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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sampler Platter Review: Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman and Horror, Humor and Heroes 2

A Sampler Platter review is a way I've come up with to showcase multiple titles by the same author within the same post.  This way, everyone gets a little taste of some really fun books.  It's only fitting that the first Sampler Platter review go to an Off the Path feature- unique features for unique books and authors!

Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman
Title: Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman
Author: Jim Bernheimer
Page Count: 258 pages (review copy)
Publisher: Gryphonwood Press
Genre: urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: To paraphrase the opening lines: Mike helps people with ghost problems. Occasionally, he helps ghosts with people problems. No one really helps with my problems. This is his story.

Favorite Quote: "I thought about a bad movie I’d watched once and concluded that I didn’t like seeing dead people."

Mike Ross is a combat wounded veteran who, in the midst of having his entire life script derailed because of his injuries, also has to deal with the fact that he can see ghosts, talk to them, and has the power to help them finish their final errands and move on to whatever comes next.  Except that apparently, nobody ever has simple things they need to accomplish before they can move on- they have to tell their relatives where their lost fortunes are, or confess to murders, or avenge their own murders, and frankly, some of them are just downright belligerent.  Mike is pushed headlong into the world of the creeping paranormal, and his ally, the effervescent and perky Jenny, has enough enthusiasm for the journey for both of them, but unfortunately, not as much common sense or problem solving skills as Mike might hope.

Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman is the story of Mike's misadventures with ghosts, told in episode format.  Each chapter is told from Mike's point of view, and as he's a self-proclaimed smartass and cynic, everything is taken with as big a grain of salt as a guy who sees ghosts and occasionally has to fight them is capable of taking.  When he isn't dealing with ghosts and their perpetual issues and nonsense, he's being chastised by everybody on the planet- seems that everyone has a stake in him needing to be a nice person, or his motives for doing things, or his recovery from his war injuries, and nobody can manage to leave well enough alone.  Mike would have been well within his rights to tell most of the other characters to sod off- thankfully, he does, which makes for some interesting scenes.

The story is entertaining enough, but what really held my interest in this story was the sobering element that the different back stories of the ghosts injected into the story.  Imagine being someone who sees ghosts and having to go to Arlington National Cemetery? Or a crime scene? Squicky. Seriously squicky.  Mike experiences all that and more, and he has to figure out what his position on all this is, and what kind of a person that makes him.  Other people are more than happy to offer their insights, but thankfully Mike knows his own mind and has a clarity of purpose that keeps the story moving.

Overall Grade: A-

Horror, Humor, and Heroes Volume 2 - New Faces of Fantasy
Title: Horror, Humor, and Heroes Volume 2: New Faces of Fantasy
Collection edited by Jim Bernheimer
Page Count: 274 pages
Publisher: Jim Bernheimer / EJB
Genre: fantasy, short stories
Copy for review provided by the editor in anticipation of an honest review

50 words or less: Consisting of 13 different stories of various fantasy bents- urban, traditional and otherwise, this anthology has a little something for everyone.  Also, the Kindle version is $2.99! Seriously folks, it's a steal.

Thirteen different authors are represented in this anthology, but for the purposes of Off the Path and this sampler platter review, I'll be focusing specifically on one story- "My Mace Craves Blood" by our featured author, Jim Bernheimer.

The story is a very traditional fantasy story, and the fantasy elements are very different from Dead Eye- we have an historical, feudal setting, a mace that transforms its bearer into a bloodthirsty berserker of a warrior, and treachery where one might least expect it.  We have a young man striving to be noble in the face of evil and to do what's right, even when forced to carry the burden of the mace and all that that entails.

This would make an excellent prelude to a full length fantasy novel.  Just enough details are given to be a really, really intense tease, and while the central conflict of the story is resolved by the end, plenty of doors are left open for a full length novel that gives better answers to questions that come up, especially near the end.  This was just enough to whet my whistle and leave me wanting more.

Overall Grade for this story: A-
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