Book Date for the Circumspect

Looking for something not too exciting or too fast? Want a mild distraction, not something that will leave you wanting more? You only want this weekend at most. You don’t want any risk of any strings being attached. You aren’t looking for something serious or intense. Then we have the perfect fix for your nothing special weekend.

Book Cover Murder at an Exhibition

Let’s start at the very beginning, Murder at an Exhibition. This certainly could be better. The word choice of “an Exhibition” seems to automatically downplay the book. It reduces the stature of the setting. It’s just an ordinary, run of the mill, nothing special about it exhibition. Instead of this is “the Exhibition” that can and does lead to murder, it is that special and dramatic. However, this title does not imbue your feelings with any hype up, which is probably a blessing in disguise.

This weird downplay of the book continues  with giving readers the meat of the story before the story. How? By sharing the murder discovery excerpt the page before Chapter 1. However, this meaty morsel is not the beginning of a memorable adventure, but is more a spoiler of the plot highlight. Worse, this highlight is a long way in coming, thus the author is almost gaslighting the reader. Seriously, it took 25% of the book before the murder from the spoiler actually happens and the pre-Chapter 1 excerpt makes the reading of the event in the book anti-climatic. 

Even without this spoiler the book is not an edge of your seat page turner. It was almost easier to put it down than to pick it back up. It is readable, but not captivating. The characters are likable, but not extraordinary. The plot is reliable and sound. It tells a sturdy and interesting story. Yet, there is also a lot of unnecessary extra story telling that makes it seem like you are reading part of a series instead of a stand alone. 

This is a technically competent piece. It checks all the boxes for how to write a good book. Too bad those checks are all about structure without the meat and bones to fill out into something substantial. Instead, this is more of a day in the life of book than a true murder mystery. Don’t get me wrong, the mystery is intriguing and does keep you wondering or making your mind and changing your mind. But it is more that the mystery is the ingredient or path that connects the characters and their lives than being the spotlight of the book.

This book is a good option for having something to carry with you to read, when you have a few minutes, that you will not mind having to put down again and again as you get on with your day or weekend. And in this type of reading is probably where it will find its best fit. Can you curl up with it for your Friday night/weekend read? Certainly, but do not expect it to be your best book date ever by a long shot. It perfectly, reminds me of an Amber Sparks tweet I saw about an average guy…

I met this book…

** The book cover is via

** The tweet screenshot is via Google Search Images.

DISCLAIMER: I received an ARC of this book. This is my honest review of the work.

Wonder if the 3rd time was a charm

I just finished an okay book. It was readable, I made it all the way through. It did not have me on the edge of my seat or avidly turning pages without pause, matter of fact, I was content to put the read down for a couple days. And the thought struck me that the “back cover” tease (website synopsis) was not accurate. I completely dislike back covers not being accurate, I feel cheated, betrayed, lied to.

I kept waiting for the “thriller” part of the story to come into play, the race against time and from the enemies. And I was let down like a drunk one-night-stand. So before starting this review I wanted to make sure that I had remembered that synopsis properly thus I pulled it back up….I did. It clearly states “For both couples, time is running out and enemies are closing in.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it, yeah, I thought so to, even the full title labels the book “An Archaeological Thriller”.

St. Thecla Convent, Maaloula, Syria from above.
By Heretiq – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

While for one couple (John Mark and Miriam) time was running out and enemies in the form of Roman soldiers were closing in, that is not the case for the other couple (Dr. Chris Jordan and Dr. Kate Ferguson). The story follows both couples in relation to a copy of The Gospel Of Mark. And is told in tandem by alternating chapters between the couples and their time periods. This was not a bad delivery style and it kept plots easy for readers to follow.

The style of the story telling was not up to a typical standard for a thriller on any level. The story was very heavy in the dialogue side, which left no time for “enemies” for Jordan and Ferguson, so it is a good thing that they didn’t have any real ones. Running from the police for 3 to 5 pages because you stole an artifact, is not running from enemies. It is the job of the police to apprehend accused thieves and investigate crimes. And they do not become enemies just because the accusers are scruple-less and greedy.

Technically, the story was properly written with one irritating flaw….the use of the metric system by John Mark during the 1st Century when it was not in use. When you are writing to such a niche audience as those that would read “An Archaeological Thriller” you really need to make sure that your details will not stop a reader in their what did I just read tracks. Most readers of any historical nature know what should and should not appear in them. Those mistakes distract greatly. And after the fact even more so, as the version of the book that I was sent is the second of 3 different publishing of the same work under similar but different titles.

DEC 2021
SEP 2021

The author Joe Edd Moris has 6 publications listed on his GoodReads profile, of which 3 are some form of the book I was provided to read for an honest review. The first version was published in 2015, by West Bow Press, my copy in September of 2021, no publisher listed and finally December of 2021, by Black Rose Writing. As a disclaimer, though, my copy was received from Black Rose Writing. What isn’t listed is any of Moris’ nonfiction work such as Revival of the Gnostic Heresy: Fundamentalism, on Gnostism and Fundamentalism and their overlap. I suggest that Moris stick to nonfiction in future solo projects. His need to explain everything in dialogue and detail is not beneficial to action/thriller works, it’s actually the exact opposite impact on the reader. Pointing out this trait is not an insult to the author, just my explanation for what distracted me from thoroughly enjoying his work. I possess the same trait. That said, he might make a great authenticator for other story tellers to make sure their stories are not dismissed on bad research. Or at least stay away from thrillers.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via

***Featured Image: By Bernard Gagnon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Canadians Were There Too

Period pieces are one of my favorite fiction genres, especially if they are generally historically and geographically accurate. Of course, I do actually expect all fiction to be geographically accurate if the author is going to use real locations, past or present. Popular for action pieces are any one of the war times of history and WWII is a top choice. It makes sense as it left a scar across the whole of the world and some would say that it changed the face of globe as well. Everything seemed to change during the war and maybe more so after it. The Old World was suddenly the supporting characters and new leading roles were assumed by the US and USSR.

Cover Art via Author Page

Whatever the reason, it is certain that period pieces of the ear are popular. Due to the popularity one can find all kinds of plots as well as quality of writing. From drama to action and everything in between to satisfy the desires of most readers. There might be some players of the period that are under portrayed. To that end, some authors are trying to increase the stories of these brave men and women and keep their memories alive. It is this goal that we have the pleasure of exploring today, with Vengeance Of The Allies.

I do have to admit that this is the first work that I remember reading that highlights the Canadian contribution to the cause. And while Canadians are certainly not the only countrymen that most don’t remember sacrificing , hopefully others will come or gain wider circulation in the future. I will neither affirm or dismiss the accuracy of some of the historical details of The Black Devils and will instead allow the author such credit as to his due diligence.

The story takes place in Occupied France, roughly 4 years in. The setting is mostly split between Marseille and Serronelle, in the South of France and unfolds from Berlin’s reaction to the murder of an SS Officer in the area. That leads to a chance opportunity for unlikely Allies to take things into their own hands. The obsession of these individuals change the course of the war and life for a group of unwitting Canadian commandos.

The action starts with the opening lines and continues to the last page. The reader is entwined into the unanswerable question what would you do if it were you? How far would you go to seek vengeance? What would you be willing to sacrifice for a promise made in the worst of circumstances?

For a debut novel, this work certainly shows skill and talent. There are some areas that word order made me stop and wonder if the proofing of my review copy was pre-final editing stage or have I never noticed Canadian word order being different. From a publishing point of view that is the strongest critique I have. I am pleasantly, surprised to see such quality work in a debut in today’s world of self-publishers and everyone thinking ANYONE can write and wanting their 15 minutes of fame and even more fortune.

I truly look forward to see more from Mr. Ethan Watts.

*Copy Received For Review.

Intellectual Prowess with Feminine Flair

While most of what I read is in the non-fiction section of the library…

I Love A Good Novel!

So, what makes a good novel for me? Honestly, it depends on my mood, but for sure the characters have to have depth and intelligence and the plot has to have enough challenges and interest too that I don’t already know the ending before the end of Chapter 1.

I must confess, also, that I really love having that in a series! And I like being a little late to the series party. Why, you might ask? Cause, I am a committed reader. Thus, if I get a hold of a really good book, I can finish it in a weekend (please read here, couple of days) if not a night!  Therefore, it is in my emotional reading interest that I have at least a couple, if not the whole series published first, so I do not have to feel let down to have to wait for the next one.

For any authors that might be reading this; do not take me wrong, I know that those of you, with a passion for your craft put a lot of time and effort into your finished works and that to publish high quality content takes time. And I do greatly appreciate the time that you take in creating such joy for the readers of the world!

Book cover of Stalking Jack The Ripper
Book Cover via LibraryThing

Another fact that I should state upfront, I do not believe in “age-appropriate” books! Do not get me wrong, I would not suggest the 50 Shades series to a 10 year old, but from what I have heard the writing of the story is sub-par, I do not know, I have never read any of it. I think I was turned off by the trending of it as “Mommy Porn”; what is that, even? Either it is porn or it isn’t. And if it was porn that made mainstream, good on it! But, I digress.

Back to our focus, I have read and continue to read many books and series that are labeled as Young Adult, such as the Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series. So last year sometime, summer, I think, I discovered a series from  James Patterson Presents. The author is Kerri Maniscalco and the series is Stalking Jack The Ripper, also the title of the first book in the 4 book series. (I have bittersweet feelings about only 4 books in this series)

drawing of Audrey Rose Wadsworth
SJTR Character Card Teasers via author website

The main character is an intelligent, strong willed and minded, young lady from an affluent titled family in 19th century London, Audrey Rose. Maniscalco does a great job of not only weaving an intricate plot with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and sometimes even second guessing their suspicions, but, also, providing great insight into the challenges of being an intellectual and a lady in Victorian England and the world for that matter then and now.

The plot stays mostly true to the known or accepted facts of the case, where Maniscalco shines is her filing in the blank spaces that have been supposed and hypothesized for decades. Her version of the unknown aspects of the most famous violent murderer of all-time is both plausible and captivating for the reader. There are plenty of secondary plots to give the whole world of Audrey Rose depth and substance, drawing the reader into the pages heart and soul. And after you get through all the meat of the story, Maniscalco presents extras including notes on the historic liberties she has taken in retelling the story as well as juicy tidbits that while mentioned in the story were not shared, like letters to main characters.

The whole package and delivery are just extraordinary and completely refreshing in this age of seemingly reused, recycled and reduced repeats of plots with shallow characters and poor editing. While self-publishing allows for some really good writers with some not so mainstream works to make it to the public, it has also created the illusion that anyone can be a best-selling author. And Kerri Maniscalco is the whole package of a best-selling author.