Review: The After House by Michael Phillip Cash

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Publisher: Red Feather

Publishing Date: September 2014

ISBN: 9781500600365 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 1.0/5

Publisher Description: Remy Galway and her daughter Olivia are rebuilding their life after a failed marriage in a 300 year old cottage in historic Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Little do they know, another occupant is lurking in the haven of their own home. Will the After House be their shelter or their tomb?

Review: This was tough to rate. I can see why reviewers either rated it high or low. The good: good writing……. Ok, the bad: simpering main character, tons of dialogue and a weak story line.  This story line was taken directly from the old 1947 movie and 1945 novel “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” written by R. A. Dick (Josephine Leslie). The movie starred Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. Here is that movies synopsis. “Defying her conventional in-laws, young widow Lucy Muir leaves London with her young daughter and moves into a secluded seaside cottage. Lucy discovers the ghost of deceased former owner, sea captain Daniel Gregg is haunting the house but has the courage to stand up to him, and woman and ghost become friends.” Now just insert Remy for Lucy, her parents for in-laws and Captain Eli for Captain Gregg. Even the way the Captains behave are in lock step with each other.  Kee-rist, there is even a portrait of the captain that changes expressions as the ghosts emotions change just as in the T.V. series. Fug.

This is an amateur attempt at resurrecting a great novel, only this bride came to the wedding in a tattered black dress and smeared lipstick. Maybe the author should “slip over to the Republican side” to up the prose.

 

 

  

 

 

Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott hawkins

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Publisher: Crown

Publishing Date: June 2015

ISBN: 9780553418606 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.6/5

Publisher Description: Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.
After all, she was a normal American herself, once. That was a long time ago, of course–before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father. Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

Review: This story line was very familiar. Like I had read the very same story but with a different cast of characters and some scene/event changes. As I read through the story it became evident, whether by planned direction or lucky circumstance, that this story parallels Otfried Preußler‘s, “Krabat“.  It goes something like this:  Group of abducted children learning the dark arts under a terrible Father/Master in a remote wooded farm area with terrible events transpiring should they deviate from the Masters plan. This version seeks to modernize the story-line from the darker European version written in 1971. Now whether this is an intentional exercise or an original development I cannot really say, although the parallels are too similar to disregard.  The main deviation from  Krabat is that the children/teens battle for control over the subsequent power vacuum that ensues after the Fathers mysterious departure. A fantasy version of Lord of the Flies”. 

This was a fantastically bizarre novel. To wit it was “trippin’ balls”. Carolyn as a main character is spot on. She manifests this eerie attraction for the reader by being at once demure and unsettling. As each character is given dominion over a certain area of expertise, Carolyn uses her skills to gain knowledge from other disciplines/abilities. What ensues are inner battles that manifest on the material plane and end in the death of her cohorts. Or are they dead?

This lost a star due to the overuse of words (phrasing) to expedite scene development. Only one other novel that I have reviewed exceeded the overuse of the word “Actually”. This one comes in at a staggering 83x.  With the novel “Equinox” that earned a DNF for using “Actually” 117x, I resisted the urge to give this work a DNF and I am glad I did. Despite the word bludgeoning the novel gains a lot of ground with good writing, good character development and an interesting story-line. While the plot feels like it has been done before, I still enjoyed the change of scenery. 

A sometimes funny, witty and poignant novel that hints at the depths of wickedness in children when they roam  uncharted emotional pathways with only themselves and an evil man to guide them. Or is he evil?

 

 

 

Review: The Fifth Vertex by Kevin Hoffman

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Publisher: Kevin Hoffman

Publishing Date: August 2014

ISBN: 9780990647904 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.4/5

Publisher Description: Urus and his companions–Goodwyn, the greatest warrior in Kest, and Cailix, a mysterious orphan–must find a way to stop a powerful group of sorcerers from destroying the five long-hidden vertices that ward the world against threats from beyond, while fighting off threats from within. They soon learn that the scope of the coming danger may be more dire than any of them could have imagined. As the battle for the vertices spreads to the neighboring realms, Goodwyn must face the realities of war and death; Cailix discovers a devastating truth that could change everything; and Urus discovers his uncanny gifts and courage as he peels away clues to his true identity.

Review: This was a real entertaining read but it didn’t go down smoothly at times. Here’s why.  You were expected to take the characters at face value in terms of their present circumstances. What was lacking was supportive material and relevant connections to their pasts. Most of these discrepancies in information can be explained away in successive novels, but we are reading the one in front of us and demand clarity. Another problem was some of the scene progression. For instance. Cailix gets thrown under a table and a bunch of books (trapped) while a blood mage kills one of his cohorts in order to save a warded map. As Anderis uses the monk, Toyce, to tell him where the Woan map is, Cailix “…stood transfixed, mesmerized by the power Anderis wielded”.  How do you stand when you’re trapped under ancient books? In another scene the Loderans scuttle their boat only to have it appropriated by Urus, Goodwyn and Murin who “Held the boat steady while Goodwyn deftly slid on board…”. To scuttle a boat means to sink it.  Other minor fall downs are Goodwyn’s statements about how badass Urus really is yet lacks the “warrior” spirit with no explanation given as to how Urus was culled and what type of tests he failed.

Despite my shjtpicking, this had great world building infused with creative insight. The characters were fairly well developed to promote your willingness to see them overcome obstacles. Cailix was a little too one dimensional and you ended not caring what happened to her.  This novel verges on being placed in the Gay/Lesbian genre of fantasy as the developing romance was between two elite Kestian soldiers, Goodwyn and Therron.   With a heavy dose of editing to clean up some obvious fails in logic, grammatical errors and story-line continuity this is worthy of a 5 star rating.

 

 

 

Review: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It by Saci Lloyd

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Publisher:  Hodder

Publishing Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9781444916683 

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.8/5

Publisher Description:Welcome to a world controlled by a megalomaniac Lolcat. A world where data pirates, zombies and infobots on surfboards roam free. A world at war over cheese …

When teenager Mikey Malone gets sucked through a wormhole into this parallel world, he discovers a power-crazed corporation is planning to use Earth as a dumping ground for an uncontrollable poisonous algae. It’s a race against time for Mikey and his rebel friends to stop the ruthless tyrants from getting their way.

Review: This was  a lot of fun to read. Wormholes, alternate realities, fukin’ cats (that righteously die) and Icelandic Pirates.  Another Douglas Adams sycophantic spew from a fresh perspective.

 

Review: This Is Your Destiny by Denise Grover Swank

 

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Publisher: 47 North

Publishing Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9781477872086 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0/5

Publisher Description: Collin Dailey is a trapped man: struggling to make a living as a fisherman, deep in debt to the gangster he does business with…and shackled to his destiny as a Curse Keeper. Sworn to guard the sealed portal to hell, Collin yearns to escape the dark duty that binds him. But his dream of outrunning his tormented life may be an impossible one. After all, he can’t turn his back on centuries of sacred tradition—or ignore his iron-fisted conjurer grandmother and her dire prophecies of a terrifying enemy bent on destroying him.

Review: This is a prequel to the Curse Keepers series. While very short in length, it is packed with really good writing and a great story line that is at once grounded in reality yet is able to express itself into other realms. This mixture of fleeting magic and ravaged emotions made this a really compelling read. My only reservation for this series is that it might become this stoopid burgeoning love story between Ellie and Collin who are seemingly on opposing sides. But I am sure I will have my wishes trampled on.

 

 

Review: The Acolytes of Crane by J.D. Tew

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Publisher: Bookbuzz

Publishing Date: January 2014

ISBN: 9781482547580

Genre:  Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5

Publisher Description: Theodore Crane finds solace in goofy everyday pranks, in order to cope with living under the shadow of an abusive father and dealing with a belligerent bully who seeks him out at school. One day, intervention from outer space strikes as a mysterious amulet soars into his room bearing enigmatic clues.

Review: This novel began with a 4.5 rating  through to the 50% mark then trended downwards to finish at a 2.5. This started out really good.  Theo, after leaving an abusive environment to live with his grandparents, begins to flourish. He is called upon to fight for billions of lives while living a rural life of semi-solitude.  With his new found pal and a newly discovered talent they call the “Intervention”, they are transported from the mundane into dangerous worlds where aliens and advanced humans vie for control.

While the creative aspects of the novel were superb, the characters got lost in a jumbled and incoherent story line. Initially the characters were well developed within the confines of a limited story line as Theo’s life unfolds. As the story line expands to capture strife at the galactic level, the characters are minimized along with the plot as there are so many occurrences happening simultaneously that it loses cohesiveness. Even the world building suffers as it moves from capturing what “could be” in exacting detail to what becomes scant explanations and abrupt detailing of the environment and the alien species that reside therein.

The whole story is told from the characters perspective while residing in some Galactic Council prison. While this is pretty good if used sparingly, it is not the case here. The story shifts back and forth between the characters and past events. It is not real believable that these characters would willingly divulge all that they have been through. While the aliens were creative and inventive, the reader has to take much of what occurs on faith as little is supported by science except a quick preview on how they came to be and their existing societal structure. Interactions occur so quickly that they seem like two old friends that haven’t seen each other in a week. For instance when Theo crash lands on a planet inhabited by sentient plants (The Elon) he is captured by a different alien called a  Rangier. Then all of a sudden he’s helping Theo and taking him to see his wife, Queen of the Elon. Huh? Oh and she births a thousand plant army that will do Theo’s bidding unquestioningly.

This novel was initially superb in all aspects then it seemed to derail itself in order to finish. A shame really as this could have been on of the years best reads (for me).

Review: Book of the Dead by Grieg Beck

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Publisher: Momentum

Publishing Date: December 2014

ISBN: 9781760082437 

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5

Publisher Description: When a massive sinkhole opens up and swallows a retired couple from Iowa it seems like a freak occurrence. But it’s not the only one. Similar sinkholes are opening all over the world, even on the sea floor. And they’re getting bigger. People living near the pits begin reporting strange phenomena—vibrations, sulfurous odors, and odd sounds in the stygian depths. Then the pets begin to go missing.

Review: This seems to have been written for a “Made for TV” movie deal. The formula is evident: 1) Start novel with foreboding historical passages and the genesis of the horror to come by following the main architects demise 2) shift to present day and begin series of similar gruesome occurrences happening around the world beginning with a retired couple in Iowa. 3) Cue the investigators (civilian and military) with more missing people and other strange occurrences (swirling flocks of birds dying over sinkholes/cockroaches everywhere).  4). Cue the hot chick military investigator and Mr. Goodlookin’ Professor of ancient blah blah blah that has character flaws in all the right places that I am sure he will overcome throughout the course of the novel.  5) Cue Mr. Super Evil that tortures and maims his way in pursuit of our intrepid heroes but is just a pawn to his evil master(s).

IF, you can wade through that for the first 35% of the novel then good for you as it finally starts to get interesting without the formulaic shtick.  But that moment is brief. While this convergence of Dan Brown’s Langdon meets the “Thing” meets Indiana Jones is tiresome in the beginning, the story line picks up as the characters are carried by the movement and develop a little out of their one dimensionality. There are some comical additions of un-believability that put the novel in retrograde movie deal mode. Like the trained Mossad assassin super girl that can disarm a Navy Seal and take out 2 four man teams of terrorist ambushers with just her knives and a bad attitude (without breathing hard). But she’s hot and sassy with a tender core. She will tell you just how dumb you are while turning her back and striding confidently into the desert. So you better follow. Oh complexity where is thy sting? So, it turns out that hunky and rumpled Professor D-bag KNOWS our trained Mossad assassin as his buddy was banging her in the Appalachians  of all places. Really? This must referent some other novel starring Professor Fugtard.

The novel had some compelling moments yet were few in instance.  Get this if you like some good writing and thinly built characters that put on a show.