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The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) by Wade H. Garrett

I had to think long and hard about writing a review for The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) by Wade H. Garret.  If I was writing this review uncensored, I would state that it has some very good parts and some very bad parts and while I wouldn’t go into heavy detail I would tell my readers what they have to be aware of if they’re interested in reading this book.  The author has a one page disclaimer about the book, and for a good reason.  The thing is, I almost didn’t want to take a chance on writing an uncensored review because the author’s disclaimer essentially says “This book is graphic, gory, upsetting, politically incorrect, and offensive.  Don’t read if you’re sensitive.”  Eh, I’ve read worse.  The sticking point for me was that also in his disclaimer, he talked about receiving negative reviews for the book and responding to the reviewer.  Granted, the response was probably the most well-handled “Well, I like my writing so whatever” I’ve read in some time.  Still, reviews are not meant to stroke an author’s ego or keep the book high in the ratings (for example, on Amazon where I rented this book as a Kindle Unlimited, keeping the average rating of the book between four and five stars).  When I review a book, I may very well sing its praises.  More often than not, I’m critical of the book.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book, but it means that I’ve read the book, I’ve thought about the book, and finally I want to share both the good and the bad of the book for other readers.  It’s intimidating to read in an author’s disclaimer that they know what content is in their book and if it upsets you, well, you knew what you were getting into.  In the end, I am going to review The Angel of Vengeance (A Glimpse Into Hell) because I have thoughts on the book and I want to share them with my readers.

The Angel of Vengeance takes place in a basement torture chamber, predominantly as a long, extremely graphic conversation between the anti-hero character Seth Coker and a man named “Richard”, “Dicky” for short.  Here’s what you need to know:  The conversation is part conversation between Seth and Dicky and part of a way to flash back to all of Seth’s handiwork, some that is lying around the basement in various locations.  The conversation is broken down into stories that span two to three chapters followed by Seth showing Dicky what the bodies of his corpses look like in the present day.  Seth is one of those characters that you will be conflicted on because he is a vigilante, he is not a good guy, his sanity is probably shot, and yes, he loves torturing people…but he has a sense of justice about it.  Whenever Dicky asks Seth why he enjoys torture, Seth says that he’s doing it to bring justice to the victims of his victims.  The way Seth views the criminal justice system is that it’s broken and doesn’t punish the people that need punishment the most, so he comes in to set things “right”.

I did have a segment of chapters that I completely understood Seth’s sense of justice, twisted as it was.  “The Shattered Reflection of the Crescent Moon” “Human Octopus” and “The Gruesome Torture Device” tell the story of three men that, among other things, tortured and killed fifty-three shelter animals for no reason.  Oddly, the paragraph in “The Shattered Reflection of the Crescent Moon” specifically about the shelter animal torture doesn’t go into the same graphic detail that goes into Seth’s methods of vengeance.  It’s still extremely stomach-turning if you’re an animal lover and you don’t like reading about animal torture.  The thing is that if animal torture makes your blood boil, you probably feel like anyone who tortures animals deserves to be tortured the same way themselves so they know how it feels.  Maybe you even support Seth in these three chapters.  In real life when I have a clear head I would never say “Torture the animal-torturers worse than what they did, but in reading these chapters I felt that primal sense of “Kill!  Kill!  Kill!”

People who have a cause that’s near and dear to their heart will probably have a similar reaction to myself.  If you are anti-elder neglect or you’re anti-violence against women or you’re anti-child abuse, you might also find some segments where you support Seth’s brand of justice.

Although I did have three pet chapters (no pun intended) that I got into, I found myself wondering where Seth believed it was his duty to humanity to right every criminal justice system wrong through torture.  Of course if we believe Seth’s account, it’s that victims of violent acts shouldn’t suffer without getting some kind of peace and since he’s capable of it, that’s his life’s work.  That said, Seth is extreme in handing out justice and sometimes he has no connections to the people’s he’s helping/”helping”.  There’s a plot twist in the final few chapters where readers learn why “Dicky” is Seth’s latest victim and there is minor justification.  I won’t spoil it because it’s worth reading for.  More often than not, it feels a lot like Seth tortures people for the fun of it and uses “I’m correcting injustices” as a way to shield his twisted hobby.  It’s hard for me to get into Seth’s mindset.  I don’t know that anyone can.

After reading The Angel of Vengeance, I had some final thoughts for potential readers.  First, you absolutely need to take the author’s disclaimer seriously.  This is not extreme horror like you’d get from Edward Lee (which I’ve read a few works from and will tell you that the version of extreme horror by Mr. Lee is more ridiculous than thought-provoking and hard to handle).  There is nothing supernatural about this book.  There is not a sense of “This part is gory but you’re supposed to find it laughable” with this book.  There is some very dark humor in this book and if you read the reviews on Amazon, people have appreciated it.  The humor is more about the weird exchanges between Seth and Dicky than, say, slapstick.  Definitely keep in mind that this is not light reading.  Second, if you are a book reviewer, don’t be afraid to write an honest review.  This book challenged me, not because it had large vocabulary words but because enjoying it or appreciating it or being completely turned off was a moral dilemma.  In the end I had to write a review of it and express why I was so challenged by it.

Seaspawn by Edward Parker

I am on a creature horror kick right now.  Although the trend in self-published creature horror seems to be dinosaurs and robot entities (god knows why; they’re kind of blah), I particularly like aquatic horror. The idea that the majority of the ocean hasn’t even been explored and you don’t know what’s living in its deepest darkest depths is already the most terrifying concept I can think of.  What happens when (fictional) people learn the answer to the mystery?  Seaspawn is a speculative fiction horror novel in asking “What if these humanesque creatures overpopulated the ocean and needed to spread out to land?”  I was totally hooked by the synopsis but in the end I am 50/50 on whether I liked how this book played with the idea.

Up front, I’m going to tell you that I hate the way Edward Parker wrote this book.  In the first seven or so chapters, readers are introduced to various characters who are vacationing in St. Meads, a tourist beach community.  The novel opens with a small team of lobster fishers on a boat called The Esmeralda who are slaughtered by a seaspawn they were unfortunate enough to catch.  In the second chapter readers meet the Collins family, who are visiting St. Meads at exactly the wrong time.  A few chapters later the focus is on Keith Evans, a local restaurant owner who had money problems way before the seaspawn and did not need yet another problem to compound his cursed life.  There are other characters as well but I would have to reread the novel to explain their purpose.  As a good reviewer I have a responsibility to provide factual, accurate information, but let’s be honest for a second.  If characters aren’t appealing enough for me to remember, they’re just not important.  The point is that there is no one character that you can follow initially and in the middle and end of the novel when everyone’s paths converge, it’s not particularly important who they are.  Here’s the thing:  I loathe this style of writing and it was a potential deal-breaker for me.  If you are a reader that can follow multiple characters’ storylines and you get into that deal, maybe this won’t be a problem for you.  I just have to warn you because it did not endear me to this book and if there was nothing else redeeming then I would’ve given up.

The redeeming factor is the seaspawn themselves.  An old homeless man named “Mick” refers to them as mermaids, which they are definitely not.  What they are is the fictional creation of author Edward Parker, and they’re pretty creative.  They are humanesque in some ways.  They have all the basic human body parts that allow them to feed, fight, and basically function on land as they would in the water.  They are such a threat because they are semi-immortal; the only thing that can kill them is firebombs dropped on the St. Meads’ community.  I would assume that the idea Parker is playing with is that of the “four elements”, water is more powerful than everything but fire.  Anyway, when these seaspawn come out of the ocean for new land, they are dead-set on making it theirs.  They aren’t scared of humans even though they’re not familiar with humans and being physically attacked by their human victims/prey doesn’t phase them at all.  I like reading about creatures that are bloodthirsty and emotionless.  Parker could’ve easily written a novel where some of the seaspawn become pets of the tourists and break from their animalistic instincts, but instead he writes them to be all about the food and generally unpleasant little things.  I enjoyed reading about these creatures and I’m disappointed that they weren’t featured in a better-written novel.

There was one other thing I genuinely liked about this novel, but I’m cautious to explain what it is because it’s the “end” of the novel and it would be a huge spoiler. I’ll leave you with this: Consider that these creatures are called seaspawn. What does the word “spawn” suggest to you?

I’m going to avoid giving an official recommendation because I realize that the things I disliked about this novel are liked by other readers. There’s nothing horribly wrong with this novel from a storytelling perspective (as in, everything is justified and Parker leaves no loose ends) and there were no obvious grammar or spelling errors that I picked up on. I would just recommend that if you purchase this novel, be sure to read other reviews so that you know what to expect in advance. Finally, I want to add that I am not turned off from this author. Edward Parker has written other novels that sound interesting and I’d be willing to give them a chance. He has excellent concepts in his novels, so I’d like to give him a fair chance to impress me with other works.

Clown by Matt Shaw

 

Did you know that I wasn’t terrified of clowns until I realized so many people were? To make a long story short, they made such convincing points of why everyone should fear clowns that I began to fear them as well. I mean, who in their right mind would wear globs of ridiculously tacky make-up and a much-too-large painted-on smile? Well, besides 95% of the girls I knew in high school, that is. Anyway, since then I am happily anti-clown.  Well, not exactly. Because I don’t like clowns, I automatically think of them as villains. As a literature girl I believe there should always be a good villain and why not make the villain a clown? Enter the novella Clown by Matt Shaw.

This man is a clown and he loves it. He loves making children laugh when he performs at their birthday parties and he even said he’s not in the profession strictly for the money. The conflict: Some kids are too mature for clowns, as revealed when a birthday he was hired for fell through for him.  He was the type of person who was so even-tempered he didn’t even realize the cancellation-with-no-phone-call hurt him until at least five minutes (probably even longer, although no time frame was given) after finding out.  The even larger conflict:  This man probably has DID/Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) and his second personality is a serial killer.  The novel is told from the perspective of the man and the perspective of his second personality interchangeably and it can get confusing to know who’s talking.  Overall, the best way to know is that the man is a non-violent, good-hearted, but unfortunate character and his second personality is foul-mouthed and only interacts with people if it benefits him.  In the end, the second personality gets so strong it overpowers the man and only one personality can “win”.  I won’t spoil the ending because it’s interesting enough for everyone to read for themselves, but let’s just say that I was surprised.

I had a few small problems with this novella but I also liked it.  Before I go into my reasons, I want to put it out there that Matt Shaw is a hit-or-miss author for me.  Some of his novellas have a compelling villain but there’s no character that emerges as the hero or that you can root for.  If you’re like me and like the traditional good vs. evil angle, Matt Shaw may not always deliver for you.  This one is similar where in fact there aren’t many supporting characters outside of the man and his second personality, but you can cheer for the man because he’s likable.  Furthermore, I appreciated that when this novella was advertised on the cover as psychological horror, it was exactly that.  I’m just thinking that with an author like Matt Shaw, it’s not a case of “I love everything he’s ever written!” or “Oh my god, this guy thinks he’s a writer?”  Clown was particularly interesting, but I felt like based on other novellas I read from him, it’s an outlier.

Now let’s get into the meat of this novella (no pun intended).  There were qualities that deeply bothered me and I definitely need to share them with all of you before offering the redeeming aspects.  You don’t have to answer this question if you don’t want to, but before reading Clown, ask yourself if you can read about poorly portrayed mental illness without being offended.  It is the psychological angle that kept me reading but I also felt like there are unfortunate implications with the way DID was portrayed.  I’m not an expert, but I know that there are different types of DID.  The man had an extreme version where not only was his second personality a serial killer, but he was out-of-the-loop with actions “he” committed when the second personality came out.  For example, the second personality revealed that after he killed children, he organized their corpses in the basement and painted a particularly graphic image of each one.  The man didn’t even know what happened when the second personality took over even though the secondary personality “talked” to him about what he was doing.  From what I’ve read about DID, it’s either that you know about all your personalities and they know about you or you make sudden changes and don’t remember anything from one personality to the next.  It’s not like the way Matt Shaw portrayed it in the novella.  In addition to this, I feel uncomfortable calling this an evil clown novella because it’s a little more complicated than that, but the synopsis doesn’t pay it justice.  There is an evil clown, but it isn’t the man except when he’s controlled by the second personality.  I also give a loud “Boo!” to Matt Shaw for making it sound like the second personality was a physical entity walking beside the man wherever he went.  It didn’t add to the drama of the novella; in fact, it made the novella more confusing than it had to be.

My final thoughts about Matt Shaw’s Clown is that if you can get it “free” on your Kindle Unlimited, do that before you purchase it.  I like it in spite of its (major) flaws, but I’m sure there are going to be people who are immediately turned off for some reason or other.  It is worth a read according to me, but like any book that I’ve enjoyed in some sense, I advise you all to exercise your own judgment.

When we move away from the portrayal of DID, there are some seriously redeeming qualities of the novella.  As I said in a previous paragraph, the man was a likable character.  When readers were meant to feel sorry for him, they could because he was put in unpleasant situations and made honest attempts to put aside his “Poor me, poor me” sentiment.  When the secondary personality overruled him, you could still separate that personality from the man.  The villain of the novel that you were supposed to hate was always the second personality, not the man.  Furthermore, I know this isn’t part of the plot or characters in the novella, but the writing style was readable and had a decent flow.  I know it seems like a weird thing to compliment an author/novella on, but this was a self-published novella and, uh, there are things about self-published novellas.  Mainly that they are assumed to be of poor  writing quality.  I could definitely think of changes that would make Clown better than it is, but there weren’t major spelling, grammar, or formatting errors.

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