Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: SuperGhost

superghost

From the Back Cover:

Mad science, giant monsters, and a whole lot of severed limbs…

Things were bad when Darren lost his arm to a drunken farmer driving a stolen bulldozer the wrong way down a one-way city street. All he had left was the strange tingling sensation where his arm had been and a life that was no longer there. Now, even that is about to be stolen from him.

The foulest mad scientist the world has ever seen has plans for Darren’s phantom limb, and the limbs of all the other amputees he can attack. He is gathering them to build the greatest Frankenstein ghost ever made from phantom body parts – a SuperGhost designed to destroy the world! And it will take Darren and a ragtag band of amputation survivors to bring down the creature and save mankind from total destruction!

Now then…

If there’s one thing my dad taught me, it’s that you can NEVER trust a mad scientist. You can trust an eccentric botanist, a quirky chemist, and maybe a funky geologist — but never, never, never, trust a mad scientist of any discipline.

Author Scott Cole proves my father’s lesson timeless in his fun novella SuperGhost. Scott is one of Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Series Authors (NBAS) for 2014 and he delivers a promising debut to the scene. This cozy story presents a classic monster movie dilemma, engaging characters, and hits some nice bizarro notes that will prove satisfying to fans of the genre as well as providing a great entry point for those that are new to the bizarro world.

As I read SuperGhost, I couldn’t help but be happily reminded of Ghostbusters (which has been mentioned in other reviews), Men in Black, and the criminally underrated David Duchovny movie, Evolution. There’s a bit of schlock but a lot of heart here. A great Saturday afternoon read.

Somebody call Jon Lithgow — because if there is one man to play the evil Dr. Rains, he’s the guy.

I give this book 5 full test tubes.

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Book Review: Party Wolves in My Skull

PWIMS

From the back cover:

Norman Spooter awakens one morning to find that his eyeballs have fallen in love with each other. They proceed to tear themselves out of his head, steal his car keys, and take off for parts unknown. So he does what any of us would probably do in that situation… he goes back to bed, hoping it’ll all resolve itself. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, a pack of WOLVES moves in. The worst thing is, they’re party wolves…

BUT they gave him a security deposit, so he decides he’s going out to get his eyeballs back.
He joins forces on his epic quest with a woman named Zoe, who has a mysterious secret almost as crazy as Norman’s Party Wolves. Besides, she needs him too. She’s on the run from her psychopathic ex-boyfriend, who happens to be a dangerous sociopath, a classic car enthusiast and, worst of all, a fully-grown walrus…

Now then…

Some books you read to learn more about yourself. Some are read in an effort to examine the human condition. Some books will tear the heart right outta your chest, others might fire up your long dead spiritual pilot light.

I read for all kinds of reasons, as I am sure you do as well.

Well, this little book here – this one you read for funsies.

Party Wolves in my Skull is a pure joy. It’s an overflowing bowl of your favorite sugary cereal. It’s a Saturday morning spent watching hours of Scooby Doo and playing with your toys. It’s like staying up too late, playing pranks on your friends, or making fart noises to entertain yourself and your pack.

Author Michael Allen Rose has taken the familiar trope of the road journey, introduced it to a classic Tex Avery cartoon, got them drunk and convinced them both to join him in a three way. The plot is pretty clear in the back cover, but just to be sure you know what you’re getting into:

Plan on hanging out with a pack of party wolves. These bow-wows know how to get down while watching your back. Some of them might be stoned off their furry butts, but they are as loyal as you would even need a friend to be. Plus, they ooze with enthusiasm — just a grab-life-by-the-leg-and-hump-it attitude.

You’ll also meet a generally nice guy with some self-esteem issues. Poor dude – his eyeballs done fell in love and jumped ship. Blinded by love, yep, that’s the thing. Problem is that he had nothing to do with it. Obviously, he’d like his eyeballs back. Who wouldn’t?

And…there’s a stilted woman and a jilted walrus.

How? Why? What?

Who cares?

This is a book a bouncy, jalopy ride through a absurdist yet familiar landscape. It’s got a big heart, memorable characters, and silly jokes throughout. Take a break and hang out with the party wolves for a while.

STOP BEING SO SERIOUS ALL THE DAMN TIME!

I give it FIVE PAWS UP.

Oh, and there’s even a music video!

 

Book Review: Crafting the Character Arc by Jennie Jarvis

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A quick Google search for writing advice will result in approximately 7 billion hits. That’s a craft article for every person on the planet. There is more writing about writing on the Internet than there is actual writing. Some of this advice is good, some bad, and some – I’m pretty sure was put there by highly competitive writers that are hoping you will follow it so that your writing will SUCK FOREVER.

Something one hears often is that characters should be engaging, relatable, and must change over the course of the story. It’s obvious advice. But unless you are already a pro, how to pull this off might not be so obvious. And if you’re a pro, you probably don’t need the advice in the first place – but thanks for reading my book review anyway. You’re a peach!

If you are looking to create a path for your character that will be compelling — a character that your readers will connect with and root for – this book is a great place to start. Jarvis presents the blueprint for a character arc that will put them through the paces, challenge them, and ultimately force them to grow.

The lessons and information provided are clear and practical. The examples used are from popular stories and although you might not know all of them, you are certain to know some. There’s also a dash of wit about it that makes it a fun read, even if you are a peach of a pro.

Crafting the Character Arc: A Practical Guide to Character Creation and Development by Jennie Jarvis is a worthy book for any writer’s reference shelf.

Are You a Book Reviewer?

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I’m still under NDA, but just between you and me and the Internet, I have a new book coming out in a few weeks.

I AM DYING TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT….HAVE TO WAIT JUST A BIT LONGER…

My publisher has given me a PDF version for distributing to reviewers. I’m curious if anyone out there in WordPress-land (and the greater WordPress-land area) might be interested? I’m looking for folks with book review blogs and the like.

Quick facts:

It’s a novella. You can read it in an afternoon.

It’s the tender story of a four-armed, war hammer wielding, intergalactic gladiator. Think comedic space opera laced with potty humor.

Interested?

Reply below to secure your review copy today. You can also click on “Contact” on the navigation menu up top.
Photo Credit: paulbence via Compfight cc

Book Review: The Remnant: Into the Collision by P.A. Douglas

The Remnant: Into the CollisionThe Remnant: Into the Collision by P.A. Douglas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve known for a long time that the apocalypse is not something to fear. It’s what people will do while the sky falls that is much more frightening. I’ve survived a few mini-pocalypses: a devastating tornado, several hurricanes, and two redheads. I have seen first hand just how batshit crazy people get when the status quo gets a healthy shake. They’ll stab you in the throat for a gallon of gasoline.

P.A. Douglas presents a relatively plausible game-over scenario: Earth finds itself in the crosshairs of a killer field of asteroids and the ensuing meteor storm not only rains down on the planet, but one big old rock gives the moon a kiss and bumps it out of orbit. The result is massive flooding, earthquakes, and something unexpected – the reduction of oxygen in our atmosphere. The air is escaping the balloon, and it seems inevitable that all life on the planet will eventually be extinguished. The time waiting for the ticket punch will be excruciating for those who have managed to survive.

We meet Byron, our protagonist, just pre-apocalypse. He’s an average guy. He’s got an ex-wife and kid living out of state and spends his days grinding away at work and watching cartoons. He’s been hiding out in his apartment watching the events unfold and he is confused and scared. However, he doesn’t get to stay there for long and eventually finds himself with a reasonably sane and diverse group of folks. As the book progresses, we watch them logically plan out their survival while dealing with the personality conflicts one would expect in such dire circumstances.

Douglas contrasts Bryon’s group with another, a group of National Guardsmen who have taken the plunge and allowed themselves to devolve into violent beasts driven by urges to rape and pillage. It’s within this contrast that Douglas puts human nature to the test. Do we rise to the occasion or sink to the bottom when faced with the ultimate crisis? Do we share that gasoline or do we stab someone for it? When the end comes, will you have grace? Or will it be disgrace?

The narrative is tight. We stick to a small cast of characters and although the outside world and its disintegration are mentioned, it’s really about what’s happening in the immediate vicinity. The story is character driven and although the setting is driving their motivations, it never determines them. Byron’s a sympathetic aspiring hero, one that we can behind. There’s some ugly in this book but Byron keeps hope alive.

A great weekend read and a solid contribution to the genre. Worth picking up.

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Book Review: Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights by Dale Lucas

Doc Voodoo Aces and Eights Color

Doc Voodoo: Aces & EightsDoc Voodoo: Aces & Eights by Dale Lucas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pulp novels have a special place on my shelf, and with that comes expectations. When I pick one up I expect it to provide me with a break-neck narrative, some skull cracking, and a bigger-than-life hero that delivers lines of dialogue that would make an English Professor groan.

Doc Voodoo: Aces & Eights provides all that along with some pleasant surprises. Author Dale Lucas not only channels the spirit of the pulps with his highly visual and well-paced prose, but also shows that he is a man who is highly knowledgeable about his chosen setting and all that it encompasses.

The time is 1926. The where is Harlem. The hero: Doc Voodoo, a man who delivers street justice using a combination of fists, guns, and superpowers — thanks to an intimate relationship he maintains with several voodoo demigods. He’s not immortal, and he’s certainly not invincible, but he has the ability to handle danger that would be too much for a normal man.

There is a feeling of authenticity and love for the setting that comes pouring out of the book. It’s easy to fall into clichés when working with material such as this, but Lucas sidesteps them and presents a window to a time and place that is gone, but not so far in the rearview mirror that it can no longer be recognized. As a reader, I felt fully transported and in a way, privileged to experience something that I could not know without Doc Voodoo to guide me.

Aces & Eights is a grand adventure. Criminals, shady cops, gin joints, jazz, and the supernatural whirl about as we join our hero of the night in his quest to protect the innocent from a curse machine that could doom them all. It’s a race against the clock, but Lucas takes care to include considerable character development and a strong dose of history as we zip along.

The pulps were all about entertaining the reader. Doc Voodoo doesn’t disappoint. Dale Lucas gives us a solid piece of escapist fiction with flair. Solid, fun read.

Note: Although we have the same last name, I am not related to the author.

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Book Review: Weaver by Katherine Arandez

Weaver (The Kervanian Chronicles #1)Weaver by Katherine Arandez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my youth, I would often walk into the woods or neglected places and imagine that just beyond it was another world, something beyond the ordinary. I don’t think that I was unique in this way, but I may have had a more active imagination than most. Adulthood and the mundane have a way of stealing this from most.

Arandez’s Weaving evoked memories of my childhood imaginings more than once.

For those who enjoy detail-rich settings and mythologies, there is some deep down world building here. Arandez doesn’t just suggest that there is a greater world just past reality; she builds it brick by brick. It proved to be challenging at times to keep on top of all of the details, but as a first book in a series, it has some heavy lifting to do.

The plot is complex. Three children cross through a magic portal into another world and must go on a great adventure in order to get back. In itself, this seems quite familiar, but the mythology of Weaver has many layers – players and events to remember as you move forward through the story. My guess is that for those that enjoy the story, rereads will be in order to fully appreciate what is going on.

When I was younger, I loved books like Weaver. As an adult, I appreciate the amount of thought that goes into world design. Arandez has developed enough material to tell many great stories from this, and I think that she’s an author worth watching.

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