Book Review: Sci-Fi from the Rock Returns

Details from Amazon:

SciFiFromtheRockReturns

Book Description

Publication Date: April 26 2013

The third collection of science-fiction short stories from Newfoundland’s top authors, including Steve Lake, Tara Murphy, Matthew LeDrew, Darren Hann, and Mark Todd! Also including the work of Jay Paulin (Ink’d Well Comics) and Larry Gent (light|dark)!


Product Details

  • Paperback: 114 pages
  • Publisher: Engen Books (April 26 2013)
  • Language: English

Initial Thoughts:

I enjoy supporting local writers and companies, I also enjoy short stories, combine those two likes and of course I buy Engen‘s short story collection every year. I was at Sci-Fi on the Rock last year (this year sadly I may have to miss some time) and of course I picked it up. Also the fact that I’ve read and enjoyed stories by Darren Hann, Steve Lake and Matthew Ledrew were an added bonus.

Main Points:

As this is a shorter collection (just 92 pages), I’ve give my thoughts on each short story (something I am not going to do every time).  I should also point out right away that Engen needs a better editor, in almost every story I found grammatical errors. Everyone makes them when they write but if they don’t get fixed afterwards…well it takes me out of the story and is a big flaw. I won’t harp on it the whole review so here’s a glaring example right on page 10 "Sowing us down?", that’s not just bad punctuation, it’s completely the wrong word. Sorry to be so harsh but it looks very unprofessional.

Also worth noting is since these are short stories it’s impossible to discuss them without giving away details, so consider this SPOILER ALERT!

"Shadow of the Full Moon" by Steve Lake

Steve has been doing a series of Full Moon stories, it’s a tale of vampires versus werewolves. I’ve enjoyed them, the characters are well done, good action and a nice story. This one, well I hate to start on a downer but this is the weakest one so far. My problem is that the descriptions are good (and it’s the same characters I like) in this story almost nothing happens. Frank wants to become a werelion, Ryan stops him and there’s a note on the floor. Really? It took you a year to come up with that? A big letdown I’m afraid.

"The Hadron Effect" by Mark Todd

Mark has also started to do short stories for Engen, I enjoyed his first one but here…I would like to say at this point that I like these two guys. I never write anything in a review as a personal attack, I hope they take it as constructive criticism and the opportunity to become better writers, because that’s how it’s meant. So with this one we get a nice setup, an interesting take on time travel and the consequences of the Higgs-boson Theory and teleportation.  The story has this time agent captured, his captor doesn’t believe his story, he is about to press a button on his wrist device to prove him wrong and nothing, the story ends. Once again, I really don’t like it when you do a short story (with I assume no intention of a sequel) and you’re just left with no conclusion.

"Mirror Blade" by Larry Gent

Now we’re getting somewhere! A good story with some well developed characters, a nice backstory and very exciting action sequences. I enjoyed it very much. The warm poem at the beginning and end was a great touch, excellent through and through. The best of this collection. I won’t dwell on it here (I bring it up later) but Larry is also not from Newfoundland, just saying the title of the collection should be changed if this trend continues.

"Invasion" by Matthew Ledrew

Interesting story, I liked how the mundane (and sometimes sadness) of every day life and relationships is contrasted again an alien invasion. Very good work.

"Hagridden" by Tara Murphy

Very creepy, gory and depressing, I loved it! Tara’s knowledge of horror and costume/set design comes through in the details and it helps make the story shine. Perhaps the scariest part of all is the idea that if a parasite took you over slowly, if you protested enough, maybe no one would intervene. It’s always refreshing to see when someone has the guts to kill the main character of the story, one of the bests of this collection.

"Rebel Howl" Jay Paulin

Short story in the form of a poem, a nice twist. Eloquent, brief and to the point. I also really like putting in his feelings on animals rights, excellent all around.

"Rituals of the Celestial Ram" Dr. Lee M.W. Whatte

Amusing little story with an interesting twist. I’ve never been a fan of coffee (or any coffee shop) so I couldn’t relate much. I do need to point here something, I have nothing again Dr. Whatte but isn’t this collection supposed to feature Newfoundland writers? It says clearly in his bio he lives in Chicago, was he born here? Just seemed like an odd thing to do for this collection.

"The Fishing Trip" by Darren Hann

Very short story but I liked the twist, it reminded me of an old episode of "Twlight Zone" (or one of the better "Outer Limits" episodes). I would have liked more details but all and all a good one.

"Recruitment Possibilities" by Larry Gent

Gent continues to show that he has quite the talent for short stories. I like a story with some action and this one provides in in spades. He has extensive knowledge of the military and it really pays off here. Interesting characters, a good story and lots of room for a sequel.

Final Thoughts:

I enjoyed this collection and I would give it a cautious recommendation. My concerns are primarily about the first two stories (which both had good ideas, just needed further work) and some improper (or perhaps lack of) editing overall. This could have easily been an 8/10 but with the above concerns I have to put it down to a 6. Once again certainly not appropriate for children but certainly worth a look. And yes if you’re wondering I’m a forgiving person, I certainly will buy the next collection, I’m just hoping for an improvement. Until next time (which will be my thoughts on "Godzilla"), have a good one all.

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Book Review: Compendium by Ellen Curtis

Details from Amazon:

Compendium

Product Details

Compendium – the debut novel from Engen superstar author Ellen Curtis is finally available internationally! Read the three shorts that propelled Curtis into stardom: "The Tourniquet Revival," "At Midnight, the Dawn," and "Falling into Fire!" Explore the Engen Universe like never before, and even gain early insights into Engen Books’ newest series, Infinity. Available now at a special discounted price!

Initial Thoughts:

I know Ellen from conventions (and from her time doing a webshow I appeared on) and from being an author in Newfoundland (she’s with Engen Books), so after reading a short story she did in Light/Dark (which I enjoyed) I picked this up at Sci-Fi on the Rock and finally got a chance to read it (in my defense I have been reading a lot of comic books). I like to support local authors and of course I enjoy getting books signed and speaking with the author about their work. Also of course I like short stories (have at least 3 more collections of them to read). I’ll note here that I liked how there is a short preface that introduces the idea that the story themselves are part of the Engen world (and I like the character Matthew, pretty sure I know who that’s supposed to be). It was clever and a unique way to start a collection.

Main Points:

Since this is a short collection (which isn’t a bad thing at all, I like short) I’ll do each story individually (As it’s impossible to talk about short stories with revealing  details…SPOILER ALERT!

The tourniquet revival, very good story. Lots of action, well developed characters, creepy villains, good atmosphere. A kidnapping with a supernatural/cult twist where I found myself excited and drawn in. I do have to point out though what I felt was a small error. Kat thinks "her next decision would haunt her for years to come", it’s a nice phrase but I can’t see how it fits in with the story. While things don’t turn out perfectly (what horror story does?) I really don’t see how anything she did in the next moment could have been any different, how it would have helped. The guilt part makes sense but the shooting when she opens the door makes sense to me, I just wonder if this line was missed in editing, I’ll try to ask the author about it sometime.

At midnight the dawn, a nice story with an unexpected twist. To be honest though I found this to be the weakest of the collection, I think the issue I had was that while it starts off really nice (What are these two teenagers up to? Why are they stealing? What are the details of this gang?) it goes downhill once they are captured. The whole demon/angel angle is thrown in abruptly and I felt that the powers/mythology/history was not given it’s due. I know it’s a short-story but I think this one could have done with at least another 4-5 pages to delve into the characters and history. This one seemed a little rushed or possibly maybe only a second or third draft (in my experience 4-5 drafts is the minimum for anything).

Falling into fire, my favorite of the collection. Here’s a great line near the start, "The staccato crash of running pierced the hall, annihilating any silence that had previously existed here".  I love conspiracy theories/sci-fi/military experiments gone awry. A good action-packed stories, nice characters and really interesting ending, I hope she’ll return project Aisli sometime. I also enjoyed how at the end we’re not entirely sure what happened, a little mystery can be a good thing. Once more though I felt this story to be cut short a little too soon, I certainly would have liked some more back-story and the characters, the institution and the experiment.

Final Thoughts:

Ellen is obviously making most of her main characters female in this collection, which is fine. I can certainly relate to being able to write your own gender easier and I would also agree there are not enough strong female characters in fiction (or most stories period). Ellen has a way with words, she uses phrases I enjoy and her writing is often eloquent and clever. She also makes me look up words, which is always a good thing (especially if you’re a writer like me). I do have put out a small criticism, why do the story titles not have any words capitalized? (I added capital letters above just to illustrate) I know it seems very nit-picking but I couldn’t help it, just something I noticed.  Overall I give this a strong recommendation (for readers 14+) and 7.5 out of 10. I’m looking forward to reading Ellen (along with Matthew and the other Engen writers) short stories in Sci-fi from the Rock Returns (also from Engen), hopefully I’ll finish it before the convention in May.

Book Review: Destiny of the Vampire by Tina Traverse

Details from Amazon:

DestinyoftheVampire

Destiny of The Vampire [Kindle Edition]

Tina Traverse (Author)

4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $0.94 What’s this?
Kindle Price: $0.94 includes free international wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet

Initial Thoughts:

As anyone who reads this blog knows I’m big fan of vampire novels (obviously since I’ve written two) and when Tina offered me her book for free (in exchange for a review) I was about to say yes but realized I had already paid to download it. I like to keep abreast of vampire fiction as much as I can and since Tina is also from Newfoundland, I was especially curious to see what she had written. Sadly I have to start this review the way I did one for another self-published book I read earlier this year, if Tina read this I guess we’ll have things to discuss. I don’t want to hurt her feelings as it’s happened to me but I’m not sure how else to be helpful without being honest. Tina was nice enough to read and review my book earlier this year and I started to read hers many months ago, it took me this long to finish it.

Main Points:

I think Tina has some good ideas and comes up with some interesting characters in this book, the huge problem is the story, dialog and the names. Also as is the case with self-published books if you don’t have an editor or at least someone to bounce ideas off and receive feedback, you can write a story that you enjoy but not many other people will. I don’t say any of this to mean, my first novel was riddled with problems and it took a very patient editor and 16 drafts to fix it as much as possible.

Once more I have to be the grammar police here, this book is riddled with grammatical and spacing errors. In the end she even mixes up  character name (and it’s rather important). Errors like this take you out of the story and really detract from the overall enjoyment. To be a little more specific I found one of the major problems with this story is that while it is obviously a romance/vampire/supernatural story (and meant for adults) the author never provides the details I would have liked. In fact despite a lot of talk of sex and some steamy scenes no one ever has sex in the novel. I know this makes me sound like a horny guy but I think if you are going to write an adult novel you have to put this end. The constant teasing of if they characters were going to have sex and then it never happening was very frustrating.  The action scenes also sometimes lacked the kind of descriptive detail that I think would have livened things up a lot.

Also I’m sorry but I have to mention the names, one character is actually called Candy Apple and another Hope Serenity. I guess maybe she was poking fun at the whole romance genre here and maybe it’s an in joke but I just didn’t get it, they sounded so silly they took me out of the story as well.

I’m not saying there’s nothing I liked about this book, the vampires here have interesting powers and she comes up with some clever reasons why they can go out in the sunlight and how they cope with blood lust. The ending (no spoilers) does have a couple of good twists and was certainly not what I was expecting. Some scenes were amusing and for the last couple of chapters I was eager to find out what happened next. I will also say that I did especially enjoy the way one character’s sexual identity was dealt with, it also came as as surprise to me.

Final Thoughts:

I’m afraid I really can’t recommend this novel to anyone but the most hardcore vampire/romance fans (who also have a lot of patience like me). Novels are a personal thing I know but for me I just couldn’t get into the story. It does have violence, some sexual content (though not very explicit as stated above) and coarse language, so certainly not for children.  In the end I can only give this 5/10, I hope Tina will continue to write but I implore her to please find an editor and possibly a friend/family member/newsgroup to receive feedback from. And as I know this may hurt her feelings once again I do apologize, writers have to develop a thick skin. I just got told yesterday by someone that my first book sucked. Not to end on a down note but as you can see I’m too slow a reader to take requests for book reviews anymore, so until next time,  which will likely be a movie review, I am as always…

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The Italian Job by Phyllis A. Humphrey–Guest Post & Excerpt

The Italian Job Banner Large

HELLO GOD, IT’S ME, THE INTROVERT.

About a year ago, the cover story on the weekly magazine, TIME, was about Introverts, and I’m one. I probably learned the term when I started high school. However, I’ve always known I was different from my sister and had to find coping mechanisms.

The article, THE UPSIDE OF BEING AN INTROVERT, “And Why Extroverts are Overrated,” by Bryan Walsh, tells us that about thirty percent of the population fall in the Introvert category. It also states that Introvert does not mean “shy,” although there’s “some overlap.” Introverts don’t shun people; they just prefer them in smaller groups and less often. This is especially difficult to do in America, which Walsh calls, “the land of the loud and the home of the talkative.”

Because we Introverts are outnumbered, and the culture expects people to be outgoing and sociable, we can feel anxious and uncomfortable in situations which Extroverts enjoy. To make matters worse, those who don’t understand our personality can sometimes be unintentionally cruel. They may chide, or even insult us, or treat us as if we have a silly problem we just need “to get over.”

Make no mistake: we’re born that way. Scientific studies have shown that small babies exhibit behavior that marks them as future Introverts. If the parents of such a child are Extroverts, they may try to influence his or her behavior, thinking it’s not normal, thereby causing, at an early age, the tension that goes with feeling different. At the very least, parents fear that the child will not have friends or be successful in life.

Not to worry. Introverts learn to adapt early and there are plenty of occupations which require what Introverts are good at: such as thinking things through thoroughly. Yes, it turns out we Introverts are usually smarter than Extroverts, make fewer wrong decisions, are less likely to get into dangerous situations, and take better care of our health. Why not, when we’re spending our time reading or thinking while Extroverts are bungee-jumping or talking?

Among the well-known Introverts, according to Walsh, are Mahatma Ghandi, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mother Teresa. The author didn’t list any famous writers, but I suspect all writers are Introverts. Why else are we happy to spend so much time alone, in front of our computers, inventing stories?

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Title: The Italian Job

Author: Phyllis A. Humphrey

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Publisher: 5 Prince Books

Formats Available In: All eBook formats & Print

Release Date: March 21, 2013

Digital: ISBN 13: 978-1-393217-40-0 ISBN 10: 1939217407

Print: ISBN 13: 978-1-939217-41-7 ISBN 10: 1939217415

Purchase Link: http://www.5princebooks.com/buy.html

Blurb: SYDNEY COOKE, a California magazine writer assigned to describe a tour of Italy, meets TAYLOR MITCHELL, an artist/computer consultant, on the flight to Rome. They click, but sometimes he’s mysterious. Just her luck if an eligible man has skeletons in his closet. Nine days later, a false accusation, plus a problem from his past forces Taylor to leave the tour. Can Sydney find him, and–in her unique, resourceful fashion–heal old wounds and bring about a happy-ever-after?

Excerpt:

I landed the assignment to go to Rome—not because I was the best writer on the staff of L.A. Life Magazine, nor because I could speak Italian (because I couldn’t). My incredibly important skill was availability. Time was short. Jason was on his honeymoon. Pamela was very pregnant. And no less than three staff members were out with the flu—or so they said. In May, go figure. Or perhaps it was because no one else was willing to fly 3,000 miles on two days notice. Shows what a stunningly bad social life can do for you.

Even so, my boss, Mr. Hardcastle, the first part of whose name should give you an idea of his personality, hesitated long enough before giving his assent to grow mold on my sweaty palms.

“You aren’t going to mess up again, are you?”

Like I planned to. Like climbing into the window of a strange person’s hotel room on my previous assignment for the magazine had been a well thought out decision. In truth, it was nothing but a fluke, the unavoidable result of making a serious miscalculation. Which, I fervently vowed, would never happen again.

“No, of course not.” I straightened up to my full five feet, six inches and shook my head. Which unfortunately set my ponytail swinging, not a good thing.

Hardcastle frowned. “So go already. My secretary will give you the tickets and itinerary. Take your laptop and be sure it works this time.”

I’d only made that mistake once so he had no call to remind me. And anyway, even without the laptop, I’d remembered almost the entire interview from that assignment and my article was highly praised in some circles.

“And, Sydney, don’t forget this is your last chance.”

He meant that threat, so I smiled and hurried from his office before he could change his mind about Rome.

The next day I found my never-used passport, had my hair trimmed, and packed my itinerary, tickets and laptop. I planned to record every minute of my first European experience into my journal and tucked it into my seriously overpriced handbag. I went to bed before nine in order to catch a very early flight out of Los Angeles the next morning.

However, as so often happens with me, I couldn’t fall asleep for hours. My brain wanted to replay the episode of the window, perhaps to reinforce in my conscious mind that the entire thing had not been my fault.

I’d been given the assignment to interview a minor local politician running for office in the next election, and I sat opposite him in an armless chair in his hotel room. I asked questions and he answered politely but softly, in what I later realized he considered a sexy voice. As I leaned forward to hear him, my skirt hiked up over my knees. I attempted to pull it down, dropped my notebook and bent to pick it up, and suddenly he was all over me like a case of hives.

I managed to get out of his clutches and protested in no uncertain terms, but he would have none of it. We did a little cha-cha around the sofa, and then, after slowing him down by pushing an end table in front of him, I grabbed my purse, dashed into the bedroom, and slammed the door.

Yes, that might sound like a foolish thing to have done, but I knew that old hotel. The windows were actually French doors and led to outside balconies. My aim was to get out there and call for help.

Much to my surprise, he didn’t follow me. Maybe he had a phone call, or he fell over the end table, or someone came to the door, but my problem remained. It was dark—he had set the interview time for evening—and the balcony was two stories above the street, too far for jumping even if I were an Olympic athlete instead of someone whose only exercise is changing the sheets on her bed.

However, the next balcony being merely a foot away, I decided to swing over to it, enter the next room by way of those French doors, and return to the hotel hallway. The next room, which I could only see through a crack in the closed drapes, seemed dark and empty. I paused but reasoned that even if someone were staying there, chances were slim it would be another man bent on hanky-panky.

So I hiked up my skirt, swung my legs over the two balcony railings, and gently tried the handle of the door. It was jerked open from inside, and suddenly I was face to face with a fledgling actor who was in town to audition for a part in an upcoming film.

Of course, I didn’t know his occupation at the time. That came in the next day’s newspapers. Even so, it could all have ended unobtrusively except that someone had apparently called a paparazzo, who flashed a bright light at me. I froze like a safe-cracker with his hand on the dial. Mr. Actor pulled me into his room, and I found myself among a dozen people watching a film clip on the room’s DVD player.

I was labeled a “groupie,” handed an eight-by-ten glossy signed by the actor, and laughingly sent on my way.

Except that, while climbing over the balcony, my handbag slipped off my shoulder and the paparazzo found the magazine’s business cards. That wasn’t the end, of course, the photographer had taken pictures and released them to the newspapers. As a result of the sudden publicity, Mr. Actor got a role in an action-adventure film. Nevertheless, Mr. Hardcastle was not amused.

I wrote up the interview as if none of that had occurred because I preferred to think the politician, perhaps, had never behaved that way before. Also, I learned a long time ago that I have plenty of faults of my own, so I lean toward forgiving others for theirs.

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About Phyllis A. Humphrey:

Phyllis Humphrey’s writing credits include thirteen romance novels, a mainstream novel, a memoir about her husband’s aunt and a non-fiction book. In addition, she’s sold several short stories and many articles to national magazines, and her two 30-minute radio plays were produced by American Radio Theatre. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, where she was a Golden Heart finalist. Another novel won the San Diego Book Award in 2002, and she’s a member of Mensa.

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Book Review: Light/Dark Short Stories

As I’m starting my vacation I have time and hopefully there will be at least 2 more posts in the next week or so Smile For now my thoughts on a collection of short stories put together by a local publisher, Engen Books.

light_dark

Details from Amazon:

 

Book Description

Publication Date: April 21, 2012

Eight short stories from Engen Books’ top talent in storytelling. Featuring the stories Revving Engen, Reptilia, Theogony, Gristle while you Work, You have the Touch, Scarlett, Remers, and Omega; this collection is guaranteed to excite and entertain!


Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Engen Books (April 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1926903064
  • ISBN-13: 978-1926903064
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces

Initial Thoughts:

As any reader of this blog knows I am quite a fan of short stories. I like how they are episodic and often complete by themselves. I like the little feeling of accomplishment when you finish reading one and perhaps more relevant to this post I like the collections that Engen has done so far (see their website for the other two). So while I was at a convention last year (yeah I’m that slow) I picked one up as an even trade for my book.

Main Points:

The quality of these stories are good and I like the simple cover design with the contrasting black and white colors. As with their other collections I find though that there is a lack of proper editing. It’s not terrible but it gets annoying when I know that on every second or third page their will be a mistake. Simple stuff like writing “and” when it should be “end”, things that an editor should have picked up. I said it before and I’ll say it again, grammatical mistakes take the reader out of the story and this is what I found to be the case here.

Because I got the time (and I roll like that) I will make comments on each story (briefly Winking smile) however.

The Theogony,by Matt LeDrew. I enjoyed this story though I did find the whole tablet power/idea confusing at first. I suppose before I go on I should say…

SPOILER ALERT!

Okay so at the end of this story we are never sure if the patient ever met this woman or if he ever even left the facility, I like this sense of uncertainty and I enjoyed how it is complete in itself. LeDrew is very good at describing scenes and he does a good job with characters.

Gristle While you work by Jay Paulin, very good! Open-mouthed smile A nice twist for this average woman who helps out her brother turns out to be a monster that eats people whole. My only complaint is the end, why did she eat her brother? He is one of her only family members left (her parent’s died) and it just didn’t make sense to me. This story could have used some more meat on the bones (and yes that’s pun intended Winking smile)

Scarlett by Andrea Edwards, excellent story! One of my my very favourites of the collection. I loved how this is a more adult Buffy-type story and it left plenty of room for a sequel. I also like the fact that she’s not afraid to kill characters and show the emotional effects of a horrible event, it’s more realistic to human nature and I look forward to reading more from Andrea in the future.

Reptilia by Matt Ledrew, really good one Smile. Very visceral, lots of excitement and just the right amount of gore for my tastes. What I didn’t like was the ending and how the virus spread. One of the characters even tries to figure it out (how it jumped to a driver who had no contact with the infected blood) and is killed before he can reach any answer. Then the team who shows up and knows that it was all a test (for a government weapon) ends up being killed as well! It was certainly a surprise but for me not a welcome one and I just didn’t feel it made any sense.

Omega by Ellen Curtis, excellent story. I really enjoyed all the medical details and the conspiracy theory. The fact that the main characters secretly plan to take down the institution and break their friend out was a fitting ending.

Remers by Sarah Thompson, an ok story. I always liked the Six-Million Dollar Man/Robocop idea (though the latter movies turn to complete garbage) and the cyborgs in this story are described well and it’s an exciting story, for the most part. The problem with this (and it’s something I’ve discovered with other short-stories) is that it goes on too long. That and I didn’t like how everything just works out for Chase, he lives, gets these super enhancements, is instantly the best member of the team and even gets his girlfriend back at the end. This may make me sound a little depressing but it was just too tidy, I guess I’m not a big fan of fairy tale type ending.

Reviving Engen by Matt LeDrew. This was an odd story, there is something strange going on with the main character, he’s attacked, saved and by the end will still have no idea. While the atmosphere, imagery and characters are well done I just never got into the story, this is one of the weaker ones of the collection.

You have the Touch by Larry Gent. An excellent story, a lot of fun, a great character, lots of pop culture and geeky references, some clever use of images and some good humour surprises. My favourite of the collection. Hot smile

Final Thoughts:

I will certainly purchase Light/Dark 2 (or whatever it’s called) but I do hope they get a better editor and wider selection of authors (having Matt write 3 stories when it’s HIS company does seem like he’s tooting his own horn at least a little bit). I would give this an 8 out of 10 but the editing mistakes and other concerns make me put it down to a 6 Thumbs up. I do recommend this with some trepidation and would probably tell a reader to skip the Engen and Remers stories completely.

Until next time I am as always…

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Book Review: The Imagination Journals by Darren Hann

Details from Amazon:

Book Description

Publication Date: August 4, 2012

Within The Imagination Journals You will Find Five Stories , The Assignment , Holy Troll , What Makes It Modern Technology , Plan 9.5 From Outer Space ,and Bunker-6 .Each Story will Stretch your Imagination to new limits,and beyond.


Product Details

Initial thoughts:

Darren is a friend of mine and I’ve known him for years. I enjoyed his first novel "Time Stone: Saving the Rock" and while I was at a convention last year we did a swap and I got this collection of short stories from him. I quite enjoy short stories and while I’m a terribly slow reader, I did finally finish this book today.Open-mouthed smile

Main Points:

If Darren reads this…well we might have some things to discuss. I hope he’ll realize I’m being constructive and not mean spirited. Writers have to develop a thick skin after all. With that said I quite enjoyed the first 3 stories. (I had read "Holy Troll" in another collection of short stories). What starts to really become noticeable in "What Makes it Modern Technology?" is the lacking of proper editing and formatting. It becomes obvious here that the book is self-published and that like most authors (in my experience) Darren is great with ideas but terrible with editing. Editing is a chore and its a strange thing that we can easily find the mistakes in other people’s work but no so much in our own. Darren also has the unfortunate habit of establishing characters, getting the reader into the story and then abruptly ending it. I think they key with a short story is to get the reader involved and make a story just the right length. When you look towards the next story thinking "how can this be over so fast?" Or "is this done yet?", in either case you have a problem. I don’t claim to be an expert on writing short stories but I’ve read plenty and I know what I like. All of this brings me to the largest problem with this collection, "Plan 9.5 from Outer Space" I guess maybe now is the time for…

SPOILER ALERT!

So Darren wrote and directed a fan film of the same name. The movie is both a homage and an improvement of the horrible train wreck that is "Plan 9 from Outer Space." I enjoyed the movie and this story is an adaptation of it. The problem is that it’s not a good adaption. Turning any kind of movie into a book (when it wasn’t based on one to start with) is a risky thing to do and Darren shouldn’t have tried. Editing and grammatical mistakes really takes the reader out of the story. Simple stuff her like instead of "u.f.o." there is "u.f.", simple words like "every" are misspelled and the story jumps all over the place and even has a character die and comeback (for no apparent reason) all in two pages. I found it a chore to get through this story and is mostly the reason I was so long reading the collection of stories.

The final story "Bunker-6" also has lots of grammatical strangeness going on and ends entirely too quickly. It has all the elements of a good story, fun characters, cool technology, humour, action and a recurring villain but once more technical issues drag it down. This story shows the most promise I may end up getting another short story collection from Darren just to see what happens next in the story.

Final Thoughts:

Darren really needs an editor, for his first book he did and the result was much better. I can only recommend this book if you skip "Plan 9.5" entirely and have a high tolerance for errors with the others. Darren is a creative guy that does lots of great stuff (including Sci-Fi on the Rock, which is an excellent convention I whole-heartily recommend Hot smile), sadly this is not one of them. I can only give this 5/10 and hope that Darren’s next work is a return to the "Time Stone". Next for me will likely be a movie review, followed by a book review of another collection of short stories by local authors (Light/Dark by Engen) which hopefully won’t take me months to read 😉 until next time I am as always…

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Book Review: Royal Flush

Details from Amazon:

Book Description

Publication Date: Dec 1 2011

Royal Flush asks the question, can a man who throws his dates in a dungeon succeed romantically? A recipient of the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize, Royal Flush is a novel about a man known only as the King, and as his Kingdom careens toward catastrophe, he cruises seedy taverns looking for likely maidens. He is particularly bad at this. His incompetence and his weakness for beautiful women drag him deeper and deeper into trouble. He is portrayed as a cross dresser by the Kingdom Crier, the Kingdom’s most popular tabloid. Shortly after, he must defend his castle against a siege with only his royal fiddler–while attempting to steal his royal fiddler’s girlfriend.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Mirth Publishing (Dec 1 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981286704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981286709
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g

Initial Thoughts:

Scott is a friend of mine that I met earlier this year at a local convention. He’s a nice guy, an environmentalist, an activist, a poker player and an author. If you get a chance you should check out his blog here and even follow him on Twitter, his tweets are often just as good or better than mine Winking smile. He’s given me lots of ideas and tips for selling my book and I wanted to thank him here publically. He bought my book, The Newfoundland Vampire, and of course I bought his and agreed to read and review it (this was in April). Because I’m as slow as the dickens I only just finished it yesterday. Now it’s his turn for now, though, my thoughts on his book.  Hot smile

Main points:

This a funny read that is a little slow to get going. I enjoyed parts 3 and 4 more than 1 and 2. Scott has written an unusual book where they main character is never described, often has no name and is rather despicable for at least half of the story. There are scenes that made me laugh out loud (and for someone who doesn’t read humour stories that’s saying something Open-mouthed smile), others where I admired a clever turn of a phrase or a comment on society (or on education).

There are some parts that reminded me of Monty Python and a nice reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (look closely for this). There are some nice twists and turns and plenty of in-joke for those who look. Thinking smile

Final thoughts:

If you’re looking for a funny, entertaining read from a fellow Newfoundland author, I’d recommend Royal Flush and I give it 7/10. There are some things I didn’t like, a little bit of jumping around in the timeline, sometimes a glaring lack of description and immediate foreshadowing which I found a little annoying (hard to explain, you’ll just have to read it). As I said I’m just not a huge fan of humour novels, so that may have tempered my enjoyment slightly.If you live in Newfoundland (and near St. John’s) you should track down Scott to talk with an interesting and friendly guy 🙂 Until next time (and by that I mean the morning! Vampire bat) I am as always…

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