Everything I Don’t Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

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When Samuel dies in a car crash, an unidentified writer goes in search of the truth behind his death by interviewing his friends and family. Was Samuel’s death an accident or was it suicide? We are given Samuel’s story through the writer’s interviews with Samuel’s mother, his roommate, his childhood friend and his girlfriend as they flash backwards and forwards through time.

The mother was a flighty character who was very uncooperative and did very little to forward Samuel’s story. The roommate, Vandad is an ex-thug who decided to get an honest job once he became friends with Samuel. The childhood friend, Panther is a wild-child bohemian artist. The girlfriend, Laide is a very unlikeable and pretentious Swedish-Arabic interpreter and activist, whose only redeeming quality is that she tries to help abused women. Each of the characters reveal more about Samuel from their own selfish perspectives, making it seem very unlikely that we will ever know the real Samuel.

Everything I Don’t Remember is billed as a murder mystery in the book blurb. It really doesn’t hit the mark. I would say it simply falls under literary fiction. It’s a rather bland tale that seems to have been turned into a puzzle for some unknown reason. The unveiling at the end was more about the writer himself than Samuel. I wasn’t invested in the writer so that mattered very little to me.

Perhaps it was the very ordinariness of the characters that made this such a highly rated book. I didn’t care for or about any of them. In this case I’m convinced that it was the structural style, the political activism element and the subject of abused women that made this the winner of the August Prize in Sweden. Personally, I wasn’t satisfied with this book. It left me feeling like there should have been more to it. However, this wouldn’t be the first time I haven’t cared for a highly rated book (i.e. Gone Girl really gave me the heebie-jeebies). If you want to read something that has an unusual narrative structure, this may be a good read for you.

I want to thank the publisher (Atria Book) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence



The Liar’s Key
is second book in The Red Queen’s War series by Mark Lawrence.

Kudos to Mark Lawrence for beginning this book with a nice refresher on the first book of this series in a short yet concise manner. It did bring something new to light for me. I fully understood that Snorri, being a Viking and all, was from Norway, but for some unknown reason I did not cop on that Jalan’s home in Red March was in Northern Italy. I have to say that I feel really stupid, but not once reading the first book did I grasp this. Thanks for enlightening me Mark!

The twist at the end of the first book left Jalan and Snorri bound together under the Silent Sister’s spell, however they have exchanged light and dark spirits now. Jalan is now haunted by the dark spirit, Aslaug. Snorri is now haunted by the light spirit, Baraqel. The spirits whisper at them and still try to induce suspicion of the other’s motives.

As we rejoin Jalan, he is holed up in the northern town of Trond with Snorri and Tuttugu. After nearly losing their lives at the Black Fort, they have recovered and are waiting for winter to recede so they can resume their travel. Snorri is in possession of Loki’s Key, a magical key to open any lock. Snorri hopes that it will gain him entry to death’s door, in order retrieve his dead wife and children and bring them back. He wants Jalan to continue on the journey with him but Jalan is yearning to go home and resume his life. This is the first hint that his progress toward maturity has not been hastened. He spends most of his time longing for his princely days when he could drink, gamble and chase women to his heart’s content. Yet Jalan hasn’t stayed completely out of action just because he’s not yet home, and soon his antics catch up with him and he finds himself fleeing Trond in a boat with Snorri and the ever-loyal Tuttugu.

Snorri’s quest to find death’s door leads them confer with the ice witch Skilfar, who offers up her new apprentice, Kara as a companion on their journey. Old secrets are revealed through the blood magic that Kara works on Jalan. This blood magic brings on a series of intriguing flashbacks in which we learn some of Jalan’s family history such as how the Red Queen became the iron queen feared across the south, more about her siblings and answers to how Jalan’s mother died.

In a brief separation from his companions, Jalan does make his way home, but nothing is as it was when he left. His expectations are dashed and he is happy to leave again on an assignment for his uncle, Garyus. Again we get a deeper understanding of the world Jalan lives in as he travels to a new city and enters the merchant banking world where of course, more trouble awaits.

Jalan eventually finds himself reunited with his travel companions and once again caught up in Snorri’s quest to find the portal to the underworld. Through it all they are pursued by the Dead King’s minion, Edris Dean and his necromancers, who wish to gain possession of Loki’s Key for their own dark and deadly purposes.

At the end of Prince of Fools, I felt that Jalan Kendeth was the epitome of the anti-hero, progressing to a full-fledged hero, much to his chagrin. This may be a bit slower coming to fruition than I had anticipated! Jalan has stayed true to character and he is quite the character! Funny as hell! I could quote Jalan all day long, but since I was sent the ARC I won’t. Still the question lingers…who is the real Jalan Kendeth? Is he the vain, immature, avaricious and cowardly ne’er-do- well, leave-’em-in-the-dust-and-run guy that you can’t stand? Or is he that goofball friend who never appears serious, but will have your back in a pinch and fight by your side for what’s good and right? Jal does his best to avoid responsibility and has convinced himself that he is a coward of the highest form, but some of his actions speak louder than words. Despite myself I think I like him!

Overall, this is a great second book in the series. The story grew by leaps and bounds and the character development and world building was fascinating. I certainly look forward to The Wheel of Osheim!

I want to thank the publisher (Berkley Publishing Group) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, Caprice Crane

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So one day, an ex-girlfriend of Steve’s calls up and offers him a pot-belly pig. He knows that his partner, Derek will freak out if he brings another animal home without talking about it first, but Steve just can’t resist. Come on, all you animal lovers out there does this sound even a little bit familiar? I know it does to me. My loved ones have just quit fighting it.

Esther is no bigger than a teacup when Steve brings her home and she quickly wins Derek’s heart. What both Derek and Steve don’t anticipate is that little Esther grows up to be a 650 pound pig. In their little 1000 square foot home, this proves to be quite a trial of errors. Steve and Derek don’t give up easily though. The love they both have for Esther allows them to conquer each problem they face along the way. In the process, they even become vegans.

Nowadays, Steve and Derek and Esther live on a farm. They have become the successful founders of Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary for farm animals in need. They did so with a lot of faith and donations from fans and followers of Esther’s on Facebook. Steve and Derek are performing daily miracles for these animals and they are doing so with loads of love in their hearts. Esther truly is the “Wonder Pig.”

Oh my, what a wonderful book this is! This book is a must-read for animal lovers everywhere! Esther, I would love to meet you some day!

Once you have read about Esther, you’ll want to check out the website and Facebook links below:

Websites

Esther the Wonder Pig

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

Facebook Links

Esther the Wonder Pig

Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary

Esther’s Army

Esther’s Kitchen

I want to thank the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese

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Robert Kroese puts a fresh spin on the LA noir detective story with this tale of quirky private investigator Erasmus Keane and his assistant, Blake Fowler.  The story is told from the POV of Fowler.  It takes place circa 2039 in a section of Los Angeles that has been disowned by civil authorities after the economic collapse of 2028.  The section is referred to as the Disincorporated Zone, or the DZ.   Erasmus Keane, who prefers to be referred to as a “phenomenological inquisitor” rather than a P.I., has an office right on the edge of the zone and he takes on unlikely cases, giving each case his own unlikely name for it.

Erasmus takes on The Case of the Missing Sheep.  The sheep in question is a large breed, female sheep named Mary, who has been genetically altered by researchers at Esper.  But Mary has been stolen and the head honcho at Esper wants her found.  As Keane and Fowler begin their investigation of the missing Mary, they are sidelined by beautiful actress Priya Minstry.  Priya thinks someone may be out to kill her.  Fowler thinks she might just be a little bonkers.  As these two cases progress, they begin to realize that one may very well have to do with the other.

 The Big Sheep is fast-paced, clever, atmospheric and funny in an absurd, tongue-in-cheek sort of way.  I recommend sitting down and taking the afternoon to breeze through this little gem.  It’s a good, fresh read for both sci-fi and detective mystery fans.

I want to thank the publisher (St. Martin’s Press) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Waypoint Kangaroo: A Novel by Curtis C. Chen

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Kangaroo was an orphan who stumbled upon the unique and supernatural ability to create a pocket universe to stash things in.  As he grew up, the government nabbed him to work for them as a spy.  He has been physically implanted with tools that come in handy for all sorts of things a spy might need.  He has his own handler, his own doctor and his own gadget guy.  Kangaroo is a great James Bond for the future!  A bumbling, wanna-be hero who is always jumping in feet first without thinking ahead.  He is kept very busy as he travels the universe carrying out his assignments in a post-war universe.

But when his current mission takes a bad turn and his partner is killed, Kangaroo is sent on vacation while his department undergoes an audit.  He boards a cruise to Mars.  There’s only one problem.  Kangaroo doesn’t know how to deal with the term “vacation.”  He can’t quite turn off the work brain and turn on the relaxation one.  He makes a spy game out of everything he does.  When you’re looking for trouble, you usually find it!  Trouble comes in the form of a hijacked spaceship and Kangaroo must race time to save those aboard and end the potential for another war between worlds.

If I could describe this book in one word, that word would be FUN!  Kangaroo is as entertaining as they come.  What a character!  Always up to something!  Whether he is trying to relax into his vacation and have a few drinks, or chasing the bad guys, he puts himself right smack in the middle of all sorts of escapades.  This is a great book and first in a new series!

 I want to thank the publisher (St. Martin’s Press) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Flotilla by Daniel Haight

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In Flotilla, we meet Jim Westfield, who is 15 years old. Jim and his sister are alone on their father’s boat, floating in the Pacific, and facing an unknown future. Drug dealers, pirates and biological terrorist attacks on the United States have forced them to flee Colony D. They don’t know if their parents are alive or dead.

Jim has been in and out of trouble because of his penchant for heavy drinking. After his last bout of binge drinking, Jim was put on probation, and the only thing that kept him from spending the summer in rehab was a trip to stay with his father, Rick.

Rick left when Jim and his sister were quite young. His life is a mystery. He spent some time in prison, and now he has made a new life as a fish farmer on Colony D. Colony D is a self-sustained, man-made island in the Pacific, overseen by the fish farming corporation, PAC Fish. The island is made up of an assortment of boats lashed together into a community which lives by its own rules. The community is somewhat reminiscent of Water World.

As Jim’s story of living on Colony D unfolds, and he gets to know his father more, he begins to see that this man is much more complicated than he appears to be on the surface. Rick is a man who will never be satisfied with the life he has, he always wants more, and he is constantly looking for new ways to make a buck. Some of those ways may get him into trouble.

Jim is your typical teenaged smart aleck kid, who thinks he knows it all and that the parents are jerks. He’s a smart kid, but he has a lot to learn, and he needs to learn it without the effects of alcohol clouding his judgment. He is at turns funny, bone-headed, insecure and, well…a teenager. It’s refreshing to read about a teen doing things a teen would do! His escapades with his friend Riley are so reflective of that male teenage spirit!

As the book draws to a close, Jim brings us full circle, back to how he and his sister wound up alone on the boat. The end is a bit of a cliffhanger, leaving you anxious to see what happens next. Taking place in the near future, Flotilla is a unique and very enjoyable coming of age tale.

I want to thank the author and the publisher (Northern & 71st) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay

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A richly woven tale that focuses on a handful of people, each of whom, for a different reason, is compelled to leave the place they call home and embark on a new adventure in life. We follow the lives of pirates, spies, merchants, soldiers, artists and emperors as they travel into the unknown. They each face new and dangerous experiences, on a journey to reach their separate and unexpected fates.

I was thrown off a little in the beginning as each of the main characters and plot were brought into focus. I wasn’t sure what type of book I was picking up to read. The author introduces us to an intricate political and religious landscape, and then he quickly and masterfully pulls everything together, giving us an epic tale in only 585 pages. Much less than your usual epic!

Children of Earth and Sky is a sumptuous reading journey which I thoroughly enjoyed. Aptly titled too!  History and fantasy combine effortlessly.  Kay took inspiration from assorted influences such as Venice, the Ottoman Empire, Renaissance Europe, the maritime trade of Dubrovnik and the Uskoks of Croatia, among many other historical periods. You can see that this author is well-versed in a lot of areas and you can also see that he loves history. I haven’t read any of Kay’s books before but I have noticed that he has a great following and I can certainly see why. Told in the tradition of a Bernard Cornwell novel, this author surely has a lot of those same fans.

I want to thank the publisher (Berkley Publishing Group) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

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Prince Jalan Kendeth, is the third son, tenth in line to the throne.  He is self-described as a liar, cheat and coward who is nine parts bluster and one part greed, has a gift for lying and sounds the least convincing when he tells the truth.  He’ll be the first to run and leave everyone in the dust when trouble heads his way.  He’s refused to grow up and spends most of his time drinking, gambling and chasing women.  He’s royal so he has been schooled in royal affairs, but since he’s so far from becoming the heir to the throne, he just doesn’t care.  Why give up all of the comforts of life and be serious?

Jalan’s grandmother is the powerful Red Queen.  It’s common knowledge that she practices forbidden sorceries in her tower.  There are plenty of rumors that Grandmother’s secret counselor is a blind-eye woman, who is rumored to be old and half mad, but no one has ever really seen her.  No one but Jalan, that is.  He sees here hovering over Grandmother’s shoulder every time the family members are summoned, but no one else ever seems to see her.

Things are looking a bit grim in Jalan’s life right now.  He’s currently on the run from Maeres Allus and his men due to racking up some gambling debts.  There’s very little hope he’ll be able to worm his way out of the situation this time.

His Grandmother has summoned the family members.  She has had captured slaves brought in to give news of what they have seen.  Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse warrior of Undoreth, the Children of the Hammer, is among those purchased off the slave ship.  Snorri warns that there are grave rumors that The Dead King is sending his undead army their way.  Snorri’s homeland was raided by the dead and he has lost his family to The Dead King’s minions.

As if these things aren’t enough bad news for now, Jalan is witness to The Silent Sister casting one of her spells.  In trying to flee, he and Snorri are somehow caught up in her spell and they have borne away part of the magic in the form of a curse.  Jalan has a pesky angel in his head that seems to be causing him to take actions that make him appear to be a better man than he is.  Snorri has a pesky devil in his head, making him do uncharacteristically bad things.   Jalan and Snorri form an unlikely pair and wind up tied together and on the road to Snorri’s homeland, on a quest of rescue and vengeance.  They will have to make their way through areas where the frozen dead wander and Jalan will be lucky if he makes it back home alive.

This is my first Mark Lawrence read but it won’t be my last.  I really enjoyed this book!  Jalan and Snorri are a great unlikely pair.  I liked that Snorri always comically misunderstands Jal’s actions and holds him in high regard.  Gotta love a great Viking warrior anyway!  Jalan’s devil-may-care attitude is hilarious.  He is always trying to worm his way through life, but here he has caught this curse, and suddenly he’s becoming a more likeable guy, but he just doesn’t see it.  The two are stalked by death at every turn and the tale builds to an explosive ending.  I look forward to continuing this series!

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The Fireman by Joe Hill

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Draco Incendia Trychophyton is the scientific name for what has become known as “Dragonscale.”  It’s a spore that is spreading like wildfire, literally, throughout the U.S.  When people first contract Dragonscale, they discover black and gold markings on their bodies, somewhat resembling tattoos.  They begin to emit smoke, burning from the inside and eventually going up in flames.  Those who are sick are being sent to secret death camps, in hopes that the deadly contagion can be stopped.

Harper Grayson is a grade-school nurse who loves musicals, most especially Mary Poppins.  Harper tends to see the bright side in things.  She is happily married to Jakob and takes great joy in bringing comfort to others.  When she witnesses a man go up in flames from the Dragonscale, and then her school is shut down due to the plague, Harper begins to volunteer her time at the hospital helping those who are sick.

Having put herself in continual contact with those who have the Dragonscale, Harper eventually discovers that she has it too.  On top of this, she is pregnant.  Her husband, Jakob doesn’t handle this so well and goes a little, no make that a lot, off the deep end.  He insists that they commit suicide, but Harper rejects that idea because she has heard that babies are being born healthy, without sign of infection.  Jakob goes on a rampage and tries to murder Harper.  That’s when she is rescued by a mysterious stranger, “The Fireman,” who has somehow gained control of his Dragonscale, and uses it in a superhero sort of way to help others.

The Fireman takes Harper to a community that calls itself a safe haven for those that are infected.  But in a world that has gone crazy, safe havens aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.  Think of this one as a scary commune!  When things begin to go bad, Harper knows that she must find a safe place to bring her baby into the world, and she’s going to need The Fireman’s help to do it.

There are so many apocalyptic books out there now, that a lot of what’s in here is nothing original.  The world falls apart, there are survivors fighting to make it to a new home, there are crazies out to get them…  What makes The Fireman a good read is the writing.  Harper is a formidable character, strong, bold and funny!  The character of Jakob is one scary madman and the community that takes Harper in, well, these people are completely off their rockers.   Joe Hill is a talented writer and this book will keep you up reading through the wee hours of the morning!  I love it when that happens:D

I am not sure if Joe Hill will appreciate the comparison, but there are definite tones of his father in this book.  Come on, Joe, I know you didn’t use that last name for a reason so you’ve gotta be proud to make it to that same category all on your own!  Stephen King is the master of horror and it seems that his son is a chip off the ol’ block!

I want to thank the publisher (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Gideon’s Sword by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

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Gideon Crew is 12 years old when he accompanies his mother down to Arlington Hall station, where his father works for INSCOM, The United States Army Intelligence and Security.  His father is holding hostages.  When the hostages are let go Gideon and his mother watch as Gideon’s father is gunned down.

October 1996

Gideon goes to the hospital to see his dying mother.  After years of drinking herself into oblivion, her liver is failing.  Gideon hasn’t spent a lot of time with his mother.  He’s been too wrapped up in his own life.  His mother tells of him of his father’s job vetting the government project named Thresher.  Against the advice of Gideon’s father, the NSA signed off on the flawed project.  Several months later the Russian government cracked it.  General Chamblee Tucker was in charge of the Thresher project and he saw to it that Gideon’s father was set up as the scapegoat for the disaster.  When Gideon’s father tried to take the information public he was assassinated.  After she tells him the tale, Gideon’s mother asks him to “even the score” and “do to Tucker what he did to your father.”  These were his mother’s last words.

Current Day

A decade later we meet up with Gideon again.  He is now in his 30s and he works on “The Hill” at Los Alamos National Lab.  Everything Gideon has done for the last decade has been done with the design of putting him in a position to fulfill his promise to his mother; the promise of seeking revenge for his father’s death by bringing General Tucker down.  His job gives him access to necessary information that he needs to accomplish this.  When Gideon finally locates the memo his father wrote criticizing Thresher and advising against it, his revenge comes to fruition.

Now that Gideon has fulfilled the goal he’s spent the last decade devising, he is in limbo, wondering what’s next in life.  He is recruited by Eli Glinn, who works for an organization called Effective Engineering Solutions, to carry out a sensitive mission.  EES wants Gideon to intercept a Chinese scientist who is defecting to the United States.  The scientist carries top secret information that could be important to the U.S. government.  They believe this is information on the development of a new weapon.  Gideon has perfected many arts over the years and they believe he is just the man for the job.

Indeed, Gideon does have some experience that will be put to good use.  We learn that he used to be an art thief and as he undertakes this new job, we watch him artfully change personas again and again.  He knows the art of a con and uses social engineering to his advantage.  He knows people in the right places to get necessary information that he isn’t getting from his employers.  Gideon is a survivor but it will take everything he is to survive this mission.

I’ve been a fan of the Preston and Child writing duo for a long time.  I love their FBI Special Agent Pendergast series.  The Pendergast character and his sidekicks have been artfully built throughout each of the books.  I would even venture to say that Pendergast and his dastardly brother are two of the most intriguing characters featured in modern day thrillers.  Additionally, I have read and enjoyed each author’s solo works.  These authors always flesh out the landscape of their books, giving us a tidbits of great historical background on New York and other locales.  This new series is not an exception.  Gideon’s Sword is the first book in the Gideon Crew series and introduces a character that is young, clever and resourceful.   This book had a well-written, fast-paced story-line that put me in mind of watching a one of those adventure movies like Die Hard.  I  look forward to seeing where these authors take Gideon’s character in the rest of the series.

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Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

29965072Ted Flask is a 42 year old man living in Los Angeles, CA. He has recently ended a serious relationship with Jeffrey and he sees a shrink on a regular basis. The one great thing in Ted’s life that he can count on is Lily.

When Ted was in his twenties, his best friend Trent predicted that his life would change forever when he turned 29. Sure enough, one beautiful spring day, the last day of his 20s, he held Lily in his arms. When he adopted Lily and brought her home, she immediately exclaimed THIS! IS! MY! HOME! NOW! And indeed Lily had found her forever home. Ted would be responsible for her daily life and well-being from then on.

That was 12 years ago. Ted and Lily have a routine these days. They are always there for one another. He can confide in her, he can share a pizza with her, he can play games with her, he can watch football with her and he can talk about cute guys with her. Lily is the epitome of selfless love, patience, kindness, strength. She is all of the things that Ted needs in his life. Lily is 12 years old. Lily weighs 17 pounds. Lily is a dachshund.

Now Ted has discovered that Lily has an octopus. All of a sudden it’s just there, sitting on her head for the world to see. Ted is outraged, fuming! IT CAN’T HAVE HER! Ted doesn’t know what to do. He frets, he ponders and in the end he decides to take himself and Lily off on a bizarre adventure to the sea, in hopes of ousting the octopus from their lives.

You may or may not have realized it but Lily’s “octopus” is a metaphor for a tumor.

The moment I began reading Lily and the Octopus, I knew it would be both one of the most heart-warming and one of the most heart-wrenching books I’ve ever read. If you are an animal lover, I think you will feel the same. Well-written dog books are the ones that talk of happy times, funny times, sad times and everything in between; the things that form the bond between man and man’s best friend. These books usually always feature a sad note because unfortunately, our best friend just doesn’t live as long as we do. Yet somehow they also tend to leave us with something upbeat at the end

I knew I wanted to read this book but I wasn’t so sure of the timing. I had to get it read because it was being published soon, and I like to get my reviews done around that time. But, I wasn’t sure it was such a great idea because I was going into Memorial Day weekend. Eight years ago on Memorial Day, I lost the sunshine of my life, my boxer, Ginger. She had a heart seizure and died at home in my arms. Of course, she’s ALWAYS on my mind. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, but Memorial Day is an especially tough time for me as I relive that night over and over again. The average life span of a boxer is 10 – 12 years and I’ve known of quite a few owners who lost their boxers to cancer much earlier than that. Ginger lived to be 12 years old so I count myself among the lucky. But life will never be the same without her sweet and gentle soul by my side.

This book has some excruciatingly funny moments. It also has some very tough moments. Is it worth the read? Absolutely! I wholeheartedly recommend it! Steven Rowley has created a work of fiction around the wonderful and tearful times he shared with his own dog, Lily. He writes of Ted and Lily’s relationship with heart, humor and, I’m sure, lots of his own tears. He shares all of the cute, silly and distressing memories of his time with Lily. In the afterword, he expresses his wish to share these feelings with others in order to give them permission to grieve for their pets too; because the love you share is part of the legacy of kindness that will always carry forward.

I want to thank the publisher (Simon & Schuster) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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This is what I read in May for short story month

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Most of us readers know that May was Short Story Month.  I am just a bit behind!

I don’t really think of myself as much of a short story reader but I have read a lot of Stephen King shorts, because I love Stephen King!  Generally, I think of myself as one who likes to settle in for the long haul!  But being the contradictory person that I am, I find myself reading more and more of them since I started a blog.  This is because I’ve found that some of the blogs I enjoy following the most are those of unknown writers who publish their shorts on their own blogs.

For short story month in May, I also chose to read three by a known author, Andy Weir, who wrote The Martian.  I enjoyed that book very much.  These are all three very short 3-4 page stories that can be read online for free.   Andy has a great sense of humor and a talent for thinking outside the box.

The Egg is a very interesting and imaginatively written piece of flash fiction that really makes you think…what if????  There are so many ways to look at this story and it left a good taste in my mouth. 4 stars

The whole time I was reading Annie’s Day I was thinking “Boy, this Annie really needs to read The Egg!”  There is a great unexpected little twist at the end. 4 stars

I wasn’t that taken with The Chef.  Apparently Andy thinks you’ll be more taken with it upon a second read because when you get to the end, he tells us “Now read it again.”  I still wasn’t that taken with it.  I don’t know, I guess the subject matter just didn’t do much for me.  2.5 stars

Averaged and rounded up to

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Well, that’s about all I can say without ruining it for other readers.  I mean this review is as long as one of the shorts!  If you’ve read them, leave a comment with your perspective.

Although I’ve passed up the month of May with this post, you may be interested in reading short stories year round.  There are innumerable blogs and websites where you can read them for free.

These are just a few of the websites that have short stories to read:

americanliterature.com

classicshorts.com

flashfictiononline.com

storyaday.org

newyorker.com

theparisreview.org

These are some great WordPress blogs that I follow for short stories:

caitlinsternwrites.wordpress.com

feliciahf.wordpress.com

loredanaem.wordpress.com

zruthcblog.wordpress.com

There are so many so if you have a short story blog, leave a link in the comments for those of us who might like to come over and read some of your writings!

The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie

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The Drifter is 31 year-old Peter Ash, a former Marine Lieutenant who spent 8 years deployed.  Peter fought in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Having been schooled in economics, Peter should have returned home to a bright future, but instead he has returned with PTSD, in the form of a “white static” in his head, which triggers a panic attack from acute claustrophobia.  Peter can no longer spend time indoors, in crowds, or in brightly lit areas, so he has spent the last 12 months on the trails of Northern Washington hiking and sleeping under the stars.

When Peter gets a call from one of his war buddies that his former sergeant and close friend Jimmy Johnson has committed suicide, he feels compelled to return to society to help out the man’s family.  Jimmy has left behind a wife, Dinah and his two boys Charlie and Miles.

As Peter sleeps in his truck at night, he begins to help Dinah with repairs to her home during the day.  He starts work on Dinah’s porch and makes two unwanted discoveries.  The first is a dog; the meanest, ugliest dog he’s ever laid eyes on.  The second discovery is a suitcase filled with explosives and $400000.00 in cash, leading Peter on a quest to find out what Jimmy was up to in his final days.

The Drifter focuses on the many things that happen to war veterans when they try to resume their normal lives, treating their plight with sensitivity and at the same time, educating us on the realities that they have to face.  Peter’s character was well fleshed-out.  I loved his interaction with the dog a lot, along with his sense of humor.  He rescues this dog that will most likely try to tear his head off, and tries his hardest not to hurt it.  Then, when he gets it out from under the porch, he immediately thinks of naming the mangy male dog Daisy or Cupcake!  The storyline was wrapped up tidily, while at the same time leaving room for character growth in the next book of the series.

I want to thank the publisher (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) for providing me with the ARC through the Goodreads Giveaways program for an honest review.

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Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

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“Pigeon-Blood Red” is a phrase coined by the gem dealers of India many centuries ago.  It’s the most desirable color a ruby can have.  Legend says that the first two drops of blood that come from a freshly killed pigeon are this same rich red color.  In the case of this book, it refers to a necklace with 16 perfectly matched pigeon-blood red rubies.

We are introduced to partners in crime, Rico and Jerry as they begin searching their car for this priceless ruby necklace that was entrusted to them by their boss, Frank Litvak.  Frank is a Chicago loan shark, an aging ex-street fighter nearing 50.  He has a very intimidating presence and demands absolute loyalty and obedience. Rico and Jerry are two of his enforcers.

Rico is handsome in a foreboding way with an air of danger that attracts women.  Big and solidly built, he is also a distant, brooding, brutally honest character who is loyal to a fault and as deadly as they come.  If you want someone to have your back in a fight, he’s the one you’d pick.  If you need sympathy and a shoulder to cry on, forget it!  Rico has one true belief, “anybody can cross the line.” Rico may be the only person that doesn’t always do things Frank’s way, but since Frank put the necklace into Rico’s hands he knows that Rico won’t rest until he gets it back.  It’s a matter of professional pride to him.

Rico’s partner Jerry is shorter and more slender.  Things don’t come naturally to him the way that they do to Rico.  Jerry is always overcompensating and trying to impress somebody.  He’s never been a big guy and he’s never really excelled in his endeavors.  He mostly plays sidekick while Rico does most of the planning and execution.

When they don’t find the necklace in their car, Rico and Jerry backtrack and come to the conclusion that Robert McDuffie must have stolen the necklace from them.  Robert is a proud member of the black upper middle class.  He owns several stores but he expanded too rapidly.  He’s also an uncontrollable gambler.  He’s now into Frank for $50,000.00 and counting.  Rico and Jerry picked him up for a conversation with Frank but when they were driving him home, Robert discovered the necklace and decided to pocket it.

Rico pursues Robert from Chicago to Hawaii, where Robert gives the necklace to his wife.  The chase goes awry when Rico kills Robert and another woman, only to find out that the woman he killed wasn’t Robert’s wife.  Following the trail of the Robert’s wife and the necklace, Rico finds that his mind has wandered from the task at hand.  He dreams of taking his girlfriend to Hawaii and living a new life.  Although he continues his efforts to get the necklace back, he faces some life-altering decisions, for himself and those he pursues.

The author gives us great, in-depth character outlines and an interesting story that kept me reading to the end.  I did think it was strange when the story was being told from one character’s POV and in the next sentence or paragraph, it would shift to another character in that scene’s POV.  This happened several times.  It’s not that I had a hard time following it and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It was only strange to me because it’s not something I usually come across in books.  This method made it seem as if I was reading a screenplay.  The book is less than 200 pages and a very quick read.  After having invested the reader in a couple relationships, I felt the end wrapped them up rather abruptly but in the author profile it says that this is the first of a trilogy so there will be more to come.

I want to thank the publisher (Zharmae) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

26154404I just returned a couple of weeks ago from a vacation in Memphis, Tennessee.  I went to visit some friends.  We spent the weekend seeing some awesome music at the Beale Street Music Festival.  I stayed on past the weekend because, as a lifetime Elvis fan I wasn’t going to miss out on a visit to Graceland!  I didn’t have a lot of time that day so I didn’t get to see everything there is to see.  Let me tell you, there is a heap to see and do.  But I am so glad I finally got to see it!  Much to my surprise, I found myself in tears when I got to the meditation garden where Elvis is buried.  It was an emotional experience for me.

Coming home and reading Last Ride to Graceland was a special treat after having just been there.     This book will be enjoyed by all, whether you are an Elvis fan or not.  If you are an Elvis fan, well what’s not to like!  If you’re not an Elvis fan, you may learn some things here.  And hey, why aren’t you an Elvis fan??? ~LOL~

Cory Beth Ainsworth is a 37 year old musician in her hometown of Beaufort, SC.  Cory plays guitar and sings locally.  It’s a seasonal gig and Cory just manages to eke out a living.  Cory has inherited her musical talent from her mother, who left town after high school and spent a year living at Graceland and performing as one of Elvis’s backup singers.

Cory has recently lost her mother to breast cancer, but her father Bradley is still there for her.  Though Cory was raised in a loving home, she’s known since she was 9 years-old that Bradley isn’t her real father.   Her school project led her to do the math.  Everything points to her mother having been pregnant already when she returned from her time at Graceland.  There’s always been that one little question in the back of Cory’s head, is Elvis Presley her real father?

When Bradley calls Cory at work and leaves her a message to send him his boots, she goes out to his place.  Since Bradley’s message specified over and over that she should NOT to look in his shed for the boots, Cory can’t resist the temptation of looking in his shed!  So what to her wondering eyes should appear?  Well, when Cory manages to unwrap it, it’s a 1977 Stutz Blackhawk in mint condition.  There is not a doubt in Cory’s mind who this car once belonged to.  Elvis was renowned for his love of this car.

Cory’s mother never talked about the year she was at Graceland and Cory has always been more than a little curious about her mother’s past.  Hoping to discover the answers she has wondered about for so long, Cory sets out on a road trip through the south, on her way to Graceland.  Using the items she finds in the car she retraces the route her mother took home those many years ago.  Cory knows that her real motive is to find out if Elvis was her father.  What she doesn’t bargain on are the truths she reveals about her mother’s past.

Cory’s a gal who doesn’t hesitate to face down her fears.  She may not have done much with her life, but she’s not apologizing for it.  Hey, it’s her life and she likes it that way!  She’s gritty and a bit rebellious and I loved her character.  The fact that she named her male dog Lucy just cracked me up.

The author, Kim Wright infuses this book with heart and humor galore!   She paints Elvis as the huge megastar that he was, but also as a gentle, caring, scared and vulnerable person with a heart of gold.  All of these traits ultimately led to his tragic death.   I admire her for respecting our memories of Elvis, his great talent, and the wonderful legacy that he left behind.

I would definitely recommend this book.  I enjoyed every moment of this ride to Graceland.

I  want to thank the publisher (Gallery Books) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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The Mastermind by David Unger

26196104Guillermo Rosensweig didn’t wish to tell his father that he didn’t want to go into the family business when he graduated high school. Instead, he traveled Europe, attended college, got married, started a family and became a successful financial lawyer in Guatemala. By all appearances, Guillermo should be a very happy man. However, Guillermo is never quite satisfied. He thinks the world is his oyster and he is obsessed with his extramarital infidelities.

Guillermo takes on a new Lebanese client who runs his own textile factory. His client has also been selected to serve on the board of a Guatemalan bank. The client suspects that Guatemala and its banks have done some underhanded loans and wishes Guillermo to take a look. When the client starts getting threats, Guillermo isn’t sure whether it comes from the direction of the man’s textile dealings or his suspicions about the banking industry. What he is sure of, is that his client is an honest man. He’s also sure that he’s fallen in love with his client’s daughter, the beautiful Maryam.

When Guillermo’s wife leaves him, he thinks the door is wide open to spend the rest of his life with Maryam. But Maryam is married too and her culture is much harsher when it comes to a cheating wife. When Maryam and her father are assassinated, Guillermo’s life begins to unravel. He’s lost his family and his lover. His business is going down the tubes. He is drinking heavily and becoming more and more depressed. As his life comes to an end, Guillermo begins to look for some redemption.

I have to say that I had a tough time liking the first part of the book. Well, I guess it wasn’t so much the book as it was the main character. Rosensweig is a despicable guy. He’s self-centered and shows very little feeling for his wife and family. His preoccupation with his constant sexual forays made him even more unlikeable.

The second part of the book was much better. By that time, I had read the blurb inside the cover and realized that the book is based on a true story. This made what was happening much more intriguing. Guillermo’s one redeeming quality is that he hates what has happened to his country. The author, David Unger, paints a good picture of the corruption in Guatemala. I have no way of knowing if he got close to what Rosensweig’s real-life counterpart must have been like, but it appears that the author has done good research into this story. He builds it into an intriguing thriller with a fantastical ending. This is a good piece of historical fiction.

The Mastermind is based on the real life of Guatemalan attorney, Rodrigo Rosenberg. Rosenberg died in 2009. He recorded a videotape prior to his death. In the video, he stated that if he was murdered the President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom Caballeros, his wife Sandra Torres de Colom, and his private secretary, Gregorio Valdés were directly responsible. After Rosenberg’s murder, attempts to suppress the video only caused it to go viral. His murder and the video caused a national uproar, with the President denying the accusations and the public calling for his resignation. When the United Nations and the FBI launched an investigation into Rosenberg’s claims, they concluded that Rosenberg masterminded his own death. Yet in a country that is rife with corruption, the truth of whether Mr. Rosenberg actually planned his death, or was murdered, can and has been disputed.

Those of you who faithfully read my blog know that I just had to look up the real story. I found the full story along with gruesome pictures of Rosenberg’s body. I also watched Rosenberg’s video, filmed in Spanish but with English subtitles, and released in two parts on YouTube.

What a bizarre news story this made! If you’re interested, here are the links to the video: Guillermo Rosensweig didn’t wish to tell his father that he didn’t want to go into the family business when he graduated high school. Instead, he traveled Europe, attended college, got married, started a family and became a successful financial lawyer in Guatemala. By all appearances, Guillermo should be a very happy man. However, Guillermo is never quite satisfied. He thinks the world is his oyster and he is obsessed with his extramarital infidelities.

Guillermo takes on a new Lebanese client who runs his own textile factory. His client has also been selected to serve on the board of a Guatemalan bank. The client suspects that Guatemala and its banks have done some underhanded loans and wishes Guillermo to take a look. When the client starts getting threats, Guillermo isn’t sure whether it comes from the direction of the man’s textile dealings or his suspicions about the banking industry. What he is sure of, is that his client is an honest man. He’s also sure that he’s fallen in love with his client’s daughter, the beautiful Maryam.

When Guillermo’s wife leaves him, he thinks the door is wide open to spend the rest of his life with Maryam. But Maryam is married too and her culture is much harsher when it comes to a cheating wife. When Maryam and her father are assassinated, Guillermo’s life begins to unravel. He’s lost his family and his lover. His business is going down the tubes. He is drinking heavily and becoming more and more depressed. As his life comes to an end, Guillermo begins to look for some redemption.

I have to say that I had a tough time liking the first part of the book. Well, I guess it wasn’t so much the book as it was the main character. Rosensweig is a despicable guy. He’s self-centered and shows very little feeling for his wife and family. His preoccupation with his constant sexual forays made him even more unlikeable.

The second part of the book was much better. By that time, I had read the blurb inside the cover and realized that the book is based on a true story. This made what was happening much more intriguing. Guillermo’s one redeeming quality is that he hates what has happened to his country. The author, David Unger, paints a good picture of the corruption in Guatemala. I have no way of knowing if he got close to what Rosensweig’s real-life counterpart must have been like, but it appears that the author has done good research into this story. He builds it into an intriguing thriller with a fantastical ending. This is a good piece of historical fiction.

The Mastermind is based on the real life of Guatemalan attorney, Rodrigo Rosenberg. Rosenberg died in 2009. He recorded a videotape prior to his death. In the video, he stated that if he was murdered the President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom Caballeros, his wife Sandra Torres de Colom, and his private secretary, Gregorio Valdés were directly responsible. After Rosenberg’s murder, attempts to suppress the video only caused it to go viral. His murder and the video caused a national uproar, with the President denying the accusations and the public calling for his resignation. When the United Nations and the FBI launched an investigation into Rosenberg’s claims, they concluded that Rosenberg masterminded his own death. Yet in a country that is rife with corruption, the truth of whether Mr. Rosenberg actually planned his death, or was murdered, can and has been disputed.

Those of you who faithfully read my blog know that I just had to look up the real story. I found the full story along with gruesome pictures of Rosenberg’s body. I also watched Rosenberg’s video, filmed in Spanish but with English subtitles, and released in two parts on YouTube.

What a bizarre news story this made! If you’re interested, here are the links to the video:
Part 1 and Part 2
I want to thank the publisher (Akashic Books) for providing me with an Early Reviewers copy through Librarything for an honest review.

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The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

 

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I first read The Celestine Prophecy in 1995 when I was going through some personal strife.  Not having a particular religious association or church which I attended, I was in need of some solace.  I read many books to help me find my way through this terrible time and I found that many of the ideas contained in this book helped to impart some calmness within and sooth me during this terrible period of my life.

The Celestine Prophecy was published in 1993.  I haven’t read any of James Redfield’s follow-up books, so I wanted to listen to the audio book to refresh myself before I do so.  I’m glad I did as the narrator (Lou Diamond Phillips) is very good on the audio version.  Upon reading this book again, I found that the ideas set forth in The Celestine Prophecy are as interesting today as they were at the time the book was written.  The story is told with a beauty and serenity that leaves you feeling calm and refreshed.

Critics of the book have been very harsh, but I believe they are taking it much too seriously.  This novel is a work of fiction.  I believe the author wrote this book to impart his ideas and take us along on his own spiritual journey, perhaps helping others along the way.   This book has a very New Age feel to it, with many of the ideas outlined reflecting those of some Eastern religions.

In Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered within the Mayan ruins.  Upon translation, it generates great interest.  As that interest escalates, p0werful people within the Peruvian government and church are attempting to suppress it.  People that have seen the manuscript have been killed or jailed on trumped-up charges.

The narrator of the book becomes interested in this manuscript through a chat with a long-time friend.  He decides to undertake a journey to Peru to find out more.  As he meets with those who have seen the manuscript, each of them impart a bit of their own knowledge of this mysterious manuscript.  There are 9 spiritual insights contained within it.  The insights are given to us through parables and as each is uncovered, the main character begins to see that there are no coincidences in the world.  Everything is tied together.  When he opens his mind to it, he begins to experience a larger awareness of the world around him and feels he is experiencing some of these insights even before he has learned of them.

At the end of the novel, we learn that the Mayan people had opened themselves to these insights and reached a level of awareness that allowed them to cross over from this world to a more spiritual level, thus leaving behind their ancient civilization.  I’ve been to the Mayan ruins and I have always found them very fascinating.  As with other more advanced ancient societies, the Mayans were really brought down by their fellow man in wars of politics, trade and religious differences.   But I did find this to be an interesting and unique explanation for the collapse of what was, in some ways, a very complex and sophisticated society.

 

Many valuable lessons can be taken from the book.  Such as opening yourself up to new possibilities, tapping into the energy of life, reflections on how to treat your fellow man and experiencing the beauty in the world around you.

This book can be read alone or in tandem with The Celestine Prophecy: An Experiential Guide (1995) co-written with Carol Adrienne.  The author has continued to express his ideas and taken us along on his spiritual journey with 3 more insights in the following books:

  •  The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision (1996)
  • The Tenth Insight: Holding The Vision: An Experiential Guide (1996) co-written with Carol Adrienne
  • The Celestine Vision: Living the New Spiritual Awareness (1997)
  • The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight (1999)
  • God and the Evolving Universe: The Next Step in Personal Evolution (2002) co-written with Sylvia Timbers and Michael Murphy
  • The Celestine Prophecy: The Making of the Movie (2006) co-written with Monty Joynes
  • The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision (2011)

This book could wind up meaning many things to you or maybe nothing at all.  I think it depends on the person and on where they are in their life at the time.  I would not flout the insights in this book as my own “religious” beliefs.  For me personally, this book fell into the self-help category many years ago.  As I said, it imparted some deep reflection within at a time when I was having trouble coping with the world around me. I believe spiritual awakening can be found in many ways.  It doesn’t have to be written in a book, or given in sermon, but ultimately, it does need to be felt in the heart and soul, utilizing any and all tools that get you there.

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Unlikely Friendships: Dogs 37 Stories of Canine Compassion and Courage by Jennifer S. Holland

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Being the animal lover that I am, I was absolutely thrilled to receive an ARC of this book!

An utterly charming book about the unlikely friendships that dogs have with humans and other animals. This book only served to reinforce what I already knew about dogs, that they are wondrous, caring souls and nothing can compare. What amazed me were some of the other species that made friends with the dogs here. If you are an animal lover, this book is an absolute must!  It makes a lovely coffee table book too!

I want to thank the publisher (Workman Publishing Group) for providing me with the ARC through Netgalley for an honest review. 

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Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

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SYNOPSIS:

On the futuristic planet of Echo, big government has joined with corporations and formed the Regime. The planet is policed by the Department of Enforcement. The moon-city of Ascension is the heart of the Regime, home to the Regent and the rest of society’s elite. Echo’s citizens wander through life following all the rules, accepting what they are told and never really having any ambition. Those who don’t are known as dissidents.

Atriya is member of an elite unit known as the Crusaders within the Department of Enforcement. Most of the time these shooters are just known as “The Crew.” The Crew is tasked to take down the dissidents who are forced to reside in the wilds.

The lives of those who are on The Crew are brutal and their training is merciless. Atriya is very competent at his job and he’s taken down a lot of dissidents. But lately, Atriya feels as if his job has become endlessly futile and he is not really making his mark in the world. He is weary of it all and is becoming distracted. He is also letting his temper get the best of him. Some refer to this state of mind as “approaching shatter,” otherwise known as losing it and becoming unable to operate due to stress. This is the ultimate condemnation for a member of The Crew. It’s not just the end of a career, but a path to irrelevance.

Atriya needs to take control of his life. But it may be too late. He is faced with some serious choices that will make or break him. This could be the end of his career, or maybe even the end of his life.

MY THOUGHTS:

This book is exactly what it says it is, a “volume.” Not a lot happens in Volume 1. It is written as a set up for future installments. If you are looking for a whole story here, you will be very disappointed. That being said, the set up is very good, the world-building is excruciatingly detailed and the writing is phenomenal. I liked Atriya. He’s definitely not a brown-noser. He’s hardcore and not afraid to get in stupid people’s faces. Of course, this gets him in quite a bit of trouble! I think it means he’s going to be a great rebellious hero in the near future. I have a feeling there are many evils to be revealed in the world of Echo and look forward to reading more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The afterword by author Kent Wayne is insightful and engaging. I enjoyed it immensely, as much as I do his blog. I came across Kent Wayne on WordPress and his writings are LOL-funny. Kent can be found at dirtyscifibuddha.com

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The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

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We all know the story of how Snow White found her Prince Charming and they lived happily ever after.  Or do we?

In David Meredith’s The Reflections of Queen Snow White the “ever after” part didn’t quite work out the way it sounds.  You see, Prince Charming was quite a bit older than Snow, so he passed away, while Snow still had quite a few years left ahead of her.

Preparations are underway for the wedding of Snow and Charming’s daughter, Raven, but Snow just isn’t showing much interest.  It has been over a year since she lost her prince, and although this should be a happy time for Snow White, she just can’t snap herself out of this hopeless depression.  Snow feels as if a huge part of her very soul has gone missing.

Snow White wanders the palace seeking solace.  When she wanders into the unused wing that was once the quarters of her wicked stepmother, she finds the infamous mirror.  This is the one that her stepmother once talked to endlessly, asking it who was the most beautiful woman in the all the land.  Although the rest of the quarters are cobwebbed and dusty, the mirror appears shiny and clean.

As Snow White gazes into the mirror, she finds that she is talking to it, and she is saying things that she has never revealed to anyone before, not even Charming.  The mirror advises her that some people are frightened of their own reflections and too scared to examine what lies deep within them.  The visions the mirror provides will only reveal that which is already a part of her, but may not be fully realized.

Snow White seeks clarity from the mirror.  As she reflects back on the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepmother, she begins to realize that the pain and torment of these memories still haunt her.  She almost died at the hands of Lady Arglist and she has resented her father for having died, abandoning her to the devices of the evil queen.  And now she resents Charming for leaving her as well.  Although Prince Charming came into her life and put an end to her suffering, she questions whether she ever possessed any strength of her own.  Snow White will need to come to terms with the memories that haunt her and find the strength to carry on without Charming.  Will her wicked stepmother’s mirror help Snow, or is this an evil trap?

This is a nice little novella, taking us on a different route through Snow White’s future.  I found it a very enjoyable and quick read, with a lot of important points being made along the way.  This is a great book for those who might be grieving a loved one.

I would like to thank the author for providing me with a complimentary copy of his book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

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Justin Cronin’s The Passage is an epic tale of monsters; government monsters and the ones they have created.  This is a lengthy read and it covers a full century, shifting seamlessly from one time period to another.  Yes, it has and will be compared to many other books out there but it definitely has unique qualities that make it worth the read.

In the opening chapters, we are backtracked in time and introduced to an American doctor. Through a series of emails to his close friend the doctor tells of his experiences in a South American jungle on a research expedition. He speaks of the company he is in, his grief over his dead wife and how his group has been unexpectedly joined by U.S. soldiers. His emails continue with a tale of most of the group being attacked by a large colony of bats, then growing extremely ill and dying. Thus we are given the origin of the vampire virus.

Flash forward some years and we are introduced to Amy, who is the most pivotal character of the book. Amy is the daughter of a woman who has a great deal of hard luck. This woman becomes a prostitute, which eventually leads her to murder someone in self-defense. Knowing that she will be arrested, Amy’s mother desserts her, leaving 6-year old Amy in the care of Sister Lacey and her group of nuns.

Meanwhile, in a government compound in Colorado, the doctor from expedition is performing experiments in an effort to create bio-engineered soldiers that are unconquerable.  The FBI has been tasked with recruiting 12 prisoners from death-row to take part in these experiments.  When FBI Special Agent, Brad Wolgast picked up his last criminal, Anthony Carter, he saw something in the prisoner that caused him to question the prisoners’ futures.  When the next person to be picked up for the doctor’s experiments is 6 year-old Amy, Wolgast knows he must risk everything to save her.

The prisoners are being injected with a compound that originated with the virus that killed the expedition group.  The compound transforms them into vampires. Known as “virals,” these aren’t your run-of-the-mill vampires and there is absolutely no romance involved here. These are hardened criminals who have been turned into unearthly killing machines.  As it turns out, the vamps can also tap into the human psyche and influence human beings to do their bidding.  They are crazed, maniacal killers, but they will keep one in ten victims alive to add to their colony, which operates as a group consciousness, with the original injected victim being the leader.  So you got it, all the guards in the world aren’t keeping them in this government compound for long!  These inhuman creatures escape from the compound and once unleashed, all of America turns into a place to run and hide.  As the killing begins, Wolgast risks everything to save Amy.  And Amy knows that she may be the key to saving the world.

Flashing forward several decades into the future, we join a California community who is struggling for survival in a post-apocalyptic United States.  They must keep the lights on as protection from the “virals” of the night.  But the batteries that run those lights won’t last much longer,  A teen aged girl named Amy has wandered into the community and not everyone trusts her.  Members of the community are beginning to turn on one another in mysterious ways, and the “virals” seem to be getting closer each day.  Amy leads a small group outside the walls on a quest to save the world.

Is The Passage just another post-apocalyptic read, another story about vampires?  No, this book is an experience to slowly soak in.  It’s a melancholy creepy, monsters-from-the-dark story that will scare your pants off.  Why is it scary?  Because the author makes the science behind how the vampires came to be, seem feasible.  These are not your typical vampires and although the focus of the story relies on the vampires’ existence, the vampires themselves aren’t present through a lot of the book.

Justin Cronin takes us gracefully from one setting to another with some superbly written characters.  We learn a lot about each character’s background.  We go along with them as they fight for survival.  The reader is able to watch the characters grow and change in a natural way as they are depicted with angst, love, depression, cruelty, heartbreak, weakness and a depth of strength and courage that they are unaware that they possess.

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The Immortals by Jordanna Max Brodsky

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It’s been a couple of weeks since my last review.  I was on vacation and having a great time in Memphis!  I didn’t get a lot of reading done during my vacation but I did finish The Immortals while I was on the airplane out.

Selene DiSilva is a Greek goddess living in modern day Manhattan.  She was once known as Artemis, the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo; goddess of the Hunt, protector of young women.

Selene has lived thousands of years and spent most of that time doing what she’s always done, protecting women who need protection.  That job is getting harder now as Selene is becoming weaker.  Those who once worshipped the Greek gods have become fewer, causing Selene and her fellow Immortals to diminish in power.

When Selene discovers the body of a young woman who has been wreathed in laurel, she suspects the murder has ties to the gods.  She vows to find out who this young woman was and why she was murdered.  As Selene works to solve the mystery she has several run-ins with Theo Schultz, a classics professor who is also the ex-boyfriend of the murder victim.  Selene finds herself drawn to Theo in a way that she hasn’t experienced before, but Theo is also a suspect in the murder.  The two of them team up to find the murderer, clashing with the NYPD and other Greek gods along the way.

As the storyline unfolds, Selene and Theo uncover a group of people trying to revive the secret religious rites known as the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece.  Belief in these ancient rites may be a catalyst for the Immortals’ to regain their powers but unfortunately, it also involves human sacrifice.

This book was a nice introduction to a new series.  Unlike a lot of the readers, I have not read the Percy Jackson series yet, so I am looking at the premise of modern day Greek gods through fresh eyes and I like it.  I did have a bit of a hard time liking Selene’s character at first but she gradually grows on you.  I liked geeky Theo a lot!  He was charming, smart and funny, adding some much-needed humor to offset Selene’s serious persona.

I want to thank the publisher (Orbit Books) for providing me with the ARC through Netgalley for an honest review.

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Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray

23340491

BOOK COVER SYNOPSIS:

“It started low and soft, but grew slowly, increasing in pitch and volume into an unceasing scream so loud and so desperate it pierced his primeval soul. The detective was stunned, his mind blank. On the ragged edges of his consciousness a prophecy took hold. He could see, with shattering clarity, that there would never again be a time in his life when that scream did not exist” London, 1986. A newspaper editor is horrifically murdered, his death quickly followed by a series of more brutal, and often bizarre, slayings. The police are baffled, the only clear link between the murders being a single blood red rose left at the scene of every killing. Why? What does the rose mean? What connects the killer to each bloody corpse? Scotland Yard detective Alan Winters leads a hunt for the elusive prey. As the body count rises, Jennifer Chapman, renowned investigative journalist and daughter of the murdered newspaper editor, sets out on a personal quest for revenge. Drawn together in their pursuit of a deadly quarry, Winters and Jennifer unwittingly face a fatal surprise, for the killer is closer than they think. As they close in on the truth of the blood red rose, their unseen foe plots a shattering end to his reign of terror, and death awaits them all.

MY THOUGHTS:

The book blurb on this is fantastic and I couldn’t sum it up any better!

I found it interesting that the author took us back to 1986 in this book.  I’m not sure what the purpose was but it did make communication between the characters more difficult in a time before cell phones.  Hard to remember those days!

This was a very enjoyable book!  All of the lead characters were very likable.  Jan Van Deventer, known as “The Dutchman” had an air of mystery as the older, has-been detective.  Jennifer Chapman, as a journalist and the daughter of the first murder victim, was a strong, independent force to be reckoned with.  Alan Winters as the up-and-coming detective, had a mind of his own and took as good as he got from both Jan and Jennifer.  I wouldn’t mind seeing any or all of these three characters carried over to another book.  And this from one who gets tired of those never-ending series!

Seriously, these were great characters and even if we don’t see them again, I know I will definitely recommend this book.  It was well-written, suspenseful and had a touch of romance. The POVs from the killer are absolutely chilling and we are given multiple suspects to focus on, leaving it very hard to guess which is the culprit.  I didn’t guess before the reveal.

Now excuse me while I go decide which of Kevin Murray’s books to read next!

I want to thank the publisher (Urbane Publications) for providing me with the ARC through Netgalley for an honest review.

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Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet

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Anna is mother to 6 year old Lena. They live in a small motel in Maine, in hiding from Anna’s husband, Ned. Ned is a handsome and magnetic man. He’s also humorless, cold, indifferent and a major philanderer. He didn’t want their daughter and he’s never shown an iota of interest in the marriage or their daughter, until he decided on a new career in politics. Now he won’t stop pursuing them because he wants his picture perfect family in place for his campaign.

Anna, what can I say about Anna. She is a very troubled woman. She stays in an unhappy marriage, bears a child and continues to be ignored for 4 long years before she finally decides to leave. Too weak and docile to just ask her husband for a divorce, she goes into hiding with her daughter. On top of that, the first year of her daughter’s life she was hearing a mysterious voice, making her question her sanity.

Spattered throughout the book are entries from Wikipedia and other research that Anna has done in trying to figure out the mysterious voice she used to hear. Her theories have run the gamut from explorations of language, consciousness, perception and psychosis to reincarnation, but she has never come to a solid conclusion.

While the story of Anna and Lena in hiding kept me reading to the end to find out what happened, I didn’t find the story very plausible. I kept wondering why Anna didn’t take some action against Ned He wasn’t physically abusive. Sweet Lamb of Heaven is a mixture of psychological thriller and the divine? I guess…maybe…that seems to be the outcome here. I may have missed some complex meaning here, I’m not sure. All in all, I found the ending to be very anticlimactic.

I want to thank the publisher (W. W. Norton & Company) for providing me with the ARC through Netgalley for an honest review.
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The Wolf Trial by Neil Mackay


Like a lot of happenings medieval times, this tale is brutal and horrifying. It’s also historical fiction at it’s finest!  Ripped from 16th century pamphlets, Neil Mackay takes us behind the scenes of a true case, documented as one of the earliest accounts of a serial killer.

William Loos is now an 80 year-old historian  in England, but that’s not who he has always been. He was once known as Willy Lessinger, an assistant to the solicitor, Paulus Melchior.

In the year of 1563, Paulus and his student Willy, along with representatives from the Church, traveled to Bideburg, Germany to officiate at the trial of Peter Stumpf.  Peter Stumpf was a wealthy wood mill owner and timber merchant in the town of Bideburg, who was being tried for brutally killing 68 men, women and children. Here’s the thing…Peter was tried as a werewolf!

Paulus and Willy work painstakingly hard to uncover the facts behind the fiction.  Is Peter a werewolf or merely a psychotic killer?  Are his wife and children also afflicted by the curse of the devil?

This gruesome recounting of the trial of Peter the Wolf is definitely not for the squeamish. The medieval age was not an enlightened time period.  Plague was rampant,  religious persecution abounded and tales of the devil in the form of vampires, witches and werewolves were commonly held superstitions.  Full of horror, cruelty and uncountable atrocities, this is an unflinching look at the evils of human nature at that time.

I seriously had to take a breather after reading this book! I also went online to read more about this unbelievable but true history.  Horror lovers and history buffs will be enthralled reading this book.  The writing is absolutely superb and the epilogue is masterful.

I want to thank the publisher (Freight Books) for providing me with the ARC through Netgalley for an honest review. 

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1-800 Books

book lovers'paradise

Allison The Reader

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books. ” -Tahereh Mafi

Angie Dokos

Living life one chapter at a time.

The Heathen

Je Ne Sais Quoi

How Useful It Is

Trying to be Useful, one post at a time!

ednakimaniblog

Welcome to your new home on WordPress.com

The Loner and His Books

The tree, it wanted to be a beautiful book.

thebookwormsfantasy

A blog for the avid reader and writer

AmandaPandaDUH

Lazy Girl in Captivity

Butterflies & Machineguns

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." - Stanisław Jerzy Lec

My Book Sense

Let's review, shall we? Book reviews, tags, and bookish content!

The Book return...

Introducing you to your next favorite read.

Le Blog BlookUp

Imprimez vos contenus digitaux en livre avec BlookUp !

themisfitsweb

The Lost Generation

1-800 Books

book lovers'paradise

Allison The Reader

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books. ” -Tahereh Mafi

Angie Dokos

Living life one chapter at a time.

The Heathen

Je Ne Sais Quoi

How Useful It Is

Trying to be Useful, one post at a time!

ednakimaniblog

Welcome to your new home on WordPress.com

The Loner and His Books

The tree, it wanted to be a beautiful book.

thebookwormsfantasy

A blog for the avid reader and writer

AmandaPandaDUH

Lazy Girl in Captivity

Butterflies & Machineguns

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." - Stanisław Jerzy Lec

My Book Sense

Let's review, shall we? Book reviews, tags, and bookish content!

The Book return...

Introducing you to your next favorite read.

Le Blog BlookUp

Imprimez vos contenus digitaux en livre avec BlookUp !

themisfitsweb

The Lost Generation

avidfangirlforlife

"La musica è chiaro di luna nella notte cupa della vita." - Jean Paul Friedrich Ritcher

FLAWLESS READS

rants, reviews, and randomness

The night is dark and full of books

Posts every Monday & Friday at 4:00 PM

Wesley Tsuma

Writing for a better society.

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