fiction

Review of ‘Factor Man’

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When I review a book, I usually do one of two things; if I’m not captivated by the first chapter I stop reading and give it, at best a tepid review or I don’t review it at all, or I skim through the rest, and give it my best shot at an honest review. With Matt Ginsberg’s Factor Man, though, my technique was turned on its ear. I was thoroughly hooked on the book from the first few paragraphs but found that skimming was not an option. I had to read it slowly and carefully, absorbing every word, lest I miss some crucial piece of information. For the first time since I started reviewing books regularly (again, after a long hiatus) I found myself reading every word.

The cast of characters in this book is a long one, and each character is given full play. The reader is not only shown their actions and words, but their motivations, desires, and fears. From William Burkett, a savvy tech journalist who introduces Factor Man (FM) to the world; the Chinese spy, Janet Liu, who wants to destroy FM in order to save h er beloved country; as well as an eclectic assortment of characters, major and minor. But, the most intriguing character, the one from whom the title is derived, is FM himself. A scientist with a strong sense of integrity, caught up in a complex politically motivated world, his only wish is to do the right thing, and survive the experience.

This book has it all—in spades! A hero who has the world arrayed against him, he has to learn spy tradecraft, while preparing the world for his discovery of ‘God’s algorithm’, a code that will make obsolete all efforts at keeping electronic files secret. Can he survive long enough to attend his ‘coming-out party’, or will his secret die with him? If you want to know the answer to that question, I strongly recommend that you get a copy of this book and do what I did—read it carefully. It will change your views on Internet privacy and government’s concern for the welfare of its citizens in fundamental ways.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give it a resounding five stars!

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Review of ‘Origin of Legends and the Secrets of the North’

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Brothers Baldr and Thor lived relatively happy lives as orphans after their parents drowned in a frozen lake. But, their world was torn asunder when they noticed strange green lights flashing on a mountain top near their sleepy little town. With their friends, they set out to solve the mystery of the flashing lights but are soon in too deep as they must contend with the freezing arctic weather and an ancient power. In order to survive, they must solve the secret of what lives within the mountain.

Origins of Legends and the Secrets of the North by Adison Runberg is a thrilling tale of adventure, mystery, and magic, that follows the brothers, their friends, Sophia and Nala, and a loyal canine they encounter along the way, as they penetrate ancient secrets and uncover the basis of legends that had been, until that time, only stories.

An interesting story that offers an unusual take on the Nordic legends, and a worthwhile read for a cold spring day.

I received a free copy of this book.  I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Taemane – Daimonds’

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When the owner of a South African diamond mine dies, his two daughters, Kate and Claire, vie for control. The tension between the two women is ratcheted up, because of their personality differences, complicated by the racial tensions of the time.

Kate’s childhood sweetheart, Alex, is son of the native cook, and is determined to rid the mine of diamond thieves who have infiltrated the work crew. He is led to an inevitable confrontation with the leader of the gang, who has insinuated himself into Claire’s life. Bit by bit, with mounting tension, Kevin Farran introduces the reader to the reality and brutality of life in a society built on caste and race differences, and the power of love to persevere against almost insurmountable odds, in Taemane: Diamond, an uncompromising story of love, greed, and violence.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Bench’

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Jenny is the office mouse, closeted in her cubicle in a large publishing house, she lives in a world only of her literary aspirations. Then, she stumbles across a love poem by an unknown author that changes her world—not necessarily for the better.

The Bench by Kevin Farran is an enigmatic romantic novel that explores the delusions that can engulf a life, fanning flames of hope and desire in ways beyond imagining. The story follows a measured journey through one woman’s tortured mind in a way that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.

I received a free copy of this book. I give the author four stars for a good effort to entertain and enlighten.

Review of ‘Open Primary: Ameritocracy’

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Disillusioned with the state of the American political process, and somewhat traumatized by her estranged father’s failed attempt to run for president, Mia Rhodes decides to upend the system. She creates a presidential primary process that is truly open—a social media engine that allows any qualified person to declare candidacy, and then lets the People decide. Her project founders until she attracts the attention of eccentric tech billionaire, Peter Colton, who bankrolls her. Once her system is up and running, though, Mia discovers that in order to change the American political quagmire, she had to undergo significant personal change.

Open Primary: Ameritocracy by A. C. Fuller takes the political system that causes all of us so much anguish head on. Humor and pathos, hope and despair, exist side by side as Mia learns that changing a dirty system often requires getting down into the mud.

If you’re still reeling from the outcome of the 2016 joke that was the presidential election, you’ll find a lot in this book to relate to, cheer for, and gnash your teeth over. This is the first book in a series that will change your view of politics forever.

This book is the Primary Colors of the 2016 election. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Swarm’

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John’s in a dead-end job, only staying because of his devotion to his wife and son. When a sick man enters his shop, life takes a distinct downward turn, not just for John, but for the whole world. What’s causing people to turn into flesh-eating zombies? John goes on the run with other survivors, but can he really do anything?
Swarm by Alex South is a zombie apocalypse novel set in London. Despite being a bit choppy, it’s an interesting take on the subgenre, with its focus on the individuals impacted by the ‘plague.’ Chillingly graphic descriptions of zombie attacks might be a bit much for the fainthearted, but zombie fans will eat it up—no pun intended.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. Because of the choppy prose, I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Fall of the Six’

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After harrowing adventures on a variety of dysfunctional worlds, and epic battles with Marcus’s MM army, the Preston Six find themselves separated; three trapped in an alternate Los Angeles overrun by zombies, while the remaining three valiantly struggle to find and rescue them. In the meantime, Harris has left them behind as he makes a last-ditch effort to bring Marcus down. While the three endure immense hardships on their journey to LA, Harris finds desolation at every stop.

Fall of the Six by Matt Ryan, the third book in the Preston Six series, continues the adventures of six children, part of a bizarre experiment, born on the same day, and bound together by secrets that they struggle in vain to learn. While the battles are the same as in the first two books, readers will learn of the changes in the six as they learn more about each other, and themselves.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Until Sweet Death Arrives’

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Nahum Patterson is an accomplished investigative journalist for a Tel Aviv newspaper, who puts his life on the line to do stories exposing official corruption. His stories resulted in one man having to flee the country, and put another in prison—both have sworn to get revenge. In the meantime, Nahum’s memory slowly begins to fade as Alzheimer’s disease takes hold of his mind.

Until Sweet Death Arrives by Amnon Binyamini is a crime thriller, but mainly it’s a profoundly disturbing tale of the havoc diseases like Alzheimer’s wreaks on individuals and families. It follows the deterioration of Nahum from the onset of the disease, when he begins to find himself in places with no knowledge of how or why he came to be there, through the final stages, when he has to be confined for his own safety, and has no real awareness of his surroundings.

The author does an amazing job of portraying this condition, not to gain sympathy, but to generate understanding of the effect it has on the sufferers and everyone around them.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Call of the Six’

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Thanks to the machinations of Marcus and his MM army, the Preston Six find themselves separated, Poly alone in a life raft after their plane is shot down on an alternate world, and heading for an island that might not even exist; and Joey and Samantha isolated in a scene generator, where Marcus is slowly sucking the life out of Joey. Harris, the Ghost, calls on the six to tap into their strengths to help him bring Marcus down, but in order to so, they have to survive zombie assaults and take on a high-tech army—and, in the process, get back together again.

Call of the Six by Matt Ryan is book two in the Preston Six series, and while it lacks the smoother copy editing of book one, makes up for it with spine-tingling action and profound interpersonal conflict.

This one ends on something of a cliff hanger, in some ways, similar to book one, which sets a reader up nicely for the next in the series. While I’m not ordinarily a fan of cliff hangers, I give the author a pass on this one.

I received a free copy of this book. I give this one three and a half stars, mostly because of the number of grammatical and typographical glitches.

Review of ‘The Bootlegger’s Legacy’

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When an old-time bootlegger dies, he leaves his son, Mike, a cryptic letter and a key, hinting at a secret stash of millions of dollars that he hopes his son is smart enough to find. With his best friend, Joe, he sets off on an adventure that covers three states and fifty years of a family history that sets the two friends’ minds reeling.

The Bootlegger’s Legacy by Ted Clifton is a rollicking and heartwarming tale of love, loss, and redemption that traces the lives of several people over a fifty-year period, as they come to terms with their past and present, and forge new futures. Once you start reading this book, you’ll be pulled into their lives as if they’re old friends with whom you’ve lost contact, and are now discovering things about them that you never knew.

The author does an amazing job of introducing characters, and then leaving you wondering what will happen to them next, and then, in the end, tying up every loose end in a wonderful package that will leave you completely satisfied.

A solid five-star read!

Review of ‘To Be Had’

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Boris Wade worked hard to become a lawyer, but in his small town, the only legal job open to him is as a legal assistant. When that job ends, he faces a quandary; how can he provide for his wife and daughter without a job that pays him what he thinks he deserves. His quest for money and position lead him to leave his family, and soon, he finds himself involved in shady deals in pursuit of wealth. With his reputation ruined, he leaves law and tries everything from dishwashing to male prostitution—in the process, becoming alienated from his daughter, and with only one friend left, a woman who is willing to accept him for what he is.

To Be Had by Sava Buncic is Boris’ story, as he finally comes to term with himself, and learns to get off the treadmill of seeking wealth for its own sake, and make an effort to mend his broken relationships. Boris is, for most of the story, a character the reader will find it hard to sympathize with, and it’s only at the end, when he finds the capacity to sacrifice for someone else that one sees any hope.

I received a free copy of this book, and I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Loving Laykin’

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Loving Lakyn by Charlotte Reagan is a profoundly disturbing story—but, in a negative way, only if you have a mind that’s closed to the realities of life. The story of teen, Lakyn James, struggling with his sexual orientation with parents who are unable to accept it, a victim of abuse and bullying who attempts suicide, is addicted to drugs, and is struggling to find his own identity. While this story is an example of extremes, it is probably not far off the mark in its depiction of what young people go through in a society that has yet to come to terms with the definitions of sexuality, in which bureaucracies often allow those who are ‘different’ to fall through the cracks or become invisible.

As you read this story, though, one things rings through loud and clear, one must learn to love oneself before the love of others can be recognized. Yes, it is a disturbing book, but in a way that we all need to be disturbed. It is a wake-up call, reminding us that everyone matters.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Lucifer’s Odyssey’

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If you enjoy the ‘what-if’ structure of alternate history novels, you’ll be thrilled by Lucifer’s Odyssey by Rex Jameson, which is alternate theology. This tale of the fall of Lucifer, the angel who defied Jehovah and was exiled to earth, where he ruled the Underworld, is an eclectic combination of science fiction, fantasy, and alternate theology that, while it will probably be disturbing to those who adhere to more traditional religious beliefs, will entertain readers who are willing to read with an open mind.

An epic start to a series that explores the religious cosmos with an astonishing array of ‘what-if’ scenarios, it is filled with excitement and humor, with an underlying tone of ‘this is just as possible as the traditional explanations.’ If you like to be challenged, this is a simply must-read book.

It slowed down a bit at the end, but I still give it four 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 ‘Roll the Dice’

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Rock star and celebrity mogul Tyler Sloan decides to leave the entertainment world and run for one of Nevada’s senate seat in the US Congress. Sloan is no stranger to politics; his father, Mike, former governor, is vice president, but as he enters the fray, he learns that success in politics and success in entertainment are measured by different standards. Running as an independent, he finds himself pitted against two opponents who will do anything to defeat him, his own checkered past coming back to haunt him, and unresolved family issues plaguing him. Undaunted, though, he decides to ‘roll the dice,’ and stick it out.
Roll the Dice by Wayne Avrashow is a compelling political satire that lays bare the seamy underbelly of American politics in a series of intriguing scenarios, following Sloan’s up-and-down ride during a hard-fought campaign. Though fiction, this story could very well have been ripped from the headlines of recent actual political campaigns. After reading this book, you’ll never view politics the same again.
I received a free copy of this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Call of the Wild’

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While many have tried, no one has come close to matching author Jack London’s ability to portray the wild, untamed Yukon. One of his best-known stories, Call of the Wild, first serialized in magazine form and in 1906 published as a short novel, tells the story of Buck, a muscular dog stolen from his home in Santa Clara Valley, California and sold as a sled dog in Canada’s Yukon territory during the gold rush of the 1890s.

Torn from his civilized surroundings, Buck taps into his wild origins to become one of the most feared sled dogs in the territory, wresting leadership from a violent enemy, and learning to deal with humans, kind and unkind, all the while drifting back to his beginnings, a creature of the wild, surviving on his strength and cunning.

While this story is told primarily from the dog’s point of view, it also shows humans and their relationships; with each other, with the animals they can use but not tame, and with the unremitting, merciless wilderness.\If you’ve never read Jack London before, Call of the Wild is a good place to get your first taste of an author who knows how to take nature and those who would vainly try to tame it, and portray it in a way that makes you feel the bite of the wind-blown snow and the oppressive weight of the darkness that surrounds a campfire at night. You can hear the mournful howl of the wolves and the wail of the wind. And, in so doing, you will get a sense of man’s place in a universe that we can never fully comprehend—and, through the eyes of a dog, you will lean what it is to be human.

I give this one five stars — of course.

Review of ‘Money. Power. Love.’

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Money. Power. Love by Joss Sheldon is a tale of three men; born seconds apart, but divided by tragedy, Mayer, Hugo, and Archibald share thoughts and desires, and fall in love with the same woman, at the same time, but, though united by nature, they are divided by their different upbringings.
Written in Sheldon’s somewhat disjointed style, this is a historical tale; the story of how bankers controlled the world’s economy in the 19th century, forcing the government and military to do their bidding in the quest for even greater profits; and a love story; of how three men, alike, but at the same time, vastly different, deal with their desire for the same woman.
Flowing back and forth in their disparate lives, the reader is taken on a ‘fantabulous’ journey into the past through the eyes of characters right out of a Dickens’ tale. A unique take on world history that will delight.
I received a free copy of this book, and I give it four stars. If you like your fiction light, but at the same time, profound, get a copy as soon as it’s released.

Review of ‘Secrets of the Asylum’

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After the disappearance of her two-year-old son, Elizabeth is committed by her husband to an asylum. Fifteen years later, her daughter, Meg, returns to Traverse City, MI from Chicago, after a breakup with her fiancé, hoping to discover if her mother is really insane, and what happened to her brother. She finds an unlikely ally, Abby, a Chippewa spirit woman, and begins a journey that will change her life, and the lives of those around her, forever.

Secrets of the Asylum by Linda Hughes is a slow-paced, but chilling, tale of life in the age of the Flapper. Like the peeling of an onion, it lays bare family secrets and lies in the context of an era when women had no identity separate from their husbands or fathers, and when the line between sanity and insanity was exceptionally thin, and social mores were in transition.

This book reads like a cross between a generational saga and a finely tuned mystery, as Meg slowly discovers family secrets that have been kept hidden far too long. The author does an amazing job of providing just enough information to cause a reader to begin to see the truth behind the murky veil that circumstances have thrown up, and will be shocked at the denouement.

A disturbing, but entertaining and enlightening, read. I received a free copy of this book.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘The Edge of Revolt’

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King David is getting old, and must face the inevitability of his demise. His eldest son Amnon is next in line to the throne, but when he rapes his half-sister, Tamar, David, though shocked, remains silent. Then, Tamar’s brother, Absalom, lures Amnon to his death. David still remains silent, even though these events have rocked the kingdom. When Absalom moves to oust him from the throne, David is forced to flee, setting in motion a chain of events that will rock Israel to its roots.

The Edge of Revolt by Uvi Poznansky is the third book in the series about David, slayer of Goliath and king of the Israelites. In David’s own words, the story of palace intrigue and family betrayal is chillingly told. This one stands on its own.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘A Dog’s View of Love, Life and Death’

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A Dog’s View of Love, Life and Death by J.R. Archer is a multi-layered book. On the surface, it’s a collection of stories of man’s best friends and how we relate to our canine companions. Below the surface, though, is a complex dissection of the roles that animals play in our lives and us in theirs, coupled with philosophical and ethical questions that readers must answer for themselves. There is a premise in the book that animals communicate telepathically, not only with each other, but with humans, who might or might not realize it. The author provides the ‘voices’ of the animals in a way that makes sense, and the way they communicate ranges from the seemingly basic and instinctive, to intellectually evolved. These are animals that are at once in our service, but also portrayed as more advanced, and more at peace. The themes in this book are heavy, and the reader should expect to run the full gamut of emotions. Evoking the deepest of existential quandaries through the eyes of our four-legged friends, J.R. Archer has crafted a tale that will be easily relatable while making you ask the tough questions.

The book is well-written and well-edited, and the characters are well-drawn. The humans in the book are at varying stages in their lives, and each is facing a conflict of personal struggle of some kind. The role that dogs play in their lives is different for each, but the dogs often take on the position of empathetic but removed observer, asking spiritual questions and pontificating on the motivations and fears of their ‘masters.’ I put ‘masters’ in quotes because, as previously mentioned, this book will make you ask who the truly evolved life form is. The setting compliments the chaotic nature of the humans’ world, and Archer paints a New York City that is bustling and unforgiving. The stories move along at a quick pace, and it was easy to get through several in a sitting. While the subject matter is tough, the book itself is digestible. This is a book that will grab your attention, but refuses to hold your hand. While each character’s story arc ends in a satisfying conclusion, readers will find that many of the queries raised in the book will have to be answered by the readers themselves. While this is a book that will appeal most to animal lovers, there is something here for everyone. This is easily a five-star read.

I received a free copy of this book.