Saturday, January 24, 2015

Johnny Graphic and the Attack of the Zombies

Johnny Graphic and the Attack of the Zombies is the second book in a young adult (Y/A) book series. It follows the adventures of Johnny Graphic, a boy photographer. The setting is the 1930s, but it's not the same 193os we all know about. In this author's version of the 1930s, ghosts co-exist with the living, but only some of the living can see them. Those who can are called etherists. Johnny's sister, Melanie Graphic, is an etherist, and she belongs to a group who is dedicated to understanding how ghosts interact with the world of the living and how the ether (the area where the ghosts exist) works.

In the first book of the series, we were introduced to Percy Rathbone, who had a plot to create and set off etheric bombs. Percy happened to be the son of Dame Honoria, a friend of Johnny and Melanie's family. In the second book, Percy is at it again. In book two he is out to create an army of bog zombies, and they're kidnapping children under the cover of a mysterious fog that has descended upon the countryside. Johnny, Melanie, and their old friends set out to stop him.

Soon, it becomes clear that Johnny and his friends have to split their efforts. While Melanie and Dame Honoria try to research the problem and figure out what Percy is trying to do, Johnny and his friend Nina set off to rescue the children. Along the way they meet some new human and ghost friends that try to help them in their quest. But as some questions about what Percy is doing are answered, others arise, especially questions regarding the disappearance of Johnny's parents, who have been missing and presumed dead since the start of book one, and how their disappearance tied into Percy's plans.

It's important to note that I knew this was book two in the series before I read it. In fact, I had already read and reviewed book one. You can see my review of that book here Since I had that knowledge, I went into reading the book with a sequel/middle book mentality. I was already familiar with the characters and already somewhat knew what to expect in terms of writing style. This book definitely did not disappoint. I found it to be written just as well as the first.

One of the things that I really enjoy about D. R. Martin's writing style is that it is descriptive, but in a plain, uncomplicated way. It's written so that the target (Y/A) audience can easily understand it. However, many Y/A novels are written in such a simplistic style that they are boring. This book actually held my attention so well, as did the first in the series, that I didn't want to put it down at times, and I'm a full-grown adult. Yet, it's written in a way that a younger audience should be able to not only understand it, but enjoy it. It's full of adventure, excitement, action, and suspense.

Another thing that I like about both Johnny Graphic books is that, in my opinion, they aren't one-time reads. I've happily added them to my permanent library. I expect the Johnny Graphic novels to become like familiar old friends that I reach for when the mood strikes me, much like Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter.

I give Johnny Graphic and the Attack of the Zombies 5 out of 5 stars. It's fun, exciting, and attention grabbing, while still being a light, easy read that can be enjoyed almost anywhere from bed to crowded airport terminals. However, I would caution readers to start with the first book, not the second. Many important concepts and characters are introduced in the first book. The second book does not work well as a stand alone novel.

As of January 2015, there is no third book in the series yet, but I hope that there will be soon. Although the book two story feels well-rounded, there are definitely some loose ends, which leave plenty of room for series expansion.

Book: Johnny Graphic and the Attack of the Zombies (Book 2 in Series)
By: D.R. Martin
Publisher: Conger Road Press
Length: 318 pages
Genre: Young Adult (Y/A)
ISBN: 978-0985019631
Available on as a paperback or for Kindle

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Cut - cops, drugs and drama

The Cut: A Wolfe Novel
Peter Churchill
Publisher:  Rhubarb Triangle (ebook)  March, 2014
Sometimes even in the world of fiction, the good guys aren't the James Bond style mannequin that the bad guys never succeed in foiling.  Wolfe is a Detective Sergeant in the Eastern Area Drug Squad, and he's been in law enforcement for a long time, used to the complexities and uncertainties of finding and trapping drug dealers, but he's never seen anything like the challenges he's about to face.

There's something afoot, as they used to say in Sherlock's day.  Cocaine in huge quantities is being shipped into the country by a new, thoroughly competent and incredibly creative, drug king-pin named Simpson, one who enjoys danger and actively loves violence.

Wolfe's been divorced and has pretty much decided that work is the only life he's going to get to have.  His hard shell seems impenetrable until, during a drug bust, he meets Tina, the junkie girlfriend of Billie, a runner for Simpson.  As Wolfe and Tina are dropped into a maze-like game of cat and mouse in search of the brilliant but deadly Simpson, a kind of bond begins to develop, but is it real or is Tina playing him?  Nothing in the dark world of drug dealing is ever really what it seems to be.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Recess is my Best Subject

Recess is my Best Subject
Peggy Mastel
Fergus Publishing, Sioux Falls, SD (2013)

  • ISBN-10: 0989770109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0989770101

Of late, there's been a lot of discussion about how to deal with education.  Factions argue about whether "throwing more money at the problem" will fix our slumping ratings as we try to compete with other countries for the best educated citizens. Politics is involved all over the place.  I invite every single person who cares about this issue to read Peggy Mastel's book "Recess is my Best Subject" because here is where the rubber meets the road ... in the land of the substitute teacher.

Which schools do best?  What are the problems that keep kids from learning?  How many of the problems kids have are related to the educational philosophy of a given school's principal or superintendent?  How do teachers get the children in their classes to behave?  What effect does class size have on a child's ability to learn?  What happens when special needs children are segregated from the other classes?  Is it better than when they're not? How do teachers reach the children of the poor who are needy in so many ways?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy

Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy
by Alexander McNabb

  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1493621939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1493621934

Gerald Lynch has been at it a long time.  Getting into places no sane person would go to, handling issues that nobody should know about, but handling them "quietly" has never seemed to work for Lynch.  The proverbial bull in the china shop, he's always creating mayhem wherever he goes.  Problem is, mayhem works.  In spite of his boss' constant irritation and outright outrage at his indiscretions (leaving a body or two in his wake, in sometimes far-more-visible ways than anyone would like), he's really, really, good at getting results, so when budget cuts come, or when he doesn't do quite such a good job at the periodic physical training tests, he stays.  This time, though, he's pretty much chasing ghosts.