Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Review:

stranded

Stranded is the type of book that made me glad to be reading it indoors, in the known security and confines of my home, where I was nice and warm and comfortable, and had a nip of whiskey or Irish Mist to help keep the chills Bracken MacLeod was generating at bay.

Caught in an arctic storm, the ship Arctic Promise is thrown off-course from its destination and lost in the fog. Soon enough, the ship finds itself embedded in ice. In the distance, the flat horizon is broken only by the hump of an odd, indiscernible shape. The crew are sick with a mysterious illness, except for Noah, who finds himself constantly at odds with most of the crew. And the sick are seeing…something.

Right from the outset, MacLeod throws readers into the thick of things. His writing of the violent storm Noah and his shipmates find themselves in is phenomenally hair-raising and chaotic, and the unique threats of the arctic landscape itself are well posed and chillingly executed.

Much of the horror in Stranded is derived from the environment itself, as much as the crazed crewmen Noah is forced to contend with, and there’s a heavy, freezing atmosphere that permeates MacLeod’s writing. It’s strong stuff, and reminded me a bit of another arctic powerhouse horror-thriller in Dan Simmon’s The Terror. (If you want to know why I love arctic horror, this and The Terror are two books to check out for prime examples of environmental scares done right.)

MacLeod also does some great work with the characters here, although it is a bit of slow-boil to learn why Noah is so despised by so many of his shipmates. Noah catches a lot of flack, for various reasons, and I personally would not have minded getting a bit more information up front rather than having details parceled out piecemeal over the course of the book’s first half. This is a minor complaint in an otherwise strong work, though, but the motivations behind the firmly anti-Noah characters make for rich conflict, particularly in the book’s later segments.

Stranded is an impressive and visceral work of achingly cold environmental horror with a nifty sci-fi twist, and a work that has ensured Bracken MacLeod is an author whose releases I will be watching out for.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy Stranded At Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1474165/review-stranded-by-bracken-macleod

Review: Stranded by Bracken MacLeod

Book Releases Going Wide…Again

bannerphoto

When I began publishing back in 2014, I had made my books available on all platforms. The idea was to reach as wide an audience as possible and get onto readers’ Nooks, Kobos, iPads, iPhones, and whatever else I could.

Eventually sales stagnated and I grew impatient. Amazon is, and has been, the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the middle of the room. Kindle has brand recognition and the most amount of readers. I myself own a Kindle, like a hell of a lot of others and I love it to death. Before I broke down and bought my Fire HD tablet, I had the Kindle app on my iPhone and on my wife’s iPad. Amazon virtually owns the ebook market, especially in the US. At that time, it made sense to align myself with the big guy and enroll in KDP Select.

For indie authors and small presses that sell exclusively on Amazon, there are certain luxuries available through Kindle Direct Publishing if you enroll in their KDP Select program. This allows readers to borrow your books through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, and for you to be paid for each page read. You can do countdown deals and offer free promotions, which is pretty great. Lots of indie authors have had much success with their KDP Select enrollment. I did not.

In my estimation (and your mileage may vary), KDP Select is awesome for authors who can continuously churn out new releases on a regular basis, or who already have a large virtual footprint with a large catalog of titles available. If you’re publishing six titles a year, it may be best to target Amazon readers specifically. I’m not one of those authors, and have time and money to only publish once or twice a year. And at this point, the virtual shelf space my name and titles occupies is fairly limited.

There were periodic spikes in sales and borrows, especially around the release of two fairly high-profile anthologies (The Cyborg Chronicles and CLONES, specifically), but those trailed off rather quickly and my Amazon sales dashboard has, over the last few months, become a rather disappointingly flat line.

I’ve also become a bit less than enamored with a few of Amazon’s business decisions, as both a reader, customer, and independent author-publisher. KDP Select is fairly easy to game (there have been instances of authors producing phone-book sized titles that are mostly ads and junk in order to increase the page count), and authors compete against one another for whatever bonus Amazon has set aside to those who generate the most pages read. The monthly payout per author varies and can go higher or lower depending on nothing more than the whims of Amazon.

I’m also not thrilled with Amazon’s easy-to-game review system and its enforcement to ensure legitimate reviews are posted. Too often, I see reviews on various books from people who have clearly not read the material, and even admit to such in their reviews. Check out virtually any traditionally published title, and you’ll find one-star reviews because the customer disagrees with the publisher’s price (like this recent review for a Kindle Worlds Legacy Fleet title from the Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason). Or one-star reviews from readers with a bone to pick over an author’s inclusion of homosexual characters or other progressive politics, as was the case with Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars title last year, or because readers hate whatever they’re gonna hate, and they have an agenda, and they blame the author or publisher for not producing material suitable to their preferred echo chamber. Those reviews all get posted, and yet legitimate reviews can get pulled if Amazon finds out you are a reader who follows an author on Twitter and Facebook, and decides you’re in cahoots, legitimately or otherwise. There is also the specter of being banned by Amazon. A few months ago I listened to an episode of The Horror Show with Brian Keene with an erotic horror author whose work had been de-listed and banned from Amazon.While this may never happen to me, or many other authors, I also do not want to risk keeping all of my work for sale on a single site that could, one day, make it all disappear and lock me out just because.

All of these are factors for why I think it’s time to diversify once again. Dwindling sales and corporate practices are, for me, two good reasons to launch wide again, wherever possible. However, I will still be exclusive to Amazon for at least one upcoming title, which will be set in a new Kindle Worlds series (more on this in the coming weeks), and I expect the anthologies I’ve been involved in to remain exclusive to Amazon for the foreseeable future, as well. It’s also entirely possible that I may one day sign, maybe, with a publisher (or publishers) that sell exclusively on Amazon. The rest of my titles, though, are now available on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks, in addition to Amazon. When I can diversify, I will, simply because I prefer to not keep all of my eggs in one basket.

I will say that in the course of spreading my works out onto these various sites, I’ve already earned more than I did throughout the last few months of my KDP Select period. Granted, this may not last very long, but the hope is that I increase my discoverability and widen my footprint by being more accessible to an increased set of readers.

I’ve also released my first audiobook, Revolver (Audible | iTunes), further diversifying not just where my books are available, but how they can be enjoyed. Hopefully you’ll check it out. If enough listeners snag a copy, and if I’m fortunate enough to turn a profit, this could help pave the way for many more audiobooks to come. I’d love to work with Revolver’s narrator, Patricia Santomasso, again, and if you’d like to hear more of her reading my words, we need your support. But, if you’re a non-Kindle reader and non-audiobook listener, you can find links to your preferred bookstore at the pages of any of my solo titles listed right at the top of my homepage.

Book Releases Going Wide…Again

Review: Livia Lone by Barry Eisler

Review:

livialone

Livia Lone may be the darkest, and most accomplished, book from Barry Eisler yet. I’ve been a long-time reader of Eisler’s work, and a big fan of his series character, John Rain, but early on into his latest I found myself already needing more Livia Lone books. It may be heretical, but as much as I love Eisler’s mournful assassin, if, for whatever reason, we never hear from John Rain again, I’ll be OK as long as there’s plenty more of Livia Lone to fill the gap.

Livia is a tragic, tortured, and psychologically fascinating character. She’s also incredibly strong and capable, both mentally and physically, and is a protector at heart. Sold into slavery alongside her sister by her parents, Livia and Nason are shipped across the ocean from Thaliand to the USA, and separated along the way. Although Livia was rescued and adopted, the whereabouts of her sister are a mystery that has driven her for more than a decade, and she now works a police detective in the sex crimes division of Seattle PD. She also has some less than legal extracurricular activities targeting rapists.

Right from the get-go, Eisler tackles rape culture and male privilege with an appropriately seedy and disturbing examination of a would-be rapists mindset, and had me instantly rooting for Livia.

Although Lone metes out some incredibly satisfying vigilante justice, Eisler never fails to shy away from the grotesqueness of the world she inhabits. This is not a feel good read, and much of the book made me downright uncomfortable and disgusted. Livia Lone is absolutely brutal, and oftentimes quite graphic, in its depictions of human trafficking, violence, child abuse, and rape. The streaks of hope that do sparingly exist herein are fueled by revenge, and Livia’s willingness to overcome whatever obstacles are put in her way. While she may get beaten down, she refuses to be defeated, even at a young age. A dragon resides within her, and when she lets it loose, woe be to anyone stupid enough to get in her way.

Livia Lone is stark and uncompromising, bleak but rewarding. Like his titular heroine, Eisler does not pull any punches here, and although it often left me despairing for humanity I think it’s a better book for it. And Livia, herself, is a heroine that I need much more of.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy Livia Lone At Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1470884/review-livia-lone-by-barry-eisler

Review: Livia Lone by Barry Eisler

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – REVOLVER Audiobook Now Available

revolver-audio

Best Novella 2015 – Edward Lorn, author of Cruelty 

Named Top Short Story of 2015 by The Leighgendarium

Big news! My indie title, Revolver, is now available as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes!

Narrated by Patricia Santomasso, this short story clocks in at a lean 1 hour, 14 minute listen. And it’s less than $5!

Patricia has worked with a few of my conspirators co-authors from CLONES: The Anthology on narrating their individual releases, including Daniel Arthur Smith’s Hugh Howey Lives (Audible | Amazon) and RD Brady’s Hominid (Audible | Amazon), so give them a listen (or read), too!

Working with Patricia was a great experience, and she gave this story her all. Revolver is not exactly a pleasant story, and can be downright brutal and hostile, and I’m tremendously proud of Patricia’s work here, and the energy she brought into the recording studio. Right from her very first audition, I knew she was the voice of Cara Stone, and I think she’s made this story even more powerful.

Revolver will be making its way on to iTunes soon, and I’ll update this post with that information once I have a link available.

Adrian, aka BeavisTheBookhead, recently reviewed the ebook of Revolver, and had lots of kind things to say, including:

This is an angry story, one that goes straight for the jugular in a most unapologetic but engaging way. … ‘Revolver’ is a great story, bristling with tension, unflinching with its descriptions and thoughtful.

For those unfamiliar with Revolver, here’s the synopsis:

The “stunning and harrowing” short story, originally published in the anthology No Way Home, is now available as a standalone release and features an all-new foreword written by award-winning science fiction author, Lucas Bale.

Cara Stone is a broken woman: penniless, homeless, and hopeless. When given the chance to appear on television, she jumps at the opportunity to win a minimum of $5,000 for her family.

The state-run, crowdfunded series, Revolver, has been established by the nation’s moneyed elite to combat the increasing plight of class warfare.

There’s never been a Revolver contestant quite like Cara before. The corporate states of America are hungry for blood, and she promises to deliver.

By the way, if you haven’t already, now is a really good time to sign up for my newsletter. In the coming weeks, I’ll be doing a few special giveaways, and announcing the release of a brand new title that will be launching next month, so be sure to subscribe now!

 

The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – REVOLVER Audiobook Now Available

Review: The Warren by Brian Evenson

Review:

thewarren-brian-evenson

Although The Warren is short – less than a hundred pages and compelling enough to read in a single sitting – I needed some time to digest its content and figure out what I wanted to say about it. Ultimately, I think the less said about it the better. (And I do mean this in all seriousness, and in the best way possible.)

I went into this book blind, knowing very little about it other than it had a snazzy cover and was another release in Tor’s strong line of novellas. I think this is about all you should know about it, as well. It’s a good, twisty read and you should probably check it out so long as you can stand not having everything perfectly resolved and all questions neatly answered.

Not enough? OK, fine. Imagine taking some science fiction heavy weights, like Blade Runner and The Martian and tossing them in a heavy-duty blender with Memento for added flavor. The Warren, however, is far from simply a pastiche of these other works, even if I found their influences to be strong. What you end up with, though, is a short work that calls into question the nature of self and self-perception with an utterly unreliable narrator in what is, basically, a locked-room drama.

This warped and fairly grim narrative cares not a whit about delivering the goods in a linear fashion, so readers should go in with scrutinizing eyes and pay keen attention to the details. Brian Evenson raises a lot of questions within his story, most of which are either answered ambiguously at best, or left to the reader to suss out the clues. I enjoyed connecting the various puzzle pieces presented in The Warren, and I suspect that a second read-through would be both deeply rewarding and quite different than the initial journey. This is certainly a story that demands a focused reading, and the closer you inspect Evenson’s writing the more satisfying it becomes.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy The Warren At Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1466714/review-the-warren-by-brian-evenson

Review: The Warren by Brian Evenson

Review: Chills by Mary SanGiovanni

Review:

chills.jpg

I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a slump with my horror reads of late, with the last few titles being more misses than hits, the bad outweighing the good. Chills is a title that I’ve been looking forward to, ever since it was previously released as a signed, limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm under the title The Blue People. I secured a copy of that edition earlier this year, but opted to keep it pristine and instead read an advanced copy of the Kensington Books edition on Kindle.

I’ve openly admitted in the past to being a sucker for winter-based horror thrills, and am always on the lookout for titles in this niche. Many thanks to John Carpenter and The Thing for this particular affectation. There’s something about blood-stained snow and monsters running wild that just really does it for me.

All of this is to say that I had certain hopes and expectations for Chills – it needed to satisfy some particular sweet spots I have for this corner of the horror genre, but it also needed to get me over that hump of disappointment I’ve been feeling lately after a couple less-than-stellar readings.

Well, Mary SanGiovanni delivered in spades. I flat-out loved Chills, and it grabbed me in a way that the last few horror books I’ve read failed to do. I did not want to put this book down, and I looked forward to my time with Colby, CT police detectives Jack Glazier, Reece Teagan, and occultist Kathy Ryan. Ryan in particular was an easy favorite in SanGiovanni’s cast of characters, and I’m hoping we get more of her in the future.

Set in a small, isolated town blanketed in a furious storm of snow and ice, unearthly monsters lurk and strike out with surprising viciousness, and a handful of dead bodies turning up around town are branded with strange, occult markings. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in Colby, and SanGiovanni not only crafts a wicked little creature feature, but one heck of a sharp cosmic horror thriller to boot. The Lovecraftian elements in Chills are very well rendered and help give a nice epic feel to this story of small-town terror. This is the type of stuff I good and truly dig.

Chills was my first title from SanGiovanni, and it most definitely will not be the last. I caught reference throughout the work to some of her other titles, most notably The Hollower, which has made its way onto my must-purchase list come payday.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley.]

 

Buy Chills via Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1465257/review-chills-by-mary-sangiovanni

Review: Chills by Mary SanGiovanni

Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino

Review:

out

My original OUT audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Out, an Edgar Award nominated crime novel out of Japan, is a deep, twisty, and complex thriller that is neither for the faint of heart, nor the uninitiated.

Natsuo Kirino does a masterful job penning this tale of murder, greed, corruption, and sexism taking a slow-boil approach and letting it all steep and simmer. Coming in at more than eighteen hours, this is not a quick whodunit kind of listen, but more of a howdunit – how, after a woman kills her husband, will she and her friends dispose of the body, and how will the act of mutilation that follows spiral out of control? How, exactly, will all their lives unravel in the wake of this rage-induced violence?

Out is a deeply layered story, with superb characterizations, and a number of plot threads intertwining and separating. These are women under stress, and Kirino paints intimate portraits of each, showing you both the good and the awful as they cope with the stress of not only their jobs at a box lunch factory, but with their personal lives and problems, and the growing complications of their complicity in a criminal conspiracy. New wrinkles subtly appear to keep both the characters and this book’s listeners on edge as the women are thrust into a strange, new world of police detectives, organized crime, betrayal, blackmail, and, ultimately, revenge as they find themselves scrutinized by an unknown outside force.

Emily Woo Zeller does an excellent job narrating the story, providing enough distinction between the four central women at the heart of this story, and hitting a (mostly) properly deep register for the males of the cast. At times, I thought she hit a little too-deeply for some of the men, giving the effect an almost comical vibe that didn’t jibe with the story, but it’s a minor enough caveat given the overall strength of her reading of the material. Out‘s production quality is top-notch, and the audio comes through cleanly and without a hitch, as I’ve come to expect as a listener of Audible Studio’s productions.

Out is a slow-going crime story, but one that’s well worth the time and attention required. It’s a dark story, punctuated with insight on Japanese culture and the treatment of women in their male-dominated society in between flashes of violence. Kirino does not shy away from violence – and, perhaps it should be noted that this is violence Kirino deals with here, not action as you may find in most other popular crime stories. The people in this book are not running around with guns and knives because it’s sexy and thrilling, but because they seek to do brutal damage to others, either to kill or to prevent themselves from being killed. This is a book where the actions of these characters carry a particularly heavy weight. Out is filled to the brim with bleak stuff, with depictions of rape, murder, and dismemberment, and Kirino puts his audience right in the middle of it all. These are characters who are seeking a way out, and at times it’s uncomfortable enough that the listener or reader may themselves be hoping for an easy escape as well.

 

Buy Out At Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1463877/review-out-by-natsuo-kirino

Review: Out by Natsuo Kirino