Storm Front by Jim Butcher – A Book Review

A friend recommended this initial book of The Dresden Files. It’s called Storm Front, and it’s the first time we meet Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator and practicing wizard. 

Yes, you read that right.

I appreciated that Storm Front is a wonderful blend of genre. It often reads like hard-boiled detective noir, full of all the cliches and tropes you would expect. But then it blends in high fantasy with magical rods, demon trolls, and dark magic. I also liked that it moved at a very fast pace and proved pretty easy to follow.

That being said, I’m not sure I’ll revisit Harry Dresden. I found the dialogue a little too predictable, the writing technique felt a little too familiar, and the detective aspect never quite connected with me.

However, I know a lot of very smart people who love this series, so I may have to give the second book a try and assume that they get better and better as they progress. 

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid – A Book Review

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I heard Netflix planned to make this novel into a movie, so I thought I’d give it a read first. Interestingly enough, I reviewed another book by Iain Reid, Foe, exactly one year ago today.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is Reid’s debut novel. It’s written from the perspective of a young woman who is visiting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time. Most of the book is spent with them conversing in a car as they travel to the boyfriend’s childhood home far into the countryside. The narrator tells us that Jake is incredibly intelligent and generally a nice guy, but she’s thinking of ending things with him. They eventually reach the parents, things become very strange, and then the plot quickens to a frantic pace.

I can’t pretend that I particularly enjoyed this book. It is primarily dialogue and internal monologue, with lots of philosophizing. I found it very slow in the beginning, and while the book ends with quite a bit of suspense, the conclusion dissatisfied.

It’s difficult for me to critically discuss this book without spoiling some major revelations, so I’ll simply have to say that I never found the premise all that engaging, the big twist fell flat for me, and I generally found it far too in love with its own dialogue.

Obviously, I’m in the minority. Netflix and Charlie Kaufman found it worthy of their time, though Kaufman’s interest in the book shouldn’t be surprising considering his other work.

I’m afraid I don’t recommend you read I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, but I found Foe quite interesting if you’d like to give Reid a try.

The Giver Of Stars by Jojo Moyes – A Book Review

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A friend recommended this book and–if I’m honest–I didn’t think it would suit my tastes. However, I’m pleased to announce that I loved it.

I’m not sure why I was initially hesitant. It features a group of librarians–some of my favorite people–delivering books–some of my favorite things–to citizens living in the Kentucky mountains during the Great Depression.

I’ll admit that it starts off a little slowly, but that is purposeful as the author is establishing characters in order to display their tremendous growth throughout the novel. Consequently, by the time this book is over, you’ll feel as though you’ve lived these characters’ lives alongside them. It’s an incredible experience.

The author has a solid grip on providing just enough description, the perfect amount of dialogue, excellent pacing, captivating subplots, and–like I said–enthralling characterization. It’s a pleasure to read.

While it’s true that the book became a little melodramatic in the last third, I was far too invested to find such theatrics off-putting. In fact, The Giver Of Stars touched me so deeply that it managed to entice a tear or two from my old, cynical eyes.

The Giver Of Stars creates characters that will feel as real to you as your best friend enduring numerous hardships all in the service of giving people access to books. How can any book lover resist that premise?

What People Have Said About Dr. Nekros

Dr. Nekros The Complete Saga

Have you thought about reading Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga but have yet to make up your mind? I understand. I often struggle with whether or not to read a new book as well because there are just so many books I want to read. Who has time to waste on an unknown work?

Of course, I believe Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga is well worth your time, but you would expect me to say that, wouldn’t you?

I’ve got a few quotes from readers of past iterations of Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga. (Remember that it originally started out as an electronic serial and then as three electronic books before being collected into the current paperback format.)

“You will never find a more creative, time-turning, plot-twisting, character-revealing, surprising story anywhere in the fantasy genre. And you will come to love the totally real, frustrating but likable characters.”

~Dr. Jane Thomas

“Foley has created an amazing book that leaves you anxious to flip to the next page! Within the first 20 pages you feel invested in the characters lives. The imagery that Foley has created with details tie everything together and tell the story of Nekros’ past. I wanted to know who he was, why he ended up where did and where they would go next. The plot unfolds in an exciting and unexpected way, the way you really want a book to keep you guessing. Scott is truly a talented writer, I was able to see this book unfold as though I were seeing a film.”

~Jen Weaver

Dr. Nekros … wastes no time.

“We meet the good ‘doctor,’ aka Micah Vandenburgh, as he hires himself out as the answer to haunted homes. In truth, he is hunting down Xaphan, a demon who mutilated him years before.

“Enter Zetta, Micah’s ex-wife, no fan of Nekros, but determined to help Micah.
The two – along with a haunted 1936 Packard as sidekick and Zetta’s current husband, Jason – navigate their pasts, regrets and emotions while facing the current threat posed by Xaphan.

“Nekros is a bit of a curmudgeon – albeit a sensitive one – but who wouldn’t be after a demon attack? You will root for him.

“Foley uses flashbacks to provide the backstory while expertly moving readers through the story, building suspense and leaving us wanting more.”

~Rebecca Fortner

” … The book follows the adventures of Dr. Nekros, a self-proclaimed ‘occult aficionado’. The story picks up 13 years after Dr. Nekros had an encounter with a demon that left him scarred all over his face and missing an ear. People contact the doctor to come and have him practice his demonic fighting skills from all over the country. Together, with his self-aware 1930s Packard, Dr. Nekros travels from town to town plying his skills.

“Foley neatly weaves Dr. Nekros’ backstory and history with his ex-wife into the narrative. The book is focused on Dr. Nekros and his ex-wife’s past and current relationship. After 13 years apart, the doctor and his wife are reunited for a case.

“There are some very nice unexpected twists and turns in this book. More than once I was left with my jaw open at the outcome of the adventures. Foley has embarked on an epic story of demons and love. If you enjoy hunting the paranormal, touched with a deft sense of humor, and love that spans time, you will enjoy this book.”

~Rhett Felix

“I loved meeting Dr. Nekros, a ‘House’-esque character who is both curmudgeonly and crafty in his approach to his business as a demon hunter and all around paranormal expert. The relationship between Dr. Nekros and his ex-wife Zetta is fun to follow along too. Their banter is witty and natural, denoting a long though somewhat troubled history. Foley takes us back and forth between past and present, weaving a tale that is engaging and a fast ride.”

~Laura Freyman

If those quotes have piqued your interest, visit Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga by clicking HERE. I truly thank you for the opportunity.

Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga Is Ready For Your Enjoyment

Dr. Nekros The Complete Saga

At long last, Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga is now available in paperback format.

Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga focuses upon the disfigured Dr. Nekros’ pursuit for vengeance and his estranged loved ones’ quest to save him. Micah Vadenburgh suffered mutilation by the demon Xaphan. The trauma drove him from both his wife, Zetta, and his doctoral degree. Years later, living off the money he swindles from hapless victims, Micah has transformed into Dr. Nekros. He travels the countryside in a haunted 1936 Packard while searching for the monstrosity that ruined him. As Zetta and her new husband, Jason, work to reverse Micah’s downward spiral, an intricate trap has been set—one that began a century ago by something far more evil, far more conniving than anything Dr. Nekros has ever before encountered. A supernatural thriller with a wickedly dark sense of humor, Dr. Nekros: The Complete Saga plays with time, reality, and imagination. Readers will immerse themselves in a tale filled with psychological suspense, nightmarish horror, and … redemption?

Click HERE to get your copy.

The Parade by Dave Eggers – A Book Review

A friend recommended The Parade to me. I initially hesitated because Dave Eggers is always a little hit or miss, but when I saw the length of the book, which is very short, I decided it was worth a shot.

I flew through this book. Not only is it very short, it’s also written in a direct, straight-forward fashion. I believe Eggers wrote The Parade in such a way because it mirrors both the primary plot of the novella as well as the main character’s personality.

The Parade is about a nameless man hired by a nameless company in a nameless land razed by civil war to asphalt a road. The corporation has already dropped off the machine that will lay the asphalt. The nameless man, nicknamed the Clock, must simply pilot it and connect the two halves of the small country. The man wastes no time, does not interact with locals, and is concerned only about meeting his deadline. He’s completed over sixty such tasks without fail.

The same cannot be said for his partner. The Clock’s partner, who he simply calls Nine, is to drive an ATV ahead and make sure the road is clear of obstructions, people, or anything else that could cause the machine to stop. Nine’s job is to mitigate any potential issues.

Unfortunately, this is Nine’s first job with the company, and he is not at all interested in following policies or procedures. He is the opposite of the Clock–also known as Four–in every way.

Four is informed that the leader of the tiny country wants to execute a parade the moment the road is finished. It will begin in the capital city and head into the part of the nation that previously did not accept his authority. Four is told it will be a celebratory display of unity and peace.

As you can imagine, complications arise. Nine gets himself into all kinds of trouble, the kind of trouble Four cannot ignore. Does Four complete the road on time? Will the parade run as expected? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

The Parade seems interested in exploring three different ideas.

The first idea is about what happens when one is so focused on completing a task that no attention is paid to one’s surroundings? It is ethical to show up, do a job, and then leave without giving any consideration to the effect of one’s labor on people, government, or the land?

On the other hand, The Parade also delves into the repercussions of perhaps becoming too involved. Is it responsible to show up and immerse oneself into a situation without fully understanding the nuances? Even if trying to help, should one investigate the consequences of even the smallest kindness?

Finally, The Parade is gravely intent on analyzing bias. Four trusts no one in this novella. Nine trusts everyone. Four believes only in his work goals. Nine lives life without thinking of the future at all. Both come to regret their ideologies. However, by the end of the novel, we realize that we, the readers, are just as guilty as both Four and Nine. We understand that we too have made several errors in what we did and did not choose to trust throughout the book.

The Parade is a brief, potent read. I’ll admit that the ending is something of a shock to the system, but it’s also what forces our minds to detour and scout new territory. I’m certain the ending is not for everyone, but, because the book is so quick, so well written, and so thought-provoking, I definitely recommend you give it a try.

theparade

Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings – A Book Review

You may remember that my wife and I very much enjoyed Killing Eve, which aired on BBC America.  As is my habit, I had to go check out the source material, which turned out to be a novel entitled Codename Villanelle.

Written by Luke Jennings, this fast-paced, brisk thriller served as the basis for the television show.  However, as you read the book, you’ll notice the show greatly enriched virtually every character.

Villanelle is still present–obviously.  So is Eve.  Konstantin and Niko, too.  Several other characters were adapted into new characters for the show, or outright jettisoned.

The show also used the same general plot.  Villanelle is an international assassin who comes from less than nothing.  Konstantin is her handler.  Eve is a UK agent obsessed with apprehending Villanelle.  Niko is still her husband.  However, Jennings keeps them fairly bare-bones.  Yes, he introduces some of their little idiosyncrasies.  Eve is still something of a social train-wreck.  Villanelle is still a sociopath.  Niko is still incredibly patient and helpful.  But, we seem to just skim the surface of these interesting attributes.  None of them have the charm nor the depth of their televised counterparts.

The novel is very plot driven.  Jennings is incredibly specific with locations, weaponry, procedures, and technology.  There is ample action that moves at a whiplash pace, but, again, the characters are somewhat flat.

I have to wonder if I’m being unfair to the book.  Killing Eve is clearly such a special show, is it unfair to judge the source material too harshly in this case?  Could Killing Eve’s charming, odd, wonderful characters have existed without Jennings groundwork?

Honestly, I don’t think I’m being unfair.  The book was an entertaining read, but it didn’t strike me as monumental.  Without the show, I don’t think it would have made much of an impression on me.  Keep in mind, though, I don’t read much suspense or espionage spy stories.

Frankly, there were times when I thought the book was a little sexually gratuitous.  Jennings makes a point to depict Villanelle as a sexual predator.  He absolutely objectifies her and her prey.  It largely felt unnecessary to me, because it is–again–dealt with at a very shallow level that makes it seem like it’s there only to shock the reader.

If you like quick reads full of detail, action, violence, and suspense, this is the book for you.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

Neil Gaiman has written an incredibly engaging account of the Norse gods in this slim book.  Often seen as lesser than the Greek gods, I believe the Norse deities are enjoying a resurgence of late primarily thanks to the Marvel Thor movies.  Has Loki ever been more popular than during the last several years?  However, the Thor of the Marvel Universe is most definitely not the Thor of Norse mythology.  Not at all.  If you’re looking for a quick read to gain familiarity with these fascinating beings, Greek Mythology is the book for you.

Though all the names remain the same, Gaiman has written their tales in a more contemporary fashion, one that our modern society will find fluid and easy to comprehend.  Gaiman focuses on the most relevant of the stories, and so you can expect to learn about the major events and figures of the Norse pantheon.

Readers will be surprised to learn that Thor is something of a meathead in his original incarnation, Loki is actually Odin’s blood-brother, and Odin himself is far more dangerous than the movies ever depicted.  You’ll experience trolls, frost giants, serpents, dwarfs, monstrous dogs, and Ragnarok – the fall of the Norse gods.

A quick read, I would have no problem putting this book in the hands of my eight-year-old daughter.  It is not a children’s book, but it’s also not inappropriate for children to read.  As I already said, I can’t imagine a better book to provide a basic knowledge of the Norse gods.

Gaiman is no stranger to Norse mythology, by the way.  Odin is a major player in his novel entitled American Gods (which is soon to appear on STARZ as a television show).  He also uses Thor, Loki, and Odin in his seminal comic book series called The Sandman.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Moonglow by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

While I admit that Michael Chabon is my favorite author and that I’ll read anything he publishes, I won’t go so far as to say that I love every single thing he releases.  Gentlemen 0f the Road missed the mark for me, and Telegraph Avenue simply did not connect to my soul like I thought it would.

On the other hand, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the book I name when someone asks for my ultimate favorite.  Nearly all of Chabon’s books are the perfect blend of writing prowess and narrative charisma.  He not only writes engaging, relatable stories, but he writes them better from a technical aspect than nearly anyone other contemporary author out there.

So, with all that being said, Moonglow is my second favorite book by Michael Chabon.

Let me tell you a little bit about the plot without spoiling too much.  Essentially, in 1989, Chabon visited his dying grandfather.  Terminal, Chabon’s mother transported the grandfather from his home in Florida to her home in Oakland.  There, while the grandfather fought against death and the painkillers flooding his system, the grandfather did something which had before proven a rare occurrence – he spoke … at great length.

Chabon learned more about his grandfather in that last week of his life than all the years previous.  He learned of his grandfather’s misspent youth, his grandfather’s time in the war, his grandfather’s prison stay, his grandfather’s kinship with the stars, his grandfather’s struggles with fatherhood, his grandfather’s last months in Florida, his grandfather’s obsession with rockets, as well as his grandfather’s passionate love story regarding his grandmother.

Make no mistake, however, this story is not just about the grandfather.  The grandmother quickly becomes a star in this book as well.  Mysterious, emotional, brave, witty, beautiful, and ultimately unbalanced, Chabon’s grandmother is not what she seems – not to Chabon’s grandfather, his mother, or even to the grandmother herself.  In fact, in the end, Chabon is the only one who seems to know the truth about his grandmother.  I won’t tell you why or how.

I love this book because his grandfather is the coolest man to have ever lived.  You can’t help but think of the best aspects of your own father or grandfather as you read this story, and, believe me, he will remind you in some facet of your own paternal role model.  Chabon’s grandfather isn’t perfect, not by any means, but that’s also what makes him so loveable.  Plus, as you well know, much like ourselves, our own fathers and grandfathers are not perfect, either.

Chabon also plays with the narrative style quite a bit in this novel.  In terms of time, it is not linear.  Nothing happens in order, and it’s up to the reader to piece it all together.  But Chabon makes it a fairly seamless task for the reader, and in using such a structure, he ultimately builds mystery, suspense, and provides great emotional payoff.  Chabon’s choices are right on target; his pacing is a joy to experience; his tone, while at times very somber, is also light and warm in a manner that will draw you in and make you happy.  There’s even a great joke about Chabon’s style, delivered from the dying grandfather himself.  Be on the lookout for it.

Furthermore, Chabon makes a point to let you know that while this story actually happened, his novel is fiction.  He’s the first one to admit that he has taken great liberties without too much care or concern.  Some of it is probably word for word truth, and some of it is probably completely fabricated, and the beauty of it is that we, the readers, have no idea how to distinguish one from the other.  And to that I say, “Who cares?”  In my mind, reality is always a matter of perception.  When I read a book, I perceive, interpret, and process the story within my mind, which thus makes the book a part of my own personal reality.  As a result, “fiction” and “nonfiction” become a bit of a moot point when it comes to things like this.

I’d also like to say that this is perhaps the most straight-forward of any Chabon novel I’ve ever read.  Is it well-executed?  Magnificently so!  I laugh with my friends that I don’t believe Chabon used the same sentence structure more than once in the entire thing.  That’s an exaggeration, of course, but he’s that much of a master at writing.  And yet, this novel is easy to digest.  It’s easy to follow.  It’s not rife with metaphor.  It’s got great humor, great sadness, great love, and great action.  Oh, what action!  The World War II parts of this book set my imagination on fire.  In fact, because the grandfather is such an unusual everyman, and because the WWII scenes are so vibrant, I actually gave a copy of this book to my own father for Christmas.  I’m not sure when he read a book last, but he made a point today to tell me how much he’s loving Moonglow.

As we live our lives, they, for the most part, probably don’t seem that varied or interesting.  Yet, by our life’s ending, I’ll warrant most of our stories could fill a book, and I imagine that most of our children or grandchildren would love to read that story and experience who we were at 15, 35, 55, and even 75.  Chabon tapped into something wonderful by utilizing such a concept, and he’s got the talent to make it work.  Moonglow has shot to the top of my list of gifts to give friends, family, and coworkers.  I truly believe it’s a guaranteed good read for any reader.

How good is this book?  The minute I finished it, I turned back to page one and started reading it again.  Even better the second time.

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The Humans – A Book Review

A friend recommended I give The Humans a read, so I thought I’d give it a try.  Written by Matt Haig, The Humans is about a mathematician who is killed and replicated by an alien.  The alien must eradicate anyone the mathematician shared vital information with concerning a breakthrough concerning prime numbers.  The alien’s race believes this revelation will advance humanity beyond its means and lead to utter destruction.

 

What makes this interesting plot all the more so is that we are told the story from the alien’s vantage point.  Funny, endearing, revolting, and oftentimes revealing, The Humans forces us to take a good long look at ourselves and find both the horror and beauty inherent within our species.  In fact, the alien itself learns to love humanity and becomes quite entangled and invested within the life of the mathematician it killed.  I won’t spoil too much, but suffice it to say, the alien is ultimately far better at being human than the mathematician ever was.

 

Each chapter is rather short and the book is a very fast read.  I enjoyed it because of the unique narrative style, though I must admit that the point of view also proved a disservice because I never really connected to the alien.  Of course, I can only presume the author intended this to be the case – after all, how much should we connect to a creature existing in a plane of reality beyond our comprehension?

 

I would certainly recommend The Humans for fans of science fiction, math, and even philosophy.