Friday, April 21, 2017

Runespeaker

I was given an e-copy of Runespeaker (Bonesaw #.5) by author Mila N. Sankale for review.

Runespeaker is a short fantasy read which judging from the full title is a part of a series. Checking the authors goodreads page does in fact identify a Bonesaw #1.

Over all Runespeaker was an interesting read. We start out directly in the story with no set up, the story just is happening. Not a bad concept but a little confusing because we don't really get right away why the story is what it is. We have a character in prison without much to tell us why she is special. In fact we only get her story in small bits. I found myself confused at times because it read like I should already know the back story. The .5 in the title made me think it might be a prequel written after the main series started. However according to the release dates published on goodreads this isn't the case.

The heroine of the story is apparently a very specially gifted person with abilities few people possess in her world. Although she has these tremendous abilities, she comes across as not very strong at times. She seems to be controlled by circumstance rather than controlling circumstance. She doesn't even seem that well respected by the very people who want her help.

Runespeaker is an interesting story, but for me it was just too bare bones. I needed more backstory as to how the current situation came to be. It is there, but the reader has to get it in too many small bites. Kind of took some of the fun out of it for me. It may well be that I am just not well versed enough in Runecasting or reading to fully grasp the concept here.

Runespeaker by Mila N. Sankale left me wanting more story. As a college writing professor once told me, "more words". The story is good (I did finish it after all) I just needed more words. Enjoy!

Mike


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Change of Heart

I received a print copy of Change of Heart from author Daniel Side for review.

Having recently read The Reedsmith of Zendar from Mr. Side, I looked forward to checking out Change of Heart. Though not a fantasy like the first book, Change of Heart shows me the range and talent that Daniel Side brings to his work.

Change of Heart is a contemporary thrill ride that fights pigeon-holing into a particular genre. It is, at least to me, an action story. But the argument can easily be made that it is a political, medical, organized crime and even a romantic, thriller. Heavy emphasis on thriller no matter where you categorize it.

Our hero, Patrick is a guilt ridden father trying to do the right thing despite his associations with the less than savory elements of society. He makes a deal with the Devil (actually a politician; same thing) to provide long term medial care for his daughter.

Our heroine, Katherine is an investigative journalist trying to make a difference.

How they get thrown together is the crux (and therefore a spoiler) of the story. They have to contend with a sociopath politician, a cougar drug dealer, and all of their minions. And, they don't particularly trust each other.

Needless to say, our hero is more than well prepared to take care of himself, and our heroine is, when it counts, no pushover either. The romance that eventually blossoms between them is hampered by secrets they keep from each other. Secrets that would be to you, prospective reader, spoilers so don't ask me I won't tell.

Change of Heart does take a bit too long for me to get to the action, but when it does, hang on. It is a wild ride that will not disappoint action fans. Patrick and Katherine are caught between two organizations; one criminal, one political (same thing), who are ostensibly working together, but really not so much. The twists and turns come rapid fire turning the plot on dime repeatedly. Not much predictable here.

Change of Heart by Daniel Side has graphic violence, somewhat graphic sex, and enough action and intrigue to keep the reader hooked until the surprising, and very satisfying, conclusion. In short (yeah I know, too late for that) a very good read indeed. Enjoy!

Mike

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts

Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts was given to me by author David Ahern in e-format for review.

Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts is the second book in the Madam Tulip series. I found this entry as good a read as was the first. Psychic Madam Tulip is the alter ego of Derry O'Donnell, a perpetually starving actress. She finds herself employed as the fortune teller at a party given by British royalty (no not the Queen, a bit lower on the royal roster). Her psychic abilities get her caught up in cloak and dagger goings on.

I like the Madam Tulip books because of the way all the players are presented. Derry is psychic, no big deal (at least to her). Her mother is a delightfully pompous art dealer, her father an equally delightful artist. The ongoing feud between her estranged parents is seriously funny. Her best friend Bruce is an ex-seal and by the way, gay. Though his sexuality rarely plays much of a part in the story.

A little different from the first book, Madam Tulip herself does not actually appear that much. Madam Tulip's appearance at the big party is kind of a sideline. This does not, however, take anything away from the story. The action and intrigue we enjoyed in the first book are here as well. A cleverly twisting plot sprinkled with psychic clues, gives us an entertaining mystery with just enough humor [(humour, it is a British oriented story after all) (a Scots (Roddy Piper said Scotch is a drink, Scot is a person) author is still British, right? I'm such an American) to keep the tone from getting too heavy and oppressive.

David Ahern does a great job of keeping the characters fresh and the story exciting. It is a wild ride and the minor royals are as goofy as anyone else.

No sex (don't really want too much detail on Bruce's activities, not that there's anything wrong there), apparently Derry is too busy getting caught up in mysteries for any amorous activities. Some violence (there are bad guys, and we all know how they are), not overly graphic.Enough twists and turns to keep mystery lovers hooked. Madam Tulip and the Knave of Hearts by David Ahern is an all around good read. Enjoy!

Mike  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Phoenix Island

I was given a print copy of Phoenix Island by John Dixon by the publisher, Gallery Books. They sent me this book as an apology for not sending another book in a timely fashion.

It took me a while to get to this book because it didn't go through my usual channels. I have to say, I have mixed reactions to Phoenix Island. The book is apparently the inspiration for a tv show (at least that's what the cover says). I haven't seen the show and it doesn't really matter since I am reviewing the book not the show.

Phoenix Island is a good action/adventure. No lulls or slow passages, the action is nonstop and over the top. There is a romantic interest which softens the overall story a bit, but not much. It is a hard bitten, militaristic, testosterone filled ride.

With the exception of the main character Carl, most of the players in Phoenix Island are pretty one-dimensional. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it pretty much goes with the macho-military style of the story.

I said earlier that I had mixed reactions, so here we go: The story is exceptionally sadistic. When books go over an invisible line for me, it tends to turn me off. I was counting on an ending which would make the journey worthwhile, and I did get that, but I almost quit reading with about 100 pages left because it was just so cruel. The unrelenting cruelty probably more accurately describes what I have a problem with. I don't have a problem with graphic violence (Phoenix Island has that in abundance), or graphic anything for that matter. My personal limits don't change the fact that Phoenix Island is a well written book, good descriptive and engaging story telling. The action grabs the reader and doesn't let go. Even though I had my own issues with the tone, the story did keep me interested, so what can I say?

So if you are a fan of over-the-top, militaristic, action, and don't have too much of a problem with sadistic cruelty, Phoenix Island will fill your needs. Enjoy!

Mike

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Reedsmith of Zendar

Author Daniel Side sent me a print copy of The Reedsmith of Zendar for review.

The Reedsmith of Zendar is the kind of fantasy I really enjoy getting into. Set in a low technology world (every civilization has some technology right?), we have a story that involves, at least peripherally, the hunt for the lost technology of their ancestors. But this story is about  people, not technology.

The heart of The Reedsmith of Zendar is the quest of a father to rescue his daughter. Perhaps not a "quest" in the true epic fantasy tradition, but in my mind a quest none the less.

Our hero Andar is the reedsmith immortalized in the title. His daughter Dreanna is the focus of two different bad guys with two different motivations. Andar undertakes what can only be termed an epic adventure to save her. The world of Zendar can be a brutal one with many ways for the unprepared to come to harm.

Mr. Side does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the world of Zendar, we feel what the characters feel. Several times I felt my heart racing in response to the action I was reading.

We have two different peoples inhabiting Zendar and the only shortcoming of The Reedsmith of Zendar for me, is that the how and why of these two different groups is not more fully explained. Since it is not the main focus of the story, it doesn't detract that much.

What does keep the reader engaged is the character driven story; the love of a father for his daughter, his struggle to protect his family while helping them grow and mature, his sense of honor and proper behavior. He is, like most good fathers, infuriating and endearing, heroic and bumbling, harsh and nurturing by turns.

We have a tale of adventure and intrigue, sexual coming of age, hate, revenge, love, romance, and emotional rebirth. As such, we have graphic violence, a bit less graphic sex, physical and mental abuse, humor, friendship, loyalty and honor. A lot going on in one very good story.

The Reedsmith of Zendar is a thoroughly delightful read. If you are a fantasy fan (and if your not, you should be), epic or otherwise, I highly recommend you give The Reedsmith of Zendar by Daniel Side, a look. I think you will find a book worth spending some time with. Enjoy!

Mike

Thursday, March 23, 2017

When the Reaper Comes

Disclaimer: You know it; don't make me type it out.

When the Reaper Comes, authored by John L. DeBoer, is an exciting action/suspense/thriller pitting American security experts against American born terrorists.

The bad guys (that would be the terrorists) want to make a statement while killing a popular musician who said things about terrorists that they didn't like. The good guys are the security agents assigned to protect the musician.

A lot of supporting characters (on both sides) come together in a compelling chess game. Advantage shifts between players continuously, each trying to guess their opponents next move. Both sides are smart so the story shifts back and forth keeping the reader hooked. Like a chess game, targets come and go with the flow of events. Twists, turns, surprises, and questionable alliances abound.

The positive and negative in this story is the same; It is an extremely plausible plot. As the reader, I never said to myself, "that could never happen". The scary thing is that it really could happen, and there are so many variables which could lead to many different outcomes.

Violence (hello, terrorists), suspense, intrigue, and a bit of romance keeps this a taut, spellbinding, and eminently entertaining read.

When the Reaper Comes, by John L. DeBoer is a scary story that could be actually happening as you read it. I'll admit it scared me in a way that I'm not used to. If you like your thrills and chills on the more plausible and realistic side, When the Reaper Comes will get your blood pumping. Enjoy!

Mike

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hannah's Moon

John A. Heldt gave me an e-copy of Hannah's Moon for review. I stress the "A" in his name because on the Barnes & Noble book site they offer the works of a different John Heldt. They are really missing the boat by not carrying "A"'s books.

Hannah's Moon is the fifth and final entry in the American Journey series. As with all the books in the series it is not necessarily necessary to have read the previous books to understand this one. They all stand alone well.

I am a bit saddened to have come to the end of a series that I have enjoyed so much. Hannah's Moon is a spectacular end to the series. Mr. Heldt has done a beautiful job of tying all five books together and resolving any loose threads. But I am supposed to be reviewing one book not all five, so focus Mike.

Hannah's Moon  is set in the waning days of WWII. The war is not the focus but does play a large role in the story. The story begins with a truly heartbreaking scene which becomes the impetus for the remainder of the tale. And of course, if you are a reader of Mr. Heldt's work, you know it is going to be a good one. As always, the characters are well developed, the story engaging. The reader is hooked from the beginning, and held in a comfortable grip of human drama throughout. As usual, I thought I had figured out what was coming and as usual, I was wrong (I gotta quit doing that).

Hannah's Moon is the darkest story John Heldt has given us so far. A bit less focus on romance and more dramatic story lines. I guess it is not a spoiler to share that the story revolves around a young couples attempt to adopt a child (it's in the blurb about the book) and the difficulties they encounter. Not quite as lighthearted as the other books in the series.

We also get a bit of a history lesson, and a minor culture shock, things that make a time travel story fun.

Personal comment time: For anyone who has read my reviews, it is apparent that I am a huge fan of Mr. Heldt's work. I have now read all ten of his books and given each of them highest praise. There are a lot of authors I really like and I haven't always done that with them. I thought about why these books in particular speak to me.

I read for escapist fun. I don't look for messages, lessons, or social comment. I just want to have fun. What I have found in Mr. Heldt's work is escapism to places and times I would really like to visit. Many books I read are escapist fun but I don't especially want to go there. I mean zombie plagues and post apocalyptic wastelands are fun to read about but actually go there? No thanks. Okay enough of that.

Hannah's Moon is, in my estimation, the best book of the series. That is saying something when you consider how good the whole series is.

Readers who are looking for good, clean, suspenseful, intricate, escapist fun, need look no further. Hannah's Moon by John A. Heldt will take you where you want to go. I'll bet that you too will become a fan of his work once you are introduced to his story telling skill. Bye the way, according to what I read on his blog, Mr' Heldt is working on a new book (Yay!)  Enjoy!

Mike