fiction

Review of ‘Swarm’

Posted on Updated on

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.

Advertisements

Review of ‘Fall of the Six’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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.’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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’

Posted on Updated on

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.

Review of ‘The Bucket List’

Posted on Updated on

Leah Clarke thought she had her life finally in order. Then, a new neighbor moves into the house next door, and it turns out to be her old childhood friend, Damon Holling, who she hasn’t seen for five years. When she learns that he’s terminally ill, with just a year left to live, the two of them set out to complete a bucket list of all the things they’ve ever wanted to do. In their pursuit, Leah discovers that their friendship is much more than she’d ever realized, and learns some valuable things about herself in the process.

The Bucket List by Emily Ruben is sort of chick-lit, but with a difference. Instead of a light, frothy story of young love, it’s a story about discovery and coping with loss. The author takes the reader inside the minds of the characters, making you cheer for Damon’s recovery—despite the fact that it’s made clear that it won’t happen—and sad when the inevitable happens. At the same time, it leaves you with a feeling of hope as Leah learns to love herself in the process of falling in love with Damon.

A sad subject written about in hopeful, though very direct and hard-hitting terms, this story will stick in your mind long after you’ve closed the book.

I received an advance review copy of this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Last Bastion of Civilization: Japan 2041’

Posted on Updated on

The Last Bastion of Civilization: Japan 2041 by Andrew Blencowe is not non-fiction, but it takes facts and events from history, and weaves them into a fictional narrative that might best be described as ‘fictional journalism.’

In this series of fictional essays, Blencowe takes on many modern-day assumptions about politics and society, as he traces the rise of Japan to the status of the world’s sole super power by 2041. Well-written, it will disturb many, but not, I think, for the right reasons. The debunking of much of much of accepted political wisdom hits the mark, but the views expressed regarding people and cultures of color are disturbing because they follow the thinking of many who see the world divided between superior and inferior races. One can’t be sure that this expresses the author’s views, or if this thinking is attributed to the characters writing the essays, but it is no less disturbing for that.

Despite being unsettled by the tenor of the book, I found it interesting reading. Contained in the ethnocentric diatribes are a few nuggets of wisdom. If you have an open mind, and are able to read past some of the racist assumptions, you just might enjoy this book.
I also found it intriguing that the only two nations that good consistently good marks in the book are Japan and Germany. While Japan comes out on top of the hierarchy, the Germans are not far behind, and are held out as the only two nations that read the tea leaves correctly as the 21st century matures.

I give the author high marks for his use of prose, but have to subtract a few for the obvious biases contained in the book. My net rating is three and a half stars.

 

Review of ‘Stormer’s Pass’

Posted on Updated on

Max Stormer is a top athlete in the small town of Pinecrest, but he’s also a free spirit who doesn’t take too well to regimentation. Aidos is also a free spirit, but she’s not yet been really exposed to the real world, living as she does in a cabin in the woods with her reclusive father. She is, however, wiser of the world than many who live in the city. He soon introduces her to other youth in the area, who are as taken by her guileless wisdom as he is.
Max and Aidos’s paths cross when he catches her ‘observing’ him and his friend, and he’s instantly drawn to her. When powerful economic forces are on a course to destroy the pristine wilderness that Aidos calls home, the youth of the area come together and reject the hypocrisy and greed of their parents.
Stormer’s Pass by Benjamin Laskin, though it has young people as the main characters, is not a typical YA book. And, even though, it shows young people on the road to maturity, it’s also not a coming-of-age novel. What it is, though, is a competently-crafted story that shows the power of change, trust, and faith—primarily the faith one has in one’s self.

A bit choppy in places, but overall, a well-written story. I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Garment Maker’s Daughter’

Posted on Updated on

Lena Rothman arrived in New York, an immigrant who wanted to live the American dream. After getting a job in a shirtwaist factory, she makes friends, but her world is torn apart when she falls in love with her best friend’s boyfriend, Jake, and is pursued by an ambitions night school student trying to overcome his turbulent past, Daniel. When she becomes pregnant by Jake, after a fire in the factory, leaving both her and Jake thinking her friend has died—only to find out later that she survived, but is crippled for life, Lena leaves New York, and hopefully her past, behind.

The Garment Maker’s Daughter by Hillary Adrienne Stern is a multi-generational saga that follows a Jewish-immigrant family through the middle of the twentieth century. Through the eyes and lives of the characters, it dissects immigrant dreams and sweatshop realities, corporate greed and women’s rights, and most of all, shows how determined people survived some of the most turbulent times in American history.

At times disturbing, this is on balance a heartwarming story that reaffirms the strength and resilience that enables people to survive, and even thrive, despite the obstacles that life throws in their way.

It’s fiction, but it has more than a grain of truth.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘A Peek at Bathsheba’

Posted on Updated on

A Peek at Bathsheba by Uvi Poznansky is the second book in the David’s Chronicles series. In this volume, David is besotted by Bathsheba, the wife of one of his faithful soldiers, Uriah. Consumed by his lust, he gets her pregnant, and in order to cover up the scandal, sends Uriah to his death.

Told in ‘his own words,’ this story explores David’s torment over his transgression and his desire for redemption. What he lacks, however, is the will to do what’s necessary to redeem himself. The author uses modern language, but the atmosphere of the place and time comes through clearly.

An interesting alternate history of one of the Bible’s most famous figures.

I give it five stars.