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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: VAMP FOR HIRE by Gerald Dean Rice

Review: VAMP FOR HIRE by Gerald Dean Rice Nick, the luckless accidental vampire, is be of the most feckless and lackluster protagonists in my memory. This guy can not catch a break let alone make his own luck. His life is pillar to post, blown around at the whims of others. He just can't get it right.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: ORPHANS OF WONDERLAND by Greg F. Gifune

Release:  March 3 2015


It seems impossible to improve on perfect, but Greg Gifune consistently does exactly that. I consider ORPHANS OF WONDERLAND  a classic, a novella I will find myself reading and rereading frequently. This story is so well-written, it's characterization so fine-tuned, it's plotting so impeccable, it's monstrousness so implacable.

Former hard-driving investigative journalist Joel Fowler, a likable fellow if there ever was one (likable in the sense of Dickens' Bob Cratchit), is an all-round good heart who's hoed a pretty horrifying row in his lifetime. If he were less good-hearted, he wouldn't have investigated years ago a case with Satanic overtones, and subsequently been publicly trashed. Nor would he now return to his home town and old hangouts, investigating the "random" murder of an old friend. Poor Joel: too much integrity and too little sense of self-preservation.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: DOLL FACE by Tim Curran

Release:  March 3, 2015


Abandon hope, all ye who enter the mysterious community of Stokes--a town which can't exist, hasn't existed for more than 50 years--and yet, here it is. More fool the young folks driving home from a concert, piloted by an egotistical drunk who takes the wrong shortcut in the driving rain--and enters Stokes. No, it's not backwoods inbreds with a taste for flesh: the reality of Stokes is much, much worse. This is pure distilled 120 proof classic horror, implacable, inescapable, terrifying, and fatal.

Review: THE SEQUEL by R. L. Stine

Review: THE SEQUEL by R. L.Stine An entertaining and twisty example of the type of Writer's Block often referred to as Sophomore Slump, THE SEQUEL stars a bestselling novelist for whom the second book just won't gel--or even incubate. He doesn't want a sequel, despite publisher pressure. Instead, he is confronted by a thuggish individual claiming the authorship is his own, stolen; and a bright-eyed young thing promising to write the new book.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: THE SINKHOLE by Brad Cowan (Seven Stair Crew)

Review:  THE SINKHOLE by Brad V. Cowan

An exciting treasure-hunt type of adventure, skateboarding, plus eventful coming-of-age discoveries lace this story, sure to appeal to even reluctant or recalcitrant. The skateboarding whizzes known as the Seven Stair Crew go on a hunt to locate four skateboarding locales reputed to be the-best-ever, instigated by a letter from Cale's absent father in California.


REVIEW: WORLDS COME UNDONE by David Bain I've been a fab of David Bain' s writing for quite some time now, and admire his consistent high quality. WORLDS COME UNDONE is a fine introduction to this author, for those who are new, and great reading for long-term fans. Each story is well worth reading, and my personal favorites remain "Graven Images," "Under An Invisible Shadow," and the thought-provoking, unforgettable "Finding Tim."

Saturday, February 28, 2015



I am a complete illiterate on the topic of gaming and gamers, but I know exciting adventure, and the possibility of an AI (Artificial Intelligence), whether in a supercomputer as in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, or in this series as a morphing mobile robot-type "game boss," is terrifying. Now that ECHO-7 is "loose" and targeting the focus group of top gamers, no one is safe--especially if E-7's empathy mode cancels out. This is 2 in a series of 5.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tour: THE SPARKS by Kyle Prue. Q&A

A Q&A with Kyle Prue, author of The Sparks,

Book One in the Feud trilogy


1. Where did you get the idea for the Feud series?


This is a coming of age story for young adults and I am a teen in that demographic. Everyone struggles to find their path in life and my characters are all struggling with not wanting to let people down and to find their way; forgiveness and hope is a part of that journey as well. One night, at the age of 15, I had terrible insomnia and I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about the different personalities of my siblings and myself and how we will all follow different paths. That gave me the idea to create three different families loosely based around our differing personalities. I decided it would be fun to take these families and place them in a fantasy world where the obstacles we all face could be magnified to a whole new level. I wrote out the plot for the three books that night.


2. What drew you to write YA Fantasy?


I wanted to write for me. Recently, I’ve hit an “in-between” zone where it’s harder for me to find books I want to read. I wanted to write something that I would want to read and that would appeal to other kids my age. I wanted to appeal to boys who have lost interest in reading and I also created strong female characters that girls will love.


3. When did you first start writing?


Like a lot of kids, I was bullied in middle school. I doubt you will ever find a kid that says, “I rocked 7th grade! That was the best time in my life.” I was short and fat and had a bowl haircut with braces. This was not a great time in my life. But I discovered I could come home and pick up a pen and create a whole fantasy world that I could control, when the rest of my life felt out of control. I learned that I loved to create characters because their potential is limitless.


I was lucky because I learned to use writing as an escape at an early age. I was in a multi-age program from 1st-3rd grade where I had the same teacher for three years. She had an experimental writing program where she gave us an hour a day to write in our journals. She told us to just write freely and not worry about punctuation or grammar, just let the creativity flow. So by the end of that program, I had a stack of notebooks filled with an adventure series. I also did a series called Three Rings that I wrote from the age of 12 to 14 when middle school was really rough. It was a 200-page manuscript. It wasn’t good, but it was good practice.



4. What are your other interests besides writing?


I love stand up comedy because like writing, it requires an ability to look at the world in a unique way and find the humor in that. I’m a varsity swimmer for my school. I’m involved with mock trial, I’m in a number of plays every year, I started an improv club at my school and I’m really involved with our film club—we spend our weekends writing scripts and filming. We are currently working on a web series called “Amockalypse” that I’m really excited about. I pretty much gave up on sleeping after middle school.


5. When do you find the time to write?


If you love something, you find the time. I write during any hour that I can get free. With extracurriculars, I don’t usually get home until around 7:00 p.m. or later, and then I have homework, so I may only write an hour or two during the week. I try to make time to write during the weekends and breaks—I get the most writing done in the summer. I started the second book in the trilogy, The Flames, this past summer and am working on editing it over this school year.


6. Where is your favorite place to write?


I’ve usually got a notebook or computer on hand so any time I feel even the slightest bit inspired I can write. I am a big fan of writing in bookstores—it’s an interesting feeling to be surrounded by the works of people who have achieved what you are trying to accomplish.


7. What is your family like?


My family is nothing like the families in the book, I better clarify that up front. My parents are incredibly supportive and have allowed me to follow my dreams. I have two siblings: a brother and a sister. They are great; we are very close. I am the youngest.


My brother and I used to fight a lot and that dynamic inspired my idea for the three feuding families in the books. We don’t fight anymore, as we’ve outgrown that phase, but it gave me plenty to write about.


8. What were you like as a child?


I lived in a fantasy world all the time—I was always inventing stories and reenacting them. I lived in costumes. I had a cat suit that I particularly loved. My mom would always get me a new costume for Halloween and inevitably I would end up back in my cat suit when it was time to go trick-or-treating. I wore that cat suit until the legs only came to my knees. It’s weird…for some reason when you dress like a cat all the time you don’t make a ton of friends. But anyway, that’s why my parents signed me up for acting classes. I started taking acting classes at the age of six. I loved it from the start.


9. I understand you still have the acting bug. What are you doing now?


Currently, my whole focus is on college auditions. I’m crazy enough to be applying for programs where thousands of kids audition and they literally accept only six boys. So it’s kind of like trying to win the lottery, but I’m giving it my best shot. As I mentioned, I’m writing, directing and acting in my web series and we are launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund that this week. I spent last fall in LA and I was so lucky to take acting classes and perform improv at LA Connection. It was like what I imagine grad school is like. I spent 40 hours a week in acting classes and seminars—and still had to keep up with schoolwork online. It was intense but amazing.


10. What's your favorite part of acting? Favorite thing about improv?


My favorite part of acting is initially stepping into the shoes of a character and just beginning to break them in: finding out what they want, how they talk, how they move, etc.


My favorite part of improv is when you are easing into a scene and the really good lines just start flowing, especially when you’re working with a talented partner.


11. Were you a big reader as a kid?


In 5th grade, I started at a new elementary school when I moved to Naples. They had a reading contest for whoever read the most books. I ended up reading like 200 books, which was a bit of overkill as the next highest kid read about 75 books, but apparently I’m more competitive than I realized. I just really wanted to beat this girl in my class who told me she was a better reader.


12. Were you drawn to a certain genre as a kid?


When I was younger, I really disliked reading. My mom would read me the books that my brother liked and I just never got into them. One day she was at the bookstore picking out books for us, and she mentioned to the owner that I didn’t seem interested in reading and he asked her about my personality and interests. He recommended that she try some fantasy books for me. She brought home a few of those books and from then on, all I did was read and write. I love young adult fantasy.


13. Were there certain authors that you really liked?


I’ve always loved Rick Riordan, and every kid in my generation loves JK Rowling. My mom started guarding the Harry Potter books and reading them aloud to us, because otherwise I would read one whole book in a night and then tell my siblings what happened. We would barely leave the house until we had finished each book. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series has been phenomenal.


14. How have those writers influenced your writing?


I think Rick Riordan introduces and writes characters very well, which is something I kept in mind, because I have a group dynamic with my book. But I really like the way JK Rowling set up the overall plot and carried it through, intertwining a lot of different elements. She knew how to set up a big, epic adventure and finished it beautifully. That is what I hope to do with this trilogy.


15. Do you work with an outline or do you just write? Do you ever get stuck?


Normally, I have a basic idea of where the story is going when I start writing a chapter. But there have been times when I am writing the chapter that I suddenly decide to take it in a new direction. Sometimes I struggle with writing a chapter or a character in the book, so to overcome that I’ll take a break and work on another project.


16. Do you have a favorite character in The Sparks?


It alternates a lot. In general, I’ve always been a fan of characters that are only around for one book and that are very big and eccentric. I really like Michael Taurlum because he’s kind of the epitome of what’s wrong with the Taurlum family and he’s just such a child. So it was really interesting to write about him and make him such an aggressive, haughty character.


17. If your book was made into a movie, which actors would be cast as the main characters?


I’ll try my best at this one. (Disclaimer: this would be one expensive movie . . . )


Neil: Brenton Thwaites (or Kyle Prue, if Brenton Thwaites is not available)

Saewulf: Michael Fassbender

Darius: Luke Bracey

Lilly: Alexandra Daddario or Emma Watson

Rhys: Dane DeHann

Jennifer and Victoria: Teresa Palmer

Bianca: Leven Rambin

Michael: Chris Hemsworth

Carlin: Mark Strong

The Emperor: Benedict Cumberbatch

Jonathan: Rico Rodriguez

Sir Vapros: Mads Mikkelsen

Quintus: Jonah Hill (Cameo Role)


18. Can you tell us a bit about the second book, The Flames?


One of the big themes of the second book is that no one should get to a point in their life when they should experience a complete absence of hope. Things will always get better. My best friend from childhood committed suicide this year and I really want other teens to understand that whatever seems so overwhelming in your life today, won’t be what’s important to you down the road. When my characters experience this loss of hope, that is when they gain their advanced powers. Something good can come out of something that in the moment seems so terrible.


The second book in the series focuses on the remaining family members (spoiler alert!) and their friends, as they begin to kindle the revolution. It’s a lot about personal growth for the characters, like Neil and Darius. Even Robert Tanner, who is a minor character in the first book, comes back and has a very big story arc. It is the book where we start to reach that giant conflict that the characters have been stepping toward in the storyline.


19. What was your favorite part or chapter to write in The Sparks?


I really, really enjoyed writing the fight between Darius and Jennifer. It’s interesting when you write characters separately, then give them a chance to interact together. Jennifer is one of my favorite characters. Neil describes her as the model assassin so it was really fun to write her in that type of setting.


20. How did you come up with the title?


The entire book is based on a family feud so that was the reason for the series name, Feud. But the individual titles are The SparksThe Flames and The Ashes; these are symbolic of the Vapros family motto which is “Victory Lies Within the Ashes.” The Vapros turn a person to ash when they kill them. For them that is a macabre way of saying, “You have to bust a couple of heads to get what you want.” So the titles reveal that there is going to be a lot of bloodshed and a climax to this storyline, which we are building up to in the series.


21. How did you pick the names of the families?


I based the family names on Latin root words: Taurlum is based on the Latin word for bull, Celerius is the Latin word for swift and Vapros is smoke.


22. How did you get the idea for the three families?


In the first book, there are three main families and since I have a brother and a sister, I loosely based these families around the three of us—their mannerisms, their traits, resulting in a black-and-white version of us blended with a more honorable, respectable side and a more aggressive, audacious side. So the Taurlum are based off my brother, the Celerius off my sister and the Vapros off me, a little bit.


23. What can you tell us about the challenges of getting a book published?


I went to the New York Pitch Conference and Writer’s Workshop and got the opportunity to pitch my book to Random House, Penguin and McMillan Press. Each requested the manuscript (it was the most requested manuscript at the conference!), so I felt like I had a sound idea. The conference director advised me to use the publisher interest to try to get an agent. So, I began the process of sending query letters. I got some good advice from the agents I talked to. One advised me to hire a well-respected editor, as publishers expect manuscripts to be perfect, so I did that. Then another agent took the time to really ask me about my goals. I wanted the book to be read by as many people as possible and I wanted to get it published in a timely manner. She explained that—if I was lucky—the publishing process would take 3-5 years. She recommended that I meet with a small, independent publisher with a good reputation. They could meet my timing needs and I would have more input in the process, ensuring that I could retain some creative control of the final product. I met with the publisher she recommended (Barringer Publishing) and we hit it off immediately. So far, I’ve been thrilled with the process.


I’m hoping to publish Book 2, The Flames, in late summer 2015.


24. Do you have advice for other high school students wanting to write a book?


Yes, never stop writing. Write, and write and write, until you’ve got something that you like. Don’t be afraid to have a very rough copy of something. The editing process is terrible and long and arduous, but it’s something you have to do. What matters is getting something on paper and then really shaping it into what you are looking for.


25. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?


Thank you for sharing this journey with me. The series only gets better and more intense from here and I can’t wait to see what you guys think of it all.


26. Tell us where we can find your book and more information about you.


You can find more info on my website,,, Twitter @KylePrue and Instagram @KyleStevenPrue.


Tour: THE SPARKS by Kyle Prue

Chapter One Neil

Slide the knife between the third and fourth rib.

Neil’s father’s words rang in his ears as he pulled his dark, ornate hood over his head and raised his cloth mask to cover his mouth and nose. He knew all Taurlum had several weak spots on their bodies, but only one was vulnerable enough to cause an instant kill. All he needed to do was thrust his knife directly between the ribs (the third and fourth ribs, he reminded himself) and straight through the heart. Neil’s father had taught him this trick on his tenth birthday. It had been one of the more pleasant ones.

He spent a moment adjusting his mask, making sure his face would remain concealed. Not that it really mattered; during the middle of the day, the mask would do little to camouflage him. Any Taurlum would spot a Vapros like him from a mile away. The disguise had been given to him mostly for the sake of preserving his identity. Nobody needed to know which Vapros boy had made the kill. 

Neil ran his finger over the hilt of the knife. His father had presented it to him upon completion of his assassin’s training. Engraved in the handle was the Vapros family crest. The background of the crest was purple and black, with a raven embedded in the center. The Raven was the family nickname, as the black-haired, green-eyed descendants seemed to favor their swift, calculating animal mascot. The raven was known as the bringer of death: an appropriate symbol for the trained assassin. The family motto was inscribed along the bottom: Victory Lies Within the Ashes. Neil loved his knife; it made him feel like a real assassin.

Neil craved the assassin’s glory but knew in his gut that he desperately needed another assassin to assist in this mission. Two stealthy ravens against a Taurlum bull was still a risk, but they would have the element of surprise on their side. Alone it was a certain death mission, but his father’s orders were clear. Neil was desperately alone.

Making it into the giant Taurlum mansion had been easy. Navigating its giant corridors would be harder. Neil glanced carefully around the marble corner. A single guard stood watch. The man wore simple plated armor with red and gold war paint but had removed his helmet to reveal his entire head. Not a Taurlum, Neil thought. The guard lacked the golden blonde hair shared by every direct descendant of the Taurlum line; therefore, this man was not worth his time or effort. Neil squinted in concentration, and then threw all his energy into dematerializing. He reformed a split second later on the other side of the corridor. The guard continued watching the hallway and never noticed Neil materialize just behind him. As silently as he could, the Vapros boy made his way down the hallway toward the communal baths where his target would be waiting.

A Taurlum family crest hung above the door to the bathhouse. Its colors were the same gold and scarlet that covered the uniforms of the Taurlum guards who roughed up villagers in the market. A proud-looking bull stood in the center of the crest, eyes narrowed, as if challenging all who dared to oppose the name of the “great Taurlum.” At the thought of eliminating his first Taurlum man, Neil’s heart began to quicken, jump-started by adrenaline. He reached for his crossbow and fired a bolt directly into the bull’s pretentious forehead. Then he opened the door and dematerialized as quickly as he could.

He reappeared behind a marble pillar a few feet away from the entrance. The inside of the Taurlum mansion was lavishly decorated with red and gold, from long velvet banners to giant tapestries depicting the family’s crest. The manor itself stood in the center of the marketplace so that all the merchants affiliated with the Taurlum could get home quickly if the mighty Vapros warriors showed up. Even though Neil was disgusted at the opulence of the mansion, he couldn’t help but admire how impressive it was. The entirety of the Taurlum mansion was made of polished marble to accommodate the great weight of its residents. A marvel like this had never been built before and was quite a change from the wooden and brick buildings that filled the city.

A door on the opposite wall opened. Neil risked a glance around his pillar. Two towheaded men wearing red and gold swimwear came into the bathhouse. Neil resisted the urge to snort. They never missed a chance to bear their family colors and boast of their “superior lineage.” The two Taurlum were young, one looked to be Neil’s age, the other a few years older, and they were unarmed. But their skin, Neil knew, was hard to pierce. The boys might as well have been made of iron.

Neil glanced around the corner to look at their swimwear. He had never seen anything like it. Most people in Altryon didn’t have the money or opportunity to swim for fun, but when they did, their swimwear covered their chests along with their legs. These boys wore nothing except what appeared to be swim shorts. This was most likely because they wanted to show off as many muscles as possible. The taller one chatted loudly and easily to his companion. Neil dared to relax. They didn’t suspect he was here. The shorter Taurlum was quieter, but the proud, almost cocky way he held himself when he walked made Neil roll his eyes.

“So,” the taller boy was saying as he walked into Neil’s line of vision. The Vapros boy held his breath. “Did you hear about the Pig?” Neil recognized this boy now: Michael Taurlum, known as “the Nose” among the villagers because of his prominent snout. He wore a gold ring on every finger, and the multitudes of bracelets adorning his arms clinked loudly. Any normal man would struggle to carry all that jewelry, but Michael’s skin bore the weight easily. His droopy, yet unsettlingly alert eyes were fixed on his Taurlum companion and he had a thin, blonde beard growing on his iron jaw. He didn’t see the Vapros enemy behind the pillar, which was incredibly fortunate for Neil. Michael wasn’t well known for his mercy.

The younger, clean-shaven boy sank into the warm bath water. “The Pig?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Michael climbed into the bath beside him, not bothering to remove his jewelry. “Come on, Darius, learn the damn city.” His voice was louder and bolder than his brother’s. It was almost as if he wanted the entire city to hear him, and to hear him clearly. It made Neil want to shoot him on the spot. Patience, he reminded himself. He couldn’t make his move yet. If these two realized he was here, he would not only fail his mission, he would probably also be killed, or worse, held for ransom. Even if his family paid the ransom to get him back, Neil’s cover would be blown and he would be forced to spend the rest of his days working as a socialite. That was not the life he’d been working toward for all these years. He was trained to be an assassin. He could not mess this up. Failure would not be tolerated.

“The Pig is the guy who owns the mask shop in the market,” the Nose was explaining to the one called Darius. Neil focused his energy and rematerialized behind another pillar a little farther away from the boys.

Darius cocked his head. “And why is he called the Pig?”

Michael waded into deeper water and smiled. “Because he’s a pig,” he chuckled. “And because he’s famous for forcing himself on women.”

Darius’s mouth stretched into a grin. “You shouldn’t be talking. You’re kind of famous for that, too.”

Michael’s smile quickly turned to a frown. Behind the pillar, Neil nearly laughed out loud. This Darius wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. From across the room, he heard the men continuing with their conversation, but he couldn’t stay to listen. There was a mission at hand.

He rematerialized behind a new pillar, edging his way closer to the other side of the room where the door to the next room was waiting. Coming to the baths had been a waste of time; neither Darius nor the Nose was his target. Neil could still hardly believe his father had chosen him for this critical mission. His target was the Taurlum grandfather, the titular head of the Taurlum family. The Vapros controlled the nightlife district and the production and distribution of ale. The Taurlum controlled the markets. But in an unexpected power play, the Taurlum were attempting to corner the market on barley, wheat, and hops, buying up the ingredients needed to produce the Vapros ale. This assassination was in direct retaliation for this ill-advised maneuver.

Neil dematerialized again, and then again, and then stopped short; he was out of pillars. Nothing but empty space stood between him and the door, but it was too far. He wasn’t strong enough to rematerialize that far away. Neil felt his heart begin to pound and he ran his hand through his raven hair angrily. He was stuck. 


If you enjoyed this excerpt from Chapter 1, please buy the book. A 25% discount on an AUTOGRAPHED copy is available, ONLY at Kyle Prue's website store!/Autographed-Copy-of-The-Sparks/p/40025918/category=0 Use code BLOG25







Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: NUTCRACKER by Shana Alexander

Review: NUTCRACKER by Shana Alexander Long-term journalist Shana Alexander's concise reportage illumines this true-crime narrative, which leaves readers thinking "thank goodness that's not MY family!" The portrait Ms. Alexander paints reveals a intergenerational extended family whose permanent dysfunctions make one's skin crawl. Decades ago, a women's magazine featured a monthly column, "Can this Marriage Be Saved?" In this case, "Can this Family Be Saved?" would be the apropos question, and the answer is "Impossible!" NUTCRACKER is a casebook for abnormal psychology; a treatise on how NOT to raise offspring.

Review: THE ALPHABET HOUSE by Jussi Adler-Olsson


Gritty but hopeful, terrifying yet optimistic, Jussi Addler-Olsson' s newest novel paints the ugly facts behind the Axis side of The Second World War. The eponymous establishment is a "mental" institution, it's ostensible goal to harbor lunatics--it's true purpose to provide involuntary guinea pigs for medical and biological experimentation. Two young RAF fliers, downed behind German lines, pretend insanity to stay alive, such little as life now entails.

I reviewed a digital ARC via the Penguin First to Read program.