Abraham, by Daniel Backer

I sort of feel like I just read someone’s account of their most recent acid trip. There’s a whole lot of weird spirituality that goes on in Abraham, and it stems from a giant gash in the back of his head. No clue where it came from, but it put him in the path of an eccentric monk that’s determined to heal him. However, Tom’s methods and ideas of healing are…suspect.

The first thing that stood out about this novel was the fact that it was written in second person. I think it would have been slightly better utilized if the character that was “you” wasn’t as defined as he was. Abraham was a set character, and it felt out of place to hear him described in second person rather than first or third.

There’s also a lot of weirdness that goes on. Some of it suited the story well—it was meant to be weird and strange and it succeeded there. I felt like scene and time transitions happened at odd times or without much warning and it knocked me out of the story. It was usually pretty quick to recover, but it would take me a while to get back into the flow of the story.

As for the story itself, the premise of the plot was unique. It’s definitely not for everyone, let me go ahead and say that. It was entertaining for sure, and the odd series of events made sense in weird ways. The characters were odd, and by the time you reached the end, you’re left wondering if any of them were even real. Or wondering if you yourself are real.

This novel had its good and bad. I’m all about different—I try to go out of my way to celebrate that fact when I come across it. This novel was definitely very different, and mostly in the right ways. However, I feel as though there were some areas that could be improved to build upon the strengths already present.

Advertisements

Perfectly Normal, by Amy Martin

I’m going to be honest: when I started this novel, I thought it was going to be a very generic body-swap-girl-and-boy-fall-in-love type deal.

I’m so happy it wasn’t. In fact, right about halfway point, the novel took everything I thought it was and shattered that image.

When one of their friends goes missing, Rachel and Ellie go to investigate. Rachel wakes up inside the body of one of the “perfects,” and an old friend. Between Ellie and Dani’s boyfriend, they’re bound and determined to find out what happened: and the answer is the most shocking thing they’ve ever heard.

The beginning was very much like many young adult novels. The “popular” girls, the “outsiders,” the “hot boyfriend caught in the middle.” There were a lot of tropes present and they followed the formula for a blossoming romance to a T. The twist that follows was one I didn’t see coming, and it was really good.

The actual premise of the novel was good. It made sense for all the characters and it was a good plot device for their relationships and development. There is a noticeable difference between all of them at the end. I liked the way it forced them together and made them work with each other. For the most part, the characters all had their own unique voice and personality. There were moments where things felt a little flat. Dialogue helped things along, though.

The plot-twist world-building was done well. I’m trying to not give it away because it was really good and it fit well into the narrative. I liked how it got the parents involved, and how well thought-out it was. It did well for the overall tone of the novel.

There were a few moments where things stalled out, but things really came together at the end and it ended on such a good cliffhanger. For sure excited for the next in the series.

No Man Left Behind, by R. G. Miller

A killer is stalking Vietnam vets and murdering them in the most horrific manner. Toni and Isis, NYPD detectives try to slog their way through rats, subways, and a crazed killer that will stop at nothing until they’re all dead.

Once you get past the awkward opening, the plot catches the readers’ attention and keeps them there through the remaining rough patches. The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that the main characters were a lesbian couple. They were done well, and things like the sexuality spectrum were frequently talked about and used as inner conflict in a tasteful manner. Now, given the fact that the setting is NYC, there should, by default, be a certain level of racially diversity. The author made extra sure to accomplish that, no questions asked. As far as characters went, I really liked them all. They were done well, they meshed well, and they all served appropriate roles for either plot progression or conflict.

There’s definitely opportunity for editing. There’s some real awkward dialogue that doesn’t fit with the flow of things. Scene progression and change got choppy sometimes, which made them jarring. While I liked the ending, I still had many, many questions about things that were brought up or happened earlier in the story that didn’t get tied up. They felt forgotten and lost. There was a whole lot of info dumping that went on, especially at the beginning while the author was trying to establish the characters. It was a lot to be thrown at once.

For its flaws I still enjoyed the story. I think this could really shine with some extra editing. I adored Toni and Isis, their relationship, and would love to see what other stories they have to tell.

Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body, by Simon Petrie

A detectives job is always significantly worse when the investigation involves those of wealthy backgrounds. For one reason or another, there just always seems to be something sinister and off about them. Tanja Morgenstein’s apparent suicide is causing Guerline Scarfe a serious headache, mostly because nothing is as it seems on Titan.

Okay, first of all, awesome setting for a detective story. Titan, and I assumed it’s the one we all know and love as Saturn’s moon, was where all of this took place, which makes this a sci-fi detective story. And the science fiction aspect is wonderful. Technical, without being overwhelming or jargon-heavy, so that casual sci-fi fans could also enjoy.

As far as the mystery genre goes, another point for this novel. The pacing seemed right, and the reader was drip-fed enough information to let them draw their own conclusions without holding their hand.

Scarfe was a wonderful protagonist to follow. She didn’t really follow many of the stereotypes present in either the mystery/detective genre, nor much in science fiction, either. I also can’t say that much stood out with her—she wasn’t a super-genius, a “hero”, or anything like that—she just was. And I think that’s what made her so appealing to me. She was well-suited for the nature of the novel.

Speaking of, the nice ended on an excellent cliffhanger. The author crafted their book to keep the readers turning pages, and it worked like a charm. I’m so looking forward to the next installment of the series.

The Dream Recorder, by C. M. Haynes

Life after death is certainly more exciting than Abby could have hoped for. Being a Dream Recorder means that she watches and records dreams. At least, until something goes awry and suddenly they’re inside the Dreamscape, affecting billions of people worldwide.

The novella is a rather delightful one, featuring a wonderful cast of characters and a well-executed plot. Everything felt smooth from start to finish. The world was planned well and the writing style suited it excellently. There were so many creative, nuanced things that helped enhance the narrative and keep the reader incredibly interested. I had a hard time putting it down.

I will say there are some minor edits needed, mostly involving tense change from past to present. However the rest of the novella is pure quality so those factors can be overlooked.

Definitely a good read. I enjoyed it very much.

Sleep Savannah Sleep, by Alistair Cross

It’s very rare for the ending of a mystery novel to surprise me. I’m pleased to announce that this one did.

After the death of his wife, Jason moves to Shadow Springs with his two kids. No foreshadowing in the name, right? Small towns hold such ominous secrets, and Jason’s about to find out just how devastating they can be.

This was a pretty nice blend of both horror, suspense, and mystery. Time and effort were put into creating a compelling and well-paced mystery. The clues were all there, but they were expertly placed and not very obvious. I liked that a lot. It made the twist at the end even more shocking.

Jason, now a single father, was a very dynamic character. I liked how the author addressed the struggles of becoming the “mom” figure and dealing with a hurting family. Things were done tastefully and realistically. Family dynamics were done much the same way, too. Things were very believable, and it was easy to see a bit of familiarity in the way they interacted.

The overall plot was done well. I felt as though things progressed in a logical manner, even if things felt a little slow. The slowness came from getting to know important characters to make them stand out rather than just be bland and boring.

Development was an essential part of each character. It helped them come alive. Even the minor characters were treated with the same priority.

I did wind up having one or two questions at the end, but they were relatively minor in relation to the overall story. I felt like, for the most part, they didn’t affect anything and most readers would be very satisfied by the way things wrap up.

Madam Tulip, by David Ahern

2_1_18 Madam Tulip

4 stars

 

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

Aiming for the high-flying life of an actress, Derry’s quest isn’t going so well. With a bit of help from her pre-cognitive abilities, Derry dons the alter ego of Madam Tulip after a bit of luck at the race tracks. Things went a little awry at the party she performed at, and now Derry’s trying to prove her friend’s innocence…with a little help from her abilities, of course.

 

I felt like Madam Tulip had a little bit of everything—except for romance, really, but that was alright in my book. Derry’s character and her subsequent development were more than okay without it. I digress, however. The book had mystery, intrigue, drama at the celebrity level, drug lords…man, Madam Tulip’s life was not boring. I was happy to see that the author significantly nerfed Derry’s pre-cognition. It helped add challenge to the story, though it was hard to maintain.

 

The mystery was a fairly linear, straightforward one. There were a couple of twists here and there—even with limitations applied, some abilities allow for things to get too easy. There were moments that felt easy, but the way they pushed along the novel was nice. So, there was a balance to find and sometimes it slipped in one direction and then the other.

 

I liked the characters; Derry’s father especially. I really enjoyed their relationship. It was weird, but at the same time felt realistic. And, I’ll be honest, it’s pretty hilarious. I won’t say he was used as comic relief, but certainly used as a tool to diffuse tension and bring a character or scene back to something of an equilibrium.

 

This was a cute story with some neat settings. Likeable and relatable characters were at the forefront of this novel. A worthwhile read.

 

Buy it here!

The Lyons Orphanage, by Charlie King

1_31_18 Lyons Orphanage.jpg

stars-3-0._CB192240710_

 

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

A rather slow-paced mystery, Lyon’s Orphanage centered around Sam, a young orphan that can read minds. He’s been there a lot long than he probably should have. The mystery deepens when Sam thinks to ask why he hasn’t been adopted yet. Now the kids are facing more than just a shutdown of their home.

As far as mysteries go, this one was rather predictable, albeit done fairly well. The kids were compelling characters, though they didn’t really sound their age, which threw me off as a reader. They all sounded like super-polite grownups. I kept picturing this weird amalgamation of a kid and an adult and it just got weird. Things remained pretty level and calm throughout the book. Even the scenes that were supposed to be heart-pounding felt pretty even-toned, lacking a voice of drama.

The mystery was still a compelling one. Sam and his friends were delightful characters with cute, interwoven story lines. I liked what the story lines meant to the characters, and how they aided in progressing the narrative.

There’s little to no action, most of the story being told through long bouts of dialogue or exposition. This certainly contributed to the slow pacing of the novel.

Editing is needed, but overall it was a pretty cute book. It almost feels like it has the start to its own little mini-series. I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters again.

 

Buy it here!

Icarus, by David Hulegaard

1_30_18 Icarus.jpg

4 stars

 

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!

 

Whatever ending I expected, Icarus did not follow. The storyline veered hard to the right in an interesting way that will surely suck readers right in.

 

After a young girl goes missing, her friend hires Miller Brinkman, P.I. to investigate. What he finds begins a crazy adventure that pushes the bounds of the genre.

 

Aside from Miller sounding like a neckbeard on occasion (“I tipped my Fedora…”) he was a very likeable character. For a mystery novel it progressed in a patient manner that aided the narrative and didn’t give too much away. The foreshadowing was pretty on point as the book managed to hold everything to the end.

 

The mystery itself was also a rather riveting one. Things certainly were what they seemed like at the beginning. That’s what mysteries are for, though, right? At the heart of it were good characters. They were different from each other, with their own voices and their own role to play in the narrative.

 

I liked the way the style transitioned to accommodate the supernatural themes. It definitely had an X-Files theme to it towards the end.

 

While the novel and singular mystery wrapped up nicely at the conclusion, it ended on such a cliffhanger. And it was a good one, done in just the right way with enough tension to still make the reader feel a little anxious. I genuinely enjoyed it. I would love to read the sequels.

 

Buy it here!

A Life Removed, by Jason Parent



Don’t forget to check out my Patreon!
There’s so much I want to say about this novel, I’m not even sure where to begin. There were so many layers and nuances to it that I could not put it down once I started. 
There’s a killer on the loose, carving out hearts and leaving the bodies on display. Aaron’s a good cop. He really is. But once he gets involved in the gruesome murders, his life is literally downhill from there. 
First things first, as a crime novel, I was really satisfied with how things were set up. Things started off vague, to keep both readers and cops guessing. Then the foreshadowing started to trickle in. “Aha!” the reader says, “I’ve got the whodunnit…what now?” Oh, boy. Let me tell you what now. Things explode. I mostly mean the narrative, of course. It expands and then turns itself on its head. I really liked both of the twists at the end. 
There were a lot of psychological and religious themes throughout. Both were tied heavily to morality and it’s grayness. I don’t mean peppered here or there; they were the main themes. Both were explored thoroughly through the narrative. They were both used in conjunction with each other to make their necessary points. What surprised me the most was how well-researched they appeared to be. And, throughout, the narrative remained respectful for all walks of life. 
Now, characters, because what’s a story without them? Relationships are put to the test. Some bend, some break, some are formed. Some are brought into question and re-examined when morality is threatened. There was quite a bit of development to go around, some good, others bad. I really liked how well done the “bad” character development was. It’s something that not a lot of novels choose to undertake. I was so happy that this one did. The police force was fallible, realistically so. It really, really made for a good story. It kept things from feeling too easy. 
I also enjoyed the realism of the police work. It allowed the reader to keep their attention focused on plot and story progression rather than fanciful detectives that miraculously know everything. It wasn’t boring. It didn’t feel overdone. Yet it was still realistic. 
I could honestly go on about this novel, so I should probably stop. If crime fiction with a bit of horror is your bag, please pick up this book and read it. I promise it will be worth your while. 
Buy it here!