Review: The Shadow Protocol by Andy McDermott

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Publisher: Dell
Publishing Date: January 2014
ISBN: 9780345537065
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 1.0/5.0

Publishers Description: Adam Gray is a cipher, a disciplined loner conditioned not to betray a single emotion. Part of an elite team spearheaded by a brilliant neuroscientist, Gray is a covert agent armed with PERSONA, a device that allows him to copy the brain patterns of the terrorists and operatives he meets in the field. For twenty-four hours he can recall their memories. He can know every detail of their plans. He can be America’s worst enemy—before he’s back to being Adam Gray again.

Review: I have always enjoyed the Eddie Chase/Nina Wilde series as a form of secret reading indulgence. Kind of an epic adventure-fest coupled with somewhat shallow character development. The way the story-lines are crafted you soon forget the flaws and enjoy yourself.

The Shadow Protocol starts off as an interesting read. The technological premise, if not in use already, makes you think that the developmental probability is high. The action scenes are well developed and the movement from scene to scene captures your interest.
I got to the 16% mark of this novel and determined that I could not finish it. Here is why. The author (whom is from England) starts making cracks at America and Americans in general by vetting political positions through his characters. For instance:

Americans think that anyone to the left of Thatcher is a communist….People over here start screaming ‘Socialism!’ about policies that even the most right-wing government in Europe would consider a bit extreme. I don’t know if it is funny or scary. “When it comes to American politics, it’s both.”

My political position notwithstanding, I really can’t stand when foreign authors sling their own brand of political shjt across the pond in the form of fiction. They use this convenient little vehicle as a soapbox to point fingers and lay blame without fear of rebuttal. They know nothing about America, Americans in general or the complex political landscape we find ourselves in with the current polarization crisis. My advice has been to many authors, by direct communication, is to leave your political bullshjt opinions to yourself, as it ruins a novels veracity.

The author is kind of a two-faced fool. He writes in a genre that currently gives the biggest buck for this particular bang (CIA, Military, anti-terrorism), and still finds the time to talk shjt about America.

If the author would look to his own EU poly/econo situation, he might find that his exhortations are better spent in getting his own ship in order. Oh, almost forgot, the cover-art looks like a trapped monkey in an animal testing laboratory.

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Review: Moth by Daniel Arenson

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Publisher: Moonclipse
Publishing Date: November 2013
ISBN: 9781927601150
Genre: fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5.0

Publisher Description: They say the world used to turn. They say that night would follow day in an endless dance. They say that dawn rose, dusk fell, and we worshiped both sun and stars. That was a long time ago. The dance has died. The world has fallen still. We float through the heavens, one half always in light, one half always in shadow. Like the moth of our forests, one wing white and the other black, we are torn. My people are the fortunate. We live in daylight, blessed in the warmth of the sun. Yet across the line, the others lurk in eternal night, afraid… and alone in the dark. I was born in the light. I was sent into darkness. This is my story.

Review: I didn’t like the beginning of this novel. The dialogue and scene development seemed stilted and “nerdy”. Like someone still living in their parents basement, playing online D&D with other 40 year olds. There were some repetitive lines that were soon grinding on my mind. I think if I read “…and cold sweat trickled down his back” one more time I will fly into a manic rage and start the Emo cutting.

I would have thought that the nerdists that flock to these kinds of epic LARPing novels would have caught some of the basic flaws in the story-line. We have a planet where one side is in perpetual darkness and the other in daylight. If we assume that this is a planet with a sun, then this planet (Moth) would take one year to cycle from day to night, not perpetually in either state as the earth still circles the sun. So the cities on either side would experience half the year in daylight and the other half in night (assuming the planets orbit around the sun is the same as Earths). Temperature swings from season to season would be much greater with those areas along the equator (infernally hot) and their geographical counterpart, extremely cold. We don’t really see the seasons affected on Moth. As we don’t know the latitude or longitude of Moth, I can only assume (based on the map provided) that this area is somewhere along the equator. There is also the matter of Moth being susceptible to harmful solar wind radiation if the planet is not rotating (magnetic field generation).

The novel prefaces their origins as being on a daily day/night cycle when, at some point, it changed to perpetual day on one side and night on the other. The ecosystem/habitat as well as the flora and fauna of Moth don’t parallel a logical evolutionary development to what it is at present. It would take millennia to move an ecosystems development from a day/night daily cycle to a half year cycle. Since a perpetual day/night cycle is impossible on this planet that doesn’t rotate I can’t really give a biological scenario that makes sense. Even with the half year cycle, and the equator being infernally hot, those equatorial areas would quickly become desert (unless there are weather patterns on Moth that support a lengthy monsoon season). Additionally, without an earthly rotation, there would no longer be an equatorial bulge. This spin and bulge hold most of the water at the equator. No spin and the water is mostly at the poles with large land formations at the equator (hence my assumption that Moth is at the equator).
There is a whole world that needs to be built, biologically and astronomically etc. around a consistent and believable story-line. LARPers eating mulberry fruit and thriving in a world that exists in total daylight is not scientifically supportable. Whole biomes would have to be created to accept that this is an alien environment with alien peoples. The author built a world that is essentially Earth, with a twist.

The cover art is really bad. Looks like a third grader with a crayon dropped some acid.

Koyee is an Elorian that differs from the day lighters by having large owl-like eyes (the better to see you with). Koyee is really the only story to follow that is worth a read. She is a great character whom travels to the big city on the dark side to enlist the help of her people against the day lighters. The rest of the mini-stories that make up the story-line are pretty poor in comparison. Take for instance, Koyee’s brother, Okado whom is now leader (Alpha pack leader) of some clan that lives wherever seeking revenge on being cast out. It mostly reads like a comic rendition of a Viking feast. “Yaargh, you are a coward…I will not step aside for long….I will rule this pack….My queen Alpha is hotter than your Viking chick…Yaaargh!!!!” Torin (on the daylight side) is also a weak story-line. They let the monks pretty much run the show and brain-wash everyone into believing that there needs to be a war with the Elorian in order for them to consummate their power as the new religion. Hmmm. I guess people are dumb. Especially people in a village that have lived, thrived and died together for millennia. They all of a sudden abandon trust in their own and place it in a monks new religious zealotry. Not believable considering the setting that was developed. There is no magic, which would have added to the story-line. There was no prognostications of future events foretold in the ancient this or that, that might give credence and validity to our two heroes of dichotomous birth that culminates in the peaceful resolution between two disparate and hostile societies.

This novel is a solid read with Koyee but pretty dismal in other aspects. Most of the novel reads like a covey of LARPers reciting high English poems. I really like the habitat and wildlife/fish descriptions as they are inventive, yet there is no biological fact that supports their existence. The author should have had a minimal of xeno-scientific development to make his dark world more believable. I would have rated this higher in spite of some issues but the World of Moth and it’s lack of scientific fact, makes it’s existence a huge stretch for the imagination.

Review: Almost Demon by AJ Salem

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Publisher: Salem
Publishing Date: October 2013
ISBN: 9781629660035
Genre: Fantasy/YA
Rating: 4.75/5.0

Publishers Description: The first in the all-new series “The Sigil Cycle” – a dazzling debut by author AJ Salem!
“Almost Demon” will catapult you into the world of Gemma Pope – high school senior, car crash survivor turned reluctant demon summoner.
The last thing Gemma Pope expects to study in the after-school book club is demon etiquette but that is exactly what she has to do to succeed as a summoner and save her hometown.
Since taking the blame for the car accident that claimed the lives of her twin brother and best friends, she’s been seeing things. Dark shadows, opaque, menacing, multiplying.
The clock starts ticking when the local librarian suffers a psychotic break and pulls a gun on her reading circle. Gemma’s dad is getting weird, her classmates are becoming violent, and the darkness surrounding Harrisport is getting thicker.
Should she trust hot English Lit teacher Mr. Flynn or Ian, the mysterious new kid in town, who has knowledge beyond his years and access to other dimensions?
It is only when the gates to hell are opened, that Gemma learns who her real friends are.
Discover what lies just beyond the veil of humanity in the sleepy town of Harrisport.

Review: Wow. This was a kick-ass ride. Demons with unique looks and personalities, Angels, alternate universes and teen angst. What more could get you interested? The story-line is a well thought out menagerie that has constant movement coupled to focused character development. There is never a stagnant interlude of drivel filler. The cover art is just plane kick ass. Reminds me of Jo Nesbo’s “Redbreast” cover art.

The only time you have a long review is when the novel is really bad and demands an editing commentary. Fact is, most of us reviewers are fault finders. I can tell you that there are no discernible faults from my end. Sure, others may have a different subjective opinion about the story-line etc. but I grant AJ Salem and others that artistic license as it is their creation(s). Get this novel and you will be wanting the next in the series ASAP.

Review: Ex Purgatory by Peter Clines

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Publisher: Crown
Publishing Date: January 2014
ISBN:9780804136617
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.0/5.0

Publishers Description: When he’s awake, George Bailey is just an ordinary man. Five days a week he coaxes his old Hyundai to life, curses the Los Angeles traffic, and clocks in at his job as a handyman at the local college. But when he sleeps, George dreams of something more. George dreams of flying. He dreams of fighting monsters. He dreams of a man made of pure lightning, an armored robot, a giant in an army uniform, a beautiful woman who moves like a ninja. Then one day as he’s walking from one fix-it job to the next, a pale girl in a wheelchair tells George of another world, one in which civilization fell to a plague that animates the dead…and in which George is no longer a glorified janitor, but one of humanity’s last heroes. Her tale sounds like madness, of course. But as George’s dreams and his waking life begin bleeding together, he starts to wonder—which is the real world, and which is just fantasy?

Review: This novel is one of the first that has me in a rating quandary. I enjoyed the story-line/plot, even with the undeveloped characters that seemed one dimensional. There were interesting moments in the story-line that kept you guessing along with the characters, as to whether the world they were in was valid. So you have this band of “super heroes” one of which can fly, breathe fire and is indestructible. Sound like Superman? Pretty close but he can still bruise and feel pain. Also the zombies are slow, shambling teeth clackers whom our heroes destroy at their leisure without breaking a sweat. Now where is the challenge in that? Superman as a comic hero was largely boring unless his mortal coil could be challenged. The only threat to our super hero is his close attachment to his group. And you still don’t have a sense of threatened panic when the others are attacked because the writer just didn’t develop those inter-relationships.

Here is my problem. You have page after page of aforementioned superhero and super-gang, obliterating hoards of slow moving zombies in graphic fashion. There is really no challenge to our hero’s in the form of zombies that can kill them, even though the author creates this dire dialogue between the characters. Although this novel has a real inventive story-line with colorful descriptions, it is drawn out with replicated fight scenes…. CRASH!…BOOM!….BASH!

Besides the crappy cover art, this novel was a letdown. You get tired of the mashing of zombies by a group of people that really fear nothing. Their only challenge is Mr. Smith (Matrix referent in novel) whose evil power is the crafting of dream states and controlled responses through verbal suggestions. Scary, right? Not. The only well-developed character was Corpse Girl, but then the author abandons any further development of Corpse Girl, except as comic relief perched on the shoulder of Captain Freedom.

This novel had a real good chance of scoring high, only if the characters had some flaws, both physical and mental. The zombies were too benign and should have been the crazy-fast, wall climbing type. This novel needs a huge re-write in both character development and story-line compression. I rated this 2.0/5.0 as it is half way to completion.

*UPDATE*
I have received a couple of real nasty comments about my review, although I think the review is not that bad. It seems the author and one of his sycophantic groupies are being bad. No worries. I thought I would read the novel again, as they had some salient points about reading the prior novels in the series in order to gain a sense of continuity. So after reading it again, I have dropped my score even lower, as it still sux. If a novel in a series cannot stand alone and entertain, then it is still crap. So thanks to all you creepy/nasty cultists of Ex-(your name here) for making me waste reading time on pure drivel.

Review: Betrayal in the Highlands by Robert Evert

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Publisher: Diversion
Publishing Date: October 2013
ISBN: 9781626810792
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:4.3/5.0

Publisher Description: Pursued relentlessly by goblin hunters for the ancient secret he knows, Edmund the stuttering librarian fights back in the fast-paced sequel to the epic fantasy novel, Riddle in Stone. Edmund’s old, boring life is gone forever. Knowing the answer to a cryptic riddle that, if in the wrong hands, could destroy all of humanity, Edmund is hiding in a sleepy coastal town as far from the frozen mountains of the Undead King as possible. For a moment, he believes he’s finally safe. Then he learns that Molly, the woman he’s loved since childhood, is telling stories about him—stories that will get him and his friends killed. Edmund is forced to embark on a perilous journey home to confront the woman who broke his heart. If he fails, all will be lost.

Review: This is the second novel in the Riddle in Stone series. I really liked the first novel in the series that brought about solid character development and a rather sinister turn in life for our stuttering hero. I wrote to the author that I enjoyed his novel and subsequent to that conversation he promised to send me pictures of his trips to Norway. They were awesome.

I love a good adventure fantasy novel, where the action and dialogue walk together through the story-line. You get great scene development and an innate understanding of the characters as they meet stressful situations. Robert Evert has this ability in spades, much like Michael J. Sullivan’s Hadrian/Royce Ryria Revelation series. The author does a superb job at rendering elements with comedic subtlety while in the midst of hectic and violent situations that leaves you pulling for Edmund, Becky, Mr. Pond and Fatty M. I love the introduction of the spicy, beautiful and intelligent, Abby. The daughter of Borstson, chief judicial official for Havenar. She desperately desires to go adventuring and get out of this one horse town. This is a great character injection into the existing crew as she becomes Edmunds focus away from his first love, Molly (whom sux ass).

This novel has better logical progression than the first and is somewhat smoother to read. I kind of liked the stilted and scrambled variations of the first novel as it leaves you guessing about the authors end-game. Becky (his new dog) takes on more “dog” behaviors and less the intelligent watcher/helper that Thorax was in the first novel. Perhaps we can ascribe these more “feral” characteristics to the fact that she is still a puppy. Dunno. There were some minor disappointments in this novel like the killing of certain characters that you grow a bit attached to. I think it just doesn’t make sense, in some instances, to kill off relevant characters that you hope will overcome their human conditions and help our challenged hero to prevail. For that I dropped my score significantly.

The cover art is just plane ghastly crap. Really, -a dude in a red cloak in a street tunnel. I can’t recall there ever being someone wearing a huge red hoody cloak in the novel. This author is good, so grant him some cover art that reflects the work within.

This author is like finding a treasure within the multitudes that seek to be published in various venues (indie, commercial and small publishing). While there was some disappointment at where the plot lines eventually culminate, that is my own “story-line” opinion and has nothing to do with the novels veracity. I would rather have seen more magic develop within Edmund during a mini-adventure to obtain some ancient relic. Someone is always alluding to Edmunds supposed powers and his parents legacy that never bears magical fruit. Perhaps all will be answered or developed in round three of the Riddle in Stone series.

Review: Cracked- book one of the souleaters by Eliza Crewe

Publisher: Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot
Publishing Date: November 2013
ISBN: 9781908844682
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Rating: 4.1 /5.0

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Publisher Description: Ever since my mom was murdered, I’ve been completely alone. I live in the shadows, because there’s no one like me. I have no choice because I have to fight the Hunger, the Hunger that drives me to hunt people and eat their souls. And I have to fight it if I want to stay out of the darkness.
Who am I?
I’m Meda Melange.
What am I?
I don’t know—but I’m not human.
And now, I finally have the chance to find out.

Review: This started off with a BANG!. Eating an evil human soul in retribution for a murdered ghost girl, ensuing battle with Demons and a rescuing Templar teen. Had me gripped….for about 5 minutes. After the action this novel devolved into a retrograde spasm of dialogue (both inner and outer). Blah blah, driving to cabin…blah blah…..I want to eat your soul……blah blah….I don’t trust her……blah blah….She’s a Beacon……blah blah……I want to eat your soul……….blah blah………. for about first 40% of the novel. When the author creates action it is really well done. But when the action is over we are assaulted with pages of drivel filler. The novel is fairly short, which sets up nicely for a series, although this would have been better served as a stand alone with some character development/expansion and a story-line that is compressed to entertain.

The cover art is really good for the first cover depicted. More accurately reflects the novel contents. Not surprising as Angry Robot usually has the best cover art in the business.

I almost gave up on this work as it was nearing my “filler” rule to receive a DNF and subsequent zero rating. Glad I hung in there as this novel quickly took off in a direction that was both compelling and riveting. I was up for a few hours trying to beat the sleep clock in order to finish. In retrospect, the author initially was trying to build the characters through verbal interactions. I think this approach fails, as you lose the reader to dialogue that is better spent with movement. Meda, Jo and Chi are great characters and divergent enough to create a fine balance. Meda has this great inner dichotomy that goes from sarcasm to sociopath in a blink. Although I consider this a novella/hook (short novels at full price that hook you into multiple series purchases), I would still purchase the next in the series, mainly to see if the author continues to season the characters and refine her sarcastic wit.

Buy this novella. It is a little treasure waiting to be expanded upon if you like sarcastic wit, Templar Knights and soul eating demons.