Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: The Abduction Chronicles

The Abduction Chronicles The Abduction Chronicles by Thomas L. Hay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had the honor of beta reading "The Abduction Chronicles" for author Thomas Hay when he was still contemplating separating Chronicles up into three books. I found the story I read entertaining and creative as it was. Hay's way of crossing the lines of the reality for humans and the questions of what might be out there is quite honestly a breath of fresh literary air. The reader is never truly on top of the story, nor should he be; what fun would that be? Keep in mind that the characters, as off the wall as they may seem, as quirky and quite honestly dumb as they might show themselves to be, serve a purpose you can't yet see. You do not know where this story is going, how it will reach its finality, that much I promise you. Everything that a reader might be thinking is a mistake that is railroading the whole plot, I say to you, just keep reading. It's not what you think, it's better. It's not completely absurd, it's a possible truth if you can let go of the Starbucks world you live in most of the time. "The Abduction Chronicles" is absolutely sci-fi but with a human element that, if you let it, will open your mind. At the very least you'll get hulluva entertaining read out of it!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Review: That Woman: Beating the odds in colonial New York

That Woman: Beating the odds in colonial New York That Woman: Beating the odds in colonial New York by Wayne Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will admit that historical fiction as a genre is a one I have to stumble upon rather than go in search of. That Woman by Wayne Clark makes lists of Great, Recommended, and Superbly Written Historical Fiction lists on The summary hints of a cunning female lead besting her male counterparts in a harsh, unforgiving time and place in history.

Sarah as a character came across tough as nails with just enough vulnerability, therefore escaping the damsel in distress scenario I so despise. She is a woman who bends and twists with the current in such a way to further herself and those she loves. The bad guys are clearly defined as such and the straightforwardness is a breath of fresh air in a genre where that kind of crystalline definition can come off as gimmicky or cliche. I would be surprised to find a reader who felt they had read this very story before save different character names and divergent settings. Clark sets Sarah exactly where he wants her to be in your mind and good luck telling yourself differently.

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Review: Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets

Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets by K.J. Blocker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets is billed as a children's book and yes, there are many child friendly aspects to the novel. There are also a lot of angles that are not so benign and unfortunately during my reading I kept reacting to those parts with a tad of parental trepidation.

Jimmy is the youth in the narrative. He is present for the trials and tribulations that the plot throws at the characters but it still seemed to me that he and his feelings weren't the true receptacle of the lessons exhibited in Treasure of the Magical Mine Moppets. Jimmy's father, Tom, and the rest of the adults in the story felt like the centerpiece of the story and it didn't jive with the children's book I expected when I started to read. The writing here is gilden prose in some parts and juvenile in others and the wild swing made me dizzy.

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Review: Silken Prey

Silken Prey Silken Prey by John Sandford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's truly not that this book wasn't good. It was. Silken Prey is everything a political crime thriller should be; characters you love and despise, underhanded tactics to the Nth degree, and a precise pace pulling the reader along at a rate perfectly suited for this genre. On the other hand, I was so disappointed at the ending. Yeah yeah yeah, it's the reality of this type of thing but damn, I wanted a bang that all the bad guys felt in their cold, dead hearts!

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Review: Sapphire of Souls

Sapphire of Souls Sapphire of Souls by M.R. Mathias
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sapphire of Souls is Book 2 of 3 in the Fantastica series by M.R. Mathias. I am coming in cold, having not read Book 1, Taerak's Void. In my opinion, you really need to start at the beginning to truly appreciate Fantastica. I have read many reviews saying that coming in on Book 2 was no problem, and to some degree I can see that. Fantastica was a solid science fiction/mythology novel and it could conceivably stand alone; I did enjoy it and didn't find myself confused or lost. Perhaps just knowing there was a previous book is what did me in. This is in no way the fault of the author.

The defining characteristic of a good sci-fi for me comes in both the world created by the writer and the array of creatures and the personalities he gives them. In Fantastica we have humans, elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards, and demons. Everything was vividly illustrated in the most colorful way, somehow making the reader forget they're reading rather than seeing the story in the mind's eye.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: Accumulation

Accumulation Accumulation by Buan Boonaca
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Baun Boonaca's Accululation finds itself on Goodreads lists such as Best Dark Humor, Best Quirky Dark Novels, and Best Books You've Never Heard Of. That alone had my attention and from page one, this novel was unparalleled in cleverness and provocative all around. In the beginning, Accumulation comes off as a comedy. Cam's character plays sophomoric nearing simpleton, standing on the precipice of growing up and leaning toward not doing so. It's right at the point when you accept that vibe and settle in that there's an almost infinitesimal shift in the tone of the story. Before you know it, you're knee deep in a much different comedy; something a little more morose. I wouldn't call it dark or sinister, it's more a realities of life kind of thing.

I don't want to give anything away so I hesitate to delve much into the plot beyond what the summary gives us. Accumulation is much more than simply the story of a young man who gets one tattoo and more and more mysteriously appear on his body. So much more.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: In the Woods

In the Woods In the Woods by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, folks, if you like a little closure in your novels, look elsewhere. I'm incensed at this ending! One horrific murder solved. The big one you waited to figure out for 429 pages? Apparently not necessary.

This is my first Tana French book. The writing is incredibly good, descriptive, inventive... any number of flowery adjectives will do. French's characters are brilliantly realistic. And by realistic, I mean they're so well written you might want to strangle them at times. As gobsmacked as I feel at getting such a hemorrhaging open wound of an ending, In the Woods has made a fan of me.

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Review: The Interview Room

The Interview Room The Interview Room by Roderick Anscombe
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a decent crime thriller. You almost can't go wrong with psychiatrists and their crazy ass patients. There really isn't a big reveal to the reader, only to Paul, it seemed. I saw it coming a mile away and spent a lot of the time I read this incredibly frustrated with Paul, despising his wife, and not even a little concerned with the villain. So perhaps 'decent' is being generous.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Review: Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit

Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit by Anne Bahr Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are a person clawing your way through the business world, you might want to consider reading Do Good. Today's consumer demands more than just a satisfactory product, they require knowledge that a company is looking out for more than Number One. That is Brand Citizenship and any business person should be acutely aware of and embracing it because it's the only future.

"Based on extensive research with thousands of consumers, Do Good documents this sea change and explains how to embed social consciousness into a company’s DNA. Packed with examples and original data, the five-step model highlights the new rules of business:

TRUST: Deliver on promises
ENRICHMENT: Make daily life easier or more inspiring
RESPONSIBILITY: Treat people and the environment with respect
COMMUNITY: Mirror values shared by customers, employees, and partners
CONTRIBUTION: Make a difference in the world."

Anne Bahr Thompson sets forth a clear and candid handbook citing real world examples and detailing the nitty gritty of the way to the hearts of consumers. No longer is the stereotypical shrewd, heartless business giant poised to snag the loyal buyer. A smaller, social conscious company known to nurture employees and embrace environmental friendliness can and likely will win the hearts and therefore the devotion of those with their fingers on the button of their success or failure. So simple and a long time coming!

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Review: Time and Blood

Time and Blood Time and Blood by Sherry Rentschler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantasies including mythical creatures like dragons and fairies are a dime a dozen. Fantasies written well enough to virtually allow the reader to forget that these creatures aren't actually real are most definitely not common. Time and Blood is a relatively short novel, though not short on details somehow. The characters demand to be cared for and the dialogue directs each scene without the dreaded "telling" aftertaste we all know and despise. With a plot full of action and heart, this book pulls you along through the story smoothly and easily.

Time and Blood is my first literary encounter with Sherry Rentschler. Reading up on her you will find that she is a poet as well as an author of several different genres of fiction. Thinking back on it now, I can appreciate that she brought a little of everything together here and perhaps that's why it was so good. I hope to be able to read more of her works soon.

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Review: Ahe'ey

Ahe'ey Ahe'ey by Jamie Le Fay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ahe'ey stands tall as a smart, full bodied fantasy written by the obviously talented Jamie Le Fay. Touted as a feminist's dream of a novel, the 'I am woman, hear me roar' vibe runs deep without being obnoxious. When you reflect on the fact that this manages to be a girl power work and a romance, you begin to see how insightful Le Fay writes. Piled on feminism and romance, Ahe'ey also mixes bits of action, fantasy, and paranormal in and still it doesn't feel overdone.

One of the few grumbles I have about the book is that the reader is thrown into this story seemingly in the middle. We have no idea who anyone is or why they might be important. For someone like me, that is jarring and my compulsive need to have everything known and straight in my head can't handle it. I am aware that some people enjoy massive unknowns in their literature; those people should have no issues. The appendices found at the end of the book laid out much useful information to help clear up aspects of the story. I wish I had known it was included, I think I would have been less lost.

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Review: Amazon Echo User Guide: Newbie to Expert in 1 Hour!

Amazon Echo User Guide: Newbie to Expert in 1 Hour! Amazon Echo User Guide: Newbie to Expert in 1 Hour! by Tom Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tom and Jenna Edwards are Amazon's pet technical writers and for good reason. This user guide begins with admitting that none of this is new or even elusive information, only that it has been culled from websites and product inserts far and wide and presented here in this simple, singular place. I appreciate a healthy dose of honesty in a technical manual.

As an Alexa owner (or does she own me now?) I can attest to some of the quirks she has and how frustrating they can be. It only seems reasonable to assume that the Echo and Echo Plus would follow suit. I'm anxiously awaiting the Edwards summation on getting Alexa to understand the words I say even the third time I say them to her. Hint, hint.

Here is a straightforward, plain language handbook to help even the most technically impotent user master Amazon's Echo Plus. The time savings this provides by eliminating hours and hours scouring the internet for this information alone is worth the price.

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Review: Bound by Desire: Age gap love stories

Bound by Desire: Age gap love stories Bound by Desire: Age gap love stories by I J Stinington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bound by Desire is a collection of short, erotic, fantasy stories. There is something included for those with sexual fantasies of many different persuasions. Erotica is a tough genre from my experience; a thin line between sexy and pornographic exists and riding it just right must be precarious. As far as sexual content, I would say that I J Stinington did manage to land on the less tawdry side here.

I tried to keep in mind that characters in short stories cannot be as fully fleshed out as they might be in a full length novel. Having said that, none of the characters in these stories were impressive; I know that I will not think of them beyond posting this review. They served a specific purpose for each narrative only, mostly by way of unapologetic cliche. The dialogue in a couple of the stories was done well but more often it lacked the natural cadence that gives a realistic touch to it. Overall, for erotica, Bound by Desire was adequate.

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Review: The Wordsmith

The Wordsmith The Wordsmith by Alan Ayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wordsmith is absolutely dazzling in the most ominous fashion. The story is reminiscent of a Stephen King novel in terms of a unique and unconventional storyline. Unless you are a clandestine, evil genius, even when some of the mystery is seemingly revealed, don't assume you know where it is headed because you don't. Alan Ayer is a gifted storyteller whom we are bound to read more from in the future based on this, his first novel.

Walt is an acclaimed author who has made a fortune on several brilliant works of fiction that, as it turns out, he has nothing to do with creating. Living a lie and benefitting immensely from it has taken a toll on his conscience. His relationship is suffering and the fragile framework surrounding the deceit is crumbling around him. What ensues is a fascinating tale of the lengths a man will go to for fame and fortune. I want to give nothing away, every reveal is worth the wait.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Review: Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret

Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret Growth Hacking: Silicon Valley's Best Kept Secret by Raymond Fong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone can appreciate a how to guide written by an author who is an expert in the focused field. With Growth Hacking you get double the pleasure. Raymond Fong and Chad Ridderson are two highly skilled authorities on business and marketing. Together they bring the everyday business owner a unique technique for growing an enterprise from nearly dead to astounding profits called growth hacking using an Automated Sales Process, or ASP as it's referred to throughout the book.

Written in layman's terms, the average person who hasn't spent their career in Silicone Valley can easily comprehend and execute the game plan that is growth hacking. Informational illustrations throughout provide diagrams to emphasize important points and tidbits of information seemingly intended to encourage individuality and a sense of enthusiasm in the reader. Ending with the notion that success is a process and not a destination, this guidebook is one every business owner who wants to take his or her business to the next level should have on hand.

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Review: The Scalian Legacy: Victory Before The War

The Scalian Legacy: Victory Before The War The Scalian Legacy: Victory Before The War by Norbert Monfort
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In general, I will spurn a science fiction book once I see the words aliens or space travel in the summary. That specific sci-fi focus rarely captures my attention, even when written by authors who are brilliant at their craft. The Scalian Legacy by Norbert Monfort snuck up on me and somehow managed to have me furiously turning the pages (or clicking the next arrow as the case may be). So much so that I have my fingers crossed that Monfort brings these characters and the engrossing universe in which they exist on further adventures in the form of a series. That is not a game plan I put forth to an abundance of authors. *Please hear me, Mr. Monfort!

Sit down with plenty of time to read because finding a slow spot to take a break (or sleep) will be a formidable task. Jack's rescue mission turns into an adventure filled with peril and wonder the abundance of rarely exist in any pleasing way in one novel. Truly a thrilling read from beginning to end.

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Review: Aftermath

Aftermath Aftermath by Joe Reyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Post-apocalyptic fiction is quickly becoming a coveted genre for me. Joe Reyes' Aftermath most certainly belongs on any dystopian loving reader's To Read list.

Set in a decimated United States that is no longer a formal country, Aftermath portrays life after the bombs fell from several different points of view. Ian, Carmen, Sara, Ron, Eric, Justin, and Alice are each rebuilding their lives and surviving by different tactics, ranging from slave to vigilante and all positions between. The moral compass swings wide among them yet as different as their paths may be, they find themselves facing the same future together.

This is not a book for those who can't handle a good amount of gore. Blood and guts are the least of the triggers you may find yourself recoiling from in this novel. That said, in my opinion, Aftermath wouldn't be the triumph that it is without every bit of it. Reyes has crafted a novel capturing the potential consequence of actions we are witnessing in the real world and it's as riveting as it is terrifying.

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Review: The Piketty Problem: or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

The Piketty Problem: or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming The Piketty Problem: or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming by Garth Hallberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first glance, The Piketty Problem appears to be a book geared toward children simply by cover image and the title including the phrase 'the robots are coming, the robots are coming". It most definitely is not that and furthermore, on the surface, it borders on non-fiction thinly veiled as fiction, an alternate reality, if you will. I by no stretch of the imagination mean any of that in a negative way. In fact I found it to be the best type of political satire; that which makes you think. Garth Hallberg nailed it perfectly here.

We're all living in a world where Donald Trump is president. However you feel about that fact, you have to admit it is a scenario few truly thought would come to fruition. In The Piketty Problem, Hallberg provides us with another scenario most of us aren't conscious of being on the verge of reality, robots replacing humans in the workforce and all that might entail. The story is propelled by characters who seem to be black and white good and bad guys until you realize it's not as cut and dry as it first seemed. Witty dialogue and a smooth flowing plot line makes for an easy, enjoyable read. By the end of the book, you just might not be as so confidant in your convictions as you were on page one.

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