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