Review: Acts of Violence by Ross Harrison

Acts of Violence by Ross HarrisonTitle: Acts of Violence
Author: Ross Harrison
Genre(s): Sci-Fi Thriller
How To Purchase: Kindle | UK Kindle | Smashwords

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Acts of Violence in exchange for an honest review.

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

Acts of Violence is more thriller than sci-fi, which isn’t quite my cup of tea, but in the end, it unveiled a shocking twist–and that’s always sure to make me love it.

Jack Mason is a guy with a purpose, although his purpose is veiled in mystery. He’s hunting a bigwig in a backwater colony whose shady business dealings, quite frankly, just piss him off. He’s not a cop or a private investigator–though for years, he’s tried to get his license. He’s a guy with a mission. Maybe just a guy seeking redemption.

I was hoping for a bit more science fiction when I decided to read it. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy/urban fantasy and wanted some awesome tech that I could really get wrapped up in. Alas, the sci-fi is a backdrop to Jack’s hunt for the truth, gadgets and vehicles that help him along his way but never come to the forefront.

The thriller part was interesting. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not something I usually care to read, but the details of the fight scenes were so realistic that I’m convinced the author has spent time in combat situations. The details about taking care of his gun, about when he has time to aim or not aim, and keeping a picture of the layout of the room he’s fighting in–Well, I would never think of those things, which is probably why I don’t write thrillers.

Besides the fight scenes going on for too long (but then someone who likes that sort of thing would probably disagree), my one small gripe was the writing style. Jack’s voice was what drew me into the story, but after awhile, it started to annoy me. He spoke in clipped sentences. Wrote without a lot of commas. Used a bunch of phrases. Got a little annoying. But maybe that was just Jack, since I could never decide whether to trust him or not.

If you like thrillers with a dash of sci-fi, this is the story for you. I hate to overplay endings because then you end up over-anticipating, but I really did not see it coming. Then again, I never do, so take that with a grain of salt.

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Stories from beyond and Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

I’m very excited today to be able to share the cover of my book, Guarding Angel, coming April 28, 2014. Many book bloggers are sharing in my excitement today, so check some of them out (at the bottom of the post). But first, to commemorate this occasion, I wanted to invite my readers to share in some stories with brushes from beyond this life.

What do I mean precisely?

Have you ever had contact with a loved one who has died? Or have you ever been seeking something out and felt an answer from your guardian angel or spirit guide? Maybe God Him- or Herself? Have you ever seen a ghost? I will share a couple of stories, and I invite you to share yours in the comments below.

My Grandmother Says Goodbye

My first story happened directly to me. Although I’m absolutely certain that I had contact with my grandmother soon after she died, but you might not quite believe it–I’ll leave it up to you.

When I was 15 years old, my paternal grandmother had a stroke and went into a coma. We lived three states away, so unfortunately, it had been awhile since we’d seen her. My parents, brother, and I packed up the car a few days before Christmas and headed to Ohio. I was able to visit her in her room, but she was on life support and it didn’t feel like she was really there.

The other aunts and uncle came from out of town to say goodbye. On Christmas Eve, in the early morning, her children all gathered in her room to carry out her living will. They took her off the ventilator, and in a few short moments, she passed away.

This wasn’t something they wanted the kids experiencing, so I was at home, still asleep, since it was so early morning and I was, after, all, a teenager. Right before I awoke, I had a dream that Grandma came to me: We talked about her life and my life, everything that had happened and lots of things that were going to happen. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of peace about the rest of my life, but I can’t remember any of the specifics. At one point, I recall her saying she had to go, that she couldn’t stay. I begged her not to leave, but she disappeared, and I ran through a strange dreamscape looking for her. But she was gone–I couldn’t “feel” her there any more.

My mom was shaking me awake as I searched for Grandma. I opened my eyes. “Grandma’s gone, isn’t she?” Mom looked surprised and nodded. I said, “She visited me before she left.”

I don’t know for sure that she did or didn’t. Maybe it was my overactive imagination making this up, since I knew what was happening that morning. But I really felt her there, and I honestly believe that she did, indeed, stop by before she went into the afterlife. If only I could remember all the secrets she’d divulged about my upcoming life before she left …

My Uncle Comforts My Dad

My second story happened to my dad last year. He has four sisters but only one brother, and they were fairly close despite not living near one another. Unfortunately, Uncle Lanny had a clot that moved into his brain at the beginning of April, and he died within seconds.

Right before the visitation, Dad was getting out of his car when his pocket starting making noise. At first he thought his phone was ringing, but when he pulled it out, he saw that iTunes had started. “El Paso” by Marty Robbins–one of his and Uncle Lanny’s favorite songs–was playing. The last time he’d played that particular song was when they’d visited months before.

Was it Uncle Lanny, comforting Dad, who was quite distraught over his brother’s death at a relatively young age and only the beginning of his retirement? Or did the phone somehow happen to pocket dial a song that hadn’t been played for months and months? I, and my dad, like to think that it was Uncle Lanny’s way of saying goodbye.

What about you? Do you have any stories of contact with the “other side?” I want to hear about them in the comments.

Guarding Angel Cover Reveal

Now … The moment I, at least, I don’t know about the rest of you!, have been waiting for. I wrote Guarding Angel because I believe in something beyond this life. It started with a question: What if angels, just like humans, have personalities and struggles? What if they’re more than just silent watchers but have friends and lovers and decisions to make? Thus Enael, my main character, was born.

This cover was created by the fabulous Regina Wamba of MaeIDesign. As soon as I saw her work, I knew I had to have her. She did an amazing job, so if you just like gazing at beautiful fantasy/paranormal romance book covers like I do, take a gander through her portfolio on her website and Pinterest.

Here it is, Enael and her struggles, all summed up in one beautiful piece of cover art:

FallenRedemption-ebooksmgoodreads-badge-add-plusAbout Guarding Angel (Fallen Redemption #1):

Guardian angel Enael can’t seem to keep her human Wards in check. They’re the ones who choose their paths before reincarnating—she’s just there to help make sure they stay on track. But it’s not as easy as it might look.

When she meets and falls in love with charismatic Kaspen, a fellow Guardian, Enael’s feelings about Heaven, Hell, demons, and the life she’s known are turned upside down. Worse, angel-turned-demon Yasva, Kaspen’s former love, still holds him in her clutches. Even as Yasva works toward obtaining complete control of Earth, she taunts and haunts Kaspen’s and Enael’s lives.

Now Enael is forced to face her past (which is centuries long and bursting with secrets), her present (which is terribly unfulfilling and full of questions), and her future (which becomes more uncertain as time passes). Armed with a newfound love and fear of losing it all, she must figure out how to save the world—-and the angel she loves. Which side will win? Who will Kaspen choose? Will Heaven and Earth continue to exist, or will everything go to Hell?

Thank you to all the bloggers who helped me share the news of my cover:

Leave me comments to let me know what you think! Then find me on Twitter and Pinterest. If you’re a book reviewer and would like a review copy of Guarding Angel, send an email to Samantha.Saboviec@gmail.com or leave a comment with contact info. eBook ARC Copies will be available at the beginning of March, and Guarding Angel will go on sale April 28, 2014 at several online retailers.

Review: Division by Karen A. Wyle

Title: Division
Author: Karen A. Wyle
Genre(s): Near-Future Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo| Paperback (NEW!) – US or UK

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Division in exchange for an honest review.

Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Gordon looks forward to many years of closeness and cooperation. Johnny, however, faces their future with increasing restlessness, even dread.

When the boys are in their teens, the new technologies of accelerated human cloning and brain transplants are combined into a single medical procedure — Transplant to Clone, or TTC. Someone whose body has suffered such extensive damage as to make normal life impossible may — with court approval — be cloned and then given a brain transplant into the clone body. With Gordon’s unwitting assistance, Johnny realizes that the TTC procedure provides the chance he had never dared to hope for — the chance to live in a “normal,” separate body.

But Gordon considers their conjoined life a blessing, rather than a curse. He has no intention of accepting separation — not without a fight . . .

Division is one of the best books I read in 2013, a year in which I read Parasite and We Need to Talk About Kevin. (And the Divergent trilogy, but I didn’t actually like those books, so no competition there.) I liked it so much that I asked author Karen A. Wyle to write a guest post for the blog, which she did last Friday.

I read books to escape and be entertained, like everyone else. But more, I read books to be challenged intellectually, and Division does just that.

This is a story about a pair of conjoined twins. One twin wants to undergo an operation to separate them into two bodies, while the other wants to stay joined. This is set in the near future, where the twins must present their arguments in court because the procedure requires the use of clones and cloning is restricted. The book follows a variety of characters as they cope with the emotional atmosphere up to and after the decision.

I get swept away by books like these that explore what it’s like living in the skin of an unusual, unexpected person. Division puts us into the experiences of a twin who want to be free, showing us what life is like chained to another person. It shows us the struggle the other twin undergoes when he’s–in his mind–rejected by someone closer than a lover could ever be. It even examines how their struggle affects their mother, who’s loved them unconditionally from birth and must watch their relationship fall apart. It follows a girlfriend who believed she would, someday soon, marry two people in one body.

A variety of moral questions are opened without direct treatment, which was skillful and impressive. Should the twins be allowed to leave their body for clones? Should a court have the responsibility to decide the future of their lives? Can there ever be a “right” answer when both of them want something mutually exclusive? Yet the morality was never heavy-handed, but was instead a backdrop for the interesting and subtle character interactions.

This book is one of the beautiful pieces of self-published literature that inspires me. The author, Karen A. Wyle, has published several other books that I’m eager to check out. Not to get on my soapbox again, but meticulous attention to detail–plot, character, premise, grammar–is what makes people want to read books. You don’t have to be traditionally published, though you may have to work your bum off twice as hard to get noticed. I heartily recommend this book.

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Review: A Warrior’s Path by Davis Ashura

Title: A Warrior’s Path
Author: Davis Ashura
Genre(s): Adult Fantasy
How To Purchase: Releasing 12/25/13

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Two millennia ago, a demon thundered into the skies of Arisa, casting down the First World. She was Suwraith, the Bringer of Sorrows. And on the same night as Her arrival, there rose about the world’s great cities the Oases, a mysterious means by which Humanity lies protected and huddled against the might of the Sorrow Bringer. It is a temporary respite. Throughout the rest of Arisa, Suwraith’s Chimeras boil across the Wildness, the wide swaths of land beyond the boundaries of the few, far-flung cities, killing any unfortunates in their path and ruling all in Her name. But always She seeks more: Humanity’s utter extinction.

Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. And Rukh has ever been faithful to the teachings of his elders.

But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another, and the only means by which a warrior can prove his worth. There in the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies.

Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.

A Warrior’s Path contains an interesting perspective on a different social structure than is present in other fantasy I’ve read. Although I had trouble getting into the book, the hierarchy and interplay of beliefs gave me something to think about.

This book’s society is a strict caste-based culture, where every rank can only inter-marry within itself and all its members are prescribed certain careers and magical abilities. The story follows several people who discover that they have abilities–and desires–outside their own caste, as they fight a goddess bent on destroying humanity. The moral implications are intriguing: In a time and place when humanity should band together against its impending doom, people are squabbling over the color of skin and talents they believe shouldn’t overlap between castes.

The different characters’ perspectives on the caste system were varied. Some were traditional and believed that anyone operating outside of the rules was “tainted.” Some are in between, not sure which way their loyalties lay. And some were open to accept people as people, despite their background or magical abilities. The morality was a bit heavy-handed, but the caste system unique enough that it kept me interested.

One of the best parts were the villains on the side of the mad goddess. However, a lot was left unresolved and open for a follow-up book, which left me disappointed that we didn’t learn more about the plans and happenings of that sect.

I struggled to get into the book because of the excessive world-building and back story. Especially at the beginning, I felt I was reading an essay the author had written on how the society functions and who the characters are. Rather than revealing how the caste system worked bit by bit, it was dumped at the beginning and I found myself skimming, unable to follow everything and everyone. There were a lot of characters, and even at the end, I was only clear on a few of the main ones.

If you’re interested in exploring implications of different societal structures, you’ll be interested in A Warrior’s Path. Note that the story doesn’t wrap up at the end but is part of an on-going series.

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Review: Scarlette by Davonna Juroe

Title: Scarlette
Author: Davonna Juroe
Genre(s): Adult Historical Paranormal Fairy Tale Re-telling
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ninety years before the Brothers Grimm penned their version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” an historic, gruesome series of events shocked all of Europe. Starting in 1764, an unidentified wolf-like animal ferociously mauled dozens of peasants in the Gévaudan region of France.

Whispered rumors of unnatural creatures blended with age-old superstition to cause mass hysteria. A werewolf was blamed for the carnage. Alarmed, King Louis XV sent his best huntsmen to rid the province of the beastly scourge, but this legendary massacre had only just begun.

Scarlette, a 19-year-old seamstress who is laboring to make ends meet, lives under this dark threat. Although fearful of the nightmarish monster lurking in the surrounding forest, she remains skeptical of the supernatural gossip.

Until her grandmother is attacked.

Scarlette learns that her grandmother has been infected by the animal’s bite. Desperate to save her, Scarlette begins to uncover the dark secrets of her village and finds there are those who wish to keep their pasts hidden. As time grows short, Scarlette is befriended by a local nobleman and a woodcutter who both share an eerie history with the wolf.

Scarlette must unravel the men’s connection and solve a long-forgotten crime. But as she pieces together the clues, Scarlette finds herself torn between the two men. Both of them desire more than friendship and together hold the key to the cure.

Based on both the traditional Grimm fairy-tale and older known French versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” this dark Young Adult novel is set against the 18th century Beast of Gévaudan attacks and blends fairy-tale with Gothic romance in a modern, accessible prose style. Unique to the genre, the novel revives the fable of the girl-in-the-red-cloak with a new historical angle that blurs the line between folklore and reality.

I’m a sucker for fairy tale re-tellings. The darker, the better. Scarlette doesn’t disappoint, although it wasn’t what I expected.

The story deviates from the fairy tale plot that we all know and love, but it doesn’t disappoint. In this book, the “wolf” is both real and figurative. Scarlette, our protagonist, lives in the mid-1700s France, in a small town that is frightened and shocked by animal attacks on the population. Her mother is terrible to her, her employer is a lecherous old man, and she’s struggling to feed herself and keep a roof over her head. Scarlette’s grandmother is the only light in her life… but poor granny doesn’t last very long.

As the attacks intensify, Scarlette becomes confused and overwrought. She makes friends with a rich nobleman, who isn’t what he seems. Or is he? Good ol’ Marquis de Sade gets a minor role–which is always a great way to solidify a place in my heart.

The woodcutter guild was an interesting aspect that I wish was explored in greater detail. Scarlette’s friendship with a woodcutter who saves her is on shaky ground–especially since the guild kidnapped her previously, adding to her disorientation and confusion. I would have loved to see the story finish on a darker note than it did, but, after all, it is a fairy tale. Happy ever after mandatory?

Scarlette blends paranormal, romance, and historical fiction into an interesting story. I’ve tried to decide if this is Young Adult or Adult, and because of the dark tone and theme, I would consider it Adult. The details of 1700’s France are fascinating. The older I get, the more I appreciate historical fiction, and Ms. Juroe did a great job creating that time period.

If you like fairy tale re-tellings or paranormal historicals, I would suggest this book. A solid four of five stars, and I’m looking forward to more of the author’s books.

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Review: Memes of Loss and Devotion by Darren White

Title: Memes of Loss and Devotion
Author: Darren White
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction Short Story Collection
How To Purchase: Amazon

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Memes of Loss and Devotion in exchange for an honest review.

“Memes of Loss and Devotion” is a science fiction and horror anthology. It examines the human condition, our possible futures, our challenges as a species and our failings as sentient, supposedly intelligent beings.

Journey to a far future where all human minds are connected not only to each other but also to benevolent Artificial Intelligences. Technology may have changed, but the human condition has not, and neither has the human heart.

A not so random encounter in a hotel bar triggers unforeseen consequences, but just who is the hunter and who is the prey? If you thought that romance in the early 21st century is a minefield, just add advanced technology and see how much more dangerous it can get.

Can love survive death? What happens when devotion unexpectedly returns from beyond the grave? A doomed love triangle is destined to end in disaster in a haunting story of passion that can never be reciprocated.

What if men were obsolete? What if new technology meant that the human race could continue without them? How far would you go to prevent this?

Finally, a gun-toting, resourceful hero will get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the entire planet, probably…

In this collection, you will also witness a little girl arguing colonization morals with an elderly alien, while another girl will be ‘fixed’ by time travelling angels. An astronaut will be rescued (eventually) while another never will be. A deadly connection will be made. A private investigator will lose important parts of his memory on a distant moon. A future colonist never get his girl. A time machine will be abused. An alien observer will be lost. A sister’s sister will find her true home.

Just where might future technology take us if we are not mindful of the unintentional consequences?

What will we get? The future we want, or the future we deserve?

Publishing a short story anthology as a debut novel is a courageous decision. Somehow, reading a collection of short stories feels as though it requires additional effort from me, the reader. I’m in each one for a shorter amount of time, but because there are more stories, it feels like the book wants more from me. Yet in this book, every story is as strong as the next and none were included “just because.”

What I loved most is the voice. The title, Memes of Loss and Devotion, evokes a feeling that carries throughout. Each story is told in a breathy, haunting way. Each story made me feel. Each story made me consider something I had never considered before.

I had an issue with the grammar, which seems to deteriorate as the book progresses. Most of the time, the syntax issues didn’t bother me as much as usual–which is saying something for Mr. White’s storytelling ability, since I’m such a stickler for details–however, I got lost sometimes. Some of that was wacky dialogue tags, and some of it was the way the story was written. At times it got too ephemeral for me, and I wasn’t sure who we were focused on or what was going on.

I had a love-hate relationship with the way the stories ended. Almost every one finished too soon. I wanted more: More explanation, more story, more grounding. Yet every story ended at the right place for what Mr. White wants the reader to experience. He doesn’t give answers. He gives only questions.

If you enjoy the moral and spiritual implications of science fiction, I would recommend this book. If it had been professionally edited, I would likely have given it a 4 or even a 4.5, but I found the errors too distracting to fully get behind the book.

Each story gives you something to chew on long after you close the pages. I’m still sitting on the hill with that little girl and the elder alien, considering what it must be like for a primitive race whose wildest imaginings were made laughable by the arrival of space farers. And that’s exactly what good science fiction should do.

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