Review: The Island (Fallen Earth) by Michael Stark

Available Now on Amazon!

Amazon Description:

The Fever struck hard and fast, rising out of the slums and claiming victim after victim. At first, reports trickled across the wire in small segments relegated to the final seconds of the broadcast news. Lost among stories of failing economies and political bickering, few noticed what proved to be the birth pangs of a monster. Within months, the disease dominated the news as thousands died and infection rates soared.

William Hill knew his chances of avoiding the virus sat squarely between slim and none. With experts predicting a global pandemic, his choices boiled down to not if, but where he would die. While the rest of the world built barricades and set up distribution points for food, he chose a simpler end. The island had been one of the last and best times with his father. He couldn’t think of a better place to spend his final days.

He wanted sun and sand, fresh fish on the grill and cool nights by the campfire. He wanted feel-good days filled with oldies on the radio, days when he could hoist the sails and run before the wind. He didn’t set out to make enemies, but he did. He didn’t plan on becoming humanity’s last hope for survival, or watching over an old woman and an eerie little boy either.

To William Hill, the island seemed as good a place as any to die.

He just didn’t realize how good.

Ade’s Review:

The Island (Fallen Earth) is the first part of five that dominate the kindle best seller list. It is a quick read, more of a novella than a fully-fledged novel, and over the course of the story very little happens. That’s not to say it is badly written; far from it, the descriptions are rich and appear to be accurate, it’s just for an introductory segment of a wider story it does little to entice the reader to further exploration other than some cryptic hints at fantastical elements that lurk somewhere in the next volume.

Part one sees an introduction to “The Fever”, a plague that is wiping out civilisation, and William Hill, our fatalist protagonist concerned with spending his final days in peace. Along the way we are introduced to several characters that I assume will become principle protagonists / antagonists as the story develops, but as of yet they are merely incidental.

My main problem with this book is that it is split into five, with a financial charge to read the final two. If each part stood on its own feet I wouldn’t have a problem, but seeing as how the story was clearly just sliced into five parts with little concern for the flow, I can’t get past the fact that I’m being sucked into a marketing trick. Part one is only part one for the sake of being able to charge for parts four and five. There is no other reason for cutting the book up as Stark has done.

It may sound like I’m being negative about The Island, but I truly am not. The writing is competent and flows along at a good pace. It’s just a shame that it ended where it did. I may move onto part two, but am a little jaded by the manipulation.

Verdict:

Michael Stark has delivered his fantasy story in five parts, and if a ‘try before you buy’ approach suits you, then give this taster a go. Part one concerns itself with the calm before the storm which fans of The Stand should be familiar with.

The Island (Fallen Earth) Part 1 is available for free from amazon!

Visit Michael Stark’s website.

Review: Children of the Fog by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Amazon Description:

Available on Amazon

YOU HAVE 10 SECONDS TO MAKE A DECISION:
Let A Kidnapper Take Your Child, Or Watch Your Son Die.
Choose!

Sadie O’Connell is a bestselling author and a proud mother. But her life is about to spiral out of control. After her six-year-old son Sam is kidnapped by a serial abductor, she nearly goes insane. But it isn’t just the fear and grief that is ripping her apart. It’s the guilt. Sadie is the only person who knows what the kidnapper looks like. And she can’t tell a soul. For if she does, her son will be sent back to her in “little bloody pieces”.

When Sadie’s unfaithful husband stumbles across her drawing of the kidnapper, he sets into play a series of horrific events that sends her hurtling over the edge. Sadie’s descent into alcoholism leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son–a man known only as…The Fog.

Ade’s Review:

I am not a paternal person. The bond between mother and child is a mystery to me; as a man who sees children as an unhelpful distraction, I can never hope to understand it, though it is this ignorance that gives me, what I assume to be, an alternative source of horror.

On the surface “Children of the Fog” is a straight-forward tale of child abduction with a spooky garnish, a mysterious ghostly presence that the audience is left wondering about – are the ghosts real, or are they a symptom of the lead character’s alcoholism? The first half revolves around the police investigation and the slow torture of the missing boy’s mother, whose mind disintegrates as she struggles with the loss of her child and the guilt at letting him be taken. As the story progresses we see the setting shift to a rural cabin where the subject matter becomes a lot more ghostly and the secrets of the story are revealed.

But for me the true horror of the book did not come from the child-snatcher (dressed as a clown, something the author, a self-confessed Stephen King fan, should have been wary of), but from the mother herself. Sadie, from whose point of view the tale is told, has nothing in her life other than her son. The problems are hinted at, alcoholism and a failing marriage, but we can only assume at the myriad of personal failings that must have led to such an unfortunate situation. Even before the boy is kidnapped, it is clear that Sadie has an unhealthy obsession with her child, one that is socially acceptable, but no less destructive.

Her husband, Philip, prowls through the story like a pantomime villain. He literally does nothing right, every action is a selfish blunder, every word said designed to hurt in some vicious way. As these crimes stack up, the question arises as to how Sadie could have married such a monster, but taken in connection to her own mental problems, we see a picture of a distorted world, a sequence manipulated by her own desire to be the single presence in her son’s life. I would love to read a version of events told from a different perspective to see just how warped Sadie’s internal world had become.

As the story climaxes we learn that the murderous clown is acting from insane grief, replacing his own lost children. As before, for me the true horror came not from his own ranting, but from the lead character’s failure to see the similarity he held to her. For me it’s this lack of introspection that was truly horrifying.

Verdict:

Tardif’s novel about child abduction hits too many well-trodden steps. If constrained to the ghostly happenings, the horror is rather light, but as a psychological insight into the dangers of motherhood, I thought it was an effective warning.

It may have been an unintended consequence of the author, but when Sadie’s son is abducted my first thought was, “it’s probably for the best.”

Children of the Fog is available now to download on Amazon for £2.56!

Visit Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s website.

Review: Lunar Light (Beautiful Damned) by Penelope Fletcher

Amazon description:

Available on Amazon

When the full moon haunts the sky, Evangeline prowls the dark as a Wendigo; a fearsome mix of human and beast. The night an injured outcast falls into her claws she must defy her keeper, the laws of nature and her own morality to protect him from the Hunter who wants his head as a trophy. Struggling to reconcile her cannibalistic urges and gentle temperament, Evangeline must move beyond the ancient curse of her ancestors blood, and become legend.

Erotic Paranormal Romance ~ BrE
Contains adult language, extreme violence and explicit sex.

Ade’s Review:

Reading Lunar Light, I couldn’t shake from my mind the old white wolf table-top roleplay games I wasted so many weekends on in my youth. The principle characters, like the players in our adolescent games, are thrown together and trust each other on sight (as if in a favour to the storyteller). However, unlike the stories constructed and acted out by a group of teenage boys, the principle characters spent the majority of the book shagging rather than seeking out enemies to kill.

The white-wolf similarity stalks any supernatural tale in the modern era. You can see it in everything from Twilight to True Blood and I do not begrudge it; I once tried to make a pilot for a vampire television show that in hindsight would have got the shit sued out of me. Good job no-one was interested in vampires back in the late nineties! Fletcher, at least, tries to stray from the standard werewolf stereotype by having the main creatures be Wendigo/Wendiga, a North American cannibalistic demon. I must confess, it was this ingredient that made me download the book and give it a go, one of my favourite novels (Stephen King’s Pet Semetary) involves the mystery of the legend of the Wendigo and I was curious as to how Fletcher would handle it.

The Lunar Light Wendigo is a beast rather similar to the werewolf, though perhaps a little stronger and with some curious powers over the weather system. I would have liked a greater distinction as this was a defining flavour of the tale and one worthy of exploration. As it stood, the story was more concerned with the relationship between the two protagonists than exploring the mythos of their backstory, though of course this may have been a conscious decision to show how little they understood of it themselves.

There are a trio of characters who dominate the storyline; Luke, a mysterious Wendigo fleeing peril; Evangeline, a Wendiga brought up in isolation from her kind; and her Da, a human who had raised her whilst instilling a deep guilt about her brutal nature. We see the events through the eyes of Luke and Evangeline, giving alternative viewpoints (mostly of each other’s genitals), and in retrospect I would have liked more from Evangeline’s Da, a character that I grew to like mostly because the author was so adamant I should hate him. The two lovers of the story seemed so naïve it was hard to support their actions, especially when Evangeline rejects her (admittedly brutal) father for a stranger she’d suddenly fallen in love with, seemingly because he was such a good lay.

As a piece of erotica, Lunar Light hits many right notes. The scenes are well paced, with some variety to keep them fresh. However they are so frequent that I felt myself getting frustrated with their sheer obsession with screwing. Sacrificing some of the sex for character development would have gone a long way in making the remaining erotic scenes a bit more effective. That said, Fletcher had a good rhythm and some pretty decent prose.

As horror the piece felt a little confused. We were repeatedly told that Evangeline was a monster, but being a monster hadn’t had enough of an effect upon her psyche to be believable. When bringing home a Wendiga (another monster) she worries about him seeing panties on the floor and discarded erotic novels. It was difficult to believe that a woman primarily concerned with her cannibalism would behave in a way that usually only comes from a high degree of socialisation.

Verdict:

Admittedly I doubt I am the target audience, so lambasting this novella with my own gripes about the story would be unfair. As a supernatural romance it seems solid, if a little light on the mythology. I understand there is a sequel, so that could fill in the gaps or flesh out the background pleasingly.

If you are looking for a piece of erotic fiction with a dark twist (but not so much darkness as to put you off your sex) then this could be for you. Fletcher’s writing is pleasing and doesn’t shy from the sex, what else are you after??

Lunar Light is available now on kindle for £0.76. Get it here!

Penelope Fletcher’s Website