Itsy Bitsy SpiderAuthor:
313 pages The Rundown
In order for an action-thriller to work, it must always be in motion. I can never feel comfortable, in control, or safe. I have to care about the hero. The bad guy has to be bad
. There needs to be a love interest and she has to be pretty and nice and occasionally vulnerable. I mean, really, if she isn’t vulnerable why the heck do we need a hero? If one’s adrenaline doesn’t spike at least once per chapter, the book doesn’t earn a five star review. If I don’t get an urge to put on 3-D glasses and eat some popcorn while I’m reading it, it doesn’t get a five star review. Bottom line, if its not fun, why bother? These were my criteria for evaluating Itsy Bitsy Spider
by debut author Kimberly Shursen.
Matt Christenson is a young, handsome investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. He’s assigned to track down a missing lawyer with connections to Mayor Jack McCallin. Instead, Matt stumbles upon Claire, the mayor’s beautiful daughter, and her little girl, Lizzie. With the help of a few trusted friends Matt discovers Claire and Lizzie are caught in a tangled web of lies originating from the mayor himself. This bloody web stretches from one end of Boston to the other, and now it’s trapped Matt. Claire holds a secret so devastating the mayor will do anything to silence her. The mayor commands Boston’s cops, underworld, and media. There is nowhere to hide as the web tightens around Matt, Claire and Lizzie. Matt becomes part of the story and finds himself falling for Claire, even though it might cost him his life. Itsy
is always in motion. I can think of only two chapters where it even thinks about slowing down. The action takes place across the City of Boston, where Matt and his team find themselves imperiled by the mayor’s powerful allies. I always felt a little on edge, because I knew the characters were never safe. Like them, I never knew who to trust and expected betrayal at every turn. I cringed a few times worrying about Lizzie, Claire’s little girl. The easy-going hero, Matt Christenson, is also very likable. I can see a series of books with him as the hero and can easily see Itsy Bitsy Spider
being turned into a screen play.
Never pretentious and always entertaining, Itsy Bitsy Spider
is a state-of-the-art action thriller. Enjoyably easy to read, I had a strong urge for popcorn the whole time I read it. Now, where are my 3-D glasses?
Five out of Five Stars.
Kimberly Shursen Links: Itsy Bitsy Spider on Amazon
Kimberly Shursen’s Website
Kimberly Shursen on Facebook
, and LinkedIn
Editor’s Note: A UBR alumni and founding member, Kimberly Shursen departed
our staff a year ago to pursue new opportunities. We told her when she published
her first novel, we would be honored to review it, but she wouldn’t receive any
special favors or consideration. This reviewer bought this book and did not
receive a free copy.
I have to add a disclaimer this week: Richard Hacker, the author of the crime thriller Toxic Relationship
, is a friend of mine. Originally, Richard was slated for our Emerging Author series, but I moved him to the mainline review for two reasons. First, Richard is pretty much fully emerged as Toxic Relationship
is now published via Champagne Books.
Second, since I’m familiar with Richard’s talent from our Author Salon collaboration, I knew anything by him was a sure bet. With that said, I wasn’t disappointed.
takes place in the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Texas. It’s the story of Nick Sibelius, a down-and-out private detective hired to find the missing daughter of a local pastor. Instead, he stumbles into a vat of messy intrigue. Junior, a local farmer, has turned his property into an illegal toxic waste dump. People who stumble onto his land have a tendency to disappear. Of course, the plot isn’t that simple. Along the way Nick contends with a host of bad guys, not so bad guys, and a beautiful woman with toxic secrets of her own. There are also kidnappings, “The Rupture” (you just have to read it), clues, gun fights, car chases, more clues, car crashes, deadly fires, Nick’s unusual office assistant, and evil dentistry. Intrigued? You should be.
is more than standard crime-fiction fare. First, it’s funny. Not grab-your-gut-and-roll-over-laughing funny, but a comfortable shade of subtle, light humor that makes you crack a smile or snort every few pages. Most of Toxic’s
laughs are courtesy of Junior, a “good ole’boy” gone bad. Anyone who has lived in rural America knows a Junior. I know several and can recommend the novel for Junior’s antics and internal
Junior is just one of several well-written characters Hacker creates around his hero. This author excels at changing points of view without losing the reader. He leverages this to quickly build character depth and keep us turning pages. He often shows these secondary characters through Junior’s point of view. However, we get so much Junior that Toxic
almost becomes a novel about him and not Nick. The book goes noticeably long stretches before cycling back to Nick. As a result it feels like Nick is there to support the secondary characters and not the other way around. However, since this will be a series, I assume there will be ample time to further develop Nick Sibelius.
Hacker doesn’t present Junior, or anything about rural Texas, with stereotypical disdain. He treats Central Texas like a relative, perhaps like a well-intentioned half-brother you love but also know is nuts. You love him, craziness and all. If you’ve ever spent time in Texas, and love it like I do, you’ll catch yourself nodding and smiling as Hacker masterfully weaves his plot through the cultural fabric of the Lone Star State. In fact, I wish he would have injected more Texas flavor into the novel, but I suppose he’s saving it for the Nick Sibelius books to come. Toxic Relationship
reaffirms my belief that anything by Richard Hacker is a safe bet. It’s a smart novel chocked full of great characters and light humor. With full Texas flavor, Toxic Relationship
is anything but toxic and recieves 87 out of 99 cents. 99 cents of Richard Hacker links:
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You can also follow Brian Braden on his blog, Facebook and Twitter and buy his
book, Carson's Love.
Dale Robert’s crime mystery novel, Irrefutable
, is like that car you know you should buy. It’s well built, has a good consumer rating, drives well, and gets good mileage. However, the minute you get behind the wheel you get a sense something is missing, but for the price you might as well give it a spin anyway. Irrefutable
centers around Florida Detective Alex Mendez: a decorated cop, father, and widower. He struggles with coming to terms with his wife’s death while raising his sixteen-year-old daughter alone. He’s also trying to catch a serial rapist. Someone is abducting women, drugging and raping them. They all wake up naked near a local marina with few memories of the ordeal. Detective Mendez quickly finds common threads connecting the crimes, but can’t follow them to a suspect. Alex must stop the rapist, but the rapist is also trying to stop Alex. Oh yes, he also talks to his dead wife Allyson, although I can’t figure out if she’s a ghost or a figment of his imagination.
A myriad of borderline cliché characters surround Alex, including Rachael, the beautiful district attorney. She helped Alex deal with his wife’s death and is the love interest. There is also Kathy, the rookie detective eager to make a name as Alex’s partner, even if it comes at Alex’s expense. The characters are well written and could have been one of the book’s strongest points. However, we’ve seen them all before, in one form or another, in other crime stories. I kept waiting for them to develop, but like the plot, they never grew beyond the predictable. And this is really the crux of the problem for Irrefutable.
Roberts keeps the plot moving by effectively building tension, making the ride interesting for the reader... mostly. Like the characters, the plot was very formulaic. The somewhat original twist, Alex talking to his dead wife, is suddenly abandoned mid-book and then reintroduced at the end as sort of an afterthought. In doing so, Roberts loses an opportunity to make the book truly stand out. As for the “who done it” aspect, it’s not hard to figure out by mid-book, though Roberts treats it like a bombshell at the end.
For such a professionally written novel, Irrefutable
suffered from a surprisingly strong case of the Indie Writers Curse - mechanical and grammar errors. IWC afflicted this novel throughout, but wasn’t enough to detract from the enjoyment of the book.
This novel is suitable for ages eighteen and up, for sexual content, violence and suggestive themes.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. Roberts is obviously a talented writer. My main critique is it could have been so much more. Irrefutable
is soundly written, but flat. The cookie-cutter plot and near-cliché’ characters give this book a predictable and mechanical feel, as if it were manufactured, not created. However, with all this said, I still recommend Irrefutable
for crime mystery lovers. It kept me involved, even if I kept waiting for it to break out into the original. While I knew this book could have been so much more, it was still adequate (especially for the Kindle price). All-in-all, Irrefutable
falls short of great, but settles for practical. If crime mystery is your thing, take Irrefutable
for a spin. It earns 79 out of 99 cents.
(Author’s Note: When I started reviewing Irrefutable
, the Kindle price was 99 cents, now it lists for $1.99).
99 Cents worth of Dale Roberts links:Buy it on AmazonIf you enjoyed this review, please support the Underground by nominating us as one of the top ten writer's blogs this year at WritetoDone!You can also follow Brian on Facebook and Twitter
TITLE: Good Neighbors
AUTHOR: Ryan David Jahn
PUBLISHER: Penguin Group
GENRE: Crime Novel
THE RUNDOWN Good Neighbors
is a crime novel that exposes what’s lacking in humanity: the raw, gritty details of impersonal city life. Over the course of one night, it tells the story of the neighbors who stand by and do nothing while an innocent woman, Katrina, is raped and murdered outside her Queens apartment. The novel is based on a true story, which makes the vividly violent scenes even more potent.
What I liked about Good Neighbors
was the range of voices, from the innocent murder victim to the murderer himself. Every voice was unique, and no matter how despicable the person was, there was a touch of humanity, buried somewhere underneath the monster. Ryan’s writing was clear and to the point, vibrant and well-crafted without being flowery or overdone.
I was dubious about starting a book in which I knew the ending: Katrina dies. Read the back of the cover, and you know what’s going to happen. However, the side-plots introduced keep an element of suspense throughout the book, and I found myself still rooting for Katrina at the end of the book, even though I knew her demise.
When I finished Good Neighbors
, I can’t say I felt refreshed or satisfied. But I don’t believe that was the point of the book. I found myself contemplating what makes people do evil things, and how many people would rather look the other way. When I finished Good Neighbors
, the story and the images stuck with me like a recent nightmare.
I don’t like nightmares much, but I’m a sucker for dark novels like Good Neighbors
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up or a feel-good story, look elsewhere. If you’re squeamish, you probably won’t enjoy the detailed accounts of violence. But if you want a harshly realistic picture of humanity, and a well-crafted page turner, pick up Good Neighbors
and buckle up for the ride.
WANT TO BUY IT? Ryan David Jahn’s website
Buy it on Amazon