Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SpecMusicMuse Review—The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy

The Man in the Box by Andrew Toy is reminiscent of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe only darker. The protagonist, Robbie Lake, finds himself dealing with family problems combined with getting fired from his job as an editor for Cipher Mill Publishing House, when he discovers a magical box after breaking into his old workplace. The box transports him to another world, one he had visited before when he was a child. And, of course, an adventure ensues, but one that threatens to ruin his life in the real world as the box proves to be a two-way portal. Unfortunately, the residents of the magical world don’t want him to leave, and are willing to do anything to make him stay.

For reasons that I won’t go into, so as to avoid spoilers, I had trouble liking Robbie. He makes the right choices in the end, but only after he’s faced with losing everything. The whole entire time, I couldn’t help but think, “Well, you got yourself into this mess, dummy.” His almost childish irresponsibility made it difficult to sympathize with him.

TheManintheBoxCoverOnce in a while I ran into some clunky sentence structures, but fortunately those were rare occasions. While the casual reader probably won’t notice half of them, people like me, editor-brained, will flinch once or twice.

On the plus side, Toy shows a remarkable skill with dialogue and character interaction, and maintains the story’s narrative flow, providing all the information the reader needs without having to sacrifice pacing.

In the end, it’s a good book to have around when you’ve already read your first picks and need to pass some time. But I expect, over time, Andrew Toy will become a recognizable name among the small press community.

Best to read while listening to: nothing specific comes to mind; maybe something Narnia-ish but darker. Or “Man in the Box” by Alice In Chains?


The Damn Disclaimer is over to the right –>

May 14, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review: Dark Halo – Christopher Kokoski

Dark Halo large picI’ll admit, at first I cringed when I saw the pretty-boy angel on the front cover. I’m not usually a fan of angel stories. More often than not they tend to be stereotyped as innocent do-gooders who could never harm a fly, and anyone who’s actually read the Bible knows they’re anything but.

But Dark Halo did not disappoint in that regard. Kokoski brought depth and complexity to Chrysanthium, and even to angels in general.

Landon, the main protagonist, finds himself, his neighbors, and his family under threat from demons as a terrible storm rages through his small town. Beset by supernatural foes, their only ally is the town’s guardian angel, Chrysanthium, who one minute seems to be a paragon of virtue but the next come off as a sociopath. Can the angel be trusted, or is he a greater threat than even the monstrous demons?

The novel starts off suspenseful and tense and never lets up. The tension and suspense just builds and builds with never a break. While that form of storytelling works great for short stories and novelettes, it can get downright fatiguing when it comes to longer works. At least one brief pause in the tension would have been nice.

Also, there’s a certain point in the story where all these refugees were inside a church, but at the moment of the story’s climactic point, the refugees are no longer even mentioned as if they’re suddenly no longer there. So while the story’s ending was spectacular, and the resolution satisfying, I was sill left with that one nagging question: “What happened to all those refugees?”

Aside from those two nagging problems, the story overall was excellent. Kokoski provides depth and complexity to even supporting characters, created one of the most memorable angel characters since Gabriel from The Prophecy, and handles dialogue like an expert craftsman.

And besides, anything that has demon-possessed gorillas in it is a must read.

Best read while listening to: anything from AC/DC (the Satan worshipper with a certain shirt on automatically had me thinking of “Highway to Hell”), Megadeth (“Prince of Darkness” anyone?), and Midnight Syndicate (for those instrumental moments).


And now for that damn disclaimer (I hate you, FTC!):

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

December 7, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review: Angelkiller – H. David Blalock

Why does evil exist? The answer is simple: because the forces of evil won the war, and the forces of good have had to fight a clandestine uphill battle to retake the Earth from the grip of the Fallen ever since.

In the near future, with the advancement of computer and Internet technology, the war now threatens to spill over into the virtual world. But not if Jonah Mason—a mysterious man who is far older than he appears—and his team of special agents from The Army can help it. But first they must figure out Azazel’s treacherous scheme.

That is the backdrop and plot of Angelkiller, by H. David Blalock—a story of espionage, action, and intrigue filled with surprises and plot twists. Blalock reveals a compelling if bleak world where the real world and virtual world interact and effect each other. His main character, Mason, is one intriguing fella, and Blalock brings depth to the character like a pro. Even the sidekicks are given some depth as well as the villains.

The concept of the Fallen having won the war might turn some Christian readers off, but it is a concept that works for the world Blalock has created, and the light of hope still burns in his dark world. Regardless, it is a compelling and worthwhile read.

Best to read while listening to: anything Techno, Dubstep, and Industrial as well as Goth Rock and Metal.

March 29, 2012 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review: Cinema of Shadows—Michael West

Forget haunted houses, try a haunted theater! Michael West delivers a ghost story that both holds true to the traditional tropes but simultaneously provides his own unique spin, and delivers a plot twist leaves that your heart pounding.

Professor Geoffrey Burke and his team of Parapsychology students search for evidence to irrefutably prove that the Woodfield Theater is haunted. But they discover more than just ghosts as an ancient demon take notice of one of the professor’s students, Kim. Not only can she see and hear spirits, she also has a special ability that threatens the demon’s power over the souls in the theater.

West breathes depth and life into every character: living, dead, and demonic. You care for what happens to them, unlike in, oh say, the Saw films where you could care less if the heartless morons get torn into itsy bitsy pieces. In Cinema of Shadows, you even feel for some of the antagonists (well, except for the demon, obviously). But more importantly, the ending wasn’t predictable, and characters that I expected would die didn’t.

If you like ghost stories or even just horror stories in general, you’ll love Cinema of Shadows.

Best to read while listening to: anything from Midnight Syndicate, Rob Zombie, Slayer, Tiamat, or Marilyn Manson.

December 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment