Review: Mindfront, by Dave Becker

by Dave Becker

Product Description (from
After uncovering a universal code in the brain waves of all living things that could revolutionize psychology, Martin Keller wakes one morning to find himself covered in blood, surrounded by his butchered family. Convinced he’s being framed by a diabolical organization set on stealing or sabotaging his work, he dodges a multi-agency manhunt that pursues him from the seediest corners of DC to the highest offices of government. Struggling to stay alive and find his family’s killer, Marty soon finds himself lost in a maze of conspiracies and paranoia, and eventually begins to doubt his own sanity. How can he find the truth when he doesn’t know what’s real?

My Thoughts:
When the author of this book asked me to review it last fall, I was in the mood for a good thriller. Despite this, I didn’t have a chance to read it until last week, when I was immediately so absorbed in it, to the point where for two days, I was reading it constantly. (During those two days I was also kind of drugged on muscle relaxants and pain killers because of a sprained back, which may have colored my reaction to the book.)

Thrillers – good thrillers – are a tricky thing to create. They have to have an element of mystery, a dash of danger, and a hint of good crime fiction, but still be rooted in a plausible version of reality or they don’t really work. With Mindfront all of the elements were there, and more – an interesting plot that was part techy, part bureaucratic, with nice family/spousal scenes that added dimension.

Martin Keller seemed like a three-dimensional character, and even I didn’t see all the twists til the very end of the novel. If you like thrillers, you will love this book. The physical copy is out of print, but the Kindle edition is available from Amazon.

Goes well with a pastrami sandwich on rye bread and a vanilla cream soda.

Review: Timbuctoo, by Tahir Shah

Tahir Shah

Product Description (from
For centuries, the greatest explorers of their age were dispatched from the power-houses of Europe London, Paris and Berlin on a quest unlike any other: To be the first white Christian to visit, and then to sack, the fabled metropolis of Timbuctoo.

Most of them never returned alive.

At the height of the Timbuctoo mania, two hundred years ago, it was widely believed that the elusive Saharan city was fashioned in entirety from the purest gold everything from the buildings to the cobble-stones, from the buckets to the bedsteads was said to be made from it.

One winter night in 1815, a young illiterate American seaman named Robert Adams was discovered half-naked and starving on the snow-bound streets of London. His skin seared from years in the African desert, he claimed to have been a guest of the King of Timbuctoo.

Thought of an American claiming anything let alone the greatest prize in exploration was abhorrent in the extreme. Closing ranks against their unwelcome American guest, the British Establishment lampooned his tale, and began a campaign of discrediting him, one that continues even today.

An astonishing tale based on true-life endurance, Tahir Shah s epic novel Timbuctoo brilliantly recreates the obsessions of the time, as a backdrop for one of the greatest love stories ever told.

My Thoughts:
Ever since I first read Katherine Neville’s The Eight when it first came out in the spring of 1989, I’ve fantasized about visiting places like Algeria and Morocco and, yes, even Timbuktu (as we spell it in modern English). As well, one of my favorite adventure stories is that of the folks from Citroen sponsoring the first crossing of the Sahara by automobile, specifically their Citroen half-track. You can imagine, then, how eagerly I leaped at the chance to review Tahir Shah’s novel from last summer, Timbuctoo.

I initially began reading it in late autumn, intending to be done with all my to-be-reviewed books before Thanksgiving, but work and other projects pulled me away from much reading at all, so I didn’t get to finish the novel until this week. It was worth the wait, and my apologies go to the author for my delay. That said, reading about the Sahara region in the 1800s was an odd juxtaposition with the news of Algeria’s attack on Mali (where Timbuktu actually IS) and the subsequent hostage situation. One story kept influencing my perspective of the other.

Even so, every time I found myself paying too much attention to the real world, I would return to Mr. Shah’s lovely novel, and lose myself in the British vs. American manners, and the challenge of a race to explore, conquer, collect, and the internal discoveries made by his characters, and I was continually enthralled by his deft use of language, his enchanting manner of storytelling (letters, descriptive chapter titles, and characters with very distinct point of views.) which marries a modern sensibility with the distinct culture of the slightly-pre-Victorian colonial age.

Even if you’ve never dreamed of trekking across the Sahara, I’m sure you’ll find Timbuctoo an interesting and compelling read.

Goes well with…mint tea and chicken shawarma.

Review: Dark Side of the Moon by Ahmad Taylor

Dark Side of the Moon
Ahmad Taylor

Product Description (from
Are You Afraid of the Dark? Take the Suspense-filled, Action-packed journey to the Dark Side of the Moon. When former government agent Derrick Thomas awakens to find his family missing and in harm’s way, he must do battle against a clandestine organization intent on keeping him from discovering the truth about a global cover-up and the whereabouts of his family. Government agent Derrick Thomas awakes from a disturbing dream to find a message from his father asking for help. As he sets out to lend his assistance he quickly discovers that not only can he not find his father, but that a clandestine government agency is out to derail his search before it can begin. After the murders of two of his father’s colleagues and the further disappearances of his mother and sister, Derrick is thrust into a fight for his own life and a struggle to uncover details of a secret government experiment which his family may be part of. Will he be able to save them and uncover the truth before he becomes the next victim of an organization bent on keeping him silent?

My Thoughts:
When Ahmad Taylor contacted me about his book, I was immediately interested. After all, I love science fiction, and I’m a space junkie. In fact, just before reading it, I’d finished yet another re-watch of the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon.

Dark Side of the Moon is everything it’s title implies. Good science fiction mixed with gripping suspense and really believable action sequences. I loved the futuristic touches that showed us how much this was not present day – specifying glucose, for example, instead of merely candy.

If some of the dialogue had unusual phrasing (it didn’t quite flow the way normal speech should in a few passages), it didn’t adversely affect the story at all, and I loved the characters, especially protagonist Derrick.

Taylor is a talented storyteller, and the world he created for Dark Side of the Moon felt plausible and even highly possible.

If you like science fiction, you simply MUST read this book.

Goes well with Junior Mints and Popcorn.

Review: Moonlight on the Nantahala

Moonlight on the Nantahala
by Micheal Rivers

Product Description (from
His life began deep within the mountains of North Carolina. Edward Caulfield was a dedicated craftsman who appreciated the finer things in his life. As a young man he fell deeply in love and married a beautiful young woman he did not want to live without. Fate took her from him early in his marriage and he lived the rest of his life as a shrine to her. In the twilight of his years he met a troubled young woman and their relationship turned the tide for them both. In his efforts to help her, their lives were changed forever learning from each other. In a world filled with romance, deceit, and sorrow Edward left her a legacy fulfilled with the promise of finding, “The Perfect Rose.”

I have to confess: this book was really difficult for me, not because of the book itself but because I read it around the first anniversary of the death of my nephew, and all those emotions, Edward’s loss of his wife – our family’s loss of a delightful young boy – became intertwined. It made it hard for me to separate the story from my own head, at times.

That said, Rivers has created a really lovely mood with Moonlight on the Nantahala, and the slower pace of a simpler time really brings the reader into his space. The story was compelling, and not so much sad as poignant, and ending on a hopeful note. The level of detail was amazing, and the characters all seemed three dimensional.

Lovely work, well crafted, and I want to see more from this author.

Goes well with a mug of herbal tea and a perfect sunset.

Review: Wyndano’s Cloak

Wyndano’s Cloak
by A.R. Silverberry

Product Description (from
Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever. She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen’s family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning? Wyndano’s Cloak may be Jen’s only hope. If she can only trust that she has what it takes to use it…

My Thoughts:

While I haven’t been part of the target demographic for YA for decades, I still read a lot of it, because it tends to have such wonderfully written female characters – strong, smart young women that are not found as frequently in contemporary adult fiction. When I find such a story that is also set in a rich fantasy world, I’m usually completely happy. That was the case with A.R. Silverberry’s Wyndano’s Cloak, which I not only read in a single night, but stayed up reading (by Kindle-light) in the dark into the wee hours – something I rarely get to do anymore.

What I liked about Silverberry’s world is that while it’s a fantasy setting, he didn’t make it too farfetched. Like some of my other favorite fantasy works, the people speak in contemporary (though not slangy) English, they drink coffee (actually he had me at coffee), etc. Yes, it’s clear the world in question is based on a Renaissance setting, and that the darker Plain World is a much gritter version of a similar period, but it was completely its own place as well, and in fantasy, that’s important because the world is a character in its own right.

Protagonist Jen, and the other young women in the story – Bit and Pet – were all great girls with unique personalities, and their own journeys. I liked that they could be strong, and bright in individual ways, and yet still retain girlhood. Not all active girls are true tomboys, after all, and not all fashionistas are insipid fools.

The male characters were also well-drawn. Jen’s father, Jen’s brother – both privileged men with distinct personalities – and Blue, the trickster, who reminded me a bit of Gavroche from Les Miserables was a winsome rogue.

Jen’s mother was more a presence than a real character in some respects, but her presence was felt, and Naryfel – what a great name! – was a perfect witch/hag character, but with complexity that made her more than a storybook villain.

While the plot of Wyndano’s Cloak was a combination of a Hero’s Quest and “How do we get back home,” Silverberry’s treatment of two standard fantasy themes was unique and compelling. I’d happily read more of his work, in this world, or in any others.

Goes well with: a latte and a chocolate croissant.

Review: Tides of Love

Seaswept Seduction: Tides of Love
by Tracy Sumner

Product Description (from
He left all he loved behind…

Will he be able to return and win her heart?

An earth-shattering secret revealed in his recently deceased mother’s diary causes harsh words between Noah Garrett and his brother. Desolate and totally bewildered, Noah leaves Pilot Isle and has no contact with his family or even Elle Beaumont, the girl who has been his shadow all through childhood. Now, ten years later, Noah is a renowned biologist and returns to Pilot Isle to head up a research lab. Coming back home opens up old wounds and uncovers buried feelings. Hoping to have a few days to cope with all the old emotions welling up within him, Noah really isn’t ready to face anyone yet. However, it’s just his luck that the first person he literally bumps into is Elle. The only difference is, Elle is no longer a thin red headed mischievous imp who is constantly in trouble and always needing to be rescued. This Elle is a gorgeous, passionate young woman who sets Noah’s blood on fire.

Marielle Claire Beaumont has loved Noah since she was a child. As a sad little girl who’d recently lost her mother and couldn’t speak English, Elle met Noah when he saved her from taunts at school. Ever since then Elle has loved Noah unconditionally and followed him around like a little puppy. Her world was shattered when he left so suddenly. His silence all these years has been very difficult, and Elle is stunned when she slams into him so unexpectedly. It’s not long before she’s disrupting Noah’s life again as sparks of passion fly in every direction between the two.

My Thoughts:

I actually got this book at the end of February, but haven’t been able to post the review til now because my sites were hacked. Apologies to the author for the delay.

I’ve been reading a lot of books about women on boats, lately, so it seems only natural that I shifted to women on beaches. While I don’t read a huge number of romance novels, or historicals, I enjoy both when done well. Based on my recent reading of Tides of Love Tracy Sumner does them well.

Marielle-Claire (Elle) Beaumont is a smart, feisty young woman, but she’s also written in a manner that doesn’t make her seem jarringly out of period. She’s curious about sex, and appropriately innocent of certain facts, but not so naive that she doesn’t understand the theory. I like that she admits she wants love, that she knows herself that well, and I also applaud the author’s choice to give her not just the means for an education but the desire for one.

Likewise, romantic lead Noah, while prickly and clearly suffering from childhood trauma and innate sensitivity, is well-drawn as a scholarly, reasonably type in a place where sheer physicality rules the day. It’s a classic trope, but it’s one that works, and in this novel, it works especially well – as does the mystery of his real-world romantic experience.

The background characters were also nicely written. The teaser chapters attached to the back of the book show that there’s a sequel that focuses on one of Noah’s brothers, but all the of the townsfolk were interesting people I’d enjoy reading more about.

In reviewing a romance novel, you have to take a moment to discuss the sex scenes. Sumner’s writing in these scenes was a nice balance – not too clinical, not too comical, not too florid. While I’m personally opposed to sex on the beach (sand just should not go in certain places), I had no problem believing the passion that drew these two characters to it.

The plot itself is also decent. Yes, it’s obvious that Elle and Noah will eventually end up together, but we know that of every romance novel pair. What we don’t know is the specific journey, and with her attention to history and careful dialogue Ms. Sumner’s Tides of Love leaves nothing lacking.

It’s light reading. But it’s very satisfying light reading.

Goes well with: a tuna sandwich and lemonade; picnic blanket optional.