Book Review: Condition Book One by Alec Birri


Title: Condition Book One
Series: The Condition Trilogy
Author: Alec Birri
Narrator: Jonathan Keeble
Publication Date: January 17, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian


Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon


Condition Book One
A Medical Miracle?
The Condition Trilogy
Alec Birri
Narrated by Jonathan Keeble
Essential Music Limited, January 2018
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the publisher—

What if all brain disorders were treatable? Few would lament the passing of dementia or autism, but what if the twisted mind of a sex offender or murderer could be cured too? Or how about a terrorist or maybe a political extremist? What if we could all be “corrected”?

It’s 1966, and RAF pilot Dan Stewart awakes from a coma following an aircraft accident into a world where nothing seems to make sense anymore. Not being able to recall the crash might be expected, but what about the rest of his life? And what’s stopping him from taking his medication? Is it brain damage that’s causing paranoia about the red pill, or is Dan right to think something sinister is going on?

His horrific injuries don’t make any sense either – a post-crash fire caused him to suffer almost 100% burns. How is it even possible to survive that? Are the hallucinations and strange dreams trying to tell him something? They are, and he’ll soon find out what, but not before his doctor’s sure the shock won’t kill him.

Have you ever met a character that seemed to somehow exactly fit what you expected? Dan is more than a little loudmouthed, brash, even obnoxious, and his thoughts swirl madly and almost aimlessly. He’s badtempered and suspicious and apparently has kind feelings only about his young daughter. All of this meshed nicely with how I might feel and behave if I woke up in a hospital after a terrible accident that should have killed me and found that, not only was my body in a rather strange condition, but I also just knew that something wasn’t right.

Dan, of course, is correct in thinking something’s off and, if there has ever been an unreliable narrator, it’s him. Small wonder since he is seemingly surrounded by people who don’t want to be honest with him. Is the doctor really treating him? Why are all the patients he meets suffering severe burns just like his? Does he have good reason to be suspicious about his wife? Why is his memory so faulty? And why is he so leery of taking the red pill?

Unfortunately, in the early stages of this story, I couldn’t like a single character for one reason or another, with special dislikes for Dan and his nurse, Tracy. If that happens to you, I urge you to keep reading anyway because, when all is said and done, this is a unique tale, one that kept my interest to the end and I’m anticipating enjoying the next book just as much. Reading about the evil that can be done in the name of science is always tough but a gripping story nonetheless.

As for the narration, Mr. Keeble added a lot to my appreciation of the story. His tone is smooth and very pleasing and he interprets different players really well, male and female. I haven’t listened to anything else he might have done but I certainly won’t mind listening to him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.



About the Author

Alec Birri served thirty years with the UK Armed Forces. He commanded an operational unit that experimented in new military capabilities classified at the highest level (Top Secret Strap 3) and it is this that forms the basis of his novels. Although semi-autobiographical, for national security and personal liberty reasons, the events and individuals portrayed have to be fiction but are still nonetheless in keeping with his experiences.



About the Narrator

If you regularly enjoy listening to audiobooks then this Shakespearean actor will need no introduction. Winner of a 2016 SOVAS award, Jonathan’s voice is rightly recognized as being one of the best, and his narration of The Condition Trilogy is no exception.



Play an excerpt here.


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Book Review: Quantum State by M. Black

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Book Reviews: Ink by Alice Broadway and Back Roads by William Bitner, Daniel Boyd and Jason Pell

The Skin Books #1
Alice Broadway
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-19699-3

In Saintstone, the destiny of the soul is determined not by a deity, but by the government. From birth until demise, the body is marked to illustrate the life being lived. At death, the skin is flayed, then bound into a book. If the soul is worthy, the book goes home with the family. If not, it is obliterated by fire and the person is forgotten forever–as if everyone’s collective memories merge with the smoke, dissipate, then disappear.

Leora easily understands this definitive divide and especially embraces it when she loses a loved one. An absence so overwhelming can bring even the staunchest believers to rock bottom. Surfacing secrets shove the bottom away, resulting in a figurative free-fall of uncertainty and doubt.

Hearing something often, particularly from people most admired, certainly makes that thing seem true. Perhaps Leora has been purely parroting the comfort and confidence contrived by her firm trust in her faith. As Obel’s new intern, she is shaken when she attempts to answer his apparently innocuous questions, but finds herself floundering.

His queries feel bold, almost blasphemous. Leora has never had reason to doubt the separation of the despicable blank people from the marked, but when called to support her stance with facts and logic, she is speechless, then stunned. Seeing every single thing in a new light can be disconcerting. No longer knowing who to trust or what to believe, terrifying.

Looking at life through Leora’s eyes is humbling. As she adamantly, albeit ignorantly, explains why the evil White Witch, the first blank, does not deserve to be remembered; it begins to be easier to see what actually is, as opposed to what Leora has always been told. Accepting that real knowledge is indeed power, Leora learns, then she plans. The young girl’s tremendous growth, against all odds is enlightening and empowering.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2018.


Back Roads
William Bitner, Daniel Boyd & Jason Pell
CreateSpace, March 2017
ISBN 978-1544194806
Trade Paperback

Definitely distinct, yet stitched with a common dark thread, these short stories flow with an inexplicably familiar feel while featuring fresh frights.  Each author seems to settle back and spin yarns with a natural knack for story-telling that evokes an avalanche of emotions. A strong, soft, somber voice speaks.  Instinctively, I am in.  I felt the crisp cold of the mountain air instantly freeze the inside of my nose, heard the ripples and rush of the rivers and felt my heart in my throat and my body tense as turning the page felt like taking a hairpin curve at high speed on a steep mountain road.

Creatures creep from the dark, formative…to spark a spooky image, while monsters mangle with brilliantly bold detail that may make you squeeze your eyes shut.   Substance makes these shorts stand out, as if the writer has wrung a bit of his soul into the words to sneakily seep into the reader.  In some instances, real-life-right-now social, environmental and health issues blur the line between sci-fi and reality, bringing a chilling sense of foreboding along with the ugly, unfiltered view of cruelty and corruption.

I love that these stories show scenic, wild, West Virginia and portray the people honestly; quietly quashing inaccurate stereotypes; humbly highlighting the genuine good.  To me, this book is a treasure chest filled with rare, remarkable jewels that will bring me pleasure every single time I open it.  I enthusiastically recommend it to voracious readers, as well as reluctant ones.  In merely minutes, engage in a tumultuous, terrifying escape….and I mean that in the best way possible.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.


A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 4

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Unsub #1
Meg Gardiner
Dutton, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-101-98552-6

If you’re ever in the mood for a nail-biting, gut-wrenching tale of police work, this is it. Detective Caitlin Hendrix comes very close to her own kind of obsession that plays like a counterpoint to the unsub’s sick and deadly obsession and, at times, it’s a little difficult to tell them apart. I don’t mean that literally—on the page, of course you know who is who—but the emotional turmoil that each feels has a sort of certain similarity and you can’t help wondering just how much the killer is affecting her, perhaps even twisting her mind, not to mention the agitation stemming from her own baggage. This unsub is pretty well terrifying and Ms. Gardiner had me flying through the pages.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Poor Things
Daniel Barnett
CreateSpace, June 2016
ISBN 978-1533613080
Trade Paperback

Are you ready for some creepy vibes of the horror variety? From the opening scene of a deer dying on the road, I had a sense of what the title might refer to in a vague sort of way but I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these characters, especially Joel and a new friend, Ash, a tomboy with an inner strength and a no-nonsense attitude. A high school superjock, Joel is typically obnoxious and a bit of a bully towards his kid brother but his life changes in an instant. He’s naturally full of anger and resentment but a kernel of compassion is there. All he can really hope for is to find acceptance for his new circumstances and, just maybe, a little happiness.

Too bad there’s something evil beginning to stir, maybe the end of the world…

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Renting Silence
A Roaring Twenties Mystery #3
Mary Miley
Severn House, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-7278-8653-8

Jessie Beckett isn’t really a private investigator but she seems to have a knack for it so, when Mary Pickford asks her to look into a starlet’s death, she agrees, having no idea where her search for the truth will take her. Vaudeville’s colorful past, blackmail, an impending death sentence…all come into play but will these varying pieces lead Jessie to Lila Walker’s real murderer before Ruby Glynn hangs?

The mystery here is topnotch but it’s Ms. Miley‘s evocation of Hollywood in its early days that’s really the star of the show, pun intended. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Myrna Loy, Zeppo Marx,  even Rin Tin Tin fill the pages with so much history and fun it’s easy to become mesmerized. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode in Jessie’s life and will be staring the next book, Murder in Disguise, as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Resurrection Mall
A Penns River Crime Novel #3
Dana King
Down & Out Books,
ISBN 978-1-943402-65-6
Trade Paperback

A town that’s down on its luck, economically speaking, is ripe for drug trade and mob activity along with a rise in petty crime and that’s what’s happened to Penns River, leading to corruption on multiple fronts and a police department that’s sorely tested. The “Resurrection Mall” of the book’s title actually is a shopping mall, one that’s being refurbished by a minister trying to help the community or so he says.

Doc Dougherty, the quintessential cop we all want on our side in a crunch, still goes home for Sunday dinner because that’s the kind of guy he is, rooted in family and the truly important things in life. Police work in Penns River is generally not exactly unusual but this time it most certainly is, beginning with the mass murders of five top level members of the drug trade.

Resurrection Mall is a little more dismal than I usually like but Mr. King‘s elegant writing, his plot development and his characters (who are refreshingly normal) all kept me going because I became invested in this Rust Belt community and in Doc. There are two earlier books and I think I’m going to have to check them out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Crimson Earth
Modi Series #2
Anna Soliveres
Anna Soliveres, December 2015
ISBN 978-0-9960149-3-9
Trade Paperback

Aeva is a most unusual girl, even in her world that’s so different from our own, and is currently passing as the missing Queen Violet. Aeva is also right in the midst of the fight against a man who is obsessed with power, no matter what he has to do to obtain it and Aeva’s people look to her intelligence and strength to protect and lead them in this time of crisis. To do that, this remarkable young woman has become the strong, self-reliant heroine she was destined to be.

Crimson Earth is the sequel to Violet Storm which I read and enjoyed more than three years ago ( I didn’t feel quite the same connection to this second installment but I blame myself for not re-reading the first book before getting into this one and I really do recommend reading them in order to get the full effect of a really well-conceived dystopian tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.


Book Reviews: The Knowing by Sharon Cameron and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

The Knowing
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-94524-0

Hundreds of years ago, a select group—the brightest, some would say “the best”—humans exited Earth to populate a new planet in pursuit of a better life, for the people and even their habitat, this time. Regression would be the new progression, technology would be eliminated, to a certain extent, of course and mankind and mother nature would blissfully coexist. The socio-economic experiment was a success, but eventually the folks of the Canaan Project stopped responding to their counterparts on Earth. The fate of the colony became a constant scientific conundrum.

Both of Beckett’s parents worked tirelessly towards answers. For as long as he could remember his dad spoke passionately of the Canaan Project, ruminating possibilities and fantasizing of finding ruins. Being a curious and intelligent young man, Beckett also studied all available information and developed his own theories and hopes for the lost civilization. So, when their ship (finally) landed, actual exploration imminent, Beckett felt that his father was free to search for artifacts, but he believed in bigger discoveries. Beckett expected a close encounter of the evolved-human kind.

His field-trip-partner/friend-for-years, Jillian, accompanies him to map their routes while he gathers information. As data is submitted and instructions are received, Beckett begins to question the goal of this mission. Certain information has been deliberately withheld as a manipulation maneuver. Beckett does not know who to trust, but he’s sure that he’ll need help to get himself and anyone else that comes along, to safety.

Sometimes, even in fiction, there are lessons to be learned. When an absolutely fantastical tale illuminates misunderstandings and malintent while highlighting characters filled with only good intentions, that is the true magic of phenomenal sci-fi and Ms. Cameron is quite the conjurer. The Knowing is a companion to Ms. Cameron’s The Forgetting; you can pick it up today and dive right in without feeling lost…but you really should check out The Forgetting, too.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.


Honestly Ben
Bill Konigsberg
Arthur A. Levine Books, April 2017
ISBN 978-0545858267

Ben is considerate, thoughtful and enviably introspective beyond his years.  He is also an adorably awkward, adolescent farm-boy attending an all-boys boarding school, on scholarship.  As the first Junior to be captain of the baseball team, the recipient of a prestigious award (the acceptance of which requires a speech) and a student struggling with calculus and sexual identity, Ben’s mind is full.  No time to contemplate how a straight guy could have crushed so hard on a gay dude.

The charismatic, somewhat quirky, and undeniably adorable, Hannah, is the perfect girlfriend, after all.  Confident in his heterosexuality, Ben is ready to spend time with his best friend, Rafe, again.  Once every single thing is in its respective, proper place, nothing is quite right.  As Ben realizes that there can be more than one right answer and certainly more than two options, he begins to speak out instead of turning away.  His confidence is inspiring and contagious with unexpected results.

Mr. Konigsberg deftly demonstrates the challenges and misconceptions that so many homosexual, bisexual, and gender-fluid teenagers are forced to face.  Honestly Ben is a spot-on, spectacular Young Adult read.  I will be donating my copy to my favorite HS classroom, of course.  This is too important for a limited audience; I’m hopeful that there will be many adult readers.  I can’t be the only one capable of being captivated and compelled by Ben Carver.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2017.


Book Reviews: Exo by Fonda Lee, R.I.P. Eliza Hart by Alyssa Sheinmel and The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

Fonda Lee
Scholastic Press, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-93343-8

Peace Day may be quickly approaching, but a battle is about to go down while something more sinister, bigger, bubbles beneath. Tension between the Global Security & Pacification Forces (SecPac) and humans is palpable; the humans’ hatred, disgust and raw fury with the zhree is tangible, yet they plan to celebrate a century of coexistence.  Coexistence applies to the fifteen percent of mankind approved to exist among the zhree.  The remaining eighty-five percent faded into shadows of themselves or morphed into fierce, determined resistance fighters.

Having survived the Hardening process that transforms a zhree-approved human child into an exo, the only son of the Prime Liaison appears as a firmly committed SecPac soldier.  Donovan is confident and unquestioning in his fight against human rebels; until a raid goes wrong.  Held hostage where humans are the apex species, his perspective shifts.  It becomes impossible to see the individuals around him as the cohesive, carbon-copy-collection he has been fighting against.  What he fought for blurs out of focus.  Who he really is becomes crystal clear: not human enough for mankind, “nothing but human” to the zhree. Although it feels as if everything is different now, one thing is very much the same: the entire planet is in danger and Donovan is helpless as a hostage.

Exo is a brilliant example of Science-Fiction feeling oh-so-real.  Ms. Lee packs powerful punches in action scenes, soothes with sympathy in some situations, but bites with wit and humor in others.  Entertaining, empathy evoking, surprisingly relatable and utterly thought provoking, this is a book for everyone; not just Science-Fiction fans.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2017.


R.I.P Eliza Hart
Alyssa Sheinmel
Scholastic Press, December 2017
ISBN 978-0-338-08762-8

The appeal of the convenient, all-access “…narrow streets on the narrow island of Manhattan” is almost irrelevant for someone uncomfortable (at best) in enclosed spaces. Hopeful that her home state would help her open doors that claustrophobia kept firmly closed, Ellie accepts a scholarship to attend a tiny boarding school buffered by redwoods, opening wide above the Pacific Ocean.

Alone, Ellie explores the other dorms. A parental accompaniment would have been cool, but her issues have taken up too much of their time anyway. She will make friends here, none of these students know of her problems. Actually, she even sees a name she knows and suddenly, Ellie has something to look forward to: reconnecting with Eliza Hart.

Awkwardness should be the worse-case-scenario. Eliza may not have fond memories of her former childhood friend, she may not even remember Ellie at all. Appearing angry and almost personally offended that Ellie dare approach her, Eliza obviously loathes Ellie. In fact, she’s already told everyone on campus that Ellie is a vicious, pathological liar and students should simply steer clear.

Stunned, shattered, struggling with her sanity, Ellie has to know why. Even as Eliza’s body is recovered from the cliffside and speculations swirl around campus, Ellie cannot stop searching for answers. As she uncovers Eliza’s best kept secret, Ellie’s own repression is revealed, changing her perspective on absolutely everything.

R.I.P. Eliza Hart is an outstanding YA novel because, as narrators of their own stories, Eliza and Ellie explain actualities of mental illness in a way that everyone can understand and empathize with. Misconceptions, such as medicine plus therapy equal a cure, are corrected…without sounding like a somber after-school-special. And the awesome element of something decidedly different, redwood burl poachers.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2017.


The Forgetting
Sharon Cameron
Scholastic Press, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-94521-9

Imagine awaking with no knowledge of who you are. You don’t know your name, or age.  None of your surroundings are familiar. The distraught children barricaded inside with you are strangers, but the look of terror covering each little face reflects how you feel. They, too, have Forgotten.

In the white-walled world of Canaan, you carry your life story with you in the most literal way: hand-written in a journal kept close (if not tethered) at all times.  Every moment lived will be written down accurately and truthfully.  When one journal is filled, it is maintained in the Archives. Histories—both individual and collective—are compiled and preserved here; a necessity based on an inexplicable, yet infallible, occurrence that robs the residents of their memories every twelve years.

Every rule has an exception and here, it is Nadia.  Having been a child during her first Forgetting, she still realized how different she was.  She did not Forget.  Admirably altruistic, cunning and courageous, this character could carry the story.  A grudging acceptance to partner with Gray, the Glassblower’s Son, subtly shows her softer side and adds a bit more urgency and suspense to an already captivating caper.

The real scoop is revealed like ripples in a pond. The grab-your-attention-splash of the impending Forgetting expands into a more complex mystery.  Perhaps it is the limited memory, or maybe life without modern conveniences keeps people too busy to ponder, but; no one seems to question the wall around the city.  Again, except for Nadia.  She’s been over the wall and noted differences.  In her city, stone is jagged—as if freshly broken or cut.  The other side of wall has stone that has been worn smooth.  She wonders, “…does the wall protect us, or keep us in?”

Already intrigued by the idea of a periodic, mass-memory-erase, I became completely captivated considering circumstances that could have resulted in the walled city.  My wildest imagination is not even comparable to Ms. Cameron’s creative genius; I was astounded.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2017.


Book Review: Revolutions by Carissa Andrews


Title: Revolutions
Series: Pendomus Chronicles Book 3
Author: Carissa Andrews
Publication date: November 21, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult


Purchase Links:




Pendomus Chronicles Book Three
Carissa Andrews
Carissa Andrews, November 2017
ISBN 978-0991055845
Trade Paperback

From the author—

As the timelines of Pendomus fray, one girl born with power has the ability to set things right….

Forcing her way into Videus’ vassalage may be the last thing Runa will ever do, but she knows she has to try. Not only are there others like her—others with powers—but they’re directly tied to her by blood. With Trae’s mental stability in question, and Kani missing, Runa can only rely on herself and the aid of her brother to fulfill her destiny. If she can embrace her role as the Daughter of Five, hopefully she can set things right and free Trae from whatever madness is taking over his mind.

There’s more than meets the eye to Videus’ obsession with Runa and her bloodlines. The only problem is, unraveling the mystery could unleash catastrophe on everything she holds dear, if she’s not careful. Can Runa stop Videus once and for all—or will the fate of Pendomus be locked forever by one man’s madness?

Step into Pendomus – a world that meshes mystery, magical creatures, and destiny with science fiction and technology.

You’re one click away from having all the answers to the Pendomus Chronicles secrets.

Sometimes, a series (or, as in this case, a trilogy) leaves me thinking that there’s been a lot of filler and there could have been fewer books. I don’t feel that way about the Pendomus Chronicles; instead, I think each succeeding book has built on the preceding as it should until the third and final episode is clearly where the author was heading all along.

Revolutions is full of adventure and excitement, just the way a book with such a title should be. We’ve had a really good journey through the first two books, getting to know the characters and the very uncomfortable world they live in, and now we learn who Runa was meant to be all along and how important she and her band of young companions are to each other and to the future of their world.

In the meantime, Trae has to deal with his personal demons and that in itself is a distraction for Runa. In a shattering yet very satisfying ending filled with the past, the present and the future, it finally all comes together in a breakneck race through the timeline, leading us to, well, I won’t give anything away but, suffice it to say, I’m a happy reader 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2017.

About the Author

“An author emerges from the depths of Minnesotan waters. Sci-fi/Fantasy is my pen of choice.”

Carissa Andrews is a Minnesota-based genre bending author who writes a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. When not writing her own books, she’s busy reading them.

Her first novel, Pendomus, was the first of a three-part series and was published in 2013. Now, four years later, Polarities (Book 2) of the Pendomus Chronicles, and Revolutions (Book 3) have recently been released.

For more information on their release, visit Carissa Andrews’ author website: and sign up for her newsletter notifications.

Carissa is also a freelance graphic designer, writer and content creator, social media manager, and marketing professional. She writes consistently on topics of science, technology, art, writing, photography, graphic design, health, self improvement, and more. Her articles can be found published across the interwebs. Carissa is also a Top Rated Freelancer on Upwork, and can be contacted for freelancing opportunities:

Other author links:

Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest
Google // YouTube // BookBub // Goodreads


Follow the tour:

11/22 – Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile – Review
11/23 – Escaping Reality with Books – Review
11/25 – Carissa’s Website – Exclusive Look at Revolutions
11/27 – Buried Under Books – Review