Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: "This Brilliant Darkness" by Red Tash

Bloomington, Indiana should be nothing more than a quiet college town. It had been until a strange flashing star began to light up the night as well as daytime sky. A star that can’t be seen anywhere else on Earth. Strange events are also happening in a local wooded area. All too soon it becomes very personal to Christine Grace because something very strange is happening to her as well.

She could be losing her mind.

That would be the easy explanation.

Maybe the strange events are happening because Christine has been targeted by some sort of dark creature known as the “Greachin.” Maybe the strange events are because she has allies and just does not know it just yet. While Christine struggles to hold on to her sanity, the creature grows stronger day by day making it harder for her to survive.

Filled with interesting characters, constant shifting between character viewpoints, and discussions of religion and science, this story billed as a “dark urban fantasy” moves forward at a rapid pace. Not all questions are answered to completely tie everything off, but one wonders how the series can move forward based on how this book ended. As very clearly noted in the book description, this book is not intended for anyone other than adult readers. That means there is adult language, drinking, and other character activities that may offend some readers.

Ordinarily this is not the kind of book I would read. Based on my tastes and preferences this would be classified as a horror novel and not something I would touch. However, I contracted to read it and proof it for typos after the author was informed by a reader there were “tons” of spelling errors. There was not at all in the version I recently read and proofed. In fact, I found far fewer than many books I have read recently released from the major publishing houses.

Because I enjoyed the read, despite being the totally wrong audience for it, I broke my long standing policy of not reviewing works I had any part in because I only proofed this read for misspelled words. No other editing services were provided or asked for regarding this very interesting and enjoyable book.

This Brilliant Darkness
Red Tash
Kindle E-Book
September 7, 2011

Material supplied, as noted above, by the author for spelling review purposes.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

FFB Review: "Dice Angel" by Brian Rouff

This week for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott, I have selected a book released in 2002. Dice Angel is far more than a simple story off one man’s bad  luck in Vegas. A good book worth your time.....

Finding a new author that is worth reading is a treat. No matter how good the storyline or plot setup is, if the characters don't come alive for the reader, then the book won't be that good. In this case, everything works across the board, which creates a very enjoyable debut novel by Brian Rouff.

As Dice Angel opens, Jimmy Delaney is on a rather bad roll of luck in life. Not only is his ex-wife Joy (who isn't) giving him a hard time, but burglars have broken into his supper club named Jimmy D's. The club is a legacy from his father who started it from nothing and lately it seems to be a target for every burglar in Las Vegas. This time they got the cash from the video poker machines, which adds up to quite a sum. But that loss seems rather small when he discovers that the IRS wants $50,000 for back taxes and penalties within days and his checks are bouncing all over town.

It appears that his ex brother in law who was his accountant and supposed to be handling all sorts of things, instead embezzled every last cent and took off, leaving behind his marriage and his very ill daughter. Jimmy turns to the usual sources as his world slowly collapses seeking funds to pay off the IRS and keep the club open. The quest for help goes nowhere and as he hits rock bottom, he has nowhere else to turn except to the mysterious lady known as Dice Angel. Supposedly through the means of mystical powers she can bring lady luck back into Jimmy's life so that he can save himself and those he cares so much about.

Beyond the storyline that suffers greatly in my telling, is the fact that this novel is full of interesting characters that actually come alive for the reader. Within a few pages the author pulls the reader into the Vegas he knows so well and the pull is simply irresistible. It is also fascinating to watch Jimmy D crash and resurrect himself and evolve as a character over the course of this 222-page novel. This fast read is over way too soon and hopefully there will be another following Jimmy D., his club, and his somewhat eccentric customers and staff. 

Kevin R. Tipple © 2003, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Barry's Reviews: "DANGEROUS WOMEN & DESPERATE MEN" (2011) by Rick Mofina

by Rick Mofina

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Formerly a crime reporter, thriller writer Rick Mofina drew on his experiences and observations in that capacity to create the four tales that Dangerous Women & Desperate Men comprises.

In "Blood Red Rings," Frank Harper, a cop on the verge of early retirement, thinks back over his life while patrolling the streets of the city, realizing not for the first time how  dysfunctional his family has become. When he responds to a shooting where a fellow officer is already in pursuit of the perpetrator, he gets the greatest shock of his life, one from which he'll likely never recover.

She's only 26, but Jessie Scout has already endured more than a lifetime's worth of hardship and pain. Half German, half Native American, she works as an armored car driver in Las Vegas and, along with Gil Perez, has to daily put up with their white supremacist crew chief, Elmer Gask. When she and the vehicle she was driving disappear, Gask, Perez, and the investigating officers suspect a heist and wonder if Jessie is alive or dead. Resonant with overtones that lift it beyond the run-of-the-mill crime tale, "Lightning Rider" won the Crime Writers of Canada's 2006 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story.

Ike Decker is a former New York cop now living and working in California as a Special Loss Recovery Agent for an armored car company. In "Three Bullets to Queensland," the weakest story in the collection because Decker really doesn't have any obstacles to overcome, his quarry is Paco Sanchez, who came away from a heist with one-point-two million dollars in cash.

A finalist for the 2008 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story, "As Long As We Both Shall Live" tells the story of Elizabeth and Spencer Dalton. Spencer went fishing on his 18-foot boat one day and never returned. After an extensive investigation that has involved several agencies, Spencer has been declared missing and presumed dead. The story is related in the form of an official court transcript, as State Attorney's office prosecutor Paul Upshaw questions Elizabeth Dalton about her life with her husband and events that preceded and followed his disappearance. The narrative device is, in and of itself, dry and impersonal, but Mofina makes it effectively convey the tones and emotions of the people whose voices are transcribed. Readers are likely to remember what actually happened to Spencer Dalton long after they finish the story.    

The rest of the book consists of sample excerpts from several of Rick Mofina's novels, and essays on how those novels evolved.

The stories in Dangerous Women & Desperate Men are, to their credit, as much--and sometimes more--about character as they are about crimes. Mofina's prose style is crisp and pared to essentials, resulting in stories that are good quick reads which offer memorable moments.  But the rapid-fire, often breathless nature of that prose style sometimes leads to ungrammatical constructions--e.g., "Decker's nose was crooked from being broken three times, a jagged scar paralleled his jaw line, he was missing his right ear, a long story but Decker used his thumbs to gouge out the eyes of the man who took his ear, and he possessed a shark-toothed mouth that, when he grinned as he was doing now, his eyes widened with ferocity, telegraphing a clear message...."

And that brings us to my biggest criticism of this book. It's in dire need of a proofreader. It teems with punctuation errors: punctuation marks are either misplaced or, most frequently, altogether missing. As mentioned above, there are occasional grammatical lapses an editor should have caught, and even a few spelling mistakes--e.g., "ally" for "alley." Unfortunately, this kind of slovenliness has become too common in publishing today, even among the major houses.

That criticism notwithstanding, the stories in Dangerous Women & Desperate Men are worth the attention of crime fiction fans. The book is available in Kindle and Smashwords editions.

Barry Ergang ©2011
Formerly the Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2007 Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available online, and fiction available for e-readers, see Barry’s webpages. Remember, too, that he has books from his personal collection for sale at  He'll contribute 20% of the purchase price of the books to our fund, so please have a look at his lists, which have recently been added to in several categories. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Am Begging For Your Help

I am begging for your help so that we don’t have to go to a homeless shelter in Downtown Dallas. I'm terrified of being homeless. It is something I have always feared. With my health, as well as Sandi's, I fear it even more.  
We are on food stamps and eating only because of that. We don't qualify for Medicaid. This is because we have over $200 in assets in furniture, clothes, etc. and that disqualifies us under Texas Medicaid rules. We “might” qualify once we were in a homeless shelter, but I really don’t want to find out if that is true. Sandi is still on unpaid medical leave and has not been terminated yet, so she still has her insurance as long as we pay the $120 bucks a month for her premium. The lack of Medicaid does not help my deal at all. A deal that is, without a doubt, getting worse.
Sandi is hoping to go back to work by the end of November, but that is up her bosses as, per their rules, she has to be 100 percent before she can go back to work. Mentally, she is still having some issues and these look to be permanent. The bigger issue is her knee. As it stands now, she will be doing physical therapy at the cost of 60 bucks a week for the foreseeable future. She is still on crutches and will be until she sees the doctor again right before Thanksgiving
So, that is where we stand at this point. That is also why I am asking for your help. I am not just asking----I am begging for your help. As you can see from the widget to your left, we are way short of what we need to stay here. We have nothing in the bank. Literally. What is in the Chip In widget is it.

Please know that I am asking for the bare minimum…not to get our car fixed or anything like that. This is just for the rent, keep the local phone service on so I have access to the internet, and pay for Sandi’s physical therapy, meds, etc. Most of the sixteen drugs she is on are generic and that helps, but between her drugs, my drugs, the many medications the boys are on because they both are special needs, it all adds up.

I know some folks hate Amazon and will not buy from them in favor of independent bookstores. I’m not asking you to change or do things differently. But, please, if, you are going to buy from Amazon anyway, please consider going through me as I get a referral fee of a few pennies on each purchase. It takes about three months after the end of the month for it to appear in my account and does not cost you a thing.

From a mental standpoint, Sand is still having various mental issues, but she is able to once again make some things again. This has been strongly encouraged by her doctors and me as it can help her recovery. She has been making things for years and it is nice to see her able to do things again as there were serious questions she would be able to do so. Sandi has some of her stuff at she has holiday as well as everyday items like quilts, baby blankets, stuffed animals, etc.

Last fall our son, Karl, set up a couple of deals for selling things under his online moniker of THUNDERCATSNYY. Karl is still doing this. One is at Amazon where he has had decent success moving video games, movies, my old books¸ and other items. His store on Amazon is at: and changes almost daily because he adds things to replace stuff he has sold. He also set up a deal on iOffer to help move some of his Mom’s stuff and other items such as comic books he can’t sell/list at Amazon via
By the way, my good friend and occasional reviewer here, Barry Ergang has quite a few neat books over at his deal located at He sells a few and adds a few a couple of times a week so even if you looked before and did not find anything that strikes your fancy, surf over and take a look. He'll contribute 20% of the purchase price of the books to our fund, so please have a look at his lists.

Barry is also now up with some of his older published stuff available on Smashwords. You can search under his name or go directly to his stuff by clicking

That is where we are. Please know that we are doing our best and are not just asking for help we don’t need. This is why I am asking for your help. I am not just asking----I am begging for your help. We truly do need your help desperately. Feel free to spread the word.

On behalf of Barry and my own family, I thank you.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Short Story Review: "Drop Dead Zone" by Mark Troy

Hawaii based private detective Val Lyon has been and done a lot of things in her life. One thing that links them all together is her need for adrenaline.  Because of that, she is onboard a Cessna airplane preparing to make a parachute jump as this short story opens.

It is her first jump and she is plenty scared. Onboard the small aircraft with her is a cameraman named Justin, and two others, Art and Lori. While both are training instructors and in a romantic relationship, Art has been her instructor from the start. All that hard work is about to pay off as the four leave the safety of the airplane and begin their fall to earth. Not everyone lands via parachute. Suspicions are soon raised by some and with Val on that fatal flight; she has a very personal reason to investigate.  

Nominated for a Derringer Award by the Short Mystery Fiction Society, this story was Val Lyon’s first published story according to the author note at the end. Originally published by Mystery Buff Magazine in 1998, it has recently been released again by Ilium Books. When it was made available for free for a limited time earlier this month, I took the opportunity to pick it up. 

I wasn’t disappointed. Drop Dead Zone  is a good one.

As I noted earlier in the month when I reviewed another Val Lyon short story titled TEED OFF, Mark Troy and I became friends a number of years ago through a local writers group. He has been a huge help to me from a writing angle with my own work as well as personally. This story was published long before I joined the local group. Furthermore, I had never seen it before it appeared free making it available for me to read and review.

I have been writing stories and reviewing since 1998 and that means I have made quite a few friends along the way. I’m not stripping the work of friends from my TBR pile. But, I can and will tell you, the reader, of these relationships when they exist so you can decide whether or not to consider that sort of thing when you read my reviews.

Drop Dead Zone
Mark Troy
Kindle e-book
August 2011

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reviews Worth Reading

I know some folks believe reviews don't matter. Obviously, what I do as best as I can, leads me to believe reviews do matter.  Not two sentence reviews that boil down to "Best Book Ever!!" or the flip side of that. No, the reviews that matter are reviews that have depth to them and have a foundation regarding the book. Love the book or hate the book, but be able to explain coherently why.

Take a look at run by Tony Burton. Lots of good stuff there and well worth your time.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: "Northwest Angle: A Novel" by William Kent Krueger

It was supposed to be a relaxing vacation on a houseboat on the remote Lake of the Woods. It has been two years since his wife died and for Cork O’Connor this was to be a happy family gathering. This would be the first time they all have gathered together since they buried Jo in the cemetery in Aurora. Despite all his hopes and dreams, they can’t go back and get back what they had then. Happiness has eluded this family gathering. Not only that but Cork O’Connor has a growing sense of unease.

For very good reason as, unbeknownst to the family, a massive super storm is about to hear down on the lake and shatter the wilderness with unfathomable fury. Separated from their family when the freak super storm, a derecho hits, Cork O’Connor and Jenny have to fight for their survival. Though separated from each other, both manage to survive and worry about the other while trying to figure out some sort of shelter on one of the many remote islands. A survival that becomes much more complicated when Jenny finds a primitive cabin on an island where a young mom is dead and newborn is clinging to life. The baby boy has survived the storm and the torture death of his mother. With Jenny and then later Cork’s help, the baby boy will either survive or get them all killed because they are being pursued.

This eleventh book in the series is another good one though it frequently bogs down as the read shifts to the point of view of various characters. For more than half of the book the super storm and its aftermath are the focus. That results in a typical-- the world has ended disaster type read-- thanks to the widespread complete destruction of the area, massive debris fields on land and in the water, and limited first responder capabilities due to the system overload. The various members of the family are stranded in various ways and gradually find their ways to each other while overcoming hardship in a destroyed world gone mad.

The mystery of what happened to the dead mom and her baby takes a far secondary role as the various members of the O’Connor family struggle to survive and find other family members and other survivors. It is only in the second half of the book when the initial several day struggle to survive has stabilized that the mystery actually comes to the fore front. The reasoning behind what happened when ultimately revealed is rather clichéd as is the secondary storyline featuring young Jenny and her boyfriend.

That being said, despite the clichéd story elements and a heavy religious emphasis, the novel is a good one though not nearly as good as it could have been. Billed as “part thriller, part mystery, part exploration of the human heart” this book is solid if rather predicable. Whether Northwest Angle thrills or not is very debatable, but it definitely has a mystery to it while clearly using the clichéd character element of a helpless baby to explore themes regarding being a parent, loving a child, and relationships. While this is not the best book in this long running series, it is solid and manages to contain a couple of surprises along the way.

Northwest Angle: A Novel
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
August 30, 2011
ISBN# 978-1-4391-5395-6
ARC (available in both hardcover and e-book)

Material supplied by the publisher in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

FFB Review: "The Innocent Mrs. Duff" by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Discussions about mystery/suspense fiction often debate whether certain stories are plot-driven or character-driven. I take the first to signify a tale in which plot is something extraneous that happens to the characters, imposed from without; the second to signify a tale in which the plot develops from the characters populating it, who themselves create the situations they become entangled in. I don't find one type necessarily better than the other. The result, for better or worse, depends on any given author's integration of the multitude of elements that make up the storytelling process. That said, let me highly recommend as a first-rate example of the character-driven story The Innocent Mrs. Duff by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding.

The story is told from the point of view of the priggish, class-conscious Jacob Duff, a man in his forties who has recently remarried following the death of his first wife Helen, the mother of his young son Jay. Regina (“Reggie”) Duff, née Riordan, is twenty-one, beautiful, caring, outgoing and, in Jacob's view, shallow and stupid. A year into the marriage, he has lost interest in her and ponders divorce. It becomes apparent to the reader early on that Duff himself, with his narrow snobbery, his selfish insistence on the way things ought to be, and his unwillingness to communicate with his wife to effect understanding and compromise, is the shallow one. Fourteen pounds overweight, he vows to lose the excess poundage by exercising and dieting—but he begins to drink heavily, frequently getting sick. After each drinking bout, he swears he's going to cut down or quit, but finds himself unable to, rationalizing the need for alcohol every time.

As the story deepens, his own idiosyncrasies create worsening problems for him which he blames on Regina and others, ultimately leading to a tragedy of his own making. Holding skillfully and subtly develops her drama and its personae in a clear prose style—without resorting to the kind of analysis and psycho-babble one is more likely to find in current “psychological suspense” stories. Instead, the reader observes Duff in action and interaction, is privy to his thoughts, and can thus indulge in his own analysis if he wishes to.

In a letter to Hamish Hamilton, his British publisher, Raymond Chandler wrote: “Does anybody in England publish Elisabeth Sanxay Holding? For my money she's the top suspense writer of them all. She doesn't pour it on and make you feel irritated. Her characters are wonderful; and she has a sort of inner calm which I find very attractive. I recommend for your attention, if you have not read them, Net of Cobwebs, The Innocent Mrs. Duff, The Blank Wall.”

The edition I have, which also contains The Blank Wall, is published by Academy Chicago and contains a cover blurb from Anthony Boucher: “For subtlety, realistic conviction, incredible economy, she's in a class by herself.”

Can I get an “Amen”?

Barry Ergang ©2011
Formerly the Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, winner of the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2007 Derringer Award in the Flash Fiction category, Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. For links to material available online, and fiction available for e-readers, see Barry’s webpages. Remember, too, that he has books from his personal collection for sale at  He'll contribute 20% of the purchase price of the books to our fund, so please have a look at his lists, which have recently been added to in several categories. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When it rains, it pours

Been a very long and very hard day full of setbacks in many areas. I won't bore you with all the pathetic details. Please believe that we truly do need your help.

Sandi starts physical therapy tomorrow. Considering how bad her knee is now hurting, I don't know if PT is a good thing or a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sandi's Knee--An Update

Been a very long and hard day so I am late with this. Sandi is 17 days post surgery at this point and things don't look as good as they did last week. Since Saturday she has had significant pain in her knee again and we really don't know why. It is not at the level she was at before surgery. But, the pain is back and she is feeling it a large part of the time.

She is staying positive and still making things for sale at where she has holiday as well as everyday items like quilts, baby blankets, stuffed animals, etc. over there. The pictures below shows something new that is not on the site yet. She is calling these things "arm wristers" and they are for women. The pair will sell for 13 dollars including shipping once she gets them listed on site.

They run about seventeen inches long.

They allow the fingers to be free while keeping the arm warm to above the elbow.

In addition to the colors you see here she has the completed sets in purple and white. Other colors on request.