I first heard of Eric Czuleger on the Pseudopod horror short story podcast. His story "Immortal LA" was written specifically for that podcast, and was...moreI first heard of Eric Czuleger on the Pseudopod horror short story podcast. His story "Immortal LA" was written specifically for that podcast, and was released around July 5 of 2013. I so enjoyed the story that I purchased the book containing the story.
Then I promptly forgot about it for months. I'd see it on my Kindle and wonder what it was and why I had it. Finally, given its relatively short length, I decided to 'get it out of the way' quickly.
When I read it, I remembered the story on the podcast, and how much I enjoyed it. In this book, that story is called "The Vampire Andy." The stories are all gritty and raw and not at all "pretty." The vampires aren't sexy and smooth. The angels aren't perfect beings of light. The werewolves (if that is indeed what those were) aren't trying to seduce sex out of pretty people. Satan is actually a pretty polite guy.
These are not light fare. These are serious stories soaked in blood, sweat, and tears. They are the stories of deeply troubled and flawed (and, at times, brave) men and women. And each of the stories is good in its own right.
The only things that detracted from my enjoyment were the frequent grammar errors, homophone confusion, and punctuation misuse that peppered not only the stories, but the interludes between wherein the millennia-long history of Los Angeles is given. Some of it I can write off to formatting errors in the creation of the Kindle version of the book. Others could easily be fixed by professional editing. Some of them were negligible; some caused me to have to reread the same sentence several times to understand what was probably meant.
The interludes weren't as interesting to me as the stories, themselves. They could have been, but they felt hurried. Tacked on. You could enjoy the book without reading them at all -- just read the stories themselves, and you don't have to know all the background if you don't want to.
That I'm giving the book four stars in spite of the detractions should tell you how much I enjoyed the stories. I think Mr. Czuleger definitely has talent, and I'll be looking for his name in the future.(less)
The premise: We have a serial killer who kidnaps his victims and then sends out an email spam exhorting people to email it to ten friends, and they mail it out, and they mail it out . . . and if one of those friends of friends of friends happens to be one of his friends, he won't kill the victim. If he doesn't get the spam back, the local police receive a package: the victim's lower jawbone, boiled and polished.
Now, on top of this, throw in a main character whose wife is taken by this killer, but the police never receive a jawbone. Neither, however, is she released, so of course, they police suspect him. And throw in a man who confessed to the murders, but who can't be the killer, because he's never left his hometown. And throw in another man who confesses, and ends up serving time for the crimes. And two seemingly unrelated murders. And family secrets. And betrayals. And a twisted cast of characters, any or all of whom are probably capable of being this Vacation Killer.
The pace is good, the characters are believable, and the situations are believable.
I can't say too much else without massive spoilers, and I don't want to do that because I enjoyed each new revelation too much to deprive others of that same sense of discovery. :)
I will say, however, that I did not figure out who the killer was until it was revealed in the text. But I wasn't at all surprised.(less)
Are you tired of sexy, hot vampires who gaze at women for, like, a milisecond before said women rip their clothes off to throw themselves at him? Are...moreAre you tired of sexy, hot vampires who gaze at women for, like, a milisecond before said women rip their clothes off to throw themselves at him? Are you tired of werewolves who basically do the same thing, only hairier and more bestially?
Then this book is for you. Meet Earl the vampire and Duke the werewolf. Earl and Duke are basically good-ol' boys who, through bad luck, became undead. They're aren't hot. They aren't sexy. They aren't even particularly nice or smart. But they have a knack for solving people's supernatural problems, and that's what gets them into trouble when they pull into Gil's All Night Diner for a bite to eat (for Duke).
This was a fun read. There were a few things that annoyed me about it at first, such as the main characters' propensity for using one another's names more often than people in real life do. Luckily, that didn't last long.
The pace is good, with a few curve balls thrown in. Both the vampire and the werewolf lore in this book is not what you'd expect if you're into the more traditional mythology, but it's consistent and explained well, and makes this Martinez' own mythos.
It was a satisfying, fun, quick read, and I look forward to reading more by Martinez.(less)
Note: The summary below is for less than the first hundred pages of a 300-page book. I don't consider them spoilers, but if you're a stickler, don't r...moreNote: The summary below is for less than the first hundred pages of a 300-page book. I don't consider them spoilers, but if you're a stickler, don't read beyond this.
There's quite a lot to like about this book. The author, Stuart Jaffe, was unknown to me before I attended a small science fiction/fantasy con in Chattanooga, TN, in June of 2013. My friends and I met the author, spent some time with him, liked him, and I ended up buying two of his books because they sounded interesting. This is the first I have read. Note: The other author, Cameron Francis, is a magician, and all of the card "tricks" in the book are his. Jaffe and Cameron do a good job of showing card tricks without the use of cards. :)
The main character, Duncan Rose, starts out not very likable. He learned all about magic — especially card-handling techniques — from his great-grandfather, Pappy. But instead of using his skills to make an honest living as a stage magician, he cheats at cards. This backfires on him one night, and his partner in crime, Pancake, who also knows a little about cheating at cards, cheats the wrong people and nothing Duncan does to try to defuse the situation helps. Minor spoiler: (view spoiler)[Pancake ends up losing his hand to the Russian mob, and the men are told they have to come up with $20,000 before morning or worse things are going to befall them. (hide spoiler)]
Desperate, Duncan turns to his estranged family and gets no help. They're all tired of his dishonest lifestyle. As a last-ditch effort, he goes to the one person he can trust: Pappy.
Who turns him down.
In despair, Duncan decides that he is going to have to do the unthinkable: steal from Pappy. Pappy has kept a mysterious, elaborately decorated door closed in his apartment for years, warning Duncan again and again never to open it. But suddenly, whatever might be behind that door sounds like the solution to Duncan's problems. He opens the door and steps through.
And winds up outside a house in a small city in Pennsylvania. In 1934. He's wearing different clothes and finds less than five dollars in his pockets. He tries to convince himself it's all an elaborate illusion set up by Pappy, but quickly realizes that it's real. For whatever reason, the door is magic — the real thing — and he really is in 1934. His goal: to get back to 2013 and fix things.
He immediately falls back on his one real skill and finds a card game he can cheat at. He discovers he's not the only one pulling the same scam. He and the other magician, Vincent, team up and cheat some mobsters out of $100, which is a large sum of money in 1934.
Unfortunately, their boss figures it out and comes for Duncan. And makes him a deal: Duncan is to get himself into the local magic club (of which Vincent is the head honcho) and find out their secrets and relay everything he discovers to the mob boss "or else."
He soon discovers that everyone is after the same thing: a mysterious Vanishing Door act performed by a magician near the turn of the century. An act during which several people actually disappeared. Lucy has drawn a picture of the door, and it looks strangely familiar: a lot like the door in Pappy's apartment.
Vincent wants the door because he wants the secret of the trick. Duncan wants it because he believes it to be his ticket home to 2013. The mob boss wants it for the power he believes it will give him.
To complicate things, Duncan finds himself head over heels in love with Vincent's sister, Lucy, and is torn between leaving her in 1934 or bringing her with him back to 2013.
I won't give away the ending. Suffice it to say that the resolution was refreshing to me. Time travel stories generally have a number of problems, but Jaffe manages to thread that particular needle nicely, and finds a solution that didn't make me groan and roll my eyes.
The tension is kept high as Duncan must satisfy the mob boss while simultaneously gain the trust of Vincent and the other magicians in the magic club and not betray his growing love for Lucy, and hers for him. The pacing is fast, and you will be kept turning the pages not only to find out how — or whether — Duncan manages to find a solution to all of his problems, but how the love story between Lucy and Duncan turns out.
I enjoyed watching Duncan grow from a not-very-likable character to one that finds true love and tries to do the right thing.
The characters are believable, the time travel is nicely handled (although never explained, which I'm fine with), and the resolution is satisfying. Although I did (eventually) see the end coming, it has a certain elegance that I wasn't expecting from the trope used. (Is that mysterious enough?)
I would recommend the book to those who enjoy magic, time travel, "period pieces," mysteries, and love stories. It has aspects of all of them, and yet isn't purely any of them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** I'm not one to expound too much on low ratings, but I feel compelled to do so, here, given the high praise heaped on this book by ot...more**spoiler alert** I'm not one to expound too much on low ratings, but I feel compelled to do so, here, given the high praise heaped on this book by other reviewers.
That said, this will be spoilerific, so if you want out, now would be the time to bail. Seriously. I'm going to spoil the hell out of this.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely nothing against indie publishers (authors who choose to self-publish). This review has nothing to do with that.
First, the things I liked about the book.
The author is actually very good at pacing. The book reads easily -- one might almost say 'effortlessly' -- and you keep turning page after page to see how things come out.
I think that, from a technical viewpoint, the author is not bad. Nothing leaped out at me, as sometimes happens, to kick me out of the story because of some technicality of writing or style that reminded me, "Hey, you're reading a book." Some beautiful little turn of phrase or clever dialogue that made me focus on the words and not the story.
I thought the main characters were likable, and I found myself caring what happened to them at every point. This was, for me, the saving grace of the book.
Now, if that were all I judged the books on, I would easily have given this 4 stars and moved on. I was entertained. But a couple of things just have to be said.
First of all, I'm not a psychologist, nor do I have any clinical understanding of the field. But I couldn't help but notice that the people in this world don't behave like real people living in a real world. We are told early on that none of the people banished to clean the lenses has ever -- EVER, in hundreds of years -- failed to do his or her duty before dying.
Unless we're being lied to -- and that is a possibility, but if that's the case, then it was far too subtle for me to pick up on -- I find it highly improbable that not a single person would have failed to clean the lenses in hundreds of years. I would not have cleaned them, and I don't think I'm SO different from other people. I would have thought, "So long, suckers, I'm going to head over toward that miraculous city over there." Probably tinged with a little, "You jerks kicked me out. Why should I do you any favors?" Or maybe I would have frantically jumped up and down gesticulating wildly at the onlookers, trying to make them understand that they were being lied to.
I had a real problem getting past that. It seemed plausible right up to the point where you kind of started to figure out what was going on, and then with the least bit of thought about it, the premise just collapses.
I read this on my Kindle (so no skipping ahead). After the main character of the first section dies, I thought, "Oh, so that was kind of a prologue. No problem." Then I read the second part, where the mayor was the main character . . . and then SHE dies. "O . . . K," I thought, angry, but willing to move on. Then the third section opens with Juliette about to be sent out for cleaning, and we quickly find out that the deputy committed suicide, and I stopped reading for over a week, absolutely disgusted with the book. This was at 23% in the Kindle.
I mentioned as much to a friend who had read the whole thing, and she told me that Juliette remained the main character for the remainder of the book.
Had I not known this, I would have honestly stopped reading it right there. It's too much. Give me a character to hang onto from the beginning. Don't yank the rug out from under me like that not once, not twice, but THREE times, and expect me to continue reading.
The next time I almost stopped reading was when Bernard explained to Lukas how all the silos came to be. It was . . . just so contrived. I mean, straight out of insane conspiracy theories about the New World Order. In short, the US saw that it was in decline, and rather than just deal with that, the Ebil Gubmint decided that if they couldn't be in charge, no one ELSE could, either, so they literally made the surface of the entire planet uninhabitable and established the silos as a kind of Ark to preserve the species and their ideological way of life. Why? Because they're EBIL. And they're the GUBMINT.
Had this come earlier in the book . . . I would have stopped reading it and moved on to something else. As it was, this came after I was invested in the characters of Juliette, Solo, Walker, Shirly, and Lukas. So I kept reading to find out how it ended. That, incidentally, is why I didn't give it 1 star. I did get invested in the characters, and I did want to know what happened. And, as I said, the pacing was marvelous.
Speaking of getting invested . . . Juliette risks her life to leave silo 17 and return to silo 18. I fully expected Lukas to die, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be Bernard. But in spite of her promise to the inhabitants of silo 17, we are not shown that she mentions them AT ALL after her return to silo 18. At the end, in an epilogue, we are given a glimpse into what's going on in silo 17 as Solo is about to call Juliette . . . but we don't know if anyone in silo 18 was primed to receive the call. For all the 17ians knew, Juliette died in the Outside. She was, after all, out of commission for weeks while she healed from her burns.
I was expecting Juliette's acceptance of the Mayorship to hinge on connecting 17 and 18 in the Down Deep and get some engineers over there to get 17 running again. But . . . no.
To be fair, perhaps this is the story for the sequel series, but it would have been nice for him to have at least followed up on this.
One last thing that just bothered the crap out of me is resources. It was stated that the silo complex was located near Atlanta, Ga. There were mines and oil wells under the silo. But I find it very difficult to believe that there is enough ore and oil in Georgia to sustain 50 silos for hundreds upon hundreds of years of constant mining and pumping. I also found it very difficult to believe that in all that time, not even once did a wall collapse between the mines of adjacent silos.
Anyway, that's enough. My two stars are because I just can't accept the psychology, world building, physics, and math of the world I'm being asked to accept. And basing the entire premise on a loony conspiracy theory didn't help.
I wanted to like this book more. I'm not sorry I finished reading it, but if someone had told me from the beginning that it was based in New World Order conspiracy theories, I would have passed.(less)
I find this kind of thing absolutely fascinating, and this book was no exception. It is a history of the English alphabet from its earliest versions,...moreI find this kind of thing absolutely fascinating, and this book was no exception. It is a history of the English alphabet from its earliest versions, back when it was probably developed in its earliest form by the Egyptians, then took on a form you can start to recognize when the Phoenicians made it their own. Then by way of the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Romans, and finally the French and Anglo-Saxons, we get our familiar 26-letter alphabet. Some of the letters are 3000 years old; some are less than 200 years old.
Stroud covers the histories of the letters in groups, discussing how, for instance, I, J, and Y are intimately related, as are F, U, V, and W.
Fascinating stuff, especially if you're a word-nerd or are simply interested in the history of our language. This is a book I will definitely come back to multiple times.
Stroud's podcast, The History of English, is the inspiration for this audiobook, and if you like this book, you should really check it out.(less)
The Deacon Chalk series started out good and has remained so. In this second book, Chalk and his companion come across a bunch of guys brutally beatin...moreThe Deacon Chalk series started out good and has remained so. In this second book, Chalk and his companion come across a bunch of guys brutally beating a dog in a parking lot. Now, you know Chalk ain't gonna let something like that happen. Not in his city.
Only, he very nearly gets his ass handed to him. The people beating the dog to death? Lycanthropes. All predators. All big, all nasty, and all too happy to go up against Chalk in a battle for the hapless dog.
Who, of course, turns out to be a were-dog.
We have in this book an all-out battle for who gets to be the biggest, baddest were in Atlanta. And the stakes? The lives of pretty much everyone Chalk knows.
You can probably see where it's headed, of course. Once Chalk takes someone under his wing and promises to protect them, pretty much no known force can stop him.
Oh, they can try. But pain usually is the end result. Chalk's, his friends', large swaths of Atlanta's, the bad guys' . . .
I can't even tell you about the battle at the Warren because then I'd have to mention the were-t -- nope. Not gonna spoil it.(less)