Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: SKIN DEEP/ORDINARY MONSTERS, by Frank Martin

Frank Martin
SKIN DEEP: A Vampire Story of Love
ORDINARY MONSTERS: High School and the Final Solution

Burning Willow Press, 2016
85 / 88 pages

I truly enjoyed the taut tales by Frank Martin. The publisher was quite creative. They combined two novellas, and separated them with a handful of pages of dark comic strips. The cool thing about the book design is when you finish reading one story, you flip the book over, end over end, and there is the second one. Ready to go. Clever, fun design. Two thumbs up to BWP.

SKIN DEEP is a fast paced vampire tale. It is about two sisters, parents, and expectations. Laura, the "favorite" is a track star, destined to do great things. Her artistic sister, Jessica has dreams that leave her parents worried about her future. However, when Laura meets a dangerous stranger it is up to Jessica to attempt saving the day. But does she have it in her to rescue her sister from a hideous vampire?

ORDINARY MONSTERS once again revolves around family, and secrets. It starts out like any High School story. Reckless boys with crushes on girls, and parties. When learning about Nazi Germany and the holocaust, Liam and Eric (who I very much imagined as Christian Slater the entire time I was reading the novella) find themselves in the midst of a legend from the past. Eric's family has secrets. And whether he wants to learn them or not, Liam will find himself face to face with . . .

Frank Martin has put out two chilling novellas. They are gripping, and dark. I imagined them each like a half hour horror show on the SyFy channel. Totally unique, and compelling, I truly enjoyed the books. I have no idea what the eBook version is like -- but I have the paperback, and am proud to shelf if with the rest of my collection!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of The Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book Review: WHEN THE HEAVENS FALL, by Marc Turner

Marc Turner
Tor Books, 2015
541 pages
Dark Fantasy

As much as I love reading giant fantasy novels, writing reviews on them is never simple. How do you summarize a tome into a few paragraphs? Below is my best attempt at conveying the pure enjoyment I received from reading WHEN THE HEAVENS FALL.

See if you can stay with me on this, I am going to recap in what I call "a nutshell." Basically there is this Book of Lost Souls. It is filled with power, and magic. Locked power. Locked magic. The one who possess the book, must also know how to unlock the secrets if the power and magic is to be wielded, and wielded correctly.

The existence of such a book poses a threat to the rest of the world for far too many obvious reasons. And so the quest for four separate groups begins. Their race for the book is not unobserved. The one with the book knows the opposition is en route, and will stop at nothing to stop them!

Mayot Mencada is a mage. He has the Book. And with it he unlocked a secret. He found a way to call the souls of the dead back through Shroud's gate. He, in all of his limited wisdom, has recruited an army of undead to protect his person . . . while he works at unlocking more of the book's potential and increasing his power!

Luker, a former Guardian agrees to lead a team. He somewhat strong armed into the mission. The fact his former master, Kanon, disappeared prior to Luker's enlistment is about the only reason he truly agrees. He doesn't care about the book. He wants only to rescue his old friend. Teamed with assassin, Jenna, and some others from the Emperor's personally hand-picked team, they set out to find (Konan) the book!

Luker and Jenna are by far my favorite two characters. They have history together. And although we get snippets into what that history was, snippets mind you, there is clearly another book in their older adventures that I am certain Turner will not leave unturned (unwritten).

Ebon, the Prince of Galitia, has also amassed a small team to join him on the trek across the lands with the intention of recovering the book first! His kingdom is under attack. Raised dead pound at the city walls, and threaten to destroy his realm. Unstoppable, there is little chance of defeating an army that is not alive. Time is of the essence. He needs the book so he can put a stop to the siege!

Romany Elivar is the high priestess to the goddess, Spider. The two are sneaky and conniving. Too late to snatch the book up for themselves, they are left with feeding the book's owner bits and pieces of information on how to handle the magic found inside the pages.

Shroud is the Lord of the Dead. He wants the book as well. It may be the only talisman in existence that can rival his power, his strength his magic -- despite his being a god! Unfortunately, with so many facets in play, snatching the book from Mayot is not as easy as one might hope!

There are so many components, and angels, so many variables, and plots . . . WHEN THE HEAVENS FALL is non-stop. I feel the urgency after turning every page, after reading every paragraph. The characters  are superbly crafted. Turner makes you care about each of them: the heroes, the heroines, the nasty, the dark, and the deranged!

I have the second book in the Chronicles of Exile ready to go! I cannot wait to get started!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review: OFF THE GRID, by C.J. Box

C.J. Box
OFF THE GRID: A Joe Pickett Novel
G.P. Putnam Sons, 2016
384 pages
Thriller / Suspense

So, it turns out C.J. Box has an entire Joe Pickett series. Some fourteen or fifteen Joe Pickett novels. And I, fortunately, just discovered him--or them--or him, the author--Pickett the character. I will admit, I am super excited. Thing is, OFF THE GRID is the latest. Now I must go back and read the other books in the series. (This I shall do gladly!)

Anywho. OFF THE GRID is a brisk thriller. This can be called a Nate Romanowski Novel as much, or as equally, as it can be called a Joe Pickett novel. Seems I missed a lot not having read the earlier books in the series, but I did not feel lost as a reader jumping in at the end. (Good thing!).

By court order, and law, and signed agreements and such, Joe and Nate are not allowed contact with each other. In fact, Nate is wanted by the law. Crimes committed, laws broken. Living off the grid, Nate and his girlfriend, Olivia Brannan are in hiding in Wyoming. They're making a living at not getting found. That is, until they are found.

When the Wolverines come calling, this super secret team of government employees across all branches of the government, Nate has no choice but to hear them out. They need his help. Because of his unique talents as a falconer he may be the only one who can infiltrate a terrorist cell somewhere in the Red Desert. In return, Nate is promised his record will be wiped clean. Erased.

However, if he fails, if he is caught, if anything goes wrong--the Wolverines will deny any involvement, and Nate will go to prison for previous criminal activity, and pay for whatever new charges tacked on.

Joe Pickett, a game warden, is called upon by the governor (once again, apparently) to help on a special assignment. He knows he can use the tracking of a rogue bear as a cover. The task will lead the game warden down a road similar to Nate's. The threat of terrorism is all around.

As if never separated, Joe and Nate work together, without knowing the other is even involved, gathering up evidence, and information with the hopes of shutting down, preventing, an act of terror before the terrorist act can be committed!

Box writes terse, taut scenes. His characters are well drafted, and authentic. He pulled me right into the story (which I didn't think would be easy because I knew I was on the latest book in the series, and not the first -- which is the kind of thing that bothers me as a reader). It didn't matter. OFF THE GRID worked as an independent tale, a stand alone novel. It isn't. But it worked as one. Loved the dialogue, and the action. And as I stated up top -- I will be reading the other books in the series!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of The Severed Empire Saga,
and the Vaccination Trilogy

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Book Review: FENCES, August Wilson

August Wilson
Plume, 1986

"Can't visit the sins of the father upon the child."

A few summers back, August Wilson's play, FENCES, was performed at a local theater. I missed every performance. That was upsetting. I love seeing plays. Recently, I saw that FENCES was being made into a major motion picture with Denzel Washington. With renewed interest, I ordered the play, and read it in one sitting.

FENCES is set in the 1950s. The Acts mostly take place on Fridays. Payday. On the porch of a small house, with a dirt yard, we meet Troy Maxson, his wife Rose, their son Cory, Troy's other son, Lyons, and Troy's disabled brother, Gabe, and, additionally, Bono, Troy's lifelong friend.

Unfortunately, Troy is not a likeable man. Although he'd lived a hard life, his life is spent in the past. Despite having left home at fourteen, and spending fifteen years in prison for murder, he married, landed a good job as a garbage man, and started a family. His once dreamed of playing professional baseball. Too many things were stacked against him. The fact he was black became the tallest obstacle, and an impossible hurdle.

Hard working, Troy has little time for his boys. Lyons is in his thirties, and doesn't work. He is a musician, and despite having no money, and begging for cash from his father, it is clear Lyons wants to, in some way, salvage his relationship with his father. His constant pleas for Troy to come down to the club where his band plays scream for attention that time, and again, Troy ignores.

Rose's and Troy's son, Cory, is athletic. His football playing might land him a scholarship into college. A recruiter is anxious to discuss terms with Troy. Determined his son is living in a fantasy, Troy continually gives Cory a hard time, setting unrealistic goals with little care of the consequences.

Gabe, Troy's younger brother, fought in World War II. A plate in his head has him believing he is the Arch Angel Gabriel. The government checks helped Troy make ends meet, but when Gabe moves out, hard feelings set in.

Troy likes to make everyone believe he is smarter than he is. He wants people to know he is strong, and in charge. He is the King of his Castle. Ruler over Rose, and Cory, and even Lyons. What he says, goes. He is harsh, and brash, and obnoxious. Calloused, and careless.

His mistakes continually pile up. He makes one bad call after another. And then, when his reality is there facing him, ready to wrestle -- he has no one to blame for the outcome, except himself.

"You went back on yourself Troy. You gonna have to answer for that."

The thing is, I don't think Troy ever truly gets it. I don't think he ever understands that he was the problem. And that, for me, was the tragedy. That was what made this story so sad, and depressing. Troy never got it. He just never got it.

FENCES is a fantastic, taut play. I am going to have to read more August Wilson. No doubt about it. The messages were there. Clear, and not so subtle, and I loved the story.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Carol Anne Duffy (Illustrator: Tom Duxbury)

How awful it would be to have your birthday on Christmas day of all days.

I have my birthday right in the middle of the year, which is quite lucky because I have two big days to look forward to every six months. It is not all doom and gloom though for Dorothy. Her birthday maybe on Christmas day, but her brother is the wonderful William Wordsworth.

So that means along with his own poetic genius, he also brings that of his best friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The three of them can spend Christmas, and Dorothy’s birthday, relaxing and reciting poetry in the beautiful winter Lake District of northwest England. Not a half bad idea if you ask me. In fact, I am rather jealous.

I love this poem probably because I love the work of both poets. The idea of a fictional poem about a possible Christmas they could have had together is really quite enchanting. It is evocative of the Romantic era and the poetry of it. Not in terms of stylistic qualities, but in terms of the imagery and the allusions Duffy uses. It is really quite admirable. The art work that goes alongside the text, with its swirls of orange and blue, is stunning and captures the dream like essence of the work. It is easily my favourite Christmas poem. I read it every year at this time, and imagine the image:

All in each other, Miss Wordsworth and the poets, bawling the chorus; their voices drifting, In 1799, To nowhen, nowhere…..

These lines make me visualise it in stunning clarity; it is a cold 25th December that is on the cusp of a new century; the three walk hand in hand together completely at one with their surroundings, with nature itself, united by their mutual friendship and affection. It is an image that has been captured, like a still-life painting, before the eventual disagreement between the two poets shattered the image. This was a time when they were happy, when they had hope for the future, and this is a poem that captures the meaning of Christmas: the simple act of being with those you love most in the world. It is perfect.

Bookworm Sean is a book obsessed English student who can usually be found over on Goodreads raving about his latest read. Recently, poetry has become one of his favorite literary forms of expression; thus he has started to read more and more of it. Look for Sean on Facebook, as well!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Book Review: WAIT FOR IT, by Mariana Zapata

Mariana Zapata
Self Published / Indie
Contemporary Romance

No one can craft a flawless slow burn like she can and WAIT FOR IT is no exception. when Diana Casillas brother passes away unexpectedly she takes her nephews in as her own. After struggling in a small apartment for 2 years she is able to buy a house on a quiet suburban street. After an unusual introduction to some of her neighbors we are start to see into the dynamics of not only her new neighborhood but also her daily life raising 2 boys on her own.

With no NFL quarterbacks or International Soccer stars I found this book to be one I could easily relate to. Being a Mom of 4 kids myself I could appreciate the daily struggles Diana faced, kids who seem to slow down when you need them to hurry up, not having enough hours in day and so on.  Dallas is a regular working class guy who has been burned in the past and wanted to do right for himself and those he loves. While parts of the book seemed to drag on and the slow burn was really slow it worked with the book. Diana and Dallas's beliefs and morals are at the center of everything they do and were shaped by their past. The boys are funny, lovable and at steal the book at times. Even better there are cameos from some of Zapata's other novels!! I repeat THERE ARE CAMEOS!

While the book wasn't as explosive as The Wall of Winnipeg or Kulti it touched something much deeper inside me because WAIT FOR IT is everyday life. The struggle is real and that is what made this book so special. Mariana Zapata nailed it again and I am already waiting for her next slam dunk!


ELIZA WISE is a Travel Planner, and mother of 4 school age kids who started reading as an escape from reality and is now an active member of the Indie Romance Community.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Book Review: MYSTIC, by Jason Denzel

Jason Denzel
Tor Books
Fantasy / YA

Why didn't you use the Myst to save yourself?

In MYSTIC, Jason Denzel lets unfold a wonderful coming-of-age tale. On the Island Moth lives the new High Mystic, Mistress Yarina, and she will need an apprentice. Traditionally, those nominated for the position apprentice are of noble blood, and have been preparing for the role as apprentice from the time of birth.

Which is why when the Green Man appears in Oakspring, during the Springrise Feast and Toweren Celebration Pomella AnDone is shocked to hear her name. She has been chosen by the High Mystic to participate in the Trials. Winning candidate will serve as Yarina's apprentice. The shock Pomella felt is because she is a commoner.

It is made clear by those in Oakspring, if she accepts the Green Man's offer, and fails, then she will be Unclaimed for the rest of her life. Unclaimed is worse than living as a commoner. She will never wed, or have kids. She might not find an employer, or have any friends. Unclaimed is like living as a ghost no one can, or wants to see.

In Kelt Apar, where High Mystic Yarina dwells, the apprentice candidates arrive, and the trials begin immediately. The trials are not in and of themselves difficult, it is how one obtains the end result that Yarina seems most interested in witnessing. Unfortunately, there are evil forces surrounding Kelt Apar. Revenge is in the air, and the Trials of little consequence to those planning an attack.

Yarina life is suddenly in danger. The trials are forgotten. It is up to some of the candidates to work together in order to restore rescue those in danger!

Jason Denzel writes so smoothly, I was immediately pulled into the story. MYSTIC will appeal to most fantasy fans, but especially those just getting into the genre. It is simple, in a good way, with just enough magic, and creatures, and characters, and lands, to not get lost or confused. There is some romance, a splash. And there is plenty of tension, suspense, and action. I am clearly relieved knowing this is the first in a trilogy!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Book Review: THE RAINS, by Gregg Hurwitz

Gregg Hurwitz
Tor Books
YA / Apocalypse / Science Fiction

I have read many thrillers by best seller, Gregg Hurwitz. Tight chapters packed with intense action, crisp dialogue, and characters that you give a damn about. When I saw that Hurwitz was taking a swing at something in the Young Adult field, I was anxious to see what he'd do.

And what he did was, THE RAINS. It is NOT just another zombie book. Trust me.

The plot focuses primarily on three kids. Chance and Patrick Rain, and Patrick's girlfriend Alex. On a midwest farm in Creek's Cause, Somewhere USA the two brothers, raised by their aunt and uncle, realize something is wrong.

After a meteor crash . . . they call it the Dusting. Spores filled the air. Those over eighteen were immediately affected. Their appearance altered. Holes bore through the center of their heads. If only that was the worst of it. The people infected became crazed. Violent. And they wanted one thing . . . to gather up all of the kids eighteen and under.

Chance has always looked up to his big brother Patrick, and for so many good reasons. But when the three of them hole up in the high school with a group of survivors, a small group of kids who were able to escape the clutches of the things outside locked doors, he knows it is time for him to grow up and get things done.

The creatures that once were neighbors of the Rains are walking every inch of the land, as if mapping the terrain. Others gather any and all weapons only to destroy them. And then, even more of these mind-controlled beings concentrate on the crating and hauling away all of the children.

When Patrick is near death, and Alex is taken by the invaders, Chance steps up his game. Bites back his fear, and sets out to rescue his brother's girlfriend. Chance knows he has a responsibility to those inside the high school, and an obligation to his brother. He vows to bring Alex back.

Doing his best to remain undetected, but having to fight off hordes of drones to stay alive, Chance learns a truth about the aliens that is more than he can stomach.

They have a leader. A Queen. And the Queen has grotesque plans for the bodies of the kids.

Thump. Squelch.

Is there any way Chance, Patrick, and Alex can save themselves? What about saving Creek's Cause? How about saving earth? It just can't be possible. There isn't a chance . . . or is there?

You have to love Hurwitz. The writing is taut. No words wasted. He grabs readers at page one. He holds their attention, grows their interest, and promises an extraordinary journey. And then he delivers. So what's not to love? Best I can tell from the last page of the book --there may be another in the works. LAST CHANCE? One can only hope!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of The Severed Empire Series,
and the Vaccination Trilogy

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: THE OPERATIVE, by Gerald Brandt

Gerald Brandt
Daw Books
Science Fiction

I discovered Gerald Brandt by pure accident. I'd won a copy of THECOURIER on Goodreads. The cover was what caught my eye, initially. Once I started reading, however, I knew this would be an author I'd keep tabs on. Having just finished reading THE OPERATIVE, Book 2 in the San Angeles Series, I mean literally just finished reading it, I wanted to dive right in and write my review.

THE OPERATIVE takes place about a year after THE COURIER. Kris Merrill has joined ACE, and is in Canada for boot camp. That's how the book opens. Kris in boot camp. And then, everything goes completely crazy, just absolutely nuts.

Jeremy Adams, of the Meridian company, cannot forgive Kris for ruining his plans a year ago. She has not just crippled everything he's dedicated his life toward accomplishing, she'd demolished his every dream. All he has left is his hate, and desperate need for revenge. He will stop at nothing until he has Kris in his hands.

When the ACE boot camp training center is attacked, the few survivors are flown by transport to Santa Barbara. The transport is attacked, and legendary ACE agent Ian Miller is captured. Miller is Kris' lover. Her best friend. The reason she joined ACE in the first place. And she was helpless to stop the abduction, she was unable to keep him safe from the assailants.

Bryson Searls is the son of "Doc" Searls, and the founder of the Quantum Jump Drive. His invention of transporting things from here to there will revolutionize the world. Despite serious bugs discovered after the first test on humans, Kadokawa (one of the 3 major corporations), insists on moving forward. Taking all of his research data, and wiping clean any remnants on Kadokawa systems, Bryson makes a break for it. In doing so, he put his life in jeopardy. Kadokawa doesn't just want his information, so do SoCal, and IBC (the other 2 major corporations). And they will stop at nothing to obtain the sensitive data, including going to war with each other.

The insurgents have suspected something was wrong with ACE since its inception. While the company was started to hinder the overall control and power of the Big 3, things have changed. Kai, a restaurant owner is part of the movement, and lifelong friends with Kris. A war has been started. The poor are revolting. The crashed transport shuttle left an opening in the wall. Teams move into place to systematically bring down the upper class levels. Together, and with the help of some other trusted allies, they may also be the only chance Ian Mill has to survive the kidnapping.

In this taut three-hundred-page novel, so much is happening. The action does not let up. Brandt writes in a way that keeps the tale clear, and easy to follow. He gives readers an even deeper, indepth look into who Kris is, but more than that, we get detailed lines into the lives of the other supporting characters in the novel. Quick, and violent, engaging, and intense, I loved THE OPERATIVE as much as I loved THE COURIER, and have developed an even deeper appreciation for author Gerald Brandt.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Poetry Review: TEACHING MY MOTHER HOW TO GIVE BIRTH, by Warsan Shire

Warsan Shire


Through Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth the empowerment of women becomes like a burning tempest kindled up by the rawness of Warsan Shire’s words. The poems are also about reality, the horrors that some people have to face in a word driven by war. They carry with them such human depth, none more so than the poem In Love and In War. 

“To my daughter I will say
‘when the men come, set yourself on fire.’

The poem is only two lines, but it establishes the tone for the rest of the work; it acts like a summary for one of her strongest ideals, that of personal and cultural integrity.

Shire does not compromise. The idea of setting oneself on fire is tangible to suicide. The men are coming, the soldiers and sons of war, so let us end it before they can touch us. This can be read as an act by a woman burning herself to avoid the objectifying effects that are coming her way. Historically speaking, the women of an invaded country often become the greatest victims. We all know what humans can do when in a blood frenzy. By committing suicide these daughters can avoid the worse of such possible crimes. But the act of setting oneself on fire can be read in a different way, a much brighter way.

Like all great poetry, multiple readings come out of Shire’s words. I like to think of the fire as a metaphorical flame of individuality. When the invaders come, set your hearts ablaze and remember who you are; remember your culture; remember your language: remember you. When the men come do no lose this sense of you to the superimposing of another’s beliefs. Become angry, fight against it, rage at the injustice and learn how to beat it. But at the very root of it all, never ever forget. In such an idea Shire establishes the authority of the individual’s voice.

How about love? As a woman entering a relationship set yourself on fire in the same sense, do not become meek and docile: do not allow him to take over. This reading feels like one of the strongest. If you compare this to the ideas that are manifested in the spoken word poem For Women Who are Difficult to Love it becomes more evident. The ideas empower women and suggest that if you are volatile, if your personality is like that of a fire, do not quench yourself: carry on. Be yourself, he is not worthy if he cannot love you for you: keep that fire burning.

There’s also another reading that comes here, tangible to the first instance of suicide. When men are near and love is close, set yourself on fire and avoid heartache. But, I do not overly belief in this one; it can be read in the poem, but when comparing it to Shire’s body of work it seems far too pessimistic. Shire is about empowering women not destroying life. She is a humanist; thus, there is much to be taken from her words. They are words that need to be heard now more than ever as the world becomes increasingly multi-cultural and transgendered, understanding the perspective of others is vital for the development of a more accepting world. This is a very powerful collection of poetry.


Bookworm Sean is a book obsessed English student who can usually be found over on Goodreads raving about his latest read. Recently, poetry has become one of his favorite literary forms of expression; thus he has started to read more and more of it. Look for Sean on Facebook, as well!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: CATALYST (Star Wars) - A Rogue One Novel, by James Luceno

James Luceno
CATALYST (Star Wars) - A Rogue One Novel
Del Rey
Science Fiction

There is no forgetting the feeling of first seeing Star Wars: A New Hope when it hit theaters in 1977. And I will never forget taking my kids out of school mid-day to see the first showings The Phantom Menace in 1999. I have three kids, adults now, but the four of us share an immense love for all things Star Wars. And the reason I say all of this --I did not care for CATALYST. I read it in two days, but it was so blah as to be forgettable.

I'd have bought this book regardless of the hype it needed to be read before seeing the upcoming (12/2016) release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I was ready for the story to be something of a prequel to the movie. I just wasn't ready to be bored by the telling of the tale. (There may be book spoilers in this review. Forewarned).

CATALYST takes place during the end of the Clone Wars, and prior to Rogue One. In this novel we meet brilliant scientist, Galen Eros, and his wonderful wife Lyra. Galen dedicated his life, and life work, to finding ways of efficiently providing energy to the galaxy. The Eros are not about sides. They are neither for the Republic, or the Separatists. They are more for the advancement as a whole, and peace. Lyra, who appreciates her husband's mind, and understands when he disappears within himself --mathematical formulas, problems, potential solutions swirling about inside his brain-- is pregnant with their first child.

When the planet they are working on undergoes a leadership coup, and Marshal Phara replaces the former king, the Eros' are arrested. It is clear Galen's mind has saved their lives. Getting the man to work for them, for their strides forward, and the planet's overall benefit, is easier said than done. While imprisoned, Lyra gives birth to their daughter, Jyn (the star of Rogue One).

Orson Krennic, once knew Galen. Is aware of Galen's work. And if he plays his cards right, can rescue the Eros while earning brownie points within the Republic, and under Chancellor Palpatine's command. Winning the war is all that matters, and the plans to build a moon-sized battle station is all well and good. Without a weapon, it is useless.

Krennic realizes Galen's principals cannot be easily manipulated. The idea of blanketing the Eros family in an aura of safety (imaginary) is the idea. He knows sooner or later Galen will come around and work for the Republic and agree to be the mastermind behind the Death Star's weapon system.

When the Clone Wars end, and Dooku is dead, and Darth Vader is born, the chancellor becomes the Emperor, and the Republic the Empire. All the while, Krennic is biding his time, and rising in ranks. Coercing smuggler Has Obitt into his secret employment, Krennic plots strategic moves giving the Empire more control over the galaxy, and making patches of radicals seem like the enemy.

But time is of the essences, and the Emperor's patients grow tired of waiting on Krennic's scientist to come around. Working with kyber crystals, Galen is close to achieving what he believes is his goal. Krennic knows that Lyra is as much his problem, as she is Galen's grace. There has to be a way to keep her from influencing her husband, from interfering with his work. Galen must be allowed to finish what he started, what only he can complete!

Aware things might not be what they seem, Galen and Lyra know they must flee the long-arm reach of the Empire. They risk imprisonment, or worse if they remain. Getting off the planet won't be easy, but it might be their only chance at surviving the terrible mess they got themselves into!

 James Luceno can write. No doubt. The author did the best he could with what he'd been given, I'm sure. We meet some amazing characters, and there is some potential for more stories with Has Obitt and some of his smuggling cronies. I am glad I read the book, but it did nothing to excite me about the upcoming movie. I dare say I feel somewhat deflated. Do you have to read CATALYST before seeing Rogue One? I have no idea. Should you? Your call. My guess, those who don't should be just fine in the theaters later this month.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON, by C.T. Phipps

C.T. Phipps
Crossroad Press / Macabre Ink
Horror / Post-Apocalypse

CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON is the first book I have read by C.T. Phipps. I wasn't sure what to expect. For starters, the cover is amazing. I've said it many times before, but will gladly repeat myself, I oftentimes judge a book by the cover. It may be shallow. It's, however, what makes me pick up a book in the first place for closer inspection.

There is a lot going on in this tale. Information comes at the reader from all directions. Phipps is world building, and does a fantastic job at it. At first I was compelled to take notes while I read. When I set my pen down and just let the storyteller tell the story, I settled in and enjoyed the ride.

The earth is little more than a giant wasteland, with groups of survivors banded here and there. John Henry Booth is a ranger. When his team is wiped out during an ambush, and only Booth survives, he is blamed for the deaths despite his protests that former Dr. Alan Ward is behind the attack, and responsible for the murders of his soldiers.

When torturer, Mercury Takahashi, is wanted for the untimely death of her husband, a plan is hatched. Luring Booth in as a guide, she convinces the former ranger to help her traverse the wastelands to where she hopes to find solace in Kingsport. Since her trek, and his plan to hunt down Ward --founder of the Black Cathedral in the Great Barrier Desert-- coincide, he agrees.

Crossing the wasteland would be dangerous enough. The slavers, and ghouls, the monsters, and everything-that-goes-bump-in-the-night only make the journey that much more treacherous. Banding together with others along the way, one dangerous situation after another, Booth is certain they will find Ward. The problem? Will he be able to get revenge for his soldiers, and defeat Alan Ward when he gets to the Black Cathedral?

The action is constant. Intense. I loved the characters. Booth is tough, a wiseass, but also genuine and caring. There is a clear sense of purpose, and drive behind the story. And Phipps moves it forward with practiced pacing, and skill. C.T. Phipps spits out enough hints and allegations throughout the book to craft an entire universe of books in the series, and who has two thumbs and would be happy about that? This guy right here.

Be sure to check out my interview with C.T. Phipps for a more personal look at the man, the author!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Review: METALTOWN, by Kristen Simmons

Kristen Simmons
Tor Books
YA / Dystopian

METALTOWN is one of the best books I have read this year. Reading this novel filled me with an intense mix of emotions. Despair, and dread were like a constant black cloud above me page after page. The slight glimmers of hope were dim, and dreary at best. The three main characters I immediately loved, and cared about. Their plight was real, and hopeless, and they just had to win the fight by the end . . .

But I am getting ahead of myself. There are a handful of union-inspired movies that I will watch any time they are on television. There is the classic, On the Waterfront (Marlon Brando), Sally Field in Norma Rae, and the intense F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone. Great films. Kristen Simmons' METALTOWN is like a combination of the three. Do not get me wrong, METALTOWN is completely original, but there is that . . . flavor to it that was, for me, reminiscent of these epic movies.

Metaltown is a factory town. Small Parts employees nothing but kids and teenagers. Long hours, little pay--if the kids are paid at all--and horrendous working conditions. Safety is not an issue. Churning out product to keep the other factories in town going is all that matters. And the Hamptons own it all. The weapons built supply army of the Northern Federation in their fight against the Advocates (Eastern Federation Radicals). The work performed is important, if the war is ever to be won.

More than best friends, Ty has taken on Colin as his protector. Even though Colin is older, and she is smaller. No one messes with Colin. Safety has been called, and by street rules anyone that starts trouble with Colin, also is starting trouble with Ty. They're a team. They work side-by-side at Small Parts, and barely manage to make ends meet.

With what little pay Colin earns, he contributes to the support of his family. Having a job is everything. Without Small Parts the entire family would be homeless, perhaps dead in months.Ty, an orphan, struggles at just surviving day in and day out. Sleeping mostly at a shelter when beds are available, her safety is in constant jeopardy.

Lena Hampton is wealthy, lives on the opposite side of town, and wants nothing more than to be part of the family business. She knows she can be more resourceful than her often intoxicated and ineffective brother Otto. Her father will never give her the chance, despite her best efforts. Decidedly, she takes a tour of Metaltown, of Small Parts. Inadvertently, she fires one of the shop's employees that sets into motion an industrial revolution that is more bloody, and brutal, and deadly than anyone could have ever anticipated!

Simmons builds a world so vividly that readers will smell the unwashed clothing, and body odor of the factory workers. The frigid cold outside the factory, and the blistering heat within the windowless structure gave me hot and cold flashes. With just a splash of Oliver Twist (should have mentioned it earlier), I was beside the rebels, and a part of their revolt from the onset, and cheering by the end. And crying. It isn't often a book makes me emotional enough to cry. METALTOWN was that kind of story. Simmons has crafted those kinds of characters.

I might have finished reading the book moments ago, but I strongly suspect I will be thinking about them for a long time.

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Book Review: THE COURIER, by Gerald Brandt

Gerald Brandt
Science Fiction / Cyberpunk

Call me shallow, but I often judge a book by the cover. Well. Not the book, but if the cover doesn't catch my eye, I may not pick it up and see what the story is about. THE COURIER has that grab-me-kind-of-cover. And, when I picked it up to read the synopsis, I was hooked.

Set in the future, it seems the world is past apocalyptic times, and has found a way to function, and thrive, and is right back to its old ways. Apparently, even in the distant future it is the corporations that run everything. Forget about factions. After the world is scorched by nuclear weapons, the city is divided into levels. Actual levels. Think one giant, underground parking garage. The farther down you go, the poorer you must be.

Orphaned, independent, and driven, sixteen-year-old Kris Ballard, has been on most of the Levels. She's a bike courier, making ends meet (barely) delivering packages from point A to point B. At the end of a shift, and despite a nagging feeling, Ballard accepts a last minute delivery. After picking up the parcel at one end of the city, she has to travel across town for the drop off.

Problem is, when she reaches point B, someone is inside the corporate building knifing her contact. Despite hightailing it out of the building, the killer saw her, and those behind the murder have the resources to trace her every move.

With the package still in her possession, Ballard is on the run. It seems like anywhere she seeks solace, she is immediately found. The different corporations want her for different reasons. There is no one she can trust . . . until she is forced to finally put her trust into someone. Ian Miller.

Miller works for A.C.E. and he is a lot like Ballard. A.C.E. is kind of like Greenpeace. They have a role in the future - stopping corporations from taking advantage of the innocent. Only now it is less about the package, and more about staying alive. Can Miller, Ballard, and A.C.E. survive attacks coming at them from every angle, and at every turn? Or is the gig finally up . . .

I loved Brandt's writing. Crisp. Clean. The action was non-stop. The world-building was epic. So much has been set up. There can be a fleet of Courier novels (and I hope there is) in Brandt's creation. As a reader you immediately bond with Kris Ballard, you care about her. She is a tough lead, a likable heroine. I will be keeping tabs on Brandt. He is clearly a writer worth following!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and
The Vaccination Trilogy