Category Archives: books

“Red Rising” by @Pierce_Brown A fantastic genre bending “Hunger Games” meets “Lord of the Flies”

 

15839976
Red Rising (The Red Rising Trilogy #1)
By Pierce Brown
401 pp
Sci-Fi > YA> Dystopian

The setting is Mars. The setting is bleak with the Reds mining for Helium-3, a necessary element for terraforming Mars as well as other planets. The Reds work hard knowing that what they do is for the greater good of mankind; that they’re sacrifices are not in vain and Mars will be habitable. That is until, 16 year old Darrow learns the truth. It’s with this discovery and what he does that brings the reader into a fantastic world as he attempts to rise up into the ranks and expose the truth for what it is.

 

I don’t read much YA-Sci Fi-Dystopian. Really, I don’t. I read “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Ready Player One” (those last two may be a stretch to classify as Dystopian) and that was it. That said, reading “Red Rising” could be a mash-up of “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Lord of the Flies,” with a smidgen of “Harry Potter…” and Roman structre and mythos.

 

As mentioned, Darrow rises into the ranks. He becomes a Gold. All is not easy as there are trials which he must pass once he is a Gold. Of the many trials, one needs to be victorious with his House in a “survival of the fittest” of sorts versus other Houses. Of course, the typical cliche with the powers that be intervening, this competition is no different with its obstacles that Darrow must face.

The writing itself had some minor issues as far as I was concerned. There were some “show don’t tell” moments concerning Darrow and how he’s “able to think outside the box” as well as towards the ending with his House vs some other Houses. In other words, rather than letting the reader learn of the traits of Darrow the reader is told, “It’s because of this reason that he’s that way.” The finale with the other Houses felt rushed; less setting up the scene and more of “this happened afterdwe caused that.” In the grand scheme of things I suppose that’s ok, but another hundred pages or so would have been more fulfilling.

Overall, I’m glad I chanced upon this book. For the avid reader of the genre, this will be a quick read. For the casual reader, I’d say the same. Mr. Brown hooks you into the world and doesn’t let go. Let’s hope the second installment does the same.

 

“Above” by Isla Morely. It’s so good it got two reviews on Twisted Sense! @GalleryBooks @NetGalley #bookreview

abovecover37391-small
“Above”
By Isla Morley
384 pp
Fiction > Thriller

ARC via NetGalley

“Above” by Isla Morley tells the story of 16 year old Blythe Hallowell, abducted by a survivalist for 17 years. Hidden in a missile silo in Eudora, Kansas, 16 year old Blythe is left isolated from the outside world with her abductor, Dobbs Hordin. It’s difficult for Blythe to believe Dobbs’ rhetoric concerning the upcoming end of days as well as what may or may not have happened during the 17 years of captivity but it’s also just as difficult after those 17 years in learning what’s happened while she was gone.

Ms. Morley’s novel, “Above”, tells the fantastic story of a resilient woman held against her will in a claustrophobic setting. At least for the first 17 years of captivity. And after those 17 years? It’s just as fantastic. Morley’s excellent prose allows you to be transported from the safety of your favorite reading spot to Blythe’s enclosed setting yearning for daylight and that next breath. What happens those first 17 years is for the reader to discover.

After the first 17 years begins another journey of discovery, in more ways than one. What happened after those first 17 years had me wondering what happened as I devoured each page. I found myself texting a friend that had recently completed the ARC copy of “Above” a lot of “what if” scenarios as I was reading. “If aliens…”; “If mutants…”; and then there was the reveal of what happened those 17 years Blythe was gone.

I enjoyed reading “Above” a lot. The world she transported me to was one I loved to read from the outside looking in. Put into Blythe’s situation? Fuck that noise. I wouldn’t be able to cope. And that’s what makes a terrific story teller; to transport you into another world where you succumb to the writer and let him/her take control of all your senses and emotions.

“From The Indie Side” edited be David Gatewood: A Celebration of Independent Authors #bookreview

81HDd0R5TCL._SL1500_From Indie Side
Edited by David Gatewood
310 pp
Fiction > Genre Fiction
ARC Review

A decent collection of short stories, crossing various genres from independent authors. Of the 12 authors, three I recognize, and of those three, two I have read. The nice thing about short stories is just that, they’re short and they can give you sampling of what each writer has to offer with a full novel. That said, I look forward to exploring the words and worlds that some of these authors have created.

I’ll be honest, there were some stories that I rolled my eyes. It may have been due to writing, the story, or the big reveal and/or ending. There were some genres I didn’t care for, but that’s not to discredit the story or the prose, because they are all excellent in their own right.But the ones that moved me? I wanted more.

“The Winter Lands” by Jason Gurley tells the emotional tale of a man with a fantastic story to tell and, yet, cannot put those words down eloquently.

“Cipher” by Sara Foster is an incredible story of a woman yearning to be reunited with her family after being separated by mysterious bomb set off close to home. By the end of the story I was left speechless with the exception of one word, “Damn.” By far my favorite of the anthology.

“The War Veteran” by Susan May is an fantastic look into the psyche of a war veteran suffering from depression, survivor’s guilt, and PTSD.

“Gyre-Witchery” by Kev Heritage weaves sci-fi and fantasy primitive tale seamlessly.

“Redoubt” by Michel Bunker and “Mouth Breathers” by Hugh Howey ; The tales end just as soon as it starts and leaves you with an unquenchable thirst for more. The end of days and a forbidden love story. Terrific build up for the universes that they’ve created.

“Made of Stars” by Anne Frasier features terrific prose. As a fan of story telling, I enjoyed it despite that I couldn’t care less about the genre of lovelorn vampires. It’s a cliché as far as I’m concerned, but her writing was solid and left me wanting to read more of her work.

“The Man Who Remembered Today” by Peter Cawdron tells the tale of a man, ethnically profiled, who has no recollection of the past but of what’s to come. It’s with that clairvoyance that chaos ensues with the foresight of a terrorist attack.

For the price of the anthology, you can’t go wrong with the stories. It’s definitely worth it to explore and discover what the up and coming indie authors have to offer.

 

 

#Review: Above by Isla Morley – abduction thriller and more!

abovecover37391-small
Above by Isla Morley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Lazy summer days, picnics in the park, squabbling among siblings, a racing heart caused by a promising young man… these are the types of things that are supposed to punctuate the young life of Blythe Hallowell. A 16-year old girl in Eudora, Kansas has her whole life ahead of her. That is until Dobbs Hordin, school librarian, tricks her into getting into his car. This decision will change the course of her life irreparably.

Dobbs squirrels Blythe away deep, deep into the earth contained securely in an abandoned missile silo. Outfitted with living quarters, rations, and sturdy locks on all the doors, Blythe finds herself in a living hell she desperately wishes to escape. Dobbs, coming and going as he pleases, talks incessantly about an apocalypse happening above, a world unrecognizable. Blythe, acutely aware of Dobbs’ tenuous grip on reality, finds she can do nothing but play along until freedom presents itself. In the meantime, she gives birth twice, plays Mom for a short time to a child Dobbs abducts from “Above”, and plays along to Dobbs’ fantasy as his wife. She bides her time expertly, never forgetting her family and her life above, but making the best with the worst situation.

Approximately halfway through the book, the story’s momentum is turned on its ear. We are thrust from abduction thriller to post-apocalyptic dystopian. The world as Blythe left it no longer exists. She must forge through this brand new world, though not alone, and figure out how she will survive.

Above had me from start to finish. I devoured this novel. The abduction and her life following was harrowing, suffocating, and heartbreaking. Moments of pure joy were marred by an undercurrent of constant terror, and I found myself needing to remember to breathe. The post-apocalyptic dystopian part caught me absolutely by surprise, and I found myself see-sawing between despair, hope, gratefulness, and trepidation for the future.

One really strange bit that kept pulling me out of the story: The way Ms. Morley writes the “before” portion of the book makes me feel like Blythe was a 16-year old in the 50s or 60s. I couldn’t shake it, and then when she wrote about someone in her teenage years talking on a cell phone, it shattered my illusion for a bit. There’s a bit of old-fashioned infused in the text.

Overall, I really enjoyed the pace of this book. I love the incredible spectrum of emotions I felt while reading. Some of the scenes after Blythe resurfaces were clunky, and one in particular I think was completely unnecessary (Blade taking them to the place with the bones), but I enjoyed this story nonetheless.

Thanks go to NetGalley & Gallery/Simon&Schuster for the ARC e-galley.

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Pleasant Surprise Told in Verse: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

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Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
by David Rakoff
113 pp
Fiction > Poetry

Wait. Stop (Hammertime!). Rewind. Does that say “poetry”? Yes. Even told in singsong verse! This is quite a gem of a novella. I saw “Love…” listed on a must read list somewhere and thought, “OK! Let’s get it!” Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it was told in verse. Aversion aside, I decided to give the story a chance and I was pleasantly rewarded.

I’ve labored weeks over trying how to write about how incredible this book is, but words escape me when I try and put on “paper”; I didn’t want to come off as a pretentious reviewer. Look, I really enjoyed this book. There are certain genres we find ourselves attracted to and always tend to gravitate towards. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but as a personal challenge, I wanted to go beyond my own “comfort” zone. “Love” was definitely out of my zone. Literary fiction, poetry. Yeah. Definitely not within my genre consisting of murder, action, and plot twists.

So what did I love about it? Verse/Poetry aside, I loved the story telling aspect. I loved the characters (good or bad). Great writing, as far as I’m concerned, allows the reader to become immersed in their world; that the writer has created. A lot of people that have reviewed this on GR and Amazon found the rhythm of the rhyming off and incorrect while others countered that it’s a form not commonly used. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Yes, I did find myself having to “reset the rhythm” of my reading, but I didn’t let it take it way from the story as whole. I hope you won’t too.

Review: The Caretaker: A Short Story

The Caretaker: A Short Story
The Caretaker: A Short Story by Jason Gurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seriously, Jason Gurley has got market share on the talent to terrify me as a reader. I’m sure I’m not alone – speak up if you agree! The Caretaker is a simple story sharing a glimpse into the life of Alice Quayle, a “caretaker” of sorts for an in-orbit spacecraft. She’s the one who goes up in between missions and takes care of the day-to-day needs of the ship. Light bulbs, oiling, etc. It just so happens that down on Earth, disarmament talks are currently taking place.

Disarmament talks aren’t always successful.

Alice watches as the world, quite literally, goes up in smoke. Now she and her only companion, a high-level AI named Eve, deal with the fallout.

Seriously terrifying, Jason. I need to remind myself to breathe.

The only reason this isn’t a 4-star review is because I’m confused what the goal of Alice was at the end. I can guess, but I’m NOT entirely sure I’m right, and I felt a bit disappointed that I wasn’t more clear, especially following excessive clarity for the entire story preceding.

Disclaimer: I received The Caretaker free for being a recipient of Jason’s newsletter.

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The Dark Age by Jason Gurley – @jgurley #review #shortstory

The Dark Age: a short story
The Dark Age: a short story by Jason Gurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am simultaneously crushed and uplifted by this short story. Jason Gurley is talented and his ability to tell a story, be it long or short, is reiterated by The Dark Age.

This story had so many elements: love, panic, awe, devotion, utterly bleak sadness, and even a little bit of hope. I felt crushed by panic and desperation in between moments of tenderness and sweet appreciation. Jason’s writing is so complete and layered so richly that all of these emotions co-existing makes perfect sense.

I admit I emailed Jason after I was done reading this and asked him if he thought he’d ever consider developing this story further, because I’m selfish and I want more. I’m not sure I could honestly handle the raw emotion his storytelling brings forth, but that’s a testimony to how good he is.

I received a copy of this short story via Jason Gurley’s newsletter.

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Hard Boiled and Hard to Hate. The City of Smoke and Mirrors by @NickPiers

City
The City of Smoke and Mirrors (Armadillo Mystery)
Nick C. Piers
Fiction Noir
256 pp

Mutant detective five foot armadillo private dick with a fedora. Check. Hardboiled fiction. Check. Mafioso and vigilantism. Check. It’s at this point you’ve either decided you’re intrigued or not. I’m hoping for the former.

Dilbert (his friends call him Dill) Pinkerton is our protagonist mutant private dick tasked with recovering a pearl necklace. The task seems simple enough until he has to go to Nevermore Bay; home of the Buzzardman and the (ugh) Buzzardmobile. With me so far? Good. Because there are quite a few nods to the comics and industry itself as well as to wrestling and some other acknowledgements.  The Joker reference was very subtle (and if it wasn’t a Joker reference, then I totally over read into it :p). And then there’s Don Komodo and his goons chasing after Dill from a previously botched case.

Told in first person from Dill’s POV in this hard boiled fiction, we’re introduced to a variety of characters. Even the dog.  The non mutant one.  The characters are all over the top and what you would expect given the genre; all memorable in one form or another. No-one sticks out as a love to hate or a love to love character but it is fun to read about them.

The overall tone, setting, and atmosphere was well done, however,  “City of Smoke…” is not without its errors.  There were some minor typos and syntax errors as well as a one HUGE consistency flaw towards the end regarding the Buzzardmobile, but that’s neither here nor there. With or without the (ugh) Buzzardmobile, it’s an enjoyable ride.

Edited to remove self published comment per author correction.

The Martian by Andy Weir #bookreview

18007564The Martian
Andy Weir
Science Fiction > Hard Science Fiction
384 pps

Fantastic. Incredible. I’m not sure what else I can say about this novel. I loved this book.

The premise is simple: A freak natural disaster gets an astronaut stranded on Mars. Said astronaut is Mark Watney. Watney has a particular skillset that allows him to extend his longevity on Mars.  How he’s able to pull this off is up to you to read learn now. I’ll just say this: if you put MacGyver with NASA into the same room, interesting things will happen.

Ultimately, this is a survival manual for being stranded on Mars, assuming you have the necessary tools provided to you by NASA. And Watney’s skillset.  This is a hard science fiction novel and you may find yourself reading lots of “science-y” passages and you may want to find yourself glazing over it which is fine, but you may find yourself doing a disservice to you. There are some great gems of commentary to his thought process.

Told in the first person from Watney’s perspective, we’re privy to all his thoughts: his scientific reasoning, the rationale of his decisions, and his humor; his personality. It’s because of this narrative that we grow attached to this character and rooting for him to get rescued.

Mark Watney is a memorable character that will last with you for a lifetime. To be honest, the only other character I’ve ever felt compassion for/with is Lisbeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium Series).  I would love for Mr. Weir to write a prequel.

It will be a couple of months before the novel is released (initially a self published e-book but then picked up by a publisher) and all I can say is: add it to your queue. Pre-order it. Add it to your Goodreads list of “to-read.” Whether you’re a fan of the sci-fi genre or not, it’s the compelling character driven, survival story that makes this novel spectacular.

The Eye of God: A Sigma Force Novel by James Rollins

eye of god

I like all of James Rollins’ novels. After first discovering his books last year I did a “Complete Alternate Reality Immersion” (CARI) and read everything he had published in about 3 weeks. That was 16 books. And I enjoyed every second of it.

Rollins is known for creating amazing quazi-historical, semi-real places… and then completely obliterating them. If you have read his work you know what I mean. You’ll be reading along thinking “wow, what an amazing temple/forest/cave” only to check yourself and almost immediately  think “how is Rollins going to blow it up?”

So it was with excitement and a wee bit of trepidation that I picked up “The Eye of God” last night.

Rollins delivered – again.

The Sigma Force team finds themselves trying to avert the end of the world. Literally the end of the world. And as in most of his books science and faith both play a large part.

On the faith side Monsignor Vigor Verona and his niece Rachel are back in the thick of it after receiving a strange package from another priest.

On the science side we meet a super smart astrophysicist with some complex theories on dark energy and a new SIGMA member with multiple science degrees and kick-ass combat skills.

While there is not nearly as much Painter as I would like (you can never have enough Painter) we do get to spend some quality time with Seichan and Grayson. Kowalski and Monk are back as well.

The huge blurry gray line that lies between science and faith is at the heart of this book. And Rollins does an excellent job of balancing the two. One of the themes running through not only his SIGMA Force novels, but many of his stand alone books and his YA series as well, is that not only are science and faith not mutually exclusive, they are actually incredibly intertwined.

One is used to explain and prove the other. This should end up seeming a lot less plausible than it ends up being. That is what Rollins does really well. Making Dark energy and quantum theory pair perfectly with St. Thomas and Genghis Khan = brilliant!

He also creates diverse and interesting characters who the reader is able to develop a connection to over the course of the series.

He also treats these characters as real people- meaning he sometimes kills them. And you curse outloud when he does it.

But if you like intelligent action stories liberally peppered with historical, religious and scientific awesomeness you need to read this.

 

Now… for some spoilers…. So if you haven’t read the book, stop now and come back when you have to read the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not kidding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok – I’m assuming you are here by choice, so here goes.

He didn’t blow it up!!!!! I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that the golden room in the awesome ice cave is all in 1 piece.

I love it – don’t get me wrong- but it is surprising to say the least.

But Rachel and Vigor are both dead. Talk about a double whammy. I really thought somehow Rachel was going to survive in our reality (not just the alternate one). Rollins prepped us for Vigor’s death,it still sucked, but we were ready for it. Rachel some out of the blue though. A real gut punch.

Seichan’s story  seems a little played out to be honest. I like her as a character, but I either want her to actually join the team or go away. To be clear – I think she would make an excellent team member.

I’d like to see Tucker Wayne back in the mix – I missed him.

 

 

 

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