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Review: “The Only City Left” by Andy Goldman

“The Only City Left” by Andy Goldman

Available from: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Released on: 17 July 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

Description: Eighteen-year-old Allin Arcady only wants one thing: to reach the Roof of the World and see the Sun for the first time in his life. The problem is, he’s lost in the depths of the ruined planet-city called Earth, fleeing the horrors of his past.

When his past catches up to him, Allin is thrust into a science fantasy adventure in which he meets a race of genetically-modified cats, tangles with vengeful werewolves, and parlays with cyborgs. Along the way, Allin is forced to decide: will he spend his whole life running or take a stand against the forces that want to finish off the Earth once and for all?

Review: This book was a lot of fun, really. Thanks to a bout of insomnia, I was able to read it in one night. It had a great active reading flow to it, starting quite actively at the beginning and rolling through the narrative with one event after another. There are some points where these events feel a bit rushed, bouncing too fast from one to another, but never so much to pull you out of the story.

There were some paranormal and fantasy tropes that aren’t uncommon, but felt new in how our author presented them. Namely: the apocalyptic setting, werewolves, and talking cats.

At the end, I read how this book was originally a serial and you can kind of see that as you go, but it works. Our narrator was engaging. You enjoy watching his transformation. He is flawed and might drive you a little crazy at times, but it makes the character a three-dimensional human and never so much that you don’t care what happens to him.

Since it says “Book One” right on the cover, you know there will be more, and there are some threads left not wrapped up so they can return for these future installments. I’m curious what will come next. It missed some element to really give me that rave factor, but it came pretty damn close: 4.5 Fireballs.

4.5 Fireballs

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Boom Baby Review’s Best of 2014!

2014 was a really busy year for me, and I tried to amp up the reviewing. Although there were some books that weren’t quite my thing, I was really lucky to get some great books. As such, I want to give a shout out to my 4.5 and 5 Fireball reviews of 2014! Each one is linked to the review, so you can check out what I thought about it. And now, in no particularly order, they are…

Fantasy

Wizard of Ends, Book Two: Dark Creature by Vanessa Finaughty & Majra by J. Simon

Monster Lit

Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney

Contemporary Poetry/Prose, Military

Starved for Bullets by Ryan Goodrich

Erotic Romance

The Brethren of the Coast by Barbara Devlin (Reviewed in 2014: My Lady, The Spy; The Most Unlikely Lady; One-Knight Stand)

Steampunk Action/Adventure

The Adventures of Ichabod Temperance by Ichabod Temperance (Reviewed in 2014: For the Love of Temperance; A Study in Temperance)

Superhero, Comedy

Scarlet Winters by J. Kwong

Contemporary Literary Fiction

The First Noble Truth by C. Lynn Murphy

Historical Fiction

Agnes Canon’s War by Deborah Lincoln

…and that was the best of 2014. Thank you to all the authors and readers who made this a great reading year. I’ve got the proverbial stack of books already to get 2015 kicked off with a bang, so watch this space for more books and more reviews and more everything!

Happy 2015!

Review: “Agnes Canon’s War” by Deborah Lincoln

“Agnes Canon’s War” by Deborah Lincoln

Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Powell’s
Released on: 1 October 2014
I received this book free in exchange for an honest review, as part of this book’s blog tour.

Description: “I saw a woman hanged on my way to the Pittsburgh docks…

Agnes Canon is tired of being a spectator in life, an invisible daughter among seven sisters, meat for the marriage market. The rivers of her Pennsylvania countryside flow west, and she yearns to flow with them, explore new lands, know the independence that is the usual sphere of men.

This is a story of a woman’s search for freedom, both social and intellectual, and her quest to understand what freedom means. She learns that freedom can be the scent and sound of unsettled prairies, the glimpse of a cougar, the call of a hawk. The struggle for freedom can test the chains of power, poverty, gender, or the legalized horror of slavery. And to her surprise, she discovers it can be found within a marriage, a relationship between a man and a woman who are equals in everything that matters.

It’s also the story of Jabez Robinson, a man who has traveled across the continent and seen the beauty of the country and the ghastliness of war, as he watches his nation barrel toward disaster. Faced with deep-seated social institutions and hard-headed intransigence, he finds himself helpless to intervene. Jabez’s story is an indictment of war in any century or country, and an admission that common sense and reasoned negotiation continue to fail us.

As Agnes and Jabez struggle to keep their community and their lives from crumbling about them, they must face the stark reality that whether it’s the freedom of an African from servitude, of the South from the North, or of a woman from the demands of social convention, the cost is measured in chaos and blood.

This eloquent work of historical fiction chronicles the building of a marriage against the background of a civilization growing – and dying – in the prelude to civil war.

Review: This book reminded me a lot of ‘Centennial,’ and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I mean the mini-series from the ‘70s rather than the book. I have yet to manage a sojourn through Michener’s epic (and epically sized) work. But my mother loved the mini-series, so I watched it a lot when I was younger and I still enjoy it. Anyways, what I mean by that is that this felt like a story as much about its setting as the “main” characters; perhaps more about the setting.

We do follow Agnes Canon and Jabez Robinson, and their families and their lives together, but we also follow a town and a state and a people over the course of more than ten years. And when talking about the 1850s and 1860s in America, what a ten years that was. We follow the years that led up to and then through the Civil War, but what makes this book interesting in that is that it’s set in Missouri. It was a much “greyer” area between people siding with the unionists versus the secessionist, the slave-holders versus the abolitionists. It was more divided and less decided than the far north or deep south. So for a book about the civil war, and for a girl with family in Alabama and Connecticut, it provided a different perspective than I usually get and I liked that.

This was a very good book. It was very readable. The way it moved through time–fitting so many years into a three hundred page book–could be a little jarring, but not that bad. Even if you looked at the surroundings and the setting more than the people, you still felt the people. You still got into the characters.

Agnes was an interesting portrait of what a woman was expected to be in her day and age and the modern way that women reading these books today wish those historical figures had been like. Jabez showed the general restlessness of much of America, and all those who moved west to the uncharted areas. And in them and through them, we see a lot of the fuzzy lines of that time period.

Overall, this story was…heartbreakingly realistic. There were some scenes that were very difficult to read and, yes, made me cry. But they were true to the day they lived in, and well portrayed. And the fact that this story was based on some of the author’s personal lineage makes it all the more fascinating.

I can’t quite say this was a 5 for me, but 4.5 Fireballs is sound.

4.5 Fireballs

Deborah Lincoln Tour Banner

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Review: “A Study in Temperance” by Ichabod Temperance

 

A Study in Temperance Cover Art

“A Study in Temperance” (Ichabod Temperance #4) by Ichabod Temperance

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 22 May 2014

Description: “‘Twas the hand of fate that brought Miss Plumtartt and me together, for, in truth, we have been happenstance-stricken and adventure prone ever since.” -Ichabod Temperance, For the Love of Temperance

Such is the case once again as Ichabod Temperance and his lady love, Miss Persephone Plumtartt, are hurled into adventure and mystery. This time, they return to Persephone’s ancestral estate in England, where they hope to enjoy a much-needed vacation. However, fate has other plans for the young couple, as a series of murders close in upon the innocent pair. A notorious Victorian Era London detective assists the plucky protagonists through a tangled web of intrigue involving an incredible cast of suspicious characters.

Review: Oh, my dear Mr. Temperance, what another frolicking romp you have taken me on!

This is the fourth book in the Temperance series, and it was a fun little scamper through steampunk action-adventure. Our author continues to amuse with funny little pop culture in-jokes (that you don’t need to get to like the story) and that “this isn’t really PC but it works” edge to many things. Ichabod and Persephone maintain their status as Adorable.

We also make a new friend in this one, quite the ‘great detective’ and it’s a fun addition, but I like how the name is never truly used.

My only real complaint about this one is that is seemed to employ a lot more phonetic accents–spelling out the accent instead of just saying the character had one. It was hard enough to follow in several pieces of dialog, but the exposition written in it could make it tough to follow on the over-all. Plus, a lot of names. (Though the priest was a nice touch.)

Even so, you could follow along and enjoy the story, but I personally would have liked to see a bit less of it. It did hamper my enjoyment a little and I worry I missed things, so this one gets a 4.5 this time around. But I just saw that there is already a fifth book and I’m looking forward to it!

4.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Waking the Merrow” by Heather Rigney

“Waking The Merrow (The Merrow Trilogy Book 1)” by Heather Rigney

Available from: Amazon
Released on: 22 May 2014

Description: In 1772, angry Rhode Island colonists set fire to a British ship, sparking the American Revolution. Taxation without representation was a motivator. So was the vengeful, man-eating mermaid who had it out for the commanding officer.

That was then. This is now.

Mermaids, or merrow, still hunt in Narragansett Bay, but these days they keep a lower profile.

At night, centuries-old Nomia seduces smutty frat boys, lures them into icy waters, and feeds them to her voracious kin. By day, she and her half-breed daughter attempt to blend in at the coastal Village Playground.

But Nomia slips up. She makes a friend. Then she makes that friend disappear, and someone notices.

Thirty-something Evie McFagan just wants to make it through working motherhood. But she’s a blistering stew of issues—snarky alcoholic and a friendless funeral director who just witnessed Nomia dismembering a guy at the nearby yacht club.

When Evie believes a mermaid stole her baby, who will help? The merrow of Ireland? Or maybe anti-hero Evie will surprise everyone, including herself, and summon the strength to save her own family.

Intertwining the stories of two primordial families with the colonial history of Narragansett Bay, Waking the Merrow is a dark historical fantasy.

Review: This book contains several of my favorite things: monster lit, the ocean, a choice of monster that’s not like every other book or movie out there, mythology, Gaelic/Celtic stuff, and New England.

This book had a lot going for it for me.

Evie is quite the snarktastic narrator. Oftentimes in the beginning, she comes close to overdoing the snark (for my taste) but doesn’t actually cross the line. She’s a very flawed character, but still endearing in her way. She also has a way of “breaking the fourth wall” and talking directly to the reader that greatly amuses me.

I really liked Paddy, and their relationship/marriage. It was messy, and awkward, and genuine. So, it was realistic. They were both flawed and yet loved each other, and that carried it through. I liked that.

I also liked the intertwining of the past/present and families. A very New England feel to that, too.

It was a smooth, fairly easy read and good for it’s genre. I think it’s shy of a 5 rating because of Evie’s drinking problem. Yes, it’s a Thing of mine, but that always makes me struggle a bit with a character so I can’t quite rave about it. Still, it was a lot of fun, and I’m interested to see what happens in the next book, so I’m giving it 4.5 Fireballs.

4.5 Fireballs

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Review: Crazy Little Thing Called Lust (Simone: Part Two: Naughty Nookie Series) by Serena Akeroyd

“Crazy Little Thing Called Lust” by Serena Akeroyd

Available on: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords
Released on: 7 December 2013

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

Description: After the revelations that sprang forth after her one night stand, Simone feels both betrayed and guilty as hell in the aftermath. When Zane calls her, looking to take her out again, what can she say apart from, ‘Get real! And while you’re at it, get lost!’

But when Zane refuses to take her rejection and forces her to listen to his unorthodox tale, he sets Simone on to a path she never imagined impossible.

With her life changing about her, only her friends can keep her grounded.

But does she want to have her feet planted firmly on the ground?

Or is she ready for adventure?

Even if that adventure means her becoming something that goes against her every principle.

Review: I liked part two better than part one. I found the main character’s snark a little less exaggerated and her emotions a little less annoying, although I still don’t know why she annoyed me quite so much at the end of the last one. There are other elements to her and to the story that make me relate to her better.

Also, I found the sex scenes hotter in this one and yet I really like how realistic she makes them.

I’m interested and excited to see where the latter two parts go and hope they go where they look like they’re going, because I enjoy books about relationships that rebel against convention, which is where we’ve gone and where it looks like we’re going. So, yeah, looking forward to that.

Not sure what spark it needs to push this up that last notch, but it’s a 4.5 Fireballs from me.

4.5 Fireballs

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Review: “Steal My Heart” by Lisa Eugene

Steal My Heart by Lisa Eugene. I received this because I proof-read it for the author, but that was after I had already agreed to review it. This is full disclosure that no money exchanged hands for the review of this story in any way. You can buy your own copy at Amazon.

Description: Maggie Lawson is an OR nurse, a certified germaphobe! She likes to keep things clean and orderly. When she meets Ex-Navy SEAL, Gabe Masters, he’s disguised as a dingy dirty hobo. She cringes as she’s forced to use her nursing skills to revive him. She soon finds that he’s a ‘dirty boy’ in more ways than one! After being forced to do his bidding, she unwittingly gets entangled in a dangerous, fast-paced, sexy adventure that tests the boundaries of her spirit and the capacity of her heart. Gabe’s passion spirals her to unimaginable heights. She soon starts to wonder if he is the real danger. Will she succumb to this ‘dirty boy’ who’s keeping secrets about his past, or will she chose to keep things clean?

Review: After reading and enjoying Strictly Business by Ms. Eugene, I decided that I would like to read her second book. I had already made that decision when I agreed to proof read this one before release, so I got to read it before release! I feel special. ;)

Seriously, though… I really enjoyed this one. I found Maggie and Gabe to be more three-dimensional than the characters in Strictly Business, and the reasons that kept them apart from an actual relationship to be less contrived. Having a heroine who was terrified of germs was kind of fun, especially in all of the situations she ended up in. True, I found that phobia to be a little transient at times, but one forgives that for the sake of the story and the romance. It still worked and never disappeared.

Gabe was another great alpha male. Their initial “true” meeting (in her apartment) does tread a little close to being…uncomfortable, but for my tolerance, Eugene kept it in the right side of the lines.

I found the story and the romance to be very intense and gripping. There were times that I had to remind myself that I was editing because I was wrapped up in the story, less because of the suspense/mystery (though that was good too) but more because I just kept wondering how things were going to roll out in such a seemingly untenable situation to lead us to the happy ending.

Also, this book was funnier. A few points had me laughing out loud, especially the ending. Like most fiction suspense, it requires a little suspension of reality, but I found it to be an engaging and entertaining read, along with a pretty hot love story. Not quite a 5 for me–as I’m stingy with the 5s, but a 4.5 Fireballs!

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Review: “Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience)” by Ira Nayman

Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) by Ira Nayman. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. You can buy your own copy at Amazon.

Description: This hilarious science-fiction comedy novel follows the first case for Noomi Rapier, rookie investigator with The Transdimensional Authority – the organisation that regulates travel between dimensions. When a dead body is found slumped over a modified transdimensional machine, Noomi and her more experienced partner, Crash Chumley, must find the dead man’s accomplices and discover what they were doing with the technology. Their investigation leads them to a variety of realities where Noomi comes face-to-face with four very different incarnations of herself, forcing her to consider how the choices she makes and the circumstances into which she is born determine who she is.

Ira Nayman’s new novel is both an hilarious romp through multiple dimensions in a variety of alternate realities, and a gentle satire on fate, ambition and expectation. Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience) will appeal to comedy fans who have been bereft of much good science-fiction fare these last eleven years. Ira’s style is at times surreal, even off-the-wall, with the humour flying at you from unexpected angles; he describes it as fractal humour. Anyone who has read his Alternate Reality News Service stories will know how funny Ira is. The characters we meet from around the multiverse deserve to become firm favourites with all fans of science fiction comedy.

Review: This not being the first piece I’ve read from this author, I feel that I have the authority with which to make the following statement: Ira Nayman is, without a doubt, totally insane. I mean, really bug-nuts crazy. How could anyone in their right mind, after all, come up with the stuff he puts into his stories?! The answer: no one, which is why he’s obviously not in his right mind.

This is what I’m saying.

As such, you can imagine that his stories are about the same. And they are. But they’re really funny, which is what makes them pretty awesome. But you know what? It also makes them kind of hard to properly describe! I can’t exactly tell you about the story. You sort of just have to read and experience the machine-gun fire satirical bullets yourself.

It’s very dry, wry, sarcastic, sardonic, tongue-in-cheek, straight-forward and convoluted. It loves to play in the not-so-politically correct/but-not-so-bad-either waters. The characters interact with the narrator and accompanying literary devices, and always very amusingly. As are the narrator’s interactions with you, the reader.

Noomi and Crash aren’t the most three-dimensional characters in the world, but they’re not flat either. You just don’t dive too deep into them, but that’s okay. I think it would take away from the fun of the story if we did. There’s a plot and characters. It’s all there, and it’s good, but the story itself really is the world and all the other worlds: an infinite number of them.

I’m not really sure what else to say. I guess you’ll just have to experience it for yourself. ;-) The only reason it’s not getting a five is cause while it’s very enjoyable, it’s not the kind of story that grabs me by the throat and smacks me around, which are the types that get 5 Fireballs, but it’s close… 4.5 Fireballs!

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Review: “Relics and Wonders: Lombard’s Amulet” by Randall Ridings & Kevin Mullikin

Relics and Wonders: Lombard’s Amulet by Randall Ridings & Kevin Mullikin. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase it at Amazon.

Description: Fueled by vengeance, a powerful bounty hunter chases a sorcerer and his accomplice across the globe. While on their trail, he befriends a young slave girl whose colossal secret may be the one thing capable of reigniting war between two kingdoms now sworn to protect one another.

Review: You know… I liked it. I usually have more to say leading into my reviews, but in this instance, I don’t. It had an interesting world that was fairly well built through the text. The writing was fluid, moved along at a nice pace and kept my interest. I’m not a big fan of pictures in my novels, but those were still interesting.

I had a few small issues with it.

1) It did take me a while to “hook into” the main characters. I was never repelled by them, and the writing was good enough to carry me along, but it did take me a while to get to know them well enough to give much of a damn about them.

2) Women! I would have liked at least one good female character. This was a hugely male driven story, and I’m okay with that, but the women that were there all seemed to be either bad/betrayers or victims/pawn. There was one part at the end that came close, but she still mostly fell into the second category. But… the very ending makes me hopeful that this will be fixed in the next book.

3) There were some big (to me, at least) scenes that seemed to happen “off camera” that kind of bugged me. I would have liked to have seen them written out. And the ending felt a touch rushed, but sometimes that happens. These are the lesser of issues, really.

Otherwise, it was good. The main characters had a lot of power, but I never felt they were imbalanced. (That’s a huge pet peeve of mine.) It was an interesting mix of fantasy creatures that are usual in separate sub-genres. For example, elves and dwarves usually seem to be kept apart from vampires and dampiels. But it worked.

I think I liked Rez the best, and Drifter seemed like a fascinating/cool character. With the above issues and missing that spark that makes me really go “wow!” and rave about it, this is just shy of a 5 but easily gets a 4.5 Fireballs rating, and I will definitely check out the next book.

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Review: “A Fine Likeness” by Sean McLachlan

A Fine Likeness by Sean McLachlan. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review. You can purchase it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Description: A Confederate guerrilla and a Union captain discover there’s something more dangerous in the woods than each other.

Jimmy Rawlins is a teenaged bushwhacker who leads his friends on ambushes of Union patrols. They join infamous guerrilla leader Bloody Bill Anderson on a raid through Missouri, but Jimmy questions his commitment to the Cause when he discovers this madman plans to sacrifice a Union prisoner in a hellish ritual to raise the Confederate dead.

Richard Addison is an aging captain of a lackluster Union militia. Depressed over his son’s death in battle, a glimpse of Jimmy changes his life. Jimmy and his son look so much alike that Addison becomes obsessed with saving him from Bloody Bill. Captain Addison must wreck his reputation to win this war within a war, while Jimmy must decide whether to betray the Confederacy to stop the evil arising in the woods of Missouri.

Review: Historical books haven’t generally been my thing, but I have started developing a taste for those that mix genuine historical events with paranormal aspects. The Civil War also hasn’t been a great source of fascination, despite a brief obsession of my mother’s with Gettysburg and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

That’s changed somewhat since I — a tried and true New England Yankee — married an Alabama boy and made him move up to the Northland. Upon meeting my in-laws, I realized that the Civil War had not truly ever ended, at least not down there, and I developed a little more interest.

So, I agreed to give this book a go, and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t move at a hyper-speed pace, but I never felt like it was dragging either. I like evenly paced stories. It really kept my interest, so I was able to read it in about three days.

One thing that I really liked about this story was the “grey” characters.

All the main characters weren’t black and white, from the union captain Addison and his attitude towards Negroes, and the Southern bushwhacker Jimmy who didn’t really seem to care one way or the other. It had a very realistic feel to it, when many Civil War stories try to make the divide more pronounced. (Bad Southern Slave Owners, Righteous Yanks.)

Not being a history buff, I would need to do some research to know how many of the events and people were historical, but it certainly had an authentic historic feel to it. I did do a little Wiki work and got to learn something about Missouri from the book and Wiki that I hadn’t known before.

The paranormal aspects, the goals of the Southern group and the spiritualist characters, interwove flawlessly.

The writing was good, and there was one line that stood out, talking about Bloody Bill Anderson: “This wasn’t a rebel yell, but a scream of Hell triumphant.” There was a theme of that with Anderson and his followers, the bestial/unearthly roars instead of rebel yells. I liked that.

Elijah I found the saddest subplot, although I won’t say too much about it since I don’t want to give stuff away.

Really, I think the only reason I’m giving this less than a 5 is that it was missing some extra spark that makes me sit back and go, “Wow.” I’m not sure what it was, but we all have different things that catch us in that way. That’s really the only thing I have, so this is a 4.5 Fireballs. And apparently, this is the first in a series, so I’ll keep an eye out for later books.

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