Thursday, 25 May 2017

Chuckles Retro Reads: Zombie Snapshots by JW Vohs

This is a collection of five short stories in the Zombie Crusade series. These "snapshots" are quick glimpses of critical locations around the world as the zombie pandemic begins to unfold. While the snapshots connect to the main storyline of the Zombie Crusade novels (some in obvious ways, others in ways that will become apparent as the series continues), they may also be read as stand-alone stories. Two of the tales in this collection, "Israel" and "Ontario," have been previously released electronically. 

My Review: 
There are five short stories in this snapshots selection. I previously reviewed 'Ontario' so I'll review the other four here. Thank you to the authors for sending this book to me to review and I apologize for taking so long to review it. These snapshots mention events and characters in the novel series as they follow different groups of people dealing with the start of the outbreak where they live. I hope to see more of all these characters as I progress through the novels!

1) Israel: Jesse is in Tajikistan to assist jews there in moving to Israel but on a hike he is attacked and bitten by sick locals. Concealing the fatal bite, he returns to Israel and takes the zombie virus with him. Sophie and her family watch events unfold on TV and decide to flee to their other home, helping a Palestinian family escape from zombies. Now everyone in Ein Gedi prepares to defend it from the zombie hordes while working on a backup plan to flee to Masada if the defences fail.

I so much enjoyed the opportunity to be with zombie survivors in a totally different environment from the usual UK or USA locations. Sophie, her son Mick and parents Avi and Lina are ordinary people and worry about other family members in different countries. It was also good to see the Israeli, Palestinian and Bedouin characters putting aside differences and mistrust to work together against the zombies. It adds a new dimension to the traditional fight the zombie story. The link to the main series here is talk about the US soldiers attacked by the virus in Afghanistan. This starts off apocalypse prepping for the MCs in book one.

2) POTUS: The President seeks expert advice on the outbreak and Barnes is happy to oblige, arriving at the safe bunker and claiming to have a vaccine for the disease. The President is more than happy to use this on everyone in the complex.

I don't want to say much on this story in case I spoil things but it was really good! The link to the main series is Barnes who features heavily in the opening of book one and there is the full story of what happened in the village featured in book one.

3) Maine: Colonel Longstreet works now in private security for rich clients and is tasked with protecting their island hideout by stopping other refugees from crossing the bridge. However, stopping the scared civilians is going to be morally tough as the zombies get closer and things on the island are going to take a serious turn when a select group of rich men prepare to leave for a new safe haven.

There is sooo much I want to say about this one but I can't without spoilers! I loved the moral dilemma of whether to do your job or show compassion to frightened people. I enjoyed the twists which lead directly from the POTUS story so make sure you read POTUS first. The link to the novel series here is Colonel Longstreet who was the commanding officer in the village outbreak at the start of book one.

4) Tennessee: A settlement of survivors have built a fortified compound and are living in relative safety until the arrival of General Jackson, who is offering the option of a vaccine and he isn't planning to take no for an answer. Do the people put their trust in him or take their chances with the mass of zombies heading their way?

Again this one really follows on with the vaccine story from the last two stories and I can't say much about the plot. I did like seeing a group of survivors who had started a new life from the chaos and who are unsure whether to give that up when the government calls. The link to the novel series here is Charlotte, sister of one of the MCs in book one, who refused to join him in a compound, instead staying near her home.

These short stories were exciting, well written and you cared very much about the people you were introduced to. I very much enjoyed all five, along with the first novel in the series which I have also read. I would advise reading the first novel 'Zombie Crusade' then reading the snapshots as extra information. Traditional zombie fans should enjoy this series! 
star rating photo: 5 Star Rating 5stars.jpg

Chuckles Retro Reads: Zombie Crusade by JW Vohs

Former Ranger Jack Smith watched an Army bio-warfare experiment go horribly wrong in an Afghan village in 2001, escaping only after he turned to a makeshift mace and bayonet to destroy the skulls of the infected creatures that bullets to the chest could not stop. With the traumatic experience seared into his mind, he earned his Ph.D. in ancient history and began developing medieval weapons-making skills after he left the service. 

When the virus broke free from the Hindu-Kush Mountains a decade later and rapidly spread across the globe, Jack knew how to fight the monsters created by the infection: 21st century technology combined with deadly medieval tactics and weaponry. Jack and his former squad-mates lead a resistance against a zombie apocalypse in a crusade to ensure humanity's survival.

My Review: 
*I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Jack and Carter meet in Afghanistan and witness a zombie outbreak which is barely contained. When returning to the US, both men begin work on a fortress capable of housing their loved ones with supplies to survive should the virus escape and come to their land. And then comes the day when the news reports a new pandemic outbreak in Afghanistan...

The book starts strongly with the outbreak in Afghanistan where Jack and Carter see their first zombies, going through the whole experience fighting together to survive. The book then jumps forward nicely to the completion of their fortess project ten years later, with the Castle ready. It is just in time as disturbing news reports catch Jack's attention and he knows that the virus has escaped and a deadly invasion of zombies is coming.

I liked the detail in the world building in the early days of the outbreak. It all happens just the way you would imagine it. We are with the men day by day as they watch the news reports, strengthen defences, gather supplies and start bringing their loved ones to safety. We then have Jack trying to help those in the local area, trying to convince the authorities to work with him. There is a lot of tell rather than show but the detail is interesting as we see the progress of the outbreak and how the Castle prepares for the coming war. The tension builds slowly as the zombie incidents get closer to them. I also like that the survivors are trying to keep quiet to avoid attracting the zombies and using old fashioned quiet weapons to do most of the battle with.

The other good thing about the book was the building of the three safehouses to house civilians who didn't want to remain in their homes, and having the response teams ready to go to the aid of those still in their homes when zombies invade the area. This leads to some exciting zombie action on a regular basis in the book, which nicely breaks up the described preperations. I found it all pretty interesting to read, and was looking forward to what the next problem would be. The action at the safehouses and the zombie attacks did not disappoint! I liked the fact that Jack made glaring errors in his planning which would happen when you're trying to man manage every detail and overlooking the obvious. It added in realism.

In a few reviews that I've seen, readers say that their main complaint was a lack of character development and I agree. Jack is our fully developed character as he is the hero, so we get a lot of what he thinks and does. I had no problem with that but sometimes it did seem to be all about him and nobody else. He is trying to be sheriff and organise a resistance movement but insists on being involved in every action incident ie the gas station attack. It felt sometimes that we missed the opportunity to get to know Bobby or the others because Jack kept dealing with it all himself and the team would arrive after Jack saved the day again.

This leads me to the lack of character development in the people at the Castle. Carter is the only fully developed character that we have due to him featuring at the start. We barely see Jack's family through this book and we only get to know a couple of the team members as the book gets to the end. I'd have liked to have seen more meetings and conversations early on with the major characters in the squad all talking, sharing ideas etc and leading the missions on their own, so we could get to know them better. I'd have liked to have seen Jack and his team spend time with their family, sharing a few emotional scenes with them. Again, we only get that in the phone call with David. It would be impractical to meet all the characters but I'd have liked a few of the characters running things at the Castle or on the teams to get more of a starring role. It would've added more depth and emotion, and could have taken the book up to five star status.

My biggest issue was the speed of romance with Jack and Andi. They talk briefly a couple of times and then suddenly they are kissing and in love. Having Andi become a major character first and having her spend time working with Jack and the teams first, then introducing romance in the later stages of the book would have worked better. The lack of dialogue between them meant a lack of chemistry. I do like Andi but I think it needed to happen slower to work for me. There are actually only a couple of characters outside the team that get enough page time to have us worry when they are in danger. There needed to be more of that so we can really invest in the main cast of characters. And if you plan to kill someone popular, don't do it off page as I too felt a bit cheated by that. It reduces the impact of the death to more of an afterthought.

There was a serious lack of dialogue in the book overall. We get Jack giving orders and explaining plans but there is no real conversation about normal things which means we don't get to know the people as well and don't really feel it when someone dies. Dialogue delivers emotion and impact and the book would have benefitted from this.

To sum up, I did very much enjoy the book. I liked the detail and world building, and the action scenes. I liked the overall plot and there is so much potential in this series going forward. The few niggles I mentioned about characters and plot issues were never enough to stop my enjoyment of the story, which kept me hooked enough to want to read the next one.

The authors have mentioned that they feel they improved the books as the series developed, based on feedback they got, which means I'm quite excited to see what changes are made and how it moves forward. There are already a good few more novels in the series and I'm coming to it rather late, so my niggles here might already be outdated opinions! Either way, I'm keen to read on! I would certainly recommend it to fans of zombie fiction.
 
star rating photo: 5 Star Rating 5stars.jpg

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Book Review: Louisiana Saturday Night by Catt Dahman


Let the voodoo roll!

New Orleans will never be the same when a hurricane blows in hungry sharks controlled by bad magic.An uppity family is stuck on a houseboat with a family of swampers who have more secrets that you can shake a stick at. Beware as the swampers keep up the family tradition proving again why their gumbo always has that special taste...

The sharks aren't the only ones with sharp teeth!


My Review:
When river born girl Candy Lynn Audette gets pregnant to rich Landry Theriot, his social climbing family are mostly horrified but take her in as she gives birth during a massive New Orleans storm. The servants become concerned by the rising flood water and the only way out is to join the Audettes on their big river boat. However, the Audettes have a secret...their gumbo has human flesh in it and they are hunting down new victims to feed their family. And a voodoo curse on the family for their perversion means that a group of sharks are following the riverboat...

There are some characters in this book who are truly awful! Emeline is an unpleasant snob, and she and spoiled daughter Trish hate poor Candy Lynn and see her as trash. Their son Landry seems to love Candy Lynn until he sees the colour of the baby that she has given birth to and wrongly accuses her of cheating on him. Emeline's husband Frank and his children are the nice part of the family, who treat Frank's servants as part of the family. Frank's side of the family stand by Candy Lynn and are at least civil to the Audettes. The Audettes are mostly a dreadful bunch, who enjoy their cannibal lifestyle, and see the hurricane as an opportunity to hunt survivors. However, saving the Theriot family means it will be more difficult to hunt, unless they can create a few accidents for the Theriots...

It was a fun b movie romp kind of book. Usually obnoxious characters can be a turn off but in a book where lots of people die, I never mind it as much and the Audettes were actually interesting in their own way. Amadee, the father is a bully and a cannibal but he does care about their wellbeing to an extent. I liked his wife who just doesn't want to live this kind of life but sees no way out of it. Candy Lynn was also a nice girl who just wants to have a decent life with a nice family of her own and wrongly thought that finding Landry would give her that.

OK lets get to the sharks! In the beginning, it seems that the sharks have just been disorientated by the storm and rising floodwaters and are taking advantage of the dead bodies in the river to feed there. They are following the boat you think because the unwanted body parts not going into the gumbo are being thrown into the river. As the plot goes on though, it becomes clear that the Audettes are cursed because of the choices they have made and the sharks are following the family itself. There are plenty of death scenes involving sharks and snakes as well as the psych behaviour of the Audettes as they seek their next meal, which keeps you entertained through the story. It amazes me how many times people end up in the water in this book!

Overall I found it a fun read and it doesn't take long to get through it. I've read various books by the author and whikle they might not win literary awards, I do find them entertaining to read and that is the main thing.  

Read March 2017
star rating photo: Three Star Rating 3stars.png

Chuckles Chat #18 Horrible MCs

Welcome to Chuckles Chat where great blogging minds unite to discuss the topics of the day mainly in the book and blogging world. I'll be sharing my thoughts on a topic and then inviting you all to share your thoughts. It's ok to disagree but PLEASE be respectful of each other's views! All of the comments on my blog are moderated and offensive posts ie racist, bigoted will not be published! 

This week I'm looking at Horrible MCs.

When I pick up a book I am hoping to escape the real world and delve into a new place, an adventure, a world that fills me with awe and fear, and somewhere where I want to be for those few reading hours. I want to root for a character I love as my hero or heroine, laugh at amusing sidekicks, share their ups and downs, cry when they die and bristle at how unfair their life is. One of the most important thing to get me into that world and hook me is the MC. I MUST like the MC and with luck, most of the characters or I struggle to engage with the plot.


What is so important about the MC? Well this is the person who carries the book so I want to like them. Y'know, the fearless military leader taking his troops into a zombie apocalypse, the young hero fighting adversity with his friends, the gnarly older character who can see the trouble his town is in, the kickass female in urban fantasy, the hero prepared to venture into Hell to save his friends...I really love a hero or heroine who captures the interest. They can be brave or scared, any colour race religion or sexuality, flawed or prepared...as long as I like them. If I do, I can emerse myself in their story and enjoy the book.

Why then are so many modern authors writing the worst MCs you'd ever seen? Would I have went to Mordor if Frodo was a spoiled brat who bullied Sam? Would I have went to Hogwarts with an evil bully instead of Harry? Would I have rampaged through Westeros if Eddard Stark had been a wifebeating rapist monster? Would I fight monsters with Cat and Bones or Deacon Chalk if they had been moronic idiots? Would I have cheered on Katniss if she had been a vain and whiny girl? No, of course not, I'd have DNFed them in a heartbeat! Look, I'm all for my MCs not being perfect if their flaws make them interesting, but there is a difference between that and making you hate them.

The modern author seems to have other ideas though. I've lost count of how many seem to use that whiny female who is always bitching and complaining and annoying other characters! In the zombie apocalypse I don't want to hear her whining about being dirty or breaking a nail. If you are that bothered, let the zombies eat you!!! I don't want to see the arrogant alpha male beating his partner, raping the unwilling and then justifying it by saying his life has been difficult. Seriously WTF!!! I'm tired of seeing the steriotype cheerleader bitch and mean jock bullying every new kid. I hate having an obnoxious arse of an MC throwing his weight around and slagging everyone off. Seriously, why would I actually care about any of these people? I'd cross the street to avoid them so why would I waste my precious leisure time to read whole books about them?
Why are authors making their MCs so horrible? I just don't get it! George RR Martin has a huge cast with the heroes and baddies but has made them all complex and interesting. He has  given interesting flaws to his good characters and sympathetic traits to his bad ones. THAT is what I want to see! I like the idea of hating a character one second then realising why they behave that way if it is well written like in Game of Thrones. Cersei is a monster but her love for her children and her unhappy marriage create sympathy-would YOU want to be married to Robert Baratheon??? Ned Stark is a good man but so stubborn and obsessed with honour that it destroys his family, yet you still love him. But these books I read now are full of obnoxious idiots who are there to annoy and change little, with no redeeming qualities through the whole book, and I'm hating this trend.

Do you think that too many authors make their MCs totally unlovable? What traits do you hate in MCs? If you hate an MC does it make you DNF a book? How much tolerance do you have for bad MCs? What are dealbreakers for you?

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Terrorist Scum Hit Manchester


Just before I was going to bed last night news came through of police responding to an explosion at the Manchester arena. All thoughts of sleep vanished as my dad and I watched events unfolding and I barely slept all night. The full story was evident this morning. An evil coward decided to set off a suicide bomb right in the foer of the Manchester Arena as people were leaving an Ariana Grande concert. The death toll at the moment stands at 22 dead, 59 injured including children.

I've spent many years on holidays in the North West of England...in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Merseyside and more. The people of the north west are so friendly and helpful and it breaks my heart that evil has visited them. I've never actually been into Manchester personally but it is a great city with a proud history, a great music and sporting scene. Now our country is grieving for children and families and couples who just went to a concert and never came home. Photos released today show the carnage inside that foyer and it makes me sick to the stomach.

They are scum, pure and simple, whoever they are. The kind of people who do this don't care about the innocent or who dies. Pathetic little cowards who target kids, who do this for their own warped and twisted ideals. It makes me really angry about what happened, and sad for the state our world is in. I hope there is a true Hell and that the bomber is burning in it right now.

I'm also proud of the emergency services who march into danger to save people and the ordinary people who opened their homes to stranded strangers and offered to drive from many miles away to ferry people home. They went out of their way to give the hand of friendship to those in need and that for me is what Britain is all about. We are a strong people and we will not buckle or bend to these bastards. Never. 

My thoughts are with everyone caught up in this tragedy.

Book Review: 'Nids by Ray Garton


Medical research? Genetic experiments? No one knows exactly what goes on inside the sprawling BioGenTech building on the edge of town. But after an enormous explosion at the facility, people in town start turning up dead...and in pieces.

Something is loose in Hope Valley. Something big...and fast...and hungry. It has a lot of legs, a nasty disposition and a big appetite. This is one spider you can’t step on.


My Review: 
A group of teenagers are at a local parking spot on a normal night when they hear the explosion at the nearby bio lab. As they watch the flames and wonder what happened, one of them is grabbed and taken down the mountain by an unseen creature. Only one witness saw what happened to her but his story of a giant spider is not believed instantly by the police until they find what is left of her body. The police are forced to reconsider their ideas on a monster spider when other kids report their car being attacked by it.

The massive sun spider is on the loose in the town, prowling the street and looking for victims. As more people come under attack the police are stretched to their limits in trying to track it down, and to keep the incident quiet to avoid mass panic. It can move at great speed and seems to be one step ahead all the time...

This was a fun monster b movie kind of plot. It has everything you would expect in this kind of offering...fast paced action, big mutant monster, lots of tension and drama and lots of death. What more could you want? I don't want to go into any more details about the plot for fear of totally spoiling it for anyone planning to read it. But if you like your mutant monsters and a plot that gets right into the action, then you'll maybe enjoy this one.

Read March 2017.
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Book Review: Bigfoot War by Eric S Brown (Bigfoot War #1)


Jeff Taylor was an ordinary boy growing up in the small town of Babble Creek, North Carolina, until one night his life was changed forever when a sasquatch brutally murdered his family. Taylor fled the town, hoping to leave the painful memory behind. Years later, after two tours of duty in the Iraq War, hes back in Babble Creek seeking vengeance. Taylors lust for the blood of the monster that slew his family sets in motion a series of events that soon has the entire town fighting for its life as a tribe of sasquatches descend from the forests and hills into Babble Creek to declare war upon its citizens. Babble Creek is about to find out Bigfoot is very real and theres more than one of the creatures that want to fill the streets with blood.

My Review: 
Jeff is twelve when his father heads out into the woods with a gun to find out what attacked their animals. He comes running back in panic telling his boys to run as a large angry Sasquatch chases him. Losing his brother and father that night, nobody believes the story that Jeff has to tell. So years later when Jeff returns to town, nobody really wants to see him or remember his wild stories about Bigfoot. The police certainly don't want him heading out into the woods to look for his revenge...

Jeff manages to persuade an old friend to help him on a hunt as the police follow him to stop him. They are all in the woods together when the Sasquatch decides to show itself and attacks the group. This starts a chain of events which threatens every citizen of Babble Creek as they quickly realise what has been living out there all these years. Now they believe Jeff but is it too late for the town?

I loved this! I've always enjoyed anything Bigfoot related...I'm forever trying to get books on the subject and watching these cryptid docs so I just had to get my hands on this. This is very fast paced, brutal and gory which is exactly the kind of Bigfoot story that I like. Babble Creek is just a normal little town minding it's own business until Jeff decides it is time to get some payback for his family. The Sasquatch tribe living in the area decide that they don't like humans invading their territory to challenge them and they declare war on the town. I was so happy to see an entire tribe rampaging through the town to teach the humans a lesson. 

This is a shortish read that you can do in one night. It is fast moving with a shed load of blood, gore and death on every page, which is perfect for anyone who loves a monster gorefest. I went straight on to read the next novella. And how great are these covers!
Read March 2017. 
star rating photo: 5 Star Rating 5stars.jpg

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish in June 2010. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!  http://www.brokeandbookish.com/  

This week the topic is Summer Read Freebie. OK I just don't do summer. I don't go on beach holidays coz I hate the sun and the insects, I don't read summer beach reads as I dislike the contemporary genre. I'm a Stark from Winterfell and Winter is Coming! Y'know? I was baffled as to what to do but then I thought 'stuff it' I'm doing a winter chiller list!

Ten Winter books to chill and entertain!

1) George RR Martin-A Game of Thrones 
I finally read this book this week and loved it! Well written, not over descriptive and gets you more into the minds of the characters, with extra stuff on the Lannisters fighting the Tully and Stark armies that you don't see in season one on TV. I liked the depth, the discussions of past events and the way the story just flowed. I just want to curl up in a nice warm room at Winterfell, cuddling a dire wolf and waiting for winter!
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20873804-a-game-of-thrones  

2) Jon Krakauer-Into Thin Air 
The true story of the 1996 Everest disaster told through the eyewitness account of a journalist on one of the expeditions. He reveals the cold and fatigue, the poor decision making due to lack of oxygen and the harrowing aftermath of the storm which left people dead or stranded on the mountain. This was the first true life mountain disaster book I read and it left me hooked on the genre.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1898.Into_Thin_Air 

3) Tom Harper-Zodiac Station
An arctic circle research outpost becomes deadly when one of their men are murdered. It is described as a fast paced suspense thriller with some conspiracy and spies thrown in. OK so I'm intrigued and despite mixed reviews over the book's ending, I'll take the plunge and give this one a go as a love hostile environments!
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25501078-zodiac-station 

4) Dean Koontz-Icebound
A team of scientists plant explosive charges for an Antarctic experiment, and they will blow at midnight. An accident on the ice strands them and as they try to think of a way to stop the bombs, a killer is taking them out one by one. I read this years ago and don't recall much except I liked it. I still have it and hope to reread it at some point.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1183550.Icebound 

5) Christopher Golden-Ararat
An earthquake and avalanche uncover something on Ararat that could be Noah's Ark and all manner of scientists flock to study it. However there is an evil force on the Ark that is infecting people and causing violence and death...I read this as an ARC earlier in the year and liked the tension and suspense as well as the action later in the book. A good read!
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29939052-ararat

6) Matthew Reilly-Ice Station 
Nikki *waves* put me onto a book by this author and I thought a few of his books sounded pretty good, this being one of them. A team of US divers in Antarctica go missing and Marines are called in to help leading to battles with hostile wildlife and elite military assassins who want something under the ice. Ooh yes, loving the sound of that!
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/144790.Ice_Station

7) Graham Bowley-No Way Down 
The true story of the 2008 disaster on K2, where an ice shelf collapse leaves thirty climbers trying to get down from the mountain without ropes and with little oxygen. This was an excellent and gripping true story about surviving on a deadly mountain and leaves you glad to be in your nice warm house.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8660439-no-way-down 

8) Evan Pedone-Expedition Everest
An Everest expedition and the hunt for a yeti all in one thriller? Yes thank you, I'll be reading this one! I can't remember which blogs I saw it on but I definitely want to read this one.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21863722-expedition-everest  

9) TW Piperbrook-Outage
When Abby and Rob wake to find themselves snowed in by a blizzard, they regret all the preperations for winter they were meant to make but didn't. What they didn't imagine was the werewolf hunting those who were trapped by the storm...Decent shortish horror read to pass a night, it has some tense scenes to enjoy.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22543366-outage 

10) Jason Deyo-Winter's Salvation
A harsh Maryland winter is the only respite for four friends during the zombie apocalypse but that is when they start to realise that the new danger is going to come from within the people they gathered together for safety. I haven't read this one but winter and zombies seem rather appealing!
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20625988-winter-s-salvation 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Chuckles Retro Reads: Godhead by Ken Mooney


Olympus has fallen; new gods must rise.

The gods have been betrayed by one of their own. Zeus is dead, and the city is under siege by the demonic forces of Kaos. Their only chance of survival is to abandon the city, buying time to regroup and rebuild.

Thousands of years later, the children of the gods walk among us, protecting humanity from the demons. But not all of them know the secrets of the powers they have. The gods are no more, eliminated by their greatest enemy. And now, she wants to return home; no matter who stands in her way.


My Review: 
*I received a free pdf copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

I love urban fantasy. I love Greek Mythology. I love horror. This book sounded as if it had elements of all three so I was looking forward to it.

The Gods of Olympus have been betrayed by Aphrodite, who lets demons in to their home to destroy them all. The last throw of the dice for Hera is to seal in the demons and expel the rest of the gods to live in the mortal world. Fast forward to the present day and Aphrodite has been killing all the descendants of the Gods to give her the power to return to rule Olympus and set the demons on the world. A group of talented people must continue the battle...if they can learn how to use their skills in time.

There is a lot of good about this book. The descriptions of Olympus and the Gods are vivid and detailed without the dreaded info dumps. Flashbacks are spaced out and used to give only important backstory about the characters and past events. It was a good use of that resource. The author's descriptions are well worded and easy to imagine and the characters are well developed with the clever use of grief as a way to bring them closer together. That was a nice touch. Aphrodite herself is an excellent evil character and her flashbacks give her depth and help the reader to understand why she did what she did. Each of the characters have great potential which I assume will develop in the next book. I developed opinions of the characters which shifted and changed with the plot, which was enjoyable. It was also interesting to see the powers being used and it gave you an idea of the real potential within this group.

There was a bit of an issue for me with the way the dialogue was presented. During conversations, words were continually highlighted in italics to tell the reader where to put the emphasis in the sentence. I feel that was unnecessary. If the dialogue is good, the reader will know what your characters are saying and the emotions they are feeling. It's not necessary to spell it out to us, especially with good descriptive work throughout the book.

There were a lot of unfinished sentences during the conversations which annoyed me a bit, along with half explanations that would cut off. I wanted to yell 'spit it out already!' on quite a few occasions! This was especially true when Unity and Hannah were explaining things to Megan and Karl in the most confusing manner and our two heroes just weren't asking the questions I wanted answers to. While I thought that this bit was frustrating, it might have been the author's way to avoid big info dumps, or it was the intended plot device to space out what we learn. Either way it didn't spoil the actual story. I am a bit impatient when I want to know what is happening which I guess is good as it means I was getting into the story.

OVERVIEW
A few niggles aside, I did like the story and I am interested enough to look for book 2. This is not an action filled book like some urban fantasy but I'd describe it as a slow burner that keeps you interested all the time. The second half of the book is fast moving due to short sections and switching POV.

For readers who are interested, the sexual content is minor: a partial short sex scene, while the rest is more implied than described fully. Swearing is minimal and used purely for effect, which was good. A few gory bits when the demons attack. Suitable for older teens and adults.
 
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png

Chuckles Retro Reads: The Reaper Within by Stephanie Jackson

Melissa Chaser leads what most people would think was an interesting life. Mel's job was to find wayward spirits and cross them over to the other side; she was a real life Reaper. It was a hard and dangerous job, especially when the spirits were wreaking havoc on people or property, but it was never anything that she couldn't handle.

And then she got the fateful call from Mrs. Mabry. There was a problem with a house she'd just purchased, and she needed Mel's help. It was just standard ghost stuff; things moving around, and a few disembodied voices, but nothing Mel hadn't seen a thousand times before.

Little did she know who, or what, she would find when she stepped into the old Memphis mansion. Nothing about the ghosts in the home made any sense to her, and time was running out. Could Mel finish the job and get off the property before something in the house reaped her?


My Review: 
*I received a free copy of this book from the author through Paranormal and Horror Lovers in exchange for an honest review*

Mel is a Reaper, the only person who can send a lost soul forward on their journey, even when they don't want to go. Her new job is to clear a plantation house of a violent spirit but on arrival she finds a lot of spirits there with no connection to the house. Now she must reap them all and solve the mystery of why they are there.

This was a very enjoyable paranormal story which I read in one night. I liked the way the plot centered around the Reaper sending lost souls to the Light painlessly for everyone and how unwilling souls being reaped caused her pain. It was a slightly different twist on other reaper stories I've read. I also enjoyed the fact that she becomes tied to the house until all souls have been reaped, leaving her as trapped as the souls themselves. With help, Mel starts to research the people to find a connection and uncovers the real truth. It was a story that flowed nicely with no huge info dumps and no boring parts. The dialogue was fun, the plot had a good mixture of action, humour and character based scenes, and the characters themselves just enhanced the plot.

I also liked the characters. Mel was feisty and very likable which is vital for me in my lead character. I liked her a lot and was rooting for her throughout the book. She is a Reaper but is also very much human with human emotion and vulnerabilities. Betty was the mildly annoying but entertaining sidekick that Mel is in contact with outside the house, helping her with her research. She was funny and I hope to see her again in the next book. Jack was the intriguing character-is he a ghost, or alive or what? Of course, having read the book I know the answer, but I'm not putting spoilers in. What I can say is that I really liked the twists in the story as that plot developed and it was also a very satisfying ending.

I can't really say that there was anything that I didn't like about the book. It had a bit of everything in it-action, humour, suspense, romance, and should appeal to fans of urban fantasy, paranormal, ghost stories and non graphic paranormal romance. Very much recommended.
 
star rating photo: Four Star Rating 4stars.png