review: born of swords, by steven l shrewsbury


Born of Swords, Stephen Shrewsbury
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Seventh Star Press, LLC (June 8, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1941706851
ISBN-13: 978-1941706855
Paper: $14.34, 324pp, trade paperback
Kindle: $3.99

Interviewing the biggest legend of them all, Gorias La Gaul, is a dream come true for Jessica, and she’s traveled quite a distance and lost several escorts along the way to meet Gorias in Segesta. The city is a stop along a route Gorias takes each year on a regular schedule. She’s an undergraduate scribe from Nineveh School, sent by Dr. Allard, a former instructor of Gorias’, in order to collect information for “a true transcript from [Gorias]” as “a valuable testament or an exciting chronicle for future generations” for posterity.

Gorias warns Jessica that his life and travels aren’t “a fantasy adventure, sweetheart” and goes on to tell her, “it’s horror, pure and simple.” To this she gives the simple reply, “I understand, Lord La Gaul,” truly not understanding what she’s gotten herself into.

The tales she collects are from of Gorias’ earliest days, back before he’d found his swords, to a time when a dragon needed killing. Tales back before his heart had hardened. Maybe. For a legend like Gorias La Gaul, even the past is up for debate. Along the way, they happen upon side adventures. Through these, and through the memories of Gorias she collects via stones called Eyes of the Dragon, she learns who Gorias really is. However, this doesn’t prepare her for the cold truth of his yearly, 600 mile pilgrimage.

Gorias La Gaul lives in three novels and in one collection – and this one isn’t to be missed. Through this adventure, through the little information he tells Jessica and through the Eyes of the Dragon stone, the reader learns more about the legend than we’ve known before. The reader is taken down into the gritty, ugly meat of what created the man who became the legend. For those readers who enjoy their fantasy infused with swords and madmen and a bit of sorcery, Born of Swords delivers these and more.

While I enjoyed this adventure very much, the narrative could have taken some extra editing. Most of the errors weren’t that jarring (misspellings, punctuation), but they were jarring enough to pull me from the story at times.

ShrewsburyAuthorPhotoBWSteven L. Shrewsbury lives, works and writes in rural Central Illinois. Over 365 of his short stories have been published in print or digital media since the late 80s. His novels include Within, Philistine, Overkill, Hell Billy, Blood & Steel, Thrall, Stronger Than Death, Hawg, Tormentor and Godforsaken. Shrewsbury maintains a blog at and can be found on Facebook at

I give Born of Swords three out of five coffee cups.

Blog Tour Schedule and Activities

10/26 Armand Rosamilia, Horror Author   Guest Post
10/26 Man’s Midnight Garden    Review
10/26 Sapphyria’s Book Reviews   Guest Post
10/27 Azure Dwarf    Review
10/28 Book in the Bag    Interview
10/29 Creatives Help Board.How may I direct your call?   Interview
10/30 WebbWeaver Reviews   Guest Post
10/30 Sheila’s Blog   Guest Post
11/1 Dice Upon A Time   Top-Tens List

Click on the badge below to read more about this book and this blog tour. Thanks for dropping by!


review: blood orchard by sd hintz

Blood Orchard, by SD Hintz
Publisher: Aristotle Books (January 27, 2012)
Language: English
Kindle: $7.99, 296pp
ASIN: B0073M878A

In this horror-filled crime thriller, Coren Raines, stock trader, moves to small Onward, Illinois, to get away from the city and to escape his ex-wife; he wants to start his life over from scratch. Paul Pritchard, sheriff, is bent on framing Coren since he’s the stranger in town, having been there only two days. Kidnappings of six-month-old triplets one block from Coren. Backyard cemetery. Coren’s panic room.

undead Blondies, the sheriff’s missing daughters, triplets themselves, disappeared fifteen years ago. they show up one by one in graves in Coren’s backyard. They bullied Francine Sneller who dreamed of graduating from high school and getting out of Onward. At one point, they abused her and left her, for dead and naked, in a ditch. She was rescued by two men.

Jay Donovan WNDY reporter from Chicago. Pritchard attempts to run him out of town. Jay wants only to get his story – to uncover the truth but finds himself in the story. All through we hear how much he misses his wife and daughters, how he needs to call home, how he needs to get home.

Some of the townspeople have shocking secrets of their own; as these secrets are revealed, some readers may find who’s done what to whom and why shocking. It turns out that things aren’t quite how the reader expected them to be, and everything isn’t resolved at the end.

By the end Coren has lost his mind, and Jay finds a ride back to Chicago.

I read this book almost straight through, too horrified and too intrigued to put it down. writer’s craft – Hintz not afraid to twist his plot twists. strong choice of words and phrases that propel the story slams headlong into the plunge. mood – nightmarish, tense, bloody, unsettling pacing – on its toes, full speed ahead,

Overall, I’d give this story coffee cups out of coffee cups.

review: a dark matter by peter straub

A Dark Matter, by Peter Straub
Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (February 22, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN: 1400096723
Paper: $7.99, 608pp, mass market paperback
Kindle: $7.99

I enjoyed this story, even though the storytelling got a bit tedious through repeated rehashes from various characters’ perspectives. But as that happens, more of the story unfolds. We learned more than we knew before. Each telling brings fresh insight to what happened to this group of people when they were teenagers.

Also, we don’t ever get the whole story. It doesn’t arrive in a blaze of glory or wound in a beautiful bow. A lot of questions go unanswered. We start with mystery and end with mystery. And this is fine. Speculating outcomes, intended and unintended, can be as refreshing and exciting as any brand new adventure. Each and every loose end, each and every question – all of that doesn’t need to be tied up or answered. Life isn’t boring. ‘Fully conclusive / fully inclusive’ fiction is boring.

Overall, I’d give this story 4.5 coffee cups out of 5 coffee cups. Well done, Mr Straub. Well done.

the hunger games and my issues with it

It all started with these blog posts elsewhere:

I’ve been griping while reading The Hunger Games, and I’ve been making notes.

When I first started reading and bumped into the word “Appalachia” in the text, my only thought was, “They better pronounce it right in the movie.” Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff, like I said, I’ve been making notes. Like, I don’t know anybody in any part of Appalachia who says stuff like “clean my teeth” or knows what a “batter cake” is – I had to google batter cake, and I’m still not sure what it is; my mother-in-law doesn’t know what it is, either.

Also, Katniss is portrayed as not very bright. I’m wondering if the author was playing on the “dumb mountain coal miner” stereotype? But if she was, it’s not working for me, and it got old fast.

My opinion is, if you’re going to write about a place, make sure you know something about it first – go there and take notes and pictures and talk to people and see things and do things, if you can. Don’t just make stuff up as you go along or insert what you’re familiar with. Because there are always going to be people who read your stuff who know better. And will complain. Loudly and publicly. Like I do.


Mari – You give good examples of things that can at the very least annoy the reader and at the worst, draw the reader out of the story. It really is important that characters in novels act and speak in authentic ways. Otherwise it’s too hard to believe the story. The same is true for things the characters do. All sorts of factors have to be taken into consideration when sharing a setting with the reader; language is one of those factors and it’s really important. As you say, if the author isn’t careful to present a realistic picture of a place, including the way the people who live there speak, act and behave, readers will complain. Loudly.

I have such notes scribbled on two sheets of notepaper, taken during the course of reading this book. And honestly, most of this stuff can be said about the other two books as well.

first person present – difficult to follow unless well written
inconsistent use of serial comma
“try and” instead of “try to”
inconsistency between District Twelve and District 12
commas where there should be periods or other punctuation
uses of “it was” to start sentences – lazy writing and easy to correct
what the heck is “batter cake”?
Katniss saying “frosting”; people in Appalachia call it “icing”
“Don’t let’s pretend” – who talks like that?
“clean my teeth” is British
“skintight socks” aren’t almost all socks skintight?
“all of a sudden” – really?
“their” as a gender neutral pronoun drives me out of my tree
“Katniss” isn’t found, as a plant, in the United States
“Katniss” and “catnip” aren’t the same thing

Was a description of what a cornucopia is necessary? Or was the writer trying to describe that particular cornucopia? Hard to tell.

Within three pages, we’re reminded twice of Haymitch’s “directive” to find water. Go, then! Find water!

“Water runs downhill.” Also, water is wet, and the sky is blue. Too, having grown up how and where she did, Katniss would have known this without being told.

“Anyone who disturbs their nest and attempt to kill them” Spelling mistake? Overlooked? Typo?

“couldn’t survive without water. I knew that from my first few days here.” Duh. And another thing she should have known because of where and how she grew up.

Yes! We know you have nine arrows left! Stop telling me! (page 278)

Also, I never saw any growth in Katniss at all. She remained weak and cardboard throughout the entire series. She should have figured out what was happening to her somewhere toward the start of the second book. But then, I guess if she had figured it out, the last two books wouldn’t have happened. Maybe.

Ending remarks:

Thanks to the writer for perpetuating the poor dumb miner/Appalachian stereotype. We who live/grew up there appreciate it so very much!

we need to talk about kevin …

Last month under the recommendation of RN Lee, I read We Need to talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. RN had suggested the book after reading my post about the Midnight’s Heir chapter with the parallel to Columbine. Shriver’s book is written as a series of letters from a wife to her husband about their lives and children. The letters are dated between November 8, 2000, and April 8, 2001. Eva decided that November day to start writing to Franklin. It unfolds a little slow, but alive with the minute details that become crucial later.

When RN steered me toward this book, he had no knowledge of Thomas’ mental health issues. Worried he might have caused me undue (or even more) emotional trauma, RN said if he had known, he would never have told me I should read it. I actually laughed at his words. We Need to talk About Kevin didn’t hurt me. It made me think. It also gave me further insight into my oldest son – as in, it gave me a different perspective.

Thomas’ mental health isn’t something I’ve discussed on this website. I’ve mentioned the problems we’ve had with his medications off and on. And I made the one post stating my reasons for seeking state guardianship for him. But I’ve never used this space to bitch about the bad days I’ve had because of him. I’ve never said, “Thomas did ‘this today and told me ‘this’.” Granted I have in as generic of terms as possible on Twitter, but only when I’ve felt at the end of my rope. And those privy to all of these “stories” always know what I’m talking about.

Continue reading “we need to talk about kevin …”

guest blog: electronica remix of “the sound of silence”

Title: Duptribe’s Electronica Remix of Simon & Garfunkle’s Classic
“The Sound Of Silence”

I’ve been a music lover my whole life. My first memory of music is
listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s song Mrs. Robinson on my rocking
horse when I was three. Like most kids, I cried a lot. One day my
parents realized that if they put me on my rocking horse and played
Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, I would instantly stop crying and
be happy.

Since then, music has been my salvation and Simon & Garfunkel are
still one of my favorite artists. So when a friend of mine gave me an
electronica remix of of the Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Sounds of
Silence” by Duptribe, I was interested in hearing it. At the time I
wasn’t familiar with Duptribe or electronica, so I didn’t know what to
expect, but by the end of the first verse, my mind was blown!

The remix begins with the first verse’s original vocal track, a clean
electric guitar playing the original chords, backwards piano, ambient
and pulsating synthesizer sounds, tasteful background percussion, and
sweeping electronic noise. By the second verse, a crisp, big sounding
breakbeat comes in that really starts to make the track groove,
practically forcing the listener to get up and dance. The song
continues to the end, tastefully mixing the instrumentation and
breaking the beat in and out of the song, until the end. Suffice it to
say, I never knew a mellow folk song could be so danceable.

Since hearing that song, my life has changed. I have become a big fan
of electronica and electronica remixes. The official title of the
track is “S.O.S. (The Sound Of Silence)” by Duptribe. It was released
in 2003 by German record label EastWest Records. Whether you are a fan
of electronica or not, I highly recommend checking this track out. It
could change your life.

About the author: James Mowery is a computer geek who writes about
technology and related topics. To read more blog posts by him, go to
led tv.

book review: dying to live

Dying to Live: Life Sentence
Kim Paffenroth
Permuted Press, October 2008
212pp, paperback, $14.95US

Twelve years after the end of the world, the survivors have come to a certain peace within their compound. They found other scattered groups of survivors who had barricaded themselves in various defensible places. These became part of their community. They’ve claimed some of the houses, the school, and a few other buildings. They’ve created farms for growing their own food. With no real form of government, they did have few rules and created certain rituals and such to help guide them through their changed lives. They even have created unique ways of dealing with the undead. And above all else, they live their lives with as much ‘normalcy’ as they know how.

Life Sentence is written as journal entries from two very different points of view which with certain inevitable eventuality collide together. One is Zoey, twelve years old on the threshold of her adulthood; her piece is written as the adult Zoey looking back at that time in her life. The other is one of the zombie ‘survivors’ who’s able to read and write and through the course of the story learns who he was and who falls in love!

Paffenroth’s writing is intelligent, poignant, and in more than one instance brought tears to my eyes (but I won’t give any spoilers!). The parallels drawn between the survivors and the zombies is chilling and makes one think. A few scenes are a bit graphic but necessary to drive the plot forward; even so, these scenes are well written and well carried. It is a pleasure–and a fright–to see the world after the Dying to Live: A Novel of Life Among the Undead apocalypse, to see it through the eyes of the survivors, to learn how they’ve molded and adapted to their new world, to witness the horrors they experience in order to endure.

Kim Paffenroth maintains a blog at Permuted Press is on the web at

book review: mind the gap

Mind the Gap: A Novel of the Hidden Cities
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
$12US trade paperback, 370 pages
May 20, 2008

After Jasmine Town is a near-witness to her mother’s murder, she finds herself alone and on the run, the words her mother had written in her own blood driving her away from home. Jazz hide forever. Her mother had told her for as long as she could remember never to run, to lose herself in a crowd, that running only drew attention. However, in a panic, she bolts into an Underground station and causes a fuss on the platform. Seeing an out, she takes it — a narrow ledge beyond the platform which leads her to the doorstep of another life.

In what used to be a bomb shelter, she finds a storehouse of goods and foods. And a group of ‘lost children’ and their ‘leader’, who call themselves the United Kingdom. A group of thieves and pickpockets, these children rely upon these skills for their livelihoods. They take Jazz into their fold where all the paranoia her mother raised her with serves her and the United Kingdom well.

Jasmine Downe’s story is one any fan of young adult fantasy, sleight of hand magic, and intrigue is sure to enjoy.

be patient

the next couple of posts are going to be re-posts of book reviews i’ve done – but i’d lost my copies of in my blog backup fubar of september … 😉