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Archive for October, 2023

Horror Review – The Drift

Saturday, October 28th, 2023

The Drift by C. J. Tudor

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


This story is centered around 3 main characters. Each chapter’s title is of one of the characters and their story. Their stories are similar in that there is a snow storm going on and they are struggling to survive. There is Hannah who was riding in a coach one minute and waking up to dead bodies (some alive) and freezing cold the next. Then there is Meg who wakes up in a cable car with strangers and one murdered body. They are stuck high above the mountains with no idea who the killer is and how to escape. The last one is Carter who is staying, with others, in an remote ski chalet. It starts with the power flickering on top of the storm rolling in. When the faltering power gets worse and things become deadly, tensions become high and it is a fight for survival.

It is a crazy, wild ride that only gets crazier as it moves along. I loved the pacing and how every chapter ended with you wanting more. On top of that, these 3 stories come together and the way they do is maddening. It is a good maddening though. I enjoyed every bit and couldn’t wait to see how it played out. That, sadly, is where it fell a bit short for me. The ending was satisfactory but not quite what I was wanting. That is just me though as I was hoping it would turn out a different way. Other than that, another fabulous C. J. Tudor read.





Fantasy Review – Deep Down

Thursday, October 26th, 2023

DEEP DOWN by Deborah Coates

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)



You could call this urban fantasy but there’s no urban…let’s say it’s rural fantasy. It’s the second book featuring ex-soldier Hallie Michaels, who died (and was revived) in Afghanistan, and came home to solve her sister’s murder in WIDE OPEN, which I reviewed earlier.  You’ll want to have read that one first before starting this.  Everything seems to have settled down for Hallie; she’s got a tentative relationship with Deputy Boyd Davies and there are no more ghosts. Now she just needs a job. Living with her dad on the ranch is okay, but both of them need their space.

Elderly neighbor Pabby needs some help on her ranch, but when Hallie visits she sees black dogs hanging around at a distance from the house. Pabby is astonished that Hallie sees them – they are harbingers of Death, kept at a distance by Pabby’s hex ring because Pabby is determined it’s not her time to die. But one black dog is fascinated by Hallie and actually talks to her.

Meanwhile, Boyd is being haunted by ghosts from his past, and even as they coalesce around Hallie, he’s not ready to talk about it with her. But the black dog tells Hallie there is a reaper loose in the world, one with its own mission, and she’s going to have to deal with it. Hallie is going to have to travel into the world of Death itself to fix the crack that was left open.

I really like the world Coates built in this series. You can readily imagine the open countryside of South Dakota, the cold, the wind, the endless stretches of road with nothing on them.  The paranormal events are vivid and easy to believe in. Hallie’s got iron determination and just refuses to be pushed around by anyone, whether they’re from this world or not. I also liked how the these events, while a new story, are enabled by what happened in the last book.























Fantasy Review – Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries: A Novel

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023


Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries: A Novel by Heather Fawcett

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


An expert on faeries, Emily Wilde sets off to a small town in Norway in search of the Hidden Ones. It is one more step in the completion of her encyclopedia of faerie lore. Unfortunately, once there, Emily finds she doesn’t fit in well with the townsfolk and it is becoming harder and harder to do things on her own. When her academic partner shows up unannounced, she is not sure if she should be grateful or angry. For one, he does bring an entourage of people to help get the fire going and make the place cozy. Not only that but the townsfolk adore him. Yet, Emily knows he is just there to take all of the credit.  Even so, she decides to grin and bear it. Which is a good thing because she ends up doing something quite irrational and will need Wendall’s help to save the day.

This book was full of enjoyment. I was caught up in the story from the beginning. Things only got better when the fair folk showed up as well as Wendall. There were times that I laughed out load but there are also some slightly dark times. It ended up being a great mix. There was even romance thrown in. I can be the first to tell you that most romances make me do an eye roll but this one was quite light-hearted and gratifying. I am very excitedly waiting for the next book in the series.

Thriller Review – The Lullaby Man

Sunday, October 22nd, 2023

The Lullaby Man by Anni Taylor

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


This is the 2nd book of the series. It starts off soon after the first book ends. This story is centered around Detective Kate Wakeland’s daughter, Abby. Now a grown woman with a child of her own, Abby has a past that she has kept secret from everyone, including her mom. The story surrounds The Lullaby Man. A man who preyed upon young girls. At 14, Abby thought she was in love with an older man but she couldn’t understand his weird obsessions. When he ends up dead, she buried that love and confusion only to find it bubbling up to the surface now that she is older.


Really great tale with the same great characters from the previous book and some others added in. The story takes us back to see why Abby ended up having so many issues as a teen. It was a really good (and creepy) backstory. The twists and turns just keep coming at the end. It had my head spinning. Very enjoyable but not quite as good as the first book. I do look forward to reading the next in the series.




Sci-Fi Review – Master Class

Thursday, October 19th, 2023

Master Class by Christina Dalcher

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

A near future where babies are tested in the womb for Q scores. These scores determine a fetus’s intelligence level. If it does not meet the standards, an abortion is suggested. Even if your child does make the score, it doesn’t end there. Throughout their whole life, they will be expected to test well. These tests determine jobs, where you live, what color school bus you ride, etc. You are known by your smarts and your category.

Elena and Malcolm know all too well how the scores work. They were the ones who helped come up with it. Malcolm is one of the top leaders of the program. Elena never had a second thought to the system until she watched one of her daughters, Anna, succeed while her other daughter, Freddie, struggled.  Slowly, she starts seeing little slips in the system. Things that shouldn’t happen but are. People who aren’t deemed worthy are taken away. When it is Elena’s own daughter this time, she decides to fight for her daughter’s right in this world.

I really didn’t think I would enjoy this book as much as I did. It grabbed me from the beginning and held me to the end. It angered me, it frustrated me, it made me want to punch Malcolm (I still want to do that). It was so believable and I could really see something like that happening. We already do things like that now and have in the past just not to that extent. The author’s note at the end about our history is quite as disturbing as the book. Not only was it a entertaining read but an important one as well.




Fantasy Review – The Luck of the Wheels

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

The Luck of the Wheels by Megan Lindholm

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


LUCK OF THE WHEELS is the fourth and final book in the Ki and Vandien Quartet (aka The Windsingers). Previous books which have been reviewed here on the PaperBackSwap Blog are here: HARPY’S FLIGHT, THE WINDSINGERS and THE LIMBRETH GATE.  In my opinion you could read this book as a standalone, since nothing in the plot hinges on anything that’s gone before. That’s a little disappointing to me, but more about that later.

Ki and Vandien could be referred to as gypsies (in this world they are called Romni), as they have no fixed abode except for the wagon drawn by Ki’s two horses. They live by hauling goods, and as this novel opens they’re broke, as usual, in a strange country, and need to find work.

They’re offered really good money to take a passenger to a town two weeks travel away – a teenager nicknamed Goat who has been apprenticed to his uncle. They ought to have taken notice of the large fee, and how eager the rest of the townspeople are to see the back of this kid. He is, even for a teenager, a nasty bit of work. And it gets worse, because on their first night a runaway girl shows up, with a tale of woe and begging for a ride to her fiance.

Along with the hostility between the two kids, Ki and Vandien need to be careful of the Duke’s men, who rampage through the countryside harassing travellers and looting what they will.  And when they try to drop off Willow, they’re soon embroiled in a plot to overthrow said Duke. It’s only going to get worse from here.  Great description of the fencing match at the festival, and we learn just a bit more about Vandien’s family and how he came to be on the road.

It was interesting how Lindholm shifted the plot from Goat’s disturbing personality and talents into the overthrow scheme. It was also interesting how she tried to shift Goat from pervert into victim. It wasn’t a bad rationale, but Lindholm did such a good job making the two teenagers both so despicable that I couldn’t get on board with her message of forgiveness.

I was disappointed that Lindholm did not follow up on the bombshell she dropped about Ki’s ancestry in the last book, not to mention how that particular world came to be. I don’t know if she intended more stories, but it did seem an odd thing to leave hanging.

This is not a series I would re-read, but you can see how Lindholm evolved as a writer over the set.  Good world-building, and the pacing improves each time. LUCK OF THE WHEELS is out of print as are the rest, but if you’re interested, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a copy.







Sci-Fi Review – The Kaiju Preservation Society

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023

The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

In the afterword to this stand-alone SF novel, Scalzi calls it a pop song – light and catchy. It’s a perfect description. Nothing about this takes itself seriously, and it’s such fun to read, with engaging heroes, evil villains, a bizarre alternate Earth, and Godzilla! Sorry, kaijus.

Jamie Gray gets fired from a great job just as the COVID-19 lockdown hits New York City.  But a new gig as a food delivery driver is going to end too, until Jamie meets a former acquaintance who just happens to need a strong back to work in an “animal rights organization”.   Jamie is desperate and signs up immediately, to be met with a long questionnaire that includes feelings about science fiction, not to mention multiple vaccinations.

As it turns out, the animals are not exactly here on Earth. They’re gigantic creatures in an alternate, jungl-y hot human-free alternate Earth, and they happen to look a lot like Godzilla. Turns out Godzilla was not just a movie invention after all.  The kaijus have evolved to use internal nuclear reactors in place of food and water, and the Kaiju Preservation Society is there to study and, yes, preserve them. But this big secret takes a lot of people to maintain and fund, and so is not exactly a secret for certain people back on Earth. As always there are some would really like to profit off the kaijus.

Scalzi’s characters all tend to sound alike, but no matter, the dialogue is funny, snarky, and with a lot of deadpan humor. The villain is suitably evil and gets his comeuppance as he should.  The alternate Earth is nicely described and horribly dangerous, but it’s all done with a grin.  I’m not familiar with the Godzilla-verse, so there might be a lot of funny references I didn’t pick up on. I didn’t find anything lacking, though.

It’s told from Jamie’s first-person POV, which gives the perfect framework for all the science bits to be explained to us as Jamie gets the information. There’s also something about Jamie which you may or may not catch as you read.  I did not until it was pointed out (which says something about me) but I’m not going to spoil it. If you are still curious after you read, leave a comment here.