Book Review Round-up

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Whoa. Been a while since I’ve updated my blog. Going to do better at that in the coming weeks, but for now…how about a few reviews of a few novels I’ve read lately. Some great stuff out there right now. Here are four:


weaponsmass_cvr_lrgWhen I was in high school, I starting reading Tom Clancy novels. I don’t remember if I saw Hunt for Red October as a movie first or read the book, but it all happened about the same time. Clancy had a knack for showing the military side of the U.S., the intelligence behind it all, the home life of the operatives, and yet give the audience a glimpse of the enemy at the same time. The formula works and David Bruns and his writing partner on this book, J.R. Olson, make it work to perfection in Weapons of Mass Deception.

Bruns and Olson give us a simple premise — what if the weapons of mass destruction President George W. Bush said Saddam Hussein had actually existed? From the get-go the reader is given a very plausible scenario of what might’ve happened to the nuclear warheads in the early days of the Iraqi invasion and the entire book spirals from there.

Just like Tom Clancy gave us Jack Ryan and Clive Cussler gave us Dirk Pitt, Bruns and Olson gave us Brendon McHugh, a Navy Seal, complete with a well-rounded backstory and friends throughout the U.S. military and intelligence community. It’s the details where the authors really shine as both are former Navy and completely convince you the story you are reading is real and authentic in every way possible. If it wasn’t for the “fiction” tag on the book, I might’ve been convince this was a true story, ala American Sniper.

I thoroughly enjoyed Weapons of Mass Deception. Bruns and Olson are right up there with Clancy, Cussler, and Vince Flynn in terms of a military and terrorism thriller. I think this is a perfect book to start a long-running series with McHugh as a central character. Well done!


LinearShiftCompelte-ebook

I first started reading Linear Shift by Paul Kohler when he first released Part 1 as a serial installment. I loved the premise and was intrigued enough to keep reading to Part 2. I somehow got off track when Parts 3 and 4 were released, but thankfully I was able to catch up and read all four parts together with the omnibus collection of Linear Shift, which makes for an interesting and moving time travel tale.

In the book, we meet Peter Cooper, an architect whose family is falling apart. After his wife’s death, his teenage kids are struggling and Peter isn’t much better. One day Peter is offered a chance to travel to 1942 on a mission to correct a mistake during World War II. The mission would be fairly straight forward if those in charge of the mission were more honest with Peter in the first place.

There is a fair amount of action before Peter and his traveling partner Julie actually travel to the past, but the book really takes off and gets interesting once they are in the past. There are plenty of subplots in 1942 and the world is rife with different agendas between the U.S., the French (even the Vichy), the Nazis, and plenty of issues even on the American side of things. Suffice it to say, Peter and Julie don’t have an easy time in the past, but it seemed that sometimes they made it harder on themselves. I really enjoyed it and don’t even have a huge problem with a time or two that seemed a bit “Ex Machina” to me.

I think Mr. Kohler did a great job on Linear Shift and his growth as a writer is evident throughout the four installments of the story. The first few installments are good, but the fourth part (which ends up being nearly half the overall book) is by far the best. I look forward to seeing what Kohler will do next.


heretic-ebookI’d had The Heretic by Lucas Bale sitting on my bookshelf for a while, but for some reason never started reading it. I don’t know why I ever waited — The Heretic is a fantastic read and the beginnings of something special.

As I read The Heretic, I kept feeling like there was something familiar to the story and when the book ended and I read Bale’s author note where he credited the TV show Firefly with much of the inspiration, I knew the similarities were not just coincidence. Like many other sci-fi fans, I too wished the show would have continued with the adventures of Captain Mal and crew. In a way, Bale fulfills that wish with the story he gives us in The Heretic.

But this is so much deeper than a simple hour-long TV show. Bale has intertwined the Roman Empire in a dystopian post-earth setting with the Firefly homage. The galaxy is under control of an authoritarian regime, using terms straight out of ancient Rome like Consul and Praetor. Only what is approved is taught, leading to conflicts between the government and unauthorized “Preachers.”

Our main character is named Shepherd and seems straight out of the Firefly character book, which is not an unwelcome thing. He and his ship are hired to take a town and their Preacher out of danger, a situation he would naturally like to avoid, but something keeps him around — something that nags him from his past.

I really enjoyed The Heretic and have the next two books ready to go on my Kindle. Mr. Bale is a welcome addition to the sci-fi genre and I look forward to more stories from him.


The-Pearl-Diver-387x580

After reading previous books by S. Elliot Brandis in his Tunnel series, I thought I was prepared for The Pearl Diver. I was wrong. Starting a great new Young Adult series, Brandis does the unexpected, taking the reader in new directions with each step along the way.

In The Pearl Diver, we are quickly introduced to Elsie, a 17 (nearly 18) year old living on the planet Caelum, which is 96 percent water. Based on the descriptions, it seems wonderful, almost like a year-round tropical island in many respects, but Elsie longs for more, just like many young protagonists in stories like this. She wants, desperately, to be The Pearl Diver.

Caelum is one of six (or seven??) planets in the system, but each year administrators from the planet Dunamis, the head planet, organize a contest for a black pearl. The winner, if there is one, is named the Pearl Diver, and is taken to Dunamis where they are honored. The first half of the book is all about Elsie’s journey to the contest and her attempts to be the Pearl Diver, but it’s the back half of the book that really got me.

In Brandis’ previous books I’d read, he was liberal with hurting his characters physically. He literally plunged the knife in and twisted at times. In The Pearl Diver, Brandis has learned to do the same with emotions. The physical challenges and harm is still a factor, but when Elsie learns what life is like after the contest, we find the knife sticking out of our backs as well.

Well done, Mr. Brandis.

I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a larger and much broader plot Brandis has mapped out beyond the contest to find the pearl. I would definitely recommend this to any fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Susan Kaye Quinn’s latest The Legacy Human.

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