Tag Archives: ebook

Review – The Black by Paul E. Cooley (E-book)

Black_paperback_for-print-sml1 My friend Paul Cooley has a new book out. Unlike his previous books, this one is not self published. It’s put out by Severed Press, a fine purveyor of books like Jake Bible’s Z-Burbia series. I’ve been watching his process and it’s very interesting. He wrote the book this year and it actually got published THIS YEAR. I’ve more to say about that, but it needs to be a separate post. On to the review!

Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Leaguer has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it’s about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.

“The Black” is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers’ hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same.”

The Goods – This is a book that is both like and unlike Paul’s previous books. Why is this a good thing? It shows his breadth and depth as a writer. This book proves that he can do a fairly straight forward monster tale (which this is) and bring his own flavor to it. It’s more “marketable” than his other works. Not to say that it’s better or worse, it’s just a bit more accessible than alt history/horror or Muppet VIOLENCE. His writing here is also a little tighter than usual, which is a requirement more of the genre. If he has continued success with this series and other books with Severed, it will hopefully bring more folks into the fold who will discover his edgier books. That’s a win-win.

The Black takes a few chapters to get warmed up to the level of action and violence a book like this needs, but it’s never boring. The characters are well fleshed out, especially for a book in this genre, and the monster is spooky without us knowing a damned thing about it. Once it does get going it doesn’t let up. There’s not a wasted bit of prose anywhere in here.

The Bads – Yeah, there aren’t any. I really can’t find a single damned thing I would change about this book. Except maybe to put my name on the cover.

Go buy this thing! It gets five and a half out of five tentacles from me. Yeah I can do that. It’s non-Euclidean or something.

Paul’s Site
Paul’s Twitter

Review – Mega (Ebook)

Fans of the blog will know that I’ve long been a fan of Jake Bible. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also count myself as his friend. So let’s get on with the review.

There is something in the deep. Something large. Something hungry. Something prehistoric.
And Team Grendel must find it, fight it, and kill it.
Kinsey Thorne, the first female US Navy SEAL candidate has hit rock bottom. Having washed out of the Navy, she turned to every drink and drug she could get her hands on. Until her father and cousins, all ex-Navy SEALS themselves, offer her a way back into the life: as part of a private, elite combat Team being put together to find and hunt down an impossible monster in the Indian Ocean. Kinsey has a second chance, but can she live through it?

I love, love, love giant sharks. The thing I love even more than that are stories that put a rag tag bunch against nearly unbeatable odds. This book is a bit light on the first, but it hits the second nail on the head. There are giant sea critters, make no mistake, but most of that action takes place later in the book. The focus is largely on the interpersonal relationships and some epic military action. I was a little disappointed that the book, billed as a “Deep Sea Thriller” with a picture of a giant shark on the front, didn’t give the beasts more page time.

With that gripe out of the way, I enjoyed the hell out of this book. There’s a lot of humor of the dark variety on display, as any of Jake’s readers will be hoping for. There’s also some excellent character development. Kinsey, the character mentioned in the blurb, undergoes a very realistic transformation. I enjoyed watching that and getting to know the other members of Team Grendel, the pirate killing, hunters of giant sharks. (If a book that features pirate killing, giant shark hunters doesn’t make you put this on your list, this isn’t the book for you probably.)

The pace moves rapidly. Much of the first half of the book is set up, but it’s entertaining set up. You need to meet these people and get to know them and it’s as much fun as the rest. For all of the fun, this is a gritty book, filled to the gunwales with gore, coarse language, and extreme amounts of gunfire. If that appeals to you then check it out!

I give this book four dorsal fins out of five.

Jake’s Site
Jake’s Twitter
Amazon Kindle Link

Review: Script Kiddie (Assured Destruction #2) by Michael F. Stewart

I reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed the first Assured Destruction e-book and reviewed it here. Since it was only $.96, buying the dequel was a no brainer.

Jan Rose no longer steals data from the old computers she recycles. She doesn’t need to. As the newest member of the police department’s High Tech Crime Unit, the laptop of a murderer has landed on her desk. Her job: to profile and expose a killer.

But that’s not all.

A creep lurks in the shadows, stalking a friend, and Jan must stop him before the hunt turns deadly. The clock counts down for Jan to save her friend, her job, her boyfriend–maybe even her life.

I have found a YA character that I can really geek out about. Michel has created several interesting characters in this world, but as it should be, the main one is the star. She makes stupid mistakes and the kinds of assumptions that aren’t limited to the teen set. When that happens, the author doesn’t go easy on her. Still Janus has a good heart and you want to root for her as she tries to do the right thing.

There are a few plot threads that form the main thrust of the plot and then there are the struggles that carried over from the previous book. The shop owned by Janus’ mom is in deep water and sinking fast. Janus’ mom has severe health issues and Janus still doesn’t trust her mom’s boyfriend. On top of all that, she can’t seem to make her boss, her principle, or her boyfriend happy. Michael does a great job of keeping all of these threads woven into a tight tapestry.

Michael also uses his book to introduce us to the world of hacking. You don’t have to have a technical background to enjoy the story and you’ll probably learn a thing or two. While my hacker friends might (or might not) find fault with those aspects of the story, I don’t. Any shortcuts he takes serve to move the story along.

I want to go back to Janus. I admire that he’s created an imperfect and thus realistic YA character. There might by the temptation to make the protagonist of your YA story a model citizen. Given the tremendous pressures she’s under, Janus makes the aforementioned mistakes. She lies, cheats, and steals. She does it all for reasons that she thinks is good, but he doesn’t let her off the hook. This gives her lots of opportunities for growth and development. I look forward to the next story to see how he continues to put the screws to her and and to find out what Janus will do under pressure.

I give this story five out of five gray hats.

Michael’s Site
Michael’s Twitter
Amazon Kindle Link

Review – West of Dead by Eric Bahle (Ebook)

This is another one of those books/authors that I found out about through the Twitter-verse. I saw zombies and wild/weird west and I was sold (though this one was another freebie when I picked it up).

Fans of Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Davis, and Adam Millard will love this fast paced tale of the Weird West.

What good is a six-shooter against a horde of the undead?

Nathaniel Caine wants to forget the War and see the frontier, and a trip by stagecoach seems like the perfect way. When the stage pulls into a deserted way station with obvious signs of violence, but a disturbing lack of bodies, he suspects things are going bad. Things go from bad to worse when the passengers fall under attack by people that should be dead, and Caine must call on old skills just to survive. He’ll also need the help of a fellow passenger who knows more than he’s telling if the restless dead are to be put back in the ground.

This book grabbed me from the very beginning. That’s important in a book like this (or perhaps any book really). The action and tension started at a fairly high point within the first few pages. Most of the characters are exactly as deep as they need to be for something like this. There is one character that was a nice surprise, but I won’t spoil said surprise. I don’t think Eric’s breaking really new ground here, but this is pure Saturday afternoon fun.

The thing I appreciate most about this story is that he makes an attempt at least to pay homage to zombieism’s historical roots. These zed heads are a good mix of walkers and their Caribbean ancestors. The latter is mostly for flavor, so it seems to me, but it’s a nice spice.

The writing is good. He kept the pace quick and I was “flipping” pages like mad to see what happened next. The only time I ever stumbled in the reading process was later in the book when he did some abrupt POV shifts. It’s good practice in my opinion to make some kind of hard break when you do that, but it didn’t happen a lot and I picked up and kept right on reading.

This book is now $2.99 at Amazon. The question is, is it worth it? If you want a fun, solid shoot-em up with some scares and a little gore this is the book for you. The only thing cerebral about this are the brains liberally spattered around during the last third.

I give this book four out of five brass cartridges.

Eric’s Site
Eric’s Twitter
Amazon Kindle Link

Review – Exorcising Aaron Nguyen (Ebook)

The murder of Millroad Catholic Academy’s resident genius, Aaron Nguyen, shuts down student life at the boarding school in rural North Carolina…for about a week. With the resilience of youth, the student body bounces back, and the memory of murder is nothing but a streamer of caution tape fluttering in the breeze. Unfortunately for them, Aaron’s spirit has some resilience as well. The school priest’s exorcism fails, and before long Aaron is breathing chills down the students’ necks and hurling Bunsen burners at nuns.

Georgia Collins doesn’t give a shit about ghosts. All she wants is a story to prove her underground school news blog is more than a gossip column, closure on her one-sided relationship with her best friend Hiroki, and a vanilla latte. She wasn’t expecting Aaron Nguyen’s death to be anything more than a cold spot in the science hall, but since Hiroki has the curse of Spectral Sight, he is the only person who can see and speak to Aaron.

As the ghost’s demands for attention become increasingly violent, Hiroki wants Georgia to help him investigate the crime, claiming that Aaron isn’t likely to budge until his killers are caught. Still hoping for spontaneous romantic combustion, she agrees to help bring Aaron’s murderers to justice and set the vengeful spirit free…but it’s not quite the close encounter she’s hoping for.

I’m not a native North Carolinian, but I’ve been here since I was thirteen. When I saw that Lauren had a book coming out that takes place in this fair state, I was interested in giving it a look. When I understood what it was about I was even more interested. I’m a big fan of modern fantasy and I know that Lauren is a talented creative.

One of the things that I’m always on the lookout for is a book that features a strong female lead. I felt pretty sure I’d find that here, and I wasn’t disappointed. Georgia is exactly that. She’s got her fair share of insecurities and weaknesses, but none that are crippling or too dark. A sense of fun is also something that I’m on the lookout for when it comes to YA fiction in general. Too often I see characters or situations that depress me as a reader. This book is hardly SUPER HAPPY FUN TIMES!, as it does deal with the death of a teen, but it doesn’t get mired down in darkness.

Georgia has a good supporting cast in the form of her love interest Hiroki and the school’s chess master Bishop. All of the characters are as well developed as any can be in a novelette of this length. It’s the characters and their interactions that move this book along at a brisk pace, rather than the plot, and that’s another plus. The banter and humor between them go a long way towards telling us what we need to know about them and it keeps the story fun, even when things get bleak.

The only real disappointment I had with the story is that I wanted the location to play a little bit more of a role. The setting itself, a boarding school, is very important, but it feels like this could take place in just about any southern state. That’s not too much of a detraction, but more local flavor would have enhanced the story.

For people looking for a new story for their teen, I do want to give a bit of a fair warning. I don’t recall if the ages of the characters are mentioned, but context tells me that they’re in their mid to late teens (tenth grade I believe). There’s some strong language and frank sexual talk that some people might not find suitable for younger teens/tweens. I don’t think any of it is excessive a la Chuck Wendig. I was a teen myself and I seem to recall doing my fair share. But if I were to rate this a la the MPAA guidelines, I’d give it a PG/PG-13. As someone who prefers less as more when it comes to violence, strong language, etc. I think Lauren balanced those elements well. I’d easily give this to my thirteen year old in another year or two.

It sounds like this is the beginning of a series, which is all of the rage these days (and I think that’s a good thing). I look forward to what comes next for Georgia and her friends. I enjoyed this book a great deal and I strongly recommend it.

I give Exorcising Aaron Nguyen four and a half out of five rosaries.

Lauren’s Site
Lauren’s Twitter
Smashwords Link
Amazon Link

Contest – Every Photo Tells

I’ve long been a fan of the Every Photo Tells podcast. They put up a picture prompt every month and if you write a story that meets their guidelines they’ll produce and run an audio version. They’ve run a few of my stories over the years. I’ve gotten a lot of laughs and groans from the many stories they’ve featured. Now you’ll have the opportunity to read the stories written by the hosts, Katharina and Mick Bordet.

I want to give away the e-book. I’m a big believer in what they’re doing and I’d love to send new people their way. So, whether or not you’ve ever visited their site, go to their list of photo prompts – http://everyphototells.com/category/photos/. Subscribe while you’re there. Once you find a picture you like, come back here and tell me why you like it (and which picture it is). I’ll give away one e-book for every five entries I get. Contest ends on 8/23/12.

Kilted pirate Greenbeard’s last voyage turns up some unexpected surprises…

Who is behind the murder at the Eagle Cave?

Love crops up when it is least expected…

An ancient terror awakens to threaten mankind’s existence…

‘Every Photo Tells…’ is a short story anthology that sets out to show that every picture can tell more than just one story, by presenting a range of tales inspired by ten photographs.

Mick and Katharina Bordet present stories covering a wide range of themes and genres. Whether your taste is for horror or whodunnit, modern thriller or period swashbuckler, fantasy or sci-fi, there is sure to be something for you in this collection.


Amazon Link

Review – Things Unseen by Chris Lester (Ebook)

Things Unseen Cover-review I’ve long been a fan of Chris Lester’s work. In the spirit of full disclosure, I helped produce part of the podcast that features his stories. The reason I did that is that I was already a fan of his and he needed help. So, I was a fan first. He sent me a copy of his latest e-book for review and here it is.

Synopsis: In the Year 1974 CR, a team of explorers vanished at the mysterious Telvari Rift. 25 years later, a new group of adventurers has braved this forbidden zone. Some sought power. Some sought answers. None expected what they found. Now a trail of death follows them from the jungles of the Rift to the towers of Metamor City, and only police detectives Kathryn Kitaen and David Silverleaf can stop it.

Here’s what you need to know about the world Chris has created. It started as a role playing exercise and the original universe was hatched by Chris and his friends. He took that fantasy world and fast forwarded to the futuristic world of his novels. The stories possess a blend of fantasy and technology that’s easily the best of its genre. Here you’ll find vampires, lycanthropes, wizards, and otherworldly creatures. In addition to taking those and putting his own spin on them, he’s created new races and concepts that provide tons of fodder.

What can you expect from Things Unseen? On a very basic level it’s a police procedural. People are dead and dying and Kitaen, a talented illusionist, and Silverleaf, an elven healer, are assigned to the case. To complicate matters, members of Metamor City’s royalty are missing and the detectives have to deal with political intrigue, a vampire crime lord, possessions, and an ocean of read tape. Along the way, Kitaen learns some disturbing things about her own past and about the future of their city.

This is a whopper of a book, clocking in at 140,000 words. It’s a fast read for its size. There’s plenty of sex (though nothing so explicit as to be labeled erotica), action, and intrigue. We see the world through several sets of eyes, but its done in such a way that I never got “head hopping” motion sickness. At any given time we’re only getting one character’s point of view. It makes the experience of the world deeper in this case. What makes this story even better is that it doesn’t stop at the surface level. Underneath the excitement and mystery, this story is about identity and how much you can lose or gain before you stop being “you”. Most of the main characters undergo some significant changes in body, mind and/or spirit. The experience tears some of them down, killing them, and causes tremendous growth in others. It’s that character development that really makes this book worth reading.

If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, Shadowrun, or just good old fashioned adventure then you should check this book out. I give it five out of five elf ears.

Chris’s Smashwords Author Page
Chris’s Website

Review – Pilgrimage by Matthew Wayne Selznick (E-Book)

pilgrimage_cover I’m a big believer in sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They allow you to find awesome projects and to be a part of bringing them to fruition. In July of last year Matthew Wayne Selznick launched a Kickstarter to find the sequel to his book Brave Men Run. I’m a fan of that book and of Matt’s writing so it was with great enthusiasm that I backed the Kickstarter. I received the e-book as a result.

Synopsis: The Charters Duology concludes as the Sovereign Era continues!

April, 1986 – On the eve of the first anniversary of the Donner Declaration, as tensions rise between humanity and the metahuman, super-powered Sovereigns, fathers and sons face desperate choices.

Nate Charters (Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era) struggles with his increasingly tenuous control over his temper and his powers… while Andrew Charters hopes to suppress his own bestial nature to help his distant son.

Sovereign Byron Teslowski trains to join the Sovereign defense force, but a fiery new friend forces him to question his loyalties… and Marc Teslowski, desperate to bring his family back together, falls in with the charismatic leader of an anti-Sovereign militant group.

As Sovereigns the world over converge on the Donner Institute for Sovereign Studies, Nate, Andrew, Byron, and Marc find their paths lead there as well. Will the machinations of enemies and allies tear them violently apart on Declaration Day?

This book is part of the Sovereign Era storyworld, and part two of the Charters Duology. While it can be read on its own, readers may want to read “Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era” first to get the whole story.

As the synopsis says, you should definitely read the first book (available here). If you’re a child of the 80’s or a fan of the pop culture from that era and you like superheroes, it’s really a no-brainer.

If you liked the first book, you will more than likely enjoy this one. It’s a bit different from the first (if memory serves) in that we get the story from multiple points of view. Each chapter comes either from a chapter of Nate Charter’s diary or from a third person point of view of three of the other main characters in the story. (The above link to Brave Men Run is to a revised and expanded version of the story. I read the original version.) I like it, since it adds quite a bit to the overall universe.

The events that take place over the days leading up to the celebration are given to us from the characters described in the synopsis and you couldn’t have the perspectives be much different than the ones given here. Nate and Byron are both young men, each with their own perspective on what life is like with the gifts they were granted by their birthright. Nate struggles with his wild, animalistic side, and Byron embraces his powers and works with his mentors to sharpen and use them. Their fathers give us the other half of the story. Andrew Charters has become almost completely animalistic and struggles to find his humanity to save his son. Marc wants to save his son as well, but does Byron need saving or does Marc? The parallels sharpened and broadened the story experience for me.

While Pilgrimage is a story that has comic book origins and tropes, this deals with the very serious issues of racism, rape, death, and and identity. It’s not one for the younger kids and would be at home in a graphic novel with titles from Dark Horse. One of the things I enjoy about good science fiction is that it has room to address adult issues and you get to have bullet proof people and pyrokinetics. It’s like my favorite peanut butter cup.

As with book one, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Matt’s a very talented writer and if you like these books you should check out his other titles. I give this book five capes out of five.

Matt’s Amazon Author Page
Matt’s Website

Review – Suave Rob's Double-X Derring Do by Dan Sawyer (Ebook)

suave_rob Dan Sawyer is the most proficient author I know (personally or professionally). I’ve reviewed his Clarke Lantham series and it’s easily among my favorites of his work. He offered to send me a copy of his most recent science fiction release, so naturally I said yes.

Two X-chromosomes. One Surfboard. All Man.

Climbing Olympus Mons put him on the map, winning a gold medal in asteroid jumping got him great press, and children everywhere tune into watch every time he skydives from a space station, but Suave Rob Suarez is just getting started. Together with his stunt partner and their childhood hero, he’s gonna stage the biggest daredevil stunt the universe has ever seen:

Surf a supernova.
Or die trying.

Now for those of you who are easily confused or who don’t remember high school biology (or like me if you fall into both categories) the possession of two X chromosomes would make you a female biologically. But that’s not a typo. The protagonist of Dan’s story lives in a time that allows people to be who they want. From a young age Rob identified as a man and got most of the physical modifications to be “manlier” than any science fiction hero to date. Rob’s desire to emulate his hero Gurgle Tippler, the first man to skydive from a space station, leads him to wonder if there are no more frontiers left. When you have the brains and tech to do the nigh impossible and can have your doctor rebuild you in case you guy too far, where are the challenges?

This story is interesting to me on a couple of levels and it tackles some questions that are incredibly pertinent today. First there’s that notion that we’re running out of challenges. Like Rob discovers, that’s only true for those of us with limited imaginations. It may take time and resources that you didn’t know you had. It may also take a dash of luck and it could cost you your life if things go sour, but is it worth it? And if you find that edge, ride it for all your worth, and survive what’s next?

I’m not a risk taker by nature. The older I get though, the more I realize that there are things that I want that I won’t get risk free. So these days I take the risks, but not without doing my homework. Like Rob, I call in some expert advice and when I mess up along the way I try and make it right. The only problem with real edge seekers like Rob is, once you surf a supernova what do you do next? This book doesn’t answer that question, but maybe future books will?

Deeper than that, this story looks at identity. Ro isn’t the only character in this story that doesn’t fit into a particular mold when it comes to gender identity. Dan’s dealt with sexual politics in his books before. Usually it’s a little more subtle than it is in this one, but this was no doubt written for fun more than anything else. Still, it wasn’t an accident, or I don’t know Dan.

He’s created a character here’s that’s hyper male and the only thing he lacks is the one inherently male physical attribute. (Pssst, it’s a penis.) In spite of that “lack”, Rob managed to woo women, win bar fights, and find plenty of opportunities to stick his foot in his mouth. It’s almost as though those things aren’t dependent on the male genitalia. Hmmm.

I love the characters in this story, More than that though I love the voice it’s written in. We get this story first person and it’s hard to explain the way Rob “sounds” but it absolutely fits the story. I’m also a fan of the way that Dan works the harder sci fi elements in this story. I’m not ordinarily a fan of the harder sf since it’s usually a little dry, but this never gets near that territory.

If my ramblings haven’t clued you in I really enjoyed this. Like many of his stories, this isn’t one for the young kiddos. As I’ve outlined above, it deals with territory that’s challenging even for adults to navigate. It could be an interesting one for the teens in your life, but there are one or two scenes that are graphic in nature. My only reservation is the price. I got this for free in exchange for a review. Four dollars in exchange for something that’s barely a novelette seems a bit much. Then again it seems silly to quibble over a dollar here or there and Dan makes his living from his art. And it will take you longer to read this than it would to drink the fancy coffee that the money would buy.

I give Suave Rob’s Double-X Derring Do four and a half supernovas.

Book Review – Throwing Lead: A Writer's Guide to Firearms (and the People Who Use Them)

I don’t know a whole lot about guns when it comes to practical experience. I’ve fired a few rounds through various shotgun gauges at turkey shoots. I plinked at some cans with a .38. I’ve read a lot about them and felt like I knew my share. That was, until I read this book. It turns out that while I do know a fair amount of the basics there are all kinds of things I wasn’t aware of. Such as:

  • Why you shouldn’t call the thing that holds bullets, a clip.
  • What “bullet proof” means and why you’re using it wrong.
  • Ways of determining what gun a bullet comes out of and how a smart criminal can avoid that.

All of that is really just the tip of the FMJ bullet. Details on caliber, shotguns, silencers vs. suppressors, and how bullets are made fill this book. As interesting as all of that was, there’s more. Mason and Sawyer give you as a writer insight into the minds of people that use guns on a daily basis. They’ve talked to police officers, soldiers, hunters and have pulled anecdotes from their own experiences as shooters.

If you’re a writer and you want to know about the history of guns, or you want to make sure that your protagonist is using the appropriate gun then this book is for you. If you want to avoid some of the mistakes common to fiction give it a read. They also go into some theory on energy weapons and other sci-fi standards and why it would be likely that slug throwers will still be around for some time to come.

Personally I would also recommend this book to readers as well. There are some great stories here and they’re told with Dan’s typical biting sense of humor. I also know there are people out there who love to nitpick help the writers in their lives and kvetch trade opinions on the fiction they love to read. Throwing Lead can give you plenty of… ammunition. (I couldn’t resist.)

I know that there are plans for a follow up book that sounds awesome. So you need to go buy this one and let them know that a second book would be appreciated sooner rather than later. I give this one 5 shotgun shells out of 5.