There are a few times every year when the towering pile of review titles hits the point where, no matter how I might dodge and duck, I just can't escape its quivering shadow. It stands there, looming over me, threatening to bury me under a landslide of words. It's at that point, where I know one more title will turn a wobble into a topple, that I know I need to clean house.
Unfortunately, that means taking a pass on those titles that have failed to hook me, or which haven't been able to sustain my interest. Some of those are such complete misses that I simply set them aside and forget them, but then there are others where I can see how there might be an appeal or a hook for other readers.
The following are my thoughts and impressions of the latter batch of titles this time around . . .
Barking Benjamin: Kids' Stories Not For Kids by Gareth Barsby
As intrigued as I was by the concept her - a cartoon dog observing the darker lives of fairy tale creatures - I was concerned that the novelty might wear thin after a while. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into this, so it didn't really give the novelty factor a chance to wear. It was well-written, and had an interesting voice, it just didn't pull me in. I even skipped ahead to try one of the other stories, but the narrative and I couldn't find a way to connect.
Published February 13th 2014 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen
A great story, for me, begins with the telling. It doesn't matter how strong a plot may be, or how intriguing the protagonist, if the narrative itself turns me off, then there's just no way I'm going to find my way back into the story. This seemed to have potential, and there may be a payoff for readers with more patience than me, but it just seemed like the narrator tried too hard to be cute and clever. I could see where Allen was trying to push the limits and press his narrator to an extreme level, but when the protagonist started complaining about the narrator, that was too jarring, and completely expelled me from the story. Try as I might, I just couldn't get back into it.
Published March 18th 2014 by Bedlam Press
The Ghoul Archipelago by Stephen Kozeniewski
I really wanted to like this one, and thought it was going to make a perfect sort of literary palate cleanser between epic fantasies, but I found the narrative really disjointed and hard to follow. It seemed to be a book more interesting in the telling than the showing, and I found it difficult to anchor myself in a scene and recognize all the players. Another challenge for me was the lack of an identifiable protagonist - it's very much an ensemble cast, and a very large ensemble at that. There's no doubt Kozeniewski has a fantastic imagination, a bloody sense of drama, and a flair for satire, but it just didn't come together for me here.
Published October 16th 2013 by Severed Press
The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
This is a title I may very well shelve as something to be revisited in the dark days of winter, when I need some light-and-fluffy mindless escapism to assuage my spirit, but it's not something I can sink my teeth into right now. I saw another reviewer brand it a Disney style romance, and I think that's an apt description. It certainly has a fairy tale quality to it, all light and airy and romantic, but lacks the depth I have come to expect from collaborations between Lackey & Mallory in the past. I persevered to about the halfway mark, but apparently I stopped shy of the mutiny that redeems the second half of the book.
Expected publication: August 5th 2014 by Tor Books