Book Reviews

Omega by Jeremy Robinson and Kane Gilmour

omega_book_iconI have so many things that I want to say but I can’t because I don’t want to spoil this amazing novel for anyone.  So no spoilers here.  It’s enough to say that this book takes the team, and a couple of characters in particular, to some very interesting and unexpected places.  Adding to the fun, Omega takes what we know about the series so far— and some of the characters— and just turns all of that on its ear.  There’s some really brilliant stuff that you wouldn’t expect to see surface this far into a well-established series.

Of course we get the requisite gun toting, ass-kicking that we expect from our favorite special-ops team, and a few things are revealed that threaten to make us look back at the earlier books in an entirely different way.
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Warbirds of Mars: Stories of the Fight, by Kane Gilmour and Scott P. Vaughn

warbirds_iconI picked up Warbirds of Mars: Stories of the Fight without knowing exactly what to expect.  It’s a collection of short stories that are all set in the same world, each written by a different talented author.  Additionally, the book contains some outstanding original artwork that was inspired by each story.  Together they make for a unique and engaging experience.  And while I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started reading this nearly 500 page novel, it was a book that surpassed even my wildest expectation.

Warbirds of Mars began as a web comic.  Stories of the Fight marks a substantial change in format for the content, but one that serves the story at least as well as any comic.  Warbirds of Mars takes place in a world where an alien force invaded Earth in the middle of World War II.  At that point, history as we know is shifts from all that we know to have been true.  Nazis side with the alien invading force while much of the free world struggles to remain free from enslavement or outright extermination.  Along the way, a resistance force rises up to bring the battle to both the Martians and the fascist regime.  They call themselves the Martian Killers— a larger than life, comic book like group of resistance fighters who champion mankind’s rebellion against an enemy equipped with superior technology and manpower.

What makes this book particularly interesting is the collaboration of a group of disparate and talented authors and artists.  Each one bringing his or her own style and flair to subject matter.  As a result, every chapter of the book is unique in content and tone.  For fans of genre fiction, this is nothing less than a unique and thrilling experience.  No single author could’ve created a story with such scope and diversity.  Some of the perspectives chosen by the authors border on brilliant.  Some stories offer seat of your pants action and thrills, others offer chills, while at least one will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye.
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The Adventures of Dodge Dalton in the Shadow of Falcon’s Wings by Sean Ellis


dodge_dalton_1_iconThis book reads is if it were written by an author in the mid-1900’s. This is made all the more fun, knowing that Sean Ellis is a modern day thriller author who has effectively revived genre fiction from a nearly forgotten age.

Shadow the Falcon’s Wings was fun and unique in so many ways. First of all, it’s a period adventure taking place in an unspecified time, apparently circa 1930’s or 1940’s. Secondly, it’s clear that Mr. Ellis had a great deal of fun with the technology of that time period while playing with what would’ve been considered futuristic technology to the people of that time. All of this plays out in a thrilling and fun adventure that is steeped in extreme creativity that is nothing short of riveting.
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The Emerald Scepter by Paul Kemprecos

emerald_kemprecos_iconThe Emerald Scepter is one of those rip-roaring adventures that I didn’t see coming.  It was a book that I found intriguing after reading its description online.  But it turned out to be one of those books that will never have a description that can do it justice.  We’re talking a 500 page novel that is cover to cover action and suspense.  The characters and interesting and engaging while the plot leaves the reader with a constantly evolving understanding of the protagonist’s past and present.

All of this is an exceptional treat for fans of the thriller genre as many will recognized Paul Kemprecos’s name from his collaborative work with Clive Cussler on The Numa Files (the Kurt Austin series).  And while it comes as no surprise that Paul is a gifted story-teller, The Emerald Scepter proves that he has saved his best work for his solo career.
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The Crypt of Dracula by Kane Gilmour

cyrpt_dracula_iconEvery once in a while I come across a book that is pure genre fun.  Being a big fan of classic monster movies, I’ve been disappointed at the way vampire fiction has devolved in recent years.  The target audience appears to have shifted and with it the content and quality of the fiction has degraded.  Whatever happened to classic vampire fiction?  I want the really old school stuff like Bram Stoker’s original novel, Dracula— or the low budget Hammer Horror films.  The current trend in vampire fiction is enough to turn me off the topic altogether.

If you’ve been feeling like I have, there’s great news!  Kane Gilmour’s, The Crypt of Dracula, is a novela that is just what we’ve been waiting for.  It’s the tried and true vampire story that gets your heart pounding and once again brings life to the things that go bump in the night.  This is the kind of story Bram Stoker would write if he were still alive and kicking.  Very much in the same vein (sorry, it had to be done) as Stoker’s original Dracula tale, this is a period story which takes place in Transylvania.  A grieving stone mason is hired by a mysterious Count to repair his damaged and neglected castle located outside a remote village populated by troubled, xenophobic farmers who have come to fear the night.
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The Problem with Star Rating Scales on Book Review Sites

Are star ratings arbitrary?

I think they are.  I have a feeling that many folks have their own idea of what the star rating scale represents when they assign a score to a book.  I think they do this regardless of the metric values of the review service they’re using and I think it’s because of two things.  First, the review services don’t agree on the rating scale.  Second, those services/sites don’t make the values of that star rating scale immediately obvious.

For example, here’s the scale from Amazon.com:
1 star: I hate it
2 stars: I don’t like it
3 stars: It’s OK
4 stars: I like it
5 stars: I love it

But here’s the scale from GoodReads.com:
1 star: didn’t like it
2 stars: it was OK
3 stars: liked it
4 stars: really liked it
5 stars: it was amazing

These are vastly different scoring systems!

What do I do when I score a book? I don’t even pay attention to each sites established scale because it requires more consideration than I want to give. Plus, I believe that a significant portion of the people scoring the books are doing it without regard for the sites supposedly accepted and established scale. I think it’s arbitrary.
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The Lonely Mile by Allan Leverone

lonely_mile_icon

An unpredictable series of events are trigger when hardware store owner, Bill Ferguson, interferes with the kidnapping of a teenage girl from a local highway rest stop.  The would be kidnaper turns out to be an elusive serial killer/kidnaper who has been eluding the FBI for nearly three years.

When Ferguson prevents the abduction, he puts himself and his family in the crosshairs of the deadly fugitive.  From there the story takes off as an FBI manhunt spares no manpower in the search for the famed “I-90 Killer.”  But it’s the direction the story takes after this that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Folks squeamish to child violence might be sensitive to parts of this book.  That said, the author has done a masterful job of navigating a very delicate line.  Both with his prose, and with the plot.  This is a story about a sadistic kidnaper and killer but it’s also the story of a hero and a man willing to do absolutely anything to protect his family.  So those sensitive should be warned but they should not dismiss this book outright.  This is one of those visceral empowering stories of good versus evil but it’s one you can have confidence in the outcome.  This is worth your time.  The resulting anxiety is well developed and properly rewarded.  It’s the sort of writing that makes for a successful thriller, and that is exactly what Allan Leverone has done.
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Rise of the Dark Angel by Carol Brearley

rise_of_the_dark_angel_iconA few years back, a series of books made an international splash.  The central thread of the trilogy was a young woman who was mistreated and abused in a horrific fashion.  And throughout the three book series, the central character ultimately had her revenge.  That series was ultimately known as the Millennium Trilogy and was written by Stieg Larsson.  Many know the series better by the title of the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It was an international smash hit and, at its core, it dealt with a woman who had been horribly wronged.

Fans of the Millennium Trilogy are likely to appreciate the visceral drama at the heart of Rise of the Dark Angel.  Only where Stieg Larsson literally spent hundreds of pages slowly spinning his tale and taking lengthy side trips, Carol Brearley tells a tale that is much more on point while equally gritty and engaging.  It’s the story of Aingeal, a young woman living in New York City.  The story opens strong and hits the reader hard as we experience how Aingeal is wronged first hand, through her eyes.

In many ways, this is one of the things that makes this story so powerful.  It’s told in the first person.  The reader experiences everything through the character’s eyes.  The fear, the pain, the need to heal, and ultimately the thirst for revenge.  The author, Carol Brearley, puts the reader there, front row for the roller coaster ride that is both Aingeal’s pain and her road to recovery.
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Review: Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson

island_731_iconJeremy Robinson comes through again with another great action/thriller. While the chilling danger faced by the characters of this novel is fiction, shockingly it is grounded in fact. The infamous Unit 731 was obviously the inspiration which fueled this novel. And while the book shines a light on many outrageous atrocities, few readers are likely to realize how many historic references are factual.

Island 731 is a chilling thriller and a troubling cautionary tail warning of what might happen scientific advancement is put ahead of human decency and morality.

Looking for more information on Jeremy Robinson?  Find it on his web site, at www.jeremyrobinsononline.com. You can also find him on Facebook as well as Twitter.

The Curse of One-Eyed Jack by J. Kent Holloway

one-eye-jack-iconWhat happens when Boone Creek Kentucky suffers a rash of unexplained disappearances and murders?  The superstitious town folk believe it’s The Curse of One-Eyed Jack.  Suspicion and dark secrets come easy to people with more than a little experience with the magic of the Appalachian foothills.  But none of it matters to Kili Brennan when her brother goes missing while leading an archeological dig in the nearby hollows.  Has he become a victim of One-Eyed Jack?

While Kili tries to solve the mystery of her brothers disappearance, the towns people are more concerned with protecting themselves from One-Eyed Jack.  And when Kili enlists the help of local mountain man, Ezekiel Crane, it’s impossible to tell if the odds of finding her brother have gotten better or worse.

From beginning to end, The Curse of One-Eyed Jack is a great mystery with supernatural undertones and twists that keep us guessing.  The story has a fantastic “grown up’s version of Scooby Doo” vibe to it.  The plot takes a series of fantastic turns, each leading closer to something ominous.  The stakes continue to rise and the mystery builds.  And, the entire time, there is a sense as if there’s something in the distant bushes watching, pulling strings and orchestrating events…  Maybe something supernatural, maybe not.
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