horror writer, librarian, coffee enthusiast, musician, mother-of-teenagers (hence being a horror writer), M.A. Maritime History/Nautical Archaeology (really) Oh, and manic advocate for literacy
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Smashwords book reviews by Amy Marshall
- Dawn of Darkness (Daeva, #1)
on Oct. 25, 2011
“I can’t really write.” I’ll never forget Mr. Kaine’s statement of not-even-close-to-fact before we began exchanging chapters. Unedited chapters. What should one expect? Certainly not what I received in my Private Message Inbox on the NaNoWriMo site. His story completely blew me away. Chapter by chapter, it unfolds with such depth and humanity that the result is stunning. I found myself utterly pulled into the dystopian world Mr. Kaine imagines; his descriptions are stark, but fluid, and the Church of the Silver Dawn itself rises up as a centerpiece in that world that never leaves you, even after the book is closed and sitting on the nightstand or coffee table.
In this post-apocalyptic world, a militaristic theocratic society has arisen—and they begin actively recruiting humans with special powers. Ash is a flamboyant, bi-sexual empath who, to all outward appearances, is confident to the point of near cocksureness, but as he is dragged through the events that unfold rapidly before him, the reader begins to discover that all is not what it seems. Mik is a painfully introverted soul, socially awkward, and chagrined to find himself the roommate of someone as extroverted as Ash. It is not until events conspire against these two young men that they realize what they really mean to one another.
Vampirism in this world was a plague that swept across the Earth, and while the humans who possess superhuman powers—the Daeva like Mik and Ash—also could be the result of this plague, the Church of the Silver Dawn is not above using these individuals to promote their flawed doctrine that holds the remnant of mankind tightly in its grip. It holds out fear as its driving and uniting force, and is far from the benevolent dictatorial entity it portrays itself to be; and the vampires who scavenge the ruins beyond the barrier city are not the monsters of their mythos. Mik’s journey into the unknown beyond the barrier city of Rachat shatters the pillars upon which his whole society—his whole world—is precariously perched. The truth he comes to understand has the potential of undermining everything, including his relationship with Ash.
Like all good books, Daeva: Dawn of Darkness is difficult to review. This reviewer wants you to read the book with a sense of naïveté and surprise, to take the plot twists and turns as they come—many of them stunningly abrupt, but all of them masterfully plotted. It is a story that moves quickly, that introduces characters that you’ll care about, that you’ll cheer for, that you’ll revile should that time come. And in the end, you’ll close the book with a strange sense of completion accompanied by a nagging ache for something more—like Book 2.
Yes, I am acquainted with the author, but I have also watched his writing process from the very beginning. His is an impressive voice, and I am confident that Daeva: Dawn of Darkness is only the beginning of what we can expect from this great new voice in Dystopian Paranormal Horror.
- Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy
on Oct. 26, 2011
It starts with a jolt—the bang of a door, the manic tinkling of the bell above it; suddenly, shockingly, you find your legs sticking uncomfortably to a naugahyde bench and your elbows resting on a formica tabletop while your palms burn around a white ceramic coffee cup. The weather is suddenly oppressively hot(and forget about that “dry heat” crap because those of us who have lived in the desert Southwest can tell you certainly that it’s crap--112°F is 112°F and “dry” is just a sick myth), it’s night, and the world around you is about to explode into chaos.
Several breathless moments follow that initial shock, and, as a reader, you hope against hope that you can pull yourself out of the situation—that you can believe the voice in your brain that verbally slaps you around—telling you that you’re sitting safely at home with a Nook or a Kindle cradled in your hands and cold weather just outside the door. Yet, as the elderly man who just burst through the door and sucked you out of your closely-guarded reality approaches the counter, you find your eyes closing. You see the glint of his revolver reflected against yellowed countertop rimmed with stainless steel… Yeah, well. Give it up. You’re there.
"Living Dead at Zigfreidt & Roy" is a short story. Keep remembering that as you read it. It’s tight, it’s fast-paced, and it does more in 19 pages than some novels manage in 100,000+ words. The characters are expertly drawn; the author offers little by way of description, but these characters are people we’ve already met. We instinctively know them—the elderly Texan, the cook who eyes him suspiciously across the counter, the eager-to-please busboy, and the customers in the diner. The dialog flows naturally, expletives and all, and there’s no doubt these conversations really took place … somewhere…
I suppose it’s fitting that all Hell breaks loose in Las Vegas. I love the premise. I love the execution (sorry). It is a truly enjoyable, bloody, fantastic, pulse-pounding read. Moments after finishing it, I got on Twitter and made a comment to the effect that Mr. Howerton’s story had me cowering in a diner booth whimpering, “Don’t look here…. Don’t look here…” I stand by that statement. I will also add this: here’s to sincerely hoping and praying that what happened in Vegas STAYS in Vegas.
- Being Human
on Oct. 29, 2011
Being Human is a Young Adult-targeted vampire story with a twist. Ms. Lynne examines the relationship between two brothers—twins—one of whom is turned as a teenager, the other of whom remains human and loyal to his brother. Tommy, the twin who is turned, and Danny share the uncanny bond that so many twins share. Even after Tommy commits what he, even with his remorseless, serial-killer instinct that infects all vampires, realizes is an unspeakable act, his brother stands by him. And, so it goes through their relationship as Danny grows up, goes to college, marries, and has a family. Tommy stays close and struggles to remember and recapture the feelings he had as a human.
Because of its focus toward a YA audience, the violence tends toward the intense, but not graphically so. The author leaves the details of the attacks to our imagination, and that is actually how I prefer it—my imagination is wild enough to picture exactly what is happening without a blow-by-blow (bite by ripping bite?) description.
The bond between the twins is what makes this story unique. As readers, we look at ourselves as human through Tommy’s eyes. He is a stranger in a foreign land after he is turned. As he hunts, he is, in turn, hunted by authorities and people who would like nothing better than to dispose of him permanently. As the story progresses, Tommy begins to experience human emotions, and the reader begins to wonder if there truly are redemptive expressions of love and caring that can bring back or free even the darkest of creatures.
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve talked to some of my more voracious YA readers at my library about the story, and I’ve given out the Smashwords code more than once to readers who want to check out the story for themselves based on my description of the characters and events.
The prose moves quickly, the dialog is realistic and believable, and the conveyance of emotion is spot on. My only bias lies in the non-use of dialogue tags. There has been quite a bit of debate about using or not using these qualifiers. My bias lies in that I’m functionally dyslexic (really, I am), and sometimes, I get lost amid rapid-fire dialogue; it’s a serious problem for me, and I find I have to read a passage that contains this type of tag-less dialogue several times before I completely comprehend it. But, again, that’s just me.
It’s definitely a pick up and read story, and if you like YA books, this is a go-to book for you. As I said, four of my most voracious YA patrons are getting ready to plunk down real money on Smashwords and download this to their iPads.
(I purchased BEING HUMAN in ePub format for my Nook (No Nookie Like My Nookie!) from Smashwords. Four stars for a fun YA read with wide appeal)
- This Brilliant Darkness
on Oct. 31, 2011
I’ll begin with this: I’m a sucker for a well-written, fast-paced story with a twist that involves physics and supernatural phenomena. My bias clearly labeled at the outset, I’ll begin my review of Red Tash’s well-written, fast-paced story of twisty physics and the supernatural entitled This Brilliant Darkness The physics part of it involves the appearance of a star, Stella Mirabilis, above Bloomington, Indiana. It’s the star’s behavior that provides the twist to the tale—a time traveling star that flickers in and out of our reality like particles flicker in and out of our reality. The star draws out the supernatural, and for one Christine Grace, the consequences of its appearance suddenly and abruptly pound down into her own reality—a reality shared by her erstwhile boyfriend who is desperate to marry her and start a family, who is caught up in the strangeness that begins to define their existence in Bloomington.
The characters pop from the pages, and the interactions among them keep you turning pages. What’s up with this character (I particularly liked Tristan)? How is Ms. Tash going to draw all these seemingly disparate threads together (she does, and that’s the only spoiler I’ll provide, because I want you to READ IT). It’s smart. Ms. Tash pulls no punches in the explanation of the physics of the problem, no punches in the questions Ms. Grace’s class at the university throws at her. The university setting is eminently believable as well. I felt like I was on campus, at The Corner, standing with Christine at that ATM when … well, I won’t spoil that part, either. Let’s just say the whole thing plays like a movie in your head, and you’re going to not want to push “pause” and put the book down.
The chapters are quick and tight. I thought I’d appreciate that—that there were places where I could put the book down without guilt because, after all, I was at the end of the chapter. Well, by midnight, I had not put the book down, and had no intention of putting it down. At 12:15am, my fourteen-year-old son stumbled out to get a drink of water. “You’re still up?” he asked. “Go to bed.” I looked up from my Nook, smiled, and said, “Not on your life, dude. Not until this ends.”
The point of view changes with the chapters. Ms. Tash gives a summary of the characters in the beginning of the book, as if we’ll get confused by having so many players. I didn’t read the characters summaries. I found, as I read, that the characters are so well-drawn and memorable, I didn’t need to read the summaries. I had no problem keeping the who’s who of the cast straight because the personalities were so diverse and the mannerisms and dialog were unique to each. Sometimes the prose devolved into the rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness musings of a particular character. That’s not a bad thing in the least. It set the pace of the story in those places; some of the stream-of-consciousness writing leaves the reader breathless. It’s a catharsis of sorts for the character, but it’s creepy in the best of ways for the reader. Talk about a joy to read.