Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sophie Littlefield: Rebirth

Sophie Littlefield has returned with her sequel in the dystopain series Rebirth. Littlefield has not created a series that could be read out of order or stand alone novel, you need to read the first book Aftertime. There are spoilers from the first book in the review below, so if you are interested in reading this series I suggest you read my review of Aftertime first. Now that you have been warned.....

Civilization as we've known it has fallen, especially in the state of California. Cassandra Dollar had thought that she had found the last piece of suto civilization within the box. Her, Ruthie and Smoke could try to live as a family, and help Ruthie recover from her time in the convent. But Cass can feel Smoke slipping away and the more time he is spending with Dor, the less he seems to be with Cass. Then news reaches the Box that the library where Smoke used to live has been burned by the Rebuilders and Nora (Smoke's former lover) was killed and Sammi (Dor's daughter) was taken by the Rebuilders to their headquarters. Smoke decides to leave Cass, Ruthie and the box behind, without telling Cass in order to get revenge on those who had harm the library. Cass is now alone in the Box and she can see that it is slowly deteriorating especially when she finds out that Dor is leaving to get Sammi back. Cass enters into another journey out in the world with the Beaters and Rebuilder this time she does not know if her heart and mind will be survive.

After reading the first book, Aftertime, I could not wait for the second. As soon as I received a copy of Rebirth I put down every other book I was reading in order to read this right away. There are very few series that I will do this for, and Littlefield has joined those ranks. I cannot say enough about this Littlefield's Series. This series makes me crawl right inside the world that she has creating wanting more and waiting for Littlefield to go deeper in the the psychology of how people and the world have changed.

Littlefield has created some the best zombies (Beaters) out there. The primitive intelligence that they hold but slowly developing into a more intelligent creature. It is almost like the Beaters are humans that have been reset to primitive times. Although you do not get to read too much of the Beaters in this book you know that they are always watching and waiting for a human to make a mistake.  Littlefield focuses on a more scary aspect, what Humans will do to each other a post apocalyptic time.

Cass is as tough and vulnerable as ever, and with Smoke leaving her to fend for herself and Ruthie, she knows that it is time to leave the Box. She can tell that the Box will soon become the place of chaos especially when Dor decided to leave in order to try to find Sammi. Even though Cass is trying to escape her life before Aftertime, she know that the main things that she is able to trade in this world are her body and her blood (as she is an outlier). Yes this does mean that there is sex in the book, but the sex scenes does not take away from the storyline (Note: there are more sex scenes in this book than the first one). I also like the introduction of Cass's coping mechanism when awful things are happening, as this is a very real psychological aspect that many people use in order to survive tough situations.

Dor becomes a major character within this book, and i think that story benifited with the introduction of another strong male lead, and I enjoyed getting to know Dor better, as he is such a mysterious character in the first. Not that you get to know everything about Dor, he still keeps his mystery about him, but you can tell that he is a man with many layers and i look forward to see where Littlefield is going to take his character and his relationship with Smoke and Cass.

I really enjoyed this book and I am loving this series. Rebirth is a great addition and I think it is a good as a first. Some people may be disappointed as there is less Beater interaction within this book, but I think the apocalyptic dystopain nature of the book stays true. I cannot wait for the next book in this series. Rebirth comes out July 19, 2011 so you still have time to read the first book before the second one comes out if you have not picked it up yet.


Question for those who have read the two books, Dor or Smoke? Leave your answer below :)
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Amanda Stevens: The Restorer

In her debut novel Amanda Stevens brings us a haunting tale of a women who must always follow the rules or she will literally lose her life.

Amelia Gray is a graveyard restorer. Her life has been centered around the graveyard since she was young as her father was a graveyard caretaker. It was during some time with her father that Amelia discovered that she has the ability to see ghosts. Her father is disappointed that his daughter will have to have the same curse that he has. So come fourth his rules to survival. Never Acknowledge the dead; Never stray from hallowed ground; Never get close to the Haunted; Never ever temp Fate. All these rules are put to the test when a murderer is using the graveyard Amelia is restoring as a dumping ground. She becomes a key part of the investigation because of her knowledge of the area. This not only puts her on the radar of the killer but the lead investigator John Delvin is a haunted by ghost and Amelia is not sure that she wants to stay away from him.

Stevens has created a fantastically haunting tale, that will grab a hold of all your curiosities about ghosts. Amelia Gray has had the ability to see ghost since she was nine. She was taught by her father to never acknowledge the ghosts for once you do they will slowly seep the life out of you. We are also introduced to Delvin who is haunted by two ghost and you are able to see them slowly leeching his life away. Secondly, the tale that Stevens has chosen to write is one that I will not forget and would recommend to anyone that reads the paranormal genre. Stevens has created a world that will have you believing about ghosts before you are done the book. The story draws you in on so many different aspects that you find yourself with the haunting inability to put the book down.

I applaud Stevens use of research within this book. It was not too much that she was writing a history book about graveyards and tombstones, but one that was well integrated into the novel and one that becomes a key aspect with the murders that are occurring. I find myself with wanting to take a trip to an old cemetery to see if there are gravestones that have these mark and symbols that represent who has died.

Amelia is shown as both strong and weak character with neither characteristic being at the forefront for the entire book. She is struggling with everything she knows, main rules given to her by her father that she has lived her life by, but living in an almost imposed isolation is that really living ones life? Amelia is questioning everything that she has been taught in life and that is a hard thing to over come. I am glad that Amelia was able to grow but was not done completely within this book. I think a life change like this will need to happen in more than one book, I like that Stevens did not push Amelia too much as a character.

My only confusion within the book was on Amelia and her relationship with her family. We find out early on that Amelia was adopted however, there are some statements made by her farther made it sounds like Amelia inherited her "curse" from her father. A small aspect within this book, but just a little bit confusing to me. I think that more may come to light about this in the book.

If you have read Casey Daniel's Pepper Martin series and wanted the book to be something more than just mainly a funny paranormal romance then The Restorer is for you. Stevens has created a well written and well thought out story that has something for everyone in the paranormal genre and I would recommend you pick this book up. The characters are well defined, and there is room for growth and exploration in future books within the series. I look forward to reading more by Amanda Stevens.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gregg Olsen: Victim Six

Gregg Olsen takes the reader to the small town of Puget Sound where the residences learn that a serial killer can happen even in the smallest town's backyards.

 It starts with a missing Mexican women who they think has simple run away, then a prostitute who they everyone thinks just up and left he child, but once their bodies are being discovered, brutally raped and tortured the detectives of Puget Sound have a feeling. Nothing links theses women together, other than the their time in the Killers' Fun House, therefore, any women from any walk of life could be next. The Detectives of Puget Sound are in way above their heads, and one news reporter seems to want to get to the bottom of it before they do, risking every thing, her morals, sanity and the lives of other women just to get the story.

I had trouble getting into this book at the beginning but once I was able to commit some time  to it(but found myself not really looking for the time to read this book), I found myself becoming more drawn into the story. I hate to use the words, but I found this book fairly typical and predictive. There was no new interesting aspects within the story, you knew who Victim Six is going to be and there were no surprises in story. The one thing that was kind of different or not quite the norm was the Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (if you are Canadian you will understand the reference) aspect of the book. You can tell that Olsen has done research on serial killers and sexual sadist however, there is such a thing as too much research as his perpetrators became a mishmash of famous serial killers.

The main things I dislike when reading a mystery thriller book is when the reader is aware of who the perpetrator is and the investigators are not. I WANT to be able to figure out who the killer is and not have the book tell me till the end. I find I just keep waiting for the detectives to figure out the clues, not that there is very many within this book. I think that true thriller factor from this book occurs when you receive the sections that are from the killers point of view. I believe the reader finds out who the perpetrator is within the first half of the book, leaving the reader with another 200 or so pages to have the detectives catch up to them Olsen does not portray the Detectives as very competent, but this might be expected for a small town where the murders are taking place. But the Detectives do not really detect everything, they just follow the well laid clues. I think the only true detective within the book was the forensic pathologist Dr. Bird.

An aspect I did like within the book was the interaction between the reporter and the police detectives and the lines that are crossed in order to get information or to make a story. I think Olsen did a good job on showing how the police department both needs and reveres the newspaper, and how each entity and people uses each other. I also like the testing of morals of the Detective Josh Anderson and the reporter Serenity Hutchins. Olsen attempts to have characters that will grow and make them more personal like Detective Kendall Stark and her family life, but I found that this aspect did not really have any place within the story and did not do anything for the storyline or plot. It felt more like filler than anything else.

If you do not like books where you know who the perpetrator is before the detective do, this is not for you. If you do not enjoy books where parts are told from the killers point of view you will not like this book. This book is just bordering below Okay for me. I think this book could have been so much more if the killer had not been revealed so early, and the detectives were portrayed in a more competent manner and actually had some ability as detectives. I think I would give Olsen another try, A Wicked Snow (one of his earlier books in the fiction genre) has gotten some really good reviews or maybe some of his True Crime novels, either way  i'm thinking that this will be a used book store buy. And if you are thinking of reading Victim Six I would suggest either getting it from a used book store or borrowing it from the Library


Note: This book a quite a bit of Sexual Sadism content. The scenes are not extremely graphic, however, the reader receives enough description that some individuals will find it disturbing.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Noah Boyd: Agent X

Former FBI Agent Noah Boyd is back with the next installment of his Vail series. The first book to this series is The Bricklayer, and while I do not think it is completely necessary to read the first book as there is very little reference to it in Agent X, it does explain the interactions and relationship between Kate, Vail and the FBI. However, you should be able to ascertain most of it while reading Agent X. Agent X puts Vail to the test when the Russians are hell bent on protecting their infiltration of spies into the American Government.

Vail arrives in Washington to take Kate to an embassy party, however, Kate thought she had made it clear before hand that they were not dating any more. Not that any of it matters now as Kate is called away for work. While Vail may not like working for the FBI he does like Kate, so he decides to tag along, but the case has Vail written all over it. Reluctant to help out once again because of the FBI management system Vail becomes coerced by the director to help, and the case intrigues Vail as well. A Russian embassy staffer code named Calculus is prepared to release the FBI the names of Russian spies/moles within the American government but if the FBI thought that is would be a simple matter of him turning over the names, they thought wrong. Calculus has been ushered back to Russia and has left a string of clues that need to be followed in order to discover the spies. But as each clue reveals itself and all agencies of government are affected as well as the Russian appearing to be one step ahead of them to eliminate their informants. Kate and Vail have no idea who they can trust and what dangerous situation the clues will lead them next.

Boyd grads the readers attention right off that you do not want the book to let go, as it starts off with a bang and continues from there. This book has more mystery, problem solving and code cracking than the first one. There is probably a few less action scenes because of the slight shift in how the storyline plays out when compared to the first book, however, you do not really notice as the body count still seems the pile up. I like the idea about the Russia vs the United States. I mean who doesn't like an old enemy reappearing and reaffirming that everyone is still trying to spy and one up all the other countries.

I appreciated that Boyd took time to develop Vail more as a character, than just sticking with this is how Vail works and why he works that way is a mystery. We get a picture of what Vail's life was like when he was growing up, and it was not completely a pretty picture, but it does help explain part of the reason for not getting along with authority figures and why he prefers a one man team when on the case. It helps put Vail in a more vulnerable role, that along with his own Ego getting the better of him and underestimating the people around him, teaches Vail a little  bit of humility. We also get some incite to Vail's sculptures and what they represent to him and why does not let people see them. The one aspect that I found a bit trying was the finding of more information or spies or clues near the end seemed to be forced, this is intertwined with Vail's personality and having to dog everything to the end, it just seemed like enough already, wrap it up. I think this type became a Spy vs Spy battle that never seemed like it was going to end (did I just date myself there???).

Kate does not experience as much growth as a character when compared to Vail, even after the suicide incident. While I enjoy the interaction between Vail and Kate, I found that Kate did not make as many strides as a character as Vail did. Kate is still the woman who is dedicated to her job no matter what. She seems determined to help Vail change and open up, but is unwilling to do it herself. I wish in this book the characters could have grown together.

Boyd has found the right mix of mystery, suspense and action which has created a well rounded novel that I think will attracts people who do not normally read this type of genre, there is really something for everyone in this book (well maybe not the paranormal fans, but people need to read something out of their own comfort zone every once and awhile). Agent X is a solid squeal to The Bricklayer. With a fast past and mysterious story line and some action adventure in there too, I think anyone who is looking for a good read, had better start reading Boyd's Vail series, as the reader will be entertained throughout.


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Monday, May 9, 2011

Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan: The Strain

In their debut novel together Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan have produced the first book in a series where the vampires of people's nightmares come to life to Manhattan.

A perfect landing of a plane arriving from Europe, but for some reason the new boeing 777 goes dead on the JFK on the runway. Attempts to hail the pilot fails, no phone calls are recorded as leaving the plane. The plane is in total darkness and silence. Unsure of what has occurred a tatical team is sent in and there discovery leads to the the CDC being called in rapid response fashion. Head of the this team is Dr. Eph Goddweather, who is an expert in biological threats and once he boards the plane leaves him speechless, confused and scared . In a pawn shop owner in Spanish Harlem an old man recognizes the sign of his coming, he has been waiting along time for them to come again, and he is prepared, but can his body which is old and failing still fight the coming battle. They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come. And nothing and no one will stand in their way to accomplish their goal....The World

This book grabs a hold of you by the throat and blood at the very beginning with the mystery of the Boeing 777 and does not let you go (even at the end, you have the compulsion to go pick up the next book, it becomes a need, lol). I believe that most people would classify this book into the horror genre but I think that it is more a thriller than a horror book. I did not have the feeling of true worry, terror or feeling the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I was reading it. I did not even have problem reading this book at night, which I think is a true test of whether a book is a horror or not (at least for me it is). This is not to say that I did not enjoy the book, because I did, I just think some people may mis-classify it. This book is also more than just about vampire, it also depicts the how different people handle grief and react to unexplained situations.

This book is told from several different point of views of characters. The main characters are Dr. Eph Goodweather head of a CDC and Professor Abraham Setrakian a holocaust survivor who has been waiting more of his life for these events to start up Again. There is some character development of these two characters, there could have been more but only about half the book is told from their point of view, and the other half was told from others point of view. . This did not diminish the book at all. I really enjoyed the all the point of views that the authors had, as it showed how different people reacted to the vampires being within their city and who was able to survive and who would not. For the most part the other point of views were told from family members of the people who were on board the 777 flight (you will understand why when you read the book). I like the points in the book that takes the reader back to Setrakian's past, and what he had to go through during the holocaust and how/why he began his fight against the vampires.

I really enjoyed Del Toro and Hogan's interpretation of the vampire, they do not romanticize the vampire beast at all. The vampires when they first rose are similar to what zombies, and the newly risen have to drink enough blood and have enough time in order to reach vampire maturity and lets just say that the vampires are not good looking at all and seem to be missing some parts. The stinger aspect was one of the creepiest parts of the book, that and the white parasitic worms (Creepy Creepy...they are awesome). The parasitic spread of vampirism is not new idea, especially if you have read Marcus Peligrimas' series, however, the idea that it has the ability to spread like a plague is new (for me). How the vampire parasite works within the human body was also interesting and I appreciated that Del Toro and Hogan took the time to explain it and how the parasite changes occurred and why (it was nice to have an actual doctor point of view from Goodweather). I can still picture the parasitic worms each time they were mentioned in the book.  There is also a mysterious vampire council that is  hinted at in the book, especially at the end. I hope there is more about them in the next book, something tells me that the council is brutal when they decide to join the fight.

This is a great vampire novel of our time and a great amalgamation of the two authors. The book is well written and you cannot tell that two people contributed to writing this book, which I think is a great achievement. There was continuity throughout the plot, writing style and it did not appear that one author was trying to overshadow the other. I cannot wait to pick up the second book The Fall, and see the continuation of the fight and who will survive and who will be left standing. Anyone looking for a Dark Paranormal Thriller/Action Adventure book, this book is for you!


Oh and Just a note, if you do not like Rats, you probably wont like this book. There is quite a a few scenes about Rats (I mean it is Manhattan). Trust me it makes sense once you read the book, and is a well thought out aspect within the book and it appears that Del Toro and Hogan did research on the topic.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Xavier Leret: Heaven Sent

In his debut and self published novel Xavier Leret, takes the reader to the dark place of child prostitution and the light that one girl encounters when she starts to interact with a proper 16 year old boy. However, her life may be too much for either of them to handle.

Sixteen year old Carlo has been raised in a very religious family who thought that it was best to hide the realities of the world, but this does not mean that he does not see the differences from his privileged life compared to other. He is constantly seeking something different, away from the religious restraint that his parents have over him and when he sees Daisy, a child prostitute who has grown up in the hard life on the street and has never felt love from anyone. Carlo knows that he has found someone who will be a profound impact on his life.

Heaven sent is not an easy book to read, it touches on topics that other authors may be afraid to touch, talk about or give a different view than the norm. I also did have a little bit of trouble getting into the book, though I think the book becomes better as the story unfolds and Leret found his stride as an author and storyteller. The Ending literally left me breathless.

Leret excels within this book is his ability to take the reader on an emotional roller coaster where you do not know what is going to happen next. I think the emotions a reader will go through is how they personal few the situation, but I went from happy, sad, confused, disgusted ect. There really was too many emotions to state. I also enjoyed the dynamics that Leret show between the victim in the predator, he shows them in several different lights, actions and in some ways the acceptance of who these people are. It was very dynamic and dramatic. Leret does touch on the aspect of pedophilia and described it in a different way where at times you almost (and I stress almost, I don't think you could ever feel anything good towards them) feel sorry and pity for them but you can't forgive or understand something like that especially if they continue to take part in child prostitution (pedophilia no matter how it is described and used is still completely wrong).

I had trouble connecting with the characters because of  the decisions that they made and their though process as to why they took those actions was so contrary to mine, that the connection just wasn't there. I think the overall reason I had trouble connecting with the character was because of their age, both I believe are 16, and went through the thought process of a 16 year old (though even as a 16 year old, I do not think I would make the same decisions). Granted I did not grow up on the streets or in a religious family home, so my own life experiences (or lack of similar ones) could be what was hindering this connection.Others I think would be able to relate to these two characters as they are very well developed, especially Carlo, and his struggle to understand the world and love.

I also had trouble reading Daisy's parts within the book, especially in the beginning. Leret keeps his writing authentic by having Daisy talk like someone would who grew up and is living on the streets and never went to school, but I found reading the abbreviated, slang, and misspelled words, trying at times (though I will give Leret major props for being authentic about this part of his book, if Daisy would have spoke perfect English and the storyline was the same, I would have put the book down for it not being realistic enough).

This book grew on me the more I read. It took me a bit to get into the book and really the last bit had me needing to know what was going to happen and how the book was going to end. I am unsure if I would read another book that was similar to this in premise or storyline. I believe that Leret has a talent for writing, and I believe that the more Leret writes and prefects his craft the better his novels will be, and I think if the character were older, not teenagers, then I would read another book by him.

I think people who enjoy a book with an emotional journey, and one of  self discover of youth and love will like this book. If you find you are unable to connect with characters who are younger in age than you, then I think you would have a hard time enjoying this book and find it a struggle to get past the first half of the book. This book is NOT for Young Adults or for the faint of heart.


Note: This book has aspects of child prostitution, and the situations do go into some detail, therefore, if you even had trouble just reading the words child prostitution this book is not for you.