Tuesday, December 18, 2012


This short story collection opens with a vampire tale that is fist deep in the sex/death overtones of vampire myth. The rest of the stories have a similarly perverse and thoughtful tone.  Some are more successful than others but all are worth the time spent reading them. 

Perhaps the simplest of the stories are the ones that will stick with me the longest. The Chipperlee Chair portrays a future where life extending AI is believably banal and imperfect.  Something Better shows how a monstrous mother may not be quite the complete villain she appears. And 'the dog next door' from the title turns a the typical boy-meets-dog stories in a rather twisted direction.

Overall every story displays a genuinely creepy imaginative concept to good advantage. While the characters are often recognizable types they are refreshingly unstereotyped. In fact the implicit misogyny often found in the work of developing horror writers is turned deftly on its head.

Overall I would consider this collection a qualified success, enough to put this author on my "will buy" list when it comes to future works.


Available on Kindle

Thursday, June 7, 2012


How to Eat a Human Being is an anthology of one poem and six short stories. The poem is fresh and funny and launches you into the collection.  Many of the stories have a Stephen King-like tone and set up a great scenario, but the pay offs are a little weak.

There is a bit of a recurring theme of hero who starts off a bit unlikeable, and end up damned, and women who are either perfect wives or dissolute sluts.  One story called 'Stray' was very effective perhaps because it broke that mold, but it was little over-explained at the end. Overall, an interested if rough-hewn collection.

Now actual vampires in this one, but everyone needs some variety in their life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


An unremarkable teen girl learns that she can turn other people's emotions into super-speed and strength.  Like any superhero story a team turns up to take her in, but it turns out they aren't the heroes she expects.

Emotionally charged is a novella, about 25,000 once you deduct the sample from another book that makes up about ten percent of the pages.  I think it had some pacing issues in that it started slow and ended suddenly. It starts like team drama, is more like an adventure in the middle, and romance in the end. 

But overall the writing is strong and the story engaging after the suspicious super-team appear on the scene. It hits on a few mild but worthy themes such as what true heroism is and where to get true self-esteem. However the ethics of draining or blocking emotion go largely unexamined other than some obvious conclusions about how the resulting power should be used. [3/5]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EMBRACED BY THE SHADOWS mayra calvani (Twilight Times Books)

Alana is a fantasy heroine in more ways that one. For a starts she a stunning twenty-two year old red-head with curly hair to her waist. But also the book opens with her starting her first job as a restaurant manager, her only qualification a bachelor's in philosophy, and the day before opening she is hanging out in her apartment and having drinks with her friends (not going crazy over last minute arrangements and taking a crash course in hospitality and accounting). And then the restaurant closes at midnight and the "manager" immediately leaves to go dancing with her friend and get drunk. If that isn't a fantasy world, I don't know what is. Meanwhile her best friend is "secretly" seeing a married man... by openly frequenting a hot nightclub with him on opening night. 

But never mind. If that sort of thing doesn't bother youthis is a nice retelling of the engenue and vampire trope. the plot progresses a little jumpily with leaps in time that I a not sure are meant to read as hours or days or just be completely non-linear.  But essentially Alana thinks she is sleep-walking and having hot dreams.  When of course she is really having not entirely consensual vampire-style lovin'. Sadash the vampire alternates between frightening, seducing and saving Alana like a good super-alpha-male should.

One part of this books I really appreciated was the very uncompromising approach to immortality which sets this story apart from the usual 'vampire as superpowers with fangs' romances. There are little flashes of subtlty like:

"Remember what you told me. The Devil is also an angel."

The story gets more complex in the second half. A strange love, a twisted friendship, a murder mystery. It also develops some implausible elements, like a gunshot at a party that nobody hears. Overall there is more to like than dislike in this story but it is an untidy melange of cliched and novel, romance and mystery, and a plot that seems to wander at times as if the author's intent changed as the story progressed.  That is why 'Embraced by the Shadows" ends up with a 3/5.