Book Review: A Cold Day in Hell by Mark Cain

It seems like it has been forever since I read the first book in Mark Cain’s Circles in Hell series, Hell’s Super. (January 2014, so…yes, it’s been a while).  And although part two of this series which follows Hell’s handyman, A Cold Day in Hell, has been out since July 2015 and I’ve had it on my Kindle since December of the same year, it somehow took me until now to actually get it to the top of my reading pile.

I guess that just goes to show A. How slow of a reader I am and B. How big my reading pile must actually be…(There’s also a C. which includes constant rearranging of my pile due to folks asking me to read their books, which causes me to not get to read the books I want to read quite as quickly).

Anyways, that was more than enough introduction to say that “Hey, if you remember this concept from the blog, that’s because I talked about the first book in this series ages ago.”  Now let’s get to the review.

A Cold Day in Hell takes of from where Hell’s Super pretty well.  Things seem to have calmed down a bit from the uproar that occurred in the pages of the first book and Steve has gotten back to his regular own personalized hell of being the handyman for Hell itself.

Until, of course, the HVAC starts having trouble and Hell itself is facing a dire issue: What happens if Hell actually does freeze over?

I loved Hell’s Super, it was a fun idea which I believe was implemented almost perfectly.  A Cold Day in Hell takes that book and kicks its butt.  This is a far superior novel to the first part in the series, both from maturity of writing, but also from the comedic perspective (at least in my view).  And most importantly, we see Cain bring a lot of depth to Hell and Steve and all the minions of Hell themselves through the usage of folklore, mythology, and Christianity itself.  He delves deeper into how this is actually Hell instead of some warm place where you have to work crappy jobs all the time…you know…Florida.

And there seems to be a whole lot more on the line than the original had.  The entire fabric of reality hangs in the balance as we wait to see if Steve can actually manage to fix Hell’s HVAC and restore heat to Hell.

I loved this book.  Even if you haven’t read the first one, you should read this one.  Although, you might want to read the first one first.  Not that you would be too lost if you started with this one, but, you know, because it’s good as well.

Buy it now!  

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Book Review: The Automation by G.B. Gabbler

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

G.B. Gabbler’s The Automation is a hard book to categorize.  It’s a little experimental, a little goofy, and a little science-fiction-y, while also hosting a bit of Greek myth and hard boiled detective novel-style narration.  And on the whole, I think it does a fair job of combining this hefty grouping of categorizations well.

It was suggested to me due to my enjoyment of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.  And while the use of footnotes and the rather odd conversational tone between the narrator and the editor definitely give it an experimental vibe, I’m not sure I could put these two on the shelf next to each other.  That’s not a statement against The Automation, but rather a statement about how different these two books are.

And while I did enjoy the concept of the editor and narrator working together (or more often than not, against each other) throughout the text, I feel as though it was more of a detraction from the greater story than something which adds to it.

Yet, by the end of the book, there is a reveal regarding the two of these which leads me to believe this interaction may play a greater role in future books in the Circo del Herrero series.  So, I’ll hold off on being completely against the concept, considering that knowledge.

But the meat of the story really revolves around Odys Odelyn and his introduction into this odd world of Automatons which serve as a separate body for a person’s soul.  To give an incredibly brief summation, Odys, one day, is given a penny by some odd dude who kills himself shortly after.  The penny ends up being Maud, a creation by the god Vulcan, who, upon being touched by Odys, is inextricably linked to Odys for life.  This connection brings about tons of benefits, mostly health and length of life.  But it also brings about a ton of negatives, mostly a rather Highlander-esque situation involving a secret society and a guy who wants to collect all the Automatons for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, but mostly involve power.

So, Odys gets into this world and is led around by a series of odd individuals who all have their own Automatons which are basically another version of themselves.  So, these other versions take on a lot of the attributes of the person they are linked to, but are still separate in a lot of ways.

And as I’m sure you’re aware by this point, the entire concept is incredibly dense and filled with necessary exposition to explain everything in a way which makes sense to the reader.

Which is where my main issue with this book takes place.  It doesn’t really feel like much happens throughout this incredibly long book.

That’s not to say things don’t happen.  People are kidnapped, deaths are faked, buildings burned down, and there are more than enough M. Night Shyamalan-style twists to keep you turning the pages, but between those moments are extensive series of explanations regarding this world Odys found himself in, which cause the moments of activity to feel a side note to the world building.

So, as you can probably already tell, I have a difficult time reviewing this book.  It’s certainly interesting.  There are some incredibly fun concepts being brought forth and a whole world of intrigue that I feel is worth exploring.  But the result of this complexity is intense expositional moments which cause the book to read quite slowly.

In the end, I have the feeling that future books in this series could have the possibility of being much more action-packed, now that the heavy lifting of exposition should be out of the way, but I also have my concerns that without a solid editor, there could still be issues with pacing.

If you like being introduced to new worlds and fun characters, this is definitely a book for you.  If you are one who expects more momentum in a story, this one may leave you wanting.

But then again, everyone reads things differently.  And it’s definitely a fun book, even if it’s a little slow.

Buy it now!

Book Review: Ayahuasca by Jonathan Huls

The author sent me this book and asked if I might be willing to give it a read and a review. And me, being the guy who can’t turn down a free book, took him up on it.

Also, me being the guy who doesn’t actually do any sort of reading up on books to know what they are about or what sort of genre they are or anything before beginning to read a book, went into it completely unawares of what I was about to find.

I don’t know if I can quite suggest you go into this book quite as unaware.

It’s a good book, possibly even a great book.  It’s incredibly well written, the concept is novel, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it before.

That being said, there are certain parts of this book that are quite unsettling.  If I hadn’t agreed to read and review the book ahead of time, I’m fairly certain I would have set the book down never to pick it up again at numerous stops along the path toward the final resolution.

But the real question here is, should you read it?

If you can handle some unsettling imagery regarding death and dismemberment (not a large amount, mind you, just enough to definitely stick out in your mind), then yes, I would wholeheartedly suggest you read this book.

Now here’s the issue…the reasons I would suggest you read this book (outside of the fact that it is quite well written and very good at pulling you deeper into the story, even when discussing rather disgusting events) are reasons I don’t know I should actually reveal.  They’re something of surprises that you find along the way.  Even the official description of the book doesn’t really give you a good idea of what you’re getting into.

So, when you start reading it, all you get is that there was some sort of plane crash, and a journal discussing excitement about an event called only G-88.  G-88 is talked about quite heavily throughout the text, but isn’t actually explained until the moment the event comes up.  Things actually start to fall into place quite well at that point, but until then, I’ll admit that I really couldn’t gather how all these pieces fit together.

Or maybe I just didn’t want to.

Huls takes a rather standard story type, specifically that of a coming-of-age style road trip and turns it on its side a bit, giving us a glimpse of what the world of white privilege can look like at its worse, at how a couple of young boys can be absolute sociopaths simply because they come up in a house where nothing is really expected of them.

Of how boredom can lead men to absolute insanity…while still allowing them to appear to be completely normal human beings.

Ayahuasca contains two of my least favorite protagonists of all time.  All I wanted was for someone to come around and put a bullet in their heads from nearly page one…But I really had a hard time putting it down, even when I really really wanted to.

So, if you like having yourself challenged in a read, I’d definitely say this is a book for you.  If you like books where the winners are spotless and the bad guys wear black hats, then this probably isn’t one you want to pick up.

Buy it now!

Book Review: Bartholomew Roberts' Justice by Jeremy McLean

Disclaimer:  I got this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Bartholomew Roberts’ Justice by Jeremy McLean is the second novella in McLean’s Pirate Priest book series.  And it starts off just a few months after we last saw the Dread Pirate Roberts (wait…wrong story) in the first book.

Where the first book seemed to justify the need for pirates, in that Roberts found there was good to be done as a scallywag, book two seems more focused on Roberts actually dealing with the fact that he is now plundering for the sake of plundering.

In actuality, there appears to be little redemption for the pirates in this book.  No longer are they focused on freeing slaves.  Instead, they’re focused on power and money and…well, you know..being pirates.

Roberts seems to be in a rather weird place here.  At one point, he does focus on doing the right thing, being concerned about the death of innocents and such.  At other points, he’s willing to attack and destroy other ships purely for what they’ve got in their cargo hold…those folks apparently not being innocents simply because they’ve got stuff Roberts wants.

I have to admit this piece of the puzzle caused me pause, but the story itself was well told.  We see Roberts battling somewhat with this designation of pirating (although not nearly enough in my opinion), but also battling with those who would aim to do further wrong in his eyes.  And we also see him focused on treating everyone the way they should be treated, even if his reasons for determining how their karmic place seems questionable at times.

Ultimately, this is another great swashbuckling tale where we see how life on a pirate ship might not be all rosy between the scum and villainy who are generally on those ships.  And Roberts, the man of God, is in the middle of it all, trying to keep control.

By the end of the book, we do see Roberts begin to turn back to his roots, but the question remains…can you be a pirate and a man of God?

Definitely worth the read, especially if you enjoy any of McLean’s other books.  And Roberts is a rather endearing character.  The lapses in his judgment could definitely be seen as more character flaws than flaws in the writing, so don’t think I’m taking away from the skill of McLean here.

In other words, give it a read already.  It’s a load of fun!

Book Review: Bartholomew Roberts' Faith by Jeremy McLean

Got to get the standard disclaimer out of the way first: “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.”

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ve probably seen a review or two of mine come about with the name of Jeremy McLean attached before. That’s because he writes pirate books and then he asks me to read them, and I just so happen to like pirate books.

Bartholomew Roberts’ Faith is one of two novellas Mr. McLean sent me recently (the second will be appearing on here shortly as I’m over the halfway point on it as we speak).  Now, his other books, Blackbeard’s Revenge and Blackbeard’s Freedom, follow the pirate who would become known as Blackbeard.  These two novellas containing Bartholomew Roberts’ name, follow around the exploits of a man who will become the pirate known as Black Bart…don’t worry, I keep getting them confused as well.

Confusion aside, Faith (as I’m going to shorten the title from here on out), is a solidly told, well-built story about a man coming to terms with the idea of becoming a pirate.  Roberts is a religious man, who decides to spend his life at sea.  He quickly realizes that good and evil aren’t quite as black and white as he had initially believed…so, through a series of amazing events, he finds himself aboard a pirate ship, set off to free slaves.

This book is a ton of fun.  It’s got some swashbuckling (although I’d always ask for more, even if it were a thousand page book of nothing but swashbuckling….okay, no, nevermind, don’t do that, please).  It’s got drinking!  It’s got pirates!  And it’s got a morality tale which not only manages to surprise, but also happens to be quite sweet.

In fact, the morality tale of this story is really what it’s all about, and it’s quite spectacular.  And since this book is so short, you can read it in one sitting…unless you’re like me and have three children who completely exhaust you before you even get to pick up the kindle, then it’s 2 or 3 sittings.

I’d highly suggest this title.

Buy it now!

Book Review: Invasion of the Dumb Snatchers by Scott Erickson

Full Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

As the title suggests, Invasion of the Dumb Snatchers is an homage to the classic film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  However, Erickson takes this title in a completely different direction than the very serious B-movie of 1956 flick, in that this book is anything but serious.

Although I believe the satirical nature of this book is intended to serve a much more serious ideal, the book itself focuses on the purely stupid.  The main character is so insanely stupid that it becomes a question of how he is able to continue moving forward without constantly getting lost.

And that’s where the plot takes off.  Miles, the hapless hero, starts getting concerned because everyone in the world seems to suddenly be interested in things like conservation, quality food products, and *gasp* books!  People are having conversations that come out as more than just grunts and everything that he used to hold dear seems to be falling through his grasp.

So, Miles must save the day.  He must do everything he can to keep the aliens from turning everyone into smart weird liberal things who don’t like guns.

There are parts of this book that I really dig.  I kept hoping to find out that Miles was completely mistaken and was just going around as a crazed maniac killing people who disagreed with his personal beliefs, which might allow to lead into a more directly deeper thought.  Instead, the book doesn’t seem to move on from its very shallow beginnings.

I think this book shows a lot of promise, but instead seems too focused on bashing conservatives instead of wanting to actually make a point.  As someone who despises how bipartisan America culture has become, this book’s seems to be entirely focused on making fun of conservatives that it tends to get downright mean.

In short, the book has its moments, but ultimately serves no purpose but to bash an opposing political party.  So, if you’re a diehard liberal, you’ll probably find it pretty amusing. If you’re a diehard conservative, you’ll find it mighty offensive.  If you’re like me and fall somewhere in the middle, you’ll probably find most of it needlessly mean.

But, I tend to miss the boat on humor like this.  So, maybe give it a try anyway.  Buy it now!

Book Review: Life, Love and Death by Cat Nicolaou

(I know…two book reviews after a long period of silence…Sorry.  Been mighty busy.  Got some stuff I want to write soon, just have to find the time)

Book reviews of short story compilations just never seem to be something I feel I can do while giving the actual compilation justice.  Reviewing each story on its own doesn’t give you a true idea of what how the compilation works as a whole, and reviewing the compilation often comes across as rather vague and generic.  But…I go with the second option all the same.

Cat Nicolaou’s short story compilation seems to be the author’s attempt to time and again subvert not only the romance genre, but also the reader’s expectations.  Nicolaou appears to have fun leading the readers on to expect one ending, while turning it around on you and giving you something completely different.  Until you begin to expect the unexpected and she hits you with something a bit more of what you should have expected.  Life, Love and Death is an amazing compilation in that it seems so perfectly curated.  These aren’t just stories with a common theme, they, at many times, almost come across as stories that are directly connected.

We see old couples fighting, but then we see old ladies missing what they once had.  We find ladies running away from stalkers, while also finding stalkers getting what they deserve (or do they?).  Throughout this compilation, Nicolaou forces the reader to question what they know to be the truth, and often times sheds light on a much different aspect of a tale that we’ve come to know through other writer’s efforts.

This is a mighty strong effort by a new author and I can’t wait to see what she might have waiting for us in the future.

Buy it now!