Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Last Secret of the Temple

I would not have found this book if not for the Nook free Friday offerings. I am so glad I did though. A “thriller set against the tumultuous politics of the present-day Middle East” is not a book I would normally pick up, but this was a pleasant surprise. There is an intriguing mix of history, politics, religion and mysticism that grabs you and keeps you in the story.

My knowledge of the Middle East as it currently exists is probably on par with most Westerners. My historical context is perhaps slightly above the average, but not by a whole lot. Where I feel I have a certainly more than fair grasp of the context is the religious history and folklore. Why am I telling you this – so you can understand better what I brought into reading this book.

It would be so very easy to adopt a moral position and tone and turn any story set against this backdrop into a heavy-handed lecture. Paul Sussman not only avoids this trap, but makes it seem effortless to have done so.

The 3 main characters are an Egyptian police inspector, a Palestinian journalist and a Jewish detective. A diverse cast, but even more interesting is the fact that for a good portion of the book they inhabit their own worlds only being brought into each other’s as the book nears its climax.

Oddly I found myself relating most closely to the middle aged Muslim Egyptian detective, Khalifa. His love of history and sadness at giving up the life he had planned paired with his love of family, questions about his faith and his sense of right and wrong is perfect. Arieh and Layla are dynamic and fully developed characters as well. In Arieh, the Jewesh detective, Sussman gives us a man grieving, hurt and angry – but who still wants to do what is right, even if he isn’t sure what that is. The Palestinian journalist Layla is hard and fierce but also vulnerable deep down inside.  The history given to both of them deepens not only the characters but the reader’s understanding of the two sides involved in this ever present conflict.

Add to this a brilliant storyline crossing centuries and continents and what you have is an amazing book. The way in which the story weaves together is always fascinating and the pattern that develops constantly surprises but never in a contrived or forced way.

I took more time reading this book than I normally do. As I read very quickly normally and would usually have finished this book in less than 4 hours I was surprised to find that I spent about 6 ½ hours reading this. Part of that can be attributed to pausing to research a couple of things, but mostly it was because it caused be to think about my own beliefs and prejudices.

This book is described as a thriller, which it most definitely is, but it is also part political and social commentary – in the best way.

Thank you Paul Sussman for an exciting, well written and moving book.

Review: Dawn’s End: Outworld Apocalypse by Bonnie Ferrante

Dawn's End: Outworld Apocalypse
Dawn’s End: Outworld Apocalypse by Bonnie Ferrante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dawn’s End and Outworld are connected by a single common denominator: Anastacia. Daughter of Nicole Newman – savior of Dawn’s End – and Alaric Morrel, Anastacia is considered what would be high royalty to its inhabitants. She and her family are forever welcome into Dawn’s End in the case she’d ever need to relocate.

Given the declining state of the Outworld due to extreme climate changes and the fallout caused by humans and their destructive behavior in the face of panic, uncertainty, and massive loss, Anastacia should really be looking into her relocation options.

She has a powerful ally within Dawn’s End, a longtime friend named Bedad. Through his love of science, and his love for Anastacia, he is an integral part in the struggle to save her, her family, and a handful of those she loves.

It’s a race against time and the elements, and challenges and roadblocks plague every turn. Will they reach Dawn’s End in time, and will Dawn’s End accept them all? Can the Outworld be saved in spite of itself?

Dawn’s End: Outworld Apocalypse is a light, fun read. I did not have the opportunity to read the first two books in this series, but I was able to read it alone without too much struggle. There is enough backstory peppered throughout to give a basic scaffolding to the reader. No doubt there exists a much richer, deeper understanding if the reader has actually read the first two books.

The apocalypse occurring in the Outworld is desperate and scary. I found the events a bit choppy, and perhaps that was the author’s intention, but the timeline of events in the book felt a bit warped. Much attention would be paid to a singular, seemingly-devastating event but then everything seemed to return to a slightly-altered status quo. I didn’t get the feeling that the characters’ worlds were shattering the way they “should” given the state of the world. Things remained mostly normal long after things should have flipped a complete 180.

I felt a few things were rushed while others were drawn out. Specifically, the devastation that took place within Dawn’s End regarding the children living there was a mere blip on the radar, while details about the Outworlders’ gardens were plentiful. I would have liked to have read more about the former, in greater detail that would have endeared me to their struggles. Similarly, the disbanding of the Council was abrupt, and I really longed for more information.

These criticisms aside, Dawn’s End: Outworld Apocalypse was a good read. I recommend it!

Disclaimer: I was provided this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

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My Friends are Dead People by Tony J. Ortiz

I did not want to read past page 19 of this 184 page book. Finishing all of those 184 pages was an exercise in perseverance that yielded nothing but disappointment.

The synopsis sounded great.

“In a secret world that coexists with our human one, a selected few among the dead are given a second chance at life. But there’s a catch. They must become hideous monsters that can only live one day each year.”

Sadly this book comes nowhere close to living up to this. The writing is sub par, sentence structure is choppy and does not flow and the use of some phrases and basic English vocabulary is awkward at times. Ideas and themes that have potential to be interesting are not fully developed.

Conversations between characters seem forced and stilted. None of the dialogue feels natural.

Right from the start the book just doesn’t make sense. The main character a 13 year old boy named Jesse is at the veterinarians with his mom and a very odd cat. For some reason a group of “renowned vets” are going to come in and evaluate this cat and decide whether to euthanize it or not. No real reason is given for why this cat would warrant this kind of special attention not that it matters because that whole storyline is just kind of dropped before page 20.

Ortiz created some very unusual relationships between his characters but fails to provide any basis for those decidedly odd interactions. The entire book reads like a badly staged school play written by 10 year old boys who haven’t really decided what they want to write about.

The underlying idea could be very intriguing if developed into a well thought out and executed story. There are some great descriptions of things but great descriptions are not enough to make a book worth reading.

I wanted to like this book – it just didn’t happen. With some rewrites and a good editor’s input I’d certainly try it again but as it stands I won’t be reading anymore in this series. 

I was provided a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.

Book Tour: Naturally, Charlie and A Political Affair

A Political Affair

A Political Affair isn’t Fifty Shades of Red, White, and Blue, but it is a love story with spice and political intrigue. Stephen McEvoy never expected to fill his father’s U.S. Senate seat at such a young age—or to fight to keep it. When clever Anne Norwood interns in his office, Stephen dismisses her as another pretty face—until her independent streak catches his attention. They’re both too smart to fall for one another, yet they do. During a tough election, their relationship is an impossible political gamble. Campaigns—like love—are either won or lost.

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Even before she graduated from law school, Mary knew she wasn’t cut out to be a real lawyer. Drawn to politics, she’s spent her career as an organizer, lobbyist, and nonprofit executive. Nothing piques her interest more than a good political scandal or romance, and when she stumbled upon writing, she put the two together. A born Midwesterner, naturalized Texan, and transient resident of Washington, D.C., Mary now lives in Northern California

 

 

Naturally, Charlie

Twenty-five year old Charlotte “Charlie” Barrow is caught between her old life, and the one she is beginning to build, when she crosses paths with a handsome stranger on the subway. Not looking for romance, she closes her heart off to the possibilities of love. With a knack for mishaps, Charlie maintains her sense of humor while befriending the kind stranger who seems to be there at all the right times.

New York freelance writer, Charlie Adams, is forging his own path beyond the expectations of the society circles of his childhood. Rejecting family money, and fast-lane friends, he is snubbed by his family as he follows his own compass to a life more extraordinary.

Through a coincidence of events, they come to rely on each other for comfort. This is the tale of two Charlies learning to trust again while fighting their fates to create their own destiny.

 

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S.L. Scott is a former high-tech account manager with a journalism degree pursuing her passion for telling stories. She spends her days escaping into her characters and letting them lead her on their adventures.
Live music shows, harvesting jalapenos and eating homemade guacamole are her obsessions she calls hobbies.
Scott lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country of Austin with her husband, two young sons, two Papillons and a bowl full of Sea Monkeys.
www.slscottauthor.com
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#Review: Edenborn by Nick Sagan. #Post-apocalyptic #dystopian #book review.

Edenborn
Edenborn by Nick Sagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What happened?

I think, for me, Edenborn is the vegetable after the delicious main course but before the yummy dessert. You gotta get through it, make the best of it, find what you can enjoy from it, but you’re not thrilled during, and you’re super glad when you’re done. Let’s move on to cake!

First, let’s talk about this book.

Edenborn is the second installment of Nick Sagan’s Idlewild series. Set 18 years after the kids were released from their pods, we are introduced to the first children created after the apocalypse (via Black Ep) completely wiped out every last gasp of humanity. I use the word “created” because these aren’t natural-born children … they are clones. Some cloned yet engineered with genetic variance (aka, imperfections) and others cloned yet engineered to be as durable as possible. All iterations are required to take daily medications to continuously fight the enduring (and constantly mutating) Black Ep.

The original Kids (now all 36 years old) are split up around the world, yet are able to keep in contact with pretty useful high-tech gadgets. Video phones, airplanes, (heli)copters, constant access to IVR … this is no post-apocalyptic world where back-to-basics reigns. High-level medical equipment appears to be available, and everyone does a pretty good job at staying connected. We’re still minus Halloween and Fantasia, but not for very long.

The first half of the book is tortuously slow-paced. We learn in fits and starts who this new generation is made up of .. their hopes, dreams, desires, beliefs… Some are massively disappointing cliches, some are a product of their upbringing and massively religious, and others still are exactly who their “parents” wanted them to be (clones of themselves). We learn about the minutiae of their days, the drama of their interactions, and the futility I imagine one might feel in the face of the End of the World.

At the end, however, I found myself missing the slower pace. I found myself yearning for what “used to be” merely 100 pages ago. I realized what I had that I was losing in the span of a chapter. Life as we knew it was turned upon its ear and chaos took hold. The ending is dramatic and nauseating and confusing, and had I not been teased with the first chapter (ish) of the next installment, I would have scratched my head asking, “Wha…? the hell just happened and how do I reconcile it?”

There is no reconciliation. There is no good explanation. Shit happens, and it happened in Edenborn.

The snippet of the next book looks to be really good, though. I may need to take a break for a bit to recover and renew.

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Misterio Press Killer Fiction Massive Giveaway – 4 Winners!

Celebrity Status, A Kate Huntington Mystery

Kate is now married to Skip Canfield, the man who patiently courted her through the last two books in this mystery series, and life is good. Skip’s private investigating agency, Canfield and Hernandez, may be doing a little too well, however. They have attracted their first celebrity client, a pop singer whose anonymous stalker has a twisted concept of love. Before Skip realizes just how twisted, he involves his psychotherapist wife and their lawyer friend, Rob Franklin, in the case. Soon they are being hounded by paparazzi and someone is planting evidence to convince Skip that Kate and Rob are lovers. As they try to protect their relationship and family from this onslaught of unwanted attention, Kate and Skip struggle with the reality that you can’t always keep those you love from harm.

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Book 1, MULTIPLE MOTIVES

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Karma’s A Bitch (A Pet Psychic Mystery)

Darwin Winters, reluctant pet psychic, is determined to leave her family’s paranormal past behind and lead a normal life. So she strikes out on her own and opens up a new pet boutique in St. Pete, Florida. When a local homeless man she befriends is found dead, and the police assume it’s a suicide, Darwin has no choice but to use her gift to help collar the killer.

She adopts his grieving mastiff, Karma—and with the dog’s help—tries to piece together the events of that fatal night. Accepting the visions is one thing, but can she solve the mystery without revealing her powers to the jaded, yet drool-worthy, detective in charge of the case? Or will the killer put an end to her psychic sleuthing and bury the truth for good?

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The Shamanic Detective

When Riga Hayworth’s lover is arrested, she’s determined to unearth the truth, no matter the cost. But life – and death – get in the way.

All Riga wants is to clear the name of her almost-fiancée, Donovan Mosse. But a death faerie has other plans for her, and Riga is forced to protect a shaman with a house full of murderous relatives. The only way to stop this killer is to figure out who he, or she, is before the next strike. As the two cases become entangled, Riga must choose between facts and faith, and decide just how far she’s willing to go for love.

The Shamanic Detective is a paranormal mystery set in Lake Tahoe, and explores shamanism, the shadow, and the world of the fae.

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Book 1: The Metaphysical Detective
Book 2: The Alchemical Detective
Book 3: The Shamanic Detective

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Lana’i of the Tiger (The Islands of Aloha Mystery Series)

In mid-November, Maui wedding planner Pali Moon is hustled into witness protection after sticking her nose in a hush-hush federal sting operation aimed at taking down a vicious drug lord. She’s sent to the private island of Lana’i, Hawaii, to hang out while the feds finish up. After a month she’s bored, homesick and WITSEC’s worst nightmare until she lands a job tending a cozy B & B in Lana’i City.

Movie mogul Tyler Benson checks in and he decides on a whim to marry his long-time girlfriend on Lana’i—far from the stalking paparazzi. But before long, the bushes are rustling with reporters and photogs hoping to get a scoop on the wedding or a candid photo of the reclusive celeb. Then a body is found in Tyler’s fiancée’s suite and the tabloids shout, amen! Who needs a ho-hum wedding when you can have a star-studded murder?

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Book 1 Maui Widow Waltz (Islands of Aloha Mystery Series)

Book 2 Livin’ Lahaina Loca (Islands of Aloha Mystery Series)

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Night of the Purple Moon – Scott Cramer

Scott Cramer packs a lot into 188 pages. I made the mistake of reading this right before bed last night and had serious trouble going to sleep. But that is a good thing. This book had my mind whirling with questions and left me with a lingering sense of sadness tinged with fear.

On a night when the moon and the world are cast into a lovely purple haze due to a comet’s passing a nightmare begins to unfold. Children around the world wake up to a world in which the adults have died. The terror that this would cause is obvious. Cramer does an excellent job of putting that into words on paper.

It would be almost impossible to write this kind of a story without some hints of Lord of the Flies coming into play. I think almost every school child in America had to read that book. And while there are some allusions to the most well known characters,  Cramer manages to weave them into his own story without letting them overwhelm.  They stay as mere hints.

As an adult reading this book I feel quite certain I had a different reaction to many parts of it than a 12 or 15 year old would. The complete sense of helplessness this inspired when imagining my own niece and stepsons in this world is what kept me up. I would profoundly hope that they would be more like Abby and Jordan in their response to the catastrophe. I enjoyed that Cramer chose to portray how such a situation could let some of the best inner qualities of mankind shine. Compassion, caring and community.

Nothing is glossed over though. Some of the more awful realities and choices that could be made are present as well. This is definitely for the mature YA reader. While some 10 year olds would read and be able to handle the emotional complexity expressed I am sure there are many that would not. This book has the capability to really disturb someone because it causes deeper thought on things many would not want to dwell on.

The only weaknesses I found in the book were an occasional awkwardness in the description of romantic moments and that the switches between what character was narrating were not always clear immediately. But these are very small weaknesses in an otherwise excellent book.

I look forward to the next installment.

 

I was provided a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.