Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

Genre: Dystopian Thriller


“In a time when civil liberties have been eroded and unemployment has exceeded Great Depression levels, nanotechnology provides the ability to reanimate the recently dead. Far from zombies, but nothing like their former selves, ‘Revivants’ are a ready source of cheap labor able to perform simple, routine tasks. Great news for some sectors, but for many, the economic and social impact is devastating.

Enter Joe Warren—an unemployed college dropout, who is self-absorbed and disinterested in the world’s problems. All Joe wants is a job, food on his table, and a cure for his girlfriend’s lingering illness. What Joe gets is a stint in jail with a bunch of self-proclaimed freedom fighters, and coerced to become an informant by federal government agents.

Joe is forced to examine his me-first attitude, and in the process learns that some things just might be worth fighting—or dying—for.”


“Scott Bell holds a degree in Criminal Justice from North Texas State University, and has enjoyed careers in both asset protection as well as sales. With the kids grown and time on his hands, Scott turned back to his first love—writing. His short stories have been published in The Western Online, Cast of Wonders, and in the anthology, Desolation. Yeager's Law is his first published novel, but there are two more due for release next year, and more on the way.

When he’s not writing, Scott is on the eternal quest to answer the question: What would John Wayne do?”


This is a story of two distinct parts. It opens as a cyberpunk-styled romp through a future world where human society is being disrupted not by robots, but by Revivants (nanotech driven zombies). Told in first person by Joe Warren, who is possibly the most smart-mouthed and sarcastic character I’ve ever come across, I found myself flipping through pages of fresh writing and laughing at Joe’s wisecracks. Try these: “I snagged Jamil by his fancy dress jacket--the material caressed my fingers like it wanted to blow me.” or, in reference to his ill treatment during interrogation by the cops, “they beat you like cake batter,” and, “Ramirez studied me the way a surgeon examines colon polyps.” One more: “‘Ah!’ Rogair made a noise like he’d discovered masturbation.”

There were a bunch more, but hopefully you get the idea. Every page is littered with grin-worthy smug irreverence.

The dystopian world is fairly stereotypical (big business and government=bad, poor working stiffs=good), but it was revealed nicely through the action with only a smattering of dogma or political pretentiousness from the author. The last quarter of the story focused on the final conflict between the bad guys and the Resistance. Here, the writing morphed into action/adventure with little or no reference to future-tech. This did make the novel a little schizophrenic for this reader. I preferred the cyber-punk stage, and the change of focus late in the story did shoehorn in a number of new characters which diluted the tension somewhat.

But overall, this was a terrific read, unusual, tongue-in-cheek funny and hyper-paced. If you enjoy characters like Joe Warren and/or action sequences teeming with bullets, I think you’ll have a lot of fun spending a few hours in Scott Bell’s dystopia.

Buy now from:            Amazon US     Amazon UK


Although all of them seemed necessary to me, there are many, many F-bombs.

Format/Typo Issues:

Very clean copy. I found only one typo!

Rating:  ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review: Toy Soldiers by Michael G. Keller

Genre:  Adventure


An American hedge fund analyst is sent to appraise an African mine that is controlled by a brutal warlord. When the financier is kidnapped by child soldiers and dragged into their bloody rebellion, he becomes entangled in their struggle and must choose between claiming the immense wealth he worked so hard for, or throwing it away and risking his life for a slim chance to save theirs.


Michael G. Keller is a filmmaker. Toy Soldiers is his first novel. For more about Keller, visit his website.


Toy Soldiers is a compelling read in the way a B movie might entice a viewer to keep watching to determine if it is campy or simply bad and having determined it is bad to wonder if it can possibly get worse. On the last point, this story does not disappoint.

The premise of Keller’s story is that greed of global corporations is the cause of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s humanitarian crisis, specifically the demand for coltan, a metallic ore used in electronic equipment. That would be fair as far as it goes, though it ignores refugees from the Rwandan genocide and other tribal wars that have affected stability in DRC for decades and predate demand for coltan. Further, ending all consumption of conflict minerals would not starve tribal warlords of funds. They can and do turn to agricultural products, extortion and other means.

If Toy Soldiers is intended to portray the scope of the DRC conflict, it misinforms. If it is intended to show the human cost through the eyes of its victims, it fails. None of the characters are credible as their actions and emotions are rendered as caricatures by Keller’s puerile writing style.

“He pummeled the mercenary with his pistol, looking him right in the eye as he battered his face into mush.”

“The absent-eyed mercenary spotted Sebu and gasped. Sebu shot his face off.”

“The mercenaries torched huts and dragged young girls, kicking and screaming, into the jungle to satisfy their beastly urges.”

“The children looked up in horror, at the colossus looming over them like a nightmare. He blotted out the sun. They tried to dodge around him, but he swatted them both to the dirt with the back of his ogreish hand.”

The following sentence describes food of boys trying to survive in the jungle and exemplifies the writer’s lackadaisical regard for accuracy.

“Cassava root was pure starch and empty calories, with virtually no nutritional content.”

Starch itself is a nutrient, providing calories needed to avoid starvation. According to “nutritiondata”web site, cassava contains: vitamins--A,C,E K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, B12, pantothenic acid, choline, and betanine, along with minerals--calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.

Inept handling of a humanitarian crisis aside, the novel is an affront to English literacy.

Diction errors

 “Their vacuous stomachs screamed and pleaded for more,” Unless Keller actually wants to say the stomachs were devoid of intellectual value, I assume he means “empty.”

“Moses’ men leapt up on the truck bed and plucked the new recruits down onto the dirt.” One plucks up, not down. Confused with plunked?

In a limousine, “The general sat unnervingly close by Kaufman’s side, with menacing bodyguards lurking across from them.” Lurk means to wait in hiding as though to ambush, difficult to do in the back of a limo.

Metaphorical sins:

“The setting sun splattered across the sky like a fried egg”

“Exhaustion finally hit him like an avalanche.”

 “Perforated like Swiss cheese, the man’s blood spattered all over him.” (How does one perforate blood?)

Embarrassing alliterations

 “Lantern light lapped against his eye sockets, only making him look angrier.”
“The birds took flight, frantically flapping…”

 “…they ceaselessly swallowed shots” and also “ranted at a rickety podium…”
After a gun battle, “The children…giggled with glee as they sprinted away, through the twists and turns of the wilderness…”

Say what?

“He wasn’t near death – he had somehow passed it, shuffling onward like a headless chicken.”

“The currency trader pried his stunned eyes up from his screen to force a truckling smile.”

“We haven’t found him yet, sir,” the soldier truckled.

 “He had felt flurries of air from several of the rounds whizzing by his head.” Snow flurries, leaves flurry; shock waves made by bullets do not flurry.

“…reached for his AK, but a grizzled foot pinned it to the earth.” Foot covered in gray hair, an old Sasquatch?

“Sebu’s eyes were glassy and delirious with fever.” Delirious eyes?

Clich├ęs ad nauseum:

“The orphans jumped out of their skin.”

“Bang –a rifle accidentally discharged and scared the boys out of their skins.”

“Excuse me,” he called down in a meek voice. Even that made the trekkers leap out of their skin…”

 “You’re alive!” Lumumba exclaimed, literally jumping for joy.

“There was no corner of the market free of monkey business – nothing new under the sun.”

 “The markets were so fraught with sound and fury, but ultimately signified nothing…“

It may be unkind to suppose the writer is trying to imply wisdom through cynicism (and plagiarism). Markets determine how much I pay for a gallon of gasoline or a pound of bacon. To me that’s not nothing.

“The upswings were a drunken orgy of celebration, while the drops were punctuated with melodrama and teeth gnashing.”
Why? Surely traders in a hedge fund would hold both long and 
short positions.

“The corporate animal fed on cash and it grew fatter so it could swallow more 
and more; and it even excreted a little sewage, so people would buzz around like flies, clamoring to do its bidding for a few stray droppings.”

No further comment but an apology for the many risible bits of egregious writing that I have left out.

In an afterward, Keller wrote, “Eagle-eyed editor Nicholas Morine helped trim the fat and punch up the action.” Mr. Morine must then be held equally accountable for the result.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


In February 1967 at the age of nineteen years and six months, I debarked the MSTS Gordon onto an LST and landed in Da Nang as a member of the 3rd Marine division. I find this novel’s cartoonish depictions of real-world horror viscerally offensive. As stocks editor (now retired) of Bloomberg’s Tokyo bureau I interviewed analysts, strategists, traders and economists and attest that no such person as Kaufman has ever existed. He is described as both an analyst and financier. Analysts have deep and current knowledge with narrow scope. Financiers hire analysts. I am the author of Dollar Down and Tokyo Enigma, have a humble appreciation for good writing and disdain only for writers too lazy to study the craft.

Anyone interested in the DRC, might read Jason K Stearns’ Dancing in the Glory of Monsters. It was published in 2012, but remains an enlightening work. Those following current debate over the Dodd-Frank Act might watch what happens with Section 1502 dealing with DRC conflict minerals. It has been both praised and damned.

Format/Typo Issues:


Rating: * One Star

Reviewed by: Sam Waite

Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Review: A Company of Roses by Megan Goodenough

Genre:   Thriller/Mystery


This is a treasure hunt in the ‘history and mystery’ genre. Cas is sidekick to charismatic, beautiful Lacey. Lacey goes missing, leaving behind a trail of destruction and a set of enigmatic clues to an Elizabethan treasure. Cas will have to find a courage and resourcefulness she's never known before if she's going to find the treasure and, with it, save her friend.

Cas races across Brighton, London and some stunning English landscape (you could follow her progress on a map) searching for and solving Lacey’s clues. The clues include appearances from Mary Shelley, Ada Lovelace, Queen Elizabeth I and other strong women from British history with whom you may be less familiar.

The end of the journey is more personal than Cas could have imagined as she finally unearths the British Government’s most well-kept secret, and faces the organisation sworn to protect it.


Megan Goodenough is a British author, a graduate of York University with a degree in archaeology. She’s been short-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award, long-listed for the TS Eliot Award and won competitions with BBC Writers Room. This is her first novel.


I enjoyed this a lot – to the point where I couldn’t put it down. If you like historical mysteries this will appeal to you. If you enjoy Dan Brown’s clever clues (especially if you find the violent deaths and severed body parts in his books a tad superfluous) you will enjoy this. As you can see above, Goodenough’s expertise is in areas which feed the creation of this sort of novel. Readers familiar with the British Tudor dynasty will be aware that Tudor works of art were chockful of symbols. Her research (even – or perhaps particularly – if it has led to imaginary artefacts) is first class yet her learning is placed lightly on the page. Goodenough draws strong, engaging female characters. She leavens the book’s action with wit and humour, and even permits her characters some introspection when time serves. The result is a real page-turner.

The book is set in the present. The two female protagonists are young, talented artists. Cas is drifting through her life, intending to get a grip on it soon. Or maybe not. Then suddenly she has to shape up much more quickly than she intended. So, the book is as much a rite of passage as it is a thriller.

Cas and Lacey are delightfully believable. I have had a relationship like that. I have had that revelation about it. Cas’s vacillation about Reuben (the single major male character) also rings true. How Cas handles a gun made me think the author picked one up for the first time as research for this book and put the experience accurately on the page. Cas’s dead gran is beautifully drawn: a character from beyond the grave, but none the less potent for that.

Up until the end I thought that the prologue was an unnecessary give away. It isn’t, it’s a clue. The motivation for finding that which is lost changes two-thirds of the way through. At first I thought it was wobbly plotting. It isn’t, it’s a change of motivation which shows the heroine (for she is more than a protagonist) becoming a finer human being.

For readers in the US (which is most of you, I think) brace yourself for British spellings. But as a quid pro quo you get descriptions of British places that only a Briton in love with them could provide. The Great Court at the British Museum is the standout example (it is stunning and she does it justice: trust me, I’ve been many times) and there are a number of others.

If the book has a flaw, it is that some of the information fed to the reader at the beginning of the book isn’t very helpful until one reaches the end. Which could also be a good reason to read it again.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:   

There was a susurration of little typos in the file I read. Hopefully these have been hunted down and eradicated in the published versions.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by:  Judi Moore

Approximate word count:  90-95,000 words

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review: Atlas, Broken by Jeremy Tyrrell

Genre: Literary Fiction


Henry Ludlow’s existence erodes as modern life takes its toll in the torture of a thousand cuts.


Jeremy Tyrrell is a software developer by day and writer in his off time. He has worked in a variety of fields; from retail hardware to burger boy, from store maintenance to tutoring, from janitor to programmer.


Atlas, Broken is told in a powerful voice that reminds at once of Ogden Nash and Franz Kafka. Walter Mitty meets the bug of The Metamorphsis. The fact that it is self-published is condemnation of the current state of letters.

The author himself called Atlas, Broken a depressing tale and some early reviews praised it for dealing with depression. I didn’t see it that way, but rather as a story of Every Man, even the giants among us. Sam Houston, the hero of the Texas revolution and a Unionist who was unable to prevent the state from joining the Confederacy, considered his life a failure. George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak, famously wrote “My work is done, why wait?” before he killed himself.

Tyrrell uses humor expertly, not to take the edge off his stark look at the human condition, but to hone the edge to razor sharpness. Highly recommended.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

None worth noting

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Sam Waite

Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: Trials of Magic (The Hundred Halls Book 1) by Thomas K. Carpenter

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Magic/Coming of Age


“Aurelia ’Aurie‘ Silverthorne is one of the best and brightest to ever apply to the Hundred Halls, the only magical university in the world. To be accepted, she must pass grueling trials that claim the lives of aspirants every year.

But more than her desire to practice magic is at stake.

Aurie's little sister has been courting powerful forces in hopes of protecting herself from the beings that killed their parents, but alliances come with complications. As things spiral out of control, and dangerous foes arise at every turn, Aurie knows the only way to protect her sister is to pass the trials—even if it means making a terrible sacrifice.”


“Thomas K. Carpenter writes in diverse genres including: YA dystopia, post-cyberpunk sci-fi, steampunk, historical fantasy, and alternate history. His Top 50 Bestselling series the Alexandrian Saga can be found on Amazon. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, two kids, and one oafishly large Labrador retriever.”

Visit Mr. Carpenter online at his website or stalk him on Facebook.


Aurelia and Pythia Silverthorne are magical sisters who lost their parents when they were young and were raised in foster homes until they were old enough to live on their own. Aurie is the oldest and almost twenty now. This is her last year to take her Merlin’s test, which will determine whether she will be accepted into one of the Hundred Halls for further magical education. She has always felt like her parents deaths were somehow her fault, and therefore, it is her job to protect her younger sister. Pi, who is two years younger than her sister, is old enough to take her Merlin’s as well. Pi has chosen the house of Coterie, an elite house in which she needs to find a sponsor. The one she approaches is a master wizard who gives her an impossible task to complete, which with the unwitting help of Aurie, she manages to complete. This is just the beginning of their problems.

Aurie is the book smart sister who has put off taking her Merlin’s to care for her younger sister when she was ill. Pi is the street smart sister more willing to take risks, both have their strengths in different areas and they work well together. Their love and devotion to each other pulls them through many tough spots.

The plot is multilayered and moves fast as the girls are set with unique challenges during their Merlin’s. And then trying to fit into the houses they are assigned to. There are many rivalries between the students, but they manage to find a couple friends they can rely on. Each sister has her own story arc and their paths cross occasionally. However, when Pi comes across a deeper darker conspiracy in the Hundred Halls the girls start working together, putting both of their lives in danger. Aurie learns the hard way that book learning will only get you so far in life. She must look within to find her real strength.

I think this will be an interesting series to follow. The challenges, characters, and settings are well defined. The dialogue is entertaining and draws the reader in. I also found Mr. Carpenter’s use of magic unique.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


There are several F-bombs dropped.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant proofing errors.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words

Friday, April 14, 2017

Review: Maggie in the Dark: Transcendence Book 1 by Lynne Cantwell

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Drama/Magical Realism/Native American


“Darkness dawns…

Decades ago, Maggie Brandt fled the East Coast – leaving behind her troubled marriage, her three nearly-grown children, and her controlling mother-in-law – and picked up the threads of her old life in her Midwestern hometown. There, she found a measure of peace, even as she regretted leaving her children behind.

Now, though, her ex-mother-in-law has been diagnosed with uterine cancer, and demands that Maggie dance attendance on her while she recovers – because, she says, there is no one else. Maggie feels she has no choice but to drop everything and comply.

On the way, she stops on a whim at an ancient Native American earthwork, and what she experiences there leaves her reeling. An old woman who may – or may not – be the reincarnation of a Native American spirit charges Maggie with nothing less than Earth’s renewal.

But first, Maggie must bind the family wounds she created in her darkest hours – and with little more than an ancient turtle effigy as her guide.”


“Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was Susie and the Talking Doll, a picture book illustrated by the author about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks.

Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. She is also a contributing author at Indies Unlimited. She lives near Washington, DC.”

You can connect with Ms. Cantwell at her website or on Facebook.


Ms. Cantwell’s Transcendence series takes a different approach to the Earth’s renewal than any of her other series thus far. It’s a chronicle for the personal journey of Maggie Brandt and how her decisions in the past affected so many close to her. Even though those choices were what was best for her at the time, they had negative consequences for others.

Maggie has mixed feelings about returning to help her ex-mother-in-law, Ruth Brandt, through her upcoming surgery. To delay her arrival she decides to visit the Native American earthwork mounds she passes on her way. In the Great Circle of the mound she receives a vision, from the past, of her earning a copper turtle effigy. In her present life, Maggie happened to find this turtle in the woods behind her house when she was a small child and has cherished it ever since.

When leaving the earthwork she is puzzled by the vision. Then an older woman who calls herself Granny gives her a personal prophecy, which includes a quest she must complete to assist in the Earths renewal. Maggie is told:

Three doors will close to you, and you will close three more of your own free will. Then and only then, will the right door open. When that occurs, you must walk through and quickly, because it will not stay open long…For it is only by humanity’s renewal that the Earth itself may be renewed…

Maggie knows at this point she needs to mend fences with Ruth as well as her own children, and their father she divorced years ago. Maggie is completely vexed about her vision and Granny’s words. She is left with figuring things out for herself, and this is her journey.

Ruth was never a woman who was easy to get along with. She turns out to be just as demanding, outspoken, and as bitter as she has always been. She is a master at manipulation, and seems to feed off discord. Maggie is met with several obstacles and diversions along the path she must maneuver around. Old and new family secrets are revealed, which Maggie handles with great skill. The plot has a nice steady pace and the characters are well defined. The dialogue was engaging and realistic as well as fitting each personality perfectly.

Maggie in the Dark has a Women’s Fiction feel to it with a bit of Magical Realism mixed in, thanks to Granny, Zed, and the earth mounds. I only noticed two doors closing that Maggie closed herself. So, the story arc is incomplete at the ending. However, I think Ms. Cantwell found a good place to stop and can’t wait for the continuation.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Maggie in the Dark is the first book in Ms. Cantwell’s new fantasy series, Transcendence.

Format/Typo Issues:

No proofing or formatting issues.

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 45-50,000 words

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Reprise Review: The Little Universe by Jason Matthews

Genre: Science Fiction/Spirituality


Rose Adams had a dream—to reproduce The Big Bang in miniature—to simulate a tiny universe. Killed in a car accident, her inventor husband, Webster Adams, sees his wife’s dream to fruition. However, Adams realizes he’ll need help and seeks out the assistance of Jon Gruber, a local handyman, to assist him during the experiment.


Novelist, blogger, and writing coach, Jason Matthews is the founder of a Facebook group of over 2000 writers. Other books besides The Little Universe include Jim’s Life, How to Make, Market, and Sell EBooks All for Free, and Get on Google Front Page. Jason lives with his family in Prismo Beach, California. Drop by and perhaps you can entice him to a game of chess or scrabble.

Learn more at Mr. Matthews website.


In a writing style integrating science fiction with spirituality, author Jason Matthew’s novel, The Little Universe, is written in the first person point-of-view of Jon Gruber. Jon is a local handyman for hire. Once he begins work for the inventor, Gruber’s eyes are opened to the wonders of the universe—literally.

As Adams’ universe evolves, his AI computer, Jim, seeks out sentient life orbiting the tiny universe’s stars. Through Jim’s cameras, Jon and the team of scientists that join Adams encounter worlds with mystery and scientific advancement.

Webster Adam’s daughter, Whitney, is drawn into one world whose mysterious dwellers may hold the key to everyone’s questions.

The Little Universe will keep readers riveted, especially if they are interested in the meaning of life and beyond.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


Added for Reprise Review: The Little Universe was a nominee in the Science Fiction category for B&P 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Original review ran April 9, 2014.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: Michael Thal

Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: Leadership: 15 Minutes of Motivation for Workplace Warriors Lesson #1 by Sheila Guion

Genre: Non-Fiction/Inspirational


“Ladies, Do You Need a Leadership Makeover?

Looking fabulous is only half the battle. Developing the leader within you makes you attractive both on the inside and outside.

In the time it takes to apply your lashes, blush, and lipstick you can add career-enhancing tools to your leadership tool-box.

Who Says Leadership Has to Be Boring?

Retired Marine Veteran, Sheila Guion (formerly Perdue) answers the 911 call to bridge the gap in leadership training for women (who now make up more than 50% of the current U.S. job market).

She reaches out to women too busy for big books, long lectures, and boring content on leadership.

Leadership: 15 Minutes of Motivation for Workplace Warriors is for managers, supervisors, and the go-to-people who want the best leadership experience, but minus the combat boots, pushups, and Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs).

These short, but powerful, leadership lessons will boost your confidence, courage, and effectiveness as The Boss.”


“Sheila Guion (formerly Perdue) is the U.S. Marine Veteran who loves the art of creative story-telling.

Her true leadership stories resonate with women Veterans, and women who have no military background.

She reaches out to women too busy for big books, long lectures, and boring content on leadership.”


Yeah, I realize that the target audience for this book is a specific gender and I don’t fit. I’m not sure that matters. I think there are beneficial lessons reading this short take on leadership could provide, regardless of gender. And also, some people, regardless of gender, are going to be left wanting more. I’ll explain.

Both the book description and the author’s biography mention that her thing is books that are short and to the point. This one is the length of a short story or an average size magazine article. It uses an example of something that happened to the author, how things didn’t go as planned, and what she did to turn the situation around. It’s inspirational. There is some advice. Things like “develop mental toughness,” which is good advice for a leader. But nothing concrete on how to go about doing that. Given the apparent goal of a short, quick, and inspirational read, I think it succeeds. But if you need direction on how to go about developing mental toughness, I guess you’ll need to find a longer book elsewhere.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: **** Four Stars

Reviewed by: BigAl

Approximate word count: 2-3,000 words

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: Skin Walk by Melissa Bowersock

Genre: Mystery/Supernatural/Native American Myths


“Lacey and Sam are on the job again. This time, the ex-cop and the Navajo medium have been called out to the Navajo reservation to investigate the suspicious death of Sam’s cousin. What they uncover leads them into a realm of the supernatural beyond anything Lacey ever imagined; her years on the LAPD did nothing to prepare her for dealing with witches and shapeshifters. With clues few and far between, can they determine who the murderer is before they themselves become the target of deadly curses and feral shapeshifter beasts?”

“Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres: biography, contemporary, western, action, romance, fantasy, paranormal and spiritual. She has been both traditionally and independently published and is a regular contributor to the superblog Indies Unlimited. She lives in a small community in northern Arizona with her husband and an Airedale terrier. She also writes under the pen name Amber Flame.”

Learn more about Ms. Bowersock on her website or follow her on Facebook.


Lacey seems to be settling in to her new profession as a private investigator. However she misses bouncing ideas and thoughts off Sam. So, when Sam calls and asks if she is interested in going to Arizona with him to investigate his cousin’s suspicious death on the Navajo reservation, she jumps at the chance. Lacey has no idea what she has gotten herself into and tries to rely on her police training. She quickly learns that things that happen on the reservation stay on the reservation. When she is faced with accepting Navajo mysticism she is unnerved and almost frantic trying to come to terms with Navajo reality and the white world reality in which she was raised. She knows she is out of her element and must defer to Sam.

However, she is not willing to let her police training go by the wayside and defies Sam. If she learns her efforts are for naught, then there is no reason for Sam to ever know… The problem is clues are scarce and getting natives to speak about their case is tricky. After saying that, I have to say that I love the mutual respect these two have for each other. I know it sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but their actions and dialogue are realistic, honest, and convincing.

I was surprised at the amount of Navajo lifestyle and beliefs that were revealed in Skin Walk. Sam’s grandfather, Ben, is a treasure. He lives alone in a traditional Hogan away from the family. At Ben’s fire pit, Lacey learns about the name Firecloud. It’s a touching scene full of feels. Since Ben speaks primarily Navajo, it’s thoughtful of Sam to translate for Lacey so she stays in the loop. It was also nice to meet Sam’s brother, Gabe, his wife, Roxanne, their two sons, Carson – twelve, and Griff - ten. Since Sam and Lacey are staying in their house, we get to see what a modern Navajos’ family life is like. This also gave Sam and Lacey the opportunity to bounce ideas and scenarios around about the crime.

There are many twists to the plot, some I found harrowing and fascinating at the same time. Being familiar with Native American traditions and stories I had no problem buying into the premise. That does not mean I am comfortable with the paranormal factor. Even Sam, with his abilities, would admit this experience tested his limits. I also found this an emotional tale about family, cultural diversity, loyalty, and human values. I sure hope Ms. Bowersock has more story ideas for Sam Firecloud and Lacey Fitzpatrick. I’m loving this series.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


Skin Walk is the second book in A Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery series. The first book is titled Ghost Walk.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on a beta, pre-release version. I am unable to judge the final version in this area.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Approximate word count: 50-55,000 words