Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Expired Listings - D.M. Barr



                Expired Listings is a tongue-in-cheek exaggerated look at the cut-throat world of realtors as they jostle and connive to win sellers’ listings. Set in the fictional community of Rock Canyon, Dana Black is a realtor with a few kinky secrets of her own. She likes to use empty houses that are currently for sale as places for her and her BDSM partner, Dare, to play out “scenes” that usually entail some twisted game where Dare inevitably ends up “punishing” Dana. It’s all fun and games until realtors start going missing and turn up dead. There are numerous possibilities as to who the killer could be or even what the motive may be. The author nicely weaves the characters together into one cohesive story that is fun and entertaining. Dana has trust issues due to a horrible childhood and it doesn’t help that she has the occasional black out. Dana may be the killer and the reader doesn’t really know for sure until the end of the book. She enlists the help of an attractive investigator who she has been interested in for a while but has never approached. Where does that leave her BDSM partner, Dare? That turns out to be quite a twist all in itself and just one of many that the author provides throughout the book.
                The cover of this book, although eye catching, infers that it will be sexually explicit and it does have some erotica in it but nothing too graphic. It is heavy on the BDSM aspect but for me it was just full of information. The author definitely knows her subject matter on this, right down to the language and terminology. I have always wondered how this sort of thing works as I can’t understand why anyone would be interested in it but this book explains a lot of the psychology about it. The author does provide a warning at the beginning of the book regarding the sexual content as well as some points about how realtors work. The best part about this book is the author’s style of writing. It’s fun and easy. If it weren’t for the BDSM, it may even fall into the cozy mystery category. There’s no blood and gore, just a fun and fast-paced mystery. The characters are great and easy to keep track of even though there are quite a few of them. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and fully intend to look for more to read by D.M. Barr.
                I read this on my ereader and it formatted very well.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Sphere - M. Black

                Sphere is the futuristic sequel to a previous novel that I’ve read and reviewed named Exotiqa. I really enjoyed Exotiqa and had high hopes for Sphere. Ms. Black did not disappoint. Sphere is fast paced, exciting, and quite hard to put down once picked up. The key to really enjoying Sphere is having already read Exotiqa. It’s not absolutely necessary but this futuristic world created by M. Black is so intricate and detailed that you really need to have the back story that Exotiqa provides in order to really appreciate Sphere.
                Sphere continues the story about human, Fione and her life like Flexbot friends, Pix and Maci, as they try to survive in an ever changing world where the Flexbots are becoming more aware and conscious of their feelings and emotions. Due to some horrible events in Exotiqa, Fione is no longer truly human. Instead, she is part human, part Flexbot, which is known as Humanbot. Russell Wagner, the brains behind Flexbots and the proverbial evil genius of the book, has a nasty plan that basically would result in the end of humans and Humanbots running the world. There are a lot of twists and turns within the story and the reader never really knows who to trust or who may really be part of Russell’s evil plan. The novel is set in Canada which, for me, is quite nice but it’s also not a huge part of the book. It really could be set anywhere. Place names are only mentioned a few times.
                One of the things I love about this book is how it pertains to issues being played out in the news right now in regard to racial issues. The differences between people, races being pitted against each other and different cultures trying to find ways to exist side by side are all explored in Sphere and would make for perfect reading for those in high school. The story is so entertaining that for a change students may actually want to read the required book for English class. At the end of Sphere, the author has also provided some thought provoking questions for discussion.

                I always enjoy books written by M. Black and Sphere has been added to the list. She creates amazing and believable worlds even though they are set in the future. This is a must read for dystopian lovers, whether you are a young adult or a part of the older generation. Excellent!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Pearl of the Seas - Ruth Finnegan



                Pearl of the Seas is the second book written by Ruth Finnegan that I have read, the first being Black Inked Pearl. I wanted to read Pearl of the Seas because I was interested in how Ms. Finnegan would handle a children’s book. Written as a prequel to Black Inked Pearl, this book tells the story of two adventurous children who, along with their sweet and comical dog, sail off in a log that they have found and built into a boat. They discover a land where the king bestows them with wisdom in a God-like way and there are numerous lessons to be learned by anyone reading the book. The story itself is quite a lot of fun and the characters of Chris, Kate and Holly (the dog), are playful and fun. However, the reader has to dig deep to find the actual story. It’s buried under layers of needless words that either don’t make sense or don’t add anything to the story. For example, in chapter one, page two as read on my ereader, when Kate splashes Chris with water and runs away, the description is “the splash lashed dashed bashed him.” For a child reading on their own, all of the wordiness would make them lose interest rather quickly. If this book is being read to a child, it would be received better because an adult could make the words and tone of voice fun and interesting. Eventually though, this would no longer work because the story is lost. The book is also a little too long for younger readers to read on their own. There are illustrations but not nearly enough and they are black and white. A little colour would make them much more interesting to children.
                Ms. Finnegan has so much talent as a writer and the stories are there if there was less use of unnecessary nonsensical words. I did read parts of the book to my niece and shortened it to just the story and she really enjoyed it. I read this on my ereader and it formatted well. The cover is quite lovely and colourful.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

In the Line of Fire: A Soldier's Diary WWI 1914-1918 - Teofil Tobias Reiss



                In the Line of Fire is the actual diary of an Austro-Hungarian soldier who fought for the Germans in World War I. He also happens to be Jewish. The book provides a day to day account through the years of 1914-1918. The real diary is provided, in Mr. Reiss’s own hand written German, alongside the English translation, as well as personal photographs, maps and letters. This is one of the most interesting accounts of the war that I have ever read, mainly because it gives a very human perspective not only of a brutal war but from the viewpoint of the enemy. I loved reading about how the soldiers lived their everyday lives and how they survived horrid conditions and the daily chance of being shot, bombed, or gassed. The little details that this diary provides are fascinating. I was amused to read about just how many times the soldiers were rewarded with rum or some other kind of liquor. There were also a couple of other times that soldiers from opposing sides actually mixed, once even to share a building for their wounded. As the diary progresses it’s sad to see how depressed Mr. Reiss often became. He sometimes felt that no one cared or loved him. It’s easy to see how his emotions were up and down throughout the war and the general mental assault a soldier’s mind takes during combat. It makes me very appreciative for all of the freedom I have, in large part thanks to soldiers just like him. We often forget these things and it’s for this reason that I wish this book were a part of the high school curriculum as a must read for students. This book also helps the reader to remember that even though they were the enemy, these soldiers were still human beings. The diary also gives the reader a glimpse into the customs of the time. For example, Mr. Reiss thought his future bride was a bit forward when she wanted to come see him so much. I hope he never told her that he didn’t think she was particularly pretty, even though he grew to love her very much. At the end of the book is an epilogue detailing Mr. Reiss’s many accomplishments up until his death. He definitely led a very productive and full life.
                I read the digital version of this book and it formatted very well, including the pictures and maps. The cover has a picture of the author of the diary in his uniform and certainly made me take a second look at what was inside. An excellent read!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Exotiqa - M. Black




A book should be a movie that plays in your mind as you read it and Exotiqa is a prime example of this. M. Black has created a futuristic world that is so detailed and so intricate that I found myself closing my eyes after reading a paragraph just so I could visualize all of the details I’ve just read about. The year is 2055 and the world is vastly different from what we know today. Flexbots, human looking and highly intelligent robots, are a part of the everyday lives of citizens and most homes have one of their own. It’s a situation much like the one portrayed on the TV show Humans. The majority of people are equipped with Slabs, technology that allows them to download programs and access the equivalent of our internet without any type of equipment. It’s all done with your brain. People can even text each other using the palms of their hands. The new craze is a program called Exotiqa but people who download it are starting to act strange and some Flexbots, sworn to never harm a human, are acting out across the country. Maci, one of the main characters, is an older model Flexbot who escapes termination and meets up with a human, Fione, who figures out that something is wrong and decides to stop it. It’s a detailed and, at times, complicated story but I didn’t want to miss a page of the book. I’ve always enjoyed M. Black’s work because her style of writing is both entertaining and thoughtful but never “fluffy” like a lot of young adult books are today. Rarely are they set in Canada so it is nice to be familiar with some of the aspects unique to this country. The characters are well thought out and very detailed, right down to the description of freckles on Fione’s face. They are complicated but enjoyable characters to discover and meet. The story is told from varying viewpoints, including Maci’s. The difference between the narration through the eyes of a human and that of a robot is really fun. It is distinct and well thought out how each being would feel and see things. The time and energy put into creating this world makes me wonder when M. Black has any time to do anything besides write. I’m not a fan of futuristic robot novels but I really enjoyed every page of Exotiqa. It’s also a bit scary because, let’s face it, these things could be a part of our future world.

Crimson Savior - Isabel Castruita



Crimson Savior is the first book in the Hell’s Guardian Chronicles written by Isabel Castruita. It’s the first in a new vampire series that carries a lot of the same characteristics as the Vampire Academy series written by Richelle Mead.
                Zyra is an eighteen year old who thinks she and her mother are a part of the Witness Protection Program due to the fact that they often have to move at a moment’s notice. However, when the next move ends up with Zyra attending the Ivashka Vampire Academy, she finds out that she belongs to a long line of Italian vampires called the Strigoi Benefici, a line that has sworn to protect the harmless breed of vampires called the Lugat from the evil vamps called the Varacolaci. Yes, it does get confusing but it’s all explained in the prologue and expanded on throughout the book. Zyra is also a Hell’s Guardian which makes her one very powerful and special young lady and puts her on the radar of Queen Velika Talsania. The queen wants to make slaves of the Lugat and will destroy anyone or anything that gets in her way. There is also a love triangle since what would a young adult novel be without one causing all kinds of teen angst. I had some questions about the validity of the love relationship between Zyra and her vampire boyfriend, such as how does she fall head over heels and know she wants to be with him forever after only knowing him for a couple of days? The speed by which a lot of things happen in the book was questionable as is the fact that the characters don’t ask for explanations of things. Zyra, for example, just seemed to accept that she is a vampire and would train to be a Hunter. She also graduated in an extraordinary amount of time.
                The characters are, for the most part, very enjoyable and are ones that I will enjoy reading about in future books. I’m sure they will continue to be developed throughout the series. Overall, I enjoyed the story and it has all of the ingredients of becoming a good series. It just needs to be polished up a bit and maybe some aspects made a bit more believable, such as the ones I mentioned above. The storyline may be fictional but the emotions and reactions should have some modicum of realism. There is a lot of potential in this book and therefore I look forward to reading the next in the series. I read the digital version of this book and it formatted very well. The cover is well done and eye-catching.