Bites

Published: February 22, 2017
Publisher: Space Goat Productions
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Johnny hears a rumor that Sarge’s body is hidden somewhere in the forest outside the campground, he recruits Violet and some of the other campers to go on a mission to find out if it’s true. (goodreads.com)

So I loved the art in this comic. Like a lot. It’s truly beautiful, all the colors and shading. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

The story on the other hand . . eh. It’s weird. Why are all these zombies at this military-like camp? Are they training for the zombie army? And why is Sarge just a head on a stick? Not a whole hell of a lot he can do. Is the guy who pushes him around on a cart supposed to be his arms to whip these zombie kids into shape?

And then they’re searching for his body, like it has some kind of mind of its own. I don’t know. I don’t feel real rooted in this world. Granted I think the comic is for younger kids, like middle school at most, so I think a lot of backstory gets skipped. But I end up with a lot more questions than what’s answered, mainly because it gives zero exposition. Not even really trickled throughout unless you want to count the ghost story of Sarge’s body. But even then everything’s existing within a bubble.

Young kids would probably like it. It’s amusing enough and the visual are fantastic. But it’s lacking in its story, for sure.

2.5

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

October 14, 2017

Published: May 1, 1994
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Why is her boyfriend Tom avoiding her – while other boys pursue her as never before? Jenny Thornton has changed. So have her friends. Because of Julian, the Shadow Man, who has returned to terrorize them with a new game, a hunting game, Lambs and Monsters. They’re the lambs, to be stalked, pounced upon, and lost to the Shadow World forevermore. The monsters are the Lurker , a ghostly wolf, and the Creeper, a phantom snake. One by one, Jenny’s friends disappear, leaving behind only a paper doll – and a riddle with clues about who will be next . . . Jenny must find Julian’s hidden base and save her friends before it’s too late. But how can she resist the predatory prince of darkness who has returned to make her his own? (book back blurb)

I reviewed the first book a while ago and my recap for it just went up last month at The Devil’s Elbow. This month I’m recapping THE CHASE and having never read it before, of course it needed to be reviewed here too. Oh such Labyrinth-y goodness.

Granted I was a bit torn with THE CHASE. The pacing was a little all over the place and the first sentence in that blurb is really misleading. Jenny doesn’t have dudes falling all over her now. One guy asked her to the prom who wasn’t Tom. The blurb could have started with the second sentence and have been fine. Anyway, pacing. It lingers on minutiae in this book where it didn’t in the last, giving me drawn out scenes when they were postering (as in handing out posters with Summer’s face on it because everyone thinks she’s just missing) that didn’t really advance the plot at all, or the whole thing with this guy pursuing Jenny, which really wasn’t much of a thing. There’s a fair amount of cigarette lighting in the book and things don’t really start to get rolling until a little more than halfway into the book, which is far. I often felt like telling Smith to get on with it up to that point.

However, I did like the total mindfuck going on up to Game #2. They were just spaced far enough apart in that first half that they didn’t connect too well and too much time passed between them to really maintain interest. Plus Smith likes to drag on with unnecessary physical details and expounding a little too much on what’s going on in people’s heads so that slowed the plot down too. But the mindfucking was good. I wish she spent more time there.

About a third of the way through the book I started having real issues with the type of focus Smith was giving Dee, her Aba, and then a Polynesian woman. It seemed like every POC that popped up in her books were in some way otherworldly and deserving of this . . . other type of description that no one else got. Then I remembered Wing from DE mentioning not liking Smith’s othering of Dee. Not sure what that meant I looked it up. Yup. That’s it. That’s what was really bothering me. It’s almost like Smith’s overcompensating by making all of the POC in her book mystical and gorgeous and unreachable . . . except that just plays into typecasting, doesn’t it? Dee, the angry but beautiful black girl who’s regularly described as having lioness and panther-like qualities, who wants to fight constantly, and who is regularly described as having a savage or barbaric smile (OMG NO). Aba, the mystical black grandma offering pearls of wisdom to help the children along. And the Polynesian women, a cop and there for a second, was described as being model beautiful. It was just so glaring and off-putting.

Meanwhile Michael has some variety of spaniel eyes, Audrey has spiky lashes and bangs, and everyone else kinds of blends in. Smith has a real bad habit of using rather unique descriptors repeatedly. They stand out “nicely.”

Anyway, I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and horror and THE CHASE fits better into that arena than anything else. I really, really liked the mind games Julian played, wearing the group down before taking them one by one. Truly, it’s perfect. But then we get sort of a repeat ending from book one and I want to say it’s lazy but it also plays into Julian’s character so I’m not sure which way to sway on that one. But I like that Smith went with the brain game with book two. Considering how mentally mangled those kids would be after what they went through, and with losing Summer (I have a feeling she’s not actually dead . . .) their brains would be ripe for poking. And Julian did just that. It’s demented and dark and it made me like the story even more. Jenny is standing more on her own two feet and barreling headfirst into things. Tom is no longer her crutch. Instead she stands on her own and that’s kind of awesome.

I’m looking forward to working my way through book 3 next month. Be sure to check out my recap going up at The Devil’s Elbow on the 23rd!

4

Published: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Burkshelf (self)
Author(s): Website
Info: Goodreads

Courtesan. Spy. Assassin.

Across the Kingdom of Arestea, the shadowy league of professional killers known simply as the Guild has long since earned its terrifying reputation. And none of its current members are more infamous than the Black Lily. No one knows who the Lily is, but everyone recognizes the efficiency with which he or she brings down even the most guarded targets. There is no one, it is said, who is safe from this fiend once they have caught the assassin’s attention.

Now Lily herself is about to discover if her reputation has been inflated or not, for she has just been assigned the most daunting mission of her career: infiltrate the royal palace and eliminate the entire Arestean line of succession to make room for the Guild’s puppet ruler. It’s a challenging job, but one that will secure her place in the history books should she succeed.

But when unplanned circumstances take the king from his country to help secure the front lines in his latest war of expansion, Lily is left trapped in her assumed persona behind the palace walls and forced to stall for time. And when a particularly bad stroke of luck reveals her cover to the king’s brother, Crown Prince Adrian, Lily finds herself ensnared in her own web, forced to use all her skills of subterfuge and manipulation if she is to stay one step ahead of the naïve but righteous young man and finish her mission — or die trying. (goodreads.com)

Let’s just start with the cover. Because it’s horrid. I’ve certainly seen worse, but this one is not good. Very much “I did this myself in GIMP and it looks okay enough.” It’s just . . . very off-putting, very amateur-looking, and very indicative of a self-published novel. Luckily what’s beyond the cover is markedly better than what this digital manipulation would otherwise suggest.

Markedly better, but still not great. The pacing is somewhat jerky, lingering too long on exposition and unnecessary world craft-type of nonsense that fills in pockets of worldbuilding because you don’t get to see a lot of the world for most of the story. So you get aristocrats droning on about this city and these goods and I found myself not really paying attention during those parts because they were boring. Just get along with the plot, please.

The story itself is pretty interesting and I would like to know more about this assassins guild, especially toward the end there (no spoilers). Unfortunately for an assassin you don’t get to see Lily really do her job all that much. The book starts off on an upswing where she kills an unsuspecting jerk in a brothel and that was fun. But then she slips into her courtesan role with a bad accent where we see more of her heaving bosom than anything else. Most of the scheming is going on in Lily’s head while outside she’s having meals and conversations with people. So for a story about an assassin, there’s not a whole lot of assassining going on.

The sex was . . . odd. Kudos for the bisexual lead, but the sex with the lady’s maid was gratuitous. The thing is, I like erotica. I like sex in books. But it needs to be well-placed. The scene with her and Alec made sense. The scene with the two women didn’t actually contribute to the plot at all and just seemed rather throw-in, kind of hammering home like “WE HAVE A BISEXUAL CHARACTER IN OUR BOOK LOOK AT HER BED THIS WOMAN.” It felt disingenuous.

The relationship between Lily and Adrian, though, I think was the best part of the book. That actually felt surprisingly natural, especially as it developed (again, no spoilers). The antagonism between the two of them was done well without being overblown and I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes at any stupid decisions anyone was making or plot-serving misunderstandings happening because there were none. Those two fit together really well. They each had a calming effect to the other’s personality that served to soften Lily’s edges and unclench Adrian’s posterior.

The world itself was rather typical. Some kind of medieval type of world that isn’t from this one but still has exotic-sounding names and a castle and a “low quarter” with swords and guards and what not. Nothing to write home about.

All in all it’s an interesting enough story, but the plot needs to be tightened. One of the better self-published books, I think, but still room for improvement.

3

I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve noticed a few trends among the indie and self-published authors who submit requests for review and I just wanted to address them here really quick.

I’ll respond to every review request I receive. I’m not going to pretend I’m so busy that I can’t respond and I don’t get nearly enough to have that kind of thinking (maybe a dozen a week, at most). I sit down every Sunday (usually) and respond to review requests that have piled up during the week. So if you don’t get a response from me, your or my email was lost in the void, or you addressed me as Bites. Or Lit Bites. Or Bites Blog. Or some other variation of my blog name. That’s not my goddamn name. My name is on my blog. All over my blog. If you can’t be bothered to find it, I can’t be bothered to do anything other than hit delete. I’ll take ‘To Whom It May Concern’ or ‘Dear Blogger’ or no salutation at all (although that kind of annoys me, but not enough to just hit delete). Just don’t call me by the name of my blog, for the love of god.

Another good way to not get a response out of me is to follow up my declination with a request for a reason why. I am absolutely NOT responding to any of those. Ever. Not only am I not obligated to justify my declination to you, I’m not putting myself in a situation where you’re going to think this is the time to convince me that I should read your book or for you to argue with me about why I should read it. No. Don’t ask. The stock answer is “any number of reasons.” Let’s just leave it at that.

And some ways to lessen your chances of a no?

October 2, 2017

Small haul last month and one book was just to add to my ever-growing Lost Boys collection.

I got the German translation of the Lost Boys movie novelization by Craig Shaw Gardner. That took over a month for me to get because, you know. Germany. Or as my husband so nicely put it, “Well, it didn’t ship from Delaware.” Thanks, Steve. And then MONSTERLAND by Michael Okon for my upcoming blog tour participation through The Children’s Book Review. Came with a lovely little swag pack too, including a mock up newspaper, a drawstring bag, and a rubber bracelet. Fun! It looks like a fun book too.

And just one eBook this month:

Seriously, indie/self-pub authors. Up your cover game. There’s no reason to have such awful-looking, handmade covers. Standing out because it’s bad isn’t a good thing. I’d rather see similar stock images used across multiple books that look professional than something that looks like it was slapped together in Paint. A lot of cover designers don’t charge a lot for pre-made covers and I’ve personally found that cover design isn’t all that expensive for a high quality product. Take it up a notch, guys. This one isn’t that bad until you enlarge it. Then it’s like oh I see where you put this together yourself.