Monday, January 20, 2014

Review - Crypto Squad by Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon

As a boy, Marcus Tillman dreamed of being a sideshow barker, but never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined the kind of freak show he would work in one day. When the dead begin to rise from their graves and tear apart the very fabric of civilization, a special government-sponsored strike team known as the Crypto-Squad is created, and Tillman is put in charge. Comprised of beasts that are the stuff of rumor and legend, the Crypto-Squad’s mission is to eradicate a group of doomsday cultists who refer to themselves as The Unending. Refusing to accept defeat and determined to save those who are left alive, Tillman mobilizes this ragtag band of misfits, realizing that they are the world’s last remaining hope. Led by the Mothman, the Crypto-Squad is comprised of El Chupacabra, The Jersey Devil, Sasquatch from various tribes, Mongolian Death Worms, and more. As the legions of undead march across country, devouring what remains of America, the lives of millions rest in the hands of this dangerous group of rogue beasts. Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon’s Crypto-Squad is a mix of monsters, covert operatives, cultists, and the undead. This is the zombie apocalypse as you’ve never experienced it before!

Review by: Scott

4 stars

Crypto-Squad by Eric S. Brown and Jason Brannon is a quick fun read.  Involving a host of mythological (to some) characters that form a secret government agency.  Mothman, Ness, The Jersey Devil, are just some of the creature characters to look forward to.

The agency is around to deal with things that are outside what most normal people can deal with.  This book deals with a group called the Unending.  These people are some super powerful necromancers who have unleashed a horde of zombies and have many more tricks up their sleeves.

This is a great book for people who like paranormal action and I'm looking forward to checking out some of the other books in the series.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review - There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack

A thousand years ago the Darkness came--a terrible time of violence, fear, and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with "temple magic" and by eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

A restless dreamer, Nathaniel has always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for something more but unwilling to challenge the unbending status quo. When his friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his "teaching"--the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds young men and women eternally to the Light--Nathaniel can barely recognize the broken and brooding young man the boy has become. And when the beautiful Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel knows he must somehow save her. But in the prisons of Temple City he discovers a terrible secret that launches the three of them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in dire jeopardy. For a truth awaits them there that threatens the foundation of the Temple. But if they reveal that truth the words of the book of light might come to pass:

"If there comes among you a prophet saying 'Let us return to the darkness,' you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light."

Review by: Scott

4 stars

There Comes a Prophet by by David Litwack tells a dystopian story.  The world is controlled by the Temple of Light.  Ruling through fear and strict control of information and thought the Temple refuses to allow the people to know of the civilization that existed in the past.  When three young people from a small village shown the path to lost knowledge they jump on the chance to see if the Temple is really protecting or oppressing them.

This book is very plot and suspense driven.  The story does succeed in making you think and evaluate things in life.  There isn't a lot of action in terms of fights, it mostly takes place in the form of the chase.  Nathaniel, Orah, and Thomas must travel further than any of them have ever been all while avoiding the clerics and other agents of the Temple.  They must also manage to elude the strange Temple magic that we would just call technology.

The uses of the technology by the Temple to remain in a superior position the normal class of citizen was brilliantly done.  Almost everything they have is stuff that is pretty much taken for granted today, but in a world that resembles our society a few hundred years ago the ability to instantly communicate over long distances can be a very powerful tool.

I wasn't drawn into the book in a way that I couldn't put the book down, but at the same time I wasn't easily distracted when I was reading.  They book has a strong flow that is managed well by the chapter breaks, which is something I appreciate as I am often forced to read in short bursts.

The real shine of this book is the way that it ended.  It wasn't necessarily something that I had never seen before, but the execution of it was flawless.  The completion of the three main characters personal journeys was amazing and I was very happy with how everything was done.  Honestly it is hard to really say anything without giving away something and I prefer to be as spoiler free as possible.

If you are a person that enjoys dystopian novels this is definitely a good choice.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Review - Beyond Disbelief by Andrew Dzeguze

For 14 year old Brett Shelldon, the line between illusion and reality has always been clear. Illusions are the magic tricks he does with cards, rings and other props. Reality is a Mom who works all the time, a Dad who is too distracted to notice Brett, and his little sister Sarah, who he loves but whose mercurial temper can make living with her a real pain. Not to mention a speech impediment so bad Brett hates talking to anyone and does his magic act in silence. On the whole, Brett prefers illusion, where he can be in control for at least a few minutes.

When a skull faced man dressed all in black shows up at Brett’s show, though, any thought of control is lost. That is a minor shock compared to finding Brett’s mentor, Mr. Green, dead on the floor of his magic shop hours later, with the same stranger hovering over the corpse. Over the next week, Brett will confront betrayal, deceit, the disappearance of Sarah and a threat to his life. He’ll come face to face with a maniac named Jack White and his killer minion Speck, who wants to conquer the world, starting with Brett’s hometown of Portland.

Brett’s only weapons in this fight are his wits. But according to his new guide, the aptly named, enigmatic Mr. Black, those are all Brett needs. Brett’s control over illusions, which goes farther than he ever knew, can actually alter reality. In embracing this ability, Brett finds power, but also dangers he would never have considered a week before.

Beyond Disbelief by Andrew Dzeguze tell the story of Brett.  Brett is a young man who has trouble making friends.  He isn't a bad kid or anything, but he has a fairly wicked speech impediment that he is very self conscious of.  Luckily for him he is able to escape his own self doubt when he performs his magic routine.  There is a small club in Portland where kids can learn simple magic tricks from experienced stage magicians and Brett is a member.  With his dedication to his illusions he would easily be a star if he had a bit more charisma.  One day after a performance by his club he heads downtown to the magic shop that is his home away from home.  Mr. Green the stores proprietor and the president of the magic club was absent from the show and Brett is curious as to why.  Mr. Green is one of the two people that he actually considers a friend so when he gets to the shop and sees the door broken off the hinges he is extremely concerned.  He decides to go in anyway and sees his friend lying on the floor with a strange man who he noticed at the show standing over him.  The strange man introduces himself as Mr. Black and convinces Brett to leave the scene with him so they can both avoid trouble, as they drive away Mr. Black explains that Brett is a very special boy who may have the power to change to world around him.  In other words magic is real and Brett may have real skill.  The story unfolds following Brett as he learns more about his talent and tries to figure out who would hurt Mr. Green.

The was an enjoyable YA book that only had one major hiccup.  After the characters get introduced and Mr. Black drops Brett off to get his bike and go home there is some detail about how secluded Brett's house is.  I felt that this was a bit overdone.  I was left with a pretty good image of the unique area that Brett lived in, but I felt that there was a lot more information given than was really needed to express the point.  Other than that the  book was pretty darn good.  I felt bad for Brett being almost forced to be a quiet kid and when his parents are shown to be pretty absent in his life (his mother away for business a lot and his dad just pretty scatterbrained) he really has no one he can confide in.  His sister seems to be a pretty strange kid talking like a character from an old detective film more than a normal 8 year old girl.  She also has an amazing way of manipulating her father to get exactly what she wants and with his problems expressing himself Brett has limited ability to affect the outcome of any argument.

The system of magic used in the book is an interesting one.  It seems to revolve mainly around simply concentrating on an affect and having it take place.  There are various specialties of magic such as memory, emotional, loyalty, and physical manipulations to name some.  People also have varying levels of power, but the more people that believe in you the more powerful effects you can have.

The story is told focused entirely on Brett and a lot of his character development takes place inside his head.  When he does speak his impediment comes through making it clear why more dialogue isn't used.   I will say that as Brett develops his power his speech show subtle signs of improvement and it is explained that if he learns he can eventually make it go away altogether.  I really liked the point of view that the story takes place from as Brett is an interesting character and it's nice to see what he is thinking when all of the craziness is going on.  There are also a few spots of comedy that were well done with Brett struggling with becoming a man.

Overall I would say that this is a good book for ages 13+ especially if the person is interested in magic as there is a good amount of info on the tricks within.    The book also had a good ending where the story contained was solidly wrapped up, but the way into the next was presented to continue to attract interest.  I'm not a fan of cliff hanger endings so a good wrap-up always scores points with me.