The Hotel Westend

The Hotel Westend
ISBN: 9780996521031, Barrington House Publishing, a mystery by Ashley Lynch-Harris.

Plot: Elsie Maitland is taking a trip that she and her mystery writer sister had planned to provide a virtual experience for her, as well. Elsie is the somewhat timid, rather reserved sister, and owner of a book store while Frances is a constant adventurer whose last trip resulted in a lengthy rehabilitation. The directions she has been given with her rental car land her at the Hotel Westland, miles from her destination. Here she finds herself involved in a double murder that seems to duplicate an unusual death twenty years earlier when the hotel had been a private mansion. An interesting and most relevant factor is that a number of guests have been persuaded to come to the hotel by one or another ‘invitation’. She begins her usual copious correspondence with her sister and between them, with help from a number of locals, the mystery is solved.

Characters: Elsie, Dennis Needling, hotel manager; Paul Hulling, who sets much of the activity in motion for a shadowy Davis; Elbert Turnbull, the hotel’s only full-time resident; Norma Kemper, hotel’s not particularly efficient maid; Iradene Hartwell, 51-year-old unpleasant socialite; her sister Marian, ‘mousy’ and dominated; James Rennick, Journalist and cross-word puzzle aficionado; Richard Wellington and new bride Olivia; Reverend Pennington, visiting prelate; Dr. Linder, town physician; Amos Hartin, gardener; Mr. Reddy, town pharmacist; Doris Malford, local florist; Vesta Tidwell, town’s most prominent gossip purveyor and her husband, local fish store owner; Sargent Wilcox, town’s law; and Ted Rennick who appears very late in the story.

Discussion/Conclusion: The author has set forth a really intriguing plot. It is unusual, involved, has numerous possible perpetrators and a solution that is appealingly ‘different’. The presentation is not exactly smooth, but the pace is good, the plot intriguing and in summation, a rather enjoyable first novel that augurs well for the anticipated series.

3* Interesting first mystery with appealingly ‘different’ solution.

MOZART, A Life of Genius

MOZART, A life of Genius, Fritzen Media, an e-book by Alexander Kennedy.

The author has provided a highly detailed listing of this celebrated musician’s life activities. Included are his amazing accomplishments beginning as a child of three and extending to his early death at thirty-five years of age. It details his virtuosic abilities with several instruments, his incomparable ability to sight-read any musical score set before him, his establishment of unique musical themes admired by and influential in the lives of subsequent musical greats and his production of six hundred musical compositions ranging from religious to comedic that still are as lovingly enjoyed throughout much of the world today as they were in his highly acclaimed but tragically short life. A most interesting read.

5* Interesting, detailed biography.

Top 5 Cheat Sheet

TOP 5 Cheat Sheet, The unofficial Author’s Guide, an e-book by Richard McCartney.

An introduction details why “self-publishing authors are not playing on a level playing field against the traditionally publishing houses.” Specifically: 1) Indie author presence in actual bookshops (except for a few small ones) is negligible to zero even if reaching ‘best-seller’ status – unfortunate because many readers still prefer printed books; 2) Their titles are not included in the online catalogues from which most libraries and bookstores order; 3) They receive little to no coverage by traditional media – known book reviews (Kirkus and 1-2 other exceptions) rarely cover them and most ‘better known’ reviewers seldom, if ever, publish their reviews in other than traditional papers/magazines. Reasons stem from: 1) the large number of new titles published; 2) a lingering belief that they are poorly written/produced; 3) also amusingly perhaps, because of an unrecognized underlying discomfort about the reviewer’s ‘stature’ being affected if they should deign to review one of these ‘lesser offerings’. If this statement appears absurd to the reader, consider that basically in everyone’s psyche is the belief that accomplishment depends upon attainment (doing) as described by a very old adage: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.” If a reviewer has not personally successfully ‘published’ but has attained a certain ‘status’, he unconsciously may be less secure in departing from the ‘traditional’ track – a track most regrettably remaining from the early days of POD and the many inferior publications that followed. Fortunately, this really no longer applies. This reviewer recently has read many excellent ‘indies’ and conversely, some quite inferior offerings by well-known authors and/or publishers. Thus, as McCartney suggests, indie authors may counteract this regrettable ‘loss of recognition’ situation and achieve a well-elevated position close to that derived from being published and/or reviewed by the establishment. You can join the new age of publishing where “online position visibility rapidly is approaching that held by appearance in brick-and-mortar stores” and you can achieve this if you “sell within the Amazon universe, “the biggest online store in the world.”

The author previously provided a book for Indie authors, “Self-Publishing: The Secret Guide to Becoming A Best Seller”. Now, he has added a most useful marketing ‘Cheat Sheet’ of “some of the lesser-known facts about buying and selling books on Amazon”. In five chapters he explains how to work your way through the Amazon jungle to best market your book AND does so in explicit, detailed steps. Chapter one explains how to circumvent the fact that “Amazon hides most of the best categories for your particular book”. The second chapter explains how to reduce the extra charges Amazon places on international buyers of your book. The third provides a detailed method “to get your book into the Amazon Hot New Releases”. Four, an opportunity for linking “a Best Seller book in your genre to your own book”. Chapter five explains “How to remove bad reviews of your book”, with an important caveat. The author then sneaks in a sixth chapter because, as he bluntly states: “What is the point of a cheat sheet, if it doesn’t provide a cheat itself?” AND this chapter describes a real treasure for the author struggling for recognition. It describes how to manage to have your book exhibited “alongside Best Seller and other famous books”.

Discussion/Conclusion: McCartney has set forth a book which is a boon to the indie author. It provides exactly the ammunition required to market a self-published book at the top level of competition. It presents explicit directions in a clearly understood, step-by-step manner that the reader easily may follow to gain top exposure in the rapidly exploding online market. In this reviewer’s opinion, this is a remarkable book that can place the indie author almost immediately on an equal footing with those in the ‘establishment’ group. It is a must read for any self-publisher or author whose work has been published by any other means.

5* A must read for indie authors.

 

FIXIN’ To DIE

Fixin’ To Die (1)

ISBN: 9781635110401, Henery Press, a Kenni Lowry Mystery Series presented here in e-book by Tonya Kappes.

Plot/Characters: Kendrick (Kenni’) Lowry is the elected Sheriff of Cottonwood, Kentucky, a small, sleepy town in which everyone knows everyone and their business. She had majored in judicial/criminal investigation and assumed the job, against her mother’s wishes, after the long-time sheriff, her adored father, had passed away. She is awakened in the morning by her office “calling all units”, really unnecessary because she was the only unit since the lone deputy had retired. Anyway, she reported that Ronald Walton, the town’s old doctor, was dead seemingly murdered. Shortly thereafter, she is called again about a break-in at the town’s jewelry store. From this auspicious beginning the reader is taken on a variously paced ride through the town and surrounding environs, it’s surprisingly many hidden elements and the people involved to greater and lesser extents. Included among the characters are Finn Vincent, a Kentucky State Reserve officer assigned to help, Wyatt Granger, the county jailer, longtime resident Sterling Stinnett, Edna Easterly, the town reporter, mobile café owner Jerel Fisher, Lulu McClain, owner of a boutique of the same name and troublemaker, Camille Shively, M.D. the new doctor in town (who had argued bitterly with Walton), town dentist Beverly Houston, Toots Buford who had worked for Walton and was fired, Polly Parker, and her parents, Chance Ryland the town’s mayor and others of lesser importance in solving this heinous crime and the jewelry robbery as well. AND most prominently, Kenni’s dad who returns in his ghostly form to aid his beloved daughter.

Discussion: The author has devised a plot that is unique, has some interesting twists, and depicts quite knowledgeably a small town and its people in an engaging manner that will bring smiles to readers who ever have experienced such an environment. For those who enjoy mysteries with a touch of the occult and ‘a ‘homey’ setting, this book especially is for you. Readers who prefer the more usually ‘structured’ mystery where obvious clues are not ignored/missed and protocol is followed probably will not enjoy.

3*                      5* For devotees of ‘homey’ mysteries featuring the occult; 3* for traditionalists.

 

The Burnt Fox

The Burnt Fox
ISBN: 9781780363035, Peach Publishing, an e-book by Neil Grimmett.

Plot/Characters: Eliot and Donna with young son Bradley are living in a row house in the now somewhat deteriorated council estates. He is a former bass player in a local band and now a frustrated writer. She is a studying nursing, part time employed in the profession and a stanch believer in ‘women’s lib’. Their marriage is ‘shaky’ and when he finds an ad for employment on the estate of Philip and Clarissa Compton, they decide to go for an interview. They are accepted, provided with a house, salary and assigned their duties. He is a general handyman and servant doing menial jobs as well as caring for the horses and functioning as gamekeeper for the owner’s hunts. The mansion’s grounds here at Cloothill are extensive including a large farm overseen by Tobias, a rather crude person who can be charming to women and Donna finds most attractive. The Compton’s au pair, Rebecca, a young woman from Prague, is attracted to Eliot, as well as others, and he is to her. A number of lesser characters contribute to the action in varying degrees as the story progresses through the mundane activities as well as somewhat interesting and unusual activities such as dehorning, weighing and inoculating cattle, a fox hunt and pheasant gunning occasion. The finale is what could be expected but may be unfulfilling to some.

Discussion: A synopsis states this is: “Unflinching and sexually charged, The Burnt Fox is a startling depiction of the unsavory side of life in rural England.” This no doubt is true. However, underlying this fact is the author’s attempt to provide a tale wherein an overlying dark cloud is generated by an intangible feeling of the presence of an all-encompassing malignancy arising from past evil, and affecting all interpersonal activity within its realm. The attempt has been interesting and in part successful, but in this reviewer’s opinion, would benefit from a more thorough development of the characters, or perhaps even change some of them to an extent. As provided, they are ‘making excuses’ in assignment of blame for their actions and ultimate decisions. I suggest that individuals read this book, examine it from this aspect, and decide for themselves – are the protagonists ‘making excuses’ or are they really being affected by an ‘evil presence’?

Conclusion: A thought-provoking tale by an accomplished author that really ‘invites’ readers’ analysis. It may have lesser appeal for other than a British audience because of a need for the reader’s understanding/acceptance of the class system that to some extent still exists within this country.

3*     4* Tale ‘asking for’ reader analysis; 3* caveat – probably of greater interest to British readers

The Perfect Tear

The Perfect Tear
ISBN: 9780996216029, Rockit Press, an e-book by Connie Lansberg.

Plot/Characters: A unique civilization of superior beings control all thing in the universe. The Crystal Hall is where all DNA is stored and from there can be added bit by bit. Tsera is one of the Ancients, the author of the template upon which the present pattern of DNA is distributed, a Master of Manipulation, and the person in control of the Library where every unique sequence of DNA is stored. Every year a Creation Contest is held in which new templates are submitted, the winner of the contest being awarded an opportunity to ‘dethrone’ Tsera. Lerion is one of this year’s novices who has submitted a design which he is confident will win. Lalycri, an attractive young novice, also has submitted a template and is approached by Lerion against the rules. The contest begins and he worries that she will report his action, thus disqualifying him. She does not because of an ulterior motive, which later is discerned by Tsera. Lerion is the winner and decides to challenge Tsera, something no other winner ever has done because, if lost, the results could be fatal. Tsera has established on Earth a group of ‘singers’ whose pure songs can cause food to grow and help the normal seasonal patterns to continue normally. Specifically: “Tsera had won the original contest with a remarkable achievement in matter manipulation – an inspired creation of a world situated in the third density, a thing thought impossible at the time. She had created living creatures by manipulating vibration and sound into form. Tsera had designed these beings to evolve to full activation. However, the most audacious thing she had done was to imbue these basic life forms with the gift of music. She had embedded many clues to lead them to the true function of music but they remained blind to its power.”

“Secretly, Lerion didn’t believe even Tsera was capable of creating a life form in the lower densities with the ability to reach full activation, and violently disagreed with sharing music, the creation language, with such an inferior form of life.” He believed her premise was flawed and was desirous of correcting it by removing the ability from these beings. The tale evolves as the reader follows the manner in which he attempts to proceed and involves a number of these ‘inferior beings’; Eleanor, her mother and father Maria and Charles, her goat Bella, best friend Audrey, Prince Edward, his companion John, and numerous other characters with lesser, but important roles. Lerion’s ultimate goal is to seize the all-important ‘third vibration’ which is responsible for the creation of life and is contained within “The Perfect Tear” and basically eliminate it and them.

Discussion/Conclusion: The author has presented a true fantasy most appropriate for younger readers. Fanciful creatures intermingle with earthly beings and there is an abundance of heartbreak, suspense, fear, redemption, cruelty, deceit, deception, and greed and above all, the author’s desire to project that love is a most basic component of life. Thus, even the ‘young at heart’ may enjoy this tale but must be able to disengage themselves from the somewhat strange admixture of science with mystical maneuvering and the story’s somewhat meandering activity, against which maturity more often rebels. If this can be accomplished, they also may arrive at the author’s desire to project love as an all-important component of life.

5* fantasy gem for youth; suggestions also for mature ‘young at heart’ enjoyment.