A review of “Ouela” (Teller Tales Book 2)” by Matt Doyle

The Game Continues

Ouela”, the second in the Teller Tales series by Matt Doyle, continues the story of Simon Teller approximately two months after the events of “Basille”. In the months that have passed, Simon divides his time between the real world and Xera’s realm, however he is finding less and less satisfaction with life in the physical realm. All his efforts and interactions in the physical realm seem to be lacking, including those with his best friend, Daniel. Simon doesn’t have time to dwell on this however as he is summoned yet again to  Xera’s world. Carrie says that Xera has a new game set up for them, but this time the game master is not Basille, but an ancient tree type creature called “Ouela”.  Joined by David, a fairly new player named Jesse, and an enigmatic masked character known only as “Anybody”, the team is whisked on an intergalactic adventure of reconnaissance in deep space. A large space station has lost contact with a vessel enroute and needs the team’s assistance to figure out what may have happened. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that Ouela’s intentions are far more sinister than their previous game master. With the set rules turned into a bunch of moving targets, the team are trapped in a “no win” situation with little choices.

Ouela jumps the reader directly into the action and is pretty much nonstop until the final pages. Opening with Simon and Carrie in a gladiator arena of sorts, this is a different type of game designed to hone the players’ fighting techniques and gives us our first glimpse at the enigmatic Anybody. Ouela is an unusual sort of overlord; one who uses and abuses both his ‘pets’ and unsuspecting victims alike. Since he does not take animal form like Basille and Xera he strikes me as something more dangerous because one does not know just how deep or far his roots stretch.   I loved the Star Trek meets space odyssey aspect of this game and being a Sci Fi fan it was no stretch for me to imagine both the V2 Talon and the eerie ruins of the Lightway. ELISA is classic “Space Odyssey” – the unshakable disembodied voice that communicates with the human inhabitants of the Talon.

Compared to “Basille”, “Ouela” is a bit darker thanks to the manipulations of Ouela and the wraithlike yet cunning Anubis. However, even with that being said this book would be perfect for the Young Adult and the mature reader alike. After reading Ouela, I am strongly considering letting my son read the series as part of his school’s summer reading assignments. There is action and adventure told in a manner that does not invoke foul or questionable language. In fact, after giving him a brief synopsis of both books in the series, he is now eager to read them as well.

I would recommend this series to anyone who is a gamer of any kind, who loves science fiction and fantasy involving unconventional areas and even weirder characters and for those who want to lose themselves in a well written adventure. I am looking forward to the remaining books in this series to discover what new inhabitants of Xera’s realm we will meet next as well as what crazy fantastical scenarios await the players.

 

A Review of “Glimpse of Death: A Riveting Serial Killer Thriller” by Leslie Wolfe

 

No Rest for the Best

“Glimpse of Death”, the newest book by Leslie Wolfe, is the third in the series of novels featuring FBI Special Agent Tess Winnett. With the dust still settling from her last case and still recuperating in the hospital, Agent Winnett is approached by Palm Beach County Detectives Fradella and Michowsky for insight into their newest case. A missing persons case has turned into a murder investigation as the victim has been found in her own backyard. Naked and posed seductively, the mystery deepens when the victim’s husband mentions that she saw a man holding a coiled length of rope in their backyard shortly before her disappearance. The more details are revealed, the more the Detectives feel that they may have stumbled upon a serial murderer.  With her hospital room turned into an adhoc office, Tess does what she can to steer the team in the right direction; but with bodies being discovered at regular intervals Tess is at a loss as to who the perpetrators are. When an acquaintance joins the ranks of the abducted, Tess needs to kick her investigation into overdrive if she is to solve the case and rescue the remaining victims.

The time frame for this newest case is almost immediately after the close of “The Watson Girl”; but if you haven’t read the preceding books in this series, do not let that dissuade you from diving into this one! Glimpse of Death is excellent as a standalone novel as well as part of the larger picture of the series. Glimpse opens with the protagonist heroine down for the count, having undergone emergency surgery to repair the damage done, but evil never sleeps. Tess Winnett is also not a character to lie languishing in a hospital while there are bad guys to be caught, and I believe that her assistance in the case did more to speed her recovery than rest and relaxation could have. In solving murders and catching the bad guys, Tess finds purpose and possibly a catharsis that helps her deal with her own traumatic demons.

There is so much that I want to say about this book, but I don’t want to give anything away. The action is immediate and nonstop, and just when you think you have it all figured out, Wolfe tosses in a twist so masterful that it’ll make your head spin. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the books in this series, but I must say that “Glimpse of Death” has raised the bar on the “police procedural” genre for me. As I am still mulling over certain scenes and events in this book days after my completion, I am sure this will be one of the few novels that I will use as a litmus test for others titles I read in this genre for a long time to come.

 

A review of “Vampire Enforcer (Hidden Blood Book 1) By Al. K. Line

Full disclosure, I was provided an advance copy of this book by the author as part of his “A-Team” but have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Vampire Enforcer – Day 1

Vampire Enforcer is the first in a new urban fantasy series by Al. K. Line. While the series may be new, those familiar with the “Dark Magic Enforcer” books will have no problem getting into the Hidden Blood series as it involves all the usual suspects. Taking place shortly after the close of “Wild Spark”, Faz and Kate have returned from their eventful honeymoon in Paris. While Kate has her newfound hidden powers, Faz is still recovering from the sickness of magic use, and this recovery looks to be a lengthy one. So, with the hubby laid up, weak as a kitten what’s a Vampire to do?

Enter Dancer….

The city is going crazy. Hidden of all manner have lost their cool, their fear if you will and if the situation isn’t contained it could spell major problems for all Hidden. Dancer needs his best Enforcer to bring this situation under control, but Spark is out of commission so Dancer recruits Kate as the first ever Vampire Enforcer. Kate’s seen Faz in action before and knows how crazy these enforcer jobs can get but still she’s intrigued. How hard can it really be? Especially for a newly minted hybrid magic using vampire?

Wrong question

“Vampire Enforcer”, true to the other enforcer books in the previous series, is action packed and full of twists and surprises. With all the usual creatures and characters involved it was very easy for me to jump right into the action. While this book does heavily piggy pack off another series, “Vampire Enforcer” can still be read as a standalone novel without the reader feeling as if they have missed too much of the back story. For those who have followed Black Spark and the gang through the last 8 novels in the Dark Magic Enforcer series you will not be disappointed in what is basically a continuation of the series with the focus on another character. Kate finds herself in all sorts of weird situations from goblins, to demons and a strange carnival ride called “The Obliterator. All in a day’s work.

I loved this book! With the focus being off Faz and more on Kate I’ll admit I wasn’t too sure how I would take to it, but there should have been no worries. Kate makes a total transformation in this book and I must say it suits her. Getting a glimpse at just her, learning just a bit of her backstory and how she copes with what she’s seen and done helps to understand how she ticks. I also love the idea of the Vampire Enforcer sort of thing as it’s never been heard of and can be quite effective given the Vamps specific talents. If I thought Mithnite was coming into his own in “Wild Spark” his story continues in an epic way in Vampire Enforcer. The questions that I had at the close of the previous book were answered in spades. It was also good to see Dancer get into the action and mix things up with the Enforcers and the issues instead of just dictating jobs from the relative safety of the office as the Heads have previously been prone to doing.

Where do the Hidden inhabitants of Cardiff go from here? We can only wait until the next book is released. Hopefully, Kate will make good on her dinner invite with the Chemist , I can see very interesting….almost hilarious things happening.

 

A review of “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

 

A ridiculously dystopian teen novel that gives “Brave New World” a run for its money.

I read this along with my ten-year-old when it was assigned in school.

Jonas lives in a dystopia disguised as a utopia where everyone is cared for and all has a place. Everything is controlled, from the weather, to the number of births in each community. Every family unit is assigned two children and all jobs are assigned by the committee of elders based on an individual’s strengths and interests. There is no want, no lack or homeless. Crime is all but extinct (as are many animals) and the elder residents are pampered and taken care of until the day of their Release to Elsewhere. The children undergo a strict form of training where emphasis is on manners, precise language and obedience.

When Jonas turns twelve he is selected as the new Receiver of Memory. As the Receiver in Training , Jonas’ training consists of taking on all the community’s memories from the outgoing Receiver. Once his training begins, Jonas becomes privy to situations, places, sensations and feelings that has him quickly understanding that nothing is as it seems in his idyllic community. The world he lives in vastly differs from the memories of the Giver, and in some instances, is a flat out lie. As he gains knowledge of concepts such as family holidays, seasons, conflict and even color; Jonas realizes that the Sameness of his community is not ideal; it’s cruel brainwashing When faced with this truth, Jonas realizes that he also now has something that the rest of the community doesn’t …. a choice.

As far as novels that you must read because you are in school and it’s assigned goes, this is probably one of the better ones. I remember when I was in school all the books we had to read were completely boring it truly is a wonder I love reading after the dreck I was exposed to!

Jonas world is bleak and boring. Nobody sees color, everyone is taught to be painfully polite as they go about their lives volunteering at various places, discussing their dreams and feelings all the while being totally naïve to the things that they are missing. At least in the Hunger Games, the folks in District Twelve knew they had it bad… the people in Jonas’ community are like the proverbial frogs in the boiling pot. The Giver has provided quite a few topics of discussion for my son and I  as I am sure it has provided for his class and I am sure it will continue to provide in the future.

While the Giver is identified as Teen & Young Adult, do not, for one minute believe it is written on  an elementary level. The topics that are addressed, either in passing or in greater depth are compelling and thought provoking. Even after I finished this book, I find myself thinking about a person, situation or comment and still being affected. The cliffhanger ending will leave the reader with a mixed feeling of relief and curiosity. As part of a quartet of books by Lois Lowry, I am looking forward to reading more books in this series for more glimpses into dystopia through Lois Lowry’s eyes.

A review of “I Was Jack the Ripper (Part Two): A Serialised novel based on the Whitechapel Murders” – by Michael Bray

The Ripper is born

“I was Jack The Ripper “is the newest novel by horror/thriller author Michael Bray. Initially released as a test offering to members of his mailing list I have previously read the first three installments.   I was very happy to this serial resurrected so to speak for Amazon. Jack, is a serialized account of the life of one of the world’s most brutal murderers, and one that will keep the reader interested.

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 being covered, this is not a series that should be read by those who are easily offended, as there are a few cringeworthy moments.

While the first installment covered the meeting of Edward and Mr. Hapgood and provided a timeline of his formative years, this installment covers the period encompassing what appears to be his late teens to early twenties. In this portion of the story we find Edward working alongside of his friend George in a hospital. It is here, that Edward meets the love of his life, Lucy. Edward and Lucy live happily enough, but Edward’s past haunts him and we learn the true depth of the damage that was done by his mother and father at an early age. As a result of these lingering issues Lucy leaves him, adding what appears to be the final nail in the coffin in the transition between troubled youth and cold-blooded killer.

I would say that in this installment, “Edward” symbolically dies and “Jack the Ripper” is born as we witness him taking his first not so tentative steps into notoriety. Bray’s writing during this time is so descriptive and vivid that I could almost smell the stench of the pubs, alleyways, filth and gore while reading through this portion of text.

While I personally felt that this installment was over too soon, it definitely left me in eager anticipation of the Part Three.

 

A Review of “Starburst (Women of The Grey #1) by Carol James Marshall

Full Disclosure, I was provided a copy of this book by the author, but have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

All the same and none different

Lisa comes from a mysterious place known as “The Grey.” In this ordered and rigid society the inhabitants are reared on a strict regimen of demeanor, diet, thought and action. The Mothers of The Grey teach the girls from a very early age that only obedience and conformity matters in preparation for their missions into society. Lisa has recently left The Grey to begin her mission on Feline Street, where the residents are as bereft as the buildings they inhabit. Armed with knowledge of their faces only, Lisa has a relatively short time to locate her four “marks” and guide them to the “end point” of the mission. She sets about her Mission with determination, but the more time Lisa spends with her marks on Feline Street and the closer the end point gets, the more Lisa wonders what her Mission truly is and what the outcome will be.

Starburst is a written primarily from the point of view of Lisa and her four marks; with each section or piece of the action being seen through their eyes. The story was not hard to get into and the writing style was perfect for the tale being told. As we learn more about Lisa and her “Marks” the more we see that each one, Lisa included, is damaged in their own way. For some, it’s a self-imposed exile due to previous life events or tragedy. With others, it’s an illness so bizarre that they cannot be reached by normal means. As the author weaves these lives together with their mutual acquaintance with Lisa, we discover that there is more that they have in common that the dirty, run down street where they exist.

Starburst can be classified loosely as a “coming of age” tale because it chronicles Lisa’s journey of self-discovery while navigating the odd world outside of The Grey. As she encounters new people and experiences, an inner struggle starts to develop between what she has always known and what may be. There is also a bit of dystopia tossed into the mix. On one side, there is The Grey, with its rigid rules and regulations and noncompliance is dealt with swiftly and efficiently. The other side of that coin is Feline Street which is the polar opposite of The Grey. On Feline Street there isn’t much order, everyone has their own demons to battle and many of them are not faring well. In the midst of it all is Lisa who attempts to reconcile what she knows with this new experience. There is also a bit of a Sci Fi element as the entire notion of “The Grey”, the female dominated totalitarian world of Lisa’s birth has an otherworldly feel to it as if the Women of The Grey are on this planet, but are not from this planet. This alone coupled with the missions that Lisa and others before her have been send on create a sinister vibe that runs through the Mothers.

Starburst is a fabulous read from start to cliffhanger finish. I would recommend this to anyone who likes Sci Fi, Distopia, Horror or  things with an underlying creepy vibe.

A review of “The Prophecy (Saga of the Chosen, #1)” by Petra Landon

Full disclosure, I was provided a copy of this book by the author however have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Who is Tasia Armstrong?

Set in modern day San Francisco, “The Prophecy” is the story of Tasia Armstrong, who is currently living in the city under the guise of a low-level wizard. Always looking over her shoulder and taking great pains hide her secret, Tasia scrapes by with whatever jobs she can get, including the occasional magic gig more suited to a wizard of lesser prowess. As the daughter of two powerful magic users, Tasia has also inherited considerable power from both parents and it has been through her father’s efforts that her existence is a carefully guarded secret. As such, she must hide out in plain sight for fear of the repercussions that her existence may bring.

For the most part, Tasia has been doing very well blending in and escaping notice, but that all changes when a side magic job ultimately leads to her discovery of a captive Shifter. From the moment she comes to Hawk Manotti’s aid, Tasia’s world is turned on its side as she finds an easy friend in the Shifter and his twin. Unfortunately, Tasia being in the right place at the wrong time has also caused her to  become the target of more scrutiny and attention than she ever wanted. The San Francisco area is experiencing a rash of muggings of low level female wizards in the area, of which Tasia’s cover would fit the profile. After Tasia barely escapes an attack of her own she is forced into an unlikely alliance with the Northern California shifter pack. As a guest of the Alpha Protector and under pack protection, Tasia takes up a tenuous residence at the Lair and begins to assist the Alpha and his pack with an investigation into a decades old event. A powerful witch named Lady Bethesda broke into the magical vault in New York 24 years ago died shortly thereafter. The pack, at the request of the Wizard and Shifter heads have been tasked to try to piece together Lady Bethesda’s movements prior to her death and more importantly determine if the sorceress somehow survived the blast that killed many that day. The more the pack discovers with the help of Tasia, the more curious the mystery becomes. As the threads start to unravel, Tasia wonders if she will ever be safe again.

First off, I must say that the above synopsis doesn’t even compare to all  the action that is in this book! Being the first in the “Saga of the Chosen” series of books by Petra Landon this a great introduction into the world of the Chosen. Tasia’s San Francisco is full of Shifters, Vampires and Magicks of all type with a unique culture and political structure for each faction. Told primarily from Tasia’s point of view she finds herself navigating quite a few sticky situations as she attempts to adjust to life in the Shifter pack with its many traditions and idiosyncrasies. In a world where Chosen factions tend to keep to themselves and not willingly associate with the other groups, the dynamic Tasia has with the Pack and their Alpha is curious at best and scandalous at worst. Tasia finds herself running afoul of the Alpha Protector more times than she would like, but is inexplicably drawn to him. The budding dynamic between Tasia and Raoul reminds me of a plot of an old school romance novel where no matter how hard the macho lead tries to resist, he falls for the heroine despite himself. If there will be romance in the cards for Tasia and the Alpha Protector is a topic for another installment in the Saga, but for me the seeds are definitely there!   Overall “The Prophecy” is a fantastic story – a classic take on the Urban Fantasy with a fresh new twist and I am looking forward to seeing all that this series has to offer.

 

A review of “Addict (The Cassie Tam Files, #1)” by Matt Doyle

 Full disclosure, I was provided an advanced copy of this book by the author however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Welcome to New Hopeland – American Wasteland

Addict, is a new series by author Matt Doyle and follows Cassie Tam, a Chinese-Canadian transplant from Vancouver to New Hopeland, somewhere in the USA of the future. Built as the technological center of the area, New Hopeland is a mixture of the latest technology, with a few throwback items. It’s nice, but like all metropolises, there are problems. Traditional drug addicts have been replaced by Virtual Junkies;  addicts on an entirely different level and Goth rockers have transformed into Tech Shifters; people who use specially designed mechanical suits to transform into all manner of animal forms. In the midst of all of this, the residents can only trust law enforcement about 50% of the time. That’s where Cassie comes in. She’s a Private Investigator who makes her living taking on all sorts of cases that the local Police Department can’t or won’t touch. When she is awoken one evening by the grieving sister of a recent VJ Overdose victim, Cassie feels this is an open and shut case. Another story of an addict found needle in hand, all she needs to do it prove it to Lori. But, as her investigation progresses, information is uncovered that suggests that Lori may be right. The more Cassie digs, the more things don’t add up, but will the truth  bring her client peace or destroy her?

Cassie can be described as one part Blade Runner and one part Sam Spade. The opening sequence was reminiscent of classic noir movies where the ‘damsel in distress’ makes a midnight call to the local gumshoe to beg for their help. Cassie’s world is a perfect blend of new  and old technology, where the doors unlock and open with a wave of the hand, but there is still a mail slot and venetian blinds are preferred over the standard metal sliders. New Hopeland itself is a blend of the future and the distant past. My favorite part of the book had to be Bert, Caz’s faithful companion – part watchdog, part pussycat, all gargoyle.

Cassie herself is a bit of an enigma. Daughter of a cop and out of her native land, Caz is guarded and a bit sarcastic as a defense mechanism. You can’t really blame her with all she’s been through both in her professional and private lives.  As the case progresses, Caz finds herself in the one place she most likely doesn’t want to be and the fallout from a casual visit with her ex results in a return of painful memories. As Cassie tries to move on, she realizes that maybe there is more to her client than meets the eye and I’m pretty sure that scares her more than any bad guy. For someone who has never read much of the Cyberpunk  genre and even less LGBT, Addict drew me in with a strong lead, a great plot and a killer twist. I’m sure we have barely scratched the surface with Cassie and I’m curious to see what New Hopeland, Lori and future cases have in store for her.