Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hellraiser: The Toll [Novella Review]

I am not sure how this one slipped through the cracks, but it did. Released on Feb. 28th, by Subterranean Press, Hellraiser: The Toll tells the story of what transpired between Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart (published in '86) and The Scarlet Gospels (published in '15).

The Toll is a short Novella (73 digital pages) that flies at a breakneck pace, from the Prologue all the way through to the Epilogue. The story is by Clive Barker, but the novella is written by Mark Alan Miller(?!?) I am not sure how that works, as there is no explanation. I will say that the book is also available in Hardcover (for $40! - a bit pricey for such a short story). Even though I own both The Hellbound Heart & The Scarlet Gospels in print, being unfamiliar with Mr. Miller, I opted with the considerably cheaper $3 e-book.

Having now read the story though, I will be keeping an eye on the price of the Hardcover as the story is that good! Miller has written a completely engrossing tale, with such a jaw-dropping revelation within the story that I wrote the quote and then deleted it and then rewrote it and deleted it once more. However, I feel that it is best for you to discover it for  yourself.

I will leave you with the book's synopsis:

"Thirty years after Kirsty Cotton escaped from the clutches of the Hell Priest, Pinhead, and lived to fight another day, her life has never been the same. Every few years she fashions a new name, a new identity, and a new home for herself; She is a woman who is running from her past at all costs, which is why it comes as such a surprise when she receives a mysterious letter in the mail, addressed to the woman she’s been running from over half her life. 

Answering the letter’s query, she begins a descent down a rabbit hole to the ultimate confrontation. Her actions stir something unnamable in the ether, and throw her into a game where nothing—not even what she sees in front of her very eyes—can be trusted. 

With equal parts economy and eloquence, author Mark Alan Miller brings to life the beginning of the end as The Toll expands the Hellraiser universe, and shows that before Harry D’Amour’s adventures in The Scarlet Gospels, there was a first witness to Pinhead’s infernal plan."


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Appalling Stories: 13 Tales of Social Injustice [Book Review]

Genre - Fiction
Year Published - 2017
Length - 170 (digital) pages
Written by +David Dubrow, Paul Hair, and Ray Zacek

Plot Summary:
With political correctness gobbling up the culture like a fat kid on his sister's quinceañeracake, where do you go for quality, old-school entertainment? 

Appalling Stories focuses on themes and characters you're just not supposed to read about anymore, using social issues as the setting, not the plot. Inside, you'll read about a disturbing erotic resort that caters to an exclusive clientele, a violent Antifa group biting off much more than they can chew, a serial killer with a furious inch, and a lot more. The authors find message fiction as tedious as you do, and traditional publishing seems intent on shoving favored narratives down readers' throats. This anthology pushes back against PC moralizing, bringing you story above all else. Are you going to let Social Justice Warriors dictate what you can and can't read? Consider this your trigger warning.

Featuring an exclusive foreword by R.M. Huffman, author of Leviathan and Fallen, books 1 and 2 of The Antediluvian Legacy.

The authors of this collection of short stories could not have picked a more appropriate title. Appalling Stories - that is what you are going to get - No Holds Barred writing - exactly as advertised.

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book as this is not be a book that I would normally read. (The reason that I did so is that I am familiar with two of the three authors - Dubrow & Zacek.)
With all of that said, if this book sounds like your cup of tea, then I am sure that you will enjoy it, as the stories are well written.

The top three stand out stories to me are:

1. Bake Me a Cake (by Dubrow)
2. It Doesn't Affect You (by Hair)
3. The Bitterness of Honey (by Dubrow)

I also enjoyed (is that the right word?) Dubrow's Melanie's Becoming, which fell just short of 5 Skulls.

Bake Me a Cake is the very first story in the collection and (for me) the most shocking! If you can stomach your way through this story, the rest should come easier. I think the authors chose well making this the first story, as it perfectly sets up what this collection is all about. There is always two sides to a story... These stories are going to make you uncomfortable and angry!

As for the other stories in the collection - for the most part they are all decent - there were only two that I didn't really care for - the others were each average. The Bitterness of Honey is definitely my favorite story of the bunch!

Rating: 3/5 Skulls

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Fallen (Book Two of the Antediluvian Legacy) [Book Review]

It feels like I have not posted a book review in a while. (My wife is a big fan of the Olympics, so while we watched that together, my reading declined, slightly.) Was Fallen worth the wait?

Genre - Fantasy/Biblical Fiction
Year Published - 2017
Length - 349 pages
Written by R. M. Huffman

Plot Summary:
Humankind was commanded to fill the earth and subdue it, and they have obeyed. In doing so, many have forgotten their Creator; thus, Noah of Eden, a preacher of righteousness, has spent the last few centuries as a wanderer in the world, proclaiming the old, true ways.

His mission is interrupted when a brutal, mysterious enemy fans the embers of lust for power into flames of war. Gathering companions, he races to avert disaster where he can, while realizing that in more ways than he could have imagined the earth, and everything in it, is fallen.

Back in 2016, I was blown away when I read Leviathan (the first book in this trilogy). I am very sad to say that I did not feel the same, this time around. I am not sure if it was because of the lengthy wait, if my expectations were set too high, or simply because the first book was unlike anything else I had read at the time. Whatever the reason, this book fell short of the first one.

After an excellent Prologue, we are introduced to the city of Phempor, where Noah has been spending some time. I only mention this because I wonder if perhaps the Prince of Phempor was perhaps an ancestor of Vlad Tepes?

We then find out that it has been 400 years since Leviathan took place. Enoch, Cain's City, has now become Atlantis (how cool is that?!?) There is also a new Nephilim character, Eroch, introduced - who I love!

After the above, there just seemed to be some kind of disconnect for me. Some of the story seemed incohesive. I was wishing for a map or a timeline, and the story just did not seem as immersive.

Then, about half-way through the book, a huge revelation revealed itself, tying directly back to the end of the first book, and once you get to the part where Noah and Phiaphara are separated from their party by a wyvern attack, the book really picks up its pace!

So while the mid-portion had a bit of a misstep, for me, the latter-half, filled with great war/battle scenes, is terrific.

After flipping back and forth between a 3 and a 4, I ultimately have to give this book 3/5 Skulls.

With all of that said, I am still, very much, looking forward to Remnant! (Book 3 of the trilogy)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Shroud of Eternity [Book Review]

This is a tough one for me to write. . .

Goodkind has now written 21 novels and this is the first one that I feel is not a full five-stars. (Obviously there are some better than others, however I have always felt each book deserved five-stars, until now.)

This book just seemed to be highly repetitive. A lot of the storyline seemed rehashed. Perhaps my patience just wasn't there this time around, but more than once, I just wanted Goodkind to "get on with it" - to stop dragging things out.

With that said, there is still a lot to love about this book. When Goodkind nails it, he nails it!

Just to mention a couple of my favorite aspects, besides the ancient, fabled city of Ildakar (where everything is not as it appears); Goodkind has now introduced the Morazeth (while the Mord-Sith are more intriguing, I am looking forward to finding out more about the Morazeth). Also, you will be introduced to Ixax warriors - 15' high behemoths - each one capable of taking on 1,500 enemy soldiers. Good stuff!

Overall - 4/5 Skulls

Friday, January 26, 2018

Kept [Book Review]

Author Theresa Jacobs writes predominantly in the horror genre, so my interest was peaked when I saw that she wrote a science fiction novel.
What did I think? Read on. . .

Genre - Sci-Fi
Year Published - 2018
Length - 176 (digital) pages
Written by +Theresa Jacobs

Plot Summary:
Twelve massive ships leave the dying earth, heading into the great unknown, seeking new life among the stars.
One of the ships, GIA, crashes on Kepler, which is already inhabited. Now at the mercy of the alien race, the humans are held in an underground cavern. 
Would they still have gone knowing that they would be stripped of all humanity?
Under the constant eye of the aliens, a few men discover there may be a way out of the cavern. 
But to where? 
How will they escape and what will they encounter if they succeed?

Jacobs does a good job placing you within the story. She has also come up with some unique "sci-fi" aspects, and there is a touch of mystery involved that keeps you turning the pages, wanting to discover what is happening behind the scenes.

Rating: 3/5 Skulls

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Hero's Birth (Book III of 'The Empire's Foundation' Trilogy) [Book Review]

Genre - Fantasy
Year Published - 2018
Length - 505 (digital) pages
Written by +Ryan Toxopeus

Plot Summary:
After more than four months abroad, Eliza, Thomas, and Sarentha return home in the face of dire warnings and sweeping changes in the empire. They go their separate ways to reflect on their lives and look for ways to move forward. New allies and enemies emerge, and grave challenges face the up-and-coming heroes. They will need to come together, combining their wits and strengths, to overcome ancient foes. In the balance is the world of Illuma: will it enter an age of light, or will it plunge into everlasting darkness, ruled by demons and the undead?

Before I get started, if you have not already read A Noble's Quest and A Wizard's Gambit, you need to read those first. In fact, there are a few short stories written between the novels that you need to read as well. Here is the author's recommended reading order:

A Noble's Quest (Book 1)
1100 BGW (a Short Story)
Demon Invasion (a Novella)
A Wizard's Gambit (Book 2)
Dawn: A Dwarven Creation Story (a Short Story Collection)
A Hero's Birth (Book 3)

So, if you have not already been introduced to Toxopeus' world of Illuma, then the above is your gateway. Have fun!

Now, for those of you who have been anticipating the release of this final book in the trilogy. . . man-oh-man, what a doozy!

What I loved the most about this book is that our three heroes start off on three separate quests/journeys, making their ultimate reunion that much sweeter. You will see Thomas begin to fulfill his destiny, Sarentha's becoming a dragon hunter, and Eliza's growth as a leader. And the ending... Whoa! Man, it is difficult to write this review without giving anything away. I better just say this:

Toxopeus has certainly grown as an author. If you like your fantasy filled with intrigue, suspense, and mystery, then this book is for you!

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Harvest [Book Review]

First Book Review of 2018
Did I pick a winner? Read on to find out.

Genre - Sci-Fi/Horror
Year Published - 2018
Published by Post Mortem Press
Length - 322 (digital) pages
Written by John Leahy

Tagline: "Sometimes being one step ahead is going one step to far."

Plot Summary:
Nick Prentice is a young vice-president at oil company HHI - Hickson Hydrocarbon International. With the company in financial trouble, Nick feels that he may get fired in an upcoming round of cost-cutting. After a chance meeting with Adam Styles, an old high-school football team-mate, Nick thinks he just may have found the answer to all his problems - and the key to untold riches. Adam and his friends have made an incredible scientific discovery that will change Nick's life irrevocably, and the lives of everyone on earth...

I started off 2013 by reading Leahy's CROGIAN (a sci-fi thriller about giant, mutated bugs). I thoroughly enjoyed that one, so I decided to start this year off with Leahy's Harvest. Now, to be completely honest, if I were not already familiar with Leahy, I am not sure that I would have ever chosen this book based on its description. The description does not do this book justice!

The book begins with a fascinating prologue, (roughly 30 pgs) that starts in 1910 and leads up till today, and then the book really kicks into gear!

At this point, I feel that I need to give you just a little more information than the summary above - it  contains a slight spoiler, but is perhaps necessary in this case. (just skip the next paragraph, if you want to be surprised)

After an incredible scientific breakthrough, a "carbon-planet" has been discovered. Upon this planet, the seas and rivers are comprised of crude oil. Imagine what this means to the oil industry on Earth. . . untold riches!, but at what cost?

end slight spoiler

Leahy has written a totally engrossing story - one filled with treachery, blackmail, and murder. He has harnessed the power of greed and its cataclysmic consequences.

Rating: 5/5 Skulls