Showing posts with label mini reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mini reviews. Show all posts

Friday, November 6, 2020

Mini Review: "Poppe Culture" by Jaq Greenspon

Skids Poppe is what I'd call an accidental detective. Someone who has the job foisted on him by a panicky friend who thinks Poppe's rough and tumble background, combined with some no nonsense journalistic chops, more than qualify him to investigate a murder. Luckily for the friend, Skids is up for the challenge. 

Author Greenspon has an "easy as a walk on Venice Beach" writing style that keeps the reader engaged with interesting characters and detailed descriptions of local Southern California hangouts and neighborhoods. Recommended!

Poppe Culture is available for purchase HERE

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Mini Review: "Pandora Gets Vain" by Carolyn Hennesy

The second book in a wonderful series, "Pandora Gets Vain" delivers humor, heart, and action by the opened boxful. All of the characters, including Pandy herself, are loads of fun as they jump to Egypt in search of Vanity, one of the seven evils. 

Author Hennesy keeps the story moving at a brisk pace and her fascinating circus sequence is especially enjoyable. 

Highly Recommended!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mini Review: The Property by Rutu Modan

A beautifully illustrated graphic novel by Rutu Modan, The Property chronicles a journey to modern-day Poland by Regina, an elderly woman, and Mica, her granddaughter. The "official" reason for the trip is to reclaim a property lost to the family during the second World War, but we soon discover there's a deeper, more mysterious reason that has Regina fretting the whole time they're in Warsaw. The Property is superb, a true masterwork by a supremely talented author/illustrator.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Mini Review: Castle of Spells (Island of Fog Book 9)

The conclusion of a two-part story begun in Prison of Despair (Island of Fog Book 8), Castle of Spells is a fun read featuring Hal and his shapeshifter pals and the notorious Queen Bee and her scrag followers (aka The Swarm). The twist this round is that the scrags have "acquired" the ability to make their own shapeshifters. An exciting climactic battle on the beach between Hal and friends and the newly minted scrag monsters (some cool new species have been added) determines once and for all who wins the power struggle between the two opposing forces. As always, author Robinson's storytelling is taut and entertaining. Recommended.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Mini Review: They Took My Prostate: Cancer Loss Hope by JP Mac

They Took My Prostate: Cancer Loss Hope is a funny and informative read that details a procedure I wouldn't wish on anyone--except, maybe, a really evil guy.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Mini Review: PALM TREES AND SNOW FLAKES by Scott Bury

A fun and fast-paced read, "Palm Trees and Snowflakes" is a welcome continuation of the "Hawaiian Storm" mystery series. This time, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm does battle with a shady operation that's trying to saturate Honolulu (and beyond) with a lethal designer drug called "Snowflake." Author Bury spins a good yarn, deftly combining a strong mystery with romance and elements of a police procedural. Recommended.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mini Review: BRING ON THE MAGIC by Brian Clopper

A young wizard, Randall Flood, and a talking spell book, Chuck, team up to protect the mythical creatures and raw magic that have begun to seep back into our modern world. All seems to be going well until Randall develops a nagging suspicion that his noble mission may not be all that noble.  With its sharp writing, light-hearted humor, exciting action, and impressive world-building, "Bring On the Magic" has quickly become my favorite Brian Clopper book. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

iAi Book of the Month: Collateral Damage by Frederick Lee Brooke

This month's featured iAi book is...

Collateral Damage by Frederick Lee Brooke.

A love affair, obsession and murder are threatening to tear apart the lives of of Iraq War vets, after all they’ve survived overseas. Determined to find the murderer, Annie Ogden discovers she’s his next target.


Five hundred, twenty-three days, I thought, what is it about that number? I took too many math seminars. I can’t help it if my brain makes these associations. They come to me at odd moments. The significance suddenly occurred to me, like an email dropping in my inbox. Prime numbers. The one hundredth prime was 523. In itself it had no meaning, and yet…a coincidence like this, a number that was such a tremendous thing of beauty, in the canon of all numbers, prime numbers in themselves being exquisitely beautiful, and today being the one hundredth prime, a thing exponentially more beautiful than any ordinary prime, and this being the very day that Michael chose to reappear in my life bringing a love poem, after all my desperate pining and longing and refusal to give up all hope. Could it really, truly be meaningless?

My sister stood across the room, arms folded over her chest.
“You have come a long way, Annie. Sometimes you do amaze me.”
“You think so?”
“Girl, I am buying you lunch. You were so strong. That was so hard. I saw every bit. You deserve more than a reward. You’re up for sainthood.”
She took me to lunch, and afterwards we strolled down Michigan Avenue, and all afternoon I had trouble containing myself, even if we avoided the subject for the next four hours. It felt incredible to be alive. I felt like I was bathing in a circle of sunshine even though the day was cold and overcast.


About Frederick Lee Brooke

Frederick Lee Brooke launched the Annie Ogden Mystery Series in 2011 with Doing Max Vinyl and following with Zombie Candy in 2012, a book that is neither about zombies nor sweets. The third mystery in the series, Collateral Damage, appeared in 2013. The first book in Fred’s entirely new series is due before Christmas, 2013.

A resident of Switzerland, Fred has worked as a teacher, language school manager and school owner. He has three boys and two cats and recently had to learn how to operate both washing machine and dryer.

When not writing or doing the washing, Fred can be found walking along the banks of the Rhine River, sitting in a local cafe, or visiting all the local pubs in search of his lost umbrella.

You can find out more about Fredrick and his books by visiting these places: 

Twitter: @frederickbrooke
Amazon page: Collateral Damage 
my blog:
Google +:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: Flenn's Folly, Graham the Gargoyle 2

Graham's younger sister Flenn feature's prominently in this satisfying sequel to author Brian Clopper's equally excellent "Graham the Gargoyle."

When Blord, the village jerk, catches her using a spell scroll to go to places she shouldn't go, things get sticky for this smart little gargoyle who finds she has to lie to protect herself and her brave older brother from the harsh punishment that would surely come if word of her traveling got back to the village council.

Meanwhile, Graham and Flenn also find themselves fighting both the extinction of a few isolated magical races (including their own!) due to a "lack of belief," and a dark and sinister force lurking in the woods around their village and the village of Graham's best friend, Ot the Troll.

Told with plenty of heart and good humor, Flenn's Folly is a delightful tale that will easily entertain middle grade readers with its exciting action and  fun exploration of the fascinating mythological creatures that people the fantastical world of Cascade. Recommended.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Brigitta of the White Forest

Brigitta is a young Water Fairie on the cusp of learning what her destiny will be in the White Forest, the protected realm of her people. Will she be a Feast Master like her mother? An Inventor like her father? There's no way to tell until the proper markings show up on the tips of her wings. In the meantime, she has to deal with the types of problems facing any maturing young lady including her precocious (and often annoying) little sister who always seems to be hanging around.

One day, while flying an errand, Brigitta and her sister are horrified to discover that all of their family and friends have been turned to stone. In fact, every living being in the White Forest is now this way. Why were they spared from the curse and why did it have to happen now -- only days before the Hourglass of Protection's last grain of sand falls?

With the help of an ancient inhabitant of the dark forest, Brigitta and her sister set out to find the answers to these questions before time runs out and the outside world, with all of it's dangers, comes pouring in.

Smoothly written, Brigitta of the White Forest is a fun and engaging read with an interesting story and unique characters (my favorites were Gola and her familiar, Minq). Author Danika Dinsmore does a fine job in keeping the story moving and avoiding the tiresome over-description that often plagues this genre.


Correction: I removed a part of the above review where I erroneously noted that Brigitta was labeled as a YA novel.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"Odd and the Frost Giants" by Neil Gaiman - Mini Review

This chapter book is much more sparse in style than the usual fare from Neil Gaiman. Absent is the expected meticulous development and overall cleverness that make his other works such a delight to read. It is for younger kids so maybe he didn't feel the need to work out the story and character the way he usually does.

"Odd and the Frost Giants" is a simple tale about an unlucky boy back in the days of the Vikings who comes to the aid of Odin, Thor, and Loki as they try to take back Asgard from a crafty Frost Giant.

Considering Gaiman's superb writing skill, I think he should have taken what is really a sketchy short story and developed it into a full middle grade novel with a satisfying plot and main character arc. As the narrative raced past plot points at breakneck speed I found myself wishing he had taken the time to do just that.

In short, while "Odd" is better than many titles in this niche, I just didn't get my Neil Gaiman fix off this one.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Stardust" by Neil Gaiman - Mini Review

Textbook example of the book being MUCH better than the movie -- not for the usual reason of "imagination versus visual reality" but because of superior storytelling ability.

"Stardust", the book, is a great tale told in Gaiman's signature style. Full of wry, sometimes dark humor, fun characters (drawn much deeper than their cartoonish film counterparts), and a more subtle and satisfying plot. All of this adds up to unquestioned literary supremacy over the weaker silverscreen adaptation.

Tristran Thorn lives in the English village of Wall -- a place noted for a large impassable barrier that separates our world from the vast magical land known as Faerie. Tristran witnesses a falling star one night and brashly vows to bring it to the most beautiful girl in the village, in hopes of winning her heart. Entering Faerie through a gap in the Wall, Tristran undertakes his star quest, encountering all manner of magical creatures along the way and ultimately discovering that both he and his "heart's desire" are not what or who they appear to be.

If you haven't read the book and were put off by the silliness of the film (anyone who knows the Captain's "secret" knows what I'm talking about), I suggest you take the plunge anyway and pick up a copy of this fun read. Recommended.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Without Warning" by John Birmingham - Mini Review

Described as a work of "alternate fiction", John Birmingham's "Without Warning" falls just inside the realm of science fiction, barely meeting that category description because of a deadly and unknown phenomenon that has scientists baffled.

A techno/political/military thriller in the best tradition of authors like Michael Crichton and John Clancy, it's a grand "what if" mash up that asks, "What would happen if the United States and much of North America was essentially wiped clean by some sort of mysterious energy wave?"

Naturally, the obvious haters are elated by this new development, but soon even they begin to rethink the benefits of living in a world without Pax Americana.

The story itself is a series of vignettes following the reactions of a group of drug smugglers, our surviving overseas military, a lethal assassin, and a lowly Seattle city engineer to the reality that America, with all her warts and beauty, no longer exists. Birmingham masterfully weaves the seemingly unconnected story lines together in a way that makes the book hard to put down. The first installment of a proposed trilogy, "Without Warning" is highly recommended.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"The Hostile Takeover Trilogy" by S. Andrew Swann - Mini Review

This whopper of a trilogy ("Profiteer", "Partisan", "Revolutionary") follows two brothers as they battle over Bakunin - an outlaw planet of congenital individualists located in the heart of the vast Confederacy. As the title hints, Bakunin is crawling with various corporations, each of which is a power unto itself, right down to having their own security forces which more closely resemble national armies.

Dominic Magnus, a Bakunin CEO, and his brother Klaus, an agent of the Confederacy's covert operations branch, have had a lethal beef with each other going back to the death of their mother years ago. At first Dominic thinks Klaus' showing up with an invading force and taking over his corporation is just a continuation of their whole Cain and Abel dance, but we soon learn that the brothers are merely proxies for forces far greater then themselves. There is intrigue galore in these stories which, to me, give a hint of the Machiavellian politics that flavored the Italian renaissance.

I'll admit that it takes a while to get into the dense narrative of these books, but I recommend sticking with them as once you tag who's who and what's what, you're in for an enjoyable ride. Recommended.

Friday, January 1, 2010

"Eternals" by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr. - Mini Review

Author Neil Gaiman and artist John Romita Jr. team up to resuscitate Jack Kirby's 1970's Marvel classic.

The Eternals are an offshoot of the human race, created and imbued with extraordinary powers by the god-like Celestials. Their job is to stand watch over humanity until the Celestials return. But something has gone wrong and the Eternals have somehow forgotten who they are.

We watch as they struggle with their new roles as ordinary human beings -- a doctor, a street bum, a party planner -- wondering if they'll recover their true selves in time to do battle with an assortment of evils that threaten from without and within.

A compelling story and truly inspired artwork combine to make this a must read for fans of the graphic novel genre. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman - Mini Review

A fun story about two brothers who are the sons of the African trickster god, Anansi.

Spider knows who and what his dad is, Fat Charlie does not. He doesn't even know that he has a brother. When the old man kicks the bucket while performing on a Florida karaoke stage, events are set into motion that enlighten Fat Charlie about his heritage -- and fast. He quickly discovers that a dull life can get dangerously interesting when the gods are involved.

Set in the same literary universe as "American Gods" and loaded with his trademark wry wit, "Anansi Boys" is a worthy addition to Neil Gaiman's body of work and is a must read for fans of original tales well told. Recommended.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Saturn's Children - Mini Review

Despite an off-putting cover that appears to have been designed with 14 year old boys in mind, Charlie Stross' "Saturn's Children" is an interesting read with a great premise -- once the human race dies off, what's to become of their androids?

In Stross' clever scenario, they continue on -- struggling to fulfill the aspirations of their extinct creators (space exploration, extraterrestrial colonies) while picking up a few of our less than noble traits too (slavery and murder to name a few).

The story centers on Freya Nakamichi-47, an obsolete pleasurebot (see book cover) who, like her identical sisters, has had to find other duties once human males ceased to exist. Most of her work has been mundane, but when she's hired to make a delivery to Mars things start to get interesting and extremely dangerous.

Hardcore intrigue, brutal assassinations, and heart-breaking betrayals easily place "Saturn's Children" in the category of a sci fi thriller (android noir, if you will) as Freya does her best to navigate through a deadly future where absolutely no one can be trusted -- including herself. Recommended.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Anathem - Mini Review

A richly detailed book coming in at roughly 900 pages (plus an extensive glossary and several "calcas" or lessons), Anathem by Neal Stephenson, is not a lightweight read in either the physical or mental sense of that phrase. This hefty book will challenge you.

Set in an alternate "cosmi" (universe), the world of Arbre is divided between secular powers and a complicated system of "concents" (monasteries) devoted to the study of scientific and philosophical truths. Although borrowing heavily from the milieu of medieval monasticism, the monks here are, for the most part, not religious. They're closer in attitude to the thinkers of ancient Greece than the more familiar devout who worshipped God and (as a bonus) preserved western thought and knowledge during our own dark ages.

I spent the first quarter of Anathem trying to sort out a myriad of monastic orders, exotic names, and philosophies of truth and science. There's a lot to keep track of and I didn't click into the book right away. But once I did, I found that I was in for a stimulating ride.

There is a basic and workable story at the heart of Anathem (visitors from another cosmi wreak social and military havoc on Arbre), but the real meat of the book comes from numerous and lengthy discussions of on the nature of existence.

This may not sound very action-packed (it isn't), but it is quite interesting and stimulating in that it makes you consider topics that you probably haven't thought about since staying up way too late in college.

If you're looking for the SF equivalent of a beach read, move on. If you want to be challenged and get your mental gears turning again, read Anathem.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dragon in Chains - Mini Review

A fascinating look into a world that is largely ignored in western fantasy fiction, Daniel Fox's "Dragon in Chains" is a welcome detour into the realm of Chinese culture and mythology. Fox masterfully weaves several complicated storylines, each centered on a different young man -- the boy Emperor fleeing a deadly rebel General, a jade miner with supernatural strength and endurance, and a maimed river rat who uses his mind and magical chains to keep a great dragon imprisoned beneath the waves. The world Fox invites us to explore is so detailed and vividly described that (to use the old cliche) it really does feel like you're there -- in other words, a superb "escape read".

My only complaint about this otherwise excellent book is that the ending comes on too quickly for my taste with the exciting climax literally occurring on the very last page. I don't insist on an epilogue, but I do like to know how everyone ends up and we don't really get that here. In this case the abrupt ending appears to be a little too obvious setup for a sequel -- but, hey, that's okay as I'm very much looking forward to returning to this fascinating world. Recommended.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caine Black Knife - Mini Review

"Caine Black Knife" is the third in the series of books centered on the adventures of actor/unstoppable assassin, Hari Michaelson, and is a must read for fans of talented author Matthew Stover. However...

Lacking the "big story" component of the first two books (fate of two worlds hanging in the balance, etc), CBK is also a bit of a jumble -- mixing a present day mini-adventure with a series of flashbacks about how Hari made his bones and became the mega star, Caine.

Personally, I would have preferred it if Mr. Stover had stuck to one story or the other as, for me, this style of back and forth storytelling tends to be more distracting than enjoyable -- just not my thing. And because of these flashbacks CBK has the same sort of mild "oh, that's why" feel that you get from reading the appendixes in LOTR -- enjoyable enough for what they reveal, but not as satisfying as the master's main work.

Overall, Mr. Stover's skill as a writer is evident in CBK and while Caine is still the charismatic rogue that made me love the character in the first books, I guess what I really would have liked was one, fully expanded story with much higher stakes.

Eater of the Dead: A Dragon Friend Excerpt

Just in time for Halloween! Check out a featured Dragon Friend excerpt on the BestSelling Reads blog: "The spooky season is upon us! H...