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Review: Dead Spots By Melissa F. Olson

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard, #1)

“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.” ― Shannon L. Alder

Scarlett Bernard is one pragmatic lady. Of course, she has to be considering her job is supernatural crime scene cleanup. As in, get in, clean up the mess, steal the body, and book the hell out of Dodge before the cops arrive. She is truly good at her job, and her boss, the cold and distant Dashiell, Master Vampire of the city, may be scary, but he pretty much allows her to do her job without interference. But then, the worst happens.

She gets caught. Caught by a newly minted detective, Jesse Cruz, just after she arrives at a scene more bloody and grotesque than any she has ever seen. What happens next is fast paced action with terrific world building and interesting characters. I first read the book back in 2012, and enjoyed it then. This time I listened to the Audible edition narrated by Amy McFadden (one of my favorite narrators) and, as sometimes happens, I liked it even more as I listened. Scarlett is a strong character with a well-developed, though brutal, background and is likeable. She isn’t perfect, but that is what makes her interesting. She has taken horrific hits in her life – but the one she walks into later on is absolutely devastating and Olson does a rather wonderful job of writing the horrors of betrayal. I would have liked her to be more mature in her interactions with others – her tendency to cope a nasty, self-serving attitude at times was a downer. I am hoping that the next books will show growth in her as a character (especially since I own them all). Her behavior isn’t as horrendous as other female characters in the genre, but I am hoping for more maturity in upcoming works.

There are some things that were irritating. The Dreaded Love Triangle. Irritating! Not only do love triangles make me retch, this one felt stilted and unnecessary, dragging down the storyline. Also, the POV switches between characters and from first to third person erratically and unnecessarily. Irritating, but not as irritating as the lurrve (titter titter, Groan) triangle. Olson’s take on werewolf psychology was more interesting than a lot of other books in the genre, and her friendship with the Alpha and Beta were more realistic than many others. The Alpha isn’t as ‘Alpha’ as in other books (thank the Goddess!) and the tortured Beta was very realistically portrayed in the vein of “I never wanted this in the first place.”

So, flawed, it isn’t perfect by any means, but I still enjoyed it as much as I remembered, and Amy’s narration was, as always, spot on.

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Any Port In A Storm (Ayala Storme Book 2) by Emmie Mears

“It’s hard to tell who has your back, from who has it long enough just to stab you in it….”
― Nicole Richie

“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Any Port in a Storm (Ayala Storme #2)There are monsters in Ayala Storme’s world. Real, live honest-to-goddess monsters from the six and a half hells, crawling out into the night to eat your cats, your dogs. Your children. You. And it is Ayala’s, and the other Mediator’s, job to stop that from happening. Oh, they can’t actually stop the demons from crawling through holes in the veils between worlds, but up until recently they have done a pretty good job of keeping the balance between dark and light. But then? Well, let’s just say, everything went to the six and a half hells in a handbasket. For Ayala, Ben and Ripper watched the birthing of a new kind of demon. A demon who ripped into the world in true Ellen Ripley “Alien” fashion, out of the body of the young girl they were trying to track down and save.

But the thing is, you see, that the “demons” born in this fashion aren’t really demons at all, not all of them at least. For they remember. They remember the hopes and dreams of the women (and men) who bore them, and died to bring them into the world. Ayala and the Mediators slaughtered many of them. Then, something happened. One of them saved Ayala’s life. And now, her whole understanding of her life, and her place in the world, has changed.

The pain, the confusion. It would send a lesser woman mad. But Ayala, for all it hurts, has the strength to get past that. To reach for something better. To stand up for what is right and good, and do what she can to protect those under her care. Even if they are a bit “different” from the norms.

“Any Port in a Storm” picks up a couple of months after “Storm in a Teacup” left off. And for all the issues in the Summit, the Mediator headquarters, that were brewing then, now things balance on a razor’s edge. Ayala has no idea who she can trust. And even those she has trusted the most from the time she was tiny, from the time when her first sword was thrust into her tiny fist at age three . . . can even they be trusted any longer? And then, outside of the political machinations, something Wicked definitely comes slouching into the world from the demon hells. For, instead of single demons minding their own business, staying away from groups of norms and picking off the outliers, they are grouping together. Snorbits and Rakaths, Slummoths and Harkast and Jeelings (Oh, My!) are working together. And when one looks at Ayala – looks at Ayala and smiles – well, let’s just say the hell-hole they are pouring out of, and the fact that Ayala was set-up to face a whole horde of them alone, dumps her right down a savage Alice’s twisted rabbit hole. And while there be monsters there . . . well, these monsters are human. And if she is going to save herself, the Shades under her protection, and possibly the whole of Tennessee from the same fate suffered by Mississippi, Alabama, and huge chunks of Louisiana and Arkansas, i.e., becoming uninhabitable hell swamps where no human survived, she is going to need friends. And she is going to need answers to the unanswerable. Fast.

SiaT is just as good as APiaS, and Ayala is just as strong and fragile, smart and caring, broken and focused as she was in the last book. She isn’t perfect, but she doesn’t pretend to be. Her goal is, and has always been, to protect those under her care. And when betrayal of the worst kind drapes her in unyielding misery, well, she just keeps right on swinging her sword, doing the right thing no matter the cost, trying to save the world. Or, at least her little part of it. She may be a prisoner, in a way, of her birthright. She may not like it. But she won’t turn her back on what is right. And for that? Well, for that I added Emmie Mears to my “gotta read, and read right now” list. Downloading the next, “Taken By Storm” in a few. The one after, “Eye of the Storm” comes out this year (not sure when) but I will be downloading that one right away as well. I truly admire Ayala. She is strong without being a “Wonder Woman” character, mentally, physically and emotionally. She questions herself, but never allows her questioning to stop her from doing what she knows is right. A rare thing, and worth encouraging.

Review: City Of Echoes by Robert Ellis #Thriller #PoliceProcedural #Suspense

25050652“Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people” ― Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

“He felt his heart, which no longer beat, contract, and he wondered if there was anything in the world as painful as not being able to protect the people you loved.”― Cassandra Clare, City of Fallen Angels

Agony. Such an interesting word, with such an interesting origin. “Late 14c., “mental suffering” (especially that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane), from Old French agonie, agoine “anguish, terror, death agony” (14c.), and directly from Late Latin agonia, from Greek agonia “a (mental) struggle for victory,” originally “a struggle for victory in the games,” from agon “assembly for a contest,” from agein “to lead.” Now, it simply means, Extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering.” Yes. Interesting.

Matthew Trevor Jones knows all about agony. His father walking out the door. His mother dying of cancer when he was twelve. His father refusing to accept, or even acknowledge his existence when he had no place else to go. A stint in Afghanistan. And now? Now, on this day, the day before his first day with Hollywood Homicide, he knows the agony of losing his friend, his brother in arms in the Sandbox. The man who pulled him away from all that was wrong with his life on his return from that dark and brutal place of guns and death. Away from his memories. The brother who got him started on the path to where he is today. Detective Kevin Hughes is dead, taken down in a blaze of bullets on his way to meet Matt, to celebrate his promotion. A bloody, blasted shell.

“At the end of the day it’ll come down to this: Kevin and I were brothers in arms. We fought the good fight and somehow both of us were lucky enough to come home. He had my back, and now I’ve got his.”

““Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds?” – ― H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy

Agony.

And as the case turns and twists, layers of deceit and lies, hidden meanings and horrific realizations come clear. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is real, but at the same time too brutally real to be believed.

Betrayal.

It all comes down to betrayal. The past and present are melding, and the threads of Matt’s life are starting to unravel.

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
– W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

 This is the first time I have read Robert Ellis, but it won’t be the last. As much as I loved the book, there are certainly some who won’t. Ellis’s voice is harsh, nearly brutal in its ability to strip off the shiny layers, the bright and distracting gaudy bits, leaving the harsh truth behind, lying like the broken body of a child upon the sand.

“It hung there, all of it, in the candlelight and in the shadows, and on a night in late October when the dry wind howled.”

This is noir style detective thriller writing at its best and most complex. Beneath the shiny surface of Hollywood lies a dark and festering heart – and Ellis writes it like it is.

I received City of Echoes from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you like my review, please do me the favour of letting me know by clicking “Like” on GoodReads, and on Amazon after it is published. I really appreciate it!

 Publishing September 1, 2015 by Thomas & Mercer

 About The Author

Robert  EllisRobert Ellis is the international bestselling author of “Access to Power”, “The Dead Room”, and the critically acclaimed L.A. Times bestseller “City of Fire”, “The Lost Witness”, and “Murder Season” – selected as top reads by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, National Public Radio, The Chicago Tribune, The Toronto Sun, The Guardian (UK), The Evening Telegraph (UK), People Magazine, USA Today, and The New York Times. His novels have been translated into more than ten languages, are read in more than thirty-five countries, and are available in audio and all digital formats. Born in Philadelphia, Robert moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a writer, producer, and director in film, television, and advertising. Robert studied writing with Walter Tevis, author of “The Hustler”, “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, and “The Color of Money,” and with his friend, John Truby, screenwriter and author of “The Anatomy of Story.” His books have garnered praise from a diverse group of authors including Janet Evanovich’s wonderful review in People Magazine. But perhaps Michael Connelly said it best: “‘City of Fire’ is my kind of crime novel. Gritty, tight and assured. Riding with Detective Lena Gamble through the hills of Los Angeles is something I could get used to. She’s tough, smart, and most of all, she’s real.”

Review: Sugar Springs (A Sugar Springs Novel) by Kim Law

Sugar Springs (Sugar Springs, #1)Wow. Sugar Springs seems to me to be more of a viper pit than a town. Everyone gossips – about everyone. And there seems to be a contest going on between Mrs. G, the town’s biggest gossip, and Lee Ann London’s mother, Reba, for who can ‘scoop the most poop’ if you get my meaning. Heck, Reba even gossips about her own daughter – the daughter, by the way, who took in the twin babies of her nasty, self-centered half-sister when Lee Ann herself was just out of high school. The sister, by the way, who banged Lee Ann’s boyfriend, Cody Dalton, on the living room couch, knowing that Lee Ann was due home any minute and would walk in on the scene. And when said banging produced the baby girls, Candy and Kendra, and nasty sister Stephanie died five days after the birth, Lee Ann took them to raise as her own. Working two jobs, as a waitress in the local café in the mornings and as a studio photographer the rest of the time, Lee Ann has done a marvelous job raising strong, capable, sweet natured girls for thirteen years with minimal help from her flighty mother. They own their own home, the girls are happy and healthy, and everything is good.

Until Cody Dalton comes back into town. He is only staying for six weeks, filling in for the local vet who is going on maternity leave. Cody was the local bad boy who went out with a bang, smashing windows, hooking up his foster father’s truck to the statue in the town square and dragging it behind the truck till the bumper fell off, and stealing said truck to run off into the sunset the same day he did the nasty deed with Stephanie. And now, he is back – and Lee Ann has to decide whether it is safe to let him see the girls. He told Stephanie the day the girls were born that she could just toss them into foster care, so why would Lee Ann even consider placing ‘her’ girls anywhere within the vicinity of a man who could be so cold and callous? And yet, she does.

I wanted to like this book, I really did – but in the end? It was just too sugary sweet, an overdose of precious with a side of smarmy forgiveness. It doesn’t ring true, or believable. It is just flippin’ irritating. And that hurts, because Kim Law’s Montana Cherries was amazing. What a letdown.

Maybe it is simply that I have had a bad run of books lately, but “Doormat” seems to be in fashion. Cody betrays not only Lee Ann in the end, but also betrays his own daughters, never mind that he has sworn that he will ‘do his best to be a good father’. And the betrayal is nasty, planned, and unforgivable. And yet, Lee Ann, and even the girls, simply roll over and take it, and it is all sunshine and lollipops and hugs and kisses within two pages.

Bah. Humbug. The whole thing is just over-the-top, though I am sure other reviewers will find it, “Just so Adorable, Bless your heart! A star for the cover, though this book got Kim Law kicked straight off my Read List.

Review (And A Screaming Rant) For “From Scratch”

For me, I always wonder what’s worse: an emotional betrayal or a physical betrayal? That’s a really tough call. – Hilarie Burton

Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise, and trading on your integrity and not having dignity in life. That’s really where failure comes. – Tom Cochrane

It’s particularly hard to take being stabbed in the back close to home. There’s always a feeling of betrayal when people of your own group oppose you. – Catharine MacKinnon

 

I have begun to notice a disturbing trend in romance novels lately. For example, let us examine the case of Lillie and Nick. Totally devoted to one another since Lillie was six. Friends, playmates, companions. Then high school lovers. Then totally devoted live-in fiancées. Then, thing turn bad.

Observe.

Every night, after her own day of university classes and working long hours on her feet in her family café, she waits for his return from his residency shift at Baylor Medical, only to be met with cold indifference.

“Maye that’s the danger in loving someone too much: you’re so blinded by it that you can’t see what’s already over until one side of the bed is empty and cold.”

Constant cold, sifting into her body, leaching away her soul. Her beloved friend, confidant, companion, lover, no longer cares for her. The man she knew no longer lives in this body. No longer talks with her.

Everything’s fine. Or, If I wanted to talk about it, I’d say so. Or his personal favorite, Leave it alone, Lillie.

And then one day, she learns something terrible. Something heartbreaking and devastating about her own family. He adores her father, Jackson, who took the place of the father he never had. Surely he will talk with her, be once again the friend and devoted companion she has known all those years. They can find a way to work through this, right? Right? But he doesn’t come home, not until the wee small hours, long after his shift is done. Where has he been? Out. The age-old response of the cheat, the drunk – or the person who doesn’t love you enough to want to come home any longer, and just doesn’t have the guts to tell you it’s over.

But still, she tries to reach out to him, to draw her back to him. But.

“I don’t have the energy to do this right now.” “Save it … You spend your days serving pie to people in a diner, so excuse me if I don’t see why this conversation can’t wait…”

He grabbed the plate off the coffee table and threw it against the wall.

Great. The introduction to physical violence, as well as emotional.

Devastated, scorned by the man she loves with her whole heart, by her own family and those she thought to be friends, she packs. Packs, and leaves for the airport. She takes the first plane out, Chicago, just because, “they are boarding now, you can make it if you hurry.” For five years, she has no one to lean on, no one to hold her when she cries, to help her through her pain or help her to find her laughter again. Finally, she is successful, on a partner track with her firm, and has found a kind, considerate, gentle lover. He isn’t Nick, but he is loving, open, kind – and he is safe. Safe from the pain, the upheaval, the not knowing what is in his heart and mind, what cruelty will pour from his mouth at any moment. No icy silences. No nights of returning long hours after his shift is done with no explanation, no words. She is content. Maybe not blissfully, passionately happy. But content. Something she hasn’t been in a very long time.

Then, her father, Jackson, sends a text message, and she finds herself back in Dallas, terrified for his health and safety. But, funny old thing that. The text was apparently a lie – a lie designed to bring her back to Dallas, to her old life, no matter her career, her coming promotion to partner in the most prestigious firm in Chicago, her life, her new relationship – no matter the agony of coming back to friends and acquaintances who blame her for leaving. Blame her for “giving up.” Well, of course. When one leaves, the other can act in any manner, say anything, and the one who left? Well.

Lillie comes back to disdain and blame. To cruelty and lies, betrayal and poisoned tongues couched in “Why Suuugar… we know what’s best for you, Bless Your Heart!, and a constant chorus of, “It’s your fault”What did you do to fix it?” “You gave up on him, he didn’t give up on you.” You weren’t patient enough. You weren’t giving enough. You weren’t understanding enough. You weren’t you weren’t you weren’t… And of course, “It’s about you, your life, the choices you’re making. Jackson (and everyone else, supposedly) only wants what’s best for you.”

Well, what everyone ELSE thinks is “best for you.”

Back to the land where women like Sullivan Grace Hasell reside – “better known as Ms. Bless Your Heart for her uncanny ability to insult the sin out of someone but mask it as a compliment swathed in a little southern flair.” And a whole lot of bullying. For your own good, of course. . .

It’s. All. Her. Fault. She left. She didn’t try hard enough. She wasn’t forgiving enough. She wasn’t patient enough. She wasn’t she wasn’t she wasn’t – SHE is to blame, it is all on her, all her fault, and poor little Nick suffered oh, so much after she so cruelly walked out on him without a backwards glance and made herself a new life, and sin of sins, learned to be happy!

Well, Bless Your Heart!

And thus, the crux. All. Her. Fault. Her very soul is being sucked from her body by a man who shows her every day, and in every way, he cares nothing about her, considers her a burden, a lesser being, a horrible mistake made by a child that a man suddenly realizes is just that – a mistake – one he doesn’t even care about enough to tell to run back home to her father as he doesn’t want her any more. Was she supposed to reside forever upon this black and endless plain of existence, devoid of love, of kindness, of warmth? Was she supposed to stay, until and after the thrown crockery became thrown punches?

Lillie is one of the bravest people I have read. She stood up, pulled up her big girl panties, and took her broken heart and shattered life and became someone completely new – someone who would not ever let herself be hurt like that again. But she still returns to find that SHE is the one to blame for “Poor Nick – your betrayal, your running away, your cowardice, broke the man, Bless Your Heart!” And the worst part? She starts to believe it. To believe that she is everything that the people who should love and support her say she is. And that is just Wrong.

Things changed while she was gone – but instead of open, honest interaction she is faced on every side by lies, both outright and by omission. While everyone claims to care for her, no one is willing to give her respect, to accept that there was not only one side to the story. That just possibly, Lillie had to save herself when she could no longer save them.

Give me a fucking break. In the words of mighty Hamlet, “therein lies the rub.” It is the woman’s fault – no matter the situation. No matter if she can no longer see the way across the night dark plains, the light has faded, and the beasts are upon her. It. Is. Her. Fault.

REALLY?!?!?!

Parts of From Scratch are funny, touching, and positive. But the overall feel of encouraging women to return to a 1950’s mindset where emotional and physical abuse are not only commonplace but normal, where women are expected to conform to a backward society’s mores, no matter the pain to herself, is terrifying.

I received this book in return for a realistic review. I wouldn’t normally be so brutal, but this book sends terrible, horrible, very not good messages about a woman’s place in society and in personal relationships – about how it is acceptable to blame women for wrongs brought on by their partners, their families, their friends. About how said family and friends are perfectly justified in blaming, lying, withholding life and death information. About punishing the victim. This could have been a funny, wise, thoughtful book – instead, it comes across as a call to returning women to the dark ages of a lack of social justice and emotional disregard. Something I am seeing a bit too much in today’s romance novels.

 

Review: Cool Hand by Mark Henwick

Cool HandIt’s particularly hard to take being stabbed in the back close to home. There’s always a feeling of betrayal when people of your own group oppose you. – Catharine MacKinnon

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. – Ferdinand Foch

Amber Farrell knows everything about betrayal. Betrayal by the US Government, friends, coworkers. Betrayed in every way she ever thought possible – and some ways no one could have ever imagined. As a hybrid of Athanate, Werewolf and Adept, life is a complete misery. Athanates don’t trust her wolf side, wolves don’t trust her Athanate. And the Adept – well, they just want her dead.

War is coming, the first shots have been fired, and without her mentor, Diana, Amber may be going rogue. So, in a desperate bid to salvage her sanity Amber and Tullah make a desperate bid to find Diana by entering the forbidden territory of New Mexico. Now, they are trapped in plots within plots as enemies are revealed as friends, friends as enemies, and death.

You tread a difficult path, Amber, where every way bears death and sorrow and pain and loss.

As the story continues to wind tighter and tighter, and war becomes inevitable, Amber and her kin, her friends, and even her enemies, walk the razors edge – the edge of death, sorrow, pain and loss – and the brutal fires of a world war between humans, Athenate, were, and adept.

Mark has outdone himself this time. His books have continuously gotten better, but this edition is beyond amazing. If you haven’t read the series, I can’t recommend it highly enough. But this one? This one is the best I have read this year. The hard part? Now I have to wait for the next one! Sigh.

Highly, highly recommended!

Books For The “Serious Reader” On Your Holiday List

For the more serious readers on your holiday list, I thought I would toss out some ideas today from my own “Must Read” list. Of course, that list gets set aside when I am busy, but I am working my way down!

 

6493208The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.


 

Cutting for Stone

3591262Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles—and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

 


16213#1 New York Times Bestseller

The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.


 

 

Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World

by C.J. Peters, Mark Olshaker

A New York Times Notable Book249716

The man who led the battle against Ebola in The Hot Zone teams up with the bestselling co-author of Mind Hunter to chronicle his extraordinary thirty-year career fighting deadly viruses.

For three decades, Dr. C. J. Peters was on the front lines of our biological battle against “hot” viruses around the world. In the course of that career, he learned countless lessons about our interspecies turf wars with infectious agents. Called in to contain an outbreak of deadly hemorrhagic fever in Bolivia, he confronted the despair of trying to save a colleague who accidentally infected himself with an errant scalpel. Working in Level 4 labs on the Machupo and Ebola viruses, he saw time and again why expensive high-tech biohazard containment equipment is only as safe as the people who use it.

Because of new, emerging viruses, and the return of old, “vanquished” ones for which vaccines do not exist, there remains a very real danger of a new epidemic that could, without proper surveillance and early intervention, spread worldwide virtually overnight. And the possibility of foreign countries or terrorist groups using deadly airborne viruses—the poor man’s nuclear arsenal—looms larger than ever.

High-octane science writing at its best and most revealing, Virus Hunter is a thrilling first-person account of what it is like to be a warrior in the Hot Zone.


9244361

Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream

by Arianna Huffington (Goodreads Author), Coleen Marlo (Goodreads Author)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that middle-class Americans are an endangered species and that the American Dream of a secure, comfortable standard of living has become as outdated as an Edsel with an eight-track player—that the United States of America is in danger of becoming a third world nation.

The evidence is all around us: Our industrial base is vanishing, taking with it the kind of jobs that have formed the backbone of our economy for more than a century; our education system is in shambles, making it harder for tomorrow’s workforce to acquire the information and training it needs to land good twenty-first-century jobs; our infrastructure—our roads, our bridges, our sewage and water, our transportation and electrical systems—is crumbling; our economic system has been reduced to recurring episodes of Corporations Gone Wild; our political system is broken, in thrall to a small financial elite using the power of the checkbook to control both parties.

And America’s middle class, the driver of so much of our economic success and political stability, is rapidly disappearing, forcing us to confront the fear that we are slipping as a nation—that our children and grandchildren will enjoy fewer opportunities and face a lower standard of living than we did. It’s the dark flipside of the American Dream—an American Nightmare of our own making.

Arianna Huffington, who, with the must-read Huffington Post, has her finger on the pulse of America, unflinchingly tracks the gradual demise of America as an industrial, political, and economic leader. In the vein of her fiery bestseller Pigs at the Trough, Third World America points fingers, names names, and details who is killing the American Dream. Finally, calling on the can-do attitude that is part of America’s DNA, Huffington shows precisely what we need to do to stop our freefall and keep America from turning into a third world nation.

Third World America is a must-listen for anyone disturbed by our country’s steady descent from twentieth-century superpower to backwater banana republic.

 

Review: The Source by J.D. Horn

source
The second in the Witching Savannah Series!

It’s particularly hard to take being stabbed in the back close to home. There’s always a feeling of betrayal when people of your own group oppose you. – Catharine MacKinnon

You want to believe that there’s one relationship in life that’s beyond betrayal. A relationship that’s beyond that kind of hurt. And there isn’t. – Caleb Carr

It is said that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. – John Boyd Orr

Back in January of this year I received a copy of The Line by J.D. Horn as part of the Kindle First program. The Line is a story of Mercy Taylor, a magical “dud” born into a family of immense magical power. Shunted to the side and mostly ignored by the powerful witches in her family, Mercy enjoys her life leading “The Liars Tour of Savannah,” getting her customers a little buzzed, telling ‘some black and wicked lies about the people of her hometown,” and basically enjoying her life. It’s simple, and it is all hers. Well, mostly happy, except for the fact that she is loved by an apparently good man, yet loves the man who belongs to her twin sister – the twin sister who is in line to take a place as one of the ten who control The Line, the magical wall between this world and the world of demons.

Power and jealousy, mistakes and unforeseen consequences kept me reading The Line all through the night. Now, Mercy and her family are back, in The Source the second in the Witching Savannah series. But things have changed more than Mercy could have ever expected. Once thought a failure, now The Line is Mercy’s responsibility, and no one seems to want that – including the other witches who hold the line between this world and the next. Mercy is struggling to control her new powers, which is bad enough, but she is also pregnant, dealing with the tremendous betrayals first suffered in the first book, and generally having a horrible time of it. And if that isn’t enough, her mother, thought to be dead for years, is back on the scene, and begs Mercy to tell no one. Overall, it’s a lot to swallow for a girl who only a short time ago was a simple tour guide!

If there is one thing about Mercy that I really like, it is that she is compassionate and forgiving. If there is one thing I truly don’t like about Mercy, it is that she is TOO compassionate and forgiving. I want to sit her down, give her a glass of wine and chocolates and encourage her to realize that some people, like her evil, cruel and manipulative sister Maisy, absolutely do not deserve so much of her time and trouble as she tries to pull her twisted sister back from wherever she was deposited when The Line refused her, choosing Mercy instead. Things came to a head at the end of the first book when Maisy tried to murder Mercy, knowing that Mercy was supposed to be the line witch all along, but her powers had been purposely dampened so that Maisy could take over. Can we all say, “Dysfunctional Family?”

Mercy is powerful, without a doubt. Possibly the strongest line witch to ever have existed. But power doesn’t always bring happiness, and when you have no training, power can get you killed.
This is a truly well written, highly complex story replete with a stunning cast of characters all with their own agendas – most of which involve bringing Mercy down. Good and evil, and good old southern backstabbing, all wrapped up in a story that will keep you guessing, and reading well into the night.
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I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. I very much look forward to the next in this brilliant southern series!

Review: Albatross: Birds of Flight – Book One

albatross
This is some scary, edge-of-your-seat stuff! Click to order! Can’t wait for Book Two!

“Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur”
“The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived”
~ Attributed to Petronius ~ First Century AD

“Inter arma silent leges”
In time of war, laws are silent”~
Attributed to Cicero in his published oration Pro Milone, although Cicero’s actual wording was “Silent enim leges inter arma.”

Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty. ~ George Washington

Two women, one child, a blind man, and a former good guy. Not exactly an elite task force. ~ Lieutenant Anderson, Albatross

What do you do, who do you turn to, when your government and your military are out of control? When, in the name of anti-terrorism, your country becomes the terrorist itself, slaughtering, imprisoning and torturing the innocent? When your military turns on its own citizens, slaughtering at will, in order to cover up their own atrocities?

Alexander Burns is a soldier to his bones. Deployed to the nastiest, most violent locations on the planet, he is handled by his superiors as an attack dog- cold, emotionless, and completely and utterly heartless in his drive to reach his goal, no matter what the collateral damage. Go in. Kill. Get out. Do it again.

Now, Burns has been given a goal – kill Oman Sharif Sudani. The president has given the OK, the Chief of Staff is on-board, and all lights are green for the takeout of one of “the key architects of domestic and foreign terrorist attacks.” However, there is a problem. Burns’ superior, Field Agent Anthony Maxwell, has other plans. Capture Sudani, kill all witnesses, innocent women and children, and bring Sudani back as a trophy.

To hide his actions, he arranges for Burns and his pilot to be shot down by friendly fire. The pilot dies on impact. Burns, however, while escapes – and he knows more than Maxwell would like. The only problem is, Burns has holes in his memory. And with him being found by the Red Cross, and treated in military hospitals across the globe, Maxwell can no longer just kill Burns to cover up what he has done. Too much paper, too many witnesses. Innocent American citizens – citizens who find their lives ripped away and their families destroyed as Maxwell and his boss utilize black operatives to protect themselves at all costs.

Thus begins Albatross, Birds of Flight by J.M. Erickson. And let me tell you – this is one scary book. Oh, not scary in the Twilight Zone or Halloween vein. No, this is a real, hard hitting look at a government and military out of control. Erickson displays a deft hand at maneuvering through the maze of governmental and police agencies, tearing at the veil of silence that shrouds the manipulations and murders authorized or committed by the upper echelons. Further, he delves deeply into the complete lack of oversight which allows the influencing and control of the American public to the advancement of the careers of a privileged few.

Broken, and with severe head trauma causing memory loss, Burns is brought to a prominent expert in psychopathology, David Caulfield, by a covert group, led by Maxwell, who are determined to find out what Burns knows about not only the Sudani situation, but also information critical to Maxwell’s own boss – information that could destroy not only Maxwell but others in positions of power. Others, with no moral ambiguity regarding the murder of innocent American civilians.

When Burns regains his memories, and apparently loses the very sociopathy that made him a peerless covert operative, the deaths begin, as his psychologist’s wife is blown up in a car bomb meant for both David and Jenny. As David and Burns flee, others become victims of the shadow group bent on seeing Burns, and anyone who comes in contact with him, dead.

This is definitely a book requiring thought and attention, a true literary hard-hitter of covert operations, governmental cover-ups and senseless slaughter in the name of a shadowy concept of what constitutes national security. I truly enjoyed the fact that Erickson is educated and practices in the field of psychopathology, counseling & ethics and as a critical incident specialist for police and firefighters. The man knows of which he speaks, which was enormously refreshing! His military and police characters are believable, alternating between sympathetic and horrifying.

His main characters are immensely likable and understandable. Samantha, a nurse who cared enough to realize that Burns’ medications were being skewed and to try to obtain help for him – and who also has worked as a prostitute for many years, dealing with the trauma of abuse and torture in multiple foster homes. Becky, her frightened, anxious sister who deals with obsessive eating disorder and anxiety after she is forced to murder her cousin to protect Samantha, and now has rescued her brother’s baby daughter, Emma, from his murderer’s hands and is on the run with the child. And David, of course, blinded in the explosion that killed his beloved Jenny. Not much of a strike team – but with care, training, and dedication, they will do what they must to protect themselves, and see some small amount of justice.

As an aside, I see a lot of Erickson in the portrayal of David. Write what you know, right? I feel that Erickson and David truly know one another, and it adds a whole other layer to my understanding and enjoyment of the character.

This is a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat suspense/espionage/thriller that will take your breath away and leave you reeling. If this is your genre, please don’t overlook this fast-paced thrill ride. It makes the whole “Bourne” series look like a pale imitation of reality.

Highly recommended! I wanted to finish it last night, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open – but darn, I sure wanted to!

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