Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Hero's Birth (Book III of 'The Empire's Foundation' Trilogy) [Book Review]

Genre - Fantasy
Year Published - 2018
Length - 505 (digital) pages
Written by +Ryan Toxopeus

Plot Summary:
After more than four months abroad, Eliza, Thomas, and Sarentha return home in the face of dire warnings and sweeping changes in the empire. They go their separate ways to reflect on their lives and look for ways to move forward. New allies and enemies emerge, and grave challenges face the up-and-coming heroes. They will need to come together, combining their wits and strengths, to overcome ancient foes. In the balance is the world of Illuma: will it enter an age of light, or will it plunge into everlasting darkness, ruled by demons and the undead?

Before I get started, if you have not already read A Noble's Quest and A Wizard's Gambit, you need to read those first. In fact, there are a few short stories written between the novels that you need to read as well. Here is the author's recommended reading order:

A Noble's Quest (Book 1)
1100 BGW (a Short Story)
Demon Invasion (a Novella)
A Wizard's Gambit (Book 2)
Dawn: A Dwarven Creation Story (a Short Story Collection)
A Hero's Birth (Book 3)

So, if you have not already been introduced to Toxopeus' world of Illuma, then the above is your gateway. Have fun!

Now, for those of you who have been anticipating the release of this final book in the trilogy. . . man-oh-man, what a doozy!

What I loved the most about this book is that our three heroes start off on three separate quests/journeys, making their ultimate reunion that much sweeter. You will see Thomas begin to fulfill his destiny, Sarentha's becoming a dragon hunter, and Eliza's growth as a leader. And the ending... Whoa! Man, it is difficult to write this review without giving anything away. I better just say this:

Toxopeus has certainly grown as an author. If you like your fantasy filled with intrigue, suspense, and mystery, then this book is for you!

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Harvest [Book Review]

First Book Review of 2018
Did I pick a winner? Read on to find out.

Genre - Sci-Fi/Horror
Year Published - 2018
Published by Post Mortem Press
Length - 322 (digital) pages
Written by John Leahy

Tagline: "Sometimes being one step ahead is going one step to far."

Plot Summary:
Nick Prentice is a young vice-president at oil company HHI - Hickson Hydrocarbon International. With the company in financial trouble, Nick feels that he may get fired in an upcoming round of cost-cutting. After a chance meeting with Adam Styles, an old high-school football team-mate, Nick thinks he just may have found the answer to all his problems - and the key to untold riches. Adam and his friends have made an incredible scientific discovery that will change Nick's life irrevocably, and the lives of everyone on earth...

I started off 2013 by reading Leahy's CROGIAN (a sci-fi thriller about giant, mutated bugs). I thoroughly enjoyed that one, so I decided to start this year off with Leahy's Harvest. Now, to be completely honest, if I were not already familiar with Leahy, I am not sure that I would have ever chosen this book based on its description. The description does not do this book justice!

The book begins with a fascinating prologue, (roughly 30 pgs) that starts in 1910 and leads up till today, and then the book really kicks into gear!

At this point, I feel that I need to give you just a little more information than the summary above - it  contains a slight spoiler, but is perhaps necessary in this case. (just skip the next paragraph, if you want to be surprised)

After an incredible scientific breakthrough, a "carbon-planet" has been discovered. Upon this planet, the seas and rivers are comprised of crude oil. Imagine what this means to the oil industry on Earth. . . untold riches!, but at what cost?

end slight spoiler

Leahy has written a totally engrossing story - one filled with treachery, blackmail, and murder. He has harnessed the power of greed and its cataclysmic consequences.

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Monday, December 18, 2017

Year in Review: 2017

Here are the Top Ten Books that I read this year:
[an asterisk* denotes published this year]

*Bane County 2: Returning Moon by +J R Rice​​

Dark Gold by David Angsten

*Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind

The Dragon's Blade: The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller

*The Dramos Saga by +Franklin E. Wales​​ (even though this one, legitimately, is a short story collection, it reads like a novel, hence its inclusion in this list)

The Hell on Earth Series by +Iain Rob Wright​​ (The Gates/Legion/ and why these books are included in this year's list *Extinction)

*Hex-Rated by Jason Ridler

Nightwalk 2 by D. Nathan Hilliard

The Swarm by Frank Schatzing

*Undisclosed by Steve Alten

BONUS here are my Top Three Short Stories/Novellas from 2017:

Beneath the Ziggurat by +David Dubrow​​ (this was one of the first books that I read this year, and it remained one of my top favorites, all year long!)

The Final Reconciliation by +Todd Keisling​​

Wallflower by +Chad Lutzke​​

If you are still looking for Christmas gifts, any of the above novels, novellas, or short stories will make for excellent gifts, in my opinion!

My Top Twelve Movies of 2017:
(I am giving you 12 this year, because my top two are absolute must-see movies, if you have not seen them already - the other 10 are the ones that I enjoyed over all of the others, primarily for their entertainment value.)

#1 Movie of the Year goes to Wind River
#2 movie of the year goes to Baby Driver

Here are my other Top Ten (in alphabetical order):
Keep in mind that this year I hardly watched any art or foreign films, and a few of these get their nomination simply due to their repeat viewing value with my children...

Beauty and the Beast
The Fate of the Furious [Fast & Furious 8]
Get Out
The Great Wall (I have seen this one on more than one "Worst of '17 List", but I thoroughly enjoyed it!)
Spiderman: Homecoming
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi
Thor: Ragnarok (this one knocked Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 off the list)
and last, but not least, Wonder Woman

Here are my Top Ten Movies [released prior to 2017]: (again, in alphabetical order)

The Accountant
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Ben-Hur (the 2016 re-make)
Hacksaw Ridge
Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back
La La Land
The Love Witch
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Why Him?

Before I sign off, here are My Top Three New Television Shows of 2017 [in order]

The Orville (I absolutely love this show - I looked forward to it each week!)

The Good Doctor (Freddie Highmore is Fantastic!)

Training Day (R.I.P. Bill Paxton)

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wrestle Maniacs [Book Review]

Wrestle Maniacs - not just for fans of Wrestling!

Genre - Dark Fiction (Crime/Horror/Humor/Taboo)
Year Published - 2017
Published by *Honey Badger Press
Length - 221 (digital) pages
Written by Multiple Authors

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
A dozen dark fiction masters bring their twisted vision to the world of professional wrestling. Twelve original stories of crime, horror, humor, and taboo. Ohhh, yeahhh! This ain’t no kayfabe, baby. This is hard-hitting wrestling fiction that grips like a Camel Clutch, and pins the reader to the page for the count of one, two…THREE!

Includes a confrontational foreword by ring legend 'Pulverizing' Pat McCrunch (as told to Jeff Strand)… An all-new story starring Nick 'The Widowmaker' Bullman from James Newman’s wrestling noir, "Ugly as Sin"… And ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer Reggie Levine ("Tijuana Donkey Showdown," "Damn Dirty Apes") returns for another action-packed misadventure.

Original fiction by:
Jeff Strand
Tom Leins
James Newman
Eryk Pruitt
Adam Howe
Ed Kurtz
Hector Acosta
Joseph Hirsch
Duncan P. Bradshaw
David James Keaton
Gabino Iglesias
Patrick Lacey
and Jason Parent


Author Adam Howe has started his own publishing label - *Honey Badger Press - "Fearless, Ferocious, FUBAR Fiction" - "grit-lit that just don't care" - and this is the first release.

I have never been a Wrestling fan, but I did not hesitate in purchasing this book - not only to support Howe's new label, but in all honesty soley for Howe's included story, Rassle Hassle (an all-new Reggie Levine story!)

As expected, Howe's story is worth the price of the book (what Adam puts Reggie through... man-oh-man!), though surprisingly it ultimately wasn't my favorite story in this collection - that honor goes to Gabino Iglesias' El Nuevo Santo's Last Fight - I loved this story!

I also really enjoyed Duncan P. Bradshaw's Glassjaw. These were the top three stories, in my opinion - each one worth getting this book.

While some of the stories in this collection are hit-or-miss, there are some others still worth mentioning - James Newman's A Fiend in Need, Patrick Lacey's Kill to be You, and Tom Lein's Real Americans were some of the other stand out stories.

All-in-all, whether you are a fan of Wrestling, or not, chances are you will enjoy a good bit of these stories!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Dark Gold

"When the world offers itself to you, when it opens like a woman's legs and begs for you to enter, there's no holding back, no stopping, no chain on the madman living inside you. . ."

Three college buddies, two ravishing shipmates, a wealthy yachtsman (and plenty of Mexican tequila) combine and combust in this thrilling tale of a search for sunken treasure - and survival against an awesome creature of the sea.

This one was recommended by author +David Dubrow​. What I love about Mr. Dubrow is that when he reviews a book (or movie) he does not shy away from being completely honest. If something is not worth your time, he will let you know, and if he deems something worthwhile, then you are guaranteed a treat! Such is the case with this book - an excellent read, one you want to take your time with, absorbing each and every word (hence the above quote).

Thank you, Mr. Dubrow, for another great recommendation!

Monday, November 27, 2017

'Seat 6A' and 'Scarecrows' [Two Short Story Reviews]

Over the weekend, author +Thomas S Flowers​ announced his forthcoming new short story collection Beautiful Ugly and Other Weirdness (releasing towards the end of January - you can pre-order your copy now for only $0.99!)

The reason that I mention this is that author +Michael Bray​ did the cover art. This reminded me that I have several short stories written by Bray, that I have not yet read (he had a big sale over the summer and I snagged quite a few of his books).

Anyhow, I chose these two at random:

Seat 6A
Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2013
Length - 29 (digital) pages
Written by Michael Bray

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
A routine flight becomes a real life nightmare when a strange man boards flight 444. As the aircraft makes its way into a violent storm, the crew realise that the passenger in seat 6A is more than just a mere man, and must take action to ensure not only their survival, but that of the other passengers before their supernatural passenger can bring the aircraft down with everyone on board.

The tag-line for this one is "*Horror at 30,000 feet*", and that sums the story up nicely. It is a tight-written story. When a flight attendant and the black-eyed man have a battle of wills, you can feel the intensity roll off the pages, and the ending alone makes this a story worth reading!

One more thing before I move on to the next one, in case any of you are already Bray fans (this is the first story that I have read by him). At the end of the story, it is mentioned that this story is part of Bray's "Taste of Fear Series" It is stated that next in the series is a story titled The Reef, yet I am unable to find it (or any others in the series) anywhere. . .?

Genre - Horror/Short Story
Year Published - 2015
Length - 41 (digital) pages
Written by Michael Bray

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Once you're in, they'll never let you go...

When three teenagers decide to explore the local legend of the crazy old man on Samsonite farm and the army of scarecrows he has built, they soon discover that not all urban legends are false, and sometimes the biggest threat comes from within. 

For Dwayne and his friends, a battle against a supernatural creature which uses the samsonite scarecrows to do it's bidding will unfold as trust is broken and truth becomes blurred amid the unbelievable reality of the situation they are in and cannot escape from.

This one is a great short story that packs a punch!
(Even though I rated it the same as Seat 6A, I enjoyed this one even moreso.)

I will definitely be reading more of Bray!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bane County 2: Returning Moon [Book Review]

If you have read my last couple of posts (on Google+) then you are already aware that I have been reading Bane County 2: Returning Moon. Well, I have finished it and here is my review:

Genre - Action-Adventure/Horror/Werewolf
Year Published - 2017
Length - 466 (digital) pages
Written by +J R Rice

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
For nearly two decades, life in the small rural town of Silver Canyon had been peaceful and serene. People went about their daily lives as usual, completely oblivious to the inescapable horror that loomed on the horizon.

All but a select few of Bane County’s residents had forgotten the macabre occurrences of the past. It was hard to believe that twenty-one people, missing or dead, in only three months’ time had been so easily dismissed.

Bryce McNeel and Jackson Campbell had been at the heart of those horrific events, and the tragic memories of that long, bloody season still weighed heavily on them, especially since they knew it wasn’t over.

The time was quickly approaching when a long-slumbering evil would reawaken, and the horrors of the past would revisit the people of Bane County. Somewhere within the dark cavernous depths of the wildlife refuge, something ravenous awaited, longing for its time to rise.

As Bryce and Jackson prepared themselves, they were unaware that an even deadlier adversary would come for them, and once again, they would find themselves in a battle for their lives.

This is the sequel to Bane County: Forgotten Moon. You do not have to read the first book, but I highly suggest that you do, if you have not yet done so (primarily for the background of the characters). If you have not already read my review of Forgotten Moon, I gave that one a five-skull-rating as well. With that said, Returning Moon is even better!!

Like I said in my review of the first book, this book too has excellent mass-market appeal. It is not just for fans of horror or werewolves. It is for fans of really any genre, but especially those who love great action or an intriguing mystery.

The book starts off with an incredible discovery which took place before the first book. The story then jumps ahead, approximately 19 years after the end of the first book. There are returning characters as well as new ones (specifically Iggy, Bryce's best friend, and Fate, Jackson's dog - a possible Rottweiler/Bull Mastif mix.) What I most love about Iggy is his "instant belief" when Bryce first tells him of the beast who hunts within Bane County's Refuge, and Fate is just awesome!

J R Rice is a Master at not only interweaving his different subplots, but also of superb character development. (both for the protagonists as well as the antagonists) You easily become emotionally invested with the characters and become angry when there is wrong-doing against them!

Not only is this a terrific book with a rapid-fire plot, it ends with you craving more, and the good news is that Book 3 [First Moon] is already underway! (and I have a sneaky suspicion that there are going to be several forthcoming surprises)

Make this book (or the first one) your next read. You will not be disappointed!