A Different Kind of Review – PorterGirl: First Lady of the Keys by Lucy Brazier

31806906Goodreads Synopsis:

‘Porters are not the carriers of bags, they are the keepers of keys!’

As one of the most ancient and esteemed establishments of the academic elite, Old College is in for something of a shock when it appoints its very first female Deputy Head Porter.

She struggles to get to grips with this eccentric world, far removed from everyday life. PorterGirl, the proverbial square peg in the round hole, begins to wonder quite what she is doing here.

PorterGirl – First Lady Of The Keys is a touching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, glimpse into a world that is usually reserved for the upper echelons of society.

Whether she is chasing after naked students, drinking copious amounts of tea or getting embroiled in quaint, polite murders, Deputy Head Porter is never far from adventure.

My Review:

PorterGirl: First Lady of the Keys was a great read. Told from the point of view of Old College’s first female Deputy Porter, you immediately appreciate the personality of this feisty and deceptively intelligent character.

Throughout the book, even when she finds herself in danger, her personality shines through and the situations are handled with a combination of humor and intrigue. I found myself cheering for the Deputy Porter as she goes from a fish out of water to gaining acceptance for the job she does while, simultaneously, she is a target for being murdered.

Lucy also does a fantastic job of describing the campus of Old College so that we feel it really exists and that we are seeing it through her eyes.

So, needless to say, I enjoyed the book. It was whimsical and humorous in the right amounts with a good old-fashioned whodunnit woven in. As I was reading it, I thought it would make a great movie or television series. As an ignorant American, I tried to picture what British actors and actresses would be great in the roles of some of the main characters. Here is what I came up with, with apologies to Lucy Brazier:

Head Porter – Martin Clunes

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Master – John Cleese

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Porter – Rowan Atkinson

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Dean – Hugh Laurie

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Junior Bursar – Richard Griffiths (I know he passed away)

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Professor K – Malcolm McDowell

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Professor Fox – Neil Patrick Harris

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Lucy – Deputy Head Porter – Lucy Brazier, of course

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I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. You can find out more by checking out Lucy’s blog HERE.

Book Review – 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

6570601Goodreads Synopsis:

Imogene is young, beautiful. . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . .

Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . .

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. . .

Image result for joe hillMy Review:

I’ve been wanting to read Joe Hill’s work for a while. This desire was for one simple reason, he is Stephen King’s son. This fact, however, was not revealed until 2007, nearly two years after he had received multiple awards for his writing. He had a desire to succeed on his own and would have remained anonymous if Variety hadn’t broken a story revealing is parentage.

I have to be honest, though. I’m a huge Stephen King fan and I sought out his son’s work solely to see if some of the King writing DNA had been passed on. The complex answer is, yes and no.

In the short story collection, 20th Century GhostsHill shows some of his fathers prowess in the areas of character development and dialog. He also has the talent for weaving some bizarre stories. Some of his stories, however, don’t quite have the polish that his father brings to the genre. They end abruptly, which I believe is intended, but as a reader, it can leave you flat and unfulfilled.

There are some flashes of brilliance, however. His story about Nolan and his autistic younger brother who builds sophisticated forts in the basement is a masterful character study and a great concept for a short story. The reversal of perception of who is the smartest and what the consequences of that genius might be is very well thought out.

In his first collection of stories, Joe Hill shows great maturity as a writer. This book was published in 2005 and I am looking forward to reading his later works. It’s interesting that King has a book coming out in September, Sleeping Beauties, that he co-wrote with his son Owen King. Owen also released his first book in 2005 and has received positive reviews and awards. He may be worth checking out as well.

The bottom line is, if you’re a fan of short stories, as I am, this book is worth reading. The blurb in Goodreads does not do it justice. It appears to be spinning the book as pure horror fiction, which it is not. Of course, Stephen King is also referred to as the ‘Master of Horror’, but his books offer so much more.


Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar


Goodreads Synopsis:

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!

My Review:

I haven’t done many reviews lately of mainstream authors, choosing instead to help out indie authors gain exposure for their work. This book, however, was one worth telling my followers about.

Stephen King has done other collaborative works, most notably, The Talisman, with Peter Straub. In those other collaborative works, you can tell that two authors wrote seperately and then wove the writing together to form a single tale.

Gwendy’s Button Box, however, is truly a seamless effort. Having written a book with another author, I know how difficult this can be to do well. King and Chizmar have achieved this task very well. The story is compelling and hearkens back to classic King. It takes place in the legendary setting of Castle Rock and is a story, like many penned by King, that warns of the consequences of actions taken. The protagonist in this book, Gwendy, is a bit different in that she shows restraint and good judgement through most of her adventure and is apparently rewarded for it in the end.

We’re never sure if she achieves her greatness because of the supernatural forces from the device she is given, or if it’s more of a placebo affect that  influences her to turn her life around. We should all have a button box in our lives that keeps us on the straight and narrow and encourages us to be the best that we can be.

This was an enjoyable, quick read.

Book Review – Will O’ the Wisp by C.S. Boyack

will o' the wispGoodreads Synopsis:

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty is going to have to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

My Review:

It’s another mashup of genres in Will O’ the Wisp. If I were to take To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Body or It (Stephen King), Any Harry Potter book, and a script from the TV show Stranger Things and throw them in a blender,  it would make the smoothie that is this book and it would be a very tasty smoothie.

Boyack does an excellent job of telling the story from the point of view of Patty, a teenage girl, making it much more believable than other well-known authors that have attempted to write from the young adult perspective (John Grisham, Harlan Coben).

His main character is flawed, yet displays an enviable strength that ultimately has her taking a life and death situation into her own hands and dealing with it.

I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy any of the previously mentioned authors in my mashup description. The book has a classic storytelling feel with great period writing from the 1970s and a story that appeals to contemporary tastes. Another great read from C.S. Boyack.

Review – The Playground by C.S. Boyack

the playgroundGoodreads Synopsis:

The hottest toys of the Christmas Season are the Playground Network dolls. They contain a worldwide social network for children. Except, the network is controlled by a ruthless businessman with dreams of power.

To reach his goals he turns to the occult. Will our children make up his personal army? Could we have an enemy soldier in every home?

Gina Greybill is a cancer survivor who stumbles into her own brush with the paranormal. She wants nothing to do with it, but may be the only one who can bring down the Playground Network. To do it she’ll have to embrace her new situation, and recover the next generation of Playground software.

There is competition for the software in the form of a brutal thug named Clovis. He’s bigger, more ruthless, and more experienced. To top it all off, he has a head start.

The Playground is suitable for more mature readers, due to violence and mature themes.


My Review:

Take some Stephen King, add some of Quentin Tarantino and stir them with a dash of steampunk and Dr. Who and you get the playground. As I read this book, I soon realized that it crosses genres. Normally, this would be a red flag for a book that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up, but that is not the case here.

C.S. Boyack effortlessly moves from one genre to another pulling the reader into each distinct story line. He then seamlessly pulls them together at the end in a way that makes total sense and brings the story to a wonderful climax.

I am continually impressed by the level of writing here and Boyack’s ability to tell a story from the point of view of disparate characters.

I’m hard at work at reading Will O’ the Wisp and I can’t wait to post my take on that book as well.

The Playground is a great read. You should check it out.

Book Review – The Experimental Notebook of C.S. Boyack



Goodreads Blurb:

A speculative fiction selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of short stories, both creating and reading them. The problem is, not many writers do them well. Stephen King has published several collections and even his stories are sometimes hit and miss.

This is not the case with C.S. Boyack. In his Experimental Notebook he scores with one great story after another. Many of them have a pattern of reeling the reader in and then leaving you breathless with a surprise ending. From the very first story, Jack O’ Lantern, to gems like The 50 Gallon Drum, Boyack sets up the reader and then delivers some surprise that leaves you smiling.

For anyone who enjoys short stories, this book is a must. One bit of false advertising appears in the Goodreads blurb. The author states that the book was designed to provide short reads. I stayed awake in my hotel room telling myself, “just one more” until I had finished the book and then downloaded the second one.

I highly recommend this book and will be reading more by this author. He shows a depth and breadth to his writing seldom found in the indie author community. Please give his stories a try and spread the word like wildfire.


Review of His Revenge by John W. Howell

his revenge

Goodreads Description:

America loves John Cannon, its newest hero, and the President wants to present him with the highest civilian medal for bravery for saving the Annapolis midshipman from a terrorist plot to destroy them. While in Washington for the award ceremony, John unwillingly becomes an accomplice in another plan by the same group to attack the credibility of the US President and the stability of the worldwide oil market. There is no way out as John either becomes a traitor to America or causes thousands of innocent people to die if he refuses.

The second John J Cannon Thriller moves from a barrier Island off the coast of Texas to Washington DC, then to Northern California, and finally to Ecuador. John is on the receiving end of an offer he cannot, refuse. His avowed enemy Matt Jacobs now wants John to help him shake the reputation of the US in the world political arena. If John refuses, Matt plans to murder innocent Americans including John’s latest relationship. John’s only way out is to pretend to go along with the plan and hope for a miracle.

My Review:

His Revenge, by John W. Howell, picks up where My Grl, the first book in the John Cannon series, leaves off. Cannon finds himself in the hospital, temporarily blinded, and a national hero. He’s not everyone’s hero, however, as the bad guys still want him to end up metabolically challenged.

I will leave the story there at the risk of giving up spoilers and let you know that this book is a fun, quick read. It has action, but is infused with a bit of humor. It also plays upon the ineptness and gullibility of the bad guys ending with a wonderful series of twists at the end.

All of the characters from My Grl, with the exception of the dead ones, are back. The book is a page turner and I look forward to reading Our Justice which is already downloaded to my Kindle ready to go.

Nice work, John.

Book Review – My GRL by John Howell

My GRLGoodread Synopsis:

John J. Cannon, a successful San Francisco lawyer, takes a leave of absence from the firm and buys a boat he names My GRL. John is unaware his boat has been targeted by a terrorist group to be used to destroy a symbol of America’s greatness. John’s first inkling of trouble is when he wakes up in the hospital and learns he was found unconscious next to the body of the young woman who sold him the boat in the first place. John now is the only one standing between the terrorists and the success of their mission.

My Review:

Just from the synopsis, I was hooked on the story line. The book did not disappoint. It starts out with a senseless murder and then pulls in elements of a classic thriller. We have bad guys pretending to be good guys, a relentless law man and a reluctant hero.

This book also has another character, the boat, My GRL. You can almost imagine being on this wonderful vessel through the descriptions given in the book.

John Howell does a wonderful job of quickly pulling in the reader and helping navigate the twists and turns through the narrative style from the point of view of his main character, John Cannon. Cannon takes us inside his thought process. We get to see his fears and his conviction grow as the bad guys become more and more outrageous in their terrorist plot.

I highly recommend this book. I try to stick to reviews of books with wide distribution on my blog for a variety of reasons, but I’m glad I took the chance on John Howell’s book, My GRL. I’ll be putting his other books on my TBR list.


Book Review – Tripwire – Lee Child

tripwireGoodreads Synopsis:

Jack Reacher, ex-military policeman relaxed in Key West until Costello turned up dead. The amiable PI was hired in New York by the daughter of Reacher’s mentor and former commanding officer, General Garber. Garber’s investigation into a Vietnam MIA sets Reacher on collision with hand-less “Hook” Hobie, hours away from his biggest score.

My Review:

I’m hooked on the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child for a couple of reasons. His protagonist, Reacher, is such an interesting character. At one moment he is confident and functioning like a well-oiled machine. At other moments, his social immaturity emerges due to his long engagement with the military, first as a child and then as an officer.

In this story, we find Reacher in Key West, Florida working as a pool digger and strip club bouncer. A PI is looking for him and when he evades him, the PI ends up dead. Reacher then feels some remorse and tries to find out who hired the PI which reunites him with people from his past.

The story evolves into him protecting his past acquaintance while he investigates the mysterious disappearance of a Vietnam helicopter pilot who is MIA.

There are a great deal of twists and turns in this book, more than the previous two in the series. Child’s maturity as a writer emerges with gusto in this book. The ending sees Reacher potentially settling down from his drifter tendencies into something more permanent. It will be interesting to see how this develops in other books in the series.

That leads to the second reason I am enjoying this series. As a writer of a series myself, I like observing how other authors take an established character and put them in new situations while they bring in enough backstory to satisfy readers that are familiar with the character and inform those that are not.

Child does this very well while staying true to his character’s core traits allowing them to evolve slowly, just like those in real life.

I give this book a solid 4 1/2 out of 5 pizzas.



Book Review – Die Trying – Lee Child

die-tryingGoodreads Synopsis:

In a Chicago suburb, a dentist is met in his office parking lot by three men and ordered into the trunk of his Lexus. On a downtown sidewalk, Jack Reacher and an unknown woman are abducted in broad daylight by two men – practiced and confident – who stop them at gunpoint and hustle them into the same sedan. Then Reacher and the woman are switched into a second vehicle and hauled away, leaving the dentist bound and gagged inside his car with the woman’s abandoned possessions, two gallons of gasoline. . . and a burning match. The FBI is desperate to rescue the woman, a Special Agent from the Chicago office, because the FBI always – always – takes care of its own, and because this woman is not just another agent. Reacher and the woman join forces, against seemingly hopeless odds, to outwit their captors and escape. But the FBI thinks Jack is one of the kidnappers – and when they close in, the Bureau snipers will be shooting to kill.

My Review:

Lee Child continues to amaze me with his ability to write stories in settings around the United States as if he has lived here all of his life. The native U.K. author pulled me into his second Jack Reacher book and it was every bit as good as the first (better in some respects). What I liked about it is that it stands alone as a novel, but gives the reader that read the first book little tidbits to satisfy that feeling of having been with the character before.

Once again, Jack Reacher is aligned with a female character that is not exactly in need of rescue and can hold her own. She is an FBI agent who is kidnapped by a militia group and transported to their territory in Montana. Reacher is an innocent bystander that is pulled along for the ride. The kidnappers underestimate him and the Feds think he’s one of the suspects.

There are some great twists and turns in the book and not everyone is exactly what they seem. Child does a masterful job of describing the sights and sounds of the various places where the action takes place through the instinctive insight of his protagonist.

I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It gets five out of five pizzas.