Saturday, March 31, 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

April = Open for Submissions!

We had a great month for reviewing in March with fantasy, SF, mystery, poetry and historical fiction books to read. The POD People team is now open again to new submissions.

Please send your book to podpeep(at)gmail(dot)com in a generic file format such as .pdf or .rtf. Please include the following information in your email: TITLE, AUTHOR, PRICE, GENRE, ISBN, PUBLISHER and POINT OF SALE.

If you prefer to query first, please send a synopsis and the same book information as requested above.

Thank you for your continued interest.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Gatekeeper' by Brad Barber


Title: Gatekeeper
Author: Brad Barber
Price: $18.48, paperback; $8.78, ebook
Genre: Sci-fi/Futuristic/Fantasy
ISBN: 978-1-4303-0060-1, paperback; 978-1-4303-0060-1, ebook
Publisher: Lulu Press
Point of Sale: lulu.com/content/418849

Gatekeepers, or Rodjinn, are powerful entities endowed with strength, battle skills, the ability to fly, and immortality. Conceived to protect humans once all the demons are imprisoned, The Gatekeeper may choose living a human life or guarding the Nether-realm Gate. One particular Rodjinn chooses life as a human forfeiting all his powers. However, other forces beyond his power decide to revive his Gatekeeper skills.

Rodin escapes his pursuers in Jamaica, after stealing a pair of pants and gun from them. Flying within the safety of the clouds, he decides to return to the states, reuniting with the friends he left several years prior. Choosing New York as his final stop, Rodin rests under brush in Central Park where Curtis Richardson captures him. Curtis and his partner, Dylan Roberts own Paranoraco, Inc., that specializes in locating and destroying anything paranormal. Unknowingly, recruiting Rodin lures a supernatural menace to Paranarco’s doors, triggering a recollection of his deeply buried past.

Many readers will enjoy this intriguing futuristic paranormal with its large cast of tough, convincing characters, energizing its quick plot while providing a vivid pictorial read. As Rodin proves his weaponry skills, even displaying his unnatural super strength, he joins Curtis’ combat force to help defeat the El Chupacabras uprising, in South America. Enlisting additional expertise and support, Rodin calls five of his friends; sharpshooter Clinton Parker, computer geek Devs Bailey, aircraft engineer Kasey White, demolition expert Robert “Bob” Johansson, and his former girlfriend, Lisa Taylor who excels in hand-to-hand combat. Needing access to illegal weapons, Rodin suggests employing Jah, the man he ran from in Jamaica. Paranarco’s two-man operation quickly grows into an elite paranormal fighting team.

Though the dialog seems flat, detached at times, the suspense resumes when the group is caught off guard by the number of Chupacabras’ attacking, having more then doubled in quantity. They successfully obliterate the nest and the aggressive herd, leaving them with minor injuries but an eerie sense of defeat. The Chupacabras’ fearless and challenging behavior alarms Curtis, remembering their inclination to flee from aggressive conflict. Also, their eyes never glowed red.

Their battle is far from over as Rodin’s old nemesis emerges from his prison, threatening not only his comrades but the safety of the world…again. Gatekeeper is…absorbing…plenty of action…combined with a plausible story line makes for an entertaining read.

RATING: 7/10




Reviewed by: In August of 2006, Pamela broke into book review writing with Erotic Escapades, but writes for The Erotic Bookworm, The Muse Book Reviews, Romance At Heart, and now POD People. Her own web site, Chewing the Bone exhibits book reviews in multilple genres, including children and young adult fiction. With all that she has going on Pamela finds time to dabble in flash-fic writing. Although, she doesn't aspire in becoming a published novelist, because it would take valuable time away from her first love... reading.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

'The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II' by Susan Higginbotham


Title: The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II
Author: Susan Higginbotham
Price: $25.95, paperback; $6.00, ebook
Genre: Historical
ISBN: 978-0-595-35959-2, paperback; 978-0-595-80409-2, ebook
Publisher: iUniverse Press
Point of Sale: iuniverse.com

Three people… the King of England… his favorite niece… and a nobleman in love with both, endure a monarchy riddled with deceit, greed and adultery. For England, in the fourteenth century, that is commonplace as history records the exploits of King Edward II, and even Hugh le Despenser, with reverence and some semblance of accuracy. However, women during the early part of the century are often times ignored, contributing little historical relevance, except for the Queen, of course. In this instance, Eleanor le Despenser, formally a Clare, comes to the forefront of this period’s importance.

Ms. Higginbotham thoroughly documents the loyal, at times misplaced, deeds of Eleanor le Despenser, a noble woman and favored niece of Edward II. Married at the age of thirteen to Hugh le Despenser, Eleanor brings a royally connected dowry that promises to rejuvenate his family’s misfortunes. Their marriage seems joyous as Hugh enjoys his wife’s company and bed, helping Eleanor to bear nine children during their long marriage.

Serenity exists only in their home as the monarchy suffers rumors about the Prince and his childhood friend, Piers Galveston unseemly close relationship. Eleanor witnesses the repeated exile of her uncle’s lover and now, her sister Margaret’s husband, Piers, even his brutal death under the charge of treason. After the death of King Edward I, the newly appointed King Edward II marries France’s Princess Isabella, twelve years old at the time. Eleanor becomes her lady-in-waiting during this time, winning the Queen’s favor and confidence. She relinquishes that friendship, and her position, after seeing the Queen’s ruthless conduct regarding her two sister-in-laws’ adulterous behavior, causing them to be arrested and their lovers beheaded.

Eleanor’s husband Hugh grows restless, resisting the royal court life. He desires personal wealth and power that causes rumors to spread that he pirates, reason for his long absences from home and rapid increase of fortune. During the battle with the Scots, Eleanor’s only brother dies leaving her and her sisters a vast family fortune. Hugh gains control of this wealth, exalting power through coerced business dealings, including the pointless execution of a man imprisoned for treason, all without the King’s knowledge or permission. His recklessness compounds when seeking forgiveness from the King. Hugh becomes not only his lover but a close confident and advisor; mirroring Piers Galveston’s fate. Eight years after their relationship began, Hugh confesses to Eleanor about his intimacy with the King, although she never fully comprehends the magnitude of hate England’s people holds for her husband. Still to the end, Eleanor’s loyalty and love towards her uncle, King Edward II and her husband, Hugh le Despenser never waivers.

“The Traitor’s Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II” delivers a skillfully ingenious, though historically accurate tale surrounding Eleanor le Despenser’s life during King Edward II’s reign. Ms. Higginbotham’s many characters come alive as this intriguing period piece unfolds cataloging their adventures, loves lost and gained, while suffering the emotional pains of deceit and the physical tortures of treason. Eleanor appears a clever and courageous woman, standing up to the Queen who has manipulated the King to exile Hugh. Although naïve at times when her ambitious husband is secretive about his long absences from home, and then his clandestine management of her vast estates. Hugh is a devoted and affectionate man, always present during the births of their many children, even showing deep remorse when one child dies shortly after being born. His ambition and need for personal recognition leads toward self-destruction, jeopardizing his wife and children’s safety and well-being.

The story’s main focus, Eleanor endures many hardships after Queen Isabella takes over leadership of England. Concealed in the Tower for protection by her husband, she becomes a prisoner there after his fall from power. Then her daughters are taken away, forced to become nuns. Her young sons remain at her side, while her oldest son, Hugh is held prisoner by the newly appointed King Edward III; at the command of his mother Queen Isabella.

Ms. Higginbotham also masterfully conveys the trials and tribulations of being a monarch, and the level of tolerance and ambiguity being in the service of one. King Edward II’s downfall appears in the guise of his newly organized “The Ordainers”, who now regulates the monarchy’s business and personal affairs. Every man appointed within this royal order brings their own aspirations for personal power and greed. This absorbing novel has been awarded the Editor and Reader’s Choice through its publisher iUniverse, rightfully so. The Traitor’s Wife, though a work of fiction, is also noted in Wikipedia.

Rating: 10/10




Reviewed by: In August of 2006, Pamela broke into book review writing with Erotic Escapades, but writes for The Erotic Bookworm, The Muse Book Reviews, Romance At Heart, and now POD People. Her own web site, Chewing the Bone exhibits book reviews in multilple genres, including children and young adult fiction. With all that she has going on Pamela finds time to dabble in flash-fic writing. Although, she doesn't aspire in becoming a published novelist, because it would take valuable time away from her first love... reading.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

'The Pop-Up Book of Death: Poems by Chad Helder' by Chad Helder


TITLE: The Pop-Up Book of Death: Poems by Chad Helder
AUTHOR: Chad Helder
PRICE: $12.99/$6.16
GENRE: Poetry/Gay & Lesbian
ISBN: N/A
PUBLISHER: Lulu.com
POINT OF SALE: Lulu

I am an impatient reader of poetry, quick to discard the self-indulgent chaff and ungainly doggerel that represents the greater part of self-published collections. Chad Helder, however, has put together a collection that held my attention through two uninterrupted readings and remains on my desktop.

I am not saying ‘The Pop-Up Book of the Dead’ is perfect, but it does have the two qualities I feel are essential in good poetry, it is vivid and it is thoughtful. The poems (58 of them by my count) each has their own identity but also builds on an intensely personal set of images and symbols. Imagery is deftly used and startling in its originality—although sometimes overly terse wording make some passages ungrammatical or hard to understand in first reading (even in poetry, sometimes more is more).

The first image to emerge, the dog, is rooted in anecdote where a childhood pet “…buoys me up from drowning / buoys me up like a coffin / filled with the past.” The dog image is twisted and turned and unfolds to show many surprising facets. Other themes insinuate themselves. A myriad of vermin, rats, worms and a quiet fascination with ovipositors. Animal take on many, often sinister roles such as in “My dignity becomes the legs of a grasshopper / sticking out the lips of a frog.”

And again in ‘Indoctrination or The Ultimate Job Hunting Guide’ where the all too familiar platitudes of employment-seeking culminate with “The beak is at the bottom of the octopus embrace”. Water appears in many malevolent forms such as “A windshield blinded by the palm of a storm / Like closing the eyes of the dead.” And, of course, death itself in many guises. Along with highways, sexuality, queer identity and many other threads, their interactions and corollaries.

The most satisfying element for me was the note of, albeit cynical, hope in the final poem. The entire collection marinates well and gains flavor on subsequent readings.

RATING: 7.5




Reviewed by Emily Veinglory: Emily is a writer of fantasy, romance and erotica. Her first paperback novel King of Dragons, King of Men will be available this October from Samhain Press. The ebook version is on sale now.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Alas, Poor POD-dy Mouth Blog


The top Pod blog out there had to be POD-dy Mouth and now it is closing. Authors wondering we we mere POD People often take a long time to respond should take a look at her last post. One of the great problems with running an site about self-published books is keeping the message targeted to readers and trying to remain responsive to the high volume of enquiries from writers. But any review site, and any self-publisher, succeeds only when they interest readers more than peers.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'North of Sunset' by Henry Baum


TITLE: North of Sunset
AUTHOR: Henry Baum
PRICE: $16.95
GENRE: Novel
ISBN: 978-1-4116-5656-7
PUBLISHER: Lulu.com
POINT OF SALE: Lulu, Amazon

You can’t please everybody. Henry Baum’s third novel, North of Sunset, has received some rave reviews, notably from Girl On Demand, the 800 pound gorilla of the POD-review world. Unfortunately, I don’t share her taste in books. Although very professionally executed, I found both the characters and plot of North of Sunset to be uninteresting.

First, let’s discuss the plot. Baum starts off the book by introducing each of the main characters, and giving each of them a chapter of back-story. We meet Michael Sennet, an actor with a huge ego and seemingly on a mission to bed every woman in the world. Then Baum introduces us to Martin Goldfarb, a stereotypical self-loathing producer, who refers to his wife as “Jew-dy.” Chapter 3 introduces us to Curt Knudsen, introduced as the “Vanity Plate Killer,” who has murdered seven people solely because they drive cars with vanity license plates. The other major characters get similarly lengthy introductions. The end result of this is that we’re forty pages into the book before anything happens.

Once Baum starts the action, the plot seems to run along nicely for a while, and I started to enjoy North of Sunset. This proved to be a temporary thing. In my view, North of Sunset doesn’t so much end as fade to black. I found the ending unbelievable and unsatisfying.

Part of the reason the book’s ending is so unsatisfactory is Baum’s characters. I found Sennet both insufferably arrogant and not too bright. You don’t have to be an expert in banking to suspect that you can’t withdraw $4 million in cash over the teller window, for example. I also don’t feel that his character grew or changed in any way over the course of the book.

Knudsen, the serial killer, behaves illogically. First, his motivation for killing makes no sense. He’s a member of a vaguely Fundamentalist church, and goes on his killing spree when one of the church members is killed in an accident. Problem is, the accident was the church member’s fault, and Knudsen knows it! Also, Knudsen’s reaction to discovering that he has a copycat killer at large is unexpected to say the least. It feels more like a way to wrap up the book quickly then a realistic thing to do.

Most of the secondary characters are unbelievable, especially police detective Harry Stein. Consider the following excerpt, which is describing Detective Stein. “He was usually an investigator into white or black America, an America not his own. In the way that Curt Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, the Warner Brothers, et al. had entered American life through entertainment, Stein had found his place through solving American crime.”

I’ve read and enjoyed quite a bit of literary fiction, from such writers as Annie Proulx and Jane Smiley. I think Baum is trying for their style of writing. I don’t think he quite hits the mark with this book.

RATING 5 / 10




Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. This is his first novel. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

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'Altered Life' by Keith Dixon

TITLE: Altered Life
AUTHOR: Keith Dixon
PRICE: $18.95 (U.S.)
GENRE: Mystery, Murder/PI
ISBN: 978-1-4116-7293-2
PUBLISHER: Lulu.com (Great Britain)
POINT OF SALE: Amazon

Right out of the gate, this is an amazing novel for first-time author, Keith Dixon.

Sam Dyke, wiseass and humorous PI, is sought by the owner of a consulting firm to investigate who is trying to steal his business. Rory Brand’s company has developed magic bullet software that measures people’s abilities at work and then compares them to a national database. Thus, the skill gaps in any company can be compared to the competition—a valuable commodity to say the least.

Dyke at first refuses the case on the grounds that no crime has been committed, but changes his mind when Rory is found dead in his office the next day. The arrogant killer has even left a taunting message on Rory’s computer screen as the first clue.

Dyke’s determination to find Rory’s murderer takes him through multiple turns strewed with barriers and red herrings, a painful journey into Dyke’s own past, and a secret that has been kept from him for twenty years.

Keith Dixon’s abilities with language and expressive style are amazing. His descriptions of characters and places are beautifully accomplished and unusual, if not a bit excessive at times. And his dialogue is first rate: crisp, lively, and often humorous—among the best.

However, the reader never does get a description of the protagonist, whose last name may be controversial for some readers. And Dyke is perhaps a little too altruistic to be real. He often leaves situations just as they are getting interesting.

For example, Dyke turns down a lucrative assignment because no crime has been committed. Perhaps not very realistic for a new and aspiring PI. And the final scene, where Dyke arranges to meet the murderer, who just happens to be a special forces killing machine, on the side of a dark mountain next to a cliff overlooking a waterfall, carrying only a sap and a knife with an one-inch blade, does seem a bit unrealistic. However, the enjoyable narration carries you through all this.

All in all, an excellent page-turner from an author who has a bright future. You can bet I’ll be reading the next Sam Dyke PI novel when it’s released.

RATING: 8 / 10




Reviewed by Ron Peters: For 40 years I worked for money--now I work for love. At age sixty I began my fiction writing career, and while it took me 3 years to finish my first novel, SOS (no-that's not something on a shingle), I now have 4 published novels and working on the 5th.

These novels, part of the tongue-in-cheek Dun Wheeling PI series, center around a different type of PI. Not one that is gruff and case-hardened, but a young, inexperienced PI that is forced to make it up as he goes, is often over his head, is persistent to the point of being dangerous, and is blessed with instincts and a sense of humor that keeps him alive in a profession with typically short life spans.

SOS, Night Before August, Castles of Deceit, and Sphere of Reason are easy reads that are hard to put down. Come visit me at www.ronpeters.net

Sunday, March 04, 2007

'The Mars Run' by Chris Gerrib


Title: The Mars Run
Author: Chris Gerrib
Price: $10.96 printed, $2.68 download
Genre: Sci-Fi
ISBN: 978-1-4116-9973-1
Publisher: Chris Gerrib via Lulu.com
Point of Sale: Lulu.com
lulu.com/content/256132

The Mars Run is an intense science fiction story, wrought with suspense, intrigue and plenty of action. Earning money to rebuild her college fund Janet enrolls in the Merchant Astronaut Academy; after her grandfather and father loses their previous savings on an erroneous fast-money scheme. During a Level 3 simulation exercise Janet’s lover and classmate, Raj dies. The inquest and review hearing is intimidating but exonerates Janet from any wrong doing.

After graduation she boards the GR-30B Hercules spacecraft, the Windy City; Janet’s home for an entire year. She meets commanding officers Captain Kate Yergen, and her husband First Mate Alex Yergen and her reporting commander, a native Martian, Ken Bell. The next couple weeks Janet settles into a routine familiarizing herself with the ship and crew before the Windy City departs. Once they breach Earth and Moon’s systems the crew’s mettle is tested. A meteor strikes their ship damaging cooling units, which also operates their life support systems. Danger passes as damages are repaired the crew continues on schedule.

When the Windy City is eighty-nine days away from Earth does the action and intrigue intensify. A point between Earth and Mars, the crew encounters a vessel with hostile objectives. Under attack, Janet races to the ship’s greenhouse to access the damage only to find her Captain dead. The ship is boarded by pirates who kill Janet’s remaining comrades and take her hostage. Knowing her life is balancing between death and survival Janet barters her welding skills to repair the damaged Windy City. Not trusting her sincerity, the pirates offer her three options: 1) Join the Sarah Sands crew, 2) become their prisoner, or 3) die. Janet joins the renegade crew though begins devising her escape plan.

Mr. Gerrib’s characters are alive and real. Janet has stealth, which are never realized but she remains tenacious in fleeing her keepers. She shows a strong inner strength while enduring too many “forced” copulations with her male captors. Although, Janet does form a loving relationship with J.R. that minimally detracts from her abuses. A rebel, John is quite one-minded although dense, too. He’s easily distracted by a woman’s form – nude or even clothed – and never sees the obvious while brainstorming with his comrades. John and Janet’s hostility toward one another is genuine. After Janet signs on with the rebels, she proceeds to beat the crap out of John; who raped her after boarding the Windy City. A solid punch to his nose and a swift kick to his nuts had me jumping and cheering. Mr. Gerrib casts a vast array of motley secondary characters that add to the entertainment making the story fully cohesive.

The action and intrigue continues as more ships are forcibly taken as the story veers toward government corruption and personal greed. Acclimated to erotica stories, I find the sex not all that explicit or stimulating. Even Janet and J.R.’s intimate moments are just sweet interludes. However, Janet’s unwilling unions are strictly suggestive, leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination. The Mars Run is an exciting sci-fi that kept me so engaged that I finished it in one evening. I recommend this well-written story and will keep it on hand to enjoy reading it again.

Rating: 8/10

SEE ALSO:
Pod Critic: 7.5
Lulu [27 Apr 07]: 8.3
Amazon.com [27 Apr 07]: 8
SFReader: 6

AVERAGE RATING: 7.6/10




Reviewed by: In August of 2006, Pamela broke into book review writing with Erotic Escapades, but writes for The Erotic Bookworm, The Muse Book Reviews, Romance At Heart, and now POD People. Her own web site, Chewing the Bone exhibits book reviews in multilple genres, including children and young adult fiction. With all that she has going on Pamela finds time to dabble in flash-fic writing. Although, she doesn't aspire in becoming a published novelist, because it would take valuable time away from her first love... reading.