Review: Stiff by Mary Roach

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human CadaversStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a fiction writer, I am constantly researching the things I write about (death and dying) so Stiff was a natural fit for me. We have a fairly odd view of death here in the West and dare I say, it is unhealthy. Death is natural and also inevitable.

Here often humorous look at the things she does for research purposes is sprinkled into a look at the realities of being dead, and what you can expect in your new life as a dead person. Well written and easy to read, I found myself often unable to stop reading since I was enjoying it so much.

Of particular interest to me was the chapter entitled “Crimes of Anatomy” which looks at the thefts of bodies over the years and how we came to know as much about the human body as we do.

I joyfully, and full heartily (before someone takes it from my body to donate it to someone) recommend Stiff for anyone interested in what happens after the end comes.

-Bryan the Writer

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Review: The New Adventures of Rocky Jordan

The New Adventures of Rocky JordanThe New Adventures of Rocky Jordan by Richard White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of radio classics. I even have my computer bookmarks set up to listen to some of my favorite programs. So when I saw that someone had written The new Adventures of Rocky Jordan, I jumped at it.

This is a series of stories which focus on Rocky Jordan, Cairo saloon owner and a perpetual thorn in the side of the Cairo police department. No matter where Rocky goes, trouble seems to find him and he is ready and waiting.

This is a collection written by a few authors who do such a wonderful job capturing the spirit of the original series, they are hard to beat.

If you love the old stories on the radio, dime store crime dramas, or the penny dreadful, you will absolutely love this collection of stories.


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Review: Plot Your Health


Plot Your Health: A Journey to Wellness PlannerPlot Your Health: A Journey to Wellness Planner by C.J. Ellisson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In November of 2017, I was healthy overall. Not perfect, but not in horrible shape. Fast forward a year later and I am fighting three diagnosed conditions, one of which is potentially life threatening if not checked on a regular basis. I have more specialists than I ever cared to know, on several different drugs requiring monitoring, and take a variety of vitamins every day.

In the midst of what seemed to be a mounting avalanche of doctor’s visits, lab tests, continual drug refills, and a monthly injection, I was beginning to make careless errors. You never want to make mistakes with your health. I did two things which brought order to my chaos. I bought a pill organizer and I got a copy of Plot Your Health by award winning author, C.J. Ellisson.

What I love about “Plot Your Health” is that it allows me to use it how it suits me best. There are sections for medicines, doctor visits, a symptom tracker, and a monthly calendar. There are also pages which are open so I can write in things I want to keep track of.

One of my conditions comes with occasional days where I will be in a mental fog making it hard for me to grasp concepts and questions I should remember to ask. This organizer helps me to write out the questions I want to ask my doctor when I see him or her next and I don’t have to pray that I will be having a good day that day!

I also love the habit tracker! One of my treatments include regular swimming at my gym and the tracker lets me track which days I did it and which days I missed.

I would trade almost anything to get rid of these conditions, but mine are genetic and will be with me the rest of my life. With Plot Your Health, I feel like I have more of a plan to control my health rather than have my health control me.

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Review: Unbury Carol

Unbury CarolUnbury Carol by Josh Malerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the days the old West, when outlaws ruled the trail, a woman lived who had an unusual problem. Carol Evers has died over and over again. Ordinarily, this wasn’t a problem, and she recovered with the help of a handful of people who knew of her condition. However, when the only person seemingly left on earth, her husband Dwight, actually wants her dead, things start to get very interesting. Dwight didn’t count on the return of the one other person on planet Earth who knew.

Unbury Carol, by Josh Malerman, is one of those books that comes along only a few times in a lifetime. Beautifully written with characters who are not only engaging, but sometimes terrifying, twist and turns around every corner keep this dark tale fascinating.

What I particularly liked about this book is the way in which Josh paints a picture that you don’t fully understand until the very end. By the last few chapters I was kicking myself for not seeing the end which I should have been able to figure out. That’s the magic and true mastery of this work.

What really fascinates me about the story is how well the sequences are written where it is just Carol reporting from her own mind. Josh paints this other world where Carol lives when she’s taken by these spells she has and it works on a whole different level. I asked myself when I first started reading this how it would be possible to write a book that was interesting when the main character is in a sort of coma for most of the book. I was pleasantly surprised with how well Josh handled this aspect. In my mind, it shows how much of a master he is at the craft of writing.

I highly recommend reading Unbury Carol.

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Review: Endgame (Book 3: Wielders of Arantha)

Endgame (Wielders of Arantha #3)Endgame by Patrick Hodges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The problem with any series is that eventually it must come to an end. It is true no matter who you are. Eventually, the story needs to finish. “Endgame”, the third installment of the “Wielders of Arantha” trilogy brings us to the end of this epic adventure.

I always read the end of a series with trepidation. I never know how satisfying the ending will be before I jump in the water with both feet and that makes me nervous. I have to say I was very satisfied when I turned the final page.

The plan sounds simple enough. Collect all the stones, stand on the Nexus, and win. Sure, simple enough. With the possible exception of the massive armies moving against one another, it is a simple enough proposition.

Patrick masterfully builds the story to a point where it feels like hell is about to explode on the surface of the planet and he does not disappoint. The battle is intense and smaller conflicts are nail biting to be sure.

While it is possible to read endgame and understand the story without an issue, I would recommend picking up all the books in the series and read them from the beginning to the end. Trust this reader when I tell you that you are going to want to read them anyway.

And for those of you who have read the other books in the series, I will tell you that things don’t turn out any way you could possibly imagine. I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns.

For me “Endgame” is a fitting end to a series destined to put the name Patrick Hodges along the legends of fiction.


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Review: Winslow Hoffner’s Incredible Encounters

Winslow Hoffner's Incredible EncountersWinslow Hoffner’s Incredible Encounters by Michael Thompson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes you come across something so amazing that it is really hard to put into words that quite encapsulate what you want to say. Right now I am at a complete loss as how to adequately describe Michael Thompson’s book, Winslow Hoffner’s Incredible Encounters. You see, it rather defies explanation in any meaningful way.

It chronicles the adventure of a reporter, John Chapman who finds himself aboard the Seanna, Winslow’s fishing vessel. Aboard the aged vessel, he is introduced to a world John can neither imagine, nor believe. And yet, it is all there. Being a dutiful reporter, he writes the story, which lands him in the crosshairs of his less than supportive editor.

Starting with style, Michael has tons of it to spare. His writing is unique, vivid and engaging. The entire time you get the impression you are either on Winslow’s fishing boat, or listening to Winslow while joining him in a root beer.

The writing is witty, funny, and totally a fun ride. Perhaps that is the best way to describe it. Winslow Hoffner’s Incredible Encounters is a fun ride.

I can highly recommend Winslow Hoffner’s Incredible Encounters to anyone who is looking for a great story. Be warned, you are going to be looking for more from this gifted author!


-Bryan the Writer

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Review: Bone White

Bone WhiteBone White by Ronald Malfi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It always seems fair to state up front in a review I am giving is form an author I am already a fan or. So, here I go, I am a huge fan!

“Bone White” introduces us to Paul who has not heard from his twin brother, Danny in over a year. All he has is one photo of his brother in front of a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. Paul soon finds himself in the small village of Dreads Hand, Alaska.

The people are far from friendly, and seem intent on getting rid of Paul as soon as possible. Undeterred, he enlists the help of a state investigator who follows her own investigative trail.
After finally being bum rushed out of Dreads Hand, Paul drives down the highway just long enough to make the local authorities think he’s truly left. It’s then that things start to get very interesting.

The story is gripping and engaging and most importantly it has characters you care about. The vivid descriptions of Dreads Hand, Alaska make me feel like I am there myself. When Ronald Malfi describes the biting cold, I actually got shivers. When he talks about people walking through ankle-deep snow, it evokes memories from the past of me walking through the snow.

Ordinarily I try to find one thing to say in any review that could be done better. I simply can’t, this book was just far too good. “Bone White”, by Ronald Malfi is an excellent read. Plenty of psychological twists and turns to keep you guessing. Another well-done performance by Ronald.

-Bryan the Writer

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Book Review: Cold Cuts

Cold CutsCold Cuts by Robert Payne Cabeen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Possibly radioactive mutated penguins? Hell yeah!

Enter the tale of Ozzy and Ben. Two researchers in Antarctica on an expedition. The two friends soon encounter a world trying to kill them as they are attack by a mysterious organization and mutated creatures which seem bent on killing anything and everything in their path. The main problem? There are just so many of the damn things; there is no way they could ever hope to win out. Or can they?

“Cold Cuts”, by Robert Payne Cabeen, is a fun read. You have to be into the gory end of horror to appreciate the truly masterful way he wrote the story, but if you are this book is for you. World building in such detail to carry the story, he relies on the character dialogue to move the story along and that is the mark of a good author in my humble opinion.

In reality, there are some sections I thought were completely over the top, but maybe that is the point. Sometimes over the top is what you are looking for in a good read. This book, for me, falls into the category of a good airplane read. One that you bring on a plane and enjoy the heck out of it.

The one small critical comment, and this is a small one, I simply didn’t fall in love with the characters to the point that when something horrible happened to them (or good) it had much of an impact on me. Still, it is a small thing for me as a reader and you may have a completely different take on them.

I can recommend “Cold Cuts” to those who don’t mind a good amount of blood with their reading. And, by the way, the ending is completely over the top, but that’s alright. It is fun in an absurd sort of way to make it entertaining.

-Bryan the Writer

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A Date With . . . Bryan Nowak

I had an opportunity to be interviewed by the wonderful Mr. Frank Parker. An excellent opportunity and I had a great time answering his questions. Did you ever want to know more about me? Check out the interview and get an unique look at Bryan the Writer.

Frank Parker's author site

My date this week is with a man who resides in Virginia, USA, a refugee from what he describes as “incomprehensibly cold” winters in his native Minnesota.

“Most people have no idea what the winters are like in Minnesota. As I point out to my family and friends back in Minnesota, there is a reason I don’t come back. Everything you have heard about Minnesota winters is absolutely true. It is cold, and I mean incomprehensibly. Every year at least one person is found dead by the side of the road frozen because their car broke down and they tried to hike to the next town. This is an ill-advised move as the temps will kill you with alarming speed. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. However, the older I get the more I prefer the more amicable weather of the mid-Atlantic.

When I was 18 years old one…

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Review: The Final Winter

The Final WinterThe Final Winter by Iain Rob Wright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do you do when the end of the world is upon you? Grab a beer of course. The Final Winter centers around a bar of people stranded during what appears to be the apocalypse. Ian Rob Wright masterfully portrays this group of characters making you, at times, love and detest each of them.

The Final Winter is very character driven and not a ton of time wasted on world building. He is so good at ensuring the dialogue moves the story line along, there is little world building necessary. Most of the story takes place in a traditional English pub providing most of the setting.

While I hate spoilers in reviews, suffice it to say the characters have to figure out what is going on and not is all that it seems in a world gone mad. Their small assemblage is complicated by the appearance of a serial killer, a movie crazed teen, a drunken murderer, a war vet who loves to be as drunk as possible, and a few other people… and non-people. This whole situation is complicated by the sudden appearance of a few others threatening to end them all.

My one criticism, and it is minor, is that I did figure out the major plot twist early on. That in no way changed my level of enjoyment, and to be fair I usually figure out the major plot twists early.

I can highly recommend The Final Writer by Ian Rob Wright. It is a gripping dark tale, guaranteed to suck you in!

-Bryan the Writer

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