Book Review – A Hell of a Christmas: Dear Satan by Padraic Keohane

Padraic Keohane has a wicked sense of humor and a clever wit. He always has, at least as long as I’ve known him and that’s been quite a while now.

I reviewed one of his books – a collection of short stories – back before I had this blog up and running. That book, Stories of Sagacity and Wit, was a fun read and I highly recommend it. Padraic’s latest work departs from the adult level short stories and splashes head-first into the kids’ books department. True to form, he approaches his story from a different perspective than most and has given us a children’s book that would actually be fun to read to a kid. In fact, were my son still of that age group, he’d probably think it was a hoot. Nowadays, unless it’s King, Matheson, or Horowitz, he just ain’t that into it.

Which is a pity, because A Hell of a Christmas: Dear Satan was a fun read. The general gist is Billy sends a Christmas wish list to Santa, but transposes some letters and hilarity ensues. Without digging too deep into the weeds, what you get is a story about the ultimate force for evil making the ultimate force for bike riding and giving it away because he’s really not that bad of a guy.

Aside from the obvious spelling lesson, there aren’t any treacly lessons about this, that, or the other thing snuck into the story, it’s just a fun little story about a kid who accidentally asks Satan for a bicycle. If you have young ones – and they have the right sense of humor – you’ll likely find this book is a blast to read to them.

“Billy is a good boy, but not a good speller. He wants a bike for Christmas, so naturally he writes to Satan. Will the devil and his crew get into the Christmas spirit? An illustrated storybook for the older kids and adults.”

Get your copy on Amazon

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Book Review – Close Your Eyes by Paul Jessup

One of Orwell’s key ideas in 1984 was the notion that language shaped thought. It wasn’t an altogether outlandish idea, even if he used it in sinister and double plus ungood ways. We need words for our brains to conceptualize things and explain them to other people. Without arguing the efficacy of communication or whether the intended meaning is delivered along with the rest of the message, it’s easy to understand how the languages we use can shape the way we think. Even Abbot’s Flatland touched on this idea when one of his characters was trying to describe the concept of “up” to a group of two-dimensional beings.

As I recall, Abbot’s character got locked up for the heresy of discussing extra dimensions beyond the required two.

Language is at the heart of Paul Jessup’s Close Your Eyes – a collection of two novellas and one short story stitched together into a novel. Each bit has its own flow, but they all work together to tell one meta story.

Jessup uses language as both the crux of the story where language is a virus and he uses language like a surgeon wields a scalpel as he weaves together the tale of a ship adrift in an ocean of stars. In the course of their adventures they stumble across a particularly virulent strain of language that rends sanity in twain. It would seem that even in a world of automatons made of wax and hyper-intelligent ship’s computers, the bug that strikes people down was something no one expected: Language.

It’s a unique way of dealing with diseases. The language in question is almost like a computer virus that infects, propagates, and ultimately consumes its victim’s minds. The novel alludes to the fact that the language has already decimated entire planets.

Jessup has his own style of writing that is unique in all the books I’ve read. At times it’s punchy, direct, and almost Spartan in its usage, at other times it flows with the symmetry of poetry. As if his concept of linguistic viruses wasn’t enough, he uses language to great effect to heighten the more surreal aspects of his world.

Think of Close Your Eyes as sci-fi with a purpose. It would be easy to say the ship’s AI is reminiscent of HAL from 2001 or the linguistic virus as similar to Stephenson’s Snow Crash, but Close Your Eyes goes in different directions. Even if the idea that there is nothing new under the sun is true, that doesn’t mean existing things can’t be rearranged into new and exciting things.

All in all, a good read.

“Language is a virus. Open this book. Read the words. Feel them infect you. Identity is a disease. Flip the pages. Stay up all night. Watch it transform you. You cannot deny it. You cannot close your eyes and shut out the changes. You know you want to. You really want to. But it’s too late. You can’t.

Critically acclaimed author of weird fiction Paul Jessup sends puppets to speak and fight for their masters. Welcome to a far future universe that stretches the imagination to breaking, where a ragtag crew of post-human scavengers rage and love on a small ship in the outer reaches of space, and moon-sized asylums trap the unwary in a labyrinth of experimentation in both identity and sanity.

Welcome to Close Your Eyes, a mind expanding surrealistic space opera that not only includes the out-of-print classic Open Your Eyes, but takes it to whole new level in a much awaited sequel.

Go ahead. Pick it up. Read it. Let it infect you.”

Get your copy on Amazon

Check out Paul’ Blog

 

Book Review – Lightning Blade by D.N. Erikson

Way back in ’93 Groundhog Day dropped Bill Murray’s single-handed show-stopping mania into American moviegoers’ laps. About eleven years later a Japanese author named Hiroshi Sakurazaka dropped a book called All You Need Is Kill. All You Need Is Kill was appropriated by Hollywood and turned into Edge Of Tomorrow which was a good – if underappreciated movie – that was saddled with a really unfortunate name. Not that All You Need Is Kill is a spectacular title, especially compared to the simple punch of Groundhog Day.

So, what do Bill Murray, groundhogs, Japanese novels, and American sci-fi have in common? They all center around the idea of a time loop. Bill Murray relives the same Groundhog Day 38 times, although the director says he lived the same day over and over for ten years. All You Need Is Kill‘s protagonist loops through the same set of days over and over again, dozens or hundreds of times. The prime difference between the two is Bill Murray wakes up each morning to Sonny and Cher and All You Need Is Kill‘s Keiji Kiriya restarts each time he dies.

D.N. Erikson’s Lightning Blade follows a similar pattern. Not that Lightning Blade is necessarily derivative of either Groundhog Day or All You Need Is Kill, it just makes use of a time loop, which is a pretty clever thing to do in an urban fantasy story. At least, I’ve never seen it done before.

Here’s the thing about time loops: They can get boring if they’re not handled well. Groundhog Day could have been the least interesting movie on the planet – right up there with Ishtar – if it wasn’t handled well. Ditto with All You Need Is Kill. If you’ve got the same character going through the same thing over and over, it can get ridiculously tedious. In other words, writing a time loop story isn’t for the faint of heart.

Fortunately, Erikson handles the time loop with a good deal of flair. Lightning Blade is told from the point of view of Ruby Callaway, a less-than-savory bounty hunter living out her days in a Tuscon penitentiary where she’s been imprisoned for a variety of crimes including having and using essence – the world’s version of magic. Ruby gets caught up in hunting down a necromancer who’s become a terrorist. Unbeknownst to Ruby and her FBI partner, the necromancer has dropped them both into a time loop where he’s been hiding out and getting stronger. Every time Ruby dies, the loop resets and she has to start all over again.

Each time Ruby gets re-looped, she remembers even though the rest of the characters are reset back to zero. Since she knows what’s coming, Ruby has to try new things to get her story back on track. Each of the loops gets us closer and closer to the endgame, which is just as much a surprise as everything else that comes before it. That’s what makes a good time-loop book.

For fans of Kate Daniels and The Dresden Files comes a new breed of urban fantasy heroine.
One who might not survive an endless day.

When the FBI releases supernatural bounty hunter Ruby Callaway after 20 years, the terms are simple: put down the necromancer killing public officials in return for amnesty. But then the necromancer plunges a blade through her heart, and Ruby reawakens at midnight, back in jail. Alive. 

Which means one thing: the necromancer has thrust the world into an endless time loop that only he and Ruby can see. And Ruby is the only one capable of stopping him before the world burns. But as she unravels the necromancer’s sinister plan, two questions repeat in Ruby’s mind: Just how dangerous is a vengeful serial killer with nothing but time? 

And what if the necromancer isn’t the worst thing lurking in the shadows of this brave new world?

Lightning Blade is the first book in the Ruby Callaway Trilogy, mixing dark, gritty urban fantasy with a sprinkling of futuristic sci-fi & cyberpunk. Not your typical bounty hunter. Not your typical urban fantasy.

All in all, Lightning Blade is a fun read with well-handled time loop that takes its time to explain the nuances of the world Ruby lives in. As a bonus, it’s available for less than a buck now.

Get it on Amazon

Check out Erikson’s website

 

Book Review – The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson

I usually review fiction because that’s what I usually read, but I made a promise to myself to review everything I read and I aim to stick to that promise. Thus, Rachel Thompson’s book on book marketing is getting a gander today.

Now, I’ve been writing for almost five years now and I’m getting decent at it, but my marketing skills are, at best, lacking. Part of this is my natural trend toward laziness, but part of it’s linked directly to a lack of knowledge. Marketing is a Byzantine mass of indistinct corridors, dead ends, and people who would happily gut you for your last penny. Navigating it when you don’t know what you’re doing is almost like wandering aimlessly through big city alleys while yelling about the amount of cash you have in your wallet. It’s only a matter of time before someone offers to turn your lungs into hamburgers for the low, low price of your soul.

So, when I finished Henchmen back in ’13 and released it (far too hastily, as it turns out. It was riddled with errors), I was largely unsure of what to do next. I put up a single post on Facebook and watched my sales skyrocket to pretty much nada. I got various tidbits of advice from friends (set up a Goodreads page!, set up a Facebook Author page!), some of which worked, some of which tanked. In the end, it was Twitter and this blog that helped more than anything else.

The process of figuring that out took valuable time and far more effort than it should have. It was a perfect example of how you can wander around in the wilderness aimlessly until your Zen navigation allows you to stumble into what you need. Don’t get me wrong, my Zen navigation (you might not get where you want to go, but you’ll always wind up where you need to be) didn’t fail me, but a map that led straight to the cabin with all the Scooby Snacks would have been a hell of a lot more efficient.

Which means I picked up Rachel Thompson’s book about five years later than I should have.

And that’s what you’re getting with The BadRedhead Media 30-day Book Marketing Challenge: A map that not only defines the best routes to take, but the pitfalls to avoid. She manages to cover the nuances of Twitter, the importance of blogging, an introduction to SEO (A study unto itself), and all the little ins and outs of a world that is markedly different from writing fiction. And, to make it all better, she writes with a natural, easy-to-follow voice.

This is one of those books that’s best to read on a tablet. There’s a paperback version of it out, but the text is filled with links to cool websites, Twitter accounts, blog posts, and various other things. Reading it in paperback might make you look retro-cool, but reading it on a tablet will let you immediately explore the rich link ecosystem built into the book. And that’s something priceless in and of itself.

So, by the time I stumbled across this book, I was already somewhat aware of social media and how to manipulate it to suit my own twisted needs, but there were glaring holes in my knowledge. I wound up spending a bunch of time saying to myself, “Wait. We can do that?”

Just like martial artists practice the simple punch for decades (trust me, almost twenty years in and I’m still finding subtleties in punching), anyone who’s been marketing their own works for a while can always find something new when they look at it through different eyes. So, even if you’re experienced, drop a few bucks and grab a copy of The BadRedhead Media 30-day Book Marketing Challenge. It’s worth the money and the effort to go through the steps, even if it doesn’t take the full thirty days for you to get through it.

2017 Readers’ Favorite Silver Award Winner (Non-Fiction)!
5/5 STARS, Readers Favorite!
4/4 STARS, IndieReader!

THE SINGLE BEST TOOL every writer needs NOW to build, boost, and grow their author platform.

Unsure how to market your book or feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of author platform options out there (or not even sure what the term means)? Ever wish someone could break it down for you in simple steps? 

Then this is the book for you! 

Over the course of one month, Rachel provides you daily challenges containing a wealth of information, and easy to follow assignments to help energize your book sales. If you haven’t released your book yet, this book will help you set the stage necessary to build the strongest foundation possible for success. 

Topics include: 
* Twitter secrets 
* Facebook page must-do’s 
* Social media ideas you might not know or haven’t thought of 
* Promotion, giveaways, and other book marketing secrets 
* Website, blogging, and SEO tips designed just for authors 

All writers, bloggers, and small businesses can benefit can benefit from this guide.

“When it comes to social media marketing for authors, no one knows more than Rachel Thompson. She practices what she preaches and has helped dozens of our authors enjoy significant leaps in their social media standing.”

Steve Bennett, Founder & Creative Director, AuthorBytes 

“This book is an amazing compilation of data and resources that only someone with years of experience could pull together. As a book marketing specialist myself, I’m still blown away by the amazing content Rachel provides. If you’re writing or marketing a book, this is a MUST-HAVE. “

Alexa Bigwarfe, Author Coach & Owner of Kat Biggie Press Digital Media Co.

Buy this book right now and get started. Your only regret is that you waited so long!

I’m normally averse to saying I’m wrong about much of anything, but she’s right; I should have gotten this book earlier.

Get your copy on Amazon

Check out Rachel on Twitter and her associated BadRedHead Media Twitter

BadRedHead’s website

Rachel’s blog

BadRedhead Media’s Facebook page

Book Review – A Grave Magic by Bilinda Sheehan

It’s fairly difficult to trace the roots of urban fantasy back to its roots, but there’s no doubt it’s been an explosive and extremely popular genre. There are those who would say it’s just fantasy for lazy authors, but as I’ve pointed out in the past, building a world that mostly looks like ours but is populated by magicians or dragons or witches is no mean feat.

A Grave Magic takes place in a world that might as well be ours. It’s got cops, criminals, good guys, bad guys, and all the trappings you expect from the mundane world. One would assume it also has hot dog vendors and baseball. But it also has vampires and witches and all manner of paranormal bugaboos. Our guide to this world is a witch named Amber Morgan who is struggling to keep her abilities a secret from a world that has no great love for anything non-human.

And that right there is the little click that makes urban fantasy such a powerful tool: It allows us to explore society without resulting to tedious mumbo-jumbo or overusing words like paradigm.

We all like to think we’d be cool with witches and vampires running around in the real world, but in reality we’d be terrified of them because they’re functionally humans and deep down we all know exactly what we’d be like if we had that kind of power. In that sense, characters like Amber Morgan, who seek to keep their powers contained and at least mostly use them for good, represent the best in our natures. Even as Amber struggles with her own capabilities and what they mean, she tries to do right by a world that would just as soon see her torched and her ashes scattered to the winds.

As I understand it, this is the first of Amber’s adventures, so when you get hooked there are more books out there to read. A Grave Magic is a paranormal romp through some very realistic crimes with characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Sheehan has done a fantastic job of building a world where magic is a thing, vampires and witches are real, and it all still feels perfectly believable. Trust me, that’s not as easy to do as you’d think.

If you like your urban fantasy sassy and bold with just the right amount of humor, this is a good place to start. Personally, I highly enjoyed it.

Darkness can’t always be beaten by the light. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Amber Morgan is a rookie in The Elite, an organisation tasked with the elimination of rogue preternatural beings in King City. But she has a secret. She’s a witch and only joined The Elite to settle a personal score.

Her first case is supposed to be the routine investigation of a rogue vampire but it soon becomes clear that dark forces are at work, darker than anything the team has dealt with in the past.

When an irritatingly sexy Hunter offers to help, Amber wants to say hell no! The last thing she needs is another distraction even if he is sin personified. But with the fate of a missing child at stake and a possible connection between the case and her past, how can she refuse?

Get your copy on Amazon (for less than a buck).

Check out Bilinda’s Facebook page.

Check her out on Twitter.

Book Review – A Stitch In Time by Senan Gil Senan

I like story compilations. Some people hate short story collections for various reasons, but I’ve always enjoyed them. Short stories are a great way for authors to flex their creative muscles and readers get a vehicle to see what an author is capable of. Senan Gil Senan’s newest compilation follows on the heels of Beyond The Pale and The Fifth Seed, both excellent books in their own right, but with A Stitch In Time, Senan has delved headfirst into the magical mysteries of time.

Rather than take the easy way out and wax philosophical about what happens when you change the past or getting into the weeds of the multiverse, he takes the opportunity to examine how time can create and change reality like the loom of a mad-genius weaver. There are six stories in this collection and all of them play with time in some brilliant ways. From the curious case of a man who may or may not be mad to the dark choices that lead an officer to play with time to cover up her mistakes, A Stitch In Time takes you for a ride.

That ride isn’t always easy, but the destination is worth getting to.

Six thought-provoking stories from six different genres bound by one principle – Time.

TIMELESS:
This is a heartfelt story of a child that is left feeling disassociated from life following the physical impact of an explosion and the resultant emotional trauma from the death of his mother. The story of his life unfolds as he recounts it during his final timeless moment, one of the many that befall him, causing the world around him to slow to a standstill. All these timeless moments seem to be inextricably linked in his life and anchored to one seminal event. That being the moment he first falls in love with a soul mate that makes him feel included and at peace with this heartless world which he has always despised.

CLOCKS SLAY TIME: 
A bizarre corruption in his consciousness leaves a man experiencing his life in a non-sequential jumbled order. Despite not being able to remember his name or even where he lives, he manages to get by living only in the moment. Until he encounters a particular girl who by just being in her company, allows him to make sense of his confused existence. This is a love story set against a background of distorted time. The non-sequential order of the chapter numbers reflects this, although this story can also be re-read by following the 11 chapters in sequential number order. It then becomes a completely different story; it is a matter of perspective.EPSILON:
An exorcist encounters a man of whom it is unclear whether he is possessed or suffering from some kind of psychosis. This is a modern horror story which shows how distorted reality can be just as frightening as the depths of hell.HELLO FRIEND: 
When the world’s leading social network rolls out an artificially intelligent App aimed at engaging the lonelier and more socially challenged people in society, strange results enfold. Is this just a clever program or has the artificially intelligent computer program become sentient and is directing events in their lives?
This tale tells the story of a disparate set of characters who without knowledge of each other, become entwined in each other’s lives, like pawns being moved by a chess-master.HOLD THE BRIDGE: 
A female officer is unexpectedly awakened from deep stasis, two and a half years early on a long distance space voyage. She is joined by another crewman who is also oblivious to the reason for their premature awakening. They can return to stasis sleep but decide instead to investigate first, searching for any anomalies or problems that might need their direct intervention. Events induce a sense of paranoia when it becomes evident that they are not alone and an alien entity might be onboard and impersonating both of them. As the senior officer, it is imperative that she secures and holds the Command Bridge of the vessel against all odds.

THE FALL AND RISE OF THE EL: 
The EL is an advanced race of timeless spiritual light beings that think and act collectively and have been assigned a protective role over a particular solar system. They must initiate and oversee the restoration of a frozen planet which once supported much life. Once its ice has retreated, their stewardship requires many of their collective to descend substantially in vibration and take up mortal physicality in order to carry out their duty on the dense planet below. However, divisions in their unity and purpose arise after they opt to manipulate the genetics of one particular species in order to turn them into a helper race of infertile automatons to which they can delegate much of their menial tasks. The heavy density of this world causes the EL many difficulties, one of which is a growing sense of individuality which threatens their collective consciousness. This individuality also threatens to infect the helper race who have been infused with DNA from the EL.

Get your copy on Amazon
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Book Review – Rainbow Monsters by Sylva Fae

Let me stop you right here: this is a children’s book, so if you’re looking for a panoply of colorful monsters tearing things up, you’re in the wrong place. I pitched that idea to Sylva, along with the rest of the plot including aliens, missiles, and gun play, but she felt none of those things were appropriate for younger audiences.

Instead, we get a happy story, full of brightly colored monsters laughing and playing that’s perfect for very young kids. This is the kind of book my son would have loved when he was much younger than he is now and would be much, much easier to read than Fox In Socks.

This is a wonderfully clever book about colors and monsters and activities. The only real downside is my son is now too old to appreciate books like this, but when he was a wee lad it would have been great for learning about colors. The extra activities at the end of the book make it a truly remarkable departure from the normal children’s books that just throw some words and images on the page and call it good. Sylva has put together something that you can not only read to your kids, but interact with them, too.

On a mixed up rainy, sunny day,
The rainbow monsters love to play.

Jump on a cloud and join the rainbow monsters in their fun and games. Come and meet each of the monsters and learn the colours of the rainbow.

Get a copy for the little monster in your life here (paperbacks also available)

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