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A Necessary End

A Necessary End - F. Paul Wilson, Sarah Pinborough The apocalypse is on in A Necessary End. These days zombies, aliens, or a major environmental event tend to be what brings about the end of things, but in this novel, it is something more realistic, a plague that results from flies, which is a bit of an old-school concept considering the history of our planet and the diseases brought about by flies. The novel is set in the UK where Nigel is a reporter trying to uncover the start of the plague. Abby is his wife, who is among the many religious folk who seem to give up on finding a cure and have just accepted this as the will of God. People are dropping like flies (pun intended) while some crazed survivors are making things worse by purposely trying to spread the plague.

This is a tightly plotted novel, with a great deal of suspense. There are some good horror elements involved in the novel. The characters are good and bad. I think Nigel was a well-developed character, but I found Abby to be really annoying. Her fatalism and hard-headed beliefs wore on me as the novel progressed. The novel gets into heavy religious and philosophical debates. Although, I think they fit the story, they dragged on for too long and I found myself wanting to skip those parts. The writing is really strong in this novel. The pace was good, and it was in general quite entertaining. Overall, this is an enjoyable novel that I recommend.

Carl Alves - author of Reconquest: Mother Earth


Supercenter - Jason Rizos The supercenter is a massive all-purpose department store, whose inhabitants live in the store and never see the outside. Some of them have spent their whole lives there, which is pretty depressing to think about. I try to spend as little time in Wal-Mart as humanly possible. G.E., named after the company, and his sister Nestle(seeing a pattern here) are life-long inhabitants of the Supercenter. G.E. is a star in the siege arena, a high tech video game that simulates real life combat. He is under the belief that his people are at war with Schwags, fighting at the planet Pepsicon—until he leaves the Supercenter and finds out otherwise.

I had a hard time getting into Supercenter at first because the story seemed so absurd. The concept of the war was silly. They were supposedly fighting against hippy types who rebelled against commercialism and fighting it out on some foreign planet. The information didn’t jive with other pieces of information in the story. The moment of clarity for me came when I realized that G.E. was an unreliable narrator, because he had been fed misinformation his whole life. In actuality there was a civil war going on in the country, and the Supercenter was being used by the government to breed soldiers and create weaponry. There was a lot of complexity in this story, and it was far more than it initially seemed. The reality of what the government and military were doing to these kids was pretty cruel. The way that they were preparing them for war would lead them to certain death, because a simulated video game can no way prepare someone for the horrors of actual combat. In the end, this was an enjoyable novel that fans of science fiction will enjoy.

Carl Alves - author of Reconquest: Mother Earth

House of Bones

House of Bones - Dale Bailey There is no more tired and overdone trope in the horror genre as the haunted house. I’ve read so many versions of these types of stories that it’s hard to get excited about it. Unfortunately this novel is just one of the many of this sub-genre that fall short. In about the most cliché of all possible ways of doing a haunted house story, Dreamland was a large house that was abandoned and partially dismantled before being resurrected by a wealthy man with an agenda. Even that aspect of the haunted house story has been done and done again. The story moves very slowly and is a bit of a yawner. There is just no new ground taken on in this story. The end result is a novel that is uninspiring and not worth reading. I would skip this one.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

Disney after Dark

Disney after Dark - Ridley Pearson, David Frankland The Kingdom Keepers is a sorry excuse for a novel. This novel was so bad that it offended me, and I am offended by very little. It’s really not a novel but a pathetic advertisement for the Walt Disney Company. I can’t even count how many times the author broke off from the story to give a soliloquy about the greatness of Disney, or going in depth about this product or that product of theirs. I can only assume that the company paid this writer to write this series of novels. In this story, a group of teens have to go into the Magic Kingdom and fight off the evil Disney characters. Some of the characters in the novel attack the heroes while others help fight off the baddies. It’s so bad, it’s not even worth going into the plot. Suffice it to say, save yourself from having to read this book. It’s simply not worth it.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

The Brotherhood Of The Rose

The Brotherhood Of The Rose - David Morrell In The Brotherhood of the Rose, two orphans, Chris and Saul, were raised in an orphanage in Philadelphia until Eliot, their mentor and father figure took them in as adopted sons. From an early age, he trained them to be his personal assassins. After things go awry, he is now trying to have them killed.

This thriller is loaded with action and takes place at a very fast pace, making the reading of the novel enjoyable. Chris and Saul are well-developed characters. I also enjoyed the concept of the novel about boys who were raised to be assassins, and operate together so well that they are almost like a single entity. The novel has its down points. There are significant logic and believability issues that can be hard to overcome at times. All the same, the action and thrilling nature of the novel make it well worth reading.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

The Last Don

The Last Don - Mario Puzo Mario Puzo is the absolute master of gangster novels. His ability to create gritty, realistic Mafia families and characters is at a level that is second to none. A departure from the Corleone family, this time the Mafia family are Clericuzios, primarily based in New York but branching out their operations to Las Vegas and Hollywood in an attempt to find legitimacy. Don Domenico Clericuzio has given this task to his nephew Cross De Lena. Cross brings his street instincts and Mafia sensibilities to these locales.

Anytime I read a Mario Puzo novel, I’m always struck by his professionalism and the quality of his prose. As a fellow writer, I have nothing but respect for his ability and try to emulate him when possible. The prose in this novel is at the same level of excellence that I have come to expect. The world building and characterization is top notch. The novel is a bit slow at times, and doesn’t have the same level of intrigue as the Godfather. All the same, it has a strong build and a satisfying ending. If you like gangster novels, this is definitely a book that you will want to read.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

This Crowded Earth

This Crowded Earth - Robert Bloch, Gregg Margarite The premise of this novel is that because of severe overcrowding, life on the planet has become miserable and unsustainable in the long run. The ridiculous solution is that all future children are going to be injected with something during pregnancy that will make them small, on average three feet in height. This causes all sorts of problems, among them a war between the naturalists, who are of normal height, and the yardsticks, those born small. The yardsticks win out but face other issues including short lifespans and a gradual dying out of the species.

This is a novel with a crazy amount of flaws in logic. What saves it is that it is still entertaining. Among the flaws, the concept that the best solution for overcrowding is to make people smaller is just stupid. Also, the author is way off in his premise in claiming that at a population of seven billion, the planet would be way overcrowded, which obviously isn’t true since we are above those levels. The author also lacks any sort of imagination about how future commuting issues could be solved by using technology and telecommuting. In the story, war is obsolete because there are atomic fusion bombs that are too dangerous, and therefore nobody is willing to fight anymore. That is a laughable premise. The danger of weapons has done little to prevent violence around the world. There are so many similar things where the author didn’t think things through or lacked imagination. For instance, the yardsticks are concerned about their females delivering normal sized children until a naturalist says this can be accomplished by C section. This is hardly a novel concept, but it was treated as such in the story. As I said, the story does have some entertainment value and on that basis is worth reading despite all of the flaws.

Carl Alves – author of Reconquest: Mother Earth

The Blue Nowhere

The Blue Nowhere - Jeffery Deaver In The Blue Nowhere, we have computer hackers run wild as Phate, a Silicon Valley hacker, is taking a computer game to a whole new level, collecting points by killing hard to kill targets. Phate does this by infiltrating people’s computers with a trap door virus, giving him access to all of the information on their computers. He then hunts them down and kills them, often by manipulating data found in computers to some way trick them. The computer crimes division is a bit overmatched in trying to deal with Phate, so they use an incarcerated computer hacker, Wyatt Gillette, to assist in their investigation. Gillette is an equally skilled hacker and matches wits with Phate, with whom he shares a past history. The lead Detective, Frank Bishop, uses Gillette’s skills and old-fashioned police investigation to hunt down Phate as he continues to kill.

This is a different type of crime thriller than what I am used to reading. Serial killers in fiction tend to be very similar and generic, but Phate is a very different kind of killer. He is completely disassociated with reality. For him, the only thing that matters are machines, code, and virtual reality. He doesn’t see people as being people. To him, they are only objects. He contrasts with Gillette, who also is enthralled by machines, but he at least has an ex-wife that he loves and views people as people, and not mere lines of code. The chase in this novel works well. The one shortcoming is the believability of Phate’s character. The way he acts and the real world skills he has is so unlike any hacker type I have ever known. I’m not tech savvy enough to determine how realistic some of the online activities were, but the characterization of Phate was a bit sketchy. This was a good thriller and an entertaining read, one that I enjoyed.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

The Thirty-Nine Steps. Greenmantle (The World's Best Reading)

The Thirty-Nine Steps. Greenmantle (The World's Best Reading) - John Buchan The Thirty-Nine Steps was written and is set in World War 1 era Europe, where conspiracies of worldwide war are at work. The story’s main character, Richard Hannay is leading a typical middle class life when he gets thrust in the middle of it all as a stranger shows up telling him of this conspiracy. When the stranger winds up dead, Richard takes it upon himself to bring the killers to justice and prevent the war from happening.

This novel is part thriller, part spy novel. In comparison to other novels from that era, this is written at a fairly fast pace. Although conspiratorial in nature, it was interesting how many of the things written in the book came to pass and how true to life the novel was. Buchan shows a high skill-level in his writing. Richard Hanney is a bit of an everyman—someone who gets thrust into a crazy situation and rises to the occasion. My only real complaint is that the villains in the story weren’t terribly well-developed and their motives seemed a bit shaky. The final confrontation made me feel a bit ambivalent. This was a good read. I’m generally not into fiction written over a century ago, but I think this novel works.

Carl Alves – author of Two For Eternity

Jade Sky

Jade Sky - Patrick Freivald This is the first novel I’ve read from Patrick Freivald, and what strikes me most is the fast-action pace, and the dialogue and narration that hits you like a freight train, all good qualities in a novel. Freivald has created an interesting world in this novel. His main character leads a team of augmented agents, himself being augmented. This makes them superhuman in many ways. The augmentations do different things for the different characters. Some have incredible strength; most have amazing recuperative abilities; some have pre-cognitive abilities. Their main mission is to put down other augmented people who have lost their minds, mostly from abuse of the drug, jade.

The novel starts off as more of an action, sci-fi novel than anything else. Despite the superhuman characteristics of the characters, everything is explained through natural means. That is until there was a supernatural element introduced to it. For me, the book got better with the introduction of this supernatural element. It added a nice layer of texture to the story, and made for more intrigue rather than people just being augmented by jade and these treatments. There are some spiritual and religious elements to the story as well. From a technical perspective, the writing is sound and all of the story telling elements were well done. The action builds to a crescendo, and the ride was enjoyable. I’m not quite sure how to classify this novel as horror or fantasy or dark fiction, but whatever classification, it simply works.

Carl Alves - author of Blood Street

No Nonsense No Gimmick Guide to Marketing Your Book: How to Sell More of Your Books Without Selling Your Soul

No Nonsense No Gimmick Guide to Marketing Your Book: How to Sell More of Your Books Without Selling Your Soul - Eric Beebe As an author, I have read a variety of books on book marketing and publishing. Eric Beebe’s No Nonsense No Gimmick Guide to Marketing Your Book definitely stands out at the top of the list. I found that his book was easy to read and relate to. Most writers don’t have a marketing background, and I thought this book plays well to that audience. The book is divided up into a variety of sections, and Beebe breaks down the aspects of what a writer needs to know quite well. It’s well organized and logical in its progression. The writing is clean and professional.

One thing that I enjoyed is that it really plays well to the current landscape of publishing, especially how it affects self-published and Indie authors. If you fall into that category, then this is a book that you will want to read. I like how things were explained and I felt that there were some elements of it that I could incorporate into my own marketing plan. Even if you’re not business or marketing savvy, there are things that you can take away from this book. For writers out there of all stripes, you should check out this book. I am glad that I did.

Carl Alves - author of Reconquest: Mother Earth

Feast Day of Fools

Feast Day of Fools - James Lee Burke In Feast Day of Fools, an alcoholic ex-boxer comes to Sherriff Hackberry Holland telling him that he witnessed a man being tortured. This leads him into an investigation involving a man who is harboring secret drone technology, a serial killer who Hackberry thought was dead, a woman who harbors illegal aliens who has a very shady past, a corrupt politician, and a Russian gangster who is trying to gain access to the drone technology.

This novel is basically one big mess. For one thing, it is overly long and the author seems more interested in impressing the reader with his command of prose that telling a good story. The characters are a big mish-mash that lack believability or likeability. Perhaps the worst character is the serial killer, Jack Collins, who comes off like a clown, and it becomes hard to believe that he is capable of doing the things that he does. It is also never explained how he comes to harbor the man with the drone plan secrets. This was a hard novel to get through. I can’t really find any reason to recommend reading it since I didn’t find anything enjoyable about it. As I was working through it, I just wanted the novel to be over, and therefore I recommend skipping this novel.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street


Icon - Frederick Forsyth In Icon, Russian fascist Igor Komarov is cruising to an apparent victory in the Russian presidential elections. At Komarov’s party headquarters, an elderly janitor finds a secret document that is a blueprint detailing Komarov’s plans to bring Russia back to being a dictatorship, military expansion, and ethnic cleansing. While the British and American governments are reluctant to do anything to stop Komarov, former British secret service chief Sir Nigel Irvine begins a covert operation, using former CIA agent Jason Monk as his point person.

This is a solidly written thriller, on par if not better than many offerings by Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. There is a sufficient amount of action and intrigue. There are some definite believability issues associated with this novel and some plot holes, but overall it was an entertaining read.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

Wolf's Trap

Wolf's Trap - W.D. Gagliani In Wolf’s Trap, Nick Lupo is a homicide detective and a werewolf, two things that one don’t necessarily go together, but certainly an interesting combination. As you might expect, Nick has a tortured past. Some of the things he did continue to haunt him as he adjusts to his dual nature. Most notably of the things that haunt him is inadvertently killing Caroline Stewart while in wolf form when he was college. She was both his professor and lover. Now, years later, her brother, Martin, a crazed serial killer, is stalking Nick in a quest to avenge his sister. In reality, he’s so demented that revenge is only a small part of his deal. He starts off by killing Nick’s neighbor and sending him messages, then continues to kill those around Nick.

I liked the chase between Lupo and the killer. It was a two-sided chase as Lupo tries to hunt down and arrest or kill Martin, while Martin is doing his best to implement psychological warfare on the werewolf/detective. Lupo is a well-developed character with lots of nuances. There was a duality to his character as he straddled two worlds. The one aspect of the novel that I didn’t like was that Martin and some of the other villain characters weren’t as well-developed and lacked believability. There was good action, a well-developed story line, and good drama. For horror fans, this novel is well-worth reading, and I look forward to reading more Nick Lupo stories in the future.
Carl Alves - author of Blood Street

The Lady in the Lake and Other Novels (Penguin Classics)

The Lady in the Lake and Other Novels (Penguin Classics) - Raymond Chandler The Lady in the Lake is a hardboiled mystery novel written and set in the forties. Private detective Phillip Marlowe has been hired by a wealthy client, whose wife has gone missing. He fears she may have gotten into trouble after sending him a wire that she was marrying another guy. His investigation finds a second woman missing, also someone’s wife. As he digs further, he finds a complicated web of entanglements.

This is the first novel I’ve read from Raymond Chandler, and I didn’t much care for it. The problem I had with the novel is that I found it to be very confusing. There was a constant infusion of characters that were mostly taking place off screen, and at some point I got lost in all of the characters and details. After that happened, I couldn’t quite get back into it. I found the writing to be competent and solid, and the character of Phillip Marlowe to be an interesting one, but the actual plot didn’t meet my expectations.

Carl Alves – author of Blood Street

A Feast for Crows

A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin Having thoroughly enjoyed the previous three novels in A Song of Fire and Ice as well as HBO’s Game of Thrones, I was thoroughly looking forward to reading this, and was also disappointed when I was finished. Whereas Martin’s previous novels were tight, and loaded with drama and intrigue, this one was horribly long-winded and overwritten. There were pages and pages of useless information about characters that are irrelevant. The whole saga of the Greyjoys and the men of the Iron Islands was not terribly interesting and could have been entirely cut. Even among the characters that I enjoy, the storylines involving Brienne and Jaimie Lannister seemed pointless.

Martin at this point is a victim of his own success. His series is so wildly popular that he is at the point that he can write whatever he wants and people will buy it. However, what he really needed in this book was an editor who was willing to hack and slash all of the irrelevant stuff, which was about a third of a book. This book wasn’t terrible. The writing is still good and some of the story lines are interesting, this was clearly the worst of the books I’ve read in the series. I can only hope that in future novels, stronger editing will be employed. For the first time, I can say that the television show is superior to the book.

Carl Alves – author of Two For Eternity