Book Review: The Afters

Two days in a row that we have Chris Connors reviews! He is a very fast reader. This one is called The Afters by Christopher O’Connell and it is the first book to a series.

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Synopsis: It’s the end of the world as we know it and Charles Gilbert Billingsworth the VIII feels just fine. Not only is he surviving the zombie apocalypse, but he’s also enjoying it too. But Charlie’s idyllic life as a daydreaming zombie killer takes a turn when he finds two lost children. One of whom is hiding an amazing, powerful secret. Meanwhile, Kalila Trout is on a quest for revenge. The only survivor of an attack by the warlord known as King George, Kalila’s vengeance is only stopped by his distinct advantage in numbers. When King George kidnaps one of Charlie’s children, Kalila finds an unlikely ally to help her get the closure she needs. But even if Kalila and Charlie manage to make it out alive, a new race of zombie might ruin everything they are fighting for.

What a good read! A real page-turner, if such a cliché can still be used for e-books. Christopher O’Connell’s writing reminded me of Chuck Wendig’s writings as found in his post-apocalyptic book series, Double Dead. He channels some of the best of Wendig’s qualities in his writing; O’Connell has a knack of rounding out his characters in your imagination without the need for long descriptive paragraphs that interrupt the story; the pace of the action is enough to keep you hooked, but not so repetitive that is like an interminable Hollywood car chase; and the dialogue/internal monologues are tinged with dark humor and witty wordplay without taking away from the realism of post-apocalyptic life.

Charles/Charlie/Chuck is a tough, resourceful, smart and likable character, who finds himself better suited for life in the apocalypse. As an aside, I wondered if Chuck’s name was a homage to Chuck Wendig himself given the similar styles?

Connell also handles backstory flashbacks deftly, inserting them into the main narrative at points that feel like natural breaks in rhythm, while still maintaining the tension of the plot.

Given how well-plumbed the zombie apocalypse genre is it is hard for writers to breathe new life into some of the tired old tropes. No matter what an author writes there will be someone who has already at least partly covered it. Chuck’s rules for staying alive reminded me a bit of Columbus’s rules in the movie Zombieland (2009). Some zombies are capable of intelligent thought and organization (I Am Legend movie remake); however, like any good author, he finds the small things that make the world his. E.g. his zombies aren’t dead or undead—they’re alive, feel pain, and can die from regular wounds. Such a small difference, but it seems to alter the novel in a way that is his.

The story eventually leads to a big showdown, which had me e-flipping through the pages fast as I could read. There is then a secondary climax after the resolution of the first. I thought perhaps some of this could have been written into a second book rather than trying to cram it into the last 15% of this book. However, I learned that this is just Book 1 so this exciting development from the second showdown will continue on with Book 2.

If this first book of his is typical of what he can do I’m hoping he’ll make a bigger name for himself like the way other writers (e.g., John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire under her Mira Grant name, and the aforementioned Wendig). A hearty 5/5 stars for this book and I hope to see much more writing from Christopher O’Connell.

Book Rating: 5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.


There is a new book on the block that I am promoting. This one is called Justice Gone by Nick Lombardi. Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. You can get it here: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1785358766/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_ca-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641

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Book Review: Foiled by Carey Fessler

New book review alert! We have delved into the world of middle-grade books this time. Presented here is a book called Foiled by Carey Fessler.

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Synopsis: It’s 1947 on a U.S. Army base near Roswell, New Mexico, and eleven-year-old Kate’s friend and neighbor, Billy, shows her a secret. A CIA agent arrives at Billy’s house, to recover the Top Secret items, and threatens the family, warning them to never talk about the incident—ever. Special Agent Falco informs them of their sudden reassignment to Germany. Billy, not wanting to move to Germany or return his treasures, begs Kate for help. Feisty and fiercely loyal, she agrees to hide him.

Thus begins a most unusual road trip in which the two friends use their wits, their knowledge of the terrain and geography around the base, and sheer determination to evade capture. Kate must also reach her grandfather, more than two hundred miles away, and warn him how the secret poses a dangerous threat … to anyone involved.

Their race has begun, and there’s no turning back.

This was an average middle-grade book. It had likable characters, despicable villains and quite an adventure through different parts of New Mexico. I was kept entertained all the way through it with Billy and Kate’s antics. They bantered back and forth just like two young kids would and it was fun to experience this kind of honesty and childlike innocence.

It was set in the 1940s and had all these references to things that are a part of our history (especially baseball and comic books). I identified with Billy as a child because, like him, I would read comic books and want to be just like the superheroes/protagonists of the adventure.

There were some parts of the book where I would think that they should be a little more descriptive of the scene but this could have been because of the nature of it being a middle-grade book. The author was just making it easier for kids to understand and in turn, this would keep them from losing interest in the novel.

Overall, I think it is a genuine adventure book that would be fun for kids to read when they are experiencing books for the first time and just starting to explore the world of literature. It just gets better and better the more you open your world to reading!

Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads or the Author’s Website.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by the author in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: The Demeter Code

Sara Mac is hitting us up with another review over here. She finished the trilogy she was working on. This was called the Demeter Code by Russell Brooks.

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Synopsis: When two American embassies in northern Africa are bombed, CIA operatives, Ridley Fox and Nita Parris, are assigned to track down the perpetrators. However, when their top asset is killed in a failed op, the agents suspect that there may be a new threat. Their search for the truth puts them on a collision course with a powerful multinational—which will go to extreme lengths to bury its criminal activities. However, the agents soon learn that someone with a personal vendetta against that company not only knows their secrets but will expose them in a way that could result in the largest single-day attack against America.

Unfortunately, this book is disappointing.

I enjoy the action scenes, and the concepts seem to be unique, so I like that too.

But I don’t really like anything else. Reading the ebook version, there are A LOT of weird errors, that may be due to conversion. There are bits of text inserted in the middle of words every three pages or so (the first book had this as well), and the entirety of chapter 18 is missing. Just gone. So I was really confused when chapter 19 started, as apparently chapter 18 had a lot going on.

This whole book feels like you’re dropped in the middle of a movie with no idea what’s going on. New characters pop up constantly like we should know who they are, with zero character development. There are connections between characters and organizations that aren’t fleshed out – I think there might be several double agents but I honestly can’t keep track.

Unfortunately, the whole book just feels choppy and as if no one read through it for consistency. I’m confused! And I really wanted to like it for the engaging action scenes, but that’s about the only redeeming quality. Sorry!

Book Rating:  2/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give an honest review.


If you would like some middle grade adventure stories, check out Foiled by Carey Fessler!

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Book Review: Unsavory Delicacies

We have Sara’s first review of the new year ready to share with you. This was the second book in a series that she started in 2018. Let’s see what she had to say about it.

*Also check out her Etsy store Adorkable Lil Crafties to see what she makes in her spare time*

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Synopsis: Rogues, Russians, Revenge…The Ingredients of a Three Course Meal.

Crème Brûlée

Rogue operative, Monique Beauvais, cons a software genius into selling her a coveted technology that would allow its user to control CIA drones while they’re in flight. And she will go as far as killing him in public in order to have it.

To the Last Bite

A renowned food critic–whose scathing reviews have closed down restaurants–gets a savoury surprise.

Shashlyk and Morezhenoe

CIA operative, Ridley Fox, leads a team against one of Russia’s most powerful crime families. He discovers secrets, but not one that he was expecting to find.

Three stories with three consequences. All containing three Unsavory Delicacies.

This collection of three short stories follow Ridley Fox, a spy operative we were introduced to in Brooks’ first novel. Mostly.

SPOILER HERE
In the first short, we have an agent attempting to kill her supplier for some tech, only to discover that the supplier is actually Fox in disguise, and takes down the agent in her own apartment.

In the second short, a food critic is killed by a chef whose food he actually enjoys, for stealing his girlfriend and giving him a terrible review in the past. No sign of Fox in this one, so who knows why this was included in the collection.

In the third, Fox is undercover attempting to find some important files from a Mobster who owns a restaurant. He gets away with it only because he manages to take down one bodyguard which apparently terrifies the Mobster into submission.

I’m not exactly sure what this collection is supposed to be FOR. One of the stories doesn’t include Fox, and none of them include Parris, who is supposedly the other main character. Overall the stories seem like introductions to what could be a more interesting larger story, so maybe they’re a hint of what’s to be in the third book? They also don’t do much to make me like Fox as a character any more than I did after the first book, as he seems to just be an arrogant ass, which might be the point. I personally like at least a couple redeeming qualities in my main narrators, but that might just be me.

I’m interested to see what Brooks will do for the next book, and I hope that it’s a full-length story like Pandora’s Succession. I ALMOST liked that book, and I feel like Brooks has potential as an author if he can use some more original dialogue and plot points. There are some pretty major cliches here that make it feel like you’ve read these ideas in another form already.


Book Rating:
2/5

You can buy the book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.

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Book Review: Pandora’s Succession + Giveaway Winner

A new review by our external reviewer Sara MacTaylor for a book called Pandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks is ready to be read. Don’t forget to check out Sara’s Giftshop for some gift ideas for Christmas!

Pandora's Succession by Russell Brooks

Synopsis: CIA operative, Ridley Fox, never stopped hunting his fiancée’s killers—a weapons consortium called The Arms Of Ares. When Fox follows a lead to one of their top-secret bioweapons facilities in Chechnya, he barely escapes alive. However, he’s learned that Ares has weaponized a hyper-deadly microbe called Pandora. The trail leads Fox to Tokyo, where he teams up with an old flame and fellow operative, Nita Parris. Aside from Ares, they must contend with rogue agents who’ll stop at nothing to get Pandora. This throws Fox and Parris into a deadly game of spy vs spy, as they must rely on each other to locate the microbe. For if it’s unleashed, it could mean the end of humanity.

This book was a great first start to the series. The novel follows the main character, Ridley Fox, a secret agent, as he works to stop two separate rivaling organizations fighting for control over a deadly substance that would wipe out humanity. There are many twists and turns along the way, a variety of characters and organizations and locations.

Unfortunately, there is almost TOO much going on sometimes, especially at the beginning. I found it a little difficult to remember which character was which and which double agents worked for which organization, etc. I eventually got it sorted about halfway through the book and was able to enjoy it more.
The action is entertaining and I was eager to see where the story went, and I’ll be happily reading the next book in the series. I would like to see the story and the characters fleshed out more and think that this book is a great start to the series, and has set itself up well to continue the action and entertainment.

Book Rating:4/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and leave a rating on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in e-book format by the author to read and give an honest review.

Giveaway Winner: Trish Carlson


There is also another book on the block that you should check out if you haven’t heard of it yet. It is called Addicted To Hate by Lucia Mann and it is a great one! You can find it on Amazon or on her website: www.luciamann.com!

Addicted to Hate - Front Cover


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Book Review: Forgotten Soldiers

Woop woop its Wednesday! Made it halfway through the week 🙂 We have another review for you from our external reviewer Joseph Harrison. This one is called Forgotten Soldiers by Neal Sayatovich.

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SUMMARY:
If you like a story with lots of blood and gore, this story has it and more. The Templars Reborn have taken over America and forced everyone to accept their religion. Ten years
later Magnum or Mag for short is a councilman for a group fighting the Templars. He and his friends Mitchell and Michael raid a Templar weapons cache and are successful only through dumb luck. Mag’s exploits are heard about and he gets invited to another grove in New Hampshire where he meets up with Jace and Rachael. They also meet up with someone named Barclay who is with a group known as the Freelancers, another group fighting the Templars. They raid a prison in Canada where high profile prisoners are brought, but they find no one there. The two main prisoners are Annabelle Carson, whose father James was a high-profile Templar and whose uncle was Barclay. Alex Thompson, daughter to Charles Thompson, is the other prisoner. After the Canadian raid, Mag gets kicked out of his “grove” in Maine and some others in the group join him. They form their own resistance against the Templars. Mag falls in love with Alex. We are also told his real name was Nathan Walsh and he is hiding a secret that he keeps from the others, especially from Alex. There are many fights and skirmishes outlined in gory
detail. I don’t want to reveal what happens in the end so you will have to read it :).

The plot was pretty good, but I couldn’t get over the numerous grammar errors and unbelievable circumstances and outcomes the characters encounter. The main character didn’t come across very sympathetic; by the second or third chapter, he had already killed numerous people. All the characters either smoked or drank heavily and almost every page someone was either drinking or getting drunk or lighting up a cigarette.

CONS:
Just about every chapter has a detailed firefight. It was a little boring after a while. I think the author should have kept the fight scenes to a minimum and explained more in detail about the Templar philosophy and some of the characters. There are some storylines that are completely unbelievable; for instance; Mag seems like he falls in love with Alex before he even talks to her. The Mag/Nathan Walsh character was complicated, but some of the reasons he chose his courses of action were not explained. His mother killed his father and he blamed the Templars for this so why did he join the Templars? Editing was very poor. There were many grammar errors including word usage, incomplete sentences, capitalization, verb-noun disagreement.

PROS:
It read easily, I didn’t have a hard time with any of the concepts or plot developments. The details on some of the fight scenes were pretty realistic. The biggest appeal for me was finding out what was going to happen next in the story. On this point, the author did a good job of keeping me in suspense.

FAVORITE QUOTE: Barclay brushed him on the way to the parking lot, “I am checking out now.” In the scene, he had just blown up the room he was in, so it was funny in a sadistic type of way.

Book Rating: 2.5/5

You can find this book on Amazon!

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format to read and give an honest review.


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Book Review: Vanished by Mark Bierman

I’m back bookworms and I have a new review for you! I will be posting about the Iceland trip a little later when I have gone through my photos. I read this book while traveling in Iceland. It is called Vanished by Mark Bierman and it was pretty good. The book cover was cool too. This is a huge thing in my eyes. I believe that every book deserves an eye-catching book cover.

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Synopsis: Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those. Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

This book was very interesting. Every scene moved quickly but it kept the plot moving along and it made it so that the storyline never really had a dull pause. It’s funny because one of the main characters is named John Webster and I actually know a John Webster 😛

The book brings light to a huge issue. Human Trafficking. It is such a big problem in 3rd world countries and it’s brutal because a lot of the human trafficking is children that are stolen or kidnapped off the street and thrown into slavery. In this book, the main characters are trying to save a young girl who has been kidnapped and put into slavery. So many people would turn a blind eye to it and say that there is no hope and she is gone but not John and Tyler. They go through a lot to find this girl and see unimaginable things that are genuinely upsetting but very real. There are a lot of cool characters introduced along the way and the story is told from all different perspectives that intertwine by the end.

The only thing I didn’t really like about the book was that there are some characters that are introduced and it seems like there will be more to them but then they are just dropped and out of the story, never to be heard of again. It only happened with one or two characters but I would have liked to hear more about their part in the whole thing.

Overall, it was an action-packed adventure that will have you on your toes from start to finish.

Book rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author to read and give an honest review.


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Book review: The Mark of Wu – Hidden Paths

Another book completed and added to the library. Another review to be read 🙂

I finished The Mark of Wu: Hidden Paths by Stephen M. Gray. The book was actually pretty good. Picture Mulan but the male character from that movie and instead of being G rated, it’s more of an R rating.

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I will post the synopsis in case you didn’t read my book highlight post.

Synopsis: Yuan, a State of Chu warrior, stands front and center on his chariot, reins in hand, holding at bay a spirited team of horses. He is anxious for a chance to unleash his rage on the invading Wu barbarians in the battle before him. His eyes fix enviously on a fellow soldier, a halberdier who extends his hooked weapon over the shoulder of an enemy who desperately sprints away from the charging chariot. Yuan knows the result before it happens. The wicked blade rips through flesh and muscle, and sinks into the enemy’s collar bone as screams echo off the Dabie Shan Mountains.

Yuan glances toward Field Marshall Wei Yue, thirsting for the order to charge into the fray. He needs this fight to restore his family’s honor. But on the march to battle, Chu’s brilliant General Yang Gai dies, and the less capable Wei Yue snatches control. Can the newly anointed Field Marshall rise to the challenge?

The Emperor has lost his grip on the feudal States, and brutal rivalries, both new and old, now rule. Individual States constantly collide, and noblemen must rise in power to overcome the crushing will of warring factions. Only two outcomes are possible – prevail or perish.

Yuan finds himself catapulted into the throes of treacherous enemies, not only on the battlefield but also at home. This superior warrior will need all his skill and cunning to stay alive.

So this book was an adventure packed thrill ride. I normally am not the biggest fan of history but this book turned China history lessons into intense action war scenes that made you want to know more about how and why the different clans were fighting and how they became these badass armies. I will say that there are some parts that over explained instead of getting to the point but this book is still worth reading. The storyline and characters make up for the over descriptive parts.

Now the characters were all very well rounded and the author gave you just the right amount of background for each to be a relevant part of the story. Prince Kuang and Yuan were my two favorite characters. They are adversaries and both possess the talent and strategy for war tactics.

One thing I did notice it’s that this book is kind of like Game of Thrones in the sense that you can’t keep any characters near and dear to your heart. The reason being is because at any minute they could be killed off. I don’t know how many times when I was reading this book that I would say, “hmm I really like this character” and then the next chapter they would get murdered or killed in some other way. Personally, I think this adds to the book and makes it more cinematic 😛

I would recommend this book if you want an intense action book with really cool fight scenes and smart battle strategists.

You can find the book on Amazon.

Book Rating: 4/5

Disclaimer: I was sent this book by the author’s publishing company for an honest review. 

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What is your favourite book of all time?

Well it’s finally here, last day of the book challenge! I honestly have to think really hard for this one because there are so many books that I love. I know it only says one book but I am choosing two favourite books because I want to :P. My two faves which everyone has heard me talk about already so I won’t make this post long, are The Hunger Games by Suzanna Collins and Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

I’m sure you have heard me talk about both of these books enough so we will leave it that and you know they are my favourite. I’m kind of sad that the book challenge is over because I enjoyed doing it so much so I guess I will have to find another challenge to do between book reviews.

You can find the books on Amazon here:

I should have a review coming soon for a book full of ghost short stories that was sent to me by STORGY of stay tuned! Also let me know what your favourite book of all time is in the comments below 🙂 Oh and on a cheery note, my blog received 500 likes so thank you to everyone who is supporting me and reading the blog! I really appreciate it guys.

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