November 29, 2016

Edward Aubry: "Prelude to Mayhem" (Blog Tour Review)

For the blog tour calendar click here. (Note: the one above is an alternate cover featuring Glimmer the pixie :))

Title: Prelude to Mayhem [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Mayhem Wave (1st of 4 books...with plans for a fifth)
Author: Edward Aubry [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Year: 2016
Age: 14+ (note: it's marketed as a YA/NA crossover. But to me it covers all the spectrum from teen to adult)
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Quirky and audacious blend of post-apocalypse, technology and magic. Characters who are easy to empathise with.
Cons: The blend I mentioned might not work for everyone.
WARNING! A couple of strong scenes, where blood flows freely and monsters creep over dead people. A character making an inappropriate joke about male physiology to a teen girl, who properly scolds him and leaves him ashamed. Some F bombs.
Will appeal to: Those who are looking for a fresh approach to post-apocalypse.

Blurb: In the ruins of his world, Harrison Cody follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I have been talking to the author on a few occasions since reviewing his previous title, Unhappenings - which I also rated 4 stars. Moreover, I am a semi-regular reviewer of Curiosity Quills titles (like this one), but if you look back at my ratings, this never prevented me from being unbiased.
As I stated in my disclaimer, Edward Aubry already published a book called Unhappenings. But that wasn't his first book - an earlier version of this one, called Static Mayhem, was. If you are curious about the whole story (which is also inspiring for every struggling writer out there who despairs of ever being published), you can read my interview with the author.


At present, post-apocalyptic stories are all the rage - and of course, the more they saturate the market, the harder it gets to spin an original tale. But though the core of this particular story dates back a couple of decades, it managed to stay fresh. The bold mashup of subgenres/elements (from time shuffles to supernatural occurrences, from magic to technology) is, I think, quite unique - I only encountered something similar (minus the time issue) in The Bad Rescue of Devon Streeter (now renamed Riven) by B.C. Johnson. I have to admit a few moves are bolder than others (like talking dinosaurs with a German accent and a polite attitude ๐Ÿ˜†) and some readers might find them a bit over-the-top. But Harrison - the character who manages to experiment the vaster array of strange encounters - either relates to them in a sympathetic manner, or comes to accept this new reality in a way that pretty much normalizes it for us too...well, to a point at least ๐Ÿ˜‰. I'll go as far as to say that Harrison might be a symbol of the best America, the one that I hope will rear its head again - the one that learns to trust and welcome the stranger, no matter how alien they look at a first glance. If you look past the face value, Harrison's bond with Glimmer - an opinionated, wise-cracking pixie with a heart of gold - can be read that way. [...]

November 13, 2016

James Wymore et al.: "Windows into Hell" (ARC Review)

Title: Windows into Hell [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Authors: James Wymore [Site | Goodreads] et al.
Genres: Afterlife
Year: 2016
Age: I think it's marketed at an adult audience, but to me, it can be read from 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Imaginative and thought-provoking. Most of the stories are cleverly connected via the general setting, and/or by common themes or characters.
Cons: Because of the above, most of the stories don't have a real ending either - you need to look at the whole picture. Also, one of them is told in epic poem form (and a shorter poem is included in another story), so you need to have a specific taste for it.
WARNING! A few stories deal with violence/gore or mention rape and suicide.
Will appeal to: Those who love to speculate on what's next. Those who think of life as a long lesson. Those who are in for a bunch of tales that will haunt them.

Blurb: What happens after we die? Mankind has speculated through the ages that a few righteous or lucky people go straight to heaven. Or so we've come to believe. Good or bad, our journey doesn't end at death. For most of us, the afterlife begins in an office where an overworked and underappreciated demon decides our long term fate. Life is messy, it’s easy to miss one of the crucial lessons. In order to accommodate our unique shortcomings, a myriad of custom fitted Hells wait with open arms to teach us. No clichรฉ fire and brimstone here, except as decorations. Besides, that would be the easy way out. Yes, there is a way out. All you have to do is learn one simple lesson. That shouldn't be too hard, right? (Amazon excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I received this anthology from Curiosity Quills in exchange for an honest review. To be more precise, I specifically requested a review copy. That didn't affect my opinion and rating in any way. Here goes...
If you're familiar with my blog, there's no way you didn't notice I'm addicted to afterlife stories. What you may not know is that I rarely enjoy short stories. I'm not sure if it's because I don't get enough time to become invested in the characters, of because I'm only completely satisfied when I spend a few hours in a book world, or because I'm not impressed by the ending of something that has barely started, so it usually fails to deliver a punch in my case. But I got a very strong vibe from this anthology. So I jumped aboard, and...well, if you're usually wary of short stories too, don't let it deter you from giving this book a chance. Some of these stories will haunt you for life. You must have the patience of connecting the dots and not asking for easy answers, but it will repay.


This collection is explicitly inspired (and partly modeled after) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, which in turn pays homage to The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges. The main concepts are that 1) Zoroastrianism is the true religion, so that anyone who dies out of that faith automatically goes to hell, no matter what they accomplished in life; 2) hell is not at all what it's cracked up to be - better (or worse?) yet, there are a number of them, and the demon bureaucracy will steer you toward the most appropriate one. Not to mention that there's always a way out if you're willing to learn your lesson and try hard enough...or is there? Of course, the choice of Zoroastrianism is not casual, since it's the less popular among the old religions nowadays, so it makes for an ironic starting point - good and evil doers are paired together, and those who were sure they would be saved are not. Also, fire and brimstone are just for show, but there are worse hells than burning for all eternity. By the way, I've never really felt the weight the word "eternity" bears before I read this book. *shudders* [...]