Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Guest Post: Hellbounce by Matthew W Harrill

Hey guys! Just settling into my new school and surroundings, and therefore the dearth in new material. But here's a guest post from Matthew W. Harrill, whose action filled book has just hit Amazon! 

Hellbounce by Matthew W. Harrill 

Demons don’t always hide in the dark.


As a psychologist in a prison hospital, Eva Ross had always dealt with her share of sinners. The corrupt, the insane, their minds were all hers to unlock. But when those around her, those she trusted with her life start to exhibit the same characteristics, she is forced to turn to a stranger, a man whose name she is incapable of even remembering, for sanctuary.

Follow Eva as she crosses continents to unlock the answers, and her eventual destiny.


Harold Fronhouse was a short man, not far over five feet in height. He sat secured in a straightjacket, and strapped to a wheelchair. He wore no mask. As Eva and Jenny entered the room, he watched, unblinking. As Jenny sat down, he gazed at her with the eyes of a predator. “Nice.”

Eva glanced at Jenny, who watched Harold the way a small child watched a stranger, not taking her eyes off him. She was uncomfortable.

“Harold. How are you today?”

“Hungry,” came the reply, although Fronhouse still had not taken his eyes off Jenny. This was going bad quickly.

“Well I see from your records you don’t appear to have had much problem with your meals.”

Fronhouse eyed Jenny up and down once more, and then turned his head to Eva. “Unsatisfied.” His eyes widened slightly and he fidgeted.

“Nothing changes then,” agreed Eva, motioning Jenny to take notes, more to give her something to do than for the need. “Harold likes to play games,” Eva lectured. “One-word answers can go on for days if he feels like it. It’s a shame. He is such a conversationalist. But I know what you love to talk about, don’t I?” Eva spoke as she would to a pet.

In response, Fronhouse grinned, the vacuous smile of one not in possession of all their mental faculties. “The bomb.”

Eva leaned forward, a conspirator to his cause. “Yes the bomb. Why don’t you tell us the story of the bomb.”

Fronhouse trembled with excitement, and looked at Eva as if seeking to please a master. “I was young, not more than a child. We lived in a farmhouse in the hills. My parents used to have parties. The sorts of parties where you put your car keys in a jar and the wife left with whoever owned the keys she pulled out. They loved that sort of thing. It gave them excitement.

"Over time, my mother pulled the same keys repeatedly. My father grew suspicious.” Fronhouse cackled to himself at some perceived vision.

“He took me with him once and showed me my mother and her lover through a window in the house. He was behind her. They were naked. She was moaning.” Fronhouse again watched Jenny as he said this, evidently gauging the impact of his words. Jenny had dropped her pad and pen in her lap, just staring.

Fronhouse, restless now, fidgeted more. “My father took me home and told me he was going to make my mother pay for this, and he wanted my help. We built a bomb, and fitted it under her car.” He turned his head to one side and growled: “Yes, I can feel it, too.”


Hellbounce is the first book of the ARC chronicles and was recently released by Heart Powered Publishing. Since then, the novel has gained exceptional reviews from people across the web:

“This book caught me in the opening and never let up.” -ruffy, Amazon review

“Wow. This guy has talent. Serious talent. . . . [Hellbounce] pulls you in, mangles your emotions and pushes your senses to the brink, and when you're done, you need a drink and a good night's rest. With the lights on.” -P. Palmer, Amazon review

"Hold on to your seats and take a ride to hell and back. A prison hospital psychologist spends a romantic night with a man she simply cannot remember. When you think her life could not be any more complicated, all hell breaks loose and she finds herself on a mission unlike any other." - Claudia, Goodreads review

"This is not a genre I would generally read, in fact it's a genre I dislike. . . . However . . . I was hooked from the first few pages and I haven't devoured a book this quickly in long time. . . . I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy." - Sean Groom, Goodreads Review

Where to Get it:

Learn more about Hellbounce, read other reviews, or purchase it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Publisher: Random House

Rating: 3.5 stars.
Goodreads Summary: On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.

For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.

Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.

The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.


Whether you like this book or not depends on the kind of reader you are.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl is a mystery, a fast-plotted semi-noir with glimmerings of the paranormal. The plot follows disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath and his tagalong motley crew—there’s Nora the coat-check girl who wants to be a star, Hooper the drug-dealer, and a supporting cast that comprises of everything from a piano tuner to witches to Jamaicans to washed-out heroines to adorable kids to Armenian drag-queens (this last only in passing, unfortunately.) 

In Night Film, a freakish cult-like following worships the legendary (and very fictional) film-maker Stanislas Cordova, who has made some of the scariest, darkest, most secretively filmed movies Hollywood has ever seen. Think maybe a cross between Stephen King and Vito Corleone.

Cordova has a motto of sorts: Sovereign, Perfect, Deadly, and his fans hold red band screenings for his movies in catacombs, meet up in darkened Montauk beach-houses, collect Cordova movie paraphernalia from black markets, and really get up to a sort of cult-like idolatry. Cordova himself has not been in the public eye for years, living instead in the comfort of his sprawling Adirondacks mansion, with prodigious daughter Ashley and a line of wives/women who comes and goes on Cordova’s whim/turns of fate. By staying away from the public eye, Cordova attains a sort of bogeyman image, and this force of Cordova’s charisma is what alone drives the book and Pessl’s other, much forgettable characters.

The novel begins with the death or apparent suicide of Cordova’s daughter, the beautiful and talented Ashley Cordova, in a seedy neighbourhood in New York. The narrator, Scott McGrath, immediately delves into the case all guns blazing—aiming to clear his name of the disgrace he wrought on himself by implying that Cordova was a danger to society on national TV. With his marriage fallen apart, and his career in the dumps, this is McGrath’s only chance. But he quickly realizes that there are forces that want to prevent him from finding out the truth, and the complicated twists and turns of the case take him places he never thought he’d go, and into cultures and lifestyles he never thought he’d be a part of. Magic, whether real or not, is a very important part of Night Film.

Where Night Film succeeds is with Pessl’s engaging writing. She brings twists and turns and new concepts to the plot that enriches it, and McGrath is a reasonably authentic voice for a 40-something cynical man. New York appears to be as much a character as anyone else. Ashley’s mystery touches upon Native beliefs, voodoo, and even takes detours into wicca. It’s fun and fast-paced and doesn’t have a boring moment. It’s a mystery in a grand sense, and while I didn’t like the resolution all that much, I still liked this book well enough that it kept me turning the pages well into the night.

The book uses extra media—images, paper clippings, photographs, and using a scanner app on your phone, you can access even more media online. While these kind of gimmicks are growing more popular in books, it occasionally detracts from the actual story. Some of it is necessary, most not at all, and Night Film maintains a precarious balance between the two. I think it’s rather time for Pessl to leave behind these gimmicks and visual tricks and focus on the story she’s telling.

Another problem I had with Night Film is that it set up to provide some sort of great, cataclysmic meeting between McGrath and Cordova, but instead I first got a false alarm, and then half-involved descriptions of a meeting that was mostly just talking and boredom. I wanted some crazy, crazy twist.

Pessl’s debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, was praised by readers and critics alike for its self-parodying, quirky teenager voice, the storytelling, and the general throwing around of references that range from obscure botanical journals to quotes from every writer under the English Literature curriculum and then some. I enjoyed Special Topics to an extent, and thought it had its flaws. Night Film is not anything like it, which I sort of see as Pessl’s growth and her ability to produce works that belong to a wider range.  Pessl’s characters are still all unfortunately quirky and similar-sounding, and while quirk is good, too much of it just comes across as amateurish. There are some metaphors that seem overblown, and likewise with her tendency to populate her pages with extremely colourful characters—sometimes it’s quite overdone, and can be quite tiring.

Bottomline: Night Film is entertainment, plain and simple. It’s not a deep foray into the mind of a crazy man, as I half-way expected it to be. Go into the book expecting a character-driven novel and you come out disappointed. Go into it expecting a cozy murder mystery...and you just might like it enough to finish it, or even actually love it. I did.

I have to applaud the E-Book makers—with all the extra media, it’s always a gamble whether images and text will mesh well in iBooks, and Night Film does the job well where several other books, including Special Topics and the honestly silly Miss Peregrine’s whatever-it-is failed to work.

3.5 stars.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Alabaster by Caitlin Kiernan

So I was talking the other day about discovering new authors and new ideas in literature. Here's something very YA friendly, and honestly, if it were released by a major YA publisher, I can see this book doing very very well in the YA demographic. As is, Alabaster by Caitlin R Kiernan has a comic-book adaptation that is equally wonderful, but let me just take a moment to review the book.

Warning though: it was difficult to get my hands on this one.

TITLE: Alabaster
AUTHOR: Caitlin R Kiernan
COMIC-BOOK Artist: Steve Lieber, cover designed by Greg Ruth
RATING: 5 stars

GoodReads Summary:

An albino girl wanders the sun-scorched backroads of a south Georgia summer, following the bidding of an angel - or perhaps only voices in her head - searching out and slaying ancient monsters who have hidden themselves away in the lonely places of the world.

REVIEW (Please note that this is the review for the book, not the comic)

Dancy Flammarion is an albino girl with a big blade and an angel watching over her. Or is she? Is the angel only in her head, a fragment of an insane imagination? What about all the monsters that she has to face on lonely Southern roads and in the dark places that others don't see? Could that be her imagination too?

Caitlin R Kiernan creates an incredibly fascinating character in Dancy Flammarion. The concept is enthralling: a young girl, pink-eyed and white-skinned, wandering the lonely roads of America facing down monsters who are centuries old, sometimes incomprehensibly evil, all at the bidding of an angel who may or may not be good himself. Kiernan pulls no stops in describing the darkness of Dancy's world, or the extent to which magic worms through it.

Alabaster is actually a collection of five stories featuring the character, from her childhood in Wampee Creek, to her misadventures on the road. If the first story in the collection, Le Fleurs Des Empoisonnes ( "In the Garden of Poisoned Flowers") takes you from a dark highway to a bright house populated by ghoul women, Waycross and Alabaster feature monsters shacking up in derelict old lighthouses or the basements of gas-stores. The Well of Stars and Shadow, is about Dancy's childhood, while Bainbridge is slightly different from the others, skipping between Dancy taking on a monster a little too much for her to chew and two other timelines, one of which is reminiscent of dark faerie tales.

This kind of story-telling is quite effective, for the YA market at least, as it cuts down on the tedium of a novel with a beginning, middle and end. I love that these horrific creatures that Dancy faces don't exist in another dimension, and that Dancy does not exactly have any magic powers except for her knife. She's quite often at a disadvantage, only barely scraping out of the messes alive.

Dancy is also an insanely complex character. Why does she obey this angel? Exactly what happened to her mother? Is it, all of it, just in her head? All the monsters try to mess with Dancy's head, but the girl has some spunk. Here's a heroine who is both vulnerable, lonely, and desperate-- but beautiful and kickass at the same time.

The magic in Alabaster is also worth mentioning. There's bottled pain and creatures that ask riddles; ghouls that augur corpses and dead girls and vampires. There's Dancy's terrible, magnificent angel who never helps her. There's the ghost of her mother. There's Kiernan's writing, which is absolutely enchanting. There's lonely highways and boys with silver eyes and a panther in a cage.

If you can get a copy, read Alabaster. Or grab a copy of Dark Horse comics' version of it. Steve Lieber's art is absolutely wonderful.

*The first image used is actually the comic-book, while the black and white one represents the jacket of the hard/paperback collection.

Here are some links to reviews of Alabaster: Wolves:

Reading Graphic Novels
Tor.com's kinda-review
Comic Book Nerds Are Cute

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Comeback Post: Hi again, and How are You? (+free stories)

Remember me? How are you, dear follower? Drop me a line so it doesn't feel like shouting out into empty space. I've missed book-blogging, and hope to get back to it, but I see a few of you have left, there are plenty new faces around, and the YA blogging world is still its fiiiiiine self.

I’m incredibly busy these days, trying to fit in projects and final semester and job interviews and such into a schedule made worse by my writing commitments, but I had to talk about what I was reading and my relationship with Young Adult literature in general.

 I haven’t been reading very much YA these days, basically because I stumbled across writers in an adult genre who I enjoy reading. Granted, I am still very much enamored by fantasy and speculative fiction, and I have been reading a lot of what is called “slipstream” or “weird fiction”, the likes of which you don’t find a lot in YA.

One of my favorite authors at present is Catherynne M Valente. Her writing is incredibly touching and beautiful, drawing from vast sources that stretch from Russian history to Japanese mythology, creation myths to popular culture, film noir to universes populated by intelligent singularities. For all the fantastic characters that populate her pages, Miss Valente can still do sentences like this:

Cassian Uoya-Agostino set the box on the boardroom table. I caused it to sink down into the dark wood. The surface of the table went slack and filled with earth. Roots slid out of it, shoots and green saplings, hard white fruits and golden lacy mushrooms and finally a great forest, reaching up out of the table to hang all the ceiling with night-leaves. Glowworms and heavy, shadowy fruit hung down, each one glittering with a map of our coupled architecture. Ceno held up her arms, and one by one, I detached leaves and sent them settling onto my girl. As they fell, they became butterflies broiling with ghostly chemical color signatures, nuzzling her face, covering her hands. Her mother stared. The forest hummed. A chartreuse and tangerine-colored butterfly alighted on the matriarch’s hair, tentative, unsure, hopeful.

 [From the highly remarkable Silently and Very Fast]

And this is why I love fantasy with all my heart; because it is so unsure, so hopeful, so beautiful in that it makes you dream. The author’s novel Palimpsest, is a speculative fiction triumph. It is incredible, and if anyone is looking to crossover into the adult genre, Palimpsest is a book that gives you the wonder of new ideas and new mythologies as in YA, but does it in a lyrical way that will weave a spell about you. Here are links to 3 free works by Valente, so you can get a taste of her writing.

SILENTLY AND VERY FAST, won the Locus award for best short novella, and was a Hugo and Nebula nominee. For the uninitiated, these are all very prestigious awards in the speculative  genre. This novella tells the story of an artificially-intelligent house-like being called Elefsis, and is wonderful.

THE GIRL WHO RULED FAIRYLAND FOR A LITTLE WHILE, is set in the same world as the author's popular The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in A Ship of Her Own Making and is as wonderful as the book. If you're a Gaiman fan, you will love this.

Here is finally, a collection of three poems, one of which is a Rhysling Award winner. One is a retelling of Rapunzel, one addresses loss and rootlessness through the eyes of the girlfriend of a Russian immigrant, and the last one is both about love and about how we relentlessly destroy the earth in pursuit of precious metals.

Have a read.

Other than that: things are changing in life, but I'd like to come back to blogging about books and writing. I'd like to do more Trifecta, and more reviews. How are you all? Got any great book recommendations? Just want to say hi? Hit the comments!


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Images used in this blog are either digital art created by the author or free photographs. Reviews and views expressed on this site are strictly personal. Text by Varsha Dinesh is copyrighted under Creative Commons.