Book Review: Remote by Lisa Acerbo

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Title: Remote
Author: Lisa Acerbo
Published by: Etopia Press
Publication date: November 20, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance, Young Adult



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Lisa Acerbo
Etopia Press, November 2014
ISBN 978-1-941692-34-9

From the publisher—

When technology fulfills every dream, reality becomes a nightmare.

Below the streets of New State, the undergrounders fight to remain free of the technological control of the world above. Every night, Yara risks her life fighting New State’s deadliest weapons, the drones. Half human and half machine, their living half tortured until everything human is gone, the drones have only one objective. Kill. And they do it with exacting precision.

Yara is good at her job and committed to her raids on New State. Until one of those raids brings her face-to-face with Joshua, a New State citizen who doesn’t quite fit her preconceived expectations. After a couple of awkward encounters, he shows her the meaning of hooking up—a computer simulation that allows people to live out their fantasies—without the complication of emotional entanglements or physical reality. But what Yara feels for Joshua is very real. And it’s punishable by law.

As she and Joshua grow closer, she convinces him to leave New State for her underground cause. But as the unrest between New State and the underground escalates, and the drones move in to destroy her world, nothing goes as planned. Families are arrested, loyalties are strained, and Yara’s forced to choose between her people and her feelings. The wrong choice could mean the end of her people, and reality could slip away—forever…

Recently, I’ve been unable to read due to a death in my immediate family. Not only have I been wrapped up in what was going on but I also found I just couldn’t concentrate on any book. Remote is my return to reading and, although I can’t say I did it justice by giving it my full attention, it was a very good re-entry for me.

I’m fond of dystopian fiction as well as science fiction in general and Remote is a worthy representative of the subgenre and genre respectively. Ms. Acerbo has conceived a really good scenario and carries it forward with a strong plot full of possibilities and excitement and her characters are as engaging as any I’ve seen before. Yara and Josh are an appealing duo with a connection that grows quite naturally and I was also attached to Mason and Yara’s parents. If there’s any flaw in Ms. Acerbo’s character development, it’s that the great majority of secondary characters have no real fullness to them.

New State is frightening but, as the author leads us to understand, this world is not an impossibility. We see today how people, especially the younger generations, are wedded to technology to the detriment of society in a number of ways. Perhaps we won’t go so far as to create the horrendous drones in this story but there is much here that could become reality.

Strictly speaking, this book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger but there clearly will be a sequel or, at least , I certainly hope so. I’ll be looking out for it to find out how the rebels’ war with New State will progress.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2015.

About the Author

Lisa AcerboLisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and holds an EdD in Educational Leadership. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, three cats, and horse. She is the author of Apocalipstick and has contributed to local newspapers, news and travel blogs including “The Patch” and “Hollywood Scriptwriter”.

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Chocolate in Berlin

Jeanne Matthews 2Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press.  Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust.  Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning Where the Bones are Buriedabout other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels.  She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now .  You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at


In 1641, a German scientist named Johann Georg Voldkammer traveled to Naples and discovered the Neopolitans drinking a strange concoction called cocoa, which was believed to stimulate the spleen and aid digestion. He returned to Germany with a supply of the stuff and introduced it to his fellow countrymen. They lapped it up and quickly adopted the custom of taking a cup of hot cocoa at bedtime. Gradually, the medicinal benefits of drinking chocolate gave way to the sheer pleasure. Today the average German consumes approximately twenty-four pounds of chocolate a year and the city of Berlin lays claim to the largest chocolate house in the world.

Jeanne Matthews Brandenburg Gate

Chocolate Brandenburg Gate

Two chocolate-making families – Fassbender & Rausch – combined forces in 1999 and opened their chocolate mecca on Charlottenstrasse in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. As you enter the shop, the first thing you see is a chocolate volcano erupting aromatic spurts of molten chocolate. A few steps more and you come face-to-face with a display of Berlin’s most iconic landmarks – recreated in chocolate. A monumental replica of the historic Brandenburg Gate topped by its chariot with four perfect horses stands over three feet high and weighs three hundred pounds. A model of the Reichstag, the building that houses the German parliament, measures five feet tall by five feet wide. Its spectacular mirrored cupola is crafted from mousse and glittering gold leaf. One can only marvel that the chocolatiers found receptacles large enough to melt such a quantity of chocolate, a stove large enough to support the receptacles, or a mold that could duplicate the structure’s shape in such intricate detail.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is another work of jaw-dropping chocolate artistry. The bell tower and part of the entrance hall is all that remains of the original church, which was bombed by the Allies during World War II. The new church – a tall, slender edifice (nicknamed “the lipstick” by Berliners) and the flat, hexagonal building (“the powder box”) – were built around the ruins of the old. Fassbender has rendered this symbol of Berlin’s resilience as lovingly in chocolate and gold as the architects rendered the real one in stone and glass. And suspended from the shop’s ceiling is the one of the most famous symbols of the Cold War – a chocolate airplane like the ones used during the Berlin Airlift.

Jeanne Matthews Reichstag

Chocolate Reichstag

The most popular pilot of the Berlin Airlift was Lt. Gail Halvorson, known as the “Chocolate Flier” or “Uncle Chocolate.” He would signal his approach to the chocolate-starved children of East Berlin by wiggling his wings. As the children gathered and waited in anticipation, Lt. Halvorson dropped hundreds of chocolate bars attached to handkerchief parachutes.

Of course Germany’s history with chocolate also had a dark side – forgive the pun. In addition to his fondness for martinis and cigars, Winston Churchill liked chocolate. When Adolph Hitler got wind of this, he ordered his bomb makers to devise thin bars of explosives, coat them with a layer of rich dark chocolate, and giftwrap them in expensive black and gold foil. He planned to have his secret agents in Britain smuggle the package (labeled Peters Chocolate) into the dining room used by Churchill and his War Cabinet. The bomb was rigged to go off seven seconds after the chocolate was removed from its wrapper. If the plot had been successful, most of the British leadership would have been killed in the blast. Fortunately, British intelligence discovered the fake chocolates and posters were distributed, warning the public to beware of the Peters brand. That wasn’t the only Nazi plot involving chocolate. Declassified MI5 files reveal that they poisoned tins of powdered cocoa expecting them to be seized and consumed by the Allied troops.

Chocolate Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Chocolate Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Berlin has been the site of terrible crimes and skullduggery in the past, but today the city is filled with peace and goodwill and its happy denizens are stoked on endorphins and flavonoids derived from its rich bounty of chocolate shops. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can sample chocolate flavored with goat cheese and elderflower essence at in’t Veld Schokoladen. Walk around the corner and you will find Atelier Cacao with its curated selection of handmade chocolates made with organically produced raw cane sugar. And if your craving still isn’t satisfied, you can return to Fassbender & Rausch. Not only does it offer more than two hundred varieties of delicious chocolate candies, it has an upstairs restaurant where you can enjoy a four-course dinner that features chocolate in some form in each and every dish.

A while back, I wrote a blog about my fictional sleuth putting on a few pounds during her time in Berlin. I called it “Fattening Up the Franchise.” It’s just possible that I was projecting the wages of my own dark sins onto her.

Chocolate Berlin Airlift Plane

Chocolate Berlin Airlift Plane

Book Review: Faceless by Dawn Kopman Whidden

Dawn Kopman Whidden
Brighton Publishing, November 2013
ISBN 978-1-62183-140-2
Trade Paperback

As a fan of the mysterious, the creepy, and psychological, twisted thrillers; I have questioned my sanity; but the quest is always short-lived, as I really and truly just want to start reading. When I delightedly ripped open the package containing my (very special, personalized, signed copy) of Faceless and began reading as I stumbled away from the still open mail-box, I was struck by a second, even quirkier query.

I had been stalking my post-man for days, not just because Ms. Whidden spins an alluring, captivating web of mystery, murder and mayhem; but because I knew that I was in for a special reunion, as the very characters I admired and grew fond of in A Child is Torn are the same characters in this tome! But wait. What does that say about me? I am thrilled to see how their lives have changed, what’s new, as if I am checking up on old friends, all the while knowing that, well, something bad is certainly going to happen.

A reader isn’t kept waiting, for indeed there is a gruesome, twisted murder and a delightful cacophony of surly teens that could easily morph into suspects with just a bit of finesse. But, true to form, Ms. Whidden doesn’t dare make the story so simple. Upon closer inspection, we have a respected adult that most certainly could have committed the heinous act, albeit the “why” is not so obvious.

As the townsfolk casually size one and other up, another victim is taken. The act of murder, in and of itself, raises thousands of questions; but when the perpetrator appears to have so much anger and hatred bottled up inside, but behaves normally on the surface, fear and apprehension rise to new terrifying levels. Faceless has all of the quintessential elements needed for a thrilling mystery and while you may think you know who the killer is, I have a feeling that this author will surprise you.

Ms. Whidden masterfully blends the captivating lives of the recurring characters with the turmoil and terror caused by the knowledge of the serial killer among them. These characters that entranced me in A Child is Torn, became beloved in Faceless. So much so, that one day I found myself tearing through chores and errands just so that I could squeeze in some time with my “pals” in Faceless…..until it hit me…..I had finished the book the night before. I had no choice but to immediately order the next chapter of their lives, Stolen. Now, where is that post-man?

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2014.

Break Out of the Worry Habit

Terry ShamesTerry Shames’ best-selling Samuel Craddock series is set in small town Texas. A Killing at Cotton Hill was a finalist for Left Coast Crime’s Best Mystery of 2013 and the Strand Magazine Critics Award for Best First Mystery, and won the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery. The Last Death of Jack Harbin, January, 2014, was named one of the top five mysteries of 2014 by Library Journal, and one of the top ten of 2014 by MysteryPeople. Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek came out October, 2014 and the fourth, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, debuts April 7, 2015. Terry lives in Berkeley. More at

When I was a kid, I was a worrier. I drove my parents crazy. I worried about everything. I wasn’t obsessive as such, just worried. Would I get to sleep? Had I studied hard enough for my math test? Did I look okay? Was my voice okay? Did people like me? Would I make the bus on time? Finally my dad brought home a book that changed my life. The book? How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Andrew Carnegie, one of the pioneers of the self-help movement. I only read the first 30 pages or so, and I probably don’t even remember it right. But these are the steps that have served me to stop worrying.

1) Determine if there is anything you can do about what you are worrying about right now. If yes, then do it. I don’t care if it’s 3 AM. The problem is keeping you awake anyway, so you might as well do something about it.
2) If the answer is no, then decide when can you do something about it. Make a plan and write down what you will do and when. If you don’t write it down, you’ll worry that you’ll forget.
3) If it appears that there is nothing you can do about a problem and worrying about it is keeping you awake or keeping you from doing something else or from enjoying your life, make an appointment to worry.

That’s right. Make an appointment. I’m pretty sure this is my own addition to the formula. And here’s how you do it: First, figure out how long you want to spend worrying. Ten minutes? Thirty? An hour? Then look at your calendar and determine when you have that block of time available.

A Deadly Affair at Bobtail RidgeAt the appointed time, set an alarm for however long you decided to worry then get down to it. Worry about every aspect of the problem. Think of all the worst-case scenarios. Write them down if that helps you focus. DON’T look for solutions. The time is for worrying only. Finding solutions is for another time. Take it seriously. You’ve given yourself the gift of a block of time to indulge your worry. Use the whole time you’ve allotted, so that later you don’t think to yourself, “Well, I didn’t use the whole time, so I have leftover time.”

When the timer goes off, that’s it. If you need to schedule another time to worry some more, do it. But that’s all the time you get to worry for right now. Notice, the worry time is not productive. You don’t get to do solutions. I guarantee you’ll get impatient and try to sneak in some solution time into the worry time. Nope. Be firm with yourself. Set another time slot for brainstorming solutions to solve whatever you are worrying about.

Do you have a trick for getting yourself to stop worrying? Share it with other readers in the comments.

To my wonderful readers:
Thank you for your patience and loyalty while
I have coped with my brother’s recent sudden
illness and death.
My guest bloggers and I have
really appreciated your visits while I’ve been away
Thank you for most of all for your very kind messages!

Book Review: Dead Heading by Catherine Aird

Dead HeadingDead Heading
A Sloan and Crosby Mystery #23
Catherine Aird
Minotaur Books, June 2014
ISBN: 978-1-250-04113-5

I must admit that this was my introduction to the Sloan and Crosby Mysteries, of which there have been more than twenty.  But it won’t be the last I read, as it is completely charming.

DI Christopher Dennis (“Seedy”) Sloan is head of the small Criminal Investigation Department of “F” Division of the County of Calleshire Police Force at Berebury. Practically on the eve of his appraisal by his boss, known as a “Personal Development Discussion,” he is on “good behavior” when that superior officer, Superintendent Leeyes, assigns him to investigate what may be only a malicious breakin at a local plant nursery where, on a cold night, the doors to two greenhouses were left wide open on a night when an early frost has set in, virtually killing its contents, in one of which were the remains of young and very special [read “expensive”] orchids, threatening the livelihood, or worse, of the nursery’s owner. From this seemingly innocuous beginning, the ensuing plot ultimately involves a break-in at an area cottage by two different persons; “an unloved missing person; the blackmailing of more than one poor soul; the probable suicide of one of them; the odd, naïve behaviour of a maker of bonfires; inexplicable goings-on in the horticultural trade and, cast into the mixture for good measure, the destruction of hundreds of infant orchids.”

When a second nursery is broken into, Sloane and his underling, D.C. Crosby, investigate, and discover that yet another large number of valuable orchids has been destroyed; it becomes clear that this is something more than a coincidence. As things escalate and the number of suspects rises, the pressure on Sloane mounts as well. Leeyes is a difficult man to please: “on a bad day the superintendent was quite capable of blaming him for not catching Jack the Ripper.”

With references to Shakespeare, Erasmus and Shaw, and filled with horticultural metaphors, the writing is delightful.  The attorneys for one of the suspects are Puckle, Puckle and Nunnery.  (I do have to admit that I never knew that the word “turf,” in the plural, could be “turves.”)  By the end, all the loose ends are tied up and the mystery is solved to the reader’s complete satisfaction.  The novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2014.

Book Review: Running with Wild Blood by Gerrie Ferris Finger

Running With Wild BloodRunning With Wild Blood
A Moriah Dru / Richard Lake Mystery
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Five Star, January 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2966-7

This is another intense, convoluted and complicated case for Moriah Dru and Richard Lake out of Atlanta, Georgia. Dru, a former cop, is the head of a PI firm that specializes in finding and protecting lost, damaged and at-risk children. Her lover and frequent partner is a lieutenant in the Atlanta PD.

A three-year-old cold case, the murder of a sixteen-year-old girl engages Lake who in turn engages Dru to help him solve the murder of this wild teenager. The more they probe beneath the surface, the odder and more troubling facts, suppositions and cross-currents bubble to the surface. The duo’s task is complicated by the association of some principals in the case with local motorcycle clubs and gangs. Soon, the coiling tentacles of the case engage the FBI and other police agencies in other states.

The novel is an intense and thoughtful look at motorcycle clubs and gangs, their motivations and rivalries. Locations range across multiple state and city jurisdictions and the author has made an effort to illuminate some of the restraints and difficulties encountered when law enforcement pursues cases across state and municipal boundaries. The contrasts between an upper-class private school with all its social niceties and the rough and tumble world of the biker are interesting.

There are several incidents of violence and incipient head-breaking. They are well-handled on the page and will, I suggest, keep readers engaged. The pace of the novel is by no means pell-mell, but the tension is palpable, the characters genuine, the dialogue both pert and realistic. A very satisfying experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2015.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.