Book Review: Rebel Nation by Shaunta Grimes

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Title: Rebel Nation
Author: Shaunta Grimes
Publisher: Berkeley Trade
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Genres: Post-apocalyptic, Dystopian, Young Adult



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Rebel NationRebel Nation
Shaunta Grimes
Berkley Books, July 2014
ISBN 978-0-425-26812-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Sixteen years ago, a plague wiped out nearly all of humanity. The Company’s vaccine stopped the virus’s spread, but society was irrevocably changed. Those remaining live behind impenetrable city walls, taking daily doses of virus suppressant and relying on The Company for continued protection. They don’t realize that everything they’ve been told is a lie…

Clover Donovan didn’t set out to start a revolution—quiet, autistic, and brilliant, she’s always followed the rules. But that was before they forced her into service for the Time Mariners. Before they condemned her brother to death, compelling him to flee the city to survive. Before she discovered terrifying secrets about The Company.

Clover and the Freaks, her ragtag resistance group, are doing their best to spread the rebellion and stay under The Company’s radar. But when their hideout is discovered, they are forced, once again, to run. Only this time, The Company has special plans for Clover, plans that could risk her life and stop the uprising in its tracks…

It’s not all that easy these days to come up with a fresh idea in dystopian fiction but, in Viral Nation, Shaunta Grimes did just that and has now followed it up with a nicely done sequel, Rebel Nation. In this second of the trilogy, the reader becomes re-acquainted with Clover Donovan, an autistic teen who happens to be of serious interest to the government specifically because of her autism. It’s possible that other books have been written with an autistic protagonist in a dystopian world; if so, I don’t know of them and I think it would be difficult to find a better characterization of how such a child might fit in. I don’t know a lot of details about the spectrum but I believe Clover would be deemed high-functioning in today’s reality.

Clover is  a unique protagonist and is written so well that she came alive for me on all levels. I appreciated the author’s depictions of Clover’s awareness of those times when her behavior is not quite appropriate and her determination to contain herself. At the same time, we can see that she needs a special sort of assistance which she gets from her loyal and loving service dog, Mango. Her relationship with the very admirable Jude is another highlight of the story and his devotion to her, even when faced with her reactions to certain stimuli, is *so* much more believable than the all-too-frequent romances we find in Young Adult fiction. Jude is the young man I would want on my side if I were Clover.

There are plenty of villains in Rebel Nation but none quite so despicable as Bennett and his single-minded determination to make use of Clover’s abilities comes across loud and clear. Whether Clover and Jude, along with the rest of their ragtag group, could stay out of his clutches and spread the rebellion against The Company kept me reading all night and I didn’t regret a moment of my lost sleep. The Freaks are a resistance group that shoulders a great weight and I really wish I could continue the story now, especially since Ms. Grimes has left us with a humdinger of a cliffhanger. There’s a prequel novella coming out soon—I guess that’ll have to tide me over till the third book  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2014.

About the Author


Shaunta GrimesShaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel.

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Book Review: Dick Francis’s Refusal by Felix Francis

Dick Francis's RefusalDick Francis’s Refusal
Felix Francis
Putnam, September 2013
ISBN 978-0-399-16081-3

It’s been six years since investigator Sid Halley retired, tired of the beatings, pressure and danger. Since then, he has lived a quiet life with his wife and young daughter, earning a living as an investor, trading money instruments and shares. He promised himself and his wife that he would not return to his former profession, but events proved the opposite when the chairman of the racing authority begged him to look into a series of questionable races.

Following a familiar Francis formula, circumstances arise which force Sid to reverse his adamant refusal to undertake such an investigation. The day after his meeting, the chairman is found dead, a possible suicide, but Sid believes really murder. Then a telephone call from a man with a Belfast Irish accent menacingly demands that Sid write a report claiming the races were not suspicious. Thus, the stage is set for the expected scrutiny, danger to Sid, his family and associates, and confrontation with the culprits.

The formula, which has been successful for about four dozen books by the Francises, pere et fils, works like a charm once again. Felix had now written four novels as a co-author with Dick, and this is the third one on his own. Looking forward with bated breath for the fourth.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2014.

Book Review: Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark

Footprints in the SandFootprints in the Sand
A Piper Donovan Mystery #3
Mary Jane Clark
William Morrow, January 2013
ISBN 978-0-06-213544-5

Piper Donovan is a struggling actress. She and her parents travel to Florida where she plans to be a bridesmaid at her cousin’s wedding. Sadly, before they arrive, one of the other bridesmaids is brutally murdered on the beach, casting a pall over the wedding celebration. Piper meets interesting local citizens, including a handsome beach bum, a sweet elderly woman who is mysteriously run off the road and the delightful community of Amish residents whose lives intertwine with the cast of characters. Piper expects to enjoy sunset barbecues, boat trips into the Everglades, and trips to the aquatic museum before the wedding day. What she doesn’t expect is to get sucked into solving a murder. The conclusion is a page turner when the killer sets his target on Piper, fearing she has come too close to solving the case.

Ms. Clark‘s Footprints in the Sand keeps the reader wanting to know what happens next. She has included multiple point of view characters and many scenes jumping from one character to the next. Each character is involved with the week’s affairs, including the secret thoughts and actions of the killer as he joins the wedding party celebrations. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the characters straight and I had to go back and figure out who was who.

I would recommend this cozy mystery to readers who want a simple story, don’t want to think too hard and don’t want a story that keeps them awake at night.

Reviewed by Elaine Faber, May 2014.

Book Review: Devil With A Gun by M.C. Grant

Devil With A GunDevil With A Gun
A Dixie Flynn Mystery
M.C. Grant
Midnight Ink, October 2013
ISBN 978-0-7387-3499-6
Trade Paperback

Dixie Flynn is a journalist for a San Francisco newspaper. She’s known for getting the story, even if she has to bend a few rules and put herself in danger to do it. When the new boss demands she write a Father’s Day fluff piece, she rebels–not unusual–and picks up on a story of a father gone missing many years in the past. One daughter wants to know what happened to her father, whom she remembers fondly. A second daughter, thrown into a life of abuse and prostitution, blames the father and doesn’t care. Altogether, a Father’s Day story worthy of Dixie’s talents.

There’s another problem. The missing father has a connection to a notorious Russian mobster and he doesn’t take kindly to Dixie nosing around.

Dixie walks right into danger, although she’s not alone in her search for a good story. She’s a woman with a number of offbeat friends and allies, for instance, a bookie known as Eddie the Wolf; her drinking buddy Frank, a SFP detective; Benny, who keeps her in guns. But most valuable in this caper is Pinch, a jockey-sized hitman who’ll do anything to keep Dixie alive.

Lots of brutality in this one, but the violence is tempered with humor. Fast paced, twisty, the story will keep you turning pages. The bad guys, even the Russian mobster, are well-drawn and interesting in their own right. I might even call them quirky, a label generally reserved for the good guys.

Dixie is a great character. This is the first mystery featuring her I’ve read, but I hope there are many more in the works.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, April 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.


Book Review: The Gigantic Book of Sailing Stories edited by Stephen Brennan

The Gigantic Book of Sailing StoriesThe Gigantic Book of Sailing Stories
Compiled and edited by Stephen Brennan
Skyhorse Publishing, April 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60239-209-0

Nearly 75% percent of the earth’s surface will not support human beings. Nor are the oceans drinkable. Yet has the sea been a fascination for human millennia, as well as a source of sustenance and a means of travel to the farflung edges of our planet.

The sea and its ineffable rhythms have long intrigued human kind, from poets and scholars to the roughest of working stiffs who shipped aboard to avoid past debts or family strife, who went to war and who went into the commerce of the time. Now comes a man so apparently obsessed with the sea and its tales that he has compiled a truly gigantic collection of sailing stories and poetry. Hardly a significant writer from Twain to Coleridge to Wilkie Collins is here not referenced. The tome, nearly 800 pages in length, is nicely illustrated with black and white art. It spans the ages, from Homer to Dickens to Melville and Byron. All the stories are truthful tales, and all offer flights of fantasy. Readers will choose which facts to accept and which to ignore.

The entire work is well-designed, blest by outstanding writing, nicely illustrated, and is the sort of volume one would expect to find residing on a dark and possibly dusty shelf in the back corner of a nineteenth-century library, a part of the collection by some obscure industrial titan.

It is the kind of literary work that fills an important function by bringing together and preserving an important and emotional element of humankind’s history and literary traditions. One hopes it resides in the collection of every library across the world.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, March 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.


Book Review: Torn by David Massey

Torn MasseyTorn
David Massey
Chicken House, August 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-49645-2

War changes things. That which was clear-cut, becomes blurred. Good or bad; easily distinguished in theory, mesh and blend together during battle. The single-minded, grim determination to conquer the enemy can be difficult to maintain when the antagonist is but a small boy. When the terrorists are children, barely into their teens, shooting hate-filled daggers from wary eyes; combat training doesn’t take over. Facing the haunted eyes of the beautiful girl in blue, as she quietly, almost hopefully, watches for the reaction scrambles the mind, challenging known information. Suddenly and without warning, all of the categorical reasons for being here fade and fizzle away.

Newly trained medic, Private Elinor Nielson, is justifiably anxious, and already questioning her decisions the first morning on base in Afghanistan. Before the rest of the world has had a chance to hit the snooze button, Elinor has unwittingly showered in clear view of fellow soldiers and exchanged unfriendly words with her icy, inexplicably angry, bunkmate. One may think that her first day on patrol can’t get worse; but this is war, and situations and circumstances deteriorate quickly.

If you were to pluck this book from a shelf, the blurb on the cover may have you believing that you are about to delve into love, challenged by the vast differences of one soul inhibiting the body of an English medic, the other an American soldier.
To me, this is an inaccurate representation that grossly over-simplifies the story. Please, don’t misunderstand. Sure, there is attraction and affection; but it is secondary and if excluded, Mr. Massey would still be giving us a compelling, engrossing and thought-provoking narrative.

In fairness, having boldly declared what the novel is not, I should articulate what it is: a remarkable, very real, gripping representation of being a soldier. Internal struggles that don’t make the news, but consume a soldier like nothing else could. A mind, once sure, becomes plagued with doubt. Who is the actual aggressor and who is simply fighting to defend what is left of war-riddled families and shrapnel-torn homes? Could an entire war erupt because of a personal vendetta? How can it be that a few can influence a country?

As Mr. Massey brilliantly opened my mind, forcing me to consider that which I never hoped to think about; he also captures and clearly illuminates the quick, strong bonds formed between soldiers. While indeed a work of fiction, there is certainly more truth to his tale than I’d like to admit. This book took me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions; with lows of blood-boiling anger, twists of heart-wrenching sadness and turns of teeth-gnashing frustration; with highs of kindness, caring, compassion and, most importantly, hope.

Well done, Mr. Massey.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2014.


FACEBOOK: Motivation, Innovation, Information

Sunny Frazier 4Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, dispels some of the myths that make Facebook so frightening to a newbie (like this blog owner) and makes it look easy.   //


A friend of mine has finally decided to tip her toe in the waters of social media. The problem is, she wants to make it harder than it really is.

. “I’ve been trying to learn how to make one. I know I need to have a blog. I have plenty to say. I don’t understand Twitter. Is that something else I need to have? Why does it have to be so darn difficult?”

Because you make it so.

The word’s been out for some time that Facebook is replacing personal websites. I still maintain one, or rather my webmistress does. She doesn’t work cheap and I don’t update often. I have it because I’m an author and people want to see what I look like, read my bio and peruse my book covers. I still look at websites of authors but primarily to write my “Coming Attractions” column for Kings River Life.

I don’t tweet. There’s nothing I want to say in so few words.

I don’t have a blog. Early on, I saw the pitfalls. At first there seems like so much to expound on. Then you run out of steam. You have to make a decision to continue to write or spend all your brain cells blogging. What eventually happens is you invite others to blog on your site, basically giving them publicity at your expense. Instead, I selectively chose two blogs to invest in, this being one of them. It’s like having a favorite chair in someone’s living room where you are always invited and the conversation is good. Thanks, Lelia!

What I told my friend is “Get on Facebook.” I know people who resist, who don’t find value in the site. I also know at least one person who is addicted. Like anything else, Facebook should be managed in a way that fits each person’s lifestyle and needs.

Here’s how I handle FB:

I open it up every morning. I make sure to post something daily. Since not much happens in my 24 hr periods, I usually post a “meme.” Took me awhile to figure out where everyone was getting these funny, yet telling, cartoons and sayings. I finally realized that by clicking on one, it has an arrow sending you to the next one. Or, I hit “share” on ones I particularly like and get them over to my page. I also learned to “share” privately on the pages of others to post things I wouldn’t necessarily want to tarnish my public image.

When not posting fun stuff, I post links to my blogs and health updates. My friends and peers have followed my journey through kidney disease and dialysis with unrelenting loyalty. I try to make the posts amusing and reassuring. I also seek to replace fear and misinformation with hope and education.

I scroll through to see how many “likes” I get, how many shares. “Likes” are more of an acknowledgment that the post has been read, a shorthand when no message is needed. About once a week I go on “home” where all my friends have posted, quickly run through a few pages to let them know I’m checking in. Sometimes I go to their personal pages to check things out. FB shouldn’t be a one-way street.

I’m very tactical about “friending.” When someone chimes in with a response to a blog I’ve posted, I will seek them out and personally thank them and friend them at the same time. When I promote an author in my column, I notify them via FB and friend them if they thank me. Hard to turn down a person who has done you a solid.

Photos. My friend is confused where they come from, how to post them. The little camera icon, I told her. All those fantastic pics of Europe from your trips. Personal milestones. Open up your life to us, or at least as much as you’d like us to see.

That’s the thing about FB. It really is less about promotion and more about building friendships. These cyber friends are real to me. I would love to meet them someday, but for now I simply like being part of their lives. With writing friends, it’s a way to follow their career and root them on. With personal friends, I get to see their kids grow up. With my sister, it’s all about cats (we don’t have kids).

How much time does this take me? Oh, about ten minutes a day, a bit more on the weekends. It’s something I look forward to as part of my morning. I check in the afternoon to see responses, before bed to wrap up the day. I go to sleep knowing all’s right in my world.

My advice to my friend: don’t fight FB, embrace it. You will find readers, supporters and eventually, fans. And so much more.