Book Review: The Beauty of the Fall

The Beauty of the Fall Book Cover The Beauty of the Fall
Rich Marcello
Fiction
Langdon Street Press
October 25, 2016
378

A TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVE CHARTS A HIGH-RISK, UNCONVENTIONAL PATH WHILE GRIEVING THE LOSS OF HIS SON

Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss, Olivia Whitmore, fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?

My Review

I started out feeling a little bit skeptical of this book. As a technology enthusiast, the ideas of the technology discussed seemed a bit far-fetched to me. However, the author really brought the whole idea to life in this riveting story.

The strongest part of the book was definitely the character development. I really felt connected with most of the characters, and you could really empathise with the struggles that they were going through.

If you are into technology or startup focused stories you will really enjoy this book from cover to cover.

I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Toy Soldiers

Toy Soldiers Book Cover Toy Soldiers
Michael G. Keller
Political Fiction
Montag Press
October 28, 2016
180
https://www.amazon.com/Toy-Soldiers-Michael-G-Keller/dp/1940233372

An arrogant American hedge fund analyst is sent to appraise an African mine that is controlled by a brutal warlord. When the financier is kidnapped by child soldiers and dragged into their bloody rebellion, he becomes entangled in their struggle and must choose between claiming the immense wealth he worked so hard for, or throwing it away and risking his life for a slim chance to save theirs.

Toy Soldiers explores themes of globalization, economic corruption, exploitation of children and courage against daunting adversity.

My Review

Toy Soldiers is a short, but gripping tale that explores many different moral and ethical themes. Although short, it covered a lot of ground, and contained a lot of very good character development. From Kaufman, the financial genius, to Sebu, the leader of the child army, the author creates many different characters that any reader will thoroughly enjoy.

My only gripe would have been that I would have liked more backstory for the main characters. The author does a good job building the characters, but it isn’t entirely clear to me how these characters would have developed this way. Sometimes the actions of the characters seem like quite a leap.

For anyone who enjoys an exciting political fiction novel (which isn’t too heavy on politics, but more on action), I would strongly recommend this book!

I was given a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Montezuma Kings

Montezuma Kings Book Cover Montezuma Kings
Thomas Ensch
Organized Crime, Contemporary Fiction
February 22, 2016
244

Best friends since childhood and now business partners, Mack and Eddie are known for throwing the hottest underground raves in San Diego. But what most people don’t know is that the secret rave parties are just a front for their more illicit business: selling mass quantities of cocaine. Using fraternities at the local universities as built-in distribution networks, they’ve built quite the empire. And business is booming. They own a luxurious home in the hills of La Jolla, drive expensive sports cars, and receive the VIP treatment at the most exclusive clubs and restaurants in the city. Simply put, they’re living the life any college student dreams of living. But as Eddie nears his graduation, he begins to second-guess his career path.

Alexander Alston was once the golden boy of the Drug Enforcement Agency, but after making one fatal mistake on a case two decades ago, his career fell to shambles. He’s always believed he’d eventually return to his former glory, but as the years have worn on, and his role at the agency has diminished, he’s begun to lose hope he’ll ever get the chance to make his glorious comeback. Then, one morning when he’s on the brink of retirement, he receives an anonymous letter that will change his life.

Fictionally inspired by the real life events of Operation Sudden Fall, one of the largest collegiate drug busts in U.S. history, Montezuma Kings is the first of a two part story that is both suspenseful and thrilling, and at times, tragic.

My Review

Montezuma Kings follows the story of Mack and Eddie, two long-time friends who are running a successful events business, and a drug dealing empire.

It was really hard to put this book down once I got into it. Not only was it action packed, but the character development and descriptions were very well done. Each character had a very strong backstory, which made you want to root for each and every one of them, be it Mack and Eddie, or the DEA agents. Even the supporting characters had very interesting backstories, which intertwined very well into the story.

A bit predictable in parts, but still full of twists. The only downside, is I have to wait for the next book! It ended on quite a cliffhanger, and I’ll be looking forward to sequel.

If you like action-packed books with great characters, and ones where you just want to root for the bad guys, then definitely check out this book.

I was given a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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 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 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: 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!