Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Long Utopia' by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter have taken us far into the future in The Long Utopia. As humans evolve and even Artificial Intelligence (AI) is left behind, the original Earth is failing and parallel Earths seem to hold the answer to the future. However, there is a strange shift in one of the parallel Earths. This planet is known for its simplicity and is where Lobsang, an elderly AI, has disguised himself as human and is living his life in obscurity.

Soon though, an new intelligent new life form, known simply as the Next, has been discovered by the children on this planet and seem to be friendly. They actively trade for rocks and junk while leaving nice gifts of jewelry in return. Along with this discovery, both Lobsang and his partner have found a strange anomaly creating uncomfortable changes in the sequence of time. While most humans do not feel a difference, it creates havoc with the AI’s internal clock. While the causes of the anomaly are unknown, the results appear to be shorter days.

Since travel among the planets is facilitated with a box for stepping (a form of moving between plants), even this procedure is at risk. There is a group of steppers, however, that are able to step between time and space without the use of the computer technology from the box, but they must remain hidden for they are deemed a danger to the world. Lobsang must come out of hiding and track down these hidden steppers, for with their abilities they may be the only way to save this world. The connection between the planets is at risk as Lobsang and his group discover that the Next are on a course to destroy the very core of their home. Can they find if this is the real intention and if so, can they save this planet before the Next find a way to destroy the entire human and AI race?

The late Pratchett was known for his works featuring alternate realities. In The Long Utopia he moves us into another realm of space and the unknown. With Baxter as a coauthor we can be sure this world will not sink into obscurity. The characters, both human and AI, are gentle and smart, but unprepared for what is about to happen. You find yourself drawn to them, with all their flaws and feelings. The differing forms of travel and abilities are unique and quite interesting, keeping you enthralled with the process of moving through time and space.

As we are introduced to the Next, we are unprepared for their part in the changing of the world. So when the real story comes to light, confusion and perplexity keeps you digging for answers. They seem to be a gentle race and for years barter with the children, yet both their motives and background are unknown. They are creatures of both nature and technology and are like insects with a hive mentality. They seem to communicate in much the same way, and once their intentions are known, the danger becomes very clear.

If you enjoy science fiction you will be pleased with this latest work by Pratchett and Baxter. This moves a little beyond the young adult fiction that Pratchett had been known for and takes us into Long Earth and an exciting new future.

Rating 3/5

Monday, July 20, 2015

Second Life by S. J. Watson

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Second Life,' A Novel of Murder and Secrets by S. J. Watson.

In Second Life by S.J. Watson we meet a woman who seems to have everything. A doting husband, a job she loves and a son who means the world to her. Yet there are hidden secrets behind much of this perfection that threaten to tear her world apart.

Her son Conner is really her sister’s son. She loves her husband but occasionally obsesses over her earlier life. He is her partner and in every way she tries to meet the expectations they have for each other. She has made some hard choices in life, one of those were taking her sisters child. Julia often dreads that her sister Kate will want Conner back in her life, and she obsesses with how important he is to her.

When Kate is murdered, Julie is first relieved, but then aghast at her feeling. The police do not seem to care, and Julia finds herself immersed in the death in a way she can’t understand. When she finds a user name and password to a dating/Cyber-sex site in Kate’s papers she is determined to begin her own investigation. She is sure that this is where Kate met her killer. She is unprepared for the excitement she feels and suddenly her own life is out of control. Can she stop her downward spiral or is it too late. Has she led a killer to her own front door, and if so how can she protect her own family?

Watson takes us on a strange and perilous journey into darkness, secrets and murder in a way that creates creepy vibes that make you uncomfortable. Julia feels the guilt of her relief at her sister’s death and just that feeling makes her move in maddening circles of an investigation of her own, a way to find the killer and take away her pain. Watson’s depiction of Julia’s feelings of guilt is spot on. The character flaws exhibited keep you there hoping but make you uncomfortable.

Hugh, her husband is a rock and there for her, and Conner is just like any other boy his age. You are drawn to them as a family, and root for them to overcome the darkness that is encroaching on their lives.

If you enjoy thrillers and murder mysteries, with just that right amount of physiological depravity you will find this a work worth reading. I found the story to be riveting although the ending was difficult to take. As you get caught up in the story you are ready for a solid ending, yet we are left with more questions than answers.

Rating 3/5

A Sporting Murder by Lesley A. Diehl

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'A sporting Murder, An Eve Appel Mystery by Lesley A. Diehl

In A Sporting Murder by Lesley A. Diehl, we are introduced to Eve and her friend Madeleine, and their endeavors to run a consignment shop in Sabal Bay, Florida. Cowboys, swamps and alligators are the main scenery.  On a cruise with Eve’s detective boyfriend Alex, and Madeline’s new friend David they are unaccountably accosted by David’s neighbor, a very nasty character, leaving more questions than answers. Eve is hooked, she wants more answers, and she is willing to investigate on her own if necessary.

Both David and his neighbor own a sport-hunting reserve, so Alex tries to get her to put it behind them as professional jealousy. Yet when a dead body shows up on David’s land with every clue pointing at him as the murderer, Eve takes a stance. There is something fishy about the whole thing, and the encounter on the water with his neighbor isn’t the only issue. The neighbor’s wife has now also effectively had Eve and Madeleine’s business vacated. She is opening her own shop, and the line has been drawn in the sand.

As David molders in jail, Alex and Eve work at trying to get to the bottom of the murder he is being charged with. Can they find the real answers before it is too late? Eve and Madeleine take their own business on the road as well; they have clients to take care of. What is it with all the ugliness behind the sport-hunting business that has everyone up in arms?

Diehl gives us characters with strength and humor. Eve is a great mix of intelligence, charm and minx, and exhibits the tendency to butt in where it may not be comfortable. She also has a few friends in low places that are there for her regardless of what she needs. Her friend Alex is in no way immune to her charm but is also aware of her tendencies.

The situation is serious and the murder is odd, yet the mix of danger, fun and mystery keeps you turning the pages.

If you enjoy mystery, romance and a little bit of crazy you will enjoy A Sporting Murder. Eve Appel is a great character and her relationships keep the fun and mystery rolling in unexpected directions. This would be a great book for your library especially for the cozy mystery fan.

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Lesley A. Diehl's Bio:
Lesley A. Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida--cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office. Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.

A Sporting Murder Book Summary:
It's smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida's Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of 'gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David's supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake's land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports "exotics" from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder.

Blake's nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve's brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends' misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy's extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word.
Price/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $13.95 paperback
Cozy Murder Mystery
Camel Press
July 15, 2015

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A Girl Undone by Catherine Linka

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'A Girl Undone,' A Girl Called Fearless Series by Catherine Linka.

With renewed interest in dystopian worlds we are given a rare new work in A Girl Undone by Catherine Linka. Where marriages and women are bought and bartered, Avie has escaped her own confines with her real love Yates. After a confrontation with the government, he has been hospitalized in critical condition and she is on the run. She carries information that she must get to the Paternalist party if she can locate the correct person.

With the help of another friend, Luke, she tries to help keep them alive while finding the exact person who can use the information she now carries. Her face is on every news channel and a huge reward has been offered by the man who holds her own marriage contract. How can she move forward safely?

Can she find the only man who can make sure the information is used in the right manner before she is captured or worse? Garnering feelings for Luke, she is unsure what her next turn should be. She knows Yates is her only real love, and yet she is conflicted in her feelings. Can Yates survive his own wounds, and even if he does, will she be able to someway break free of the bonds that bind her to another man. One who is extremely ruthless and embarrassed at her running away?

Linka has given us a dystopian world with harsh guidelines and rules. Those who do not cave to the rules are often killed or disappear with no one the wiser. Avie’s only protection from death is the man she fears the most, the one that holds her contract. His character is one of the more complicated, and you will enjoy the process as Avie gets closer to her goal.

Avie is a character both bold and conflicted. She is never quite sure of herself and has some flaws that keep her from being too strong. Unsure of her direction, but undaunted in the task she has, she is compelled to move forward for a better world. That she is torn between her feeling for both Yates and Luke only makes her just a bit more human.

If you enjoy dystopian and futuristic worlds you will enjoy this work. There is romance, danger, mystery and at all times a belief in freedom that transcends the characters. The thrill of the chase and the tense romance will keep you reading to the very end.

This would be a fun book for a book club or reading group, with much dialogue about freedoms and other rights of individuals.

Rating 4/5

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Silent Creed by Alex Kava

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review:'Silent Creed', A Ryder Creed Novel by Alex Kava.

When major catastrophes happen, Ryder Creed and his animals are often some of the first responders. In Silent Creed by Alex Kava we follow him to another disaster site. Creed is not there for the glory, he is there for a job. His dogs are not just his closest companions but dogs trained for rescue. They search both for cadavers as well as for live victims of the differing disturbances that create the need.

Reaching his recent assignment, his first thought is of a wasteland. The situation is precarious and he finds out in the worst way possible just how fragile the search site, when he and his dogs are caught in a mudslide. As he is being dug from the mud, other bodies are found with the help of his dog. Yet they all lose hope when they find not the live rescue they hoped for but bodies that are past redemption. Yet it was not the explosion or the mud slide that appears to have caused their demise. Each victim has a bullet hole in the middle of their forehead.
Suddenly the search group is looking for two kinds of victims and an answer that someone does not want found. Creed finds himself in the middle of a disaster that no one could have anticipated. His concern is for his animals as always, but the danger is palpable in more ways than one. Can he get to the bottom of the mystery and keep himself and his dogs safe, while finding any witnesses or others that may still be lost in the mud?

Kava keeps you riveted with the mystery that is infused into the search as well as through her protagonist Ryder Creed and his dogs. Creed is an amazing character, tough when necessary especially when the situations are just about him, but bring his dogs into the mix and he turns into another guy all together. The interaction between him and his search animals make you want to find that kind of love and respect, and his strength of character draw you to him.

The mystery itself is again one of those worries and concerns that we read about in the papers. Kava takes us into hidden agendas and possible terror circles as she moves the pawns in the game of life as she sees it.

If you love mystery and danger with a dose of amazing animals and search and rescue, this is the book of the summer. Once started prepare to be hooked for you will be unable to put it down. Alex Kava has given us another reason to draw to her character of Ryder Creed. Yet to liven it up further she brings her other character of Maggie O’Dell on board, cementing the creation of a great working duo, although Creed shines on his own.

This would be a great work for a book club or reading group. It would also be the perfect book for your action and mystery library.

Rating 5/5

Monday, July 13, 2015

Johnnie Come Lately by Kathleen M. Rodgers

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'Johnnie Come Lately' A Novel by Kathleen M. Rodgers.

Kathleen M. Rodgers takes us into the life of a young woman with many demons in Johnnie Come Lately. Johnnie is raised by her grandparents after her mom has left her. Named after her Uncle Johnny, she has no idea who her father is. Having battled bulimia all her life she has gained a foothold over her insecurities and hurts. Now at 43 she is a wife and mother of three children, two of them already grown.

Never letting down her guard and keeping her bulimia in control, she has found that life seems to be passing her by. She wants more, and as secrets begin coming to the surface, and questions of her father come to life, she struggles to maintain her grip on the one thing that could take her back to the out of control young woman she was.  Her best friend and confident is her dog, aptly named Brother Dog. Second to him are her journals where she keeps even her most cherished secrets.

Her yearning though is to move forward, but she has secrets of her own that must be banished. She is ready to move on and pursue her own dreams but feels both lost and conflicted. As the darkness of her own background and that of her parents begins to unravel, she must find the strength to stand her ground against her own anxieties. But can finding the answers of her own past help her to move into the future she has always dreamed about?

Rodgers has given us a tale of hurt and anguish. Her characters are an eclectic mix with emotions and flaws that are the same you find in the people you meet every day. Yet some of the secrets and issues are things we only hear about, and with a steady hand she introduces us to the dangers of bulimia and its aftermath. She then gives us a reminder of why dogs are man’s best friend with the introduction of Brother Dog, and while he is not a main character he adds a more personal touch, a realism that creates a spark in the bits of darkness encountered.

If you enjoy mystery and strength, with a touch of empathy and humor you will find this a great read. Often life’s road is not what we expect , but it takes a great deal of energy and fortitude to move forward in some cases and Rodgers takes us there with this work.

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Kathleen M. RodgersBio: 

Award-winning author Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former frequent contributor to Family Circle magazine and Military Times. Her work has also appeared in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. She is the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. Deer Hawk Publications reissued the novel in e-book and paperback September of 2014.

Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, released from Camel Press February 1, 2015. Barnes & Noble in Southlake, TX hosted the official launch on February 7, and Kathleen signed copies of both novels for three hours straight. In 2014, she was named a Distinguished Alumna from Tarrant County College/NE Campus.

She is the mother of two grown sons, Thomas, a graduate of University of North Texas and a working artist in Denton, TX, and J.P., a graduate of Texas Tech University and a former Army officer who earned a Bronze Star in 2014 in Afghanistan. Kathleen’s husband, Tom, is a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and they reside in Colleyville, TX with their rescue dog, Denton. Kathleen is working on a new novel titled Seven Wings to Glory and is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Johnnie Come Lately Book Summary:
Would life have been different for Johnnie if she'd been named after a woman rather than her dead uncle? Or if her mama hadn't been quite so beautiful or flighty? The grandparents who raised her were loving, but they didn't understand the turmoil roiling within her. And they had so many, many secrets.

Why did her mama leave? Would she ever return? How did her Uncle Johnny really die? Who was her father? Now Johnnie Kitchen is a 43-year-old woman with three beautiful children, two of them grown. She has a handsome, hardworking husband who adores her, and they live in the historic North Texas town of Portion in a charming bungalow. But she never finished college and her only creative outlet is a journal of letters addressed to both the living and the dead. Although she has conquered the bulimia that almost killed her, Johnnie can never let down her guard, lest the old demons return. Or perhaps they never went away to begin with. For Johnnie has secrets of her own, and her worst fear is that the life she's always wanted--the one where she gets to pursue her own dreams--will never begin.

Not until her ghosts reveal themselves.
Price/Formats: $4.95 ebook, $9.75 paperback
Military Family, Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction
Camel Press
February 1, 2015

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This would be a great work for a reading group or book club, giving a variety of discussion opportunities.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Big Sale on Johnnie Come Lately......Now is your opportunity to own a copy.

This is a great opportunity to get a deal on this book, a Woman's contemporary and Military fiction. I will be posting my own review on July 14th. Take this opportunity to one up at reduced prices. 

The ebook normally retails for $4.95, but until July 31, 2015 the publisher is offering it at the specially reduced price of $2.99!

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About the Book:
Would life have been different for Johnnie if she'd been named after a woman rather than her dead uncle? Or if her mama hadn't been quite so beautiful or flighty? The grandparents who raised her were loving, but they didn't understand the turmoil roiling within her. And they had so many, many secrets.

Why did her mama leave? Would she ever return? How did her Uncle Johnny really die? Who was her father? Now Johnnie Kitchen is a 43-year-old woman with three beautiful children, two of them grown. She has a handsome, hardworking husband who adores her, and they live in the historic North Texas town of Portion in a charming bungalow. But she never finished college and her only creative outlet is a journal of letters addressed to both the living and the dead. Although she has conquered the bulimia that almost killed her, Johnnie can never let down her guard, lest the old demons return. Or perhaps they never went away to begin with. For Johnnie has secrets of her own, and her worst fear is that the life she's always wanted--the one where she gets to pursue her own dreams--will never begin.

Not until her ghosts reveal themselves.

About the Author:

Kathleen M. Rodgers' stories and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Johnnie Come Lately is her second novel. She is also the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. She lives in a suburb of North Texas with her husband, a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and their dog, Denton. 

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Shadow Cartel, A Dominic Grey Novel by Layton Green.

Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Shadow Cartel, A Dominic Grey Novel' by Layton Green.

Layton Green takes us deep into the underworld of drugs and murder in The Shadow Cartel, A Dominic Grey Novel.  When Grey is asked to look into the death of a friend by his old girlfriend, he can’t refuse. Little does he know that this cartel is run by a man known only as the General. a legend in the drug trade. He is invisible to those in the DEA who have been following the rumor of such a monster for years.

This character has combined religious ceremony using dark ceremonies as well as mythical assassins to keep the cartel in line and to keep all others away. He is ruthless but invisible. Also following the General are DEA agents Federico Hernandez and CIA operative Lana Valenciano, who decide to hook up with Grey in his quest for information.

As the leads tend to create misdirection and the rumors of death by mysterious assassins continue to grow, Grey must rely on every investigation from his past to help them find this elusive yet invisible killer before he can kill again. His mentor is out of commission, yet Grey keeps him informed of the strange and shadowy secrets they are tracking. Viktor is unavailable, but his mind is as sharp as ever, and he helps guide them to connections where there seem to be nothing. The strange world of unusual religions happens to be Viktor’s specialty, and he has contacts and knowledge that keep Grey on track.

With all the help at his disposal can Grey find the General and keep the deaths from piling up?  Can he find the answers behind the mythical assassins before they strike again?

Green gives us characters that have guts and a strong survival instinct. They are smart and at times extremely dangerous. While many of the thugs are just that, they are always controlled by their own fears, and Green gives us that scary individual that hangs out in your nightmares in the form of the General.  His character Grey is quite heroic but also very caring about people. Those he cares about have a champion, but those he is after understand his drive, so he is constantly in danger. Green portrayal keeps you guessing.

If you enjoy mystery and things that go bump in the night you will enjoy The Shadow Cartel. Dominic Grey is an investigator with heart, and his past as well as his elusive mentor keeps him ahead of many of the situations. This is an exciting work and if you enjoy the characters you will be looking for Green’s past work as well.

This would be a great work for a reading or discussion group.

Rating 4/5