Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reprise Review: The Cookie Dumpster / Shana Hammaker


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Memoir

Approximate word count: 8,000 words

Availability
Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Shana Hammaker is the author of the Twelve Terrifying Tales for 2011 series, where a different short thriller is released each month. We have reviewed the first three of these.
Follow Hammaker on Twitter.

Description:

At seventeen, Shana Hammaker was a street kid named Denise.

During the time she spent homeless, living on the streets of Santa Cruz, California, Denise experienced a rough and wild life. Longing for the comfort of home, she found it, in the dumpster at Pacific Cookie Company.

Appraisal:

There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith


Although an overused quote, to the point of becoming clichéd, anyone who has tried writing of any kind also recognizes its truth. It applies to almost any kind of writing. Red Smith was a sportswriter, which doesn’t seem that personal, yet all writing, even something as easy as a review, can still feel this way. It is one reason authors sometimes react emotionally when someone doesn’t like what they’ve written.

In The Cookie Dumpster, it feels like Shana Hammaker sat down at her new-fangled typewriter and opened an artery instead. She gives us a glimpse into the people and culture of the homeless, a situation most of us can barely imagine. Hammaker’s writing voice or tone seemed different from her fiction, somehow more personal. Maybe this is something I imagined, or possibly that she is telling her own story rather than acting as a go-between for her characters made the voice more authentic. In many ways, this is a story of contradictions, of highs and lows. It is a story of freedom from many of society’s norms and of slavery to the requirements of survival. Ultimately, it is a story of overcoming obstacles.

If The Cookie Dumpster has any faults, it is that I wanted more. The period covered starts and ends at logical and natural points for the story Hammaker wanted to tell. But I can’t help thinking there is a prequel and possibly a sequel with much different, although just as compelling, stories to tell.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.


Rating: ***** Five stars

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reprise Review: The Time Travel Journals: Bridgebuilders / Marlene Dotterer


Reviewed by: Michael Thal

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: 90-95,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: YES  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Author, geologist, chef, and frustrated gardener, Marlene Dotterer writes “to silence the voices” due to her obsession of other worlds and other times. Born in Tucson, Arizona, she migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1990 with her five children. Her writings include The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Moon Over Donamorgh, and Worlds Apart. Keep an eye out for the third book in this series, Time Travel Journals: Honor System.

Description:

In 1977 Sam Altair, fresh out of graduate school, learns he has inherited the life work of Dr. Sam Altair, an older version of himself. The older Sam transported back in time in 2006 with Casey, a young coed, to 1906. It was a physics experiment gone awry, and it created a new universe. From the older Sam’s notes, the help of Jamie, and Sarah Andrews, Casey’s descendants, Sam constructs a bridge back to the future and the original Sam’s universe

Appraisal:

In this exciting sequel to The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilders, Marlene Dotterer brings us its sequel, The Time Travel Journals: Bridgebuilders. In an easy reading fluid style we learn how Casey and Sam affected their new universe in positive ways. The universe they left behind is ruled, in 2080, by an oligarchy headed by the Sun Consortium. The earth is dying, individual freedom is but a memory, and many of its citizens work secretly to overthrow the shackles of their government’s tyranny. To add to the mess, scientists uncover neutrinos, a signature that a race of beings may be invading their world.

The invaders are Sam and Sarah testing their invention, but when they crossover to the First Universe a hundred years in the future, they are in for an unwanted surprise.

Whether you read Dotterer’s first novel in this series or not, Bridgebuilders is a wonderful science fiction thriller revealing the evils of religious zealotry, the effects of global warming, and the triumph of reason over fear.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reprise Review: B-Sides and Broken Hearts / Caryn Rose


Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Literary Fiction

Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words

Availability
Kindle US:
YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
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Author:

A writer and photographer, Caryn Rose writes about baseball and music. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her boyfriend and Jackie Wilson, her cat. For more, visit her website.

Description:

The email said, “Joey Ramone is dead.”

At thirty-seven, Lisa Simon is still passionate about music. When one of her teenage heroes dies, she re-evaluates the direction her life is headed.

Appraisal:

B-Sides and Broken Hearts should have universal appeal for its main story line, with the protagonist, Lisa, faced with a major life decision, and forced to decide what is important to her. While the specifics may be different, the struggle is one most of us have faced.

However, for me, the most significant message is the power of music. If you’re like me, there are songs that can lift you up and those that will put you into a funk, while others take you back to a specific time, place, or person. An idea epitomized midway through the book by this paragraph.

How can this happen? How can a song that meant so much to me when I first heard it at fourteen, a song about dreams and hope, suddenly mean just as much right now, suddenly the words apply exactly to my life twenty-two years later? And how can it affect me in the same way, how can it lift me up, transport me, elevate me, inspire me, give me meaning and, well, hope?

On her website Rose says her goal was to “write the woman’s version of High Fidelity.” (A book by Nick Hornby, later made into a movie starring John Cusack.) Rose said she, “wanted to read a book where a woman could like music as much as a guy and not be called a groupie or be told that she sure knew a lot about music for a girl.” I think she did it. Rose knows a lot about music for anyone, regardless of gender, and this knowledge permeates the pages of B-Sides and Broken Hearts. The music geek will love this book for that reason as it smoothly integrates mentions of songs and bands from big (The Rolling Stones) to relatively obscure (I’ve heard of Eddie Spaghetti and his band, The Supersuckers, have you?) If you’re not a music fan, B-Sides and Broken Hearts is still a good story, but if you are, it is a can’t miss.

FYI:

Some adult language. Limited and mild sexual situations.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and other proofreading issues.

Rating: ***** Five stars

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reprise Review: Strictly Analog / Richard Levesque


Reviewed by: Pete Barber

Genre: Science Fiction

Approximate word count: 75-80,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Richard Levesque has spent most of his life in Southern California. For the last several years he has taught composition and literature, including science fiction, as part of the English Department at Fullerton College. His first book, Take Back Tomorrow, was published in 2012, and he has followed it with other science fiction and urban fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories..

Description:

California has won the war and is controlled not by a government of the people, but by Cal-Cor, an all-powerful corporation that controls information and whose shares are the only trading currency. Cal-Cor develops new technology that will deliver not only total control to information, but also to the minds of everyone who is plugged in. Lomax, a private detective, gets pulled into the mix when his daughter is accused of murdering a key Cal-Cor employee.

Appraisal:

I skipped my normal selection routine for this book after I read the opening sentence: “I was dreaming about Las Vegas when the ferret woke me.” Yup, no contest, I was all-in.

This was a fun read. Told in first person, Lomax, our main character, is a cool guy carrying a lot of baggage. The world Mr. Levesque builds, set in some not-too-far future, is a believable extension of modern-day American. The States have gone to war. California won and is where the party is. The other states are where you get shipped to if you screw with Cal-Cor--the corporation that runs the Sunshine State.

Lomax lost the use of one eye in the war of independence, which prevents him from operating iyz. Iyz are a potential extension of Google Glasses. Everyone who’s anyone wears them to stay connected. The Iyz hook to the web, and information is projected from the iyz to the user. Images and information are manipulated using two thimble-like devices. Some folk even have their finger controllers embedded. Because our hero has only one eye, he can’t operate iyz, so he’s digitally impaired—hence the title of the book, and the name of his detective agency—Strictly Analog.

I love sci-fi that builds worlds populated with interesting social and technical possibilities. Here are a few concepts I particularly enjoyed:

Lomax and many other people can only afford to live in one of those storage facilities where you rent by the month to store your surplus junk. His front door rolls up.

All purchases are made with ‘shares’ on a card—no money, honey.

He may be analog-only, but he uses a banglight to save his daughter when she’s attacked by a gang of thugs—illegal, and no bigger than a lighter, this neat device sends crippling pain through a pair of iyz—handy if you don’t wear them.

Cars are all electric, but they come with noisemakers to simulate an engine, or perhaps a purring cat, or roaring tiger.

And, of course, iyz. And therein lays the plot, because some techno genius has developed a better and more direct way of communicating and controlling everyone who uses them. Finding this renegade sucks Lomax into a vortex where his teenage daughter’s life is at risk. Lomax may need to go digital to save her.


Format/Typo Issues:

Too few to mention.

Rating: ***** Five stars

#Free for your #Kindle, 1/22/2015

The author of each of these books has indicated their intent to schedule these books for a free day for the Kindle versions today on Amazon. Sometimes plans change or mistakes happen, so be sure to verify the price before hitting that "buy me" button.


The Picture of Cool by Laurie Boris




Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn




The Princess, the Pea, and the Night of Passion (Passion-Filled Fairy Tales Book 1) by Rosetta Bloom



Author's interested in having their free book featured either here on a Thursday or a sister site on a Monday, visit this page for details.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reprise Review: A Day in the Life of Jason Dean


Reviewed by: Keith Nixon

Genre: Crime Fiction

Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words

Availability    
Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: NO
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

Ian Ayris has had a love of writing since childhood and has had some forty short stories published, most recently a novel, Abide With Me. Ian is currently studying for a degree in English Literature. He lives with his family in Essex in the UK.

Description:

Jason Dean is going to have his worst day ever. First, he has to collect some debts. Then he has to kill a man.

Appraisal:

This is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. There, I’ve said it. And I’m not taking it back. I’ll explain why…

We wake up very early one morning with Jason, he’s in bed with his wife who loathes him but we’ve no idea why. He tells us he’s going to have a very bad day, in fact Jason must have one of the longest faces in literature. He’s truly unhappy. Whilst having some food and a coffee in perhaps the worst café in the world Jason reveals he’s got to collect some cash for a local hard man, Micky Archer, then kill a guy.
Jason goes to see Micky to find out the names of who has to pay. In an incredible scene, the two hard men argue about Wagner and Shostakovich of all things. It transpires that Jason, despite living on one of the worse estates in the country (which Ayris deftly paints, a perfect backdrop) is extremely well read (although not well schooled which comes over in the narration).

Jason proceeds on his debt appropriation mission with mixed success, including witnessing a suicide. Whilst walking around this hellhole dealing with the locals, the hard man treats us to insights on the classical music he listens to, the books and poetry he’s read, and how they make him feel. Like Sylvia Plath and the parallels she draws to Jason’s life. It’s totally at odds with the person we’re reading about, adds real dimension to Jason’s character, and throws his surroundings into stark contrast. He doesn’t want to be who he is, but Jason feels he has no choice. He doesn’t want to murder a man, but he must. Another brilliantly written scene.

Throughout the story, Jason is also thinking about his daughter, Sophie. Towards the end of the book he reveals why he has such a heavy heart in a truly emotional, heart-wrenching scene. I really wish I could tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. It completely caught me out and brought everything to a well thought out conclusion.

The characters, besides Jason, are excellent. I particularly like Micky. Finally Jason’s monologue and the dialogue are both excellent, for example the classical music argument:

I know he’s only kiddin, cos we been mates for years. But it don’t make it no fuckin easier sittin here in his comfortable three bedroomed semi, drinkin tea out of a china cup and listenin to him bangin on about fuckin Wagner, whilst at the same time he’s beratin the fuckin genius of Shostakovich…

‘Nietzsche was right,’ I says, quiet, sort of under me breath.

Micky’s eyes start to bulge. He puts his tea down.

‘What did you say?’ he says, leanin forward, squeezing his eyebrows together.

The pair then proceed to fight over Nietzsche’s interpretation of Wagner - this incredibly rough, violent pair arguing over classical music and philosophy having discussed debt collection and murder.

And back to the beginning. This is a superbly written novella. I can’t find a fault anywhere with it. One of the best stories I’ve read. Ever.
Ever.

FYI:

Adult language, some scenes of violence.

Format/Typo Issues:

None.

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reprise Review: Oracle of Philadelphia / Elizabeth Corrigan


Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin

Genre: Fantasy

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Availability   
Kindle US: YES UK: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: NO Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords store

Author:

“Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.”

For more, visit the author's website.

Description:

Carrie’s story is unique, she can not only read your mind she can see and read your soul. She had been damned by the actions of others thousands of years ago and the only reason Carrie wasn’t burning in Hell was that her ka, or life force, was unable to separate from her body. Her soul had been sold to Lucifer, and he is quite proud of his prize. After a several millennia Carrie finally finds a soul pure enough to fight for. Sebastian is not seeking redemption; he sold his soul for the greater good and is willing to pay the price. Carrie takes it upon herself to find a way to renegotiate his contract with the demon Keziel. To do this she must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.

Appraisal:

Elizabeth Corrigan did an excellent job developing her characters and she has taken minor liberties with some myths to make a more entertaining story, however she has tried to keep historical accuracy. I believe she succeeded. Carrie’s story is unique and I could appreciate how she lived her life. She has two long time friends who check in with her, the first of these is the demon Bedlam. He truly is chaos in the most fun way and he is not a bad guy. Here is the way she describes their first meeting:

I detected neither the sanctimoniousness of the angels nor the malicious cruelty of the demons. Instead, I felt a spiral of rotating emotions that left me dizzy enough that I had to put my hand against a stone pillar for a moment to steady myself… The man’s current emotional state similarly seemed to lack any center, though it cycled around guilt, confusion, anger, and a firm desire to be distracted from those three emotions…

Bedlam says:

“Okay, so here’s my problem. You know how sometimes you start doing something, and it seems like a good idea at the time, but then suddenly there are dead bodies everywhere, and you’re not quite sure how that happened?” …

I would love to be able to share the story here, but Bedlam rambles, then continues with:

“Now, let me say right here that it was all supposed to be a joke. I really didn’t expect them to take it quite so literally. These were people who held on to their religion through generations of persecution and slavery. And a gold cow? Their religious texts say that God made them in His own image, so I thought they’d be pretty quick to dismiss that one.” “Not so much?” I asked. He shook his head.

Through all the years Bedlam has been a true friend to Carrie and has done everything in his power to protect her. Her other true friend is the earth-bound angel Gabriel who has stolen her heart, but he seems to love her no more than the rest of mankind. The story is fast moving and highly entertaining with a lot of thought provoking material. It was a fun roller coaster ride while it lasted. It would be very interesting to see how this journey affects the rest of Carrie’s existence.

Format/Typo Issues:

My review is based on an advance reader copy of this book, so I’m unable to judge this area.

Rating: ***** Five stars


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