Crackle and Fire
I was really looking forward to reading this when I first got the tour information on this novel from the folks at Blackthorn Book Tours. However, by the time I finished reading Part I, I have to admit I was beyond irritated.
Now, please understand that I am NOT a huge feminist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I fully support women’s rights, it’s just the overt feminist thing is not my personality, although there is certainly a lot of it there. “Anything a man can do, I can do…and do it better.” That’s what the women in my family were taught. However, the majority of us tend to live more traditional lifestyles. I live a very, very traditional lifestyle. As close to 1950s Donna Reed/June Cleaver, as we can realistically get in this day and age.
Also, I worked in the beauty industry for over ten years as a practitioner, sales consultant, educator, distributor, every facet of the industry. When I wasn’t working in the industry, I was living with someone who was in the field my entire life. That being the case, I’ve worked with and been around all kinds of people from all walks of life, from all around the world. I’ve worked with women, men, straights and gays, transgenders, drag queens, transsexuals, old, young, middle aged, wealthy, poor, middle income, all races you can think of, all religions you can imagine.
I studied psychology and criminology in college. My father was also a cop for twelve years. I grew up around Law Enforcement and the legal system. I am friends with retired Law Enforcement, private investigators, lawyers and judges. I am friends with people who have been in jail or prison, or both. I know people that are in social work and rehabilitation work. My exposure to various types of individuals and various personalities has not been limited by any means.
I offer that explanation because I don’t want what I am about to write to come off as an uneducated and erratic woman being wickedly oversensitive to someone taking creative liberties. I have no problem with people taking creative liberties. I encourage and applaud such passion for their craft and the willingness to take those risks. That’s how masterpieces are made.
But as I was reading this book, I found a number of things that had they occurred once or twice, they wouldn’t have been a big deal. But they happened over and over and the way they just kept getting hammered into the manuscript with no apparent ties to the plot, it was just displeasing, I guess.
First, I noticed that the main character is written like a man in a woman’s body. She doesn’t seem to think like much like the average woman. She is very cocky and full of herself. Most women aren’t like that. Even in law enforcement. While women in law enforcement are stern or assertive, maybe even aggressive at times, to prove their equality, they rarely come off as rude and condescending as the author makes Hardwicke out to be.
Next, I’ve never in all my years met a woman who talks about herself in the erotic and provocative way as the author has Hardwicke speaking about herself. It’s like she talks about herself the same way men would if they were whispering about her in the office by the water cooler or the coffee bar. Most women find this kind of attention to be somewhat cheapening and disrespectful. It actually almost seems like Hardwicke sees women as objects and doesn’t really respect them at all. In fact, it almost feels like she doesn’t respect anyone.
For instance, the passage “My white T-shirt clings to my body, taut against the fabric.”. First of all, women don’t talk this way about themselves. A woman might say “my clothes were wet and clingy” or “my wet clothes were clinging to my body making them uncomfortable”. But adding the fact that it’s a white shirt in the rain and trying to create an image of a wet t-shirt contest, isn’t really drawing a respectful picture. Not to mention that the sentence doesn’t really flow right. The way it’s written it seems to imply that the shirt is taut against itself, which isn’t possible.
Plus, the constant random sexual references that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot. All the comments about a girl’s butt or her figure or how she’s making googly eyes at someone. All of the sexual stuff that is insinuated, it really needs to be pointed out in the blurb. This book almost reads like soft core porn with some detective stuff thrown in.
Now, if you have ever been to my website, it’s ALL horror and true crime. So, it takes a lot to offend me or ruffle my feathers. Bottom line is I just don’t think this author has a handle on writing for a female lead. If the main character was a male, I think the story would play a lot better. But as a female, she just comes off wrong in all the worst ways. And, in the end, it just got too frustrating to continue to read as all these little things started to pile up. By the time I got a few chapters into Part II, I just decided I couldn’t read any more.
I really do wish that the main character had been more appealing for what I felt was supposed to be a powerful and empowering role. Instead, the personality portrayed puts the whole manuscript on a somewhat acidic note that continues to sour and ferment as we continue through what would otherwise be an incredibly fascinating story full of suspense, tension and adventure.
Here we have a literary creation definitely deserving of the term “novel”. Sent to me by my fellow book fanatics at Blackthorn Book Tours, I found this novel to be particularly unique. I have yet to read a similar story but it was the format in which this novel was written I found to be quite interesting.
How many hearts can a song touch? How many ears can it reach? How many people can it kill? When popular boy band Whoa-Town releases their latest album, no one thinks anything of it. They certainly don’t think that the world will be changed forever. After an apocalyptic disease sweeps the world, it becomes clear that the music of this seemingly innocuous boy band had something to do with it, but how? Katherine Maddox, her life irrevocably changed by a disease dubbed The Drop, sets out to find out how and why, to prevent something like The Drop from ever happening again.
The basic line of the story is about a new boyband (which I personally can’t stand boybands, No I didn’t have New Kids on the Block gear and No, I didn’t care about N’Sync or the Backstreet Boys, in fact, I had to look up that last one on Google because I couldn’t remember their name). But it’s not just about the band and the goofy kids that teenyboppers drool over. It’s about their music and what kind of impact a particular album of theirs has on the world.
As this new boyband, named “Whoa-Town” (their manager should be shot for that name, the abbreviation is WT, ya know, like white trash, bad marketing move in my opinion, but moving on…) hits legendary status as it sweeps across first the nation, then the planet, a number of weird things that cannot be explained begin to happen.
Teens everywhere are starting to become obsessed with listening to this music. Not just normal “oh my god, it’s Elvis” kind of obsessed and these kids passed Beatlemania in a matter of days. What they progress to is a kind of zombie-like addiction to the Whoa-Town music. One in which if their music or music apparatus is taken from them, loses battery or power, these teens go absolutely freaking postal. They spaz out, screaming, yelling, throwing things (even themselves) onto the floor, into walls, out windows. It’s an odd reaction to loving a band. I mean, I love Pink Floyd with an unmeasurable passion but I wouldn’t chuck something at someone for wanting to stop the music to talk to me or heave myself off of a cliff because someone took my mp3 player. Talk about needing therapy…or a straight-jacket.
As things get stranger and more dangerous, the members of Whoa-Town disappear, nobody knows where they are and there is no way to get in contact with them. Their manager, a greasy sleazeball named Rick Reaves, is sometimes available for comment, others not so much. N He is especially interested in this story. And honestly, nothing but this story. He’s a real piece of work. He knowingly sends one of his journalists out on assignment to get the skinny on what is really going on. There is something about this Whoa-Town epidemic that is making people sick, even killing them…or cause them to kill someone else.
This leads to Katherine Maddoxx. She’s on one dangerous and volatile assignment. There are threats being made, attacks on her, burglaries, witness intimidation. Katherine knows she’s onto something major. She also knows she needs protection and demands her manager get her a bodyguard of some sort. That is when we meet Freddie.
Together they travel the nation, questioning person after person, collecting information, trying to put the puzzle together and trying not to get killed in the process. With Rick invested in the fortune and glory of the story, Katherine and Freddie have more personal reasons to uncover the truth.
The unique format in which this story was written was a little confusing and took a little getting used to, but it did add a different type of frame for the pictures being painted by the author. Though the back and forth between the style of a standard novel and the style of what I would call press releases and articles can be somewhat unclear at first, it becomes an entertaining and interesting way of delivering necessary information to the reader about the facts of the story.
The timeline of the novel is also a little crazy, as it goes back and forth as well. At times this can be very vexing because there are so many flashbacks and flashforwards, but this tale would be virtually impossible to tell without them. It all adds a certain realism to a story that, in today’s technological world, doesn’t seem so far out of the realm of true reality. Another irritating thing about the text was the number of typos and grammatical errors all throughout the novel. This is particularly upsetting because it disrupts the flow for the reader and it’s something that can easily be remedied by using spell and grammar check. It’s something like this that not only takes away from the excellent material itself but also sends a message that the author was in a hurry, didn’t care or unfortunately too lazy to use a simple click of a mouse.
The great thing about this book is that there really aren’t any dull spots. Plus, you learn what the characters learn as they learn it. Just as you would if you were an investigator on a case in real life. Again, bolstering the feel of realism and truth. Also, this is the kind of horror that can really get to me because, to me, this is something that someone could actually pull off to a certain degree. The horror that could happen in real life, that’s the stuff that really creeps me out.
There are little portals into the world of politics, political views and controversies, but it seems that the author was just trying to paint an accurate picture of life and society today, which I think was actually done successfully. The author has spliced in a precise and meticulous representation of society today with the struggles of civil and political unrest.
There are certainly some parts of this book that are NOT for the faint of heart. Intricate details and imaginative vocabulary bring to light astounding images in the mind of the reader that one is usually only used to seeing on television.
Another very interesting addition to the writing format is the inclusion of Maddoxx’s journal entries. These give the reader a real emotional insight into the plague and horror that these people are currently living in and with. Although incredibly open and honest, even vulnerable at times, the entries seem a little long at certain points and more a bit like the ramblings of a stressed-out woman, which I get is the point, but still, for inclusion in a novel some are a bit lengthy in my opinion.
Overall, this book had a great story, fantastic detail and imagery and incredible suspense that takes the reader through a wild emotional rollercoaster as they flip through the pages, following Katherine and Freddie on their long and dangerous journey to the truth.
About the Author
Jacy Morris is a Native American author born in 1979 in Virginia. He is a registered member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. At the age of ten he was transplanted to Portland, Oregon, where he developed a love for punk rock and horror movies, both of which tend to find their way into his writing. Under the pseudonym The Vocabulariast, he was the writer/owner/CEO of the website MovieCynics.com from 2007-2014. He graduated from Portland State University with a Masters in Education. He has been an English and social studies teacher in Portland, Oregon since 2005.
His first film, All Hell Breaks Loose has a cult following. His second film, entitled The Cemetery People is now in post-production.
He has written several books, including the "This Rotten World" series, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Killing the Cult, and "The Enemies of Our Ancestors" series. The Abbey was his first book under his real name. In between drinking beer and watching horror movies and hockey, he is currently working on the following books: An Unorthodox Cure, and the fourth chapter of This Rotten World.
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Drop-Jacy-Morris/dp/1674417225
Amazon star rating: 4.5
Bedtime Tales of Horror: The Curse of Miley
By Bradley Poage
Here, my good friends, is what I would deem a shining example of what a short horror story should be. A wonderful little piece of entertainment that is well-rounded, complete and leaves the reader with a feeling of satisfaction AND anticipation. Gripping and suspenseful, this tale will snatch your attention and have you enthralled, from the first paragraph to the very last.
One of the challenges with a horror short is deciding how much detail to include, what to give to the reader and what to remove from the story to fit a desired length, all while somehow manufacturing a cohesive story that is not only interesting but also one that the reader can visualize in their own imagination. Trying to communicate what is in your head to someone else AND have them understand it AND GET IT…well, that’s not always easy. Even harder when trying to create a masterful tale of terror that only takes up a few pages. And Poage has done it with this production of a well written and well-balanced piece of horror.
Although consistent with what I have come to expect of Poage and his writing, this tragic tale of woe goes above and beyond the chilling joys of many of the previous works of his that I have read. As soon as I began to read this tasty little devilish snack, I was so engrossed I could not put it down until I was done reading. And the great thing about Poage’s short stories…they are actually genuine short stories. So, it was only a few pages, a few minutes and a small break from the horror of my reality to the hell of someone else’s.
There is just enough explained that you know what is happening and can follow the plot. However, there isn’t so much extra detail that we get bogged down in seemingly innocuous details or taken for a ride on the author’s drug induced tangent of some sort that makes no sense and has nothing to do with anything at all.
In this apprehensive anecdote everything centers around a beloved childhood toy. A ventriloquist dummy named Miley Smiles. (I mean, geez, just the name of the damn doll is creepy as hell, right?!) A simple toy for a simple person in a simple tale that will send chills down your spine and make hairs on your arm stand up.
All of that finished off with an ending that is, in my humble opinion, rather genius. It leaves the door wide open for the reader’s imagination, pushing you to go in, pulling your mind in all directions of thought. Yet the ending is totally and utterly complete. In theory, it’s like one of those really good horror films that has that one ending where it concludes the movie and the film could be a stand-alone if they left it that way OR they could totally make a sequel with the way they left it open. I like these kinds of endings because, as the reader, you get to participate in writing the story a bit for yourself. You decide what happens after a certain point OR you decide to leave it as the author left it. It’s perfect to play with and a lot of fun.
I have to say that any of my fellow horror lovers would dig this and dare I say, even some readers that like short stories in general. As well as this one flows, it’s hard to imagine someone not liking it.
To read for yourself you can get your own copy at the Amazon link below:
Blood and Ink: Love Can Be Cold
Blood and Ink: Love Can Be Cold
By Bradley Poage
This is a new series from the same author as Bedtime Tales of Horror. You remember, those short stories in three book collections that I loved so much? Yes, THAT author. I’m telling you this guy has some skills.
This is the tale of a unique tattoo shop with an artist that has a very special talent. One that can definitely make or break a tattoo for the client.
In this story, our client is an insistent and anxious young lady, who is just dying to get a tattoo b this man. A friend of hers got one from this artist and well, Jenna just fell in love with it. So, she wants her own ink piece done by Michael.
But Michael does things differently than most tattoo artists. He doesn’t use a stencil or a ThermoFax machine. He doesn’t apply a line drawing of the image to the skin first to use as a guide. He draws every design freestyle, by hand, straight from his mind to tattoo gun to human flesh. To him, he’s finding the story of their skin. But he’s not searching for just their particular story, he’s looking for their particular fate.
I felt this short story was a fantastic read. It read so quickly it was as if the words were jumping off the page at me, grabbing my attention with practically every syllable. In addition to a quick and fluid pace, there is an immediate sense of impending doom and intense anxiousness that, at the beginning, you just can’t quite put your finger on. But you know it’s there.
And I mean this tattoo artist is no joke. He even gives a different disclaimer than regular tattoo artists, telling them he doesn’t do custom designs or custom art. Then he tells her something like let’s see what your skin has to tell. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Total red flag girlie, but noooo. She wants a tattoo. Friend did it. She should do it. (The stupidity of youthful logic.) And still, the artist gives her a calm and stiff warning that Jenna fails to heed. Soon her lack of recognition of her animal instincts will prove to her just exactly why they are there in the first place.
I found this short story to be incredibly and eerily entertaining. An awesome story with an intensity throughout that tugs at your nerves and pries at your curiosity. Capturing the reader from the start, a spectacular delivery building up to a superb ending, ensures the readers complete and total satisfaction. With smooth transitions and well timed dark levity, horror lovers are sure to become engrossed within the first few moments. And void of any awkward breaks or structure issues i the material, the author allows the story to build up naturally in the imagination of the reader. Utilizing some classic tidbits with bold new twists, transforming the text into fresh and creative material. Poage is an excellent author with a very vivid imagination and a true talent for transferring that creativity from his brain to his manuscript. A definite must read for ALL horror lovers!
To read for yourself sign up at http://www.channillo.com/ and search for
Bradley Poage and/or Blood and Ink.
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