Book Review: Icehaven/Sum of All Tears by Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester

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Title: Icehaven
Series: Sum of All Tears #1
Authors: Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian, Paranormal

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Icehaven
Sum of All Tears #1
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, April 2019
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

They said it wouldn’t happen.

Everything would be better.

They were wrong.

After a climate change experiment goes terribly wrong, August Madison finds herself resurrected in a frozen wasteland.

With most of the world’s population and food sources annihilated, depraved nomadic gangs patrol the lawless landscape as outlasters claw for survival.

Amid the chaos, Graysen Marx, iron-fisted leader of the domed settlement Liberty, emerges from the catastrophic event with his own agenda.

When August crosses his path, he sees an opportunity he must exploit.

She sees an evil she must destroy.

Isn’t it wonderful when you come across that book that is SO good that you’re kind of stunned by it? Icehaven is the one for me for a lot of reasons starting with being thrown into the midst of disaster right away, literally on page 2. No lollygagging here, no building up to the horrible event you know is coming. Then the questions begin, the obvious ones such as how the few people left will survive, but also the ones that are so unexpected, particularly regarding why and how some survivors have developed special abilities.

Our protagonist, August, is a miracle herself, having apparently died and then come back to life but, at first, she  remembers very little about what happened other than she does know that she’s the daughter of the man who set off this devastating experiment. Besides taking on her duties among the group that found her, August also feels a strong need to figure out what went wrong; meanwhile, an old friend, Brandon, is miles away and wonders if August is still alive. Then there is Graysen Marx, the man behind Liberty, a biodome facility that seems to be the only hope for longtime survival but is he the honorable man he seems to be or is he ruthlessly intent on his own agenda?

The action in Icehaven is nearly nonstop with something new and alarming happening constantly and the plot is full of suspense, so much so that mystery readers will be as enthralled as post-apocalyptic fans but plot does not overshadow character development. The players, primary and secondary, are vividly drawn and they all come alive on the page while the authors’ worldbuilding is remarkable, making me feel the intense cold and hunger and the emotional havoc wrought by the attempt to control climate change.

I could say much more but it would be hard to avoid spoilers so let me just say Icehaven is going on my list of best books read in 2019 and I heartily encourage one and all to jump right on this one 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2019.

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About the Authors

Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada and is the bestselling and award-winning author of the action-packed WHITNEY STEEL series.

Her romantic thriller, Reflection (A Whitney Steel Novel – Book One), has won numerous awards including RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown Finalist (Romantic Suspense), InD’tale Magazine 2014 Rone Award Finalist (Suspense/Thriller), UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner, Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha” contest. Kim also signed a 3-book German translation deal with LUZIFER Verlag for the first three books in the series: Reflection, Retribution and ResurrectLethal Journey won RomCon®’s 2014 Readers’ Crown (Thriller).

The Assassin Chronicles TV series was in development with Council Tree Productions. The TV series is based on Kim’s upcoming 4-book paranormal/supernatural thriller series: Deadly Shadow, Invisible TruthAssassin’s Prophecy, and Vision of Fire.

Website // Newsletter // Facebook // Twitter
Goodreads // Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon 

M.K. Chester is an RWA award-winning author of historical and contemporary romance. Her first novel, Surrender to the Roman, is currently published with Carina Press. Her three-book historical series, Bryeton Books, focuses on love, loss and redemption in small town America at the turn of the 20th century, while her latest release, Crashed, is the first book in the contemporary New South Series.

M.K. is a native Buckeye who lives in Tennessee. She’s married to a veteran, recently became a MoM (Mother of Marine), and will soon become a grandmother. She adores her Scottish Terriers and is fighting MS.

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Series Instagram // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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Coming in March 2020

Liberty
Sum of All Tears #2
Kim Cresswell and M.K. Chester
KC Publishing, March 2020
ISBN 978-1999558819
Trade Paperback

From the authors—

A new enemy rises.

Surviving the cold is only the beginning.

In the second installment of the exciting Sum of all Tears series, a core group of survivors from Liberty travel to Boston, endangering themselves and those they left behind in a winner-takes-all showdown that will leave readers breathless.

Pre-order Links:
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Book Review: Finding Life on Mars by Jason Dias

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Title: Finding Life on Mars
Author: Jason Dias
Narrators: Jennifer Jill Araya
Publication Date: February 11, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes

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Finding Life on Mars
A Novel of Isolation
Jason Dias
Narrated by Jennifer Jill Araya
Jason Dias, February 2019
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When the last man on Earth reveals he has a nuclear weapon pointed at the tiny Martian colony, the colonists can only survive by working together. Jaye, a Trueborn Child of Mars, isn’t like her father, Merlin. Like all the Trueborn, she is cursed with perfect memory and deep sensitivity. But not even the knowledge that Merlin killed her mother can change the fact: They need each other for more than survival.

Generally speaking, post-apocalyptic tales are dark and tense and any sense of attachment comes from the people trying to survive against all odds. That’s certainly true of Finding Life on Mars but the friction between the original colonists from Earth and the generation that was born on Mars brings a whole new level of anxiety.

Earth has essentially died and, while that was expected, the colonists didn’t realize just how bad things were and that they would be the only ones to survive. They’ve made a life for themselves on Mars and have raised families but the Landers will die out before much longer. The Trueborns, those born on Mars, are of a different sort all together with  somewhat rigid personalities and little empathy. Will these two groups be able to come together in the common cause of stopping a madman bent on destroying everything or will this be their last chance to understand and love each other in spite of their differences?

Narrator Jennifer Jill Araya is new to me but I was impressed with her ability to make Jaye more personable than she really is and it was her performance that kept me engaged with the story, despite her having to maintain a nearly robotic monotone. While I enjoyed the tale, I think I would have had more difficulty connecting with Jaye if I had read this visually. Still, Mr. Dias has left me thinking about the importance of the human personality and the need for emotional connections.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

About the Author

Jason Dias is a neurodivergent existential psychologist and author. He lives, loves and works in Colorado Springs, Colorado and keeps largely to himself.

Website

Twitter

Amazon

 

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About the Narrator

Jennifer Jill Araya has been listening to audiobooks since she was a young child, and the fact that she now gets to narrate audiobooks for a living is a dream come true. Jennifer’s training as an opera singer and orchestral cellist lend a musicality and depth of understanding to her narration that help bring her authors’ stories to life. She loves nothing more than giving life and breath to the printed word.

When she’s not narrating, Jennifer can be found hiking, biking, running, or generally exploring her home city of Cincinnati with her husband Arturo (aka “Partner in Crime”) and their two children.

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Book Review: Waypoint by Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins

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Title: Waypoint
Series: Waypoint, Book One
Authors: Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Publisher: Rocket City Publishing
Publication Date: December 1, 2018
Genres: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Waypoint
Waypoint, Book One
Deborah Adams & Kimberley Perkins
Rocket City Publishing, December 2018
ISBN 978-1-7325071-0-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

How far will they go to restore the power?

It’s been lights-out for three months and society is already falling into chaos.

Teenage tech-genius Simon Harper and his team of fellow gamers have been searching for the cause of the outage since it went down. Simon and his twin brother West are often at odds, but when the key to restoring power drops into their hands, they’ll risk everything and join forces to bring it back.

Mysterious deaths and disappearances are piling up, and unknown enemies are everywhere. As the brothers make their 500-mile journey to Waypoint they’ll have to decide who they can trust, and which secrets can be told.

At some time in the not too distant future, the powers that be decided that having one power grid would be a good idea. You know, consolidation of resources, leaner staffing needs, etc., and all that works just fine until the inevitable happens and the thing stops working. Oops, no Plan B.

Simon and West are twins by birth but that’s about the only thing they have in common. One is a hunky athletic type adored by all including himself while the other is your run of the mill gaming genius with no social skills and, somehow, they find themselves on a perhaps-hopeless quest to turn the power back on before humanity completely loses its you-know-what. Along the way, a couple of girls, Riya and Alex, join the boys and bring their own strong personalities to the splintered team.

A little romance, a lot of suspense and adventure to the max make Waypoint a fun read and it becomes especially page-turning when West and Simon get separated. I really enjoyed this and will wait with as much patience as possible for the next episode.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2018.

About the Authors

DEBORAH ADAMS and KIMBERLEY PERKINS are friends and coworkers. They share a love of coffee, literature, and teenagers saving the world. By day, they work for a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama as the HR Director and an Excel-wielding Analyst, respectively. By night, they build worlds with words and devour stories. For more information about Deborah Adams and Kimberley Perkins and their foray into writing, check them out on social media.

Website

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Book Review: The Darkening by Chris Sarantopoulos

The Darkening
Chris Sarantopoulos
Chris Sarantopoulos, October 2018
ISBN 978-618-00-0218-8
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Don’t fear the dark. Fear the light.

The end came when light changed. It decimated humanity, leaving scattered bands of survivors stumbling in the dark.

Faced with saving himself or his family during the apocalypse, John Piscus made the wrong choice, and has been living with the guilt ever since.

When a glowing girl shows up at John’s shelter begging for help, his instincts tell him to kill her. After all, light kills.

But when masked troopers tasked with capturing survivors come after them, it’s up to John to protect himself and the girl. Not only may she hold the key to reversing the lethal effects of light, she could also be the one who can save his soul.

Hard choices have to be made when you’re in the midst of an apocalypse no one could foresee and John Piscus made at least one that he regrets badly. Now, he’s faced with another choice, either kill the girl whose glowing light could kill him or join up with her in an attempt to survive what has happened to their world.

I like that the author ventured into unfamiliar territory to create a premise for this story but I have to admit to being distracted by the knowledge that life can’t continue without light. Once I decided to just ignore that little problem, I began to really get into the story, especially because I found John pretty unappealing, something that’s a little out of the norm. Let’s face it, humanity is most likely not going to be universally sane and/or nice should we ever find ourselves in such a situation but he goes above and beyond in his, well, ickiness. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a lot to be icky about, mind you, but the girl with the glow might turn out to be his reason to survive.

Trouble is, John and the glowing girl are about to learn the real meaning of pain and evil…

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2018.

Book Review: Dusk of Humanity by M.K. Dawn

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Title: Dusk of Humanity
Series: The Decay of Humanity, Book 1
Author: M.K. Dawn
Publication Date: January 10, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic

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Dusk of Humanity
The Decay of Humanity, Book 1
M.K. Dawn
CreateSpace, January 2018
ISBN 978-1983904158
Trade Paperback

From the author—

An asteroid brought about the destruction of the world…in a way no one thought possible.

After the death of her parents, Sloan Egan left their Montana ranch determined to make a difference in the world. Now a prominent surgeon with an exceptional career in her future, life has turned out exactly as she expected. Until a government summons arrives with an order to report to Fort Hood for a top-secret weekend retreat.

Major Lee Archer’s reassignment as head of military operations at The Bunker felt more like a prison sentence than a promotion. To make matters worse, he’s been assigned to babysitting detail, as a group of the country’s most brilliant young minds come together to test the vitality of the cutting-edge fallout shelter he commands.

But the retreat was nothing more than a ploy. One devised to safeguard the future of humanity, as a catastrophic event renders the world above uninhabitable.

Or so they’ve been led to believe.

Those in charge have a secret. One so horrifying they would do anything to keep it concealed. Because what lurks beyond The Bunker is deadlier than anyone could have ever imagined.

And it’s only a matter of time before it finds a way in.

When people from a wide variety of professions are brought together in a bunker with apparently all the necessities of life, it doesn’t take long for questions to arise. It’s not surprising that some of the “invitees” would have misgivings but so does Archer who should have been more aware of what was going on. Although he has to follow military orders, he’s uneasy with the attitudes of the VIPs towards people they consider unworthy of being saved if a major disaster should happen. When the President comes on screen and tells everyone in the Bunker the truth, the reaction is overwhelming dismay as you would expect but, even after all the revelations, they have no clue what’s really happening.

It’s a minor point but there’s one thing about Sloan that I didn’t like and that’s her stereotypical surgeon superiority. That was obvious early on when she told Major Archer, “If I go on vacation, patients die.” Um, no, you’re not the only surgeon in the world, even if you are one of the best. Other than that, I liked Sloan a lot and Archer appealed to me, too, as did Travis, Evelyn and others. In fact, I’d say all the primary characters were very well developed and they felt real, whether I liked them or not.

I had a lot of trouble believing the premise of this story and so did some of the major characters. For one thing, there is no way the VIPs (which clearly includes government personnel) would be able to keep the approaching asteroid a secret for so many years what with all the backyard astronomers, especially in the last few days. Also, with so much advance notice, it makes no sense that the plan would be to save only 2,000 people. However, this is the core of the story so I decided to just read on and enjoy the tale and enjoy it I did. Trouble is, I can’t tell you why because that would be total spoilery so, suffice it to say, Dusk of Humanity is a fun romp through a world we’ll have to hope we never see…and now I have to wait for the next book 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

An Excerpt from Dusk of Humanity

The room fell silent. President Edward Patterson sat behind a small desk in a make-shift office with an unnatural stillness. An American Flag hung on the cavern wall behind him. It took Sloan a moment to realize he too was in The Bunker.

His expression was grave and his normal youthful demeanor was replaced with an unsmiling, unfocused stare that could only mean one thing: the announcement wasn’t good.

“My fellow Americans,” President Patterson began, “first, on behalf of our great country, I would like to personally thank every one of you for joining us this weekend.” He dropped his head and swallowed so hard the sound echoed off his microphone. When he raised his head, his eyes were wet and bloodshot. “Secondly, I owe each of you an apology. I’ve always considered myself an honorable man. My word is as important to me as the air I breathe.” Another extended pause. “It’s with a heavy heart I share with you my deception.”

The sound of Sloan’s heartbeat thrashed in her ears.

“We brought you here under false pretenses, not out of malice but out of fear. Fear that without each of you the world as we know it would be lost. I will spare you the tedious details and get straight to the point.” He lifted his wrist to check the time. “Approximately five minutes ago, an asteroid close to six miles wide struck the earth. An asteroid this size is known as a global killer. Over the course of the next few months, billions of lives will be lost, as will most of the animals and vegetation.”

The room erupted in a mixture of cries and gasps. Sloan couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe. This couldn’t be happening.

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About the Author

As a lifetime reader, M.K. Dawn always dreamed about becoming a writer. Then one day an idea came to her and then a story; so she started to write. And when she started to write, she couldn’t stop. Not only does she love to write fantasy, paranormal and dystopia books she can almost always be found with her nose buried deep in them as well.

M.K. lives in South Texas with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, she is reading, watching her favorite TV shows or dreaming about sitting on a beach somewhere.

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Book Review: All Systems Down by Sam Boush

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Title: All Systems Down
Series: The Cyber War #1
Author: Sam Boush
Publisher: Lakewater Press
Publication Date: February 8, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberthriller

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All Systems Down
The Cyber War #1
Sam Boush
Lakewater Press, February 2018
ISBN 978-0-9944512-7-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

24 hours.
That’s all it takes.
A new kind of war has begun.

Pak Han-Yong’s day is here. An elite hacker with Unit 101 of the North Korean military, he’s labored for years to launch Project Sonnimne: a series of deadly viruses set to cripple Imperialist infrastructure.

And with one tap of his keyboard, the rewards are immediate.

Brendan Chogan isn’t a hero. He’s an out-of-work parking enforcement officer and one-time collegiate boxer trying to support his wife and children. But now there’s a foreign enemy on the shore, a blackout that extends across America, and an unseen menace targeting him.

Brendan will do whatever it takes to keep his family safe.

In the wake of the cyber attacks, electrical grids fail, satellites crash to earth, and the destinies of nine strangers collide.

Strangers whose survival depends upon each other’s skills and courage.

I can’t help wondering when Mr. Boush conceived the idea for his novel or when he started writing it but it certainly is reflective of our current (and ongoing, apparently) situation with both North Korea and Russia and is very timely indeed. We’ve also had years of experience with hackers installing viruses into the internet so, all in all, the concept here is quite credible.

I don’t have enough knowledge of internet workings to say whether the technical aspects in this story are accurate but that lack of knowledge has a beneficial side effect—if I don’t know better, I’m not going to be concerned with those details. That, in turn, makes for a more comfortable read and I don’t have to bother with focusing on those matters, allowing me to just enjoy the ride and enjoy it I did.

The blackout that hits the US nationwide has strong elements of post-apocalyptic fiction, a plus for me, and this revolves pretty equally around our survival without electricity and other things we’ve learned to assume will always be there and on how we actually got in such a state. Placing the tale in contemporary times was a good move on the author’s part because anybody with half an ear to current events has to be aware that this is something that could happen.

Mr. Boush has a good feel for his characters and they’re quite believable, normal yet imperfect. I certainly didn’t like them all but I’m quite sure many people will be very annoying, oblivious, self-centered, ugly-tempered, cruel, etc., should we find ourselves in such a situation. On the other hand, there will be many who remember their humanity and such is the case with Brendan, Lorenzo, Vailea and others.

For a debut novel, All Systems Down is a nifty story with a lot going for it, although it’s not perfect, and I’m anticipating another good tale with the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2018.

About the Author

Sam Boush is a novelist and award-winning journalist.

He has worked as a wildland firefighter, journalist, and owner of a mid-sized marketing agency. Though he’s lived in France and Spain, his heart belongs to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, Tehra, two wonderful children, and a messy cat that keeps them from owning anything nice.

He is a member of the Center for Internet Security, International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, and Cloud Security Alliance.

ALL SYSTEMS DOWN is his first novel, with more to come.

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Book Review: Velocity by Chris Wooding

Velocity
Chris Wooding
Scholastic Press, March 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-94494-6
Hardcover

With an almost-manic-joy bubbling beneath the determined calm needed for navigation, Velocity takes off; tearing through teeth-rattling turns and bone-jarring twists. The tale of the unprecedented quick-track that takes Cassica and Shiara from racing the “unofficial boondocks circuit” to a qualifier for the Widowmaker, “the most hotly contested rally in the world”, flies faster than Maisie. Try not to take it too quickly though, lest you miss the interspersed clever, cutting humor and gradual growth of the girls, both as individuals and as a team.

Admittedly, I was seriously psyched to be reading about a female rally-car team. Being familiar with rally racing because it was something that another author I admire, Maggie Stiefvater, participated in; I believe her words describe it best, “…when the co-driver and driver are working perfectly together, you can hurtle along blindly, much faster than a) someone without notes or b) someone with common sense.” Certainly, Cassica and Shiara are tighter than twin sisters.

Shiara’s family had taken in Cassica when the girls were very young and while Cassica didn’t share Shiara’s fondness for tinkering and building cars, such as their beloved mongrel of so many different parts, Maisie, she happily hopped behind the wheel. While they shared so much, each had her own dream. One would be more than content to continue racing the tracks here in Coppermouth while the other yearns for…so much more.

Sometimes, helping your best friend achieve her dream means more than anything, even if the effort is not wholly altruistic. So, in spite of her skepticism, Shiara agrees to accept an unsolicited offer for sponsorship and management for a chance to qualify for the pinnacle of Maximum Racing season. Cassica is quickly dazzled and swept up in the glamour while Shiara is surlier than usual and even more suspicious than her teammate can stomach. It’s soon apparent that the terrifying tracks are only a small part of the danger that the duo will face. Suddenly, the girls are in so deep that no one can help them. They truly only have each other—or maybe not even that, anymore.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2017.