AMONG WOLVES: Book 1 in the Children Of The Mountain Series
By R.A. Hakok
Gabriel lives in Eden, a small colony tucked inside a mountain in Maryland. How he got there — well, that’s the real story.
This is a chillingly authentic book about what might happen if a nuclear winter comes to pass. It is lyrical, poignant, and brutally honest in its depiction of a microsociety left to fend for itself after the unthinkable happens one sunshiny school day.
Gabriel’s first grade class went to the White House on that day for a tour. When atomic bombs begin raining down on the Eastern Seaboard, they are evacuated, along with the President, to a remote bunker deep within a mountain in the Maryland hillsides.
This is the story of what happens to that class of first graders ten years after the event.
Gabriel, who’s sixteen by now, and Marv, a grizzled old soldier who happened to be part of the Presidential guard detail on that fateful day ten years earlier, are the two people charged with venturing outside the bunker periodically to forage for supplies in the ravaged towns nearby.
One frigid winter day, Gabriel discovers the frozen body of one of the Secret Service men who met them at the mountain that day long ago. He had been officially listed as “missing.” But the bullet hole between his eyes tells a different story.
Thus, this simple dystopian tale of adolescent survival in a world that has shrunk to the size of a tiny village takes on a mysterious air. Who shot the agent — and why?
The President, a seemingly affable former preacher, holds sway over the tiny community, which is run like a home for wayward juveniles. There is precious little love, and marriages will soon be arranged by the President and a select group of advisers — including the former Secretary of Defense, who now acts as Quartermaster for the community.
Gabriel has put Mags, whom he has known with the others since childhood, in his “top five” list of potential mates. But will she requite his feelings and declare her love for him — or be paired off with someone deemed “more suitable?”
This is a tightly woven tale that is part science fiction, part coming-of-age, and part mystery as the reader is immersed in the daily goings-on of Eden and its regimented citizens.
The second half of the book reads eerily like Stephen King’s The Stand, as Gabriel makes his way through the treacherous, snowy terrain to another bunker 80 kilometers away, then returns to participate in the novel’s surprise ending. The intervening action will leave you breathless.
This is a truly remarkable piece of dystopian fiction, and I give it five unqualified stars. Many thanks to the author for providing a great summertime read.
By Allen Wyler
Every once in awhile, a book comes along that gives you the creeps, right from the start. Dead Ringer is just that kind of book.
“A dark, ill-formed premonition punched Lucas McRae in the gut so hard it stole his breath.”
This is the novel’s first sentence, and it means trouble for McRae, who finds the severed head of his best friend waiting for him on a dissection table in Hong Kong. McRae is from Seattle, and he just saw Andy not 24 hours before flying to Hong Kong to stage this surgical demonstration for Chinese specialists.
So begins this grim and suspenseful tale of a greedy mortician and his unholy practice of selling the body parts of loved ones to medical institutions — before they’re cremated. The box of ashes he gives to bereaved family members consists often of recycled homeless people’s remains.
It’s a ghastly premise for a book, and the author pulls no punches on details, leaving the reader to wonder how he gets so much of the medical and anatomical detail right. It’s eerie, and the desired effect is one of horror that this sort of thing might really be going on somewhere.
In any case, the undertaker involved in Andy’s death has fallen under police suspicion — not for Andy’s death, but for the disappearance of the prostitute Andy had been with the night before McRae made his grisly discovery in Hong Kong.
A tightly interwoven game of cat-and-mouse has begun, and the reader gets to know the mortician and his assistant better than he wants. Indeed, these are characters you might meet at your local Rotary club breakfast, so practiced are their public personas.
Still, Detective Sergeant Wendy Elliott is on the case, and quickly puts the mortician, Robert Ditto, in the cross-hairs. The problem? Tying the disappearances back to this sleazy criminal.
As the story unfolds, Elliott teams up with gang member Luis Ruiz — the prostitute’s brother. Together, they start trying to put together the pieces necessary to bring Ditto to justice.
Meanwhile, Dr.McRae is doing the same thing, but working the case from the angle of trying to find out what happened to his friend Andy. Again, all roads seem to lead to the funeral director.
There’s a bit of added spice when McRae and Wendy inevitably get together to compare notes. It’s a welcome interlude to the gruesome business they are investigating.
The ending — in which a surprising turn of events unfolds — is both satisfying and, well, fitting, considering the nature of the book’s premise. This is a first-rate who-dun-it — even when the perpetrators are never in doubt.
I give Dead Ringer five stars, and will think twice before donating my body to science after I’m gone.
Ravage Me: How to Indulge in Your Desires and Avoid the Lunacies of Love, Sex and Relationships
By Mikael Winters and Cheyenne Morgan
Ever feel like your (a) relationship, (b) your sex life, or both are going nowhere? If so, this might be the book for you. Candid, witty and well-written, this short read uncovers a few of the mysteries that were deemed too hot to handle in Men Are From Mars; Women Are From Venus.
The authors — one a Jewish/Black woman in her late thirties, the other an Anglo couples therapist — comment on the reasons we often choose the wrong partners, discuss why we can’t get the sexual gratification that we need, and argue — convincingly — why failed relationships can often be traced directly back to our parents and our upbringing..
Indeed, they contend that something as simple as a father showering compliments on his young daughter, or bringing her flowers from time to time, can stave off later codependency issues.
In the chapter entitled “Love Starved,” the authors discuss ways in which relationships between people of vastly different ages or backgrounds get started — and why they’re sometimes a vital addition to someone’s life. However, they can also be dangerous.
“If you’ve ever been in a love-starved situation, you’re easy prey for someone to manipulate and discard like flavorless gum.”
In the same chapter, they offer more sage advice: “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone new.”
It’s important for a young girl to understand that she doesn’t need a man to validate her. “If this is not embedded in her mind at an early age, a woman will fall hard for the first man that tells her she’s pretty.”
In a later chapter, they explain the importance of desire in a marriage or long-term relationship. If it’s not there, one party or the other goes shopping for a new partner — one that provides intense heat. And it’s the main reason why affairs are so hard to terminate once they’re in full bloom. Who wants to settle for ho-hum sex at home when you can experience the carnal delights of an illicit lover?
“Would you leave the intense heat of an industrial-strength oven to try and get warm under the flicker of a mere match?” the authors ask.
And, on the subject of the absence of foreplay in a sexual relationship, the authors are amusingly candid: “Sparse foreplay is like the dentist giving you the bare minimum of Novocain — right before a drill hits your tooth.”
This book is not for those easily put off by swearing or the graphic depiction of various sexual acts. It’s all in the spirit of handing out some refreshing advice that could just save your marriage or relationship.
I give Ravage Me five stars for being a trailblazer in the often-stale genre of self-help books.
Burn For Home (Part One): Starlight
By Ash Elko
Imagine being trapped in a burning spacecraft a very long way from Earth. Then, imagine being newly pregnant and trapped in a burning spacecraft a very long way from Earth. This is the storyline that drives Part One of the serial Burn for Home. And it’s a great one.
Space traveler Theresa can’t wait to get back to her husband Andrew, who is on Percy Station, awaiting her arrival. They have been apart for two long months, while Theresa performed a lengthy exploration project in the tiny spacecraft Salvatore — nicknamed Sally for short.
The story starts with Theresa remembering in vivid, erotic detail the moment she got pregnant. The memory is sweet as she shoots through space toward home.
“His tensed muscles relaxed like a spring, slowly uncoiling. I pulled him closer. I felt the weight of his body collapse onto me. I pulled him close. I held him tight. In that moment our pasts and our futures melted away. They didn’t matter. All that mattered was the constant: our love.”
Then, the unthinkable happens and a fire breaks out, quickly consuming a goodly portion of Theresa’s oxygen. Quickly, she gets into a pressurized exo suit. But, as she does the mental math on the number of hours remaining in her oxygen supply, she keeps coming up short.
Very short. Too short.
The space station devises a rescue option, but it’s a long shot. Does Theresa make it, and get to birth and raise the Little One growing inside her?
You’ll just have to read the first installment of this excellent serial to find out.
Congratulations to author Ash Elko for creating — in a very short space — two characters with whom the reader can quickly identify and care about. I look forward to succeeding installments.
By Andrew Joyce
Molly Lee is just the kind of strong, resourceful female protagonist you’ve been looking for. In this good old-fashioned western, she shines through as both the most feminine and yet the baddest of the bad. It’s a combination that, in the hands of a lesser author, would come across as too complex to handle. But that’s not the case here.
Molly goes from wide-eyed, lovestruck teenager to middle aged rancher in this saga that follows her through one harrowing situation after another. But getting there is half the fun, and the worst mistake you can make about Molly Lee is to underestimate her.
She leaves her home, her parents, and the relative security of her childhood home to go in search of Huck Finn (yes, THAT Huck Finn, all grown up and a soldier in the Civil War). Inexplicably, he leaves Molly one morning after promising to take her with him. And so, she lights out after him, beginning her wide-ranging quest to consummate her true love.
Along the way, she becomes a prostitute, a wife to an Indian chief, a saloon owner, and a murderer, twice over. Don’t get me wrong; Molly was roundly justified in both these killings. But, eventually, the law catches up to her, and she goes to prison for five years.
The writing in this book is terse, but very descriptive. In one scene, Molly, as owner of the Spicy Lady saloon in Denver City, has designs on her well-built, handsome bouncer, John Stone:
“I started to imagine John and me spending the rest of our lives together. However, whenever I brought up the subject of us living together in San Francisco, he would grunt and pull his hat down a little lower, so I couldn’t see his eyes.”
About halfway through the book, she meets and marries Jeff McMasters, who owns a 10,000-acre cattle ranch in Montana. Through a series of circumstances beyond her control, Molly becomes owner of the Bar M ranch and organizes an epic cattle drive in which she, her adopted daughter Betty, and 40 cowhands herd 12,000 steers from Montana to Abilene, Kansas.
And what would a good western be without cowboys, Indians, cattle rustlers, horse thieves and harsh frontier justice that leaves more than a few outlaws shot dead in Molly’s wake. Even the cattle become characters in this excellent book reminiscent of Lonesome Dove.
“A few of their steers made their way to the front, but our steer held his lead position. Lem had named him Caesar, because, like Julius Caesar, he was leading his legions into battle. A battle of searing heat, swollen rivers and miles and miles of dust. The Great Herd was now complete.”
Whether Molly and her daughter make it back to the ranch in one piece, and whether Molly ever finds Huck Finn, I leave to you, as the reader to find out. I certainly recommend Molly Lee highly to anyone wanting a good, fast-paced piece of fiction. And I, like many others, look forward to reading the third book in this Old West trilogy.
By Jane Riddell
Chergui’s Child is a rich and engrossing story of unrequited love, painful expectations unfulfilled, and a journey in search of a lost child.
Olivia receives startling news upon the death of her aunt: a baby she thought died at birth has in fact lived, and is being raised by her ex-lover in places unknown. This is the chronicle of Olivia’s quest to find her five-year-old daughter and — hopefully — work out some kind of arrangement to be a part of her life.
We learn much about Olivia as she reveals, in pieces, details of her relations with a domineering mother, a cad of a married man whom she is currently seeing, and this despicable man who snatched her daughter five years earlier.
It’s a well-written tale that reveals the strengths and frailties of Olivia, who struggles through many uncomfortable situations in her search, which leads her from London to the South of France and other locales, always seemingly a step behind Richie — the smooth, heartless father of her out-of-wedlock child.
Strong supporting characters lend body to the narrative, which is divided between first-person recitation of events, and third-party exposition in which Olivia often comes off as a hapless victim, too easily steered by the men in her life.
In France, she hires out as a nanny for a short time while searching for a lead as to Richie — and her child’s — whereabouts. Here, she gives a lovely turn as a surrogate mother to a neglected neighbor child, and tries out her latent mothering skills, which actually are quite good.
There is such good writing in this book. The characterizations are especially delicious:
“In her pink maternity dress, with her unruly wavy Tahitian hair and youthful skin, she resembled an overgrown primary school girl who’d won a prize.”
And, “Talking to her was like navigating cobbles in stilettos.”
The author is especially skilled at evoking a sense of place, and she frequently excites every one of your senses as she describes, in vivid but spare detail, each restaurant, each food dish, each sandy beach. At times this impedes the action, but, since the scenes change rapidly, it rarely slows the reader for long.
The ending is both surprising and satisfying — though not without suspense. You’ll be cheering for Olivia all the way.
I enjoyed Chergui’s Child and, like the other reviewers, give it five stars.
By T.R. Whittier
Obesity can have its benefits — if you want to be the Prima Ballerina in the Fat Ballet Company of New York City. And, to her everlasting happiness, Olga qualifies. In fact, in this immensely original and quirky story about fitting in, Olga finally finds a venue for her well-practiced pirouettes besides the Port Authority restrooms.
Olga, daughter of Russian immigrants, meets Harold Pinsky — heir to a toilet paper fortune — one night while both are trying to commit suicide in the Lincoln Center fountain (I’m not making this up, seriously.)
She’s FAT, he’s painfully thin. But they share a love of ballet that transcends physical differences. Together, they begin performing in Central Park with the help of Tourettes Syndrome-afflicted Big John, piano player extraordinaire. And the rest quickly becomes history.
Not sense M*A*S*H has a comedy ensemble come together with such vibrant energy, outrageous characters and sheer creative panache. Fat Ballet tells the story of how a weight-challenged young woman finds true happiness and release for her pent-up dancing ambitions.
The Fat Ballet Company has a few growing pains, of course. It must figure out, for example, a way to utilize grotesquely malformed Xueyi Li in the act, as well as Katya — Olga’s verbally abusive big sister.
It’s a merry band of misfits in search of their Fifteen Minutes of Fame.
Of course, there are romantic interludes, worthy of the steamiest romance novel — such as when Olga and Big John come together:
“A guttural cry of desire sprang from his throat. He grabbed hold of her buttocks, squeezing firmly and began pulling down her sweatpants. A frenetic glow ignited his eyes, giving them the appearance of two electric blue lanterns — two beaming beacons of light that would guide her down the path of passion.”
The plot thickens as Masha Anikov, lead female dancer of the Empire Ballet Company is goaded into accepting a dance duel with the Fat Dance Company in front of Lincoln Center. Feverish plans are made, killer dance routines are choreographed, and the stage is set for the showdown.
Will Olga and her newfound — and unlikely — creative friends triumph over the haughty Miss Annikov and dance their way to victory and into the hearts of thousands of cheering New Yorkers on the steps of Lincoln Center?
Pick up a copy of Fat Ballet and find out why this offbeat book that celebrates the differences among us is a winner!
Blackout (Darkness Trilogy Book 1)
By Madeleine Henry
The United States is a divided country — literally — since a solar firestorm plunged the world into a never-ending, cold, gray wasteland. Well, everywhere on the Dark Zone side of the wall that now bisects the nation, anyway. That includes a decimated Washington D.C., where most of the opening action in this arresting YA dystopian tale begins.
Unlikely young hero Phoenix Troublefield and his girlfriend Star Windsong are making a life for themselves and the eight remaining families who still live inside the Beltway, but that life is a hard one, with no light, no heat and very little in the way of hope — until one day, the mysterious people on the northern side of the wall offer a bizarre exchange. They will restore electricity to families that are willing to sacrifice one family member each to the Frontmen who stand silent sentinel on the wall.
The exchange will mean new life for the parents and siblings of Star and Phoenix. So, in spite of qualms about their uncertain future, they climb into hulking black cruisers one bleak morning and set off for New York City, the site of a competition known to them only as “The Carnival.”
Object of the games is clear. Phoenix and Star must set aside their love for each other — at least temporarily – and compete instead for the love of one of the privileged sons and daughters of the hated and feared ruling families of the North. If they win, all will be well, and their own families will get to keep their newly acquired electricity. If they fail, their families will go back to a bleak existence, and Star and Phoenix will face isolation and hardship, stranded in the North.
The games begin and Star and Phoenix find themselves suddenly at odds with each other. Jealousy on Phoenix’s part threatens to drive a wedge between them. But all is forgiven as each one gets down to the serious business of convincing everyone they’re REALLY in love with their prospective mates offered by the games’ creators.
The competition continues in deadly earnest, with Phoenix’s teammates Elektra and Tinder joining in to ensure they all succeed. Text message updates are beamed nationwide as throngs of fans follow the unfolding action.
Does Phoenix finally unite with his own true love, Star? Or does The Carnival ultimately wreck their blissful hopes and dreams?
This well-wrought tale of a future where youth is both celebrated and exploited makes for a diverting read, with many fine characters made memorable by a deft and marvelously restrained authorial hand.
I give Blackout five stars and join other reviewers in looking forward to Book Two in this trilogy.
By Holly Tierney-Bedford
RoRo wants to reinvent herself, but doesn’t know how. Life Coach Crystal Class has the answers — and they make for the basis of a very funny, heart-warming book about the pleasures and the perils of making life-changing decisions.
RoRo – her real name is Rowen — feels trapped in her job and adrift in her love life. She spends her free time eating pop-tarts and pizza, and collecting bunny figurines. Her new life coach Crystal scoffs at RoRo’s lifestyle, pronouncing her nothing more than a “placekeeper.”
“A placekeeper is someone who is eating and breathing, sleeping and taking up space, but not serving a purpose. It’s what your body is doing if you aren’t fully realizing your goals here on earth.”
ThIs firm message galvanizes RoRo into drastic action to make herself “way cooler” and, in the process, reclaim her lost boyfriend Sherman. She sells the bunnies on EBay (along with many other treasured items) to continue paying her life coach, who grows more and more demanding. RoRo struggles to comply — with often hilarious results.
Friends at her dead-end job are shocked when she shows up with a drastically new hairstyle, and, though she backslides often on the road to self-improvement, playing spider solitaire and Farmville until all hours, she nevertheless doggedly pursues her new goals despite the tough love dispensed by Crystal in their weekly sessions.
“Insults and Results are practically the same word,” Crystal intones. “So get used to one if you want to see the other.”
Munching Dill Bacon Parmesan chips in an effort to snag the snack man’s eye, she quickly discovers that such efforts are not consistent with her new goals, and she continues her quest for betterment, foregoing the temptation to forward insipid email chain letters to all her friends, and exchanging her usual can of Mountain Dew with lunch in favor of coffee with cream — a more sophisticated selection, she decides.
As the book progresses, RoRo finds herself unemployed, but still gamely moving forward with her self-improvement efforts, enduring more withering criticism by her life coach and chucking whole closetsful of Old Navy items in favor of clothing Crystal claims will elevate her above the ordinary.
But wait — is all this change and abuse really necessary just to makeover a sweetly innocent young woman who endearingly embodies the ordinary pleasures we all are guilty of indulging? Read this book all the way to its surprising conclusion to find out.
This well-written and perfectly edited book deserves five stars, and will brighten the day of any reader who downloads it. Good job, and continued success to author Holly Tierney-Bedord.
By Anderson Atlas
When a vicious and manipulative mass murderer engineers the release of a fatal toxin into the water supply of New York City, the stage is set for the most epic apocalyptic story since Night of the Living Dead.
Ben Leman is unaware he has released a deadly poison into the reservoir — Zilla, the evil mastermind of the plot, has told him the substance would only make people sick — a practical joke on a citywide scale.
However, Zilla has provided Ben with the antidote to the toxin, but there seem to truly be worse things than dying. He must somehow make it out of the Big Apple alive, dodging horrific zombies every step of the way, and he just prays that the rest of the country’s okay.
We follow other characters trying to escape the city as well. A female police officer named Hana and a fifteen-year-old boy named Tanis are also trying to escape. They don’t know it yet but they must also eventually battle several thousand hideous “walkers” who have somehow come back to life.
They reach a boat house on the shores of the Hudson River, but are confronted by more living people. The first ones they faced were decidedly unfriendly. Things get tense until the threesome — Markus, Ben and Ian, along with a woman they rescued and her son — agree to join forces with Hana and Tanis to find a way across the river.
Two others arrive — Isabella and Josh — with an army of zombies at their heels. It’s time to go.
In a subplot that runs parallel to the main narrative, Markus — a preacher — had been searching for a mysterious stone sacred to Islam years earlier. It’s called the Stone of Allah, and it has been housed in an undisclosed location for hundreds of years. The Stone, and its relevance to the rest of the story is unclear — until a startling revelation brings everything into chilling focus.
The Sixth Horseman is an ambitious novel, poised for a long and satisfying run as a series. The vivid scenes in which the survivors battle the Undead are truly epic and, I’m sure, will linger a long time in the nightmares of readers.
Its wider ambition, however, is to tie the book’s events to such relevant themes as international terrorism, corporate greed and the natural resource-sucking efforts of an ambivalent and uncaring world. These themes carry throughout the novel and should resonate with many readers. Could this be the future we’re all facing if global forces for destruction continue to go unchecked?
I give Sixth Horseman five stars as the most promising dystopian read I’ve come across in awhile. By all means, read it — and its sequels — for more skin-crawling, eye-popping adventure.
By Mark Ewig
Aaron has a big problem — and it all started with the night he was stabbed in the back by one of his roommates. You’ll be drawn into this outstanding and dynamic story from the very start, and carried forward on a wave of mystery and paranormal suspense.
Was it Drew, on meds because of an abusive situation at home? Or Ryan, who fought with Drew the night of the incident? Finally, there’s Jason, who disavows any involvement outright.
Aaron goes to the hospital and stays four days while the police try to figure out who plunged the knife into his back. His girlfriend Jessica just wants to be there for him as the four friends break up and go their separate ways with the mystery of Aaron’s assault unsolved.
Fast forward fifteen years. Jessica and Aaron are married with three wonderful children. His life is idyllic — a nice home, good job, and a family who loves him. But suddenly, things start going wrong.
He blacks out, sometimes while driving, sometimes for days on end. And that’s not all. He begins seeing things: an elderly couple that appear and disappear in the blink of an eye; an apparition that oozes from his television, known to him only as the shadow man; and odd, tingly sensations and a crushing weight that descends on him just prior to each blackout.
A shaman that he meets offers a startling explanation, and it’s one that he initially rejects.
“The power to control the world is in your hands,” intones the shaman, who encourages Aaron to link back up with his old roommates in an effort to see who might have set this strange series of life events in motion.
He gets no real answers from Jason, who now works as a policeman in a small town in Indiana. He continues to claim innocence, but does use his police connections to get the current addresses for Ryan and Drew.
On the way to see Ryan he again blacks out and comes to in a hotel room. Disoriented, he wanders the halls until he encounters Amanda — another friend from college, but looking like she hasn’t aged a day. She, too, encourages him to continue on his “journey.”
Will Aaron find the answers that he seeks? What is the significance of the wind-up monkey? And what’s the deal with the two bluebirds on the inner thigh of a stripper in central Illinois?
Follow Aaron on his quest for the truth. You, like he, may get more than you bargained for.
I give Wind Down five stars for inventive plot, intriguing and complex characters and a genuinely good story.
The Universes Inside the Lighthouse: Balky Point Adventure #1
By Pam Stucky
Charlie and Emma are two inquisitive teens who discover a doorway into multiple universes — inside a lighthouse on the small island where they’re vacationing. From there, it’s a short trip into a delightfully drawn tale that leads them to many unlikely places.
Author Pam Stuckey has expertly woven an improbable plotline into a book that is part science fiction, and part Alice In Wonderland. The twins hook up with an ensemble cast of aliens — all of whom look remarkably no different than, say, your next door neighbor — and go in search of a mysterious alien named Nik, who is causing all sorts of intergalactic grief.
Charlie and Emma team up with Emma’s secret heartthrob Ben to quiz a quirky alien scientist named Dr. Waldo, who presents them with an arresting revelation about one of the universes they’ve discovered: the dead don’t ever really depart, as we’ve always thought. Most often, they simply “stick around,” as Dr. Waldo says, or they “move on” — sometimes to inhabit entire worlds just filled with spirits.
Needless to say, this is much more than a simple Young Adult adventure story — although it still somehow manages to accomplish that as well, moving the reader along briskly with snappy dialogue, keen wit, and a surprise around every corner.
The quest turns serious when they become stranded in a strange world with three moons, but their alien-guide Eve finally saves the day by dialing in the correct coordinates for The Hub, where Dr. Waldo is anxiously awaiting their arrival.
But wait! That isn’t Charlie, after all. It’s Parallel Charlie, who switched places with the real Charlie in one of the many alternate Earths. Just kidding, Emma, he says, when his twin sister finds out what they did. Also, Ben has activated a homing beacon on his wrist in hopes of being transported home. Problem is, the device was a beta model and Ben just might have his atoms scattered across the multiverse.
There’s more drama in store as the twins continue their romp around the galaxy before finally accomplishing their task –sort of. It’s a twist ending, and I don’t want to spoil it.
The Universes Inside the Lighthouse is an imaginative read that’s well-written, well-edited and fun to race through, as the twins find themselves in one dilemma after another — but always finding their way out. This book is a YA standout and I give it five stars.
The Birth of a Phoenix (Phoenix Chronicles Book 1)
By Candice Snow
In Birth of a Phoenix by Candice Snow, a dystopian world is brought chillingly to life by an accomplished first-time author. Florence, the strong and fiery lead character in this gripping novel must fight every day of her young life—for her dignity, her poor adopted family in the backwoods of North Carolina, for love, and, ultimately, for her life.
Displaced from her home in Brooklyn, New York by the Half War that has pitted the races against each other, we follow Flo through situation after situation that would daunt a young woman of lesser strength—both physical and mental.
Her desperate love for a black servant her own age is thwarted time and again as she is forced to marry someone else at age sixteen. It’s the time-honored tradition in The Colony, which is ruled by an evil upper caste of people called The Blackwoods. They are the self-proclaimed royalty in The Colony, and their word is law. Dissension is punishable by a quick and painful death.
Will Flo ultimately escape her bondage and find true love? Or will she remain a struggling victim of circumstance and ironclad rules beyond her control?
This book kept me guessing, as any good book should. There are plenty of highs and lows, many falling so fast and close upon the other that the reader can easily lose track if he or she is not paying close attention.
This book is not for the faint-hearted. There are graphically violent scenes that may make you queasy as Florence tries to solve the mystery of The Faceless—a race of monsters that roam a nearby wood, wreaking terror and havoc on all who wander too near.
The portions of the book that deal with Florence’s romance are well-drawn, and keep the reader guessing as to whether Flo will ever requite her complicated feelings for Tyrese. There is precious little love to be had anywhere else in The Colony as rules, traditions, and plain old bigotry seem to rule the day—and night.
The environment created as a backdrop for this book is so real you can smell the flowers and feel the raindrops on your head during one of the passing thunderstorms that Flo is deathly afraid of. That’s another aspect of the book I found satisfying—the lead character’s strengths are balanced equally with her weaknesses, making her eminently believable.
In all, I found this book to be a first-class read for anyone who appreciates and enjoys YA literature. The author clearly knows what her audience is expecting, and delivers with a great debut novel. I look forward to a sequel.
Quit Your Job in 6 Months: Why You Should Quit Your Job and How You Can!
By Buck Flogging
In the book Quit Your Job in Six Months, former sous chef-turned-author Buck Flogging (I’m guessing that’s not his real name), relates how he went from just walking out of his restaurant one day to making thousands of dollars per month as a health and nutrition expert, appearing at conferences nationwide and hosting podcasts on the Internet — all with great success.
His arresting proposition: you can do the same thing, pursuing a life that truly empowers you and — coincidentally — has the potential to bring in big bucks for you and your loved ones.
His writing style is witty and refreshing, causing me to laugh out loud in places. This is a very funny book with a serious-as-a-heart attack message: you don’t have to “just settle” for your eight-hour a day job, even if you’re pulling down $50,000 a year — and suffering from all the ulcers and stress your job brings with it.
“The security and stability of a job is one of the main positives of employment, but how secure is it, really?”
He goes on to emphasize the realities of downsizing, cutbacks, layoffs and the very real possibility that you might get fired one day — even if you feel you didn’t deserve it. It happens every day in the corporate world and the retail industry as well.
Buck goes on to give real-world examples of people who have just taken the knowledge in their heads — whether recently acquired through books or from a lifetime of slogging away in a regular job — and applied it very successfully on the Internet.
That’s where much of the opportunity now lies, according to the author, and he’s right. He gives one very compelling example of a young woman he knows who goes to the beach for two hours each day, captures candid portraits of people, then — without any pressure — simply shows them the image, hands them a business card, and tells them it will be available for download off her website the next day. She is now making serious money doing something she loves!
Buck extols the many virtues — and options — of making money on the Internet these days, and he’s right. From “digital” products like ebooks, audio books, podcasts and YouTube videos, there are dumber people than you and me getting rich, just because they are applying a few of the many Internet “business” opportunities that Buck details in this book.
If you read all the way to the end of this book, you’ll be offered an opportunity to receive all four of Buck’s next ebooks on how to start — and make real money from — an Internet business.
I signed up. So should you! Thanks, Buck, for creating this informative and entertaining book.
(Disclosure: The reviews posted in the Reviews section date from before Publishers Daily Reviews existence and, as such, are not paid reviews. But they should provide you with excellent examples of what you can expect your own review to look like!)