Month: October 2017

Review of ‘Tyranny of Secrets’

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When talented computer scientist Mariana McAllister is recruited into the dark side of a small computer company, she’s assigned to manipulate an election in the UK. Later, along with her former lover, Sander Bonham, a privacy activist, she learns that her code is being used to steal the US presidential election, and Sander is in the crosshairs of a government assassin to keep him from exposing the dastardly plot. Mariana and Sander then go on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of squads of killers while they also try to shine light on the dark machinations of a shadowy group known as the Politburo.

Tyranny of Secrets by John Statton is fiction, but, given the events surrounding the 2016 US presidential election, could very well have been cribbed from daily headlines. Eerily suspenseful and packed with action from start to finish, this book will make you hesitate the next time you log onto the Internet or even use an ATM. A chilling indictment of government’s intrusion into our private lives and the control exerted by the powerful and wealthy over our daily lives.

This is one that, once you start reading, you will not be able to put it down until you finish, and after you stop reading, you won’t be able to stop thinking about.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘ Resurrection Flowers’

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Florida construction worker Rod Hill takes a bullet in the chest, and ends up in the morgue, where the next day, he wakes up. Doctors are puzzled, and the government is interested enough to send FBI agent Vernon Nielsen to investigate and see if Rod might be a fraud. Vernon and his wife believe in the Resurrected Man—going so far as the wife establishing a web site where resurrection adherents can follow Rod’s daily movements. In the meantime, a religious cult in Europe dispatches Aeva Tbolski to determine whether or not Rod’s a demon or spirit, in which case she is to send him back to the afterlife. Instead, she becomes his companion, accompanying him on his quest to find out why he survived what should have been a fatal attack.

If you like your fiction wacky, you’ll enjoy Resurrection Flowers by H. C. Turk. Along with the often slapstick humor, though, there are touches of the metaphysical and philosophical. It wanders a bit, as Rod and Aeva stumble from adventure to misadventure. At the end, I wasn’t really sure what the point was, but it was a relatively interesting read that I give three and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Amulet Thief’

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When her mother was murdered, young Alex Kelley was spirited away from NYC to Indiana by her mother’s best friend, Ava. After 21 years of a secretive existence, Alex returns to New York seeking answers to her mother’s death. She first encounters shadowy beings who seem to be following her, and then she meets Greer Sinclair, a mysterious man who seems to know more about her and her past than he should. The more she delves into her past, the more questions she has. Who are what is Greer, and more importantly, just what is she? The key seems to be an amulet her mother gave her just before she died, and when it goes missing, things heat up for Alex. Can she find the amulet, and unlock the dark secrets of her past before unknown forces end her life? Only time will tell.

The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett is an eclectic blend of the modern and the supernatural that makes for captivating reading from start to finish. The dynamic between Alex and Greer, though never fully explained, appears to be the point around which all other actions revolve. An exciting book that is hard to put down.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Infinity Born’

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When a top-secret DARPA project on AGI is sabotaged, Navy Lieutenant Cameron Carr is assigned a one-man mission to find whoever was responsible. It’s not just American security at stake, hostile forces are also seeking control over Artificial General Intelligence, a self-aware computer that can control the world, and which poses a threat to all of humanity.
Infinity Born by Douglas E. Richards is a thriller without parallel. Chocked full of nonstop action and intrigue, with a backdrop of high-technology; some real, so imagined, but with enough authenticity to make it hard to tell which is which, this story will capture your imagination like few of the genre have ever done.
A must-read for hard-core sci-fi thriller fans. I give this one five stars. A compelling read.

Review of ‘The Falcon Rises’

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With her tribe in turmoil, attempting to regain their homeland, and her twin sister missing, Nefert, queen of one of the tribes of Egypt’s desert, must use all her wits to secure assistance from the Egyptians, and their devious queen, Tiye. When Nefert learns Tiye’s true aim, she realizes that it will take all that she has to win, and survive, and to take her rightful place as Queen Nefertiti, sharing the throne of Egypt with Amenhotep.

The Falcon Rises is book 2 in the Desert Queen series by M. L. Bullock, chronicling the journey of Nefertiti during a pivotal era in Egypt’s history. This narrative provides a fictional account of the intervals between the chronicled history of Egypt’s royal dynasties, in a credible and authentic manner. This look behind the scenes and between the sheets will keep your attention riveted from the first page to the last.

I give this book five stars.

Review of ‘Earth Zero’

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After a cosmic event has mostly destroyed earth, turning many survivors into mutants known as Zaps, the surviving unaffected humans gear up for an assault on the cities, now held by the Zaps. In the middle of this war of extinction, a small band of survivors is only trying to do just that—survive.
Rachel Wheeler, part human, part mutant, is feared by both sides, but when her group is drawn into what could be the final battle for humanity’s survival, she must decide whether to stay loyal to those she loves or fight for a cause she doesn’t fully believe in.

Earth Zero by Scott Nicholson is the second book in the post-apocalyptic Next series. In this story, the mutants have evolved the framework of a function society, but under the leadership of perpetual babies who are without maturity or moral compass, while the remnants of human society are in isolated bands worldwide, many having descended into anarchy. Unlike the first book, which focused primarily on Rachel, the main protagonist, this book shifts viewpoint several times to other characters, which can cause a bit of confusion.

It is still an interesting and provocative read. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Burgas Affair’

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On July 12, 2012, a bomb set off in a bus at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, setting in motion a joint Israeli-Bulgarian investigation to find those responsible.

The Burgas Affair by Ellis Shuman is a fictionalized account of this horrific, real-life event. Boyko Stanchev, an investigator with Bulgarian state security, is paired with Ayala Navon, an Israeli intelligence analyst on her first field assignment. As they follow lead after lead, trying to determine if those responsible for the bombing had local support, they are haunted by ghosts from Boyko’s past, a master criminal Boyko helped put in prison seeks revenge, and Ayala has to deal with memories of her own family’s tragedy.

A masterfully written fictional account that weaves personal tragedy into the intricacies of international police cooperation in a way that will grab and hold the reader’s attention throughout. I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one five stars.

Review of ‘The Fireproof Girl’

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Sophie Shields and Cole Hunter were damaged children. Abandoned as a child, Sophie grew up in the foster system, sexually abused as a child, she had never had anyone she could trust until she and Cole are thrown together in yet another foster home. Cole, who had watched his family destroyed in a fire when he was only nine, is determined to rebuild his life, and vows to protect Sophie forever—even from herself.

Sophie goes her own way, ending up working for the CIA because of her skill as a hacker, and in touch with Cole only through the letters he sends her frequently, until the letters stop. Then, she is informed that he has been gunned down in the hospital he designed, while working on an architectural project with one of the men who abused her most as a child, a man who has been seeking her ever since she faked her death and ran away.
Now, with the uncertain help of her wounded soldier on-again, off-again, boyfriend, Sophie is determined to find out what really happened to Cole—for, she’s sure that he’s not really dead.

The Fireproof Girl by Loretta Lost is a chilling tale of love, loss, betrayal, and redemption that will suck you into Sophie and Cole’s world like a high-powered vacuum cleaner. Using flashbacks from both characters’ lives, the author paints a mind-bending picture of lives that are warped and torn asunder by a soulless bureaucratic system that values wealth and position above humanity.

Once you start reading this book, I dare you to put it down.

I give it four stars.

 

Review of ‘Lionslayer’s Woman’

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After machinations by a thwarted suitor, an imperial purge leaves a stoic philosopher and his servants dead, and his wife and younger daughter held captive. The oldest daughter, Galeria, and her Parthian slave, Cyra, are determined to rescue them, a seemingly impossible task, until they are joined by Nexus, a former slave, devastated by the death of his lover, and Decaneus, a Dacian warrior, given the name Leonis after he slew a lion with his bare hands. Together, these four go up against the might of imperial Rome and overcome the barriers of sex and status in a story that will give you new insights into the so-called grandeur of ancient Rome.

Lionslayer’s Woman by Nhys Glover is a book that I categorize as multi-genre. It’s historical fiction at its best, an adventure story from start to finish, and a rough and tumble romance novel, that shows the barbarity of Rome, a level of viciousness that at times rivaled the barbarian kingdoms on its borders. Four amazing main characters who come to terms with each other and themselves during the course of their adventures, and a well-developed cast of supporting characters, inhabit a universe and act out a theme that is, in a word, captivating.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Resist the Machine’

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Clara Spinner is a 16-year-old Compassionate, a resident of the utopian nation of Avantica, half of what was once the United States. Avantica is at war with the Liberty United Democracy, or L.U.D., which is the other half. The two nations are polar opposites. L.U.D. believes in liberty and freedom based on wealth, but wallows in poverty and the immense divide between rich and poor, while Avantica is made up of genetically engineered citizens, each assigned a role in life before being ‘awakened.’ Clara, though, has flaws. She questions her role and status, hates her job, and has to hide these flaws or she will be classified defective and exiled to a certain death.

Resist the Machine by C. D. Verhoff is book one in the dystopian Avant Nation series. It follows Clara as she discovers the reason behind her divergent behavior, and begins to question the very foundations of her way of life. Though set in a distant, and dystopian future, this novel mirrors some of the divisions that currently exist in American politics and culture—exaggerated, but, not by much.
An interesting and intriguing read.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Autobiography of Howard Hughes’

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Reclusive billionaire, Howard Hughes, is one of the most famous, and little-known men of the 20th century. Tycoon, recluse, filmmaker, and aviator, more myths have been circulated about Hughes than the ‘Flying Dutchman.’ Clifford Irving’s Autobiography of Howard Hughes: Confessions of an Unhappy Billionaire purports to be Hughes’ life story, told in his own words. While the veracity of this account cannot be definitely established, it rings true, and is not just a story of Howard Hughes, but a series of untold stories of many other luminaries in American history during the period of Hughes life.

Whether you chose to believe this account or not is irrelevant, it is mesmerizing reading. A new, and somewhat disturbing look at the lives and times of some of the most well-known personalities in politics, entertainment and business, that will challenge everything you think you know.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Bad Karma’

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Trey Campbell, a psych-tech supervisor at Darden State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, is on vacation with his family, when one of his patients, a dangerous psychopath, Agnes Hatcher, escapes, leaving a trail of mutilated bodies in her wake. Her goal—to find him, or rather, to find her true love, a figure from a past life. For Trey, the choices are clear; he must end her if he and his family are to survive.

Bad Karma by Douglas Clegg is a blood-curdling thriller that will keep you awake long after you’ve finished reading it. Incisive prose, and measured tension mark this chilling thriller from start to finish. The author takes you uncomfortably deep inside the mind of tormented characters, grabs you by the throat, and never lets up.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Book of Five Rings’

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The art of Japanese sword fighting is as much Zen as war, and the principles can be applied to the boardroom as well as the battlefield. The 17th century classic, The Book of Five Rings, by the legendary Japanese swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, details the techniques that must be mastered if one is not only to master the art of battle, but, one’s self.

Translated, and reissued by XistPublishing in e-book format, this short book offers techniques—albeit not in exhaustive detail—for becoming a master strategist. These techniques can be applied to any endeavor, and, with practice, can lead to a significant change in outlook and outcomes.

As a bonus, the last third of the book is a guide for book clubs, that can be used in evaluating book club presentations. This guide is, believe it or not, also useful for authors, regardless of skill level, as a means of improving their writing.

This version had a number of typos that were missed in proofreading. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Robin Hood Hacker Collection’

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Ronnie is a world-class hacker. She and her assistant, Quirk, specialize in hacking into the financial systems of wealthy, and corrupt, corporations, and redistributing their ill-gotten gains to the needy—after, of course, taking a modest commission. The Robin Hood Hacker is on the FBI’s radar, and FBI Special Agent Zachary Hunt has an obsession with nabbing this cunning criminal. When he finally comes face-to-face with her, and discovers that contrary to the FBI profile, the hacker’s a woman, not a man, and is not working alone, he fails to catch her, but the two establish an emotional connection that leads him to conduct unauthorized communications with her for months.

The Hidden Hand, an ancient, super-secret terrorist organization is planning a replay of the plague pandemic, this time using an engineered version of the bubonic plague, to rid the world of unbelievers. Frustrated by its inability to crack the organization’s communications code, the government turns to Ronnie and Quirk for help, and uses Zachary as a conduit to her. What follows is a stunning tale of adventure, danger, intrigue and betrayal that will keep you feverishly turning pages.

Robin Hood Hacker Collection by Carolyn McCray is a collection of short stories, novellas, and a novel, that introduces Ronnie, Quirk, Zach, and his techno-geek side kick, Warp, and follows them through a series of harrowing adventures as they chase, and are chased by, the Hidden Hand. Though a bit heavy on the global pandemic aspect, this is nonetheless a fascinating tale—or series of tales—that fans of techno-thrillers will enjoy.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘For Hire’

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Retired Denver cop, Pat Ruger, does freelance PI work. When an old friend, weed dealer, Angel, refers a young woman to him, and she asks his help finding her missing sister, suspected of being taken and radicalized by an extremist group, he finds himself up to his waders in drug dealers and terrorists—all out to kill him.
Pat Ruger for Hire by Jack Huber is a fast-paced mystery, laced with humor, spiked with deadly action, and with an explosive climax that will have you on the edge of your chair. While most of the characters are quite believable, I had to strain my brain to believe that Pat was as attractive to every female character he encountered, or that he could keep the pace he did, without eventually needing a pacemaker.
An interesting character, though, and I can imagine he’ll get up to some fascinating adventures in future offerings. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Seashells, Spells, & Caramels’

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Imogen Banks has scrimped and saved to amass enough money to open her own bakery. Just when she’s reached her monetary goal, her dreams go up in flames. But, she has somehow managed to become a contestant in a mysterious baking contest at an island off the coast of France. With nothing to lose—literally, as everything burned up in when her apartment went up in flames—she buys a ticket to France.
Once at the mysterious island, she encounters something she’s never believed in before, magic. Her skills are put to the test as she contends with magical creatures, including a wise cracking cooking flame, and a contestant dropping dead in the middle of the competition, and her humble self being looked at as the prime suspect.
Time is running short for Imogen. She must find the real killer, dig deep to find the baking skills to prevail in a contest she has no hope of winning, and learn to deal with the fact that, despite her inability to cast even the simplest spell, she is herself a creature of magic.
Seashells, Spells & Caramels by Erin Johnson is a delightful cozy mystery, with liberal doses of murder, mayhem, and magic, that will entertain you on every page. This book will delight both mystery fans and those who like the supernatural. It is unnaturally entertaining.
I received a free copy of this author’s first novel, and give it five stars for its sheer entertainment value.

Review of ‘Mated by the Alpha Dragon’

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Two centuries after nuclear war has destroyed human civilization, the few survivors live in isolated settlements in a kind of servile condition. The effects of radiation have affected a few, causing them to transform into dragons, while the rest exist as serfs. Theo lives with his mother in a village under the dominion of the cruel King Harold. When Elise, whose mother has been taken away by Harold’s men, comes to live with them, Theo’s life changes. He discovers that he is one of the few with the ability to become a dragon. Worse, he falls in love with Elise, who is also a dragon-shifter. When, fearing for the safety of those around her, Elise runs away, Theo is determined to find her.
Mated by the Alpha Dragon by K. T. Stryker follows Theo and Elise, as they struggle against Harold’s tyranny and learn to control the changes in themselves. One series of adventures and misadventures after another until the final confrontation in Harold’s castle—a bit predictable, and a touch of deus et machina at the end. Despite the predictability of the story line, it is still an entertaining story that delves deeply into the internal motivations of the two main characters.
I received a free copy of this book, and I give it three and a half stars. High marks for a compelling theme, but subtracting a few for the predictability.

Review of ‘The Meek’

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Something of a loner, and an under-achiever, Harlan is visiting his friend in Los Angeles when the people around him start dying from some mysterious ailment. For reasons he doesn’t understand, Harlan survives. He thinks he’s alone until he meets a man who takes him captive and uses him as a slave, while at the same time, abusing the girl he also holds captive. They finally manage to escape, and encounter other survivors, and a situation that forces Harlan to explore his own ethical boundaries in order to ensure their survival.
The Meek by J. D. Palmer is a dystopian novel that blurs the line between science fiction and intrigue. The story moves at a measured pace, with brief spurts of action, as Harlan learns just how far he is willing to go—how far he is able to go—in order to survive in a world gone mad.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

End-of-Year Free Book Specials

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As a special treat to my readers, I’m making four of my books (Kindle version) available for free each month in November and December. Just click on the link to go to the book’s page on Amazon.
November 2017
If I Should Die Before I Wake — November 4 – 8
Portrait of Africa — November 11 – 15
Buffalo Soldier: Range War — November 18 – 22
Vixen — November 25 – 29

December 2017
Death of Innocence — December 1 – 5
Buffalo Soldier: Family Feud — December 8 – 12
Wallace in Underland — December 15 – 19
A Good Day to Die — December 22 – 26

 

Review of ‘Summary of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’

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Six million years ago, the ancestors of modern man were little more than common apes, but over the millennia, Homo sapiens has evolved to the top of the food chain, becoming like gods in the ability to manipulate the environment and to assume mastery over other species. This amazing evolution, the result of biological accidents, myths, and self-interested actions, has placed Homo sapiens at a point in its history that could lead either to further elevation–or extinction.

Summary of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind from SumoReads books is a detailed analysis and summary of a book that traces mankind’s evolution over the past 200,000 years. This brief summary, which can be read in less than 30 minutes, not only discusses the key takeaways of the book, but offers an editorial review and a description of the author’s credentials.

This summary gives a good overview of the book and will help the reader decide if it’s worth the investment of time and money to procure.

While I don’t usually review book summaries, this summary is of a book that I believe is appealing, and worthy of reading. The summary, although it contained a few typos, is comprehensive and worth reading in itself. I give it four stars.