Apr 24, 2012

Double Book Review: An Endless Hunger & Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift

Today is a bit of old and new. Well not that old, just a review I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I couple that with a short story that graced my desk this past week. Why? Because I kind of like doing the whole double review thing. Twice the bang for your blogging buck, so to speak. So without any further ado...

An Endless Hunger by Narcisse Navarre

Now this is more my style. I am a horror fan first and foremost. That doesn’t mean I don’t read other genres, but horror always feels like coming home to me. It is a comfort, much like a cold slice of apple pie (yes, I said cold. I don’t like my pie hot). What this says about me, well I’ll let future psychoanalysts debate that. For now, I just care about a good book.

Knowing that I have a slight penchant for things vampiric, Narcisse Navarre (say that three times fast, I dare you :) asked if I might be interested in taking a look at her brand new novella, Endless Hunger. While I normally refrain from diving into a new work while I’m in the middle of writing one of my own, the concept of the book intrigued me. Besides which, all work and no play...

If you’re a fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s movie rendition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula then Endless Hunger will be very appealing to you. Told in first person narrative, this story paints a picture of vivid imagery coupled with heavy metaphor.

The story unfolds quite literally through the eyes, ears, and other senses of the main undead antagonist. While first person POV isn’t uncommon, it is rare to find a story that delves so deep into it. Normally one feels like they’re sitting right behind the main character’s eyes. Here, you are this character. Nestled deep within their cerebral cortex, you are forced to experience every bit of anguish, confusion, and despair that he does. Fans of Anne Rice and other similar brooding vampires will most certainly enjoy the tour de force through the unsettled mind of this undead creature.

I will caution that the wonder of this book might also be its potential downfall for some readers. This is not a typical ‘beginning - primary conflict - ending’ type book. Those seeking such a novel may wish to look elsewhere. Navarre doesn’t paint everything with a crystal clear brush, preferring instead (at least in my opinion) to let the reader draw their own conclusions regarding many of the events. In truth, I feel this is one of those stories which you may have to read through more than once to get a sense of things. Having gone through it twice now myself, I also find this is one of those works where you’ll find something new in each read through. However, this is all more than doable, because for all of its intensity, Endless Hunger is a short read, clocking in at less than 50 pages.

The only critiques I would offer are that I would have loved to have seen a longer story here. The few flashbacks that are offered give a glimpse of the protagonist’s long life, and I wouldn’t have balked at seeing these fleshed out a bit more. Additionally, the action can be confusing at time. Delving into the character’s depths of despair via first person entails experiencing it firsthand, which can be off-putting as events and details begin running together in a cacophony of madness.

An Endless Hunger is a fast, intense read, with strong characterizations and an interesting take on a soul that’s convinced of its own damnation. A 5 star novella.

Click Here to Buy AN ENDLESS HUNGER (and read my review) on Amazon

Cassidy Jones and Vulcan's Gift by Elise Stokes

Elise Stokes’ first book in this series, Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula does for superheroes what Harry Potter did for wizards. I started the sequel, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift, almost immediately upon completing the first book and finished it shortly thereafter. I will therefore apologize for the sloth of this review. Bad Rick!

However, my slowness should not be taken as an indication of this book’s quality. Vulcan’s Gift is both the Superman II and Wrath of Khan to the first book in that it only improves upon what came before. Cassidy’s origin out of the way, we catch up to her a few weeks later as she’s beginning to test out her new powers more and become more comfortable with them. This is always my favorite part of any superhero story. Ok, we know how you got there and we watched you deal with the emotional show us how badly you can kick some butt.

Much like Superman got General Zod, Cassidy now has a real physical challenge this time around (here’s a hint: it has to do with the title). Maybe it’s just the guy in me, but I love things like this. Don’t get me wrong, the Lex Luthors and Dr. Dooms of the world are great fun to watch. However, at the end of the day the superhero world is all about the brawls. I’d much rather watch the Hulk slug it out with Thor or the Thing than trying to outwit the Mad Thinker. Same with Cassidy Jones.

Stokes brings back most of the characters from the first CJ book, and once again her writing for them is spot on. Emery, Cassidy’s brainy (and good looking...dude’s got it all, I tell ya!) sidekick is included amongst these and while I still feel he’s a bit of a deus ex machina in some situations, he’s likeable enough to make us not worry about it too much.

I very much enjoyed Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift. If I have even one critique about it, it’s that Cassidy Jones 3 isn’t out yet. However, if Elise Stokes has proven anything from the first two in the series, it’s that the next one will surely be worth the wait.

5 Stars easily.

Click Here to Buy CASSIDY JONES AND VULCAN'S GIFT (and read my review) on Amazon

Apr 17, 2012

Tales from the Lingerie Mines

It figures! I write about having no blog ideas and suddenly...*wham*...I have some. Stupid brain!

While replying to a post over at EC Stilson’s wonderful blog, I made mention of a particularly interesting job I had a few years back. Thinking about it brought back all sorts of fun memories. I figured it might be cool to share some of them with you all.

You see, a while back I ran the online department at a major women’s intimate apparel company (that’s bras and panties for the laypeople out there). No, it wasn’t Victoria’s Secret and no I don’t have Adriana Lima’s phone number...Just for the record, even if I did, I wouldn’t give it to you. They’re more on the functional, day-to-day side of things, as opposed to being overly sexy / sleazy (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I won’t mention the name to spare the innocent (namely myself just in case any former co-workers stumble upon this). I’ll just say that it was an awesome place to work and some days I definitely miss it...and not just because of the various model shots I would often spend hours cropping for the website.

Being a guy working in women’s underwear (so to speak) can be a bit of an odd thing initially. For starters, there was the challenge of trying to learn the intricacies of products I don’t use or plan on using. The truth, though, is that things like these are minor hurdles to cross. Most of the true oddness was in the amusing little quirks. Quirks such as:
  • Some customers, especially the older ones, didn’t seem to take kindly to dealing with a man. Being in charge meant that sometimes issues with orders would be escalated to me. On rare occasion, I would answer the phone to the voice of a sweet little old lady who would then proceed to go ballistic upon my answering. However, it was not so much because of whatever issue they originally had. No, it was simply because I was man. “I won’t discuss my underwear with you!” I heard more than once from some shocked customer. This always blew my mind. For starters, I’m a professional and always try to act like one. It’s not like I would answer my phone while breathing heavily and then start demanding pictures. Also, let’s not be silly. Being that it was part of my job, the second they were forwarded to me I had their entire order history up on my screen. Trust me, it wasn’t that interesting. Oh, you wear a size 7 panty? Congratulations. Now how can I help you?

  • One word: drama. Our products were pretty well received, but when someone did have an! I can’t tell you how many emails we received that mentioned how one of our bras “ruined my life.” Seriously! There must be people out there leading quite the charmed existence if a bra malfunction is the worst thing that’s ever happened to them. After a while, I used to joke that maybe we should change the motto of the company to Ruining Lives, One Bra at a Time. Sadly, our marketing department never got around to adopting it.

  • The products. No, there’s nothing inherently funny about underwear itself. However, one day while carrying some product downstairs for a photo shoot (down, boy! It was with a mannequin), I had a revelation. This was the first time in my life I had ever worked for a company where I could roam the halls carrying an armload of women’s underwear and not be arrested. What a liberating feeling that was!

  • TMI! Some of our customers loved to share...I mean really loved to share. Unfortunately those customers were often men and the things they loved to share were often pictures, usually of themselves. Being that some of the emails on the website came directly to me, I received far more than my fair share of “Dear XXXX! Me and my buddy, Gus, just love wearing your thongs. Please find attached pics of us modeling them for you.” There is a saying online: That which is seen cannot be unseen. Believe me when I say it’s true. Oh God is it true! Yet for some reason, much like how it is nearly impossible to not stare at a bad traffic accident, I just had to click on them each and every time. I don’t even want to know what that says about me.
As I said, it was definitely one of the more interesting places I have ever worked, as well as one of the more fun. And at the end of the day, I learned a lot...including far more about women’s underwear than I ever really wanted to know. I’ve had quite a few times since then when I’ll see a women walk by wearing a tight, fairly-translucent tee-shirt and my first thought will be, Hey, she’s wearing model # XYZ.

Yeah, sometimes I worry about me too.

In other, non-underwear related news:

If you haven't already seen it, Bill the Vampire is currently guest blogging over at Laurie's Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews. Stop by and say hi!

Apr 10, 2012

The Blogging Doldrums

I’m currently in the middle of writing The Mourning Woods, the third book in my foul-mouthed comedy series about a dorky vampire named Bill who’s been thrust into a world he isn’t ready for, and that definitely isn’t ready for him. Being smack dab in the middle of what I call writing mode definitely has its perks, not the least of which is constantly being able to pull more and more ideas out of the old grey matter. However, there is one definite drawback. For some reason, whenever I am in writing mode, that portion of my brain that comes up with blog post ideas just up and burns out.

I don’t know if it’s an inability to multitask or a laser like focus on one task (as if!), but whenever you see an extended break in my posting it means one thing. Well ok, it might mean two things. After all I could’ve been hit by a bus. But more than likely, barring any obituaries showing up in your local paper regarding bald men with hard to pronounce Italian names, it means that I’m busy killing off my brain cells in the mad pursuit of finishing another book.

No idea why my mind works this way, after all one would think that all of our creative ideas come from one place, and if that lump of cells can spit out a plot point for one thing, then surely it came do so for another. Yet, it is sadly not so with me. It’s like one part of my mind gets a boost to it’s sails, while at the same time another winds up adrift in the Sargasso Sea, just floating around waiting for some passing Kraken to drag it screaming down to the depths. Or it could just be that the various lobes in my head somehow wound up unionizing when I wasn’t paying attention. One side punches in, while the other goes on vacation and leaves its cell phone at home. Stupid brain! See if I pay you overtime.

When calls came out for the A-Z Blog Challenge, I was like “yeah right!” I knew I’d be lucky to get out one post, let alone 26. More power to the bloggers embarking on that insanity. I’d be lucky to get out 26 words for that challenge, much less 26 well thought out posts. Fortunately, with the challenge going on, there’s plenty of posting material out there and I’m sure people aren’t really missing me right now. All in all, it’s probably not a bad time to disappear.

So that’s where I am right now. I expect this webpage to be relatively fallow (unless some eager bloggers wish to guest post...*hint* *hint*, *nudge* *nudge*) for the next few weeks while I continue to polish my latest literary masterpiece (translation: vampire dick jokes). Until then...