George and Chloe are graduating from high school. They have plans to go to local schools and see each other on the weekends. But when Chloe gets accep...moreGeorge and Chloe are graduating from high school. They have plans to go to local schools and see each other on the weekends. But when Chloe gets accepted at UC-Berkeley, everything changes.
Chloe believes their love can survive the distance. George isn't so sure. He worries she really just wants to get away from him, and, when she makes plans to share an apartment with the handsome Giovanni out in California, George becomes convinced he has to do something to keep them together forever.
Darnell "Saki" Dickerson weaves a creepy and enthralling tale of love gone horribly wrong. Told entirely from George's point of view but for an epilogue, "Flowers" sucks the reader slowly into the mind of a madman. Dickerson is a skillful storyteller. It's not at all obvious from the outset that his narrator is crazy. He's just a kid in love, who is obviously dating out of his league.
As the story moves forward, we can feel disaster appproaching inexorably. One bad choice after another lets the reader know the relationship is doomed, even as the truth eludes George. And, while we know something bad is going to happen, George's break with reality is as surprising as it is disturbing.
The best thing about Dickerson's narrative is his constant resistance to the temptation to give too much information. We come to discover George has a past and that his father did something horrific. But he never tells us exactly what it is, which builds the suspense and makes the reader want to continue turning the page.
Likewise, once George reveals himself to be a psychopath, Dickerson doesn't provide gory details. He gives just enough for us to know what's happened and to be horrified. He leaves much of his description of the baser crimes George commits to imagination and innuendo. That leaves the horror of the story right where it should be: on the idea of his narrator's madness, not on the gross details.
If the story has a flaw, it's the editing. There are a number of grammatical mistakes that distract from what is otherwise a captivating read. Overall, though, this is a tight, enthralling short story that'll leave chills on your spine. I highly recommend "Flowers" and look forward to reading more of Dickerson's work.(less)
Michael Jasper collects entries from his blog to make a hands-on, step-by-step manual for publishing through every major eBook distributor and CreateS...moreMichael Jasper collects entries from his blog to make a hands-on, step-by-step manual for publishing through every major eBook distributor and CreateSpace's print-on-demand service. The book is absolutely invaluable for anyone trying to learn how to become an indie publisher in the Brave New World of eBooks.
Jasper also adds information on marketing, which isn't as strong as the technical information on how to format your manuscript. He offers some good insight on the process of writing book blurbs and cover design, but it's not as detailed as the otehr material.
That doesn't matter at all, though. If you're interested in e-publishing and need to learn how to format your books for Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc., this book is a must-have. I can't recommend it highly enough.(less)
Jeff Bennington, the bestselling author of REUNION, offers tips for success and encouragement to indie authors in a breezy read that's easy to follow...moreJeff Bennington, the bestselling author of REUNION, offers tips for success and encouragement to indie authors in a breezy read that's easy to follow and understand. The book is collected from posts at his blog, "The Writing Bomb." He tells the story of his own failures and successes, using them as examples of what works and what doesn't. If nothing else, this is an honest look at the crazy ride that is the indie publishing journey.
Bennington spends a lot of his time writing encouraging thoughts or offering samples of his own material or just writing about how he came to want to be a writer, which didn't add much to the book for me, and I found myself skimming over some of those passages. But he also offers direct, practical advice on getting your book edited and how to market it successfully. Those chapters make THE INDIE AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE completely worth reading. And, if you're new to the business of self-publishing or just need a little inspiration, the other chapters may appeal more to you than they did to me.
Overall, this is exactly the sort of book an aspiring author needs -- practical, insider's advice from someone who has done and it succeeded. Highly recommended.(less)
If a new drug comes along that promises to improve fertility, allow you to lose weight while still eating what you like, and convey immunity to severa...moreIf a new drug comes along that promises to improve fertility, allow you to lose weight while still eating what you like, and convey immunity to several genetic diseases, you absolutely should not take it, even it is approved by the FDA.
That's the premise of Shannon Mayer's zombie-ish apocalypse book, SUNDERED. An amazing new drug, Nevermore, is on the market, and it seems to be the answer to all of Mara's prayers. Weight has been an issue for her and handsome husband Sebastian. So has getting pregnant. It's only happened once, and she miscarried. They've been trying very hard without luck. Nevermore looks like it will make her dreams come true.
But it's derived from Scottish Broom, a plant to which Mara is allergic. She can't take it.
That turns out to be a very good thing, because Nevermore isn't the miracle drug it claims to be. It reduces those who've taken it to ravenous monsters. Their brain power is reduced to animalistic urges. They are only able to work together like crude wolfpacks. Higher thought is right out, and the drug is causing them to starve. So they turn to cannibalizing those who didn't get the drug.
Which is only about about 10% of the world population. Civilization as we know it is over.
Mara and Sebastian must find a way to survive in this post-apocalyptic nightmare.
If the scenario sounds a little cliched, it's because it probably is. But what do you want from a zombie apocalypse book? Mayer has written a very entertaining yarn. It speeds along at breakneck speed. It didn't take many sittings to get through this one.
Mayer's characters are well drawn. SUNDERED is told from Mara's point of view, and we come to know her as a soft, sensitive, but very strong woman. Her desire to become pregnant and resulting depression from being unable to are real and poignant. This is a story about people, not monsters. Mayer is a witty writer, and the novel's first-person narrative makes Mara both endearing and charming. She has a humorous, sometimes sarcastic turn of phrase that creates a number of laugh-out-loud moments, while making her wholly believable.
If the book has flaws, they are the beginning and end. Mayer doesn't spend much time developing the progress of Nevermore's tainted fall. Only a few chapters in, the zombie apocalypse is on. The story might have been a bit stronger had she modeled the outbreak's progress a little more like Captain Trips in Stephen King's THE STAND.
The book also ends jarringly with a cliffhanger that had me yelling, "That can't be all there is." SUNDERED is the first book in a series, and it's pretty obvious Mayer cut off the story to make you want to buy book two. Reading it on a Kindle, there was 13% of the book left due to previews of two other Mayer novels (including SUNDERED's sequel, BOUND), making the ending even more unexpected.
But none of this detracted from the reading experience. SUNDERED is a fast-paced, entertaining read that kept me turning pages. Mayer is an accomplished storyteller, who deserves to be read. Don't miss this one. (less)
Author Jennifer N. Simas classifies her debut novel, UNTIL DAWN: LAST LIGHT, as paranormal romance, but if you think that means it's a slow-moving, sa...moreAuthor Jennifer N. Simas classifies her debut novel, UNTIL DAWN: LAST LIGHT, as paranormal romance, but if you think that means it's a slow-moving, sappy love story featuring vampires or some other form of mythological creature, you'd be dead wrong.
To be sure there are vampires and other monsters in the book, and there is a classic love triangle between the heroine and the man she wants versus the man who is right for her. But Simas isn't interested in a lot of pining by the book's principal would-be lovers. This is a dark, urban fantasy that is loaded with action. From the opening scene, wherein the novel's gruff narrator Zoe fights a vampire, to the book's apocalyptic climax, Simas barely gives her reader time to breathe between battles with monsters, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disasters.
LAST LIGHT is a fast-paced, action-adventure story about the end of the world. Zoe is one of the Chosen, a select group of humans that have been converted to immortal warriors by the power of God and charged with defending humanity from evil. Their foe is Baldric, known simply as the General, a Chosen-gone-bad who is over a 1000 years old. He's mustered vampires, dragon-like monsters known as Sythen, and other nasties to form an army to conquer the Earth. When his hoard unleashes their apocalypse, the world falls into eternal night until he can at last be vanquished. LAST LIGHT is the first book in a series that will tell the story of this epic struggle.
The novel's plot concerns the rise of Baldric's everlasting night. Zoe and her companions form a small coalition of Chosen, shapeshifters, reformed vampires, and humans that survive the natural disasters of the General's rise to power to form a resistance army that will fight to vanquish the dark Chosen's tyranny.
Zoe is a likeable, complex character. She yearns for her previous human life -- before she was a killer in God's special army. She believes herself to be a monster and is haunted by her ability to kill and her inability to relate properly to her normal human friends. She desires to be with her best friend and would-be lover, Josh, but is told repeatedly by her mentor and other Chosen she must let him go, since he will die and she will live forever. She is pursued by the handsome and talented Alec, a 500-year-old immortal who has fallen in love with her. Zoe struggles to choose which man would be best for her and which she loves more. Romantic opportunities with both are constantly thwarted by an attack by the bad guys or by the arrival of the other, and both men are jealous of the other's intentions.
Simas understands she is writing about Armageddon, and she doesn't hesitate to kill characters the reader cares about. With each death, Zoe becomes further wracked with guilt, and Simas creates a deep emotional connection with her readers as we wonder who is safe and who isn't. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly hard to put down. On several occasions, I was up late into the night, unwilling to stop reading despite needing to go to bed.
Despite the religious overtones of the plot, Simas doesn't spend time proseletyzing about religion or faith. It is an accepted fact by the Chosen they were created to serve God, but no one spends time praying or extolling the virtues of faith. They are warriors with a purpose to serve, and there is a crisis at hand.
Moreover, Simas's apocalypse does not appear to be Biblical in origin. Aside from the eternal night that settles over the world halfway through the book, we do not see much reference to the calamities foretold in Revelation or other apocalyptic books. She draws some of her mythology loosely from Arthurian legend, but this is Simas's world, and the action proceeds fast enough we accept it and join in for the ride.
If the book has a flaw, it is the editing, or lack thereof. There are an embarrassing number of typos in the book -- words missing, wrong forms of words, misspellings, and other errors that just don't belong in a published manuscript. The book has the look of a hastily produced draft and would have benefited immensely from an editor's touch. And that's too bad, because, with the high number of typos, I kept getting kicked out of the story when I was really into it.
But Simas's power as a storyteller was able to overcome this problem. Zoe's struggle with the General and her own heart is compelling, and I found myself rooting for her to get what she wanted, despite the fact I believed she was doomed.
UNTIL DAWN: LAST LIGHT is a very satisfying read. Simas is an accomplished storyteller, and I hope to read more of her work (hopefully better edited) in the future. (less)
What if an angel fell in love with a human woman? What if the angel was actually fallen but was trying to redeem himself? What if that angel and his c...moreWhat if an angel fell in love with a human woman? What if the angel was actually fallen but was trying to redeem himself? What if that angel and his charge were only 16 years old?
Megan Curd poses all of these questions and delivers very engaging and entertaining answers in FORBIDDEN, the first book in a new YA series.
Levi is a Guard, a fallen angel who serves as a guardian angel to a human. He's been one for over a 100 years. He yearns to transform into a Guardian, an actual angel that performs the same function. While the promise of redemption is always there, neither Levi nor his best friend Ethan has ever heard of anyone actually doing it.
But when Levi is told his current Call's time is up, he knows it can't be right. So he does the unthinkable and goes against The Divine Plan. That's when all hell breaks loose.
Curd has created a marvelous, exciting, and readable book. Her characters are a perfect juxtaposition between classic images of divine beings and modern teenagers. Levi has been dead for a hundred years, but he sounds and feels just as young as 16-year-old Hannah, his Call. Ethan is ascerbic and very funny. The dialogue in FORBIDDEN is fun and contemporary. Curd understands how teenagers talk and relate.
She reimagines the Heavenly hierarchy in a way that makes sense and suits her story. She also understands pacing. The book alternates between pulse-pounding action and heartwrenching confessions of love.
Despite being the first book in a series, Curd doesn't leave readers hanging. She wraps up this story nicely while still leaving room for things to pick up in subsequent volumes.
FORBIDDEN is engaging, exciting, and satisfying. It hits all the right notes and leaves the reader wanting more. I can't wait to read more of Curd's books. This one was outstanding.(less)
This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years. I'd heard so many good things about it, and I wanted to check it out but somehow never...moreThis is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years. I'd heard so many good things about it, and I wanted to check it out but somehow never did. I finally got a copy as a gift, and so I sat down with ASTRO CITY at last.
I wish I'd read it sooner, because the material feels dated. Busiek treats superheroes as human beings with lives rather than as gods, but these days that feels very done. What was billed as new and fresh is now almost 20 years old and so isn't. I had to keep reminding myself how groundbreaking the material *used to be.*
And, in that context, it was pretty good. This collection of the first six issues tells a different story each "chapter." I liked the one about the small-time hood who accidentally discovers a superhero's secret identity best. That one really did a nice job of getting inside the head of its suspect narrator and presenting him with an impossible dilemma.
The story about the alien masquerading as a human to determine if his species should invade Earth was also pretty good. The conclusion to that one is very satisfying.
Overall, the best stories were the ones that had the superheroes as side characters rather than the focus. Those really accomplished Busiek's stated goal of examining what a world with supers in it would really be like.
ASTRO CITY: LIFE IN THE BIG CITY is still a fun read, but it's lost some of its imact as it's aged. In a post-9/11 world where superheroes have become far less heroic, Busiek's work is fun but not nearly as groundbreaking as it once was.(less)