Rena Mason

Book Review: East End Girls/Only The Thunder Knows

Like many of you, I have enough books lying around to open a library. Books stuffed into overcrowded bookcases, books in drawers, books on tables, and books on top of books.

I'm something of a luddite when it comes to new technologies, I still don't have a smart phone, but some years back I broke down and bought a Kindle. You're welcome, trees.

Ever since then, I've been happily downloading ebooks and saving the planet, but when I learned that Rena Mason, the Bram Stoker Award winning author of
The Evolutionist (reviewed HERE) was going to be part of JournalStone Publishing's DoubleDown book series, I decided to cheat on my Kindle and rekindle (see what I did there?) my love affair with ink paper and glue.

JournalStone's DoubleDown books are modeled after the old Ace's Doubles. Two novellas back to back. The cool part is, both stories read left to right from opposing covers depending on which way you hold the book. When you finish one tale, you flip the book over and start again.

Book 1 of the DoubleDown series is comprised of Gord Rollo's, Only the Thunder Knows. And Rena Mason's, East End Girls.

Both are works of historical fiction set in the Victorian era. Only the Thunder Knows, is a rollicking tale involving real life villains Billy Burke and William Hare, supernatural villains, and historical artifacts. East End Girls, is a simultaneously horrific and sexy new take on Jack the Ripper.

It's difficult to say which tale I liked better. Each one is great for different reasons but if pressed, I'd give the edge to East End Girls. While Rollo's, Only the Thunder Knows, had a more colorful cast of characters, some of the imagery in Mason's East End Girls, was so powerfully vivid, I could have been watching a movie.

Either way, you can't go wrong.

So, if you are looking for an excuse to unplug this summer and bring the
paper back (see what I did there?), you could do a lot worse than THIS

Five out of five stars.


Book Review: The Evolutionist

Book Review:

I met Rena Mason at the 2012 World Horror Convention is Salt Lake City. She was friendly, enthusiastic, and an all around great gal. She’d also just had a story published in the charity anthology Horror For Good, which I purchased and read and loved and reviewed HERE.

Naturally, when her debut novel was released, I picked up a copy. Sure, I picked it up because she’s an all around great gal but I also picked it up because “The Eyes Have It” her story in Horror For Good, was really quite excellent. As a general rule, if I like an author’s short fiction, I’ll also like their long fiction. It’s not always true but it’s pretty damn close and in Rena’s case, the rule holds.

The Evolutionist is a tale about an upper middle class housewife, Stacy, on the verge of madness. Her nights are plagued by dreams of dismembered and burning bodies in a post-apocalyptic death-scape and her days are filled with blinding headaches, unexplainable nose bleeds, and hallucinations.

With the help of Dr. Light, a very odd and aptly named psychiatrist, we learn that our protagonist is actually much more than an upper middle class housewife. So much more, in fact, that she may hold the key to coming (or not) of the end of the world.

One of the book’s strengths is the balance between the bizarre and the ordinary. Stacy’s life is one of book clubs, lunch dates, and the duties of being a mom. But, underneath it all, there are waking dreams, terrifying nightmares, and a creeping loss of control. Unbeknownst to her husband and friends, she is quietly losing her mind.

My only criticism is that while the juxtaposing of strange and ordinary is superb, the ordinary is a bit too ordinary. I tend to be attracted to “flawed” characters. If Stacy had been anything beside a suburban housewife; a taxi driver with a drinking problem, a cop who is in love with a prostitute, a washed up boxer with a penchant for watercolors, it would have been more my speed, but that is a personal preference that probably says more about me than it does about the story or its author.

The bottom line is, The Evolutionist is a really good book. The pacing is great, the storyline is intriguing, and the ending is completely and wholly unexpected. It’s a paranormal thriller, it’s a horror mystery, it’s dark sci-fi, it’s chick lit with a twist, it’s a whole lot of things, but most importantly, it’s a damn good read.