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Catering Girl: A Novella
Catering Girl: A Novella
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Catering Girl by Laurie Boris, July 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I haven’t read The Joke's on Me, so this is my first introduction to Frankie Goldberg. She has a strong devil-may-care personality, which tends to lead her into trouble when expressing her opinion. She moved from New York to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, but bless her heart, she just can’t catch a break and this plays havoc with her self-esteem issues. What she does have going for her is intelligence and courage to try new things. Ms. Boris has a talent for writing realistic characters in believable situations and managing to invest her readers’ attention in whatever journey may be at hand.

Poor Frankie is having trouble finding where she belongs, since her dream of becoming an actress has fallen flat. She has learned along the way that she has a knack for cooking food in large quantities, organizing events, and managing other people. She just has trouble applying these talents to her own life. I laughed when Frankie caught herself sounding like her own Jewish mother while dealing with Anastasia Cole. Ana is a young bombshell actress who seeks career guidance from Frankie, despite the Oscar she possesses for supporting actress. This relationship works well for both of them for a while. Then a few unexpected twists set the whole story spinning out of control.

I found Catering Girl a fun, captivating story. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for something quick to read. Now I am interested to see how Frankie makes out in The Joke's on Me.

FYI: Catering Girl is a prequel novella to the romantic comedy The Joke's on Me. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** July 11, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: None!

Outcast (Supernaturals Book 2)
Outcast (Supernaturals Book 2)
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outcast by Jennifer Reynolds, July 15, 2016
Even though Outcast is the second book in this series, it is a stand-alone novel set in the same fantasy world as book one, Shifter. Leigh Alexander has always felt like an outcast except with her younger sister Danielle, who has always accepted and loved her unconditionally. Leigh always thought it was her weight that had set her apart but despite that, she learned to be comfortable with her size. After attending college, she relocated to Washington State and made a life for herself far away from Pine Hollow, Tennessee. She supported herself editing books, working in a book store, and ghost writing a woman’s life story. Things were going well for Leigh until after her sister’s wedding where she became reacquainted with Ryan Hart, the groom’s best friend.

Ever since leaving Pine Hollow, Leigh seemed to have a lot of bad luck in all aspects of her life. When Ryan relocates to Washington to be close to Leigh, he also encounters a lot of what seems to be bad luck. Trying to solve the mystery of what is going on sends Ryan and Leigh back to Pine Hollow. There are a lot of twists in this story as secrets are revealed and plots are uncovered. Directions change course to involve the whole town of Pine Hollow, unveiling a corruption that must be stopped.

The family and social dynamics in Outcast were believable. But Ms. Reynolds has changed the rules in her unique fantasy world. I also enjoyed the differing points-of-view we were given, which helped define Ryan’s relationship with his parents, Leigh’s parents, as well his relationship with his best friend Dave. I found him more interesting and complicated than Leigh. (Okay, I just made myself laugh because I enjoyed the hunky male wolf more than the human female. Now, I have lost my train of thought… I blame Ryan!)

I think with a little more control over repetition and better proof-reading this could have been a five-star book. Outcast is an enjoyable original story with a few issues, but overall entertaining.

FYI: Outcast is book two in Jennifer Reynolds Supernaturals series. It is not necessary to read book 1, Shifter, to enjoy this story. This book also contains adult sexual situations, as well as a few F-bombs. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** July 6, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I came across a small number of editing issues, which included extra, missing, or wrong words. There were also a couple of strangely worded sentences.

Turtle's Weir: Book Four of the Pipe Woman's Legacy
Turtle's Weir: Book Four of the Pipe Woman's Legacy
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turtle's Weir by Lynne Cantwell, July 9, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is purportedly the last book in the Pipe Woman’s Legacy series and takes up shortly after the end of Spider’s Lifeline. Ms. Cantwell expertly weaves in several pertinent elements from the whole Pipe Woman Chronicles series into this final addition. Distraction as well as the shifting of powers seem to be a major theme.

This book was a roller-coaster ride of action and heartfelt emotions. The path Ms. Cantwell took us on was well envisioned, deliberate, and developed. Several principles of the original agreement between the Gods, reached thirty-eight years ago, have been brought forward for debate to ensure Ragnarok be diverted. There are signs that Ragnarok has already begun in the Gods realm. It has been placed on Webb's shoulders to intervene. Can he avert this catastrophe before events spill over to our earthly realm?

Enkou, Hilary’s little ninja turtle, takes on a larger role in this story, helping deflect the darkness he is able to see. I really enjoyed him; Enkou is wise and clever. He says very little so when he does speak you need to listen to every word he says. I think my favorite character in this book was Roman. Ms. Cantwell outdid herself developing him. He was full of surprises, but there was still a mysterious air about him. Of course, no one will ever outshine Webb as far as I am concerned. His growth in this story was legendary.

I hate to see this series end but found the ending fitting and closed off well, sort of... as Ms. Cantwell leaves us with a couple of surprises. One made me almost laugh-out-loud with glee! Well done, ma’am. The other left my mouth agape! Honestly, how can this series end with that sort of information? I was left with so many mixed emotions. Anger at the bomb dropped on us with the knowledge that this was the end of the series, but a smile on my face and in my heart at the same time because of that same bomb. I can highly recommend this book as well as the whole series.

FYI: Turtle’s Weir is the fourth book in the Pipe Woman's Legacy series. While this book could possibly be read as a stand-alone, you really shouldn’t miss any of this fantastic series.

For those sensitive to the F-bomb, beware there are a few. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** July 8, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No significant issues.

Snow Bunny: Chronicles of a Wererabbit: Book Two - The Adventures of a Rabbit Shifter
Snow Bunny: Chronicles of a Wererabbit: Book Two - The Adventures of a Rabbit Shifter
Price: $4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Snow Bunny by M.Y. Zeman, July 9, 2016
Snow Bunny starts up where Snowball left off; there is minimal time devoted to the background from the first book. This wasn’t a problem as the necessary background was covered; however, I would recommend reading Snowball first. Snow is now fourteen and is quite smitten with Josh, the young werewolf she rescued from a laboratory in book one. In this story, we learn more about Josh and werewolf society in this fantasy world. The reader is also treated to more insight into the relationships with John, Snow’s father, and Edwin, his partner. Family dynamics figure heavily in this series.

The mission in this story is to stop the people behind the laboratory testing and experiments from where Josh was rescued. In the midst of searching for clues, the family has to find a safer place to live. John is still consumed by his research and is having fun with his new inventions. Edwin decides to move in, putting his globe-trotting aside for a while to offer support and stability. There are several twists as new elements are introduced into the plot. At times I got a little lost because several time-warps are factored into the story to fill in new background information. I probably shouldn’t have though, as the chapters are clearly marked.

I think middle-grade students would find Snow Bunny engaging because of the imaginative creatures introduced, the cool gadgets John invents, and the uniqueness of the adventure. I wish the editing was a little more thorough, but middle school readers may not even notice most of the errors I caught. I think they would be too involved in the story, which is captivating.

FYI: Snow Bunny is Book two in the Chronicles of a Wererabbit series. I would recommend reading the first book in the series, Snowball. The family dynamics of having two dads is handled well. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** July 4, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: I found a small number of proofing errors, a few awkward sentences, and a bit of repetition.

Road Trip
Road Trip
Price: $4.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Road Trip by Grace Jelsnik, July 9, 2016
This review is from: Road Trip (Kindle Edition)
This is the third novel from Grace Jelsnik I have read for review here at Books and Pals. I don’t normally read contemporary fiction, but Ms. Jelsnik’s voice and character development have me mesmerized. When BigAl asked if I would be interested in doing a doubleshot review with him for Road Trip, I jumped at the opportunity. Honestly, I didn’t expect to like this book. Political intrigue and corporate espionage are NOT among my favorite genres. I read to escape reality, which is why I lean towards fantasy, paranormal, and romance novels. That is not to say that Ms. Jelsnik doesn’t subtly weave a little romance into her stories, because she does. But she does it in such a realistic way that it feels natural and logical.

Road Trip revolves around a hot political topic of the environmental effects from hydraulic fracking. Noah Severson, a veterinary doctor in Montana, notices the health of the area livestock is deteriorating before his eyes. When Noah tries to alert the EPA of his findings he is met with bureaucratic roadblocks and local authorities who are making big money from the fracking operations. Armed with only his data, a camcorder, and a disposable phone, he sets out on foot, after watching his house go up in flames, to a rendezvous point given to him from a mysterious caller who claims he can help.

Victoria Winslow is disillusioned with her life and decides to take a road trip to ‘find herself.’ She drastically changes her appearance and leaves with no plan or destination in mind. She sets out on her own to experience life without any celebrity attachments. Her chance encounter and conversation with a woman named Wanda helps Victoria by providing focus and direction from insights Wanda shares about her own experiences and life philosophy. Victoria never suspects how much this meeting will change the course of her road trip, as well as her life.

Next, Victoria meets Thomas, a hungry thirteen-year-old runway, and soon thereafter Thomas's younger brother, Ricky, who change Victoria's plans yet again. Complicating matters even further is an English mastiff desperately in need of a new home.

Then Victoria meets Noah in the most unexpected manner, and the ensuing road trip turns into a journey of discovery and exposition for all of these participants as they evade the onslaught of several nefarious adversaries. This character-driven plot has numerous twists that keep Noah and Victoria constantly aware of the danger they are in and the action is often fast and furious.

I ended up enjoying this story a lot more than I anticipated. Ms. Jelsnik has a unique way of weaving realistic individuals into extraordinary situations and making them believable. Road Trip drew me in and kept me riveted. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well-developed, intelligent characters wrapped in an exceptionally astute story-line.

FYI: **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** July 1, 2016
Format/Typo Issues: I ran across no issues at all.

The Legend of the Bogeyman
The Legend of the Bogeyman
Price: $1.00

4.0 out of 5 stars The Legend of the Bogeyman by James R. Womack, July 4, 2016
If you thought the Bogeyman was scary before, wait till you read Mr. Womack’s interpretation! I’ll begin my review with what Mr. Womack states in his afterword:

It’s not intended to advocate any religious body’s point of view. Certainly it contains a lot of my own biased perceptions but isn’t meant to advocate any doctrine. It’s a story, a work of fiction. Anyone is free to enjoy, dislike, even mock or discard it.

Needless to say, Mr. Womack has gone back to the beginning of time and rewritten from Lucifer’s — ‘Morning Star’ or ‘Light Bearer’ — own point-of-view in a convincing fashion. Can you imagine the weight, with names like that, Lucifer carried on his shoulders? Being one of God’s favorites, a lot of responsibilities were directed towards Lucifer. At times I had to agree with the twisted logic that Lucifer began to believe in this tale.

Each chapter begins with a portion of a cited passage from the Bible, which lends a little bit of the credibility towards the author’s vision. Since this is a work of fiction I didn’t check out the quotes. They were there to solely move the tale along and worked to weave the story together. I will tell you Mr. Womack’s vision gave me the creeps because this could be how the ‘Morning Star’ lost his way…

FYI: May or may not offend some readers' religious sensibilities. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** June 22, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: Too few to mention.

Dragon Lord's Mate
Dragon Lord's Mate
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Dragon Lord’s Mate by Eileen Troemel, July 1, 2016
The Dragon Clan has long since stopped pillaging smaller villages to find mates. They are a highly respected Clan and the unclaimed women of mating age gladly line up naked to be chosen during the spring rites when clans travel through seeking mates. By the time the Dragon Clan reaches the Village of Barrow, Arius, the Dagon Lord, has grown tired and bored with the choices offered. He is not interested in a thin, weak, or submissive mate. When Pena’s aunt drags her to line up with the rest of the girls, Pena resists and causes a commotion. She also refuses to strip down naked. Her curves, spunk, and fiery red hair capture Arius’s attention and he doesn’t hesitate to choose her. Pena makes it clear to him that she will never submit, but she has no recourse but to leave with him.

Pena is a strong heroine; she is outspoken and stands up for herself. She has had a hard life living with her abusive aunt for the last ten years since her family was slaughtered. Pena has gifts, which her aunt had considered curses, and was severely punished when caught using them. One of her most developed gifts was healing. Pena can also find lost items and sense when there is danger around. She is completely unaware of what other gifts she has potential to develop.

On their long trek back to Measc Realta, where the Dragon Clan dwells, Pena and Arius’s relationship starts to grow as they learn more about each other. In the beginning Pena often felt her body betrayed her as his kisses and hands lit a fire in her she couldn’t deny. Twists in the plot and trouble on the trail fill the story with danger as we learn about other Dragon Clan members and the mates they have chosen. The settings are realistically described and easy to imagine because of their earth-like qualities.

By the time the group arrives at Measc Realta Pena and Arius are fully mated. Arius was so smitten he used ancient rites to bind them together. I enjoyed learning about the Dragon Clan's history and myths that had been long forgotten during the long age of peace. There is an old evil that has found a new font of energy and it is growing stronger. Pena and Arius have to risk everything that is dear to them as the dragons of light and dragons of shadow are awakened. Old truths have to be rediscovered and learned. Pena must also learn and master her true power of the elements to overcome this threat. The battles are bloody, graphic, and will enthrall the reader. While this story comes to a satisfying close, it is far from over. I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel.

FYI: Several graphic sexual scenes without a single F-bomb dropped. :) However, there are also scenes of graphic rape. **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** June 20, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: A few small proofing errors, nothing that threw me out of the story.

Scepter (3 Book Series)
Scepter (3 Book Series)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scepter (3 Book Series) by Scott L. Collins, June 29, 2016
Book 1: As this epic adventure begins, Daniel is agonizing over being taken away leaving Aidan alone to fend for himself. Daniel seems resigned to accept his fate; however Aidan has a different plan. The sibling rivalry between these two brothers was wonderfully depicted and realistic as they faced the challenges set before them in their journey. All of Scott L. Collins’ characters were strong and well rounded, Olivia provided a nice counterbalance between the brothers and Lilly, her blind sister, showed handicaps didn’t have to be a hindrance…

The author paints beautiful pictures of this fantasy world with some horrifying elements that are not too frightening for the middle-grade audience it is intended for. As the book draws to a close the kid’s journey turns into a quest that will bring peace and harmony back to the kingdom of Castiglias. I have a good feeling about this series turning into a challenging adventure full of battles of wit and cunning as well as an outright war as this small band rallies allies for their cause... This is a very promising new series and I can’t wait to see how it all moves forward and what elements are brought into play next.

Book 2- The Emerald of Phaunos: As we rejoin Daniel, Aidan, Olivia, and Lilly on their quest to restore the Scepter of Harmony to its former glory, Mr. Collins does an excellent job reminding us where we left off from the previous book... Condensing the travel time would improve the pace of the story. Other than that I loved the relationships of the characters and this is what makes this story work for me. A new member is added to the group and each character proves their own strengths and play well off each other. There is strife within this group that adds realism to the relationships and depth to their characters. The obstacles this small band were faced with and their willingness to cooperate with each other help them to overcome almost insurmountable odds.

The creatures that Mr. Collins has created in this epic fantasy are creative and unique. They were imaginative and horrific, but age appropriate enough to be thrilling for middle grade students. Our villain, King Argyle, continues to prove himself to be an evil dictator that needs vanquishing. Will our small band be able to continue to evade the formidable army of diegylis hunting them and have the fortitude to complete their quest to restore the scepter? Recovering the stones seems to be the only answer to bring peace and prosperity back to the kingdom of Castiglias and the world beyond. So far this journey has been a roller coaster ride of devastating setbacks with small triumphs that bond this band together as they gather allies and defeat foes standing in their way. I can't wait to see how the kids manage to bring the different factions of this world together to accomplish their quest.

Book 3- The Ruby of Helios: During their stay with the Centaurs in Alustria, Halem and Atreyu have a change of heart and decide to join Daniel and Aidan’s small group to defeat Argyle. They start training with the younger Centaurs in strengthening exercises and weapons use under Liam. At the end of each day they get lessons in Alustrias' history and character building advice from Shon. The trials and tribulations between the human children and the young Centaurs are age appropriate, common problems dealing with peers.

With the group down to five children at this point, Daniel, Aidan, Zack, Olivia, and Lilly are in a small boat heading down river to the Great Lake. Feeling safe they discuss the next leg of their quest in a relaxed atmosphere. Until they notice storm clouds moving their way. The children are faced with pirates, merpeople, and the threat of Argyle getting closer to capturing them. There are new threats that our questers must face while crossing the scorching desert in search for the Ruby of Helios. They are tested to their limits of endurance. Things only get worse when Argyle’s diegylis (The half man, half wolf warrior creatures.) catch up with them.

Mr. Collins has written a unique, epic adventure, including battle scenes, which are sure to thrill boys and girls alike. Olivia and Lilly contribute their fair share to overcoming each obstacle that challenges their group. I really appreciate the fact that even though there are disagreements within the group they manage to cooperate and work together in the end.

I am glad to see this series being sold as a set. It is important to read the series in order. There were a lot of great lessons to be learned in these books as this group of kids fight back evil forces and learn to deal with injuries and sickness on their own. I have condensed my reviews for this set. Full reviews can be viewed under each title or at BigAl’s Books and Pals. I can highly recommend this series.

**All three books were originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.**

White Girl
White Girl
Price: $4.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars White Girl by Grace Jelsnik, June 26, 2016
This review is from: White Girl (Kindle Edition)
I like to read stories that include Native American elements, more often than not mysticism is brought into play. That is not what you will find in this novel though. What you will get is a solid view of Sioux culture and history. Tashina’s parents recognized her warrior spirit at a young age and sent her to spend summers with her grandfather on the Pine Ridge Reservation so she could have a solid foundation in her Native American heritage. However, her cousins never let her forget they considered her a white girl because she wasn’t a full-blood Sioux. The story is told through Tashina’s point-of-view so we are given insight into her inner thoughts as she works through her inner dilemmas; justifying her FBI identity, her somewhat privileged white upbringing, and her Sioux heritage. I found these story arcs particularly engaging and fascinating.

Ms. Jelsnik has woven Tashina’s journey with a powerful story arc about a homeland terror plot that could have a global impact. This includes corporate espionage on the highest level as well as potential corruption in other federal agencies. Tashina’s only ally is a man named David she had never met. David is an unusual, interesting character. He was raised by a man who was not his father and who instilled discipline and loyalty to mold him into an ideal agent. Tashina has her suspicions as to which agency, she has good instincts that serve her well throughout the story. David was secretive and detached; he also had good instincts as well as survival training. He was quick to observe that Tashina was trapped between two cultures, being an Indian at heart but white in practice. Their relationship was guarded and felt realistic. Their dialogue was comical at times as they played off each other like an old married couple.

I don’t usually read political intrigue type novels full of espionage, but this one seemed well researched, plausible, and frightening. I wouldn’t call White Girl a relaxing read, but I did enjoy it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if this is a genre you enjoy.

FYI: **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** June 17, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No significant issues were noted.

Caught In A Trap (Romantic Comedy)
Caught In A Trap (Romantic Comedy)
Price: $3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Caught in a Trap by Elaine Raco Chase, June 20, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I found this story a thoroughly enjoyable journey through miscommunication and false assumptions before you have all the facts, while struggling through a quagmire of insecurities. Kit Forrester had survived a horribly abusive childhood and was well on her way to moving forward with her life, working in the account purchasing department at Shippley Electronics in San Antonio, Texas. She moved there eighteen months ago from New York to start a new life after years of therapy and putting herself through school.

Rafe Morgan was a wounded Navy SEAL who struck it rich when he purchased a rundown ranch in which to build a new future. Every time he dug a new well looking for water he would strike oil. Being a good-looking bachelor he was a prime target for every socialite in Texas. This included Mr. Shippley’s, from Shippley Electronics, two beautiful gold-digging daughters. Rafe had been able to start many new companies and develop an impressive, diverse portfolio with his newfound wealth. He has learned to be wary of beautiful women, but Kit doesn’t consider herself beautiful. She was practical and down-to-earth, always looking out for and taking care of all of her friends’ best interests before her own. Rafe was sure she had set a trap for him and was not going to let himself fall for any of her tricks. Rafe followed the age old adage: Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

There is no denying Rafe and Kit had steamy chemistry, no matter how many times both of them fought it. Rafe had the patience of a saint. I tired listening to all of Kit’s inner insecurities and self-admonishment. This of course led us on a comedic roller-coaster ride of emotional errors. However, to Kit’s credit, none of these insecurities affected her business acumen. She was smart, confident, and well spoken; however, her personal life was still an emotional mess, despite years of therapy.

Caught in a Trap is a fun, steamy read with well-rounded enjoyable characters. It is not a quick read though, it is an in-depth journey into the lives of both Kit and Rafe. I can almost guarantee you will want to slap some sense into Kit a few times, bless her heart. But at the same time you will love her because she has a good soul that had survived atrocities and Rafe will scald your sensibilities. Although I wanted him to shave his mustache.

FYI: “Content Warning - this book is intended for mature adult readers (18+) who are not offended by profanity and explicit sex scenes. While this is a romantic comedy, some readers may find some subject matter difficult - unfortunately such events are true.”

“Spoiler alert: please be advised that no comic books, superheroes, duct tape, handcuffs, ropes or organic chocolate milk were harmed during the writing of this novel.”

Actually, I am not sure whether no organic chocolate milk was harmed in this novel. There was plenty consumed, however, I don’t recall any being spilt. So, perhaps that is a judgement call? **Originally written for "BigAl’s Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy.** June 13, 2016

Format/Typo Issues: No significant issues.

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