Wrap Up: February 2020 Book Reviews

Hello dear readers, February is over, despite it being one of the shortest months I have had one of my best reading months so far. I read 9 books in February. I read all kinds of genres science fiction, mystery, general fiction, horror, historical fiction and young adult. I read 2 rereads, 2 advanced readers copies thanks to netgalley, 4 books in a series, a short story collection and a novella. I had three five star reviews, which is rare for me. So please let me share my mini reviews with you for these 9 titles.

Five Star Reviews:

Locke & Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill, is a graphic novel I have read 3 times and my rating of 5 star still stands. This book is incredible! I’m reading the series and this book in particular because of the new Locke & Key series started on February 7 2020 on Netflix. This graphic novel combines gothic horror with suspense and added fantastical elements, all of which I love. This novel starts off with a bang having two murders show up asking about keys that no one knows what they’re talking about. Then the family moves to key house a house none of the kids have been to before. A place where the keys only open doors and powers for kids.

The Holdout By Graham Moore is as good as a legal thriller can get, it is one very entertaining and will keep you guessing, and two makes a statement about how our current legal system is broken and can be manipulated. The Holdout is two mysteries in one. One is a mystery that took ten years ago, where one jurist was a lone holdout for a not guilty verdict and swung the jury to all vote not guilty, is was the alleged killer guilty. The new mystery is who killed a member of the jury when they come together for a documentary about the case ten years ago. This book was part 12 Angry Men combined with an Agatha Christie murder mystery. I really enjoyed The Holdout thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me an advanced readers copy. The Holdout was published on February 18 2020.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill is comprised of 13 short stories, two are written with his dad Stephen King. Some stories are bone chilling tales of fright, while others give whimsical insight of the the unknown. All tales draw you in in some way, some let you go easily, while other try to hold you in a death grip and not let go.

Four Star Reviews:

The Queen of Bedlam by Robert R. McCammon. This was a reread for me, book two the Matthew Corbett series. A haunting historical fiction/mystery set in 1702. There’s a serial killer called The Masker that cuts the victim’s face like a mask, a woman in an insane asylum, that they refer to The Queen, and the starting of the first detective agency in America.

The Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine is the 7th book in the original Goosebumps Series. I read this 20 years ago and forgot a good deal, there are still a lot of surprises and twist. This book messes with your brain a little bit, by asking what is real because of some clever pranks it make the reader second guess if this is really happening or a nightmare. I will say personally wooden dummies freak me out, so my fear factor might be higher than others.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson is very original plot, involving a woman looking after two twins that can spontaneously combust, bursting into flames at any second. How do you take care of kids like that? This novel is original in its approach taking the concept of kids that can burst in to flames seriously.

Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson is a Science Fiction Novella that tells a futuristic Neo Noir detective story. I was reminded a lot of a Phillip K. Dick meets George Orwell, especially The Eye, the story Minority report is based on, and 1984. In the near future a computer program can simulate an entire day of the past for every person , police step into this world to gain to find evidence in the real time, but every interaction with someone from the real time causes deviations in the day.

Three Star Reviews:

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin is William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in High school! The story doesn’t hold back in its brutality, while keeping the dialogue foul and razor sharp. The language and camp are the best part of this novel. There are trigger warnings all over this book. Thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday books for the advanced readers copy. Foul is Fair was published on February 18 2020.

Black Hammer Volume 3 Age of Doom Part One by Jeff Lemire is a graphic novel that takes heroes from the bygone era, and stick them in a purgatory on a small farming town, where there is no such thing as superheroes. Some find love, others find betrayal, and some heartbreak in this purgatory, but most just want out. Is there something keeping the team there or someone? In this novel we find out the answer.

Book Review: Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson is a Science Fiction Novella that tells a futuristic Neo Noir detective story. I was reminded a lot of a Phillip K. Dick meets George Orwell, especially The Eye, the story Minority report is based on, and 1984. In the near future a computer program can simulate an entire day of the past for every person , police step into this world to gain to find evidence in the real time, but every interaction with someone from the real time causes deviations in the day. This story takes place in the program 10 days before present day. The idea of this story is amazing, with such a short story it has some good twist.

The Plot: Davis and Chaz are detectives in the Snapshot. The Snapshot is the name for the program that can simulate any entire day for every person in the city. The cases aren’t difficult they will watch and document a domestic disturbance, and they will watch where a murder suspect flees to it drops the murder weapon. They can communicate to the real world that is in the same time but different day. The way the program works they have to spend a day there, so they have safe houses to go to if need be. They end one case early and instead of go to the safe house, they explore. Davis still wants to be a detective, where Chaz enjoys the Snapshot. Davis read about an odd event that occurred this day on a conspiracy blog and wants to investigate. They find multiple bodies and a killer that knows how the Snapshot works.

What I Liked: The plot to this story is so good. The idea is cool, Sanderson is known for writing some big books, and this story could easily been expanded. Davis took me a couple pages to figure out but I loved his character, and loved where his story arc went. I liked the idea of the Snapshot, I wanted to know more about it. The twist towards the end of this story are really good, it really reminded me of a Phillip K. Dick twist ending. I loved the reveal on Davis leaving the real life police force, and the reason he turns off the machine each night. I loved use of the deviations and what element to the story they introduced.  The badge that shows you this world is not real was a well thought out device.

What I Disliked: It took me a while to visualize the main characters, and it took me longer than it should in a novella to identify with the characters. A slow beginning, there’s a fair bit of exposition in explaining how the Snapshot works, which is interesting but out getting to know the characters on the back burner.

Recommendation: This story was right up my alley, if you’re like me and love mind bending science fiction then this story is for you. It is short and well worth the time reading. I have yet to read a bad Sanderson story, I love Mistborn series and Stormlight Archive series. I rated Snapshot 4 out of 5 stars. I bought it for my kindle for 1.99 and it was well worth it!

Book Review: Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson is very original plot, involving a woman looking after two twins that can spontaneously combust, bursting into flames at any second. How do you take care of kids like that? This novel is original in its approach taking the concept of kids that can burst in to flames seriously, I thought this novel was going to be more of a satire. There are some moments of satire, but I was thinking the majority of the book. The book was good but I wanted a bit more out of it. The story makes great observations about class structure, but it didn’t really follow through with it. I was lead to check out this book by a discussion and reading that I was held at Parnassus books a local bookstore ran by author Ann Patchett, who this book is dedicated to. The majority of this story takes place in Franklin, Tennessee, which is only 40 minutes away from me.

The Plot: Lillian struggles in life working two grocery store jobs and living in the attic of her mother’s house, she was supposed have a better life than this. She receives a letter from Madison and old acquaintance from high school, Madison calls Lillian her best friend, but Lillian questions of they even are friends. She has a job that thinks Lillian will be perfect for knowing their past experience together. The job is taking care of two twin siblings Bessie and Roland that are stepchildren to Madison. Madison’s husband, Jasper, is being looked at for Secretary of State, and the kids need to be trained to be presentable for vetting. There is one catch when the twins become agitated they burst into flames.

What I Liked: The plot and the idea behind the story is so good and original. I found the Lillian Madison relationship very interesting. Carl is the unsung hero of this story, I loved his quiet demeanor and Mary the cook as well. I liked the use of basketball in the story. I liked the way the southern characters were written. The cover for this book caught my eye with its 1950’s comic book strip lower half of a child’s body and the flames on the top half. The humor is really subtle but works very well. The scene where the kids met Lillian was so unexpected and hilarious. The twist was great and I did not see it coming.

What I Disliked: No adult in this story seemed to learn anything or have any consequences to their actions. I wanted a better explanation of why Lillian loved Madison in any way other than she was beautiful, the novel did make attempts, but the excuses didn’t connect with me and were to vague.

Recommendations: I will mildly recommend this book, the plot and the originality are so strong, it’s an easy book to tell others about. Read this book of you’re looking for an out of the box plot. I rated Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson 4 out of 5 stars. I will seek to read another book by this author, I have heard good things about The Family Fang.

Book Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Full Throttle by Joe Hill is comprised of 13 short stories, two are written with his dad Stephen King. Some stories are bone chilling tales of fright, while others give whimsical insight of the the unknown. All tales draw you in in some way, some let you go easily, while other try to hold you in a death grip and not let go. A couple of the the short stories are odes to his favorite authors like Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Lawerence Block, David Mitchell, and Stephen King. Out of the stories in this collection I was familiar with two, I read You are Released in Flight or Fright, which is a short story anthology about chilling tales involving flight, and I watched the Netflix original movie of the adaptation for In the Tall Grass which he wrote with Stephen King. Joe Hill has been one of my favorite others for quite some time I have read all his novels, short story collections, and all but two of his graphic novels. So I’m a bit of a super fan of his after finishing Full Throttle I already want another story of his roaming into by head. My favorites of Full Throttle are Faun, You Are Released, By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain, Late Returns, and All I Care About is You. I broke each short story down individually to give each a rating and tell a little bit of what it is about.

The Plots and Ratings:

Five Star Stories:

Late Returns is about a bookmobile operator’s job delivering and picking library books from the alive and sometimes the dead. This story is really pull you heart strings type story. As the dead in most cases are able to checkout one last book. A a reader who wouldn’t love this story. I love the thought of giving new writer’s to people that died long ago. Hill remarks that his greatest fear is not finishing a book before he dies.

Faun is a story that was so good I didn’t want it to end, I think this story could easily be expanded into a novel. Faun is about a group of hunters that want to hunt more than just animals. One hunter knows about a place where you can hunt your wildest dreams. Think if a gateway to Narnia opened up, instead of go on an adventure it was used as a hunting ground. I this story was a great mix of Narnia meets Cabin in the Woods. This was my favorite story, the ending felt a bit rushed, but there’s so much potential to expand.

All I Care About is You is a story set in the future, on a mediocre birthday of Iris who has just turned 16. She ends up paying for a robot’s companionship for one hour, who’s mission statement is I will only care about you. This story is manages to balance sweet and sinister. The story has a weird beginning that took a little while to get into, but the story wraps up with a great unexpected ending.

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain a story where there little kids find a dead dinosaur, like Nessie of Loch Ness, on the beach of the lake. They are kids so no one believes them until it is too late. This story was fun, really good dialogue, capturing the kids voices. This story was the most heartfelt of the bunch, it drew its inspiration from Richard Matheson’s Silver Water and Ray Bradbury’s The Foghorn

You Are Released is story about what happens in the passenger plane when nuclear war starts. A great story that jumps back and forth between passengers and the cabin, each dealing with their fates the way they know how. The best is we see through the eyes of a young girl that doesn’t know the world is changing and the adults our acting so strangely.

In the Tall Grass with Stephen King is the scariest story of the bunch it plays well with the fear of the unknown. Becky and Cal are siblings that are driving across Kanas, to reach the west coast where Becky can give away the unplanned baby away. There trip is halted when they here cries from help from the tall grass, once they enter they. They can’t seem to find their way out. The images presented are brutal and my leave some sick. The short story is the first 25 minutes of the Netflix film. There is no Travis in the short story, only a mention. I enjoyed both, there was parts I liked in both film and short story I liked. Both end pretty tragically.

Dark Carousel is a tale of four friends haunted by the creatures of an old carousel. I do like that this story is connected to Charlie Manx from NOS4A2 that Christmasland donated a cat for the carousel. The story and characters are great without the horror element, but when the moment comes the story gets scary and brutal.

Four Star Stories:

Mums is about Jack a sort of prisoner at his father’s separatist commune, his mother attempts to free but she is set up to look like a bad mother. Jack doesn’t realize learning to build fertilizer bombs is uncommon. The story goes all over the place and makes you the reader question what you’re reading is real or is Jack crazy.

Throttle by Joe Hill and Stephen King is about a biker gang terrorized by a semi, it’s Duel for the next generation. It had a weird opening telling about what is happening now and in the past at roughly the same time. The story gets good when it is biker v. Semi. I did love the family dynamic to the plot. Throttle ad the funniest lines of two characters describing stench.

Wolverton Station is a story about an American businessman on a train in London that just happens to be occupied by werewolves. The story makes some Little Red Riding Hood comparisons, with the businessman’s nickname being the woodcutter. The descriptions of the carnage are gorishly detailed. There’s a big of class warfare that didn’t fit so well.

Twittering from the Circus of the Dead is a story in tweet format, where we get the perspective of a teenage girl as she goes with her younger brother and parents on a road trip through America. They do a stop over at the Circus of the Dead. The show is fear based with zombies interacting with performers and patrons, the family doesn’t know it but they’re going to be part of the show. This story has a great ending with a bit of a twist.

Three Star Story:

The Devil on the Staircase is a story child growing up and working on the stairs of Sulle Scale. He lives on top and there is 820 steps to get to bottom. One side entrance with a red door that is always locked, is said to be stairs to hell. The type setting having the words cascade in columns looking like stairs works, but the story is a bit lagging.

Two Star Story:

Thumbprints this story has been me least favorite so far. A story about a female PFC Officer who held prison and torture duty, has that past creep up on her as she is a civilian working as a bar tender years later. Did not really care for the main character. I could see where Hill was going with this one we are all prisoners of our own design, but it just didn’t work for me.

Recommendations: I love Joe Hill I recommend his work when ever I get the chance. So far I have not been letdown by him. Full Throttle I whole heartedly recommend for fans of the horror genre. The stories are varied and carefully chosen. For people interested in the process of writing Hill breaks down how he came up with each story and who influenced him. This collection had seven stories which were 5 stars, four that where 4 stars, one that was 3 stars, and one that was 2 stars. The 5’s have it. I rated Full Throttle 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Foul is Fair By Hannah Capin

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin is William Shakespeare’s Macbeth in High school! The story doesn’t hold back in it’s brutality, while keeping the dialogue foul and razor sharp. There’s Trigger warnings all over this book in terms of sexual content, murder, and language. This book is being marketed as Young Adult, a mature 16 year old might can handle it, but I would recommend older. I kept thinking of two movies while reading this Heathers the black comedy about means girls terrorizing the school and a girl falling for the bad guy that helps murder some of those that have wronged them. The second movie is I Spit on Your Grave, about a woman sexually assaulted, buried and left for dead. Rises from the grave and takes revenge. Both those movies are from the 80’s with the marketing of this book comparing it to the film Kill Bill which fits as a tale of revenge. The language and the camp make this novel stick out and is the best part of it. I had a hard time identifying with the lead character Jade/Elle and her lack of venerability she does show some at the end but it was a little too late. I wanted to like this story more than I did, the novel’s timeline is way too fast and took all believability with it. Thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday books for the advanced readers copy. Foul is Fair is published on February 18 2020.

The Plot: Elle on her sweet sixteen goes to a party with three of her best friends she calls the coven. At this party Elle is given a drugged drink and gets assaulted by a group of super rich prep boys that go to a local private Catholic School. Elle has flashes of the night and can remember some faces of one girl and six guys who let it happen. She takes care of the bruising and and tells her parents, instead of the cops she says she’s going to handle it and wants to switch schools to go to the Catholic school everyone involved went to. Elle changes her look but cutting and dying her hair and wearing contacts, she is not Elle any more but goes by her middle name Jade. Jade recruits the coven of friends to help her murder those who helped with the assault. Jade goes to her new school and immediately joins the top mean girl click noticing one of the girls who witnessed it happen and did nothing, and is dating one of the assaulters. All the people involved in the assault are apart of the boys lacrosse team. She see’s one member of the team that wasn’t involved in the assault, Mack, that has the potential to be the new king of school and someone that could help her kill. Jade’s plan starts to fall apart after she starts to fall for Mack. Will ha screw up her chance for revenge?

What I Liked: She tells her parents after the assault, I was happy to see this, since so many victims don’t speak out. The LGTBQ representation is really great, Mads, a member of the coven is Trans and represented and a real strong character that is not a cliche. The descriptions are really good they are often medieval and harken back to remind you of the Macbeth roots to the story. I really enjoyed the last 20 percent of the story, and felt the novel ended on a high note. The Jade and Piper confrontation was so great and my favorite scene with my favorite line, “What are you the patron saint of excessive drinking?” I did enjoy the twist of two character’s one for the good and one for the bad.

What I Disliked: The story time frame is so rushed, and it didn’t need to be. The whole span of this book is less than 20 days. Elle is assaulted on Friday turns into Jade and attends a new school on Monday. Joins the elite group which accepts her right away, she is an accessory to murder her third day, in love her forth day. This ridiculous time line made this story so unbelievable to me. The main character doesn’t show any venerability until the last 20 percent where it was too late. I really did not like the cover art at all, I feel it will hurt book sells.

Recommendations: I think this novel could be a good outlet for those who have been sexually assaulted and feel alone. This book was an attempt and had a lot of potential but I felt it wasn’t good enough for me to recommend. There’s some burst of greatness, I truly loved the last 20% so much, and was bummed that the rest of the book wasn’t this good. I think the author has potential and would seek out another novel. I rated Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy by R. L. Stine

The Night of the Living Dummy by R.L. Stine is the 7th book in the original Goosebumps Series. I read this years ago and forgot a good deal, there are still a lot of surprises and twist. This book messer with your brain a little bit, by asking what is real because of some clever pranks it make the reader second guess if this is really happening or a nightmare. I will say personally wooden dummies freak me out, so my fear factor might be higher than others. I have pointed out before that Stine concentrates on real world issues to enhance the fear and keep the story a little grounded. In this book the theme is sharing the leads are two twin girls who are already forced to share a face, have to share a room, friends, and a lot of items in the room. When one of the Girls finds the dummy Slappy she is relieved to have something that is here’s that she doesn’t have to share. There’s a couple references to the household not having that much money, so sharing is the only option. This novel has the least 90’s references out of all the other 6 Goosebumps I have read so far. I’m reading Goosebumps to rehash my old memories of the series growing up, and also to give the books to my nephews to read.

The Plot: The Powell Sister’s Kris and Lindy are 12 year old identical twins, who share everything a face, friends, a room, and a lot of the same items in the house. This all changes when the girls get bored and explore the new house being built next door and Lindy finds a trunk. In the trunk is a wooden dummy in a black suit named Slappy. Kris wants Lindy to put it back where it was found, but Lindy wants to keep it and work on it. Kris at first really doesn’t care, then she see’s all the attention she’s getting, and wants some, so a week or a couple later and her dad buys her Mr. Wood from a pawn shop. Lindy gets good and performs for money at birthday parties. Kris is amazed at how good she is, and that she actually is funny. Kris struggles and swears there’s something wrong with Mr. Wood who is often not in the same place where she put him when she goes to sleep. One day she finds him in clothes she put out, and another when she finds Mr. Wood looking like he was strangling him. Kris Swears her doll is winking at her as well. Is he Alive, or is it all a cruel joke?

What I Liked: The story teases a bit here and there but when it comes to the big reveal the dummy does not hold back and you truly believe it wants to kill. I loved the sibling rivalry, you get to witness the jealousy grow overtime. The pranks in this one are really good, my favorite so far; It’s Goosebumps so you know there’s going to be some teases and jump scares a lot of these are false and easily revealed to be a sister or brother messing around, but in the Night of the Living Dummy we don’t get a fast reveal guessing what is real. There’s one part where and old neighbor couple comes over to watch the sweet innocent puppet show, but is roasted by one of the girls, the jokes are mean but still pretty funny. The final twist is a good one that leads to the sequels. The flow and pace of this story is very well paced, the story is one of the better focused ones. This one rams up the scary. I enjoyed how extreme it got, The dummy is out for blood, he will bite, slap, and claw his way towards that goal.

What I Disliked: The worst dog name ever, Barky. I did not like the spell aspect, I thought it was cheap and never really explained well.

Recommendations: Read this if you are scared of Puppets, I’m sure this will also work on stuffed animals. This is a good book for sisters. I do recommend this story out the 7 Goosebumps books I have read, I put this one at number 2, here’s my list so far from best to worst Stay out of the Basement, Night of the Living Dummy, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Say Cheese and Die, Let’s Get Invisible, Welcome to Dead House and Monster Blood. I rated Night of the Living Dummy 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

The Holdout By Graham Moore is as good as a legal thriller can get, it is one very entertaining and will keep you guessing, and two it makes a statement about how our current legal system is broken and can be manipulated. The Holdout is two mysteries in one, as we get two different mysteries one is a did they or didn’t they murder? And the other is a who done it? The book is separated by a ten year span having a jury trial and then ten years later doing a retrospective documentary of what happened during the trial. This book was part 12 Angry Men combined with an Agatha Christie murder mystery (there’s one I’m thinking about but the plot could be a hint to where it goes, and would hate to spoil anything) with a dash of John Grisham. This novel is full of little twist here and there with a couple of big ones towards the end that guarantee to put you on your toes. I really enjoyed The Holdout thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me and advanced readers copy. The Holdout is being published on February 18 2020.

The Plot: Maya Seale is an attorney at a law firm in Los Angeles. We see her creatively defend a client and get a damaging police report tossed out on a technicality. She wins the case but before she can celebrate, she is confronted with a blast from her past, Rick. Ten years ago she was on the trial of the century, the Bobby Nock trial, as a juror. She was the one holdout that thought he was not guilty and convinced the rest of the jury of it as well. This victory lead her to go to law school and become a lawyer. The only problem with the Bobby Nock verdict is 84% of a America thought he was guilty with all the information the media got compared to the information in the trial. The jurors names were all leaked the media hounded them for information and insight, some of the other juror’s felt manipulated to vote not guilty. Rick wrote a book about it blaming Maya, and has been obsessed with proving Booby Nock, a 25 year old African American music teacher killed his, 15 year old Caucasian high school student, Jessica Silver. Rick is tells Maya that he has found information that is going to change the course of the old case, he and eight of the other juror’s ( one has passed away and one flat out said he was not interested) are going to sit down and tell all for a documentary ten years after the trial. Maya doesn’t want any part of it, but her boss thinks it will be could for publicity, so she reluctantly agrees. But she gets more than she bargained for when a member of the Booby Nock juror’s is murdered. Maya is left to solve this crime, with the more she finds out, the more doubts she has about the not guilty verdict of the the old trial. The only thing she can do, is solve both cases.

What I Liked: The way this story is told really stuck out to me, in the present the story is told in third person, but in the flashbacks to the Bobby Nock trial ten years ago we get a first person view of the trial through each jurors eyes, which was very effective. The Holdout balanced the fun mystery while taking a hard look at our current system of justice and the legal loop holes. There’s a great scene where someone is asked plead self defense, because it’s easier to plead than innocent. There were a lot of character’s with the 12 juror’s but everyone had their own personalities and their own agenda. There was plenty of murder suspects that kept me guessing the whole time. I loved the twist in this novel, I guessed wrong about who done it, I only got one plot twist right, but I felt it was a lucky guess, but most of the time this novel kept me guessing.

What I Disliked: I was only upset with one plot point in this book, it was a big one I thought I was going to be blown away by a reveal, and I was more like, that was just okay. The novel did redeem its self with the next plot point involving what to do with that reveal which I thought was really clever and not something that I was expecting.

Recommendations: I totally recommend this novel, I think this was a fun legal thriller that kept me on my toes, with who done it? This novel balanced legal thriller with classic mystery, if you like one or both of those genres than you are gonna have some fun with this novel. If you’re looking for a smart book that offers a biting social commentary, then this is the book for you. The commentary on our legal system is not in your face but it ask good questions to the reader, about what is right or wrong? How can a jury remain bias on the subject of race? What the media misses with it’s rush to be the first to post new information? I rated The Holdout by Graham Moore 5 out of 5, I was let down by one scene, but the charm and the fun of this novel got me to overlook it. This was the first novel that I have read by Graham Moore and it certainly will not be the last. He has written The Sherlockian which I’ve heard a lot of good things about and not only is he a novelist but a screenwriter of The Imitation Game the movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kira Knightley, a movie I quite enjoyed.

Book Review: Black Hammer Volume 3: Age of Doom Part One by Jeff Lemire

Black Hammer Volume 3 Age of Doom Part One by Jeff Lemire is a graphic novel that takes heroes from the bygone era, and stick them in a purgatory on a small farming town, where there is no such thing as superheroes. Some find love, others find betrayal, and some heartbreak in this purgatory, but most just want out. Is there something keeping the team there or someone? In this novel we find out the answer. Black Hammer breaks down the super hero character analyzing what sacrifice is in a really humanizing way. Black Hammer Volume 3 Age of Doom collects issues 1-5 of Black Hammer: Age of Doom by Dark Horse Comics.

The Plot: Five heroes are stuck in a small town, after a hellacious battle to save Spiral city. The heroes don’t know why they are placed out in a rural town and spend most of there days on the farm, the ones who can be seen act like a family to not have suspicion arise. When we meet the heroes they have been trapped for 10 years. Abraham Slam is the leader and a hero of the bygone era He is over fifty and still strong as an ox he is the father figure, Golden Gail has the power of regeneration and flight, the purgatory of the town has stopped her regeneration, leaving her a fifty year old trapped in the body of a 12 year old, Colonel Weird comes straight from pulp as he is a former astronaut stuck between two vortexes, leaving his body and mind like a ghost not familiar with dates or time since they are relative to him. Madam Dragonfly is a witch that took a bad deal to save her daughter, and watches over a mysterious cabin, that was also transported to the town. Barbalien is a shapeshifting alien from Mars, and Walkie Talkie a female robot that Colonel Weird met on a mission. At the end of Black Hammer Volume 1 Secret Origins, the Black Hammer’s daughter Lucy joins the heroes in purgatory, Madam Dragonfly erases her memory quickly before the other’s arrive, and just like the left she is stuck and can not remember how she got there. At the last moments of Black Hammer Volume 2 The Event, Lucy finds and picks up her father’s old Hammer and becomes the new Black Hammer, and suddenly remembers everything about how she got there and who betrayed the team, but before she can get a word of she is whisked away to a purgatory that leads to her own personal hell. She must break free, so she can reveal all. The rest of the team follows the leads Lucy was working on and notice the town has changed. All will be revealed where they are why they are there and if they can or even want to escape.

What I Liked: Abraham finally admits to the woman he loves that he’s a super hero and … she laughs at him as he has the outfit on the moment is great because he as hid this big secret for 2.5 novels and that is the reaction after all the build up. Gus the half man half deer from Jeff Lemire’s other graphic novel Sweet Tooth makes a cameo appearance. Gail who is a kid in body only with the mind of a 50 year-old has it out with the librarian that suggest the kiddie section. I like the majority of Lucy’s own purgatory, the conversation with the devil was a good one! The humor was balanced by the sad moments really well. Gail’s reaction when she finds out about the betrayal was great. The art is better I still hate the way these artists draw people.

What I Disliked: I did not like the explanation for the ten years of purgatory, I felt it was a little bit of a slap in the face, for getting invested in the characters of purgatory, and didn’t feel those character’s reactions played well on a reread of what happened at the end. I reminded me of the new Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker plot line not making much sense. There was only the tiniest bit of a flashback, this series has had some really great flashback moments, and they were’t there in this volume and were greatly missed.

Recommendations: I will barely recommend this book it was my least favorite so far. The Black Hammer series as a whole I would give 4 stars and say it is worth it to read, but Black Hammer Volume 3 Age of Doom Part One I rate 3 out of 5 stars. I will read the next volume in the series Black Hammer Volume 4 Age of Doom Part Two. Part one ended in a cliffhanger and I am intrigued of the new direction that the next book will go in.

Book Review: The Queen of Bedlam by Robert R. McCammon

The Queen of Bedlam by Robert R. McCammon is a haunting historical fiction that takes place in 1702. This is the second novel in the Matthew Corbett series. The series follow Matthew Corbett a young idealist full of honor and virtue living in the time of America’s beginning. Matthew a young lawyer’s clerk loves and respects the law, and wants to see those who break it properly punished. He has a knack for getting in trouble and having adventures. In Speaks the Nightbird Matthew defends a woman accused of witchcraft in the Carolina’s Colony that the town and his own magistrate believe to be true, but Matthew sees the makings of a deep conspiracy. This time Matthew is in New York and chasing a “Jack the Ripper” like murderer the Masker. This series is fun and the character of Matthew keeps evolving, he’s only a clerk for a little while as a greater calling suits him, that of a detective. This book manages to fit in nicely with the first novel, and has a decent amount of call backs. The tone is the same blending Historical Fiction with Mystery with a dash of Horror. This is my second time reading the Queen of Bedlam.

The Plot: After the events in Speaks the Nightbird, three years later Matthew Corbett is with a new magistrate, Magistrate Powers in New York. New York is Matthew’s old home, where he was selected to be a clerk from the orphanage. Matthew now stalks his old and current orphanage headmaster Ausley, speaking to those he abused trying to get them to testify in open court. Matthew while out and about wandering the streets to watch Ausley hoping he commits a crime, stumbles on a murder by the Masker. The Masker is a serial killer known for cutting the victims face like a mask. Matthew’s current magistrate sees potential in him not as a magistrate but for a new organization that help solve mysteries. He gets a trial run on the queen of bedlam case. A woman with no identity is in a catatonic state in a mental institution, she is referred to as the Queen because the only thing she will ask about is if, the king’s reply has returned, but recently she reacted to the death of one of the Masker’s victims. Matthew is tasked with finding out who she is in hopes of awaking her. What Matthew finds out is maybe this woman’s identity is the key to discovering who the Masker is.

What I Liked: The Character of Matthew Corbett keeps getting better and better, as he evolves. The history all fits nothing seems out of ordinary, the descriptions are very detailed and create a perfect visual of the mind. My Favorite new character is Hudson Greathouse the lead detective to Matthew. he’s all brawn and is often surprised how far Matthew’s intellect gets him. I loved the fencing scenes the most. This novel is very well written with lots of little details that add in the end. The climax to this novel was so exciting, I couldn’t remember what happened or who lived or died, which made it even more exciting, like reading it for the first time. The bull through the glass shop was amazing, easily one of my favorite scenes. The tease of the next villain M.r Slaughter was done where you get just enough, and crave his return in the next book.

What I Disliked: Though this plot and climax are better in story and in mystery. This novel misses a very important the first book had, and that is immediacy. The plot moves a long fine but there’s no immediacy in it’s action. In Speaks the Nightbird, Matthew had to solve and disprove the witchcraft, or she was burned at the stake. I this book the murders from the Masker stop for a good while slowing the book down.

Recommendations: I whole heartedly recommend this book, it’s a great mystery set in time that does not get written all that much. The horror element are quick by really good. On my second rereading of Queen of Bedlam my rating went up a point, really liking how much pay off of the little details there is to the main and side plots. I rated Queen of Bedlam 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Haul: February 2020

Hello readers, it has been quite some time since I did a book haul, and thought I would share. This is a pretty good mix four horror, one graphic novel, one classic, one fantasy, one science fiction, one mystery, and two general fiction.

The Shining and Revival by Stephen King, My girlfriend was shocked that I had never read the Shining and got it for me, Revival is one of her favorites as well.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas, I really enjoyed Violet by Scott Thomas last year about the imaginary friend who comes to life and wants to play forever. I want to read more of his work, I’m a sucker for a haunted house story.

The Deep by Nick Cutter, I own the Troop by Nick Cutter, haven’t got around to it yet but the reviews are amazing and the story of a boy scout troop discovering a plague on a camping trip and have to figure out how to stop it.  But the Deep is a story where a virus breaks out causing people to forget, and the only cure is at the bottom of the ocean.  Can they remember in time to save themselves.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, this book had me at Lesbian Necromancers. The book has got a lot of great reviews that I kept seeing.  This book is book one of a trilogy.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, Wilson visited my local bookstore when he toured, I was not able to go because of work, but I watched the interviews.  This book sounds crazy, a woman is to be a care taker of twins, with the catch being, when the twins are agitated they spontaneous combust into flames.  This will probably be the first book I read with this haul.

Gone With the Wind by Margret Mitchell, this book is a favorite of my girlfriend’s mother, and knows I want to read more classics this year, so she bought it for me as a gift.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Omnibus Edition by Alan Moore, I have never read this series all the way through I have picked up a comic book here and there, but the order is a little bit weird.  So now I have the full version in order.  Alan Moore wrote Watchmen which is my favorite graphic novel of all time.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, this book is the one I know least about, but Im a sucker for anything bookstore related.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, this book has a witch and scientist battling each other as the world stars falling apart and they have to put away there differences to save it. It’s getting great reviews and sounds really interesting.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan, remember I’m a sucker for anything  bookstore related.  This is a bookstore mystery where a loyal customer hangs himself, with a picture of one of the clerks as a little kid.  The clerk finds books defaced that she can’t understand why, until she starts to see a pattern that may lead to something bigger.