Friday, February 24, 2023

COVER REVEAL for the final book in the Perfect Prophet series, COMING SOON

Monday, February 6, 2023

Two Reviews for the Price of One: Representing Diversity in Time for Black History Month, Plus Another Shoutout to the Work of Stephen Graham Jones

 Hey, it's Black History Month! And I was fortunate to receive an ARC of The Black Guy Dies First from Saga Press. This nonfiction book on the history of Black people in horror cinema drops February 7th, 2023, and it's a perfect reading choice for anyone looking to fill up on a little cultural history relevant to the month.

Do you know what else drops on February 7th? Book two of the Lake Witch trilogy, Don't Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones. I teased this review back in October, and the release date is here! So enjoy the review.

The Black Guy Dies First is a great reading choice for the Black History month of February. Don't Fear the Reaper is a great one too, because it's set during a freaking blizzard--much like the weather we've been having across the country. Either title is a great choice, really. Enjoy!

Cover Image courtesy of Saga Press
First of all, thank you Saga Press and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this title in the nick of time before Black History month.  Timing is everything. I felt a little pressured to finish this one quickly because of it and, well... here it is; a relevant review in time for a relevant month to post it. Anyway, on to the review!

When I got the mailer asking if I was interested in this title, I was beside myself. I mean, what a title! Being a bit of a movie person AND a bit of a horror person, that title meant something. I laughed because of the sad in-joke that it represents--because it's true. I was also invested, because I have an interest in horror movies in general. I know about the significance of  Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead, I've seen the Candyman films, I'm more than familiar with the Scary Movie memes and I know who Yaphett Kotto is. And The Shining, well that's the movie that cemented my relationship with horror.

Needless to say, all of these iconic movies and people are discussed, along with Jordan Peele--of course. And if you know the in-joke of the title, or just a passing knowledge of why I've mentioned the short list above, then this book may be for you. Authors Coleman and Harris take a deeper dive into the history of Black creatives in the horror genre. They do it with humor, with wit and with a sometimes uncomfortable level of snark, but hey, it is what it is. Honest snark. They're allowed a little bit of room for snark.

Either way, it's a great title to add to your shelf if you're a movie history or horror buff of any kind. I highly recommend it. 4 Stars.

Cover Image courtesy of Saga Press
I’m tearing myself apart trying to decide how to rate this latest installment of the Lake Witch Trilogy by Stephen Graham Jones because, in the movies at least, the sequel rarely stands up to the first one. There are arguable exceptions, of course. Aliens over Alien tracks for me. The Empire Strikes Back, for many a Star Wars fan (although my #1 will always be A New Hope, and Rogue One comes out ahead of Empire for me…). The Godfather Two, apparently, although the one I remember best is the first. That second Lord of the Rings, I guess…

But I'm going down a rabbit hole, and siting examples that aren’t technically in the horror genre to boot. Except for the Alien franchise. I should site Jaws, because it’s relevant to this story, and there isn’t one Jaws sequel that compares to the original. And Predator, well…the recent prequel Prey is the only one to best it, imo—and it surpasses the original by far.

Anyway, back to this review. It's a fast paced, non-stop slasher fest, more so than the first one, because that's what sequels aspire to do; there's that need to top that previous installment with more explosions, more car chases—or in this case, more splashy ways to bring out the guts and gore.

And I envision Jones standing there before the challenge, much Iike his main character Jade, giving his audience a curt nod of the head that says, "Bring it on, man. Bring it."  But don’t expect to dive into this book without reading the first one. It's easy to get lost even if you have read My Heart is a Chainsaw. In fact, I’d say it's mandatory reading. Regardless.

What I like about Don’t Fear The Reaper:

1) Dark Mill South. He's big. He's an admirable addition to the list of horror slasher icons, and his back story teaches us a little bit about that Native American history our U.S. education system likes to gloss over (or ignore). And the hook for a hand, well… any basic horror fan should know what that is a nod to. You don’t have to say his name, we know it.

2) Jones' strong suit is his ability to put us inside a character’s head—inside their skin, I guess. A suitable way to say it here, especially. It's not only Jade's eyes we're seeing through this time, and that can get tricky. But Jones is great at it. He's proven time and again, for me, that he knows how to give depth to his characters.

3) The creative, slashery ways people die is right on the mark, and the "rules" involving who dies and who doesn’t keep with the slasher tradition while playing with if there even should be rules, Scream style.

4) The beginning of this sequel gives clarity to the ending of My Heart is a Chainsaw, something I really needed. Also, the relationship Jade has with her mother—or lack of one, is addressed. Thank you! And the ending to this book is more satisfying, more complete for me

There is a lot going on in this book though. There's the slasher story, the revenge story, the ghost story, a spirit animal story. They all overlap, and it can get confusing. It’s that frenzy of making the sequel something bigger to outdo the first story, so be prepared. I feel like My Heart is a Chainsaw had more heart, it focusing on Jade and Jade alone. In Reaper, she no longer has that massive chip on her shoulder. She’s grown. What makes this story its own is the way the traumatic experience from Chainsaw has settled into the rest of the survivors, changing them forever in the wake of yet another slasher gone wild. Except this time, the slasher has a clear identity…or maybe not.

Yeah, it’s still a 5 star read…Maybe a 4.6. And Yes, I’m still looking forward to the final book. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read the ARC.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

William Martell Has a Lot to Say About Writing-- -- A Short Book Review for Screenwriters...or Any Writer

Great Book for Writers

Let’s face it, there is no void in the category of writing tutorials, and there are plenty of titles that your writing friends tell you is the 'Bible’ of writing/screenwriting how to books. You have some of those titles on your shelves: Trottier, Field, Mamet, King, Vogler, that cat one…my favorite is William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade. I've even got that Lajos Egri one that I will always wonder if I’m pronouncing right, and there's a good chance that I've just spelled wrong…

The point is that there are a lot of books, and as writers, we can’t read them all (well we could, but who wants to…) Still, there are times when we need a quick refresher, or even a fresh perspective on organizing our writing journey, and Bill Martell fills that bill.

Martell offers nothing really new here, in fact, he emphasizes that there’s nothing really new with any of the writing how to's out there, and I tend to agree. So, what he's done in this book in particular is to focus on why an outlining process is important and how defining a theme helps bring it all together. He eventually breaks down the film Ghost to work through the idea of a theme.

He also mentions a lot of those other books and he emphasizes that what's important is to find the method that works for you. He packs a lot of information into this little book—it's down and dirty, and the occasional typo proves it. But it's valuable information. It's a fantastic substitute for the struggling writer on a budget, and I highly recommend it.

You can find William Martell's books at Amazon

Sunday, January 1, 2023

First Review of 2023 and why that's kinda, sorta a lie

Hello Everyone, and Happy 2023! Seriously, let's make Happy happen. I am posting a review here of a book that I read and technically reviewed back in November. But I neglected to post the review here because, you know. Busyness. Is that even a word? I don't care. Because my first blog post of the year is here and done, and that makes me happy. 

So, here it is, The Delve by Dan Fitzgerald... Get ready for some fantasy, TTRPG action romance, because that's what this book is all about. It's a niche audience for sure. But then again, so is horror. So, here's the review:

Well written on multiple levels. 

First, I need to disclose up front that this is not a book I would normally read. I like some fantasy, but I’m not a regular reader of TT/LitRPG or Erotica in general, so I’m not the best audience. But I see a request for ARC reads in the social media reader community, and I sometimes pay it forward with an honest review. Plus, it’s good to pick something up that’s out of your comfort zone once in a while. You never know, you might find a real gem. 

So, the Delve takes us to a world populated by races of furry beings known as the Maer and the Timon who are at war with the hairless skinf*ckers known as humans. It’s a traditional fantasy world full of medieval battles, dragons and sci-fi tech, and our heroes are tasked with a mission to see what’s going down at a brightstone mine gone dark and run by the Timon. 

Author Fitzgerald gets right into the action with our Maer heroes Ygland, Ardo and Aene who are confronted by dragon like monsters and their ultimate foes, a band of humans led by a mage intent on sabotage. They eventually meet up with Skiti and Laanda, two major characters representing the Timon. Laanda is the Timon queen and a worthy warrior to boot. 

The action sequences are a strong point in this story. Also, strong pacing, and well defined characters. Each character is distinct in personality, and they work well together as a team. There is conflict between the ways of the Maer and the Timon that creates adequate dramatic tension. 

Author Fitzgerald warns us at the start that the sex scenes in this story are graphic. And yes, he gets pretty detailed. The knight Ygland and his squire Ardo have a dominant/submissive relationship, and they express their physical affection for each other often. I’m not a huge fan of erotica, but in the context of their characters and their relationship, showing it to some degree makes sense. I was convinced of their true feelings for each other. 

There are also a couple of bondage scenes in other relationships. For me, they didn’t always feel necessary to the plot, but then again I’m not a huge fan of erotica. Also keep in mind that nothing in terms of the sexual activities of the characters was ever non consensual. Still, I wasn’t fully convinced of the attraction between some of the characters that led to the sex, in particular, one character’s attraction to a villain based on eye contact. I wasn’t convinced of the almost immediate level of trust between the two, considering the villain's crimes. 

The Delve itself represents the character Igland's quest to be heralded as a proper knight and hero before being put to rest in an almost sacrificial way by his people. He's all about tradition until the time comes when he understands the real sacrifices he’s making by upholding those traditions. There’s a worthwhile love story at the heart of the decisions he needs to make, and yet it doesn’t deter from the action of the delve itself. 

I was confused by a couple of tangents at the bitter end of the story that felt more relevant to our own recent events rather than what was going on in the actual story. But they were minor. The Delve is a solid read, great world building and character building, and plenty of erotica for the fan of it.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Mongrels -- by Stephen Graham Jones -- The Last Review of 2022

Cover image courtesy of William Morrow

 I’m a late comer to the Stephen Graham Jones bandwagon, having gotten my first taste of his work with The Only Good Indians. I’m slowly expanding on his previous work, and Mongrels — well it's a gem of a Coming of Age horror novel. Jones puts so much heart and soul into his characters that I almost feel guilty for only rating it a four out of five little twinkly stars. But I have my reasons. We’ll get to those later.

This is the story of a criminal, a prisoner, a villager, a sheep, all rolled into one as the main character tells stories of his own life as a boy raised by his extended family of werewolves after his mother dies giving birth to him. His aunt, his uncle, his grandfather are all storytellers, all hustlers to some degree too because the werewolf life isn’t a pretty one…depending on which family member is telling the story. They scramble to live along the fringe of society, doing their best to blend in, except when they can’t. That doesn’t make them any less proud of their questionable roots, and the kid—well, his entire story is about seeing what his aunt and uncle go through while he wonders when it will hit him; if and when he will ever experience the change.

There are times he wants to be the wild wolf that his Uncle Darren represents, times when he understands why his Aunt Libby has her reservations. It’s really about growing up and learning from the family that raises you. Funny at times, heartbreaking at others. It's a book I definitely recommend reading.

My only real reservation is the nonlinear approach to the story. The boy is a storyteller. His stories comprise each chapter. He's as young as eight in some, as old as eighteen in others. But the stories bounce around, back and forth from age to age as the family moves from Texas to Georgia to Missouri to the Carolinas to Florida and back again, and it can get confusing. Therefore, the four. But it's a solid four, absolutely.