Reality Gold

Reality Gold (The Shifting Reality Collection) by [Brooks, Tiffany]

Tiffany Brooks’s book, Reality Gold, is an excellent read for young adults and beyond. Readers follow a large group of teenage survival show competitors who are whittled down as the show progresses. The story is told from the perspective of protagonist, Riley. Riley sees the show as a shot for redemption. She had gotten into some trouble at her high school, and ultimately had become both a viral meme and the butt end of seemingly everyone’s jokes. She wants to shake her reputation as a spoiled brat with a silver spoon. It doesn’t hurt her shot at winning that she has first-hand knowledge of the show’s backdrop, Black Rock Island, and the treasure it holds.

Brooks has constructed a very interesting, very well-written story with Reality Gold. The characters represent several demographics across the board. The plot and pace flow well. Bits of backstory of the island and Miles, Riley’s godfather with gold-fever, come out as the story progresses. The story sometimes feels like it does a cha-cha with it’s one step forward, two steps back rhythm. The kids are steadily moving toward their goal with some obstacles and setbacks in their path. Some plot twists at the end took me by surprise. The story kept my interest piqued until the very last page.

I particularly liked the character, Maren. Maren had dyed black and purple hair, and was always in a t-shirt with a sarcastic word or one-liner printed across the front. She was instantly labelled as harsh, mean, and weird. Some of those things came to her rightfully. Some of those things were likely just defense mechanisms. Either way, we get to see a few jagged edges soften at times. She lets some redeeming qualities peek out from underneath the dark makeup at times. She became a lesson in “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I also liked brainy, sometimes aloof, A.J. who was interested in one thing and one thing only, the gold. He was more interested in the gold than the actual payout, because he saw the discovery itself as a foot into Harvard’s door. He was smart and driven and between him and Riley, had all the answers.

Riley was a rich kid, but wasn’t “just a rich kid.” That is the reputation she was fighting hard to shake. She wanted people to know her. Really know her. She thought the show would give her the chance to show the skewed world who the real Riley was. She also had a bit of the taste for the hunt passed down to her from her godfather. She plays a pivotal part in the story, both as a friend to her coeds and as an experienced treasure hunter.

There is a bit of a budding romance or two within the story, but nothing gets graphic whatsoever. There is also an important cautionary tale. There is an “almost romance” between an underage player and a crew member of the show. The characters struggle a little with how to handle that situation, but in the end, they keep their friend’s best interest and safety at heart.

Watching the clues, maps, markers, and cryptic symbols all fit together to form a completed puzzle was reminiscent of watching National Treasure and movies like it. The brainy kids all hashing and rehashing possible meanings and directions was exciting. The island served as a scary backdrop. Throwing in the “reality” factor kept both me and the characters trying to figure out what was fake and what wasn’t until the very end. They had to second guess everything they thought they knew since some things were manufactured specifically for the anticipated TV audience and ratings. Are their friends real or actors? Are the clues for the treasure real or planted?

I loved the characters and the story. It was well-written, and the characters and plot were well-developed. It was an exciting, sometimes “edge-of-your-seat” kind of story. I’d love to see more from this author.

Pages: 398 | ASIN: B07C5B7RFY

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Flight From Fear

Lesley J. Mooney’s Flight From Fear traces the frightening ordeal of a grandfather and his two grandchildren after they find themselves hosting a bizarre guest. When Gabe’s plane crashes in the Canadian woods, Frank Benders and his grandchildren, Jacob and Natalie, open the door of their secluded cabin to find him bleeding, desperate, and clinging to life. During his time in their home, Gabe shows the small family two very different sides to his personality. As their fears increase, so do Gabe’s unsettling episodes.

Before Frank and his teenage grandchildren are able to summon help from the rangers, things in their remote forest home go tragically wrong. Mooney has taken a unique approach with her protagonist. His diagnosis of schizophrenia and the subsequent personas he develops make for an interesting back and forth between the characters. The reader is faced with feeling sorry for Gabe as his multiple personalities come and go rapidly throughout the plot. As much as I wanted to hate him for kidnapping Natalie, a part of me felt pity toward him. Mooney is effective at bringing out these mixed emotions with her villainous characters. I was somewhat thrown by the introduction of Frank’s trained eagle. As I read, I saw the usefulness of the eagle to the story line. Another element I found a bit difficult to grasp centers around the newlywed couple who shows up at Frank’s cabin shortly after Gabe’s abduction of Natalie. Samuel and Margaret, almost without question, step directly into assisting Frank and Jacob in their hunt for the two in the dense Canadian forest. This aspect seemed a little difficult to swallow considering the volatile nature of Gabe’s mental state.

Natalie remains, throughout the book, a character of immense strength. Her immediate willingness to help the man who otherwise seems hell bent on harming her is nothing short of amazing. She is pulled into a situation that most adults would find mentally devastating, but she is able to persevere. In fact, she not only perseveres, but it would seem she is able to forgive and forget. Mooney’s Natalie is an admirable heroine indeed. As much as I admire the evolution of Natalie throughout the plot, I feel the story lacks in a few areas.

For instance, Gabe’s hospital stay in the final chapters covers several pages without zeroing in on his condition, his criminal past, and his apprehension. Mooney, however, has fashioned a story different from any other in the thriller/suspense genre–her entire cast of characters is filled with an empathy unmatched by other authors. This alone makes Flight From Fear worth the read.

 

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Slay the Dragon

Slay the Dragon is an action-packed mystery about a man named Cesar Rosada. He is descended from a line of coffee farmers, a former professional athlete and now a rising politician with a single goal; to help the working class of his country. He is determined to fight for the rights of his people but there is one crisis he can not see a way out of, the opioid addiction. Working as the minister of finance he will stop at nothing to fight against corruption. This leaves him with a choice that will test his own morality.

This book was written by author Laura A. Zubulake who worked for years on Wall Street and is a frequent world traveler. She has written non-fiction before, but Slay the Dragon is her debut fiction novel. The prologue got my attention from the very beginning and is an engaging start to an intriguing novel that hits on a subject that is destroying families and individuals in America. Slay the Dragon does a fantastic job of using fiction to understand a complex problem, and helps you visualize the enormity of the opioid crisis today. I enjoyed how the world unfolds slowly, detail by detail, we get to piece together a seedy world reminiscent of the show Narcos. César’s character development reminds me of George R.R. Martin’s characters. They are characters changed, dramatically, by circumstances out of their control, and they’re just trying to adapt.

This story is exciting, dangerous, thrilling, and full of adventure. Cesar is the kind of character you can’t help but root for with his pure ideals and determination to help those around him. When his actions enter a moral gray area you can empathize. How do you find such entrenched corruption? Zubulake has written a world that feels real in its gritty depictions of South American politics.

From beginning to end this book held my attention and kept me guessing. This is definitely the book for you if you like political thrillers that leave you thinking long after you’ve closed the book.

Pages: 289 | ASIN: B07BH2VMNQ

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Designs on Ivy’s Locket

Historian-for-hire Wrenn Grayson takes on a difficult client in Kerry St. John. Kerry seeks justice for his great-grandfather’s lifelong heartache. Wrenn meets the renowned jeweler through words recorded in his tattered journal. The year is 1946. He writes from the tiny crossroads of Wyatt, Ohio, about the theft of a treasured locket and the identity of three possible suspects.

The cold case heats up when Lori Hammond arrives. The stolen locket was discovered among her mother’s possessions after her death. Lori refuses to return it to the St. John family, so Wrenn sets out to follow the locket’s path through history. Next, Lori is attacked and Kerry accused. If Kerry’s not guilty, then who is? That question sends cold whispers from the past down Wrenn’s spine.

In Designs on Ivy’s Locket, Connie Chappell focuses on the theme of parents and children, separated by death, by theft, and by design.

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River’s Child

When Mavin Cedarstrom heads to the Svalbard Seed Vault for another day on the job, he can’t possibly imagine the turn his life is about to take. His former life gathering seeds as an assistant to his favorite professor pales in comparison to the life he leads working in the exclusive and formidable vault housing samples of every seed variety in the world. Mavin’s job helping to protect and preserve the future of the planet’s primary food source leads him on a journey like no other when he awakens to find himself in what he soon learns is the future–the distant future.

Right out of the gate, Mark Daniel Seiler introduces readers to an intriguing set of circumstances. He wastes no time in keeping his audience guessing as to both time and place. The opening pages of River’s Child reveal a scene with an amalgamation of characters with varied backgrounds. It isn’t until Mavin reaches the vault itself that the reader is treated to the splendors of technological advancements. Seiler springs this futuristic setting on his readers in a wonderful contrast with the opening bar scene.

Reading River’s Child is akin to reading three different books, but it works well. Mavin’s time working in the vault and the tragedy that befalls him when he reports to work that fateful fall day are a far cry from the way he is found and worlds apart from the scene that greets him when he is pulled from beneath Earth’s surface. Once he and his rescuer/guide, Simone Kita, make the year-long trek to civilization, the story takes on a completely different feel which somehow also makes sense. To say that Mavin has taken a step into the past would not be wrong, nor would it be wrong to say he is almost light years in the future upon being pulled from the remains of the vault. Seiler presents for readers a picture of an Earth recreated after its destruction and, somehow, simultaneously archaic and advanced.

Seiler’s choice to make males subservient and females revered in the new world is both refreshing and entertaining. Simone, a strong woman in many ways, teaches Mavin the proper way to show respect and how to remain demure in his foreign surroundings. The author has pulled from multiple cultures to create the portrait of a lesser sex in this futuristic world which blends ancient customs with the discovery and mastery of unique and highly developed talents. Simone’s amazing ability to control space and time is superhero-like and takes the reader as much by surprise as it does Mavin the first time she tries to discreetly display it.

Seiler offers readers a picture of  what is essentially a post-apocalyptic world that is different from any I have read. He takes readers on a journey that begins and ends with the soul survivor of a catastrophic event and allows them to watch as he struggles to find his place among those who now inhabit Earth. Seiler peppers his writing with the perfect amount of suspense and humor as he weaves this unforgettable tale.

Pages: 312 | ISBN: 1947003399

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Expectations: The Real World Behind the Curtain of Time

Expectations: The Real World Behind the Curtain of Time by [Sarah K-N]

Expectations: The Real World Behind the Curtains of Time by Sarah K-N is a Christian fantasy novel. Sarah spins a riveting, well written story of two brothers caught in an ancient battle of light and darkness. There is magic and ancient curses, angels, demons and other popular staples of Christian faith sharing a page with intriguing secret societies. Expectations uses the Christian faith to give us a story that is fun to read while not being preachy.

The novel opens up with an ancient tale of jealousy, locusts, an ancient pact and it just gets better after that. Ace Cadman, the main protagonist of the story, must battle the occult secret society and somehow stay alive in a world where angels and demons pop up on almost every page. But the main attraction of this book is the style that Sarah K-N carries to the very last page. Characters have motives that make sense and do not contradict the actions that took place just half a page ago. Expectations: The Real World Behind the Curtains of Time masterfully handles exposition, dialogue is lively, and Sarah K-N describes the world in just enough detail before having her characters take over the story.

Especially interesting is the way Sarah handles the divine characters – these beings feel older than time even though she spent only several sentences on their description. Their archaicness is an asset, not a flaw, in telling the story. For example, an angel with a flaming sword is a character that is very much out of place in the modern world but Expectations uses this to its advantage. Simply put, angles are supposed to be out of place in our world and when they do show up, just like their malevolent demonic cousins, they add weight to the situation that other characters find themselves in.

Perhaps the hardest thing that Sarah K-N had to do to make the story work is to bring the spirit of the Old Testament on to her pages. And she did it masterfully. This is not the world where angels and demons walk the Earth fulfilling some shallow, New Age tripe task. These angels and demons are forces beyond our comprehension, spirits of old, just like they were thousands of years ago to our ancestors. Angels are fulfilling the commands of their Lord and demons will shower mortals with impossible gifts and power but will snatch your soul the first chance they get.

The conflict between good and evil is masterfully done. You start to understand, even from the first pages, why someone would give their soul to evil. Their decisions, doomed as they are, make sense in the given moment and you will find yourself asking if you would make the same choice if put through the same tests.

This page turner is one of the most riveting reads you will ever find, no matter if you are a person of faith or not. The story, a classic tale of good vs evil, will keep you going for hours and will not disappoint.

Pages: 424 | ASIN: B0794LRWPN

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Voice of a Crimson Angel Part II: Poison (Reverence Book 6)

Voice of a Crimson Angel Part II: Poison (Reverence Book 6) by [Landeros, Joshua]

Joshua Landeros is at it again with a sequel to his prequel series with Voice of the Crimson Angel Part II: Poison. Julissa Marconi is ready to take on the ultimate villain, Chancellor Venloran. All that stands between the United Nation Republic and Mexico is the rebels, who seek to resist the tyrannical influence of the more powerful country. This struggle will not end cleanly as Venloran deploys his cyborg soldiers, which leaves Julissa questioning if she can really stop this assault. She may have to become what she fights.

And once again Landeros hits it out of the park with this novel and there is a maturing of his prose in a way that should greatly satisfy his readers. Poison centers around the conflict, or rather, Expansion, that the United Nation Republic is forcing upon Mexico. There is a resonance here with the current events of immigration and Mexico with the US, which does not make this seem like an accident on Landeros’ part. The engagement not only of the struggle of soldiers, but of entire populaces, bumps up the stakes of what has been up until now, a waltz down memory lane to contextualize his main Reverence series.

This installment breathes new air into the series and gives the prequel series more weight going forward. In some ways the look at the national conflict tends to make the conflict become too political and the characters are lost in the back and forth, but it eventually re-centers and the story becomes an intimate tale about identity and duty.

The style of Landeros is largely unchanged aside from his deeper engagement with thematic elements helping his subtle prose along. Robert Heinlein would be proud as would Atwood with his struggle to both dignify the society he has created, and draw parallels from our world to the world of Reverence. For the science fiction reader, there may be more thriller, political drama than one is used to, but we can always count on Landeros to bring the fight to us.

In the grander scheme of his series and world building, Posion begins to show the end game that will follow, since the Expansion is only a piece to Venloran’s ongoing long game. We all know the players who are involved at this point and it’s really just seeing it all unravel. Truly, a pulse-pounding thrilling read.

Pages: 226 | ASIN: B07BNTQRTJ

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Where Magic Doesn’t Exist

Maria Vermisoglou Author Interview

Maria Vermisoglou Author Interview

The Cursed Girl follows Eva and her faithful friends as they travel across medieval Europe to save the world from the powers of darkness. What served as your inspiration as you were writing this novel?

My inspiration was books and places but mainly the book series “The Mortal Instruments” and the TV series “The Witches of East End.”

Eva is an intriguing character that I enjoyed reading about. How did you create her character and what were some aspects that were important to get right?

To talk about Eva I have to talk about the creation of the book first. I love to read. When I finish a book, I make up a story using the book I have finished. But always in my mind, I never wrote them down until now. The cursed girl was created when I had finished reading “The City of Heavenly Fire.” I was thinking what if Clary was a witch? That’s how Eva was created. In the beginning, Clary and Eva were alike but Eva developed into a fine witch. She was unsure of herself in the beginning but afterward, she developed into a self-confident person who is not afraid to break the rules in order to save the ones she loves. Later in the series, she faces some other trials but I can’t talk about it now, can I?

One of the challenges I faced was that Eva is a witch living in the human world. I had to balance the magic and living in the human world where magic doesn’t exist. I think I succeeded but that’s for the fans to decide.

I liked the world building and the magic embedded within. How did you balance Eva’s healing abilities, magic and world building to make it believable?

Almost every book I have read about witches and magic pictured a world that doesn’t exist or witches who were evil. I wanted something different, something in-between. To tell the truth, my book was created on its own so to speak. I had a partial plan but when I started to write I knew what I had to write before I knew it. It was like magic. It doesn’t make much sense but I suppose every author talks that way.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on the next volume of the cursed girl. I don’t know when will it be available but you will know it through my social media.

Author Links: GoodReadsFacebookWebsite

The cursed girl by [Vermisoglou, Maria]Sixteen-year-old Eva is a witch who lived in Spain, in the year 1230. She met a boy named Jonathan who would become her whole world. Everything was normal until she was faced with challenges that will change her life forever.

As a healer, her job is to help people, but there are forces that will try to prevent that. There is a war coming and Eva and her friends must do everything they can to survive.

Can they fight their way against the dark forces that are surrounding them? Her wits and inner strength helped everyone who encircled her to survive but will she be able to survive herself?

Supernatural creatures, royal backstabbing and many more await you in this thrilling novel that will take your breath away.

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How Corruption Evolved

Joe Khamisi Author Interview

Joe Khamisi Author Interview

Looters and Grabbers, 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite is a detailed account of the many corruption cases throughout Kenya. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was important for me to write this book to show Kenyans and non-Kenyans how corruption evolved from the day Kenya attained independence in 1963 to 2017, a period of 54 years stretching through four regimes. What this book shows is that corruption and bribery have a long history that goes back well before independence when the country was under British rule. The African rulers, beginning with Jomo Kenyatta, institutionalized it by engaging directly in criminal acts. They grabbed land left behind by the British instead of distributing it to the landless, encouraged relatives and cronies to engage in outright theft of other resources, and created cartels that were immune to prosecution due to their close association with the elite and the ruling class.

What do you think is a common misconception people have about corruption in Kenya?

The common misconception people have is that corruption is a state-sponsored malfeasance that ensures impunity for those in power. There is a saying that a common chicken thief is punished more severely than a person in power who commits a more heinous crime involving billions of dollars. And because corruption and bribery are rampant among the elite, the ordinary folk see no evil in participating in similar criminal acts. Thus, a policeman would do everything to extract bribes from passing motorists, and government clerks will hide files to entice payment, commonly known as “chai” or tea. One recent headline in Kenya said it all that everyone in Kenya is corrupt including grandmothers. And I agree.

The book details contemporary corruption as well and doesn’t leave one feeling as if things will get better. Do you see positive change happening for Kenya with it’s current government or is there many changes that still need to happen?

Like all previous governments, the present regime of Uhuru Kenyatta has made a myriad promises about nailing corruption. In his first 5-year term in office, not more than five government officials were jailed and those were junior officers in the civil service. The big “fish” including those in Uhuru’s own Cabinet and executive office are free despite involvement in mega corruption scandals. In recent weeks, and immediately after the release of my book, Uhuru announced some sweeping measures intended to tackle corruption including what has come to be known as “lifestyle audits” on officers – starting with himself – and changes in the way government tenders are advertised and awarded. It is too early to judge whether these measures would indeed be implemented and those found to have obtained properties illegally jailed. My own view is that that was just a PR stunt to silence corruption critics.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

So far, the book has been positively welcomed by the majority of Kenyans who have read it. They say it was timely and informative on the genesis of corruption and on contemporary events. The irony, however, is that some “corrupt” individuals “looted” the book pdf file and began selling the file to a huge group of Whatsapp members in what was a clear violation of copyright. The action was severely criticized by writers who demanded that the looters compensate the author. A few did but that is as far as corruption has reached in Kenya.

Author Links: Website | Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter

Kenya: Looters and Grabbers: 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite, 1963-2017 by [Khamisi, Joe]This book is about unbridled corruption, bribery and scandalous financial skullduggery in one of Africa’s most promising countries, Kenya. It is a narrative of money-laundering, mega scandals, and international wheeler-dealing, and describes how Mafia-like lobbyists have been devouring the country’s resources with blatant impunity over four regimes since independence in 1963. It is an important resource for historians, students, researchers, social and political scientists, non-governmental organizations, development and anti-corruption agencies.

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Real or Imagined

Lisa Diaz Meyer Author Interview

Lisa Diaz Meyer Author Interview

All Roads Destined is a collection of stories from fantasy to science fiction with links back to your first collection. What was the inspiration for this collection of stories?

As for the Outposts, I wanted to continue on since I’d left it as a cliffhanger in All Roads Home. I then felt I wanted to bring more loneliness and some addiction awareness into the equation as these subjects, real or imagined, can be sad and frightful.

I felt that this book was a bit darker than the last collection. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing this book?

I did want to go darker, bring more science fiction in but based off subjects that make people uncomfortable. Again the addiction issue, some odd poetry. As you said in your review, the short story The Crone was your favorite. It was also mine, too. And I love when something like that can just come upon me, the imagery and the way I want it to be read.

You also included a selection of poems in the section titled The Fragments. What was your favorite poem from the collection and how did you pick which poems made it into this collection?

The poems or fragments I write in between or even during a WIP. My favorites in this book were Clocks and The Water Globe, both having to do with the passage of time.

What is your process like for writing short stories? Does it differ from longer novels?

There’s a certain pace with short stories that I prefer. I may be inspired to write a longer novel one day, just not yet.

Author Links: GoodReadsTwitterFacebookWebsite

All Roads Destined: A Collection of Dark Fiction and Poems by [Meyer, Lisa Diaz]Destiny is what we bring to the world where the roads are stained with tears and blood, and paved in eternal stone. In Part One, the continuation of The Outpost Trilogy shifts from post apocalyptic to science fiction. Part Two, The Enduring contains five dark fiction short stories. Part Three, The Fragments include fifteen poems of urgent struggle and destination. New York author, Lisa Diaz Meyer relates to the odd, macabre & funereal. ALL ROADS DESTINED is the second of her ALL ROADS trilogy.

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