Origin Season One is a fast-paced mystery that will take you on quite a ride

Origin Season OneThe unbreachable Federal Reserve Bank in New York has been breached and something has been taken.  That is how Origin Season One begins.  This is also the start of the wild ride author Nathaniel Dean James takes the reader as he weaves a suspenseful story that takes his characters around the world.

The book introduces a lot of characters at the beginning, so it’s a good idea to spend a few hours at the beginning of the book to dig your teeth into the story as things start to go wrong very quickly and the story jumps around between several different locations and characters.

Francis Moore thinks he is stealing a computer drive from the CIA when in fact the bank box is owned by someone else who wants the drive back and will stop at nothing to get it.  FBI Special Agent Mike Banner is brought into the case to find out who broke into the Bank.  Soon Banner is mysteriously taken off the case, but that doesn’t stop his FBI analyst Mitch digging into information Mike gave him then told Mitch to forget it.

Soon a small town couple of kids get mixed up with Francis and are literally running for their lives and dead bodies start piling up.  There is a lot going on this book with all the twists and turns and slow reveals that James keeps the reader entertained.

As the story slowly reveals what really is on the disc and why people are willing to kill for it, you start to wonder, are we the only ones in the universe or are there other living beings out there.

I read this book on my phone mainly at lunch and I found myself wanting to sneak in a little bit more reading when I was at my desk, but I resisted.  Mr. James is a great writer and I’m sure I would enjoy anything he writes.  If you like twists and turns, lots of action and intrigue, pick this up.  You will definitely be entertained.  Then once you are done, pick up Season Two, which was published in April.

Book description:

What could an assassination program begun by the Nixon administration and a malfunctioning camera on board NASA’s Voyager II space probe possibly have in common?  To Francis Moore, finding the answer is about to become a matter of life and death.

Uprooted by a chance encounter from a promising career in the Marine Corps and thrust onto the front line of the country’s clandestine “war on terror,” Francis has few illusions left about the world and how it works. In an attempt to atone for his complicity in one of the more egregious of the CIA’s covert operations, he resolves to expose the program, only to find his efforts thwarted at the last minute by the intervention of a highly determined “third party,” whose motives he neither suspects nor understands.

Caught suddenly in a rising tempest of murder, deceit and betrayal, Francis has no choice but to turn his talents to identifying his new assailants before it is too late.  From the streets of Manhattan and the country lanes of rural New England to the wilderness of Canada and far beyond, he reluctantly finds himself dragged into the depths of a mystery that is as frightening as it is incredible, a journey that will open his eyes to the existence of something few could imagine, and fewer still would believe possible. A secret with the power to both resurrect the fortunes of a world edging ever closer to the brink of disaster, or tip it over once and for all.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Intrusion is a great cyber mystery

IntrusionI always like a good espionage novel.  One that keeps me guessing what is going to happen.  One that has all kinds of twists.  One that makes the reader change their mind on who the bad guy is.  Intrusion by Reece Hirsch delivers on all my requirements.  This is the second Hirsch book I’ve read and this one does not disappoint.

Hirsch does a great job using his experience as a privacy and data security attorney to weave a plot that keeps the reader entertained and sitting on the edge of their seat.  Chris Bruen is the lawyer for Zapper, the world’s most popular search engine.  Zoey Doucet is the head of his firm’s forensics lab.  Together they try to prove that the Chinese government has stolen the search algorithms from Zapper.

There are people after Chris and Zoey, trying to stop them from finding out exactly who is behind the breach, going so far as trying to kill them.  This book shows how vulnerable the internet can be and that even the big companies aren’t safe from being hacked.

Hirsch is a great writer and has quickly become one of my favorite mystery writers.  He writes in a way that you quickly learn about the characters and you immediately care for them.  I will read anything he writes as he never disappoints and he always takes me on a wild ride that I do not want to get off of.

Book description:

When a powerful client summons him for a midnight meeting, lawyer Chris Bruen knows something is very wrong.  Zapper, the world’s most popular search engine, has been compromised and its most valuable asset – search algorithms – stolen.  The company suspects that this most recent instance in a wave of high-tech crimes originated in China, and that the government itself is behind the systematic theft of US intellectual property.

Chris travels to China to search for evidence that will link the intrusion to the People’s Liberation Army.  With remote assistance from Zoey Doucet, the head of his firm’s computer forensics lab and his maybe-girlfriend, Chris uncovers information that takes him even deeper into the shadowy world of cybercrime.  Now he is trapped in a foreign land with a hard drive containing information that puts his life in jeopardy.  In this secretive world of Big Data, Chris will risk everything to fight an elusive enemy as far-reaching as the Internet itself.

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This Side of the Street is a wonderful coming of age story

This Side of the StreetCover artwork has a huge influence on whether I will read a book or not. The second influence is the description and if it’s well written, I can overlook the cover.  And of course the third influence is recommendations.  So when I received This Side of the Street by Ofer Aronskind in the mail, I wasn’t too keen on reading it due to the cover photo, so the book sat on my bedside table for several months before I picked it up.

This book taught me that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.  This is a beautifully written coming of age story that starts the summer of ’73.  Sam Tolpin and his Mom move to school districts she feels are the best for education.  When they can no longer live in the district, she finds another one.  Education is important to Mrs. Tolpin and she feels Sam is going to do great things.

When Sam is 12-years-old, they move into the second story apartment of a house in Queens where a group of boys help them move in.  A group who’s leader, Eddie Drucker, lives downstairs from Sam.  Sam is a loner and Eddie’s group is a bunch of little delinquents who don’t think twice about committing petty crime.

Sam is bullied by Eddie’s friends because he is skinny and a longer.  Then one day when he accidentally head butts the school bully on the school bus taking him down, Sam’s accepted into the group.  Eddie’s Mom is never around so Eddie and his little brother fend for themselves. His brother soon moves to New Jersey to live with relatives and Eddie is left on his own.  He soon starts living with Sam and his Mom to the point that he is considered a brother from another mother.  Eddie and Sam become best friends and Sam quickly becomes involved with the group’s crimes.

Everyone in the neighborhood and at the school loves Eddie.  Eddie loves Sam’s Mom and gives her the utmost respect.  In fact, the entire group has total respect for “Mrs. T” as they call her and will go to bat for her whether it’s raising money when she loses her job so she and Sam don’t have to move, to standing up to a rude customer at her second job as a waitress in a diner.

This book made me smile, made me want to smack Eddie and the boys on the back of the head and made me cry.  This book is about coming of age, friendship, loyalty and being a better person.    Aronskind does a great job of pulling the reader into the story and cheer for this group of misfits.  He makes you care for them and hope they straighten out and don’t end up in jail.  It also can take you back to your childhood.  Back to a time when life is about innocence and getting away with a lot.  I’m so glad I was able to read this book.  It is one that will stay with me for a long time.

Book Description:

Sam Tolpin is a quiet loner whose mother has moved him into a new town one too many times. Eddie Drucker, Sam’s new downstairs neighbor, is the undisputed neighborhood leader with the charismatic personality and the criminal mind. The two boys could not be more different but as they come-of-age on the tough streets of their Queens neighborhood, their differences pale against the close friendship they have forged. And as the two friends navigate the obstacle-filled path from childhood to young adults, the bonds of their brotherhood will be tested time and again. “This Side of the Street” is a universal coming-of-age tale that will engage the imagination of any reader who was once a kid and capture the heart of anyone that ever grew up with a best friend.

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The Unexpected Waltz is an unexpected pleasure

The Unexpected WaltzIn The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright is about Kelly Wilder, a 52-year-old widow who is trying to survive after her husband’s death.  Her husband was super rich and has left her plenty of money so she won’t need anything.  She lives in a big house that is way too big for one person and she has no job to occupy her time.  Kelly has been barely surviving emotionally for a year, just going along aimlessly with no purpose.

When leaving the grocery store, Kelly walks out with an apple in her hand that she forgot to pay for.  She plans to head back into the grocery store but ends up in the dance studio next door that is owned and operated by three Russians.

A couple is in the studio dancing, which mesmerizes Kelly so much that she signs up for a free dance lesson.  Then another and then another.  Soon she is sucked into the world of dancing and she can’t get enough.  Dancing gives Kelly purpose.  It gives her a new family.  Dancing helps Kelly heal.

Kelly’s dance partner is Nik is one of the Russian instructors in his early 20s.  They dance well together.  He is a fantastic teacher and dancer.  He also has a secret that Kelly finds out and keeps for him.

Kelly is also a hospice volunteer.  She is assigned one hospice patient at a time and helps them with the final stages of life.  The hospice waits a year after her husband has passed before they assign a new patient to Kelly. This time she gets Carolina, who is a firecracker.  Kelly introduces Carolina to old movies sharing laughs with her.

As Kelly gets more involved with the dance studio, she starts to meet other people taking lessons.  She joins one of the dance groups where everyone has a story to tell.  It’s a group that outside of the studio wouldn’t give each other the time of day but because of the studio they have built a special bond that cements them as a family.

I really liked the different characters in the book and how even though they are all from different backgrounds and personalities, they really became friends and a family.  This book is wonderfully written and I enjoyed it a lot.  It was nice to see Kelly evolve and figure out what is next for her life.  She figures out what the next chapter to her story should be.  What the next act will look like.  She learns how to heal and go forward with her life.  This book gives the reader some laughs, tears and a few smiles.  It’s a book that pulls the reader into the story and makes them care for the characters.

Book description:

From the author of the critically acclaimed debut “Love in Mid Air” comes this moving novel about a middle-aged widow who finds her feet by embracing a new hobby: ballroom dancing.

Kelly Wilder becomes recently widowed from a much older wealthy man with whom she spent her married life doing charity work, building a lovely home, and, as she says, “pretending to be a whole lot more conservative and stupid and nicer than I really am.”

Now, with too much time and money on her hands, Kelly has absolutely no idea what happens next. So on a whim she signs up for a ballroom dancing class, and slowly, step by high-heeled step, begins to rebuild her life with the help of friends old and new: Nik, a young Russian dance teacher who sees the artistic potential she left behind; Carolina, a woman in hospice, anxious to experience a whole lifetime in a few months; and Elyse, Kelly’s girlhood best friend who knows all of her past secrets–including the truth about the man who long ago broke Kelly’s heart.

In the vein of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, “Unexpected Waltz” is a deeply felt story about moving on after loss and finding a new walk–or dance–of life through the power of second chances.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat.

Take a ride to The Other Side of Midnight

22467404The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James takes the reader into the world of psychics in London during 1925.  Ellie Winter finds lost items for people.  She can touch a person, have them think of the item they have lost and can tell them where the item is located.  She can also touch an item from someone or a person and see things about that person’s past.

Ellie’s friend, Gloria Sutter, is a psychic who helps people contact their loved ones who were killed in the war.  Gloria is found murdered while on location conducting a séance.  Gloria’s brother George soon arrives with a note from Gloria asking Ellie to find her on the other side.  He asks Ellie to help him find Gloria’s killer.

Soon Ellie is teamed up with James Hawley who works for the New Society, a company that tries to debunk psychics.  Several years ago, James tested Ellie’s Mom to prove she was a fake.  Gloria deliberately ruined Ellie’s Mom’s reputation when she encouraged her to participate in the test.  His report said she failed and was a fake, which was shared publicly.  Shortly afterwards Ellie’s Mom died and then Ellie and Gloria’s relationship fell apart.  Once Ellie’s Mom died, Ellie took over the business as being The Fantastique.

Ellie soon finds herself being followed by a strange man, and feels that her life could be in danger as more people turn up dead after she talks to them.  Ellie was reluctant at first to help George but soon her curiosity gets the better of her.

St. James does a wonderful job of making Ellie an intelligent and brave women who doesn’t back down even when she feels her life is in danger.  This book is filled with lots of action, suspense and twists and turns.  The question is “who really killed Gloria and why.”  And why did she go on location to conduct a séance when that was against her policy.  I highly recommend this book if you want to be entertained.

Book description:

London, 1925.  Glamorous medium Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War.  Now she’s been murdered at one of her own séances, after leaving a message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter.

Ellie doesn’t contact the dead—at least, not anymore. She specializes in miraculously finding lost items.  Still, she can’t refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known.  Now Ellie must delve into Gloria’s secrets and plunge back into the world of hucksters, lowlifes, and fakes.  Worse, she cannot shake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics.

As Ellie and James uncover the sinister mysteries of Gloria’s life and death, Ellie is tormented by nightmarish visions that herald the grisly murders of those in Gloria’s circle.  And as Ellie’s uneasy partnership with James turns dangerously intimate, an insidious evil force begins to undermine their quest for clues, a force determined to bury the truth, and whoever seeks to expose it.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Miles Arthur is a character young adults will love

MilesArthurcoverMiles Arthur and the Quest for the King’s Scabbard is C.E. Zyburo’s first book.  Mr. Z to his middle school students, believes “education has become so tunnel visioned that children are no longer allowed to explore their creativity.”  According to his Kickstarter campaign, Zyburo will use the book and subsequent series as a platform to promote creativity and literacy for children.

Nothing speaks more to me than a teacher, or any adult who believes in encouraging the creativity and imagination in children.  Books were an important part of my childhood and continue to be a major component in my life.  So anyone who encourages children to read and develop a love of books receives 100% of my support.

Miles Arthur and the Quest for the King’s Scabbard is a very enjoyable story that pulls the reader right next to Miles and his friends as they go on their quest.  Miles is not the strongest kid at his school but his foster Dad, who is a secret service agent/former Navy SEAL is trying to change that.  Miles is required to work out every day and “fight” with his foster brother Kay, who is way stronger than him and is the quarterback of the football team. They live in a fortress of a house called Bedgrayne, which is made of stone and has top-of-the-line security.

Author C.E. Zyburo

Author C.E. Zyburo

Miles likes Gwen and wants to ask her to the State Fair.  But when he trips at school and accidentally kisses Leanie, who likes him, he accepts her invitation instead.  At the State Fair, Leanie goes off with her friends and Miles spots Gwen, who is sitting alone.  They go into the Fun House to get away from Kay and his football friends who are following them.  While hurrying through the maze, Miles and Gwen come out the back end of the Fun House to meet a strange man with a silver beard.  He has an old game called Sword in the Stone.

Just when Miles goes to swing the sledgehammer to the game, Kay grabs it out of his hands and tries the game himself to show Miles how it’s done.  Nothing happens.  The sword doesn’t move.  Miles tries and rings the bell.  Miles hits it over and over and the same thing happens, the sword hits the bell.  This produces the Excalibur that is handed to Miles.  The old man, Merlin, informs Miles that he is King Arthur reincarnated after 1,000 years.  Once Miles has the sword, everything changes in his life.  He has two weeks to find the Scabbard, give it to his foster father to save his father’s life.

Miles isn’t sure he believes Merlin until his father checks out his story going to the fair and there is nothing behind the Fun House where there are only two passages instead of three and none exit to the back of the building.  Miles decides he must find the Scabbard and save his father and Gwen decides to go with him since she knows how to drive.  The night before Miles and Gwen are to head out, all hell breaks loose and there is no turning back or denying who Miles really is.

This is a modern-day fantasy story that will take you on a fun-filled ride.  It reminds me of the Percy Jackson stories where a teenager finds out he/she really isn’t who they think they are and pretty much right away believes they are from another time.  Zyburo does a great job of bringing the reader into the story, making them cheer for Miles to win.  There are plenty of funny parts as Miles is a little clumsy and Baldwin, who also goes on the quest, is a goofy sidekick.  There are exciting parts when the trio are fighting those trying to stop them along the way.  There are also touching moments with Gwen or Guinevere, as they get to know each other better.

If you like Young Adult books and like a little fantasy and adventure, you won’t be disappointed with this one.  It will entertain you and make you lose track of time.  If you have a young adult in your life give this as a gift.  When I wasn’t reading about Miles and his friends, I was itching to get back to joining the story.

Book Description:

Miles Arthur considers himself a lucky kid – he gets three square meals a day, goes to a nice high school, and lives in a mansion. Problem is, no matter what he eats he remains undersized, he has no friends and is picked on at school, and his foster father runs the huge estate where he lives like a boot camp. His foster brother, Kay, is older, stronger, and gets treated like a prince while Miles suffers silently. But soon, the hand of fate seems to start favoring Miles and when one unexpected victory is followed by another, he quickly finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime! Join Miles Arthur on his quest as he encounters dark knights, dragons, and other surprises while also discovering himself.

“There is more magic in this world than you or even I dare to imagine.” – Merlin

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Inside the O’Briens shines a light on Huntington’s Disease

There are many diseases in the world and many in the media so much they become 22716194common knowledge.  Last year the ice bucket challenge gave worldwide attention to ALS, which probably a lot of people didn’t know ALS even existed.  It’s a disease that affects roughly 30,000 Americans at any given time.  ALS can strike anyone, it is not hereditary.

Then there is Huntington’s Disease.  It’s different than ALS in many ways except that it affects a small number of people.  Huntington’s Disease is an inherited condition in which nerve cells in the brain break down over time.  This is a hereditary disease that affects 20,000-200,000 Americans a year and the symptoms can start just past the age of 30.

In Lisa Genova’s new book Inside the O’Briens, she takes on Huntington’s Disease.  Joe O’Brien is one of Boston’s finest.  He’s been on the force for over 20 years and is married to Rose and they have four adult children.  Now forty-four, Joe is dropping things, having a hard time concentrating, can’t seem to keep his body still and his temper has been getting worse for the past six years.  Rosie finally convinces him to see a doctor.  Joe thinks the doctor will say he needs knee surgery because he has been falling.  Instead he hears the words Huntington’s Disease.  He also finds out that his kids could have it and that his mother didn’t drink herself to death even though that is what he was told when he was a boy.

At first Joe has a hard time processing this information.  Then he embraces the disease.  The four children need to decide if they want to find out if they test positive for the gene or stay ignorant.  Their son JJ and his wife have recently found out they are going to have a baby.  If JJ has the disease, will it be passed to the baby?

The other family member that is followed closely is Joe and Rosie’s youngest daughter Katie.  She really struggles with deciding if she should find out if she is gene positive or not.  If she isn’t, how is she going to deal with knowing her professional dancing sister, Meghan, is positive?  Someone who loves to move.  Katie also struggles with how to tell her family she is in love but not an Irish-Catholic from the neighborhood.  The struggles Katie goes through trying to decide if she should find out and the struggles with wanting to live her life away from her family sometimes frustrated me because I would want to know.  She is almost stuck in limbo not knowing what she wants to do or what she should do.

This book is a heartbreaker to read.  The O’Brien family are very close.  In fact they live in the same house, but on different floors.  While reading, I kept thinking would I want to know if I had the disease.  I think so, I would want to be able to prepare.  I would want to do as much as possible to be healthy and prolong my life.  I would want to know so I could not have any biological children but maybe adopt.  I would want to know so I could prepare for the future so my loved ones wouldn’t be stuck cleaning up any messes.  And I would want to know so I could see as much of the world as possible and live the fullest life I possibly could.

If you are a fan of Still Alice, which is another heartbreaking book by Genova, then you need to pick up Inside the O’Briens.  A beautifully written book that will take you on a ride that will sadden you, make you care for the O’Brien family and smile at the courage Joe shows through some of the darkest times of his life.  I will say I was very frustrated with the ending and hope if this ever becomes a movie they change the ending.  If you read the book you will know what I mean when I say it was a little rude to end it that way.

Book description:

From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova comes a powerful new novel that does for Huntington’s Disease what her debut Still Alice did for Alzheimer’s.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Praised for writing that “explores the resilience of the human spirit” (The San Francisco Chronicle), Lisa Genova has once again delivered a novel as powerful and unforgettable as the human insights at its core.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat