Okay, anyone who knows me, knows I’m not usually a horror reader. Although, I have to admit, since I’ve been reading more horror… and because of my friendships with Indie Horror Authors (Andy Lockwood, Andrew Charles Lark, Chelsea Gouin, Peggy Christie, and Michael Ceislack – to name a few) … I’m finding a new appreciation for the genre. Some are mere ghost stories, which are sometimes fun; others are creepy with psychological twists, which I really enjoy; and others are full of blood, guts, and gore, of which I’m not a particular fan. So, I suppose there are horror books that I enjoy… and this is certain one!
Full disclosure, Pages Promotions published The Midnight Man with Chelsea Gouin… but even if we hadn’t, I’d still be writing this review. This is a debut work from an author who I genuinely hope continues writing, whether she publishes with Pages Promotions again, or not. I truly enjoyed this book.
Chelsea did a great job drawing me into the story. She made me care about her characters and kept me turning the pages with a consistent building of tension. The spook-factor wasn’t Stephen King - must buy more light bulbs spooky - but it didn’t completely let me off the hook, either. Her characters are “regular people”, and by that I mean, each is a person that you would expect to encounter in your every-day life, if you’re theatre people. Perhaps not, if you’re an engineer. Regardless, they were easy to understand and feel comfortable with… which made the story a little bit creepier. These could have been MY friends!
I loved that Chelsea did a bit of research and built her story around an urban myth, something she tells me is a particular interest for her. She read about “The Midnight Game” online, and took the possibilities to the next level, adding a full measure of creepy along the way. Her use of just the right amount of “eeeww”, and “ICK!” added depth and punch to the story. Her use of camera directions at the beginning of each chapter allowed for full understanding of timeline and story flow. Furthermore, the way she incorporated each character’s fatal flaw into the details of the story was handled brilliantly!
If you’re looking for a novella-length book to test drive the creepy, psychologically weird, and a good measure (though not too much) of the gory stuff, this may be a good read for you. This is a book that will satiate your interest in the horror genre, without making you sleep with the lights on or check under the bed… too often.
Check out my interview with Chelsea Gouin on Indie Reads TV!
As I was interviewing Indie Author and bookseller, Dora Badger for an episode of Indie Reads TV, I was introduced (by way of her book) to her niece, Ravyn Hicks-Badger. I'm always pleased to have Indie Authors refer other authors to me, and in this case, especially so!
I must say, what a delightful story! I was so pleased to read this fun little tale of an entrepreneurial little cat. The story is imaginative and clever. I love the specific descriptions of Buddy’s clothing, and most especially his goldfish tie. The idea of a cat who has a secret identity is wonderful, and the twist at the end, nothing short of a first-rate giggle!
The illustrations, from Amanda Erb, were terrific; detailed where they needed to be, but not so overwhelming that the art detracted from the story. This book is the perrrrfect (sorry, I had to do it) collaboration between storyteller and artist. Beginning readers will love this book, and younger children will enjoy having it read to them!
Congratulations to eight-year-old Ravyn Hicks-Badger at achieving a dream and setting the bar high for children’s book authors everywhere at such a young age! This book proves that an author can truly be anyone who has a story to tell. I hope Ravyn writes more stories for us to enjoy.
I highly recommend this book. It should be in every home, school and public library!
This was an interesting project undertaken by three author friends. They decided to collaborate on an anthology, which would take two of them into a writing world they’d not explored before. Andrew wrote a podcast script in their chosen style previously, and the idea for this project came at his suggestion. They didn’t go into the process with any mandates or outlines aside from focusing on the dystopian genre, and a target of 20,000 - 25,000 words. The end result is a trilogy of stories that are very different; and yet, interestingly enough, hold a key similarity.
Andrew’s tale, “Pollen”, is presented as a collection of journal entries, letters, and “official documents” that tell of a strange illness that has overtaken all of humanity, and eventually leads to its extinction. The concept is an ambitious one, and I give the author tremendous credit for the concept. However, I was disappointed that the pieces seemed to be disconnected from one another. Although the accounts were all dated, I lost the flow of continuity and a real sense of chronology. The collection of narratives felt more like stumbling upon a haphazard folder of newspaper clippings without the advantage of a reporter to glue in the transitions. The weight of the individual entries was lost on me because I didn’t feel there was a “cork board” narrative to pin them all together. I would have enjoyed the story more if I’d had a greater sense of rolling tension and a more connected ending; a skill Andrew demonstrates strongly with his dystopian podcasts in his “Dark Waters” series.
Donald’s story, “The Bright and Darkened Lands of the Earth” was a distinctively different account of life after devastation. Mired in the fallout from the atrocities of society past, a matriarchal community seeks answers to their future in a language nearly lost, and the dangers of men. I was wholly engaged from the first page. What Donald does with language… the use of words, their weight, and the importance of understanding… is brilliant. The reader learns about the characters and customs of this community not so much through the description of actions and settings, but through their choice of words, how those words are presented… and their lack of words. In fact, emotion runs high, and we identify with the characters on a more visceral level simply because the dialogue is sparse, and in some cases, stilted. I was disappointed at the end of the story; not because it was poorly written, but because I wanted to spend more time in that world. I am pleased to learn from a conversation with Donald, that he will indeed be writing more about this world, and spending time with these characters. I look forward to the next installment.
Wendy’s piece, “Silo Six”, told of a far future post apocalyptic world where technology has stunted individualism, creativity, and true connectivity of community. The characters show us a world that has lost itself in the mundane repetition of hundreds of years of a focus on survival, rather than quality of life. The story line is easy to follow, the settings are easy to visualize, but I felt the story lacked depth. The scene descriptions lacked imagination. I felt like I was reading a scientific report, rather than the direct experience of the main character’s lives. Their days read like an itinerary, their emotional connections felt forced, and the dialogue felt far too scripted and unnatural. My experience reading this story was that it was far too much tell and not enough show and almost no feel. I was left dangling, as if I’d experienced a documentary rather than a creatively emotional story.
All that being said, what I found quite fascinating about these three novellas is that without the three authors consulting each other on the formula they would use or the plot devices they invoked as they wrote their stories, they made the connection anyway, perhaps subliminally. Each story’s underlying focus was on a book of some sort. In Andrew’s piece, the focus was a notebook, pieced together by “the last survivor” and left behind after his death. In Donald’s story, a book was the coveted talisman the characters sought to bring them enlightenment, even though most had no idea what a book looked like, or even how to read. Wendy’s main character was lost in the library. She cherished the stories told in “ancient” books as a way to romanticize her life, a life that was so bland that she needed to discover creativity in the old pages.
I’ve said before that I am an ardent fan of novels that focus on books, libraries, and language. This one concept was the singularity that glued the trilogy together for me. Books are the connective tissue that binds this anthology, and the incentive that kept me turning the pages. I felt that although each story was a segment on its own, this “mistake of creativity” is the strongest reason I have for recommending the collection. As pieces, they invoked very different, emotional and intellectual responses. As a whole project, I felt as though I may have been led through the same forest by three very distinct manifestations of creativity. And so, my curiosity is piqued to ask, might this trio of authors add tendons to the tissue, and perhaps create another anthology, taking the concept toward another stage of life?
I suppose I’ll have to wait and see what this trio creates next.
Watch an interview with each of these authors as they discuss their writing careers on the Indie Reads TV program.
Andrew Charles Lark
Wendy Sura Thomson
I had the pleasure of interviewing Peggy Losey for an episode of Indie Reads TV after we met at a book festival at Leon & LuLu’s in Clawson, Michigan. What a delightful Indie Author discovery! Not only is the author warm and engaging, her book is a gift to children the world over.
Written for those youngsters who are of a questioning age, and in transition from innocent childhood to empathetic preteen, this book fills a gap in our American holiday traditions. The story is written in a rhyming style that is vivid and engaging, with a message that will implore the tiny hairs on your arm to stand at attention with the energy of kindness.
The illustrations, skillfully rendered by Jeanne K. McCormick, are unique. They were drawn, as I learned in my interview with Peggy, from actual photographs of the original crew of Elves as they walked through their neighborhood, meeting people, sharing their purpose, and their Secret Hats. The art is beautiful… a wonderful bridge between imagination and truth. It fits well with the poetry’s meter and the energy of the message.
Spoiler Alert: Be aware, this is a read not for the very young. This book is intended to easily chaperone young, kind hearts as they embark on the journey of becoming trustees of holiday generosity. It is best shared with youngsters who are around eight, nine, or ten years old. But parents… each child is different, and only you can know whether it’s time to pass this story along to the young readers in your life. Ah, but when the time is right, you and your youngster will not be disappointed.
I hope that this story will inspire you to encourage a strong holiday spirit to linger in your circles, no matter the age or station of those who earn their Secret Hats!
I had a good time at this year's Women Who Write Book Festival. It was an interesting change to be surrounded by other women authors. The festival was held in Grand Rapids, at the Salvation Army Center there, and organized by a group called "Hook A Sista Up", a group in Grand Rapids, that fosters writing and other entrepreneurial pursuits of women.
The center was a great space to hold an event like this. The room was large, and the tables were laid out to make easy travel for lots of people. There were large windows which let in great light, which is a bonus when books are involved.
I was thrilled to not only showcase my books, but also share books written by Andy Lockwood and Donald Levin. One of the pure joys I have, being an author advocate, is getting exposure for authors where they wouldn't normally find readers. Participating in events like this make that possible. It was a great day, and each one of us sold books!
I had only two disappointments with the day; slow traffic and too short a day. I was expecting many more people to be at the event, given how much pre-advertising was done by this group through social media. I was surprised to see so few people. However, one thing I did notice was the poor on-site marketing. I've noticed this with many events... not enough signs on the street, in front of the building, or in the lobby so passersby who aren't on social media can discover the event. Also, I think that because the day was so short - it ended at 3pm, fewer people were able to find us and attend. Perhaps a longer day next year might go over better. It was a two and a half hour drive for me... which made it a bit frustrating that I didn't have a greater opportunity to reach more readers. I think if the event were to be extended, either starting earlier or ending later, might help with foot traffic. Other than that, it was a great day!
The bonus to the day... My table sat next to the spectacular Peggy Christie and I bought her latest collection of short stories; (book review coming soon.) I look forward to the opportunity to try this event again next year!
A special thank you goes out to Bailey Lockwood for helping me discover this event. I appreciate you, muchly!
Like thousands of other readers on the planet, I was enticed to read “Inspection” after having read “Bird Box”. My curiosity was tickled by the idea of what this unconventional author might come up with next. Also, he’s a Michigan native, and I’m always interested in reading home-grown literature. Both books, to my mind, might be considered “present day dystopian” novels. What I mean by that is that they have storylines that seem to have events that take place in another time – but through closer attention – could actually take place in the here-and-now. It wouldn’t be that big a stretch.
This was my experience of “Inspection”. It’s a bizarre thought, raising children in a protected space… feeding them selective information and emotional understanding, cut off from the rest of society. Yet, when I consider the idea more closely, it’s what many cultures are doing already, and have been doing for centuries.
The most striking part about this book for me was the idea that revolution, insurrection, and redemption are (or can be) discovered through the pages of a book. That simple idea, that the printed word might change an entire community’s concepts of self and others, is profound in my head. Mr. Malerman takes this possibility, dumps it upside down, and allows all the gooey stuff to seep from his characters into his readers, achieving a cacophony of silent defiance.
Two small warnings: this book includes some graphic violence involving pre-teen children near the end chapters, so I wouldn’t recommend it for readers younger than fifteen. And, as with Bird Box, the story doesn’t definitively end… so if you like tightly wrapped packages, you may want to skip this one.
I listened to the audiobook version, and I think it was beneficial to have two narrators, one male and one female. I’m not sure the nuances of characterization or setting description would have struck me in the same way, had there been a single narrator, or had I read the printed page in my own voice.
I’m curious to see what Mr. Malerman comes up with next.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a tremendous fan of series fiction. It’s often frustrating to me when I read the first in a series, and then come to discover that the book isn’t over and the characters are off gallivanting around in another tale without me; carrying on like it doesn’t matter if I pay attention or not. This one had an element of that frustration, until I realized that it’s also a well-crafted stand-alone novel.
How do I describe the plot of this book… Hmmm, let’s see… Literary time travel detectives who save our beloved stories and the culture in which we live by thwarting the greediness of insipid megalomaniacs bent on changing our world through wanton destruction of classic literature. Okay, that’s not perfectly accurate, but it comes close. The author plays at making the dull classics we were forced to read in high school and college three dimensional and much more entertaining. He walks a nearly sacrilege line between paraphrase and public domain rewrites while always returning to the initial integrity of the work. It’s nutty!
This book was a great deal of fun to read, even if it did start out a bit on the slow side. (Series backstory is never very exciting.) Suspending disbelief is easy, just as long as you know a bit about classic literature. In this case, Shakespeare and of course, Bronte. If you don’t have that background, I can see how you might get lost, or at the very least, not fully enjoy the journey. It helps if you get the many inside jokes and side quips that are sprinkled throughout the narrative. There are a bunch of little underlying subplot devices that keep you guessing where the story might go next (some pun intended). Think intellectual Easter Eggs. Plus, the ending made me giggle out loud; so it’s got that going for it.
Will I continue to read this series? Perhaps. Book Two is “Lost In A Good Book”. It sounds like terrific fun… but before I read it, I’ll brush up on my Dickens, Kafka, Potter, Austen, and Poe a bit, just to be sure I get the full effect.
Written by friend, and fellow Indie Author, R.L. Herron, this is an interesting collection of short stories. The back matter of the book classifies them as fantasy, but they don’t subscribe to the fantasy genre you might think of… no elves, dragons, or casting of spells. No, this collection is the other type of fantasy, (with some science fiction mixed in). They are what my grandfather used to call “fantastical and not to be believed, but highly entertaining”. So strange, odd, and unusual that you’re not really sure, exactly, where they fit. This is not to diminish their weight or creative strength. They are simply unlike anything I’ve encountered before and they’re hard to quantify. These shorts have just enough detail to dig the story ideas into your brain and let them rattle around a bit; but not enough specifics to make them anywhere near predictable.
Each of the stories are little capsules into an interesting world that perhaps you may not have considered before. The title piece is an odd tale about an unusual arcade game. Suffice to say, a quarter will get you more than you bargained for, with an ending that will surprise you. The subject of time travel, one of my favorite topics, is handled well here… with a paradox that even the most wise won’t see coming. A quiet conversation between three generations at a funeral produces some comforting results; and if you’ve ever eavesdropped on a conversation in the middle of it’s run, you’ll understand the disconnect when the end finally comes. You may look at old cars differently in the future.
Yup, unpredictable is certainly a recurring theme in this collection. These stories are fun to read, filled with clever imagination and thought provoking moments at nearly every turn of the page. Many left me wishing they were novellas, because I still have many questions!
This collection was a quick read, and a welcome distraction amongst my “adulating” tasks of daily life. Full disclosure: I almost burned the chicken cooking on the bbq grill one night because of “Zebulon!”
Check out my interview with Indie Author R.L. Herron on Indie Reads TV!
This is a delightfully entertaining book for children of all ages! It's a fantastic story about a little groundhog who learns a valuable lesson about self-reliance and confidence. I loved the metaphor of digging to help little ones understand their power to overcome sadness.
The illustrations are super-cute and are a beautiful compliment to the story. The colors are vibrant and they dance across the page with energy and light. The author uses language young readers can clearly understand, without being condescending. I bought this book as a gift for my niece, Grace (although if her parents read this - keep it a surprise, please!), and I believe it will help her, and her older sister, Allison, to connect with their internal digger and giggle through the discovery.
If you have little ones in your life, I highly recommend this book. And if you know an adult who is struggling with digging their way out of sadness - I recommend this book even more!
Learn more about Katie Spina at her website.
Check out my interview with Katie Spina on Indie Reads TV!
This is by far one of the goofiest books I've ever read! I listened to the audiobook, and it had me laughing out loud in more places than I can count. Adam Baldwin was the narrator, and he did an exceptional job!
It's a story of an insurance agent who, hell-bent on providing the very best in customer service, travels the alternate Earth Universes, helping those who hold polices with his firm. You never know what situation he will encounter... aliens, zombies, Nazi dinosaurs... but you can rely on Tom Stranger to solve the problem and do it with the most impeccable taste.
The most interesting villain in this book? Why, a less-than-reputable insurance agent who believes the dreaded call center is the best practice in customer service, of course!
I don't want to give away too much of this book, because I don't want to spoil the fun for you. But, I promise, this is a parody like none you've ever read, with nods to several films, books, and celebrities. It's a fun romp and I highly recommend it as a nice pallet-cleanser from your TBR pile.
Just don't listen to it at night, in bed... you'll keep your spouse awake with all your giggling... oh, and unless you're a fan of spit-takes, don't drink while reading this book, either! :-)
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