Night at the Demontorium

By Naima Haviland

This is a collection of five short horror stories with a touch of the supernatural. They all have strong introductions, and rather vivid imagery. The first piece is on addiction and has a rather interesting view on it. The collection is certainly not for the squeamish as there is quite a bit of gore. I found the last two stories, The Entrepreneur and Bedring were by far the strongest pieces.

The stories all read fairly easily and quickly, though I doubt they would hold up to multiple readings. The endings tended to rely on twists that were only interesting on a shallow level, with an exception of the Bedring. Bedring not only makes you question what a life is worth, but it also combined horror with suburbia most naturally.

I would recommend this to someone as a few quick and curious horror stories.

Nibble: “Before starting, she’d put duct tape over her mouth so her screaming wouldn’t bother the neighbors.”

My Rating: 5 out of 10 gory red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

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The Great Mystery

By Travis Slone

In this book we start off with a soldier going to the emergency room, and then we’re whisked off to another realm for an adventure. The main story is a male, Amir, and a female, Eva, trying to find the great treasure to unite the world. The book is a very easy read, and would be best for younger teens. I believe I would have found the book much more gripping and surprising if I had been younger. The allegory fell on the heavy side, though it tended more towards spirituality than religion. The allegory feels rather shallow as we don’t learn much about either of the protagonists’ until the end. At the end rather than there being character development, it seems like we’re first seeing their full characters.

I would recommend this book to younger readers in search of an adventure.

Nibble {first sentence}: “Outside the doors of a state-of-the-art medical center, a team of paramedics rushed in from their ambulance with a young soldier in critical condition.”

My Rating: 4 out of 10 apples with strange carvings

I received a free paper copy of this book from First Reads via Goodreads.

Everblossom

Larissa Hinton

Everblossom is an anthology going through three life stages. Everblossom starts off with a heavy claim in its blurb that it is ”An anthology that will quench your thirst for more than the ordinary.” Naturally, this is a very difficult claim to follow up on, and unfortunately I don’t think this anthology delivered. In fact, it did the opposite with many of the stories and poems being good because they were so ordinary and slice-of-life like. Hinton’s strength was the honesty in which she delivered the stories, and the ones that came off more-so were the more cliche and ordinary stories. Hinton plays with language and sound throughout her pieces, which make them sound far more interesting aloud than on paper. Hinton also has some vivid images in a few of her stories that stick with you. The tone of this anthology came across as bitter which was an interesting contrast in the first two stages- seed and bud- as both are usually looked back upon with a certain rosy hue of innocence. For example, there’s a poem on childhood that’s with a child’s vocabulary but clearly written with an adult’s voice.

In general I felt like Hinton’s style would be much better suited to longer novellas or novels. In many of her short stories there seemed to be either plot or an interesting character or an interesting idea, rather than all three. I felt like the entire work was very heavy handed, and often the ending was already blatant and stating the idea directly again took away from the feel of the piece. An example of this was in a story Changes, with the last two paragraphs. A few of her pieces do touch on deeper issues, but not to the extent that I was hoping for.

I would not completely write her off though, as she does have some novellas(ex. Iwishacana) coming up that I could see being well polished and combining all the positives from this work.

Nibble: “One of the teachers throws him a spoonful of pity in a steaming bowl of no help at all.”

My Rating: 2 out of 10 typical red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Five Dances with Death

By Austin Briggs

In this book Briggs displays an incredible world drawn in historical fiction, and mixes it with fantasy. It’s set during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico, which contributes to an underlying tone of eventual doom. The protagonist, Angry Wasp, is trying to keep his nation safe while also searching for his long lost daughter. Nations around him are becoming more inclined towards war, and the Spanish are beginning to march inland. There is quite a lot of violence and sacrifice in this book, but I found the descriptions tasteful and not overly gratuitous. Angry Wasp certainly lives up to his name, and in the beginning makes many impulsive decisions. In his character we see progressions, and a few recessions, in his development. Briggs’ simple language worked excellently, and most of the dialog came off as authentic and translated. The ending was actually a surprise and twist, which was lovely.

I realized towards the end of the book that I didn’t care what would happen to Angry Wasp. It was an odd realization as he’s an interesting and realistic character to read about- but between the amount of casual death and a lack of sympathy for him, I found myself rather neutral towards his fate, yet wrapped up in his story. As a warning, when reading this you really have to pay attention with the multitude of places, and jumping from reality to outer body experiences with spiritual doubles. A map in the beginning of the book would have been very helpful.

I found this a great story, that also filled a niche that should certainly be expanded. In my American history classes and books, it tended to be about how Europe colonized America, rather than placing emphasis on the people who were actually living there and being invaded. You can also feel the depth of knowledge Briggs has about this time, and it grounds the story without being distracting.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Nibble {first sentence of prologue}: “I had challenged Talon to the ballgame because my daughter Dew had been his slave as long as she knew how to walk.”

My Rating: 8 out of 10 fresh jumping apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It

By Charles Duhigg

This book is about how to recognize habits, change bad habits, and establish good ones. The title sums up the book nicely, though it doesn’t give the book enough credit for how interesting it is. The book is packed full of stories about individuals and groups changing certain habits and the effects they produce, from how a football team operates to how some doctors operate. The book is more of a survey of how other people changed their habits rather than how you should change yours; it certainly is not a conventional self-help book. I found this greatly contributed positively to the book’s feel which was neither too preachy nor too repetitive. The message itself was repetitive, but the delivery of it, from various situations, remained fresh. The book included a very interesting view of addiction, and for that alone the book is worth a read. This book also changed the way I view certain coincidences, and how they may be linked. For example, I noticed that when I tend to work out consistently, my procrastination also diminishes. Theoretically one could take the habit cycle from this book, and then apply it to where they want to see success. As a warning the theory is simple, but the actual application of it, in changing long term habits, may be difficult- but certainly possible.

I would recommend this book to anyone curious about how deeply habits affect us as individuals, in groups, and as a part of society.

Nibble: “He tried calculating the exact amount of beer he needed to drink in order to work up the confidence to talk to women at parties, but not so many that he would make a fool of himself. (That particular study never seemed to come out right.)”

My Rating: 8 out of 10 similar apples

I received a free advanced paper copy of this book from the First Reads program via Goodreads. On the front cover, it claims the book will be on sale 3.6.12.

Inappropriate Thoughts

By Ian Dalton

In this story we have a romance novel writing divorcee Jillian as the protagonist, her crazy friend Victoria, her son Rob, and his visiting hot friend Brian. Brian, by virtue of being the protagonist’s interest, attracts every female in the novel and is flawless. Jillian is more down to earth and human feeling. Victoria I was most curious about, as she seemed to have the most potential for depth and an interesting backstory; though in this story she’s not really a sympathetic character.

The first half or so of the book is erotica: amusing, sexy, and fun to read as it flits between different characters’ view points. The ending part of the novel… not so much. Suddenly there’s boatloads of drama and feelings everywhere, and the light style that was present earlier in the book slips away. The book started off very funny, self-aware, and sexy, and slowly spiraled off. Perhaps if everything hadn’t been tied up so neatly this wouldn’t have happened, and the ending could have been stronger.

All in all though I did find this a fun sexy story, and I have high hopes for a novel explaining Victoria. I would recommend this story to anyone who would like a short romantic and erotic piece to read before bedtime.

Nibble: “She wore a nightshirt that wasn’t all that sexy, but what she was typing was—or at least it started out that way…”

My Rating: 7 out of 10 steamed red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Of Moths & Butterflies

By V.R. Christensen

Set in the late nineteenth century, this novel has a female protagonist trying to escape her past and monetary fortune, a very curious man, some over-friendly cousins, and a few greedy folk for good measure. An arranged marriage appears to ease our protagonist’s troubles, but instead new problems arise everywhere.

I particularly liked how dialog heavy Christensen was in this novel. Christensen’s dialog felt natural, restrained, characterized excellently, and smoothly flickers between intense and amusing. Though the novel was almost six hundred and fifty pages, it still felt like a light read from the interesting drama and dialog. In these pages there’s a slow build up and shaping of the plot, and characters’ interactions with one another.

However, I would have liked to see the protagonist humanized a little earlier, her light flaws become apparent rather late into the novel. Almost every other character loves her or hates her right upon meeting her, only towards the ending do we see other characters moving away from the extremes of feelings for her.

As a warning, there are references to past sexual abuse.

Nibble: “Her conflicting and tumultuous emotions betrayed themselves only in her occupation of busily fingering the fringe of her paisley shawl.”

After reading the book, I found the author’s blog post about it rather interesting and made me rethink themes of the book placed in contemporary times. Most interestingly, what happens if one goes into a marriage with absolutely no expectations? The blog post is here, http://vrchristensen.com/http:/vrchristensen.com/why-of-moths-butterflies/ .

I would heavily recommend this book to anyone looking for a dramatic romance, and furthermore I think this book would be lovely for fostering conversation at a bookclub meeting.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 red glass apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Anything

By Michael Baron

The concept of this story is interesting. You have the protagonist, Ken, given the offer to change the past of his significant other, Melissa, and thus make her life better. After watching his wife’s traumatic past, he immediately decides he must fix this.

How the story actually plays out though is rather messy. Ken views his partner’s past without asking any permission, and only did it out of idle curiosity. Naturally Melissa does not take learning that he uncovered her dark past well. He then purposes ‘fixing’ her past by making it so the horrible event never happened without any real thought to possible negative repercussions. In the new universe alternate Melissa’s life appears to be perfect, and she does not know Ken. Ken realizes he can not live without her, and endeavors to try and become acquainted with her in the new world.

I found that this created an interesting tension in my view of Ken. He clearly acted to try and better his love’s life, and then latter to give significance to his own. However, I don’t think he had the right to do what he did. He essentially destroyed the old Melissa without once pondering if her alternate life might be worse than the one she already occupied. This seems to be a huge risk as we see Melissa happy with Ken, financially well off, and enjoying her work. In fact, we only really see the dark side of Melissa’s life once we see alternate Melissa- which shows that Ken did not realize how potentially unhappy the original Melissa was.

The ending wrapped things up far too cleanly for me, and I found this dissatisfying. The first three quarters of the novel or so were interesting and curious to read though. There’s one queer character in the book who is portrayed completely negatively as a “disgusting deviant”. She is a nightmarish woman who’s also a pedophile. I found this to be unnecessary and rather offensive. If the author did not mean to portray queers in such a way, he easily could have included either another side queer character who’s positive or simply made her male.

All in all, I found this an entertaining story to read and interesting to examine personal and privacy rights further on a deeper level. The narrator also comes across as completely sincere, which made it an easy, and slightly predictable, read.

I would recommend this story to someone who wants a Nicholas Sparks-like romance novel.

Nibble: “And everything is in synchronous motion, from birds flitting among budding trees to office workers shedding their pinstripe skins.”

My Rating: 6 out of 10 apple slices dipped in cheese fondue

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Censoring an Iranian Love Story

By Shahriar Mondanipour

This was hands down the best piece of metafiction I’ve ever read. Not only do you get into the head of the author, but the characters he creates are also complex and interesting. On top of that he tackles the problems of writing in Iran currently, in an interesting and witty manner. There’s a censorship character, Porfiry Petrovich[yeap, Dostoyevsky’s], and we see the narrator anticipating what Petrovich would cross out, as he himself crosses sections and words out. The basic plot is the author trying to publish a love story in Iran, and it includes an interior love story. Throughout the second half of the novel though things begin to get twisted with some magical realism, and the characters developing their own wills. This book was also a lovely reminder of how important intellectual freedom is.

I greatly enjoyed this piece for its aesthetics, plot, and eye-opening commentary on life and writing in Iran.

I recommend this book to everyone.

Nibble: “Imagine you live in a country where you are not even free to be insane.”

My Rating: 10 out of 10 apples without flesh or seed.

8 Bits of Wisdom

By Andy Schindler

This is a self-help book that operates through old video games designed for the western heterosexual male working an office job. There are slightly amusing bits, mostly in which games the author picks to compare to certain life lessons. I actually found the most amusing part to be the foreword and afterword, which are based directly off the author’s life. I also found descriptions about the games were far more interesting than the tongue-in-cheek life lessons.

There are quite a few generalizations throughout the text which I found grating. Schindler tends to divide people into ready made categories, which is probably more of a result of it being a self-help book. There was also a rather odd piece of advise for raising children- that of using bribery to make them behave. To have someone so blatantly inclined towards only doing what directly and short term-wise helps them, doesn’t sound like the foundation of someone I’d want to be remotely friendly with. As a warning there is coarse language in this book, and it came off as natural but unnecessary.

I would recommend this book to a male who’s not offended easily, is looking for some guidance and enjoyed video games as a kid.

Nibble: “You can change your team makeup as you please, and it is important to remember that you and your friends might be shifting into different categories throughout your lives.”

My Rating: 4 out of 10 nostalgic red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.