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Monday, June 30, 2014

Balance of June 2014

During the month of June, I reviewed the following:

Books:
- "Living Treasures" by Yang Huang. Read my review.
- "First Stone" by Gary Ballard. Read my review.
- "The Unknown Man" by J.G.Gatewood. Read my review.
- "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities" by Barbara Venkataraman. Read my review.
- "Red Energy" by James M.Corkill. Read my review.

Book "Red Energy" by James M.Corkill

About the Book: Alex Cave, tasked with coordinating the recovery of several items of advanced alien technology somewhere in the Bearing Sea, discovers he has been betrayed by one of the crew, who will stop at nothing to obtain one of these powerfully destructive devices. Alex knows that if this technology falls into the wrong hands, it could cause the end of life on the planet. And if this wasn’t enough, his past actions while working for the CIA have come back to haunt him, and his loved ones are put in grave danger. On this emotional rollercoaster, Alex literally feels the weight of the world on his shoulders as he is torn between saving the ones he loves, and saving humanity from extinction. Is there a way he can save both? Or will all life on the planet be destroyed by. . . RED ENERGY!
This is the third installment in the Alex Cave “Energy” saga, and it offers the biggest set of challenges he has yet to face.

About the Author: "Hello. I would like to take you on exciting adventures here on our planet, with courageous people in dangerous situations, desperately trying to save humanity.
I'm a retired federal firefighter from Whidbey Island, Washington. Before that, I was an electronics technician and part time mechanical engineer at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. I was in the military, and served in Viet Nam. Being retired allows me to write full time and blend my knowledge with my imagination to create the adventures I would like to go on. When I was fourteen I moved to a small place called Orcas Island in Puget Sound; a community of around seven hundred people at that time. Fortunately for me, the famous horror writer, Hugh B. Cave, lived on one of the islands and became my mentor, though I don't write in that genre. The most important lesson he taught me was, only write what you know. Accurate details lend credibility and believability to the story. With that in mind, I do extensive research for my stories. Thanks for joining me on my adventures. It's not always easy finding good books to read. If you liked this one, please write a review on Amazon. Thanks!" James M. Corkill. You can visit me at http://jamescorkill.com/.

My Review: This is a brilliantly written story, that develops in a fast pace . If you thought that the story of our hero, an ex-CIA agent named Alex Cave, could not get better after Cold Energy, you were completely wrong. In this episode, Alex Cave is trying to recover an alien device and a spaceship in a desert island at the Bering Sea when things get out of control and the device and one member of his team are captured and transferred to an underground facility close to Yellowstone. Playing without knowing how to properly control the alien device ended up producing catastrophic consequences. If this is not bad enough, Russian mob leader wants revenge on Alex for killing his brother and captures his nephew and it is up to Alex to save his friend/family and prevent the extermination of human race over and over again...
You will read the book on the edge of your seat. An initial heartbreaking love story develops in the middle of the action and at the end it might have a happy ending after all. I guess we will find out about that in the next episode. Every turn of a page brings more excitement and it is guaranteed that you will be entertained for hours. It took me about nine hours to read the whole book. I just hope this is not the end of Alex Cave adventures! I can hardly wait to read more! You definitely should try James Corkill's books. His intelligent plots are here to stay. 
This book was written by James M.Corkill and I received an electronic version for reviewing. I was not requested to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own. 
If you read this review, feel free to leave a message.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities" by Barbara Venkataraman

About the Book: Winner of the "Indie Book of the Day" award. At 8,000 words, this collection of humorous essays explores such quirky topics as: disastrous home repairs, ("A Trip to the Hardware Store"), an unfortunate dinner party ("Dinner is Served"), the truth about lazy people ("Lazy Bones"), the weird life of a debt collector ("Your Account is Past Due") and obsessions with gadgets ("Gadget Girl"). Other essays examine how surreal the aging process is ("Where Did the Time Go?"), why you shouldn't judge a person by their job ("Beyond Belief"), and how to complicate simple transactions ("High Finance"). Like the author's first work, "I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course...," these essays will give your spirit a lift and leave you smiling.

About the Author: Barbara Venkataraman is an attorney and mediator specializing in family law and debt collection.
She is the author of "The Fight for Magicallus," a children's fantasy; a humorous short story entitled, "If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place"; and two books of humorous essays: "I'm Not Talking about You, Of Course" and "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities," which are part of the "Quirky Essays for Quirky People" series. Both books of humorous essays won the prestigious "Indie Book of the Day" award.
Her latest works are "Death by Didgeridoo," first in the Jamie Quinn series, "The Case of the Killer Divorce," the second Jamie Quinn mystery, and, just out, "Peril in the Park," the latest in the popular Jamie Quinn series. Coming soon, "Engaged in Danger"--the next Jamie Quinn mystery!

My Review: This author is a natural story teller. Her style is so soft that makes reading a pleasure, very light experience that will really bright your day. This collection of small chronicles or essays is a description of everyday's life situation that turns out to be very funny when you talk about them (probably not that funny when the situation really happened...). Unfortunately it finishes too soon!
I was able to identify myself with the first story, A Trip to the Hardware Store, as my home repairs always end up in disasters... Beyond Belief and High Finance are also very good!

I recommend it to the permanent library of any reader who loves a laugh and enjoys a very well written collection of short stories.
I received this book from the author and I was not requested to provide a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book "The Unknown Man" by J.G.Gatewood

About the Book: A mystical journey to discover the identity of a young knight.
A journey that spans the entire continent of Askabar.
An unknown man regains consciousness in the back of a merchant’s wagon only to discover he has no memory of who he is. He discovers the merchants are Goblins, who are transporting him to Havenbrook under the assumption he is a nobleman. Given his extravagant armor and decorated two-handed sword, they are hoping for a reward for his return. Once in Havenbrook, the Lord urges him to seek out an old and mysterious wizard who lives at the foot of the mountains to the east, and sends his daughter with him as an escort and guide. This is where their journey begins.
To the north, a malevolent force is building, gathering the resources necessary to reap destruction across all of Askabar. The sinister figure is on a mission to release his master from the prison he has been bound to for over a thousand years. To succeed in this endeavor, he will need to gather all seven of the orbs, and he recruits Orcs and Minotaurs as soldiers for his cause. Standing in his way is the unknown man, whose party continues to grow.
All of Askabar is on the verge of destruction and tyrannical rule. Battles will be fought, and heinous plots will be carried out. The one man who can stop this nefarious plan doesn't even know who he is. Will he uncover his memories in time? One thing is for certain; an entire population will depend on the unknown man.

About the Author: J.G. Gatewood is the author of the Keepers of the Orbs Fantasy Series. So far, book 1, The Unknown Man, has been completed and self-published on Amazon. Book 2 is currenlty in progress.
When J.G. Gatewood is not writing, he is a full-time Pricing Analyst and an avid reader.
He lives in Parker, Colorado with his wife of 11 years, and two sons. In what little free time he has remaining, he is usually busy brewing his own beer, and crafting his own wine.

My Review: If you put together knights, goblins, elves, orcs, dwarfs, minotaurs, wizards, time travel and a nice love story, nothing can go wrong. And the author plays with those ingredients with mastery. The result is a plot that hooks any reader from the first page.
A young knight regains conscience after being rescued by goblins, but have no recollection of who he is. Taken to the Lord of the city Havenbrook, he is suggested to search for a wizard, who might be able to give him his memory back. The Lord sends his daughter as a guide and they start a journey that will group together some unusual companions. In the center of the story you have the orbs, that are seven devices that can give unlimited power to the person who manages to reunite all of them. And a sinister figure is trying to achieve just that, in order to free his master. Even without knowing who he is, the young knight feels he is an important part on the task of preventing that from happening. An his companions also play a role on that.
This is a very well written book, an excellent start of this series that promises to be very exciting and will keep you entertained for hours. Kudos to the author for his results. I hope the second book will not take long to be published!

I received a copy of this book from the author for reviewing and I was not requested to give a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book "First Stone" by Gary Ballard

About the Book: First Stone is the first novel of Season 1 in The Stepping Stone Cycle series. Forensic psychologist Dr. Jack Carter wakes from a semi-catatonic state in a mental hospital, with no memory of the previous year. His wife Sarah has disappeared and as the last human being to see her alive, Jack is the prime suspect in her disappearance. Without a body and with no physical evidence to prove foul play, the lead investigator and Jack's friend, Bill West, must continue to search for the truth even if it means fingering Jack for the crime. When a serial killer in West Virginia's coal country claims to have killed Sarah Carter, Bill and Jack rush to the crime scene. What they find is a deeply disturbed man with no memory of his crimes or of taking credit for Sarah's death. As Jack tries to decipher the mysterious series of runic symbols the killer carved into his slaughter house, he unlocks a deeper cosmic mystery that goes beyond anything he could imagine.

About the Author: At the age of eleven, Mr. Ballard began creating his own fictional worlds and inhabiting those worlds with eccentric characters. As an artist, graphic designer, musician and author, he has spent decades enumerating a unique evolving vision of an absurd universe. His first four novels comprise a cyberpunk series called The Bridge Chronicles starring the amoral fixer of future Los Angeles, Artemis Bridge. The Bridge Chronicles in turn is one slice of cohesive universe that began as a pen-and-paper roleplaying game. Gary has recently begun a new series of novellas based on the Cthulhu Mythos made famous by H.P. Lovecraft called The Stepping Stone Cycle.
Mr. Ballard currently lives with his wife and three dogs in Mississippi, where he continues to write, blog, compose music and play video games.

My Review: This is a very interesting story, very well written and entertaining, that will keep you hooked until you turn the last page and it will leave you with the feeling of wanting more. 
I particularly like to read books with full stories (beginning, middle and end) in one volume. If the characters return in a future volume, that is OK. But apparently it is a trend now to write stories that are either trilogies or part of a series with unknown number of parts. 
But this particular book has a plot that is captivating, with characters very well developed and the plot develops with just the right pace, exploring all the psychological conflicts of dual or multiple personality minds. 
Our main character, Dr. Jack Carter, is suspect of having killed his wife Sarah, but he has no recollection of anything that happened in the previous year of his life. He just woke up on a hospital after being in semi-catatonic state for one year with this gap in his memory. Allowed to return to his work as forensic psychologist, he goes with his best friend Bill West to investigate a serial killer (George) that claims he killed Sarah. What he found when interviewing George is something that disturbed him a lot, because the killer also has no recollection of having killed anyone and he shows some symptoms of multiple-personalities. George left some symbols carved in the house where he killed the women and Dr. Jack is trying to figure out the meaning of the symbols, that are the same that appear in a stone left at the scene. This first novel of this series has an interesting ending and I just hope it will not take long for the second novel to be written. Kudos to Mr. Ballard for a well executed introduction to this Stepping Stone Cycle series.
I recommend this book to the permanent library of any reader who appreciate a well written mystery novel.

I received a copy from the author for reviewing and I was not requested to write a positive review. Opinion expressed here is my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book "Living Treasures" by Yang Huang

About the Book: What do a law student and a panda have in common? When Gu Bao is hunted by one-child policy enforcers, she finds out what it feels like to be an endangered species.
Set in China during the tumultuous Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, Living Treasures portrays the crusade of Gu Bao, a girl who grows up under the Chinese government’s one-child policy. The Chinese government has enforced strict controls to keep the country from environmental destitution and poverty ever since Mao’s ban on family planning left China a legacy of 1.1 billion people, 20% of the population on earth.
Bao searches for her inner strength while exploring the Sichuan mountain landscape. She befriends a panda mother caught in a poacher’s snare, and an expectant young mother hiding from villainous one-child policy enforcers bent on giving compulsory abortions. All struggle against society to preserve the treasure of their little ones. Bao devises a daring plan that changes the lives of everyone around her. Will Bao earn a second chance to save a family from destruction? What price will Bao pay to prevent a full-term abortion and save a panda cub?

About the Author: Born and raised in mainland China, Huang was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Living Treasures is Huang’s debut novel. She is represented by Barbara Braun and has had short stories and a feature-length screenplay published in literary magazines including the Asian Pacific American Journal, The Evansville Review, Futures, Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine, Nuvein, and Stories for Film. Huang works as a computer engineer for U. C. Berkeley and a writer by vocation. She came to the U.S. shortly after taking part in the 1989 student movement.

My Review: This is a  very well written and very touching story, about a young lady named Gu Bao who is studying to be a lawyer so she can protect people against government abuse in China. Her life takes a turn during the student's demonstration against the government in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. She becomes involved with a soldier, and her story develops at a nice pace. Her struggle dealing with her parents over an abortion, her move to live with her grandparents for a while, and the development of a friendship with an expectant mother who is hiding in the mountains from one-child policy enforcers to safely deliver her baby, all these situations are richly described, exploiting all the psychological angles, showing the struggle in Bao's young mind to do the right thing.

This novel makes us wish that this was really just a work of fiction and nothing that is described here really did happen in China, but I believe that this is only a wish. When a government tries to repress the free will of its people, it loses legitimacy and from there on, does not represent the people's will anymore.

I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers who enjoy a very well written work of fiction, on a very timely subject, that will keep them entertained for hours. 

I received a copy of this book from the author through the publisher (thanks, Simone from Harvard Square Editions!) and I was not requested to write a positive review. Opinions expressed here are my own.

If you read this review, feel free to leave a comment!