I need to write a more complete review, but this was amazingly well-done. Calling it "awesome" wouldn't be out of line. Seriously, how many writers co...moreI need to write a more complete review, but this was amazingly well-done. Calling it "awesome" wouldn't be out of line. Seriously, how many writers could mix vampires into a Biblically-faithful account of the Passion of Christ, and pull the whole thing off? Even the parts where Jesus speaks to the other characters were done well, and fit my own thoughts about what He would have said.
The only "miss" I saw in here was the portrayal of Judas as a weepy wimp. The Iscarii were a sort of hyper-Zealot (and there were run of the mill Zealots in Jesus's entourage as well). But Judas has only a few paragraphs, and doesn't seriously detract from the rest of the story.
I wanted to mark several parts of this on my Kindle and share the quotes, but I wound up wanting to select multiple paragraphs.
If you're not sure about buying this, it has been offered free several times and probably will be again. But I think it would be worth buying. I'll be getting the sequel for sure.(less)
Icy Sedgwick is a #FridayFlash regular on Twitter, and Checkmate is a collection of 15 of her short pieces. It’s a good choice for a rainy weekend aft...moreIcy Sedgwick is a #FridayFlash regular on Twitter, and Checkmate is a collection of 15 of her short pieces. It’s a good choice for a rainy weekend afternoon or plane trip.
Price/Length: $0.99 / 15,000 words
Synopsis: A collection of Icy’s flash fiction, published between 2008 and mid-2010. The stories run the gamut of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, and are arranged in chronological order of publication.
Storytelling: ★★★★★ Icy has an amazing ability to write dark fiction with an oft-humorous twist. While all of them are well-written, six of the stories stand out as particularly memorable for me:
Midas Box — a young woman’s life takes a turn when she is given a very special box.
Checkmate — in which the fate of the world is decided over a coffee shop chessboard.
My Bleeding Heart — a macabre twist on an old pun.
Bleed Them Dry — a vampire has more than one way to draw blood.
The Mirror Phase — a creepy story of a little girl fascinated with a mirror.
The Dead Do Listen — sometimes, the dead want to set the record straight!
Writing: ★★★★★ Like most #FridayFlash participants, Icy is versatile and can write well in many genres. In fact, her Western novel, The Guns of Retribution, was recently released in paperback and eBook by Pulp Press.
Editing: ★★★★ Checkmate stands out in the self/indie-published arena as having very few typos or other editing issues. I ran across maybe one or two minor issues. All books — indie or otherwise — should have this much care put into them. The only real glitch I ran across was a formatting thing: using the Kindle’s “five-way” to move between stories put the original place of publication at the top of the page, and the title at the end of the previous page. This may have been something Smashwords did.
Summary: Brief as it is, this is a steal for 99¢. If you enjoy dark fiction, you’ll find big enjoyment in these short works. (less)
I suspect that with steampunk's popularity, classic SF novelists like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are getting a fresh look — if nothing else, to get in...moreI suspect that with steampunk's popularity, classic SF novelists like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are getting a fresh look — if nothing else, to get insights into the society of the time. Compared to others of Verne's works, this one is obscure but still worth reading. Mostly.
A comet grazes the earth and carries off a few dozen Europeans, along with the dirt and buildings surrounding them. The mechanism of how this is accomplished is glossed over, somewhat of a departure from Verne's other SF works (for example, From the Earth to the Moon, in which he provides meticulous calculations to show how it could actually be done).
What makes this book worth reading is also one of its major drawbacks. Interactions between the various characters are thick with the Euro-ethnocentrism so prevalent in Verne's time; much of it adds some levity to the story. However, there's a strong anti-Semitic streak in this story — Verne gives Isaac Hakkabut no redeeming qualities at all, even if his Jewish merchant doesn't really qualify as a villain.
The ending wrapped things up well, but again glossed over important details so prevalent in other Verne novels. If you can stomach the anti-Semitism, you might enjoy this work.(less)
This is the first in the “Seasons of the Moon” YA series by S.M. (Sara) Reine. A promising, even exciting, start.
Price/Length: $2.99 / 50,000 words
Synopsis: Rylie’s having the worst summer ever: her parents are divorcing, and they’ve sent her to summer camp to get her out of the crossfire. She’s a city girl in the woods, and the other girls at camp have made her their personal chew toy. Even worse, she got lost in the woods and was bitten by something, and now… she’s changing. Her vegetarian ways are giving way to a craving for raw meat, and twice a month — at the new moon and full moon — things get seriously weird. The one high point of the whole experience, the cute boy from across the lake who keeps coming to see her, only makes things more complicated.
Storytelling: ★★★★★ This is a great take on the traditional werewolf story; it stays true to the legends while introducing new wrinkles (like the new moon changes). So much of horror these days is zombies and vampires (sparkly and otherwise), and it’s almost refreshing to see a reminder that there’s more to life and unlife. As a YA novel, it walks the tightrope with aplomb — plenty of boy/girl, but avoids sex scenes. I wouldn’t have a problem giving the book to a 12-year old, or even a bright 10-year old.
Writing: ★★★★★ Sara creates characters you care about and characters you love to hate. The Mean Girls got me hoping that Rylie would chew them up and spit them out, at the same time hoping she somehow kept her humanity. Her parents made me want to rattle their cages until they get their acts together. I cringed at Rylie’s mistakes and cheered her triumphs.
Editing: ★★★★ Very good, near professional-quality editing. A few typos, nothing cringe-worthy. If I get my book out at this level, I’ll be satisfied.
Summary: I’m looking forward to reading All Hallows Moon, the next book in the series. ’Nuff said!(less)
**spoiler alert** This was one of my biggest reading disappointments, which made me very happy that I checked it out from a library rather than buying...more**spoiler alert** This was one of my biggest reading disappointments, which made me very happy that I checked it out from a library rather than buying it.
In The Road, a man and a boy wander aimlessly through a post-nuclear holocaust landscape. Their destination is "the ocean," although the characters would likely agree that one place is as good as another in this world. The story itself is about as pointless as the journey, unburdened by matters such as plot or character development.
Editing for consistency was nearly as bad — the writing style changed abruptly toward the beginning of the story, for example — but the copyediting was done well enough (maybe one or two typos). I kept reading, thinking sooner or later there would have to be some revelation or twist that gave purpose to the journey or even the story, but no. The man died soon after they reached their nowhere destination, and the boy was taken in by another group that happened to come along. The End.
The scene descriptions were masterful — the nuclear-winter backdrop was very believable — but it's too bad the action in front of those backdrops was so uninspiring or wrong enough to jar me out of my suspension of disbelief. For example, the man finds a basement full of human "cattle" being eaten piecemeal by their captors. Sure, cannibalism is a hallmark of post-apocalyptic stories, but hunting or trapping victims one or two at a time and eating them all at once is far more believable. Otherwise, you end up feeding them more calories than you get from the meat, and the whole point of cannibalism is that other food is in very short supply. That the man left them behind did nothing to help me identify with him, either.
To sum this up, I'd put odds on this novel being published on the strength of two words: "Cormac" and "McCarthy." Stephen King might joke about getting his grocery list published, but when you pick up a Stephen King book you know you'll get at least a thin plot and point to the story.(less)
It would be really easy to dismiss All Hallows Moon, and its companion books, as yet another "reluctant teen monster" story. While that's the centerpi...moreIt would be really easy to dismiss All Hallows Moon, and its companion books, as yet another "reluctant teen monster" story. While that's the centerpiece, it doesn't overwhelm the other threads.
Rylie is a city girl, except that she's also a werewolf, and becomes a monster once a month. (The author manages to avoid the obvious joke.) To avoid killing someone, she leaves the city for her aunt's ranch where she can let the wolf run free on adjacent federal lands. Of course, there are complications: she still has to attend school, and her inner wolf has a temper. And eventually, her activities attract the werewolf hunters -- one of which is her boyfriend Seth from summer camp.
Given the subject matter, there are several bloody and brutal scenes in this book that made me shudder. Younger or highly sensitive readers might want to give this one a miss.
As with the first book in the series, the polish is right up there with trad-pub books. If you've been avoiding this series because of the "indie" stigma, you're missing out. The next book in the series, Long Night Moon, is already queued up in my Kindle.(less)
I can't say there was a single clunker in this entire anthology. The three that really stood out for me were "The Fortune Teller's Lament" by JL Bryan...moreI can't say there was a single clunker in this entire anthology. The three that really stood out for me were "The Fortune Teller's Lament" by JL Bryan, "Day of Sacrifice" by SW Benefiel, and "Bad Code" again by JL Bryan. I think I'll remember the first two for decades to come, the same way I still remember Ray Bradbury's "The City."
The anthology is grouped into two collections, "The Present" (contemporary settings) and "The Future" (sci-fi or at least futuristic settings).
The only story that didn't really fit was "The Second Coming of Pippykins" by Amanda Hocking. I don't have anything against the story itself, it's just that it didn't seem dark at all to me. Her other contribution, "Of Shoes and Doom," was funny even with a dark ending.
Formatting and editing were good, nothing to complain about.
I'd have paid for this if it wasn't free. I'm not sure why other reviewers on Amazon are dinging it so hard.(less)
Picked it up off the swap shelves at the resort. I'm soooo easily distracted. :-P
Continuing the Four After Midnight formula, this is a four-novella an...morePicked it up off the swap shelves at the resort. I'm soooo easily distracted. :-P
Continuing the Four After Midnight formula, this is a four-novella anthology with an afterward. The book I picked up was a hardback with the cover art/jacket missing, so I went in blind so to speak. I assumed it was a novel with stories that tied together. They did have something in common, but I'll get to that. Like most of King's work, it was a quick and easy read; I started last night and finished this afternoon. King himself says in the afterward that he's more interested in making people feel than think, but I've often found things to think about in his work and this one is no different.
In 1922, a Nebraska farmer deals with remorse and the ensuing fallout when he murders his wife. The ending leaves you wondering: did he suffer vengeance from beyond the grave or from his own madness? Big Driver takes us into the injured mind of a writer, suffering the shame of being raped and a thirst for revenge. Then Fair Extension gives a terminal cancer patient a new lease on life… at the expense of his best friend. FInally, A Good Marriage uncovers a dark secret and the anguish a wife suffers for finding it.
Those of you who skip afterwards or other authors' notes are missing something. I bought On Writing because I've so enjoyed King's expositions in his other books. You wouldn't get any better information about writing in a meet-and-greet than you will from just reading these notes.
Of the Stephen King anthologies I've read, Full Dark, No Stars is the only one that has a theme: each of the stories explore a different facet of vengeance, both righteous and twisted. Definitely worth the read.(less)
I'd give this 3.5 stars if possible. It was a fun read, marred only by its dated prose and attitudes.
I seem to remember starting an E.E. Smith title i...moreI'd give this 3.5 stars if possible. It was a fun read, marred only by its dated prose and attitudes.
I seem to remember starting an E.E. Smith title in my college days, on a helicopter (long story), but I managed to leave the book on board. I was pleased to find that many of his books are now available on Gutenberg, and downloaded a MOBI there. The Gutenberg version is the serialization from Amazing Stories, and includes several illustrations. In two or three places, editorial commentary from the magazine seems to be included as well.
Synopsis: a lab accident leads to the discovery of a new energy source, one that can propel objects into space. An evil genius ("Blackie" DuQuesne) enlists the help of a shady corporation, World Steel, to steal and monopolize the technology by whatever means necessary. The good guys, Richard Seaton and his own magnate partner Martin Crane, partially fend off attempts at industrial espionage and sabotage — the bad guys manage to copy but not outright steal the technology — and the space race is on. When DuQuesne kidnaps Seaton's fiancee, Dorothy Vaneman, the interstellar chase is on.
You have to remember, this story came out in 1928, making it what I call "roots" SF, with all the flaws of the genre at the time. Much of the "science" centers around a mysterious compound known only as "X" (with the quotes) although the problems of G-forces and the like are done well. There's a lot of the white male superiority thing going on in this story (as Isaac Asimov once put it, "the darker the skin the more villainous the character"). What was perfectly normal in 1928 is considered racist these days — DuQuesne's race is hinted at several times, but perhaps not explicit as contemporary readers may have balked at the idea of a black genius. The lurid prose, standard fare for SF of the time, is almost laughable today. Sexism is prevalent as well, but Dorothy Vaneman is a very strong female character for pre-1970 SF; she's quick-witted and even gives DuQuesne what-for at one point.
Some of the other good things about it: there are no sex scenes or vulgar language to worry about, so there's few worries about the kids sneaking a read. The ending third, where the heroes intervene in an alien conflict, had me glued to my Kindle. (Good pulp fiction will do that, no matter the genre.) And overall, it's a fun read.(less)
In some ways, Duma Key uses the same hook as King's earlier work The Dead Zone: after a guy sustains then recovers from a life-threatening injury, Wei...moreIn some ways, Duma Key uses the same hook as King's earlier work The Dead Zone: after a guy sustains then recovers from a life-threatening injury, Weird Things begin to happen (along with occasional memory lapses). In Dead Zone, John Smith could touch people and see things about them, both present and future, and thwarts the ambitions of a psychopathic politician. In Duma Key, Edgar Freemantle discovers a psychic power and a latent talent for visual art, but his sketches and paintings open a door for something evil to come through.
But in another way, Duma Key is a far different story. In some ways, it's a right-brain fiction version of King's left-brain On Writing, exploring the nature of creativity rather than describing the mechanics. Even without some evil spirit cracking the whip, those of us with a creative bent find ourselves driven to create. We let things drop because the problems of family, life, and obligation have to wait when an idea bounces around inside our heads, looking for a way out. (And sometimes, we wonder whether our Muses are evil, or just sadistic.)
I think people with creative outlets, whether they be art, music, or writing, will see some of themselves in this book. Others can simply enjoy it as another spooky King tale, maybe a little deeper than his usual work.(less)
While you could find most of the material in this book on Maria's blog or others, it's well worth the 99¢ to have it collected for offline reading.
You...moreWhile you could find most of the material in this book on Maria's blog or others, it's well worth the 99¢ to have it collected for offline reading.
You could look at this collection as a book on writing craft, at least as it applies to one particular mid-list urban fantasy author. There's precious little info about the mechanics of writing, which is fine because there's an overwhelming amount of that out there. What sets this apart, in a good way, is that it covers the process of how Maria turns an idea into a story. Her examples of "personal canon" are easily worth 50 pages of dry discussion from some craft book.
Overall, I was pleased with Maria's first toe-dipping into the indie water.(less)
While Zoolin Vale is a sequel to The Red Stone, Craig does a great job of including enough backstory so you're not completely at sea if you pick up th...moreWhile Zoolin Vale is a sequel to The Red Stone, Craig does a great job of including enough backstory so you're not completely at sea if you pick up this one first. If it had been published when I was in college, we would have passed this book around and around. It's an epic fantasy that doesn't pretend to be anything but, and that — as I rediscovered — is a good thing.
As a reviewer above pointed out, this is really two stories in one. In one story line, the newly-appointed Lord Protector Tennen leads a squadron of soldiers (plus a wizard and a friar) to recover the Chalice of Ringtar, stolen from a church in Melin (by a one-legged thief, no less). Meanwhile, Tennen's friend Devlin sets off with his friends Myke and Tyvn to find Devlin's imprisoned parents, somewhere in the neighboring realm of Welkland. Things rapidly get complicated for both parties -- the search for the Chalice leads to a mysterious island, while Devlin and his friends find themselves forced into a competition to become the new ruler of Welkland! Then, once the Lord Protector returns home, there are still some surprises waiting for him…
All in all, this was a really fun read. There are a few "modernist" phrases, but they mostly appear in humorous passages and actually enhanced the humor for me instead of throwing me out of the story. The only caution I'd give is that the Kindle edition has quite a few typos. That's the hazard of working with a small publisher, I suppose — they can get overwhelmed and things like that happen. I'd hate to ding Craig for something out of his control, but at the same time I have to note the very real problems I found. Fortunately, an updated version is on the way.
With that caveat, I'd recommend this book for all ages. (less)
To rejoin her murdered twin sister, Keely commits suicide... and finds the afterlife a hazardous place to be. There are angry spirits who don't want t...moreTo rejoin her murdered twin sister, Keely commits suicide... and finds the afterlife a hazardous place to be. There are angry spirits who don't want to cross over, and demons, and reapers. But Keely's sister is not waiting for her. The reaper that comes for Keely agrees to help her, but a snarky demon is along for the ride. And he offers Keely the greatest temptation of all: a chance for vengeance on her sister's killer.
This is an engaging story that covers a wide span of topics, both serious and not so serious. From suicide to the morality of vengeance, from the nature of the afterlife to the ever-shifting roles of the denizens therein. The themes might be too much for younger readers, so I'd recommend this one for ages 16 and up.(less)