Book Review – Batula by Steven T. Seagle

Title: Batula

Author:  Steven T. Seagle

Illustrator:  Marco Cinello

Format: Hardback

Published: 2012

 

Tomorrow is Halloween so I figure this is probably the most seasonably appropriate book I shall read. While it is seasonably appropriate it is not scary in the least.  It’s all about a fruit bat turned vampire.  Yes you read that correctly.  A fruit bat who has been bitten by a vampire.  Okay with that out in the air, I would like to back track into how I came to read this book.

 

It was a while back from now that I found myself perusing the comics at my local shop when I found the book.  It hat my attention at the title.  I mean really what is there not to love about bats?  Yes I am fond of the little winged rodents of the night.  Not my favorite critter in the world but a fascinating creature all the same.  Of course the title alone speaks of Dracula so I was intrigued further to the point of reading the back of the book.  It was at this point that I found myself having the need to possess this books at it makes many a promise that was just too good to pass up.  Generally speaking when we hit the three win mark I know it is a book I’m interested in.  This book promised me more than 3 win points, and I shall list out the win points this book has beyond the fact of being a children’t comic (which is a neutral point as this can be both a good and bad thing depending on the content).  Win 1 – The story is about bats,  Win 2 – The story is about Vampires  Win 2.5 – The story is  about a bat that is turned into a vampire (I mean really that has to count for something!  Win 3 – There is a ‘werewolf’ in the story (really for me this should count as a double win as I love werewolves even if this ‘werewolf’ is a werewolf spider named Wulf).  Win 4 – This book was published by Image Comics which is a publisher I generally trust as most everything I’ve read produced by them has been quite good.  Win 5 – The back cover is enticing in format Win 6 – The cover is really cute/good in my opinion.  (See image bellow.)

 

Needless to say 6 wins told me that this as a must own book! Of course, there is the adage of never judge a book by it’s cover and honest to goodness I didn’t judge on cover alone – I did use the blurb on the back as a guide as well.  Now I will say now that book isn’t bad but it doesn’t deliver on the promises it makes or at least the immense potential that this story could produce.

 

To be honest, the story was very direct and straight forward even for a children’s picture book.  It told a rather bland story about Livingston the fruit bat who was turned into a vampire bat met the spider Wulf and stopped an attack on his orchard all the while garnering attention and adoration from the other bats who didn’t notice him much because he learned to like himself.  Yet, while the story was lacking the pictures held up very well, a lot of the images were adorable and I loved looking at them, even as I write this post I’ve flipped through the book a few more times taking the time to examine the pictures and appreciate the art work for what it is.  In looking through the book a second time it has won and charmed me a bit more than the first time through.

 

Also, I feel it should be noted that while this book was done by Image Comics and was in the comic book store, it is not fashioned like a comic book, it is more fashioned like a children’s picture book.  In the end, the book wasn’t quite what I expected and didn’t live up the the win score it promised me from the start but it was still a decent read, I still love the art work and if there were to be another Batula adventure I would probably read it as this story was still something of an introduction to the character and there is a lot of potential when it comes to the character and the stories one can tell with him.  So because of the adorable artwork I think this book can come in at at 4 out of 5, particularly for a children’s book.  If you judge it on story content alone (which you can’t really and shouldn’t as the art tells a story too) or on a book among all books the story would be a 3 out of 5 for me.

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Book Review – Closer to Home

Writer Wednesday – Steven Shrewsbury

shrews

Who are you?
Steven L. Shrewsbury, I’ve written a slew of small press novels and had over 300 short stories published. There’s a rumor I’m Robert E. Howard reincarnated, but that’s just crazy talk.

What type of stuff do you write?
Hardcore S&S, fantasy and horror tales.

What do you want to pimp right now?
BORN OF SWORDS my latest novel from Seventh Star Press featuring my 700 year old merc Gorias La Gaul. It’s a kick ass S&S tale with a killer punchline. Also, WITHIN a horror novel from Black Bedsheet books featuring my albino spook agent Dack Shannon. AND…my collab with writer Brian Keene called KING OF THE BASTARDS., another hardcore S&S work from APEX Publications.

What is your favorite book? (or three)
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard, Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner, Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Besides the author hat, what hats do you wear?
Dad, worker, smart ass advisor to the world

Where can we find you?
https://www.facebook.com/authorstevenshrewsbury
https://sshrewsbury.wordpress.com/

*
Just Write.
*

Just write.

Tell your story. Don’t try to impress your buddies or whoever you think will be reading this in 200 years. Get over yourself. Write. Don’t preach. You aren’t going to convert the masses to your personal belief system no matter how liberated or righteous. Just write. Tell your story and entertain. Make things happen, even it’s romance or mystery, don’t bore the be-Jesus out of folks. If you like the sound of your own voice that much, folks will figure it out and move on. Perhaps you think you’re special. Maybe you are. Please have others figure that out don’t announce it.

Be yourself. Don’t be Stephen King, Victoria Holt, George R R Martin or whoever writers the best smut out there. Be the next YOU. Figure out who you are. Find your voice. Keep it prisoner.

And then just write.

Book Review – Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile

TITLE: Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile
AUTHOR: Gloria Houston
ILLUSTRATED: Susan Condie Lamb
PUBLISHED: 2011
FORMAT: Hardback

Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile is a very sweet children’s book that follows a woman named Dorothy as she moves to the south and starts a library out of her home with a very sweet bookmobile.  As the community involvement grows, the library grows to a little house donated for that very purpose.  She still misses her wonderful hometown library until just about the very end, when she can’t think of anything but the library she’s helped build.

The best part of this is the author’s note at the very end.  Miss Dorothy was a real woman, and around the end of WWII, she founded a library in North Carolina that served several counties and has grown into an amazing library system today.

So, the story is really sweet.  I could totally picture this little woman driving around bringing books to everyone and spreading happiness – and really, can’t we all be that lucky?

The illustrations are very sweet as well, and simple but realistic.  They fit perfectly with the time and feel of the book.

And then I got to the end and saw it was a true story.  Absolutely loved it.

The story could have been tightened up just a bit, but it was darling and totally worth reading to your preschooler.  Four out of five pages for sure.

Book Review-Devil’s Garden by Ace Atkins

Title: Devil’s Garden

Author: Ace Atkins

Format: Paperback edition by Berkley

Published: 2010

devil'sgarden

Before Ace Atkins became noted for being the writer chosen by Robert B. Parker’s estate to continue the adventures of Parker’s best known creation, Spenser, he was an accomplished novelist in his own right.  Although definitely a crime/mystery/noir author, Atkins made a career out of tackling some of the biggest crimes out of American history and turning them into knuckle cracking, action packed historical fiction novels. Fortunately for readers of his work, these are also the crime/mystery/noir novels he is known for.

Now, having made the claim above about the crimes Atkins tackles, please note.  Many of the murders, kidnappings, and other assorted evils he turns into great fiction are probably not events most people today recall or even are aware ever happened. These crimes, however, when committed, literally shook the foundation oftentimes of society as it was then.  If you believe that scandals as well as people being tried in the media before in court is a new thing, then Ace Atkins will gladly prove you wrong again and again.  Much of what Atkins tackles in his novels still applies to our modern era, even though they are set in the past, usually the early to mid 20th Century.  And it’s not that Atkins has to stretch or change things for the stories to be timely.  He actually simply tells a good story, using what is available to him.  It just so happens, as Devil’s Garden shows, yesterday and today have a lot more in common than most think.

Devil’s Garden focuses on the events leading to and the trial of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, beginning in September 1921.  A name lost to history except for its connection to this case, Fatty Arbuckle was the Hollywood comedy star of his day.  Known for playing outlandish characters and particularly making a name for himself in the Keystone Cops shorts, Arbuckle was at the top of his game and lived life as if he were truly king, throwing lavish parties, driving a Pierce-Arrow complete with bar and toilet around, and essentially doing whatever he wanted.  Until a party in a hotel in San Francisco in September 1921 ended with a little known starlet named Virginia Rappe dead and Arbuckle accused of crushing her to death with his enormous body.

With this as a premise, Atkins takes an aspect of the case and turns it into one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.  It turns out that Dashiell Hammett, the author of The Maltese Falcon and one of the leading masters of mystery fiction, often credited for perfecting the hard boiled detective, was assigned to the Arbuckle case. Hammett worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in the late teens into the early 1920s and was one of the operatives assigned to help prove that Arbuckle did not have a part in Virginia Rappe’s death.

This book is really three stories in one, and Atkins delivers with all three of them.  First, it is about Hammett and the man he was behind and before the great books he wrote.  Atkins pulls no punches, writing Hammett as a real human being, husband,  tough guy, lunger (Hammett suffered from tuberculosis), and most notably a man struggling with himself as much as the world around him.  Atkins not only paints a complete and full picture of Hammett, but he also gives readers a believable, credible, and fallible hero to follow as Hammett weaves his way through the complicated tangles that made up the Arbuckle case.

Devil’s Garden is also a brilliantly executed courtroom thriller.  As much time is spent on the proceedings in the first Arbuckle trial as is on Hammett’s investigation of the case.  Not only does Atkins deliver fantastic interpretations of the principal players, but he also illustrates the actual courtroom action in a way that makes it as exciting as Hammett chasing down the mysterious ‘Dark Man’, a character integral to the book.

Lastly, this novel turns out to be a multifaceted love story.  Three couples, really, are at the center of the romance here- Hammett and his nurse wife Jose, Arbuckle and his actress wife Minta Durfee, and… well, let’s just say the third couple involved a movie actress and a man who single handedly, for better or worse, may be responsible for the state of journalism today.  As much betrayal, scandal, and heartfelt emotion is displayed by Atkins dissecting these three relationships as is done by any other focus in the book. And the beauty of all of it is Atkins takes all three of these ‘novels within the novel’, and ties them perfectly together into Devil’s Garden, a book that should be counted as a crime noir classic all its own.

Devil’s Garden is definitely a Five Pager for me.  And in my own parlance, this definitely gets six out of six bullets for me. It is a fully loaded gun that goes off and hits every target it aims at.

Book Review- Bloodthirsty by Flynn Meaney

Title: Bloodthirsty
Author: Flynn Meaney
Format: Paperback
Published: 2010

It has been a while since I’ve actually gone out and bought a book for myself. It’s what happens when you are ‘poor’ you don’t buy books you borrow them from the library. Of course you borrow them even when you can buy then because sometimes you pick up a book not knowing if you will like it and would rather not spend money on a book you may not like. Still one day I happened to actually go to a book store. It is a place I have to avoid because there are so many pretty books that call my name.

On a lark I actually stopped and looked at the bargain books, the ones that sit on racks outside the book store and you feel like it is far too easy just to walk away and steal the books. (I didn’t steal any books of course.) Usually the cart is filled with weird children’s picture books, cook books and failed self help books. There is some fiction but most of it is bad fiction. Yet, I looked I was curious and that is where I saw Bloodthirsty, a vampire novel, judging by the title and the cute little smiley heart with fangs. It was enough for me to look at the blurb. I admit I have a thing in some respect for vampires. I actually prefer werewolves but there is a sad lack of those and more vampire books so I’ll get my supernatural creatures of the night fix where I can. Of course with the huge vampire craze that is out there, one has to be careful as there are a lot of terrible vampire books out there.

Still I’ll give a book a chance to hook me with the blurb and the first page or so of the book. Bloodthirsty intrigued me. On the cover it has the tagline of “Some vampires are good. Some are evil. Some are faking it to get girls.” In an instant I knew that this could be amusing and not your everyday classic vampire novel. As I looked over and considered the book the price of less than $3 dollars had me and it was the first book written by Flynn Meaney and being an aspiring author myself I suddenly felt bad that her book was on it’s way out. So all factors combined I bought it. It was nice to buy a book potentially support an author and have a cheap book that might be a decent read.

It took a while before I could get around to reading the book, and at first I wasn’t sure about it. The start while interesting wasn’t really the start of the story, it was the hook so to speak. It starts with a girl asking the main character to turn her into a vampire like him – the problem being he really wasn’t a vampire. From there the book digresses as Finbar (the main character and narrator) starts to tell about his life and background which eventually lead to his becoming a vampire or rather a fake vampire. In some ways it annoyed me at the start along with the idea that he had a twin brother named Luke. Twin brother? Fine? Twin brothers names Luke and Finbar? Not so much. It always annoys me a little when two characters in the same family have opposing first names unless an explanation is given. Like a blended family where they agree to name one child based on one ethnicity and another for another ethnicity or even a terrible family name has to be passed down so one child get cursed with that name while the rest of the family gets average names. I know they are weak excuses but something rather than what Flynn did. It was all a matter that Finbar was named such because it was very vampire like.

Still despite my pet peeve coming into play in this novel, I continued to read and before long Finbar’s story captured my interest and I was looking forward to my lunch break where I could take more time to read the book. While the book seems comedic in concept it wasn’t exactly a dead set comedy based on the style, yet, I found myself snickering and laughing and even pausing on occasion due to the humor. I loved it.

Overall the story as a whole is simple and straight to the point, pale, super thin, quiet, geeky Finbar struggles to get the girl and is fed up not being noticed at all. Through a serries of odd weird little events a girl mistakes him for a vampire and then eventually the idea hatches and forms and follows Finbar as he tries to survive life at a new high school and pretending to be a vampire. In the end the story has a moral to it. Not the whole classic moral like the little boy who cried wolf but the story has a point and tells it amusingly with some great amusing twists at the end.

I admit I was sad when I finished the book I was dreading the end for the last fifty or so pages, because I didn’t want to fun and magic to end. It was a good read and I’m certainly intrigued by the author and her second novel The Boy Recession. Of course my luck with repeating an author isn’t strong but I’ll still give Flynn Meaney another go as this book was a solid 4 out of 5 pages. It is a book that caters to a certain audience the ones who like vampires but don’t demand a serious vampire novel. If that is you, then I think this might be the right book. (Also the geek references are a lot of fun too!)

Book Review – Stranger Child

Title: Stranger Child

Author: Rachel Abbott

Format: ARC Trade

Year Published: 2015

Stranger Child ended up in my hands after another reviewer commented that she hadn’t realized that it was an actual police detective novel. I enjoy reading those, so I stole it agreed to take it from her. I then sat on it for several weeks before sitting down and reading it over the course of a long weekend shift at work.

Stranger Child is the fourth in a series about DCI Tom Douglas, which I did not realize until after I’d started to write this review (while there is a booklist at the beginning, there is no indication that all of the books are in a series, and the cover also does not state this anywhere). The book holds on its own, but I think I might have liked more of the characters if there had been more of the backstory behind them (actually, there were several points while reading that I was going “this feels like a sequel”).

The story starts with the death of Caroline Joseph and the disappearance of her six year old daughter, Natasha. Six years later, Caroline’s husband, David, has remarried and has another child, when his daughter reappears. Why has she come back, and what dangers has she brought with her?

There’s a blurb on the back of the book that says “Rachel Abbot will keep you guess long into the night and just as soon as you’ve figure it out…think again!” Well, Suspense Magazine, I have news for you. There was not a single (not ONE) plot twist in this book that I did not see coming from about 1/3 of the way through.

DCI Tom Douglas, as a character, was fine. Nothing outstanding about him – he was a steady character, he did his work diligently, you could tell he cared for the people he was helping, but there was nothing that made him awesome (or, even, made him somebody I wanted to read any more books about).

Emma, David Joseph’s new wife, is probably the bedrock of the novel. Her reactions are believable and she is strong but she’s also vulnerable. The main issue I have with her is that there’s really no sense of how she exists outside her relationships – what did she do before marrying her husband? We know about one of her past relationships (a serious one) but what did she do, career-wise? Obviously she’s not doing it now, as she spends her time raising her son. Still, every time we were in her POV, I was more interested.

There are several plot twists in this book that are obviously meant to shock the reader, however any experienced mystery reader is going to spot them as soon as the early strings are set up. However, the author does have a fair hand with action sequences. While I do have a bit of an issue with the ending, when the action starts the story just powers on through to the end.

Since I prefer my mysteries with a bit more, well, mystery, I likely won’t seek out the others in the series, however this book would work well for somebody new to the genre, or somebody who wants action without a lot of brain-twisting. 3/5 pages

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