Zero Sum Game (Cas Russell #1) ★★★☆☆

zerosumgame (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Zero Sum Game
Series: Cas Russell #1
Author: Lisa Huang
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 397
Words: 108K



From & Me

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

Cas is hired to rescue a drug mule by her older sister Dawna. Once she rescues Jill, she realizes she’s been conned but can’t figure out why or even how. Her friend Rio, a sociopath who has turned his violent tendencies against sinners, tells her to not get involved. So of course Cas goes digging and finds the name Pithica. This gets her Information Broker and his 8 year old daughter killed and brings Cas into conflict with a Private Investigator who is tracking Jill down for murdering his clients husband.

Eventually Cas hooks up with the cop, Arthur, and they begin to realize there is an actual worldwide conspiracy headed by a group of people who can effectively read minds and brainwash anyone they want. Their goal is to reduce the overall misery in the world even if they have to take away peoples’ free will.

Cas, Arthur, and a reluctant Rio, team up and plot and scheme and eventually cut off the financial steams feeding Pithica. They attempt to trap and kill Dawna, as she is one of the Elite mind changers but it is only with Rio’s help that they make it out alive. But not unscathed. Dawna has brainwashed them into never going after Pithica again.

Cas realizes her own powers might have sprung from the same pit as Dawna’s (gene therapy, secret labs, all the usual schlock like that) but gets it all erased at the end. She hooks up with Arthur to help with his PI business.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the story line for the most part. However, Cass is a filthy mouth jackass and her potty mouth near the beginning of the book almost had me put it down. Also Rio and his “I’m a sociopathic killer with no emotions but I’m going to use the Bible as my moral compass but I’m damned anyway but I’m going to kill badguys anyway for God” schtick was beyond messed up. It made zero sense to me. No, I take that back. It made perfect sense if you don’t believe in an actual God but believe the Bible is a set of rules and nothing more.

The action was pretty good. Lots of fighting, gun battles, grenades, etc. Cas and her mathamagic made for some great scenes and in some ways reminded me of the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr, where he posits what is going to happen in the near future based on Action X that he takes now. No complaints whatsoever in that department.

The thriller aspect was just as well done. I didn’t even try to figure anything out (I almost never do anyway in these types of books, I’m just not wired that way) but sat back and let Huang tell her story at her own pace. It kept my attention the whole time, the tension factor was just right and I never wished the story “was over already”.

That being said, I don’t plan on reading any more in this series. Cas’s profanity and Rio (who is supposed to be a paragon of reasoning power) and his ethos, are not things I want to subject myself to any further.

For an alternate review that is a bit more enthusiastic, I’d recommend checking out The Irresponsible Reader’s Review from ’18.



bookstooge (Custom)

Fear Nothing (Moonlight Bay #1) ★★★☆½

fearnothing (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Fear Nothing
Series: Moonlight Bay #1
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 450
Format: Digital Edition


Christopher Snow was born afflicted with (insert really long medically sounding name), otherwise known as XP. His body can’t heal from UV damage and something like a flashlight can take years off his life or make him go blind in months. He is now 28 and his parents have sacrificed a lot to give him as much freedom as possible. He roams the night, writes successful novels and surfs.

Several months ago his mother died in a car accident. The book opens with his father expiring from cancer in the local hospital. Everything Chris ever starts to go sidewise as he sees the local mortician replace his father’s body with some hitchhiker’s. His father’s body is loaded into a van and taken away to Wyvern, a supposedly closed military base.

During the next 2 days Chris uncovers a lot of secrets hiding in Moonlight Bay. His mother was involved in genetic experimentation with the aim of helping cure Chris’s XP. Chris’s father’s cancer might have been caused by a rogue genetic experiment gone awry. Chris finds out that the experiments have been successful, but not in the way his mother intended. The politicians and top army brass have used it to enhance intelligence in animals and to transfer animal characteristics to humans. Unfortunately, the carrier evolved and people began becoming infected unknowingly and spreading it even outside of Moonlight Bay.

Several of the solid citizens of Moonlight Bay have already fallen to the gene therapy. The Chief of Police dreams of raping and killing little girls. He tries to kill Christopher to keep his secret but dies in the attempt. A troup of bloody thirsty enhanced monkey’s attack Chris, his girlfriend and his beach bum friend one night. The troup is led by a court-martialed sociopath who has been hiding his own “becoming” from all his superiors.

To top it all off, it turns out that Chris’s own dog, Orson, is the product of the tests and is just as intelligent as a human. Orson, however, shows no sign of the psychopathic murderous tendencies exhibited in almost all the other patients that Chris has seen.

The book ends with Chris realizing that he simply can’t fight this end of the world as we know it.


My Thoughts:

I actually read the sequel to this 18 years ago. I wasn’t reviewing per se, so I didn’t remember any details and so nothing was spoiled for this book. Just an anecdote, that is all.

In the character of Chris Snow are the seeds that will, 5 years later, turn into Odd Thomas and that much more successful series.

I found the scene between Chris and the Chief of Police to be as horrific as Koontz intended without it being offensive. There is nothing graphic in what Koontz writes and yet when the Chief is talking to Chris about his nightmares and his plans and his descent into animal savagery, I was horrified. It walked the line of talking about something absolutely evil without crossing that line into being voyeuristic about it. More authors should take note, as it takes real skill to write that way.

I enjoyed this but once again, like his Frankenstein series, Koontz is actually only telling one story and splitting it up into “books” to satisfy publishing demands. This book ends with Chris and Co surviving the attacks by various infected creatures, human or otherwise but the threat is so big that it IS the end of the world as humans know it. If I hadn’t known there was another book, I would have assumed this was a standalone with the Big Ending (ie, the end of the world) left up in the air for the readers to imagine.

Considering how proto-Odd Thomas Chris Snow is, I was figuring that Snow’s girlfriend was going to die the whole book. Color me pleasantly surprised when she made it through almost unscathed. That’ll teach me to be cynical.

The other thing I’m learning about Koontz seems to be that he likes to write about short time periods. The first ¾’s of the book only took 12hrs and the final ¼ was the next 24. Thirty-six hours for a 450 page book. I’ll have to remember that so I don’t expect dramas drawn out over the years.



bookstooge (Custom)


Life Advice…w/ Dr. Bookstooge



It’s one of those kind of days.  I’ve got diarrhea of the brain and fingers, so I’ve got a ton of nonsense just waiting to explode onto the screen.


My first piece of advice, to anyone, male, female, tall, short, smart or stupid, is to not have parents. Any problem you might have, it can be avoided by simply not having parents.  Now, if you’re reading this, you’ve obviously ignored this piece of advice. Don’t worry, 100% of people who come to me for advice have ALSO ignored this advice. You are not alone in this.


(Of course, if you’re listening to that song by Michael Jackson, well, you get what you deserve, in my professional medical opinion)


Most people, when they come to me for Parental Pod advice, ask me what they can “do” about their problem.  The thing is, as I shake my wisely visage and appear sympathetic, is to deconstruct the thinking behind that “do”.  Most people don’t realize that Parental Pods (will be referred to as PP’s from hereon in) are also people too. Yes, you heard that right. Most other doctors don’t subscribe to this idea, but if you carefully examine the evidence, you’ll see that I, Doctor Bookstooge, am right. Not just a little bit right, but COMPLETELY right. I call this groundbreaking theory, Parental Pods are People Too, or PPaPT to keep things snappy. My clients like it when I use acronyms. Lets them know that I’m hip with the jiving lingo that the kids use today. Now, if those same kids would just stay off my lawn, we’d be all set.

The second thing to realize is since PPaPT applies, this means that every mood, feeling and thought you have, they also apply to the PP in question. Are you a stubborn jackass sometimes? Are you an opinionated, hotheaded loudmouth? Well, I hate to break it to you, but your PP were those things first. This makes them much more experienced in such things.  Accept the fact that you can’t be more “X” than your PP.

Yes, this post applies to you too, you stubborn, hotheaded, opinionated, loudmouthed jackass.


My final advice to most patients suffering from one form of PP or another, is that they can’t actually do anything about it.  It once again comes down to our PPaPT philosophy here at Dr McBookstooges Inc.  We believe that most cases of PP just need to run their course, kind of like the man-flu.



And I believe that is probably all the medical advice that needs to be packed into one post. Any more and readers would start losing their minds and begin worshipping me as a veritable dynamo of divine wisdom.


bookstooge (Custom)

Black Mountain (Alex Hunter #4)


This review is written with a GPL 3.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Booklikes & Librarything by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.
Title: Black Mountain
Series: Alex Hunter #4
Author: Greig Beck
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 312
Format: Kindle digital edition


Synopsis:  Spoilers

Alex Hunter has recovered physically while in Israel. Unfortunately, his mind has not and he can’t remember who he is or who anyone else is either. Upon realizing he has been lied to and with some of his powers returning, Alex returns to the United States seeking out his mother.

At the same time, “Something” has come out of the Black Mountain and people are missing. Matt Kearns, a scientist from the first book, is roped into investigating.

One Night. One Black Mountain. Many disparate and dangerous groups. And one monster. All come together in one explosive orgy of violence and death.


My Thoughts: Spoilers

This was fun, and probably more so because Alex Hunter isn’t as big a part of things. That does seem to be the formula Beck likes. Ramp the tension up and THEN bring in the Arcadian.

There were a lot of different threads here. Alex and Israeli Commando Lady. Scientist Matt and his pals and the cops. Mossad Hit Squad going after Alex and Lady. HAWC’s commander Hammerson seeking out Alex and Lady. Cops seeking out the lost people. A slightly successful version of the Arcadian formula being field tested against Alex. And then the monster/s killing people, taking people, eating people. It all worked together pretty good and I never felt like POV was ever too short or too long. It was a skillfully woven tapestry of a story.

It did have it’s eye rolling moments though.

The monsters have supposedly been underground for 13,000 years living by the light of lichens and they’re just acclimating to the light fine and being super de dooper killers? Guns have little effect on their hides but knives stop them? They don’t blink at modern tech at all or feel confusion at it? Finally, the whole “oh, they’re not really the bad guys, we just treated them badly” bullshit. That turned my stomach.

Then there is the people side of things.

One of the scientists with Matt refuses to go into the cave but then they find the boot of a missing little girl and suddenly said scientist can’t be stopped from going in and all they have is a hand gun? Cops disobeying direct orders from the Chief of Police, to his face?

Some of the good stuff. The 3 experiments of the Arc-044 formula. They’re as strong as Alex and even more determined but completely gone round the bend and literally rotting away. Super soldiers indeed. We’ll definitely be seeing more of them. Alex and another HAWC fighting the bigfoots. That was just cool. Alex taking out a group of terrorists in Egypt before coming to the U.S. He throws a terrorist out a window, who has explosives strapped to his body, and shoots him so he blows up in the air, 3 stories up. Now is that cool or what?

By the end of the book though, Alex is wanted by the Israeli’s and the United States more as a lab specimen than anything else. He disappears but I wonder how he’ll survive on his own or if Hammerson will covertly supply him. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.




Douglas E. Richards

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I rated the sample I read 4stars, as the prologue and first chapter or two held some real promise of a kickass story.

And overall, this was a decent cyber-thriller. Near the middle it started getting philosophical/theological and denying the existence of God. Lots of psychobabble about evolution “forcing” survival traits on humanity.

Then in the epilogue it lost it for me. Started talking about humanity “helping” god become God, or perhaps humanity becoming god.

Done with this author.

The Stress of Her Regard

The Stress of Her Regard
The Stress of Her Regard

Tim Powers

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Normally, I’d probably be giving this a 4star rating. It was extremely well written, exciting, horrifying, action-packed and chock full of blood and magic.

So stop there if you liked this book.

The main reason I’m going with 2stars is because the week that I read this book I worked double shifts almost every day, was coming down from dealing with my first ABB and had no emotional cushion to deal with this book.

It many ways it was brutal. When Michael wakes up the first morning and sees Julia and reacts, I almost screamed right along with him. When the children and relatives keep dying off, something inside me just curled up and died with them. When Keats did what he needed to to keep others safe, I almost cried. When Byron tried to have the best of both worlds [or at least the non-worst of both], I wanted to shoot him.

The only other books by Powers that I’ve read have been The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides. Both were pretty cool and I especially liked Anubis, as it was pretty much a character kicking ass, making the best of a bad situation and coming out on top at the end.
This book, not so much. I felt like the characters, all of them, were barely making it through each day and that was just depressing to me the reader.

So to end. If you’ve enjoyed Powers other books, you’ll probably like this one. If you like vampires, you’ll probably like this one.
But if you’re an emotional person like me, wait to read this until you’ve got some reserves to deal with it. You’ll need it.

Baen: Free Stories 2011

Free Stories 2011

Patrick Lundrigan, Editor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This collection of short stories runs the gamut from the absolutely awesome to the unbearably dull.

Most of these stories appear to take place in each of the authors’ own universe. So if you are not familiar with that universe, you’re going to feel like an interloper at a party.

Honestly though, the worst I can say is that some of these stories were just boring.

And the good stuff really makes up for it. I liked the following stories.

Zahn’s story took place in his Cobra War trilogy. It was a typical Zahn. I wasn’t blown away, but I did enjoy it and I enjoyed the extra “boost” to the overall trilogy that this story added.

Second was a story called “Intelligent Design” that dealt with a young boy who discovers some sort of sentient computer. I really liked the idea.

Third, last and Best, was Larry C’s short MHI story “Tanya: Princess of the Elves”. Edward the urk is just awesome. And it was pretty amusing to see a little more into the elve’s world, of ho-ho’s and ranch dressing 🙂

I got this for free from Baen []. Not sure I would have paid for this.

Beyond Varallan

Stardoc II: Beyond VarallanBeyond Varallan

Stardoc #2

S.L. Viehl

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I was hoping that Viehl would move beyond the rape in a tasteful way.

But about 40 pages in, Cherijo tries to jump Reever’s bones, and thinks of their “previous time” [ie, the rape scene in book one] as something sexually stimulating.

What kind of sick author is Viehl? The victim of rape is saying it was good for her too? In most cases of rape, the victim reacts 1 of 3 ways:

1)They blame themselves and turn inward.
2)They say it doesn’t matter and then become sexual predators, of a sort, themselves
3)They can’t accept what happened, and so think of it as a good experience, ie, deny reality.

Cherijo exhibits classic symptoms of a psychologically broken woman.

And I’m supposed to enjoy reading about this? This is sick, sick, sick. Shame on Viehl.



Stardoc #1

S.L. Viehl

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was on a very quick path to 5Stars.

A young woman is fleeing her home and Earth, as her father, who is a brilliant and controlling surgeon, has her life all planned out for her.
She flees to a small colony to be part of the medical team. A colony made up of mostly non-Terrans, as humans are called. Did I mention that the controlling father is a leader in a Terrans Only group?

So the young daughter begins her work. Lots of adventures, some romance and then a very large catastrophe on an epidemic level. Which proceeds to an even larger personal crisis for our intrepid heroine.

The story ends with some seriously weird info being revealed. Really made me want to rush out and read the next book. But I didn’t. For the following reasons.

1)There is one scene where she and her new lover consumate their love. It was explicit and did nothing to make the story better. It was for pure titillation and “sex sells”. I was disappointed it had been added, but would have gone on to the next book, if it weren’t for the next reason.

2) There is a graphic rape scene. This is what really turned me off from this book. The reasons for why it happened are explained. But the graphicness of it, the reactions of those involved, just made me feel dirty. I had to stop reading for several days before I could go back and finish the story.

So I will be reading the next book at some time in the future, but Viehl is on serious probation. There had better be NOTHING I don’t like in the next book for me to continue the series past Book 2.

Chromosome 6

Chromosome 6
Robin Cook
1 Star
DTB, 457 Pages

a naive scientist messes about with genes and monkeys to produce “doubles” for rich people so they have perfect match organs when needed. But that is almost the sidestory. The other part of the story is about some morgue doctor/detectives finding out all about it because of a high profile death. Things go along at an ok clip, then right at the end everything wraps up in the snap of the fingers. Boom, problems all solved, yada yada yada. Completely unimpressed and ruined any positives I had about the book.

The story was ok, nothing great, but the end wrapped up so fast that I felt like I had whiplash. A poorly executed ending ruined completely for me.