College sophomore Wendy Whitley thought life was hard enough with caring for her fifteen-year-old brother Ezra, trying to make enough money to cover all the bills, and staying on top of her college courses. Having diabetes, an allergy to tree nuts, and the ability to sense emotions through skin contact didn’t even make her top ten worries list. When Wendy learns about a food allergy research study through mysterious Pneumatikon, it sounds like a dream come true. She thinks that life energy manipulation is a crock, but at $500 payment per session, what does she have to lose? However, when Wendy wakes up from a session with the frightening ability to kill people with her touch, she must decide how to protect those she loves most and learn how to control a new talent. As she explores more about her new skills and her own history, it seems more and more clear that her acceptance into Pneumatikon’s research study was no accident, and the reasons behind Wendy’s death touch may be more sinister than she can imagine.

Tessnia Sanoby is an extraordinary girl.  She is smart, athletic, and loves her parents and friends.  She moves through high school and college with dedication and ease.  She stays out of trouble, studies hard, and works hard to support herself.   She is tall, dark, and beautiful.  Tess is so extraordinary and her life so charmingly easy, we soon start to suspect that there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Something is out there . . . Something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.


I read about the end of the world a lot.  I’ve been through every kind of fictional apocalypse you can probably think of, and, naturally, I’m always looking for something new and inventive to survive.  So, the description for Josh Malerman’s Bird Box on Goodreads immediately caught my eye.  A post-apocalyptic world where you have to somehow avoid SEEING THINGS seemed absolutely impossible.  It invites more than a little serious contemplation about survival logistics . . . assuming, of course, you don’t just give up before you even start.

Fifteen-year-old Quin Kincaid has longed to take her Oath as a Seeker for as long as she can remember. The legends of ancient justice meting heroes inspire her to join their ranks no matter the cost. She’s sure that everything will become clear when she, her cousin, Shinobu, and beloved, John, receive the mysterious initiation, and the trio will go forth to help those in need; however, the reality of Quin’s father’s Seekers varies widely from her dreams, and John hides a dangerous secret. Everyone’s choices could tear Quin’s protected world apart, and it’s unclear whether or not she’ll be strong enough to pick up the pieces when the choices are revenge or redemption.

I am a die-hard, life-long, can’t-get-enough-of-it Stephen King fan.  The Stand and the Dark Tower series sit proudly in my list of all-time favorite books ever.  He can’t write a book that’s too long for me, or with too many characters, or with too outrageous a plot.  Even in my least favorite examples, I still always find some element worthy of turning the pages to the gritty end.

If you have ever wished that HP Lovecraft wrote more stories about the elder gods, dark things beyond human understanding, and that particular brand of madness born from knowledge no one individual should know, the short story anthology, Madness on the Orient Express, was collected just for you! This set of sixteen tales of insanity centering around the fabled Orient Express both serves as a poignant love letter to Lovecraft and as an exceptional addition to modern horror. Some pieces utilize Lovecraft’s signature writing style while others are more modern, but each one presents a perfectly encapsulated piece of atmospheric creepiness in word form.

The challenge with your main character being a murdering psychopath is all about giving your audience a reason to want to be in their head for a couple hundred pages without slitting their wrists.  You can do that by creating a small shelf of understanding for their throat-slitting tendencies, as in the case of the criminal-targeting Dexter.  Or by telling a sympathetic backstory, filled with the kind of traumatic abuse that shapes the very worst among us, such as *insert horror movie franchise villain here.*  In Beverly Kills, however, we get a straight-up serial killer worthy of American Psycho without any shading or excuses.

If you peruse my lists of books on Goodreads, you will immediately see a distinct preference for genre.  If the world is ending, I’m reading about it.  This list is heavily influenced by the Apocalypse, and certainly by Science Fiction in general, but I’m pretty pleased with the variety I managed to work in this year. 

I’m going to cheat a bit in limiting myself to 10 items for this list.  I’ve found it impossible to list a number of items without also including their various prequels, sequels, and so forth.  I’m a firm believer in consuming the whole story!

These were my favorite reads from 2014, and I hope I inspire you to pick a few of them up.

If I had to describe The Spartak Trigger (and, as it happens, I do—that’s the nature of reviews), I would say that it’s a good book disguised as a bad book. At first glance, everything about this book says that you should hate it. The protagonist is not just thoroughly unlikeable but actively loathsome. The plot is thin and far fetched. Perhaps worst of all, it employs a number of hackneyed tropes and devices throughout and resolves plot conflicts with coincidences that strain credulity even for fiction.

However, what sets The Spartak Trigger apart from a hundred third-rate spy novels is that it KNOWS all of this about itself and wears these flaws on its sleeve. And, underneath it all, the book is actually really well written, to the point where I didn’t want to put it down.

When this assignment was first sent out by my boss, I had fellow friends and reviewers approach me with, "Dude, did you pick up that James Bond review?" See, if you know me well enough, you'll know that I am a HUGE James Bond fan! I've seen each of the 23 films more than once. I have autographs from all SIX actors who have played James Bond in the official movies (Yes, including George Lazenby . . . ). I even have signatures by Judi Dench, Richard Kiel (Jaws), and Honor Blackman, better known as "Pussy Galore." I even still own a Nintendo 64 gaming system solely for the purpose of playing the best James Bond video game ever made, Goldeneye. So, when I first picked up a copy of James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy and read that it was dedicated "to fans of spyfi, espionage, and, of course, James Bond aficionados everywhere," I knew I was meant to review this novel.

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