Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Billy and Cheyenne by Richard P. Flynn

Billy returns home from Vietnam to a changed society.  He is determined to fit in and establish his identity.  Soon he realizes a whole generation is rebelling against their parents' status quo.  It seems everyone has hit the streets in protest.  (taken from the back of the book)

I was anxious to read this one.  I'm a sucker for stories of people who are caught in a world that has changed on them.  It fascinates me watching them try to figure out how they fit in.  That's what I was really hoping for in this book....that gritty, lost and trying to find yourself feeling.

I actually had two other reviews attempt to review this book as well as myself.  Neither of them were able to make it past the first few chapters.  In Billy's attempt to reclaim a semblance of a life for himself, he immerses himself in sex, drugs, rock n roll and protests.  It's pretty difficult to read through.  The first several chapters are nothing but lust, over use, and bad decisions. Once you get past that stage of the book, you actually get to the meat of the story.  Billy is lost and everything that brings him safety and security is abandoning him.  Life isn't the same as when he left for war.  He doesn't know how to cope with the world he's been thrown back in to.  Although he doesn't really go into a lot of in-depth emotion, we find this out through his actions.  Billy is both traumatized and depressed.  As Billy's surroundings change, he wants to change as well but he doesn't know how.

The most important purpose for this book is that it has a gritty and dark accounting of a time period that is long over.  Though it's fiction, it's historical accuracy goes right along with everything I've ever read.  Is Billy's tale true of all men who returned from Vietnam?  Probably not, but it's a great representation of the bulk of them.

Flynn's storytelling is brisk and easy to read.  Though you have to slog through a lot of annoying drugs and sex to actually get to the story, it's worth it.  Nothing in this book is written gratuitously, but rather so that we can see not only the time period, but our characters' frame of mind.

Every Kingdom Divided by Stephen Kozeniewski

2035 A.D. After the 2nd American Civil War

Jack Pasternak, a laid-back California doctor, receives a garbled distress call from his fiancee in Maryland before her transmissions stop altogether.  Unfortunately for Jack, citizens of the Blue States are no longer allowed to cross Red America.

He is faced with an impossible choice:  ignore his lover's peril or risk his own life and sanity by venturing into the dark heart of The Red States.  When the armies of the Mexican Reconquista come marching into Los Angeles, Jack's hand is forced and he heads east in an old-fashioned gas guzzling car.  (taken from the back of the book)

First, I want it established that I'm a huge fan of Kozeniewski's work.  Wherever you lead, Kozy, I shall follow!

What I love most about Kozy's work is that they're unique.  This isn't something you've read before.  It's not the same story told over and over.  See what I did there?  Yeah...none of his books will give you that feeling.  It's something fresh and new every time.  This book is no exception.

I honestly thought that this would be the first of Kozy's books that I didn't enjoy.  I'm not into the whole military, political, blah blah blech thing.  There's a lot of that going on in here.  The bulk of the story is made up of political figures and military personnel.  Toss in the fact that most of the states are separated because of religious beliefs, and it's guaranteed to be a book I don't want to read.  BUT!  Considering that this was an author that I've followed since the beginning and he's never let me down, I figured I had to give it a shot.

I've heard a lot of whining from authors out there regarding reviews.  'Waaah!  Why would they offer to review it and give me a bad review when it's not their genre?'  Blah.  Let me set you people straight.  This book is not my genre.  Had it been written by nearly anyone else, I wouldn't have even attempted it.  Reading goes so much further than preferred genre.  So, to you authors who are whining about getting poor reviews and blaming it on the fact that it's not the reviewer's genre...GET OVER IT!  Read on to find out why...

First, we have amazing characters.  They come from all walks of life and they're all personal and believable.  Once I can get some intimate information about a character, I feel the connection.  Here we have main characters that immediately make us feel connected to them.  Sometimes it's words, sometimes nuances, sometimes the fact that they spill their secrets to us, but it's there with every character.  Each one has been created uniquely and perfectly.  Some you'll love, some you'll hate, some you'll want to kick in the nads.  You get the entire range of emotion that you would from people in real life.

Most of the story is told in sort of a back and forth motion.  We have Jack who is caught in a precarious position and he's being forced to tell the story of how he arrived there.  It's a classic case of 'you can't make this up.'  Of course, it IS made up, but his story is so messed up that you can't help but believe it.  I actually really loved that the story was told in this manner.  First, we get all the back story along the way and it's told from Frank's point of view.  The thing is, Jack is a darn funny guy!  Not to mention the fact that his story is fascinating.  Then, we have all of the current stuff going on with the situation he's stuck in.  So, just as we're really getting into Jack's story, we get pulled out for current action.  Now, you'd think this would make the book feel disjointed, but it really doesn't.  It's more like having a ton of cliffhangers shoved together and you have to hurry and get through them to figure out what's going to happen next as well as what has happened.  You don't get the disjointed and angry feeling at all.  In fact, while you're reading the past you're anxious to get back to current events and vice versa.  It's actually quite brilliant.

My issue is the ending of the story.  Once Jack tells his tale up to the current position, the story takes off and is one fluid motion.  We have main characters that are split up and we go back and forth between them, but there's no more time exchange.  I still really enjoyed this and found the same cliffhanger feeling as earlier in the book.  However, I really hated the ending.  It is what it is.  It's what happened.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with it and I'm sure most of you will love it.  I hated it.  Why?  It's too....well it's a little too perfect in my opinion.  I don't want to put in any spoilers, so it's difficult to really explain this part.  There is nothing wrong with the ending other than that I didn't like it.  I think it should have ended differently, but I'm not sure how.  I don't have any suggestions to make it better and I think it's the best possible ending.  I just don't like it.  See what I did there?  All that rambling?  That's what happens when you try to explain the unexplainable.  I just didn't like it!

This book was so not my genre, but I didn't mind a bit.  I still really enjoyed the ride.  The military, religious and political aspects weren't overpowering and dull.  If you're putting this book to the side because it's not your genre, I strongly suggest you rethink your position.  It's full of action, wit and delicious intrigue.  Most of the book you're on the edge of your seat just trying to get to what's happening next.  Thanks to Kozy's storytelling talent, you don't even take the time to try to figure out what's going to happen just want to get there.  And everything you learn on the way to getting there only  makes you want to know more.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Resume Design Book by Matthew T. Cross

I was expecting to pick this book up and find a dull 'how to', but boy am I surprised!

First, if you're an aspiring author with no experience and can't afford an editor, start here!  There's an entire section on the basics  of writing.  It's quick and easy to both read and understand.  It also covers most of the major mistakes that I find when I'm reviewing new authors.  No, this definitely isn't the use this book is intended for, but sometimes we find knowledge in unusual places!

Alright, moving on to the rest of the book!

This is actually a pretty interesting take on writing a resume.  I've been on both sides of the board, both applying and hiring.  Reading resumes can become dull because it's so repetitive.  You want someone who sticks out and really calls to you.  If you're applying for the job, that means you want it!  If you want it, you need your resume to be written in a manner to give you the highest odds of being hired!

The design here uses sticky notes, which is actually pretty brilliant.  You put a sticky note on the page and answer the questions asked on that page.  Then later one, you go through and organize and strategize.  Then you build your resume from the sticky notes.  For you newfangled technology people (yes!  you!), there are scan codes that will take you online and show you more examples and give you more information.  That way, as you're going through each section, you can get the most from  your book!

The most important lesson that can be taken from this book comes near the end.  It teaches you how to tailor-fit your resume for the job you're applying for.  You ain't gotta lie!  You ain't gotta lie!  Let Cross teach you how to properly show your skills to your prospective employer without stretching the truth to its limits.

This is one for my keeper shelf.  Though I don't currently need to build a resume, I might later on.  It's one of those things where you never know when someone is going to need it.  If you're currently hunting for your dream job and don't seem to be having much success, this could be a great path for you to start on.  It's easy to read, concise and makes a lot of sense.  It doesn't necessarily dumb things down, but it does take it down to the basics and simplifies the process.

Mindclone by David T. Wolf

What if you had your brain scanned and your entire persona was uploaded to a digital version of yourself?

Your mindclone would have all your memories and desires- including a desire for the girl you just met--but no physical body to act on them.  This is a serious bummer.

Mindclone is a novel of ideas--about the science and technology, the social impact, and what it means to be human whether or not you have a body.  There's humor, adventure, frustrated romance, human and digital foibles, and as an extra dded bonus, the defeat of death itself.  (taken from the back of the book)

I have a lot of thoughts on this book, but first and foremost is that David Wolf and Brandon Zenner need to hook up and collaborate on a book.  That would be phenomenal!!

I'm a bit of a science nerd.  Shhh!  It's one of my best kept secrets!  This book was right up my alley!  Now, you don't have to be a science junkie to comprehend the basics of what they're doing here.  The main character is actually a science writer who specializes in writing things in a manner so that even those with little scientific knowledge can understand what's going on.  The entire book is written this way.  If you don't know anything about science, don't worry!  It won't bog you down and you should still easily understand what they're talking about.

I'd really love to know how many years it took Wolf to put this book together.  It's so well-prepared!  Just when you think they've reached as far as they can, Wolf pushes it even further.  That's difficult to explain without posting spoilers, but if you read it, you'll understand.

The most fascinating part of the book for me came in to play when we get into the specifics of the brain.  I'm all about brain mapping!  The thing is, as humans, our brains protect us.  Trauma?  Let's put a little shield up around that sucker!  But what happens when that same brain is transferred over to a new entity and doesn't have that same shield?  All of a sudden, we have two people with the same memories and thought processes, except that one has the ability to understand his entire past and the other doesn't.  It's absolutely fascinating and stunning in the way it's portrayed here.

The characters are believable and most are likable.  Of course, we have to have a few villains and they're painted brilliantly.  Though this book at first glance is about the science of creating a new sort of artificial intelligence, it's actually much deeper than that.  It's about comprehending the human mind in all its beauty.  We travel through traumas and uncertainties and love and regret.  It's written well and has a brisk pace.  I had a terrible time putting it down when reality called me.

October 32nd by Larry Rodness

-Carrie Anne

It's October 31, and insurance agent Alexander Malefant is sent to picturesque Elora during its annual Halloween festival.  No sooner does Alexander arrive than he witnesses the near-drowning of a boy bobbing for apples.  Shortly after that, a group of children are attacked by crows.  Later that evening, all the children in the village suddenly disappear.  Soon, every person becomes a suspect as residents frantically try to discover what happened to the children.  Who or what is behind these disappearances, and can they get the children back before it's too late?  (taken from Amazon description)

There isn't much I can say without giving away plot points.  Suffice it to say Malefant isn't the only stranger in town, and a woman living in town is rumored to be a witch.  Malefant and the 'witch' are the most obvious suspects, but both are dealing with their own losses and truly want to help.

Yes, there is a supernatural aspect to the story, but mostly it's about the relationships we have with the ones we love.  It's also a really good mystery and trying to figure out what happened to the children (and what happened in the past)  propels the whole story forward.  We feel the frantic need to figure everything out as quickly as possible, just as the parents do.  It's a book that could easily be read in one sitting, though the story doesn't feel rushed or too short.  And you'll never guess the ending....

Perverse by Larry Rodness

-Carrie Anne

19 year old Emylene Stipe is a 2nd generation Goth who, like every teenage girl, is trying to find her place in the world.  One winter night she comes upon an old painting in an antique store and feels compelled to purchase it.  When she brings it home an image of a young woman appears in the sketch and then magically materializes in the apartment.  Emylene nick-names her 'Poinsettia' and they become fast friends.  But Poinsettia has an ulterior motive for her sudden and strange intrusion into her host's life which causes Emylene to question her entire belief system.  (taken from Amazon description)

The beginning of this book hooked me.  A second generation Goth.  I've never thought about there being such a thing!  How do you rebel against rebellious parents?  Is being a Goth more than just wearing black clothes?  How do you develop into your own person with such a distinctive background?

When Emylene finds the sketch of a tree in a winter scene and brings it home, we realize that there are sometimes footprints in the snow.  Then the girl shows up, comes out, and becomes Emylene's new best friend.  Great!  Someone to help her find her way in the world.  Ii wonder what happens next?

Unfortunately, for me, this is where I lost interest.  It probably isn't a shock when I tell you it became a vampire story:  an interesting one, complete with history and a love story, but I just didn't care.  The characters are interesting, but the story felt rather predictable.  I saw the 'twists' coming before they came.  There are times I had to re-read something multiple times to make sense of what had happened.  At one point I saw the word 'plaintiff' used when 'plaintive' is what was meant.  When Emylene is thinking about what being Goth means, and questioning what it is to die, I just wanted to finish the story and move on.

I will say, vampires aren't my thing.  That may have some bearing on what I took away from the book.  I wish, though, that the original idea of a 2nd generation Goth teenager coming into her own could have been explored a little more.  After all, Goths are real and vampires aren't.  Right?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Uclaimed by Laurie Wetzel

Wetzel has created such a fun world here!  We have angels and demons and protectors and all sorts of people.  Amid the humans, we have Maddy.  Maddy doesn't exist in anyone's books, so no one seems to know which side she belongs to.  That's what makes her a target.  She has powers but she's unclaimed.  Everyone wants her on their side.  Though we find this out pretty quickly, Maddy has no idea.  She's left with believing that everyone is against her and in complete denial about who she is.

I have to admit, I'm really impressed with Wetzel's storytelling.  The book was fast-paced and kept me ensconced, even when I didn't want to be reading.  I was a prisoner to her story!  There's absolutely nothing to bog it down.  You just hop in and go go go.  As an outsider, we have more of an idea what's going on than any of the characters, but that just makes you the crazy person at the theater shouting 'Don't go upstairs, you dimwit!'  You can't help it.  You see what the characters are doing and you know what's coming but you can't make them listen to you!  And that, my dear readers, is what makes this book so fascinating.

I'm also thankful that I have Ignited, the second book in the series, sitting right here on my computer so I can rush right into it.  Right now, I feel like I've eaten part of my entree but I'm still really hungry.  My veggies and starches are all gone, but now I can move on to the steak!  I hope it's as great as this one was!

I found myself, along the way, comparing this with Gena Showalter's Alice series.  The storytelling is about the same pace and the characters are about the same ages.  There are lots of differences, but I really felt like those who enjoyed Gena's Alice series will have a blast with Wetzel's series.  It has the same amount of romance and action, with the same amount of suspense.  These two very different stories deliver equally well on all of the things I want from a young adult book.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Walk on the Darkside by Corinna Underwood

Pearl Blackthorn is a novelist and investigative reporter for Darkside Paranormal magazine.  Armed with her digital recorder and accompanied by her friend and photographer Harry Raymond, Pearl is sent by her editor J.J. Benson-affectionately knows as Benny- to the four corners of Great Britain, (and sometimes further), to investigate stories of spirits and specters, demons, prophecy and possession.  The problem is Pearl doesn't believe in the supernatural; her creative imagination is tempered by a strong skepticism.  She is immovable on her stand that there is always a simple, rational explanation behind every report of paranormal activity.  But Pearl soon realizes that the intricacies of paranormal events are often far from simple and not always rational. This is the first book in the Pearl Blackthorn series.  (taken from the back of the book)

This was a surprisingly fun book!

Each 'chapter' is broken up into individual cases.  It's almost like a bunch of progressing short stories put together.  At the end, there's a Character Confidentials section where the main characters are interviewed.

Though I didn't feel a strong connection with the characters, they are created and developed well enough.  They have many facets yet to be discovered and only hinted at.

For me, the real strength in this book is the way that the 'mysteries' play out.  Each one starts out to be what most people would believe to be paranormal.  Some of them you can guess how it works out not to be, some of them you are clueless on.  What on earth is going on?!  Sometimes I can't figure out Pearl's method of logic, but thankfully she explains it.  Now, here's the tricky part...even the each story so far has a logical doesn't explain away all of the paranormal.  While Pearl is searching for evidence of something otherworldly, we're right there with her, seeing everything she sees.  The tricky part is that while she can rationalize some of what she sees, I'm not using the same rationalization.

There's supposed to be a second book in the works and I look forward to reading it.  I was kept in suspense throughout the entire book.  Try as I may, I couldn't figure them all out before Pearl.  I was pretty clueless on all of them until the right clues showed up!

How the Mighty Fall by E.J. Chadwell

The mysterious disappearance of media mogul Connie Ross during a party on her yacht exposes a web of dark and twisted secrets.  Jimmy Frail, Chief of Detectives, suspecting foul play and the potential media circus, partners a most unlikely pair of detectives.  Gigi Mirabelli, a missing persons' officer, is recalled early from maternity leave to work with Harry Burns, a brilliant, but tormented homicide detective looking to restart his sidelined career.

Suspecting murder, but unable and needing to prove it, Mirabelli and Burns must first find a way to work together before they can hope to solve this perplexing crime.  They first develop a working partnership of opposites and then skillfully sift through the evidence; all while walking the political and media tightrope in this high profile case.  (taken from Amazon description)

I had some issues in the beginning with this one.  It starts off like an episode of Colombo.  That part, I was thrilled with!  I love Colombo!  The author making a comment about Colombo a bit later on makes me feel like this was done intentionally, which I think is wonderful.  However, we don't get treated with a Colomboesque character.  Instead, we're treated to these horrid people who I would never want to be around.  Some of the characters are cliched, but that isn't the real issue.  Even the heroes of the story are jerks.  There's a point where they're discussing the possible suspects and they say that they're all basically greedy, selfish hypocrites.  So are our  main characters!  My goodness!  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!  This setting of characters in the beginning nearly ended up ruining the book for me.  Since I don't like any of the characters, I don't care what they do.  I don't care if they catch the bad guy.  I don't care about the bad guy.  I don't care.  I just don't care.  The only thing worse than characters I feel apathetic about is having all characters that I can't stand.

Now!  There actually is a fun story here once you get past the first hundred pages and you can ignore the characters' personalities.  I was able to figure out who the murderer was right away (and I was right!), however, I was really impressed with the number of misdirections that Chadwell planted.  I second guessed myself several times.  I still stuck to my original hypothesis and waited it out, but I did have to question myself quite a bit and that made for a lot of fun.  Most of the time I was waiting for the police to catch up to where I was, but that's alright.  It's always fun to watch a bit of stumbling.  In the meantime, they uncover all sorts of delicious, juicy stuff that I wasn't expecting.

I was incredibly pleased with the ending of this book!  I won't give any spoilers, but it's exactly what I was hoping for.  I wasn't given a bunch of fake ribbons to tie up a package that wasn't ready to be gifted.  I love a good ending where things happen naturally instead of being forced.  My only issue is the epilogue.  Sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing.  Or an annoying thing.  Either way.  It could easily have been cut off and would have left the story in a much better place.  As for me, I wish I'd stopped reading before the epilogue.  I would have had a much more satisfying read.  However, I do see how that could be important to some readers.  I felt like it was handing me those ribbons that I was thankful to not receive.

This book has well-created but horrible characters, an easily solved mystery that still has plenty of plot twists, and an entertaining read once you get into it.  Don't give up after the first few chapters!  It will be worth it!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Patchwork Pieces by D.B. Martin

-Carrie Anne

For a British barrister to forsake the law, the reason must be serious.  For him to step all the way outside of it, the reason must be deadly.

Lawrence Juste is a very different man to the one everyone thought he was.  He's a very different man to the one he thought he was too.  But then, when you've just found out your whole world has been built around everyone else's deceit and your lies are fairy tales by comparison, why should anyone be as they appear to be?  Or anything end how it appears to end?  Especially if there's revenge involved and you're a man on the edge of oblivion.

Vigilante justice, murder, or just rewards?  You choose. --From Amazon

This is the third and final book in the Patchwork People series, and probably my favorite.  Through all the books, Lawrence has been trying to rise above his humble, rough and tumble beginnings.  He's done well for himself, with a High Court Judge appointment in his future.  But the past collides with the present in surprising ways after his wife is killed in a hit and run accident, and her plans to blackmail him about unsavory parts of his past come to light.

What follows is three books worth of red herrings, twists and turns and doubts about what to believe and who, if anyone, Lawrence can trust.  Turns out, a lot of the answers come from re-examining and reconnecting to people in his past, especially his family.  The reason I liked this volume so much is because we want Lawrence to finally build those bonds that have been missing for so long.  Some o the misdirection has finally ended and he's finally able to really listen to what they have to say, consider what they've all had to endure, and figure out how to go forward.  After all they've been through, can they move on together?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Black River by Peter Fugazzotto

Shield Scyldmund has lost his purpose.

For the past twenty years, Shield and his mercenary brothers the Hounds of the North have been purging the Dhurman Empire of warlocks and witches.

But now the Dhurmans no longer want or trust the aging clansmen.

So when an opportunity arises to return North to help an Apprentice Chronicler hunt down magic wielders, Shield is filled with hope.

But everything changes when Shield learns that the witch he is hunting is Birgid Wordswallow, the lover he abandoned two decades ago.  (taken from Amazon description)

This is the second book in the Hounds of the North series.  I read both the first and the most recent, and just now was able to read this one.  All three of the books work just fine by themselves.  What I've found is that each one tells a singular story, that by itself is quite entertaining.  However, if you put the three of them in order, a bigger picture begins to take shape and you find another story.  You see not only the trees, but the forest as well.  Though you can read this book by itself, I strongly suggest you begin with Witch of the Sands and then move to this one.  Though it's not necessary, it does add to the reading experience.

What I love most about this series is the desperation and determination of the characters.  Each is struggling to find his place in a world that has changed and no longer desires them.  The characters are all personalized so that each one feels like a comrade.  Normally, I would say close friend, but it's a different sort of relationship.  You're not hanging out with them over coffee and listening to their story.  You're right down in the trenches with them, slinging your blade with blood flying.  Each book follows a different destiny, so you aren't just randomly on a path.  You have a goal, a need.  You have to quench it.

This book adds a bit more than just the desperation and determination.  In this one, we find out what sort of power fear and grief hold.  What damage revenge can wreak.  We have all of these wonderful characters and they're all motivated by a different emotion.  Sadly, most of them are negative and harmful emotions that the characters just can't seem to cope with.  It makes for a fascinating, yet sad read.  It's difficult to tell who the good guys are.  I suppose there really aren't any.  Everyone has fears and mistakes in their history.  This book is a great example of what happens when you let it rule you.

Though I'm not much of a history buff, Fugazzotto really pulled me into this series.  I read the first one well over a year ago when it was first released, and the characters and story have stuck with me through time until I picked up the final two books.  There's so much action, adventure, drama, violence, witchcraft and wizardry, warriors, honor.  It's also personalized in such a way that you don't feel like an outsider.  

Patchwork People by D.B. Martin

-Carrie Anne

The dead can still talk - as Lawrence Juste is about to find out - and what they have to say is deadly.

He thought he'd eluded the nemesis from his past - even made some kind of atonement for abandoning his family be defending his sister's child against a murder charge.  His black had become a mere dirty grey, with the possibility of being bleached enough to still make High Court Judge if he'd played his cards right, hand't it?

Someone obviously doesn't agree.

Someone who persists in taunting him with notes and lies that lead nowhere but to more lies.

Someone who clearly wants him to dig even further into his buried past in order to clear his name.

Someone who might have already murdered once, and is ready to murder again.  But they're already dead.

For Lawrence, the twisted sage of deceit, intrigue and conspiracy continues as his family expands and the real truth behind his past begins to surface in this, the second book in the Patchwork People trilogy.  (from Amazon description)

When I finished the first book in the series, I was shocked how many questions were still unanswered and I wondered how much preamble there would be in the second one before we got back into the action.  I needed to know more!  Turns out, there isn't any at all; the story picks up right where we left off.

So off we go, back into a world where no one is who they seem, and nothing they say can be trusted.  Even things I took for granted in the first book are in question this time around.  This makes for a fascinating, if mentally challenging read.  It's hard to put the pieces of a puzzle together when you're not even sure you're working on the right ones!  Add a few typos and British terminology and dialect into the mix, and there were several times I wasn't sure I was following the correct train of thought.  There were also several times I went back, even to the first book, to refresh my mind on certain events.  Ultimately, though, this book reaches a satisfactory conclusion, with many questions finally answered.  So many, in fact, I'm excited to see what twists are planned for the last book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What Was I Thinking? by Zac Lange

This is the first book in a brilliant series that was developed to help children understand their own thought processes.  The ultimate goal is that as children are able to understand their processes, they'll be able to make better choices.  In essence, they'll train themselves to think before they act.

I would say this is probably for the 3-8 age group.  However, most of you know I have a special needs child.  While I was reading this book, I kept thinking what a wonderful asset it would be in his classroom!  You see, my child is brilliant in several ways, but when it comes to understanding thought processes or figuring out why he's doing anything, he's lost.  He doesn't have the power to look internally and use what he finds about himself to advance and grow.  My child is ten and this book is right at his mental speed.  So, while the book is intended for younger readers, for me, the worth comes in what it can do for special children like mine.

The pictures appear to be drawn by a child, but they are so clever!  When you get the book, the first thing you need to do is flip through it until you get to the picture of the living room.  Then, look for grandma's picture on the wall!  I laughed for a good three minutes!  I want to meet this little boy's granny!  The pictures are bright and colorful, yet simple.  I really like this because I think it makes it easier for kids to relate.

I love that the book is written in first person so that the author comes across as a young child.  This is another big connection factor for young children.  As they read it, they see that no one is talking down to them.  This is a child, just like them!

Now, I have to say, the best part of this book for me is the valuable lesson involved.  It teaches children to make a checklist for how to handle situations.  It teaches them to think before acting.  I  have to admit, I don't always do this myself.  It also teaches them to analyze their actions to try to figure out their motivations.  As parents, we've all had those moments when we ask the child what they were thinking and they respond that they don't know.  This book's aim is to end that!

This is a colorful, humorous book that's perfect for children.  One of the most important skills in life is being able to think, and this book will put your child on the fast track to being able to do that.  I highly recommend it for anyone with children, whether they be toddlers or pre-teens.  My copy will be donated to my son's school and another purchased for our home library.  I look forward to seeing more in this series!

To Catch a Wolf by A. Katie Rose


Raine, Ly'Tana and the others escape Brutal's trap, but with dire consequences.  Kel'Ratan has been grievously injured, and Rygel must take him to safety to save his life.  Yet, they are not out of danger.  A monstrous storm called the Wrath of Usa'a'mah has halted their flight from Khalid and they must seek shelter within a remote monastery or die under the storm's power.

But High King Brutal has allied himself with the deadly assassins, the Shekinah Tongu.  The secretive clan has sworn out a Blood Oath against Rygel in retaliation for his leaving their brothers in the forest to die.  With their hellish hounds and Brutal's dark wizard, Ja'Teel, they track Raine and Ly'Tana through the devastation left by the storm.  Raine leads them into the west, toward Ly'Tana's home of Kel'Halla, with Brutal's menace confronting them at every turn.

As he finds himself falling in love with the exotic Ly'Tana, Raine is plagued by a mysterious voice in his head.  Is he going cray?  In Raine, Ly'Tana discovers the one man she cannot live without.  However, an evil entity has targeted Ly'Tana, bent on her destruction.  How can Rain, Rygel, Kel'Ratan and her griffin bodyguard, Bar, keep her safe from its vast, unseen power?

Hunted by Brutal and his evil allies, Raine, Ly'Tana and their friends discover a new, and very strange, force dogging their trail - a pack of enormous, cunning wolves.  Mysterious wolves who call to Raine in the night, and bring alive the secret he's kept hidden, even from himself.  Taunted by nightmarish visions, Raine is forced to confront his own dark demon - the best within.

Who will catch Raine and Ly'Tana first?  Brutal and his pets - or the wolves?

Thus begins the second novel of the Saga of the Black Wolf series. (taken from Amazon)

The second installment picks up exactly where the first left off.  Continuing her first person perspective from both Ly'Tana and Raine, Ms. Rose continues to tell an obviously well thought out story.  I personally would have liked to have heard Rygel's point of view, as he seems to be a character of interest making this triumvirate complete.

I an obvious effort to get in touch with the layman, she uses modern phrasings such as "it's all good" and "come at me bro" and while this easily gets the point across, as a true fan of this genre, I find it detracting.  I swear if "fo shizzle"  or "homeboy" end up in the third book, Ms. Rose is going to get a very nasty letter from me.

The two main characters' romantic relationship continues along the lines of an adolescent romance, not a mature courtship.  I honestly can't wait for these two to get a room!

There's discussion from all characters as to who, or what, Raine truly is.  Raine spends most of the book denying their allegations, finally deciding he needs to decide for himself.  Ultimately, though, rather than being allowed to embrace his destiny, he has it forced upon him, leading to a rather disappointing finale.

Overall, I still feel it was well written and look forward to reading the next in the series.

The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

-Carrie Anne

Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life after a failed marriage in a 300 year old cottage in historic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island.  Little do they know, another occupant is lurking in the haven of their own home.  Will the After House be their shelter or their tombe?

Yes, Remy and Olivia are sharing their home with the spirit of Eli, a whaling captain that died centuries ago.  He seems harmless enough, though, and we find that he's just looking to rebuild his life, too.  He feels as though he disappointed and hurt many people before he died, and that's why he's unable to move on.  This book is his story, as much as that of Olivia and Remy.  The flashbacks to his life are always thrilling, informative, and well written.

There is a real threat to Remy, though, and figuring out who's behind it is where most of the drama comes from.  Someone even damages the shop she owns, but at that point the local mayor steps in and takes her under his wing.  Thus begins a sudden, deep relationship between the two fo them that I found implausible.  Yes, we'd all like to believe that we can feel whole when we meet someone and that we've found our place, but how often is that in the first two days, especially when there's a little girl involved and a devastating divorce in the not too distant past??

There is one other ongoing story, that of the sentinels.  We were introduced to them in another of Cash's books, The Flip.  This time we learn a little more about them.  They appear to be guardian angels of a sort, tasked with helping kindred spirits (soul mates)  find each other, and live the life they're meant to live.  While we know more than we did in The Flip, I'm still not entirely sure I understand.  But, I've always said Cash's books make me think!

There are other references and characters from Cash's previous books, but they are a kind of Easter Egg for the reader, nothing that keeps this book from standing alone.  I will say, though, if you read one, you'll most likely want to read the others.  The characters are always relatable and the books have an entertaining blend of romance, history, and the paranormal.

If You Were Me and Lived in Greece by Carole P. Roman


In Roman's 'If You Were Me' series, she explores different countries and teaches children all about them.  It's a fun and interesting way for children to learn about other cultures.

I enjoyed this book.  I found it very informative.  For example, Greece is also called 'the cradle of civilization.'  The pronunciation key made the words easy to pronounce.  Some of the pictures were mostly dark, but the lighter and brighter colors made them easy to look at and they were very appealing.

Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles by Carole P. Roman


Fribbet the frog is unhappy, and none of the crew knows why.  They find him alone and the friendly crew tries their best to find out what's wrong.  Fribbet is feeling displaced!  His home has been overrun with tiny baby tadpoles!  Together, they find a way to make Fribbet better.  (taken from the book)

I enjoyed reading this book.  The words in this book are simple and easy to read.  The pictures are big and bright.  I especially enjoy how all of the characters are involved in solving the issue that is discovered.

I think children with new siblings will find this book helpful.  Sometimes, finding your place in the world can be difficult.  It's doubly so when you feel like someone else has taken your place.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dear Authors and Writers,

Warning:  Rant forthcoming.

I am a reviewer.  In the cases where I don't purchase or borrow the books, normally the author will send me a copy of the book.  In exchange for the copy of the book, I agree to read it, then write up and post an honest review.  It sounds straightforward, correct?

In essence, what I do is marketing.

So!  When I receive a perfectly good book that has been covered in graffiti by the author, what am I supposed to think?  I'm not sure what I'm supposed to think, but I'll tell you what I do think!

First, if you write 'proof' on several pages in black magic marker as well as mark out the isbn, you're showing me that you have zero respect for your own artwork.  I would never graffiti anyone's book, let alone my own that I spent hours and hours and weeks slaving over!

Alright, you can play Devil's advocate.  'But you might sell the book after you read it.'  SO STINKIN' WHAT!?  Look, let's be honest.  If you're an unknown author coming to me for a review, the odds of me selling your book are incredibly slim.  First, nobody knows who you are and nobody cares.  That's the reason you need a review in the first place.  Second, the depreciation value of books is insane!  I'd be lucky to get a dollar for your book after I've read it.  Is it worth it?  Second, wouldn't you be thankful I'm sharing your 'baby' with another human being?  Isn't that the point of writing?  So that you can share your stories with the world?  Be an entertainer?

I try to be as honest as possible in my review, and I'm honest in my business practices as well.  If you, as an author, send me a copy of your book and it's full of graffiti that you put on there, a few things will happen.  I will assume that you have zero regard for your work and will proceed to review it with the same care that you have for it.  I will assume that you are, in fact, not talented, but rather writing because you want the money.  I will force my way through this book, but I will never review for you again.

Writing throughout your own book is not only disrespectful to the book, it's disrespectful to me.  Do you think I have some deep, dark underground black market book business going on?  If so, you're as deluded as I assume your written word is going to be.  I'm angry! How dare you treat your own art work this way?  How dare you ask me to treat it any better than you have?  Good day, Sir!  I said, good day!

Come Back Dear Sun by Geena Bean


When the sun disappears for a long time, curious Kaylee cannot wait to have the sunshine back.  Her imaginative plan unfolds like only an eight year old can conceive, and the wonder and smiles begin.  She and her six year old sister, Mattie, along with their two friends, Fan and Lilly, plan an adventurous sleepover in an attempt to coax the sun into shining again.  In a very imaginative way, they talk to the moon only to discover that the moon is very tired due to working overtime during the sun's absence.

Follow Kaylee and her friends on their energetic quest to learn why the sun has disappeared and where it has gone.  The insightful message of this story impresses both parents and children alike in order to grow appreciation of the world around us.  (taken from the back of the book)

This is a very cute book.  The pictures are dark for the most part, although that doesn't deter from the story.  It also makes sense since the story is about the sun disappearing.  The story is easy to read.  It reads like a poem.  The pictures lend very well to the story as they relate the story in picture form.  I think this book is great for the 3-7 age group.

Book Battle: 50's Coloring Books


-Carrie Anne

Today I have two similarly themed, yet very different, coloring books for you.  The first is Creative Haven's "Fabulous Fashions of the 1950's,"  and the second one is "1950's Coloring Book: Fashion and Style," by Individuality Books.

Fabulous Fashions features full page illustrations that seem ripped from vintage catalogs.  Every figure is posed, perfectly coiffed and ready for their close up.  There are men and women pictured in suits, casual wear, coats, and evening attire.  Unfortunately, nearly every dress has a flower pattern on it!  That's my only beef with the book.  They're still beautiful dresses, and I know the flowers add interest, but it would have been nice to have more of the plaid, fruit, or pop patterns that were also popular at the time.

Fashion and Style has movement.  Every picture was hand drawn and has the feeling that the artist had a cocktail napkin and did a quick sketch for us.  Features aren't fully formed on the figures, even fingers aren't cleanly delineated.  Many of the pages have swirls and squiggles in the background that add a busyness to otherwise plain pictures.  In fact, some figures don't even have shoes drawn on.  But, this leads to an interesting feeling:  I could do so much with these basic pictures!  I can add my own style of shoes, my own pattern on the dress!  That's when the background patterns become a hindrance, too much fuss.  In an attempt to fill the page, I think the artist did more harm than good.  Some of the patterns aren't hand drawn, either, and feel almost stamped on.  It's a jarring contrast to the flowing lines otherwise shown in the book.

Both books have average weight paper, but markers will bleed through.  Fabulous Fashions solves this problem by having single sided, perforated pages for easy removal (as do all of Creative Haven's books)  while Fashion and Style offers a blank sheet between each of its single sided pictures.  I could see these blank pages also being used to do some sketching of your own.

All in all, Fabulous Fashions is a beautifully done book that's fun just to flip through, admiring the cut of the dresses and the beautiful trims that were used at the time.  Fashion and Style begs you to be creative and add your own touch...if you can get past the patterns in your way.

Ignited by Laurie Wetzel


After surviving an attack from a demon that killed her friend, Maddy Page thought the worst was over.

It's not.

Word is spreading through the supernatural world about Maddy, the mortal girl with rare gifts.  Some want to use her powers; others want to destroy her.  One wants to protect her--her boyfriend, an angel named MJ.

MJ knows that the demon that attacked Maddy was sent to collect her by someone very powerful.  Someone he has tried and failed to stop before.  MJ Can't beat him, but he will do whatever it takes to keep Maddy safe, even if it means turning his back on his own kind.  (taken from the book)

I enjoyed this book as much as Unclaimed.  I found that the plot got more intriguing the more I read.  I enjoyed how it picked up right where Unclaimed finished.  The fact that there wasn't a chunk of time missing (that makes everything totally confusing)  was refreshing.  I don't feel like you would be able to read this book without first reading Unclaimed.  There is a brief history in it that would be missed.  The only complaint I have with book two of the series is you still don't know where Maddy fits in.  We are getting closer to the unveiling, however, it just seems to be dragging on.

The Spells by Gary L. Morton

The Spells is science fiction action.  Detective Jack Michaels, accompanied by a fashion model, hunts for a missing teen girl in a case that explodes to mayhem, mutant gangsters and a mad doctor's plan for immortality.  (taken from the back of the book)

Before I get started on the negatives, I do want to say that there's a sound plot here.  There's great potential for a good story.  The characters have the potential to be interesting.  The world that has been constructed has a lot of fascinating points.

Now, on to the real meat of my review.

I had a lot of difficulty with this book.  First, this is one of those books where an editor would have done a great amount to help out.  An editor will not only fix grammar and spelling mistakes, but can also help point out less cohesive parts of the story.

I don't care about the characters.  It feels like they're thrust upon me and I'm just sort of stuck with them.  I don't like them.  I don't know anything personal about them.  The only character that I actually enjoyed was Alain, and that's only because we get to find out his personal motivations.

The world creation is clunky.  I'm given information that I don't need and the information that I do need is thrown at me like a flying football.  'Wait?  What was that??'  Then I have to attempt to assimilate that in to what I've already figured out.  Most of the beginning is world creation and trying to get us interested in Jack.  For me, it didn't work.  I need to be pulled into a new world and shown what's there rather then tossed in and the bolt thrown on the dungeon door.

Though I did enjoy the point of the story, this book just needs some work to make it good.  I rewrite of the beginning would go a long way towards that.  Once we get towards the middle, the book gets easier to read.  I still wasn't interested, but I didn't have to struggle to continue reading.  I think there's definite potential here, I just wish it had been hammered out a bit more before being published.

We are the End by Steve Kuhn

The battle for Vegas is done, but not without heavy casualties and broken loyalties.  Dishonesty within the group and mental instability weakens the bonds of family, making them vulnerable.  One member will break an unspoken rule and thrust the entire group to the brink of self-destruction. (taken from the back of the book)

Normally when I review a series, I review them all individually.  Each book gets its own review.  This time it's different.  I will not be reviewing this book.  Instead, I'll be reviewing the series.

Those of you who have read 'The Green Mile' are probably aware of the way it was published.  It's all one long story, but it was released pieces at a time.  You needed to put all the pieces together at the end to get the full story.  I was one of those people that was out buying each piece and reading it as soon as it was available.  However!  Once they were all released, I sat down and read it over, starting from the beginning.

Dext of the Dead is similar in that manner.  You can read each piece and then put them together, but you'll also want to sit down and read them in order, from cover to cover.  The story once they all come together is absolutely breathtaking.

I may have been misleading you with my reviews.  I was under the impression that this series was about the zombie apocalypse.  I believed it was another 'monster' series.  I didn't mislead you on purpose.  I was wrong.

This series is a story about a man named Dexter Baxter.  He's your normal man.  He goes to work, watches television, checks on his parents.  Then the world changes, and he has no choice but to survive.  Survival is everything.  But what is he surviving for?  What reason does this man have to live in a world that has gone so crazy?

He finds his purpose in recording what's happening in the world.  Dexter has faith that someday the world will find a way to right itself, and it's imperative that those in the future have a written record.  He keeps a journal and he writes in it whenever he can.  He writes about the people he meets, the places he goes, the atmosphere of the world, their struggles, their hopes and dreams.  Sometimes, he writes how he's feeling about it all.  Most of the time, he tries to keep a true and honest accounting of what's going on without letting his emotions and thoughts cloud that.

Here is where I failed as a reader.  I forgot.  I forgot that this series is one man writing.  I forgot that as people, we tend to not have clear perceptions of ourselves.  I forgot that Dexter Baxter is a human man.  Everything he writes, while true in his mind, isn't necessarily the absolute truth.  It's mostly true and honest, but it's colored by his perception.

While I was expecting a zombie apocalypse series, I received so much more than that.  This is an incredible character study.  It's one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time.  It's horrific and heart-wrenching and it made me laugh out loud.  This series is one of a hand full that left me sobbing at its finish.

We are the Extinction by Steve Kuhn

Tensions mount for Dext and his crew as they travel west in search of the elusive military unit known as Kilo Company.Characters, both good and evil, affect the course of events.  Threats wait around every corner.  A truth has been revealed:  mankind is more monstrous than the living dead.  (taken from the back of the book)

I have been lied to.  One of the characters in this book told me that things were a certain way.  I found out they aren't.  It's a big lie.  Don't tell me there isn't a slice of strawberry pie left when there is!  Don't tell me that I've won the lottery but not tell me that the lottery is a candy bar!  Don't tell me I get to go on a car ride and then let me find out we're going to the vet!  I've been lied to!  Oh the distress!!

Now, I'm angry at the character, not the author.  However, I'm a fair person and I do realize the necessity for the lies.  I would have done the same thing in his position.  However, this is the fourth book in the series and I've been operating under the information I was given in the first book!  Lies!  Deceit!  It's alright...I'm back under control now.

We aren't the only ones, as readers, who have been lied to.  Some of the characters have been kept in the dark as well.  In this book, they all start to find out what's what.  The problem with that?  They've all accepted the reality of what they've been told since the beginning as well.  Those who were telling lies didn't factor in human emotion and reaction.  Things get...interesting.

This book is back to the darkness that we found in the first two books.  Not only are the higher ups in the military beginning to turn on each other, but we start to see the true depths of human depravity.  

One of the brightest spots for me pertains to the  youngest character in their group.  I can't really go into it without putting in spoilers, but I'm impressed!

This is the part where I say I'm anxious to read the fifth and final book.  However, I can't say that.  I cheated and read it before being able to sit down and write up this review.  That review will be coming shortly.  But!  I will say that this fourth book left me with such a cliffhanger that I couldn't help myself!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cooks and Books

Right before I had to take my hiatus, I began reviewing a book.  I was so enthralled with it!  The first sentence pulled me in.  The main character was so bright and charismatic that I was instantly a fan of this book, regardless of where it went from the first sentence.  I read probably the first half of the book, and that same bright, charismatic voice was there.  I loved this book!

Fast-forward to last month.  I picked the book back up, and it's not the same.  Where was the main character I so admired?  What happened to the brightness?  The charisma?  It was edited.  Now!  I'm a huge advocate for editors!  If you don't have one, you need one!  It's that simple.  Even if you're an editor, get someone else to edit your work!  Now, the editor that worked on this book did exactly what he was 'supposed' to do.  He took the work that I had admired and factored in all of the English and grammar rules.  Then he moved everything around so that it meshed well.  He made it 'correct.'  The problem?  By making it the way it's supposed to be, the editor had chopped out so much of the character that I had loved about the book.

I started thinking about how the rules of editing are similar to a cook book.  I think I've hit upon something here.

When you pull out your cookbook, you're using a tried and true recipe.  Someone has spent hours in their kitchen making this recipe work just right.  You know that if you follow the recipe, you'll wind up with something good.  Measure correctly.  Stir the correct amount of time.  Bake at the correct oven setting for the alotted amount of time.  Ta da!  You've baked the same darn cookie that everyone who owns this cookie has made!  It's good!


Sometimes you just need that extra dash of cinnamon or salt to spice things up a bit.  Sometimes, you need allspice instead of cinnamon.  Sometimes, sometimes you freeze the darn cookie dough instead of baking it.  This is what leads to great.  It's alright to change up the recipe a little.  Different is great!

So, when you're writing, dare to add a little extra dash.  Bake it a few seconds less.  Throw caution to the wind and add some pecans!  Either it will be a great success, or less than good.  It's that simple.  If it's great, you know you're on to something!  If it's kinda gross and nobody wants to eat it, you know it's time to try another recipe.  Either way, you're not being a coward and making the same cookie everyone else is!  That's the cookie I want...the great one!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Unclaimed by Laurie Wetzel


Abandoned by her birth parents and ignored by her adoptive family, Maddy Page believes she is unlovable.  She only allows herself to dream of falling in love.  That changes when she meets MJ; handsome and kind, MJ penetrates Maddy's defenses.  Maddy soon finds herself confiding in MJ like she has with no one else, revealing secrets even her closest friends don't know.  He makes her feel safe--a feeling she's never experienced except in her dreams.

When Maddy Witnesses MJ disappear and reappear in thin air, she realizes she might have been wrong about him.  He could be dangerous--maybe even a killer.  Determined to uncover the truth of who--or what--MJ is, Maddy ignores her instinct to run.  But she soon realizes that getting close to MJ could cost more than a broken heart--it could cost Maddy her soul.  (taken from Amazon description)

I love how this book starts out.  You don't know where the author is taking it.  It kept my attention and that counts for something with me.  The descriptions of the characters and places in the book are done well.  I could picture everything as I was reading.

I love that this is a mystery/romance.  That's right up my alley.

The author gives you clues on the characters, but you will wonder where she's taking them.  Who are they?  Where are they going?  What will become of them?  I guess in order to know, we will have to read on, but in all, I like the story and can't wait to read the next book.

A Flag for the Flying Dragon by Carole P. Roman


It's business as usual on the Flying Dragon.  Their mission is to find a flag for the ship.  Capatin No Beard sighs, "Being a captain is hard work," as he watches the busy crew preparing the vessel for their next adventure.  Polly is giving out pretzels; Linus is polishing a lamp.  Matie is cracking coconuts, Cayla is stuffing holes and Hallie is swabbing the deck.  High overhead, trouble is brewing, and it is not the weather.  Mongo does not want any help from the newest crew member, and it is creating a hurricane of a mess on board.  The team must come together and find a task that will fit Zachary without interfering with their own fun.  On the way, they acquire a flag that will unite them as both friends and crew.  Join the problem-solving crew of the Flying Dragon as they find a flag for their ship and a job for Zach.  (taken from the back of the book)

I enjoyed this book.  I love the pictures.  They're bright and cheery.  The words are simple and easy to read.  I enjoy the message that you get in these books.  I also like how you don't realize this is a child's imagination until you get to the end of the book.  I think this book works well for the age group it is intended for, which is about 5-8.

Unclaimed by Laurie Wetzel

- April

Abandoned by her birth parents and ignored by her adoptive family, Maddy Page believes she is unlovable.  She only allows herself to dream of falling in love.  That changes when she meets MJ; handsome and kind, MJ penetrates Maddy's defensees.  Maddy soon finds herself confiding in MJ like she has with no one else, revealing secrets even her closest friends don't know.  He makes her feel safe--a feeling she's never experienced except in her dreams.

When Maddy witnesses MJ disappear and reappear in thin air, she realizes she might have been wrong about him.  He could be dangerous--maybe even a killer.  Determined to uncover the truth of who--or what--MJ is, Maddy ignores her instinct to run.  But she soon realizes that getting close to MJ could cost more than a broken heart--it could cost Maddy her soul. (taken from Amazon description)

I really enjoyed reading this book.  The story was easy to get lost in very early on.  The details were enough to be able to visualize the landscape and characters.  Maddy is a likable character even with all of her internal struggles.  While trying to help Maddy figure out who and what she is, MJ manages to endear himself to the reader.  The love story is very surprising and sweet in this book.

My only issue was that Maddy's history and parentage is a huge mystery.  I found myself constantly wondering what her adoption had to do with all the secrets MJ and she try to uncover.

Pokergeist by Michael Phillip Cash

- Carrie Anne

Sometimes life, as well as death, is about second chances.  Luckless Telly Martin doesn't have a clue.  An awful gambler trying to scrape by as a professional poker player, he becomes the protege of world famous poker champion Clutch Henderson.  The only catch...Clutch is a ghost.  Telly and Clutch must navigate the seedy gambling underbelly of Las Vegas learning to trust each other in order to win the elusive International Series of Poker, repair their shattered personal relationships and find redemption in this life and the hereafter.  (taken from the back of the book)

If I had just gone by the back of the book, I might not have picked it up.  Who wants to read about a loser or the seedy underbelly of anything?  And the few times I've watched professional poker, I was bored to tears.

I never should've doubted Cash.  Once again, he gives us characters we really care about.  Telly isn't a loser, he's a good guy that's had a string of bad luck...maybe not the bet time to start gambling professionally?  He has a sweet girlfriend, Gretchen, who supports him but thinks maybe it's time to settle into a steady job again.  He has great friends and parents that love him.  And he has a ghost.

Clutch Henderson has played poker all his life, following in his grandfather's footsteps.  In fact, his desire to win the championship (and its prize gold bracelet)  stems from the fact his grandfather won sixty years ago, and he felt he had to prove he could do it, too.  Unfortunately, Clutch has a heart attack before he can claim the bracelet as his own.  But as a ghost, he can see everything...every hand.  Maybe he can help Telly win the championship this year?

Turns out, Cash makes it as much fun to read about poker as it is to play (my grandfather taught me, too, at an early age.)  There are several funny episodes in the book, and I was never quite sure what would happen next.  The poker games are described so well, I felt as if I was right there at the table with them.  I read Cash has been playing for twenty years himself, and his love of the game shines through.  Ultimately, though, it's a story of relationships, one anyone can relate to.

We Are the Entombed by Steve Kuhn

After traveling into the Midwest, the crew deal with an increasing amount of pressure as the true scale of the plague becomes clear.  The dead have permeated every square inch of the country leaving the few remaining survivors desperate for commodities that were once commonplace.  Roving bands of raiders and small, independent communities pose serious threats to one another amongst the ever increasing numbers of ravenous, shambling corpses.  The group, having suffered difficult losses and few victories, cope with the catatonic state of their friend Kylee; it's a recipe for disaster.

On the military side, Colonel Lang and Chalmers continue to pursue their goals and Dr. Morofsky is making progress of a different sort-the Colonel may be a worse threat than the dead.

As Dext and his band of survivors push further, they  meet many new people and not all of them are trustworthy.  Whether they  make it to the coast, and ultimately their salvations, or continue to perish, is yet to be seen.  (taken from Amazon description)

So here I am, more than halfway through this series.  This book is the third and I've already begun the fourth.  I have to say, it's the best series I've read in a long while.  If you're going to read any of these, buy them all at once so that you can read them back-to-back.  You won't want to wait in between!  All of these books could be read as a stand-alone, but you won't want to.  Each book adds a new investment in character development that you won't want to miss.

In this book, things start off with a bit more lightness.  The first two books are so action-packed and suspenseful, that a short break from it is welcome.  Dext's humor really shines through in this one.  Once again, I found myself laughing out loud and snorting.  Now, that doesn't mean the danger has let up at all.  It means that they characters are finding ways to cope and they finally have a lucky break, even if for a short time.

There's also something I'd really like to discuss, that pertains more to the series than this book.  When I'm reading something that I really enjoy, I share it with everyone I'm in contact with.  I can't help it.  Great books are my passion!  So!  I was gushing about this series and how much I adored it, and the other person went to read the reviews they were able to find.  They came back and questioned whether or not this is Walking Dead fan-fiction.  IT IS NOT!  Do I need to say that more violently?  Yes, there are zombies.  Yes, I've likened it to The Walking Dead.  However, this takes place in an alternate universe.  Even though my brain sees metaphors that include The Walking Dead, it's my brain.  The author isn't in control of what metaphors my brain sees.  Now!  There is ONE paragraph in ONE book that I've found so far that Walking Dead fans will recognize.  If anything, it's poking fun at The Walking Dead.  So, if you're passing this series up because you think it's fan-fiction, you're making a huge mistake and missing out on a great read.

So!  Back to this book!  We do have some losses again, which is inevitable.  Most of them I was alright with, but one struck me as hard as a Harry Potter death.  We also have a couple of additions to the group, and I'm still making up my mind about them.  Though there's a lot of action in this one, it's much more of a continuation of the character study of each.  Most of the characters are figuring out where their moral lines are painted at.  How far is too far to go to survive?  What are they willing to sacrifice for each other?  How bonded are they really?

As I've said before, so far this is an incredible series.  I can't stop reading!  Moving on to book four!  And...I might have already read the first few pages...In book four, we learn more about the beginnings of the zombies, as well as scientific findings and there's a buuunch of craziness that has just started!  Gotta get back to it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We Are the Infected by Steve Kuhn

Dext and his crew are reeling from the losses incurred during their stay at The Haven and are on the run.  A military unit known as Kilo Company appears to be the group's best bet for survival, but they are miles ahead and the gap is widening.  Mounting tensions within the group strain relationships and affect all involved.

As they push ever forward in their pursuit of survival and sustainability, they find themselves stalled by the growing hordes of the undead...and very real, human threats.  Everything is not what it seems.  The line between friends and enemies is getting thinner with every passing second.  (taken from Amazon description)

I was a huge Walking Dead fan until I started reading this series.  Now, I'm not sure if I can keep watching.  I'm concerned that it might be a letdown after what I'm experiencing here.

So, this is book two in the Dext of the Dead series.  It holds journal entries 51-81 as well as some correspondence between military staff.  If you read the first book, then you probably aren't reading this review because you've already gobbled up the entire series.  I'm anxious to get this written so I can move on to the third book.

We still have Dext's sense of humor and a little comedy relief, but this book really delves into the darkness.  It's actually heart-wrenching to read.  There were two spots when I actually had to stop reading because the tears falling were just too much.  Then at other times, I was laughing out loud and getting funny looks from people.  I'm really surprised at the range of emotion that this book pulled from me.

Twists and turns and more twists, oh my!  I can't tell you how many OMG  moments I had while reading this!  I'm a bright girl.  A lot of times, I figure things out in books before it happens.  Years and years of practice have made most plots predictable for me.  This is not the case here!  Kuhn really caught me off guard!  I tell you, I had so many 'Oh no he di'n't!' moments!

So, the good news is that we're greeted by an old friend.  The bad news is that we have some really heavy losses.  I don't mean just high in number, but losses that really begin to destroy both the group and the reader.  Kuhn isn't afraid to kill off a beloved character.  It's not done gratuitously, but in this world that he's built, anything can happen.  I'm left at the end of this book feeling such a genuine sense of loss.  Some of my friends died in the last few hours.  I was there for the funeral, but there was no one to comfort me.

Honestly, I can't even review anything else on this book because I flat out don't remember it.  I was so engrossed in the story that I forgot to look for plot holes or description or if everything meshed.  Obvious to me, all of this must have been just fine because I found nothing that pulled me out of the world of Dext.

OK!  Enough talkie talkie!  On to book three!  Oh I can't wait!  Oh!  There's also a great Walking Dead easter egg in this book for those of you that can find it ;)

We Are the Plague by Steve Kuhn

The undead plague has decimated the population, but pockets of survivors still remain.  A battered military search for survivors while scientists work frantically to control the spread.

When a rescue team on the west coast discovers a mutilated body holding a journal that documents one man's journey across the country, they begin transmitting the information to the mysterious colonel Lang.  They discover that the journal may not only contain valuable information, but also the cause, and a possible cure, for the epidemic.

Dext is a regular man in a very irregular situation.  The friends and enemies he meets in this new world will either make him a hero or a monster.  The clock is ticking and salvation is only a mile up the road...if he can keep running.  (taken from Amazon description)

This one is a little tough for me to review.  I first read this book over a year ago and was absolutely struck by Dext's sense of humor.  I had to pick it up and read it again before reviewing and then finishing the series.  Since my first read, the book has been edited.  Some of the initial humor that I fell in love with is no longer there.  That isn't to say that the editing changes weren't necessary.  I understand why they were made, but I miss the book I read the first time.

So we have this military crew going over the book that they found.  Instead of chapters, we have a compilation of entries in the journal as they decipher them.  Mixed in with that, we have mysterious letters between military personnel.  I like that it's set up this way because the story is unfolding to all of them at the same time it is me.  Not only that, but if I have to put the book down and get up to do something, it's really easy to remember where I was.  I can stop at the end of an entry without having to go a few more pages to the end of a chapter.

I previously commented on Dext's humor.  The thing is, he's a brilliant character.  He's your average Joe, stuck in a crazy world.  He's tossed amidst strangers and expected to bond with them almost immediately.  There's no choice if he wants to survive.  I can't even imagine the struggle he goes through trying to figure out relationships, but thankfully he gives me a bit of an insight into what he's thinking and feeling.  Not only that, he doesn't have the talents and skills of the people surrounding him.  So here, we have this average human, in a non-average setting, with average feelings of inadequacy and now to cope with life.  It's actually really fascinating.  But I digress!  Dext's humor is what really pulls me in to this book.  I like him.  He's a really likable fellow.  He's funny and bright.  Since he's writing in a journal, he doesn't have to worry about being politically correct.  He just writes things down how they happen and however he happens to be thinking it.  Given his character and the way he writes, everything just has this wonderfully natural flow.

I've seen several people liken this to The Walking Dead.  When I read the first copy, I didn't really see that.  I'm a Dead fan.  But in Dead, it's about the group.  Sure there are characters you enjoy, but they start as a group and keep building and strengthening that group.  Dext was too large of a character for it to be a group story.  Sure, I'm being critical.  That's my job.  However!  The second time reading through, I don't feel the same way.  This time it is much more about the group and their survival than revolving around Dext.  He's still the main character, but in the beginning at least, the focus on him is gone.  We still have his great character and humor, but it's tamed down by how much he talks about the others.

Now!  This is important!  This book is not for the faint of heart!  'Oh!  I love gore!'  Yeah...yeah...I hear you.  That's not what I'm talking about.  While this is certainly a gratifying and gruesome read, there's so much more to it.  Entry 7.  If you feel like you can read anything, read Entry 7.  I had to skip it the second time reading because I just couldn't handle it.  I'll admit, it hits me harder than it does most people, but the first time I read it, I spent hours crying.  The second time...I started skipping pages.  It takes a lot for me to be at that point.  It's not that it's gruesome or gross or bloody.  It's the fact that it's a real ...the word I want to use here isn't acceptable in polite society.  It really messes with our psyche.  Those of you that are anxious for the zombies to arrive...this could change your mind.

I suppose the best way to describe this book, for those of you Walking Dead fans, imagine that somewhere down the line, the military finds a journal that Glenn has been keeping.  Yep.  Glenn.  The pizza man.  Now!  Think of everything Glenn has endured so far...and then double the trauma.  That's what this book is.  A lovable character telling things how they are as they're happening.  What happens next?  I have no idea!  I need to stop writing this so I can pick up the next book and find out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Print Version? Yes! Please!

As a reviewer, books are offered to me in a variety of formats.  I think most reviewers and readers these days are opting towards electronic versions.  I think most authors prefer that as well.  As an author, it takes more time and money to send a print version than it does to send an e-version.  I'm aware of this.  The nice thing to do would be to happily accept an electronic copy of any book I want to review.  I don't!  Does that make me a 'not nice' person?  Perhaps!

For me, reading is an old friend.  I started at such a young age that I can't remember I time I didn't have a book in my hand.  The feeling, the smell, become comforting.  I suppose books are my security blanket.  Now, yes, I can just as easily read a copy on my Kindle.  It just isn't the same.  For me, it's the difference between holding my daddy's hand and seeing a picture of us holding hands.  Sure, it elicits a reaction, but a huge chunk of the experience is missing.

Now, if a print version isn't available, I opt for a pdf version.  Why?  Well, it's quite simple.  I like my computer chair.  I find it comforting to sit in my computer chair and stare at my computer screen for hours on end.  There's nothing fancy about it, but it's mine, and that makes it special.  It's brown and leather and you can twirl for hours in it!  There are most likely some Dorito crumbs nestled in the seams.

Print version preferred!  Pdf version is backup!

Perhaps I'm still living in a bygone era.  I know a lot of people prefer to keep a handy spandy library they can tote around on their e-reader.  I own a Kindle.  It probably has a hundred books or more on it.  I think it's currently in my son's room crammed beneath a pile of Legos.  He uses it for great things like train apps where he can practice his engineering skills.  I use it for...nothing.  It's an amazing invention.  It just isn't for me.  It smells like plastic.  It feels like plastic.  It's a cold machine.  A book is a living thing.

I'd like to apologize to those authors out there who would much rather send me an electronic version and end up spending more time and money than they'd like to send me a print version.  The fact is, I'll review your book before I will an e-copy that I have.  It may not seem worth your time to you, but it's a great deal to me.  I appreciate every single stamp you've licked and every penny you've spent on that copy.  Thank you to each of you who enables my book-sniffing and loving habit.

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All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.