Archive | Speculative Fiction RSS feed for this section

Pulse by Patrick Carman

8 Mar



The year is 2051 and the world as we know it is gone. In its place is a vast wasteland, abandoned buildings of long ago and few of humanity who remain. Most of the population lives in one of the States, portions of the world held safe against the new terrors of the world. Others choose to try and live a “normal” life on the Outside, beyond the protection of the States.

One of these people if Faith Daniels. She has been moved to a new school along with her friend Liz as there are so few outsiders left, school populations have to keep merging. Not that there is much teaching going on in the schools anymore. Everything from learning to entertainment has been replaced by Tablets, devices capable of changing their shape from pocket sized to larger. Want to study Shakespeare? Use your Tablet. Want to watch television? Those don’t exist anymore, so use your Tablet. Songs and books can be downloaded, too, making everyone’s reliance on technology complete.

It’s good to know that some things haven’t changed, even if the world has moved on. Faith is captivated by bad boy Wade Quinn. Wade and his sister Clara are hoping to compete in the Free Games, what now passes for the Olympics. Wade is far more than an athlete, however, and is hiding something dangerous.

When Faith is hurt by Wade, she comes under the protection of Dylan Gilmore. He knows that Faith is more than just an ordinary teenager living in a dying world. She has the Pulse, the power to move objects with her mind, and the possibility to be a great asset. There is a war coming and Faith has already lost more than she knows. Will Dylan be able to prepare her for what is coming, even as he dreads endangering her and putting her in the line of fire?

If they want to win the coming war, he doesn’t have a choice. Faith will have to trust someone she barely knows so that the world as she knows it ceases to exist all together…

I was stoked when I heard that Patrick Carman was writing a dystopian novel. The once budding genre now feels overburdened and I knew if anyone could put a new spin on what is quickly becoming tired and cliché it would be Patrick Carman. Why is that? Well, having read The Skeleton Creek Series, the Dark Eden Series and the 3:15 app of short stories, there’s a few things I know for sure: Carman is a superb writer. He manages to combine history, myth, legend and lore into truly thrilling reads. I also know that one of Carman’s main strengths is his characters.

One major failing of a lot of Dystopian fiction is that the focus is on the technology, the gadgets, how the world ended and what people are doing in the new world order to survive. However, because of the focus being on the world building and the technology (or in some cases, lack thereof), the characters and their development kind of take a back seat. Not so with Patrick Carman. It’s as if he imagines the characters first and then dreams up where he will put them.

Both the setting and the characters work to great effect in Pulse. Faith is likeable but stubborn and has her own secrets to hide. Liz is sympathetic and reminiscent about the past and a better life. Hawk is delightfully silly and tongue in cheek. Wade is dangerous and you love to hate him while Clara won’t win any Miss Congeniality Awards. Dylan is the white knight perhaps with a secret or two of his own.

By the end of Pulse, these are characters you care about (well, maybe not Wade and Clara) and the twists and turns of the plot keep you emotionally involved with Faith. She is a strong, likable heroine who will need to grow up fast to support the weight on her shoulders.

The writing and the characters impressed me, but what about Carman’s version of a Dystopia? I loved it. It was so understated, so quiet. It didn’t need to come out with guns and laser beams blazing, it simply was. There was one part in the novel where Hawk holds a book for the first time and Liz tells him that a book is always better than a Tablet. It was this heartwarming scene that really highlighted what Patrick Carman’s version of Dystopia was for me: It’s not about what we’ve gained. It’s about what gets lost in the process.

As much as I love my iPad and eReader, books always come first for me. I couldn’t imagine living in a world where books did not exist. Thankfully, with Patrick Carman’s literally pulse pounding ride in Pulse, I don’t have to imagine it. I just have to open Pulse, begin reading and lose myself in this compelling, creepy and dark world not unlike our own.


11/22/63 by Stephen King

8 Jul





I was truly surprised by King’s new novel. And I didn’t have high hopes for it.

After finishing (and greatly disliking) Under the Dome, I debated whether I was done with King. After reading the disappointing Mile 81, I was sure I was done with King. But decided to give him one more change.

Boy am I ever glad I did!

Jake Epping, an English teacher from 2011, is given the chance to go back in time. His friend Al Templeton has a supply closet in his diner that also happens to be a rabbit hole to September of 1958. Al is dying and leaves Jake with an important task: go back in time and stop the assassination of JFK.

This is easy feat. Because the past is obdurate; it moves against Jake and doesn’t want to be changed. But there are also other distractions.

One is: Did Oswald do the deed alone? Jake must determine this before he acts. The second? A woman named Sadie who Jake falls in love with. Will he risk everything, even the love of his past life, to save another?

At 850 pages, my meagre summary of the plot doesn’t come close to covering everything that happens in 11/22/63. But that’s okay. No plot summary would come close because there is so much life in this novel. The parts where Jake is living through the fifties and sixties really come to life in King’s writing and the stories contained within are ones that are at once timeless and essential.

It’s a novel that you want to live in. Rarely have I been so affected by a novel. It really wasn’t about the assassination, but about the characters and that is where King really shines. He made an 850 page novel seem like it was 300 pages; that is how good the writing is.

There are no supernatural elements to the novel, but that isn’t a downside. King has tried something different by writing what could be loosely described as historical romantic fiction. The good thing is that he succeeds on every level.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t want it to end. When I did finish it, I was left breathless, teary eyed and wanting more. That is the mark of a great book and this is Stephen King’s best work to date, hands down.

Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes

31 May


What happens when you can’t let go of your grief? What happens when it consumes you? When it becomes all that you have left? What do you do? Where do you go? What do you become?

Nina has left her husband Matt and her daughter Molly. She is going back to Malta with her son Christopher to visit her parents one last time. But she is also going home to Malta to confront the ghosts of her past.

Ostracized and cut out of the family when she became pregnant out of wedlock, Nina seeks to mend her relationship with her parents; and if she is lucky, she will be able to mend her heart.

But Nina carries with her more than just hope and grief over her past. Nina carries with her a secret that, should she choose to acknowledge it, will shatter her world even further.

When she arrives in Malta, there is more than just her past waiting for Nina. There are also the dead.

Malta has always been a stomping ground for spirits; and Nina has always been able to see them. A seer from a young age, she has always seen the dead that come to Malta to heal. But now the dead come to her so that Nina can begin her healing.

Can Nina let go of her past to embrace the future? Or will her grief swallow her completely? With help from the most unlikely of beings, Nina might have a chance at redemption…

There is so much I want to say about this novel, but I don’t have the right words to do the novel justice. Not only the novel a beautiful story about love and loss, grief and circumstance, it is also a haunting reminder to live life to the fullest every single day we can.

Smailes, who is no stranger to delving into the darker side of the human psyche, has given us a multi-faced heroine in Nina. Here is someone we can ache for, someone we grow to care about and grow to know over the course of a novel.

You would think that someone obsessed with her grief would grate on your nerves, but that is not the case here. Smailes juggles Nina’s emotions with a deft and subtle grace that leaves the reader not only empathizing with her but sympathising with her as well.

Everyone has done something they regret. Everyone has lost someone they love. Smailes manages to tap into that vein and give us a novel that is filled with real, true emotion captured on the page. Like Bees To Honey is so good that it took my breath away.

I was surprised by how funny the novel was. You would think a novel about the darkness of grief would be hard going, but that’s not so. The novel is full of emotion, yes, but it is such an incredibly human novel. It reminds us of what matters, of the simple things that bring joy. Like Bees To Honey is beauty captured on the page in words.

Like Bees To Honey is also a novel about language. Much like Smailes earlier novels, language plays a big part in Nina’s unfolding story. Nina feels that she has lost her language, that she has lost her home. She tries to find it again in speaking her mother tongue. Maltese is sprinkled through out the novel with handy translations for those who don’t speak it.

The language is almost like the music of the novel. Each time I found a Maltese word, I found myself repeating it, wondering at is shape and it’s sound. Smailes, who is conscious of every word on her page, has placed these words notes, this word music, through out the novel, giving it perfect pace and perfect pitch.

I think the thing that is so delightful about Like Bees To Honey is that everything about it is so completely unexpected. Nothing is as you think it is and the story will not go at all how you think it will. Surprises wait for you, and for Nina, around the turn of every page. I was surprised by Like Bees To Honey constantly and each surprise was a lovely shock to my system.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a novel. Like Bees To Honey not only touched my heart and my emotions; it touched my spirit.

And it refuses to let go.

Beautiful, funny, moving and haunting, Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes is no mere novel. It is a gorgeous, life changing experience, just waiting to enthral you with its beauty.

Let Like Bees To Honey cast its spell over you. It will haunt you well after the last page is turned.

Bite Me by Christopher Moore

26 Apr


When we last left our vampire lovers in You Suck, Jody and Tommy had been turned into bronze statues by their minion, Countess Abby Von Normal, Back Up Queen of the Night. Jody wanted to remain a vampire. Tommy didn’t.

Rather then let the two lovebirds part ways, Abby had them bronzed. A love like their should stay together forever. But even the best laid plans have a way of unravelling themselves. As this is a Christopher Moore novel, unravelling is rather par for the course.

Abby and her love slave, the righteous Foo Dog, are enjoying their love nest, protecting the bronzed statues of Jody and Tommy. But when Abby’s BFF, an emo Goth by the name of Jared, accidentally frees Jody from her bronze prison while re-enacting a fight scene from his as of yet unwritten novel while wearing Abby’s high heeled Skankenstein boots, things go from weird to worse.

Jody and Tommy have been encased in bronze for five weeks. Able to turn herself into mist, Jody doesn’t mind the confinement so much. But Tommy, who had yet to learn that handy vampire trick before being bronzed, spends every night of his waking hours going slowly and quietly insane.

So when Jody tries to free Tommy, he goes stark raving mad. Jody goes out into the world of San Francisco to track Tommy down, but ends up having to find shelter before the sun comes up. She’s taken in by a warrior by the name of Otakka. He knows that he must keep the red haired woman safe.

Abby, meanwhile, continues on her quest to become a vampire while the notorious Foo Dog tries to find out if there is a way to turn someone from a vampire back into a human. As if that weren’t bad enough, Cavuto and Rivera, two cops who have become personally involved with saving the city a few times, have a new vampire plague on their hands: Vampre Cats.

It seems that Chet, the huge shaved cat we last saw in You Suck, has been ravaging the city of San Francisco and turning all the stray cats into vampires. A cat has to have a hobby, after all.

In order to fight this new threat and save the city, Jody must find Tommy and join forces with Abby, Food Dog, Jared, the Emperor of San Francisco, his dogs Bummer and Lazarus and the frozen turkey bowling Safeway crew.

Because the final battle is coming. And nothing can prepare them for what is about to happen when a horde of vampire hairballs descends upon the city….

Confused yet? Oh boy howdy! But remember, this isn’t a normal novel. This is a novel by genius comedic writer Christopher Moore.

Oh, Christopher Moore, how I love you. How I love your books. Moore’s books are really studies of the theatre of the absurd mixed with some Dave Berry, and perhaps some Anne Rice for good measure. In short, they are absolutely freaking brilliant.

Nothing goes as you expect it in a Christopher Moore novel, and Bite Me is no exception. However, one note of caution: If you are not familiar with the two novels that precede Bite Me, do not start here. The fun begins in Bloodsucking Fiends and continues in You Suck.

You could probably read Bite Me without reading the fist two books (Abby Von Normal does give us a confusing recap of the last two books in the first chapter) but why would you want to? Read the first two books if you want to get to know these characters.

Personally, I think Bite Me is one of Moore’s best novels. My top favourites are Bloodsucking Fiends and then Fool, but Bite Me comes a close third. In the third book in his vampire trilogy, Moore has pulled out all the stops and is going for broke. Thankfully it works.

The book is a laugh a minute, frenzied race to the finish. Not only does it have the same Christopher Moore humour, but it’s also a great look into what makes people human, what drives the human heart. Though it was funny, I was surprised by how dark the book was, how insightful and thought provoking it was. More than just another funny read, Bit Me is a dark look at what love can bring you and what it can take away.

No matter how you look at it, Bite Me is a winner in every way and one of the best books of 2010 so far. If you haven’t read it, or Bloodsucking Fiends or You Suck, read them now.

I’ll have some blood waiting for you…

Horns by Joe Hill

26 Apr


Ig Perrish is having a rough go of it.

After a night of drinking, he wakes up hung over and not entirely sure what he got up to the night before. Added to that, he has two small horns growing out of his head.

He knows that they weren’t there before, that they are a new edition to his body. He also quickly finds out that they influence others around him. The horns force others around him to tell him what they’re thinking.

Exactly what they’re thinking.

Those close to him begin to share their innermost secrets. The “I can’t believe you just said that” kind of secrets. Secrets and thoughts about a past that haunts all of them.

Years ago, Ig was accused of the rape and murder of the one woman he loved, the one woman who was his heart. Though he maintains his innocence, he finds out what his family and friends really think.

Everyone believes that he did it. Everyone thinks he killed her.

With his newfound talent, Ig decides to take the only course of action left to him. He decides to find out who really killed the one woman he loved.

And then take out his revenge…

I love Joe Hill. Rather, I love his writing. His first novel, Heart Shaped Box, was one of the creepiest, scariest novels I have read in years. His collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts, was one of the most amazing collections of short fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

I wasn’t sure about Horns at first. Second novels have a tendency to be lacklustre and usually don’t live up to the sacred gem of the first novel, especially one as widely heralded as Heart Shaped Box.

Before opening the book, I wondered if Horns would be a one trick wonder. I mean, how can you make a novel out of someone who can force you to share your inner most thoughts? It would get boring and repetitive after a while, right?

What I didn’t take into account was that Horns is a book by Joe Hill, an author who isn’t afraid to take the story one way and then veer off in a completely different, and sometimes shocking, direction.

Though the main story of the novel is Ig trying to find his revenge, the rest of the novel is told in flashbacks that are beautifully, incredibly written. The flashbacks are very emotionally charged. When Ig first meets Merrin, when he learns about love. When he gets his hear broken. The emotion on these pages is tangible.

I was also surprised by how funny the novel was. And I mean laugh out loud funny. Hill has an incredible ear for dialogue and he’s in top form here, giving us shocks, thrills and chills along the way. By the time the first half of the book is over, the people in Horns have stopped being characters on paper; they are real people.

Though the novel dragged a little in the middle (like most good novels do) he picks everything up again and steers us towards what is surely one of the best showdowns in modern fiction history.

Not only has Hill given us an incredible horror story. He’s also written a parable on love, life and, ultimately, the pursuit of happiness.

An incredible read from start to finish, Horns is one literary treat you’ll want to sink your horns, er, teeth into.

Dangerous Highlander by Donna Grant

16 Feb


Generally, historical and paranormal romance don’t mix.

They are two separate genre’s that don’t get along with each other very well. When I’ve read historical paranormal romance before, one of the two elements falls flat. Either the historical setting takes a background to the paranormal story. Or the paranormal part of the story is overshadowed by the setting.

Either way, it is normally a genre that doesn’t work very well.

So imagine my surprise when I picked up Dangerous Highlander by Donna Grant and ended up blown away. I have read several of Grants other novels, but Dangerous Highlander leaves them all choking in the dust.

Dangerous Highlander is set in the Scottish Highlands and concerns three brothers: Lucan, Quinn and Fallon. They are three immortals who carry a curse inside of them.

Inside of their bodies rests the being of a God bent on destruction. When they let the God inside of them lose, they become that God and have that God’s powers. Unable to come to terms with what they are, they hide inside of their castle and become beings of legend.

Their lives change when Cara MacClure nearly dies. Lucan takes her into the castle, knowing that he risks exposing what they are. Though he knows that he shouldn’t, Lucan feels a passion for Cara that pulls at him, that heats his skin. He wants her but knows that she will not want him when she finds out what she is.

But all is not what it seems. Though Cara knows it not, there is magic inside of her. Magic that someone would kill her for. Can Lucan protect her and his heart? Or will they give into the passion that consumes them both?

I haven’t enjoyed a historical paranormal romance so much in years. Filled with glorious detail, fantastic locales, believable characters and passion that scorches the page and burns the fingers, Dangerous Highlander is one heck of a fantastic book.

Not only does Grant give us characters we can know and love, she surrounds them in a story that pulls you in from the first page and refuses to let go, even after the last page is turned.

Thankfully Dangerous Highlander is the start of the new Dark Sword Series. I, for one, can’t wait for more.

Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze

7 Jan

What do you do when what you have written gets you into more trouble than you could imagine?

Beth Rider is a writer who has finally hit the big time. Her new novel about vampires seeking redemption is selling like hot cakes and has become a best seller. Everyone is reading it, including some very unsavoury characters.

On a book tour to promote the novel, Beth is approached by a dark and menacing man who gives her a warning: Watch your back!

But the thing of it is, no one else saw the mysterious stranger. Beth tries to chalk it up to nerves, but something about the man frightens her and strikes a deep fear into her. Her worst fears come to life when the man attacks her in her hotel room.

That man is Jack Dawn, one of the Rakum, a race of darkness that has spread evil and then thrive on it. Jack knows that Beth Rider’s book is dangerous, that it provokes the wrong kinds of questions. Questions that could mean the end of his powerful race.

Deciding to take matters into his own hands, he marks Beth as a Rabbit. Forcing Beth to swallow some of his blood, she is now a marked woman. Unable to die, she can also be tracked by other Rakum who will find her and torture her.

But one Rakum stands for hope in the darkness.

Michael Stone smells Beth Rider before he sees her. He knows that scent; it belongs to one that is marked as a Rabbit, a plaything for his kind. He knows that Rabbits are usually those who are crooks or thieves, those that would deserve a slow and painful death.

However, when he realizes the scent of the Rabbit is coming from Beth, Michael knows something is wrong. More than that, he feels a connection to her that he has never felt with any other being, Rakum or human.  Smitten, and knowing that something is decidedly wrong, Michael decides to go against everything he has been taught as a Rakum and protect Beth from a world of darkness she knows nothing about.

As Beth and Michael try to hide from an entire race that means them harm, they are faced with a choice. But the wrong choice could cost them more than their lives; it could cost them their souls as well…

I had no idea what to expect when I began to read Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze. None whatsoever. However, I love books that take a myth that has been written to death, vampires, and turn it on its head to make it into something new. I love it when an author is courageous enough to go against the grain and give readers something new that grew from something old.

However, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the book falls flat or what begins as a great premise isn’t carried off very well. Thankfully, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze suffers from none of these problems. In fact, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is perhaps one of the best novels I have read. Ever.

Instead of relying on tired old cliché’s, Maze takes the old vampire myth and throws it out the window. Instead, she essentially creates an entire mythology and an entire race from the ground up. This is no easy feat for an author and many others have tried and failed. But Maze pulls it off with grace, skill and aplomb.

In fact, I find it difficult to believe that Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is Maze’s first published novel. The book is so good, so incredible, that it reads like the work of a seasoned pro.

Beth Rider is an immediately likeable character that I came to identify with and actually care for as the book hurtled towards its incredible and explosive climax. Michael Stone is wonderfully sympathetic and is the perfect white knight. Maze is able to write characters that simply leap off the page and you can’t help reading more to find out what happens to them.

Even better than that, Maze has given us a novel with a lightning paced plot that rivals the works of Dan Brown or Stephen King. Part love story, part mythology, part vampire tale and all heat, Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider is the very definition of page turner. The book hooked me from the very first page and I could not stop reading, could not put the book down, until I found out what happened.

This isn’t your average page turner either. Surprisingly, Maze fills the book with some pretty heavy food for thought. The story deals with issues like faith, redemption, salvation, right and wrong, ones moral compass, light and darkness but Maze covers the heavier subject matter with a deft hand. She doesn’t beat you over the head with anything except a great story that won’t let you go.

If you’re looking for a book that has thrills, chills, a great plot, mythology and incredible characters, look no further than Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze. Not only will the story hook you from page one, it will haunt you and stay with you well after you’ve turned the last page.