A Review of “Burn: A Sam Jameson Thriller” by Lars Emmerich

 

Full disclosure, I was provided with an advanced copy of this book from the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Sam Jameson is back whether she likes it or not

Burn is the newest installment in the Sam Jameson series of thrillers by Lars Emmerich and chronicles heroine Sam Jameson’s life in the months after the explosive conclusion of  “The Blowback Protocol”. Having lost the love of her life, Brock due to her unwillingness to leave her post at Homeland Security, Sam has fallen into a deep depression and has become a virtual recluse in South Carolina. After rejecting everything that defined her for many years, she falls into a life consisting mainly of eating, watching movies and moping. When she receives an unexpected visit by a face from her past, Sam finds herself unwillingly drawn back into the spy game. Without the protection or backing of the US Government, Sam and once adversary Peter Kitteredge match wits with the mob, the FBI and an influential power player that Sam thought was dead. Sam is pushed to her limits as she tries to discover the reason why she was dragged back into the lifestyle she had recently abandoned and may not escape a second time.

Burn is a follow up to “The Blowback Protocol” and takes place a several months after the explosion that culminates with several power players taken out while Sam looked on. Burn sees Jameson as emotional and extremely vulnerable, with that vulnerability permeating every aspect of her life. Sam’s latest adventure if you can call it that opens old wounds and resurrects even older personal demons. To say that the last quarter of this book is a shocker nowhere does this story justice. Suffice it to say that if we see another Sam Jameson thriller in our future, it will be with a much different person than we have seen thus far.

Burn is recommended for anyone who likes crime novels with a twist and a strong female lead. While this is one in a series of novels featuring Samantha Jameson, this book works well as a stand alone novel in addition to part of the larger picture.

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A review of “Claus: Rise of the Miser” by Tony Bertauski

Full disclosure, I was provided with an advanced copy of this book from the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

The Christmas that almost wasn’t

On a routine Christmas practice run, Santa goes missing. Trapped in an unknown location, Rudolph and the Elven work hard to find him. With less than a month to go , the inhabitants of the North Pole are frantic to get their patriarch back, but his captor has other plans for the jolly fat man.

Shortly before Christmas, Kandi Anthony leaves the frozen Alaskan tundra with her father to visit a colleague in a remote tropical island. For Kandi, this should be a vacation, but something isn’t right. After a strangely secretive journey, Kandi should be happy to be free of the snow and the ice, but with the overly done Christmas theme of the resort’s holographic reindeer and other merriment in the hallways, the atmosphere is almost jarring. With her only companions being an AI Sandman and a peculiar boy sequestered behind a glass wall Kandi becomes determined to figure out the story behind the island’s owner and her father’s long work days.  The more she attempts to glean information about this person referred to as “The Miser”, the more it seems that the island and its inhabitants are out to stop her from succeeding.

“Claus: Rise of the Miser” is the latest in the Christmas themed Science Fiction series of novels by Tony Bertauski and is the fifth in the series that sees popular Christmas time characters re-imagined with a Sci-Fi twist. Rise of the Miser, is the second in the Claus arc. The first novel “Legend of the Fat Man” delves into the origin story of this popular holiday myth and is an amazing read by itself. While “Rise of the Miser” piggybacks off of the earlier book, it is not necessary to have read the legend to understand the story line of  Miser. For me, Rise of the Miser was a fun read with an overall theme of family. Heether/The Miser’s story is one that will have you feeling for the “bad guy” and wondering what you would do if in a similar situation. Sandy, the AI “Sandman” that seems to be Kandi’s constant companion inside the resort is a hilarious bit of comedy added in just the right amounts.  If  you love Christmas but are not steeped in tradition and are willing to give something a little bit different a try, Rise of the Miser would a great choice for a holiday read that has familiar characters but is totally different.

A review of “The Scattered and The Dead Book 2.5” by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus

Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review.

Letters from the Apocalypse

The Scattered and The Dead 2.5 continues the pre- and post-apocalyptic events from the prior installments and unlike the earlier books, I would not suggest attempting to read this one until you have read TSaTD 1 and 2 at the very least. (Or if  you’re like me and want the entire story you can always go for their newly released box set of all of the novels to date.)

Continuing the previous themes for the “half numbers” The Scattered and The Dead 2.5 provides more back story and world building around the central group of characters. This time Erin’s life in the evacuation camp prior to and shortly after the chain of events that decimate over 99% of the population is told in great detail in the form of letters to her BFF, Kelly. Here, we also see the inception of her sisterly bond with 8-year-old Izzy, as well as the series of gruesome events that results in the pair striking out on their own.

The other main story line is the journey of Delfino and Baghead. As Baghead is recovering from an intense physical trauma, Delfino is on his own in search of supplies and medication for his mysteriously shrouded traveling companion. While he is out, he decides to keep a running journal to chronicle his experience. Through the reading of this journal, we learn that this isn’t the first time Delfino has attempted to keep a diary of sorts. The narrative eventually shifts approximately five years in the past as the prior journal’s contents and events unfold.

This is not the first time that the dynamic duo of McBain and Vargus have used the first person, diary technique during this series and I find it quite effective. Particularly in Erin’s case;  her letters Kelly are peppered with humor, sarcasm, rambling and raw emotion in typical sixteen-year-old fashion. While it is not revealed what relation the “Rita” in Delfino’s flashback entries is to our humble narrator, it is clear from the tone and the familiarity that she must have been a person who held an important place in his life.  In the ending chapter, we also catch up with “Father” briefly as he, too, is putting thoughts to paper. So apparently, writing in the post apocalypse is a thing. Who knew!

All told, The Scattered and The Dead 2.5 is an excellent installment in this series. Hopefully the pattern will continue and in The Scattered and The Dead 3 we will see forward motion in our main character’s story lines. I am eager to see where they all end up and how many nasty surprises from their pasts come back to haunt them.

A Review of “Hunting Trip (Hidden Blood #3)” by Al K. Line

Full disclosure, I was provided an advance copy of this book by the author as part of his “A-Team” but have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Family is All

Hunting Trip is the third and final installment in the Hidden Blood series of novels by Al K. Line. Taking place approximately 8 months after the end of Twisted Potions, Kate and the gang, including baby Kane decide to take a camping trip for a little R & R. No sooner do they get there than Faz, Dancer, Persimmon and Mithnite go missing. Kate is all alone with an infant in the hills of Snowdonia and no trace of where her family has gotten off to. After entrusting Kane to the capable hands of Delilah, Kate goes on an unscheduled hunting trip to locate her family and the persons or creatures who may have taken them.

Wow is this installment dark and I’m talking “Neon Spark” dark! Kate is forced to fight for her family against all odds and those she once thought as allies. Along the way she is duped, betrayed and pushed to the ends of her sanity and humanity as she ultimately relies on the very vampire nature she has been trying to suppress for so long to survive. There weren’t many laughs in this installment and rightly so Kate, Kane and the rest of the gang find themselves in a battle to the death against those who wish to use her child as a pawn in their own power play.

I really hate to see this series come to an end. After reading a total of 11 books with this main character set I feel like I have come to know them. With that being said though, this is probably the best ending I could have asked for. It gives closure to the story lines and provides the reader hope for better days in Cardiff going forward. Will I hold out hope for another book in the distant future to catch up with old friends and see what’s new and weird in the Hidden world? You bet I will! A girl can dream, right?

A review of “The Sleepwalker Legacy” by Christopher Hepworth

Brilliant Negotiator or Unknowing Pawn?

The Sleepwalker Legacy is the first book in the Sam Jardine thriller series by author Christopher Hepworth. Sam Jardine is a negotiator for a computer company, but when he finds that negotiations have gone awry he is on the run in Beijing attempting to get out of the country. As luck would have it, he is picked up by Rachael Beckett, the well-connected granddaughter of a pharmaceutical company. Before he knows it, Sam becomes the newest employee of Napier & Beckett pharmaceuticals.

Coincidence?

The more time Sam spends at the Napier & Beckett research facility, the more he learns of a dangerous drug called Berserker that renders the user in a state of aggression and blood lust that, if not countered quickly will result in a lifelong ailment called “The Sleepwalker Legacy”. To make matters worse, the US Government is set to weaponize berserker for a tactical advantage against the enemies of the United States. With the trials of the antidote suspended, the possible repercussions of this action could set modern civilization back centuries as soldiers who have used Berserker return home with what can only be described as an extremely violent form of PTSD. At the urging of his girlfriend and hereditary Sleepwalker Legacy victim, Sam vows to do whatever he can to keep Berserker from ever seeing the light of day.

The backstory and history behind The Sleepwalker Legacy and the advent of the Berserker drug spans 200 years and several continents. From a medicolegal/phychological standpoint, “The Sleepwalker Legacy” is an intriguing read. Hepworth crafts an intricate tale of war, love, greed, corruption and redemption that will leave the reader thinking. The Napier & Becket research facility itself is a very interesting place. With top floors reserved for offices and the “public face”, the lower levels house various study wards reminiscent of standard mental asylums with human guinea pigs for the various pharmaceutical trials. Sam’s ability with Cassie’s help to get down into these levels and interact with the test subjects added a very interesting element and kept me guessing as to Sam’s true role in the story. At times, particularly with Sam’s interactions with the patients in the research facility I couldn’t help wondering if Sam wasn’t also inflicted with a mental illness and we were watching the fruits of his delusion. This was particularly vivid for me with his interactions over company instant messenger with certain patients of the Ward and the faceless “Jacques”.

While “The Sleepwalker Legacy” is a complete standalone novel, this is also the first in a series of books to feature Sam Jardine. It will be interesting to see how much of the issues that plagued Sam during The Sleepwalker Legacy carries forward into the future novels. While Sam is touted as a brilliant negotiator, it feels that we have only scratched the surface with Sam as a person and what makes him tick. It will be interesting to see what other adventures are in his future.

A Review of “Pimp in the Pulpit” by Thomas Leslie McRae”

A glimpse into the life of a dysfunctional family

Full disclosure, I was provided a copy of this book by the author but have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Warning – “Pimp in the Pulpit” is not for the easily offended, but if you’re looking for a gritty real-life look into the drama that plagues many a modern day dysfunctional family then this may be the read for you.

Told mostly from the viewpoint of main character Edward Jones, Pimp in the Pulpit is less of an overall narrative than it is a series of small scenes into the life of a family that are probably at each other’s throats more than they’re not. The more I read the book, the more I imagined each chapter as another episode in what could easily be a sitcom along the same lines as “Married, With Children” or “Everybody Hates Chris. It seems that certain personalities exist no matter whatever the family structure, and McRae has illustrated this to the point that you may start to visualize a brother, cousin or distant uncle in the roles as you read. At the close of the book, it became clear to me that while this is a work of fiction, there may be a grain real life influence that has spurred the author to leave his dysfunctional family behind to become an author.

While this is not what I would normally read, I did find myself laughing out loud at the antics of the family members. There is a humorous element to this tale, even if the overall theme is fairly bleak. If you have an hour or two to kill and you’re looking for a quick read, this may be a good book to try.

A Review of “Holy Crap! The World is Ending!: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth.” By Anna-Marie Abell

A hilarious end of the world adventure

Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Autumn is your typical semi socially awkward twenty something living in Southern California. Working for an advertising agency her favorite free time activity is her regular pig out sessions with her bestie artist Emma. On one such pig out eve, Autumn makes a quick stop at the local Barnes & Noble to look for a book on Light Beings when she encounters the most incredible specimen of manhood she could ever dream. Dubbing him “New Age Guy” due to his placement in the exact section she was headed for, Autumn becomes obsessed with this guy and after telling Emma about him is determined to find out more about this mysterious man.

Aptly named, Rigel has come to Earth from the planet Nibiru as an observer to the inevitable collision of one of his planet’s moons into Earth. Rigel also finds himself inexplicably drawn to this quirky Earth woman and seeks out more interaction with her against the wishes of his own kind and at the peril of death. Tossed into a forbidden whirlwind romance with an alien, Autumn is warped into the middle of her own space odyssey as she finds herself among alien spaceships, conspiracy theories and eons old prophecies that may result in her own demise. The race is on to save the human race with Autumn the most unlikely of saviors.  Is there at least time for one more Twinkie?

Holy Crap! The World is Ending is the first book in the Anunnaki Chronicles by Anna-Marie Abell and takes the “end of the world” story line on a whole new journey. What if humans were created by alien life forms to do their bidding? What if alien life forms have been working with the Earth’s governmental superpowers all along and their existence has been kept a big secret from the rest of the Earth? Just how strong is number 12 hairspray and why are there so many darned Wal Marts all over the place? Holy Crap attempts to answer these and many more burning questions in this hilariously brilliant read.

Anna-Marie Abell has succeeded in weaving her years of study into in the ancient Sumerian culture and their gods with common conspiracy theories, pop culture and random human quirkiness into an out of this world end times romp that will have you laughing out loud at the most inappropriate times and possibly even shedding a tear or two before it’s all said and done. I couldn’t help but notice the politics of the politics of the Anunnaki to be eerily like that of Earth. At one point, there is a protest on Nibiru that could easily have been Anycity, U.S.A. Little things like this for me made this less of a super heavy Sci Fi book and more of a “Hey, look at that, what if they are like us!” sort of book. Another thing that really stood out for me was the addition of real people, places and podcasts to the narrative. This clever addition works twofold and functions a primer of resource material for those who find the Anunnaki intriguing. I, for one, have taken a deeper look at a few of her sources since reading this book. With this being the first in the Anunnaki Chronicles, Abell has set the bar high and it will be interesting to see where the Chronicles go from here. If this first book is any indication, it will be well worth the read.

A review of “Scavenger Girl – Season of Atchem” by Jennifer Arntson

Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the author however have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Meet Una of Ashlund

Una is a Scavenger. Among the lowest caste in her society, sometimes referred to as “scabs” or Reclaimers, Una and all others like her must survive without the luxury of the comforts of being a Citizen or the protection of the Authority. As a Scavenger, Una and her people are not permitted to have money or jobs outside of what they can do to work their lands and can never accept gifts from the Citizens. Her people survive by reclaiming still useful items discarded by the Citizenry as no longer needed. Una is fortunate however, as her family seems to have found a curious favor with a local farmer who secretly provides her family with many needed items.

As the season of Atchem draws to a close and the yearly festival nears to usher in the dark months of Talium, Una faces a coming of age for which she is not prepared. For Citizens, the transition to Womanhood is a momentous occasion but for Scabs, it just means being sold to the highest bidder as a wife, a surrogate, or worse. Una fears this above all else as this would mean never seeing her family again. But after catching the eye and affections of Blue, the grandson of a local farmer, Una wonders if this could be the thing that rescues her and her family from the inevitable. She is taken by this gentle boy and finds herself drawn to him, but cannot understand her brother Calish’s seeming vehemence to the young Citizen whom he hardly even knows. The further she explores a possible arrangement with Blue that could very well change her and her family’s situation, the more is revealed about family secrets that leaves her reeling and wondering if she even knows who she is. With Atchem ending and the darkness of Talium looming, Una is faced with some tough choices that she never thought she would have to consider.

To say that Scavenger Girl is a captivating dystopian world full of danger, intrigue and romance really does not do this story justice. As a matter of fact, the synopsis above barely scratches the surface of this amazing place that Jennifer Arntson has created. Ashlund is a distant world, with beautiful landscapes, multiple moons, cruel gods and an even more cruel government. The further Arntson drew me into the Scablands, the more I found myself not wanting to stop reading. In fact, it has been many years since a story has captured my attention to the point that Scavenger Girl did. Had the remaining books in the series been available at the time of my reading, I am certain I would have already purchased them for a binge fest of epic proportions!  As of now, I am finding myself experiencing a major “book hangover” as I await the release of Book 2.

Written primarily from Una’s point of view, the observations are the raw thoughts of a girl on the verge of Womanhood and the discovery of a world much bigger than what she has experienced thus far. Many classic dystopian elements are present, but what really caught me off guard was the romantic aspect of the entire story. Watching Una and Blue interact at times reminded me of Pygmalion, as Blue escorts Una around the town teaching her the ways of the Citizens. For me, Scavenger Girl was a much welcome and refreshing twist on two previously formulaic and sometimes predictable genres. I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes Science Fiction, Fantasy or Romance. Or, in my case, as a person who is not too fond of romances as a rule Scavenger Girl just may well be my exception.

 

 

 

A Review of “milijun: What would alien interaction really be like?” by Clayton Graham

Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the author however have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Alien invasion from a unique perspective

It is the year 2179. Man has successfully harnessed the surface of the moon for mining and research. In one such cave, miner Simon Cordell stumbles across an interesting anomaly seemingly embedded in the cave walls. Possibly hundreds of never before seen beings are nestled in this lunar cavern. Soon after reporting this strange possible alien life form and obtaining a specimen for research, the entire lunar research facility falls prey to a massacre with Simon the only survivor. Simon needs to get to the main lunar base with the lifeform intact or risk being blamed for the slaughter of his colleagues.

At the same time on the Nullarbor in Western Australia, Laura and Jason Sinclair are en route to a much needed camping vacation. On the final leg of their journey, Jason photographs a curious formation in the night sky. When he attempts to view his discovery closer at the ranger station, he is abducted. Laura frantically searches for her son and is able to recover him but in the process, finds herself and Jason implicated in several murders by the local police officer who, also seems to be acting very strangely.

Now on the run, prime suspects of a double murder Laura and Jason find themselves tirelessly hunted, not sure who to trust. Finding possible allies in a strange underground complex of scientific researchers Laura and Jason, with their assistance, attempt to work with a local military unit to prove their innocence while at the same time attempting to convince those in charge of a possible alien invasion. Throughout their trials, Laura and Jason find themselves traveling all over Australia and beyond in this unique take on alien encounters and interactions.

Milijun, is the first novel by author Clayton Graham and I for one hope it is not his last. Having read only a handful of science fiction novels where aliens were the focus, I must say that Milijun tackled this from a very interesting angle. What if the alien invasion wasn’t meant for domination, but for another reason entirely? What if the alien lifeforms weren’t acting in aggression, but in defense of human actions?

Considering technological advancements currently and in the future created by Graham it makes the reader ponder if there is more out there than just us. In Graham’s world, we see a depth of technological advancements within the military and the Miljun center that speaks to the advancing technology of the future. At the same time, there is talk of a last “Great Conflict” that has yet again divided the world and the country of Australia specifically which goes to show that for the more things change, the more they stay the same. As the narrative progresses and story lines come together it becomes apparent that Jason and Laura may play a much bigger role in the survival of the human race than they had ever imagined. While the story does leave a few loose ends, it is more of a thought provoker than it is a cliffhanger but still leaves the reader curious to learn what happens next with Jason, Laura,the other survivors and the Earth.

If you like Science Fiction, alien invasion and futuristic reads, Milijun is a definite recommend.

A review of “Perfectly Normal (The Perfects book #1) by Amy Martin

Full disclosure, I was provided an advanced copy of this book by the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

It’s not easy being perfect

Rachel Lord is your typical teenager just trying get through her Senior Year in high school. With her two best friends, Janey and Ellie, she does pretty well navigating the usual cliques and clichés with one downfall.

Dani McGuire is a gorgeous, typical popular cheerleader type. She is the quarterback’s girlfriend, class president and part of the most powerful clique on campus: The Perfects. Dani and the other girls grew up together, practically neighbors, and were like sisters until a chemical spill rendered their neighborhood uninhabitable and the friends were forced to move to different neighborhoods. While still in the same general area, Dani became friends with The Perfects –the stuck up,  uber popular mean girls of Ridgeview High School and no longer associates with her childhood friends. This has not set well with Rachel and she tends to be a tad obsessed with her former friend.  On a snowy evening Janey goes missing and Rachel sets out to look for her. Heading out to the old neighborhood where Janey has been known to retreat to in times of introspection, Rachel has an accident….and wakes up in the body of Dani McGuire

Wait. What?

Rachel has no idea how her consciousness has ended up in the body of her former friend. And what happened to her body for that matter? Rachel attempts to live the life of a Perfect while trying to figure out what the heck happened.

Perfectly Normal is the first book in The Perfects series by Amy Martin and is a real easy read that will take the reader back to high school no matter when you grew up. When I heard about the premise for the book, I thought “oh, cool it’s like a cross between Mean Girls and the Hot Chick”. On the surface this is true, but I found Perfectly Normal to be more than just tired clichés and a retelling of a familiar story. While the basic concept has been explored before throughout the years Amy Martin does so in a way that is fresh and intriguing. Rachel finds out with each new day that being a Perfect isn’t everything it’s made out to be and in some ways, she may even have it better in her boring normal existence. If you’re looking for a fun read that will leave you nostalgic and wondering what happens next, I would recommend Perfectly Normal, but be warned – you may not be able to put this fun story down.