Needs more aliens

Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51, by Helen Culver

130 pages

Published on September 16, 2017 by Troy International Publishing Limited

Amazon | Author’s Website

Melissa is 26, utterly bored, and isn’t far off ending it all with a nail gun.

Her witty, dry and twisted sense of humour gets her through each day. Her diary is an insight to where the ordinary meets the extraordinary, and every desk assessment and alien invasion in-between. Will she reach a truce with Sandra, her arch-rival?

Will she be able to ditch Colin? And can she coax Fran away from turning into a complete psychopath?

I was so intrigued by the premise of this book, but the execution fell rather flat for me. Diary of a Security Guard at Area 51 is episodic, as opposed to having an overarching plotline, and it’s full to bursting with crass humor. I’m not a huge fan of either of those things, but that’s just personal preference, not an issue with the book.

However, the book did have some issues, which is why I’m still not recommending it to those of us who love a good, raunchy, slice-of-life story.

First off, it really needs a proofread; there were grammatical errors all over the place and it quickly became distracting. The more disappointing thing, though, was that the setting felt like an afterthought. I was expecting to be walloped with all the sci-fi mystery of Area 51 – no such luck. Sure, there were funny mentions of alien insurrections here and there, but it was all happening in the background and hardly impacted the characters. Change the setting to a department store in Springfield, and Melissa’s story would’ve been exactly the same.

I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it’s just not there yet.

Just hear those sleighbells jingling…

A Christmas Story a Day, by Louise Richards

264 pages

Self-published on October 27, 2017

Amazon | Author’s Website

A Christmas Story a Day is an Advent calendar for the reader with twenty-five stories that inspire, amuse and warm the heart. Join MaryAnn as she humorously prepares for her family dinner, Bobby, as he navigates Christmas of Cleveland past, a treetop angel, as she and the ornaments bring peace to a bickering family, a misguided town as an angel redirects their path and a choir as it prepares for the yearly choral extravaganza. Follow as Karen finds Christmas in the eyes of her newborn grandchild, Daisy as she goes to the ball, Moira and J.D.’s journey of trust, a little boy who finds his voice and a wondering soul who stops wandering. Read how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow finds comfort amidst his despair, Pepita learns of Christmas love, an old man pays a debt, a police sergeant experiences a Christmas miracle, the author remembers times of Christmas past and Carol opposes materialism. Celebrate the miracle of the Christmas Truce, a man with special needs who finds the love of a fur friend, God as He prepares three stars to play their part, and an old bell ringer’s answered prayer. Ponder a message brought by a quail, solace in the light, the redemption of a shepherd, curious animals who welcome the newborn King, and three ships that appear on Christmas day. Cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa as you celebrate the joy and simplicity of the season of wonder.

Twenty-five stories for twenty-five days of Christmas – it’s an adorable concept and sure to delight anyone who revels in the yuletide spirit, especially if you enjoy the religious side of the holiday. The stories are short and sweet, and the writing has that cozy, simplistic, fairytale feel that goes nicely with a cup of tea. There are some small proofreading errors, but nothing more serious than a missed comma here and there. In short, A Christmas Story a Day is a fluffy, Hallmark-style treat for the holiday diehards among us.

No place on my Kindle either

No Place in Heaven, by David Lee Dambrosio

307 pages

Self-published on September 19, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Under the safe, family-values façade of the suburbs of a city in the Midwest lies infidelity and corruption.

Gina is not an innocent Catholic girl anymore. She’s both a devil and an angel. Gina loves the wrong man. More and more, she learns how wrong. A theft leads to a murder. She’s involved up to her rosary beads. How many times before the stay-out-of-hell card, offered through confession and forgiveness, is revoked by God? She needs to atone or there may be no place in heaven for her. Isn’t a contrived miracle better than no miracle at all? Life is short. Life after death is forever.

What is Sub Rosa? No one would suspect Sub Rosa’s existence in these quiet suburbs. What happens at Sub Rosa needs to be kept secret. Secrets exist because revealing secrets can be deadly.

What about Sam Price, Phil Price, and their lifelong friend Stan? Although everyone likes Sam, his only true friends are Stan and his brother. Sam believes his brother would choose Stan in a life-or-death situation, though he hopes it would be a difficult decision. Sam also hopes it will never come to that.

This page-turning, sexy, smart, and suspenseful story is a mystery of romantic danger and consequences, of money and bad behavior. Who reaps what they sow? Who doesn’t.

The Amazon blurb is a really good indication of what you’ll find in this book: simple sentences, matter-of-fact storytelling, and an unfortunate lack of emotion. Even with all the cops, intrigue, and seduction, No Place In Heaven was about as suspenseful and sexy as a technical manual. For example:

Bob worked long hours. His donuts were homemade and delicious. His coffee was strong – but not too strong. His business struggled. Competition came from donut franchises, coffee franchises, and every other business from burger joints to gas stations claiming good coffee. More and more people were on diets and cutting out donuts. The worst foe was the current depressed economy.

The characters are described only in the broadest of strokes, and it got more and more difficult to tell them apart as the book went on. Even the more adult scenes were bland and soulless. There was hardly any sensory description to be found, so the whole thing ended up being decidedly less than captivating. There’s the makings of a good story in there, but it needs a serious rewrite before I’d want to give it another shot.

Yikes.

I Was An Evil Teenager: Remastered, by Anthony Avina

274 pages

Self-published on October 20, 2017

Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website

Lisa Etron is the girl next door. Lisa Etron is the most beautiful and popular girl in her school. Lisa Etron is the girl of Dave Trent’s dreams. Lisa Etron is a demented killer, hellbent on chaos and murder, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve those two goals. While a seasoned detective works to solve the mystery of a series of brutal murders, Lisa plans a deadly killing spree that threatens to destroy those who have made the mistake of loving her.

Let me start with an excerpt.

Abruptly, the woman brought the knife down upon Kristina, driving the blade deep into her neck. Instinctively, Kris slammed her foot down on the pedal and shot the car forward. Blood spout out onto the dashboard of the truck, and Kris lost control of the wheel. All she could feel was a hot, flowing pain on her neck, and all she could see was the cabin of the truck, spinning out of control. Suddenly the truck struck a tree dead on, going on 45 miles per hour the police would later say.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I Was An Evil Teenager is pretty rough. Like the excerpt above, the book is plagued by grammatical errors, odd phrasing, and underwhelming writing. The narration is all tell and no show, so instead of a spine-chilling horror novel, it’s more of a bland play-by-play featuring a bunch of one-dimensional characters.

I was ready to put it down after the first chapter, but I skimmed through a bit more to see if there was any improvement later on. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

He looked down at her. She looked back up at him and met his gaze as the lights went down, and he kissed her, with the love of a couple who’s experienced months of a relationship. The previews played, and the audience began commenting on each movie, but the two lovers ignored them, and were lost in a world all their own.

This book needs a serious tune-up before I would consider it worth the price of admission.

If Dali wrote about cats…

This Hasn’t Been a Very Magical Journey So Far, by Homeless

~250 pages

Publishing on November 17, 2017 by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press

Vegetarian Alcoholic Press | Goodreads | Author’s Website

VAP’s first novel follows the adventures of Hank Williams, a troubled young man processing the loss of the love of his life, Patsy Cline. He’s greeted with the aid of Sid, a psychopathic cat who takes him on a deranged road trip in search of lost love and new meaning. Surreal obstacles meet them at every pass, leaving Hank Williams to question whether Sid is his savior or captor.

If you’ve been hunting for the perfect anthropomorphic, semi-erotic, off-the-rails, surrealistic feverdream of a book, look no further.

This Hasn’t Been a Very Magical Journey So Far is weird, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s weird on purpose and not by accident, which is an important distinction. It’ll only take a few pages for you to decide whether or not you like the style – if you’re intrigued by the off-kilter storytelling in the first few chapters, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the rest of the story.

As for me, while I found the plot to be a touch predictable and occasionally too crass for my taste, the wonderfully strange way in which it was told won me over anyway. It’s very much like those dreams you have in the minutes after whacking the snooze button on your alarm – vivid, bemusing, and enjoyable in its oddness.

Your mileage may vary, but I had fun.