Category Archives: Book Reviews

Books for Your Family Trip #Ireland #Wales #Roadtrip

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-07-04-amThe school librarians saw me coming and knew I’d be leaving for holiday with a bag of books. Our recent school vacation (blogs forth coming) opened the doors for a King family road trip from Holland to Ireland by car with a few days in Wales. Below are the books I weighed our vehicle down with and the links to my reviews on Goodreads. Several of the chapter books were not read, because I’m in the midst of reading Harry Potter aloud to our younger sons. Also because they were all carrying assigned books from school.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-46-25-amOur younger sons loved hearing the short Irish legend as rendered by Tomie De Paola, Fin M’Coul, The Giant of Knockmanyhill. They laughed out loud as Fin’s wife helped him outwit his arch enemy, the bully giant Cucullin.

For your family Halloween read, check out the Irish ghost story, Kate Culhane, and for bringing the Irish-Manx-Scottish water horse legends to new life, read The Scorpio Races. (5 Star Middle Grade)screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-33-07-am

Join me on Goodreads here.


Best for Ireland: Kate Culhane: A Ghost Story by Michael Hague (5 Star), and Leprechaun Luck: A Wee Book of Irish Wisdom (5 Star) by Erin Gobragh and Catherine O’Neillscreen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-14-30-am

Nonfiction Reviewed: Castle (4 Star) by David Macaulay, The Horrible History of Britain and Ireland (4 Star) -includes Wales and Scotland, or course, A to Z Ireland (3 Star) by Justine and Ron Fontes, and Wales (3 Star) by Tamara L. Britton.screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-15-34-am

Fiction Highly Recommended by Librarians: Nory Ryan’s Song (A Girl in Potato Famine) by Patricia Reilly Giff (#1 Librarian Pick for Upper Elementary and Middle Grade), Twist of Gold by Michael Morpurgo (Brother and Sister from Cork to California). fiction-set-in-ireland

Also recommended and set in Ireland or set in Wales (thereabouts): Atemis Fowl: The Lost Colony, Leprechaun in Late Winter (Magic Tree House #43) by Mary Pope Osborne, Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist by R.L. LaFevers.

Selected Travel Guides: Back Roads Ireland (DK Eyewitness Travel) (4 Stars), and  The AA Guide to Wales (3 Stars).screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-43-09-am



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Top 10 Books of 2015 (via Book Smugglers)

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.09.10 PMDo you enjoy reading as much as I do? More? If you’ve visited my Goodreads page, you know what I tend to like the most. So when I found The Book Smugglers website with their focus on SF, Fantasy, YA and even Middle Grade fiction, I added it to my worpress “Reader.”

Most of these books I’d never heard of, but I thought a few of you might enjoy seeing what’s out there as well. Here are some of Book Smugglers’ picks for 2015.Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.17.14 PM


2015 is by far the best reading year since we started The Book Smugglers and for the first time the average rate actually matches this impression with a whopping 7.35 average. Further, this is also the year with the most books given a perfect 10 – SEVEN.

Sorcerer to the Crown is possibly the most delightful book of 2015. A book that is in conversation with feminism, topical issues within SFF, racism and colonialism at the same time that pays homage to regency romance with a charming couple of protagonists and a main female character – Prunella Gentleman – that I want to be friends with. Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.18.14 PM

Fairytales, history and female friendship are the central focus of this novel. Uprooted is fantastic because it uproots (sorry) its own world: it delves into the origins of storytelling, using the foundation of fairytales to tell a story that is at once familiar and comforting as well as subversive and progressive. And extremely beautiful, hilarious, romantic, clever and sexy.Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.18.56 PM

The Archivist Wasp…A novel of post-apocalypse, with ghosts and supersoldiers, about friendship, agency and revolution with an ending that Mad-Max-Fury-Roads like a boss. This book is spectacular.Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 12.26.08 PM

…The Fifth Season A pre/post/apocalyptic fable about remembrance and vengeance and the lives and worlds that are shattered in the wake of extreme power, The Fifth Season is ambitious, non-linear, and breathtaking in scope.


The Smugglers also have a big list of honorable mentions including many they read this year but which debuted in the past.

See the rest here.

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Posted by on January 28, 2016 in Book Reviews


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Historic Fiction Review – The Frontiersmen

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Series

Allan W. Eckert’s The Frontiersmen is the best historical fiction book about early American frontier life I have ever read. The book is closely based on real events and Eckert researched the characters and story for seven years before he began writing. Even historians of this era, a notably difficult breed to impress, have few criticisms of Eckert’s works. A naturalist who wrote 225 Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom episodes and a dedicated amateur historian, Eckert’s narrative history style was before its time and much copied today.

The book centers on the life of Simon Kenton whose real name was Simon Girty. Kenton fled North Carolina after believing he had murdered his single mother’s oppressive landlord. Years later he learned the man had survived and Kenton felt free to again assume his true name. The story of Kenton focuses on the wild and unspoiled land to the west of the Appalachians when most of the European settlements were within twenty-five miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The timeline of the story begins just before the French and Indian War and proceeds through the American Revolutionary War and the chaotic period that followed. In this vast untamed wilderness, Kenton played a key role in opening the area to American settlers and was close personal friends with men such as Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, Anthony Wayne, and William Henry Harrison.

The other main character and storyline of the book revolves around Tecumseh, the leader of the Shawnee Indians in the Ohio Valley. Tecumseh and the Shawnee initially fight with the British against the French and then with the Americans against the British, but when it becomes apparent that the flow of settlers will not stop, Tecumseh forges an impressive Indian Confederation to counter the incursions. The final conflict between Tecumseh and the new American settlers sets the stage for the settlement of American to the Mississippi River.

The Frontiersmen is among the best historical fiction books I’ve ever read. It is certainly tops for covering the early American era and suitable for both adult and high school students. Very highly recommend.


Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.


Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Author Guest Blogs, Book Reviews, Reviews


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Pride, Prejudice and Zombies vs. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 3.35.24 PMSense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is so much better than Pride, Prejudice and Zombies (PPZ). I enjoy a lot of paranormal and fantasy books and recommend Dead, But Not For Long to zombie enthusiasts, but PPZ was a disappointment.

Long passages of PPZ read as straight-up Jane Austen and then suddenly a zombie battle broke in which may have added excitement but also broke away from the language and texture so key to Austen’s witty prose. It was difficult to enjoy what should have been an entertaining adaptation, because the overall effect was one of a cut-and-pasted book. Apparently I am in the minority.

Thus, I join others in hoping for a good romp when the movie adaption of this wildly popular novel comes out. Then film Pride, Prejudice and Zombies is slated to release in 2015 with Natalie Portman (of Star Wars) producing, and will star Matt Smith (of Dr. Who) as Mr. Collins, Lily James (of Downton Abbey) as Elizabeth Bennet, Douglas Booth (of Noah), Jack Huston (of American Hustle) as Wickham, and Sam Riley (of Maleficent) as Darcy (link to IMDB).

Also from Quirk Classics, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters enters the scene. Author Ben Winters builds an altered world around Jane Austen’s plot and characters that enlivens the plot with the paranormal, adds humor, extends characters’ nobility and follies, while managing to still retain the core themes, use the language of, and remain true to the social commentary of the classic. An excellent overlay of creativity fully integrated in plot, structure, and voice of the original. Well done.

As a reader you can choose to buy into the “Alteration” and enjoy Austen’s work fully embedded with Winter’s perspective.

I recommend Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters to steam punk fans, nautical adventurers, Austen fans and readers who enjoy works such as Janet Evanovich’s “Wicked” series.

Cast members for PPZ the movie.

Cast members for PPZ the movie.


Kristin King is an author, publisher and Jane Austen fan. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint.

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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Book Reviews, Paranormal


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Post Apocalyptic Review – Into the Forest

Cover Evolution

Cover Evolution

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

I have learned that when it comes to post-apocalyptic fiction, I want the books to teach me something. I want to gain valuable information that I might use if I ever found myself in an end-of-the-world situation. Although the likelihood of ever needing said knowledge is admittedly slim, it feeds my sense of self-improvement. I also like to be prepared.

Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest is packed full of practical knowledge. From healing qualities of certain plants to the nutritional value of acorns, I found the knowledge fascinating. The author’s debut novel is eerily subtle as far as ends go. Living in a cabin in a northern California redwood forest, thirty miles from the nearest town, the apocalypse that destroys the world comes slowly and in fragments to the sisters Nell and Eva. There are rumors of war, upheaval, and plague, but details are hard to come by. When the sisters’ parents die, they are left to fend for themselves in a lonely world come unhinged and floating along outside law or society. They slowly learn how to survive in the forest and that real danger is hovering nearby.

Into the Forest is a story of survival that stresses throughout the importance of family. The two naive sisters have only each other initially and must make hard choices when unexpected options arise. These difficult choices seem all the more gut wrenching for their believability and realism. Filled with vivid scenery, you can almost smell and hear the vast primeval forest while reading this book.

Although this is one of my favorite books in this genre, it is not for those who look for fast-paced action. This story is about the sisters and how they survive and sacrifice in a cruel and unforgiving land that thrust them into adulthood far too early. These young girls are certainly not prepared for the challenges that they face, but they end up surprising themselves and the reader.

An excellent book that I highly recommend and hope you enjoy.


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Putting My $$$ Where My Literary Mouth Is

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 8.53.50 PMOn the heels of George R. R. Martin’s Wolf Sanctuary Fundraiser ‘Got $20,000? Then you too can die in a Game of Thrones Book’ my in house guest blogger launches a challenge that 1) every reader can afford and that 2) oddly enough benefits poor and underprivileged people. Check it out. –Kristin King

Write a Review – Save the World (Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy)

Wait…what? Yes, fine respectable readers, it can be done. Let me explain the what first and then the how.

Several years ago my wife and I lived in Belgium where we met a wonderful young Congolese woman named Bintu. Her family had sent her to Belgium to obtain her degree and  get her away from the war going on near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bintu lived with us for a while and became obsessed with using her God-given skills and talents to try and help her country and its peoples. More specifically, she wanted to help women and young girls in eastern DRC who had been abused, abandoned, and generally disregarded in many cases. She seeks to help them and other students through education, kindness and general support. The fruits of her struggle and efforts is a non-profit organization called Future Hope Africa

To date Future Hope Africa has helped and educated hundreds of young people by providing them a skill and convincing them of their genuine worth. My wife and I support this organization as much as we can. She is actually traveling to eastern DRC is a few months to assist Bintu in this endeavor.

So what does this have to do with book reviews? I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most people are familiar with a pledge system. People come door to door and ask you to pledge one dollar for every mile they run or car they wash or something of the like. Well, this is a reverse pledge system. I pledge to donate $10 of my own money for every Amazon review of one of my books or stories you write in the month of July. I will do this regardless of whether the review is in response to this blog, whether it be good or bad, or how long the review happens to be. At the end of the month I will post the results.

In order to help kick this off, I will even make four of my works free during the month of July and reviews of these free works certainly count.

2-6 July: The Protectors (Dystopian) –

9-13 July: Best Interests –

16-20 July: Better Off Dead –

23-27 July: Mask of Mitwaba (Paranormal) –


Here are links to some of my others works if you wish to write a review of one of them.


Glimmer of Hope (Post Apocalyptic) –

Children of Wrath –

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set –

The Hanging of Hard Barnes (Historical Fiction – LA Noir) –

The Last Man –

No Kinda Life –

Kentucky Feud –

The Darkside of Down Home –

The Other Side of Down Home –


Is this proposal on my part completely selfless? Of course not, I want more reviews of my books. But I also want to draw attention to this wonderful organization that is trying to help people and in some small way make our world better. In short, I’m putting my money where my literary mouth is.

Will you help me?

–Ryan King


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Historical Fiction Review – The Sunne in Splendor

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 9.55.35 PM(Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the post-apocalyptic Land of Tomorrow Trilogy)

I’ve always been a huge fan of history and historical fiction. I’ve probably read hundreds of books in the genre, but my favorite is hands down Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendor. This is a story about the War of the Roses in Fifteenth Century England where the Houses of York and Lancaster fought for the throne.

The book is also about Richard III who has been vilified by history. Penman actually conducted a great deal of research on this period before writing the book and determined that Richard III was the victim of history being written by the victors. He is most famously portrayed as an evil hunchback by Shakespeare in the play that bears his name. Most of Shakespeare’s material was obtained from Lancaster writers after the war. Penman’s portrayal of the man as noble, wise and courageous is generally accepted by historians as the more accurate and actually spawned greater interest in the period. Fans of actor Richard Armitage (recently in The Hobbit) know he has long wanted to do a mini-series based on Penman’s history, and Armitage was actually born on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard III was killed.

The background of the book itself is also interesting. Penman supposedly wrote the original manuscript for the book while researching Richard III as a student. When the 400 page original manuscript was stolen from her car (before the age of computers or backup copies), she was devastated and didn’t write for five years. She eventually returned to the story and wrote it again from scratch over the next twelve years while working as a lawyer. The 936 page The Sunne in Splendor was eventually completed and published in 1982 and birthed a wonderful and successful writing career in English historical fiction for Penman (her other works are also excellent).

The Sunne in Splendor is one of those rare historical fiction books that is based on accurate historical background and evidence, yet reads like a novel. Penman has a knack for fleshing out real-life historical characters so that they nearly leap off the page and make it difficult to stop reading.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is a must read and once you have read it, I believe, like me you will read it again and again.


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More about Armitage and the finding of Richard III in a parking lot! Click photo for link.

Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.



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Quotes On Writing

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Visit for a review of “Affliciton” Laurell K. Hamilton’s 22nd novel in the Anita Blake series.

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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in Book Reviews, Quotes


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Dystopian Book Reviews – Anthem by Ayn Rand

Anthem reboots abound. Available to read for FREE online at Click photo.

Anthem reboots abound. Available to read for FREE online at Click photo.




Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Ayn Rand is most famously known for her monumental works Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Before she wrote either of these works, she crafted a future dystopian short novel in 1937 called Anthem. Surprisingly, Rand had difficulty getting the work published and Macmillan Publishers rejected the work saying that Rand, who grew up in the Soviet Union, did not understand socialism.

Anthem is set in a world where collective socialism has progressed to encompass every facet of society and holds total sway. Individualism has been rooted out to the point that individuals have numbers instead of names and to use personal pronouns such as “I” or “me” results in instant death. In this dark world, babies are taken from their parents to be raised by the Home of the Infants and later transferred to the Home of the Students for rearing. Students are then later assigned a profession by the Council of Vocations which they must practice until they die.

The main character in this story, Equality 7-2521, is exceptionally intelligent and curious and hopes to be assigned to the Scholars, but instead is made a Street Sweeper. While performing his duties he meets and falls in love with Liberty 5-3000, but they must both keep their feelings secret because such are forbidden. He also finds a previously hidden tunnel that he later learns was a subway tunnel from the Unmentionable Times. Down deep in this tunnel he rediscovers electricity and finds a way to produce electric light. Excited by his discovery, he brings this to his leaders’ attention, but they are horrified realizing that this discovery could threaten the Council of Lanterns which previously overthrew the Council of Torches. Equality 7-2521 is labeled a criminal and determines that he must find a way to escape this society.

Anthem is an incredibly powerful and tightly written work that will leave you pondering the story long after you have finished. Well worth the read.


Other Post Apocalyptic & Dystopian Book Reviews by Ryan King include: The Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson, The Last Ship by William Brinkley, and Blindness by Jose Saramago.


Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.



Top Ten Best Fathers in Fiction

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

Growing up without a stable father figure, I learned most of what I could about manhood from books. It was where I could see their decisions and consequences and sift through the base and cowardly to embrace the noble and selfless behavior of a good man. This caused me to wonder about fathers in fiction. There are plenty of father figures (i.e. Gandalf for Bilbo and Frodo), but not that many characters we would call admirable fathers. Books are filled with exceptional mothers, but truly good fathers are hard to find. I believe they are so rare in fiction because they are so rare in true life…at least to authors.

With that said, I was able to compose my top ten list of best fathers in fiction.

1. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a widower in a small town rocked by social change. He provides for his children and not only teaches them wisdom, but lives an admirable life and stands for true and justice.

2. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. from Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen. This book and its sequel are true stories written by Gilbreth about his childhood and his unique parents. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. is an extraordinary figure filled with ingenuity, humor, and eternal optimism that pervades his children’s early lives.

3. Pa Ingalls from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series of books. Like Cheaper by the Dozen, Wilder’s book is based on true accounts from her childhood. She grew up on an isolated farm and often knew hardship and difficulty. Throughout, her father was a rock of strength and goodness based on an eternal faith in God.

4. Mr. Bennett from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett is the father of five willful girls and husband to an energetic and often misguided wife. They all love nothing more than to intrude on his peace. Mr. Bennett is the epitome of practicality and patience, loving his daughters and guiding them as best he can without crushing their spirits.

5. Unnamed father from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In this brutal post-apocalyptic nightmare story, a widower father’s entire existence is consumed with protecting his son. The father is eternally patient and never blames his son even in the privacy of his own thoughts for the son’s actions that cause them both to suffer. The father even pushes himself to the point of death for his son and sacrifices everything for this unconditional love.

6. Samuel Hamilton from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Steinbeck supposedly modeled this character and his circumstances after his real-life maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton. Samuel is a generous, warm, intelligent inventor/farmer from Ireland who has the heart of a poet. Universally admired by friends and neighbors, Samuel never achieves material success for himself, but lives his life in such a way that most of his children find it readily.

7. Andy McGee from Stephen King’s Firestarter. Andy is one of three widowers on this list and is desperately trying to keep his daughter safe from those who would harm her. Andy seeks to allow his daughter to be a little girl and protect her from a world that he is willing to destroy if need be. In the end, Andy sacrifices himself to save his child.

8. Ned Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Ned is a genuine character in a world filled with hypocrisy. His love and care of his children, even the bastard John Snow, is in striking contrast to the lack of care shown by Tywin Lannister and Robert Baratheon for their own offspring.

9. Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Vito Corleone is a unique figure in that he holds immense power, yet seeks to reason with people. He does not force other people’s hands except as a last resort. Vito even extends this view to his children and let’s them find their own way when they defy him and they end up loving and respecting him all the more for it.

10. Leto Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Duke Leto Atreides is a powerful man in violent and dangerous universe. His young son Paul will one day be duke in his stead. Leto does everything he can to prepare his son for the dangers ahead of him.


What other books can you think of with good father’s in them (not father figures)? Hope you have a Happy Father’s Day.


Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has four sons and writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.



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