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Book Reviews

Review: Ten Years of Darkness by Kristen M. Chambers and Viktor H. Strangewayes

Color palette here is carefully selected with a feather radiating magic. Nicely done cover.

SDMcKinley.com completed this review via a free copy in cooperation with StoryTellers on Tour and the author’s blog tour.

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For more about this tour visit Storytellers On Tour.

Blurb:

A darkly humorous mash-up of time travel and dark fantasy, in which our heroes discover there is more to our history than we’ve been led to believe. Discover a world of demons and dark Magic, of ancient civilizations and unexpected alliances, hiding just out of plain sight…

A demonic plague carried by time-traveling bats, a dripping mechanical construct from ages past, and a talking quill which gleans the truth from a person’s blood. A few months ago, that would have been enough to make Kristen question her sanity, but after everything she’s seen, they seem pretty par for the course.

After a brief encounter with a mysterious stranger leaves Kristen with an unusual Magical artifact, she begins to realize there is far more to our world than she’s been told, and the very future of humanity may just rest in her hands. Joining forces with some rather unlikely allies – a nervous neighbor whose dreams of Magic are quickly turning into his nightmare; a diminutive yet feisty Lumynar, who may be the last of her kind; and a wisecracking demon who happens to share the moniker of a fictional spy – Kristen sets out on the journey she had always dreamed of, but may not be prepared for.

With potential horrors looming on the horizon, access to Magical resources obstructed by powerful forces, and more questions arising with each encounter, our heroes must band together and fight for their world and the fate of humanity. But for every question answered, many still linger: Have they chosen to support the right factions? Are their goals worth more than those they are fighting against? And worst of all, have they gone through this entire process before?

From the group who founded the Vaal’bara Historical Society, Ten Years of Darkness is a prequel which can be read before Volume One or after Volume Five. The prequel takes place in an unsettling time before many events transpired, yet is simultaneously affected by their outcome, following characters both new and familiar, and bringing as yet untold details to light while also exploring others from a unique perspective. Those seeking to learn the true mission of the Society may very well choose to start here, while other readers who have already traveled the timeways at our heroes’ side will find many clues to further their journey as they look toward the future.


Ten Years of Darkness presents originality in form with handy visual-graphic hints at progressions in story line with visual clues as to what kind of scene transformation is taking place such as time transformation, portal, written document or vision. This element works well and added value.

In regards to further specifications on format, each chapter is professionally titled and paragraphs are separated by a double-carriage return, being non-indented in the print book and indented in the eBook format. While I didn’t mind the double spaced paragraphs in the print book, the indention and spaced paragraphs did bother me slightly in the eBook as a violation of too-much-wasted-white-space. Albeit the former were small offenses in my vouch for criticism regarding form in writing. All things matter.

Unfortunately, most events or thoughts in the book come in quick passing. It’s fast paced adventure through space and time with magical elements of time crystals, talking quills and a transformational, riddle giving knife. In my readings, I found it difficult to decipher what was important in the book and what wasn’t, being there not much accentuation toward important things and non-important things. Although, with all these details spinning at me I still found escape into a meta-world where things are surreal and interesting in a way that we do not find in our present reality, which was great in seeking escapism and food-for-thought. The writing itself, on a small scale was executed well with little-to-no typos or sloppiness in regards to grammar and punctuation.

“May the quill prove mightier than the blade.”

Page 101, Ten Years of Darkness

I have mentioned before that what I look for most in a book is complete immersion, being enveloped in a proverbial wrap of feeling, giving me emotion ( whether good or bad ) and instilling a sense of complete atmosphere which I found mostly lacking in this book. This is why I believe that happened: there’s not much further explained and proves to be too verbose with not much poetic nature and the writing seems cut short both in character elements and setting when thoughts, actions and setting could be appropriately, even slightly expanded upon to give us a little more background and feeling about what is happening and most importantly: why . . . in order to give my imagination some taste. It could use a good rambling re-cap in spots to tie everything up nicely. This begs the argument against imagination vs too much information, but what I am seeking here is just a little more in regards to setting, character and thoughts to feed that imaginative construct in my mind. It seems that this book might be a product of all the advice online about writing and that presents dangers in itself of lacking soul and individuality that is needed to encompass a complete personal thought as paragraph and a complete feeling as form and book. I feel as if I know nothing about these authors through their writings – neither good or bad in itself.

Now the flip side of this is we are given plenty of room to appreciate the premise of the book being that reality is more than meets the eye, exploring the concept of worlds interacting with our own in ways we cannot presently understand. Then, we are presented an option to decipher importance of specifics on our own – as a feat of imagination and grasp for something more than simply what is presented in front of our face, in the writings. I absolutely loved those magical touches including naming demons after elusive cartoon characters that I personally grew up with via media, thus inciting a correlation previously not thought about, ending in personal amusement.

Recommendation:

Ten Years of Darkness presents originality in form and function, while delivering fun themes surrounding time and magic with comedic characters and mischievous events; even not normally animate characters such as knives and quills that interact with the fictional world. But, it lacks depth in regards to the reader deciphering what is important in the story and what isn’t with little-to-no back tracing or reasoning to why things happen or even thoughts. However, I would imagine telling a story that resides outside reality, but delves into meta-reality, might present the same exact problems because it would lie outside common reasoning. Ten Years of Darkness – definitely worth the read @ ★★★☆☆ three stars out of five.

Guys and gals, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Costumer by Chad Schimke

The Costumer by Chad Schimke

The Costumer by Chad Schimke was a random pick, out of a free book newsletter. You may get a free copy as well, at the time of this writing, via the author’s website ( if you like this story, I would recommend giving the 99c to this author via Amazon ). It’s a short, horror story ( that’s the way it’s categorized on Amazon, but after reading I’m saying thriller for genre ), less than 50 pages long and has a bit of non-favorable quirkiness ( especially on the first page with the one sentence paragraphs and other random places in the first half of the story ) that faded for me, thankfully into okay quirkiness after some time and even to better things. Start-of-sentence word repetitions and repeat sentence structure weren’t so-good, but overall this book is enjoyable with some mostly non-invasive LBGTQ elements mixed in with a decent story arc about a selfish-costumed-killer, determined to get revenge on a mission to seek attention, to sum at all up.

“Hurt filled the chasm split down the middle of his broken heart where love had been replaced with hate.” —Chad Schimke, The Costumer

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Book Reviews

Review: Saltblood by T.C. Parker

😮 This is a marvelous cover. Absolutely stunning.

Blurb:

A remote island. A group of prisoners. And an evil as old as time.

Robin didn’t mean to break the law. Didn’t know at first what law she’d broken. And now she’s on her way to Salt Rock – a new-model prison for a new kind of criminal, way out in the remote Northern Isles of Scotland.

On Salt Rock, she’ll meet other prisoners like her – men and women from all over the world, spirited away from the lives they knew for crimes they didn’t know they were committing.

She’ll uncover the complex web of conspiracy that connects them all, confronting some of the darkness of her own past in the process.

And she’ll come face to face, finally, with an evil as old as the land itself.

It’s hell in those waters.


Books with certain qualities, elements or style can be more appealing, of course to readers when they match up with the reader’s expectations and personal interests. Saltblood by T.C. Parker is one of those books, for me that not only matched up with expectations and interests, it’s intimate, genuine and original: it’s one of those stories that sticks on my side like blood sucking leech, stuck for life in a completely well way.

Great! I can eat chicken wings while reading again. 🤠
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Book Reviews

Review: The Long Guest by Jennifer Mugrage

[ Image Source: OutofBabel.com ] This is a fairly well done cover. I’m getting a school or library artwork-type vibe from this, which is great and that yellow lettering on the author name is a excellent choice for color palette.

This review was done as an ARC, in exchange for an honest review.

Hrm, let’s see . . . what do we look for in books that isn’t mentioned a whole lot? That’s it! You guessed it – immersion. The Long Guest by Mugrage is exactly that. The story immerses you in an environment from long ago, around 10000 B.C. where chaos reigns down from the sky, creating a language barrier to prevent the continuation of building the Tower of Babel. Only 17 pages before the story dropped for me, which came in way under my 100 page threshold mark.

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Book Reviews

Review: Darke Awakening by Lee Hall

Soft edges, again we have a form of bokeh with the snow flakes and that hand along with these forest elements makes for a great cover that rivals really anything I have seen. The finish on the paperback is a glossy one which I didn’t favor as well as matte.

I read the first book in this series titled Open Evening and I can tell you that this writer ( Hall ) has evolved. Toward the beginning of the book, with the rocks and the lake, it reminded me of lofty, floaty feelings I got when reading Storm Constantine’s The Ghosts of Blood and Innocence and while Constantine holds that feeling through her whole book, Hall deviates and moves onto other atmospheric feelings of epic battle scenes and neat accentuation such as secret labs, government agents, supernatural puzzles with pentagrams and a conundrum of imbalance that a slew of different kinds of monsters can bring that includes vampires, witches and other abominations along with vampiric transformations.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Seller of Sins by Kristina Gallo

I like this color scheme. It gives me a “winey” vibe. Masquerade mask – what a powerful symbol.

Karolina and Filip are a childless couple in a marriage full of daily conflicts and frustrations. Karolina eases her loneliness in a fantasy world of internet chat rooms with strangers while Filip remains blind to her pain.
Filip wonders if any of the cyberspace connections Karolina finds mean actual betrayal or could something totally different be going on? His search for answers leads him on an unconventional life-altering journey that includes the mysterious Blanka, an obsessive woman addicted to love.

Extracted from Amazon

The Seller of Sins by Kristina Gallo is a satirical story of situational fragility of human relationships and love, where no holds barred author ( Gallo ) tells a twisted story of eroticism, night life, deception, mystery and temptation. Then, we have the mother-in-law; without spoiling too much of the story, I would have really liked to see some more violence with the family knife scene than there was. The first half of this book worked a lot better for me than the second half, where it became a bit too verbose and a trudge to read through. There were some formatting issues with the Kindle view:

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Book Reviews

Review: The Bosch by Neal Asher

I like this cover. I would have elected for maybe a stroke, especially on the back cover for the white lettering only because it would make it easier to read. Overall, the cover does it’s job well and it does so with bifurcation of light in the form of art. Publication date : April 27, 2020

The Bosch is a short novella of 21,000 words, written after nightmares about a far future biotech world and subsequently leafing through a Hieronymus Bosch art book.

Set in a far future after the Polity of my books has passed into history, The Bosch tells the story of how, when your biotechnology is sufficiently advanced, you can create the monsters others only imagined. When you are the ruler of a world, based on such tech, and have lived for thousands of years, perhaps you have become numb to mere human concerns. But a crime has been committed and restitution must be made, by raising the Bosch.

[Source: NealAsher.co.uk]

The Progenitor has arrived. Man, oh man. Let me start off by saying – If this is anything like the future, equip me with a gamma death ray, caliber 4 miles wide. This novella, titled The Bosch is really something else, let me tell you. I have read some other hard science fiction, namely Neuromancer by William Gibson, but that book didn’t sit too well with me. Thankfully, I didn’t let that fact set the stage in my mind for other works of hard science fiction because this little book knocked my socks off in a special kind of way.

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Book Reviews

Review: Neithernor ( grotesquerie ) by Richard Gavin

Cover of grotesquerie by Richard Gavin. Cover art by Mike Davis.

This Collection includes: “Banishments” • “Fragile Masks” • “Neithernor” • “Deep Eden” • “The Patter of Tiny Feet” • “The Rasping Absence”• “Scold’s Bridle: A Cruelty” • “Crawlspace Oracle” • “After the Final” • “The Sullied Pane” • “Cast Lots”• “Notes on the Aztec Death Wistle” • “Headsman’s Trust: A Murder Ballad” • “Chain of Empathy” • “Three Knocks on a Buried Door” • “Ten of Swords: Ruin”

This review covers the third, short story titled Neithernor, inside of the collection of stories titled grotesquerie. This is not a a review for the whole book.

In my review for the first story in grotesquerie titled Banishments, I don’t think I mentioned, but these stories are mostly written in a classical form. It’s one that you don’t see often these days. It is a bit heavier of reading, sometimes I had to go back over things, but with this comes a reward. What is also rewarding about these stories is, albeit not excessive, that their are gems. Gems in the form of interesting words, gems in the form of complex thought, gems in the form of references to other mediums of art, etc. I really can’t say enough about how I value gems in all books, not just this short story. Things that make you think, wonder and research to learn and grow. I fear that a lot of modern books won’t put gems in a book for reasons I can only assume, but I think it is a mistake, especially when warranted. I haven’t read a lot of classic literature, even in the horror genre such as H.P. Lovecraft or similar, not enough to speak about it. But, if I were to assume what it would be like and to recall a solid memory about it, it would be close in form to what Gavin has done here. This is classy horror, no cussing or vulgarities in that respect. It’s intellectual reading.

“Companionship always puts one more at ease with one’s own eccentricities. Alone, one’s compulsions can become forces of anguish and alienation. Betrothed, they twist into endearing quirks in the eye of one’s lover. This of course is so much easier than the futile quest to entirely remake one’s self to fit an ideal.”

© 2020, Richard Gavin
Categories
Book Reviews

Review: Banishments ( grotesquerie ) by Richard Gavin

Click on this finely tuned cover image to have a visit to the author’s release announcement. The artwork here is amazing and represents the content well.

This Collection includes: “Banishments” • “Fragile Masks” • “Neithernor” • “Deep Eden” • “The Patter of Tiny Feet” • “The Rasping Absence”• “Scold’s Bridle: A Cruelty” • “Crawlspace Oracle” • “After the Final” • “The Sullied Pane” • “Cast Lots”• “Notes on the Aztec Death Wistle” • “Headsman’s Trust: A Murder Ballad” • “Chain of Empathy” • “Three Knocks on a Buried Door” • “Ten of Swords: Ruin”

This review covers the first story within the grotesquerie collection titled Banishments, which is apart of my Halloween reading list. I chose to review the short story instead of reviewing the whole book because I am treating this as somewhat of a study to identify the core elements and atmosphere in writings. This book can be considered heavier reading, but I knew what I was getting myself into before I started.

Banishments is a truly interesting story with murky elements and emotional ties in setting to a broken home, but more importantly what is found floating down a stormy, rushing river. And the writings here in Banishments has a classical type feel that left me in somewhat of a confused state when certain elements were finally introduced. However, I feel like that is not at fault of the writer, but my own as my assumptions led me to believe, based on what was presented that at first had me thinking this story took place in some distant world.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Alien Interviews by Chet Novicki

This modern looking, high quality cover represents the book well. Greys or Grays? tomato tomoto, blah blah blah, you get the point. ;D

Summary:

( Extracted from Book Barbarian )

I just got a phone call from my old friend, Jimmy. Only trouble is, Jimmy died 40 years ago.

So what’s he been doing while he’s been “dead”? Interviewing little gray aliens for the government, according to him. And keeping notes. Now he wants to tell me all about it, but someone doesn’t want me to know and is working hard to keep me from finding out!

A highly unusual novel with a unique take on the “alien experience” – who they are, where they come from and what they’re doing here, plus who we are,what we’re doing here, and what happens when we die. Set in modern-day (now) Florida, USA. American English.

Evaluation:

Chet Novicki presents The Alien Interviews in a digestible format. I was able to follow right along with the story from page one without any indiscernible noise that some other books present at the beginning ( neither a pro or a con in my opinion ).