Monthly Archives: November 2016

Alpha Male–Joshua Corey Mays

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Alpha Male–Joshua Corey Mays

Plot: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Characters: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 3/5

Alpha Male is an interesting thought experiment about the world of super heroes and their actions, but the areas where super hero stories usually shine, the characters and the action, it falls a little flat.

Thanks to Alpha Male, the city has grown quiet. As a result, few people see any real need for him and treat him either as a celebrity or a washed up attraction, until a new super villain comes to town, anyway. With the city looking to him once again for protection, can Alpha Male rise to the occasion? Or have his days of catching common criminals caused him to loose his edge?

I have to admit, Mays has done an brilliant job exploring the long-term and far-reaching effects a super hero would have on a big city. From the police force, to the lives criminals have after Alpha Male has captured them, to the manifestation of the resentment people feel due to Alpha Male’s collateral damage, Mays puts a great deal of thought into how the hero exists in his world. Not a stone is left unturned and there were quite a few that I hadn’t expected to show up, which as impressive. So, if you enjoy idea-driven books, especially of the sci-fi/fantasy type, I think Alpha Male would be a good piece to add to your reading list.

If you like more story or character driven works, however, you might not enjoy this as much. I still can’t put my finger on why, but none of the characters really clicked for me, Alpha Male least of all. To me, he’s just not an enjoyable character to watch, which really hurt the story since we’re supposed to want to see him save the day. In a similar vein, while the action is passable and definitively has some creative scenarios, it never felt as exciting as one would expect from a super hero piece.

Over all, Alpha Male explores some really interesting ideas and premises, which definitely make it worth your time if you enjoy books with that sort of focus. If you’re looking for the fun characters and exciting action that usually comes from the super hero genre, you may want to keep looking.

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My Fair Assassin–C.J. Anaya

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My Fair Assassin–C.J. Anaya

Plot: 4/4       Characters: 5/5       Writing: 4/5       Entertainment: 4/5       World Building: 4/5

My Fair Assassin is a rare gem in the Paranormal Romance genre. The two main leads are both enjoyable, the writing is engaging, and the alterations to traditional faerie lore lend themselves to some fun and creative world building.

Crysta has come to accept that she’s strange. For years she’s tried to hide her white hair, strange powers and pointed ears in hopes of finding an adoptive family with little luck. Now, at seventeen, she’s chosen to be on her own, but her independence is short lived when an assassin from another realm appears in her living room. While his intentions of killing her seem clean cut, the more he learns about her, the more complicated their relationship becomes.

As someone who was in high school when Twilight was getting big, I honestly thought I’d seen it all when it came to YA Paranormal Romance. I’m so glad Anaya proved me wrong.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually really liked Crysta. She’s a rarity all on her own in that she’s a girl who is legitimately not like other girls, resulting in a personal struggle that my heart broke for. Normally I roll my eyes at these kind of characters, but Crysta’s struggle for belonging and identity felt real and sympathetic, making her a character I would actually like to see teen girls exposed to and sympathize with.

Her relationship with Jareth, the assassin, is pretty great as well. Their interactions are funny and genuine. Nothing feels forced or contrived. Every line of dialogue and interaction feels like a real interaction between two people, even if one is an assassin sent from Faerie. In fact, if you write YA, especially romance, I recommend you check this book out for Anaya’s use of dialogue.

Her take on Seely and Unseely fae seems interesting as well, all though I can’t say too much about it since we don’t actually get to see either of the courts. However, as someone who’s seen a fair amount of them in urban fantasy (heck, I’m even working on a book about them), it was nice to have a different take on the lore. I’m actually really curious to read more about them in future books.

I just wish the actual romance held my interest like the rest of the book’s elements. As great as the rest of the book was, the actual romance felt a tad bit cliche. What do romance writers have against letting couples fall in love like normal people? I don’t understand it.

However, I do acknowledge that it’s a matter of personal taste and a symptom of the entire genre more than an error on Anaya’s part, so I’d still highly recommend giving it a read, even if you’re not usually a fan of Paranormal Romance. There’s still plenty of great stuff there to enjoy, so if you’re looking for a quick light read with some great characters, fun dialogue, and an interesting take on Faerie, give My Fair Assassin a try.

Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth. Re-imagined and Remastered–Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

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Twice Upon a Time: Fairytale, Folklore, and Myth. Re-imagined and Remastered–Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier

Welcome back to a regular review! With Halloween over I’ll try to get back to posting these as often as I can. 🙂

Given the nature of this work, I’m going with the more traditional rating method and give it a 5/5

“Twice Upon A Time” is a brilliant collection of tales that breathe new life into classic stories and introduce readers to ones that feel like they should be classics. It also provides a wonderful chance for independent authors to showcase their work along traditionally-published authors, proving once and for all that they have what it takes to write along side those who take more conventional routes to success.

My favorite thing about retelling fairytales is that the creative possibilities are endless. These stories speak to people in different ways, resulting in different characteristics being emphasized in their new versions while other things are change or diminished, depending on the writer. Nowhere is that more apparent than in “Twice Upon A Time.” Each author has their own unique take on stories most people know very well. That or they know exactly what makes a story feel like a fairytale and work to make something new and just as timeless.

I also love how dark retellings tend to be since it hails back to these stories’ earliest roots. The authors of “Twice Upon A Time” do a brilliant job making their fantastic tales spellbinding, eerie, and downright terrifying in equal measure.

So, if you’re a fan of the fantastic, the creepy, and the creative, I highly recommend “Twice Upon A Time.” The stories are diverse, well-written, and unique as the people writing them. And if it turns out you really like a particular work, “Twice Upon A Time” does a great job giving you ways to connect with those particular authors. There are quite a few I want to find on social media because I really want to read more of their work. If for no other reason, check out “Twice Upon A Time” for that, because there are some magnificent writers here waiting to be discovered.

A Creature of Many Faces: The Aswang of the Philippines

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A Creature of Many Faces: The Aswang of the Philippines

Deep within the jungles and city allies of the Philippines lurks a creature rather unknown in the West, but believed in by an estimated 80% of the populationIts method of feeding and favorite foods vary from island to island, but none of the options are pretty. In some places it’ll suck your blood like a vampire. In others, it’ll use its long tube-like tongue to suck out your entrails or unborn children. If you’re lucky, it’ll wait until you’re a corpse, steal your body, and eat your heart and liver. In many regions its torso can rip away from its lower body and fly away, making it as horrifying as it is deadly.

This creature of many methods of horror is the aswang.

While the origins of the aswang are rooted soundly in Philippine folklore and tribal religion, belief and fear of the creature took off once Spanish missionaries arrived. Babalang,  or medicine men and women, were labeled as aswang to make people flock to the church out of fear. During the Spanish occupation, numerous rebellions were organized by women, who were also labeled aswang to discourage people from supporting their causes. Between the rebel leaders and the fact that babalang were most often women explains why the aswang usually has a female form, but not why there’s so much variation on what they they do or why they’re so prevalent even today.

The aswang is said to turn into so many different things that they’ve actually been categorized to keep them all straight. The usual kinds of aswang include humanoid, canine, porcine, avian (also known as the tiktik), and feline. Animals such as stray dogs, pigs, and cats are so common in the Philippines that it would be too late to tell if the creature is what it seems, or a blood-thirsty aswang.

Lucky for us, there are as many ways to defend yourself from an aswang as there are incarnations of it. If you’re religious, you could carry holy water or recite the Lord’s Prayer. If not, there’s always the option of garlic, gold silver, bronze, salt, or even sunlight. If you want to get really creative, you could stick a needle with a broken eye in the frame of your front door.

Unfortunately, all these things don’t stop aswang from stalking prey. Maria Labo, a woman who turned aswang and ate her children, apparently roams the province of Capiz, hoping to find more to eat. There’s even been reports of aswang attacking people as late as 2015.

So, be careful tonight. The aswang can look like anyone or anything. Their tell-tale signs are usually their blood-shot eyes and tangled hair, but that could just as easily be a person trick or treating or on their way to a Halloween party. The only way to be truly sure is to look into a person’s eyes. If your reflection is upside down, they are an aswang, but by then it’s probably too late, so investigate any possible aswang at your own risk.

Happy Halloween.

Image from cryptidchronicles.tumblr.com