Book Review: Death by Diploma

Death by Diploma Book Cover Death by Diploma
Kelley Kaye
Fiction
February 23, 2016
228

Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends. Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest. As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.

My Review

Death by Diploma is a cozy mystery novel that follows Emma Lovett and Leslie Parker, two high school teachers, through their adventures of solving a murder, which is discovered by Emma one morning upon arriving to school.

The book really kept my attention all the way through, and I thought that it was very well written. The editing was well done, and it was easy to read. It was quite neat the amount of Shakespeare quotes that were able to be incorporated into dialogue. The dynamic between the two main characters was also great. They were two very different personalities that worked well together. I hope that in future books of the series, the author works more to develop Emma’s character. I felt that Leslie’s character was very clearly defined, but that Emma’s character was flat at times.

My only (minor) gripe with the book was that Emma’s  southern accent was written into the dialogue. I thought it was very odd at first, and it was a bit irritating, but I got used to it eventually. I haven’t seen this before, so it caught me a bit off guard.

I hope to see more books from this author, and I’d recommend the read for something fun and light-hearted, yet still full of lots of twists and turns.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Dinosaur Chronicles

The Dinosaur Chronicles Book Cover The Dinosaur Chronicles
Joseph Erhardt
Short-story Collection, Science Fiction
December 21, 2015
197

A scientist creates a time machine and precipitates the Ultimate Disaster.
Two boys enter a county fair and encounter the world's greatest juggler, who has a secret that's both wonderful and double-edged.
A man kills and forgets--utterly--that his victims ever existed; a nurse tries to help and uncovers a shocking secret.
Of what use is a planet with a 20,000-year lifespan? And why would it be a locus for murder?
A couple is stranded in their Colorado cottage by an antagonized creature that they can't see, and it's getting bolder and smarter as the hours go by.

The Dinosaur Chronicles contains 14 long and short tales of science fiction and fantasy in the classic style; they run the gamut from the thoughtful to the witty to the poignant. Tales of adventure and tales of discovery teem with characters that are everyday, one-in-a-million and from beyond the edge of reality. Let the stories from this collection take you to places strange, wonderful and--sometimes--downright scary.

My Review

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t usually read a lot of short story collections, but I am glad that I gave this a shot, as I thoroughly enjoyed the format and the stories within.

The Dinosaur Chronicles contains short stories (some that took me only about 5-10 minutes to read, and some longer ones.) with various different themes and topics, but most of them were of a science fiction nature. The author developed some very great characters, even in such a short amount of time. I think it takes a talented author to be able to do this well, in such a succinct way.

Even though I felt a few of the stories were a bit slow or confusing at first, what I came to love is that there was always a really great twist at the end that nobody could predict, and sometimes these were just downright hilarious. I really enjoyed the surprise endings.

The author also explores some important themes in science fiction, such as time travel (and the consequences), and memory modification technology. These stories get the reader thinking about the potential pros and cons of such things, while also keeping them entertained.

I’m not sure if this is common for these types of works, but I also really enjoyed the brief commentary from the author after each story giving background to where they came from, and the meaning (or lack thereof) of a particular story.

Are you a fan or short-story collections, or want to try something new? Check out this collection. You won’t be disappointed.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Time of Useful Consciousness

Time of Useful Consciousness Book Cover Time of Useful Consciousness
Jennifer Ott
Historial Fiction, Thriller
Lulu.com
June 28, 2015
286

Louisa Unger, a young German woman in Post-War World II Germany kills a man in cold blood. Despite her crime, her fate is up to her - give up her countrymen for her freedom. She decides to play the loyalty card and remain in prison.

During the interrogations, Louisa weaves her tale of the events by evading any real information. She relives reuniting with her estranged brother Freddy, falling in love with Kris, a former reconnaissance pilot and learning to fly to a plane. She recounts in fairy tale fashion of monsters cloaked in shadows and lessons learned by incorrigible children.

Seduced into the bliss of romance and flying, Louisa fails to recognize any threat. She grows immersed in the life of a smuggler, a pilot and a lover. It is hard to come back down to earth, when soaring so high.

My Review

“Such beautiful scenery for such evil men. Why were the evildoers blessed with such beauty and the good masses succumbed to the gray darkness of the city?”

This book takes place in post WWII Germnay, and follows the story of a German woman, Louisa, and the part she plays as a pilot in a smuggling operation. After murdering someone in cold-blood, she is taken into custody by the U.S Military. The book takes place from the prison, and also acts as a retelling of the events in the years previous to her capture. This story is interesting in that it is told from the perspective of a German woman, and explores the post-war conditions they were facing.

There is strong character development and relationship building in this book, whether it was with Louisa’s brother Freddy, or her mother’s lover, a Colonel in the U.S. Army. Louisa starts out as a young immature woman, and in the end, is bold, adventurous, and confident. She will stop at nothing to protect those she loves.

The story was quick-moving and captivated me all the way through. It was well-written and easy to follow, even though it jumped between different time periods frequently. The only negative point I would make is that the book ended quite quickly with a twist. The author didn’t waste any time wrapping up the story.

I would highly recommend this book for all of those interested in WWII historical fiction, or anyone who loves a great thriller.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Reivew: Theo Blinkerson and the Copper Coffin

Theo Blinkerson and the Copper Coffin Book Cover Theo Blinkerson and the Copper Coffin
Gregory Butron
Science Fiction, Dystopian
November 28, 2015
Kindle
190

When someone sets out to destroy all electrical technology on the planet, it’s sometimes best to hide under the softest, fluffiest blanket available. Other times you have to run screaming from dangerous robots. In the worst of times, you find out that your best friend has forgotten that you exist, and that you have to ride the world’s longest elevator with the scary girl you only met two days ago. Theo Blinkerson is about to have all of those times.

My Thoughts

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Pictures and words can be powerful – but only when people see or hear them. How do you think ideas get spread? It ain’t carrier pigeons. A picture can unite or divide people – but only if they see it. Technology is what makes that happen.”

Theo Blinkerson and the Copper Coffin is a YA Sci-fi novel set in low-earth orbit in a space station, and in and around a space elevator designed to transport people from earth to the space station.

The novel follows Theo Blinkerson, a 14-year old who lives in the space station, and his adventures with Ilene and Carson, who come to the station from earth after a group of people on earth set off an EMP to try to destroy all technology and electronics on earth.

Humans at this time are co-existing with robots called “neurobs”, which have very advanced artificial intelligence. This novel touches on a lot of different themes and questions relating to the practicality and ethics surrounding artificial intelligence, and how the world would respond to it.

I really enjoyed this novel, and the author does a great job exploring these themes, while still having a light-hearted and action packed storyline.

Although I really liked the characters and the character development, especially with Ilene, and Carson, I felt that Theo seemed a bit young for his age, and seemed fairly immature. Theo is the only child that lives on the space station with his parents, and a lot of other scientists. Given his surroundings, I would have expected that he would react to situations in different ways than he did. I hope the author develops Theo further in other novels.

Further, even though it seems this takes place quite far in the future given the level of technology, the author makes a lot of references to technologies used today (i.e. some programming languages.) Although I did appreciate that the author tried to add an element of realism to the technology in the story, it seemed odd that it jumped back and forth between current technology and very advanced technology.

I’m interested to see what other adventures Theo will get into in the future, and I recommend that everyone give this book a shot if you enjoy the genre.

Book Review: The Murdered Banker

The Murdered Banker Book Cover The Murdered Banker
Augusto De Angelis
Fiction
Pushkin Vertigo
February 23, 2016
160

A body is discovered in a Milan apartment, and Inspector De Vincenzi investigates. The apartment happens to belong to and old university friend of his, Aurigi. When the body turns out to be that of Aurigi's banker, and a phial of prussic acid is discovered in the bathroom, suspicion falls on the apartment's owner, and De Vincenzi is agonisingly torn between his sense of duty and his loyalty to an old comrade... This intensely dramatic mystery from the father of the Italian crime novel, Augusto de Angelis, is the first to feature his most famous creation--Inspector De Vincenzi. From the Trade Paperback edition.

My Thoughts

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This was a tough book to get through for me. I found the writing style fairly dry, and over-descriptive. I know that these detective-style novels need a lot of descriptions, but it was just a bit too much.

There were a few points in the book where I was drawn in and wanted to know more, but then I was quickly lost again. I just really couldn’t get into the narrative style. I think it would have been more compelling if it was told from the perspective of De Vincenzi.

The ending was overwhelming, the writing style was exhausting, so I can’t recommend this novel.

Book Review: The Passenger

The Passenger Book Cover The Passenger
Lisa Lutz
Fiction
Simon and Schuster
March 1, 2016
320

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride! In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it... Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time. She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born. It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past? With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts

I received a free copy of this book from Simon and Schuster (through NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not even sure what to call the main character, as her name changed so many times, so I’ll stick with the first name used, which is Tanya Dubois. I really enjoyed this book, but it is not without it’s faults, thus, I am giving this book 4 stars.

The book all starts when Tanya finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs. Instead of calling the police or an ambulance, she decides to go on the run. Throughout, she changes identities a few times, and runs into some characters that persist throughout the book. One thing I did not like is that it is not clear until the very end of the book as to why she decides to run and not call the police. This required me to really have faith that the author was going to wrap this all up. For most of the book I just remained confused, which I think could be very frustrating for some readers.

In the end, it was all very tied up well, and I really enjoyed the plot twists and the ending. There were some very interesting characters, and the author develops the characters very well. Tanya runs into two important characters named Blue and Domenic. Blue is in a similar situation to Tanya, and Domenic is a cop/love interest that she runs into on the road. Both characters were pivotal, and it was great to see them develop throughout, but it would have been good to have more involvement with these characters.

Overall, 4 stars. I definitely recommend picking this up.

Book Review: Alien Hothouse

Alien Hothouse Book Cover Alien Hothouse
JMJ Williamson
Sci-fi
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
November 12, 2015
254

An unmarried mother, running a spa hotel in a sleepy North Yorkshire village, helps a group of marooned aliens, living there secretly, to send a distress signal to their home-world, only to find that the signal has unintended consequences.

My Thoughts

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I went into this book thinking it would just be a book about a group of aliens living on earth, and how they were integrating, as the synopsis of the book was fairly vague. I have to say, this book was action-packed, and not what I expected. The plot twisted so many times, I almost lost track of it, but at the same time, I really enjoyed this.

It was well written, and easy to read. There were parts of the book that could have used a good edit, but this didn’t put me off. My only gripe with the books is that there didn’t really seem to be any real conflict in the plot. There were times when the characters ran into certain conflict, and it was so easily resolved, that I as the reader almost completely forgot it happened in the first place. At parts, it felt like I was in some “lovey-dovey” universe where everyone I ran into was a nice person. I would have liked to be a bit more on the edge of my seat.

Overall, I’d recommend it. It was enjoyable, and a different type of style and story than I’m used to. It was an easy, enjoyable read.

Book Review: The Martian

The Martian Book Cover The Martian
Andy Weir
Random House
August 27, 2015
384

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Thoughts

“I’m pretty much fucked.”

The opening line above almost dissuaded me from reading the book, as it set the tone for a story that wasn’t going to end well. I’m glad I read more, as it was a fantastic story.

This book didn’t take long to read, probably about 6 hours or so in total. It was captivating, inspiring, and hard to put down. The book, for the most part, is written in the form of log entries by the main character, Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars after an aborted mission.

In my opinion, that absolute best part of this book is Mark Watney, the main character. Even while all of these terrible things are happening to him, he stays optimistic throughout, and comes up with solutions to his problems. The other interesting thing about reading this book, and that the situations in the book do not seem far-fetched. It seems quite plausible that it could happen in the next 20 years or so. The author strives to create realistic situations, and employ as much science and math to suspend disbelief. I really liked this element of the book, as it gave a little bit of credit to the fiction.

After reading the book, I also saw the movie, and I was actually impressed. My biggest worry was that they wouldn’t be able to capture the character properly in the film, but I think this was done well.

I think anyone would enjoy this book.

Book Review: My GRL

My GRL Book Cover My GRL
John W. Howell
Thriller
Martin Sisters Publishing
December 30, 2013
225

John J. Cannon successful San Francisco lawyer takes a leave of absence from the firm and buys a boat he names My GRL. He is unaware that his newly-purchased boat had already been targeted by a terrorist group. John's first inkling of a problem is when he wakes up in the hospital where he learns he was found unconscious next to the dead body of the attractive young woman who sold him the boat in the first place. John now stands between the terrorists and the success of their mission.

My Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed My GRL. The story was very fast-paced, full of action, and it was hard to put down.

I was pleasantly surprised that the plot wasn’t as predictable as I thought it was going to be when I first read the synopsis. The reader quickly finds out that things are not as they seem, and are really thrown for a loop.

My gripes with the book are fairly minor, and didn’t really bother me too much. First, the first-person present tense of the narration was a bit hard to read at first, as the tenses did change a bit throughout. I quickly got used to this and really started to enjoy the writing. Furthermore, I felt that the author did a lot of over-explaining as if it was just trying to fill pages. The author seemed to keep pointing out that the main character really wanted half and half and Splenda in their coffee. I think this is mostly attributed to it being an early work of the author, and it didn’t really bother me too much.

I am looking forward to the next book!