Thursday, November 24, 2016

Book Review: KILLING MAINE, by Mike Bond

Mike Bond
Mandevilla Press
Suspense / Thriller

There was a time when all I read were books by James Patterson, and Lee Child. I can’t remember this last suspense novel I read. Well. Until now. Mike Bond’s KILLINGMAINE definitely brought me back into the genre. Full force.

Sam ‘Pono’ Hawkins is a Special Forces vet, living in Hawaii. After having spent time in prison, he does his best to keep his nose clean. However, when he gets a message from an old flame, and is informed her husband has been arrested for murder, and she needs his help, Pono is torn.

Things are never simple. Originally from Maine, he decides he’ll head back and see what he can do about helping. He’s not thrilled about it, though. His old flame ended up marrying a guy from his Special Forces unit. And the guy, Bucky, testified against him in court, getting him sentenced to twenty years in prison for war crimes committed.

Politics have taken over Maine. Big money is being thrown around. The installation of ineffective, and costly wind turbines are going up across the state. Deep pockets are ensuring votes, and land value is quickly decreasing. Animals are absent, and birds are dying. The turbines are big, loud, and bright. Residents are losing their minds.

When Ronnie Dalt, Vice President of lobbying for Maine Environmental Resources is murdered, and the rap pinned on Bucky, Pono has his work cut out for him. His appearance in Maine does not go unnoticed. His digging for answers has triggered alarms. The only way to keep political secrets secret is by getting rid of Pono any way possible.

The quest for truth has Pono not only fighting for his own life, but for the lives of those closest to him. As the net around Pono drops he is down to one last chance at turning the tables. But will it be too little, too late!

Mike Bond is a storyteller. Crisp, clean writing accompanies swift, edgy prose. The dialogue is authentic, and the characters expertly drawn. Everything about this book – from the opening until the ending – is high octane thriller. I am now a Mike Bond fan, and am anxious for more Sam ‘Pono’ Hawkins!

Phillip Tomasso,
Author of the Severed Empire Series, and

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: ALCATRAZ vs the Evil Librarians

Brandon Sanderson
Tor Books
Adventure / Fantasy / YA

Everything in this book is lies! All of it. Some of it. Oh, heck, parts of it. Some of the important parts, and the not-so-important parts. You know what? At this point, I am not sure I can differentiate what actually happened, or didn't happen. But then, I am from the Hushlands, and clearly ruled by the Librarians.

As far as that goes . . . so are all of you! And in that case, you will love this book, and enjoy the confusion it is bound to bring. So much so, that when you are dizzy in the head, the idea of rutabagas, coconuts and cantaloupes will all make sense. (Maybe. Okay, probably not).

Imagine this. You are an orphan. On your 13th birthday you get a delivery. It's a box. Inside the box is a bag of sand. For what it's worth, it's from your Dad. You've been in over a dozen foster homes. Your Dad is supposedly dead. How did the package find you?

After nearly burning down your foster parents' kitchen, it's time for you to move again. Only, when you think the case worker sent someone to transfer you from this residence to the new place you'll call home, it is instead your grandfather, Leavenworth. He wants the bag of sand. It is known as the Sands of Rashid.

And he wants you, because you are bound to save the Free Kingdoms from the Librarians.

This is the reality Alcatraz Semdry is thrust into. As a boy with an amazing talent (because all Semdrys have talents), breaking things is considered powerful. (Leavenworth has the talent of arriving late).

The bag of sand is in the hands of the evil, sinister Dark Oculator. And if the Semdrys don't recover the sand in time it will be used to create lenses with amazing power. Those in control of the lenses will win the war! With a close-knit team, the Semdrys must infiltrate the Library, without getting caught, without getting killed, and find a way to say the Free Kingdoms from being overrun!

Brandon Sanderson has created a young reader adventure that is bound to capture the heart of millions and millions of readers! Captured mine, anyway. Alcatraz is an awesome character. However, his grandfather, and cousins, and the knight, Bastille are equally awesome. The action is fun, and fast. The plot is compelling, and just dark enough. I see there are at least four more books in this series. I will be reading them. With relish!

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: A THOUSAND NAKED STRANGERS, by Kevin Hazzard

Kevin Hazzard
A THOUSAND NAKED STRANGERS: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back

Two things. Aside from writing books, and book reviews, I do have a day job. I work full time as a Fire / EMS Dispatcher for 911 in my county. The second thing is, I rarely, rarely read non-fiction titles. When a friend at work was reading Kevin Hazzard's book, and the title caught my eye, I had to ask if I could pretty-please read it next. I am so glad he let me borrow the book! I only hope I can do this kind of book justice reviewing it.

Kevin Hazzard tells the story, his story, of first becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and how he made a living riding on an ambulance. The book covers --at,I am certain, a very broad, a very general level-- his nearly ten year career as a first responder.

The tales unfold in a chronological order, starting the classes, the instructor, and other students around him during his months spent earning his EMT certificate. And then landing his first job.

Hazzard goes through a host of partners, and readers we get a glimpse into first responder life. (Part of my found this book reminiscent of Bringing Out the Dead, the movie with Nicholas Cage. Only, unlike Cage's film --which I found dark, depressing, and hopeless, Hazzard sprinkles his narrative with humor, drive, and possibilities).

Covering call after call, readers run the gambit from patients with toothaches to corpses that have burst from decomposition. He talks about catching runs where responder safety goes from safe, to having one of the most dangerous nights of his career; from having patients die in the back of the rig, to bringing some back from the dead.

A THOUSAND NAKED STRANGERS also talks about working crazy hours, holidays, and weekends. It makes a point of calling attention to missed birthdays, and family events, and the strain such a career applies to relationships. Hazzard explains how his side of conversations are vastly different from friends and family not working in the field. Interaction just becomes different between him and other people.

Hazzard's love for the job, his dedication, his drive, and his determination take him on a hell of a ride. There are high points, and low; close calls, and pending lawsuits. We get to meet his wise wife, and a host of partners he shared his life with. Hazzard's writing his poetic, and captivating. The chapters are poignant and taut, and before you know it, you've read the nearly 300 page novel and are shaking. You want more. I want more.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Review: NIGHTWISE, by R.S. Belcher

R.S. Belcher
Tor Books

What is a Nightwise? Best I can tell, it is an honorable assistant of knight-magicians. They are tasked with protecting the world from evil threats.

And I hate, hate when reviewers compare an author's character to some other author's character. Hate it. Now, with that said, Belcher has created a main character in Laytham Ballard that is similar -- like -- Butcher's Dresden ... but on meth. With sever anger issues. And selfishness. And almost unlikeable.

Ballard's long time . . . I guess you could call him a friend; his one-time partner, Branko Boj, is dying. The man has one last wish. Long ago Boj's wife was kidnapped, tortured for months, until finally he was murdered. All these years Boj has been unable to make pay the man responsible. And although Ballard wants nothing to do with any of it, Boj is responsible for saving his life. Countless times. Reluctantly, the wizard agrees.

As it turns out, Dusan Slorzack is a war criminal. He's wanted by more than just Boj from the acts the horrible man committed. The problem is, Ballard is having trouble finding him. The only thing that give him any direction is the dead banker. The brutal murder scene wasn't so much for punishing the banker as it was to send Ballard a "back off this investigation" message. Despite the message, the warning, Ballard doesn't back off, he now has a solid place to start digging for answers.

Laytham Ballard is a wizard. In the Wisdom, as his grandmother called it, and quite powerful. He is legendary in the magic world. The problem is his personality rots. He is not trustworthy, or friendly. He cares about himself, and little else. He'll do what needs doing to get something done with little regard for anyone else. And that part of his legend is known to all, as well. So when Ballard goes looking for help, few are excited about lending assistance.

With joy missing from an iced over, and blackened heart, Ballard may not know it, but he's the villain desperate to become the hero. NIGHTWISE is filled with constant hints, and nods toward an entire series of Ballard tales (fingers crossed).

NIGHTWISE is dark. Gritty. It has a noir-style, dripping with cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity. R.S. Belcher did some amazing world building between the branches of magic, the layered dimensions, the diversification of beings, and the maps connecting it all. Wow. Thing is, he has the talent as a writer to keep it simple. Followable. There's no getting lost. Belcher guides the reader smoothly from haunting horror, to haunting horror with grace, and a knotted stomach.

Intense and exciting, dark and daunting, NIGHTWISE was a very fantastical mystery!

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