Category Archives: book reviews

Review: The Jakarta Pandemic

Title: The Jakarta Pandemic

Author: Steven Konkoly

Publisher: Stribling Media

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic / Prepper

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Yes, I still love a good dystopian, end of the world, prepper-influenced disaster book. And this one had all the right stuff. A global pandemic, crazy neighbors, and a hero fighting to save his family.

It had other common elements as well, such as how to keep a well-stocked house and be prepared for the worst. Unlike some of the other apocalyptic books out there, the family actually manages to stay in their home for the entire book, which I found refreshing. While there were the obligatory baddies with guns, I think this book made them more believable than many.

Another neat feature about the book is that the main character, Alex, actually works for a pharmaceutical company, one that tries to profit from the disaster. There’s a lot of in depth information about viruses, which I enjoyed, including how it spreads across the globe.

Alex isn’t a perfect character, which is another thing I liked about this book. His wife teaches him a thing or two, and even his kids surprise him.

I’d rate this as one of the best prepper books I’ve found, in fact. A must read if you like pandemic tales.

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Review: Liquid Gambit, by Bonnie Milani

Title: Liquid Gambit

Author: Bonnie Milani

Genre: Science Fiction, novella

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I reviewed another of Bonnie’s works a couple years back, Home World, which featured a rarity, the pure Earth DNA human, as well as several offshoot species like the dog-like Lupans. In Liquid Gambit, Bonnie creates a spin-off tale taking liberal themes from the movie Casa Blanca and using them to explore her universe and characters. So meet Rick, a Lupan bar owner in a run-down space station where slavers basically own the local government. A mysterious human woman walks into his bar, and he finds himself debating between greed and kindness.

Sound familiar?¬† There are definitely parts of this story that are, and delightfully so. But there’s also the fact this takes place on a space station and involves a Lupans and other strangeness.

I would recommend readers to first read Home World, in order to better understand the universe in which this story takes place. For fans of that book, this is a welcome return to what is a witty, often funny but also heart-touching space opera.

Review: The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)

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Title: The Christopher Killer (Forensic Mystery)

Author: Alane Ferguson

Publisher: Puffin Books

Genre: YA Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I have one thing to say about this forensic mystery targeted at YA readers. Really great book, and really terrible cover.

I haven’t read a lot of gritty forensic mysteries with a younger protagonist, so that’s what drew me to the book. Catelyn is just about to graduate high school, and wants to become a medical examiner. That’s handy, since her father’s the town coroner. When a local murder shocks the small town, she has a front row seat to all the evidence and the investigation.

Of course in addition to a murder mystery, there are relationship issues and family issues, as one would expect in a YA novel. In this book, there’s the mystery of Catelyn’s mother who left years ago, as well as two young men she can’t decide are threats or allies. There’s also an interesting theme parsing out where science meets religion meets fake mumbo jumbo when a famous psychic comes to town. And of course there has to be danger, and there’s plenty of that.

The forensic scenes were well done–just enough ugly reality and facts to keep things interesting without going full CSI and being gross. The interactions were also well done. I found this an easy book to read, and was sorry to see it hasn’t done better. This is a case where I hope the author gets the rights back and is able to republish at some point. I think the publisher did this book a disservice.

Overall, a very enjoyable murder mystery, suitable for both adult and YA readers.

Book Review: Hounded, by Kevin Hearne

Title: Hounded

Series: The Iron Druid Chronicles (Book 1)

Author: Kevin Hearne

Publisher: Random House LLC

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

I’m pretty stingy on my five star ratings. Five stars means you wowed me; you expanded beyond the genre and gave me something I’ll want to read again. This book did both those things, and what’s even cooler is that the author perfectly captured the city of Tempe, Arizona where I grew up.

Hearne did a great job integrating things, including Arizona locations and culture, Celtic legends and lore, and even some Indian mythos in the mix. Atticus was something of an eternal college kid, but the humor in the writing was so infectious, I pretty much just embraced it. His Irish wolfhound was hysterical with his fascination with Genghis Khan and poodles, and the entire Celtic pantheon were a hoot. I particularly liked “the Morrigan,” the sexy goddess of death.

The action was fast-paced, as was the dialogue and overall style of the book. This is urban fantasy at it’s finest, with an immediate threat and a lot of finagling with supernatural entities in order to survive. A touch of romance, a good heaping of humor, and lots of monster blood. What made this book different was the druidic aspect, as well as the setting.

Review: Duma Key, by Stephen King

Title: Duma Key

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Horror

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is classic Stephen King. There’s ghosts, monsters, and shifting reality alone with phantom limbs and the mystery of the brain after trauma. As a hobbyist who dabbles in art, I also appreciated the creative aspects of the book. Remember Dorian Gray, who could paint himself young? Yeah, this is kinda like that.

Creepiness included.

I’ve always found the brain fascinating, so coupling that mystery together with weird psychic stuff and ghosts was a perfect mix. I also like that King took what would not normally be considered a scary place–the Florida Keys–and still managed to make it scary. The main character isn’t immediately likeable, but he grows on you. King also makes excellent use of his trademark narrative voice and foreshadowing.

This is not an action-packed book, but there’s enough strangeness to keep the reader engaged. If you liked Dead Zone or Insomnia or even Pet Cemetery, you’ll enjoy this one.

Review: Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)

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Title: Game of Thrones

Author: George R. R. Martin

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire (#1)

Publisher: Bantam

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Okay, so I finally did it. After far too many fellow fantasy readers and friends cajoling and pestering me, I finally opened up the first book in GRRM’s monster series, “A Game of Thrones,” and began reading it. “It’s so great!” they said. “Don’t grow attached to any of the characters!” they said.

My reaction?¬† Meh. It’s okay. Just okay.

The writing quality overall is good. I can’t find any fault with GRRM on that, and that’s why I gave the book four stars. And so far I like the world that he’s built. But the characters…yeah, I’m not feeling them. Which I guess is just as well.

I think there was only one character that I felt much of anything for, and I’ll keep in mind that this writer likes to kill off his characters. I think GRRM may have shot himself in the foot on that one. It’s one thing to kill off a lot of characters (like Stephen King, for example). But even horror writers know when to keep certain ones alive in order to keep their fans loyal. GRRM has made such a reputation now of being a ruthless killer that I think it puts off a lot of readers from even picking up one of his books. I know it did me, and I’m still not convinced I want to read Book 2. I don’t get what the fuss is about, and at the moment, I think I might enjoy the HBO series more. At least then I can ogle Sean Bean.

As far as the plot itself . . . this is where it felt more like same old same old fantasy. I see the potential with the dragons and the wild things and winter coming, but it felt like it was taking forever for things to get going. Maybe just me? It very well could be the classic issue that books with large casts spread over the world struggle with, as readers of Robert Jordan would know. At least in this case, I saw subplots being wrapped up before the end of the book, leaving only the larger arcs to be dealt with in later books. This to me was a strength.

So now I’m left with the question. Should I actually take time to read the next book? It’s like you have to take a serious commitment to these things at over 1000 pages apiece. I’m not sure I’m feeling that dedicated.

For now, I’ll probably move on to other projects. And maybe I’ll check out an episode on HBO Go or something.

Book Review: Line of Descent

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Title: Line of Descent

Author: James Derry

Publisher: Self

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I thought this was an okay book, but the ending didn’t really satisfy me. I think it was because the book was labeled as a “fantasy” novel when it was delivered to me; I see now that on Amazon the main category is now horror/occult. If I had approached this novel as a horror, I think I would have been better prepared. The book was well written and the plot drew me along. I think it was an interesting premise: an ancient (and possibly alien) intelligence has been replicating itself through a single bloodline, being passed down from generation to generation and gaining power all the while.

There are a lot of dreams in the book and even the waking moments have a dreamlike quality to them, giving the entire book a sort of surreal feel to it. Something about the style of writing put distance between me and the characters, but I couldn’t point to exactly what. I think one of the best scenes was Elise teaching¬†Mallory sign language via the pipes in separate bathrooms.

If you like Kurt Vonnegut type stories, or films like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” you’ll probably enjoy this book.