gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: April 2016

2022 by Ken Kroes

2022

Using an uncanny ability to harvest information to predict the future, philanthropist Richard foresees a dark future for the human race. This future is exacerbated by the return of cold-war-like tensions, sophisticated terrorist organizations, and new controls on information flow.
He believes he knows what needs to be done to reverse the trend, but can it be achieved in time, even with the resources at his disposal? Should he turn to terrorism to make it work? And if he’s wrong, and his plan backfires, will it mean the end of most, or all, of the human race?

Thanks to the author for gifting me this review copy!

2022 is a fast paced, thought provoking read. Basically, the world is running out of resources and one man thinks he has the solution. His ideas have validity, but is there something more sinister going on under the surface?

The plot is easy to believe; we are experiencing this right now, with all the furor over greenhouse gas, oceans full of plastic, and food shortages. Also very believable is the giant organization that is monitoring and disseminating information–they appear to be benign, but that is also a concern lurking just below the surface.

As I read, I found nothing that would strain my credulity. I even believed that there would be hundreds of people willing to sign up to go live in one of the remote “villages” that was being constructed under the guise of saving the planet. I would liked to have seen more of the inner workings of the villages, but they were in the process of being built. I’d be interested to see how the Elders managed their people and if they would be as fair as they claimed they would be.

There are three strong women, Diane, Sue and Olivia, as main characters. Each of them have their own personality and foibles; I had to laugh about the idea of no makeup or coffee being a deal breaker for village living! There is also a professional killer who is, surprisingly, a woman. This adds an interesting twist to the story, as Hope (the killer) can befriend the other women and not tip her hand. She’s a true chameleon.

Richard, who wants the villages built for his own agenda, is a great characterization of a megalomaniacal genius. There is no problem that money can’t solve for him; but does he really want the planet saved? Or just saved on his terms? The twist at the ending sets up book two perfectly.

The best part about 2022 is how it makes you think. There is the obligatory population killing virus, and double crosses galore (and a few surprises), but I enjoyed reading about how the world is being affected, conveyed through normal plot advancement. The author takes this subject very seriously, and even provides a few appendixes at the end of the book, explaining his thought process.

Overall, the message comes through loud and clear without being too preachy. Anyone reading this will come away with more information that they didn’t even know was lacking in their mind, and hopefully, they will practice some of the suggestions put forth by Kroes. This truly is an issue that affects us all.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Q&A with FAIRMIST author, Todd Fahnestock

Fairmist website

The Debt of the Blessed:

Within the Thiaran Empire, citizens put on jeweled masks and turn away from those who are taken. As long as one child is sacrificed each month to the Slinks and nobody interferes, their society will thrive.

But seventeen-year-old Grei’s mind is alive with treason, and he plunges into the heart of a prophecy that will drive the Slinks back to their fiery dimension. All he must do is travel to the capitol city and sacrifice one last innocent. As Grei wrestles with the prophecy and battles those who would kill him, he hurtles toward his final decision: save the empire, or save his own soul.

 

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GTB was lucky enough to score an exclusive Q&A with author Todd Fahnestock! Here, he talks with us about his latest novel, FAIRMIST.

How did you come up with the idea for Fairmist?

Because of a girl. (Ain’t that always the way?) Back when I thought up the concept for Fairmist, most things were driven by a girl or the thought of a girl. Love lost. Or love that was never had in the first place. Fairmist was about the latter. I was enthralled with this amazing, sensual woman when I was in college. We had a smattering of passionate nights, but never officially dated. And so I thought up the idea: What if this mystical woman really did want to be with me but couldn’t because of a world-destroying prophecy that held her back? No spoilers here, as that’s not how the prophecy ended up working in the later drafts of the novel, but it was what precipitated the story.

 

Why Fairmist? Why not some other book?

The theme of the book is so applicable to our current world. And I love the medium of fantasy to give larger-than-life examples of our modern day troubles. Fairmist is all about lies and deception, and there are so many lies in our society. Some of them we swallow whole without ever questioning them. We accept the reality that is presented to us, go along with it just as long as it’s familiar, even if it’s terrible. It makes me think of that scene from the Batman movie The Dark Knight, where the Joker is talking about how people don’t freak out if things go to plan, even if the plan is horrifying.

 

Tell me about the Ringblades.

The Ringblades were a surprise to me. There is a cadre of swordsmen/policemen in the story called the Highblades that are ubiquitous in the story. Highblades are all men, and one day while rough drafting in my friend’s basement, the Ringblades popped up in the story as a counterpoint to the Highblades: an imperial cadre of assassins who are all women. Initially, I intended them to be cold-hearted and ruthless. In the end, they morphed into this wonderfully vulnerable and utterly badass group who care for each other and believe wholeheartedly in their mission in the world. They became integral to the story.

 

Who was the hardest character to write?

Grei, the protagonist, was by far the most difficult. In the early drafts, the side characters hijacked the novel. They were colorful and compelling and they stole the show. They drove all the action, which caused the novel to sag because the protagonist was just along for the ride. It put me in a pickle that took me fourteen drafts to fix. It was a growth moment for me as a writer. These days, I keep a close eye on my side characters. If they start taking over I either lash them to the novel’s purpose or thrust them into the protagonist role to see how they like it.

 

Who was the easiest character to write?

Blevins leapt off the page from the start. He wrote himself, with his angry, uncaring attitude, his mystery, and his ultra competence. He would be the type of friend that would frustrate me to have, as he’d never commit to helping you with anything, but when you were totally in over your head, he would be the one to save you.

 

Who is your favorite author?

When I was a teenager, all I read was fantasy. Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks and Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman were my favorites. These days, I have favorites for different genres. George R. R. Martin is obviously a master storyteller. I’m in awe of what he has done with Game of Thrones…assuming he brings it to a satisfying conclusion. It is going to be an amazing trick if he pulls all of those epic storylines together. Of course, he might solve that problem by just killing off all the characters until he’s down to one and stick their banner in the Iron Throne. I’d have to say, though, that the writer I admire most right now is John Hart. I enjoyed his first two novels, King of Lies and Down River. They were top notch. But his third novel, The Last Child, transcended the genre. It blew me away. I was in such awe of this masterpiece that I dreaded his fourth novel coming out. I was sure it couldn’t possibly stack up to The Last Child, and I didn’t want John Hart to fall from the pedestal upon which I’d put him. But I was wrong. Iron House was even better. That is an incredible feat to achieve. Now I dread his fifth novel coming out.

 

If you had a million dollars and had to spend it, what would you buy?

Ha ha! Wow. Well, I’m a Dad, so my first thought is to set up robust college funds for my kids. Boring, I know. But that’s what I’d do first. Second, I’d take my wife to a tropical island for a month, if I could pull her away from her job, which she loves. Third, I’d reward my amazing friends for their contributions to Fairmist and my forthcoming middle-grade book, The Wishing World (Starscape, fall of 2016). I’d hire my Creative Diplomat/PR Manager, Jaclyn McDonald, full time and hopefully entice Liana Holmberg, the freelance editor who worked on The Wishing World with me to work on all my projects with me. She’s just flat-out amazing. I attribute the Starscape purchase of The Wishing World directly to her artful handling of me and my writing. I’m a writer who needs an editor, and editors who can provide Liana’s kind of creative, novel-elevating work are rare.

So where does that put us? That’s half a million at most. I can’t put any in the bank? I think then I’d buy an enormous house in the mountains and rent our current house for an alternate stream of income. Then I’d buy a 1969 Camaro because I’ve always wanted one.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

These days, many of them come from my children. My upcoming middle-grade novel, The Wishing World, comes straight from them, either from my inspiration just watching and interacting with them, or actually from the ideas they have contributed to the story. They’re both insanely creative, and it makes me grin every day. Also, I watch a lot of movies and almost always go off into a daydream when something vivid strikes me. I’ll sit there in the movie theater creating a different story idea or a powerful scene in a book while I’m watching the movie’s story play out on the screen.

 

Describe a writing routine.

My ideal writing routine: Get up, go for a 5 mile run. Shower. Rough draft for four hours per day for four days each week, generating 1,000 to 3,000 words each day. Aim to have 10,000 each week. On the fifth day, do marketing, correspondence, etc. Book signings or conferences on Saturday. Writers group and more rough drafting on Sunday.

My actual writing routine: Get up, sometimes go for a 3 mile run. Get back, think about writing. Shower. Go to work. Come home at 5:30. Go to Tae Kwon Do. Eat. Argue with children about homework. Put them to bed. Put myself to sleep watching The Big Bang Theory or Agents of Shield, Jessica Jones or Daredevil, or any of the amazing Marvel movies. Get up in the morning and wonder when I’m going to write. Reach the weekend with a gasp and start writing at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. Have a flurry of rough drafting and cap off the weekend with 5,000 words. I’m fortunate to be prolific, otherwise I could never do this, have a day job, be a father and stay sane. (The sanity thing, of course, is still in question).

 

What are you working on next?

The Wishing World will come out from Starscape Books this fall, and I’m super-excited about it. It’s a middle-grade novel about a whimsical, imaginative world where children transform into their ideal hero. The main character, Lorelei, is based on my daughter and her voice just flows out. She’s driven, snarky and hilarious. When I go back over the story for editing purposes or just to review, I’ll bust out laughing at things she says. I love Lorelei. I can’t wait for the world to meet her.

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Thanks to Todd Fahnestock for an awesome interview! Check out his website!

Want your own copy of FAIRMIST? You can pick it up here.

ELON MUSK by Ashlee Vance

musk

There are few industrialists in history who could match Elon Musk’s relentless drive and ingenious vision. A modern alloy of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs, Musk is the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, each of which has sent shock waves throughout American business and industry. More than any other executive today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as a science fiction fantasy.

In this lively, investigative account, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance offers an unprecedented look into the remarkable life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious businessman. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family, and his friends, the book traces his journey from his difficult upbringing in South Africa to his ascent to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than fifty hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to three hundred people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies and to paint a portrait of a complex man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation–all while making plenty of enemies along the way.

Until I read Ashlee Vance’s biography Elon Musk, my impression of Musk was that he was one of these hyper-efficient Silicon Valley boy geniuses who figured that being somewhat irreverent in the media would be advantageous to him. I’m cynical. What can I say?

Now, having read the book, I feel that the irreverence we see from Musk (in interviews and elsewhere)  is less manipulation than it is restraint. Vance has painted Musk as a passionate, brilliant man who would rather end up poor than not have a hand in advancing the industries where he thinks he can make a unique difference. He’s not just crazy by the standards of us mortals, who consider it a good month if we pay all of our bills and have enough left over to buy a gadget or something. After cashing out of his first company, PayPal, in a world where buying a single Cold War-era Russian rocket cost his entire net worth, he decided to design his own instead. You, me, and every other sane person would have said, “I suppose I won’t be starting an orbital shipping company today. Time to go find something to do that’s actually possible.” Elon Musk started SpaceX, and today he’s manufacturing reusable rockets.

This bio isn’t just a rundown of Musk’s accomplishments and the obstacles he conquered on the way. Vance’s account fleshes out the characters in Musk’s story with interviews and investigative fact-finding. Broad foreshadowing and perspective throughout kept me engaged. Impressive stylistic choices peppered throughout the prose brought the locales where Musk’s adventures play out to life. A particular description stood out to me – Musk’s team had recently moved their rocket testing operation to an island called Kwaj that the United States military had used to test Star Wars technology in the 70’s and 80’s:

“The military presence resulted in a weird array of buildings including hulking, windowless trapezoidal concrete structures clearly conceived by someone who deals with death for a living.”

This description punctuates the contrast between the status quo of the arena Musk was entering, and the vision he had for its future. It doesn’t just say what the place looked like, but makes me feel like I understand how it must have felt to be there. Vance is equally adept at selecting vignettes that effectively drive home her point. She included Boeing engineer-turned-SpaceX employee Jeremy Hollman’s anecdote about the ennui-inducing directionlessness on offer from SpaceX’s competitors:

“…Boeing completed its merger with McDonnell Douglass. The resultant mammoth government contractor held a picnic to boost morale but ended up failing at even this simple exercise. ‘The head of one of the departments gave a speech about it being one company with one vision and then added that the company was very cost constrained,’ Hollman said. ‘He asked that everyone limit themselves to one piece of chicken.'”

These anecdotes tend to serve their purposes well, and they never feel like they’re there for their own sake. They’re usually fun, engaging, and genuinely add insight to the narrative. After reading so many biographies that feel like a notebook of research shuffled at random with a publisher’s seal on it, I can genuinely appreciate that she has positively nailed this aspect of her work.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Review & GIVEAWAY – Hidden From The Face Of Humans by Susan J. Slack

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Enter my giveaway to win a SIGNED hard copy of this book! Just use the box below:

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hidden

Who Killed the High Priestess Thermafi?

Palace intrigue…sibling rivalries…mysticism…and murder.
Hidden From the Face of Humans is a sweeping epic that brings to vivid life the last native Egyptian dynasty of 400 BCE. Behind the banquets and the festivities, the world-changing battles and maneuvers, are the great powers of the day: the pharaohs of Egypt, Plato of Athens, Persian King Artaxerxes, and Spartan King Agesilaus.
Moving serenely amidst the political turmoil is Thermafi, an Egyptian Priestess of Isis who, like the Magi of the Middle Eastern deserts and the oracles at Delphi, travels the ancient, timeless path of the unseen. Thermafi seeks no power for herself, but she is privy to the secrets of the powerful. As the beloved confidante of the pharaoh and revered teacher of the heirs to the Egyptian throne, Thermafi has hidden enemies—and someone wants her dead.

A tour de force dramatizing actual events and characters, Hidden from the Face of Humans offers ingenious solutions to longtime historical mysteries—and a page-turning entertainment.

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review! There will be a GIVEAWAY of this book as well; link to the giveaway is at the top of this page.

This is a fascinating and well written book based on actual characters; the author states at the beginning of the story that only a few are fictitious. Evident right from the start is the undeniable fact that the author has done extensive research — the characters behave authentically and there is plenty of action.

Thermafi, an Egyptian Priestess, is murdered in the first chapter of the book, and the story works towards discovering her killer. She is blessed with a deep mystic understanding, and powerful men become either uneasy or entranced by her.

Almost 8 decades of history is woven into the story, brilliantly and seamlessly.The descriptions of the cities put you right into Egypt, alongside the royalty and the soldiers. Her villains are delightfully evil and power hungry, with egos as big as the land they wish to rule.

There are many characters in HIDDEN…so much so that there is a list in the beginning so you can keep them all straight. I had a bit of difficulty here and there, since the names are authentic and don’t provide a sense of masculine or feminine. That was my only issue; Slack’s writing is easy to follow, provides just the right amount of detail, and captures your interest by not spilling all the details at once.

The appearance of Plato was wonderfully refreshing; rather like being in an unfamiliar place and then seeing someone you know, doing things you’d never seen him do before.  I can easily say my knowledge of the Egyptian/Persian world is much richer having read this book.

There is something here for almost everyone, take away the Middle Eastern setting, and you have a multi layered murder mystery! Whether you are aware of the backstory here, or are new to the story of Thermafi, you will enjoy this book.


 

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

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