I come to this book already a fan, having read and enjoyed Blue Spirit and Reality Check. So I was anxious to read FOUR 'TIL LATE, his latest, or perh...moreI come to this book already a fan, having read and enjoyed Blue Spirit and Reality Check. So I was anxious to read FOUR 'TIL LATE, his latest, or perhaps equally appropriate, his earliest, release. FOUR 'TIL LATE is a re-release of his first novel, part one of a trilogy, and as I understand it, with a bit of editing and rewriting. So I chose to wait for the "new authorized edition."
Rewrite or not, the story still permeates with "essence of new author" excitement, with a strong sense of a new voice coming into its own, of a writer anxious to introduce his vision to the world. Personally I'm glad the rewrite has not polished away that essence. Approaching the tale now after having read tales of the more mature, more disciplined, author, was a treat for this reader.
The job of a speculative fiction author is to take the reader on a journey into the strange and unusual, to go someplace magical and thrilling and maybe a bit dangerous, where anything can happen. What better way to present that idea than to tell the tale of a literal journey--a group of four friends who hop into a van and go on a road trip.
Protagonist Brett and his friend Jimbo join their older "Uncle Gonzo" on a road trip from Indianapolis to New Orleans. En route they'll pick up Brett's ex-girlfriend, Liz. Some are running away from their past, others are trying to move forward, though some barely know to what, or why. The story weaves between the road-trip present and drifts into the characters' past, bringing out in bits the secrets and traumas that may hold the answer to why a strange ghostly specter has suddenly given chase to the traveling minivan. What is the strange manifestation, and why is it chasing them? It may be Jimbo's batty girlfriend Fran, who won't stop calling his cell phone since being shut out of the group's travel plans, or it might be a darker, more sinister, threat.
Garrison has a knack for creating fun, interesting women characters, and this book is no exception, as quirky Liz consistently steals almost every scene she's in. I'm looking forward to logging more miles with the next volumes of this series. Bottom line--a great start to a fun and intense paranormal thriller trilogy. (less)
Art gallery owner Ivory Blaque is a former art thief turned mercenary recovering stolen art It's her way of making up for her past. She's smart, highl...moreArt gallery owner Ivory Blaque is a former art thief turned mercenary recovering stolen art It's her way of making up for her past. She's smart, highly skilled, and equipped for trouble. Then she takes a job with a mysterious client to retrieve a pair of antique Colt 45s, and as soon as she puts her hands on them, she knows she's connected to the pistols, and there's no way she's giving them up.
Suddenly, she's fending off angry vampires, werewolves, and other super-powered beings who either want the pistols, want her allegiance, or both.As if this weren't bad enough, her former partner in crime is released from jail, and he's out to ruin her professional reputation as a prelude to extracting revenge.
As a read, The God Killers has a lot of moving parts. It's never boring, constantly shifting. The protagonist is confident, strong, and smart, though often too stubborn to know when she's in over her head. I was rooting for her the whole way, cringing when she took her lumps, cheering during her victories. The plot is complicated, but it's applied in layers and the author never tackles too much in one chunk. The most surprising thing when I finished is to look back and realize how much Allen covered in one volume, with more to come, Check this one out. You won't be disappointed. (less)
The title promises trolls and roller derby, and you will find much of both in this whimsical novel by Red Tas...moreOr may I suggest Rock and Troll All Night
The title promises trolls and roller derby, and you will find much of both in this whimsical novel by Red Tash. You will also find many references to classic rock and roll, from the chapter titles to various asides by the characters--perhaps even moreso than roller derby, Strictly as an aside, while reading, I wondered if "Rock and Troll All Night" might have been an alternate title, or perhaps future entry to this series. Being a rocker person more than a roller derby person, I appreciated the classic rock. Your mileage may vary.
So aside from a single Christmas short story set in the same universe, this was my first reading of Red Tash. I have met Tash at author events and she comes highly recommended by an author I respect, so I was game, and I was entertained in all the ways she intended. While the story has its dark moments, it never takes itself entirely seriously, which is probably a good approach. When you're dealing with trolls and fairies and goblins in an urban fantasy where characters weave between the real world and the "hidden world" of the magical, a certain levity is needed.
The story is straightforward, as is its telling (more on that below). Our protagonist is Deb, a high school student and roller derby enthusiast. Comparisons to Harry Potter are obvious, in that she is a magical being raised by a cranky human and is kept ignorant of her special ability or of her place in this other world. Following a nasty trailer park fire, her sister is kidnapped, and so Deb is off to rescue her sister. Meanwhile, Harlow, a good-natured troll who lives under the.... uh.... dump.... is trying to help Deb help her sister. They are both compelled by magical forces neither of them understand.
The storytelling is also straightforward, and I say this to take issue with some of the reviewers who have given this book unnecessary grief for supposedly being "hard to follow." The story is told in first person, rotating the POV between a set of characters. This requires a bit of getting used to but it hardly groundbreaking, and practiced by several authors within the fantasy genre. Each chapter has a character name at the top and is written from that character's point of view--most of the time, you are bouncing back and forth between Deb and Harlow. This approach greatly aids in the telling of the story and anyone put off by it just needs to try harder, because there's a lot to love here.
As for the plot, the beginning is strong, the end is very strong, and the middle is interesting, though it lags a bit, mainly due to a follow the breadcrumbs plot thread that is never boring but never quite exciting, either. Deb arrives at setting A, meets fascinating people, learns rules of the "Tash Verse", finds some clues that lead her to setting B, and off she goes. A couple chapters later, Harlow arrives at setting A, is told by someone he just missed Deb, but he might catch her at setting B, and off he goes. Then back to Deb, add new setting and repeat. This plot device helped Ms. Tash introduce the reader to her world, was never boring, so overall, easily forgivable by me.
Bottom line: Well Worth Your Valuable Time. I had a great time with Troll or Derby. I look forward to more from Ms. Tash. She is an independent author of entertaining urban fantasy with a unique voice and fun attitude. She has much to offer and is well worth checking out. (less)
Blue Spirit is a terrific urban fantasy adventure set in the world hidden in the real streets of Indianapolis and surrounding communities, where LARP...moreBlue Spirit is a terrific urban fantasy adventure set in the world hidden in the real streets of Indianapolis and surrounding communities, where LARP roleplaying, werewolves, sorceresses, fairies, and Transit Kings all come together. Protagonist Skye McLeod is the disorganized lead whose life situation rapidly declines from being dumped by her boyfriend to being caught in the cross-hairs of a homicidal sorceress, though no real fault of her own and not handling it particularly well.
Blue Spirit is a fast read by a promising up-and-comer. I give it my highest recommendation. You're going to see a lot more of Eric Garrison.(less)
REDHEART by Jackie Gamber was this summer's novel I read to my children most evenings. At 50 chapters, not being able to read every night, the engagin...moreREDHEART by Jackie Gamber was this summer's novel I read to my children most evenings. At 50 chapters, not being able to read every night, the engaging kid-friendly fantasy made for many memorable evenings as we took in the next chapter in the adventures of Kallon, the moody red dragon, Riza, the human determined to be his friend even if it kills her (and quite often it nearly does), and Jastin Armitage, the misguided mercenary who wants to save Riza from herself, even if it's for his own purposes.
Kallon is a dragon with many secrets--the last of the reds, the reader is let in on his past slowly, only as Riza breaks him down and peels away his defenses through time and trust. We learn the terrible tragedy of his parents, his status with a dragon council which which rules the dragon citizens that co-exist in an uneasy peace with humanity, and the dastardly plots of council leader Blackclaw and how he plans to usurp the council's purpose to his own ends.
It's difficult to weave political intrigue into a novel partly aimed at younger kids, and it made for interesting side discussion as Daddy explained what a town council does in real life, but the novel succeeds in not getting too bogged down in the details. The characters provide the real thrust of the story. There's Kallon, who the reader most wants to like--he's a red dragon, how cool is that--who doesn't want to be around others and just wants to be left alone. Riza, a human runaway rescued by Kallon in the first chapter of the book, does her best to break through. Her frustrations are the reader's frustrations, and these parts of the book work best.
Jastin is the toughest sell in this book. He's not particularly likeable, he often makes wrong choices, and often sets himself directly at odds with the goals of the other characters. At the same time, he is a continuing character whose story has not been entirely told.
The plot is solid. The characters are solid. The humor works. The surprises surprise, particularly the big surprise at the end. I must say, I did NOT see that coming.
My nitpicks, and I do have a couple, are minor. For one, (and this might be unique to the problem of reading the story aloud to others) the author needed to add more dialog tags in her prose, particularly in scenes with multiple characters in the room. Quite often, reading aloud, I found myself using my "Kallon" voice for three lines of dialog, only to get to the end of the line and read "said Riza." Oh, whoops! Had this only happened a time or two, I would not consider this mentioning, but it happened several times while I read it aloud. So if you're reading out loud like me, be prepared to scan ahead during the dialog, because it's not always clear who is speaking.
Also, at least for little kids, the book ran about two chapters too long. The wrapup chapters, at least as far as my children were concerned, didn't really convey a lot of new or needed information.
So these are quibbles. And I hear from good authority that SELA, the direct sequel, is a huge step forward from REDHEART. What I can tell you for sure is that my kids and I are anxious to start it tonight. Highly recommended.(less)
Oddives by Jace Epple is a fun collection of 11 sci-fi, fantasy and horror short stories. Like almost any collection, your mileage may vary from story...moreOddives by Jace Epple is a fun collection of 11 sci-fi, fantasy and horror short stories. Like almost any collection, your mileage may vary from story to story, from the innovative to, in some cases, the too familiar. At his best, Epple channels a classic Twilight Zone in a good way. We've all seen those new author twist ending stories where you can see the twist coming by the third sentence. Epple avoids this trap by making his stories as much about the wonder and the mystery as well as the twist, allowing the reader to enjoy the mood of each piece. And enjoy it I did.
Some of my favorites included Bells at Midnight, about a pompous writer from the early 1900s (with the pompous name of Brinley Hainsworth--poor guy never stood a chance) who finds he only *thought* he understood the true power of the written word.
Flitting Things, a particularly gripping read, about three former classmate carpooling to the wedding of a mutual "friend" they haven't seen in several years. These so-called "friends" seem unable or unwilling to break out of their old roles long enough to support the bride, and I found myself nodding my head as someone who's had similar discussions with old classmates who just can't let the past go.
Other favorites, Culver's Jamboree, Invisigod, and The Butterfly Man, all weave a mood of mystery as well as an idea that kept me spellbound to the end.
Other stories aren't quite as successful. Her Gracious Fangs takes us on some pretty familiar vampire territory before finishing with a surprise that wasn't quite worth the trip. Double Eagle introduces a dynamic and potentially interesting shock radio personality only to drift to a puzzling conclusion. Gen Jumpers is a pretty cool time travel story and Aurorean Way tackles astral projection. Both are ambitious, but for me, they take a while to set up.
Bottom line: if you enjoy contemporary genre short stories with a heart for classic chills (and I do), you'll find much to love in Oddives. (less)
Novel: I, Crimsonstreak, by IHW member Matt Adams. Okay, let's get the disclaimers out of the way first. I know this author; we are members of two of...moreNovel: I, Crimsonstreak, by IHW member Matt Adams. Okay, let's get the disclaimers out of the way first. I know this author; we are members of two of the same writer's organizations together. That said, I paid good money for my copy so that earns me the right to subject my opinion on you all. K? K.
I'm a huge lifelong comic book fan. I am also, as I have stated on several occasions, skeptical of this new "prose superhero" movement--put simply, comic books without pictures. In my opinion, prose fiction, relying strictly on words, greatly inhibits the slam-bang expectation of superhero stories, but Matt Adams does much to make me me a believer in his premiere novel I, Crimsonstreak.
Crimsonstreak, AKA Chris Fairborne, is a superhero raised by superhero parents. Mom is famed superheroine Miss Lightspeed and Dad is reformed supervillain now co-superhero Colonel Chaos. Mom and Dad's first date was far from typical. Boy threatens world, boy meets girl, girl stomps boy, boy reforms, girl marries boy. Born with his mother's super-speed but lacking both parents' natural super-ability, Fairborne accepts his manifest destiny with easygoing nonchalance, and except for the family defeating the occasional threat of supervillain domination, Chris experiences an otherwise fairy normal childhood.
And so it's off to college for Chris, and before you can say Holy Oedipus Complex, Batman!, Miss Lightspeed is killed in action, and Colonel Chaos has taken over the world, framed his son, and had him locked away in a prison for the super-criminally insane.
Crimsonstreak begins with Chris locked away, plotting his escape, determined to find out what happened to his mother and find some way to deliver the counter-smackdown to Dad, or die trying.
The story zips along nicely, smoothly zipping between the present and flashbacks to the past, allowing us to learn more and more backstory relevant to the next plot point just when we need it. I personally had not problem with this technique, though your mileage may vary.
Adams keeps the action coming, not focusing too long of giving too much detail to the many slugfests, and wisely keeps the operatic drama and high stakes cranked up and playing out as much as the fisticuffs. As we reach an age where traditional comic book storytelling MUST morph into something else very soon, I, Crimsonstreak offers a fine example of what may be the future of the medium.
It's always a delightful surprise to see an established writer stretch to try something new. I remember when I read Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark...moreIt's always a delightful surprise to see an established writer stretch to try something new. I remember when I read Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark. As a longtime fan of her military space opera series books, the standalone hard science fiction character study floored me because it came out of nowhere, and took me to so many different places than I expected based on the "brand name."
While this transition isn't quite as radical, similarly, I'd read most of Michael West's material, minus maybe a handful of short stories not yet available in a collection, and I've loved it all. That said, with familiarity, comes expectations and an assumption that the writer is limited to providing that certain "Michael West Experience." Likeable characters in the wrong place at the wrong time, where a mysterious evil proceeds to pick them off one by one until the smartest and luckiest figure out how to escape. It's a solid foundation, and has served Michael well. So I settled in with POSEIDON'S CHILDREN expecting more of that same--and there would have been nothing wrong with that.
What I got was much more.
The story, first of all, takes place on a small beachfront town, populated with several natives trying to keep alive a withering tourist area. We meet the town and several visitors. And I really mean, we meet THE TOWN, at least, a significant chunk of the town.
I lost specific track of how many characters play a role--I'm going to guess about eight, but there could be more. This in and of itself is very different from Michael's usual approach, and quite a challenge. In terms of story telling, it's a simpler task to build your story around "the couple" and a couple supporting roles. In PC, we have at least three relationships to track, one in an abusive relationship with the antagonist, another plagued by guilt, plus an estranged family as a daughter has left her parents. And that doesn't even get into the gangster seeking vengeance who brings his posse of hit men into the mix.
There's a great plot twist that hits early on, both surprising and bit confusing. To reveal what it is would be an injustice, but let's just say when I learned the secret of Poseidon's Children, some of the logic doesn't quite hold together for me. Overall, it's a minor quibble, like wondering why, in Bram Stoker's Dracula, a vampire who they establish can turn into a mist would crawl around outside along his castle wall apparently just for fun. Maybe a bit head-scratching, but it hardly ruins the experience.
As with all of Michael's works, this one comes highly recommended. (less)
Loved it, though it's not for everyone! This is dark stuff, but if you like stories where the protagonist has to earn their victory the really really...moreLoved it, though it's not for everyone! This is dark stuff, but if you like stories where the protagonist has to earn their victory the really really hard way, there's much to love here. There are several open threads at the end of the novel and I'm ready to read more!(less)
Confession time. Rot marks only the second Zombie book I've read. In spite of the craze, or perhaps because of it, I'd mentally written off the zombie...moreConfession time. Rot marks only the second Zombie book I've read. In spite of the craze, or perhaps because of it, I'd mentally written off the zombie sub-genre as one of limited possibilities, and populated with monsters who are one-dimensional and uninteresting by definition. All of which is to say, I have only read zombie stories because I know these authors in some way and they have impressed me enough to look past my prejudice and give their work a chance.
Adra Steia's Spirit Mother was the first. As a zombie thriller, it exceeded my low expectations. When all is said and done, however, brainless monsters chased our heroes through the streets for a couple of hundred pages while much carnage ensued. So okay. Nothing wrong with that.
That brings us to Rot.
Rot took my expectations and threw them away, and from the opening pages, demonstrated what a zombie story could be, with a little imagination and a slight twist. Michele Lee, whom I know primarily as a reviewer of excellent taste (and no, not just because she liked my novel...well, not JUST because, lol) critical of the expected and the lazy, doesn't settle for the expected or the lazy in her own work.
What Lee presents here is a world in which zombies are the aftereffect of magic with good intentions gone wrong. Meant as a loving act to hold off death, the world is populated with batches of "fresh" dead zombies. These beings are still capable of thought, emotion, and character. But they exist as walking time bombs, unable to stop the progressive rotting of their flesh, mental capacities, and control. Like a loving pet suffering from rabies that might go for your throat at any time.
The analogy to dementia and Alzheimer's are impossible to ignore; neither is the mix of disdain, indifference, and cruelty shown to the victims by their human caregivers. The specific story is a simple one. Dean, a newly hired security guard at "Silver Springs Care Community" for zombies (can't you just see the tri-fold with the trees and clear blue skyline)begins working alongside two "fresh" zombie volunteers in his office, Amy and Patrick. He begins to bond with them, in spite of the understanding that one day he may be the person who has to "put them down" when they lose control.
Beginning with this benign, almost pleasant, start, Lee quickly twists the plot in a number of unexpected directions. In the end, the true monsters prove to be quite different from what you might expect. Or, sadly, perhaps EXACTLY what you might expect.
Speaking of expectations, I expected many things from this fast-reading novella. What I did not expect was a story that allows the author to make relevant commentary on the human condition in so effective a manner. Nice job, Michele. If more zombie stories are half as good as this, I may have to consider giving the sub-genre a second chance.
Technically, I am reading "The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes," an omnibus collection of which "Return" is a part. I began on the volume two yea...moreTechnically, I am reading "The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes," an omnibus collection of which "Return" is a part. I began on the volume two years ago, which consists of 37 short stories and one serialized novel (all but the first two novels of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories on the character). I am on the final 13 stories, the contents of which make up The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
During the holidays I just can't tackle a large novel, but these little 15 page short stories are perfect for whenever my reading becomes erratic such as now.
"The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes" is particularly lovely, featuring Doyle's output of stories as release by The Strand Magazine, later collected as paperback books 3-6 and includes a serialized version of the Hound of the Baskervilles. The collection reproduces the original magazine layouts of the issues of the Strand Magazine in which the stories premiered, with the black and while illustrations as originally shown. I've been working my way though it for some time, and am on the final thirteen short stories released in paperback form as The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which is why I've posted this volume.--RJ(less)
Doctor Debra Holland, my long-time peer editor, proves there's much more to her than sweet romances (not that there's anything wrong with that). If yo...moreDoctor Debra Holland, my long-time peer editor, proves there's much more to her than sweet romances (not that there's anything wrong with that). If you remember the rousing fantasy tale of romantic adventure in the spirit of Andre Norton's Witch World, you will love this book.