Thursday, October 30, 2014

Twinkle

Twinkle by S. J. Parkinson
CreateSpace: 7/29/2014
eBook, 572 pages

ISBN-13: 9781500536473
sjparkinson.com

In the newest book from award winning author, SJ Parkinson, The richest man in the world wants to celebrate the July 4th holiday as never before. In a bid to get into the record books, a global fireworks show is staged from orbit. Satellites drop pyrotechnics into the atmosphere, thrilling everyone from the Arctic to the Antarctic with their rich colors and massive explosions in every time zone.
The next day, people around the globe begin to lose their sight. Governments crumble, society degenerates, and infrastructure falls into chaos. Humanity finds itself stumbling in the dark and losing all hope.
A few fortunate individuals retain their vision. Attempting to deal with the growing despair around them, they come together to discover the true purpose and origin of the affliction. They race to find a cure before the world is subjugated under an invading power.
My Thoughts:

Twinkle by S. J. Parkinson is a very highly recommended thriller which incorporates a military novel with science fiction.

Sir Marcus Brandon is a multi-billionaire and acknowledged as the richest man in the world, so when he decides to spend a large chunk of his fortune to promote his new Global News Network, GNI. "Global News International will speak the languages of more than half of the globe’s population of seven billion. GNI will also broadcast through the Internet with subtitles and text feeds in several other languages. This will truly be the first global news service, and broadcasts will premiere tomorrow, July fourth.”

The show Brandon promises to celebrate the launch of GNI is truly something spectacular and worthy of his hubris.  He announces to the world that starting over Shanghai at ten p.m. their time, "pre-positioned satellites will drop fireworks from orbit. As the Earth rotates, each time zone will see the same show, beginning at ten p.m. I’m assured that the light show will be unlike anything ever seen before. We’ll be setting three world records in the process. It’ll be the largest and most expensive pyrotechnic show ever staged—and the first firework display staged from orbit.”

As promised, every hour a different time zone experiences a fireworks display that fills the whole sky with a never-before seen display. People across the globe are out watching the display. At the same time a more nefarious plan is being put into action. See, Brandon took bids for his one-of-a-kind display and the Chinese won the bid to put the show into orbit. Unknown to Brandon it was also the perfect opportunity for them to put into action a planned invasion.

In a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist party, a member declares, “Sun Tzu once said, ‘To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.’ As we execute this endeavor, we should keep this in mind. I find it amusing that this ignorant Englishman is not only providing us with a perfect cover for delivering our warheads, but also paying for the operation in its entirety.” But he goes on to make it clear that they, the Chinese, will be essentially launching an attack against the whole world, although they will publicly be complaining about North Korea.

So, while national defenses around the world become less attentive as they continually detect the heat signature of a missile taking off somewhere every hour the fireworks display goes on, forces in the USA notice "a twentyfold increase in chatter from several Chinese military units along the North Korean border. At the same time, we have activity at several large airports in the Hubei, Henan, and Jiangxi provinces." It seems easy to believe the aggression will be between China and North Korea - until the real problem becomes clear.

The next day, after the fireworks show (where the #twinkle crashes twitter) everyone who watched the show loses their sight. And the Chinese launch a massive invasion of the USA. It is now up to a few people to try and stop the Chinese and find a cure for the mysterious blindness.

At the beginning, with everyone who was watching the nighttime show being blinded, Twinkle really reminded me of The Day of the Triffids. This isn't a bad thing because I love all movie/tv versions of the novel. Don't allow yourself to stop there and stereotype Twinkle as a sci-fi novel based on a well-known previous work. From that point, Twinkle takes off on its own direction. There are a large number of characters and stories that eventually dwindle down and converge into telling what is happening with a few characters.

I found Twinkle to be a perfect thrill-ride of escapism that should especially appeal to those who like military fiction. On a personal note I appreciated the fact that S. J. Parkinson doesn't "incorporate overt sex, profanity, or extreme violence in any of my writing. I prefer the story to be the main focus..." Bravo and well done! The actions of the characters and the story certainly were the focus and it made for a gripping novel. This is a stay-up-all-night-at-the-airport book!


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author for review purposes.



Virtual Author Book Tours 







Monday, October 27, 2014

Born into the Children of God

Born into the Children of God by Natacha Tormey
with Nadene Ghouri
HarperCollins: 10/28/2014
eBook, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780007560325
Natacha Tormey was born into the infamous religious cult known as The Children of God. Abused, exploited, and brainwashed by ‘The Family’, Natacha’s childhood was stolen.
Born to French hippy parents attracted to the religious movement by the unusual mix of evangelical Christianity, free love and rejection of the mainstream, from an early age Natacha was brainwashed to believe she had a special destiny – that she was part of an elite children’s army bestowed with superpowers that would one day save the world from the Anti-Christ.
Torn away from their parents, Natacha and her siblings were beaten on a daily basis and forced to sing and dance for entertainment in prisons and malls. Natacha never expected to live to adulthood.
At the age of 18 Natacha escaped, but quickly found herself hurtling through a world she had no understanding of. Alone, and grappling to come to terms with an unbelievable sense of betrayal, she was stuck in a kind of limbo – confused and unable to feel part of either way of life.
Natacha is one of the lucky ones; not all of her family survived the battle to shed the shame and pain of their past. To date over 40 ex-Children of God members of Natacha’s generation have committed suicide.
All Natacha ever wanted was to feel normal, but escaping the cult was only the beginning. Shocking, moving, but ultimately inspiring, this is Natacha’s full story; it is both a personal tale of trauma and recovery, and an exposé of the secret world of abuse hidden behind commune walls.

My Thoughts: 

Born into the Children of God by Natacha Tormey is a highly recommended account of growing up in a cult and, even more importantly, surviving her childhood. 

While her parents were young hippies when they joined the cult in France, Natacha Tormey misfortune was that she had no choice or say. She was born into the Children of God cult, also known as The Family. During her childhood, she lived in a variety of communes across South East Asia, East Africa and Europe. All of the situations  she found herself in and the abuse she experienced were inflicted upon her in the name of the cult. Her childhood was stolen from her. The beliefs espoused by The Family and their leader known as King David or Grandpa are nonsensical and downright horrific.

The women in the cult were told they had to go out and practice "‘flirty fishing’ (or FF’ing), where female followers were told to go to bars and pick men up for sex with the intent of either converting them to the cause or bringing in a financial donation. FF’ers were told they were ‘God’s whores’. Posters with instructions on how to be a ‘good flirty little fishy’ were distributed." If that isn't misogynistic enough, Tormey continues later, "Grandpa also decreed that more Jesus babies should be born, and this is why he invented flirty fishing – so that God could bless us all with lots of babies. She said that within our family there were at least 300 other Jesus babies who had come to us through FF’ing."

We learn that "Grandpa David tells us there is no such thing as rape if we follow the true laws of nature. A woman of the Bible should submit willingly to a man and satisfy him. God created sex and he created a man’s need for sex. He created woman to serve a man’s need. Heaven’s Girl [a comic book showing a gang rape scene] is using this God-given opportunity to share the love of Jesus with these soldiers. She is going to love them so much that she will turn them back to the path of Jesus. She shares her love with a big smile and a song in her heart like all good girls should. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?"

So in an environment where women are slaves and sexual objects to be used, naturally it follows suit that not only were the children hit or beaten daily, with fists, fly-swats, poles and planks, they were also sexually abused. If this abuse was ever mentioned it would all fall back on the child who would be blamed for lying about the adults in question. It is sickening that many of the adults seemed to actually enjoy beating the children, let alone abusing them.

She escapes from the cult, but like many survivors of childhood abuse, that is the first of many small steps that must be taken toward recovery. She may have left the cult, but she finds herself trying to survive in a world that she knows little about and has no experience navigating.

Tormey's story is presented in a chronological manner, taking us through her childhood into adulthood. This is one of those books that is hard to read. You will find yourself getting angry that this abuse was allowed to take place and her parents, who should have been protecting her, were seemingly incapable of doing so. Ultimately it is worthwhile to know that The Family still exists and they are still abusing children. It certainly took bravery and fortitude for her to stand up and say publicly what happened to her and others at the hands of adults.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
HarperCollins for review purposes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Killer Next Door

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood
Penguin: 10/28/2014
eBook, 400 pages
ISBN-13: 9780143126690
www.alexmarwood.com/

. . . a brilliant, tightly paced thriller that will keep you up at night and make you ask yourself: just how well do you know your neighbors?
Everyone who lives at 23 Beulah Grove has a secret. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be renting rooms in a dodgy old building for cash—no credit check, no lease. It’s the kind of place you end up when you you’ve run out of other options. The six residents mostly keep to themselves, but one unbearably hot summer night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. What they don’t know is that one of them is a killer. He’s already chosen his next victim, and he’ll do anything to protect his secret.

My Thoughts:

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood is a highly recommended macabre, psychological thriller that is not for the faint of heart. 

All the six residents at No. 23 Beulah Grove in London are hiding or escaping from something. It is that kind of boardinghouse with the kind of landlord that people who are hiding prefer. Even as we learn about the secret lives of the residents, we know for certain that one of them is a killer who calls himself the Lover. The Lover is trying to perfect mummifying women.

Collette is the latest tenant. She's on the run and trying to hide, but needed to return to London to see her dying mum - not that she was much of a mother, but she's all Collette has. Residents already occupying rooms include: Vesta, a 70 year old woman who has lived in the basement apartment her whole life; Hossein, a man who's seeking political asylum in England; Cher, a street-wise, underage runaway from a social services children's home; Thomas the tedious boarding house bore; and Gerard, a recently divorced man who plays classical music 24/7. Roy Preece is the morbidly obese landlord who knows he is taking advantage of most of his tenants. He allows those who prefer it to pay cash and he, in turn, does nothing to improve the property.

We slowly learn more about each tenant, and view their lives from their perspective, including some very gory details about the consummately creepy one only known as the Lover. While this is a tense, taunt thriller, with several surprising revelations and more than one suspect, it also contains some concern and bounding between characters, which is surprising in people who stay alive by being suspicious of everyone, as well as dark humor.

This is certainly a page turner with a plot that moves along at a nice quick pace. The characters are all well developed and you will care about what happens to some of them while hoping others get what they really deserve. The Lover's identity was no great surprise for me, but the path to the reveal was definitely entertaining.

Thanks to Penguin's First to Read Program for providing my digital review copy. 

Read an excerpt


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fish Tails

Fish Tails by Sheri S. Tepper
HarperCollins: 10/21/2014
eBook, 720 pages

ISBN-13: 9780062304582

In Fish Tails, two of Tepper's beloved characters—Abasio the Dyer and his royal wife, Xulai (A Plague of Angels and The Waters Rising)—are traveling through the scattered villages of the sparsely populated land of Tingawa. Accompanied by their young children, they seek to warn everyone of the dire ecological changes that will alter their lives and those of their children for generations to come.
The waters are rising, and will eventually inundate their world, transforming it utterly and irrevocably. Many of those born in the coming century will resemble their son and daughter—sea children who can live without land. Abasio and Xulai also hope to find others interested in adopting their sea-dwelling lifestyle.
Along their journey they encounter strange visitors from the far-off world of Lom, characters from Tepper's nine-book True Game series of novels—Mavin Manyshaped, Jinian Star-Eye, and Silkhands the healer—all of whom have been compelled by an interfering, time-traveling, rule-breaking do-gooder to perform one last virtuous act on Earth before its metamorphosis is complete.

My Thoughts:

Fish Tails by Sheri S. Tepper is a highly recommended fantasy novel with a message - alongside notable world building and character development.

Fish Tails, the official third book in The Plague of Angels series, continues several storylines and brings back numerous characters found in many of Tepper's previous novels. Specifically this time the main focus is on Abasio and Xulai and their aquatic enabled children (think merbabies). The earth will be flooded soon and become a water planet.  Abasio and Xulai's twins, a boy and girl, Bailai and Gailai, have gills, fins, and a tail for legs. They can breathe air and water - in otherwords they are the hope for the future of the human race after the aquatic apocalypse. There is a way for others to have their future children resemble the twins, thus ensuring the continuation of their bloodlines.

The problem is that Abasio and Xulai need to be careful and cautious when approaching others about the future water-world because there are sects that oppose any alteration of the body (and we are talking alterations as minor as pierced ears, let alone having children resemble merbabies.) Adding to their complications, they end up having two other children traveling with them. And then there is the griffen problem...

Most of this novel seems to be a road novel and consists of the main characters traveling and encountering problems as well as supportive people along the way. Tepper does a good job in her world building and descriptions of various despicable and misogynistic groups they encounter. There are talking animals, creatures that were made by surviving, misguided humans after the Big Kill, and a host of ignorant, unworthy bad guys. Her characters are well developed and stay true to their nature as the plot progresses and their knowledge advances.

I have enjoyed several other Tepper novels in the past, but am unfamiliar with the storylines continuing from A Plague of Angels and The Waters Rising. This may actually be to my benefit because much of the information and backstory presented in Fish Tails was new to me. Other reviewers have found way too much repetition in this novel. I enjoyed the world building and the character development. 

Admittedly, Fish Tails did go on and on and on a bit too long for me. Note that at 720 pages it requires a commitment - I was good with most of it through the first half but began to grow a bit weary toward the end and wanted things to pick up, the writing to tighten up, and the action to advance forward.  I should also mention that some readers may find Tepper's underlying message in the novel objectionable.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of HarperCollins for review purposes.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 10/14/2014
eBook, 416 pages

ISBN-13: 9780544262287
claireprentice.org/thelosttribeofconeyisland/

Readers of Erik Larson will love this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream: A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Island’s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.
The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.
Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island  is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.
My Thoughts:

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice is a very highly recommended nonfiction account of Truman K. Hunt's use and abuse of a tribe of Filipinos, specifically Igorrotes, who were brought to America in 1905 and put on display at Coney Island’s Luna Park. As Prentice points out, "Ultimately, this is a story of a hero turned villain that makes us question who is civilized and who is savage." 

Although in the end only Hunt and the fifty-one Filipinos who traveled with him to America knew the precise details of everything that transpired between them, it is safe to say after reading Prentice's remarkable account that the Igorrotes were degraded and essentially became slaves to Hunt's greed. The fact that Hunt brought human beings from another culture to America and then was allowed to put them on display was in and of itself nauseating. Adding insult to injury was the fact that he stole and cheated them out of the compensation he said he would be providing to them.

"Savage or innocent, noble or childlike. The Igorrotes were like one of the distorting mirrors at the Coney funfair. How they were portrayed reflected the views of those looking at them more often than it gave a true picture of the Igorrotes themselves." ( Location 1653) Hunt insisted that they kill and eat a dog daily for the "show" even though dog was not a main staple of their diets.

"The sacrifice of a dog was an important Igorrote custom and, though they were reluctant to say anything at first, some of the tribe felt the daily dog feasts at Coney were undermining their cultural significance. Not only that, but their bodies couldn’t digest all of the meat that they were being given. On behalf of them all, the tribal chief approached Julio [the interpreter] with a request that they be allowed to return to a more varied and authentic diet of chicken, pork, fish, rice, beans, and vegetables, with occasional servings of dog." (Location 1257) This authentic portrayal of their diet, of course, would ruin the show Hunt wanted to put on and profited greatly from. 

It was really an embarrassment that the Human Society kept turning up to investigate complaints about the treatment of animals in the context of the Igorrotes. Here was a group of people who were brought to America, being taken advantage of, being treated like animals, and "living in squalor and being forced to put on a degrading show for the public and the only complaint this party had was about the treatment of the dog." It was disgusting that no one stopped Hunt and ended the abuse of human beings, let alone animals.

Prentice does an excellent job presenting the results of years of research and telling the story of this disgraceful side show spectacle. It is much to her credit that in The Lost Tribe of Coney Island all the information she uncovers is disclosed in a sympathetic and informative narrative that is nicely paced. It certainly held my attention right to the end, although it did have me shaking my head over what people will do to others. While this is a difficult book to read in terms of subject matter, it is a well-researched account that is presented in a very accessible format and should appeal to a wide variety of readers.

Prentice includes any additional information she has uncovered about the people involved in an Afterword. The book also includes: Acknowledgments, Notes, a Bibliography, Illustration Credits, and an Index.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes.
TLC Tour






Monday, October 20, 2014

The Unforgivable Fix

The Unforgivable Fix by T. E. Woods
Random House: 10/14/2014
eBook, 300 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345549280
Justice Series #3
www.tewoodswrites.com

Detective Mort Grant of the Seattle PD has finally decided to sell. The home where he and his late wife raised two kids feels too large and too full of old memories. His son is married and raising a family of his own, and despite desperate efforts to find her, Mort has lost touch with his wayward daughter. That is, until the day she walks back into her childhood home and begs for his help.
For the last four years, Allie Grant has been the lover—and confidante, confessor, and counselor—of one of the world’s most powerful and deadly men. But a sudden, rash move has put Allie in the crosshairs of a ruthless Russian crime lord. Mort knows of only one place where Allie will be safe: with The Fixer. 
As a hired desperado, The Fixer has killed twenty-three people—and Mort was complicit in her escape from the law. She has built an impregnable house, stocked it with state-of-the-art gear, armed it to the teeth, and locked herself away from the world. But even The Fixer may not be able to get justice for Allie when real evil comes knocking.

My Thoughts:

The Unforgivable Fix by T. E. Woods is a not-to-be-missed, very highly recommended third installment of the Justice series, which features The Fixer.

Wowza! I unabashedly love the Fixer. The series by T. E. Woods begins with The Fixer followed by The Red Hot Fix, and now the latest, The Unforgivable Fix. The synopsis tells followers a modicum about what's happening with this third book of the series (Mort trying to move on and his wayward daughter, Allie, returning), but let me just clue you in that there is a bit more happening that will throw you for a loop, twist things up, and send every nerve in your body longing for The Fixer to get to work again.

It is good to see Lydia Corriger, a clinical psychologist, returning to work. While opening her practice again, she is asked by a friend to take on the task of providing a Ph.D. student some clinical experience. While her relationship/friendship with Mort is shaky, at least it's still there. Mort surprises her by introducing her to his long-lost and up-to-no-good daughter, Allie. 


Allie will likely annoy every fiber of your being, but just go with it because Lydia is experienced enough to read her like a book. In the end, though, even Lydia can't anticipate every move Allie is planning to make, especially when Lydia's distracted by the outcome of the therapy sessions her grad student is holding.

Now that I've declared my love of the series, I have to add the disclaimer that my feelings are based on reading all three novels in order. I'm not sure if I'd just jump into this third novel without having at least read the first novel for background information. My advanced reading copy didn't have a synopsis of the first two books, so I don't know if the final version will include that, but it will be worth your time to read the previous books. Woods is an excellent writer who propels her storylines forward by keeping the pace swift and the action moving. And, yes, there are some nice plot twists added into the mix.



Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of 
Random House for review purposes.





TLC Tour


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Death in Vegas

A Death in Vegas by Christopher Meeks
White Whisker Books: 8/15/2014
Trade Paperback, 180 pages
ISBN-13: 9780983632993
christophermeeks.weebly.com


In A Death in Vegas, the president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth—and he had nothing to do with her death. While that’s being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn’t have good news. The police and FBI are against him—and his wife cannot be found. Is someone setting him up? He flees to find the answers.

My Thoughts:

A Death in Vegas by Christopher Meeks is a highly recommended crime novel in which a murder suspect becomes the investigator.

Patton Burch is attending the lawn and garden show in Vegas representing BenBugs, a company he owns that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardeners. He has hired a model, who calls herself Chatterly Langstrump, as a sexy lady-bug girl for his booth, hoping to attract business. It seems to be working, so when Patton sort of bumbles into Chatterly at a restuarant after that first day, they end up having dinner together... and end up back in his room when Chatterly is having an asthma attack and needs to lay down. The next morning, after nothing untoward happened the night before, Patton wakes up and discovers Chatterly is dead. Naturally, even when it looks like she died from an asthma attack, Patton is the main suspect.

Patton is sure that the police aren't really working on investigating who Chatterly really is, why she is using an alias, and who wants to kill her, so he goes rogue, after contacting his lawyer, and tries to run his own investigation to discover the answers. At the same time, when Patton tries to explain the situation to his wife, she doesn't believe nothing happened with the bug girl, so she takes off. The trouble multiplies when Patton discovers that the new financier for BenBugs that his wife has made an arrangement with has actually involved them in a money laundering scheme being investigated by the FBI. Hopefully he can find his wife and figure out the financing scheme too, while he's trying to discover Chatterly's identity and who killed her.

You can always count on Christopher Meeks for a well written novel; this time Meeks excells at bringing almost a farcical edge to the humor in A Death in Vegas. The comicality makes this crime novel feel more like a madcap adventure in an old comedy movie with Cary Grant, like  Bringing up Baby, or The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Patton is managing to investigate the murder and he is getting answers, but even when the action is getting tense, there is an element of humor right beneath the surface. Yes, this is a murder mystery, but you will find yourself laughing or smiling your way through this novel. (Actually, once you discover the bug girl is going by the alias of Chatterly Langstrump, you should realize that humor will have a large role in this novel.)

While I did enjoy this latest by Meeks, I must admit that Blood Drama is still my favorite book by Christopher Meeks - to date.

Thanks to Christopher Meeks for providing my review copy. As always I'm pleased to participate in a Virtual Author Book Tour too.





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