Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book review: Invasive Species

Invasive SpeciesInvasive Species by Karle Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me just start by saying that this book isn’t for the easily offended or squeamish.

The story is, generally, about a man named Ranse who runs a large farm. He’s sober for the first time in his life, and life seems to be going as usual save for his desire to be back with his ex-wife and his son. He wants nothing more than a second chance from where he screwed up before.

His neighbors consist of two close friends, Molly and Mick, and a man who is nothing short of detestable. A racist, hateful, greedy buffoon to put it lightly — Warren Maxxy. His wife isn’t faithful to him and tends to sleep around, and the men are more than happy to oblige her around town, including those working on Ranse’s ranch.

A sickness begins to spread about, and all any sickness requires to dig its claws into a population is one person. In this case, one bite. Everything spirals down without giving too much of the plot away, and Ranse finds himself having to protect his son, hoping the beasts slowly growing in number don’t come back, and wondering what happened to his ex-wife after she left their son in his hands. And more and more people are getting horribly sick…

This book was wonderfully written, although there were many editing errors throughout it that interrupted my reading flow. This didn’t take away from the story itself, though, which was written so well it kept dragging me back in despite some of the elements that did put me off slightly.

Karle’s storytelling is masterful, in my opinion. I personally love horror, and although this book didn’t read like an atypical horror story, I couldn’t put it down. I read it much quicker than I read most books, and that says something about Karle’s talents. His acknowledgments in the beginning tell of his passion for storytelling and where it came from, and this definitely shines through.

While the story was gripping, intense, and beautifully told, there were a few elements that almost caused me to stop reading, but it’s no fault of the author. There are some extremely sensitive subjects breached in this book, and while I don’t feel anything bad, racist, or taboo was being advocated for, a few of the subjects hit too close to home for me and upset me greatly, and I had to pause reading for a day. If you have been domestically abused or abused in any relationship, or have been a victim of sexual assault or incest, please tread carefully. These subjects are not tip-toed around even if they are just a few brief moments, and they are very blunt.

Another bit of criticism I had about the book is the harsh racist language. I understand that it was attached to the character of Warren Maxxy for a reason, and it had its purpose (he seems to closely resemble a certain political figure), but the number of times he mentions racial and homophobic slurs began to grate on my nerves. I felt the racist elements of this book could have been eased back on just a small bit and still drove the message home. That said, this criticism is based on my personal feelings and my usual tendency to avoid material that uses these words too much, but I felt it was worth mentioning because it was a factor in my rating of the book.

The gore, the unapologetic grossness, and the blunt writing were on point. I actually got very nauseated reading about the number of times people hurled their brains out, but rather than mention that as something negative (it’s merely a part of the story itself), it’s just further testament to the blunt and effective writing style.

And oh my goodness, some of the lines in this book were amazing. Karle has a way of weaving words at times that are quite poetic. The endings to the chapters are great examples of this.

The ending was definitely a long one, but it was very intense. After each paragraph within the last few chapters, as Karle realistically portrays the stages of fear and confusion during something so horrific as having to fend off a legion of werewolves, I was caught up in all of it. When I was certain no more could possibly be done and Ranse was surely finished, it continued. A roller coaster of emotions for the reader, at the least. Not to mention the events near the ending that completely ripped out my heart and stomped on it. It goes without saying that having your town turn into werewolves from a highly contagious virus, sparing no one, is more than enough for the worst of tragedies. There is a nice epilogue to it all, though, that will bring your head above water again.

Overall, this book was hard to put down. At times it was hard to digest the subject matter due to the sensitive nature, and a few of the scenes were enough to leave even my strong constitution turning green, but Karle is an excellent writer who has written a hell of a story to leave a great emotional impact. I’m glad I read it and was given the opportunity to review it, and I will definitely recommend this book to others, although with a small content warning.

I look forward to exploring more from this author.

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Book Review: Impossible James

Impossible JamesImpossible James by Danger Slater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a ride from beginning to end. There were many twists and turns, and back and forths, but in the end, they all came together and, somehow, it all worked. And it was something I can’t really properly put words to, but I’ll try. Possible spoilers ahead, maybe.

James is a nobody with nothing and no one. He’s not successful by any stretch and leads the world’s most boring, unfortunate life possible. His wife wasn’t even nice to him, and he’s infertile. Of course, when he walks into his doctor’s office one day, he finds out that everything will just get worse. Everything always did for James. That is, until the end, which I’m not even sure how to describe, other than the fact that James finally becomes something much bigger than what he ever thought he was capable. Quite literally.

And all because of a screwdriver. All because of pure, near impossible luck does he find a purpose and more meaningful outlook. And that’s where Impossible James finds his life’s goal.

I’m a sucker for philosophy, and this book was filled with it. I stopped a few times and went into thought about a lot of it, and it made me think deeper about myself as a person, what it means to be alive, and what it means to have goals. What it means to have fears, and what fears are even there for. I’m an irrationally fearful person of about, well, everything, so this was an unexpected and interesting trip during my reading of Impossible James.

Also, the twisted quantum physics-like science? Super interesting. (If I’m even thinking of the right kind of science here. I know scant about quantum physics, but I think that’s what I’m going for. I could be completely in left field and people are scratching their heads at me right now.)

Danger has a very interesting mind, and I found myself unable to stop turning pages. Even though we know the outcome, and we know inevitably how everything happens before it happens — sort of — you still want to read more. You must know the little details in between, and they help to paint such a grotesque picture that it’s almost impossible to conjure in your mind. Thankfully, Danger’s vivid and disturbing descriptions do the work just fine. And they are grotesque. For example, imagine a flesh room. A room with bones growing out of the wood. Rooms that act as organ gardens to keep a house consumed by a man’s deformed, growing body alive.

I will admit, I haven’t read much in this genre yet, but based on what I have read so far, this book made me realize that I really do love bizarro fiction. I read this in one day, taking a break in between. I knew I wanted to process something like this all at once instead of splitting it up, and I’m glad I did. At least, the philosopher in me wouldn’t let me put it down. Can I mention enough how that was one of my favorite things about this book?

It was definitely written in a curious way, with 116 chapters (I believe they were chapters) and three parts. I won’t look too deep into it, unless there’s a deeper reasoning, which my brain always wants to find. I could have missed something there, but that’s not important.

What is important is if you love books that make you think, definitely give this a read. If you have a weak stomach, though, be prepared for some pretty wicked imagery, such as body parts being detached and sewn back on, and amateur surgery to disembowel poor James, although it didn’t really seem to bother him too much. In fact, in this world, people (and animals) seem to survive some pretty crazy and awful body horrors.

Lastly, the ending? This isn’t a bad thing, but it… just is. It is what it is. Maybe that’s a part of the philosophical message of the whole thing, in which case, message delivered.

This is something you have to read for yourself to get the full effect. No review is probably going to be able to properly convey how interesting, and kind of brilliant, this book is. So give it a read.

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Book Review: Unchained (Blood Bond Saga #1-3)

Unchained (Blood Bond Saga #1-3)Unchained by Helen Hardt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Spoiler warning)
This book definitely has an interesting story, but the delivery fell short for me. Please note, this is just my personal opinion and in no way is an attempt to say anything bad about the author or her talents. This may have just not been her best book or series. Spoilers, so beware.

The first part begins with Dante, a vampire who had been imprisoned for many years. He is stumbling around the city looking for blood, and he ends up in a hospital to meet the woman who will ultimately possess him for the entirety of the book: Erin. They become absolutely obsessed with each other from first eye contact, and there is a deeper connection between them that hasn’t happened between a vampire and human for some time. That’s the basic premise from the start.

Now, beyond this, the story fell apart for me. There is a lot of filler — or so it felt like. Dante goes here. Then he leaves. Then Erin goes here, then here, then leaves, then goes here. Dante is constantly uptight and arrogant, and he’s suspicious over his grandfather for who knows what reason. By the end of the third part, I still have no idea what his problem with his grandfather was, or even why we are supposed to suspect… something from the man. Unless his reason for anger was not justified and it escaped me.

My other problem — I’ll just say this: abbreviations for words. Certain words were abbreviated that just made me stop and I groaned (vamp, being one). It took me away from the seriousness of the story. I honestly wasn’t a fan of the general writing or style, but that is most likely my problem and not the author’s. I only mention it as it was a big factor in my rating.

Now, I do get the back and forth, hot and cold between Dante and Erin after reading through the book in its entirety. But, I have to admit, it’s extremely frustrating in the way it’s written. It goes back to my point of the constant back and forth, person A goes here and then goes there, and then person B goes here, and then decides a minute later to change locations for some reason or another, usually an upset. I was getting whiplash from all the moving around. And then we get another mystery introduced that hit out of nowhere, about Erin having mysterious marks on her leg? What I don’t understand is if she’s supposedly bonded to someone else, how can she be bonded to Dante? I was under the impression the bond was pretty solid and existed between a fated human and their vampire, but I’m confused even now. Maybe it’s explored in later books.

The story has promise, but I wasn’t inclined to read any more of the series. I feel like the story was dragged on for the purpose of it being longer, at least, that’s what it felt like to me. The cliffhanger was just so epically huge and after reading the first three, nothing felt good about the ending. ‘Read more books to finish the story,’ basically. And I understand how a series works, but in book series I’ve read before, I at least felt some sort of completion at the end of each book. Something was wrapped up in some way, and while in the 3-in-1 version of this book we did get one ‘kind of’ answer to the story (the explanation for the blood bond was also confusing and I felt it could have been explained or worked out better), I’m just so… underwhelmed? I’m not sure. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. If nothing else, I felt bad for the grandfather because he seems to be getting a lot of flack for just wanting to be helpful or keep Dante safe. But Dante? My goodness man, just say something. I understand why you might be stuck in a teenager’s mindset, but speak!

I don’t like writing negative reviews, and this definitely isn’t a bad review per se, but I personally did not like how the book was written or the pacing. I did enjoy what story there was to enjoy to a point, but I wish the author had at least moved things along a bit better and left out the extremely energetic characters’ traveling. If the ending had been more fulfilling in some way and not as confusing, I’d probably have given the story more of a chance. But maybe serials just aren’t my thing.

As always, kudos to the author for writing a story and getting it out there. I’m sure Helen has other wonderful books, and I’m sure many will enjoy this one where I did not.

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Book Review: Hunting Annabelle

Hunting AnnabelleHunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because I wanted to expand my reading interests as well as to discover new authors. I was extremely happy I gave this author a chance.

Hunting Annabelle is about a young man named Sean who has a pretty gruesome past, as well as severe mental illness. It’s set back in the 80s in Texas, where he lives with his mother who is a respected doctor. Sean is an avid drawer and people-watcher, and so far he’s managed to stay out of trouble. He hasn’t hurt anyone and he does his best to keep in line, but everything falls apart when he meets Annabelle.

Oh, Annabelle.

But I won’t get into spoilers. The story begins with Sean meeting Annabelle at a popular amusement park, and he hangs out with her and ends up drawing her picture. He’s immediately taken away by her and he falls for her pretty quickly, and she seems to be an interesting and quirky character herself. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Annabelle and we don’t get answers until the end, which is definitely worth waiting for.

The book started to hang a bit near the middle, but the steps Sean takes to find Annabelle after she’s been supposedly kidnapped are necessary to the story. But that’s not to say it becomes uninteresting. We learn so much about Sean and how he tries so hard to fight down the urge to harm other people, and he does fail more than once. He’s an interesting and well thought out character, and I found myself loving him even with his horrible imperfections. I love characters who have quirks, darker moments, and flaws. It makes them feel real — human.

The mystery of the entire book continues to the end where you’re still guessing on what could really be going on. We do get clear answers, and maybe, just maybe the reader will suspect all the wrong people. You most certainly will be surprised, at least I was. I had a very strong emotional reaction to the scenes leading up to the end, and the ending itself made my sick little heart scream with joy.

If you enjoy dark and gritty, even disturbing, romance, then you’ll love this. Wendy has hit the mark with her debut novel, and she’s an excellent writer and storyteller. I will definitely be reading more books from her!

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Book Review: The Little Snake

The Little SnakeThe Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure where to start or even how to review such an amazing story, but I can try. This is not normally a book I would have picked up, but I wanted to take a chance on something different.

In this very poetic fairytale-like story, we follow with both Mary and Lanmo the snake. Mary’s city seems to be crumbling around her as she gets older, and humans and technology are doing themselves in. Meanwhile, Lanmo, a very magical and special snake, who no human is ever to see unless it’s their time, becomes interested in Mary as a child. They become extremely close friends, and Mary teaches Lanmo, whether or not he realizes it, about what it means to love. This isn’t something Lanmo was ever meant to do.

This story pulled at my heart and the ending left me nearly in tears. With the interesting and unique way Kennedy weaves poetic words throughout the story, she chooses to not reveal a definite end with them. But it’s for the better, and I think when the reader comes to the end, they will know what truly happened.

I haven’t read something so amazing and quirky in a while, and it was refreshing. Kennedy’s love for strangely specific wording and pleasant-to-read run-ons give this book a rhythm solely its own. I’ve already started recommending it to friends, and I am going to definitely recommend it to anyone, of any age who can read it, for something more meaningful. And there is a lot of emotion, meaning, and subtle philosophy about humanity in this book, or so it felt to me.

In short, do yourself a favor and read this!

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