Ice Cream Man, by Evan Bollinger

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Ice Cream Man was a very different read. It combined all the weird parts horror and strange in precisely the right ways to make the tale itself rather chilling and grotesque.

That being said, I wasn’t overly thrilled with the characterization as the novel progressed. Lacey, the main protagonist, started out with such wonderful potential! She was a hard-working, single mother getting on with her life after her husband’s death. Then her life is turned sideways when her house catches fire and leaves them homeless. It gets even worse when her youngest is landed in the hospital.

Cue in the obligatory, boring, no-chemistry romance. The way the romance was introduced, carried out, and the eventual climax (pun intended) was so obtrusive and unnecessary to the story that I actually had to put it down for a brief period. Lacey, though she was the main protagonist, wound up second-fiddle to saving the day. So, so disappointing.

As individuals, I loved the characters. They were all uniquely different from one another, with their own flaws, fears, dreams, and desires.

The plot itself (the real one, the main one) was actually carried out in an excellent way. The first half was actually a gripping page-turner, because the author dangled just enough hints, and placed them with intent to keep your craving more. The ending was surprisingly pretty awesome, mostly because it was not at all what you’d expect from this genre.

Ice Cream man wasn’t a bad read, it just had some bad elements to the story. Overall I did like it, and it’s definitely worth reading once.

Buy it here!

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Murder in Absentia, by Assaph Mehr

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Murder in-absentia was a surprisingly well-blended bit of magical Roman fantasy, and I mean that quite literally.

We follow the protagonist, Felix the Fox, through a uniquely winding tale of murder and magic. Felix himself is versed in a bit of magic, and uses that to his advantage when the son of a powerful man is found dead under mysterious circumstances. That magic, little as it might be, serves him well throughout his investigation.

If you’re hoping for the typical brand of murder-mystery, drama, and everything in between, this is not your novel. In fact, this reads more like an episode of House than anything. Right up to the ending which, I will admit, I didn’t see coming. There is a fair share of action, to be sure, and Felix engages when he has to, but it isn’t usually his first choice.

Egretia is such a detailed world. Mehr has done an absolutely wonderful job of creating not just an enriched world, but a detailed one at that. In a very Tolkein-esque maneuver, Mehr has provided glossaries, maps, and appendices for almost everything in the novel. The use of Latin throughout the book does call for such a thing, especially for those not well-versed in Roman history or language. The use is sprinkled rather copiously, but it’s not enough to boot you out of the story. Mehr does well enough to provide context clues or direct translations. The attention to historical detail is absolutely wonderful, and it’s such a joy to see authors combining different passions into a novel.

Some of the narrative was a little long and rambling, focusing on providing the reader with precise details of the world, back story, or just gentle observations to help you get to know Felix a little better. It was very well edited, and even the use of first-person wasn’t a boon on the narrative. A little boring sometimes, but that happens.

Murder in-absentia was a pretty good read. It was unique, thought-out, and well researched. I was a little disappointed in the ending, as well as the relative good fortune and lack of character development that Felix maintained throughout. However, I believe this is only the first novel in the series and those are things that could easily be coming for us in future novels.

Buy it here!

Close Encounters of the Rubber Duck Kind, by Vincent Lemon

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As a kid I always imagined all the silly little things that happened on Earth were for one reason: we were some kind of entertainment channel for aliens.

Vincent Lemon brings that thought to life.

We follow Calzone in his attempts at keeping Earths ratings at number one for the Scripter channels, only to be foiled at every turn by competitive creators that want nothing more than to win the Game of Life.

Throughout the book we see Earth history recreated in hilarious, but sensible, ways. Close Encounters even touches on the theory of multiple dimensions. Have you ever wondered why alien sightings always seemed so out of sorts and without definitive proof? Calzone will show you.

The characters were cute and funny, but the vast majority of them all sounded the same to me. Their personalities differed a bit, however with the exception of just a couple, most of the characters could have swapped parts and not changed the story.

The ending felt a little drawn out, as well. All the loose ends were neatly tied up, I will say, so at least it had a purpose instead of being long-winded and drawn out just so the author could hear themself ramble.

All in all, it was an enjoyable story. The plot was excellent and took some twists that I didn’t see coming (and believe me, I tried!). Definitely a read if you’re up for some humorous satire.

Buy it here!

Murder Red Ink, by Mord McGhee

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Mord McGhee has done it again!

In this stunning and positively horrific prequel to his masterpiece “Ghosts of San Fransisco,” Mord has taken the readers to where it all began.

And Jack the Ripper has never been more terrifying.

Ghosts come to life in an era of technology close enough to smell. Joseph is haunted by dreams so real, it’s almost as if he’s there. Allena is on the run for her life, caught up in something much bigger than she realizes. It’s so much bigger than any of us realize. By the time things come to a head, it’s almost too late.

The characters were excellent. Each one had their own voice, their own individuality. Never once did I feel as though they were cardboard cutouts simply going through the motions of their narrative. A heavy change in tone takes place when the settings switch and it will send shivers down your spine. The reactions his word choice evokes is so strong you begin to wonder if you yourself aren’t there, watching, almost…participating.

There were a few errors throughout the book, but not enough to detract from the overall experience. The ending was a fast-paced thriller that sets things up perfectly for the follow-up.

A stunning penchant for murder, lust, and the most brilliant conspiracy theories, Murder Red Ink is like the grisly crime scene you can’t stop staring at.

Buy it here!

 

Clarence. The Snake from Dunolly, by Susan Day

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Cute and simple, just what kids need. Clarence himself embodies everything a child would be: curious, insistent, full of mistakes, and not good at listening to his mother. However, I do believe therein lies a lesson or two for children, which should be a must! The illustrations are adorable as well.

The inconsistency of Clarence’s ‘ssss’ was a little bothersome for an adult reader, but I don’t think children would notice. In fact, I can see most of them trying to imitate poor Clarence!

I thought this was an adorable read and I think kids really would get a kick out of it.

Buy it here!

Out of my Mind, by John E. Petty

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With the exception of one short story, most of the characters have one tone: haughty. Normally this is the kind of thing that doesn’t sit well with me as a reader. However, with the types of tales Petty crafted, as well as the kinds of characters involved, the tone was brilliant. It helped me feel either love or hatred for the narrator and really got me into the stories.

Between word usage and the depth of the research involved with certain tales, this was a roller coaster of emotions from start to finish. I loved it.

If you’re the type that enjoys poetry, there are some unique poems interspersed throughout to allow you to collect yourself and prepare for the next story.

Buy it here!

Dying for the Highlife, by Dave Stanton

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After reading Stateline, I was excited to get my hands on another Dan Reno (that’s pronounced no problem-o) novel, and Dave Stanton doesn’t disappoint.

Hired on by the sexy step-mother of a slimy lottery winner, Dan knows that something’s not right about this case from the get-go. However, he’s on the edge of losing his house, and he doesn’t have the luxury of turning down a job. Bring his friend, ex-cop Cody, into the mix, and you have an adventure that will make you reconsider winning the lottery. Mostly because Dan Reno isn’t the only one looking for Jimmy Homestead, and it’s about to make his life all that more complicated.

One of my favorite things about this novel was how the chapters changed perspective. Told from first person with Dan, but third person with the rest, it was a unique story telling device that never jarred me from the story. It allowed for wide and differing perspectives, like a net slowly being close around its prey. There are many characters to keep track of, but Stanton does a great job differentiating between them. Many of the secondary characters have a depth that makes then ridiculously sympathetic and then you’re wondering why you’re rooting for them to come out on top.

If you’re looking for non-stop, constant action, Dying for the Highlife isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking for an intricate detective story that will keep you guessing and invested in the characters, then this is all you need.

Buy it here!

Do I Bother You at Night?, by Troy Aaron Ratliff

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Do I Bother You at Night is one of those novels with a slow burn, and given the fact that it’s set in a small town in the middle of nowhere (you know the kind I’m talking about) that slow burn feels very appropriate.

It’s listed under horror so you know, that at some point, scary stuff is going to start happening. However, the best part about this book is that you don’t know WHEN it’s going to start happening. That does serve to put one on edge, because it starts off small, and it’s not right off the bat. The novel is so full of amazing imagery that the reader has no question as to what’s going on, and it’s not the kind of imagery that gets old or boring. Ratliff finds ways to describe things with a talent that I don’t think I’ve seen in another author.

Ratliff manages to create a very dynamic main character in Sylvester, a man trying to get back to living after losing the love of his life. He’s struggling. When his new neighbor moves into town, he struggles even more. Where Sylvester was clinging to the precipice of sanity before, he loses his grip and embraces the madness that his life becomes. He’s presented in a way that makes the reader feel immediate empathy, and his character development as the story progresses is beautiful.

However, once I got into the real meat of the story, it simply became creepy and not very horrific. There is a twist that you really, really don’t see coming that is executed brilliantly, but is reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan and Stephen King. It’s done well, but I think it moves the entire story out of the ‘horror’ category.

Buy it here!

Eaten, by

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Eaten was a hilarious metaphor for the constant struggle between eating right and eating what’s convenient. The war on the vegetable kingdom has taken a drastic turn because a handful of vegetables have finally had enough! They’re tired of being hunted and living in poverty–so it’s time to strike back. False propaganda perpetrated by Sodius (a giant salt cloud) and his fellow Gourmans (living cheeseburgers and french fries, ect…) have quelled the human race by making them fat and complacent, unable to really think for themselves (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) The Gourmans encourage the war on the vegetables by promising the humans an instant, perfect solution to their obesity.

Fast-paced, with plenty of action, awesome dialogue, and some startling moments, Eaten was, I think, well-written propaganda in favor of eating better–not shoving a vegetarian lifestyle down your throat. Eaten is also meant to be taken with a grain of salt (see what I did there?). The goofiness that runs rampant in the book sets the right mood for believing in walking celery stalks.The characters were all unique, different, and though working together, constantly learning new things about each other. As a reader, you are drip-fed information about each individual throughout the book rather than all background information right up front, which worked well with the pace of the book and didn’t overwhelm the senses.

Unfortunately, there was an attempt at throwing some romance in there that really didn’t belong. It was awkward, and clunky, and maybe done a little differently it could have added to the story. However, it is something that you forget about almost instantly as the action and the climax of the story continue right for you. Looking forward to seeing what else this author puts out.

Buy it here!

Fate’s Exchange, by Sasha Leigh

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“Fate’s Exchange” is a novel full of love, heartache, sorrow, and so much more.

Not even at the very beginning does this feel like the “coming of age” tale that most Young Adult novels seem to embrace, which was absolutely wonderful. It was more like a teenage version of “Groundhog Day”…only with more, you know, death and dying. And quite a bit of philosophy.

The author spun a tantalizing tale of second chances, what it means to really be a good person, as well as calling upon certain tropes of mythology. If I interpreted things right, it was a blend of both Greek and Christian mythology, and it was absolutely seamless. It played directly into the plot and served as the undercurrent to keep the narrative moving. Although with that undercurrent, I do think that when the romance aspect of the novel popped up, things moved almost too quickly. Everything else was well-paced, however.

I’m not usually big on female protagonists: even women writing women seem to just get them…wrong. I have to say that I fell in love with Alyssa Frank and her unique position in life. She was well-written, well-rounded, and she gives you a lump in your throat when you become privy to everything she has to endure. You read on to the end and then the author gives you something even more tantalizing: a really huge cliffhanger designed to make you toss your book in frustration and weep because the next one has yet to be released.

Buy it here!