REM- #BookReview

REM by J.D. Valentine

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Former LAPD officer and recovering alcoholic, Danny Etter, has been working hard to redeem himself. His marriage is barely hanging on by a string, and he knows if he slips up again, it could mean saying goodbye to his wife and the kids.

When Maria and the kids take off to Lake Tahoe for a vacation, Danny expects life to be pretty uneventful as he stays back in Orange County to work. As Danny continues therapy and AA meetings, he is on the road to redemption. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth as a pandemic begins to unhinge the world around him. Danny is left fighting for his life to get back to his family.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Danny Etter wants to be a good man, husband, and father. He is having trouble in his marriage and his wife has taken their kids away for a vacation. Danny is a recovering alcoholic and realizes he is one mistake away from losing everything he cares most about. He figures that he can work on his situation while his family is away and can become the man that they need him to be. Unfortunately for Danny, the world is descending into chaos all around him. There is a sickness that is spreading which causes people to become violent and do unspeakable things that are far out of their typical character. As an ex-police officer, Danny sees the signs of trouble early on. Now it is going to take all his skill, resources, and teamwork with his friends to make it out of Orange County and to Lake Tahoe where his family went. He can only hope that he can make it there in one piece and that his family will stay safe until he gets there.

REM isfull of action and the creatures in the story are an interesting take on vicious zombie-like creatures. The reader cheers for Danny to find his family and for him to overcome his addictions. While not a completely original take on a post-apocalyptic story, there are moments that surprise. There are also times at which the story feels somewhat repetitive but overall holds interest, especially for fans of horror who don’t mind a bit of blood and gore.

Fans of stories like The Stand, The Walking Dead, or Cell will most likely enjoy the book. While REM is a single, contained story, the author does have plans to expand it into a series and it will be interesting to see where it goes after the first volume. If you are looking for a book about the end of the world and can handle some pretty strong violence and blood, REM is worth a read.

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Through a Forest of Stars – #BookReview

Through a Forest of Stars by David C. Jeffrey

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Year 2217. Earth’s biosphere is dying, Mars’s terraforming projects are in ruin, resource wars are brewing, and even the voidoids—eerie portals into nearby star systems—have failed to yield new Earth-like worlds. But that’s about to change with the miraculous discovery in the Chara system. United Earth Domain and the Allied Republics of Mars, rival powers within Bound Space, each want it for themselves, and a cataclysmic war is about to erupt.

Aiden Macallan, Terra Corp’s planetary geologist aboard the survey ship Argo, a man with a troubled past, finds himself pulled into the center of the conflict and into the heart of a profound mystery where the key to humanity’s future lies hidden. To find it, he must trek alone across a living landscape, guided only by a recurring dream that grows more real—and more deeply personal—with each step. It’s the only way to save an extraordinary world from certain destruction and to give the human race its last chance for survival.

REVIEW

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s the year 2217 and humanity is almost out of chances. Earth is dying and while there are colonies on other planets, humans have yet to find a planet as habitable as their own home. However, the discovery of what may be a suitable, Earth-like planet may change everything. As governments, scientists, and private companies all vying for the first stakes in the planet collide, Aidan Macallan finds himself wrapped up in the center of things, perhaps the only person in a position to understand the new planet and with the ability to avoid a war that would lead to the utter destruction of all of humankind.

Reminiscent of the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Through a Forest of Stars, takes the reader on a journey into the future based on sound scientific principles. There are several competing interests who all want to be the first to understand, and in some cases possess, the resources on a newly discovered planet. What this planet is and just how similar to Earth it is, remains in question. Aidan works on a survey team and is used to the isolation of space but this new planet is something else entirely. When he becomes the first human with the chance to experience and understand it, he is going to need all the help he can get. Unfortunately, he is cut off from most contact, other than with the Artificial Intelligence that helps him to run his ship.

The book is fascinating and holds the reader’s interest, although there are times when the science can be a bit overwhelming. If you are a fan of hard science fiction though, this will not bother you. The cosmic politics involved in the competing interests for the planet are well developed and complex and add urgency to the story. The fantastical is here as well, as Aidan is guided by recurring dreams and nightmares that seem to be urging him to act before it is too late.

If you love space fiction, especially with a good dose of science in it, this book is well worth reading. If you love Arthur C. Clarke or To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers, you should add Through a Forest of Stars to your read list.

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Overworld, The Dragon Mage Saga – Book Review

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

A magic apocalypse. Refugees from Earth. A new world. Elves, orcs, and dragons!

Portals from Overworld have appeared on Earth, and beings intent on conscripting humanity into the mysterious Trials have invaded.

Earth is doomed. Humanity has been exiled. Can Jamie save mankind?

Jamie Sinclair, a young man with unique gifts, must find a way for his family and friends to survive Earth’s destruction and build a new home in Overworld.

The Trials is not a game. Will Jamie survive its challenges?

Join Jamie as he struggles through the brutal Trials while wrestling with his new magics and Overworld’s game-like dynamics.

A fantasy post-apocalyptic survival story of one man’s journey to save humanity.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Jamie Sinclair is an avid gamer who loves the challenge of playing online games. When Earth is threatened with extinction and forced onto a new planet called Overworld Jamie will have to put all his skills to use, only this time it is no game. On Overworld there are life and death consequences to your actions and one mistake can mean the end for someone in the Trials. Jamie has a bit of a disadvantage in the Trials because he has a hobbled foot but he doesn’t let that stop him from being as much of a hero as he can. He does have one thing going for him though–he can cast magic and that makes him valuable to his friends and potentially deadly to his foes.

At times there is a bit of overexplaining of how the Trials game system works but if you love playing video games or are really into hard magic systems in fantasy this won’t be an issue. The enemies are deadly and dangerous and make for interesting foes. Jamie’s character develops well in most parts of the book and keeps the reader engaged. The action is fun and frenetic with what feels like real stakes involved. There are some standard fantasy bad guys but there are at least a few enemies that were surprising and fun to read about.

The world is quite well thought out and it’s easy to get an understanding of how it works even if the reader is not a gamer. The author does a good job of setting up the first book while laying the groundwork for a sequel.

For readers who love books like Ready Player One, Warcross, or fantasy books full of orcs, elves, and the like, Overworld, the Dragon Mage Saga is a book that will be thoroughly enjoyable.

Also, as a bonus this book met one of the requirements of my Read, Watch Play challenge, read a book with a dungeon in it! If you want to see the challenge and perhaps participate yourself, check it out here!

The Laeta King – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

Avem is a boy with nothing in the world. He steals for his own survival in the town of North Refuge. His striking yellow eyes are the cause of many whispers and fear. General Topea terrorizes him because of his strange nature, and it’s all Avem can do to stay out of his way.

When he is whisked away from North Refuge by mysterious wizards, he meets the Council of Stesti, and learns of his true nature as a Laeta. He is told of their pursuit in finding the Laeta King, a legendary hero that could help them defeat General Topea, who had been killing Laetas to allow a sinister plan to come to fruition without interruption.

Now Avem must fight to defend the only friends he’s ever known. The Council is quickly running out of time as Avem must push aside his doubts and fears to save a lost Councilman and help put an end to Topea’s plans.

Though, Avem will soon learn, destiny will not define him.

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

Avem is a young boy without a real home or family. He has to steal to survive in the town of North Refuge where he makes his way the best he can. To make matters worse, he does not fit in because he has the yellow eyes of a Laeta, and as a result, many people fear or hate him. General Topea has made it his mission to stamp out all the Laeta and he is after Avem. the Laeta are able to perform magic and could be the downfall of General Topea so he is determined to find and destroy Avem.

Just as Avem is about to face deadly dangers, a group of mysterious wizards takes him under their protection. From then on, Avem’s life will become one of adventure, mystery, empathy, and danger. He finds himself swept up in world events and tries to prove to the wizards that he is as capable as they are. Yet he is young and new to magic, making his journey all the more difficult. Will Avem be able to prove himself, save the world, and maintain compassion for others, or will he let down the only family he has ever known?

Avem’s character is well developed and his journey is an interesting one to the reader. The companions he has in the adventure have moments where they feel a little less than fully fleshed out but the story maintains itself well enough that the book is enjoyable throughout. The magic system is robust but not always well defined. This does provide for some interesting sequences and if you love high magic fantasy this is a book well worth reading.

If you love worlds full of magic, with epic battles and the struggle of good versus evil, and the question of whether someone deserves a second chance at its core, you will enjoy this book to the fullest.

Anoroc – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

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SUMMARY

From the author of Millennial Millionaire, comes Bryan M. Kuderna’s fiction debut, a coming-of-age fantasy novel you won’t be able to put down! Beeker is trying to find his way in life, no longer a kid, but not yet an adult, when his single mother decides it is time for a change. He and his little brother, Dak, leave the comfort of their home in the Plains to go and live in the Mountains with their beloved Uncle Dobo, a founder of the Militia and renowned war hero. The rapidly growing population of Anoroc leaves their species, Chigidies, scrambling for sparse resources, particularly the most valuable commodity of all– Painite. Beeker, Dak, and their generation can no longer plead ignorance to the tumult overtaking Anoroc. But, at what cost will it come?

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

Anoroc is home to mythical creatures known as Chigidies. These are small furry creatures who live in plains, wetlands or mountains and have advanced technology like vehicles and weapons of war. Their society revolves around a finite resource known as Painite. Beeker and his little brother live in the plains with their mother. Life is good for them in the innocent days of their early childhood.

When events outside of Beeker’s control sweep him and his family up in a potential war between Chgidies who wear white robes and those who wear red robes, his world quickly changes. He has to live and train with his uncle Dobo who has much to teach him about life.

While the story is mostly well constructed there is a bit of frequent head hopping that happens. The politics of Anoroc can also be a bit fuzzy and difficult to follow but not so much that the reader will not enjoy the story. Beeker is the standout character as we are able to understand where he is coming from and are with him through his moments of triumph and struggle. He has to go through intense training with his uncle and learn wisdom there as well as be a key figure in the impending war.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion even if it is a bit abrupt. There is plenty of action once things get going in the story to keep the reader engaged. Anthropomorphic tales can be difficult to tell well but author Bryan Kuderna does a fine job of making the characters interesting without making them oversimplified.

If you are a fan of coming of age stories, specifically set in a time of strife or conflict, with world events happening around the characters, this is a good book to add to your shelf.

A Single Round – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

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SUMMARY

A SINGLE ROUND, is a collection of short stories from a HARD PLACE. Stories of moonshine and shotguns, obsession and transcendence, love and darkness, and the blindness of human desire. Each tale follows a painful path to one ultimate realization: the devil’s deal always ends badly, often with a single round.

The head that was found on the blacktop tells a tale in Johnny Fucking Carson.
Tommy watches his dream love become a nightmare in Together Forever.
Fame has a dark side, Becoming Famous echoes the age old warning, ‘Be Careful what you wish for’.
A story of realization, loss, and transformation takes flight in Redwing.
Never judge a book by its cover, even one with fangs, as a surprise awaits in Doc’s Choice.
The Grounded, sometimes the dream of escape should remain a dream.
A tale of a man who fell in love with a woman who forgot him in The Dog Walker.
The Ride will make you second guess what you thought you were sure of.

REVIEW 4/5 STARS

A Single Round is a series of short stories that are tied together with the theme of making a deal with the devil. Every deal is different and they all turn out in interesting ways. Never do they turn out as the characters expect.

At a crossroads, if you go there at midnight, you will meet a man who drives a big black car and calls himself the Judge. You’d be wise to stay away from him except… he can offer you your heart’s desire. He can give you the one thing you want most in the world and all it will cost is your soul. For some people, maybe even a lot of people, that’s a price they are willing to pay.

All of the stories in A Single Round play out with this setup. Some deliver better than others but for the most part the stories are interesting and engaging. While this could get overly repetitive, the book avoids this by making the stories somewhat interrelated and some characters tend to show up more often than others. There is some depth in most, but not all of the stories. On the surface of it, some of the things people sell their souls for might be considered trivial but later in the story the reader is shown that there is more to the story.

R A Jacobson does a fine job of setting the mood and making the reader quickly get to know the characters and feel for their plight. Although, some characters are much easier to sympathize with than others due to some of the choices they make.

Reminiscent of Needful Things by Stephen King or short stories where the buyer should beware such as The Monkey’s Paw by W.W Jacobs, this is a great collection of bite sized terror and tragedy to read through right before bed at night.

Damage Report – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

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SUMMARY

This is a book about mistakes and possibilities- some that change the lives of a few, and some that change the lives of many. In The Old Man, Bob is two hundred fifty years old, a survivor of the global warming that nearly destroyed humanity. Things have gotten boring lately and his best friend is thinking about ending it all. Their extended lifespans also have a small liability that makes them both wonder if it’s worth it to stick around. In Long Shot, most of the Northern Hemisphere has been destroyed in a global nuclear war. A team of American aviators is assigned to assassinate the Russian marshal who gave the order for a nuclear attack. Only the U.S. Navy has resources remaining that can reach across the globe to complete the mission. In the title story Damage Report, a colony ship of a starfaring people goes into orbit around a planet bearing the remains of an extinct civilization. The ruins are only a thousand years old and are the best chance of the star people to understand why only their species has survived out of hundreds of predecessors within hundreds of light years of their home world.

REVIEW 3/5 STARS

Damage Report is a collection of short stories that involve life and death in some way. The first story, The Old Man, deals with a man who appears old in a civilization that has defeated disease and aging. There are a few others like him but when almost everyone alive is young and beautiful and you have lived far beyond what your expected life span, is there still any purpose to life itself? The second story Long Shot deals with the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war on earth. The Navy has found the man responsible for starting the war and they decide to do something about it even with the limited resources they have. The third and final story, Damage Report is about a colony of space travelers who come upon a planet that has recently destroyed itself through nuclear war. The colony must decide if they should live on the planet but their findings also leave them questioning why their species seems to be the only one who has thrived long enough to conquer other worlds.

While all three stories have their strong points, the best of them is The Old Man. Bob is faced with a quiet existential dilemma. He has few friends left and barring an unexpected violent accident he might live nearly forever. Should he continue on or do as some of his friends have and choose to end his own life. The story confronts the reader with the question of how much life is necessary.

Long Shot is interesting due to the use of drone warfare and the realistic aspect of what would be likely military actions post nuclear war. At times it may give a bit too much information about the weapons and hardware used but if the reader loves to know about those things there is plenty here to stay satisfied.

Damage Report does a fine job of telling what it would be like to be a civilization that has not only survived but thrived because instead of repeating mistakes they learn from them.

All three stories make the reader think about the possibilities for this world and what might or might not bring about the end for us all. It’s a solid meditation on life under the threat of global disasters.

If you enjoy short fiction and like hard science fiction, realistic military fiction and stories that make you think about life, Damage Report is certainly worth a read.

Lovecraft Country – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my September to be read list. This time I am reviewing the inspiration for the hit HBO show of the same name, Lovecraft Country.

SUMMARY

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

REVIEW

5/5 STARS

In Chicago in 1954, Atticus Turner receives a letter from his father. The letter will take him to a place full of horrors, terrors, and the real nightmare of segregationist America. He has to travel deep into Lovecraft country where monsters roam and the cosmic terror of the world seems to be alive. It will take everything Atticus and his whole family have to brave the terrors that confront them and remain sane.

Usually when there is a book and a movie or television show and I have read and seen them both, I am able to tell you if one is better than the other. Most of the time I come down on the side of the book being better but occasionally there is a movie or series that outperforms its source material. I can’t make the distinction either way here. The book and the show are both amazing in their own unique way.

The book, unlike the show, feels a little smaller in scope even though it deals with the strange cosmic entities that populate Lovecraftian horror. The drama is still personal and much like the show, there can be true horror facing the characters in the guise of monsters who only seem insignificant in the face of the terrors of racial prejudice and violence. The true terror comes from reality in both the book and the show and I think that is what makes the story feel so visceral and real.

Matt Ruff has created an intriguing cast of characters here and the situations he places them in are imaginative and brilliant. And while certain details differ from the show, this book is just as engaging. It’s a satisfying conclusion but I hope that there will be sequels to the book.

If you love historical fiction, pulp fiction, science fiction or cosmic horror even a little bit, this book is well worth a read.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Roa Seeks – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

The chronicles begin with a tale of exiles, disillusionment, and stubborn hope, reminiscent of Pratchett and Tolkien. Will a strange band of misfits be enough to protect a world from a monstrous threat?

Demons stir in Itania, and Meecha Roa, the black sheep of his family, travels from his home world to this legendary planet to investigate. But all he knows about Itania is what other secret agents of the angels have recounted. A place of magic, dragons, elves, humans, and simmering strife.

The mission seems simple enough: explore the activity of the demons and their servants. At the same time, track down and recruit a rogue elf demon-hunter called Azare. Except nothing is simple in Itania, especially with so much brewing in the shadows. Through hardship and precious friendships, his intricate discoveries will shake his heart and loyalty to the core as the demons turn out to be hunting for an infamous key to hell, secreted away by a master thief and lockbox-maker.

Meecha realises that what he seeks on his epic adventure are not answers and solutions just for the Aerieti, but also himself… The part he plays in this critical chess match between angels and demons.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Meecha Roa is a misfit to his family. He never quite fits in. What they don’t know is that Meecha is a hero. He travels through dimensions to other worlds where he takes on evils of all kinds. In his latest mission, he is tasked to understand the situation in a world called Itania. While there he will also need to find an elf demon hunter named Azare. The mission sounds simple enough but Meecha doesn’t know the depth of danger he has gotten into. He will need to make unlikely friends and allies to survive this mission.

Roa Seeks is full of adventure. There are creatures of all kinds on Itania and they keep the reader engaged. One of the best creatures introduced was a large cat and its cub, but will it befriend Meecha or eat him instead? And of course, there are demons that could pop up at any turn, making the danger more imminent.

The world-traveling is interesting and the way that Meecha is able to travel between those worlds was quite intriguing. At times it did feel as if some of the characters that Meecha interacted with could have had more of a back story to them but perhaps we will see that explored in future volumes.

There are also several great illustrations in the book. The cover art may give you an indication but the illustrations are quite accurate to the book descriptions and very well made.

Meecha is a particularly charming character and is extremely likable. He does his best even though the world around him is much larger than he is. That’s something a lot of us can relate to. The book has plenty of potential for a long-running, series and it will be interesting to see where Meecha goes from here.

If you love books full of magical worlds, strange and beautiful landscapes and creatures, and epic battles between good and evil, Roa Seeks is a great addition to have on your bookshelf.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – #BookReview

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here, back to review another book for you. This time I am reviewing Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne.

SYNOPSIS

In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Atriya is a Crusader. This means that he is part of an elite military force where only the best of the best are recruited. He constantly pushes himself to go beyond the limits of human endurance and is trying to reach the next level of performance and understanding.

Lately, Atriya is getting the feeling that something is wrong. Wrong with the Regime that controls Echo, wrong with the way his fellow Enforcers operate, and maybe, something wrong with him. He starts searching for answers from his mentor and starts to rethink everything he knows.

Echo is fast-paced and full of action. There are plenty of great scenes for those who love the mash-up of science fiction and the military. Atriya is an engaging character and the reader will easily root for him to stand out above the rest. The world that Wayne portrays is fully developed and highly interesting. It’s also clear that Wayne knows his military hardware so if you are a fan of that, there is plenty to love in this book.

Personally, I felt like there were a few too many info dumps about the military weaponry but I know some people really love that kind of thing. It would also have been nice if the book was a little longer, but even if you only purchase the first volume, you do get the next three chapters of the second volume so it’s well worth the price.

If you love futuristic military action, this is the book for you. And if you read the book and like it, you should follow the author at https://dirtyscifibuddha.com/

He has a ton of free stuff there and it’s a great blog that I follow myself.

Crusadingly yours,

Slick Dungeon