Monday, 7 December 2015

Review: The Single Staircase

The Single Staircase The Single Staircase by Matt Ingwalson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

Well, the good thing is I couldn't put the story down. It was an intriguing little mystery. There could have been more detail as to who Owl and Raccoon were, and any attempt to explain who they were was kind of contradicted.

For example, Raccoon was supposed to be the quick, clever, sneaky one but it was Owl who tricked his way past a suspect, a suspect, I might add, that Raccoon insisted they investigate.

A quick, engaging read, good for Law & Order fans.

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Review: The Solace Pill

The Solace Pill The Solace Pill by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I didn't appreciate this book as much as I should have because I was reading other things at the same time, including Werbeloff's wonderful anthology Obsidian Worlds.

For me, this was Werbeloff's first mis-step. I liked it, it was creative and unique, but I found the jumping around very confusing, especially at the end. Maybe it was all very clear in the author's mind, and it just didn't get on paper right.

I think this book demands focus and dedication from the reader and I don't think I gave it enough. Certainly for hardcore sci-fi fans, it'll be well liked but I think it was too heady for me.

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Review: Mazie Baby

Mazie Baby Mazie Baby by Julie Frayn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There will be spoilers. You have been warned.

This is not the book I was promised by the synopsis.

Let's break the synopsis down, shall we?

Mazie schemes to save herself and her daughter.

Only kind of. Ok, I will give credit here. I do like the gift card trick Mazie was pulling, but otherwise there wasn't so much scheming as 'just in case', or a dream of freedom or something.

Her plan will work, if she can out-maneuver the monster who is a master of manipulation and control.
Also, no.
This is my big problem with the book. The synopsis makes it feel like she pulls a Gone Girl or a Sleeping With The Enemy. Like she escapes her abusive husband and has to stay hidden from him, always just barely one step ahead of him.
But she doesn't.
Because she kills him. And pulls a Loranna Bobbett on him. (Look it up, kids!)

While I didn't feel her husband was particularly manipulative other than the standard hit-sorry-flowers-goodboy-hit-sorry-flowers routine, I don't want to judge. An abuse victim is trapped in a horrible cycle and I'm not going to blame her for staying or falling for his "charms". But, his manipulations have been exaggerated.

Also, holy crap, what kind of...idiot just randomly goes "I think I'll go rape my daughter. Lookit those tits!" out of absolutely no where?! Sexual predators and child molesters are more cunning, devious, and opportunistic than that. Just...ugh.

She’s got one thing going for her, the one thing she truly owns. Mazie has moxie to the bone. But will it be enough?

No, she doesn't! She's utterly clueless how to survive on her own. She doesn't even think to dye her eyebrows to match her hair colour so everyone can tell it's fake. She doesn't realize that her "nosy neighbour" was once abused herself even though the signs are clearly there, or maybe it was just predictable, I don't know.

Her survival is dependent on kind souls that never question her and just give her free stuff or the means of a life. Like coffee. And rides. And jobs. And apartments. And lawyer services. And house brokering.

The middle of the book becomes a redundant cycle of "Dining establishment, oh no a cop! oh good the cop's gone with no reason to suspect anyone of anything, motel time!, dining establishment."
This happens about three times, all while name dropping Tim Hortons, and by the way, Canada, amirite? Canada. Tim Bits. Canada. Double double.

It became irritating and I'm Canadian!

The new love interest, because of course there's a new love interest, actually creeped me out more than the abusive wanna-be rock star husband. He came across as a Nice Guy who inserted himself into Mazie's new life because he felt he would be good for her and just couldn't see it. So he had to be nicer. Eventually she'd come around. Also, his name was Norman. Do not name your Nice Guy Norman. Especially when your heroine is running from the law and a secret and is shacking up in motels.

Just sayin'.

Overall, not great. I've seen this story done before, and done better.

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Monday, 9 November 2015

Review: Obsidian Worlds

Obsidian Worlds Obsidian Worlds by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review

I'm a new fan of Werbeloff's. I very much enjoyed Hedon and was happy to receive an advanced reader's copy of Obsidian Worlds, a collection of Werbeloff's short stories.

There's not a single filler story in here. While some stories are better than others, they're all good. Each story feels unique and imaginative.

I can't say any of the stories were weak, but I can say my personal favourite was Bleed Me Silicone. The shortest story in the whole collection, it's about the life-span of a specific inanimate object, and it's surprisingly poignant. I would give that particular short 5 stars.

Also, Werbeloff writes one hell of a migraine. He described it so vividly that, as someone who suffers from migraines, I got a little queasy. Interesting opening to a book.

If I had to give a negative, I suppose I could say that some stories are a tiny bit predictable but they're written and told well, so it's not an issue. Nothing feels overlong or beats you over the head with it's message. In fact, I think one or two could be even longer. I have so many unanswered questions about one particular story. How did the world get into that situation?! Yes, I know I'm being vague, but it's to avoid spoilers.

It's a good little buffet if you're not sure where to begin with Werbeloff's stuff. It has a bit of everything thrown into it and it all feels quite satisfying. I recommend it.

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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Book Review: Hedon by Jason Werbeloff

Hedon Hedon by Jason Werbeloff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the best things about having a Kindle is the free offers that are constantly flung onto the internet. This lets me take a chance on a book I've never heard of before, by an author I've also never head before, at no cost to myself except for time.

That's how we find the diamond in the rough.

Hedon is a creative take on the overpopulation themed post-apocalypse. It's REPO! The Genetic Opera meets Logan's Run, complete with life or death games for the amusement of the masses, and repossession of things one would think cannot be repossessed. In this case, memories.

The year is 2051 and for the good of the world, society has been divided into two castes, separated by a wall. On one side is the metropolis known as Shangri. Filled with brothels and opium dens and porn, people can live like kings, as long as they're happy and spread that happiness around.
On the other side is where the destitute live, the Breeders. Those who must make the best with what they have.

When married Breeder couple Cyan and Gemini win the lottery and are allowed access to Shangri and permission to have a child, they think their dreams come true...

The author has created a vivid world, filled out by great characters. Each are distinct with rich back stories that are gradually pieced together. The villain is interesting and a relentless force.

It's unpredictable. I don't mean that there are twists for the sake of twists, I mean that where the story begins and where it ends are two very different places, but the progression of events are fluid and organic.

The economics of the world are interesting. The more good deeds you do, the more altruism points you get. Then you can spend those, your hedons, for pleasure. But never take more than you give, or the Tax Man will come to collect.

The idea of forced homosexuality, while not unique, is interesting. Especially if you assume it's a natural outgrowth of "What if homosexuality is a biological switch nature flicked on to control the population?"

There were a few tiny things that caught in my craw though.

Every time I read "hedon", I followed it up with "Apply directly to the forehead". This is my problem and I need to deal with it in my own way.

There was a character called Mascara because of his heavy mascara. No one knew his name so he was described as "Mascara", as one would say "the boy" or "The tall man". Later, he introduces himself to another character and says his name is Mascara. It just threw me a bit because up until that point the author was doing a good job keeping things like that in check.

Some of the violence was to cartoonish levels with very little commentary. People are slaughtered left and right like the Unstoppable Juggernaught was racing through and nothing...happened. No commentary on the slaughter, no people mourning, no "My cabbages!", nothing.

None of these things were too much to distract from my enjoyment of the story though. A solid, fun, at times depressing, story. I recommend it for those who love dystopia but need it drawn with a new set of crayons.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Book Review: Americosis Vol.1 by Haydn Wilks

Americosis Vol. IAmericosis Vol. I by Haydn Wilks
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I received this story for free in exchange for an honest review.

I was contacted with regards to this novelette by the author, who compared it favorably to my absolute favourite novel John Dies At the End. At first I was going to pass by the request but hey, it was short and another Goodreads friend was reading it. Plus, I really, really liked the title.

I don't have a lot to say.

I didn't care for this story.

A third of it feels like someone from Idiocracy is trying to re-write a Warren Ellis story, another third feels like soft-core porn, and the final third feels like the author is bored with this part, and wants to get to the good stuff. Which will be in book 3 or something.

There was absolutely no humour, unless gigantically endowed men are automatically funny. There was one joke, but it made me sneer with fake laughter. Not the intended reaction.

There was no heart, a woman's sister is killed and she doesn't acknowledge it. A bunch of little children are brutally slaughtered and no one sheds a tear. Characters are name dropped out of the blue with no description or reason for being there. I'm looking at you, Ted.

I am vaguely interested in the body snatching demon, but not how the book suddenly goes into "It is YOU who are the monster!" mode.

Is this absurdest literature? Is that just not my thing? I've read a couple of absurdest stories, John Dies... and it's sequel, but more recently, Sociopaths in Love, which I liked for the most part.

And did I really, really just read the phrase "Inner goddess"?

Can we keep the Inner Goddess locked up in Christian Grey's Red Room, please?

I feel bad about this review, because Haydn, you seem like a nice dude. No hard feelings, keep doing you.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

The Girl With All the Gifts The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A little cloying at times, and Melanie herself is a little too much a Mary-Sue. My biggest beef is that it's hard to take a threat seriously when everyone, even adults, even scientists, call a zombie a "hungry". I have no problem with not calling a thing a zombie; Walker, Biter, Undead, Dead-head, Stalker, Plague, Corpse, whatever, it happens. But "A hungry"? Really? That's the established term humanity is going with? We use this actually inspired-by-real-life natural biological occurrence to explain the origin of the zombie, completely with scientific names, then we go with "hungry".

Ok then.

But overall, I liked it. Plot points were nicely foreshadowed, I cared about the characters and Parks ended up as my favorite, with Justineau my least liked. It ended appropriately and it's a fairly fresh take on the zombie genre. I recommend it if you can get past the mildly twee aspects of it.

I listened to the audiobook, and it was very nicely produced with a very pleasant and engaging narrator.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

It's Official

It's official, I sold a story! Wheelchair Seating for the Apocalypse is a short tale of horror about a disabled girl dealing with the end of the world. It has been published by Spinetingler Magazine.
When someone would ask me what I would do in case of zombies, my immediate answer had always been “Shoot myself in the head.” The fact I had never fired or even touched a gun never came into the equation.
Read the rest on

Death, gore, ableism, language.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Book Review: Irredeemable by Mark Waid Vol. 1-10

Irredeemable, Vol. 1Irredeemable, Vol. 1 by Mark Waid
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is for the entire series, Vol. 1 - 10.

It was amazing!
It was good...
...It was interesting...
I absolutely hated the ending.

The characters were mostly fully realized and some were really sympathetic. Others...not so much.
Some plot points or characters were brought in that had no impact and just sort of left or were killed off.
The art was good.
The colouring was amazing.

At first the story is really good at explaining the stress of being a superhero, the pressure, the ingrates, the expectations. And the trigger for Plutonian turning evil was really tragic and horrific. But as the story winds on, it gets kinda bloated and redundant and whiny.

And of COURSE the Plutonian's nemesis HAS to be gay and in love with him. Can't have any good guys be gay. Only villains.

The ending? The Plutonian is the inspiration for Superman. Not even kidding. There's something so...arrogant about that. It's the ultimate self-insert. Boy, aren't you clever, imposing your creation and your creativity on the grandfather of the thing you created.

Sit down.

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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Movie Review - Mad Max: Fury Road

Today is my father's birthday. He would be in his mid-to-late 60's. Growing up, he constantly watched Mad Max, though the only one I really remember was Beyond Thunderdome. (Fun fact: When I was a kid I thought the scene "Waaarriiooors, come out and plaa-aaay" was from Road Warrior and not, in fact, The Warriors) So, when I realized that Fury Road was coming out in May, I decided to plan to see it on this specific date.

Leading up to today, I re-acquainted myself with the trilogy. I enjoyed Road Warrior the most out of the three.

The last two action movies I saw were Age of Ultron and Jupiter Ascending and I cannot remember a single thing about the action scenes in either movie other than parts of the Hulkbuster fight.

The problem with movies lately is there's no sense of risk. You know the heroes are going to make it. So I'm finding myself less and less invested in action movies.


I will remember the "pole-cats" until the day I die.

This movie is a great piece of action cinema! Everything was creative, dangerous, and there were stakes. Lives and limbs were lost, people were stabbed, cut up, run over, rag-dolled, shot, exploded and even heroes fell. In glorious practical effects! Practical effects and non-shakey-cam, how I've missed you!

The soundtrack was fun, and utilized in a creative way. The sound design was great!

The interactions between characters were good. The female characters were well written, and the story embraced all sorts of women. Furiosa is amazing. Max was essentially a supporting character.

Now would be a good time to discuss something that's been on my mind for years now.

Mako Mori from Pacific Rim. Why was she held up to such a high feminist standard? The Mako Mori test states the following:

a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.

Mako Mori fails her own test.
She only gets to do things because the main protagonist guy asks/orders it.
When she gets a test run of something she almost gets everyone killed until the protagonist guy talks her down.
And her choice to sacrifice herself for the good of humanity is taken away from her by protagonist guy forcefully sending her to safety.
How do people not see this?!

Can we just do away with the Mako Mori test and write the Furiosa Test instead?

For slight downsides, I felt everything felt a little too shiny and clean, but that's probably because of digital film. It could have used perhaps a little more humour. But on the other hand, electric guitar flamethrower. So there was that, and it was amazing.

A lot of people have said this is their favorite action movie of all time, or at least this decade. Not mine, that distinction still goes to Children of Men, Shoot 'em Up and Leon: The Professional, but of 2010 onward? Hell yes! It certainly knocked Dredd and Snowpiercer down a few pegs, but John Wick is still giving it a run for it's money.

Go see this movie! I implore you! This deserves your money. Far more than Suicide Squad will.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Book Review: A is for Antichrist by Iain Rob Wright

A is for Antichrist (A-Z of Horror)A is for Antichrist by Iain Rob Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A boy’s sixteenth birthday is a special occasion. It’s a time where he becomes a man. It’s a time that brings many changes.

But Isaac’s sixteenth birthday brings him more changes than most. He is not quite himself and suddenly his friends don’t seem so much like friends anymore. By the end of the party, Isaac will not just change from a boy into a man, but into something else entirely.

I downloaded this story for free from Amazon. My copy had editor corrections in it. I think Mr Wright uploaded the wrong ebook file.

This story starts with a sort of slow burn, with subtle hints as to what's going on. And at first I was having a lot of fun with it. I was smiling, I was amused, I was having a good time.

But then, the crap hits the fan and any sense of creepiness is dropped for a quick, violent ending.

We didn't get into Issac's head enough, for one. There was too much telling, not showing. In one moment a character is on fire and in the next, they're burned to a crisp and dead. No flailing, no trying to douse the fire, no smell of burning flesh and hair, no drama. Just "On fire" and then "Dead".

While it was fun for the first 3/4ths of the story, the characters were flat and interchangeable. I kept forgetting which character was which until I was given a description. It seems the author forgot about at least two of them through most of the story. I know I did.

When I started this review, I rated it three stars, but now that I've laid out all my problems with it, it's a 2 star.

This is the first of a series of shorts from A-Z. I don't think I'll be continuing this series.

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Book Review - Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Gun MachineGun Machine by Warren Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hold it! I was promised something truly disturbing, and aside from the police chatter which had some genuinely horrific stuff, the actual case was kind of ...meh.

I kept thinking back to Scars, by Warren Ellis, and that was a far more disturbing case. Instead, the case was kind of like something out of Criminal Minds, and predictable.

Having said that, I liked the characters, I liked how different lives intersected throughout the story and how everything was woven together. The writing was top notch, I just wanted even more of that trademark Warren Ellis grit.

I listened to this as an audiobook. The performance was good.

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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Book Review: Flesh Worn Stone by John A. Burks Jr.

Flesh Worn StoneFlesh Worn Stone by John A. Burks Jr.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The island is a playground of horror and the kidnapped are forced to participate in the Game, a modern-day rendition of the Coliseum of ancient Rome, where they must compete in acts of murder, rape, and self-mutilation for the amusement of an unseen wealthy elite. Contestants must survive the Game five times to earn their freedom from the island. Losers become the evening meal.

I should hate this book. I really, really should. What with a man sitting on a "thrown" and words missing, punctuation missing, names spelled wrong, shock for shock's sake, telling-not-showing and the misuse of the word "literally".

I can't hate or even get mad at this book. It was self-published and I got it for free, so nothing lost except for a little time and space on my Kindle. But I applaud Mr. Burks for coming up with something fairly original (No this is not a rip off of Hunger Games or Battle Royal.) Really, the books worst crime is the complacency that self publishing can lend a person. This book is in terrible need of an editor. If this book was this poorly edited and dull, then I would have been angry.

But, I kind of loved it. I was entertained, bad writing and all.

It's bad, the shock value (A character was kicked so hard and so many times her intestines were trampled on), the plot holes (They wear human skin but the human meat in the pot had skin on it), the predictable "twists", the one note characters, the none-too-bright protagonist, the necrophilia, the child death...but it was terrible the way the DooM novels are terrible. It was bad the way a bad horror movie is bad. It was all kind of...boyish. While I will not deny the best part of this book, by far, is the title and cover, I had to see how it ended.

Unfortunately the ending disappointed me greatly. We spend the last quarter of a book focusing on A Thing but in the end that Thing is not achieved because it could Never Be Achieved. It was a let down because it was poorly constructed, because of the telling-not-showing writing.

There are two more books in this series. Will I get the others?

I want to say no, but...

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Thursday, 5 February 2015

Book Review: N0S4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 Stars, but Goodreads will not allow for such a crazy thing.

For a while, I had a room mate. I mention her because she had an intense fear of Count Orlok from 1922's Nosferatu. When she first told me, I sort of snickered, I couldn't imagine anyone being afraid of that, even after she went on to explain how he was possibly designed as anti-semetic propaganda (Google it). She literally cannot even look at him.

But while Count Orlok is indeed an unsettling figure, he never scared me. That's the ultimate problem I had with this book.

Old Count Orlok looking dude with a "daffy, dim-witted" overbite, is not scary.

Christmas themed vampire car with a will of it's own is not scary.

Charles Talent Manx III is not scary.

Children and parents missing without a trace? That's scary.

Demonic ghost-children calling you from a phone only you can hear ringing? That's scary.

Man-child with anesthetic gas, wearing a gasmask, who's into necrophilia? That's scary.

But Manx was our main antagonist and he wasn't scary. No one seemed scared of him, not even the kids. Consequently, I didn't care about Manx. His henchman, Bing, was much, much scarier.

So, the premise is, much like The Maxx (Which, holy crap Mr. Gone to take Manx without even blinking.), everyone has their own inner world, or Inscape. Some people are 'fortunate' enough to have a key to reach into their Inscape. Manx has a old Rolls-Royce Wraith with the license plate N0S4A2 which takes him to Christmasland while Victoria, our protagonist, has a bridge that helps her find lost things. There are others, (Can we please have a story about The Walking Backwards Man Manx mentioned, Mr Hill?) but those two are the ones the story really focuses on.

There's usually a cost to using their totem.

The story takes place over a great length of time, we meet Vic as a young girl with her discovery of her bridge, as a troubled teenager, as an adult, and we see gradually how much the encounters with Inscapes and those who can access them drive her slowly mad.

And that was what I liked.

I really, really liked the human characters. I liked how Vic and Lou were flawed. Victoria no doubt went through a traumatic experience with Manx and I was far more invested in the human drama of coping, family, love, expectations, self-worth and sanity than this supernatural stuff. Vic and Lou felt real, or real enough. They were genuine. They loved each other, but in any other story, Lou, for example, would just be a dimwitted ugly fat bastard. But their love felt real and genuine and I just wanted more of that. To the point of whenever we got back to Manx I kind of just...groaned.

I also read the companion comic book mini-series The Wraith, which barely left an impression on me. I'm sorry, I don't care about Manx and 7 comic books about him aren't going to change that. I was far more interested in Millie and Lorrie than Manx and was happy to see them show up in the novel.

Do I recommend this book? I don't know. There are parts I really, really enjoyed and to it's credit it didn't go where I thought it would, with courageous heroic sacrifices or things like that, and Manx is certainly a unique sort of vampire, but Manx and Christmasland come across as silly. If you like stories about a strong woman coping with severe supernatural trauma, go for it, but if you want horror, you're probably better served looking for something else.

Mr. Hill, your father already wrote this book, and it was called Christine.

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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Book Review: The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I'm doing non-writey stuff at the computer, such as surfing or art stuff, I've fallen into the habit of listening to podcasts. Still, I tend to disregard audiobooks.

But I have to say, I can't imagine not listening to this novel. Sestero does a perfect Tommy Wiseau impression that to merely read the text really limits the full feel of The Disaster Artist.

I first heard about The Room from online reviewers. I think it was The Bunny Perspective, and I've only been able to sit through it with Rifftrax commentary. But I absolutely needed to read this book for myself.

After reading some reviews mentioning Sestero's Tommy impression, I knew I couldn't read it, I had to listen to it.

So, while doing things that did not require my brain to form words, I had my head firmly sandwiched in my earphones and carried my phone around in my pocket as it played the mp3.

This story of friendship and making one's dream come true is at once warm, creepy, melancholy, silly, welcoming and cringe-educing. The reader-listener will be constantly veering between schadenfreude, "Nope!" and groaning. Armchair psychology will also be hard to avoid as the layers of the intensely private Wiseau are slowly peeled away. Or are they?

One thing is, Wiseau's belief in his film was genuine. He honestly thought he was making a masterpiece, conventional moving-making and storytelling be damned! And his earnestness is charming.
Last night while almost finished the audiobook, I went back and re-watched The Room(Rifftrax), and knowing now the honest intention, and how hard Wiseau (and others) struggled during scenes made it an even more fascinating watch.

If you're a fan of The Room, of bad movies, or just in moving making in general, I strongly recommend you give this one a listen.

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Review: The Egg

The Egg
The Egg by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not a huge student of philosophy so maybe this is really sophomoric stuff, but it put me in awe in a mere four pages. It blew my average, plebeian mind.

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