Book Reviews: Carbon by Daniel Boyd, The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, and The Equalizer by Midge Brubany

CarbonCarbon
Daniel Boyd
Illustrated by Edi Guedes
Caliber Comics, August 2014
ISBN 978-0-9857493-3-0
Trade Paperback

There is a shared admiration for super-heroes. Respect, fondness, amazement, perhaps a twinge of jealousy; all are valid emotions upon consideration of caped crusaders. On the other side of the coin, genuine heroes tend to slip under the radar. Self-effacing members of society lead their lives without creating adverse effects for their community. These people seem to always be the first to react in a situation by lending a hand, even when putting themselves into precarious places. Why? It is not a cognizant decision; rather a natural inclination to do the right thing.

Carbon, like all good graphic novels, is packed with heroes and villains (and yes; a few hot, scantily clad females). Initially, coal-miners painted with a heroic brush may seem peculiar. On second thought though, living in coal counties means bearing witness to endless sepia tones created by coal dust coating every surface and embedding in each crevice. Social gatherings revolve around funerals for those ripped away far too soon and support for the families suddenly without a cherished loved one; robbed of the much needed income. Dismal, yes; but abominable because it doesn’t have to be this way.

Mr. Boyd would be the first to say that he writes to entertain and that Carbon is no exception. To that end, it is a masterpiece of action and adventure. This graphic novel provides unique perspectives on all things; beginning at the true beginning: creation. Compelling, genuine characters are relatable and unattainable. This cast includes a bad-ass baseball player; the gruff, grizzled, yet essentially kind mine workers, my personal favorite: the River Rat (aka as White Water River Guide), and The Man (He Who Gets Rich From The Fruit of Their Labors). His greed endangers the lives of his producers, yet he has no qualms. There aren’t many career opportunities in these areas. The Human Resources pool is large, rendering individuals expendable. For all of his brilliance in cutting corners to grotesquely increase his wealth, he makes an integral mistake.

He underestimates the miners. The Man, focused only on monetary values, is willfully oblivious to the reasons these men work under such dire conditions. Love, family, friendship and community create a strong, unbreakable bond, thus turning apparently ordinary folks into true, awe-inspiring heroes.

So much happens in this volume that I’ve carried it around with me for months now. There are some (who shall remain nameless) that only refer to me as “Comic-Con Girl”. I’m good with that. I want to be seen with this publication. I hope to generate curiosity, and I aspire to pique curiosity for what will be a fascinating trilogy. My fellow readers, if you seek something absolutely unlike anything you’ve read, this is it.

Reviewed by jv poore, October 2014.

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The Iron TrialThe Iron Trial
Magisterium #1
Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Scholastic Press, September 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-52225-0
Hardcover

I am sure this series will be compared to Harry Potter and yes, there are similarities to that series as well as moments that made me remember the beginning of The Hunger Games and Divergent. But The Iron Trial really has its own story and Callum Hunt does not turn out to be the next Harry Potter.

The Iron Trial refers to the entrance exam into the Magisterium, a five-year school of magic: Iron, Copper, Bronze, Silver and Gold. First year students are in their Iron year. Callum does not want to attend the Magisterium and tries to fail. Still, he is selected and forced to go over the objections of his only living parent, his father.

Where The Iron Trial really excels, I think, is in its wonderful descriptions of the imaginative surroundings at the Magisterium. It’s exciting to picture the place and watch the characters discover its many delights. The Iron Trial drags a little, I think, when boring tedious tasks are assigned to be mastered by our group and it takes so long that this reader felt the tedium right along with the characters.

I hope that as the series develops, so will the main characters. There is little Callum knows about himself, about who he is and so we are kept in the dark as well, for most of the book. I knew it is the first book in a five-book series and I liked the twists and turnabouts sprinkled throughout the plot. I particularly enjoyed the ending. It’s satisfying as a novel on its own as well as an inviting set up for the series. If you’re unsure whether or not you want to keep reading, I strongly suggest that you do. People and things are not as they appear.

Reviewed by Constance Reader, September 2014.

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The EqualizerThe Equalizer
Midge Bubany
North Star Press of St. Cloud, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-87839-737-2
Trade Paperback

Young County Deputy Sheriff Cal Sheehan is reveling in his recent ascension to the title of deputy investigator. Now he needs a serious crime to work on. Alas, his day does not begin well. While responding to the call to investigate the discovery of a body at a local park, he is rear-ended at a stoplight in town. The impact puts his small vehicle directly in the path of a heavier auto which proceeds to T-bone Cal, putting his transportation in wrecking candidacy. The acquisition of a new vehicle, plays a useful element in the novel.

This is Ms. Brubany’s debut novel and if it is successful, as this reviewer hopes it will be, this cast of small-town characters and mystery readers will be in for some fraught and enjoyable times.

Central to the story is Cal Sheehan, young, horny, attractive, bright and alert to nuances of mannerism during suspect and witness interviews. His efforts to find the truth and the necessary evidence to solve this interesting multiple-murder are worth watching. The writing is first rate and characters and settings are well developed. If a sojourn to Las Vegas seems a bit beyond the pale, well, those scenes are nicely handled and the conclusion of the tale is logical and satisfying.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, November 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

Book Review: AlibiZ by Karice Bolton

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Title: Alibiz
Series: Afterworld #2
Author:Karice Bolton
Publication Date: October 26, 2014
Genres: New Adult, Post-apocalyptic

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AlibiZAlibiZ
Afterworld #2
Karice Bolton
Bulldog Press, October 2014
Ebook

From the author

The outbreak might be over, but the nightmare is just beginning…

Rebekah vows to expose the truth behind the RecruitZ that are killing the innocents. These creatures must be stopped, but so should the people controlling them. When Rebekah uncovers who is behind the uprisings, her own life becomes in danger.

Rebekah knows that she is not alone in this fight but vengeance alone won’t help her and the others to victory. It is up to her to uncover the truth for the public before the world is turned over to an elite few.

Regardless of what may happen to her, she knows it’s a race against time to destroy these creatures and the monsters controlling them before there is no one left worth saving.

When I read RecruitZ, the first book in this series, earlier this year, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was one of the better zombie books I’ve come across, largely because the author clearly knows how to do it right when it comes to creating a world I can fall right in to. I was also intrigued by characters who stood apart from the norm, with Rebekah being a strong, self-sufficient woman who can take care of herself and Preston being her equal in all the ways that count. I could barely stand the wait to read their next book.

The fight to survive, after the virus has been contained, for the most part revolves around the resistance to the greed and corruption that is behind the tragedy that befell humanity and that now intends to take advantage of the survivors and the chaos. From the first page, Rebekah and Preston are enmeshed in the battle against those who would destroy what’s left of the old world order but they are not alone and the secondary characters, like Emily and Braden, are just as vivid and important to the story. It’s really captivating to me that this author has turned the usual zombie tale upside down by focusing on what comes after the zombie outbreak because, after all, living through the outbreak does not mean everything will go back to the way it was before.

For once, the relationship between the characters grows in a way that makes sense, given their circumstances. Both are mature enough to recognize that other things must come first and a romance between them could just get in the way and, yet, the tension is palpable. We can be pretty sure it’s going to happen but the big question is when? True friendship comes first, and the development of complete trust and loyalty, making their eventual coming together all the more satisfying for me (and, clearly, for them).

Once again, Ms. Bolton wraps up her story with a humdinger of a plot surprise and it becomes clear that this war has only begun. Is there anyone this small band can trust in the fight to win back humanity? I’m already dying to know and UprisingZ, due out sometime in 2015, can’t come soon enough for me.

One last note: I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am that this book is not available anywhere other than on Kindle and that the earlier book, RecruitZ, has been removed from Nook and Kobo (the paperback of RecruitZ is available on Barnes and Noble but there is apparently no paperback of AlibiZ). If I had not been provided with an epub for this book tour, I would not have been able to read this because, like many other readers, I choose not to read on the Kindle or Kindle app. It’s such a shame that many readers will not be able to experience these wonderful books and I do hope they will become more widely available very soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2014.

About the Author

Karice BoltonKarice received an MFA in Creative Writing from the U of W. She has written fifteen novels and has several exciting projects in the works. Karice lives with her husband and two English Bulldogs in rainy Washington.

Books currently available:
Luke Fletcher Series: Hidden Sins (Book 1), Buried Sins (Book 2) – coming soon
Beyond Love Series: Beyond Control (Book 1) Beyond Doubt (Book 2) Beyond Reason (Book 3) Beyond Intent (Book 4) Beyond Chance, Beyond Promise, and Beyond the Mistletoe coming soon
Afterworld Series: RecruitZ (Book 1) AlibiZ (Book 2) – October 2014
The Witch Avenue Series: Lonely Souls (Book 1), Altered Souls (Book 2), Released Souls (Book 3) Shattered Souls (Book 4)
The Watchers Trilogy: Awakening (Book 1), Legions (Book 2), Cataclysm (Book 3), Taken Novella (Watchers Prequel)
The Camp

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Book Review: RecruitZ by Karice Bolton

 

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Title: RecruitZ
Series: Afterworld #1
Author: Karice Bolton
Publication date: December 27th 2013
Genres: New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic

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RecruitZRecruitZ
Afterworld #1
Karice Bolton
Bulldog Press, December 2013
ISBN 978-0615946429
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Scientists are the new rock stars. The infection has been contained for nearly three months, and the world is celebrating. But humans are still dying. Rebekah Taylor has seen it firsthand. Her husband was killed right in front of her by the very creatures that humans were told they no longer had to fear.

Rebekah is determined to find out who is responsible for the death of her husband and the obvious cover-up. Fueled with revenge, she begins to find answers that lead to one frightening conclusion. The apocalypse might be over, but the battles are just beginning.

What an interesting story this is!

Once upon a time, I wasn’t fond of zombies; in fact, I pretty much avoided them. Then Max Brooks and David Wellington came along and , well, the rest, as they say, is history. Nowadays, I actively look for good zombie fiction and RecruitZ falls nicely into that group.

The first thing that especially appealed to me about this book is the premise that the world after the zombie plague could be just as bad, maybe even worse, because of the behavior of some survivors. That idea has been present in earlier books but the difference here lies in WHICH survivors are behind the “Afterworld” mayhem.

The other thing that drew me in was the opening scenes which left no question that this was going to be a serious zombie book with few laughs. Don’t get me wrong, I like zombies with a splash of humor but not all the time by any means. Lately, my favorites have been driven by action adventure and/or humor so it was time to get back to a somber, no-nonsense tale. This was definitely the right book.

Rebekah is a terrific protagonist—intelligent, driven, take-no-prisoners—and the bartender she comes across, Preston, is an even match for her. In some ways, he’s the voice of reason we frequently find in a female character and that’s a nice touch. The two find they have much in common starting with the fact that they both survived the infection against overwhelming odds but getting to the truth about the current crop of zombies may change everything they think they know about the plague and the world they now live in.

Tensions run high at a nearly frantic pace but mystery and romance also play into the story. I did think the ending was somewhat rushed, kind of like the author had run out of steam, but I still think Ms. Bolton has come up with a nifty tale and has crafted it well with few hiccups. I thoroughly enjoyed RecruitZ with the exception of the hasty conclusion and, now, I’m eagerly awaiting the second book, AlibiZ, which I hear will be coming soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2014.

About the Author

 

Karice BoltonKarice Bolton lives in the Pacific Northwest and is a writer of Young Adult and New Adult books. She loves to read anything and everything. She also enjoys baking, skiing, and spending time with her wonderful husband and two English bulldogs.

Books currently available:

*Beyond Love Series: Beyond Control (Book 1) Beyond Doubt (Book 2) Beyond Reason (Book 3) – Feb. 28th
*Afterworld Series: RecruitZ (Book 1)
*The Witch Avenue Series: Lonely Souls (Book 1), Altered Souls (Book 2), Released Souls (Book 3) Shattered Souls (Book 4)
*The Watchers Trilogy: Awakening (Book 1), Legions (Book 2), Cataclysm (Book 3), Taken Novella (Watchers Prequel)
*The Camp

Karice would love if you stopped by her blog or FB page to find out the latest news on giveaways and upcoming releases, or you can just send her an email. She loves hearing from her readers and responds as soon as she can.

Author Links:

 

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Book Review: The Wrath of Shiva by Susan Oleksiw

The Wrath of ShivaThe Wrath of Shiva
An Anita Ray Mystery
Susan Oleksiw
Five Star, July 2012
ISBN 978-1-4328-2591-1
Hardcover

What does a cousin gone missing on her way from the airport, a maidservant who keeps falling into trances, and a grandmother whose sacred antiques are disappearing have in common? For one thing, they have Anita Ray, half Indian-half American, who not only suffers from overwhelming curiosity, but an innate sense of  honesty.

Set in Kerala, South India, this mystery plays out in a gentle manner. No murders haunt one, although a maidservant does get bopped over the head. The story is all about family, from Anita, to her elderly grandmother, her Aunt Meena, to the missing cousin Surya. Oh, yes, and greed, which seems to prevail in society the world over.

While the mystery in this story may not be strong, the people are, and the exotic setting gives the western reader a taste of both old and new India. Fascinating stuff in a well-told novel.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2012.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.