Discussion: Glimpses of the Devil by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Title: Glimpses of the Devil
Author: M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Genre(s): Paranormal Non-Fiction

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

[Truncated] The legendary bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, whose books have sold over 14 million copies, reveals the amazing true story of his work as an exorcist — kept secret for more than twenty-five years — in two profoundly human stories of satanic possession.

For the first time, Dr. Peck discusses his experience in conducting exorcisms, sharing the spellbinding details of his two major cases: one a moving testament to his healing abilities, and the other a perilous and ultimately unsuccessful struggle against darkness and evil. Twenty-seven-year-old Jersey was of average intelligence; a caring and devoted wife and mother to her husband and two young daughters, she had no history of mental illness. Beccah, in her mid-forties and with a superior intellect, had suffered from profound depression throughout her life, choosing to remain in an abusive relationship with her husband, one dominated by distrust and greed.

I’m deviating from my usual format for a book that is not speculative fiction and for a discussion of what is contained within rather than a review. Glimpses of the Devil is from my non-fiction exorcism research list for my paranormal/horror The Exorcist’s Assistant (working title).

Though some might feel that a book recounting exorcisms is written on shaky foundation, I believe in the supernatural and, more specifically, the existence of evil spirits we call “demons.” I am not, however, a Christian, so I bring my own opinions to the reading of these stories, which is the impetus for this blog entry. I believe that every spiritual explanation–from major religions to individual experiences–is like a blind man trying to describe an elephant. The observation touches on something true about the whole, but the interpretation misses the entire picture.

In Glimpses of the Devil, Dr. Peck, who is a psychiatrist and converted Christian, recounts two experiences where he acted as an exorcist. He holds these two cases up as proof of demonic possession. Enough evidence exists in what he presented that, if he has presented everything factually, I believe these are cases of true demon possession.

However, I disagree with his interpretation of events in two specific areas.

The first rule of exorcisms…

Glimpses of the Devil is described as a factual representation of events; however, it ends up as an autobiographical account of a man who decides, without religious or demonological training, to exorcise two patients. This becomes clear throughout the book as Dr. Peck wrestles with his decision. One of my chief concerns regarding all this is that he never asks, “Should I do further research into exorcisms beyond reading Malachi Martin‘s books?”

Mr. Martin is widely criticized in the exorcist community as writing sensational books full of half-truths and for decidedly un-Christian-like conduct, such as several affairs. Dr. Peck goes so far as to claim that no other handbook for exorcisms exists beyond Mr. Martin’s, which is patently untrue. (See again my reading list, which is far from a compendium on all exorcist non-fiction.) Dr. Peck’s ignorance of the best practices in dealing with demons is evident from the beginning.

The first case is Jersey, a girl who has been possessed since she was twelve. Dr. Peck and his team exorcise her, which goes well. He then spends three weeks with her in psychoanalytic therapy, preparing her for re-entering the world.

After the exorcism, Dr. Peck is in contact with her over the years. During one visit, she explains to him that the demons still talk to her, but she is able to ignore them. In one instance, she told them to “shut the fuck up,” and they did. However, out of curiosity, Dr. Peck asks to hypnotize her, as he did in the past, and to speak to the demons through her. She agrees and the resulting conversation is confusing. Nothing particularly demonic happens; instead, the entity speaking through Jersey identifies itself as a clerk living in Anaheim. He ends the hypnotic session and sees her rarely after that, though she, at press time, is happy, healthy, and no longer possessed.

I am appalled. Shame on you, Dr. Peck, for opening the door to allow a demon to speak through Jersey. I won’t be surprised if the ending to the story is that she ends up possessed again.

Look, I’m no expert, but I have read a few things and I have some common sense. One of the preeminent exorcists of our times, Father Gabriele Amorth, has given extensive precautionary information in An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories. These two books are not pea-soup-spitting horrors but are thoughtfully written tradesman’s books–discussions of the nuts and bolts and challenges facing exorcists. They could be about plumbing or IT development but are instead about exorcisms. At the time that Dr. Peck conducted his exorcisms, the books had not yet been written; however, I would expect a non-fiction published in 2005 to at least acknowledge the existence of Father Amorth’s books.

In his books, Father Amorth advises, quite sensibly, against engaging a demon in conversation. Assuming you believe demons are creatures of inherent evil and you aren’t interested in unleashing evil into the world, you can agree that you shouldn’t talk to them. Why? Because they lie. Even if they’re not lying about whatever you ask, how do you know that? You’re begging to be manipulated. What is there to learn, other than that they’re evil, which you already know?

It’s an exciting, gripping, fascinating world to step into. The lure of talking to something not human is immense. It’s no wonder the Catholic Church refuses to promote its work in the realm of exorcisms.

This deviation from “get the hell out of that woman” to “hey, guy, whatcha doin’ in there?” becomes prominent in the second patient’s exorcism. Dr. Peck is fascinated with the idea that Beccah is possessed by Satan, an evil creature millions of years old. He senses a giant, immoveable snake, as old as the world itself, coiled supernaturally around or inside of his patient. He wonders why it has possessed her. He asks it questions. He hypothesizes why it won’t leave her. He does everything except exorcise it.

I wasn’t there. I don’t know. Maybe it went differently, and his ruminations are for the book only. But the exorcism of Beccah took a subtle shift from the exorcism of Jersey. With Jersey, he very strongly orders the demons to leave for three days straight. With Beccah, he ends up falling to the floor weeping at one point and another team member must step in and complete the exorcism. Is it no wonder that it turned out the way it did?

The moment of possession

I’m also uncomfortable with the conclusions that Dr. Peck has drawn, aided by Malachi Martin, about the reasons behind demonic possession. Both men claim that every possessed person is complicit in their possession, that to become possessed, one must open the door for that possession, even if only a crack.

When the first patient Jersey was twelve, her father molested her. She allowed him to do it because he claimed to be a medical doctor and was “examining” her after her appendix was removed. He held a PhD and was a practicing psychologist but was not a medical doctor.

Dr. Peck claims that at twelve years old, Jersey knew the difference between a psychologist and a medical doctor. Though he doesn’t outright blame her, he explains that in not protesting what her father did to her, she created a kind of cognitive dissonance that allowed the demons to gain a foothold. She willfully believed a lie, and therefore, she opened the door to being possessed.

Are you kidding me, Dr. Peck?

I have no idea why that poor girl was possessed, but the only proof the author had that her demonic interference started at twelve was her word while she was possessed. It could have been one of the demons speaking through her to hide the real timing and cause of the possession. Her bad behavior only starts manifesting in her twenties. Why did the demons wait so long?

And I just don’t agree with the idea of Jersey bringing this on herself because she was molested. “Oh,” Dr. Peck says, “you didn’t bring the molestation on yourself; however, you did bring the possession on yourself.”

In healing psychological trauma, it’s important to identify and acknowledge all feelings. Thus in a rape, a victim might say, “I feel that I brought this on myself.” While this may be a turning point for the victim, the turning point is because he or she is releasing that negative thought. A follow-up might be an acknowledgement that she didn’t bring it on herself or perhaps that she could have taken a different route home but had no way of knowing what would happen. It is not suddenly a fact that the victim brought the horrific tragedy on herself just because she thinks she did. It’s psychologically freeing–which we see in the case of Jersey–but that doesn’t make it true.

This preoccupation becomes even more apparent in Beccah’s case, and Dr. Peck’s search for the moment of her possession may have distracted him from being useful to her. Beccah was found wandering six streets away from her home when she was eighteen months old. Though little is known of her mother beyond that she was seen by Beccah as evil, this is exceedingly atypical behavior by a child in that age range, as asserted by Dr. Peck himself. Non-traumatized children nine months to several years old are afraid of strangers and cling desperately to their mothers. That Beccah ran away from home before she could talk says that she was already maladjusted, due to her circumstances, well before she had a choice in the matter.

While it is important to note that everyone has a choice and that choice is important in defeating a demon, we are all victims of our circumstances. A woman may end up being narcissistic because she was genetically predisposed and her mother modeled that behavior; she may free herself from it by taking responsibility for her actions. Going in is not a choice, but coming out is.

The very definition of a demon is a creature that preys on human victims. Have we forgotten what victims are? They’re victims. And it’s not a far stretch to believe that supernatural creatures intent on anguish and destruction choose innocents. It’s comforting to tell ourselves that we won’t ever be targets because we don’t do anything to invite evil into our lives, but that smacks of untruth.

I admire Dr. Peck’s open discussions, including failings that he freely admits. The books was fascinating, but I’m cautious about naming the elephant. Whenever we delve too far into specifics when it comes to religion, we become distracted and unable to see the entire picture. Though it’s obvious that “invoking “he name of Jesus Christ” holds sway over demons, that doesn’t prove that every piece of Christian dogma is correct. Exorcisms have been performed successfully for thousands of years across all cultures and religions, despite what the Catholic church might want people to believe.

I’m convinced that there’s evil in the world. And sometimes, we can do nothing to stop being swept away by it. Educating ourselves on all aspects of evil and opening ourselves to understanding beyond our own narrow worldview will aid in defeating it in our own lives and as collective humanity.

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Review: There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack

Title: There Comes a Prophet
Author: David Litwack
Genre(s): Young Adult Dystopia
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a terrible time of violence, fear, and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic” and by eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

A restless dreamer, Nathaniel has always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for something more but unwilling to challenge the unbending status quo. When his friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds young men and women eternally to the Light—Nathaniel can barely recognize the broken and brooding young man the boy has become. And when the beautiful Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel knows he must somehow save her. But in the prisons of Temple City he discovers a terrible secret that launches the three of them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in dire jeopardy. For a truth awaits them there that threatens the foundation of the Temple. But if they reveal that truth the words of the book of light might come to pass:

“If there comes among you a prophet saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

There Comes a Prophet was mysterious at first. I wasn’t sure if this was standard fantasy fare or something else. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that this is a far-in-the-future dystopia where people live without technology and in rural areas. The longer I read, the more I enjoyed it.

The voice reminds me a great deal of Anne McCaffrey, especially the books I most recently reread, the Harper Hall trilogy. As we follow the three friends, Nathaniel, Orah, and Thomas, their emotions are told in stark simplicity but with maximum impact. On several occasions, one sentence reframed an entire relationship, event, or assumption; at the beginning, I was convinced of one thing, but by the end, I was certain of another.

I’m a sucker for the evil religious monolith archetype, so I really enjoyed how it fleshed out the story of love, friendship, and sacrifice. The fantasy world was new and interesting. It kept me thinking, “How would I have reacted if I’d been brought up with those assumptions?” The fear of “the teaching” was palpable and confusing to me as it was to the characters.

The grammar was crisp, the language was clear, and the plot moved along at a steady pace. I honestly have no gripes with this book. The use of third person omniscient meant that I didn’t fall in love with the characters as much as I would have if it was told a different way. But I still rooted for them.

There Comes a Prophet was quieter than many of the dystopians exploding onto the big screen right now, but its underlying theme of hope for the future made me love it. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

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A Sort-Of Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Magic & Mayhem Book Review: Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardTitle: Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga, Book #1)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Genre(s): Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Paperback (Amazon) | Kobo

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

I’m not going to review this book. You’d have to be living under a rock right now if you don’t know about it. The movie version released at the beginning of the month, and social media has been simmering for months with the “Will I or Won’t I See It?” debate. No, I’m not going to review it. Instead, I’m going to talk about why you’re merely catering to convenience if you decide not to see it because of Orson Scott Card’s homophobic remarks.

From the Huffington Post’s article Orson Scott Card Calls Backlash To Anti-Gay Views ‘Savage, Lying Deceptive Personal Attacks’:

Card’s anti-gay views date back to 1990, when he said that sodomy laws should be upheld in states to punish “unruly” gays, Salon noted. Since then, he has been outspoken against same-sex marriage, which he has said “marks the end of democracy in America.” To him, homosexuality is a “tragic genetic mixup.”

Yeah, that’s some pretty awful stuff right there, Mr. Card. I can definitely see why people, including myself, aren’t impressed with you. On the other hand, here’s the problem with the backlash, from the mouth of the big man himself: “[People are] certainly not [understanding]… Ender’s Game.”

Two reasons why I can’t stomach this debate.

First, Ender’s Game explores the assumptions we make and the prejudices we carry, even the ones we don’t realize we have. Haven’t read it? Haven’t seen it? Yep, it’s true. The story is about a war with some aliens we don’t understand. We pit our children against them–forcing these children to forego childhood for our own selfish reasons. In the end, we find out we misunderstood the way the aliens communicated with us because it was too different for us to fathom.

This message is sandwiched between some cool fight scenes within an epic alien-human war. It’s more cerebral than Transformers or Iron Man but still appeals to the same audience. It would seem to me that people who are the most offended by Mr. Card’s homophobic comments are the ones who would enjoy the story’s moral implications the most. And yes, I believe Mr. Card would benefit from re-reading and digesting his book before he opens his mouth again.

Second, and here’s what gets my panties in a twist: Why Orson Scott Card?

Can anyone tell me what J.K. Rowling believes about gays or abortion? How about E.L. James; what’s her stance on Obamacare? What does Stephanie Meyers think about immigration?

Maybe they’re all awesome, loving, inclusive people and that’s why they didn’t make the news. On the other hand, maybe they kept their mouths shut because they have a better publicist or they knew that their true opinions would hurt their pocketbook. That’s not precisely moral high ground.

And why stop with just authors? Can anyone tell me what the CEO of Sears feels about same sex marriage? What about the designer of that shirt you’re wearing? How about the CFO of Burger King or the guy that welded the handle to your Toyota or the woman who designed the seats in the train you rode in this morning?

Why Orson Scott Card?

I’ll tell you why: Because he made the news. Nobody wrote a piece that went viral on the inflammatory remarks that the CFO of Starbucks (theoretically) makes to his secretary every morning, so you’re not interested in that. Plus, if you started researching, maybe you’d find out that the McDonald’s CEO is a worthless cretin and you’d have to rethink that delicious, devoid-of-nutrition Egg McMuffin you indulge in once a week. And really, who cares what the designer of those jeans, sewn in a sweatshop somewhere in the third-world, thinks about social issues?

Is it not catering (Definition: “to provide or supply what amuses, is desired, or gives pleasure”) to convenience to refuse to see something because of an arms-reach knowledge of its creator’s sociopolitical opinion? If you feel that strongly, I’d suggest digging into the background of every creator of everything you read, watch, eat, or use.

Yet if we compare what you would be consuming if you went to see Ender’s Game–a story about challenging stereotypes and, dare I say it, bigotry–versus what you consumed when you read Fifty Shades of Grey–a thinly-veiled Stockholm Syndrome memoir–the obvious winner is Mr. Card’s creation.

Should we not be more interested, as a society, in the merit of what we’re ingesting rather than its creator?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of famous people’s beliefs and proclivities. I’m just saying that we should weigh the merit of their work, not their bigoted opinions.

And stop eating fast food. It’s not good for you.

(Note: None of the CEO’s, CFO’s, or other aforementioned persons have any morally bankrupt proclivities as far as I’m aware.)

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Review: Memes of Loss and Devotion by Darren White

Title: Memes of Loss and Devotion
Author: Darren White
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction Short Story Collection
How To Purchase: Amazon

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Memes of Loss and Devotion in exchange for an honest review.

“Memes of Loss and Devotion” is a science fiction and horror anthology. It examines the human condition, our possible futures, our challenges as a species and our failings as sentient, supposedly intelligent beings.

Journey to a far future where all human minds are connected not only to each other but also to benevolent Artificial Intelligences. Technology may have changed, but the human condition has not, and neither has the human heart.

A not so random encounter in a hotel bar triggers unforeseen consequences, but just who is the hunter and who is the prey? If you thought that romance in the early 21st century is a minefield, just add advanced technology and see how much more dangerous it can get.

Can love survive death? What happens when devotion unexpectedly returns from beyond the grave? A doomed love triangle is destined to end in disaster in a haunting story of passion that can never be reciprocated.

What if men were obsolete? What if new technology meant that the human race could continue without them? How far would you go to prevent this?

Finally, a gun-toting, resourceful hero will get the girl, kill the baddies, and save the entire planet, probably…

In this collection, you will also witness a little girl arguing colonization morals with an elderly alien, while another girl will be ‘fixed’ by time travelling angels. An astronaut will be rescued (eventually) while another never will be. A deadly connection will be made. A private investigator will lose important parts of his memory on a distant moon. A future colonist never get his girl. A time machine will be abused. An alien observer will be lost. A sister’s sister will find her true home.

Just where might future technology take us if we are not mindful of the unintentional consequences?

What will we get? The future we want, or the future we deserve?

Publishing a short story anthology as a debut novel is a courageous decision. Somehow, reading a collection of short stories feels as though it requires additional effort from me, the reader. I’m in each one for a shorter amount of time, but because there are more stories, it feels like the book wants more from me. Yet in this book, every story is as strong as the next and none were included “just because.”

What I loved most is the voice. The title, Memes of Loss and Devotion, evokes a feeling that carries throughout. Each story is told in a breathy, haunting way. Each story made me feel. Each story made me consider something I had never considered before.

I had an issue with the grammar, which seems to deteriorate as the book progresses. Most of the time, the syntax issues didn’t bother me as much as usual–which is saying something for Mr. White’s storytelling ability, since I’m such a stickler for details–however, I got lost sometimes. Some of that was wacky dialogue tags, and some of it was the way the story was written. At times it got too ephemeral for me, and I wasn’t sure who we were focused on or what was going on.

I had a love-hate relationship with the way the stories ended. Almost every one finished too soon. I wanted more: More explanation, more story, more grounding. Yet every story ended at the right place for what Mr. White wants the reader to experience. He doesn’t give answers. He gives only questions.

If you enjoy the moral and spiritual implications of science fiction, I would recommend this book. If it had been professionally edited, I would likely have given it a 4 or even a 4.5, but I found the errors too distracting to fully get behind the book.

Each story gives you something to chew on long after you close the pages. I’m still sitting on the hill with that little girl and the elder alien, considering what it must be like for a primitive race whose wildest imaginings were made laughable by the arrival of space farers. And that’s exactly what good science fiction should do.

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Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Title: Parasite (Parasitology #1)
Author: Mira Grant
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction
How To Purchase:
Kindle | Kobo

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.

Because I’m old and cynical, I rarely get excited about things. New release movies? No, I’m sure they’re going to suck. Christmas Day? Naw, the music and sparkly snow leading up to it makes the holiday awesome. Parasite‘s release? HELL, YES. I KEPT IMPATIENTLY STARING AT THE RELEASE DATE ON GOODREADS OVER THE PAST THREE MONTHS BECAUSE I COULDN’T WAIT.

Parasite chronicles the story of Sally “Sal” Mitchell, a young woman who nearly died in a car accident six years ago. She wakes up with no memory of her preceding life and discovers that she was, at one point, clinically brain dead. She, like the rest of the population, has a medical tapeworm living inside her, which regulates her medical conditions–no more asthma, no more diabetes, no more anything. And thus her recovery is attributed to the tapeworm and heralded as the next step in medical evolution.

Sal has been subjected to scrutiny by the SymboGen corporation, which engineered these medical marvels. She’s working a menial job and trying to make sense of living life as a twenty-something under constant surveillance by her legal conservator parents and a sleek, clean pharmaceutical company.

Until the world starts falling apart. People begin zombie-fying. And then dropping dead. And then things get worse.

The problem with this review, however, is that I am unable to meaningfully talk about the book without a spoiler. I’ve read a few of the other reviews just to get an idea of whether what I’m about to say is a spoiler or not, and apparently it is. The problem I have is that, like, ten damn pages into the book, I was like, “Ah, ok.” And then the book kept going on like we weren’t supposed to know. So I was all, “Uh, am I supposed to know this? OK, I’m not. Wait, am I? Yeah, I am–Nope. No. Wait.” According to the other reviews, the reveal happens 50% of the way into the book. So you’ve been warned.


Others have found the book dull in the beginning 40%, but because it was completely and transparently obvious that Sal was a tapeworm, I found it fascinating. It shows her trying to fit into a world that doesn’t make sense. She has to cope with disturbingly undisturbing dreams of being somewhere warm and dark with “drums” keeping her safe. She had to learn that you can’t walk around naked or pee in the middle of a lab if they ask for a sample. She has to deal with a father and a mother who treat her as though she’s an imposter in their daughter’s body while trying to be kind to her at the same time.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was how the overgrown tapeworm in the room was presented. For the first 75% of the book, I was frustrated at Ms. Grant for stringing us along when it was completely and transparently obvious. For the last 25% of the novel, I was frustrated at Sal for not admitting to herself that she was a tapeworm. By the end, I was shouting out loud and making half-crazed tweets about how Sal needed to figure things out, so help me, God, all to keep myself from having a heart attack.


Parasite is relentless. The weirdness factor is high, the menace of the SymboGen corporation is palpable, and Sal’s struggle is real. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes near-future medical science fiction, and I’m dying to read the next book.

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Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

Title: The Mine (Northwest Passage #1)
Author: John A. Heldt
Genre(s): Adult Historical Romance with elements of Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of The Mine in exchange for an honest review.

In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way.

Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever.

The Mine is a love story that follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.

*steps on my soapbox*

My dear book-loving friends, I want to take a moment to talk about something I never intended to talk about on this blog: Cover art. I am far from an expert on self-publishing, being that I’m currently staggering through the process for the first time; however, I can tell you one thing with certainty: Bad cover art will cost you readers.

Mr. Heldt was the first person to approach me to review a book. To be frank, if I’d waited a few more days to see the number of requests I’ve started getting for book reviews after listing myself on The Indie View and The Book Blogger List, I would have likely turned him down. Why? Because the cover is amateur, incorrect for the genre, and arranged in an unartistic manner. The thought that followed me as I prepared to read it was, “The inside is going to be just as amateur and unartistic.”

More experienced self-pubbers have written about this at length, so I’ll leave you with a link to get you started: The Book Designer’s e-Book Cover Design Awards. The phrase is “Don’t judge a book by its cover” because it’s what we all do. Find an awesome cover artist, such as Regina Wamba, with whom I’m currently working, and make sales.

*steps off my soapbox*

I’m happy to say that the story contained within the eyesore cover has voice and is well-edited. Mr. Heldt has obviously taken the oodles of wisdom available on the internet and applied it to his self-publishing career. (And, heck, maybe he likes that cover. So. I mean. If you like it, too, more power to you.)

As to the story itself, I’m going to go with an old refrain: This story was not written for me.

It’s a quiet book, one with researched details and the feel of the 1940’s. The characters were well-developed with believable motivation. The ending was touching, surprising, and pulled me right in. It kept me frantically turning the pages to see what was going to happen.

However, I’m not a huge fan of historical romance and that’s what this truly is. The only science fiction part of the novel is when our main character Joel slips between times through the mine shaft. I found myself skimming in the middle, wanting something to happen. Others might be taken in by the love story between Grace and Joel, but I wasn’t. I liked them both and needed to find out how their story would end, but I wanted more to happen. The story wasn’t big enough for me.

If you’re a fan of historical romance and enjoy slipping into another time period, I would recommend this book. If you’re looking for some science fiction / portal fantasy fare, I’d give it a pass.

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Review: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

Title: The Witching Hour
Author: Anne Rice
Genre(s): Adult Paranormal Historical
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo | Paperback (Amazon)

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

On the veranda of a great New Orleans house, now faded, a mute and fragile woman sits rocking. And the witching hour begins…

Demonstrating once again her gift for spellbinding storytelling and the creation of legend, Anne Rice makes real for us a great dynasty of witches – a family given to poetry and incest, to murder and philosophy, a family that over the ages is itself haunted by a powerful, dangerous, and seductive being.

A hypnotic novel of witchcraft and the occult across four centuries, by the spellbinding, bestselling author of The Vampire Chronicles.

Oh, my God, Anne Rice. What were you thinking?

At times this book strays into one star territory and at times it strays into the five star category. It took me months to finish it, and by the time I was done, I felt like I’d run a marathon. “Anne, this is a great story,” Anne’s editor must have said upon first reading the weighty tome placed on his desk, “however, you have to cut the back story and extraneous detail. When we’re done, this thing will be one third the size.”

“I will not!” Anne said. “I’m Anne Rice! I write what I want!”

So that is how we ended up with an intriguing plot line, an engrossing story, and a fascinating concept, splayed across several hundred pages too many. I was confused, I skimmed, and I backtracked, all because the story couldn’t stay focused.

This is the story of a supernatural creature named Lasher–is it a demon? a ghost? an alien? something else?–that harasses generation after generation of Mayfair family members. Each time the newest daughter is born, it latches onto the child and protects her above all else. People die unexpectedly and gruesomely while it bides it time, waiting for the moment to hatch its plot.

Now, the most powerful witch in history has been born. Her family has sent her away to protect her, and she knows nothing about her heritage. But it’s time that she found out.

Doesn’t that sound fabulous? Too bad it’s not.

In the middle of the book is hundreds of pages of back story. One of the characters has gotten his hands on a file that’s been kept by a secret society watching the Mayfair family for thirteen generations. Ms. Rice decided to reveal the entire excruciating contents of that goddamned file to us. Who’s sleeping with whom? Whose baby is whose? Who is Auntie So-in-so in generation 8? I don’t know. And I don’t care.

The Lives of the Mayfair Witches trilogy taught me a valuable lesson: Even if you’re only spending your Kobo gift card money, buy one book of a series at a time. Unfortunately, I purchased all three of these books without having cracked open a one of them. Fortunately, the story gets better. Lasher is the second book, and its plot, while exceedingly weird and disjointed, is told better and is more engrossing. I haven’t yet moved on to the third book Taltos, but I don’t dread it. Someday I’ll get around to reading it.

If you like this kind of thing (generations of subtlety and twisted family trees), you’ll like The Witching Hour. If you’re like me and you can’t keep any more than four characters straight at a time, you’ll want to give this a pass. The ending I give 4.5 stars. The middle I give 0 stars. And the beginning… Eh. Probably 2. It confused me as well.

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Review: Discoredia by J. C. Michael

Discoredia by J.C. MichaelTitle: Discoredia
Author: J. C. Michael
Genre(s): Adult Horror
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo.com

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

As the year draws to a close a mysterious stranger makes a proposition to club owner, Warren Charlton. It’s a deal involving a brand new drug called Pandemonium. The good news: the drug is free. The bad news: it comes at a heavy price, promising much but delivering far more. Euphoria and ecstasy. Death and depravity. All come together, at Discoredia.

Discoredia is the story of a rave gone awry, and I can’t decide what I think about it. While it’s well-imagined, it’s not well-executed. It’s visceral, but ugly. Pulse-pounding, but haphazard. I can’t decide if this book is what the author intended or if it’s something that got away from him.

First, I was distracted and dismayed at how grammatically error-ridden this book was: Misplaced commas, missing apostrophes, and incorrect homonyms (“heal” for “heel” is an easy one, guys). It distracted from the work, and sometimes I slogged when I should have glided. The blame for this I place squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Michael’s small press publisher, Books of the Dead Press. If this passed over the desk of a professional copy editor, which I doubt, I’d fire that person immediately.

*Steps on soap box*

I’m disappointed on behalf of authors everywhere, and on behalf of Mr. Michael, specifically. With traditional publishing more cut-throat than ever and self-publishing becoming a viable option, small presses need to work harder than ever to prove their worth. The non-existent editing in this manuscript tells me that this publisher isn’t serious about contending in the marketplace.

*Steps off soap box*

Besides that, I’m not the book’s intended audience. While I vehemently support freedom of choice in all hot-button political issues, I’m not interested in imbibing, swallowing, injecting, or snorting drugs. I will occasionally have one glass of wine too many, and the next day is enough to remind me why I do that once per year. This book was written to capture the adrenaline-laced, hallucinatory high that common rave drugs induce. I’m only mildly interested, mostly from an academic perspective. I don’t understand drug use, and consequently, drug users.

Ultimately, I didn’t like the haphazard storytelling. Too many things were left swinging in the wind: Unresolved back story, a plot that dragged for too long and ended too soon once things started getting interesting, dubious villain motivation, and a cacophony of characters that I couldn’t make sense of. Part of me wonders if those elements were purposeful, but part of me suspects it simply needed a heavy developmental edit along with its need for copy edits.

Despite the drawbacks, I never regretted reading this book. If, unlike me, you can remove the stick from your rectal orifice long enough to dive into the badass shit going down, you’ll enjoy this book. The writer has voice and potential.

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Review: The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

Title: The Gods Themselves
Author: Isaac Asimov
Genre(s): Adult Science Fiction
How To Purchase: Kindle | Kobo | Paperback (Amazon)

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In the twenty-second century Earth obtains limitless, free energy from a source science little understands: an exchange between Earth and a parallel universe, using a process devised by the aliens. But even free energy has a price. The transference process itself will eventually lead to the destruction of Earth’s Sun—and of Earth itself.

Only a few know the terrifying truth—an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun. They know the truth—but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy—but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to Earth’s survival

Isaac Asimov was a prolific sci-fi writing genius. I can’t comprehend writing the number of books that he wrote, and The Gods Themselves is, by far, my favorite. I reread it every few years and fall in love with it all over.

The interesting thing about this book is that of its three parts, I’m not that keen on the first and the last. The middle part is where the books shines, yet I read it fully every time, finding new insights I didn’t see before.

The book begins on earth, where an incompetent fool accidentally discovers a new source of energy–one that seems limitless and free. I love this setup because *dons cynicism hat* that’s how things happen in the real world *removes cynicism hat*.

The second part of the book–the part that makes it shine–takes us to the parallel universe that feeds Earth the free energy. The thrust of the overarching story is why TANSTAAFL, but the brilliance of the story comes from the interplay of a family of aliens who discover the implications of their species’ interaction with the humans.

The family group consists of three different genders of this race, each of whom plays an important role in supporting the family and birthing the next generation. Mr. Asimov’s character development and exploration of this little family’s heart-wrenching journey is brilliant. It brings tears to my eyes. It makes me want to throw the book across the room because we get so few pages of Dua, Odeen, and Tritt.

The last third of the book wraps up the overarching storyline but always leaves me a tad cold. I miss my little triad, and want to to put them all in my pocket and let them live there forever.

If you’d like to see how an amazing science fiction novel is written, I recommend this book. I give it six stars for how amazing it is but have to subtract one for the ending. The middle story is the epitome of a five star read.

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