Review of “Serpent’s Sacrifice” by Trish Heinrich

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Of course I’m going to read about superheroes. I went into this book expecting a fun, action-packed adventure, and I was delighted by how much more this story held.

Female main characters are often used for the sake of just having a female main character, but the time period this book was set in allowed for a lot of feminist exploration.  That, in a superhero book, I found really compelling. There were a lot of modern comparisons to make from the simple set-up: “in 1960’s Jet City, women are supposed to want marriage and babies, not cowls and secret identities.”  It was great to see how Alice tried to break out of those expectations. It was also interesting to see how the other characters reacted to it.  I think any female reader would nod along at certain parts, and these struggles might be good for some men to recognize too.

But the book didn’t stop there.  Set in the 1960s, of course racism was incorporated into this world-building.  The book’s characters who are equally as smart and talented as their white counterparts aren’t used as simply token black characters, but instead they play vital roles in the action.  Also, the book tackles the traumas of abuse and alcoholism, making them real issues that Alice has to deal with as she grows into an adult.

This book is quite long and covers a lot of ground, but I was neither bored nor overwhelmed.  The cast of characters is full but not too full.  The dialogue is genuine and strengthens the relationships between the characters. The action is well-described and believable, with the superpowers adding a boost of fun.

Overall, this is a great first novel from an author who packs a lot into her superheroes, villains, and familiar-but-amped-up world.  It’s sure to please fans of more famous superhero/comic stories, fitting into that club but definitely holding its own as a unique story.

5 Stars See it on Amazon!

Review of “Border Lines” & NEW RELEASE “Every Storm Breaks” by L.E. Fitzpatrick

(I don’t normally post reviews of sequels, but these books are REALLY good, you guys.  To see my earlier review for Book 1 in this series, go here:  The Running Game)

33553840I love sequels that don’t feel the need to recap every little thing from the first book before moving on with the story. While you should read the first book in the series first, this one is very much its own thing. Same characters, yes, but the setting quickly becomes different and the job, dangers, and relationships are different.
The dynamics between Rachel, Charlie, and John are great. The interactions between the brothers feel and sound the same as they did in the first book, but with Rachel added to the team they’re now more protective and a bit more loving. Rachel isn’t afraid anymore and has her confidence bolstered by the brothers, and I really liked how these three worked together.
The story’s world again feels very dystopian, and there’s some interesting commentary here about the health care system in particular. The “whodunit” aspect adds a nice mystery element. The ongoing background tension with characters from the first book ties in nicely to keep the books connected and the overarching story moving forward, but it was balanced well with the brand new plot of this book.
The writing is great, witty, and sets the mood perfectly for the story. I eagerly look forward to the next book.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!


21148270_1355021074595848_121658889_n(Okay, so I didn’t wait long between reading the previous book and this one.  I was supposed to read other books in between, but I cheated.  That’s how good these are.)

I loved the first two books in this series, so saying this one is my favorite should give you some indication how much I really, really loved this one.  We know these characters by now, we know how they interact, we recognize the world they’re in.  At the same time, nothing that happens in this book feels predictable or boring.

Charlie, John, and Rachel are once again quickly in over their heads in a dangerous situation, and the suspense and twists kept me reading.  I love how subtly this dystopian world is different. The telepathic, telekinetic Reachers add a Sci-Fi element, of course, but it blends so well that it doesn’t feel overly Sci-Fi.  These books all feel more like crime thrillers, in a way, which is a cool way to approach it.

The fact that this chunk of the overall story is once again a complete book unto itself is also great.  It helps to read what’s come before, of course, but this book feels like its own unique part of that story with nice resolution for what’s happened here.  You feel satisfied with the ending because it wraps up this particular storyline, even though it’s obvious Charlie, John, and Rachel have more work ahead.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon !


 

Psst!  

Because the above book is a new release, the author was kind enough to give me a snippet to show my followers!

 

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EVERY STORM BREAKS
Reacher Series #3
L.E. FITZPATRICK

SNEAK PREVIEW….

The concrete barrier separating London and the surrounding Safe Haven was impenetrable. Built to withstand a full militia invasion, it was guarded day and night by trained security officers. On a normal day they would be watching a queue of traffic as the daily commute crossed the open gates, but this wasn’t a normal day. A full watch was gathered at the top of the blockade, automatic weapons poised, ready to shoot, ready to kill. The growing crowd being kept out was swelling, spilling over into the surrounding streets like an overflowing drain. The bubbling cesspit of discontentment polluted the atmosphere. Tension climbed as more and more people took up the plight of the immigrant workers, fuelled by fear, isolation, and more hardship. The rioters crushed themselves against the gates, kicking at the barbed fencing; screaming, climbing, falling. Blood stained metal like crimson rust. Things were turning bad and turning quickly.

John pulled up the car at the junction leading to the main gate. It was farther away than they had originally planned their ambush, but there was no way they were going to get any closer without being swallowed by the crowd. A raucous energy surged through the concrete jungle. Rachel dared a glance behind them. Another tribe of urban warriors was coming towards the gate, and soon their current position would be compromised too. Police sirens were getting louder, a tinnitus in this nightmare. It was going to erupt into a full-scale riot, and in a few minutes all of S’aven would be engulfed.

She twisted her fingers together, focusing on the closed border, allowing her powers to penetrate the collective feeling of the mob. The concentrated fear and hatred were overwhelming. She could feel their frustration, their utter hopelessness, even as far back as she was. Desperation was winning, and nothing short of a miracle could sate it. Bottles, launched into the air by the protestors, smashed against the fence. Glass rained down on the crowd, and blood started to pour. The police were closing in. Soon the fighting would flood into the surrounding streets. All of S’aven would be consumed. Rachel watched the gate and the air around her seemed to thin. She took a desperate gasp, trying to visualise their rescue attempt in this chaos. Anything leaving London was going to get swallowed up; anyone trying to help would be trampled.

“What if they don’t come out?” she asked.

“They’ll come out.” The certainty in John’s voice was unwavering. Nothing about their current view seemed to concern him. His composure was measured, as though he were watching this from a distant window, unaffected by the consequences of the phone call he had made.

Rachel couldn’t understand how he could be so calm. A couple of hours ago he was throwing bottles at a wall like the desperate men and women in front of her. Now he was sitting patient and expectant, waiting for a miracle she couldn’t believe in.

“And what if they do come out?” she said, softer this time. She clasped her hands together. The anguish around her was contagious. She wanted to lash out. To scream. To charge the gate and save Charlie herself. This wasn’t fair. This wasn’t how people should be treated. The rich shouldn’t be locked behind a wall with all the wealth, while people on the other side died in squalor. People shouldn’t be punished for wanting a better life. For trying. For being different. They shouldn’t be locked up, experimented on, executed.

“Hey, the gates are opening,” Roxy said, drawing her back before her outrage compelled her to action.

A shower of rubber bullets and gas canisters rained down on the crowd. Through the chemical mist, a vehicle pushed into the mess. It was unmarked, but it was obviously a government transporter. What else would brave leaving London in the middle of a riot? Before anyone could react, the guards behind it opened fire again. People dropped to the pavement, gasping in the smoke, crying out as feet stomped on their helpless bodies. Rachel could feel the rage surge through the street. If there had been a chance this was all going to pass over, they’d just lost it.

“Well, that was a good idea,” Rachel said.

The smoke hissed, making it impossible to see anything. Bloody, bruised people fell out of the poisonous fog, into cleaner pockets of air, but more were coming. Coming from the surrounding streets; healthier, stronger, angrier. And the border patrol continued to fire. Rubber bullets giving way to metal. This wasn’t a security mechanism—this was war. The gas was clearing and the gates were once again closed, but that left the van stranded and suddenly the only thing the crowd could retaliate against.

“Oh God, do you think Charlie’s in there?” Rachel said, unable to control her panic. Would the crowd take mercy on a prisoner? She didn’t think so. Even if they did, how much damage would they do before they even reached him?

“He’s in there,” John said. Still cool. Still calm.

The protestors started pounding on the truck, rocking it back and forth. Again and again.

“Holy shit, they’re going to tip it!”

“Take the wheel,” John told Roxy. “Turn the car around and get ready to move. Do not fall behind. Rachel, you’re on crowd duty.”

“Are you bloody kidding, they’re going to rip you apart!” Roxy shouted.

John gave Roxy a look, half smug, half challenging—I’d like to see them try—and gestured for Rachel to get out.

Marginally inspired by John’s confidence, Rachel took his hand and focussed. If they were going to have any chance, she couldn’t let her surroundings frighten her. The people’s tension and anger were fuelling the riot. This wasn’t going to dissipate. This was years of stored-up fury at the richer classes, at the injustice folk on the wrong side of the border suffered. There was so much hate. Too much to control. The weight of it was oppressive and, as Rachel tried to sway the crowd to her favour, she found herself blocked and unable to push her commands into their one-track minds. Her subtle Let me pass was being ignored, or unheard, or deliberately disobeyed, as though that was the one command they had conditioned themselves to reject. She needed something more, something that suited their mood.

Red and blue started flashing. The police were encircling them. They were surrounded, unable to go anywhere, and Rachel knew what to do.

“Stop the police cars,” she said, tapping the nearest man to her. He paused, his hand held up in the air as her words filtered into his brain. Then, like a switch being pressed, he was charging towards the nearest police car. She touched another, giving him the same command. By the third, the crowd had picked up the idea. They covered the police cars like a swarm. There was no escape.

Rachel squeezed John’s hand. She braved a step deeper into the rabble. If her powers failed, if her concentration slipped, they could both be crushed. A shot was fired in the distance. More smoke canisters struck the crowd. John took over. He pulled her towards the truck, somehow able to see what was happening in the frenzy.

“Get in the passenger’s side,” he told her.

She let him go, and for the briefest moment she was drowning. Smoke stung her eyes, and she had to hold on to the vehicle for support. As her hands touched metal, she could feel Charlie inside. The connection to him steadied her nerves. It was as though he were speaking to her, only there were no words or directions, just a feeling, a knowingness. A tremor passed through the vehicle, and she knew he had unlocked the doors for her.

She grabbed the door handle and pulled. It flung open, and she nearly went with it. A rioter pushed past her and grabbed a fat man from the passenger seat. As he came hurtling out of the truck, she launched herself inside. She swung the door closed and jammed the lock in place. Another rioter pounded on the glass, ecstatic that she’d breached the vehicle. He cheered, and a bullet hit him in the temple, spattering the window with pink flesh. His body fell out of view, swallowed by the violence below.

She turned to the driver and froze.

Mark was staring back at her. His lost brown eyes were wide, his mouth agape. Of all the people to come across. She tried to think of something to say, and then she saw the barrel of John’s gun press against his head.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” he said, and hauled Mark from the driver’s seat.

John slammed the door closed. A bullet hit the safety glass, scratching the surface. “We need a route out of here,” he said.

Rachel nodded and closed her eyes. She pressed her hands on the dashboard. Her heart was racing, but her head was focused. The command was instinctual. Attack the border! Immediately, the crowd was moving, abandoning the vehicle and heading straight to the gate. She didn’t watch them go; there was enough on her conscience already. John slammed his foot on the accelerator and hit the road.

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See all 3 books here:  Reachers (3 Book Series)

Review of “Amongst the Killing” by Joe Compton

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This book has absolutely everything I look for in a crime thriller.  Is there a ton of action?  No.  Is the editing in this book perfect?  No.

  Did I care?  No.   I read a book hoping for great characters, and the two main men in this book are so well-portrayed that it was impossible for me not to get sucked in.

I felt on every page that the author knew exactly what he wanted to do.  This genre works perfectly for getting into the minds of your antagonist and protagonist, and I loved the back-and-forth approach.  These are very different men in terms of the morality spectrum, but there are also similarities that make things really interesting.  I wondered at first if it would be confusing to jump from one guy’s mind to the other’s, but with each break I immediately knew whose head I was in – that’s how clearly this author knows his characters. (As an avid reader, I can safely say this isn’t always the case.)

I also wondered how it was going to work that the biggest/worst murder happens right away, never really building to a climax of action, per se.  But this works because the story is about a cat-and-mouse chase, and Charles Street’s breakdown from the start makes the tension really complex.  Jack’s journey is, in a way, even more complicated as he avoids getting caught.  I can’t say I was ever really cheering for him, but you do understand him.

I did find some bits a little too convenient or simply wrapped up.  An offhand comment leads Jack to see through the cops’ plans.  The big confrontation plays a little quickly and the “trick” felt a bit forced to me.  BUT, there’s so much else going on that I got over the sticky bits, and this really was a great read.

4.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Refugees” by R.A. Denny

34853614I love good world-building in Fantasy, and this book is packed with it.  Many elements of the scenery, races, politics, and religions feel familiar but not directly copied from anything in particular, and it was a nice balance between originality and common elements of the genre.  I enjoyed how each of the main characters showed their different peoples and parts of the world (Mud, Rocks, and Trees), and we got deeper into each through their POVs.

The main characters are kids, but they are quickly forced to mature beyond their years. There’s a great sense of urgency throughout the book, a bit of mystery as the kids try to figure everything out, and you grow to care about each of them enough to keep you reading to find out what happens next.  The minor characters are also pretty well fleshed out, and I liked that the families of each were explained – a lot of child heroes seem to spring forth from no significant background.

Like I said, there is a LOT of world-building description in this lengthy read.  At times there’s maybe a little too much that gets in the way of the plot moving forward, but there are good bits of action as well.  Very early on this action gets pretty violent, so I’d be careful about suggesting this to readers that might be a little too young/sensitive for that kind of thing.

My biggest aggravation was that the story just stopped at the end. There was no sense that this was a story complete unto itself that resolved anything.  The book just stopped.  I suspect this is one of those series where the author chopped the series into divided books, so the first book “ended” here.   I guess you could look at this first book as “okay, this is how the adventure starts” and then expect it to pick right up in book 2, but it always bugs me when a book isn’t in at least some way a complete story.

That said, this is a very enjoyable read.  The writing is sharp, the characters are likeable, and it’s a good world to dive into.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith” by Shaun Hume

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It’s impossible to write a review of this and not mention the similarities to Harry Potter.  A parentless boy is whisked away from the ordinary world and taken to a fantastical school.  He ends up with really only two friends, one of whom has constantly unruly hair.  Each class focuses on a different discipline and has a quirky and/or mean teacher.  The kids will all eventually be sorted into different houses…er cliques.  The boy’s past and parentage obviously are important, with more to the story than we’re told right away.  There are creatures.  There are hovering deathly beings.  There’s an unseen dark-lord-type with evil followers.  Etc.  Etc.

In a lot of ways, this feels like an obvious attempt to appeal to a certain crowd of readers, almost like a kind of fan fiction.  BUT, I soon forgave all that and just went with it because the author does a lot of unique things too.  For example, one of Ewan’s two friends (both girls) is a pirate.   It’s also refreshing that the world-building is not *entirely* based in magic.   There is magic, yes, but we’re told pretty quickly that most people aren’t good at it and instead focus on other talents.  And I really enjoyed what the author did with the true Queen of England.

It’s easy to fall in love with Ewan as a character.  The poor kid just can’t win, and he’s a very believable 11 to 12-year-old boy thrown into new and overwhelming circumstances.  Enid and her pirate family added a much-needed feeling of newness to this story, and I loved that her character was rough around the edges.  Mathilde is great too, with her confidence and loyalty and almost-ever-present smile.  I even enjoyed the adult characters, who are a little flat because the focus is more on the kids.  As the plot thickens, you aren’t supposed to know which adults and older kids to trust, so their elusiveness adds to the suspense.  It usually drives me nuts when there’s some huge danger and kids don’t bother to tell the adults about it, but here it completely makes sense that they try to stop the danger themselves.

As for the author’s writing, there is a LOT of description.  It really is a bit too much, slowing the dialogue especially.  And sometimes a word is used incorrectly so that a sentence might sound flowery but really doesn’t make sense.

Still, I stayed in this book for the three main characters because their friendship dynamic was so lovely and fun.  And, yeah, if you miss Harry Potter in your life, give this a go.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Tongues” by Sam Joyce

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At the start of this book I couldn’t tell exactly where it was going, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it (based purely on another book’s similar premise where I ended up hating that story entirely).

However, THIS book drew me in pretty quickly.  The twists and complexity of this story were thoughtfully well-crafted.  I wasn’t sure how the elements of “neo-Nazis, top-level federal government, and the strange world of the occult” were going to work together, but the result was a suspenseful, somehow realistic, creepy horror tale.  And I appreciated that, though the events were horrific, the “horror” element was never gratuitous just for the sake of being shocking.

Catherine is a great main character, certainly not perfect but easy to relate to as we see things through her eyes.  I really liked how the plot progressed as she journeys deeper and deeper into what’s going on in Elena.  When we meet the federal agent, I wasn’t sure how everything there would fit, and this could maybe have used a little fleshing out.  I DID like how he got in over his head, and I was not expecting what happened once paths converged.  As for Carmen, I liked how the author slowly introduced him as the source of all the trouble.  The author did a great job of making him not just a dark, evil bad guy but instead a man with thoughts and motives that made sense to him.

That said, the back flash for Carmen felt really, really long. It was hard to focus on all this backstory because I wanted to get back to the main story’s timeline.  I liked the idea of what the author was doing, but it probably could’ve been shorter and still gotten the point across.

In all, I’d recommend this book if you’re looking to read an occult-based horror story with unexpected elements.  The uniqueness kept me turning the pages, and the author’s writing drew me in, from dialogue to action scenes and everything in between.

4 Stars

 

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Anatomy of a Darkened Heart” by Christie Stratos

26813854This felt like a book I would’ve had to read in an English Literature class in college – and I mean that in a good way.  Everything about the writing and the story felt legitimately true to the period, like this was an old, classic book I’d somehow missed all these years.

The writing is phenomenal.  It’s not a long book, and the author makes every word count.  Her descriptions are perfectly refined to give the reader exactly the amount of detail you need. The  plot certainly isn’t action-packed (that wouldn’t fit the genre at all), but the slow build works very well as you focus on the psychological aspects of the story.  I was never bored because the tension constantly increases as matters of the heart grow more and more complicated.

This book is, after all, about how these characters are “darkened.” I absolutely loved how I started thinking one character was maybe an okay person, but then they grew to be terrible.  And then another character did the same thing to me.  And then another.  Several times I said to the pages “Oh, no…” because a character would do something so evil to another character (keeping it vague here to avoid spoilers, but I literally gasped several times).  But, because the author does such a good job developing these characters, everything they did felt like a natural progression of their true nature.  And you STILL cared about them.

So, yeah, I recommend this one.  It’s not the kind of book you often see anymore, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Discovery” by J.B. Taylor

33583727I’m a sucker for any opportunity to read about a new alien world, and the one in this book is pretty good.  In a few short pages (most of the book is set on Earth), the author does a great job of describing this alien planet, alien animals, and alien people.  You get little glimpses throughout the book at just how different – and more powerful – these more evolved aliens are, and little bits about their history and abilities were interesting to me so that I’d like to see/read more.

Mostly this book is focused on Earth and the impending danger the aliens might bring.  Poor Eckta gets dropped here and stuck with us, and he’s a good character – a little bit Superman, but with more of an “alien” foreignness.  Other than him, it was a bit difficult to lock down who the main characters were going to be early on because of jumping from one character to the next, and no one was ever safe.  But each character along the way is fleshed out just enough to be believable, giving a well-rounded look at how Earthlings might deal with such an alien as Eckta. The government reaction and what they did with him was all-too believable, if a little predictable.

The movement of the plot was rough for me.  Everything moves really, really fast and could have been fleshed out better.  A lot of the government activity behind the scenes (avoiding spoilers) seemed implausible and forced.  A lot of the story just lacked a feel of reality for me – I know this is about aliens, but how the plot moved and what happened with the characters felt unlikely.  Another round of edits would probably help too, as there were a few goofs.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story.  It’s quick and full of action, with a likeable character at the center.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Escape from Witchwood Hollow” by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

23351890.jpgI usually get sick of teen girl stories, but this one was unique enough that it drew me in. You immediately have sympathy for the main character in that she lost her parents in 9-11, and you get to read her thoughts and emotions so that you know her pretty well. The other members of the family were all likeable too, as were most of the townspeople she encounters. There were of course the ‘mean girls’ type, but even they were given dimensions.

The overall mystery of what’s going on in the Hollow was great. I wanted to find out more with every hint I was given, and so that’s what kept me reading. I loved the way the author used the different timelines/storylines to show the history behind the mystery. The characters in these storylines were also complex and interesting, and the author’s ability to add historical flavor was a nice shift from the modern day feel of the main storyline. How everything came together was a surprise that I greatly enjoyed…but I won’t spoil anything.

One thing that bugged me was the constant mention of name brands. I get that this girl likes fashion. I know the author was trying to show that. But it was too much, in my opinion, and often distracted from the events going on. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. It seemed a little melodramatic, and it made me a bit uncomfortable that…what happened… was portrayed as the best thing to make her happy again.

All in all, this was an enjoyable YA/mystery/ghost kind of story that you can read pretty quickly and keeps you entertained.

4 Stars See it on Amazon!

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