Reviewing the Pages: One Dark Summer Night

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The fairies are coming…the fairies are coming…

To kill us all.

It’s 1989. A small Midwestern college town with a history of strange sightings and hauntings. A summer intern program in the biology department that actually pays. And coworkers who don’t warn you about vivisection day…

Della Rae planned to keep her head down and work as many hours as she could get, while filling in the gaps with a lot of old sci-fi novels.

Her plan was interrupted by a sudden friendship with a townie student, a weird girl named Merc who shared Della Rae’s tastes in fiction. It was Merc who warned her not to go to the bio department that day…

Soon, there would be hell to pay for what happened in the bio department. And only Della Rae, Merc, and their friends can stop it from spreading.

I received this through a free download in exchange for an honest review.

In order to fully grasp the entire story of this novella, one must read it in one sitting. I didn’t, and I feel like I’ve missed a few details along the way. Which isn’t a bad thing. There are a lot of shifts around that I felt a little disjointed when getting back into the read, but at the same time, it helps the plot by having so many perspectives and shifts. There is a lot going on in this read, and for Della Ray, it’s one very long night. Well, technically this book covers a whole day, but still, the majority of the action takes place after the sun sets. It’s dark, a little bit creepy, and gives me some new fears about having creatures make random inanimate objects…animate (that, and skeletal zombie mutant creatures). Do take care when you read this one fellow readers; you may never come back.

Alright, so this book is a stand-in for my original planned read, “Soul Smuggler”, which was only a preview in the edition that I downloaded.  And I do not regret my choice.  Granted, I did have some struggles reconnecting some plot points together (like how Craig goes from random stranger guy to the new Lord of the Hunt), and some of the twists and turns makes me pause and think about how we got here.

However, those twists and turns make sense in this world.  This is kind of what I would imagine the information I would get if I were in Della Ray’s shoes.  An outsider to this world, getting thrust into the situation via an acquaintance come situational friend, I would be rather confused about all of the revelations coming at us left and right.  Even though I don’t like the whole “I’m not sure about this, but I’m accepting of this” that the characters go through, it just works in this story.  Don’t ask me how.  It could be the inter-dimensional portal that is on the edge of town (or what appears to be a completely different one in the basement of the science lab), or the sheer magic of the fairies constantly crossing over.  Either way, I do love that some of my questions from the first story get answered here, but it leaves me with some more questions.  Who are these other beings that keep getting referenced? Are we going to see them in the next read? So many questions, and so impatient in getting the answers.

So, if are going to check this read out, make sure to keep something heavy handy.  You’ll never know if you have to smash your animated entertainment center down to size.

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Reviewing the Pages: Flesh and Bone

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Dr. Bill Brockton, the founder of the world-famous Body Farm, is hard at work on a troubling new case. A young man’s battered body has been found in nearby Chattanooga, and it’s up to the talented Dr. Brockton to assemble the pieces of the forensic puzzle. Brockton is brought into the case by the rising star of the state’s mechanical examiners, Jess Carter.

Just as they’re on the verge of breaking the case open, events take a terrifying turn. Brockton has re-created the Chattanooga death scene at the Body Farm, but a killer tampers with it in a shocking way: placing another corpse at the setting, confusing authorities and putting Brockton’s career and life in jeopardy. Soon Brockton himself is accused of the horrific new crime, and the once-beloved professor becomes an outcast. As the net around him tightens, Brockton must use all of his forensic skills to prove his own innocence . . . before he ends up behind bars with some of the very killers he’s helped to convict.

“Flesh and Bone” is another roller-coaster ride into the world of forensic anthropology, its twists and turns marked by drama and pathos, humor and grief, families and friends and enemies. With captivatingly real characters, plus fascinating scientific insights drawn from the case files of a living forensic legend, this astonishing novel confirms Jefferson Bass as one of our most talented authors of suspense.

Well, this was a fun experience to re-read through. It’s been a few years since we went on this journey with Dr. Brockton, with his experience of one of the worst time periods of his life. We get our rather interesting cast of characters back, along with a new character: Miss Georgia Youngblood. Miss Georgia is a character you can’t help falling for, or at the very least, admiring. There’s not much I want to say here, but, I do recommend this read. You’ll learn a lot more about the human anatomy and human nature along the way. Just, don’t forget the tissues folks, you’ll want them.

The reason why I didn’t want to say much above, is because I didn’t want to spoil the read for people on Goodreads.  Dr. Brockton hits his lowest point of the series (so far), by losing the woman that he was falling in love with, and being made the primary suspect in her murder.  Oh, that and hiring Grease, the lawyer that he’s had to go battle with time and time again in the confines of the court room.

The book is engaging, and while some other reviews that I read give the authors a lot of grief because of the plot with the “intelligent design” bashing (which, I don’t think ever got resolved in this one, so maybe we’ll get a resolution with it in the next book?).  I’m not one for the idea of intelligent design, but I’m at least open to understanding the theory and feelings behind it.  The one thing I don’t like about that particular plot point is that it isn’t resolved.  Granted, much like Dr. Hamilton’s plot line starting out in the previous book, and ending here; the seeds for this story are planted here.  I’m just hoping that there’s a payoff (although much less emotionally costing to Dr. Brockton).

Go check this book, and for that matter, the whole series out.  Each one of these could act as their own stand-alone story, with only vague hints and nudges to past events.  Dive in to the read folks, but don’t let love blind you.

Reviewing the Pages: Four Days

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Four days to locate the killer. Four days to take revenge. Four days to find redemption.

Jim Harris is a hard-drinking detective on his way to a nervous breakdown. Every day, he works alongside corrupt cops and dangerous crooks. That is, until a brutal murder case unravels his career, bringing past indiscretions to light. Alone, afraid, and out of control, Harris makes a pact with himself: finish it.

I went into this read thinking that I’m going to enjoy it…but in the end, I was so lost for two-thirds of this book that I couldn’t completely enjoy the read. The plot that was described in this novel takes place in the last section, and could have been stretched out a little bit longer, rather than getting page upon page of backstory. Sure, I’m all for getting backstory at some point, but I would have preferred to have it intermixed with the main plot. Other than that, it was a good read. I enjoy detective novels, and this one, with a protagonist with absolutely nothing to lose, is rather intriguing. Don’t let my review sway you away from this read, dive deep into the mystery. Can you solve the case and keep your head?

The one thing that got me in this read, is the title of one of the chapters.  It goes: “Friday, October 12 to Friday, February 2, 1985”.  That wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t placed after chapters that were also dated 1985.  Now, I could be completely wrong and it’s supposed to be like that, but my brain got stuck on that, and I think that’s part of the ruined enjoyment for me.  That, or the amount of questions that I had early on that I wasn’t getting sufficient answers to.  As we dove deeper into the corruption (and for a small little bit, became a part of it), I kept wondering when the title was going to play into it.  And I finally got my answer, like 2/3rds of the way through.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the premise, but I do really think that it should have been spread out throughout the book.  Start out with the doctor’s visit and the wait time, then dive into some back story and character development.

Now, getting those gripes out of the way.  I did enjoy what we got here.  I did enjoy all of the backstory (as confusing as it was).  It’s dark, gritty, and doesn’t hesitate to throw the other side of the law at you.  The side that most people think happens all the time in their own neck of the woods.  And sometimes, they are right.  Well, I don’t know that for a fact.  After all, I’m just a reader from a small town in the least-populated state in the US (we have more problems with our current mayor than the police department.  All of my town’s officers are good men).  The unfamiliar (to this reader) setting is something different, and I rather enjoyed the experience of finding things out as Harris did.  There are still a lot of questions left unanswered (such as the VERY last line…is he just talking out loud, or is the person he’s with someone he actually knows).

I do recommend this book, and I hope that you can look past all of my criticisms.  Dive deep into the corruption; can you find a safe way out and solve the mystery?

Reviewing the Pages: Doctor Who: Shada

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From the unique mind of Douglas Adams, legendary author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, comes “Shada”, a story scripted for the television series Doctor Who but never produced—and now transformed into an original novel…
 
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Imagine how dangerous a LOT of knowledge is…
 
The Doctor’s old friend and fellow Time Lord, Professor Chronotis, has retired to Cambridge University, where among the other doddering old professors nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs—harmless things really. But among them, carelessly, he took The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Even more carelessly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe; it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
 
The hands of the sinister Skagra are unquestionably the wrongest ones possible. Skagra is a sadist and an egomaniac bent on universal domination. Having misguessed the state of fashion on Earth, he also wears terrible platform shoes. He is on his way to Cambridge. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor…

Can I give this more than 5 stars? Goodreads seems to think I can’t, but I will. I will gladly proclaim this book a hefty 20 stars out of five. Why? Because I enjoyed this book. Because it’s a mixture of humor, science fiction, suspense, drama, and humor. Yes, I said that twice. Gareth Roberts does a tremendous job of keeping Douglas Adams’ humor and tone within this story (even though Adams never did actually write a novelization of this, you can tell he’s in there). Yes, there are some places where you are fit to be tied about finding out the last little detail, but it pays off in the end.

This book will make you laugh out loud, so be prepared to get some very strange or dirty looks (I got one from the family cat). This is a brilliant adventure, and I recommend anyone who enjoys science fiction to check out this book. Just, make sure to keep track of your mind. You’ll never know when you just might lose it.

Oh my.  Hang on…thanks River.  Anyway, I love this book.  It blends together Doctor Who, and the wonderful humor and imagination that is Douglas Adams (through the pen of Gareth Roberts).  Now, mind you, I have seen very little of Classic Doctor Who (meaning I’ve only watched clips on YouTube, shame on me).

Now, let’s get right down to it…this book is amazing.  And a lot of the details that came out of this, which is based off the series script for the Fourth Doctor, would have been incredible to watch on the screen, if only they could have gotten it right.  Which they apparently hadn’t.  All thanks to a production strike during the time that this was filming.  But that’s alright…I think this one would be much more appreciated on the page, rather than the screen.  But that’s just me.

As I stated in my Goodreads review, you can tell where Adams’ tone shines through, and it’s thanks to Roberts keeping in touch with it.  Roberts does a fantastic job of keeping Adams’ humor in, while adding his own humor and giving us just the right amount of suspense on certain plot elements.  Yes, there were times where I was confused on Skagra (goodness I’ve had to spell that name a bazillion times), but I loved the pay out in the end.  And there’s Chronotis.  I honestly didn’t expect to see that coming, but it worked wonders when it did.

I want to show love to some of my favorite parts of this book, but I’d be here all day.  So, I’ll summarize.  There’s the bit where the Doctor (in a fashion that I’m not sure is in line with the Fourth Doctor, or if it’s just him being patronizing), Romana, and a medal (which is where I cracked up); the ship reading out The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey to Skagra (and the Doctor’s subsequent reading of it); and the brief little reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which is all shared to the annoyance of my ex-Mrs./lovely friend Princess Penguin).

If you are a fan of Doctor Who, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams’ work in general, or just quirky and fun science fiction, check this one out.  Just watch out for friendly, yet scatterbrained, old professors.  You never know what secrets they might hide.

Reviewing the Pages: Odd Thomas

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“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Odd Thomas thinks of himself as an ordinary guy, if possessed of a certain measure of talent at the Pico Mundo Grill and rapturously in love with the most beautiful girl in the world, Stormy Llewellyn.

Maybe he has a gift, maybe it’s a curse, Odd has never been sure, but he tries to do his best by the silent souls who seek him out. Sometimes they want justice, and Odd’s otherworldly tips to Pico Mundo’s sympathetic police chief, Wyatt Porter, can solve a crime. Occasionally they can prevent one. But this time it’s different.

A mysterious man comes to town with a voracious appetite, a filing cabinet stuffed with information on the world’s worst killers, and a pack of hyena-like shades following him wherever he goes. Who the man is and what he wants, not even Odd’s deceased informants can tell him. His most ominous clue is a page ripped from a day-by-day calendar for August 15.

Today is August 14.

In less than twenty-four hours, Pico Mundo will awaken to a day of catastrophe. As evil coils under the searing desert sun, Odd travels through the shifting prisms of his world, struggling to avert a looming cataclysm with the aid of his soul mate and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. His account of two shattering days when past and present, fate and destiny converge is the stuff of our worst nightmares, and a testament by which to live: sanely if not safely, with courage, humor, and a full heart that even in the darkness must persevere.

From the very get-go, Odd Thomas explains that he is going to be an unreliable narrator, well, at least in terms of the writing that he is doing for the tale that he is publishing, but it still works here. Odd is…well, odd. An avenger of sorts; Odd inspires to be nothing more than your everyday common man, but his special gift tells him otherwise. I have to say that this tale gets you invested with Odd’s way of telling things, plus getting you rooting for him and Stormy. This is one of the very few tales that I would make me cry because I feel for Odd. Is that a bad thing?

For those who like a bit of a odd tale, with a bit of love, happiness, supernatural elements, and some Elvis within, then you should check it out. 

Within the first three pages, Odd already establishes himself as an unreliable narrator, and it certainly shows throughout the tale.  Odd throws a lot of humor at us, interspersed between the darkness that he is plunging himself into.  From the humorous introductions of the supporting cast, or his self-deprecation (one of the clearest moments of this is during his interaction with his father’s Girlfriend of the Moment).  However, there’s a darkness to Odd’s tale.  A family that doesn’t love him, and a fear of firearms that doesn’t get explained until the latter third of the book.  Though, while it seems like it goes away, part of me thinks that that fear got suppressed by Odd trying to save the people of the story.

Which is where the sadness comes in.  I’m glad that we didn’t get Odd seeing Stormy.  I can only imagine what sort of dark character turn it would have taken Odd down, and we don’t need that.  Reading chapters sixty-four through sixty-six, for a brief moment (even though I had read this before, and remembered the ending), I was rooting for Odd and Stormy to have their wonderful life together.  But, alas, it just isn’t meant to be.  And for Odd, there’s so much more for him…like six novels worth.  As stated above, those who like odd adventures should check this read out.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll know why the dead don’t speak.

Reviewing the Pages: Wild Cards I

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The first volume of George R. R. Martin’s WILD CARDS shared-world series, back in print after a decade—and expanded with new, original material.

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo–winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.

This is my second read-through of this story collection, and I have to say, my rating will not change. There are some stories in here that are masterful in their creation, and there are some others that are really lacking in their execution. The whole world is creative, and while the characters are actually flawed in one way or another, there is a lot that this world has to offer that we just don’t get. Yes, the epilogue and appendix serve as a way of getting some explanation as to the details of the Wild Card Virus (including a well-thought out speech (lecture) on how the Wild Card Virus is primarily PSI in nature). However, don’t shy away from this read. For all of it’s flaws, it sets up a world that has survived and thrived going on four decades now. I recommend those who like tales that are both dystopian and alternative-history in nature. You never know, you just might find this to be an Ace.

Well, as stated above, I’ve read this book before.  But, it had been pretty much two years since I last read this book, so it’s been an interesting journey to dive right back into the Wild Cards universe.  And I have to say, there were some short stories that I did enjoy, and some that I downright despised.  Why? Because some of the stories were too disjointed; way too all over the place to be coherent.  Granted, I like some of the characters within those stories, but their stories just didn’t do it for me.  There are also some character that I wasn’t huge fans of, like Fortunato and Puppetman.  In Puppetman’s case, it’s because his involvement in the story was confusing (even though that he’s pulling strings like a puppet master, and the end reveal was good, it just gave me that weird feeling).  For Fortunato, it’s just his powers in general.  There are some characters in here that I’m not sure are Aces or Deuces.

There are a lot of real-world events that come across in this story, and a lot of real-world themes like discrimination (putting Jokers in the shoes of those in the minority during the Civil Rights era).  There are also a lot of very heavy themes, with violence and various themes of a sexual nature (including rape), so a fair warning to those who are ready to dive into this collection, be careful.

One of the good things that I like about this read is that, while we have several different authors writing for this book, we get a lot of interconnected characters.  Multiple characters get brought through different stories, whether it’s the Sleeper and his ever-changing faces; The Great and Powerful Turtle in his armored body; or other characters like Fortunato and Gimli.

Don’t let my review give you second thoughts about picking this one up.  It may not be that great, but it’s the first in what appears to be a very large series.  There are going to be some hiccups along the way.  Dive right into this series folks, and enjoy questioning everything you once knew.

Reviewing the Pages: In Cold Blood

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Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is both a masterpiece of journalism and a powerful crime thriller. Inspired by a 300-word article in The New York Times, Capote spent six years exploring and writing the story of Kansas farmer Herb Clutter, his family and the two young killers who brutally murdered them. In Cold Blood created a genre of novelistic non-fiction and made Capote’s name with its unflinching portrayal of a comprehensible and thoroughly human evil.

One of the pioneering novels in true crime non-fiction, In Cold Bloodfollows the murders of the Clutter family in their home, from events that took place just days before the murder, to the execution of the murderers. The book starts slow, with the task of having to set up the setting of the area as well as letting the reader get to know the Clutter family. But, roughly halfway through, the pace starts to quicken as the sense of “will they get caught” keeps getting larger and larger. While I expected there to be more about the trial than what we got, that could be attested to the sheer feeling of “open/shut”ness to the whole case.

Alright.

I felt that there was too much time in the novel spent on Perry Smith.  Yes, I know that there has to be some kind of focus here, but, I’m not sure if the focus should have been spent on only one of the killers.  Dick Hickock doesn’t get nearly enough “screen” time in the pages, which is strange because there would have been more there for Capote to get coverage for (since Dick’s family was there in Garden City while Perry had nobody).  Maybe it’s because Capote figured that Perry would make more of a figure to garner sympathy, but I didn’t feel it here.  Everyone has a tough life; some just have it worse off than others.  BUT, I don’t need to read about someone’s bedwetting problem over and over again.  Feels to me like Capote may have developed a bit of an intimate bond of some sort with Perry, and took to expressing it by trying to make Perry a sympathetic character despite the heinous crime that he had committed.  And I feel like it didn’t work out so well.  There are also some parts in this novel that I felt were completely fictionalized; as if Capote needed to come up with something to fill in the gaps to keep the story rolling along.  But, that’s just me.

But, for those of you who do like true-crime reads, you should check one of the pioneers of the genre.  Strap in folks, it’s going to be a long ride.