Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Slither Sisters (Tales from Lovecraft Middle School Book 2) by Charles Gilman

Fun, fast, and great.

Again, this series is aimed at a younger audience.  Unsurprisingly, middle school would be the perfect age range -- although the writing may be too simple for many middle-schoolers, it will be perfect for others and it has the added benefit of having middle-school protagonists.  But I would recommend as young as 7/8.  Although the topic is monsters and beasts, it's a mildly presented form of monsters and beasts and (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here) the hero always wins. (highlight over if you want to see the not-too-spoiling spoiler).

Robert, his best friend Glenn, and his best ghost friend Karina delve deeper into the mystery of the school and the Tillinghast Mansion in the crossover dimension.

The characters encounter monsters, as expected, and must run from a fate-worse-than-death, as expected.  But this second book offers more background into the story, the mansion, and various characters. Robert, Glenn, and Karina get to know each other and their classmates better, as well as seemingly minor characters who ultimately prove to have a much stronger roles to play.

The Price twins have returned from being missing and, as revealed in the first book, have done so as monsters from Tillinghast, albeit in human form. The heroes never know who to trust - and they must resolve how to save the school despite the fact that any of its teachers, parents, or students could be involved in the Tillinghast plot.  As expected, this book satisfying closes the "chapter," but leaves a solid cliff-hanger for the next book.  (Eagerly awaiting!)

An excellent new series and I highly recommend (particularly so to the appropriate age range).

FOUR and a HALF of five stars.

(note: read on Kindle)
(note2: I found this awesome GIF on

Monday, April 1, 2013

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Review based on ARC.

Where to begin...
This is a cross between sci-fi, fantasy, and "lite" horror, with some conspiracy, mystery, and supernatural thriller thrown in.  It was a fun book, a quick read, and satisfying in the end.  Mona Bright's father dies at the beginning of the book and, as a consequence, Mona discover that she has inherited a house she never knew existed, in a town she has never heard of, from a mother she never really knew and who died when Mona was about five.  Mona is unable to find Wink, NM on any maps and, only as she actually draws close to where Wink appears to be located, based on its proximity to a mesa, has anyone even heard of the town.

Mona finally finds idyllic Wink, with its perfect lawns and perfect small-town folk, and begins the process of discovering who she is and, much more importantly to Mona, who her mother is.  The existence of Mona's mother appears to be wrapped in secrecy and top-governmental confidentiality.  No one remembers her mother, even those who have lived in Wink their whole lives.  But the longer Mona hangs around and the deeper she digs, the more she uncovers about not only her mother, but about the town and all of its inhabitants.

Bennett explores science-fiction and dips into fantasy in the discussions about pan-dimensional reality, the ability of dimensions to "bruise" each other and permit cross-over, and even touches on theories of alternate realities.  There is also "lite-Horror" and supernatural thriller in the inhabitants of Wink, their "monsters" who rule the nights, and the monsters who plague the monsters.  The story progresses not only through the single narrative of Mona attempting to discern the mystery of Wink and her own past, but also incorporates the perspectives of other more peripheral characters, those who do not even live in Wink, those who are merely doing as they're told, and those who suffer at the hands of the "monsters" and the monsters' monsters.

The story is ultimately about discovery of self and the exploration of familial relations, and Bennett does a nice job of weaving something of a moral into the backdrop of a small town mystery-horror.  ... This review may seem a little dry, and that's because (1) trying to summarize a 600-page novel must omit all of the interesting little details, and (2) more importantly, none of this novel should be ruined ahead of time.  Each discovery is worth the discovery.

The book didn't blow my mind.  It didn't make me think that maybe, just maybe.... maybe this could happen.  It didn't floor me with a baffling skill of writing or cause me to completely surrender all notions of reality.  But I really enjoyed American Elsewhere and highly recommend.  Although it was a longer novel, and my life is incredibly busy these days, I stayed up long past bedtime and ignored other necessary tasks in order to read just a little bit more, just a little bit more.... just a little bit more of this novel.

I easily red a couple hundred pages in one sitting, and that, if nothing else makes it a worth-reading book.  Fortunately, there is more to this book than its simply being a quick read.  Bennett's interesting theories on dimension-bruising and his willingness to explore some of the more extreme science-fiction and supernatural areas are impressive amidst a story that takes place in the present world "as we know it," managing to present a sort of magical realism that pushes the boundaries of "reality."

Overall, I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys sci-fi, fantasy, lite-horror, supernatural thrillers, and the like.
FOUR of five stars.