Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: BIRD BOX - Josh Malerman

Josh Malerman

I read the back cover synopsis and ordered a copy of the book BIRD BOX. Loved the idea that it was a debut novel from a writer I'd never heard of, and became more anxious for the arrival of my paperback.

If I'd had the time, I would have/could have read the taut 260 page novel in one sitting. You hear all the time about the "book I couldn't put down." I've had a few in my day. A few. BIRD BOX has been added to list. I didn't want to put this book down.

Malorie is a single mother. She has a boy and a girl. They are on their own.

That's it. That's where normal ends when it comes to synopsis. Everything else Malerman does is unique, twisted, and compellingly original.

Malorie is a single mother. She has a boy and a girl. They are on their own. Holed up in a house, all of the windows are covered. The place is rigged with speakers to amplify whenever something is outside. It's been four and a half years since Malorie has seen another person. The kids are four and a half years old. It has been almost five years since Malorie has opened her eyes outside.

No one opens their eyes anymore. Not outside. They don't look through windows. They can't. It's too dangerous. Malorie raised her kids to adapt to darkness. They're blindfolded most of the time, just like she is. She wants them to know how to identify sounds. All kinds of sounds.

She has a plan. It is reckless. It could get her killed. It might get her kids killed. However, the time has come, and supplies are running out. It is as good a time as any, and she knows it might have been fear more than anything that has kept her in one place anyway.

She wakes the kids and tells them that today is the day. Blindfolded, they leave the house and make their way to the river. Once on the boat, they have to navigate the water. Malorie is depending on the training the kids received. She wants their ears to be her eyes. Otherwise, the three of them are dead…

Something caused the crazy apocalypse. The news reports that came in suggested people "saw" something, went crazy, and either killed others and then themselves, or just killed themselves. Everyone started wearing blindfolds. Covering windows. No one still alive knows for sure what caused the insanity. No one still alive knows when it will be okay to remove the blindfolds. Maybe never.

Josh Malerman's novel, BIRD BOX, is non stop intensity. It is told in present tense, third person -- which worked wonderfully. Through gripping flashbacks we get the backstory, as well as the journey Malorie, the boy, and the girl, take down the river toward some unknown destination.

It comes together at the end. Questions get answered (not all!). And you realize that for the last one hundred pages you sat forward reading the book, not breathing. I kept holding my breath, and gasping. The climax is explosive, and chilling. The end is satisfyingly depressing, with a splash of hope. This is a book I will be thinking about for a long time. I already want to read it again.

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series
Wizard’s Rise
Wizard’s War
Queens of Osiris

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Review: THE FINEST HOURS - Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman

Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman
Scribner Book Company
Non Fiction

Shipping companies put profits before the safety of the men on the vessels. The T2 Tankers were made with inferior materials, and welded instead of riveted. These ships were KNOWN to split in two.

Wait, what?

That's one of the most unreal facts I learned from reading The Finest Hours. While the main focus in this particular story is about 2 different T2 Tankers splitting in two during a storm in New England in 1952, (this is at nearly the exact same time, close to within hours of each other, these two ships split in two).

The book gives countless examples of T2 Tankers cracking in half during storms over the course of decades. The shipping companies knew there was a possibility of it happening, as did the crews that worked on the ships. That is just mind blowing.

In The Fines Hours, however, the primary tale is on the Fort Mercer and the Pendelton. It is February 18, 1952, and a brutal storm is stalled over the Atlantic. During the early hours of the morning, the relentless waves and swells of the sea have severed both ships in half. Crews are split between the bow and stern, (front and back). And now four parts of two ships are in need of rescuing.

The Coast Guard receives the distress calls, and set out to attempt saving men in the midst of a raging hurricane. The water is like ice. The snow is falling. The waves pass over the top decks of the ships.

The action is none stop. The heroics are amazing. The Coast Guard captains, and crews refused giving up, and with small ships (that seemed like something just larger than a rowboat when compared to the size and crew size of the tankers), believed they could do the impossible and rescue those stranded on the different halves of the two ships.

The story is emotional. The rescues daring. I loved every word. And I never, NEVER read non-fiction. I believe that both Micheal J. Touglas and Casey Sherman authored a taut (less than 200 pages) book that deserved to be made into a movie. The movie comes out next weekend. Because of this book, I am going to see it -- although, I can't imagine the big screen matching the words and descriptions painted by these authors, which allowed me to already view the story with my own imagination.

In short, loved it!

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series
Wizard’s Rise

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: PANACEA (The Ice Sequence) - F. Paul Wilson

F. Paul Wilson
PANACEA (The ICE Sequence)
Medical Thriller

It was around 1995 when I snatched THE TOMB off a rack at the end of a check-out lane in a local grocery store. I devoured F. Paul Wilson’s first Repairman Jack novel, and remember thinking, “This guys is awesome.” It is sad to admit, I never followed up. I never read another book by Wilson, and I have no idea why. So when I was offered a copy of PANACEA in exchange for a review, I jumped at the opportunity.

In Wilson’s latest novel, medical examiner, Laura Hanning, is doing her best to keep a busy life in check. Divorced, she works hard in her field, but also has a young daughter battling cancer. To complicate things, she is handed two new, and bizarre cases. The corpses found at the scene of two separate fires are burnt nearly beyond recognition. However, she can find no cause of death for either. Unique tattoos might be the only other immediate link between the victims.

There are two opposing cults at work. One is known as 536, and they are on the hunt for the elusive Panacea. The all-natural plant cures people of any ailment. They believe the miracle drug is abomination, going against God, and God’s Plan. They want to rid the world of the drug forever. The other cult, the makers of Panacea, do not take their responsibility with the elixir lightly. It is doled out in small, calculated doses.

They know the 536 are closing in on them.

Laura is hired by a terminally ill billionaire to investigate the reality of such a drug, and if it in fact does exist, return to the states with enough to cure him of his disease. While Laura does not believe in the Panacea, or its mystical powers of healing, she can’t walk away from his offer. For two weeks of her time, and even if she returns empty handed, she will be paid millions.

Rick Hayden is her assigned bodyguard, an ex Navy Seal. The trip should be relatively quick, and easy. Except, nothing is ever quick and easy.

Laura and Rick find themselves the target of the 536, as they discover that each clue leads them to yet another clue. Their search for answers turns up only more questions. What they thought would be a single stop to find the Panacea, ends up the first of many --and before they know it, they are traveling all over the globe.

Deception, and mistrust abound. With her ex-husband caring for their daughter at home while she traverses the continents on a bizarre scavenger hunt, Laura learns those closest to her might not be who they seem. Unable to give up, and walk away, Laura is determined to see the trek out to the end. She has to know if the Panacea is real . . . even if it means she could die trying.

PANACEA is a compelling medical thriller. Wilson has created a cast of characters that, good, or bad, the reader will relate with them. I found myself sympathetic to the antagonist on more than one occasion. The pacing is fast. The chapters taut. I read the book in a few sittings, and loved every piece of the story. I can tell you, I am not going to wait another 30 plus years to read my next F. Paul Wilson novel!

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series
Queens of Osiris

Book Review: BATTLEFRONT (Twilight Company / STAR WARS) - Alexander Freed

BATTLEFRONT: Twilight Company (Star Wars)
Alexander Freed
Del Rey/Lucas Books
Science Fiction

While I have read wonderful books by first time authors, I don’t think I can recall ever having read a better first novel than Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company, by Alexander Freed. The complex plotting, the in-depth cast of characters, the constant action, and the overall authentic Star Wars feel . . . simply amazing. Top-notch!

The more Star Wars books I read, the more common it is to have main, or secondary characters that are stormtroopers. We saw this human-quality with Finn in The Force Awakens. It is an aspect of the saga that I think a lot of people/readers forget, and writers neglect. Freed incorporates a minor character, Thara Nyende (SP 475), in Twilight Company. I would not have minded even more of her story. Perhaps in a future book we will see her again.

Captain Howl runs a team known as Twlight Company, a rag-tag group of Marine-like volunteers who joined the rebellion with hopes of crushing the Empire. After acquiring Governor Everi Chalis, once part of the Empire’s elite, the rebellion sets out on a series of attacks meant to cripple, as well as mislead the Empire.

Namir is in charge of a small team of rebels. Friends. They’ve been through a lot. The challenges ahead are some of the biggest they’ve ever faced. Tough calls need to be made. Not everyone is on board with Chalis’ ideas. Her motives are questionable, and trust among everyone is repeatedly tested.

If Chalis’ plans fail, it means an almost certain death for Twilight Company. Namir must make decisions he knows will leave him exposed in front of suspecting eyes, and must also figure out his own motive before choosing to right things for wrong reasons.

Filled with constant battles against the Empire, twists and unpredictable turns, Alexander Freed has penned a clich├ęd page turner! As indicated above, this was his first novel, I pray it is not his last. I want more from this guy. I want more Star Wars tales from him, but will absolutely read anything else he writes.

Battlefront: Twilight Company is by far my all-time favorite Star Wars read to date!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series
Wizard’s Rise
Wizard’s War
Queens of Osiris

Book Review: DARK TIDE (Waterfire Saga #3) - Jennifer Donnelly

Young Adult/Fantasy  

I am a fan of Jennifer Donnelly. My daughter started reading the WaterFire Saga and insisted I read it, too. I just finished Book 3, Dark Tide. (And just ordered the 4th book in the series). Dark Tide picks up where Rogue Wave left off.

The five mermaids selected by Baba Vraja are still art it, searching for the ancient talismans necessary to defeat keep the underwater realms safe. Problem is Mfeme (Orfeo) is after the same magical objects. He will stop at nothing to get them. Once this all-powerful mage has the relics he will free Abbadon, and unleash darkness and endless torment on all of the sea creatures.

Sera, now leader of the Dark Fins, is not giving up. She has amassed an army of over 20,000. Her problems increased by as many, because she must figure out how to train, and feed, and keep secret the legion under her command. In the Karjord she is doing her best to turn the numbers in her favor. But what she really needs is a reunion with the other mermaids! Together their power is more powerful!

Magic makes trusting anyone a liability. Who is who they say they are? How can anyone be sure?

The race is on. The dangers are real. The enemy is around every corner! The war is coming. There can only be one victor. . . and the book ends.

Great pacing. Awesome characters. Such an original tale (tail, lol)! I wish Disney would make an animated series, or movies from these books! Can't wait for Book 4 to land at my doorstep!

Phillip Tomasso
Fantasy author of The Severed Empire Series