Reviewing the Pages: The Wheel of Ice

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Aboard the Wheel mining facility around Saturn, Dr Who #2, Jamie and Zoe see blue dolls who look like their landlady Mayor Laws’ baby Casey. Power-hungry Administrator Florian Hart accuses rebel teens of sabotage. The mystery goes back to the creation of the solar system, and could kill them all.

It’s never a good thing when the TARDIS takes charge and ends up taking the Doctor and his merry band of companions along for the ride. The current issue: it’s a disturbance in time, and it’s up to the Doctor, Zoe and Jamie to figure out why.

I have to say that I rather enjoyed this tale. Sure, the Doctor doesn’t play too much of a role in this tale, but, we’re usually following along with either Zoe or Jamie, which is also interspersed with interludes that deal with a wide variety of back story. Which, I love in this instance. While the story goes right along its merry way, the interludes provide background into certain characters and key objects in the story.

Now, I’m not well versed in the realm of Classic Who, but I do have to say that I have, at the very least, a passing familiarity not only with the Second Doctor, but also his current traveling companions. But, I can’t forget about the characters of Jo, Phee, and Sam; who this story kind of revolves around, in a way. Then, there’s Florian, who’s motivation is driven by greed and revenge, and she will stop at nothing to get her way.

All in all, I really enjoyed this read. I loved the alien setting within the Rings of Saturn; enjoyed all of my friendly characters (yes, that includes reading through the Scottish of Jamie and MMAC); and enjoyed the story unfold throughout the pages. Just be careful when venturing out with the Doctor in this one; space is dangerous.

I’m getting rusty with these reviews, I need to pick the pace back up.

Anyway, the one thing I really want to talk about here is Arkive.  I’m only mostly sure that Arkive is a ship, or at least a ship’s intelligence, and not an actual being.  There’s no way that a being could live for billions upon billions of years.  Which makes what exactly Arkive is rather fuzzy.  It has a want…a desire to go back to where (and when) it came, but its attempts are futile and proving to be far more difficult that it realizes.

I love the alienness of our setting.  It has both man-made elements to it in terms of the space debris that turned up, and the rest of the natural setting of Saturn and her moons.  Whether it was within the rings, or on Titan, I rather enjoyed the uniqueness of each area.

Sorry I’m not able to get into more.  I really don’t want to spoil anymore, and some of the more important centers of my brain are shutting down for the evening (it’s almost midnight at the time I’m writing this). So, I leave you this.  You should read this.  Sure, there’s more focus on the companions than the Doctor, but it works out in the book’s favor.  Enjoy the characters and the setting, and who knows, you just might be able to help Arkive.

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Reviewing the Pages: The Lodestone Files: The Things in the Shadows

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Idris Sinclair lives a rather typical life; helping his family run their cherished diner. However, all the normalness he knows in life is about to go straight out the window when he happens to break into an abandoned van in the restaurant’s parking lot. He discovers a small weapon’s stockpile and various files, involving affairs foreign to him. 

As night begins to set in, the family is involved in one of our government’s most heinous and dastardly secrets involving entities, not of this world. 

It walks among us. It could be anyone—or anything. Suspect everyone you know, or you pass on the street. There is nowhere where you are safe. Run all you want; it will only make you taste more delicious to it. 

It’s too late. It already knows where you are. 

It’s. Here.

Much too short! That’s what I think about this story. There’s so much here that we are given in terms of information, and it leaves us so many answers. What exactly are these creatures? Why are there people watching them? What is going to happen to the boys? Etc, etc. McCartney starts off with a lot of atmosphere, letting us get connected to the characters, and then, pulls the rug out from beneath us during the meatiest part of the story.

I really want to learn more about this world! I hope that McCartney has more plans to dive into this world in the future. It might be short, but it packs a punch, and I highly recommend this to any avid reader.

No spoiler alert today, because this is just too short, and I’ve pretty much said what I wanted to in the Goodreads review above.  Seriously.  Go check this read out.  I got my copy through InstaFreebie, but I cannot state enough that I loved this read.  Go find it.  Check it out.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it, and want more.

Reviewing the Pages: Reliquary

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Hidden deep beneath Manhattan lies a warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries, mostly forgotten by those who walk the streets above. There lies the ultimate secret of the Museum Beat. When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found deep in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is called in to aid the investigation. Margo must once again team up with police lieutenant D’Agosta and FBI agent Pendergast, as well as the brilliant Dr. Frock, to try and solve the puzzle. The trail soon leads deep underground, where they will face the awakening of a slumbering nightmare… in Reliquary, from bestselling coauthors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Following the events of Relic, this book follows some of main survivors of the incidents at the Museum as they follow a new threat that takes the fear from the Museum beast and spreads it around the deep underground of the New York tunnel system.

For me, it felt like there were too many stories in this one to follow. Sure, we had many different characters that eventually converged their storylines into one, but there felt like too many to worry about. The main story was enjoyable, and I felt like there could have been more done with Kawakita, but the story gave us enough information at the right time. I wasn’t a big fan of what they were doing with Smithback with the Take Back Our City rally that devolved into a riot. I felt that it wasn’t right for the story.

The action will keep you motivated, and every new reveal will keep you guessing. Sure, it’s not super stellar, but it will keep you entertained until the epilogue. For those of you who like mysteries tinged with science, you should check this, and Relic out.

So, I left out Frock for a reason.  Yes, it was a good twist that Frock is found out to be the main villain, and there may have been hints that it was him throughout the tale, but the whole reveal fell just a little flat.  It was just “Oh…Doctor Frock?!”, and that was it.  Sure, the motivation (stated afterwards) was there.  A man that has been crippled for most of his life is practically gifted the ability to walk again, with some…side effects.  Granted, the drug that has been extracted could very well be part of the problem, or it can only have enhanced the mental strain because of his jealousy of being confined to a wheelchair.  Who can really say for certain?

We do get a lot of new characters mixed in with the old.  Some, like Hayward, are fleshed out and given some life here.  Others, like Snow and Mrs. Wisher, are rather one-dimensional, and I hope that we aren’t going to get them back in a future book.  Which concerned me a little bit.  Both characters are rather instrumental in the plot, yet, they have little depth to them.  I do want to like Snow, but at the same time, there’s not much there.  At all.  There were some characters that we got introduced to that I was really glad to see go because I found their personality to be rather grating, yet there are some that still stuck around to the very end.

You should schedule this one into your busy reading schedules, fellow reader.  Reading Relic can be very helpful to you here, but not necessarily a requirement.  Dive underground into the New York City labyrinth.  You’ll never know what sort of mysteries you’ll uncover.

Reviewing the Pages: Flesh and Bone

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Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the world-famous Body Farm, is hard at work on a troubling new case. A young man’s battered body has been found in nearby Chattanooga, and it’s up to the talented Dr. Brockton to assemble the pieces of the forensic puzzle. Brockton is brought into the case by the rising star of the state’s mechanical examiners, Jess Carter.

Just as they’re on the verge of breaking the case open, events take a terrifying turn. Brockton has re-created the Chattanooga death scene at the Body Farm, but a killer tampers with it in a shocking way: placing another corpse at the setting, confusing authorities and putting Brockton’s career and life in jeopardy. Soon Brockton himself is accused of the horrific new crime, and the once-beloved professor becomes an outcast. As the net around him tightens, Brockton must use all of his forensic skills to prove his own innocence . . . before he ends up behind bars with some of the very killers he’s helped to convict.

“Flesh and Bone” is another roller-coaster ride into the world of forensic anthropology, its twists and turns marked by drama and pathos, humor and grief, families and friends and enemies. With captivatingly real characters, plus fascinating scientific insights drawn from the case files of a living forensic legend, this astonishing novel confirms Jefferson Bass as one of our most talented authors of suspense.

Well, this was a fun experience to re-read through. It’s been a few years since we went on this journey with Dr. Brockton, with his experience of one of the worst time periods of his life. We get our rather interesting cast of characters back, along with a new character: Miss Georgia Youngblood. Miss Georgia is a character you can’t help falling for, or at the very least, admiring. There’s not much I want to say here, but, I do recommend this read. You’ll learn a lot more about the human anatomy and human nature along the way. Just, don’t forget the tissues folks, you’ll want them.

The reason why I didn’t want to say much above, is because I didn’t want to spoil the read for people on Goodreads.  Dr. Brockton hits his lowest point of the series (so far), by losing the woman that he was falling in love with, and being made the primary suspect in her murder.  Oh, that and hiring Grease, the lawyer that he’s had to go battle with time and time again in the confines of the court room.

The book is engaging, and while some other reviews that I read give the authors a lot of grief because of the plot with the “intelligent design” bashing (which, I don’t think ever got resolved in this one, so maybe we’ll get a resolution with it in the next book?).  I’m not one for the idea of intelligent design, but I’m at least open to understanding the theory and feelings behind it.  The one thing I don’t like about that particular plot point is that it isn’t resolved.  Granted, much like Dr. Hamilton’s plot line starting out in the previous book, and ending here; the seeds for this story are planted here.  I’m just hoping that there’s a payoff (although much less emotionally costing to Dr. Brockton).

Go check this book, and for that matter, the whole series out.  Each one of these could act as their own stand-alone story, with only vague hints and nudges to past events.  Dive in to the read folks, but don’t let love blind you.

Reviewing the Pages: Wild Cards I

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The first volume of George R. R. Martin’s WILD CARDS shared-world series, back in print after a decade—and expanded with new, original material.

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo–winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

This is my second read-through of this story collection, and I have to say, my rating will not change. There are some stories in here that are masterful in their creation, and there are some others that are really lacking in their execution. The whole world is creative, and while the characters are actually flawed in one way or another, there is a lot that this world has to offer that we just don’t get. Yes, the epilogue and appendix serve as a way of getting some explanation as to the details of the Wild Card Virus (including a well-thought out speech (lecture) on how the Wild Card Virus is primarily PSI in nature). However, don’t shy away from this read. For all of it’s flaws, it sets up a world that has survived and thrived going on four decades now. I recommend those who like tales that are both dystopian and alternative-history in nature. You never know, you just might find this to be an Ace.

Well, as stated above, I’ve read this book before.  But, it had been pretty much two years since I last read this book, so it’s been an interesting journey to dive right back into the Wild Cards universe.  And I have to say, there were some short stories that I did enjoy, and some that I downright despised.  Why? Because some of the stories were too disjointed; way too all over the place to be coherent.  Granted, I like some of the characters within those stories, but their stories just didn’t do it for me.  There are also some character that I wasn’t huge fans of, like Fortunato and Puppetman.  In Puppetman’s case, it’s because his involvement in the story was confusing (even though that he’s pulling strings like a puppet master, and the end reveal was good, it just gave me that weird feeling).  For Fortunato, it’s just his powers in general.  There are some characters in here that I’m not sure are Aces or Deuces.

There are a lot of real-world events that come across in this story, and a lot of real-world themes like discrimination (putting Jokers in the shoes of those in the minority during the Civil Rights era).  There are also a lot of very heavy themes, with violence and various themes of a sexual nature (including rape), so a fair warning to those who are ready to dive into this collection, be careful.

One of the good things that I like about this read is that, while we have several different authors writing for this book, we get a lot of interconnected characters.  Multiple characters get brought through different stories, whether it’s the Sleeper and his ever-changing faces; The Great and Powerful Turtle in his armored body; or other characters like Fortunato and Gimli.

Don’t let my review give you second thoughts about picking this one up.  It may not be that great, but it’s the first in what appears to be a very large series.  There are going to be some hiccups along the way.  Dive right into this series folks, and enjoy questioning everything you once knew.

Reviewing the Pages: In Cold Blood

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Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is both a masterpiece of journalism and a powerful crime thriller. Inspired by a 300-word article in The New York Times, Capote spent six years exploring and writing the story of Kansas farmer Herb Clutter, his family and the two young killers who brutally murdered them. In Cold Blood created a genre of novelistic non-fiction and made Capote’s name with its unflinching portrayal of a comprehensible and thoroughly human evil.

One of the pioneering novels in true crime non-fiction, In Cold Bloodfollows the murders of the Clutter family in their home, from events that took place just days before the murder, to the execution of the murderers. The book starts slow, with the task of having to set up the setting of the area as well as letting the reader get to know the Clutter family. But, roughly halfway through, the pace starts to quicken as the sense of “will they get caught” keeps getting larger and larger. While I expected there to be more about the trial than what we got, that could be attested to the sheer feeling of “open/shut”ness to the whole case.

Alright.

I felt that there was too much time in the novel spent on Perry Smith.  Yes, I know that there has to be some kind of focus here, but, I’m not sure if the focus should have been spent on only one of the killers.  Dick Hickock doesn’t get nearly enough “screen” time in the pages, which is strange because there would have been more there for Capote to get coverage for (since Dick’s family was there in Garden City while Perry had nobody).  Maybe it’s because Capote figured that Perry would make more of a figure to garner sympathy, but I didn’t feel it here.  Everyone has a tough life; some just have it worse off than others.  BUT, I don’t need to read about someone’s bedwetting problem over and over again.  Feels to me like Capote may have developed a bit of an intimate bond of some sort with Perry, and took to expressing it by trying to make Perry a sympathetic character despite the heinous crime that he had committed.  And I feel like it didn’t work out so well.  There are also some parts in this novel that I felt were completely fictionalized; as if Capote needed to come up with something to fill in the gaps to keep the story rolling along.  But, that’s just me.

But, for those of you who do like true-crime reads, you should check one of the pioneers of the genre.  Strap in folks, it’s going to be a long ride.

Reviewing the Pages: Ten Minutes to Deadtime

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Terry’s alarm keeps waking him at 3.33 every morning. The problem is, he never sets it for that time. On one occasion he wakes up and something is very different. And that’s when his life begins to unthread…
 
Already struggling to balance work and home life, can he overcome the evil that has awakened?

Super short, and while certainly interesting, I felt like there wasn’t much here to tie into the Shadow Fabric Mythos. Sure, we get the Witchblade and what could only be alluded to as the Shadow Fabric, but that’s about it. Sure, the scares that we get here are good. But, in terms of the Mythos, there’s some things that are left to be desired. If you need a quick read, and are hankering for some scares (and a little bit of bewilderment), then this read is for you. And, as a bonus, you don’t need to have read The Shadow Fabric in order to understand anything in this story.

Well, here we are.  Another story in the Shadow Fabric mythos.  And my, do we…not get a lot.  At least, in terms of the Mythos.  Sure, the Witchblade makes an appearance, though for a much sinister appearance than it does in The Shadow Fabric.  But, I have many, MANY questions to ask this story, and there’s just not that many answers.  For example, why 3:33 am? Besides the whole “it’s the Witching Hour and 3:33 is that perfect witching time” (or something along those lines).  Why is the Witchblade suddenly sinister, or is it much darker forces that have the Witchblade at work here? Are the Forgotten the souls that have been stitched together into the Fabric? As I said, so many questions that don’t have much of an answer here.  And that’s ok.  There really doesn’t need to be too many questions answered.  Let’s just hope that a lot of these are connected in one way or another later on down the line, maybe in a unified short story collection, or a sequel novel?

Either way.  For those wanting a quick and easy read, then you should pick up this read.  It may leave you with a lot of questions, but trust me, this whole series is full of them.