Friday, May 17, 2019

Beatrice and the Basilisk

Beatrice and the Basilisk

I recently won a print copy of Beatrice and the Basilisk by Bruce McCandless III in a Goodreads giveaway.

A very short children to middle grade fantasy story featuring 12 year old Beatrice and her run in with a dragon bent on bad things. She has a fairy-godmother type helper/guide that I thought was great, very funny. Of course as a children's tale, there is a moral to the story. But, as an adult reader, I didn't find the moral overwhelming the story.

As is usual in stories in this genre, Beatrice is the most responsible character. Thankfully though, the author does not portray the rest of the family, in this case mom and younger brother, as complete losers. Mom is a good, if not a bit overwhelmed mom, and little brother is just a little brother, not an obnoxious brat. 

A very good quick read targeted at the younger reader. One I will share with my grand kids when I get the chance. Enjoy!


Mike

To Catch the Conscience of the King

To Catch the Conscience of the King by [White, Martin]
I was provided a print copy of To Catch the Conscience of the King by Martin White for review.

This is the story of King Edward II after his removal from the throne, and the monk Stephen assigned to be his confessor. I found the story very depressing, though I guess being deposed as a king is not a good time. But the depictions of daily life and the depravity of both royals and clergy were almost too much. Heavy with homosexual overtones, royal and clerical corruption and political intrigue. There weren't any characters I found sympathetic. 

The author supplies an extensive bibliography so I can't claim anyone was treated particularly unfairly, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of redeeming social value either. Stephen is a weak, broken but repentant man of God who becomes a puppet dancing to the tune of his clerical order and various royals. We get a graphic retelling of the history surrounding Edward II, from the execution of Hugh le Despenser and the confinement of the King. 

The author paints a good word picture, depressing as it was. The conclusion of the book however went too far out of the realm of a historical novel. It was jarring and so out of the tone of the book as to be annoying. Given the overall story line, I don't understand the title of the book.

With the exception of the ending, I can find no fault with Mr. White's writing style but I have to say this book didn't really float my boat.


Mike

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Caitlin's Song

Caitlin's Song (Carson Chronicles, #4)

I had the pleasure of reading a digital ARC of Caitlin's Song provided by author John A. Heldt.

Caitlin's Song is the fourth and penultimate entry in the Carson Family Chronicles, the time travel adventures of the five Carson children attempting to track down and reunite with their parents. Reminiscent of the 60's tv show The Time Tunnel.

I have read all of MR. Heldt's books so far and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Caitlin's Song has decidedly lifted his game. I have commented before on witnessing his growth as a writer through his books, but wow, this book demonstrates his evolution perfectly. 

I know, I know, talk about the book. Caitlin is the youngest (and possibly smartest) Carson sibling. She has a very tumultuous time of things, some of which have carried on from the last book. I actually emailed the author and asked him if Caitlin had made him mad or something. She has to endure a lot. Her family remains steadfast in their support of her. The ongoing story is well crafted and tight, no sloppiness, no explaining away complications as "time travel" as if that explains it. 

Some time travel complications are explored here more than in previous books. Mainly; can we alter history? A very good sub-plot. As readers have come to expect from John Heldt, he develops characters so well that we feel their emotions, experience their triumphs and tragedies. This book has plenty of each to emotionally hook the reader.

Without giving a spoiler, there is a scene which will have many readers (myself included) screaming "Gotcha, that's a mistake" and like me they will be wrong. I leave it to you to find it. The Carson's are becoming more noticeable on the radar of certain governmental agencies as the series progresses. I am eager to see how this plays out as well. 

While there is tragedy to deal with, there is also comedy, romance, intrigue, and heartbreak. The story is uplifting and life affirming at its core. So even though there were a lot of emotions to deal with I still came away with a good feeling after finishing the book. The last several chapter had my heart racing. I was torn between wanting to read faster to get the whole story and wanting to slow down and savor because I knew I was nearing the end.

The downside? Now we have to wait until probably early next year to read the conclusion to the saga. 

An aside I must share here, not related to The Carson Family Chronicles. Mr. Heldt has made his catalog available in print. I recently purchased his first two series; Northwest Passage and American Journey. Although I have both in digital form, I am really happy to be able to have them in print. More permanent that way. 

Anyway, if you like history, romance, love, loss, intrigue, comedy, suspense and oh yeah, time travel, you really should give John A. Heldt's work a look. I know you won't be disappointed. Caitlin's Song is his best work yet. Enjoy!


Mike

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hunting Season

Hunting Season (Anna Pigeon, #10)

I listened to an audio version of Hunting Season by Nevada Barr while driving on vacation.

Although this book is #10 in a series, it is the first book I have read from this author. It presents all the current social justice tropes even though it was published in 2003. We have a strong female lead, white patriarchy, white privilege, racial injustice, toxic masculinity. I didn't find it preachy, just interesting in light of current social discussion. 

Actually I found Hunting Season to be an entertaining mystery. Almost a locked room murder mystery. The corpse is found not in a locked room but in a room devoid of evidence. 

Our heroine Anna fights a good old boy network, jurisdictional disputes, family history and a general anti-female sentiment. Naturally she persists until the mystery is solved. Although there were many twists, turns and red herrings to keep the listener hooked, both my wife and I had our suspicions about who the perpetrator was very early. Turned out we were right. Still an entertaining listen from an author I would not mind reading more from. Enjoy!


Mike

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Striker

The Striker (Isaac Bell, #6)

The second audio book I listened to while driving on my recent vacation, The Striker by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott is my first Isaac Bell Adventure.

Although Isaac Bell is cast from the same mold as Dirk Pitt and other Cussler heroes. the story itself is a change from other Cussler works. 

Set in the first decade of 1900, the story revolves around the struggle of coal workers trying to organize and owners fighting unionization. 

 The Striker is a twist filled retelling of a dangerous time in U.S. history. Granted, it is fiction, but considering the small understanding of silver mining history I have where I live, the incidents related here are very believable. 

Bell is pitted (not Dirk Pitted) against an agent provocateur bent on creating an all out war between labor and management for his own agenda. 

A much more intricate story than I am used to from Cussler. It was a bit difficult to follow while driving because you really need to pay attention. The story was compelling enough that I actually listened to the last thee discs in the house. 

Suspenseful and cerebral. At first I feared a propaganda piece for unionism but that was dispelled quickly. It plainly showed bad actors on both sides of the fence. Of course there is a romantic story line, but it is different too.

I enjoyed this story more than any Cussler work I have read in quite a while. Historical action, suspense and adventure. Enjoy!

Mike

Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast (The Oregon Files, #4)

I listened to an audio version of Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul while driving on my recent vacation.

A hunt for African diamonds in which The Oregon gets caught up. Along the way, bad guys who want to unleash weather caused devastation on the earth (holy global warming Batman). Actually, two main plot lines that intertwine and overlap.

Good action and suspense. The obligatory sexual attraction. Plenty of nautical technology and sea bound action. A really cool chase on the water.

A good story to listen to while driving. Easy to follow. This was an abridged version which may have helped in my instance.

Cussler sticks to his formula and gives an entertaining, if perhaps a bit predictable, adventure thriller. And why wouldn't he? It seems to be working.

If you like nautically based adventure thrillers Skeleton Coast entertains quite well. Enjoy!


Mike


The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller

The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller (Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thrillers)

J. B. Michaels provided an e-copy of The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller for review.

The on going adventures of Bud Hutchins (genius) and The Order of St. Michaels (protectors of mankind and trees). This is the second Bud Hutchins book I have read and it is good to have read the earlier books. While the story does not specifically mention previous works, changes characters have undergone continue in the new book. Missing the earlier information could make the story a bit confusing. 

The Castle is a story of Bud and The Order's battle with vampires. It is somewhat reminiscent of the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. 

Hints at budding romance for Bud. Growth for Bud as he is required to rely on others more for help in this book. The tech, while present here is not the main focus, good balance. Good suspense and action scenes. The vampire has the obligatory inept toadies (can you say minions anymore?).

This installment of the series was a bit coarser language wise than previously (at least to me). Just something I noticed, not commenting positively or negatively.

All in all fun to follow Bud Hutchins adventures. Enjoy!


Mike


Frede and Santa

Frede and Santa (WINTER) (FOUR SEASONS Book 1) by [Lefebre, Leen]

Author Leen Lefebre provided an e-copy of Frede and Santa for review.

A good short read at 36 pages. Frede is a young boy who travels to meet Santa and ask for his help. His family is struggling and losing. 

A great story of familial love and support. Adventurous story of a child's faith in the magic of the season.

The only problem: the translation is a bit clunky to read.

A nice Christmas story. Enjoy!


Mike

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Lost Gates

Lost Gates (Deathlands Book 101) by [Axler, James]

Guilty pleasure time again. No secret I am a big time fan of the whole Deathlands series.

Lost Gates is a different take on the usual format of the stories. I've always enjoyed the jump scenes as there is often a lot of action around them. This story has six of them, so lots of action and lots of suspense. The companions were partnered in new ways and had to function without the support of the rest of the group. 

My problem with the story was the repetitive scene setting. Sometimes as many as 4 restating of the same situation. I get it, he's injured and it's hard to move. I didn't need to be reminded every other sentence. Quibbling maybe but it got on my nerves. 

My actual star rating for those who require it: 3.5. But the important thing is that it is still good post-apocalyptic action adventure even though this is the 101st entry in the series. Enjoy!



Mike

Blackstone

Blackstone (Blackstone, #1)

I was given an e-version of Blackstone by Richard Falkirk for review.

Set in Victorian England (I think that's the proper time), we have a who done it with an almost noir feel to it. Our main character (bit of a stretch to call him "hero") Blackstone is a Bow Street Runner (yes, that's was a thing) with a highly questionable past. Assigned to protect a royal princess, he of course makes enemies as he goes. 

A good amount of history here. The early beginnings of police departments, political machinations and royal intrigue round out the intertwined plot lines. While I had a hard time finding the character Blackstone sympathetic or even likable, the story was topnotch. A great detective mystery. Sex (not too graphic), violence (ditto) and plenty of twists and turns. Interesting insight into the lives of the upper and working classes.

Negatives? The only one for me was at times I found the story a bit choppy. Abrupt changes threw me off my rhythm.

Overall a good historic noir detective story. I have since discovered that this book is the first in a series based around the character Blackstone. A good start for the series. I look forward to reading more. Enjoy!


Mike

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Playing Chess with God

Playing Chess with God 
I was given a print copy of Playing Chess with God by author Verne R. Albright for review.

Set in California's gold rush era, Albright has crafted an immensely entertaining saga of one man's quest for riches. Encouraged to seek his fortune in the California gold fields, by none other than a Chilean prostitute. he does just that. 

Our hero Henning Dietzel is a man of great personal integrity which he maintains throughout his experiences prospecting for gold. He endures highs and lows, tragedy and success, love and loss. He carries his feelings for his Chilean lover with him, longing for their reunion. He meets and becomes involved with several colorful characters along the way. 

A case could be made that there is an undercurrent of social commentary throughout the story, but I choose to read it as just confirmation of our hero's character make up. He refuses to mistreat anyone. There is some sex, more violence and adventure spanning the far western reaches of both North and South America. Characters are well realized and the descriptions of the country and the people inhabiting it are easy to picture in the mind's eye.

I particularly like the quote from which the title is taken (nope, not gonna tell ya. You have to read the book). I don't know if it is the creation of the author or a quote which can be attributed to some historic person but it is great. Fair warning to Mr. Albright: I am going to use it (but I will attribute it to your book).

An engrossing, sweeping historical novel rich with detail of the wild and tumultuous times early in our history. Should such stories appeal to you, you really need to read Playing Chess with God by Verne R. Albright. Enjoy!


Mike

Friday, March 8, 2019

Champion's Rising

Champion's Rising (Champion of Psykoria Book 1)

I was provided a print copy of Champion's Rising by S. F. Claymore for review.

Champion's Rising is the first installment in the Champion of Psykoria series. Our hero, Prince Snarmis, is the less than intimidating son of the powerful King Breetor. Although he has no problem succeeding his father when the time comes, he is less than skilled as a warrior. Much to the disappointment of his father, and therefore, himself.

Naturally, events conspire to force the Prince to basically man up (It would be a short series if they didn't wouldn't it). We see just about every fantasy character we've ever read about make appearances in this book. We get everything (everyone?) from vampires and werewolves to faeries of all description, mages, daemons, dragons, you name them. But all these characters belong, they are not included just to have more, they are integral to the story. Once the action begins it doesn't let up. The suspense, and excitement build and is maintained throughout. The reader is involved. The action involving the Prince is told in the first person. It did take me a while to catch on to this. Other action is told in the third person. 

The best part? Although this is the first in the series, NO CLIFFHANGER ENDING! I so much appreciate that in a series.

The worst part? We have to wait for the next book in the series to get more. But what you gonna do? Fantasy readers should like the heck out of this book. I'm looking forward to continuing the story. 

When author S.F. Claymore offered me this book I did chide him for using my picture on the covr without my permission. I see that on Amazon they show a different cover. I was only kidding! Sheesh! Enjoy!


Mike  

Science and Wonders III: As X Goes To Infinity

No cover art yet for this book.

Author Amy Joy allowed me to read an e-copy of Science and Wonders III: As X Goes To Infinity prior to its being published. For the record: Amy Joy is a friend of mine.

Science and Wonders III is the continuation of Amy Joy's attempt to build a bridge between Science and Christianity via her own experience as a student of chemistry, biology, and geology and her interactions with professors with varied beliefs (and non-beliefs) in Christianity.

This third installment is much meatier than it predecessors, on both ends of the spectrum. The easiest way to describe it? More. More depth, more feeling, more detail. Deeper than the first two books, I would have to say it is not quite as easy a read. This book shows more of Amy Joy as an academician while maintaining her ability to speak coherently to non-scientists about intricate scientific topics.

We get deeper insights into our author; Amy Joy, and the characters in this book. The professors she associates with throughout her studies (and after).

The spiritual incidents she shares are nothing short of chilling at times, perhaps more so to me because, as I said earlier I know this author and know her to be an honest person not given to hyperbole.

Science and Wonders III presents information as I wish any professor, university, or Christian proponent would: the info is presented and the consumer is given the opportunity to make their own decision. Watch for this one when it becomes available, it's worth your time. Enjoy!


Mike

Monday, February 25, 2019

Hiding

Hiding 

I was given an e-copy of Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts for review.

Readers of my reviews know I refuse to trash any book I review. I will hold to that standard here and just say that this book did not work for me on any level. It was so depressing I struggled to finish it. I did finish because I wanted to give it a full chance. 

Jenny Morton Potts may in fact be a great writer (I see she has written other works) but for me Hiding doesn't work.


Mike

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Line Between

The Line Between

I was given an e-copy of  The Line Between by Tosca Lee for review.

It took me a while to really get into this story. The prologue set me up for one story, but then it seemed the main story started in a different direction. It took me a while to connect the two. Don't get me wrong, the story started very interesting, but I wasn't feeling "thriller". 

I predicted the connection, but as usual, missed by just a bit. When the connection was made, the story took off for me. Then it had me and it was, hang on. It truly lived up to the promise of thriller. The perfect blend of suspense and terror with a wholly sympathetic main character. The plot complications were tight and believable with solutions not worn out, trite, or expected. The characters were well developed and behaved true to type.

My biggest complaint? The file I received was not reader friendly. The type was sooo small and couldn't be adjusted. The only way I could read it at all was to set my reader on landscape. This of course does not affect the story, but did slow me down a bit.

We have cult life, abuse, megalomania, deception, redemption, anarchy, selflessness, a plague, apocalyptic mayhem, preppers, good guys vs bad guys, and some who fall in between.

So I started out not feeling "thriller", but by the end my heart was racing and I was thoroughly entertained. The Line Between  by Tosca Lee is definitely worth your time if you like thrillers. Enjoy! 


Mike

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Tyre




I was given an e-copy of The Tyre by C.J. Dubois & E.C. Huntley for review.

Set in India, an untouchable caste man finds a huge tyre (tire in America) and we follow the changes this brings to his life.

What I liked the most about this story was Ranji, the main character. Immediately sympathetic, he is at once illiterate yet very wise. His existence is a daily struggle to keep body and soul connected but he does not bemoan his state. He doesn't whine about injustice or unfairness. 

He has a beautiful wife and loving family (they actually respect him, how unusual today). I enjoyed the strength of their bond and their unity in working to benefit the family. 

Obviously I can not speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of life in India, but the narrative was rich in detail and feeling. It captured me completely, drawing me into a much different lifestyle.

I truly enjoyed my time with Ranji and his family. I saw on the authors Goodreads page that they were considering a sequel, I hope they do. Enjoy!




Mike






Caina


Caina

I received a print copy of Caina from author Joe Albanese for review.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Although not a new premise; basically one twin taking the identity of the other, it is engaging and suspenseful. The moral could be; the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but you don't see the weeds until you've climbed the fence.

Our main character Lee, finds this out when he assumes the identity of his more successful twin Grant. Lee is not a complete loser but he is pretty close. He learns all is not as he interpreted it. Good character development, a good mix of good, bad, and shades of gray in between. 

The plot is very complex, more than I expected anyway and it is unclear for most of the book who the good guys and who the bad guys actually are.

Good read for those who like action, suspense, and redemption. Enjoy!



Mike





Sunday, January 27, 2019

Godan 2: Lycaon Strikes

Godan: Lycaon Strikes!

I received a print copy of Godan 2: Lycaon Strikes from author Garret Schuelke for review.

I received both the first and second books in the series, at the same time, so I was able to read it immediately after the first. I found this helpful and it increased my enjoyment. The second book maintains the same style as the first; minimalist action only. I still feel on the outside of this genre but was more comfortable with the book. This second installment is based on one situation to be resolved by Godan. 

For me this second book was more clear and focused. Fans of the first should be pleased with the second. Enjoy!

Mike



Godan: The Gray Wolf of Chicago






Godan: The Gray Wolf of Chicago by [Schuelke, Garret]


I received a print copy of Godan: The Gray Wolf of Chicago from Garret Schuelke for review.

Mixed reaction to this book. I am guessing that I am probably not the target audience for this book. Not that it is so far out of my reading taste but rather that it is written in a style I am unfamiliar with. Godan is a true anti-hero. For me very little to feel a connection to and therefore difficult to root for. 

Having not read graphic novels, I got the feeling that I was reading one without the graphics. Minimalist narration, full-on action, little plot beyond linking violent encounters. I had the feeling that I was supposed to know the main character, perhaps from another work. I felt kind of lost because I didn't understand who he was. Much of the story is presented this way. His powers are revealed in a "Oh yeah, he can do this or that" takes this to a strange place for me. The same with the bad guys.

The "gutterpunk" lifestyle is a bit beyond me, sex drugs and rock and roll I get, but author Schuelke take this to a strange place for me. A completely amoral existence without meaning or purpose. I finished the book a bit bewildered, kind of like being the only sober person at a big party. 

A good book for non-stop action fans who don't need much in the way of plot. That's not me, but if it's you, enjoy!

Mike








A Tongue in the Sink

A Tongue in the Sink: The Harrowing Adventures of a Baby Boomer Childhood

I received a print copy of A Tongue in the Sink by Dennis Fried for review.

A book definitely written for all of us babyboomers, Author Dennis Fried's memoirs of childhood pre-political correctness or social justice is a real treat. Evoking a feeling akin to Jean Shepard's Christmas Story we relive 50's and 60's childhood through the eyes of an actual eyewitness. A great trip down memory lane for those of us who experienced the times and a good picture for those born in the time of cell phones, computers and online video services. Kids left to their own devices to entertain themselves and learn the lessons of life "on he streets".

Hilarious at times (the introduction to sex is priceless) seeing the world through innocent eyes is so much fun. Irreverent without being rude. Well written, it paints a vivid picture of the times. I recommend it to those who want to relive the "good old days", or those younger folks who want a peek into how "old timers" (as I was called for the first time recently) can openly scoff at the computer age. I thoroughly loved this book and I bet you will too. Enjoy!


Mike





Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Last Voyage: And Other Stories

 The Last Voyage: And Other Stories  

I was given an e-copy of The Last Voyage and other stories by Fernando Sachetto for review.

I don't usually review short story anthologies, I've done a few short stories as stand alone works. In anthology format I find stories abruptly ending leaves me unsettled. That would be my complaint about this book, abruptly moving from story to story just doesn't work well for me.

As for the individual stories presented here; some were very good and others okay. None of them could be called bad, the most I could say is that I figured out a couple before I should have. 

The first and last stories of the compilation were for me the best. Good fantasy with a bit of a twist. 

Over all, the stories were engaging and entertaining quick reads worth a look. If the format works for you, you will probably like this collection. Enjoy!


Mike


The Mummy Cursed

  The Mummy Cursed
I was given a print copy of The Mummy Cursed by Jerry Flu for review. 

The book is billed as a "Hysterical Historical Fantasy" it says so right on the cover. In this case you'll get no argument from me. This book is seriously funny. 

We follow the misadventures of Djoe the mummy, who is stuck as a museum display in Cornblight Kansas. Djoe relates the story of how he came to be in this less than exalted state. 

Djoe is (was) a beer delivery guy in ancient Egypt who unwittingly gets caught up in underhanded dealings involving religious personages, union types, gods of various power and importance, organized crime and the afterlife. 

Along with Bra'at a beer brewing Temple Dancer, and Shehaw, his donkey, Djoe tries to get himself clear of his involvement only to find himself deeper and deeper enmeshed in a twisted plot. The author does a great job of creating a current feeling atmosphere while using ancient words and expressions to keep us in the moment. 

Jerry Flu takes great liberty with Egyptian culture and myth twisting gods we may be familiar with and putting them in hilarious settings. He takes the serious sanctity of Egyptian mythology and sets it on its ear (or, knocks it on someplace lower).

Having read more of Mr. Flu's work (Who Killed Randy Ratphink?) I expected something wild and fun. I was not disappointed.

Fun, funny and irreverent, The Mummy Cursed is well worth a read. Enjoy!


Mike