Storm Front

Storm Front

Review by Reynold Starnes Storm Front is the seventh, and newest, entry in John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series.  Sandford, the pseudonym for John Camp, who won a Pulitzer as a journalist, has penned three series:  Kidd, Prey and Flowers.  The characters inhabit the same fictional universe and are interrelated; Flowers works for Lucas Davenport, the protagonist of the Prey books.  I like them all, but Flowers is a current favorite. Sandford writes terrific thrillers, which are often very dark.  Virgil Flowers is not a dark character, but he has confronted massive child abuse cases, organized attacked squads and vicious criminals.  Storm Front is different.  It is lighter and more humorous; and a good read. There are bad guys and good guys in the book, as well as bad good guys and good bad guys.  In this story, Flowers is trying to track down a stolen engraved stone from an archaeological site… Read more »

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Practice to Deceive

Practice to Deceive

Review by Travis Starnes Practice to deceive follows a murder investigation on a small island in the Puget Sound.  A lot of unusually suspicious parties surround the Christmas day murder of Russell Douglass, unfortunately evidence is a lot more sparse. The detectives spend eight years talking to anyone connected to the man and his murder in an effort to solve one of the toughest mysteries they will come across. Ann Rule has been doing true crime for more than 30 years and she is a real master at her craft.  While this book is far from perfect it hits all the notes you would want in a true crime novel and is pretty solid read. This book has everything going for it; greed, sex and scandal. The one big thing that stands out for me in this book is the narrative voice Mrs. Rule uses.  Unlike many of the true… Read more »

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Wizard’s First Rule

Wizard’s First Rule

Review by Travis Starnes Wizards First Rule follows the exploits of Richard, the soon to be seeker, and Kahlen, the confessor, as they embark on an epic journey to save their world from an evil wizard who set on taking over the world.  This is the first book in a series of contemporary fantasy novels in the vein of JR Tolkien. I want to start off by saying I did actually enjoy reading this book, although the following review might make you think otherwise.  Yes, this book does have some things going against it but in spite all of those I enjoyed my time reading it and that is all that really matters.  I rated this book a 4 out of 5 purely on my emotional connection to it, and I do recognize the large number of fantasy readers who feel the structural and technical problems with the book can’t… Read more »

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Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game

Review by Andy Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is science fiction with a realistic twist. It may not be the absolute best book I have read but nothing in it is terrible and it has few things are great. The big thing I found amazing was the plot. There are lots of surprises and peeks at the “omniscient” point of view that doesn’t make sense until later.  I also found some of the characters pretty enjoyable although others may need some work.  That being said it’s a pretty good book. The supporting characters are mostly fine, but the antagonists needs some work. I found Bonzo, one of Ender’s battle school enemies and ex-commander, interesting with his “Spanish honor” but Stilson and Peter are just strange. Peter even more so because of how he changes through the book and how he acts when he believes nobody is listening. Ender also… Read more »

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Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

Review by Travis Starnes Homicide is one of the better true crime style books I have read, although that might be because it is more crime reporting then true crime. Simon spent a year with the Baltimore police following members of the Homicide division and focuses primarily on 3 of its members.  Many will recognize the names and some of the situation in this book as it was made into the well acclaimed TV series Homicide: Life on the Streets several years after the book came out.  Even without all the hype around this book following the success of the affiliated TV show, Simon was definitely at the top of his game. His writing is very engaging and he has the non-fiction narrative down to a science. The book has more of a novel feel then a biography of the people involved yet never feels like fiction.  More importantly this… Read more »

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Starship Troopers vs. Old Man’s War: A Comparison

by Reynold Starnes Since first published in 1959, Starship Troopers, several later novels have been compared to it, including but not limited to,  Haldeman’s The Forever War, Gunn’s Death’s Head, and Old Man’s War by John Scalzi.  Examining the similarities and differences between Starship Troopers and Old Man’s War provides insights into both. Authors Background and Comparison Robert Heinlein was a twentieth century man.  He was born in 1907 and died in 1988; he was a part of, and influenced by, major events of the century.  He graduated from  the U.S. Naval Academy and served on the first purpose built U.S. aircraft carrier under Captain Ernest King, who as Admiral King led the U.S. fleet in the Second World War. Heinlein had strong and determined political views, although they evolved over his life.  He was an active supporter of socialist Upton Sinclair’s campaign for the Governor of California in the… Read more »

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Murder in Mississippi

Murder in Mississippi

Review by Travis Starnes A real life tale of a murder and a capital trial set in the Deep South.  A self-proclaimed white supremacist who may or may not have been involved romantically with a black man, an Australian “gotcha” style journalist akin to Michael Moore, and a rogues gallery of slightly strange investigators, neighbors, lawyers, and on lookers. The premise of the book caught my eye and I had to check it out.  In the book the author compares his work to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and it is an accurate comparison.  Or rather I can see that the author struck out to get the same kind of story when he stumbled upon a murder with a similarly interesting set of characters.   The problem comes from people he has contact with.  While they are almost always interesting these people feel like they were edited to… Read more »

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Interview with Colin Fulton

Interview with Colin Fulton

Interview by Travis Starnes I recently had a chance to talk to Colin Fulton about his book The Reichbank Robbery which I read and loved.  As I said in my review I am a big fan of historical fiction and this book was hitting on all cylinders.  It had action, intrigue, a very well researched historical backdrop and some interesting twists.  I was pleased when Colin reached out about my review and we had a chance to talk.  It gave me a chance to get some questions I was thinking about actually answered by the author as well as get a small peek into what Colin has coming up in the future.  I have to say I am excited about his future work. On a side note I was also happy that he is such a friendly and well-spoken guy.  There is always that chance when you meet the creator… Read more »

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Vengeance is Mine!

Vengeance is Mine!

Review by Travis Starnes I enjoy a good thriller and a good mystery and this book mixes the two genres up fairly well.  The story follows Mark Kidder and the Alpha Team of “The Dept” as they track down a suspected terrorist and killer, and flashes back to related events set during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. There are some really good things going for this book.  The plot overall is well detailed and complex which works for this type of story.  With multiple factions to follow including the Dept, the schemers in MI5, a serial killing terrorist, and a Bosnian Colonel out for blood there are a lot of threads to keep up with.  For such a spread out plot and so many parties Smith does a good job of pulling all the pieces together at the end, not always a sure thing when the story gets this… Read more »

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By Schism Rent Asunder

By Schism Rent Asunder

Review by Travis Starnes While I am still enjoying this series I was a little let down by this installment.  Not that it was bad but it felt essentially less than the previous book.  By Schism Rent Asunder picks up from the massive battle at the with a new king of Charis, the Church of God Awakening moving  more directly against the kingdom, and Charis picking up the pieces left over from its victory. If anything this book feels more like Weber is working to advance the world building and setting up for bigger conflicts.  It is clear that Weber has a long term goal for the series but all the setup in this issue comes off as a little unsatisfactory when put next to the epic battles that closed out the previous installment.  On the bright side for readers who like political maneuvering and Machiavellian schemes this book will hit… Read more »

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