Thursday, November 20, 2014

404 by J. G. Sandom

404.  J. G. Sandom. Cornucopia Press.  November 2014. 331 pp. paperback and e-book. ISBN #: 9780985695484.

John Decker, a cryptanalyst forensic examiner, is working at the National Counter-Terrorism Center when some violent, strange occurrences begin throughout America.  Right before they begin, a number of crimes happen where the perpetrator is caught on camera and to Decker looks like his old Arab nemesis who was thought to be dead, El Aqrab.  Decker and his family soon become the target and indeed messages seem to be luring Decker into danger and at the same time are compelling him to discovery the mystery behind Aqrab’s reappearance. 

Two planes collide; a nuclear reactor has a disastrous shutdown of its most protective technology; the government’s defense system is easily hacked, and more disasters affecting thousands of Americans lead this country to the brink of physical, political and financial disaster. 

Decker is drawn to receive the help of a Chinese computer expert, Xin Liu (known to all as Lulu).  At the same time Decker’s career is in jeopardy as it is beginning to look like there’s a mole in his department and it looks like it’s him.  This is another mystery as there is a period of his life involving his first encounter with Aqrab when something happened to him that he doesn’t remember.  He actually wonders if he’s going mad.  Lulu helps him to pursue the answers to his multiple questions as his personal life parallels the national disasters growing larger and larger by the minute!  Lulu’s a funky, unpredictable character, is an evolving wonder of a character who easily matches the skills of any expert on computers and martial arts as well!

This novel addresses the well-known, but little understood by the average person, issues of cyber-hacking and cyber-terrorism.  For those who are computer buffs, you’ll be in your glory as there are explanations galore about the technology of hacking and how the Internet keeps systems flowing or breaking throughout the world.  For those not as computer savvy as the experts, there’s enough riveting action and nail-biting intensity with each new level added to the complex plot to keep you flipping the pages and reading faster than you can imagine!

This reviewer has been reviewing J. G. Sandom’s novels over the years and must say this is his BEST story yet.  The most harrowing part of it all is that it’s REAL and we may be closer to this story’s coming to pass than we ever imagined!  It’s not a game at all!  404 is a best-selling crime thriller that is sure to please any reader who loves a great story with layers of depth and thrills.  It would also make one heck of a movie!  Congratulations, J. G. Sandom!  404 is a gem of a read!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Resting Place: A Graveside Diary by Pamela Little

The Resting Place: A Graveside Diary.  Pamela Little. Soul Custody Press. November 2014. 143 pp.  ISBN#: 9780990784807.

Pamela Little wrote this memoir to put her life in perspective.  Since she was young and suffered from bipolar disease, as well as suffering an abusive trauma in her youth, she’s had an obsession with death.  She’s not afraid of it but finds herself drawn to it.  She therefore decides to begin a journal which she mainly writes only when visiting a cemetery, where she has bought her own plot which she plans to share only with her mother someday.  Initially, it’s the only place she truly feels at peace!

Don’t write off Pamela’s background, for this memoir is replete with gems about living that few people take the time to ponder and appreciate!

A great deal of the account takes place as the author attempts to write through her chemical changes that put her into either a manic or depressive state, exacerbated with panic attacks.  But it is in those places where she sees what has weakened her relationship with her family and acquaintances and what she could possibly do to strengthen them instead of giving in to the compulsions that turn destructive if acted upon.  One doesn’t have to be bipolar to recognize how normal and prevalent these situations are in every family.

The close relationship she shares about her mother and daughters is what fuels her continuous writing of this journal with the goal of being more obsessed with living than dying.  She does just that.  For example, choosing not to give in to binge eating when in the depressed phase of her illness actually allows her freedom and space to grasp what is bothering her behind the surface manifestation of illness.  Choosing to write one’s obituary frees one to realize an opportunity to actually put into practice what few of us actually do, rather than wait until after a loved one’s death when one writes of words, feelings, and thoughts that were never actually shared with a loved one while alive.

Most of all, this account is about realizing how responsible we each are for our own lives, leaving out the blame game that only serves to distort reality!

Cherishing and loving life as it manifests in people, places and events are what fuel the unique quality of this memoir.  It’s a rare and special gift for any and all readers, one to relish and even share with our own families, friends and acquaintances.  Thank you for sharing this account, Pamela Little!

The Thursday Night Club - A Tale of Christmas Spirit - a Novella by Steven Manchester

The Thursday Night Club – A Tale of Christmas Spirit – a novella.  Steven Manchester. The Story Plant. November 2014. 64 pp.  ISBN#: 9781611882032.

Izzy and Ava host a weekly Thursday Night Club get-together with Jessie Cabral, Ava, Randy and Kevin.  They’re College Senior students who work hard at their studies and play just as hard, goofy friends who love nothing better than a good prank on each other, harmless fun that lightens their work load. Some have risen from poverty and are paying their tuition by the skin of their teeth but they don’t focus much on the hardship part of it all.  They are loyal to each other and beyond that focusing on meeting the directions of their various professors.  One professor in particular is a philosophy teacher who is highly demanding but how isn’t specified.  Jessie Cabral is probably the only remarkable student among them, preferring to be out on the streets doing something kind for someone in need but never flaunting it in anyone’s face. 

We meet them one Thursday night when they bet $.75 each to see who can play the funniest prank, specifying that such a plan is not to cause harm or hurt anyone else’s feelings. The game is on and they all do a great job which the reader will be sure to chuckle at.  But the laughs are soon to end dramatically when a tragedy strikes one of their group.  It will change their lives forever and many, many other lives because of what follows!
“Pay it forward” is a phrase that has been put into action over the last few years, but what this group agrees to do following the tragedy they are now living with will far exceed that temporary phase.  They will make another bet to see who can do the greatest good to another human being but they must remain anonymous. 

What follows is inventive, spontaneous, and a true blessing to each recipient of the deeds these students initiate.  To tell all would be a spoiler unworthy of this Christmas gift given to us by Steven Manchester.  One little hint – would you donate part of your body to give life to another – while you are alive?

The Thursday Night Read… is not only a perfect  holiday read but also one for every day of the year and years to follow.  A great read, may it inspire others to live a life with “purpose.”

The Job: Fox and O'Hare Series #3 by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Job: Fox and O’Hare Series #3.  Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. Bantam Books. November 2014. 320 pp.  ISBN#: 9780804179898.  

FBI Agent Kate O’Hare conned a major con, Nicolas Fox, in order to capture him.  But the criminal con was so good the FBI released him to help catch other criminals they couldn’t catch without his help.  Oh, by the way, no one is supposed to know that later bit about releasing him!

Kate supposedly despises Fox but she has to admit with humorous reluctance of course, that he is good at what he does, very, very good!!!

In this latest Fox and O’Hare series, Kate O’Hare and Fox travel through America, Europe and elsewhere in order to figure out two things.  The first is what con is posing as Fox in order to steal famous art works and the second is the major drug cartel leader who yearns for more and more treasure and has the means and ways to make that happen with ease!

The story involves a hidden treasure (duh, or something like that), a female bodyguard who’s almost pathological, a Portuguese enforcer, a pirate, a special effects creator and director, and a retired Special Forces father, and more crazy, fun, chaotic characters who are part of this lunatic plot to capture or con the major con master!
The plot is simple but what makes this latest Evanovich novel delightful is the way cons con other cons and the humor and delight they get in discussing and carrying out these events.  It’s even better than Bonnie and Clyde! It’s a MUST read!