Latest Entries »

House Keeping 4/17/18

Guess who’s full on sick? It’s me. I have to have picked up something over the weekend. Good news is it seems to be on its way out. Bad news is it hasn’t quite finished packing yet. Either way.

That said, my review is likely to be late again. It shouldn’t be too late, probably just until Thursday.

Semi standard stuff, my Unicorn Crate is out for shipment, so that should be arriving soon. I’m pretty excited to see what they do with their boxes. I’ll likely do something with that when it arrives.

Comic reviews are still incoming, I am still desperately behind on those but might work on them some tomorrow while I’m resting. It’s going to be a long quiet day, hopefully I’ll get a number of things done.

And, of course, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. If you really like what I’m doing here, you can always enable my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. It’s essentially a three dollar donation to the “Lauren would really rather not be quite this worried about being sick” fund. Either way, more content incoming soon. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Up Date

Hey all, I’ve been a bit sick the last couple of days, so I haven’t gotten around to posting this like I’d meant to.

Second Star Books has their website up and running and May’s box is available to subscribe to now. You can find it here.

Since this is their first month in business quantities are limited. Enjoy!

Wayfarer: AV494

I am really excited to bring this one to you all, mostly because I was excited to read it. Something about checking out new sci-fi does that for me, I think it might be down to how well done the first chapter was on this one. This one’s thanks to the nice folks at Curiosity Quill Press for providing a review copy. Here’s Matthew S. Cox’s Wayfarer: AV494. Enjoy!

Wayfarer AV494 cover

An expedition to planet AV-494 could make Kerys Loring’s career, especially after her bosses took all the credit on the last one. She’s desperate enough to be cheap and experienced enough to know what she’s looking for. She’s everything Avasar Biotechnology is looking for. It’s clear they were right to hire her when she quickly makes a fantastic discovery, one that could change everything. A discovery that does change everything, seemingly unleashing a curse upon the station and driving everyone in it to violence. Kerys will have to find the truth if she wants to survive, though even then it might not be enough.

Wayfarer: AV494 is a solid piece of sci-fi with awesome character work. Matthew S. Cox did a really good job with his setting and, more than just that, with making the station feel both familiar and new. Wayfarer: AV494 is also very much a zombie story and hits a lot of notes familiar to that brand of horror.

That’s actually where my only minor qualms with the book come from. The characters surrounding Kerys are legitimately enjoyable, so seeing them succumb to the hate plague infecting the station is jarring and wrong and it works so fantastically. But then there’s the point where background characters start dropping like flies and these well built, likeable characters are part of that. It got to a point where I kind of stopped caring for a bit because it seemed so completely hopeless. There were a couple of spots of hope along the way and I know that sort of hopelessness is kind of a hallmark of this particular sub-genre, but it did get a little tiring.

Past that I really liked the way the characters, Kerys’ abusive ex aside, were handled. The other xenoarchaeologists Kerys works with, the various military personnel she works with, and Annapurna, the head of the xenobotany team, all wind up with solid if brief characterization that leaves them feeling very human. The way the xenoarchaeology team talks to each other as they work, the joking and such, feels organic. Some of the best work with the infection early on came from them because they were themselves, just a little wrong, where as the unnamed back ground characters were just suddenly ready to fight any and everyone. Which brings up the abusive ex, Will, since we’re shown his behavior through how he acts towards Kerys, most of his positive attributes are more informed than anything. He isn’t really played off of anyone, which makes him feel less solidly a character rather than others with less over all page time but more interactions outside of just Kerys and how she reacts to them. I’m entirely sure that this was on purpose, but it did wind up feeling a bit overdone and made it somewhat difficult to believe that other characters would be as taken with him as Kerys thinks they could be.

The setting works really well here, leaving our protagonist trapped while everyone around her goes mad. If she leaves, then she has a vastly limited air supply and nowhere to go that would be any help. The station itself is nearly a character, starting clean and orderly and well run before devolving into messes and murders and the chaos of people falling apart. The weather outside builds as Kerys’ emotions run high, leaving the station feeling somehow even less safe. Places that are briefly seen towards the beginning get a second run through after the infection sets in, showing how the stations inhabitants affect their surroundings. The changes in some of these areas a just as startling as the changes in the people living in them and it’s fantastic.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. There were a couple of things that lost me a little, but nothing really big. I could have done with a little less hopelessness at times, but I would definitely read another book by Matthew S. Cox. So, yeah, Wayfarer: AV494 gets a four out of five.

House Keeping 4/10/18

It’s been pretty quiet since I posted last week, so that’s good. I still need to catch up on my comic reviews, since I’m now two weeks behind on that, but I’m lined up to be caught up on my book reviews in a few weeks. That is to say, I’ve still got two books from March to catch up on and a number of ebooks that are either already out or coming really soon. There is no catching up, there is only trying. But I’m going to keep trying until the universe gives up and lets me get caught up anyway. Because I have apparently decided to be a comic book character.

Aside from that, yeah, I’m generally starting to feel a lot better. Not sure why, but I’m going to run with it as long as it lasts.

So, the website for Second Star Books website isn’t up just yet, so I’m not able to link it. That said, I’m going to go ahead and share the theme for their first book with you all.

May Theme Announcement

I’m planning on putting my money where my mouth is and ordering a box. It’ll be fun to see what all is included.

That’s about it. I’m planning on having a review up tomorrow some time and then the review for What Dreams May Come issue four later in the week. As always, if you like what I’m doing here, you can leave a like or a comment. If you really like what I’m doing, you can support my caffiene addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Enjoy your evening folks!

Devil’s Demise

So, this has been a time and a half coming, hasn’t it? I’m not planning on this being my review for the week, but I did want to get it up since I feel like I’ve been dragging my feet on it. I was sent a copy of this one by Authoright for review. This is Devil’s Demise. Enjoy!

Devils Demise cover

A killer stalks the streets of Edinburgh seeking a twisted revenge on beautiful women. Successful beautiful women. He gets off on their fear, on the power he has over them and the pain he can inflict. He’s untouchable. That is, he’s untouchable until one of his victims survives.

Lee Cockburn’s Devil’s Demise is a frustrating book for me. This is distinctly a first book, with all the pitfalls those tend to have, but it’s a first book that I had really wanted to like. There were a number of solid ideas here and I feel like the characters could have been interesting given more space to interact, but then the writing itself didn’t support them.

A lot of my issues with the writing come from the odd sort of third person omniscient thing going on. It is all tell and no show to the point that our introductions to the major characters are more or less just lists of traits and how other people react to them. After being told so much how evil and terrible the antagonist was, the serial killer who had committed multiple on page rapes, it started to feel more than a bit like Cockburn didn’t trust her audience to understand but that she also didn’t know how to get it across better. Likewise, being told how good and honest and hardworking the protagonist was without being shown much at all of her doing her job, I started to not believe it, she complains about her boss and worries about her maybe girlfriend a lot though. This continues throughout the book, we get told how bad the protagonist feels about failing to catch the killer or how she and her maybe girlfriend are just so into each other or how terrible and glory hogging the boss character is. It’s distracting and leaves me feeling very little for the characters except mild annoyance.

It’s also all very declarative. The characters don’t so much speak as they declare things at each other. When a situation is meant to have humor, it gets noted that that’s just the sort of gallows humor police all have.  This is, again, very repetitive. It ties into how everything is told to the reader while also making the characters feel less human because the way they communicate is just off.

The book also has a weirdly huge focus on all the sex these characters are having. It feels like if you cut out all the sex scenes the book would be a third its total length, half if you removed the consensual sex scenes. I’m probably exaggerating somewhat but this is a book that interrupted itself multiple times, completely breaking tension, to show characters having sex. The sex scenes themselves wound up feeling repetitive and emotionless and half the time I had trouble figuring out just what characters were doing. Though, again, that feeds into the book being so reliant on telling the reader everything. If the action isn’t being shown, then it is going to feel stilted.

That’s really as far as I can get into the writing without going into spoiler territory. As I’ve said before, this was a book I really wanted to like. The concept of a serial killer driven to punish successful women by his own feelings of not being given the respect he deserves is an interesting one for me. Mission driven serial killers are terrifying. I liked the idea of one of his victims surviving and becoming the focus of his hunt, because a single victim could give the reader more time to get to know them and identify. We did get a fair amount of time with the victim, but we spent a lot more with the killer and that just felt weird for me. I feel like stepping back from the killer, leaving him more in the shadows and more a mystery would have been a benefit to the book. I really didn’t want to know how hard he got every time he thought about hurting women.

Ultimately, I’m left disappointed by Devil’s Demise. It’s a book I wanted to like and it had a number of ideas that could have been good. Unfortunately, the writing and the repetition of descriptions and opinions wrecked it for me. I feel like Cockburn could be a solid writer with more practice and the benefit of a second pass with an editor. I wouldn’t read the next book in this series, but might try out one after she has had more practice. Devil’s Demise gets a two out of five from me.

So, this is a little late going out, but my review for The Night Dahlia was meant to be part of a blog tour. Until now, I haven’t had the chance to post up where the other stops on the tour can be found, so I wanted to fix that. Check these out and enjoy!

The Night Dahlia cover

Mon. March 26  Books, Bones, & Buffy

Tues. March 27 From the Shadows

Wed. March 28  Just a World Away

Thurs. March 29 The Qwillery

Fri. March 30 Through Raspberry Colored Glasses

Mon. April 2 The BiblioSanctum

Tues. April 3 The Speculative Herald

Wed. April 4 Tympest Books

Thurs. April 5 Fantasy Book Critic

Fri. April 6 Horror Talk

I’ve got a review written this week, and it’s even on time! This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here is R. S. Belcher’s The Night Dahlia. Enjoy!

The Night Dahlia cover

Caern Ankou has been missing for several years. All the trails are cold and have been for quite some time. In desperation, her father brings in Laytham Ballard the only former Nightwise in the organization’s history. It’s simple, find the girl, save the soul of his lost love. Thing is, if Ballard wants to find Caern, he’s going to have to chase her across the world to do so. He’ll have to face former friends, old enemies, even the case that’s left him haunted ever since. Nothing to it.

The Night Dahlia is an interesting book in that it earned its way up from a one star read to a three star read and then back down to a two. There were cool ideas, yes, some of the ideas here were really cool. Some of the scenes were cool, but for every cool or impactful scene there are three that nullify anything that could have worked with them.

In a lot of ways, The Night Dahlia doesn’t feel confident. There’s this feeling like Belcher wasn’t comfortable with the emotive weight of key scenes and felt the need to hammer them home shortly after to make sure that the reader gets it. That lack of confidence killed a lot of moments for me, especially towards the end where the story hit a lot of what should have been big character moments only to fritter them away. It all winds up being a bit too neat considering how much of a mess the protagonist is supposed to be.

Laytham Ballard himself is also a big part of why a lot of scenes didn’t work. His whole deal is that he’s a bad man, a fallen hero driven rogue by one bad case. But then he spends enough of his time drunk or high or generally running away from himself and the plot that I could believe that he’s washed up, as so many minor characters tell him, but I have a hard time seeing him as more than that. He can come across as the creepy guy at the occult shop, insisting that he just knows a girl is a sensual creature just by looking and describing nearly every woman he runs into’s breasts. He can come across as slimy for the same reasons, plus his constant dodging of the rules of his contract. But Ballard doesn’t come across as the wicked fallen hero that he seems to want to be. There’s a scene that shows what could have been, where he’s legitimately kind of frightening and inflicts a pretty awful curse on a number of people because one of them annoyed him, but that’s once.

That actually feeds into a lot of my issues with The Night Dahlia and Laytham Ballard in particular.  It might be due to missing some of the set up in Nightwise, but a lot of the book just doesn’t land for me. Ballard makes a big point of talking about how his magic style is a mutt thrown together with stuff that works best for him, that could be really cool. But then, when he uses magic, his big thing is using his chakras and pushing energy through them. He uses the specific names of the chakras he’s using but then doesn’t generally explain what that means and the magic isn’t given sensory detail often beyond boiling or bubbling up through whichever chakra he’s using, so it winds up feeling lazy and a little disorienting.  Things just sort of pop up that could have been interesting concepts but either aren’t gone into or just feel too out there. Like Ballard having a random musical interlude at a bar while out looking for clues, he just sort of gets pulled into playing a set with some local band. Everyone there knows his old band and is just super pumped for this random guy to jump on with the band they actually came to see. A lot of it feels like is exists in service to Laytham Ballard rather than the plot.

There’s this really great bit about half way through that shows us a younger Ballard on the big life ruining case. It contextualizes him, gives a foundation to a lot of the things he does in the present day of the story. There’s still messy bits to the writing itself, but it does a lot to make me care about that version of Ballard. But then we jump back to the present and a Ballard who is still in the middle of his bad decisions and is still more about doing things his way than getting to the bottom of things. There’s a character arc here, but it’s done in a way that feels sort of fractured. Like I mentioned about, scenes that should have emotional impact happen but either only sort of land or don’t feel like they have any consequences.  Of course things not landing makes everything feel less impactful.

That’s where I’m left with The Night Dahlia. It had some nifty ideas, some moments that could have been super solid, and some just odd stuff. But it never landed right. It’s a book that felt like it had earned a single star up to around the half way mark and then nearly earned its way back down. It sort of always felt like I was just a touch out of the loop or hadn’t done my homework. The Night Dahlia gets a two out of five.

I’m still chugging on trying to get reviews up soon. I’m mostly done with a couple of them and I’ve definitely got one going up Wednesday. I’ve got this. Sort of. I feel like I’m working my way into a better place, I may slip back again later, but for now I’m feeling good.

Anyway, I’m really excited, Curiosity Quill Press recently OKed me to review a number of their up coming novels. This is the publisher for Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device, which I adored, and the second Dead Jack book is one of the ones I’ll be reviewing. I do still have some stuff from March to finish up and I’m looking to work on that more now that I’ve got a little more time off once in awhile.

On to other things. Second Star Books has announced their theme for May’s box. I’ll be posting more on that later, once they have their website up. I’m thinking I’m going to order a box, I’ve been talking about them enough I figure I should put my money where my mouth is. Plus, I mean, nifty candle.

That’s about it for now.  If you like what I’m doing here comment or leave a like, I’m always looking to improve or just talk to people. Or, if you really like what I’m doing here, you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a coffee. You can leave a comment there too. Either way, enjoy!

The Best/Worst Update

I’ve been racking my brain to think of what to do for April Fools, but the only things I could think of were mildly mean or utterly dumb. So, nothing on that. No worries there.

The review for Spring Reads week has not materialized due to a complete absence of work/life balance. I’d gotten my review copy on Thursday and managed to read enough of the book on my off day to assume that I could finish it in my spare time on Friday and get it reviewed in time to post. I was wrong, but I’m working on the review now. It’ll be up sooner than later.

Also, the Second Star Books giveaway has ended. They should have their site up and running later in the week with the first box being sent out in the first week of May. The boxes are going to run usd $39.95 per with a flat eight dollar shipping fee in the US. I’ll have a bit about the theme for the first box with the house keeping post for this coming week.

And that’ll be it folks.

Hey all, I’m taking part in Authoright’s Spring Reading Week this year. I’m lucky enough to get to both host the guest post here and to do a review of the first novel in this series, Devil’s Demise. That’ll be up later today. For now though here’s the author, Lee Cockburn. Enjoy!

Character development between books.

At the beginning I carefully chose the two main characters to feature in the novel Devil‘s Demise, they are Taylor Nicks and Marcus Black, I chose names that I like, ones I thought were pretty cool, names I would like for myself if I could choose, male or female.

I then thought about what they would be like, as people, their good points and their bad, Taylor striking to look at, intelligent, committed to work, but very flighty in her private life, unintentionally hurting others as she fails to commit to them, the explanation for this will come in the third book which will hopefully be out this year.  Marcus is a very handsome, kind, caring individual, clean cut, faithful, hard working, and loyal, everything a man could be, committed to his wife and son, and works very hard to provide for them, he’s intelligent and enjoys his work, and the team he works within.

These two main characters are featured heavily through all three novels, the books cover their working relationships and their private lives, the emotional turmoil of the harrowing incidents they deal with week in and week out.  The second book Porcelain Flesh of Innocents covers one of the most terrifying situations a parent will ever face, DC Marcus Black’s son is snatched from just outside their home, only being left for a moment.  The rollercoaster of fear and terror, their heartaches as the team work to try and get him back before it is too late.  Both novels delve deeply into their personal lives, as other characters dip in and out of the storyline and add to the ups and downs the main characters are involved in.

I like the freedom of writing you can and add and takeaway characters as and when required, new love interests for Taylor, their emotional problems, their personalities, their draw towards the main characters, especially Taylor, she tends to lure people into her life and then shuts the door as they get too close, when she deeply wants to change, to be different, but hasn’t managed, yet.

Taylor and Marcus are good friends as well as colleagues and share a relationship that many would crave to have, they are able to tell the truth to one an other, whether it will be liked or not, they have each others backs and are fiercely loyal to one another, and share a mutual respect, but don’t always see eye to eye, as their private lives differ greatly in the spectrum of life.

The main storyline will always change, along with the villain, so to speak, other characters will come and go, and others will feature throughout all three books, their part to play always simmering just below the surface, their presence almost as important as the main characters, with the depth of the parts they play, so the reader will also wonder about what will happen to them too.

I don’t know if I’ve really explained how all the characters roles develop, it just happens, when you are writing the story moves in varying directions and the characters just fold into the mix and their importance in the grand scheme of things, is just like a piece in a jigsaw, it can’t be completed without every little bit, some a piece of sky, the same as many others and non descript and the others a face, or special feature, but all required to complete the task.

Hopefully if and when the reader finishes the novels, they will be satisfied the way the story has kept the characters parts running, explaining what is going on in their lives and leaving them wanting the characters to do the right thing and wanting things to work out for them, and of course, wanting more.

 

Devils Demise cover

Devil’s Demise

A cruel and sinister killer is targeting Edinburgh’s most powerful women, his twisted sense of superiority driving him to satisfy his depraved sexual appetite. He revels in the pain and suffering he inflicts on his unsuspecting victims but a twist of fate and an overwhelming will to survive by one victim ruins his plans for a reign of terror. His tormented prey will need all her courage if she is to survive the hunt.

Purchase from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Demise-Lee-Cockburn-ebook/dp/B00OKQB900/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1509620984&sr=1-2&keywords=lee+cockburn

Lee Cockburn Photo

About Lee Cockburn

Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for sixteen years including as a police sergeant in Edinburgh for seven years and also as a public order officer. Before joining the force, she played for Scotland Women’s rugby team for fifteen years, earning over eighty caps for the Scottish ladies and British Lionesses teams. She also swam competitively for twelve years, successfully representing Edinburgh at the age of fifteen in the youth Olympics in Denmark in 1984. Lee lives in Edinburgh with her civil partner Emily and their two young sons Jamie and Harry. Her first book Devil’s Demise was published by Clink Street Publishing November 2014.

Follow Lee Cockburn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lee_leecockburn