Book Review: Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull

Book Review: Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull

This book was my 2018 December Book Cover of the Month.

KnockSpoiler Free Summary: In  Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull Ellie Ray is still morning the death of her father when he delivers her a note. The crumpled, hand-written letter just asks, “Why?” This classic style ghost story gives chills in all the right places as creepy escalates to flat-out scary. Will Ellie find whatever it is that’s terrorizing her family? When she does, will she be able to stop it?

Character:  In too many horror stories (regardless of medium), the character always has some sort of moment of stupid. It’s a flaw of the genre that, thankfully, Cull doesn’t exploit. Ellie isn’t a genius or even particularly clever. What she is, is a realistic, thoughtful woman at her wits’ end. Some of the choices she makes have negative consequences, but they’re never just idiotic decisions just to move the plot forward or prompt a boringly telegraphed jump scare.

Exposition: First-person narrative sort of emphasizes the exposition in this story. There is some info-dump here and there, but I’d say it’s better than the average first-person story. The plot moves pretty quickly, and that is key in a good page-turning horror story.

Cull
Image of Mr. Cull taken from his Amazon page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: The good news is, I don’t remember it being bad. The bad news is, I don’t remember it at all. It didn’t bug me. There are a few conversations with the local sheriff (or law person) that provided some solid tension and sympathy, but I wouldn’t call it snappy or anything.

Description:  This was perfect, especially for the genre. It was creepy in all the right places. I was prevented detail when it built tension, but when that tension peaked, the description was vivid. I’d like to put a special note to the description that implied emotions. This is an area of weakness for me, and reading this book helped me add a few “show don’t tell” tricks to my bag. Cull does a great job evoking emotion without paragraphs of information or ham-handed descriptors.

Overall:  This story was fantastic and pretty hard to put down. I tore through it in about a week. I’d recommend it to any thriller or horror fans. This was just a great, classic horror story that I think would make Hitchcock proud. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

Announcing the December Book Cover of the Month!

Announcing the December Book Cover of the Month!

Hello everyone,

I think this year started off on a fantastic note!  The December Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. This month had outstanding participation from several of the authors and artists.

We had 4,608 votes this month.

This month had one winner who came out swinging and never really backed down. There were a few threats here and there, but each day let the winning cover pull farther away.

The December Book Cover of the Month is…

 

51DVkAZG--L

 

 

 

Knock and You Will See Me by Andrew Cull! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Cull received 306 total votes. He edged Eaves out of the sweet sixteen by two votes.

DEC_Cover_CollageThe runner up, who gets a second shot to get into the 2018 Book Cover of the Year Bracket, was The Saint’s Rise by Michael John Grist.  Grist came on late, but he got a second shot for his efforts.

 

For Cull, he doesn’t have to stress over another “tryout” bracket. He’s in the main Book Cover of the Year Bracket.  Let’s look at the summary for his book.

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

“We buried Dad in the winter. It wasn’t until the spring that we heard from him again.”

Knock and You Will See Me is a new ghost story by award winning writer-director Andrew Cull.

When grieving Ellie Ray finds a crumpled, handwritten note from her recently deceased father, hidden behind the couch, she assumes that her middle boy, Max, left it there. It has a single word written on it: WHY. But, as more and more letters begin to appear throughout the house, Ellie and her three boys will find themselves dragged into a deeply sinister mystery surrounding her father’s death.

“Dad? I looked down at the scribbled note in my hand, at the words torn into the paper. What had started as a whisper had grown louder, more desperate. The words had been screamed onto the page. Dad? Please. What’s going on?”

Also by Andrew Cull: Hope and Walker, Did You Forget About Me? and The Trade.

(END BLURB)

I’ve added Knock and You Will See Me to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I bought all of last year’s covers. I’m currently reading a book cover of the month from last year.


Here’s
 Baron’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I’ll try to find out who did that cover. I’m frankly behind my interviews, but I’m hopeful my vacation can give me a chance to get caught up.

The January Book Cover of the Month is all set, and that contest will launch Feb. 1. I needed just a bit of breathing room between months, and thankfully things will be back to normal after that January bracket.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

A December Book Cover of the Month Update

With just seven days left in this month’s bracket, it’s time to update you all on how things have been progressing.

As I type this, we have 2,890 votes so far. That’s a bit slow, but there’s still room to get to what’s normal.

51DVkAZG--LKnock and You Will See Me, by Andrew Cull took an early lead and hasn’t let it go. I’ve seen this a few months in a row now. Most hold that lead, but some covers have managed to catch up. Besides, it’s not nearly as dramatic a lead as it might appear.

Most Voted on so far: Knock and You Will See Me has the most total votes so far with 200.

Least Voted for: A Glitch in the World by BAlex Drozd. This cover has 47 votes. I’d like to see it get a bit more support.

Cull has a commanding lead in the Finals, but his lead in other rounds isn’t so comfortable. He only has a 10-vote lead over Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi. His lead over Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren is a bit more comfortable, 13.  If either of those books overtake Cull in the earlier rounds, Cull loses his place as the champion. If Either book overtakes Cull, Maaren would actually become the leader.

51UoprSPFpLA quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round. The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final.  As an example, 100 people could vote someone through to the finals, but that doesn’t do a cover any good if he doesn’t win the first round. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.

This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been an amazing tournament to watch thus far, and I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible.  You can vote at this address!

I’ll announce the winner is just seven days!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

The December Book Cover of the Month Begins

The December Book Cover of the Month Begins

DEC_Cover_CollageI’m typing this in advance because it’s the holidays, and I want to stay on top of things as we have a bunch going on. I want to thank you all (assuming the Book Cover of the Year went even half as well as I think it will) for your participation in that bracket, and I hop you have a bit more left. I promise, once we get through the January bracket, things will slow down to their normal pace.

December’s bracket has 32 new books. I started fresh and picked all 32 covers, but this month’s runner up will get the final slot in the January bracket.

You can vote all the way through the tournament, supporting the covers you like best through each round. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.

As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.

If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.

Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.

A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.

I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.

All you have to do now is head over here to vote!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning
61gehaw-uxL._AA300_
Images taken from the Amazon buy page for review purposes. Featured Image pulled from dailywaffle.co.uk.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Blacksmith’s Son by Michael G. Manning takes place 2,000 years after Betrayer’s Banewhich was December Book Cover of the Month, which I reviewed and you can find here. I started this series up right away via Audible because I loved Embers so much. Mordecai was raised as a humble son of a blacksmith with some rather affluent friends. Just as he learns the truth of his birth, he also discovers his magical ability and makes a powerful enemy. When everything in his life should start looking up, it all takes a turn, and Mort must figure it all out before the secrets that led to his unusual upbringing come back to haunt the kingdom of Lothion.

Character:  Mordecai is a fun character. He’s clever and proactive. Some may think he’s too good at too many things, but I like a skilled character. He’s not a Mary Sue by any stretch of the imagination, but some might argue how quickly he learns. What I like about him is his emotions. He’s a passionate person (meaning he cares deeply).  A lot of his conflict starts with how he reacts to certain people or events. That emotion (I’ve actually finished the whole series and will post reviews in time) is what draws me to him and helps me connect to him. Dorian is someone I want to highlight. I like him. He’s my favorite character in the series. He’s a solid, stand-up, white-hat kind of guy. He’s honest, fair, and truthful to a fault. These traits make him a charming character to meet.

5215279Exposition: Manning breaks the fourth wall quite freely here, and that reduces the impact of any exposition. Told (mostly) in first person, the story does have a touch or two moments of exposition, but Manning does something here that I don’t see often. He switches perspective. Most of the story is told by Mort, but the story switches to third-person omniscient and back. It’s actually a bit jarring for a reader the first few times it happens.  That said, the technique allows Manning to get around some of the info dumps first person usually forces. There are also excerpts from an in-world book that are pretty heavy. They serve to tease the chapter, but also tend to slow things down just a touch.

Worldbuilding: For me, the big reward of the book (and this series) was seeing the world evolve from Betrayer’s Bane. This book feels sort of more like a prequel than an actual first book. It’s a ton of setup, which bogs this first book down. Most of this book either tells us how things got to this point or set us up for the overall conflict. It doesn’t make it a boring story by any stretch, but I won’t lie. I found myself wanting to get into it. It may be unfair though coming right off of Embers.  Seeing the world as it’s progressed since then was one of the major reasons I kept with it. Mageborn is a great series, but this book is more of a warmup to a great saga.

51ynOSd1JtL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_Dialogue:  A lot of the exposition for this story comes through dialogue (but most authors (including me) do that). It’s noticed here because Mort is either conversing with another character about what he means to do, what’s going on with his friends, or what happened in his past. The best conversations are those between him and Penny (which are charming). His conversations with Rose (who’s honestly more like a Mary Sue than any other of these characters) are also endearing.

Description:  This was pretty natural for Manning. The scenes were visceral without being overly detailed. This is the highest compliment I could offer any book.

Overall: With a charming cast and a ridiculously compelling prequel trilogy, The Blacksmith’s Son sets the stage for a new saga in Manning’s world. While not remotely Manning’s strongest book, it teases at great stories to come while it also provides clever intrigue and deep world building. Fans of large worlds and complex magic systems would enjoy this story.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Interview with Michael G. Manning

Interview with Michael G. Manning
15326549_1179426122094499_6318367043184922848_nI recently had the honor to correspond via social media and email with Michael G. Manning, author of the December Book Cover of the Month, Betrayer’s Bane. I’ve already posted the review for that, and you can check that out here. I’ve also interviewed Amalia Chitulescu, which you can read here. I’ve mentioned how much I enjoyed Bane, and I actually just finished the first book in the Embers of Illeniel trilogy before posting this blog.  I’ll post my review for The Mountains Rise (the Audible version), in time (there are other reviews scheduled to post first, and I try to respect the order in which I read books). I’m a huge fan of the series so far, and I can’t wait to finish it.  That makes me all the happier I had a chance to interview Mr. Manning.
Without further ado, here we go:

You have quite a few projects out there, and I understand some (if not all) of them are related. Can you explain how Embers of Illeniel fits in with other projects you have out and other projects you have coming? 

 

My first series, was Mageborn, starting with ‘The Blacksmith’s Son’ and finishing with ‘The Final Redemption.’  It was five books in all, and during the course of it I frequently referred back to hidden memories that were trapped in the main character’s mind.  So, once I had finished it, I felt a strong need to go back and write the story of what had been haunting Mordecai throughout those books.

So my original series was Mageborn, with Embers of Illeniel being a prequel set two thousand years before it.  I also have a sequel series, ‘Champions of the Dawning Dragons.’  It takes up where Mageborn left off, following the children that were born during that series.

At the moment I have finished Mageborn, and Embers of Illeniel, and the last book of the sequel series, Demonhome, is due out later this year.  I have a stand-alone book also, ‘Thomas,’ that is based on an old roleplaying game campaign I was in.

5215279What was the inspiration for the series?
I was bored. I went on a Kindle binge and read eighteen books in a single week and found myself without anything interesting to read.  So, I sat down and made a mental list of the things I was looking for in my hypothetical perfect book.  When I had finished the list, I realized that I had already read everything remotely similar, so I just said to hell with it and started writing.
Betrayer’s Bane was the best book I’ve read so far in 2017.  What do you think are the things that made that book so great? 
Pain and suffering.  One of my biggest complaints about books, movies, and TV shows, is that very often everything is sugar-coated.  There’s almost always a happy ending, and it’s rare for anyone of importance to the story to die.  Since I already knew this was going to be a dark story, I decided to go all out, though at times I wondered if I had gone too far.
Tyrion is such a compelling character. How did you come up with him? What made you decide to write a series focused on him with that series? I understand (at least I THINK) Ileniel happens generations before the Mageborn series. Is that true? If so, what made you decide to go so far back in the world you’ve built?

Again, there were numerous veiled references to this story in my first series, so it felt almost compulsory for me to come back and write it.

I think Tyrion himself is so interesting because he starts out as a perfectly ordinary young man, perhaps even kinder and gentler than most, but his experiences gradually warp and shape him into the monster he eventually becomes.  It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion, it’s horrible, but you just can’t look away.
How did you feel when you finished that series?
Relieved.  I don’t think readers always realize that all the same emotions they experience while reading a book affect the author as well.  The main difference is that it takes us weeks and months to get them all down, so we suffer the same trauma in an extended drawn out sort of way.  That’s fine when it’s a light-hearted novel, but when it is something like this—well it can be agonizing.  Day after day you’re forced to repeatedly live out the same pain.  I thought I might lose my mind before finishing it.
Bane was the first book I’ve read from you, and it has me going crazy trying to see what happens after the epilogue. For those like me, what book can I jump to to find out?
51eWo3W81OLYou should start with ‘The Blacksmith’s Son,’ and then follow it through the entire Mageborn series.  Once that’s done you can read ‘Thornbear,’ which is the first of the sequels.
As you know, I discovered Betrayer’s Bane when I selected it as my Book Cover of the Day. It went on to become the December Book Cover of the Month. First, congrats to both you and Amalia for winning.  I’ve spoken about what I think makes the cover stand out on my blog, but I’d like to know your thoughts about what made the cover work for you. Why do you think that cover stands out?

Well, the cover represents a particularly traumatic scene in the book, the death of one of the more lovable characters, although it’s done with a bit of artistic license.  I think that’s what makes it a great cover.  It perfectly captures the raw emotion that I tried to embody throughout the story.

What did you think about the cover when Amalia showed it to you?

I’ve never been disappointed with her work, so naturally I was pleased.  Not only does she have great artistic sense, but she always arranges the less obvious elements perfectly as well as picking fonts that fit the theme.

Can you walk me through the process of creating the cover from your point of view? What did you ask Amalia for? What was she like to work with? What was your goal for the cover?

904677_568318963202210_169616517_oI’ve been working with her for a couple of years now, but in each case I merely describe the scene I think would fit best on the cover.  She takes it from there, and usually within a few weeks she has something to show me.  Thus far I’ve never had to request a major change after that point, just minor refinements.  She has excellent taste.  As always, my only goal for the cover is to evoke a feeling in the viewer, something that will entice them to examine the contents.

Bane was, as I said, a great book. It was so good I went back and bought book 1 of Elleniel (audio version). If there are any new readers out there, where would you recommend they start reading your work?

My preferred reading order would be the order I wrote them in, starting with the Mageborn series.  After that I’d alternate the prequels and sequels, starting with the first of the prequels, ‘The Mountains Rise.’  I switched back and forth between the prequel and sequel series, so there are hints about each in the other.  I know that sounds confusing, but if you look at the publishing dates just follow them chronologically.

Even if you don’t, you can’t go wrong just reading each series on its own.

What’s your newest released project? Please tell us about it.
51setgNvqYL._SY346The latest thing I did was release a short novel called, ‘Thomas.’  It’s actually something I wrote before I started publishing, but I never took the time to finish it.  After Betrayer’s Bane I needed something light to cleanse my palate and wash away the evil that had sunk into my bones.  It’s a great book that has nothing to do with any of my other work, being based on a roleplaying game I was in with some friends.

The main character is a boy named Thomas (funny how that works).  He starts as an orphan and the mystery of the tale revolves around his origin, although most of the story itself doesn’t directly relate to that.  I think anyone that enjoys fantasy would like it, even though the main character is a cleric, which is uncommon in the genre.

What are you working on next? 
Currently I’m working on ‘Demonhome,’ the last book in my sequel series.  It follows Matthew, the son of the protagonist in Mageborn, as he travels to another dimension to try and find his missing father.  I’ve hinted at it before, but there will be some science fiction elements introduced there that I think will be fascinating.
I thank you again for all of your time. You’ve created a fascinating series that I highly recommend to any fans of action fantasy. (Disclaimer, this is a dark story.)
END INTERVIEW
I’ve purchased the Audible version of The Silent Tempest, which will allow me to complete this trilogy, and I can promise I’m moving straight on to Mageborn. I’m very high on this series and this author at the moment. I hope a few of you try him out.
Thanks for reading,
Matt

Book Review: Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning

Character:  I’ve spoken about sympathy a few times, and I always made it a point to mention there is a distinction between sympathy and likability. Tyrion, and most of this cast, are horrible. The only thing more horrid than their actions is what was done to place them in this path. I had an advantage here that I don’t think other readers had. I read this book first. Now I’m eagerly reading the first book in the series simply to find out how Tyrion came to be the way he is and act the way he acts.  He’s a brilliant character with devastating flaws that are all born of circumstances he couldn’t control. Readers will rip through the pages to find out if he can at least control himself.

Description: I’m pretty forgiving with description. If anyone argued that it was a bit hard to see some of the characters, I probably wouldn’t punch him, but the placement of the descriptive phrases allows my imagination to take over, which is preferable to me than painting a scene with words.

Thanks for reading,

Matt