Tag-Archive for » 3 Fireballs «

Review: “The Blood Detail” by Arvin Loudermilk

“The Blood Detail” by Arvin Loudermilk

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 20 January 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Vigil No. 1, a novella.

“The city of Los Angeles is infested with vampires. I’ll bet you had no idea. I sure as hell didn’t. My name is Grace Kimble and I was on patrol the first time I ran into one of these murderous bastards. The perp in question had just drunk a girl dry, and was looking to do the same to me. Totally outmatched, I took the only option I had left. I put up my dukes.”

Review: I can’t say that I disliked this story, but I can’t say that I really liked it either. It was a quick read, and moved along at a very active pace. For the story it was telling, or the piece of the story, that worked for it. It was well-written and I did like the overall idea.

Grace was a jerk, but she was written that way and the character is aware of it, so that works and she has her endearing points. Some personal development aspects felt a little forced, however.

Ultimately, there was just some factor missing for me to say that I liked it. I think this is just a me thing and another fan of paranormal suspense would get a lot out of the story. For me, though, it’s 3 Fireballs.

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Review: “A Plague of Shadows” by Travis Simmons

“A Plague of Shadows” (Harbingers of Light, Book One) by Travis Simmons

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 14 December 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: A shadow plague is creeping through the land of O. The plague ensnares those it infects, and turns them into mindless shadow people called darklings. The darklings have one goal: to pollute all of the nine worlds along the world tree, and bring about oblivion. Fear of these darklings and the magic they possess drives people to kill those that appear different, or go against the holy word of the All Father.

At nineteen Abagail Bauer should be starting a family of her own, but instead she still home, caring for her lame father and their farm. The hard life has made her practical. She has little time for flights of fancy, unlike her sister Leona who insists her doll can predict the future. But that all changes in a single moment. While tending their bees Abagail encounters a blackness spreading through the hive. She knows what it is: the shadow plague. And now she’s been infected.

She doesn’t believe in other worlds outside her homeland of O. But when her father finds she’s contracted the shadow plague, he sends her to live with her Aunt Mattelyn in a world known as Agaranth. Though she’s never met her aunt, she’s the only known person who has contracted the shadow plague and learned to control it. For Abagail, everything she’s ever believed to be myth becomes a staggering reality.

Joined by her neighbor, Rorick Keuper, on a quest of revenge against the darklings who destroyed his home, and her seer sister, Leona, Abagail sets off across the rainbow bridge to Agaranth in hopes of curing herself of the plague. But Abagail finds that her infection is only the beginning of her ill fate. When she arrives in the new world, she’s far from where she needs to be. Braving the winter of this new land, along with the darklings that hunt her, will Abagail be able to find her aunt before the shadow consumes her, or is she destined to become a husk of who she once was and destroy all she holds dear?

Buy A PLAGUE OF SHADOWS today and get lost in the darkness.

Review: I’m still not entirely sure what I think about this book. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with it and I can’t say that I thought it was bad. It may have been my mood while I was reading, because that’s been known to happen, but I couldn’t seem to fully connect with any of the characters and something undefinable just didn’t sit entirely right.

It was a short read, but I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters that well and Abagail did bother me a little, but that may have been her age. (My issues with young female main characters being well documented.) It moved slowly, but the writing was fine. I liked the Norse inspiration as well, which mostly carried me through.

So I liked it well enough for 3 Fireballs.

3 Fireballs


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Review: “Gentlemen of Pitchfork” by Kamil Gruca

“Gentlemen of Pitchfork” by Kamil Gruca

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 13 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: The year is 1415. France is weakened by the recently ended Civil War between the factions of Burgundians and Armagnacs. The young and belligerent King Henry V Lancaster decides to pay the French a neighbourly visit. With him – the flower of the English knighthood.

Among them – Sir Arthur, the Baron of Pitchfork, an ideal of all chivalric virtues – his uncle, Sir Ralph, a veteran soldier with a taste for women and bitter humour – and his cousin, Sir Robert, a young and romantic would-be scholar who will have his first taste of war, sieges, duels, betrayal and intrigue but also love and practical philosophy.

Together they ride as secret envoys of their King to meet Burgundian emissaries. But the Armagnacs’ spies keep their eyes open for any sign of treason on the part of their political opponents and three powerful French armies are gathering to cross King Henry’s way.

Review: I accepted this book because I have long had a fascination with the Battle of Agincourt. Thanks to my mother returning to college when I was in elementary school, I grew up on Henry V with Kenneth Branagh. I was obsessed with archery in my late teens and early twenties, and so Agincourt was a good one to study. So when I saw a book related to that campaign, I was naturally interested.

That part of it, I liked. I’ll say that up front.

There was one overriding issue with the book. The author is Polish and so it was originally written in Polish. It was translated into English. S’all good, I’ve read a lot of translations, but this one read like no English editors had gone over it; like the translation has not been edited at all by someone versed in that.

For example, words that were perhaps technically accurate but to an English reader were odd choices and thus drew you out of the story; and I don’t mean the medieval terminology. I mean verbs and adjectives used in the exposition. Ways that sentences were constructed could be awkward. And that’s not even touching the tons of grammatical errors. (As a freelance editor, it’s really hard for me to overlook these things sometimes.)

It just felt to me like this could have been a very interesting story and a better read if someone had taken the time to really care for the book, which it didn’t–to me–feel like it received, and that was frustrating. The book was nearly unreadable to me, so much that I almost didn’t finish it, and I’m sure I missed a lot of the story itself because I was struggling with the text so much.

From what I was able to focus on of the story itself, the plot (in its historical context) and characters were fine. Scenes and developments a bit quick, but trying to fit a plot into a historical timeline can do that to you so I was alright with it. There were a lot of names and titles to follow, which you could get lost in finding who was who and on what side…but you got enough of the idea.

Lastly, two major subplots end quite abruptly and cliff-hanger style. I learned from the author’s biography that there is a second book, which has not been translated. That’s just mean. I struggled with the book, but I managed to hook into it enough to want to know what happens to those subplots and characters there-in.

So…I really wanted to like this book, but my frustration with it was pronounced enough that I can only say I “just” liked it. 3 Fireballs.

3 Fireballs

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Review: “Baudelaire’s Revenge” by Bob Van Laerhoven

“Baudelaire’s Revenge” by Bob Van Laerhoven

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Barnes & Noble (Print) or IndieBound
Released on: 15 April 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of the book’s blog tour.

Description: It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.

As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

Review: This was an interesting book.

It was very atmospheric, and the author–particularly early on when introducing characters–had a very lyrical way with the descriptions. Little things that painted a vivid image without overdoing it, and I liked that a lot. The setting was also painted this way, the backdrop of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war and events of Paris that followed. Since this is not a historical time/place that’s my area of expertise, I can make no claims on its accuracy but it painted quite a picture. (The same with Baudelaire. Another area not my expertise, but a well painted picture.)

The primary characters are remarkably flawed, but intriguing. Through them and salient points of their history, the story is carried along at a wonderful pace. It steadily builds in mystery and tension, and some humor, and carried me with its intrigue.

Then…something happened towards the end. Roughly three quarters of the way in, as we are moving towards the climax of the story. It felt like the story got…lazy. For several chapters, the intricate mysteries being woven were partially revealed through long monologues by characters, which wasn’t as gripping as learning it through events, and then some scenes that should have given us satisfaction in being seen (Shown) were given to us in small bits of Tell and retrospect. I was a little disappointed in some of the revealed motivations, but maybe I would have been less so if this section hadn’t irked me in its execution.

Bearing in mind that everything leading up to it had been much more written out, drawn out. So this, to me, was a discomfiting change.

For the very ending, the last two or three chapters, it did improve again. Some interesting twists that you may or may not see coming, and an ambiguous ending which suited the tone of the book, but that one section of dissatisfaction could not be entirely gotten past for me and has given this book a lower rating than I would have otherwise.

Still, it was intriguing and the author wove a good tale, and had an engaging way with words, so I cannot say I disliked it.

(I will note that this is definitely an adult book, as many themes, conditions and acts related to violence or sex (mostly sex) were discussed or written out. The author had an almost clinical way with those scenes, however, that I think added well to the atmosphere.)

So, over all, I’m going to say 3 Fireballs. It had a lot going for it, but that one section–when the book should have been at its best and, for me, fell short–just kind of left a lingering dissatisfaction. A different reader may feel differently, however, and all the good points will do more for them.

3 Fireballs


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Review: Instant Karma by Donna Marie Oldfield

“Instant Karma” by Donna Marie Oldfield

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 19 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Do you believe in karma? Materialistic, selfish estate agent Siena Robinson doesn’t – until she hits a disastrous run of bad luck that makes her wonder if she has brought it upon herself.

In Instant Karma, Siena moves to the quiet village of Fenville, where the locals are opposing a development that will see a beloved hall and library replaced by new flats and shops. What her neighbours don’t know is that she is one of the developers and stands to make millions from the deal.

But then Siena discovers that her high-school sweetheart, Aiden, is leading the protest and she finds herself acting as a double agent who is torn between her neighbours’ plight and making lots of money.

Will Siena betray her new friends and let greed ruin a second chance with Aiden? And will she ever find out who or what is behind her run of bad karma?

This quirky contemporary fiction book combines romance and wry British humour with a deeper karmic message as the reader follows Siena on her enlightening journey.

Review: This story was like A Christmas Carol, but in modern real estate.

From the description, you know that you’re not going to like the main character at first. And you don’t, or at least I didn’t. What I struggled with is that I wanted to find more deeper inside her, or good excuses in her past, to explain why she was the way she was and thus give me a reason to root for her Big Change at the end and be happy to see it. I had trouble finding that with Siena.

There were reasons given from her past, things that had happened to her, but they were barely explored enough to explain her and they seemed a little…“stock.” Like things that are meant to manufacture “auto-sympathy” for a character without working for it, and those authorial devices tend to bother me. I wanted to see more glimpses of her from the past to make me see that she had once been different, to really make me feel it. To show me more than tell me.

There is romance, although Aiden felt a little “pre-manufactured” as well, and I struggled to really feel their connection, past or present. Especially with how awful she was, what did he see in her other than the past? But then, the book was about trying to get her past self to become her present self again.

Our author has a fairly readable style and the story did flow along well. I found it a bit over-written at points, but not so much that I couldn’t get through it. And a story that can make me feel strongly about a character (for better or worse) does have something going for it, but it was hard for me to root for Siena’s big change of heart . She just drove me crazy–like how everything was always someone else’s fault–although I did find her bad karma moments funny.

So this one is hard for me to know how to properly rate. It wasn’t a bad book, but I did struggle with its characters in needing more characterization to really pull me into their lives. So, I think I’m going to have to go with 3 Fireballs.

3 Fireballs

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Review: “The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky” by David Litwack

The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky Cover Art

“The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky” by David Litwack

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks or Kobo
Released on: May 2014

Description: After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light-two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean.

Children of the Republic, Helena and Jason were inseparable in their youth, until fate sent them down different paths. Grief and duty sidetracked Helena’s plans, and Jason came to detest the hollowness of his ambitions.

These two damaged souls are reunited when a tiny boat from the Blessed Lands crashes onto the rocks near Helena’s home after an impossible journey across the forbidden ocean. On board is a single passenger, a nine-year-old girl named Kailani, who calls herself The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. A new and perilous purpose binds Jason and Helena together again, as they vow to protect the lost innocent from the wrath of the authorities, no matter the risk to their future and freedom.

But is the mysterious child simply a troubled little girl longing to return home? Or is she a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of a godless Republic, as the outlaw leader of an illegal religious sect would have them believe? Whatever the answer, it will change them all forever… and perhaps their world as well.

Review: I had high hopes for this one, which is probably where the trouble started.

Litwack is a very competent writer. His style flows well and is very readable. The story carries you along well, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the story itself ended up falling a bit flat for me. About a third of the way in, I realized that I wasn’t really connecting with our main adult characters (Helena and Jason), although Kailani was sweet. But still a little flat. Sebastien and Carlson, as primarily secondary characters, were written more strongly to me.

Their relationship (Helena and Jason) seemed flimsy in its development and more like a plot device than a fully fleshed aspect of the story.

The land divided started out interesting, but by the end, the whole thing felt kind of generic and like any other story on this type of idea. While the religion in it wasn’t named as any “real world” religion, it was fairly clearly a parallel and the end result felt simply like any other somewhat preachy tale where anyone who didn’t have faith/spirituality had a hollow, meaningless existence and would only be truly happy/content if they accepted the Spirit.

The ending was kind of rushed, a lot of build-up to some fizzle. (Another personal subplot for Helena felt similar.) It just wasn’t satisfying to the elements of the story that were so built upon.

Yet I can’t deny there were some interesting aspects to the story, and the writing was fluid and competently drawn. Even if there were things I didn’t like, I can see the merits. This is a story that I think will have something special for other people, but it really just wasn’t for me. So I can’t give it more than 3 Fireballs.

3 Fireballs

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Review: The Death of Anyone by D. J. Swykert

“The Death of Anyone” by D. J. Swykert

Available on: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords
Released on: 25 February 2013
Released by: Melange Books

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Detroit homicide Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from narcotics for using more than arresting and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims. But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer. Homicide Detective Neil Jensen, with his own history of drug and alcohol problems, understands Bonnie’s frailty and the two detectives become inseparable as they track this killer of children.

Review: This book falls into a bit of a middling range for me. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

The writing early on feels kind of stiff and clinical, although it flows all right. It improves somewhat as it goes on, but I never felt really drawn *into* the heads and hearts of our main characters. There were a lot of very fleshed out internal thoughts, which people don’t usually think like, and I think that was meant to do the drawing-in, but it ended up just reading…off to me.

The point of view seemed confused, like we were in Bonnie’s head 90% of the time but then small snips here and there would seem to be from the point of view of other, making it neither limited nor omniscient and that sort of thing always pulls me out. As does there being a lot of repeated information–such as what people would say to each other–which may happen in real life but is a little irritating in fiction.

Bonnie read, to me, a little stereotyped as a female. Her thoughts, particularly. There are women like that, I’m sure, but I dunno, I like fresh takes. And people were a little too quick to canonize her; be too grateful and tell her what a good person she is.

The relationship of Bonnie and Neil really goes 0 to 60, unless I missed some build up before the story takes place, and that’s a little tough to follow. I did like Neil and I liked the ARA angle. Our big shocker moment about him towards the end was just that, though I’m still undecided whether it was truly necessary for the story or just a shock tactic.

I also had one question I wanted to ask the investigators towards the end, but everything kind of rushed along at that point and, well, fictional characters rarely listen to me… (Even my own.)

And yet, over all, I didn’t DISlike the book, really. It read all right and I liked our main characters enough to continue and be somewhat interested in what happened to them. I think with some better editing–both for streamlining and point of view, as well as straight up line editing–it could’ve been a lot stronger.

Addition… Something I saw in a review while gathering information for posting. Apparently these characters appear in a previous book. I may have just missed this in my previous looking into things, but I do wonder if some of my issues may have been lessened if I had read the previous. Hard to say but worth considering.

As this does fall middling to me, as I see a lot of potential but see work needed, it’s 3 Fireballs.

3 Fireballs

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Review: “Mirian” by D. S. England

Mirian by D. S. England. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase your own copy at Amazon.

Description: In the port city of Mirian we follow the overworked and underfunded City Watch as they compete against a vicious mercenary group to keep the city safe and a group of desperate thieves do whatever they must to survive the brutal crackdown on crime. However unbeknownst to all of them, a new threat moves through the city’s catacombs intent on transforming Mirian into a fetid grave for all of its inhabitants.

Review: This is going to be a tricky review to write. It’s one of those that I have to break down into two parts: theory and execution. Theory, being the story itself, the plot, the characters, and the setting; whereas execution is the actual writing.

Theory, which I’m also going to call ‘the good’ stuff: I liked this part of it.

I thought the setting was interesting. I wouldn’t have minded a little more world building in some details, mainly pertaining to history/why things were as they were, but otherwise I got a good feel for the setting.

The characters were reasonably relatable. Cassie, as pretty much the only female character of note, didn’t impress me as much as I’d have liked but she was all right. I’d have liked to have seen more females/stronger female characters, or a good reason why they weren’t there from the setting but it didn’t bug me that much. I would have liked the Harth/Theal rationale (at the very first) to have been a little stronger, but again, didn’t bother me that much. A few other details here and there explained or strengthened, but nothing major. (And these things might have been there. I might have missed them, for reasons explained in the execution section.)

Generally speaking, the plot was interesting and moved along well. The Husk thing was an interesting twist. As it was “to be continued,” I can’t speak to how the story wrapped up, since it, you know, didn’t wrap up. But I didn’t mind that either. (Poor Clarke, though, that man has no luck.)

Execution, which I’m also going to call ‘the not so good’ stuff: This was my problem.

This was a good story terribly hindered by its frame. This was a book that clearly didn’t see any editor, or if it did (which is doubtful) anyone that was willing to do to it what it needed. It felt like a first draft more than a product ready for release, and that hindered what was otherwise good.

I don’t let basic proofreading issues affect my rating, but I do when it’s big issues with the prose itself. Sentence structure was muddied, so it was hard to follow along with what was being told at points. It was a bit overwritten, especially in terms of dialog attributions and actions being over-exaggerated. There were a lot of excess words, it could’ve benefited from streamlining as well as fixing passive voice at points. PoV could be convoluted, though I think the author was going for Omniscient. With some clean-up, this would be clearer, too.

The story was difficult to read because of this, so I may have missed points of the plot, though I think I got most of it.

My inner editor was just bouncing all over in my head reading this story, because I could see that it was good and I just wanted to grab the text and wrestle it into form that would make the story shine rather than hide it.

I would give the story a 4, but the prose a 2, so that settles an average of 3 Fireballs. I might read the sequel, because I am very curious, but I hope that it’s a little easier to read.

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Review: “Dreams of Azenaria” by Conrad W. Acosta III

Dreams of Azenaria by Conrad W. Acosta III. I purchased this on my own from Amazon.

Description: * You must find your way to Azenaria – Pray that you never do *

Once a wonder of the world, the great city of Azenaria now stands blackened and dead. Her streets, once paved with gold, are now filled with the wreckage of crumbling buildings and the invading armies of nature.

Deep beneath the ruin and decay, lies an ancient power that threatens the destruction of an ancient race known as O’orn. Only the three Ritchell men can decide the fate of the O’orn, but it will take three generations for the fight to be decided.

A full refund will be given to anyone trapped in Azenaria after the sun goes down, unless you are captured by the Chumra.

Dreams Of Azenaria, Book I of the epic fantasy ‘Azenaria’.

* You will get lost in Azenaria – Pray you can find your way out *

Review: This is one of those reviews that is going to be tricky to rate properly, because I have conflicting opinions. I liked the story, but the execution of said story fell a little short for me.

The story itself was very intriguing. I really liked how Acosta wove through the three timelines. I liked the mysteries presented, and when we got to the “future” story line, I really liked where it went towards the end (on the mountain). The use of memories and dreams as guiding factors was also interesting. While I didn’t find the character as fully fleshed out/three dimensional as they should’ve been, they were still good enough to make you root and hope for them; carry you through the story.

That being said, I had some trouble getting through the story. I found the writing to be overly drawn out. I love the quote from The West Wing, “Anyone in my family who uses five words when they could have used ten just isn’t trying hard enough.” But not as much when it comes to writing fiction. Too many words bogs down your story, and inflated prose tends to be a turn-off for me. Admittedly, I’m of a more succinct style, but these reviews are my opinions, after all.

With the events that do happen, this book could have lost–in my opinion–1/4 to 1/3 of its excess wording, including passive language when active would have been better, repeating things that we had already been told multiple times, and inflated words just  for the sake having words…this book would have flowed a lot better and been an easier read. It felt, to me, like a book that was trying too hard to be “epic.”

It also balanced oddly between intriguing mystery and things (like explanations and revelations) being too simplistic/too easily done.

All that being said, I found it an interesting story. I’m not sure if it’s enough to carry me to the next book, but it may be. As ever, it might just be me, but I have to go with 3 Fireballs on this one. I give the story 4, but the execution brought it down for me.

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Review: “Frostwalker” by Brandon R. Luffman

Frostwalker by Brandon R. Luffman. I purchased this on my own from Amazon.

Description: There’s something in the woods behind Jake Marsden’s house – and someone wants him to find it. A strange dream shatters his sleep, night after night, and a compulsion to find the dark presence in the forest wars with his logical and ordered nature. What’s a geek to do?

When his small hometown of Wynn, North Carolina falls under an ancient curse, Jake will find himself in a battle against creatures worse than any he’s faced in a game. Playing for keeps, it will be geek versus god in the fight to stop an evil force bent on destroying everything he holds dear.

The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth – If They Live Long Enough.

Review: Once more, my little salmon self is swimming upstream against rave reviews.

Not that I found this to be a “bad” book. It wasn’t bad. But I can’t say I thought it was great either. One fellow reviewer raves that Luffman made this zombie story original, and that’s pretty opposite of what I felt. I didn’t find the story that original. The geek stuff was nice, and the American Indian angle interesting, but not new, not unique, not even all that original.

It was set in your average small town, with your average characters, facing your average insane zombie events. The beginning felt like it was trying a little too hard to show the “buddy relationship,” and while the ending was all right, it was kind of a let down for me (I wanted more) and I wanted more out of the epilogue too, if we were going to have one at all.

What I did like about Luffman’s book, however, was the female characters. He writes fierce women–smart, strong–and plenty of them. Enough that it doesn’t feel like the “token tough chick” character.

Despite not finding it exceptionally original, it wasn’t bad. I found the beginning a tad boring, but it flowed along easily. (I read it pretty much in a day.) There was some intensity to the latter chapters, and although Eric was a touch “standard” character trope for the genre, I still really liked him, and Nancy rocked it pretty hard. So while I can’t join the rest and rave about it, I don’t feel like reading this book was at all a waste of time.

If you’re looking for your usual zombie fun, then I’d recommend it. Luffman is a very competent writer. Still, I’m sad to say that I can’t give it more than 3 Fireballs.

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