Thirty Scary Tales by Rayne Hall

Thirty Scary Tails… oops… I mean Tales. (Although thirty scary tails would be exciting too, I imagine.)

The Rating: 
Mature-Content Rating: PG-13 (disturbing images and sexually mature scenarios)

There are a few numbers that can cause fear or trepidation. A common number is “13,” being avoided because it is “evil” or “unlucky” to the point where, in some countries, floor 13 is omitted when building high-rises. Some people are afraid of the number “4” because of similar reasons, and it is equally omitted from elevator buttons and staircase labels. My favourite number fear is “666.” All three of these fears have specific terms to go along with them, which I will not bore you with, but the word for “fear of the number 666” is so incredible, I must share it. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia – and don’t ask me to pronounce it!

Rayne Hall has written a collection of scary tales. Not 4. Not 13. Not 666 (maybe she has a mild case of Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia just thinking about writing that many…). The number to be scared of here is 30. Thirty Scary Tales is a wonderful title that tells the reader exactly what is lying beneath that cover. Hall brings a great variety of horror styles to the eyes and hearts of any who dare pick up this collection. Hidden in the darkened depths is everything from a foreboding realism of the things that go bump in the night to the grotesque, macabre style of Victorian horror. If you can name it, think of it, be scared of it, its here: ghosts, zombies, psychological thrills and chills – some modern day, some Victorian age, and some in fantasy worlds. Some of the stories are based on real events, others are retellings of children’s stories or fairy tales, and still others are completely fresh ideas sprung from the creative juices flowing in the darkness of Rayne Hall’s imagination. Each story is accompanied with a brief note from the author concerning the inspiration for the writing and telling, which adds a unique and delightful touch.

The Good:

Before reading this book, I had heard of Rayne Hall, but never sat down and cracked open a cover with her name embossed (digitally or otherwise) thereon. It may be some time before I may that mistake again. As the cover is lifted, those words bleed out, and the beginning of a story unfolds, I was immediately drawn in with wonder. Though it is hard to do each story justice through a simple review, I will try to reach across the pages with ever-broadening strokes. The best way to discover the magic behind each story, each page, and each sentence is to read the book.

Hall uses an interesting stylistic descriptive format that helps build suspense while, at the same time, painting scenery around the story and characters. The action builds, fear is swelling, and Hall fires off punctuated descriptions in the midst of it all, striking the reader like a bullet from an unseen gun. The world is empty, the unknown darkness filling readers and characters alike with mounting trepidation, until pieces of scenery begin to fall like a driving rain, locking into place from some unknown realm beyond. Often slow and drawn-out descriptions can be masterfully done, but their use is more suited for tortoise pacing than the sprint of a rabbit through shrubs, running away from the fear rising like a cloud behind it (or is that just the dust kicked up by its quick escape? 😉 ). Punctuated descriptions fit the mood, describing scenes with wonder-filled emotion, making every scene come alive with fear.

A lot of the stories have well thought-out back stories for the characters therein. The stories are not bogged down with too much information of the past, but just enough to build the scene, informing the reader of why they are where they are, and why they are so afraid. This is coupled seamlessly with a delightfully rich use of internal monologue often forgone is shorter stories. Hall builds fear by letting the reader process through each moment, the characters and their emotions coming alive as fears become reality in their minds.

The Bad:

It is hard to be picky with such a vast collection of stories. Some of them fell short of my expectations/preferences, but others were engaging and well-developed. The collection (as a whole) has a lack of focus, just being a bunch of stories lumped together with a cover on top. Some potential magic, through more integrated connections between the stories, was lost because of this choice of formatting.

Some of the stories weren’t as satisfying as others. This is a point concerning personal preference, and not necessarily the writing style or quality as a whole. Every reader will experience this collection differently, each story speaking individually to personal fears, being seen through different eyes.

For the most part, the stories did not scare me because I saw what was coming. Though the internal monologue was great, a lot of the time it was easy to tell what was going to happen and how it would effect the character(s) is question because the reader is so invested in their thought processes. The ability to discern what is going to happen through reveals in the writing takes away some of the edge-of-your-seat thrills that are often prevalent in the horror genre. Sometimes the internal monologues were so blatantly pointing the reading toward the obvious conclusion that it almost felt silly.

Conclusion:

This collection of short stories is worth a read no matter who you are. There is something in here for every flavour of reader. The scenes are punctuated and fresh, stories coming alive with character motivations and the fears lying beneath their skin. Many of the fears are predictable, but satisfying none-the-less. Maybe four of the stories will really scare you, maybe thirteen, maybe all thirty. Find out by cracking open the cover, and let the words bleed into your imagination, filling in those cracks of horrific desire. If you like horror of any flavour, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Barnes & Noble
iBooks

Journey to Altmortis by Thaddeus White

An Epic Fantasy about a thief’s journey to steal what is rightfully his

The Rating:
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (moderately coarse language, mild sexual-content/mature situations & violence)

If you are Canadian, like myself, we have just come out the other end of Thanksgiving. If you are American, the holiday will soon be upon you. While I was sitting in ridiculous holiday traffic on the highway, en-route to meet family for too much turkey and pie, my mind wandered into those far reaching spaces were imagination comes alive. I was thinking back to my most recent read, Journey to Altmortis, and considering what to put it my review. Though I was not journeying to Altmortis, I felt it would be appropriate to compare my recent journeys with that of Thaddeus White’s creation.

 

 

 

I went on a journey to acquire lots of free food.
– Thaddeus went on a journey to acquire something originally stolen from him.
I had to fight with traffic to get there.
– Thaddeus had to fight with… other things to get there.
I was travelling with my family
– Thaddeus was travelling with family (his sister) as well as some hired help.

Okay, so there are little to no similarities between our journeys, but wasn’t this a creative way to start a review? Thaddeus is journeying to Altmortis, a dead city where untold treasure and dangers abound. His goal is to retrieve a family heirloom that may have more than just sentimental value going for it. I was just journeying for some Thanksgiving dinner… but I guess that’s the closest my life gets to a quest of epic fantasy proportions.

The Good:

The book starts out wonderfully. Right from the first chapter, the characters drew me in, to the point where I knew a plot would develop, but no matter what the characters went through, I could see myself enjoying questing vicariously through the words of Thaddeus White. The characters are well-balances and play off of each other nicely. The banter between them is both hilarious and enlightening as character development is concerned. Here is a short snippet that I find particularly amusing:

“What were you doing last night, mon ami?” Pretty Pierre asked. The Felarian’s nickname was ironic. Flames had devoured his left ear, puckered his left cheek and inflicted twisted scars upon half his skull.

“Killing my sister.” He accepted Pierre’s helping hand and got to his feet. “An unpleasant dream indeed.”

“Your sister, despite being dead, is enjoying dinner downstairs. It is quite late, but she suggested we let you sleep in.”

“And our diminutive friend?” Roger the Goat was notorious for many things, but his skill at picking locks and his short stature had persuaded Thaddeus it would be useful to bring him along. The ruins of Altmortis were likely to offer plenty of small spaces into which the thieving dwarf might squeeze.

Pierre shrugged. “Thieving, whoring, picking pockets.”

Thaddeus grinned. “Making himself at home then.”

As expected, this is a story about a journey. There is not a lot of development before the characters are off on their quest, but as the story progresses, the continual character development and back-story reveals hold the reader’s interest. The characters and their development are, by far, the selling feature of this book.

Not only are the characters well-done, but White has a way of crafting a scene through vivid imagery that makes his writing come alive. I can say it no better than White himself, hence thus I quote:

“The salty spray was deliciously cold on his skin. The chill wind pierced his cloak and turned his skin a bloodless white. Gusts billowed his cloak and rain lashed him, and Amoux Broussard loved every moment of it.”

This is but one of many moments during the long Journey to Altmortis that I felt the need to stop and sigh, or smile at the wonderful crafting of words. I cannot and will not ruin all of these precious moments for you. All of the magic therein can only be experienced by reading this work of art, devouring the words spilling from the mind, heart, and fingers of Thaddeus White.

Point-of-view changes can often be poorly done, but, though White implements many different POVs, none of them felt sloppy. In fact, the POV changes between party members were so seamlessly implemented that the reader hardly notices them at all. With point-of-view changes comes further understanding, flavour, and believability to every character, thus enhancing the relatability of the reader to the characters immensely. The POV bounces around some, but because it mostly stays within the party that the reader has been previously introduced to, nothing ever gets confusing or muddied. Instead the reader gets treated to following this Journey to Altmortis through a variety of character’s eyes.

The Bad:

There is explanation and character reveals throughout, and the book starts off strong, but I would have liked to see more introduction before the journey. There is not a lot of meat before the reader is thrown into the main plot, travelling toward the dead city of Altmortis, without really knowing who is travelling. The introduction to the characters that is there is quite well done, but unfortunately it just touches the tip of the iceberg. I wasn’t really sure why exactly this group was travelling together, what motivated them, what was so important about Altmortis and the family heirloom they were searching for until about half way through the book. More initial development of the characters outside of the main quest would have enhanced the journey, making the reader understand more of what is going on and why, instead of just being thrown right in.

Though the POV changes are internal, making them easier to follow, because of the lack of character introductions, I often found myself confused as to who was who. There are a fair number of characters introduced all at once, and though they all have their own little quirks and reasons for tagging along, this was thrown on the back-burner, almost as if White assumed that his readers would know who the characters are. Bear in mind, that I have not read White’s other book in the same world. The author stated that there is some cross-over, but it is not imperative for one to read Bane of Souls (his first book) before Journey to Altmortis. I can guess (depending on the character cross-over in Bane of Souls) that reading the first book previously to picking up the Journey might nullify this complaint, but take such surmising for what they are (opinion without any knowledge of potential rectification). Suffice it to say, as a stand-alone book, the character introduction leave much to be desired, leaving the reader confused at times and uninterested at others because of this fault.

White uses a lot of passive voice, and it seems to be his writing style. It blends fairly well with the more active sections, but fleshing out these scenes instead of just stating the facts and pressing on would have increased the enjoyability of this book as a whole. I found the ending, in particular, to be very fast-tracked with rampant use of passive voice. It was almost as if the whole book was about the Journey to Altmortis (go figure 😉 ) but the return journey was so unimportant that it was barely mentioned.

Conclusion:

Journey to Altmortis will take readers on a journey through the mind and words of Thaddeus White. Along the way, the reader is exposed to humorous characters, witty banter, and some sections of beautiful prose that make the world more alive. Clever use of point-of-view makes the characters the reader travels with more well-rounded, though the initial introduction of them may lack some meat. If you are a fan of epic fantasy and journeying through a strange and magical land, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Smashwords
Diesel
Kobo
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Streets of Payne by Jeff Brackett

A sci-fi mystery filled with Payne

The Rating:
Mature-content Rating: (PG for coarse language and violence)

Eyes: those things we take for granted. Everything around us is processed and managed by them, but we don’t often think about how much work they actually do for us. What would you do without your eyes? If you ask Amber Payne this question, she would say, “just get cybernetic implants, of course.” Amber does not live in a world like our. The Streets of Payne are full of cybernetically enhanced cops and criminals alike.

The Good:

In the opening pages of Streets of Payne, we find Amber getting ready for work, when all of a sudden, her and the reader are thrown right into the action. There is just enough scene setting to get a feel for what is going on before adrenaline is pushed into the pages. Jeff Brackett uses the action to further develop the world that Payne lives in and explain some of a the cybernetic tech while engaging the reader in the story. The engagement continues as Amber Payne faces difficulties throughout the book, the action scenes keeps the pages flying by.

I found that the pacing was quite well done. There is enough down-time between the action of being in the line of duty that both Amber Payne and the reader get a breather. While the plot develops, new characters (good and bad) are introduced and the world the reader gets thrown into is more fully explored.

Jeff Brackett includes a lot of cyberspace interaction in Streets of Payne. Amber Payne’s partner (Kevin Glass) is an “elite cyber-surfer.” This doesn’t simply mean that he is good with computers and that is that. Jeff Brackett lets the reader “jack in” to cyberspace from the perspective of Kevin Glass, opening the doors to a whole new reality that effects the physical word in real and tangible ways. Cyberspace is so involved that it comes into play in everything from simple data recovery to actively effecting the outcome of a fight.

The Bad:

I absolutely loved how cyberspace effected the world. This, to me, was the best and most intriguing part of the book. However, there is still a dirty cloud beneath that silver lining. Cyberspace integration adds some magic to a lot of the action sequences, sometimes to their detriment. Some of the fights scenes are portrayed from Amber Payne’s physical reality, yet at the same time from the perspective of Kevin Glass while he sifts through cyberspace. Though there was magic in this, it often took away from the fast-pacing which is desired in action scenes. It took a lot longer to get from one end of the fight to the next because of the strange POV changes, trying to show the same encounter from two different perspectives at the same time.

The Streets of Payne are not all roses. Some pretty awful things happen along the way, and I really wanted to feel bad for Amber and Kevin, but found no motivation to do so. Based on the book blurb I expected there to be a lot more character development. “Cybernetic implants replaced the organics she lost in the line of duty, and their appearance often causes Amber to doubt her self-worth.” This single sentence in the blurb tells the reader just as much about Amber’s internal self-worth struggles as the whole book does. Yes, she has struggles, but I never felt them. The struggles were mentioned, and there is even some clever use of dreams in an attempt to build back-story, but there was not enough development to make it believable and valuable. This, by far, was the biggest downfall in Streets of Payne.

Conclusion:

Streets of Payne was not a bad book, but I wouldn’t say it was good either. It is worth a read, to be sure, but nothing stood out as spectacular. It was, in a word, average. A lack of well crafted prose, developed characters, and a few disorienting POV problems leave this book in the middle of the road. The plot was good, and it had excellent concepts and tech implementation, but there isn’t much else going for it. If you like action with a touch of mystery, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

The Art of Forgetting by Peter Palmieri

A medical mystery that you won’t soon forget

The Rating:

Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (sexual content and coarse language)

Having you ever kicked yourself for forgetting something? Have you ever been in one room, and you leave to do something, but upon arriving, you forget what you were going to do. Maybe you open the fridge and just stare at it blankly before realising you have no idea what you are looking for. This a condition that effects us all to some extent, but for some it can be crippling. Standard every-day forgetting can be annoying, and sometimes humorous, but what happens if the problem gets worse? Standing with broom in hand in the middle of your living room, or grabbing a bagel on the run for breakfast, just to realize that you actually left one on the back of the toilet when you were brushing your teeth: these types of situations can be embarrassing, hilarious, and cause you to shake your head at such silly forgetfulness. Problems don’t arise when you forget little things like your kid’s birthday or anniversary (okay, maybe that could cause some problems…), but what if you forget you have children, or who your wife is? What if you can talk to someone, and half an hour later, not have a clue who they are? The Art of Forgetting is about a doctor, Lloyd Copeland, who is struggling with this very problem. To put it in the words of the author, Peter Palmieri, “Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations.” Because of this, he is working on a cure. However, it is not the medical or forgetful side of things that get in his way… just everything else you can think of.

The Good:

There are certain core elements of writing that can be an author’s forte, and not many of us (if any) are gifted in all the areas that make up a book. Some are great at plot building, others write great prose, some can pen witty dialogue, and the list goes on. Considering Peter Palmieri, the final thing in this list is his strong suit (one of them at least). The dialogue was humorous at times, surreal at others, but all the time it was believable. The banter between characters was no just there to get the message of the story across or build the characters (although it did both of these masterfully). There was a sense of realism to every words between the “quotes”  that draws the reader in with a sense that they are listening in (or participating) in a real conversation between friends, enemies, lovers, acquaintances, and any other relationship brand that comes along the way.

There is always room for back-story when it comes to characters. Sometimes the back-story holds incredible importance to character’s motivations, and sometimes it is the icing on an already delicious cake. There is not a lot of back-story reveal in The Art of Forgetting, but Palmieri does a good job with the scenes that are present. Too often, when telling back-story, author’s lapse into passive voice, and though it may be important to the story, the implementation is poor and thus leaves the reader unengaged. This in not the case with The Art of Forgetting. The past/memory reveals are both delicious and icing enhanced.

This book is listed as “medical suspense.” Yes there is medicine, and yes there is some suspense, but the real meat of the novel is in the drama. When I think suspense, I think thriller. When I think thriller, it is often packed full of action, ending chapters with so many cliff-hanger moments you can’t decide whether to throw the book across the room or keep reading because you… just… can’t… stop. The Art of Forgetting seems to have forgotten (see what I did there. 😉 ) that it is a medical suspense novel, spending more time with drama and romance than medical and suspense. This, however, is not a bad thing, because the romance is delightfully well crafted. In most suspense novels, it is the “suspense” (go figure) that keeps the reader going, but here it is the romance and character interactions that make the book unforgettable. However, have no fear. This is a medical suspense novel, and when the suspense eventually arrives, it is well punctuated and contrasted with the drama that you almost fall off your chair,heart screaming in your chest, fingers twitching, not wanting to put the book down. The better part of the book is very drama intensive which really plays into the thrill when things start happening to the characters the reader has learned to love through said dramatic excursions.

Once the thrills start coming and plot start to thicken, it keeps getting thicker and thicker until the soupy concoction before you is impossible to stir by hand. “At least it can’t get any worse.” That may be a fine thought, and though it doesn’t start raining in The Art of Forgetting when the reader starts thinking this, things certainly get worse. All at once, the world comes crashing down, and because the reader is so invested in the story and the character by the time this happens, it can almost bring tears to your eyes. Once the high of world-crashing is over, the book pulls you through an intense mood setting scenario. The very air you breath while taking in the words will be filled with the emotions of the moment, and a lump will rise in your throat with every crafted phrase.

The Bad:

With a book this good, the biggest problem was its length. It is not novella length, but it is not incredibly long either. Though this is not necessarily a problem, I felt like this book could have been even stronger with more building up before the climax. A few times I was thrown for a loop for some scenes completely skipped over, presumable to keep things moving/save time. The question is, why would you want to save time in something this good?

Though there were some back-story elements, and they were well done, I would have loved to see more. A lot more. If Lloyd Copeland is supposedly fighting off the family curse of early-onset-dementia, it would have been good to see more of this battle. The main facts are there, and the reader is not left questioning the motivations of Dr. Copeland, but we could have been drawn into the story more by a greater focus being given to Dr. Copeland’s past. I liked how character focused the books started out, and there was the odd scene thrown in for flavour, but once the plot gets going, the focus is taken off of the characters in favour of the “bigger picture.” I loved the characters, loved their development, cared for them, and because of this I would have loved to see more. The plot was good, but the characters are what sells this book, so more about them would be a huge plus.

Conclusion:

The Art of Forgetting was an unexpectedly good read. I liked the cover art, the synopsis, and the prologue draws the reader right in. I had little knowledge of what to expect going in, and coming out the other end, I will not soon forget the magic in these pages. The plot is great, the characters and better, and the dialogue is wonderfully believable. If you like good drama, suspense, and characters that will make you laugh one moment and cry the next, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Auto by David Wailing

A Science Fiction Thriller about you – on Automatic

The Rating:
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (coarse language and sexual references)

Do you ever feel bogged down by technology? There have been so many advancements recently that make it easier to connect with people. Facebook and Twitter have taken a running leap off of the social networking ledge, hoping someone with catch them… and so many people have. Social networking has attracted everyone from the 10 year old kid looking to stay in touch with friends when they aren’t together to the 80 year old lady reconnection with friends and family she hasn’t seen in years, or decades. This is great, but sometimes it can get a bit much. Sometimes we see that list of 100+ emails, or scroll through pages of new posts on Facebook or Twitter and before you know it, the day is gone. David Wailing says, “Have no fear! Auto is here!” This is a near-future science fiction thriller that is so believable, it’s scary. In the world of Auto everyone has a computer. No, not those old clunky laptops (gross! Those things have physical keyboards and are so heavy!) but computers embedded in sunglasses or hanging in the air as paper-thin machines. The most impressive thing is not the computers, but the people behind them. Everyone’s profile is in “the cloud” and these personal computers work furiously to deal with internet traffic sent to you, automatically. No more wading through pages of junk mail, keeping your Facebook friend list up-to-date, or deciding which tweets are important enough to pay attention to. Your Auto will manage, categorize, and give you everything you need from the most important to the least. With so many things happening automatically, how much of your on-line identity are you really in control of, and how much is controlled by the internet itself? Will this new technology make your life easier, or change it completely? Find out in Auto.

The Good:

Right off the bat, I fell in love with the concepts that this book puts forth. Letting your “auto” compute your “compatibility index” with someone before going out with them, or being able to tell if someone is gay/straight, in a relationship/single before even talking to them is wonderful. It has been said that science fiction is meant to send messages of what is good/bad in our society today, and Auto definitely does this. Having someone’s “paedophile index” go up because they happen to walk past an elementary school to and from work every day, or getting hate-mail automatically plastered all over the internet because you are in a relationship with a “foreigner” says a lot about some of the social profiling issues that we face in the world today. I will say no more regarding specifics (to prevent spoilers) but it must be said that the magic of tech, and how it relates to the near-future world portrayed, is magnificent.

Not all of the stories in this collection implement the same things, but many of them share similarities. Many of the stories use computer (auto) status updates speckled throughout to increase suspense. It is almost like watching a progress bar, which in itself isn’t that thrilling, but when the needle reaches 90%, whether you’re installing a program/OS or downloading a movie, there is a thrill that finally you will reach the end. A computer telling you that there is 25%… 32%… 45%… 66%… 83%… 91% that you are going to die will put anyone on the edge of their seat, watching the number climb higher and higher, the story unfolding in a pleasant climax. The waves are rising higher and higher in front of you, and there is no way out, but once they come crashing down, a settling calm washes over you. The suspense builds until you can’t stand it any more, and then it breaks with such a glorious conclusion that you have to sigh, or smile, watching the rainbow revealed after the storm. This (for me) was the selling feature of Auto.

Each story has good pacing, one building on the the concepts of the last. Not only is each story paced well, but the collection as a whole is built in such a way that by the end you will be shaking your head in awe of the magic therein. At first, I was reading a bunch of little stories from different characters in the same universe, and it was wonderful… then something changed. I will not spoil the magic, but the best I can say is that the stories may be more connected that it initially seems. This surprised me, especially since each story was released individually to start out with. They are great on their own, but reading this collection as a cohesive whole is the only real way to give it justice.

With all of this, is there anything more to say? I usually like to talk about general concepts in my reviews, but certain elements of the auto universe were so beautifully implemented that they deserve specific attention. As I have mentioned, the tech in general is absolutely brilliant and makes the world come alive. Specific things that really sold it for me were people being able to “sim” certain things in their lives. Everything from going to a friend’s party to having sex can be simulated, giving a whole new meaning to social networking. A particularly magical and often humorous implementation of this is that dead people do not die. No body? No problem. So many people are doing things online that dead people can still go to parties, make friends online, and talk to you. Wonder what your dead father would think about this new guy you are dating? No problem. Just ask his computer. It lives on, emulating him as perfectly as it did when he was alive.

The Bad:

A lot of the bad is a bi-product of the format choice of this collection. There was some magic in the individual stories holding their own, yet being knit together all at the same time. Despite this, certain elements of the collection could have been stronger if it was told as one long and flowing story. I do not necessarily suggest a format change to be the solution, because I enjoyed it the way it was formatted, but… well, let me try to explain. There is only so much room when telling a short story. Only a certain number of words can be dedicated to back-story and prose. Because of this, certain scenes were completely skipped over and talked about later as if they happened. This was surprisingly not as bad as it could have been and, though it was tell vs. show, it was not horrendous. I do, however, feel that certain scenes or back-story elements would have been stronger if they were fully fleshed out instead of skipped and skimmed over. In order to do this properly, a lot of words would need to be added to this collection, but since when is more of a good thing bad? 😉

Conclusion:

I liked some of the stories more than other, but as a whole, the Auto collection is wonderful. It is a flavourful near-future science fiction short story collection that not only works as individual stories, but works even better as a packaged whole. The tech is fearfully realistic and the suspense will keep you turning the pages until there are none left. If you like science fiction, thrillers, wonderfully crafted plot, humorous dialogue, and an all around delightful page-turner, this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

Heath:Exile by M. R. Jenks

A fantasy tale about amnesia, but not alcohol induced.

The Rating:
Mature Content Rating: PG-13 (mild sexual content and language)

Have you ever had too much to drink? Have you ever woken up with an awful headache, maybe wearing less clothes than would be your preference, or in a strange place? How did you get there? Floating in this haze, you reach for the nearest pain-killers or strong cup of coffee. Maybe you have woken up half-in half-out a trash can with no memory of how you got there. This is the case with the man we are introduced to in Health:Exile. From this point on, we are led through the streets of New York by this homeless man with amnesia. Luckily, when we drink too much, and maybe don’t remember how got to the bed, floor, or back alley that we wake up in, this is a brief and quickly explained condition. Not so for the protagonist of Hearth:Exile.

The Good:

Hearth:Exile is nothing like I expected it would be. I don’t truly know what I was expecting, but when a book is labelled “fantasy” there is a certain understanding of what that book might contain. You will find none of that in Health:Exile. The story plays out more like Indiana Jones as an orphan kid with amnesia minus the action. A strange and refreshing mix to be sure.

The biggest draw for this book is that the protagonist (revealed to be Br… something) had no idea who he is or where he came from. The reader gets to learn about Br as he learns about himself. This gives a wonderfully mysterious feel to the story, the world, and provides a sense of drive to keep reading. Who is this Br guy and how did he end up in a trash can?

Though the reader doesn’t know what is going on (because the characters don’t) little snippets of brilliant third-person-omniscient use provide the reader with just enough external hints to push on. Reading about a homeless man combing his hair can only hold reader interest to a point. Eventually a strange bird with red eyes has to swoop in and let the reader know that there really is a story here. This heightens the suspense and keeps things rolling, even through the slow beginning.

M. R. Jenks gives the reader a brilliant understanding of the characters in Hearth:Exile. Jenks slides easily between third-person limited and omniscient points of view in a way I have never seen done well… until now. Internal monologue runs rampant never leaving the reader in the dark about character motivation. Specific character back-stories are woven right into the middle of everything, making good use of the “external narrator” role that Jenks implements through his unique writing style.

The Bad:

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The biggest problem I faced was that I just wasn’t drawn in by M. R. Jenks’ writing style. Long sections of Hearth:Exile are told in a passive voice, which makes it read like an unengaging biography instead of the intriguing and suspenseful fantasy story that it is. The book had a lot of potential, but I had a hard time caring about anything that was happening or the characters because of the hands-off word choice implementation. When reading, I want to be sucked into the pages so intensely that when I come up to breathe, my mind is swimming in a haze of the reality I live in, still invested in the fantasy of ink and paper. There is almost as much passive voice as there is active voice, which is a surprisingly large amount. This was the biggest downfall of Health:Exile, by far.

Along the way, Br meets an orphan girl. She is the most intriguing character in the whole book. I loved her back story, and how she reacted to the world around her because of it. The problem was that she didn’t always act this way. Sometimes she was the street-hardened brat, and like flicking a switch, she turned into a happy-go-lucky little girl living life to its fullest. Instead of showing two sides of a complex character, the implementation came across as jarring and unbelievable.

If the best thing about this book is that Br doesn’t know who he is or where he comes from, then naturally the book begins to go downhill once he figures out the mystery that is him. The magic I experienced in the first couple chapters was lost as Br learned about himself. It felt like he was lifting up stone in the desert looking for water, but there was nothing but sand. Sadly, as the stones are lifted, Br is perfectly happy with knowing just enough about himself to make him realise he is different, but lacks the motivation to figure out more.

Hearth:Exile has no “antagonist.” True, there is some big bad guy that is trying to take over the world, or destroy the world, or something like that, but he barely makes an appearance. Subtle hints are sprinkled throughout, but he never really effects the lives of the characters in any real way, except for in the classic “final encounter.” I felt like the book would have been just as strong, or maybe even stronger, without this slapped together antagonist. It was almost like as Br is gallivanting about, figuring out who he is, M. R. Jenks decided “this book needs an antagonist,” and thus he was born. I saw the potential for this antagonist to effect the story in the long-run, but there was not enough in this book to make him feel real or relevant in any way. Br and friends have a strange sense of urgency that “something is afoot.” Unfortunately, that is a very thin thread to stand on as the driving force for an antagonist.

“I have a feeling that there is an evil force. I think it wants to destroy the world. We had better hurry up and figure out who we are so that we can stop this world-destroying monster.”

It almost feels like someone running around yelling, “the sky is falling!” but instead they are yelling, “evil is afoot” without any real evidence of it.

Does Br figure out who he is? In a sense. Is the “evil” dealt with… not really. Is anything dealt with?… not really. The ending of Health:Exile falls flat. There is a lot of build up to the conclusion, and when it comes, the book just ends saying, “thanks for all the fish.” It’s like a story about some crazy scientist trying to figure out how to make a teleportation device. He gets it working, steps through, evil is on his tail, and then… The End.

Conclusion:

Health:Exile had a lot of potential. A man trying to figure out who he is. A fantasy world, but not like you would expect. The characters are well motivated and engage in the story. Sadly, the ending leaves too many question marks, and rampant use of passive voice makes it read more like a biography than fantasy literature. The story is intriguing, but the story telling is unflavourful.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

The Scream of Angels by David Haynes

The Scream of Angels and people alike bleed through the pages

The Rating:
Mature Content Rating: R (Disturbing imagery)

In a time before entertainment was about sex, giant explosions, and cocky superheroes. In a time when the fantastic was pushed aside in favour of brutal realism on the stage. In a time when our inner monsters portray themselves for all to see. In this time we find David Haynes, a mentally disturbed writer trying to bleed the murderous thoughts from his mind onto pages in the dark recesses of his lonely room. Oops, I meant Robert Bishop. Did I say David Haynes was in this story? Silly me.

The Good:

In a word (or perhaps phrase): if you liked the Macabre Collection you will love this book. If you have never heard of it, you should go read it right now. The Scream of Angels carries on the Victorian horror style of writing that Haynes has become known for. Mix this with a mystery killer and you have a book that will not cease to amaze.

Who doesn’t love the mentally disturbed? Okay, so maybe you don’t want to be one, but staying at the safe distance of holding a book about one in your hand is quite a pleasant ride. No more “I’m just a normal dude trying to save the world” or some such silliness. Robert Bishop writes down the darkest images his mind can conjure, in hopes to escape the murderous tendencies that follow him by day and torture him by night. The colourful and rich words used in scene description are magnificently mood setting. The mental state of our protagonist enhances that dark tone even further, letting it bleed through the pages and into the minds of the reader.

How did Robert Bishop get to be the way he is? Where do these demons come from that torture him from within, threatening to pour out in acts of murder and mutilation? David Haynes leaves no room for speculation, taking the reader back to Bishop’s childhood, back to his nightly terrors, back to a mental doctor’s office. The back-story (flashbacks) progress with the main story, adding flavour along the way, starting with hints before growing to full reveals. This gives the reader a glimpse into David Haynes’ mind – seeing the work of art was once derived of a tiny seed of dread, sprouting, twisting, and coming into existence as a gnarled tree: The Scream of Angels. Haynes doesn’t just share the facts of Bishop’s past, but feeds the reader with the story itself, diving right in as if re-entering the memories of Bishop. This is a beautiful reversal of the tell vs. show issues that plague many books, showing the flashbacks to be so complete and whole that the reader believes them to be as equally important as the main story they parallel.

The reader not only gets to see this world through the eyes of Robert Bishop, for there is a killer running loose. This killer is not left on the sidelines, but is brought to the front through POV changes. The realism and horror behind the killings reaches a whole new level when the reader sees the acts being performed, or feels the dread of the aftermath through the eyes of the murderer.

The Bad:

You know that a book is good when you have a hard time coming up with something bad to say. This does not happen to me often (I know. Call me cynical), but when it does I am blown away. In a nutshell, the only bad about this book is that I wanted more of it: more of those things that made it good. I would have liked to see more scenes from the antagonists perspective. There was just enough salting the pages to add flavour, but more character development with the killer would have added to our hatred of him. His character wasn’t as well rounded or revealed as it could have been through more attention to what was going on in his mind. This addition has potential to add more shock value to the final reveal, as the reader thinks they know the murderer in and out.

The flashback model that Haynes implements is brilliant and flavourful… mostly. At the beginning it is great, but as the story progresses, I found that there was seemingly less care given to these flash back scenes. They held less meat, and almost slipped into why-is-this-scene-here territory. Again, more character development or attention given to Dr. Cunningham (Bishop’s childhood mental doctor) would have built up these scenes to their pleasant meaty potential.

At the beginning of the book, there is much attention given to Bishop’s personal demons. As the story progresses, however, they take a back seat. I wanted more of Bishop facing his inner demons. If his mind is truly tortured, let the reader experience that torture in all the realism that Bishop himself feels. Haynes shows the potential to write such disturbingly realistic scenes, and I would have loved to see these inner demons taking more of an antagonistic focus throughout.

Conclusion:

This is yet another great work of Victorian horror. It will take you back to a time of realistic and gruesome entertainment. No giant explosions or special effects here, just personal demons and murderers, tortured by their own minds. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that I wanted more of it. Haynes gives us a holistic look at Robert Bishop (the protagonist), taking the reader back to his childhood for a wonderfully implemented flashback effect. The imagery is so real and thoroughly described that you will be transported right into the acts of brutal entertainment that Haynes depicts. If you like rich description, believable story telling, and don’t mind getting your hands a little bloody, this book is right for you.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

Thread Strands by Leeland Arta

Epic fantasy of demi-gods and dragonflies. Yes, they have something in common… Thread Strands.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (For mild to moderate language)

Thread StrandsTicca and Lebuin are at it again. This time they are not searching for a missing mage, being chased by Knives, and casting enough magic to keep the dirt off their clothes – blame Lebuin for that last one – but instead are involved in… much more. To quote Leeland Arta himself “… the Gods and kingdoms find themselves preparing for war with the Nhia-Samri,” or at least that is some of what is happening. What else is going on in this book? What about that demi-god and dragonflies thing I mentioned? I suppose you will have to read the book to find out. (But for real, there are dragonflies, okay. I know it seems crazy, but just check out the cover art if you don’t believe me. Ooooo, pretty.)

The Good:

So, in case you couldn’t figure out from my crazy antics above, the cover art is amazing. Don’t believe me, just look at it… oooooo. Okay, enough of that. Leeland Arta slaps on a beautiful cover and again includes those nice hand drawn graphics inside to wet your whistle for what is to come… but that is all formatting gimmicks and things that we should be applauding the artist for, not the author. So… plus plus to the cover artist.

On the good about the actual writing… okay, on second thought… The glossary and numerous appendixes are a must mention once again. There is even more (I know, right) content in the back of this book than there was in Thread Slivers. You could almost read all the goodies in the back and make up a whole book of your own. Yes, it’s that intense. Arta really knows what he is doing when it comes to research and making the world fully developed.

Finally, on to the writing goods. The action scenes are pretty amazing. The reader does not get bogged down in pages and pages of spelling out every single sword swipe, but there is just enough description to keep you invested while still moving along nicely. In short, well detailed, but not overloaded like those cheeseburgers with “the works” on them that sometimes you can’t even get into your mouth. In the longer, more involved, fight scenes, Art switches up the POV just enough to get a flavour of the battle from all sorts of angles and perspectives giving the scenes a well-rounded feel. This also helps to keep things moving, while building suspense with the characters that Arta just left bleeding out. Are they going to die, you ask? Too bad. You will have to wait to find out. POV change time! This not only keeps the action going and builds suspense, but adds more emotion to the scene as the reader gets into many characters heads throughout the action.

Not to save the best for last, but this was the selling feature of the book for me. I absolutely fell in love with the history of the world and the mystery and tech involved in that. Arta gave us a taste in Thread Slivers, but Thread Strands definitely delivers. All of that glossary work finally begins to shine as the reader learns more about this well thought-out world that Arta has created. The presence of these reveals give Thread Strands a significantly different feel than book one. At times it almost takes on a Science Fiction flavour, which is quite unique in the midst of a militaristic epic fantasy novel. It’s like seeing a spaceship dropping aliens in the distance while Frodo makes the final climb to drop the One Ring to its fiery death… Okay, maybe not that drastic.

The Bad:

If you read my review of Thread Slivers, you may note that I rated it 3 stars, and this book only 2 stars. The biggest factor for this change is not that Arta‘s writing got worse with this sequel, but the bad parts of book one bled into book two, reducing its enjoyability. The ending of book one was poorly implemented, and this issue crosses into the first few chapters of Thread Strands. So many things are left hanging in the air that Arta has to spend a lot of time re-explaining what happened in book one to get the reader back up to speed. The tell vs. show model implemented for this purpose feels especially awkward because (in case you don’t recall) book one ended in the middle of a fight scene. This means that all of this dry explanation and re-telling is still happening in the middle of that same fight scene. This, unfortunately, slows the fight down to a crawl. Stab. Pause. By the way, in case you forgot… many paragraphs later… Slash. Parry. Oh, and do you remember this other thing that was happening? Dodge. Slice.

Another major issue that this book suffers from is poor implementation of explanations. Character A says, “And as everyone knows… blah, blah, blah.” This again is a poor use of the tell vs. show model. Many times the characters stop to chat about the world they live in and what is going on, or has gone on in the past. This does get the reader up to speed, but it comes off rather dry and unrefined. Sometimes characters are thrown into the conversation at appropriate times to ask the questions that the reader wants to ask, thus making the writing feel a bit rough. This bleeds into the sometimes rather lengthy thought processes of the characters in Thread Strands.

Why is Character A doing that? Thinks POV character. Oh, it must be because of this and that and the other thing. That makes perfect sense now!

This model leaves no room for the reader to ponder for themselves what is going on. If the motivations of the characters were more refined, such thought patterns wouldn’t be needed to explain certain elements.

Some scenes seem to jump ahead, leaving the reader lost a bit, trying to figure out how the chapter previous leads into the chapter present. It makes the book feel unfocused and leaves the reader confused a lot of the time. It is hard to follow character’s motivations because the reader is never sure who is who and why they are doing what they are, or how they got where they are. There is a lot going on in this book, and if more time was spent on leading the reader through some of the unwritten scenes, Thread Strands would feel more complete and be an easier read.

Again I have to talk about the ending. Thread Strands almost ends on a real cliffhanger (unlike Thread Slivers). Hurrah! There is a wonderful build-up to the final scene that leaves the reader with that give-me-more-right-now sense. This is what a cliffhanger is supposed to do. Unfortunately some of the other plot lines that are being followed do not resolve in any meaningful way, or at all for that matter. This leaves the reader scratching their head a bit. It was especially troublesome for me because there is even more glossary and appendix work in Thread Strands than there was in book one, so I thought there was still a fair amount of book left to read. My Kobo said page 316 of 381 when I was done, which translates to 82%.

Conclusion:

Thread Strands is a continuing tale filled with intrigue, intense action, and world building that will leave your senses tingling. The graphics on the cover and throughout show how much attention to detail that Arta puts into things… or maybe they are just good in their own right. Unfortunately, despite the wonderful world coming to life, histories being revealed, and battles being fought, the book doesn’t pull together as much I had hoped. The end is rough and the beginning is even rougher. The reader is babied a fair amount with tell vs. show and passive voice sections that keep them at a distance instead of invested into the glorious world and intriguing tale that Arta has created.

Where you can find it:

Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)

Wool (Omnibus) by Hugh Howey

A DRM-free dystopian tale of the dangers without, and the people within… the Silo.

The Rating: 
Mature-content Rating: PG-13 (for mind to moderate swearing)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but what is it that we know?  How much of the world around us is reality and how much of it is mixed in with the poison fed from up top?  The world “outside” is a dangerous place and the only remnant left of humanity has holed themselves up in an old silo all working toward a common goal: survival.  Growing food, running water… but it takes more than food and water to survive.  It takes hierarchy, rule, order, and a will to follow those rules at all costs… even if it might kill you.

When I started reading this I had a small idea of what to expect when it comes to writing style.  Previously I read   bu Hugh Howey, to give me a taste of the writing style.  This did not disappoint, thus prodding me to read the “big one” that everyone is talking about: Wool.  With the recent release of Dust (part 3 of the Wool series), I may be a little late to the game, but better late than never.  If you haven’t yet heard it from anyone else, you have now heard it from me.  “Go and buy this book!”

The Good:

Right from page one, the reader is sucked into this unknown world where the residents of Silo 18 are trying to survive inside a  (you guessed it) giant silo.  With each plodding step up a never-(well… eventually)-ending staircase, you can feel the atmosphere, smell the life, taste the… metal staircase… okay, so maybe my words ran ahead of my brain there, but that is not the case for Hugh Howey.  I was not as blown away by the beauty of the prose as I have been before, but Howey brings a special magic of his own that makes you lose yourself in the pages of this story.

The story opens with Holston, a man mourning (in his own way) over the loss of his wife.  By the end of part 1, the reader has learned so much about Holston, and what makes this man tick.  The internal monologue in this book is great, and it bleeds into the writing throughout making the whole story (not just the parts in those nice little italics that tell the world “this guy is thinking now!”) sound like it coming from the protagonist’s perspective.  The imagery is magnificent, and it changes with the POV. A mechanic compares a loner to an odd-sized washer that doesn’t fit any standard bolt.  Hugh Howey puts his mechanic hat on and thinks, “how would a mechanic describe this scene, this person, etc.” and then when the POV is from the perspective of a depressed sheriff or an old mayor, Howey takes off the mechanics hat and chooses either a cowboy suit with a star or an overly white wig (where appropriate of course).  Wool does not sound like it was written by Howey at all.  The characters inform the writing style/words used so much that every page turn feels fresh and vibrant with the magic of the moment.

The first three “parts” of this book are from a different character’s perspective, breathing new life into their character and Silo 18 as a whole.  The separating-one-book-into-smaller-parts model has never worked as well as it does in Wool.  The story continues on from part 1 to part 2, but it feels new and fresh through the eyes of someone else.  The silo comes alive again.

Not only are the characters so excellent that the reader feels a part of themselves being lost within the book, but the plot is astounding.  The chapters are nice bite-sized packages (allowing you to grab a “bite” in between if you so desire… or just another coffee) and as you tear through them like it really is the end of the world, and if you stop the book might disintegrate – forever lost to your longing mind – suddenly the plot twists and plot twists and your hands and left shaking.  Your mouth longs for water, stomach screams for food, eyes lack more sleep than a college student, but Wool is all you can think about.  It is all that is important.  “Just one more page.  Just one more chapter.”

The build-up throughout the parts is wonderful as a new character POV is introduced, things slow down a little, more of the culture and magic of what makes Silo 18 alive is revealed, and just when you wonder when the climax is coming, it hits you like a speeding rocket.  Things happen, plots are twisted, people might even die… but the story must go on.  Each part has a solid ending and a solid gear change into the next instalment, but the story is far from over.

Let’s pause for a second and be honest.  Sometimes a story gets slow.  Not every scene can have a shotgun wielding lunatic hiding around the corner waiting to kill you, or an impending nuclear explosion, or a car chase.  Sometimes things slow down and that can be okay, to a point.  Howey realised the benefit of the slower parts while not allowing the reader to get bogged down and begin to think, “when do we get back to that laser gun part.  That sounded pretty cool.” Whether it be a jump of POV or a jump in the timeline, Howey throws the reader around like a pinball, allowing the tension and emotion to build, even when things get slow.  The pacing is wonderful.

The Bad:

As far as “the bad,” I only have one things to say… The end of the world? Bad news guys.  That is the bad…

Okay, seriously though, there isn’t much I could pull out of this book as bad.  I hate to pick books apart (okay, that’s a lie.  I love it), and Wool really made me dig to find “the bad” to talk about.  Just like any split-into-parts-book I have read, the mode has it’s failings.  As I have stated above, I loved the way it was implemented with POV/voice changes in the first 3 parts, but that is where the magic ends.  The latter half of the book is good, but the part separation magic is lost.  The POV jumps between multiple characters like any other book out there and even the end of part 4 just feels like a “to be continued…” I way the book was written is engaging and successful, but I was sad to see the initial magic of the differentiated “parts” implementation be set by the way-side.

Conclusion:

What more is there to say.  Hugh Howey does everything right.  From the DRM-free packaging to the story, characters, and writing within, Wool smacks of excellence.  It is a riveting ride that will keep you on your toes and open your imagination to the beauty of the story, world, and characters.  If you like strong characters, wonderful prose (or books at all, really) this book is for you.

Where you can find it:

Hugh Howey’s Official Website
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo

Dead Religion by David Beers

A horrific tale of a man going crazy and a once Dead Religion

The Rating: 
Mature Content Rating: R (excessive profanity, violence, mature themes, and disturbing sexual scenes)

Who is God to you?  Hocus pocus cloud-dweller?  Miracle worker?   Evil smiter?  Creator of all things? Maybe he is some dude with a long beard (and it’s probably white, because if we can agree on anything it would be that God is old)?  Does God even exist?  None of these are questions that I can answer for you, just like the parents of our protagonist (Alex Valdez) in Dead Religion couldn’t tell him who God is.

David Beers tells the story of a long dead God coming back to life, a man going insane, and a hotel being blown sky-high while the police pick up the pieces.  Who is responsible for this thrilling ride of destruction and death (other than David Beers, or course)?  Is it Alex Valdez, some long-dead deity, or so much more?

The Good:

Maybe I am crazy, but it intrigues me to live inside the head of crazy people.  (If I was inside their head, I guess that would make me them… thus making me crazy…) Beers does a good job of showing us what makes Alex Valdez tick (or maybe not tick.  Take your pick).  He lives a happy (or not so much) life with his wife who has been with him through some heart-wrenching times, and takes such vows as “til death do us part” seriously. Entering the mind of a crazy person is not necessarily beautiful (though I like to describe many things with that word), but it brings a sense of intrigue and insanity (rightfully so) to this wild ride.

Again, I must say that the imagery is magnificent.  I say “again” not because I have mentioned it in this review, but it is what drew me into the book initially (as it does with many other books I have enjoyed and reviewed here).  Being inside the head of a crazy person might do that to you.  As the reader is exposed to the mares of day and night that David Beers portrays, they speak to more than Alex Valdez and others.  The reader can almost feel what is happening, that sense of dread leaking through the pages.

Along the way, the reader not only gets to see inside Alex’s head, but almost every other character in Dead Religion gets a spotlight of their own (including the antagonist).  Every character has a motivation for what the are doing.  The past informs the present and thus the future.  This is, however, not a case of so much POV jumping that the reader is left scratching their head for a lot of the book.  There is a fair amount of back-story integrated into the book, but it is not just thrown at the reader like a storm of drops to be caught in a shot glass.  Back-stories are revealed at appropriate times in the book where they will inform the reader in greater detail about what is happening in the present.  They add some needed flavour like a garnish on top of a meal, or the cherry on your ice cream sundae.

Sometimes a scene will take longer to happen than it would in some other books you might have read, but this is not a detriment.  Quick POV jumping within a scene will inform the reader of what is happening in every character’s head as every inch of a blade sinks slowly into some dying man’s flesh, or a storm envelopes the sky, one cloud at a time.  Horrific scenes will effect the perpetrator, victim, and onlookers in different ways, but the reader will be able to feel the horror in all its tangible might from within the dark corners of every character’s mind(s).

The Bad:

If you are one who is bothered by profanity (especially the “F” word) this is not a book for you.  There is a lot of swearing in Dead Religion, to the point where I thought it was unnecessary.  I realise that there are some people out there that speak between a slew of profanity, using it like the “um” in their sentences, but does every character have to swear so much?  If it added to their character in some way, that would make sense, but almost every character in Dead Religion seems to need profanity like their morning coffee.  Even the characters who apparently “don’t swear” or at least “not a lot” use strong profanity (or think it) more than you would find in a lot of books.

I will admit, I was drawn in by the characters at the beginning, but it was a little hard to follow.  For the most part, it works, but there is the odd time where something was happening, and I was not sure whether this was past, present, or future.  The most prominent time this happens is when the back-story of Alex Valdez is being told.  In the middle of a conversation there is a cut to the past (and a lengthy one) just to return to the dialogue as if nothing had happened.  A little bit of re-organization in the first quarter of the book would have enhanced the appeal immensely.  The beginning doesn’t flow like a story, but rather a bunch of events that the reader must piece together to makes sense of what is going on.

If the beginning and the end are what defines a good book, Dead Religion missed the mark.  More focus at the beginning would have been nice, and some pre-plot build up/character development would have made the horror to ensue in said character’s lives more relateable.  Though the character and plot are good, I never felt like I was the character, instead having that out-of-book experience where I was looking down on the action like a bystander.  The ending is also not as strong as I would have liked.  Don’t get me wrong, the book has a definite ending and not much more could have been said to wrap it up, but I was left scratching my head a bit when turning the final page.  A few things about the “dead religion” that the book is named after were poorly explained so that I wasn’t totally sure why certain things were (or weren’t) happening.  However, nothing major is left hanging, and the book still has a satisfactory conclusion.

Conclusion:

Dead Religion is a book that will draw you in with the psychological insanity of a supposed killer, describing his nightmares in such detail that you will almost feel his pain.  After a rocky start, this book will guide you through the mind and lives of many individuals who are all working toward the same thing: sanity.  If you don’t mind profanity and some disturbing scenes, and like to see how someone’s past can effect their future (and they psyche), this book is for you.

Where you can find it (DRM-free):

Smashwords
Diesel
Amazon (COM) (CA) (CO.UK)
Kobo