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BigAl

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Winter Arrives: Secrets in the Snow, Episode 1
Winter Arrives: Secrets in the Snow, Episode 1
Price: 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Winter Arrives, 5 July 2014
Dickens did it. Stephen King has done it. So I understand that the serial, an episodic series with the full story released a small chunk at a time has a long history and is making a comeback, at least in part because the economics of the ebook market make it more viable than with paper books.

I’m not a fan of the serial for a few reasons. One is a tendency for cliffhanging endings. (Thankfully, that’s not the case with Winter Arrives.) Another complaint I have is that although each episode tends to have a story arc of its own, whatever conflict is brought to a conclusion in a particular episode usually pales in comparison to other story threads that are left unresolved, leaving me wanting more and, if I’m reading the episodes as they’re released, leaves me frustrated.

However, not all readers are the same. I’m sure some enjoy the anticipation of the release of the next installment. For those readers (or someone like me, after the full series is out), Winter Arrives is a promising start.

The main character, Jude, is someone I like and want to see things work out for her. The setting, a ski school in a winter resort town, is unique with many qualities that make for interesting characters and situations. In this episode Jude is thrown into a tough situation, having to hire employees and get the ski school ready to open for the season. Her husband has always done this, but he’s working out of the country and can’t get back in time. This episode takes Jude through this experience, up to when the first flakes of snow start falling. Thus far, it’s a good story with how Jude manages to get the school ready to open as the big conflict while setting up additional conflicts  what’s really going on with her husband anyway?

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


The Spark
The Spark
Price: 1.21

4.0 out of 5 stars The Spark, 5 July 2014
This review is from: The Spark (Kindle Edition)
In The Spark, firefighter Donny Robertson becomes obsessed at getting to the bottom of what really happened in a suspicious fire that injured Danny and killed his Captain. Answering his questions turns out to be more than he bargained for, with a high price to be paid before reaching his goal.

The thriller aspect of the story was good, but what stood out for me even more was the day-to-day life of the firefighter. Not only the hours or days of boredom interspersed with minutes of terror, but the workings of the fire station and camaraderie between the fire fighters. A page turner, with more than a touch of human interest, too.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


The Redesign of Tomorrowland
The Redesign of Tomorrowland
Price: 3.25

3.0 out of 5 stars The Redesign of Tomorrowland, 5 July 2014
I’m not sure what to make of this book starting with the most basic (what genre is it) and continuing on to the actual content. The author calls it literary fiction, but it could just as easily be called science fiction, speculative fiction, maybe even fantasy, although it doesn’t fit what a reader would expect to find in any of those all that well either. I think there is even a case to be made for calling it non-fiction (not 100% of every non-fiction book is literally true, right?)

The premise is that the author has “redesigned” Tomorrowland at one of the Disney properties with rides, shows, and other attractions that show or teach us about where the world is headed, at least in the opinion of various experts or the author’s interpretation of them. At various points a “ride” covers different topics in science, technology, and politics.

The goal, as I’ve interpreted it, is to provide an easy introduction or exposure to ideas and concepts that most people need to understand better, and whet their appetite. Maybe even inspire them to investigate more, prepare for the changes, and possibly take action to encourage a change in course. The goal is laudable, but the execution didn’t work for me. The plot device of the redesigned Tomorrowland felt forced much of the time and too often got in the way of understanding the point the author seemed to be trying to make.

Using fiction to provoke thought and possibly inspire people to reconsider the direction the world is heading as part of a story is nothing new and if done well can have a positive effect. (Orwell’s 1984 is one obvious example.) But in The Redesign of Tomorrowland, there isn’t really much of a story. Ultimately, what fiction was here only served to obscure the facts, while doing little to make the learning more palatable.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


THE MISSINGS
THE MISSINGS
Price: 2.54

4.0 out of 5 stars The Missings, 5 July 2014
This review is from: THE MISSINGS (Kindle Edition)
A police procedural with some twists.

Don’t confuse the fictional Aspen Falls with Aspen, second home of the beautiful people. If it really existed, it wouldn’t be too far away geographically, but much different culturally. Populated largely by middle and working class families, Aspen Falls might be Anytown, Colorado.

When Chase Waters, a detective for the Aspen Falls police, realizes the mutilated bodies showing up around the area aren’t typical murders and are almost surely related, he starts digging, soon discovering there may be others not yet discovered. The main story kept me guessing and even when I was sure what was happening, I was invested enough in the characters to wonder how Water’s was going to figure it out. Meanwhile, a few secondary story threads added depth, both to the characters and the tale. By the time we get to the climax, the case has struck closer to home than Waters would have ever anticipated.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


Rock 'n Roll Heaven
Rock 'n Roll Heaven
Price: 1.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Rock 'n Roll Heaven, 5 July 2014
Shawn Inmon’s first two full length books, while written to read just like novels, were actually autobiographical, telling the same true story, but from two different points of view. Rock ‘n Roll Heaven is Inmon’s first full length story where he didn’t know the basics of the story’s plot and all about the major characters going in.

I was happy to discover that he can still tell a good story, even when he has to make the whole thing up. The idea of a “Rock and Roll Heaven” isn’t new. (You, like I, probably have heard that they “have a hell of a band.”) But integrating that germ of an idea into a story with more meat than a three or four minute song is, well, another story. One that I thoroughly enjoyed. Part fantasy, part rock and roll adventure, Rock ‘n Roll Heaven also has some important lessons about life and priorities.

I often say that for many (most?) readers, hearing about the writing process is like a visit to the sausage factory, the route to finding out things you’re better off not knowing. However, the much longer than normal author’s note at the end of the book, telling the history of how this book came to be, was one I found to be an interesting and entertaining read in its own right.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


Right Click (Click series Book 3)
Right Click (Click series Book 3)
Price: 1.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Right Click, 5 July 2014
As the description says, this is the third and final book in Becker’s “Click” series. As with the rest of the series, the book is done as a series of emails amongst a core group of friends with the character Renee as the main participant or focal point. After I finished I started thinking about this technique: its positives, negatives, and the ways this makes the book different.

With this format, some of the things an author should normally try to limit or avoid aren’t going to be as big of a deal. One example is the adage to “show, don’t tell.” It still applies. The words one character uses in an email to another should mostly demonstrate (show) what they’re feeling so that we’ll read between the lines, but that same character can also get away with spelling out exactly how they felt or telling their interpretation of how another character reacted. The key is to hit the right balance between using the same story telling techniques as in a more traditionally formatted novel while not going so far as to make the emails lose credibility as emails. Becker hit this balance.

I also found the email technique worked for me because I do so much via email. I think most of us do. But for anyone who is non-tech savvy and doesn’t use email or only in a limited way, it might be a tough read.

As with the rest of the series, I found the story funny, entertaining, and realistic. The interplay between the characters that was possible because of the format was amusing and, just as I’ve done, sometimes a character forgets who else is copied in on their response, stirring up a touch of conflict between friends. Although I’ll miss Renee and gang, Becker didn’t leave me wondering where the characters go from here, and brought the series to a satisfying conclusion.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


Long Live the Suicide King
Long Live the Suicide King
Price: 3.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Long Live the Suicide King, 5 July 2014
Compared to the average teenager, Jim “JD” Dillinger has it good. If someone tweeted his complaints about life, I’d expect to see a #firstworldproblems or even #richsuburbankidissues hash tag accompanying it. However, teen angst, depression, and wondering about the point of life can happen to any teen. Suicide knows no boundaries and logic isn’t part of the equation.

My biggest concern with reading this book was that it might be too much. For anyone whose life has been touched by suicide (I’m guessing a whole lot of people) it’s a serious subject. A story that deals with the subject has to have dark moments. Long Live the Suicide King is dark at times, but this is offset by lighter, humorous moments and never felt too heavy to me.It’s subtle in making points about choosing life over death while never feeling preachy. An excellent read, not just for its young target audience, but for adults as well.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


Desecration (London Psychic Book 1)
Desecration (London Psychic Book 1)
Price: 2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Desecration, 5 July 2014
I’d previously read J.F. Penn’s Pentecost, the first book in her Arkane thriller series, and was struck by how both this book and that one combined history and obscure (at least to me) areas of knowledge with the action happening in contemporary times. Although each book is very different, they both kept me off balance and constantly guessing where the story was going to go. That’s one of the main things I look for in a thriller. It’s hard to get excited if you know what’s coming.

I got drawn into the struggles of the protagonist, Jamie. Not only in solving this case, but her personal life. Thriller readers should find Desecration well worth their time.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


Blueblood (Marty Singer Mystery #2)
Blueblood (Marty Singer Mystery #2)
Price: 2.92

5.0 out of 5 stars It was never a good idea to get between a predator and her prey, 5 July 2014
For being retired, Marty Singer is sure staying busy. With his Marty Singer character, Matthew Iden has a detective that will appeal to police procedural fans but is more complex than most in this genre. By virtue of being retired and his investigations being unofficial or off the books, Iden has a bit more leeway in what Singer can get away with while remaining credible. That his cases are not just doing his job seems to draw me in, getting me more invested in Marty’s cases, too.

As with the first of this series, I found this installment to be well written with a gripping plot, plenty of tension, and lots of mystery. Sometimes there was even a touch of humor, as in these lines:

I hung back to make room for a trio of twenty-something girls to pass, their eyes glittering with the prospect of shopping. It was never a good idea to get between a predator and her prey.

Blueblood should appeal to fans of police procedurals and anyone who likes a good mystery.

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


Binds That Tie
Binds That Tie
Price: 3.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Binds that Tie, 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: Binds That Tie (Kindle Edition)
Wow. What a ride.

Thrillers are often described as plot driven because the plot is the most important part of the story. Character development matters, but not as much as in other genres. Binds That Tie almost felt character driven, yet was still clearly a thriller. The main characters, Chris and Maggie Stevens, along with some of the more important second-tier players, have current problems, past histories, and a few skeletons that have been shoved into the dusty corner of the closet. The characters are complex and their characteristics, especially their past, drives the story more than in the typical thriller.

The twists and turns of the story kept me guessing as events start to spiral out of control and just get worse and worse. I couldn’t figure out what was going to happen or what I wanted to happen as I struggled with some questions. When is the right thing wrong, and really, what is the right thing here?

**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **


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