Operation Hail Storm (Hail #1) by Brett Arquette

Marshall Hail was a Physics Nobel Prize winner and multi-billionaire, but he was also a loving husband and father. When his wife and children were killed in a terrorist attack, he redirected his vast assets towards one purpose – eliminating every person on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

Calling upon help from his MIT colleagues, Hail designs and builds an arsenal of drones. Piloted by some of the best young minds, these drones are capable of going practically anywhere and creating devastation the likes few have seen. Under Hail’s guidance, the world will come to realize that no one is safe.

I received a copy of Operation Hail Storm from the author, Brett Arquette, in exchange for an honest review.

I generally don’t read books like Operation Hail Storm, so reading it was bit of a step outside the norm for me.

Hail Storm is one of those novels that takes modern day technology and pushes them in a “What if…?” direction. Yes, the ability to make drones smaller and smaller is possible. And yes, the other weapons and technology are in use in some places. So while Arquette got something right in his book, it is unfortunately about the only thing.

The characters are sadly, very one dimensional; many with clunky dialogue to match. While we are surely meant to sympathize with the main character, Marshall Hail, it is difficult when he comes across as arrogant. He believes himself above the law and acts that way on several occasions.  He says he is sad because his wife and children died in a terrorist attack, but his actions tend to speak differently. He believes he is enacting retribution on those who would harm others for money, but it is more like he is getting revenge.

Beyond the writing, Arquette has the unfortunate habit of plagiarism. Many of the descriptions he uses for the higher tech gadgets read as if they were pulled directly from their respective Wikipedia pages. And in one case, he actually quotes the Wiki page instead of trying to use his own words to describe the situation.

At the end of the day, while I am grateful to Mr. Arquette for a chance to read and review his work, sadly I cannot recommend it to my readers. With the help of some decent editors, perhaps one day this book will be ready for the general public. Just not today.

 

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Fragments of Your Soul (The Mirror Worlds #1) by E.S. Erbsland

Since the death of her father, Arvid Bergen has worked hard to support herself and her mother. When she accidentally steps through a portal that leads to another world, her only thought is returning home. While she is told the task is incredibly unlikely, if not impossible, Arvid is undeterred.

Upon meeting the god Loke, she strikes a bargain with him. Too late she learns that Loke is a liar and a traitor, and one she should not trust. Still, Arvid is determined to get home one way or another, even if it means pairing up with a murderer.

I will be honest, dear reader, I was first drawn to Fragments of Your Soul because of the artwork. When I joined Tumblr, I saw some of Eleathyra’s artwork for the book and was intrigued. And while I eventually was able to obtain a copy of the book, it has only been recently that I was able to sit and read it.

With that out of the way, it breaks my heart to say that I did not enjoy this book. I tried so very hard to like it, but there were several times I nearly threw my e-reader across the room in anger and frustration.

Firstly, the English translation from the original German isn’t that good. There are times when the dialogue feels awkward and the action is at times clunky. It is also a rather long book, the Kindle edition I read was just over 400 pages. Unfortunately, this means that at times the story becomes kind of boring. There were times I had to force myself to continue just to find out what happened next.

Next, the characters. Arvid is a young woman in her mid-twenties, and like most her age she works a job she doesn’t particularly enjoy and has a strained relationship with her mother. She has anger issues which resulted in a broken hand at the opening of the book, and continues throughout the story. She also has a bit of a superiority complex, her way of thinking sometimes tends to follow the “my way is the only way”, especially when she is met with servants or those who are considered lesser than. When she inevitably tries to persuade them to rise up or act different, she is frustrated when they refuse. She seems unable to understand that just because she thinks one way, not every one around her does.

Loke is another character that quite honestly I did not like. He is cruel and manipulative, and a times even verbally abusive; not just to Arvid but to other characters around him. His past is used as an attempt to explain and even excuse his behavior and the love that Arvid develops for him somehow makes him a better man as if by magic. This, unfortunately, is a trope that has been used too often recently and with little to no success.

While Erbsland does an excellent job of building a world based on Norse mythology, an interesting world itself does not a good story make. There must be equally interesting characters; characters we develop feelings for and root for. Alas, while we have the first in Fragments of Your Soul, the second is severely lacking. I’m afraid I simply cannot recommend this one to my readers. Instead, I encourage them to head over to Eleathrya’s art page, enjoy the pictures there and make up their own stories.

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1) by Laura Thalassa

Callie – Callypso – Lillis is a siren with a rather large problem. A problem that stretches up her arm and seven years in to her past.

Seven years ago she began collecting the black beads that make up the bracelet on her wrist. Each bead represents a favor from The Bargainer; the man who can get you anything you want…for a price. Callie has racked up over 300 of these such favors and she knows one day she will have to repay every favor she has garnered.

When The Bargainer comes for Callie, she knows her time is up.

There are very few books that catch my attention from the first page, and Rhapsodic was one of them. Unfortunately, while it was advertised as a fantasy novel, it is more a romance novel with fantasy elements.

And that is what this particular book is, dear readers, a romance novel. Thalassa spends the majority of the book creating the sexual tension between the two main characters that there is little room for anything else. Even the main characters themselves don’t receive too much attention in regards to their respective pasts beyond when they meet. As far as the side characters, they are sadly rather one dimensional and not terribly interesting either.

This unresolved sexual tension takes over the plot of the story as well. So much so that what is supposed to be the main plot of the book takes a back seat and is almost pushed aside. The end of the book is quite rushed as well. Perhaps this is because there is a sequel to this first book and the big bad wasn’t quite vanquished.

Now I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy Rhapsodic, dear readers, because I did. I, however, would have liked more. More of the fantasy elements, less of the fluff.

The Outpost (Outpost #1) by Adam Baker

Moored in the Arctic Ocean, Kasker Rampart is a derelict refinery platform at the end of the world. A skeleton crew of fifteen occupy the place, every day a battle with boredom and despair. As they wait for a relief ship to come take them home, the crew receives word that the world beyond is crumbling. A strange pandemic is ravaging the cities, turning normal humans in to ravenous monsters.

One by one the TV channels die, the radio waves following after. The crew of the Kasker Rampart receive a final message; their relief ship is not coming, help is not on the way. The crew must find a way to survive the long Arctic winter alone, even as the deadly contagion makes slow progress towards them.

The Outpost is one of those titles that had been sitting on my To Be Read list for a while. As intriguing and as interesting as I often find these books, I have to be in the right mood to actually read and enjoy them.

With that said, I enjoyed reading The Outpost and had trouble putting it down once I started. Baker does a good job of creating a tense, enjoyable page turner; one that draws the reader in from the first page and holds them to the end.

There were times, however, that it felt like Baker was trying to add too much to the plot line. Additions that either had little to nothing to give or that ended up going nowhere. Why have the revelation that a character isn’t who they say they are so late in the story? And then do nothing with it? Why have a character go insane yet not reveal what exactly caused them to go down that path?

There is a great deal that Baker unfortunately leaves unresolved. Things that could have easily been omitted and not affected the flow of the story at all. And while what he does resolve is important, at times it also feels rather rushed.

Despite it’s flaws, The Outpost is an enjoyable book. I would recommend it to my readers with the small caveat that it does have it’s flaws. Readers who enjoy a decent thriller will likely enjoy this one as well.

 

Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box by George Mann

It is the summer of 1915. As zeppelins rain fire upon the people of London, some of the more eminent members of society begin to show erratic behavior.

A famed suffragette suddenly denounces the women’s movement and just as suddenly throws herself beneath a passing train.

A senior military adviser speaks of surrender before jumping among the tigers at the London Zoo.

A member of Parliament gives a pro-German speech to other members of the House and later that day is found drowned in the Thames.

Desperate for some kind of answer, Mycroft Holmes reaches out to his younger brother – the now retired but still famed detective, Sherlock Holmes.

George Mann returns again with another page turning novel set in the ever familiar Sherlock Holmes universe. This particular tale is set during World War 1, some twenty years after Holmes’ and Watson’s heyday. Both men have retired; to Sussex and to the London suburbs, respectively. Yet when each hears the siren’s call of a new case, age is but a number and neither man can resist.

Astute readers will notice how age has changed both Holmes and Watson, almost reversing some of their traits. In The Spirit Box, Holmes has softened a bit in his mannerisms though certainly not in his detective skills or his wit. On the other hand, Watson has become a bit crotchety – something he admits himself! Time, and the knowledge that comes with it, can change a man and even great minds like Holmes and Watson are not immune.

Mann has done a quite successful job in adding to the Holmes “library” with this particular tale. While not completely reminiscent of Doyle’s original stories, it does have a similar literary flavor. It is also a crossover or sorts; introducing the reader to Sir Maurice Newbury – another character from another series Mann has penned. Newbury’s role is important and is also enough to possibly whet the appetite of the reader and cause them to seek out this other series.

I loved reading The Spirit Box. I certainly don’t need to tell any one here how I eagerly seek out new stories with this fictional detective, and while I am sometimes disappointed, books like this more than make up for it. In my opinion.

El and Onine by K.P. Ambroziak

When a civil war on Venus causes it’s people to seek refuge on Earth, they must quickly acclimate to their new surroundings. When the ruling council decides to adopt the planet as their own, the idea of an interspecies union seems the best way to ensure the survival of both species. This is a problem though as even the smallest touch brings death to one or both individuals.

El and Onine was one of those books I had placed on my To Be Read list back when I started this blog and before I discovered what a wonderful author K.P. Ambroziak was. This was also before I learned what a very nice person she is, as I added this book to my list before we had spoken even one work to each other.

El and Onine is the story of two very different races of people coming to rely on one another. As a civil war erupts on the planet Venus, it’s people – referred to as Kyprians – travel to Earth. Due to their fiery nature, the arrival of the Kyprians is devastating to Earth and its inhabitants; those that survive are soon put to work serving their new masters.

Like with her other books, Ambroziak has built an entire new world for her book El and Onine. We are introduced to it slowly, the history of the place and the people who inhabit it told as flashbacks and memories. This makes it easier to take in the wealth of information given, a welcome change from the “data dump” some authors rely on to fill their readers in.

The only negative thing I have to say about this particular book is how short it is. At just under 200 pages, while it is a quick read it also isn’t enough for us to become totally invested in the characters. The story could have easily gone on for longer to give us more insight and background.

I enjoyed reading El and Onine and will very likely read it again. It is a layered tale that really should be enjoyed over and over. I recommend this one to my readers, as well as anything else by this wondrous author.

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes by Cory O’Brien

For as long as mankind has been able to, they have told stories. Many of the stories told revolve around the gods and goddesses of the time and thus have survived. However, over time the stories sometimes tend to get a bit watered down.

In reality, the original stories are far, far more crazy. And interesting. And funny.

Any person who has been on Tumblr for a while will eventually learn of Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes and the hilarious genius of it. It is truly a book that keeps on giving because while I have read it several times by now, I find it laugh out loud funny every time.

Now, I will warn my readers there is a LOT of swearing and potty humor. However, since most myths center around sex in some way or another this is pretty standard. Still, more sensitive (as well as younger) readers should have a heads up.

Personally, I loved Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes. While it’s a quick read, it’s also one that can be read over and over and enjoyed every time. I recommend it for my older readers.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourne

London, 1887. After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

I discovered the Veronica Speedwell series quite by accident in my local book store. While perusing the new books, I came across A Perilous Undertaking and it sounded quite interesting. Unfortunately, I saw it was number two in a series and since I almost never start a series in the middle, I sought out the first book; which is being reviewed here.

A Curious Beginning introduces us to the character of Veronica Speedwell. Raised by two spinster aunts, she has traveled quite extensively – both as a child by moving from town to town, and as an adult in the pursuit of the passion of butterflies. She is an intelligent and head strong young woman, a trait that she uses many times to her advantage. She is also incredibly astute, noticing things about her and about the people around her that many would overlook. At times she reminded me of a beloved character – Sherlock Holmes; yet she also reminded me of another beloved character – Amelia Peabody.

In many ways, Veronica Speedwell is much like Amelia Peabody. Both women are brilliant in their respective fields and more often than not are looked down upon by their male counterparts simply because of their supposed weaker gender. Yet while there are times they must “play by the rules” of society, they are more than content to do things their own way.

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed – and hope Ms. Raybourn continues to play with in subsequent books – is the relationship between Veronica Speedwell and Stoker Templeton-Vane. There is a chemistry between the two characters that is difficult to deny and yet it seems they each treasure the other’s friendship too much to risk ruination with a more physical relationship. There are times they get on as well as cats and dogs, but in the end each is more than content to come to the aid of the other when needed.

Overall, I enjoyed the first book in the Veronica Speedwell series, A Curious Beginning. Readers who have previously enjoyed the Amelia Peabody series or any other series with a strong female character, should give this one a try.

Dark Nocturne (Vampire Hunter D Volume 10) by Hideyuki Kikuchi

A siren’s song has been drawing young men to their deaths in the hills outside of Anise Village. No one in the village is able to locate where the song is coming from, so an outsider is hired to unlock the strange secret.

The village of Shirley’s Door has a dark secret. A yearly ritualistic sacrifice meant to protect the town and keep the monsters at bay. When an outsider finds himself caught between the young woman being sacrificed and her beau, the whole village itself might be doomed.

Countless years ago, two sides in a devastating war create their own living weapons. Genetically engineered creatures set to fight to the death; and though the war has been over for centuries, two remaining individuals are still set to battle. And in doing so, they could re-ignite a fight that has been dormant for a very long time.

Readers who have been a part of the graphic novel/manga/anime fandom for some time will immediately recognize the name ‘Vampire Hunter D’. Western audiences were introduced to the character via the first animated movie in the late 80’s, with the novels themselves not coming out in translated form until some years later. Individuals, like myself, were ecstatic with the release of each novel and while some are better than others, we still seek to collect them all.

While Dark Nocturne is labelled as number 10 in the Vampire Hunter series, it could actually fit any where in the early series itself. It is compromised of three short stories that were published independently in magazines before being collected for the novel here.

With all this being said, unfortunately I find Dark Nocturne to be one of the weakest books in the series. The stories themselves do not have to coherency of earlier novels and the characterization is often very weak. They feel as if they were written much earlier than previous novels, when Kikuchi was just beginning to write about D and had yet to get a hold on the character himself.

Compared to other novels in the series with the same protagonist, the D here feels off somehow. He is flippant and at times almost uncaring; and while in other stories D can be off putting, it is not to this degree. It was actually hard to like him, while he is a character I have enjoyed reading about for some time.

Purists like myself will of course want to add this book to their collection so they might have the whole set. Casual readers will want to skip this one as it does not add anything to the series and I think can be ignored as a whole.

Skip Dark Nocturne, dear readers. As much as I love Vampire Hunter D, I cannot in good faith recommend this one.

Monsters (I Bring The Fire #2) by C. Gockel

The last few months have been rather difficult for Amy Lewis. After being attacked by a serial killer and saved by Loki – the aptly titled God of Mischief, Lies, and Chaos – dragged to Aflheim and back, having her bank account drained by the aforementioned god, and taking care of her elderly grandmother, she had lost her scholarship to veterinary school.

It’s okay though, as Amy Lewis has a plan. All she has to do is hang on to her day job as a receptionist and her night job as a vet tech, and hopefully her scholarship can be reinstated before accruing too many “additional fees”.

Agent Steve Rogers (not Captain, thank you very much) has major political aspirations. Yet when what is believed to be a suitcase nuke turns out to be much, much worse, and when so-called Norse gods start turning up in his bathroom – his priorities soon make a drastic shift.

Loki, the God of Mischief and Lies, has his own plans and priorities. He is still intent on seeing Asgard burn but isn’t against enjoying a few earthly pleasures along the way.

As different as these three are, they’ll have learn to work together – and maybe even get along – to take down a bevy of mythological creatures along with an ancient evil that has taken resident beneath Chicago’s busy streets. Because chaos has come to town and has decided to stay.

Monsters is the second book in the I Bring The Fire series and picks up several months from where the first book left off. With Loki having disappeared in to seemingly thin air, Amy is doing her best to try and get her life back together. Of course this isn’t easy with Loki having cleaned out her bank account and her grandmother now in a care facility after having a stroke. She is determined though and isn’t about to let a little thing like a house crashing god to stand in her way.

As I have said before, I am always interested in how authors can take such well known individuals and make them their own. It is as true for the Norse gods and goddesses as it is for Sherlock Holmes.

With Monsters, Gockel has brought back familiar characters introduced in the first book and added new faces to the group. Readers who are familiar with the original Norse gods will surely see names they recognize though not in the way they are familiar with. Their stories have been changed in small but noticeable ways.

I found it very interesting and enjoyable to see the subtle ways Gockel changed these characters. The flashbacks she gives to Loki gives us more insight in to him and allows us to understand him a bit better. One might even begin to sympathize with him, but those thoughts are short lived.

Because, in all honesty dear reader, this Loki is at times a dick.

Going in to my reasoning behind this will unfortunately give too many spoilers. Just believe me when I say there were a few times where I found myself quite aggravated by how he was treating Amy and any one else trying to help him.

This is not to say I did not enjoy reading Monsters. Far from it in fact. I enjoyed it very much, there were just a few times that I was gripping my e-reader just a little too tightly.

It is necessary for readers to read Wolves, book one of the series, before reading Monsters. Characters and events from the first book are referenced and someone who is not familiar will only be confused. Otherwise, I recommend this book to my readers. Those who enjoy unique twists on well known characters will likely enjoy it.