Sunday, April 27, 2014

Beneath the Mask of Sanity by Mark Phillips (Rec)

Beneath the Mask of Sanity
By: Mark Phillips

·  Print Length: 288 pages
·  Publisher: N/A
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,401 Paid in Kindle Store
·  Goodreads Rating: 4.5/5 stars out of 4ratings and 3 reviews


Bentley Grimes is a killer not content with just taking a victim's life, he also wants to experience emotions. When he kills George Braddock, Bentley infiltrates the Braddock household by befriending his victim's oldest daughter, Katie. He witnesses their misery searching for that indefinable trait that makes him different from the rest of the world.

Frank Miles is a detective with his own demons, and his own obsession, catching George Braddock's murderer. The three, Katie, Frank and Bentley are all on a collision course for each other, none of them knowing the secrets that each hides in their souls.

Reoccurring Statements between 9 Amazon Reviewers:
5 reviewers made a similar statement
1 reviewer made a similar statement
2 reviewers made a similar statement

(*All Amazon/Goodreads stats are accurate as of the date of this post)

 Check it out for yourself or see what reviewers have said at Amazon and Goodreads.

Thank you for considering this obscure book as a future read and feel free to leave comments if you would like to discuss this novel more!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Housemates by Iain Rob Wright (Review)

The Housemates
By: Iain Rob Wright

·  Print Length: 234 pages
·  Publisher: SalGad Publishing Group; 1st edition (December 8, 2013)
·  Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,847 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store), #94 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Suspense > Horror
·  Goodreads Rating: 3.92/5 stars out of 198 ratings and 40 reviews


TEN DAYS, TWELVE COMPETITORS, TWO MILLION POUNDS CASH. What at first appears to be a wonderful opportunity for Damien Banks turns out to be the worst nightmare he can imagine.

Trapped inside a house with eleven strangers, and a booming voice known only as 'The Landlord' controlling his every move, Damien will be forced to compete not only for the money, but for his life.


Reoccurring Statements between 113 Amazon Reviewers:

25 reviewers made a similar statement
16 reviewers made a similar statement
10 reviewers made a similar statement

(*All Amazon/Goodreads stats are accurate as of the date of this post)

My Raw Status Update Reactions:

  • ·         14% - “Befitting the reality television premise there is a parade of stereotypical characters and other trappings that would make me not want to sign up for one of these things. Aside from the fact it's tots shady and red flags are popping up that nobody's leaving this house in the same condition they entered....” 
  • ·         22% - “Okay - so now that the worm has turned towards the unseemly premise the stereotypical housemates are utterly plausible and I'm eager to learn the backstory on the seemingly normal/respectable characters. Fingers crossed it's a bit Agatha Christie.”
  • ·         28% - “This book is doing an excellent job of building suspense while keeping me guessing. Also WTF, people have some vendettas here that are SO petty!”
  • ·         71% - “Okay called one twist cold but the other was a no-go.”

My Unspoiled Review:

Some other reviewers have likened the premise of THE HOUSEMATES to SAW meets BIG BROTHER but I would add-on that there’s a little Agatha Christi’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE mixed in (no spoilers, just a reference). 

The book delivers on desperation and gore while a group of strangers face their dwindling chances for survival.  The hollow personas of the roommates match those you would expect to appear on reality television, making them seem less the cliché, but are further justified when the true nature of the book seeps into the open.  The characters without POVs distinguished themselves convincingly and even proved memorable in certain respects, which is vital when the reader’s keeping track of eleven characters they’ll need to care about.

The protagonist was unbelievably decent, as in I had trouble suspending disbelief that he should be that decent.  It felt like one of those cases of “having your cake and eating it too” where he’s supposed to have this everyman/last sane man/upstanding citizen vibe but is also a reformed bad boy can summon his dark, checkered past when it comes to posturing but not in life-or-death scenarios.  That contraction made in his behavior – especially given his dire situation – did not humanize the premise but detract from it in ways that felt contrived and insincere. 

The ending – without giving spoilers – was implausible and offered no surprises.  Fortunately, it’s always rushed so about 95% of the book is suspenseful and even startling at times.  I won’t go so far as to say the ending “ruined” the book for me.  Truly, I didn’t.  Despite being underwhelmed by the mad-dash wrap-up I was having a good time throughout novel and couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

I give Wright the credit of being an effective storyteller who gets mileages from a premise some might have tired of and managing a few thrills along the way.  His continuity editing; however, was sloppy.  I noticed several instances of him miscounting contestants (such as the tally of votes against contestants or seven contestants are remaining but citing six have been eliminated), which felt like a lazy oversight considering how instrumental these figures are to the stories suspense/character fates and makes me wonder if Wright had written a previous draft where these numbers were accurate but didn’t double-check after rewrites. 

Again, it was only few instances and – beyond that – the proofreading was fine.

Although I realize it sounds like I’m complaining a lot about this book and trying to talk people out of it I would recommend THE HOUSEMATES to readers who can handle violence and like a story that keeps you turning pages.  There are a myriad of things I could praise about the story but doing so would ultimately spoil its gruesome charm and nasty tricks.  It’s a decent, fast read despite its kinks and die-hards of such plots or part-time horror fans might genuinely be impressed.  

 Check it out for yourself or see what other reviewers have said at Amazon and Goodreads.

Thank you for considering this obscure book as a future read and feel free to leave comments if you would like to discuss this novel more!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The four/5/XX - A Libra Obscura Author Exposé

The four/5/XX 
four different authors/5 identical questions/XX unique answers

> Greetings Obscure readers and welcome to our debut of The four/5/XX where we will be featuring authors on the fringes of fiction who have opinions to share and stories to tell.  My sincerest thanks to those contributing this week's expose who are members of my Goodread's group, Fringe Fiction.

> Mark Phillips, Author of Beneath the Mask of Sanity
> Gregor Xane, Author of Six Dead Spots
> Lexi Dare, Author of The Girl with Wings
> H. Anne Henry, Author of Once Broken


1. What genre does your story fall most into?

 > Mark - My novel, Beneath the Mask of Sanity, is a thriller. There are elements of suspense in the book as well, but, on the whole, I would have to classify it as a thriller.

> Gregor - Six Dead Spots is a novella and it fits in the horror genre, somewhere between supernatural and psychological horror.

> Lexi - My novel, The Girl with Wings falls into the genre of erotic fantasy. The story is of a girl who wakes up the morning after her 21st birthday with fairy or butterfly wings. Of course the questions that arise are why and what is she and these questions will be answered over the course of the series. Currently there are five books published.

> H. Anne - Urban fantasy. Once Broken introduces the fictional town of Dove Creek, Texas and the troubles they face because of a supernatural crossroads located nearby. There’s a great deal of the paranormal featured in the story and while there’s also a good bit of romance, it’s secondary to the action and conflict.

2. What trend have you noticed in the genre you write for and how does your story embrace or stand apart from that?

 > Mark - Most of the trends I see in the thriller genre put ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. The amateur detectives: hairdresser, writer, bookstore employee, etc... There is also an element of the supernatural that has arisen in the genre. Vampire detectives, psychic detectives, and the like, proliferate the genre.

Beneath the Mask of Sanity is in part a throwback to some of the older conventions of thrillers. It is focused on a serial killer and is told from his point of view. However, it differs in much of the genre in that it focuses on the psychological aspects of not only sociopathic killers, but of all human beings. Many issues are explored in the book, not the least of which is the prevalence of violence in the media.

> Gregor - The obvious, long-standing, trend in horror is the book centered on monsters with brand recognition. There are built-in audiences for vampire, werewolf, Cthulhu and, of course, zombie stories. I'm certainly not above writing a story featuring any of these creatures, and I don't believe authors are solely writing books about these old standbys for cynical purposes of marketing. I'd say most writers are motivated to dig up these monsters out of genuine affection and nostalgia. When I eventually get around to writing my own werewolf and vampire stories (or whatever) it will be because I grew up on these beasts and want to add something to the collective of works about them. I just haven't settled on the right stories yet.

Now, Six Dead Spots does in fact feature a baddie or two readers will recognize from popular folklore, but it does so in a rather oblique way, and to call attention to these monsters I've drawn upon would be rather misleading from a marketing standpoint.

> Lexi - In the erotica market, the sex with ‘other’ craze is alive and well. This covers everything from your standard vampires, werewolves, and zombies to all creatures mythological or alien.

While The Girl with Wings falls under that category, I think it stands apart as while Tianna, the lead character is ‘other’ she was raised human and so her mores are human and I think my readers can relate to that. Over time these mores change but I think that more character development than true alienation.

> H. Anne - There’s a tendency to have strong female leads in the urban fantasy genre, and Once Broken doesn’t deviate from that. This is one trend that I didn’t buck, especially because it’s something that I enjoy as a reader and as a writer. There’s a fine line to toe between the heroine being tough and capable, and still retaining the qualities that make her, well, womanly. It’s a challenge and a joy to write such a character.

In Once Broken, the strength doesn’t end with the main character. Not only is the lead, Remi, a demon-killing machine, but all of the women in the series are strong in their own, individual way. They have to be – Dove Creek is a dangerous place. None of the ladies in Once Broken are eclipsed by their male counterparts even though they all work together toward a common goal.

3. What cliché is your least favorite in the genre you write for and how does your story avoid that?

 > Mark - My least favorite cliché in the thriller genre is the battle of good vs. evil. The idea of the antagonist as the pure embodiment of evil and the protagonist as a paragon of all that is good and right with the world has become tiresome and too far removed from reality.

My book differs from this in that everyone is flawed, but everyone also has virtue. The protagonist is not a perfect man, indeed there are many elements of his past and present that might make readers hesitant to trust his judgment. Bentley Grimes, the antagonist, is a serial killer, but his rationality is excellent. His justification for murder will, obviously, fall on deaf ears, but his observations about the nature of our own fragile psyches hits very close to home and is persuasive.

> Gregor - I'm not a fan of horror stories where the fractured nuclear family unit is ultimately brought together and healed by the harrowing ordeals they must overcome throughout the narrative. I think this is partly why I find The Shining to be such a successful horror novel.

I'd say that Six Dead Spots avoids this cliché in that the protagonist's family unit is basically dead before the events of the story even begin. The distance often felt in the modern family is on display, where the demands of the day-to-day prevent us from really taking notice, where support is merely obligatory, and, almost by necessity, superficial.

> Lexi - Oh, that’s a hard one as there are quite a few but I guess if I had to choose it would be lack of back story. Alternatively, a reason for the what. Sure, the backbone of erotica is sex but I know when I’m reading it I want to know why these people are together and uncontrollable lust is a little thin to me.

In The Girl with Wings series, there is a reason for why these people are having sex and it’s more than just to have a good time. I can’t really go into more without giving the story a way but the bottom line is there is a reason for the what.

> H. Anne - The super-sarcastic heroine. I have absolutely nothing against sarcasm – it’s my favorite type of humor, and it usually fits in the urban fantasy setting – but it does become tiresome when that’s the main means of communication for a character. Being a tough chick does not have to equate to being edgy and facetious every second of the day.

While Remi does pop off with a sarcastic statement here and there, it’s not her style to have a quippy comeback for everything said to her. Interactions between characters in Once Broken are more direct and genuine, even when the characters are trying to protect or hide their own feelings. There are some tongue-in-cheek moments but for the most part, they communicate like everyday people.

4. What can readers expect from you and your stories?

 > Mark - Fun. That's the important thing. It's gotta be fun. If I'm not having fun writing it, then I know you're not going to have any fun reading it. I'm all for books that make you think and challenged you (and I think Beneath the Mask of Sanity does) but I'm not writing text books here. I'm writing exciting fiction that I hope will take you away from your world for a little while and put you in mine.

> Gregor - Well, based on my answers so far, people are bound to expect some pretty bleak stories. But, really, there is a fair amount of dark humor mixed in. I also aim for a fast-paced read with plenty of off-beat imagery and ideas to keep things interesting. And I do my very best to cut out all the boring parts.

> Lexi - Readers can expect my stories to be well written with plenty of sex but also a nice story to give that sex context. My stories are not just a series of sex scenes connected by the thinnest story line I can get away with. I like to believe if the sex in my books was reduced or even eliminated, the story would stand on its own.

> H. Anne - Besides heroines that kick asses and take names? Plenty of action and a quick pace with enough romance to spice it up. I aim to write books that I would want to read, with the hope others will want to read them, too.

5. Who is an author you consider an influence for your writing and what is your favorite quote by them?

 > Mark - Stephen King - "It is the tale, not he who tells it."

> Gregor - Clive Barker -“Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work.”

> Lexi - Ella Dominguez –“I hardly know her. It all comes back to the paintings. Her amazing and beautiful talent. Her sincerity. Her kindness. Her feistiness. Her ability to be in my head at all times. Her ability to pull me out of myself and make me see things like I’ve never seen them before.”

> H. Anne - George R. R. Martin – “We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.  They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to Middle Earth.”


Thanks for reading Libra Obscura's first The four/5/XX.  If you were amused or intrigued by any of the authors' responses please consider their books as a future read through the links provided and help them transition from obscurity.