Monday, August 31, 2015

The Captive Condition by Kevin P. Keating

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kevin P. Keating's The Captive Condition.

Normandy Falls is not a nice place to live. A dry college town with few job prospects, low average incomes, and very little to do, the locals are left with little to fill their time. But gossip still runs rampant and almost everyone must know about the affair going on between Emily Ryan and her next door neighbor. Well, everyone except their spouses. And when Emily turns up dead on her thirtieth birthday, it kicks off a series of events that leaves few in Normandy Falls untouched. 

I've mulled over how to sum this book up and review it for some time and have yet to come up with the perfect solution. I fear my attempt won't be truly appropriate but barring a lightning bolt of brilliance this will have to suffice.

I had issues with the book, mainly due to my perceived, inappropriate, and possibly unfair expectations. See, the actual description of Kevin Keating's The Captive Condition somewhat implied (in my mind) that this is a horror novel set in a town that's akin to Sunnydale or Castle Rock. Even the prologue of the novel sets it up as such, with our narrator being told of the horrid and unspeakable crimes rumored to have taken place in Normandy Falls in decades past.

In truth it's nothing of the sort. In fact, while some might fairly call The Captive Condition horror, it isn't a horror novel in the way you might think. Yes, horrible things happen there. The town is destitute and the characters are all facing pretty insurmountable odds - mostly thanks to their own actions. None of them are good people, they're motived by selfishness, obsession, superstition, and plain old stupidity in some cases. And yes, there are some supernatural events that do occur as well. In reality, though, the horror is pretty human.

To explain more might be to give away the story and I don't want to do that because Keating's work is quite enthralling. His prose is melodic and dark and the downward spiral of the characters is hard to step away from. But to approach the story with the wrong expectation likely won't lead to a satisfactory experience.

So no, folks. Don't make the mistake that I did in thinking this is going to be a gory tale of paranormal horror, odd experimentation, or a story set in a "nexus of horror." Instead, go into this story expecting to discover a new author with a unique voice and a tale of human crime and atrocity.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here. And for more on Kevin P. Keating and his work, you can follow him on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, September 14. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes please.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Releases 9/1/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Supersymmetry by David Walton

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser

The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa

Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

The Desert and the Blade by S. M. Stirling

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

All the Difference by Leah Ferguson

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

Archmage by R. A. Salvatore

The Solomon Curse by Clive Cussler

The Man Who Fell From the Sky by Margaret Coel

The White Ghost by James R. Benn

The Darkest Day by Tom Wood

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The Dogs by Allan Stratton

Catacomb by Madeleine Roux

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

The Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

The Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano

Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian

New on DVD:
The Harvest
Mad Max: Fury Road
Gemma Bovary

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Uninvited by Cat Winters
X by Sue Grafton

Friday, August 28, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Cold Alone by Laura Benedict

This has been a pretty wet summer here in Colorado, folks. And the showers we've been getting of late have brought little snaps of cold with them. It's given me in a pretty unquenchable craving for horror - yes, more so than normal. Fortunately, just as this was hitting, Laura Benedict released this little gem in the Bliss House series!

Nicole Martin isn't especially scared of haunted houses. Yes, she was in pretty desperate need of a job when she applied for the cleaning position at Bliss House, but really it's not the so called ghosts creeping her out so much as her weird boss!

Nicole has the whole inn to herself for the night and with a snowstorm on the horizon and no guests allowed, Nicole has invited her roommate over to keep her company. As the night progresses and her friend is still a no show, though, Bliss House finally starts getting to Nicole. And that's exactly what the house wants.  

(Note: if you have read Bliss House, then you know how things end for Nicole's bosses.)

"Cold Alone" has two of of my all-time favorite horror elements: atmosphere and ghosts. Seriously, it's no secret that a good haunted house story is my favorite kind of horror story. Benedict spends just the right amount of time building up the tension and setting the tone for the story so that by the time things start to go south for Nicole - and we all know it's going to go south! - I was questioning the noises in my own house. (Yes, I was reading it in the middle of the night while I was home alone. That's the best way to tackle any creepy read!)

Nicole starts our rather bravely in this story. She's strong and seemingly unshakable. But it turns out it's not just Nicole and the ghosts trapped in the house together during the snow storm; Nicole is shouldering some pretty hefty guilt. Sadly for Nicole, Bliss House is just not the place you want to be if you've got anything weighing on you. Hell, even if you've got all your shit together you probably still don't want to be stuck in a place like Bliss House!

Readers, you do not have to have read Bliss House to read "Cold Alone." In fact, if you've been curious about Bliss House or Benedict but haven't yet taken the plunge, "Cold Alone" can be your gateway read. The e short comes with excerpts of both Bliss House and Charlotte's Story as a nice little bonus, too. Give it a shot and find out why Laura Benedict is one of my favorites!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Andersonville by Edward M. Erdelac + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Edward M. Erdelac's Andersonville. There is a tour wide giveaway on this one courtesy of the folks over at Hydra, you can enter via the Rafflecopter at the end of this post.

Barclay Lourdes was trying to run when he accidentally fought his way onto the train going to Andersonville prison. Or at least that's what he said. 

In fact, Andersonville is exactly where Barclay wants and needs to be. 

It seems something fishy is going on at the prison camp. Something beyond the conflict of war. Something truly evil.

It might not surprise readers to learn that Andersonville was a very real place and that there were horrors aplenty there.

Erdelac weaves a story of supernatural horror around the very real events and people of Andersonville; the raiders, the regulators, Father Whelan, and Big Pete are all taken from actual history. Henry Wirz, the commander of the prison, was also real and was convicted of war crimes as a result of the heinous treatment of the soldiers imprisoned there.

Military horror is kind of hard to come by, but it is a natural combination (I think) and one that amplifies all of the scary bits in a lot of ways. Nothing is more horrific than war and the Civil War is one that's still a sensitive topic for many. Erdelac combines the sentiments of the day with the very real Andersonville history (as mentioned above) and other fabulous aspects of the time as well - the First Lady's fascination with otherworldly issues, Pinkertons, Union/Confederate spies... throwing in a main character whose roots make him the perfect hero for this particular story.

Because Barclay is there under false pretenses, his own story is revealed to the reader in pieces as the tale progresses. Through his eyes we witness the awful atmosphere of the prison as he investigates the true cause behind it all. He's an interesting character both because of his skills and because of he is a free man from New Orleans. Erdelac does go into some of the politics of the war - how could he not - especially where Barclay is concerned. It makes Andersonville a more layered read than one might expect. And honestly, it was a welcome experience. 

Rating: 4/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Edward M. Erdelac and his work you can visit his blog here. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

And now for that giveaway. Again, this is tour wide so you can enter via any of the stops on the tour. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

X by Sue Grafton

Wow! 24 books in and Sue Grafton still manages to make each new installment feel fresh and new. Readers there are a lot of long running series that have fallen by my reading wayside but the Kinsey Millhone series has never been one of them.

Kinsey is flush with cash for probably the first time in her career. Not only does this mean she can stress less about new clients, but it means she can spend some time on some lesser and pro bono investigations as well.

Two decades ago Hallie Bettancourt put her son up for adoption. She followed his story when he was busted for bank robbery and now that he's being released she wants Kinsey to find contact information for him. Hallie claims she wants to help in any way she can - if he's interested. The case is pretty cut and dry and Kinsey files her report just a few days later. But it doesn't end there. 

Hallie Bettancourt doesn't exist. Not only that, the money she paid Kinsey with is marked. The loss isn't great but Kinsey is determined to find out who hired her and why. 

Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky's widow is facing an audit and IRS claims that the former PI hadn't filed returns for years. It's her hope that Kinsey may have come across something in her search through Pete's files after his death. Unfortunately for Ruthie no financials are in evidence, but something rather odd does pop up. Kinsey is certain it's another of Pete's schemes but soon learns this may not be the case at all. Could she have been wrong about Pete? 

We are nearing the end, folks, and just the thought makes me want to cry. Honestly, reading these last few is somewhat bittersweet. I adore the series but I almost want to hold onto these last few indefinitely so that it doesn't really end! It's true I sat on W is for Wasted for a ridiculous amount of time, too. I just couldn't wait with X, though, and that won out over my hoarding tendencies with later series titles.

I nerd out about these books big time. Grafton is one of my favorite authors to recommend to readers looking for a great mystery and one of the reasons for that is exactly what I mentioned above - each new installment is fresh and new. Kinsey still grows as a character, the cases never feel like repeats, and while I feel like it has to be a massive effort on Grafton's part to ensure that this is the case with each new book, the finished product is always a smooth and effortless read.

Because of my fondness for this series and all of the characters, I do recommend starting from the very beginning. I have to admit, though, that X wouldn't make a bad diving in point if you you absolutely must go with the latest.

(X is officially out on shelves tomorrow.)

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Girl in the Glass by James Hayman

Hi, everyone! Today I'm kicking off the TLC book tour for James Hayman's The Girl in the Glass.

Veronica Aimée Whitby had everything going for her: valedictorian of her graduating class, a noted athlete, artist, and an undeniable beauty, not to mention heir to the Whitby fortune. But then Aimée is found murdered on the very evening of her graduation party. 

McCabe and Savage catch the case, well aware that all eyes are on them as they investigate. They soon find that the Whitby golden girl may have been anything but. And strangely, her murder mimics that of her namesake - a crime that's over a century old. 

This is the latest in Hayman's McCabe and Savage series - the first of which, The Cutting, was a favorite read of mine back in 2009.

The Girl in the Glass actually begins with the 1904 murder of Aimée's great-great grandmother. An artist herself, the early Aimée was found near death at the bottom of a cliff with a stab wound to her abdomen and the letter "A" carved into her chest. All reports from that era claim that she was killed by her lover, Mark Garrison, an artist commissioned by Aimée's own husband to paint her portrait. Garrison committed suicide that same day.

Interestingly, as Aimée's case unfolds the reader is treated to another perspective of that earlier Aimée's story in the form of journal entries written by her bereaved husband. How the story pertains to the present-day murder is a mystery even to the reader throughout much of the story. This is something McCabe and Savage have to figure out as well when they realize their case mirrors that early one down to even the smallest details.

I somehow missed the books in between Cutting and Girl but for all the time that's passed I may very well have been starting over fresh with McCabe and Savage here. Not that it mattered all that much. The Girl in the Glass made me feel like I'd missed nothing but for a few failed relationships on McCabe's part. (I know that's definitely not the case but I never felt like there were gaping holes in my reading memory.)

I'd noted in my long ago review of The Cutting that readers would never tire of this kind of thriller as long as writers like Hayman continued to come up with such gripping plots. The Girl in the Glass most definitely reinforces that.

Rating: 3.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on James Hayman and his work you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook.


Top Ten Tuesday: If I Taught Horror Apocalypse Survival 101

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101. I'm in a definite horror mood of late (what's new, right?). I started to pick Women of Horror, 101 but I think I'll save that for a future post. Instead I was leaning towards Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, 101 (hey, Fear the Walking Dead started this week!) but then I thought I could widen that a bit. So here we go, the books I'd have on my syllabus if I taught a class on surviving the horror apocalypse: