Dark Hollow by Brian Keene

 

Book Synopsis

Something very strange is happening in LeHorn’s Hollow…
Eerie, piping music is heard late at night, and mysterious fires have been spotted deep in the woods. Women are vanishing without a trace overnight, leaving behind husbands and families.
When up-and-coming novelist Adam Senft stumbles upon an unearthly scene, it plunges him and the entire town into an ancient nightmare. Folks say the woods in LeHorn’s Hollow are haunted, but what waits there is far worse than any ghost. It has been summoned…and now it demands to be satisfied.  

My Thoughts 

I never really considered myself a horror fan until I started reading Brian Keene‘s work. Sure, I had read a few Stephen King books and enjoyed them but never really considered a true fan of the genre. I just stood at the edge of the pool and occasionally dipped my toe in. Brian Keene changed all that. I read The Girl on the Glider a few years back and it sparked something in me, something that I had not found in other books in the genre. I am not exactly sure what it is, maybe it is the way that he details the main characters daily routine, getting the reader comfortable and then suddenly jerking the carpet out from under both the characters and the reader. Nothing will ever be the same.

I really like the world building. You have our normal, everyday world, one in which we feel safe, but there is something else out there. Something monstrous, alien, and eternal. The only thing holding this darkness at bay are a handful of people.

The characters are likable and easy to relate to. I wish I had the relationship with my neighbors that Adam has with his.

I want to read the sequel, Ghost Walk, because I want to know what happened to Adam. The ending while chilling gives closure, but hints at more to come.

Halloween Reading

Halloween is right around the corner and I have put together some of my favorite October reads. While some are obviously horror/scary reads other are more subtle but put me in an autumn frame of mind when I think about them.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I will never forgot the first time I read The Historian.  From the moment I read the words “to My dear and unfortunate successor”, I was hooked. I would list The Historian in my top 20 favorite books. Based on the reviews it is one of those that people either loved or hated.  I loved the feel of the book.  The musty libraries, that feeling of someone looking over your shoulder and turning to find that no one is there.  The Historian has great atmosphere and is the perfect read for an October evening.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

I have read The House With a Clock in Its Walls nearly every Halloween since I was a child.  If I were to associate any one book from childhood it would be this one.  I fell in love with the unlikely hero, Louis Barnavelt, because, as a child, I could relate to him.  Last year, during the week of Halloween, I read it to my daughter and it has become one of her favorites too.  One of the things first first drew me to the book were the illustrations.  The book was illustrated by Edward Gorey and I can recognize his work on sight and immediately think of The House With a Clock in Its Walls.

Let The Right One In by John AjVide Lindqvist

Let The Right One In is the most unique vampire book I have ever read.  It is horrifying and gruesome, but at the same time sweet and heartbreaking.  It was made into a movie and originally released in Sweden and later in the U.S. under the title Let Me In.  I found I enjoyed the Swedish version better as it stayed more true to the book, but the casting in the U.S. version was stellar. Lindqvist is billed as the Swedish Stephen King and rightly so, because this book gets under your skin.  In all my reading I do not think I have read a vampire more terrifying than Eli.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is in my top 10 reads of all time.  I fell in love with this book during the opening lines.  While this book is not horror, or even very scary, it puts me in a Halloween/autumn frame of mind.  If Neil Gaiman were to write “Romeo and Juliet” it would be something like The Night Circus.  The mysterious circus that appears only for a short while and then disappears without a trace, the doomed lovers, and their rival fathers, all of these put together make for an unforgettable tale.  I have bought several different copies just for the different cover art, which is so striking and unique and perfectly captures the essence of the book.

The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

I cannot read The Vampire Lestat without immediately reading The Queen of the Damned.  The two flow perfectly together into one story.  I read these in October at least once every few years and never get tired of the outrageous Lestat.

There you are, gentle readers, a few of my Halloween favorites.  What books do you turn to when the nights grow colder and the leafless trees cast strange shadows about?  Happy reading!

Book Review: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars is the first short story collection of Stephen King’s I have ever read.  Actually I would not call it a short story collection, more of a novella collection as there are four stories, each ranging from about 80 to 100 pages.  This book has one of the most descriptive titles I have ever read, because it captures the core of each story, utterly and completely dark.  And when I say dark, I am talking the complete absence of light in the purest sense.  This is not anti-hero dark, this is you have lost everything and there is no hope dark.

As I mentioned there are four stories in Full Dark, No Stars; “1922″, “Big Driver”, “Fair Extension”, and “A Good Marriage”. I read them all in order (which is not something that I always do when reading short story collections), except for the last two.  I read “A Good Marriage” before I ending the book with “Fair Extension”.  I am not really sure when I did this other than the concept of “A Good Marriage” struck my fancy at the time.  This worked well for me as “Fair Extension” seemed like a good ending for the collection.  If you wanted to attempt to end this collection on a high note, I think the story “Fair Extension” is about as close as you are going to get.

I am not going to summarize the stories because I think that takes some of the fun away from the reader and spoils the experience.  I will say that my favorite is probably “Big Driver”, as it is a story of revenge, and who does not like a good “getting what they deserve” tale, but as with all good King stories, there is a twist.  I would definitely label these stories as “horror”, no doubt about that, but of the psychological kind more than the “monster/evil entity” type. One story had some of latter but was still heavy on the psychological bent.

King picks at the scab until it bleeds.  He uncovers the monster in all of us.  That was what I found most disturbing in these stories.  These were ordinary people, placed in extraordinary circumstances (the hallmark of King’s style) and we the reader sit back and watch the events unfold in utter fascination (or should I say horror).  The scariest monsters out there are not demented clowns, vampires, or possessed cars, we are the scariest.  A fact these stories drive home.

I found several covers to Full Dark, No Stars, but I think the most powerful is the overhead view of the woman with her arm outstretched and covering her head.  It looks like she may be trying to push someone (or something) away and protect herself.  I think this captures that essence of these stories.  The sense of helplessness while being engulfed by darkness.

I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone looking for something “different” in their horror.  The psychological bent to these stories really worked for me and I am hoping to find more like this as I read more of King’s work.

Release Day for THE GODBORN by Paul S. Kemp

The Godborn, Book 2 of The Sundering

Today is the release day of Paul S. Kemp‘s highly anticipated Forgotten Realms tale,  The Godborn.  I received a review copy from Netgalley which can be found here. The Godborn has been my favorite read of 2013 and I am looking forward to reading it again. This time around I plan on listening to the audio version which is available from Audible.

I don’t think anyone could be more excited than the author on the release day of their book, but I am pretty damn excited myself.  I have been waiting for this book for years and I can’t wait to have a signed copy grace my bookshelves.

Even if you are new to the Erevis Cale saga, The Godborn is still a perfect place to start and there is enough backstory to catch readers up on past events.

The Godborn is available today in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats.

Supporting Authors Through the Library

I love my local public library.  I frequent my local library more than any other place in the city.  I drop by the local branch several times a week to pick up books I have reserved and do a quick browse on my way home from work.  Saturday’s are special though, it is the one day of the week I go to just browse.  I grew up in a small town and the closest library was one town over.  My mother used to drop me off there while she ran her errands and did the grocery shopping.  That tradition has carried over into my adult life as well.  Most Saturday’s include a trip to the library where I leave with a stack of books.   It is the best bookstore in the world because everything is free.

I love supporting authors.  Without these people that create such fantastic and magical places, the world would be dimmer, a hollow place.  They inject brightness and color to the humdrum of life and without them, well let’s just say that I would not like to think of a world without them.  Therefore, I try to support them whenever I can. I have shelves upon shelves of books yet to be read and I continue to add to them weekly. I try to show my support by buying their books, talking about them, and blogging about them. One other way to support them is through your public library.  One of your favorite authors has a new book coming out?  Ask your library to order a copy, even if you own one yourself.  The new arrival section is a great way for people to find new authors and  I can’t tell you the number of great books I found while perusing it, ones that I might not have bought otherwise.  This is how I found Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind.

Most libraries have a presence online and allow you browse the stacks virtually and request books.  There is usually a place to suggest a new book.  Suggest all formats; hardcover/softcover, ebook, and audiobook.  Typically when I see a new book release, I always check the to see if the library has a copy, and if not I suggest it, even if I own the title. I like going into the library and seeing a book that I suggested in the new arrival section. It is small thing, I know, but I like to spread the joy of reading to others, and give a signal boost to the authors as well.

It is Saturday, how about a trip to the library?  You’ll never know what you’ll find.

For the Love of Audiobooks

I am a longtime fan of audiobooks.  I have a 30 minute commute oneway and usually listen to an audiobook on the drive so at a minimum I am getting about an hours worth of “reading” time.  Lately I have been increasing my listening time during slow moments at work when I am performing some mindless task that does not require intense concentration.  I also listen to them when washing dishes, mowing the lawn, and washing the car, etc.  There are some days that I have gotten as much as 8 hours of listening time. I have noticed that many times events from the story stick with me much longer than when I read the book.  This is not always the case and may have more to do with a really good narrator than my reading comprehension.

A good narrator can make or break the audio experience for me.  Some of my favorite narrators are Nick Podhel (The Name of the Wind), Marc Thompson (Star Wars), Jim Dale (Harry Potter series) and Luke Daniels (The Iron Druid series).  I also really enjoy when the author reads their own work.  Neil Gaiman comes to mind with his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I moved back and forth between the physical book and audiobook and found the audio experience much more enjoyable.  Neil poured himself into the book and made it come alive.  I enjoyed it so much that I went back and listened to the audiobook again in its entirety.

I get most of my audiobooks from Audible and listen to them on my iPhone, but I get a fair number of them at my local library through Overdrive.  I can download the audiobook straight to my iPhone for up to 3 weeks.  I used to listen to audiobooks on CD but with the rise the rise of MP3 players and smartphones I quickly made the switch.  There is nothing more frustrating than being the the middle of an audiobook and having to switch CDs only to find they are out of order.  I have spoiled many a book by accidently putting in the wrong CD when I was not paying attention.

Some of my recent “reads” are NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, read by Kate Mulgrew, Feast of Souls and Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman (both books in her amazing Magister series), read by Elisabeth Rodgers.  All three of these were amazing and made even better by the fantastic narration.

There are also some great audiobook review sites out there.  My favorite is The Guilded Earlobe.  I enjoy his style of reviewing.  He not only talks about his thoughts on the book but also of the audio presentation itself.

If you have never listened to an audiobook give it a try.  It can be an amazing experience.

 

Book Review: Liar’s Blade by Tim Pratt

Liar’s Blade

Liar’s Blade

Author: Tim Pratt

Publisher: Paizo Publishing

With strength, wit, rakish charm, and a talking sword named Hrym, Rodrick has all the makings of a classic hero – except for the conscience. Instead, he and Hrym live a high life as scoundrels, pulling cons and parting the weak from their gold. When a mysterious woman invites them along on a quest into the frozen north in pursuit of a legendary artifact, it seems like a prime opportunity to make some easy coin – especially if there’s a chance for a double-cross. Along with a hooded priest and a half-elven tracker, the team sets forth into a land of witches, yetis, and ancient magic. As the miles wear on, however, Rodrick’s companions begin acting steadily stranger, leading man and sword to wonder what exactly they’ve gotten themselves into… (text from Goodreads listing)

I am a big fan of shared world fiction. Some of my most favorite books are in fantasy settings such as the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and Ravenloft. I found Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales through some of the author’s I have read in previous shared world settings. After reading Liar’s Blade I think Golarion is a place I could hang my hat for a while.

Liar’s Blade introduces two reluctant heroes, Rodrick, a sharp tongued rogue, and his partner in crime, Hrym, who happens to be a sentient sword made of living ice. Rodrick is really not that good of a fighter, preferring to use his silver tongue and sharp wits to win the day. When it comes down to a fight Roderick would much rather rely on Hrym and his powers.

One of the best things about the book was the banter between Rodrick and Hrym. It is cutting (no pun intended) and sarcastic even in the heat of battle. It reminded me of Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law in the Sherlock Holmes movies. In fact, Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes/Tony Stark was the first person that popped in my mind when I read Rodrick’s introduction. The duo also reminded me of Frizt Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, which is high praise as they are the epitome of the swords and sorcery genre.

On a deeper level the banter between Rodrick and Hrym revealed a true friendship. It was interesting to see this type of relationship between a man and a sentient sword. When I think of sentient swords I think of Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer and his parasitic relationship with Elric of Melnibone. This was not the case with Rodrick and Hrym and added an interesting perspective to the story.

I enjoy a good “quest” story. One in which there is treacherous terrain to traverse, deep caverns to explore, and ancient relics protected by formidable guardians. Add to the mix excellent supporting characters; a zealot priest seeking an legendary artifact, a deformed sorceress, and a destiny seeking half-elf, throw in a dash of treachery and deceit, and you have one hell of a fun read.

Liar’s Blade leaves you hoping (and anticipating) more of Rodrick and Hrym and I will certainly be adding more Tim Pratt and Pathfinder Tales to my collection.

Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

Kenobi

 

The Republic has fallen.

Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything . . . 
Everything but hope.
 
Tatooine—a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
 
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
 
Ben—Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope—can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi—and the formidable power of the Force—in his never-ending fight for justice. (from Amazon description)

Book Info

Author: John Jackson Miller

Release Date: August 27, 2012

Format: HardcoverEbookCD, and Audible

Of all the characters in the Star Wars universe Obi-Wan Kenobi has always been my favorite.  His wisdom and calm, patient demeanor always resonated with me.  I always wondered what happened to Obi-Wan after bringing Luke to live with the Lars on Tatooine.  Well gentle readers wonder no more for his story is told.

Miller did an excellent job of keeping things on a smaller scale, but keeping it action packed.  It would have been easy for Obi-Wan to face the threats head-on but that would expose him, and possibly Luke, to the Empire. Obi-Wan must find a subtler way to protect Luke and his new neighbors, while at the same time retaining his anonymity. Miller does a fantastic job at weaving this conflict into the story.  The book had a bit of a wild west feel;  the general store , the bar, and the moisture farmers.  All of this gave the story great atmosphere.

It must have been difficult for a man of action such as Obi-Wan to adopt such a hermetic lifestyle as he did on Tatooine.  I am sure that his Jedi training helped because of the focus of non-attachment to people and things. It still must have been difficult for him given Anakin’s fall to the darkside and the eradication of the Jedi order. Kudos to Miller on how Obi-Wan’s inner turmoil is played out in the story.

The book also touched on his loneliness, and you get to see an even gentler side of Obi-Wan.  There were some very touching scenes and your heart goes out to him because you get a true picture of what he gave up to keep Luke safe.  We also get to see how the legends of “crazy of Ben” came to be.

This is one of the best Star Wars books I have read in years and hats off to Miller for an absolutely amazing job on Kenobi. I think this book will become canon in the Star Wars expanded universe and will the be reference point for all readers when asking the question, “what did Obi-Wan do all those years on Tatooine?”.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The GODBORN by Paul S. Kemp

THE GODBORN

In the 2nd book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, the shadow legacy of Erevis Cale lives on even as his old foe Mephistopheles seeks to stamp it out at any cost. Cale’s son Vasen—unmoored in time by the god Mask—has thus far been shielded from the archdevil’s dark schemes, alone among the servants of the Lord of Light who have raised him since birth.

Living in a remote abbey nestled among the Thunder Peaks of Sembia, Vasen is haunted by dreams of his father, trapped in the frozen hell of Cania. He knows the day will come when he must assume his role in the divine drama unfolding across Faerûn. But Vasen knows not what that role should be . . . or whether he is ready to take it on. He only knows what his father tells him in dreams—that he must not fail.

Enter Drasek Riven, a former compatriot of Erevis Cale, now near divine and haunted by dreams of his own—he too knows the time to act is near. Shar, the great goddess of darkness, looks to cast her shadow on the world forever. Riven has glimpsed the cycle of night she hopes to complete, and he knows she must be stopped.

At the crossroads of divine intrigue and mortal destiny, unlikely heroes unite to thwart the powers of shadow and hell, and the sundering of worlds is set on its course.

The Godborn by Paul S. Kemp  (published by Wizards of the Coast) is book two of The Sundering , an epic, world-spanning event in the Forgotten Realms. The first book is The Companions by R.A. Salvatore. Though both books detail events leading to the Sundering, reading the first one is not a requirement to enjoy and follow The Godborn.

​Some books just make you giddy with anticipation.  As a long time Paul S. Kemp fan, I have been waiting for Vasen Cale’s story for a long time, and now after so many years the story is told.  While there are previous books that detail some of the events that lead up to The Godborn there is enough backstory to bring new readers up to speed on previous events and characters yet not bog down the story for veteran fans.

​Vasen Cale, son of Erevis Cale and Varra, is a very interesting character. Baring his father’s shade heritage, but raised in the legendary Abbey of the Rose, he serves Amaunator, the Lord of Light.  His dusky skin and yellow eyes set him apart from others, but does not shake his faith in the god he serves.

​We meet up with old friends, Drasek Riven, Magadon, Rivelin Brennus, and the Lord of Cania himself, Mephistopheles, and meet new ones as well. As much I as enjoyed reading and learning more about about Vasen Cale, I equally enjoyed the supporting characters.  Their stories added great depth to the book.  I want to keep this review spoiler free so I will avoid detailing any events, but I will say that they are rendered with Paul’s signature “darkness” that I have enjoyed in his previous books.

​The book is fast paced, with several different groups of characters caught up in a maelstrom of events that ultimately lead them to a final epic scene. The prose and pacing were tight and each chapter pulled me further into the story, making it impossible to put the book down. ​There are many sad moments in The Godborn. Scenes that are so heartbreaking they take your breath away, yet just as Vasen walks the road between shadow and light, there are moments of overwhelming joy.

I highly recommend Paul’s previous work.  To get the entire picture of how awesome Erevis Cale and company are you should read the series from the beginning starting with, Shadow’s Witness,  then The Erevis Cale Trilogy and finally The Twilight War (Shadowbred, Shadowstorm, and Shadowrealm). The Godborn will not be released until October 1 so you have time to catch up on the story thus far.  But as I stated earlier, none of these are a requirement to enjoy The Godborn.  It stands on its own.

The Godborn is a must read for all Paul S. Kemp fans. He brings us the story that we have been waiting years to read. The wait is over, and trust me, it was definitely worth it.

My thanks to Wizards of the Coast for providing me with a review copy through Netgalley.

Release Day for Brimstone Angels: Lesser Evils by Erin M. Evans

Mere weeks after escaping Neverwinter, Farideh’s dreams are still haunted by Lorcan, the cambion devil whose power fuels her own. One of only four known descendents of the original Brimstone Angel, Farideh has no regrets about the pact she made with the devil. But no one in the Hells knows that she has a twin—an impulsive eager sister, just waiting to be corrupted. At least as long as Lorcan can keep her secret. Determined to protect her sister, Farideh searches for a ritual that could call Lorcan out of the Hells. But in the midst of her hunt, she’s drawn into an assignment for the secret society the Harpers, an assignment which leads her and a ragtag group of allies to an ancient Netherese library deep underground. While the group combs the site, dodging ghosts and magical traps, Farideh discovers a magical book whose pronouncements throw into question everything she thought she knew about herself and her sister. The more the Book gives up its macabre secrets, the more one thing becomes clear—a traitor lurks among them.

Today is the release day of Lesser Evils, the lastest Forgotten Realms book from Wizards of the Coast.  I have been hooked on Erin M. Evans writing since her Forgotten Realms debut of The God Catcher.  Lesser Evils is the sequel to Brimstone Angels where we were introduced to the tiefling sisters, Farideh and Havilar, and the enigmatic Lorcan.  I am looking forward to reading this one!