Book Review: The Secret Lab by A.B. Carolan

Publishing Date: March 2018

Publisher: Carrick


Genre: SciFi/YA


Publisher’s Description: In the future when humans are exploring the home solar system, four kids discover a mutant cat on the International Space Station. In solving the mystery of the cat’s origin, they uncover an old conspiracy.

Review: The only thing that detracted from this novel was the cover. Great characters evolve around a wonderful story line. The YA’s were believable in their hormonal interactions and the sentient cat was hilarious. Too bad this ended so quickly without regard to future installments. Perhaps the cat will make another appearance solving crimes or venturing out to save Orson.


Book Review: The Omega Project book 2 by Angus MacM. Hodgson


Publishing Date: February 2018

Publisher: Dog Ear

ISBN: 9781457562259

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 1.5/5

Publisher’s Description: This book starts off with Jon reminiscing about one of his early CAG missions in Afghanistan hunting for Taliban controlled caves. Later during a lull in operations he is invited to go hunting on the surface with the Chiricahua Apache. After the hunt one of the Chiricahua medicine men has a vision of the future that reveals a new enemy. An invasion from Mexico by a coalition of Mexican and Chinese forces. Jon has a little time to prepare for this threat while at the same time eliminating another threat that started in Book 1.

Review: Not sure what to make of this novel. The stilted dialogue between the characters that is overlaid with backstory and their personal histories came off a bit contrived. There was no flow to the exchanges and everyone in Omega 11 is either an expert commando do-gooder/jujitsu master, or a hot looking female sharp shooter/Olympic gold medalist x2/sword expert. The delivery is a bit smug with every event showcasing how great they, and their Indian neighbors are. If you have read any of John Ringo’s books, this follows the same pattern. The whole “Klavia The Superdog” shtick wore a bit thin especially when the narrative switches to her perspective. Anthropomorphism really has no place in literature except SciFi/Fantasy.

A few instances where you really needed to suspend your disbelief is the inaccurate portrayal of “The Hunt”. In about a day they kill 42 wolves that are attacking their small party. Wolf behavior is thrown out the door on this one as is the idea of hunting “vicious” coyotes with spears. Of course Becca kills a 170 lb. cougar with a spear and shoots freehand a lame deer at 740 plus yards with iron sites. She uses a .308 round that is special because the bullet and load is different and custom made by Westley Richards. The round “looks different” than a regular .308. Huh? A custom load is a well developed process of matching your gun to bullet type/weight, powder type/weight and most importantly, distance from the lands for seating depth. Not to mention all the prep that goes into case selection, sizing (neck or case), fire sizing to chamber, trimming/chamfer, truing- out of round necks, truing primer pockets and flash holes, weighing each bullet for consistency and proper crimp. To say that a round is custom because it looks different is not sufficient. Additionally, Westley Richards does not make custom loads for clients.

The idea that John and his MWD-k9 and Becca are accepted into the Chiricahua nation as warriors is pretty funny. In case you missed the last 150 or so years, natives don’t really like us. How do I know? I have worked on Indian reservations for 25 years an am a First Nations decendant. Sure I have a lot of friends, but generally, Tribal Council’s are careful to exclude non-tribal employees/members from ANY tribal events and you will not lead from the front on any policy issue. Also the idea that there is a traditional tribal gathering being acted out in ancient Indian escape tunnels where elders have visions which the military takes seriously, is ridiculous. The whole special warrior knife thing where “warriors have to kill anyone that touches their knife”, is bullshjt.

This novel never gets off the pot. The war that you waited for, never comes and each day is an endless hashing of “topside” conditions. I will say that the guessed at political perspectives might be pretty close in a real situation based on the current state of anarchy that resides around the world. The characters are fun to follow in that the movement flows at a good clip WHEN MOVEMENT OCCURS.  The writing style grows on you and only wastes your time with verbose military verbiage if you’re not into it. There were way too many firearm, Indian and wildlife fails, but was balanced out with some good action and interpersonal interactions.

The novel was cogent but I would say that the author either lost his voice or never developed one to enhance the characterization. Every character was patterned: like watching a B-grade military movie where characters exchange patterned dialogue. I will not be visiting the next in the series unless the author pays me.

Book Review: Chasm Walkers by Raquel Byrnes

Publishing Date: March 2018

Publisher: Pelican Group

ISBN: 9781611169416

Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Rating: 1.0/5

Publisher’s Description: Charlotte Blackburn—Legend, traitor, the Order’s worst nightmare —she escaped the torturous experiments by the villainous Viceroy Arecibo, but is forever changed. Now, she battles to retain her humanity as she fights to survive among the wild sky settlers of Outer City. But an old threat emerges and Charlotte must choose between revenge and redemption.

Review: Ah, where to start. Lets begin with the scene development. I think this author is a good writer, she just needs to find her voice rather than using established tropes. And when I say tropes, the author just doesn’t use one or two, she uses many to build her characters.

For example, Charlotte and Ashton are placed in scenes that you swear, came straight out of a Princess Bride movie. Ashton with his CHISELED JAW, flashing eyes and stalwart self-deprecation in times of heated stress, always professing his undying love for Buttercup…….er, Asshat. He is great with a sword (if you know what I mean <wink, wink>), and always shows up just in time. Of course he almost dies just like the dread Pirate Roberts. Charlotte is an idiot that runs around with a trembling lip because she bites it so much. She is petulant when the scene doesn’t demand it, so she comes off like a spoiled brat. She wants to save all the poor little puppies of the world and will not listen to reason as she pursues her goal as savior. She takes in “steadying breaths” and “muffles her yelps”, while biting her cheek so hard she tastes blood. She is at once a fainting speshul violet that turns into a disease ridden zombie slayer at the drop of her hat, that sits on her ass.  And that is just the tip of the Doucheberg.

So where would our story be without the villain(s), “Dun, dun, dun…..”. Viceroy Arecibo is a combination of Snidely Whiplash, Dr. Evil, Hannibal Lechter and The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He is so evilly evil-ish, that the mad cackles emanating from his chapped lips (he licks them a lot) send chills or drips of sweat, up or down Asshat’s neck or spine. He goes from a political savant to a savage killer, spilling guts without an ounce of remorse. Of course where would our villain be without his counterpart….an evil princess. And we know she is evil because she has red/ruby lips and smirks in an evil way.

So, as I conclude this review, I am often reminded that a good technical writer does not always guarantee a good novel. The author’s voice got lost in patterned cliché’s and determined outcomes where she relied on scenes well established in the romance genre to grind out a story line. There is no creative development in the characters and the only interesting thing about this novel is the premise, where a disease becomes an asset in a world of sky ships and dumb asses.

Book Review: Wind Reapers (Blackburn #2) by Raquel Byrnes


Publishing Date: February 2018

Publisher: Pelican

ISBN: 9781611169430

Genre: Steampunk

Rating: 1.8/5

Publisher’s Description:Charlotte Blackburn—Hero, hunted, the unwitting symbol of a dark rebellion—she thwarted the deadly intent of the treacherous Order of the Sword and Scroll, but at a shattering cost. Now, she fights to survive among a tribe of fierce Wind Reapers who troll the wasteland aboard massive metal walkers. But a new storm is brewing and Charlotte is once again the linchpin in a deadly plan.

Review: The overall story line was compelling in that the world where this takes place has the full steampunk vibe. Airships, mechanical walkers, goggles and filters and the attire is rendered in superb fashion.  So what went wrong?

Well, Charlotte did. She never grows into anything worth reading. In short she is a gasping, trembling, flouncy asshat that happens to be in situations not of her own design. She is thrust into scenes that could have been spectacular but her presence just drags everything to a halt.  While the supporting caste is excellent, Charlotte is in a constant state of emotive exasperation and docile frailty, punctuated by instances of a vinegar like backbone. This constant dichotomy wears on you, especially when the fast paced movement demands a stalwart character, not some mewling cowering douche that needs help at every turn. Charlotte is so absorbed in her own condition that any good development is lost in her characters myopia. Of course the other ruination of her character is the budding love tribangle. Riley’s Emerald eyes, sinewy muscles, chiseled jaw or Ashton’s flashing eyes and etc. etc. round out Charlotte as a complete fail.

A major part of this novel resides in suspending your disbelief. Winged contraptions strapped to your body, then catapulted to fly 5 or more miles is really a flagrant disregard for physics. The living environment is not biologically supportable what with acid fumes, molten geysers and the like. Floating cities round out the unexplained along with mechanized walkers that need sails in order to move. Perhaps these portions should of had better focus in order support the ideas tendered.

I really wanted to like this alternative steampunkian world but the story line was constantly derailed and steeped in heavy doses of dialogue that merely provided points to an argumentative exchange.

If Charlotte ever grows the fuk up, I will keep reading this series.

Book Review: The Golden Vial by Thomas Locke

Publishing Date: March 2018

Publisher: Revell

ISBN: 9780800723873

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1.5/5

Publisher’s Description: Lady Shona, the newly crowned queen of the realm, is a leader without a throne. Pursued relentlessly by a dark force, her small contingent of loyal followers must make a difficult choice–flee or fight. Determined to save her land from nefarious threats, Lady Shona decides that she must seek out the enemy and attack them head on–a strategy that leads back to the region of the Three Valleys where Hyam was born.

Review: Another fantasy novel that starts out with a bang and then flounders in it’s own story line.  First off, despite the publisher’s description, this is not really about Lady Shona.  Sure she gets props for being a newly minted queenie but the most speshully person in the world is a wittle orphan gurl that whives in an animal pen, treated harshly by her wicked mistress and all the towns people. Dally or Asshat, is thrust into super speshul uber land by dint of her ability to do, well any and everything magical. There is no slow buildup in character development with some kind of quest that engenders the reader to care for her plight. Nope, just all of a sudden a super mage with some inner frailty that somehow is supposed to make the reader care for her. Nope.

So now we have a dipshjt mage that all the royalty bows and supports and then…….romance. Fug. Hunky Connell is well, hunky and her heart pitter-pats but “she felt once more this intense bonding. Which caused her to blush.”. Blah, blah, blah.  So with all the bonding with everyone she meets (dogs included) all her magic just comes naturally to her and all questions are foretold prior to the event because she is a far-seer or some shjt. Cool way to expedite the story line with ol’ Deus ex.

More than anything I wanted someone to kill her off so that the novel could become a cogent and interesting whole. As characters go, Lady My Sherona was good. She is royal, aloof, has some understated powers , steely in tense situations and can cry over spilt milk. Oh and she’s hotter than a popcorn fart.

At the end of the day the characters were rushed into roles with no formal build up. As a consequence they lacked depth and a believable persona.

Book Review: Ray Vs the Meaning of Life by Michael F. Stewart


Publishing Date: May 2018

Publisher: The Publishing House


Genre: Fiction/Humor

Rating: 4.9/5

Publisher’s Description: Grandma’s last will and testament names Ray to inherit the trailer park. It’s a million-dollar estate with one hitch: to prove he’s not as aimless as he seems, Ray must discover the meaning of life by the end of the month. (She left the answer in an envelope.) If he fails, the camp goes to his estranged family. How does anyone find the meaning of life while running a park full of misfit miners, would-be truck racers, and one demanding little girl? There’s a bear too. A grizzly. Maybe that’ll help?

Review: What is the meaning of life? The author does a great job of delving into the unanswerable with a dose of wit and a load of funny. I found myself wanting very badly to know what the answer to life is, only to be relieved  that perhaps the Dalen Anders’ and Werner Erhard’s of the world have only pieces to my individual puzzle.

Book Review: Nightblade’s Honor by Ryan Kirk

Publishing Date: April 2018

Publisher: 47 North

ISBN: 9781503953154

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.9/5

Publisher’s Description: With the realm on the brink of war, the once-celebrated blades have become an easy target for the rage of its devastated citizens. The nightblade warrior Asa’s lifelong quest for vengeance is over, but now she finds herself on the run from the people she sought to protect. As Asa forges a new course of action in an uncertain world, her path crosses with that of a young noblewoman.

Review: I am usually let down by a series when the first novel is spectacular. The second is usually tedious filler that sets up the finale’. If it is possible, Nightblade’s Honor is even better than the first.

Based on the publisher’s description, Asa takes center stage but there are a few characters that share in the novels progression and are as equally compelling. This highlights the author’s gift at building solid characters that grow and change with the movement. The scenes are vivid and the world building encompasses a grand scale of the known while embracing the unknown. I plowed through this novel faster than Oprah signing up for a butter convention.