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May
11

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Rockefeller Publishing Group

Published: 2015

Reviewer Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

 

The Raping of Ava DeSantis by Mylo Carbia is a horror novel set in contemporary times. There is not a drop of supernatural in this one. It could be labeled Thriller, as easy as Horror, if it were not for a few scenes of brutal torture. The mood is dark, with little faith in mankind, and few characters being anything close to decent.

The plot quickly turns disturbing when Ava is raped by three frat boys after they enter a drug induced frenzy. They behave in a very sick and gruesome manner, doing such things as cutting off her nipples and making her infertile due to all the abuse she receives. Later, the excessively rich parents of one of the boys named, Wesley, bribes Ava and her family into keeping the horrid rape quiet.

Years pass, but after Ava receives her last payment, she begins to hunt down the three men and enact a brutal revenge of her own. Two of the men are finished in a quick, but horrific manner, while Wesley, gets sucked into her web as she chips away slowly destroying everything he holds dear, including perhaps his mind.

This is also an erotic novel with a few sex scenes, although most are deranged. The novel flows well and although the idea of revenge has been played out in thousands of novels, Carbia finds some fresh ideas.

Inanna

Carbia calls herself the Queen of Horror, which I think is a bit premature. Firstly, you are using a tag line of Stephen King’s, whose last name is King, so it is more of a play on words as much as him being the biggest horror author in our time. Perhaps wait until you have more than one book out to make that claim.

I think she has a lot to learn about horror. Two of the men died in terrible ways, but besides the last ten minutes, they were not abused as all. Part of horror is the suspense, the dread of knowing something is coming for you. Yes, torture sucks, but if anything, they got off with just ten minutes of hell instead of atmospheric fear leading to the discovery of the hidden menace. Ava also has sex with Wesley, which just seemed odd after everything. Sure, she used the recording of it to abuse someone later, but I do not think I would want to pleasure a person who had abused me so.

Good first stab at the horror field. An inventive twist on a well-used theme. Sexy too, if you can get past the general trauma of the novel. It reads easy as well. Might be a good summer vacation novel for horror fans.

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Apr
26

Bullettime by Nick Mamatas

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Genre:  Science Fiction

Publisher:  ChiZine Productions

Published: 2012

Reviewer Rating: 3

Reviewer:  Michael D. Griffiths

 

Bullettime by Nick Mamatas is a nihilistic, young adult, coming of age novel with a small dash of potential science fiction thrown in. Hard to say how much of the science fiction aspect is real or is just in the head of a tortured teen named David.

High school is miserable for David, he is in real danger in his school. Almost everyone hates him, he gets beat up, and even stabbed. With a constantly working and raging father and an alcoholic mother, he gets little relief at home.

Somehow a gorgeous and inventive girl befriends him and opens up his mind to be able to view the matrix of how the choices he makes leads him to multiple different outcomes. The novel has dual points of views. The David who is in the background and sees the end game of the choices each different David makes and the main David we follow as he marches towards various levels of his own doom.

Teen with gun

Most of David’s dooms revolve around the different choices he makes when he decides to bring a game to school. However, as mentioned above, these different views of his choices and even the girl he meets, might just be his own inner psychosis. If this is the case, the novel just becomes a story about how an abused teen brings a gun to school.

I am usually a big fan of Chizine, but this did not seem up to their usual Par. As some may know, I am not a huge fan of young adult fiction to begin with and also not a fan of gun violence, so any glorification of such does not sit too well with me. I wanted to like David, but he possessed the annoying self-indulgence mixed with universal distain, which is what makes teenagers often so hard to deal with in the real world. I also did not like how the lip service to the science fiction aspect became a vague uncertain side note and never either helped no hindered the primary David we followed.

The book had some strong points, such as the conflict and powerless aspect David possessed. You wanted him to think of an answer and pull himself out of the dregs of his own life. Interesting novel, but not one I would give a troubled teen to read.

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M16

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Apr
18

Oh gentle readers, I suppose I’ve been neglecting you, not that many will notice and less will care. Still, WildernessPunk, the idea one can survive without most of the mundane expectations of the day. It focuses on helping the environment by using less processes and items which destroys the land and instead living closer to it. Getting more involved with nature, while using less of what kills it. Can such a concept work? Like most things in life it is more a matter of greys as opposed to a pass/fail black/white idea.

Sand Face

This explains the Wilderness, but what about the punk? Originally, I was trying to live in the wilderness, while creating the funds for doing so with my writing and internet work. High tech creating the means for living low tech. To be honest, I think some of this has dropped off, although I have gone a whole year now without the dregs of an 8 2 5 job, so I’m living some sort of ideal, now if I can just figure out what the ideal is.

Trail

Maybe a few updates are in order for the eight of you who have followed WildernessPunk over the second half of 2016 and into 2017. Maybe just some bullet points would speed this up.

  • I’m seeing my kids.
  • Yes, I’m living in a house, my old place in fact, trying to make things work out for everyone involved.
  • For the first third of 2017, I got a job which ended up being ridiculously awesome. I only worked about one day a week at it, but made a few hundred dollars an hour while doing so. I got to travel around Arizona for free. Not great places unless you like places like Yuma and Phoenix, but what the hell.

Now however the steel teeth of reality’s beartrap is closing in on me. Boy, wouldn’t it be great to be a writer or a guy who could survive by working on the internet in the woods or at home? I’m clinging on with my toenails, but the grim figure of mundania lurks outside the door ready to kick it in.

Dusting

I could go over a shopping list of bullshit, such as the landlords not thinking the yard is yuppie enough with the tree trunk tables, sandstone shelves, and trying to evict us after paying to live there for twelve years, but I have better things to speak on. Besides WildernessPunk was never meant to be a journal as much as a philosophy, so let’s move on past my personal triumphs and tragedies.

So what new concept are you going to discuss this time, Mr. Bone?

Environmentalists.

Unless you’re Donald Trump, or have a black heart full of hate, (wait, same thing) most people you ask, “Are you trying to help lessen your impact on the environment?” will answer, yes. But what does it take to be really be helping or be an environmentalist? I hesitate to use the word environmentalist, because it has certain defined conditions. So just to insure we do not make any Trumpers nervous, in this one case, let’s just say Environmentalists are people trying to live in a way which creates less damage to our world.

Let’s look at a few categories. Those bullet points were fun before, let’s use them again.

  • End Game Recyclers: These are the folks who separate their trash, bring it to the curb, and then hop in their car to go buy a new set of lawn furniture.

Recycle

  • Privileged Purchasers: These people feel they are ahead of the pack because their new custom made home has an energy efficient dishwasher and since they have solar power, the average person could never hope to be as cool to the environment as they are.
  • Cherry Picker: These are the people that pick an item or two, usually something easier for them or what they want to do anyway, then elevate themselves above anyone who falls short in this category. Sure, every positive thing you do helps, but helping the environment does not stop because you bike commute or have become a vegetarian.

 

  • Power Shoppers: Folks who might do some of the above, but then consume and consume. They buy new things while the old items get tossed into the landfill. They recycle their plastic, but purchase so many groceries they produce five time more trash than they can recycle.

 food-waste-getty

The list could go on, but I think you have the idea. Does an environmentalist complain their neighbor is not buying new yard furniture fast enough or maybe dumpster dived an old frame and uses it as a couch, for a few extra years before he burns it in his wood stove?

Quite often environmentalism isn’t pretty. A plastic covered garden instead of a water hogging green lawn, might be an eye sore to some, but we need to rethink what an Environmentalist really is. Is the inner-city professional who votes blue and has all their food transported hundreds of miles to them really better than the red voter who just hunted a deer and made himself a hundred meals without the use of chemicals or animal farms.

CB III

Driving and spewing poison in the air, so you can take your Sunday walk through the woods, seems like a contradiction. Yet, this is so much of what we see in this country.

What am I trying to say? I am saying we need to rethink what an Environmentalist is and what it takes to be one. Again, it is all a matter of greys, but if your only making it to the 5% mark, you need to reevaluate where you stand. We also need to rethink what we can do. Is having a pristine yard and worrying over what your neighbors think more important than global warming? Are we just going to pick a few things to make us feel better and then ignore the rest of our destructive behaviors?

Beer Sunglasses

No one can be perfect unless you head off into the woods and become a hunter/gatherer, but disregarding that, we need to look at our environmental impact holistically and also not judge others who live closer to the earth and have not bothered to lower the water table by keeping a perfect lawn in the middle of a drought, because, let’s face it folks, we are all in a drought.

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Boneman

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Blur Art

Apr
10

Low Noon Edited by David A. Riley

 

 

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Science Fiction Trails

Published: 2012

Reviewer Rating: 4

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

 

 

Low Noon is a horror anthology set in the Weird Wild West and is edited by David A. Riley. I guess I am going through an anthology reading phase or perhaps I am desperate to read horror and I really do not have many laying around. I was also off to camp in Arizona and New Mexico and figured a southwestern horror book would fit right in. Whatever the case, this anthology proved to be a pleasant or perhaps considering the stories an unpleasant surprise. I enjoyed these stories which I read in Coyote Buttes and Flagstaff Arizona as well as in the wilds of the Zuni Mountains in New Mexico. When I arrived at the New Mexico camp in the darkness, wolves took up their low eerie howling and when I heard them I figured I had picked the right book to take along.

The anthology contains twelve stories designed to put shivers down your spine. I give them each a quick review below.

weird west

The anthology starts with a bang as Don D’Ammassa presents Drawn Out. Sometimes people with extra-natural powers underestimate everyone else. When a woman comes looking for her missing beloved, Old Man Fosters should have been more careful because the young artist might end up having some tricks of her own and when she finds out what happened to her man, she will not be very forgiving.

Second is The Trail of the Brujo, by Matthew Baugh. This is a truly brutal tale about a witch who can switch bodies. If he is not stopped his evil and horrid ways could go on forever. Still, how can you stop someone who can switch into a new body each time he runs into trouble or is shot?

Third up is Before All This Modern Stuff by Lyn McConchie. This tale revolved around a man who puts greed in front of human life. When his cattle thieves turn out to be starving women and children, he orders them killed anyway. Years go by and he had forgotten the deed, but often one’s bad deeds come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

The line up continues with Feeding Pluto by C.J. Killmer. In this tale a man goes tracking down his friend who has disappeared along with many others. The cannibals eating these missing people might be the least of his problems, because something worse wishes to eat him as well. This one stretched reality more than a little, but I enjoyed it. The main character is cool. I like it when authors allow themselves to write powerful protagonists.

Henrik Ramsager brings us A Quarter Past Death. Some rough characters come into town to try to defend their shattered brother’s honor, but how can you have a gunfight with a man who’s already dead, even if he’s shooting back at you? This one didn’t do it for me as much. Seemed more comic than scary. I like comedy, but sometimes I am just hoping for the shudder.

The Five Disciples is by Joel Jenkins. A bounty hunter and friend take one five ultra-powerful warriors from Asia. These long lived mages go down a bit too easy. Sometimes in fantasy and horror one wonders how these villains live to be some unheard of age and then get cut down by the heroes. Were there no heroes of merit or one who got lucky for the past hundred years of danger and fighting? Good story despite my peeve. Much more high fantasy here, over horror.

Next is The Judiciales by John Howard. In this very short story Carlos finds his life has a price tag he cannot pay no matter how much money he stole. This was a little short for my tastes. It felt rushed.

Hell Home on The Range was written by Sam Kepfield. I liked this story quite a bit, however, it has the same basic plot of Feeding Pluto mentioned above. Seems like between Donner Pass and the movie Ravenous, people like to think of the lonely places being full of white cannibals. Still this was a well done and exciting story. I enjoyed a little character development the villainous female received. One of the strongest tales of the anthology.

Weird west II

Kit Volker wrote Art Lessons for us. This is another short one which did not do much for me. Seemed a little bit like filler. With so many longer and stronger stories, these shorter tales just cannot compare.

The Temptation of Darcy Morgan was given to the reader by David Boop. This story bordered on being epic. A bartender, a sheriff, and the beautiful young dealer, bet the souls of a town against a man who never loses a game. They are not off to a good start. Nice one where wits are used to solve problems instead of violence.

Weird west iii

Realgar was written by Jackson Kahl. This might be the scariest tale in the anthology. It is moody and contains a hint of Lovecraft style horror. I enjoyed how the main character started off wealthy with many men and slowly found himself more and more on his own. Liked this one a lot.

Lastly, we have A Walk in the Woods by David B. Riley the man who edited the book. In his tale, Grumpy deals with some high plains drifting vampires. These vampires have someone hunting them. It soon becomes a three-way conflict where not many will survive. Another good one and a great way to end the book.

Overall a strong and enjoyable anthology. A couple of shorter tales brought down the overall score, but I would recommend this to all lovers of horror. If you like the southwest, like I do (Hell, I live in Arizona where some of these stories take place.) It delivers and I enjoyed reading in while in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico and I am glad I picked it for my little camping trek.

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weird west IV

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Mar
28

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Titan Publishing

Published: 2017

Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael Griffiths

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

Off Rock, by Kieran Shea is a Science Fiction novel with the beginning 98% of the novel taking place on an asteroid being mined by the main characters. Jimmy is a grunt miner who’s getting a little old for the job and not too many options on how to move on. This changes when he happens on a hidden vein of gold. Getting caught means life in prison and being subject to experimentation, but this does not keep Jimmy from wanting to get himself and the gold, Off Rock.

Jimmy first step is to team up with the station’s primary wheeler and dealer in black market goods. This person is untrustworthy at best, but his primary problem is his ex-girlfriend, who not only has it in for him, but is also his supervisor. The plot thickens as a beautiful hitman is sent to take out Jimmy’s partner because of all the money he owes to a crime organization.

Betrayals and lies start to build us and his ex suspects something is going on. Add to this Jimmy’s stash ends up being only a fraction of the size he thought it was. It’s enough to live on, but certainly not the life changing money for two people to split.

SF Mining

This book builds slowly as the tension continues to intensify. The last third becomes an exciting ride as chaos erupts on the mining asteroid. Jimmy is a likable character and you want to see him make it through this even when many of his problems are of his own creation.

If you are looking for hardcore science, this book might not be for you, although it uses many of the dangers of space, it is a very human story focusing on the dynamics between people more than repairing warp drives outside of black holes.

S F A

I enjoyed the character development and interaction, which took place in this novel. You really care about Jimmy by the time the climax of the novel crashes into you. I would recommend this novel to lovers of science fiction and action in general. Again, Titan nails another rock star novel to their resume.

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SF Mining II

Mar
08

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate

Published: 2016

Reviewer Rating:  4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

Shadows and Teeth Edited by R Perez De Pereda

 

Shadows and Teeth, was edited by R. Perez De Pereda or at least I think it was. It actually is not made clear. But I will not hold this against Darkwater Syndicate because this is an excellent horror anthology. As some people may know, I do not read many anthologies, but I have not gotten many new horror novels lately and needed a strong dose of the scary and luck was with me for Shadows and Teeth delivered.

The tales are a little longer than some and even though this is a full-length book, there are only ten stories. I had no issue with this. It is great for authors to have enough space to insure their complete tale comes across. These stories are not quite up to the ‘I need to leave the light on tonight,’ but some of them left me unnerved. Below is a quick review of stories they present for us.

First up is Water, Ice, and Vice, by Antonio Simon, Jr. Wow, talk about a novel idea for horror—an evil refrigerator which gives you what you want, but maybe not in a way you would like it. Jeremy goes from being a promising young man to a victim who could die from horrid diseases, end up in jail, or worse. I liked how this story set the stage for the anthology. It let me know I could expect anything.

Second up is The Dinner Party by Trevor Boelter. Kaitlin has guests. She is hosting a party, but why does it feel so wrong? Why are so many bad things happening? Part of her dinner party seems normal, but other parts are quickly entering beyond weird and into a realm of dangerous terror. She needs to figure out what is really going on before she ends up added to the growing pile of bodies littering her bedroom. This was well done. It makes the reader work to figure out what might be happening before Kaitlin does.

Broken Glass Face

Routine by Mia Bravo hits us next. Obsessive Compulsive Disorders can develop out of the need to keep ourselves safe. However, if taken too far, they can plunge a man into madness or worse start to make his life unsafe, the very opposite of what it set out to do.

Mark Meier brings us The Final Spell. I read this while sitting in my car on the outskirts of a high desert town and as the wind blew dust over the unfamiliar streets and faces, I have to admit the story made me feel a little uneasy. A student in the school of Magick finds a mysterious trainer. Perhaps he should have been more wary, but each step he takes leads him that much further from any hope of salvation.

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Back Through the Mists is by J.S. Watts. This is about time traveling hosts who continue to reenact the gruesome sacrifices of their time. I liked the main character, but I felt to many things were left undone and this one did not leave me loving it.

Paige Reiring wrote Spawn. This short could be made into a book series with some effort. More urban fantasy than horror here, although what this female assassin has to battle is horrible indeed. In a world where some talented folks are given familiars, one should always consider there could be a bigger and badder familiars out there and if it comes for you, only the best will be able to survive.

 

Madness

 

 

The Pied Piper’s Appetite by, Rich Phelan comes next. This is a more low  fantasy number. What starts out as a reasonable guy quickly becomes a vicious and plotting serial killer. He does not just kill his victims but likes to play with them first. Not a situation I would want to be in. After all the supernatural in this anthology, it was a little hard to shift gears for me. I am not too into torture style horror as much.

Viktoria Faust presents Riana in the Gray Dusk. The shortest story in the compilation, in this a photographer makes a study of a girl who lives to be on film. But what if the film is also robbing her? Like a junky seeking a high which leads to doom, could the same thing have happened to this girl?

The Autobiography of an Unsuccessful Author was written by Brittany Gonzalez.  Maxwell is writing a horror story. Have his characters come alive or has he snapped and who is really trying to kill his wife? This one became brutal. I suppose there are many brands of horror, but the ‘oh crap I’m in a living hell and beating up my wife,’ is not as much my thing.

Crying by Darren Worrow could be considered a novella and is very nicely done. A well told tale about a man having issues in his life and wondering how his past may be affecting his choices. When he uncovers a curse might be involved with his family, he starts to research the issue but discovers more about himself then he might have liked.

A few of the stories did not move me as much, but overall this is a great horror anthology. I would recommend it to all lovers of horror and look forward to receiving more from Darkwater Syndicate.

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Mar
05

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Freedom Fox Press

Published: 2017

Reviewer Rating: 3

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

hero-lost-edited-by-alex-j-cavanaugh

Hero Lost, is a Fantasy Anthology edited by Alex J Cavanaugh. This anthology has 12 short stories which all revolve around mostly traditional fantasy themes. This book comes out of a Facebook group called the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Seven people reviewed and voted on who got to be in this anthology. I am not sure what went wrong, but the stories were not of the highest caliber. Perhaps it was a closed group thing, picking favorites, or a limited supply, but with so many superb anthologies out there, this one seemed a little lack luster to me. I will go over the stories and let you make up your own mind.

We start with Mysteries of Death and Life written by Jen Chandler. When you find Death and he is trying to die it brings up a few questions and issues. This was a stronger story and a good way to start the Anthology

I also enjoyed The Silvering by Ellen Jacobson. I liked the idea of everyone hiding their hands and hands becoming the erotic zone for people. Mysteries and plotting abound in this one nicely done tale.

Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight, by Renee Cheung comes third. I love the use of the name Cormac. Too bad his luck turns so ill. Pretty good story with a twist—High fantasy with a dragon battle, but for me the battle was too short and easy.

Roland D. Yeomans wrote Sometimes They Come Back. Very High Fantasy here. Loads of bizarre and enjoyable characters. Everything from Goddesses to talking mice get involved in this adventure. This might be a fun one for the Young Adult audience.

The Wheat Witch, by Erika Bebee did not do it for me as much. The story had a backdrop of mystery as a man in trouble returns to his home town. I had a harder time entering this world. It had a nebulous unclear quality and just did not draw me in.

Sarah Foster brought us The Last Dragon. I liked this one. We got a little more action here. Twins with magic powers who have a hero for an uncle, go to see him, because others seek to enslave them and use them for their abilities. Perhaps the slavers so be more careful in who they hunt no matter what their age.

dragon

Mind Body Soul is an interesting tale by Elizabeth Seckman. An insecure King assumes his arranged marriage never led to love and makes the choice to trade his soul with his queen’s dying teenaged crush. He realizes too late she could care less about her childish crush and is madly in love with her king. Intense, but sort of annoying when the king makes such a stupid mistake.

Olga Godin brings us Captain Bulat. This was my favorite story of the bunch. This one contained action, suspense, and mystery. Altenay is a Finder and is hired by a wealthy man to track down a man who has been missing for years. Her employer gives her a dagger to help mystically track the man down. This is good because she quickly realizes she is not the only one hunting. Nice tale, I would read more by this author.

The Witch Bottle by Sean McLachlan was another story that did not move me too much. The main character is married to a witch, but is so whiny about his problems it left me voting for her.

The Art of Remaining Bitter, by Yvonne Ventresca is next. This is a Kurt Vonnegut style of story where everyone is forced to be Blissed at age ten. The issue for our young girl is that she wants to be herself with all her bitterness and not some artificially happy monkey like the rest of the world she sees.  I did enjoy this one.

Tyrean Martinson wrote Of Words and Swords. If you are a hero do you have to remain a hero? Does a person have the right to do what they choose even if they excel in another area? These are issues the dragon slayer turned poet must wrestle with when a new dragon starts to burn the city.

Last, we have Breath Between Words by L. Nahay. This is a somewhat arty tale which unfolds for the reader as a character lays dying. Between the breaths, we paint the picture of what happens around her, but soon it will make little difference. I found this a strange choice for the last story and it did not thrill me overmuch.

This is a complete and strong anthology. It was nice to see it follow a fantasy theme and not bounce all over the place. Still, with so many anthologies just power hitting it out of the park, this one fell a little short for me. It was not bad, just not great.

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Feb
23

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Published: 2012

Reviewer Rating: 2.5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

My Vacation in Hell by Gene Twaronite is a young adult version of Dante’s Inferno. I had managed to avoid reading YA literature for a while now, but I enjoy visions of Hell so I thought I would check this one out. Niven’s Inferno is one of the only books I have ever read twice and the geography and trails of Hell have always been something which has interested me.

my-vacation-in-hell-by-gene-twaronite

The novel follows John, a 15-year-old misfit, as he and his guide travel down through the different layers of Hell. His guide is Virgil another kid from his school, who, for whatever reason, has already been to hell a few times. He also meets a girl from his high school who he has a crush on and she also helps insure John is not trapped in some foul region of Hell.

They follow through some of the layers of Hell, but it seems a bit haphazard and they do not follow Dante accurately and skip through many of the sections/layers. More of a horrors of Hell cherry pick as opposed to a complete journey.

hell

Not too far into the novel, we discover John has been sexually abused. The journey becomes not so much a test of his morals and fortitude, but a chance for him to use Hell to work through the lingering damage of his personal inner Hell.

John is a likeable character and you want him to succeed. Despite his two allies, he is tested and in the end, must work out the riddles of Hell alone.

hell-ii

Things about this book which did not appeal to me would include the randomness of the encounters. At times, they could walk right by demons without a worry, but in other areas they almost lose their lives and freedom. I did not like how I felt regions of Hell were skipped over. John also tended to get saved in such a manner we really did not feel too much concern over his safety.

I do not mean to be too harsh, this is a book for teenagers. Perhaps a strange choice for a young adult book, but with Hell being used as a metaphor for a teen’s journey through his own inner torment, I think it worked. This book may also work for that strange nephew of yours, but I think most adults might want to steer clear of this one.

 

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Feb
16

Sometimes a whir like a spinning Top

Because I do not want to Stop

hecate-spell

Accomplish this, head over There

Move with Purpose and Flare

 

I will make these dreams come True

Watch what I can Do

 

Try to stand in my Way

Screw with me and make me Pay

 

I do not care what people try to make my Obstacle

I will freeze them out like a Popsicle

 

From the moment I Wake

Constantly Kicking out the action for betterment’s Sake

 

Work on this, that, and the other into the Night

Knowing my path is Right

 

So Hecate bless my Mission

Never let me fall into Submission

 

And as this day burns into the Next

I will have more done and less of the things which Vex

hecate-owl

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Feb
13

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Titan

Published: 2016

Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Michael Griffiths

the-race-by-nina-allan

The Race, by Nina Allan is a literary novel with just a tinge of Science Fiction. Things are hinted at in this book, like parallel worlds and the ability to talk to animals, as well as biologically developed smart dogs, but these are just side notes to the story of two different girls growing up through hard times. They live outside London, but both England and the outer islands are places not very similar to our world.

The book is broken up into several different sections which focus on the story of a family who gets involved with smart dog racing as well as more nefarious pursuits. The first section (I think) is the main character, Christy’s, fictional account of her own life. This sets the stage for the ‘real’ story which comes next. Other characters are outlined and introduced as we proceed through this epic (470 page) novel.

creepy-islands

Again, the science fiction aspects are only briefly considered and does little to change the plot or affect the characters with a few small exceptions. Instead this is a well written story detailing the hardships, which can befall young women. Not everything is dreary, but the world these characters live in is gloomy and dark throughout most of the tale.

Christy’s life revolves quite a bit around her wild and uncontrollable brother. He brings hardship upon the family again and again, which include making her mother move away forever. Smart dog racing becomes their life, but also leads them toward disaster.

grey-hounds

Downsides of this novel could include a reader being disgruntled if they expected a true science fiction novel. Parts of the novel are a bit confusing and many of the story threads are left unfinished. It is almost like finding a few photo albums of a family and not knowing the beginning or the end of their tale. I am rating it as a literary novel more than science fiction. If I was looking at it as a science fiction novel I would probably drop a whole star.

Allan is a very talented writer and the book is absorbing. If the reader can fall in and enjoy the story for what it is, I think most people will get a lot out of it. This might be a good book to introduce a daughter or girlfriend to science fiction if they have never tried it before and you wanted to ease them into the genre.

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