Friday, September 9, 2011

Cheat by J. E. Medrick

Published synopsis:

How far would you go for money? For Marcus Tiller, gambling debt was an overwhelming shadow on his life. As a neonatal attendant at St. Mercy Four Cities Hospital in need of cash, he became CGT-Inc's ideal pawn. The contract: secretly inject newborns with an experimental compound - for $1,000 a head. But, three years after he began, he disappeared.

Now, 14 years later, the effects of the compound are starting to show. 17-year old Ian Reynolds, an aspiring varsity football player, suddenly finds he can control things with the power of his thoughts. Footballs miraculously end up in his hands, girls' skirts catch sudden drafts and life is good. But the gift comes with a price, both physical and mental.

As Ian tries to understand his power, the big rivalry against the Waredo Firehawks looms. But when a stranger who may know his secret begins leaving him cryptic notes, will Ian decide his power is best left... undiscovered?


High schooler Ian Reynolds comes from a single parent home and things are okay, but a football scholarship to college would sure help out. With this in mind, his dad pushes him hard with extra practices, but Ian appreciates it – he wants to succeed as much as his dad wants him to succeed. But when he suddenly finds that he has the ability to control things through telekinesis, the temptation to use this skill on the football field becomes almost too much to resist. Not only would he become a varsity hero as a junior, he may even be able to impress the girl of dreams, as well. The only catch? He may alienate his best friend in the process.

The novella Cheat is a promising beginning to the Icarus Helix series by J. E. Medrick. The idea of DNA manipulation testing on people who don’t know they’ve become lab rats is always a scary premise – mostly for how easy it is to imagine it could happen. Know the right people, have the right credentials; you could slip in under the radar with no one being the wiser.

As much as I enjoyed reading Cheat, there were a few things that I felt could have been improved. The characters in the novella were interesting, but I would have liked to have seen more depth in them. For instance, the main character did not always come off as a guy dedicated to his education as well as football. He seemed to lack understanding of some well-known scientific principles, as well as limited understanding of some typical high school social issues, that would have been normal for a junior in high school to be aware. The idea was there that he was a smart guy; he just didn’t come off that way. The ending was another area that left me wanting more. It was abrupt. There was no lead in to the next book, no resolution to the physical, social and moral situations introduced into this book, and no clue as to where the series is going. I can guess, but I would rather be tempted. A handful of carefully chosen sentences at the end would have made reading the next in the series more tantalizing.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 3 ½ stars.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coffin Dodgers by Gary Marshall

Published synopsis:

Eighty is the new thirty. Nobody's having babies, the old massively outnumber the young and the hip crowd has become the hip replacement crowd. Twentysomething barman Matt Johnson would be bored senseless if someone wasn't trying to kill him.

When Matt isn't playing silly pranks on his elders with his colleague Dave or laughing at Dave's dating disasters, he's trying to summon up the courage to ask best friend Amy out on a date. Then Matt narrowly escapes a car wreck, and he discovers that his accident was no accident. Someone's murdering young people, and dozens are already dead. Can Matt, Amy and Dave stop the killings? The answer involves guns, gangsters, an angry bear and plenty of irate pensioners.


Being in your twenties when most of the people in the world are in their twilight years isn’t easy. Most entertainment, music and wealth is controlled by the elderly, and businesses that may have once catered to a younger crowd have closed up shop. To keep themselves from being bored completely out of their minds, Matt and Dave liven things up by playing the occasional prank on their elders.

Matt’s biggest concern in life right now is how to get up enough courage to ask his Dave’s best friend Amy if she would like to be more than just friends. At least, it is until a car accident exposes a conspiracy that is big enough to get them all killed. With the very reluctant help from a police detective, the three friends race to catch the bad guys before the bad guys catch them.

In a world where having children has become virtually impossible for those who can’t afford IVF, you would think that society would value its youth. But instead, society has reverted back to the old philosophy of ‘children should be seen, not heard.’ And there are some who take this idea to the extreme.

In Coffin Dodgers, Gary Marshall has written laugh out loud comedy. His characters could be the guys who live next door – you know, the ones you want to hang out with? And despite their penchant for teasing each other, the reader has no doubt that their friendship is based on genuine affection. The story line is a fun twist on the most often dystopian idea of what the world would be like if only a hand full of women could have babies. Instead of the doom and gloom, Gary Marshall creates a world where society adapts with gusto. Elderly, wealthy members of Generation X are happy to have the world revolve around them as they age. Who needs youth if you have money, right? I don’t know if I would like to live in Mr. Marshall’s world, but I certainly enjoyed reading about it. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book 4 ½ stars.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ephemera by Jeffery M. Anderson

Published synopsis:

Nester Cab, a second rate magazine writer, goes about his mundane life, disenfranchised and hiding from the city he lives in. But, a mysterious note left in his office awakens his ravenous curiosity and sets him on a journey to find a missing soldier. In his travels, he becomes entangled with a clandestine anti-government organization, witnesses a delusional and violent American society and stumbles ever deeper into unfathomable government conspiracies. Inspired by Internet conspiracy theorists, talk radio, and the media, Ephemera explores the visions of the ideological voices in American society and speaks to all of us through the extreme that permeates modern life. With satirical humor and sorrowful sentiment, Cab encounters a bizarre set of madmen, killers and megalomaniacs. He struggles with his search for truth as he flees for his life and the right to reclaim it. Where the forces of good lie is never clear, but, with certainty, Cab’s journey will lead to an ending that is epic and unforgettable.


Nester Cab has always wanted to do something, go somewhere, maybe make a difference in the world. He eschews most of the gadgets and gimmicks of modern technology and convenience that is driven by consumerism and greed, and does his own little things to fight against it. But he’s not quite prepared for the turn his life takes when he is thrust into the middle of a war between radical outcasts and power hungry politicians.

As a mother in this new technological era, I have often been known to say that we are raising a generation of kids who don’t know how to be alone. Access to their friends is always immediate and constant through smart phones, texting, and internet social sites.The idea that you can be ‘unplugged’ for days at a time is a foreign concept; one that may lead to an early dramatic death – either from boredom or withdrawal.

In Ephemera, Jeffery M. Anderson brings this idea to the extreme. The world has gone mad with technology and marketing. Movies aren’t just movies, they’re sales platforms.Sunglasses don’t just protect your eyes from the sun, they allow you to surf the internet while walking down the street. Cars don’t need to be driven, just sit back while the car does all the work for you. The world has become a place where people no longer have to think for themselves. It has become a world where the general public is susceptible to the evil machinations of the power hungry minds of politicians; politicians who have no problem taking over their thinking for them.

Ephemera is a book that will make you laugh and cringe – sometimes at the same time.Action abounds with kidnappings, murder, and intrigue. Humor is sprinkled in with odd characters and the reality of everyday life in a truly technological world. Political corruption is showcased as those in power purposely create information that will mislead and control the public. But most of all, Ephemera makes you think about the course society is on and about how far we want to let it go.

Jeffery M. Anderson does an excellent job of bringing home the idea that we need to be more aware of technology’s impact on us as human beings. His writing style grabs the reader and pulls him or her in with an engrossing plot and characters that range from charming to terrifying. Reminiscent of the works of Christopher Buckley, Ephemera brought me on a journey I hope to only read about, and never have it become reality. If at times a bit preachy, sometimes overselling the point, it is none the less a book that should be read and pondered.

One side observation that must be written about, though, is the cover of the book. Once the book is read, it makes perfect sense. As a book that may be sitting on a stand at the bookstore, I don’t know that it would have begged me to pick it up to discover what it was hiding. For me, it doesn’t capture the essence of the book’s content which is a shame. I hate to think the book is being passed over by potential readers because of a cover that doesn’t give a feel for the treasures inside.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading Ephemera. I would like to thank the author for offering to share his work with me and providing me with a review copy. I give the book four and a half stars.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Haunt by Amber Delaine

Published synopsis:

Artist Megan Nelson has never lived anywhere but the tiny Texas town in which she grew up. There is one bus, one corner store and everybody knows everybody. So when a stranger shows up, Megan is more than curious.

Adam is more than he seems: beautiful and strange. Megan soon finds herself falling in love with him as she learns who he is and where he comes from.

But being with Adam comes with a price. The closer Megan gets to Adam, the more she realizes he holds a dark secret which threatens to tear apart everything she has ever known.

On top of it, Megan is plagued with guilt over her best friend, Tony. As her new love life puts a strain on their old friendship, Megan learns how love can help her overcome her terrifying circumstances and change the rest of her life.


Megan’s biggest concerns in life are graduating high school and how to ignore the fact that her best friend, Tony, is in love with her. So, when the beautiful, mysterious Adam works his way into her life, he is a welcome distraction. And it takes no time at all for Megan to realize that she’s falling in love with him. But Adam has a secret so big, it may cost Megan her life.

In Haunt, Amber Delaine brings the reader on Megan’s tumultuous journey through infatuation, obsession and love. Adam’s hold on Megan is dangerous and she becomes helpless in his clutches as he drags her into the darkness of his world. Held captive by her unwanted desires, and deeply immersed in something she doesn’t understand, turning to Tony for help may be the only thing that can save her.

Haunt is a supernatural excursion that pulls you into Megan’s world and keeps you there until the very end. Amber Delaine’s writing style is strong and the rhythm of the book flows naturally. She gives her characters voices that are believable and makes you care about them as the story goes on. I stayed up late into the night to finish the book because I simply couldn’t put it down. I truly enjoyed the review copy I was given by the author and I give the book five stars.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Helper12 by Jack Blaine

Published synopsis:

Helper12 works as a Baby Helper in Pre Ward, the place where babies spend their first six months of life before they’re tracked for vocations and sent to training. She does her job well, and she stays out of trouble. But one day, the Sloanes, Society members who enjoy all the privileges of their station—family unit clearance, a private dwelling, access to good food and good schools—come to “adopt” one of the Pre Ward babies. The Director makes a deal and the Sloanes walk out with a brand new child.

They also walk out owning Helper12—the Director sells her to them, and there’s nothing she can do but go. At the Sloanes, Helper12 enters a world where people should be able to enjoy life—with high position and riches come the opportunity for individual freedom, even the chance to love—but that’s not what she finds. The Sloanes are keeping secrets. So is their biological son, Thomas.

Helper12 has some secrets of her own; she’s drawing, which is a violation, since Baby Helpers aren’t tracked for Art. And she’s growing to love the child she was bought to care for—at the same time that Ms. Sloane is becoming disenchanted with her impulse baby buy.

When all your choices are made for you, how do you make some for yourself? Helper12 is about to find out.


Helper12’s life has been laid out for her since she was born. She was tracked as a baby helper and she was given just enough education to be able to do her job. As long as she did her job well and didn’t break any of the numerous rules society has set on her social class, she could go home every night to her monitored cube in a sub-standard housing community. At least, she could until she was sold to the Sloanes.

Reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s tale, Jack Blaine brings the reader to a future where there are Society members and there are human cattle. Cattle who will be turned into Breeders, Helpers, Laborers, and even Leisure Dolls. And there’s nothing the human cattle can do about it. Any resistance will lead to a much harsher life or death, and that’s enough to make even your closest friend turn you in for fear of being thought of as a coconspirator. So, Helper12 is completely unprepared when she’s thrust into the privileged life of the Sloanes. She’s even more unprepared for their son. Is she willing to risk the Labor Camps or death for the possibility of life without boundaries?

Helper12 is a well written story of the road to freedom and the difficult choices that have to be made to get there. Jack Blaine pulls the reader into the harsh world he has created and he doesn’t let you go. The feelings his characters display let you feel their sorrow and pain, and even their hope. What little there is of it, anyway.

The one thing I felt the book didn’t have enough of was backstory. I liked the approach the author took with immersing the reader immediately into the sometimes horrific world his characters live in, but it would have been interesting to read a little bit of how this society came to be. What drives some people to treat others so harshly? Was it world war, pestilence, or just a swing in the morals of human kind? Aside from that, I found Helper12 to be an interesting character study of human emotions. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book four stars.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011

House Haunting by Mary Merrell

Published synopsis:

Rosemary Fernandes is a divorced, naïve woman, determined to make it in the tough world of real estate. Keith Laumer is a ghost, eager to leave his earthly haunt. As a real estate and a womanizer in life, Keith is the perfect partner to teach Rosemary the ins and outs of the real estate business, and he’s willing to teach her anything else she wants to know.

Frank Perez is a tough guy tattoo artist with ah-so-wide shoulders, and a chest Rosemary can’t wait to get her hands on. He thinks she’s a tease, jerking him around with this ghost story. And the ghost wouldn't be sad if the tattoo artist just went away.

In struts Laura Toste, Rosemary’s gorgeous, best friend. She’s going to make all the bad voices go away. Keith wishes he can join these two lovely ladies, but all he can do is watch, as they recklessly investigate his death, staying one step ahead of the killers.

Can there be a love triangle between a goodie two-shoes, a tough guy, and a ghost? And how long will Rosemary remain naïve and alive when her less-than-subtle sleuthing drops her and her friends into a sinister years-old plot?


With a cheating and greedy ex-husband, a teenage son, and a new job she’s struggling in, Rosemary Fernandes does not need any more stress in her life. Especially the sudden ability to see and communicate with ghosts. But Keith Laumer bursts into her life anyway and he offers Rosemary a trade. He’ll help her learn the ropes in the world of real estate and all she has to do is figure out how he died. How hard could that be?

As Rosemary digs into the death of Keith, she finds herself being sucked farther and farther into a dark world she didn’t even know existed in real estate. With the help of a police officer, a hot tattoo artist and her best friend, she wades through the greed and jealousy that had surrounded Keith while he was alive, not knowing where she’ll end up.What it eventually comes down to is that it might be someone she knows who killed him.Will that same person kill her before she has a chance to get to the truth?

Filled with action, House Haunting is a fun and suspense filled ghost story. Mary Merrell does an excellent job of creating a book that grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go until the very end. Even with the seriousness of the plot, she is still able to weave humor in amongst the action while keeping the reader glued to the pages trying to guess who killed Keith. As for the main character, I found it heartwarming to read how she grows throughout the book from an almost devastated and overwhelmed ex-wife into a strong, independent woman who can take care of herself. I truly enjoyed this book. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book five stars.

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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lightning of Her Own by Levi Montgomery

Published synopsis:

When the aliens landed seventy-two years ago, the first thing they did was turn off the power.

Then they ran for the hills.

The aliens themselves killed very few people, but riots, looting, disease, natural disasters and the sheer brutality of a harsh life that no one had lived for generations have reduced the population of Earth to a few tiny handfuls, scattered among the abandoned ruins of a lost civilization. Now word has come to Amarylla’s father, the chief civil engineer of the Federal Republic of New York, that an unknown man in the far northern plains may hold the key to turning the lights back on.

But when Amarylla sets out with her father to find this mysterious man, she is a just young girl whose life has been filled with operas and riding lessons and needlework, a young girl schooled only in the history of fashion, classical philosophers, and the proper navigation of knives and forks at a state diner. A young girl totally unprepared for the raw edges of life beyond the walls, totally unprepared for the closeness of a young guard named Marlowe, totally unprepared for danger.

Can she become what she needs to be? Can she learn what she needs to know? Can she grow up in time, or will this alien dystopia kill her?


Amarylla has a good idea that her time as a little girl has come to an end when she sends most of the things that her mother packed for her back home. She doesn’t have any idea what’s ahead as she journeys with her father to find the man who may be able to turn the electricity back on, but she knows it won’t include fancy dresses and operas. She also doesn’t know that along the way, she’ll see firsthand the cruelty and destruction the aliens are capable of when threatened, or that she’ll learn to defend herself as well as any of her father’s guards, or that sometimes, love can develop even under the harshest conditions.

Lightning of Her Own was a wonderful surprise. I never would have thought that a novel about a cross country trip in a post-alien invasion world would keep me riveted, but it did.The depth of emotion shown by each of the characters as they faced trial after trial of both their fortitude and their physical needs was exceptionally well written. The growth of Amarylla, in particular, was portrayed in in such a way that you are torn between being frightened of who she will become and proud of whom she may come to be.

Levi Montgomery has created a world that takes away some of the things that most of us, especially in the United States, consider basic life essentials - electricity, automobiles, and the freedom to travel unhampered and safely from state to state. To think that society could fall apart so easily and quickly when these are lost is frightening. Yet, also, believable. Lightning of Her Own takes the reader on a dangerous journey; one that will leave you thankful that our world is still intact. I thank the author for sharing a review copy with me and I’m excited to read part two of the trilogy. I give this book five stars.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

One Size Fits All by Gary Scott

Published synopsis:

The Cinderella story takes on a fresh twist when told from the perspective of a slightly depressed glass slipper salesman. One Size Fits All is a breezy, modern romantic-comedy tale of love at first sight -- and of realizing that it's never too late to write the ending you want for your own fairy tale.


Roman has become so disillusioned by his chosen life path that he is just walking through the motions of living, not actually living. He goes to his shoe store every day; he puts on his fake smile and his fake personality, and he sells some shoes to his wealthy clientele.His evenings are spent in front of the television, though whatever is on barely registers as his mind tries to determine what his life is missing.

That is, until the day Tara and her Aunt Freda walk into his store. Roman is intrigued by not only Tara’s beauty, but by the way she seems to be at the same crossroad in life as he is. He finds his pain and disillusionment mirrored in her eyes. Roman wants to get to know this woman and he’s willing to leave his comfort zone to do it.

In One Size Fits All, Gary Scott makes a strong statement for the need to live the life we love, not the life we should love. It takes Roman some time to figure out how to do that, but when he does, a weight is lifted from both his heart and his mind. As the novella progresses, it is inspiring to read the transformation from the man who is consumed by immobilizing depression to the man who is willing to recreate who is. He climbs out of the black hole in search of happiness, and forgets the life he leaves behind. But throughout, I felt like there wasn’t quite enough information regarding Roman’s past to fully appreciate his character. I wanted to know more about him – why did he get into the business to begin with, when did his downward spiral begin, what is his strange relationship with his father about and why are they living together. As a reader, I needed more information to truly understand the depths of Roman. But I did enjoy reading about his journey.

Much as I enjoyed Roman’s transformation, though, I was not as impressed with the romance aspect of the novella. I kept waiting for the spark of all-consuming, can’t resist you love between Roman and Tara, but I never felt it. I probably would have enjoyed the novella more if Tara’s character had been further developed. The reader never truly gets the feeling that she is looking for true love or that she has found it in Roman. As a symbol of his epiphany, she is a good tool; but as her character is written, the romance portion of the novella sometimes came off as awkward and mostly unrequited. If there had been more interaction between her and Roman, some of the awkwardness may have been avoided. To me, the novella felt more like a journey of the soul than a love story.

I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the novella three stars.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Terminal Departure by Joe Crubaugh

Published synopsis:

Dissident secret agent Cleo Matts teams up with starlet Julia McMichaels as he attempts to foil a CIA plan to blow up Delta Flight 1420. The covert operation takes a surprising detour when the flight is hijacked by aliens.

While evading ruthless assassins and men in black, the unlikely pair get help from a veteran pilot, a red-hot waitress, and a NASA UFO researcher. The laughs, chases, and shoot-outs come fast and furious as they race to uncover the shocking truth behind a germ warfare conspiracy to gain control of Venezuelan oil.


Cleo’s job was to protect the man in the seat in front of him. Simple enough. All he had to do was foil the attempt of the CIA to blow up the plane. Which turns out to be anything but simple. Aliens, CIA cleaners and assassins, and one of the most famous actresses in the nation seem to be conspiring to make his covert operation as complicated as possible.

Government conspiracy at its best, Joe Crubaugh creates an all too possible world in Terminal Departure. A world where some of the most powerful governments on the planet are controlled by a secret international association made up of the world’s elite. On top of that, alien watchers really do abduct people and the deaths of a couple of hundred innocent people are justified by the need to control the populace. With keep you on the edge of your seat action, this book will have even the most unbelieving readers turning the pages to see what happens next.

Written with the spirit of Christopher Buckley over his shoulder, Joe Crubaugh knows how to spin a tale of political satire. The main characters are quirky but entertaining. The secondary characters are sometimes frightening but definitely interesting. All in all, this was a great read. I thank the author for providing me with a review copy and I give the book five stars.

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