Saturday, April 30, 2011

REVIEW: "The Milieu Principle" by Malcolm Franks

Mike Daniels is not the most social man in the business world. He has a good heart, but it's deeply hidden under his rough exterior. He's a man of numbers, and has no time for social niceties. Business is business. When Mike receives a memory stick in the mail, he thinks nothing of it... until he takes a look at what it contains. Now his life is in turmoil as he changes his identity and goes on the run to protect this secret. His race against time takes him around the world and puts him up against highly trained opponents who want nothing more than to see him dead. Can he stay alive long enough to save the world?

In this thriller by Malcom Franks, an ingenious plot has been hatched that will address overpopulation. Ingenious, and insidious. The masters behind the curtain get to control who is worthy of life and who is superfluous. I thought this concept was really intriguing, the stuff of blockbuster thrillers. It's the type of storyline that really pulls you in and has the potential to take you on a breathless ride. As Mike/Matt plows his way towards answers, he encounters so many twists and turns that he doesn't know what- or who- to trust.

Even with an exciting plot with such potential, the actual writing really varied for me. I started the first page thinking the writing was really nice- descriptive and varied in language and structure. However, as I read on, I felt like the writing was trying too hard. Some sentences felt as if the author worked really hard to craft each sentence as a work of art. The result didn't have the effortless feel that my favorite books have had. Additionally, there was inconsistent comma use, occasional tense changes in a single sentence, missing punctuation, a confusing use of "Matt" instead of "Mike" early on (apparently a foretelling of a new identity down the road). Some sentences were somewhat confusing as written. For example, I took these sentences from two consecutive pages (and there were others I could have chosen): "Neither it is not safe for you to go outside." "Their attentions were appeared fixed more upon examining the human presence in the other streets, leading away from where they were standing." and "Though not in the EU he had much influence with people here and I was rescued from the situation." A more effective use of punctuation would have really helped clarify those sentences. Additionally, there is a lot of smirking from the bad guys in the beginning of the story, and I had no idea someone could actually "smirk harder." A really thorough editing would elevate this story quite a bit.

There are many characters in this story, some only slightly developed, making it difficult to keep track of everyone along the way. Mike goes through a major metamorphosis in this book- interesting and necessary, but the actual changes were sometimes unrealistic and obvious. This story is really driven by plot rather than characters, and the result is an uneven development of the characters, with some a little more interesting than others. Even though it's the plot events that drive the story, some events in the story seemed to have been done for the sake of convenience just to get to the next event, and the overall effect lacks some fluidity and realism. Some events didn't seem as logical as I would have expected, and I couldn't always follow the "why" of the choices made. At times, the plot dragged enough to make me forget where we were going and why. The overall effect felt somewhat disjointed to me.

An intriguing concept with tons of potential, but would really benefit from some editing of the writing and tightening of the plot events. I'm giving it a slight boost in star rating soley based on the fact that I loved the underlying concept.

3 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Sunday, April 24, 2011

PHOTOS: Tree Whisperer

I've taken a bit of a mental break these past several days, enjoying the Easter holiday with the family. I'm bummed that my Sony 505 is starting to get a little funky- I'm missing a chunk in the corner of the screen, and it seems to be spreading. Time to buy a new ereader... I'd love a 650, and I see they're in stock again, but not sure I can justify the price tag :(  I need someone to bequeath me one in a will or something :D 

Anyway, I love trees, and find them quite intriguing. Here are some random tree pictures!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

REVIEW: "Unsavory Delicacies" by Russell Brooks

This little collection of short stories by Russell Brooks makes for a satisfying and quick read. Nicely written and engaging throughout, these stories bundle intrigue and entertainment with interesting characters and fast-paced plots. The writing style is such that it's easy to lose yourself in the action.

Crème brûlée- Arms dealer Monique Beauvais gets the surprise of a lifetime when the tables are turned after a specially planned luncheon. Although told in third person, we are privy to Monique's thoughts. That gives us a nice perspective on the events and makes the ending all that much more satisfying. Offering a nice twist and just enough context to get you into the story, this is a tasty treat.

To the Last Bite- A restaurant critic experiences the meal of his dreams... or is it? The restaurant business may not be all that he thought it was. Slightly predictable, but still well-crafted with a few surprises to spare, this is a fun story. I particularly like the details that helped us to understand the critic and his motivations. I loved this title the best, and this story was also my favorite of the bunch.

Shashlyk and Morozhenoe- CIA operatives find a little more than they bargained for when they arrange a sting. I had to read this ending a few times to really understand what happened. This story left me a little cold. It wasn't nearly as engaging as the previous two stories, and I never really had that "oh wow" moment that I got with the others. Although the first two stories are set up perfectly as short stories, this third one felt more like an introductory teaser chapter in a novel or novella. It wasn't as satisfying as an ending, but would be intriguing as an introduction.

Altogether a nicely written and entertaining collection!

4 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Noble
(Also available at Amazon UK and XinXii)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

REVIEW: "Paper Woman" by Suzanne Adair

Love, Sex and Death! Paper Woman has it ALL! 

GET READY TO RUMBLE! It's the Blog Tour de Force battle to the death, and you're invited! Read my review of Suzanne Adair's "Paper Woman" below, then follow the directions below the review to be eligible to win prizes and your own copy of "Paper Woman!" 

Sophie lives her life for the family printing business, intelligent conversations with her good friend Edward, and time spent with her family. But trouble is brewing in Alton this June of 1780 as the events in the Revolutionary War continue to grow in intensity. On a night that begins with a friendly party, three men will end up dead-- one of them Sophie's father. In an effort to find her father's killer and avenge his death, Sophie is drawn into an adventure that becomes so much more than she dreamed. She'll be up against dangers she could not even fathom, and it will take every bit of her inner strength and cunning to get her through. What will become of the Paper Woman?

A first novel by Suzanne Adair, this book won the Patrick D. Smith Literature Award. Fluid and descriptive, with writing that seamlessly weaves plot and historical context, it was a well-deserved win. The writing carries you along in such a way that you can't help but become engrossed in the time and the context of the story. The gritty realities of life in this time are made clear, as are the challenges women faced. This is no romanticized vision of the past, this is truth down to the grueling detail. The story was immediately engaging as we follow Sophie at a party, fending off unwanted advances and trying to keep track of her willful and outspoken father. Taking the reader across Florida and then across the ocean, this is a thrilling ride, full of adventure, duplicity and intrigue. With just enough twists in the story to maintain interest, it's easy to imagine yourself there, amidst the grime and fear, struggling to stay a step ahead of the game.

There are plenty of characters to keep track of, and the development of these characters is top-notch. Although it's sometimes tricky to remember a name here and there (and, for some reason, it threw me off that Sophie's father is referred to as "Will" in the story rather than "her father" or some such moniker to denote his relationship to Sophie), there is enough context given for each character that they really distinguish themselves along the way. Sophie is a kick-ass character. She is a woman in a man's world, but manages to hold her own against many powerful and determined men. She's strong, yet vulnerable; especially with regards to her love life. "Uncle" Jacques is colorful and engaging, and it's easy to imagine him as the fun guy at the party. Edward appears a simple character, but turns out to be more complex than we may have imagined, while Fairfax is so ruthless and clever it's easy to despise him. David is perhaps the least developed character, and it would have been nice to get a little more personality from him, but, really, "least developed" in this crew is still more developed than many stories I've read. He may just seem the least developed to me because the others are so tangible in my mind. Of all the characters, Mathias is my favorite. There's something about his own past and his conflicted feelings about love and happiness that pulls me right in. I rooted for him, but I wanted to smack sense into him at the same time.

Although a very well-written and engaging story, I did find myself lost a time or two along the way. There was so much going on, sometimes I had to backtrack to see what I'd missed on my first read. Some of the plot events almost seemed too much. I think I craved a touch more simplicity in the plot, since the characterization and setting were so rich and complex. Overall, however, a fantastic story that allowed me to fully immerse and enjoy!

4.5 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

I've written my review, now it's YOUR turn: This book is in competition to win in the Blog Tour de Force. Be sure to stop by the author's blog today for your chance to leave a comment and enter to win some amazing prizes! Seriously- GO NOW! Then come back here and comment on MY blog (because you loved my review so much and it's part of the instructions and I'm a little nervous now that I feel like I'm in competition, too...) with the special key words to be eligible for prizes!  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Official Blurb: 

Follow the editor and his client into the infinite ring of Ouroboros, the self-devouring, in this episodic novella by Arthur Graham. A story told through concentric circles of narrative, each adding a layer of truth while further smothering all notions of certainty, Editorial will leave readers wondering just how many times the same tale can be swallowed... 

This novella by Arthur Graham is available FREE from Smashwords until May 31st. Just click on this link to go to the Smashwords page, enter the promotional code: LC43P, and complete the "purchase" to download a copy in the format of your choice! 

When you've read the book, be sure to leave a review to let the author -and your fellow readers- know what you thought. Enjoy! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday!

 This is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Here are the rules-- Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Their voices dwindled, and the sputter of a torch swallowed the rest of their conversation. She chanced a look at them, but they'd already passed from silhouettes into secrecy." (p. 12)


"She whipped out the pistol, cocked it fully, and leveled the barrel at his nose, hoping he couldn't see her heart pounding in her throat. Both Spaniard's eyes bulged in shock."  (p.28)

Just for the record, this is the first week I've "cheated" on the Teaser Tuesday by posting two snippets from the same book. I just randomly flicked to both pages and couldn't decide which one to include! 

Don't forget to stop by my blog this THURSDAY, April 21st to read my review of "Paper Woman" and then stop by the author's blog for your chance to win prizes and get your own copy of "Paper Woman"- all part of Blog Tour de Force! (Check out this post for some information about the contributors to the Historic Haversock you could win from the author's blog!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

REVIEW: "Yaakov the Pirate Hunter" by Nathaniel Wyckoff

It's 2025, and the Peretz family has a variety of robots to do their bidding. When Yaakov and Yosef are playing Frisbee one day, Yaakov throws it much too high and it lands on the roof. Yaakov uses the climb-bot to get the Frisbee, but an impatient Yosef throws a baseball that knocks the climb-bot right off the roof. Because of that throw, the boys discover a treasure map hidden inside the robot. Following the map sets a series of events into motion that takes the Peretz family halfway around the world to follow some pirates and attempt to thwart their evil plan to steal a sacred scroll.

Written by Nathaniel Wyckoff, this middle-grade novel follows Yaakov and his family as they chase down the pirates who stole some precious belongings. Originally created by the author to satisfy his own children's hunger for stories about robots, there is a sweetness to this story that is very similar to the Boxcar Children series. Somewhat far-fetched with amazing coincidences and adults who readily share their secrets, the storyline is rather simple and will appeal to a younger audience. Yaakov is a precocious 11-year-old who calls the shots and manages to put the pieces of the puzzle together. His character was interesting and young boys will likely relate well to his sense of adventure. On the other hand, I never really got a feel for Yosef and I'm left with this image of a sullen boy with no real personality. Rachel, the sister, was more interesting, allowing me to form a picture of what she may be like. Set in 2025, robots play a prominent theme, but everything else seems amazingly similar to today. It would have been fun to see a few more innovations that would allow the younger reader to imagine the world 14 years in the future as different and exciting.

One thing I really loved about this book was the seamless weaving of the Jewish culture into the storyline. As a child, I learned an awful lot about other cultures and peoples from the books I read. This book is poised to introduce a child to vocabulary and cultural practices of Judaism, while offering a fun and exciting story. At the same time, this provides a familiar context for Jewish children. Children enjoy reading about familiar things, and I haven't seen a plethora of middle-grade adventures starring children from the Jewish culture. On a down note, I felt the series of events in the story almost made it feel a bit disjointed. The events did flow into one another, but it felt like two major sections to a book rather than a smooth ride to the climax. Additionally, the ending really threw me for a loop. It was so abrupt and unexpected in ending where it did, I had to look back again to be sure I didn't miss anything. The last few pages of the story seemed to be gearing us up for another part to the adventure, but the story ends instead. I think perhaps it would have been better to leave that ending part about the sig-bot out entirely, or else follow through with Yaakov's idea.

Pleasant and entertaining, this book will appeal to a younger audience.

3 /5 stars

Available at Amazon

Thursday, April 14, 2011

PHOTOS: Pictures From a Seattle Ferry

I haven't posted any pictures in a while, and I've been saving this post. I took these pictures a summer ago, and every picture here was taken from the ferry. How I miss living in Seattle! Seattle is one of my very favorite places in the U.S.

I need way more time to take some new pictures.... I've just been so busy lately! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

REVIEW: "The Gods of Dream" by Daniel Arenson

Cade and Tasha have endured tragedy and loss. Their daily lives are dismal, without an end in sight. But at night the siblings can meet in Dream. It's not only a state of mind, it's a magical, enchanting, physical place. There, they can forget their wretched pasts and bleak futures and focus on the peace and rapture to be found in Dream. This joy is short-lived, however, as the creatures of Nightmare start to invade Dream and threaten not only Dream, but Earth itself. Cade is chosen to save Dream, but can he do it?

Written by Daniel Arenson, "The Gods of Dream" is an epic fantasy with an exquisite and surreal feel. The author has a talent for description, and it's easy to picture the worlds of Dream and Nightmare. They're everything you thought they may be, and maybe even more. The storyline has a bit of a Biblical feel, a feeling which is heightened as the two sides draw closer to the battle that will determine the future of both realms, as well as the future of all humans. Each realm has a variety of different regions, and those in Nightmare almost felt like Dante's circles of hell. Each of the areas in Nightmare presents a different type of horror to be experienced, just as each area in Dream provides a special type of pleasure. The author has crafted his characters nicely, and the gods of each realm are distinct and fascinating. The hierarchy of the gods in Dream mirrors those found in Nightmare. The relationship between the various gods is somewhat reminiscent of the relationship between the Devil and his minions, and God and his angels. While I loved those two worlds and the characterization of each world, I wanted to understand a bit more the relationship between these realms and Earth.

The story started out somewhat slow for me. It took me some time to really get a feel for what was going on and where we were going. As I read on, my interest grew and I became much more entranced by, and committed to, the story. Taking such ethereal creations as dreams and nightmares and transforming them into actual physical places to be experienced and explored puts a new and exciting spin on something we only experience while we sleep. Although the story did drag for me at times, as we battled with all the lesser gods of Nightmare and walked for days and weeks and months, it was worth the read. The story itself didn't totally "wow" me, but the creativity of concepts and the beautifully flowing writing left me thinking about the ideas long after I'd finished reading. I wasn't completely captivated by the plot, but I was entranced by the worlds the author created. The gorgeous cover of the book really captures the feel of the story. I suspect I'll be thinking about the imagery and concepts woven into this story long after I've forgotten about Cade and Tasha and the details of their quest.

4.5 /5 stars (I originally was thinking 4 stars, but I bumped it up a bit just for the incredible worlds of Dream and Nightmare)

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

(Read my review of the "Flaming Dove" by Daniel Arenson here)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

GIVEAWAY! Win one of two ebooks offered by Jennifer Hampton!

Enter to WIN one of the following ebooks in the Beautiful Sins series by Jennifer Hampton

Beautiful Sins: Leigha Lowery

Official Blurb:
Enter the world of Leigha Lowery as she travels to the Dark Coast, where Vampire, Werewolves, Witches, and other creatures of the night that have decided to make the Dark Coast their home. The Dark Coast is made up of the states surrounding the Pacific Coastline infected by a military experiment gone Awry. The states are ruled by constant cloud cover. Welcome to the Dark Coast. 

Beautiful Sins: Olivia Lowery

Official Blurb:
My name is Olivia Lowery. I’m a wealthy socialite residing outside of the Dark Coast, on the Upper East Side no less. I’m beautiful, I’m privileged and I can have just about any guy that I want. That is… until the morning of my sixteenth birthday. That’s when I discovered something different about myself. 

To enter, just leave a comment on this post with your email! Two winners will be chosen (using random selection), one for each book. I will mail the winner the code to get the book free of cost from
(If you would ONLY like to be considered for one specific book, please include the title in your comment).

(giveaway ends April 21, 2011, so enter today!)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays!

 This is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Here are the rules-- Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here's my truly random teaser (e.g., I opened to the page I happened to be reading and picked the only paragraph on the page that was exactly two sentences long): 

"The Incubus turned his great scaly head toward her, but said nothing. His drool hit the floor and hissed, raising steam." 

I'm sponsoring "Paper Woman" for Blog Tour de Force!

I'm sponsoring Suzanne Adair's book, "The Paper Woman," during the week-long Blog Tour de Force. This is going to be loads of fun, with lots of prizes for YOU, dear reader, to win! This book's feature day is Thursday, April 21. On that day, I'll be posting my review of her book, "Paper Woman" (available on Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble), and you'll have the chance to win BIG!

What could you win, you ask? Well, first of all, if you visit the author's website on April 21st, you'll get to download a FREE copy of "Paper Woman." It's your chance to get the book that won the Patrick D. Smith Literature Award, in addition to collecting quite a number of 5-star reviews! If the free book wasn't enough, you'll also be eligible to win other prizes, such as the author's "Historic Haversack" full of gifts .... and even a Kindle! All you need to do is visit the author's website on Thursday, April 21st, and follow a few instructions. Check out this post for more details!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

REVIEW: "Take the Monkeys and Run" by Karen Cantwell

Barbara Marr is just your average suburban mom who thinks of life in terms of movies. She's just going through the daily grind that includes raising her three daughters and wondering why her husband just left her. Wildlife is common in the aptly-named neighborhood of Rustic Woods, but screeching monkeys in the trees? Not so typical. So when loud noises in the middle of the night seem to be coming from the vacant house Barb calls the "House of Many Bones," Barb gets out of bed to investigate. She hears howls and screams, and finds her trees overrun with monkeys. Eager to have something to get her mind off her own misery, she begins an investigation. She pulls in her best friend, Roz, and an ex-boyfriend, Colt, pulls himself in. That's about the time that things get just a little out of hand. Barb finds herself thrown into a thrilling cinematic adventure of her own, complete with the Mafia, guns, stake-outs, and dead body parts, and she belatedly realizes there's no director around to yell "cut!"

The first in the Barbara Marr Murder Mystery series, this book by Karen Cantwell is a hoot. Barb is zany, outlandish, and doesn't always make the best choices, so she's a lot of fun to follow. She says and does things we all think about sometimes. She's a typical mom with three girls and a bit -ok, more than a bit- of a movie fetish. Barb sees things in terms of how characters in a movie would react, which adds some nice color commentary. I found this tact to be a clever way to tie the storyline in with Barb's character, and it really helps you get a more developed picture of what Barb is like. It also leaves a lot of potential for future storylines. The wacky premise and kooky cast of characters is reminiscent of those found in books written by Jennifer Crusie and Jane Heller. If you prefer realistic mysteries, then this may not be your best choice. This book is pure fun and silliness, and what I consider to be complete "brain candy." I know, for me, indulging in brain candy is a really relaxing and entertaining way to spend some free time.

Along the line of these types of stories, the writing style is a bit quirky, with some interesting grammar constructs. In a story of this genre, this informal and offbeat writing doesn't seem out of place. The storyline gets a little more outlandish on each new page turned. The sometimes eccentric secondary characters add color to the story, and the descriptions of each character allow you to really picture them. There is some predictability to the plot, and some of the male characters, in particular, seem cliche, but it's all in line with the genre of the story. The ending is satisfying in the way that is typical of this type of book, and it prepares you to read the next story in the series.

Overall, a zany and fun adventure in which to immerse yourself!

4 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble


A collection of shorts, "The Chronicles of Marr-nia" showcases Barbara Marr in some family adventures. Zany and fun, this is a good companion to "Take the Monkeys and Run." I could especially relate to the motherhood aspect of the stories, and I will fully admit that I've been known to "Hulk-out," too. This collection may be a good bet if you'd like to get to know Barb before deciding if her murder mystery series is right for you. It's a great introduction to the characters and the type of writing you'll see in the full-length novel. There are also a few bonus stories at the end that follow a completely different type of writing style, and it gives the reader a sense of the author's other capabilities as a writer.

Available at Amazon

Saturday, April 09, 2011

REVIEW: "Qi" by Elizabeth A. Svigar

Sam is the best archer in all of Salem. With her latest win, she and her sister, Abby, herself a gifted fencer, have the chance to train for the Olympics at magical Xenith. Prestigious and affluent, this training camp in Fletching provides an opportunity of a lifetime. As an added bonus, Sam and her sister will get to spend a lot more time with their mother, who lives in the area, and Eli, an old friend with whom Sam is excited to rekindle a friendship. It's a dream come true. But dreams don't always turn out the way we expect. Sometimes our dreams turn into nightmares. How will this one end?

Written for a young adult audience, "Qi" is fanciful and engaging. I found Sam's character to be realistic, with real flaws and strengths, and I liked her. The rest of the characters were a little less developed, and not quite as engaging. The adults, in particular, were less complex and compelling than the children in the story. The adults are, in fact, secondary characters, which really serves to highlight the strength of the younger characters in the story. Nicely written, in fluid prose for this age level, this novel is quite appropriate for the middle grade or younger young adult set. The author sets the scenes with descriptive language that allows the reader to picture the events and characters.

The storyline is immediately engaging, and I was eager to find out more about Fletching and the Liffey family. A mysterious stranger is introduced right in the first few pages, and this infuses a nugget of expectation, which pulled me in further. Although the book is titled "Qi," I felt like not quite enough was done with this concept, and I would have loved for it to have come up a bit more than it did. When the magic doll, Will, was presented in the story, it became more clear what type of a fantasy story this was. Although this doll played a major role, I feel like I didn't really get a good sense of him. He seemed to be such an integral part of what goes on in Fletching, but, in his introduction, we find that he's been locked up for years. I wondered if he was the only creation of his sort, and how he might have come to be.

I found the ending of the book to be a little less engaging than the first half of the book had been. The ending seemed a little less relatable and almost like a different type of story than I had been expecting. It's hard to define exactly what I felt, but I found myself thinking "what??" on several occasions during the climatic scenes of the book. I like the way the ending wasn't completely tied into a neat package with a pretty little bow, but I was confused by just how much was left open to the imagination. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the book is titled "Book One of the Baba Yaga," so it seems there is much more to come in later installments. I hope that's the case, because one of the things I wanted most probed was the triangle between Dr. Dante and Sam's parents. I also wanted more about Jonah and his experiences, and what was in store for both Abby and Sam. There is a lot left to discover, and I look forward to seeing where this story leads.

Engaging and fun, this was a really nice start to a series that has the potential to be an exciting fantasy adventure for younger readers.

3.5 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Thursday, April 07, 2011

REVIEW: "Wrecker" by Dave Conifer

Jane and Steve need some work done on their house. Conveniently, Steve hears about someone who can not only do the work, but will do it really inexpensively. Serendipity! Or is it? Rob is a little rough around the edges, and Jane isn't so sure about this situation. Struggling through a rough patch in her marriage, however, she soon warms up to Rob and they become friends, sort of. He's a tragic, mysterious figure, and Jane finds herself intrigued by his past. Before long, however, Jane starts to realize just who Rob is and what he's all about, and his secrets include something she could have never have imagined. If she's going to make it through this situation intact, her strength and determination will be called upon like never before. If Jane thinks her life is bad now, she'll be amazed at just how bad it can get.

This novel by Dave Conifer started off as a bit "Nicholas Spark-ish" but turned into a thriller as the writing process evolved (the author talks about that here). I enjoyed this book. There were some neat connections that tied the story together and made for an exciting plot. These connections result in a satisfying, if a little unrealistic, ending. The final twist is definitely unexpected, and I'm not sure how I felt about it. I found it interesting, and it just added that much more to the ending, but the way it was written made it seem a little outlandish. I think it would have gone over better had the reveal been a little more subtle.

I really liked the character of Jane. I found her believable and interesting, and the most developed character in the book. I found Steve a little more cliche. His reactions seemed more over-the-top than the story called for, and he was almost a caricature of a busy, disinterested husband. Rob's character had a lot of potential, but he confused me at times. I realize he may not have been "all there" mentally, but I never quite got the whole "I'm doing it for her" train of thought. It seemed such a big part of his motivation, but I felt that particular thread didn't have a lot of closure. From the emphasis on that, I thought it might have played a bigger role down the line. The relationship between Jane and Rob was fascinating, and it was fun to follow the path it took throughout the story.

The writing was stylistically very simple, which made for a fast read. The story was engaging and interesting, with several twists and turns along the way. I found sections of dialogue to be somewhat unrealistic and trite at times, however. Some of the information presented through dialogue may have been better shown through actions, or by taking a step inside the characters' heads. Although the plot itself has a lot of depth, I felt the writing lacked some of that depth. The story dragged here and there, but it never dragged to the point where I wanted to put the book down. I was definitely interested from beginning to end. Towards the ending, the shifts between scenes and characters were quicker, and that was in line with the upcoming climax.

All in all, an interesting and fun read!

3.5 /5 stars

Available at Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

Monday, April 04, 2011

REVIEW: "The Ark of Adams" by Jack Kane

Official BlurbDr. Timothy Adams' invention was supposed to save mankind. Arcadia was to be his crowning achievement. Through life extension technologies and Virtual Reality fueled immersion, a land of plenty has been born; a shelter from a dawning New Ice Age and refuge from collapsing global economic markets. But, the shadowy government agency that so generously funded his efforts has other plans.

Additional informationThe Ark Of Adams is a story about noble intention gone awry. Consider one Dr. Timothy Adams. In a near distant future beset by the turmoil of global warming and economic failures, he creates an innovative virtual reality application which, when combined with extropian immersion technologies, yields a land of plenty. With the promise of a viable solution to the world’s problems at hand, his deal with a shadowy government agency appears of a reasonable means to an end.

Meet Senator Elaine Noel, Citizen 472. Assigned to the colony of Arcadia for data integrity strategies, her true identity since lost to system corruption; today, she serves as a lowly backup technician, known as Nikki Allen. But, today is not an ordinary day. 

Today, she will be interrogated by intelligence agents, stripped of her system profile, and imprisoned. Today, she will become a fugitive and find herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse amidst the hacker underground. 

Yet when tragedy strikes Limmerick; this imperfect world, facing its final moments, will look to her as their leader in a fight to be waged for the ultimate control of all that remains.  

I started this book with very high hopes. An Earth on the brink of collapse, unable to sustain its population, a brilliant scientist who develops a solution using the tenets of virtual reality..., a very compelling premise. I think the concept is solid and has a lot of potential, but I was unable to get past the lack of punctuation (particularly a lack of commas), the typos (including its always being spelled its'), and what I consider to be awkward phrasing in order to finish the book. I started and stopped this book several times over the past few days, but was unable to get past the writing style. I'm sure there's a gem of a story in there, I just couldn't unlock it. I wanted to love it, but really couldn't read it. As such, I will decline to give this book a star rating. 

I am including a few of the sentences I found in the first 70 pages. I include them because it's indicative of the writing within, and the writing may be perfectly in line with what some are looking for in a novel. Just because I found the writing to be an impediment doesn't mean all readers will find the same.

--"She climbed out of bed slowly, her waking coordination making her slippers slide onto her feet more difficultly than normal."

--"Upon reaching the next oasis, she repeated the process while taking the time to again dowse the top of her head with the water before filling the canteen that she carried."

--" 'You knew I was coming and were going to not let me in?' she inquired at his nerve."  

--"She hung her head taking in his points. They were inciting but true and at that moment she knew that she really did need help and that she indeed did not have many options." 

Neat concept with lots of potential, but the writing style got in my way. Your mileage may vary!

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