Move or Die: Paranormal Ghost Stories

51ikOIWfyYL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As usual I didn’t pay anything for this book but I’ll still be abundantly blunt below.

The nutshell on this one is that it’s a collection of four short stories (about 25 minutes total reading time) that focus on the rather grizzly paranormal. You’ve got some zombies, a poltergeist and an impish carnivorous spirit.

To the positive, the author covers a wide range of villains and portrays them very well. The book is solidly written and the stories move along at an extremely rapid pace.

To the negative, the whole thing lacks depth. Considering the reading time the price on Amazon is outrageously high. These are less stories than the are very small vignettes into particularly gruesome situations. It’s as if they were dashed off in a day and sent to publication. They’re so short that there’s no time for any real tension to build for the reader.

In summary, there’s potential for this author but this particular collection seems a bit small to be sold on its own.

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Movies: Bathing Franky byHenri Szeps

CaptureI picked this because it was unreviewed on Amazon. I’m glad I did, though more than a bit surprised along the way…

This is a strong example of an old standard. An older man and his demented mother meet up with a young ex-con. The two generations connect and learn something from each other and they’re both better off. Saying anything more would be spoilerific so I’ll shush on plot points.

To the positive, the characters are wonderfully likable. The older gentleman is nostalgic and funny and full of life. His mother, despite her issues, still has quite a spark in her. The younger, despite being an ex-con is eager to learn and swiftly comes around. Things get extremely weird, dark and “real” at the end in a very satisfying way. All is not as it seems.

To the negative,the middle bits seem far too easy as the characters slide into happiness, but it’s only a trick. Hang on until the end.

In summary, a cute and potently dark movie with series of huge twists. Can’t say I expected ANY Of that.

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*** I started this review out as a minute-by-minute rundown of the action but it started to get interesting so I ended up actually watching it. That says something… anyway, original rundown for posterity

1:00 – Dude in flipflops flying a kite. Maybe wearing a clown nose? Unrelated dude leaving a building. Maybe prison?

2:30 – Looks a lot like two old people having sex. Really they’re just helping each other go to the toilet.

3:00 – Prison dude flashing back to some prison scarification scene… and now he’s making out with a girl. Um.

3:30 – a profound number of things in this movie are purple. Shirts, sheets.

3:45 – Now he’s having sex with the girl but…. she calls it off and yells at him . not clear why.

4:30 – Prison dude now filling out a form… ok, yes, he was getting out or prison. Going to work delivering meals to people.

6:00 – Back to the clown. He’s in his yard entertaining some kids. Prison dude delivering meals to him. Clown tries to chat him up but he resists at first…. starting to come together. I think this might just be a keeper….

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Reviews: Smartbrain (Penchant Series Book 1) by G. F. Smith

51a-zv-JbCL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_As is often the case, I received this book for the purposes of review. Despite that immense kindness, I give my candid thoughts below.

The summary on this one is tough because it evolves quite a bit as it goes on. It starts out mildly creepy techno thriller and ends somewhere completely different with all manner of action bits. I won’t give you much more detail than that to avoid spoilers.

So to the positive, our author is a reasonably good writer. His prose is measured, well constructed and easily consumed. His characters are real and vividly described and you do begin to feel for them. Mr. Smith’s creativity is also obvious as he puts his characters through a dizzying gauntlet of situations and one is left with a sort of whiplash once all is revealed.

The negatives, however, left me gasping in annoyance at the end. This book is exceptionally long and not because of the complexity of what’s going on. His description of events and situations is almost Dickensian in scope but with none of the quaintness of the old classics. One eventually has to skim in self-defense and at the end of a couple pages finds that nothing much has really been missed. Further, the book changes gears dramatically at 37% through (based on my Kindle’s reckoning) and it takes a long time to figure out what’s real and what’s not. This is, I suspect, part of the author’s intent, to keep us a bit confused as readers, but it’s a major distraction in a book that has a lot of difficulty holding the attention of its reader.

Further, some of the book’s most obvious points are in need of a close examination. The cover alone made me fear for the quality of the book and it took considerable reading time to assuage those fears. Unfortunately, the author’s choice of proper nouns is overly simplistic and almost young adult so they add a major distraction. The name of the device, for example: Smartbrain seems like something from a 60s B-movie. Add to that names like Vectren, Athena and ‘Brain Computer Interface’ and the tone of the whole book seems to be in a bit of conflict about whether it’s trying to be mid-20th century or more modern.

In summary, I think the author has a solid foundation for this story but it just tries to go too many places at once and takes far too long to get there. I packaged away my incredulity during the first third of book only to have it all spill out repeatedly in the last two-thirds and have to be packed away again. As much story as actually resides between these pages it could be half the length and cause me much less impulse to sigh, “What? You mean there’s MORE!?!??!” and consider hurling my Kindle across the room and taking a belt of whiskey. To quote Emperor Joseph II, there are simply too many notes… or something along those lines.

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Narita Express by Mimi Wong

29423887I picked this little splat of a book up because it was lonely and unreviewed on Kindle Unlimited. Despite the joy of a free book, I’m candid below.

The snapshot on this one is that it’s the story of a pair of star-crossed lovers as they meet for a long weekend together. The action only covers a few days and is about a 20-minute read if you’re leisurely about it.

To the positive side, the author paints a good picture of how these two characters are feeling and the situation that brought them to these straits. The man meets the woman with great anticipation and frankly, lust, and the story unfolds as they both realize the price they’ll have to pay for this time together. I wouldn’t call it emotional but it is a very emotionally deep piece.

The only real negative, and it’s a negative which depends to great extent what it is you’re looking for in a 20-minute read, is that anything which can be called is action is entirely internal. There’s no excitement or dramatic event, it’s just a rather slow dawning of realization.

In summary, this is a solid bit of writing but you have to be in the right mindset for it. It’s the sort of tidbit you might suggest to your mate as a “let’s read and then discuss” piece on a quiet night staying in when the kids are away at grandmas.

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Life These Days: With Family And Friends Kindle Edition by Ronald McClure

cover

I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited because it hadn’t been reviewed before. Let’s take a look!

* First off, the concept seems…. well, only interesting to a VERY select group of people. Maybe the author and a few people around him, but let’s give it a fair shot.

page1

* Page 1: A photo of fixing a door. And all the comments from family/friends about said photo. It’s not transcribed mind you, it’s just screen captures of the Facebook posts glued into each page.

* Page 2: “We woke up WHITE! Just thought you’d like to know!” – yeah well, everyone in this book is pretty white, let me tell you.

* Page 3: Photo of an unidentified interior of a building. Can’t tell if it’s a bar or a house. Photos are all black and white and VERY small so even if this was interesting, it wouldn’t be.

* Page 4/5: Merry Christmas greetings, the author and wife in Christmas hats. Lots of one-liner Christmas greetings exchanged.

* A few pages on we get an album of apparent vacation photos. No indication of where they are though. Grand Canyon maybe? Seems like something better posted on Flickr or some sort of… oh, I dunno, photo service?

* Couple pages further… picture of a relative holding a cup of soda in some unidentified diner.

* A few more pages further we are treated to a sampling of a Facebook messenger chat with someone else who is unidentified and his importance is entirely unknown.

OK, enough of that. While I appreciate what a pain in the butt it must have been to put this together, I fail to see the need for this there is in the world. The only people who could be remotely interested in this are already Facebook friends with the author. So while by all means I applaud the desire to capture and document the past, I see absolutely no reason to try to sell copies of it online.

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Books: How To Be Happy: My Child – My Friend by Helena Angel

As is often the case, I received this book free for the purposes of review. This time because it’s on offer from Amazon for exactly nothing until March 24th of 2016.

The nutshell on this book is pretty simple. It’s a brief (20 minute) parenting book that boils down pretty easily to the idea that parenting should be about letting your children, within bounds, be free to figure out who they are and what they should become as adults.

To the positive, at a high level the book is reasonably correct in its assertions. It cautions strongly against the twin parenting issues of trying to live your child’s life for them and that overly passive parenting style in which the TV does most of the child rearing. The intentions of the book are positive and strong and would benefit some of society’s most extreme parents.

Unfortunately, there’s much to be said to the negative. Firstly, the title is misleading and starts things out on a poor footing. Children should not be looked upon as friends. The active and sometimes corrective relationship that defines good parenting is not compatible with the concept of friendship as commonly used in America. Also, while the book is well intentioned, I’m not sure that the majority of parents are going to glean anything new from it. Those on the edges will find something new to them but most parents already know what do to be at least this good at parenting. They just choose not to do it.

From a technical and writing perspective, the book is a bit of a shambles. It’s littered with typographical and grammar issues and the formatting is wobbly at best. The author has invested in some stock photos that do serve to break things up a bit but it falls pretty short of professional. If I had paid money for this book (anything over a buck) then I’d be fairly cranky about it.

In summary, there’s some good, but basic, parenting information in this little guide and it’s not a complete waste of time but it could use some tidying up and doesn’t go much into depth. It merely skims across the surface of this very important topic.

 


Rob Slaven

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Interview with Jonathan R. Rose, author of the new horror novel Carrion

My Video Skype interview with Jonathan R. Rose, author of the grimmest book I’ve read in a while, Carrion, a post-apocalyptic zombie scenario told from the perspective of the zombie.

He talks at length about the aspects of his home in Mexico that made their way into the book and his deeper message in the book about what it really means to be human…

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