A review of “Demon Dogs” (Wildcat Wizard book 3) by Al K. Line

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.

Arthur “The Hat” –  People Finder

Demon Dogs is the third installment in the Wildcat Wizard series by Al K. Line and takes place not too far after the close of Faery Dust. From the opening scene, we see that life has not slowed down in the slightest for Arthur. In fact, it the pace is so frantic that not even Death himself can keep up with “The Hat”. Having completed another harrowing yet successful job, Arthur and Vicky tie up a few loose ends and return home, but upon their arrival, they are greeted by Ivan and George. The Vampire Shifter and leader of all baddies in the area has been waiting for Arthur. His request is bizarre, but strangely compelling because he requires The Hat’s services locating his sister. Taken from the family by Merrick’s father when she was just a little girl, it’s been years since Ivan has seen or spoken with Avisha. With little to go on but a name and the belief that she is still alive, Arthur and Vicky travel to the gritty shifter underground in the North as they attempt to locate the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Demon Dogs is jam packed with action, insanity, twists and all sorts of craziness as this series just keeps getting better and better. Arthur really has more than he can handle in this installment, but he manages in perfect “Hat” style. Vicky’s home situation is explored in more detail as is Ivan’s enigmatic past and how he came to be the gangster he is today. Sasha of course factors prominently in the story as her and George are growing closer and some of their activities raise Arthur’s eyebrows. Of course, Cerberus always remains at the fringe of the action with a watchful and vigilant eye.  As far as potential future plot lines go, Demon Dogs blows the door wide open. Based on the newest developments I am eager to see what the future holds for many of the characters as they adapt to new surrounding and situations and make life choices for good or for ill. If Arthur doesn’t exhaust his lives soon, we are sure to be treated to many more adventures.

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A Review of “The Moonglow Café” by Deborah Garner

 

Full Disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review

Big Sky Country

The Moonglow Café is the second book in the Paige McKenzie series by Deborah Garner.

Taking place shortly after “Above the Bridge” Paige has returned to her fast-paced Manhattan lifestyle and resumes daily activity at the newspaper. An upcoming gemstone convention in the area results in another unusual assignment. This time Paige is requested to travel to Timberton, Montana for an in-depth piece on the yogo sapphire, which is exclusive to this region of the country. After the success of her Jackson Hole piece, Paige happily agrees since this will also put her closer to Jake and the possibility of seeing him again. Upon arrival, Paige checks into the Timberton Hotel and is intrigued by its charm and the hospitality of the owner. After visiting the neighboring Moonglow Café and its eclectic proprietor Mist, she is taken by the entire area and the residents. Her research seems to be taking her to dead ends with not very much information and Paige starts to wonder if her article will ever even get off the ground. Upon finding an old diary in her room another angle presents itself; was Timberton also the home of a brilliant artist? As she attempts to write her article and unravel the mystery of the diary and its contents Paige finds herself in the middle of one doozy of a mystery. True to her investigative nature, she is determined to get the bottom of the mystery and have her article turned in in time for the conference.

The Moonglow Café is an excellent follow up to Above the Bridge. The more I see Paige taken out of the hustle and bustle of New York and into the slower paced Midwest it seems that this is truly where she belongs. She has a heart to help everyone, and it really shows with Mist, Clive and Betty. While her curiosity does tend to get her into trouble, her New York street smarts are there to help her find her way out. Jake also plays prominently the tale, as his impromptu visits to Montana to surprise and ultimately join in the search for Paige really goes to show that he is falling for Paige just as she is falling for him.  Just like Above the Bridge, The Moonglow Café is packed full of unique characters, neat history and tidbits of trivia that lets the reader really immerse themselves in the story. Honestly, the further I get into this series the more I am enjoying the uniqueness of the characters and their stories. I have already got the other two books in the series on my “to be read” list and I’m sure they will be just as good.

A review of “How Speleoloy Restored My Sex Drive” by Michael Bernhart

 

Full Disclosure, I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Double Trouble

“How Speleology Restored My Sex Drive” is the third book in the Max Brown Tetralogy by Michael Bernhart. The story sees Max Brown and his wife Sally later in their life journey residing in Switzerland and raising their twin 9-year-old girls Mary and Margaret. After a spate of birthday parties revolving around treasure hunts, the twins decide that they must go on a treasure hunt of their own. Max is very hesitant to indulge the girls due to his past with this very subject but reluctantly agrees to return to the United States to look for buried treasure in North Georgia where he figures it will be ‘safe’.  After a visit with their “crazy” Uncle Skeeter, the girls shift their focus from the initially selected target, to a hidden Confederate gold stash that is said to be located somewhere up in the mountains. Unfortunately, they are not the only ones looking for this gold and before Max and Sally know it, the twins have run off with Uncle Skeeter to hunt on their own. As the increasingly frantic couple search for their girls, they encounter several of Skeeter’s Klan acquaintances who are also dead set on getting their hands on the loot for the purposes of financing a new Southern revolution. If that weren’t bad enough, the Browns must  deal with shady cops and enlist the help of several unique characters including a pacifist Vietnam Vet and his flower child girlfriend, a Forest Ranger with a very unique nickname and what is quite possibly the region’s only black resident to get their children back in one piece.

Set in the mid 90’s in the heart of Dixie, “Speleology” is a fun story that had me laughing out loud on several occasions. The racist tone of the Klansmen and a few town residents added to the narrative and gave the reader an idea of just what type of people the Browns were dealing with as they sought out the location of their children. The story is crafted in such a way that the potentially offensive characters are portrayed as so over the top, that made it almost impossible to be offended by anything going on in the book. The excerpts from “M&M’s Guide to Treasure” regarding the rumored stashes, their history and possible truth was an added bonus. Having Googled a few of the sites and event noted in this fictional journal, it seems that there may be some truth to Confederate gold somewhere in the Georgia mountains.

Having only read this book, which is the third in the Max Brown Tetralogy I ended up taking a lot of things at face value. For instance, Max’s previously disastrous treasure hunting foray was briefly touched on as were Max and Sally’s prior military experiences.

I’m sure these areas were possibly explored in previous installments. Rather than letting this little detail trip me up, I just took it as dropping in on a season in one’s life where we are only seeing this moment and not everything leading up to it. That being said, after reading “Speleology”, I am definitely eager to read the other three in this series.

If you are a fan of the madcap, crazy storylines and offbeat humor that is very reminiscent of the Serge A. Storms novels by Tim Dorsey, you will love this book. If you are thin skinned, have no sense of humor or are easily offended, you should read it anyway as this may just cure you.

 

 

A review of “The Brotherhood of Merlin” by Rory D Nelson

 

Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Knights of the Round – 500 years later

The Brotherhood of Merlin is the first novel by Rory D Nelson and is a fast paced, fantasy adventure. There are actually two stories going on in this novel. The first one of Dante, a young boy who after witnessing his father’s mysterious exile and the slaughter of his remaining family finds himself alone in the wilderness with little hope of survival or rescue. The second, the tale of Adele and her sister, Sylvia who find their township overrun by King Jason’s army, their friends and family murdered and themselves and many others taken captive.  While the King’s army plunders the village, the King seeks to sell the remaining captives into slavery while having his way with Adele.  Vastly outnumbered by thousands, the Knights led by Merlin are adamant to reach their goal and rescue  the captives at any cost.  With the nearest reinforcements weeks away, Merlin and the Brotherhood embark on what can only be deemed a suicide mission as ten men attempt to take on an army of thousands to defeat Jason and liberate his captives.

I feel it’s only fair to highlight a few important items at this point. As the title suggests, “The Brotherhood of Merlin” is medieval at its core as it is based around the mythical Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table, but the Brotherhood is also much more. Nelson seamlessly blends the medieval aspects with more modern elements such as guns, grenades and heavier ordnance which make for some truly bloody and imaginative battle sequences. There is also a paranormal element with the evil sorceress Morgana and Renault the telepath. Each knight has a companion wolf that acts as partner and protector and we also see this relationship develop between the newly orphaned Dante and the Alpha female who comes to his aid.

This story cannot be described as “Arthurian Legend” but more “Arthurian Inspired” There is no mention of Camelot and the only mention of King Arthur was in a passing comment that would place the timeline of this story approximately 300-500 years after his death.

“Merlin” – is more of a title than a single person. In fact, the terms “The Merlin” and “Merlin” are used almost interchangeably.  The current Merlin has been re-imagined as the blind, humble former slave and current leader of the Brotherhood. Skilled in both sword and gun-play, he is a brilliant mathematician, and charismatic leader eliciting an unwavering loyalty from the Brotherhood while striking fear into the hearts of his enemies. Even though Merlin is portrayed as blind, he still comes across as a capable and cunning leader that uses his remaining senses to function as good as if not better than his sighted brethren.  Also, with the aspect of Merlin’s lack of sight coming into play, Merlin and some of the Brotherhood are skilled in Braille. This is also another element where we see the artistic license of fantasy come into play as Braille wasn’t invented until the early 1900s, but for those who can take this book for what is – a brilliantly crafted fantasy – this adds a new dimension to how Merlin can get under the skin of his enemies and communicate with his allies.

With that being said, if you’re looking for a fast paced, sometimes cringe worthy fantasy with modern elements and an evil bastard of a villain that will get under your skin and make you wish for his death then this book is definitely for you. “The Brotherhood of Merlin” is a strong first novel in a setting that is full of potential. I am looking forward to reading more about this world, Merlin and the Brotherhood. I’m sure it’s too early in the series to know yet, but I also have a few theories about Dante and I will be very interested to see how his story plays out as well.

 A review of “Dead End Girl” by Tim McBain and LT Vargus

Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Shattered Dolls

Violet Darger is an agent trainee with the FBI. After having spent the last four years in the office of Victim Assistance recent developments have prompted Violet to rethink her career choices and move from a sideline position to a more active role. Her first assignment as an agent sees her going to Ohio to link up with a veteran agent and assist with the “Doll Parts Murderer” case. When she arrives, she finds her partner stricken with an illness and as agent Loshak becomes less and less accessible, Violet is thrust into the forefront of investigating the serial murders. As an untrained rookie, she steps on many toes along the way but uncovers a few crucial pieces of previously discarded information that eventually leads her in the right direction. The Doll Parts Murderer is onto her however and as Violet get closer to learning who their killer is, she also gets closer to becoming his next victim.

I am fairly certain after reading Dead End Girl that there is not a genre that Tim McBain and LT Vargus cannot conquer. Dead End Girl is worlds away from any of their other books but that does not hinder this story in the slightest. The action moves at a pace that is not too slow, not too fast but you still have to be on your toes so you don’t miss anything. I loved the way that Sarah Peterson was portrayed. The offender/problem child that is no stranger to the local police who have developed a bias against her antics. Violet’s previous experience in the Victim Assistance unit allows her to view Sierra a person rather than a stereotype. Violet’s willingness to believe in Sierra when everyone else has written her off was just the first of threads to be pulled that helped to unravel the case.

There has also got to be something to be said for words that can come to life and make you want to hurl while reading certain scenes. Reading this at work on lunch most days, I found myself fighting my gag reflex on a few occasions. This killer is sick, his methods twisted and the way he covers his tracks truly brilliant. It makes me think how much we really know about the people around us and who they claim to say they are.

Not to give too much away, let’s just say that “Dead End Girl” is a must read for anyone who loves a good rampaging murderer and a bloody body count. With this being Violet’s first case as a trainee agent I’m sure her cases will only get more and more bizarre in future installments. Looking forward to seeing where Violet’s professional and personal lives go in the next book.

 

 

A review of “The Siege” by James Hanna

Full disclosure, I was provided a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review

Lockdown

The Siege follows the story of Tom Hemmings, a counselor at the Indiana Penal Farm. In November 2000, the laundry dorm is taken by a dozen inmates in response to the treatment at the facility. With the safety of 12 hostages at stake, Tom finds himself dealing with the group’s spokesperson, a fallen pedophile minister nicknamed “the Deacon”. If having to deal with the inmate population wasn’t tricky enough, Tom also finds navigating the entire prison system, with its warring unions, to be a bit of a trick. Tom finds it hard to tell the good guys from the bad as he treads lightly in an attempt to bring the Siege to a peaceful conclusion.

The first thing that struck me about the Siege was the method of storytelling used by Hanna. Told in a style both narrative and prosaic, The Siege is a book that gave my vocabulary a work out. In this day of more and more simplistic writing styles, it was oddly refreshing to pick up a book that made you think about what you were reading. While there were a few times that I felt that the descriptions were a little over the top, for the most part the writing style worked. As the story unfolded, it was clear that the inmates weren’t the biggest problem at the Farm. For the most part, and aside from a few flamboyant or outspoken characters, the inmates seemed to cope as only one could expect in a prison. When you throw in a couple of corrupt guards who have no problem bending the rules or planting evidence that’s when the situations can start to get tense. Couple that with substandard services supplied to the inmates to further degrade their dignity and then add rival gangs, religions and philosophies and you now you have a possible perfect storm to cause some major chaos.  The novel spans a four-day period of time, however with the flashback pieces peppered in throughout the text, the reader can see that the four-day siege is the just culmination of several weeks of events.

While billed as a psychological thriller, I believe that this label falls short. The Siege for me was more of a methodical examining of the prison system through the eyes of the inmates and their captors. The psychological aspect was there with Tom’s dealings with Deacon and his willingness to readily do so even though he knew this person’s past.  There was action in spots, although most of the novel was back story told in the form of flash backs leading up to Hemming’s part in ending the siege. The real take away here is the depiction of the prison system as a union run, for profit business more than a system where the incarcerated can find rehabilitation if desired to pay back a debt to society. As I read through The Siege, I couldn’t help but notice this aspect of the facility in every meeting with the staffers, the unions and the government. To an extent this was also present with the inmates. In the end, knowing Mr. Hanna’s background in the prison system it makes me wonder how much of this novel is fiction and how much is art imitating life.