Friday, October 25, 2019

When Bane Flowers Bloom [a Bane County Short Story]

If you have thus far enjoyed the first three books in the Bane County series, then you will be happy to know that author J. R. Rice has just released a new short story to help hold us over until Book 4's release. 

This short story takes place during the 3rd book (and also references back to the 1st book). In Book 3, if you wondered what the deal was with the abandoned red car, then this story explains what happened, (with Rice's signature expertise on ratcheting the tension throughout) while also surprising you with a twist ending that introduces a mysterious cult(?) into the Bane County mythos. 

I am definitely looking forward to Book 4's release!

4/5 Skulls

Friday, October 18, 2019

Pushing Brilliance

Pushing Brilliance is Book 1 in the Kyle Achilles series. Here is the book's synopsis:

Some people are naturally brilliant, others have to buy it. What would you pay, to be one in a million?

Framed for murder and on the run, former Olympic biathlete Kyle Achilles is also in the crosshairs of assassins' guns. Why? He has no idea. He's fighting blind against two master strategists and one extraordinary invention -- known as Brillyanc.

Achilles' only ally is the other prime suspect, a beautiful Russian mathematician who is either the best or worst person to ever enter his life. Katya was engaged to Achilles' brother -- before he died.

Chasing clues while dodging bullets, Achilles and Katya race around the globe, uncovering a conspiracy conceived in Moscow, born in Silicon Valley, and destined to demolish both the White House and the Kremlin. Along the way a lost soul finds purpose, a broken heart confronts forbidden love, and America gains a new hero.

Packed with heart-stopping surprises, paced by razor-sharp plotting, and populated with richly rendered characters, Pushing Brilliance will leave you breathless and longing for more.

This author/book was recommended to me by my parents, and I was not disappointed! The characters are well developed, and the plot is fast-paced - one of those books that reads like a movie playing in your head. What I loved most about this book is the learning aspect gleaned in certain situations. (You will understand once you read the book. You see, Tigner writes from personal knowledge/experience.) Here is a synopsis on the author himself:

International Bestselling Author Tim Tigner began his career in Soviet Counterintelligence with the US Army Special Forces, the Green Berets. That was back in the Cold War days when, "We learned Russian so you didn't have to," something he did at the Presidio of Monterey alongside Recon Marines and Navy SEALs.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tim switched from espionage to arbitrage. Armed with a Wharton MBA rather than a Colt M16, he moved to Moscow in the midst of Perestroika. There, he led prominent multinational medical companies, worked with cosmonauts on the MIR Space Station (from Earth, alas) chaired the Association of International Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, and helped write Russia's first law on healthcare.

Moving to Brussels during the formation of the EU, Tim ran Europe, Middle East, and Africa for a Johnson & Johnson company and traveled like a character in a Robert Ludlum novel. He eventually landed in Silicon Valley, where he launched new medical technologies as a startup CEO.

Intent on combining his creativity with his experience, Tim began writing thrillers in 1996 from an apartment overlooking Moscow's Gorky Park. Twenty years later, his passion for creative writing continues to grow every day. His home office now overlooks a vineyard in Northern California, where he lives with his wife Elena and their two daughters.

Is that impressive or what?!?

Needless to say, I will definitely be reading the other books in this series as well as any other books written by Tigner, and I recommend that you do the same.

5/5 Skulls

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Wasteland [Children of D'Hara: "Episode" 3]

My brain is in turmoil right now. . .

I generally sleep like a rock, however after I finished this book, around midnight last night, I just could not fall asleep! I kept tossing and turning, knowing that I have to wait another three months for Book 4 to be released, and to see the resolution to this book's horrifying cliffhanger.

Richard has been in some bad places before, but nothing like the situation he is in now! Goodkind is a master of his craft!

The good news is that these novellas keep increasing in size (this one is 233 pages). The bad news, like I stated above, is that after an already horrendous event, the end of this one will leave you winded from the brutal gut-punch that Goodkind delivers! And Book 4 is not scheduled to be released until January 6th. (I seriously recommend waiting to read this one, closer to that date, so you will not have an agonizing wait!)

All I will say about this one, is that this is one of Goodkind's absolute best! (hands down the best of this novella series) The title of this book is deceiving, in that the Wasteland is not what you expect/imagine.

The book begins with Richard & Kahlan preparing to leave the People's Palace (where they have been under constant siege from the Golden Goddess) and travelling to the Wizard's Keep in hopes that they will be safer there. (Kahlan is unable to travel through the Sliph due to her pregnancy...)

Before they can head out though, Goodkind introduces yet another new villain - Moravaska "the Butcher" Michec - a Warlock.  (If you thought that Emperor Jagang "the mad dream walker" was bad, you haven't yet met Michec!)

5+ Skulls

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Institute

While not as good as last year's The Outsider (in my opinion), this is still an extremely enjoyable read. I have given my youngest daughter (15) permission to read it next, as she is a huge fan of Stranger Things. (One can imagine Eleven being a character in the Institute.) Before I give you the synopsis, let me leave you with my favorite line in the book (actually stated twice). "Great events turn on small hinges."

Here is the book's synopsis:

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of ItThe Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

5/5 Skulls

Friday, September 20, 2019

Rambo 5: Last Blood

While Last Blood is the best title choice, the title could easily have been Rambo: Excessive Blood.

Now, don't misunderstand me, I am a die-hard fan of Rambo, but this film is so over-the-top in its graphic violence, it comes across as a bit absurd. I felt as if I were watching a Slasher film (think Jason Vorhees with Rambo's training...). In fact, I have seen quite a few slasher flicks with less blood & gore than this movie.

I am not really sure why the film went the ultra-violent route. I guess the franchise just wanted to go out with an overall body count that will be difficult to beat?

Still, it was great seeing Stallone back in character. There were several times I had a huge grin on my face, from some great one liners to simply watching Rambo struggle with attempting to hold his rage back. Once he lets go though, boy do the flood gates open. There is a solid 10-minutes of kill after kill after kill, part of which is set to a Doors song. (I will never be able to listen to that song again without thinking of the tunnel scene in this movie.)

3/5 Skulls

Monday, September 9, 2019

Vine in the Fire

I love discovering a new author, who immediately becomes one of your favorites. Such is the case with Stephen J. Semones. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Semones at a local horror convention, a few weeks ago. He is a super friendly guy, and I ended up buying quite a few of his books, on the spot, as he writes in multiple genres. I took a gamble doing this (I have been disappointed before), but I had a feeling about Semones and that feeling has paid-off ten-fold!

I was actually going to start off reading another of Semones' books titled Gloom (an action/crime drama), but that book is the start of a series (currently 5 books in, with the 6th soon to be released - I bought the first 3). Stephen King's new book comes out tomorrow, so I knew I didn't want to be in the middle of a series, so I went with Vine in the Fire - a stand alone western/horror novel.

Vine in the Fire is written in three Acts, not including the gripping Prologue. (I guarantee that once you read the prologue, you will not be stopping there!) Act 1 is a fast-paced chase sequence, Act 2 takes a 3-month time jump, and Act 3 leads up to the ultimate showdown.

Semones has superb character development skills, giving minute characteristics to each character, making them more relatable, and also giving palatable emotion when needed. I also love it when the title of a book explains itself, which this one does in a cool way.

I am definitely looking forward to reading more of Stephen J. Semones!

5/5 Skulls

Here is the book's synopsis:

After his brother is murdered, Cole Truett leaves the small California town of Temple on a quest to bring the killer to justice. He sets his sights on Jacob Wallace, leader of the notorious outlaws known as "The Wallace Gang". What he doesn't realize is that Jacob harbors an ancient curse, one which makes him not only a deadly adversary, but a terror to humanity itself. Take a ride with Cole Truett through the 'Old West' in this epic tale of evil, revenge, and treachery.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019


If you like to read a book that completely draws you in, then this book is for you! This is the kind of book where you live out the story with the characters - completely immersive.

Wendig does an excellent job with the pacing of this book. Aside from the mystery itself, you will want to keep turning the pages as the characters are superbly developed. It amazed me, that for an almost 800-page novel, even towards the end, Wendig was introducing/creating new characters that you immediately connect with.

5/5 Skulls

Here is the book's synopsis:
A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. From the mind of Chuck Wendig comes “a magnum opus . . . a story about survival that’s not just about you and me, but all of us, together” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them—and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them—the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart—or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.