Friday, March 23, 2012

Delicious Spaghetti Western Zombie Fest

by Angela Scott


Wanted: Dead or Undead was such an entertaining novel. I might have to rave about this one. So, as you might guess it’s a five star read.

It was just like watching a movie, only better. From the moment I started reading it I felt like I could have been watching an old western. Only it was a western with zombies. It was so visual.

Set in the old west, the novel begins as any western might. There’s a crisis. A little boy calls to his sister for help. Immediately the sister drops everything and rushes to his aid. Little does she know, it’s already too late...

It’s heart-breaking. It’s violent. It’s a western. With zombies.

First off, the action sequences were superb. Be it on the cold unforgiving ground or in the back of a covered wagon, body parts flew and blood was splattered. True to a zombie thriller, there were scenes of dismemberment, biting and even ninja like zombie decapitation. In places it was just plain gruesome. Yet it all fit so very seamlessly into the western genre. There was plenty of gun slinging. Desperate shootouts and fingers poised on triggers. There were stone cold, poker faced death stares shared between characters and ...

Ah yes, the characters. They were such personalities. Individual, yet timeless. And as the makeshift posse of zombie plague survivors forms, the reader gets  introduced to several of them.

Elizabeth Storey is a hardened zombie killing cowgirl in search of her brother. Trace Munroe is something of a shiftless gambler with a talent for talking his way out of a situation. Both have secrets. Neither are very hard on the eyes. So when the two team up to further their own goals, it’s not surprising when a complicated romance develops. The romance is developed slowly over the course of the story, but it’s well paced.

What amazed me the most was the author’s ability to create images the reader can pull off the pages. I’m not saying there’s an excess of description. On the contrary, the visual quality was created with a perfect use of tone and skillful choice of words. I was amazed.

Currently the Kindle version is available for $4.99 on Amazon. It’s well worth every penny. I recommend it to readers in many age groups who enjoy a good story, a little humour, gore and romance.

On a personal note, while I do enjoy a few zombie thrillers a year, my experience with westerns and cross genre novels has been more limited. Of course I have read the odd Louis L’Amour, and watched movies like True Grit and The Warrior's Way. However, Wanted: Dead or Undead was just so much fun it really made me think. Could every genre be improved just by adding zombies?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fun and Original YA/MG Adventure

Shooting Stars by Leslie Hodgson

Shooting Stars was a pleasant surprise. I found the creativity behind the story to be a wonderful change from the more common selection of supernatural beings and creatures in some of the YA/MG literature I've read.

As the title suggests, this is an exciting adventure that takes place in the stars. It begins with Stella, a teenage girl, awakening at the scene of a car crash involving her parents and brother. She is confused an doesn't know what is going on. At first I thought that the story would be told from this girl's point of view, but as the story progresses, the reader is treated to different perspectives from several different characters. That too was a nice change from a lot of my recent reading material.

The idea that Stella and Isaac (the main characters) aren't your average teens raised in moderate seclusion on a mountaintop but are really descendants from humans with extraordinary abilities doesn't seem that original at first. That is until the reader discovers just what those abilities are and where in the universe they come from. One of those abilities was delightful to read about. After all, who wouldn't want want to be able to travel through space in a stream of atoms that looks just like a shooting star?

It really was an exciting tale and I can see it appealing to many middle graders and their parents. It has a good story, an evil tyrant with his minions, and constellation creatures. What more can the reader ask for? The main characters, Stella and Isaac, were quite innocent for teens but that makes sense within the framework of the story. In fact I thought it was refreshing. I strongly recommend it.
Shooting Stars

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thrilling Adventure and International Intrigue

Recently, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the action adventure novel Resurrect by Kane Gilmour for review.  I understand this is a first novel and to say it was impressive would be an understatement. It was a thrill read to say the least. Lucky for us, it's only the first in what promises to be a series of fictitious adventures featuring engineer and rock climber Jason Quinn.

Starting out like a well researched historical fiction novel, the reader is first thrown into 19th century China at the end of a rebellion. It was engrossing but after reading the novel synopsis I wasn't sure what to expect. What I can say is that this historical snapshot was a great introduction to the story. It let the reader know right away that they would be in for some very intriguing situations with just the right amount of detail and action. Jump ahead to a second, very different scene with an old man about to embark on a secret journey. Initially I was puzzled, like I was being handed torn pieces of a photograph to piece together, but that only drove me further into the story to find out what was going on.

It's after this part that the real story begins.

It's the present and a small team of archaeologists is on its way from a dig site near Xinning to Hong Kong via an old Xinjiang Airlines aircraft.  With the archaeologists' plane crashing far from its intended destination and what then turns out to be a series of narrow escapes from unknown assassins, the reader is introduced to the real hero of the story, Jason Quinn. Together with his friend Curtis Johnson, Jason takes it upon himself to protect the lone surviving female archaeologist from the pursuing assassins. Not surprisingly, she is the intended target and an unknowing part in a conspiracy that proves to be far reaching.

Now I don't know about every reader, but sometimes, the more implausible the action scene the more I enjoy it. And there were plenty of those such action scenes. If you were thrown from a speeding train, then miraculously found your way over a mountain back on to said train only to be throw off again...  how good would you look? If you were Jason Quinn, pretty darn good.

For me, the action scenes were the best part of the book.

Over all I found it to be a very entertaining action thriller. Well paced and hard to put down, it reminded me of a few international thrillers that take the reader on an adventure from one exciting locale to the next. Well worth it if you love the genre.

 I should also point out that like many books in this genre, there is that possibly controversial aspect to it. It does paint quite a large number of people belonging to one particular culture in a villainous hue. So I guess it depends on how politically correct you like your fiction. Some readers are sensitive to that kind of thing while others remember that it's just fiction.

The reason I held back on the full five stars was that the ending seemed a little too abrupt for me. It wrapped up just a little too quickly and I really felt there should have been more - really, there should have been. But of course that's just my opinion. I can still see many readers giving it five stars. In fact, many have.

It should be a best seller. Here's the Amazon link.


Reviewed by E. Bard

Monday, March 12, 2012

Upcoming Reviews - Thursdays

Getting organized after another nightmarish fixing session on the desktop. So, upcoming reviews this week:

Resurrect by Kane Gilmour
Here's the blurb and I post the review Thursday. I just started it and have to admit - it's good. I was worried about having to address possible controversy here - but so far it's just a really good action thriller.

In the 1850s, a madman proclaims himself the Son of God and raises an army, taking over half of China. A century and a half later, his descendant and legions of devoted followers plan to take over more than just China.

When alpine engineer and mountaineer Jason Quinn, a man with a past mired in tragedy and violence, meets archeologist Dr. Eva Rayjek after a plane crash in the high Himalaya, neither of them are expecting wave after wave of Chinese assassins. 

Pursued to America, the frozen ice of the Gulf of Finland, and the heights of Hong Kong, Quinn and Eva connect her investigations with the machinations of charismatic shipping magnate and cathedral-builder, David Hong. As a scheme to obtain a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican comes to fruition, Hong's fanatical followers are preparing for global warfare. 

If Quinn fails to stop Hong's plan, the entire Catholic Church just might crumble. 

RESURRECT is the first book in the Jason Quinn series. Fans of Matthew Reilly, Jeremy Robinson, James Rollins, and Clive Cussler should all enjoy this first adventure in the exploits of mountaineer Jason Quinn. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Future Best Seller?

I had better start with stating that I'm giving it five stars right away. It was quite a suspense filled Sci-Fi YA Adventure. I can see it becoming a bestseller very quickly. I hope it does.

In The Annihilation of Foreverland, the author has created a very scary alternative reality scenario that hints at plausibility in the future. He combines it with a fast pace and plenty of action. In fact, it reminded me of those dystopian teen worlds spawned by the minds of James Dashner and Neal Shusterman - although the author Tony Bertauski clearly has his own style. (Plus he stuck his characters on a luxury tropical island. Go figure.)

That said, this one really threw me for a loop when I started it. The beginning reads like every parent's worst nightmare. Thirteen year old Danny Boy wakes up in hospital-like room with an old man at his side. He doesn't know the old man and has no memories of his own. He discovers he's on an island populated by boys and old men. The boys belong to 'camps' that compete with each other and gain privileges by winning computer games (essentially). It's more than a bit creepy. I will admit I was worried at first, but as other characters show up (I'm not including the old men) and different points of view are introduced the readers gets carried away by the story.

I really enjoyed the author's focus on the plot and action. It should  appeal to 'guy' readers without being just a 'guy's' read.

The story is well thought out and without giving too much away - there were a couple of nice surprises that happened to some of the characters. It was a pleasant change from the relentless stream of nasty that happens in some of these Sci-Fi stories.

Technically, I would rate it just shy of five stars because there were a few editorial slip ups  that I found a little irksome - but not enough to really take away from the story. It happens in e-books sometimes.

Highly recommended.