Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Review: The Book of the Dead by Greig Beck

When a massive sinkhole opens up and swallows a retired couple from Iowa it seems like a freak occurrence. But it's not the only one. Similar sinkholes are opening all over the world, even on the sea floor. And they're getting bigger.

People living near the pits begin reporting strange phenomena—vibrations, sulfurous odors, and odd sounds in the stygian depths. Then the pets begin to go missing.

When people start disappearing as well, the government is forced to act. Professor Matt Kearns and a team of experts are sent in by the military to explore one of the sinkholes, and they discover far more than they bargained for.

From the war zones of the Syrian Desert to the fabled Library of Alexandria, and then to Hades itself, join Professor Matt Kearns as he attempts to unravel an age-old prophecy. The answers Matt seeks are hidden in the fabled Al Azif—known as the Book of the Dead—and he must find it, even if it kills him. Because time is running out, not just for Matt Kearns, but for all life on Earth.

The Book of the Dead is the second adventure in which Professor Matt Kearns finds himself thrust out front and caught in the middle. I read The First Bird, Kearn's first all-by-himself adventure, before starting this one and found I didn't have to. I enjoyed it too.


 I decided to make a list of the top ten things (in no particular order) I love to see in a book like this. To me, The Book of the Dead fits neatly as a horror, supernatural thriller, adventure and an action story. The Book of the Dead covers all ten items on my list and turns them into something delicious and unexpected.

1. Believable threat to the Earth. Not a part or just a few people, all of it. I don't want to root for the evil underdog.
2. Smut, smexy or at least some good flirting.
3. Supernatural/superpowered beings capable of chewing up, consuming, devouring or otherwise sucking the life from everyone. Extra points for doing this without vampires.
4. Unexplained slime.
5. Strong characters of both sexes.
6. That moment when "going in there" is the only part of the plan the characters need to reconsider.
7. Affectionate insults such as numb nuts, asshat or douche bag.
8. Ominous bad smells.
10. You don't have to read previous books in the series. I did. You should.

Add this one to your to read list if you haven't already.

Thank you to Momentum and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book. I received my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review: The First Bird: Episode 1 by Greig Beck

When a fame-hungry scientist brings an impossible, living specimen of a creature long thought extinct back from the wild jungles of South America he unwittingly brings along a passenger. Something with the potential to destroy every living thing on our planet.
The infestation begins, rapidly overtaking medical resources and resisting all treatment. One woman knows the danger, Carla Nero, chief scientist of the Centre for Disease Control. She makes Matt an offer he can’t refuse and together they join a team heading to the deep jungle in a desperate race to locate the hidden place where the specimen was taken.
Only by finding the location of the specimen can the team and the world hope to uncover the secret of how to survive the ancient, horrifying parasite that has been released.

I read all three episodes of The First Bird one right after the other because I felt it was one story in three pieces and planned to write a single review. As I read, I found the episodes so logically divvied up the plot it only made sense to write three reviews.

I liked the characters were not stereotyped, per se, but sufficiently relatable as types I'd seen before I was able to fill in the blanks and build them up in my minds. It made it easy to be attached to them and also just as easy to feel okay about being angry with them or cringe when they did something I thought wasn't thought through.

I also really like the whole virus==doomsday scenario and appreciated this one was not the result of a mad scientist or supernatural event. It makes it even creepier when a plague in a remote area spreads and all the more plausible.

Matt Kearns is a great main character. I appreciate a hero who doesn't always do or say the right thing  yet figures things out in time to come out okay. I will definitely get in to Beck's Alex Hunter novels.

This episode combines icky illness, great character introductions and diverse settings into an engaging start for the series. If you're picking it up, I recommend going right for the Omnibus. I expect once you start you'll be in for the finish.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Review: The Last Quarrel: Episode 1 by Duncan Lay

Gaelland is a nation gripped by fear.

In the country, fishing boats return with their crews mysteriously vanished, while farms are left empty, their owners gone into the night, meals still on the table. In the cities, children disappear from the streets or even out of their own beds. The King tells his people that it is the work of selkies – mythical creatures who can turn from seals into men and back again – and witches. But no matter how many women he burns at the stake, the children are still being taken.  

Fallon is a man who has always dreamed of being a hero. His wife Bridgit just wants to live in peace and quiet, and to escape the tragedies that have filled her life. His greatest wish and her worst nightmare are about to collide.

When an empty ship sails into their village, he begins to follow the trail towards the truth behind the evil stalking their land. But it is a journey that will take them both into a dark, dark place and nobody can tell them where it might end...

As the first Episode in a series, I was prepared for the format; players find their places, evil takes a foothold, good gives us a reason to get a comfy chair in their corner and a get the next one in the series NOW cliffhanger.

Done and done.

It also has two things I used to terrify myself with years ago; witch-burnings and unnatural faceless villains.

I like Fallon as a soldier and a family man and also Bridgit, she's got a lot more toughness in her than we've seen so far. I also liked the world is fictitious but in a way very regular, relatable and real. It gives the creepiness so much more weight.

I received a copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. I won't request the second. I'm hooked so I will support the author and buy the rest.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Review: Mine to Serve by Mel Teshco

A man with a secret past and a woman with an uncertain future.

When Lucinda Farrell is found guilty of a crime she didn't commit, she's resigned to her fate. It's either stay on a dying Earth or travel through the galaxy to the new world of Solitaire to complete her three-year sentence. Many claim the space bucket, Earth Ship Siren, won't make the long twelve-month journey and are almost proven right when a micro-meteor shower hits and cripples one of the three ships heading to Solitaire.

As pilot of the ES Siren, Jarred Cooper has never been short of female admirers. But he's got a secret he holds close to his chest—literally. Letting go of his past has never been so difficult when he's yet to find a woman who makes his breath catch and his heart beat fast. He knows love at first sight doesn't exist. Then he glimpses the beautiful prisoner, Lucinda.

But when overcrowding and rationing of food become serious issues, getting her to understand they can make things work, despite his past and their huge social divide, just might be the biggest hurdle of them all.

Again, another good novella in the ES Siren series. I continue to be impressed how Mel Teshco, Denise Rossetti and Shona Husk can write a series that remains so seamless from one to the next while each brings her own style to her contributions.

My biggest concern with this one, as with others in the series when the prisoner is a female, is the power imbalance. As one of Siren's pilots, Jarred is at the top of the food chain while Lucinda serves this part of her sentence doing laundry. For me, even their respective pasts would not have been enough to balance things out.

Teshco tells their story mainly from Lucinda's point of view and when we see Jarred's side, it's all about her. I loved how this gave her voice power she lacked due to her position aboard. I needed her to feel strong and to believe in herself in spite of her situation. I needed her to be a woman who felt free to make as many choices as she could within the constraints she lived in.

Very much enjoyed this one and read it twice. It was in my second reading I came to appreciate the depth we needed (and saw in) Lucinda.

I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Songs in the Year of the Cat by H. Leighton Dickson

SONGS IN THE YEAR OF THE CAT is the Third in the Original Series by H. Leighton Dickson and picks up where TO WALK IN THE WAY OF LIONS leaves off. Ancestors are rising in the west and armies are moving from the North and the East.

Captain Wynegarde-Grey has only just returned to the capital of the Upper Kingdom and he is immediately pulled into the conflict as cauldrons of oil are burning all along the Great Wall and the drums of war force all soldiers back into duty.

But a mysterious woman is changing things, manipulating behind the scenes as Sherah al Shiva, ninjaah and sorceress, slips back into his life with companions that could divide the known world. This is a sweeping post-apocalyptic tale of genetically altered lions and tigers, wolves and dragons in a world that has evolved in the wake of the fall of human civilization.

Half feline, half human, their culture blends those of Dynastic China, Ancient India and Feudal Japan where humans are legend and kingdoms have risen in their stead.

Third book in the series, Songs in the Year of the Cat takes grand steps beyond the first two engaging books.
H. Leighton Dickson brings her amazing characters to life for us once again.
Each has grown and changed and although so much has happened to them, Dickson does a great job of keeping them true to their roots.

While we follow the story in the Upper and Lower Kingdoms, the chapters alternate with the telling of Kerris and Fallon's story with the ancestors. I don't know which had me more anxious.
All I could reassure myself with was the fact they made it home. Didn't help. Didn't like what happened to them. If I wasn't so darned attached to those two then Dickson wouldn't have had me in such knots.
Year of the Cat continues to weave many diverse characters, peoples and their tales together while keeping the story focused and very, very engaging.

One of my biggest regrets with this series is I can't read it again for the first time.
Few stories make me feel that way.

This volume fills us with tales of great battles, challenged relationships and reunites the characters separated in book two.
H. Leighton Dickson found new ways to break my heart and give me hope.
Inside her astonishing world, she exposes the prejudices of the cats, dogs and monkeys yet leaves the individuals in the story with the choice to overcome them or not.
Night after night as I read I cheered and cursed, such is the way of this book. In the end, I clapped and I shed a few tears.
Giving a book like this a great rating is easy, saying why is hard. Songs in the Year of the Cat gave me all the feels and pulled me along on a fantastic journey.
Sequel? I'm so glad there is a sequel and hopefully more than one. My dear cats face even bigger trouble and I really, really need to know what happens.