Friday, July 19, 2019

Review: Thirteen Across

Thirteen Across Thirteen Across by Dan Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I had stumbled upon the summary of "Thirteen Across" by Dan Grant before I read it, well, I wouldn't have, for fear the entire novel would be as badly written. Of course, having done so, now I can decipher the synopsis, but it leads me to wonder how many potential readers might have passed it up out of sincere confusion.

"Thirteen Across" has been classified genre-wise as a suspense and medical thriller. I think the downright horrifying, unethical experimentation on human beings should be noted, perhaps veiled with a more diplomatic designation such as medical terrorism. It would also sit squarely under action, medical science fiction, and domestic terrorism labels.

Regarding the story, the 411 pages are surely responsible for many chewed fingernails. The plot is intricate, woven just the right way to carry the weight of the content. Characters are developed nicely and dialogue between them is well written. I won't go into more specifics to prevent giving too much away, but my final word on Thirteen Across is - I suggest you read the book.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Review: Above The Grave: The Complete Series

Above The Grave: The Complete Series Above The Grave: The Complete Series by Andrew De Zilva
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Above the Grave is a graphic novel written by Andrew De Silva and Mitchell Hall. Yes, you read that correctly, this one is a graphic novel. A comic book. I am aware that the two terms indicate that there are differences between them, though the distinction remains a mystery to this novice. Anyway, I prefer the term graphic novel now, having finally read one. If you're missing it, I am rather proud of the accomplishment, especially considering the abstract horror I felt when I realized the genre I was diving into. As a graphic novel new recruit, it took me a good bit to acclimate my reading style to authentically experience Above the Grave. The nuts and bolts boil down simply enough; a clandestine lockup where super-naughtiest of villains are confined for the safety of the outside world and the evil hijinks some of its wicked detainees orchestrate.

As it turns out, I dig comics. Who knew? Despite more glaring editing issues than any novel should go to publishing with, I found the story engaging, characters well developed, and pacing of the action appropriately done.

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Review: The Beckoning of Beguiling Things

The Beckoning of Beguiling Things The Beckoning of Beguiling Things by Calinda B.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Beckoning Series by author Calinda B. begins with The Beckoning of Beguiling Things. Though I have never read any of her work before, I truly did not expect to be enamored by her writing so quickly. I mean, page two and there she is describing Las Vegas heat as "Satan's ball sack." I'm a fan, okay? Then, I realize that Marissa's pregnant sister is responsible for dragging her to Sin City, which already makes zero sense already based on my personal experiences and impressions these characters made on me so early in the book - #1 Pregnant women probably won't find much that is healthy for them on the Strip so why in the name of all that is holy would she choose there? and #2 Marissa strikes me as pretty much the opposite of a Vegas-weekend-trip-to-cut-loose kind of girl and shouldn't her sister be aware of that? Tidbits of reality such as those poking their uptight noses into my fiction aside, Beguiling Things runs the gambit in terms of adjectives to accurately describe the plot, but I'm going to list the ones bouncing around in my head anyway; modern, magic, funny, tragic, exciting and a healthy dose of fantasy. I'm looking forward to the follow-up.

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Review: The Admiral of Bolivia

The Admiral of Bolivia The Admiral of Bolivia by Chief John J. Mandeville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Admiral of Bolivia
by Chief John J. Mandeville

Sometimes you're in the mood for a humorous tale full of slightly off-key characters making one questionable choice after another, leading to wild adventures that go beyond expectation. Stepping outside of your own day to day monotony and falling into a novel like this one is a pleasure every human being should enjoy from time to time. Chief John J. Mandeville offers just that sort of break with his comedic fiction novel, The Admiral of Bolivia.

New Yorkers are a special breed on their own, but the men and women of the FDNY are in a league apart even from those. Talk about characters, the real-life counterparts on which Mandeville must have based Mike, Mary and the rest have probably provided the author with more subject matter than he can fit into 30+ books. Take my often cynical word for it, Admiral will have you laughing within the first few pages and the merriment doesn't let up throughout the entire thing.

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Review: The Gauntlet: The Soppranaturale Series

The Gauntlet: The Soppranaturale Series The Gauntlet: The Soppranaturale Series by Ashley Pagano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The Gauntlet: The Soppranaturale Series"
by Ashley Pagano

Vampires, faeries, witches, werewolves and shape-shifters all exist together in this paranormal thriller. A supernatural refuge masked as a hotel, The Soppronaturale, harbors these mythical entities who work together to keep the secrets of their magical realm from the rest of the world. Two faeries, Link and Ommily, take center stage in "The Gauntlet" and in no time the reader is dazzled by the hotel inhabitants, deeply invested in the conflict and anxiously anticipating the revelation of the fate of Link and Ommily. It has been a good long while since a metaphysical novel has been unique enough to keep my attention but Ashley Pagano pulled it off here. Everything from plot flow to character development and dialogue is spot-on in a vivid display of fiction writing talent.

Something that struck me as funny; does it seem silly to anyone else that an author has to put the obligatory "All characters and events in this story are fictitious" disclaimer in a novel about faeries and werewolves? The realities of a litigious society, I suppose.

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Review: Africa Rise And Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 Billion

Africa Rise And Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 Billion Africa Rise And Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 Billion by Jim Ovia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Africa Rise And Shine: How a Nigerian Entrepreneur from Humble Beginnings Grew a Business to $16 Billion"
by Jim Ovia

Some people look at adversity as a bug to squash and Jim Ovia seems to be one of those people. Dubbed the Godfather of Banking, he let nothing stunt his meteoric rise to the top of the Nigerian banking industry as the founder of Zenith Bank. "Africa Rise and Shine" is a rather short read at only 205 pages, but is packed with business advice and personal anecdotes that make the material more enjoyable than your average self-help or business guidance book. Ovia also managed to insert unexpected tidbits of African history that are relevant to, but not essential knowledge for, really getting everything you can out of the text. That aspect makes this book stand out from the rest and is why I would recommend this above some others that are arguably just as good as far as informational text goes.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy: The Mind of Stefan Dürr, the Cosmic Ape, and the Interdimensional Nexus

The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy: The Mind of Stefan Dürr, the Cosmic Ape, and the Interdimensional Nexus The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy: The Mind of Stefan Dürr, the Cosmic Ape, and the Interdimensional Nexus by Alan Joshua
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a trilogy, released here as one book, though you can purchase and read them separately if you wish... I admit, I'm very confused as to why the option; if this shouldn't be experienced fully as separate novels, then it should simply be one novel instead of three. Anyway, "The Shiva Syndrome Trilogy" consists of "The Mind of Stefan Dürr," "The Cosmic Ape," and "The Interdimensional Nexus." Alan Joshua gives us nearly 700 pages of science fiction mixed with paranormal cut with psychological thrills and mythology, and then double dipped in social and philosophical dilemmas. There is nothing simple about this story, so much so that it can be quite hard to follow at times. Characters are plentiful, nearly to the point of over-saturating the plot, and never mind that I actually couldn't stand any of them and couldn't possibly care less about what happens to them. I tried to give this a fair chance and I believe I made a good effort. The fault doesn't lie with me. I think this author should go back to the drawing board, take only the bare bones, core concepts, and give this sci-fi idea a brand new lease.

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Review: A Place to Stay Forever

A Place to Stay Forever A Place to Stay Forever by Mark L. Lloyd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been watching a lot of "Black Mirror" on Netflix and "A Place to Stay Forever" reminded me especially of "San Junipero," but also of several other episodes in the series. The concept of a future where the limits of human consciousness are less and less defined is a common science fiction theme. Author Mark L. Lloyd certainly has a knack for that genre of fiction on the whole. There are some things that must be written well to make a science fiction novel believable in at least an abstract way. In my experience, those 'things' aren't universal; for instance, if everything else is right, the characters can be completely absurd and still, it can all work. Here, I found the time-travel aspect a little confusing and hard to follow. The characters were straight-forward and maybe not one-dimensional, but only moderately fleshed out, in my opinion. Still, I can't say that overall, it didn't work because it did. It defies logic, as science fiction tends to do, I suppose.

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Review: Blood Upon the Sands

Blood Upon the Sands Blood Upon the Sands by Sheldon Charles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blood Upon the Sands (An Evan Davis Tale Book 2)
by Sheldon Charles

I loved Sheldon Charles' other Evan Davis novel, "From Within the Firebird's Nest," so I was excited to dive into "Blood Upon the Sands," another political thriller, this time set in the Middle East, also featuring the Evan Davis character. One thing became crystal clear and that is that this author is a consistently competent writer and I sense more Evan Davis in the fiction world. Unfortunately, I didn't fall into this, as I did with his last novel, and I think it is due only to my near complete lack of interest in the Middle East. I suffer from a very real ignorance when it comes to that part of the world so I genuinely struggled through these 400+ pages, knowing all the while that my being closed off to the subject would stunt my experience. As with his other novels, Charles has written engaging characters, perfectly choreographed action and smart dialogue delivered with practiced cadence. Despite not falling in love with the story, I know this is a well written novel and lovers of political thrillers will eat it up.

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Review: The Circle

The Circle The Circle by Sage Sask
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Circle: Taken
by Sage Sask

This novel is science fiction, of the dystopian variety, featuring rather young heroes and heroines. When I think of the audience for Young Adult fiction, I picture high school seniors to college aged young people but this felt as though it were written for more juvenile fans. It is worth noting that though it felt 'for' younger readers, there are some decidedly more mature aspects; specifically, a higher level of violence than I expected. The premise is intriguing but overall, felt forced, especially the all-important-romance that seems a necessity in the YA genre. Characters felt one-dimensional despite the author giving them natural faults and realistic reactions almost all the way through the story. I am fully willing to admit that my prickliness about this book is probably due strictly to personal preference and I am most likely too far removed from the target audience to form an appreciation for the story on its own merit.

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Review: Ellen's Song

Ellen's Song Ellen's Song by Ben Kalland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The novel, "Ellen's Song," has just become another of those books I might never have chosen, thinking it not to my taste - the exact same way I initially thought of Pete Hamill's, "Forever," which has yet to be unseated as Number One on my favorites list. Now that I've finished "Ellen's Song," I'm so glad I read it! Despite the tragedy and general decimation of this fictional family and hereby, this fictional world that Ben Kallad has woven into my consciousness - a plot ploy I normally despise - I found a sense of hope and resilience I refuse to let go of. This is a modern story, though it smacks of that multi-generational, historical drama sensibility, and it worked magnificently.

Kallad's dialogue is well written, yet concise without coming off clipped, and his characters... they will stick with a reader long after they've closed the book. Even Sophia, technically gone from page one, packs a punch. They're all so easily relatable without being contrite. "Ellen's Song" will be easy to recommend to friends and family.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review: My Sister's Fear

My Sister's Fear My Sister's Fear by T.J. Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"A girl is missing, another is kidnapped, a third is forced into prostitution. Three girls, all victims of men they thought they could trust."

If a summary could be written that would lead me to click "buy with one-touch", that's the one. "My Sister's Fear" is number two in T.J. Jones's Slater Mystery series. There is a backstory that predates this installment, about the murder of Maggie's brother, and it didn't feel forced as sub plots sometimes can. This is set in Florida, a place many forget is very much the deep south. That mentality is crucial to the tone of this novel and, in my opinion, makes the plot pop all that much more. That fact is surprising especially considering the author is a Minnesota native. I loved the main characters, Maggie and Slater, as well as the supporting ones. I found the dialogue witty and natural feeling and the pace of the story flowed perfectly. This was simply an enjoyable read, easily recommended to friends and family.

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Review: Nothing But A Ripple: A Sex Surrogate Story

Nothing But A Ripple: A Sex Surrogate Story Nothing But A Ripple: A Sex Surrogate Story by Seraphina Arden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nothing But A Ripple: A Sex Surrogate Story
by Seraphina Arden

Americans are notoriously uptight when it comes to sex. Where I live, in one the Fly Over States, this title alone is enough to garner a side eye and possibly a casual mention of said giver of side eye's church of choice, you know, to redeem my wretched soul. I was almost sad I didn't have a physical book to hold in public. Sometimes I like to cause a stir. Sue me.

Unless you delve into the author bio and more in-depth information regarding the book, a reader could be confused as to whether this is a biopic or fiction. Either way, "Nothing But A Ripple" is enjoyable. Arden's style of writing is modern and refreshing and her story telling talent is unmatched. I thought this topic was tackled in a fun and unique way while still making a bold statement about the human reaction to sexuality. Something a little out of the box is nice once in a while.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Kill Code

Kill Code Kill Code by Clive Fleury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kill Code by Clive Fleury

The summary has this to say: A world decimated by climate catastrophe, where the sun's heat is deadly and the ocean rises higher every day. A world ruled by the rich, powerful, and corrupt.

Oh, you mean like right now? Just throwing that out there.

"Kill Code" is a fairly short read at only 120 pages. The hero, a way down on his luck ex-cop, gets the opportunity to regain his old life and right the wrongs of the past. Gritty and dark, Fleury's plot thrives on the catastrophic events that have created the backdrop against which Hogan Duran must fight. Fully fleshed characters and well paced action propel the reader on a particularly enjoyable journey into an unforgiving world. Thrilling and refreshingly profound, this science fiction novel is a pleasant surprise.

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Review: The Cross Worked.: Why You Can Have Confidence On The Day of Judgment

The Cross Worked.: Why You Can Have Confidence On The Day of Judgment The Cross Worked.: Why You Can Have Confidence On The Day of Judgment by Zach Maldonado
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Zach Maldonado is the young author of "The Cross Worked: Why You Can Have Confidence On The Day of Judgment." Obviously, this sits squarely on the Religion shelves of the bookstore and therefore might have been disregarded by me had it not been for something bristling inside me at the dreaded "Judgment Day" portion of the Christian religion. Judgment Day being the only aspect of Christianity that pisses me off more than tithing. J Day takes top billing when used to scare the hell out of followers (pun absolutely intended) for disregarding some twisted interpretation of one part of a collection of myths translated about a thousand different ways, six thousand years ago by people who still thought the world was flat. Never mind that it's probably contradicted in the same book at least a dozen times and just ignore the rest of the absolute absurdity throughout as well. Grimm's Fairy Tales are more realistic than the Bible. Yes, I'm a Godless heathen, I've accepted it.

Something I will admit to is the positivity contained in "The Cross Worked." I was kidding when I said I was Godless but my idea of God has zero to do with any 'religion' and is about love, acceptance and positivity - all of which Maldonado captured perfectly here. For that, I am grateful.

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Review: Song of Mornius

Song of Mornius Song of Mornius by Diane E. Steinbach
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Song of Mornius" is the first in what will be author, Diane E. Steinbach's, The Talenkai Chronicles series. Based on this introduction to a world bursting with sensational fantasy, enchanting sword & sorcery and breathtaking adventure, fans will surely be waiting with bated breath for each new installment to be released. Four hundred plus pages can either seem tortuously long or entirely too short, depending on where the reader might fall on the love it or hate it scale. This went too quickly for me and many others, I imagine. Everything from the characters, both good and evil, to the flawless momentum of the plot made "Song of Mornuis" a pleasure to read.

I have to point out Steinbach's use of words like 'hie', an old fashioned verb left-over from Shakespearean era literature, and the way she uses dialogue to bring a sense of renewed fullness and life to a genre that can easily get bogged down for readers like me.

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Review: The Prince of Manhattan

The Prince of Manhattan The Prince of Manhattan by Alexei Iskander
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

"The Prince of Manhattan" is a young adult, romantic, fantasy/time travel novel (though at 148 pages, nearly a novella) featuring Miranda Hazelgrove, a modern day college student, who meets Leofric, a portal jumping prince from a thousand years in the past. I believe this is author, Alexei Iskander's first book - it was published first anyway, if Goodreads can be believed. Despite my desire to support new writers, this was not ready for publication based on need for editing alone. I admit I am not this book's audience and that is not where my negativity comes from. I can easily forgive the absurdly multi-layered genre and even the at times cringe worthy dialogue but come on, the term is not "saddled up", it's "sidled up", sentences should not be eight lines long and for crying out loud, sync up the tenses within paragraphs at the very least. Okay, I'll take off my editor hat now.

Iskander has the bones of a good novel here. I would like to see that potential fulfilled.

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Review: PARAHAN, 2nd Edition: The Earth We Live on Has Been an Imprisonment System

PARAHAN, 2nd Edition: The Earth We Live on Has Been an Imprisonment System PARAHAN, 2nd Edition: The Earth We Live on Has Been an Imprisonment System by Kevin Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, simply reading the summary, I would have had zero idea what "PARAHAN" is about beyond it being in the science fiction genre. After finishing Kevin Brown's South Korean written novel, I continue to be baffled as to the true meaning. There are a lot of philosophical and political type themes winding through the plot. The plot itself is intricate to the point of convolution. Being that this is a translation, I tried not to be so harsh but I just didn't get there with this novel. I felt no connection with any of the characters, I cared not one iota what happened on either planet and I fought a general sense of discombobulation through all 246 pages.

I feel guilty ripping this to shreds because if the blurbs are true, "PARAHAN" has been a hit with readers from South Korea to the United States. It could be that I am not the intended audience Brown was writing for, and that's okay. Based on positive feedback from others and overall good press surrounding this sci-fi book, I am settling on an intermediate rating.

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Review: Dolph the Unicorn Killer & Other Stories

Dolph the Unicorn Killer & Other Stories Dolph the Unicorn Killer & Other Stories by Martin Lastrapes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the cover image is animated/cartoon, my mind jumps to the conclusion that this is a kid's book. Pretty dead wrong assumption here and this one is, in a word, unnerving. I mean I know the title of the book is "Dolph the Unicorn Killer" but rainbow blood dripping from the neck of a decapitated unicorn head is a bit extreme, isn't it? But hey, to each his own.

I have found that I am enjoying books of short stories more and more. I am a self-proclaimed novel junky but sometimes a story idea can be fully explored in a much shorter venue such as a short story or a novella. Martin Lastrapes proved it here with this collection of short stories bound by a few characters, the Dolph comics series and the backdrop of Vas Vegas; cleverly linked, I thought.

For those of us who have a hard time getting back to the business of real life when in the middle of a good book, short stories are the perfect tidbit for the literature breaks in the day. I will recommend this widely.


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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish

The Last Mrs. Parrish The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought this was better than The Silent Wife, though eerily similar. Yes, overall, it turns out to be the same "twist" but there are enough differences that both books can be appreciated on their own merit.

I see that many readers dislike both female leads in this novel but I was rooting for Daphne from her first appearance. A gripe I have is about the male characters - could you pigeon hole a gender any further? They're either psychotic narcissists (Jackson) or spineless jellyfish (Gregg). Even men are deeper than that.

Another complaint I saw was the sexual and emotional abuse being too graphic. Are you kidding? There is barely a paragraph dedicated to each instance and the number of instances can be counted on three fingers. In my opinion, if you want to highlight that type of abuse, that degree of glossing over or using the topic for shock effect is nearly worse than using it as a plot crutch. I see no trigger warnings needed.

4 out of 5 stars is my vote just because I save the 5 star reviews for the ones that blow my mind and keep me thinking about them for weeks afterward.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Review: The Walker on the Cape

The Walker on the Cape The Walker on the Cape by Mike Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Walker on the Cape (Sgt. Windfower Mystery #1)
by Mike Martin

*This first portion is specific to GoodReads, not Audible.com or Amazon.com/Kindle*

I'm sorry but I have to call out Goodreads or whoever entered this audiobook there because as you can see above, the title character is spelled W-i-n-d-f-o-w-e-r not WindfLower (or it was as on the date of this review). I noticed that it was an odd but perhaps clever opportunity for the author to go a bit off the reservation with something as simple as a character's name to set his aside from hundreds of other detective series. So... when I began listening and heard the Sgt.'s name pronounced WindfLower, I was thinking, shame on the narrator, that's a big mistake. But it is NOT the fault of the narrator and before you know it, I, as a reader, am thinking more about that discrepancy than what is happening in the story I'm listening to. That is something I think, I, as an author, might be fairly perturbed about.

Beyond that, I thought this story was.. cute. I know that's probably not what the author wants it described as but that's where I am. The townsfolk were quirky and fun, perfectly fleshed out for their role in the plot. Sgt. Windflower felt, to me, like your second choice for prom date but not your "ugh, if no one else asks me I'll go with...". I just didn't really care about him personally, beyond his role in the mystery. The mystery the plot is surrounded by was not necessarily tightly spun but it was enough where I wanted to know the ending. And speaking of the ending, I will admit I thought it was deeper than I expected. In fact, overall, the entire thing felt deeper than its individual parts - meaning that I found the characters to be so so, the mystery level to be so so, peripheral plots to be so so... And in the end, when I sit to think about The Walker on the Cape, I definitely cannot say I hated it. I have many friends I would recommend the book to.

*Something it did take me a while to get past - the Canadian accent of the narrator. I am quite sure it is perfect, but I'm a Southern American and I'm not sure two dialects could be more different than American South and Newfie.

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Review: Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker

Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker by Warwick Gleeson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You had me at homicidal aliens... Okay, not really. Usually that is a phrase where I would be lost, actually. Then I spotted Oz in the title and couldn't resist. Note: I craft my overall impression and subsequent review very much around my first impression with the title, cover image, and summary of a novel and how that either differs wildly or is right in sync with my experience reading the book and feelings afterward regarding the story/book. There are things along the way that can alter that impression, like egregious editing errors, moronic characters and/or a plot that goes nowhere or way off the grid of even fictionalized reality.

Beyond nefarious aliens, sorcerers and witches abound - as would be expected from an Oz based narrative - Piper is hardly a Dorothy, in my opinion. What I mean by that is, I found Dorothy to be weak and annoying in The Wizard of Oz and in Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker, Piper is anything but weak. I mean, Dorothy defeated the witch by accidentally spilling water on her. That's not the heroine of a story for me. Piper is, simply put, a badass.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Review: The Chemist: A Cale Van Waring Adventure

The Chemist: A Cale Van Waring Adventure The Chemist: A Cale Van Waring Adventure by Janson Mancheski
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Chemist: A Cale Van Waring Adventure
by Janson Mancheski

Okay, that opening scene? Brutal. The rest of the book, also a little brutal, though in other ways. These characters felt brutally one dimensional - but somehow it worked here. Several aspects of the plot were brutally unrealistic - and yes, I know, its fiction and therefore all unrealistic but 'super criminals' in novels don't work for me any more than 'super cops' do. No one can pull all of that off that flawlessly.

The Chemist is a rather long novel, weighing in at 479 pages. I am usually the one complaining a book isn't long enough so I have no complaint here but people do love their 'quick reads'.

Somehow all of those negatives came together to form a pretty taut thriller that I didn't hate and would probably recommend to select friends.

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Review: Garry's Upside-Down Adventure

Garry's Upside-Down Adventure Garry's Upside-Down Adventure by Karin Vardaman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Look no further for a fun, wickedly smart children's book for bed time, car rides or any free time. Karin Vardaman has written this fun adventure for intermediate readers about Garry the Gargoyle leaving his UP world to explore the DOWN. Page after page filled with gorgeous, vividly detailed illustrations by Paisley Hansen, Garry's Upside Down Adventure is sure to grab the attention of even those young ones who are most determined to not enjoy reading a book.

The glossary at the back of the book is a brilliant feature for this reading level, when vocabulary can expand so quickly and easily with little more than exposure. I don't know where Vardaman and Hansen met but together, they have created a world and characters that are perfectly ripe for a series every bit as successful as Llama Llama or Pete the Cat. My own kids are too old for this but I have 2 nieces who are going to LOVE Garry!

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Review: Cut Reality: A Novel

Cut Reality: A Novel Cut Reality: A Novel by Zack Hacker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You almost lost me when plastered on the cover is a blurb from Jonny Fairplay of Survivor infamy. God, that guy was a *insert forbidden word*. As it turns out, Cut Reality is a pretty clever mystery novel built around the reality TV craze that started with Survivor. The story line includes Jason's diary entries during game time, which were interesting to read while we are also learning about how he is currently dealing with the after effects of the game, the death of Billy and his ever increasing paranoia surrounding that death and the show. Zach Hacker manages to bring the excitement of reality TV to a fiction novel containing fairly complex characters and weaving a mystery in a psychological manner via Jason. I found that I enjoyed it more than I expected to, though I did think there were parts that got a tad convoluted. Cut Reality is surely a good choice for fans of reality TV.

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Review: The Dar Lumbre Chronicles

The Dar Lumbre Chronicles The Dar Lumbre Chronicles by Don Johnston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of The Dar Lumbre Chronicles by Don Johnston is that 116 years in our future, not too much has changed; our government is corrupt, our healthcare system is in shambles, there are practical ways to fix these issues but those might cost rich people too much money so nothing gets done, people die and the cycle continues. At least in works of fiction, there can be some retribution and positive change and Johnston delivers in the regard.

Science fiction featuring medicine and genetics is a fascinating genre but where I fell some authors drop the ball is in developing characters who matter to the reader as much as whatever medical or genetic problem the plot is based around. Annie and Crane are an exception in that they are singularly focused yet complex enough to be interesting. That can be a difficult balance to achieve, though it seems effortless in The Dum Lumbre Chronicles. I found this novel to be a quick but fulfilling read.

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Review: Unshelled: A Tale of the Nutcracker

Unshelled: A Tale of the Nutcracker Unshelled: A Tale of the Nutcracker by M. J. Neary
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's just start with the author, Marina Julia Neary. Her bio states she is "a self-centered, only child of classical musicians..." and that she is "notorious for her abrasive personality and politically incorrect views that make her a persona non grata in most polite circles...". So basically, she is who I want to be when I grow up. I thought I might like this book based on that alone but I was wrong. I enjoyed Unshelled for many more reasons.

I love the way Neary wrote this Nutcracker adaptation. When she has Marie actually speaking to the reader, she is punchy and playful; 'What's the matter? I see your eyebrows creeping upward. Do you have a problem with a German nurse reading articles in English?' Those exchanges help me bond with a character and I appreciate writers who use that tactic.

The themes in this novel are deep and dark but there is plenty of hope and light to appease the Pollyannas among us.

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Review: Real Leadership: Waken To Wisdom

Real Leadership: Waken To Wisdom Real Leadership: Waken To Wisdom by Susan Robertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For all the books you can find on leadership skills, they are all kind of blending together for me. Yes, of course a leader must be charismatic and be able to make people believe them and want to follow them and their ideas. Hitler was a perfect example of this but we all know how that turned out. I don't think the basics of leadership are in question and Susan Robertson focuses on that natural leader and how he or she can personally improve for overall positive momentum.

Real Leadership: Waken To Wisdom takes this theme of inner improvement and applies it in the business world where, naturally, leaders tend to come in handy. The author's command of the subject matter is obvious, the chapters are arranged logically and the wording is straight forward and in layman's terms. So yes, this is another leadership book but it also happens to be a good one for those in business to take a look at.

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Review: Redfish Oak

Redfish Oak Redfish Oak by George Putnam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"A White girl, a Negro boy, and a young Indian warrior make a dangerous pact."
Redfish Oak
by George Putnam

The first sentence from the summary of this post-Civil War era novel, which encompasses topics from racism to romance to history, could not be more broad and yet it truly is a sincere abbreviation for this work of fiction - you almost cannot imagine where this might lead. George Putnam has written characters that feel as real to me as my own neighbors for the level of validity they have been given. The southern setting works both the explain and exacerbate the degree to which the prejudice, racism and customs that frame this plot.

There are many instances of brutality vividly portrayed in these pages so be forewarned. However, how could a book written about this time in history not be violent? In my opinion, inaccurately depicting those historic years would have been far worse.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review: The Pilot's Wife

The Pilot's Wife The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I seem to be drawn to these "The 'insert profession's Wife" novels. The message I'm getting? Men/husbands are assholes. Also, liars. And oftentimes, criminals. These titular wives are painted with a broad doormat brush in the more recent rash of publications of this sub-sub-genre, only slightly less so in The Pilot's Wife. Kathryn is a doormat, for certain, but perhaps due to the style of writing that Anita Shreve employs, the reader wants to smash reality into her head just a little bit less than in others. In short, I really did like this book, or more precisely, I liked the prose. Shreve can write a novel with feeling in a uniquely artistic way, of which I am in awe of.

Feeling compelled to comment on the ever-present alternate husband figure, I am wringing my hands because is it truly that unheard of that a woman becomes a widow/divorcee and just goes on to have a happy life? Must there always be a man waiting in the wings? Cue eye roll emoji.

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Review: The Darkwater Bride An Audible Original Drama

The Darkwater Bride An Audible Original Drama The Darkwater Bride An Audible Original Drama by Marty Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviewing audiobooks is still new to me but The Darkwater Bride is different in another, brand new way. Here, there are multiple narrators voicing different characters rather than one narrator slightly altering his or her voice to notate characters. Also, this plays as more of an audioplay rather than audiobook - and by that, I mean the narrator doesn't audibly voice "there was a splash", instead you actually hear a splash sound effect. The overall execution is less an audio reading of the book and more an alternate version of the book, in this case a podcast/radio program.

That is not to say I didn't enjoy it, I did. The story was unique, creepy, and ultimately horrific. The voices were pleasant to listen to, even those of the most unpleasant characters. I can say I would recommend The Darkwater Bride to my creep-factor fiction loving friends who are anxious to experience audio storytelling.

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Review: Start Selling: A Guide For Survival And Success In Sales

Start Selling: A Guide For Survival And Success In Sales Start Selling: A Guide For Survival And Success In Sales by M. Patrick Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Start Selling: A Guide For Survival And Success In Sales
by M. Patrick Campbell

Whether you are considering a career in sales, have been toiling in marketing for several years or are a hands on CEO looking for ways to streamline the efforts of your sales staff, Start Selling is a no nonsense manual with real life applications delivered in a straight forward manner. Included throughout the text are personal anecdotes from the author gleaned from his many years in business along with specific, step by step outlines and realistic projections. Mr. Campbell delves into the psychology behind both the seller/selling and the buyer/buying as well as discussing a broad range of topics from difficult customers to branding yourself within your field. I think it is important to note the "survival" part of the title here because sales is not just about success but surviving the failures. All in all, this book can go on the must read shelf for people in business.

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Review: Ripple Effect: Because Of The War

Ripple Effect: Because Of The War Ripple Effect: Because Of The War by Jenny Ferns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ripple Effect: Because Of The War (Ripple Effect, Book 1)
by Jenny Ferns

The terrors of war are as universal as they are devastating and in Ripple Effect the reader gets another heartbreaking - if fictional - example of this. In the British ruins of World War II, we meet sisters, Veronica and Rachel, Richard - Veronica's husband and Susie - Rachel's illegitimate daughter. Themes of abandonment, hunger, PTSD, alcoholism, and many other ravages of war are explored in varying depths but all with grand effect and tailored perfectly to the story. Jenny Ferns portrays these characters and their circumstances with heartfelt reverie, searing them into the minds and souls of her readers.

Though I am notoriously vicious about editing errors - the term "grammar Nazi" has been thrown about - in this case, I almost hesitate to mention them. They are there; misspellings, words in incorrect tense, etc... Obviously, though, the heart of the story was not lost so I can't be too harsh.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: It's Always the Husband

It's Always the Husband It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know how to put this... I wanted this to be an amazing book. And perhaps it is because I'm still thinking about it days later. Why I have a hard time saying this is amazing is because by the end, I hated every character except the "bad guy/killer". Every. Single. One. I thought Aubrey was the protagonist but that went by the wayside pretty quickly - how soon we forget where we came from once we arrive somewhere better, huh? Kate was a viper from the onset and a far as I'm concerned, she didn't get enough of what was coming to her. And Jenny... hands down the biggest fall from the promise her character showed in the beginning. All three of them should have been knocked off that bridge, one after the other. That's the ending I wanted by page 435.

Four hundred thirty-five pages! That much text and all of two things happened beyond example after glaring example of these girls being, basically, assholes. They're assholes, through and through... Ugh, stop Amanda, first paragraph was character assassination, you're supposed to be talking about the plot here! My problem is this, the two events that this plot is centered around are bad, yes, but not bad enough to cause the drama these three drew out of it for 22 years. I mean eventually we all get over the petty stuff of college, right? I was disappointed when I realized that was it, there was no bigger, more significant event or bombshell. I felt blah when I was done and I didn't expect that.

On a positive note, I enjoy the way Michele Campbell writes and so much so that I will absolutely try more of her books in the future.



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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Review: The Dispatcher

The Dispatcher The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Audiobook

I'll admit that experiencing a novel via audio only is still very new to me. This is only the second book I've listened to without reading it first. The Dispatcher is an interesting, unique story, however, I am very interested in the origin of the premise on which the story was based - that murdered people 'respawn' 999 times out of 1000 - than the mystery of the missing Dispatcher. The dawn of the phenomenon is explained in a "glossed over" manner but I want to know the story from that point to where The Dispatcher starts. A lot more details and examples would make for a fabulous read/listen.

As for the story here, it is really good. The conclusion is realistic while still keeping the spirit of fiction for entertainment. The narrator, Zachary Quinto, has a soothing but appropriate voice to convey the events of the plot in the way I believe the author intended.


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: The Silver Lining of Cancer: 13 Courageous Women Share their Inspirational Stories After a Life Changing Diagnosis

The Silver Lining of Cancer: 13 Courageous Women Share their Inspirational Stories After a Life Changing Diagnosis The Silver Lining of Cancer: 13 Courageous Women Share their Inspirational Stories After a Life Changing Diagnosis by Tracey Ehman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I never want to know the heart dropping feeling of sitting in front of a doctor and being told that I have cancer and could very well die from that terrible disease. The Silver Lining of Cancer: 13 Courageous Women Share their Inspirational Stories After a Life Changing Diagnosis is a collection of accounts of that very event and how thirteen different women chose to handle it. With a name like "The Silver Lining of Cancer" you can imagine that the stories are overwhelmingly positive and you would be right. Some accounts are more detailed than others, some more heart wrenching than others but all are inspiring in their own unique way. The author herself, Tracey Ehman, received her own devastating diagnosis and managed to not only beat the disease but create a vehicle for others in the same predicament to focus on positivity. I believe whether or not the disease is beaten physically, it can always be beaten mentally and that affirmative state of mind can make any outcome better.

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Review: Cursed: The Hunter Inside

Cursed: The Hunter Inside Cursed: The Hunter Inside by Casey M. Millette
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fantasy novel by teen author, Casey M. Millette, Cursed: The Hunter Inside has good bones that only just holds up the meaty 354 page body. Ms. Millette is a seventeen year old with a rather remarkable grasp of literature. Cursed: The Hunter Inside is in the vein of Lord of the Rings and/or Game of Thrones in terms of fantasy story. Overall this is a good book though it could be a little more streamlined plot-wise and at times the dialogue felt somewhat stunted and unrealistic. What this teen author holds in ability to create characters and creativity regarding the world the characters reside in is immeasurable and overshadows those negatives. This can be enjoyed, especially by younger readers, as is but it wouldn't take much to turn Cursed into a commercially successful series, catapulting Casey M. Millette into the fantasy fiction world wide stage in a leading position. I expect to see more from this talented author.

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Review: Debating to Win Arguments Mastery: The Debating Trilogy

Debating to Win Arguments Mastery: The Debating Trilogy Debating to Win Arguments Mastery: The Debating Trilogy by R. L. Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Debating to Win Arguments Mastery: The Debating Trilogy isn't just a book about debate in the clinical sense; Two people at podiums arguing the intricacies of long forgotten, ancient, philosophical theories in front of an audience and racking up affirmative or negative points for the win. What Greene and Donovan have presented is an outline for simply dealing on a day to day basis with people who disagree with you while avoiding devolving into a preteen-esque word riot. I'm sure I'm not the only one made it to adulthood and realized grown ups are no different ego-wise than school children. Debating to Win should be senior year required reading because we all need the information and the heads up. As long as humanity exists, so will debate/difference of opinion and having the skills to handle yourself in a mature manner while wading through fake news, propaganda, outright fraud and difficult people in general can make life a lot easier.

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Review: The Last Gathering

The Last Gathering The Last Gathering by Norbert Monfort
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Last Gathering: Where Tragedy Takes a Twist Through Time by Norbert Monfort

This is a very short, just over one hundred pages, fiction novel in the genre of religion (specifically Christian, more specifically Catholic )/suspense/magical realism. In short, the main character is a 'lost soul' who has shunned God because she has had such a rough life. She is shown, through divine intervention, that all of her suffering was actually HER fault and how dare she expect a good and merciful God to shield her from pain that SHE caused. Magically this makes her believe and serve God again (this being where I see the magical realism portrayed in the novella).

Look, I'm not an atheist. I believe in... something. I don't know exactly what it is but at the core of whatever it is, is love. What I do know is it's not the vengeful at worst and neglectful at best God that any organized religion shoves down my throat. However, when looked at through the religious lenses of believers, I see the lesson/moral in the plot. Aside from some editing issues, I think the faithful would enjoy The Last Gathering and that alone earns the three stars.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: Beyond Braces: A Consumer's Guide to Orthodontics

Beyond Braces: A Consumer's Guide to Orthodontics Beyond Braces: A Consumer's Guide to Orthodontics by Dr. Kelly Giannetti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having just gone through my oldest child getting braces, this is 120 pages I wish I had access to beforehand. Now that I have, however, that fourteen year old boy will be reading Beyond Braces: A Consumer's Guide to Orthodontics every time I catch him trying to go to bed without properly caring for his braces!

Dr. Kelly Giannetti and Dr. Thais Booms have written a helpful and positive book on the subject for parents and children alike. Everything from prevention to treatment options and aftercare is covered rather thoroughly. Both authors are obviously well respected in their field and care about patients. Horrors and myths are dispelled while cautionary tales are used in a constructive manner. I would recommend this to all of my parent friends if only to simply arm them with useful information.

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Review: EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead

EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead by M.S. Valdez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is a person out in the world who decided that the Roman Empire wasn't brutal enough and thought to themselves, "why not throw zombies into the mix?". And I guess, now that I think about it, Game of Thrones could be construed similarly. However, in this case, that author is M. S. Valdez and that book is called EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead.

Despite the grim summary featuring a grieving man raising an undead army to unleash revenge on the empire responsible for the horrors of war, EMPIRE PALADIN: Realm of the Dead is a surprisingly fun fantasy novel. Action packed enough for the adrenaline junkie and smart enough for those who require some depth of character and plot, this book is a well rounded example of the genre. There are some mature aspects throughout which might make me think twice about recommending this to younger audiences despite the popularity of the genre with youth recently.

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Review: Shattered Shield: Cole Cameron Thriller Series Book 1

Shattered Shield: Cole Cameron Thriller Series Book 1 Shattered Shield: Cole Cameron Thriller Series Book 1 by Camden Mays
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Though action/espionage and terrorism type thrillers are not my go to fiction genre, I gave Shattered Shield the good old college try, I really did. This is book one of the Cole Cameron Thriller Series by Camden Mays. Mays created a fairly realistic plot, characters readers could invest in and managed to write dialogue in an organic manner that is difficult for some writers. What I'm saying is, the negative I am about to expound on is not due to an untalented author.

First, as I stated before, try as I might, I can't seem to get 'there' with this type of novel, this subject matter. Perhaps it's because of the saturation of terrorism headlines and fear in today's day to day life. I guess I don't want it in my fiction, where I go for entertainment, relaxation, comfort, etc...

My other gripe is becoming redundant recently and I'm sorry but there are rules for commas and all punctuation, in fact, they aren't just sprinkled in all willy nilly. There is a difference in their, they're, and there and spellcheck isn't going to find those so I suggest hiring someone from a nifty profession called editing.

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Review: 99 Financial Terms Every Beginner, Entrepreneur & Business Should Know

99 Financial Terms Every Beginner, Entrepreneur & Business Should Know 99 Financial Terms Every Beginner, Entrepreneur & Business Should Know by Thomas Herold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

99 Financial Terms Every Beginner, Entrepreneur & Business Should Know (Financial IQ Series Book 1)
by Thomas Herold

It's a brave new world when it comes to finance and this book highlights how out of touch with the current financial pulse worldwide most people are. Herold puts it out there is a succinct "Formal term name, Acronym, Definition, Real world application" style that is easy to understand and enormously informative for anyone from stay at home moms taking over the household finances to entrepreneurs seeing their small home business grow into multi-million dollar companies. Even if you think you know the basics, I would suggest reading this anyway because chances are, you don't know everything you think you do and you are probably wrong about half of what you think you know. At least that was my personal experience. I found that while I understood the foundation of things, I was clueless as to the layers of complexity that can be revealed. Overall, a very well done, informative financial building block.

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Review: Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders

Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders by Shab R. Krish DDS MS DABCP DABCDSM
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Restore Your Rest: Solutions for TMJ and Sleep Disorders
by Shab R. Krish DDS MS DABCP DABCDSM

I am a person who had never dealt with sleep issues or slept with anyone who had to deal with them. Then I met my husband and everyone within 100 feet of our house of us was suddenly dealing with it. Finally, after months of what seemed like next to zero rest, his doctor ordered him to have sleep study done and eventually they settled on a series of treatments. It was in preparation for and delving into the results that we found out how detrimental the effects of not sleeping well can be on a human body. Even simple 'benign' snoring is not so benign. In Dr. Krish's brief but highly informative book on the subject, the reader gets a crash course in TMJ, sleep disorders, symptoms and methods of treatment.

I, like many other readers, have to comment on the editing, or lack thereof. Being an editor myself and knowing how high the competition for editing work is, I see no reason for a book to go to publication in this condition. We are out there, USE US!

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: The Innocent

The Innocent The Innocent by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I keep waiting to dislike a Coben novel. The Innocent only proved again that if I open one, nearly nothing will be accomplished until I finish it. There have been a couple by this author where the twists were easier to see coming. I only saw ONE and I didn't get that one until just a few paragraphs before the reveal, which I LOVE!

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review: Confidential

Confidential Confidential by Ellie Monago
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this book, hence the 3 star rating.

What I liked:
*Anything psychology related, in treatment therapy being the holy grail of subject matter for me.
*The sucky therapist gets murdered.
*The murderer doesn't get punished for killing before mentioned sucky therapist.

What I hated:
*Pretty much every character, especially the women, but even the detective investigating the murder.
*Who the killer turned out to be because if you read the book, you're probably with me on how that should have gone down.
*Female characters written as stereotypical, weak willed fools . All of them. Every female in the book is written that way and it got old quickly.

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Review: The One

The One The One by John Marrs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I put this one off for some reason and now I think it was the universe making sure I had the time to devote because I absolutely DEVOURED this!

Each chapter is from the viewpoint of one character and something is revealed right before the chapter change that makes you want to strangle Marrs. But that's how you end up making a dent in your couch because you can't stop reading. Despite some rather unrealistic occurrences, The One was a unique plot, well written, well paced and full of characters both despicable and delightful.

I will recommend this book to all of my bookies.

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Review: Passage to Sunrise: A novel

Passage to Sunrise: A novel Passage to Sunrise: A novel by Bruno Jambor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For readers who enjoy espionage, terrorist plots, clandestine government operations and the stereotypical macho action, Passage to Sunrise by Bruno Jambor looks to be a par for the course novel. However, this one melds into something unique as it finds itself listed on Religious and Christian reading lists. I did not see that coming and to be honest, if the faith based background had been prominently declared, I might have rolled my eyes because... well, the two genres aren't traditionally paired plot-wise, right?

Mr. Jambor is a talented writer who creates memorable characters and weaves a sense of reality through his entire story that feels organic. At the end the reader finds out there is a prequel available called Wildfire in the Desert. I am a reader that drools for a prequel to a story I love so I'm sure many fans will be rushing to devour that as well.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Review: Leverage the Field for Success: Using Quantum Reality to Succeed in the Corporate World

Leverage the Field for Success: Using Quantum Reality to Succeed in the Corporate World Leverage the Field for Success: Using Quantum Reality to Succeed in the Corporate World by John Jay McKey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Leverage the Field for Success: Using Quantum Reality to Succeed in the Corporate World is a business help manual written by John Jay McKey. The author is a data analytics expert who claims that the key to success in business can be achieved using quantum reality. Basically, quantum reality is a fancy business version of using positive affirmations to bring good things into your life. Obviously it is a little more complicated than that, the word quantum should have been the first clue, but in only 178 pages, Mr. McKey spells out things quite nicely. People in business from CEO to low level managers can find wisdom here that will help along the past to success.

Though I am not in business in the traditional sense, I found this book to be positive and clearly articulated. I see this as a book that can only help both the business and people involved in business be quite successful.

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Review: The Helpers: An international tale of Espionage and Corruption

The Helpers: An international tale of Espionage and Corruption The Helpers: An international tale of Espionage and Corruption by S.E. Nelson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At 451 pages, this is not a one afternoon beach read. The Helpers: An international tale of Espionage and Corruption by S.E. Nelson is a meaty novel featuring murder, intrigue, corruption, romance, and suspense. Set in Congo, a notorious place of nearly constant unrest and violence, The Helpers are a powerful underground group trying to maintain control of the natural resources of the country. An American journalist arrives to document the resistance and finds herself in immeasurable danger when she uncovers multiple levels of corruption including a brutal murder.

Nelson has a writing style that is direct, which is perfect for this kind of story. The suspense and underlying danger of the plot demands that but beyond the assertiveness of the work, there is a tenderness underlying everything. That softness is where the reader finds the room to care about these characters and what happens to them. Some may call this dark subject matter but I found a hopefulness about it.

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