Review: Henry Franks

After reading his fantastic novella, Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds, I was eager to hop into more of Peter Salomon’s work! Fortunately he’s got a few other books that he’s written, and this book, Henry Franks, was his first!

Instantly you get the kind of dark book this will be…

Finished: 6/26/2019

Henry Franks is a novel about a teenage boy with scars that are always itching and a terrible case of amnesia. He doesn’t remember anything that happened before the accident, and he suffers from not recognizing his own name or his own father. As Henry slowly unfurls out of his shell around his talkative neighbor, Justine, the newspapers are full of murder reports happening all across the quiet island of St. Simons island.

So first off, having grown up in Georgia myself, I love that this happens in a known Georgia location during specific years and during a very specific weather pattern. I think it’s incredible the amount of work and research it takes to create a world within that space, but Peter does a splendid job with it.

Another piece I want to include, and perhaps the part that made this book glow for me, is the clear knowledge of cognitive science and the effects of head trauma. People forgetting who relatives are and sometimes, more importantly, not having the same feelings of warmth as they used to are known side effects of that trauma. Read up on Capgras syndrome for more information on this very real phenomena.

What makes life worse for Henry is that his father seems untrustworthy. And you’re not sure if it is a case of head trauma or if he really is acting suspiciously. So you’re not sure if Henry’s lack of emotion for his father is truly from head trauma and amnesia, or if his father isn’t who he says he is.

Anyway, you get the idea of how tangled this story is and how much fun it is to unravel the mystery! I honestly love that about Peter’s books. The ending absolutely threw me for a loop too!

I am looking forward to getting to read more of Peter’s work!

What I consider a 5-star book:

  • Is it a fun read? I turned each page with growing concern, eager to unravel the mystery at hand, so yes, definitely a fun read!
  • Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely! I loved the twists and turns this book took, and the horrific encounters they had.
  • Does it stick with you? Definitely! It’s a storyline that you’ll find creeping into your mind again and again.

My overall rating: 5/5

Review: To Dream Is To Die

Sarah Lampkin is another one of my incredible Parliament House Press sisters, and we’ve been fortunate enough to work alongside each other at not one, but two events this year!

(Check out our interview on YA Fantasy and Science Fiction at the Alabama Book Festival below!)

I look like a Batman villain in that preview pic!

Sarah is awesome to work with. She’s also a gym rat and is a big inspiration to hit the gym if you follow her on social media! So I was thrilled to get a chance to review her book, To Dream Is To Die.

Brenna is clearly ready to kick some ghost butt!

Finished: June 5, 2019

First of all, the concept behind The Dead Dreamer series (this is book 1 of that series) is so fascinating! I love the mixture of dreamers, spirits, and portals for demons and fairies. Brenna is a tough-as-nails protagonist and although her pessimistic personality took a bit to win me over, her friends and experiences soften her hard exterior throughout the story.

I also loved the mystery that takes place on a haunted college campus! I mean, technically anywhere Brenna goes is ultimately haunted, but you know what I mean. As someone who works on a campus, this especially appealed to me. I really enjoyed the fast pace and the way each of the characters change and evolve over time. For fans of ghost hunters, conspiracy theories, administrators hiding the truth, and characters with big secrets to hide, this is a novel for you!

I’m really excited to read book two in The Dead Dreamer series, To Wake The Dead, coming in October!

What I consider a 5-star book:

  • Is it a fun read? Although it took a little longer for Brenna to grow on me due to her pessimistic outlook on life, once the story got going I had a hard time putting this down!
  • Would you recommend it to others? If you love ghosts, people who turn into ghosts, or ghosts co-existing with demons and the fae, then this is definitely a book to check out!
  • Does it stick with you? This book has some scenes that will absolutely stick with you for a long time to come!

My overall rating: 5/5

Note: This book follows Brenna in her first year of college and she’s surrounded by party people who drink a LOT, with all the detail of having to puke into trash cans and whatnot. For me, this was triggering, but I’m a little squeamish about that sort of thing. For others, it may not be a problem at all. So just a warning if you’re squeamish like me to tread cautiously!

Review: Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds

This was the first book I had read from my fellow Horror Writers Association member, Peter Salomon. He reached out to me back in January of this year asking for a blurb for his new book. I had never been asked to do anything like that before, but he enjoyed The She-Wolf of Kanta so much that he wanted to hear what I thought of this.

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Finished: January 31, 2019

What starts out as a very stream-of consciousness style slowly pieces together as the story progresses. You get snippets of details as each person explores memories. You get insight, piece by piece, into what happened that led to this bizarre state of existence. You start to understand the mistakes, the terrible decisions, the consequences of being so very intelligent and untouchable.

After reading this book, I’ve started to keep an eye out for any of Peter’s other work because I binged this in two days. Yes, it’s a novella so it’s shorter than a novel, but the sun had gone down and I was sitting in the dark reading on my phone because I just couldn’t put it down and hadn’t noticed it was nighttime. I don’t usually do that, I can disconnect and pull away, but this book sucked me in entirely. Maybe it’s because it taps into psychology and cognitive science, two fields that I adore and almost went into in college. Maybe it’s because it explores teen abuse and neglect from highly intelligent individuals, something I haven’t seen much in YA fiction. Either way, I devoured this book.

This book is an intense, terrifying foray into a dark future where two survivors must piece together the end of the world through the jumbled memories of six abused teens. A wonderful read that I couldn’t put down by a writer who understands the biological, technological, and research worlds, this is one science fiction thrill ride you won’t want to miss! If you enjoy exploring cognitive science, AI technology, biological weapons, and a mystery of global proportions, this is definitely the book for you!

What I consider a 5-star book:

  • Is it a fun read? Didn’t even notice it was nighttime, remember? It’s a ridiculously fun read once you get on board!
  • Would you recommend it to others? Absolutely! Especially if they enjoy science fiction thrillers.
  • Does it stick with you? Peter’s writing gets under your skin in a good way. I’m reading another book from him now, and I just end up falling right into his voice again. So yes, it sticks with you. Like glue.

My overall rating: 5/5

PS. I’m reading another book by Peter now, Henry Franks, and I’m enjoying it just as much so far. It’s more of a straightforward horror rather than a science fiction piece though. Expect a review for that to come soon! He’s quickly become one of my favorite authors.

Review: Clouded by Envy

Finished: May 12, 2019

I really enjoyed the previous books I read from Candace including Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, The Bride of Glass, and Bacon Pie. So of course I had to pick up this one too!

My Review:

This was such a fascinating story! From the strange world of Laith, to magical stones, to bizarre curses, and cute, suburban family life, this book mixes quite a lot of juxtaposed concepts. A heck of a ride filled with unexpected twists and turns, with adult content that was somewhat explicit but still sweet.

WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT!

So first off, I liked Bray’s character, but she seemed too perfect and lucky to me at times. She’s a good person, but she also doesn’t struggle with guilt and sorrow as much as at times I think she should. Most of her conflict comes from her brother.

Brenik for me is the real star of the story, and even though he’s cruel and callous at times, he’s been dealt a terrible hand in life. He’s the weaker one from the start, he’s usually wrong, he’s pulled into a human world without the ability to become human (unlike Bray), and he has a learning disability so he can’t read. He lives with Bray so of course he has terrible jealousy. When the jealousy becomes too much and the Stone of Desire grants his wish, it’s a horrific curse. I don’t want to give away too much, but his angry and defiant response to life truly does make sense from the constant bad luck he experiences. Also he and Luca make an amazing team and I wanted more of them!

Luca was also one of my faves, an intuitive kid who is curious and isn’t frightened of the various monsters around him. He really grew on me throughout the story.

One part that I struggled with was toward the end when it turned into a sort of generational novel. Some people absolutely love those, but I just have a hard time connecting with them. This is just a personal issue of mine though because this goes along quite well with the story and with the magic of the world.

That said, I’m excited to come back for the next book in this series! I love the mixture of monsters that inspired this book, and I’m excited to see what Candace does next! I’m also hoping we get to see more of the strange land of Laith.

What I consider a 5-star book:

  • Is it a fun read? Definitely! It’s really cute to read about Bray and the adventures she gets into.
  • Would you recommend it to others? Oh yes, especially if you love unique mash-ups of monsters, a wholesome family, and a dash of a generational novel.
  • Does it stick with you? I have to say yes to this too, simply because it’s so unique and I’ve never read a book quite like it before. I think Brenik will especially be a character that will stay with me for a long time.

My overall review: 5/5

Comic Book Review: Fear of Faith Part 1

Wow, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done a comic book review! I looked back and I think the last one I did was in 2011 for the Batman: Year One movie (which doesn’t quite count, does it?). Well I’m hoping to remedy that!

Why Comic Books?

I’ve love doing book reviews here on my blog, because as an author, I think it’s important to show some love when you finish a book. It’s tough out there for us authors, and every bit of love you can give back is appreciated.

I also love reading comic books though, and I find again and again that really great comics don’t get the attention they deserve, either because they’re considered juvenile despite the wide acclaim the comic book movies have gotten in the past decade, or because people don’t think it’s worth the money. For me, I think comic books are a perfect mixture of art and story, with both methods adding together for a very unique experience.

I grew up on Batman comic books, and now with the ease of availability of comic books, I can finally get access to read series that I’ve missed out on for too many years. (A big thank you goes out to DC Universe, cause I can already see me reading quite a number of those back issues!)

So since I got a good number of votes over on my Instagram story for it, I’ve decided to do a full review for the Fear of Faith series of comics, that were released back in the early 1990s. They featured my personal favorite Bat-villain, The Scarecrow.

Fear of Faith: Part 1: Fanning the Flames

The first issue of Fear of Faith shows up in Legends of the Dark Knight #116. It takes place during the No Man’s Land series, which is when Gotham City is hit with a huge earthquake. When the city is practically annexed from the United States, most people evacuate, but the ones who are left work to carve the city into territories. Resources are low and Gothamites are forced to work together or battle it out in order to survive. This of course includes some of Gotham’s notorious villains, such as the Scarecrow, who we find horrified on the title page.

Scarecrow is watching a huge bonfire made of burning books, and knowing that he’s an academic, he’s outraged. One of he most wonderful lines in this book is when he states “I have never known a cold so bitter that it must be staved off with books.” And if we take into account the Scarecrow: Year One series (which I hope to review later), we know that he has probably experienced many cold nights. Scarecrow values knowledge above all else, even if it means life and death.

His attention is pulled though when one book is not burned: the Bible. Suddenly the tone is set for how Scarecrow plans to harm these people: through some form of religious manipulation.

We’re introduced to a church that is run by Father Chris. His church accepts anyone who wishes to be part of it, no strings attached, and he also rejects any attempt at police protection.

Across town we see a gang who used to work under Black Mask, but who now travel together. They break into a morgue in order to fish out any bullets from the corpses there. It’s distasteful work and morally repulsive, and one of the members, Mikey, refuses to be part of it and gets ostracized from the group. Batman questions him about it, and we later discover that he drops Mikey off at Father Chris’ church so he an have a safe space separate from the gang.

We find Jim Gordan having to sleep in jail cells since presumably the Gotham Police Department building is no longer livable. From him we learn that he has tried to convince Father Chris to allow the police to protect his area, but he refuses, claiming that he has immigrants who would be intimidated and frightened by their presence. Then Huntress approaches Father Chris, trying to get them to allow her protection. However once again Father Chris refuses.

Then Huntress finds that the Scarecrow is casually reading a book, and she goes into attack mode. Father Chris has to remind her that she has no authority in his church and that everyone, even someone like Scarecrow is welcome. We start to understand the dangers of Father Chris’ decisions, but also understand what it looks like to others taking refuge there when Huntress attacks him.

Another interesting line here is what Huntress says, “I confess that my own morality has at times been questionable, but I do know the good guys from the bad guys.” To which the Scarecrow responds, “Do you? Are you sure?”

And we have setup the moral dilemma here between Huntress and Scarecrow, who turn out to be our main contradictory characters for the storyline. Huntress, unlike Batman, has no trouble killing but she is also a very religious woman. She is more a vigilante than Batman is, and often is far more violent.

There are several pieces that make this story fascinating to me, as a Scarecrow fan. First of all, this is one of the few storylines where Scarecrow must work without his famed toxin. This turns this short 4-book series into a game of politics and persuasion. The series really puts his mind to work, which I rarely see from many comic books.

Another piece I enjoy is that each of these books have Scarecrow’s mental dialogue going throughout. They show as the dark tan speech bbubbles with jagged edges we saw in the first screenshot, but often have him diving deep into philosophical and scientific or even chemical concepts. In this book, he tackles the question of why humans fear other humans.

“Are we truly, as a species, inherently mistrustful and unkind? Or have thousands of years of evolutionary coding left us justifiably competitive and aggressive? Is it truly the unknown nature of our neighbor that terrifies us so… or is it, rather, the secretly known nature of ourselves?”

This runs alongside Huntress attacking Scarecrow and the violence that ensues, almost as a parody of the events taking fold. Inside the Scarecrow’s mind, we see that even when he is being attacked, that he sees himself as winning. This is evidence of his mental instability, and sets the stage for what happens next in the series.

Despite the numerous points of view in this comic, it gives us a really juicy setup for the trouble and danger we know is coming. Despite Scarecrow requesting Father Chris to take him in out of kindness, we see that he only wanted to get closer to start his philosophical battle.

I hope you enjoyed this! I’m looking forward to doing a deep dive into parts 2-4 of Fear of Faith, where we learn the Scarecrow’s plans and see what’s in store for Huntress and Batman!