Bonne Femme by AR Simmons

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Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Action and Adventure

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Pages: 458

Veteran Author: Yes, Army

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: YES Smashwords: YES Paperback: NO Audiobook: NO

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Description:

“In this thriller, obsession and fear lead to a seemingly insane act before a campaign of physical intimidation and psychological terror throws an intelligent but vulnerable woman into a nightmare world which may or may not be exactly as it appears. The triple climax will send shivers up your spine.”

Author:

“AR Simmons was born on Chicago’s north side, but grew up and lives in the eastern Missouri Ozarks. He attended a one-room school through the eighth grade, and walked a mile to get there. His family worked a subsistence farm on Ozark land cleared from the native forest by his grandfather.

He was a carpenter’s helper and factory worker until he entered the US Army at nineteen. A tour of duty took him to the Far East where he saw a world far different from his own. His military experience acquainted him with his country. The racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup of his squad changed forever his concept of “American.”

The GI Bill financed his entire college career. After declaring and rejecting majors in Business (lacked interest) and Art (fairly talented, but color blind), he settled on History, in which he obtained BA and MA degrees. Passing up a doctoral program (he was 27, married, and had no job), he took a public school teaching position “until something better came along.” He discovered, to his amazement, that the calling suited him.”

My Two Cents:

A dark, nutty adventure.

While this story is much longer than it needs to be, the author makes up for that with some of the craziest, yet realistic characters I’ve read in a while. The reader isn’t led to feel a particular way about anyone, just given a wealth of detail (maybe too much) and left to form their own conclusions. You really get wrapped up in their plotting and borderline insanity. Exotic locales, strong females, not-so-evil villains and irrational heroes; a lot of fun to read.

 

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The Acolytes of Crane by J.D. Tew. OIF Veteran.

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Genre: Sci-fi/ Action Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Pages: 260

Veteran Author: Yes, Army

Availability:

KindleYES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO PaperbackYES Audiobook: YES

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Author:

J. D. Tew is an author from Minnesota that has an insatiable passion for art and Science Fiction. He has a degree in Applied Science, and also served as an infantryman in the United States Army, earning numerous commendations. 
J. D. spends the majority of his days wrangling three kids, writing poetry, working as a Dental Assistant, and creating new worlds through fiction. He loves to engage in epic lightsaber battles with his kids.

Book Description:

“Through time, there are cataclysms and reformations that can change everything, and the people who guide these changes are either heroes or villains. 
Twelve-year-old Theodore Crane is a prankster from a small Minnesota town, who half-heartedly shares a friend with a belligerent bully. When he is not spending his days dodging an abusive father, he is out fleeing the scenes of goofy pranks and dares. 
After a devastating tragedy strikes home, Theodore questions everything about himself, his family, and the universe. He then searches for answers by returning to the scene of this tragic incident and discovers the truth when an intervention from outer space reveals an epic intergalactic conflict. 
The truth: millions of guided microscopic devices are recording Theodore’s life and controlling his fate. Will this covert invasion be enough to pull Theodore toward his destiny? 
The warlords of the galaxy believe in this method and need representatives from Earth. 
Immerse yourself in this adventure beyond Earth to follow Theodore Crane and his acolytes as they battle the villains of the multiverse.”

My Two Cents:

While the beginning was a little slow for my taste, the pace picks up eventually and keeps slamming you with action. The somewhat disjointed pacing, occasionally slow and meandering and other times lighting fast, is my only real complaint.

That said, there are some interesting new concepts (demons and angels are real, but packing lasers!) here. The whole tale is also sprinkled with tongue-in-cheek humor and there’s a great twist ending. As a fan of classic Sci-fi, I enjoyed the complicated “multiverse” presented. However, I’ve been burnt out on aliens lately, so all the coming-of-age detail about the hero’s childhood was a refreshing break from the typical action thriller.

Maybe others wil find such careful character building out of place- to be fair this is atypical for action/adventure stories- but I think it’s a unique twist on the genre.

All in all, a fun read with some unique ideas. You might go so far as to call this “Heinlenesque.” I’m interested in reading the rest of the series.

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Euphoria Z by Luke Ahearn

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Genre: Sci-fi/ Action Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Pages: 413

Veteran Author: No

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

I was born in New Orleans and moved to Monterey, CA. It was a culture shock. New Orleans bawdy and laid back doesn’t translate well here, but I survive. 

I have over 20 years of professional game development experience. I have also authored numerous books, ran my own computer game company for ten years, and currently I own MasterWerx Studios, an animatronic prop shop in Monterey, CA.”

Book Description:

WARNING! Euphoria-Z is NOT for the timid! Within its pages are depictions of adult situations, violence, gore, nudity, and the use of profanity. 

Civilization shuts down as the world’s population fills the streets in a deadly orgy. They feel only pleasure and never pain, even as they are injured, maimed, and mutilated. The few who remain unaffected struggle to survive, unaware that things are about to get unbelievably worse. 

Cooper is among the few survivors of a conspiracy to depopulate the world. One week ago, college was his biggest concern. Now he is on a perilous journey to find his sister. But zombies aren’t the only threat he faces. In this nightmarish reality, the living can be far more dangerous.”

My Two Cents:

While this was longer than a normal thriller, maybe longer than it needed to be, it was still a lot of fun and as realistic as a zombie book can get. Despite the description, I wouldn’t consider this any more graphic than the typical apocalyptic tale.

The gritty and far-from-perfect heroes are a breath of fresh air in this genre. Don’t expect some super warrior with a heart of gold to step in and save the day. You’ve got pop-culture obsessed, entitled kids and wannabe thugs trying to survive the end of the world. If you’re tired of zombie hordes, rest assured they’re merely a backdrop. Not the real threat. This story is all about rebuilding and the struggle among the survivors. Without giving anything away, the fighting is not random.

My only real complaint is the length. Euphoria borders on being an epic saga. There’s so much action and conspiring in here that I’d expect a 2 or 3 book series.

Still, a fun, ultra-modern ride and more than just escapist literature. Definitely worth adding to your To Read list.

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The Four Kings by Scott Spotson

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Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Pages: 513

Veteran Author: No

Availability:

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Author:

Scott Spotson is a novelist who excels in imagining scenes of intrigue and adventure within ordinary lives while daydreaming, then pulls together various plots to create a compelling story. He likes to invent “what if?” scenarios, for example, what if I could go back to my university days, and what would I do differently? What if I could switch bodies with friends I am jealous of, like the guy who sold his software for millions of dollars and does whatever he pleases? What if I had the power to create clones of myself to do my bidding? Scott then likes to mentally insert himself into these situations, then plot a way to “get out” back to reality. This is how “Life II” and “Seeking Dr. Magic” were born, within weeks of each other. He’s still working on dreaming up a situation where he gets to smash a pie in the face of his boss, with no justification whatsoever – how to get out of that one?

Description:

“Today’s world – skyscrapers, Internet cafes, and all – is in great turmoil. Economic doldrums have seized the entire world in the last several years, and powerful nations such as Pakistan and India are just about to unleash nuclear might upon each other. These troubled times have been labeled The Great Blight.

In response to the perceived failure of humanity to get its act together, powerful wizards have taken over the planet. In North America, four arrogant young wizards have set up a zone of governance for that continent. They unleash a harsh regime of “bread and circuses,” vowing to drag Earth forward “kicking and screaming” in order to advance progress by “a hundred years,” while at the same time thrilling the populace with their wizard games – the ultimate reality TV. Their appointed liaison to the humans, Amanda Fullerton, must soon decide which side of history she must support – or suffer the consequences. Compounding her woes is the fact that she has fallen in love with one of the wizards.”

My Two Cents:

Even though this tale was a bit longer than it needed to be, I was impressed. This is a great work of biting social and political commentary only masquerading as fantasy.

While there were quite a few allusions to Ayn Rand, the author doesn’t beat you over the head. If anything, I often got the impression this was a mocking sequel to Atlas Shrugged. What if the egotistical heroes did succeed in tearing down the old system and remaking the world in their image? Just like in this book, they’d have to have magic to keep things from falling apart.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the magic that I found unbelievable, but the lack of any major resistance to these “gods” taking over the world. No stewing rebellion. I would have liked to see a lot more social strife. With the people struggling against their overlords and not just the gods fighting it out. But that’s my taste. There’s enough action here already to please just about anyone.

All in all, a lot of fun. More sci-fi than fantasy, which is a good thing. It might be 500 pages long, but Four Kings will keep you hooked the whole way.

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RISE: The Veteran’s Field Manual For Starting Your Own Business & Conquering The Online Economy by Wes O’Donnell

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Genre: Self-help/Business

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Pages: 353

Veteran Author: Yes, Army and Air Force

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paperback: NO

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Author:

Wes O’Donnell is the Founder and Creative Director of WarriorLodge.com and the owner of MD-Advantages Healthcare and Modern Workspace Tech Furniture. He holds the US Patent on the OmniCart Modular Medical Cart System and has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration/ IT Management. Wes lives near Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, with his wife, three awesome kids and his snow dog.

“Entrepreneurship is jumping out of an airplane, and assembling your parachute on the way down.”
-Wes O’Donnell”

Description:

“RISE is the veteran’s eCommerce business guide with step by step instructions for starting your own business and guiding it to profitability. Military veteran entrepreneur Wes O’Donnell leads the way with crucial insights, tips and a wealth of veteran-specific resources that are available along the journey. The book also includes appendices filled with veteran specific information like Starting a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and Small Business Administration Resources that are available exclusively to veterans. In addition, veterans interested in entrepreneurship can interact directly with the author regarding topics not covered in the book at the author’s Veteran Assistance website, Warrior Lodge. Join the Veteran Uprising!”

My Two Cents:

While there is a lot of motivational “hype” in this book, like most self-help guides, it’s also heavily packed with detailed, real world examples. Not just rehashed generalities you find online. For example, sample query letters to prospective suppliers and the nuts and bolts of back-end sale processing operations.

I enjoyed the straight to the point, here’s what works and here’s what’s a waste of time/money writing style. That’s also a nice touch how the author shares so many embarrassing mistakes he made with his own online businesses.

Now, I can’t say I fully agree with the author’s warnings against sharing ownership, however. Throughout the guide, he continually assumes you are a lone wolf and that’s the best way to go. Still, the nitty gritty details of running a business he provides are dead on.

Maybe I’m a little biased, since I recently started an offline B2B services firm and have been looking for ways to drive it more online. I’m precisely the target audience. Either way, this book is exactly what I was looking for. Extremely insightful. I discovered several missed opportunities in my own sales strategy and even a few mistakes in my day to day workflow.

I highly recommend Rise to any veteran or civilian looking for a good how-to guide for setting up an eCommerce business and nursing it to profitability.

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Misaligned by Rodney Carlson

Misaligned by Rodney Carlson

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Genre: Mystery Thriller/Sci-Fi

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Pages: 136

Veteran Author: Yes, Navy

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paperback: NO

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Author:

The son of a Colorado Farmer. At the age of twenty one I joined the Navy and became a Weapons Control and Information Systems Engineer onboard fast attack submarines. There I traveled all over the Pacific and Indian Ocean visiting many countries and gaining wonderful experiences. Not only did I get the chance to see different countries, but I did a lot of traveling around The U.S. It was my goal to visit every state, and in 2004 I visited my last state Florida. Since retiring from the Navy I have worked as a Computer Engineer for various companies in Virginia where I live with my best friend and wife of fourteen years. (Just so you know, best friend and wife are the same person! lol) I have always had a passion for the written word. I love to read most anything, but commonly gravitate toward science fiction and fantasy.”

Description:

“Aliens are among us. 
Illuminati are involved with their plan. 
There’s a government conspiracy to cover the truth. 
This has been hidden from the civilizations of earth. 
The truth is out. 
Over five thousand one hundred years ago the earth received creatures from another planet. Today we hardly know they still exist. They are not hiding from us, they are hiding from each other. Two alien races are struggling for dominance in a huge galactic war and earth is caught in the middle. A computer engineer discovers plans to use humanity in the battle. Can he stop it? How can one human possibly fight against an advanced civilization? With some reckless luck the planetary alignment on December 21, 2012 won’t mark the end of mankind.”

My Two Cents:

This is a massive story, and I don’t mean in word count. Mystery, apocalyptic thriller, classic Sci-Fi- they are all blended here. The author pulls this huge mix together pretty well, without being confusing and with a rapid fire pace. Although, some questions are left unanswered, especially at the end. I’m assuming because this is part of a series. Fair warning: the ending, while thrilling and surprising, is a cliff hanger.

I did enjoy how most of the story is from the aliens’ perspective. A unique twist on the end-of-the-world. There was an impressive attention to detail and realism with both the great big conspiracy and the aliens’ technology. The competing aliens were a nice twist.

My only real complaint is how human-like the aliens are. Their motivations, thought processes, organization- even rank structure. Still, that doesn’t significantly distract from the tale. It sure cuts down on excessively complicated world-building.

All in all, a lot of fun with some interesting variety on the old alien invasion plot.

As is standard practice in this industry, I received a free review copy.

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Power Games Free for the First Time (Military/Political Thriller)

I usually avoid self-promotion on this blog, but I’ll break that rule just once. For the first time ever, Power Games is available for free on Amazon! For a limited time, Friday till Sunday (21 March to 23 March). Enjoy this realistic and sarcastic tale of a 2nd US Civil War, written by an Iraq vet. Don’t forget to tell your friends about this free opportunity! Regular price $6.59!

http://www.amazon.com/Power-Games-Operation-Enduring-Unity-ebook/dp/B00G2H6DL0

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Code Name Atlas by Tony Evans

Code Name Atlas by Tony Evans

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Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Thriller/Sci-Fi

Rating: **** Four Stars

Pages: 310

Veteran Author: Yes, Army

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: Yes Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

Tony Evans is an American writer of science fiction. He is a military veteran who completed a tour in Iraq conducting more than 50 combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he recieved the Army Commendation Medal. He has a bachelors degree in Computer Science. His debut novel is Code Name Atlas.”

Description:

“Atlas is a war hero caught between his wife’s love or saving the survivors of earth. Earth has been destroyed by unknown forces leaving it in ruins. The closest thing to organized leadership is the packs of scavengers that take what they want. To keep his wife safe he builds an army. To give her the life she wants he fights. To win back their home he must go to war. But, she doesn’t believe that his sacrifice is for her and his selflessness is driving them apart. As he struggles for his wife’s devotion he is caught in a war with a tyrannical dictator. To win the war and his wife safety he must give her up and fight a war where defeat is expected. To fight a dictator he must become a warlord.

Hovering over everything is the threat of an alien invasion which Atlas slowly pieces together through unreliable stories told by the survivors. He soon learns that his fight is only a small part in a war that has been raging for hundreds of years and reaches throughout the galaxy.

A gritty and realistic feel blends with minimal use of science fiction elements to create a rich, believable contemporary story of one soldier’s heart-wrenching post-apocalyptic journey to keep his family alive.”

My Two Cents:

A breath of fresh air during the end of the world.

Definitely a new twist on the post-apocalyptic thriller genre. I mean, the hero’s girl isn’t supposed to resent him for being a hero and the good guys always win, right? From the big to small twists, this tale bucks every rule of action adventure. The bad guys are sympathetic and the good guys have a dark side.

This is no prepper tale of survival, but a military veteran’s take on rebuilding the world. As such, it stresses discipline, organization and teamwork over heroics. All with several mysteries hanging over the survivors… and did I mention the aliens?

My only real complaint is that these huge questions, there’s a lot of them, don’t get wrapped up until the end. Some of the most interesting tidbits come only in the final chapter. Sure, the best is saved for last, but I wonder why?

Still, a fun and different book that’s well worth the read.

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This Page Intentionally Left Blank FM 101 – Knuckleheads

This Page Intentionally Left Blank FM 101 – Knuckleheads by Raymond Jones

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Genre: Military Humor/Satire

Rating: **** Four Stars

Pages: 150

Veteran Author: Yes, Still Active Duty, Army

Availability:

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Author:
“Soldiers – A bunch of folks think they know one. Only a Soldier can truly know a Soldier. A Soldier is always the hero of his own story. I have never heard a Soldier telling a story say, ‘Hey I’m the knucklehead who did…’ This is a collection of stories from the first half of my 25 year career serving with the United States Army. I started out as a Private in basic training in 1989 and will end up retiring as a Major in 2014.
My career has spanned four different decades and I have seen the Army “cycle” at least three times. Along the way, I ran into thousands of folks some good, some not so good. All the stories contained with the confines of this book are at least partly true. By ‘partly true’ I mean, the stories are grounded in fact…with a little country boy embellishment added for flavor. The intent of this book is for pure entertainment value. It is not intended to embarrass or humiliate anyone. This is my-story not history. This book is basically memoirs of my time in the military – stretched a bit (or a lot in some cases). I took the basis of truth and added a little country boy charm. The book is fiction as my-story, in my opinion, is more interesting than history.”

Description:
“This is the original FM (Field Manual) on Knuckleheads. It contains more than forty-five different knee slapping stories about my life in the army as an enlisted soldier, an ROTC cadet, and an officer through my first deployment to Iraq in 2003. In my twenty-five years of military service, I ran into all sorts of characters from all over the world and all walks of life. I feel honored to have known most of the people I met. So, what we have here is “mystory,” not history. The intent is to entertain, educate (loosely), or illuminate folks. I hope you enjoy my view of life! “

My Two Cents:

I expected just a random collection of Army jokes, but was surprised to find a lot more. This is a fairly serious study of leadership in general. About how corrosive and counterproductive poor managers are to any organization, but how a few true leaders can turn the tide.

The whole tale is much more serious and complicated than, I think, even the author intended. And not in a grim way. The focus isn’t on combat, but on “Big Army,” and those soldiers trying to survive it. Or, as is too often the case, those thriving in that senseless environment!

While civilians might only snicker at the humor, vets and active duty folk will slap their knee laughing! All in all, a good read and I hope part of a continuing series.

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Starlight by Scott Ely

Starlight by Scott Ely

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Genre: Literary War Fiction

Rating: **** Four Stars

Pages: 205

Veteran Author: Yes, Army

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: No Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:
“Scott Ely served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. After the war, he received an MA from the University of Mississippi and an MFA from the University of Arkansas. He currently teaches writing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. He has published five novels and four collections of short stories. He lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina, with his wife, the poet Susan Ludvigson, and several dogs”

Description:
“In the depths of Vietnam’s jungles, a radioman and a haunted sniper try to survive

Jackson has three hundred days left in Vietnam, and he plans to spend them behind a desk, working the radio for a major in a godforsaken firebase not far from the Laos border. But one day, the reality of war visits Jackson in the form of Tom Light, a sniper whose scope is said to have the power to raise the dead. Where Light goes, ambushes follow, and so he has been cursed to wander the jungle alone, his skin growing pale, his boots replaced with sandals.

Tom Light is a dangerous man to know, a spooky lost soldier who survives in spite of himself. Jackson wants to learn his secret. Hoping the master sniper can keep him safe, Jackson ventures out with Light. In the jungle they will encounter perils—some real and some hallucinatory. Can the strange sniper’s all-powerful starlight scope will them to stay alive?”

My Two Cents:

I always figured Vietnam fiction was played out. What new variety can you find? Well, this is an interesting twist on the sub-genre. There are no real stereotypes, like I expected. Even the handful of drug-addicted troops are surprisingly disciplined, at least while on duty.

The friendship between the two main characters, one a hardcore, lone wolf sniper and the other a shaming radioman, is not there to set the scene for a buddy war tale. They’re just two points of view on the sniper’s “magical” starlight scope plot line. The story is so cleverly crafted that this inanimate object is as much a main character in its own right as a plot device.

While the story dives off into hopes, dreams and, in the heat of battle, another plane of existence, the tale stays surprisingly stays anchored to reality. For example, despite a major subplot involving the steady breakdown of discipline, this is no Apocalypse Now remake. The steadfast grounding of the story to real military life keeps this Vietnam-era war story from becoming dated.

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