Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Turtle Boy by Kealan Patrick Burke

The Turtle Boy had been recommended to me through this site. Shortly after posting my review for The Traveling Vampire Show I got an email that simply said:

“If you like coming-of-age stories The Turtle Boy is a MUST READ!!!!!!!!!”

If he had stopped at eight exclamation points I wouldn’t have paid attention but how can you possibly ignore nine? Well, I’m glad I followed “John’s” advice and got the digital copy of this out-of-print novella.

Timmy Quinn is a normal boy who is enjoying a normal summer. He and his best friend Pete spend their days digging holes, exploring the local pond and spooking each other with tales of youthful tragedy. The basic ritual that most of us took for granted in our youth. Well, things change a bit when Pete and Timmy stumble upon a strange boy hanging around Myers Pond. The boy appears to be a little off- his skin sags a bit too much, his eyes have a dead quality and he also lets the turtles in the pond use his heel for breakfast. Timmy becomes fascinated with the boy and as he learns more about this mysterious Turtle Boy he uncovers the truly unsettling secrets that his neighbors have been hiding.

Kealan Patrick Burke packs a ton of story in a small space. He is able to build the story and dread with tight pacing and just enough ambiguity to keep the reader guessing. In the midst of this tense story, Burke uses Timmy as the vehicle to bring the reader back to their own youth. He establishes the character of Timmy with just enough generic childhood traits that the reader can instantly place themselves in the small shoes of the lead character. As a result, we feel a personal connection to the fear and shock that permeates through Timmy as he discovers the true origin of The Turtle Boy.

The Turtle Boy is a well-written, well-told coming of age story that leaves much of the answers open to interpretation. It really was a treat to read and I can’t wait to read the other stories in the Timmy Quinn series.

Pick up The Turtle Boy (The Timmy Quinn Series) on the cheap and pay a visit to Kealan Patrick Burke here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crime Beat by Scott Nicholson

There is a new reporter in the Appalachian town of Sycamore Shade. His name is John Moretz and it seems that his arrival has sparked an unprecedented crime wave in this quiet town. When a body is discovered, guess who is first on the scene? That’s right, John Moretz. As more victims pile up, the town and the paper editor become suspicious of the new guy on the beat.

Crime Beat is a fantastic novella that kept me guessing until the final page. Scott Nicholson keeps the pacing lightning fast and the chapters incredibly short. This makes it almost impossible to walk away from the story without finishing. The man truly is a master story teller- he ropes you in with his good natured wit and then ties you down with a ridiculously fun who-dunnit style story.

The plot is a whirlwind of red herrings and intrigue. I have never been a fan of crime novels because most take themselves a bit too seriously with wordy descriptions and meandering dialogue. Nicholson is able to take the mystery of the crime story but eliminate much of the superfluous details that tend to make them drag on. A perfect formula in my book!

Nicholson fills up the suspenseful story with some original character. He brings them to life with his insightful description and the witty dialogue. I felt like I was a resident of Sycamore Shade as I got to know the mayor, police chief and newspaper editor. Each was given a very distinct personality which is quite an accomplishment considering the length of the story. I found myself getting frustrated with the politics of the small town while cheering for the lil’ newspaper that could. This really is a testament to Nicholson’s easy going style and authentic style.

In all, Crime Beat is a fun read. The story is airtight and the writing keeps the whole thing moving. There is an abundance of humor, violence and surprises but, above all, Crime Beat is an example of true master spinning a well written yarn.

Highly recommended!

Pick it up for .99 here and please check out Scott Nicholson's site for all of his wonderful works.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mondays With Richard: The Traveling Vampire Show

Every third Monday during 2011 I am going to review a novel written by Richard Laymon. I am a complete novice when it comes to this amazing writer so this will be a learning experience for me. For that reason I am going to take a more personal approach to my Mondays with Laymon reviews. Try and make it a bit more casual, ya’ know? Well without further ado…………………

The Traveling Vampire Show may be the perfect novel. Not the perfect novel for everybody but the perfect novel for me. In case you weren’t aware, I am a complete sucker for a well told coming of age story. A Boy’s Life, Dweller and It sit firmly atop my ‘Best Novels of All Time’ list. I’m also a fan of over-the-top Looney Tunes brutality and gore. The Traveling Vampire Show has all of that and more.

The story follows three 16-year-old best friends: the eternal Boy Scout Dwight, a well read tomboy Slim and dim witted Rusty. The novel takes place in a single day as this trio attempt to get into a road show called The Traveling Vampire Show. The show is strictly an adult affair but these three are determined to get in. This is the backdrop for one of the best coming-of-age stories I’ve ever read.

There are elements in the story that bring me back to the magic of childhood. The type of magic that made monsters real and dream attainable. When Laymon conjures up the image of an enormous man gliding down the center of the street while wearing a ghost costume- I can see myself as a kid, believing with all my heart that what I am seeing is real. I could feel Dwight’s pain as he battled with longing and turmoil that only a 16 year-old boy can know. I felt like Laymon was describing my youth. Sure the events weren’t the same, but the emotions sure were. He was able to tap into the universal emotions that each of have felt at one time.

Then as I am getting all warm and fuzzy Laymon decides that he wants to take the reader to The Traveling Vampire Show. At this point the story takes a complete 180. The tender emotions of youth are replaced with razor sharp spears and unspeakable horror. Things get COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. I have never been so blindsided by a book and it was absolutely brilliant!

People warned me that The Traveling Vampire Show is not representative of Laymon’s best work but you could have fooled me. As I said in the intro, this may not be the perfect novel but it may just be the perfect novel for me.

What a way to kick off this little experiment!

Feel free to swing on over to Amazon and pick up The Traveling Vampire Show now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

sWitch by Scott Norton

sWitch is a wonderful novel by Scott Norton. It is a simple story. A seemingly normal family inherits a creepy house in the woods and is brutally attacked twice in one night. Seems pretty basic, right? Well Norton takes this basic plot and infuses it with his truly fresh voice, thus creating one incredible novel.

sWitch starts off with the ideal suburban scene- expensive house, nice cars, even a Felix the Kit Kat Wall Klock. The whole thing drips with a cavity inducing sugary sweet veneer that is almost nauseating. Then we meet the members of the Ducharme family and discover these dark undercurrents rippling just below the surface. It was a pleasure to watch as Norton wove the dysfunction into the fabric of this seemingly perfect family. Every member of the Ducharme clan keeps their depravities a secret- distancing them from the rest of the family. It isn’t until the insanely intriguing Mrs. Barbara Ducharme reveals her involvement in the dark arts that the family is able to come together and revel in their strangeness. They harness the power that their outcast status has given them (with some slightly demonic help) and the result is a thought provoking, humorous, gory and, above all, truly satisfying reading experience. This book could have been completely hokey if handled in a different manner. Lucky for us Norton was able to balance the humor and the horror with a tongue-in-cheek style that was completely original.

Norton takes a lot of chances with sWitch. How many horror novels take an intelligent look at the family structure? Not many. He has the unique ability to draw you in with a well told story and then challenge you with complex themes. This is a welcome change in a genre with so much well-worn material.

Highly recommended!

Pick it up here and check out Scott here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stephen King Challenge 2011

Book Chick City is doing an awesome challenge in 2011- try to read 12 Stephen King novels. Last year I really rediscovered my love for King so this is right up my alley. I’ll post here with my reviews as we move along.

Anyone else up for this?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What They Hear In The Dark by Gary McMahon

Creepy. Creepy. Creepy. What They Hear in the Dark is a first rate ghost story that grabs your soul, tugs at your heartstrings and leaves your head in a fog. Author Gary McMahon has given us a dark tale that gorgeously weaves the feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness that accompany the loss of love.

Rob and Becky are looking to rebuild their lives after the intensely brutal murder of their young child. The decide to focus all of their sorrow and grief on a dilapidated old estate, feeling that by restoring the house they will somehow be able to repair the damage done to their lives. Instead, they discover a room not found on any of the original floor plans. The room is devoid of any sound. The Quiet Room. The room begins to take hold of Rob and Becky and ultimately becomes the manifestation of their greatest hopes and darkest fears.

What They Hear in the Dark is nothing short of brilliant. Dark, emotional and frightening. Basically, everything you want in a well told ghost story. McMahon’s style is truly sophisticated. He is able to incorporate secondary themes and insightful flashbacks without ever removing the reader from the central plot. He ties all of this up with an ending that will haunt you for days after you put the book down- begging you to read it again and again.

What They Hear in the Dark is the first in a series of chapbooks being put out by Spectral Press. Each will be in strictly limited quantities of 100 only, signed and numbered by the author. If What They Hear in the Dark is any indication, I think Spectral Press will be an imprint worth following.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Jigsaw Man by Gord Rollo

Gord Rollo is one of the most talented writers working within the genre today. His ability to paint vivid images in the mind of a reader is truly second-to-none. I really took a reverse route when exploring the world of Rollo. I started with his latest offering, Valley of the Scarecrow, and have been working my way backward. The most recent reading was The Jigsaw Man. Wow!

The Jigsaw Man follows the horrific journey of Michael Fox. To say that Michael is down on his luck would be the understatement of the year. Michael has lost every single thing that was once important to him and he is now prepared to take his own life. All of that changes when a mysterious man stops Michael and makes him a simple offer. Michael will become very rich if he is willing to sacrifice his right arm. Yep…. pretty cut and dry (pun intended) until the terms of the deal begin to spiral out of control. From there the story twists and turns through some fast paced action with heavy doses of gore. Also included are some of the most intense and disturbing images I've ever read.

What makes this such a powerful piece is Rollo’s masterful use of descriptive language. When you couple this talent with the gutsy decision to tell the story of Michael Fox in the first person, you get a truly special experience. The reader isn’t just along for the ride; they participate in every excruciating second.

Pick up The Jigsaw Man here and check out Gord here.
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