Friday, May 30, 2014

Extinction Point, by Paul Antony Jones

Extinction Point, (Extinction Point Book 1) by Paul Antony Jones is an interesting take on the traditional post apocalyptic thriller. It starts off a bit slow, with a little too much background info in the first pages, but stick with it, as it kicks into gear and quickly becomes engrossing.

The Blurb:
First comes the red rain: a strange, scarlet downpour from a cloudless sky that spreads across cities, nations, and the entire globe. In a matter of panicked hours, every living thing on earth succumbs to swift, bloody death. Yet Emily Baxter, a young newspaper reporter, is mysteriously spared—and now she’s all alone.

But watching the happy life she built for herself in New York City slip away in the wake of a monstrous, inexplicable plague is just the beginning of Emily’s waking nightmare. The world isn’t ending; it’s only changing. And the race that once ruled the earth has now become raw material for use by a new form of life never before seen…on this planet.

With only wits, weapons, and a bicycle, Emily must undertake a grueling journey across a country that’s turning increasingly alien. For though she fears she’s been left to inherit the earth, the truth is far more terrifying than a lifetime of solitude.

My Review:

Emily is an interesting character. At the beginning, she seems like a girl who wants to be streetwise, and as events begin to happen, she grows as a character.  The author details the environment well, and also her reactions to the situations she finds herself in. Her observations about the red rain and subsequent evolution of the alien invader give the reader the sense that they are finding things out when she does. There is a sense of impending doom that builds as the story progresses, and I wanted to know what would happen next.

It's not a real long read--I read it in three hours--and the tale continues in book two, so there is no real resolution which was a bit disappointing, but many authors seem to be dividing one book into two or three installments nowadays. 

It was hard for me to decide what I think about this book, as while there is sometime too much information in long dumps and a bit of repetitious narrative, I can forgive those failings because it's a good, gripping story. It's an indie book, but frankly it's no worse than some of the traditionally published genre fiction I've seen lately, and the narrative has moments of being downright stellar. 

Despite the fluff and info dumps that could have been edited out and the lack of a good ending, I'm giving it four stars, because its an awesome concept for a tale, and Emily is a great protagonist. I'll definitely read the next installment, because I'm curious about what happens next.

Friday, May 23, 2014

And Soon the Song, J.D. Hughes

And Soon the Song is a modern fantasy-horror novel by one of the best indie authors in the business,
 J. D. Hughes. This is his second novel, and is action packed; awash in a sinister atmosphere.

The Blurb:

‘Hearthstone Hall came into sight; not a light showed. It stood, black and massive against the sky, blacker than the night, a mouth of darkness waiting to suck in the innocent.’

Charlie Chelford, hotshot New York photojournalist, is tasked with an unwelcome assignment to photograph billionaire businessman, Sir Marcus Tilling, in England. She has no inkling of the ancient terrors that are rushing to meet her and will change her life, forever.

Fresh from London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison, penniless ex paratrooper Tom Buchanan struggles against the odds to keep on the straight and narrow. He finds a job as a security guard. But there is no security for Tom as he uncovers the mystery of his lost childhood and faces the ultimate test against a supernatural entity that seems to have limitless power.

In an East Harlem cell, gang member and killer Angel Diaz feels the desperate need to escape. He needs a miracle, but then he does have divine help.

Ex-fashion model Elyssia Jordan, locked in an Ashbourne mental asylum, finds an unconventional way to get out… and get home.

And, eyes full of the moon, a huge, black dog dreams of the song, dreams of death.

Deep in the wilds of Derbyshire, England, mediaeval manor house Hearthstone Hall draws them to its cold stones - the boy, the girl, the dark man and the others. They will have no choice, for they will all hear the song and the hunger will be assuaged.

Lost to the gaze of God, Hearthstone waits.

Waits for the guests.

Waits for the children.

My Review:

UK author J.D. Hughes has a gift for conveying the sense of place with an economy of words. The book begins with setting the scene through several action sequences, and while the narrative jumps around a bit at first between people and times, it soon comes together. Charlie is a strong female protagonist, an orphan with a murky past. Her photo-shoot in England does not go as she thought it would (yay for us!) and the way she and all the other characters react to the evolving nightmare is well-conceived and real.

There is evil here, and it is really frightening.

J.D. Hughes explores the concept of deeds done in the distant past influencing the lives of the present, building the tension and sense of danger with every turn of the page.

This is a novel with substance, not a quick read, even for me--but it is well worth spending a day or two at it. If you love horror and supernatural thrillers, you will definitely be glad you did. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Beast Hunter, by Lindsay Schopfer

This week was the launch of indie author Lindsay Schopfer’s steampunk fantasy, The Beast Hunter. I was intrigued, as I had read his first book, a sci fi novel, Lost Under Two Moons, and really enjoyed it.

The Blurb:
Beast hunter and local hero Keltin Moore joins a desperate campaign to save faraway Krendaria, a nation on the verge of revolution. A swarm of beasts threatens to destroy the country’s desperately needed crops, and an unprecedented team of hunters is assembled to cleanse the infested farmlands. But the grand adventure quickly becomes a desperate fight for survival as the horde of beasts seems endless and distrust among the hunters eats away at the campaign from within. In desperation, Keltin and his new friends embark on a dangerous mission into the heart of the deadly swarm, prepared to make a final stand against the oncoming beasts to try and save all of Krendaria from starvation.

My Review:
This novel is well-structured, with creative environments, good tension, and deep characters.

The Beast Hunter is complex tale. The technology is all what would be available in any late 19th century steampunk tale, but there the similarity ends. Keltin is a beast hunter, and the beasts he hunts are not your average Edwardian creatures. They are some of the most horrific beasts I have seen outside of an RPG. Even the beneficial creatures are fun and dangerous.

Keltin Moore is an awesome hero, slightly flawed, and intriguing. He has family troubles and has trouble getting along with certain members of his own species. There are many different species living in Krendaria, and a great deal of prejudice and political intrigue stemming from that diversity. One of my favorite characters is Bor’ve’tai, a member of a species called the Loopi.

As a bounty hunter, Keltin usually works alone. Acting on a tip, he signs on to hunt beasts for Duke Gregson, and ends up a part of a militia under the command of Baron Rumsfeld. The wide, wild world is much more dangerous than he’d ever thought, and the people are even more so.

Lindsay Schopfer’s knack for showing a good story really shines, as the action driven plot, unique multicultural society, and solid, well-drawn characters of many different species make this novel impossible to put down. I highly recommend it as an action adventure. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Rushed, by Brian Harmon

This week I found myself dipping into the realm of horror, having run across Rushed, by Brian Harmon.


Eric can't remember the recurring dream that keeps waking him in the middle of the night with an overwhelming urge to leave, yet he spends each day feeling as if he desperately needs to be somewhere. With no idea how to cure himself of this odd compulsion, he decides to let it take its course and go for a drive, hoping that once he proves to himself that there is nowhere to go, he can return to his normal life. Instead, he finds himself hurled headlong into a nightmare adventure across a fractured Wisconsin as the dream reveals itself one heart-pounding detail at a time.


Eric Fortrell is an average guy, with a good life and and a great relationship with his wife, Karen. The recurring dream that plagues him threatens all of that, but his wife agrees with him when he at last gives in and begins driving, with no conscious idea of where he will end up. One of the main characters in this tale is Eric's cell phone, which seems to hold a charge exceptionally well.

I like the way Harmon portrays the scenery Eric passes through, fitting it into the narrative without bludgeoning the reader with it--and the scenery is important in this tale, because a cornfield isn't just a cornfield where Eric is going.

No one is what they seem, and help isn't always that helpful. Apparently Eric is running late for something, but no one is willing to tell him what that may be.

This is a gripping mystery, with nightmarish creatures and evil characters. Harmon keeps the plot moving and keeps Eric progressing ever further toward his destiny, making this tale hard to put down. I am giving it five full stars for creativity, great characters and a bold, twisting narrative that won't let you go. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazney

It's been a rough week, reading material wise--time was my enemy--I was unable to finish a book in time to post a review so, today I am going back to one of the best, most enjoyable series of books I ever read,  a series of books by the late Roger Zelazney, a group of ten books now compiled in 'The Great Book of Amber'. My original review was first posted in September of 2012, but this is a series of books comprised in one volume, all well-worth revisiting..

I started reading this series with the first book, Nine Princes in Amber back in 1970 when it was first published. Zelazney was a man ahead of his time, who believed that if there exists an infinite number of worlds, then every world that can be imagined must exist, somewhere. He wrote his tales based on that conviction, and this, his most famous series, explores that hypothesis more clearly than any other of his works.

This is a big, sweeping fantasy, and is definitely a macho take on the current mores of the1970s. Machismo aside, this is one of the best fantasy series ever written, and modern writers would do well to read Zelazney's work. The series begins with the classic, 'Nine Princes in Amber.'

The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10

One of the most revered names in sf and fantasy, the incomparable Roger Zelazny was honored with numerous prizes—including six Hugo and three Nebula Awards—over the course of his legendary career. Among his more than fifty books, arguably Zelazny’s most popular literary creations were his extraordinary Amber novels. The Great Book of Amber is a collection of the complete Amber chronicles—featuring volumes one through ten—a treasure trove of the ingenious imagination and phenomenal storytelling that inspired a generation of fantasists, from Neil Gaiman to George R.R. Martin.

My REVIEW: Told in the first person, the series kicks off with Nine Princes in Amber. A man wakes up in a private hospital, knowing that he is not as injured as the nurses say he is, and that he is being drugged into cooperating. Suffering from amnesia, he removes the casts on his legs, beats up an orderly who is out to stop him from leaving at any cost, steals the orderly's clothes and forces his way into the physician-in-charge's office, where he demands to be released.  The Dr. refuses and pulls a gun on him.  Our hero swiftly and efficiently disarms the doctor.  He discovers he is booked into a place called 'Greenwood Private hospital' under the name of Carl Corey.  He has apparently been booked there by his sister, a Mrs. Evelyn Flaumel. Both names feel false to him.

Desperate to discover his past Carl 'settles out of court' with the doctor who has been holding him against his will, and travels to 'Evelyn's' address which was listed in his file. She is surprised to see him, and drops hints that suggest she thinks he has regained his memory. Hiding his lack of knowledge about what she is saying, he convinces her to let him stay. In a desk in her library he locates a set of customized Tarot cards— called the Trumps—whose Major Arcana are replaced with images which he recognizes as his family. As he looks over the cards he remembers all his brothers and sisters: sneaky Random, Julian the hunter, well-built GĂ©rard, the arrogant Eric, himself, Benedict the master tactician and swordsman, sinister Caine, scheming Bleys, and the mysterious Brand. He also views his four sisters: Flora who offered him sanctuary, Deirdre who was dear to him, reserved Llewella, and Fiona, whom Carl (who now knows his name is Corwin) hated. Still, his memory is very spotty, and he has no idea what is really going on or how he ended up in the hospital.

His brother Random calls Flora's house via telephone and is dumbfounded when Corwin answers it.  Corwin promises to give him protection, although he has no idea from what or whom. Random arrives, pursued by mysterious spined, bloodshot-eyed humanoid creatures, and the combined efforts of Corwin, Random, and Flora's dogs ultimately defeat them. This is only the beginning of Corwin's struggle. He and Random set out on a ride (Random still doesn't know he is faking his memory).  There are more battles with strange beasts and in the end Corwin is shown and walks the Pattern, a labyrinth inscribed in the dungeons of Castle Amber which gives the multiverse its order. He can't get to Amber, but on Random's advice, he instead walks the one in in Rebma, the first shadow away from Amber. Thus begins his quest to claim his father's empty throne.

Corwin is a flawed hero, every bit as selfish and violent as are his siblings, and in many ways perhaps, even less fit to rule than they. Every sort of evil brothers can do to each other, these nine princes do, and yet they love/hate each other obsessively.  The entire family is split into several groups, two of whom are vying to claim their missing fathers throne; one group is backing Corwin; and the other group is backing his older but slightly less legitimate brother Eric, and the third switching sides when it looks more profitable for them to back Eric rather than Corwin.  

Corwin is considered to be a cruel and selfish man, and indeed he has been exactly that. His oldest brother, Benedict, doesn't trust him to rule Amber well, as he once ruled a shadow called Avalon poorly when he was very young and is remembered there as a despot.  Corwin wants to convince Benedict he has changed, but it is a losing battle, as things keep happening that make him appear to be murderous and power mad.

The second half of the series takes up the tale with the story of Corwin's son, Merlin. Corwin has disappeared, and Merlin, who has only met him once, is sure it was not voluntary. In this half of the series we go deeper into the the lands called Chaos--the antitheses of Amber. 

These books comprise a sweeping tale of the lust for power and the way absolute power corrupts.  There is intense love, brotherly hate and sibling against sibling vying for the crown of their missing father, Oberon, King of Amber, and ultimately, the throne of Chaos. 

If you are looking for sheer adventure which makes no apologies for it's blatant misogyny, this is the series for you.  I loved it, but then I freely admit to being fatally attracted to the bad boys of the world. I have read every book Zelazney ever wrote before his untimely death in 1995.   Other books which were landmark books for me were 1971's immortal 'Jack of Shadows' and 1979's classic tale of a road-trip gone to extremes,  'Roadmarks'.