Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Dead Wake Horror Collection Vol 1

The Dead Wake Horror Collection Vol 1 by [Douglas, Ellie]The Dead Wake Anthology by Ellie Douglas is a collection of thrilling short stories. The anthology investigates the idea of zombification threw a number of avenues, exploring what the impacts of an outbreak would be in a variety of scenarios. The anthology sits well within the horror and thriller genres and makes for an exciting though horrifying read. Ellie Douglas often investigates how the transition from living to dead, to living-dead would progress in the various instances of infection meaning that each story is unique in the ways in which this topic is explored.

The opening story is placed within a unique setting – space. The isolation of which is felt by the few characters exposed within the claustrophobic conditions of a space craft. When the Captain John Lancaster teases a crew mate, he accidentally breaks a space rock against the crewmate’s head. Upon inspection the rock appears to bleed. The unique nature of this rock leads Captain John Lancaster to send it as a gift to his daughter before the crew launch. Only when the crew are in space however does the full impact of the space rock’s strange qualities come into full effect. The crewmate, who the rock touched, begins to grow ill with flu like symptoms and is sent to the med bay. With the affected crewmate breaking out in lesions, Ellie Douglas explores in graphic detail the vile nature of the character’s transition creating a visual spectacle not for the faint hearted. The crew now in space, rush to find out if the disease is contagious. Meanwhile, John Lancaster, having sent the rock to his daughter on earth, attempts to contact the CDC and his family to see if his daughter faces the same fate as his crewmate. The author creates an intense feeling of suspense as John grows frantic trying to find out if his daughter will be okay.

Some of the stories are intended to be truly horrifying, such as ‘No More Coochy Coochy Coo!’ which takes place in a hospital, somewhere that maybe considered moderately safe in the event of an outbreak. This short story follows the labour of Samantha who is worried that her partner Jeff will not make it time for the birth of their first-born child. As the labour continues Samantha becomes increasingly more distressed. The new mother starts exclaiming that the baby is eating her. Initially the nurse dismisses it as labour pains, but as the doctor – attempting to aid the birth, begins to lose his fingers to the hungry unborn child, all is confirmed.

Meanwhile, Jeff the expecting father, gets distracted and finds his way to a ward where twenty-three babies lay wrapped soundly in blankets. He notices two children looking pale skinned and with sores, their arms blistered. Notifying a nurse of the babies’ condition he is escorted out of the room swiftly by a doctor as the children are taken to be quarantined. An air raid siren begins to sound outside.

Despite some of these more sombre and horrifying stories, some of the stories are laced with some comedy, such as a talking parrot on a cruise ship that yells profanities as it begins to peck at its keeper. Though, this becomes less humorous as the parrot’s feathers shed and it flies frantically around the inside of an elevator pecking at its keeper’s eyes.

The short stories offer snippets of potential scenarios to get the reader thinking and, being short, make for a perfect night time read – though be wary of nightmares.

Pages: 196 | ASIN: B078PH4143

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Dagger’s Destiny

Dagger's Destiny (Curse of Clansmen and Kings Book 2) by [Tanner, Linnea]

If you’re looking for a fantastical adventure with a hint of historical influence, then look no further than Dagger’s Destiny by Linnea Tanner. Beginning in Britannia when the Romans were making their presence known to the island nation, we are thrust into the center of turmoil. This is book two in a series, so it’s advisable to read the first installment before continuing. However, even if you come into the series with this volume, you will not be disappointed. With our strong female lead, Catrin, we follow the princess as she deals with the possible betrayal of her people by the one she loves, and the cold, unforgiving judgement her father, the king, passes on her because of it. This is only the beginning. It is not easy to break a curse that has been afflicted since your father’s generation. Will Catrin succeed in her father’s stead?

There is never a dull moment in this book, which is useful to those who may be experiencing the series for the first time. Tanner has a clear grasp on the historical aspects of her setting, showing that she has put in some research. This is a fantasy novel, of course, so there are liberties taken. Even so, the way she crafts the tale could make one believe that these are the true stories of an age long gone. It can be difficult to jump into a series without reading the first installment, but Tanner shares enough of the previous book and background so that those who are potentially new, or who have taken a long break between, will not be lost. Because her story is so intricate it’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening. This is a wonderful skill that successful writers hone for years.

It can be difficult to make a book exciting, full of action, romance, and fantasy and still balance it with great characters. Catrin is our lead: she is strong, special and proud. A princess of Britannia who is in love with a man of Rome. A love like theirs is not welcomed in this age: her beloved is the enemy and she is seen as a fool. Despite her challenges, Catrin continues to rise above them, even if she is knocked down for a short period of time. This character creation shows the author’s dedication to telling a great story. So often tales that are full of action boast flat characters. Catrin seems to be alive within the pages of this book.

If you are looking for an exciting adventure that leaves you wanting more, do not pass up Dagger’s Destiny. Boasting fully developed characters and a well-defined setting, this book caters to all readers. The romance, fantasy, action and subterfuge are sure to win over readers from several genres. The core of the story is stable and the writing is excellent. A great addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

Pages: 333 | ASIN: B07G3G4G55

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Mall Hair Maladies

Mall Hair Maladies by [Volchko, Kristy Jo]

Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko is a delightful throwback story that will take 80’s kids down memory lane. The book follows Tanya, the new kid in school, Randi, and their single parents. The two meet and quickly become inseparable best friends. Volchko describes a year in the life of two 13 year old girls in 1980’s America. Volchko delves into “a day in the life” right down to big, crimped, hair-sprayed hair, fingerless gloves, and arms lined with multi-colored jelly bracelets. The biggest obstacle in the girls’ lives is finding a way to go to the local Madonna concert. She’s their idol, and they will do just about anything to hear her belting her songs in person.

Volchko writing feels like a genuine first-hand account of crazy events told across a dinner table. Grammar and spelling are impeccable. Everything flows perfectly. Characters were well developed, with each one having enough background story for readers to get a good grip on who they are. The setting and different scenarios were described well. Volchko has a way of making you feel like you are right there with the characters mixing up things in the kitchen, having an awkward dinner with an uptight relative, or smoking in the girls room. I felt invested in her characters and their lives.

I loved the throwbacks to the 1980’s. I lived them, and the essence of that era was captured perfectly. Readers from that time will relate to the characters. They will see themselves and reminisce over their own 80’s stories. I love the real references to the music and fashion of the time. It was a simpler time in many ways, but pop culture, music, and fashion were anything but simple.

The story is a nice throwback to a safer time for kids. They could hop on a bus unattended and go all over town and return relatively unscathed. They had little fear of anything bad happening to them at all. Bad things happened, of course, but they didn’t seem so frequent. Volchko conveys that time of simplicity and relative safety very well. I’m not so sure the story would have played out the same if it was set in today’s world. It was nice to escape back to that time for a little while.

I love how easily the girls become best friends. I think we sometimes forget how simple that was as children. Two strangers implicitly trusted and loved each other without the bat of a fake eyelash, just because they did. They met. They liked each other. Simple.

Without getting too heavy, Volchko exposes some problems that commonly arise in families. These aren’t 80’s problems, but timeless problems. Tanya has an absent father, and Randi has an absent mother. Tanya’s grandmother is judgmental, hateful, and a huge source of stress for the family. Volchko shows how the characters deal with those issues. She gives examples of difficult family dynamics and how the characters navigate those storms. She also gives some hope with the introduction of a less dysfunctional family toward the end.

I’d recommend this book to anyone in middle school and up, though 80’s kids may appreciate it the most. I couldn’t have asked for more out of this book. Volchko has made me a fan. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the writing. I would love to read more of her work.

Pages: 265 | ASIN: B079SQYLRZ

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Dark Karma: Sword of Vengeance

Dark Karma is a fascinating tale of vengeance and dark magic by author, Laura Simmons. Laura Simmons does a beautiful job in creating an epic tale that creates an array of whirlwind emotions. Simmons’ writing is flawless and thought-provoking, great for any avid reader of suspense and mystery novels. This is a book that provides everything you would expect from a novel that surrounds itself in magic, tension, mystery and revenge.

The narrative of Dark Karma is extremely captivating and strong. It has been written in such simplicity, but is highly effective for all readers. Luke Decker is introduced to the readers as the protagonist. He is banished by his evil enemy into a hell-like alternative dimension. Luke has to deal with the fact that his whole world has been turned upside down, and what is more, he is on trial for murdering his beloved Nina. However, the plot twists dramatically throughout the novel, and the reader is constantly left wanting more. I kept trying to guess what was going to happen next, but then just gave up and went along on this eventful and thrilling ride.

The plot throughout this book is strong, creative and imaginative. Laura Simmons structures her book beautifully and your imagination is left running wild. I think that the mystery elements in the book really kept me wanting more. Readers are able to dive into a world that is based on pure imagination. Simmons use of magic is embued with a dark energy throughout that is creepy, enticing, and begs you to keep reading. I think I read this whole book with a raised eyebrow. Dark Karma is a beautifully told story that, I think, is suitable for readers of any genre as it first focuses on telling a great story before delivering the unique qualities of it’s genre.

Dark Kara does an amicable job at creating an evil magical dimension that is just detailed enough to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks. The characters and the plot are strong, and Laura Simmons shows that she is a writer to be reckoned with. Overall, I think the story, twists, and characters are great, and I really enjoyed reading this book.

A fantastic attempt at creating a novel that blends and transcends genres. An enjoyable read which really dives into a different dimension, making the reader want to know more as the story progresses.

Pages: 192 | ISBN: 1977201555

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Future World Rolls!

FUTURE WORLD ROLLS!: We Are Family (Carousels of Life Book 2) by [Tumbler, Terry]Charles Bone and Stan Loren are two FBI agents with quite the special set of skills. The least of which is their ability to communicate without vocalizing their thoughts. As two men with psychic abilities, they have been given the job of heading up a recruitment drive unlike any other in history. Charles and Stan, in the early 1970s, manage to pinpoint over 3,000 individuals exhibiting the qualities making them the perfect candidates for the job. Little do the recruits know the mission for which they have been chosen is one that could change the course of human history.

Terry Tumbler’s Future World Rolls (We Are Family) Book 2 in the Carousels of Life series has one of the most unique settings of its genre. Spanning centuries and with locations varying from Winter Park Florida in the 70s to vessels in space including the Voyager 6, Tumbler carries the reader on quite the raucous ride through time and space via Charles and Stan and the plethora of alien life forms peppered throughout this second in a series.

There is a Men in Black feel about the novel that gives the book a light, fun air. Fans of this type of science fiction will appreciate Tumbler’s alien beings, their idiosyncrasies, and the banter between the main characters as they go about the task set before them.

As with Tumbler’s first book in the series, Future World Rolls is laden with song lyrics, references to artists’ best-known works, and well-timed and perfectly-placed excerpts of the world’s best (my own humble opinion) music. Tumbler’s characters are more than capable of standing on their own, but these song references help to add another light note to the text. I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to hum along to the tunes Tumbler sets as pleasant little earworms from the beginning to the end of the book. I mean who doesn’t love to be reminded of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” and “All Day and All of the Night” by the Kinks? Tumbler doesn’t just incorporate music from the 1960s. He takes readers on a nostalgic journey through music history, hitting all the right notes–so to speak.

To say Future World Rolls is fast-paced would be a gross understatement. Tumbler keeps the reader engaged from one jam-packed chapter to the next. Billed as a space opera, this book hops, skips, and jumps from one scene to the next introducing new and engaging characters while building on the already well-developed Charles, Stan, and the just-short-of-amazing green giants.

Science fiction fans who enjoy lively plots and bigger-than-life characters will find Tumbler’s works meet all of their expectations and more. Tumbler writes beautifully and manages to pull off humor in the most eloquent of ways possible. Some science fiction books are fraught with terminology and processes that overwhelm the reader. Tumbler combats all of that with his stunning cast of characters and an upbeat tone that is set from the first chapter.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B07H4QQR8K

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American River: Currents

American River: Currents: Book Two of the American River Trilogy by [O'Connor, Mallory M.]

Kate’s family has just survived the devastating loss of her brother, Julian, and she is learning that her father’s coldness toward her beloved brother could have taken a much different turn had fate not intervened. As a new mother, Kate faces many challenges. One of those challenges is finding an effective and appropriate way to handle the affection she receives from Stefan, her husband’s friend and her sister’s true love. While Kate is facing one obstacle after another as a young mother, Tommy is reeling from the loss of his mother and coping with his fiance’s mysterious illness. Not to be left out of the cast of characters meeting life head-on, Marian is learning to love herself again with the help of a much younger and virile man named Nick.

Mallory M. O’Connor’s characters are a force with which to be reckoned in American River: Currents. O’Connor has created one of the most unique blends of historical fiction and the soap operas of the 80s. This lengthy novel features three families, ethnically diverse and intertwined in each other’s lives–in some cases, too much so. The bounce back and forth between chapters gives the entire book the comfortable feel of watching episodes of a well-established soap opera.

O’Connor has, without a doubt, done the research and created amazingly accurate and detailed accounts of historical events. Each of these events is not just described but somehow affects the characters day-to-day lives. From Cesar Chavez to John F. Kennedy, she has succeeded in further bringing life to her characters by having them live through gripping and history-making events.

As O’Connor’s chapters tend to vary from one family to the next, I found that I looked most forward to those focusing on Marian and Nick. To say the two are interesting would be putting it mildly. In an otherwise heavy book, Marian and Nick’s dynamic provides much-appreciated lighthearted moments and a breather from the drama of the other family members. Marian, not without her own faults, is my favorite character. Being one of the older characters in O’Connor’s work, she is struggling to make her way as an artist and is learning to love herself again and finding that trust is something she just might be able to feel once more. Nick is just the remedy for what ails her.

I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of sadness at the relationship between Alex and Stefan. I see Alex as a strong woman who is, when it comes to personal relationships, weak and needy. The manner in which she pursues Stefan is almost pitiful. She is an interesting character indeed.

It seems like such an obvious thing to note, but I love the way O’Connor ends each chapter. Not every author currently producing books brings chapters to a nice, succinct close. O’Connor provides closure and never leaves reader hanging or feeling as if they have hit a brick wall when the new chapter quickly takes a new direction.

American River: Currents is beautifully written and consists primarily of long strings of dialogue between well-developed and easy to visualize characters. A long book but one that is an almost effortless read, American River: Currents is sure to engage readers and lead them to follow the cast of characters into the rest of O’Connor’s books in the series.

Pages: 453 | ASIN: B07BJ3XT2M

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Encore

Encore: A Contemporary Love Story of Hypnotic Abduction (The Agents of the Nevermind Book 3) by [Bensko, Tantra]

Encore is Book 3 in the Agents of the Nevermind series brought to you by author, Tantra Bensko. Tantra Bensko does a fantastic job writing a story line that intertwines themes of history, myths, politics, psychology magic, cultism, religion and romance. A clever author that sets out to achieve a contemporary love story with a touch of Gothicism. The author does a marvellous job at blending themes and motifs together in order to build up tension and create an epic dark read. This is a book that provides everything you would expect from a psychological suspense story – guaranteed to keep you firmly on the edge of your seat.

The narrative of Encore is imaginative and unique, which allows readers to really think about the importance of different aspects of their lives. The plot of this book mostly revolves around Colin, a Bennu performance troupe’s hypnotist who abducts Susan and takes her to a castle. This weird relationship sees Colin slightly fixated with Susan’s character, pretending to be her husband to solidify their romance. However, the story unfolds with lots of twists and mysteries that are questionable to the reader. The reader is constantly left wondering what is happening and why. This is a great feeling for a reader of the paranormal genre. What more could you possibly want?

The plot throughout this book is strong, creative and imaginative. Bensko structures her book clearly and it’s easy to follow. I think that paranormal activities are apparent throughout the book, which makes for a great read. Tantra Bensko does a fantastic job at trying to write something for her readers that takes them out of their comfort zone and into something quite edgy and Gothic. Her writing is exceptional throughout the book and allows readers to fully engage with the topics being explored.

Having read this book, I believe it clearly captures the paranormal and suspense genres to an exceptionally high standard. I was hooked right from the opening chapters and was left overwhelmed and intrigued when I put the book down.

Encore is a dark read with dark characters and an ever-evolving plot. I think the author has done a great job at creating all sorts of emotions from the ideas of love as well as complete fear. This is a unique contribution to the world of Gothic literature and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Overall, Encore is an exciting and intriguing read that has opened my eyes to the world of the paranormal genre. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the paranormal world. Even if you aren’t that interested, I think it’s worth a shot, as I think you too will be impressed with the story of Encore.

Pages: 376 | ASIN: B07HQYNL7K

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Lifeliners

Lifeliners by [Vucak, Stefan]Wow, the details in this book are simply superb! Literally from page one of the story you are drawn in by the excellent attention to detail.

The main character, Nash Bannon, is hopelessly interesting and charming from the very first chapter. We learn so much about his past, his family life, siblings, and upbringing that by chapter two you are utterly fascinated and rooting for him no matter what. His love interest, Cariana Foster, is equally enchanting and the dialogue between these characters is so raw that you can’t help but fall in love with them. There is a huge elephant in the room regarding their relationship, but I don’t want to give away any big spoilers so let’s just say that it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The idea of the Lifeliners; human beings that have evolved into some other state of existence not yet fully understood, is absolutely engaging. The way the author writes about the political atmosphere of the world surrounding these super-humans is realistic and you can feel the pain of their humanity (or non-humanity?) and the fear elicited from them by the rest of society.

The politics in this book is one of my favorite aspects. Because of how realistically the author conveys these ideas you feel like you’ve been transported into Nash’s world. Even though the idea of co-existing with humans who have super-natural abilities is un-realistic and physically unrelatable, the dialogue and world view portrayed in the book is so natural and believable that you feel like you are really dealing with the emotions of the characters on every page. The relationship between Nash and the homeless child Aleya (a lifeliner) is touching and tragic at the same time. To think of a world that can cast aside children like garbage just because they have different abilities is really upsetting to think about.

I also enjoyed the scientific aspects of the story. Literally no detail is left out when it comes to the genetic anomalies of the Lifeliners and Cariana’s work as a geneticist is fascinating. While liberties were obviously taken (as this is a fictional story), this aspect of the book is also frighteningly realistic. I felt as if this evolution within the human species could actually happen and that these types of moral dilemmas might really someday face the human race.

Overall, I would recommend this book, it was a page turner from start to finish. There aren’t many books that I can see myself reading multiple times, but Lifeliners is definitely one of them.

Pages: 431 | ASIN: B07GN8QV83

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Extinction 6

Extinction 6 by [Kouros-Mehr, Hosein]

Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is a fascinating novel that finds itself straddling a variety of themes, writing styles, and motifs. In this novel, one can witness the conjunction of several major literary genres. From bleak dystopian imagery and post-apocalyptic ruin to deeply intense mystery and intrigue, Extinction 6 provides enough twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. Taking place in the year 2066, the reader is introduced to a world mostly underwater. Following a sharp rise in global temperatures by an average of 8 degrees Celsius, sea levels drastically increased and major settlements like San Francisco were submerged. In conjunction, animals and plants have completely vanished. Beyond this, the world appears to be plagued by war and corporate espionage. Battles for oil fields and small scraps of territory appear to occur daily, while depressing news bulletins ring out, highlighting decreases in rations or celebrating the smallest of military victories. In this dystopian future, greenhouse gases continue to be pumped at alarming rates, and it becomes clear to some that the world is facing its sixth, and potentially last, extinction crises.

Hosein Kouros-Mehr expertly uses this setting to deliver a story that is captivating and vividly written. There is a profound amount of world building conducted in this novel and the story’s framing gives readers a holistic experience at what life in this dreary world would look like. Through the use of multiple perspectives and point of views, Hosein Kouros-Mehr provides readers with an inside and personal look at the various dimensions that take place in this world. In some chapters, readers will become intimate with a forlorn lover embroiled in major geopolitical developments. Other sections masterfully showcase the experiences of an aggressive and cunning CEO. These different perspectives are woven in a way that provides keen connections and startling insights.

The writing itself is suspenseful and tense. The diction wastes no time in putting the reader through long segments of empty description and word padding. Every sentence is deliberate and has a definite sense of immediacy. Every word counts in a world that is slowly ticking towards oblivion. This is aided by Hosein Kouros-Mehr’s wonderful sense of pacing. While the writing is forward facing, it still gives readers the time to engross themselves in the world. Details about the major corporations and the nations that inhabit this world are peppered in where needed and helps to provide depth to the world. Many of these elements come into play throughout the course of the novel, and the pace in which these details become relevant greatly benefits Kouros-Mehr’s deliberate writing style. If there is any issue in the way in which Hosein Kouros-Mehr presents his work, it is the fact that the large cast of characters can lead to some confusion. This is somewhat alleviated by the clear characterization and literary role each character plays, and as a whole, this critique does not detract from the novel.

Extinction 6 by Hosein Kouros-Mehr is an incredibly tense story about what our future could easily look like.

Pages: 248 | ASIN: B07HB5Q24P

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Poisoned Touch

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This collection of poetry will cause readers to relive their youths. Poisoned Touch by Monica V. McCormick is full of angst and youthful recollections of a time gone past. The graphics help portray the words of the poetry in a visual sense and add a delightful element to this collection. Poisoned Touch focuses on romantic ventures gone past and are broken into sections that relate the age of the author when she wrote the work. Beginning at the age of eighteen and carrying on until the age of twenty-two, readers will get an intimate view of McCormick’s adolescence within these pages.

Youth is a difficult passage we all must go through to reach adulthood. The path is treacherous as we try to navigate the world without the constant support of those who want the best for us. It’s not that their support isn’t offered, it’s that we are trying desperately to show that we can handle our own lives and make our own decisions. This message comes across in some of the pieces of this collection. The readers will be able to identify with the youth who is trying to discover herself and who is trying to understand what love is. Written as a helpful reminiscence on her youth, this collection attempts to provide support to those who may be struggling with the same difficulties. As long as you are over eighteen.

While the imagery of the poems are consistent with the idea that love is a poison, present in both words and graphics, this collection of poetry is raw and unrefined. There is no doubt that the poetry can evoke powerful feelings and shares a dark tale, but the meaningful pieces drip with angst and teenage folly. The constant changing type-face also posed a problem for me and was distracting.

The rhyming scheme found in most of the pieces paired with the cartoonish, yet very high quality, drawings make this collection reflective of high school nostalgia. There are several individual pieces in this collection that I found to be moving and raw.

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