Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: The Humans by Matt Haig

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*No Major Spoilers*

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man–as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son–who has no idea he’s not the real Andrew–the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.

I discovered this novel on a booklist that I receive in my email every other day. I only read the lists if the theme seems interesting to me, and that’s how I discovered this novel.

When this novel started, the commentary by the alien disguised as Andrew Martin was pointing out how alien humans looked to him. It kind of reminded me of Roger from American Dad. Roger has to dress up in various outfits to try and disguise himself so he can leave the house.

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Roger from American Dad 

I found this novel to be fascinating the way of character development from the alien’s point of view. Even though throughout the novel he remains fascinated with how us humans act, behave and believe, his overall opinion changes by the end of the novel.

Even though this isn’t a fully philosophical story, there is an over-arching plot. However, the challenges the alien faces on top of trying to stay under the radar in order to complete his mission makes for beautiful character development.

My favorite part of the story is when the alien gets sent into the mental hospital at one point, and the observations and people he meets there is fascinating for someone who has been in a mental hospital.

Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode.

Basically, the key rule is, if you want to appear sane on Earth you have to be in the right place, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and only stepping on the right kind of grass. – The Humans

I’ve got to say I really enjoyed this story on a variety of levels, everything from the character development to the philosophical approach the story had on the narrative. This story held my interest from beginning to end, the first letter to the final punctuation. This story is definitely recommended for those who enjoy sci-fi, aliens, a good overall story along with some thought-provoking undertones.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Rise Again (Rise Again #1) by Ben Tripp

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*No Spoilers*

Forest Peak, California. Fourth of July. Sheriff Danielle Adelman, a troubled war veteran, thinks she has all the problems she can handle in this all-American town after her kid sister runs away from home. But when a disease-stricken horde of panicked refugees fleeing the fall of Los Angeles swarms her small mountain community, Danny realizes her problems have only just begun – starting with what might very well be the end of the world.

Danny thought she had seen humanity at its worst in war-torn Iraq, but nothing could prepare her for the remorseless struggle to survive in a dying world being overrun by the reanimated dead and men turned monster. Obsessed with finding her missing sister against all odds, Danny’s epic and dangerous journey across the California desert will challenge her spirit . . . and bring her to the precipice of sanity itself. . . .

I thought I’d make a return to the zombie subgenre after a hiatus. This novel definitely satisfied my craving for a good zombie apocalypse. There’s action, suspense, violence, and plenty of blood and gore.

My major complaint with this novel was I felt like there were too many survivors that the author focused on. I found it difficult keeping track of who’s who and what motivates them.

I did like how the author made the protagonist a female veteran. Even with what she’s seen during her service and the injuries she’s suffered from, she was still able to feel fear and confusion throughout the novel. I felt this made her more likable and relatable.

My favorite character was Amy, the local veterinarian. Even though she worked on animals before the apocalypse, she was still able to help fellow survivors and give first aid when needed. She slowly gained the ability to lead the others after Danny goes alone to look for her sister.

When Danny goes rogue from her group to go look for her sister, the finality of the apocalypse sets in really strong during this time. Towns abandoned, littered with corpses and abandoned cars. It also foreshadows the coming conflicts between various groups of survivors. You can feel the tension as Danny is on her selfish mission.

I enjoyed this novel, and I am highly interested in reading the next one in the series. I would also recommend this for lovers of female protagonists, zombie apocalypse, and science fiction.

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Press F5 to Load Game by LeVar Ravel

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*No Spoilers*

All the State House gossips go abuzz when an influential senator forms an alliance with Rep. Frannie Upwood, the capital’s most famous underachiever and the favorite butt of jokes. Why his sudden interest in such a lightweight politician?

It’s up to Lars Uxbridge, the senator’s disloyal staffer, to find out after he joins a network of political spies. What Lars discovers is a secret far beyond anything other state reps can muster. To get ahead in politics, Frannie’s got something better than snappy slogans, wealthy donors, and door-to-door volunteers.

She’s got a time machine.

Frannie shows that when you’re armed with time travel, you’re the star athlete in a game where the world is your playing field, you make your own rules, and you always beat the shot clock.

But as Frannie will learn, this game has opponents to contend with. Rivals who might not play fair. When the prizes are enormous power, money, and control of time itself, watch out for cheat moves and low blows…

This novel was offered to me through the BookSends ARC Program. This novel caught my attention because I thought the concept of mixing time travel and politics sounded interesting.

I was expecting a story like other time travel media, such as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Doctor Who, and Back to the Future where the main characters have a vehicle that they use for their time traveling hijinks. This took a different spin on the whole time travel subgenre. Frannie uses a clunky bracelet-type contraption with the buttons “F8” and “F5”.

As Frannie explains, F8 is to make a “quicksave” and F5 is to “reload the previous save”. So if she wanted to she could get government secrets and not live through the consequences. As soon as she goes back to her previous save, her crimes will cease to exist.

If I had to put percentages to the content, it’s 80% politics and 20% time travel hijinks. If you are fans of political thrillers, this is the novel for you.

“A good game amuses us. Even better ones create characters we can believe in, with compelling goals and treacherous obsticles. The best games of all integrate these factors with an interactive challenge for our brains and reflexes. A mix powerful enough to transplant us into a whole new world where we can role-play to our heart’s content. The kind of thing that used to be the stuff of dreams” – Frannie Upwood

I felt like the ending was rushed. When the “big reveal” happened, I felt like the ending got ridiculous. It read like the author just started throwing things at the reader in hope of sounding “plot-twisty”. I felt like I was cheated out of a good conclusion, and I wish the ending could’ve been better.

However, I felt like the characters were well developed and I could relate to them on various levels. Lars and Frannie’s relationship throughout this novel is intriguing. Lars stumbling upon Frannie’s big secret, and whether Frannie is just over-trusting or whether she knows more than she’s letting on.

All in all, I would highly recommend this novel for lovers of political thrillers, time travel, and science fiction in general.

Buy “Press F5 to Load Game” HERE

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: First Evidence by Ken Goddard

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*No Spoilers*

A down-to-earth forensics expert has just discovered a crime scene that is out of this world.

In criminal forensics, they train you to uncover evidence, no matter how brutal or bizarre the murder.

But what if one night you make contact with a crime scene so terrifying, no one on earth can explain it?

It begins at a chaotic crime scene in the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest–site of a reported shoot-out. Investigator Colin Cellars cannot find a trace of perpetrator or victim–or even confirm that anyone has been killed. As he doggedly pursues the case, he realizes there is far more at stake here than murder. Someone–something?–will stop at nothing to prevent him from discovering the truth. For the truth is not “out there.” It is locked away in Cellars’ own evidence file. The evidence points to a killer far outside Cellars’s experience–far outside any earthly experience. But who will believe one maverick cop?

This novel is different from other monster stories. This novel is a mystery, mixed with Sci-Fi, with a dash of romance. The mystery involving the disappearance of multiple deputies and citizens alike. It is up to Crime Scene Investigator, Colin Cellars to figure things out while not ending up locked away in a rubber room.

This thrilling novel will have you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what the mystery is really all about!

My favorite part of this story was how it felt like Colin Cellars was the only one who knew the mystery went further than his fellow officers knew. It felt like no one was believing him, and in the beginning, I was questioning Mr. Cellars’ sanity myself.

If you thought the “shadows” in Doctor Who: Silence in the Library was terrifying, this novel cranks it up to 11. Shadows that appear will give you a new sense of uneasiness. Keep the nightlight on for this one!

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I would recommend this novel for lovers of horror, science fiction, and mystery. This novel keeps you hooked and invested from page one.

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Invictus by Ryan Graudin

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*No Major Spoilers*

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with the knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

This Young Adult novel travels from Ancient Rome to a futuristic Earth where time travel is possible. I was intrigued by the plot of this story. I am familiar with Doctor Who so time travel is a genre I enjoy.

As a fan of Doctor Who when someone is born “out of time” that spells trouble. The laws of nature do not bend to our will. And when something is out of line, nature will correct itself no matter the circumstances.

I felt like the romance between Far and Priya, the ship’s doctor was natural. She and Far had a friendship before the Invictus first launched. Far would short-circuit medical droids because of his unnatural date of birth. So Priya would arrive and troubleshoot the problem, and that’s how they first met.

The other romance between Far’s cousin Imogen and the ship’s engineer Gram felt forced and awkward. They are polar opposites. Gram felt like an android from the many sci-fi movies. Stiff, robotic, genius as he plays Tetris and has a collection of solved Rubick’s Cubes. Imogen is bright, dying her hair a new neon color every day. She’s the ship’s historian, and she loves to have fun and party hard.

So for unnecessary romances, I only found one of them unnecessary. I wish they could have remained good friends and grow in that way.

This novel is fairly well-paced. Action-packed, and keeps you on your toes by trying to figure out what’s going on with the mystery of the unusual girl Elliot and her secrets she was keeping from the Invictus crew.

This novel is 400+ pages. If you prefer shorter novels, then you’re out of luck with this one. However, if you enjoy audiobooks, the flow of the novel made the over 400 pages go quickly.

Overall, I thought this novel was good. It was action-packed with plenty of time travel and world building. My only downside was the one unnecessary romance, and a few nitpicks. Other than that, I felt like this was a good, well written, Young Adult novel for any age to enjoy.

Posted in Book Reviews, Novels, Short Story Collections

REVIEW: Straight Outta Tombstone by Various Authors

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*No Spoilers*

Come to visit the Old West, the land where gang initiations, ride-by shootings and territory disputes got their start. But these tales aren’t the ones your grandpappy spun around a campfire unless he spoke of soul-sucking ghosts, steam-powered demons, and wayward aliens.

Here then are seventeen stories that breathe new life in the Old West. Among them: Larry Correia explores the roots of his best-selling Monster Hunter International series in “Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers.” Jim Butcher reveals the origin of one of the Dresden Files’ most popular characters in “Fistful of Warlock.” And Kevin J. Anderson‘s Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., finds himself in a showdown in “High Midnight.” Plus stories from Alan Dean Foster, Sarah A. Hoyt, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael A. Stackpole, and many more.

This is a new Old West and you’ll be lucky to get outta town alive!

I don’t read short story collections very often, I find it difficult to jump into a new story after I feel like I know the main characters. However, when I saw this cover at my local library and saw the cover art, I was sold on the concept.

I enjoy the weird wild west genre. Two genres that are polar opposites colliding for one epic story is fascinating to me! This book has fun with the genre, and it’s an enjoyable read!

All of the short stories in this collection are good, but I had some favorites. And some stories that didn’t impress me. These are all good stories in total, but some just didn’t catch my attention.

My Three Favorites (in no particular order)

  • Bubba Shackleford’s Professional Monster Killers by Larry Correia – The first short story in this collection had charm and had my attention from the beginning. The characters were interesting, and I felt the stakes were dire. I would like to hear more from Bubba Shackleford sometime.
  • The Treefold Problem by Alan Dean Foster – A giant mountain man helps a family who is about to lose their home. I felt like this was inspired by Paul Bunyan, the famous lumberjack. I enjoyed the heart and good feelings in this short story.
  • High Midnight by Kevin J. Anderson – I love film noir. This is the story of a zombie detective who lives in a sort of purgatory with all kinds of monsters and the occasional human. The town is throwing a Wild West-inspired celebration. When things start going south, it’s up to our zombie detective to figure out the mystery.

My Three Least Favorites (in no particular order)

  • Chance Corrigan and the Lord of the Underworld by Michael A. Stackpole – This short story had promise, Chance investigates a mining town to figure out what’s going on. With robots guarding the mine, Chance finds a familiar face running the operation. I think this would have been better if it was its own novel. I felt like the ending was rushed and forced. The way this story ended left me disappointed.
  • The Greatest Guns in the Galaxy by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Ken Scholes – This is the story behind the cover art. Two aliens come to Earth in the 1800s in search of entertainment. However, when greed gets in the way, it’s up to them to deal with the consequences of their actions. Another interesting premise and I felt like the two aliens that caused the mayhem didn’t learn anything in the end. They just call their friends to help them and boom, everything’s fixed. I found the ending to be unsatisfying and I was disappointed.
  • The Key by Peter J. Wacks – The English Crown hires two hired guns to protect this mysterious object called “The Key” from the Russians. With help from some of history’s famous figures, can the gunmen keep the Russian invaders at bay? I felt like this story belonged somewhere else. This was more British undercover mission than western. I enjoyed the premise and ending well enough, but the lack of the Wild West left me bitter.

I would recommend this book to lovers of westerns, science fiction, fantasy, and short stories. This collection was a perfect addition to my Weird Wild West shelf. I would also recommend this if you are looking for new authors or authors you already enjoy.

More Short Stories HERE!

Posted in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Novels

REVIEW: Extreme Makeover by Dan Wells

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*No Spoilers*

Lyle Fontanelle is the chief scientist for NewYew, a health and beauty company experimenting with a new, anti-aging hand lotion. As more and more anomalies crop up in testing, Lyle realizes that the lotion’s formula has somehow gone horribly wrong. It is actively overwriting the DNA of anyone who uses it, turning them into physical clones of someone else. Lyle wants to destroy the formula, but NewYew thinks it might be the greatest beauty product ever designed–and the world’s governments think it’s the greatest weapon.

This is a satire turned horror story on how society as a whole treats the beauty industry. Everyone wants to be someone else. Plastic surgery, makeup, hair dye, the list goes on. So the concept of a lotion that can make you look like a model is remarkable.

I found the character development to be really well executed. Lyle grows from being a no confrontation type to being assertive and letting others know what he thinks. Seeing him grow and change throughout the novel made the cliche of one-dimensional character in the horror genre non-existent.

My favorite part of this novel was when Lyle had to face the remaining United Nations delegates, and he made the first step towards him growing as a character. Also listening to the delegates arguing was also funny.

The ending is the only part of the story I had major gripes with. I felt it be out of place and confusing. I won’t spoil the ending for you of course, but I felt like it was unnecessary.

Other than the one small nitpick, I found this novel to be enjoyable and yet terrifying in a realistic fashion. Makeup and beauty is such an important piece in a society that the thought of everyone looking like Tom Cruise or Jennifer Aniston is creepy.

If you enjoy satire and horror, this is worth checking out. I would also recommend this for people who love science fiction. I enjoyed this book and it will definitely be more of the memorable ones that I’ve read.