Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Forgotten Lives

Forgotten LivesForgotten Lives by Tristan Shaw

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Forgotten Lives by Tristan Shaw is a collection of short stories ranging from bizarre to horrific, and throughout all of the strangeness, there is dark humor to be had. This review contains many spoilers as there was much to critique, and it’s also a bit long due to this.

I enjoyed the campy feel of “The World’s Tallest Dwarf,” similar to reading short story collections like “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” The story is essentially about a dwarf who works in a carnival freak show, and he’s left to do cleanup work while others perform. A newcomer, Sergio, is ‘the world’s tallest dwarf.’ He takes over our narrator’s, the main character’s, tent and slowly gains favor, and everyone leaves the main character behind. The narrator is treated progressively poorer and is an outcast. I wish there was more of a reason for this. Was Sergio something more than a dwarf? How did his actions cause everyone to despise the main character? It’s an interesting story, but I’m left with too many questions.

In “Hagiography of a Corpse,” a man is killed for failing to have a license to wear shoes while living in an unnamed banana republic. Over time, his corpse is lifted and carried across the land, gathering many people to protest the injustices of a hateful president. A military general is even so intimidated that he flees ‘on a jet ski.’ Eventually, the president loses his mind due to the corpse being thrown through his office window, and he gives power to the corpse.

At this point, the story’s humor was getting a bit on the ridiculous side, but that may just be because it’s not my kind of humor.

In “Waiting,” Sophie, a young girl, is raised by her grandparents due to her mother leaving to go on various trips. Upon returning, the mother starts spending more and more time at night looking up at the stars. She confides in her daughter an alien secret, and that they are going home soon. The daughter rides with her mother out into a field, and they gaze up at the stars sitting on the car.

I liked this story a lot more than the previous one, but I still have many questions. Was the mother truly an alien? Did the mother a have mental illness and it caused a delusion, as it was mentioned she wasn’t supposed to even drive? This story has a lot of promise and I feel it should be expanded upon.

“The Society for the Preservation of Vice” is exactly as it sounds, a story about a society of deviants trying to preserve vice. It was clear, and especially upon the mention of the man’s name, that this was reminiscent of the Marquis de Sade. While I appreciated that, there were a few things in the story that lost me, such as the popular horror trope of Satanists dawning black robes, sacrificing virgins, and drawing evil pentagrams. This is a trope I heavily dislike and am tired of seeing, so my opinion on the story is tainted by that. Some may enjoy it where I did not.

In “A Gourmet’s Confession,” a gourmet finds himself suffering from a loss of taste. This leads him to try cannibalism, and he finds he’s able to taste again. So proceeds his gourmet adventures with human flesh written as a last letter.

There are a few jokes in this one that were a bit much, and while I’m not easily offended, others may be. Although the gourmet’s character is an awful, selfish one, comparing a loss of taste as being a worse tragedy than the bombing of Hiroshima or the loss of a woman’s only child was… we’ll just leave it at that. Taking that out, this was a good read.

In “Nostalgia,” a German man, August, leaves to become a mercenary. He’s known for his fine ability of dismemberment but is also described as a kind man who is loyal and diligent in his duties. He comes down with a case of nostalgia, and a doctor sends him home for a cure.

This had a very Twilight Zone feel to it. It was a well-rounded and complete story, and definitely quite odd, especially in the way the doctor practically beat his patient after failing with leeches to cure his ailment, but it fits with the darkly humorous theme and era (1600s).

In “The Adventure of My Uncle’s Murder,” a Sherlock Holmes style adventure unfolds as our main character becomes taken with the detective’s stories. They follow the path of their uncle’s murder and, due to their interest in police matters being solely based on literature, they end up on a wild goose chase.

I was lost on the foreign words for clothing pieces I didn’t understand. I would’ve had to look up a few definitions as the clothing wasn’t described in any other way, so this took me out of the story. There were also a few word choices that didn’t fit right, which caused me to pause in question. Overall, it was an enjoyable story despite the nuances.

In “The Spirit Photographer,” Vivian makes a living by fooling people into thinking she can photograph their dead family members. A quick bit of editing with a personal photo and the family has, what appears to be, a spirit photograph. One particular couple, however, wanders in and asks for a picture of their son, Knut. Vivian begins to see that ghosts are indeed real, and there is something about Knut.

I’m still wondering what happened to Knut and why the parents took forever to return for their photograph. I think it hinted at self-harm or abuse for the child, but I’m not sure. It was written in the form of journal entries, so this could be why we have questions. While I did enjoy the story, there were too many things unanswered.

“A Final Masterpiece,” I think, is an essay about an infamous theater performer, Evzen Svoboda. I’m not sure why this was included in the book since it doesn’t seem to be fiction, as it has reference notes throughout and at the end. It was genuinely shocking and strange in nature which fits the style of the book, but not knowing whether it was a genuine essay or not, I tried to look up some cited sources. I was mostly led to confusing foreign articles. At this point, I skimmed because I was unsure of why it was here and it read like a well-researched report in a book of otherwise fictional tales.

At last, “Eternal Glory” is about Tiamat, who watches helplessly as Inanna chokes to death on honey and dies, and after a time, seeks out a philosopher to tell him about his death, which is odd because as Tiamat is identified in this story as male, according to studies, Tiamat was a goddess. That aside, the philosopher mocks Tiamat and is put to death. This starts a war, and Tiamat ends up taking his own life. I’m assuming the characters are the goddesses Tiamat and Inanna, and not just people named after them, but I’m not familiar with much of their lore.

I had difficulty getting through “Eternal Glory” as it just isn’t a genre I’m a fan of. There was a war happening and then eventually Tiamat kills himself, which was ironic, but beyond that, this one lost me.

Overall, I feel that while the book started off rather well, regardless of leaving me with many questions for a few of the stories, it seemed to drag near the end with an essay thrown in before a story about a Babylonian war. The last two did not feel like they fit the overall theme of the book.

I encourage the author to continue writing, but to better organize and choose which stories should go in a collection. Strange and weird definitely go together and can cross genres if done well, but overall, while I understand the general theme of weirdness and dark humor, some of the stories left a lot to be desired.

As always, I give many kudos to the author for writing a book and putting it out there. There is always the chance that a particular book is just not for me, and others may enjoy it where I did not, but I highly recommend the author take more care in future books to be sure to answer the important questions posed by a story. I appreciate the chance to review this book and wish the author nothing but the best for their future.

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Book Review: The Gray Man of Smoke and Shadows

The Gray Man of Smoke and Shadows (Vampire Series of Extreme Horror)The Gray Man of Smoke and Shadows by Todd Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in an extreme horror series about vampires, and as in the last book, these aren’t your ordinary vampires. This adds to the uniqueness of the series, and it most definitely stands out among other vampire stories because of its gruesome nature. I believe Todd Sullivan has hit upon something great for those who can handle a bit of gore. This review contains spoilers.

Hyeri is hellbent on killing her uncle, Sa-Hak, and for good reason.

As little girls go missing, Hyeri scours Korea for the man who traumatized her. Meanwhile, Min Jae, a member of the Natural Police employed by the Gwanlyo, an organization of vampires, is out for Hyeri’s head for breaking the Gwanlyo code. A human, Seok-Jo, who is to become paramount to both of them, is wasting away in his apartment when his daughter is targetted by Hyeri’s predator uncle.

These separate stories dance around each other as they all find a common goal, although nothing turns out as expected. Min Jae never saw himself working alongside the Man Killer, and his target, Hyeri, and neither of the two imagined a half-golem could even exist, let alone fight alongside them for his daughter’s life.

Linking them all together, however, is a dark and sinister force that has taken hold of Sa-Hak, the predator. The Gray Man of Smoke and Shadows can give power to a human not unlike immortality, and while this demonic entity enjoys being entertained by the cruelest of acts, hence targetting Sa-Hak for its amusement, it has its limits. And it messed with the wrong people.

In the beginning, our reintroduction to Hyeri is a great reminder of how ruthless she is. Sensual, sadistic, and powerful as she seduces a man and lures him into her arms, only for him to desire her so much he chases her, but is quickly crushed by an oncoming bus. I was really glad to see her as a main character in this book because she was my favorite in the last.

Although Hyeri has great power and it’s been many years, she still experiences the fear of her uncle that trauma would impose on anyone. This was a realistic touch that I appreciated. Although she’s done horrible things to others, it really made me sympathize with her regardless.

I want to take a moment to point out Todd’s wonderful ability to invoke a feeling of repulsion with descriptions, especially right in the beginning. He really has a talent for this, and that’s part of what really makes this book come alive.

As the story progresses, there is at least one action scene where I genuinely thought Hyeri was done for. This is when Min Jae shows up to make an attempt on her life for the first time. Her uncle is in the fray as well, and it was also a surprise that this initial confrontation happened so quickly. This was also a sign that the characters were certainly going to survive, and I couldn’t put the book down.

Again, as in the first book, Todd Sullivan really projects a thorough knowledge of Korea to progress the story, and it fully immerses the reader in the atmosphere. While I don’t personally know much about Korea, I did find it easy to become immersed with the characters due to the little details, such as building descriptions, city names, and right down to brand names in a convenience store.

Later in the book around chapters fourteen through fifteen, things shifted once more to add in Seok-Jo’s story, and I was beyond excited. I was definitely taken by surprise at this turn of events with him. The progression with Seok-Jo becoming a figure of half-stone half-man, a half-golem, seemed out of nowhere, but considering his past with an ominous stone garden embedded deep in his family’s history, it all worked together.

The fight at the end of the book was intense, blood-soaked, and full of gore promised by the series. The delivery was satisfying at the end of it, and I couldn’t help but chuckle when Min Jae got his own bit of revenge on Hyeri for her taking his foot earlier in the book.

While the first book was great and I really enjoyed it, this second volume is very engrossing and truly shows Todd Sullivan’s talent! I didn’t have any major, or even minor, complaints as I read through it. I was extremely impressed with how well it was written and how fast it sucked me in, and I highly recommend it to all who love horror. I am looking forward to more from Todd Sullivan, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to review “The Gray Man of Smoke and Shadows.”

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Book review: He Digs A Hole

He Digs A HoleHe Digs A Hole by Danger Slater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harrison and Tabitha met in a Home Depot.

Ironically, after having hit it off very quickly due to an in-depth, philosophical conversation, they ended up living a very meaningless life. Your typical suburb, backyard barbecues, plastic smile, sickeningly polite, average life. They’d laughed at Brad and Jennifer Flatly, two of the most average and boring neighbors you could ever dread sharing a space with. Yet, they realized after being so dull and uninterested in their marriage, as well as losing their naughty bits due to a fading interest — likening them to a Ken and Barbie doll — they’d fallen victim to the same fate.

So one night, after eating a strange seed from a spleen fruit that grew on a horrific tree resembling arms and hands, Brad Moss replaced his arms with a trowel and a garden rake, and he began to dig. And the whispers in his head demanded he continue. It was more important than he could explain. There was definitely more to that odd tree in the Moss’s yard that was one of a kind.

What proceeds is an adventure unlike anything you would expect, but to be fair, nothing about this book is to be expected. A sea of blood, worm monsters, three introspective trials, and all of the body horror to make your stomach queasy follows a leap of faith into an ever-expanding hole. And despite the grotesquery and otherwise bizarre plot, there is a deeper message to be had here about relationships and maintaining enthusiasm for them. About the struggles and impossible ideals that can destroy them.

This is my second Danger Slater book, and I wasn’t disappointed. The way he weaves philosophical meaning into the craziest of bizarro plots is something I never knew I needed. It was the thing to refresh my love for reading, so I definitely give him huge props for that. As it’s bizarro fiction, you’re going to have to read with an open mind that is ready to accept anything. And I mean anything. This includes oddly sexy worms with slime and all. It was a fun ride that I sat back and enjoyed.

Danger truly does steer the ride for us, rather we want him to or not. The narrator and the reader, especially, are characters in this book. At times, Harrison and Tabitha are able to see what is being written and react to it, and it’s clear the main characters are not in control of the story, but helpless to the author’s whims. I genuinely love some good fourth wall breaking stuff, and while it did make the book campy and gave it a unique character, there were a few parts near the end where it seemed to get a bit too lengthy. Some people may not like being told what to think while reading, no matter how comical it may get, but if you’re open-minded to that, it doesn’t ruin the experience.

Everything in the book hit me out of nowhere in the way bizarro tends to, and I found myself genuinely surprised at each new chapter and scene. While time jumps around enthusiastically in this book, it works. It falls in line with the theme.

As I was expecting, the philosophical nature of this book made me happy. It made me think, which is a winning quality in my opinion. It made the ending feel that much more powerful and meaningful, and it really made me think about our ideas of a perfect relationship, what we expect out of them, and what the reality is. Underneath all of the craziness in this book, it’s heartwrenching and tugged at my emotions.

Overall, despite the author’s control over the book, I truly enjoyed it. I didn’t deduct a star because the overbearing narration, at times, became so comical and very much Danger that I forgave it. I’d recommend this book to those who are open-minded and willing to accept that rules are meant to be broken, and all of the rules were broken. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more Danger.

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Book Review: Taken Hard At The Magical Time Travel Sex Resort

Taken Hard At The Magical Time Travel Sex ResortTaken Hard At The Magical Time Travel Sex Resort by Madeleine Swann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read from Madeleine, and it whets my appetite for more.

The book is a short series of stories involving various women of various timelines, and they find themselves wishing for better sexual experiences or sexual liberation, as they’re unsatisfied in their life. This brings forth a card that leads them down a rabbit hole into a strange world. It’s bathed in hues of blues and pinks and scattered about, some creatures exist comprised mostly of sex organs.

And they need tending.

Among everything, a curious, winged, rainbow character named Rex seems to be in charge, and although we don’t really get to learn much about him, there’s something devious about him that runs with the imagination, making him likable. He leads each woman to what they need the most, rather that be her first orgasm or the fantasies no one could fulfill. In this way, the book has empowering feminist themes with women reclaiming their sexuality to be their own.

It’s best described as a psychedelic trip into a XXX Alice in Wonderland. Each story connects despite the different time periods and the diversity of the characters from around the world. They all reach a certain focal point in this world, and they all exist among each other — at least, those who chose to stay or had no choice but to remain. There’s a devilishly erotic circus, a marketplace selling items of aphrodisia, and a slew of creatures that exist for the sake of pleasure, even if a few may look slightly horrific.

At least one of the stories was very poetic in nature which I loved, and some of the descriptions of such simple things, such as, “Her breathing slowed like the sea,” stuck out to me. Definitely very unique.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to experience something different, or abstract in nature, when it comes to erotica. It’s wickedly fun to read.

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Book Review: Butchers

ButchersButchers by Todd Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I dived into this book with certain expectations, as I’m a huge fan of vampire fiction, and I was pleasantly surprised at the unique take the author had on them. This was a wild ride full of gore, grossness, and vampires who are truly immortal and equally immoral. (This review will not be completely spoiler-free.)

The story begins with an intense fight between vampire members of an organization called Gwanlyo. The rules are strict for them and meant to keep vampires in place — existing among humans without alerting them to the presence of beings much more frightening than they could imagine. They may tear at each other, slice off limbs, gouge out eyes, and pry an entire torso open, but unless one is beheaded or a heart is crushed, they will continue to exist. This fight opens the book to show just how much of a beating these vampires can take before one keels over for good.

The reason for the fight? Gwanlyo member Cheol Yu has broken one of their strict rules. His engaging with a potential member, who is still human, was out of line, and he is to be tortured. He happens to be extremely powerful, however, and makes it to safety with his head mostly attached.

After, we are introduced to more of the vampires. Hyeri, a wicked and destructive woman who can’t help but laugh over others’ misfortunes and craves destruction, Sey-Mi, an unfortunate high school girl who is pulled into a world she wants nothing to do with, and Dae Lo, a sadistic, evil monster who is all too happy to cause the greatest misery to those who betray the organization. We also get to meet Min Gun, who is not as foreboding as he initially seems.

What unfolds is a plan to take down the Gwanlyo by a vampire who wants nothing more than to destroy humanity, a betrayer on the run, and a young girl who is to decide where her loyalty lies.

The book definitely began with a bang, and I was unapologetically pulled into the gore that would follow throughout the book. Usually, the vampire stories I read are of the more classic variety, but I found that I actually liked this sort of vampire for a change. While they are known to be beautiful and seductive, they’re equally as awful and scary and every bit of what a horror book would entail. It was so different to me, personally, that I didn’t even think about them being vampires while reading. Although the word ‘vampire’ isn’t even used, or if it was, it was easily missed.

One of the few hang-ups I had about the book was during the chapter where Sey-Mi is being introduced to the organization. Her fear was absolutely warranted, although I felt her reaction built into a crescendo and kept going far past it, and she began tearing at her skin in her fear after punching herself. I had a hard time believing a teenager would mutilate herself like that just to see if she was dreaming.

At times the cruel nature of these vampires seemed to be all there was to them. It does change as the story progresses, however, and the characters that seemed flat, like Min Gun, eventually show that there is more depth to them. On the same note, other characters were wonderfully unique and fleshed out. Hyeri was personally my favorite because of how wickedly fun she was, and we get quite a bit of time with her. Min Gun, however, I don’t feel we get to know very well at all, and I can only begin to speculate who he is and how he feels about everything. At the end, it seems he grows attached to Sey-Mi, but we truly don’t get as much time with him like the others.

One specific little detail I found really interesting about the vampires feeding on each other in unison, was the connection created. They shared memories and feelings, and it was a very intimate experience. The same was true for a vampire feeding from a human. They saw memories and took in sensations, which is a really cool ability and added some emotion to the otherwise cold and cruel creatures.

Overall, I had few nitpicks about this novella and I enjoyed reading it, and I am glad I got the chance to review it. Todd Sullivan definitely got me into the atmosphere and the location, which takes place in Korea, which he knows quite a bit about. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who hungers for a different kind of vampire story, although I would warn that it is not for those who are squeamish.

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Book review: Invasive Species

Invasive SpeciesInvasive Species by Karle Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me just start by saying that this book isn’t for the easily offended or squeamish.

The story is, generally, about a man named Ranse who runs a large farm. He’s sober for the first time in his life, and life seems to be going as usual save for his desire to be back with his ex-wife and his son. He wants nothing more than a second chance from where he screwed up before.

His neighbors consist of two close friends, Molly and Mick, and a man who is nothing short of detestable. A racist, hateful, greedy buffoon to put it lightly — Warren Maxxy. His wife isn’t faithful to him and tends to sleep around, and the men are more than happy to oblige her around town, including those working on Ranse’s ranch.

A sickness begins to spread about, and all any sickness requires to dig its claws into a population is one person. In this case, one bite. Everything spirals down without giving too much of the plot away, and Ranse finds himself having to protect his son, hoping the beasts slowly growing in number don’t come back, and wondering what happened to his ex-wife after she left their son in his hands. And more and more people are getting horribly sick…

This book was wonderfully written, although there were many editing errors throughout it that interrupted my reading flow. This didn’t take away from the story itself, though, which was written so well it kept dragging me back in despite some of the elements that did put me off slightly.

Karle’s storytelling is masterful, in my opinion. I personally love horror, and although this book didn’t read like an atypical horror story, I couldn’t put it down. I read it much quicker than I read most books, and that says something about Karle’s talents. His acknowledgments in the beginning tell of his passion for storytelling and where it came from, and this definitely shines through.

While the story was gripping, intense, and beautifully told, there were a few elements that almost caused me to stop reading, but it’s no fault of the author. There are some extremely sensitive subjects breached in this book, and while I don’t feel anything bad, racist, or taboo was being advocated for, a few of the subjects hit too close to home for me and upset me greatly, and I had to pause reading for a day. If you have been domestically abused or abused in any relationship, or have been a victim of sexual assault or incest, please tread carefully. These subjects are not tip-toed around even if they are just a few brief moments, and they are very blunt.

Another bit of criticism I had about the book is the harsh racist language. I understand that it was attached to the character of Warren Maxxy for a reason, and it had its purpose (he seems to closely resemble a certain political figure), but the number of times he mentions racial and homophobic slurs began to grate on my nerves. I felt the racist elements of this book could have been eased back on just a small bit and still drove the message home. That said, this criticism is based on my personal feelings and my usual tendency to avoid material that uses these words too much, but I felt it was worth mentioning because it was a factor in my rating of the book.

The gore, the unapologetic grossness, and the blunt writing were on point. I actually got very nauseated reading about the number of times people hurled their brains out, but rather than mention that as something negative (it’s merely a part of the story itself), it’s just further testament to the blunt and effective writing style.

And oh my goodness, some of the lines in this book were amazing. Karle has a way of weaving words at times that are quite poetic. The endings to the chapters are great examples of this.

The ending was definitely a long one, but it was very intense. After each paragraph within the last few chapters, as Karle realistically portrays the stages of fear and confusion during something so horrific as having to fend off a legion of werewolves, I was caught up in all of it. When I was certain no more could possibly be done and Ranse was surely finished, it continued. A roller coaster of emotions for the reader, at the least. Not to mention the events near the ending that completely ripped out my heart and stomped on it. It goes without saying that having your town turn into werewolves from a highly contagious virus, sparing no one, is more than enough for the worst of tragedies. There is a nice epilogue to it all, though, that will bring your head above water again.

Overall, this book was hard to put down. At times it was hard to digest the subject matter due to the sensitive nature, and a few of the scenes were enough to leave even my strong constitution turning green, but Karle is an excellent writer who has written a hell of a story to leave a great emotional impact. I’m glad I read it and was given the opportunity to review it, and I will definitely recommend this book to others, although with a small content warning.

I look forward to exploring more from this author.

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Book Review: Impossible James

Impossible JamesImpossible James by Danger Slater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a ride from beginning to end. There were many twists and turns, and back and forths, but in the end, they all came together and, somehow, it all worked. And it was something I can’t really properly put words to, but I’ll try. Possible spoilers ahead, maybe.

James is a nobody with nothing and no one. He’s not successful by any stretch and leads the world’s most boring, unfortunate life possible. His wife wasn’t even nice to him, and he’s infertile. Of course, when he walks into his doctor’s office one day, he finds out that everything will just get worse. Everything always did for James. That is, until the end, which I’m not even sure how to describe, other than the fact that James finally becomes something much bigger than what he ever thought he was capable. Quite literally.

And all because of a screwdriver. All because of pure, near impossible luck does he find a purpose and more meaningful outlook. And that’s where Impossible James finds his life’s goal.

I’m a sucker for philosophy, and this book was filled with it. I stopped a few times and went into thought about a lot of it, and it made me think deeper about myself as a person, what it means to be alive, and what it means to have goals. What it means to have fears, and what fears are even there for. I’m an irrationally fearful person of about, well, everything, so this was an unexpected and interesting trip during my reading of Impossible James.

Also, the twisted quantum physics-like science? Super interesting. (If I’m even thinking of the right kind of science here. I know scant about quantum physics, but I think that’s what I’m going for. I could be completely in left field and people are scratching their heads at me right now.)

Danger has a very interesting mind, and I found myself unable to stop turning pages. Even though we know the outcome, and we know inevitably how everything happens before it happens — sort of — you still want to read more. You must know the little details in between, and they help to paint such a grotesque picture that it’s almost impossible to conjure in your mind. Thankfully, Danger’s vivid and disturbing descriptions do the work just fine. And they are grotesque. For example, imagine a flesh room. A room with bones growing out of the wood. Rooms that act as organ gardens to keep a house consumed by a man’s deformed, growing body alive.

I will admit, I haven’t read much in this genre yet, but based on what I have read so far, this book made me realize that I really do love bizarro fiction. I read this in one day, taking a break in between. I knew I wanted to process something like this all at once instead of splitting it up, and I’m glad I did. At least, the philosopher in me wouldn’t let me put it down. Can I mention enough how that was one of my favorite things about this book?

It was definitely written in a curious way, with 116 chapters (I believe they were chapters) and three parts. I won’t look too deep into it, unless there’s a deeper reasoning, which my brain always wants to find. I could have missed something there, but that’s not important.

What is important is if you love books that make you think, definitely give this a read. If you have a weak stomach, though, be prepared for some pretty wicked imagery, such as body parts being detached and sewn back on, and amateur surgery to disembowel poor James, although it didn’t really seem to bother him too much. In fact, in this world, people (and animals) seem to survive some pretty crazy and awful body horrors.

Lastly, the ending? This isn’t a bad thing, but it… just is. It is what it is. Maybe that’s a part of the philosophical message of the whole thing, in which case, message delivered.

This is something you have to read for yourself to get the full effect. No review is probably going to be able to properly convey how interesting, and kind of brilliant, this book is. So give it a read.

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Book Review: Unchained (Blood Bond Saga #1-3)

Unchained (Blood Bond Saga #1-3)Unchained by Helen Hardt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Spoiler warning)
This book definitely has an interesting story, but the delivery fell short for me. Please note, this is just my personal opinion and in no way is an attempt to say anything bad about the author or her talents. This may have just not been her best book or series. Spoilers, so beware.

The first part begins with Dante, a vampire who had been imprisoned for many years. He is stumbling around the city looking for blood, and he ends up in a hospital to meet the woman who will ultimately possess him for the entirety of the book: Erin. They become absolutely obsessed with each other from first eye contact, and there is a deeper connection between them that hasn’t happened between a vampire and human for some time. That’s the basic premise from the start.

Now, beyond this, the story fell apart for me. There is a lot of filler — or so it felt like. Dante goes here. Then he leaves. Then Erin goes here, then here, then leaves, then goes here. Dante is constantly uptight and arrogant, and he’s suspicious over his grandfather for who knows what reason. By the end of the third part, I still have no idea what his problem with his grandfather was, or even why we are supposed to suspect… something from the man. Unless his reason for anger was not justified and it escaped me.

My other problem — I’ll just say this: abbreviations for words. Certain words were abbreviated that just made me stop and I groaned (vamp, being one). It took me away from the seriousness of the story. I honestly wasn’t a fan of the general writing or style, but that is most likely my problem and not the author’s. I only mention it as it was a big factor in my rating.

Now, I do get the back and forth, hot and cold between Dante and Erin after reading through the book in its entirety. But, I have to admit, it’s extremely frustrating in the way it’s written. It goes back to my point of the constant back and forth, person A goes here and then goes there, and then person B goes here, and then decides a minute later to change locations for some reason or another, usually an upset. I was getting whiplash from all the moving around. And then we get another mystery introduced that hit out of nowhere, about Erin having mysterious marks on her leg? What I don’t understand is if she’s supposedly bonded to someone else, how can she be bonded to Dante? I was under the impression the bond was pretty solid and existed between a fated human and their vampire, but I’m confused even now. Maybe it’s explored in later books.

The story has promise, but I wasn’t inclined to read any more of the series. I feel like the story was dragged on for the purpose of it being longer, at least, that’s what it felt like to me. The cliffhanger was just so epically huge and after reading the first three, nothing felt good about the ending. ‘Read more books to finish the story,’ basically. And I understand how a series works, but in book series I’ve read before, I at least felt some sort of completion at the end of each book. Something was wrapped up in some way, and while in the 3-in-1 version of this book we did get one ‘kind of’ answer to the story (the explanation for the blood bond was also confusing and I felt it could have been explained or worked out better), I’m just so… underwhelmed? I’m not sure. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. If nothing else, I felt bad for the grandfather because he seems to be getting a lot of flack for just wanting to be helpful or keep Dante safe. But Dante? My goodness man, just say something. I understand why you might be stuck in a teenager’s mindset, but speak!

I don’t like writing negative reviews, and this definitely isn’t a bad review per se, but I personally did not like how the book was written or the pacing. I did enjoy what story there was to enjoy to a point, but I wish the author had at least moved things along a bit better and left out the extremely energetic characters’ traveling. If the ending had been more fulfilling in some way and not as confusing, I’d probably have given the story more of a chance. But maybe serials just aren’t my thing.

As always, kudos to the author for writing a story and getting it out there. I’m sure Helen has other wonderful books, and I’m sure many will enjoy this one where I did not.

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Book Review: Hunting Annabelle

Hunting AnnabelleHunting Annabelle by Wendy Heard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up this book because I wanted to expand my reading interests as well as to discover new authors. I was extremely happy I gave this author a chance.

Hunting Annabelle is about a young man named Sean who has a pretty gruesome past, as well as severe mental illness. It’s set back in the 80s in Texas, where he lives with his mother who is a respected doctor. Sean is an avid drawer and people-watcher, and so far he’s managed to stay out of trouble. He hasn’t hurt anyone and he does his best to keep in line, but everything falls apart when he meets Annabelle.

Oh, Annabelle.

But I won’t get into spoilers. The story begins with Sean meeting Annabelle at a popular amusement park, and he hangs out with her and ends up drawing her picture. He’s immediately taken away by her and he falls for her pretty quickly, and she seems to be an interesting and quirky character herself. There is a lot of mystery surrounding Annabelle and we don’t get answers until the end, which is definitely worth waiting for.

The book started to hang a bit near the middle, but the steps Sean takes to find Annabelle after she’s been supposedly kidnapped are necessary to the story. But that’s not to say it becomes uninteresting. We learn so much about Sean and how he tries so hard to fight down the urge to harm other people, and he does fail more than once. He’s an interesting and well thought out character, and I found myself loving him even with his horrible imperfections. I love characters who have quirks, darker moments, and flaws. It makes them feel real — human.

The mystery of the entire book continues to the end where you’re still guessing on what could really be going on. We do get clear answers, and maybe, just maybe the reader will suspect all the wrong people. You most certainly will be surprised, at least I was. I had a very strong emotional reaction to the scenes leading up to the end, and the ending itself made my sick little heart scream with joy.

If you enjoy dark and gritty, even disturbing, romance, then you’ll love this. Wendy has hit the mark with her debut novel, and she’s an excellent writer and storyteller. I will definitely be reading more books from her!

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Book Review: The Little Snake

The Little SnakeThe Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure where to start or even how to review such an amazing story, but I can try. This is not normally a book I would have picked up, but I wanted to take a chance on something different.

In this very poetic fairytale-like story, we follow with both Mary and Lanmo the snake. Mary’s city seems to be crumbling around her as she gets older, and humans and technology are doing themselves in. Meanwhile, Lanmo, a very magical and special snake, who no human is ever to see unless it’s their time, becomes interested in Mary as a child. They become extremely close friends, and Mary teaches Lanmo, whether or not he realizes it, about what it means to love. This isn’t something Lanmo was ever meant to do.

This story pulled at my heart and the ending left me nearly in tears. With the interesting and unique way Kennedy weaves poetic words throughout the story, she chooses to not reveal a definite end with them. But it’s for the better, and I think when the reader comes to the end, they will know what truly happened.

I haven’t read something so amazing and quirky in a while, and it was refreshing. Kennedy’s love for strangely specific wording and pleasant-to-read run-ons give this book a rhythm solely its own. I’ve already started recommending it to friends, and I am going to definitely recommend it to anyone, of any age who can read it, for something more meaningful. And there is a lot of emotion, meaning, and subtle philosophy about humanity in this book, or so it felt to me.

In short, do yourself a favor and read this!

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