A review of “Killing Season” by Tim McBain and L.T. Vargus

Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review.

Active Shooter

A term that has struck fear into the hearts of many over the years. Schools, Shopping Malls, you name it, the phenomenon of the active shooter seems to become more and more prevalent with each passing day. This is the situation facing FBI agents Violet Darger and Victor Loshak in the follow up to “Dead End Girl” by Tim McBain and LT Vargus. Having been pulled from a family function by Loshak, Darger hops a red eye to Atlanta where an active shooter has taken aim at drivers and good Samaritans alike on a busy highway outside of Atlanta. She hasn’t even arrived on scene when the shooter strikes again, this time at a crowded shopping plaza. Running on sheer wits alone, the duo must use all resources of the local PD and FBI office to identify and bring down the suspect or suspects before the rampage escalates any further.

The timeline of Killing Season is approximately one year after Dead End Girl. Darger is now a fully trained agent and the once lone wolf Loshak has found a worthy adversary in Violet as a partner. I love the dynamic between these two! It’s a professional relationship that’s also familial in a Father/Daughter or Big Brother/Little Sister sort of way. The rapport between Violet and Victor is easy, but that doesn’t stop them from getting serious when the situation calls for it. For me, the Violet Darger I saw in Killing Season seems to be a more confident, less self-conscious person that was portrayed in Dead End Girl. It appears that the past demons that plagued our protagonist have been resolved, or at least gotten far enough under control that the memories aren’t a hindrance to her any longer, and that’s a good thing. Considering the suspect she’s up against this time, she may as well change her last name to “Danger” as she finds herself dodging bullets, shrapnel and more in this explosive thriller.

If you haven’t yet read Dead End Girl, or the short Image In A Cracked Mirror, what are you waiting for? All kidding aside, you will not miss anything vital by reading Killing Season out of sequence. The story works perfectly as a stand-alone novel and as a compliment to the prior books in the series. For lovers of crime/police procedural novels with tons of action Killing Season will not disappoint.

 

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

Deeper and Deeper

“I was Jack The Ripper “is the newest novel by horror/thriller author Michael Bray. 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.

I have been eagerly awaiting installment Four since I first had an opportunity to read the prior three stories last year and I must say that Bray made my wait worth it. When installment Three ended, we were left with Edward/Jack summoned to the police station for an interview with Detective Inspector Abberline. Installment Four resumes with Edward and Abberline’s fated meeting. While thinking that he may be sunk, Abberline is merely interviewing all witness, especially those who may have been present at both scenes to date to determine if they have any additional information that may be helpful in catching the Ripper. Edward manages to escape this encounter unscathed, but something Abberline says pushes him further over the edge, making this meeting the catalyst to the Ripper’s brutality to date.

It’s becoming clearer to me that Edward must be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder and it is this evil portion that takes over as the murders are committed. More and more we see him start to have a dialogue with his inner voice that causes him to slip further into his insanity. With alcohol seemingly being the only thing that keeps it at bay, Edward does what many people do when attempting to battle their demons… feed it. It is in this manner that he meets Mary Jane and although she represents the exact thing his inner demon is out to destroy, he is drawn to her. Stranger still, he doesn’t seem to be internally conflicted when he is around her.  As their relationship blossoms, the scene is being set for what can be argued as the most brutal of the Ripper’s victims.

There was a ton happening in this installment as the Ripper continues to relay his story to Hapgood. Installment six is coming in and it’s promising to be a good one. I am interested now to see if Bray leaves the Ripper narrative with the “canonical five” or if he continues to touch on some of the later unattributed crimes.

 

 

 

A Review of “Red Drug (Women of The Grey #2)” by Carol James Marshall

All the same, All Addicts

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.

Red Drug is the follow up to Starburst in the Women of the Grey series of books by Carol James Marshall.  This second book follows three Women of the Grey in simultaneously occurring timelines.  Lisa has been returned to the Grey after her failed mission on Feline Street. Once back home she faces unimaginable punishment in the mysterious White and Black rooms. For all her wondering, Lisa finally knows where the “naughty” girls go, never to be seen again. Just when she accepts her fate as being different in a race of “none different”, Lisa is sent back out on another mission. She is to find a man and breed. As the Women no longer have the male of their species, they must use the next best thing to further their race.  Lisa finds herself dropped somewhere in California with the basics and a directive, but she is determined to defy the Mothers once again. Little does she know, one of the residents in her apartment complex has seen the Women before and is determined to get to the bottom of who Lisa is and what her kind wants.

Abigail is a strange duck. Living with her boyfriend somewhere in rural America, she is successful in her breeding mission and is currently pregnant with her little “thumbprint”. Unlike the painfully fastidious Mothers, Abigail prefers to spend her days barefoot with the feel of the earth and the detritus of the forest under her feet. As the child inside her grows, Abigail also notices an overwhelming and ever increasing, undeniable craving for blood. Is this natural or is she a disgrace to her race?

Teresa just wants to fulfill her mission, but after numerous attempts and countless months she is still not pregnant. It’s only a matter of time before the Mothers come to collect her, but what happens then? In the Grey where “all are the same and none different” will Teresa will be considered the same, or an abomination?

For as creepy as “Starburst” was “Red Drug” cranks up the creep factor times ten. As we follow these three very different women through their missions and their lives in various places around the country, more of the history of these mysterious creatures are revealed. Superior Mother definitely has her hands full with Lisa and finds that she can only protect her and the other Women of the Grey for so long before their true alien natures demand release. The further into Red Drug I got, the more sinister the Women of the Grey became and the more I wanted to know what would ultimately happen not only to Lisa but the Women as a race and the Earth.  Eagerly awaiting the release of Stainless Steel as I am sure CJM will once again blend Sci Fi and horror in what can only be a bloody good continuation of the Women of the Grey series.

A Review of “The Good Father” by S.R. Wilsher

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

The past is part of you – for better or for worse

In 1994 Sarajevo, a nine-year-old girl and her brother become instant orphans. The forgotten victims of a brutal war, the pair struggles to survive by any means necessary. Tired of hiding in holes and stealing clothing from the dead, Effie and Ajan find themselves taken in by a brutal man known only as “The Colonel”. Under his rule, they and many other war orphans are cared for, but all swapped one danger for another. The compound is as dangerous as is it a haven, and unfortunately for Effie, she has garnered the animosity of one of the Colonel’s favored. After she witnesses her brother’s brutal murder at the behest of her so-called protector, Effie runs away to seek asylum in a NATO refugee camp.

Fast forward 20 years and Effie is now Mia. Having left her past behind, she has reinvented herself as an aspiring artist and the adopted daughter of the British Foreign Secretary. When an automobile accident lands Mia in hospital, it quickly becomes clear that her mother was not the target of the attack. Mia must rely on the skills learned as a young girl as she goes deep undercover to determine who is after her. The more she digs, the more it becomes apparent that the demons from her past may have returned to settle old scores.

The Good Father is one of those epic stories of cat and mouse that spans decades and continents. Mia Hardy just wants to be left in peace to forge her way as an artist and make a name for herself; but being the adopted daughter of a major political figure makes that difficult for her to do. Factor in her childhood history with a compassionate soldier willing to risk everything to smuggle her out of Sarajevo to safety and Mia is truly a political career ruining bombshell waiting to happen. Yet, when the nightmares from her past suddenly start turning up in the present, Mia knows there is only one thing to do. She needs to find and confront the past before it destroys her future.

The entire story is told in a sequence of alternating timelines, where you see what happened previously interspersed with the current action, with the first third of this book consists of alternating flashbacks to 1994 coupled with the events of present day and the time gaps becoming smaller and smaller as the story progresses. I really liked this style, even if it did result in a slow start because I feel it was necessary to fully understand Mia’s origins as well as the origins and motives of several other characters that are encountered later in the story. Also with this flashback technique used, it was a neat way to advance the storyline by revealing previous events at a designated time in the plot line. Wilsher’s description of war torn Sarajevo depicted a bleak, dangerous place that made me feel how desperate the inhabitants of the city during that time must have felt. Having this as the backdrop for the future events in the story really helped to understand Effie’s motives and methods.  Once the action kicked in the story moved at a pace that was not too fast and definitely not dull. For anyone who likes a good fast paced thriller with a modern-day twist, I would definitely recommend “The Good Father”.

A review of “Stealing Huckleberry” by Lucian

Definitely recommended.

Stealing Huckleberry is a hilarious glimpse into a night of the life of Sarah Jones, insurance investigator for Red Rock Insurance company. Her most recent assignment is to recover a stolen, signed first edition copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” Her methods are extreme, brash and sometimes hilarious but effective.

Having spent several years currently in an insurance career and working at times with our Special Investigations group, I must say this is some extreme investigating. Sarah’s methods are sometimes illegal but ingenious. I am aware that there are insurance investigators out there to investigate things such as disability claims, but this short little gem gets me wondering just how many other claims are actively pursued and vetted. If you have about 30 minutes to spare, Stealing Huckleberry is a quick entertaining read that will have you laughing out loud. While this is a bit of a departure from Lucian’s previous novels, it is still well worth the read. I would have loved this to have been a bit longer, maybe there will be a full-length novel in the future? I can only imagine the mayhem that would ensue with a bigger case.

A Review of “Twisted Potions – Hidden Blood #2” 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.

Something’s brewing and it isn’t good!

Twisted Potions is the second in the Hidden Blood series by Al. K. Line and continues Kate’s story as the first ever Vampire enforcer. Taking place shortly after book 1, we see Kate making good on her promise to make dinner for The Chemist. Having arrived at his house, things are going as well as can be expected until a seemingly innocent brush of a not so random test tube sends Kate and the Chemist running for their lives. The purpose of the potion is even more puzzling. The Chemist is tired of being a ghoul – a being so repulsive they are shunned by Regular and Hidden alike – and just wants to be a man. Feeling sorry for her friend, Kate offers to let him stay at her place while he makes a new potion, but upon completion of his task Kate realizes that she may have been duped. Now something more than a man, the Chemist has embarked on a mission to ensure that he will no longer be alone in the world. If he succeeds, it could spell trouble for Hidden all over the world. To make matters worse, Kate has also recently discovered that her and Faz’s dreams of becoming parents will soon be a reality. With raging hormones Kate must fight off rampaging ghouls, track down and stop her former friend from going through with his plans all before giving birth!

Kate continues to be a character to watch in this world. Now not only is she the first vampire possessing both hidden and blood magic but she is also probably the first of her kind in many centuries to become pregnant. And does she ever make a formidable “pregzilla” or should I say vampzilla? I love seeing her evolution from shy, newly turned baby vampire and one Spark’s best friends to wife, enforcer, protector and soon to be Mother. It is safe to say that Twisted Potions is a much darker read than Vampire Enforcer. As we get into more of Kate’s back story and the Chemist’s life in general it is evident that trauma and tragedy seem to be the norm for any Hidden.  Which can make things interesting because it lets the reader get into the head of the character. And I’m sure we’re only scratching the surface with the numerous Hidden in Cardiff. I mean, can you imagine what Grandma must have experienced that we haven’t even begun to learn of yet? All told yet another action-packed day in the life of an Enforcer and with the imminent appearance of Spark/Vamp progeny this story can only get better.

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.