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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fantasy Review: Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Having had a few days to reflect on it and collect my thoughts, I am still of two minds regarding Oathbringer, the 3rd massive tome of Brandon Sanderson's epic Stormlight Archive. There is a significant change of focus here, both in terms of characters and storytelling, and while parts of it worked very well for me - extraordinarily well, in fact - others fell flat or just felt tedious.

For starters, this volume belongs to Dalinar and Shallan, resigning Kaladin (my favorite character from the first two books) to the background. In Dalinar's case, it turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding change, with extended flashback chapters that expose his darker, far more violent past, and which shed new light on his actions and attitudes over the first two books. We come to see him in an entirely new light, with a contrast between personalities so jarring that it's often painful to watch. Part of that is due to the presence of his wife, a woman whose name and face have been a gaping hole in his memories for so long, and part of that hinges on his pursuit of The Thrill, which made something of a monster of the man. Outside those flashbacks, his story is rather slow, full of politics and philosophical discussions that really weigh down the first half of the book, but they do lead us to some incredible revelations regarding the magic and mythology of the Desolation, the Voidbringers, the Heralds, Honorblades, spren, and more.

In Shallan's case, while we get a lot more action and some genuine character development, I found her to be a rather tiresome character. It's a shame, because there is so much potential within her, especially with how her various roles and guises begin to bleed through to one another. Her personality just rubs me the wrong way, and even scenes that should be sweet or amusing come across as bland tripe. It doesn't help that a significant aspect of her character arc is completely undone in this volume, a revelation that I guess we should have seen coming, but which struck me as a cheap way of restoring conflict to her role. It's much-needed conflict, and does make her a little more interesting, but not enough to justify her page count. The only redeeming grace is her spren, Pattern, who never ceases to trigger my amusement and curiosity.

Although it is Dalinar and Shallan who dominate the novel, I would also argue this is a story of minor characters taking on major significance. It's hard to talk about that significance without spoiling any aspects of the story, but characters like Renarin, Moash, and others get a chance to shine, and what happens to or around them is sometimes the most fascinating part of the story. Bridge Four has an important role to play here once again as well, but - for me, at least - their scenes just emphasize how far Kaladin is from the center of the story this time out.

Oathbringer marks a lull in the series, but it's an important lull. As much as we may chafe against the pacing and the character point of views, we finally get answers . . . and we get a lot of them. So much of what was hidden or hinted at in the first two books is exposed here. We get answers, we get mythology, and we finally get some wider sense of world-building. It is here that the story begins to move away from the epic saga of ruling dynasty, and into the epic saga of a world on the brink of extinction. Having said all that, the last arc of the book is vintage Sanderson and well worth sticking around for. All the book's flaws are forgiven as all the threads come together and we realize, in hindsight, just how and why so many little things were significant. The final three-hundred pages (a novel on its own for most authors) are all climax, and they are some of the finest that Sanderson has ever written.

So, not a perfect book, and probably the first time I really noticed the page count in a negative way, but I'm glad I had the time to linger over it, take my time, and digest it along the way. And, of course, I remain just as excited for the next installment.

Hardcover, 1248 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Horror Review: The Rest Will Come by Christina Bergling

A black comedy, with moments of bloody horror, The Rest Will Come is an interesting read. It is really two novels in one, which presents something of a challenge (depending on your reading tastes), but Christina Bergling is a strong enough writer to nudge us from one genre to another.

The story starts out strong with a date gone wrong, an accidental murder, and some authentic post-traumatic panic. We immediately get a sense of Emma as a likable young woman, caught in a bad situation, who reacted in an unfortunate manner.

After that chilling opening, however, the story shifts gears into contemporary romantic drama. We flashback to Emma's wedding, the dissolution of her marriage, the support of her best friend, and the agonies of electronic dating. All of that is well-written, further establishing Emma's character, and setting us up for her impending emotional break, but it takes a long time to play out. A very long time. I'll be honest, I started to lose patience with that aspect of the story, and I really feel the book would be better served by cutting about half of it.

Fortunately, patience is rewarded, and the story kicks into high gear once it finally circles around to reconnect with the opening, taking us through Emma's anxious drive home, the dismemberment of her date, and the disposal of the body. It's bloody, grisly stuff, but as the dates continue, psychological horror gives way to the black humor of the ultimate revenge fantasies. It's a guilty pleasure the rest of the way through, especially when Emma finds a guy foolish enough to hike up a mountain for a first date campout. After far too many easy murders, things finally hit a snag, and that's when we stop wondering about Emma and start worrying.

The prolonged romantic drama at its heart may test some reader's patience, but it is worth sticking around, because (as promised) The Rest Will Come. As for the ending, I suspected something along those lines was coming, but it was just about perfect.

Kindle Edition, 276 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Limitless Publishing LLC

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Run for It by Christina Bergling (Guest Post)

You need to start running. Now.

I know. I know. I can hear you already. I hate running. I only run if something is chasing me. Running is stupid. Why don’t you go f—

I am not trying to improve your health or lower your blood pressure. I am not concerned with how clogged your arteries are or how many hours you spend stagnant on the couch. I am coming at this from a horror perspective.

In a horror situation, one of two things is happening:

1. You are fleeing a killer.
2. You are becoming the killer.

In both scenarios, you need to be running. How do you think the horror greats like Michael and Jason outwalk their frantic and desperate victims? I guarantee it is not by spending forty hours a week lashed to a chair in front of a computer. These determined killers are hitting the cardio. They are running. And whether you are trying to get away or trying to keep up, you need to be running too.

Now, let’s say you’re a traditionalist, just an innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most likely a randy teenager just trying to explore your base instincts in an opportunistic scenario. Welcome to the victim pool. As potential carnage candy, running is the most important to you.

This killer is motivated. Regardless if you have personally wronged them or not, they are not going to rest until you are no longer breathing, which means neither can you. In fact, your odds of survival increase if you do have a personal relationship with the killer. Final survivors are rarely just bystanders.

So, you say you only run if something is chasing you? I say something is about to be chasing you. You cannot rely on adrenaline alone to spirit you off into survival. You might get a good burst, but in the third and fourth encounter with the killer, those bags of potato chips on the couch will start to betray you.

It is time to be proactive. Run now to live later. Not because it makes you healthy but because it is your only chance at escaping a motivated killer in a horror scenario.

But, wait. No. You’re not the victim type. You are not simply lolling through life, oblivious to the threats all around you. You are the threat. You are a bottomless pit of shapeless rage and angst that grows darker as all the small infractions of the world heap upon you.

You feel like there is only one answer: murder.

Yet you can’t just go around killing people. I mean, who does that? Aside from the moral implications, there is so much surveillance these days. How would you even get away with it? Better to not even tempt fate.

So how to you deal with all this pent-up rage and frustration? How do you cope?

Start running.

Yes, my friends, endorphins are an amazing thing. That miserable death sensation you get as you slug your legs beneath you is only temporary. Once you push yourself to the brink of physical hell, you discover an intoxicating and rolling high on the other side. Run enough and you can alter your very brain chemistry, harness your demons, find a new and “healthy” obsession.

Every time your boss pisses you off at work, do not bash him in the head with a stapler. Go for a run. Every time your spouse fails to appreciate your housework, do not stab him with a kitchen knife. Go for a run. At this rate, you could run yourself into a half marathon by the end of a year.

Run, run, run. Until it becomes therapy. And then until it becomes normal, the effects numbed by familiarity, leaving you back with that nagging urge under your skin.

Who are we kidding? Running is not enough to quench murderous ideation. It surely did not work for Emma in The Rest Will Come, but you had to try. Conveniently, you are already conditioned for chasing those irritating little survivors from all the runs when you tried to outrun your true self.

As an active killer, you have to commit though. Not only do you need to be able to chase down virile teenagers sprinting for their lives, but you have to make it look effortless. You can’t be panting and slobbering and puking while your intended victims are trying to figure out how to cut off your head. Nothing is scary about an assailant bested by cardio.

So, let’s face it. The horror scenario is coming. You are going to be a victim running for your life or a blossoming killer running to stay sane and without trespass who ultimately becomes the killer chasing down victims. All roads lead to running. So, lace up those shoes and get out there.

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About the Author

Colorado‐bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade.

In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. It all began with “How to Kill Yourself Slowly.”

With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer.

She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. She continues to write on Fiery  Pen: The Horror Writing of Christina Bergling and Z0mbie Turtle.

In 2015, she published two novellas. She is also featured in the horror collections Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Collected Easter Horror Shorts, Collected Halloween Horror Shorts, and Demonic Wildlife.

Her latest novel, The Rest Will Come, was released by Limitless Publishing in August 2017. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado Springs. She spends her non‐writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.


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About the Book

The Rest Will Come
by Christina Bergling

Murder can be risky...and not just for the douchebags on the business end of Emma’s power saw.

Men only let Emma down. They cheat, and they lie. They send unsolicited pictures of their genitals. Ready to give up hope, Emma decides to go on one last date. Then it finally happens—she finds the thing she loves most of all.

Killing clueless jerks she finds on the internet.

Lost in a happy haze of hunting her victims, devising increasingly-clever killings, and streamlining her dismemberment process, Emma gets careless.

As her need for her murderous outlet grows, she runs an increasing risk of getting caught...or worse—falling for one of her victims.

Murder might be her one true love...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Hellraiser: The Toll by Mark Alan Miller

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Hellraiser: The Toll by Mark Alan Miller
Expected publication: February 28, 2018 by Subterranean Press

Hellraiser: The Toll tells the story of what happened between Clive Barker’s iconic works The Hellbound Heart and its follow up, The Scarlet Gospels.

Thirty years after Kirsty Cotton escaped from the clutches of the Hell Priest, Pinhead, and lived to fight another day, her life has never been the same. Every few years she fashions a new name, a new identity, and a new home for herself; She is a woman who is running from her past at all costs, which is why it comes as such a surprise when she receives a mysterious letter in the mail, addressed to the woman she’s been running from over half her life.

Answering the letter’s query, she begins a descent down a rabbit hole to the ultimate confrontation. Her actions stir something unnamable in the ether, and throw her into a game where nothing—not even what she sees in front of her very eyes—can be trusted.

With equal parts economy and eloquence, author Mark Alan Miller brings to life the beginning of the end as The Toll expands the Hellraiser universe, and shows that before Harry D’Amour’s adventures in The Scarlet Gospels, there was a first witness to Pinhead’s infernal plan.


Although it's only 96 pages, it's a new Hellraiser novella with a story and illustrations by Barker himself, written by Miller, who has definite history with Barker's works, most recently with Clive Barker's Next Testament: A novel (which I am still pining for).