Monthly Archives: November 2008

Review – Soul and Shadow

Soul and Shadows – Echoes of the Past

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Susan McLeod

Available: Paperback

Egyptologist and illustrator Lily Evans finds her visions and dreams of ancient Egypt inspirational for her paintings. A wealthy and famous English archaeologist happens upon Lily’s work and believes that they are the result of a connection Lily has with the unsettled soul of an Egyptian priestess – Amisihathor. While Lily does not believe in such things, her visions and dreams become more and more intense as does her romance with Kent – the grandson of the very archaeologist who discovered the Amisihathor’s tomb. Lily begins to learn of the priestess’ long buried secrets and soon finds her own life at risk as she gets closer to the truth.

Susan McLeod’s Soul and Shadow provides an interesting look a the social parallels of ancient Egypt and today; greed, desire, politics, love, betrayal, and romance are timeless. I especially enjoyed the sections of the novel which recounted the life and times of Amisihathor. McLeod’s writing, cadence, and style is spot on in these sections and her considerable research and expertise in this area shines. I did however find the early romantic interactions between Lily and Kent a little forced early on in the novel though this improves as the story evolves.

Soul and Shadow is a brief novel at 124 pages and I longed for more of the ancient Egyptian parts of the story. McLeod’s writing style is very refined and enjoyable to read; I look forward to her next offering.

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Review – The River

The River – Hang on for the ride of your life!

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Cheryl Kaye Tardif
Available: Paperback

Having moved on seven years after her missing father is assumed dead, Delia Hawthorne “Del” is visited by an aged stranger. Convinced the man is deranged, Del calls security to have him removed from her university classroom. “Delly it’s me” he says. And though it can’t be, it is. He is professor Schroeder, a colleague gone missing with her father so many years earlier, only he is much older than he should be. Schroeder tells her that her father is still alive and hands over a coded journal just before collapsing unconscious.

At the hospital, Del learns that Schroeder is suffering from a rare form of Progeria – a rapid aging disease. He will soon die and no one knows what has caused his condition. Jake Kerrigan, a research specialist for Bio-Tec Canada, the same company Del’s father worked for, is brought in to consult.

Convinced by Schroeder and his journal that her father is still alive, Del decides to retrace her father’s footsteps by traveling to the mysterious Canadian South Nahanni River – a river shrouded in legend and known for the occasional headless skeletons discovered along its banks.

Del, her ex-boyfriend, Jake Kerrigan, and a cadre of others led by their Dene guide travel and sometimes battle the beautiful and treacherous Nahanni River. Taming the river while searching for her captive father is exhausting . Add to this Del’s exacerbation of her Multiple Scelorsis and the journey is emotionally and mentally taxing. This may be why I found Del’s frequent romantic and lustful thoughts regarding Jake somewhat out of place given the situation.

In the second half of the book, the team find the hidden location of Del’s father. Without giving away too many plot surprises, this section reminded me of a cross between James Bond’s “Dr. No” and a more recent movie “The Island”. There is the hi-tech bad-guy lair controlled by a nefarious conspiratorial organization looking to gain the ultimate control over human life.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s description of the Nahanni expedition is exceptional, demonstrating her considerable research and command of this remote Canadian region. “The River” is a wonderful adventure. Readers will not be disappointed in what could be the ride of their lives.

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Review – The Ezekiel Code

The Ezekiel Code – There are no Coincidences

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Gary Val Tenuta
Available: Paperback

After taking over as director of a homeless shelter, seminarian dropout Ezekiel “Zeke” Banyon stumbles upon a mysterious document listing a strange series of phrases and numbers in his predecessor’s office. He and Angela Martin, a recently hired employee of the shelter, become fascinated with the odd phrases and codes. They set out on a journey which leads them to believe that the English Alphabet may in fact be a cipher of some kind; that built into the very fabric of the language itself are coded messages that have been there for centuries. But where did this code come from? What message does it contain? What are the implications to humanity?

Zeke and Angela soon find they are not the only ones interested in discovering the secret of the code. Other more nefarious and conspiratorial organizations’ power and future are in Zeke’s hands. Some want to protect him while others want him destroyed.

Gary Tenuta’s Ezekiel Code has elements of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” as well as the adventure of Preston and Child’s “The Ice Limit”. Mostly, however, this novel is like an entire season of the X-files packed into one book. Tenuta covers a lot of ground and topics including: acoustic levitation, out of body experiences, area 51, ancient Catholic Church and Jesuit secrets, Mayan calendars and predictions, Isis and the great pyramids, Gematria, parallel universes, the Illuminati, conspiratorial organizations, parallel universes, electronic voice phenomenon, and more. This requires a fairly high suspension of disbelief factor by the reader and Tenuta does a good job integrating these diverse concepts into the story.

While English Gematria, which is the assignment of numerical equivalents of words usually associated with Hebrew, is the main concept driving the Ezekiel code, the pace of the novel can occasionally be interrupted by its frequent appearance. Regardless, I found myself engaged throughout the story and googling a number of the curious and fascinating concepts raised in order to learn more about them. Gary has clearly done considerable research in writing this novel. Fans of the X-files will enjoy The Ezekiel Code.

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Review – Sudden Death

Sudden Death – “Tee Anyone?”

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Michael Balkind
Available: Paperback, Kindle

Reid Clark is at the top of his game. After fulfilling his lifelong dream of wining the Masters Tournament in Augusta Georgia, he lands a huge multi-million dollar product endorsement deal. But everything is not quite right for Reid. Having led a fairly carefree yet successful life, Reid is prone to temper tantrums which has lead the media to coin him as golf’s “Bad Boy”, and while Reid supports philanthropic endeavors, not everyone is as happy with Reid as he is with himself. Players on the tour resent his success and frequent arrogance, ex-girlfriends are legion as he is just as much a “player” off the green as on, and ex-caddies and business associates are frustrated with his juvenile outbursts.

Its no surprise Reid receives a death threat. The rules for staying alive – never win another golf tournament. Impossible for Reid. The threats do, however, cause him to take stock of his life and attitudes. He sets out to spend more time with his family, appreciate those around him, and perhaps even find the girl of his dreams. But it’s hard to turn around your life on a dime, and Reid finds himself frequently agitated by the press and those hired to protect him.

Will Reid back off and retire from golf while at the top of his game? Or will he risk everything and take on the thugs threatening him?

I enjoyed “Sudden Death”. Michael Balkind takes you into the clubhouse, the mind, and the life of a professional golfer – the stress, the deals, the parties, the game, the fans, the agents, you name it.

My one issue is that I found it hard to connect with and like Reid Clark. Though he tries to re-evaluate his life after receiving multiple threats, connecting with family and his budding relationship are all centered around buying them high priced gifts and taking them on shopping sprees. There’s no real emotional connection. This is certainly consistent with his persona, but does make it difficult to really route for him as the novel’s main character.

None-the-less, “Sudden Death” is a very enjoyable read. If you like golf and a good mystery, “Sudden Death” is for you!

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Review – Soul Identity

Soul Identity – The “Eyes” Have It

Rating: 4 of 5

Author: Dennis Batchelder
Available: Paperback, Kindle

As the old saying goes, “The Eyes are the window to the Soul”. In Dennis Batchelder’s Soul Identity, this is more than a figure of speech. Rather, it is the premise behind a twenty-six hundred year old organization tasked with finding, recording, and managing their clients’ soul lines. Similar to a finger print, a persons eyes, specifically their iris patterns is unique – at least while they are alive. At some future point after their death, their iris pattern may repeat in a new body. It is this unique pattern that identifies that this new body carries the same soul line as the previous body.

But in the present day, the organization – aptly named “Soul Identity” – is finding it harder and harder to match soul lines – especially the company overseer souls – even though technology has made it easier to capture, read, catalogue and compare iris patterns. Could it be this same technology is actually preventing this company from its mission? Is someone using this technology against them?

In comes Scott Waverly, a security and technology expert hired to find the answers and save “Soul Identity” and its millions of soul lines from disappearing forever. Though skeptical of the company’s claims, Waverly quickly finds himself in the middle of a philosophical, technological, and life threatening affair which has him jet setting around the world to save the company as well as his life.

In his debut novel, Dennis Batchelder has created a fast paced barnstormer similar to the likes of Lincoln Child in novels such as “Death Match” and “Utopia”. Though taking on the questions of immortality through the possible reincarnation of souls, Batchelder, similar to his fictional “Soul Identity” overseer Archibald Morgan, does not delve too deeply into the philosophical and spiritual implications of this “technology”. Rather, the novel relies on the wonderfully written dialogue and suspenseful situations the protagonists must overcome to solve the mystery behind who is trying to destroy “Soul Identity” and why.

This novel is a very engaging read and I would encourage anyone who enjoys novels such as those written by Lincoln Child, to consider purchasing Soul Identity – you are sure to enjoy it. The book ends with a few teaser preview chapters from the sequel which looks equally good if not better. I, for one, am anxiously awaiting the release of Batchelder’s next book.

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Review – The Starfish People

The Starfish People – A Bittersweet Exceptional Debut Novel

Rating: 5 of 5 – TMBOA recommended book!!

Author: Leann Marshall
Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle

After years of being haunted by a recurring nightmare where she is drowning, Sera Muir’s life is an empty shell. The nightmare is unrelenting and repeated therapy has proven to be unsuccessful. Sera moves through life without meaning, unable to hold anything more than a menial job. Her one promising relationship for love and happiness is doomed due to her water phobia caused by her all consuming dream.

Sera is convinced by Dr. Moore, her therapist, that perhaps her dream is not a dream but rather a memory – a memory of a drowning in a previous life. In the year 2202, science has advanced such that one has the ability to trace their life energy signature back in time. Dr. Moore identifies Sera’s past life signature in a woman named Melissa James. Through research, they discover that Melissa dies in a drowning accident which is the likely cause of Sera’s nightmare. An experimental procedure, Kinetic Regression Travel, may allow Sera to return back in time to witness what happens to Melissa so that she can finally break free of the hold this nightmare has on her.

However, for her journey to be successful, Sera must be extremely careful to only observe events of the past and not interfere with them or the result may be catastrophic. Desperate for finding meaning and searching for a way forward, Sera agrees. Ironically, after traveling back to 1973, for perhaps the first time in her life, Sera is anything but an observer. In fact, in a period of only a couple of days, Sera connects so deeply with those she meets, she begins to finally live life. The ultimate choice she makes and its impact transforms herself and those around her.

The Starfish People by Leann Marshall is a beautifully written novel. The characters are marvelously developed and lovingly conveyed to the reader as if paying tribute to their tragic lives. I was moved by each of them and haunted by the bittersweet ending. Marshall’s insights into the human condition are thoughtfully written. One of my favorite quotes comes from Willie:

“Maybe you understand why somebody is the way they is, and maybe you don’t understand them at all. But folks all got their own ways about them – good and bad. And that’s all there is to it in this life, you know. We all just trying to find our way.”

It is only through her past, that Sera finds her way.

Not only did I enjoy reading this novel, but I found myself frequently thinking about it’s characters, themes, and what might have been, making it clear to me why this novel was awarded a 2008 IPPY Silver Medal. This is an extremely good debut novel and Marshall proves she is a very capable author.

I suppose my one complaint would be that I longed for more. The novel is a brief 138 pages and I know that I could have spent even more time in Marshall’s world. If you like novels from Oprah’s book club, put this one on your shelf. You will grow and care about the characters more than those in The House of Sand and Fog and the outcome will be more satisfying than Drowning Ruth. I anxiously await the release of Leann Marshall’s next offering.

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Reviews – Posting Changes!

I’ve decided that after each new review, I’ll not only include them on the “reviews” tab, but post them on the main blog page as well.  This will provide some visibility for each for these authors on the  home page and also make it easier to find the reviews as the blog grows!

So to catch up, I’ll post each of the existing reviews immediately.

Next up for review, Gary Val Tenuta’s “Ezekiel Code”.

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