Least Wanted – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Debbi Mack

In Debbi Mack’s Least Wanted, attorney Sam McRae juggles two clients accused of heinous murders. A young black girl named Tina Jackson is accused of bludgeoning her mother to death with a softball bat, and a man alleged to have embezzled money is suspected of murdering his boss. The two cases have more in common than Sam first realizes, leaving her scrambling to find the truth before she becomes the murderer’s next victim.


Though certainly a riveting mystery novel, Least Wanted does feature some rather unbelievable or even cliché characters and plot points. Some characters were a bit too colorful, bordering almost on caricatures, while a few aspects of the plot seem unrealistic or exaggerated. They’re entertaining nonetheless, but in a blockbuster movie sort of way, and not like a real-life crime story. Sam McRae is certainly an attorney who goes above and beyond, which makes for good fiction, but unfortunately, doesn’t resonate quite as much as it could if it was more lifelike.


On the other hand, Least Wanted is an intriguing story, full of dramatic plot twists and a fast-paced narrative that is sure to keep readers hooked. It functions well as a standalone novel despite being part of a series, which is good news for readers looking for a quick thrill. The plot itself is captivating, dark, and even humorous, providing a well-balanced and well-executed novel that is a joy to read. Debbi Mack has crafted a fascinating, multi-faceted mystery in Least Wanted, full of suspense, thrills, and plenty of unsuspected twists along the way; even seasoned mystery/thriller fans will find themselves pleasantly surprised by this gem.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Twisted Threads – Entered in 2018 ATAI Book Award Contest – Thriller

4 Stars

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Kaylin McFarren

In Kaylin McFarren’s Twisted Threads, Akira is an assassin tasked with hunting down a dangerous murderer aboard a cruise ship. The culprit is presumably one half of a married couple, but Akira can’t decide who’s at fault. Desperate for a lead, Akira seduces the couple’s nephew, Devon, but soon finds more than she bargained for.


Though certainly a riveting mystery, Twisted Threads unfortunately suffers from some issues with its plot development—albeit somewhat minor ones. Several character introductions tend to be confusing or unclear, leading to uncertainty as to who each character is and how they relate to one another. Perhaps they were covered in previous books in the series and thus, are rushed in this entry; therefore, this isn’t entirely suitable as a standalone novel. Also, some aspects of the timeline and plethora of subplots tend to be vague, or perhaps not as well-defined and well-developed as they could be.


Nevertheless, Twisted Threads is a most entertaining read for several notable reasons. Kaylin McFarren’s descriptive style of writing is phenomenally done, expertly crafting each scene, setting, and character in vivid detail. The intertwining dramas and mysteries are delightfully intriguing and suspenseful, making this book a real page-turner. With a load of steamy romance as the cherry on top, this book is a fantastic experience that’s sure to delight its readers. It’s easy to get sucked into this story from beginning to end, journeying along with the characters as they unravel the dangerous mystery. Twisted Threads is one tumultuous, exhilarating cruise that no one is likely to forget.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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This Week’s Featured Thrillers – Thicker Than Blood by James P. Sumner

This Week’s Featured Thrillers


All roads have led to this…

The world’s greatest assassin returns in Thicker Than Blood, where the conspiracy that has captivated readers finally reaches its jaw-dropping conclusion.

Adrian Hell is still struggling to adjust to his life in The Order of Sabbah. His next target is the last person he ever wanted in his crosshairs – a final reprimand for his previous defiance.

But as the true motives of the shadowy organization become clear, he realizes his toughest choice is really no choice at all. He stands against the full might of The Order, relentlessly pursued by the best killers in the world, desperate to put an end to them before they change the course of history forever.

Thicker Than Blood is the seventh gripping thriller in the bestselling Adrian Hell series. It offers a thought-provoking story, laced with explosive action and razor-sharp dialogue, that will keep you turning the pages as you race to the end. Perfect for fans of Lee Child, Vince Flynn, and Mark Dawson.


Check out the Adrian Hell Series (listed in chronological reading order)

A Hero of War – An Adrian Hell novella
True Conviction
Hunter’s Games
One Last Bullet
Deadly Intent
D.E.A.D. Till I Die – A GlobaTech novella
A Necessary Kill
Good Intentions
Thicker Than Blood


More books to check out…

You decide if they’re rock stars!

 

Death by the Jaguar  by James Ruby

A Vietnam veteran, wounded and returning home, was not looking forward to spending the rest of his life tied to some wheel chair. He had planned to make this homecoming the beginning of a new life with the woman he was to marry. A barrage of mortar shells had changed all that, now nothing would ever be right again! He wasn’t going to ask Nickie to be his future wife, knowing what would be involved and the sacrifices she would have to make. What he hadn’t realized was the strength and tenacity of this beautiful person who would bring him back from despair to begin a new life, have his Son, and enjoy life to the fullest. The inseparable three, along with their ever-present Maltese Lulu, enjoyed leisure time aboard their trawler, in the California Delta. His world is to be forever changed when his treasured wife, and son are taken from him violently, in the river they so loved. The only other survivor, Lulu, is a constant reminder of what was lost yet gives the man comfort until it is no longer safe. His search for those accountable and thirst for vengeance, takes him deep into those dark place’s designed only for those responsible and where his anger is transferred into a physical reality of manmade horror. Follow his grisly punishments and the final explosive ending.

 

The Devil in Black Creek by D.R. Bartlette

1986 is the year everything blew apart …

Twelve-year-old tomboy Cassie lives a pretty boring life in small-town Black Creek, Arkansas, until her mom and dad divorce, throwing her into poverty and shattering her sheltered life.

Then the rich, elderly Henson sisters take pity on her, taking her under their wings and into the church. Except the handsome, charming new preacher has something strange going on in his shed.

When Cassie starts snooping around his property looking for her lost dog, she discovers something so awful, no one will believe her – and that may put her own life in danger.

 

The Killing Collective by Gary Starta and Robin Firestone

Longtime detective Stanford Carter and his wife, forensic scientist Jill Seacrest, have always felt one was the yin to the other’s yang.

Carter is formal, logical, detached and incredibly reserved. As team leader, he displays an unflagging commitment to duty, a keen sense of logic and strategy, and the poker face of a true champion. Despite his ardent desire to learn the secrets of the universe and its plan for us all, the introspective student of Zen demonstrates an extraordinary inability to understand himself or anyone else.

Seacrest, on the other hand, is a scientific steamroller, often intimidating even the most seasoned veteran agents. Possessing a strong and fiery personality, her determination to find the truth often clashes with a quick and sarcastic wit, a fiery personality, and the tendency to leap before she looks.

Together, they’ve made the tough decision to leave their home town of Boston to move to the Big Apple, where they have accepted new positions with the F.B.I. to help solve a string of murders.

When Shania Deeprose joins the team, the overly enthusiastic, down-to-earth rookie from Alabama provides a spark that forges the immediate and unbreakable bonds of heart, mind, and courage.

In this stand-alone mystery/thriller the team must break the biggest case of their careers while confronting personal and social truths that change them forever.

Will they be able to expose a secret so old and far reaching that it has already begun to impact the very fabric of society?

 

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The Darkness of Water – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Matthew Neighbours

Questions and deep, dark secrets abound in Matthew Neighbours’ The Darkness of Water. This story encompasses the darker side of life for four individuals. James and Elena meet after she falls or jumps into the cold dark waters off a cliff in Alaska. George and Anna go through pure hell only to escape to Alaska believing, foolishly, their hellish life will become a peaceful one. Darkness and evil sets at the feet of all four of the unsuspecting characters.

Matthew Neighbours created a chilling and thrilling tale in the pages of The Darkness of Water. There is a good deal of secretiveness early on in the story and though that continues for most of the book, there comes a point where the direction of the story seems to completely shift. It is certainly an unexpected twist. Some may find it intriguing, but it almost seemed so out of context that it didn’t fit in smoothly. Perhaps an introduction including a background on Elena, as well as some background on Anna, could really benefit the story. With that kind of background, the The Darkness of Water would feel more cohesive.

A gripping tale from the first page, The Darkness of Water has the potential to create raving fans for Matthew Neighbours’ writing. Though there were a few issues with the pacing and plot, The Darkness of Water was written with the skillfullness to keep readers on the edge of their seats and turning pages with anxious curiosity. There’s no doubt that Matthew Neighbours has a creative mind and knows how to write an eerie tale that’ll not only make readers question their own thoughts and decisions, but they’ll be greatly anticipating a potential sequel.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Fixer: The Naked Man – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Jill Amy Rosenblatt

In Jill Amy Rosenblatt’s The Fixer: The Naked Man, college student Katerina Mills is fourteen thousand dollars in debt and struggling to make it through law school in one piece. When she stumbles upon a mysterious job opportunity with a too-good-to-be-true paycheck, she jumps at the opportunity. However, Katerina soon discovers that being a “fixer” will get her into more trouble than she could have ever anticipated.


Unfortunately, despite having an excellent premise, The Naked Man’s plot development leaves a lot to be desired. Much of the story is far too rushed, speeding through scenes and ending others abruptly without giving the reader the time to enjoy them fully. This rushed narrative perhaps also contributed to the lack of empathy for Katerina as a main character; there isn’t enough character development yet for readers to fully get behind this character as a protagonist. Sure, her adventures are exciting, but Katerina herself comes off as sadly one-dimensional. Also, for such a short book, The Naked Man tries to juggle too many plot points at once, leaving many loose ends untied and readers hungry for more—and perhaps not always in the best way.


However, it cannot be denied that The Naked Man is an exciting thrill of a novella. It has a unique and exhilarating plot, full of colorful characters and dangerous drama. The fast-paced excitement, shocking plot twists, and intriguing storyline keep the pages turning and interest renewed. Jill Amy Rosenblatt’s unique voice as a writer breathes life and rich detail into the story, making it even more fascinating as the plot progresses. The Fixer: The Naked Man is a fantastic start to a promising series, with a powerful cliffhanger ending that will make readers eager to get their hands on the next book.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Fixer: The Killing Kind – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Jill Amy Rosenblatt

The Fixer: The Killing Kind is Jill Amy Rosenblatt’s second novel about the thrilling adventures of Katerina Mills, college student and professional “fixer.” She fixes difficult problems for wealthy elites who don’t want to get their hands dirty. It’s gotten her into trouble before, but now there are dangerous forces after her that are threatening more than just her job.


Much like the first entry in this series, The Killing Kind tries to juggle far too many plot points at once, making for a confusing and almost difficult reading experience. There’s easily at least two books’ worth of material packed into this one, and it isn’t quite handled as well as it could be. The constant revolving door of characters and frequent, unnecessary skipping between plot lines is often frustrating, as is Katerina’s consistent lack of realistic character development. Unfortunately, many of the same shortcomings that the previous book in the series suffered from have only migrated over to The Killing Kind as well.


Nevertheless, The Killing Kind is still an intriguing and mysterious read, full of increased action and adventure for the series’ unlikely heroine. Jill Amy Rosenblatt certainly raised the stakes for the entire series in this book, including more danger, more drama, and more scenes with fan favorite characters that appeared too briefly in the first book, like the charming and mysterious Alexander Winter. The fast-paced narrative and rich, exciting plot is also captivating, making The Killing Kind a real page-turner. The Fixer: The Killing Kind is an excellent continuation of Katerina Mills’ high-stakes adventures, yet also brilliantly teases at all the fantastic tales to come in this thrilling series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Survival Initiative – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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C.K. Phillips

In C.K. Phillips third installment of his Kents/Lander series, The Survival Initiative, Kent, Cyndi, Lander and Lisa are just looking for a chance to relax. However, a large terrorist organization has other plans. Massive, simulataneous and world-wide terrorist attacks happen, which kill thousands of people. Lisa is seriously injured while the other three are called upon to assemble teams to take down the terrorists before they accomplish their ultimate goal.

For a thriller, The Survival Intiative, missed the mark. The majority of the story is dialogue based, but, for the most part, it’s written without much emotion. This makes the characters feel stiff and cold. There’s a strong bond between the four main characters and Phillips does clearly display the deep connection between the four of them, but there still isn’t much given to express their deeper personality traits. The basis of the plot is, perhaps, too stereotypical of global terrorism. This may leave readers, who seek heartpounding scenes, disappointed. 

Still a great fiction novel, The Survival Initiative offers a story that is highly relatable to today’s current events. This will likely draw the attention of many readers, and because there are no graphic scenes those same readers are likely to be excited to keep turning pages. C. K. Phillips writes in a way that makes The Survival Initiative quick and easy to read. Since readers are not overwhelmed with a complicated storyline, they can sink into the corner of the sofa and curl up with The Survival Initiative without jumping at their own shadows. All the while, readers and fans will continue to grow an emotional bond to the characters and look forward to other books from C. K. Phillips.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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A Tightening Noose – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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B.K. Berrell

A thriller that will keep readers enthralled, B.K. Berrell’s A Tightening Noose, follows a path that is frighteningly all too possible. A former martial arts fighter and a former Marine end up working together to stop a government facility from accomplishing its goals. With hints of sci-fiction involved, there is a good deal of violence and corrupt government officials tossed in along the way. What Sam and Vic first think they’re individually up against is not what it seems. Berrell has created a story that will make readers wonder at what really goes on behind closed doors within one’s own government.

Berrell’s two male protagonists have dark histories and this lends to the story having a good deal of violence and anguish. It’s quite graphic at times, perhaps, unecessarily so. Some aspects of the story seem out of place, but they also offer deeper insight into the main characters as well. Their damnable qualities are somewhat understandable, but B.K. Berrell doesn’t appear to try and endear the reader to any character either. This allows for violence to happen to the characters without readers getting frustrated with the direction of the story.

Though there are some drawbacks and odd directions in the storyline at times, B.K. Berrell created a unique and horrific concept within the pages of A Tightening Noose. The author skillfully flows back and forth in the early stages of the story between the past and the present in an effort to share Sam’s and Vic’s histories. The unexpected outcome is not where the story seemed to be headed, but as that is often the case in real life, this offers a level of believability and realness to the story that might not otherwise have existed. B.K. Berrell’s A Tightening Noose is an interesting read that will keep readers turning pages until the very end.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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White Water, Black Death – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Shaun Ebelthite

In the rivieting tale of White Water, Black Death, by author Shaun Ebelthite, Geneva Jones is an editor for CruiseCritique and has been invited on board by CEO of the cruiseline, Rachel Atkinson. The purpose is to write a powerful story about the cruise ship and get positive press because the company is in trouble. Yet, the cruise turns out to be more interesting than Geneva could’ve ever imagined. With a wide variety of substories running through there are a long list of character’s to pay attention to. Who survives, who doesn’t, who’s a “good guy” and who is at fault remains a mystery until the very end.

There is great potential in White Water, Black Death, but there are some issues readers will need to get past to enjoy the fascinating intrigue underneath. Ebelthite has a unique style of writing that leaves a lot for the reader to imagine, but those plot holes can lead to great confusion, too. With such an exceptionally long list of characters it’s not easy to keep track nor does it give the author a real chance to help readers emotionally bond with the characters. Their substories could’ve been fleshed out and added a lot to the story, but only a couple of them versus so many.

Though there are suspects and possibilities of what’s really going on as dozens of people end up becoming sick or dying on board the cruise ship, Ebelthite does a great job of keeping a number of surprises until the very end. With such a unique storyline, White Water, Black Death could be a tale that keeps readers turning pages and gripping the handrails themselves. It just needs some polishing and a bit more thorough editing to fill the plot holes, correct minor mistakes. Overall, Shaun Ebelthite’s White Water, Black Death is a tale that will make potential cruise passengers think twice before climbing aboard and setting sail, but they’ll be able to sit on dry land and experience the rough seas and surprising twists from start to finish.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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You Dear, Sweet Man – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Thomas Neviaser

In Thomas Neviaser’s You Dear, Sweet Man, blue-collar worker Bobby Fastow notices an unusual ad on the subway on his way to work. Featuring a beautiful woman and a spread of health-conscious food, there’s nothing particularly unusual about it – or so Bobby thinks. As the days go on, though, he becomes more and more obsessed with the ad. He begins to believe that the woman in the ad can see him and interact with him, but is it real or only a fantasy in his head?

You Dear, Sweet Man is a unique fiction book, but sometimes, it’s so unique that it borders on strange. The plot is confusing at first, as is the revolving door of characters who each seem to need their own chapter to narrate. There’s also a bit of a discrepancy in the book’s pacing; some chapters are suspenseful and exciting, others have a rambling narrative that doesn’t seem to make sense, and still others are almost downright boring. You Dear, Sweet Man captivates with a short, suspenseful opening chapter, then takes quite a while to become that interesting again, which doesn’t seem like an effective method.

However, what makes You Dear, Sweet Man so powerful is its great use of suspense – and over something as ordinary as a subway ad. Turning an everyday, throwaway object like a subway ad into something terrifying, creepy, and suspenseful is a fascinating premise, and one that Thomas Neviaser executes brilliantly. As the story unravels, it’s impossible not to keep reading to find out more about the mysterious woman in the ad. You Dear, Sweet Man is a rollercoaster ride of a read, but a particularly intriguing one that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next story Thomas Neviaser has up his sleeve.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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