Monthly Archives: September 2011

Book Review – The Judas Syndrome

The Judas Syndrome – After the Apocalypse…

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Michael Poeltl
Format: Kindle, Paperback

After weeks of planning, Joel and his girlfriend Sara, along with their group of teenage friends travel hours away from their rural hometown for a weekend of camping and partying.  Miles from civilization and off the grid, they enjoy their reprieve from everyday life.  But once they begin their journey back, they find no cell service and the radio stations are nothing but static.  As they arrive home, they realize the unimaginable has happened.  Nuclear weapons have been unleashed on the world and life as they had known it is forever over.

Michael Poeltl’s “The Judas Syndrome” is a look into what happens to a group of friends who must rely on each other for survival after the end of the world.  This is a bit of a cross between “Mad Max” meets “Lord of the Flies”.  Poeltl does a masterful job of describing the conditions one might have to endure in such a horrible situation as well as the way each character degenerates as a result.  This is a troubling novel that reminded me a little of Stephen Kind’s “Under the Dome” in its character study.  This first novel in the series focuses in many ways how the worst comes out in each of the characters.  The next novel in the series – Rebirth – is almost the opposite bringing out the best in most (but that is another review).  There are some supernatural elements that occasionally appear here which give the novel an extra dose of intrigue and amp up the creepy factor which enhance the mood.  Unfortunately, these aren’t resolved at the book’s conclusion which was a bit frustrating but fortunately they return and evolve nicely in book 2.

“The Judas Syndrome” was one of those books I just couldn’t put down.  Told from Joel’s first person perspective, Poeltl does a nice job conveying the complexities of all the characters which is occasionally challenging from this perspective.  If you like book one like I did, you’ll like book 2 even more.  “The Judas Syndrome” is $2.99 on kindle.

Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – The Christmas Gift

The Christmas Gift – A Wonderful Gem!

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author: John McDonnell
Format: Kindle

As Constance sat at the beautifully appointed holiday table, she once again found herself the center of the neighborhood girls’ attention.  Of course, being the most attractive and coveted doll in the house, this was a familiar position.  Enjoying her perch, a sudden commotion in the kitchen pulled her mistress away.  Moments later her mistress returned with a filthy street urchin in tow.  Suddenly, Constance found herself handed over to the young girl who mercilessly pawed at her with her grubby hands.  Just when Constance thought it could not get any worse, her life changed forever.

John McDonnell’s detailed and wonderfully textured descriptions of early twentieth century life, rich characterizations, and juxtaposition of the wealthy versus the destitute vagabonds engrosses the reader into a portrait of depression era America.  Hopping the rails, working for food, and finding happiness in life’s simple pleasures transport one to a harder but in some ways simpler time.

“The Christmas Gift” tugged at my heartstrings evoking a number of emotions.  Its simple yet touching messages lingered with me long after finishing the final pages.  This and a wonderful feeling of nostalgia it induced are what prompted me to give this five stars.  I really enjoyed this short story.  “The Christmas Gift” is $4.99 on Kindle.

Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – Gleaming White

Gleaming White – Vampire Romance

Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Author: Terra Harmony
Format: Kindle

Never staying in one place for any period of time, Isabelle travels with her mother staying one step ahead of the evil that stalks them.  Generations of her family have been plagued not only with a unique disease, but because of it, her kind are made irresistible to those that had taken her sister – Gabriella – whose death years earlier still haunts Isabelle.  Her hope is to not suffer the same fate.  All is well until one night Isabelle finds herself surrounded by a gang of young vampires.  Just before they are about to strike, an Elder vampire – Xavier – saves her from the pack.  Their shared attraction is immediate, unquenchable, and dangerous as both face a future that could destroy both of them.

Terra Harmony’s, “Gleaming White” is a short quick read.  Another offering in the vampire genre, this novel is a little more adult than most of its young adult contemporaries given its more intimate passages.  I was a bit frustrated with Isabelle’s somewhat helpless “fatal attraction” to Xavier, but I did, none-the-less enjoy Harmony’s take on the vampire elders and their responsibility for humanity.  I also enjoyed the interesting and engaging backstory of Isabelle’s family as well as the events which caused her sister’s demise.

Gleaming White is a good read and at only $0.99 is quite a bargain.  Harmony’s writing and characters are engaging and the twist at the end gives readers a nice satisfying treat.

Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – Mordred

Mordred – The Next Generation in Arthurian Legend

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Greg Downs
Format: Kindle

After the brutal slaying of his father and capture of his mother, Mordred vows to exact revenge on all those involved including King Arthur himself.  Hunted by Arthur’s knights and the evil wizard Gnimu whose abilities include morphing himself into hideous creatures as well as commanding the forces of darkness, Mordred allies himself with Vivien – one of the witches of Avalon – to both stay alive as well as potentially alter the very future of Camelot.

Most Arthurian legend novels I’ve read take place during the rise and early reign of Arthur.  Some, like “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend” and “Sons of Avalon” explore the early lives of some of the other key characters in this genre.  “Mordred”, by John Downs, takes the reader many years into Arthur’s reign where the old king struggles with maintaining his power and influence without the aide of his confidant and advisor Merlin.  All the while, some of those closest to him plan his very demise.

Downs wonderfully paints his tortured characters and their possible paths to redemption while keeping the overall pace quick relying on the relentless pursuit for Mordred as the novel’s main story arc.  Magical creatures, sorcery, and epic battles add to the intrigue rounding out this complex world.  I enjoyed this interesting take on a well tread genre.  Mordred is fresh and well written and at only 99 cents on Kindle is a must read!

Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – Clouds of Darkness

Clouds of Darkness – Book Three in the Epic Space Saga

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Jeff Caminsky
Format: Kindle, Paperback

The Crutchan war against the ever advancing Terran forces hinges on taking out one Terran commander whose strategic battle genius decimates them at every turn and in every battle.  One young Crutchan subaltern – Fa’Shenali – is assigned the impossible, to get inside the great Terran commander’s mind by studying his battles and actions, to discern his motivation and his strategies and perhaps crack “the Beast’s” secrets.  But even if he is successful, will his Crutchan superiors listen to an inexperienced subaltern or choose to be blinded by their own desires and perhaps loose the war and their people?

Jeff Caminsky’s “Clouds of Darkness” is the third offering in the “Guardian’s of Peace” series.  Having not read the first two books, I was a bit overwhelmed during the first sections of the book trying to keep all of the characters, races, planets, organizations, and historical battles in context.  Fortunately, the author provides a bit of an index summary at the beginning and once the first major battle sequence begins things fall in to place nicely.  Having said that, I would encourage others to start at the beginning of the series if possible.

Though I choose to write my opening summary from the Crutchan’s perspective, the novel’s central character is Roscoe Cook, the commander for the Terran forces that so vexes the Crutchan military.  Cook is a bit of an outcast with his own people given he chooses to live outside of the politics and hierarchy of the military and instead be a bit of a rogue leader who goes with his gut breaking the rules in James T Kirk type fashion.  Unfortunately, his brilliance is overlooked by those threatened by his effectiveness as a leader and Caminsky sets up an interesting power struggle within the broader story.

Weaving an intricate plot of politics and greed, Caminsky conveys his tortured characters in beautifully written prose.  However, my favorite parts of this novel were the space battles and strategic maneuverings demonstrating Cook’s prowess at using the enemy and their shortsighted desires as a lever turned back on themselves exploiting their weakness.  The climactic ending is more than satisfying while setting up the foundation for a great final chapter in the Saga.  Overall, an engaging book whose finale I look forward to.

Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.

Book Review – Six Cats in My Kitchen

Six Cats in My Kitchen – A Memoir

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author: Lyn Horner
Format: Kindle

Anchored by six cats that entered her life during pivotal moments, Author Lyn Horner’s Memoir is a touching, funny, and enlightening novel that even a dog lover like me enjoyed!

In “Six Cats in My Kitchen”, Horner describes how each of these cats entered her and her families lives whether they were strays, bought from a pet store, or replacements for other lost cats.  Each of their wonderfully unique personalities comes to life as Horner describes their foibles, their gifts and on how each helped her through critical junctures including a major life move from the Midwest to Texas, and the diagnosis of her daughter’s disease that she inherited from Lyn.

Cat lovers will certainly relate drawing on their own experiences to appreciate how each of these independent yet loving animals helped the Horners through some of their most challenging times.  Through her prose, Horner’s love of life, cats, and wonderfully engaging humor comes through in this high energy memoir.  Reading Horner’s story is like chatting with a best friend over coffee on a Sunday afternoon – few things in life are better.

An accomplished romance writer, readers can also enjoy Horner’s fiction novel – Darlin’ Druids – a five star novel!

Available on Kindle, Horner’s books are a great bargain.

Note: A complementary copy of this work was provided in return for a review.