John Dies at the End – A Review in Brief

John Dies at the End by David Wong

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1) by David Wong


When a book starts out with two young dudes fighting a monster made of deli cuts and spewing sausages, you know you’re going to have a good time. From the first few pages, John Dies at the End had me repeatedly laughing out loud and always kept me on my toes. There’s no way to predict what batshit direction the book is going to go next, because I’m not even sure David Wong knew when he wrote it. The strength of the inconsistent narrative and bizarre acid-trip-like turns taken in this adventure are both some of the highlights and lowlights.

The first half of this book is hands down my favorite, and feels like the most coherent portion of the story. Things get off the rails towards the back half when Wong dives into some Lovecraftian, interdimensional, jellyfish-slinging blood baths, but even when it was confusing, I was still enjoying it. No matter how muddled the narrative got, I always wanted to know what was going to happen next, and I cared about the well-being of these misfit characters.

In the end, David Wong has a unique voice and I’ve never read anything quite like this book. Is it perfect? No, but GoodReads doesn’t allow for half stars, so take a 5/5, David, you earned it.

Would recommend for fans of dark comedy, horror, and bizarre sci-fi.

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Are you a fan of adventure, drunk anti-heroes, or adventuring drunk anti-heroes? Maybe you should check out my books! Whiteout is the first in a planned trilogy, starring Nick Ventner, drunk monster hunter extraordinaire. Whiteout sees Nick pitted against the mythical yeti and a merciless mountain in a race against time with enemies hot on his heels.

More info on Good Reads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15019448.Ashton_Macaulay

The Tommyknockers – A Review in Brief

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Tommyknockers has moments of greatness, but suffers from the same problem as some of King’s other works; it’s just too damned long. There were parts of the story that had me rapt, engaged, and wanting to know what happens next, but then there were also pieces that felt entirely irrelevant, never got fully resolved and felt like they should have been on the chopping block.

Much like other famous works of King’s, this tale sees another sleepy Maine town under siege by some blend of supernatural/extraterrestrial force. The main characters are strong as always, and when they’re in the story, it’s a joy to watch them interact. Where this book fell flat for me was some of the side characters. There are a lot of them, given that this is the story of a town, and not all of them are created equal. While some are given memorable moments, or sometimes even full on monologues, others are flat, not providing much beyond antagonism. King has proved through works like IT that he can absolutely write the hell out of side characters, making this outing a bit disappointing.

The story itself is simple, and engaging. Watching two friends dig up an ancient spaceship and observing its effects on a town full of unsuspecting folk is consistently entertaining. King does a great job of building mystery, and while the payoff isn’t perfect, I did leave the story feeling satisfied.

Overall, if you’re a king fan, and you’re looking for some pulpy scifi, you could do worse. Not a King fan? Not worth it.

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Are you a fan of adventure, drunk anti-heroes, or adventuring drunk anti-heroes? Maybe you should check out my books! Whiteout is the first in a planned trilogy, starring Nick Ventner, drunk monster hunter extraordinaire. Whiteout sees Nick pitted against the mythical yeti and a merciless mountain in a race against time with enemies hot on his heels.

More info on Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15019448.Ashton_Macaulay

Review in Brief – Thrawn: Treason (Book 3)

Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Thrawn series might have stumbled with its second book, but #3 fixes most of those mistakes and makes for an exciting entry. Eli Vanto is back and Anakin/Vader is relegated to mere mentions, which is a blessing, because I’m not sure I could read more of that storyline. While direct interaction between Vanto and Thrawn is minimal, it’s great to see the team back together again. The interactions between characters feel believable and enjoyable, driving what might have otherwise been a dull story.

Much like the prequel films, Thrawn 3 revolves around politics, but unlike the former, it’s actually interesting. Examining The Empire from the perspective of those that are not necessarily faithful to The Emperor’s zealous vision for the galaxy is refreshing. It creates a wide diversity among the characters and makes each chapter exciting, even when much of the conflict is simply political machinations.

I’ll be honest, these books are not literary masterpieces, but they are fun and provide some interesting new Star Wars stories that make me want to keep reading. If you’re a Star Wars fan and/or love the Heir to the Empire trilogy, this one is worth a read. I also highly recommend the audiobook which has excellent voice acting, SFX and soundtrack.

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Cannery Row – A Review in Brief

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cannery row is less of a story and more of a description of a place in time. Steinbeck describes a coastal town with incredible detail using a constantly shifting perspective, examining the town through the eyes of a given person or place. It takes a few chapters to get used to, but as time went on, I felt like I got to know the setting better than most other works. Even in the short 181-page length, the author builds a memorable cast of characters and paints a thorough picture of their day-to-day lives. If you’re looking for a story, Cannery Row has a few, but none of them are central to the book’s purpose. Instead, Steinbeck makes the setting the main character, and its evolution through a short span of time the plot. It’s a very unique read, and I highly recommend it.

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Review in Brief – Secondhand Souls – Christopher Moore

Secondhand Souls (Grim Reaper, #2)

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Dirty Job is one of my favorite books I’ve read in recent memory, meaning the bar for Secondhand Souls was impossibly high for the jump. The story picks up right where A Dirty Job left off, and is at its most interesting in the first half. While the book focuses on the same characters, it ends up feeling like some of them lose their depth in favor of leaning more heavily into tropes. It’s unfortunate, because I love Charlie Asher so much, but he feels a little short-changed in the sequel. Fortunately, the new characters introduced for the sequels are standouts, with the villain, Lemon being one of my favorites.

The story is fun and intriguing, but ultimately feels handicapped by its conclusion. The book wraps up at a blinding pace with a bit of an anti-climactic showdown and ends up feeling a bit hollow. I would have liked to see a bit more depth in the last third of the book, but overall, the story was still enjoyable.

For fans of A Dirty Job, I’d definitely recommend picking it up. If nothing else, it gives more time with the characters we’ve come to love and has Moore’s trademark humor.

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