Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Hi, all! It's Halloween!!! It's also my anniversary -- no, we didn't completely plan on getting married on Halloween, it just worked out that way (because my brain couldn't handle the concept of planning a wedding a year or more out).

We had our anniversary dinner last night over at Linger in Denver, a street food themed restaurant that just happens to be located in an old mortuary. It was fabulous and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Denver area.

I'll be handing out candy tonight and watching horror movies -- with hubs for as long as he can handle it. On the agenda are The Barrens and Detention and I am very aware that both movies may be absolutely terrible (links to trailers provided). I'm also reading Dan Chaon's short story collection, Stay Awake. So far it's eerie and completely unsettling.

For my last #Mx3 post, I thought I'd throw out some last minute Halloween horror recommendations.

If you're in the mood for some Pine Barrens/Jersey Devil horror in book form, check out Robert Dunbar's fantastically terrifying book The Pines and the follow up The Shore.

For some funny high school horror in the vein of Detention, you might like one-sitting read A Bad Day For Voodoo by Jeff Strand and on the movie front you absolutely must see Dance of the Dead and Boy Eats Girl, two hilarious high school horror movies (though not necessarily all YA appropriate movies).

For immediate gratification, head over to Michael Boccacino's site for a fabulous short Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling epilogue (and Halloween "trick") here.

And some of my general favorite horror reads from years past are (get ready for lots of exclamation points):

Naomi by Douglas Clegg -- my intro to Clegg's work and still one of my absolute favorites!

Haunted and Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert -- the first two books featuring David Ash (book three, Ash, is due out this December!)

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill -- his award-winning collection of short stories and one of the best collections out there! You can read them in between trick r treaters!

James A. Moore's Serenity Falls trilogy. Supremely fun!

Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough. Holy freaking moly! Women hatching giant spiders. Yeah, icky and creepy as all get out.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest. This is the first in her Eden Moore trilogy and it's absolutely wonderful!

Summer of Night by Dan Simmons. A coming of age horror that's neck and neck with It in terms of fabulousness!

Moonfall by Tamara Thorne. Haha! This one is just pure fun!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace

I'm happy to be part of the TLC book tour for Danny Wallace's Charlotte Street this morning!

In lieu of my typical synopsis here, I'll let the author do the talking:

Holy cow! Within just a few pages, I was laughing out loud reading this one! Jason's drunken Facebooking had me rolling on the floor!

After Jason Priestly -- lots of fodder for 90210 jokes throughout the book! -- realizes he still has the girl's camera, he and his friends end up going on a bit of a scavenger hunt to try and find her. Interspersed throughout the book are a handful of blog posts written by the girl in question, though she remains mysteriously anonymous. And of course Jason isn't one of her six-ten readers.

But the book is not just about Jason trying to find the girl he thinks could be the one. The book is also about sort of finding yourself. The reader knows that Jason was a teacher, though the real prompting for his leaving his job is revealed a bit later in the book. But Jason is at a bit of an impasse. It's a situation that's shared by some of his friends as well. What do they want out of life? What do they want to do WITH their lives?

Charlotte Street is a charming story and while I've not read any Nick Hornby (yes, shamefully I've seen the movies but not read any of the books), I would imagine that many Hornby fans will be drawn to Wallace's fiction debut. I would hope so anyway. Charlotte Street is a (dare I say it?) romantic comedy but one that fans of High Fidelity will appreciate (both men and women, in other words!).

To see other stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Danny Wallace and his work you can visit his website here, you can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! I'm part of the TLC tour for Tina Connolly's Ironskin today. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom if you're interested in winning a copy of this fantastic book for your very own TBR pile!

In the five years since the end of The Great War, Jane Eliot has grown used to the iron mask she must wear to cover her fey cursed scars. A teacher and governess by training, Jane has excelled in many positions but has always found that her scars and her mask have been held against her in the end. But then a certain advert for a governess catches Jane's eye and she knows the position will be perfect. The job specifies a child born during the war, one with a delicate situation. Even Jane is unprepared for the extent of said situation, though. Jane is determined she succeed, though, especially upon hearing how all the other governesses have abandoned the child in the past. It also helps that the girl's father, Edward Rochart, appeals to Jane in a way she's never experienced. 

Tina Connolly's debut is an inventive twist on Jane Eyre. The Great War is one with the Fey, and they are wicked in a way that I've not seen in most books. Yes, they're tricksters, but Connolly's Fey have declared war on humankind. They're weapons, Fey bombs, leave survivors like Jane afflicted with a curse -- emotions that they can't control themselves and are forced on those around them -- leaving them not only physically scarred but shunned in society. The only way to "cure" the person is to bind the cursed and scarred area in iron.

Like I said, inventive!

Like the classic Jane, Connolly's version is also headstrong and smart. She's one of my all-time favorite heroines and I really love seeing her pop up in so many books, either in new interpretations or simply in inspiration. Connolly does her justice here in Ironskin but has definitely made her version of Jane her own. 

I also love that Ironskin is essentially an alternate version of a somewhat Jane era England, barring the fey technology that is. Even down to slight twists on Shakespeare's classics that earn mention in a couple of places in the book. It's a fun blend of historical fiction and fantasy that I think will appeal greatly to readers comfortable with either genre.

To see what others thought, visit the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Connolly and her work, visit her official website here. You can also follow here on Twitter.

And now for the giveaway! Thanks to TLC and the publisher, I've got one copy up for grabs (US/Canada only please). Just leave me a comment here before midnight, November 11. Include your email (so I can get in touch if you're the winner). I'll draw a name and announce the winner on Monday, November 12. 

Good luck!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New releases 10/30/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Tangled Bridge by Rhodi Hawk

Death's Apprentice by KW Jeter & Gareth Jefferson Jones

Initiate's Trial by Janny Wurts

Stray Souls by Kate Griffin

Out for Blood by Kristen Painter

Dead Asleep by Jaime Freveletti

Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

Home by Matthew Costello

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet by Darynda Jones

Iced by Karen Marie Moning

Stalked by Allison Brennan

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

The Old Gray Wolf by James D. Doss

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber

Chasers by James Phelan

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Venom by Fiona Paul

New on dvd:
The Campaign
Safety Not Guaranteed
Ruby Sparks

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Through to You by Emuly Hainsworth

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Devil's Gate by F.J. Lennon

Astral Fountain is on the brink of big success and Kane Pryce is planning to ride the wave as far as he can. As the lead guitarist with the band, he stands to profit big time if rumors of a record deal become a reality. But when his old friend and ghost hunting partner, Ned, turns up at a show with an interesting proposal, Kane finds himself pulled back into a life he thought he'd left behind. A wealthy heiress has hired Ned and Kane to exorcise the spirits of an old California bridge. She claims her motivations are altruistic -- one too many suicides and she's tired of the whole thing -- but Kane and Ned soon find there's something bigger going on. With almost 200 deaths to its name, the bridge seems to be connected to a long and dark history of occult practice. If Kane persists with the job, he could find himself the latest victim. 

I really enjoyed the ghost busting portions of this book. In truth, it makes up about 3/4 of the story. The history of the bridge and the job Kane and Ned are hired to do are interesting and make for a unique read.

The other 1/4 of the book concerns Kane's band career. I know that it's all character development as far as Kane is concerned but the bickering and the rock and roll lifestyle didn't mesh well with the rest of the book for me personally. To be honest, I couldn't wait to get through each part about the band just so I could get back to the real meat of the story. The continued conflict with the lead singer also started to really get on my nerves. I wanted Kane to just deck the guy and move on!

The band Kane was more than a little bit of an asshole. The ghost busting Kane was still a bit of a jerk, but definitely much more appealing -- especially paired with the soul trap and the spirits, the mystery of the latest suicide victim, and the Crowley occult stuff.

I didn't dislike Devil's Gate by any means. I didn't love it either. It was a good read but I couldn't fully enjoy it simply because I felt this constant sort of disconnect -- like I was reading two books at once rather than one cohesive story.

Devil's Gate is F.J. Lennon's second book to feature Kane Pryce. Although I have not read the first installment, Soul Trapper, it seems that Devil's Gate stands pretty well on its own. There's enough backstory and recap material present throughout the book that someone unfamiliar with Kane's previous story quickly catches on. That said, I'm curious about Kane's first adventure and the soul trap as well. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

I was a big fan of Gretchen McNeil before I even read her work. I follow the YA Rebels over on YouTube and always get a big kick out of Gretchen's antics. Of course when talk of Ten started floating around the interwebs, I added it to my must have/wishlist and even preordered a copy in honor of the Army of Ten campaign. Sadly with so much going on, it wasn't until this week that I was able to start reading -- the book hit shelves on September 18! Yikes that's a reading delay! But I decided it would be perfect for the Murder, Monsters, & Mayhem challenge hosted by Jenn over at Jenn's Bookshelves (check out her own post on Ten as well).

Anywho, I would have read this one in one sitting had I had the chance! It's that much fun!

When Meg and Minnie decided to attend the party at White Rock House, they thought it would be the event of a lifetime. A parent free weekend of partying, drinking, and hanging out with friends on a remote island is what they expected. But this weekend is anything but. A storm leaves them stranded and most of the partiers -- including the host -- never arrive. There are ten of them at first. Ten who watch the strange video. And then there are nine. At first they think it's a suicide but then there's another death. Sure, the second death could be an accident. Until there's a third. As the kids fall, one by one, the rest are left to figure out who's responsible. Someone on the island is a killer and time is running out for the teens.

McNeil's latest is an intense teen horror/mystery inspired by Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. Reading it brought me back to my middle school Christopher Pike days!

As Jenn pointed out, Meg is the stand out as a lead you can side with, sympathize with, and connect with throughout the story. She's a writer, too! She pays attention to everything going on around her but even she can't guess what's really going on here. And McNeil does a great job keeping the reader guessing as well. In truth, I'd figured it out -- the clues are all there -- but I second guessed a few times thanks to McNeil's occasional and very effective sleight of hand tactics.

Ten is super fun for adults and I'm betting teens in the mood for something dark and thrilling will love it as well!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorhead

I'm part of the TLC tour for Caroline Moorehead's A Train in Winter this morning.

When the Germans arrived in Paris in 1940, it initially appeared that life could go on as usual for the French. They soon learned this was not to be. Though the government was willing to bow down to Hitler and the German forces, many of the country's citizens were not. As the resistance formed and gained strength a number of women came out in support. They were mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters -- teachers, doctors, dentists -- some as young as 14. At a time when they were considered secondary citizens, these women were able to slide under the radar, at least in the beginning. Though many of them would perish in Auschwitz, their heroism will not be forgotten. 

Caroline Moorehead explores the history of the French resistance in A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France. It's interesting to note that at the time of her research, 2008, only a small handful of the women still remained. The ones who were able shared their stories and offered great insight into this remarkable story.

While this is certainly a fascinating piece of history, I did find that Moorehead's approach was a bit muddled. The opening chapters are filled with names of resistance participants and small pieces of their backstory, but there are so many of them that they quickly become confusing -- unless you were to take notes along the way. I found myself flipping back and forth trying to remember someone's background as we came across them again further down the line.

I should point out -- for any potential readers who come across my post -- there's a very helpful appendix in the back of the book listing the women and their background notes. Had I paid attention to the table of contents, I likely would have saved myself a lot of confusion! But now I'm able to tell you it's there and you can benefit.

Another thing I struggled with through the first half of the book was the organization. Moorehead skips back and forth in time, moving forward a bit and back again over and over. My own preference would have been a more linear timeline just to help keep the story straight.

While I had some issues with the overall organization, Moorehead's style is certainly not overly academic. In fact, I think she falls in the middle in terms of a well-written look at a very important chapter of history that will be respected by scholars and appealing to a more general audience as well.

A Train in Winter was a challenging read, but one that I think is important for so many reasons.

To see what others thought, visit the official TLC tour page here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stardust Gift Edition by Neil Gaiman

Oh! October 30 will see the release of the brand spanking new pretty gift edition of Neil Gaiman's Stardust!

The town of Wall sits between London and the land of Faerie. A wall is the only thing that separates this world from theirs. While walking Miss Victoria Forester - the prettiest girl in all of Wall - home one evening, Tristran Thorn spies a fallen star. He pledges to bring the star back in exchange for Victoria’s hand in marriage. He sets off on a journey that will take him into the land of Faerie. When he reaches the star, he is surprised to find that it is in the shape of a girl, Yvaine. The star escapes from Tristran and her mother, the moon, soon appears to him in a dream. The moon has requested that Tristran protect her daughter from those that would wish her harm. One of these is a member of the Lilim, a witch queen who wishes to tear the heart from Yvaine so that she may regain her youth. Yvaine is also being pursued by the remaining heirs of the Kingdom of Stormhold, one of whom will inherit only after retrieving a certain item she carries. 

Stardust is probably -- aside from Gaiman's children's books that is -- the most approachable story for a new-to-Gaiman-reader. It's a quick read and a really lovely fairy tale. (And, true to form, I much prefer the book to the movie adaptation -- though it is cute in its own right.)

While the PS edition is quite nice, this new gift edition is a clothbound hardcover and includes a brief new introduction from Gaiman. It also includes the author's postscript and "Wall: A Prologue" (both also in the PS edition) as well as an updated acknowledgements.

I have to say, with the upcoming holidays in mind this gift edition would actually make the perfect gift for any Gaiman fan! There's even a super collectible slip case edition, too.

I would also highly recommend treating yourself to Stardust if you've not yet read it. I still adore the old PS edition below as well if you're not ready to spring for the new hardcover.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Anyone who's read The Passage has likely been waiting with great anticipation for the release of The Twelve. And I was most definitely one of them. As October 16 approached, I became more and more antsy about getting my hands on the book. Book finally acqured, I had to wait until I had enough time to really dive in and give it the undivided attention it deserved -- and that's what I did this weekend :)

In The Passage readers were introduced to the project that created The Twelve and Amy. We met Wolgast, Amy's surrogate father through the end of the world. We also met the brave and determined group of folks who would join Amy in an epic quest to save humanity. 

Now, in The Twelve, Cronin brings the story back to the beginning and introduces Lila Kyle, a pregnant doctor dead set on protecting her unborn child, and Lawrence Grey, one of Zero's familiars and the man who will help Lila. We also meet Bernard Kittredge, aka Last Stand in Denver, and a group of other survivors from Denver and the surrounding area who will band together and make the long trek to what they hope will be safety. Their story, seemingly destined for a tragic end, plays a significant role in what will come next for Peter, Alicia, Hollis, Michael, Sara, and Amy as they continue their quest to bring down The Twelve almost a century later. 

There's just so much to say about this most epic of epic post apocalyptic series. It's completely fabulous. The scope of the story and Cronin's admirable talents for storytelling make this the kind of series you can completely immerse yourself in, investing yourself in the characters and their stories, their triumphs, their losses, and their hopes and dreams for what will come next. In turning the final page of this book, I emerged completely exhausted and a bit shell shocked while desperately feigning for more!

While The Twelve is a little bit shorter than it's predecessor (592 pages compared to the 784 of The Passage) readers should know that these chunksters are fast paced enough that the story flies by. I don't recall my reading pace on Passage, but The Twelve took me just over two days to finish in terms of read time. Cronin's style encourages quick reading, maintaining a sense of urgency and suspense throughout the books. One might fear that such a doorstopper would be filled with dull, descriptive moments but rest assured this is most definitely NOT the case at all. Everything is necessary and everything moves the story forward. I would warn against a late night start as you'll likely find yourself reading into the wee hours! There's no stopping once you start.

The Twelve is a worthy follow up to the amazing Passage. It fully met my expectations and I highly recommend reading them both if you're a fan of end of the world fiction! Now begins the *sniff* final wait til book three and the conclusion of the story.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Home by Matthew Costello

When we left the Murphy family in the end of Vacation, they were in a bit of a... pickle. This follow up picks up just before the end of Vacation and follows wife Christie and kids as they escape Paterville and move on to the next challenge.

Christie, Kate, and Simon narrowly managed to escape Paterville Camp, but they've made it. While they were away, though, it seems New York experience a massive power outage. The electric fences designed to keep out the Can Heads failed and their world is crumbling around them. As they make their trek home, they aren't sure what they'll find, but they hope it'll still be the haven husband Jack prepared for them. If their home has been compromised, Christie isn't sure what she'll do, but she knows that protecting her family is her number one responsibility. 

I've tried -- hopefully somewhat successfully -- to avoid any possible spoilers here for folks who have yet to read Vacation. It's a bit tough since Home is an immediate follow up, but I should point out that Home can essentially be read as a stand alone itself. There's enough of a recap from Vacation that you get the gist of what the Murphy family is facing and what's going on around them in this future world.

This one went a bit more Walking Dead than the previous installment. Much more of the family facing the outside world and traveling their way to some place safe.

I missed Jack. I really wanted more of him! It was nice to see Christie come into her own, though, since she's more of a background character in Vacation and now the one in charge in Home. Both of the kids get more page time as well and their growth is particularly fabulous.

It's pretty clear in the end of Home that there's much more to the Murphys' story and some really cool elements (not giving it away) are introduced in the end that should lead into a follow up. I've no clue how many books may be planned for in this "series" but I'll be along for the ride for sure!

Home officially hits shelves on Tuesday, October 30. Vacation is out in paperback now.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New releases 10/23/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Home by Matthew Costello

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Emgelmann

Question of Identity by Susan Hill

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace

After Moonrise by PC Cast and Gena Showalter

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Blood Line by Lynda La Plante

The Hollow Man by Oliver Harris

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick

Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Curiosities: A Collection by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, & Brenna Yovanoff

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Dark Star by Bethany Frenetta

New on DVD:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Vacation by Matthew Costello
Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie
Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Devil's Oven by Laura Benedict

Ivy Luttrell is so very lonely. One afternoon while out wandering the woods near her house, she discovers the dismembered pieces of a man’s body. A talented seamstress, Ivy carefully sews the man together. He seems so real and so lifelike that Ivy isn’t the least bit surprised when he actually awakens. She believes he’s a gift, the end of her loneliness. Someone she can spend her life with. She’s wrong. The man is pure hatred and evil and he’s on a mission that even death can’t stop. 

Devil’s Oven is such an odd book! Laura Benedict has definitely emerged as a significant player in the southern gothic style. 

Like a lot of authors I enjoy, Benedict has an exceptional talent for building suspense and atmosphere. The eerie tone of the book paired with the mountain folktale feel makes Devil's Oven a haunting read - definitely one that's stayed with me beyond the final page.

Most of the characters in Devil's Oven toe the line between good and bad. There's a lot of gray area in their motivations -- Ivy, for example, and her loyalty to her sort of Frankenstein's monster even after learning what he's been up to. It gives the story a dark feel, something I recall from her earlier books as well.

If you're looking for something a little different in the horror/suspense genre, I'd definitely recommend checking out Benedict's work. Devil's Oven is her latest, but her earlier books -- Isabella Moon and Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts -- are both exceptional.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Vacation by Matthew Costello

Paterville Camp, where you and your family can relax -- or not.

A vacation is just what the doctor ordered after NYPD officer Jack Murphy barely survives an attack. His partner was killed by a group of Can Heads, roving bands of cannibals that have become an increasing threat since the water dried up and blight attacked the crops. But Jack isn't the kind of person who relaxes easily and something about Paterville has him worried. Sure it's surrounded by a massive electric fence and heavily armed guards walk the perimeter every night, but why does Jack still feel unsafe? It won't take long for him to discover Paterville's secret. But will he and his family survive this vacation?

What did I love about this book? It's fun! Plain and simple. It's dark and dirty fun in a semi post apocalyptic setting. The only thing that would have made this a more perfect read would be if I'd read it in a cabin in the woods!

Seriously, it's a pretty simple story and a really quick read but Costello's setting is fantastic in its simplicity. Then there's the added bonus of wondering what caused the Can Heads and the blight that's killed the crops.

Jack and his family are totally believable and I was rooting for the cop all the way. And Paterville's eeriness is not too blatant or overt, just barely more than implied and presented in a way that scratch at the back of your brain along with Jack's worries.

Based on the acknowledgements in the book, it sounds as though there's a screenplay for this floating around somewhere. I would actually love to see this become a feature length film. I think it would be a great one to watch!

Vacation does have a bit of a cliffhanger ending but no worries, readers, the sequel, Home, hits shelves on October 30 and I have it on good authority that it stands on its own as well as being a follow up.

As a bonus, Tor posted an except last year. You can find it here. Vacation is available in paperback and on audio.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

To See or Not to See: Sinister

There's not a whole lot in the horror arena hitting the big screens this Halloween season, sadly.

September saw the release of:
Resident Evil: Retribution -- I didn't expect much and was still disappointed.
House at the End of the Street -- pretty underwhelming

And then we hit October with:

The upcoming:
Paranormal Activity 4
Silent Hill Revelation

And indie movies likely not to be playing in a theater near you:
Grave Encounters 2
Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes

And then there was Sinister. Now given my great disappointment with horror flicks of late, I'd hoped that Sinister would surprise me but had understandable reservations about it. Some of the producers were also behind 2010's Insidious, which was fairly good. So yes, I hoped Sinister would be great but I was prepared for it to suck.

Frankly, though, the movie didn't suck at all. Instead, it was shocking and highly unsettling.

Ethan Hawke plays Ellison Oswalt, a true crime writer who's last few books have not been well received. He has one bestseller to his name, though, and hopes that his latest project will again bring him to the top of the NYT list. What he doesn't tell his family is that this time they've not just moved to a town where a horrible crime has occurred, they've moved into the exact house where said crime happened. The previous owners were hung and their youngest daughter is still missing.

The first day in their new house, Ellison discovers a box of home videos in the attic. As he sits down to watch, he quickly realizes that the tapes are recordings of murders. Not just the most recent one that occurred in his new house, but others that took place in different houses in past decades. Ellison believes he's on the verge of a huge discovery, one that will ensure his new book will be a big hit. But as time goes by, he begins to realize that things in the house are maybe a little beyond his control.

You can check out the trailer here.

I think the folks behind this movie did everything right! The suspense is killer -- they spend plenty of time building the Oswalt family -- you know that things have not been easy since the last books, Ellison's relationship with his wife is tense, and his kids have problems of their own.

The story is interesting and unique -- their created boogeyman has a believable story behind him even though he's completely fictional.

The movie is shocking and pretty gory. There were definitely some jump out of your seats scenes and lots of uncomfortable squeamish moments. It's an intense watch, in my opinion. I left the theater feeling more than a little ruffled and that hasn't happened in quite a long time.

At this point, I can say that I've seen at least one great horror movie in 2012. Now I just wish we could have some more!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones Excerpt + a Giveaway!

I'm pleased as punch to be part of the Grimlet tour for Darynda Jones's teen debut, Death and the Girl Next Door!

Lorelei's life is a bit odd. Her parents disappeared ten years ago and she's been raised by her grandparents ever since. And Lorelei has visions. Strange visions that she often doesn't understand, like the one she had about the new guy, Jared, fighting a dark, demonic creature. While Lorelei tries to figure that one out, she also realizes that a fellow classmate is stalking her. But that's just the beginning. 

Ooh, I don't want to give too much away on this one. This is the first in Darynda's new Darklight series and it's perfect for teen readers and fans of the Charley Davidson books as well. The premise is definitely unique and the characters are great -- plus it's all packaged in Darynda's trademark style!

Here's an excerpt to give you a taste -- and don't forget to check out the giveaways below!

Death and the Girl Next Door (excerpt)
By Darynda Jones

I laughed to myself and headed toward the back of our favorite
and pretty much only hangout. It sat a mere block from our
alma mater, Riley High, and we practically lived in our corner
booth. I ducked past the snack counter and into a very dark back
hall. Judging by the boxes lining the narrow passage, I’d be taking
my life into my hands if I risked a journey to the little senorita’s
room without illumination, so I ran my hand along a
paneled wall. Where would I be if I were a light switch? Just as
the tips of my fingers found the switch, a silhouette stepped out
of the shadows and brushed past me. I startled with a gasp.

“Excuse me,” I said, placing a hand over my heart.

“Sorry.” The guy paused slightly before continuing on his
way, and in that instant, I saw the makings of utter perfection: a
long arm with shadowy curves that dipped around the fluid
lines of muscle; a tall, wide shoulder; dark hair that curled playfully
over an ear and led to a strong, masculine jaw. Something
inside me lurched, craving a closer look at his face, but he walked
by too fast and the hall was too dark for me to catch anything

After a couple of seconds, I realized my hand had brushed
against his arm. It was enough to send a vision crashing into me,
like the flash of a nuclear bomb, bright and unforgiving. Tamping
down my surprise— I hadn’t had a vision in a very long time— I
pressed shaking fingers to my forehead to wait out the familiar
storm, to see what treasures would wash ashore in the aftermath.

Yet the things I saw were unreal, impossible, and certainly not
of this world: A desolate landscape lay before me with scorched
clouds and a roiling, violet sky. The air was stagnant and so impossibly
thick, breathing it took effort. Then I heard the clanging
of metal. I turned to watch in horror as a being, a boy of no more
than sixteen or seventeen, fierce and somehow not quite human,
struggled with a dark, monstrous beast. The boy’s arms corded as
tendon and muscle strained against the weight of the sword he
wielded. He slashed again and again, but the monster was fast,
with razorlike talons and sharp, gleaming teeth, and the boy
knew what those teeth felt like when they sank into flesh, knew
the blinding pain that accompanied defeat. But he also knew the
power he himself wielded, the raw strength that saturated every
molecule of his body.

Another herculean effort landed a thrust in the monster’s
shoulder and continued through its thick chest. The monster
sank under the boy’s sword with a guttural scream. The boy
looked on while the beast writhed in pain, watched it grow still
as the life drained out of it, and somewhere in the back of the
boy’s mind, he allowed himself to register the burning of his
lungs as he struggled to fill them with air.

Blood trickled between his fingers, down the length of his
blade, and dripped to the powdery earth beneath his feet. I followed
the trail of blood up to three huge gashes across his chest.
Evidently three of the monster’s claws had met their mark,
laying the flesh of its enemy open. I gasped and covered my
mouth with both hands as the boy spun toward me, sword at the
ready. Squinting against the low sun, I could almost make out
his features, but the vision evaporated before I got the chance. A
heartbeat later, I was back in the dark hallway, gasping for air,
one palm pressed against my temple, the other against the wall
for balance.

I squeezed my eyes shut, fought the memory of the vision,
the fear that summoned the taste of bile in the back of my throat,
the feel of blood dripping down the boy’s arm.

There are a couple of tour wide giveaways with this one. The first signup below is to win a copy of Death and the Girl Next Door. The second is for a surprise giveaway. There's plenty of time to enter both.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

I had to take some time off from my horror reading to get to Catherine McKenzie's latest. In truth, I spent much of last week and the weekend sick enough to be miserable and Forgotten turned out to be just what the doctor ordered, especially in the wee hours of my latest insomnia night.

Emma Tupper never wanted to go to Africa, that was her mother's dream. But her mother's dying wish was for Emma to travel to Tswanaland. She was supposed to be gone for just a month but an illness and then a tragic earthquake left Emma cut off from the outside world for a total of six months. Emma's return is something of a shock for everyone considering she was pronounced missing and presumed dead. Her apartment has been re rented and her possessions are gone. Fortunately, the new tenant is willing to help Emma out as she tries to set things right and rebuild her life. 

I love McKenzie's work! Her stories are amazingly heartfelt without being sappy and her characters are real -- Emma, Anne of Arranged, and Kate of Spin, are the kinds of girls I'd be friends with. I connected with each of them and sympathized with them all.

With Emma, I shared her frustrations and her sadness (yes, I teared up a little) as well as her elation over each accomplishment. I was left wondering how I'd react in her situation -- it's a scary prospect, being cut off from the world and facing the possibility of losing everything. I wonder if I'd reinvent myself, as Dominic suggests, or if I'd try to go back to life as normal. Who knows!

There's so much emotion and depth in McKenzie's tales. She's quickly become one of my favorite must-read authors this year. Each new book has been an absolute joy to read -- even at 1am with a ridiculously stuffy head.

Forgotten is already out in Canada and hits shelves in the US today. I can definitely, highly recommend it and I can't wait to see what McKenzie will do next.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Witch of Babylon by D.J. McIntosh

John Madison is an art dealer who's recently lost his brother in an accident everyone is quick to blame on him. When he finally ventures out to attend a party given by his friend Hal, John ends up being dragged into a conspiracy and a puzzle of large proportions. Hal is murdered and John is witness to the crime. What's more, it seems Hal stole a priceless artifact John's brother recently brought over from Iraq. Though John's never laid eyes on the piece, Hal's murderers are intent on finding it and convinced that John knows its whereabouts. Fortunately, Hal left John clues about the piece. Unfortunately, time is running out for John to solve the puzzle. 

It seemed there were a ton of these sorts of historical thriller/puzzle titles in the wake of The Da Vinci Code and while I'm a fan of them, D. J. McIntosh's Witch of Babylon doesn't stand out for me as being particularly inventive or original.

By no means does that imply that The Witch of Babylon is not entertaining. The story moves at a fairly quick pace and there's a good bit of action throughout. The puzzles, though, are a bit confusing and I found I had to rely solely on the characters and their explanations and just take their word for it in some cases. There were also some odd transitions between scenes -- weird downtime with the characters that seemed unnecessary given the accepted urgency of solving the puzzles and finding the engraving. And the history of the piece itself was fascinating but greatly slowed the novel. Anytime there was a good bit of narrative about the engraving and its supposed background, the story stalled much more than I'd expected.

Overall I found McIntosh's debut to be a fun read but one that started to lose appeal if I really thought too hard about what was going on. As long as I just went along with the story and did't try to figure anything out on my own (tough for someone with a long history of mystery reading) it was all good.

This is the first book in McIntosh's Mesopotamian trilogy. It hits shelves in the US tomorrow, October 16.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

New Releases 10/15/12

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Panther by Nelson Demille

Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

Angel's Ink by Jocelynn Drake

The Walking Dead: Road to Woodbury by Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga

Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander

The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski

A Fatal Winter by GM Malliet

Golden Dawn by Thomas Kastigan

Portlandtown by Rob DeBorde

The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block

The Witch of Babylon by DJ McIntosh

Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney

Sacrifice Fly by Tim O'Mara

The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell

Crewel by Gennifer Albin

The Innocents by Lili Peloquin

Hidden by PC Cast and Kristen Cast

Beta by Rachel Cohn

New on DVD:
Chernobyl Diaries
Moonrise Kingdom

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Robert Ludlum's The Janus Reprisal by Jamie Freveletti
The Turning by Francine Prose
Velveteen by Danny marks
Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Post: Max Gladstone and the Origin of Three Parts Dead

Good morning, all! I'm thrilled to be hosting Max Gladstone on the blog this morning. Max is the author of Three Parts Dead, out now from Tor.

Three Parts Dead is such a unique and fabulous story. I wanted to know more about how this story and this world came to be written. Here's Max's piece on the idea behind Three Parts Dead:

Invisible Worlds
By Max Gladstone

The idea for Three Parts Dead came from the end of the world.  Or, the end of a world.

I was fresh back from two years teaching abroad, caught in what editorial columns were starting to call a 'quarter-life crisis.'  My time in China had left me with a quiver full of stories, two and a half finished novels, and confusion as to what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life.  I knew I didn't want to be an ocean and a continent away from friends and family, but I knew little else.
No worries, though.  I had a degree, I could speak Chinese, my friends were doing well in PhD and professional programs.  The woman who would become my wife was rocking her first year of law school. I didn't have a job, but that wouldn't take long to remedy.  It couldn't.
So I thought, when I moved into a small house in Inman Square in late August 2008.
You know what happens next.  Initial job inquiries seem promising.  Job leads return my calls.  Resumes excite interest.  I pursue the future. 

Until the economy implodes.
At first I don't notice.  The world collapses on the front pages of newspapers, but the damage is invisible.  Leads start to dry up, but leads dry up, and as the man says, the leads aren't weak.  You're weak.  But as September deepens into October, I wander around Cambridge and notice something's changed.  Light assumes a different quality.  A world I can barely sense has frozen.  Men and women more attuned to this invisible world explain causes and consequences to audiences and television cameras, but that world itself remains invisible.  Debts fall due, yes, contracts collapse, uncertainty creeps into markets and values.  No houses have been burned, no factories lie in rubble, but the invisible world has changed, and soon those houses will burn, and those factories stand abandoned.
Once, a Chinese high school student asked me about Taiwan.  She felt, very strongly, that Taiwan was rich, and that China should invade and take Taiwan's money for itself.
I tried to explain to her that the wealth she wanted wasn't in a bank vault somewhere.  Taiwan's money was spread throughout the world, immaterial, and a war would destroy its wealth.  I didn't understand global economics very well myself at the time, so our conversation drew off into confusion as we both tried to describe an invisible world in our second languages.
I remembered that conversation two years later, as the invisible world unraveled.  It felt like a Time War, a secret apocalypse.  And folks unlucky enough to be in my position, looking for work in the chaos, we wandered around trying to make sense of the new world in which we found ourselves.
That was the year of Three Parts Dead: a year of hope and fear, a year of reeling, a year of feeling somehow betrayed.  A year of realizing how much my actions had been driven by a drum beat I'd never been aware of hearing.  A year of wondering what's next.
I wanted to answer that question, or at least explore it, but I didn't know enough.  Nobody did.  So I tried to dream.  I needed a world with an invisible component that a reader could understand intuitively, a world that would resonate on a spiritual level.  Gods seemed a good place to start.  Ragnarok was too huge for the project I had in mind; why not focus on one god, and follow the consequences of His death for His people?  A story about nothing but the god's death and His worshippers' reaction seemed to rob human characters of agency, at a time when the papers regaled us with attempted interventions in the collapse.  So, a class of professionals emerged, related to the gods but not of them—inimical to them in many respects, symbiotic at least if not parasitic.  Problem-solvers rise in response to problems.  Society takes shape.
At which point the characters and their motivations took over.  Symbols grew, cohered, and interacted on their own.  The world twitched, and gave birth to its own problems, its own characters.  Gargoyles entered from stage left.  A goddess grew within the frame of the story.  A police officer with a problem stumbled out of a back-alley bar.  And all of a sudden the ending world in the book no longer felt like an echo of the world I knew.
A world, or something like it, had come to life.
I don't think the cracking of the old system was the key to writing Three Parts Dead; I'd had ideas about money and law and magic before.  But that cracking gave me the energy I needed to write the book.   As I looked for a way to live in the real world, the characters of my book searched for a way to live in theirs.  I've charted a stable course, for the moment; Tara and her companions resolve their immediate challenges as well, but they too must negotiate a transformed world.
The end of the world, you see, is just another day.  It's what we do after that counts.

Big, big thanks to Tor for inviting me to participate in the tour for Three Parts Dead and huge thanks to Max Gladstone for the guest post today. For more on Max and his work, visit his official website here. You can also follow him on Twitter

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Kos Everburning has died. The city of Alt Coulumb and the surrounding areas have long relied on the old God for power and heat, so his death would have terrible results for everyone. Tara Abernathy has been hired by Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao to work the case. If they can find the cause of Kos's death, they can possibly bring him back. Though she is helped by one of Kos's Novices and one of the city's Blacksuits, Tara has limited time to unravel the cause behind the God's demise and when they find the Gargoyles have returned, things become complicated.

It's kind of hard to sum this one up in a brief synopsis. First, while the plot is basically a mystery -- what caused Kos's death -- the world and the history of the world are very intricate. You have the God Wars in which Kos's fellow goddess Seril was killed. You have the banishment of the Gargoyles, the creation of the Blacksuits -- the police force and servants of Seril in her new form --, and the Craft. And to try and tie those elements into the synopsis kind of gives away some of the great build of the story itself.

In essence, Three Parts Dead is a bit of a legal thriller wrapped very deeply in a web of super cool fantasy. With such a detailed and different concept behind this one, any wary reader might expect one of two things, the dreaded info-dump, or being completely lost as you wind your way through a story with little to no info. Neither is the case here. Gladstone does a fantastic job including enough bits and pieces along the way that nothing comes across as confusing or overly detailed and slow. Quite a BIG accomplishment with this kind of story.

Whether you choose to read more deeply into Gladstone's story is your choice. Based on Gladstone's comments on the genesis of the story, you can definitely read more into the book and apply current politics and economic issues, should you choose. It's all there but thankfully never overwhelms the tale. I much prefer a quieter symbolic look at the possible downfall of the world than a blatantly bleak beating over the head. Never fear fellow ostriches, in terms of pure entertainment, Three Parts Dead is intriguing and suspenseful. The plotting is smart and the pacing is spot on. What's more, this is the kind of cross genre release that'll appeal to lots of readers across the board.