Maybe A Flicker Of Shadows isn’t suited to your tastes. That’s understandable. Perhaps one of my book reviews will spark your interest. These are great recommendations.
By RH Hale
R.H. Hale did something that is incredibly difficult: she staked a claim in the vampire genre. (I’ll wait while you recover from laughing at my pun. Take your time.)
Okay, it wasn’t a funny pun. But, there’s truth in it. We all come to vampire stories with a lot of baggage. My own expectations were stacking up before I even read the first paragraph of “Church Mouse”. Among other criteria, I expected: horror; I expected a rich plot; I expected history, fear, character development, surprise and mystery. Hale did not disappoint. She delivered all of these, and more, in spades. What I didn’t expect was to care for the characters as much as I did.
This leads me to what I found most impressive about Hale’s writing style: her patience. I believe Hale’s mastery of this instrument is not found in her ability to just pace out the scares and action, it’s about the way she lets scenes and character relationships breathe over chapters. I found myself reading and getting just comfortable enough with the surroundings and character motives before Hale would toss lines in to knock my block off. This show of patience is, to me, a sign of a great author. I believe Hale understands this because she understands her vampires. Hers are professional hunters; as patient as they are adept. Hale, too, is a hunter. Her words could take you at any time, but she waits. She waits until the moment is perfect. She waits because she is in total control of her writing.
“Church Mouse” is a thoughtful, gross, clever, graceful, brutal and masterfully told story. Hale’s writing is as beautiful as it is tactical. She clearly knows how to write. I highly recommend this book.
By Lisa De Castro
De Castro’s work deserves a 5-star rating by just about any metric. For me, that elusive fifth star was earned not just because of the beautifully sentimental tone that permeates “Margot” (of which De Castro’s craftsmanship should be applauded), it was earned because the book made me feel … emotions. Ugh … emotions.
I should explain myself.
Reading De Castro’s book was akin to roaming through a carefully curated art gallery of Romanticist and Impressionist paintings; two movements that transcend their surface depictions. This is a good thing. Like “Margot”, those movements trigger … emotions … not explicitly presented to the eye of the viewer. Through shadows and light, tone and composition, De Castro presents each brief painting/chapter for interpretation. She doesn’t instruct you on what to feel, the … emotions … naturally float into your subconscious. The more I studied the paintings/chapters inside the Gallery of Margot, the more they evoked … emotions … in me that I would have rather left unstirred. As I proceeded, I vowed to keep my … emotions … in check. With each painting/chapter, the life of Margot became fuller and more recognizable. I became confident I would not again allow myself to be manipulated into feeling … emotions. It was about then that I reached the second to last painting/chapter. I was honestly surprised at what was before me. Damn it, De Castro had done it to me again. She made me feel … emotions.
“Margot” is a wonderful experience and a wonderful read for everyone. You’ve been warned: it will make you feel … emotions. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m now going to go watch a movie about war.
The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks
By William Aicher
Look, 4 stars is a damned good rating. As I see it, that elusive fifth star is held in reserve for books that scratch my personal itch. “Sparks” left me scratching my head in a good way, though. You see, I like science fiction that beckons for deeper thought. “Sparks” book did not disappoint in this regard. Perhaps this story will be a five star gem for you. I would encourage you to read Mr. Aicher’s work. There’s more than enough substance in the pages for most readers to discover their own preferential scratching posts.
But, is that what you want to know from a review? Probably not. There are plenty of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads steeped in analyses of the plot and structure. You should read those. As for my tastes, I offer this to the pile: I found the pacing to be spry and engaging; the descriptions of the Eyefields to be rich and inventive; and, the plight of Mr. Sparks to be compelling. I could go on but this review has expired, which is unfortunate.
By Simon Lindley
Fantasy is a difficult genre for me to appreciate. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. Sure, I’ve read LOTR. Who hasn’t? But, I’m not the guy who, after closing “Rings”, climbed to the tippy top of Mnt. Tolkien so I could do a deep dive into The Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien, or The Children of … whatever. But when I encountered a glowing review and recommendation for Mannethorn’s Key, I thought I would once again test the waters.
I’m glad I did. After finishing Mr. Lindley’s book, I’m now wondering what else I may be missing out on. Could all fantasy books be this well crafted? Are they all expertly written, and not just in service of creature descriptions? Likely not; but Mr. Lindley’s book sure is. It isn’t just rich with fantasy history and adventure, it confidently presents magic on its own, poisoned, terms; rewriting the rules as I thought I had understood them to be. In particular, I found it clever how the book blended fantasy magic with the traditional myths of Indigenous Peoples.
Mannethorn’s Key: Book 1 of the Key of Life Trilogy makes me want to climb the mountain Mr. Lindley is creating. I’m looking forward to a headfirst dive into book 2.
The Little Demons Inside
By Micah Thomas
Playful and Complex; Accessible and Abstract. The way Mr. Thomas strikes a balance between these concepts is something to be admired. Is it because there appears to be a truth underscoring the writing that makes even the most surreal aspects seem grounded and relatable? Is it because the philosophical aspects ease you in, only to leave you grasping for further understanding? I don’t know, and that is fine with me. I don’t know how Mr. Thomas weaved the wonder, I just know it was my pleasure to benefit from it.