Have you ever thought, “Every plot has already been used so what’s the point in reading (or writing) another”? If so, Smoke City is going to surprise you. No book or movie is anywhere near its plot for imagination and creativity.
Smoke City is a captivating genre-smashing novel. Here are the major genres that are colliding like atoms within this novel:
- Historical fiction (Joan of Arc’s death)
- Horror (ghost story)
- Tragedy (predestination during reincarnation)
- Adventure (adult male bonding during a road trip)
- Literary fiction (famous artist hits the skids)
- Magical realism (see above)
It sounds like it would be a huge mess. But somehow it works!
Half-visible wraiths nicknamed smokes are appearing in Southern California and northern Mexico. Mike Vale, a washed up previously famous artist is desperately trying to get to a funeral in Los Angeles.
Mike picks up Marvin Deitz after Marvin is unceremoniously kicked out of his record store’s lease by his shady, possibly mob-connected, landlord. Marvin is convinced that he will die violently before his 57th birthday in a few days. Why? Throughout his multitude of reincarnations, he never lives to 57. Marvin is convinced he is being punished for executing Joan of Arc in 1431. His therapist thinks it is just a delusion. Convinced he has seen the current incarnation of Joan of Arc on a talk show, Marvin is going to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding forgiveness from a woman he has never met–at least in this lifetime.
On the way to LA, the pair pick up a stowaway, Casper. The plot continues to get curiouser and curiouser from there.
Deciding to read this book takes a leap of faith. There is no comparable book or movie to say it resembles. Smoke City was written by a relatively unknown writer and published by a small press. However, take this reviewer’s advice and read this book. It is truly fantastic and totally different from any other book you will read this year! Kirkus Reviews gushed (for them) that it was “strangely satisfying”. It is worth 5+ stars!
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: Historical fiction, Jan 23 2018, magical realism
Perfect paranormal suspense for fans of early Stephen King like Stand by Me.
Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicki are 12 year old friends in an English market town one summer in 1986. At the suggestion of their school’s new art teacher, Mr. Halloran, they use different colored chalk stick figures to send secret messages to each other. However, someone is also playing with chalk leaving messages to a dead dismembered body in their local woods. In 2016, the remaining friends begin to receive ominous chalk messages again.
Alternating time lines between the past and present, life catches up with the friends and their families. The Chalk Man contains graphic dead and ghostly bodies. There are several mysterious deaths. The book also refers to bullying, extremist religious views, rape and abortion.
The Chalk Man has a great atmosphere of dread. Evil is everywhere. Everyone has secrets within their past. There are mysteries within mysteries here. However, The Chalk Man compels the reader to speed toward the denouement as fast as possible. It is highly recommended for thriller readers looking for a paranormal, almost horror, component along with the traditional mystery. 4 stars!
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review.
Posted in Horror, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Coming of age, Jan 9 2018, suspense
Not one of the better issues but moves from point A to Point B.
The Whisperer War is finally fought. Rick’s group has an internal war brewing with the Sanctuary. Negan loses an old friend and reveals some of his backstory.
Anticlimactic ending to the Whisperer War leaves this volume missable. Nothing much happens that won’t be fleshed out more in the next volume anyway. I get these books from the library. After waiting through a 5 month line, I was disappointed. My only consolation is I didn’t spend $15.
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend buying this mediocre volume in this excellent series. However, if you can read it for free, it is an acceptable way to spend a few hours. 2 stars.
Even though this one was a bust, the next volume, A Certain Doom, looks awesome! All of these books are so much better than the television show (and different people are alive and dead so they could be consumed simultaneously without major spoilers).
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: series, Zombies
Epic new comic that reads like a classic horror story.
Sadie is 16 and giving birth during a series of earthquakes in Salt Lake City Utah. The earthquakes stop immediately after her son Clark is born. At the same time, a mysterious group called The Silhouette is attempting to kill Clark believing that he is the Anti-Christ. To reveal any more of the plot would ruin the surprising twists to come.
Babyteeth Vol 1 is the best horror comic I’ve read this year. I got goosebumps as good or better than when I read the first volume of The Walking Dead or Preacher. It reminds me of the end of the first Terminator movie where the mother is driving to Mexico with the ominous clouds in the rear view mirror. I can’t wait to read future volumes as we delve further into Sadie’s and Clark’s story. The characters are what make this story feel so genuine like it could be happening around the corner. It is highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed The Omen, The Terminator, The Walking Dead, Preacher or almost anything by Stephen King along with anyone who just enjoys a good tale. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Aftershock Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: Dec 19 2017
Beware, you may not sleep well after reading Kill Creek!
Kill Creek begins with four horror novelists agreeing to a live-streamed interview in a long abandoned haunted house in Kill Creek, Kansas. The interviews are held on Halloween night and the novelists stay overnight within the house. All the novelists have different styles from a Stephen King-type horror veteran to a R.L. Stine-type Young Adult horror novelist. To say much more about the plot would spoil it. However, the aftermath of the interview is the best part of this excellent book.
Kill Creek is definitely not for the faint-of-heart. There is a lot of violence. However, the story is very innovative. It is clear that the author has a love of all things horror. There is even a section that echoes a scene in the movie, Murder by Death. The book is both intelligent atmospheric horror and plain scary. Think of the first Saw movie. I finished reading Kill Creek at night on my Kindle with all the lights off and no one else awake in the house. I couldn’t fall asleep until dawn! However, I also just couldn’t stop reading! I love the insertion of a mystery within the horror genre. Kill Creek is highly recommended. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Inkshares, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal Tagged with: ghosts, oct 31
Interesting setting and plot wasted with a lackluster resolution.
Dawn in Damnation opens in a western bar where a veteran resident is explaining how a newbie got there. Damnation is “hell’s sifter”. Those that have some redeeming qualities included in an evil life, go to Damnation to be judged. Those that kill a man, go straight to hell. Men who can avoid killing for a year might make it to heaven but no one has made it yet. The town, in perpetual dusk with an eerie sky, includes a “dead” vampire and a pack of dead werewolves.
The setup for this plot is innovative. However, foreshadowed events go nowhere and the ending just dribbles to a close without resolution of any of the town or citizen’s issues or questions. Instead there is a preview of volume two of the series that seems to indicate the addition of more problems rather than a resolution of the current ones.
There is nothing more frustrating than rushing to read a book to find out what happens–and then nothing is explained (heavy sigh). I can’t recommend this book even though I loved its innovation. 1 star.
Thanks to the publisher, Lyrical Underground, and netgalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Horror, Paranormal Tagged with: oct 31, vampires, werewolves
A former Pinkerton detective, MacGregor, searches for a known criminal in a Western town infected with evil.
Set in 1890, the villainous gangs in this graphic novel are extremely original paranormal creatures. Their originality is the best part of this book. The other characters are western movie stereotypes like the damsel in distress, the old doc and the crooked richest man in town. The plot is a standard western trope too with the usual villainous gangs replaced with monsters. There is also an off-hand reference to steampunk and a sub-plot regarding slavery, which seemed to be afterthoughts.
I love the idea of a western paranormal mashup. It makes sense that an old mine might house evil. The plot is good if somewhat derivative. However, the artwork is murky and it is frequently difficult to tell what is happening. Many of the panels use the exact same color for the foreground and the background with only a thin line separating the two. Also, the shadowing is done using thick cross-hatching, while the outlines are using thin lines that decreases the clarity in many panels. The original online comic won a Harvey award and didn’t have this clarity issue. Hopefully, that will be the way it will appear in the final released version.
The real reason to read High Moon #1 and the next volume due out in May 2018 is to prepare for the all-new volume 3. The original web series ended with a cliffhanger about seven years ago. Fans of the original series and others that want a good quick scary read for Halloween will be interested in this book. However, others should get a free Kindle sample or view the book in person to make sure the artwork issues have been cleared up before ordering a copy. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Papercutz, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal Tagged with: oct 31, series, western
A non-stop roller-coaster of a read!
Subhuman begins by showing the seemingly disparate specialties of five scientists. Dr. Cade Evans is an archaeologist, who has just discovered a mass grave underneath an existing excavated Egyptian tomb. Within it, Evans finds a mass of animal and human bodies, one with an abnormally large skull. In Nigeria, forensic anthropologist Dr. Jade Liang studies the corpses from a recent massacre to obtain evidence for the UN International Criminal Court. Within the piles of the dead, she sees a young deceased girl with an unusually outsized head. Marvin Roche studies crop circles in the English countryside after an earlier career as a cryptanalyst at the US National Security Agency. Kelly Nolan predicts an earthquake in Oregon by reviewing sub-vocal sounds in the earth’s crust. Anya Fleming exhumes a big skulled man in Russia. All five agree to work for Richards, an enigmatic venture capitalist, who has set up a state-of-art base in Antarctica.
Subhuman is a rollicking read that is hard to stop reading. The first half uses existing pop culture alien theories, Nazi Germany myths, and real science to describe what Richards is researching at the base on Antarctica. The author does an excellent jobs merging these divergent sources into a coherent plot. The second half will seem familiar to viewers of some famous 1980s horror films. Still the novel is a compulsive page-turner anyway. Subhuman is recommended for thriller, hard science fiction and horror readers. I can’t wait for this book to be made into a movie! 4 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Kensington Books, and netgalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction Tagged with: oct 31, series
Great manga version of the most famous of Poe’s tales.
This volume of Edgar Allen Poe tales includes The Raven, The Tell Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Mask of the Red Death. All are famous as Poe’s best work. The adaptation of The Raven holds up the best as it is included in its entirety. Even though I have previously read this work many times and saw it as an adaptation on The Simpsons, I believe this is the best version that I have ever encountered. The Mask of the Red Death explains the plot much better than the original story or the silent movie with Lon Chaney. All of the stories still have a feeling of increasing dread as you read them.
If you have a young adult that can’t get through the old fashioned language used in the original stories, this would be the perfect gift. The pictures explain words that I just skimmed over when I originally read the stories in high school and college. In addition, the adapter’s notes for each story explain items even further. For example, I had no idea about the story behind the beetles in The Tell Tale Heart.
The artwork acts like manga (read back to front and right to left) and the characters look like manga characters while staying true to clothing styles from the 1840s when these stories were written. The artwork sets the mood for the psychological horror ambiance of the tales. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Udon Entertainment, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy. The Stories of Edgar Allen Poe: Manga Classics was published on October 17, 2017.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: classics, oct 17, short story
Propels the plot forward significantly plus fantastic ending!
The Walking Dead graphic novels must be read in order and to summarize any part of this plot will be SPOILERS for the previous volumes. So reader beware!
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown… Rick decided, after consulting with Negan, at the end of volume 25 to build an army within his group of three groups. In this volume, he starts purposefully using anti-whisperers propaganda to veer the citizens’ minds away from blaming him for the deaths during the last volume. It doesn’t work for one person who is out for revenge.
The plot seems to move faster than usual as many different balls are in the air. The ending is a real shocker that was a total surprise. I would highly recommend this volume if you are a reader of the series. I have to admit that I almost stopped reading the series around volume 17 but now I’m glad I didn’t. Volume 26 is a compelling read that is not to be missed!
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: Spoiler?, Zombies
Interesting plot but illustrations are not easy to interpret.
This is a graphic novel about a zombie apocalypse. I have read many books with this topic and 25 volumes of The Walking Dead graphic novels previously so I wasn’t expecting much innovation. However, this book’s plot surprised me with its setting in the Pacific Northwest and its simple but plausible zombie solution. I enjoyed the humor in having one of the heroes be basically a Canadian Bruce Campbell who tried to sound the alarm beforehand but was dismissed as being just an actor. I wasn’t that happy about some of the stereotypical characters (I.e. crazy Montana rednecks and conceited scientists) but that didn’t impact my enjoyment of the main plot.
My main concern was that the illustrations were very dark and many of the male characters looked similar. The third, and last, chapter alternated between several different groups of humans traveling and fighting their way across the United States. Rather than just labeling the state or city, the illustrator used different color palettes; green, blue and brown; for the different groups. Unfortunately, it took me a third of the chapter to figure this out so I ended up restarting the chapter so I could see the progress of each group.
The plot is complete within this single volume. I would recommend it to hard-core zombie apocalypse fans but not to most graphic novel readers due to the poor illustrations though the plot was interesting.
Thanks to the publisher, Insight Comics, and netgalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror Tagged with: apocalypse, Zombies
Manticore is set inside the worst unit of a maximum security prison. Fish is the newest prisoner until a transfer from Gitmo arrives. Then the bodies start piling up. Why are the prisoners given experimental, and possibly psychotropic, drugs? Does that explain the deaths?
This is a good psychological thriller with horror elements. I believe that one image in particular will stay with me for awhile. The artwork is fine. The plot is fantastic. The characters are clearly defined and most of their back stories are shown. However, some of the lettering was too small and blurry to read on my Kindle or iPad.
This graphic novel would be good for fans of The Walking Dead because both are plot-driven horror.
Thanks to the publisher and netgalley for a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review. Manicore will be published on March 14, 2018.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: 2018, March 14, Prison
Beautiful Illustrations with an Unusual Plot
The world has gone crazy in this well plotted beautifully illustrated graphic novel. Suddenly after the Great Divide, one human touching another kills one of them. The killed live on in the brain of the killer as “riders”. Once a rider is in residence, the killer can no longer read (so you should probably pick this book up soon). Reminiscent of The Walking Dead (but thankfully without the zombies), the hero goes on a trip across the US and meets a thief, a serial killer, a MMA fighter, a military man and a scientist and others all before the first half is over.
There are some nerdy pop culture moments referencing Star Wars, Lost and other movies. The best description ever of sexual orientation:
I’m a little less into Octopussy and a little more into Shaft.
Overall, I adored this graphic novel! It is completely different than the usual post-apocalyptic plot. So if you are as bored with formulaic zombies as I am but you like to imagine how mankind would react after a worldwide disaster, you should read this book.
Just a head’s up that some of the dialogue is in untranslated Spanish. While the Spanish dialogue does add to the reader’s perception of the character’s mood, it is not necessary to understand the main plot of the book.
There is also some light profanity in Spanish. Since humanity can no longer have sex, some graphic graffiti is portrayed in some sections of the book. This novel is definitely just for 17+.
Thanks to the authors, publisher and netgalley for giving me an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Graphic Novel, Horror, Science Fiction Tagged with: 17+
Literary Horror (but not simultaneously)
This book was promoted as literary horror. I loved the literary first half of this book but was disappointed with the horror aspect of the remaining portion. It’s hard to say why without being a spoiler so I won’t. However, if I had known what type of horror was coming, I probably would not have chosen to read it. I finished the book in the hope that the literary bent would return but it didn’t.
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway but that did not impact my review.
Posted in Horror, Literary Fiction
Great fun read!
This book reminded me of all the fun I used to have with the Choose Your Own Adventure books. The author obviously also has read a few himself because he knows that everyone tries multiple times to achieve the best ending. He has made it a game to try and find all eleven non-fatal endings. The Kindle links make beginning again easy. That process keeps the book fresh even after multiple reads. Awesome plot and interesting characters makes this a great choice for the young at heart.
I received the ebook for free from the author but that did not impact my review.
Posted in Children, Horror Tagged with: choose your own adventure
Waded through this book to a good ending. The previous book in the series, A Dirty Job, was much better and is highly recommended. Secondhand Souls: A Novel not so much.
This book has almost the same plot as the first book in this series, A Dirty Job. Though the middle 150 pages dragged, I gave Secondhand Souls 3 stars because the end was enjoyable.
Just as I have begin to expect from Christopher Moore, individual comments within the book are laugh-out-loud funny. Just one warning: if you don’t know what a “Cleveland Steamer” is, do not under any circumstances Google it like I did. Even though I cleared my browser’s cache twice, I still have the image in my head–and it’s not a pretty image…
Posted in Horror, Humor