Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: The Untold by Courtney Collins

It is 1921. In a mountain-locked valley, amid squalls of driving rain, Jessie is on the run.

Born wild and brave, by twenty-six she has already lived life as a circus rider, a horse and cattle rustler, and a convict. Yet on this fateful night she is just a woman wanting to survive—though there is barely any life left in her.

She mounts her horse and points it toward the highest mountain in sight. Soon bands of men will crash through the bushland, desperate to claim the reward on her head. And in their wake will be two more men—one her lover, the other the law—each uncertain whether to save her or themselves.

But as it has always been for Jessie, it is death, not a man, who is her closest pursuer and companion. And while all odds are stacked against her, there is one who will never give up on her….

Received for review

I'm always hesitant to read books recommended by authors whose work I've loathed and this was highly rated by Elizabeth Gilbert whose books I simply cannot stand so I was not expecting good things from this. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised.

Initially I found the complete lack of chapter numbering to be more than a bit annoying but I eventually became accustomed to it, especially since the chapters were usually only a handful of pages so numbering quickly would have gotten out of control.

The story was interesting and immediately drew me in even though I was not overly fond of Jessie. Okay, I really didn't like her much at all. I certainly didn't like or respect her and would never, ever want to meet her in real life. The writing style was okay, but it rather more of a literary fiction style which made it slightly less enjoyable to read than it could have been.

Overall, this was a pleasant read and those who appreciate a strong female protagonist in a story filed with adventure should find this enjoyable and I recommend it to them. I look forward to reading the author's future works.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Skin Deep by Timothy Hallinan

The Simeon Grist private-eye novels by 2011 Edgar and Macavity Award nominee Timothy Hallinan have become cult favorites, and here is the one that started it all.

For a fee so big he can't turn it down, Simeon Grist is hired to watchdog the kind of guy he'd usually prefer to throw through the nearest window. Toby Vane is the golden boy of prime-time television, whose gee-whiz smile and chiseled features mask a dark secret that would take the shine off for his millions of adoring female fans: every now and then he beats up a woman, and almost any woman will do. When some of the women around Toby begin to turn up dead, Simeon has to figure out whether he's protecting a murderer -- or whether one of Toby's multitude of enemies wants to put him away forever. And when Simeon meets the beautiful Nana, the whole situation becomes very personal, very fast.

From the library

This series is supposed to be great for readers who love Robert B. Parker and similar authors but I just didn't see it.

The story itself is rather blah with a drug addicted misogynistic pretty boy actor and a a drug addicted washed up stripper. Yes, there were a lot of drugs in this. So, so many drugs. Too many drugs. So many drugs that I just wanted the author to stop describing all the drug taking because it was just plain getting repetitive. It got to the point where I was thinking "Really? They're popping another handful of pills? Why haven't they overdosed yet? Maybe they'll overdose this time and I won't have to read about their drug habits anymore."

The characters were bland and one dimensional. The strippers were stereotypical drug addicts who drank too much with "boyfriends" who pimped them out. No one was likable, least of all the main character, Simeon who was whiny, annoying, and condescending. Really, Dexter is more empathetic than this guy.

I'm not normally one to harp on supposed misogyny depicted in novels, but it was so over the top in this that I really must mention it. The characters (and I'm seriously beginning to wonder if the author as well) firmly believe that women are a lower class of person and are weak and less intelligent than the male characters. Approximately two of the female characters were portrayed as relatively capable, but they were also portrayed as overweight, bitchy, or lesbian. I'm not entirely sure if the author really hates women, but I'm beginning to think that he actually does after reading this.

Overall, this was mildly amusing at best and if you don't mind being hit over the head with the author's dislike of women then it's a decent enough mystery. I would never go so far as to call this good but it's tolerable. I really cannot recommend it though since there are so many other, better books out there.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Featured Book: Just Ask the Universe by Michael Samuels

Just Ask the Universe is not a book of New Age gobbledygook filled with empty promises. Angels won't fly from above and touch you while you're reading. You will not be asked to practice unusual or tedious rituals. There will be no preaching or sage advice and there will most certainly be no channeling of your inner chakras or dressing like Friar Tuck. Just Ask the Universe is a realistic guide to personal development. By creating a blueprint for self-growth and commanding your subconscious mind, the Universe will manifest all your dreams.

For over two decades, Michael Samuels has studied and methodically tested hundreds of books on self-improvement, spirituality, and the metaphysical. Just Ask the Universe accumulates the wisdom from "thought teachers" like: Wallace Wattles, Anthony Robbins, Rhonda Byrne, Joseph Murphy, Robert Collier, and Napoleon Hill, and compiles it under one unified lesson: if your thoughts are clear and in harmony with your mind and the truth of your surroundings, your life can be filled with all the richness the Universe has to offer. As a culmination from these teachings, Michael will show you how to use simple and fun techniques to create a more desirable future. This approach, coupled with real-life stories, will teach you how to achieve personal power to overcome any barrier.

Regardless of what your present circumstances might be, by following the principles in this book, you will be able to gain power over your destiny. The Universe is listening. All you have to do is just ask.

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman

In 1860s San Francisco, gold buys the best life has to offer. Without it, not even justice is guaranteed.

After serving as a nurse in the Crimea, British-born Celia Davies left her privileged family for an impulsive marriage to a handsome Irishman. Patrick brought her to San Francisco's bustling shores but then disappeared and is now presumed dead. Determined to carry on, Celia partnered with her half-Chinese cousin Barbara and her opinionated housekeeper Addie to open a free medical clinic for women who have nowhere else to turn. But Celia's carefully constructed peace crumbles when one of her Chinese patients is found brutally murdered...and Celia's hotheaded brother-in-law stands accused of the crime.

A veteran of America's civil war, detective Nicholas Greaves is intent on discovering the killer of the girl, whose ethnicity and gender render her as powerless in death as they did in life. Nicholas's efforts are complicated by Celia, who has a knack for walking into dangerous situations that may lead to answers...or get them both killed. For as their inquiries take them from Chinatown's squalid back alleys to the Barbary Coast's violent shipping docks to the city's gilded parlors, Celia and Nicholas begin to suspect that someone very close to them holds the key to a murderous conspiracy...

Received for review

I wanted to like this but I really couldn't. It's essentially a cozy mystery set in late 1860s San Francisco which sounded good but the reality was a just a mess of a feminist rant about racial discrimination disguised as a mystery.

The author seems to believe that Chinese immigrants were treated very poorly in San Francisco (because all immigrants were treated so well) and that the Irish were completely to blame for this. So she enjoys free reign in her racial discrimination was against the Irish, but according to her that's not discrimination because all Irish are charming but abusive drunks. Of course! Who knew?! While the Chinese are innocent, lovely people who were at the mercy of the big bad Irish. This alone made my stomach turn.

The horror continued with the author's feminist agenda. The characters act extremely out of character for the time period and were just frankly annoying rather than rousing any girl power feelings in me. I just outright did not like them.

The mystery itself was acceptable, but I frankly didn't even care at that point because I hated the characters so much. I found myself rather hoping that it was a murder spree and someone would go all Dexter on one of them.

Overall this was a barely acceptable read and if you enjoy reading about Irish hating feminists this would make a lovely read for you but otherwise I really cannot recommend it at all.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

Army epidemiologist Frank Slater is facing a court-martial, but after his punishment is mysteriously lifted, he is offered a job no one else wants-to travel to a small island off the coast of Alaska and investigate a potentially lethal phenomenon. The permafrost has begun to melt, exposing bodies from a colony that was wiped out by the dreaded Spanish flu of 1918. Frank must determine if the thawed remains still carry the deadly virus in their frozen flesh and, if so, ensure that it doesn't come back to life. Frank and his handpicked team arrive by helicopter, prepared to exhume history. The colony, it transpires, was once settled by a sect devoted to the mad Russian monk Rasputin, but there is even more hiding in the past than Frank's team is aware of. Any hope of success hinges on their willingness to accept the fact that even their cutting-edge science has its limits, and that the ancient wisdom of the Inuit people who once inhabited this eerie land is as essential as any serum. Frank soon finds himself in a brutal race against time. With a young, strong-willed Inuit woman by his side, he must put a deadly genie back in the bottle before all of humanity pays the price.

From the library

First, I’m not entirely sure why the author was so vehemently pro-Czar and anti-Communist but he really, really was. There was constant harping on how wonderful the Czar and his family were (with, of course, not a single mention of any of the problems with the Czar’s rule) and how bad everyone else was. I’ve really never read any fiction where the author was such a fan of a truly evil figure. It was really like listening to someone proclaim just what a wonderful and caring human being General Sherman was and how inspiring his complete destruction of the South on his infamous March to the Sea was. Apparently the Czar could torture puppies and kittens and the author would be okay with it because he’s the Czar and that makes it okay.

Oddly enough, the author seems to dislike New Englanders as much as he loves the Czar (which was particularly offensive since I’m a New Englander myself). The only two characters from New England are pale faced, gingham garbed religious zealots (one an uber bitch and one with below average intelligence who loves vampire romances) with horrific accents. Clearly, the author still believes that everyone in New England is a batshit crazy Puritan because it’s obviously still 1635 in his world.

I gather the reader was supposed to somehow sympathize with Anastasia through the portions about her “traumatic” life but, frankly, all I felt for her was complete disgust. I’m pretty sure the author intended her to come across as marginally tolerable but she really wasn’t. She was a spoiled little brat, constantly complaining about the “horrors” she had to endure (i.e. being “trapped” inside the Winter Palace after the revolution, having to endure no longer being a Grand Duchess, etc.). If I had to listen to one more word about her “poor treatment” as a prisoner (riding on a luxury train complete with staff) I might have actually thrown my iPod against the wall. She was an obnoxious, horrible creature and I was frankly quite pleased at her ultimate fate as she quite deserved it. Although, I wish it had happened earlier and she hadn’t been able to hurt anyone else with her disgusting selfishness.

The “hero”, Frank Slater, was annoying as well. He had an unfortunate “holier than thou” attitude since he thought his level of education and status in the U.S. Army made him infallible. He was irresponsible beyond belief on multiple occasions and was shocked each and every time that he was reprimanded. His arrogance truly knew no bounds. He also clearly had no compunction to actually honor his medical oath of doing no harm since he was constantly putting multiple people’s lives at stake to somehow satisfy his own hero complex. I found myself muttering “OMG, what a prick!” several times while suffering through this nightmare. By the end of the book I genuinely found myself rooting for his slow and painful death - which would not help the people who died because of his incompetence but it would have been some small comfort. If Slater is a representation of what actually goes on with the people supposedly protecting the public health in the United States then I’m certain we will all die from an outbreak.

Also included was the ever popular headstrong but beautiful female sidekick. Because she could be as irresponsible and outright dangerous as she wanted and it was okay because she was beautiful. So, the message is, “Sure, put the entire Earth’s health at risk because of your outrageous behavior but it’s okay because you’re gorgeous.”.

The reader was also problematic. I’m not entirely sure English was his native language since he felt the need to emphasize nearly every word in a sentence. Seriously, nearly every word. The flow was completely messed up by his over emphasis and the story very quickly lost whatever joy it might have had. He also mispronounced many, many words. Just outright mispronounced them. I was under the impression that there was someone at least supervising the reading of this audiobook, but clearly they were too busy on Facebook to actually do their job and listen to the performance since it was a giant mess.

Overall, I really cannot recommend this at all. The story was marginally intriguing but the characters were obnoxious at best and completely unsympathetic, and the performance was abysmal.

☆☆☆☆ = Didn't Like It

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Featured Book: Schism: The Battle for Darracia by Michael Phillip Cash

On the planet Darracia, an ever-widening social gap between its inhabitants is causing turmoil that is fracturing a once peaceful world.

Struggling with his identity, nineteen year old Prince V'sair must harness the power of the elusive Fireblade, the secret to a warrior's heart, in order to overcome his uncle Staf Nuen's lust for supremacy.

Will the energy of the Elements guide the young prince to his true destiny or will Staf Nuen conquer Darracia?

About the author:

Michael Phillip Cash is an award-winning screenwriter and novelist. He's written ten books including the best-selling Brood X, Stillwell, The Flip, The After House, The Hanging Tree, Witches Protection Program, Pokergeist and Battle for Darracia series.

Michael resides on the North Shore of Long Island. He writes full-time with his screaming kids in the background.

*This post may contain affiliate links*

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Featured Book: Have It All by Gregory Nicholas Malouf

Do you feel frustrated that you don't have the time to do everything needed each day to ensure consistent career and financial success?

Are you stressed and worn out from trying to balance your work and personal life?

Looking for strategies to overcome the constant stream of work challenges that arise?

Have It All! Turn Your Thinking Around and Find Success in 6 Simple Steps will enable you to:
  • Attain happiness and abundance in all areas of your life
  • Increase your wealth by improving your productivity
  • Replace your old beliefs, which are holding you back, with new and productive ones
  • Access strategies to handle life's challenges
  • Gain work/life balance and improve your relationships at home and work
  • Overcome self-criticism and doubt and take control of your life
  • Stay passionate and motivated for consistent results.

About the author:

Gregory Nicholas Malouf, founder of Epsilon Healing Academy, a successful Australian businessman and entrepreneur, had a traumatic childhood. He became a workaholic in order to run away from his past and allow himself to live the "perfect life," or so he thought. Throwing lavish parties, and flying all over the world. Despite running numerous businesses, all of which were successful --and even leading motivational and meditation retreats and programs for his teams-- Greg knew deep down that he was still looking at things from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. It wasn't until the hollowness of his existence caused his world to fall apart that Greg ultimately found his road to wellness and healing.

At the age of fifty, Greg realized for the first time that his priorities were misguided, that he was living a lie. Anxiety and obsessive control disorder were just two of many addictions he suffered in his life. Why? Because he had not yet been able to confront the truth of his past. Thanks to a genuine intent to experience true abundance in his life, Greg did face his past and discover the truth that had previously limited his life. Greg was an insatiable reader, studied neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and Transcendental Meditation with Thom Knoles, an internationally respected thought leader and celebrated speaker. He additionally underwent rehabilitation, intensive individual therapy and group therapy, and attended the 12 step meetings to seek a wholesome and differing approach to healing. Subsequently, in 2009, Greg founded Epsilon Healing Academy, and has since been working with thousands of people throughout the world, as a natural expression of his commitment to share the lessons he himself learned on how to liberate the mind and body, live in the present with gratitude, consciously create life on one's own terms and experience the abundance one deserves.

Greg has made it his mission to better the world through his passion of helping people explore their anxiety, challenge their fears, and reach their full potential. Today, through books like Silent, Shallow Love, and Tunnel Vision, programs like the University of Self, and other valuable tools, Greg and his incredible Epsilon Healing Academy team help people to live lives that in every way reflect who they are and what they most deeply desire.

Gregory lives in Sydney with his children and travels abroad to share his message of healing.

*This post may contain affiliate links*