TitanbornArtificial intelligence fascinates me, sometimes morbidly so but I still find it fascinating. As soon as I saw that the publisher compared Titanborn by Rhett C. Bruno to Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which formed the basis for the film Blade Runner, I was hooked and knew I had to read it. Now I know quite well that publishers’ comparisons can often be a stretch but, in this case, it’s dead-on. This novel has the same gritty feel to it and shares the same type of dark futuristic view – off-planet as well as on-planet. Let’s just say that I was pleasantly surprised by both the story and the characters. Think it might be something you’d find interesting? Let’s find out…

Malcolm Graves has been a freelance Collector for thirty years and has not survived in that bounty hunter role by being sloppy. He has two cardinal rules that he follows: 1), just do the job; and 2), make sure you get paid. Then there’s his sub-rule: don’t get sucked in or involved – just get it done. In those thirty years, he’s chased his quarry all over the galaxy and been called upon to squelch rebellions in countless sectors. He always does what he’s told, no matter what, and leaves it to others to sort out the ethical questions. That ability to detach from his job is just one of the things that makes him so successful.

His personal life is his own, even if it hasn’t gone all that well. He used to bring his daughter on jobs with him, to train her so she could have a lucrative and steady career. He still thinks it was the right thing to do. Most people now just struggle to survive, no matter which planet they live on. Being a Collector gives you freedom and at least assures that you’ll survive if you do a good job. He was proud of the way she picked up the skills needed to do the job. But then she got older and wanted to strike out on her own. It’s been a long time since they’ve spoken and he has no idea where she is or what she’s doing. He can only hope she’s happy and still alive, although it saddens him to have lost their close connection – the only close connection he had. Now his job is just a job again…oh well.

Speaking of the job, Malcolm has just gotten new marching orders. One of his client corporations is outraged at an explosion on Earth that should never have happened. It’s put the company at risk and Malcolm is tasked with discovering not only who was behind it but stopping them in their tracks before they can do further damage.

Unfortunately, that’s not all – the corporation has decided he needs a partner on this job and they’ve assigned him someone he never would have picked – an android. Talk about cramping your style…there’s nothing like a statistics quoting bean counter android to make you want to tear your hair out or worse. Still, it is what it is and Malcolm is stuck with him so he’ll just have to find a way to work around him or at least tolerate him until he can offload him somehow.

The trail of breadcrumbs they follow lead them to Titan, a Saturn moon the corporation uses for mining valuable ore. Humans colonized Titan a long time ago but, like humans on a lot of far-flung corporate-run colonies, they and their labor have been exploited. To say their living conditions are horrific would be an understatement. Let’s just say human miner life expectancy on Titan is pretty low.

If Malcom didn’t follow his cardinal job rule, he’d probably sympathize with the miners; however, his job is to find the dissidents and put down the revolt that’s fermenting on Titan. His boss has given him carte blanche to do whatever needs to be done to make that happen – and I do mean anything.

There’s nothing to be done but to try to infiltrate the dissident mining factions, a prospect that statistically isn’t very promising for Malcolm’s life expectancy but a job’s a job and he never lets a client down. Unfortunately, he hasn’t counted on finding the one person in Titan’s mining complex who he never expected to find – his daughter. Well, crap, there’s goes his carefully constructed objectivity. Now what?

Being who Malcolm is, he had no option but to raise a daughter who’s every bit as stubborn, determined, persistent, and whip-smart as he is. Talk about karma. LOL And his android partner is a hoot…a good counter-balance personality for him. Corporations as villains is not a new thing. This time there is a personality behind the corporate façade that gives us someone to jeer at – a person who sees humans purely as a means to an end. There have been people like that throughout history who somehow gain power periodically, which proves to be extremely detrimental to all of humanity. It makes me sad that we never seem to learn from history because those people would never gain power if we did. (end of soapbox)

Rhett C. Bruno has written a non-stop sci-fi thriller in Titanborn that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope it will have a follow-up novel because I’d love to see several of the central characters explored further. If you’re looking for a bargain summer e-read that takes you all over the galaxy, I think this one will fit the bill!

Can’t wait to read it? Titanborn is being published on June 21, 2016 and is available only as an e-book from your favorite online bookseller. If you don’t have an e-reader, you can always download a free e-reader app for your cellphone or read it on your computer. And, it’s a real bargain so enjoy!

I’d love to get your comments on Titanborn, Rhett C. Bruno and/or his other work, and/or this review!

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The Girls In The GardenWhen I reviewed The House We Grew Up In by bestselling author Lisa Jewell, my review title included “Do All Families Have Secrets?” In that novel, she looked at hoarding and its effects on a family (review link at the end of this review).

Lisa has a talent for delving down below the surface of family life and exposing the deep underbelly of even the most seemingly “normal” family. She’s done it again with The Girls In The Garden, this time looking at what lies beyond a seemingly idyllic setting. From the first time I learned about London’s houses that backed onto gated gardens, I’ve been fascinated by them. How wonderful to have your own private secret garden…and it could be that fantasy of mine is a reality for most people who have them. Still, human nature is what it is and it isn’t always as benign as it appears from the outside. Sound interesting?

Clare Wild is so relieved to have found the flat on one of London’s private garden squares. She knows her daughters, Grace and Pip (ages 13 and 12 respectively), will love living there once they’ve given it a chance. It will give all of them a chance to recover and gain some much needed normalcy in their lives. Of course Pip and especially Grace are not happy about the move. They’ll miss their friends and are leery about making new ones, but then it’s always that way with a move, isn’t it? Clare knows they’ll fit right in once they get to know the kids who live in the square, and she believes the garden will help to heal their whole family.

The neighbors are very welcoming even though a lot of them have lived there for generations. Everyone on the square seems to be almost exactly the way Clare pictured them. Some of them have little quirks but then who doesn’t? Clare is relieved that Grace seems to bond pretty quickly with a few of the teens in the square. Pip is a little more cautious in making friends, which is normal for her, but she also doesn’t seem to think much of Grace’s new friends, which is unusual. Clare can’t figure out why Pip is so stand-offish toward Grace’s new friends and their parents, the Howes. The Howes’ three daughters seem to have brought Grace out of her shell, which is a relief.

Although Clare hasn’t spent much time with the Howes, she does agree to let her children join the other garden children for a midsummer’s tent party the Howes are hosting. It sounds like a wonderfully idyllic thing to do on a midsummer’s night, and just the idea makes her think she has been very fortunate to get to live here. She can’t understand why Pip is so reluctant to join the party. If only Clare had been paying better attention to her younger daughter’s misgivings…

The idyllic notion of this secret garden and its lovely inhabitants all falls apart when Pip discovers Grace’s unconscious body in the shrubbery late that night. And it becomes even more worrisome when Clare learns this is not the first time something like this has happened to a young girl in this garden. Surely it was some stranger who gained access to the garden.

Who would do something so horrible to a thirteen-year-old? How could this happen to Grace? Why her Grace? Clare is determined to learn what is going on and Pip is determined to avenge her sister…if only Clare had listened to Pip…

The characters in The Girls In The Garden are real people, so real that I kept expecting to see them out strolling along my little beach. Needless to say, that was a bit unsettling. All of the people in this novel have many layers no matter who they are. You may even recognize glimpses of people you’ve known in some of them…for better or worse. Why? Because no one is all good or all bad – we all have many layers. No one ever thinks they’re a villain. It’s that quality that makes Lisa’s characters even more chilling. We all want to think bad things must have been done by a stranger because we can’t bear to think it could be someone we know, someone we trust…but those of us who’ve learned that isn’t true the hard way know having those kinds of blinders on can lead only to heartbreak.

Lisa Jewell exposes the underbelly of “normal” family life, and she does it brilliantly. She has a talent for illustrating aspects of life that we don’t discuss and think could never happen to us, and she does it in a way that we can face it and look at it safely. The Girls In The Garden is masterfully written. It made me squirm in places but it would not have done its job if it had not. I applaud her for another insightful novel and one hell of a read. It kept me turning pages long into the night. If you’re looking for a dark beach read – or a read for any time of the year – I’m recommending this one.

Can’t wait to read it? The Girls In The Garden is available from your favorite online bookseller. Just click the link below and you can have it to read asap!

I’d love to get your comments on The Girls In The Garden, Lisa Jewell and/or her other work, and/or this review! To read our review of The House We Grew Up In, click here.

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Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley: Easy Rawlins Has a New Mystery to Solve

Charcoal Joe

Those of you who’ve followed our reviews for very long know that I’m a huge Walter Mosley fan, and that I love his Easy Rawlins series, so I was delighted to get Charcoal Joe. There’s a reason Mr. Mosley’s consistently an award-winning and bestselling author…he’s an amazing storyteller. The Easy Rawlins series beautifully portrays what […]

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Before The Fall by Noah Hawley: One Small Decision Can Change Everything

Before The Fall

Noah Hawley has won multiple awards as the creator of the TV series, Fargo. He also worked as a writer on Bones and has written several novels. His newest novel is the thriller, Before The Fall. There are a number of interesting threads running through Before The Fall that pulled at me; however, two stood […]

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The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews: Beach Read Book Review & Giveaway

The Weekenders

For me, it’s not summer without a Mary Kay Andrews novel to read. I started reading her novels about the Charleston Low Country area when I lived in Charleston, SC a long time ago (we won’t say how long) and I’ve been a fan ever since. So when the publicist approached me about reading and […]

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Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend: World War II Spies on Galapagos Island

Enchanted Islands

When I read Enchanted Islands by award-winning author Allison Amend, I didn’t realize I had previously read a novel by her that I loved, A Nearly Perfect Copy (link to my review at the end of this review). I loved Enchanted Islands every bit as much. Not realizing I had read anything by her, I […]

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