The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams – Jeff Russell * * * *

The Girl who watches over dreams

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STAR RATING: 4 Stars

Book Description from Amazon

What if a person could live in their dreams? What if the power of imagination could erase the inequities of life? The staff at Eden Perpetual Life Care makes that possible and Katrina Hammond turns to them when nothing else can ease the pain of her mother’s progressive illness. The residents of Eden live in a medically-induced dream state, a fantasy world based on their secret desires. They are freed from the torments of their physical existence but at a terrible price, for where her mother goes Kat cannot follow. When Eden offers Kat the position of in-house neurologist, letting her pursue her vocation while watching over her mother’s dreams, she reluctantly agrees. And when investigative reporter Morgan Brewer shows Kat what it means to be young and alive her own dreams start coming true. But dreams are not always what they seem. An anomaly in the brainwave patterns of some residents suggests subconscious distress, and when Kat defies management’s order not to probe deeper she discovers something sinister taking place behind the pristine walls of Eden. Unsure of what to believe or who to trust she must now find a way to rescue her mother and the other residents before she herself becomes trapped in their perpetual nightmare.

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MY REVIEW

I bought this book as I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Russell’s previous offering, The Dream Shelf. To be honest it was my first medical thriller and I had no idea what to expect. The book description was intriguing enough and prompted me to give it a go. Five chapters into the book I was hooked and unable to put it down.

What I liked about the book

As with The Dream Shelf, I really enjoy Russell’s style of writing. It is calm, yet exciting, full of description, yet not long-winded. I also love the way the author does not revert to foul language or overly descriptive sex scenes while still being able to capture his character’s emotions and passions.

Being a medical thriller I was worried that there would be a lot of medical jargon, and there was, but somehow Russell manage to explain complicated terms in a language I understood. I never felt lost in the story, never wondered how it all fitted together and the author made sure to describe intricate details clearly and without convolution.

The main protagonist, Katrina Hammond was very likeable—like someone I could be friends with. She meticulously weighed her decisions and it was clear from her thinking patterns that she harboured residual emotional baggage directly linked to her relationship with her father. She was thoroughly human and that made me invest in every decision she made. Sometimes I questioned her actions, other times I wholeheartedly agreed with them. In the end I wanted her to succeed and survive.

What I didn’t enjoy that much

There wasn’t much I didn’t like about the book, but I would have loved to know more about the motivation and background of the antagonist. How did he get involved in all this? Why did he make some of the decisions he made—was it all about the money? Was he in debt or just plain greedy? Some chapters from his point of view would have been great.

Final thoughts

The Girl Who Watched over Dreams cemented me as a fan of Jeff Russell. Simply put; I like the way he writes, I like the ideas he comes up with, and I like the way in which his books draw me in. He is a talented story teller and I hope to read more tales conjured up by his colourful imagination.

STAR RATING: 4 Stars

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REVIEW: Double Identity – Jaye C Blakemore * * * *

Double Identity - Jaye C Blakemore

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STAR RATING: 4 Stars

Book Description from Amazon

Identical Twins and Secret Lives…with Deceit, Murder, and Revenge! A passionate star-crossed romance between charismatic French vintner Cecile Cardin and elusive billionaire art collector Paul Allenwerth leads to the birth of beautiful twins Gillian and Julianne, who are separated at the age of three during a mysterious divorce, and raised in completely different environments: Julianne absorbs the artsy bohemian life of a small French winery, and Gillian lives in lonely luxury in New York City. Cecile and Paul take their shocking secrets to their graves…but they also leave their daughters with great wealth, an empire to run, and a strongbox that reveals a legacy they could never have imagined. As Julianne and Gillian learn of their parents’ past, and a family history steeped in unimaginable courage and tragedy, they must come to terms with the gifts and challenges that their parents have bequeathed to them, while making their way as independent women in the changing world of the 1970s. Only one twin will have the perfect life…but both will skyrocket through incredible journeys. Double Identity is a richly characterized, inventive thrill ride with plenty of suspense and romance!

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MY REVIEW

Double Identity is the debut novel of Jaye C Blakemore. The story explores the life of twin sisters, Gillian and Julianne Allenwerth. A mysterious rift between their parents saw the girls separated when young. While Julianne remained with her mother in France living a relatively unglamorous life, Gillian was taken by her father and groomed for the corporate world. She married a self-absorbed gold digger and lived the highlife of the rich.

When Paul Allenworth dies he leaves Gillian a strongbox full of family secrets and mystery which serves as the catalyst in this intriguing tale.

What I liked about the book

I enjoyed reading about Gillian’s life and found the ‘corporate talk’ when describing her father’s empire surprisingly interesting. I did not actually like Gillian that much and found her to be spoilt and entitled which of course she was. But, there was also a sadness to her – with all her wealth she had been unable to find a loving partner (being seduced by looks and charm instead of looking for a man of good character), and being generally lonely and removed from those around her.

I like that the book is written from both Gillian and Julianne’s POV as it enabled me to get to know each of them well.

The book is filled with mystery and intrigue and had quite a few twists and turns.

What I didn’t enjoy that much

I did not like the strange turn the book took with the hauntings. It was as if I was plucked out of a contemporary mystery romance into a supernatural book – it didn’t fit, and for me, felt out of place in the story.

The ending was unexpected and I found myself wondering about it for days afterwards, not because of the way it unfolded (I liked that!), but because of the whole “with her spirit in you” thing. Creepy, strange and weird.

Final thoughts

Setting aside the above niggles, I enjoyed this book. It was well written and held my interest up to the end. I read it very quickly, but then took some time to digest the twists and turns before I wrote the review. I look forward to reading more of this new author’s work.

STAR RATING: 4 Stars

 

REVIEW: The Bad Present – James Mendenhall * * * * *

The Bad Present - James Mendenhall

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STAR RATING: 5 Stars

Book Description from Amazon

The boy kicked himself. When his dad handed him the small wooden box on Christmas morning, the instructions were quite clear. “Open the box before you go to sleep tonight.” Couldn’t be easier. But how was the boy to know his dad actually meant it? Granted, his dad said “it may be the most important thing you will ever do in your entire life,” but his Mom said the same thing about algebra, and everyone knew that wasn’t true. His father should have known better. Twelve-year-old boys don’t listen. So of course the boy forgot and now, for some reason he can’t understand, his life has taken a downward spiral that will only end when he can figure out the clues to how the box works.

The Bad Present is a touching, riotously funny mystery story, chronicling a boy’s desperate quest to understand the box, his life, and the world around him.

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MY REVIEW

I originally bought this book to read with my young daughter, but I ended up enjoying it so much I continued reading long after she went to sleep. The story in a nutshell is about a boy who receives a box for Christmas. This box, however, is not an ordinary gift—it brings about bad luck if it’s not opened when it’s supposed to be opened. Of course, our young hero doesn’t open it as he is meant to, and things start going from bad to worse. He has to find a way to make things right again.

“So now I had my mission. Find the pages. Save the world. Get the girl. Simple. But first I had to eat dinner and change into my pajamas.”

What I liked about the book

I LOVED the humour! Sometimes it was subtle, causing me to smile from ear to ear, other times it was laugh-out-loud funny.

“Hmm,” my dad said, his brow furrowed. “That’s true. Wonder why they didn’t think of that when they wrote the rules.”

“Who’s they?” I asked.

He pointed at the ceiling. My parents’ bedroom was right above the study.

“Mom?” I said in surprise. “Mom made up the rules?”

He gave me a funny look. “No, not Mom. You know . . .” He gestured again to the ceiling.

“You mean . . . higher than Mom?”

“Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

I whistled in amazement. Grandma.

I also loved that the story was written in the voice of our young hero, expressing events as experienced by a young boy bulldozing toward puberty. Consider this description of the girl of his dreams:

She was the most unbelievable, funny, smart girl in the history of history. She had blue-green eyes that were the color of fresh blueberries. Her hair was black as electrical tape.

The story progressed at a good pace and I found myself struggling to put the book down. ‘Just one more chapter’ became my motto each night until the book was finished.

What I didn’t enjoy that much

It took me a while to finish this review but I cannot remember anything that niggled me in this book.

Final thoughts

Author, James Mendendall, did an awesome job with bringing this story to life. I enjoyed his writing style and will most certainly keep my eyes open for more of his work.

STAR RATING: 5 Stars

REVIEW: Last Straw – David Rheem JARRETT * * *

Last Straw - David Rheem Jarrett

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STAR RATING: 3 Stars

Book Description from Amazon

If you cheat a man out of his future, be prepared to pay the price. Vengeance is not always the province of the Lord.

LAST STRAW tells the story of such a man — tough, resourceful Thomas Pickering, robbed of his future by unscrupulous financiers and betrayed by an unfaithful wife — who finally snaps. He makes it his mission to punish those who wronged him in very creative and ugly ways. He finds he is good at dispensing justice and begins to enjoy the game.

Mike Kingman and Tess Brogan, two young police officers, themselves embroiled in an escalating affair, are assigned to investigate his crimes and discover enough evidence to arrest and convict him. In the human chess game they are playing, Pickering has the advantage. They have rules they must follow — he does not.

From the Berkeley hills, to the Ghost Fleet of ships in Suisun Bay, to the towering Campanile in the center of the University of California campus, Pickering is always one step ahead, in a race that challenges his considerable intellect and skill, and tests the relationship of the two young officers.

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 MY REVIEW

While reading this book I was constantly in two minds. I enjoyed part of the book immensely, but really disliked other parts. I downloaded the sample and it drew me in enough to download the rest of the book, especially the beginning. I did not expect what happened so early in the book which was a pleasant surprise.

What I liked about the book

The story line was good and the character development spot on. There were quite a few twists and turns which I enjoyed for the most part. The book was well written and I loved the descriptions and the way in which the writer dragged me into the story.

I liked being in the killer’s mind and reading his thoughts. His justification for his actions were fascinating but warped.

What I didn’t enjoy that much

Throughout the book I had to remind myself that the characters were not hormonal teenagers. Most of the characters were so sex obsessed that it became off-putting and unrealistic.

There was only one character I liked in the story  – Trent Willoughby. The rest I struggled to identify with. Between their overly sexual nature and strange way of viewing the world I had a hard time finding common ground.

Final thoughts

Apart from the above niggles, this was a good story. There were plenty that kept my attention and I wanted to know how it would all end up. Overall this is a well executed thriller.

STAR RATING: 3 Stars

REVIEW: Impromptu Scribe – Alex Morritt * * * *

Alex book cover

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STAR RATING:  4 Stars

Book Description from Amazon

Whether it be nail-biting courtroom suspense surrounding a celebrity star on trial; the tear-jerking return journey of an ageing war veteran to the battlefield of his youth; an hilarious account from a dog’s perspective of the eccentric clientele that frequent his master’s restaurant; a bittersweet tale of a vendetta waged by a young girl denied her favourite ice cream; or the adrenalin-fuelled adventures of a terminal cancer patient turned base jumper – these make up just a handful of examples of what to expect in this riveting short story collection. ‘Immensely Visual’ and ‘Highly Versatile’ are by far the most frequently recurring descriptions of the author’s bold style of writing given by early reviewers of ‘Impromptu Scribe’, his début short story collection.

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MY REVIEW

Impromptu Scribe is a great collection of short stories for all tastes. The collection doesn’t follow a theme which means there is a wide variety of topics.

What I liked about the book

The stories were well written and I could find something for every mood. I particularly enjoyed Hubert and Hector and found the story being told from the dog’s point of view interesting and funny. Alex Morritt did a great job in his descriptions and I loved how I was able to visualise each story.

What I didn’t enjoy that much

My only niggle, and it is not exclusive to this collection of short stories, is that I sometimes felt the stories were not finished. As if they were more Flash Fiction than short story. I would love to see some of the stories expanded on.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. It is ideal for a tea time or lunch time read or a quick trip on the bus. I will definitely keep my eyes open for more work from this author.

STAR RATING:  4 Stars

REVIEW: The Calypsis Project (Volume 1) – Brittany M. Willows * * * *

The Calypsis Project - Brittany M. Willows

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STAR RATING:  4 Stars

Book Description from Goodreads

It’s the year 2438. Ten years ago, an ill-fated encounter on a mining world triggered a devastating war between the United Nations Planetary Defense and an alien organization known as the Drocain Royal Empire.

With no sign of a conclusion in sight, and with mankind’s very existence at stake, the men and women of the UNPD have been forced into desperation.

When Corporal Alana Carmen stumbles upon an encrypted communications device, she learns that there is more to the conflict than a simple war-for-worlds, and to uncover the truth, she must make allies of those she once considered enemies.

And now, the fate of the entire galaxy may rest on the shoulders of a single alien warrior . . .

After being publicly shamed at his own Coming of Age ceremony, Kenon Valinquint enrolls in the Drocain Royal Empire in the hope of one day redeeming himself.

Unbeknownst to the young Drahkori warrior, this decision has set in motion a staggering chain of events that could very well change the direction of the war, and the known history of the universe, forever.

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REVIEW: Voice of Innocence – Lindsay Detwiler * * * *

Voice of Innocence - Lindsay Detwiler

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STAR RATING: 4 Stars

 Book Description from Amazon

Our love was strong, unwavering, and unbreakable…or so we thought.

We’ve all heard the saying: you never forget your first love. For some, however, perhaps the better terminology is haunted—haunted with the memories, the connections, and the life-changing relationship.

So begins the tale of Emma Ranstein and Corbin Jones, two typical teenagers who travel the road of first love together, hearts sealed by a seemingly impenetrable bond.

When Corbin Jones is convicted of murder and faces years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, though, their love is put to the test. As Emma and Corbin await his release from prison decades later, both reflect on the power of a relationship neither has gotten over.

Their unique story speaks to a universal heartstring within all of us: how do we move on past a first love if we aren’t meant to do so? More importantly, it reminds us that there is hope if the heart leads the way.

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