Sunday, March 30, 2014

The werewolf that kills for a reason... and the book that tells the story!

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy to review of "Revenge of the Wolf" from Wyatt Michael, which is set to be released April 9th, 2014.  Michael puts a new spin on an old tale, and originality is key if you are going to tell a story in a genre that has been covered multiple times. 

It is set in London during the 1800's and a string of murders has the town on edge and Police Commissioner Howe is putting everything at his disposal to catch the culprit.  But is he looking for man or beast?

With each murder, Howe keeps finding clues about the killer.  However, with each step forward, the case turns from being grisly police work to something much more personal...

I don't want to go into too much detail about the plot so that I don't inadvertently give away any spoilers.  This novel is very complex in the number of characters, backflashes, and plot turns that are involved.  However, it is the complexity that makes this an enjoyable read instead of putting the reader to sleep.

If you are a fan of horror, this book has you covered.  If you like thrillers, well that's in there too.  Romance?  No, this isn't Twilight....  and that's really not a bad thing.  For once, the "monsters" do what they do best - strike fear and terror into people and kill them instead of falling in love with them.  It's nice to get back to the basics in that regard!

I highly recommend "Revenge of the Wolf" and this author.  This book has me wanting to read his first book, "The Whaler Fortune."  I am a fan of stories on the sea - and this topic with this author has me intrigued!


-  The descriptions of the settings were very detailed and the plot was solid.  
-  I like the fact that this isn't the run of the mill werewolf story repackaged - it actually takes the idea and uses it in an entirely different fashion.  
-  Grammar and spelling were no issue at all - which is always a blessing!
-  The plot revelation was not too early and not too late, the author had a great sense of timing in this regard!
-  I am entirely jealous of the author's video, which he said he made himself!  I am sure it took a great deal of time, but the result was worth it!


-  There are just a couple of scenes that had me waiting to see where they would come back into play later on in the book to see where they fit in, but they never did.  In a way, though, it served to add to the mystery aspect of the book.  It kept you guessing as to where things were heading.

Amazon Link to book           Goodreads Link           Barnes & Noble Link

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gain insights from masters in their field in “Destiny Defining Decisions: 11 Best-Selling Entrepreneurs Reveal their Greatest Success Secrets”

“Destiny Defining Decisions:  11 Best-Selling Entrepreneurs Reveal their Greatest Success Secrets” by Aleks George Srbinoski is a wonderful collection of insights from 11 Entrepreneurs – each one that highlights a different skill or thought.  The book is made up of interviews that Srbinoski conducted as part of a radio show, as well as insights, activities to follow, and even virtual “gifts under your chair!”  (You’ll have to read to discover what they are!)  Each interview follows the same pattern, which I found to be a very nice way to section off the book as well as a very logical approach. 

What I found interesting is that Srbinoski chose one question and asked all of the people he interviewed the same question.  This approach made it very easy to compare and contrast the responses, which I think was excellent because you didn’t have to wade through a huge narrative to get right to the “meat” of the book – the author sets it up, and then slams it home. 

The question he asked was “what was the thought process behind the best life-changing decision you've have ever made?”

Srbinoski also finds a common theme that he discovered was found in all of his interviews – and that was that each person mentioned that they had to overcome fear to be successful.  The “fear” that they had to overcome presented itself in many different ways, but each one had their own method of conquering it.

Srbinoski is kind and thoughtful enough to include an extra interview at the end of the book.  This interview doesn’t ask the question that was asked in the other ones.  Srbinoski explains that this interview happened before his started gathering his material.  However, he felt that the interview was so powerful and touching that it just had to be included.  I think this was definitely the correct call, and I would like to personally like to thank the author for sharing the extra interview with the audience.

I know I didn’t get into specifics in this review about the material, but that is honestly because I don’t feel that I can relate in a short review what Srbinoski so poignantly presents. 

While this book’s title would make you think that the audience is for Entrepreneurs only – there is wisdom and golden nuggets spread all throughout this book.  What I really appreciate is that the author doesn’t try to hide them by coming across as overly professorial and talking over the reader’s head.   

I highly recommend this book for everyone!

Amazon link

Monday, March 24, 2014

"The Lady Astronomer" shoots for the stars - and gets there!

“The Lady Astronomer” by Katy O’Dowd was my first foray into the world of “Steampunk.”  For the first time visiting that genre, I feel fortunate that Katy O’Dowd was my tour guide. 

In case you didn’t know what Steampunk is here is the dictionary definition:

a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy featuring advanced machines and other technology based on steam power of the 19th century and taking place in a recognizable historical period or a fantasy world.

Now that we have that covered, let’s get right into “The Lady Astronomer.”  Lucretia is a young woman with a lot on her plate – hatmaker, de facto lady of the house to her two brothers, owner of a lemur and owl, and an expert astronomer to boot.  Pretty eclectic chick!

Things were going fine until the King commissions her brother to build a Forty Foot Telescope, one of the largest ever conceived at the time.  They move, settle into their new home, and problems start right away.  But the problems that Freddie, Lucretia’s brother, is having isn’t the King’s problem.  The King’s problem is costs have gone over budget and Freddie keeps hitting him up for money.  So now the King needs to decide – should I lop off Freddie’s head or might there be some other way to light a fire under him.

I really enjoyed this book.  I am very fortunate to have gotten a good one to introduce me into this genre.  Katy O’Dowd did an excellent job of building up the novel’s world and getting the reader to actually care about what was going on without being overly descriptive.

Strengths of the book – O’Dowd does an excellent job of getting the readers to actually “care” about the characters.  Of the reviews that I read for other books, this is one of the more frequent complaints.  That doesn’t happen here.  The plot is interesting and there were enough different things going on to hold my interest and keep me guessing.  There were no glaring spelling or grammatical errors, even though the publisher points out that the author is from Ireland and the spelling of some words were left in their Irish form.  Maybe I am part Irish then, because I didn’t see any.

As far as weaknesses – the pace of the book is very good, but getting to the main story took just a little more time than I would have liked.  At some points, as O’Dowd was building up her characters, we were given insights that didn’t come up again at any point in the book (violin playing & hat making come to mind).
Overall, I am giving this book five stars.  If you want to open up yourself to the world of Steampunk, this is an excellent novel to get acquainted with.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Jokers & Dandies by Sharon Schuler Kreps

Everyone remembers the 1970’s for their own reasons, but you’ll never forget the 70’s after you’ve seen them through the big brown eyes of a whimsical little southern girl.  “Jokers & Dandies” takes you on a journey across the Deep South with a girl named Sharon, best known as Sharebear, and her lovable family. Daily life for her quickly turns into wild adventures and unexpected surprises. Typical middle child, she’s forever getting picked on by her evil older sister and mothering her two little brothers. She takes it all in stride and learns a few life lessons along the way.

Whether she’s staring at her uncle’s mass of bushy body hair, or watching her great grandmother, Nu-Nu spit snuff juice into a baby food jar, Sharebear will entertain you with her silly point of view and quirky sense of humor. Her oddball observations combined with an active imagination creates a coming of age story at will have you laughing, crying and begging for more. 

Click here to find it in our Corner ebook store!

not a review - paid ad.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"The Experiment" has a hypothesis with many twists and turns

Since the beginning of time, man has looked to the skies and asked, "Is there anyone else out there?" We always seem to assume that we are the most intelligent beings in the solar system because we have travelled to space and haven't found anyone there to greet us yet. What if we were to discover that we are not alone in the universe, but that the reason the other alien races haven't contacted us is because they view our people as too aggressive, as well as too primitive?

"The Experiment," by Cristian A. Solari is a work of science fiction that delves into these questions, albeit using a planet other than Earth - but it isn't a stretch to see the similarities. The people of the planet Origin are being observed as an experiment by all of the creatures of The Confederation, a kind of utopian country club of various alien species who all live in harmony according to their Constitution. Only those species of sufficient intellect are allowed membership into this exclusive group, because to do otherwise may upset the self-created utopian network. The problem: the preintelloids of Origin have managed to discover hyperspace travel well before they have evolved enough to gain membership through intellect.

The confederation is left with two choices - terminate the experiment (preintelloids included), or risk the possibility that they successfully travel via hyperspace and basically "infect" the whole universe (they happen to reproduce at a frequent rate!). But there are always more options that present themselves and a little thing called "randomness" (alien-speak for Murphy's Law) has a say in things.

The complexity of the novel may well have been difficult for any novelist to pull off, but Solari does an admirable job (especially considering this is his first novel). I wasn't quite sure that I was going to enjoy it, but about halfway through I was hooked.

Strengths of the book: Originality. This book was not a repackaged reboot of a well known story. The author brings a fresh view to the question "are we alone?" I really enjoyed the fact that much of it was told through the point of view of the superior aliens. There were many points in the book that I thought I had the ending figured out, only to be proven wrong. I was also afraid that I was going to be disappointed by some sort of political tree hugger message - but thankfully the author didn't go there. Not that there was a lack of message in the book, it just wasn't shoved in your face - and the reader can take from it many different meanings, depending on what they were looking for.

Weaknesses: I feel this book could have used another round of editing and proofing. The book picked up quite a bit in the second half, but I think that trip to get there could be shortened without losing anything. There were a few misplaced words and names that were spelled differently from previous uses, but it wasn't enough to detract from the story. There were times when some of the dialogue was difficult to tell who was "speaking" (the quotes are because the dialogue was actually telepathic communication, so I can't say what the correct way to present it would be - but at times I had a hard time who was thinking what)

All in all, I enjoyed this book. Hopefully Solari has more hypothesis' to "Experiment" with.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Barking Benjamin - All Bark, No Bite (Not a slam - you gotta read the book to 'get it')

Don’t let the headline fool you – it’s from one of the many “movie posters” featuring Barking Benjamin from the book by Gareth Barsby.  You don’t understand?  Well, buckle your seatbelt because Barsby is going to take everyone who reads this book on a wild ride.

I first want to point out that I was drawn to this book because of the subtitle “Kids’ stories not for kids”.  Ok, dangling the hook, I am checking out the bait….  Then I get to the description and it talks about Red, home invasions by talking alligators, and magic rings.  And the thing that pulls it all together is that they are all being “observed” by a dimension hopping cartoon dog named Barking Bejamin who is a little hacked off that the “reboot” of his movie pretty much sucks.

Confused?  So was I.  Curious – I just had to….  And you know what – it somehow all made sense to me when I read it by the time I got to the dancing camel.  I am a sucker for camel characters – it’s a weakness.  Barsby manages to weave in and out of stories like a grandmother knitting a scarf at breakneck speeds. 

What I really admire about the character “Barking Benjamin” is that he is definitely not a fan of the current Hollywood trend of “rebooting” movies.  Did we really need a newer version of TRON?  Don’t even think of touching “Escape from New York”!  Some things are just better to leave be and appreciate them for what they are – minus the computer graphics and all.

You see, sometimes I wonder if there is anyone who writes anything original out there anymore.  Well, I found probably the most unique book in my hands while reading this book.  Don’t let the “Kids’ stories not for kids” make you think you are getting a more grown up version of “Red Riding Hood.”  You want boring and a reboot – then Barking Benjamin is going to be paying you a visit. 

This cartoon dog don’t play that game!

If you like alternate worlds, unique books, with a dash of strange - this is the perfect book.

Amazon Link:  Barking Benjamin

Monday, March 3, 2014

War Songs: These poems transport you to the middle of the Vietnam War

I bought this book not really knowing what I would be getting, but I was very intrigued by the idea.

What I got was a book of poetry that was so obviously written by a person who was baring their soul that the emotions almost seem to leap from the pages. For me, I would have to believe the act of writing this book took almost as much courage than what was displayed by the author during the times of the experience. At the end, there is an essay that describes somewhat of what I went through during the brief conflict I was involved in with the Marines - "When the capacity of a person to feel is shut down to avoid an overwhelming experience, the process is systemic."

You could feel the detachment of feelings in some of Grady Harp's works, but mixed with that was the knowledge that while it may have been easier and more convenient for a person to keep these emotions hidden and bottled - Harp took the path less traveled and not only let the emotions come, but also gave them a voice through his poetry.

Read this book, and that voice that sings the "War Songs" will ring many different tones in your ears, mind, and soul. Thank you, Dr. Harp, for finding, and freeing,the voice inside of you to sing. We owe you, and all those who served in Vietnam, a debt of gratitude for the blood, sweat, and tears that - unfortunately - were the instruments in the song's creation.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hollow City: Nothing "Hollow" About This Book!

"Hollow City" from Ransom Riggs picks up the "Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children" story and moves it forward with the same writing that made me just fall in love with Riggs' first book.

What is so refreshing about these two books is the originality of them.  I was just complaining to a friend that everything seems to be a remake or a reboot these days.  One would have a difficult time coming up with anything even comparable to Riggs' books.

Not is the story original, but the story of how he came up with the story is awesome as well.  Riggs is a collector of "peculiar" photographs.  He used these photographs to help him create his story, but fortunately for us "normals", Riggs shares the photographs in the book as the story goes along.  He claims that they are not photoshopped at all, which makes them even more amazing if true.

The band of "peculiar" children are being led by a boy named Jacob, who only recently discovered he was a "peculiar."  His peculiar ability (each peculiar has a different one), is that he can sense the Wights and Hollows that seem to come straight from an H. P. Lovecraft Cthulu nightmare.  The ending was not predictable to me in any way (my wife will tell you I don't pick up on clues very well - but that's another story), and the reader will be waiting until Spring 2015 to see how things ultimately conclude.

The book was full of action, and it was one of those books that I made sure that I carved time out of my day to sit down and devour, errr - I mean enjoy.  And it did not disappoint!

Two small things - I enjoyed the first book immensely, but I had a difficult time remembering the who, what, and where's of it when I picked up the second book.  Riggs does a nice job with some pictures at the beginning of the book, but a short little refresher at the beginning would have been great.

Also, while there were more pictures, they didn't seem to be anywhere near as original as the pictures used in the first book.

Those two things aside, I highly recommend reading the books - then you can tell everyone how much better the books were than the movie - because this is certainly going to be made into one.