A review of “Desolation – (The Commorancy Book 5)” by Al K. Line

Originally posted to Amazon and Goodreads – May 2016

Worlds Collide

Desolation, the conclusion to the Commorancy series, finds Letje, Gamm, Arcene and Leel on a Journey to face former guest Artek as he is discovered as the reason for the population’s decline.  Stockpiling the remaining UK population, Artek fancies himself the ruler and savior of the post Lethargic world. Goaded by his mother Malessa, Artek uses his awoken abilities to enslave the country’s populace as he weeds out all but those he deems acceptable for life as subjects under his new rule. If this weren’t bad enough, Artek apparently is also smitten with Arcene, and will stop at nothing to make her his Queen. Letje and friends are in for the fight to end all fights if they are to stop this final menace, not only to the Commorancy, but to the entire human race.

If there were any other way that this story could end, I am not sure I would have enjoyed this series as much as I did.  Getting to know the full extent of Artek and Malessa’s plan of domination and then watching it play out gave me the chills as it conjured visions of would be world conquerors past. The level of his obsession with Arcene is chilling and sets the stage beautifully for the Arcene we are reintroduced to in the later novels bearing her name. The exchanges between Marcus and Fasolt as they remain behind to ensure the Commorancy remains running as usual, while seemingly insignificant on the surface are actually very insightful. It is safe to say that there is no wasted text in any of these novels as what may appear to be a passing comment may very well be the start (or finish) of another story all together.

Highly recommended and a series I will definitely revisit in the future to see if anything new jumps out at me that I may have missed in this first read.

 

**Final thoughts and possibly some unintended spoilers so consider yourself warned**

Upon completion of the Commorancy series, I have now read all books by Al. K. Line to date and as far as independent authors go, he is definitely one of my favorites. I love how he can weave a tale of almost impossible circumstances and have you hooked from the first word. Not only that, the continuity that he maintains through three different series set in the same “post Lethargy” era is astounding.  I absolutely love that Edsel has his closure from the INK series… even before the fact apparently, since INK was written after the Commorancy. When I was reading INK I couldn’t help but feel that Edsel got a “raw deal” at the end, so his appearance in Desolation was probably one of the best surprises of the entire series.  As I told the author in an email, I think I even shed a happy tear.

I am pretty sure I will be going through Commorancy withdrawal for some time now. Not a bad thing, I guess. J   At least I will have all of his new books to look forward to.

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A review of “Resurrection – The Rise of Letje (The Commorancy Book 4)” by Al K. Line

Starting over in a Brave New World

Originally posted to Amazon and Goodreads – May 2016

Resurrection encompasses the 5 years ensuing after the death of Marcus and details how Letje, Arcene,  Fasolt and Constantine/Yabis return to the Commorancy, now their home,  to continue the work that was laid out centuries ago by its founder.  Life and Orientations resume until one day Arcene discovers that what was left of the survivors of the Lethargy seem to have disappeared. The group attempts to discover the reason for the inexplicable disappearance of Whole and Awoken and reverse its effects before there is no more reason for the Commorancy to exist. They soon learn that, while very sequestered, the Commorancy is not free from the influence of outside sources. Letje is certain that in order to save her home, she will require help on a level that seems impossible. Letje needs Marcus now more than ever, but how can she speak to him in the Void?

 

Resurrection is definitely not a book that you want to read out of sequence with the prior three novels (Orientation, Contamination, Evacuation). For that matter, it is best to read this story in the order presented.  The story line builds on itself in such a way that if you try to read this book stand alone, you will be lost. Also, in certain sections, the story gets so bizarre that I had to stop and remind myself that this is a fantasy. I’m not saying that the story was bad… far from it, but if you look at it from a literal standpoint, not only will you be confused, you will probably just give up.

 

Bizarreness aside, I really loved the way the story jumped timelines so we didn’t see the 5-year timespan sequentially but in snippets relevant to the telling of the story. To watch Arcene progress from a scared almost feral girl to a very intelligent yet still wild pre-teen/teenager was very entertaining. For those of you familiar with the Dragonlance Realm by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman, Arcene struck me as on the same level as Tasselhof Burrfoot; irrepressible, a bit maddening but always entertaining!  Also, having read the Arcene novels prior to the Commorancy series, I was especially amused at some of the comments since I knew what was to come.  There is more to her story to be explored and I see her as a very strong ongoing character.

 

The further we get into this series, the more I like it. This is definitely turning into something that I can see rereading or letting my son read in a few more years.

 

A review of “Conspiracy: Russian Assassins in America” by Lucian

Posted to Goodreads and Amazon – May 2016

The Cold War isn’t over

Seventeen years ago, a team of 9 elite KGB agents entered a building. After an unexpected explosion all were presumed dead.

Flash forward to today where we find a handful of the survivors living anonymous lives after defecting to America. Having adopted new names, lives and histories all over the United States, life seems to be going well. What they do not realize, is that there were other surviving members of the blast that day.  Aided by an unlikely benefactor, their surviving comrades are in America and itching for retribution.

Assassins encompasses a roller coaster week from Florida to California and all points in between as the surviving KGB agent and accomplices attempt track down and mete out justice to their traitor comrades. Nowhere is safe as the ‘traitors’ are located, confronted and eliminated. One survivor, now known as “Mike” with the help the FBI sets out to find and stop the assassins before they are successful in exacting their revenge. What started as a covert mission of personal retribution turns into a game of “Spy v. Spy” with the potential to reignite the Cold War.

For anyone who likes suspense this is definitely a must read. The battling former teammates adds an additional layer of violence to the mix. This isn’t business, it’s personal, but because it’s personal the question arises; how do you torture someone who knows all of your tricks? There were definitely a few moments that had me squirming in my seat as the former team mates collide. Overall a good, fast paced story.

A review of “ Z-Minus 5” by Perrin Briar

Originally posted to Amazon and Goodreads – May 2016

Death in the City

Z-Minus 5 continues the story of the previous installment at a research facility in Charlotte.  Susan Scott and her team of researchers receive a transmission on their high tech sequencer “Archie” from their sister facility in New York. While unexpected and unannounced, once analyzed it becomes apparent that what was sent is a virus that could possibly decimate the entire population. When it becomes clear that the virus is already in circulation in their area, the race is on to have Archie fashion a vaccine, but will the team survive the 8 hours it will take to complete the task?

While not a sequel to Z-Minus 4, this installment appears to run fairly simultaneously with its predecessor. At one point, there is a mention of an explosion in Uwharrie forest which can be seen and heard from Susan’s position in the city. The way the story progresses from Susan and her colleagues holed up in the research facility to an all-out race against time to save her affected family and escape the apocalypse leaves no room for the reader to catch their breath.

While this installment is short as far as novels are concerned there is not lack of action. For those familiar with the prior installment, many clues are left as to where Z Minus 6, the final entry in this story arc will take us.

 

 A review of “I Am Jack” – installment 3 by Michael Bray

Posted exclusively to Jennlyreads-  May 2016

 

I Am Jack is the newest novel by horror/thriller author Michael Bray. Released free in serialized format to members of his mailing list, I received the third installment yesterday.

While not a ‘factual account’ of the White Chapel Murders or the Ripper, it is a tale of fiction based on fact which allows the author more room for artistic license. Also, in the true form of the time period and subject matter, this is not a book that should be read by those who are easily offended.

The third installment is a continuation of Edward’s encounter with Mr. Hapgood as he endeavors to tell his side of the Ripper story.  Throughout the course of narration, we learn that the Ripper is terminally ill which explains the urgency of his visit. As the story continues, events are relayed of a few more of his earlier victims as our antagonist begins his gruesome work. The boldness of the Ripper is evident, as is the cruelty with which he goes about his task. However, boldness is not without consequence as Edward relays an early meeting with Detective Inspector Abberline which could very well have ended his murder spree before it got started.

Another quick, yet vivid and gruesome read. It should be noted that the author has revealed the first three installments were actually penned in 2011 with all installments going forward being written in the present. It will be interesting to see if this time lapse has any bearing on the storyline or writing style or if the spark that has been ignited in these opening episodes continues on unbroken. This month’s sequence ends on a “cliffhanger” of sorts as Jack/Edward has been summoned to the police station to provide a statement with regard to the most recently discovered murder. Next month promises to be ripe with insights into our antagonist’s psychological state during this time in his life. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

 

 

A review of “ Z-Minus 5” by Perrin Briar

Originally posted to Amazon and Goodreads – May 2016

Death in the City

Z-Minus 5 continues the story of the previous installment at a research facility in Charlotte.  Susan Scott and her team of researchers receive a transmission on their high tech sequencer “Archie” from their sister facility in New York. While unexpected and unannounced, once analyzed it becomes apparent that what was sent is a virus that could possibly decimate the entire population. When it becomes clear that the virus is already in circulation in their area, the race is on to have Archie fashion a vaccine, but will the team survive the 8 hours it will take to complete the task?

While not a sequel to Z-Minus 4, this installment appears to run fairly simultaneously with its predecessor. At one point, there is a mention of an explosion in Uwharrie forest which can be seen and heard from Susan’s position in the city. The way the story progresses from Susan and her colleagues holed up in the research facility to an all-out race against time to save her affected family and escape the apocalypse leaves no room for the reader to catch their breath.

While this installment is short as far as novels are concerned there is not lack of action. For those familiar with the prior installment, many clues are left as to where Z Minus 6, the final entry in this story arc will take us.

 

A review of “New Spark (Dark Magic Enforcer Book 3)” by Al K. Line

Initially posted to Amazon and Goodreads May 2016

Full disclosure – I received a free copy of this book from the author as part of his “A-Team” in exchange for an honest review.

The Hidden World in peril

Nine Months have passed since the conclusion of “Black Spark”, and we find Faz and Kate living a quiet life in the country courtesy of Mage Rikka. While planting gardens and wrangling chickens have been the order of the day, our lovable Enforcer cannot be kept down and soon Mage Rikka and the hidden world require his expertise to resolve the newest problem plaguing the magical community.

The once stoic, trolls have become smart and are engaging in very “un troll like” activities.  On the surface, this appears to be the work of head witch Kaisa Hayashi, however when Faz pulls the string to unravel the why behind the “smart stones” that many trolls have become addicted to, what he discovers may very well be the end of the Hidden world as he knows it. With many lives hanging in the balance, Spark must solve the tangled web of deceit and confront the true source of the death and destruction. What initially appears to be an anomaly or minor nuisance to be dealt with fast becomes an epic battle for survival of all Hidden. The cliffhanger ending will leave you breathless with anticipation for our hero.

I would have to say that New Spark may very well be the best installment in this series yet. While the first two books served to set up the structure and politics of the Hidden world; introducing you to characters both friend and foe this book brings the danger, ambition and brutality of Faz’s world into full daylight. From the opening scenes to the closing word, this book is fast paced and full of twists and surprises. I am looking forward to the next installment so I can see how Spark gets out of this newest predicament.

A review of “Legion” by Iain Rob Wright

To be posted to Amazon and Goodreads – May 2016.

Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the Author as part of his Advanced Reader’s group.

Hell on Earth

“Legion” – the second in the “Gates” series by Iain Rob Wright takes place simultaneously with the timeline of the initial book.

Mysterious stones have turned up overnight all over the Earth. Touching one brings certain death, but that’s only the beginning. The stones eventually transform into shimmering gates that act as portals for the denizens of Hell to spew forth and wreak their havoc. The Earth falls fairly easily, but there are a few scattered groups of people who resist, share information and even gain a foothold in the struggle to defeat their mortal enemy.  What seems like a hopeless, win-less situation serves to bolster the spirits and resolve of those left behind. The question is; can they beat back Hell itself to regain the life they once held dear, or is all lost?

The way this book dovetails seamlessly with the first in the series is a brilliant piece of work. I love how “the rest of the story” gets told in a few circumstances which gives this point in time a level of depth that was definitely needed to make a good story great. Legion, while a continuation of sorts, also works well as a stand-alone novel, with the back stories further explored in the follow up becoming the main plot lines and the blanks are filled in with the Gates.

All in all a great read with characters that grow on you. I am eagerly anticipating catching up with the survivors when the story continues.

 

 

 

 

A Review of “City of Gods – Hellenica” By Jonathan Maas

 

The Horsemen – Re-imagined

War, Pestilence, Death, and the White Night. Names that would one day strike fear into the hearts of every living thing and usher in the Apocalypse, but for now they’re just teenagers.

The mythical gods of old have returned to the Earth and have split the continents and countries into their various territories. Now known as “The Conurbation”, these gods of old wage wars against each other and rule over their subjects… both human and mythical. One province alone seems to be immune and attempts to put a stop to this mounting threat. Hellenica, has constructed an “Academy” and has recruited 16 gods in the hopes of training them to police the rest of the Conurbation.

War, Pestilence, Death, and The White Knight, also known as the Horsemen, find themselves at the heart of a plot to destroy the Academy from within. With no help other than a few trusted allies, the youngsters must learn to harness their powers and outwit deities ages older than them the clear their name and save the Academy.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book but I was pleasantly surprised. The backstories created for each of the Horsemen were intriguing and fit each character perfectly. The Conurbation as a whole was ripe with all manner of human and deity and it was very apparent that Jon did his research with all manner of mythical gods and creatures. The Yokai were particularly intriguing. Their tenement sort of reminded me of a mythical Chinatown. I also loved the rivalry between Rowan and Gunnar and the budding relationship between an unlikely pair. While some may feel that this detracts from the story, I disagree because it just goes to show that while these 4 may become powerful beyond imagination in the future, they are immature kids at this point in the book.

On a personal note, I have now read all books currently available by Jonathan Maas and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. While I am looking forward to a second in this series I am also waiting to see what he imagines next. Some authors tend to pigeonhole themselves into a certain genre, but Jon seems to be a “Jack of all Trades” and very good at it too! I highly recommend any of his books!

A review of “Empire of the Tooth” by Iain Rob Wright

 

I received a copy of this short story as a free offering from the author as a member of his mailing list.

Empire of the Tooth is set approximately 5 years after the close of 2013’s “Animal Kingdom” and serves as a sequel to the former.

When we last left Joe and Danny, they had barely escaped the zoo on the day that the animals, led by a fierce gorilla named “Nero”, seemingly went crazy and started attacking all humans. Five years have passed and the human world and animal kingdoms are still at war with no end in sight. Joe and Danny find themselves in a sort of fortified encampment, living every day keeping watch against the next attack.

One morning while Danny is on guard, Joe leaves the camp in search of some items to keep the camp’s occupants from remaining idle. After finding himself cornered in a toy store by an animal combatant, an unlikely ally comes to his aide… a dog. Joe decides to bring the dog back to the camp with him as it appears that the canine isn’t affected by whatever has hold of all the other animals and is just a normal pet.

Could whatever it is that has the Earth’s animal population in a murderous rage be subsiding and life returning to normal? After five years of death and destruction, are Joe and Danny finally going to be able to return to a life of semi normalcy, or is there something more sinister afoot.

As far as short stories go, this one sort of reads like an episode of the Walking Dead, but I’m not complaining about that. Being a huge fan of the series, it was easy for me to picture the ruined cities and even the fortified wall of the encampment.  The story, while short, was very fast paced and left an opening for a third (or more) installments to come.
It is my understanding that “Empire of the Tooth” may have been written to be part of a larger compilation of short stories by many authors which may or may not even be released. This is a shame, both for the author who worked hard to develop this follow up story only to possibly have it shelved and also to fans of Iain and those who liked Animal Kingdom who may not ever get the chance to read this follow up piece. Although with this being a short story, I still see where future stories may be written to continue the saga after this period and incorporating flashback or other methods to fill in the blanks.

All in all, I would have to say this is a solid story, a fast paced read with a jaw dropper ending.