fiction

Review of ‘Zo (Saint Zoya’s Dance)’

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Andrew Chornavka became a Trappist monk in a secluded monastery in America to put his tortured past behind him, but his past catches up. His late-sister, Zoya, is being considered for sainthood, and the archbishop insists that Andrew tell her story.

In Zo (Saint Zoya’s Dance) by Murray Pura, the narrator recounts his family’s past, the story of a family that tries hard to stay together. His story, a compelling narrative of war and loss, is hardly the story of God and a girl who walked with angels that the archbishop desires.

Weaving the present with the past, the author takes you on a journey of memory and the quest to remake the past that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I give the author four stars for a well-told tale.

Review of ‘Emergence’

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An ordinary 15-year old, Ricky’s life is turned upside down when his parents disappear, leaving him to pick up his life without them. Emergence by Emilia Evans is a strange story, part coming of age, part metaphysical journey. Interesting for the most part, but the author overuses speech tags that in some cases border on the fantastical and unlikely.

A story that has potential that could be vastly improved with more judicious editing. In addition, the cliché ending could be improved upon. I won’t spoil it for future readers by detailing what it is about it that falls short.

This is an author with a fertile mind who just needs a bit more time at the keyboard to make a mark on the fiction world. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased and honest review. To be brutally honest, I can only give it three stars.

Review of ‘Louisiana Catch’

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A wealthy New Delhi socialite, Ahana has just gotten out of an abusive marriage, and on the eve of a planned trip to the U.S. has to deal with the sudden death of her mother. In an effort to get away from it all, she accepts the assignment to go to New Orleans to coordinate a major international conference on women, where she must work with a PR man, Rohan Brady, who, based upon his on-line persona, she’s convinced is an irredeemable womanizer. For comfort, she turns to Jay, a participant in her on-line support group for people who have lost loved ones, who also claims to have recently lost his mother. As her relationships deepen, she begins to learn that things are not always as they seem.

Louisiana Catch by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a compelling novel about dealing with abuse and self-image, and how one person, through perseverance and the help of true friends is able to overcome a horrible past and forge a brighter path to the future. The author makes the innermost feelings of an eclectic cast of characters come alive as she walks the reader patiently through the trauma and turmoil of dealing with physical and emotional abuse.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I found the subject disturbing, but instructive, and the portrayal of various personalities most enlightening. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Men and the Medium’

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Lily Bancroft was a woman born way ahead of her time. Head strong and intellectually curious, she also has the psychic powers of communication with the spirits of the dead and the ability to heal. But, she lives in a time when women are only expected to marry and make a home for her husband and children.

Unbeknownst to her over-protective and domineering father, she takes part in seances at the home of Leslie, a budding inventor who allows a medium to use his home. Leslie, though unable to express his feelings, has loved her since he first laid eyes on her, but then, Percy, clerk in a brokerage house, sees her on the street, and he, too, immediately falls in love with her. The problem for Leslie is that Lily, at the first sight of Percy, falls for him.

It is at this point that the story really begins, leading to a series of failed relationships, betrayals, and deaths that shake Lily’s world to its foundations.

The Men and the Medium by Lyn Behan follows Lily’s tumultuous life through the backdrop of two world wars, the social and political transformation of post-Victorian England, and the turmoil of individual and family lives caught up in a whirl wind of social change.

The author does an excellent job of presenting the arc of Lily’s life as she drifts, often aimlessly, from one disaster to another. A well-thought-out narrative of turn of the century England and the impact that the drastic economic, social, and political changes had on individual lives.

I give the author five stars for a well-crafted first novel.

Review of ‘The Whisperer’

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Meredith Potts wants to end her life, so she jumps in front of Stan’s train. But, rather than ending things, she finds that for her, life has just begun. Her spirit leaves her broken body and meets the enigmatic Michael who tells her she has become a whisperer in training, a spirit whose role is to gently and subconsciously nudge the living to keep them on the proper path. Meredith finally has the opportunity to take some of the kinks out of the path of life for some who have survived; but is she up to it?

The Whisperer by A. Ireland King is a hard book to categorize. It has elements of the supernatural but is primarily a story about a distressed woman coming to terms with the path her life took, and unravelling knots of her past. A bit slow in places, it is nevertheless entertaining.

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

Review of ‘Chasing Hindy’

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Addeline ‘Addy’ Verges is an up and coming patent attorney who dreams of bringing a groundbreaking energy technology to the world. She has just become the youngest partner at her prestigious patent law firm, when the wheels start to come off her world. First, she and her hydrogen-powered Mustang, Hindy, are attacked as she’s towing a hydrogen balloon advertising her firm and highlighting her commitment to green technology, and then she’s sent by her firm to Vietnam where she meets Quinn Moon, a Korean scientist who claims to have invented a new technology that allows cars to be powered by water.

There are many who wish to see that Quinn’s technology is never realized and are prepared to do anything to achieve their desires, including killing Addy and Quinn if necessary. Chasing Hindy by Darin Gibby is an ambitious novel that explores the lengths to which governments and other organizations will go to protect their privileged positions, and the power of dedicated individuals to stand against them. A pulse-pounding story, it sucks the reader in from the first page, and never lets up until the stunning climax.

I give it four stars.

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!

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.