Category Archives: Action/Adventure

Hero Haters by Ken MacQueen

Hero HatersHero Haters by Ken MacQueen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Intriguing premise, non-stop action, and clever dialogue, with regular people trapped in a plot for revenge.

Jake Ockham is the editor of his family’s local newspaper, and freelances investigating nominees for the Sedgewick Medallion, a prestigious award recognizing acts of selfless bravery. He himself had been honored while in college by rescuing a teenage boy from his burning home. During the rescue, Jake had sustained burns to his hands that had ended his Olympic dream of representing the United States in rowing, however, that wasn’t the worst thing to come from his actions.

When Jake dragged the unconscious and injured boy to safety, he was doing it in full view of the boy’s mother, who was trapped on the second floor of the family home with no way for Jake to reach her. As he watched in horror, the woman’s young daughter came home just in time to witness her mother’s terrible death, screaming at Jake the whole time that he was a coward. Now year’s later, the Medallion recipients were once again in the news. Several of these heroic individuals had suddenly gone missing … along with their medals. Despite the various police departments brushing off the missing persons’ reports from the heroes’ families, Jake was determined to get to the bottom of things and stop whoever was kidnapping the heroes.

I am so happy I was selected to read and review Hero Haters, a new thriller by author Ken MacQueen. The story is a terrifying mind game and pulse-pounding thriller, and it is filled with regular people who, at some point in their lives, stepped forward to help out a stranger. Early on, the reader knows who is behind the disappearances of the courageous medal winner. Still, it is exciting as Jake and Erik hack away at discovering the truth themselves and stop them. I was completely invested in the story from the very start.

Despite what Jake thinks of himself, he is a hero. He continually chooses the high road, well, except for a couple of great jabs at a particularly petty sheriff’s deputy who totally deserves it. His best friend, Erik, is fun and independent and a fantastic sidekick but a genius in his own right. He has some of the best dialogue in the book, too. The kidnapped medal winners are a varied group of individuals, with some continuing to be courageous in their direst moments.

I was immediately attracted to this book by its premise, and as the drama unfolded, I was not disappointed. It is fast-paced throughout, and the author is terrific at revealing backstories without slowing down that pace. And when the climax arrives, things happen even faster. I was really on edge, concerned about whether things were going to work out or not.

The story is told from more than one point of view; the narrative shifts between Jake’s actions and what is happening with the kidnap victims. The author’s writing style is smooth, witty, and easy to read, so I was quickly immersed in the story. I will be looking for more from this author.

With a likable, sympathetic main character, an engaging sidekick, an irresistible love interest, and a breakneck plot, I recommend HERO HATERS to mystery and thriller readers who like non-stop action and regular people trying to make a difference.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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The Urban Boys #1: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith

The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five SensesThe Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses by K.N. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The action gets going right away, and the opening is gripping; a good omen for what’s to come!

Twenty years ago, a murder occurred in the nature preserve outside Danville Heights. Ross Dawson had been strangled by his former friend, Joaquin Grayson, and left in the vegetation. But there were witnesses. A young couple, in the deserted location for some innocent privacy, had been shielded from the killer’s view by the lush foliage. However, they had heard the struggle, including strange, bright lights and terrifyingly loud clicking sounds that arose around them as they hid. The killer was never identified, but the preserve attained a feared reputation, and everyone avoided ever setting foot there again.

All these years later, that reputation still held, but occasionally students in town dared each other to enter and explore. Such was the case the night the Danville Heights Chargers won a hard-fought football game against their rivals, the Markley Lions. Five high school friends, fresh from their victory on the football field, followed their exuberance into the unknown dangers of the preserve. They, too, encountered the lights and clicking, and the next thing they knew, they were waking up at one of the boys’ homes, exhausted as if they had stayed up all night long. Their memories of what occurred were sketchy at best. But they were also changed. One had increased visual acuity; another enhanced hearing; each of the others had been gifted with a superior sense of smell, taste, or touch.

To the north of Danville Heights was the larger town, Sandry Lake. However, a month or so previously, a gang of criminals led by the mysterious Druth had moved in and taken over everything. They murdered residents and destroyed much of the infrastructure, so word of the town’s trouble was kept quiet. And Sandry Lake was just a stepping stone toward his ultimate goal.

The five young men don’t know it yet, but saving their hometown from destruction by the evil Druth will fall to their close-knit group of friends – and they are the only ones with the powers to meet him head-on and win.

Discovery of the Five Senses, the first book in The Urban Boys series by author K.N. Smith, has an intriguing plot that teased me with its carefully measured bits of backstory and minimalistic opening exposition. The author doesn’t hand-feed the book’s secrets; those are only slowly revealed as the story unfolds. I was in the story with the five main characters for the entire journey, feeling their confusion over what was happening and how to overcome it. This immersive quality reminded me of reading Jeff VanderMeer’s book, Annihilation, from his Southern Reach series.

Many times the author’s use of language is downright magical. It was not an easy read at first. I had to sync with the rhythm of the words, and when I did, I was suddenly wrapped up in the prose, looking forward with anticipation to the next stunning phrase or line.

The five boys are an interesting mix of personalities and circumstances, and young readers will surely relate. I loved the premise of each boy receiving an enhanced sense and that there were others before them who had also been ‘gifted’ in the same manner. In a fresh and fascinating twist to this “gaining a superpower” trope, the new strengths are very hard on the guys, even causing them physical pain at times.

The author gets the action going immediately, and the opening is gripping. It was so compelling I wanted to read straight through to the conclusion. I will definitely put this series on my ‘watch list’ for future installments. I recommend DISCOVERY OF THE FIVE SENSES to young adult readers who enjoy urban fantasy, action/adventure, and paranormal or supernatural elements in their stories.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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Book Blog Tour: LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN by James Stoddard

James Stoddard
Alternative History / Science Fiction
Pages: 347 pages
Publication Date: April 4, 2021
Americans love their Constitution. In seventeen-year-old Liberty Bell’s era it has become a myth.
Centuries after the Great Blackout obliterates the world’s digitized information, America’s history is forgotten. Only confused legends remain, written in The Americana, a book depicting a golden age where famous Americans from different eras lived and interacted with one another during the same time.
Raised on the stories and ideals from The Americana, Liberty Bell joins secret agent Antonio Ice on a quest for her country. But in the Old Forest, forgotten technologies are reawakening. Historic figures such as Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Jefferson are coming to life.
The source of their return, a mystery hidden since before the apocalypse, lies waiting for Liberty. Her knowledge of The Americana holds the key to unraveling the riddles of the past.
Will the American continent return to the freedom of Liberty’s forefathers? Or will it descend into a dark age of tyranny? The choices she makes will determine its fate. For, as The Americana says, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it—and forfeit all coupons, discounts, and travel miles.”
Filled with quotations from exceptional Americans, here is a humorous and poignant celebration of America and its Constitution.
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4 stars!

A clever and imaginative tale of a quest through a future America.

Liberty Bell and the Last American is a highly-imaginative, amazingly clever, fast-paced romp through a futuristic American landscape after the country has been laid waste in the Great Blackout. Hundreds of years have passed since the devastation of the planet and its peoples, in which few physical books and nothing that depended on electricity survived. However, during the ensuing centuries, the remnants of the population left on the American continent had cobbled together a version of their history, verbally handed down through the generations and combined with a single found copy of quotations by famous people to create a foundational work called “The Americana.” Unfortunately, the result somewhat resembled what you got at the end of the child’s game known as “Telephone.” Written in “Old American,” not everyone could read the original version, relying solely on modern interpretations. Liberty Bell was one of the few who learned the old language.

Liberty Bell is a lively and lovely young woman. This is her first trip away from her home on her own, so she’s understandably a bit timid at first. However, as her journey is interrupted (and takes a wild left turn), she rarely wavers in her confidence and determination to do the right thing for her country (of which she has a naïve understanding) and for her companions.

The author is supremely clever in reimagining the language of the day, recombining idioms, maxims, proverbs, or aphorisms into new common phrases. Old ideas jumbled together with current cultural references entertained me to the very end and are probably my favorite element in the book.

But while the malapropisms shine, the author ingeniously uses actual quotations from historical figures to develop their dialogue throughout the story. The literal battle of quotes between chess pieces representing Jefferson and Churchill left me in awe. Winnowing through what was surely hundreds of documented utterances by these two and coming out with such a coherent whole is an amazing feat to me.

The landscape through which the characters wander is also the result of taking reality and revising it to account for the alterations of time, climate, and supposedly lost source documents. At times, I was reminded of Dorothy’s journey through Oz on her way to the Emerald City; not only did the scenery have some of the same ‘look and feel,‘ but there was also the quest-like nature of the journey itself.

Stoddard has created a unique, fresh, and very entertaining work. I recommend LIBERTY BELL AND THE LAST AMERICAN for readers who like tales of quests with elements of magic and SciFi, coming-of-age stories, and especially for those who enjoy and are familiar with American history. (A copy of the Constitution and Amendments are included at the end of the book as an extra.)

James Stoddard’s short fiction has appeared in science fiction publications such as “Amazing Stories” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” “The Battle of York” was included in Eos Books’ Years Best SF 10, and “The First Editions” appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy 9 from Tor Books. His novel, “The High House” won the Compton Crook Award for best fantasy by a new novelist and was nominated for several other awards. He lives with his wife in a winding canyon in West Texas.


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Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc by Ash Bishop

Intergalactic Exterminators, IncIntergalactic Exterminators, Inc by Ash Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exciting and wildly fun, and imaginative character-driven story without an overload of tech!

Russ Wesley was a restless wanderer, but when the news came that his beloved grandfather had died, he immediately went home to Evanstown, Wyoming, to be with his grandmother, Norma. His grandfather’s business, The Mysterious Universe Bookstore, was a mess: the roof needed replacing, and past rainstorms had ruined quite a bit of stock. Norma had done her best to keep things together, but the bookstore had been Grandpop’s endeavor. Now the bank was preparing to foreclose unless she came up with a lot of money soon. Russ began repairs to get the place back up and running, hoping to bring in some cash. He started going through Grandpop’s large collection of oddities from around the globe that might serve to generate more income from their sale.

But one night, driving down Route 89, Russ hit a deer. When the critically injured creature ran off into the forested countryside, Russ followed with his rifle to put the animal out of its misery. Russ, truly a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none, had an exceptional talent for marksmanship. He was able to put the deer down from a distance, and as he approached the carcass, he was confronted by a huge cat-like creature that tore the deer in half with one swipe of its massive paw. Russ was also sent flying, hitting his head on the trunk of a tree.

When he regained consciousness, he was surrounded by a group of “hunters.” However, their speech was odd, their weapons unusual for hunters, and they were looking for the gigantic cat. But when it returned, it was Russ who saved the day with a single shot. With that show of skill, Russ found himself in an alien ankle monitor and “recruited” to join the Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc., and leave Earth for outer space whether he wanted to or not.

Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc was wildly imaginative and great fun. The dialogue sparkled with wit and snark and had me grinning like an idiot the entire time I was reading the book. I really wasn’t prepared to like Russ, his footloose lifestyle and abnegation of responsibility Isn’t my thing, but I quickly fell for him and his desire to do right by his grandmother and his friend, Nina. I felt he loved his grandmother and grandfather, and his regret of not being there for them during their time of need set him up to change his ways. Nina obviously loved her parents and was willing to do whatever she could to help them. Both have a compelling reason to get the job on board the Flashaway with its much-needed salary. But their mutual attraction and growing affection for each other create a heartfelt conflict for the characters and a dilemma for the reader over whom to root for. The crew members of the Flashaway were all characters to love. Each had an interesting and distinct personality, and some fun surprises were revealed in their relationships as the story developed.

The author puts the crew through their paces in various exciting scenarios and extermination missions. The planet settings were diverse and well described, and the indigenous creatures were fantastic, shocking, and dangerous; some obviously so, and others, seemingly benign at first, reappeared later to cause problems.

With still so much “territory” to explore, I was delighted with the book’s ending because it left things wide open for a sequel. I recommend INTERGALACTIC EXTERMINATORS, INC to scifi readers who like imaginative and exciting character-driven stories without an overload of tech.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Providence Book Promotions.

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Heroes Ever Die (Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #2) by J.A. Crawford

Heroes Ever Die,

Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #2


J.A. Crawford

Mystery / Super Heroes / PI
Published by: CamCat Books
Publication Date: August 16th 2022
Number of Pages: 304 pages
ISBN: 0744305926 (ISBN13: 9780744305920)


Ken Allen has upgraded a bit since his last case, now living in a nicer part of the city and officially hanging out his shingle as a private investigator. After two successful cases, one kept on the ultra-down-low because of the high-profile client, he’s ready to help when his old friend, Ray Ford, is suspected of negligence resulting in the death of two actors on the sets of two different superhero flicks. Ray is being framed, and Elaine, the daughter he’s been keeping under wraps for years, suspects who the real culprit is.

In the meantime, Ken’s own son, Dean, the recently revealed surprise result of a short-term liaison almost 20 years earlier, wants to get to know his dad, and he couldn’t have picked a worse time. With Ken becoming a target of the killer himself and needing to investigate and stop the murder spree, he’s had to put Dean off during this very delicate time in their relationship.

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This second in series sparkles!

A fun and entertaining installment in the Ken Allen Super Sleuth series!

As a fan of the debut Ken Allen Super Sleuth mystery, Jove Brand is Near Death (see my review here), I was looking forward with much anticipation to Heroes Ever Die, and I was not disappointed. Ken Allen is a one-of-a-kind private investigator who, although talking about getting old, is still current, relevant, and completely on top of what’s hot and trending. The story is a seamless amalgam of pop culture as we follow him through his days that include an adherence to a keto diet, selfies, smoothies, and the main character literally fangirling over comic book royalty. The author also mixes in movie and television references that are fun surprises. Parallels and parodies of the James Bond franchise and the comic book cinematic universes are the baselines for the series and this book, in particular, and are vastly entertaining. The dialogue absolutely shone in the debut novel and is a high point in the second as well. It’s smart and witty and kept me laughing.

I liked that Ken has officially hung out his shingle (as a private investigator), although this case is still on behalf of a friend. I also liked that Ken’s son, Dean, is still in the picture, and he and his father are working on getting to know each other. Ken is such a likable guy. I enjoyed how he was able to charm the ladies who lunch to report back to him on what was going on in their neighborhood.

Ray Ford, a recurring character from the first book, continues to amaze with his special gadgets, and we discover he has a grown daughter. Elaine is an intelligent and charming addition to the “team.” She lives and works with her father, and her backstory, when revealed, pulled at my heartstrings for both of them. Investigator Stern is a mellower version of herself this go-round, and I like there’s more of a partnership developing between her and Ken.

With all the masks and costumes involved, no one in this story is really who they seem to be. However, we soon realize that this is even more the case with characters who aren’t even in disguise. The story is full of surprises, and I didn’t see the resolution coming. I enjoyed this book so much that I read it in one day.

I recommend HEROES EVER DIE to readers that enjoy up-to-the-minute mysteries, especially those involving the film industry, comic book franchises, and private investigators with martial arts skills.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Jove Brand is Near Death (Ken Allen Super Sleuth, #1) by J.A. Crawford

Jove Brand Is Near DeathJove Brand Is Near Death by A. Crawford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pure entertainment from start to finish!

Ken Allen is a former competitive martial artist with one IMDB credit to his name. Eighteen years earlier, he had portrayed the fictional super spy, Jove Brand, of the wildly successful film franchise of the same name in one awful movie that was only released overseas. When the movie was eventually leaked to the US market, Near Death and its star attained a cult following. Now, Ken ekes out a living as “Sensei to the Stars,” providing personal training to an exclusive list of BIG NAMES in town, working the fandom convention circuit, and doing the occasional cameo as Jove Brand on television.

His most recent TV appearance on Good Morning, Burbank, was going better than usual. The popular actor, Sir Collin Prestor, the current Jove Brand and star of the last six blockbusters in the series, was retiring. He was hosting the popular morning show to “officially” turn over the reins to Jove Brand to the new young actor chosen to continue the role. However, the understated Prestor wasn’t wowing the audience. Enter Ken Allen with his display of martial arts kicks and jumps and his comedic portrayal of the character, and the audience responds enthusiastically, saving the bit. But only a short while later, one of the evening’s co-stars is found dead, murdered in the same over-the-top manner that Ken’s nemesis in Near Death met his end; Ken becomes the police’s number one suspect.

Jove Brand is Near Death is fun and quirky, and immensely entertaining. I was hooked from the start. Parodying such successful movie franchises as James Bond, Marvel, and DC Comics, I laughed out loud in delight at the fun parallels (and remembering my own experiences going to the cons; the descriptions are spot on!) The throwbacks to the past are fabulous, but there are also up-to-the-minute cultural references, making the whole story fresh and funny. Ken’s devotion to his diet and the frequent inclusion of trendy food choices had me smiling. The writing is easy to read, and the dialogue sparkles as Ken investigates the murder.

Ken is a genuinely nice guy, and he’s got a solid circle of friends who have his back. I particularly enjoyed Yuen Hung, his former Near Death co-star and convention partner. I hope he returns in future books. The effects master, Ray Ford, provides awesome working props that he engineers to Ken’s needs. I loved his whole persona and vibe.

The plot is a solid mystery with constant action as Ken follows his instincts and chases down possible leads. The story is more complex than I expected and kept me guessing.

Tim Campbell narrates the audiobook edition, and I thought he was perfect as Ken Allen. He has a wonderful voice and delivery and uses it to get perfect results. He is my Ken Allen now. I will also be looking for more audiobooks that he’s voiced.

I recommend JOVE BRAND IS NEAR DEATH to mystery readers, especially those with a fun interest in spy movie thrillers and comic book-themed film series. However, no knowledge of either would keep a reader from enjoying this delightful book.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Blog Tour: The Daredevils by Rob Buyea




Middle Grade Contemporary / Growing Up

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 240 pages

Publication Date: August 9, 2022

Hardcover 978-0593376140 / ebook B09LH4WL9Q / Audio B09LRLM49C

Readers on the cusp of adolescence will find much to love in this middle grade novel from the author of the beloved MR. TERUPT series that follows three kids who come to realize that letting go of childhood means boldly taking risks to face the future while learning from the past.

Loretta and her twin brother, Waylon, are headed to middle school. Loretta has always been quick with her fists and her wits. Since Waylon is on the small side, Loretta doesn’t let anyone mess with him. But now she worries he won’t survive without her by his side. Her secret plan: bulk him up with muscle over the summer. Little does she know that Waylon has a plan of his own. He’ll show his sister he can take care of himself.

As each puts their strategy in motion, Loretta and Waylon spend the summer going into the woods behind their house, even sneaking there in the dead of night. That’s where they first encounter Louie, who is about their age but noticeably bigger. Louie is homeschooled, he explains when Loretta gives him the third degree. Loretta, Waylon, and Louie soon fall into a comfortable friendship and continue their nightly forest adventures. When they unearth a mysterious box, the past collides with the present, propelling the trio on a quest that will forever change their lives.

Rob Buyea’s spirited dual narrative drives this funny, touching brother-sister story, where even the best-laid plans sometimes backfire and feelings may get bruised, but family and friends always count. Letting go of childhood means boldly taking risks to face the future while learning from the past.

5 stars!

Even though THE DAREDEVILS is not a fantasy, it is still a magical story of summer and growing up.

Although not a fantasy, The Daredevils is a story filled with magic. Told from the dual points of view of Loretta and Waylon, readers are privy to the thoughts and feelings of these two precocious and adorable pre-teens. Loretta is a bright, savvy, strong, capable “older” sister who loves her brother and wants to do the best for him. Her chapters are witty while revealing she’s still young and vulnerable herself. Waylon is beyond smart and very creative, and he loves his sister. He’s quirky but not as helpless as his sister seems to want to think.

Their summer of adventure is one of achieving their personal goals and accomplishing their quest while avoiding people that make their lives difficult. The story is an entertaining and engaging one that both boys and girls will enjoy. Many smile-inducing moments and a couple of heart-wrenching turns of events will keep readers turning the pages to see what happens next.

With its likable and relatable characters and inventive storyline, THE DAREDEVILS is tremendous fun and a worthwhile chapter book for upper elementary and middle-grade readers. It would work well as a read-aloud book as well.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond.

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Rob Buyea is a former teacher and the author of the Mr. Terupt series, The Perfect Score series, and What Comes Next. As a young boy, he spent countless hours exploring the woods. He is a true country-music fan, as are his wife and children, though they won’t admit it.

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Bravely and Faithfully (A USCG Cutter Kauai Sea Adventure, #3) by Edward M. Hochsmann

Bravely and Faithfully (Cutter Kauai Sea Adventures, #3)Bravely and Faithfully by Edward Hochsmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Take a deep breath before you start because Bravely and Faithfully goes from 0 to 60 right from the start!

The crew of the USCG Cutter Kauai is back on duty and, this time, picks up the distress call of a small family stranded in the path of a major hurricane. It’s a close call for all and so exhilarating as everyone makes it to safety.

Sam Powell, who’s been the CO for the past two years, receives news of a well-deserved promotion. But, of course, Sam’s good fortune will mean he must leave the Kauai and the crew that is so much like family. His replacement, Lieutenant Haley Reardon, is excited to have her first command and immediately realizes she has big shoes to fill. Her new crew is a tight-knit and loyal group, in addition to being highly capable at their jobs, but she is up to the challenge of taking over from their well-regarded former captain.

Back as XO is Lieutenant Junior Grade Benjamin Wyporek. After the last mission left him at death’s door, he’s made a remarkable recovery, but a couple of brutal patrols have him worried about how it may affect his career future. However, as he and his lovely girlfriend, Victoria, approach the six-month mark of sharing an apartment, he’s beginning to think it may be time to level up the relationship. He’s unsure what to expect in the new captain, but he’s one to give everyone a fair shake. He knows and understands that the rest of the crew will take their cues from him and how he reacts.

But before Reardon and the crew can complete a quiet first patrol together, they are called to assist in a dangerous mission involving the shadowy Defense Intelligence Agency. Haley, Ben, and the rest of the Kauai crew will perform bravely and faithfully, but at what cost this time around?

Take a deep breath before you start because Bravely and Faithfully goes from 0 to 60 right from the start. The danger and excitement of the rescue during a hurricane literally had me holding my breath. Afterward, there is little respite for the Kauai (or the reader) as they are drawn right back into the thick of things before you can catch your breath.

The plot of this third adventure delves into exciting areas. Really, Hochmann’s stories always seem to probe unexplored territory. They are never dull or run-of-the-mill, and this one was no different. I enjoyed the political shenanigans which severely handicapped the captain’s and the crew’s abilities to accomplish their assigned mission in a way they felt was right. Orders and circumstances left the new CO with tougher than usual decisions to make on “a helluva break-in patrol.”

This small crew of men and women has just so much heart. When Sam was promoted with the subsequent change in command, I was worried about bringing in such a critical unknown to the series, and frankly, it took me some time to warm up to Haley. She seemed so cold and, unnecessarily, by the book at first. But I liked how she eventually works out the transition and preserves what is so good about this crew, especially with Ben and Hoppy. Speaking of Ben, he’s come back from his pretty catastrophic injury in the previous book, ready to get on with life. Ben just has what it takes. I liked what the author has done with Ben’s always delightful relationship with Victoria.

I really like this author’s writing style. He puts you on the scene and in the moment. Each scene is presented in such a way that you are there with the characters. Dialogue is well written, even when technical language is needed. I never felt confused by jargon, and I felt even more caught up in the action with the use. The unfolding scenes felt realistic and genuine.

From witty banter to a marriage proposal that doesn’t quite go as planned, there are some good laughs to level out the danger and tragedy. There are many emotionally-charged moments in this adventure; along with the excitement and joy, there is great sadness and shock. There are also some tough topics and situations described. I laughed and cried with the characters, and I so look forward to their continued future. They’ve almost become friends and family.

I recommend Bravely and Faithfully and the entire USCG Cutter Kauai Sea Adventures series to readers who enjoy character-driven military action-adventure stories. Although, Bravely and Faithfully is the third book in the series and could be read as a standalone, for the best reading experience, start at the beginning. You won’t be sorry.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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Book Tour & Giveaway – Rowdy: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen, Rowdy Series, Book One by Chris Mullen







Young Adult / Historical Fiction / Western / Action & Adventure

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Page Count: 278 pages

Publication Date: February 23, 2022

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Thrust to the mercy of the Mississippi river, thirteen-year-old Rowdy floats safely away as he watches the smoke rise from his burning farmhouse. Now alone in the world, his perilous journey of survival begins, challenging and shaping him into the young man his father would want him to become.

Pulled from the waters, he is given a chance by a lone river Captain and his mate. Rowdy has grown strong working the river but must use his wit as well as his strength to confront a bullying crewman and survive a surprise attack by river pirates.

Growing up on the Mississippi river was a start for Rowdy, but Dodge City, Kansas proves it has its own challenges. He was warned not to get entangled with Patrick Byrne, Dodge City’s most powerful rancher. Unknowingly crossing Byrne, he faces life and death decisions. Rowdy’s only option is to run.

Survival is what he has come to know all too well. His escape across the plains nearly claims his life. Through a stranger’s help, Rowdy recovers and finally discovers Lincoln, New Mexico, and acquires a new friend along the way. Rowdy is settling in when hired guns sent by Patrick Byrne find and confront him. Blood, bullets, and tears bring Rowdy’s world to a showdown. Fighting for what was right is his code, living life for others becomes his way, and staring danger in the face is what he must do if he can truly be Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen.

While Wild & Mean, Sharp & Keen starts out quietly enough: an older Rowdy is preparing for a hunting trip with his old friend, Roberson, it doesn’t take long for this story to really let loose! As the two friends settle in for their first night’s sleep, memories of Rowdy’s past take hold of his dreams. Those memories gripped me, too, as immediately there were boots on the ground and non-stop action and excitement from then on.

The success of this story rests on the shoulders of young Rowdy. He is a likable and sympathetic character, and after everything he’s gone through in his early life, he’s also careful, wise, and deliberate in his actions. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his moments of doubt. He’s got tough decisions to make, and I agonized right along with him as he reasoned his way to what was right and just. The story has thoughtful moments with brave decisions and deeds. Rowdy is supported by some good men, but the bad guys are truly bad, with no redeeming qualities. I also liked that his horse, Delilah, and dog, appropriately named Dog, feature prominently in the tale.

The author uses quotes and song lyrics as touchstones for Rowdy as he matures. Each one is important at different points in his life and acts as guidance in the absence of an adult mentor. Though, at times, he encounters a couple of good men that serve that role for him. But most of the time, Rowdy is alone, trying to make his own way, which makes for a good and satisfying coming-of-age story as well as a pulse-pounding western adventure.

I recommend ROWDY: WILD & MEAN, SHARP & KEEN to readers of all ages who enjoy western, coming-of-age adventure stories.


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Chris Mullen is an author from Richmond, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1997 and began his teaching career. Chris was awarded the 2019 Connie Wootton Excellence in Teaching Award presented by the Southwest Association of Episcopal Schools. In 2021, Chris signed with Wise Wolf Books, a YA Imprint of Wolf Pack Publishing, and re-released his debut novel ROWDY: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen on February 24, 2022. On March 31, 2022, he released ROWDY: Redemption, followed by an April 21, 2022, release of ROWDY: Dead or Alive. Chris currently writes for Wise Wolf Books and is working on the next ROWDY installment. 

His novel, ROWDY: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen was named WINNER in the 2020 American Fiction Awards, a 2020 Best Book Finalist, and 3rd Place WINNER in the 2021 Selah Awards, all in the western category. His YA Western series, ROWDY, continues to grow and attract readers of all ages.

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Book Reviews, Historical fiction, Western, Young adult

Deathwish (Superhero, #2) by Justin Richman

Fast-paced and exciting, Adam’s a regular guy with a superhuman ability and his story may even be better than the super series debut.

Adam’s body has the unexplainable ability to heal itself almost instantaneously, and he’s been supplementing his income from his retail position by fighting for money in the alley behind his best friend’s bar. But one night after an encounter in Decker City with the vigilante crimefighter, known as The Gray Hood, he begins to consider the possibility that he, too, could put his special ability to better use. After he loses his day job, he goes on a ride-along with a police friend, Lt. Shane Cranston, and he’s smitten: he wants to fight crime.

At this time, Decker City is a hotbed of violence and criminal activity but Adam’s hometown, nearby Mapleton, is fairly quiet until Adam and Shane get involved in some of Decker City’s investigations. Suddenly, both their lives are on the line and Adam is finding out firsthand how much damage his body can take and still come back.

Deathwish is the second novel in author Justin Richman’s great new Superhero series, and I believe it is even better than his debut outing. It’s a fast-paced, exciting, and entertaining story about a regular guy with a superhuman ability to instantly heal even his most grievous wounds. Adam was dealt a tough hand when the ability was discovered and has really been on his own his whole life, and I really liked the clever and snarky guy, even his (at times) “Dad joke” dialogue. He’s an extrovert and ready to take action, shake things up, and make things work. I loved that he jumped into action even as bullets were flying, knowing absolutely nothing about what he was doing or heading into. I laughed out loud quite a bit and would have read this book cover to cover in one sitting if I hadn’t had to deal with real life.

As in Richman’s first Superhero book, there are some great secondary and supporting characters. Shane Cranston, Adam’s friendly connection in the Mapleton PD, is a nice guy who is good at this job and genuinely tries to help the wayward Adam find his way. The same can be said for Adam’s best friend, Chuck, who is the only other person that knows Adam’s secret. I liked Adam’s flirtation with Kate Phillips and would love to see that go somewhere for Adam. However, there is a particularly interesting, lock-picking officer, Liz McKenzie, that would be fun to know better.

I also enjoyed the crossover between this and book one, The Silver Hood. Usually series will maintain the same setting throughout, but in the second Superhero book, we’re actually in a nearby city. It was interesting to see the towns all used the same radio dispatcher until Decker City got so busy and crime-riddled that they had to set up a separate system. It was reasonably true-to-life regarding the lack of cooperation and exchange of information that can arise between agencies. I appreciated that the author didn’t let Shane and Adam “poach” on Decker City’s jurisdiction without the DC PD initially asking for assistance and later the two rightfully anticipating repercussions for overstepping.

The action in the story is steady with exciting, almost frantic moments regularly kicking the pace up a notch (to “Eleven”). A major plot twist made me exclaim aloud; I was that surprised. There is a bit of a cliffhanger ending, and there are still some shadowy things and people lurking in the background that predicts this author has much more planned! There is also an intriguing explanation for how Adam acquired his unique healing ability.

With its entertaining premise and non-stop excitement and action, I recommend DEATHWISH to readers who enjoy fantastic superhero tales. (This book has some death and destruction and drinking, but no drugs or “kissing scenes,” if that is a consideration for sharing with a younger audience.)

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.

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