Peter Clines – “14”

Break-neck pace, witty, and intriguing — 5 stars

 

14 by Peter Clines is hard book to offer a summary description of that isn’t full of spoilers. And if there’s one book on my recently read list that I don’t want to spoil, it’s “14.”  I’ll let the Goodreads summary do the talking on that one for me:

Chosen by Audible.com as the best sci-fi novel of 2012!

Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches. There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much.

At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

Or the end of everything…

Walking like a cat on a rail fence between Science Fiction and Horror, Clines does an outstanding job of marrying the two without diluting either. Using little mysteries and quirky questions to propel the story, “14” is an attention-grabber.  A hook here.  A hook there.  Another, and another.  Any of which an inhabitant of the story could pass off as peculiar on their own.  A misunderstanding. Your imagination maybe, getting the better of you.  But taken together, the pull is too strong to be ignored, for both characters and readers alike. The pages keep turning with impressive speed.  A hundred little hooks, all pulling you toward… Something sinister?  Something mysterious? Something otherwordly?  Something evil? Yes to all of the above.  Clines has an outstanding sense of pace and timing, knowing that a mystery kept mysterious for too long is boring and a premature reveal steals the impact.

There’s little more I can say about “14” without spoiling the fun, but I recommend it without reservation as one of my favorite reads of the year so far.

C.T. Phipps – “Cthulhu Armageddon”

Loaded with Cthulhu Horror, but otherwise, awkward — 3 Stars

CTHULHU ARMAGEDDON by C.T. Phipps is a tale of post-apocalyptic survival, revenge, and sanity-wrecking eldritch horrors.  I was eagerly on-board for the things it promised.  I was less enthusiastic about what it delivered.

What it is: Clearly, it’s a labor of love, brimming to the top with wonderfully rendered Cthuloid horrors. It goes beyond embracing the mythos and wallows around in it without shame, showcasing fresh blasts of the weird and grotesque at every turn. I liked that.

What’s it not: It’s not a Post-Apocalyptic Western, no matter what the cover says.  Aside from the appearance of a cowboy hat and some western-wear costumes late in the book, there’s nothing vaguely western-themed about it.  It also comes across as far more “spoofy” and less “dark” than I think the author intended. I’ve seen the author routinely describe this book as “grimdark.”  But it’s more akin to “Army of Darkness.”

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Jeff Salyards – “Scourge of the Betrayer” – Bloodsounder’s Arc Trilogy, Book 1

A slow, but strong start — 4 stars

SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER by Jeff Salyards is the first installment in the Bloodsounder’s Arc Trilogy. It is a showcase of grim, gritty military fantasy following the adventures of an elite mercenary company as seen through the eyes the unfortunate scribe assigned to chronicle their exploits.

This book split me right down the middle. It hit many of my favorite markers for personal taste. Witty. Genuine. Dark and gritty. Sincere in its treatment of the subject matter and the consequences that come from a lifetime of living by the sword.  It captures the essence of life in this Syldoon mercenary band, their bond as brothers in arms, with style and great believability.  Salyards delivers a first-rate combat narrative.  And not as a one-off, a good fight scene here or there.  He does it consistently from start to finish. He leaves your imagination aching with the grinding of broken bone and the wash of hot blood, keeps you flinching with the push and shove of desperate survival.  He takes an iron hammer approach to combat and isn’t afraid to hit you in the teeth with it.

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On July 15, 2016, I turned 40 years old. That was the same day I sold my first full-length novel. I also took a nap. Hang with me, that will become relevant shortly.

I knew in theory that selling my first novel was probably going to be a surreal experience. I could never have imagined just how surreal though.  Courtesy of Melanie Meadors, Tim Marquitz, and the rest of the esteemed gang at Ragnarok Publications, it certainly lived up to those expectations. And it all began with a birthday card… More »

03. August 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: Reviews

Let me preface this by saying, as a general rule, I don’t “do” contemporary vampire novels. To be honest, pop-culture has all-but ripped the fangs out of vampires. Few and far between are tales of these monstrous masters of the undead that are actually visceral and scary.  I want my vampires to be frightening. I don’t want to fall in love with them. I want to be afraid of them, in those little cowering monkey-places that keep me scared of the dark.  I picked this book up on a recommendation and I’m glad I did.  Simply put, it is my favorite book of 2016 so far, and in the vein of “scary vampires” it’s a triumph that does not disappoint.  Now, the rest of the story… More »

Amidst all the pre-release clamor about how much DC’s “Suicide Squad” is already supposed to suck, we finally got around to watching it’s familial predecessor, “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” ((And the theatrical release version at that, rather than the Ultimate Edition, which I’m told addresses some of the things fans and critics felt were unforgivable in the theatrical release.))

With the critical and fan mauling BvS received, and the critical and fan mauling Suicide Squad is already receiving days prior to its public release, I couldn’t help but take a moment and assess the tides. More »

DAY 5: Seth Skorkowsky’s “Sea of Quills (Tales of the Black Raven Book II)” – Swashbuckling, Roguish Fun, and the breaking of an Author’s Curse

It’s hard to know what to say about “Sea of Quills (Black Raven #2)” that I haven’t already said about “Mountain of Daggers (Black Raven #1) (Click here for my original review of the Black Raven’s debut).”  Skorkowsky’s vision for the “Tales of the Black Raven” steers a true course from the first page to the last in his second Black Raven offering. More »

So, we’ve spent the last few days talking about the book titles currently available from the illustrious Mr. Seth Skorkowsky — my long time friend and partner in all manner of ridiculous shenanigans.

Well, until tomorrow (with the release of “Sea of Quills: Tales of the Black Raven Book II“), we’ve run out of Seth Skorkowsky books to talk about.

So, to pass the time until “Sea of Quills” is released into the wild tomorrow, let’s discuss pancakes, lunar eclipses, gunfire, and of course, writing.

What do all of these things have in common?  You guessed it — Seth Skorkowsky. More »