Posted in Bite-Sized Reviews, Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

COMBO REVIEW: Star Wars Edition


Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I feel like I really became a fan of Star Wars when I started watching the Clone Wars series on Netflix. I think they did an excellent job making it a good entry point for casual and hardcore fans. This story picks up shortly after that show leaves off. Ahsoka is left in the aftermath of Order 66, everyone she’s ever known is dead. So, she starts hopping from planet to planet trying to keep a low profile and hide from the Empire. However, she finds herself staying on this tiny moon and teaching farmers how to defend themselves against Stormtroopers and their battle droids.

Master Yoda had taught her that sometimes you found things you weren’t expecting, and it only made sense to use them when you did.

E.K. Johnston; Ahsoka

I enjoyed this novel. Ahsoka is one of my favorite characters from the Clone Wars era, and it was nice seeing what she gets up to after that tragic moment in Star Wars lore. I would recommend you watch the Clone Wars show before jumping into this story, although I think Ahsoka stands on its own as well.


Star Wars: Brotherhood by Mike Chen

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Now, let’s say you like the Clone Wars, but was annoyed by Ahsoka. This is the prequel book for you. This takes place shortly after Anakin becomes a Jedi Knight and is no longer a Padawan under Obi-Wan. Shortly after the ceremony, a neutral planet has just been struck by a terrorist attack. The Jedi Council send Obi-Wan on a solo mission to secure the planetary leaders to trust the Republic/Jedi and not trust what the Separatists/Sith are saying about the attack.

“This was Skywalker and Kenobi as they should be: a team built on emotion and intellect, bravado and control, fire and ice. And despite no longer having the formal bond of Master and apprentice, they would always be connected. In fact, they were better this way.”

Mike Chen; Star Wars: Brotherhood

I also enjoyed Brotherhood. It was action-packed, filled with espionage, and a dash of soapy romance. I liked seeing the events not only from Obi-Wan and Anakin’s perspective, but their new found companions too.

Anakin forms a bond with a youngling who has Force abilities, but she feels others emotions so intensely that it causes her emotional distress. After talking with Anakin about how she feels differently than her fellow younglings regarding becoming a Jedi, she decides to learn how to use her abilities in healing and medical training. I am glad that the Jedi Council was understanding and accepting of her differences.

I would recommend Brotherhood for fans of Star Wars, and even for people not so familiar with the franchise. This novel stands on its own really well, just like Ahsoka, and I think it’s fun to read them back-to-back.


Vader by Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This comic takes place shortly after the Death Star has been destroyed. Emperor Palpatine is disappointed that Vader couldn’t handle a handful of rebels. So, Vader sets off to gather intel about who the rebels are and if they’re a real threat to the Empire’s missions and goals.

Along the way he meets this renegade droid repairperson called Doctor Aphra and Vader uses her droids and tech for nefarious deeds. I liked Doctor Aphra. She is independent and she’s not afraid to do what she thinks is the right thing. Even when Vader is using her talents, she’s cracking jokes and being friendly with Vader even she knows he’ll kill her as soon as he’s finished with her.

Overall, I think this was a great start to this storyline, I hope I can continue this series in the future. I am a fan of Darth Vader, and I enjoy seeing him have depth and not just be this evil guy who kills everyone in his path.


Posted in Book Reviews, Non-Fiction

REVIEW: Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes


*Do Nonfiction Books Have Spoilers?*

Trigger Warning for Murder, Death, Divorce, and Grieving

When I look back at my long career, there is a lot I am proud of. I have caught some of the most notorious killers of the twenty-first century and brought justice and closure for their victims and families. I want to tell you about a lifetime solving these cold cases, from Laci Peterson to Jaycee Dugard to the Pittsburg homicides to, yes, my twenty-year-long hunt for the Golden State Killer.

But a deeper question eats at me as I ask myself, at what cost? I have sacrificed relationships, joy—even fatherhood—because the pursuit of evil always came first. Did I make the right choice? It’s something I grapple with every day. Yet as I stand in the spot where a young girl took her last breath, as I look into the eyes of her family, I know that, for me, there has never been a choice. “I don’t know if I can solve your case,” I whisper. “But I promise I will do my best.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When I’m not listening to audiobooks, or reading on my Kindle, I’m listening to podcasts. I discovered this podcast called “Jenson and Holes: The Murder Squad”, it features investigative journalist Billy Jenson and retired cold case investigator Paul Holes. They would discuss cold cases, and explain police procedure to their audience who might not know how a murder investigation works in real life.

So when I saw Unmasked on the pre-order on Books-a-Million, I was so excited. I am a fan of true crime. I try to read more of it, but sometimes fiction is just what the doctor ordered. So now let’s dive into Unmasked.

Most of this autobiography talks about the Golden State Killer case. It was a lot of detectives’ Moby Dick, their elusive white whale. However, it was breakthrough in forensic technology that uncovered the truth in the end. I think this technology will go a long way and possibly clear up more cold cases.

You can’t finish a puzzle without all of the pieces.

Paul Holes; Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases

Seeing how Mr. Holes’ career morphed and grew over time is interesting. You see him want to be more of a lab rat, and less of a politics-driven supervisor of the labs. He wants to process evidence, and leave the politics to those who can handle that.

The discussions of divorce, love fading, and regrets for how things turned out brought back memories of my parents’ divorce. It was difficult for me to listen to however, it was nice hearing him reflect on it and realize what went wrong. A lot of ex-couples seem to be too prideful to realize what went wrong in their failed relationships.

Overall, I really enjoyed this true crime audiobook. It was informative as well as personal and relatable.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Afterlife (Ghostland #2) by Duncan Ralston

*Only Spoilers for Ghostland #1*

Six months after the “Ghostland Disaster,” Duck Falls has become a reluctant tourist trap, and a new home to the activist group Ghosts Are People Too. When the Return to Ghostland televised event ends in yet another tragedy, ghosts once again fall under scrutiny… along with the effectiveness of the Recurrence Field.

Away at college, survivor Lilian Roth has discovered she’s able to communicate with spirits. She and her best friend, Ben Laramie, use the skills they’ve acquired to free ghosts from their hauntings.

But Rex Garrote, the mastermind behind the Ghostland Disaster, is raising an army of ghosts to slaughter every living person on Earth. Left with no choice but to fight, Ben and Lilian must recruit their own army of freed ghosts, and prepare them for war.

Will it be enough to save the world?


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Last month, I reread Ghostland because I have been wanting to finish off the trilogy since the final book Infinite was released. I see Mr. Ralston’s other book Woom on TikTok and it’s encouraged me to try and finish this trilogy off. So let’s scare up this review of Afterlife.

Let me start off by saying that this is not as bloodbath driven as Ghostland. Afterlife takes more of a focus on the aftermath of the events of Ghostland and how some characters were affected by those events. A couple of characters, Lamb and Andy we meet through the events of the current story, not because of what happened at Ghostland.

One of the minor characters I really enjoyed from the first book was the detective Stan Beadle. He was at Ghostland because of a couple of cases he couldn’t close/solve. His daughter Sam, ends up following in her late father’s footsteps and chases down the clues that’s leading back to Garrote and the Ghostland park. Her story arc was my favorite besides the main characters Ben and Lilian.

Above them, Garrote’s massive face was displayed in mosaic over the entire wall of monitors, missing only the screens blacked out and cracked by the impact of Ms. Amblin’s body. He looked like a religious maniac who’d painted his face with a giant black crucifix from forehead to lips, the paint chipped and cracked. His dark grin filled the second row from the bottom.

Duncan Ralston; Afterlife

I feel the book takes more of a focus on the fact that famous/powerful psychics are committing suicide and that’s what catches Detective Sam Beadle’s attention to begin with. The ‘Ghost Brother’s’ TV show is just one of the nails in the coffin that kicks off the major event of Infinite.

I love how Ben ends up meeting Rex Garrote, and through bits and pieces of dialogue and minor characters we learn just how ambiguous Garrote actually is as a villain. I find it fascinating to try and figure out what is his master plan.

Overall, I really enjoyed Afterlife. I can’t wait to see how this series will be wrapping up. I know there’s going to be a lot of scares and trauma for all characters involved. If you enjoyed Ghostland I would highly recommend you continue the series. I wouldn’t recommend reading it out of order, although I guess you could if you wanted to.

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

*No Spoilers*

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

I joined TikTok to find more book recommendations (like I need more books). And this was one of them. I wish I could remember which BookTok I saw talking about it. However, I’m glad I dove straight to this dark adventure! Let’s hop into The Last One.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, and I believe this is the best way to enjoy this novel. You have two distinct voices narrating; the present from Zoo’s perspective and another narrating what happened once the filming for the TV show began. The TV show perspective is more of a third person point of view. Often referring to the contestants by stereotypical nicknames such as ‘black doctor’ and ‘cheerleader boy’.

I’ve heard believers speak of the coldness of science and the warmth of their faith. But my life has been warm too, and I have faith. Faith in love, and faith in the inherent beauty of a world that formed itself.

Alexandra Oliva, The Last One

The Last One tapped into my irrational fear of coming back from a long night shift at work and not knowing that the world is actively falling apart around you. The atmosphere is portrayed beautifully. I was actually waiting for Zoo to come across her first zombie and how she’d handle that scenario. Thankfully there’s no zombies here.

When Zoo breaks her glasses after getting attacked, that made me feel even more nervous and on edge since I wear glasses and I am like Velma when she loses her glasses. I couldn’t imagine having to survive in the wilderness without the ability to see clearly.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Last One. It’s full of suspense and a relatable main character you can really root for. I would recommend this novel for people who enjoyed Bird Box by Josh Malerman and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. If you haven’t read those novels, that’s okay. If you like Survival Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, or stories with strong female leads. Then I would check out The Last One by Alexandra Oliva.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews

REVIEW: Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman


*No Major Spoilers*

*Trigger warning for brief mentions of gore and torture*

Failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife, Eudora, have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family’s old estate-the Savoyard Plantation- and the horrors that occurred there. At first, the quaint, rural ways of their new neighbors seem to be everything they wanted. But there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice.

It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of Savoyard still stand. Where a longstanding debt of blood has never been forgotten.

A debt that has been waiting patiently for Frank Nichols’s homecoming…


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I started this audiobook not knowing what to expect. At first it was reminding me of The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey. The main character comes into this small town and maybe not everything is as what it seems. The end result is something dark and twisted that will leave you stunned.

That was a mean thought, and not funny at all. I let it turn to sand and blow out of my head.

Christopher Buehlman; Those Across the River

I love how dark, yet beautiful this story was thematically. When Frank and Eudora were just going to the store in broad daylight, you could feel the heavy and intense atmosphere. The financial strain everyone was facing, the PTSD Frank was suffering, and the aftermath of the ending of the ritual made the world feel unnerving.

One thing I didn’t like was how hard it was to keep track of most of the townsfolk. I’m not sure if that was intentional because that seems to be a trope in the horror genre. Where everyone except the main character(s) are cardboard cutouts and monster/demon fodder. I know it’s a necessary evil to convey how full and alive this town is, but even one of the minor plot twists made me feel indifferent.

Overall, this was a beautifully written novel full of small town horror, sophisticated romance, and dark suspense. Frank’s perspective on everything made the townsfolk seem sinister, even when the pastor himself fought to keep the pig ritual reinstated. Frank learns the devil lived in Whitbrow, and the devil soon destroyed the town in the end.

I would recommend this novel to fans of horror, historical fiction, and for fans of The Curse of Crow Hollow and Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics. This story is a great read and would encourage anyone thinking about either getting a fresh take on horror, or just looking for some early Halloween vibes, then I would definitely recommend this book.