A review of “Extinction (Hell on Earth Book 3)” by Iain Rob Wright

Armageddon

Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the Author as part of his Advanced Reader’s group, however I have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.

The gates of Hell have opened. Demons and fallen angels alike roam the Earth freely laying waste to all in their path. Humanity has been reduced to a fraction of what it once was, but those who remain continue to fight. Guy Granger has succeeded in making the trip across the ocean from the US to the UK and is determined to locate his children. After landing in Portsmouth, he and a small group set out amid the destruction and demon armies to tackle the evil head on.

First off, I want to say that I find it difficult to write this review out of respect for the author not because it was that bad, but because it was just that good!

Extinction” is the third in the Hell on Earth series by Iain Rob Wright. While the timelines for the first two books “The Gates” and “Legion” ran pretty much simultaneously, you definitely want to read one or both of those before reading this new one. “Extinction” is action packed from start to finish and for me there were quite a few “what the heck!” moments that had me laughing, crying and even screaming at my kindle. For anyone who is a fan of Iain Rob Wright this book will not disappoint.

One of the main things that I adore about this author is his ability to weave a handful of core characters throughout his stories. “Extinction” also has a touch of this element present, however for me to say more would be to spoil the entire book and I will not do that. If where will be a Hell on Earth 4 is hard to say. I can see where there is closure in this story, but there also appears to be several other stories that could spring from this this series. Until that time, I am looking forward to whatever Iain releases next as I am sure I will be blown away.

A review of “Arcana’s Sayge The End Times” by Andre Alan

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

The battle for the End Times is near

Arcana’s Sayge The End Times is the third and final installment in the Heaven’s Trilogy series by Andre Alan. The world where the action takes place can best be described as a mixture of science fiction and fantasy. While many staple fantasy species are present such as Elves, Gnomes and Orcs, the author also incorporates Sci-Fi elements such as hovercraft, laser guns that can be converted to several weapons, exosuit armor and even robots. Adding in modern elements such as televisions, traditional houses, the internet and other creature comforts and you have a genre mash up that I don’t believe has ever before been attempted.

The action starts fast and we soon learn that the estranged twin of the hero is colluding with forces on the dark side to usher in an evil that will destroy the world. To stop the darkness from spreading, several nations of good must put aside prior differences and grudges to work together against the growing armies of dark.  However, the dark nations have also banded together under the “Dark Cloud” and are assembling for what appears to be a battle for all planet Threa.

Since I have not read the previous two books in this series it took me a good portion of the text to figure out who was who and where everyone’s allegiances lay. When I thought I had it all figured out I still found myself getting momentarily confused when a reference was made to a past event, item or place not previously mentioned. I chalked it up to coming in on the middle of the story and moved on. I really liked how the more advanced technology was woven throughout the story side by side with more arcane items and techniques. I have read many fantasy series in the past and was mildly pleased to see that some of my preconceptions of certain races, namely gnomes and dwarves, based on other novels were similar in this book as well. If nothing else, that aspect helped me be not as lost as I found myself. In fact, there were many times during my reading that I wished there was a primer or a cheat sheet for me to keep all the people, places, artifacts and rivalries in order. Imagine my surprise when I finally reached the end of the book only to find the glossary. I feel that the author would be better served to put this at the front of the story as a reminder and for easy reference. If doesn’t happen, here is your handy tip. I must confess, after finally making it to the end of Arcana’s Sayge I didn’t have the energy to read the glossary.

For those familiar with the previous books in the series, this final chapter will most likely be a satisfying read and provide an exciting climax. Unfortunately, for me, I just found there to be too much going on to keep track of all the events and nuances.

 

A review of “Messenger” by Lois Lowry

Matty’s story

Messenger is the third book in the Giver Quartet series by Lois Lowry. Having previously read “The Giver” and “Gathering Blue”, “Messenger” sees the continuation of Matt (now Matty) approximately six to eight years after “Gathering Blue”. Having returned the blind man, Kira’s father, back to his village, Matt decides to remain with him instead of returning to his previous home. Over the years he has kept in contact with Kira and has visited frequently, but his pleas to have her join her father and him in Village are not successful as Kira feels that she still has much to accomplish in her home. Because of increasing unrest and concerns voiced by the inhabitants, the once open Village is closing its borders and it’s up to Matty to travel the ever increasingly treacherous forest to spread the word and try to get Kira to come with him before it’s too late.

I must say, this is by far my favorite book in the series. Not only did we have a continuation of the characters from the previous book, we finally get to catch up with Jonas and Gabe from “The Giver”. Lowry’s writing in this book conveys yet another village that is different from anything we’ve seen thus far and is by far the most inclusive and welcoming, until the Trade Mart turns the villagers’ focus more toward themselves than others. When this occurs, a poison seeps into the community and the surrounding forest that may result in more than just closed borders. Jonas has found himself in a position of influence in the community however that influence can only go so far.

I tore through this book is less than a day and the ending, while not unexpected ripped my heart out. If you are not an emotional wreck by the end of this story, you must not be human. I am looking forward to the final book in this series to see how Lowry ties all if these different yet similar dystopian communities together.

A review of “Maze: A Sci-fi Novella” by Tony Bertauski

Find Yourself

Maze, the Sci Fi Novella by Tony Bertauski takes the concept of virtual reality to a deadly level. As the prequel to his full-length novel “The Waking of Grey Grimm” which is included in the upcoming Dominion Rising compilation set, Maze attempts to provide a bit of backstory and set the scene for the broader story to come. Set sometime in the future, people have started exploring “awareness leaping”, a sort of virtual reality total immersion that is so realistic the users may not be able to determine fantasy from reality. Despite its criminal designation, the draw of awareness leaping is so strong that games have been developed as a sort of sport.  Imagine a huge online MMORPG that’s part “The Matrix”, part “World of Warcraft” with a little bit of “Quake” and “The Hunger Games” thrown in for good measure. The object is simple – be the first to escape. The winner receives riches unimaginable, the question is, will they be sane enough to enjoy it.

The story mainly revolves around a young woman named Cassidy as she is being interviewed by the police. With awareness leaping being outlawed, Cassidy has come under some suspicion regarding recent events regarding her Father. The action jumps between Cassidy in the interrogation room and an unknown participant in the Maze game while they navigate its numerous rooms. With the player entering and defeating literally hundreds of rooms we learn that they are winning. As each new realm gets harder to defeat, there is one common thread… another character named “Cass”. Is this person another player, the secret to victory or part of the Maze designed to throw the competitor off?

After having previously read “The Waking of Grey Grimm” as a Beta copy of the author I am already a little familiar with the concepts depicted in the story. If you are new to this story, however, Maze lays the perfect framework to understanding not only this novella but also the larger full-length novel which is to come. Bertauski has imagined a world that is just enough sci fi to be futuristic but not so out there that the reader gets a “that can never happen” vibe about the entire thing. In fact, this isn’t the first time a work, be it a book, movie or otherwise, has depicted a world where reality and fantasy can be blurred so easily. This nuance makes Maze stand out as a story that can be read many times and still enjoyed.

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

The Ripper’s story continues

“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 see 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.

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 “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry

The Giver Quartet continues with a new cast of characters

Gathering Blue, the second in the Giver quartet by Lois Lowry, follows the story of Kira, an orphaned girl. In a world where physical differences are shunned and the bearers cast out, Kira finds herself alone and vulnerable when her mother suddenly dies. As her only protector, Kira’s mother valiantly fought for the disabled girl’s right to exist in such a harsh community. Without her, Kira has become a target of certain villagers looking to claim the land where her home once sat, even if it means expelling her from the community.  After being called into a hearing with the Council of Guardians to determine her fate, Kira is pleased to learn that her life will be spared due to her special talent. Under the watchful eyes of the Guardians, Kira undertakes the daunting task set before her by the Elders, and in doing so discovers things about herself and her community that she never would have imagined possible.

 

While this is the second book in the Giver quartet, I find if only fair to note that there aren’t any characters from the original novel in this book. Set in the same dystopian future Earth, Kira’s village is less advanced and the residents have life harsher. Where the Giver had an almost futuristic feel to it, through their advancements and gadgets, Gathering Blue has a very medieval feel, where all but the most privileged of residents reside in clay and thatch “cotts” with little to no food.

 

I ended up reading this as part of a Summer reading challenge with my 10-year-old and I honestly can say that I don’t think I ever would have read it otherwise. But now that I have read it, I want to read the remaining two books to see where this all goes. With both Gathering Blue and The Giver, Lois Lowry has created a fictional dystopia that has a hint of real life and modern prejudices and thoughts woven in. No, modern day America does not cast out the infirm, disabled or elderly; but we do have a way of treating them as less of a person unless they have something that we want or a knowledge that we can use. Gathering Blue brings that issue to the forefront in such a way that will cause the reader to think about Kira’s situation and hopefully be kinder to those around them.

 

A review of “Lifesong” by Carol James Marshall

The soundtrack of your life may be hazardous to your health

Imagine an app that wakes you up with a different song each day. The perfect song would get your day going with a “can do” attitude and a spring in your step, but the wrong song could set the tone to make the day a total challenge. “LifeSong”, the newest short story by Carol James Marshall explores this possibility in a unique way.

The story follows the life of Thomas, a seemingly mild, if not slightly downtrodden pencil pusher though his work week. Having recently downloaded the LifeSong app, the week starts with a burst of energy and a “take on the world” vibe. As the week wears on, stranger and stranger things start to happen, and Thomas finds himself riding a whirlwind of emotion and increasingly bizarre events as he wonders if the universe is playing a cruel joke on him or if he will even make it to Friday

For a short story, this one definitely packed a wallop for our hapless hero Thomas. Narrated with an undertone of dark wit and humor, Marshall cleverly illustrates Thomas’ worsening predicaments. As each day ended, I found myself attempting to guess what would happen to him when the alarm played next. At a little under 60 pages, LifeSong is a quick read that will not disappoint and may have you thinking twice about blasting that one favorite song on repeat.

 

A Review of “The Clements Kettle (Barnaby Wilcox Wild West Mystery Series Book 1)” by Erik Carter

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

Cowboys and Curses 

“The Clements Kettle” is the first in the Barnaby Wilcox Wild West Mystery series by Erik Carter. Set in the fictional town of Desecho, Arizona, Barnaby is a private investigator and reluctant part time Deputy. Disenchanted with the lack of business in the mostly outlaw town, Barnaby is contemplating packing it in and moving on.  When he is visited by Lilly Cosgrove, the daughter of the richest person in town, things start to look promising on the business front.  Lily’s father has been kidnapped with the ransom note only asking for the “Clements Kettle” as payment for his safe return.  Lilly’s attempts to satisfy the ransom are waylaid when a band of masked outlaws steals the kettle from her. Now she needs Barnaby’s help to recover both the kettle and her father before the kidnappers go through with their threat to kill him.

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of the Western genre. As a matter of fact, I can probably count on one hand how many Westerns I have read in my lifetime. I usually leave the Cowboys and Indians to my dad, while I stick to more fantastical genres. When the author initially contacted me regarding “The Clements Kettle” I was intrigued and ready for a change of pace. I must say that “The Clements Kettle” was a breath of fresh air and a really good read. Desecho, is pretty much what I would have imagined in a wild west town. From Fannie’s Funhouse to the general store, many saloons, the lone Sheriff and other outrageous characters it was very easy to picture the overall atmosphere of dusty streets, hot days and cold desert nights. Barnaby Wilcox as the town gumshoe was a bit of a departure, or at least not what I expected. In fact, Barnaby has sort of an old school Noir feel about him that I really liked. The entire opening scene when Lily comes seeking his service was reminiscent a classic Hollywood movie and it worked. Underneath all of this was a tinge of comedy that ran very subtly through the entire book. Bob was a hilarious addition as Barnaby’s stubborn and steadfast friend and sidekick. On more than one occasion, Barnaby found himself in a few predicaments that had me smiling and even giggling uncontrollably in a few inappropriate places.

All in all, “The Clements Kettle” was an entertaining ride through the Old West. I’m glad I gave it a read, and wouldn’t mind returning to Desecho and Barnaby Wilcox’s domain in future for more adventures and mystery with this crazy cast of characters.

What to expect when you send me a book review request

Now that I’m averaging a few review requests a week, I wanted to provide a guide to the process I have developed to complete them. If you are an author seeking a review, this page will provide you with a glimpse of the usually unseen end of the reviewer.

Typically requests come to me via email, through many different referrers and occasionally through Goodreads or Twitter. I don’t have a preferred method of initial contact as long as it’s easy to communicate with the author/requestor during the time that I am deciding whether I am going to accept the request.  If you include your website, link to Amazon page, or another page, I will visit them. If you include a synopsis of the book I will read it. If you are on Twitter, I will follow you. Creepy? Not so much.

When I agree to read a book, I will email the author to let them know where they are in my current “to be read” list. Currently, I am averaging about 9 long on this list. I am always up front with what the wait looks like, so it’s the requester’s  final decision if they want to wait or not.

** Note – If you are contacting me regarding an ARC for imminent release (within 30 days) you will get priority over my current TBR**

The above is also good to remember if you are currently waiting for a review and are wondering what’s taking so long.

As I read through each book, I send a “Just Finished”, “Now Starting” tweet in addition to periodic Goodreads progress updates. If I pause reading of a book due to receipt of a priority request, I will also tweet a similar message. While I am reading I will keep track of any spelling, grammar, continuity or other errors I may notice. I do this because for as many times as a book is read or edited it never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes. I am not saying that I will find anything, but if I do, I will forward the list via email once I have read your book. What you do with the list is up to you, but please know that this is provided as a form of constructive feedback and information and nothing else. Nothing irks me more than reading a book review where the reviewer spends more time on nitpicking grammar and spelling errors than they do actually talking about the story, characters, setting and their overall impression. I will not do that. My review will focus solely on the story and not the possible issues that can’t be fixed unless the author is made aware of them.

Upon completion of a book, it typically takes 3-5 days for a review to be created and posted. When the review is completed and posted to the standard places (Amazon, Goodreads and Jennlyreads), I will also tweet out a link to my review on Jennlyreads. In all the above tweets if the author has a twitter handle I will tag you in them. This is another way for you to know what is going on with your request.

I typically try to respond to all requests received, even if I ultimately end up having to decline the request. To me, nothing is more annoying than to put yourself out there for any reason (book request, job application, etc.) and not receive the common courtesy of a simple response. Nobody is that busy or that important that they cannot be polite.

So that’s my process to date. It’s pretty simple but it’s always nice to know where you stand.