Category Archives: review

Review: Awakened by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth

AwakenedThe inaugural run of New York City’s latest subway line should have been cause for champagne and celebration. Instead, the car returns empty with the interior drenched in blood. And that’s only the beginning of the horror in the debut thriller from Impractical Jokers star James S. Murray, Awakened.

In the afterword, Murray tells us that he hatched the idea for his horror thriller during his teenage years. It’s clear reading the story Murray has honed the story over the years, crafting a horror novel that feels like vintage Stephen King. Like the best King, Awakened features every day people reacting to supernatural challenges in authentic, human ways. Some react as heroes, others are scared, and still others have secrets they desperately want to hide.

An early scene in the novel with the subway creatures luring toward some unsuspecting victims had me riveted to the page and sent a cold shiver down my spine. And the (earned) scares continue to come at a regular pace throughout the novel.

Murray and co-writer Darren Waremouth have crafted a scary, entertaining, fun summer thrill ride of a novel. It’s also the first in a new trilogy of stories that will continue for the tow summers. Consider me signed up to see just where this story goes next.

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Review: The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George

The Punishment She Deserves (Inspector Lynley #20)With her twentieth installment in the Lynley and Havers series (sorry, I refuse to think of it as anything else), Elizabeth George returns to form with one of the best installments in the series to date.

The last two novels found Barbara Havers getting herself into hot water and on the wrong side of her superiors at New Scotland Yard. As The Punishment She Deserves begins, Havers future at the Met is hanging by a thread and a case in the small town of Ludlow may be just the one that finally snaps it. Assigned to work with DS Ardery and look into the death of a local deacon under mysterious circumstances and damning accusations, Havers finds herself walking a fine line between toeing the straight and narrow and following her instincts that there is more to the case than meets the eyes.

Ardery wants to simply close the book on the case as quickly as possible, for both professional and personal reasons. She’s desperate to get back to London in order to fight her ex-husband’s desire to move her two children to New Zealand and she’s determined to ensure that Havers finished committing professional suicide. The fact that Ardery can’t go long without a drink is slowly beginning to unravel her life on all sides. Ignoring Havers’ pleas that the investigations is overlooking something, the duo returns to London and Ardery orders Havers to leave certain details out of her report. Continue reading

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Comic Book Friday: The Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity GauntletWhile I still haven’t seen Avenger: Infinity War yet, I’m still curious about the source material that led to what I’ll (eventually) see on-screen. (It hits home theater on physical disc in August and I plan to pick it up then)

So, I checked out a copy of The Infinity Gauntlet from my library’s digital collection and started reading.

The first thing I noticed was this six-issue mini-series was written by Jim Starlin, whose work I previously encountered in the much-hyped Batman mini-series A Death in the Family. You may recall I wasn’t a huge fan of that work, so I will admit I approached this one with a bit of caution.

I need not have worried too much. The Infinity Gauntlet feels like the next big crossover event after they were put on the map with Secret War in the 80’s. All of Earth’s heroes are brought together to take on Thanos, who is trying to impress Mistress Death and win her heart. To do this, he’s assembled the Infinity Gauntlet and trying to show her why he’s the baddest guy in all of the cosmos.

And while Thanos takes on a lot of the Marvel cast and crew, he still never quite wins her heart. An epic story, I can see why Marvel Studios chose this as the culmination of ten years of cinematic storytelling. At times, the story feels cinematic and like one that would work well as a movie. I’m going to assume there are some big differences between what I’ll see on-screen and what’s on the page. But that it’s interesting to see how this will be the jumping off point for an epic film.

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Review: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible FortressIt’s 1987 and there’s only one thing on the mind of Billy Martin and his friends — finding a way to get a copy of the Vanna White issue of Playboy.

If only they can find a way for shop owner, Mr. Zelinsky to sell one to them, whether Zelinsky knows about it or not. The guys hatch a plan to sneak into the shop, pick up three copies, leave money on the counter, and head out with their new treasures (after all, if they pay for it, it’s technically NOT stealing, right?) But to do this, they’ll need the security code for the store’s alarm.

Billy volunteers to get close to the shop owner’s daughter, Mary, in the hopes of finding out the code. But what his two friends don’t know is that Billy and Mary share a passion for computers and computer programming and what begins as a ruse to gain entry to the shop after hours, turns into a partnership to write a great game and win a computer. It doesn’t help that Billy slowly starts to become romantically attracted to Mary, either.

A love letter to being a geek in the 80’s, The Impossible Fortress
Jason Rekulak fills his story with a ton of great Easter eggs from the late 80’s and keeps the story one that is grounded, heart-felt and believable.

Light, fun summer reading that had me thoroughly entertained.

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Review: The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton & James Patterson

The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing is the literary equivalent of a blockbuster action film — better when you sit back, turn your brain off, and just go along for the ride.

President Jonathan Duncan faces attacks from all sides. As he faces impending impeachment hearings in Congress, Duncan is made aware of an attack on the United States that will send our nation back to the stone age. Duncan is forced to go rogue to try and take down the threat before it comes to fruition and to ferret out who in his inner circle is leaking vital information to his enemies.

Promising “insider secrets only a president could know,” The President Is Missing is less a political thriller and more a political fantasy. At multiple points, you can’t help but wonder how much Bill Clinton would have given to shake off the threat of impeachment by going John McClain to save our country from an attack and then riding that to astronomical approval rating.

And that may be the biggest thing that holds the novel back from being a “bubble gum for the brain” thriller. I kept looking for clues as to which author wrote which part of the novel.

This novel also reminded me why I’ve stopped reading James Patterson novels. His novels feel a bit formulaic and rushed to press. And that’s how this one ends up feeling as well. Staccato chapters, quick pacing so you don’t have to ponder the implications of things as the develop, and a lack of room for any substantial character development add up to a disappointing novel. The final third of the book piles on absurd twist after absurd twist until I felt like crying, “Enough already.”

The President Is Missing feels like a missed opportunity. With a former president co-authoring and able to offers insights into the office and what might really happen if our president vanished for a significant length of time, the novel instead is told mostly from the first-person perspective of Duncan, thus negating the title early and often. I’m not sure what I expected, but this one didn’t fit the bill.

 

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Comic Book Friday: Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 3 by John Byrne

Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 3Another trio of Star Trek stories done in the tradition of the PhotoNovel series from my younger reading days.

As with all Trek tie-in stories, it can be hit or miss. The good news for this trio of stories is that the hit ratio is a bit better than in the previous installment.

Opening with a story in the Enterprise is pursuing a precursor to a certain modern era Trek entity that we’ll meet in “Q Who,” the collection gets off to an uneven start. Even trying to put aside my inner nitpicker and just enjoy a story in which Kirk gets to tangle with the proto-Borg, I couldn’t get over the fact that John Bryne was trying too hard to draw a connection between the Doomsday Machine and the Borg. Part of this is that Peter David did this almost two decades earlier with his novel, “Vendetta” and that (if my memory serves me right) he did it better. Again, this could be my nostalgia looking back on a book that I consumed in mere days when I was a teenager and have had a strong affection for since. Continue reading

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Review: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

The Perfect MotherPaired together by their due dates, the May Mothers have quickly become each other’s best friends, confidants, and support group in the early days and months of parenting. After seven weeks of no sleep, dirty diapers, and trying to be the perfect mother, the group decides they need an evening out. That is especially true for single mother, Winnie.

After making arrangements for child care for Winnie’s son Midas, the group heads out to a local bar on the fourth of July to feel like grown-ups again. But things soon take a tragic turn when baby Midas vanishes from Winnie’s apartment and sets off a media firestorm. Turns out Winnie is the childhood start of a hit series about dancing and the circumstances of Midas’ disappearance threaten to expose not only her secret, but secrets of all the May Mothers. Continue reading

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