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A Great Catch!

Angler's Companion

I gave LINSENBIGLER ANGLER’S COMPANION five colorful flies!

5 Stars

Fishing is something I enjoy. I’ve even reeled in a nice-sized bass, once or twice. But I would never call myself an angler. Nor have I ever fly fished.

So why did I purchase and read this book? Because I love the Boone Linsenbigler action/adventure book series. When the cocktail companion was published, I bought it, too. (Who doesn’t want to mix libations like the cocktail icon Boone?) Naturally, with this newest release on fly fishing, I was curious about what the unpretentious hero (Boone) had to say about his favorite pastime.

The angler’s companion was another great catch!

I was amazed at the photographs of the different fish found in fresh and saltwater, as well as the type of flies that lure them in. In addition, I loved the stories weaved into each section, such as…

“My very first fish on a fly rod was a squirrel.”

(The story had me laughing.)

Overall, I gained an appreciation for fly fishing, which seems to combine an exceptional understanding of fish and their feeding habits with the angler’s artistry of motion (achieved with his/her rod). I also found the different types of flies, also works of art, so cool and mind boggling.

An Action/Adventure Dystopian

His Name was Zach

3 and a half stars

My “tease” for HIS NAME WAS ZACH…

Two years ago, an infection swept across civilization, turning humans into flesh-eating zombies.

Good thing Sergeant Zach Davidson has had plenty of experience desperately fighting to survive. After all, the decorated Marine was once the squad leader of his platoon in Afghanistan. So when he encountered an orphaned teenager at the onset of The Crisis, Abby naturally became his adopted “squad.” And he vowed to protect her as if she were his own daughter.

Zach and Abby are living in an abandoned cottage in the woods, attempting to create a new normal. But when armed bandits approach their refuge, they escape and are on the run again. Wanting to head toward the Mississippi River in search of a community of friendly survivors, they cross paths with humans that are everything but. Not only that, Zach battles flashbacks from the war.

Will the pair survive and find what they’re looking for, if a safe haven even exists? Will the living turn out to be as savage as the undead?

Thoughts…

This story included several positive hooks and only a few light sinkers.

POSITIVE HOOKS

• I love the plot of an ex-Marine learning to be a father and traversing dangerous territory in an attempt to find a new, safe frontier for him and his “daughter.” It is an instant hook!

• Zach’s flashbacks of combat are vivid and intense, reminding us that even when our service men and women return home, physical and emotional scars can still haunt them. (My opinion: support for our vets needs to continue beyond the battlefield!) The author is a former Marine and his expertise and authenticity stand out in his writing. Also, I want to thank the author for his service!

• I really appreciated how the story began. It was instantly about survival instead of backstory regarding the original outbreak. Well done 🙂 !

• The author utilized some unique writing-style choices. Although they do not reflect my style preferences, I do appreciate the risks he took!

LIGHT SINKERS

• I’m not a fan of the third-person omniscient point of view—the God-like narrator who knows all and sees all. I prefer third-person close or first-person, so this “light sinker” is really just a style preference. Not to mention, this POV is rarely used today, so its application was bold. For me, though, this POV lends itself to telling versus showing.

• The story swings to and from extremes, like from the innocent sweetness of a bird’s thoughts—“Why, it was humans! Two of them! The bird did not see many humans these days, so to see two of them together was a rare treat.”—to the mouth-opening shock of attempted rape and cannibalism—“After I take what I want from your daughter, we’re going to bring her into the garage and cut her up into tiny pieces while she’s still alive. Then, I’m gonna eat her!” I was like….Whaaat? The author’s storytelling definitely had me swinging from emotional extremes!

• Breaking from an omniscient POV to the author’s actual voice didn’t work for me in this book, though it is a unique technique. For example, the author wrote before the last 20% of the book: “My dear reader, I wish that I could follow that paragraph with ‘The End’ and be done with it. Nothing would please me more than to leave you here and pretend that nothing further of note happened in the lives of our protagonists.”

Overall, if you are looking for an action/adventure dystopian with military intrigue, written in a unique style, this is the perfect book. Prepare to be shocked around every corner and in every chapter!

HIS NAME WAS ZACH earned 3.5 stars from me!

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Earned Five Glistening Swords

A Traitor's War

5 Stars

“Deception is a developed art of civilization and the most potent weapon in the game of power.” (Quote by author Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power.)

I used this quote because A TRAITOR’S WAR is a game of power to the nth degree, where almost every single player is masked in deception and fueled by his or her own self-interests.

Picture The Matrix meets Underworld and the thrill of high-octane will ramp up your adrenalin. Advice? Strap in and prepare for G-forces!

My “tease” for A TRAITOR’S WAR…

The first installment in “The Metaframe War” series introduces us to two equal-and-opposite protagonists: Anton Slayne—human bearer of the Blue Dragon sword who is a candidate-in-training to The Order of Thoth (hidden protectors of humanity against vampire insurgency), and General Chloe Armitage—vampire bearer of the Red Dragon sword who is a confidant to the King of the Vampire Dominion (a hidden society tightening its grip over humanity). Both Anton and Chloe are remarkably gifted, irreparably haunted, and fiercely driven.

Both are on a collision course where their swords will undoubtedly cross in battle someday soon. And each has a cause.

Only, Anton is impatient for his revenge over the death of his mother and the kidnapping of his father. In contrast, Chloe is the epitome of patience, waiting to enact each calculated step in her unwavering plan to gain control of the Metaframe. And since her plans include using Anton’s gifts for her cause, stoking his impatience can certainly be used to her benefit.

Enter, The Raven: a mole representing an ancient spinoff from The Order of Thoth. The Red Empire, the third organization in this wargame, has placed The Raven within the ranks of the Order’s Mirovar force team, making The Raven train alongside Anton on a safehouse farm. Every chance stolen, The Raven secretly reports to an unknown Red Empire agent.

Before long, The Raven learns that he/she is not the only secret affecting the escalating game of power. Other secrets are at play, such as unfathomable alliances which will rock the very foundation of each opposing organization. Alliances that thrust The Raven into grave danger. That plunge Anton into peril. And even jeopardize Chloe and her well-orchestrated plans. Who will survive the first major battle that involves key players from each organization?

Meanwhile, “normal” humans aren’t completely oblivious. Two have gained access to the truth and the inner workings of the wargame.

And one of them has no intentions of giving in or giving up.

Thoughts…

The author is a master at storytelling and painting a picture during battle! Here is an example:

“The points of the blades drove into the drywall, pinning him like a bug on a cork board.”

Another:

“The launcher chuffed, a bloom of gray smoke trailing the grenade arching toward the helicopter.”

This series is one of my favorites because the story has so many moving parts. I’m always intrigued at how well an author can bring the parts together. Rodaughan has already impressed me as someone who cleverly presents threads and brilliantly weaves them together. Nothing is added to the story that doesn’t have relevance. Nothing is thrown in to make storytelling easier. Everything is purposeful and well crafted. I love that about “The Metaframe War” series so far.

As I wrote in my review of A SUBTLE AGENCY, this series isn’t a casual read. I had to concentrate on my reading and even take some light notes. But…I’m rewarded with a fascinating story that keeps building in layers and excitement!

I’ve already purchased book #3: THE DRAGON’S DEN and can’t wait to read it in the new year!

Since I’ve added this series to my all-time favorites, it goes without saying that I highly recommend this book #2 installment 🙂 !

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Showcased as a Top Reviewer’s Favorite

Miranda Reads is the #1 Best Reviewer on Goodreads. She has recently started a BookTuber segment (on YouTube) called “Lit Life with Miranda Reads!” In her second presentation, she highlights the first round of her favorite self-published authors. And I’m one of them! Wait…let me say that again: I’M. ONE. OF. THEM! Sorry for the text shouting, but that’s how excited I am!!! What an amazing honor to be included 🙂 ! Thank you so much, Miranda!!!

I hope you’ll check out her video!

A Gripping “Whodunit”

Among the Shadows

This “police procedural” mystery earned 5 shiny badges from me!

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My “tease” for AMONG THE SHADOWS…

Distinguishing friend from foe is challenging “among the shadows,” especially when those at greatest risk from a cop-killer share in their own infamous history.

That’s the predicament Detective Sergeant John Bryon of the Portland Police Department finds himself in.

Someone is murdering former members of the department’s elite 1980’s Special Reaction Team—the team responsible for a botched arrest-attempt that left one police detective dead, three of the four bad-guys killed, the fourth robber on the loose, and the stolen 1.4 million never to be found.

A teenager at the time, Byron suffered the cost of the blunder first-hand. His father was one of the SRT detectives involved in the arrest attempt and he committed suicide shortly after the debacle.

Now, when ex-SRT members start dying, the 30-year-old cold case heats up to a boiling point, with Bryon as the lead detective. And the more he starts to stir the pot, the more obscure the shadows get.

Will Byron shed light on the case before more detectives die? Or will he be the next victim?

My thoughts…

This story immersed me in the world of investigative police work, and I loved it! I wanted to solve the case as much as Detective Sergeant Bryon did. A gripping read, I didn’t want to put the book down 🙂 !

There is an authenticity to the dialogue that I really appreciated. Description was also excellent. Here’s an example:

“The black livery-service hearse was parked in the driveway, its rear door open like something waiting to be fed.”

Byron’s character was someone I rooted for throughout the book. My heart ached for him as he relived the death/suicide of his father. This and his commitment to justice—at all costs—connected me to him.

Loved this book! I highly recommend AMONG THE SHADOWS!

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A Must-Read Middle Grade Novel

EVERLASTING NORA

This middle-grade novel earned 5 everlasting stars from me 🙂 !

5 Stars

My “tease” for EVERLASTING NORA…

The dead are more dependable than the living. Twelve-year-old Nora should know. She lives among them both.

Over a year ago, Nora’s father was killed in an apartment fire that destroyed everything she depended on: family, security, regular meals, and friendships. No longer able to attend public school, Nora lives with her mother in the cemetery mausoleum housing her father’s tomb.

Filled with shame and growing hopelessness over her desperate circumstances, Nora buries her emotions, hoping to become invisible in a city which has left her behind. But when her mother disappears after a night of gambling, Nora has no choice but to venture out into the streets, well beyond the cemetery’s gates where she sells everlasting daisies.

With danger lurking around every corner, fellow squatter Jojo joins Nora in her search for her mother. Will the two survive their quest? Will her mother be found alive? Will Nora ever learn to trust and depend on others again or will she fall deeper into the clutches of despair?

Thoughts…

This story was tension-filled and often heart-wrenching. I couldn’t put it down. With every page, I longed for sweet and determined Nora to find her mother and regain hope.

Remember the idiom: Stop and smell the roses? Replace roses with everlasting daisies and you’ve referenced one of the important lessons of this book. The story reminded me to never take even the simplest necessities or pleasures for granted, even in times of hardship.

I also think EVERLASTING NORA is a sobering reminder that every child living with and in hardship has a story. Empathy and support, not judgment, can help a child restore hopes and dreams.

EVERLASTING NORA inspires compassion. A must-read, in my opinion, for middle-schoolers and adults!

P.S. I also absolutely love the cover 🙂 !

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Five Dazzling Stars

A SUBTLE AGENCY

5 Stars

A little tease about the plot…

Eighteen-year-old Anton had no reason to doubt the authenticity of his middle-class life, living with his parents in suburbia, outside of Boston. He had no way of knowing vampires existed in a hidden society. No way of knowing that his parents had been exiled from an ancient organization of extraordinary vampire hunters. And certainly no way of knowing his parents were hiding one of three artifacts—so powerful that the one who possessed the knowledge of all three could control the Metaframe and shift the natural order of the universe.

Anton didn’t even know he had rare gifts waiting to be ramped up within him. That with training, he could emerge as a formidable instrument of good or evil, depending on which side he chose.

General Chloe Armitage wasn’t in the dark about any of it. In fact, she knew much more than the Vampire Dominion and its king whom she served. The king who had ordered her to retrieve all three artifacts for him.

Truth be told, Chloe had her own secrets. Her own plans.

And those plans started with a knock on the door of Anton’s family home.

Could the knock and horrors which followed signify the beginning of The Metaframe War?

My overall thoughts…

I absolutely LOVED this book! I’m so excited that a friend recommended this series because it perfectly aligns with my taste in books 🙂 ! Now I’m looking forward to the second installment, A TRAITOR’S WAR.

For starters, the author’s writing is crisp and descriptive, without going over the top.

“The sun was nearing the horizon and shadows were beginning to reach their dark fingers toward the front of the warehouse.”

Captivated by the action and characters, I also appreciated the melding of near-future contemporary life with the fantastical, because my favorite books do just that.

In my opinion, A SUBTLE AGENCY isn’t a casual read—like a book you can put down for a couple of days and pick back up and continue without a hiccup. The story has a lot of moving parts and players. I didn’t mind this at all; I just jotted down an occasional note, so I didn’t need to backtrack through the pages to remind myself of who, what, where, and when!

I highly recommend this awesome book and have every confidence that the series will continue to deliver 🙂 ! YAY!!!

I’m adding this one to my favorites list!

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Falls Short of a Timeless Classic

The Howling

THE HOWLING by Gary Brandner earned 3.5 hair-raising stars from me, yet, falls short of a classic.

3 and a half stars

Karyn Beatty is about to celebrate her first-year wedding anniversary with husband Roy. They are living in Los Angeles within a safe and quiet condominium community. Both she and Roy have jobs they love, a dog they cherish. And to make their anniversary extra-special, she plans to tell him she is pregnant. Yes, Karyn’s adult life is developing perfectly.

Until…

She is raped that very day by the condominium’s maintenance man and her future and dreams go from bright to bleak.

To help Karyn, her therapist recommends leaving the city and finding solitude and rest in the country. Roy finds a home to rent, two miles from the dying town of Drago—nestled in the valley of the Tehachapi Mountains. The area is so isolated that the only phone is in town and coming from the city, Karyn doesn’t drive.

Karyn’s nightmare is about to mushroom (as if it isn’t already terrible enough). Because every night, she hears howling. And the howls keep getting closer. Roy doesn’t share in her worries. And the few people living in Drago aren’t talking.

Vulnerable and more alone than ever, will Karyn figure out what strange creature is howling in the woods? Will she survive her mysterious getaway as it closes in around her?

Happy Howlings:

• The story has some very nice atmospheric moments. For example: “Branches seemed to whip out and clutch at her. Behind her, moving silently through the trees, something followed.” Add the mountains, cold air, moonlight, and occasional mist, and the tension nicely ramps up!

• The final battle is awesome, nail-biting, and fast-paced. Loved it 🙂 !

Grumpy Growlings:

• You know how some books are timeless classics? Okay, THE HOWLING is not one of them! It was published in 1977 and reflects the norms of the time, which isn’t the author’s fault. However, THANK GOODNESS times have changed!!! Because in THE HOWLING, what do you do after a woman gets raped? Isolate her and give her pills to ease the pain. Ugh! In addition, from a literary aspect, I did not appreciate reading the details of the rape. Even though authors are urged to “show, don’t tell,” I don’t think that holds true with rape, UNLESS the rapist is integral to the story, which here, he is not (he is never mentioned again).

• Roy Beatty is the WORST HUSBAND/PARTNER EVER. There, I said it and feel better 🙂 ! The poor guy isn’t getting satisfied because his raped wife, who had a miscarriage from the violence, isn’t putting out. And when she does (for his sake), she clearly isn’t into it. So of course, he has to do something about that. This is how he rationalizes his cheating: “Even so, if sex were better for him and Karyn, it would never have happened.” Today, that’s called blaming the victim. He also adds: “Feeling guilty would do no one any good. He had never claimed to be a saint.” Well, alrighty then.

• ANIMAL LOVERS BEWARE: In their isolated mountain home, the Beatty’s let their dog Lady outside at night. And then they forget she’s outside and they go to bed. REALLY? They didn’t notice Lady was missing until she wasn’t begging for breakfast. Sorry, that was never a norm in the 1970s. That’s just negligence. Jeez. And we, the readers, can easily guess how that worked out in a book full of ravenous werewolves.

I am trying to be understanding that the author was writing in a different time. A lot has changed in 40 years. And I get that some characters in stories simply aren’t likable at any level. Guess I wanted to latch onto at least one character and that really didn’t happen, though the book did have some Happy Howling moments, especially during the final scene!

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A Little Red Riding Hood Retelling

THE GIRL IN RED

THE GIRL IN RED by Christina Henry earned 5 howling-great stars from me!

Five red stars

Twenty-year-old Cordelia, nicknamed Red, is a horror junkie. She knows every reason in the book why naïve people die during an apocalypse. That’s why she became a prepper. She has always known “Something Would Happen” and she has no intentions of being naïve or…dying.

So at the first signs of “The Cough,” Red finetunes her survival plan, convincing her family it is the only way to outsmart and outrun “The Crisis.” The plan is simple: avoid the government’s quarantine camps and trek off-road to Grandma’s cabin in the woods, some 300-miles away.

Despite all of Red’s preparations, she underestimates one variable that has no regard for her astute plans: danger. Turns out, danger is hiding in the most unexpected places.

In an upside-down world full of “wolves,” will Red, her handy axe, and her family ever make it to Grandma’s? Alive?

BULLSEYES:

axeThe author is brilliantly masterful at conveying Red’s voice—the protagonist and narrator of this story. Red is fierce, stubborn, endearing, opinionated, and flawed by her own extremes. I LOVED this character and rooted for her every step of the way!

axe

 

The writing is exceptional. Enough said 🙂 !

 

axeTHE GIRL IN RED starts as an action & adventure apocalypse and breaks loose into horror! I wasn’t expecting this, but in retrospect, that’s exactly what the fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood does (minus the apocalypse)!

 

axe

The book’s cover is spectacular.

 

DROPS (the axe drops from the target and doesn’t score):

axeThe story toggles between events “Before” and “After.” Since the entire book’s span is only around three months, I didn’t feel this strategy added to the tension. The out-of-order events made me work harder as a reader, which I typically don’t mind if I’m rewarded with a bump in tension.

axeThe back cover copy makes it clear that men are a top-level enemy. “There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform…” At times, I thought this message went too, too far in the book.

axeNot every question raised in the story was answered. Does this mean a sequel is in the making? I hope so!

 

axeBased on the cover, I literally thought real wolves with red eyes would be involved! However, the artwork of the wolf is a metaphor. Too bad, because I thought a scene with a wolf predator would have been a great addition.

 

All in all, this Little Red Riding Hood retelling was an exciting journey of survival. And since the story hits on many important bullseyes, it scores as one of my favorite books read in 2019!

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A Hansel & Gretel Style Retelling

BULWARK

BULWARK by Brit Lunden is a Hansel and Gretel style retelling which earned 3.5 stars from me!

Clay Finnes, Bulwark’s small-town sheriff, is emotionally struggling to survive his worst nightmare. Several months before, his baby was kidnapped—snatched without a trace. His wife Jenna became understandably inconsolable until the distance between them grew to separation and an impending divorce.

The nightmare, though, was only ramping up.

An out-of-town family gets lost on a remote backroad in Bulwark. And when they encounter water laying across the road, they underestimate the “puddle’s” depth, sending their car skidding, crashing, and stalling in the water. However, the accident isn’t what triggers memories of the sheriff’s missing baby. The delirious out-of-town parents claim that their children were stolen from the crash site, taken to the “gingerbread house” on Linden Lane.

Only, the sheriff has never heard of Linden Lane or the mysterious house. They exist all right, and he’s about to find out their hidden secrets—secrets that some townspeople don’t want to talk about. Secrets that hit very close to home for Sheriff Clay Finnes.

I love the atmospheric vibe of this book! Here’s an example:

The wind picked up, scattering leaves and other debris around the abandoned building. A gate swung, the screeching metal electrifyingly loud in the silence.

My enthusiasm, however, started to stall simply because the fantastical takes a turn toward the farcical in the last half of the book, at least for me.

Case in point: When the sheriff encounters a demon witch, he’s got an ax in his hand and plans on using it to kill her. The witch toys with him, changing her appearance several times before morphing her looks to resemble the sheriff’s wife Jenna. Here’s what happens next:

Clay shook his head as if to clear it. He swayed dizzily. Jacob grabbed the ax, and when he raised it to strike the witch, Clay held out his arms. “It’s my wife!” Clay took the ax and threw it at the wall. It thudded into the plaster.

It’s rather silly that the sheriff would suddenly believe that the demon actually became his wife! The implausibility of this deepens because Sheriff Clay Finnes, the narrator, even identifies his wife’s look-alike as the witch in the passage above.

Missteps like this dampened the thrill that I felt for the first half of the book, though BULWARK was still an enjoyable fast read! The book’s cover is also stunning!

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