The Voter File – Book Review

Jack Sharpe #3 By: David Pepper
Published On: June 2, 2020
No. of Pages: 431

Once upon a time this was fiction. When the thought of foreign influence was just something you would read in a thriller novel. Over the past few years, we’ve heard many different accounts and facts regarding elections, rights of voters, voting infringement, election stealing… We’ve also heard about how elections are being influenced through social media. And even though we have heard this on the news for several years now, I wonder how much the typical individual actually knows about voter files and voter data. What The Voter Files brings is an entertaining thriller that helps shed some light on how voter data is collected and used along with other major issues and dilemma’s the U.S. is facing.

It all starts when something astounding and unexpected happens. Tori Justice’s candidate won. Except…he wasn’t supposed to. Tori was the voter file manager for a local campaign. She knew the voting files backwards and forwards and no matter how she looked at it – nothing added up. Her candidate was supposed to lose. Most of us would take the victory lap. Tori, instead, called newspapers and journalists. She called anyone who would listen and Jack Sharpe is the one that answered her call. While Tori and Jack begin their investigation, we see “investors” buying up millions of land from farmers of all types – dairy, wheat, soybeans. Farmers giving up due to conglomerates squeezing the market, allowing foreign investors to see a way in.

The Voter Files! My favorite chapter(s) and part of the story was when Tori and Jack meet for the first time and Tori explains to him all about how the voter files and voter data works. As voters, when we respond and say “I will never, ever, ever vote for “Candidate X”, you are then given a number between 1-5 that indicates your likeliness for voting a certain way. The number you are given will determine what type of ads or messages you then receive, it also prompts them to help send you reminders for voting. You see, it’s all about ensuring you remain engaged and excited to vote. It’s all about ensuring you vote. So, if you are a strong “Yes! I will vote for Candidate X”, then you could receive ads generated to ensure you remain emotionally engaged. An example would be an ad that others may see as over-the-top or emotionally charged. They aren’t there to change your mind, just ensure you still have the desire to vote the way you said you want to. Others that are in the middle – moderates, independents, and those still undecided might receive an ad or message more tailored to how the candidate will work across the aisle, or one that gives examples on their more moderate views. But the voting file is much, much more than that. State and national information mixed together with vendor information – all stored at the national level – always adding, never subtracting. The story goes into greater discussion and depth than I do here and it was fascinating.

I loved Tori. I loved her tenaciousness. It’s not just anyone would who question why their candidate won and then seek out someone to help look into her story. Even the losing candidate’s voting file manager was surprised by her when he found out what she was looking into. But beyond that, I found Jack’s and her partnership very enjoyable. Upon meeting her he immediately notices how their different generations respond/react differently, but even so they meshed very well together.

All in all, this thriller has exactly what you might expect: murder, subplots, certain individuals tracking and following other individuals, foreign actors, investigative work – just to name a few. It was a fun read that was very educational too. Although the title says The Voter Files it also covered other topics as well such as gerrymandering and monopolies.

Voting and elections are a very hot topic right now in the news, especially as the U.S. grows closer to November when the presidential elections will take place. This is the perfect time to read this book, especially if you are looking to become more educated on how some of the process works, but in an entertaining way.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Group Punnam for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

Investigative reporter Jack Sharpe is down to his last chance. Fired from his high-profile gig with a national news channel, his only lead is a phonefull of messages from a grad student named Tori Justice, who swears she’s observed an impossible result in a local election. Sharpe is sure she’s mistaken…but what if she isn’t?

Sharpe learns that the most important tool in any election is the voter file: the database that keeps track of all voters in a district, and shapes a campaign’s game plan for victory. If one person were to gain control of an entire party’s voter file, she could manipulate the outcome of virtually every election in America. Sharpe discovers this has happened–and that the person behind the hack is determined to turn American politics upside down.

The more he digs, the more Sharpe is forced to question the values–and viability–of the country he loves and a president he admired. And soon it becomes clear that not just his career is in jeopardy…so is his life. 

No Signal – Book Review

iME Series Book 2 By: Jem Tugwell
Published On: June 4, 2020
No. of Pages: 336
Published By: Serpentine Books
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook, & Audio

iMe knew where everyone was. It saved their signal so that it also knew where everyone had been. There was nowhere to hide.

The beauty of this story lies in how it is set in a future that feels so close that you can almost touch it. Even now there are events mentioned in the news about how governments from certain countries are using devices, such as a bracelet, to track an individual’s location and health stats due to the coronavirus. The iME series takes it all a step or two further, but there is enough truth in the core of story to make it all very plausible and far too realistic.

Clive is the main protagonist in the series. He’s by far my favorite character and is so incredibly relatable. Dragging his feet into this future that he does not want is very taxing as it affects his job opportunities, his love life, and his personal freedoms. Choosing to not exercise or not to eat properly is a luxury we all currently have, but in Clive’s world freedom is a dream of yesterday. The iME sees it all and is determined to help Clive choose a better lifestyle. And if he doesn’t, then there is always the vending machine to turn him in to the Freedom Unit Enforcement under the Ministry of Well-being and Health branch of government, where you can be disciplined for not following the expected guidelines. What hope is there for Clive when he can’t live the life he wants?

The vending machine said: ‘Clive, my friend. What can I get you?’

But No Signal also begins to explore how it affects other areas of governing too. Even tourists entering the country for a short period of time are required to wear a special bracelet called the iTourist. Honestly, I would think this might discourage tourism and have a monetary impact that goes along with that, but if so there is no mention of it.

In No Signal, Clive is still at his same job, but this time he has a new partner – Ava. Zoe is still around, but she has moved on to another position. Life is boring for Clive in the Proximity Crime Unit, but what they don’t know is that four individuals from outside the UK are about to enter the country. They are playing a game with the goal of getting to a destination before their opponents can get to their own destination. It is all a pretense though and the real goal is much deadlier and with a purpose. While that goes on, Clive begins to sense a much broader conspiracy in place concerning members of government and perhaps something new called The Church of the New Modelists. But, in the end perhaps Clive is not alone in his frustration with how much iME really controls.

I like this series. I like how fully-fleshed out the idea of iME is within the context of this world – how far-reaching the technology is and the stranglehold it has on all aspects of society. Given how prevalent technology like this is becoming, I really like how it begs you to begin asking questions about how far is too far in terms of technology, freedom, and privacy, while giving you a rather thrilling and entertaining story all at the same time.

Rating: 5 stars

Description:

In a breathtaking follow-up novel to ‘PROXIMITY’, Serge says it’s the ultimate Augmented Reality game. He’s chosen his Ten carefully – the reckless, driven and strong. He tests them. Ten become Four.

DI Clive Lussac wants to fight the system that controls everything, but he’s ill and losing the people closest to him. In the middle of eco-protests, he’s lost four tourists. As Clive’s world unravels, he and his partners DC Ava Miller and DS Zoe Jordan race to find the tourists and the true reason behind the game. It may already be too late.

A CONTROLLED POPULATION
The UK has embedded technology – iMe.
It knows where you are…all of the time. It controls what you eat.
It has eradicated crime and made everyone healthy.

A DEVASTATED WORLD
The world is on the brink.
The Government talks but it doesn’t act.
It thinks it’s safe.

TIME FOR CHANGE
Who will ignite change?
Who has the determination to see it through?
What will be sacrificed for the cause?

No Signal is Available at the Following Locations:

Serpentine Books is running a Copter competition to give a way 2 signed copies of Proximity (open to UK addresses only):
Rafflecopter Giveaway

Jem Tugwell Author Profile:

Jem Tugwell is a crime fiction author with a Crime Writing MA from City University.

NO SIGNAL is the second book in the iMe series and follows his thrilling debut novel PROXIMITY. 

Jem is inspired by the fascinating possibilities of technology, AI and the law of unintended consequences. In a past life, Jem had a successful career in technology and investment management, and he lives in Surrey with his wife and dog. He has two great children. Outside of his family and writing, Jem’s loves are snowboarding, old cars and bikes.

Please visit Jem’s website (www.jemtugwell.com) to read more.

Follow Jem:
Twitter: @JemTugwell
Facebook & Instagram: JemTugwellAuthor

The Obsidian Tower – Book Review

Rooks and Ruin #1 By: Melissa Caruso
Published On: June 2, 2020

Can things be any more chaotic for Ryx as she attempts to negotiate peace between two lands, de-escalate a Shrike Lord’s desire for vengeance, learn how to bring her own broken magic under control, and deal with the aftermath of unexpected guests, all the while trying to identify what danger a secret artifact possesses and identify a solution to fix it without anyone finding out and starting all-out war? That’s not to mention what I am intentionally leaving out of this list just to keep from spoiling anything.

Gloamingard was really several castles caught in the act of devouring each other.

– Melissa Caruso, The Obsidian Tower

It all begins when the Shrike Lord’s fiancee, Lamiel, unexpectedly arrives at Gloamingard Castle one day before diplomats are scheduled to arrive to negotiate a treaty. Eager to secretly discover what Gloamingard protects and keeps hidden, Lamiel trespasses where she shouldn’t and starts a chain of events with consequential outcomes.

Set in the same world as Melissa Caruso’s Sword’s and Fire series, we are introduced to Ryx who is the Warden of Gloamingard. Ryx’s bloodline is one of vivomancers, but due to an illness when she was young Ryx’s magic is broken and instead of life and creation, her magic brings death. She is the family embarrassment, except to her grandmother who believes in her.

Around 20-30%, I almost stopped reading the book. Something about where the story was at the moment wasn’t keeping me interested. Eventually, what I came to realize is that the story centers around us watching Ryx juggling all the different chaotic events going on around her and that’s when I settled in. It’s not necessarily action-packed all the time and that’s ok.

As much as I enjoyed all the disastrous events exploding around Ryx it did at times become a little overwhelming. This was especially true in the latter part of the story when I would pick the book back up after being away from it and had to remember all that was going on. Don’t get me wrong – I liked that there was a lot of moving parts, but it still took time to remember. I also suspect there are some thinner plot moments in how some of the political maneuvering and decisions get resolved, but because it could be a little dizzying I haven’t had a chance to work through all that yet.

Description:

The mage-marked granddaughter of a ruler of Vaskandar, Ryx was destined for power and prestige at the top of Vaskandran society. But her magic is broken; all she can do is uncontrollably drain the life from everything she touches, and Vaskandar has no place for a mage with unusable powers.

Then, one night, two terrible accidents befall her: Ryx accidentally kills a visiting dignitary in self-defense, activating a mysterious magical artifact sealed in an ancient tower in the heart of her family’s castle.

Ryx flees, seeking a solution to her deadly magic. She falls in with a group of unlikely magical experts investigating the disturbance in Vaskandar—and Ryx realizes that her family is in danger and her domain is at stake. She and her new colleagues must return to the family stronghold to take control of the artifact that everyone wants to claim—before it destroys the world. 

When the Storm Comes – Picture Book Review

By: Linda Ashman
Illustrated By: Taeeun Yoo
Published On: May 26, 2020

A rhyming picture book asking the reader what do they do when a storm comes rolling in. The story is set against a seaside village and shows us how people and animals such as birds, rabbits, whales and others protect themselves from thunderstorms.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The images are created used digital and pencil drawings in sea-tone and storm-tone colors: blue-grey to show an overcast day threatening to become even darker along with green and team to complete the look of a seaside town. Yellows illuminating from the window of home. A vivid white also makes a splash in the crest of breaking waves, but is also the predominant color of the sheets of rain pouring from the skies.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Even though the narrative is about what creatures of all types do to protect themselves when a storm comes in, the colors, rhyme and peaceful village together present a lovely, calming story that makes you feel safe and secure from wherever you read from.

Thanks to Edelweiss and Nancy Paulsen Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

A storm and its sunny aftermath come to life through gorgeous art and lyrical text.

What do you do when the clouds roll in,
When the wind chimes clang and the weather vanes spin?


When stormy skies threaten, people stock up on supplies, bring in their outside toys, and check the news for updates. And during the storm, if the power goes out, they can play games and tell stories by candlelight. But what do animals do? They watch and listen, look for a cozy den or some other sheltered spot, and hunker down to wait. After the storm, while the people are cleaning up their yards, making repairs, and checking on the neighbors, the animals emerge from their hiding places and shake off the rain. And everyone is happy to be out in the sunshine again, grateful for better weather and the company of friends. 

Nexus Necrominder – Book Review

Smith & W’Sin Adventures Book 2 By: Matthew McCray
Published On: March 30, 2020

Here we go – Another fun science fiction adventure with Smith and W’Sin. Just like the first book in the adventure series, The Apoidean Affair, our two main characters are starting out in the midst of a lot of trouble. But unlike the first time the trouble they are starting out with is not of their own making. Small steps of progress is important with these two.

It all starts at the Nexus, the space station they call home. They are attempting to enjoy a hot meal when the Nexus becomes invaded with what I can only describe as zombie-ish formicidae. I usually call ants “ants” so in case you’re like me and needed to double check on that term – that is what a formicidae is. Except these might be just a tad larger…

While fighting, Regi, – a formic engineer drone who is also a friend of Smith and W’Sin’s from a different group/family of formicidae – helps them fight against the invaders until she realizes something she is watching over may be at risk. She, of course, is right – the object that had been her personal responsibility has been taken. After the invasion at the Nexus is all over Regi begs Smith and W’Sin to help her find it and get it back. Who could ever say no to an ant with “bulging compound eyes” and sad-looking antennae?

There is a lot to like with this series. First – there is a lot of fun banter and action/adventure. If you are looking for a slow-paced science fiction read then this isn’t it. Also, my knowledge in the “science” part of science fiction is a bit lacking, so I can’t guarantee any scientific accuracy on anything that occurs during the action scenes. Second – the universe created is one full of aliens that have more animal-like features and Smith is the only human (that I can tell). For example, W’Sin has avian features: feathers and a beak. Regi is ant-like individual who is about a meter in height with antennae.

Like the previous story, this novella is a stand-alone although it does carry over parts of the previous story. I do like how both in the series are stand-alones, but wouldn’t mind an over-arching story too binding all the short stories/novellas together even if it isn’t the main focal point of each book in the series.

All in all a fun read.

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

Privateers Smith and W’sin return home from a job gone wrong in dire need of a hot meal and some downtime. Instead, they’re pressed into action defending the space station from invaders and clearing an old friend from grievous charges.

Will they save the space station?

Will they clear their friend?

Will they finally get that hot meal? 


Ballistic – Book Review

The Palladium Wars Book 2 by Marco Kloos
Published on: May 26, 2020

One thing is certain – Marko Kloos knows how to write a sci fi story. Just like in the first book in the series he once again leaves us on another cliff hanger. I can even hear his evil, maniacal laughter as he types the ending. He builds and builds the story and just when it is ramping up to its climax he ends it and just leaves you hanging. Sigh. I seriously wasn’t ready for the story to end.

Ballistic begins a few months after the events of the first book and once again we follow the stories of Aden, Dunstan, Idina, and Solvieg. Aden and his crew mates agree to transport an item – no questions asked. But Aden is smart and starts asking questions. Dunstan and his crew answer the distress call of a completely destroyed ship, but also answers another call from a familiar ship. Idina and her Gretian police partner investigate a man with an unauthorized weapon that leads to unattended consequences. While Solvieg starts exerting a little independence from her father and receives an opportunity to visit the planet Acheron for the first time.

Even though I really enjoyed everyone’s story in Aftershocks, I couldn’t quite get into Idina’s storyline as much as the others. In Ballistic, my appreciation toward this character grew quite a bit – while Aden’s story will always feel like the main one and Dunstan is my personal favorite, I found Idina’s story much more engaging and followed her and Dahl’s police investigative work very closely. I also loved how Solvieg started making strides to becoming her own woman against her father wishes. Anything she does to irritate her father and break away from his control I am definitely for.

I enjoy the world Marko Kloos has created in this series. The characters, the societies, the planets – All the worlds have their own style and personalities and in Ballistic we get to take a closer look at them than in the first book. Here we get to see how the planet’s society has adapted to the planet’s atmosphere.

Overall, if you love space opera and military science fiction then this is definitely a science fiction book to recommend.

Tuesdays at the Castle – Book Review

Castle Glower #1 By: Jessica Day George
Published On: October 25, 2011

Oh! Who wouldn’t want to live in a magical castle, especially one that rearranges its floor plan or creates new rooms whenever it gets bored. Need a slide to get you from one room to another quickly? Castle Glower is for you, especially if the day is Tuesday.

Continue reading “Tuesdays at the Castle – Book Review”

The Stray – Picture Book Review

Story and Illustrations By: Molly Ruttan
Published On: May 19, 2020

In The Stray, a family is out for a walk when a spaceship crashes nearby. There amongst the rubble is ‘the stray’. He’s a cross between a slug, a dog, a frog and maybe a few other things. One thing is for certain: he is a cutie! They decide to take him home and give him the name Grub. They give him lots of love and make him part of the family. They even try to teach him a few tricks, but soon they realize that perhaps he has a home somewhere else that he misses.

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Debt of Honor – Book Review

The Embers of War Book 1 by: Christopher G. Nuttall
Published on: May 19, 2020

Debt of Honor is the first book in the Embers of War series by Christopher G. Nuttall featuring Admiral Kat Falcone – the main character from the Angel in the Whirlwind series. This author and his space fleet/galactic empire books are new to me, but the real world is a little overwhelming at the moment so problems in a whole other universe that is completely unrelated to anything here on Earth was the perfect choice when needing to find a new book to relax with.

Continue reading “Debt of Honor – Book Review”