KingSpook narrates my short horror story, “Confirmation Number”

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KingSpook narrates my short horror story, “Aiden’s Special Power”

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X-Files: The Truth is Out There Book Review

X-Files: The Truth is Out There is the 2nd volume in the anthology series edited by Johnathan Maberry. Much like Vol. 1, it follows the same Monster-of-the-Week scheme as the television show. The stories range in tone from the serious to the comedic with a couple in the mix which fell flat. Sporting an impressive line-up of authors, The Truth is Out There expands upon the X-Files in new and interesting ways.

Among my favorites in the anthology are:

Mummiya by Greg Cox, in which Mulder and Scully must uncover the mystery behind a mummified corpse being found recently murdered at a crime scene.

Phase Shift by Bev Vincent involved a family stuck inside their home due to a force field trapping them inside. This one was fun yet twisted.

Pilot by David Liss was absolutely delightful and fun. Easily my favorite of the anthology. Mulder and Scully find themselves receiving photographs of moments in time where they could not possibly be filmed. A young man seems to have the answers but they aren’t exactly what they were expecting.

Snowman by Sarah Stegall is a story where John Doggett and Mulder team up to search for a missing squad of soldiers in the mountains. Of course, they’ll encounter strange and terrifying things!

In Voice of Experience by Rachel Caine, Mulder runs into an ex-girlfriend who is happily married, expecting a first child, and seems to have moved on with her life. All is well until she is discovered dead in her garage in an apparent suicide. Mulder and Scully embark on a mission to find out why this woman with everything going for her suddenly decides to end it all.

XXX by Glenn Greenberg has Mulder and Scully out in Los Angeles on the set of a porno film. Mulder gets to meet one of his favorite actresses who happens to have been co-starring in films where her leading man ends up dying due to their head’s exploding.

Overall, this selection of stories is right on par with Vol. 1 and certainly gives the reader the impression of getting extra episodes written by some popular authors in a variety of genres.

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Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki – Book Review

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” isn’t a step-by-step guide to becoming financially sound, get rich, or even help you in balancing your checkbook. This isn’t that type of book. If you go into it thinking this is what you are going to get, you will be in for disappointment.

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is about financial philosophy. It examines and then challenges conventional wisdom passed down through generations about matters of wealth, education, and attitudes relating to money. The argument is presented in the form of Kiyosaki’s “Poor Dad” (his actual father) who is set as an example of the traditional way of thinking vs. Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad” (his friend’s father) who is a financially wealthy man who takes Kiyosaki under his wing as a child and teaches him about generating wealth and escaping from the Rat Race, which the majority of people are subjected to on a daily basis.

The lessons contained within the book are not revolutionary or groundbreaking. You can find similar information in other personal finance books. What this book does have going for it is a certain underlying motivational aspect to it. If you are someone who has been afraid of your finances, leaves it to other people to handle them, or needs a basic lesson in economics, this book does an excellent job persuading the reader to take a more active role in their financial situation.

Where this book falters is in the extra padding. It could have been a much shorter book had Kiyosaki not reiterated his points ad nauseam. Chapter after chapter, Kiyosaki repeats the same points written in different ways without adding more to the overall concept of his ideas. Too many words without any substance to them.

Also, there are some blanket statements which he makes that don’t sit quite right with reality. Kiyosaki tells the reader to use corporations to their advantage to avoid taxation but doesn’t elaborate on how exactly one should do so. Do I open an LLC, S Corp, Partnership? How does this help a normal person? Kiyosaki offers no explanation.

Kiyosaki’s portrayal of the working man/woman is abysmal, if not downright belittling and arrogant. Real estate is where Kiyosaki made his money. He lists multiple examples within the book. Apparently, none of the properties he’s ever owned has needed to be painted, needed a plumber, electrician, or carpenter. He says these people “exploit themselves” for a paycheck. “Job” is an acronym for “Just Over Broke”. While I understand it helps to illustrate the point of the book, it speaks down readers who are most likely in these trades.

Overall the basic ideas in this book can serve as a motivational step in the right direction for someone who is looking into making a change to their financial situation. It presents a different way of thinking which might help some readers or turn them off. I strongly suspect that depending upon political leanings, different people will get different impressions from this book.

Just don’t expect any practical advice here.

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Book Review

Being how The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is considered a classical story, its success is undeniable. It has remained culturally relevant for years after its publication and has been the subject of many parodies and adaptions. It’s spawned an idiom, “like Jekyll and Hyde”, which spoils the twist at the end of this novel.

As a fan of contemporary horror fiction, jumping back into the earlier roots of the horror genre was delightful. The Victorian setting was a peek into the windows of the past where modern technology and policing techniques did not exist. People like Jack the Ripper existed and thrived in this macabre world. Mr. Hyde, the darker side of Dr. Jekyll, thrived here. While the narrative did not go into the details of his crimes, Dr. Jekyll’s confession was enough to ensure evil things had taken place. It’s left to the reader’s imagination.

The language in the narrative was beautiful. The sentences were constructed in a manner which contemporary writing simply doesn’t use anymore. Understandably, it was a tad bit on the dry side in some parts and weirdly like purple prose at others. Due to this, the pacing in the book was slow until the last parts of the book where Jekyll’s confession comes to light. This is where the story shines. Jekyll’s fall into darkness and his addiction to his evil nature was heartbreaking, enlightening, and tragic.

Unfortunately, with the payoff at the end spoiled for me, the novel didn’t pack the same punch it would have for the unknowing reader. More upsetting is this novel’s lack any sense of atmosphere, tension, sense of dread, or feeling of being unsettled. Perhaps, its a product of reading contemporary authors. At no point in this story did I feel like the main character was a mortal danger or did I truly come to care about whether or not they lived or died. The main narrator was a vehicle only for which the story needed to be told through.

Overall, this novel was a nice step out of my comfort zone but I wouldn’t want to jump into anymore classical stories any time soon.

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“Games Creatures Play” Book Review

“Game Creatures Play” is an anthology edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. It is a themed collection in which the goal was to produce a short story featuring the element of a sport or game and it also needed to include a supernatural creature or being.

The result is a mixture of short fantastical stories written by some of today’s most prolific authors in horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

As with most anthologies, this one was a mixture of stories ranging from incredible to forgettable. That’s not to say the anthology isn’t entertaining. If you are fan of the Sookie Stackhouse books, there is a short story involving her character which opens the collection. As someone who read several books in the series and watching HBO’s “True Blood” it was nice to revisit the character I’d gotten tired of several years ago. It wasn’t the most memorable in the collection but it certainly wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination.

All the stories in the anthology are well-written and entertaining by my favorites are the following:

Joe R. Landsdale’s “Dead on the Bones”
Dana Cameron’s “The God’s Games”
Scott Sigler’s “The Case of the Haunted Safeway”
Brandon Sanderson’s “Dreamer”
Mercedes Lackey’s “False Knight on the Road”
Adam-Troy Castro’s “Hide and Shriek”
Toni L.P. Kelner’s “Bell, Book, and Candlepin”

As for the rest of the stories in this anthology, they simply fall into the “Ok” category. Outside of reading this anthology straight through once more, I wouldn’t revisit any of the ones not mentioned above.

At the bargain price of $1 though, this collection was worth the pick up for the above mentioned stories alone.

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Brian Keene’s “Terminal” Review

Tommy O’Brian’s life is over. He’s been diagnosed with cancer. Terminal cancer. And this only scratches the surface in a long line of problems Tommy will encounter in his final days upon the Earth.

Behind on the rent, the electric bill, and the credit card, Tommy suffers the symptoms of his condition without the benefit of painkillers, which are too expensive for him to purchase. He spends much of the book coughing up blood, vomiting pieces of himself, and fighting off dizzy spells and crippling headaches. Hiding his condition to spare his wife and son the pain of his inevitable demise, Tommy doesn’t even get the comfort he needs from his family.

Tommy, instead, decides to confide his terminal condition to his two best friends, John and Sherm, after spending the night drinking together after they’re all laid off from their jobs at the foundry. Left with no other choice and nothing left to lose, Tommy comes up with an ill-conceived plan to rob a bank before he meets his death. Resolving to help his dying friend, John volunteers to help. Sherm does it for the shits and giggles.

After the minimal amount of planning possible, the trio proceed with their plan and forever change the lives of everyone caught up in the mix.

Keene spends the first half of the novel building Tommy as a character and those around him. Plain and simple, he’s a poor, blue-collar dude, who is desperate and doesn’t want his family to suffer once he’s gone. John is his life long best friend. Sherm is a ladies man with a mysterious past and sometimes gives off a weird vibe. Tommy’s wife is oblivious to her husband’s degeneration and his son is nice too. Despite being one-dimensional characters, there is something endearing about them. With the exception of the scene in the church, a bit melodramatic in a soap opera type of way, I believe this is the better half of the book.

The second half of the novel is where it falters. The bank heist should have been the most exhilarating part of the story but it feels far too drawn out, especially the parts where the hostages begin telling each other their life stories, “Breakfast Club” style. It seems a bit contrived in the heat of the moment. Given the fact that everything which could possibly gone wrong, does indeed, go wrong, it feels like word padding. As the situation grows worse, we’re bogged down with having to get to know characters who are simply cannon-fodder at the end.

The supernatural element added an extra twist to the story, which I didn’t see coming in my first reading. In my second reading, the previously mentioned church scene made a bit more sense. It was an interesting addition to the story which didn’t go anywhere. The story could have gone without the supernatural element being added in and it would have had the same result. Once again, this feels like word padding.

Having read this novel around the original publication date, I was incredibly excited to read something else written by the author who wrote “The Rising”. Back then, I remember having a much better opinion of it then. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve had a decade more to read additional books by Keene and other horror authors, but reading this now for the second time, I didn’t find it as enjoyable.

Reading this back in my twenties, I completely empathized with Tommy’s plight. I understood the reasons behind his actions. His wife and son. His desperation to give them a better life. I remember cheering and hoping Tommy would succeed.

Reading it again in my thirties, I can still understand the desperation Tommy felt but I wasn’t able to fully buy into it. Every person is the hero in their own story. Tommy was no exception. Everything he did was for his family. Seeing it now, Tommy was selfish, thoughtless, and despicable. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence of his wrongdoing, many chances to redeem himself or at least stop the situation, and even in his attempt at redemption at the end, Tommy still makes the poorest choices possible.

Overall, Terminal isn’t close to one of Keene’s strongest books. As one of his earlier works, it shows signs of promise, but ultimately fails to deliver on the supernatural twist. It would have been better as a straight thriller. As he’s said on his podcast, if he ever gets the rights back to this book, he is going to release an author preferred edition which I believe would vastly improve upon this novel. I look forward to reading it again once it’s ever released.

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