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!


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!


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!


Monday, March 13, 2017

FEAR: Spine-chiller and romance too

I was sent an e-copy of FEAR: Spine-chiller and romance too by author Patrick Mccusker. He didn't actually request a review, but I figured he wouldn't mind too much (especially since I really like the book).

I was immediately surprised by Fear.... You see, Patrick Mccusker resides in Ireland (I almost said Scotland, good thing I rechecked). The book starts out in China (it never does get to Ireland, don't really know why I was expecting it to), and moves to America.

One of our heroes is a half Japanese woman named Pearl, and another Mick (maybe that is the Irish, is that racist? No), doctor and researcher respectively. They are part of a team trying to find the answer to a series of deaths in both China and America. So there is the spine chilling fear. Pearl and Mick constitute the romance as well. The title says it all.

Fear... is a full on epidemic of biblical proportion tale. subtly (very subtly) included are social comments about ecology, racial hatred, gender bias, politics and academic snobbery (really, very, VERY subtle; they may have been a figment of my imagination).

The spine chilling is definitely at the forefront of Fear..., it has one of the most clever and insidious contagions I have ever read about. If it were real we would be in serious trouble. The story does bounce between China and America but not a whole lot. There are twists, turns and surprises along the way.

The romance is more of a minor part of the story which was good for me (remember not a romance fan).

There is plenty of action and suspense to go around. Not over the top violent action, but very good none the less. The story moves along at a pace that keeps the reader hooked. I was so bummed; I had 8% of the book remaining and had to put my e-reader on charge (one of the reasons I will always prefer print books. Personal comment). The scenes depicting the effects of the contagion are very graphic (but shouldn't they be?).

FEAR: Spine-chiller and romance too by author (Irish author) Patrick Mccusker is a great read. So if you want a spine chiller with a little romance as well, this is definitely the book for you. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Chase: The Hunt for a King

Author Thomas Dellenbusch provided me with an ecopy of Chase: The Hunt for a King for review.

The  is the second entry in the Chase series and part of the  German Kopfkino series of movie length books. I'm not sure if this is a creation of Mr. Dellenbusch or if he is part of a larger concern. These are books meant to be read in about the same amount of time one would spend watching a movie. Kopfkino translates in English as "mind theater" sound familiar?

Chase: The Hunt for a King is a political/action story revolving around an upcoming vote for the independence of Scotland. The hunt is for the proof of the hereditary claim for the man who would be offered as Scotland's rightful king.

Most of the characters from The Hunt for the Mute Poetess (reviewed earlier here) reprise their roles in this story. I would go so far as to call it an ensemble cast. We have kind of a Davinci Code meets 007 going on.

Great action, an interesting trail of history, and even a bit of romance (kind of like a good movie), makes Chase: The Hunt for a King a great way to spend a couple of hours. We don't get bogged down in unrelated plot lines or superfluous detail. We do get a story with laser focus on the story at hand. I find it a great way to read a story when I don't feel like getting caught up in a 700-800 page epic.

Kopfkino has built for itself quite a niche. If they continue to provide stories of this caliber they will go far (if they haven't already). Compliments to Richard Urmston for a clear, flowing translation that does not sound like a translation. No awkward phrasing or word usage.

Chase: The Hunt for a King by Thomas Dellenbusch is a great way to have an adventure in a limited amount of time without feeling that you have sacrificed story for brevity. I know I am already looking forward to reading more. Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Clockwork Alice

As part of the release of The Clockwork Alice author DeAnna Knippling provided me with an ecopy of her book for review.

It has been more years than I care to admit to since I have read the Alice in Wonderland stories. I do remember having varying reactions to the stories, from laughter to fear to just plain confusion. I had the same reactions to The Clockwork Alice, and I believe this was probably the intent of the author. Because in addition to those reactions was a feeling of nostalgia, kind of like visiting an old friend, recalling past adventures but seeing how their life has changed yet in some ways, stayed the same. She maintained the feel of the original beautifully. All the characters we remember are there.

A complex story, the original Alice... operated on many levels. Author Knippling has continued that complexity with her continuation of the story, both thematically and structurally. There is more than one Alice (SPOILER ALERT! AAARRGGH!) in this telling, exponentially increasing that complexity.

To the mundane nuts and bolts: There are a few typos/errors which need to be corrected. Things like of instead of off, off instead of of, and of instead of from, to name a few (they always seem to jump out at me).

The only other difficulty (minor) for me is that the segues from one Alice to another (remember, spoiler) was sometimes more abrupt and less clear than I would have liked. Although to be honest, as the story progressed I was better able to pick up the clues as to which was which.

The Clockwork Alice is a new visit with an old friend, at times bizarre and twisted. DeAnna Knippling has demonstrated (to me at least) an abundance of creativity and imagination. The Clockwork aspect of the story is truly mind-bending. I found the ending to be heart warming and simultaneously heart breaking yet overall comforting.

I don't necessarily recommend this Alice story for younger children. It's not a Disney version. There are themes and actions that would be hard for the younger reader/listener to completely understand.

Adults, if you read any of the Alice in Wonderland stories (and I know you have) you really should read The Clockwork Alice by DeAnna Knippling, you will be glad you did. Enjoy!


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Desert God

I won a print copy of Desert God by Wilbur Smith in a Goodreads Giveaway.

Probably not a whole lot more I can say that hasn't already been said about Desert God. But I'm going to anyway.

Desert God is the fifth entry in Wilbur Smith's The Egyptian Series. Our hero, Taita, is without doubt the most unique eunuch in history. In fact he is probably the most accomplished man in history period.

First, he is physically trim and athletic  (an unusual state for a eunuch to my understanding). He is apparently nearing, if not already past, 100 years of age. Yet he is able to outperform men a quarter of his age (just ask him).

Second, he is one of the great military strategists the world has ever known (just ask him). He lays claim to, in addition to several other martial accomplishments, authoring The Art of War. Sun Tzu, were he available, may take issue with that claim.

Third, he possesses only the merest hint of an ego (just ask him).

In Desert God Taita relates the story of how he masterminded Egypt's war against the Hyksos while witnessing the destruction of the Minoan Culture (not his doing), and financed Pharaoh's Egypt.

It is an action packed, suspense filled, adventure of epic historic proportion. Love, honor, duty, romance, greed, treachery, and vengeance all intertwine in a truly entertaining story. Forbidden love (and sex) is aided and abetted by our hero. There are even interactions with, and interventions by, various gods of the time.

Desert God by Wilbur Smith is not a particularly quick read (583 pages), but it is an entertaining one. With so many plots and sub-plots, twists and turns, it is difficult in a short review to do justice to the intricacies of the whole story. For fans of Mr. Smith's work this comes as no surprise. To new readers: Hang on and enjoy the ride! As I always say: Enjoy!