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. 

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? 


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”

An Unequal Defense – Book Review

David Adams #2
By: Chad Zunker
Pages: 247
Published On: May 19, 2020

What a delightful read to run across. It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a conspiracy thriller and boy have I missed them. I had almost forgotten how fun they can be and how sucked in I can get as pages furiously fly by as I get caught up in all the twists and turns. This is also my first novel to read by Chad Zunker.

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The Raven: A Modern Retelling – Book Review

By: Elise Wallace
Illustrated By: Linda Silvestri
Published On: October 15, 2019

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting

– The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

My memory of first learning about Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven is sketchy. What I do remember are two things: 1) The poem was rather spooky to me. After all, it has a raven saying over and over again one single word -“Nevermore.” Yes, I think it is safe to say that a raven tapping at your chamber door definitely falls into the creepy category. Yet the use of this raven also enhances the overall otherworldly and melancholy atmosphere the poem presents. At the time, I suspect I found it spookier because I didn’t think raven’s could talk at all. Now that I am older and wiser I know that raven’s can speak even better than parrots since they can mimic the pitch of a woman’s voice vs a man’s. There are many examples on Youtube of talking ravens that are quite fun to listen to.

The second memory is that no matter how much time my teacher took explaining either the themes within it or allegorical parts or whatever else scholars say something is in order to make a story or poem sound important, the poem still never made 100% sense. Apparently, I must not be alone in this.

In The Raven: A Modern Retelling, the authors set out on a quest to help younger children understand the poem’s meaning. The story opens with Heath arriving at his new house. It’s an old house built in the 1800s and he definitely doesn’t like it. His family has moved across the country away from his old school and friend Lenore. He’s sad about leaving behind his friend, when he begins to have dreams about a raven outside his window saying “Nevermore!”.

Although the original poem by Edgar Allan Poe still has some sections to it that can be a little more difficult to follow, I found the retelling to be a decent introduction to the poem as it shows a main character going into a slow madness as he becomes more and more distraught about all these changes that are out of his control. Using an example of a young boy moving away and leaving friends is something just about all of us can understand. The good news is that this book is for younger middle-grade age kids, so there is a happy-ish ending.

The Raven is actually really short at only 32 pages and contains a few colorful pictures. Also included in the story are some book club questions to help guide the discussion surrounding the main points or themes of the story, such as asking them how the tone changes throughout the book or about the raven.

Description:

“Heath and his family have moved from the West Coast to New York. It’s a total culture shock. Everything feels wrong: the cold weather, the new house, even his dreams. But the worst part of the move is Heath is away from his best friend Lenore”–

The Empire’s Ghost – Book Review

Paths of Lantistyne #1 By: Isabelle Steiger
Published On: May 16, 2017

*May contain spoilers*

Before picking up this epic fantasy novel, I did what I often do when attempting to decide if the book in question is one that I would want to read: I took a look at other reviews. Overwhelming, what I read over and over again was that there was a large cast of characters that left some confused during reading. For me, I generally like to read fantasies with large casts so when I got the book I dug right in. To help anyone who is considering this book determine if there are too many characters for their own preference I have attempted to create a list of the more major characters and their kingdoms or groups. My copy of the book did not contain this type of list, so I am hoping that the publisher will consider this in future books in the series.

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The Sand Elephant – Picture Book Review

By: Rinna Hermann and Sanne Dufft
Published On: August 8, 2019

Paul was alone in the sandbox. He has no one to play with so he etches out a large elephant in the sand. Slowly sleep overtakes him as Paul wishes the elephant were real and could play with him. But he doesn’t get to sleep too long before the elephant wakes him up to play. The sand elephant lets Paul ride on his back as they travel to very large sandcastle filled with other children Paul can play with. However, soon it begins to rain and Paul and his new friends get worried about the sand elephant and all the other creatures who had been at the sandcastle. But, water can’t truly hurt sand elephants because they and many other creatures can always be remade.

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