B&D is no more!

I've joined the dark side! [aka my wife's blog]

To continue reading my reviews, please visit

Bending the Spine

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Scott Pilgrim Series by Bryan Lee O’Malley

*blurbs about all the books are at the end of the review*

I have loved Scott Pilgrim since I saw the movie.  At the time, I had no idea that this was a series of graphic novels.  My wife informed me of this.  Recently, she went to our public library and saw they had the entire series available, and checked them out for me.

I enjoyed reading these books so much!  I love that there was an almost literal translation from book to movie.  I knew what to expect going in.  The books and the movie take different roads, and though there was some major awesome in the movie, the books are full of more awesome!  I read all these books within a few days.  The artistry, use of videogame themes, all of it makes the Scott Pilgrim series so much fun!  If you watched the movie, but haven’t read the graphic novels, DO IT!

5 Trees: Scott Pilgrim is infinite greatness!

Get to reading,


Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle? The short answer is yes. The long answer is Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

Does Scott and Ramona's burgeoning relationship have a future? Isn't Scott still supposedly dating Knives Chau? Who is Ramona's second evil ex-boyfriend, and why is he in Toronto? Who are The Clash At Demonhead, and what kind of bizarre art-punky music do they play? Who's their hot girl keyboardist, and what is Scott's relation to her? Why are they Knives Chau's new favourite band? Fights! Drama! Secrets revealed! The answers to all these questions and more!

Ramona's third evil ex-boyfriend, Todd Ingram, is currently dating the former love of Scott Pilgrim's life! Envy Adams broke Scott's heart a year and a half ago. Now she and her evil art-rock band are back, and they're getting Scott's band to open a show two days from now! That's just enough time for Scott to fight Todd, keep Ramona happy, fend off demented ex-girlfriends, and practice that new setlist. Right?? Don't miss the latest chapter in the graphic novel saga The Globe and Mail calls "Canada's answer to Tank Girl!"

That's right, folks! Put down the video game controller! Skip that rehearsal for your band! Make whatever sacrifices you must to those comic gods you hold so dear! Just make sure you're ready because Bryan Lee O'Malley and Scott Pilgrim are back! Well, a couple months have passed since the last time we caught up with our intrepid hero, but what can change in a few short months? Well, not much has... Scott's still living with his roommate Wallace Wells. He's still playing in a mediocre rock band named Sex Bob-omb. And most importantly, he's still dating the lovely Ramona Flowers while working his way through the gaggle of superpowered, superstylish, superevil ex-boyfriends determined to take him down. But something is different. Don't look now, but Scott Pilgrim may actually be getting it together. And it's a good thing, too, because Scott is about to confront Ramona's most intimidating ex yet!

Scott Pilgrim just turned 24, and things couldn't possibly be better! This means things are about to get infinitely worse! Suddenly, TWO of Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends are in town, and they're playing dirty. His band is in turmoil, and his own exes aren't making things any easier. And what's up with Ramona, anyway? She's been acting kinda weird ever since they moved in together! Scott's precious little life is coming back around to bite him in the butt, and it may not be pretty!

It's finally here! Six years and almost one-thousand pages have all led to this epic finale! With six of Ramona's seven evil exes dispatched, it should be time for Scott Pilgrim to face Gideon Graves, the biggest and baddest of her former beaus. But didn't Ramona take off at the end of Book 5? Shouldn't that let Scott off the hook? Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn't, but one thing is for certain - all of this has been building to Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: While I’m Still Myself by Jeremy Mark Lane



A passionate December love affair.
The meeting of an unexpected traveler.
The consequences of protecting a young new acquaintance.
A journey into an unknown past.

In the stories of While I’m Still Myself, Jeremy Lane eloquently describes the life changing impact of the brief encounter, showing that life and love are not shaped by an entire lifetime, but by the fleeting moments with unexpected people in unexpected places.

Paperback, 125 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Tate Publishing
ISBN: 9781617779



You know those books where everything that happens is very dramatic and very tragic?  This is one of those books.  And I wasn’t expecting that.  From the cover to the synopsis, I had the impression that this was going to be a truly uplifting, even happy, book of short stories.  Instead, what I received was the dark, depressing side of life, the parts of people’s lives that are character building, but I was left without the growth that results from these experiences.
I desperately wanted something good to happen…to anyone.
I enjoyed reading While I’m Still Myself.  I appreciated the theme of the short stories, of wanting to be able to deal with whatever was happening while you’re still in your right mind, still able to think rationally.  It was a premise that carried through clearly and effectively.  I liked that there were different perspectives, different eras, different places in life.
I liked that Lane grabbed my attention with each and every story in the book.  I like that I needed to read the next page, the next sentence, the next word.  I liked that his stories were kept short, that he didn’t drag them out into novella length (doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being a “short” story if they are the length of a small book?…but I digress).
I’m not the kind of reader who always expects a happy ending.  But While I’m Still Myself would have been practically perfect in every way had there been at least one thing happy take place.
3 Trees: Well developed and interesting.
Get to reading,

*This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

About the author

imageJeremy Lane is a writer living in North Texas with his wife and three children.

Jeremy’s first collection of short stories, entitled “Here and Gone”, was published in 2010 by Ether Books, a digital publisher located in the UK.
A collection entitled, “While I’m Still Myself” will be published in paperback by Tate Publishing early in 2012.

His work has also been featured in many literary sites and journals, including MUSCADINE LINES: A SOUTHERN JOURNAL.

A work of serial fiction, entitled “City On A Hill”, is being published by Ether Books throughout 2011


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Phantom Evil by Heather Graham



A secret government unit is formed under the oversight of Adam Harrison, famed paranormal investigator. The six members he's gathered know a little of the otherworldly—each has honed a psychic talent of their own.
Jackson Crow, part English, part Cheyenne, heads the group. Haunted by his experience with an ancestral ghost who saved his life as a child, and the recent murders of two previous teammates, Jackson can't tell if Adam's demoted him or given him an extraordinary opportunity. Despite his link to the realm of spirits, he's well aware that the living commit the most heinous crimes, with spiritualist charlatans existing merely to fool and seduce the unwary.
To counterbalance Jackson's careful skepticism, Adam Harrison has paired him with Angela Hawkins, a young woman who learned the painful lesson of loss at an early age. A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition in Virginia, she already has her hands full. But Adam's call to New Orleans is strong.
The case: In a historic mansion in New Orleans's French Quarter, a senator's wife falls to her death from a balcony. Most think she jumped, distraught over the loss of her young son. Some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits that inhabit the house—once the site of a serial killer's grisly work.
Whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion, greed and desire will cast the pair into danger of losing their lives…and their immortal souls.
Audio CD
Published March 29th 2011 by Brilliance Audio on MP3-CD Lib Ed (first published March 14th 2011)
ISBN: 144189621X (ISBN13: 9781441896216)
series: Krewe of Hunters #1


This is the first of Graham’s novels that I’ve tried [EDIT: WRONG!  This is the second Graham novel I've read.  *face-palms*].  I liked it, for the most part.  I liked that it was a paranormal-crime novel.  That there were the usual and unusual suspects.  I liked that you never knew what was coming next, and that it was ever so slightly predictable.  I liked the Krewe of Hunters—they were all unique, had their own voice, and added something extra to the story.  I liked how unique Phantom Evil was.

I liked that I didn’t figure out who dunnit.

Now, on to what I didn’t like…
  • We got off to a very choppy start.  I felt like I was starting the second book in a series without having read the first one.  I actually double-checked to make sure that Phantom Evil was the first!  Felt that there was major character development that happened elsewhere, and I was trying to catch up to get with the program.  Graham did answer a lot of the questions as you progressed through the story, but some of it I would have liked up front.

  • Jackson’s skepticism is very tiring.  I just wanted him to be like, “OK, so maybe there is a possibility of something otherworldly.  Now prove it to me.”  Which at one point he was, but geez, he really just got on my nerves!  His character was comical at times and felt hard to relate to.

  • There were two VERY graphic sex scenes.  I fast-forwarded through the second because I couldn’t handle another one.  They were gratuitous and unnecessary to the plot.  They were sex-for-the-sake-of-sex, and I didn’t appreciate it. 

More of what I did like…

New Orleans as a setting is pretty great for this book.  There’s the whole voodoo/mysticism that is inherent in New Orleans that makes this story seem very possible.  Graham was very light on the details, giving just enough to set the place without talking about the grain on the hardwood floors.  If you catch my drift.  I got confused as times about the actual footprint of the house, where all the rooms were, etc.  It was a big house, so I can understand why I got a little lost.

Overall, this is a great read, I highly recommend it. [and it’s my first completed read of 2012!  Woot woot!]

4 Trees: Delightfully evil!

Get to reading,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

Your Heart Belongs to MeDetails:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense comes a riveting thriller that probes the deepest terrors of the human psyche—and the ineffable mystery of what truly makes us who we are. Here an innocent man finds himself fighting for his very existence in a battle that starts with the most frightening words of all…

At thirty-four, Internet entrepreneur Ryan Perry seemed to have the world in his pocket—until the first troubling symptoms appeared out of nowhere. Within days, he’s diagnosed with incurable cardiomyopathy and finds himself on the waiting list for a heart transplant; it’s his only hope, and it’s dwindling fast. Ryan is about to lose it all…his health, his girlfriend, Samantha, and his life.

One year later, Ryan has never felt better. Business is good and there’s even a chance of getting Samantha back in his life. Then the unmarked gifts begin to arrive in the mail—a heart pendant, a box of Valentine candy hearts. And, most disturbing of all, a graphic heart surgery video accompanied by a chilling message: Your heart belongs to me.In a heartbeat, the medical miracle that gave Ryan a second chance at life is about to become a curse worse than death. For Ryan is being stalked by a mysterious woman who feels entitled to everything he has. She’s the spitting image of the twenty-eight-year-old donor of the heart beating steadily in Ryan’s own chest.

And she’s come to take it back.

Audio CD
Published November 25th 2008 by Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 142335690X (ISBN13: 9781423356905)


*This review most likely contains spoilers*

I have read and reviewed a couple other Koontz books, and so far, he’s either hit or miss with me.  Your Heart Belongs to Me has definitely left me on the fence of whether this is a hit or a miss.

Adam is a self-made, rich, and famous.  But most of all, he’s likeable and relatable.  You could instantly be his friend.  He’s obsessive, working hours on end on the same project without stopping.  This obsessiveness brings about a downfall of sorts. 

He is diagnosed with a heart defect, and needs a transplant.  One doctor mentions in passing that poisoning could cause the same defect, but is very unlikely.  Well, being the obsessive person that he is, Adam spends a small fortune on trying to find out who poisoned him and why.  Which leads to a dead end—no one is!  Which is frustrating that Koontz spends more than half the book on this train of thought.  As a reader, if you read the description you know that’s not the case, but still. 

Adam goes all Tale Tale Heart obsessive—every little knock or creak makes him think someone is out to get him.  I appreciate the Hawthornian bend to this novel.  As a fan of Hawthorn, I was impressed how easily those themes fit in here.  Koontz even creates a character who is a major Hawthorn fan!

It gets a little crazy at times, and there’s a lot of questions that aren’t answered, and then there’s the whole scene at his dad’s house with Lily’s sister and the end of the scene is just…unbelievable.

And the ending is really, very sappy.  Who needs redemption when there’s no closure?  What about all the questions I need answers to?  Apparently, we’re not getting any answers since the book ends and this is not a series.  AND I NEED ANSWERS!

I was riveted at times, and liked major chunks of the plot, but not the whole of it.

2 Trees: Take it or leave, my hear doesn’t belong to this one

Get to reading,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: The Society of Dirty Hearts by Ben Cheetham



(Warning: if cozy mysteries are your thing, this book isn't for you. There are scenes of sexual violence. All necessary to the plot, but not necessarily to everyone's taste)

In a small town where nothing much happens, teenage girls are going missing with alarming regularity. Some turn up dead. Others don't turn up at all. The police attribute the deaths to suicide and drug use. Julian Harris, a young man haunted by nightmares about the girls, believes there's something more sinister at work.

When Julian stumbles across the body of one of the girls, he determines to find out the truth. A decision that leads him to a seedy underworld of drugs, prostitution, blackmail and murder headed by a man who seems to have stepped straight out of his nightmares.

The Society of Dirty Hearts is a full-length (78000 words) mystery novel that explores twisted psychological depths full of dark secrets and darker desires.
Published July 22nd 2011


I have been “writing” this review for a couple days.  This book has been hard to wrap my mind around.  This was an awesome book.  I’ve even recommended it to people already.  I just couldn’t figure out how to review it.
To say I really enjoyed this book doesn’t seen quite strong enough, but to say I loved it seems awkward since this book is so dark.  It’s so well crafted, so gritty and real, so…I just can’t find the right words.
The characters are three-dimensional.  They’re genuine.  You relate to them.  Even though they were completely opposite from me, and I’ve never been through anything like them.  But you felt for them, wanted them to succeed, to survive, to excel.  Through all the drugging and alcoholing and violence and sex, you still rooting for them!
But I was always a little wary of Julian.  I just couldn’t ever figure out what was going on with him.  And that was a unique aspect of this book, that you wanted to give-in and trust Julian completely, but there was always a reason to hold back, always something there that just wasn’t right about him.
Cheetham ensnared me in the web of his inescapable story.  I felt like a junkie needing a fix—I had to know what was happening next and couldn’t get enough of this book.  If I could have mainlined this book, I would have.  Then my supply ran out.
I used up all the words in The Society of Dirty Hearts, flipped all the pages.  I’ve been going through withdrawal.  Cheetham ends then book, but leaves so many questions unanswered, so many blanks left empty.
And I needed a fix, so I emailed Ben a Totally Impromptu Interview.

The Totally Impromptu Interview:


Is there a sequel in the works? I NEED MORE!

I love writing crime fiction with a dark, almost Gothic mood, but it doesn't seem to sell as well as more conventional crime thrillers. My novel Blood Guilt outsells The Society Of Dirty Hearts by roughly 10:1, so simple economics dictates I write a follow-up to it first.

Will we ever find out if Julian has psychic abilities?

Julian's psychic abilities remain ambiguous throughout the novel for several reasons. Firstly because I wanted to write a Lynchian psychological horror rather than a paranormal thriller. More importantly, though, if I made it clear that Julian has psychic abilities he'd be a far less complex character. I didn't want him to be someone readers feel comfortable with, I wanted to challenge them to identify with a character who, if he isn't a psychic, has something seriously nasty going on in his subconscious.

What's next for you?

Hopefully, what's next is a sequel to Blood Guilt. The novel is still in an embryonic stage, so I don't want to say too much about it.

So there you have it, folks.  This Cheetham-junkie will have to find other ways to get his fix.

5 Trees: Addictive and unnerving!


Go buy this book…


Get to reading,

*This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

About the author:

Ben Cheetham is an award-winning writer and Pushcart Prize nominee. His writing spans the genres, from horror and sci-fi to literary fiction, but he has a passion for dark, gritty crime fiction. His short stories have been published in Swill Magazine, The Fiction Desk, Deadcore (Comet Press), The London Magazine, The Willisden Herald New Short Stories 3, The Grist Anthology of New Writing, Dream Catcher, Staple, Fast Forward: A Collection of Flash Fiction, Voice From The Planet (Harvard Square Editions), The Momaya Annual Review, Transmission, The Chaffey Review, and numerous other magazines.

Ben lives in Sheffield, UK, where - when he's not chasing around after his two-year old son - he spends most of his time locked away in his study racking his brain for the next paragraph, the next sentence, the next word. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Early Review: Vamplayers by Rusty Fischer



At the Afterlife Academy of Exceptionally Dark Arts, Lily Fielding is a measly trainee who dreams of one day becoming a Savior—those who visit vampire-infested high schools and put down the undead with their deadly crossbows. When Lily and her classmates Alice and Cara begin their latest assignment, it seems like just another run-of-the-mill gig: they’re to simply spot the Vamplayer—part vampire, part player—identify the popular girl he’s set his sights on, and befriend her before the Vamplayer can turn her to do his bidding. Before long, however, the Vamplayer sets his sights on Lily's friends, and she is left to face the threat alone while protecting her friends from the dark forces she has sworn to resist.

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: February 1st 2012 by Medallion Press
ISBN: 1605424498 (ISBN13: 9781605424491)


I am a huge fan of Rusty Fischer!  I think that I might be his biggest fan.  Seriously, I cannot read enough of his books!
Vamplayers is a fun, interesting, new take on the vampire trend that is rocking the YA lit department.  I love this idea, that there are players whose only goal is to seduce, turn, and wreak havoc on a high school and community.
So, we’ve got the Sisters: Alice, Cara, & Lily.  They’re, you know, not teenagers, but expertly-trained vampire secret ops agents whose purpose is to seek out the vamplayer.  They have a rank, Lily (our heroine) is Third Sister.  She really has no pull, no authority.  She’s the nobody of the group.  Her history is epic.  Sad, but epic.  And I loved Lily for the most part.  She’s a little of a ditz.  Ok, so maybe a lot of a ditz.  She doesn’t connect the dots.  Even I connected the dots.  So, I got a little frustrated with her.  I wanted to slap her a few times, but she is mostly made of awesome.
I loved Zander and Grover.  By far the best supporting cast and comedic relief I’ve seen in awhile!  They are geeks, outcasts, and scholarship kids at this exclusive school.  They’re pretty much nobodies, too.  And they are made of awesome.
I love the ending!  I didn’t see that coming!  I expected something quite the opposite and love this book all the more for it!  And I’m not going to spoil it for you!

Vamplayers is action packed, full of awesome, and a very very fun read!  So, on February 1, BUY THIS BOOK!
Get to reading,
*This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

About the Author:

Rusty Fischer is the author of several YA supernatural novels, including Zombies Don't Cry, Ushers, Inc., Becca Bloom & the Drumsticks of Doom and Panty Raid @ Zombie High.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best of 2011: A Year of Reads in Review

It’s a very interesting thing to examine what the previous year has brought.  As I write this, 2011 is not quite finished (a couple days left!) and as I seem to do, I feel as though I haven’t accomplished quite all I wanted to.  However, I did get to read some pretty awesome books!

I’ll break the list down in two ways, as you’ll see below, to keep things a little more organized.  Because I like lists.  And they help me organize.  And I’m obsessive-compulsive like that.

Best of 2011 Releases

(in no particular order)


Best of The Rest

(Books read in 2011 I thought were awesome! …in no particular order)  Some covers link to my review, others to their Goodreads pages since I read them before starting my blog.

So, there’s a little taste of what I enjoyed this past year.  What were some of your favorites?  If you did a similar post, leave me a link in the comments so I can check it out!

Here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous, and bookish new year!


Get to reading,

If you want to see all of what I’ve read, check out my READ SHELF on Goodreads.