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As of 28 February 2016, due to decline in my health and chronic illness

Sunday, April 29, 2012

THE CYPRESS HOUSE by Michael Koryta_Review

The Cypress HouseThe Cypress House by Michael Koryta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another 12 star read!

Another unsurpassable novel feat from Michael Koryta, whom-like Kealan Patrick Burke and Michael Marshall Smith-cannot seem to write anything less than the best. This one frightened me quite a bit, because of the unrelenting juggernaut implacability of the evil. (view spoiler)[

I truly was not sure if there would ever be a happy, or even a partially, happy ending. (hide spoiler)]

The novel is suffused with violence, some of it quite graphic, other times distantly graphic (as readers we know it’s there, we see either the prequel or the aftermath) but we don’t view the process. Yet the violence here is such an intrinsic part of the evil, that it’s not gratuitous, nor unexpected, and certainly not unlikely. It just is-like water moccasins, alligators, and dinosaurs.

Not just the plot but the characterisations are stunners. I am constantly amazed at how author Michael Koryta can delve so deeply into his characters, and at how his characters can manage to be so deep! And those foundations of Supernatural-oh, how powerful that makes these novels (I refer here also to “So Cold the River” and “The Ridge”).

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larssen_Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am reading this book for the April 2012 Pick4Me Challenge, and also because of the hype about the series. The Prologue was mildly interesting-and I wanted to follow that lead and see where it goes. But the next sections? On and on about the injunction against a journalist for alleged libel; how he got the information; why the plaintiff is a multi-billionaire, and now about a security firm? Like reading Business Week but with a Swedish venue! I am so not interested! Where is the reader’s hook? The plotline? The Characters?
Now at 8%, the story pace is finally starting to pick up; if I had been Beta Reading this, I would have said, axe out everything between the prologue and the point at which Salander announces the journalist Blomkvist was probably framed-start the story there. End of Chapter Four-NOW it gets interesting, and with a loop back to the mystery of the Prologue.

But despite the appearance or reoccurrence, of an actually fascinating decades-old mystery-a “locked room” type of mystery, even though it occurred outdoors-I simply could not develop an interest in this book. None of the characters elicited my empathy, except ancient magnate Vanger, and his disappeared granddaughter Harriet. Other than those two I felt as if I simply watched a film, without much depth or intrigue. Yes, not even the title character caught my attention.

I’ve yet to read the remaining two in the trilogy, but that’s not something I intend to do very soon.

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THE INTRUDERS by Michael Marshall Smith_Review

The IntrudersThe Intruders by Michael Marshall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Can I give it 17 stars, or 26?

Stunning. Awe-inspiring. Metaphysical. Beyond Reality. Supreme. Michael Marshall Smith shares a gift in common with the equally superb Kealan Patrick Burke: literary eyes that glimpse beyond what we in consensus reality perceive, and not just glimpse, but observe-study-analyse-consider-recount. “The Intruders” is over-the-top perfect, as is Mr. Smith’s “Bad Things,” and although I read it through apace, I am at a loss for description. Reading his novels (and Mr. Burke’s) is like coming upon a Universal Translator, and for the first time, reading novels in a language you never knew.

Jack Whalen is a former L.A. cop-no, surprisingly, not a detective. Just a ten-year patrol veteran, who put together a book of places, photographs and text, called “The Intruders,” picturing locations of home invasions and other such often-fatal effrontery. His wife Amy, a big wheel in advertising, decides they should lease a country home about an hour and a half from Seattle-because with her new higher position, she needs only ready access to an airport, occasionally. Jack is currently stuck in place, unable to find a hook to a second book, but all that is shunted aside as his life begins to unravel, and he discovers his wife is not whom he thought at all-and in ways no one could ever imagine.
When you read “The Intruders,” I think you might never look at life in the same way again. Certainly I will not.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FREAKS OF THE HEARTLAND by Steve Niles_Advance Review

Freaks of the HeartlandFreaks of the Heartland by Steve Niles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Generally I avoid graphic novels, believing “they’re not my thing.” But I chose to read this one because of the title and description; and I am so thankful I did. Talk about reader’s hook! The first page or so grabbed me; and the art is delicious-very evocative-where in a novel I would normally look to the description to understand setting, here it’s right in front of me, and so well drawn! Between the art and the text, I literally experienced cold shivers throughout the book. If THIS is what graphic novels can do for horror, I’ve been sadly misguided. I’d like to call this book extraordinary: it has deep characterizations, likely dialogue, horror, family tension (serious dysfunction), and that wonderful, exquisite art! “Freaks of the Heartland” has made a Dark Horse Books fan out of me!

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V Wars edited by Jonathan Maberry_Advance Review

V WarsV Wars by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“V-Wars” is a collection of “shared-world” stories, by Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Holder, John Everson, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, Keith DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson.

The premise for this collection is the worldwide epidemic of infection caused by a millennial-old virus, buried deep in an Antarctic glacier. Once the virus begins to be transmitted, it affects different individuals differently, depending on DNA. The various authors interweave tales relating to the main premise, each in their own fashion, so that in the shared world in which vampires and werewolves are now real, being mutated humans transformed by the ancient virus-all parts work together to make one fascinating progression. Author Maberry, who is also the editor of this collection, pens one tale which forms the framework of the spider web of fear and horror that is this most excellent set.

Jonathan Maberry has a singularly gritty approach that is well-chosen for the types of horror sub-genres in which he chooses to perform, including vampire and zombie. His first story in this powerful collection, “Junk,” examines a fallen actor, whose only good film came nearly a decade ago, now reduced to Starbucks baristo trying to pick up chicks. Eventually his life is reduced to living nightmare, all due to that one good film he acted in eight years earlier. “Junk” continues as the frame piece for the collection, appearing intermittently and continuing the story of misguided Michael Frayne, failed actor, newly mutant.

If Maberry’s storyline is gritty and profane, starring an egotistical “ex-actor,” Nancy Holder’s tale is downright violent. A motorcycle militia patrolling the border between the Southwestern United States and Mexico, hunting not just for illegal immigration, but to hunt and execute supposed vampires.

John Everson plays with the transmission vectors of the vampire virus, and does a startlingly, emotionally painful, job of it.

Yvonne Navarro’s story presents a young Native girl whose life is difficult and dangerous-now with becoming vampire, maybe things will start to look up.

This gives you just a few dips into the brew of “V Wars,” and my advice to readers is, do not miss this. You might think you know and love vampires-or maybe you despise the genre; but “V Wars” is one unforgettable set, and you need to read it. This story collection is absolutely riveting. I found it difficult to pull away to take care of real life, and when I did have to stop briefly, the stories continued to play in my head.

Readers who enjoyed Mr. Maberry’s Joe Ledger series will find this collection very approachable; but I can recommend it to anyone who likes his or her horror well-written, timely, and graphic.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

THE RIDGE by Michael Koryta

The RidgeThe Ridge by Michael Koryta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another super-stunner from accomplished and incredible author Michael Koryta, whose novels satisfy, inspire, enrapture, and convince readers in every aspect. Every single essential in a novel is present-and far, far more. Mr. Koryta could teach courses to aspiring novelists on the proper ways to suspend the readers’ disbelief, so that acceptance of the Supernatural comes automatically, even to readers who are usually skeptics (of which this reviewer is not one). In this novel, Mr. Koryta offers law enforcement, big cat rescue, romance, murders, history, wildlife, scenic locales, horror, and plotting that is beyond the capacity of most humans.

I could say so much about this novel, but all that’s needed is this:

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

FINDING POE by Leigh M. Lane_Review

Finding PoeFinding Poe by Leigh M. Lane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With a delightful early-Victorian flair, this story begins with an English noble Lady, following her husband unwillingly to an isolated, abandoned, lighthouse housed on a small island off the New England coast, surrounded by battering waves and rocky shoals. As if Lady Karina had not already suffered enough “adventure” due to her husband’s poor impulse control, once they move into the Lighthouse, he seems to turn into a madman, and Karina turns into a sleepwalker, a woman who loses her direction, is mistaken for a curse and a danger, discovers men digging for buried treasure; and then finds her own husband expects to somehow discover treasure in the long-abandoned, poorly-maintained lighthouse.

This story is particularly delightful for the incredibly fast pace, the non-stop adventures which are Supernatural and paranormal as well as psychologically abnormal; and for the neat way in which examples occur which reference many of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, who will prove to be a touchstone. Told in first person narrative by Lady Karina, the story delicately weaves in backstory for the main characters in a subtle way, refining the protagonists’ characterisations.

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The Necro Device by M. T. Dismuke_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Alike

The Necro DeviceThe Necro Device by M.T. Dismuke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel literally begins with a bang, a lead-up to a graphic tragedy which changes the destiny of a famed family and of a community. Then, leaping ahead thirty years, a new path ensues. John and Mary Hilt of Colorado have contracted to prepare a long-abandoned estate for charity auction. Isolated, rural, located in a locale of suspicion, grief, and resentment, the mansion is an oddly-shaped structure, willed in perpetuity with an accompanying trust of twelve million dollars. Accompanied by their flighty college student daughter, Felicia, the couple soon discovers that the local communities have always held the Mandiev brothers-owners of the estate-responsible for the fatal carnival fire which resulted in many fatalities, allegedly including the brothers.

The sins and tragedies of the past won’t fade away, and supposedly the former Mandiev mansion is not only haunted, but cursed and dangerous. Myths and urban legends abound about the property, and even in the small nearby community strange events begin to occur.

I thought the novel could have been slimmed down and made a little tauter (and a tad less wordy), but all in all it did maintain its grip on my attention, and was suffused with surprises, changes, and convolutions which kept me turning pages.

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Turn Around Where Possible by Martin Pond_Review

Turn Around Where PossibleTurn Around Where Possible by Martin Pond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An unexpectedly and remarkably chilling short story, “Turn Around When Possible” takes a familiar setting-becoming lost while driving in a rural area-and makes it unforgettable. I still have chills from the story and expect to have for quite some time.

Modern couple Jo and Dan are out for a drive, on a dreary overcast day-a day which has already been too long and tiring. They’re hungry and weary, they just want to reach their destination; but they need to eat, and they need to stop and stretch. As an up-to-date modern couple, their car has a satellite navigation system, so getting lost should not even be a possibility; but it is-and taking just one wrong turn, let alone two, can be disastrous.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

DEMON'S MOON by Niall Teasdale_Review

Demon's MoonDemon's Moon by Niall Teasdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Intriguingly magical, a London where Fae, Demons, Succubi, Werewolves (both “true” werewolves and lycanthropes-which are those subjected to the werewolf virus and thence turned), exist, are accepted, studied, and considered “natural.” This “world” even has weres of other species: panther, fox, and so forth. It ranges from high academia and research science to lowly nightclubs and exotic dancing. Magic is real, accessible, and utilized.

Ceri is a serious scientific researcher, preparing her doctorate dissertation in the field of thaumaturgy, or magical energy-specifically as it applies to weres. Her research has already had practical applications: she’s devised a device to measure the energy surges cast off by weres as they enter into a change. Such an application has been extremely effective in nightclubs, for example. Ceri happens to have been the daughter of a witch, and lives in a magicked multi-story home. Her roommates are a Faery, and a half-demonic succubus; not too surprising, as Ceri has some unidentifiable energies and is partially demonic herself.

This novel is sexy, but not too explicit. I would still rate it at 18+. It will highly appeal to fanciers of paranormal romance and urban fantasy, as well as those who prefer traditional fantasy brought into a contemporary setting. The juxtaposition of the different magical species (weres, succubi, demons, Fae, and more) will broaden the novel’s appeal and bring in expanded readership.

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BAD THINGS by Michael Marshall Smith_Review

Bad ThingsBad Things by Michael Marshall Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A stunning, riveting, multi-layered mystery-and-more, “Bad Things” is so complex and convoluted that I can only think of Brian Freeman’s mysteries in comparison. Set in the Pacific Northwest (Washington State, Oregon, then Washington State again), the settings and locales become every bit as important as the human characters; in fact, the settings are characters in their own right. Black Ridge, Washington and Marion Beach, Oregon-especially the former-are fully-fleshed, fully-dimensional characters in themselves-and by the end of the book, the reader can readily decide whether she would ever wish to live in such a locale (Black Ridge).

Michael Marshall Smith is an accomplished and terrifying author-terrifying in the sense that the events in this book seem fated-implacable-inescapable; and it is only much later that we learn that perhaps-way back when-steps could have been taken to put the world on a different path, one more fortuitous, less troubled, less inescapably evil-but only perhaps. Human choice is still very much a part of the matter, though-so that even with fate, destiny, generational heritage, and the Supernatural-not to mention Manifest Destiny, classism, and bigotry-individual humans still can and must make their own individual choices, according to their own moral codes.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Fallen Angels by C. K. Quarterman_Review

Fallen Angels: Giants, UFO Encounters and the New World OrderFallen Angels: Giants, UFO Encounters and the New World Order by C.K. Quarterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author Quarterman has essential information to impart, and he doesn’t hold back. With forthrightness and integrity, Mr. Quarterman delivers the goods-whether his knowledge will be well received or rejected, a best-seller or a no-seller, he is like all prophets-determined to bring his message across, and let the recipients make of it what they will.

What is his message? The world-our world, Planet Earth, is in deep trouble, the worst the globe has experienced since just prior to The Flood. Under the rule of Lucifer and his Fallen Angels or Dark Lords, the conspiracy of evil works to destroy humanity and this planet. The author postulates some points I had never read: that Lucifer once ruled a planet in our solar system named Rahab, which was destroyed by God, resulting in the asteroid impacts on Earth, the Moon, and nearby planets. He also states that the creation of which we read in Genesis was actually a recreation of a planet nearly destroyed, without life, and underwater. He refers to the non-canonical Book of Enoch, and Jubilees, for further wisdom concerning the Fallen Angels, and their offspring via human females, the Nephilim (which Genesis calls “giants on the earth in those days.”) He further explains what the Fallen Angels intend, and why, and how their agenda is programmed to succeed-while the majority of humanity is either blind, or unaware, or doubtful.

This is a clearly-articulated, logically-presented book, with a very powerful message. According to the author, it is not a message any of us currently alive on Earth can afford to ignore, overlook, or reject.

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Another WOW, another I-just-can't-stop-thinking-about-it, from accomplished author Andrew E. Kaufman. No telegraphing of any of the plot revelations here: I had no idea when the story started how it would unfold, and I certainly could not have guessed at the climactic denouement. The more I read by this author, the happier I am.:)

NEVERMORE by William Hjortsberg_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud NevermoreNevermore by William Hjortsberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Nevermore” is a delightfully detailed historical mystery with paranormal and supernatural overtones. If you love history-if you love Sherlock Holmes-if you love magic and stage magicians-you must read “Nevermore.” Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; a magnetically lovely psychic adolescent who went from New England farm family to upscale wealthy New York Society; Houdini’s determination to prove all mediums are faux vs. Conan Doyle’s fascinated believe in the Other Side; all this combines in a mystery that stirs the soul, raises some goose bumps, and throughout the novel, simply delights.

Is the Afterlife real? Do Spirits survive death, able to communicate across the void with the living, and bring guidance and warnings? Were the ancient Egyptian deities Isis, Osiris, Horus, and Set actually real beings? Or are all spiritualists-mediums-psychics either consciously fraudulent, or at minimum misguided fools? All these points of view are represented in this novel-I leave it up to you, the reader, to decide. Read “Nevermore” and revel in its beauty, historical details, excellent characterisations, and continued mystery. Enjoy!

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Monkey Love by John Paul Allen_Review

Monkey LoveMonkey Love by John Paul Allen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I look back on this novella, it almost has a flavor of the late 19th century in Britain-perhaps Somerset Maugham, or the Royal Society, or the National Geographic Society (the original, back when Africa was considered “the darkest continent” and subject to exploration and classism). The strongest point I come away with from my reading is that humans are amazing-amazingly trusting, amazingly gullible, amazingly selfish. I refuse to say much more in order not to spoil anything for future readers; but I will say that seldom in Anthropology has a field of study proceeded like this. The first third of the book did not excite me, although it was necessary to lay the groundwork of the relationship between the married couple, Richard and Sandra, and to explore their devoted intimacy. Once I reached the beginning of the anthropological expedition to Uganda, the pace picked up-but I must say there were points when I wanted to cover my eyes with my hand and say, “no, please don’t” to some of the characters.

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Feeding the Urge by Jeffrey Kosh_Review

Feeding the UrgeFeeding the Urge by Jeffrey Kosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Riveting-fascinating-delightful! Like Dexter’s Dark Passenger, but with more flavor, spiritual horror, and metaphysical impetus, for fast pace, graphic horror, and good characterizations, “Feeding the Urge” is nearly unbeatable. The author’s own brand of metaphysics blends with Native American traditions and modern psychology to create an inimitable backdrop to this novel. The descriptive settings of South Florida imagery, its flora and fauna, are very well done and propel readers into the story’s suspension of disbelief.

Author Kosh knows how to reach inside his characters and pull their internal selves out into the open. What he does with Axel Hyde, and with Cheri, is incredible. Mr. Kosh juggles a large character set, and manages to delineate each one, mixing first person point of view (Axel Hyde) with third-person for other characters. Still, the story runs smoothly because the reader is enrapt with the action and with the characters’ plights.

18+ for graphic violence, sexual situations, and occasional language.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Missing by Chris Mooney_Review

The Missing (Darby McCormick #1)The Missing by Chris Mooney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another book I couldn’t put down-I wish I had had the time to read this at one sitting. I kept turning the pages so fast I’m surprised the book didn’t ignite. Chris Mooney is a wonderful author who juggles some mighty complex plots and a large number of characters, some on the good side, some on the almost purely evil, some straddling the moral fence, and keeps it all straight, revealing only piece by piece and never telegraphing.

Darcy McCormick spends her adult years as a forensic investigator, an interesting choice of profession because as an adolescent she observed a murder, escaped, and later was nearly abducted and killed, while at the same time one of her close friends was murdered in Darcy’s house, another abducted and never found. Darcy was, quite literally, the one who got away, but that might not continue to be true as the killer once again has her in his sights-a killer who has never stopped his deeds, and is far more clever than law enforcement can possibly suspect.

This is the kind of mystery to read, ponder, and study, for those who want to learn to write good mysteries.

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Into the Mist: Silver Hand by Steve Finegan

Into the Mist: Silver HandInto the Mist: Silver Hand by Steve Finegan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful, captivating, and fascinating “urban” fantasy, this is the beginning of a series, and what a delight that is. I truly loved this book and could not set it aside. Author Steve Finegan not only knows his Celtic lore, he knows characterization, inside and out. I’m not generally a fan of fantasy, especially high or epic fantasy, but this book is just special, and I highly recommend it.

Seventh-grader Gabe just moved into a new house, new locale, and dreads trying to meet new kids and start in a new school. Gabe’s anxiety is not only the routine worries of “new kid on the block”: he suffers from temporal lobe epilepsy, and although it is a mild case and doesn’t require medication, still he has “auras”: olfactory and auditory “hallucinations.” Poor Gabe is henpecked by an overprotective mother, the target of his brother’s jealous rage, and mocked by potential friends and schoolmates for his surpassing creativity. Yet even the “ugliest curse” can turn to silver, as Gabe unexpectedly discovers he is actually a long-awaited Celtic hero, the only one who may be able to turn back the undead forces of Arawn, Lord of Death and the underground.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The South Will Rise Again by Jeffrey Kosh_Review

The South Will Rise AgainThe South Will Rise Again by Jeffrey Kosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Readers who delighted in Author Kosh’s first novel, “Feeding the Urge,” will be delighted to know that another Prosperity Glades story, “Kamp Koko at Night,” is included here (don’t read at night). For me, the real treasure is in the title story, “The South Will Rise Again.” As a student of history and an individual who’s spent about half my life in the Northern U.S. and half in the Southern U.S., I have a particular affinity for that bloodied and undying conflict, the American Civil War. What Jeffrey Kosh does with it has to be read to be believed. The closest simile I can come up with is-it’s akin to “Red Badge of Courage,” from the Dark Side. Gentle Readers, run-do not hesitate-to pick up this small collection. I know I will be rereading it for some time to come.

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Embarrassment by Sean T. Page_Review

EmbarrasmentEmbarrasment by Sean T. Page

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a precious, delightful, sweet, heartwarming, and hopeful story. I am so glad I read it. Not only do the proceeds from its sales benefit a worthwhile charity, but it lifted my spirits and made me think more hopefully of my fellow humans, in sharp contrast to the behavior of the secondary characters in the beginning of the story.

Young Tracy has committed what in her family and small town is considered a cardinal and unforgivable sin; she’s pregnant, and became so outside her own ethnic group. Shame, shame, she’s an outcast-so her family declares. While Tracy sees the last vestige of family solidarity crumbling into dust, the Universe presents her with another view, another side, an improved solution.

Do read this-and reread it-and recommend it to your friends.

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Mirrored by Frederick C. Arceneau_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

MirroredMirrored by Frederick J. Arceneaux

Strongly rooted in the Supernatural of many flavours, this romantic suspense interweaves early-onset demonic possession, voodoo, and spectacularly spooky hauntings with familial curses and the wheel of fortune returning evil for evil performed. Christine Albright leads a normal, and content, life as an in-demand international interior designer, whose reputation and contacts come by word of mouth from satisfied clients. But as an adolescent, she spent seven days in the grip of a demonic possession, overcome only by the power of prayer and the exorcism rites of the Catholic Church. Christine has put that behind her, so she thinks.

Encountering a sixteen-year-old whose life basically stalled at the age of eight when her parents died in a home explosion, Celestine, awakens Christine’s unwanted memories of the demon from her adolescence, and visiting an antique shop in New Orleans’ French Quarters only opens a door wider into evil, aimed at both Celestine and Christine, and extending to those near them, including Christine’s unexpected new love interest, Jonathan, a man who suffered a great loss some years ago and who subsequently has little belief in any Higher Power.

“Mirrored” will appeal to readers who enjoy their romantic suspense mixed with some of the darker overtones of Gothic romance as was popular in the mid-20th century, and with Supernatural manifestations, hauntings, and the incursion of evil. The romantic element is done well and tastefully, and evokes the emotions of the characters as well.

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This is the End by Eric Pollarine_Review

This novel was reviewed for May-December Publications.

This Is the EndThis Is the End by Eric Pollarine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The protagonist is not a character I’ve been able to develop any sympathy for. I guess he is proof that riches don’t make for civility or character, for moral integrity or for compassion. Considering that for all his supposed technological creativity, in a sense it was happenstance that his product(s) sold so well, his arrogance becomes a matter of hubris-and as we all know from Greek plays-hubris goeth before a fall. I became so aggravated at him I wanted to shout, “So get frozen already-and just shut up!!”

No, Gentle Review Readers, that is not a euphemistic cussing-out. This gentleman (THAT is a euphemism) has been diagnosed with cancer, and instead of dying and relieving the world of his unappealing presence, he decides to be cryogenically frozen, and treated with chemotherapy and alternative forms while in his frozen stasis. So when I consider screaming, “Get frozen,” I was being practical-considering this is a character in a book and not a real-life event.

I was 27% into this story before I developed an interest. Since the preceding dealt solely with Mr. Hubris and his unremitting arrogance and dislike of everything except himself, I could not achieve either empathy or even care as to his condition-present or future. If I were revamping this novel, I would begin either as he is entering his office-where the action finally ramps up and becomes intriguing-or perhaps just a few pages earlier, when he regains consciousness (I don’t wish to be too specific so as not to spoil). Everything before then I would make backstory, for illustration of character, and to explore the rationale for his decision in favour of cryogenesis (purely selfish reasons).

Once Jeff (the protagonist) reaches the point I mention above, the plot picks up and there is plenty of action. I even enjoyed his rather ingenuous appraisal of his attackers-the man is so much engaged with himself, he can’t even recognize what’s going on until it is virtually explained-and illustrated-to him. This is a case of intelligence in one area not really carrying over to either compassion nor good common sense.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Last Call for the Living by Peter Farris_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

Last Call for the LivingLast Call for the Living by Peter Farris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Last Call for the Living” is a thriller, but it is also a study of character: of the good guys, the bad guys-and the innocent, such as poor Charlie Colquitt, an unmeaning victim on a date with destiny. In an economically isolated rural area of North Georgia, a lone branch bank remains, the sole business in an otherwise abandoned and vacant strip mall on a back road, far from Interstate traffic. Few customers hold accounts there; the branch mainly services paycheck cashing for mills. Not much of a job, engineering student and social isolate Charlie knows, but it does pay his rent and buy his course texts, and what little’s left over goes for his only hobby, model rocketry.

Along comes a hard guy with the wrong attitude, an ex-felon who’s done twelve years of hard time in various Georgia institutions, and he’s doing a bank heist. On a Saturday morning, only two tellers in the branch, and a fresh new delivery from the armored truck: the set-up is perfect, so thinks felon Hicklin-but he isn’t figuring on Charlie Colquitt, or the Georgia Bureau of Investigation-or the Aryan Brotherhood. Charlie is not the usual routine individual; and considering what a swamp of trouble Hicklin’s about to get into, maybe this is one job he should have just foregone and forgotten.

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The Strange and Wonderful Cornfield by Judith Chimes_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud

The Strange and Wonderful CornfieldThe Strange and Wonderful Cornfield by Judith Chimes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful short tale for children which is full of laughter, hope, good cheer, and yes, teamwork, “The Strange and Wonderful Cornfield” makes a super bedtime story for youngsters, and even us older readers. Author Judith Chimes tells us a story of the fantastical in such a way as to make readers suspend disbelief and accept it as real, and in doing so brings us joy and chuckles. “The Strange and Wonderful Cornfield” will linger in adult readers’ memories, and young children will surely love to hear or to read it again and again.

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Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki_Review

The NightmarysThe Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Stone Child,” Dan Poblocki’s first novel, was scary; but for consistent fright, it’s surpassed by “Nightmarys,” which purely scared this reviewer from one end to the other. I was still scared AFTER I finished the book! It’s so plausible-to anyone who believes in the Supernatural or accepts that it might be plausible; and even if one is a Supernatural skeptic, this novel still works on a fear-inspiring basis if one views it as a psychological treatise. “Nightmarys” is based on a similar fulcrum to some aspects of Voodoo: that one’s own beliefs and fears can scare one, even unto death. I think this has pretty much been demonstrated psychologically, so even if one decries the Supernatural overtones of the novel, it is still effective as a story of thrilling suspense. But I like it better as a novel of the Supernatural.

As with “The Stone Child,” Author Poblocki’s understanding of middle-grade youngsters is superb. They are realistic, likable (even the bullies are understandable), and the reader quickly empathises with their quest to “make things right” and their compassion for others. I highly recommend “Nightmarys” for readers of any age from middle-grade through adults.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dark Blessings: A Collection by John Paul Allen_Review

The initial story, “Pit Stop at Hoo Hoo Hollow,” chilled me-unexpectedly. So much the better, since the “scare” (aka “the yuck element”) wasn’t telegraphed. Kind of glad I no longer drive around those particular mountainous regions, looking for a place to refuel. This was a very different perspective, far from the routine and overdone “backwoods” approach so often seen and read. Very well attuned! But the chills don’t stop after the first story-oh, no! Every single entry in this collection is very well-written, very perceptive about peeling away that sheer veneer of civilization, and aptly introduced by real-life events that have served as inspiration. For example, I found “Hello Neighbor” every iota as chilling-perhaps more so-than the unexpected frights of “Pit Stop at Hoo Hoo Hollow.” This collection also contains the popular “House Guest” and the equally disturbing and thought-provoking “Weeping Mary,” a tale I’m not likely to forget.

One persistent thought that I come away is that the author, John Paul Allen, simply sets these concepts before the reader, and lets the reader discern what to make of each one. There’s no over-inflated attempt to convince, or convict, or sway the reader’s beliefs or attention. He simply says: “Look, this is how I found this situation. Now you, reader, decide for yourself.” I found myself pausing during and between each story, letting the prior story settle into my recollection, before moving on. Although I read this in one sitting, I would recommend not doing so: take your time, take it easy, read a story at a time. Then let that story grow on you-fill your thoughts and inspire your dreams.

The Stone Child by Dan Poblocki_Review

The Stone ChildThe Stone Child by Dan Poblocki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent! I really enjoyed this Supernatural-mythological-suspense novel, and its rendition of the millenial-ancient good vs. evil controversy. I definitely did not expect the turn that the story took as to the source of the evil and of the monsters (and I won't spoil it here for future readers). The main characters are three middle-graders, but believe me, this story is just as fascinating for adults. I loved it, and raced through it. The author really understands youngsters of this age, almost even better than the adult characters, with the exception of the legendary author Nathaniel Olmstead, whose books are the crux of the story line. (So the three youngsters-Eddie, Harris, Maggie , are the level and Nathaniel is the fulcrum. )

Author Poblocki knows how to deliver the scares: it's not only the youngsters who scream:)!

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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rook by J. C. Andrijeski_Review (Allie's War #1)

Rook (Allie's War, #1)Rook by J.C. Andrijeski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An action-packed, thrill-soaked beginning catapults readers into the story, and quickly we learn that the setting is very unusual indeed. Yes, characters act as we normally would expect of human behavior-but this is not the ordinary, routine, Earth in which most of us live. This reader would have liked to have a little more background in world-building of the society before jumping right in, but I cannot fault author Andrijeski’s fast-paced, suspense-building, and tossing her protagonist smack into the arena and into adventures of all sorts, including a bizarre and almost “unreal” (in the context of her culture) past history. Adventure abounds in this novel, as does action; I found it almost impossible to catch my breath, the story line moved that quickly!

“Rook” is the beginning of a quintology, and I expect it would work as a stand-alone novel; yet I for one am glad to know that it is the beginning of a series. The author has constructed such a complex society and world history here that only by composing several novels in the series could it be fully fleshed-out, developed, and explored. I look forward to the further volumes of “Allie’s War.”

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The BoogeyMann by Bennie Newsome_Review

The BoogeyMannThe BoogeyMann by Bennie Newsome

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The BoogeyMann” was a joy to read, fast-paced and exciting, with plenty of humour to leaven what in reality would be some very serious-even potentially dangerous-situations. I want to add that the protagonist is “one sick puppy” and has serious psychological issues-and a complete lack of empathy. However, he is still a comprehensible character, and his behaviours and beliefs are well-balanced by the remaining cast of characters, both primary and secondary.

Author Newsome has a winning grasp of the minds and personalities and emotional development of young people, both small children, middle-grade, and adolescent. I thought he excelled in drawing these characters, all of whom rung very true to life, and were fully developed individuals, each in their own right, easily inspiring our empathy (and sympathy). In addition, he calls the shots accurately in delineating both male and female characters (I am particularly in mind of a certain scene with Ms. Jones ). Events in this book are very realistic, and more importantly, plausible. I had no trouble believing in the story line.

I totally enjoyed this novel, which is not quite like anything else I’ve ever read, and highly recommend it.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Devil Tree by Steve Vernon_Review

Devil TreeDevil Tree by Steve Vernon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I totally enjoyed this novel. An interesting juxtaposition of rough-edged, alternative-history-frontier horror, Supernatural venues, three-dimensional characters (some of whom, like Duvall, were two dimensions of evil and one dimension of good), twisted plot convolutions, and absolutely wonderful descriptive imagery, “Devil Tree” inspired me to pause often and savor a lyricism, but also to race forward to “see what’s next!” There’s so many layers, so much concealment, rather like looking for worms under the pine needles covering the valley floor around the title Jackpine. The reader is never quite sure in which direction to turn.

There’s quite a cast of characters here that had to be properly juggled, given the group in the present, and all those in the past, and in interjections, but I found that well-accomplished. I particularly enjoyed-if that is the right word, perhaps “appreciated” would be more apropos-the author’s delicate interweaving of Tamsen’s past with her rather bizarre and homely present, as she attempts to recover the memories she’d apparently lost early in the book (I’ll say no more, as not to spoil the plotting). This was doubly intriguing to me because I looked at the setting in the way I would at Orson Scott Card’s alternative-frontier-history “Tales of Alvin Maker” series-as a divergent probability, perhaps, an existence near to but not identical to our own American history; and because I viewed the settings in this way, the interweaving of the truly historical-cultural-societal aspects of Tamsen’s past (and also of Lucas’ sailing days, which reference much of what I’ve read about the English Navy and maritime of the 17th-18th centuries) made “Devil Tree” so much more vivid, appealing, and realistic to me.

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Blind Veil by Michael Lorde_Review

Blind VeilBlind Veil by Michael Lorde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blind Veil

An incredibly intense reader’s hook rockets us into this novel, yanked by the throat, jaw-dropped, and that hook never lets go. It’s difficult to “race through the pages” when you’re reading an ebook, but I just about managed to because I simply couldn’t turn away. Author Michael Lorde demonstrates a sure eye for identifying social patterns and cultural milieus, and delivers those without judgment or faulting.

“Blind Veil” is a VERY complex novel, thankfully the first in a series. There are multiple layers, several different genres, solid protagonists and numerous deftly-designed secondary characters. I was riveted, and could not sleep until I had stayed up later than usual, simply because I was unwilling to set the novel aside to finish later! I marveled at the ways in which Author Lorde intertwined the diverse threads of past and present (and future) and was stunned by the impact of the conclusion. “Blind Veil” works fine as a stand-alone, but I for one am grateful to see it continuing into a series, because I definitely wish to learn more about Lamont Simms, about research scientists Byron Chelevski and Rae Sullivan, and especially about that incredibly dramatic conclusion, which I refuse to spoil for the reader. (Be good to yourself: read the book through-this is NOT a novel in which to read the end before the beginning, as some readers do. Please do NOT read the END first!)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Truce by E. Milan_Review

The TruceThe Truce by E. Milan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“The Truce” is as much a metaphysical pondering as it is a novel. Although it has two main characters, Aaron and Amber, and several intriguing and well-played secondary characters, the entire thrust of the book, in my opinion, is far more a treatise on the variations of the afterlife than it is a novel per se. Now this type of fiction was done frequently, and done well, in the Renaissance (and earlier, in the morality plays of the Middle Ages). But we live in a different age, in which a sort of collective attention-deficit consciousness rules society, and most readers are not willing to wade through pages of philosophical discourse without the accompanying action, dialogue, and adventurous plot. Granted, our protagonists do get active, but for this reviewer, I would prefer the action had begun much sooner: at the point of impact, which propels them into their new existences (I hesitate to say “new lives” ).

Amber and Aaron start off their mutual new adventure by dying-simultaneously-and from that point their existences are intertwined. They “awake” to find themselves in “Purgatory,” a level that seems to be inhabited by those who haven’t quite made it into Heaven, and who apparently were not deemed evil enough to be immediately cast into Hell. Now as a child I was taught that Purgatory was the usual level of existence while the soul was purified for Heaven; in this novel, Purgatory is divided from Heaven by Hell, of all things, although the Creator can in His Infinite Wisdom simply remove souls from Purgatory and transfer them to Heaven. However, not all go, and it seems few move on in a timely fashion; some stay on for centuries. Some, however, decide to “go it on their own,” and leave Purgatory via the forest-inhabited by souls who tried but couldn’t bring themselves to enter Hell-crossing over into Hell, figuring to survive it and pass on into Heaven. Such is the decision our protagonists make, and here their real adventures begin.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Broken (A Paranormal Romance) by David H. Burton_Review

Broken: A Paranormal RomanceBroken: A Paranormal Romance by David H. Burton

Whoa! Awesome reader’s hook! I knew from the blurb I was going to like this book, and the opening lines just cemented that intent. That reader’s hook is just the beginning, though, and very shortly the initial intrigue is followed by some even more intense shockers. Soon, the mysteries deepen and pile atop each other, and just as one clue is extended, more tentacles of concealment shift in the shadows. I liked the author’s approach in this, of entangling several different skeins of possibility and probability, both as reasons for Katherine’s background, and as issues with which she absolutely MUST deal for the future-if she is to have a future at all, that is!

Fast-paced and intriguing, intricately plotted, with good characterisations-and a subtle, delicate hand at interweaving the paranormal, supernatural, and just plain mystifying, “Broken” is a joy to read and most readers will probably want to race through it in one sitting-or if not, will spend the intervening time away pondering its intrigues!

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A Dish Best Served Cold by Cornelius Harker_Review

A Dish Best Served ColdA Dish Best Served Cold by Cornelius Harker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very convoluted story, this is at once a tale of the Supernatural, an onion-layered suspense, and a recollection of human greed, envy, and arrogance. I honestly did not expect any of the various twists and turns, except for one possibility; however, the author rendered my assumption of that wrong as well by providing a much more appalling and terrifying consequence. I read this story straight through in one sitting, caught up as I was in the plotting, setting, and characterization. The author superbly brings forth the aura of suspense, danger, fear, and terror, the otherworldly overtones-which come to rule a major part of the story-and elicits, if not quite empathy for the characters, at minimum comprehension, and the reader’s desire to learn what has happened, and what will occur to put this situation to its final conclusion.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Zombie Island (Shakespeare Undead #2) by Lori Handeland_Review

Zombie Island (Shakespeare Undead, #2)Zombie Island by Lori Handeland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful, subtly humourous, alternate historical, paranormal romance, “Zombie Island” is author Lori Handeland’s sequel to “Shakespeare Undead,” which introduced us to the concept of-William Shakespeare, English playwright and poet extraordinare, as a centuries-old zombie; and his “Dark Lady,” the true love of his vastly extended life, one Katherine Dymond, married lady and domestic abuse victim, Will’s mistress, newly “undead” or presumably so. That is to say, Will has arranged that “Katherine,” loving wife of a not-so-devoted husband, shall appear to die-in order for he to be able to “resurrect” her and install her as his true love, in London, under a different nomenclature. Will and Kate believe they have eradicated the zombie threat posed against London and Queen Elizabeth I, but to their surprise, that’s not quite accurate. Now the duo must do battle once again, while simultaneously keeping Kate’s true condition a secret from her spouse.

This is certainly not the Shakespeare we have been taught to expect, but it is an enjoyable and adventurous one. Ms. Handeland’s lovely prose entices and soothes the reader at the same time it escalates suspense and showers us with background details (such as Will’s pondering on creating a new tragic play based on his experiences, which of course we will know as “Romeo and Juliet.”)

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Her Dear and Loving Husband by Meredith Allard_Review

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud:

Her Dear and Loving Husband (Loving Husband, #1)Her Dear and Loving Husband by Meredith Allard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set against a backdrop of contemporary Salem, where all seems to be divided from the long-distant past by a mere thin veil, this novel unravels threads of history, legend, and the paranormal, of past lives and reincarnation and repressed memories stirred up in dreams. Despite, or perhaps due to, its tragic early history in the 17th century, the witch hysteria, witch hunts, and executions, Salem, Massachusetts is now a village thriving on its memory, a community catering to tourism via recalling, replaying, and capitalizing on that backstory. Sarah Alexander, growing up in Boston, had always wanted to visit, but could never persuade her mother. From a great-aunt, Sarah learned that there was supposedly an ancestress executed for witchcraft, but the name and other details were unknown.

After an unhappy and unfruitful decade of marriage in Los Angeles, newly-divorced Sarah decides to move to Salem, taking up employment as a librarian. As events unfold, and her nightmares and dreams intensify, Sarah must begin to ask herself if she moved here at random; to satisfy a childhood longing; or as the pawn of forces much more powerful than she can imagine-forces such as fate, destiny-and undying love?

Readers steeped in paranormal lore and in the history of witch hunts will find this novel particularly engrossing, with its otherworldy and historical flavours.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cold Turkey-A Sonja Blue Novella by Nancy A. Collins_Review

Cold Turkey-A Sonja Blue NovellaCold Turkey-A Sonja Blue Novella by Nancy A. Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe it's considered bad form to laugh during vampire novels, but I can't help it: Author Nancy A. Collins' sense of humour is tremendously gratifying. I had to keep tight hold on my laptop because I nearly dropped it more than once laughing uproariously. Each time I'd find myself pausing to reread the sentence because it was just so good. I'll give one example here that nearly put me on the floor amidst my chuckles:

"Dead boys of his wattage didn't come up with witty remarks spontaneously. When you have to spend a lot of conscious energy remembering to breathe and blink, there's no such thing as top-of-your-head snappy patter."

Right there in one sentence we've got illustrious humour, characterization, backstory, and clues to the upcoming plot. Not to mention Ms. Collins can WRITE.

Maybe experiencing empathy for the Undead isn't de rigeur, either; but I can't help myself, once again. I feel for Sonja Blue-sure she's a vampire, certainly she's a predator-but hey, it isn't like that was her dream career! It just happened! And now she takes out other predators, as easily as snapping a twig. Sonja still has emotions, too-and meeting an actual likable human is just too much to handle-tough maneuvering for a snappy undead dame like Sonja Blue...

I'm often a latecomer and this series was no exception. Despite the fact that Sonja has been toiling in the fields of the paranormal for quite some time-I just now caught up to her and got in on her act. Well, more the better for me-look at all the earlier adventures I now get to go read.

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Earthly Forces by Kevin Hopson_Review

Earthly ForcesEarthly Forces by Kevin Hopson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of Earthly Forces by Kevin Hopson

A Short Story

This story is a joy and a delight, very well written, especially knowing that author Hopson is relatively new to fiction. A superb reader’s hook, descriptive imagery, and intricately but subtly woven backstory keep readers turning pages in suspense and yes, in sheer delight. I’ve caught myself pausing, backing up, and saying, “whoa! Incredible!” more than once as I sped through this highly suspenseful story. Let me reiterate that “highly suspenseful” is exactly what I mean. Mr. Hopson has a very vivid and creative imagination-and he knows how to express his imagination for the reader to revel in too. I anticipate reading more by Kevin Hopson. Congratulations to Muse It Up Publishing for bringing us his work.

Earthly Forces

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Stage Whispers by Kealan Patrick Burke

Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud.

Stage Whispers: The Collected Timmy Quinn StoriesStage Whispers: The Collected Timmy Quinn Stories by Kealan Patrick Burke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

According to the author’s introduction, “Stage Whispers” contains the previously published Timmy Quinn material (“The Turtle Boy,” “The Hides,” “Vessels”) plus the new “Peregrine’s Tale.” This collection will be followed by the as-yet-incomplete “Nemesis,” which will finish Timmy’s saga. So this volume contains 4 of the ultimately 5 stories of Timmy Quinn, conveniently placed in one volume.

Amazingly lyrical, intensely suspenseful, poetic, descriptive in incredibly imagined ways: any story of any length by author Kealan Patrick Burke is equivalent to a mind-expanding and soul-inspiring walk through a literary Paradise-the man is just that excellent. I had never read “The Turtle Boy” (apparently my education in horror has been sadly neglected after all) so I was excited to find it as the frontispiece story of this collection-even more excited from the first few sentences. How do I describe it? Author Burke himself gives a nod to Lovecraftian traditions in his “expanded introduction.” “The Turtle Boy” has some of the flavor of Dan Simmons’ excellent “coming of age” horror “Summer of Night.” But anything to which Kealan Patrick Burke turns his pen is special-exceptional-awesome. If you’ve read any of the first three stories of Timmy Quinn, do buy this volume-it’s a keeper. If you’ve not encountered young Timmy, as had been the case for me, don’t hesitate-race to get it! If this is not a re-reader, multiple award winner, an utter joy and delight-then I don’t know my horror, and I believe I do. Do acquire “Stage Whispers” if you can acquire nothing else.

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Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke_Review

I reviewed "Kin" for Great Minds Think Aloud.

KinKin by Kealan Patrick Burke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not at all a novel for the squeamish (you’ll find that out on the very first page), this is nonetheless one of the most poetic yet most horrifying novels of horror I’ve yet to encounter. “Kin” is also the first writing I’ve read by Kealan Patrick Burke, of whom I’ve heard so much positive praise, and I’m a convert (despite the near constant twinges and trying to shut my eyes as I would have done if this were a movie, and stop my ears-but the novel just impelled me to continue).

This novel is so compelling that the reader simply cannot stop. Instead of being like an onion and peeling away the layers of clues to get to the denouement, reading this is more akin to burrowing into a hole in the earth and tunneling miles to discover an immense gem cave. Author Kealan Patrick Burke is like no other-he brings the writing principle of “show, don’t tell” to an entirely new and unexpected level. We learn about his characters, not just from their speech and actions, but more so from how other characters react to their words and respond to their actions. In addition, he explicated depths of character so smoothly that the reader doesn’t even realize what all has been revealed till she backs away from the story for a time and thinks it over.

All together, this is is an incredible, awesome, novel. I wish I could recommend it to all, but it is heavily on the graphic end of the continuum (shall we say, Mr. Burke could give “splatterpunk” some lessons?). Nevertheless, if you can, do not miss this one. Again, reading Mr. Burke could function as an entire writer’s course!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review of Nephilim: Genesis of Evil by Renee Pawlish

Nephilim Genesis of EvilNephilim Genesis of Evil by Renee Pawlish

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does Evil actually exist in our Universe? Rory Callahan believes it does, and he has both recent personal experience plus research to prove it. Struck by a New York City taxi just moments after seeing and hearing a sentient black fog hovering above traffic, the journalist researches other instances of a similar manifestation, and discovers a 19th bizarre event in a small Colorado mining town. Rory doesn’t know why he was targeted-but clearly, since the fog or mist entity addressed him, and then he was struck and injured-it does “know” him.

As he discovers in the history of little Taylor’s Crossing, Colorado, some hundred years ago a similar feature was spotted there-some townsfolk moved away, and survived; the rest of the townspeople completely disappeared. Now rebuilt as a tourist attraction venture, Rory takes up residence there hoping to discover the truth, whatever it may be!

This is a fascinating Supernatural novel, which will appeal to many types of readers with its magnetic plotting and easily empathetic characters. The settings are very well-described, and the suspense is taut, and escalated carefully to hook the reader and keep her attention riveted.

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Review of So Cold the River by Michael Koryta

So Cold the RiverSo Cold the River by Michael Koryta

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Super-fantastic, excellent! Did not want to sleep-must find all this author's other books. One reviewer compared it to King's "The Shining," but for me it has overtones of that and Robert Jackson Bennett's "Mr. Shivers" and much, much more! 50 stars would be nice!

This is the kind of incredible storytelling at which I marvelled with Stephen King's "Literary Three" (Bag of Bones; Lisey's Story; Duma Key) and with Bennett's "Mr. Shivers." I don't find it often, but a story this compelling, this memorable, cannot be forgotten.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review of The Dark Horde by Brewin

The Dark HordeThe Dark Horde by Brewin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another 12 Star of 5 Novel!

Well, I’ve seen “reader’s hooks,” that nebulous ability and task of an author to solidly grab readers and pull them into the tale, come and go-but seldom have I seen a reader’s hook as powerful as this one! I can’t imagine any reader “closing” the book after the first page and walking away-not even if the room was afire. This is not to mention the first chapter, which had my hair standing on edge and me jumping to tiptoe on the bed just in case the story was real-so the creature wouldn’t catch me too. Now THAT is one powerful mode of storytelling. I shall now be on the lookout for any fiction by “Brewin” and ready and eager to be devoured-hmm, I mean to devour the story.

What an eye and ear for setting and description! What a great use of characterization! But even more importantly, this author rocks with his approach to horror and suspense. I am totally thankful I read this one IN THE DAYTIME!

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Review of Asylum Lake by R. A. Evans

This is definitely a 12 star novel! Can't wait for the sequel on May 22!

Asylum LakeAsylum Lake by R.A. Evans

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Asylum Lake is one of the best books I've read, and lately there have been many in the "best books" category. Thankfully this is the first of at least a duology! There's so much more to understand and explore; it's not a case of loose ends left untied, because almost everything is sorted out by the thrilling end. Instead, it's like uncovering a family history, or a sordid episode in history that's gone untold: Layer upon layer is peeled away, revealing new secrets; and yet, there's always more to find out. I found this book exquisite, and unforgettable. I'm on edge waiting for the sequel. How often can a reader say that?

Asylum Lake combines mysteries, Supernatural, paranormal, thriller, and horror elements, in a novel in which the characterizations are subtly but cleverly tweaked; the plotting is unexpected, and the author manages well not to telegraph anything he doesn't wish to reveal yet. I definitely recommend it to any reader.

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Review of Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

Moa (Moa, #1)Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A smooth-reading novel packing a lot of YA wisdom, “Moa” is a good read, and a fast-paced one. In concise strokes, author Tricia Stewart Shiu paints her characters and arranges her settings and plots. Suspension of disbelief is easy and quick, and the reader settles into expecting, and then receiving, out-of-the-ordinary events and encounters. Is Hillary a witch, or isn’t she? Does her nemesis, the high school bully, level evil curses, or not? Can shirts animate? Do ancient native spirits exist? More importantly, can one young lady save all?

Read on and see, and you will find yourself reaching the end and wanting to start back at the beginning all over again. “Moa” is a recommended book for both YA and adult readers who enjoy good writing, plotting and characterization, a story that impels, and enough paranormal adventures and misadventures to keep the reader on the edge till it’s over.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Review of The Adventures of the Frog Prince by J. R. Barker

The Adventures of the Frog PrinceThe Adventures of the Frog Prince by J.R. Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An unexpectedly delightful story that begins in fairy-tale fashion, setting the stage for the Prince of the Kingdom’s long-awaited choice of a wife from among the various Princesses, but soon skewing into utter hilarity (the reader will be exclaiming, “no, not really?!) followed by true empathy for the protagonist. I laughed fairly uproariously all through this tale, simply because it is so delightful-and what an imagination has this author, to so well view events from within the perspective of a frog!

I truly enjoyed, and will reread this story, as well as share it with my grandchildren. Even though this is described as a children’s story, any adult (with any sense of humour or heart) will benefit from it too. I hope it finds a wide audience among all ages!

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Advance Review of Sword of Time by A.-M. Sawyer

First of all, let me specify that Fantasy is not my forte-neither for reading, nor for writing. I do occasionally read Fantasy, but given a choice of several genres, it’s not my top priority. That said: I LOVED THIS BOOK. A. M. Sawyer’s writing is MAGICAL (and I mean that in the most metaphorical sense, not just because Magic is one of his topics)-lyrical, literate, poetic, imaginative. The Prologue captured me; no need to wait till Chapter One to look for a reader’s hook. This author is very special and very much worth the reading. I only wish he could write and publish-just a “little bit” faster.

Now before I have you convinced that this novel is solely Fantasy genre, think again. This is down-home, present-day, real-time, contemporary life too! Science, research, oceanography, special operations, submerged mutations, underwater artifacts! What is NOT to love?! This author simply improves over time, but unlike aging a wine, his improvement is almost daily! This is a really special, absorbing, enrapturing, terrific novel. DO NOT MISS-and while you’re shopping, pick up all the other stories from exceptional author A. M. Sawyer.
PS: I am NOT giving away the plot to this novel; just trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you miss it!

Review of Siren by Joycelin Arnold

Siren (Book #1)Siren by Joycelin Arnold

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story of a very unpleasantly Dystopian society has all the prerequisites: detailed world-building, explanation of society, culture, military, government; xenophobia, in that the humans and the Sirens and Banshees are antithetical; decent writing; and the novel starts out with plenty of action and dialogue, just as is essential to hook a reader. The author definitely has a vivid imagination and has created a society-a future-where no one in their right mind would want to live, where the worst threats of totalitarian governments in our day have been exceeded by corporations; and where the military is a tool for not just government, but for those megalithic corporations. This is a life where death is preferable, because even in exile, one will be hunted down, tortured, murdered. Better to have never been born at all.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Review of The Lure of the Shapinsay by Krista Holle

The Lure of ShapinsayThe Lure of Shapinsay by Krista Holle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Clever writing and an intriguing historical backdrop, plus a feisty, strong-minded heroine, hook the reader into this story. Accurate dialogue set against a background of superstition (although who knows, maybe the magic is real ) and a rapid-pace plot line keep that attention, drawing the reader into the story and never letting her go. This is a very well-written novel, both in the sense of the author’s writing style, but also in terms of setting, plotting, dialogue, and background. I am simply marveling at Krista Holle’s ability to bring that “historical”/legendary background into realistic belief, to illustrate it, and to make us as readers believe in it. Wonderful! I highly recommend this one! YA-age readers will appreciate the heroine’s strength, ability to fend for herself after being orphaned at a young age, and her chameleon-like mutability as veneer over a very strong and independent core. Older readers will enjoy that as well, but will also glory in the subtle humour-wry and ironic-possessed by our protagonist. Trust me: you don’t have to like historical, mythical, or even Fae novels to enjoy this one! It’s just purely GOOD! This is one book I am very happy to have requested to review, and I am giving it a 12 star-of-5 recommendation!

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