Review: Beautiful Corpse (Jubal Van Zandt #2) by E. Hudson

Publisher: Shadow Alley

Publishing Date: June 2017

ASIN: B072M1HVRG

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.4/5

Publishers Description: A deadly plague is ravaging the world’s population and threatening to kill the only person Jubal Van Zandt cares about—himself. If he doesn’t find a cure soon, he’s dead. 

Review: I really loved the Bloodslinger. It encompassed a poetic blend of witty repartee’, great action and sexual tension all residing within a diverse world.  In Beautiful Corpse the one liners are so constant, that it detracts from the storyline and character development. The sexuality is forced and overt, rendering the characters as one dimensional. The elegance in the first novel gave way to this idea that if you liked the first , then hitting you over the head with Jubal in the second, will be even better.

Narcissistic sociopaths are usually rendered with a darker side, sans the witticisms, and usually embark on any venture with a high level of manipulation. They rarely admit their weaknesses and are not so glib as to share those machinations in casual conversations. So subtlety is eschewed in favor of entertainment. I get that, but not while sacrificing depth of character. The quest falls flat in terms of movement and the ending is truncated and obtuse. A short read that still had a some funny moments. 

Review: Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Publisher: DoubleDay

Publishing Date: January 2018

ISBN: 9780385542494

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Rating: 4.3/5

Publishers Description:  When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied. 

Review: A real solid read in terms of character development and storyline progression. Vega is one trippin’ complex bounty hunter that keeps you entranced with her unexpected actions. Coupled with Max, Nell and all the weirdo’s, entertainment value is high indeed.  I stayed up late for two nights getting into it, and I am hopeful that another will follow……SOON!

Review: The Phoenix Cycle by Bob Collopy

 

Publisher: FIIK

Publishing Date: June 2017

ISBN: 9780991378531

Genre: Dystopian

Rating: 2.2/5

Publishers Description: New San Francisco is the last city standing on a world ravaged by storms of ash and debris. The city survived by putting the ideals of the American dream on steroids and inspiring its people to persevere, though they have become ruthless in the process. Its citizens are ruled by the General, who has made sure that his people understand that gentleness and pity have become weaknesses that nature no longer tolerates.

Review: Why is the world being ravaged by storms of ash that never seems to accumulate? Why does it cause people to scamper away in fear for their lives? Is this dystopian world biologically supportable?  These questions and many more will never get answered so either hitch up your skirts and hop in the phantasmo train or be left behind scratchin’ yur ashy-head. 

So for whatever reason everyone lives in New San Francisco, or so I presume as the world building is finite, and scramble around under the yoke of oppression and constant ash manifestations. There is a twist on the Hunger Games shtick so that the young may become part of the Inner Circle through death trials, only that Circle is never defined. The IRA is the opposing force to the evil regime, (which is kind of ironic) and the guards run around beating people senseless on whims. 

Besides all that, the writing is technically good but lacked an infusion of believable originality, rendering the story line hard to stay interested in.  The characterization is flat even with the constant movement. The depth just never develops in the main characters so you don’t really care what happens to them.  This might appeal to YA crowd that will hump anything reminiscent of  Katniss.

Review: The Fifth Ward: First Watch by Dale Lucas

Publisher: Orbit

Publishing Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9780316469074

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.0/5

Publishers Description: Humans, orcs, mages, elves, and dwarves all jostle for success and survival in the cramped quarters of Yenara, while understaffed Watch Wardens struggle to keep its citizens in line.
Enter Rem: new to Yenara and hungover in the city dungeons with no money for bail. When offered a position with the Watch to compensate for his crimes, Rem jumps at the chance.  His new partner is less eager. Torval, a dwarf who’s handy with a maul and known for hitting first and asking questions later, is highly unimpressed with the untrained and weaponless Rem.

Review: I could have read this story for eternity, the characters and world building are that good.This fantasy detective novel is set in a world of dwarves, humans, orcs and elves all interacting in strange and compelling ways. Every scene is brought to life with blazing imagery that is tied to constant movement. The characterization is superb and continues to surprise as events unfold. 

Rem and Torval are a great duo whom have opposed personalities that strangely compliment each other. As they wend their way through the night watch in the Fifth Ward, seemingly disparate murderous events transpire that prompts an investigation into the death of Torval’s old partner and several missing and/or dead young women. 

This novel has it all. It is at once deathly serious and riddled with funny moments. The denizens of Yenara are equally as compelling as the story line and add the meat to the world building bones. “So why you no give 5 stars!!!”. At about the 80% mark, everything goes downhill. Rem goes from an interesting noob who is fallibly funny and human to Mr. Hero-Guy/sword expert whom can do no wrong and saves everybody. Wha da fug? Really? It all begins with this patterned and clichéd fight scene where Rem showcases his skills and the dwarf is conveniently shunted to the side. This slide into patterned oblivion continues on through to the end, so you feel cheated that the novel discontinued it’s interesting twists and unexpected turns. The rendering between  Rem and his love interest will just about sicken you with it’s cloyingly sweet smugness. Still a solid read for 2/3.

Review: Nail’s Crossing by Chris Lackey

Publisher: Blackstone

Publishing Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9781470814076

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3.4/5

Publishers Description: In a remote corner of the Chickasaw Nation, tribal Lighthorse policeman Bill Maytubby and county deputy Hannah Bond discover the buzzard-ravaged body of Majesty Tate, a young drifter with a blank past. They comb Oklahoma’s rock prairie, river bottoms, and hard-bitten small towns for traces of her last days.

Review: An entertaining read that has a unique style of delivery. Often abrupt in scene progression and dialogue, the story line was rendered in interesting fashion.  Maytubby was a great character that brought an intense procedural mien to the fore. The world building was pretty good in that you would never want to live under that areas intense heat and 1,000 yard stares. 

If you’re expecting a Tony Hillerman type mystery, forget it. This is more police procedural than mystery where the bit players are impacted by happenstance and the bad guys are known. The ultimate bad person is an unexpected event  in that they were never a relevant part of the story.

I really enjoyed the style of writing but this could have used a big dose of “whodunit”.

Review: Raid by K.S. Merbeth

Publisher: Orbit

Publishing Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9780316308731

Genre: Dystopian/Post-Apoc

Rating: 2.5/5

Publishers Description: Bound and gagged in her passenger seat is the most revered and reviled raider king in the eastern wastes. She can’t cash him in and she can’t let him go, so together they cross the wasteworld, following a dying road and dodging bloodthirsty raiders who either want to free Jedediah or claim him as their own. 

Review: Quick pace, a lot of action, great story line and great characters that leap off the page. What more could you ask for? This Mad Maxian romp through the wastes is a gutsy look at a female anti-hero that is half hot babe and half burnt to a crisp. The writing is really good and takes you to a place you would never want to be yet fascinates just the same. “So, why you no give 5 stars!!!”. What to some might be seen as a minor detail yet to me changed the course of the novel entire was the characterization of Clem. So sit back and relax while I pick the corn out of this shjt. 

Clementine. Her whole life revolves around guns. She is an expert with them, cleans them religiously, places them higher on a list than any human being in terms of importance, notes and admires others guns, got her handgun off an infamous (now dead) raider and feels naked and itchy without one in close proximity. Clearly she is obsessed as it is an important aspect of being a bounty hunter in the wastes. With every scene this intense focus on guns in general and her gun in particular, we never learn what exactly IT is. Make, model and caliber are sadly absent. Why is this important? Gunfighters know their guns and when specific elements about guns are expressed it lends authenticity to the tale and brings the reader into the inner processes of, in this case, Clem.  Additionally, relating specifics is critically important when constructing battle scenes. It is not enough to say that a rifle is good at distance (that distance and caliber is never given) and quickly discarded for a handgun during close quarters battle (CQB). There is never any scale that lends authenticity to these actions. She has a holster as well, but we don’t know if its cross-draw, thigh holster or hip. Is it FBI cant, plastic, leather? Also, AR does not stand for “Assault Rifle” like the media would have you believe. AR stands for Armalite Rifle Co.

This was easily one of the best novels I have read in a long time that sadly lacked the research necessary to bring it to great heights. Either a lack of insight into all things “gun” or really poor editing input did this novel no favors.

Review: Scion of the Fox by S.M. Beiko

Publisher: ECW

Publishing Date: October 2017

ISBN: 9781770413573

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Rating: 3.4/5

Publishers Description: Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student — dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly.

Review: This was a pretty good YA fantasy novel of which I am usually averse to reading. The writing style captured my attention in a big way. It flows (when allowed to) in comfortable fashion where everything evolves in a synchronous dance.  

*Rant On*  It is too bad that the first AND second run ARC were so miserably fuked up with sentences and paragraphs gone missing on every page. I asked the publisher to send a better corrected copy and they said “tough shjt”. Nah, they were nice about telling me to fukoff.  There is so much missing from the story line as to render some areas nonsensical.  Perhaps the author might be better served with a competent publisher as these ARC’s often define subsequent sales due to early reviews.  *Rant Off* .

Roan never devolves into a mewling, whiney little, love-struck dipshjt and that is a very good thing as the characterization wins the day for this novel. The cast is as diverse as it is interesting and never fails to deliver the desired emotional intent. While the story line seems fairly simple and straightforward it is mired in complexity rendered in elegant fashion. Almost as if what you’re reading is wholly acceptable in the normal course of daily life. Animal denizens that have hidden forms and intent, frozen demons under the river and Roan’s slow discovery of an inner power are just a few examples of what awaits. 

While I was sold a bill of goods by the publisher trying to get some resolution on a corrected copy, I made do with what was given and believe me, it was really hard to piece this novel together. You can only move on with a truncated story line when entire paragraphs are missing (or so I surmised). A solid 4 stars, completed…..I think.