Book Blog
He gave me Barn Cats (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 16 October 2017 00:00

met Maria Santomasso-Hyde in her art gallery in the middle of nowhere. Beautiful art, all sorts of country paintings. But then we got to talking. We’re both writers. We’ve both lost cats. Then she mentioned she had a book she was selling off a stack to one side, an autobiographical work she’s put together. Of course, I almost always buy such things – you gotta help those as hungry as you, right?

Maria’s deal is that she’s very Christian and very loving, so when she went through a year where she lost nine loved ones (her mom, her loyal dog, and three cats from the barn, along with various other humans), she had to start looking at God critically. In her mind she had a scorecard, with GOD: 9 MARIA: 0 on it. She didn’t quite come out and damn God, but she wanted answers. Why did she have to go through this? Why did He take all her loved ones away?

Written from different points of view, the story leaps from herself to her husband to her mother, to the ghosts of the departed, to the animals in her life (so maybe it’s not quite autobiographical, by definition). But yes, having just had a dear cat pass which left an aching hole in my life, I was asking the same questions. And Maria nailed that sense of loss, so much that two times I found myself reading while tears streamed down my cheeks. Tough tale, well written.

I won’t go into how Maria pulls herself together, what steps she goes through and discoveries she makes. It was just  a beautiful book, one that flows like water in a mountain stream, every now and then tossing off a thoughtful splash. I really enjoyed it –so much that I’m going to put a link at the bottom of this review.

If you have suffered a loss, skip the self-help books. Have a look at this one to restore some sort of meaning in your life. It helped me, and I’m certainly not a traditional Christian reader.




Last Updated on Monday, 16 October 2017 19:43
How to be happy (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 08 October 2017 00:00

o, I didn’t get this because I was depressed about my cat’s passing (well, maybe a little). Titled as above, and subtitled as Not a Self-Help Book, Seriously), it intrigued me. The cover shows a hand holding a wick of sorts, which turns out to be the light (we find) that surgeons on night-shrouded battlefields and inside shot-ravaged frigates used to illuminate their patients. It’s a desperate form of healing illumination – fitting.

So inside this curious book, we see a dedication to a bunch of people “but not Sandra”, and the statement (which I love) – “On day, if you’re lucky, you’ll say something beautiful and true and people will love you for a little while.”

See, it’s already strange.

At this point, we begin a long string of emails from Sandra to Iain (our author) about the new self-help book he’s been commissioned to write. These are followed by his replies and his submissions. At first, yes, they are a little scatterbrained, moving from this topic to that, all true in a bit of an unstructured way. Sandra patently corrects Iain to the book she envisions, and Iain’s corrections are a little more off the mark. She proposes a horrible cover for the book, noting that it’s going to be made into a major motion picture. And Iain continues his thoughtful prevarications, attempting to give Sandra what she requests while remaining true to herself.

And that’s how it continues as their relationship gets more strained, as Sandra threatens legal action, as Iain fusses about what makes people happy, slipping even further afield. Yet his suggestions and observations, even as he seems to be coming unglued, bear a great deal of truth. I particularly found one fascinating (and forgive me if I misrepresent it) that claims that if you love someone and are loved back, you have entered a game of chicken with them, where the looser will have to watch the winner eventually wither and die, and then be left with the grieving and the aftermath. Like, isn’t that true for me. He also adds that this means that smoking is cheating, since it shortens your lifespan and increases your chance of winning. Hmmm.

And on it goes. Even the exercises are though-provoking: If your body was inhabited by someone you really respected and admired, how would you treat them? Why don’t you treat yourself like that? And as Sandra and Iain fight it down to the bitter end, there are Iain Thomas’s poems and short stories, each wonderfully interesting. There is even his drawings. There is a lot to get from a book like this.

And what happens? Does Iain satisfy Sandra, or does she bankrupt him with legal action? There is actually a climax and conclusion to this story, but since I never do spoilers in my reviews, I won’t do so with this book that isn’t a self-help book but, in a strange way, is. So do yourself a favor – pick up this clever little thing and read it. It might help you.


Last Updated on Sunday, 08 October 2017 08:11
Alive Day (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 01 October 2017 00:00

his was our drive-home cut from the aforementioned Four Summoner’s Tales, an interesting piece about a strange special ops group, kinda a combination of Seal Team Six and Ghostbusters. It was a good closeout to the set.

This is an existing character from an existing series, but that’s okay – you can pick up the characters pretty quick in this novella. The writing is that Hooyah style, all weapon descriptions and “bad guys” and buff, haunted yet caring heroes (not that there is anything wrong with that). The author carries it well – it’s authentic and enjoyable. Kick ass!

Turns out a prior team from this off-the-books outfit was dropped into Afghanistan to supposedly keep bad turban guys from carrying pathogens for use on a Bed, Bath and Beyond stateside. But it turns out their simple ambush falls apart, three of the men getting cross-fired (and presumably tortured) will their racked-with-guilt (and injuries) leader, currently holed up in a cave, encounters something that is best left unencountered. The team’s RFID chips all go out. Then they start back up ten hours later. Yeah, I know, you know, and Joe Ledger, the leader of the second team to go in, knows - impossible!

So things happen. The backup team get ambushed by Taliban fighters who appear to have been dead ten days. And then another group of Taliban get wiped out by something that might have been American servicemen. Or zombies. Or both.

Of course, all the fancy com gear is out (apparently the occult can jam) and so Captain Ledger and his guys are way out on a limb here.

The story flows very well (we followed the audio and the reader was quite good and carrying the narrative). Perhaps my only problem was the end. It didn’t feel, I don’t know, conclusive enough. We finally see the nasty thing behind this event but it pretty much just wallops the fireteam, gets what it wanted in the first place, and that’s that. Oh, there is a bit of a shiver near the end, but it’s one of those moments where, once you think about it, it really didn’t come together (at least not for me).

But still, it was a good twist on an old theme, an interesting mix of the occult and military fiction, so I’ll give it that. A fun read, and in no way tarnishing the rest of the fine stories in this collective. So yes, if you have a thousand miles of driving to do, this story (and the others) will make the miles turn into smiles.


Last Updated on Sunday, 01 October 2017 12:21
A Bad Season for Necromancy (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 24 September 2017 00:00

ach of the stories of the Four Summoner’s Tales gets better than the proceeding one, just wilder and more edgy. First we had the story about the frontier Canadian town where children lost to a sickness could be brought back to life, but at an awful cost. Then we had the one about the Texas rancher, part of a community raided by the cartel, who could get his daughter back but only if she was used as part of a literal army of the dead, thrown against the cartel’s headquarters just over in Mexico. And now, it’s this one. Strange, weird, disturbing. And a lot of smiles.

In A bad Season for Necromancy, the main character is a young man in eighteenth century England brought up to follow in his father’s line of work (that being murder, larceny, theft and assault). His father had great plans for the boy, even finding him an education of sorts so he could ape the rich and possibly be of use in his more grander schemes. But after years of loving beatings, burnings, humiliations and even brandings, the boy objects by picking up a hammer and bashing his father’s face (literally and disfiguratively) in. Grabbing his 300 pounds of loot, he heads off to make his own way of the world.

Unlike his father, he will do it through calmer, more gentlemanly crimes. He moves to London where he poses as the son of a wealthy countryman, enjoying the arts and making his way into high society. Everything is going well – he’s picked a wealthy beautiful widow for his mark – he’ll marry her and then reveal his true status, expecting love to carry it off, too. But that’s when, to everyone’s surprise (and shock and horror) his father shows up, mangled face and all, to denounce him in the street, to strike him down and tell everyone (his widow included) who he really is, and where he really came from. And that tears it. But in the midst of this denouncement, at the moment his father is about to kill him (after having shamed him), the old man suffers a violently messy heart attack and dies.

But the damage is done. Society rejects him. His intended rejects him. The upper class, with all their inherited wealth, spurns him. But while going through his father’s effects he finds a book of curious things. He learns how to raise the dead (practicing on animals pulled from the sluggish Fleet Canal). No matter how mangled and rotted the remains, he can restore them to health.

And so he goes to his rich former friends and makes a plea, noting his love for the lady and his respect for them all. And yet still, even after watching him bring a dog back to life (in a wonderfully graphic scene), they order him to leave.

And that’s when he makes his counter-offer. He demands half of each of their fortunes, or else he’ll bring back late husbands, rich fathers, all that, and ruin them. For how can that person inherit and enjoy their family’s wealth when the patriarch is no longer dead?

A Bad Season was a wonderful romp in early Victorian England, full of twists and clever uses of the power of Necromancy. My wife and I found ourselves (as we drove and listened to the audio version) laughing and winching at each turn. And the reader was wonderful, capturing the accents of guard captains, horrible fathers and winsome widows with great orational skill. I was pleased with how the story ran, and the conclusion was quite satisfactory (and no, I’m not going to even hint at how it comes out).

So, yes, if any of the other tales I’ve reviewed from this collective have wet your curiosity, this one should seal the deal. But be ready. It’s delightfully horrific!



Page 10 of 86