Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant #BookReview

Title: Into the Drowning Deep | Series: Rolling in the Deep #1 | Author: Mira Grant / Seanan McGuire | Publisher: Orbit | Pub. Date: 2017-11-14 | Pages: 512 | ISBN13: 9780316379403 | Genre: Horror Fantasy | Triggers: Drowning, Water | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: I received a copy from Netgalley for review consideration


Into the Drowning Deep

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Book cover for Into the Drowning Deep

Into the Drowning Deep Review

Into the Drowning Deep is the first full book in the Rolling in the Deep series by Mira Grant*. There has been one novella “Rolling in the Deep” released prior to this. (I have not read that prequel.) Set aboard a ship, the crew on board is composed of scientists, network employees, and general contractors for various duties. There’s a range of personalities, including an (all things considered) appropriate amount of egotistical nobbin heads, a few sharks on two legs, and surprisingly good people. There’s also a believable amount of drama. It’s a great book that will make you want to shove your responsibilities as adults to the side for several hours because nothing seems quite so as appealing as finishing this book as soon as possible. 

What I like about the author’s writing is that it is so real. She takes our world, and changes it just enough so that it’s only a hop, skip, and one measly dimension over. Zombies, Mermaids, doesn’t matter. She says [for x book] “In my world, they exist.” and you instantly agree. There’s no suspension of belief necessary. No scoffing or rolling your eyes at the improbability of it all. She makes says its true, and for the entirety of that book, you never think to doubt her.

I loved that one of the characters in the book was autistic, but not portrayed in a way that made her ‘special’. It was just a part of who she was. It shaped how she interacted with people, and how she dealt with situations, but it didn’t define her. There was one passage in particular that really stood out to me when it came to this character. She’s having a conversation with someone else, and she needs to get something clear. She says:

“…signals are hard. … People don’t say what they mean. They say things that live in the same neighborhood as what they mean, and then they look at me like I’m stupid because i don’t pick it up instantly. I’m not stupid. I’m just not that specific kind of smart.”

I also appreciated that one of the characters in Into the Drowning Deep is bisexual (much more common to find homo or hetero than bi) and that the author directly addresses one of the major biases bisexuals face when people find out about their orientation. 

” … She wasn’t a sl*t or a fence-sitter, or any of the other terrible things she’d been called … She was just pickier about personalities than she was about genders.”

(Although, to be honest, for me its mainly the fact that I find both genders to be physically attractive. I’d much rather just ogle everyone than get to know them.)

There were lots of passages that I really enjoyed from Into the Drowning Deep that had nothing to do with the characters themselves. Just  the basic quips or observations that made me giggle. I thought I’d end with sharing my favorite one below.

“[Redacted] was convinced that the world for a group of scientists ought to be a blackout, because that was what the f*ckers seemed determined to cause.”

I really liked Into the Drowning Deep. It had a steady pace to it, the characters were interesting and varied, and the dialogue kept me entertained. It made me feel very justified of my dislike of water when it’s deep enough I can’t see the bottom. It also had enough action and gore in it to satiate the horror hound in me. I liked it – a lot! – but I didn’t love it. It didn’t ensnare me the way the author’s book Feed did. While I appreciated what I was reading, something kept me from fully immersing myself in the story. I think it may be because while I liked the characters, I never really connected with any of them like I did with characters in Feed.

I highly recommend Into the Drowning Deep, a fantastic and imaginative well-told tale of terror.

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein #BookReview

Title: The Punch Escrow | Author: Tal M. Klein | Publisher: Geek & Sundry | Pub. Date: 2017-7-25 | Pages: 319 | ASIN: B073PBBL7C | Genre: Science Fiction Thriller | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from Netgalley for review consideration.


The Punch Escrow

It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure… Arrival… Delight!

Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday twenty-second century guy. He spends his days training artificial intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s new wave—an extremely obscure genre, and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.

Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.

Book cover for The Punch Escrow

The Punch Escrow Review

The Punch Escrow took me forever to read, and to be completely honest – I’m not sure why! I never at any point disliked the story. In fact, The Punch Escrow is right up my alley of types of books I do like. Now, I’ve encountered this situation before, as happened with my trying to reading David L. Golemon’s Supernaturals. The difference there was that almost from the beginning I could pinpoint the biggest problem (complete and utter lack of atmosphere). With The Punch Escrow, though, I was left wondering at several points why I had to force myself to read this book.

I think part of it might be that I have an aversion to footnotes. While they do give a bit of good information about the story that helps flesh it out, they always distract me. I have the attention span the size of a gnat. The fact that I can sit down and read a book from cover the amount of times I do is amazing. So when you ask me to take a break from the story to read the footnote, you’ve just distracted me from the story. And once I’m gone – I’m gone.  Punch Escrow has a fair amount of footnotes.

Also, while I liked Joel well enough, his character was never enough to actually make me want to root for him. It was interesting watching him going through everything, and trying to puzzle everything out along with him but he just wasn’t an interesting character himself.  I have to say, my favorite character in The Punch Escrow was probably the ambulance. I loved that ambulance. And the peeing mosquitos. Those things will stay with you for a while.

I think that The Punch Escrow would make an awesome sci-fi thriller film. In fact, I had a much easier time staying engaged with the book when I started thinking of it in terms of a movie.  This was aided by the fact that around the 70% point, the action in the book picks up noticeably. Prior to that, it mires down a bit so that it’s easy to not realize that a good bit of stuff is actually happening.

Overall, I liked Tal M. Klein’s world. I think he does an excellent job of building off our now to make a believable future. There were portions of the book that had me laughing. Other sections that had me sitting back, nodding, and realizing that – yeah – if certain things do develop, it would probably start with something like what he posited. I think he has a solid imagination, and, all things considered, I did enjoy the novel. Just not as much as I should have.

Buy Link: Amazon

The Secret Signal by Simon Haynes #BookReview

Title: The Secret Signal | Series: Hal Junior #1 | Author: Simon Haynes | Publisher: Bowman Press | Pub. Date: 2011-10-1 | Pages: 186 | Genre: Kids Sci-Fi | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Self-Purchased


The Secret Signal

Hal Junior lives aboard a futuristic space station. His mum is chief scientist, his dad cleans air filters and his best mate is Stephen ‘Stinky’ Binn. As for Hal – he’s a bit of a trouble magnet. He means well, but his wild schemes and crazy plans never turn out as expected! Hal Junior: The Secret Signal features mayhem and laughs, daring and intrigue … plus a home-made space cannon!

Book cover for The Secret Signal

The Secret Signal Review

The Secret Signal is the first book in the Hal Junior series by Simon Haynes.  The main character is a pure little rascal who has an absolute talent for finding himself in trouble. He blows off his homework, follows his impulses, and generally creates havoc. But, he can’t be too bad, can he? The stuff he does is minor, and the rules that he understands the reasoning for he pays attention to. When push comes to shove, Hal is there to do anything he can to help. Of course, like all kids he thinks he’s a bit more capable than he is, but one can’t fault him for that.

I liked reading The Secret Signal. It was a quick, fun read. Being a kids book, you have to turn a blind eye to some of the goings on, but that was easy enough to do. As long as I think a story might get a kid interested in science fiction, I’m able to overlook a lot. Pretty much the moment the story opens, the action starts. I got a kick out of the Star Trek like saves in the story. One should never underestimate the power of reversing the polarity! It’ll save you every time.  Also, the dialogue was appropriate, and the author used the story to teach kids a few new words they might not have been aware of the meaning of in a rather silly fashion.

The AI that ran the ship was mouthy and funny. Its remark about “I should replace you all with nice clean robots” had me snickering. The adults were pretty much caricatures, but that was to be expected. I did like that the parents (well, the dad at least) continued to parent even when things were going sideways. Yeah, he might not have been listened to, but at least he tried instead of giving in and doing the “Follow me and do exactly as I say!” bit. And I liked that at the conclusion, once the day was saved, an appropriate level of fuss was made to Hal. He might have wanted a medal, but what he got was much more realistic.

Overall, a fun, easy to read story that is perfect for adventurous and imaginative young readers that like the idea of saving the day. Especially those who can identify with the kids whose hearts are in the right place, but their behavior quite often isn’t.

The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon

Title: The Supernaturals | Series: The Supernaturals #1 | Author: David L. Golemon | Publisher: Thomas Dunne | Pub. Date: 2016-10-18 | Pages: 400 | ISBN13: 9781250105233 | Genre: Paranormal Horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 2 out of 5 | Source: Library


The Supernaturals

Evil doesn’t always look scary….Built at the turn of the twentieth century by one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, tucked away in the pristine Pocono Mountains, Summer Place, a retreat for the rich and famous, seems the very essence of charm and beauty, a scene borrowed from a wondrous fairytale of gingerbread houses, bright forests, and glowing, sunny meadows.” But behind the yellow and white trimmed exterior lurks an evil, waiting to devour the unwary…. Seven years ago, Professor Gabriel Kennedy’s investigation into paranormal activity at Summer Place ended in tragedy, and destroyed his career. Now, Kelly Delaphoy, the ambitious producer of a top-rated ghost-hunting television series, is determined to make Summer Place the centerpiece of an epic live broadcast on Halloween night. To ensure success, she needs help from the one man who has come face-to-face with the evil that dwells in Summer Place, a man still haunted by the ghosts of his own failure. Disgraced and alienated from the academic community, Kennedy wants nothing to do with the event. But Summer Place has other plans…. As Summer Place grows stronger, Kennedy along with the paranormal ghost hunting team, The Supernaturals, sets out to confront…and if possible, destroy…the evil presence dwelling there. But sometimes in a paranormal investigation, the ghosts hunt you… 

Book cover for The Supernaturals

The Supernaturals Review

So there was this book on Netgalley that looked excellent. It had a synopsis that immediately piqued my attention. I requested it , saw that it was the second in the series, and request the first one – The Supernaturals – from my local library. And somewhere along the line, I recognized that the name David L. Golemon sounded very familiar. Two minutes on Goodreads, and I had my answer. Golemon is the author of the Event Group thrillers. I have two of those books, and I don’t think I’ve ever managed to finish either of them. Oh dear…

But I had said I’d review the second one, so I needed to read The Supernaturals first. So, I bravely told myself that maybe this series would be different. I can occasionally be hit or miss with thrillers, but am fairly easy to please with supernatural stuff. I hoped I’d start reading The Supernaturals and be swept away by the story. This would be the Golemon book that I finished and loved!!

Well… it’s the Golemon book that I finished, at least. I deserve a cookie.

The Supernaturals is a fairly well-written book in most respects. There are a few consistency errors that bugged me, like the broken neck that became a broken leg. I liked the characters – or at least the idea of the characters. I loved how the book started off with stuff happening immediately. I thought that the initial idea that the author presented for the house (that it could look so cheery and beautiful while the evil was dormant) was really neat.  But just because it’s fairly well-written doesn’t make it a good book. A book like The Supernaturals needs to sell on the tension, the atmosphere, as everything builds to the big showdown.

It didn’t. Not even a little bit.

The Supernaturals was the most flat, boring slog of a haunted house book that I’ve ever forced myself through. Still, up until the very end, I was going to give three stars. “Not for me, but not necessarily bad either”. Then we hit the ‘big reveal’, and I just got irritated.

Okay, so, look, I’m not a writer. Never claimed to be one. But common sense would tell me that when you’re writing a haunted house horror novel, you don’t just badly try to mash Hell House and The Haunting of Hill house together and pretend you wrote anything original. Because that’s what The Supernaturals is, in my opinion. When the pieces all came together for The Supernaturals, my mouth dropped open and I stared aghast at the page. This was… this was Hell House’s ending, with a dash of The Haunting of HIll House as topping. Not it’s exact ending, mind you. Not saying Golemon plagiarized it. But it’s like buying a pair of knock-off Nikes. Yeah, they might look great, but soon you realize they’re just a pale imitation and soon you have blisters and your feet hurt, and you realize you should have saved up for the real things. 

It’s interesting, because I just finished my second read of the third book in the Newsflesh Trilogy. Blackout isn’t, by any means, a great book. It’s definitely the weakest of the trilogy. Rather mediocre, all in all. But, it’s delivered in such a way that keeps your attention on it. You can feel the tension rise as things get revealed. You care for the characters – even the side ones that are barely in it. The presentation more than makes up for the somewhat weak story. But in The Supernaturals, David L. Golemon takes the bones of a great story (if you ignore that ending), and presents it in such a flat, monotone way that you have to force yourself to turn the page. 

And I still have to read the second one.

Joy.

Maybe it’ll be better?

Sweet baby Cthulhu, I hope so.

Tropes spotted: (hidden because they provide some spoiler-ish element)

Spoiler Tidbit

 

 

Omega Days by John Cambell #BookReview

Title: Omega Days | Series: Omega Days #1 | Author: John L. Campbell | Publisher: Wild Highlander Press | Pub. Date: 2013-2-20 | ASIN: B00BIWSLSM | Pages: 293 | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Self-purchased


Omega Days

Eight million walking dead stalk the San Francisco Bay Area, with more on the way. Scattered refugees – a priest with a bloody past, a college girl turned sniper, escaped San Quentin inmates and others – will quickly learn the three most important rules of survival: Make your bullets count. Don’t fall behind. Don’t…get…bitten!

Fast-paced and packed with zombie action, Book One of the Omega Days series lights off the apocalypse with a scream, and tears California to pieces!

Book cover for Omega Days

Omega Days Review

I keep coming back to zombie books. I took a long break from them, but my interest is surging again. Ultimately, though, I feel like I’m still only interested in ones that I’ve already read and know are good. Hence my re-reading of Omega Days by John Campbell.

I really feel like Omega Days is one of the best zombie novels out there. Even with the fact that nothing really gets resolved, because its very obviously the first book in the series. I feel a bit conflicted because I normally hate it when books do stuff like this. However, Campbell is a very talented author, and I enjoyed following each of his characters around. Especially Xavier and Skye. I don’t know what it is about the two of them, but I adore those characters. I think Skye is the perfect example of how tragedy can take a normal person, and turn them into something you wouldn’t expect.

I like how in the middle of Omega Days he just takes some time to kill a bunch of people. There’s pages of just “Oh look, here’s a new character. Now watch this person die horribly” The deaths are all interesting, and it’s a great way of hammering home the hopelessness. It’s one of those things you almost feel a little weird admitting to. “Yeah, my favorite section was just watching him kill people.” But, ah well. We’re all weird here, aren’t we?

Now, of course, there are things I have an issue with, like the zombie baby in a carseat. Come on, now, is it a requirement that all zombie books have to do the zombie baby or toddler, especially with description? How about just leaving it at something like “He saw a small hand rise up and bat at the mobile, but he knew there was no possible way the infant could still be alive.” We don’t need to ‘see’ the baby. Ugh.

I don’t remember if I ever read the second book in this series, but after refreshing my memory on this one, I’m definitely going to check it out. Omega Days is very well written, and the jumping around between characters is nicely done. You spend the perfect amount of time with each group, rather than hopping back and forth like a bunny on speed.

Definitely recommend you check it out if you haven’t done so already.

Buy Link: Amazon

Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer #BookReview

Title: Quantum Night | Author: Robert J. Sawyer | Publisher: Ace | Pub. Date: 2016-3-1 | Pages: 368 | ISBN13: 9780425256831 | Genre: Science Fiction Thriller | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the publisher for review consideration


Quantum Night

With such compelling and provocative novels as Red Planet Blues, FlashForward and The WWW Trilogy, Robert J. Sawyer has proven himself to be “a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation” (New York Times). Now, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author explores the thin line between good and evil that every human being is capable of crossing…

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

Jim is reunited with Kayla Huron, his forgotten girlfriend from his lost period and now a quantum physicist who has made a stunning discovery about the nature of human consciousness. As a rising tide of violence and hate sweeps across the globe, the psychologist and the physicist combine forces in a race against time to see if they can do the impossible—change human nature—before the entire world descends into darkness.Book cover for Quantum Night

Quantum Night Review

Quantum Night grabs the reader, demands their attention, and proceeds to horrify them (in some aspects) because it seems more fiction than fact. The opening pages alone are enough to make you realize that you need to put aside your distractions and focus on what Sawyer is saying.  I’ve been in the midst of a reading slump where most of the adult fiction submitted for my perusal has been mildly interesting at best and outright boring the rest of the time.

Sawyer’s prose can, when discussing scientific things, make your mind want to wander, but luckily he’s able to pull you right back into the text and keep you engaged.  If you’re someone who is intimidated by not having a complete grasp on the science talked about in what you’re reading, this book will overwhelm you in certain sections. However, if you can just accept that you don’t really need to get it to enjoy the story; you’ll be good to go. (It’s probably best if you can just accept it while you’re reading it and go, as there’s at least one part that will definitely throw some people off.)

The opposite side of the aforementioned coin is that one of the things I appreciated about Quantum Night was that it made me want to know more about the science mentioned. I am, and have always been, one of those people that will look things up if I read about them. Just to see if they’re true or not. Sometimes it’s to fact check when I smell male cow dung, but other times it’s because I’m extremely curious and want to broaden my horizons with five minutes of Googling and nerding out. The continued talk of philosophical zombies was the cause of one such five minute foray.

Filled with references that most people with a passing association with the internet will recognize: Megyn Kelly, Huffington Post, etc, it is a novel set in a near-future (2020, to be exact) that is easily imaginable.  Actually, the continual references to reality is one of the few downfalls of this novel. It was so inundated with name dropping of various things that it got a bit tedious at times. Not enough to dissuade me from reading it, by any means, though.

I thought it was interesting that while I started off really liking the main character, by the end of the book I kind of wanted to smack him. A very good guy – one who ‘walked the walk’ – and I still wanted to smack him because he annoyed me. But he was an interesting character. Most of them were, really. I couldn’t fault any of them for how they reacted to the various situations they were put in.

Quantum Night isn’t perfect. I felt like he’d laid solid groundwork, couldn’t quite get everything to gel in a way that didn’t seem easy and/or convenient.  However, for all its faults, it is extremely interesting read. It was one that I couldn’t put down once I started reading, and came back to ever possible chance I got until I finished it the same day. I need to read more from this author. I can’t believe I’ve never come across him before.

Buy Link: Amazon

Deadline by Mira Grant #BookReview

Title: Deadline | Series: Newsflesh #3 | Author: Mira Grant AKA Seanan McGuire | Publisher: Orbit | Pub. Date: 2011-6-1 | Pages: 584 | ISBN13: 9780316081061 | Genre: Thriller Horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Library


Deadline

Shaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn’t seem as fun when you’ve lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news-he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

Book cover for Deadline

Deadline Review

Deadline, the second book in the Newflesh series, follows The After the End Times crew as they discover that things were much, much worse than they appeared in the first book. The Kellis-Amberlee virus is scary, but people? People are just evil.  And while I normally don’t like books that play into that “Rawr, we’re the real scary monsters here” shtick, the way Mira Grant does it, I’m willing to play.

The plots that are uncovered in Deadline are almost unbelievable, except for the part where you know perfectly well that people would try to pull the crap they do.  And while the After the End Times crew has changed its lineup a bit due to, you know, the dying and stuff that happened at the end of Feed, they are still there, and the truth is still waiting to be found.  This time, though, the gloves are off. Some of them have lost enough that they only thing that can lose is themselves, and they’re not as important as getting the truth revealed to everyone.

By the end of Deadline, I felt almost as exhausted as the crew did. Even given that this was not the first time I had read the book.  The last half of the book will twist you every which way it can, with a game changer that you kind of had to know was coming, but still manages to grip your guts. Kellis-Amberlee had to stay scary, after all. Yes, humans are evil, but this disease will make you rise up and eat your loved ones. So, not something to be ignored, you know?

Deadline has a different tone than Feed does, for obvious reasons.  But it’s still an interesting book that can get you almost completely engrossed in it. I say almost completely engrossed, because if you’ve read my review of Feed, then you know there’s a squidge factor. That squidge factor is, pardon the pun, amplified in Deadline.  And for some readers, it may be a deal breaker. But if you hang in there, the very end will have you going “Holy crap!” and getting your hands on the next book as fast as you can. Because, yeah, you should have seen that last little bit coming, but no, you probably didn’t. And now you just can’t stop reading.

Now, if you haven’t figured it out from my veiled references, and you need to know what the squidge factor is, I’ve hidden some information under the spoiler tag below.

Spoiler Tidbit

Not review related but…

What is it about zombies?

One of my fellow bookworms, who has never been into scary books in general, asked me what the appeal of zombie novels was. She said she didn’t understand it. Considering she’s the type that only asks a question like that when she really wants to know the answer, I took a few minutes to gather my thoughts before I explained what the appeal was (to me, at least). She had told me she did enjoy reading a few of the more supernatural books, with vampires and werewolves and such, so that gave me a good starting point as I started by explaining that zombies were generally grouped along with vampires and werewolves in the ‘scary monsters’ zone.  And I had fun with it, because I was able to use Feed, Deadline, and Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero as the launch point.

I told her that the appeal to zombies was, for me, in the fact that they might actually happen. She gave me the stink eye and asked me if I believed the dead could really rise. I said no, but I believed that genetic tampering and bio warfare might be able to create a virus that, for all intents and purposes, made a person appear to be a zombie. By the time I talked her through stuff like respiratory and circulatory repression, clotting ability in overdrive, diseases passing through the brain’s protective membrane (all in the space of 5 minutes or so), she was nodding in tentative agreement.

I finished it by saying “Look, do I think this could ever actually happen? Not really. No. But improbable is not impossible. And while 99.9 percent of me says not a chance, there is a .01 percent that believes someone can go absolute mad-freaking-scientist-crazy and make it happen.”  Or at least something close enough that it won’t really matter if we think they’re really ‘the dead risen’ or not.

 

Rough Riders Vol 1 by Adam Glass #BookReview

Title: Rough Riders Vol 1 | Series: Rough Riders | Author: Adam Glass | Publisher: Aftershock Comics | Pub. Date: 2016-12-14 | ASIN: B01LYSV1FK | Genre: Science Fiction Alternate History | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from Edelweiss for review consideration.


Rough Riders

Collecting the first seven issues of the epic AfterShock series! At the cusp of the 1898 World’s Fair, America is poised to become Earth’s most industrious nation. When a terrible power emerges from the darkness, a group of unlikely heroes team-up to stop it. A tortured Teddy Roosevelt recruits a struggling Coney Island magician named Harry Houdini…a hard-drinking, gun-slinging Annie Oakley; a financially strapped and aging Thomas Edison; and a boisterous, womanizing African American boxer with a big chip on his shoulder named Jack Johnson. These legends of old will soon wage a shadow war that will change the course of history for America, and ultimately, the world. That is, of course, if they don’t kill one another first.

Don’t miss out on this first collection from ADAM GLASS (executive producer of Supernatural & writer of Suicide Squad) and PAT OLLIFFE (Untold Tales of Spider-Man).

Book cover for Rough Riders Vol 1

Rough Riders Review

I actually passed over Rough Riders Vol 1 a few times before deciding to go ahead and give it a try. I’m not normally someone who digs alternate history stuff, so I was definitely a bit leery. But I downloaded it, and figured I would just read the introduction and see if it was worth checking out. Well, I ended up finishing it. No matter what I think of the book overall, when the introduction is a man geeking out about learning and history, I’m going to immediately develop a bit of a soft spot.  It’s obvious Adam Glass loves the past, and I was immediately hopeful that the comic would have a touch of that love in it.

  • The first issue just establishes that Roosevelt is a man with a mission, and starts bringing together the team. It feels disappointingly short, with him only gathering one teammate, and talking about the next one.
  • The second issue sees the rest of the team gathered and the journey begin.  I definitely had a laugh at how Annie joins the team. Her dipping Teddy Roosevelt during the tango was something I didn’t know I needed to see until I saw it.
  • The third issue sees the Rough Riders properly on their journey. Annie and Teddy continue to be my favorite characters. However, the team of Jack and Houdini is an interesting one as well.  Definitely some weird crap happening in Cuba.
  • The fourth issue was my favorite of the series.  The others made me snicker, but this one had some laugh out loud lines, and also one solid moment of “Holy crap! I wasn’t expecting that!!”  It details more of their time on the island and some disturbing discoveries.
  • The fifth issue introduces some more common elements, and felt like a bit of a let-down after the fourth issue.  More revelations, some dissent amongst the team. Standard stuff.
  • The sixth issue picks things back up. I honestly thought that things were going to go in a completely different direction than they did at one point.  Kudos to Adam Glass for surprising me.  I appreciated that.
  • The seventh issue had me internally yelling at the pages. One particular panel also triggered my tryptophobia and had my scalp crawling. Even thinking about it I want to scratch at my skin.  While it didn’t end on the note that I wanted it to do, I still liked it.

The volume begins and ends with group photos (and the group looks much different between 1 and 7), but the individual issues in between have covers devoted to each of the group. As usual, there are some cover variants at the end. I have to say that I’m really glad they went with the ones that they did, as I’m not a particular fan of any of the variants except for one.

Rough Riders Vol 1 was a lovely experience, and I felt like the seven issues contained an almost perfectly done mission arc.  There’s a perfect amount of action, and the dialogue is spot on. Most of the characters are very likable, even if they haven’t yet had a chance to really develop. We do get a glimpse into a bit of their backgrounds in last few issues that helps us connect with them just enough to appreciate what they’ve overcome without being subjected to a ridiculous amount of pages filled with backstory.

Overall, I was very happy with Rough Riders Volume 1. Adam Glass crafted a good story with great dialogue that had me laughing more often than not. Patrick Olliffe’s illustrations were perfect. He is very talented and able to communicate the unwritten portions of the story very well. Gabe Eltaeb coloring was nice as well. There have been times where a perfectly good comic book has been hampered by perfectly horrible coloration. I’m happy to report this is not the case here. And Sal Cipriano’s lettering made it so that I had absolutely no problem following exactly who was speaking or what was being said.  (Following the dialogue is often a problem that I have.)

Definitely recommend this and I will be checking out the next volume of Rough Riders as soon as I can get my hands on it!

 

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence #BookReview

Title: Star Scouts | Series: Star Scouts #1 | Author: Mike Lawrence  | Publisher: First Second | Pub. Date: 2017-3-21 | ASIN: B06XBP3MLZ | Genre: Kids Sci-Fi | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Library


Star Scouts

Avani is the new kid in town, and she’s not happy about it. Everyone in school thinks she’s weird, especially the girls in her Flower Scouts troop. Is it so weird to think scouting should be about fun and adventure, not about makeovers and boys, boys, boys?

But everything changes when Avani is “accidentally” abducted by a spunky alien named Mabel. Mabel is a scout too—a Star Scout. Collecting alien specimens (like Avani) goes with the territory, along with teleportation and jetpack racing. Avani might be weird, but in the Star Scouts she fits right in. If she can just survive Camp Andromeda, and keep her dad from discovering that she’s left planet Earth, she’s in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Book cover for Star Scouts

Star Scouts Review

Star Scouts was a cute, funny read written by someone who nails the body-oriented humor of middle grade readers (and some of us older readers as well).  The artwork was exceptional.  Mike Lawrence did a great job of blending futuristic with realistic in Camp Andromeda. His gunk infesting the cabins gave me some Neopets flashbacks, though!

The main character in Star Scouts is Avani, a young Indian girl living with her father that recently moved to a new city. There, the Scout troop that her father has made her join is not exactly what she was expecting. Avani doesn’t fit in, and doesn’t particularly want to try either.  So when she’s accidentally snatched from Earth and finds herself in the company of someone just as different as she is, it feels like a match made in heaven.

I loved reading Avani’s adventures with her troop in Star Scouts. The plot itself is nothing new, from the absent and /or scatterbrained parent to the hijinks galore. Boil it down to bare bones and you’ve watched or read the same story a thousand times before.  Underdogs vs The Elites. Somehow the Underdogs manage to rise to the top, so on and so forth. And of course they have trouble working together at one point, and of course they overcome it. However, the dressing that Lawrence puts on it means that you don’t mind too much because you’re too busy giggling.

The fact that Avani is Indian and female and gets to be the one representing Earth in Star Scouts is amazing. And I like the fact that she isn’t what one might call a Mary Sue. Avani is very brash and pretty consistently sticks her foot in it. She doesn’t quite get the concept of teamwork.  But she tries, and she’s willing to say sorry when she realizes she’s messed up.  Basically, she’s a pretty good representation of a moody little kid.

Last thing, and I have to mention this, while all the fart-based jokes are funny, the divide between the two groups (O2 Breathers versus Methane Breathers) isn’t really. It’s easy for the O2 crew to make fun of the methane breathers for the obvious flatulence reasons, but parents should perhaps take a moment to talk with their kids about the fact that being against someone just because they are in some way different from you (be it, say, skin color, sexual preferences, or the air you breathe) isn’t cool. Not even a little bit. It hearkens back to the whole “just because it’s funny on the surface doesn’t mean it’s right underneath” thing.

So, while not a perfect read, Star Scouts is a highly entertaining one. Physical age doesn’t matter as long as your sense of humor is suitably young.

Buy Link: Amazon

 

 

 

 

Lilac Skully and the Haunted House #BookReview

Title: Lilac Skully and the Haunted House | Series: The Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully #1 | Author: Amy Cesari | ASIN: B075W2JVFY | Genre: Kids Horror | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the author for review consideration.


Lilac Skully and the Haunted House

Home alone in a haunted house. What could go wrong? 

Lilac Skully is afraid of ghosts. And a lot of other things, too. After her father’s mysterious disappearance, Lilac must find a way to deal with the notorious ghosts that haunt her home—or better yet—get them to leave. 

But when intruders break in, Lilac realizes there’s a danger far worse than her spooky old house. No longer safe, Lilac will need to face her fears, trust herself, and make new friends that will change her life forever. 

Lilac Skully and the Haunted House is the first book in the Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully, a series of fun, spooky stories with a lot of heart. If you like books about ghosts and awesome little girls—you’ll love this imaginative, haunted tale!

Lilac Skully ad the Haunted House

Lilac Skully and the Haunted House Review

I love the cover for Lilac Skully and the Haunted House. The house is definitely suitably creepy, and the color choice for the sky is absolutely gorgeous. I did pick it up just to look at the cover more than once before it made it’s way to the top of my to-read pile. And at only 168 pages, when I finally did pick it up to read, it was a book that I flew through. Obviously it’ll take the intended age range a bit longer to read than it did for me, but I can’t imagine it being a slow go for anyone. It’s well-written and nicely paced. The story hits the ground running.

I liked Lilac Skully and the Haunted House. Lilac reminded, at least vaguely, of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. Not as crazy, mind you, but with the blonde hair, the big eyes, and the outcast status, it was hard for her not to feel a little familiar. This was a good thing, as it enabled me to immediately connect with the character a little more quickly than I might have normally. The fact that Lilac was scared of ghosts was perfect. Young readers will definitely be able to empathize with the little girl who does all the sensible things to avoid running into them. Who in their right mind would want to go into a haunted basement, right?

The set up is fairly typical of a kid’s book. A single parent family, with the father additionally and conveniently absent for the majority of the book. The adults that are in the picture for Lilac Skully and the Haunted House are bumbling, sometimes up to no good, and ridiculously easily fooled. Nothing new to see, but still entertaining to read. The formula works for a reason, even if we do celebrate times when things veer from the norm. In this case, it allowed Lilac to participate in some Home Alone-esque shenanigans that had me grinning.

It’s obvious the author has more adventures for Lilac Skully planned (seven, to be exact), and I think she will swiftly gain a loyal fanbase. Lilac Skully and the Haunted House was easy to read, and featured a little girl with a lot of heart. I enjoyed watching Lilac learn that appearances can be deceiving, and that sometimes the people you least expect can become your best friends. 

Overall, a very good read for young readers who want something with ghosts, but not something ‘too scary’. Lilac Skully and the Haunted House worth picking up, and something you can let them read on their own, or read with you each evening.

Buy Link: Amazon