Zak wakes up from a night of drunken revelry to find himself in his apartment but not his apartment building. His apartment is now part of a massive structure of multiple different architectural styles that looks like it goes on forever. Plus his bathroom is missing. Shreya wakes up in her car in a parking garage to Hungry Eyes playing on the radio and an ominous car nearby nicknamed “Die Pflaume.”
This first entry of a new serial does a quick job establishing a strong setting but just when the action gets going, it leaves the reader hanging.
When I accepted this review copy, I must admit that I didn’t realize it was the first entry in a serial, I thought it was in a series. Serials offer small episodes of an overarching story in bite-size chunks the reader picks up. Think of it as reading an episode of your favorite tv series. I think it would help if this was marketed more clearly as a serial, since certain readers love that reading experience and others aren’t too keen on it. Making it clearer that it’s a serial will help it better reach the right readers.
A good serial entry will read much like an episode in a tv show with a large, overarching plot, but also a smaller plot that can be told in one episode that is, ideally, tied to the overarching plot in some way. This gives the reader the satisfaction of completing a piece of smaller plot but also keeps them engaged in the series as a whole. This serial does a good job setting up the overarching plot. People are waking up in what appears to be an alternate universe that is possibly punishing them for something they did that they can’t remember with sinister beings chasing them or tormenting them from afar. It’s a good mystery, but it is just getting going when the serial entry stops. This would be ok, but the big weakness of the serial entry is that there is no self-contained smaller plot. Thus, instead of feeling any sense of satisfaction of having learned something or completed one mystery, the two main mysteries of the overarching plot are just getting going and then stop abruptly. Without the presence of a second, self-contained, smaller plot for this entry in the serial, this just leaves the reader feeling cheated out of getting the whole story, rather than the dual experience of satisfaction at the wrap-up of the smaller plot and intrigue at the larger plot.
The setting of the alternate universe is well-established and delightfully creepy. Everything being just a little bit off is creatively written without being in the reader’s face. The author also includes a drawing of a mysterious symbol that Zak sees, which helps build the atmosphere.
In contrast, Zak and Shreya feel a bit two-dimensional, but this is possibly because they have such a short time in which to be established. Similarly, the demonic character who chases Zak comes across as corny, straight out of a B movie, not frightening like he is, presumably, supposed to. The world building is so good that the two-dimensional good guys and cheesy bad guys stick out like a sore thumb.
The one flaw in the writing style is there are way too many similes. At times it feels that every other sentence contains one. Any descriptor used too much can go from artful to annoying. A lighter hand on these would be helpful in future entries.
Overall, this first entry in the serial establishes a delightfully creepy alternate universe where everything is just off. The lack of a smaller, self-contained plot in addition to an overarching plot will make this frustrating to read, unless the reader has the next entry at hand to read immediately. Recommended primarily to horror fans who like their horror in small bites and enjoy the concept of a serial who won’t mind waiting a bit for the conclusion to the mystery in future entries.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review
The Red Church was the base of a new cult started by Wendell McFall in the 1860s. But when he took things too far and sacrificed a child, his congregation hung him from a tree. Nowadays, the children of the town view the Red Church as haunted…and so do some of the adults. When Wendell’s descendant, Archer, returns to his hometown from California, he brings the cult back with him in a new form. Archer claims he is the second son of God, and that Jesus was the first son who failed to deliver God’s true message. When he reclaims the Red Church and murders start occurring, half the town suspects Archer, while the other half falls under his spell.
This book was loaned to me by someone who really enjoyed the series. For most of the book, I felt that it was well-written horror but of a religious bent that isn’t for me. However, the ending doesn’t quite live up to the rest of the book.
At the beginning, the book feels like a horror story written by a Baptist person truly committed to their faith. The main antithesis to Archer’s cult is the Baptist church in town. At the core of the conflict are a married couple. The wife falls firmly under Archer’s spell while the husband stays true to the Baptist church. Their two small boys are caught in the middle. The most interesting parts of the story are when the third person narrator focuses in on these two boys, showing their crises of faith and the siren call of the cult, as well as the confusion engendered when their mother and father fight over religion. I could definitely see this reading as a richly crafted, frightening horror for someone who is Baptist, or at least Protestant, themselves. For the non-Christian or non-religious reader, however, the frequent mentions of Jesus, capitalizing pronouns referring to God, and attempts at creating horror at the mere idea of not following Jesus fail to aid in establishing the horror. They become something to skim past rather than part of the atmosphere of the book.
For most of the book, the basic plot of Archer versus the family and the sheriff and the crime scene detective flows nicely with just the right touch of horror. Toward the end of the book, just who Archer is and what precisely is going on becomes muddled. A lot of what happens with Archer and his church just doesn’t make a lick of sense. In spite of the religious leanings of the book, I was still engaged and wanting to solve the mystery of Archer. Instead, who he is and what the rules of the world are become increasingly muddled. The ending generally should clear things up, not leave things more confusing than they were before. That kind of confusing ending would be disappointing to anyone who read the book.
I also was disappointed by one particular aspect of the ending. A person who was abusive gets forgiven because forgiveness is what the Baptist church teaches. It bothers me when books brush off abuse as something just getting Jesus in your heart can fix. It’s misleading and dangerous to encourage people to think that way. Granted, this is a horror book, so it’s doubtful many children will be reading it, but that still doesn’t make it a good message.
The characters are interesting and widely varied. The children, particularly, are well-written. The scenes are well-envisioned and communicated. I never had any issues imagining any of the scenes vividly.
Overall, this is a well-written horror book that flounders a bit at the end. It is richly steeped in the Baptist faith. As such, I recommend it most highly to Protestant horror fans who don’t mind a bit of a confusing ending that doesn’t answer all the questions.
2 out of 5 stars
It’s time for the second giveaway of 2014 here at Opinions of a Wolf. Lots of the indie authors whose books I accepted for review in 2014 also were interested in me hosting a giveaway at the time of my review, so there will be plenty more coming up in the future too.
What You’ll Win: One ebook copy of The House of Azareal by Erik Dreistadt
How to Enter: Leave a comment on this post stating your favorite horror trope.
Who Can Enter: INTERNATIONAL
Contest Ends: March 8th. Two weeks from today!
Disclaimer: The winner will have their ebook sent to them by the author. The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.
Christopher is so grateful for his twins that seem a true miracle after he and his wife, Annamarie, had trouble conceiving. He can hardly believe it’s their 8th birthday already, and he won’t let anything spoil the celebration, not even an odd nightmare about being eaten by hellhounds he had the night before. But his children wander off into the woods after the party. When Christopher and Annamarie find them, they’ve stumbled upon an abandoned house. The children convince them to explore it. But the house quickly turns into a living nightmare. A nightmare designed and run by Azareal.
This is my second read of the twelve review copies I accepted for review here this year (see the complete list). I was looking for a shorter read after my previous two chunksters, and this short, fast-paced horror seemed like the perfect fit for my mood. The book puts a fresh twist on both haunted houses and trouble conceiving horror plots, although the writing style and dialogue struggle to support the excellent plot.
The story at first appears to be a straight-forward haunted/evil house plot. Right away, I liked that Azareal’s house isn’t the one the family lives in or one the family has just moved to. Instead, it is a house found in the woods, akin to Hansel and Gretel. That’s a trope I enjoy, and I liked seeing it used in the plot. Having the parents go into the house with the children was the first of several twists on tropes in the plot that made the book so engaging. From the point the family enters the house onward, the plot continues to twist and turn unexpectedly, yet believably. Gradually it becomes apparent that this is more than a haunted house book, it includes the occult, as well as a trouble conceiving plot. The fact that the results of using the occult to aid in conceiving doesn’t have consequences for eight years is a nice twist. Most books show consequences either during the pregnancy or immediately after the baby is born. The inclusion of new twists on both of these horror plots in one book makes the book fast-paced and engaging. It is a quick read that will propel you forward to see how it ends.
Unfortunately, the writing style doesn’t quite live up the high quality of the plot. Some of the dialogue feels forced and awkward. Similarly, while some scenes are set well, others are written in an awkward manner with focus on minute details that are irrelevant to the plot or the setting and not enough focus on other details that are. The writing style is good enough that it doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of the book, but it does knock it down a couple stars. The book is mostly well edited with the exception of one grammar mistake made quite a few times. Either using its for it’s or vice versa. Since it’s the same mistake made repeatedly, it’s easy enough to gloss over when reading it. However, I would advise for future books that the author keep an eye out for this particular issue during the editing process, especially since the rest of the grammar and spelling is so well-edited.
Overall, this is a fast-paced read that combines two horror plots into one book and puts unique twists on both. The writing style isn’t quite as good as the plot, but it’s still an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to future works by the author. Recommended to horror fans looking for a quick, unique read.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I have started accepting review copy submissions for the upcoming year in November and December. Then, out of the books submitted to me for review, I select 12 to review in the upcoming year.
This year, 34 review requests were submitted. This means I accepted only 35% of the submitted books. Of those 34 book submissions, 2 didn’t follow my review request guidelines, so were automatically eliminated. Of the authors submitting, 74% were male and 26% female. The most popular genre submitted to me was thriller with 10 submissions. The least submitted genre (that wasn’t a genre I don’t accept) was a tie between romance, horror, urban fantasy, and fantasy, with 2 each. I ultimately accepted: 4 scifi, 2 fantasy, 2 horror, 2 thriller, 1 urban fantasy, and 1 historic fiction.
The accepted review copies are listed below, alphabetically. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own. These books will be read and reviewed here in 2014, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.
Bad Elephant Far Stream
By: Samuel Hawley
Genre: Historic Fiction
Bad Elephant Far Stream is an elephant’s life story, told from her own perspective, through her own eyes.
Inspired by the life of a real elephant known as Topsy, it follows Far Stream from her birth and capture in the wild in Ceylon in the late 1860s, through her transportation to America and thirty years with the circus, which ultimately led to her being labeled as “bad.” It’s an unusual and uncompromising novel that explores the questions: What is it like to be an elephant trained for human amusement? What does such a creature think? What does it feel? What does it yearn for?
Bad Elephant Far Stream takes the reader on a voyage of discovery to find out
By: Michael J. Kolinski
Jake Wood receives an e-mail message from his cousin Jana whom he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Jana has learned of Jake’s tragedy: The seven people dead and the downward spiral of depression and survivor’s guilt his life has become. She invites him to leave a bitter cold Iowa winter to visit her in sunny Los Angeles.
Jake accepts Jana’s invitation but when he arrives, she is nowhere to be found. All Jake knows for certain is that Jana was working for renowned primatologist Dr. Gregory Mirek, a scientist with a towering reputation and a wide circle of wealthy and influential friends.
With the assistance of Jana’s best friend Laurie Summers, Jake travels across California and into Las Vegas in search of Jana. It’s a path that leads to a desperate real estate developer, a seedy casino owner, and the discovery that Dr. Mirek has ghastly secrets that he will do anything to protect.
The City of Time & Memory
By: Justin Childress
The City rises up from the silent gray clouds that surround it, structures like tombstones, built with recollections of bad days gone by, populated by fading screams and stale sobs. Unnameable nightmares stalk the streets, the alleys, the stairs, hungry for those unfortunate to find themselves lost in the City of Time & Memory.
Zak awakens to find himself in his room, but not in his house. His doorways no longer connect to the rest of his home, but to silent hallways and endless gray voids. He must find a way out of the labyrinth of alien rooms and endless stairwells, before something finds him.
By: Nick Milligan
Jack is the most famous rockstar in the world… he’s just not from this planet.
Before joining NASA’s space program, Jack had dreams of a career as a professional musician. When a deep space mission goes awry, he crashes on an alien planet. Jack discovers that his new world is inhabited by a race of humans that have evolved in parallel to those on Earth. He picks up a guitar and performs the most wondrous rock songs of his home planet. Neil Young. Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan. Superstardom beckons as audiences around the globe revere Jack and his apparent songwriting abilities. He basks in the boundless glow of a hedonistic dream world. But Jack soon learns that his lie will have sinister consequences.
The House of Azareal
By: Erik Dreistadt
Christopher Porter lives a peaceful life with his wife and twin children in the mountains of Tennessee. Christopher’s life is about to be turned upside down as he and his family are drawn to a mysterious, old house deep in the woods near their home. After entering the house, he struggles to keep his family safe and try to escape the mysterious creatures living inside.
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
By: E. A. Aymar
Tom Starks has spent the three years since his wife’s murder struggling to single-handedly raise their daughter, Julie, while haunted by memories of his dead spouse. When he learns that the man accused of her murder, Chris Taylor, has been released from prison, Tom hires a pair of hit men to get his revenge. But when the hit men botch the assassination, Tom is inadvertently pulled into their violent world. And now those hit men are after him and his daughter.
One Death at a Time
By: Thomas M. Hewlett
Genre: Urban Fantasy
“People think Alcoholics Anonymous is for drunks. It’s not. It’s for us, the real drinkers. The blood drinkers. All the rest of those meetings are just for show.”
Los Angeles, 1948. Detective Jack Strayhorn is killed while chasing down a suspect in the Black Dahlia murders all by himself.
Los Angeles, 2010. Jack Strayhorn is back in L.A. as a private investigator with a simple mission: catch the bad guys and try not to kill any innocent people along the way.
To him and his kind, human blood is the strongest drug in the world. Fortunately for Jack, he found the secret group within AA dedicated to helping Vampires survive the madness and destruction of their disease.
When a city councilmember with ties to a drug-dealing Fae clan is found dead in his home and the woman lying next to him is Jack’s current missing person’s case, tracking down the ghostlike hitman will test him like nothing before.
But this time, Jack won’t be alone. With the help of his unique powers of investigation, his magically talented friends, and a Medical Examiner with a few secrets of her own, Jack will face down a gang of outlaw biker werewolves, spell-casting Fae high on pixie dust, and an underground order of Vampires intent on ruling the world.
As Jack learned long ago, the only way to get through eternity is one death a time.
The Reflections of Queen Snow White
By: David C. Meredith
What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White
The Running Game
By: L. E. Fitzpatrick
Her father called it the running game. Count the exits, calculate the routes. Always be ready to run because they’ll always be coming for you. Whatever happens, they’ll always be coming for you.
Rachel had let her guard down and they had found her. She could run now, leave the city and try her luck beyond the borders, but with no money and a dark secret to hide her chances of survival are slim.
But then she meets two brothers with a dangerous past and secrets of their own. Can they help her turn the game around?
The Second Lives of Honest Men
By: John Cameron
Genre: Scifi, Historic Fiction
On the evening of April 14th, 1865, a flawless duplicate replaced the 16th President an instant prior to his assassination. Two centuries later, Honest Abe opened his eyes to a world in desperate need of guidance.
By: Paul Bussard
Stinger Stars is the story of mankind’s first contact with another intelligent species—a man-made species that can enable humans to regenerate lost or damaged body parts. Tragically, the intelligent creatures must be repeatedly maimed in order for them to produce the regenerative agent that makes them so useful. Set in a world of rival genetic research companies, ruthless alpha males, unauthorized experiments, and industrial espionage, Stinger Stars follows Maria de la Cruz, a lowly biology student with a stunted arm, as she struggles with the very personal moral and ethical issues—whether to protect the intelligent animals from cruel exploitation or benefit from their suffering to regain the use of her arm.
The Underworld King
By: Ranjit More
60,000 miles below the surface of the earth thrives a kingdom inhabited by daityas – giant, fanged beings of the night who sometimes travel to the surface above and eat humans in the hearts of grim forests. Their four-armed king, Drumila, faces a new peril, and this time it is advancing upon him not from the heavens, where his eternal enemies reside; but from the darkest depths of creation. The naagas -giant, flame-breathing serpents- are traveling towards the capital of daityas, intent upon reducing them to ashes, and Drumila must do something about it. For no matter how strongly he detests his subjects’ lifestyle and nature, it is his duty to protect them as king.
Moved by Drumila’s plight, the powerful sage, Shukracharya, swims down into the underworld upon the back of his giant crocodile and convinces his disciple-king to migrate to the surface of the earth.
What follows is an epic exodus to the world above and a strange encounter with a beautiful girl thereupon. Nandini seems to be human, but all signs point towards her having descended from the heavens, the least of which are a delicate waist and long eyes extending up to her ears. But is this a trick of the gods? Drumila will find out soon enough, when the battle begins.
Since 2011, I’ve been dedicating a separate post from my annual reading stats post to the 5 star reads of the year. I not only thoroughly enjoyed assembling the 5 star reads posts, but I also go back to them for reference periodically. It’s just useful and fun simultaneously! Plus it has the added bonus of giving an extra signal boost to the five star reads of the year.
With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2013!
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
By: Chris Guillebeau
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: Crown Business
Genre: Nonfiction Lifestyle
Themes: independence, success, small businesses
Guillebeau investigated what makes microbusinesses (small businesses typically run by one person) successful by conducting a multiyear study interviewing more than 100 successful microbusiness entrepreneurs. Here he presents his findings on what makes for a successful microbusiness and offers advice on how you can become a successful microbusiness entrepreneur too.
I refer to things I learned in this book at least once a week. Guillebeau offers practical advice for the aspiring small business owner on everything from choosing an idea that will work to setting the right price to marketing. The things I’ve been able to try from the book so far have worked. This book shows what happens when a nonfiction book bases its advice on solid research.
The Curse of the Wendigo (The Monstrumologist, #2)
By: Rick Yancey
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Horror, YA
Themes: love lost, the nature of good and evil
Will Henry, 12 year old orphan and assistant to renowned Monstrumologist, Pellinore Warthrop, is shocked to find a refined woman on Warthrop’s doorstep. She is the wife of Warthrop’s best friend who has now gone missing in rural Canada while looking for the elusive wendigo (aka werewolf). Warthrop insists that there is no such thing as a wendigo, but he agrees to go looking for his missing friend anyway, even if he believes his mission was ridiculous and an affront to monstrumology’s reputation.
What I remember when I think about this book is the beautiful language and the dual setting of the horror. Setting the book both in rural Canada and urban New York is part of what made it feel so unique to me. A horror that travels instead of being trapped in one setting isn’t seen as often. The book is beautiful and grotesque at the same time. A rare find.
By: Frederik Pohl
Publication Date: 1976
Publisher: Orb Books
Themes: transhumanism, artificial intelligence
The first Earthling reworked into a Martian would be Roger Torraway. Martian instead of Earthling since everything on him had to be reworked in order to survive on Mars. His organic skin is stripped off and made plastic. His eyes are replaced by large, buglike red ones. He is given wings to gather solar power, not to fly. All of which is organized and run by his friend, the computer on his back. Who was this man? What was his life like? How did he survive the transformation to become more than human and help us successfully colonize Mars?
This has a scifi plot that both explores an issue I’m interested in (transhumanism) and managed to surprise me at the end. It’s a short book that makes you think and has compelling three-dimensional characters. I’ll definitely be keeping this one and seeking out more of Pohl’s writing.
A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology, and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today
By: Kate Bornstein
Publication Date: 2012
Publisher: Beacon Press
Genre: Memoir, GLBTQ
Themes: religious abuse, trans rights, gender, Borderline Personality Disorder
Kate Bornstein is a playwright, gender theorist, and queer activist. She chose to write a memoir as a way to reach out to her daughter, Jessica, who is still in the Church of Scientology, and thus, must not speak to her. Her memoir talks about growing up Jewish in the 1950s, feeling like a girl inside a boy’s body. It then talks about why and how she joined Scientology (still identifying as a man, Al), climbing Scientology’s ladder, marrying, fathering Jessica, and finally getting kicked out of Scientology and becoming disillusioned. From there the memoir explains to Jessica how and why Al decided to become Kate and talks about the person behind the queer theory, trying to explain who the incredibly unique parent she has truly is.
This memoir is engaging right from the title and stunning in the level of honesty Bornstein displays. Bornstein eloquently presents the reality of being trans, entering a leaving an abusive religion, and the complexities of gender. An incredibly readable memoir that stays with you.
Succubus Dreams (Georgina Kincaid, #3)
By: Richelle Mead
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Themes: the grayness of good versus evil
Seattle’s succubus, Georgina Kincaid, has a lot on her hands between dating her human author boyfriend, Seth, (and not sleeping with him to protect his life energy), adjusting to her new managerial position at the bookstore, and her usual succubus requirement of stealing good men’s life energy by sleeping with them. So the last thing she needs is another new assignment from hell, but that’s what she’s getting. Seattle is getting a second succubus, a newbie she has to mentor. When she starts having dreams about having a normal, human life and waking up with her energy drained, it all turns into almost too much for one succubus to handle.
This series glows in my mind as a favorite that I will return to again and again. This book is where I truly began to fall in love with it. The third entry shows that urban fantasy can be more than monster of the week. It does what genre does best. Ponder real life questions in an enjoyable wrapping.
Succubus Revealed (Georgina Kincaid, #6)
By: Richelle Mead
Publication Date: 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Themes: soul mates, forgiveness, personal growth
Seattle’s succubus, Georgina Kincaid, is incredibly happy to be back together with her previously ex boyfriend, Seth Mortensen. But getting back together with him came at the price of hurting his once-fiancee and having to leave her previously loved position managing the bookstore. It’s all worth it to be with Seth, though. But then a transfer notice comes in, sending her to her dream job in Las Vegas. It’d be a dream come true, except Seth can’t come with her because his sister-in-law has cancer. Georgina starts to wonder just why so many elements seem to keep coming together to try to drive her and Seth apart.
This an amazing series finale that reveals so many aspects of the overarching plot that I wanted to go back and re-read the whole series immediately just to look for more of the overarching plot that I was oblivious to the first time around. It’s a wrap-up that is satisfying without making everything too perfect for the characters. It has a lot to say about love and redemption. And it made me cry.
Succubus Shadows (Georgina Kincaid, #5)
By: Richelle Mead
Publication Date: 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Themes: facing your past
Seattle’s succubus, Georgina Kincaid, cannot believe she has been roped into helping plan her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. It’s enough to make anyone depressed. But she can’t afford to be depressed, because every time she starts to feel down, a mysterious force tries to lure her away to what must be a dangerous place. Georgina is fed up with all of these mysterious attacks on Seattle. It just doesn’t make sense. What is making them target Seattle? And seem to be maybe targeting her?
The penultimate book in this series isn’t afraid to go dark places with tough questions. It also addresses the issue in urban fantasy that a lot of people joke about: gee that’s sure a lot happening in this one town! Mead addresses this in a tongue-in-cheek manner that also ties into the overall plot. I was amazed at how well this series incorporates both all the things that make urban fantasy fun (demons! sex! supernatural battles!) and an overarching plot that tugs at the heart strings and makes some of the bizarre things that happen make sense.
The Time Machine
By: H. G. Wells
Publication Date: 1895
Publisher: New American Library
Genre: Scifi, Classic
Themes: dystopia, time travel, evolution, class divides
Nobody is quite sure whether to believe their eccentric scientist friend when he claims to have invented the ability to travel through time. But when he shows up late to a dinner party with a tale of traveling to the year 802,700 and meeting the human race, now divided into the child-like Eloi and the pale ape-like ground-dwelling Morlocks, they find themselves wanting to believe him.
I’m so glad I added this scifi classic to my list of books I’ve read. I of course had heard of the general idea of the Morlocks and the Eloi, but reading about them for myself, I was easily able to see how this became a classic. It kept me on the edge of my seat, concerned for the scientist’s safety, even while exploring issues of inequitable class divides and pondering the future direction of the evolution of the human race.
Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers
By: Karyl McBride
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: Free Press
Genre: Nonfiction Psych, Nonfiction Relationships
Themes: overcoming adversity, mother/daughter relationships, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, abuse
A guidebook for adult women raised by a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Dr. McBride is a therapist with many years of experience treating daughters of NPD mothers and also with treating people with NPD. Additionally, she herself is the daughter of a woman with NPD. The book is divided into three sections to help the daughters of mothers with NPD to heal and take charge of their lives. The first section “Recognizing the Problem,” explains what maternal NPD looks like. The second section, “How Narcissistic Mothering Affects Your Entire Life,” explains the impact NPD mothers have on their daughters, both as children and as adults. The third section, “Ending the Legacy” is all about healing from the NPD mothering and breaking the cycle of Narcissism. Dr. McBride offers clinical examples from her practice as well as detailed, clearly explained exercises to aid with healing.
This is one of the best books I’ve read for adult survivors of abusive childhoods. It works because it focuses narrowly on one type of relationship and one type of dysfunctional, abusive childhood to be overcome. McBride explains what happened to the adult survivor when they were a child, how that affects them now, and how to overcome it. She does this while neither excusing nor demonizing the mother’s behavior. A great book for anyone with an interest in how mothers with NPD affect their daughters.
A newly formed company’s owners decide that what the small group of employees need is a bonding camping trip. Bear isn’t a fan of camping, but he agrees to go along anyway. When the site is more rural than he was anticipating, he starts to question his decision. When they wake up the first morning and find one member of the party missing, he’s sure he made a mistake coming camping. On each successive morning, another camper is gone. Who is taking them and why?
I picked this up, along with seven other books, during Smashwords’ 2012 Summer/Winter Sale. I’ve always enjoyed the classic horror trope of we-all-go-to-the-woods-and-shit-gets-real, so I was intrigued to see what Alaspa did with it. There’s enough different in the plot to keep you reading, in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing.
People disappearing from their tents and leaving their clothes behind, one per night, is a nice subtle change to what one generally sees in the everyone in the woods story. Usually people get eaten by zombies or axe murdered or something obvious. A simple disappearance was different enough that I was genuinely curious as to what was causing these odd disappearances. Added into this are the methods used by whoever is doing the abducting to keep the campers in their campsite. They try to paddle away but the currents mysteriously change. They try to walk away through the woods but the trees attack them, etc… These methods worked within the context of the supernatural seeming disappearances. I also liked that their supernatural experimenters make it impossible for them to get hurt, so they are forced to wait their turn. It all felt a bit like a subtly done allegory for animals in a slaughterhouse, and it kept me reading and engaged.
The only element of the plot that didn’t work for me is that the first person to disappear from the group is also the only person of color in the group. Having the Latino guy be the first one to disappear is so stereotypical and B-movie that I actually cringed. Let poor Carlos be at least the second one to disappear. Or, heck, make him be one of the last ones standing. Getting to play with the regular tropes of whatever genre you write in is one of the benefits of indie writing, so use that to your advantage.
Unfortunately, some of the writing style on the sentence level isn’t up to the same level as the intricate plot. There is quite a bit of telling instead of showing. Not enough trusting the reader to get it. There are some awkward and puzzling sentences in the book as well:
The ground was wet and my hands were damp when I put my hands on it. (loc 616)
The hand turned into fingers and slammed the lids of my eyes closed. (loc 2809)
Additionally, I started counting the number of errors that were clearly not typos, and I got over 30. I fully expect some errors to get through, they tend to even in traditionally published works, but I find anything over 5 to 10 to be excessive and feel more like a first draft than a fully done, ready to publish work.
On the other hand, there are portions of the sentence-level writing that are eloquent and beautiful to read. Particularly, any instance where characters are having sex is quite well-written, and I would be interested to read work from Alaspa focused more on romance or erotica.
When she touched the part of me that was hard and eager I nearly exploded. (loc 1828)
Overall, this book contains a strong horror/thriller plot that will keep the reader engaged in spite of some awkward sentence-level writing and a few too many textual errors. I recommend it to horror readers who are intrigued by the plot and don’t mind these short-comings.
3 out of 5 stars