Sunday, October 24, 2010

Latest Review: SOLITARY

Title: Solitary

Author: Travis Thrasher
Publisher: David C. Cook
Release: August 2010
ISBN-10: 1434764214
ISBN-13: 978-1434764218
Format: Trade Paperback

I became of fan of Travis Thrasher’s when I first read and reviewed an advance copy of The Second Thief. Hooked, I found myself anxiously awaiting the next Thrasher release, year after year. Sometimes first in line to buy a copy, and many times lucky enough to have the pleasure and privilege to receive a copy, like with Solitary, to read and review prior to, or just around the actual release date.

In the vein of John Saul, Thrasher plunges readers into the heart of teen angst, amidst haunted backwoods towns. Chris Buckley is sixteen. His parents have separated. While his father opts to remain in Illinois , Chris and his mother is return to her hometown, Solitary, North Carolina . They live in Chris’ uncle’s home. There’s plenty of room since the uncle went missing months ago.

While bullies and unseen allies taunt and tempt Chris in school, it’s against everyone’s advice that our young, new-to-school teen befriends the troubled and mysterious Jocelyn Evans. It doesn’t take Chris long to realize that, aside from falling goo-goo-gaa-gaa for her, it is Jocelyn’s secrets that threaten – if left uncovered – to destroy him.

Some unseen evil seems to hold the town hostage, paralyzed with fear, leaving everyone unable to act, react or to even prevent the inevitable. People in Solitary go missing. It’s a fact. Chris’ hunt for answers brings him nothing but trouble and threats. Not empty threats, either.

With a missing uncle, a crazy aunt, a radical church, and a mother who false short of coping with the hand she’s been dealt, it is Chris and Jocelyn against Solitary. The trouble is the town of Solitary incorporates more than just the people that live within its boundary limits. The ghosts, and monsters just might be caused by more than wisps of air, and random bumps banging in the night.

It is up to Chris to sort out the things he knows from what can be surmised to what he just hopes is can not possibly be true—or possible. It’s now a race against time and there is no mistaking that life and death actually hang in the balance. . .

Solitary, the first in a supernatural young adult series, has put me over the top. Quick, compelling chapters. Deeply drawn, well-crafted characters. Tight, gritty, noir-style dialogue – and by the end, all I want is more. So many questions raised. So much yet to be answered. And, unfortunately, too much time between future installments. If you’ve never read Travis Thrasher, which I’d find hard to believe of true fans of suspense, Solitary is an excellent place to start. Just be ready to put aside anything else that needs getting done, because once you begin reading, I believe you will have a hard time stopping until you’ve read the last page.

--Thomas Phillips, author of The Molech Prophecy and forthcoming, Sounds of Silence

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Latest Review for Shroud Magazine

Title:        Kill the Dead, A Sandman Slim Novel
Author:    Richard Kadrey
Publisher: EOS
ISBN:      978-0-06-171431-3
Retail:       $22.99
Format:    Hardcover

I need to start the review of Kill the Dead with something as basic as, I loved this novel. Loved it.

Now. I need you to stay with me for the rest of the review. Because, as you begin to read, you may not fully believe the above statement. But trust me. I will pull it off.

The extreme basic concept of Kadrey's book continually forced comparison between Kill The Dead and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series -- the similarities nagged. Where the main character in Kadrey's novel has Kasabian --a fully functioning head, just a head, Dresden has Bob -- a spirit that lived inside a skull. Both Bob and Kasabian are limited to the homes of the main characters, are witty and a bit annoying, but also helpful and used as a sounding board, more or less -- where they tap resources to help their main characters solve puzzles.

While Dresden uses magic to operate a private eye business out of his home, he continually encounters vampires, ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., etc. Jimmy Stark (Sandman Slim), the main guy in Kill the Dead, is a nephilim (part angel, part human), who uses magic, and works for the Vigil to help solve crimes that seem to include vampires, werewolves, goblins and zombies.

Both Dresden and Stark are similarly outlined and shaded in characters, and the story lines easily blur between authors. However, and this is where I take you back to my first sentence, I loved Kadrey's novel.

Stark, who was sent Downtown for eleven years--Downtown being Hell--is, throughout the book, searching for Mason, the evil man who sent him there. In the meantime, he has jobs to do. While working for-hire for the Vigil to keep the streets free and clear of monsters, he takes to moonlighting. His new client is none other than the Devil himself. Lucifer.

Lucifer is in town. A soul he owns is a movie producer. A motion picture is going to be shot--detailing Lucifer's existence. While on earth, Lucifer wants a body guard to protect his human form. Enter Jimmy Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim.

At the same time, Drifters start showing up. Drifters are a breed of zombie. One of the actresses for the Lucifer film--Brigitte, a "Czech gypsy porn star zombie killer", teams up with Stark to fight the walking dead.

Together, with the help of a host of unique characters (friends), Stark and Brigitte, must uncover who released the zombie-drifters into the general public and prevent a serious health outbreak, while protecting the Prince of Darkness, and keeping themselves alive before the complete unraveling of humanity itself!

Taut chapters. Quick, tart dialogue. Gritty noir writing. Kill the Dead is an engrossing read. It is both captivating and compelling. It has forced me to place an order for the first book in the series, Sandman Slim, because I need to know what happened before to lead Stark to where he is now!

--Thomas Phillips, author of The Molech Prophecy

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: DRIFT

Title: DRIFT
Author: Sharon Carter Rogers
Publisher: Howard Books
Release Date: April 2010
ISBN-10: 1416566538
ISBN-13: 978-1416566533
Price: $13.99
Pages: 337
Format : Trade Paperback

Drift is a unique novel. One I could not put down. This was partly due to the tale told, and partly due to the way the tale unfolded. Sharon Carter Rogers has a crisp writing style. Taut chapters, crisp dialogue, and developed characters kept me page turning, anxious to see what would happen next.

To write this review a reader needs to understand what makes up a Drifter. A Drifter is neither an angel, nor a demon, but someone who is always here. Divinely possible, and perfectly flawed, Boy is attached to a tether for a time. Some times last longer than others. Some are short—lasting days. And what is a tether? A person. One who can see and hear and touch the drifter, while others cannot do any of these things.

A Drifter, once out of sight is soon forgotten, both by the tether, and also to the Drifter. If prematurely separated, the Drifter’s existence crumbles. It slowly, and painfully kills the Drifter without the relief of death.

Again. Unique.

In Drift, Baby Doll was adopted, or stolen really, as a child. Her deceased father—Charlie Murphy—held a high position in a mob-like organized crime syndicate. His title—The Executioner—carried with it all the power the name suggests. His suspicious death leads Baby Doll to Boy—the Drifter. Or maybe it is the other way around.

Bonded by an invisible link, the two are tethered to one another. And like any relationship, relies heavily on give and take. Boy needs a favor from Baby Doll. A simple task. He’d left something important at the home of his last tether. Unfortunately, he can’t remember where it was his last tether lived, and more importantly, he isn’t sure he can trust Baby Doll to help him.

Baby Doll needs tether’s help for a more primal cause. To stay alive. With Murphy’s death comes the threat of anarchy within the syndicate—a tipping of balance that Baby Doll set into motion. In order to ensure the demise of the syndicate Baby Doll needs what was stolen from her, or else order risks being restored and her involvement behind the scenes of the turmoil could cost her the very life she’s been trying to save. Her own.

With the syndicate growing more suspicious about her involvement, and the police certain she knows more than she’s told, Baby Doll is torn by questions that spin like a whirlwind inside her head: What to do next? Where to go next? And why in the world has she been tethered to Boy?

The tension in Drift builds and builds, chapter by chapter, page by page and word by word. With unexpected twists, crazy turns, and nail-biting action—Rogers’ book will thrill readers. Touch them. And force them to remember the story for a long time.

--Thomas Phillips, author of The Molech Prophecy

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Book Reviews For Shroud Magazine

I am going to be writing book reviews for Shroud Magazine. I will also be posting the reviews here -- allowing for a little extra exposure for the talented authors.

My first post ....

Title: Hiram Grange: The Chosen One
Author: Kevin Lucia
Publisher: Shroud Publishing
Release Date: June 2001
ISBN: 978-0982727508
Price: $7.99
Pages: 165
Format : Trade Paperback

The sad thing about having read the novella, The Scandalous Misadventures of Hiram Grange: The Chosen One, is that I did not read the previous three books in the series. I love that it is a stand-alone story, however, now I am itching to read the rest!

In Kevin Lucia’s debut novella, we find ourselves immediately immersed in a world of black magic, demons and fairies. We learn it’s all about balance. Without it, nothing works. Unfortunately for Hiram, he is the man tasked with the unearthly job of ensuring balance ensues.

When treacherous beasts are summoned, the fate of six women is at stake. Hiram must find the talisman housing the monsters and destroy, or find the one doing the summoning—and destroy him. Worse case, he must kill the one woman destined to replace Queen Mab when the time is right, or – the alternative – she will destroy the world.

With non-stop, page-turning, giddy-up-and-go action, Lucia uses the taut confines of a novella to unfurl, with dead-accuracy, a story that can’t help but pull the reader in, shake him up, spin him around, and toss him here and there until the explosive – and unexpected ending.

Because of Lucia’s story telling skills, I am forced, no-no, compelled to go back and read the others in the series!

And as a side note, while I could not find any mention of an artist responsible for the cover, or the illustrations throughout, I cannot, in good conscience, let such wonderful talent go unrecognized. The book cover, and illustrations are simply spectacular.

I look forward to more Hiram Grange, and will most definitely be looking forward to more work by Kevin Lucia! His novella has allowed for an impressive way to crash onto the scene of horror writers!

--Thomas Phillips, author of The Molech Prophecy