Friday, July 24, 2015

Grief, Recovery and the Drama in Between

The Guilty One
by Sophie Littlefield
304 pages
$11.99 Kindle version
 
A man stands on the Golden Gate Bridge, poised to jump…if a woman on the other end of the phone tells him to.

Maris’s safe suburban world was shattered the day her daughter was found murdered, presumably at the hands of the young woman’s boyfriend. Her marriage crumbling, her routine shattered, Maris walks away from her pampered life as a Bay Area mom the day she receives a call from Ron, father of her daughter’s killer. Wracked with guilt over his son’s actions (and his own possible contribution to them), he asks Maris a single question: should he jump?

With a man’s life in her hands, Maris must decide, perhaps for the first time, what she truly wants. Retribution? Forgiveness? Or something more? Having lost everything, she’s finally free to recreate herself without the confining labels of “wife,” “mother,” or “mourner.” But will this shocking offer free her, or destroy her?


Even though this is a work of fiction, it makes you think about what goes on behind the headlines of a violent murder. Readers are shown how the aftermath affects two married couples, parents of the convicted and the victim, couples who have known each other for years. The POVs are divided between Maris, mother of the victim, and Ron, father of the convicted. The story begins when Ron offers to kill himself to appease Maris. With one phone call, both of them realize that, although they had already felt shattered beyond words, they only recently hit rock bottom.

I noticed that while Ron and Maris had similar ways of dealing with their grief, essentially shutting down and shutting everyone else out, the outcomes of their choices are radically different. There are many times when I feel that Ron is also a victim, particularly when his wife Deb decides to push for an appeal, dragging both families back into the spotlight. Maris, meanwhile, struggles to find something solid to hold onto...something about her struggle was more interesting to me than Ron's family drama. I really wanted Maris to find some happiness, but I wasn't sure Ron would ever find peace.

There isn't anything particularly outstanding about this novel, but there is just enough suspense about the circumstances of the murder, as well as the connection Ron has with Maris, to keep the drama rolling along at a steady pace. If I had to pick one theme to describe this book, I would describe it as story about starting over...beginning from scratch at a time when a person believes major life changes are a thing of the past.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Sedition

Sedition
by Katharine Grant
$12.99 Kindle version
302 pages
The setting of Sedition by Katharine Grant: London, 1794.
The problem: Four nouveau rich fathers with five marriageable daughters.
The plan: The young women will learn to play the piano, give a concert for young Englishmen who have titles but no fortunes, and will marry very well indeed.
The complications: The lascivious (and French) piano teacher; the piano maker's jealous (and musically gifted) daughter; the one of these marriageable daughters with a mating plan of her own.

I've never read anything quite like this, and that is saying something. I literally have no other titles in mind that I could compare Sedition to - it is THAT original. It is an unsettling story about sex, money, status, and how mixing all three can have extremely violent results. BUT, it's unsettling in that exciting way that had me rushing through the book to find out how everything set in motion would affect the lives of the main characters.

Strangely enough, it is music of all things that ties all their lives together. Not just learning to play the pianoforte, as the book's description states, but the passions that music inspires and creates. In addition to the multi-layered plot, the author provides rich detail throughout the entire story, making every scene that more delicious and disturbing at the same time.

When you finish reading Sedition, you'll be left wondering if it was ever truly about the pianoforte.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More Like An Ugly Truth

A Beautiful Truth
by Colin McAdam
305 pages
$9.99 Kindle version
Looee isn't human, but after living with a human family for over a decade, he can no longer relate to his own species. Mr. Ghoul has grown up with a group of chimpanzees that have been studied for more than one generation, but he also has had difficulties socializing with his own kind. Despite the many differences in their upbringings, Looee and Mr. Ghoul are kindred spirits. Will their connection be enough to keep them both alive?

I don't think the title fits at all. There is nothing beautiful in this book, just lots of ugliness, but it's a captivating story and I'm glad that I read it all the way through. I had my doubts, at first, because the beginning is written like lyrics from a Talking Heads song (Once In A Lifetime) - I could even hear the story being narrated in David Byrne's voice. It is told in third person, moving frequently from one POV to the next, giving the reader insight that the characters don't have, but I didn't feel drawn to the story until the various chimp POVs were included. It was strange to feel more connected to the chimps than the humans. (The loose, random writing style left a LOT to be desired.)

The story follows the life of Looee, a chimp captured as baby, raised by a childless human couple. After 14 years with no serious incidents, something devastating changes all of their lives, and Looee is sent to a primate research facility. The living conditions of the test animals is deplorable. I realize this is a work of fiction, but there are scenes that I could hardly stomach, regardless of how the scientists justify their actions. The author does a great job of highlighting the ugliness of animal testing, without the condemnation of the human race that often accompanies this subject matter.

I don't think this is a novel that is going to appeal to a wide range of people, and yet it's one of those stories that is so radically different from most fiction, I think readers should at least attempt to tackle this one. Also, a portion of the novel's sales will go to the chimpanzee sanctuary, Save the Chimps, so it's reading for a cause.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday: ZOMBIES

Zombie: The Other Fright Meat
edited by Matt Nord
195 pages
$2.99 Kindle version
Many of the best authors in the genre are in this anthology:

CICADA by Patrick D'Orazio features a timeline that moves with the 17yr life cycle of cicadas in a local area - fabulous hook! And an excellent start to the collection!

THE ZOMBIE PRINCE by James S Dorr is written like a fairytale of the undead. The Grimm Brothers would be disturbed.

FIDAY NIGHT AT THE CHA-CHA GRILL by Matthew R Davis has a unique description of zombies, and an unusual take on how the zombie virus spread.

GREED by Jeffrey A Angus is a great tale of what characters should NOT do...ever.

BRIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by Thomas M Malafarina has a very different POV that I really enjoyed as a fan of the genre.

CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED by Monique Snyman has a real sweet touch with the vaccination angle in this story.

A GOOD FATHER by Suzanne Robb is extremely disturbing - the way horror is SUPPOSED to be.

NO TIME FOR POETS by William RD Wood is one of my favorites in this anthology; I loved how the author connected the past and present in a post-apocalyptic world. Nice job.

HOW TO DISAPPEAR INTO A ZOMBIE KILLING MACHINE AND NEVER BE FOUND AGAIN by David Perlmutter elicited zero sympathy from me; I really hated the character telling the story.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE AGENT DEAL: A.S.P.A.R.C. STORY by Jason T Countryman is THE MOST UNPREDICTABLE story in the collection.

SAFE by Matt Nord: shame on you, Nord, for teasing readers with such a short piece and not lasting longer!!

BEMOANED, INC. by TL Decay is a story that I could see happening, seriously. Be concerned. Be very concerned.

YOUTUBE: PUNCHING ZOMBIE by Candace Gleave is HILARIOUS! I feel bad about how much I liked this story.

LIEUTENANT JAVORSKY AND HIS ZOMBIE-COMMANDOS by Sean T Page would make a GREAT movie. Get on that, Page.

THE ZOMBIE ARE DUE ON MAPLE STREET by Dale Elster actually gave me a nightmare!

DAY 96 by Matthew Shafeek is a nice bit of flash fiction.

SKELETOWN by Jason M Bloom is one of the most nightmarish, in a VERY perverse way.

FAITHFULLY by Steven McGuire is an entertaining revenge tale.

A NIGHT IN THE ATTIC by Robin Eduardo is told through a child's POV.

Overall, a fantastic collection of all the new directions that authors are taking the zombie genre!

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Keep A Barf Bag Nearby

Evolution of the Dead
by R.M. Smith
484 pages
$.99 Kindle version
I love the initial concept of this novel: something locked away in our DNA is set free by a couple of scientists who think the anomaly is what should have been our natural evolution. The initial outbreak occurs in Orlando, Florida, just in time for the July 4th weekend, and the infection is spread by a mere touch. In other words, everyone is totally screwed.

Carmen has the ability to sense something bad about to happen, and when she gets one of her feelings, she can only watch as the domino effect takes the life of her boyfriend. Scott and Kim are the only two to escape a parking garage that has become a death trap for everyone else. Janet jumps in Nick's car, and the two barely break away from a hellish traffic jam. Eventually, the survivors converge on the same truck rental location for sanctuary, but the infection has already beaten them there.

The details of the infection are so graphic, I was gagging through most of the story. As soon as I saw the word "worms," it was all over for me. Especially when the virus evolves to become more potent. The likelihood of becoming one of the dead is so high, I had little to no hope for the characters, especially when Carmen because severely injured, and the group turns on one another. If you read this novel, abandon all hope.

R.M. Smith gets points for setting up such a bleak and grotesque outbreak scenario, but he loses points for the lack of depth in his characters. Without proper character development, the story is a little flat, even with all the action. I would have liked to see Smith do more with Carmen's sixth sense and I think her hobbling around with broken bones isn't realistic (I had a broken foot and there is no bloody way I could jump, climb, etc. the way Carmen does). Nick is a mystery; he talks about his pregnant girlfriend, while being a complete pig to the female survivors, not to mention the other horrible things that he does throughout the story...I would have liked to know why his personality is so dualistic. Janet didn't have much personality at all, and Scott and Kim are, well, Scott and Kim.

Considering how long the novel is, I think Smith had plenty of space to do more with his main characters. He also could have skipped the side stories with the supporting characters, and just focused on the core group.

All things considered, I was entertained, and that's all I really ask for with my undead. Beware if you have a weak stomach, but enjoy otherwise.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Monday, July 13, 2015

Coming of Age Is Never Easy

Girl In The Woods
by Aspen Matis
384 pages
$13.99 Kindle version
Let me begin by stating that I do not believe a rape victim should be blamed or shamed at all. Period. I also do not believe that surviving a rape makes a woman stronger...the rape victims that I know personally happen to be strong women, but I know all too well how their rapes still affect them years later, and I wouldn't be stupid enough to tell them that they are better, stronger women because they were able to rebuild their lives after a rape.

I want to make it perfectly clear that any critical comments that I have about this book and/or author has NOTHING to do with the rape itself, although the rape is a big part of the reason the author decided to make this journey and write her memoir. However, I do not think her personal journey on the Pacific Coast Trail is limited to her healing process because of the sexual assault.

This is a coming of age memoir. This is a young woman sharing the painful process of growing up: establishing her boundaries in all of her relationships (especially with her mother) and learning to enforce those boundaries. She is not only discovering who she is, instead of measuring her value based on the opinions of others, but she is also learning to see herself with a new and healthier frame of mind. Unfortunately, she is, at times, her own worst enemy...some of her biggest obstacles, she creates herself.

As far as the writing style itself, I found it to be quite repetitive in many places. For example, throughout the book, she keeps brining up the fact that her mother was still dressing her (bra and all) into high school. Her mother's smothering and sheltering behavior was already well-established in the beginning, when the author describes what her life was like before the rape. She revisits the same dysfunctional themes over and over in the book, but I didn't really see much progression in her thought process or changes in her behavior until she had finally neared the end of her journey. And, even then, she still seemed to have missed the point of establishing her independence. (She seemed pretty dependent on Dash, considering how new that relationship is. It also bothered me that she has no problem with her parents spending vast amounts of money on her, but she doesn't want to be treated like child.)

I'm not sure how much of an influence the writing style had on my opinion of the author herself, but I feel she spends a great deal of time on the PCT being self-centered, self-destructive and she refuses to take responsibility for her decisions and actions, instead placing blame on everyone else around her, particularly her mother. The author often uses the behavior of others as an excuse to act out. Her binge drinking is a perfect example. She gets drunk several times, finds herself in compromising situations, even acknowledging that perhaps she shouldn't have been drinking at all, but it's always somehow the fault of everyone but her. I am not referring to the male hikers trying to take advantage of her, I am referring to the way she alienates everyone around her. She blames them, but doesn't take into consideration that maybe they didn't want to be around a girl who is so drunk, she is crawling around on the ground.

In another example, she runs out of water, nearly dies of dehydration, and, even though her mother isn't on the PCT with her, it's her mother's fault for babying her for so long. She knows that she should have refilled her water-bottles when she had the chance, but she doesn't accept full responsibility. And, instead of learning from that near-death experience, she makes the same mistake again when she runs out of food. She also blames her awkward interactions with other hikers on the hikers themselves, rather than admitting her own lack of socialization skills is most likely the source of friction. She is so judgmental of the other hikers, while complaining any time she feels someone is judging her, I wish I could find out what the other hikers had to say about their interactions with her.

On a more personal note: I think she might have gotten more out of her journey on the PCT if she had stayed sober. I know she sought help for the sexual assault, but I hope she was able to get her drinking under control. It seemed to be a huge crutch for her, as well as an obstacle to making real connections with other people.

Up until now, I've been calling her "the author," but I have a reason: her pen name is Aspen Matis, but that is not her given name in the beginning of her memoir. It seemed confusing at first, but I enjoyed the eventual explanation towards the end. I also appreciate the confidence she has in her writing, and I think that is the one thing she was absolutely correct about: she is a great author. Too bad it was so difficult to see beyond the self-centered martyr she made herself to be.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some Skeletons Refuse To Stay In The Closet

The Night Sister
by Jennifer McMahon
336 pages
$10.99 Kindle version
This novel is amazing! I was just looking for a good mystery-thriller, but this story has elements of several sub-genres, which I won't mention because I am afraid of revealing spoilers. I was very impressed with the organization of the story: the timeline moves back and forth between the 1950s, the 1980s and the present...basically encompassing three generations. The POV switches often as well, but the sections are always labeled by year and person, so it's impossible for the reader to get confused or lost.

The drama begins with two sisters, Rose and Sylvie, who are as different as night and day in the 1950s, and one suspects the other of keeping a terrible secret. At first I thought the author was using misdirection to lead readers away from what might be obvious to most, but the family secrets come in layers. These layers start to unravel in the 1980s with Amy, daughter of Rose, and her two friends, Piper and Margot, when they make a startling discovery that becomes the undoing of their childhood friendship. As adults, Piper and Margot decide to uncover all the details of Amy's family secret after Amy is suspected of slaughtering her entire family just days after she reached out to Margot for help. The truth, as hard as it to believe, might be the death of all involved with the family's motel and the mysterious tower on the property.

I've never heard of Jennifer McMahon before this novel, but she has made me a fan with this dark mystery-thriller. The inclusions of Sylvie's letters to Alfred Hitchcock are perfect and a great way to emphasize the classic horror within these pages. The best part: this is one of those novels that I can recommend to anyone - you just have to enjoy great storytelling.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Worst. Nightshift. Ever.

The Rail Yard Apparitions
by Samuel Brower
59 pages
FREE for limited time!
I enjoyed Works of Fiction so much, I decided I would just go ahead and feature Brower in another Saturday post. He has a way of telling a story that makes readers feel like they are experiencing the story, not just reading about it. Brower's stories also evoke a wide range of emotions, ranging from fear and revulsion to curiosity and amusement.

The Rail Yard Apparitions had me completely enthralled from one page to the next, and it has a clever ending which is a bit of a teaser. I could completely relate to Ben Suarez, a college student who needs the job, even if it's not the ideal work environment. However, Ben has bigger problems than an asshole for a boss or complaining customers - he has to face the horrific past events of the rail yard.

This novella has all the elements of classic horror, as well as the writing style I've come to expect from Brower. (I only recently started reading his short stories, but I have yet to be disappointed.) I wouldn't mind a follow-up. In the meantime, I look forward to more short stories from Samuel Brower.

As always,
AstraDaemon

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Do The Time, Spend The Dime

Ghost
by Laura Cardinal
248 pages
$2.99 Kindle version
This was going to be  review of the ghost story I read last night, but I don't have much to say.

This story reads like a rough draft of a young adult fiction novel. The beginning is slow, almost dull, with little to no character development. The mystery of the school's apparent haunting is a great concept, but the author should have invested in a an editor to help with, well, everything. I don't think anyone with a reading level above 6th grade is going to find this particular ghost story frightening or captivating.

It had the potential to at least be something interesting, but, no such luck. I don't understand why an author would devote so much time to writing a full-length novel, only to skip out on hiring an editor - not necessarily for typos or even grammar, but mainly to help cultivate the plot into something entertaining.

If you don't think you need an editor, read Ghost...that disappointed feeling? Do you really want readers to feel that when they read your work?

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Throwback Thursday Book Review

The Reanimation of Edward Schuett by Derek J. Goodman is the most incredible zombie concept that I've read since Kim Paffenroth's Dying to Live series; Edward shambled through my dreams for several nights, after I finished reading the novel. I just couldn't stop thinking about the story - I've never even heard of Goodman before this, but he has my undying attention now.

Not only is Edward a thinking zombie, but he still has some memories of his previous life, as well as some amazing new abilities that appear to be an anomaly among the undead. In the opening of the story, Edward suddenly gains self-awareness, as well as flashbacks to both his life as a human and a thoughtless zombie, and begins a journey to discover what happened to him. He is both devastated and shocked to find out that he has been wandering as one of the undead for about fifty years. The discovery only leads to more questions. After being captured by living survivors, the news of his exceptional nature travels to several different interest groups: one wants to help him find his answers, another wants him dead.

There wasn't a cliff-hanger, and the novel appears to be able to stand alone, but I would love Good man to consider writing a sequel. I became so engrossed with some of the supporting characters - specifically Rae, a security guard that tries to protect Edward - that I would love to know what becomes of them after their encounter with Edward. However, I was satisfied with the ending; I thought Goodman did a great job of tying up the loose ends without rushing through the details.

The Reanimation of Edward Schuett adds a whole new level to the role of survivor.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Even The Best Of Us Have The Worst Problems

Sad Wings of Destiny
by Thom Brannan
360 pages
$.99 Kindle version
There comes a time for a superhero when punching a bad guy in the face just isn't enough.

Spring-Heeled Jack has reached that point. Not that he doesn't enjoy the way his nanotech-enhanced fists have made their mark on the underworld, but he knows he could do so much more. His partner, the Archon, knows Jack means well, but he doesn't have the answers he needs to make a decision, and the archangel Uriel, to whom he is bound, has been silent on the matter.

Their boundaries are stretched to the limit when a new supervillain appears on the scene and changes the way the game is played. Some bad guys want to be rich, some want to rule the world... the Tyrant wants to bring an end to everything... and he's got the means to do it.

Spring-Heeled Jack and the Archon will save the day, of that there is no question. But what will be the cost? Ideals and people will be cast to the side, and when the time comes, a terrifying choice must be made. This is what happens when the abyss gazes back.

About a week ago, I was on schedule with my reviews...and pretty much everything else that I had going on. Then I agreed to review Sad Wings of Destiny by Thom Brannan, which effectively train-wrecked my personal and professional life. Never have I spent so long reading any one novel, and never have I had so many mixed feelings about a story.

I hated this story so much in the beginning, I was trying to figure out how to break it to Brannan...how could I give a bad review to one of my favorite authors? Luckily, I have this policy: I do not write a book review unless I have read the entire book. (You would be surprised at how many reviewers do not complete the books that they review.) It seems only fair, but it's also been my experience that some stories with horrible beginnings have the world's greatest endings.

In the case of Brannan's latest masterpiece, the hook with Jacob/Stephen is one of the most exquisite character reveals that I've read in any genre. I was instantly drawn to that character, even though I had a lot of difficulty getting into the story itself. I'm not really into superheroes or supervillains in literature - movies, sure, but not when it comes to my reading material. However, between Brannan's reputation, the title and the unusual timeline (starts in present, jumps back seven years, then progresses forward one year at a time, until readers are brought back to the exact moment that we are introduced to the two main characters), I was expecting something dramatic.

What I was not expecting was the ridiculously slow pace. I don't know how it's possible to have that much action, and still feel like the story is crawling from one page to the next. During the first fifty pages, I tried reading as fast as I could, just to get it over with, kind of like ripping off a Band-Aid. The characters are described well-enough, but I found their personalities to be lacking, and the initial interactions/relationships seemed superficial. It was like watching a movie that I couldn't get into...until I read a couple of years into the timeline.

It wasn't until Jack and Archon were trying to help Alien Grey that I finally began to care what happened to them. The more "Ultras" that were introduced, the more interesting the story became. At one point, I thought maybe it was the format...maybe this novel should have been a graphic novel. Regardless of my initial negative feelings towards this story, there was never any doubt in my mind that Brannan knows how to create heroes and villains. His originality is impressive, even by comic book standards.

About 100 pages in, the story absolutely rocks! From Part Five (three years before the starting point in the timeline) onward, it's as if Brannan changed his writing style. The second half of the book is far, far more exciting than the first half. If you're like me, and have difficulty digging into the storyline, have patience and you will be rewarded with a spectacular drama that incorporates science fiction, fantasy and horror in ways you've never imagined.

The ending was enough to make me howl in despair, but in a good way. I'm not likely to forget this literary journey anytime soon.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saturday Shorts: Samuel Brower

Works of Short Fiction
by Samuel Brower
192 pages
$1.49 Kindle version
"Nine works of short fiction by speculative fiction author Samuel Brower, spanning the sub-genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism, and also including a few mashups of these. Brower’s fast-paced and action-packed style of writing will keep you on the edge of your seat during the action scenes, while the more dramatic scenes will warm your heart."

What I love most about this collection is the different locations, time periods and genres among the stories:

A HUNTING IN BALTIMORE, featuring a paranormal investigator, has some frightening moments, and I really liked the character.

A PECULIAR BREW is my favorite in this anthology. It's a beautiful story about a grouchy old man with cancer and his young autistic neighbor.

TARA'S GRAVE is a great piece of vengeful flash fiction.

BENEATH THE WEAVING HILLS SANITARIUM is a supernatural story that didn't interest me as much as the others.

AMONG THIEVES is a very clever and original story about justice.

APRIL FOOLS is another story with paranormal investigator H.H. Horowitz.

LOT 113: BUDDHA STATUE IN LOTUS POSE is a story that I read before, and it's still creepy the second time around.

THE TERROR AT RED RIVER GORGE is about camping gone horribly wrong.

OAF is another one that I've read before, and it is an excellent way to end the anthology.

I already have another of Brower's anthologies on my reading list, so I definitely think horror fans should read his work.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Friday, July 3, 2015

Stormy Waters Ahead

The Ferry
by Amy Cross
138 pages
$2.99 Kindle version
It shouldn't be a surprise that I'm a fan of Amy Cross. I interviewed her in May after reading several of her stories. So, I got real excited when Cross released another awesome horror story called The Ferry.

An unmarked ferry that appears from time to time off the British coast has been eluding contact for years, until the night a huge storm strikes and a rescue team reaches out to the mystery vessel.

Sophie Carpenter uses the opportunity to answer the questions that have been tormented her for the past five years, after failing to rescue a family. She learns the hard way that the answers we seek are not always the answers that we want. When something washes ashore from the ferry, Sophie is pulled into nightmare that she cannot wake from.

The Ferry is basically a horror novel about a ghostly vessel that has eluded capture for generations and the two people who finally manage to get on-board, which includes Miss Carpenter.

The prologue begins five years in the past with Sophie, and it sets the tone for the rest of the story quite well. Sophie wants so badly to help people, but she often puts herself in harm's way, and eventually her risk-taking comes back to haunt her - literally. I wasn't sure if this was going to be a ghost story or a paranormal zombie outbreak, and the unpredictable nature of this story is very entertaining. The ending is an absolute shocker; I didn't see it coming at all. This would make a fantastic movie, but Hollywood will probably just make another crappy remake of The Fog.

Amy Cross is one of those horror authors that writes something for everyone, so please have a look at her work...I'm sure you'll find something to give you nightmares. ;)

As always,
AstraDaemon

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday Book Review

Phoenix
by C. Dulaney
291 pages
$5.99 Kindle version
When I first started reading this, I thought, "Oh for crying out loud! Psychics?! Really?! Way to ruin a great zombie series..." I am not normally a fan of anything that I perceive as supernatural being mixed with my zombie lit. (Yeah, the irony is not lost on me. LOL) So, I was almost hostile when I began reading this novel. I was positive I was going to hate it, and I would be put off of Dulaney's writing forever. Boy, was I wrong!

First of all, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT, do NOT read Phoenix until AFTER you have read the other three books in the series. It will make a HUGE difference in what you get out of this novel. As a fan, I would get really excited when I recognized characters from the other books making cameos.

You don't really get as much character depth as you do in the other storylines, but this book adds an incredible depth to the series as a whole. It is actually quite heart-wrenching, and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, having this new insight added to Dulaney's zombie apocalypse.

I will warn readers that the beginning build-up is a bit slow, and the zombie action doesn't really get under way until much later in the book, but I feel that this is a must-read for fans of the series.

As always,
AstraDaemon

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Homeless vs. Irish-American Mafia

The Vagrants
by Brian Moreland
114 pages
$3.49 Kindle version
Daniel Finley is a journalist who wants to bring attention to the issue of the homeless. He decides to live under a bridge for six months as a vagrant, while gathering research for a book that he plans to write. However, during his time with his homeless group, another group of vagrants show up. They are a cult, recruiting more followers, but Daniel does not fully realize their purpose. Two years later, after he publishes his book, not only does the cult reappear in his life, but he finds out that his father is in debt to the local Irish-American mafia. Too late, Daniel finds himself in a territorial battle between the two groups, and what he discovers just might be the death of him.

I enjoyed this novella more than I thought I would. I felt sorry for the main character Daniel though. His heart is in the right place, but the decisions he makes constantly put him and his loved ones in further danger. Just when he manages to escape one danger, he finds himself in a much worse situation. The ending is great, but it seems there might be a possibility of a sequel.

Brian Moreland does a fantastic job of taking a real issue and turning it into a horrific nightmare.

As always,
AstraDaemon