“Heir of Ashes” is one of the most fun non-stop action / paranormal thrillers I’ve read to date. We follow along as Roxanne flees from a science facility that kept her nearly half her life, performing barbarous experiments on her. She’s been on the run for a few years and the scientists are still eager to catch her, giving her no peace from the paranormal bounty hunters sent after her. Roxanne has no idea why this is; she knows she’s different but not the full extent of it, at least, not in a way that would account for the escalating pursuit. However, most other people know what she is, why she’s different, and want to use/cage/unleash that thing in her, but Roxanne doesn’t stop running long enough to truly get those answers. Ultimately, that was my only qualm with this book. For as much as I loved the thrilling, non-stop action and plot twists as Roxanne tries to get away from everyone after her, I needed the book to slow down for a hot minute so I didn’t feel as confused as Roxanne until about 67% into the story.
“Jais” or "Greatest Enemy" (I read the Jais titled one but the books are the same) is the story of a struggling soldier trying to escape his demons by becoming an adrenaline junkie, whose ultimate thrill comes in escaping death while simultaneously dancing with his suicidal impulses. David Rivers believes he has nothing left after the army, until his final bloody score turns into a new beginning. Que private military contractor’s being hired out to do less than legal things, shall we say? When David realizes that this may be the kind of fix he’s looking for, he jumps all over it. But things don’t go the way they were supposed to and, really, do they ever? Penned by a Special Forces Captain, this book really, really shines when the author is showcasing weaponry and combat as they are presented in both an accurate, and thrilling manner. As a first book in a series, and the first book by a (then) new author, the series shows promise, but I will say it feels a bit like a second draft. Allow me to explain.
“The Devil’s Backbone” is a crazy, delightful blend of science fiction, action adventure, psycho-thriller, and epic Western fantasy with some of the best dialogue I’ve read in a while from an indie author. Holy cow, did I enjoy myself on this wild ride! We follow Sadie Bishop, who is recovering from a massive trauma, as she embarks on a dangerous jaunt through the Badlands of a futuristic America. In this world, only Citizens (basically people who pay off all their debts and remain good little worker bees) can reap the benefits of society—good food, medicine, and the best technology the world can offer. Gaskill has crafted a world that felt so natural to where our current society might be headed, and I LOVED the social commentary that was tied to that. He does a great job of presenting it “as is” rather than beating the reader over the head with a message that is best left as a tumultuous undertone to this futuristic land. Anyhoo, Sadie is plagued by something deep in her urging her to forgo the comforts of Citizen life and head out into the treacherous no-man’s land, where those dangerous men and women who lost their Citizenship now scrape by in a new Wild, Wild, West. Why does Sadie feel such a compulsion to go out there? She doesn’t know, but she can’t ignore the call, either. While that point got a little murky as the story progressed, I really can’t say enough good things about Gaskill’s novel!
Growing up, I loved hearing stories and reading books about dragons. I love good dragons (like those in the Dragonriders of Pern series) and I love greedy evil dragons, (think Smaug). So obviously I enjoyed that this book has both kinds of dragons inhabiting a fantasy world under siege in need of a prophesized one to come in and save the day. This book follows the same formula you find in most adventure/fantasy novels, where a young person (who is living their normal boring life, ignorant of magic or anything fantastic) is met by a person from another realm, begging for help. Saying, essentially, “help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” That’s pretty much what you get with this book, but with more flavors of Snow White then Star Wars (sorry?).
“Hiding In Third Person” is, on the surface, about an orderly in a mental institution gaining the trust of a patient in order to learn the truth behind his fantastic story about runaways and murder, and keep the troubled man from going to another facility. But things are not as simple as they appear, and the patient, Mr. Rivers, has a story that many think is false, but Ricky, the orderly, knows otherwise. It’s a storyline that should be thrilling, with an intriguing mystery as to what’s real, and who is responsible for Mr. Rivers’ ultimate fate, but the story didn’t really achieve that for me by the books’ conclusion.
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