At a small New York college, two roommates set out to create a religious cult as a social experiment. Soon, however, things take a malevolent turn wheAt a small New York college, two roommates set out to create a religious cult as a social experiment. Soon, however, things take a malevolent turn when the burgeoning Church’s chosen messiah turns out to be a socio-pathological lunatic. Waking to find himself trapped in a sort of dungeon cell like that of John of Patmos, with only a typewriter, a spider, and the rotting corpse of his former roommate for companionship, Harden Campbell sets to work writing his book of Revelation. Set over a quarter century ago, Carter Wilson’s novel, Revelation, was only published last year, but it could easily have been set in contemporary times. The story toggles between third-person point of view and first as some of the examination of the action puts us in the position of observer, while other chapters are from the perspective of a manuscript being written by the captive, Harden. There are three main characters, our part-time narrator, Harden; his roommate turned tormenter, Coyote; and Coyote’s girlfriend, Emma. The story takes us from Harden’s first meeting with Coyote all the way to a contrived conclusion in which the triangle of Harden, Coyote, and Emma come together to realize Coyote’s penultimate coup de grace, unless a miracle or Deus ex Machina intervenes. My review is based on the audio version, which I received in exchange for my honest review, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I felt about the choice of narrator, Timothy McKean. It’s not that he did a bad job. On the contrary, he helped give life to the characters and added a sense of reality to the tension, and in the end that’s really all one can ask of a voice actor. But there is a slight Keanu Reeves-like immaturity to the quality of his tone. Another coming-of-age/college-experience story that wasn’t also about a murderous messianic sadist would probably be right in his wheelhouse. As for the story, I have to confess, I have a particular fondness for thrillers which twist the conventions of religion into something distorted and horrifying. The best parts of this story for me were, in fact, the aspects showing how a charismatic sociopath could easily convince enough vulnerable and weak-willed neophytes to follow his promises of lasting happiness and self-improvement. From my perspective, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, and Paul of Tarsus are all just variations of a theme representing a template from which Wylie “Coyote” Martin was drawn. Revelation is a successful thriller the same way that the first season of The Following was a success. We believe that a sociopath with access to vulnerable minds and a fortune in expendable cash could create the illusion that he has a message about the purpose of life. But why wouldn’t we believe that? After all, Joel Osteen and Tony Robbins are real people, and we’ve seen what they have done with the starter recipe. All we have to then do is toss in a little Charles Manson and some Kellyanne Conway. Voila! ...more
Jolene Hall is a normal college student matriculating at Smytheville University in the Northeastern US. She has loving parents, is besties with Lucy –Jolene Hall is a normal college student matriculating at Smytheville University in the Northeastern US. She has loving parents, is besties with Lucy – her dorm roommate (a beautiful red head with a politically connected mother,) and she has a volatile but loving relationship with her boyfriend, Eli. Then everything changes one evening when she has a fight with Eli on the night of a major blizzard. She foolishly decides to walk home, and the next thing she knows she’s been revived from death as a Frankenstein-like monster. Her flesh is beginning to decimate, her organs have been replaced with pumps and electrical wiring, and her blood has been swapped out for some kind of viscous fluid.
Jo by Leah Rhyne is a novel which walks several edges. It’s not exactly young adult, but it’s also not adult enough in its treatment of some of the more emotional elements to classify it as a classic thriller. It’s not a mainstream horror or sci-fi story either. There is some generic discussion of the mechanics of the lead character’s reclamation over death, but not enough to satisfy a purest; and the story only has one tropey horror scene when Jo and Lucy find themselves surrounded by reanimated zombie-like monster-girls in a poorly lighted laboratory.
There’s a lot of humor in Jo, most owing to Jo's rapidly escalating stench; and the character’s interplay well and believably for the most part. In that sense, it reminded me of the recent low budget cult movie Life After Beth. As with most books in these genres, we’re left wondering about how the characters so easily deal with situations that would throw most of us into psychotic breakdown, but if we readers actually refused to suspend disbelief on that score, we’d never get past the premise of zombies or reanimated corpses at all. Would we?
A few of the story’s weaker elements include the introduction of a high-level underground conspiracy which is capable of killing and reanimating an army of fembots, but has such poor security that two college girls are able to escape and destroy their lairs not once, but twice. Also, this shadow governmental agency is peculiarly unable to capture and prevent the girls from investigating their motives despite actually having them in their sites the entire time. Also, I felt the villains were telegraphed a little too much. This could have been avoided by perhaps having a few additional ancillary characters for the others to interact with, but it didn’t really harm the story because that wasn’t really supposed to be a mystery for us to solve.
Ms Rhyne is, however, very adept at figuring out ways to explain away and conceal the smell of a cadaver and to disguise a young girl whose face and limbs are falling away every ten minutes. And the relationships between the various members of Jo’s circle are reverently treated with discreet emotion and beautifully portrayed loyalty. I enjoyed their friendships and sense of family, and it genuinely helped me to relate to and root for the characters.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading Jo, and I think it would make an excellent late October book discussion for a group of twenty-something college grad girlfriends looking for something escapist and light for their coffee klatch. ...more
Dobbin’s book repackages and regurgitates many of the old theistic and spiritualistic tropes that turned most atheists against religion in the first pDobbin’s book repackages and regurgitates many of the old theistic and spiritualistic tropes that turned most atheists against religion in the first place. In fact, any non-fair-weather atheist who reads Dobbins' book is going to find himself or herself on common ground, reading for the umpteenth time the same tired old fallacies he or she has encountered dozens if not hundreds of times before in Church, family gatherings, and Internet message boards.
To be fair, on many pages Dobbins acknowledges that atheism is not an unreasonable conclusion. However, one gets the feeling that he is saying this only to dangle a carrot or extend an olive branch so the reader will be placated long enough to continue reading with an open mind – a characteristic which most theists seem to think atheists as a group lack.
Mechanically speaking, Dobbin’s book could be improved with a good edit. There are numerous typos and awkward phrasings as well as repetitive ideas and failings of parallelism which an extra set of eyes or two should have been able to catch. But the real failings in the book are in the arguments themselves. Dobbins targets a specific brand of militant anti-theism and strong atheism which really is a minority in the community. For this reason, most atheists reading the book will be insulted by a primary supposition that underlies the first three-quarters of the treatise; that atheism is the belief that there is no God. Yes, atheism can be the belief that God is non-existent, but for most atheists throughout modern history (at least since the time just prior to the American Civil War) atheism is not defined by what atheists do believe about God, but rather what we don’t believe.
Even if one accepts the premise that atheism is the belief that gods cannot exist, additionally even if one accepts Dobbins’ later assertion that the existence of something which could be called a soul exists and it has been proved, this is not sufficient to support the claim that atheism is a failed philosophy. Since atheism is the lack of a positive belief in deities, one would have to prove the existence of deities in order to claim that atheism fails. Dobbins never even attempts to do so.
It’s that final assertion, incidentally, that is the biggest failure in Dobbins’ attempt to demonstrate the failure in disbelief. After making such weak arguments for belief as noting that people who believe are sometimes altruistic or that atheism doesn’t speak to purpose (newsflash, it isn’t supposed to,) Dobbins presents an argument that the reality of the afterlife has been scientifically proven. Notwithstanding the fact that if such a discovery had been documented in a scientifically valid manner, it would have been front-page news and the focus of every 24 hour news channel for months (especially FoxNews,) Dobbins does take some time spelling out the circumstances behind his assertion.
It turns out that Dobbins is basing his claim on a study conducted at the University of Virginia School of Medicine by a Dr. Ian Stevenson which was published in The Journal of Scientific Exploration. The study is based on claims made by children that they were somebody else in a previous lifetime. The good doctor claims to have done case studies on several of these children and followed through on claims they made about past-lives which bore fruit.
This all sounds too good to be true, and would indeed be the final nail in the coffin of at least one aspect of atheism. The problem is it’s all much more dubious than Dobbins would have you believe. Turns out Dr. Stevenson actually founded the Society of Scientific Exploration which later published his work. That hardly qualifies as peer review. Moreover, the general consensus in the scientific community is that the Journal itself is nothing more than a clearing house for unsupportable woo.
Dobbins concludes by asking the atheist to consider if he or she is really happier than most theists and whether there is any virtue in trying to take away the faith than helps many persons get through their daily lives. Of course, one’s belief is not something one chooses, so even if it were true that faithful people are happier it is insulting to suggest that a desire to be happy can or should influence one’s core beliefs. Additionally, the search for truth doesn’t and shouldn't stop when it becomes inconvenient.
As apologetics go, Dobbins’ book is not the worst thing out there. He at least attempts to treat most atheists respectfully, and he avoids overt proselytizing and pro-monotheistic bias. However, as far as crafting a solid argument to support the book’s main premise, it just isn’t that successful. ...more
Jack Bishop is a young and impressive computer programmer fresh out of college and deeply in love with his medical doctor girlfriend, Catherine. He’d Jack Bishop is a young and impressive computer programmer fresh out of college and deeply in love with his medical doctor girlfriend, Catherine. He’d known for some time that the day would come when she would set off on her life’s dream to help the poorest of the poor, but when she boards that plane bound for Haiti leaving him behind to await her return, it leaves him feeling more than alone. It leaves him feeling empty. He desperately wants to find some way that he too can help, but how is a computer programmer – even one as talented and devoted as Jack – supposed to benefit the starving and sick poor? Then one day the company’s security team approaches him about a programming problem and Jack becomes obsessed with learning everything he can about Trojans, and viruses, and IRC server channels. Partly he’s obsessed to fill the void Catherine left in his life, but soon the seed of a plan begins to germinate. Jack can use his newfound knowledge to build his own code – a code to help the charities that help in places like Haiti. Part techno-drama, part instruction manual, The Hacktivist by R.J. Webster is a book with three agendas; entertain with a realistic cyber-crime story, educate the reader about the legitimate risks of surfing the web in today’s hacker-rich environment, and maybe –just maybe – inspire some people to throw a little scratch at such worthwhile charities as Doctors Without Borders and justgive.org. As an instruction manual, it succeeds very well. The premises are complicated and highly math-based, but Webster explains the concepts in ways which are very accessible. As a techno-thriller it falls just a little flat. There are few real episodes of high tension or perceived danger. The characters are all believable but just a little one-note. Even the relationship between the counter-hero protagonist and his lady love is mostly seen in rough sketches and long distance emails. There are also a number of walk-on characters who are clearly there only to advance the tech-manual aspect, but they all seem to speak in the same voice using the same kinds of accessible verbal shorthand. Additionally, a few side stories are introduced but don’t really go anywhere. In one episode, a Paris Hilton/Kim Kardashian-type celebrity is victimized by an early iteration of the virus, and vows to go on an O.J.-like quest for the “real” hacker, but nothing ever comes of it. Hints are dropped throughout the story that Jack’s dog, Argus, will somehow trip up Jack’s well-laid plans, but again, that plotline just sort of peters out. The story also might have benefited from a few more true-life examples of Haitian suffering if the author really wanted to compel casual readers to action. A few asides into Catherine’s and her peers’ day-to-day lives might have accomplished that and added some genuine depth to her character. There are clever flashes through the story, however. A very clever example which I really enjoyed involves an FBI agent who could use the PATRIOT Act to great advantage but decides to be a person instead. I don’t usually rate the stories I review, but in this case, I’m giving The Hacktivist an “A” as a learning tool, a “B” on the Sarah McLaughlin-style PSA, and a “C++” for the story and characters....more
As a young man, Colin Wyle is not particularly impressive. The son of a former professional basketball player, Colin is cordial and likeable enough, bAs a young man, Colin Wyle is not particularly impressive. The son of a former professional basketball player, Colin is cordial and likeable enough, but ultimately he’s forgettable. He, like many boys his age, spends most of his time daydreaming about the unattainable girl-of-his-dreams, Natalie Merian, and the rest of his time trying to figure out a way to earn his father’s respect. Then one day while attending church with the family of one of his friends, Colin begins to hear a voice. The disembodied personality calls herself Christel, and she begins guiding Colin to a better life. Thanks to Christel, Colin becomes a sports hero and wins the affections of his girl and the growing tenuous respect of his father. Is she a guardian angel, a psychic spirit guide, a muse, a daemon? Colin doesn’t know, and frankly he doesn’t care. Things are going perfectly, and Colin is on his way to the life he’s always wanted. Then, one day while on a holiday trip to the lake, everything changes. Natalie disappears. Suspicion falls on Colin and his father. Days pass, tension mounts, and then out of the blue, Christel is in Colin’s ear telling him the steps he has to take. Hours later, Colin’s life is changed again, Natalie is saved, the man who had her is dead, Colin is a killer, and the police are covering the whole thing up to save face. Years pass. Colin and Natalie have remained friends, but he is in a new relationship, engaged to be married. He has an investment job which he has been very successful at with Christel’s help. Then, again torment from his past arrives. New evidence has surfaced in several cases similar to the one involving Natalie’s abduction. Investigation is sure to uncover his involvement in the death of her captor. Colin needs Christel now more than ever, but is she everything he’s always assumed that she was? “Discretion” by David Balzarini is a thriller with a message. A born again Christian, Balzarini weaves a tale that’s more about consequences than resolution. None of the thriller elements of the story are ever reconciled in the traditional manner, but fatalists and those who enjoy affirmation of faith in their literature are sure to take comfort in the book’s suppositions and anti-resolution. The story is told mostly in a first-person present voice which I personally find off-putting. When I write, I create my notes and outline in first-person present. The beginning paragraphs of this review are also written in that POV. It’s more urgent feeling and gives one the sense of being instantly connected to the action. However, as I tell a story, I prefer to put all of the action in the past, where it belongs. “Guy walks into a bar,” may work for a joke told to friends at a party, but if I’m writing to an audience, I want them to understand that the action occurred in a tangible reality which I am recounting — not one which I am describing on the fly. This is not to say that Balzarini doesn’t create a richly textured atmosphere. Indeed he does. His words are carefully chosen and I understand why he elected for the immediacy afforded by telling the story as if it’s happening in the now. I’m not noting this to say the writing is poor. Quite the contrary, it’s excellent. However, for me, there was a curve where I had to acclimate to the style in order to appreciate the writing. So this isn’t a criticism as much as it is fair warning. I will say that I wish there had been more resolution to the traditional mystery element at the end of the story. The focus at the conclusion is more on Colin’s spiritual resolution than on wrapping up the story of how Natalie wound up where she did that long ago summer day; and there was no warning that this was going to be the case in the book’s description. In fact, the description gives no indication whatsoever that the story is less “Taken” and more “Angel Heart.” I, for one, wish I had known that going in. ...more
Elaine Brogan was born in a poor Pittsburgh suburb to a doting working class construction worker father. As a child, he regaled her with tales of fictElaine Brogan was born in a poor Pittsburgh suburb to a doting working class construction worker father. As a child, he regaled her with tales of fictitious royal ancestors and he provided her with everything she could want or need, even if he had to beg, borrow or steal (mostly steal) to provide it. As a young woman, her aspirations were to enter the modeling profession to stake her fortune. She was content, comfortable and proud of the life she and her father had staked out for themselves. That all changed, however, when a seedy scam artist running a modeling school con set her father up to take the fall on a counterfeiting dodge.
Unable to face life behind bars, Elaine’s father, Patrick Brogan, commits suicide, and Elaine sets out to avenge his death. Men continue taking advantage of Elaine’s naivety and trusting nature through college and into her career in both the Secret Service and the US Treasury Department. Elaine makes a name for herself due to her uncanny ability to spot the flaws in counterfeit US currency, and this attracts the attention of various unsavory types.
Lust, Money & Murder by Mike Wells is a story in three parts. The narrative follows Elaine’s life through a trio of novelettes combined into one story, detouring only briefly toward the middle of the third novella to tell us the story of a Mafioso Elaine becomes entangled with. There’s sex, car chases, cons, moral ambiguity, and descriptions of scenes of both beauty and of utter destitution. The story follows a well-worn path making it sometimes predictable, but it does it all in a way that feels fresh and unique. The writing is informative and inventive. The plots, especially one concerning a smuggling operation, are so believably inventive that one wonders how much of the story is based on true criminal events the author was somehow privy to.
The omnibus is available as an eBook, but I was lucky enough to receive the audio version of the book, recently made available on Audible, Amazon USA, and iTunes. Competently narrated by professional voiceover artist Sue Sharp, the recorded version avoids all of the trappings I tend to dislike in an audio-book. Often, producers feel the need to create a sort of radio-play experience, adding such superfluous Foley-fluff as music, sound effects, and multiple voice actors. Personally, I don’t need those things. An audiobook, in my opinion, should be as much like a reading experience as possible. When I sit down with a coffee and a tablet, I don’t generate the sound of footsteps to set a mood. I don’t bring in women to read the female parts or children to read the kids’ roles. Just give me the story, and let my imagination do the heavy lifting.
To that end, the choice of Ms Sharp was fairly spot-on. With a few exceptions, she kept me inside the story the entire time. Considering that the tale was penned by a man, it actually helped make the feminine voice of the narration more palatable having an actual female voice read the words. Ms Sharp expertly assigned nuanced inflection changes in her voice to represent different characters, both male and female, and her southern drawl and Russian accents were – to my ear – accurate. Unfortunately her Italian accent and her Irish brogue seemed to have been learned watching Mel Blanc or Cid Caesar at work, but that can be forgiven.
I listened to the story over several days while commuting to and from work. The fact that by the second day I found myself actually looking forward to the drive should tell you all you need to know about whether the experience was a good one. I thoroughly enjoyed Lust, Money & Murder. It had a Patterson/DeMille/Baldacci vibe I like, and a female protagonist that I found compelling and sympathetic enough to put me in a mind of Evanovich/Larsson/Paretsky....more
Several explosions have detonated along the eastern seaboard. News comes of similar attacks all over the country. As confused citizens and officials aSeveral explosions have detonated along the eastern seaboard. News comes of similar attacks all over the country. As confused citizens and officials attempt to fathom what caused the calamity, a strange sickness overtakes a large chunk of the population. Like a plague, the sickness sweeps the country quickly killing a large chunk of the populace. Those left behind soon determine that they are immune to the sickness, but it's too late to restore order. Gangs of opportunistic thugs have begun staking claim to territories. Meanwhile warlords and drug families in neighboring nations unaffected by the bombings begin mobilizing to breech the US to capitalize on the destruction of our infrastructure. At the same time, armed and haphazardly trained Taliban militia (who have taken claim for the explosions) have also begun entering as an invasion force.
Several distinct groups begin a slow march north in late autumn, compelled by peculiar dreams that several who have assumed leadership roles have been experiencing. All of the various groups are being led to Lake Champlain at the Canadian border, but each must contend with the risks of freezing, starvation, exhaustion and run-ins with the various marauders they could encounter along the way.
Rise from the Ashes - Lena's Story by Laura Franklin is the first book in a series intended for a young adult audience. The story telling is at its strongest when it is told directly through the POV of the young heroine, who in the first chapter locates a blank journal so she can write down her experiences before she forgets them. Several of the subsequent chapters - though strong in character development and narrative flow - falter a little in descriptive clarity, and there are stylistic continuity issues. It could have been well served to remain in beta a little longer perhaps. Although I doubt that the target audience would have as big an issue with this as I.
Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who didn't read a lot of YA even when I was a YA. I read classics and detective fiction skipping right over the Hardy Boys and straight into Ellery Queen and Raymond Chandler. The first YA novel I ever read was The Outsiders, which I read for a girl when I was in my late twenties. So with SE Hinton as my only real guidepost, I'd have to say that teenage girls (fans of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter) would probably enjoy this story. Adult fans of more dystopian tales such as Mad Max or A Clockwork Orange will be disappointed by the lack of strong sensuality and violence. Also some more mature action readers may find some of the politics to be under-developed and pie-eyed; but it wasn't written for those readers, so keep that in mind.
Overall, the novel reads like Stephen King's The Stand meets NBC's Revolution. It includes a few very nice manga-style illustrations, and a beautiful photographic vista is incorporated in the electronic version which is apparently the image from the back cover of the hard copy version. The story ends in a way that is satisfactory as a standalone episode, but it also is a clear set up for successive volumes. Buy it as an inclusion on the new Kindle you're giving your teenage daughter this holiday....more
Martin Van Dyke is a man with a plan - literally. Ever since his one and only girlfriend dumped him for his lack of ambition and prospects, Martin hasMartin Van Dyke is a man with a plan - literally. Ever since his one and only girlfriend dumped him for his lack of ambition and prospects, Martin has carried a laminated sheet of paper in his breast pocket which outlines for him a course of action which he hopes will carry him through to the top of the guest relations industry ladder. Filled with Stewart Smally-esque platitudes and work-a-day advice, the plan is the one thing in Martin's miserable life that gives him hope of a better tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the slack-spined Martin continues working the night desk at the fleabag Monarch Motel, just outside of Sparks, Nevada. His boss, Mr. Finley, is a demanding and lazy loner who has no faith in Martin's abilities. Yet, Martin must find a way to impress Finley if he ever hopes to advance as his plan dictates. It is with this reality constantly in the fore that Martin is forced to deal with the worst night of his life. There's been a robbery at the nearby Nugget Casino, and every character who arrives at the motel that night is suspicious and in a variety of ways, ultimately more than a little dangerous.
Last Night at the Monarch Motel by Mark Valenti is a farce in the vein of Get Shorty, Seven Psychopaths and The Ice Harvest. As black comedy, LNatMM is strongest toward the end. As straight up farce, it works all the way through, from its Joe Vs the Volcanoe-style opening chapters to its Repo Man-like conclusion. Some of the scenes had me literally laughing out loud.
The book almost reads as a film treatment in many ways. One scene in particular, involving a corpse dangling just out of sight of a local police officer as it slowly shifts under force of gravity while Martin watches nervously, is hilarious mostly due to the visuals it paints. Yet those visuals are so easily imagined because they feel familiar, as though I've seen Rowan Atkinson play that scene already.
The characters are all cartoonish by design. Some, such as the pot smoking homeless family and the secretive guest who demands privacy, are more believable; while others such as the overly amorous gun moll and the wandering religious cult are a little too stereo-typically obvious. However, all of the characters contribute a necessary story driving utility, and each brings a laugh or two. ...more
Gerald “Jerry” Newton runs a detective agency in Boise, Idaho; not Los Angeles, not Chicago, not even Brooklyn. It isn’t exactly the locale one first Gerald “Jerry” Newton runs a detective agency in Boise, Idaho; not Los Angeles, not Chicago, not even Brooklyn. It isn’t exactly the locale one first envisions when imaging a classic gumshoe tale. For the most part, one would be right. Most of the cases Jerry and his crew investigate are run-of-the-mill, boring security details. Then a Mr. Durand, a lowly fourth grade teacher and part time counselor at a soccer camp, brings him an unusual case. Durand has been receiving threatening letters, and he suspects that somebody is out to kill him. Jerry takes the case, thinking it’s probably just a kid angered over a failing grade blowing off steam. Then Durand’s car explodes, and the mystery deepens. It seems Durand is keeping secrets.
An Ounce of Prevention by Adam Graham is a modern take on the traditional Marlow/Spade detective story with all of the tropes and none of the clichés. Yes, the detective is a former cop with friends on the force, but he wasn’t drummed out for breaking the rules, and he didn’t quit because of departmental politics. His reason for leaving the force is much more personal and believable. Yes, there’s a femme fatale, but she’s neither cold-blooded nor calculating. And unlike the counter-culture anti-heroes most shamuses turn out to be, Jerry goes to Church, he loves his mother, he drinks Mountain Dew, and he hates when his employee chews gum.
The dialogue is well crafted and flows nicely and realistically. The characters have actual depth for the most part, although the villain is a bit on the caricature-side. The narration is appropriately hardboiled without seeming forced. Even the denouement and post-script are satisfying and unexpectedly more than a simple wrap-up. The story does have one flaw, however.
Without giving too much away, there’s a science-fiction twist to the story which is necessary to the tale the author wants to tell. However most of the players are either too eager to accept the discordant reality; or even if a character doesn’t embrace it, or if he explains it away, he’s too unconcerned about the mental states of those who do accept it. A few lines about a character being unable to process what he’d seen, or another character suggesting that his friend should see somebody professionally to deal with his delusions would have gone a long way to alleviate that issue.
Overall though, An Ounce of Prevention is a fun, short read that’s prefect for fans of both genres who enjoy a good cross-over storyline. ...more
Ruby Josen is a meek woman. She’s passive, she’s uninteresting, and she’s unadventurous, but mostly she’s just complacent. She recently applied for anRuby Josen is a meek woman. She’s passive, she’s uninteresting, and she’s unadventurous, but mostly she’s just complacent. She recently applied for and was rejected for a promotion at the graphics company where she works in a small Tennessee town. To add insult to this injury, Millie, the woman given the job, is an angry, pushy, demanding person who seems to have it out for Ruby. To then heap even more insult onto the injury and the first insult, Ruby learns that her friend, Simone, who had promised to recommend her for the promotion, reneged and actually helped Millie to get the job. The insults keep coming, but not before Ruby meets Bryce, a mysterious and seemingly prescient stranger, at a local festival. He promises to remove the obstacles which have been keeping Ruby back. It’s this apparently random happenstance encounter that sets the action into play. People begin turning up bludgeoned to death in this small mountain town – people who have been making life hard for Ruby. Move by Sherri Fulmer Moorer is a paranormal thriller that explores the philosophical issues of free will, fatalism and why-are-women-so-mean-to-each-other? With a strong focus on the minutia of office politics, Move is a meticulously plotted examination of the butterfly effect. Each action results in – not a snowball, but an avalanche of cause-and-effect chaos. Move fits nicely into the milieu of tales throughout history that have examined the idea that the fates which control our lives are an amalgam of malevolent and benevolent sprites with their own agendas and rules which bind them. From the Morai through Job to Daniel Webster and Robert Johnson, every culture has a story like Move. The author seems to understand this, and she judiciously picks a little from this legend and a little from that one to create her own unique template on which to build. Yet this is not a novel without problems. Much of the dialogue is repetitive. The characters rehash the same discussions multiple times. This gives the story a realistic conversational feel, but unfortunately slows down the narrative in several places. Much of this is due to the personality of the main protagonist, Ruby. Has she been treated unfairly? Yes. Do we care? Not really? She’s a woman who has given up on life, and it makes us wonder why so many of the supporting characters are still in her corner when she’s off sitting in the bleachers. What the story has in its favor though is a clever twist on the paranormal character, Bryce. Is he psychic? A ghost? A dybbuk? An angel? Also, until we learn for certain who the killer is, suspicion is genuinely fluid. Is Bryce the killer? Is Ruby? Maybe it was Simone or Ruby’s strongest friend and advocate, Denise. One thing that is clear, Ms Fulmer Moorer is well versed in the inner-workings of freelance art companies. She has clearly embraced the SOP writerly advice to write-what-one-knows. If we remove the metaphysical aspects and the murder plot, I’m pretty sure we’re left with a look into the author’s personal journal with the names changed to protect the innocent. ...more
Police Detective Brett Reed had not been having a good year. After divorcing his drug addicted wife, Ali, in an attempt to keep his five year-old daugPolice Detective Brett Reed had not been having a good year. After divorcing his drug addicted wife, Ali, in an attempt to keep his five year-old daughter, Quinn, safe from Ali’s negligence; a judge had believed Ali’s claims of abuse and had granted her custody of - not only Quinn - but the dog, the house; and there was now a protection order that made it even more difficult for Brett to assure Quinn’s safety. To make matters even worse, there were now fabricated rumors that Brett had possibly sexually violated Quinn. Things then get even worse when Ali is killed in a car crash just as a serial mutilator has begun a vigilante crusade against known and accused child molesters. Cache a Predator by M. Weidenbenner is a thrilling procedural novel with all of the bells and whistles: a child at risk, a friendly dog, a beautiful and intelligent foil/love interest for the protagonist, tons of interpersonal relationships, and enough well-thought-out gimmicks to make the Sky Mall Catalog jealous. The title, for example, is not a misspelled reference to Chris Hansen’s willful entrapment specials. Rather, it is a pun playing on the idea that the serial mutilator has a plot-device of hiding his or her severed trophies in geocaching treasure boxes for hapless hikers to accidentally discover. Another is her tactic of telling the story in the third person with the occasional first person sojourn into the mind of our unknown whacker. Weidenbenner has clearly researched her details. The surgical minutiae of the amputations, the legalese of the ongoing custody battle, the tactics employed by the police, the idioms of the geocaching hobbyists: all ring true and realistic. The interactions and motivations of the characters are believable and insightful. The imagery is vivid. The language is accessible. If not for the graphic nature of the Bobbit-like abstractions, I could see this as a Lifetime movie project. If I had to criticize something about this novel, it would be that at times (especially near the end) it seems to have been written by committee. Some of the emotional elements seem over-written, as if several beta readers and editors had given input about ideas they think needed to be conveyed or loose-ends that they felt needed tied-up, and the flow of the narrative suffers slightly for it; but not so much that it makes the story unreadable or even off-putting. It’s utterly engrossing from start to finish. ...more
“Like a skinny lumberjack.” That’s how the unnamed narrator of The Natural Victim describes Deiter Fox, the energetic, tall, blonde, bearded grad stud“Like a skinny lumberjack.” That’s how the unnamed narrator of The Natural Victim describes Deiter Fox, the energetic, tall, blonde, bearded grad student and fan of detective fiction who happily accepts when Eric Wanbois invites him to prove his innocence in the murder of his lab mate, Jason Stampos. Stampos was not well liked. In fact, the more Deiter and his unnamed “Watson” look into his history, the larger the list of potential suspects seems to grow. Set in 1999 on the Ohio State University Campus in Columbus, Ohio, The Natural Victim by Peter Reynard is a closed door mystery with a twist. Records indicate that the accused used his pass card to visit the hall where the murder occurred on three separate occasions that fateful night. Witnesses alibi the client, but police are unconvinced. The accused had means, motive and apparent opportunity; and besides, there is a holographic direct accusation in the form of Eric Wanbois’ name flashing on the victim’s computer monitor. By the final chapter, Reynard has crafted a classic mystery denouement with all of the suspects assembled and all of the evidence and facts laid out in a buffet of reason and order. Among the pluses: the chapters are short and the technology is described in an accessible way. For the minuses: the characters could be more fully drawn in a longer version of the story, and the unique world which is Ohio State might have been better colored-in; but for the reader looking simply for the plot-is-king Dragnet version, The Natural Victim has a satisfying arc that builds suspense by revealing clues and shining a light on the process of the obsessive not-quite-a-genius. The Natural Victim is available on Amazon for the Kindel. ...more
Reviewed by Karen Shell Welcome to J. David Core’s imagination: cool cars, great recipes, Victorian houses, and a murder mystery that keeps you guessinReviewed by Karen Shell Welcome to J. David Core’s imagination: cool cars, great recipes, Victorian houses, and a murder mystery that keeps you guessing up to the last minute. All populated with characters you could swear you’ve met somewhere before. Extreme Unction is a jaunty tale that gives the rebellious reader a smug satisfaction as authority figures are countermanded and manipulated through his well-designed and witty plot. This is a fun read...more