CALLING ALL INDIES! Book Reviews


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We’re finally getting around to why we got together in the first place: reviewing great books!

witchnerdOur CALLING ALL INDIES! program spotlights Small Press and Independent Authors. We witches are all too familiar with the grueling indie venture, and so we want to celebrate artists not represented by a major publishing house.

Please help us carry this torch by sharing reviews and purchasing the books (a click on any book cover will take you to a purchasing site), so that you can explore for yourself this quiet world of extraordinary talent. Many, if not all, are also available on Kindle, for somewhere in the range of $0-$2.99. Easy peasy.

Stay tuned to see each CALLING ALL INDIES! winner, who will be featured for a month on our site with author and main character interviews, as well as excerpts and giveaways.

Also watch for the witches’ book reviews on our new page CALLING ALL INDIES! Book Reviews, where we provide honest reviews for each book we feature. We are not, in any way, compensated for these reviews.

Thanks for your help and keep reading!

-The Witches of Dirty Little Bookers


 DIRTY LITTLE BOOKERS RATING GUIDE:

cauldron I couldn’t finish it.

cauldron  cauldron    Good ideas, still needs work

cauldroncauldron cauldron    I liked it.

cauldroncauldroncauldroncauldron         I LOVED IT.

cauldroncauldroncauldroncauldroncauldron    Bury me with this book.

(image credit: clipartbest.com)


WHERE MADMEN RULE, Eugene Hayman


Where Madmen RuleWhen a software time bomb shuts down the mentally controlled construction equipment on the Sunworld launch cat project, it leaves expert spyder-driver Mike Hayden temporarily idled. Waiting for secure software upgrades in the subterranean city of Hyumbar, he spends his free time profitably—gambling in the bad part of town. But when he intervenes to stop a beautiful young woman from being mugged in a deserted service corridor one night, his life changes forever.

Drawn by love into a web of deceit, violence and political intrigue, he finds himself at ground zero in a bloody coup d’état. Forced to fight for his life and for the lives of those he loves, Mike must fall back on the only weapons at his disposal: subterfuge, cunning and the skills of his craft. As the situation worsens and events careen out of control, the truth becomes painfully clear. As always in the human political universe, nothing can prevent the triumph of fascism and madness except grim determination, a level head, and proficiency with naked steel.


REVIEWS


Rachel

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Where Madmen Rule is fantastic.

Some books knock me back a few decades, to all the film sweets that make up my happy place. Where Madmen Rule is if Star Trek and Total Recall had a baby. Flawed MC, evenly-staggered time bombs, interplanetary instability and Bones’ charming disagreeability…it’s got the best. I found myself reaching for this at red lights, riding one fast-paced adventure into another, having forgotten to take my next breath.

Hayman starts with a bang, diving into love and war with serious spunk, unafraid to grab you by the hair like a driveby rollercoaster. You truly don’t have a moment to relax here, and you find yourself praying aloud that–and really wondering if– Mike is going to make it when sh*t hits the fan in Sunworld. And it hits, big time. In a universe that’s constructed expertly, with believable deceit and confusing technology. His references to our day are funny and effective, and give even the dumbest reader (me) handles by which to propel himself forward.

I found myself invested in these characters, developing relationship as nuance allowed it, anticipating reactions in the way I would real friendships. To me that’s THE sign of true talent, not always the bait and switch, but work that elicits introspections like, ‘What an asshole! But he’s totally right.’

I love love LOVED this book. I loved Theresa and Shuri and Poppi, and all the tough halfbreeds with the patriotic wherewithal to set things right. Read it.


THE HARVEST KILLINGS, A.K. Goode


theharvestkillingsThe eccentric old Englishman was shot to death-one bullet to the forehead. That much was clear. What isn’t clear was why. The local police chief in Kampala said it was an accident-something to do with trespassing. But American Intelligence Agent Dan Becker knows he’s lying. Becker thought this would be a simple case to solve-in and out-and then he’d be on his way, back to his tropical vacation, casting his fly line and drinking beer. Not so. Especially when a dead CIA agent turns up the next day-killed the same way. Everything quickly unravels when Becker and his team use the cryptic clues left behind by the deceased and discover a heavily guarded mountain, deep in the lush Ugandan countryside, surrounded by coffee fields and patrolled by a very paranoid American company. Becker quickly realizes this has nothing to do with a murder, but a closely-guarded secret that has been dormant for decades and leads directly to the top offices of the British government.


REVIEWS


Lauren

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Quick, engaging read. I’m not sure what I had in mind for this story, I purposely didn’t delve into the description, but knew there was some mystery to solve. The setting of Uganda was fascinating and rare; I wish there had been more about the culture and landscape, though I appreciate that it might have distracted from the plot. It kept moving at a quick pace, kept you guessing, and even where you had it figured it out, you were invested to see how everything was resolved. The ability to move from a “whodunit” of a beloved father figure to a conspiracy of grand proportions smoothly, without having to suspend too much belief, is a credit to Goode’s writing skills.

Nicole

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The Harvest Killings was completely up my alley. Very exciting read that made you compelled to keep reading to unravel the web woven pretty damn expertly by A.K. Goode. The story is in that niche of gruff and grumpy detective that gets the job done; it reminded me a lot of Robert B. Parker’s Spencer series. Twisty and winding through Uganda, I wonder if there was some miss opportunity to get into some more details of such a rich, beautiful and complex landscape, both geographically and culturally. Occasionally I had to pause, try to regroup, and remember who is who and whose side are they on. Goode introduced us to many characters to keep track of, not without purpose, just many layers to remember as a reader. Overall I was thrilled to the end, trying to guess how the many threads of this complex story would be strung together, and I was not disappointed


DISAPPEARANCE, Trevor Zaple


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One moment a woman is deciding between two largely identical brands of salt-and-vinegar potato chips; the next she is gone. After the inexplicable, frightening Disappearance, the survivors of Toronto are left to wander the streets in a daze, wondering what is to come next. For Mark, it means a second chance at happiness with his pregnant ex-girlfriend. For the antisocial Jason, it means being on the ground floor of a world that might finally be to his liking. The chance to build a utopia is finally at hand – but the hungry wolf of dystopia is always lurking in the shadows…


REVIEWS


Rachel

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DISAPPEARANCE makes me give myself a hug for getting into this Indie business.

Zaple has a sweeping, smooth way of crafting descriptive narrative. He is an expert followthrough-er, leading you through paragraphs like a foul-mouthed gondolier. I was continually impressed, many times stopping for a satisfied exhalation before pressing on into the next dark, dark alleyway.

I would have given DISAPPEARANCE 4.5 cauldrons, but I found that I tripped on some of the dialogue. I’m confident that most readers would be just fine with it–and indeed I’ve read reviews in which readers are impressed with  its authenticity–but for me it was at times clunky and in need of some developing. It’s a minor issue, and Zaple’s magnificent scene-setting far outweighed it.

This book is NOT for the prude; be prepared to despise most every character. I have a nagging faith in humanity, which may have contributed to my discomfort with some of the dialogue and despicable goings-on, but the characters that I COULD celebrate were flawed and likable.

I’m hesitant to say that I appreciated Jason and Sarah’s chemistry–for fear that I’ll be struck by lightning–but Zaple has a handle on this particular vein of obligatory kinship…before it happens. I can’t applaud for that, though if I have to read something like that I definitely appreciate it being written remarkably well.

I really liked Olivia. Those of you that were with me for yadragonchaser know that I’ve been there–pregnant and PISSED. She’s steadfast but scared and struggling to not just give in. You can hear it in her wavering anger,  and for that I appreciate Zaple’s delicate take on this.

Great book. I recommend this for anyone that’s willing to hack through a thorny, demon-riddled thicket with a fantastic, raw talent.


MAXIMUM INSECURITY, William Wright M.D.


front coverAfter three decades as a successful ear surgeon, William Wright, MD is bored beyond belief. He dabbles with retirement, but finds idleness infuriating. He has to do something.

Then he sees an ad for a doctor’s position from the Colorado Department of Corrections at a supermax prison. Now that, he thinks, would be different. His wife has some thoughts on the matter too. She thinks her husband just lost his mind and is on a collision course with a prison shiv.

After his first day on the job, he wonders if she wasn’t onto something. His first patient is an arrogant, callous youth convicted of five cold-blooded murders. Dr. Wright has to steel himself not to bolt.

Nothing prepares a doctor for life at the Colorado State Penitentiary. He quickly discovers treating maximum security convicts is like treating recalcitrant murderous four-year-olds. Always willing to threaten their doctors with bodily harm, they are more interested in scamming drugs than treatment.

Told with self-depreciating humor and scathing wit, Maximum Insecurity describes Dr. Wright’s adventures practicing medicine in a supermax correctional facility without, he’s glad to say, getting killed even once.


REVEIWS


Alicia

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Maximum Insecurity by William Wright, M.D. is one of my favorite books of the year. His honest and open view of what life is really like as a doctor in a supermax prison kept me engaged through the entire book. Dr. Wright has an addictive sense of humor and writing style that allows readers to know what really happens behind cell walls as if you are having a conversation with him. I loved hearing what the prisoners would think of next to gain his attention or medicinal advice. His path to becoming a supermax doctor was sprinkled throughout his tales of days in the prison and was equally as intriguing. He has such a unique life story with so many characters that he has interacted with during his prison experience. I was truly fascinated throughout the book with not only the prisoners but how Dr. Wright was trained (or not), how the prison system operates on the local, state and national level and who is actually in charge in these highly restricted buildings.

Thank you Dr. Wright for providing an honest and insightful look in to a world that most of us will never experience first hand. More importantly, thank you for taking care of those that often need the most help. I’m eagerly awaiting your next novel!

Rachel

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I would have done well in school if more teachers were like Dr. Wright. I don’t EVER read memoirs (nonfiction in general) for the ignorance that it won’t be exciting enough to keep my attention. A book without magic? Humping werewolves? Telekinetic teens? Not worth it? Not true, as it turns out.

I really loved this book. Wright’s the type of genius that can shoot the sh*t without making the rest of us feel like the drooling inferiors we are. He’s brilliant and hilarious, slipping penal jargon into juicy anecdotes like a sharpened toothbrush into a prison bitch’s thigh meat: like butter.  I LEARNED things, which is to say that pigs are flying. I retain nothing. Again: if my teachers of college past took a cue from Wright, I’d have had a far more enjoyable (and successful) run of things.

This book is for memoir readers, gossips, real housewives watchers…anyone who’s ever crushed on the brilliant, witty guy that was destined for great things. Wright dumbs it down without you ever knowing it, also throwing a punch in for those of us (all of us) who’ve ever disagreed with corporate SOPs. I want to know who was pissed about MAXIMUM INSECURITY, because someone certainly had to be.  I also hope that NONE of the prisoners he talks about ever, ever sees the light of day.

READ THIS BOOK.


 DARK SIGHT, Christopher Allan Poe


DARK-SIGHTAs the only black student at an all-white school, Monique Robinson has always had to prove herself. When her best friend, Victoria is left brain dead, Monique fights to bring her back. But she soon realizes that blurring the lines between life and death has its own price. Can Monique save her best friend before she heads down a path from which no one will return? THE BAD BOX, Harvey Click


 REVIEWS


Nicole

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Dark Sight is a fast paced, wild ride through the horrors of death, what happens next and even worse – high school.
Monique Robinson is an outcast; in almost every aspect she’s different than those in her town. And when her equally outcast best friend, Victoria dies under very strange circumstances – literally all hell breaks loose.

Dark Sight is certainly a page turner; I kept on wanting to find out how Monique would get out of one sticky situation after the next. From dealing with the newly revived but not quite the same Victoria to the usual pack of high school foes; occasionally it seemed that Monique couldn’t catch the break! Poe packed in a lot of red herrings and action which was exciting – I was definitely kept guessing. Some things panned out better than others, however and after the final page was turned I felt that some avenues weren’t completely fleshed out.

Poe also sprinkled in a few more pop culture references that I usually like in a novel. The comparisons and descriptions against Modor and Lisbeth Salander, for example, took me out of the Dark Sight world. Eliminating those references and the overuse some of today’s slang would refine the prose and make Dark Sight feel timeless.

Overall, I enjoyed Dark Sight. It was spooky and dark in the right places but not completely bleak – there was levity and at the core, a story of best friends and the lengths one will go for your soulmate.

Rachel

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I was excited to get into DARK SIGHT after reading Poe’s post on ASMR, the platform from which he jumped into vampirism. Poe’s version kept me turning the pages, which, to a reader longing for the days of young-adult immersion, is a huge plus. There was a Carrie/Jennifer’s Body vibe that I really dug…mostly. I couldn’t always embrace Monique’s vernacular and horror pop culture references, and got frustrated with how mean everybody is.

That said, as soon as I prepped for a good head shake, Poe would knock it aside with a clever punch and I was back in the game. The pacing was, at times, a little confusing and lacking in nuance–the reason why the villain was so villainous, for example, and the way Monique reacts to some pretty severe stuff. I found myself wanting a little more attention on things, which is a good sign for me because it meant that I was invested in the characters. Again, it kept me turning the pages. Had I the time I probably would have finished this in two or three sittings.

I would recommend this to YA readers and fans of poppy, fast-paced slasher films. Poe knows how to build a scene–I found myself more than a few times with the feeling I get from watching a cult classic. The way Victoria looks and moves in that last scene…it struck the same chord in me as my rainy-day movies.

I very much enjoyed a lot of this book. I would give it four stars after a little fine-tuning.

Alicia

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Dark Sight takes you on a twisting ride steered by two high school girls, Monique and Victoria. After Victoria is nearly killed in a freak accident, Monique devotes her life to saving her, keeping her safe and ultimately saving their small town and everyone in it. There are creepy houses, cult leaders and gruesome details that keep the novel moving and keep the reader guessing all the way until the end.

Poe hits on so many topics relevant to his YA following that it’s almost overwhelming. Everything you could think of goes wrong for these two best friends and soul mates. High school is so unkind to so many people and this book really captures so many of those details including bullies, cliques and having a friendship you cannot imagine living without. Dark Sight is both reassuring to those readers that are navigating the choppy waters of adolescence and frightening for parents who remember living through these times and know their children will experience so much of the same so very soon.

Dark Sight is a thrilling read for audiences young and old. While there are moments of horror and gore, the real story is truly about friendship and standing by your “person” until the end no matter what or who tries to keep you apart. A valuable lesson for everyone to be reminded of.

Lauren

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The premise of Dark Sight is gripping. The love of a best friend, being outsiders, the excitement and terror of something other-worldly being in our presence. Monique’s teenage life is turned upside down after her best friend is in an accident that leaves her braindead. Poe’s description of her daily life and her relationships paints an intriguing picture of teenagers today, though there were many pop culture references that I felt dated the book more than necessary. I was engaged the entire book, always wanted to see what would happen to Monique. She seems to have the worst luck ever! For as good as the plot ended up and the writing itself is, I had a few challenges. Poe had a ton of great ideas; I wish he hadn’t put them all into the same story. I found a few of his more interesting directions in the beginning left behind, and was disappointed. I also wish there had been a bit more development of Victoria’s father and Monique’s mother; there were several references but I didn’t feel I got a full picture by the end. Overall, I look forward to seeing Poe’s development in future books.


 THE BAD BOX, Harvey Click


bad_boxSarah Temple hopes to find a bit of peace and quiet when she leaves her abusive boyfriend, but instead she finds a world of horror. It’s bad enough that a sadistic serial killer and another maniac are both trying to murder her, but what’s worse is the mysterious Solitary One who controls both of them, a malevolent entity that the serial killer describes as a living darkness, a man and yet not a man, something that’s alive and yet not alive, something that wants to appall the world.

Trying to flee from the two killers, Sarah finds herself running deeper and deeper into a deadly supernatural trap, a place where people are buried alive, where ghastly apparitions mutter in the dark, where demented killers prowl, where a crumbling haunted house can drive its victims mad with terror, and where something buried for a very long time may walk again.


REVIEWS


Lauren

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When starting Bad Box, I was a little reticent. I appreciate horror and gore, but usually I don’t find it scary. It comes across as gross, which is fine, but I’m more amazed at what the writer’s mind can imagine. With Harvey Click, I am terrified of what he was able to dream up.

The first half of the story, before Baby makes a physical appearance, I could not stop turning the pages. The line between supernatural and real life was blurred to a point where you didn’t know where it started. I found Peter terrifying, perhaps because he was so stereotypical. I also found Angel fascinating and scary in her transformation and lack of compassion.

The book got a little heavy in details towards the end, and part of me wanted to see what happened when people found Peter, just for vindication. Overall, the supernatural felt real, the fear palpable, and I hope to read more by Harvey Click.

Rachel

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I dug right into The Bad Box from the first page, not only because horror is my preferred genre, but because Harvey elicits from me exactly what I want when I read any genre, time and time again: wayward loyalty.

I don’t know who to side with and when, and just when I’m sure that someone is all good, Harvey wades me through artfully crafted gore to the devil within each and every one.

This book is not for the weak, but don’t think that that means his imagery is gratuitous; it carries the plot efficiently and without much unnecessary detour, crawling up your spine and planting itself into your nightmares for months to come.

I related very much to Sarah, as I believe would many women who have ever been cursed with loving the wrong man. She is strong yet vulnerable, adventurous but timid and knows how to get what she wants. It’s this multifacetedness that’s exhibited in all of Harvey’s characters that draws me in and keeps me guessing, up until a satisfying, twisty end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, will recommend it to anyone who likes horror/mystery/thriller, and will absolutely be reading more from Harvey Click. Thank you for this opportunity, Harvey.

Mandy

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To say that The Bad Box is a scary story is a huge understatement. It is horrifying. The language is raw and vulgar to the point where each word crawls into your skin and makes you feel as if you are the one in the Bad Box.

I was instantly drawn into the story from page one and from then on Harvey Click kept me guessing and cringing (and maybe hiding under the covers). I wasn’t even sure I trusted Sarah for a while. The relationship between Baby and Angel is twisted and stomach-churning. Baby’s metamorphosis is brilliant and grotesque. This is definitely not the book to read while eating.

Harvey Click has truly created a masterpiece. I look forward to reading more of his work and I will now and forever sleep with the lights on.


 UNDELIVERABLE, Rebecca Demarest


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When Benjamin Grant’s son disappeared a year ago, he threw himself into the search, and his obsession left him without a home, wife, or job. Now, he’s managed to find work at the United States Postal Service’s Mail Recovery Center, which he hopes will prove an invaluable tool in his investigation. With the help of his coworker, Sylvia—a kleptomaniac artist—Ben learns the ins and outs of a warehouse full of lost mail, and explores every lead in his son’s case. But when it all points towards the monstrous Leonard Moscovich, Ben fears the worst.


REVIEWS


Nicole

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Overall I was pleased with Undeliverable. I found the backdrop of the USPS Mail Recovery Center, or Lost Letters Office, a creative place to set the story of a missing young boy. I also enjoyed the individual chapter introductions that continue to draw the parallels between Ben Grant’s search for his son and the department he utilizes to advance his findings.

Although I did enjoy the story – I found I struggled a bit with the pacing. Most of the really gripping action was left for the last few chapters. It was a slow burn to get there, and while the ended was, in my opinion satisfactory, it wasn’t the biggest payoff.

As far as the characters, I was thankful for Sylvia’s sense of lightness and levity – she adds bright spots into a pretty heavy subject matter. Some of the others fell a bit flat and ornery including Mr. Grant himself. The personalities seemed to be building on the old cliché that postal workers are going “postal.”

I do however, applaud Ms. Demarest in providing a voice for those who may be in this horrific situation and remind us that although the news story may end – the struggle continues.

I look forward to continuing Ben’s story and reading whatever is next from the author.

Alicia

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Undeliverable by Rebecca Demarest is the heart wrenching story of Ben, a young boy who goes missing from his parents antique store, and the subsequent life changes his father must endure as he takes over the cold case, vigilante style. One of the biggest changes is his new job at the lost mail recovery center. I thought this was one of the more interesting settings I have read and created the perfect parallel to a missing children’s case. Ben’s dad meets the unusual characters you would expect behind the scenes at the USPS and uses them to further his cause in finding his son while learning about himself and the person he has become in light of this tragedy.

Ben’s dad’s devotion to finding him is real and commendable, showing us repeatedly how many things we lose when we lose someone we love. As a mother of three young children, I could only hope that I would have his strength to continue looking when law enforcement lets the case go cold. Ms. Demarest does a beautiful job of putting words around this topical and heartbreaking experience that we read about all too often in the news.

I look forward to the sequel and encourage you to read this debut novel by a very talented author. Most importantly, for each purchase of Undeliverable, a $1 donation is made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help fund the efforts to bring missing kids home.

Rachel

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Undeliverable is a well-written, well-researched story of a father’s search for his missing boy. Overall I enjoyed the book, and was pleased to spend time in the Lost Letters Office, a setting I’ve never explored and found both interesting and well-formulated.

I enjoyed Ben’s realistic attractions and frustrations, LOVED Ms. Buin’s humor, but I had a bit of a hard time with the other characters: I understand that sympathy comes in all shapes and sizes, but I think that the ‘going postal’ theme ran a bit rampant here, as everyone seems uber crotchety and on edge, which can be charming, but at times was just unrealistic and forced. I thought that Ben’s grief deserved more padding and development, and that more time could have been spent on flashbacks and the search, less time on office politics.

There is a sequel in the works and I would definitely read it. I would also recommend this book to other fans of similar genres.

Lauren

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Undeliverable is a heart-breaking look at loss, and what the lack of closure can do to a person. I though the view of a young dad and his desperation in his search for his missing son was beautifully portrayed; I felt the guilt that he dealt with every day.

The setting of the Mail Recovery Warehouse is a backdrop that I have never seen and found myself wanting to learn more about the process and what they do in that area of government. That being said, I found the characters there a bit of a caricature, and wanted it to be two separate stories: one about Ben and his search for his son through his use of his work systems, and one just about this warehouse. I would read the manual that was used to introduce each chapter, so clever!

I am intrigued by Ben and his relationship with his wife, I wish that there had been a little more development with their history. I appreciate that he develops a connection with Sylvia, his coworker, but I didn’t find myself believing how close they got so quickly.

There is a sequel in the works, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to grow, and where the search leads them. Kudos to the author for tackling a difficult subject, and for giving a portion of her proceeds to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.