I Am Alive

October 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Hello readers,

No review right now, just a short update. I have been very busy the past couple of months because I’m in the process of getting a divorce. I have now moved from Japan back to my hometown in western Washington state and I’m settled enough to start focusing on reading and reviewing again. It feels good to be getting back into a normal routine and I’m looking forward to reading some great books again.

See you later!

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Short Story Break- Moxie Mezcal

April 7, 2010 at 1:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

“Sweet Dream, Silver Screen” by Moxie Mezcal is available at Smashwords.com as well as the author’s website, moxiemezcal.com.

Summary: “A young woman searches for her missing twin sister in a foreign country called America. On the road, she encounters a series of strangers who help her navigate its topography, including a cowboy in a pink Cadillac, a sadistic law enforcement agent, a pulp fiction novelist, the regulars at a nuclear bomb-themed dive bar, and a man who befriends mannequins.”

“Sweet Dream, Silver Screen” is about twin sisters: one missing, and one trying to find her. It’s an incredibly pulpy, entertaining story that moves quickly.  I loved the quirky details like the sisters’ names: did they dye their hair to match their names, or did they change their names to match their hair? I liked the searching twin, Scarlett, quite a bit. Her sister, Violet, asked for her help and she’s finally coming through, only it might be too late. Violet has moved on and her trail is almost cold. Scarlett is a tough bitch, though, and she isn’t easily diverted from her goal.

This is the kind of down-homey, hardcore story that is very West Coast USA. As a whole, it’s fairly bizarre but not hard to follow, carefree but not watered down.

Something else that’s worth mentioning is the author’s website, where there are playlists posted that correspond to each novel, sort of like a soundtrack for the book. This is something I found to be awesome, and it’s nice that the author took the time to do this. Great idea.

The Bottom Line: This isn’t for everyone. It has sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and violence. If you’re not sensitive, you’ll like it.

A young woman searches for her missing twin sister in a foreign country called America. On the road, she encounters a series of strangers who help her navigate its topography, including a cowboy in a pink Cadillac, a sadistic law enforcement agent, a pulp fiction novelist, the regulars at a nuclear bomb-themed dive bar, and a man who befriends mannequins.

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Boomerang

March 7, 2010 at 3:38 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

I present to you: Boomerang by Alan Hutcheson. $1.99 at Smashwords.

This is a book I chanced upon when the author was promoting it at mobileread.com.

Summary: “Ted Hogwood’s beloved guitar is in the window of Topp Dollar Pawn. The only way he can get the money to rescue her is to accept an assignment from the AABC, a not nearly official branch of the US intelligence community. He is partnered with Jerry Kwiatkowski to steal a boomerang containing secrets that should have died with J. Edgar Hoover. It would be simple if they knew what they were doing.”

Score: 4/5 

This story is much more complicated than the supplied summary indicates. It’s a book version of an extremely successful Cohen brothers movie: quirky, funny in unexpected places, and more than a few twists and turns before you reach the end. The story is told from many opposing viewpoints, but it unfolds easily; just start reading it and let it do the work. The flip-side of an effortless read with so many characters is that the reader doesn’t really get “sucked in” as if the intensity of only one or two main characters was portrayed.

I could tell Boomerang was very carefully written. There are no wasted words, and no fluffy padding of any kind. The humor in the narration reminds me of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, one of my personal favorites. If you aren’t into very dry, pompous, “Ministry of Silly Walks” type jokes, there are still plenty of laughs in the dialog and the situations themselves.

At times I found the characters’ motivations and alliances hard to keep track of, but at the same time I liked how the chapters jumped from person to person. It kept the tone from getting overly serious, which would have been disastrous for this particular book. I guess that makes that issue a wash.

The Bottom Line: Boomerang is a light, humorous book that doesn’t make you think too terribly hard, and doesn’t preach any morals. I’d recommend it as a leisurely summertime read.

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Jason Dark Series

March 4, 2010 at 12:34 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter is a new series of gothic horror novellas written by Guido Henkel, a former computer game designer and programmer.

Summary:Where fog shrouds the streets of Victorian England, where evil lurks behind street corners and nightmares dance in the souls of men, comes the Geisterjäger. Descended from an ancestral line of ghost hunters, Jason Dark is the Geisterjäger of his generation. Facing the horrors, the demons, the vampires, the werecreatures, and every other diabolical monster imaginable on behalf of a more civilized world. Risking his own life, sanity, and soul, Dark faces unmentionable terror – perhaps even the Devil himself. Join the Ghost Hunter in his arcane and ethereal exploits – unless, of course, you’re afraid of the Dark.”

At the author’s invitation, I read the first three volumes of this series. Each volume has ghost hunter Jason Dark and crew battling evil creatures and helping a few people in the process.

Volume one: Demon’s Night
Volume two: Theater of Vampires
Volume three: Ghosts Templar

Story: 3.5/5. All three stories were interesting and fast-paced. Each story builds on the one previous, but I don’t think it would be absolutely necessary to read them in order, if circumstances didn’t allow it. I liked the characters but I wanted to know more about Jason Dark. There’s no explanation of his ghost hunter title, but perhaps it will be revealed in another volume. From the description of the series, and from the beginning of the first story, I was expecting Dark to be a Victorian-era James Bond. He has a scary job, he’s the right age, and he has a laboratory in his flat. Cool, right? But it’s not until the second volume that anything is actually made in the lab, and most of the time Dark seems like an alarmingly average bachelor instead of the rugged warrior type I was expecting.

In “Demon’s Night,” Dark acquires a sidekick of sorts, whom I like very much. Instead of a Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson type dynamic, where one party is subordinate to the other, Jason Dark and Siu Lin are on more equal ground, with each bringing completely separate areas of expertise to the table.

“Theater of Vampires” was my favorite of these three adventures. In “Ghosts Templar,” Dark and Siu Lin travel to a different setting which keeps the storyline fresh and lets the reader see how they do out of their normal element.

Editing: Suffice it to say, the grammar and usage in these novellas aren’t perfect. I don’t want to beat a dead horse over it but they need an editor’s eye. I do feel that the usage problems diminished from the first to the third volume.

The Bottom Line: These novellas are a fast, entertaining read. They’re more scary and suspenseful than they are gory. There are a few bloody scenes, but I think they would be fine for young adults over 13. Of course, use your own discretion.

You can visit the author’s website, which includes the books as well as Jason Dark merchandise and news about the series. www.JasonDarkSeries.com

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Short Story Break – David Niall Wilson

March 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Note: I can’t jam out novels nearly as fast as I’d like, so in between the longer books, I’ll post these little short story reviews.

“‘Scuse Me, While I Kiss the Sky” is a short story by longtime dark fantasy/macabre writer David Niall Wilson. It’s included in his short story collection Defining Moments (nominated for the Bram Stoker award), and it’s also for sale solo in multiple formats at the Macabre Ink Publishing store here.

Old Mill, North Carolina is a rural, low-income town that could actually exist anywhere in America. If you don’t go away to college, there’s really nothing to do except find a job that can keep food in your mouth and a roof over your head. Some readers might not know what I mean when I say there’s really nothing to do, but that is exactly what I mean. No mall, probably no movie theater, definitely no ice-skating rink, paintball range, or Build-a-Bear workshop. In the case of Old Mill, the military base that was probably the biggest employer in the county closed down and, at the opening of the story, is overgrown and falling apart.

Every town like this has a few people who want to move on to bigger, if not always better, things, and Jess is one of them. He makes plans to leave, but grudgingly agrees to attend one last party with his friends because he hears there is going to be some awesome marijuana available there. He plans to acquire some, then leave town and sell it for some income while he’s on the road. I smiled when I read the description of “The Swamp” – a barn in the woods, whose owner nobody seems to know, in and around which youths congregate to break the law in various ways. If, in your own youth, you’ve frequented such a place (like I have), you’ll especially appreciate the small details the author includes.

I’m not sure if this was the intent, but I thought the ultimate ending of “Kiss the Sky” was a happy one. Jess is forced to make a decision about the direction of his life and what he really wants, and he steps up smoothly. Leonard, Jess, and Mabel all have complicated personalities that jump off the page (or screen!).

The bottom line: Not everyone will consider the subject matter of this story their cup of tea, so if you’re sensitive you might want to skip it. If you don’t mind a raw story with both guts and soul, please don’t miss this one.

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Thin Blood

February 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Thin Blood by Vicki Tyley.

I heard of this book when the author kindly brought it to everyone’s attention at mobileread.com.

Available for $3.97 at Smashwords.com.

Summary: “A stockbroker’s wife disappears. Blood on his hands and an adulterous affair with the missing woman’s younger sister sees him charged with murder. With no body and only circumstantial evidence he walks free. Ten years later, journalist Jacinta Deller decides to investigate, only to become embroiled in a warped game of delusion and murder.”

Story score: 4.5/5. This is one novel I grudged putting down, even to sleep or get on with household chores. The characters are believable, especially the protagonist, Jacinta Deller. She’s a woman whose drive to succeed in the workplace sometimes overshadows her personal relationships, but through her struggles she’s never trite or helpless. It would be fabulous if this were a series, so we could find out more about how things turn out with Jacinta and her stepbrother.

Editing score: 5/5. Thin Blood looks great and reads great. Word choice is varied and sentence and paragraph structures are interesting. Nothing to complain about!

Style score: 5/5. It’s written in a style that makes you forget you’re reading at all. The story flows so easily that before you know what’s happened, fifty pages are gone. It practically reads itself.

The author is brilliant at giving exactly enough detail, for example: time drags when Jacinta is home alone at night and hearing noises outside (as it should), but the details of Jacinta’s work day that don’t have much of a bearing on the story are finished in one paragraph. Overall Thin Blood moves at a nice canter from person to person and incident to incident.

The Big Picture: This comes highly recommended from me. If you like murder mysteries, female sleuths, or both, this is a must-read. I thought I had the mystery solved until the very end, but I was wrong.

I will definitely be telling my friends about this book.

Visit the author’s website at vickityley.com to receive a Smashwords coupon code to download this book free! Good through February 28, 2010.

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