Two Reviews for the Price of One – “The Fisherman” and “We Are Always Watching”

I’ve really fallen behind on book reviews, and while I’ve contemplated stopping them completely I believe there’s value in sharing one’s reaction to a work of art. I know for me, personally, every review I receive of the novels and books I’ve published means something — whether they’re positive or negative. And the great thing about writing, in particular, is that every person will have a different reaction to the same source material. What some love others will hate, and I’ve been influenced to purchase a book because of bad reviews, realizing that the person who wrote the review doesn’t like similar things that I enjoy.

So, whether positive or negative, share your thoughts on what you’re reading. You could be the means of helping someone find that book they really connect with (or helping them avoid the one they’ll despise). And in the meantime I’ll be doubling up on my reviews here on the blog to get through the books I’ve read of late.

First up?

The Fisherman by John Langan

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This is a book I was really looking forward to, and perhaps the build-up of expectation offset my reaction. I loved the characterization and set up for Abe and his friend Dan and was entirely in to where things were going until the main story was shelved while we delved into the backstory of the Dutchman’s Creek and the “Fisherman.”

Backstories and flashbacks are tricky as they often halt the momentum of the story that’s being explored. I also tend to disconnect from a story when it’s the summary of what a character is sharing but contains incredible details. I don’t think a stranger who’s recounting, for all intents and purposes, a home grown folklore tale in an hour would share the facial expressions of someone’s reactions or the inner thoughts of the people in his story. I didn’t connect with anyone in this flashback and kept waiting to get back to the main storyline. Little did I know, the bulk of this novel IS the flashback, and by the time we arrived back to actual events I was so burned out that I had lost the emotions and concern I had initially carried for Abe.

The cosmic horror elements of this novel are spot on, I just could have used the summary of the backstory rather than all of the details. Will definitely be checking out more of Langan’s work, this one just sort of missed the mark for me.

And next on the list?

We Are Always Watching by Hunter Shea

watching.jpgThis was a pretty stellar read. I’m a sucker for the back-woods isolated horror set up, but Shea thankfully doesn’t just go for the obvious here. He uses the familiar tropes of the genre to draw you in but then takes what you’re expecting and turns it on its head. Well-developed characters, creepy setting, a driving mystery with plenty of scares, and most importantly, characters you actually care about. Pretty much sums up what a good horror novel should be.

If you haven’t checked this one yet, it’s on sale for just $1.99 on Amazon. Definitely worth the price of admission.

Next up on the blog will be Markus Sakey’s After Life and Michael McBride’s Subhuman. It’s been a good couple of months for books (thankfully).

If you’ve discovered anything that really stands out from the crowd, feel free to leave a recommendation in the comments below as well!

 

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Catching up on Book Reviews – Prentiss & Janz

Man, I’m behind on my book reviews. Life has really gotten in the way lately of … well, I guess … living. In the next day or two I’ll be trying to catch up here so stay tuned as there have been some fantastic reads.

Here are two to start with: “Life in a Haunted House” by Norman Prentiss, and “Children of the Dark” by Johnathan Janz, two coming of age stories that are both brilliant, yet couldn’t be more different from each other.


Life In A Haunted House – Norman Prentiss

 

Haunted House“We all want magic of some kind.”

Life in a Haunted House is a multi-layered marvel, as intricate a novel as one could hope to conjure, and yet despite its carefully constructed narrative it reads as a simple coming-of-age story, something Prentiss has long mastered. Paying tribute to B-horror movies and the nostalgia that children these days will never fully appreciate, Prentiss plays a quite clever sleight-of-hand, keeping our attention focused where he wants it while the real story develops around us, engulfing the reader before they’re aware of what’s occurred.

Beautifully drawn characters, full of heart and courage but also flawed in a way that make them real, combined with an unconventional telling and unreliable narrator. It all adds up to an experience you won’t soon forget. This is a story you won’t want to end.

Norman has several tie-in stories as well available on Amazon that capture the movies discussed throughout this book – just one more layer to add to make this experience so unique.

 

 


 

Children of the Dark – Johnathan Janz

childrenMy first trip down Janz halls. Children of the Dark starts as a coming-of-age tale that is masterfully spun. If you don’t come to care about these characters in the first half of this novel, there’s something wrong with you. (But don’t worry, there’s something wrong with me too).

One of my biggest gripes with the horror genre is that gore and scares often tend to overshadow character development, and yet without giving us a reason to care about the characters it’s impossible for us to feel afraid for them. Janz takes his time setting up a great cast that feel remarkably real, so that when the horror begins you have a reason to sit up and take notice.

The second half of this novel was a completely different beast from the first, and while this is where the payoff comes for us horror junkies, there were moments where it felt a little too much and dipped into familiar tropes that could have been avoided. Still a quite stellar experience, and a book I would definitely recommend. Looking forward to revisiting more of the Janz hallways soon.

Book Review: Happiness is a Commodity by The Behrg

Always appreciate those who take the time to review my work. Much appreciated Mike –

Lurking In The Shadows

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Description:

In the future, Happiness can no longer be achieved through natural means, but must be purchased from the government for brief 20-minute increments.

And the price is going up.

One man documents his experience as he uncovers a conspiracy by the governing elite. Those who are ALWAYS happy. But he will soon discover that the cost of real Happiness may be far worse than living perpetually in the dark.

Told through blog-post entries, this non-traditional novella explores a world where darkness and misery are the norm. An allegory for living with depression, this story will open your eyes to the millions lost in darkness around you, and may prepare you for a future that is all too likely to come.

Review:

Brilliant!

And I have no idea what I just read.  Happiness is a Commodity is one of those books you just have to read for yourself.  I can’t…

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My One Political Post – It’s Ugly

There’s a lot of Ugly out in the world these days, and it only takes a second’s glance at the social media engine of your choice to be reminded how quickly hatred can become contagious. What we too often forget is that people can’t be lumped into a single classification – there’s so much that goes into each and every one of us and I cringe seeing some of the flagrant negativity being thrown around from all sides.

You won’t see any political posts from me — not that I’m not opinionated, I just feel there are better ways for me to make changes to my community than ranting about what I don’t agree with or dislike. When all you see in the world around you is Ugly, maybe it’s time to start looking inward and consider the source of the reflection you’re leaving on the world. I promise, if you look for it, there is beauty all around.

Even in a song like this:

The Smashing Pumpkins – Ugly from Qgle on Vimeo.

 

Happiness is a Commodity

Much thanks to Tricia at the Reading Raven for her thoughts and review of Happiness Is A Commodity!

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Happiness is a Commodity is a well written and unique read. The cover is perfect too.
The writing is well done and its a quick read as it flows well. Even though this is a quick read, there is a lot of thought provoking dialogue (Jerry through his blog.) After I finished reading this novella, I went back to certain parts as some of what Jerry wrote struck a chord with me. I am definitely intrigued by The Behrg’s writing and I can’t wait to see what else he has upcoming!

At the end of the Novella The Behrg asks what is happiness to me? Lots of things can make me happy but one of the most important things is being able to laugh with my family; to enjoy their company!

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Book Review: “The X-Files: Trust No One”

The dichotomy between fact and fiction, between the rationalizations of an intelligent mind and that part of us that just wants to believe, are central to what made this show as successful as it was. Sure, that loud pounding that woke you in the middle of the night after watching a scary movie could be explained in a number of ways, but you still wonder (and secretly hope) if there was something more to it. Paranormal, the supernatural, a world beyond our world that we can’t see but that’s there. And, of course, the conspiracies of governments trying to keep their flocks from the truth.

xfilesThis is what we all want to believe, and Jonathan Maberry’s excellent intro to this anthology perfectly encapsulates that secret hope we all hold to (whether we admit it or not).

As for the stories found within this volume, there are some definite wins here. A few of the authors capture the characters so effortlessly that you feel you’ve been transported back to the nineties, and several of the tales would have made for amazing episodes. Others feel like “filler” material, with story lines that drag and character choices that feel quite forced and unnatural. Such, I suppose, is to be expected from this type of collection, but there’s a definite unevenness to the anthology in general, and it’s easy to spot who’s at the top of their game and who rushed to meet a deadline (not to mention who’s woefully unfamiliar with the show).

The good news is that the stories that succeed make this worth checking out. Tim Lebbon, Peter Clines, and Brian Keene spin some memorable tales and a few of the weirder stories — while far from perfect — still stay with you. Despite the ebb and flow, it’s great to get reacquainted with Fox and Mulder on a few new adventures, and fans of the TV show will have something to celebrate here.

Horror After Dark Reviews Happiness

Another astonishing genre-breaking novel from an author that is consistently blending his stories into multiple areas of classification. I enjoy being challenged to think “outside the box”, and The Behrg excels at writing tales that push you to do just that–all within a fun and different framework.

Much thanks to Kim Yerina and the Horror After Dark website for reviewing “Happiness Is A Commodity” — you can check out the full review here.

HAD is also running a give-away for 2 free copies of Happiness. Enter the drawing here! Get Happy!!!

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