Book Review: “The End of the World As We Knew It

I rarely touch a book with your typical horror monsters in it … vampires, werewolves, zombies? Unless it’s approaching things from a completely unique angle, I’m just not that interested.

(And yes, I gave up on the Walking Dead somewhere in the middle of Season Three … Sorry, folks. I’m one of THOSE guys).

I find most of these books turn into what I’d consider “fan-fiction,” recapitulating all of the hours of reading (or watching) other <insert monster here> movies or books that the author has taken in. It’s nice that you like zombies, it really is, but if you want me to buy your book, come up with your own creation. Or give me a zombie story I haven’t seen before.

With “The End of the World As We Knew It,” author Nick Cole attempts to bring us that story.

nick coleDid it work? Sort of. I absolutely loved the first third of this novel. The writing, the pacing, the characterizations revealed through imperfect recordings. It was a blast. Then things sort of got bogged down into more familiar territory, but without any real risk or inherent danger. One of the problems with using journal entries as a means of telling a story is that the audience knows that, despite whatever circumstance our “hero” may find themselves in, they’ll survive. Else, how could they be “telling” us the story?

And that’s sort of where the book headed, with telling rather than showing. A lot of summaries of battles and dangers overcome that would have been much more interesting if we had lived through them rather than hearing of them second hand.

(As a side note, I often wonder how anyone would ever write in such detail conversations or the intricacies of events that took place in a journal. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

Despite the way in which the story was told, what I enjoyed the most was the humanity this novel revealed. This is where Cole’s writing thrives and what elevates this story from what might be considered your average zombie tale.

For you zombie horde fanatics, this is one not to miss. For the rest of you? You’ll get enough out of this to make it an enjoyable journey. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Kindle Scout 2 Yr Anniversary – $0.99 Sale!

Hard to believe it’s been two years since my debut novel, HOUSEBROKEN, was published through Amazon’s Kindle Scout program. I still remember the anxiety of going through that 30 day campaign … the hopes, the frustration, and the eventual bliss and validation in having my novel selected for publication.

HousebrokenSince then, HOUSEBROKEN has gone on to be a #1 Amazon best-selling novel, both in the US and UK, for horror-suspense. The Kindle Scout program has, within this same time period, launched over 250 books, some to incredible success and others to lack-luster results, but publishing has never been a perfect science. It continues to be a great way for readers to discover new books and authors (and be rewarded for your efforts), while helping to launch careers and offer alternative options for authors these days.

To celebrate 2 years of the program’s success, Kindle Press is offering a sale on every one of their titles!

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For a short time period, you can pick up every Kindle Press titleĀ for just $0.99, including my novel HOUSEBROKEN. You can check out all the titles here — With an impressive array of authors across multiple genres, there’s sure to be something that will grab your attention. (And to grab HOUSEBROKEN for less than a buck, click here)

Later this week, I’ll add a post on a few Kindle Press titles I’ve read over the past 2 years that are ones you won’t want to miss. Till then, happy shopping. šŸ˜‰

 

Book Review – “Hide & Seek” by Jack Ketchum

hide and seekA lot of people passionate about either loving or hating this one, I clearly fall into the camp of the former. I feel expectations play a big role in whether we enjoy a book, and the blurb for this one is quite deceiving … The “game” itself is only the last fourth of the novel. This isn’t “Saw,” it’s not a haunted house tale (though you could make arguments that it incorporates some of the tropes of the genre), but I found it both moving and brilliant.

Ketchum takes his time in this one, allowing the characters to drive the narrative rather than the other way around, and it works magnificently. One of my biggest gripes with a lot of books / films in the horror genre is that I don’t care enough about the characters before the blood starts flying. This doesn’t mean I need lengthy back stories or — even worse — flashbacks; quite the contrary. Often it’s through a character’s actions and/or reactions that we get to know them. But it’s also through their wounds that they become real.

For me, this was a story I didn’t want to end simply because I felt I knew these characters, and I could have spent more time with them. Ketchum’s approach only made the horror elements of this novel that much more shocking, which led to some great and/or tragic discoveries. A novella to take your time with and not race through, but highly recommended.

This novel is currently FREE on Amazon for anyone with Amazon Prime, as part of their “Prime Reading” program. Definitely worth picking up.

Book Review – “Stranded” by Bracken MacLeod

stranded.jpgI’m a huge fan of horror stories set against the backdrop of a frozen winter land. Add to the setting a story that delves into the psychological, with a simmering suspense that slowly dials up, and you’d think I would have loved this one.

Not sure if it was the characters feeling a little wooden, only playing a single note, or if the style of writing was what kept me from really sinking in, but I constantly felt on the outskirts of the story rather than being drawn into the middle of it.

Lately, it seems there’s a trend to move toward subtle storytelling, a less-is-more approach, where huge concepts instead of being fully explored are dampened. I look at Joe Hill’s The Fireman as an example, or even Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil Rock. For me, StrandedĀ falls into a similar category. (Meaning for all of you readers out there who LOVED these books, you’ll probably condemn me for not 5-starring this wintery winterland). Some great ideas that never fully took off the ground, at least for me.

I’d definitely be up for checking out more of MacLeod’s work, this one just left me — dare I say it? — chilled. 3 out of 5 stars.

Interview – Confessions of a Reviewer

If you haven’t heard, I’ve got a 2-part interview series that Nev Murray put together over on his fantastic site, Confessions of a Reviewer. Much more than your run-of-the-mill interview, Nev dug deep, and I have to say he came up with some of my favorite (and most revealing) questions I’ve been asked as an author.

Today he also posted a review for Book 2 in The Creation Series and had some great things to say about both the book and series in general. Authors like me are indebted to people like Nev who not only enjoy reading but take the time to share their thoughts and help others discover great books and new authors to check out.

So head on over to his site to show him a little love for all he does as a book enthusiast, and if you learn more about me than you wanted to know, remember it was a Confession …

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Book Review: “Windows Into Hell”

So this was a little different than what I was expecting. Instead of an anthology of different iterations of hell, this anthology is based off the idea presented in Steven Peck’s excellent novella, “A Short Stay in Hell,” in that people discover — regardless of how they’ve lived their lives or what they’ve believed — that Zoroastrianism is “the one true religion,” then they’re assigned a different iteration of hell.

So I suppose the anthology is what I was expecting?

Yes and no.

hellFirst off, there are some fantastic stories in this collection. R.A. Baxter & D.J. Butler come up with some wickedly clever versions of hell. Michaelbrent Collings adds a unique twist with his vision, and Steven Peck’s ending story will really make you think. Others felt like filler or provided little emotional connection, whether from a lack of connecting with the character or a lackluster idea.

One of the things I loved about the novella this anthology is based on is the exploration of the idea of eternity and how utterly unfathomable it is to our finite minds. The stories here that really grab hold of that idea but also bring a new perspective to it are the ones that succeeded, in my mind. However — and here’s the challenge in basing an entire anthology off of a central idea this compartmentalized — after awhile the stories started to blend in with one another. I would have loved to see vastly different explorations of hell, and perhaps basing stories on another story limited the creativity or expansion of ideas a bit.

Still a worthwhile venture, though I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this as much had I not first read the novella it was based on. 3.5 out of 5 stars. And if you haven’t yet read Peck’s “A Short Stay in Hell,” start there!

Book Review: “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi

scalziScience fiction novels are pretty much like walking a tight-rope between two skyscrapers. A misstep to the left, into too hard of sci-fi and “geek speak,” and you alienate a huge portion of your audience. Yet a step to the right, in dumbing things down or playing up the less sciency aspects of your novel, and you kill your hardcore audience. Great science fiction manages to get you from one building to the next without the need for a parachute or ambulance.

While I wouldn’t classify this novel as a “classic,” I would say that Scalzi manages to skate past most of the obstacles, bridging that gap and turning out a novel that both parties might enjoy. Scalzi has perfected the art of finding an interesting concept and then building a world around that idea to support it, and Old Man’s War definitely is concept-driven. It’s a unique take on what war means, and there are enough twists to keep things interesting. Some of the later battles and alien races did feel like they were just window dressing, and not really important to the overall story, but this was a novel I enjoyed listening to. Not running out to grab the sequel, but as long as this author continues to put out content with unique and fresh ideas, I’ll be willing to support them. A solid 3.5 stars out of 5.