Family Tree: A Review


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The latest Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) this pedometer geek reader completed was Susan Wiggs’ Family Tree. This is not the first of her novels this reader has read. From some of her historical novels (At the King’s Command, The Horsemaster’s Daughter) to some of her contemporary novels (Summer at Willow Lake, Lakeside Cottage), this reader has enjoyed reading this author’s works (about ten in all so far and a few sitting on my shelves still to be read, but I digress). Because of this, this reader was excited and pleased to find out that a copy of  Family Tree through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program was coming. This is the extended review.

Family Tree

by Susan Wiggs

Published by William Morrow

an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-242543-0

Having indicated that this reader enjoys the novels of Wiggs, it should come as no surprise that this one was thoroughly enjoyed. Among the novels of hers already read, this may be the favorite of all of them.

The key ingredient to this novel is Wiggs’ fresh characters (read: not cookie cutter). Added to this are family, friends, love, and new beginnings. It’s a thoroughly engaging, contemporary novel that starts from the moment that Annie realizes she is pregnant until the end. It’s an emotional read of love, lost and found, of dreams, lost and found, and families, lost and found, and of relationships, loved, lost, and rediscovered.

Annie Rush Harlow has it all: a handsome husband, a successful career she loves, a beautiful home in Los Angeles, and a baby on the way, that is, until it all comes crashing down in a moment. An accident brings her back to the family fold in Switchback, Vermont, and she will have to battle back with everything she has to put her life back together.

The tale, told in a Now/Then format, can be heart-wrenching as the reader roots for Annie Rush Harlow and Fletcher Wyndham, the seemingly star-crossed lovers. Timing is everything, and they just don’t seem to have it. Life’s events, both big and small, consistently get in the way.

As the title suggests, family is key. Annie’s relationship with her Gran; Annie’s relationship with her parents; Fletcher’s relationship with his father, are but a few of the more powerful relationships that drive the action.

Wiggs infuses humor into the story, too. One particular line that demonstrates it is as follows:

“Squeeze that cheesecloth like it’s your ex-husband’s. . . wallet.” (said to a group of divorced women, p. 332).

She also points out, through Annie, poor grammar on the part of another character, Melissa. The passage is as follows:

“What if the team was you and I?”

“Me,” said Annie automatically.


“You and me, not you and I. It’s an indirect object.” She realized Melissa was not getting it. (p. 340)

As a grammar geek, this particular passage just struck me as absolutely perfect.
As far as this reader is concerned, Annie’s and Fletcher’s story is one of this author’s best contemporary novels. There are enough twists and turns to make it interesting, and there are few, if any, What-the-tuck trends seen. The tale is both heartbreaking and heartwarming as Annie struggles to make peace with her past and take control of her future. Having read quite a few of her other novels in the past, this reader can definitely make this claim. On the other hand, there are quite a few of hers this reader still plans on reading.

For those who like women’s fiction or for those who have never experienced Susan Wiggs’ writing, consider starting with this one.




Beyond the Rising Tide: Review


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A copy of Beyond the Rising Tide by Sarah Beard was the latest First Reads Goodreads giveaway novel this pedometer geek read. It is one of two novels written by Beard; the other is Porcelain Keys, and both are considered Young Adult (YA) novels. This reader was privileged to receive an autographed copy, but that in no way affected this extended review.

Beyond the Rising Tide

by Sarah Beard

Published by Sweetwater Books, 2016

an imprint of Cedar Fort, Inc,

ISBN: 978-1-4621-1784-8

This the first of Beard’s novels this pedometer geek read, and it is classified as a YA romance. For this reader, what’s not to like? It is a story of young love and the recklessness of youth.

Actually, this YA romance is not a typical run-of-the-mill romance because the romance is one that is full of angst as well as spirituality. Told from the alternative perspectives of the two main characters, Avery Ambrose and Kai Turner, the story tells of their first meeting when Kai saves Avery from drowning with his death as a result.

Now, Kai has the role of a healer in Demoror, one of three realms in the afterlife. Through this role, he observes Avery’s continuing difficulty with his death six months earlier, and how it has changed her. He only wants to help her to rediscover her sense of self and have her return to her formerly vivacious life. Even in life, Kai was always a rebellious soul, pushing the boundaries, and it is no different now. He breaks the rules of his position, thus finding a way to have a body for a short period of time. Time enough to meet Avery for real and form a deep relationship with her.

Avery, for her part, has become depressed over the loss of the boy who saved her life. She dwells on it, looking for any clue as to who he was, and thus barely functioning in her daily life. Once a daredevil, now she avoids all the things she once enjoyed, particularly surfing. She avoids going into the water altogether, and in so doing, has had her boyfriend Tyler dump her.

It is only after Kai “meets” Avery (again) for the first time that Avery begins to change, to accept, to love again. Unfortunately, Avery and Kai have only a few days together as he has been caught breaking the rules by his mentor, Charles. In those few days Kai must help Avery to heal, to become whole again, but will that be enough time? Can Kai save Avery without losing her forever? Will they ever be together again? Is it possible to be dangerously happy (to understand this the book must be read)? Moreover, how can the pair have a happily ever after?


Overall, this story is a refreshingly clean teenage romance (no graphic language or sex) with deeper issues at its core. The author doesn’t shy away from talking about depression, loss, death, or other spiritual matters. Not only that, but this reader was surprised by the ending.

Yes, there were a few What-the-Tuck trends seen throughout the novel…some hair tucking, green eyes (okay blue-green eyes), but nothing totally outrageous. The book was well edited, too, with few typos…one exception, which this reader actually found funny, was the use of repel for the word rappel (as in the character rappelling down the cliff face).  One of the more interesting facets (to me, at least) was that each of the two characters had unique identifiers, which followed the ocean wave theme, at the beginning of each chapter to identify from which perspective the story was being told.

This reader hopes to read the author’s other work, Porcelain Keys. Moreover, it is hoped that there will be other stories by Beard in the future.

Wrath of Magic: A Review


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As one of Simone Pond’s Elite Readers, this pedometer geek reader had the opportunity to read Wrath of Magic, the last novel in the Mysterium Chronicles trilogy, before it was published. Like the previous two,  Exodus of Magic and River of Magic, this reader received an e-book of the novel, thanks to the author. This is the extended review.

Wrath of Magic

by Simone Pond

Published by Ktown Waters Publishing, 2017

ASIN: B072589MP7

From the back cover blurb:

Will Jordan complete the final task and be able to join her people?

In the third (and final) novel of the Mysterium Chronicles trilogy, Jordan Temple, AKA the Chosen One, is feeling bereft, unaccomplished, and despondent, as the novel opens. Beginning at the point where the previous novel, River of Magic, ended, she has fulfilled the prophecy of returning the Ancients to their homeland of Shtein’esrei, but she is now separated from them, and the portal at the Rankin Gate is closed. Moreover, she is nearly certain that a few of her closest friends and compatriots, the ones who fought so bravely beside her, have perished in the attempt. What next for her? Can she find a way in?

Not all is lost, however, as she discovers that several of her members are still alive and on this side of the homeland, and further discovers that she has more to do to complete the prophecy. She and the few remaining ragtag members are tasked with going to the six cities of the Confederated Six to offer the citizens there a choice: life or death, the Ancient One or Ashtar. Once completed, they are to return to the Madlands for the Final Battle against those who choose evil particularly Magnus.

In each of the cities, she and her growing army of converts battle various creatures from vampires to shifters and more. Some will be converted, and some won’t, but every city provides a unique opportunity for action and adventure for Jordan and her crew.

New characters are introduced, but many characters from the other two books make an reappearance as well in this urban fantasy novel of twists and turns, paranormal creatures and magic, and a clear distinction between good and evil leading to either redemption or death.

There are a few minor typos, but none are so egregious as to spoil the pleasure of reading this compelling, spiritual story. There are plenty of surprises along the way to keep the reader guessing. While the novel could be read as a standalone, this reader doesn’t suggest it. Too much insight and understanding might be lost so read the complete trilogy as the author has the stories wrap around in emotion-filled ways.

Each of the books can be purchased separately, but there is also the option to buy the set as a three-book e-book bundle through Amazon Kindle for the low price of $ 2.97 as this reader discovered upon research. As of now, unlike the other two in the series, it is only available as an e-book, but this reader suspects that a physical book will be available soon.






Last First Kiss: A Review


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The latest giveaway book this pedometer geek read was Last First Kiss, a contemporary romance novel. It was received directly from the author, Lia Riley, as a consolation prize for another giveaway, but then while cleaning out computer files, this reader accidentally deleted it, and thus purchased another copy to be able to read it, but I digress. This is the extended review.

Last First Kiss

by Lia Riley

Published by Avon Impulse, 2015

ISBN: 9780062503773

As the back cover blurb of  Last First Kiss states: A kiss is only the beginning…

This sweet and sassy contemporary romance finds Annie Carson, a mommy blogger, sugarcoating her reality of life as a single mother to four-year-old Atticus. Writing blogs complete with photos show her life with Atticus to be picture perfect, but the reality is anything but. Returning home to Brightwater, California to prepare her family’s rundown property for sale isn’t what she had in mind for her life. Her idea is to fix it up, sell it, and move to San Francisco, and create that perfect life that includes living near her sister. Frankly, she never wanted to return to Brightwater since her heart was once broken by her next door neighbor, Sawyer Kane.

Yet in a backwater town, it is hard to avoid Sawyer, and the sparks between them are reignited. He has never forgotten her and still regrets letting his first love slip away. Longstanding feuds, particularly with his formidable, feisty grandmother (think Hatfield and McCoy or Capulet and Montague), get in the way even as he is patiently trying to get her to stay permanently. He wants that first kiss to be the last first kiss.

Still, there are old hurts to overcome, which may destroy new happiness. Ultimately, will Annie stay or will she and her son move? Is there a chance for happily ever after for Sawyer and Annie (and her son)?

It is a modern day tale of Romeo and Juliet without the tragedy of death. This romance is relatively free of graphic language and contains relatively tame sexual content. The romance purposely has slow romantic buildup between the pair, which adds to the enjoyment of the story.  Secondary characters like the coffee shop owner, Annie’s sister,  Sawyer’s brothers, and Sawyer’s grandmother are just another reason to check out the story.

This is the first of Riley’s novels that this pedometer geek has read, but it probably won’t be the last. Last First Kiss is the first in a series of romances all set in the town of Brightwater and each has a title that seems incongruous in nature.

River of Magic: A Review


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This pedometer geek reader followed up Simone Pond’s Exodus of Magic with the second book in the Mysterium Chronicles, River of Magic. Again, because of being selected as one of her Elite readers, Simone gifted me an e-book (mobi) file of her newest novel, and this is the extended review of it.

River of Magic

by Simone Pond

Published by Ktown Waters Publishing, 2017

ISBN: 978-1544682501

As the back cover blurb says:

An unfinished prophecy. A diabolical witch. Another high-octane adventure.

Jordan Temple, formerly known as Jordan Bachar, has just escaped from Magnus and his operatives as Exodus of Magic ends. The second book in the Mysterium Chronicles finds the heroine becoming more comfortable in the role as the Chosen One and begins basically where the first one left off.

Trying to escape from the clutches of Magnus and his operatives, basically the Jade operatives of which she was once a valued member, she guides the flotilla of Ancients, the magic-wielding people of the left bank, down the River Elin towards the Ancients’ homeland of Shtein’esrei and freedom.

But it won’t be smooth sailing as she battles her way toward the Rankin Gate, the gateway that must be opened to allow them to pass into their homeland. The catch: only one person, Isabella the enchantress, has the power to open the gate. Getting to her and convincing her to help is a tall task.

Paranormal creatures from the various cities and lands of the Confederated Six keep interfering with her progress and plans, wreaking havoc upon her and the ships. This is especially true in the city of Endor, with Glendora, the High Witch of Endor, holding Isabella captive. With her posse of Benjamin, Chloe, Matthias, and CeeCee at her side, she may just find the resources…or not.

Magic, enchantresses, evil witches, shifters, and more make for an exciting, heart-racing read leaving readers enthralled and on the edge. Will Jordan complete her quest, or won’t she? Will the Ancients find their mythical city again, or will the gate be forever closed to them?

While the story is complete as is, the ending is still a cliffhanger, setting up the reader to eagerly await the next book, Wrath of Magic. Simone Pond, this reader is on tenterhooks! As will all who read the series, but this reader says, “Just do it.” Highly recommended, it’s a fun urban fantasy read with excellent baddies (to quote a dear friend, Denise LC). Counselor Magnus is evil, but Glendora, who is the predominant evil character in this story, may be worse. Still, Magnus is not yet finished with Jordan.

Despite the paranormal creatures and the urban fantasy story, this reader suspects that there is a spiritual component to the stories. It’s not overt, but many of the characters have Biblical names (Matthias, Levi, and Jordan, to name a few), and even the River Elin, which plays such a central role in the story, can be transposed to the River Nile. Is it intentional? Or just a lucky coincidence? Obviously, this reader thinks it is, but decide for yourself…read them both in anticipation of the third story. Either way, it is a rollicking good read from an up-and-coming independent author. Knowing quite a few of them, I have a soft spot for indie authors, but I digress.

This reader has been fortunate to have read most of  Simone Pond’s novels. For those who enjoy reading YA dystopian novels, check out The New Agenda series and her Voices of the Apocalypse short stories that stand alongside of it.


The Women in the Castle: A Review


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One of the last novels this pedometer geek read was an Advanced Reader’s Edition of Jessica Shuttuck’s The Women in the Castle. It was received from the publisher through a Bookperks giveaway, and the book was just released on the 28th of March. This is the extended review.

The Women in the Castle

by Jessica Shattuck

Published by William Morrow, 2017

an imprint of HarperCollins Publisher

ISBN: 978-0-06-256366-8

Set before, during, and after World War II, this is a sweeping historical novel of (primarily) three women who lived through the atrocities of Hitler and the war in Germany. Set in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to German high society, it is a story that sheds a different light on the war.

Marianne von Lingenfels, Benita Flederman, and Ania Grarbarek are three very different women, and each has a unique story to tell, lies to conceal, and families to rear in difficult times. The three come together, all living in a cold, drafty castle in Germany as their lives, as they knew it, are forever changed in the aftermath of the devastating events of the war.

Resistor and newly widowed Marianne feels it is her duty to protect and save those who have become displaced by the Nazis and the war itself.

Benita is the wife of Marianne’s childhood friend, Constantine (known as Connie), and is the first of the women that Marianne knows she must save. Like her own husband Albrecht, Connie was hanged in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. On the night of the last harvest party at the castle, Connie asked her to protect the women and children, particularly to watch out for Benita and his son Martin if anything should happen to him. In a sense, that mandate to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows, sets the story in motion.

Ania is a woman who is escaping the Russian soldiers marching east even as the German soldiers are marching west. Caught between opposing forces, she and her children find protection under Marianne’s roof. Of the three she struck this reader as the most resilient of them all.

The trio of women and their children form a kind of family, yet it’s often an uneasy alliance because each of the women hides secrets from the others. Bonds are formed; lives become intertwined and are transformed in the story that spans nearly sixty years. Redemptive and poignant, painful and hopeful, this historical novel shows another side to the war and how much it impacted the lives of ordinary and not-so-ordinary citizens living during a tumultuous time.

Overall, this novel reminded this reader of Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key, a story that still remains firmly in my memory, and one that I continue to recommend. The same is true about Shattuck’s novel; it is a highly recommended read. Since finishing this novel, I read that the author’s grandmother and mother had similar experiences in the war, which explains the why the novel feels so real, so personal. As it says in the acknowledgments, she listened to the stories of her grandmother and aunt. To me, it also explains the dedication, which is in memory of her mother and grandmother.

There are several quotes from the prologue that could be interpreted as being ripped out of today’s headlines, which this reader found chilling. Here are a few of them:

“I urge you to beware of our leadership’s aggression  versus If we are not vigilant, our leader’s aggressive intentions will only be the beginning…” (page 3)

“…was being run by a loudmouthed rabble-rouser, bent on baiting other nations to war and making life miserable for countless innocent citizens.” (page 10)

“This man–the zealot who calls himself our leader–will ruin everything we have achieved as a united nation.” (page 12)

One small nitpicky thing: On the next-to-last-page (354),  “The original cross Franz Muller carved into the trunk has grown out of sight, and there is a new one, a stripe he gouged into the bark maybe fifteen years ago, which itself has moved up.” While this reader understands that it was a plot device to underscore the significance of this tree, the reality is that a tree grows up and outward, but the trunk stays in the same position and that includes any carvings. It may have been corrected in the final edition, but this reader suspects otherwise.

On the other hand, this reader will be looking to read other books by this author. Jessica Shattuck has a few other titles.


Exodus of Magic: A Review


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Recently this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of becoming an Elite reader for author Simone Pond’s novel River of Magic, the second novel in The Mysterium Chronicles. What that meant is prior to its publication, the author gave her Elite readers the opportunity to read her newest novel, an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC); however, this reader hadn’t read the first novel in the series. The author was kind enough to offer a copy of this one as well, and this is the extended review of Exodus of Magic.

Exodus of Magic

by Simone Pond

Published by Ktown Waters Publishing, 2017

ISBN: 978-1542980968

Having read other novels by indie author Simone Pond. this reader knew, or certainly suspected, that reading this novel would be a treat, and it was. She has deftly moved from YA dystopian fiction to the genre of urban fantasy.

From the back cover:

 An ancient prophecy. A chosen leader. A warlock who will stop at nothing.

As the novel opens, readers are introduced to the female protagonist, Jordan Bachar, a recent graduate of the Academy, the school that trains operatives to protect the citizens of the right-bank in Mysterium, one of the lands of the Confederated Six (by the way, there is a map of the world of the Confederated Six included at the beginning of the novel). She and her fellow graduates are attending a charity ball, held by her adopted mother, Charity Bachar, to celebrate the newest graduates. Charity’s father just happens to be the Prime Master of Mysterium, but Jordan has never felt she has measured up to his expectations so that she is out to prove that she is worthy of being one of these elite operatives.

During this festive event, Jordan finds herself protecting the attendees from a mage-terrorist by using her hidden, illegal magic (magic is illegal in the city of Mysterium). Unfortunately, the Prime Master’s chief counselor, Pierce Magnus, recognizes this and subsequently blackmails her into secretly working for him. This sets off a cascade of events leading to her discovery of an ancient prophecy.

This prophecy involves her…in fact, she discovers she is the Chosen One. She is the one who will save the Ancient Ones of the left-bank of Mysterium, that is, if she survives. Paranormal creatures including a powerful warlock are out to stop her, but she will be joined in her quest by other magical persons in this first novel of the series.

The novel is engaging right from the start so that it is difficult to stop reading (to be honest, this pedometer geek reader devoured it). The characters, both the good and the bad, are realistic (for the genre). Pond doesn’t give away anything so that the reader is constantly guessing who is a good guy and who isn’t. Overall, it is a fun read, and it definitely sets the reader up for River of Magic, the sequel. The tale is complete as is, but there are enough unanswered questions that the reader desires to know: how will Jordan save the Ancient Ones from their exile? How will she save the world of Mysterium?

This reader is looking forward to reading the upcoming second book; as an Elite reader, that will be as soon as this review is posted. Expect a review soon as the book will available to the public as of today, March 28, 2017 (in other words, don’t wait for my review, read both of them now!) For those who love paranormal creatures (vampires, witches, mages, and more) and urban fantasy, this will be right up your alley.

One nit-picky thing that this reader found throughout the story: the term Chosen One was over-utilized by the protagonist. Most heroes/heroines in stories tend to disbelieve in their role in the universe and downplay it, acting only “because they had to,” (that it was the right thing to do). Perhaps, Jordan’s use was meant to be self-deprecating and funny, but it became a bit tedious; however, having said that, when she was called CO by some of her compatriots, that was rather clever, and it certainly is not a reason to forgo reading this series.









Going for Kona: A Review


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The latest novel this pedometer geek read was a complimentary copy of one of Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ novels, which the author offered as a consolation prize to a giveaway she was running. Thanks again for this book. Frankly, can’t recall the other book title at the moment, but here is the extended review of the novel, Going for Kona (which was gifted by the author).

Going for Kona

by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Published by SkipJack Publishing, 2014

ISBN: 978-1939889188

Going for Kona is a cross-genre story. Billed as a romantic suspense story, it is part mystery, part suspense, and, at its heart, a love story. Briefly, without giving away too many spoilers, co-authors Michele and Adrian Hanson are training for the Kona Ironman triathlon to be held in Hawaii. The day after the book launch at Barnes & Noble of their book, My Pace or Yours? Triathlon Training for Couples, Adrian is killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle. His death devastates Michele and their children, Belle and Sam. Frankly, if were up to her, she’d crawl in bed, pull the covers over her head, and never come out. Unfortunately, his death also drives sales on the book and a media blitz occurs, which is a distraction for Michele and the family.

Michele’s grief for Adrian also drives her to intensify her training in order to participate in the Kona race in honor of her husband, yet at what cost? Her children, Sam and Belle, are paying the price for her lack of time and attention, and custody of the two is in jeopardy. Added to that, she feels that the police are not looking for his killer. Or at least, not hard enough to suit her so that, in essence, she becomes an amateur sleuth. Doing her own detective work may be as dangerous as training; moreover, she may discover things she’d rather not know, but nonetheless she persists.

Will Michele survive the race? Will she repair the rift with her kids? Will she discover her husband’s murderer? All these questions (and more) will be answered be answered  as she goes for broke.

This is the first of Hutchins’ novels that this pedometer geek has read. It is part of a series called What Doesn’t Kill You, but this one clearly can be read as a stand-alone. Her characters are fresh and realistic. For example, teens Sam and Annabelle (Belle) act like typical teens. That is, they are moody and loving and rebellious and caring, all in the space of fifteen minutes. The scenarios are believable, as in the example of Michele’s driving herself in her training to block our her pain of the loss of her spouse. There is just enough romance, mystery, suspense, and humor throughout the story that keeps the reader engaged and emotionally connected to the characters.

There were the usual What-the-trends seen. Several of the characters (Adrian, Belle) had green eyes, and of course, there was at least one incident of hair tucking, but overall, it was a fun read, which means this reader intends to read other novels by this author. Actually, at least two of them (Saving Grace and Heaven to Betsy)  are already downloaded on my Kindle, but I digress. What more needs to be said?







Vanishing Games: A Review


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The pedometer geek reader’s local library, the Huron Public Library, had an event with a publisher’s representative (Penguin, I believe it was) almost two years ago. The rep discussed various upcoming titles that she was excited to represent (some of which this reader has read, but I digress). She also gave participants the opportunity to have some copies of other upcoming titles. This reader chose an uncorrected bound proof of Vanishing Games, which was written by Roger Hobbs. Thus, despite the tardiness related to the time since receiving the novel, this pedometer geek reader now presents the extended review.

Vanishing Games

by Roger Hobbs

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

a division of Random House, LLC


Vanishing Games is the thrilling sequel to Hobbs’ debut novel, Ghostman. Having not read that one, it was with some trepidation that this reader began to read his second novel. What if it was the continuation of a story that had ended with a cliff-hanger ending? Would it make any sense or would it always be a matter of trying to figure out the “rest of the story,” in a sense, always playing a game of catch up? Well, the answer is: No. This story can be read as a stand-alone.

While the main characters of Angela and Jack were the same, there is little that harkens back to the first story. When there are references to earlier exploits and events, the author deftly explains enough so that the reader is not wandering around in the dark. Because of those little explanations of the characters’ past history, this reader feels compelled to read the first one. Yes, some of the events will be less dramatic, but not so much as to deny the reader from enjoying the tale and getting all the gritty details.

Without too many spoilers, this tale, set in Asia, specifically Macau and Hong Kong, has pirates, smuggling, organized crime, master criminals/thieves, and mercenaries. As the novel opens, a group of pirates opens fire on a small yacht, a yacht that is smuggling a fortune in uncut sapphires. More than that, the pirates stumble upon a greater treasure, and only one man from the crew survives, and he plans to disappear completely with both.

His boss, Angela, isn’t about to let that happen. But, who to trust?

It’s been six years since Jack, known as the Ghostman, last saw Angela; six years since their last caper, the one that was so botched that Jack barely escaped with his life. Frankly, without his partner in crime, Jack has become bored and is gambling away his life when he gets a message he never expected. Angela is alive and needs him to travel to Macau immediately.

Without a thought for his safety (can she really be alive?), he takes off only to find himself running for his life again. Finally, the two re-connect, and it is up to the two of them to retrieve the merchandise (the sapphires) without getting themselves killed. Non-stop action and dangerous situations liberally litter this thriller that has them caught between a mercenary and a triad (an organized crime family). Ultimately, will either of them survive, and if so, will they get merchandise before pulling another vanishing act?

The writing style and the plot is reminiscent of the novels of Gerald Browne, a writer this reader has enjoyed over the years. Twists and turns, double-crosses, intrigue, and more make for compelling can’t-put-it-down reading. Hobbs gives a bit of background information to enhance the reader’s understanding of unfamiliar concepts, but not in a heavy-handed manner. Overall, it’s a suspenseful read that is complete as is, but leaves potential for more from this author. Will there be another story featuring Jack?

As for this reader, it is time to read Ghostman.

(Gerald Browne’s novels include Stone 588, 18mm Blues, Hot Siberian, and 19 Purchase Street among others.)



Secrets of Men…in a Lifeboat: A Review


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Secrets of Men…in a Lifeboat, debut novel of Todd R. Baker, was the latest Goodreads giveaway this pedometer geek reader had the privilege of reading. This is the extended review.

Secrets of Men…in a Lifeboat

by Todd R. Baker

Published by Aqueous Books, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-55484-5

Writing this review was difficult because this reader both loved this novel and hated this novel. On one hand it is so upbeat and positive, and on the other hand it is a downer and negative. Is this possible? Absolutely, since the protagonist, Luke Morrow, is both a decent, likeable person and also a absolutely deplorable jerk. Without telling too many spoilers, the story is divided into two parts.

As the story begins, down-on-his-luck, single father Luke loves his eight-year-old son Trevor; however, he has over-reached with an entrepreneurial enterprise causing him to lose his job, his home, and maybe even time with his child. To add to his troubles, his ex-wife and her  new husband are contemplating moving across the country and planning on taking Trevor with them.

With everything weighing him down, he is contemplating suicide. On the verge of killing himself, Luke undergoes a miracle or actually many of them. Luke then becomes a successful, but brutal man, taking no prisoners as he uses friends, employees, lovers, and anyone who crosses his path until they become liabilities. He becomes everything he thought he was destined to be when he was down and out. Yet, in the end, the outcome may be the same when a monumental choice must be made that will affect his son and him.

This decision will be one of life or death, and which will he choose? Can (and will) he make the right choice? Will there be one more miracle for Luke?

A few impressions from the novel: This reader loved the interactions between Luke (before) and Trevor. He is obviously a great father, who loves his kid and tries to do everything he can to make a good life for him. On the other hand, the interactions between Luke (after) and Trevor are downright sad and shows just how brutal a man Luke has become. Although though there were plenty of memorable characters in the story, one ancillary character stood out in this reader’s mind: One Leg. The cover of the book, that of a budding lemon tree, which Luke and Trevor call the lemonette tree, was absolutely gorgeous, too.

An issue worth noting was the constantly changing name of Luke’s assistant. Sometimes it was Stacy; other times it was Tracy (one time on consecutive pages). Intentional or not, it was confusing and frankly, this reader wasn’t sure which was the correct name or if they were really two different characters.

One particular passage struck this reader as truly profound. Starting the quotes with Luke’s words, alternating with Trevor’s words, and so on,

“…you still remember what my real job is, the only important one?”

“I forget.”

“My job is to love you. What’s your job?”

“I forget.”

“Your job is to be a kid. And you know what I say? The two easiest jobs in the world.” (page 15)