Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Friday Review: Hit by Delilah S. Dawson

I have loved everything Delilah S. Dawson has written. I loved Servants of the Storm and was even more excited about Hit because the story has such an interesting concept.

HIT by Delilah S. Dawson

HIT by Delilah S. Dawson

HIT starts on day one of a dystopia which is the most interesting thing to me. Most of the people don’t realize the world has changed and that everything is different now. Patsy is one of the people who knows things have changed and will never be the same again.

Valor National Bank has saved the US from their own debt and is calling in everything owed. The choices are simple: pay your debt, become an assassin, or die. To save her mother Patsy becomes an assassin hunting collecting debt and delivering ultimatums to 10 people to save her mother’s life.

With the current atmosphere and fear of debt, Hit pushed a lot of buttons the entire time I was reading it. Watching the various reasons Patsy’s targets were in debt (student loans, YIKES) and the choices she’s forced to make as she learns that these ten targets aren’t just strangers assigned at random.

Her sidekick, a rich boy named Wyatt, watches Patsy’s back even when they both know the last name on Patsy’s list is Wyatt’s brother. As time runs out, Patsy’s faced with an impossible choice, and a bank out for blood money.

Hit was a violent, rough ride. The story doesn’t pull away from the violence of what’s happening and at times was rough to read. The chapters are longer than average and each chapter is named for one of the ten targets on Patsy’s list. I’d suggest only older YA readers enjoy this title since the violence could be very upsetting for younger folks.

The ending opens the way perfectly for the sequel, Strike, which is out in March 2016.

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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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The novel follows a tale of what other creatures think will make us happy, and the terrible consequences that it brings. A young boy finds himself tied into a timeless world of wonder, monsters, and delicious jam. He and his friend must find a way to send the creature home before it’s too late.

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Line is like a spider web. It dares you to touch it, and be tangled into the delicate, binding world that Gaiman crafts. There are times it fades away into something just out of reach, and then, a beam of light catches it just right and the entire thing lights up with an otherworldy glow that is both terrifying and alluring.

There are other moments that the story takes you off guard, the reader walking into it unexpectedly, fighting, kicking to get the sticky tendrils off, but the story stays, clinging to skin, bone and soul long after it’s been read. You can feel the webs curling around your  skin, tieing around your bones, and  lingering long after the moment has passed.

There’s something delicate and wistful about the story; something not fully formed like half-remembered thoughts and moments tied together with the delicacy  and strength of a spiderweb. It’s terrifying, endearing, and a breathtaking at an unbelievably fantastical childhood.

 

Proper ConNooga Review!

Now that I have shaken out of the post-convention haze, let me give a proper review and tell you about the awesome people I met.

This was my third year at ConNooga, but my first year here as a guest so it was very exciting. I had my own little half of a table and that was great and very exciting! (I even sold books, yay!)

Me, Stephen Zimmer, and Andrew Toy.

I got to hang out with some amazing writers who I will try to list here… Sorry if I forget anyone!! (Thanks to Bobby for the photo!)

Ed Crandell

K.S. Daniels

Kerlak Publishing

M.B. Weston

Dan Jolley

D. Allan Lewis

D.A. Adams

Sean Taylor

Bobby Nash

Stephen Zimmer

John Hartness

Andrew Toy

James R. Tuck

Please go check out all of these people, buy their books and enjoy. They’re all great writers, great people, and just plain awesome.

Dragon*Con Review

Phew! My head is still spinning after a wild whirlwind Dragon*Con weekend.

The convention is huge. I mean, if you have not been, it’s difficult to even conceptualize the size of it. I’m still wiped out from the convention so I’m going to do a top 10 of the convention.

10. Getting smushed face first against a guy’s caped back on the escalator and creeping on him by asking what fabric softener he used cause he smelled nice.

9. The amazing, amazing writing panels the entire weekend. I learned a ton.

8. I found some truly breath-taking artwork.

7. I saw the most amazing Labyrinth cosplayers in the history of cosplayers.

6. I finally learned my way around the various hotels and where to park.

5. Random conversations with strangers!

4. New books!

3. I got to hang out with some amazing friends that I don’t get to see nearly enough.

2. I got pulled onto a panel for New Pulp and have a chance of being a guest for next year.

and my number 1 most awesome part of Dragon*Con

1. I GOT TO MEET R.A. SALVATORE AND HAVE HIM SIGN MY BOOK AND HE TOLD ME CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING PUBLISHED AND I WAS A HOT FANGIRLY MESS.

So, that’s my top 10 of Dragon*Con!

 

Review: Tony Rauch- Laredo

Slipping into Laredo is like falling into a dreamy landscape that almost feels like a home through the looking glass. Life is similar but something entirely different and entirely Rauch’s. He is the master of this world and the way he loops his words together only adds to the dream world he is building.

Rauch is a master of wordcraft. He is able to, with just the softest turn of phrase, bring something alien into complete and clear focus. His narrators are honest and clear about the world around them. One of my favorite moments in the short story collection is in the story, “Once I saw a pretty girl”, where the narrator notes, “It was as if fate were calling out to me, as if it were giving me a chance to define myself, and how many times in life do we get a chance to define ourselves?”

These are bizarre worlds where girlfriends became ant-sized, extra arms and fingers appears, and people float away for no reason, but above all else, these are stories about people. Real people who face real issues of life in strange and fantastic ways that remind me of just how odd life can truly be at times.

This is Tony Rauch’s second collection of short stories, and I suggest you check it out asap. If you’ve got a taste for the strange, the thoughtful and the well-written then run on over and buy your own copy.

Review: Seven Times A Woman by Sara M. Harvey

 

From the moment I saw the cover for Seven Times a Woman by Sara M. Harvey, I was in love. The style, color and details were mesmerizing. From the moment I picked up the novel I was sucked into a fantastic world that spanned the ages in a tragic, beautiful love story.

I think the summary provided by New Babel Books really gives you a good taste of the story woven into this world:

In a mythic reflection of old Japan, the kistune Rei-Rei is given the seemingly small errand to “tame a dragon” that will part her from her true love, Inari, for lifetimes to come. Reborn through seven lifetimes, Rei-Rei fulfills her pledge, remaining the steadfast love of Sha Tano the Dragon — no matter how many times she is murdered by his dark twin, Kage and his minions. From courtier to courtesan, Rei-Rei comes into each life knowing that her destiny lies with the dragon prince but something deep in her soul sings of another lover in another time. With every incarnation, she pieces together the fragments of her existence and strives to find a way to complete the impossible task and finally go home. When the dark dragon Kage learns of her true nature, he seeks to strike a blow that will destroy his noble brother, and Rei-Rei, forever.

I had some reservations going into this about how the reincarnations would be handled, wouldn’t the story get repetitive? But it never did. Each lifetime is an entirely new story that builds on and entwines with all the ones before it, and all the ones that follow. It is truly a tale of the ages that spans centuries.

Sha Tano is not the ideal man, he is not a romance hero walked into the world to make a perfect love story. He is damaged and dark in his own ways and reading as he struggles with himself, his love and his world really makes him a truly rounded and fantastic character. Even his brother, Kage, who at first seems to be such a simple character, but he too grows and evolves into something I never expected.

The story wrapped me tightly around its finger and I couldn’t put it down. I was fascinated and intrigued, trying to figure out how this tale was going to end. Was there going to be a happy ending? How? The twists and turns at the end made me gasp out loud (much to the amusement of my coworkers) and drew me in even deeper.

The story has several layers, that tie each lifetime together and keep the story cohesive even with the constant change of the character. The change is one of the strongest aspects to the book, and is handled with the grace of a seasoned author. Reincarnation is not an easy task to write since each incarnation is the same person, but still someone different, and Harvey does this seamlessly.

In fact, if I had one critique, it would be that some of the lifetimes seemed so infuriatingly short. I understand that if each lifetime went into deep detail then the book would be seven times as long, but I loved the characters so much that I wanted that detail.

The writing is beautiful. Harvey’s style is elegant and sharp-witted, just as the main character, Rei, is. I can’t think of the last time I found a novel written in third person where I felt the author’s voice was such a perfect representation of the story. She knows her history and incorporates the details with ease. The kimonos, silk, tea and language instantly transported me to Japan.

 I cannot recommend this book enough, and if you have even an inkling of interest in Japan, mythology, or incredible love stories then pick this book up. If you enjoy reading a well-crafted, well thought out story then pick this book up. Seriously, go get this book now.

 

You can find the book in both ebook and physical book form here.

American Horror Story Review Take 2

Okay, I had a seperate post all planned out but after watching the second episode I just couldn’t resist putting up a part 2 review.

Okay, all in all I would say this episode did make more sense. It was less jerky, more coherent story and there were a few parts that genuinely were scary and/or original. However, I still think it’s not all it’s pegged up to be. So… here are some highlights!

The episode starts with a group of 60s ‘bimbos’ heading out, but in a SHOCKING (sarcasm) twist of events, it’s not these girls that get knifed, it’s the sweet innocent virgin who stays home. She is forced to strip into a nurse’s outfit and then tied up. The man attacking her tells her Jesus won’t save you. She begins to pray and the man disappears. She breathes a sigh of relief and the knife plunges into her back again and again.

Ben meets with Tate again, but Tate just talks about boning Violet. Ben gets a call from his mistress in Boston who is pregnant. He goes to Boston to sit with her while she gets an abortion. (SHE IS CRAZY MOOD SWING GIRL!) She goes from being totally cool to bursting into poorly acted tears when Ben looks at his phone.

Violet talks to the girl who harassed her and was then attacked in the basement at a skate park about the thing that attacked her. Her hair is turning white from ‘fear’ because that’s what the internet tells her. She is now smoking and believes that the devil is what attacked her. Hardcore religious overtones already!

It’s now night time and the security alarm is going on. The front door is open so he makes a sweep of the house and eventually finds Addy playing in the basement.  She gets upset when he calls Addy freaky, and starts freaking out cause she hasn’t puked yet during her pregnancy (how much time has passed?) He claims this baby is their salvation (RELIGIOUS OVERTONE ANYONE GETTING IT?)

New patient who dreams of being trapped in an elevator and getting chopped in half. She informs him that they’re on the murder house tour and she is more interested in the murder than her dream. He says she feels separated and emotional stunted. Her name is Bianca. She’s also, yet another, unlikeable character. She continues wandering about, creeping. It turns out however, that she is a part of a trio out to recreate the murders from the beginning of the episode!  The trio arrives and attacks Violet and Viv. However, with some luck (and Tate, and a basement monster and a poisoned cupcake and an ax) they survive the ordeal.

(And just as an fyi I take it as a very bad sign that I have a hard time to remember their names. I keep wanted to call Ben Mark and Viv Kate… bad signs)

Violet is the typical angsty teen and knows everything. She’s nasty, spiteful and frankly I don’t much care about her as a character period. I was hoping the murder plot would pan out. BAD SIGN. Okay, I don’t like to throw this term around but Violet is really a bitch. Knowing all her mother has been through and still saying all this crap. ‘I think you’re weak.’ Wow. Seriously Violet.

Okay, the one thing that really I thought was original and very, very interesting was how Constance punished Addy for being bad (when she actually legitimately was trying to get her mother to help Violet and Viv as they were being attacked by the murder trio). She looks Addy in a closet filled with mirrors and makes Addy look at herself. Her screams echo down the hall as her mother returns to her bedroom where a pretty boy waits for her. Superb acting here.

At the end of the episode, Moira, Constance and Tate are looking over the  bodies of two of the three from the murder trio (the third escaped the house but died from being axed in half by Tate) and discuss how to get rid of the bodies. This was actually pretty funny. ‘I’ll get the shovel.’ I’ll get the bleach.’

And someone finally gets some sense and Viv decides to sell the house. Yay! But you know it’s not going to work out or else no more show, right?

I do think this was a vast improvement over the pilot episode which was more blurring, jumping images and confusion. This one had a clear, cohesive story arc. But, the biggest problem I am now having with the show is that I don’t care about these characters. At least not the main family. Violet is an overdone teen angst caricature. Ben is trying to do the right things but goes about in such wrong ways that I just can’t warm up to the guy. Viv is growing on me, but I think she still lacks a lot of strength and personality.

I think the ending clearly means that Tate, Moira and Constance are all either ghosts of the house, tied to the house, or a secret murder team. I am curious and will tune in for next week but come on! Is it so much to ask for you to give me a character that I don’t want to see knifed?

Well, aside from Addy. GO TEAM ADDY!!

American Horror Story Review

Going into the pilot episode of American Horror Story, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen a few commercials and decided to give it a try.  The result… Well… I’m still not sure. Which I don’t think is entirely a good thing or a bad thing. So here’s a short recap of the first part of the episode to give you a general idea.

Alright, the show begins in 1978 with the Weasley twins a set of twin red-headed boys going into the house. A young girl with Down Syndrome is standing in the yard of the house. She tells the boys they’re going to die if they go inside but they tell her to shut up and that they’ve got baseball bats. Fair enough.

The twins go on a rampage through the abandoned house, breaking everything in sight. They end up in the basement where they discover shelves filled with body parts of people and babies. One of the twins gets freaked and starts to leave but when his brother doesn’t follow and he hears a strange noise he goes back. He finds his brother, bloody and dying. A strange monster lunges and the boys are (presumably) killed just as the girl predicted.

FLASH: Now we’re in modern times, a woman, Vivienne, is at her Ob/Gyn who is suggesting she take hormones, she’s not so sure about this but she just wants her body to go back to normal after a horrible miscarriage some months earlier. Her doctor asks her ‘What are you afraid of?’ (hinthintnudgenudge fear is important). She heads home and hears strange noises where she discovers her husband having an affair with one of his students.

FLASH: The family is in the car heading off and away. They’re leaving Boston to start a new life and forget the troubles of Boston. We meet the couple’s daughter Violet, who proves to be just a ray of hormonal sarcastic teenage fun. They go to tour an old Victorian style home that is just a steal pricewise only to learn it’s so cheap because the last owners (implied gay couple) died in a murder/suicide. Violet loves this detail and with her approval the house is bought.

From here things progress into madness. There’s a great story here, the shattered family at their weakest moment being confronted by an evil force, but I think the entire show viewed like a trailer. It had all kinds of very interesting snippets but nothing was fleshed out. I understand this is the first episode but horror really needs well developed characters and I think the family is weakly established.

Now, I was a little insulted by this film which bragged about being so smart and sexy. I felt like a smart, interesting was thrown out the window in favor of flashes of flesh, blood and weird shit. The story became totally secondary for the visuals and I felt that the main characters really suffered for that. I really didn’t care about the family, and their problems, I never got a chance to become invested in them because OMG LOOK AT THIS WEIRD THING OVER THERE AND BLOOD AND A GIMP SUIT AND THE MAID IS HOT BUT NOW SHE’S OLD AND THEN THERE’S THIS BURNED UP DUDE AND SOME NEIGHBORS AND THIS PAITENT THAT WANTS TO BONE THE DAUGHTER AND THIS THING IN THE BASEMENT AND OMG FIRE AND OMG NAKED MAN BUTT! Really, give me some credit. Horror is not really built very well by a lack of cohesion. Yes disjointed stories can and do work, but the disjointing has to work and I don’t feel like this did.

Maybe it was titled American Horror Story because it represents the American’s ability to focus, Okay… horror show…oh that was gross… oh Hot maid, yeah! Oh, who was that? Wait, where are they? Whoa, who was that? Hey hot maid again! Dude, naked man butt? Can they show that on TV? Dude, a gimp suit? Did they borrow that from Pulp fiction? Oh, old creepy maid! OH, she’s pregnant? It’s probably a gimp demon baby.  And so on and so forth.

Right  now I feel like I am getting 800 pieces of a puzzle thrown at me through a snow blower. They’re falling and flying everywhere and I can’t grab a hold of one long enough to see what it connects to. But I want to. And that is what is so frustrating. I feel like there are good bones to American Horror Story but they are being covered up with so much other crap and trying to make it edgy. American Horror Story? Here’s a hint. That’s not scary.

Will I be tuning in next week? Yes. I’m curious, and I’m rooting for this show. I want it to succeed.

You can watch the trailer for American Horror Story here: 

American Horror Story plays on Wednesdays at 10pm on FX. 

Review: Savage Nights by W.D. Gagliani

I made the mistake of starting Gagliani’s Savage Nights while on vacation relaxing. Big mistake. This is not a sit by the pool and relax book. This is a drag you to the edge of your seat and keep you biting your nails for hours book. Gagliani holds no punches and once I got sucked into the story I had a hard time putting it down.

Rich Brant is a Vietnam Vet who is still haunted by his days as a rat in the tunnels of Vietnam, but a new nightmare begins when he is awoken in the dead of night by a phone call from his good-for-nothing brother. His dearly beloved niece, Kit, is missing, kidnapped from a crowded mall. All the clues point to her being dragged into an international sex slave ring and Brant knows time is short. Old grudges with the police chief bring Brant to work Colgrave, a capable female detective who has her own vendettas and demons. Brant must use all his resources, including a strange psychic gift, to find Kit before it’s too late.

First and foremost, this book is not for the faint of heart. There is graphic, forced sex, murder, mutilation, war, etc. There were a few sections that made me feel like I’d been hit in the gut, but that kept me reading even faster to find out what was going to happen. There were twists and turns that left me gasping and I do highly recommend Savage Nights if you enjoy fast-paced thrillers.

There is a lot of military and weapon terminology thrown around but it was never totally overwhelming or fought with the story. The parts I enjoyed most were in the ways that Brant’s past in the tunnels played into his present world of finding Kit and I was thrilled when a tunnel like fight arrives at the climax. It felt like everything coming full circle.

The characters are well-developed though I would have liked to see more about Colgrave because I enjoyed her interactions with Brant so much. I was also glad to see that there were so many strong female characters in Savage Nights since many thrillers cast women as strictly the ‘damsel in distress’.

Gagliani does shift perspectives fairly regularly in the novel but he is quick to tell you what character’s perspective you are in so it does not get confusing. These varying perspectives help give a more rounded and clear understanding of what is going. Not to mention makes you more on the edge of your seat since you know what is happening to Kit as Brant searches for her.

This is one of the few novels that I actually wanted more from the ending. I wanted to see what happened to these characters after the grand finale. Gagliani handles Brant’s traumas from the Vietnam War so well that I was very curious to see his descriptions of Kit’s coming to terms with what has happened to her, as well as what happened to the other characters at the close of the novel.

I think part of that desire comes from the Kindle’s percentage complete bar at the bottom at the screen. The novel ends at 86% complete because there are several wonderful excerpts from other works, but because I was only at 86%, I was anticipating more story and felt cut off when that was simply the end.

All in all, I cannot recommend Savage Nights  enough. Gagliani has crafted a scary, nail-biting, make-you-sick thriller that doesn’t hold punches or back away from the ugly side of war, death, and modern-day sex slavery.

You can buy Savage Nights here.

Review: Zombielicious by Timothy McGivney

From Amazon: “Amidst a zombie outbreak, Walt, athletic and confident, meets shy and quiet Joey, the attraction between them both instant and electric. With strength in numbers, they band together alongside fellow survivors; Jill, an ex-porn star turned nurse who’s made a startling discovery about her past; Ace, a disgruntled security guard who just can’t live up to certain short comings; and Molly, the fiery redhead unwilling to give up on her dreams of stardom. In this apocalyptic new world of the dead, an anything-goes attitude has become the law of the land and lust, betrayal, true love and redemption are all just a gunshot away.”

Alright, I found this lovely little book from my buddy over at Paperback Horror. I will admit it took me a moment to get into the story here, I found the first few chapters a little unnecessary since the primary story is with the zombie apocalypse. However, once the story gets going, it sucked me in and I was hiding my Kindle under my desk to read when the boss wasn’t looking (shh, don’t tell!).

One of the most interesting aspects of McGivney’s book is the Point of View it’s told from. The point of view rotates through the five main characters, with each character taking a chapter to describe his or her view of the events. This was a really interesting technique though at times it turned repetitive when the characters were all in one place at one time, and you then read about the same event in five ways.

The writing is great and I really loved the way that the story focuses more on what happens to people under threat of zombies as opposed to simply turning everything into a gory orgy. The zombies are not the only monsters in this world, and I would dare to say that the zombies aren’t anywhere near as frightening as those still alive. Joey and Will’s relationship is a little rushed, but it makes sense given their ‘could die at any moment’ world.

I will say that I didn’t think Zombielicious was scary until I turned off my lights to go bed that night. Images of one particular zombie, skinless and screaming, and one particular non-zombie character haunted me, and I ended up sleeping with the lights on.

The novel is part zombie survival tale, and part GLBT erotic drama. There’s gore, sex, violence, profanity, and zombies, what more could you ask for?

You can purchase Zombielicious here.

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