Review – The Enhanced League by C.S. Boyack

35626135Goodreads Synopsis:

The Enhanced league is a collection of short stories and anthems centered around a year in a fictional baseball league. It has a slight science fiction background. This league has a lot more pomp than you might be used to, and nobody seems to care if the players use performance enhancing drugs.

Stories involve existing heroes, up and comers, and falling stars. While there are the obvious stories that take place on the field of play, there are also human interest stories that take place around the baseball gyrations. These stories involve scouting, trades, ruthless business decisions, and even relationships.
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My Review:

This book of short stories and snippets was an enjoyable read. I flew from Jacksonville to Chicago and, factoring in the Atlanta weather delays, I read the entire book on my trip. The pages flew by as if they were on steroids.

The theme of the book revolves around a fictional baseball league where anything goes in terms of steroids and technology. Boyack is masterful at weaving tales around this league from the point of view of a washed up conventional baseball player that gets a second chance, a group of female umpires and their struggles with gaining credibility despite exploitation in the league.

The thing that struck me the most was the author’s ability to write effective action during the baseball games. He had me on the edge of my seat pulling for the teams and players as I read his accounts of the games. Baseball is not the most action-packed sport, but the exciting moments are without parallel. I suspect that C.S. Boyack is a fan of the game as he narrated the snippets of action with loving detail.

This book reads like a loosely stitched together novel more than a collection of short stories. Throughout the book, Boyack pulls the stitching tighter and tighter until it all makes sense.

It was a great read that I was sorry to see end so quickly.

You can check out this book and more through C.S. Boyack’s blog HERE.

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A Different Kind of Review – PorterGirl: First Lady of the Keys by Lucy Brazier

31806906Goodreads Synopsis:

‘Porters are not the carriers of bags, they are the keepers of keys!’

As one of the most ancient and esteemed establishments of the academic elite, Old College is in for something of a shock when it appoints its very first female Deputy Head Porter.

She struggles to get to grips with this eccentric world, far removed from everyday life. PorterGirl, the proverbial square peg in the round hole, begins to wonder quite what she is doing here.

PorterGirl – First Lady Of The Keys is a touching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, glimpse into a world that is usually reserved for the upper echelons of society.

Whether she is chasing after naked students, drinking copious amounts of tea or getting embroiled in quaint, polite murders, Deputy Head Porter is never far from adventure.

My Review:

PorterGirl: First Lady of the Keys was a great read. Told from the point of view of Old College’s first female Deputy Porter, you immediately appreciate the personality of this feisty and deceptively intelligent character.

Throughout the book, even when she finds herself in danger, her personality shines through and the situations are handled with a combination of humor and intrigue. I found myself cheering for the Deputy Porter as she goes from a fish out of water to gaining acceptance for the job she does while, simultaneously, she is a target for being murdered.

Lucy also does a fantastic job of describing the campus of Old College so that we feel it really exists and that we are seeing it through her eyes.

So, needless to say, I enjoyed the book. It was whimsical and humorous in the right amounts with a good old-fashioned whodunnit woven in. As I was reading it, I thought it would make a great movie or television series. As an ignorant American, I tried to picture what British actors and actresses would be great in the roles of some of the main characters. Here is what I came up with, with apologies to Lucy Brazier:

Head Porter – Martin Clunes

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Master – John Cleese

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Porter – Rowan Atkinson

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Dean – Hugh Laurie

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Junior Bursar – Richard Griffiths (I know he passed away)

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Professor K – Malcolm McDowell

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Professor Fox – Neil Patrick Harris

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Lucy – Deputy Head Porter – Lucy Brazier, of course

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I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. You can find out more by checking out Lucy’s blog HERE.

Book Review – 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

6570601Goodreads Synopsis:

Imogene is young, beautiful. . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . .

Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . .

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. . .

Image result for joe hillMy Review:

I’ve been wanting to read Joe Hill’s work for a while. This desire was for one simple reason, he is Stephen King’s son. This fact, however, was not revealed until 2007, nearly two years after he had received multiple awards for his writing. He had a desire to succeed on his own and would have remained anonymous if Variety hadn’t broken a story revealing is parentage.

I have to be honest, though. I’m a huge Stephen King fan and I sought out his son’s work solely to see if some of the King writing DNA had been passed on. The complex answer is, yes and no.

In the short story collection, 20th Century GhostsHill shows some of his fathers prowess in the areas of character development and dialog. He also has the talent for weaving some bizarre stories. Some of his stories, however, don’t quite have the polish that his father brings to the genre. They end abruptly, which I believe is intended, but as a reader, it can leave you flat and unfulfilled.

There are some flashes of brilliance, however. His story about Nolan and his autistic younger brother who builds sophisticated forts in the basement is a masterful character study and a great concept for a short story. The reversal of perception of who is the smartest and what the consequences of that genius might be is very well thought out.

In his first collection of stories, Joe Hill shows great maturity as a writer. This book was published in 2005 and I am looking forward to reading his later works. It’s interesting that King has a book coming out in September, Sleeping Beauties, that he co-wrote with his son Owen King. Owen also released his first book in 2005 and has received positive reviews and awards. He may be worth checking out as well.

The bottom line is, if you’re a fan of short stories, as I am, this book is worth reading. The blurb in Goodreads does not do it justice. It appears to be spinning the book as pure horror fiction, which it is not. Of course, Stephen King is also referred to as the ‘Master of Horror’, but his books offer so much more.

 

Book Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!

My Review:

I haven’t done many reviews lately of mainstream authors, choosing instead to help out indie authors gain exposure for their work. This book, however, was one worth telling my followers about.

Stephen King has done other collaborative works, most notably, The Talisman, with Peter Straub. In those other collaborative works, you can tell that two authors wrote seperately and then wove the writing together to form a single tale.

Gwendy’s Button Box, however, is truly a seamless effort. Having written a book with another author, I know how difficult this can be to do well. King and Chizmar have achieved this task very well. The story is compelling and hearkens back to classic King. It takes place in the legendary setting of Castle Rock and is a story, like many penned by King, that warns of the consequences of actions taken. The protagonist in this book, Gwendy, is a bit different in that she shows restraint and good judgement through most of her adventure and is apparently rewarded for it in the end.

We’re never sure if she achieves her greatness because of the supernatural forces from the device she is given, or if it’s more of a placebo affect that  influences her to turn her life around. We should all have a button box in our lives that keeps us on the straight and narrow and encourages us to be the best that we can be.

This was an enjoyable, quick read.

Book Review – Will O’ the Wisp by C.S. Boyack

will o' the wispGoodreads Synopsis:

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty is going to have to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

My Review:

It’s another mashup of genres in Will O’ the Wisp. If I were to take To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Body or It (Stephen King), Any Harry Potter book, and a script from the TV show Stranger Things and throw them in a blender,  it would make the smoothie that is this book and it would be a very tasty smoothie.

Boyack does an excellent job of telling the story from the point of view of Patty, a teenage girl, making it much more believable than other well-known authors that have attempted to write from the young adult perspective (John Grisham, Harlan Coben).

His main character is flawed, yet displays an enviable strength that ultimately has her taking a life and death situation into her own hands and dealing with it.

I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy any of the previously mentioned authors in my mashup description. The book has a classic storytelling feel with great period writing from the 1970s and a story that appeals to contemporary tastes. Another great read from C.S. Boyack.

Review – The Playground by C.S. Boyack

the playgroundGoodreads Synopsis:

The hottest toys of the Christmas Season are the Playground Network dolls. They contain a worldwide social network for children. Except, the network is controlled by a ruthless businessman with dreams of power.

To reach his goals he turns to the occult. Will our children make up his personal army? Could we have an enemy soldier in every home?

Gina Greybill is a cancer survivor who stumbles into her own brush with the paranormal. She wants nothing to do with it, but may be the only one who can bring down the Playground Network. To do it she’ll have to embrace her new situation, and recover the next generation of Playground software.

There is competition for the software in the form of a brutal thug named Clovis. He’s bigger, more ruthless, and more experienced. To top it all off, he has a head start.

The Playground is suitable for more mature readers, due to violence and mature themes.

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My Review:

Take some Stephen King, add some of Quentin Tarantino and stir them with a dash of steampunk and Dr. Who and you get the playground. As I read this book, I soon realized that it crosses genres. Normally, this would be a red flag for a book that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up, but that is not the case here.

C.S. Boyack effortlessly moves from one genre to another pulling the reader into each distinct story line. He then seamlessly pulls them together at the end in a way that makes total sense and brings the story to a wonderful climax.

I am continually impressed by the level of writing here and Boyack’s ability to tell a story from the point of view of disparate characters.

I’m hard at work at reading Will O’ the Wisp and I can’t wait to post my take on that book as well.

The Playground is a great read. You should check it out.

Book Review – The Experimental Notebook of C.S. Boyack

 

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Goodreads Blurb:

A speculative fiction selection of micro-fiction and short stories. These were designed to be short reads for your commute, coffee break, and other times when readers are pressed for time. This book contains a bit of science fiction, some fantasy, and paranormal stories.

My Review:

I am a huge fan of short stories, both creating and reading them. The problem is, not many writers do them well. Stephen King has published several collections and even his stories are sometimes hit and miss.

This is not the case with C.S. Boyack. In his Experimental Notebook he scores with one great story after another. Many of them have a pattern of reeling the reader in and then leaving you breathless with a surprise ending. From the very first story, Jack O’ Lantern, to gems like The 50 Gallon Drum, Boyack sets up the reader and then delivers some surprise that leaves you smiling.

For anyone who enjoys short stories, this book is a must. One bit of false advertising appears in the Goodreads blurb. The author states that the book was designed to provide short reads. I stayed awake in my hotel room telling myself, “just one more” until I had finished the book and then downloaded the second one.

I highly recommend this book and will be reading more by this author. He shows a depth and breadth to his writing seldom found in the indie author community. Please give his stories a try and spread the word like wildfire.