Sunday, July 28, 2013

You'll Be Glowing With The Fireflies By The End

First Paragraph:

"Ennis found a bird. He stood like a fence post, straight and still and about half as tall, cupping the small brown sparrow between his chubby palms and looking down in sorrow. Its feathers were softer than he had imagined and it didn't try to peck him or escape as he'd expected. Its tiny talons scratched him lightly and tickled his skin. Its dark blank eyes stared open, yet its body didn't move."

     Amazon /

Fireflies by PS Bartlett is an enchanting story of the close-knit Whelan family, coming to terms with their unusual youngest member.


Set in the tiny village of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century, an Irish family's life is about to change. A big family, Owen and Sarah support their seven children, Fagan, Connell, Liffey, Teagan, Brogan, Patrick and Ennis.

Ennis was always an unusual baby, starting with his birth. He didn't cry out for many minutes after the delivery, and his parents feared the worst. Six years later, they cherish their little miracle, but being to notice he has a mature temperament far beyond his years. 

The other children are growing up too, and the oldest will be leaving the nest any day now. Fagan is enchanted with a young woman down the street, and the two girls (Teagan and Liffey) are becoming women- finally noticing the men around them. But Teagan is ahead of the times. Her father is a doctor and she desperately wants to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, this is the era where genders have their specific roles. Men go out and work, women take care of the homestead and children. Teagan will have none of it.

However, her dreams are the last thing on her mind when Ennis begins to act strangely. First the bird- which Teagan was sure was dead. Then the cut on her hand, that mysteriously vanished after Ennis touched it. As the week progresses, as do Ennis's odd, new powers and soon the entire family is aware of them. Their only thoughts are of protecting the young boy, but what should they do? Who can they tell? Can they protect him? Are these powers a curse or a gift?


This is a captivating story. Somewhere between an Irish 'Little Women', "Little House on the Prairie' and its own story. It has the same rustic appeal, with the story relying on the characters to carry it. And oh do they carry it. Mixed in the the daily life of the Whelan family, is the plot around Ennis. His powers are done pretty subtley, and I wouldn't call this a paranormal book. I would say it's more historical slice-of-life, mixed in with a little coming-of-age, a little romance, and a dash of fantasy. 

The story itself spans two generations. As their children grow and begin to think about starting their own families, both Sarah and Owen have flashbacks to their youths in Ireland, and the differences between them, as well as the coincidences that brought them both to America, where they met for the first time. Their strong, constant love, entwines with the new, exciting love their children are beginning to experience in a poetic contrast. 

The story explores the complex relationships between one person and the next. How easily they can be made and how easily broken. How they can subtly shift or slowly fade. The bonds that can be made or lost. The potentials that were never realised and the unconditionals that are there through it all.

Ennis's powers are a little reminiscent of those of John from 'The Green Mile'. Even their personalities are a little similar- they're both very aware of the world, both soft-spoken, they never complain. If you were to be a healer, these would be the ideal components for it, so it's not surprising that they have similarities. 

The characters are as realistic a band of personalities as you can get. The relationships they have with each other as so vivid, that you can forget sometimes that they aren't real people. This is especially true of the family. They are the core of this story. It's how they react to the changes in Ennis that makes this book so good. As the story progresses, a nervous energy settles over the house, and each family member goes through an almost 'five stages of grief' phase. Their inability to understand what's happening, mixed with their fear for Ennis builds and merges until it bursts out of them through anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance, guilt, fear and confusion. 

The ending is nothing if not feel-good, and will leave you wishing for more of the lovely Whelan family. This is one of the few books I've read that kept me guessing till the end. I honestly had no idea how it would or could end. Once you get there, the reasons for the events become clear, but a little confused. I was left wondering why, but in the end it really didn't matter. I didn't read the story for the why, I read it for the who- for the family that are so warm and caring, and will take you in as one of their own. For the charm and description.

Because the description is beautiful and incredibly immersive. I could feel the summer heat, softened by a gentle breeze, as the fireflies glide around lazily and the crickets serenade the night. It's full of the simple pleasures of life, mixed in with a little magical wonderment. 

A story that reminds me of lights on a Christmas Tree, glowing in the darkness- beautiful, safe and a reminder of the love and happiness you share with the people whose names are scattered beneath it. Reading this book is like going to sleep content, with a smile on your face. There is simply nothing else like it. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kindle Kiosk

Part of a new series I'm starting, Kindle Kiosk will be posts about kindle books I've recently picked up from amazon. Most (if not all) of them will be free (at least when I bought them), and I want to share the deals with all of you. Any books that aren't free will have their prices beneath their image. If you don't see a price, there isn't one. It's free!

If you're interested in free e-books, watch these posts. The Kindle Kiosk may not be too regular an occurrence, but it'll bring freebies along with it.

For the first instalment, let's see what's in the grab bag today.


   The Narrative of Arthur Gordon                                                       A Twist In Time
             Pym of Nantucket                                            


Atlantic Island 1- The Event                            Christmas in Venice:                                                                                  A Short Story


    Elusive (On The Run Book #1)                                                The Time Machine
                 My review here: Elusive                                                       


                    Officer Jones                                                                 The Long Midnight Of
                                                                                                                                          Barney Thomson: A Serial 
                                                                                                                              Killer Thriller (Barney Thomson #1)

       The Soul Garden (Twisted                                                     Let it Snow! Season's                                Souls #1)                                                           Readings for a Super-Cool 
                                                                                             Yule! (Christmas story book 2012)

My review here: The Soul Garden                                       My review here: Let it Snow

If you want to check out other Kindle titles I'll put the links below, click on them to go to the Kindle books page:


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Forget the Genie of the Lamp, Pennies Are the Way To Go

First Paragraph: 

"Wilson Fenniwig was running as fast as he could. Over pavement, over path, over cobblestone, over grass. He clambered atop wooden benches only to roar off toward a stray mallard or goose; he hurled himself at lopsided trashcans merely to zag at the last second toward a tree or a statue or a dangerously nonchalant bird. His legs pumped, his arms were a blur of balancing motion, his eyes roamed constantly in search of yet another squat Please Stay Off The Grass! triangle that he could defy."

Public Garden Penny is a short story by Daniel Kelley.


Wilson is a ten-year-old boy, enjoying his days of youth. He spends most of his time playing with his best-friend Davey, whose family lives in the same apartment complex. The two are practically inseparable, and one of their favourite haunts is the Public Garden in Boston.

One day, Wilson finds a shiny penny on the gravelled ground of the Garden paths. A boy who makes finding old coins a hobby, he immediately checks the date. He is amazed to see the coin is nearly a century old. Especially since it's in mint condition.

But this shiny penny is even more special and magical than he knows. It can grant wishes. With a metallic genie in his pocket, the world is now his oyster, the penny his enabler. As the enormity of his discovery dawns, Wilson struggles to comprehend his new power.

Meanwhile, his home life is anything but special. Spending most of his free time with Davey and his warm family just intensifies his lack of one. His mother is constantly plagued with migraines and lives out her days in a darkened room alone, while his father drinks himself to an early grave. He wishes it was different, and now his has something that can make it happen. 

But Wilson is about to learn, the grass is rarely greener on the other side.


Full of charm, this short story is as enchanting as Kelley's others. Here he explores the ramifications of instant gratification, and the ways it they can affect other people, all mixed up with the chaotic energy of a ten-year-old boy. The range of  relationships we have with people, and how differently we treat someone based on our connections with them. How easy it is to take someone who's always there for granted. It's interesting that the more we care about someone, the closer we are to them, the less we tolerate from them. How many of your friends would you get along with so well if you were related?

Kelley's characters are always very warm and welcoming, pulling you into their world and along for the ride. I've enjoyed every one of Kelley's stories that I've read so far, no doubt I'll be checking out more.

I have reviews of a couple of his other books too.

Cupcakes here:  A story about growing up.

Going Out in Style here:  A collection of six short stories, all focusing on the different meanings of the title phrase. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Delicious Fun, Drenched in the Rosy Nostalgia of Youth

First Paragraph:
"It was, I think, her favorite expression: "You've got the wrong number!" That, along with, "And how!"  and "You don't say!" are what I most remember about Auntie Winifred's wide repertoire of crisp, automatic responses. Not that she wasn't truly interested in whatever had been said to prompt such a familiar reaction, but with so many of us constantly bleating for her attention, or asking for her support with some half-baked allegation made against one of the others, a noncommittal platitude probably seemed the best way to agree or disagree with the plaintiff, and yet at the same time do so without causing offense to anyone."

Cupcakes is a short story by Daniel Kelley.


Frances (better known as Froggie) is six when the story begins. She and her brother, Zander, and their two cousins, Billy and Melissa- nicknamed Iggy and Shoeless- spend most of their time playing together in their Auntie Winifred's bakery. She adores the children and is more of a parent to them than their own. She has appointed them official Cupcakes. 

When they ask why they're Cupcakes, she always has a vague, ambiguous answer. They may not know where the title came from, but they like it nonetheless, and wear it with pride. They are the Cupcakes, and the apartment above the bakery is their clubhouse. 

Told in a reminiscent way, we watch as the children grow older, grow up and experience all the things that come with it. 


Seeped in nostalgia, like a delightfully moist sticky toffee pudding that Auntie Winifred no doubt served, the sweetness of the haze of childhood, is in perfect balance with the luscious treats they play around.

This is a story about being young, along with the inevitable growing up. We all know that growing up is hard to do. The characters slowly realise the facts of real life, and how precious their relationships with each other are. Frances begins to notice their individual roles in the group, and the changing dynamics as they age and become the people they're shaping into.

With the hardships and realities of life, the rose-tinted, carefree days of youth cannot last forever, other than in our memories. This is a story that anyone can relate to. We were all young once, we all went though our awkward phases, our in-between years of learning responsibility, to actually accepting it.

A great short story. If the nostalgia doesn't get you, the writing will.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Moreish Blend of Humour and Suspense, Kept Fresh With Chilled Spines

The Liar and Other Stories by Matthew W. McFarland is a collection of six short stories. 


The first is "The Liar". 

First sentence: "In the past twenty-four hours, I have convinced various people that I am a fireman, that I make my own shoes, that I am a qualified pilot, that my middle name is Wenceslas, and that I have an inoperable brain tumour."

This story centres around (fairly obviously) an obsessive liar- though his lying isn't compulsive (according to his shrink), he just really enjoys it.

Today he is a businessman, and heading for the office of a corporate hot-shot. But is he really so free of reason? Who is the man of a million faces?

The next story is "Hospital".

First sentence: "There is a UFO outside the children's hospital, a huge, mirror-plated disc thirty feet across set at an angle on top of several pylons."

Four-year-old Sam had a bad experience, that left the young boy with a fear of blood tests. He is so afraid of them, that he won't complain unless the pain is too extreme. So when he says he has a sore back, they know it's serious. 

Told from the point of view of what I can only assume is his father, we get the adventures of Sam, going through the many hospital processes and the medical staff, with his parents getting more and more stressed as time passes. What could possibly be wrong with their little boy?

The third story is "Making Headlines".

First sentence: "The girl lay face down on the lawn, one bare foot nestled in the dark soil of a flowerbed."

Told from the point of view of her deadpan killer, we get flashbacks to the night before, when she died. Kathy Rogers was a local celebrity. An actress who was just hitting her streak, heading for the top. But she wanted more, she wanted the world to know her name. Someone should have told her to be careful what you wish for. 

Next is "The Savant".

First sentence: "No-one had ever called Hector Gutierrez smart."

Hector is a regular Average-Joe. He works in construction with his two brothers, until (on their way to work one day) the three of them are involved in a collision. Hector wakes up in hospital, with a new talent. One he's not sure what to do with.

The penultimate story is "Ripples".

First sentence: "'Let me help,' said the old man, standing up from his seat."

Anne is running. Running from a night she'll never forget. She gets on the first train she can, and meets the curious Stanley. Slowly she opens up, and tells him what horrors she witnessed the night before. 

The final story is "Toxic Love".

First sentence: "My wife of close to twenty years is slowly poisoning me, of this I am certain."

A man with an overbearing wife, believes she is slowly killing him, slipping something into every meal and snack she prepares for him. He is forbidden from cooking, and is struggling with the concept of her betrayal. All the tiny, insignificant hints he's found, have piled up into one obvious big slap on the face. A wake-up call.

He needs to know why? Who can he go to? What can he do? How did it come to this?

The story then switches to his wife's POV, before ending on their teenage son's. The revelations that come with each change seem to be vying for which can be the most extreme. How well do you know the people in your life?


McFarland is great at writing seemingly innocuous stories, that end up chilling and unnerving. He's very good at building tension and suspense, though sometimes tricking the reader with an unexpected plot twist or change of atmosphere. 

I reviewed his first collection, "50/50" and (though it still contains my favourite stories from him) these contain the same charm and enjoyability. 

My favourites are "Ripples" (which I could see making a great thriller- if only). There are some unexplained elements, but the power of imagination fills in the gaps and makes it more sinister. And "Toxic Love", which is a dark, twisted story, with almost comical switches in POV. Changing between the views- with their different levels of awareness- is somehow both humorous and unsettling. The characters are all very focused on the negative. During the story, I found myself imagining the cast singing Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in my head. "Regrets, I've had a few.."

My favourite character would probably be Arthur (if that is his real name) from "The Liar". A con-man, who makes charm his business, he comes across as very likeable, funny and a little insane. There's no doubt he's unstable, but that just adds to his psychotic energy, and sucks you right in.


An entertaining, short collection that fans of his previous book will no doubt enjoy. His writing style and immersive stories will have you reaching for that one too.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's the End of the World As We Know It, And Humanity's Feelin' Fine

First Paragraph:

"Having to save the world was a terrible burden, he thought, staring at the button. The Button. It was the sort of thing a conspiracy theorist might imagine would sit in a locked drawer in Number Ten Downing Street, in some dramatically lit war room at the White House, or a vaulted bunker in Moscow or Beijing, but this imagining would be to underestimate the reach which the Button had, and also to overestimate the power of government."

A Button to Save the World by Edgar Million is a novella with a common plot, but with a twist.


It is sometime in the near future. Robots are commonplace, with every family/person owning one. These robots are not the killers of sci-fi, but simply machines, designed to take care of humanity's menial tasks.

Jeremy Bentwhistle is the Englishman in charge of the 'big, red, DO NOT PUSH button', though this button is indistinct, and it's entire purpose is to be pushed. It sits bolted to his desk, covered with a brass lid, which will only open for his fingerprint.

With the push of the Button, Jeremy could save the world- or more specifically humanity. However, the conditions must first be met. He knows the day draws near, and rues the moment he will push the Button.

Jeremy is a wealthy man, owning many factories around the world. Almost his entire staff is composed of robots. The powers that be decided that robots were so good at their tasks, that they've been 'hired' for every single one. All commercial, retail, factory, in fact any job of any kind is now held by a robot, with a lucky few people still working.

Billions of people were now unemployed. They rose up, protesting and breaking out in large riots. Cities burned, until the robots stopped it. Now most of humanity is purposeless. No career, no prospects, all they do now is get wasted and high. Food, medicine, electricity and home comforts are all provided free of charge (via implanted chips) to every one around the world. There is no more poverty or famine.

Patrick K Useful is one of two humans working in Bentwhistle's London factory. Up until now he had been the regional manager, but the robots have taken even his job. One week left. But Patrick has noticed something amiss, all is not as it should be, and the truth very rarely sets you free.


This is a story with an unusual premise. Not the end of the world or conspiracies or environmental factors or overpopulation- which are all mentioned, but in someone having the ability to 'save the world' and regretting it. Resenting that it's on them. Not in the superhero 'my life is a lie, I have to push you away to protect you' kind of way, but in having a legitimate way to at least slow down the destruction, and not wanting it.

I won't say too much, because with the length of this story it would be easy to spoil, but I enjoyed this book. The ending is chilling, and makes me wonder whether our reality could ever end up the same way. It's not beyond the realm of possibility, though probably for a very distant future.

An interesting, short story with an eerie end, that raises many questions. Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the one? We'd all love a button to fix everything, but remember, there's always a catch. Nothing in life is so easy. The question here is not, 'would you push the button', but rather, 'would you want a button to push?'

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blog Update

Just a quick update. You may have noticed some changed to the layout of my blog. I've added some organisational tabs that will make it easier (hopefully) for you all to find things and navigate easier on my blog.

I've added contact details, an about page and a long due book review directory here:
so that you can see a list of all the books I've reviewed so far. It's done by alphabetical order by the author's surname. E.g. if I wanted to look up The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, I would go to the A category. Easy as pie. If that fails, there's always the fail-safe ctrl+f strategy.

I hope you all enjoy the new setup and that it improves your viewing experience. There will be a review up tomorrow, but you'll have to wait until then to see what it is.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

If You Go Down to the Woods Today, You're Sure of a Big Surprise

First Paragraph:

"Trevor reached out his hand and turned down the stereo in the minivan. He cocked an eyebrow at his girlfriend, Sarah, sitting next to him in the passenger seat. "Wait, are you seriously telling me that women are better drivers than men? Seriously?"

Whisper Lake by James Melzer is a story that follows the usual serial-slasher formula.


As with pretty much all slasher stories, a group of teens (in this case four) drive out to the middle of nowhere, preferably surrounded by forests and non-existant cell phone coverage, and find their fun times getting wasted and high are interrupted by a psycho in said forest. They scream, they cry, they argue, they die. Age-old formula that anyone familiar with the genre will recognise and predict. The characters, the plot, the psycho. All filling out the moulds that countless others have used in the past. The characters themselves even lampshade it, stating how cliche the script is, with one of them quipping "There's no killer on the loose, idiot." Which of course is a death sentence in this genre. 

Trevor is travelling down to his grandmother's cabin with his girlfriend, Sarah, and best friend Kincaid- along with his girlfriend, Amy. The four have been good friends for years, and they're planning one last 'hoorah' before heading off to college in the Fall. His grandmother passed away three months ago, and his parents have asked him to clean her cabin up and get it presentable to sell. 

So off they go to the isolated cabin on Whisper Lake. When they get there they find the lights already on and the front door open. They decide to inspect the place and find gutted animal carcasses in the kitchen. Fresh ones. Along with an armoury worth of hunting weapons. Though spooked, they decide to stay anyway, believing it was probably just a squatter, and the two men get to work cleaning up the kitchen- which includes removing the carcass of a stag. There's obvious evidence that someone has been living in the cabin, and recently, but if they did the sensible thing and left, there would be no story. Their reasoning is that with all the weapons in the kitchen, even if someone comes back they could defend themselves. 

Switch to obligatory psycho POV, as he watches from afar. He'll give them this last night, before he descends.


You know what to expect. Sex, gore, etc. All the usual elements that make up teen slasher stories. Though that doesn't make them any less enjoyable. For the most part it's fairly predictable, but I was surprised by a couple things. The POV switches a few times, to either killer POV, victim POV or random POV in the manner of slasher flicks. 

It's unusual to see thriller/horror this short, but it works well for what it is. It also means that the pace is very fast. You have four teens, one killer and less than a hundred pages. Though having said that, I would've liked it to be just a little longer, so that it was more drawn out and the tension can build further. What works so well in this genre is the fear, the not knowing, the helplessness, and adding a little more of that is never a bad thing. 

It starts off strong, but loses momentum towards the end. The ending was the only thing I really have criticisms for, it gets a little off track and just happens. Not in a sudden stop kind of way, but in an ambling it's just over kind of way. One of the group is never accounted for. I can only assume what happened to them. 

The villain is suitably phantom-of-the-opera-esque, mixed in with a little Jason for good measure. A tormented, insane man, who doesn't really need a reason to kill you, but God help you if you give him one. 


An entertaining, quick read, which fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Would You Enter the Eye of the Storm For Someone You Love?

First Paragraph

"Julianna Putnam sat on a heap of worn truck tires and sucked on the Marlboro she had sneaked from Christy's bag. With her back propped against the shaded side of the fleapit gas station, she considered the straight-line shadow the isolated building, alone in the dusty of nowhere, made on the ground. Where Julianna sheltered was oppressively cloying, but in the open farther out, the exposed earth appeared to smoulder under the sun's blistering assault. The sizzling beneath her neck and arms, areas she took care to keep from touching the wall behind, reminded Julianna that the day had already made merry murder of her and it was barely noon now. She hocked a loogie from back of her throat and spat it out onto the cracked cement, drew on the Marlboro, and watched the wet stain burn to nothing."

               Amazon /

Misisipi by Michael Reilly is a romance mixed with mystery, murder and global issues. It is a work of fiction based on recorded historical events.

Reader discretion is advised.


It is 1997. A hot summer's day in Arizona and three girls are stopped at a gas station, trying to fix their car. They've come all the way from Boston, aiming for LA. Julianna Putnam is twenty-one. She's just graduated and wants to get away from home, from her adoptive parents. 

While the other girls are occupied, Julianna notices a young man struggling with his car a little ways off. Turns out they're not the only ones with car trouble. She gives him a hand and the two immediately hit it off. 

Scott Jameson is also running away. An engineering graduate, he bailed before his Masters exams. He hasn't told his father yet, and is standing at the metaphorical crossroads between home and LA when he meets Julianna. She discovers he's stone-cold broke and lends him enough to get him the rest of the way. Scott wants to pay her back (not just for her generosity, but so he can see her again). With no cellphone and no other contact number until she reaches LA, she has to think of a way to get it to him once she has one. The two devise a plan- a place she can leave a message in LA, so that he can get in touch with her, using Navajo fetish stones- Native American carved stones with special meanings. 

Cut to Boston, 2005. August 22nd. Julianna and Scott are married, but not happily. There's a lack of communication that stems from their past and Julianna's- though Scott isn't aware of that. They rarely see each other. Then one day, Scott comes home from work and finds her gone, leaving nothing but a one-line note for him. She hasn't left any indication of why or where she's gone, but Scott won't give her up that easily. Following whatever leads he can, he sets off on a journey- one that will take him across the States. As he heads further south, Katrina builds offshore. She's not the only one hounding him. Julianna's past is a dark place, and for the first time in decades, the lights are flickering on, revealing everything little by little to the confused, distressed Scott. 


The story is told in alternating segments between 1997, LA and Scott is 2005- as he races across the country. What starts off as a switch between the new, lovestruck couple and the present, 2005 one, quickly becomes a murder mystery and thriller. The story has a tendency to switch through various genres at the turn of a hat. It starts off as romance, then thriller, then murder mystery, then survival, and somewhere along the way they all blend together. It may sound disjointed, but it works. I wouldn't say they switch seamlessly, but for the most part I see it more like Scott's journey. As he enters the new terrain of a different State or district, we enter a new genre. It can be a little jarring because it's unfamiliar, but you get used to it pretty quickly. The more changes there are, the less you notice them. What starts off as a light-hearted story, slowly slides through the spectrum, picking up speed before hurtling into the dark.

The pace starts of slow, but builds like the winds of Katrina. Slowly, gradually, until the end is a fast-paced, tension-filled ride that comes at you full force. For a lot of the story, confusion is ever-present. From Scott's POV, we know exactly what he does- nothing. He knows as little of Julianna's past as we do. So why he's hunted, why she left, where she went, who the big players are, are all a mystery to us, which can make certain points hard to follow sometimes, but it does get tied up at the end. There is a lot going on in this story, but stick with it and it'll all make sense eventually.

There's also a little backtracking in the second half. Not the flashbacks to 1997 that we're used to, but to Julianna, just before she leaves. Her part is mainly exposition designed to fill in the numerous gaps, but it doesn't feel too drawn out. This is a longer book (at almost 500 kindle pages), so some places can drag a little, but the payoff is worth it.

There's quite a few issues incorporated into this book. Some environmental, some forces of nature and some the result of mankind. The focus is very much on the damage they cause, both to the planet, society and to individuals. On the pain and grief left behind. As I stated earlier, all the characters are fictitious, but some of the events are real. Hurricane Katrina for one, and though the characters themselves don't exist, I'm sure their basic stories were some actual person's. Hundreds, thousands of actual persons'. Books based on true events can be in bad taste, but here it is done well. It's respectful, it's factual and it's a dark reality. This is a story of loss- in it's many different forms. It's an emotional hurricane to match the real thing. 

This book is the entire collection of the Misisipi stories. They were released separately (though they are the same story, same continuation), and once the story was finished, they were collected together in this book. It's like books with different acts. The only reason I mention it is because at the start of each new book, we get an illustration of a Navajo stone and its meaning. They foreshadow the events about to occur. 

The characters are well-written and all have their moments. They're so 'real' sometimes that there's times you berate the good guys and sympathise with the bad. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason. The reason itself may be worthless, poor or nonsensical, but it can fuel good people to do bad things and bad people to do good. 

A story that could only ever have one ending. The fiction is perfectly blended with the factual, right down to the grief and loss. It's a story that won't let go. A slow boil that will rise up in your heart, long after the inevitability dawns. The tension is almost painful in its brutality. It will rip through you, leaving you desperate to know, to not know. 

The main plot is ultimately irrelevant. No matter the choices we make, the things we did or didn't do, the end comes to everyone in some form or other. But we must never forget, never not take comfort in this: whenever there is an end, there is always a beginning to follow it. This book will wrench both your heart and gut. For a little while it may even break something, but everything broken has the potential to be fixed. Maybe not the way we want, or even need, but enough to keep us moving.

Beware: If you do read this book, you may need some time to recover afterwards. Once you do, you'll want to read it all over again. Moral of the story? Appreciate what you've got before it's gone. 

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

Though let's face it- good cover art is what draws us to a book in the first place. When I browse the shelves, there are so many books that it would be physically impossible for me to check them all out. So instead I walk through the aisles and let certain covers pop out at me. I may be interested or I may not, but it all starts with that first glance.

It just goes to show the importance of a good book cover. In some cases, it alone may be someone's reason for buying/borrowing the book- regardless of whether they are even interested in the story.

I have no idea what draws me to certain covers. All I know is some grab my attention and some don't. I'm not sure there even is a logical reason. Is it a little sad if I get a little down when I find a book with an amazing cover, but a blurb that doesn't even begin to interest me? It's almost painful for me to put it back on the shelf. You wouldn't be interested, my mind tells me. But it's so pretty, it argues back. So I stand there like a creeper, staring at this one book, having an internal debate, until I can convince myself to put it back. Then repeat the process. I never denied that I have a problem. I call it an addiction for a reason.

How do you browse the thousands of titles at your local bookstore/library? Do you get distracted by the pretty or keep your cool? And admit it, have you ever bought a book just for the cover? In the end, we may not judge a book by its cover, but it's probably the reason we check it out.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Road To Redemption Is Paved With Satire and Fornication

First Paragraph: 

"And that night John went to bed without eating his dinner. Zonked on zolpidem and single malt scotch, wrapped tightly in his super-special 1,000 thread counts sheets and nestled comfortably on his newfangled memory foam-reclining- adjustable king-sized bed, John blacked out just after lying down. Peaceful nothingness swirled around him, tossing off flecks of gold and strands of cool blue. The ten thousand things fled and left in their place a cozy void."

Sloughing Off the Rot by Lance Carbuncle is a story with an odd mix of genres.


John wakes up one morning to discover himself no longer in any recognisable place. His comfy bed replaced by hard ground and his soft pillow by a rock. He is pondering how he woke up in a cave, and the strange, dark hole a few feet away when a voice comes to him. The voice tells him he is "John the Revelator", followed by some Proclaimers' lyrics and some very ambiguous, unhelpful comments. 

The voice tells John he needs redemption. To reach it, he must follow the path, never straying lest he lose the path and become lost to it forever. 

The moment John exits the cave, he is met by a strange 'prophet-like' being, in the form of an almost naked hippie, who calls himself Santiago. Santiago is there to guide John, to walk beside him on the journey. However, Santiago is not the most stable of people, and John is now thoroughly confused. He can remember nothing of himself or his past, and he certainly wants nothing to do with this crazy, little man or his plans.

Lost in a desert, John just wants to find his way home. A burning bush tells him that he must follow the path to do so. This is John's second chance. He must follow the red-brick road of El Camino de la Muerte (The Way of Death) and never stray, if he wants to return. What happens on it and where it takes him is up to John.

With little choice, John sets off with the 'wise' Santiago at his side. Along the way they meet a vast assortment of characters. They are hunted by the zombie-like 'lunkheads'- who are men stripped down to nothing but their base desires. They are not the only wants hunting him.


A very weird, sometimes off-putting story. The best way to get through it is to not question it and follows John's example- just go with the flow. There's an odd mix of humour, fantasy and disturbing, adult horror. There are graphic scenes that may not be for the weak of heart, but there is also plenty of warmth to offset it. Though there are horror aspects, the character' reactions makes them seem less threatening and sickening. In fact, the characters just brush them off like nothing. They're almost horror without the horror.

Reading this book is like entering one of Salvador Dali's paintings- it's bleak, beautifully grotesque and utterly beyond description. Freud would have a field day. It's a bizarre mesh of adult versions of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. Especially the latter. It can be hard to know what's going on, and there's a confusion to match John's own. 

There are also a lot of Christian undertones (even John's name), all added in in a playful, semi-mocking manner. Not in a offensive way (though I'm sure some would disagree), more in a misplaced, I-think-there's-some-relevance-to-this-but-I-can't-find-it kind of way. Pop culture references are also blended into the mix, adding to the complete acid trip that is this book. 

The characters themselves are synonymous with the many different sides of people. The ego, the superego and the id. I'll leave it at that, so as not to spoil, but suffice to say they are a look into the human psyche. Though I will add that Santiago reminds me a little of a more explicit Zaphod Beeblebrox, minus the snazzy outfits, spaceship and extra head. He's quite charming in his own psychotic way.

Overall, I enjoyed this story. If this review got you interested, why not check it out? Though one tip? Don't overthink it too much, just let it be. Let it wash you through the pages, and only once you've finished the book should you think back and wonder what on Earth you just read.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.