Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’

Sean Farrell and Jimmy Cobb might just be two of the most deplorable human beings I’ve ever encountered in my readings. This definitely makes for an electrified atmosphere if you add in the fact that these two hoodlums are hellbent on revenge and crazy enough to try or do literally anything. Grip the bars tightly and prepare for impact from Farrell & Cobb in Ray Bank’s Wolf Tickets.

When Sean Farrell is swindled by his own girlfriend, Nora, for twenty grand and on top of that she steals his favorite Italian leather jacket, he doesn’t handle it very well. He kills the dog she left, calls up his army mate, Cobb, and boards a plane all the while mad enough to kill her on sight. Farrell and Cobb leave a trail of proverbial shit and piss so high in their wake that you could build a mountain with it. An attempt to obtain a gun during a run in with Goose, a “classy” drug dealer stuck in a wheelchair, instantly turns sour. This is only the beginning of their long list of impending troubles. Also, who knew how much damage could be done with steel-toed shoes, a sock filled with batteries, and a little army training? If you ever see these two guys in a bar, keep your head down and slowly walk away, or you will most likely end up with you balls shoved down your throat and nose broken, for the simple reason they didn’t like you breathing their air.

The true culprit behind the scenes is Nora’s ex – Frank O’Brien. You’ll find out more about him, but for now just keep in mind that he is very handy with a knife.

The  major strengths of Wolf Tickets lies in Ray Bank’s writing style. It’s gritty, it’s in your face, and it’s real. I don’t know much about the European haunts Farrell and Cobb hit-up since I’m from the States and they don’t let me out of the cage much, but if you told me that Mr. Banks wears cardigan sweaters and has never been near many of these places I’d call you a liar.

I did have some trouble with the vernacular in Wolf Tickets; the main characters’ common terms, speech and slang were extremely foreign to me and I had to do a little outside research on some of these terms. This didn’t impede the flow or stop me as a reader, but instead added a more authentic flavor and vibe to the read.

If you are looking for a gritty, action-filled tale where every fight scene makes you cringe with imaginary pain, you found it. Wolf Tickets seems a little short, maybe novella length-range, but it works perfectly and I wouldn’t have wanted the author to try and drag the story on. I can definitely see Farrell and Cobb getting themselves into a lot more trouble in the future as this duo is a dynamic combination of despicable badness.

Wolf Tickets gets 7.5 out of 10 Liams, although I don’t know about splitting the Liam in half  (his mom might be a tad unhappy with me if I tried that).  On a side note the addition of Post-It Notes is extremely funny. (Read the book to find out why or forever be confused.)

If you have yet to read anything from Blasted Heath Publishing make sure you do and quickly. I’m 2 for 2 on their novels and have been pleasantly surprised with the quality and uniqueness of the stories. Up next from them is Hot Wire, another novel by Gary Carson. (Previously reviewed his book, Phase Four Here).

Find Ray Banks Here.

 

(Here is Liam trying to do his best Farrel and Cobb Impression and being a shit)

Sword of Justice stars the hero of the Empire, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, in a tale riddled with deception, political intrigue, and chaos. I’ve been on a Warhammer Fantasy kick lately and this book by Chris Wraight has been sitting on my back burner for far too long.

The majority of the setting lies in and around Averland, a place Ludwig is intimately familiar with since childhood. Averland is currently in a state of what I would consider relaxed turmoil. While there is no clear Elector count to rule over the people and wield its runefang, the merchants and the two other opponents vying for power aren’t exactly crying about it as they continue to profit from the current lack of direction.

This brings us to the main point of conflict from which a multitude of problems arise and when I say a multitude, I mean a crapload. Ludwig is tasked by the Emperor Karl Franz to preside over the hearing between the two parties and select the next and rightful Elector ( in as lawful a manner as possible). In the meantime reports of Orcs massing around the outskirts is drawing a lot of attention. Ludwig decides to divides his loyal servants and each is anointed with a vital task. My personal favorite of Ludwig’s tools is the Spy/Counselor Verstohlen and his discovery of the “Joy Root”, along with the fact that he is the most interesting character in the entire book from my perspective.

The initial start to the book felt a tad heavy-handed until around page one-hundred or so and then things really started to heat up. Keep in mind that this is a two part book so Mr. Wraight does have a lot of wiggle room.

Lately I’ve been having a bit of a connection problem with some of the characters in the stories I’ve read, whether it is the side characters I found unmemorable or in this case the big man himself. With Sword of Justice, I absolutely loved Grunwald, Bloch, and Verstohlen. I would actually pay to read more about Verstohlen in a series of collected shorts or something of that nature. Ludwig to me is represented as the perfect, gruff, common man’s soldier, except he is a giant impassible object that can’t be defeated in combat by anyone or anything (as of yet). I think I prefer Verstohlenso much more because he compliments Ludwig perfectly in his ability to maneuver politically without stepping on toes and the his character’s back story flashes have me wanting to read deeper into his origin. I expected Ludwig to have more of a crafty old general side to him and less hot-headedness. As I said before, however, there is book two and plenty of space for character growth.

Near the end of this tale things are getting really, really messed up – especially if you keep waiting on a certain “someone” and their certain powers of chaos to rise up and just wreck havoc across the lands and slaughter everything. Bit of a spoiler – The ending has three major questions left unanswered and I’m dying to get the answers.

Overall I’d give Sword of Justice 7 out of 10 Liams. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book and I’m completely hooked and rearing to start the next one. But I think I kept trying to compare Mr. Wraight’s book to the Ambassador Chronicles by Graham McNeill and it is an unfair comparison since I haven’t read those in such a long time. The epic conclusion lies with the next book, Sword of Vengeance, and I’ll be getting there shortly.

You can find Chris Wraight Here.

On an earlier post, I previously compared Phase Four by Gary Carson to being the tasty bi-product of TV series Jericho and World Famous Batman Begins movie, if they were mashed together inside a butter churn.  I’m still sticking with this superb analogy. Government conspiracy, political intrigue, action, thrills, and psychedelic horror – this book has a little tantalizing piece of everything.

When a supposed military convoy carrying nerve gas is hijacked, things couldn’t possibly get any worse for national security, right? Unfortunately the cargo isn’t really nerve gas, it’s something much more sinister and deadly. Homeland Security agent Matthew Drake is instantly recalled from vacation and set on surveillance over a suspected terrorist target. Drake’s operation immediately goes AWOL, and everything within the book from then on gets royally screwed. The supposed nerve “…gas is released inside a luxury high-rise hotel in an apparent attempt to assassinate the President.”  All there is to say, is that everything isn’t quite as it seems. The gas turns out to have mind shattering properties, turning all infected into a mindless, zombie-like, shambling mob of screaming and babbling insanity.

The vivid descriptions of those infected and what they are seeing is… well… freaking awesome. Giant lizards, a huge piercing eye, skittering insects, and a multitude of other hallucinations are only the beginning. It starts to get scary when you find out there are “Four Phases” to this infection and it might just be irreversible after the fourth phase.

The initial influx at the beginning with introducing so many characters was a tad hard to follow. This being stated, they get weeded out quickly. The main characters, Matthew Drake and Gena Hahn,  bind together to create an unrelenting force of just pure stubborn determination. They won’t give up even when they’ve run completely out of any chance of survival.

Honestly, I was unsure how well I would be able to get into this book. It had a great storyline but other than that it isn’t the typical “Military Sci-Fi or Fantasy” novel I’m addicted to. Within the first few pages, I was seriously hooked and yelled at repeatedly for not setting it down and pay attention to the real world quickly revolving around me. Obviously I need to start branching outside my cozy comfort zone more.

Carson’s Phase Four delivers the reader an altered version of the United States in such realistic imagery and ideals that it isn’t all that difficult to envision them coming to fruition in the modern day.  A fast-paced, up-beat novel with a fantastic ending, Phase Four isn’t one you should miss out on. I’d give this astounding novel 7.5 Liams out of 10.

You can find more from Gary Carson Here and Blasted Heath Publishing Here.

Much Thanks to Al Guthrie for providing me with this review copy of Phase Four.

Infected Liam!

If authors of outstanding novels could be compared to baseball players mashing mind-blowing homeruns, then Madeline Ashby would test positive for a high dosage of synthetic steroids and robot growth hormone.  A captivating conglomeration of Stephen Spielberg’s A.I., a little mix of I, Robot, and even The Matrix seem to infiltrate their way into vN, Ashby’s first novel with Angry Robot Publishing.

A “young” von Neumann (vN) robot named Amy, lives in a healthy, happy, family environment with her human dad and robot mom but all that changes in a blink of an eye when granny decides to show up. After wholly devouring her grandmother, Amy unknowingly is infected with her crazed grandmother stuck inside her. Suddenly, innocent Amy isn’t so innocent after all and “… the failsafe that stops all robots from harming humans has failed..,” which makes Amy target number one in literally everyone’s eyes. Thrust together with an unscrupulous vN known as Javier, Amy is forcefully shoved down into the rabbit hole and has little hope of coming out unscathed.

Swivels and pivots in the story keep readers on their toes till the very end and even then there is no guessing in which direction this book could end. Though not my normal read, the ideologies for both the vN robots and the organic humans were played out admirably and realistically with varying and conflicting viewpoints.

The technique for authors known as world building can make or break a book. Another book reviewer, Shadowhawk, touches on the vital importance of the creation of a rich world in his review of The Hammer and The Blade by Paul Kemp. Ashby mirrors her very own creation, Amy, within her games she plays in the book, both of them designing vivid and fantastical creations down to the most miniscule detail with this under-appreciated skill which sometimes defines the difference between a good author and great author.  The garbage dump, the destroyed city of Cascadia, and the fabled vN safe-haven of Mecha are all beautifully designed places within an extremely developed world.

The underlying tones of pedophilia and vN abuse by their organic creators play a crucial role behind otherwise ulterior motives. Also, the fact that a  “global mega-church named New Eden Ministries, Inc,” was the prime investor for creating the von Neumann-type robots in an attempt to give companions to those left behind after the Rapture makes me smile inside at its paradox.

The writer inside me wishes the ending of this wonderful novel would have traversed across different paths, but in its conclusion Ashby had another, more astonishing finish you won’t see coming. It was close to a perfect 5 out of 5, but I found a few actions from my favorite character, Javier, to be contradictory to his current set path in life. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 Liams.

Here is the link to learn more about Madeline Ashby and her book, vN – The First Machine Dynasty.

(vN Robot Liam is trying to eat some synthetic keyboard food)