Sharp Ends

Turn away now if you’re squeamish, read a different article if you have a weak stomach. For this In My Opinion review I’ll be talking about another gruesome, dark creation of Joe Abercrombie, Sharp Ends

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Joe Abercombie sprang onto the dark fantasy scene with his First Law Trilogy, which was so widely received that it turned into the First Law Series. That series, which capped at 6 books, was so voraciously accepted by fans that he’s now extending the series and has written this delightful anthology to accommodate his readers. In the beginning of this book he thanks fellow authors for pushing (and paying) him to create more tales within his universe.

Abercrombie uses these short stories to fill in the gaps his epic novels may have missed. They flesh out some aspects of the world that have not been visited before, and they answer some of the fan’s burning questions. Some stories follow beloved characters that readers have grown to know and love, others introduce new characters who are world-changers in their own respective corners, and still others are one time protagonists, here for one mere story and never spoken of again. A large portion of this book relied on nostalgia factor, so if you’ve not read any other part of this series before, I wouldn’t recommend it to you.

PLOT: For the most part each short story follows a different perspective in a different part of the world. The reader jumps around a lot. But there are a few characters who continually pop up and who actually tell a loose story. I was quite impressed by how Abercrombie was able to tell such pregnant, thoughtful stories in so few pages. In some stories he would stay in one character’s POV the entire time, others he’d be jumping around from solider to soldier to witness to victim. l was more impressed by the diversity than anything else. This anthology takes you to twice as many places as any of Abercrombie’s novels.

SETTING: One thing I noticed in a few of the stories was that Abercrombie relies on his nostalgia factor for setting descriptions more than anything else. Since he’s already taken readers on adventures to these places before, he doesn’t describe them as fully as he would in his novels, and I found myself having to refer back to memory rather than description in some places. Still, the new places that he introduces for the first time in this anthology he does a great job, as always, of summing them up in succinct, all-encompassing and often humorous descriptions for the reader. He shows us lots of new places in the north, the east, and at the edges of the world.

CHARACTERS: Solid. Strong. By that I don’t mean that every character was a strong character, but that Abercrombie’s telling of them was strong and captivating. He brings the reader fully into a new character’s mind in a matter of sentences, not paragraphs, and certainly not pages like many other authors. In a few, quick sentences he can encapsulate all a character is and offer that up to the reader, who is then drawn even deeper into the story. Yes, he did use some characters previously known to the readers like a trump card, showcasing his brand. Nostalgia factor again. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited when they showed up on the scene. And besides, after creating such unforgettable character I think he has the right to throw them around exactly as he did. 

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VERDICT: This is a great read. Joe Abercrombie, as always, delivers fantastic stories with even more fantastic characters and doesn’t lack for much. This is just another example of his already impressive skills. Yes, his writing style took me a bit to get used to in the beginning, but now I accept it and and it’s quick prose and enjoy its uniqueness. However, in my opinion you shouldn’t read this if you’ve not read anything else from the First Law Series. You’ll still enjoy lots of the stories, the majority of them even, but you’ll miss out on so many significant aspects of themes and character inspiration. You like dark fantasy that’s witty, real and leaves you always, always wanting more? Than read the first book of the First Law Trilogy, then come back to this. In my opinion

Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

Are you familiar with the Stanley Kubrick movie The Shining? You know, the movie that made us all afraid of twins and empty hotels? 

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Are you familiar with Stephen King’s novel which Stanley based his movie off of? No? Well go read it, and try not to get too scared, because this week’s In My Opinion Review I’m talking about its sequel, Dr. Sleep by Stephen King

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Continue reading “Dr. Sleep by Stephen King”

From Afar

Hello again, and welcome back to another edition of In My Opinion. This post I’ll be reviewing a GREAT book by a GREAT author, who also happens to be a GREAT guy.

Buckle up, for I am about to regale you with a tale of woe and Russian women. A story of heartache and loss. A story of triumph… and then more Russian women. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you From Afar, by Frank Scozzari.

A little while ago I was lucky enough to get a tweet from an author pointing me towards an online hangout for writers to review each others work. I perused the place for a bit, then posted my novella and offered to do a review exchange with someone. I received a few offers, and among them was an exchange offer from a man named Frank Scozzari. In his email Frank was frank with me (heehee), sent me a copy of his book and asked for a copy of mine.

I had no idea what I was in for, but I am very glad I took the offer.

From Afar is labeled as a memoir, and Frank traveled to Russia several times in researching everything for it. It’s about a man, Morgan Stanfield, 38, single, who is lonely. Well, a little more than lonely. The story begins with him lonely enough that he might do something he will regret later. Morgan is looking for love, not just a woman or a girlfriend, but love, and he’s taken to the internet to find it. He has a fascination with Russian woman for some reason, and therefore gears his search for love towards that country. He meets a woman online who lives and Russia and is very warm, intelligent and wants to meet him. After some “careful” consideration, Morgan hops on a plane and jets over to Russia.

Plot: The plot of this story was painfully realistic in the beginning. I found I could relate to Morgan on a lot of levels when it started off. His friends, his thoughts, his feelings, all felt very accurate. And once he decides to head to Russia, I could not put down my tablet. I wanted to read it all at once, it was so good. The twists and turns that the story takes surprised me even when I thought I could call what would happen next. For all that it had going for it, the ending… was a little underwhelming. I guess I held out hope the entire time that somehow the story would end on a good note, but it didn’t. It just sort of happened. Like the story took so much effort, he just wanted it to be over. When I thought about, though, I wasn’t that put off by the ending. After all that Morgan goes through, it makes sense for it quit the way it did.

Characters: A+ Morgan, though a little heavy on the internal monologue at times, is funny and smart and not all a boring read. He has interesting flash backs that enlighten the reader to what is going through his mind during some scenes, and is always pretty honest. I found that I liked him right off the bat. He starts off as a wet blanket. A real sad-sap. But as the story progresses, he forces himself to be bold and go out of his comfort zone to experience life. By the end however, he’s more depressed than the beginning and just barely holding onto hope. Sad face.

Writing: As soon as I started reading and saw that it was in the first person, I thought this wouldn’t be a book I’d like. I usually don’t enjoy most 1st persons. Heck, I usually don’t enjoy most anything not fantasy or sci fi, but I really enjoyed this. Frank wrote very well, and you can tell from his vocabulary and use of language that he is highly educated. He got the skillz, is what I’m trying to say, and I might be a little jelly. But whatevs, it’s cool. Some paragraphs can run a little long, in my opinion, and by then end of the story, when Morgan is really down in the dumps, his bitter thoughts can turn into really long run-ons sometimes.

Imagery: Excellent. Frank actually went to Russia and all the places he writes about for this novel, and it shows in the imagery. He captures the feel of Russia perfectly, not just the visuals, but the actual aura and presence of the place. You actually feel cramped when he describes the underground tram, and you can feel the depressing grey when he talks about the run down neighborhoods. I say again, excellent job on imagery.

Verdict: As someone who normally doesn’t read anything unless it’s a type of fantasy or sci fi, I really enjoyed this book. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down and tore through it in a few days. I will definitely be talking about this book to others for its funny, unexpected story and great character. And great author. Turns out Frank isn’t just a prolific author with lots of published work, he’s a genuinely nice guy. He also wrote a kickass review for my novella, which made me feel all tingly inside.

Should you check out this book? Yeah, I think so. And you can find his site here and his book here. Persons of the female perspective might find a hard time relating with Morgan, but men will fit right in. It’s not long and it’s an enlightening read. In My Opinion.