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Release-Day Review: Quiet Places – A Novella of Cosmic Folk Horror by Jasper Bark (Crystal Lake Publishing)

A new tale from Jasper Bark is always something I look forward to reading. The man has a style which is easy to read and flows like a delightful river, which seems almost at odds with the kinds of places Jasper takes the reader to with his stories…

For example, the title-story of Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts is one of those stories that makes you cringe and wince and clear the sick from your throat, but it also hooks nacreous claws into your mind and stays with you. And all of Jasper’s tales work on myriad levels, too – memories of scenes will pop into your mind months after reading a tale, and yet those memories will understand the scene better, or perhaps even differently. It’s one of the ways a great storyteller stands apart.

And Jasper has done it again with Quiet Places.

The cover (by the supremely talented Ben Baldwin), coupled with the title, says so many things, and is a perfect snapshot-image of the tale – that scene also takes place in the novella, and when you read it I’m pretty sure that you might flip back to the cover; if you can stop reading long enough to do so, I have to add.

Because by the time you get that specific scene, you’ll already be deep into the tale – you’ll have met sad, determined, slightly off-kilter Sally, her husband David, some of the inhabitants of the small town they live in, and Hettie and the Beast. Jasper’s spell will have been tightly woven, and you’ll be aching to know how Sally got into the situation she’s in at the beginning of the novel.

What Jasper has done with this tale is create something that has many aspects but which also works supremely well as a whole – you’ve got Sally’s psychological self, coupled with her determination; you’ve got David’s seeming lack of concern and spine; you’ve got a small town, with the accompanying mentality, and it’s people; you’ve got a major secret which everyone is keeping; you’ve got strange happenings in the forest and hedgerows; you’ve got cosmic horror. It all works. It all meshes. Masterfully.

But the heart of the tale -which boils down to what we experience, decide, act upon and then rue- is where this tale really shines. Monsters aren’t actually monsters because of what they do or what they look like – they’re monsters because they reveal themselves to be almost akin to those aspects of ourselves we choose to disregard or ignore or hide. And Jasper understands that sometimes the monster isn’t the monster, and that the victim can also be the knowing instigator.

Quiet Places is tight, lyrical, spans centuries is novel ways, and shows us parts of ourselves which might, given the perfect nudge at the right time, change from that which gives us strength to that which makes us want to run in fear and terror. And it’s also a tale which shows it’s characters (and the reader) that what you think you know is almost always wrong, or at least misunderstood.

It’s an excellent tale, on many levels, not the least of which is that it shows how versatile and empathic a writer Jasper is. Highly recommended!

10/10

Click here to order your copy from Amazon, add it here on Goodreads, and do check out Jasper’s website for more info and freebies (when you opt-in for his newsletter). There’ll be a kickass launch-day event on Facebook later this evening, so join us! 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in Crystal Lake Publishing, Reviews

 

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Review: Pigs in Golfs by Mia Arderne (Novella)

I’m back with the latest short story / novella offering from Fox and Raven Publishing – Mia Arderne’s ‘Pigs in Golfs‘.

Back when I read Mia’s story, ‘Brandy City‘ (in AfroSF – Science Fiction by African Writers) I knew that Ivor Hartmann had found a storyteller with loads of talent and balls, and Mia once again proves this with ‘Pigs in Golfs’.

On one hand, it’s a love story, showing us a husband and wife and giving us a snapshot of their lives together. They are sensual and driven, satisfied and happy, and unafraid of their appetites. She is hiding something from him, something important yet unproven, and he indulges in a dangerous hobby, dodging not only death but also the Law.

On the other hand this is the tale of a despicable killer, a murderer of twisted appetites possessed of an even more twisted worldview. He is so sick that he could very well be an ‘it’, though Mia manages to beautifully straddle the line between monster and madman with a creepy and brilliant balancing act – there are hectic scenes in this tale, scenes that will make you flinch and grimace and you may, perhaps, find yourself wanting to set down your eReader. You won’t, though.

Because it’s when these three people collide (and the reader can see the collision coming, like being stuck in traffic and seeing an accident unfold in dreadful slow motion) that the tale is at its most visceral and shocking. I was left silent and stunned as the events played out, and then got another kick in the stomach for good measure at the tale’s end.

I’m seriously looking forward to more from Mia – she’s the kind of storyteller that is unafraid and the kind of writer that knows how to use words to pull, pinch, torture, sicken and elicit smiles. An amazing talent!

10 / 10

Pigs in Golfs

Check out the awesome soundtrack to ‘Pigs in Golfs‘, composed and created by Adolf De Beer, at Fox and Raven’s SoundCloud stream – it fits in beautifully (and creepily) with the tale!

To order your e-copies of ‘Pigs in Golfs‘ click here for Amazon US and here for Amazon UK, and don’t forget to visit Fox and Raven regularly for more awesome fiction! And check out Mia’s WordPress blog for more info on her and her work. 🙂

Until Monday, have an awesome weekend and

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Fox and Raven Publishing, Reviews

 

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Review: Butterfly Potion by Trent Zelazny (Novella)

I grabbed this eBook off Amazon when Trent and his friends on Facebook posted that it was available for free, and after a long while (with me struggling to get an app on my phone that would allow me to read Kindle editions), I finally got to read the book.

‘Butterfly Potion’ isn’t Fantasy or Horror, nor even Urban Fantasy – it’s a deeply moving and often searing look at alcoholism and depression, and it has to rank as one of the most memorable tales I’ve read.

The main character, Perry, is a broken man, spending his days drinking and trying to drown the pain of having lost someone powerfully dear to him. He wakes up disoriented and in pain after a hectic bender, not sure where he is or how he got there, knowing only that he has been robbed and that he desperately needs a drink.

The story has one other stand-out character, a damaged woman who is the ‘keeper’ of the Butterfly Potion of the story’s title. As he retraces his steps she allows herself to be tugged along, offering him what she can and what she feels she is worth, all the while subtly reminding him of everything he has lost. And from which he is running.

Trent does an incredible job of bringing these characters to life and paints the scenes they inhabit with a brilliant eye for just the correct amount of detail. Putting the focus on these characters -the people we usually find ourselves being disgusted by and whom we laugh at (and not always quietly) forces the reader to inhabit the skin of these people. It would have been easy to use these characters to show the reader the ugly sides of life, but Trent takes the more difficult path – leading us on an unapologetic journey into the beautiful things in life that are often hidden under the ugliness.

I was already impressed with Trent’s eye and mind for stories with the anthology, ‘Mirages – Tales from Authors of the Macabre‘, (reviewed here), and now I can honestly say that I’m damned impressed with Trent’s ability as a storyteller – he’s a word-weaver of skill and subtlety, and shows a great capacity for sympathy and honesty.

Definitely a writer who will remain on my radar – and should be on yours!

9 / 10

Butterfly Potion

To order your copies of ‘Butterfly Potion’, click the appropriate links:

Amazon US Paperback, Amazon US Kindle Edition,

Amazon UK Paperback, Amazon UK Kindle Edition

And for those of you who are in South Africa, check out this selection of Trent’s work, available online with Exclusive Books, but unfortunately not Butterfly Potion.

For more info on Trent and his body of work, check out his website here and his Facebook Page here.

Until tomorrow,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2013 in Reviews

 

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M.D. Thalmann

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist with an affinity for satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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