New Series

The Felix Chronicles by: R.T. Lowe

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Reeling from a terrible accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Felix arrives at Portland College hoping only to survive the experience. In time, however, his reality star roommate shows him there is more to higher education than just classes, shared bathrooms and bad dorm food, and Felix gradually dares to believe he can put his past behind him. But a fateful storm looms on the horizon: In the nearby woods, two hikers become the latest victims in a series of gruesome murders; a disfigured giant embarks on a vicious cross-country rampage, killing teenagers who fail his ‘test’; and an ancient society of assassins tasked with eradicating the wielders of a mysterious source of power awakens after a long silence. Only one man–the school’s groundskeeper–knows that the seemingly unrelated events are connected, and that an eighteen-year-old boy stands in the center of the storm.

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My Review

Felix enters his first year at Portland College like any other 18 year old, as a star player on the football team, dorm mates with Alison, his best friend and with his new reality star roommate, Lucas. However, being the the soul survivor of a house fire that killed his parents, having hallucinations of people trying to kill him and being able to move things with his mind makes him anything, but normal.

As Felix’s freshmen year begins to unfold we begin to understand several different components are going to come into play. A serial-killer called “Faceman,” is running up and down the the west coast abducting 18 year old’s and then shooting them in the face. In a local forest near Portland College, hikers and hunters are disappearing at an alarming rate and the corporate monguel, Lofton, seems to have more to do with it than we think.

This book is what I would call a cross between the Percy Jackson series and Harry Potter. While the story may be familiar, the voice is new. Being a new adult novel squarely places it out of the juvenile range with it’s language and some of its more mature content. While the new situations are humorous, I can’t help but be nostalgic for the reflection of innocence from the age we all believed in magic. *Sigh!* That is not to say this story is any less. NO! The characters then take on a new life-like quality making the story that much more entertaining.

As the story continued to unfold, new story lines were introduced that kept me guessing until the very last page. Hell, I’m still questioning!? This was an aspect of this book that I loved. It kept me on my toes. And I’m positive the “Felix Chronicles: Year Two” will not only do the same, but blow me away. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book in this series! Prepared to be entertained to the max!

-JL

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“Moonkind: Survivors of Ebola” by: Bruce Merchant

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In another Century and a half, the world, as we know it, will be greatly
changed. This book foresees changes that most of us could scarcely
dream of. It imagines a world where current international tensions
have mostly dissolved, where continental solidarity has supplanted most national boundaries, and where global warming has actually abated. It is a time when space exploration is of prime importance and when robotically operated stations exist on our own Moon and on Mars and Venus..

But several traditional earthly problems have not been resolved. One of these is the periodic emergence of infectious diseases that (by means of insidious mutations) have evaded all modern efforts to prevent or control them. Enter Q-strain, an astoundingly pernicious mutation of Ebola virus which, over the period of a few years, totally wipes out all humans on the Earth. There is time, however, in the interim, to transport the very earliest
stage (blastocysts) of the clones from many very accomplished humans to the robotic station on the Moon. (These clones had been acquired years before the epidemic and stored in suspended animation in liquid hydrogen).

Roughly a century later, when the “all clear” for absence of the Ebola Q-strain mutant on the Earth has been biologically verified, these “celebrity clones” are given birth on the Moon and raised to adulthood by robotic guides and caretakers. The story then centers on the development of fourteen spirited “celebrity clones” who must find ways to realistically coexist, and then to ultimately return a human presence to our now Ebola-free blue planet. This sounds like quite a challenge, and in fact, that’s just what it is.

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My Review

“Moonkind: Survivors of Ebola” begins by setting up Earth in 2173 AD. A lot has changed, but the American way of life seems to have been unaffected. In chapter one, we are introduced to Thompson, our first hero and main character, who has the opportunity of a life time to go and work on the Moon for two years! His wife, Ilona, doesn’t see this opportunity quite as exciting as he does, but he goes nonetheless.

As Thompson works on the Moon, we follow various characters gathering bits and pieces of what is to come.

Ilona reads a strange article in the news about children in Africa dieing of heart attacks.

The Bioscience Working Group of the WHO’s Infectious Disease Task Force debates the best way to preserve humankind from the deadly Q-strain of Ebola.

Two individuals, Jonas Leitner, a prominent scientist, and Jackie LaForge, famous singer, give their DNA samples to be cloned. Jonas is strongly advised by The Conservancy Board to be cloned and Jackie receives the opportunity as a mere Christmas gift from a well-off friend.

Then, after 9 chapters, we come back to Thompson and his crew working on the moon. They receive the shocking news that their mission has been extended indefinitely and they are now charged with the task of developing a self-sustaining station for human clones to be born, raised and educated. The hope is for these clones to represent a variety of the worlds genetic material and eventually repopulate the Earth.

*One problem, if clones are infertile…how are they going to repopulate the Earth? I kept reading despite my confusion.

Eventually, the crew, including Thompson, die and we our left with omnipotent narration until the first group of clones are born.

When I began this book, I felt like I was reading a news broadcast. The story was unfocused. Early in the book, the point of view was divided amongst several different characters and it left the plot unclear and difficult to entertain.

The book begins with the point of view of Thompson in chapter 1, then moves to Ilona in 2, the WHO’s Infectious Disease Task Force in 3, another group of scientists in 4, WHO again in 5, Jonas and Jackie in 6-8, and then finally it comes back to Thompson in 9. However, by the time we reach chapter 9, so many subplots have been introduced we are left confused and wondering which will be developed? Are we going to follow the progression of the disease on Earth, the exposure of the group of scientists in Antarctica, Ilona’s life without Thompson, or maybe the development of Jonas and Jackie’s relationship? Had the story developed a clear plot before shifting perspective I believe this book would have been more gripping.

The general lack of direction made it difficult to become invested in the story. The author continued to struggle with point of view and motivation throughout the book; until we reach chapter 19 when a faint glimmer of a hero finally emerges from the first group of clones. However, it isn’t until chapter 48 I was able to find some plot clarity and am able to invest in the story and the characters prepare for their trip back to Earth.

How did I feel about the book? It was like walking barefoot on hot sand trying to get to civilization. I wanted to speed through to get to the point of the story, but I just kept reading one piece of the story after the other without conclusion. The subplots and minor themes were an unraveled mess and distracted me from the further development of Raddix, our main character. I could see the author’s point, he wanted to make his readers aware of the type of environment these humans were experiencing and how the idiosyncrasies of human behavior still apply. However, I feel this could have been done with more precision by focusing the reader’s point of view.

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About the Author:

Bruce Merchant, M.D., is a Research Physician in the Immunology and Pathology of Human responses to tumors and infectious diseases. Bruce also holds a doctorate in Immunopathology from the University of Chicago. He was a lab researcher at the National Institutes of Health for a decade and then continued his research in Immunology, and Immunogenetics at the FDA for a second decade. He then moved mainly into Clinical Research and served first as the Director of Clinical studies at Hybritech, Inc. and later as Clinical V.P at Viagene, Inc. both Biotech companies in San Diego, California.

He then teamed up with James A. Taylor, Ph. D, to whom this book is dedicated. Together, they formed Merchant-Taylor International, Inc. (MTI), a consulting firm that over the past two decades has assisted over 200 Biotech and Small Pharma companies in moving their products forward through successive phases of Clinical Development.

Bruce still works full time in this consulting capacity. Many of MTI’s clients are developing therapies aimed at controlling infections or malignant tumors, and Bruce serves as the Clinical Monitor for several of these studies. He is also involved with two separate Clinical Studies, one which involves the use of Convalescent Immune Plasma (from Ebola survivors) and another employing a number of promising new pharmaceuticals which will be critically tested in Ebola patients in West Africa in an effort to control the current deadly epidemic.

Grift by: Jason Mosberg

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Why would a 17-year-old girl pretend to be a high class escort?

Piper is a con artist whose canvas is the city of Las Vegas. She rolls with a crew of young grifters including a card-counting genius, a tourist-hustling pool shark, and a pocket-picking magician. Together, this crew of teenage outlaws live with their mentor Max in the penthouse of a hotel casino. They work hard and play harder. But unlike the others, Piper must balance her hyper-real Vegas fantasy with the reality of raising her 14-year-old half-sister Sophie. Disaster strikes when the Las Vegas mafia kidnaps Sophie and demands a multimillion-dollar ransom. With only five days to piece together the money, the crew races the clock to save her.

 

 

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My Review

Piper is a 17 year old con-artist in Las Vegas living in a top floor penthouse in the Treasure Island hotel near the strip with 4 young con-artists, their mentor and surrogate father, Max, and her 14 year old sister, Sophie.

Piper and the rest of group work for Max by luring tourists from their money using various scams and in turn Max provides a place to live and coaches them in their respective trade. Piper works by exploiting men as a high-end escort. She seduces men into a hotel room and takes their money without providing any service. While her roommates spend their money on whatever their heart desires, Piper saves all her money so she can leave Las Vegas and give her sister a more normal life.

One evening, Piper comes home to a beaten and bloody Max, thousands of dollars missing and her sister kidnapped! The ransom demanded puts the group in a frenzy – can they con enough money to save her?

I enjoyed this book. While I believe the plot in this book, in one way or another, had been done, I was excited to see a twist with the main character being a young female. When I began reading, I had a distinct feeling of reading a fairy tale with the characters coming from nothing, finding Max and then having everything they could ever want. However, that feeling is short lived as the characters join together to bring Sophie home. The story had potential: a strong lead character, a love interest, internal conflict, external conflict, but falls short with supporting character development and overall execution.

The additional roommates and even Max himself fall seem like ghosts, appearing only to help further Piper’s cause of rescuing her sister. Having an illustrated back story for the group would have helped the reader feel the familial relations rather than being told (“show don’t tell.”)

Which leads to my next point, execution. When writing a story with a twist or mystery, it is important to leave proper bread crumbs of foreshadowing and misleading clues to keep the reader guessing. Unfortunately, with this book the plot was a bit transparent.

I still enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations as the group fought to collect $1,000,000 in 36 hours. It was exciting and well thought out. A promising beginning for Jason Mosberg.

-JL