Review: Fire is Orange by Scott Sigler

fireFire is Orange by Scott Sigler

Published: October 23, 2019 by Empty Set Entertainment

Buy this book at Amazon

Synopsis: The third in the Color Series of short story anthologies from #1 New York Times best-seller Scott Sigler. A mixture of never-before-seen stories, stories from various anthologies, and Scott’s first-ever published fiction, this collection blends humor and horror into a frothy red mixture.

Author’s notes explain the history and/or impetus of each story, giving you an insight into the method behind the madness.

Rating: 4 star

Review: I know, I am kind of OD’ing on the Sigler stuff lately. What can I say? I always come back to my favorites. In this case I wanted something quick and fun. As it turns out a short story collection was just the ticket. Overall, this was a very good collection. Some of the stories were amazing and others were a bit meh. Now, for my own story notes and individual story ratings.

Complex God – 5 stars. This story is set is at a dubious point in the Siglerverse. It is after Pandemic and follows the origin of one Petra Prawatt. Anyone who is a Sigler Junkie will recognize the Prawatt name. This was such a fascinating little story and so much more terrifying by what it represents. It represents the idea that once human beings create a being that can begin to improve itself by making little decisions based on its mistakes then it is going to surpass its creator. A very scary concept and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Hippo – 4 stars. This story had a lot of hype behind it. I had been told that it had the most horrifying and gruesome thing that Scott Sigler has every written. Worse than his infamous chicken scissors moment. Admittedly, the scene made me gag, but maybe I am just too jaded because other than being gross it wasn’t particularly horrifying. I’ll pronounce the two moments a tie. But I loved the world this was set in, and I loved the “twist” at the end.

Dale & Mabel – 5 stars. This story was so out of the norm for a Scott Sigler novel. Two people trapped in a situation that could be the end of the world but with no way out. They are not the heroes of an apocalypse novel. They are elderly, married for many years, and not really able to get around so well anymore. How do they ride out the apocalypse? I cried like a baby through the entire second half.

Fifth Girl – 5 stars. This was creepy. And not in a blood and guts kind of way. Just creepy and a good take on the generations that seem to feel an insurmountable need to post their entire lives on the internet. Be cautious who else is following along.

Mister Double-M: 3 stars. This one was pretty funny. I laughed aloud at a few points. But other than a few laughs I didn’t feel there was too much substance to the story.

Pink Torpedo – 3 stars. Again, this was funny but otherwise unremarkable.

Puppet Master – 3 stars. This one rather confused me in the end. I found it to be very thoughtful and profound, but it also really confused me. I had a very hard time following the narrative so apart from a few profound thoughts it didn’t leave a lasting impression.

Reunion – 5 stars. Holy crap I was not prepared for this story. I thought I was but the longer it went on the more I realized that I was not prepared. It made me think, it made me cringe and then it made me cry.

Splashing Contest – 2 stars. I didn’t really like it. I understand what Sigler is going for with it and wanting to create a relatable situation but it just seemed very convenient and not too lasting of a story. I forgot it almost as soon as it was over.

The Laundry Demon – 2 stars. Again, some laughs and an amusing concept but there wasn’t much else to it.

So, in the end, it was a good collection and there wasn’t really anything that I can say I disliked. Another worthy edition to my ebook collection.

Review: Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

41813744Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

Published: November 15, 2018 by BHC Press/Open Window

Buy this book at: Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: Liza McCarthy has never known the love she so desperately craves. The illegitimate child of a broken marriage, the identity of her father and her heritage are a well-kept secret. When she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming her life is in danger, she manages to flee just before two men break into her home.

She soon finds herself in the tiny midwestern town of Halden’s Mill. There she is taken in by the Finns, a mysterious family who claim to guard the entrance to the fabled land of the faerie.

Liza is slowly drawn into a world of monsters, dark magic and a host of peculiar townsfolk. Now she must rethink everything she’s ever known and seek her destiny before two worlds collide with a force that could mean the end of the human race.

Rating: 3 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***

This book is proving to be a difficult one to review and decide on an appropriate rating. I finished it over 24 hours ago and am still trying to put my thoughts together. On the whole, it was an alright story. There was absolutely nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s a solid story.

Let’s start with Liza. I did not really like her as a character. I found her to be annoying for the most part. She starts off fine, a bit histrionic but who wouldn’t be freaked out by the things she is discovering about the world? After awhile she seemed far stupider than I felt she should be. The pieces were there but she just refused to put them together and instead continued with her internal narrative that “there’s no way that any of this involves me”. Literally everyone in the book is telling you that it does. Hell, your dreams are telling you that it does! The strange happenings are telling you that it does! EVERYTHING IS SCREAMING AT YOU THAT YOU ARE INVOLVED!! So while there was nothing actually wrong with the character, she grew to be infuriating. And then when we got to the end of the book, it turned out she was pretty useless and unnecessary to the plot. More on that in a minute.

The characterization of the fae was fabulous. I enjoyed seeing a more horrifying aspect of the land of fae instead of the pretty, sparkling faeries that are so common in literature. I can’t say that the book was overly scary, but the horror aspects of it were very well written and interesting.

I can’t say that I can conjure up too much emotion about the other characters since I did not feel that I got to know them at all. They were a flat and lacked qualities that would have made them more relatable and realistic characters. They were fine, but one dimensional. They also seemed to be a bit stupid at times, similar to Liza’s stupid. They acknowledge that everything happening is telling them that the old rules don’t apply. But then they run around screaming, “Oh My God! Why are the old rules not working!?”  Well, duh, you just said why just a few pages ago.

A lot of this book was difficult to read. I found myself reading the same page a few times in order to understand what was going on. I am not entirely sure what made it difficult but I had a very hard time.

On to my last point for this: The ending. Warning!!!! Spoilers:

So, the whole point of the book is that Liza is a fae princess and has to choose between two princes. One prince wants the fae to rule the world and exterminate humans. One prince wants the fae to live in a dimension completely separate from humans and allow the peaceful existence of both. In the end, Liza will choose her prince and that will decide the fate of the world. But then we get to the end and she doesn’t choose! She chooses to stab herself instead in order to not have to make a choice. And somehow this meant that her choice was for peaceful co-existence of humans and fae? I have no idea where that ending came from but I didn’t like it. Making a choice by not making a choice and then somehow that means that everything is fine. So dumb and kind of made me feel the book was pointless in the end.

At the end of the day this book was decently written with passable characters and the fae are good enough to make this book a decent read.

Review: Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

45418305._SY475_Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

Published: October 31, 2019 by Subterranean Press

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:

From fairy tale forest to gloomy gothic moor, from gleaming epidemiologist’s lab to the sandy shores of Neverland, Seanan McGuire’s short fiction has been surprising, delighting, confusing, and transporting her readers since 2009. Now, for the first time, that fiction has been gathered together in one place, ready to be enjoyed one twisting, tangled tale at a time. Her work crosses genres and subverts expectations.
Meet the mad scientists of “Laughter at the Academy” and “The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells.” Glory in the potential of a Halloween that never ends. Follow two very different alphabets in “Frontier ABCs” and “From A to Z in the Book of Changes.” Get “Lost,” dress yourself “In Skeleton Leaves,” and remember how to fly. All this and more is waiting for you within the pages of this decade-spanning collection, including several pieces that have never before been reprinted. Stories about mermaids, robots, dolls, and Deep Ones are all here, ready for you to dive in.

This is a box of strange surprises dredged up from the depths of the sea, each one polished and prepared for your enjoyment. So take a chance, and allow yourself to be surprised.

Rating: 4 star

Review:

***I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and Subterranean Press!***

As with all short story collections that I read, I prefer to review them by the story. Inevitably I will love some of them and not care for others and this collection was no different. I am a big fan of the author but some of these stories were a miss. I also noticed that there were some formatting issues with the ARC, which meant that sometimes I didn’t get the complete story. On the whole, this collection was a solid four stars with a lot more hits than misses.

Laughter at the Academy: 2 stars. I am not sure if it was the formatting issue or if the story was really supposed to be that disjointed. We got a little snippet of something “official” about the disorder in question, and then we would jump into a scene, right in the middle of a sentence. A scene that is totally unconnected from the previous scene. If that if how it was supposed to be, I didn’t like it. The snippets were good, but I never felt I got a full story.

Lost: 5 stars. This was a very short story but wow it packed a wallop. It was inventive and whimsical. It was riveting and profound. It was fantastic.

The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells: 5 stars. This is probably one of the more twisted stories I’ve read in quite a long while. It carries very heavy themes in complacency as a species, being too convinced of our own individual superiority to listen to people superior in knowledge than us. The desire for things to be the same and to be easy than to listen to harsh lessons. It was profound and deeply, deeply twisted.

Uncle Sam: 2 stars. The formatting issue was present here too, the story started mid sentence and I could tell there was more to it that I didn’t get. I didn’t really like this one. The story was slightly interesting but I didn’t really invest in the narrative for some reason. It was a bit obvious where it was going and the political assumptions in it were rather annoying. For example, “well obviously, even though many people think X thing, we all know that Y is true.” Well no, Y isn’t objectively true in the real world. If it’s objectively true in this world then fine, or if it’s true to those people then fine, but telling me that it’s true without more context was annoying. The ending was obvious, which also was irritating.

Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage: 3 stars. This story was okay. I would have liked a tiny bit more history on the story. I know it’s a short story but just thrusting someone into a fantasy world with no warning is a bit jarring, give me something to explain the things that are going on. The ending was good, I liked the conclusion a lot. Overall, it was fine but not as good as some of the others.

Emeralds to Emeralds, Dust to Dust: 4 stars. I love the land of Oz and stories about Dorothy’s adventures. This was definitely a darker story but I loved it. There wasn’t too much action, which disappointed me a little but the world introduced there was amazing.

Homecoming: 2 stars. I can honestly say I remember nothing about this story, even though I took notes. That says something I think.

Frontier ABCs: 4 stars. I can honestly say that I had no idea where this was going and it was a delightful little ride to find out.

We are all Misfit Toys in the Aftermath of the Velveteen War: 5 stars. Holy crap this story threw me for a loop. I had to take a break from the book for a day or two because it just sent me reeling. It’s something so profound that I could imagine happening in our world. I have often said, “How do you prepare the world for a child’s toy saying they don’t want to be turned off because they are scared of the dark?” I love the complexities offered to humanity by AI and this story explored that beautifully.

The Lambs: 2 stars. Another exploration of AI and its uses in humanity but there was a problem here. I just didn’t buy it. I did not buy that this would be a reasonable alternative to the way things are right now. As a parent, I can’t imagine anyone seeing the technology presented and thinking “Yes, that’s a good idea for handling unruly, bully children”. And so, I didn’t enjoy the story because I couldn’t buy the premise.

Each to Each: 4 stars. Not too much to say about this one in particular other than it was really great.

Bring About the Halloween Eternal: 5 stars. Part of good sci-fi is using new formats to tell a story. This one used the backdrop of a GoFundMe project to tell the story and I loved that idea. It was playful, unique and wonderfully constructed.

Office Memos: 4 stars. I really loved this one because it takes the form of a bunch of company emails to narrate the story. Having been on the receiving end of many such mundane office emails I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Lady Antheia’s Guide to Horticultural Warfare: 3 stars. This one was okay. It had some formatting issues at the beginning, so I missed out on the beginning of the story. It was a solid story, I just didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the others.

Driving Jenny Home: 5 stars. This particular story broke my heart. I cried all over my Nook. The sadness was palpable, the conclusion inevitable and all I could think at the end of it was “I’d do the same thing for the person I loved.”

There is no Place for Sorrow in the Kingdom of the Cold: 5 stars. I can honestly say I’ve never read a retelling of Pandora’s Box, so this was a first and it hit the nail on the head. I loved every word and wanted the story to be longer.

In Skeleton Leaves: 4 stars. Speaking of retellings, Peter Pan anyone? This was also wonderful. I felt so sad for the characters and the ending I did not see coming, though I probably should have I was just too wrapped up in Wendy’s narrative to see it.

Please Accept My Most Profound Apologies: 5 stars. I have to say, I really love stories that are narrated as a letter from the bad guy, explaining themselves to the unfortunate sap who finds their manuscript before the end of the world. This was great and made my heart race in anticipation.

Threnody for Little Girl, With Tuna, at the End of the World: 3 stars. This one was an interesting concept and I liked the backdrop of the Monterey Bay Aquarium since it’s also one of my favorite places on earth. But in the end it was a little bland.

From A to Z in the Book of Changes: 3 stars. I liked this one, but it was just too disjointed for me. It seemed like unconnected threads that never came together to form a whole.

#connollyhouse #weshouldntbehere: 5 stars. I said earlier I loved playing with new mediums, this was a horror story told through someone’s Twitter timeline. I really liked that idea but wasn’t sure how effective it would be. Oh my God was it effective. It literally made my jump and feel uneasy sitting in my living room and continuing reading. It was superb. Probably the best one in the book.

Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves: 4 stars. We ended the book with the formatting cutting off a page or so from the beginning of this final story. It was deliciously twisted and well told.

Review: Meg by Steve Alten

meg Meg by Steve Alten

Published June 2nd 1997 by DoubleDay

Buy this book at B&N / Amazon / Book Depository

 

Synopsis:

On a top-secret dive into the Pacific Ocean’s deepest canyon, Jonas Taylor found himself face-to-face with the largest and most ferocious predator in the history of the animal kingdom. The sole survivor of the mission, Taylor is haunted by what he’s sure he saw but still can’t prove exists – Carcharodon megalodon, the massive mother of the great white shark. The average prehistoric Meg weighs in at twenty tons and could tear apart a Tyrannosaurus rex in seconds. Taylor spends years theorizing, lecturing, and writing about the possibility that Meg still feeds at the deepest levels of the sea. But it takes an old friend in need to get him to return to the water, and a hotshot female submarine pilot to dare him back into a high-tech miniature sub. Diving deeper than he ever has before, Taylor will face terror like he’s never imagined. MEG is about to surface. When she does, nothing and no one is going to be safe, and Jonas must face his greatest fear once again.

 

Rating: 4 star

 

Review:

God how I loved this book, I loved it like a fat kid loves ice cream. We have all seen a horror movie that we thought “Oh man, this is just so awful! I love it!” That’s what this book was for me, a made for tv horror movie. But that’s also what made me hesitate to give it four stars. Based on the technical merits of the writing it would probably be a three, based on the story alone maybe a two, but based on how much I absolutely adored it a five would be appropriate. So in the end a 3.5 to 4 seems most fair.

Let’s get a few things straight about this book right up front. The writing is not very inventive or clever. I counted at least 3 times that the word “entrails” was used in every single scene where the shark eats something or someone. It was a bit repetitive and not very thrilling. The plot is also highly outlandish. You might just have to turn off your disbelief switch because I don’t think just suspending it will do the trick.

Though the plot was out there, I also thought it was awesome for that exact reason. More than once I just sat there with the book in my lap laughing so hard that I couldn’t see straight as the book slowly slid its way to the floor unnoticed. I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to see what outrageous thing would happen next. It was fabulous! And the ending…oh my God the ending! Give me a minute, the giggles came back. *deep breath* Okay, I’m good now. The ending was quite possibly the silliest and most amazing thing I have ever read. I cannot even fathom how such an ending came into being. I refuse to say anything else about it because it would ruin the amazingness.

Now let’s ponder for a moment on Mr. Alten’s  theory of how the Megalodon survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. The book proposes that the Meg’s prey were driven to the depths of the ocean by the Ice Age and given that they are warm blooded the Meg followed and then stayed there because that’s were the prey was. And by the time they had any need or desire to return to the surface they were trapped by the colder water temperatures and so have stayed in the depths for millions of years. It’s an interesting theory but it ignores several key facts about the closest living relative of the Megalodon, the Great White shark. The White is also warm blooded, and it prefers colder waters. The White is most concentrated in areas such as northern California, off the coast of Massachusetts, the southern tip of Africa. Yes they can and do inhabit warmer waters as well, but the colder water is seemingly preferred. Since the Megalodon is considered a cousin to the White shark, why would that species be much different? There is no logical reason that the Meg would have been “trapped” by the cold layer of water between the depths and the surface. It made for an interesting theory for a book, but doesn’t make much logical sense. *blush* I’m sorry, is my nerd showing?

ENTRAILS!  Now that you’re all distracted let’s move on to characters. They were all typical of this kind of horror book, nothing new or earthshattering. I did think the love interest seemed really forced. I mean, it wasn’t necessary so why not just leave it out? Instead I was caught feeling…wait a second they were wishing death on each other not two chapters ago and now they’re planning a romantic trip for when they survive this? That was kind of weird.

This book had a nice set up for a sequel, which I do intend on reading. I recommend this book if you want to read a book that is as silly as it is tropey, but still completely awesome. I know I loved it.

Review: Terminal Island by Walter Greatshell

terminal islandTerminal Island by Walter Greatshell

Published December 4th, 2012 by Night Shade Books

Cover and synopsis provided by the publisher.

Buy this book at: B&N / Amazon / Book Depository

Synopsis:

Henry Cadmus grew up on Catalina Island, a scenic vacationland off the Southern California coast. But Henry’s experiences were far from idyllic. Today, even though Henry has seen firsthand the horrors of war, the ghastly images that haunt his dreams is one he associates with his childhood… and the island: a snarling pig-man holding a cleaver; a jackal-headed woman on a high balcony, dripping blood; strange occult rituals… and worse. If it was up to Henry, he would avoid the island entirely.

But Henry is returning to Catalina Island. At his wife Ruby’s insistence, Henry, Ruby, and their infant daughter are coming to Avalon, so that Henry can face his fears, exorcise his demons, and reconcile with the one he fears most… his mother.

From Walter Greatshell, author of Xombies comes Terminal Island, a novel of cosmic horror.

Rating (out of 5): 3 star

Review:

This book was…strange, there really is no other word for it.  I have postponed writing this review for a few days to find a better word to describe it but I can’t find one.  Parts of this story had me clutching my ereader in a death grip with fear for the characters.  Parts of this story just left me scratching my head as I thought “Wait, what?”  The basic premise is that Henry lived the life of a wanderer when he was growing up, his mother moving him from place to place with regularity.  When his mother decided to move him to Catalina Island he fell in love with the place.  Shortly after, however, he begs his mother to leave and she complies.  Now that he is married and has a child, his mother has dropped off the map.  They were never close, but now he hears that she has moved to Catalina Island and is returning his letters. His wife, Ruby, suggests that they go find his mother and sort this out.  Henry is overcome with apprehension at returning to the place of his childhood nightmares but agrees.

This novel jumps between Henry’s perspective of the island in the present and flashbacks of his time on the island as a child.  This is very disconcerting and pulls the reader out of their comfort zone, I thought this was a very good tactic.  This is supposed to be a horror type novel, I shouldn’t have a comfort zone!  And with this novel I never did and I liked it.  While reading, you are never quite sure what is real and what isn’t.  Henry has memories of the girls at his school chasing him down and trying to kill him and stumbling into a butcher shop where the butcher is wearing the head of a pig and brandishing a cleaver.  He has dreams about nearly drowning and finding himself face to face with a monster that lived under the ocean and tried to hold him underwater.  Part of me wanted these things to be real because the descriptions were fascinating.

The writing of this book and the plot were all very good.  The pacing was also good but it got a big slow at the end.  As the pieces of this story began to unravel I found myself growing more intrigued with this story than I was at the beginning.  But I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled with everything.  There was a large section of time when I kept thinking to myself “Wait, is X in on this or not?  And if they are, how long has this been going on?”  Then there is a part when Henry is trying to protect his daughter, who was just barely yelling and calling for him, and the ending of that part was just weird and it didn’t feel genuine to me.  Similarly the occult ritual that takes place was very long and I started to skim it to get to the interesting parts.  I was still not totally aware at the end what was real and what wasn’t and that annoyed me.  But also at the end it just started to get cheesy.  For example, this line: “They killed the sheriff.  But they did not kill the deputy.”  I swear to God that’s actually in there.  That was so corny and dumb it just pulled me right out of the story.  When we reached the ending I was so ready for it to just be over that I started skimming again.  Because of that, there was never a big monumental moment of “Oh my God!” about the ending.  It was just over.

This was a good book in its entirety.  It was intriguing and entertaining but I felt like the unraveling of the mystery could have been done better.  And the ending was pretty lengthy and it started to drag which effected my enjoyment of the conclusion of the plot.  If you are a big fan of mysteries and horror novels then this is one that you should give a read.  But if you are not deeply interested in these genres then I would suggest you give this one a miss.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest and thoughtful review.  Thank you Night Shade Books!