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Bob @ Beauty in Ruins

PLEASE NOTE: I'm rarely active here anymore, but please feel free to follow me on Goodreads, where I post regularly.


These are the chronicles of a book addict, a photo junkie, and an aspiring author, rewriting the very fabric of reality one page (and one snapshot) at a time. From the strange to the unusual; the abandoned to the abnormal; the haunted to the historic; the supernatural to the surreal; the forests of dark fantasy, the cemeteries of gothic horror, and the post-apocalyptic ruins of science fiction are the landscapes of my imagination.

Currently reading

Deathstalker Rebellion: Being the Second Part of the Life and Times of Owen Deathstalker
Simon R. Green
Progress: 298/508 pages

#Horror Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell - Barbie Wilde, Paul Kane

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell. There is so just much potential in the concept. Handle it right, and you've got yourself a horror/mystery that is destined to become a genre staple. Fumble it at any point, however, and you have two separate camps of fandom ready to critique, condemn, and drag you to . . . well, Hell.

Fortunately, Paul Kane knows his stuff, and what we have here is no mere imaginative lark. Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell is a very carefully constructed story that considers the legacies of both Doyle and Barker, and which not only finds a point at which the two can meet, but one in which that intersection actually adds something to each respective story.

In terms of narrative, this absolutely feels like a Sherlock Holmes story. Kane captures the voice of Dr. Watson exceptionally well, and explains away any irregularities by presenting it as a tale that Watson never intends to publish. Furthermore, he sets it after the incident at Reichenbach Falls, using the Hellraiser mythology to cleverly explain the shift in Holmes' character and personality in those latter tales. He also does some clever work with The Hound of the Baskervilles, taking one of the most horrific Sherlock Holmes tales and casting some doubt upon its casual dismissal of the supernatural.

As far as Hellraiser is concerned, reading this is like an epic Easter Egg hunt. Kane touches upon all aspects of the extended mythology, including details from the original Hellbound Heart tale; the Hellraiserfilms, Barbie Wilde's tales of Sister Cilice in Voices of the Damned, and even several tales from theHellbound Hearts anthology. There are some very nice parallels to the original story of the Cotton family; some fantastic background on the Lemarchand family and the Lament Configuration puzzle box; a gloriously grotesque band of Cenobites; and a vivid exploration of Hell that fits in very well with last year'sScarlet Gospels.

In bringing the two worlds together, Kane remains true to the feel and the style of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, but drags the story into darker, more decadent corners of the Victorian world. There is torture aplenty in this tale, both of the human and the Cenobite variety, and a BDSM-themed brothel that really allows him to play with (and foreshadow) the dark eroticism of Baker's sadomasochistic fantasies. Ultimately, however, it's the relationship between Holmes and Watson that makes the story work, testing the deepest, darkest bounds of friendship, and exploring the absolute darkest chapter in their shared story.

If you do choose to open the cover of Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, be forewarned that once you're well-and-truly hooked, the pages (like the puzzle box) do tend to turn themselves.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/horror-review-sherlock-holmes-and.html

Necromancy Light and Dark by Gail Z. Martin (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

The Shadowed Path: A Jonmarc Vanhanian Collection - Gail Z. Martin

Stop by the Ruins today to see what Gail Z. Martin has to say about Necromancy Light and Dark in her various series (Chronicles of the Necromancer / Fallen Kings Cycle / Deadly Curiosities / Iron & Blood), and to win one (1) physical copy of The Shadowed Path (US/UK/Canada/Australia) and one (1) ebook copy of Modern Magic (worldwide).


Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/necromancy-light-and-dark-by-gail-z.html

WTF Friday: The Erotic Worlds of the Janus Key Chronicles by Alana Melos

The Erotic Worlds of the Janus Key Chronicles: Volume 1: Worlds 1-5 - Alana Melos, Rev. Jotham Talbot
Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

Wonderland, Oz, and The Dark Tower. Sliders, Quantum Leap, and Stargate. Whether it's on the page or on the screen, portal fantasy is one of the oldest tropes in science fiction and fantasy. While it's often abused as a lazy sort of storytelling cheat, it works best when there's interesting puzzle or mystery behind the portal itself to be paired with unique adventures on the other side.

That said, I'm not sure you'll find adventures any more unique than those offered up by Alana Melos in her Erotic Worlds of the Janus Key Chronicles series. These are fun stories, vintage pulp adventures that are as absurd as they are erotic, driven by the magical mystery of the Janus Key. Like Dr. Sam Beckett, twin siblings Dirk and Debbie find themselves leaping blindly from one alternate reality to another, never knowing where they'll end up, driven not by good deeds, but by orgasmic encounters.

Not surprisingly, the first adventure (Rump Raiding Raptors) is the weakest of the bunch. Marred by several typos, some awkward narration, and a few confusing shifts of POV, it didn't make the greatest first impression. On top of that, the idea of a dinosaur-based society, with a horny Raptor cop abusing poor Dirk, just seemed a little too silly. It was original, however, and the erotic aspects were actually very well done.

Fortunately, the quality of both the writing and the storytelling improved dramatically with The Perils of Penetrating Pixies. It felt like there was more plot to this one, and grounding it in more familiar mythologies certainly made it more accessible. The erotic scenes here were both frantic and inventive, especially with Debbie's first erotic explorations by the tiny pixies.

Riddled by the Sphinx, the third book in the series, is where things really hit their stride. This one had a very Stargate feel with its take on an alternate Egypt, and the use of a living Sphinx as the erotic protagonist was actually quite clever. It's a fun, sexy tale, but also the first one where we begin to understand the dangers Dirk and Debbie face in losing themselves to such sensual temptations. Here is where that mystery/puzzle starts becoming more prominent.

Personally, I found Savaged by Sadistic Spirits to be the most uneven of the collection, but I give Melos full credit for introducing a new, Quantum Leap like twist. The whole 70s séance scene is actually very well done, complete with leisure suits and groovy slang, and while I found the story took a while to really hit its peak, Debbie's erotic mauling by unseen spirits (taking her on the ceiling, a la Poltergeist) is as chilling as it is erotic.

With Knob Gobblin' Hobgoblins, this first collection definitely ends on a high note. This is true pulp fantasy, complete with dragons, elves, water spirits, Amazonian warriors, and hobgoblins. Once again, it's Dirk's turn to provide the orgasmic energies for their next leap, but the way it's done (and the reasons for it) are fantastically creative. Not to give anything away, but his role as something of a surrogate conduit is suitably bizarre, and I particularly liked that Melos resolved his own doubts about his supernatural sexuality.

Despite a rocky start with the first story, The Erotic Worlds of the Janus Key Chronicles turned out to be everything I could have hoped for. There's solid storytelling, great world-building, over-the-top eroticism, and plenty of geeky references for readers to pick up on. Given that she's just released the 10th volume, Reamin' Demons, here's hoping there's a second omnibus on the way.


Kindle Edition, 160 pages
Published April 4th 2015

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/wtf-friday-erotic-worlds-of-janus-key.html

WTF Friday: One Good Turn by Bryce Calderwood

One Good Turn: A Futanari Vampires Standalone Story - Bryce Calderwood
Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

There are books that you read, books that you enjoy, and books that you experience. It's the difference between merely consuming the random assembly of dead letters on a page, and being consumed by the illusionary world they create. For the all-too-brief span of a single evening, One Good Turn was one of those books, sinking its teeth into me, holding me close, and refusing to let go until we both lay spent and empty upon the final page.

Bryce Calderwood is, quite simply, a true master of erotic horror. The imagination demonstrated here is astounding, but the quality of the writing is even better. It's a combination that makes for a deliciously deceptive read, with the writing itself almost too good for such weird, wild, wanton material. There's a passion to the storytelling that doesn't often make it through the interference of mainstream editors and publicists.

There are two narrative threads here, one dealing with supernatural monsters, and the other with human monstrosity. Ashima is a fascinating character, and one who embodies the very idea of rebirth and transformation. The greed and cruelty of a Saudi Arabian sex-slave ring transformed her the first time; the wealth and perversity of Japanese businessmen transformed her the second time; and the hunger and lust of Futanari* Vampires transformed her the final time. She is a complex woman, mentally and emotionally scarred from her childhood experiences, with the issues of power and control driving her in interesting ways. Her final transformation is not one that comes easily or instantly, and the way that supernatural seduction plays out is really the heart of the story.

This is a story that has its bloody, chilling, violent moments. As erotic and seductive as the vampires may be, Calderwood doesn't let us forget that they are monsters first - impossibly strong, bloodthirsty, dangerous creatures. Making them futanari vampires adds a whole new level of kink to their erotic aspect, however, and that's where the imagination of the story shines brightest. It's also where the theme of transformation gets a twist, in that the vampires looking to transform Ashima were themselves transformed into futanari by the doctor. Musette and Ashlyn's seduction of Ashima is breathtaking in its perversity, with acts that are as intoxicating as they are impossible, but the narrative strengths keep it from ever descending into mere literary porn.

If you have an open mind, a sense of erotic adventure, and an admiration for the beauty of imagination, then One Good Turn is worth checking out - and, if your first taste is to your liking, the full length novelEnthralled is already available, with sequel on the way later this year.

Kindle Edition
Published May 31st 2016 by Bryce Calderwood




* If you are unfamiliar with the term, futanari is a Japanese word meaning 'dual form', and it most commonly relates to women with both male and female sex organs. It's a mythological, imaginary third gender, only found in fiction.

Sci-Fi Review: The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

The Ghost Rebellion - Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is, far and away, my favorite saga of alternative history, sci-fi steampunk, and espionage adventure. Strong characters, creative world (and history) building, and some really inventive mash-ups of monsters and mechanicals have made each book more interesting than the last.

With their fifth full-length tale, The Ghost Rebellion, Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris have upped the ante once again, thrusting Books & Braun into the battlefields of India, and dropping Brandon & Bruce into the cold depths of Russia. It's the first time in the series that we've had a pair of stories working in parallel, with separate missions advancing the plot, and it makes for a more well-rounded story. Combined with some darker interludes that both open up the story and reveal some of the connections between the previous books, this may be the series' strongest entry in terms of narrative.

Of course, it's the characters who make this series work so well, and it's their ongoing development that makes each new book a must-read. I really like where Books & Braun are in their relationship, with that perfect blend of affection and good-natured aggravation between them. They're both capable of carrying the story on their own, but the way they play off each other really makes the story work. As for Brandon & Bruce, they began to evolve out of the mismatched, awkward partner role in the last book, and they really get a chance to take on some of the heroics here. They're still responsible for some of the most consistently amusing aspects of the story, but they also get some deeper, more significant moments.

The story really kicks it up a notch in terms of technology this time around as well. The 'ghosts' of the title are really victims of an abused æthergate technology that was dangerously unstable to begin with, and there are some chilling implications to their rather un-tethered fates. While the tools and weapons in the series just keep getting bigger and badder, nothing tops the scene where Braun so gleefully takes control of a giant mech, basically flipping switches and slapping at buttons to see what happens, until she hits the self-destruct and initiates the ride of her life. It's not just all fun and adventure, however - Ballantine & Morris really get into the whole politics and culture of India at the time, never shying away from the racism, segregation, and exploitation that came with being part of the British Empire.

Although this is clearly not the last we'll see of Books & Braun, the Ministry itself, or the House of Usher, Ballantine & Morris have spared us the anxiety of another cliffhanger this time around. There are a lot of story pieces still to be picked up - not the least of which are Books' dark history, the eventual fate of Dr. Jekyll, and the tease of Ragnarök - so hopefully the series will keep on rolling.

As a final note, if you're new to the series, do yourself a favor and check out Phoenix Rising first. You won't regret it.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/sci-fi-review-ghost-rebellion-by-pip.html

Fantasy Review: Bloodbound (Pathfinder Tales) by F. Wesley Schneider

Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound - F. Wesley Schneider

I must admit, I cracked the spine on Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound with no little trepidation. It was to be my first exposure to the Pathfinderuniverse, and I had no idea what to expect. While I have fond memories of cutting my genre teeth on the old TSR novels,Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms haven't stood up well over time. That said, I find I actually appreciate their Ravenloft horror/fantasy world more now than I did back then, so entering into the Pathfinderworld with vampires and clerics seemed like a good choice.

Having closed the book on my first Pathfinder journey, I'm pleased to say F. Wesley Schneider put together a pretty solid novel that incorporates some of the universe's overall world-building, but which is still accessible to a new reader. I feel like I came out of it understanding at least one corner of the world, and definitely curious to know more.

As for the story itself, this is largely a gothic horror story, within the setting and time period of a pseudo-medieval fantasy. There are so many little elements here that make it all work. The settings include including drafty old castles, sprawling places of worship, and an altogether chilling asylum; the characters include vampires, half-vampires, priestesses, and Inquisitors; and the plot lines involve exorcisms, possessions, family secrets, and betrayals. I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled about the idea of a half-vampire heroine at the start - it's a tired old trope - but Larsa is sharp enough in terms of edge, wit, tongue, teeth, and blade to make it all work. Jadain, the conflicted priestess, was intriguing to me right from the start, and I really like the way Schneider explored the conflicts in her loyalties and her faith.

If the book struggled in one aspect, it's in the absence of a truly fearsome villain. This is a dark tale, set in what I understand to be one of the darker corners of the Pathfinder world, with some really dark acts taking place. While there are a few villains lurking about, none of them were strong enough or malevolent enough to be worthy of the plot. While the narrative structure is a bit weak early on, and kept me from really getting into a flow, this confusing/awkward changes of POV do eventually get smoothed out - and the rest of the narrative, especially the Gothic feel of the descriptions, is actually a cut above your standard tie-in fantasy fair.

I can't speak to its fan appeal, but as an introduction to the world, Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound is a solid read, and one that ensures I'll make time in the reading schedule for a return to the world with Pathfinder Tales: Hellknight.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/fantasy-review-bloodbound-pathfinder.html

Thriller Review: Shock Wave by Clive Cussler

Shock Wave (Dirk Pitt, #13) - Clive Cussler

Lucky number thirteen in the Dirk Pitt series Shock Wave actually has a few surprises to offer, elevating it from the standard Clive Cussler formula. Not that there's anything wrong with that formula - it's immensely successful for a reason - but it's refreshing to find some new twists in the read.

The novel opens on an historical note, with the 1856 journey of the Gladiator. Under the command of Charles “Bully” Scaggs, it's on its way to deliver a load of prisoners to the penal colony in Australia when a typhoon strikes amidst the Tasman Sea. The wreck of the ship, the desperate construction of a raft, and the brutal battle that follows between sailors, soldiers, and prisoners is intense, matched only by the final journey of the raft and its few pitiful survivors. Cussler has done historical bits before, but never as well as this. Fantastic stuff.

The contemporary story is a bit odd, in that it casts a billionaire diamond tycoon as villain, introduces what feels like a very science fiction threat, and hinges it all on a bold financial move to manipulate the diamond market. It sounds preposterous, but it's the characters who make it work. Arthur Dorsett is a genuine monster, a brutal tyrant who treats his rebellious daughter just about as well as his illegal Chinese mining slaves. This is a man who shrugs off the impending death of hundreds of thousands of people, all so he can add an extra zero to the legacy of billions he'll leave to his family. As for that daughter Maeve, she is not only an admirable young woman and a pretty decent heroine, but a legitimate romantic interest for Dirk Pitt. Dorsett's two other daughters are largely cartoon caricatures, with Boudicca unnecessarily (and illogically) over-the-top, but important in demonstrating their father's ruthless power and control over them.

While the story is book-ended by some massive action pieces, involving daring rescues and last minute escapes from certain doom, Cussler does something different in the middle of the tale. First of all, he creates a genuine romance for Dirk Pitt, something we haven't seen for a very long time. You can almost allow yourself to believe he'll sail into the sunset and settle down with a woman worthy of his adventurous soul. Second, he allows Admiral Sandecker and NUMA to carry much of the story, putting their efforts to prevent Dorsett's shockwave from decimating the population of Hawaii at center stage. There's a lot of technical discussion and political maneuvering involved, but Cussler keeps it interesting. Lastly, he strands Dirk, his buddy Al, and Maeve on a derelict boat in the middle of stormy seas for a good portion of the story, creating a sustained level of dramatic intensity that really pays off. You know they're going to survive, but there is some read danger here, and some genuine doubt as to whether all three will escape intact.

There's no underwater archaeology or salvage this time around, trading the Indiana Jones feel of the earliest books for the James Bond feel of the most recent, but the entire story is built around life (and death) at sea. Shock Wave isn't quite the breathtaking ride we've become accustomed to from Clive Cussler, but it's a more well-rounded tale, and one with some real depth to it. Definitely recommended.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/thriller-review-shock-wave-by-clive.html

Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart

Silent Hall (Godserfs) - NS Dolkart

This was an interesting book, with some really outstanding aspects to it, but even more roadblocks to a good, solid read. I nearly gave up on it twice, but persevered to the end, although I will freely admit to skimming some chapters.

The good? I liked the concept, and I liked the characters. I was intrigue enough by the latter to want to know more, to read past those roadblocks, and entertained enough by the latter to trust in them (Narky and Bandu especially), even if I was questioning their journey.

The bad? The world building was muddled, with far too ambitious of a mythology for a single book. I read a lot of epic fantasy, and I like my stories to be well-detailed, but this was too much. Also, the plotting of the book leaves a lot to be desired. If never really felt like the storyline was moving forward, or approaching any sort of climax.

Into the Black by Rowland White

Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her by Rowland White (2016-04-19) - Rowland White

This was a long, dry read . . . heavy on detail, and even heavier on the technical specifications . . . but still entirely fascinating. I've always been enthralled by the Space Shuttle program, having seen it rise and fall all within my lifetime, so I was excited to forget about the disasters for a moment and reexamine the triumphs that started it all.

This is a book that explores the doubts, the fears, and the challenges of getting a new space program off the ground (no pun intended). Having been too young at the time of Columbia's launch to truly appreciate what a feat of scientific and political engineering it was, I was fascinated to see how it all came about. At the same time, it's sobering to know just how many of those challenges and risks they simply chose to accept, and to know (in hindsight) how they'd come back to haunt them years later.

Urban Fantasy Review: Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Secondhand Souls: A Novel - Christopher Moore

Falling somewhere between offbeat/quirky and silly/juvenile,Secondhand Souls was actually a much more enjoyable read than I anticipated. Clearly I've missed something by diving into the second book of a series, but Christopher Moore recaps previous events well (and often . . . a tad too often), so I don't really feel like I've missed anything.

What you have here is a world where people are 'chosen' to become Grim Reapers - yes, plural Grim Reapers, because it really is too big a job for one person. Charlie was a recipient of theBig Book of the Dead last around, had the recommended kitty calendar, carried around a #2 pencil, and ultimately sacrificed himself to stop a Celtic banshee from destroying San Francisco. Or, at least that's what the world believes. In reality, his Buddist nun girlfriend saved him from that fate, cobbling together a new body out of lunch meat and animal parts - a 14 inch body, with a 10 inch penis. Yup, and we're just getting started. There's also a seven-year-old daughter, who used to be princess of the Underworld, but whose powers have deserted her along with the hellhounds who protected her.

Suffice to say, since his replacement couldn't be bothered to actually collect any of the souls that came so conveniently penciled in on his kitty calendar, it falls to Charlie to save the world. Fortunately, he's not alone - aiding him in this insanity are the aforementioned horny Buddist nun and profanity-charged daughter, along with a tiny crocodile wizard, a gang of Squirrel People, a retired cop, a bridge painter, the weirdly eccentric Emperor of San Francisco, and a Goth girl turned inappropriate suicide hotline counselor . . . whose best line for getting a guy not to jump is to offer him a blowjob.

The plot itself is pretty basic, with your requisite dark powers trying to take over the world, but it's really secondary to the characters and the comedy. To be honest, I think we were halfway through the story before the villain even stepped onto the stage. It's a book that bordered on tedious or repetitive at times, but the frantic swing between satire and slapsitck, not to mention irreverence and (political) incorrectness, keeps you on your toes. Secondhand Soulsis a book that certainly owes a debt to Pratchett and Gaiman, but which seems tailored more for a Hangover or Neighbors generation. Funny, funny stuff, with scenes that will stick with you long after you forget what it was really about.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/urban-fantasy-review-secondhand-souls.html

WTF Friday: Ordeal by Wol-vriey

Ordeal: A Twisted Revenge Tale - Wol-vriey

Is there anything sweeter in this world than poetic justice? Anything more deeply fulfilling than watching some despicable human being get their just deserts? Anything more satisfying than seeing some piece of garbage get what's coming to them? Well, the moral of Ordeal is more cautionary then celebratory, but it still makes for one hell of a guilty pleasure.

Wol-vriey tells us the story of a man named Jack and a woman named Gina, two lonely lovers who meet beneath the street corner lights. Jack is a monster who likes to watch women suffer, getting off on the terror in their eyes when he rapes and murders them. His plans for the hooker with the movie star looks are just about as dark as you'd expect . . . but child's play compared to what she has planned for him.

This is a dark and twisted real, full of despicable violence and pain. Jack is a simple man with simple tastes, a monster and a villain without a single redeeming quality. As such, it's hard to feel even an ounce of compassion or sympathy for what he is forced to endure. As for Gina, she may be a monster and a villain herself, but she is also a complex human being. Her obsessive-compulsiveness is both unnerving and humorous, but it's her desperate need for love that makes her truly fascinating.

I won't spoil the fun - it's free, so give it a read yourself - but this is a book of layers, one with a really interesting contrast between order and chaos, and some deeper significance beneath the violence. It's a fun, brutal read that will also make you think.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/wtf-friday-ordeal-by-wol-vriey.html

Fantasy Review: Red Tide by Marc Turner

Red Tide: The Chronicles of the Exile, Book Three - Marc Turner

I had the great pleasure of being a beta reader for Red Tide, the third book of The Chronicles of the Exile, and I can honestly say it is Marc Turner best book yet. Normally I wouldn't share a review so far in advance of the publication, but I wanted to capture (and share) a few of my thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind.

Look for a more comprehensive review closer to the publication date.

Taking place almost immediately on the heels of Dragon Hunters, this is a story that reaches back to connect with some of the characters and stores of When the Heavens Fall. It's the book in the series where everything begins to come together, and where we begin to see hints of the bigger picture into which all the pieces will eventually fit.

My first impression of Red Tide was that it's a more human tale, less about gods and monsters than first two books, which fits with the conflict at the heart of the story. Pacing wise, this was a pretty even book. The first chapters are a bit slow, but there are a lot of characters to bring together, and several story lines (both new and existing) to connect. Once the story hits the half-way mark, it just barrels along, carrying the reader with it. In terms of narrative, it's a smoother book as well, with cleaner transitions between scenes and points-of-view that just better, giving the story a truly seamless feel.

For a series that has just gotten stronger and more entertaining with each installment, Turner has set the bar high for a fourth novel . . . and I cannot wait to see what it brings.
Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/fantasy-review-red-tide-by-marc-turner.html

Fantasy Review: The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

Like any great story, The Wheel of Osheim is a book of lies . . . a story of lies . . . a very mythology of lies. Names, people, places, memories, histories - all damned lies. I'm treading on the edge of spoiler territory here (I can see the gaping chasm to my left) but, as we come to discover late in the tale, the entire story of Jalan Kendeth actually hinges on a single lie that's too painful to even contemplate here.

In wrapping up his third and final chapter of The Red Queen's War, Mark Lawrence has truly outdone himself. I would actually go so far as to say that this is his best book, hands down, and that is no lie.

While he's used a number of different framing devices in spinning his tales of Jorg and Jalan, Lawrence's approach here is perfectly suited to the shaping of lies. The book opens with Jalan's comic escape from the bowels of Hell, seemingly robbing us of a resolution to the cliffhanger that ended The Liar's Key. It's several chapters later before we get the first fragment of Jalan's journey through (and escape from) Hell. As for Snorri's own journey, his is a tale that must wait until the closing chapters of the tale, a story to be shared as a distraction from the living lies that surround the Wheel of Osheim itself.

There's a lot of overlap here with The Broken Empire, with some of Jorg's darkest acts there having a major bearing here - not just on Jalan's journey, but on the world around him. Even more so than in the first two books, we really get to see Jorg's influence on the world from a different perspective, one that's shaped by the lies of those who would interpret his methods and motives for themselves. What we know to be entirely human acts of Builder brutality are reimagined here as divine acts of the gods, who are themselves an entirely different sort of lie . . . but I won't say any more on the score.

A big part of what sets this book (and this series) apart for me is the character arc of Jalan. Here is a character who has grown, evolved, matured, and emerged from his own lies as the story has progressed. We still get the drunken, cowardly fool of the first two books, a young man who repeatedly resorts to liquor-fueled lies to hide from the cruelties of the world. He's just as amusing as he was before, but much less exasperating. At the same time, we also get the hero of Aral Pass, a soldier and a leader who overcomes the lies Jalan used to shield himself from responsibility. He's still largely a reluctant hero, but also a motivated one.

Once again, Builder technology plays a significant role in the story, but it's the lies told about it and the mythologies created to explain its magics that really drive things. Lawrence throws a lot of gadgets and set pieces at the reader, veering closer to the edges of science fiction than ever before, but it's the slow unveiling of the truth that makes this so exciting. It is story that's as clever as it is exciting, with the climax surrounding the Wheel of Osheim entirely worth the three books that it's taken to realize. There are so many little details in the last hundred or so pages, it's worth rereading to see how carefully Lawrence constructed the lies of Loki and his key.

While I won't say much about them (at risk of spoiling things), the Red Queen, the Silent Sister, and Lady Blue finally get their moments to shine here. They've been built up so much over the course of the books that I really wondered what Lawrence could possibly do with them, but it all pays off. As for Snorri, he doesn't get a lot of page time here, but the role he plays in Jalan's quest, and the way his own is finally resolved, will satisfy even the most jaded of readers. Lawrence isn't an author who indulges in needless sentimentality, but there is significant emotional impact to Snorri's last, lonely steps through Hell that will resonate with even the most jaded of readers.

The Wheel of Osheim is an epic book in every sense of the word. In terms of scope, imagination, and significance it actually feels bigger than the trilogy that came before it. It's a book that captures the spectacle that Lawrence does so well, but also the human aspect. Even as we face off against some of the biggest, darkest monsters we've seen yet, those lies are slowly unraveled, allowing us to see the true face of danger . . . and the man destined to end it.
Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/fantasy-review-wheel-of-osheim-by-mark.html

Horror Review: Night Show by Richard Laymon

Night Show by Richard Laymon (1994-10-01) - Richard Laymon

While it is still a decent horror read, Night Show is a rather average, middle-of-the-stacks title from Richard Laymon that does nothing to showcase the man's true splatterpunk madness.

The novel's best scenes are dumped in opening chapter, which sees beautiful young Linda abducted by a carload of teenage punks and left tied up inside the haunted Freeman house, where she is all-too briefly terrorized. There's so much potential here, both in the house and in Linda's slow-burning desire for revenge, but it's left largely unexplored as we switch to the main story. Anticipating King's Misery by almost a full year, it's the story of a Hollywood special effects queen who is stalked by a crazed teenage fan. The problem is, the Chill Master is more sad than scary, and more embarrassment than threat. Despite what little page time she gets, Linda is the far more terrifying of the two.

Either piece could have been interesting as a short story, but they're unnecessarily padded out and awkwardly forced to converge in a climax that's neither as entertaining nor as clever as you'd expect from Laymon. There are several moments of gore, a handful of potential frights, and the requisite amount of sex, but it all feels too basic, too generic. Night Show reads like a standard 80s horror novel, which may be fine for some has-been authors, but Laymon has done much better. If you don't believe me, check out The Cellar, The Stake, or (my personal favorite) One Rainy Night.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/horror-review-night-show-by-richard.html

Thriller Review: The Revelation Code by Andy McDermott

The Revelation Code: A Novel (Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase) - Andy McDermott

While the Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase novels may not exactly be great literature, and are in no great danger is winning Andy McDermott a Pulitzer Prize, they are fantastic escapism adventures. Combining a little bit of Jack Bauer, Indiana Jones, and Dirk Pitt, they're globetrotting treasure hunts with the fate of the world at stake.

The Revelation Code is actually the 11th installment in the series, but they're all written with enough background detail to make them work as stand-alone adventures. As this point in their careers, Nina and Eddie are enjoying early retirement, awaiting the birth of their first child, and generally just trying to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble has a knack of finding them, and they soon find themselves kidnapped by a religious cult leader and a disgraced US President.

McDermott invests an impressive amount of effort in taking mythological stories and artifacts, creating a plausible history for them, and allowing the reader to get involved in the thrill of the chase without having to believe in the stories surrounding it. He never entirely discounts the possibility of faith, but I will say that his portrayal of Cross and his End of Days cult is the harshest condemnation of organized religion that we've come across in the series. These guys are scary, and their plans for the world are almost - I say, almost - as despicable as those of the ex-President.

There are plenty of big set pieces here, taking us around the world in the search for the angels (statues) of Revelation. True to form, there are also some big action sequences, with epic gunfights, helicopter attacks, and even a climactic encounter with a massive blimp. My only complaint about the book is that the climax is so clearly foreshadowed and so heavily teased in the opening chapters, although the execution of it is still a lot of fun.

The Revelation Code is a fun, frantic read that moves along at a breakneck pace, even through heavy scenes of torture, religious insanity, and political posturing. It's not the best in the series - Nina's pregnancy puts some unfortunate restraints on the story - but it's still big time popcorn adventure fun, complete with a dose of history and humor.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/thriller-review-revelation-code-by-andy.html

Fantasy Review: The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley

The Emperor's Railroad (The Dreaming Cities) - Guy Haley

Falling somewhere between King's The Dark Tower saga and Brooks'Shannara series, as seen through the achingly vibrant lens of Discovery's Life After People, The Emperor's Railroad is a remarkably unique approach to post-apocalyptic fantasy. While I felt the choice of a 12-year-old narrator put some unfortunate constraints on the tale, and held it back from realizing its true potential, I am genuinely excited to see where Guy Haley goes with his Dreaming Cities series.

Here we find some of the best post-apocalyptic world building I have come across in quite some time. Every step of the journey reminds us of what's been lost, and what remains of our 'modern' civilization. It's not just window dressing, either - in addition to the visual scenery we have a cultural shift in society, a very different sort of political era, and a whole new world of monsters and mythologies. There's so much depth to it that you almost feel the series could continue on indefinitely.

As much as I would have preferred to experience the tale through the eyes of Quinn, Knight of the Dreaming City of Atlantis, the narration itself is my own quibble with young Abney. He is, in fact, a very well developed young man, in a story that captures his fears just as well as his sense of wonder. His relationship with his mother rings true, and it's through her that we really get a sense of just how much the world has shifted in terms of culture and society. Yes, there is a sentimental aspect to the tale, but it's an honest one, and it helps ground the sense of the fantastic that surrounds Quinn. He's a quiet man, confident and self-assured, with a clear purpose in life, but not so focused on the epic quest that he cannot lend himself to a mother and her child.

The story starts out slowly, allowing us to become comfortable in the vast concept that is the Dreaming Cities, but quickly begins to pick up pace once we get moving along The Emperor's Railroad. It's a story that has a tarnished sort of faery tale feel to it, with architectural ruins, mechanical monstrosities, swords, guns, zombies, angels, knights, and dragons. Yes, dragons. Clearly, there's a much larger story being told her, but this chapter is a complete story in and of itself, entirely satisfying, with real closure for Abney and his mother. With The Ghoul King coming this summer, and introducing a little more sci-fi to the mix, the Dreaming Cities is a series to get hooked on now.

Source: http://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/05/fantasy-review-emperors-railroad-by-guy.html