The Artifacts, by Eric T. Reynolds

Don’t be a cube. Pick up a book and go back in time.

Remember the line from the Reading Rainbow song, “I can go anywhere…”? That’s more or less the case with The Artifacts, a novel by Eric T. Reynolds. I found this book quite fun.

Kayla buys a Victorian house on the outskirt of Sycamore Falls and moves in. Her property is vast and it includes the highest of the Flint Hills. On top of this hill is an old farmhouse that has not been lived in for generations.

In the farmhouse, there is a library with books that will take you back in time. When Kayla discovers this library, she is unable to resist going back to the earlier days of Sycamore Falls. She learns much about the town and secrets are unlocked.

The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

I don’t feel like my review is going to do this novel the justice it deserves. I’m not feeling very crafty today and I’ll probably butcher it, but it’s my practice to write something about the books I read and I don’t want to make an exception for this one.

The Prince of Tides. I have seen the movie. It’s a movie that I remember well and often find myself thinking about. But the novel Pat Conroy wrote takes the story much deeper than any a movie ever could.

Tom Wingo is a southern from Celleton, South Carolina. He and his siblings, Luke and Savannah, grew up in a small house on an island. Their father, Henry, is a shrimper and their mother, Lila, was a house wife.

Tom gets word that Savannah had attempted suicide again and that she is in the hospital. He goes to New York City where Savannah has been living her entire adult life and spends the summer telling Savannah’s psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein, the stories their lives in Celleton county so Lowenstein can understand Savannah better.

This is complex story with very believable characters and situations. Henry Wingo had been a violent, abusive father and husband, and Lila, although not quite as brutal with her fists, was abusive with words. Henry and Lila had scarred their children for life.

The story is full of heartbreak, joy, struggle, heroism, suffering, forgiveness and so much more. At times, I had tears in my eyes as I read. Other times, I laughed out loud.

I’m not pleased with my review here. It’s lacking much. There’s so much more about this novel that I didn’t touch on. I’m having one of those days where I can’t find the right words.

But this novel, I recommend it highly. There’s much to be learned from it.

Gustav Gloom and the People Taker, by Adam-Troy Castro

I really enjoyed this book. Gustav Gloom and the People Taker is the first of a series by Adam-Troy Castro.

Gustav is thought to be the saddest boy in the world. He lives in a dark house and has only shadows to keep him company, at least until the What family moves into the house across the street.

It’s an adventure that takes place in a big, scary house where nothing makes sense at all. I laughed a lot while reading this book. I’d say the Gallery of Awkward Statues was my favorite chapter.

The Apocalypse Ocean, by Tobias S. Buckell

In my review of Sly Mongoose, I said “I’m guessing Buckell had a better grasp on the craft, or at least the series, when he went to work on Sly Mongoose.” But now that I think about it, that’s probably not it. It’s probably not so simple to pinpoint what it was that made Sly Mongoose come out so well. Sometimes the writer just does better than he does other times and sometimes one story works better for the reader than another story. It could be either and it could be both.

Well, I just finished The Apocalypse Ocean. I feel The Apocalypse Ocean and Sly Mongoose weigh pretty even on my scale of what’s good and what’s great.

The Apocalypse Ocean is the fourth book of Tobias S. Buckell‘s Xenowealth series.

The Doaq is terrorizing Placa del Fuego. Kay, the leader of a criminal organization, wants the Doaq gone because its undermining her power. But the Doaq is a powerful creature with a wormhole for a mouth and even Pepper has to run from it.

Far as I can tell, The Apocalypse Ocean is the last of the Xenowealth novels and I don’t know if Buckell plans to continue the series. I know there is a collection of short stories set in Xenowealth. I’ll probably pick that up if I start missing Xenowealth too much.

I think Xenowealth is the first series I ever finished. I’ve been reading books my whole life, but I’m not sure that I ever got to the end of any multiple book series. At least I can’t recall any that I have finished. I read a few books of Stephen King’s Dark Tower. The last Ice & Fire book I finished was A Feast for Crows. I read the first two Harry Potter books.

Nope, I don’t think there’s any other series that I’ve finished.

Sly Mongoose, by Tobias S. Buckell


The new threat is the Swarm. They are zombies, but a little different than the zombies of the Walking Dead. The Swarm can speak, and think, but the goal is pretty much the same. The Swarm will bite you, infect you and turn you into one of them.

Pepper crash lands on Chilo and warns the people that the Swarm is coming.

Sly Mongoose is the third book of Tobias S. Buckell‘s Xenowealth series. I enjoyed Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin a great deal, but I felt Sly Mongoose was a major improvement. I’m guessing Buckell had a better grasp on the craft, or least the series, when he went to work on Sly Mongoose.

The writing is very good, easy to read, an excellent flow. The world building dazzled me and the scenes were interesting. I’m not saying Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin didn’t have all that, but I feel it’s better done in Sly Mongoose.

If I was to rank the three Xenowealth books that I’ve read, I’d say that although I enjoyed Ragamuffin, I didn’t like it as much as Crystal Rain, and I liked Sly Mongoose far more than I liked Crystal Rain. Even so, I recommend you start the series with the first book and work your way through. It’s action-packed science fiction and it’s fun.

Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer, by Wendy S. Delmater

I never doubted that construction sites are dangerous, but I don’t think I put much thought into how dangerous they are or what the dangers are. Wendy S. Delmater goes into all that in Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer.

Wendy was a safety manager who did much of her work in New York City. It was her job to make sure construction sites were run safely. She made sure that crews working on skyscrapers had fall protection, that gases, chemicals and oxygen were stored properly, she took steps to make sure crews did not have to work in areas with lead. What I just listed there is only a small percentage of what Wendy had to deal with on the job.

She was a couple blocks down the street, standing on the sidewalk when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. Although that’s not really what the book is about, Wendy’s account of what happened on that day really drives home how terrible it was. It was bad enough for those who saw it on TV. Imagine if you were on the sidewalk, not far from the Towers.

I feel like I learned a lot from Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer. It’s a very interesting read and it gave me a better idea of what it’s like working construction in a big city like New York City.

A hard book to put down.

Ragamuffin, by Tobias S. Buckell

I feel like I owe Tobias Buckell an apology for taking so long to get back to Xenowealth. I read Crystal Rain years ago and I was blown away. I thought I would pick up Ragamuffin sooner, but I got sidetracked and this was before I started keeping a to-read list.

Everything I’ve read by Buckell, mostly short stories and novellas, was very good and very fun. Ragamuffin is no exception.

At first the characters were unfamiliar, but eventually Jerome, John and Pepper came into the story. I was reminded why Pepper was my favorite character in Crystal Rain.

Nashara, Kara and Etsudo are some of the new characters. They were all important in the fight against the Satrapy. Nashara being another badass like Pepper.


Sinisterotica: A Collection of Erotic Horror

A while back, I had a short story that I was shopping around to magazines that generally publish crime fiction, because that’s what I felt the story was, crime fiction. But because the story was sexual in ways, I decided to try an erotica magazine. I was surprised when a couple weeks later, the editor at the erotica magazine told me she wanted to buy the story.

I was happy about making another sale, but at the same time, I was a little uncomfortable about the story that would be published. Not so much because the story had sexual content, but because of the type of sexual content. There’s so much rage directed at E.L James and her Fifty Shades of Gray and other authors who have written such material. I was a little worried (not terribly worried, mind you.) that I might find myself the target of such rage.

I got to talking to Gustavo Bondoni about my concerns. Gustavo has sold more than a hundred stories. He told me that he had written and sold such erotica stories himself. He pointed me to an anthology that one of those stories is published in.

That anthology is Sinisterotica: A Collection of Erotic Horror. I decided to put it on my to-read list. Now that I’ve read Sinisterotica, I’m not concerned about my own story and I know what category it fits into. My story is an erotica horror. Though, in Sinisterotica, all of the stories have supernatural elements and mine doesn’t.

The stories in Sinisterotica are quite disturbing. Some of them made me cringe, but I think that’s what the authors intended. I still have an uncomfortable sensation on the side of my neck from all the vampires.

Well done, y’all.

Made in L.A.: Stories Rooted in the City of Angels

Made in L.A. is an anthology of stories rooted in Los Angeles. I don’t think all of the authors are currently living in L.A., but I believe they all had at one time or another. I picked up Made in L.A. feeling like I would gain insights on life in the City of Angels and, well, I wasn’t disappointed.

The first story is a novella by Allison Rose, called Between Broken Pieces. I admit, at the start, I was put off by the female character who was “maybe” taking pleasure in being sexually assaulted. That seemed like the kind of thing a dudebro would write and it gave me a what-the-hell moment, but I kept reading and soon that scene was making sense.

Between Broken Pieces is a story about a young actress named Mallory Braun. Mallory is a big hit and she has a new movie coming out that everyone is excited about. There are a few different point-of-view characters who all want something from Mallory.

I came away from Between Broken Pieces feeling incredibly impressed. It’s a very good story. One that shows the dark side of Hollywood, in such a way that you can’t help but be dragged along. It made me think of the two Coreys and many other actors and actresses who found themselves caught in Hollywood’s web of tragedy..

We meet Sara in Gabi Lorino’s Going with the Flow. Sara is stressed over her life in Los Angeles. She had come from the east with hopes and dreams, but stability is hard to find. Going with the Flow is well done, and I learned a little from it. For one thing, I didn’t know Angelenos called their interstates the Two, the Five and the…. You get the idea.

Another story by Gabi Lorino is Wild Irish Rose. This one was something else. Made me think about getting old and how time is running out, and that there’s still so much I want to do.

Cody Sisco has three different stories in Made in L.A.. Sisco’s stories are Salt in the Hell Mouth, Little Woman and Unquiet Baggage. They’re  fantasy stories and quite good. I especially liked this quote from Little Woman, “May everyone be treated with respect and empathy, and justice meted to those who deserve it, be they men or women.”

Chromosome Circus, by Amy Sterling Casil, is a bit weird but entertaining. Andre Hardy’s Negro in a Hot Tub is impressive and gives you something to think about.

No Vacancy, by Bonnie Randall, started off feeling like it would be a mainstream-general fiction thing, but eventually turned into a creepy, dark fantasy-ghost story.. A very gripping tale, it is.

Jude-Marie Green brings us Endless Summer. Endless Summer is a romantic science fiction about three friends at the beach. It’s full of music that I can almost hear. I found myself caught up in Kim’s big moment near the end.

Dry Bones, by Dario Ciriello, is a story about a woman who went missing two years earlier. It’s a  good read, creepy and interesting. The writing is so smooth, at times I forgot I was reading and felt as if I was in the story.

Usually when I review short story collections and anthologies, I don’t put in a word about each individual story. I’ll often just make a wrap that covers the entire collection. This is because I feel like I’m saying the same thing over and over again when I write something about each story in the collection. But I felt moved to make an exception for Made in L.A..

What it really boils down to is, all the stories are good and I have no complaints. Some I liked better than others, but there isn’t a single story in this anthology that I disliked.