Month: January 2016

Review: LAST LIGHT FALLING by J.E. Plemons

41UGn5Ah-uL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_LAST LIGHT FALLING BOOK 1 THE COVENANT by J.E. Plemons

Dog Ear Publishing, March 2014 ~ 3 Stars

If your fate has already been chosen for you, would you change it?

Fifteen-year-old Arena Power blindly accepts her destiny in a world filled with tragedy, chaos, and a lingering wickedness that will tempt every man’s soul until the last days on Earth. Set in the United States in the year 2053, America, like most of the world, has undergone catastrophic earthquakes, famine, and an economic collapse, which has rendered the nation hopeless. It has turned to other nations, like Russia and China, to help restore what was once a world power. Unfortunately, the new America has grossly caused civil unrest that will eventually be the precursor to a much bigger war of biblical proportions.

Orphaned at the age of nine, Arena and her twin brother, Gabe, have learned to rely on each other through the toughest times. Not only do they share the same birthday and the tragic loss of their parents, they both have a birthmark on the back of their necks in the shape of a crucifix. This is only but a small sign of the destiny that will follow. On their fifteenth birthday, they receive a mystery letter and key from their estranged Uncle Finnegan. This key will unlock their fate, and it will be up to a priest, who has vowed to protect them since birth, to unfold the layers of their destiny-to undo the evil that has spoiled the world, and to help unleash God’s wrath upon those who have turned from Him in the last days of history.

LAST LIGHT FALLING weaves righteousness with evil, treachery with truth, and shows just how far the will of man can survive on faith alone. Arena and Gabriel’s fate will determine that course of history for which has already been written. They were not born to save the world; they were chosen to prepare it for the final days.

51Q0vrx30eL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_LAST LIGHT FALLING BOOK 2 INTO THE DARKNESS by J.E. Plemons

Dog Ear Publishing, May 2015 ~ 3 Stars

Arena has left the nation’s administration with a dead president and a weakened military, and while the tragic memories continue to scar her, the government struggles to regroup without its leader. For the people who still remain in hiding, it’s evident the country is all but lost, and with Russian operatives taking over, the nation’s hope of recovering is grim. After months in hiding, Arena and her brother, Gabriel, fight to survive the aftermath while they trudge through unkindly terrain across the country to rejoin their friends, but what they soon discover may staunch their journey. The government’s failed attempt to rebirth a broken nation has caused civil unrest like no other. After reuniting with their friends, Arena’s decision to stay changes when she discovers the secrets of a refugee camp behind a clandestine group of rebels, known as the Southern Resistance. With an opportunity to escape to a permanent safe haven, Arena risks her life to lead the new fellowship. But the darkest days are upon them, and with a new war brewing, Arena’s path will take a dark turn as her survival is in jeopardy. Into The Darkness captures the cruel truth behind our darkest secrets which may often cause us to question our faith. In this graphic second installment of the LAST LIGHT FALLING series, J.E. Plemons continues the grim story of Arena Power’s fate, testing her faith while she and her brother search for an answer to their survival in a brooding world filled with chaos.

Review: The LAST LIGHT FALLING series introduces the reader to fifteen-year-old twins, Arena and Gabriel Power destined to lead the fight not to save the world and its inhabitants, but to prepare it for the apocalyptic end of days as foretold in the Old Testament. A master of all weapons, Arena accepts her role a little too easily while her brother has more difficulty accepting their supposed destiny. This makes him more likeable as a character and a person at the beginning of the story. He’s willing to do what needs to be done to change his world, but unlike his sister doesn’t see most people as expendable. Virginia Roth in the Divergent series showed how making just one choice changes lives not only that of the heroine’s when she opted for a new faction rather than remaining with the one where she was born. However, Arena Power isn’t a Tris Prior and obviously doesn’t share the other girl’s ability to empathize with those around her.

Meanwhile Arena does get along fairly well with him and their foster parents, but looks for trouble when she’s at school. Her behavior and motivations remain inconsistent much of the time. She isn’t sure what she wants other than to kill pretty much everyone who annoys her and the list of these folks continues to grow as time passes. Of course, then there are the days when she actually finds someone she likes such as Jacob, a shy teen from school. Their initial, mutual attraction escalates far too quickly into a lifelong passion. The same thing happens with Gabriel and his first girlfriend, Juliana. These two couples may meet nearly as soon as school starts, but this kind of romance generally needs time to flourish. In addition to the rapid fire romance and Arena beating up bullies, little of an educational nature occurs at school. It isn’t clear if this is a symptom of the disintegration of their society or just the way of life in 2053.

Arena barely connects to most of the other students or any of the teachers which is probably good since they are all destined to die horribly and she doesn’t seem to particularly care. Neither will most readers. Only a few of these characters have names and the majority of these people are mere place-holders. The urban setting of a town that is supposedly ‘poor’ also lacks credibility. In The Hunger Games, readers love Peeta because he burns the bread, then throws the damaged loaves to Katniss who in turn uses them to feed her little sister. Here, the foster parents manage to not only provide nourishing meals for Arena and her brother, they also have enough food to feed guests despite the severe economic downturns. Everyone subsists on credits provided by the government, but it isn’t clear if their foster parents are paid to care for Arena and Gabriel or somehow manage on their own.

Arena displays yet another flaw in the way she holds other girls in contempt. Again, there is little to choose from between these stereotypical teens and their interests, i.e. clothes, make-up, boys. It is a bit of a stretch because if everyone truly struggles with everyday survival and their town continues to crumble to pieces, how can anyone afford to buy anything new, much less flaunt it? The soldiers who maintain order and represent the totalitarian government are a different set of placeholders. As a brutal mob, they rape women and children, pillage through the town, slaughtering the men and teens. Their horrendous abuses become more difficult to believe when the story continues, especially when this fictional American military would rather torture and kill their own citizens before defending their country from the attacking Russians.

Often dystopian fiction portrays a battle between good and evil. In the Last Light Falling series, it becomes a case of evil versus evil. There is little to choose from between Arena and her allies as the civilized world slowly dies. The measured pacing of each book emphasizes the hopelessness of the situation. Mr. Plemons definitely knows the Biblical story of Armageddon, but Arena’s constant harangues of how terrible America has become will exhaust many readers and her lectures often slow the action, although since this has numerous, gruesome scenes of rape, torture and slaughter, that’s not all bad. In addition her lack of compassion and inability to show mercy as well as the constant episodes of violence and gore may prove difficult to overcome.

Reviews provided by Shannon Kennedy for her column Shannon’s Space in the Jan 2016 edition of The Book Breeze.

Review: WARRIOR KIDS by Michael J Bowler

With the ever-increasing popularity of The Hunger Games, the Divergent series and even The Giver making it to the ‘big screen’ as well as flying off bookstore shelves, dystopian young adult and new adult fiction comes in all shapes and sizes. Some is highly derivative, with clichéd heroes battling tyrannical authorities or oppressive governments, but many titles are truly impressive.

WarriorKids-PosterWARRIOR KIDS by Michael J. Bowler

Create Space Publishing, October 2015 ~ 4 Stars

Blurb: The future looks bleak unless eighteen-year-old Lance and his New Camelot Earth Warriors can save the planet from catastrophic climate change. Spurred by twelve year-olds Billy, Enya, Itzamna, and his ten-year-old brother, Chris, Lance creates a branch of Earth Warriors, a youth-led movement designed to save the earth from its greatest enemy – greed. His involvement leads to Earth Warrior crews springing up all across America. Millions of kids leap into action, paralyzing the country and alarming the rich and powerful.

Having adopted his father’s philosophy of doing what’s right, rather than what’s easy, Lance makes serious enemies when he calls out New Camelot donors who represent fossil fuel or other polluting industries, and then barely escapes a series of “accidents” designed to kill him. When he challenges the United States Congress to step up and act immediately on the climate crisis, the attacks on him escalate. With the majority of America’s kids on his side, Lance and his young Earth Warriors prepare for the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris, where they will call upon world leaders to stop talking about sustainability and start acting on it. But whoever wants him dead isn’t giving up. Will Lance and his crew live long enough to even get to Paris?

Review: This entertaining novel has an ensemble cast of young characters working together to make a difference and will undoubtedly engage most middle-grade audiences. While it has a few elements from the Arthurian legends, such as the mythical sword, Excalibur, the majority of the plot revolves around saving the world from pollution. Chosen by the sword, the new King Lance guides his mostly pre-teen warriors to step up and lead by example, reusing and recycling whenever possible. Using social media to connectwith a larger audience, other youngsters join this crusade, the latest in Lance’s battles. Occasionally, Lance refers to a previous engagement, probably detailed in an earlier book that gave kids more rights than those enjoyed in our society.

Since they have ‘civil rights’ and can choose where and how they live, it means they can answer Lance’s call to action when he confronts Congress and asks for controls to save America from the increasing perils caused by pollution. When sixty-million kids stop talking, it creates an impressive impact. This silent protest doesn’t stop them from emailing their representatives, so they’re not really quiet, are they?

As the group continues their strategy to stop pollution and the use of fossil fuels, the danger escalates for Lance. His enemies plot to destroy him, figuring this will also destroy his organization. However, the younger set is fairly adamant in carrying out his goals. For the most part, the characters are well defined and it is easy to tell them apart, although Enya is the only young girl who plays a strong part in the organization of New Camelot.

One of the major flaws in the book is the single-minded passion to save the earth. Yes, that is important and shouldn’t be downplayed. However, all the characters seem so united in this pursuit that they have few other interests. In addition, Lance spends all his time with this younger, middle-grade crew. Doesn’t he have any friends who are his age? If not, why not? We hear in some of his speeches that he does draw followers who are his age, but the reader doesn’t have the opportunity to see them in action. And we should!

In addition, could there be more description? One of the best scenes in the book happens when Lance takes his young warriors on a camping trip and they enjoy the opportunity to see huge trees and pristine streams. Despite the few shortcomings, this book provides important messages about climate change and making a difference in the world.

In an interview with The Book Breeze in October Indie Author Michael J. Bowler had this to say about WARRIOR KIDS.

It’s a standalone sequel to my Children of the Knight series. This one deals with the environmental crisis and climate change. I’m making the eBook free to all educators to share with their students. Teachers can purchase the paperbacks from me at my cost or from the publisher through their schools. The themes and messages in this book are important and very timely – the finale takes place at the 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties in Paris this past December. As a teacher, I seldom found supplemental books that would entertain my students and also educate them about important issues, so I decided to write one.

Review: MAGIC BREW: EDGE CHRONICLES

Magic BrewMAGIC BREW: EDGE CHRONICLES

By T. Rae Mitchell

New Adult Urban Fantasy / Released Sept 2015 by Original Mix Media 300 Pages

Lace up your tennis shoes for the non-stop action in MAGIC BREW as the supernatural gang the Forsaken battle to get back to their own turf after a summit meeting goes south.

Nineteen-year-old Edge is second in command of the gang of throwaways. Everyone is on edge when a meeting of all the gangs is called but betrayal occurs when someone tries to offer up Edge as a sacrificial lamb to gain power.

This story has everything – action, romance, and death, all seasoned with secrets. Well written with vivid characters T. Rae Mitchell delivers a well-crafted story that I hope leads to a series.

Review: THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

This si Where it EndsTHIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

By Marieke Nijkamp

YA / Released Jan 5, 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire, 288 Pages

I don’t think there are many things more terrifying than a school shooting. THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS immerses the reader into the minute-by-minute terror from the viewpoint of four students over the span of 54 minutes. What added to the terror was the fact that it was all over before the police could even mobilize.

I didn’t walk away with any insights as to how a kid could shoot other kids. Only that sometimes things happen that causes a fracture in someone that isn’t seen until it’s too late.

Superbly told, this tale will haunt you. I couldn’t put it down even though there were times I just wanted it to stop. I have often referred to a book as a “must read” but THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is more of a read if you dare.

Review: THE DIRT ON NINTH GRAVE

Dirt on the Nineth GraveTHE DIRT ON NINTH GRAVE

(Charley Davidson Series Book 9) By Darynda Jones

Paranormal Romance / Released Jan 12, 2016 by St. Martin’s Press, 337 Pages

I was very excited when I was asked to review this book. I absolutely love this series. Book 8 was incredible. I told friends that “Darynda Jones really knows how to escalate a story.” Heavens, we even found out the story behind Mr. Wong so I anxiously awaited Book 9, excited to see what happens next. I was underwhelmed.

Book 8 ended with a very powerful scene and Charlie getting amnesia. Dirt on the Ninth Grave begins with Charlie working in a diner as Janey Doerr, with no sense of who or what she is. She is surrounded by her friends, though she doesn’t remember them, they are there to protect her as they wait for her memories to return.

I enjoyed meeting Osh, Garret, Reyes, Cookie and Uncle Bob through fresh eyes. Ms. Jones’ wonderful sense of humor and masterful storytelling is still present but by the time I was half way through the book it was just a little too dejavu. I was ready for Charlie/Janey to remember and move the story forward.

Maybe if Book 8 had not been so incredible I wouldn’t have felt so let down but I did. Will this stop me from continuing with the series? Hell no! I am anxiously awaiting Book 10 – THE CURSE OF TENTH GRAVE coming out June 2016 especially since THE DIRT ON NINTH GRAVE ended on a very ominous note.

Mystery Reviews

Long winter nights are good for cozy mysteries… here are a few for a good night’s read.

51w3y3ccz4L._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_Christine Husom has a new series, centering on a curio shop specializing in snow globes. The first in the series, SNOW WAY OUT (Berkley, 2015, $7.99) Cami Brooks has returned to her old home town in upstate New York after being involved in a distressing scandal, to open a new store and a new life. She’s making a good start, but life gets more complicated when she finds the body of the town troublemaker with a knife in his back, right after her first snow globe making class. Things get more confusing when snow globes appear and disappear from the shop. Is the addled Vietnam veteran responsible? Or is there something more sinister going on? Past sins come to light, long-lost brothers are united, and the guilty are punished, in this slice of small-town life. Instructions for making a snow globe are included

51H19P2pVzL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_BITE THE BISCUIT, by Linda O. Johnston (Midnight Ink,2015,$17.50) also features a new shop, this one featuring healthy treats for dog. Carrie Kennersly works as a veterinary technician at a local clinic, but she’s always wanted to have her own business. Now she’s opening The Barkery, as an annex to a local bakery, and it looks as if her dreams are coming true… that is, until a rival pet store owner arrives at the opening and makes it clear that there will be only one pet store in town! When the rival is found dead, with one of Carrie’s trademark dog buscuits nearby, it looks as if the rivalry has taken a nasty turn. It’s up to Carrie to find the killer, while keeping her own pets in line and providing treats for the canine population of Knobcone heights, CA. There are red herrings a-plenty, and Carrie goes on several wrong trails before confronting a most unlikely killer. Recipes for dog-friendly treats are included.

510-Hb9yOhL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Deirdre Verne’s DRAWING CONCLUSIONS (Midnight Ink, 2015, $14.99) takes us to the darker side of the mystery world, as Constance “CeCe” Prentice searches for the truth about her brother Teddy’s death. On the face of it, Dr. Theodore Prentice’s death was an accidet, triggered by his eating a cookie containing an allergen, but the police decide that it’s murder, and for some reason, CeCe is next on the list. The answers lie in the research institute funded by a mysterious Balkan entrepreneur, headed by CeCe’s father, where CeCe’s brother discovered the terrible secret behind their experiments. CeCe’s skteches are important clues in finding the killer, whose motives are as warped as his experiements. Not an easy read, but a compelling one.

51jrdcRFjIL._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_In a lighter mood, CATNAPPED!, by Elaine Viets (Obsidian, 2015, $7.99) is another case for private eyes Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont, now happily married and living together in Palm Beach, FL. A tearful socialite wants them to get her beloved cat out of the hands of her soon-to-be-ex-husband. It looks like an easy job, but then the husband turns up dead, and the cat is missing. Helen takes on yet another “dead-end job” as a cat groomer, while Phil checks out the dead man’s background. The sleazy side of cat shows gets exposed, and so does a thoroughly nasty murderer. Another great entry in a long-running series.

Weber--A Killer Retreat CoverMore pets take center stage in A KILLER RETREAT, buy Tracy Weber (Midnight Ink, 2015, $14.99). Yoga teacher Kate Davidson takes Bella, the temperamental German shepherd along when she’s given an offer to teach at an exclusive resort. Trouble starts early, when Kate and her boyfriend Michael run afoul of one of the guests at the resort, whose unleashed dog sets Bella into a frenzy. Bella isn’t the only one; this woman manages to insult or distress everyone in the place. It’s not surprising that she turnes up dead; unfortunately for Kate, she has no alibi for the time of the murder. There are plenty of other suspects, all at cross purposes, and Kate finds herself fighting off the least likely of them at the edge of a cliff, before the murder is solved, and Kate resolves some of her personal issues. Plenty of character, and oddball characters, in this expedition into the Northwest. DON’T MISS OUR INTERVIEW WITH TRACY WEBER IN THE JANUARY 2016 EDITION.

Reviews provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings for the December 2015 edition of The Book Breeze.

New Releases

FINAL COVER  SILICON BEACH (2)SILICON BEACH By Davis MacDonald / Thriller Mystery Released Jan 12 by author in print and ebook

Attacked on Santa Monica Beach. The Judge has made more than his fair share of enemies over his ten years on the bench. But this came out of the blue…or did it? So starts the Judge’s desperate search along the boardwalks of Venice, through the swank bars and restaurants of Santa Monica, the yuppie ghetto of Playa Vista, and the sex clubs of West LA as he relentlessly pursues adversaries who threaten him — and anyone who gets too close to the secrets buried in Silicon Beach. All the while the Judge must try to negotiate the compromises required to maintain his new marriage to a woman 20 years his junior, and come to terms with the child she carries. As the Judge closes in on his adversaries and the body count continues to mount, he finds his new bride and the child may become collateral damage in this deadly contest with conspirators who risk all to win all on Silicon Beach. Follow the Judge as he upends public reputations, turns out private obsessions, confronts the power brokers of Silicon Beach, and unearths a secret so vast it threatens to overturn an entire industry.

DivineDIVINE Montana Dreams Book 1 By Cait Jarrod / Released Nov 23, 2015 by author in print and ebook

Matt Carson and Trina Lovett befriend each other during turbulent times at a young age. Over the years, their friendship strengthens building a strong, unbreakable bond. At least that is what they believe. Life choices put an ocean between them, and the depth of their bond is tested. Under the stress of being apart, heart-wrenching events leave them plagued with doubt. Danger forces them to make irrefutable decisions about what they want from life.