Blood & Sawdust by Jason Ridler

Tough and smart at thirteen-years-old, Malcolm knew the illegal fight game like a pro, making bets and staying alive one day at a time. But nothing prepared him for Milkwood: a fat, ugly bastard who could take a beating like a government mule, but never, ever won. So when Malcolm risks his life to discover Milkwood’s secret, he convinces the fighter to stop being a punching bag and to go for broke in the local tournament. Only problem? A beautiful woman called Lash who needs Milkwood for her own purposes, and a fouler creature on her heels known only as Dizzy Colt. But for Malcolm and Milkwood? Hell, it’s just another day of Blood and Sawdust.
Blood & Sawdust is an original take on the tried and tested vampire fiction. We’re not dealing with forbidden love between humans and vampires here or a lone hunter dealing with a vampire coven but instead it’s a coming of age story about two young men overcoming the trauma of their troubled pasts.

The story focuses on Malcom, a streetwise kid and Milkwood, a fat, ugly underground fighter who is beaten to a pulp every night. After Milkwood saves Malcom’s life from vicious assailants, Malcom learns that that there are in fact more to Milkwood than everyone realise. From this point on Malcom makes it his mission to turn Milkwood around and make him the sort of fighter Malcom knows Milkwood can be. However before Milkwood can become the champion in Malcom’s eyes, Lash, a mysterious lady from Milkwood’s past shows up with a monster in her wake.

What makes this story shine is the friendship between Malcom and Milkwood. Malcom helps Milkwood discover what was missing in his life and Milkwood gives Malcom the strength to face his nightmares. The two of them push each either onwards no matter how dire the circumstances are.
With this novel, Ridler has created two endearing characters that will stay with you long after you’re finished with this story.

The inclusion of underground MMA fights give this story extra intensity and a sense of grittiness. The brutal and gory fight scenes are bound to make you wince as Milkwood takes one bloody beating after another and you will come to root for this underdog.

Ridler writes in an engrossing style that makes his characters on the pages come alive and the depiction of a less than perfect vampire is a refreshing change from the vampire fiction out there at the moment. A highly enjoyable read for anyone who is looking for a vampire novel with a different twist.

Blood of the Zombies by Ian Livingstone

Terrible things are happening in Goraya castle…

Insane megalomaniac Gingrich Yurr is preparing to unleash an army of monstrous zombies upon the world. He must be stopped and his undead horde defeated. In this life-or-death adventure the decisions YOU make will decide the fate of the world. Can YOU survive or will YOU become a zombie too?
I’ve been taking a break from writing book reviews. Before I get back into the swing of things, I’ll post a brief review of one of my favourite type of books, the “Choose your own adventures”. For those who don’t know, one of the most popular series of choose your own adventures is Fighting Fantasy by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the same people who are responsible for Games Workshop and Tomb Raider. Blood of the Zombies was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary since the publication of the first Fighting Fantasy novel, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

In Blood of the Zombies, you’ve been kidnapped and sold to a megalomaniac who wants to build an army of zombies to exact revenge of those who mocked him. Now you must find a way to escape from the castle before you too are turned into one of the undeads. The story itself is nothing special, I’ve read better Fighting Fantasy stories to be honest but it has a certain old school charm about it.

I read/played through this on the Android app. What I like about the app is that you can pick a difficulty level to reflect how you might play (cheat) in the real life counterpart. On the easy setting, you have the ability to heal yourself whenever you want, go back to the previous decision and unlock any option even if you do not possess the required item and on the hard setting, you must survive the whole adventure on limited health. Luckily you’re given unlimited bookmarks so you can go back should your decision turn out to be unfavourable or a fight didn’t turn out as you hoped.

The difficulty of the book is tougher than I thought. I started off with the medium setting and kept dying to hordes of zombies so I resorted to the easy setting and cheated my way through. Even though I’ve completed it once on the easy setting, I think it will take a miracle to replicate the same success on the hard setting.

I wish there’s an option to switch weapons so I don’t have to waste my shotgun shells on one or two zombies but luckily in my playthroughs so far there’s been just enough ammo.

This was a great nostalgia trip and it was fun to play through the story despite how difficult it can be. For sure, it will take me a while to complete all of the achievements in the app. PS: before finishing this article, I wanna say thanks to Sarah, a mom & pet blogger, who gave me this book. Let’s visit the latest article on her blog – reviews on best outdoor cat house & shelter!

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
The Rook is yet another ambitious urban fantasy set in the sunny shores of Britain. It has secret government organisations, conspiracies, surprising twists and quirky characters that by all accounts should have been something that I would have loved. However the thing that bothered me most is the tongue-in-cheek attitude that the author employs in most situations. It would have been brilliant if used sparingly but right now it feels like the author is just showing off how clever he is. I mean if you are a high ranking official in a secret US government agency, would you really act like as if you’re a character in Legally Blonde or Clueless? The answer is no, it just doesn’t fit.

If you overlook that fault, the book is actually pretty fun. The concept of the story and the strength of its characters are both top notch. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Myfanwy Thomas and the gradual revelation of this secret world with its secret government agencies really gets you hooked on the story. It was a delight to read about the inner workings of the Checquy, the department responsible for overseeing the supernatural events both within Britain and abroad.

At first the letters from Myfanwy’s previous self, felt a bit like the story was told by the voice of god. Whenever the current Myfanwy encounters a conundrum, she would open a letter and, lo and behold, the previous Myfanwy would have written a letter detailing the steps she should take. I would have preferred more showing and less telling but this kind of storytelling grew on me as the story progressed. Many of these self-addressed letters are chock-full of background information that doesn’t move the story forward but I enjoyed reading them nonetheless.

Although Myfanwy comes off a little ditzy at times, she does make a pretty convincing heroine. In fact, she reminds me a little of the early years of Buffy. When it’s time to get down to business there is no holding her back and the new Myfanwy will see it through to the very end.

Despite not enjoying the author’s humour as much, I can’t deny that this is an entertaining novel. A real page turner that shows off just how much skill and wild imagination that the author has. I will of course look forward to the sequel but I just hope that O’Malley can turn down the silliness a tad with the next book.

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one…

Myke Cole’s Control Point was one of my favourite debuts last year. It had action, a sophisticated magic system and most importantly characters that you care about. Now with the sequel Fortress Frontier, Cole has done the impossible and produced an even better novel. Not only are we introduced to a new lead character Colonel Alan Bookbinder, which I’m sorry to say has overtaken my love for Oscar Britton, but Cole has also greatly expanded the world as well as enhanced the magic system.

The thing that annoyed me the most in Control Point was Oscar Britton’s indecisiveness. One moment he would root for the US government and next he would condemn them for their actions. For a soldier, he sure doesn’t like to follow orders. However with Bookbinder, you have a true war hero. Cole does a marvellous job painting Bookbinder as a reluctant leader, an unlikely hero that brings people together in times of need. Colonel Bookbinder has never seen any action as he’s been pushing paper his entire career and when the Colonel suddenly finds himself in charge, he does the only thing he can which was to fake it until he made it. In the end the base was saved because of Bookbinder’s decisive actions.

Oscar on the other hand is on the run with his group after wrecking the Forward Operating Base and cutting it off from the Home Plane. While Oscar’s transformation in this book is less spectacular than Colonel Bookbinder, his need to do the right thing and his sense of honour is still very admirable. Even though his character takes a backseat in this book, Oscar still lights up the scene whenever he appears on the page.

In Fortress Frontier we learn that Americans are not the only force to have a presence in the Source. The Sahir Corps, India’s counterpart to SOC has also established a base in the magical plane. Bookbinder’s suicidal trek across the Source to the Indian base allows Cole to reveal all sort of creatures that he has been hiding from us. When you get the book, remember to pay attention to the gorgeous map drawn by Priscilla Spencer.

A sequel that focuses on an entirely new character would put the fear in most authors. Will it confuse the fans? Will this new character hold its weight? With Fortress Frontier Cole proves that he has the skill and ability to pull it off. I’m sure anyone reading this book would come to love Bookbinder in the end.

Fortress Frontier is a superb follow up to the series and like its predecessor, full of non-stop action and entertainment. Based on these two outstanding books I have complete faith the Cole will continue to do a brilliant job in the next book Breach Zone.

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. All par for the course for Chicago’s only professional wizard. But in all of Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble-and not just of the door-slamming, ‘boo’–shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone–or something–is stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself.

The previous two books in the Dresden File series were very episodic. Cases were started, monsters were met, but luckily Harry Dresden came to save the day and everyone went home happy. This monster of the week style does make for some fun reading but I desired more. Many people have said that the third book is the turning point in the series and things will begin to heat up. While this third book still uses the same formula, I’m glad that there are finally hints to a greater story arc.

The majority of Grave Peril deals with the ghosts that are terrorising Chicago. Someone or something is stirring up the spirits and is targeting Harry’s associates. At the same time, the vampires have invited Harry to a masquerade celebrating the elevation of Madame Bianca, who you might remember from Storm Front, to Margravine of the Red Court of vampires. Harry knows that something is up but he couldn’t have guessed the impact of this vampire ball will have on his life.

One of the things I enjoy in this book are the new characters. Michael Carpenter is a Knight of the Cross and battles monster with his giant sword Amoracchius. Like all the magic in Dresden Files, the more you believe in something, the more powerful the magic effect will be. Being a devout Christian, Michael’s faith naturally becomes his armour and when vampires touch him, they will automatically burst into flame. Michael complements Harry nicely and often guides Harry to do the right thing.

Another interesting character is Harry’s faerie godmother, Leanansidhe or Lea for short. Harry had made a pact with her when he was younger and now she has shown up to claim what he owes her. She makes Harry’s life miserable as soon as she comes on the page and I wonder how far she would go to make Harry honour his pact.

My only issue with the books I’ve read is that the world building still feels like your usual urban fantasy setting. The monsters are still rather bland and forgettable. So far, Butcher has done some great work on his leading characters but the villains require much more work. I guess the plot formula doesn’t allow much room to add depth to those characters.

Although this book still hasn’t won me over on the series yet, I appreciate the new direction that Butcher is heading to with this book. The series is definitely improving as it reveals more of the world with each book. The one thing I can say for sure is that it is fun to read these books and I can understand why there is such a huge demand for this series.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
Rivers of London is Aaronovitch’s fun and humourous take on the urban fantasy genre. It’s got a little bit of everything in it, an unsolved murder; magic; alternate history; ghosts and gods. What this novel did well in is combining all these different elements to create an amusing and fresh look into London. However this very same decision means that the story tries to be a bit of everything and in the end none of it made a big impact on me.

Rivers of London follows probationary policeman PC Peter Grant who is working on the streets of London. By chance a ghost gives Peter insights into a mysterious murder and suddenly Peter finds himself assigned to the only wizard in the entire police force. Peter might not the brightest copper but his heart is in the right place. What he lacks in judgement and experience, he makes up for it with hard work. In one scene, Peter has to intervene between two feuding river gods and Aaronovitch uses Peter’s eagerness and awkwardness to great comedic effect. Peter’s voice in the book matches his character perfectly as it really captures the whole fish out of water concept when Peter finds himself thrust into this alternate London that not many people knows about.

While I did enjoy Peter as a character, what failed to impress me was the plot for the book. The first half is wonderful as we follow Peter around, discovering a whole new side of London that few people knew about. We learn that Newton is not only responsible for defining the laws of motion but also that of magic. Instead of building on top of this foundation, the second half focuses on the crime investigation aspect of the novel, which was so dry that I needed a re-read to remind myself how the crime was solved.

Although I wasn’t that impressed with the plot, I did find Peter’s narration charming and the interaction between Peter and Inspector Nightingale more than makes up for the disappointments. I think the Rivers of London/Peter Grant series is a bit like the Dresden Files in that it gets better as the series progresses and with each novel sucks you a little further into its world. Rivers of London remains a fun book to read and I’m interested to see how Peter will end up in the later books.

The Burning Bush

After Dante Bottelli’s slaughter of Vamp-owned Mixbreeds, Lanore and Zulu execute a well-planned attack that hits Dante where it hurts the most—his pockets. But their attack triggers a chain of unfortunate events, and allows Detective Rivera to blackmail Lanore.

Rivera forces Lanore to investigate his case, the Burning Bush Murders. Someone’s been tying girls to bushes and setting them on fire. Lanore must find the killer, or Rivera goes public with his information.

Meanwhile, Dante won’t take his defeat without a fight. He counterattacks and the Santeria habitat, as well as Lanore’s and Zulu’s lives, are changed forever.

I read the outstanding Fire Baptized, the first book in the Habitat series, back at the beginning of the year. I was impressed by Wright’s ability to weave both mystery and supernatural genre so effortlessly together and was also captivated by the lore and mythology of the world she created. The second book builds on top of this strong foundation and introduces the reader to even more of Santeria’s history. What I also liked are the inequalities and struggles of the mixbreeds are brought to the forefront and are now a focal point of the story.

The Burning Bush begins shortly after the events in Fire Baptized and Lanore is once again caught up in a murder investigation. This time, Detective Rivera has charged her to look into the death of a rich girl who was found stuck to a burning bush in the the middle of the police station forecourt. Little did she know her investigation would dig up the sordid past of one of the most powerful Supenaturals in Santeria. To make matters worse, her relationships with Zulu and Meshack are getting even more complicated and there are elements within the Rebels who want to see her dead.

This was another good read. I really like how Wright incorporates the theme of inequality into her stories. In her world, the Supernaturals lost a war with the humans and are left to live in caged cities known as Habitats. However not all Supernaturals are equal and the lowest of them all are the Mixbreeds who are born without any power and are used as playthings by everyone. The Mixbreeds are looked down upon and deemed not able to achieve anything in their life. When they do work, they have to take on the most unpleasant jobs that no one else would do. No one in the society cares for Mixbreeds except for Lanore, Zulu and their MFE who are demanding fair treatment for the Mixies.

The plot is just as strong as before with a good mystery to keep you hooked from beginning to the end. More of Santeria’s background is revealed in the story but you never felt overwhelmed as Wright perfectly balances the pace of the book with just the right amount of world building. The introduction of Zulu’s half-sister Cassie was a good choice as her character brings a playfulness to the story and offsets some of the grimness of the world.

The only thing that I thought was a little too much was the romance in this book. In Fire Baptized, the book is primarily urban fantasy with a dash of romance but in The Burning Bush, the love triangle just got way out of hand at times.

All in all, The Burning Bush is a solid follow up to the Habitat series. If you enjoyed the first book then you would not be disappointed by this. It’s always a pleasure to read a story where the author has obviously invested much time and effort in creating a world with rich, diverse background and history. I look forward to reading the next chapter in the Habitat series.

Other books in the series

Cover Art! Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

Myke Cole just released the UK cover art for Fortress Frontier, the second book in his Shadow Ops series. This is another amazing piece from Larry Rostant. Gorgeous isn’t it? In case you missed it, you can also see the US version of the cover below.


I just finished reading the sequel and all I can say for now is that there’s more of everything that you love in the first book. There will be a more detailed review closer to the book’s launch date in three months’ time. In the meantime, check out the blurb for Fortress Frontier:

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one…

The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm

Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.
Dead Harvest is one of the best supernatural debuts to come out this year. An explosive thriller that gave us Sam Thorton, a body hopping soul collector who just happens to be the lynchpin of the Apocalypse. Sam was given a nigh on impossible task and must see it through while caught in between the manipulations of both angels and demons. A fantastic action packed story that had all the elements of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie!

In The Wrong Goodbye, Sam Thornton is back once again collecting the souls of evildoers. We’re quickly thrust into the situation when the soul Sam was meant to collect ends up missing and the person responsible is an old buddy of Sam’s. Now Sam must find and inter the soul before his own is blast into nothingness by an angry and ancient god. Joined by a dead mobster and a transsexual fortune teller, Sam takes the road across America as he searches for the missing soul. Sounds like an odd combination right? But you just have to read it to believe it.

You would be glad to know that the thrill and tension that you enjoyed so much in the debut is back and dare I say it, even better in this book. The recently deceased small time mobster, Gio, provides much of the comic relief in this book and makes a good contrast to Sam who can be a little too serious and grim at times. The mythology of the world is further expanded in The Wrong Goodbye and now we realise there are other entities besides angels and demons at play.

The book also references to skirmishes between angels and demons across the world as a result of the events in the first book. To me, it feels like the final book in the trilogy will be about the forthcoming Apocalypse, so I wonder why the angels and demons take a backseat in this book? Although I would have liked a stronger apocalyptic theme in this book, the story here still satisfied my appetite.

You don’t need to have read Dead Harvest to enjoy The Wrong Goodbye as the story neatly fills in any gaps that you may have. If you really haven’t read the first book then you should definitely get it now. This action packed novel will keep you reading late into the night and provide hours of entertainment. An irresistible treat for all the urban fantasy fans out there. Now that much of the mythology and groundwork has been laid, I look forward to the finale when the end of days draws near!

The Collector Series: Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye

The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm

Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.
Dead Harvest is one of the best supernatural debuts to come out this year. An explosive thriller that gave us Sam Thorton, a body hopping soul collector who just happens to be the lynchpin of the Apocalypse. Sam was given a nigh on impossible task and must see it through while caught in between the manipulations of both angels and demons. A fantastic action packed story that had all the elements of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie!

In The Wrong Goodbye, Sam Thornton is back once again collecting the souls of evildoers. We’re quickly thrust into the situation when the soul Sam was meant to collect ends up missing and the person responsible is an old buddy of Sam’s. Now Sam must find and inter the soul before his own is blast into nothingness by an angry and ancient god. Joined by a dead mobster and a transsexual fortune teller, Sam takes the road across America as he searches for the missing soul. Sounds like an odd combination right? But you just have to read it to believe it.

You would be glad to know that the thrill and tension that you enjoyed so much in the debut is back and dare I say it, even better in this book. The recently deceased small time mobster, Gio, provides much of the comic relief in this book and makes a good contrast to Sam who can be a little too serious and grim at times. The mythology of the world is further expanded in The Wrong Goodbye and now we realise there are other entities besides angels and demons at play.

The book also references to skirmishes between angels and demons across the world as a result of the events in the first book. To me, it feels like the final book in the trilogy will be about the forthcoming Apocalypse, so I wonder why the angels and demons take a backseat in this book? Although I would have liked a stronger apocalyptic theme in this book, the story here still satisfied my appetite.

You don’t need to have read Dead Harvest to enjoy The Wrong Goodbye as the story neatly fills in any gaps that you may have. If you really haven’t read the first book then you should definitely get it now. This action packed novel will keep you reading late into the night and provide hours of entertainment. An irresistible treat for all the urban fantasy fans out there. Now that much of the mythology and groundwork has been laid, I look forward to the finale when the end of days draws near!

The Collector Series: Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye

Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood

Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire the Slayer in this original urban fantasy eBook about Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture. Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?
“If Buffy hooked up with Doctor Who while on board the Serenity, this book would be their lovechild. In other words, GEEKOMANCY is full of epic win.” – Marie Lu, author of Legend series. Honestly with that kind of endorsement, can any geek pass on this book?

Well Geekomancy is definitely a book written by a geek for geeks. It is a fun and entertaining story that combines what we love most about popular culture with a light-hearted mystery. I’m sure all geeks would love to have Ree’s power in the story, which is Genre Emulation. With Genre Emulation, Ree gains power by watching TV shows and movies and the more she identifies with the characters the stronger her power gets.

From a geek’s point of view, I love the little references and mentions littered throughout the book and the sudden aha moments that you get when you recognise where that line comes from. I also love the creativity and the way Underwood blends the source materials together in the story.

However from a reader’s point of view, the constant barrage of irrelevant references is distracting and feels like they are there simply to gain geek cred rather than to move the story along. To me the references feel forced, unlike in Ready Player One, where it happens naturally and all mentions to things like Dungeons and Dragons, WarGames and Joust are all necessary because they are integral parts of the story.

Since Ree’s case has a supernatural element to it, I thought a show such as Supernatural would fit perfectly as who can understand situation like this better than the hunters Sam and Dean Winchester? Instead the show was mentioned in a throwaway line and we see Ree stumble along with a bunch of fun but not terribly useful abilities.

I like magic systems with some type of rule, otherwise you can create any solution that you see fit in the story. And in some ways the magic in Geekomancy feels just like that. There are powerful magic artifacts just because they are somehow related to Popular Culture and there is magic for anything under the SFF sun, there’s even one that draws power from Bromance… Yeah it’s fun to read but theGeekomancy world just feels too chaotic and shallow to me.

To put it simply, if you are a geek then you will like this book because of the big fan service it provides. The story is a little uneven at times and even with the flaws I mentioned, the overall story has kept me entertained. It might not be the best thing that’s ever happened in the Geekdom but I’ll definitely recommended it to any geek that is looking for a light humourous read.

Feng Shui Assassin by Adrian Hall

HARVEY BARKER
is an assassin on the trail of the trustees of the Valentine Trust determined to avenge the death of his sister. He kills through the use of feng shui – the placing of objects to create negative karma.

DC AMANDA MORGAN
is investigating a suicide and other bizarre accidents, following a trail that makes no sense but that keeps turning up bodies.

FENG SHUI
With knowledge and wisdom ch’i can be used for beneficial and fortuitous practice.

But there are some who use ch’i for a darker purpose.
Feng Shui and Assassin are not two words that you would normally associate with each other but the book Feng Shui Assassin gives this concept a good go and brings a new angle to the ancient Chinese believe of Feng Shui. This book is essentially a tale of revenge and reminds me of those classic Hong Kong Wuxia movies, a little silly at times but extremely entertaining to read.

Harvey Barker is the aforementioned assassin in the book and he is killing off the people who are responsible for his sister’s death by using Feng Shui. The idea of using Feng Shui to cause death is a neat idea but my only gripe is that the effects happened too damn fast. Harvey managed to cause one of his targets to commit suicide in the space of a few minutes just by offsetting some pictures and paperwork. If Feng Shui is so powerful then there would be many more people winning the lottery instantly because of how they dressed or how their rooms are laid out.

Anyway, Harvey is not the only supernatural killer out there and soon he faces a Yoga master, a hitman with the ability to kill people with his origami objects as well as others. The abilities sound funny but the fight between the Feng Shui assassin and the Yoga master was pretty exciting to read. If you’ve ever read any Naruto then you definitely have an idea how Chakra is used in the fight scene.

This was a fun read and Hall has done a wonderful job combining mystical arts from a number of different cultures into a highly imaginative story. The story has excellent pacing and never a dull moment. The story is a refreshing change from the magic spells, vampires or werewolves that we see so often in urban fantasy.

I don’t know if the author is planning to write any more stories but I’m definitely looking forward to some more.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Blackbirds by Chung Wendig has been on my radar due to the amazing amount of praise I’ve been hearing around the blogosphere. So I was extremely thrilled when the book was chosen as the June book club read with Fantasy Faction as I get to share with others on their reading experience.

Now that I have some time to reflect, I can honestly say that the book is one hell of a ride. The book reads like a Tarantino movie and grabs you from the very beginning with its enigmatic protagonist Miriam. If you are looking for a dark, gritty urban fantasy then this one is for you but be warned that this book does contain some strong language.

Through a series of well-crafted interludes, we begin to understand how this prophetic gift that Miriam has works and how it has cursed her life. It is also in these interludes that we learn who Miriam really is and why she is trekking all over the country. However things are never easy for her because of her gift, and soon she finds herself involved with a smug conman on the run from a group of blood thirsty criminals.

The book has some memorable and convincing villains but my one complaint is the trucker Louis who just seemed to good too be true. No matter what happened to him in the book, he is always cheery and for some reason, extremely tolerant of Miriam. However he does make an interesting contrast to Miriam and I wonder if they can ever work out due to how different they are in character.

This book is well paced and well put together. It had me racing to the end to see if Miriam could succeed in altering what Fate has planned. Blackbirds is a fantastic book and I will definitely read the sequel,Mockingbird which comes out in September 2012 through Angry Robot.

Incursion by Aaron Rosenberg

Incursion by Aaron Rosenberg

R.C. Hayes has settled into his job with the FBI, and put behind him the strange incident that ended his military career. But when he and his partner are sent to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana to look into a murder, events take an unsettling and eerily familiar turn. R.C. struggles to solve the case as deaths pile up around him and as the situation takes a decidedly unnatural cast. With the help of a mysterious new ally, he may finally come to terms with what happened to him long ago—and enter a strange new career he is uniquely suited for. Provided he can survive the incursion of supernatural elements into his supposedly safe and mundane world.
You might recognise the name Aaron Rosenberg from a number of tie-in novels for established fan favourites such as WarCraft, Star Trek and Warhammer, just to name a few but he’s also done plenty of original fiction and Incursion is one of them.

Incursion is a fantastic supernatural story that has plenty of action and mystery to keep me turning the pages. I’m also a person that really enjoys mythologies and found it extremely refreshing to learn so many Native American myths that I have never heard of before. Incursion reminds me of some of the best episodes of classic X-Files and definitely has me interested in the rest of the series.

Incursion is one of the first books in the shared-world series titled O.C.L.T. which stands for Orphic Crisis Logistical Taskforce and is the brainchild of David Niall Wilson and Aaron Rosenberg. There are actually a few novellas set before the events of Incursion but I had no trouble picking this story up as this book is mostly independent of the previous stories.

Our main character R.C. Hayes and his partner have been sent by the bureau to investigate a murder in the Flathead Indian Reservation. What makes this murder so different is that the victim has been killed with a well-placed arrow to his throat. As the pair looks further into the case, they discover that this is only the tip of the iceberg and more deaths are coming. Along the way R.C. is joined by a gorgeous and mysterious Spanish woman who seems to know what is really happening at the reservation. Can they put a stop to the events and restore peace to the reservation?

This isn’t the first time that R.C. has encountered the supernatural. When R.C. was serving in the military, there was an incident in Uppsala that wiped out all of his team except him. He couldn’t believe what he saw as none of it made sense. So it was really great to see R.C. transform from a sceptic to a believer through the course of this book. His cool-headedness is also a wonderful contrast to the gung-ho attitude of Isabella and the two of them make a superb team together.

Like I said before, I’m a sucker for mythologies and I really enjoyed how the different beings from Native American myths are brought to this story. Rosenberg did a great job linking various myths and the plot together to bring a satisfying end to this story.

Incursion is a fun and entertaining story. In the ending we finally get to see what the O.C.L.T. is and what it is that they do. This story is only a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that builds towards something bigger and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the O.C.L.T. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good well-written supernatural story.

You can find out more about O.C.L.T. at the following link. O. C. L. T. A new Series for Fans of X-Files, Buffy, Angel and Fringe

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 8

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 16

Caged View by Kenya Wright

Caged View is a collection of short stories set before the events of Fire Baptized. I know this is a prequel but to fully appreciate these short stories, I highly recommend reading Fire Baptized first as these stories serve as explorations into the main characters’ pasts. Just like Fire Baptized, the stories are well-written and extremely enjoyable.

Love lost, Love found is told from the point of view of a young MeShack. The story deals with the time the Werecheetah lost his mother and how his beast took control in hunting down his mother’s killer.

In The Heart Ripper’s Song, Zulu has a plan to stop the proliferation of drugs in the Mixbreeds neighbourhood which involves ripping out the hearts of drug dealers. Lanore correctly points out that this is not the most efficent way to do things and they should instead be going after the bigger fish, the cartels themselves.

Now we switch to the female lead and Lanore has to make up her mind on the two guys in her life in The Vicious Circle. But which is the right decision?

Last but not least is an excerpt from the upcoming YA novel, Chameleon. Cameo is a Mixbreed with an interesting ability to morph into another person. It already shows a promising start, can’t wait to see how things will turn out for Cameo.

You can pick up these short stories for free at Smashwords and if you like it, be sure to get a copy ofFire Baptized too.

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 3

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 10

Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.

Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.

“No.”
Before I begin the review, I would just like to say Wow! Is Dead Harvest really a debut novel? This book was such a fantastic read that I finished the book in no time at all. I was extremely impressed with the tension throughout the story and also with the cinematic quality feel that this book creates. To top it off, the protagonist Sam Thornton is a brilliant anti-hero that you can’t help but love.

One of the reasons I like this book so much is because I’m a big fan of supernatural movies and shows. When reading Dead Harvest I’m reminded of scenes from Supernatural, Fallen and End of Days. This book contains the best elements of these stories and has created something absolutely wonderful in the urban fantasy genre.

As you can tell from the blurb, the story deals with the fallout that Sam caused by saying no to a soul collection job. You see, Sam only collects soul of the damned and he believes that the girl has been set up. In order to clear her name, Sam abducts the girl from police custody while he comes up with a plan. However both angels and demons think that he has an ulterior motive for protecting the girl. So now Sam not only has to hide from the police but also from both heaven and hell in this frantic cat and mouse chase.

To balance the fast pacing storyline, we are treated to flashes of Sam’s past which cover how he first met demons and how he became a Collector. These glimpses show us why Sam still clings to his humanity and help build Sam into a more well-rounded character.

I really enjoy how the story turned out but there is one plot point that is nagging me. The following may contain spoiler so skip ahead if you haven’t read the book yet. So everything in the book hinges on the fact that the girl’s soul must be collected but why does it have to be Sam who collects it? Surely Lilith knows that Sam is one of the Collectors that remain the most human and he has the potential to screw up the plan. Couldn’t she have worked it so that Bishop or some other Collector like him was sent on the job instead?

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion and leaves plenty of room for further exploration. Has Sam stopped the apocalypse for good or merely delayed the inevitable? Guess we’ll find out in the sequel, The Wrong Goodbye when it comes out later on this year.

If you love gritty supernatural stories then you should give Dead Harvest a go. I believe this story would work well on the Big Screen and wouldn’t be surprised if this book gets picked up by a studio soon. Chris F. Holm is an author that you should definitely watch out for.

Challenges read for:


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 9

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn’t been able to dredge up any kind of work—magical or mundane.

But just when it looks like he can’t afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses — and the first two don’t count…

In Fool Moon, Chicago’s wizard for hire, Harry Dresden is once again called up by the Chicago Police Department to investigate a gruesome death with suspected supernatural connections. It didn’t take Dresden long to figure out that werewolves are involved and it turns out this is just one murder in a series of deaths. And now Dresden has to help catch the culprits before the next full moon but can he do it while keeping the people he cares about from harm?

So the Dresden Files, the amazing series about a wizard in modern day Chicago that everyone seems to be raving about. Having now read two of these, I’m still not quite sure on the series yet. Yeah sure, this book is fun. There are werewolves, not just one type but four! Humans who are cursed to live as wolves, humans shifting to wolves with an enchantment, wolves shifting to humans and humans acting like wolves! There is also a massive bloodbath. An entire police station wiped out by a werewolf! How cool is that?

Despite all this, this book still feels more like a monster of the week kinda thing. Bad guys show up, Dresden hits on some girls, gets into trouble and then proceeds to save the day, all in a day’s work. There seems to be some progression in the romance department for Dresden but little in terms of character development.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from the series, because if you read this book by itself, it’s actually quite enjoyable. A little too predictable perhaps but at least you get a satisfying end that ties up nicely.
I may sound a little negative in this review but I still have confidence for this series. My thinking is that I would invest in the Dresden Files like I would in a new TV series. With the first few stories, the series is still establishing its audience so it just throws everything out there. Afterwards the story will begin to focus on the bigger arc and show the audience how everything is linked together.

From the people I’ve been talking to, this series is supposed to get amazing from book 4 onwards. So I’m going to stick with it and hope for the best.

Challenges read for:


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 4

Introducing Urban Fantasy Author: Kenya Wright

I would like to welcome Kenya Wright onto the blog. Her debut novel, Fire Baptized is an exciting mix of urban fantasy, paranormal romance and crime fiction. You can read my review of the book here. If you still don’t believe me, pick up a copy of the book at the usual places and see for yourself!

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started writing urban fantasy?
I’m a big geek. I love anything that’s sci-fi/fantasy from movies to books, conventions to magazines. This weirdness of mine pretty much started around eight years old when I would sneak and read Stephen King. Later, I became the crazy lady that hung out at Borders until midnight waiting for the next Harry Potter book.

How I began writing urban fantasy is interesting. I was walking with my ten year old step son in Barnes and Nobles, complaining that there wasn’t more diversity in urban fantasy novels. He looked up at me and simply said, “You should write that book. You’re smart.”

I laughed, thinking that kids are just so confident and there was no way I could write a book. Later that night, I replayed the story to my husband. He completely agreed that I should write the book and supported me through the writing process.

How does it feel now that your first book is completed? Terrified or like a great weight as been lifted?
I do feel like a great weight has been lifted. It’s exactly like seeing this huge mountain in front of you, thinking you couldn’t do it, and then finally standing at the top. Now I’m motivated to write many more, especially in this Habitat Series.

Lanore is a feisty character. How much of you did you put into character and did it take you a long time to get her correct?
Lanore and I only have one thing in common. We both can create and manipulate fire. LOL. Seriously, Lanore and I both had rough childhoods. Like Lanore, there was some drug use in my family that directly affected my upbringing to the point where it was neglectful at times. When I began to develop Lanore and MeShack, I didn’t intend on giving them those rough childhoods, but the freaking pen and paper just would not cooperate. Their bonded survival through neglect and poverty continued to come through the surface.

It didn’t take long to get Lanore correct. Lanore is such a flawed character that I knew the readers would either hate her or love her. The guys were the characters that took a lot of time to get correct.

I’m really fascinated by the rich alternate history that you have created for the Habitat series. Have you considered exploring different time periods of this world?
Yes. I’ve wanted to write a prequel of the events that lead to the humans forcing supernaturals to live in cages. Your review actually pushed that prequel book idea higher up in the queue. I’m currently writing the sequel to Fire Baptized, which is The Burning Bush. Additionally, I’m writing short stories of events that happened before Fire Baptized, and posting them on my goodreads’ blog in February.

Religion and worship play a major role in the book. What made you decide to use the Santeria religion rather than create a new one?
At first I wanted to create my own religion and so I figured it would be smart to research existent religions so that mine would be realistic. Santeria was a religion that really captivated me. I loved the Afro-Cuban influence. I ended up changing my original plan and using Santeria. In the end, it was perfect for a fantasy story set in Miami which has an extremely huge Cuban population.

In Fire Baptized, there are many scenes that involve equal rights for the Mixies. Have you always intended this to be a strong theme in your book?
Definitely! Authors like Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood are my biggest influences. These are writers that create amazing futuristic settings and throw in powerful themes of racism and gender discrimination.

I remember one sociology course where my professor discussed that if you got a huge group of people into one room, and they all are similar: race, background, economic status, age, gender, etc, there is still a 75% chance that the group will divide into two groups and then one group will attempt to oppress the other.

As you can imagine, the class had a heated discussion after that statement, but I remember being so interested in this concept. This is why there is this continuous down flow of oppression within Fire Baptized. The humans are oppressing supernaturals. Purebloods have segregated themselves from mixbreeds. Shapeshifters have rejected the Rebels, and so on.

To me, Fire Baptized is more like a crime fiction with supernatural elements. Are you a fan of crime fiction and are there any other genres you would like to explore in your writings?
Crime fiction is my second love.

I definitely plan on writing other genres. I have recently been reading a lot of cyberpunk lately, and am brainstorming on a couple of book ideas in that area.

Besides the Habitat series, are there any projects you are working on or in the pipeline?
I will be releasing an erotic paranormal romance novella on February 13, 2012 called Incubus Hunter. This is not my typical writing genre. Writing Incubus Hunter scenes started off as practice for me to work on sensory and setting development. The next you know I have a novella with a clear plot line. The world is completely different from Fire Baptized. Here, the supernaturals secretly exist among humans. My two main characters are Carmen an elf with venomous fangs who hunts demons and Blaze a two hundred year old Incubus demon.

Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

Since the 1970s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species: a full moon for Vampires, a crescent moon for Shifters, a pair of wings for Fairies, and the list goes on, for each supernatural species has been tagged and categorized by humans.

Lanore Vesta is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress, she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to stop finding dead bodies in her apartment.

Enlisting help from her Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend MeShack and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her attention.

While the corpses pile up, and the scent of blood fills the air, Lanore is left wondering: will she find the psycho or die trying?
Fire Baptized is a rock solid debut from author Kenya Wright that far exceeded my expectations. A book filled with suspense, mystery and oozes with sexiness. At times it reads more like a crime fiction with supernatural elements than a paranormal romance, and I’m sure everyone can find something they would enjoy in the book.

The book revolves around Lanore Vesta, a Mixie, an offspring between two supernatural races. One night, Lanore came upon the scene of a brutal crime and soon after finds herself caught in the path of a crazed killer. However Lanore is not one that would take it lying down, and she is determined to catch the killer before the killer gets to her.

I really enjoyed how different this book is. It is a mixture of several different genres with a bit of everything and has a tough female lead that won’t let men decide what she can or cannot do. Even the cover is not the traditional female lead in tight pants with bared torso.

In Fire Baptized, Wright has created a novel with many layers that go far beyond a simple urban fantasy story. On one level, it is a crime story that also has the obligatory love triangle that seems to go with Paranormal Romances. On the other level when looking deeper, it is also a story commenting on oppression and segregation.

Supernaturals are rounded up by humans and forced to live in walled cities known as Habitats. In these caged societies, there lies further divides between species and the lowest of them all are the Mixbreeds, the ones who do not belong to any group. While the purebreeds can still wine and dine on the finest, the Mixies live in the gutters with no education and live day to day by what they can scavenge. In order to survive, some of these Mixies sign pacts with vampires to become their food and toys for 20 to 30 years in the hope that they might have a brighter future.

This got me thinking about our policies towards minorities and immigrants. We treat them as sources of cheap labour but do we do enough to make sure that they are well integrated into the society and do we provide adequate chances for them to secure a better future for their next generations?

In creating this alternate world, Wright has put in some marvelous touches to make this truly and uniquely hers. The addition of the Santeria religion into the story offers the reader a richer and grander sense of history. I would love it if the author could make available additional information on this world for those of us who are fascinated with the history of Habitat.

Fire Baptized is an exciting and gripping read. Highly recommended for fans of Urban Fantasy.

Note: Review based on copy provided by the author.

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 2

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 2

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole

Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.
I had my eyes on Control Point ever since I heard about it on Civilian Reader back in August. A military action novel with elements of fantasy, how great can it be? So when Myke asked if I would be interested in reviewing the book, I immediately said yes! Having now finished the book, I can say that it’s everything that I could hope for and more. It is an extremely well-written debut, a non-stop action packed rollercoster ride that had me hooked from the very beginning.

At first I thought Oscar’s ability in Portamancy is pretty unremarkable. Sure, you can create portals to another world and travel vast distance quickly but it’s no way as cool as the ability to fly or throw fireballs. Turns out I was completely wrong as Oscar learns to combine his ability with personal combat, he becomes a kind of one-man army that can appear anywhere and wipe out an entire group of enemies in mere seconds. Not only did Myke make portals cool, but he also came up with many imaginative ways to use the other schools of magic which I won’t spoil here.

Oscar has it tough in the novel. Not only is he a pawn of the military but he is constantly bombarded with difficult moral decisions. Should he continue the operation even if it means the loss of two young lives? Are the missions he’s carrying out really helping humanity or simply to suppress the indeginous population? We see Oscar struggles with these choices as he make do with his new environment and position.

Being a military man, Myke knows exactly the brutality and chaos on the battlefield and this novel clearly reflects them here. The attention to detail and the vivid description gave a clear picture of the story as I imagined Control Point as a movie played out in front of my eyes. Peter V. Brett wasn’t kidding when he describes this book as Black Hawk Down meets the X-Men.

I had such a great time reading this book. There were plenty of times that made me thought “Damn, that was awesome”. The schools of magic, the intense military action and the dynamic of the Umbra Coven, they all work so well together and really highlights what an impressive feat Myke has accomplished with his world. Any fans of genre fiction will definitely find something they like in this book.

If you are looking for a new voice to read in 2012, you better make sure Myke Cole is on your list.

Review based on ARC of Shadow Ops: Control Point courtesy of Ace and Myke Cole