Is Death Really the End?

A Review of Afterlife
Author ~ Marcus Sakey

There are some books that you just read that have no effect on you, there are some books you read that make you cry, other books that make you laugh, and then there is Afterlife, which makes you think about life and death.  

In Marcus Sakey's new book, Afterlife, he explores life after death and a love that transcends both.  Not only does Afterlife make you ponder the meaning of life, but it is also filled with pop culture references that made me chuckle every time I came upon them.  I found that it made the character of Will Brody more relatable, despite actually being dead for most of the story (don't worry, that's not a spoiler). 

When FBI agent will Brody tries to stop a serial sniper form terrorizing Chicago,  little does he know that the sniper is possessed from an evil from beyond the grave. When Will loses his life to the sniper he discovers that there is more after death then he ever believed.

Claire McCoy, FBI task force leader, and secret love of Will Brody, is devastated by the loss of her agent and lover. She becomes even more consumed with discovering the snipers identity and walks herself into a dangerous situation, subsequently loosing her life, but taking the snipers life with her.

In the afterlife, Will and Claire find each other and are horrified to discover beings that devour the souls of the dead, some of these beings are so powerful the can "ride" the living.

It's up to Will and Claire to lead the other souls in the Afterlife, standing up to these beings so called gods before they can continue killing the living.

I have to admit, it took me quite a long time to write this review, I found myself struggling to articulate how I felt about this book.  I really did enjoy it, and at times I found it hard to put down, which for me is the sign of an good story, but it was almost like there was so much going on, I didn't know how to write about it. 

At a certain point, all I can do was to write down a few thoughts and press the publish button.  Would I recommend this book to someone else, yes, and I would tell them that it was an interesting and enjoyable read.  Am I excited about the prospect of Afterlife becoming a movie, I sure am.  I think that it could make a stunning movie and provide a lot of interesting discussions about the meaning of life and death.

4 Penguins

I received an free ARC of Afterlife from Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It's going to be A Cold Day in Hell

A Review of A Cold Day in Hell
Author ~ Lissa Marie Redmond

There is something about a well written police procedural story that I always enjoy, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Cold Day in Hell.  Written by retired police officer, Lissa Marie Redmond, I found that this book had a very authentic feel to it, which you would hope it to have if written by a former police officer. 

Lauren Riley is a detective at the top of her game, solving crimes in the Cold Case Investigations of the Buffalo Police Department.  Single mother of two, who's girls have gone off to college, Lauren finds that she has a bit too much time on her hands.  Frank Violanti, slick defence attorney, who's questionable clients and theatrical behaviour in court make him one of the best.  When Franks's eighteen year-old client, David, is arrested for murder he begs Lauren to take the case on as a private investigator.  Normally on opposite sides of the bench, Lauren and Frank don't generally see eye to eye, but upon meeting David, Lauren can't help but feel she needs to prove his innocence.  Unravelling the conflicting evidence, Lauren discovers that nothing is quite as it seems.  With an abusive ex stalking her and the press all over the case, Lauren puts here career in danger as doubt starts to plague her motives.

I have to say that with a lot of police procedural's, I usually have a pretty good guess who-done-it before the big reveal.  I may not always be right, but I have my suspicions.  That is half the fun of reading these, to see if you can pick out the clues the author has given.  When reading A Cold Day in Hell, the clues were there, but I was never able to make up my mind, until the reveal happened.  I also enjoyed the fact that while there was the big investigation to prove David's innocence, Lauren was still working her day job in the cold case department.  TV is often very sensationalized with great intuitive leaps, but reading this book dispelled a lot of what you see on TV and explained that solving crimes is a lot of hard and diligent work and a fair amount of luck, especially in the cold case department.  

While I enjoyed reading A Cold Day in Hell and was interested in the story developing and what was going to happen, for me, I was easily able to put this book down at night and I didn't find myself with the urgent need to read the book as fast as possible, until the last 2% of the book.  Redmond has done an excellent job with a hook at the end that makes you want to pick up her next book ASAP.  Now she just needs to write it.

3.5 Penguins

A Cold Day in Hell will be released on February 8, 2018 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon or Midnight Ink's Website.

I received an free ARC of A Cold Day in Hell from Midnight Ink via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review ~ Integral (Visceral Book 1)


Integral (Visceral Book 1)
Author ~ Adam Thielen

Vampires and Mages?!, these are two of my favourite things to read about in speculative fiction, so I was sold on this book the moment I read the description.  Having now finished reading Integral, I'm happy to report that I wasn't oversold at all.  

The time is 2029 and the world's governments have collapsed, corporations have taken over the management of people, places and things, always with a notation of governing to improve their bottom line.  Matthias and Frank, vampires, are two investigators for Noxcorp, the public face of the ancient vampire council.  When a human is murdered, and it looks like a vampire did the deed, it's up to Matthias and Frank to find the fiend before the public does.  Things turn complicated when the University charged with "protecting" the magical born turns to Noxcorp for their assistance in tracking down one of their escaped mages, Sandra.  Quickly Matthias and Frank find themselves caught in the middle of a power grab, and Sandra appears to be at the centre of it all.

Each chapter in Integral (Visceral Book 1) is an "episode", so the whole novel sort of jumps a little bit in it's narration, but it works.  I found this futuristic world quite believable, despite the presence of vampires and mages.  The idea that corporations will take over, not unrealistic to me at all.  I also found the vampires in Integral to be refreshing, I don't want to say anything more why I found them refreshing for fear of spoiling the story (if you really want to know, just send me a message and I'll explain).  

I found Integral to be an interesting story, and I loved having vampires and mages mixed together.  There is a rather long battle sequence near the end of the book, and while it was actually well written, I personally would have liked it to be a little shorter.  The mages are also treated poorly, that whole be afraid of what you don't understand type thing, that I would love to have more background on, their history sort of thing.  I can only hope that if Thielen write a sequel, I'll get some more background on the mages.  

3.5 Penguins

I received an free ARC of Integral (Visceral Book 1)via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review ~ The Memory Agent


The Memory Agent
Author ~ Matthew B. J. Delaney

The first thing I thought to myself as I read the last sentence of this story was, "that was a good book".  The Memory Agent is a fantastic roller-coaster ride of suspense and science fiction and I was entertained the entire time I was reading it, quickly turning pages to find out what happens.  

Roger Parker is a professional prison breaker, skilled at breaking minds out of the virtual reality rehabilitation prison where convicted criminals serve their time. This time Parker and his team head into a virtual reality set in 1950's Manhattan.  With strange visions, mysterious identities and anti-virus programs chasing Parker and his team through this dream reality state, The Memory Agent will keep you guessing right till the very end.

I found the very beginning of The Memory Agent a little confusing as the story starts out in Egypt in 1933.  A group of people are on an archaeological dig and they just discovered the impossible.  As they investigate they are attached by the "Brotherhood of Anubis" and must seek the protection of the dig site.  

To say I was confused with what was happening is an understatement.  This was nothing like what the book-jacket described, and there a legitimate moment where I was seriously contemplated that maybe I received the wrong book.   I figured that eventually the story would start to be more like the description on the book-jacket, and sure enough it was.  Slowly the puzzle pieces start to come together and make some sort of mind-bending sense.  There were also several suspenseful moments when a "monster" is chasing the characters and I still remember my heart beating away in my chest while reading these scenes.   

I enjoyed reading this book, it was sort of like a combination of Inception meet The Matrix meets The Adjustment Bureau.  I enjoyed all three of these movies immensely because of the mind-trippiness of them.  The Memory Agent is right up there with it's mind-trippiness and I was easily entertained as I was reading it, finding it hard to put down at times.  If you like mind-tripy books, you will definitely enjoy reading this story.  The Memory Agent is available on Amazon July 18, 2017.

4 Penguins

I received an free ARC of The Breakdown from 47North via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review ~ M*A*S*H* Goes to Maine


M*A*S*H* Goes to Maine
Author ~ Richard Hooker

You were likely aware that the original M*A*S*H TV series that was on the air for eleven season was based off a movie from the 70's starring Donald Sutherland and Tom Skerritt?  But did you know that the movie was based off a book written by Richard Hooker?  Well from 1968 to 1977 Richard Hooker wrote Fifteen M*A*S*H books, and only the first one took place during the Korean war.

M*A*S*H Goes to Maine is the second book in this series.  If you've never seen the movie and have never read the first M*A*S*H book, you will be quite lost as you read this book.  There are characters in these books that never show up in the TV series, or were only in the series for a few episodes.  I loved the TV series, I remember watching it as a child, then again in my teens and once more as an adult.  It was one of those shoes that you could watch over and over again, and it always seemed to be on TV.  I would always skip over the nightmare episode though as I found it quite disturbing as a child and those feelings still linger there as I remember Major Margaret "Hot-Lip" Hoilihan standing there with blood running down the front of her nightgown, shudder, but that's all I remember of that episode.  Thankfully the rest of the episode's memories have been lost to time.

Back to M*A*S*H Goes to Maine.  The second book is written pretty much the same as the first,  a bunch of short stories held together by an overall premise, in this case the opening of the Finestkind Clinic and Fishmarket.   This was Maine in the late 50's and medicine back then was very different than what it is now (be glad).  The surgeons of the swamp, Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Duke Forrest, Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones, are all tops of their respective fields and have banded together to provide the residents of Maine the very best or "Finestkind" medical clinic and fishmarket.  Get your medical exams and procedures done in the morning and on your way out in the afternoon pick up some fish for dinner.

M*A*S*H Goes to Main is a quick read that I enjoyed, however, If you don't like M*A*S*H or struggle with understanding the time frame something was written, then I don't think you would enjoy this.  It's quite disjointed in the way Hooker tells his story, hopping around from one "small town event" to another.  There is also quite a lot of crude language, racial slurs and outdated views on women in M*A*S*H Goes to Main.  This book was written forty-five years ago, and then also written about a time fifteen years earlier than that.  Societal views on language, race and women were very different then than they are now.  It made me glad that in many ways society isn't like that any more.  We are not perfect, we will likely never be perfect and there is still a long long way to go before everyone feels safe, but it is better than it once was.

Maybe one day I will go on to read more of this series, but for now, I'll take a pass.

3 Penguins

Review ~ Equus


Equus (Rhonda Parrish's Magical Menageries)

The friend who originally suggested to me that I start to write book reviews managed to hook me up with my very first "official" review.  I was so excited to receive an ARC copy of the Equus anthology from Rhonda Parrish and be given the chance to write a review, but I failed...sort of.

Not every book is for every person, and Equus is just a book that isn't for me.   I will preface this by saying that short stories in general are hard for me to get into.  There have been some short stories that I have enjoyed in the past, but I've always been surprised when I do like them.  For me I find that with short stories, just as I'm starting to get into them, the story is over.  The second thing that Equus had going against it (at least one I discovered as I started to read it) is that I just don't care about horse.  I mean, I like them and I think they are pretty cool and I always go and see the RCMP Musical Ride at the Pacific National Exhibition, but aside from a periphery care for horses, I discovered that I don't really want to know anything more about them.  So my attempt to read Equus and review it made me gain some new knowledge about myself,  horses just are not my thing.

All of the stories I did read/skim through had quite a bit of description of the horses, how they move, the equipment they need the feeling or riding one. I just had a hard time caring about all this description of the horses and their riders. If you like horses I suspect that you would enjoy this anthology quite a lot. It just wasn't my thing and after attempting to read it for the past few months and finding myself dreading picking it up, reading a page or two and then putting it back down, I decided that it would be better to put it down for good and move on.

0 Penguins (with the notation that I would recommend this to someone who likes horses)

Review ~ The Breakdown


The Breakdown
Author ~ B.A. Paris

The Breakdown is a suspenseful thriller that will keep you hooked from the opening lines when Cass Anderson's husband makes her promise not to take the back-woods shortcut when coming home from drinks with friends, to the very last sentence (which I won't even write about for fear of spoilers).

Cass Anderson is a woman who thinks that she did a terrible thing, by leaving the scene of a broken down car only to find out the next morning that the woman in that same car has turned up murdered.  The act of leaving the women stranded compounded with the fact her own mother had dementia Cass begins to fall into despair as she starts to experience memory lapses.  Forgetting scheduling lunch dates with friends, what the alarm code is, how to use the microwave are just some of these lapses and with strange phone calls during the day, the slow loss of her memory Cass begins to experience a breakdown so terrify that you can almost feel it happening to yourself.

I have to admit, although I was curious what what happening in this story right from the beginning, I didn't like Cass Anderson.  Not at first at least.  By the closing pages of The Breakdown though my feelings of Cass had completely changed.  I think that the reason I didn't like her at first was mostly due to how she bowed down to her husband about taking the short-cut and then subsequently not telling him about it because he would get angry with her.  To me this seemed like such a silly thing to lie about, especially when she was feeling so guilty about the lie.  I hard a real hard time relating to her about this.  As the story progressed though and her panic and despair started to rule her life, I no longer felt that I didn't like Cass and I got really concerned about her safety and sanity and by the end of the book I was rooting for her as she had my heart racing at times.    

For me a good book is one that I don't want to put down and will read really quickly just so I can find out how it ends.  The Breakdown was a quick read, even though I thought I knew what the ending was going to be.  I was pleasantly surprised when B.A Paris managed to keep me guessing till the final few chapters.

4 Penguins

I received an free ARC of The Breakdown from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Review ~ Axis (Spin Saga #2)


Axis (Spin Saga #2)
Author ~ Robert Charles Wilson

STOP!!!  SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN'T READ SPIN (SPIN SAGA #1) YET.  Do yourself a favour, read Spin first then come back to this review.

Axis is the mostly direct sequel to Spin.  Thirty years after the events in Spin, Axis finds us on another world, Equartoria.  Linked to Earth by a massive arch in the middle of the Indian Ocean, placed there by The Hypotheticals, humans have started to pilfer this new world of it's natural resources, sending them back to Earth. 

Lise Adams is in Equartoria, investigating the disappearance of her father fifteen years prior when she stumbles across the photograph and an old woman who has loose connections to her former lover, Turk Findley.  Turk agrees to help Lise connect with the woman in the photograph when suddenly ash is falling from the sky.  The ash turns out to be old pieces of the Hypotheticals.  Are they seeding this planet with parts of themselves for some nefarious means or has some massive accident happened in space and the Hypotheticals are dying?

I called Axis a mostly direct sequel because this story does not revolve around the main protagonists from Spin (Tyler Dupree and Jason & Diane Lawton) but rather introduces us to two new protagonists, Lise Adams and Turk Findley.  As I started out reading Axis, I have to admit that I was disappointed that the sequel wasn't going to feature the Tyler, Jason & Diane, I really wanted to find out what happened when they crossed the Arch.  It didn't take me that long to get over the disappointment though as Axis picks up almost right away with the mystery of the falling ash.  While Axis doesn't have the same scope as Spin did, taking place over a few days versus (technically) millions of years, it's still an interesting story.    I haven't read the third book in the series yet (Vortex) but at this point Axis almost seems like it was written to be a bridge between two bigger novels...I hope that does turns out to be the case.  

The thing I liked the most about Axis was that we started to gain a little bit of an understanding about who/what the Hypotheticals are.  The part I didn't like about Axis, we only gained a little understanding about who/what the Hypotheticals are.  While I can't say that I enjoyed Axis quite as much as Spin, it was still an entertaining read.

4 Penguins

Review ~ Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1)

Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1)
Author ~ A.G. Riddle

Desmond Hughes,  awakens in a hotel room in Berlin, with no memory of how he got there and a dead body on the floor.  The only clue to his past is a hidden phone number with the message “warn her” to Dr. Peyton Shaw, leading epidemiologist for the CDC.  Meanwhile Peyton is on a plane to a small village in Kenya to investigate an Ebola-like outbreak.  

 As the outbreak spreads across the world and Peyton searches for the it's origins, she begins to believe that there is more to this disease than meets the eye and that Desmond may just hold the key to saving millions of lives across the globe.

 I really enjoyed Pandemic,  A.G. Riddle’s most recent novel and I'm looking forward to the upcoming sequels.  This is quite the complicated plot filled with tons of conspiracies and coincidences, but if you can overlook all the coincidences that keep happening it is actually an enjoyable read.  I’ve always enjoyed a good biohazard/pandemic story, even having mild thoughts as a child that maybe one day I'd work for the Canadian equivalent of the CDC or USAMRIID.  

I was engaged with the mystery of the story from the initial prologue right to the last sentence.  Parts of the mystery of the story I was able to figure out prior to the big reveal and other parts of the mystery remained as such until A.G. Riddle revealed them to me. My only major complaint about the story is that there are a ton of characters, and I felt that their stories were sometimes lacking in development despite the fact that Pandemic is 696 pages.  I also felt that then ending seemed a bit rushed, however that didn't disuade me from placing a pre-order for the second book of the series, Genome.

Ack! Apologies are in order

Hello everyone!  I wanted to send out a quick apology that my next book review is taking so long.  I'm actually almost finished writing it and I'll have it posted shortly.  

The reason for the delay is that I found myself getting a little overwhelmed trying to write a long and detailed review of the books I've been reading.  It it started feeling like is was a chore instead of something fun to do and as I read more and more books, the thought of writing long reviews of them became something I was dreading.  I didn't want to give up doing the book reviews, but I also needed to figure out a way to continue to enjoy reading and not dread writing the review.  

It took me some time to finally decided what I wanted to do with the book review section of my website.  In the end, I came up with the idea to write the reviews in a different manner than I had started out with, the biggest change is that I'm not going to worry about how long they are.  Some books I just really don't have anything to say and others I have a tone of stuff to say and those books that I didn't really have anything to say about them were incredibly stressful to write "enough" words about them.  So from this point forward some of my reviews might be short and to the point while others will be more detailed.  I'm going to let the writing just come and not pressure myself to reach a specific word count.  I feel that this will be a good compromise between continuing with the reviews and not overwhelming myself with trying to become a wordsmith.

You may be wondering what I have read in the meantime since my last review. Well I've read twelve and a half books between May and June.  Eleven of those books you'll find  have a short review in the post, with a fuller review of the book Pandemic (The Extinction Files #1) by A.G. Riddle as my next "full length" review.  I hope you enjoy reading the mini-reviews.

Mini Book Reviews

#1) The Seventh Plague by James Rollins
A pandemic style story with ancient Egyptian origins.  The member of Sigma Force have to discover who is trying to unleash a plague straight out of the bible.  This isn't one of my favourite of the Sigma Force stories.  I've been finding that each story seems to be getting a little bit more and more ridiculous as  this series has been going on.  I also found that The Seventh Plague seemed to be action scene followed by action scene without a ton of character development.  This being the twelve book in the series (with a bunch of novellas too) I wonder if James Rollins is getting tired of Sigma Force.  I hope the next book is better.

2.5 Penguins

#2) Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez (translated from French into English by Mark Polizzotti)
The North American debut of Frank Thilliez will provide you with one of the best murder mysteries I've read.  The story starts off with an old-film connoisseur who ends up blind after viewing his most recent acquisition, an odd film from the 50's.  While his ex-girlfriend investigates his blindness, she discovers that the film is connected with 5 bodies that were recently discovered in the woods.  This murder-thriller is filled with shocking plot twist that will have you travelling from France to Canada, Egypt and Rwanda and keep you guessing right until the very last sentence and beyond.

5 Penguins

#3) Bred to Kill By Franck Thilliez (translated from French into English by Mark Polizzotti)
The sequel to Syndrome E.  While investigating the brutal animal attack of a graduate student, it is discovered that she was actually murdered.  The investigation leads us into the Alps only to discover that a thirty-thousand-year-old virus has been discovered and their are plans to unleash it on the world.    

Bred to Kill picks up about a year after the events in Syndrome E.  While the murder mystery of Bred to Kill isn't quite as gripping as Syndrome E, the personal development of the police detectives more than makes up for it.  I wish that I could either read French or that more of Franck Thilliez's novels were translated into English.

5 Penguins

#4) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The main idea behind American Gods are that gods exist because people believe in them.  American Gods centres around Shadow and his work as an errand boy for Mr. Wednesday.  

A cross between fantasy, fiction and ancient mythology American Gods is Neil Gaiman at his best.  It's a real shame that I just don't really like Neil Gaiman.  I read the book because the show was coming out and I wanted to see what it was all about.  For 3/4 of the book, I found it just barely interesting enough to keep reading and it wasn't until the last quarter of the book that I was final hooked.  This book took be 12 days to read, which may not seem like a lot to some, but when I finish a book on average every 2-3 days, this was an extremely long time for me.

1 Penguins

#5) Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson
This short novella is a science fiction detective mystery.   At some undetermined point in the future we gain the ability to produce a "snapshot" of the day.  An exact recreation of any given date.  Detectives use the snapshot to help solves murders.  

I really enjoyed this novella.  The idea of a snapshot was quite creative.  I'm not a huge fan of short stories or novellas because just as I'm really getting into them, the story is over.  I felt that Brandon Sanderson did an excellent job of balancing the shortness of Snapshot while still providing the details needed for me to enjoy.

4 Penguins

#6) The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Some point in the future, after a great tribulation, earths humanity only has a dim relocation of humanity before, a small village roots out "deviations" and destroys them as abominations.  The Cyrysalids focuses on one boy, who hides that he his a deviation.  

I enjoyed reading The Chrysalids.  This is one of the books that tends to be on the high-school syllabus, but I always had the English teacher that taught the "other" books on the syllabus, so I never read this in school.  I was entertained throughout, my only complaint being that the ending of the book seemed a little rushed and I would like to have know what happens afterwards.

4 Penguins

#7) Thrawn by Timothy Zhan
Grand Admiral Thrawn was first introduced in Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire Series.  Now considered to be Legends and no longer cannon in the Star Wars world, many believe that it was this series and it's captivating antagonist that brought Star Wars back into mainstream and paved the way for the re-releases and prequels, and now an entire world of movies.  Disney was very smart to bring Grand Admiral Thrawn into Cannon and they were even smarter to have Timothy Zhan write Thrawn's history.  I grew up reading the now legends Star Wars novels, and while a lot of them were and are quite terrible stories, there were also a ton of them that were quite amazing, including the Heir to the Empire Series.  Thrawn is the first book in the new canon that I have really enjoyed.  It reintroduces us to the blue skinned, red eyed Chiss commander and documents his rise through the Galactic Empire to become a Grand Admiral.  If you've only ever seen the movies, you can easily read Thrawn and be captivated by this master of military strategy.  

4 Penguins

#8) Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson
The third and final book in the Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson, and my favourite of the three.  The professor has gone rogue and it's up to David and the rest of the Reckoners to save him from himself.  These stories are about the corruption that the people who've gained special powers have to face.  

I found the first two books in this series filled with a lot of teen angst, and if put me off reading the final book for a long time.  The teen angst is gone from this book which I was very relieved.  Overall, it's a good wrap-up for the series, although the ending and final climatic event felt a little rushed.

3.5 Penguins

#9) Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
During the late 1800's while the gold-rush towns are popping up everywhere, two rival palaeontologists, Marsh and Cope, are on the hunt for dinosaur fossils.  William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than common-sense makes a bet with one of his school-mates and finds himself in the West assisting on a dig.  When he is abandoned by the paranoid Marsh he joins forces with Cope and discovers a grave of huge historical significance.   With this find comes grave danger and his life is on the line.  

This is Michael Crichton at best, blending history, science and fiction flawlessly.  The palaeontologists, Marsh and Cope, are based of real people and the history of finding dinosaur fossils in the West are loosely true.  William Johnson is the fictional made up character that allows Crichton to blend history and fiction together in a cohesive story.  

4 Penguins

#10) Spin (Spin Saga #1) by Robert Charles Wilson
When the stars disappear, replaced by a black membrane, three friends will be forever changed once it's discovered that the black membrane has placed the Earth in a temporal stasis.  

With a cast of well developed characters, I was drawn into the story right from the get-go.  The narration takes place in both the past and present.  The present day narration takes some time before you understand what's going on and only until the past narration catches up do you fully get the scope of the story.  I very much enjoyed this science fiction story and at the time of writing this review I'm currently reading the second one in the series, Aixs.

5 Penguins

#11) Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn
Human Martian, Polly Newton, is sent to her with her brother Charles to the pretentious Galileo Academy on Earth.  While there Polly and Charles struggle to fit in with the privilege Earth teenagers as strange accidents start to happen.  

I really wanted to enjoy this story as it seemed very intriguing, a fish out of water type story, but I didn't.  I hated the main character, Polly.  I found her to be a whiny person filled with teen angst and never learned from her mistakes.  The story itself was well written though, which is why I was able to finish it and not give up half way through.

2 Penguins

Review ~ Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond


Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond
Author: Jayne Barnard

Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond, is a steampunk fantasy that I can’t help but think was just a cute book. With some hidden Easter egg character names, that I’m embarrassed took me so long to catch, to the Clue-esque style murder mystery, there was a lot to keep my imagination whirring as I read this novel penned by Jayne Barnard.

Intrepid journalist, Maddie Hatter, is determined that she will break free from the fashionista column’s she writes for the Kettle Conglomerate newspapers.  As the runaway daughter of a powerful Steamlord, Maddie has been able to eke out a meagre living writing her columns, which is good because she wants to avoid spending the allowance provided to her by her father, that comes with a long list a rules.  While spending time in Egypt where she reports on the fashion of the English well-to-do wintering in the desert climate, Maddie has the chance to to break into a real investigation.  While hunting for the fabled Eye of Africa diamond, Baron Bodmin, renowned explorer and adventurer, vanishes and soon turns up murdered.  Risking her career and her father's wrath, Maddie delves deep into the investigation for the byline of a lifetime.

While the idea behind steampunk is fascinating to me, I haven’t read any steampunk novels yet that I’ve been enthralled with. Although I haven’t hated any of them, I also haven’t had the drive to read the story.  You know the drive I'm talking about, the one where nothing else matters until you finish the story.  So far I haven’t experienced that with steampunk.  I’m not sure why that is, likely I just haven't stumbled upon the right story yet. Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond is probably the closest I’ve come to actually enjoying a steampunk novel instead of just saying, well that was ok.  I liked the Maddie character, she seemed like someone who you could be friends with, down to earth, despite her affluent upbringing.  I found that she was an enjoyable character to follow along with as she solves Baron Bodmin’s murder.  

Don’t read this novel as an e-book, get the paperback version.  The formatting of the e-book was terrible. With double spacing, and overly large margins, it was very awkward to read and the flow that you would normally have while reading a book just wasn’t there.  I have seen the paperback version, and the formatting in that looks to be normal though and I suspect a lot easier to read.  What I did really enjoy while reading this novel were the few illustrations in the book of some of the steampunk contraptions.  The Brass Monkey, which is a gadget designed as a way to read the news, being my favourite.  

If you like steampunk murder mysteries, where the lead-character is a plunky go-getter who is determined to make a success of her life and not depend on her daddy’s money, read this book, just read it on paper.

3.5 Penguins

Review ~ Company Town


Company Town
Author: Madeline Ashby

In Madeline Ashby’s ambitious cyberpunk novel, Company Town, we see a futuristic Canada, where living on an oil-rig off the coast of Newfoundland, is part of everyday life. Entire towns have been created on these gigantic oil-rigs and the people who live there either work the oil-rig or support it in some way.  Augmenting yourself with the newest bio-tech is just one way to pass the times, the other major pass-time is securing the services sex-workers, who are now unionized and come with bodyguard protection.

When the company town of New Arcadia is purchased by the Lynch Family, Hwa, former bodyguard to the sex-workers, is manipulated into becoming the personal bodyguard and trainer for the youngest Lynch member, Joel.  As the heir to the Lynch Company, Joel’s protection is paramount to the prosperity of New Arcadia, and now his protection falls to Hwa, one of the last un-augmented humans in the world.

When a friend and former sex-worker of Hwa’s turns up dead, and an attempted murder on her own life, Hwa realizes there is more to the Lynch family than meets they eye.  As she delves into the murder, she discovers that more than one friend has ended up dead.  Who is this killer that seems to be extracting revenge on sex-workers?  Is she also a target of the killers ire? Is the Lynch family somehow involved with this killer?  As Hwa gets more involved, she discovers that time isn’t linear and that the killer can be anywhere.

The pacing of Company Town is a little odd, with what feels like entire sections of the story left out.  For example as a bodyguard, Hwa gets knocked around a bit during her duties.  There are multiple scenes where she loses consciousness at the end of a chapter, with the next chapter starting out a few days later with Hwa in another location and talking with different characters, and no mention of how she survived the last encounter.  The entire third act of the story was also incredibly rushed.  Ashby spent a great deal of time during the first and second acts setting up the world and her characters, and just as the big boss-battle happens, Hwa gets knocked about again and loses consciousness.  When next we see Hws, the battle is long over, months having passed.  No mention what happened or how she survived.  It seemed like Ashby was afraid of running out of room on the page to write, so just skipped over parts to advance to the final chapter, leaving out some stuff in the middle.

Up until the ending of the story I was really enjoying the world, the tech, and the characters that Ashby created.  The third act is the downfall of this novel, leaving you questioning what really happened during the final boss battle.  Company Town is an enjoyable read as far as plot and world building are concerned, but the pacing leaves little to be desired.

2 Penguins

Review ~ The Wizard Killer: Season 1

The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1
Author: Adam Dreece

Prepare yourself for an adventure in this post-apocalyptic futuristic fantasy story penned by indie author Adam Dreece. The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 is written in an episodic, serialized style that makes this a quick and engaging read.  Each chapter is a little adventure in of itself, will all the chapters making up the overall story arc.  From the opening sentence when the protagonist wakes up in the forest, discovering that he has been impaled with a sword to the final passage where...well I won’t tell you since that would be a spoiler, needless to say I was thoroughly engaged.   

The protagonist, whose name you never do find out in Season 1, wakes up with a cloudy memory of who he is and what has happened to him.  As he sets out to find some semblance of civilization among all the desolation of this world, memories start to come back to him.  When he encounters a commune of people that have a hidden agenda the action really starts to take off.

My only real complaint with The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 is that I can’t help but be disappointed that this story is written in an episodic serialized style.  This world that Decree has created is so fascinating.  I was so intrigued that I really wanted a longer story with more character and world development, and where I wasn’t left with quite so many questions.  What happened to this world?  Who is this protagonist?  What kind of powers does he have?  Where is everyone? Magic guns powered by mana?  Levitating Cars that no longer run?  So many questions and definitely not enough answers.  Even with my complaint of The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 not being long enough I can’t wait to read Season 2.  Hopefully my questions will be answered, while also providing new questions to ask.  Think of The Wizard Killer ~ Season 1 as a graphic novel without the pictures and you will thoroughly enjoy it too.

4 Penguins


Review ~ The Frozen Sky

The Frozen Sky (Frozen Sky #1)
Author: Jeff Carlson

A far off place, two hundred years in the future, humans will venture out into space and harvest ice from the Jupiter's sixth moon, Europa.  From the Author that brought you Plague Year, Jeff Carlson’s First Contact space adventure thriller, The Frozen Sky,  will take you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions.  From the opening chase scene where your heart is beating to the political structure of Earth and the moral questions regarding first contact, The Frozen Sky will keep you guessing what’s going to happen, throughout the entire book.  

Robotic probes have discovered ancient carvings in a deep cave system on Europa.  Investigating first hand, Alexis Vonderach, aka Von, and her teammates have discovered an ancient buried civilization on Europa. After an accident causes a cave-in, which kills Von’s teammates, Von ends up on the front door-steps of the native population.  As First Contact with the "sunfish" goes horribly wrong, Von is chased through the caverns of Europa by the sunfish as she tries to survive.

I wanted to like this book more than I did.  The story itself is actually very intriguing and it made me think about how awful humans can be.  What rights do we humans have to the resources on another planet?  Profit is what drives Earth politics in this story (and in real life), it may be profitable to destroy another sentient life forms home, but is it moral?  

There were a lot of really interesting concepts in this novel, how space travel will work, futuristic medicine with cloned materials, communicating with an alien species, artificial intelligence.  You can tell that Carlson must have put in a ton of hours researching these concepts.  Overall the story was well done, but it took me quite some time to get into it.  I read on a Kindle, so I can’t tell you the page number, but the first 20% of the book was the initial chase scene with Von and the sunfish.  I struggled to read this part of the book, it was just too long and I was bored.  The beginning was great, you were wondering what was going on, was Von going to survive this chase, who were these creatures chasing her on this desolate and supposedly uninhabited moon? Then the chase scene kept going on and on and on, like the energizer bunny.  Eventually the story progresses from a one woman survival situation to include more characters.  Once there was interaction between other characters I was a lot more entertained and found the book easier to read.

At this time I have no plans on reading the rest of this trilogy.  

3 Penguins

Review ~ The Devotion of Suspect X


The Devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Translator: Alexander O. Smith

From the opening pages of The Devotion of Suspect X to the final line in the book I was hooked on this murder mystery thriller with a twist.  

This is the third book in the “Detective Galielo” series, and the first one in the series to be translated from Japanese to English.  Don’t let the fact that this is the third book in the series dissuade you from reading this book, you will not feel lost at all.  The author, Keigo Higashino, has done an excellent job of providing you with any details you need to follow along in the story and not feel like you’re missing out on something.  If anything, after reading this story, you will wish that the first two books were also translated into English.  

The plot is fairly straightforward.  Yasuko Hanaoka, a single mother, has murdered her abusive ex-husband, Togashi.  Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler.  In this classic who-done-it with a twist, you know exactly who the killer is.  At the very beginning of this book you read how Yasuko has murdered her ex-husband, and you know it’s her doing it at the time of reading.  The best part of this novel is that Higashino is able to keep you interested in the story when you already know who the killer is, and why she killed him.

Hearing the commotion of murder, her next-door neighbour, Ishigami, a middled-aged high school math teacher, offers his help in covering up the murder.  Having a bit of a crush on Yasuko, Ishigami, doesn’t want her to get into trouble with the police.   

When Togashi’s body is eventually found, and identified as Yasuko’s ex-husband, Yasuko comes under suspicion for murder by Detective Kusangi.  During the course of his investigation, Kusangi comes to speak with Ishigami.  At this time it is discovered that Ishigami once went to school with a personal friend and sometimes police consultant of Kusanagi's, Dr. Manabu Yukawa, otherwise known as Professor Galielo.  Kusangi becomes convinced that Yasuko is responsible for Togashi’s murder, and unable to convince his partner, he goes to speak with Professor Galielo to gain some insight.  When Professor Galielo finds out Ishigami is loosely involved he becomes embroiled in the investigation with Kusangi and a battle of wits ensues between him and Ishigami.  Was Ishigami’s help in covering up the death of Togashi enough for Yasuko get away with murder?  

I was captivated with this novel.  I found that the brilliance with this novel is that Higashino is able to keep you interested and engaged in the story even though you knew already who the killer is.  From the opening paragraph and then throughout the entire story I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next.  What part of the alibi that Ishigami helped concoct would fall apart and get Yasuko caught.  How was Detective Kusanagi going to figure out that Yasuko was the murderer?  

As the story developed I started to feel really bad for Yasuko.  Here is this woman who is struggling to get by and provide a good life for her daughter, she murders her ex-husband in self defence and is caught in a terrible place.  I’m not familiar with Japanese criminal law, but I had the impression reading the book that Yasuko would not be able to claim self-defense as a reason for the murder and desperate to hide the crime she accepted Ishigami’s help with covering up the murder.  The more you read about her life and her abusive ex-husband, and all you want is for her to get away with it.

It’s impossible for me to say more about the story without unintentionally revealing spoilers.  The interaction between the various characters seemed very real and you could imagine yourself having the same sort of conversations or thinking the same thoughts if you were in Yasuko’s place.  Reading as the murder investigation unfolded, following step-by-step as Detective Kusangi goes through the paces to prove his hunch gives you a sense of the drudgery that must happen during police investigations, as they ask the same questions over and over, trying to find the lie.  

The Devotion of Suspect X is an incredibly smart and intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing right to the very end. I would recommend that anyone read this book, especially if you like mysteries or noir novels.

5 Penguins

Coming Soon

A good friend of mine has convinced me to try to write book reviews.  In order to do that I need a web site.  Well, I had purchased domain a few weeks back.  It was an idea I had to maybe my artwork online.  Since I believe that writing is also a form of art, what better place for my future book reviews then on  Stay tuned for some exciting content, just as soon as I re-learn how to program a web site.

Update August 2018 ~ I decided for many different reason that I didn't like 'The Artisan Penguin", and so I decided to switch it up.  So now my website can be found under my name ', and I'm also exploring the new name of Penguin Potpourri Creations ( to see how that feels.  Same great content, new name!