Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ugly As Sin by James Newman

Ugly As Sin's main flaw is that it's not Animosity. Going in, I was anticipating a visit to the dentist after hours of teeth-grinding tension. However, 'Sin' didn't provide nearly the same levels of suspense as Animosity did. And not only did this book not possess Animosity's greatest asset, it unfortunately also had that book's greatest flaw. I'm talking about the bad guys doing stuff that was stupid or unbelievable, seemingly, only so that the protagonist (or the author) wouldn't have to work so hard in the end.

Now, the book didn't totally lack in suspense. It was suspenseful. Just not as suspenseful as Animosity. It was a quick read, fast-paced, and highly entertaining. The protagonist was a great big jerk, who was also a sympathetic character. (Nice work, Mr. Newman.) I also liked the villain of the piece and his motivation. There were a lot of weird touches in this book, too, peculiar little character ticks and stage business that made this a richer experience than your typical work of noir fiction.


P.S. For those (named Charlene) who might think this review is negative, I'll have you know that I already bought Newman's The Wicked and have it queued up on the old Kindle reading device.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bad Apples: Release Dates & Giveaways!

The five freshest voices in horror will make you reconsider leaving the house on October 31st with these all-new Halloween tales:

• A brother and sister creep out of the darkness with bags full of deadly tricks in Gregor Xane’s THE RIGGLE TWINS.

• A deformed boy just wants to be normal in Evans Light’s PUMPKINHEAD TED.

• A group of ghost hunters learn that looking for terror is a whole lot more fun than finding it in Adam Light’s GHOST LIGHT ROAD.

• Two bullies go looking for trouble but instead find a young boy and his imaginary friend in Jason Parent’s EASY PICKINGS.

• When a mysterious, Halloween-themed attraction comes to the town of Bay’s End, everyone is dying to pay a visit in Edward Lorn’s THE SCARE ROWS.

Available in eBook beginning September 7, 2014.

Paperback available September 14, 2014.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand's Wolf Hunt was a fine bit of breezy, gory horror. I like humor mixed with my horror, and Mr. Strand is quickly becoming a go-to guy for me when I'm in the mood for something smart, snappy, and soaked with blood.

For a while now, I've been searching for a good take on the werewolf story, and, while this story doesn't bring much new to the werewolf myth, it served as a pleasant enough distraction. However, I did find the two protagonists virtually interchangeable, and the plot was too simplistic. Don't get me wrong, I think a simple plot is a good idea for a humorous piece like this. Complicated plots can get in the way of the laughs. But, in this case, at the very least, a more sharply delineated three act structure would have helped a great deal. As is, I felt the story grew a bit repetitious and flat, and there never really was a grand twist or awesome reveal that propelled this book out of the merely really darn good territory.

Oh, and the ending seemed rushed.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I watched the 1978 cartoon adaptation of Watership Down when I was quite young, under 10 years old. I wasn't told beforehand that the film wasn't going to be your typical cartoon adventure about rabbits, so the mature themes and, particularly, the brutality and bloodshed left an indelible mark on my growing brain. There are frames from this film that I can still see clearly in my mind's eye decades after viewing it.

I've always been curious about the book and, for reasons unknowable to me, I just recently got around to picking it up. Based on my memories of the film version, I was expecting Game of Thrones with rabbits. I was expecting a relentless parade of death and despair. This isn't what I got. Yes, this is a mature book, and it is realistic and honest about the rabbit's place in the world, and it certainly doesn't shy away from the realities of their place in the food chain. But I was expecting crushing tragedy after crushing tragedy, and what I got was a much more balanced depiction of the rabbit's life.

I wasn't disappointed that my expectations didn't match this book's contents.

This was a slower read for me. But this, I have to admit can be, at least in part, attributed to the circumstances surrounding my reading of the book. I was extremely busy while reading this, and the only time I had to read was just before bed. The book didn't keep me up. I was out in under fifteen minutes almost every night (after the old Kindle slapped me in the face multiple times as I nodded off). But, structurally, it didn't feel like a novel. It felt like a collection of interconnected stories (or a fix-up) until about the halfway mark, when we're, at long last, introduced to the book's central conflict. Another aspect of the book that slowed it down for me was the stories within the story about rabbit folklore. These stories, in themselves, I found entertaining, but they did kill the momentum for me every time.

Overall, I enjoyed this book a great deal, and I think it will be one that will stick in my memory for years to come. It's a rich book with a layered narrative. There are beautiful passages sprinkled throughout. An obvious respect for nature and a passion for nature's beauty serves as a nice contrast to the harrowing events of the story. The narrative is at first biblical in tone, then dystopian. It veers suddenly into a heist story, returns again to dystopian mode, and finally settles into a tale of all-out resource war. Sprinkled between all of these shifts in narrative structure, there are stories within the main story, stories told between rabbits: their creation myths, tall tales of their legendary heroes, stories of what lies beyond death and the Black Rabbit who is waiting there to greet all rabbits when they stop running.

I'd certainly recommend this book. However, know that this is one to be sipped, not gulped.