Book Review: All Systems Down by Sam Boush

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Title: All Systems Down
Series: The Cyber War #1
Author: Sam Boush
Publisher: Lakewater Press
Publication Date: February 8, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberthriller

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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All Systems Down
The Cyber War #1
Sam Boush
Lakewater Press, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-9944512-7-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

24 hours.
That’s all it takes.
A new kind of war has begun.

Pak Han-Yong’s day is here. An elite hacker with Unit 101 of the North Korean military, he’s labored for years to launch Project Sonnimne: a series of deadly viruses set to cripple Imperialist infrastructure.

And with one tap of his keyboard, the rewards are immediate.

Brendan Chogan isn’t a hero. He’s an out-of-work parking enforcement officer and one-time collegiate boxer trying to support his wife and children. But now there’s a foreign enemy on the shore, a blackout that extends across America, and an unseen menace targeting him.

Brendan will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe.

In the wake of the cyber attacks, electrical grids fail, satellites crash to earth, and the destinies of nine strangers collide.

Strangers whose survival depends upon each other’s skills and courage.

I can’t help wondering when Mr. Boush conceived the idea for his novel or when he started writing it but it certainly is reflective of our current (and ongoing, apparently) situation with both North Korea and Russia and is very timely indeed. We’ve also had years of experience with hackers installing viruses into the internet so, all in all, the concept here is quite credible.

I don’t have enough knowledge of internet workings to say whether the technical aspects in this story are accurate but that lack of knowledge has a beneficial side effect—if I don’t know better, I’m not going to be concerned with those details. That, in turn, makes for a more comfortable read and I don’t have to bother with focusing on those matters, allowing me to just enjoy the ride and enjoy it I did.

The blackout that hits the US nationwide has strong elements of post-apocalyptic fiction, a plus for me, and this revolves pretty equally around our survival without electricity and other things we’ve learned to assume will always be there and on how we actually got in such a state. Placing the tale in contemporary times was a good move on the author’s part because anybody with half an ear to current events has to be aware that this is something that could happen.

Mr. Boush has a good feel for his characters and they’re quite believable, normal yet imperfect. I certainly didn’t like them all but I’m quite sure many people will be very annoying, oblivious, self-centered, ugly-tempered, cruel, etc., should we find ourselves in such a situation. On the other hand, there will be many who remember their humanity and such is the case with Brendan, Lorenzo, Vailea and others.

For a debut novel, All Systems Down is a nifty story with a lot going for it, although it’s not perfect, and I’m anticipating another good tale with the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

About the Author

Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist.

He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice.

He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.

ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is his first novel, with more to come.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Amazon * Goodreads

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Book Review: Pre-Meditated Murder by Tracy Weber

Pre-Meditated Murder
A Downward Dog Mystery #5
Tracy Weber
Midnight Ink, January 2018
ISBN: 978-0-7387-5068-2
Trade Paperback

Kate Davidson and her trusty canine companion Bella return in Pre-Meditated Murder. As the book opens, Kate and her boyfriend are celebrating Kate’s birthday at the fancy restaurant atop the Seattle Space Needle. SkyCity was the perfect place for what Kate assumed was going to be a moment of her lifetime. After avoiding any thought of “commitment, marriage or children,” Kate is ready.  She is sure tonight is the night that Michael is going to pop the big question and Kate is ready to say yes. In fact, she can hardly wait to say yes. They are at the restaurant, he pulls out her gift, she opens it and-it’s a necklace. Stunned for sure, but her evening is going to get much worse.

Michael professes his love for Kate, but then proceeds to tell her that he can’t marry her, at least not yet because there is this little detail he has failed to mention before. He is already married, wants a divorce but Gabriella won’t budge without a big pay out.

Kate and Michael decide to go to Oregon to try to talk Gabriella into giving Michael the divorce. I was right with the book up until this point but then  things get a little strange even for a “cozy” mystery series. They take Bella with them, BUT, here is where it goes a little wonky for me. Kate’s best friend Rene, her husband, their twins and their dogs also make the trip. Really?

Skipping ahead and overlooking that fact that entirely too many people have made the trip, Kate and Michael meet with Gabriella and the meeting goes poorly. The next day, things take an even worse turn when Kate and Bella are out for a walk and Bella digs up Gabriella’s body. Things get worse still when the police turn up at Michael’s sister’s house and Michael has no alibi for the time of the death.  Obviously Michael is suspect number one on the police’s list. In keeping with the cozy mystery genre, Kate then  jumps in to solve the crime and clear Michael. What Kate uncovers surprises her and changes how she thinks of Michael.

From there the book takes a few interesting twists which might well push it off the “cozy” shelf for subject matter.

The book gives readers a chance to learn more of Michael’s background while certainly wondering what is next for Kate and Michael.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, January 2018.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 2

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…

 

All the Little Liars
An Aurora Teagarden Mystery #9
Charlaine Harris
Minotaur Books, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-09003-4
Hardcover

Charlaine Harris has to work really hard to make me not like any of her books and this one is no exception. Aurora Teagarden is her fluffiest series and I was SO excited when she brought it back with this book, 13 years after the last one.

Roe is a librarian—now married and pregnant—in a small town in Georgia and, as librarians are wont to do, falls over dead bodies on a regular basis. This time, a bunch of kids have gone missing and her teenaged brother is somehow involved. I enjoyed this story even though I thought it was just a little weak but I chalk it up to the difficulties of rebooting a series and fully expect the upcoming Sleep Like a Baby to be back on top.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Gizelle’s Bucket List
My Life with a Very Large Dog
Lauren Fern Watt
Simon & Schuster, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-2365-8
Hardcover
Simon & Schuster Audio, March 2017
Narrated by Lauren Fern Watt
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

I both read and listened to this one and was glad I did because the audio edition added a strong connection between me and the author. This is a true story and, as you can guess from the title, it’s all about this wonderful dog’s last days. Get out a box of tissues because you’re going to need them. Yes, it’s terribly sad but also joyful and uplifting as Lauren helps Gizelle do the things she loves best and those Lauren is sure she’ll enjoy before it’s too late. The love and devotion between Lauren and Gizelle are as real as it gets and I appreciate the time I spent with them.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Smugglers & Scones
Moorehaven Mysteries, Book 1
Morgan C. Talbot
Red Adept Publishing, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-940215-87-7
Trade Paperback

Moorehaven is a bed and breakfast in Oregon that caters to crime fiction writers—what a great setting for murder and mayhem, right? Pippa Winterbourne, manager, gets pulled into the investigation when a local is killed and a boat mysteriously crashes on the rocks, leaving her to house an intriguing injured man who just might be guilty of murder. This is a delightful tale full of the history of coastal Oregon and a beautiful setting and featuring some very appealing folks. The setup with the B&B is unusual in that a trust is actually in charge so this is not the typical scenario in which the innkeeper has to scrimp and save to keep things going. That frees Pippa to do some sleuthing on her own while she rides herd on her crochety great-uncle and the current group of author guests. This is a clever, charming series debut and I’m looking forward to the next one, Burglars & Blintzes.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Still Life
A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery #1
Louise Penny
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Blackstone Audio, August 2006
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

When murder is done in a small town in the Quebec province, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called in to investigate. Most of the villagers think it must have been a hunting accident but Gamache is quite sure something else is going on.

I’m hanging my head in shame, I think, because I’m apparently at odds with the mystery reading world. I’d always avoided this series ( now up to #13) for no particular reason other than I have a bit of distrust when everybody raves about the first book, then the second, the third… But, I finally started feeling kind of silly about it and bit the bullet and, well, I’m kind of underwhelmed. The narrator was quite good (I understand fans were devastated when he passed away a few years ago, after recording the tenth book) and the story was good but I just didn’t connect with it. Still, a gazillion readers can’t all be wrong so I’m going to try the second book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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The Introvert
Michael Paul Michaud
Black Opal Books, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-626945-47-0
Trade Paperback

He’s a vacuum salesman, a quiet individual, kind of a loner but only because solitude is usually easier. He’s Everyman. He also has moments of inner rage so intense he imagines the other person “red and open” but he’s perfectly normal. Right? Well, there was that incident a couple of years ago…

{{Shudder }}

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

 

More Teeny Reviews

lost-in-wonderlandLost in Wonderland
The Twisted and the Brave #1
Nicky Peacock
Evernight Teen, May 2016
ISBN 978-1-77233-867-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Monsters, serial killers, and imaginary friends—being a Wonderlander can be murder… Once upon a time, Kayla was lost. Then she found Wonderland, but not the one you know. Run by ex-government agents and funded by an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire, this Wonderland is the name of a collective of highly trained vigilantes who hunt serial killers. Now Kayla, aka Mouse, works tirelessly alongside her fellow Wonderlanders, Rabbit and Cheshire, baiting dangerous murderers. But even her extensive training hasn’t prepared her for the return of her older brother…

Shilo has spent most of his life in an insane asylum, convinced his mother was abducted by a sinister Alaskan monster who lures the lost away to feast upon their flesh. And now he’s certain that his sister is in the same monster’s crosshairs. But if Shilo is going to save what’s left of his family, he’ll have to convince his sister that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little mad.

The retelling of fairy tales has become almost a cottage industry but, for me, the fun is in discovering how a particular author approaches the task. Now, Wonderland is not, precisely speaking, a fairy tale but, hey, it’s close enough and I quite simply loved all the oddities and eccentricities, the madness, to be found in any Wonderland, even one that involves vigilantes and serial killers. That does mean there’s a certain amount of violence and the tale is quite dark so the squeamish may want to think before reading Lost in Wonderland. Still, I believe many will like Kayla a great deal and appreciate the story as much as I did.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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house-of-silenceHouse of Silence
Sarah Barthel
Kensington Books, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-4967-0608-9
Trade Paperback
From the publisher—

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin’s future—like that of every young woman—hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle’s visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiancé commit a horrific crime—and no one believes her.

Gregory denies all, and Isabelle’s mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband’s assassination.

In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.

Desperation sometimes leads to dire measures and none is more dire than pretending mental illness and landing in an asylum. In the days when treatment of mental patients was something close to horrific, such an escape would have been even riskier but Isabelle certainly couldn’t have expected to find friendship with such a woman. That in itself leads to some interesting conversations and behaviors but the overall tone wasn’t as ominous as it should have been considering the setting and the times. The appeal of the story was further lessened for me by somewhat stilted language that could have been “softened” just a little to make it more amenable to the modern reader and yet there were also occasional anachronisms that simply didn’t work. Overall, while I don’t really consider this to be one of the better historical fiction novels I’ve read, I do see potential for future works from Ms. Barthel.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

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the-purloined-poodleThe Purloined Poodle
Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries
Kevin Hearne
Narrated by Luke Daniels
Audible, September 2016
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells it – and furthermore, he knows he can handle it.

When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it’s part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren’t too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it’s up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy!

Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.

But if he’s going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.

At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world’s finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

There are a handful of series that I always read by listening because I’m so entranced with the narrator and the Iron Druid Chronicles is one of those. Further, I also always get the ebooks because there are foreign and/or mythological names and terms that I can’t always pick up by listening so I play the audio books and then use the ebook to verify those words.

Besides the delights of Luke Daniels‘ narration, Oberon, a goofy Irish wolfhound, is one of my all-time favorite characters. Oberon talks to his druid pal, Atticus, and is totally charming while being very dog-like, focused largely on his next meal, and he has an eye for the ladies, particularly of the French poodle variety. When he finds out that a nefarious ring of dognappers is operating in the Northwest, he naturally feels it’s his duty to sniff out these bad guys so off he goes, with a little help from his friends. What ensues is an entertaining story with a satisfying resolution and I smiled all the way to the end. As always, Oberon’s voice alone had me going and I highly recommend readers who haven’t tried the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne listen to this tale for a taste of the joy you’ll get from these audio books.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

Book Review: Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller And Manitou Canyon by William Kent Krueger

freedoms-childFreedom’s Child
Jax Miller
Crown, July 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8041-8680-3
Hardcover

Foul-mouthed Freedom Oliver is a bartender in Oregon, shielded by Witness Protection.  The reason is that 20 years before she was arrested for murdering her husband and held for two years, before the evidence she planted resulted in the arrest and conviction of her brother-in-law.  But upon her arrest she gave up her two children for adoption, fearing life imprisonment.  Incidentally neither she nor he had actually fired the gun.

The children were placed in the home of a religious zealot in Kentucky, the head of a cult.  Now, 20 years later, the brother-in-law is freed and is seeking revenge.  Meanwhile, her daughter goes missing and Freedom leaves to find the child, who may have been kidnapped.  Along the way she meets her son, now a successful attorney.

This is a debut novel, and for all its interesting plot, it also suffers from superfluous and foul language and other excessive attributes of an unpolished author, especially the novel’s conclusion, which can only be described as a neophyte’s bright idea.  Nevertheless, despite all of that, the time it took to read the story was worthwhile because it is more than interesting.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2016.

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manitou-canyonManitou Canyon
A Cork O’Connor Mystery #15
William Kent Krueger
Atria Books, September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-476-74928-0
Hardcover

Of the fifteen volumes in the excellent Cork O’Connor series, this latest is one of the best.  It finds Cork in the midst of at least two conspiracies during which he probably learns more about himself than he has in a long time.  It is November, a month in which he has undergone several tragedies, including the death of his wife.  In a depressed mood, his daughter’s wedding looms in a couple of weeks.

The Cork is approached by the grandchildren of a boyhood friend he has not seen in decades, who has gone missing in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, to try to find the man despite a two-week search-and-rescue operation having failed and efforts called off.  Instead of the couple of days by which Cork promised his daughter to return, he and the accompanying granddaughter go missing as well.  And this leads to some of the best writing and descriptions in a series that abounds in such efforts as Cork and the woman are captured and with their captors trudge and canoe northward to Canada.

Meanwhile back home Cork’s family and friends realize something has gone wrong and they fly to Raspberry Lake looking for him. With winter setting in, it becomes a race not only for survival for the group that captured Cork, but also for his rescuers.  As is usual, the author gives the reader deep insight not only into Ojibwe culture but the Northwoods environment in which the story takes place.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2016.

Book Review: Lead Me Home by Theresa Hupp

Lead Me HomeLead Me Home
Hardship and Hope on the Oregon Trail
Theresa Hupp
Rickover Publishing, September 2015
ISBN 978-0985324421
Trade Paperback

Have you ever wanted to go back in time and ride in a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail? Here’s your chance. Ms. Hupp has created a setting and characters so realistic that the reader might believe the diary entries she includes in each chapter came from a real traveler. Her research did, in fact, include reading diaries, maps, and first-hand accounts of such journeys.

Not only did I vicariously sweat during the trip across the western deserts, grow nervous about river crossings, feel the dust in my face behind the animals, and mourn the loss of wagon train members, but also I empathized with the emotional ups and downs of the main characters. From the saga’s unsettling beginning when Mac meets Jenny under emotional and tragic circumstances, the tone is set for their ups and downs during the long trek across country. Then, as we get to know them, we learn the inner strengths and sometimes immature decisions that guide the young people through trying situations.

I rooted for the characters when conflicts arose, and I kept turning pages to find out what would happen. Would the bully/discontent cause a fight with the Native Americans and get everyone killed? Would the baby or the mother die during childbirth? Would Mac and Jenny find what they wanted? Now, I’m anxious for the sequel, since I’ve come to care about all of the characters.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, May 2016.
http://www.joyceannbrown.com
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Book Review: Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander

Meet Your BakerMeet Your Baker
A Bakeshop Mystery #1
Ellie Alexander
St. Martin’s Paperbacks, December 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-05423-4
Mass Market Paperback

Juliet “Jules” Capshaw left her hometown of Ashland, Oregon ten years ago, to learn how to be an expert pastry chef, and then to travel the world working on a cruise ship. She had no plans to return to Ashland except for visits to see her widowed mother, but when serious issues arise in Jules’s marriage, her plans change. Jules finds herself right back where she originally started – working at Torte, the family bakery business that her parents began decades before.

I know this book was good for a few reasons. The first is that, whether it’s fair or not, I usually steer clear of cosy mysteries with cute covers and a pun in the title. This book has made me question that policy, because it turned out to be a fine mystery  with unexpected twists and turns not only in the plot, but in character development. The second reason is that, although I am normally a tea drinker, I wanted to drink every coffee and latte and espresso shot that was described in the book. Similarly, the third reason is that I generally prefer savoury foods to sweet ones, but as I was reading Meet Your Baker,  I wanted to eat every raspberry danish, scone, oatmeal cookie, lime crescent cookie, and lime mint cupcake described in the story, as well as the delicious-sounding chicken pasta salad and turkey havarti sandwiches. Alexander is clearly a strong writer if she could win me over on all those points.

I have never been to Ashland, Oregon, and until I read Meet Your Baker, I hadn’t heard of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which provides much of the employment for the residents of Ashland. Most of the business for Torte comes from the tourists who visit to see the plays in the city’s three theatres, stop in at galleries, and shop in the distinctive stores. Ashland is also home to South Oregon University, and this also plays a part in the story, since a number of the characters are students with various part-time jobs around town.

The setting was probably my favourite part of the book. Although I haven’t visited Ashland, it sounds very similar to Stratford, Ontario, a Canadian city with a similar population that is also home to a Shakespeare Festival. I love going to Stratford, not only to see the great acting and the wonderful plays, but also because everywhere you go during the season, there are actors and people connected with the theatre – you can’t help but bump into intriguing characters and hearing dramatic discussions in every restaurant and cafe.

This was also what I loved about the descriptions of Ashland. The mystery plot revolves around the theatre, and around the constant fund-raising and endless clashes between producing fabulous plays and ensuring the festival remains commercially viable. Because so many of those involved are actors, directors, and producers, they all have larger-than-life personalities – and often exceptional wardrobes, which makes for a fun read. The dependence of the town’s economy on tourism is clearly described here, and I liked Juliet’s practicality and strong work ethic as she tries to help her mother keep Torte on its feet, even during the slower months.

Although the mystery plot itself is maybe a bit convoluted, I thought this was offset by unexpected developments in the characters’ lives. The reason Juliet has decided to leave her job and her marriage was not what I anticipated when I began reading, and I liked being surprised. Although she is struggling with sadness and confusion as the book begins, Jules is not someone to lie around and wallow in her grief. Instead, she gets busy and bakes, and Alexander’s careful and detailed descriptions of Juliet’s cooking were fascinating to read.

To top it all off, this book also includes recipes. I’m not sure that I’ve ever made a recipe from a fictional book before, but Alexander certainly makes it seem like a tempting idea.

Reviewed by Andrea Thompson, February 2016.