Turn Down the Lights

Lately I've been trying to pay more attention to the specialty publishers out there. They put out such quality work, that I've decided to make a concerted effort to tell all you readers about them. This time around, let's talk about Cemetery Dance, and one of their newest collections of short stories, TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS.

This collection, edited by Richard Chizmar, is a celebration of Cemetery Dance. It's been 25 years since Cemetery Dance put out their first issue, and so this collections contains stories by just some of the people who have helped it become the amazing specialty publishing house that it is today. Here's the Table of Contents:

"Turn Down the Lights..." an introduction by Richard Chizmar
"Summer Thunder" by Stephen King
"Incarnadine" by Norman Partridge
"The Western Dead" by Jack Ketchum
"An Instant Eternity" by Brian James Freeman
"In the Room" by Bentley Little
"Flying Solo" by Ed Gorman
"The Outhouse" by Ronald Kelly
"Lookie Loo" by Steve Rasnic Tem
"Dollie" by Clive Barker
"The Collected Short Stories of Freddie Prothero" by Peter Straub
Afterword by Thomas F. Monteleone

The introduction, by Chizmar, really highlights how special this anthology--and indeed this entire 25 year journey--is been to him. It's deeply personal, and it really set the stage for the stories that came later. As usual, it's a bit tough to get into specifics when talking about short stories. So I'll briefly highlight the ones that stood out to me.

"Summer Thunder", to me, shows why Stephen King is best when doing short fiction (at least in my opinion). It's a story that follows some of the survivors after an apocalypse. But these are the usual scum that Kings usually tend to write about. These are just normal guys, and it lent a very believable vibe to the story.

"The Western Dead", by Jack Ketchum, is predictably a story about the undead in a western setting. Nothing ground-breaking here, but fun nonetheless.

"An Instant Eternity", by Brian James Freeman, turned out to be one of my personal favorites. of the collection. It's about a photographer in a war-torn area. It's Horror without the monsters. It's Horror because of a normal man being put in a horrible situation because of his bravery. Loved it.

"Flying Solo", by Ed Gorman, was my favorite story. It's about two older gentlemen going through cancer treatment that "fix" problems for people. I wish this story had been longer, if for the sole reason of being with these characters a bit more.

"The Outhouse", by Ronald Kelly, was a fun romp of a Horror story. Nothing more, nothing less.

The remaining stories, for me were a mix of good and bad. With short fiction it always comes down to personal preference. There are people out there who will love every story here, or specifically the ones I didn't personally care for. That's the draw of anthologies. My only personal note on the collection was that it didn't seem focused. I tend to like themed anthologies, and that wasn't the case here. Still, it's a minor quibble.

Now, should you buy TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS? If you like Horror, absolutely. It's a bit pricey at $35 for a hardback, but you get what you pay for. It isn't just the stories, it's the book itself. Have you ever held a book published by Cemetery Dance? Their books are always quality. From the covers, to the pages, to the binding...man, it's great. It truly feels like it's a cut above all normal publishers...because it is. Of course, if you have a ton of money to spend, and you love good art, you should check out the $75 edition of this collection. It has a bunch of terrific art in it, and is signed by those artists.

Gotta love Cemetery Dance.

Recommended Age: 17+
Profanity: Yup.
Violence: There sure is, but it doesn't really get too graphic.
Sex: There are some typical Horror, shock-value references here. Mostly Clive Barker's story.

Here are your links:




I've loved Sarah Pinborough's writing since I first opened the cover on A MATTER OF BLOOD. And since reading Robert McCammon and Jasper Kent, I've been rather obsessed with Historical Horror. So when I received a copy of Sarah's newest Historical Horror novel...well, I'd died and gone to heaven.

MAYHEM takes place in Whitechapel when it was gripped in the panic of the Jack the Ripper murders. But this novel isn't about Jack the Ripper. That would be too obvious. It's definitely there in the backdrop, but MAYHEM is about a different murderer that was terrorizing the streets at the same time. This novel is about a series of unsolved deaths called the Torso Murders.

The main character is Dr. Thomas Bond, a physician/coroner that seems to be able to glean the motives of a killer from his handiwork. It's interesting to see a criminal profiler of sorts in this environment. Dr. Bond also has a growing dependency on drugs. This downward spiral--due to a vicious circle of drug use to cope with the horrors he sees in his job--is handled terrifically and is completely relevant to the plot.

If there is a weakness to MAYHEM, it is the supporting cast. None of them matter a whole lot. They are mostly there to aid Dr. Bond in his discovery of the actual murderer, and I wish they had been more relevant. As it stands, their PoVs just serve to set the stage. Seeing as the novel is fairly short, and fast-paced once you get used to the writing style, the lack of depth to those characters ultimately isn't that important. This is Dr. Bond's journey.

What I love about the story--apart from the main character--is how Pinborough seems to effortlessly show the fear gripping the city and its people. It's also the way Pinborough accomplishes it. You see, most authors writing in a historical setting would just give the reader a dry history lesson to show how much research they did. Boooorrrring. Instead, every character in MAYHEM has fear worming away at their insides. It's never the same in two characters, and it's that attention to detail that showcases that very real fear that must have dominated the lives of every person in that time.

This isn't just straight Historical Fiction. Pinborough brings the supernatural to the party as well. It's light, and I could probably make a case that it's perhaps even all in the characters' minds. I love the layer it adds to the story. Without it, this is just another story. With the supernatural element, it makes the main PoV more admirable in my eyes. And really, this book hinges on whether you are fully on-board with Dr. Bond and all the decisions he makes (or doesn't make).

MAYHEM isn't as strong of a novel as those in her Dog Faced Gods Trilogy (or Forgotten Gods Trilogy as it's called in the USA), but it is still dang good. If you are a fan of Robert McCammon's Matthew Corbett novels, or Jasper Kent's Danilov Quintet, MAYHEM is just the sort of novel you should be reading.

I hope this isn't the last time Sarah Pinborough does Historical Horror, because she is awesome at it.

Recommended Age: 16+
Profanity: Kinda weird. There is hardly any, but when it's there it is fairly strong.
Violence: Well, duh.
Sex: There are some PoVs in the minds of prostitutes, and those are somewhat lurid, but nothing major in this category.

Here's your link:


Emperor of Thorns

I think it's pretty rare for an author to end a series in a strong and convincing manner. Be it ten novels or two, it just seems like I'm nearly always let down once I get to the end. When I first read Mark Lawrence's PRINCE OF THORNS, you'll remember that I was completely blown away. In terms of dark and gritty fantasy, it was pretty close to the top of the list. I was worried when KING OF THORNS arrived in my mailbox. It couldn't possibly live up to the first book. Except it did. Then I received the final book in the series, EMPEROR OF THORNS. I didn't even start reading it right away (hence the delay in this review), because, stupidly, I didn't want to be let down. Again, how often does an author blow it? Pretty frequently.

But not this time.

EMPEROR OF THORNS was such a satisfying read. This was the culmination of all the plot threads from the two prior novels, and somehow Lawrence was able to pull them all together. This book isn't simply about Jorg trying to become the Emperor. Well, in a way it is, but its actually about the characters, and who they really are, and then how those personalities influence the future of this realm.

Jorg isn't a hero. I wouldn't even say he's an anti-hero. He's actually pretty much a jerk-face. But I can still root for him because of the way Lawrence shows us the character. If there is one person he is honest towards (more or less), I think it's the reader. He has his good moments (rarely), and then his moments where we see his naked and raw ambition and ruthlessness. But more importantly we see his growth. This is not the same Jorg from book 1. Not even remotely. I think this quote sums it up pretty well how much he has changed, while still remaining true to his origins:

"You should know that he is not a good man, but neither is he a man that can be turned, and should all hell wash against these walls, as I believe it might very well do...King Jorg will stand against that tide."

So we get two different PoVs from Jorg, just like in the prior novel. I won't spoil what they are about, because his journey is really a huge part of the enjoyment. I will say that Lawrence uses the two distinct PoVs like they are two different characters, which the kind of are. As a counterpoint to the two Jorg PoVs, we also get to see things from Chella's PoV. For me, this was huge. Seeing another person's detailed PoV on Jorg really seemed to complete the puzzle for me.

Again, who are these characters? How far are they willing to go to achieve their individual goals? Seeing how everything comes together in a massive convergence (to use a Steve Erikson term) was the reward and payoff I'd been hoping for since first novel.

So what else should you expect in this novel? Violence? Selfishness? Brief glimmers of heroism? Oh yeah. it's all here. What Lawrence does extremely well is throw in those glimmers of light that contrast so starkly against the darkness of the novel. Another highlight for me was seeing more locations in this post-apocalyptic world. It's a world that has just enough familiarity to really make those new moments so interesting. And the ending? Stunning and focused on character, just like it should be

I am completely satisfied. Mark Lawrence's The Broken Empire trilogy, now completed, is a stunning work of dark fantasy, and EMPEROR OF THORNS is the perfect capstone to the series. This is now one of my favorite series ever. Having seen Lawrence's work progress from Book 1 to Book 3 has left me eagerly anticipating PRINCE OF FOOLS this June.

You should read this series. Enough said.

Recommended Age: 17+
Profanity: Oh yeah.
Violence: Very much so.
Sex: Yup. A couple scenes and bunches of references.

Here are your links to buy the series, which is a no-brainer:


The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Have you ever had a secret?  I mean a delicious, wonderful secret?  The kind you want to tell the whole world about and at the same time keep only for yourself?  Something sweet and wonderful, something that would change other people lives if they only knew, yet at the same time you wanted to keep it all to yourself?  Have you ever had one of those?

I do.  And it’s called THE GIRL WHO SOARED OVER FAIRYLAND AND CUT THE MOON IN TWO by Catherynne Valente. 

I’ve gushed over Valente’s writing on here before.  It’s no secret that I’m a big fan, yet each time I get a new Valente book she manages to sneak past any defenses I may have and surprise me yet again. I started reading this latest fairyland book and at the beginning it started to feel very episodic.  September manages somehow to get back to fairyland after a year of waiting.  She wants very badly to get back there and see her friends again.  She has adventures and meets strange wonderful characters (of the kind only Valente could come up with).  But it felt like I had read it before (there are two other fairyland books, both of which are wonderful).

And then Valente did it again.

It wasn’t that I realized a greater plot around the whole series buried in the subtext.  It wasn’t that some strange and unexpected revelation came changing the way I thought about everything in this fairy world.  It was the writing, and it was the characters.  The writing was beautiful.  I would reread paragraphs just to enjoy the word play and the metaphor.  I would think about the characters and concepts.  The characters started to grow and learn and make decisions.  Before I knew it the book had nuzzled in next to my heart and I wanted to hug it and have it warm me up.  It’s that kind of book.

I was reading it at the gym and I wanted to lean over to the person next to me and show them this delicious thing I had just experienced.  I wanted to look around and me and tell everyone how what I had read had just changed me profoundly even if only for a moment.  And yet at the same time I didn’t.  I smiled knowing that I knew a wonderful secret that these people did not.  This is that type of book.

Is the book perfect?  No.  Like I said, it took a little while to really get into it.  It was fun but didn’t grab me right away.  The other problem (if you can call it that) is the language.  Not offensive language or anything of that nature.  The language is dense and beautiful and thick like syrup.  I LOVE THAT!  But it’s harder for my daughter to get into.  Things that make me giggle they are so well told are a bit hard for my 9 year old to grasp.  She just wants dialogue and action and whimsy.  The exquisite way Valente has with words is a bit tougher for my own younger audience to swallow.  And that is hard because I want to share this world with her SO MUCH!  We’re reading it and we’re enjoying it and I’m hoping that this book will have her appreciate this type of language and how it really is meant to be used. 

So it seems that I have decided to share my wonderful secret after all.  This is a secret that needs to be shared and loved and hugged by many many more people.  Enjoy.

Recommended Age:  12+ for comprehension
Language: One or two words and not one of the REALLY bad ones
Violence: Nothing gory
Sex: None

Find this delicious book here:

And here are the first two books in this terrific series:


Elitist Classics: The Crystal Cave

The first book of Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy, THE CRYSTAL CAVE, was written in 1970 and continues to be one of the most accessible novelizations of the mythos surrounding the Arthurian legends. Told in first-person PoV as though it were an autobiography, Stewart writes about Merlin's childhood as he travels across Britain, the people he encounters, and the discovery of his magic--all in her lovely prose with detailed attention to the landscape and era.

I first read this series when I was in middle school and have read it several times since, including the two Arthur-focused books after the Merlin trilogy. The quality of the writing and storytelling hasn't diminished with age, likely because of the care Stewart took to research her subject and the locales.

The books are still in print and are available in even small libraries due to their popularity. If you're trying to introduce friends to fantasy, this is a benign first step.

Recommended Age: 10+
Language: None
Violence: Some, but Stewart often glosses over battles so they lack detail
Sex: Vague references

Find this outstanding series here:


And the series continues with Arthur:


Then post-Arthur:



So two award-winning journalists decide to try their hand at the current craze of YA dystopian/post-apocalypse novels. But WASTELAND is what happens when non-fiction writers think that writing a coherent, engaging, and imaginative YA novel is not so hard. Throw in a controversial situation, maybe some race-themed antagonism, a couple of clever adjectives for spice, and voila. Easy peasy, right?

They should keep their day jobs.

Esther is our main protagonist. She's fifteen, the prime age for partnering and having a child of her own. But she avoids it, instead ignoring the boys' attentions and skipping out on the mandatory work assignments so she can run off and play with her mutant friend, Skar. In the meantime, the other kids of the town of Prin are barely surviving on the water and meager supplies provided by Levi in trade for their work.

Then one day Caleb arrives in town and everything changes.

Told in an awkward omniscient PoV narrative, our main character Esther must find a way to live in a world that doesn't seem to fit her sensibilities. She easily befriends the outcasts, but runs the risk of becoming outcast herself. Caleb's motivations are more straightforward. Levi, as the villain, is a more complicated creature and it takes time to understand him. Then there's Esther's sister Sarah, her variant friend Skar, her autistic friend Joseph. None of them felt like very deep characters, that the authors were going through the motions of characterization and it felt awkward and forced. Even the romance between the main characters was clumsily written (there's more to say but it would mean spoilers).

We never learn what happened and why everything is all post-apocalyptical--they hint at global warming, but that doesn't explain the mass devastation, since they still search through abandoned areas for supplies, so it must have been recent. Their foraging lifestyle does not make for long-term survival. Also, why does everyone die by the time they're nineteen? Seems like a pretty specific age, but we never learn why. The most important thing we never learn is where the Variants (mutants) come from--they aren't human, so why are they there other than a contrived plot device?

Despite the prose being easy on the eyes, the pace was slow and dull, mostly as a result of a distant omniscient narrative that makes it impossible to really get into the characters' heads. And if you've read enough dystopian YA novels then this book's plot feels predictable, clear to the end.

I have so many questions and no answers. There just wasn't enough meat to this story for me, but then again I'm not the target audience. Nevertheless I'm not going to be passing this book along to my fifteen-year-old daughter. Instead, she'll be reading the PARTIALS series by Dan Wells (EBR review).

Recommended Age: The publicity says 14+ but I would say 17+ because of the sex scene and themes
Language: Nothing
Violence: Torture, teens fighting, some blood, death by fighting and disease
Sex: One brief graphic scene; teenagers must "partner" in order to perpetuate the human race

Find this book here:


The Mongoliad

Some reviews are difficult to write. Others fly off of my fingertips near light-speed. Some are simple. Others complex. But every once in a while, I come across one that seems to just be begging for discussion of a larger issue. This book sparked one of those latter types in me. The issue: writing character versus story.

THE MONGOLIAD, BOOK ONE is an interesting kind of book and not one that I come across every day. There are seven authors that collaborated to write it (Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, E. D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo, and Mark Teppo). Quite the list. Most of them are either established science fiction authors or new enough to the publishing scene that I couldn't find a lot about the books they'd written besides what was on their Amazon author pages.  As such I was kind of expecting to find this story to be very similar many other fantasy offerings that were written by science fiction authors.  i.e.: not that good.

What I found kind of surprised me and kind of didn't.  As with other books that have multiple authors (I'm thinking mostly short story anthologies and such) there is a range of goodness to be had in this one. The story centers on the Mongol invasion of Europe, circa 1240 A.D., and is split between three major story lines. The first involves a group of moral knights that has been slated to fight in a Mongolian version of a gladiator arena but decide instead to embark on a quest to kill the Khan. The second story line, and one that engaged me the most, dealt with the Khan's court and a couple of its participants. The third, and weakest of the three, is a string of connected characters portraying the "gladiators" fighting in the Mongolian arena.

For the most part, the writing is accessible and decent. World-building is quite sparse. The difference between the three story lines, although significant in locale, didn't feel all that different from one another. The story-telling was also quite procedural. Each event led to the next, which led to another, and another, and so on. Characterization was very thin. Like on the level of 2-3% of what I would expect in a novel. Pretty abysmal.

In fact, the lack of characterization was easily one of the most difficult things about the book. Instead of reading characters in a story, the point-of-view characters became more like vehicles through which the story was told. With little to no character history to be had, and so very little of the story being about the impact that these events are having on our characters, they all became very cardboardish and one-dimensional. Most times they seemed to disappear entirely, and I forgot that they were even there. They were more like cameras on tripods, carried around for the benefit of the reader.

The one exception to this rule was Gansukh, a member of the group in the second story line I mentioned. He was sent by the Khan's brother to try and reign in the Khan's drinking problem. This single character was well-written, and although there were still times that I was left somewhat confused as to what he was going to do next to try and solve his problem, I found that I always enjoyed his part of the story. He engaged me, while the others in the book hardly even made an attempt.

As I thought about this difference between how each of the characters were written, I realized that this single point was really the crux of the problem surrounding my expectations of the novel. Because so often I find that science fiction authors write books that have stories impacted by a set of characters; whereas, fantasy authors tend to write books that have characters who are impacted by the stories surrounding them. I can't say that one is necessarily better than the other, as both kinds of books are enjoyed by flocks of different people, but I have found that once the mix of the two techniques falls too far to the story side of the balance (as I see so often in science fiction novels), that I lose my ability to enjoy the story. I love character too much. It's why The Fugitive is one of my favorite movies of all time; why I was literally on the edge of my seat during my entire first viewing of Inception; and why the end of Up had me weeping uncontrollably. It's character that impacts me. Not story.

There are two last things I should mention. The first is the fairly egregious use of foreign words (I can't really say "made-up" here because it could be that they're all real, although in the context of the story for most readers they'll be just as good as made-up) in the story. They're the terms that get used once, explained, and then usually forgotten. The second is the complete lack of an ending. A better title for this book would have been, “THE MONGOLIAD, THE FIRST THIRD OF THE STORY”, as the thing just stops mid-stream.

Although I did seem to harp on the book quite a bit, it wasn't a bad read. It just wasn't all that good. Even though it was full of decent word-smithing, lots of historical fact, and had a large array of characters, it didn't do anything to pull itself up out of the pool of mediocrity surrounding it. It never became more than its constituent parts. As such, I'm not really expecting much of the continuation of the story (there are still parts 2 and... ahem... books 2 and 3), but will probably get to it sometime soon.

Recommended Age: 15+
Language: Really mild for most of it, and then a few sections that get fairly vulgar
Violence: Pretty gory and violent, sword fights, gladiator-like arena
Sex: None

Your link:  The Mongoliad, Book One

The Best of 2013

Well then. 2013 is done. While I'm not a huge fan of the "Best Of" lists, I've been asked enough (by readers, authors, and even my own reviewers) that I figured I should give it a go. I'm not going to number them, as usual, and there will likely be more than 10. Why? Because I can do what I want! And stuff!

Seriously though, this was a great year. We had fantastic original, non-sequels, mixed with a ton of amazing follow-ups. 

Also a disclaimer: this might not be a complete list, nor have we gotten around to writing the reviews for everything ON this list. There are a couple of novels that either I or my awesome reviewers have that just haven't been read yet. People whom I trust completely have said these particular books are completely incredible, so I tend to expect that to be true (if not, I will be so angry. LOOKING AT YOU JUSTIN!). So take this list as EBR's long-list for what we will considering for Hugo nominations. 'Cause it's that time of the year!

AMERICAN ELSEWHERE by Robert Jackson Bennett
NECESSARY EVIL by Ian Tregillis (EBR review)
EMPEROR OF THORNS by Mark Lawrence
IMPOSSIBLE MONSTERS, Edited by Kasey Lansdale (EBR review)
WARBOUND by Larry Correia (EBR review)
THE SECRET OF ABDU EL YEZDI by Mark Hodder (EBR review)
GRAVEYARD CHILD by MLN Hanover (EBR review)
THE FORGOTTEN GODS TRILOGY by Sarah Pinborough (This is totally a cheater pick. Not only is it three books, but they were all released prior to 2013. BUT NOT IN THE US! HA!...like I said, cheater pick...EBR reviews of book 1, book 2, and book 3)
TWO SERPENTS RISE by Max Gladstone (EBR review)
THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman (EBR review)
THE RED KNIGHT by Miles Cameron
FIRE WITH FIRE by Charles E. Gannon (EBR review)
NEXUS/CRUX by Ramez Naam (EBR Review) (a bit cheater, since NEXUS came out at the VERY end of 2012)
FIEND by Peter Stenson

HONORABLE MENTIONS (This is quite the impressive list by itself):
RED COUNTRY by Joe Abercrombie (EBR review)
ABADDON'S GATE by James SA Corey
TYRANT'S LAW by Daniel Abraham
THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES by Scott Lynch (EBR review)
PROMISE OF BLOOD by Brian McClellan (EBR review)
PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon (EBR Review)
GENERATION V by M.L. Brennan

MOST ANTICIPATED OF 2014 (Not even close to a full list):
PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence
MAYHEM by Sarah Pinborough
WORDS OF RADIANCE by Brandon Sanderson
THE WIDOW'S HOUSE by Daniel Abraham
CIBOLA BURN by James SA Corey
RUINS by Dan Wells
FALL OF LIGHT by Steven Erikson
ASSAIL by Ian C Esslemont
RIVER OF SOULS by Robert McCammon
THE BROKEN EYE by Brent Weeks
CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett

Well, that's it.  This is the part where you tell us how wrong we were, or berate us for not picking your favorite novel. This is also where you remember "Oh! I can nominate EBR for a Hugo Award for Best Fanzine!"


So pretty much everything I said about AN OFFICER'S DUTY (EBR review) I should just cut and paste into this review...because its sequel HELLFIRE is almost the exact same book. Save yourself some time, read that review, and come back and I'll try to be succinct.

Ia is now the captain of the Space Force ship Hellfire, which contains their ultra secret new weapon against the alien Salik enemy. The only problem? It's too powerful and only a precognitive can safely wield it, otherwise anyone caught downstream would die.

The ship and Ia's crew are ready just in time: the second Salik war has begun and Hellfire becomes Earth's secret weapon. Because she's a precog Ia knows exactly where to go in order to do the most good. Sometimes it means convincing the Space Force leaders, but Ia time and again proves that she can predict what's coming with chilling accuracy.

Johnson attempts to step up the tension a notch with the war. Now that everyone knows Ia is a precog it does change the dynamic--she openly uses and talks about her abilities to convince her crew, and to sway Alliance alien governments as well as her own superiors in the Space Force. The majority of the book is spent on the Hellfire as it flits from fight to fight in quick succession, making the plot feel circular. While I enjoyed the technical aspects of the ship, ship's life, and military life at war, it quickly grew stale because of infrequent change of scene.

The biggest problem with HELLFIRE is that Ia bugs me. I was able to get past her character 'flaws' in the previous books because there was still the question of whether she would be able to achieve her goals--not so, here. In HELLFIRE she becomes shrill and repeats over and over the same sanctimonious dialogue from the previous books. She always knows exactly what to do or what to say (which consists of contrived and clunky dialogue so there's a suspension of belief there for me). She's so powerful she's not only a precog, but she's a biokinetic (self healing), electrokinetic, pyrokinetic, postcognitive (can see the past), telekinetic, and even a little telepathic. She's risen through the ranks so quickly she's a ship's captain in her early 20s. Her crew idolizes her and her man loves her unconditionally. She's self-sacrificing to the point of unbelievability. The concept is cool, but the execution makes Ia unsympathetic.

Johnson also attempts a subtle underlying theme of chess with Ia as the grandmaster: pieces being placed, a little nudge here, a warning there, and then making sure she's always in the right place at the right time. Again, the concept is interesting, but I don't see where the plays are lining up in a recognizable strategy/plot, and at this point in the game it feels less like chess and more like bowling: with Ia as the bowling ball, knocking everyone flat who gets in her way.

Recommended Age: 15+
Language: Made up words only
Violence: Mostly the spaceship variety (lasers and missiles blowing up things), very little blood
Sex: Innuendo

Find this book here:


A Shade of Vampire

I found A SHADE OF VAMPIRE thanks to Amazon recommendations, it had over 600 five-star ratings, and it was a mere $.99 for Kindle. I was kinda excited to find something new.

It was a trap.

Our main POV first-person narrators are Sofia and Derek. Sofia is our red-haired, green-eyed young woman vacationing with a friend's family when she's abducted on the night of her 17th birthday. Derek is the 500 year old vampire prince just woken from a four century slumber and given his own harem of beautiful human women, of whom Sofia is included.

If I could go deeper into plot and character, I would. If I could. A SHADE OF VAMPIRE is exactly what it sounds like: an unimaginative wish fulfillment fantasy with amateur prose and trite dialogue. The story is predictable simply because there isn't anything more to it than what I mentioned above.

So Derek and Sofia are thrown together and for some unknown reason they intrigue each other. No reason, really. Even though we do get a lot of sappy contrived interactions between them. Sofia doesn't seem afraid for her life, even if she does make a token escape attempt. She adjusts to her new role as slave pretty easily.

Derek doesn't seem like a vampire other than he craves blood and is strong, which makes the vampire culture really bland. Why is Derek a vampire prince? Because of some vaguely explained thing he did five hundred years ago. So who's been in charge for the 400 years he's been asleep? Why does Derek not seem to have an occupation although they talk about getting rid of those pesky hunters? And why are vampires holding so much stock in a prophecy? (Why do fantasy writers still use such contrived methods to create tension?) I don't know.

They spend the book at this vampire sanctuary Derek's family built while he was sleeping. It's some island (no idea where) with beautiful forests, and because of a witch it exists in perpetual night. How do the trees stay living after 400 years of perpetual night? Why would vampires feel the need to build penthouse apartments in redwood and sequoia trees? Why mention that there are no ladders/stairs to the penthouses but Sofia can get to the ground somehow? Why end it with a confusing cliffhanger? I don't know.

Why are there no answers to these questions? Because I don't think the author knows the answers to them, either. The prose is amateurish, the dialogue is expositional yet tells me nothing, the descriptions are ham-handed and lack originality. If anything, A SHADE OF VAMPIRE is a warning lesson to all you wannabe authors out there: please, no more novels like this to waste my time.

Recommended Age: Um, I suppose it's aimed at a teenage audience who are fans of TWILIGHT, but you don't want your kids rotting their brains by reading this drek
Language: None
Violence: So lame it's a comedy
Sex: Referenced

Find it here to provide warning material for members of your writing group: