reading. Welch is now working in the Roberts County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office Jail Division. Still a policeman, but working inside the jail investigating crimes perpetrated by inmates. Work covers a lot of ground, situations, crimes—and there are some nasty ones—locations and time periods that are all in some way connected to men who are serving time or have served time and therefore come within Welch’s ambit.

As I say, we cover a lot of ground but one crime investigation weaves its way throughout. It’s the one that opens and closes the story and every time I thought we might be in danger of wandering too far from the central theme it pops up again—a measure of Work’s weaving skill.

It is apparently a true story and it’s one that affected me.

If you want happy-ever-after endings to your books don’t look for them in Work’s novels. His are definitely reflections of the injustices and inequalities of real life. However, don’t let that put you off. Even though at times the subject matter may be hard-hitting they are well worth the read.


THE RIGHT ANGLE MURDERS (a Detective JD Welch story)



I’m a fan of Work’s. I’ve read several of his novels and novellas now and each displays the same tight writing and attention to detail that I’ve come to expect. This one is no exception.

This is a short novella that takes us back to the beginning of JD Welch’s career as a detective. (Welch is the central character in many of Work’s novels.) He and his senior partner, Joe Bryerson, are assigned to a nasty rape case that has all the hallmarks of a murder gone wrong. Unfortunately for them they have no clues as to the perpetrator and as murder follows murder and the media intensity puts the Sheriff’s office under the unwanted spotlight the detectives feel increasingly frustrated at their lack of progress.

The story opening has a definite feeling of noire about it and the ending is shocking but I can understand the sentiment behind it. I imagine many a cop would like a nasty case to end similarly.

Work’s history in law enforcement and talent for telling this kind of tale once again delivers a believable case with believable characters.



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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE LITTLE UNIVERSE by Jason Matthews

Posted by Alana Woods on November 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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Have you ever wondered about The Big Bang? What it was, how it happened? Wonder no more. Instead, follow the characters in this huge-in-scope novel as they set about re-creating it. Do they succeed? Oh yes. And how. With the help of an infinitely talented and intelligent computer named Jim they build their own little universe within the confines of a purpose-built building and then proceed to tweak, play and interact with planetary inhabitants to suit their own purposes.

 

The investors see only the mind-blowing profits that can be made from exploiting technology from more-advanced planets than their own, and they conflict with venture partners who want to observe and learn from one particular planet whose inhabitants are in tune with the entire universe.

 

This novel is an exploration of creation, the existence of a creator, spirituality, reincarnation and much much more. Matthews exhibits an expertly deft touch as he explores what are obviously to him important subjects. By novel’s end I found myself in a contemplative mood as I pondered the ideas he raised.

 

A lot of the story involves a voyeuristic slant as the protagonists watch what’s happening on the planets that interest them and my interest level dipped as this felt like surface-skimming. My interest lay in the meditation interactions with the Thetans and how the project changes the lives of the protagonists.

 

The story has a definite beginning and ending and about three quarters of the way in there’s a jolt that completely alters the reader’s perception of everything. That was clever and had me smiling.

 

This is the first in a two-book series, the second being JIM’S LIFE which I unknowingly read last year. While it’s not imperative to read them in order I wish I had because, even though I loved JIM’S LIFE and gave it five stars, it would have been advantageous to have the background of THE LITTLE UNIVERSE to draw upon.


This is a well-written, well-told story with characters I felt I knew by the time I finished.


Take this link to my interview with Jason Matthews


THE LITTLE UNIVERSE on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in   |   Amazon.au

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Alana Woods' book reviews: HOME TO STAY by June McCullough

Posted by Alana Woods on November 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)


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Diana Crawford had fled her family home, Aces Corral ranch just outside Calgary in Canada, two years ago to escape a family tragedy.  HOME TO STAY opens as she returns home to pick up the pieces, knowing she will never leave again. The homecoming proves to be an emotional rollercoaster ride for her. Her nearest neighbours, Len and Dot Mackenzie, close to her in both proximity and love have had a tough time while she’s been away and now rely on their nephew, Barry Daniels, to do much of the work around the place.  And, yes, Barry’s the gorgeous hunk who keeps Diana guessing almost until the last page in this light western romance.

There isn’t much in the way of plot and you know things are going to work out well but the will-they/won’t-they tension is handled well and maintained.

Depth to the story is added in two ways: first by the descriptions of a working horse ranch. The author seems to be in familiar territory here and it adds interest to what could otherwise have been a trite love story. Then there is Barry’s mysterious business dealings which keep him busy on the phone and internet and which he won’t discuss with Diana. Together they help to flesh the story out.

The sex is pretty detailed but fortunately, at least as far as my reading pleasure is concerned, it doesn’t go any further than the foreplay before the bedroom door is metaphorically shut.

I had a bit of trouble believing some of the dialogue, in particular the way Barry speaks to Diana. I tend to think that the love talk that is attributed to male characters in many books is what women wish their man would say to them when in actual fact no man would be caught dead uttering such stuff. But it’s not too unbelievable and that’s just a small criticism.

HOME TO STAY is a nice story satisfactorily told. The language is descriptive and I had no trouble picturing the location and scenery, all of which sounds superb.


Take this link to my interview with June McCullough


HOME TO STAY on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in


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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE CRONE CLUB by SV Peddle

Posted by Alana Woods on November 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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I was some way into this book, THE CRONE CLUB, before starting to think the story had more depth than I originally thought. I was thinking, ‘Stereotypical characterisation, lack of subtlety, no spark’ but it slowly became more than that and I found myself enjoying it.

The story begins with a class reunion, the gang now women of that magic age, 60—making them Boomers. Many haven’t met again since leaving school and they’re all interested in what each has accomplished in life. There are the porn star twins, the rich, the bitch, the professionals, the housewife, the widow and ... the missing. They form The Crone Club and set each other two tasks: a dream to realise and a challenge to accomplish.

The book deals with rape and how attitudes have changed over the years. There’s also controlling husbands, cancer, charity and third world hunger—some very big issues. They receive surface treatment only, no in-depth discussion, but then I don’t think that’s what the author was intending. It’s about mature people overcoming obstacles—yes, just because you’re 60 it doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out—and written in such a way that you don’t think of the morals being presented.

Bambi is the fairy godmother who takes everyone in, pays their bills and looks after them, which is very convenient for allowing characters to not find themselves in true-to-life no-way-out situations.

Essentially it’s about women enjoying themselves and empowering each other.

Are they successful? Finding out makes for a light read encompassing comedy, poignancy and drama as you follow each character’s path while they pursue their goals.

I believe it’s the first in a series, so we’ll be able to follow the Crone Club’s development.


I was unable to contact the author for an accompanying interview.


THE CRONE CLUB on Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in

 

 


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Alana Woods' book reviews: TETHERBIRD by Emily McDaid

Posted by Alana Woods on October 19, 2013 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)


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I loved this book. The story is such a good one, the characters are so interesting and the language is lovely—redolent with expression, description and feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a comfortable read. The storyline could be construed as controversial being taken, as it is, from a real life event. But it’s such a mind-engaging twist on that event that when I saw a film recently depicting the story as we’ve been fed it I found myself saying to the TV “Ha, I know what really happened!”

Told from multiple points of view, one in first person, the switches are so well sign-posted I was never confused.

The story tells the tale of Benjamin Cane, a supposedly-PTSD-suffering Afghanistan veteran, and Mackey, his long-suffering wife. There are also their small twin boys, an English Duke and journalist all twisted in to the fate of Osama Bin Laden and the use of a truth drug. I’m not going to say any more about the story because to do so would lessen its impact for other readers. But I will say it’s an exploration of so much: heroism, love, constancy, betrayal, and conflict on both a global and intimate scale.

There are shifts too in time and location (Afghanistan, the UK, the US) as the story jumps from the present into the past and back again. This is also handled well. At no point did I wonder where I was and who I was following.

I cared for Benjamin and Mackey. I wanted things to turn out well for them. I wondered about the narrator, and was not disappointed when his part in the story was revealed.

I can’t fault this book. There were no dips in engagement and no slips in believability or language.

A classy, powerful novel.

Tetherbird on Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk   |   Amazon.ca   |   Amazon.in


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Alana Woods' book reviews: NAKED DETERMINATION by Gisela Hausmann

Posted by Alana Woods on October 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)


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This is an autobiography of a different kind. The author tells her story in a series of flashbacks that she describes as lessons she has learned along the way, from early childhood to present time.

Immediately I began reading I found the language to be stilted, until I realised that English is her second language. Then suddenly in my head I heard her words in the voice of a Dutch friend who speaks the same way. After that I found the mistakes and the often formal style very charming.

Autobiographies and memoirs amaze me. It astounds me how much people can recall. I certainly can’t remember details and conversations from years ago, especially from when I was a youngster. So when I read a good one, such as this is, I’m fascinated.

Hausmann was born and grew up in Austria, moving to the US as an adult. From an early age she had wanderlust and began travelling in her teens to such wild and exotic locations as Russia, Kashmir and China in the days when it required major logistical organisation. She lived frugally with the purpose of travelling, saving as much as she could from the diverse and sometimes fascinating spheres she worked in, such as the film industry.

The enthusiasm and effort she puts into everything—travel, work, family—shines out. She believes in putting everything of yourself into everything you do and has applied that to herself along the way.

As I said, the book is told in the form of life lessons and she finishes each story with an afterthought and what the lesson has taught her.

Honesty shines out of these stories, sometimes intimate, sometimes humorous, always inspiring. She’s had it tough, losing her husband in an accident and her brother to illness. What you finish the book thinking is that this is one of life’s indomitables.

The drawback to reading this on my Kindle was that it didn’t do full justice to the photos. The scenic shots in particular are probably magnificent in full size and colour.

An inspiring read. If it doesn’t instantly energise or re-energise you to conquer your own mountains then perhaps we haven’t read the same book!


NAKED DETERMINATION on all ebook vendors


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Alana Woods' book reviews: LIFE WITHOUT by Ben Warden

Posted by Alana Woods on October 5, 2013 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)


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LIFE WITHOUT starts with a sex scene. I thought “Hello, is this what the book’s about?” It isn’t. The scene acts as an indicator of where the main character, Stephen (Steve) Goodman is in his life at that moment. But the book is so much more than that.

It could have been so much better, as a read, if spelling, wrong word usage and poor punctuation didn’t litter it. As well, I thought the language could do with tightening up.

I was not going to persevere but I’m pleased I did because, unlike much fiction from young male authors who tend to write in the action, sci-fi and fantasy genres, this one is refreshingly contemporary. I liked the storyline very much.

Steve is a 30 year old Londoner who seemingly has it all: striking looks, intelligence, fabulous job, money enough to own a multi-million pound apartment in Notting Hill, women falling at his feet and a best friend he can rely on. However, there are two things he doesn’t have. The first is his wife, the woman he adores, who left him because of his infidelity. The second is a career he cares about.

The opportunity to pursue his dream career comes in the form of an unreliable depressive artist, well-known Julian Storm. Why he hitches his wagon to someone unreliable is for you to find out by reading the book.

As I have said, the story is fresh, I liked the way it flowed and I liked the plentiful use of dialogue to drive it along.

A final comment: the title intrigued me. LIFE WITHOUT. Without what? You find out in the story’s final words and I loved it. Such a good title.


I was unable to contact the UK author for an interview.


LIFE WITHOUT on Amazon.com   |   Amazon.co.uk


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