Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION: “Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.”

Paperback: 320 pages
Recommended Age: Older Teen
Publisher: Tor Teen; First Edition edition (July 3, 2012)

RATING 4 STARS 

I almost walked away from this one a few times… But, I kept picking it up anyway and, eventually, it was worth it.

Anna Dressed in Blood has a great premise – and that’s what kept me from giving up on it. It’s not vampires, love triangles, and teenage angst (at least not entirely.) It’s a ghost story. A really creepy ghost story at times.

The problem, at least for me, was how slow it was to take full advantage of the premise. I was almost half-way through the book before the plot itself was gripping enough to keep me turning the pages. In and of itself, that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. But, during that down time there wasn’t anything to balance out the lack of excitement. Every time it felt like it was about to kick into gear, it still managed to meander of pretty quickly.

I would really have liked to see more character depth from the beginning. More relationships. More conflict. More to keep me reading, and building the suspense, while waiting for the “ghosty” parts. Heck, I really wouldn’t have been upset to see any of the characters suffer a horrible death for the better part of half the book. That’s a problem.

As the story goes on, I never really fell for the protagonist, Cas, but there was still enough there to keep me hooked. Maybe that was the problem – the bulk of the beginning was supposed to be introducing Cas… and I just never really grew to like him during that time. At times I actually disliked him. If nothing else, how do you have a “ghost hunter” who seems so weak at times.

I normally would have rated this around three stars. But, my rule is that if I’ll pick up the next book in the series it’s worth 4. And, I just may grab the next one. Maybe. This book actually ended on a note that strongly reminded me of Demon Kissed – and that’s a great series.

***Although YA, my twelve year old will have to wait for this one… Otherwise I foresee a lot of nightmares in the near future. Just an FYI – maybe your kid is made of stronger stuff. But, I was creeped out at times, and I’m old enough to know the bogeyman isn’t under the bed.

4 star book review

Recommended for people who read YA Horror, Ghost Stories, and like a good creep-out.  Need a spooky read for Halloween?  This is it.  Anna Dressed in Blood is followed by Girl of Nightmares (release date Aug 7, 2012).

Grab Anna Dressed in Blood on Amazon now. It was only $2.99 when I grabbed it!

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Book Review: Valkyrie Rising by Eric C. Currie

Valkyrie Rising (Warriors Wings #2) by Eric C. Currie

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION: Two years after the initial invasion of Hayden’s World, the newly reinforced Hayden Militia is in a state of stalemate with the remaining enemy forces but neither side is content to leave things at that.

The alien alliance has dispatched their varsity to clean up the resistance on Hayden while the USF has officially activated Task Force V, the latest and most advanced combat ships built by humans.

In the end there are some things you decide in the skies, but some can only be settled in the mud.

Print Length: 255 pages
Age: Adult Sci-Fiction
Sold By: Amazon Digital Services

RATING – 4 STARS

This is the sequel to “On Silver Wings,” and from the author of “Into the Black: Odyssey One.” If you’ve read my reviews of those, you’ll know that I’m already a big fan.

With “Valkyrie Rising” we get the return of our protagonist. Sergeant Aida is back. But, this time she’s in her element as part of a larger force. And as readers, we’re no longer just focused on the conflict evolving on a lone world, but we’re also exposed to a much larger epic. So while keeping tabs on Aida, we’re also able to see the greater story unfold where she plays but a small role. It’s a great way to keep the comforting intimacy of the characters we know, while expanding the scope of the story into something bigger – bigger conflict, bigger stakes, bigger cast, bigger!

Somehow, Currie has managed to keep each book intense, and full of conflict – but still end on a really satisfying, fulfilling note. Instead of following the “Star Wars” formula (introduce the conflict, dark episode, vindication of the good guys), he’s made each book a complete story arc. Personally, I find that a much funner and more satisfying way to read a series.

Looking forward to the next book…

4 star book review

Recommended to Sci-Fi readers.

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Book Review: On Silver Wings by Evan C. Currie

On Silver Wings by Evan C. Currie

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION “In the future, mankind has colonized other worlds, mined asteroid belts, and sent ships so far into the blackness of space that light from their drives won’t reach Earth for centuries. Through it all, life has been found in almost every system we visited and yet we’ve never encountered another intelligent species.

Until now. When the Colony on the planet known as Hayden’s World stops transmitting on their CASIMIR FTL system, a Solari Fleet Task Force is sent to investigate. When they arrive there are enough oddities in the situation that they in turn send in a special operations unit to contact the colonists and determine what happened. Only one of those operators survives to make planet fall. Sergeant Sorilla Aida finds herself against an alien force of unknown power and capability. Her only assets?

A depleted suit of power armor, her rifle, basic kit, and a few hundred Hayden born civilians looking to take back their home. Just what she was trained for.”

RATING 4 STARS

I picked this up after reading Currie’s “Into the Black: Odyssey One.” That was a great read, and I was anxious to see what else he’d done. I wasn’t disappointed.

As opposed to a lot of science fiction, here we’re given a great female protagonist. And instead of a utopian future and amazing tech, you’ll find a universe that you can easily relate to. Humanity is still the same. And so, when the protagonist is dropped into truly alien experiences, you’re along for a great ride.

The pace is quick. But character development and relationships aren’t sacrificed for plot. I wish my daughter read more action/adventure and sci-fi, because there are so few great female characters out there. Here’s one where the fact that the story centers on a female marine is simply taken for granted. It’s a non-issue, there’s no pandering, and the story tears along dragging the reader with it.

Since this isn’t a space epic, the scale is much more local – and it works. That alone would be a nice change of pace, but the fullness of the story and the great characters make it a 5-star book.

4 star book review

Recommended for Sci-fi readers and anyone who likes a solid cheap kindle book.

Grab On Silver Wings now on Amazon!  It’s only $3.99!

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Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Redshirtsby John Scalzi

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship “Intrepid,” flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy belowdecks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what thestarship “Intrepid” really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives

Print Length: 318 pages
Age: Adult Sci-Fiction
Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (June 5, 2012)
Sold by: Macmillan

RATING: 2 STARS – WISHED IT WAS BETTER

I love John Scalzi… Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars, Old Man’s War, Ghost Brigade, and more are all awesome reads.

That said, I was incredibly disappointed by Redshirts. The idea was brilliant – and it starts out with great potential. But, it quickly drifts from being a great parody into murky meta territory.

Maybe I was the problem… I couldn’t quite follow when I was supposed to be taking the story seriously. Maybe there were some transitions in there that I missed. But, I think it’s more likely that I just can’t bring myself to appreciate what Scalzi was trying to do.

If you’re just discovering Scalzi, pick up any of his older works first. You won’t be disappointed. Once you’re a fan, maybe you’ll want to give Redshirts a chance. Go into it with an open mind, no preconceived notions, and see what you think. It’s original. It’s fresh. It just wasn’t for me.

Recommended for: Sci-Fi fans, general adult fiction, and Scalzi fans.

Get REDSHIRTS now on Amazon:

Book Review: Scandalous by Ella Steele

SCANDALOUS by Ella Steele

Mike’s Review

Description: “Warning: This novel contains sexually explicit content.

Millionaire Jack Gray earned his fortune creating erotic art for discerning clientele. He doesn’t use a brush to depict these hauntingly beautiful portraits–he uses bare skin. A sterling reputation is the only thing standing between Jack and poverty as he skirts the thin line between fine art and cheap sensationalism. To ensure that his character remains beyond reproach, an assistant observes his sessions.

While interviewing for a new assistant, Jack hears her voice–Abby Tyndale–the girl who got away. The last time Jack saw her was over a decade ago. After years of romantic tension she had nearly kissed him, but then disappeared without a trace. He hasn’t seen her since. Until now. When he learns that his lost love joined the clergy after she fled to West Texas, his heart sinks. She’s forbidden, forever set apart by her vows.

Jack’s life quickly spins out of control as Abby grows closer to him, and worsens when his client list is stolen. The financial blow alone is damning, but it’s the scandal brewing beneath the surface that he fears the most. Jack and Abby’s livelihoods rely on their reputations. A single scandal will destroy them both. While fearing a contrived scandal, they have courted a very real one as their romance reignites.

This erotic romance is an addictive tease that will leave you breathless and begging for more.”

Reading level: Adult
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Laree Bailey Press (Aoril 30, 2012)

5 STARS-NOT TO BE MISSED!

Normally, I never would have thought to pick this up… But, under another pen name, the author writes a series (Demon Kissed) that my daughter absolutely loves – and that I’ve really enjoyed. Going in, I knew this wasn’t a book for my kids, but I was really interested in seeing what the author did.

It was awesome. I’ve read romances before… Stuff like Janet Evanovich‘s early stuff, and they’re cute. Light, fun, easy reads. Scandalous, while still being light and fun, is much more. It’s hot! Apparently the difference between a “romance” and an “erotic romance” is a helluva lot.

The book has an unusual protagonist, and all of the characters are a lot of fun. The author’s art references are deeper than you’d ever expect… And the plot has enough twists and conflict to keep you reading – even when you aren’t breathing heavy from the good parts. Yep. Expect to blush.

With the summer around the corner, bring this one down to the pool. And guys, throw a copy in your wife’s suitcase if you’re going away…

BOOKS are better than icecream, 5 stars, awesome books

Recommended for fans of Fifty Shades of Grey, H.M. Ward, Demon KissedJanet Evanovich, and romance readers who want something a little hotter than usual.

Grab your copy of Scandalous now!

Book Review: Thaw by Bryan Dunn

sci-fi indie, kindle books, cheap kindle, contemporary fiction, 3 star book reviewsThaw by Bryan Dunn

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION: “Arctic bush pilot Harry McNills is minding his own business and dreaming of retiring to the Caribbean–when two scientists from Cryolabs Corporation charter his plane for a scientific expedition. The beautiful young biologist Amy Tyler and her boss, the avaricious Hayden Lockwood, want to explore for freeze-tolerant organisms. Harry gets more than he bargained for when he falls for Amy and discovers an ancient terror entombed in an iceberg. A Navy team is assembled to exhume the remarkable find. But before the job is completed, something goes horribly wrong…and Harry and Amy find themselves trapped in a desperate struggle for survival.”

Print Length: 236 pages
Publisher: Bryan Dunn; 1 edition (February 28, 2011)
Recommended Age: Adult

REVIEW: 3 STARS-IT WAS OKAY

Thaw tries to take a very familiar premise and create an exciting, suspenseful, story – with mixed results. The idea of something dangerous and unknown being unwittingly freed from the ice has been done many times – from movies to television episodes to books (for example, Terminal Freeze by Lincoln Child.) But unfortunately, Thaw never escapes the feeling of a B-movie.

The broad strokes are great. However, the details of the story continually break down the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief and get lost in the book. And, anyone reading books like thiswants to suspend disbelief. You want to take the author at face value and enjoy the ride. But, in Thaw, it’s often hard to do.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, and letting readers enjoy what’s there, I’ll skip over providing examples of the flaws that jumped out at me. If you’re a critical reader, you’re going to stumble over them easily enough. But, if you love watching made for TV movies on the sy-fy channel, and can ignore some cheesiness in your suspenseful thrillers, then you’ll have a great time with this one.

three star books, ya books 3 stars

Recommended for Sci-fi readers, general fiction, and cheap kindle reads.

Grab Thaw now on AMAZON or B&N.

Book Review: The White Mountains by John Christopher

tripods, books for boys, teen books, sci-fi books, 5 star book reviewsThe White Mountains by John Christopher

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION: “Long ago, the Tripods–huge, three-legged machines–descended upon Earth and took control. Now people unquestioningly accept the Tripods’ power. They have no control over their thoughts or their lives. But for a brief time in each person’s life–in childhood–he is not a slave. For Will, his time of freedom is about to end–unless he can escape to the White Mountains, where the possibility of freedom still exists. The Tripods trilogy follows the adventures of Will and his cohorts, as they try to evade the Tripods and maintian their freedom and ultimately do battle against them. The prequel, When the Tripods Came, explains how the Tripods first invaded and gained control of the planet.”

Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse; First Edition edition (April 1, 2003)

REVIEW-5 STARS NOT TO BE MISSED

I just got around to setting up a goodreads account (April ’11), and have mostly added books that I’ve read in the past year or two as a starting point for my shelves. But, I stumbled across this book and had to add a review…

I read this book well over 20 years ago. So, I can’t say anything about the typical stuff that I’d normally evaluate a book on – except for impact. After 20+ years, this story is still bouncing around my head. I don’t remember all the characters and plot details, but I remember how it made me feel. I remember the basic story. And, I know that I want to hand it to my kids as part of their introduction to science fiction. I’m tempted to go back and read it again, but I’d hate to ruin the good memories I’ve got from this series – in case that 20+ years has been harder on my memory than I thought. :o)

BOOKS are better than icecream, 5 stars, awesome books

Recommended for younger readers, especially boys.

Grab THE WHITE MOUNTAINS on AMAZON or B&N now!

Book Review: Into the Black by Evan Currie

great indie book, cheap indie book, sci-fi 5 stars, into the black bookInto the Black by Evan Currie

DESCRIPTION: “Beyond the confines of our small world, far from the glow of our star, lies a galaxy and universe much larger and more varied than anyone on Earth can possibly imagine. For the new NAC spacecraft Odyssey and her crew, the unimaginable facets of this untouched world are about to become reality.

The Odyssey’s maiden voyage is an epic adventure destined to make history. Captain Eric Weston and his crew, pushing past the boundaries of security, encounter horrors, wonders, monsters, and people, all of which will test their resolve, challenge their abilities, and put in sharp relief what is necessary to be a hero.

A first-rate military science fiction epic that combines old-school space opera and modern storytelling, Into the Black: Odyssey One is a riveting, exhilarating adventure with vivid details, rich mythology, and relentless pacing that will leave you breathlessly awaiting book two.”

Print Length: 587 pages
Publisher: 47North; Remastered edition (March 27, 2012)
Recommended Age: Adult

REVIEW:5 STARS-NOT TO BE MISSED!

I’m a sucker. This isn’t Scalzi, or Haldeman. We’re not talking about a modern science-fiction classic. At least, I doubt it. But, Currie does write an incredibly fun story, echoing elements of Star Trek, and even Haldeman. He’s created a story that lets the reader easily escape into their imagination for a few hours, and I had a great time doing it.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who appreciated Currie’s work. Into The Black is a re-release, now published by Amazon under its own Sci-Fi imprint. As I understand it, minor revisions were made and substantial editing was done, bringing the book to its current level of polish. I didn’t have the opportunity to see it in its original form, but was inspired by this book to start picking up a few of Currie’s other works. I’ve yet to be disappointed.

BOOKS are better than icecream, 5 stars, awesome books

Recommended for Sci-Fi fans, general fiction, guys looking for awesome reads, and kindle fans wanting good cheap reads.  This was $2.99 on kindle at the time I purchased it.

Grab INTO THE BLACK on AMAZON or B&N!

Book Review: The Dig by Michael Siemsen

the dig, contemporary fiction, sci-fi books, YA sci-fi, 3 star book reviewsThe Dig by Michael Siemsen

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION: “A mysterious woven metal artifact is found at a paleontological dig in Africa. Mystified experts, confounded by the impossible timeline they get from traditional dating methods, call upon a stubborn young man with a unique talent. Matthew Turner’s gift is also his curse: Whenever he touches an object, his awareness is flooded with the thoughts and feelings of those who touched it before him. It is a talent that many covet, some fear, and almost no one understands. Despite being exploited as a child and tormented by the unpleasant experiences imprinted on him from the various items he has “read,” Matthew agrees to travel from New York to the forests of Kenya. There, threatened by unknown enemies and helped by a beautiful but prickly ally who begins to understand his strange ability, he journeys back in geological time to make a discovery so shocking that it forces us to rewrite all human history.”

Print Length: 324 pages
Publisher: Fantome (January 17, 2011)
Recommended Age: Young Adult

REVIEW: 3 STARS-IT WAS OKAY

In The Dig, Siemsen manages to keep the reader engaged in two completely distinct stories. There’s a modern, paranormal, story that he uses to weave in a second, more science fiction, story that’s easily as compelling. It’s a great feat. And I found myself happily transitioning between the two worlds.

Likewise, he’s developed some great characters. A few reviewers have complained that they didn’t find anyone truly “likable.” But, I think the “problem” is actually a more three-dimensional protagonist. Unfortunately, the villain is a bit caricature-ish, which may undermine the more well developed characters. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to turning each page.

The disappointment didn’t hit until the end… Siemsen wrote two great stories and wove them together almost seamlessly. So, over the course of each chapter the anticipation of a great pay-off builds. You want to know where it’s all going! But, the great climax never arrives… In fact, it felt incredibly anti-climactic when it was all said and done. The best that can be said is that all the loose ends were neatly tied up.

Hopefully Siemsen brings his great style to another book, and the storytelling is paired with a more dramatic purpose.

three star books, ya books 3 stars

You may enjoy this book if you liked: Neanderthal

Recommended for guys, Sci-fi readers and YA book fans.

Grab THE DIG now on Amazon or B&N for $2.99!

Book Review: The 13th Prophecy (Demon Kissed #5) by H.M. Ward

demon kissed #5, paranormal romance, fallen angel book, best YA booksTHE 13th PROPHECY (Demon Kissed #5) by H.M. Ward

Mike’s Review

DESCRIPTION: “The time has come for Ivy to face her dark fate.

There are no other options—she must destroy Kreterus. Failure to destroy him will result in the annihilation of the world we know and Ivy being doomed to reside in the Underworld for eternity.”

Reading level: Ages 16 & up
Paperback: 362 pages
Publisher: Laree Bailey Press (March 5, 2011)
Facebook Fan Page: www.facebook.com/demonkissed

REVIEW: 5 STARS–NOT TO BE MISSED

This series started out as solid Young Adult reading. I devoured them alongside my daughter… But, with this concluding volume the series has really graduated into a full-fledged adult paranormal romance – and it’s stronger for it.

All along we’ve seen Ivy Taylor struggle with the reality of who she believes herself to be versus who she is fated to become. With this book, the underlying theme that has been alluded to all along becomes much clearer – life comes in shades of gray. Good and evil, right and wrong, aren’t always clear cut. That’s what made me appreciate this series so much for younger readers. Can a likable, lovable, relatable character really by damned? Can true love be deeper than mere swooning, and complicated by less admirable feelings? Does someone always have to win?

This was a really great, satisfying, conclusion that avoided the typical Disneyification that we expect in modern stories. And, that’s also why my twelve year old won’t be reading this last book for a while… The sexual tension in the past books is ratcheted way up and allowed to play out more than it has before. The relationships are more complex – and at times twisted – than a young kid could be expected to follow. And, the ending leaves readers feeling as though the author was true to the story and characters, even if it meant taking us all on a wild ride and a very dark roller coaster.

If you’re an adult reader who hasn’t picked up this series yet, the Ivy-Eric relationship alone will be enough to keep you turning pages.

THE 13th PROPHECY is the 5th and final book in the Ivy Taylor/ Demon Kissed story.  H.M. Ward has announced that Demon Kissed will continue under a new series name FALL OF THE GOLDEN VALEFAR, and follow Eric’s story.  Anticipated release is Summer 2012.  See author’s website for more information.

BOOKS are better than icecream, 5 stars, awesome books

*Recommended book club read.  Due to the nature of this series, it is an easy book to discuss, with many talking points.

I would also recommend this series for teen or adult paranormal romance readers, dark paranormal readers, vampire fans, and readers who enjoy lots of fast-paced action.

The 13th Prophecy is the fifth book in the bestselling Demon Kissed series by H.M. Ward.

Grab THE 13th PROPHECY (Demon Kissed #5) on Amazon by clicking here.

Related Reviews: Demon Kissed, Stone Prison