The Tales of the Nothing Man-A Review

Good evening zombie readers. Stop for just a second. Stop browsing the internet for your next Z-poc book. Come, sit down with me for a minute and let me enlighten you on this, The Tales of the Nothing Man, the first offering from the Dunne Brothers, Justin and Robert. Seriously, if you are not sitting down, do so. If you’re walking around with your Kindle in your hand or on an app on your tablet or phone, stop doing so for a minute or three and come in a little closer. I don’t want to get too loud, but I do want you to get what I am about to say.

The Tales of the Nothing Man is a zombie story unlike any that I have read. We are given several characters to follow, and though that should be confusing, it is not. We are also given the somewhat mystical being of The Nothing Man, a Clint Eastwood type who wears snakeskin boots and bloodied black jeans and a flannelette shirt, tucked in for good measure. Then there is the Crow, the bridge between each story of the survivors in this book.

Before I go any further, let me take a sip of reality and state, the writing of The Tales of the Nothing Man is fresh and unique. The Dunne’s, who hail from Australia, spin the tales of each character with a voice that is both serious and cheeky. It’s almost as if they wrote the book the way they talk with none of the pretentiousness that many writers, well, write with. I enjoyed the tone and the way they seemed to stay true to their writing style, even as they mixed in different characters, none of whom have actual names. We are given names like The Lady, The Old Man and The Crazy Kettle Guy (among others), and of course The Nothing Man. (By the way, there are names to characters in this story, but they are ones you don’t actually get to meet, which I think enriches the lack of names for the main characters.)

There is also a repetition in the introductions of each characters: the description of The Nothing Man. But more than that there is also a repetition in the lack of formal greetings or friendly catching up or cautious sizing up. It gives each story the connection and familiarity that déjà vu would someone who swears he’s been here or seen this or even done this before.

The stories, though separate from one another, are connected, not just by The Crow and The Nothing Man, but also in the fact that all of the survivors lived for a reason, as if The Nothing Man knew they were in need of saving and appeared to give them a hand, one that would leave each of them wondering more about him and would also lead them all to the same place for a final showdown with the dead and their clicking mouths.

I’ve intentionally been vague on the storyline, not wanting to give too much of it away, but I will say this, The Tales of the Nothing Man has a deeper meaning to it than I think most people realize. Let me explain. I’ve read this book twice. When I went to write this review, I decided to read it the second time around. It was during the second reading, as I sat slouched on my couch, that I caught something I completely missed the first time around. I sat up, my eyes probably a little wider than before and I heard myself say, ‘Son of a biscuit.’ (Yes, I said biscuit.) As I do with all reviews that I write, I made a note of this on a pad and then finished reading the book. Then I went back and read that part again, and again.

‘How did I miss that?’ I asked myself. ‘How did I miss that? I can’t believe it.’

You see, there is a touch of mystery in this book that slowly unravels, revealing itself so subtly in the end that makes the story so much deeper and makes The Nothing Man and each person’s story richer. I’m not going to give this mystery away, but when you read this book, pay close attention to the details, especially where The Crow is concerned.

I truly enjoyed the story of The Nothing Man and the characters in them, and how they meet up. The ending is a nice little bow on the package, but the subtle mystery of it is what makes this story so powerful for me. The mystery has the right type of Ah Ha moment.

Oh, before I let you go, Zombie Readers, the actual names used in The Tales of the Nothing Man have a deeper meaning. It’s like the Easter eggs hidden in so many movies and television shows. Clever.

Thank you, Zombie Readers, for taking the time to read this review. If you are looking for something different, give The Tales of the Nothing Man a read.

I give this a 5 out of 5 blood drops.

You can pick up a copy of The Tales of the Nothing Man HERE.

Now, you can get up and go about your business.  Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another…

 

 

 

 

Everett Smiles, A Review

When I was a kid, my mom and dad bought a copy of the Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, a novel by H.G. Welles. It was the Halloween episode of a series of dramas by Mercury Theatre.  The broadcast originally aired as news bulletins in 1938 and caused a stir of mass hysteria.  People believed Martians were invading the world.  I don’t know how true it is, but from my understanding some folks even committed suicide over this.

That’s craziness.

At the time I was maybe eleven or twelve.  I don’t really remember.  The broadcast was on a cassette tape and we played it on an old black (well, it wasn’t old back then) tape deck that had buttons that were as simple as, PLAY, STOP, FAST FORWARD (FF was on the button), REWIND and, yes, there was a PAUSE button.  I remember listening to it and going, ‘Wow, that is so cool.’

I haven’t listened to anything even close to an audio book since.

I’m not a fan of the audio book.  I admit it.  I am one who likes to read stories at my own pace and picture them as I go along.  I like to disappear into a book and come out when I’m ready.  So, honestly, I’ve never really tried to listen to audio books.

Having said that, I may have to change my mind on the subject of audio books.

A while back I was asked if I would listen to an audio book put out by Stormblade Productions.  I said yes.  Unfortunately, I forgot about it.  Until today when I was going through old messages of Facebook—yeah, Facebook—and came across the message the request was in, complete with download.

What did I do?

You guessed it.  I downloaded the story, put on the earphones and pressed play.  I leaned back in my chair, coffee in hand and propped my feet up on the desk.

Let me start by saying there will be no spoilers in here.

The story, titled Everett Smiles, starts out with music, much like a movie does.  The score is relevant to the story in and of itself.  It sets the tone for the story that follows.

Oh…the story that follows.

The opening words are simple, but telling:

‘Sheila is coming.’

They may not seem like much, but the opening three words are powerful, given the narration by Carrie Buchanan.

The story is told from the point of view of Paige, one of the last, if not the last person left on the planet, as we know it.  Monsters—one in particular—have wiped out the world’s population and Paige is desperate to find her young son.

Other than that, I won’t say what the story is about, or even who Everett Smiles is, but rest assured, the story is brilliant.  The word usage and turns of phrases are beautifully rendered and eloquently narrated.  Mrs. Buchanan’s English accent is perfect for Everett Smiles.  The way she enunciated certain words, and the tone she used throughout give the story an unquenchably desperate feel.  She pulled me in and held me close as she whispered her words of sadness into my ear.

Unlike stories told around campfires, Everett Smiles feels like a story told in an asylum by a woman who had lost her mind to some trauma or other.  I had the luxury of sitting at my desk with the lights out in the bedroom while everyone else in the house slept, adding a little more creep factor for effect.

The background noises and music are nice touches, but only the music is really noticed.  Why, you ask?  Because the narration and the story is that good.

The drama unfolds at a nice pace and there are many great lines.  My favorite is:

“A summary of death at the end of the world.” 

That particular line sums up Everett Smiles in ten perfectly placed words.

The ending of the story offers a promise of hope, but how much hope is there?

Let’s not forget Sheila, the antagonist throughout this piece.  She looms throughout and brings us the story’s most dramatic moments.

Everett Smiles, written by Neil John Buchanan and narrated by Carrie Buchanan, had me listening through the entire (just under) 45 minutes with rapt attention. Rapt, I say.

But wait.  What about Everett?  Isn’t there an Everett in there?  After all, the story is called Everett Smiles.  Yes, Everett is in there, but to tell you about him gives away a touch of the unique insanity of this story.

Let me say this.  Being one that doesn’t generally listen to audio books, I can say, without a doubt, that I will be listening to Everett Smiles again.  And again.  And again.  I realize I’ve been a little vague in this review, but one thing I hate about a lot of book reviews are the spoilers, so I try not to give out any.

The bottom line is Everett Smiles is a beautifully unique work of insanity not to be listened to under the influence of anything mind altering, lest you experience the War of the Worlds in your nightmares afterward.  Kudos to Neil John Buchanan for writing an unsettling story that will stick with me for far longer than most pieces I have read.  Also, kudos to Carrie Buchanan for the wonderful narration of Everett Smiles. I’ve always thought good stories are often ruined by people who cannot tell them.  This is not the case for Mrs. Buchanan.  The desperation of Paige’s story came to life thanks to her exceptional narration.

Herbie and I are in agreement here.  Everett Smiles gets Five out of Five Vials of Blood.

If you like audio books, then check out Everett Smiles on Amazon at:
http://www.amazon.com/Everett-Smiles/dp/B00DBN4T6Y/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1382222274&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=everett+smiles

Also, check out Stormblades Production’s website at: http://www.stormbladeproductions.com/catalogue.html

Thank you for reading, and until we meet again, my friends…

A Book Review: Dead Spell By Belinda Frisch

I would like to be up front about something before I go forth with this book review: I am not a book reviewer. There are reasons for this. One reason is that when I am editing others’ work, I am often a bit harsh. On occasion, writers of those works at those moments didn’t care much for how I went about explaining things. I used to be soft of folks so it took a while for me to be brutally honest about someone’s work. I’ve found sometimes you have to be a little rough on folks to get their attention, to make them listen. While I do tend to be hard on folks, I rarely ever end an editing job without something positive to say. For me, I try to balance the negatives with the positives in order that the writer can see that, even if he/she is struggling with a particular issue, there is hope and giving up should not be an option.

With that in mind, I don’t review many books simply because, though I know I can give fair and impartial thoughts, sometimes the writer simply can’t handle my opinion or the way I give it. The key word there is opinion. The other reason is I am a notoriously slow reader. It’s not that I can’t read fast–I can when I have to–but I don’t like to breeze through stories and not get the full effect the writer intended.

However, I got my keyboard calloused fingers on a book about six or so weeks ago and, after reading the first couple of pages, I was engrossed in the story. Ten minutes and twenty-five pages later I stopped reading. Did you catch that? Twenty-five pages in ten minutes (or maybe fifteen, but definitely no more than that). That’s a lot for me in such a small span of time.

I set the book down just long enough for my wife to pick it up and begin reading it. In my household that is all of about three seconds. She read it in a couple of hours and told me, “You really need to finish this book.” Finishing the book was my intention before the lovely lady picked it up.

I turned back to the first page and started over. I read through half the book that night and finished it the next day. For a person who takes six months to finish a three hundred page book, that’s quite an accomplishment.

Five paragraphs in to this, one would think I would have already offered up the title of the book and the author or even a little bit about this novel, but I havenn’t. On purpose. Remember, I’m not a book reviewer. So, I need you, the reader, to understand that though I am a writer, I am a reader (just like you) and I like to be engrossed in what I am reading. Understand? Good.

Dead Spell, by Belinda Frisch, is my type of book. It’s quick paced, but not all action all the time. There are enough descriptions to get the feel of the scenery and the people in it without overdoing it. And it has something that not many stories have (at least for me): a few really good cringe-worthy scenes. If you can make me squirm just a little, then you’ve done your job, and Belinda Frisch did her job.

A brief synopsis without giving too much away: Teen-aged Harmony struggles with living in a world where her mom has issues of her own and a ghostly figure named Tom haunts her on a regular basis. Her best friend, Brea, also has problems, but not nearly to the extent as Harmony. Brea has to help Harmony figure out who Tom is before it’s too late–for both of them.

I can’t really say too much more without spoilers, so I’ll try and talk around it a little.

As the story unfolds we find out how tight the bond is between the two girls and how Brea’s mother wants nothing more than for her to stay away from Harmony. There is a bit of mystery behind her reasons, which in the end, make complete sense. We also get to see more of Tom, the apparition tormenting Harmony, as well as Brea’s boyfriend and mother, who are somewhat over protective and, in the mother’s case, overbearing.

Again, I am not one to give away all the information, but in the end, the story takes an unexpected turn that gave me a satisfying smile. And that’s pretty hard to do these days.

This book could have easily taken that turn into young adult horror, but it stayed in the more adult arena. That is my opinion. Others may disagree and I’m fine with that. It does have the feel of a young adult title, but it also has things in there that definitely fit the more adult crowd. There are drugs, a bit of sex (and who doesn’t like them a bit of sex?), some paranormal activity, some violence, both inflicted upon and self-inflicted by the characters. There are lies and deceit and… gasps… a little bit of romance as well, but not too much and not enough to make me gag, thankfully. There is heartache and a bit of redemption as well. There are no glittery vampires or hunky werewolves and that made me a happy reader.

The real key to this book is not only the story, but the ease at which it was written. There is no flowery language to wade through, no purple prose. The characters come to life and, believe me, when certain events happen, you feel it. There is no extra padding of descriptions in order to make the story longer. It comes in at a relatively modest 198 pages, which is right around the forty to fifty thousand word mark. Belinda Frisch’s writing in Dead Spell is simple and easy to read.

If you like heavy descriptions and a lot of fluff, then this book is not for you. However, if you like a quick paced, easy to read story, you’ve found your book of choice in Dead Spell.

Will everyone like this book? Probably not. Nothing is ever liked by everyone. Will the majority enjoy Dead Spell? I am going to say they would. What I find refreshing about this novel is that it was written with the reader in mind, not the editor, not the publisher. It’s a story that the reader can understand without having to go back and reread portions of it just to ‘make sure.’ You don’t get lost when the plot takes an unexpected turn. I like that.

Everyone has a rating system of stars and what have you. What can my rating system be? Let me see… Stars? No. Skulls? No. Bones? No. Hair follicles? Yeah, right. How about blood drops? Sure, that works. I give Dead Spell five out of five richly red blood drops. Go pick up a copy. I think you’ll like it.

You can purchase Dead Spell at Amazon

Also, check out Belinda Frisch’s home page at:
Belinda Frisch, Writer With A Dark Side