WTF? Begging for Book Reviews

Kindle TouchGood Morning..I’m writing this in the morning, even though it might be evening when you read it, in that case Good Evening… Before I go on, I’d like to let you know that there will be an awesome opportunity at the end of this post.

I’d like to ask a question to all the book reviewers out there. Why won’t you review our books? Seriously. For ten years I have been sending out our new releases to get reviews. It actually hits about 1 out of every 20. Why is that? Don’t get me wrong, I know that not every book is everyone’ s cup of tea, but come on, this is like all of our books are boring. I promise they are not.

There has been so much controversy lately about who can review, who should review, how they should review, etc. I have a philosophy on this, and while it is not popular with many authors, it is mine, and I stand by it.

If you read, you can review.” Karen L. Syed

I don’t care if you are the  cousin, the preacher, the publisher, the pet iguana. If you can actually read the book, you have the constitutional right to offer your opinion. In the interest of fairness, it’s not a bad idea if you fully disclose who you are–I post reviews for books that I publish–hey, I liked them enough to publish them, and I am a reader first and foremost and my opinion about a book is just as valid as that of anyone else. That said, I always say up front that I am the publisher, if people disagree with me reviewing a book I published, they can skip it. I won’t be offended.

So, I’m looking for reviews for a few books. I’d like reviews for all, but I’ll start with a few. What am I willing to offer as enticement? When 50 reviews have been posted for Echelon Press/Echelon Shorts/Quake/Electric Shorts I will choose one lucky winner to receive a brand new Kindle Touch. That’s right. Here is how it works.

1. Choose from the following list of books. You will receive 1 entry for each posted review. Email your choice to You will receive the eBook download FREE. You can review as many books as you like, but only one at a time. I will not send a second book until review of the first is posted.

2. READ the book and post your review in two places. One must be in the comment section of this post. The other can be any site of your choosing (your Blog,,, Good Reads, etc.) You get the point.

3. When you post your review on this Blog, please include the 2nd review link along with it. Reviews posted here without the 2nd link will NOT be eligible.

This is a short contest, so be prepared to read fast! All entries must be posted by 12:00 midnight December 24, 2011. I will choose and announce the winner on Christmas Day by Noon. If we do not reach 50 reviews, the contest will be void.


These are NOT paid reviews. No one gets paid. You choose what you want to review and you MIGHT win a Kindle Touch.


48 responses to “WTF? Begging for Book Reviews

  1. I found your blog web site on google and examine a couple of of your early posts. Continue to keep up the excellent operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. In search of forward to studying more from you afterward!

  2. Apologise I didn’t finish Assignment: Napal. I’m going to download the story to my kindle and I’ll review it as soon as I’ve finished it.

  3. Review also posted at:
    Al and Will meet in the rain when Al nearly runs over Will. Both characters make a lot of assumptions about each other, but find once they understand the truth that love is inevitable. This was an enjoyable read – light and quick.

    While this book had some editorial errors, they were not overly distracting.

  4. Review also posted at:

    Cynthia’s Attic: The missing locket by Cynthia Cunningham (Echelon Press, March 2011. eBook format)
    Aside from the minor distraction of using too many ‘ly’ words, this is an extremely well-written piece of juvenile fiction. Best friends Cynthia and Gus get caught up in the mysterious disappearance of a locket that belonged to Cynthia’s great grandmother who lost it in a huge trunk in the attic of the house where Cynthia lives now. That same trunk becomes the transport for the two friends to go back to 1914 and witness the original loss of the locket. As the girls get used to the different clothing of that era, the way the house has changed and the fact that nobody can see them, they begin to realize how much impact the lost locket has had on the members of their family since it vanished when great grandmother Clara tossed it in the trunk to avoid her mother discovering that she was wearing it.
    When the two girls figure out how to find the missing locket, that only leads to an even more interesting challenge; how to alter family history so Cynthia’s great aunt Belle, an aspiring ballerina who gave up her career for the man she believed loved her, can follow the rest of the family from France to America. The girls find themselves on a big passenger liner cruising from Europe to New York. During the voyage, they not only have to learn how to concentrate sufficiently so their ghostly forms can use physical objects, they have to be aware enough of when not to do so as they cause more than one scene among the passengers. They also make friends with Louis, the deceased son of the captain and help him recreate a connection with his grieving father.
    All of these diverse plot elements are woven together in such a nice way that younger teens and many adults will enjoy the story very much. There is a hint of another adventure to follow this one and I expect it will be as well received as this dandy tale.


    A Life-changing Book Review of Cold Comfort by Ellis Vidler

    Here is my holiday gift to you, dear blogging friends: a book review!

    Typically, I write book reviews for pay, but for this one, my reimbursement is the thrill of possibly winning a new Kindle e-reader. Even if I don’t win the Echelon Press contest, I will be victorious nonetheless, because I really enjoyed reading Cold Comfort, which is marketed as a romance and suspense, but really, the romantic elements are sort of incidental, IMHO. The story is a thriller that centers on a perfectly ordinary woman, Claire Spencer, who runs a Christmas tchotchke store (hey, how about a little holiday reading material, right?) and is being targeted for murder. Through a friend, she enlists the help of Ben Riley, a broad-chested ex-Navy man who seems to have endless governmental connections and manly man talents for getting out of dicey situations. He carries a Glock, so that tells you a lot, but he also paints moving seascapes and is haunted by the memories of the clients he hasn’t been able to save.

    The story is told from both Claire’s and Riley’s 3rd-person points of view, and the author, Ellis Vidler, does an excellent job of distinguishing their voices. Claire is a no-nonsense lady and Riley is really a dude’s dude. Out of curiosity, I looked up Vidler on Smashwords just to find out if the author was a man or a woman, because I just wasn’t sure, and that is a very good thing (I will let you discover the answer for yourself). The story hits the ground running so to speak, with Claire attacked in the driveway of her Williamsburg, Virginia, home within the first few paragraphs. Who is after her? She’s a nobody. Or is she? The mystery spins along at a fairly speedy clip with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing, and anxiously swiping those digital pages to the very end. Borrowing from Goodreads rating system, I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.

    And with that, to all a good night.

  6. HI Karen,

    Happy holidays! I corrected my spelling on my blog and face book page.. I had Alder…. sorry about that.

  7. Loved this one; five stars! Reviews posted on Amazon & Smashwords, and going live on my blog later today. 🙂

    Assignment: Nepal , an Irene Adler Mystery by J.A. Squires , Echelon Press

    It didn’t take me even twenty pages to fall for Irene Adler. By page twenty I told myself I wouldn’t even care if this book didn’t develop a plot—I’d keep reading it just for the enjoyment of Irene’s self-deprecating humor and her acute and amusing commentary on the people (and the macaw) in her life. Happily, “Assignment: Nepal” isn’t short on plot either—all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Adler, named for “the only woman to outsmart Sherlock Holmes,” is an anthropologist with a taste for adventure who hoped her doctorate would open doors. (“It had opened doors, all right. Classroom doors.”) Her former academic advisor Dr. Herbert–who reminds her of Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, but who may not be as scattered as he seems—convinces her to visit a fellow anthropologist and former classmate in Nepal.

    Something fishy is going on in Nepal, although Dr. Herbert is less than forthcoming about exactly what he wants her to investigate. Irene is bored enough with academic life–and flush enough from her poker-playing, to take the bait anyway. What follows is an enjoyable travelogue-cum-mystery, involving Nepalese politics and culture, Hindu religious practices, and most of all, people.

    The book itself is the collaborative effort of two authors writing under the assumed single name of J.A. Squires, and I hope someday to read an interview about their writing process. To create such a strong narrative voice with two people at the helm is a noteworthy accomplishment indeed. Wherever the lines may have been between the two author’s separate contributions, the result is a seamless product—and (tantalized by the implied promise of the word “series” in reference to this stand-alone book) I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment.

  8. For my review of Cold Comfort by Ellis Vidler:

    I’ve posted on my blog:
    I’ve posted on Amazon:
    I’ve posted on Goodreads

  9. Cold Comfort
    By Ellis Vidler

    Review by Patricia A. Guthrie

    If you like romantic suspense novels, a feisty courageous heroine, who didn’t know she had it in her, a hunk for a hero who hadn’t found his sensitive spot–yet, and a few really nasty villains who will do anything to murder the heroine thrown in to muck up anyone’s day, you’ll love “Cold Comfort” by Ellis Vidler.

    Picture yourself as an owner of a cozy little Christmas shop called “The Mistletoe.” You’ve been talking to people all day, keeping an eye out on the lines of children brought in by parents to see your finely decorated Christmas trees. You’re dead tired, and your feet hurt. Home at last. You get out of your car and—wham! You’re attacked from behind. And not in a purse snatching way either. Someone is bent on murder–yours.

    That’s what Claire Spencer faces in the beginning of Ellis Vidler’s romantic suspense novel “Cold Comfort.” And the deadly games have just begun. Someone really wants her out of the way.

    Fortunately, Claire has friends who has friends with law enforcement backgrounds., Enter Ben Riley who doesn’t want to protect anyone, much less a woman. Women get in the way. And get in the way she does, just not in the way Riley expects. In fact, Riley muses “When he finished this job, he was moving to Tahiti—with no forwarding address.”

    I loved this story. It has many twists and turns, taking our hero and heroine off in one direction then another, and I, who was convinced knew who the culprit was, am no longer sure.

    Vidler fills her story with details that either sent a chill up my spine or made me laugh. Her description of the car of the attacker with its mismatched headlights led to furthering the plot. One of the characters had wide expresso eyes. Sentences like “Appearing out of the shadows cast by the streetlights, a shapeless figure in a dark overcoat jaywalked toward Claire’s side of the street.” And the clouds that formed from Riley’s mouth. These are examples of the richness of the text.

    The dialogue was fun. One choice goodie from Claire to Riley “I’ve met pit bulls easier to talk to than you” and the description of a psychopath, directly from his own mouth: “I could have handled it if you hadn’t hooked up with that Riley guy—this is all your fault.”

    I could make a few criticisms. In general, as fast paced as I think this novel is, I found dead spaces that slowed it down a bit too much. Claire’s need for a “stable, conventional life and a husband to share it with, a nine-to-five kind of guy who’d be there for her. She needed children to bake cookies for.” (She likes to bake cookies a lot) was one of the redundancies I found along the way.

    Some clichés stepped me out of the story. “. . . angry red scratches marked her right cheek, and to complete the picture, she sneezed.” I liked the sneezed part but I’m tired of reading about “angry bruises, scratches etc” and the “complete the picture.”

    I saw and felt the growth of both characters as the story moved on. Claire, the sheltered girl with little experience of the outside world uses all her instincts and courage to outwit the villains. She’s brave, feisty and has a bad habit of doing things her own way, even when it was against bodyguard rules. Riley finds the sensitive part of himself he didn’t think existed and didn’t want to exist.

    I found “Cold Comfort “an absorbing well-written book, with fun dialogue, expressive detail and generally face paced. What faults I found, were miniscule and not even noticed had I not been looking for them.

    This is the first book I’ve read by Ellis Vidler. It won’t be the last.

  10. Hi there!

    I left my review of the Assignment: Nepal book but forgot to specify that it was posted at and on facebook.


  11. Shaken review on my blog
    and goodreads

    When I came across the chance to review a book for Echelon Press and possibly win a kindle I of course said yes because well I’m not stupid, free book and possible kindle, gotta do it.

    Shaken is the book I asked to review it’s a young adult short adventure story about 3 teens before, during and after a major earthquake. Each has their own issues same as most teens the biggest quake to hit the states presents them with new issues to deal with. Combine these and you have a story that grabs you.

    The author does a great job with the characters, well fleshed out no issues there. The quake could well have been substituted for any other disaster the characters are the focus here. Those looking for a good clean safe read for kids will like this one. No potty language (okay two words), no acts that are too over the top that a teen couldn’t read it.

    My own personal issue with the book was the language used. Very, very unrealistic I don’t know any teens that speak the way these kids do. Perhaps in the 70′s but today’s kids don’t even in thought use the word courting. Yeah it’s dating, hanging out, seeing each other etc etc but courting went out about 50 years ago. Also who the hell says I bonked my noggin? I mean clean read okay but these are so over the top it’s beyond realistic. Zombie Apocalypse is more likely to break out than a teen to say that his step dad courted his mom.

    Also who’s point of view is this from?

    Mom and Dad made a quick run to the nearest grocery store for supplies, leaving Natalie to look after her little sister.

    I liked the story, I liked the characters. I had issue with the way the characters spoke from time to time. The point of view issue was only the once that I noticed but stuck out for me so much so that I made it a point to mark a place so I could reference it in my review.

    What worked was the story. I don’t read super fast but breezed through this one and enjoyed it. The story kept me interested as well as the characters. I’d recommend this book for those into disaster, YA and those in particular looking for something “safe” for their kid to read. Granted that’s subjective but my personal view is that it is.

  12. Assignment: Nepal, an Irene Alder Mystery. I loved this book, I read it in a few days and you would find me with a slight smile on my face and occasionally a burst of laughter when I wasn’t crumpling my forehead with tension about what would happen next. I’m generally not a big mystery fan because they often take so long to lay out the plot that I’m already bored! In this case you are swept immediately into the adventure.

    Our lead is Irene Adler and she has quite a conversation with a committee in her own head which is funny and I can completely relate. She is a straight forward academic anthropologist who is bored with her less than inspiring students and her less than inspiring life so she takes an assignment to solve a mystery for her former professor and the location is Nepal.

    I am an avid traveler and love to read about places before I go. I am intrigued by the sights, sounds and happenings of this mysterious part of the globe. In the main story you have Margo who was an academic but is now caught up in the religious practicies and civil disobedience of the more progressive society. She has lost her objectivity and Irene is concerned .. maybe even her mind, as she goes on a search for an ancient goddess and the trail of death that seems to surround her.

    Have a good time with this book, its characters and the wonder of a place that is rich with the ancient, the modern and the wisdom of the Hindu and the Buddhist alike. I even appreciated the travel tips.. I will drink bottled water when I make it to Nepal!

    Christie Hardwick

  13. Forgot. The review is posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

  14. Robert P. Bennett has given us an interesting, persistent amateur sleuth in his Blind Traveler series. What I liked most about this book, beside Mr. Bennett’s superb research, was the determination of the character to find answers to the death of a woman he met on a plane, shared dinner with, and with whom he felt a greater relationship could develop. Never once did the character lapse into self-pity for his sightless world. Instead, he forged ahead where seeing men would fear to go, using his other senses. I felt the motivation of the antagonist could have been more fleshed out, but all in all, a good read, and I learned a thing or two–something every book should offer.

  15. Karen, here is my review and a link to the review on Amazon. Have a great holiday!

    “Totally Buzzed” by Gale Borger

    What would be your first response after discovering a dead body in your Mother’s crawl space? If you’re the Miller Sisters–Buzz, Mag, Fred and Al–you launch into a Three Stooges routine. (Who ever said that girls don’t like the Three Stooges? My sister and I were ardent fans.)

    Former detective Buzz agrees to help her ex-partner, Sheriff James. J. Green, to solve the crime. The body belongs to Carol Graff of Graff’s Garden Center, and the investigation gets direction when Buzz has a vision of Carol’s murder via a trance-like state that her grandmother used to call “The Sheeny”. The murder wasn’t pleasant and it involved the barn behind the Graff’s house.

    Borger’s humorous writing style is perfect for those who like character-driven stories and lots of laughs. Think Marx Brothers. Remember how long it took them to cross a room because of the comic interruptions? Now you have the idea.

    There’s action. There’s romance. Suspicious, tall, dark strangers. Laughs. And all in one book! A perfect vacation read.

  16. The title Assignment: Nepal by J.A. Squires caught my eye because I love opportunities for armchair travel plus the escape of a mystery. This genre-faithful novel gave me exotic locations and culture, a strong female protagonist and some bonus glimpses into the worlds of academia and high stakes poker.

    Doctor of Anthropology Irene Adler is called upon by her former advisor to check in on an old friend doing dissertation work in Nepal. Adler finds a great deal to be concerned about upon arriving: a dizzying array of gods and goddesses who have an unnerving influence on her friend, political turmoil, sinister characters and a growing body count from suspicious accidents.

    The plot and cast of characters were satisfying and I have hope of additional novels featuring Dr. Adler. I have only two notes of critique to offer: a few times Adler’s voice seemed to waver and I had trouble buying her as a knowledgeable anthropologist; and the book needs a thorough proofreading to reconcile some issues that evidently came about following a revision, such as a few slips into third person, some asides left hanging, and some other minor errors that could pull the reader out of the narrative, but don’t ruin the ride. Read this book if you enjoy a strong female main character who doesn’t take herself too seriously, a bit of humor mixed into your suspense and a chance to vicariously enjoy some world travel.

  17. Totally Buzzed is a quick enjoyable read and I will definitely read the next book in the Miller sister mystery series. The actual mystery in this book was entertaining and thought provoking. And the reason why I enjoyed the book. I think the author has a talent for storytelling and could develop into one of the authors I keep on my “definitely read” list.

    The book is not quite a cozy mystery. Most elements of the book fit my definition of cozy mystery however some language and a “sex sells” scene force it out of that category. Fortunately, these elements did not prevent me from enjoying the book. And you skip over these elements without affecting your enjoyment of the story.

    The humor of the book is of a slapstick type. People falling over each other, food flying and dogs passing gas. I felt there were too many of these scenes for my taste. I hope in the next installment the author will go for a more sophisticated humor and have the characters grow up and quit using the adolescent nicknames, ie. Calling Maggie – Maggot. These images just didn’t seem to fit with the 50 something main character.

    I recommend this book if you are looking for a fun, easy read.

    Posted on Amazon

    I also posted at Smashwords but it hasn’t shown up

  18. My review for Lost and Found

    Allison Ryder and Wilfred Hoyt first met when he placed a flyer looking for his lost dog on Allison’s car. The second time they met was when Allison found his dog. She also found out that she had new neighbors and one she liked very much. Will also has a niece that lives with him named Lizzie. For Lizzie’s sake, they decide to marry so Will can keep Lizzie with him instead of her going to live with her aunt. They all have to learn in the end where they belong and they all realize that they all belong together as a family.

    This book was a great read. It was funny, emotional, and romantic. Al and Will both love each other but both thing the other one was obligated to marry the other one. It’s fun how they finally realize that they both love each. It was very emotional how they found out how they loved Lizzie. My fave character was Hoyden, the dog. For without her, they wouldn’t have met. Hoyden made a lot of the scenes very funny.

    I posted the review here.

  19. Lost and Found – Karen L Syed

    I found the story interesting and liked how the main characters worked to get to know each other. There are severe communications problems between the two main characters, based on assumptions that each makes about the other.

    The story does deal with the lost finding a home, whether it is some of the animals in a shelter that is a central part of the show or the characters themselves. The story starts with a lost dog.

    I found a few minor pronoun problems that made me re-read the paragraphs a couple of times in a very few instances. That is one reason it received the review it did. But overall I enjoyed the story.

  20. Review of The Missing Locket

    I received a free download of The Missing Locket off Smashwords from the publisher. This was a nice, quick read good for anyone looking for a light story to enjoy. Written for tweens, the story follows Agusta Lee “Gus” and Cynthia as they explore Cynthia’s amazing attic. In the attic they discover an old, dusty steamer trunk. When they open it, a whole world of adventure sucks them in to set right events from the past. They must find a missing locket and reunite a family torn apart decades before.

    I liked that the story developed each of the girls well. The scene where Gus watches Cynthia perform her morning routine resonated in this former tom boy’s head. I remember watching my sister spend two hours getting ready for school in the morning. It drove me nuts that she spent so much time primping! I also liked that the story contained several quests. Just like in real life, it generally takes more than one step to set a problem right.

    I didn’t like that the Smashwords version of The Missing Locket changes fonts several times in the pdf download. I found it distracting as I read. I also would have liked to see a little more dimension to supporting characters in the story. I got to know the girls well but the rest of the actors felt more like props than people.

    For my cautious readers: No swearing, very mild violence (which the guy had coming and he got off better than he deserved) and no sex makes this a full steam ahead read in my opinion. When my daughter gets older, I think she will enjoy the story.

    I posted my review on Smashwords, Amazon and my review will be live on my website on the 28th.

  21. review of Totally Buzzed
    Totally Buzzed by Gale Borger is classic mystery-comedy spoof in the vein of The Three Stooges romps and Police Squad antics.
    If you like your murders mixed with folksy shenanigans then a visit to White Bass Lake, Wisconsin is the place to go. Buzz Miller can’t seem to retire gracefully (or do anything gracefully for that matter) from the town’s police force. When a body turns up under her parents’ porch, Buzz sees it as her duty to get involved by assisting her ex-partner, Sheriff James J. Green in the investigation. Unfortunately the rest of her family feels the same way. Amateur sleuths and plot twists abound to keep you guessing at which characters are the good guys and who (if anyone) will eventually solve this murder. Throw in a few picnics, some romance brewing and a couple of strange pets and you have the makings for something to please everyone.

    Borger aptly uses her knowledge of law enforcement and Master Gardener skills to keep the story supplied with interesting facts. As characters go, I found Buzz’s family, their friends and the police force a little too laid back about the bodies, gangsters and drug dealers to take any of the attempts at drama believable. Borger’s backstory on Buzz’s abusive ex-husband, the “Irish Magic” visions and graphic murder scenes are offset by too much slapstick, silly metaphors and juvenile behavior. This novel could have easily been reworked as a lighthearted mystery, serious crime plot or supernatural mystery-suspense; not as all three at once.

    Overall the visits to Sal’s Diner are enjoyable and the narrator’s descriptions of her family entertaining. If you can overlook a few typos and tasteless “R-rated” scenes, Totally Buzzed offers a refreshing look at a more laid back lifestyle in the American Midwest.
    I also posted reviews :
    At Smashwords:

    At Goodreads:

    At Amazon:

    on facebook:!/profile.php?id=1816196516

  22. Review of Shaken:

    Post trauma stories fascinate me. Imagine your world falling apart. What do you do? How do you survive? Do you let yourself fall apart? Do you do whatever it takes to survive? Do you find in yourself the strength to help others or crawl over their dying backs?

    In Shaken, the story follows three teens who face these challenges. After a traumatic earthquake shakes the western coast of America, a small beach community tears asunder. One teen is a native, the other two are visitors who would have passed through with a few memories in normal life.

    D.M. Anderson writes for teenagers using their slang and often showing an insight to their thoughts and maturity level that someone without access to teens regularly lacks. I felt sometimes he let too much slip into his narrative and weakened the flow of the story but luckily, the plot line contains plenty of action to keep a reader turning pages to find out what happens next.

    For my cautious readers: I felt the story contained enough villainous acts to maintain a sense of danger without crossing the line into adult material. I only remember one word that would be considered profane. All in all, I am comfortable recommending this book to parents as a discussion book.

    I just posted this review to Smashwords, Amazon and will be live on my website on the 26th. I’ll email you for another story! 🙂

  23. Sweet! love historical romances, so will email you!

  24. BLIND TRAVELER’S BLUES is a mystery that fits into that genre of amateur detective. Douglas Abledan is a computer technologist, blinded in a drive-by shooting and able to function almost normally in the world of 2021.

    Flying to Chicago for a vacation of art museums and blues clubs, he sits beside Dr, Cara Cordelia on the plane, a woman headed to a conference on a corn blight plaguing Mexico and headed north. They connect and make plans to meet for dinner.

    She’s having stomach problems and cuts it short. When she turns up dead later that night, Abledan is determined to learn what happened. He has a nose for trouble in more ways than one. He remembers odd odors in a tea she had on the plane and the drink at the restaurant. He learns quickly it was murder, a poison.

    He keeps “nosing” around, ignoring the police officer, blinded by his own brilliance and wanting no help from a civilian, in fact starting to suspect Abledan.

    I quite enjoyed this one, such that I’ve already bought the first Abledan novel, BLIND TRAVELER DOWN A DARK RIVER.

    A review a bit longer is at my blog,

  25. Karen, we occasionally cross paths on the MMA mailing list.

    You ask – “I’d like to ask a question to all the book reviewers out there. Why won’t you review our books? Seriously.”

    I’m not a reviewer, but a serious reader in that I read books by the dozens. But I hardly ever review. I’ll tell you why. It intimidates me. It was easier for me to write a 100,000 word novel than it is to write a thoughtful 50-100 word review. Seriously. 🙂

    Having said that, I’m taking up your challenge. Please send me the romantic suspense (Cold Comfort by Ellis Vidler) you have on your list and I’ll see what I can do. I’m emailing you separately.

  26. Totally Buzzed is a lively murder mystery that’s full of humor and potential.

    A body turns up in the crawl space underneath a Wisconsin farmhouse, and the vic turns out to be a local woman named Carole Graff. Who killed the poor woman, and why? Luckily, retired investigator Buzz Miller takes on the case. She’s smart but a little crazy, just like the friends and family who get mixed up in the case.

    The story has all the elements of an intriguing mystery and contains plenty of interesting detail about forensics. There is no problem with the plot.

    The question that comes to mind, though, is this: Is Totally Buzzed a murder mystery that happens to be funny, or is it a comedy that happens to include a murder? At times it’s hard to tell as the story pauses for a joke or for some totally unhinged silliness that may or may not advance the plot. Buzz, who is fifty-something, has a sister Margaret, whom she regularly calls “Maggot.” That’s the talk of a twelve-year-old, and much of the dialog is laced with mild profanity. That is fine for establishing a character trait or for showing how a person talks in certain situations, but it’s greatly overdone here. And for the family dog to pass gas once might be cute–and is probably enough. Humor can be tough, because not everyone laughs at the same things. As a general rule, though, not many people laugh at the same clever line or funny event twice.

    Also there are lots of cliches and some repetition, for example “Dead bodies piss me off,” followed later by “As I said, dead bodies piss me off.”

    This looks like a good first draft. Fix some typos and get rid of most cliches. Give the reader an occasional rest from the nonstop daffiness, and try to incorporate more of the humor into the story itself, to keep things moving. Cut the repetition. There’s no need to call the same person a “rat-bastard” three times.

    The crime detail is good, and the story as a whole can be fun after it gets a little TLC.

    This review is also posted at Goodreads (,
    Amazon (,
    Smashwords (, and
    my blog (

  27. “Betrayed” by Sam Morton

    “Betrayed” is a book by a writer with an agenda—but it doesn’t read like an agenda, a manifesto, or indeed, anything but a novel. A pair of teenagers (American Austen, and Rico, whose family is in the country illegally) end up taking on some of the big bad guys in the circles surrounding immigration issues. While it may sound like a stretch for teenagers to get involved in such heavy matters, the story unfolds naturally enough to be fairly believable.

    Following some rumblings in their hometown, Rico and his family decide to return to Mexico to apply for legal U.S. citizenship because it’s “the right thing to do.” When Austin visits his friend across the border, Rico’s cousin introduces them in person to the very real individual faces of desperation—the driving force behind illegal border-crossing, which topic has been causing waves in political circles around Austen’s dad.

    Through the medium of the boys’ experiences, Morton puts human faces on issues which we’re more accustomed to hearing as political rhetoric and soundbytes. His book would be a great way to introduce these matters to young readers, in a compassionate context which acknowledges the difficulties of a world where matters aren’t black-and-white, and even the “right thing to do” isn’t always a clear choice.

    Morton is even -handed in his writing, presenting political viewpoints without resorting to rhetoric, incorporating characters’ religious beliefs without preaching, and integrating explanations without slowing the storytelling (as in his reference to “the primaries—the political version of playoffs”). Young readers unfamiliar with politics, immigration, or international and humanitarian issues would find enough information in the story to follow it with ease—and come away from their reading with better understanding. This book is definitely going on the digital shelf I stock for my own young adult reader.

  28. “Lost and Found” by Karen Syed

    Karen Syed’s “Lost and Found” is a thoroughly enjoyable contemporary romance about a pair of characters who are flawed enough to feel real—and endearing. Allison and Will have both suffered some emotional scarring, along with some long-established defensive behaviors that threaten at times to derail the beckoning possibility of a romantic relationship between them. For reasons other than romance [Intrigued? You’ll have to read!] they find themselves married before they’ve worked out all the kinks of one another’s personal quirks, and their somewhat bumbling side-by-side journey to deliverance from their respective pasts makes for a compelling read.

    Whether or not they realized it about themselves, Allison and Will have been just as lost as the stray animals at Allison’s shelter (among whom we meet Stubby the tail-less ferret and Tippy the three-legged raccoon). If they don’t get in their own way too much, they could managed to be “rescued”—but Allison’s hard-headed tendency to leap to conclusions and make Assumptions, combined with Will’s blundering attempts at understanding the mysterious Race of Women (his orphaned young niece, as well as Allison herself), make for a rough ride for the pair of them.

    Their rough ride, however, is a remarkably smooth read—Syed’s writing has an effortless-feeling flow to it, the characters’ dialogue is both witty and natural, and the story twinkles with bright moments of humor. The “adult” scenes in the book flow as naturally as the rest (another mark of a skilled writer, given how many times I’ve found myself cringing at clumsily-depicted or overblown sex scenes in a romance novel), and I’m pleased all around to have FOUND an author whose other books I’m now looking forward to reading.

  29. I wish I had seen this contents earlier, also. I’m not exactly sure how to transfer to Kindle, but I have a cable connecting the computer to my Kindle (by the way, it’s the first Kindle with lousy graphics and it’s time for a new one) I’m trying to figure out how to download. Never did this from computer to Kindle before.

    Patricia A. Guthrie

  30. I love to read ans always review what I’ve read via goodreads and my blog. Unfortunately, none of these books really tickled my fancy so I wont be reviewing them this time, but I have shared your post via facebook to see if any of my buddies fancy it. If you have anything along the UF or PNR line then I’m your girl. Good luck with the competition! x

  31. hi Karen, This is perfect for someone like me that is trying to get into the are of doing book reviews on my blog…so thank you for the opportunity. I have emailed you and now i will share this…Just wish i had seen this earlier…

  32. Review of “Totally Buzzed”

    Set in a small Wisconsin town where everybody has known everybody forever, Totally Buzzed is a murder mystery with a lot of spunk, a lot of humor—and a few flaws. Protagonist Buzz Miller, who narrates most of the story, is a retired cop who discovers a body beneath her parents’ farmhouse and gets pulled in on the murder investigation with one of her three sisters in tow. Buzz herself is a kick in the pants, and her earthy, no-nonsense narration and humorous descriptions of her neighbors and relatives are worth the read in themselves.

    The intriguing storyline offers up enough twists and new developments to keep a reader’s attention, beginning with Buzz’s foray under the house to retrieve an ugly floor-lamp with a cowboy-boot base, and dragging out instead a cowboy boot attached to a body. The local crime-solving team of Buzz, her best-buddy the Sherriff, and her bumbling and loudmouthed sister Mag uncover developments that include illegal importation of plants, international drug smuggling, thoroughbred horses, and more murders—not to mention the (sometimes bizarre) shenanigans of the hometown folks while the investigation unfolds.

    The crime gets solved, some romance advances, and I enjoyed getting to know Buzz (and her dogs, and the hometown folks)… I will say, at the same time, that a few aspects of the writing chafed at me. While Buzz’s narrative voice is slangy and down-home and enjoyably illustrative of her character, some of the dialogue (including hers) is oddly stilted. The character whose narrative voice uses “ain’t” and “ass” suddenly speaks more formally when she’s speaking aloud within the story, using words like “cannot” and “does not” which no informal speaker uses in un-contracted forms. If this seems like a petty complaint, I mention it because the stiff usage in dialogue repeatedly jolted me out of the moment—particularly from Buzz, whose narrative style proves she ain’t that kinda talker.
    Some of the physical humor is rather too vaudevillean for my taste—too many instances of people’s faces ending up in other people’s plates, for example—but no doubt that’s a matter of personal preference. I did enjoy the character quirks, descriptions, and humorous dialogue.

    Buzz’s detective instincts include a gift from her Irish heritage—visions to which her mother refers as “The Sheeny,” and which illuminate scenes like the murder of the woman whose body was stowed beneath the house. I’m down with the idea of the visions themselves, but given their inclusion in the story, I was puzzled (and irritated) by the fact that Buzz didn’t put them to use at all in the course of the investigation. She describes the vision itself in detail, but none of the information she might have gleaned from it is put to use as she tackles the mystery, which leaves me wondering why it’s included in the story at all. It’s not the only loose end in the book—there are a number of times when I wanted to holler for the characters’ attention to prompt them ask the obvious question or pursue a line of inquiry… But then, they did manage in the end to solve the thing without my help. 😉

    Totally Buzzed is billed as the first in the “Miller Sisters Mystery” series, and I expect that as the author continues with the series, she may find a more comfortable balance between the storytelling and the “home-folks exposition,” which tended at times to slow down the telling over-much. The initial scene featuring the discovery of the body and the launch of the investigation took a full fifth of the book, and I was ready for the story to get going already. Having said that, I enjoyed the Miller Sisters well enough that I’ll be reading the next installment to find out!

  33. Hi Karen,

    I have emailed you. I hope to hear from you soon!

  34. Hi, Karen. My name is Judith Atwood, and I love to read and review books. Blind Travelers Blues sound like it was written just for me to review — I love SF; I have traveled in the Yucatan, and would go back today if I could; and I’ve spent extensive time researching ancient civilizations in Mexico. I don’t own any kind of e-reader, but I’m sure I can read this on the laptop, right? Love the review idea, love the books, (as much as I read in the reviews already written,) and this won’t be the only book I request.

  35. Review of “Shaken” (posted on Amazon & Smashwords)

    The title of this young adult novel refers obviously to the earthquake which provides its main conflict—but also obliquely to the effects of the novel’s events on the lives of the three teens followed by the narrative. The story includes moments of high drama and survival (or, in the case of some characters, failure to survive) but its more understated themes deal with human lives and emotions, and the ways in which a person’s outlook can be shaken by encounters with other people.

    Listed as a Young Adult novel, Shaken is a teen-friendly read which occasionally forgoes grammatical correctness in favor of teen vernacular, and its author is clearly familiar with the world view and minds of young adults. (Reading the author bio after finishing the novel, it came as no surprise that D.M. Anderson teaches middle school; his writing reveals that he understands both the complexities and the limitations of teenage viewpoints.)

    Anderson writes with commendable balance, combining the excitement and drama of an unfolding crisis with the personal moments of character-defining decisions and realizations, and he manages not to be heavy-handed even in moments where a character or situation conveys a “lesson.” His characters illustrate the ways in which media-steeped young people compare real experiences with the impressions and assumptions they’ve taken away from TV and video games, as the young characters themselves use media fictions as reference points while they arrive at realizations about their own lives and about other people.

    There’s no “do-over” button in life, as there is in a video game—and yet, people can make new choices rather than let themselves be defined by their pasts, and sometimes there’s even a chance for redemption. If that sounds a little “heavy” for a young adult action story, this is where Anderson’s skill in avoiding heavy-handedness comes so admirably to light. Shaken offers a compelling storyline made richer by its subtle undercurrents.

    More than anything, Shaken is an enjoyable read. Its characters (with the exception of a couple nastier folks who fall somewhat short of three-dimensional) are believable and interesting, the story features moments of humor, and the pace of action doesn’t drag even with the inclusion of more introspective moments which could have dragged the plot to a halt in another writer’s hands. If Anderson managed to sneak some teaching-moments into his action tale—well, he is a teacher. Judging by this novel, he’s probably an effective one.

  36. Great contest, Karen, and I’m just drooling to get my Kindle for Christmas that I know is coming so i can join the legion of e-readers everywhere and explode my inventory of books to be read!

  37. Thanks for doing this, Karen. I shared this on Facebook and Twitter 🙂

  38. I’ve been using an eReader for two years now and have just realized how important reviews are to authors. I would be happy to review “Assignment: Nepal” by J.A. Squires

  39. Shaken

    By D. M. Anderson

    Hold on to something and hold on for your life. Your world is about to be shaken and your life will never be the same. That’s the fate for each of three teenagers in D.M. Anderson’s latest young adult adventure. A record setting earthquake plays the catalyst for death defying action and reaffirmation of how precious life can be.

    Natalie is suffering a family getaway and having to endure her little sister’s constant need for attention. Damien travels by train with his uncaring stepfather on the way to a juvenile boot camp as punishment for being involved in a hold up that left a police officer dead. Conner is ready to enjoy spring break…after he gets once last shot of revenge upon his teacher for giving him a failing grade and threatening suspension.

    All three are in Pangea Bay on the coast of the Pacific northwest when a massive earthquake destroys the town. Natalie is left alone protecting her sister and escaping the town deviant; Damien must affect a rescue of a mother and child from a train car about to fall into the canyon; Conner is trapped with his nemesis teacher unable to escape from her Cliffside house. In the midst of their adventures, connections between the three are revealed and each learns the truth about the value of human life.

    This is a wonderful story about life and love and cherishing. The writing is solid. The characters’ backgrounds are unique but typically ‘teen’ in many ways. There are some good ‘bad guys’ to challenge the trio. The story bounces from one story to the next with some tantalizing cliffhangers (no pun intended) to keep you moving through the book. This is another winner from a talented YA author.

    This review was also posted on 12/15 at

  40. I review books and post on two sites plus Amazon sometimes.
    I get revieww books from a couple of publishers and from the one site my reviews are posted on. Unless I totally hate a book, I will write review any book I’m sent.
    I really prefer to have the actual hard copy of the book rather than an ebook for review so that I can easily look back to fact check and whatnot.
    There are a couple on the above list I’d be happy to do, but to pick just one it would be Cold Comfort, but it won’t be done until after the beginning of the year so no contest entry for me I guess. My focus for the next couple of weeks is on family and holidays so any reading I do will be holiday themed books read in stolen moments between cookie baking and Santa visits w/ granddaughters.

  41. Neat contest and I do book reviews for several sites but I am working on a couple now so I couldn’t do a review by December 24th. I am interested in why you can’t get reviewers. How do you let reviewers know about books that you need a review on?

  42. My name is Randy Johnson. I have a blog, NOT THE BASEBALL PITCHER, with WordPress. I review books, movies, music, talk about whatever I think might be interesting(perhaps only to me). I also review on Goodreads and occasionally Amazon.

    Blind Traveler’s Blues looks like something I would be interested in..

  43. I considered doing this, as I love Historical Romances, but this part made me change my mind:

    “If we do not reach 50 reviews, the contest will be void.”

    • I feel bad for having to say that, but in all honesty, I am doing this for my business and the last time I ran a contest for reviews, I sent out 72 free downloads, got one review and had to give away a $25 gift certificate. For me that is a wash. I give away plenty of free books in other ways, but this one has a purpose and if I’m going to spend $100 bucks on a Kindle, I want to make sure I have done just given away a bunch of free books and get nothing in return. It sounds mercenary, I know, but its actually business.


  44. In case this isn’t a rhetorical question, here is why I personally write few reviews.

    Reason 1: no time. I wish I could read a book a day and write an intelligent, encouraging, fun-to-read review. I wish… but at the same time I’m not willing to give up the things that take up my time: my family, my own writing, my money-making job.

    Reason 2: as I get older, I actually seem to like fewer books. Just as an example: 20 years ago, I loved “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I’m reading it again, and, while the story still moves me, the editor inside my head is screaming to cut the first chapter and to get the dialogue more realistic. 20 years ago, the book would have been 5 stars. Today it’s between 3 and 4. Now I know that’s just me being over-critical, but trust me, you don’t want me reviewing books!

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