Friday, October 30, 2015

Short Fiction Friday: Seize the Night edited by Christopher Golden

Vampires have had a tough time of it lately. Burnout, I mean. They were the HOT topic for quite some time and then the reading public seemed to lose their taste for them. It happens. A glut of books all on one subject generally does mean readers are going to sour to it eventually.

But even if you're in this boat, the new Seize the Night anthology is so worth your time!

The premise of the anthology is simply to make vampires scary once again. The authors (a FANTASTIC lineup) take their bloodsuckers from mythology and folklore all around the world, creating a collection of truly frightening tales that is a serious genre standout!

And did I mention they're scary vampires? Yeah, I'm not kidding. These authors took their job seriously in bringing vampires back to their terrifying (and deserving) roots!

Scott Smith (SCOTT SMITH!!!) kicks off the collection with what has to be hands down one of my favorite stories of late: a young woman takes a job as a caretaker for an elderly couple and things don't go very well for her. Seanan McGuire's outing is equally excellent and will make you reconsider the wonder of fireflies. Kelley Armstrong tackles the viral apocalypse and the decline of humanity in her tale. And John Ajvide Lindqvist offers up a tale that may possibly be set in the same universe as his wildly popular Let the Right One In and follow up short "Let the Old Dreams Die." These are just a few of my favorites - it really is overall a fabulous collection and each of the stories is brand spanking new for the collection.

Here's the full TOC for you:

"Up in Old Vermont" by Scott Smith
"Something Lost, Something Gained" by Seanan McGuire
"On the Dark Side of Sunlight Basin" by Michael Koryta
"The Neighbors" by Sherrilyn Kenyon
"Paper Cuts" by Gary A. Braunbeck
"Miss Fondevant" by Charlaine Harris
"In a Cavern, in a Canyon" by Laird barron
"Whiskey and Light" by Dana Cameron
"We Are All Monsters Here" by Kelley Armstrong
"May the End be Good" by Tim Lebbon
"Mrs. Popkin" by Dan Choan and Lynda Barry
"Direct Report" by Leigh Perry
"Shadow and Thirst" by John Langan
"Mother" by Joe McKinney
"Blood" by Robert Shearman
"The Yellow Death" by Lucy A. Snyder
"The Last Supper" by Brian Keene
"Separator" by Rio Youers
"What Kept You So Long?" by John Ajvide Lindqvist
"Blue Hell" by David Wellington

This is - as with Slasher Girls & Monster Boys from last week - a seriously fantastic collection of tales. It's one to savor, too. Rather than zoom through it, as I was tempted to, I saved it, reading a tale or two a day and in between other reads. It stretched out the scary and tempered the terror a bit.

Trust me, readers, this is a collection you want, need, and have to get your hands on!

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Brother by Ania Ahlborn + a Giveaway

As part of my continued efforts to binge read as much horror as I can in the days leading up to Halloween, yesterday I burrowed in with a copy of Ania Ahlborn's latest, Brother. I've not yet quite recovered.

I'm going to head this up by saying that in spite of what you read below, Brother is quite good. Ahlborn's got a serious talent for horror and any genre fan should definitely check her work out. I do have a copy of Brother to give away today so be sure to enter via the Rafflecopter at the end of the post if you're interested in getting your name in the running.

Michael doesn't really fit in with the Morrows, but he does know his place. Don't upset Momma and do everything Reb says and he'll be ok. Maybe. 

When Michael meets Alice, he finds himself falling for a girl for the first time. And as Alice dreams of leaving behind Dahlia, she makes Michael consider escaping the Morrows for the first time. But Reb has other plans for Michael. Plans that don't include his leaving the Morrows. Ever. 

I've been debating how much to say about this book, but considering I found out what it was really about from other reviewers I guess it's not too spoilery to go ahead and tell you this is a book about cannibals.

Yep, you heard right. Cannibals. Never my favorite horror subject matter, but since it's Ania Ahlborn I didn't let it deter me. I think one of the reasons I generally stay away from cannibal horror is that it's a bit too... human. I can see it happening more easily than a lot of the other horror fodder and I find it more disturbing as a result.

And Brother is definitely disturbing.

Ahlborn reels you in with Michael, letting you get to know him and his story. He's not really a bad guy, but he's been raised into an impossible situation. And the focus is more on him as a character and his arc than the overall eating human flesh thing.

And then there's Reb. Reb's story we get via flashbacks interspersed between the present day narrative. Reb, like Michael, turns out to be more gray than black and white. In fact, he turns this story from a clear cut horror tale into a bit of a family drama. (In actuality, the when and the exact why behind this family's weird food issues are never really laid out. It's a framework, a really twisted framework!)

We all know that there are houses that hold secrets. Kids growing up in families that hide awful stories. I'm not saying I think any of my neighbors are serial killing cannibals but I am saying that Ahlborn has taken something familiar to us all and wrapped it up in a gory little package that fits neatly into genre reading. It's quiet well done, too.

Horror should shake you up, readers, and Brother does just that. You can consider me pretty amply shaken :)

I would say as well that you shouldn't pass up Ahlborn's acknowledgements. She does specifically refer to the movie that inspired this and it's likely not the one you think it is. You know, in case you want to continue the... fun.

Rating: 4/5

And now for the giveaway. To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 9. (US only please.)

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The Pretty Ones by Ania Ahlborn

I'm going to go ahead and declare today Ania Ahlborn day on the blog! And I'm kicking things off with a novella review first (followed by a review of Brother).

It's 1977 and the Son of Sam is stalking the city. Nell Sullivan isn't worried, though. She has more immediate problems. 

Nell is quiet and keeps to herself, mostly out of a need for survival. The office girls aren't welcoming. In fact, Nell finds herself being bullied by the worst one of them all. But at least she has her brother. And a new friend. And as the city braces itself for more killings, Nell begins to break out of her shell. 

This was a fun little story! I mean, it's set during the Son of Sam killings so you've got a built in tense atmosphere. Then you've got poor, downtrodden Nell.

Nell lives alone in the city with her brother. Her brother is the charismatic one, the one people like. But her brother doesn't work, so it's up to Nell to pay the rent. Which is why she's stayed at Rambert & Bertram in spite of the fact that her co workers are making her miserable.

It's not just that they go out for after work drinks and don't invite her along. It's that the so-called pretty girls are outright catty and mean to Nell. Her brother Barrett says it doesn't matter, Nell has him and that's all she needs. But Nell longs for a connection beyond Barrett! Nell wants a friend.

So when one of her co workers offers a sliver of hope in that regard, Nell pounces.

Of course this is an Ania Ahlborn tale so you know things aren't going to end well. The surprise is in the turn the story takes, though, making The Pretty Ones a great little addition to Ahlborn's list of works.

If you haven't yet read Ahlborn, this is a good one to start with. You'll get a nice taste of her style, but you should know that this is in some ways a bit of a tame story for Ahlborn, at least compared to, oh I don't know, Brother.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Amanda is pregnant and afraid. She'd planned to run away rather than face her parents and tell them the truth. After all, to lay with a man out of wedlock is a sin. There's at least some chance her father may well turn her out after learning what she's done. 

But before she's forced to face it, Amanda's father decides it's time for the family to move. The coming winter is to be a hard one and he doesn't think they can weather another like the last in their current settlement. He's heard there's a place in the valley with free land and abandoned cabins that can be claimed and has decided this is where they'll go.

When they arrive, the indeed find a cabin that suits their needs perfectly. But before they can move in they discover something awful has left its stain - literally. Amanda's father is determined, though, and believes all the cabin needs is a good cleaning and a new floor. 

Amanda knows different. Because Amanda knows all about evil and sin. 

Cat Winters blurbed this by one saying, "Imagine Stephen King writing Little House on the Prairie." It's a pretty astute comparison, readers. Daughters Unto Devils is creepy! And considering it's set during pioneer times, by default it fits my own rural/folk horror obsession of late (it's a thing, it should be a BIGGER thing).

The difficulties faced by early pioneers are known. Heck, the beginning of the book reads a bit like playing The Oregon Trail, with the reader just waiting for someone to come down with dysentery or something! The hardships Amanda and her family have already suffered are bad enough, which is why her father brings them off the mountain in the first place.

Unfortunately there is no solace to be found on the prairie.

As if Amanda didn't have enough to be worried about, she hints at an incident that occurred the previous winter that's left everyone on edge around her. Without knowing what it is, the reader is left to wonder if maybe she's gone off the deep end or is communing with evil spirits - or anything in between for that matter.

And yeah, a cabin drenched in blood! Holy freaking crap! I would not be sleeping there.

I thought Daughters Unto Devils was brilliant and awesome. It does have a slower pace and a more gradual build, but by the time you get to the end it's like a great big slap in the face full of scary!

Given that Amy Lukavics has the same reading background I do, I definitely hoped her debut would be good - that she'd be a writer after my own dark reading heart. She far, far exceeded my expectations, y'all! I can't wait to see what she'll do for her second book.

Rating: 5/5

Shelf Control: Missing Monday by Matthew Costello

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, giving book junkies like me a chance to highlight some of the lingering titles in our TBR stacks!

What it's about (from the back of the book):

On Sunday night Janna Wade went to sleep and had the dream. 

The black clouds roiling in the sky...
The isolated farmhouse beckoning in the distance...

The stairway leading into nothing...
The choking sobs coming from behind the door...

Open the door Janna. Don't be afraid, your screams will wake you.

When Janna does awaken, it's Tuesday - an entire day lost. Yet according to her friends she was at work, her e-mails were answered, her lunch dates were met, and her phone calls were returned. In fact, it was a day just like any other. Except Janna doesn't remember a thing. It's as if she wasn't there at all. And if Janna wasn't there, who was?

The answer comes with a stranger - a woman who knows what becomes of Janna's lost nights... who knows what Janna dreams... and who knows that from now on, Janna's every waking hour will be a nightmare. 

How I got it:

At the bookstore.

When I got it:

Well the fact that it's out of print now means I got it way too long ago for it to still be in my TBR!

Why I want to read it:

First of all, that cover! Plus I was intrigued by the premise. 

Years after this book released, Costello wrote a duo of zombie books (Vacation and Home) that I absolutely loved. And so, Missing Monday came back on my radar (it's shelved in a weird spot, I'm working on that). Course now that it's out of print it's even harder to fit into the reading/review schedule (am I the only one with this issue?).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Fear Street Relaunch - Don't Stay Up Late and The Lost Girl by R.L. Stine

Oh, Fear Street. I remember coming across these at my elementary school book fair in third grade. Haunted was my first of the series and, I think, my first official horror purchase! In my first few reading years, I devoured as many of these as I could, switching off between R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike and any other interesting horror covers I could find in our bookstore's one bay of young adult selections. It's a memory I share with a LOT of other readers my age, I know.

It's fun to see that Fear Street is getting a comeback. Stine and St. Martins have relaunched the series with three titles so far - Party Games, Don't Stay Up Late, and the very recently released The Lost Girl  - bringing the horrors of Fear Street alive for a new set of readers. And offering a bit of nostalgia for those of us who grew up with it in the first place. 

I had the pleasure of settling in with two of them this week - Don't Stay Up Late and The Lost Girl and wanted to do a little post in these days leading up to Halloween. 

In Don't Stay Up Late, Lisa and her mother barely survive a tragic accident that claims Lisa's father. After such a trauma, it's no wonder Lisa would be shaken up. So when Lisa starts having frightening nightmares, it's immediately chalked up as a side effect from the accident. 

Lisa's doctor suggests she find something to occupy her time and her mind as she heals, referring Lisa to a woman she knows is in need of a babysitter. And though the woman's house is on Fear Street, Lisa doesn't believe the rumors. But when her nightmares start to come alive, she has to wonder - are the stories about Fear Street true or is she losing her mind?

So Lisa is seeing monsters and no one believes her. As the reader, we're not even sure if WE can believe her either. After all, the monster only shows up when she's basically alone and no one else has ever seen it. Seems pretty coincidental, right? 

And if we know anything from reading Fear Street, anything is possible. Lisa may very well be as crazy as she thinks she is. 

I won't tell, though. 

Rating: 3/5

In The Lost Girl, Michael is drawn to new girl Lizzy for reasons even he can't explain. Sure, she's hot. But so is his girlfriend, Pepper. But Lizzy seems to show up, all the time and it's started to get on Pepper's nerves. 

Then Lizzy invites herself along on an afternoon of snowboarding and things take a dark turn. What happened that afternoon was only an accident, but now it seems someone wants Michael and his friends to pay. With their lives!

The Lost Girl is actually split between 1950, where we begin in the tale, and today. In 1950 we meet Beth, a girl whose father has just opened a brand new stable in Shadyside. Beth has a secret, an ability she hasn't shared with anyone else. But Beth's story doesn't end well at all. 

We cut to present day where Michael witnesses Lizzy (he doesn't know her name yet) shoplifting. And then he runs into her again at school. Of course we - and Pepper - can clearly see how Lizzy is manipulating Michael, basically stalking him. But it isn't until the end that we really find out why. 

Rating: 3/5

I had a lot of fun diving into these this week. Again, a lot of that is nostalgia. The new books fit the same format as the old ones, leading readers astray with false leads and twists galore. I probably enjoyed Don't Stay Up Late a bit more than The Lost Girl if only because The Lost Girl seemed cut short; I felt like there should have been more to the story.

I love the fact that they've brought the books back but I'm not sure they'd hold the same charm for me if I didn't have such fond memories of reading the series all those years ago. Either way, I'm glad they're getting a comeback. Fear Street is one weird place and I'm sure there are a ton more stories Stine can tell about it!

Top Ten Tuesday: Titles in my Halloween TBR

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is a freebie so I've decided to post the top ten titles in my Halloween TBR. 

I have already read quite a few horror titles this fall: The Accident SeasonSlasher Girls & Monster BoysThe House of Small ShadowsDaughters Unto DevilsCharlotte's Story, The Dead House, Blood & Salt, and a couple of the rebooted Fear Street titles, but this list includes a bunch I'm trying desperately to get to before the end of Saturday. (Yes, there are less than ten days to go before Halloween and I know I probably won't get to them all. I'm sure going to try, though!) 

For more great Halloween recommendations, check out a few of these lists:

Hester Young's (author of Gates of Evangeline) 5 Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit from Bookish

Monday, October 26, 2015

The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevil + a Giveaway

The British Fantasy Awards were handed out over the weekend and Adam Nevill's recently released No One Gets Out Alive won for best horror! Readers, this book scared the ever living crap out of me so of course, with this being the week leading up to Halloween, I wanted more. Boy did I get what I asked for.

When Catherine is brought in to value M. H. Mason's estate, it's a dream come true. Her first taste of this treasure trove is a peek at a pristine collection of antique dolls Catherine knows will fetch a small fortune at auction. But it's when she learns that some of Mason's rare and much sought after taxidermy is up for grabs that she realizes just how much of a boon this will be to her career. 

But first she has to get past Mason's eccentric niece. The woman seems determined to lead Catherine on, forcing her to play out some strange waiting game before she'll even sign Catherine's contract. At first, it's just a small annoyance - a rude old woman set in her ways. But when she insists Catherine stay at the house during the process, things take a much more sinister turn. Now it's all Catherine can do to escape with her sanity still intact!

The Red House is probably now on my list of creepiest old mansions just behind Crimson Peak and Bliss House! (We can throw the Overlook in there too even though it's a hotel.) Located just outside of a seemingly abandoned village in the middle of nowhere, Red House has no phone, no internet, and very little in the way of outside contact. And at first Catherine thinks this likely the cause of her hostess' odd behavior.

Catherine has her own demons to battle. She's regularly fighting off overwhelming anxiety and paranoia that she's been working for years with a therapist to deal with. Most of that stems, though, from a childhood of being bullied and the disappearance of her best friend. Coincidentally, the Red House is located in the vicinity of the town where Catherine spent her first six years - the very same town where said friend and a handful of other children vanished without a trace.

All of that is to say that Catherine's got enough wits about her to realize that she may to be prone to overreacting. Which, unfortunately, is how she manages to get drawn deeper and deeper into a mystery she's afraid she can't escape.

What I love about Nevill's work is the overall sense of dread that he infuses his tales with. No One Gets Out Alive jumps into very dark territory pretty quickly, but that overwhelming unsettling feeling is there even in the few pages before that really dark stuff begins. Here, though, that atmosphere and underlying chill builds a bit more slowly, almost lulling the reader into a sort of complacency. That doesn't mean that it's not creepy - it is, intensely so - but I was two thirds of the way through the book thinking that The House of Small Shadows was surprisingly less brutal than No One Gets Out Alive. It seemed though that the moment I voiced this opinion to my husband, the book took a seriously twisted turn!

This is a warning to you, if you are the least bit squeamish this is not the book for you. If the cover makes you want to run and hide, this is definitely not the book for you! If, however, you really do delight in - as I said above - having the ever living crap scared out of you, this is a good one to choose. So, yeah it fit the bill for me :)

Rating: 4/5

If you want to spend some time in the Red House, then you're in luck! I've got a copy to give away to one of you today. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 9. It'll be a post-season treat to stretch the Halloween spirit a little longer. Open US only.

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Days of the Dead Blog Tour: Guest Post by Gail Z. Martin

Happy Monday, readers! Today I am very pleased to be hosting the fabulous Gail Z. Martin as part of her Days of the Dead blog tour! Gail has a ton of goodies on offer for the tour, so be sure to read through to the end for links to all of those.

Before I hand things over to Gail, I want to point out, readers, that she has a brand spanking new book due out this season. Vendetta is the second in her Deadly Curiosities series - I reviewed the first title for Bookbitch.com here. Vendetta is due out in December so that gives you plenty of time to track down a copy of Deadly Curiosities in the meantime!

And now, without further ado, here's Gail!

Something Wonderfully Wicked This Way Comes
By Gail Z. Martin

Halloween has always been my second favorite holiday, right after Christmas. A lot of that has to do with decorating and candy, but mostly I’ve loved Halloween’s spooky-as-you-want-to-be vibe for as long as I can remember.

After all, I was the kid who once talked her mother into mocking up her bedroom as a haunted house. We came up with a twisty path through the room, put an old costume on a broom and rigged an arm that would raise and lower with a pull-string, and put a cemetery with cardboard headstones in one corner, with stuffed animal ghosts. It was awesome. (And then I got scared and wouldn’t sleep in that room for a week.)

I was also the kid who not only dressed up like a vampire in elementary school one year, but commandeered a large box for my ‘coffin’ so I could rise like Bela Lugosi. My mom was a teacher who often had to stay after school for meetings or programs. Just up the street was a cemetery that was over one hundred years old. So I used to go wander by myself, making up stories about the dead based on the inscriptions and epitaphs on their headstones. There are so many tantalizing clues about people long-dead from their markers, and no way to solve the mystery, so I spun my own tales. When I was in high school, I once planned a family vacation that took in Salem, Massachusetts (you know, the witch trial Salem), the oldest cemeteries in the area, and lots of caves.

I’ve always loved scary stories (especially ghost stories), urban legends, and folklore with cool monsters. I got in trouble in school for checking out books from the public library about witches. Macbeth was my favorite Shakespeare play because—witches. My favorite ride at Disney World—the Haunted Mansion. I had more fun taking my teenage kids to the haunted theme park Scare-o-winds than they did! When we travel, my family is resigned to the fact that I’ve got us booked for the local ghost tour, or we’ll be stopping off for a look at the biggest, oldest cemetery in the vicinity.

Nowadays, we’ve got the biggest Halloween decorations display on our block, complete with an inflatable six-foot tall dragon who flaps his wings and a ‘hearse’ with a vampire who sits up in his coffin, driven by the headless horseman. I have a couple of Halloween-themed sweaters (that I promise my family I will only wear to hand out candy), and a soundtrack on my iPod of all of Midnight Syndicate’s creepy/scary/atmospheric music, which I play during Trick-or-Treat. I’m consistent!

I guess I bring a little bit of Halloween into all my books. After all, my first epic fantasy series had a necromancer as a good guy (the Chronicles of the Necromancer series)! Necromancers have shown up in some of my other series as well, from Tormod Solveig in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga to Archibald Donnelly in the Deadly Curiosities universe. Even the steampunk series I co-write with my husband, Larry N. Martin, has absinthe magic, supernatural entities, and immortals among all the technological steam-driven marvels.

I draw on Voodoo and Hoodoo plus Native American, European, African, Caribbean, Nordic and Jewish folklore and ghost stories for supernatural elements, magic and monsters as well as good and evil magical practitioners. It’s fun to bring in the magical and supernatural elements of cultures that aren’t as familiar to readers, because it keeps the scare fresh and unpredictable. I chose Charleston, SC as the setting for the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series because Charleston is one of the most haunted cities in the US. It’s got such a rich, varied and bloody history for all its sophistication and urbane charm that you just know the dead don’t rest easy.

I’m really excited for the launch of Vendetta on December 29, the second in my Deadly Curiosities novels. This story has even more magic, monsters, and supernatural threats than the first book, as an immortal enemy with a centuries-old grudge shows up to get revenge and destroy everyone in his path. It won’t be out until December, but it’s available now for pre-order on Amazon.

And if you haven’t already discovered my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories and novellas, there are nearly twenty of them available on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. “Spook House” is the new story for October, and it’s got a creepy Halloween storyline. You can also find a free full-length Deadly Curiosities novella, The Final Death, on Wattpad, along with a free, full-length Storm and Fury (steampunk) novella, Grave Voices—both of them are creeptastically spooky, perfect for a dark autumn night!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here.

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here.

More Treats! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities!

Treats! Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood!

Steampunk Treats! An excerpt from Iron & Blood here.

Monstrous Treats! Enjoy an excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Monstrosities.

Bonus Treats! Read an excerpt from FirstLine and an excerpt from No Man’s Land.

About the Author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

Huge, huge thanks to Gail for being here today! And be sure to check out all of the links provided above for excerpts, giveaways, and more this Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

New Releases 10/27/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Circle by Bernard Minier

A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley

The Devious Dr. Jekyll by Viola Carr

Slade House by David Mitchell

A banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

The British Lion by Tony Schumacher

Wild Cards V: Down and Dirty edited by George R. R. Martin (reissue)

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella

The Humbug Murders by L. J. Oliver

The Theory of Death by Faye Kellerman

Corrupted by Lisa Scottoline

Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith

Depraved Heart by Patricia Cornwell

Playing With Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante by Susan Elia MacNeal

Death at the Abbey by Christine Trent

After Alice by Gregory Maguire

The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa

Persuasion by Martina Boone

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

New on DVD:
The Gift

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
The Lake House by Kate Morton

Friday, October 23, 2015

Short Fiction Friday Wicked Reads for Halloween Edition: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

If you're looking for a really great collection of creepy tales, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is the perfect pick. Edited by April Genevieve Tucholke, the collection features a line up of spectacular YA authors, each of whom has used books, movies, tv, and other media as inspiration for their tales. It's a seriously fabulous concept, y'all!

For adult readers, you're likely to catch on to most of the references. Some are more obvious than others and some are actually fairly obscure-ish and harder to tease out, but they've apparently all prompted these authors to come up with some really terrifying stories. And if you don't figured out all of the inspiring threads by the end, the authors have included a note on those (you know, in case you want to extend your experience by seeking them out).

I'm actually hesitant to mention any of the actual inspiring works here just so you can be surprised when you read! Cat Winters and Leigh Bardugo in particular surprised me with their list of inspirations (I had to look up Bardugo's - I guess I might lose my 90s cred). I'm a bit in awe of how they - and all of the authors - put together their stories and I could not have been more pleased to see what inspired Marie Lu's tale in particular. (I'd be willing to bet - at least I hope - that both teen and adult readers will have at least a little bit of interest in seeking out the source materials.)

Basically, the collection is an absolute dream for pop culture obsessed horror fans! Any horror fans, for that matter. I am totally serious when I say that some of these stories were nightmare inducing. Carrie Ryan's in particular was creeptastically wonderful, but I don't know if I'm glad or a bit remorseful that I didn't read it in the middle of the night.

Here's a full table of contents for you:

"The Birds of Azalea Street" by Nova Ren Suma
"In the Forest Dark and Deep" by Carrie Ryan
"Emmeline" by Cat Winters
"Verse Chorus Verse" by Leigh Bardugo
"Hide-and-Seek" by Megan Shepherd
"The Dark, Scary Parts and All" by Danielle Paige
"The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh" by April Genevieve Tucholke
"Fat Girl With a Knife" by Jonathan Maberry
"Sleepless" by Jay Kristoff
"M" by Stefan Bachmann
"The Girl Without a Face" by Marie Lu
"The Girl Who Dreamed of Snow" by McCormick Templeman
"Stitches" by A. G. Howard
"On the I-5" by Kendare Blake 

I do read a lot of collections but it's been a while since I read one that proved to be so fabulous from start to beginning. I shouldn't be surprised considering the authors here! It's pretty typical in reading anthologies to find that at least one or two tales don't quite hit the mark for me. It's not a reflection on the collection or the authors, it's like (dare I say it?!) a box of chocolates. Let's face it, not everyone loves every piece but there's something for everyone. Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, though, was one of the exceptions. Each and every story was awesome!

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is a dark collection. If you're not into really scary and gory this may not be the collection for you. If you're a fan of any of the contributors, though, I'd bet you're adequately prepared for what's inside and will love it!

Rating: 5/5

And now, just a little reminder of all the fun Wicked Reads stuff going on right now. Remember there's the #TwitterGhostStory event starting on Monday and the next Twitter Chat is today at 4pm (EST I believe). The authors participating are:

Peter Kujawinski author of Nightfall
Jake Halpern author of Nightfall
Kim Liggett author of Blood and Salt
April Genevieve Tucholke author of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Danielle Vega author of The Merciless and Survive the Night
Peter Kujawinski author of Nightfall
Kim Liggett author of Blood and Salt
April Genevieve Tucholke author of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
Carol Goodman author of Blythewood series
Sally Green author of the Half Bad series

(The links above will take you to each authors' twitter profiles.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wicked Reads for Halloween: The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

As I said yesterday I'm going all out with the creepy reads through the end of the month, and though I've got plenty on hand I'm always looking for new suggestions. So when the good folks over at Penguin Teen and Playbuzz started promoting the latest batch of Wicked Reads with posts like this one, I was all over the list!

To be honest, though, most of the titles were already on my must have/read list anyway, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, Nightfall, Blood and Salt, and today's read, Moïra Fowley-Doyle's debut, The Accident Season!

Every October Cara's family becomes more prone to injuries and accidents. They call it the accident season, the month when they need to be extra cautious about their actions. The month when all the sharp objects need to be locked up, the furniture and floors need to be padded, and the kids need to wear extra layers as added protection. 

Cara and Alice have always lived like this. After all, they lost their grandfather and father to the accident season. Even when Sam and his father became part of the family, the accidents continued. Just four years ago, one of the worst, Cara's uncle died after hitting his head on some rocks while swimming. 

When Cara's best friend, Bea, predicts that this accident season will be one of the worst, Cara isn't so sure. How could anything be worse than when they lost her father or Uncle Seth? But the disappearance of one of her classmates prompts Cara to begin searching for answers. Why is the girl in all of Cara's photos? Why does no one seem to remember her? And as the accidents begin to get worse, Cara wonders most of all if she and her family will come through it all ok.  

The Accident Season is a curious read. Part creepy atmosphere, part fairy tale, and possibly even part ghost story. Again, it's curious but I did so love the overall feel of it!

Elsie, the girl who disappears, we learn has been popping up in ALL of Cara's pictures. Some of them are understandable, they were friends once upon a time. But others defy explanation - how, for example, could Elsie be in Cara's family vacation pictures? But when Cara tries to ask Elsie, she discovers the girl has vanished seemingly into thin air. No one - students, teachers, faculty - remembers the girl! Driven by the need for answers, Cara finds at least some distraction from the current accident season. And the month is almost over without any major catastrophes aside from Alice's concussion. But the month isn't up yet.

While all of this is going on, Cara has also begun to have strange dreams about a group of kids that bear a remarkable resemblance to Alice, Sam, Bea, and herself.

The creepy undertones, the dark sort of fairy tale atmosphere, and the mystery about Elsie and the accident season all combine to make this a somewhat genre defying read. It's not really horror, fantasy, or mystery but it does contain elements of each, creating a mashup cross genre read that's wholly intriguing. And there's really no other word for it. It's intriguing. From the start, Fowley-Doyle snags you in the web of her tale. It's a bit like falling down Alice's rabbit hole (appropriate since Cara's sister is named for Alice), drawing you in with one piece and then another until you're completely immersed and determined to learn Cara's family's secrets.

If you're in the mood for a read that's creepy but not overly scary, The Accident Season is perfect. It's got the atmosphere I mentioned above and again all of those questions about what's really going on, but definitely doesn't hit the truly terrifying mark. I think you'll be quite surprised and pleased by this debut and how it all wraps up in the end.

Rating: 4/5

If you're looking for more Wicked Reads this season, I definitely suggest checking out all of titles:

Blood & Salt by Kim Liggett
Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski
The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe
Survive the Night by Danielle Vega
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

I've already covered Blood & Salt here and will be following up tomorrow with my review of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. I also plan to cover Nightfall and possibly even one more from the list before the month is out as well.

(you can use the Playbuzz link above to find the perfect read based on your Halloween costume. You can also join in on the Wicked Reads fun with two upcoming twitter chats (I'll list the dates and participating authors below) and the weeklong #TwitterGhostStory event starting October 26. To take part, all you have to do is write a creepy ghost story using 140 characters or less - be sure to use the #TwitterGhostStory hashtag - between October 26 and October 31 to enter for a chance to win a prize pack that includes the featured Wicked Reads titles!

And here's that Twitter Chat info for you from the publisher:

We have two more Twitter chats taking place this Friday and next Friday at 4pm that are being hosted by @YAbookscentral and @mashreads, respectively. The authors participating are:

Peter Kujawinski author of Nightfall
Jake Halpern author of Nightfall
Kim Liggett author of Blood and Salt
April Genevieve Tucholke author of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Danielle Vega author of The Merciless and Survive the Night
Peter Kujawinski author of Nightfall
Kim Liggett author of Blood and Salt
April Genevieve Tucholke author of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
Carol Goodman author of Blythewood series
Sally Green author of the Half Bad series

(The links above will take you to each authors' twitter profiles.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Shelf Control: Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

It's Wednesday and that means it's time for a Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, giving book junkies like me a chance to highlight some of the lingering titles in our TBR stacks!

I'm in full-on horror mode and plan on devouring a stack of genre titles between now and Halloween, so it seemed appropriate to showcase a title in line with that today.

What it's about (from Goodreads):

When struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh receives an offer of partnership from a wealthy aristocrat, he suspects something’s amiss. But when he meets the hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York, he is certain. For York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York has his own reasons for wanting to traverse the powerful Mississippi. And they are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious his actions may prove.

Marsh meant to turn down York’s offer. It was too full of secrets that spelled danger. But the promise of both gold and a grand new boat that could make history crushed his resolve—coupled with the terrible force of York’s mesmerizing gaze. Not until the maiden voyage of his new sidewheeler Fevre Dream would Marsh realize he had joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare...and mankind’s most impossible dream. 

Here is the spellbinding tale of a vampire’s quest to unite his race with humanity, of a garrulous riverman’s dream of immortality, and of the undying legends of the steamboat era and a majestic, ancient river.

How I got it: 

I bought it. I stumbled upon it at a used bookstore and snatched it up. It was a nice hardcover that looked practically new!

When I got it: 

I actually don't remember exactly when I bought it, but considering I first mentioned it on the blog about two years ago I'm going to guess that's how long I've owned it.

Why I want to read it: 

Well eventually I do hope to work my way through all of George R. R. Martin's list. I mean c'mon, The Song of Ice and Fire series is brilliant but he's done a lot outside of that as well. Having said that, though, the fact that GRRM tackled both vampires and werewolves and garnered some praise for having done so meant that I absolutely had to track this (and Skin Trade) down for my own collection. (And I did a happy dance when I found copies of both!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Happy Book Birthday to Catherine McKenzie whose latest release, Smoke, is brand new out today!

On the very evening that Beth and Ben decide to divorce, a fire breaks out in a nearby Nelson neighborhood. In just a few hours it has spread far enough for Beth and Ben's home to be included in the evacuation zone. Forced to put their relationship trouble on hold, the two take refuge in Ben's parents' home and wait to see what happens next. 

Beth, a former arson investigator, left behind her work when she and Ben decided to try and have kids. Aside from the fact that it kept her away from Ben for long periods of time, she'd always feared that the stress of the job was one of the things standing in her way. And it's been a point of contention between them for some time now. Unfortunately, her former expertise and her current position in the local prosecuting attorney's office means she's been tasked with investigating the fire and helping find the person responsible. The job provides a welcome distraction from her strained marriage but could be the thing that finally tears Ben away from her for good, something Beth isn't quite sure she's ready for in spite of her decision to divorce.

As Beth works to find the fire's cause, her one-time friend, Mindy, rallies to raise funds for a local man whose home has already been destroyed by the fire. But as the damage spreads, suspicion and accusations about the fire's source begin to run rampant and Mindy finds herself caught in the crossfire. 

While the topic - fire and fire management/prevention - are quite different compared to McKenzie's other works, at it's core Smoke features a lot of the same themes as her previous releases. Especially Hidden. Secrets, trust, friendship, and relationships are all central to the story.

Beth and Mindy, once very close friends, split over an argument spawned by high emotion and a mutual misunderstanding that, when combined with Beth's own fight or flight response, led to an irreparably broken friendship. And it's this same response that later causes Beth to push Ben away. And yet Ben isn't innocent in their predicament either. He holds onto an animosity that seems to stem from his own lack of control. Of course neither Beth or Ben (or Beth or Mindy ) talks about the issue, which makes things worse. When you add the obvious stress and fear of literally losing everything to a force that's completely beyond control, you can imagine how heightened the tension can become. It's a true testament to McKenzie's talent as an author that she's able to so fully invest her readers in a story that relies on convincingly pulling this off for the characters.

And she does definitely invest her readers in the story! I was kind of wrecked by this book and all of the emotions it brought! I was so easily able to connect with Beth and Mindy that I found myself angry, afraid, overwrought, and every other emotion they experienced right alongside them! I think I've said things to this effect about McKenzie's work before - that her characters are so well drawn that they feel real, like my own friends and family - and that's certainly the case once again with Smoke. 

I know I tend to fangirl over Catherine McKenzie, but I honestly think she's one of the best authors in the business. If you're looking for a thoughtful read that will pull at your heartstrings, Smoke should definitely be on your "must read" list.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Riddle of St. Leonards by Candace Robb

Hello, everyone! Today I'm a stop the TLC Book Tour celebrating the latest releases in Candace Robb's Owen Archer series with The Riddle of St. Leonards (book 5 of the series).

As before, there is a tour wide giveaway going on so be sure to enter via the Rafflecopter below if you haven't already.

The plague is once again making its rounds and everyone in England is tense. Even Owen and Lucie have sent their children to the country to stay with their grandfather, in hopes it will keep them safe from the spreading infection. 

At the same time, in York, tongues have started wagging about St. Leonard's hospital and their money problems. It seems someone has been making off with small items as well, something that has recently come to the Archbishop's attention. And then the corrodians start dying off and it's all anyone can do not to immediately blame the ailing hospital. 

The first of the deaths was blamed on the plague, but the second was a clear murder. The third, a suspicious fire within the boundaries of St. Leonard's walls. In all cases the dead had left their property to St. Leonards, which immediately cast suspicion on the hospital itself. Is someone killing off locals in a skewed attempt to save St. Leonards?

The intricacies of the politics surrounding hospitals and their services in the fourteenth century are a big part of this particular installment. I'd not realized that, as the author points out, that in some cases (like St. Leonards, a very real historic hospital in York) they not only provided care for the sick and ailing but also served as:

“ 'A house or hostel for the reception and entertainment of pilgrims, travellers, and strangers; a hospice. A charitable institution for the housing and maintenance of the needy; an asylum for the destitute, infirm, or aged. A charitable institution for the education and maintenance of the young. An institution or establishment for the care of the sick or wounded, or of those who require medical treatment.' “St Leonard’s was, additionally, a monastic house, and it daily provided alms to the poor of York and fed the inmates of the York Castle prison. ”

That's quiet a lot for one institution to be responsible for, all mostly on the basis of charity. So it's no wonder that money problems would be an issue. A "corrody," as defined in the author's glossary of terms, is: “a pension or allowance provided by a religious house permitting the holder to retire into the house as a boarder; purchased for cash or by a donation of land or property.” So the corrodians I mentioned above all paid the hospital for their services by willing them their property. Hm... an interesting wrinkle, right? Suspicious deaths and the hospital profiting in a  time of need...

Readers, this may be my last official post as part of the the Owen Archer tour but trust me when I say I am legit hooked on this series and WILL be reading more! I've really enjoyed the setting - and the use of real history as inspiration for that setting and for the individual stories. I've also really enjoyed getting to know Owen and Lucie! 

If you love intriguing mysteries, historical setting, and fabulous characters, I highly recommend giving this series a try!  

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

For more on Candace Robb you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Releases 10/20/15

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman

Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

The Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

Golden Lion by Wilbur Smith

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Departure by A. G. Riddle

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent

Predator: Incursion By Tim Lebbon

The Spy House by Matthew Dunn

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Fear the Dark by Kay Hooper

Host by Robin Cook

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wireston

Illuminae by Amie Kaurman & Jay Kristoff

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

New on DVD:
Jurassic World
Z is for Zachariah
Paper Towns

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler Willis

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Travelers Rest by Keith Lee Morris

Holy crap the year has gone by fast! Too fast in my opinion. Especially when you consider I'm now looking at January releases for my TBR. I still have a mountainous pile of 2015 titles to get to! Ah, the plight of the bookworm, right?

So I very recently came across Keith Lee Morris's Travelers Rest and couldn't resist sharing it with you today. I mean, it's kind of a shame it isn't out in time for October horror reading but frankly I think it's going to make equally fabulous snowed in reading this winter. We'll see if you agree.

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

The Addisons-Julia and Tonio, ten-year-old Dewey, and ne'er-do-well Uncle Robbie-are driving home, cross-country, after collecting Robbie from detox. When a blizzard strikes outside the eerie town of Good Night, Idaho, they seek refuge at the Travelers Rest, a once-opulent but now crumbling hotel where, they soon discover, the laws of the universe are bent.

Once inside the hotel, the family is separated. Something mysterious, tied to a tragic event more than a century past, prevents them, day after day, from reuniting, until Julia is faced with an impossible choice. Can she save her family from the fate of becoming Souvenirs-those citizens trapped forever in magnetic Good Night-or disappearing entirely? What her choice entails is revealed in prose as dizzyingly beautiful as the mystical world Morris creates.

Well??? Am I right?!

Travelers Rest is due out from Little Brown in early January, plenty of time to mark your calendars or even add it to your holiday wish lists!

Generation by Heather Hildenbrand

Agh! Heather Hildenbrand's final title in the Clone Chronicles trilogy is out! I have been waiting on pins and needles to see how this story was going to end!

Warning, spoilers ahead! If you haven't read both Imitation and Deviation stop here!

Ven awakens to find herself trapped in the bowels of Twig City with two other Ravens. It's been six months since Titus brought her here and in those six months a lot has changed, giving Titus the upper hand against Ven and the other Imitations. Even worse, Titus has been using the Ravens' blood to try and find the variables allowing for so much deviation amongst the Imitations in hopes of finally eliminating the issue. 

But the Imitations still in Twig City have started to act out, attacking their overseers and giving Ven hope that they may still have a chance to take Titus down once and for all. The first step: escaping Twig City and reuniting with the others. Fortunately, it looks like Ven might just have an ally inside.

When we left Ven it looked like all hope was lost. She was captured, the other escaped Imitations had just been killed in the warehouse explosion, and she had no way of letting her friends know what happened - if they were even still alive.

But Titus's agenda is just the first thing that allows hope for our heroine - he's found a use for her and has put off killing her at least temporarily. And this is where Generation begins, with Ven waking up six months after the events of Deviation.

Poor Ven! She deserves a break. It's been a trying time for her and her friends what with the constant fear of being discovered and killed, losing even more friends and loved ones, etc. But Ven has held onto her hope and humanity in spite of it all, guided by her determination to finally see the Imitations liberated.

If you're a fan of the previous two, you no doubt are already chomping at the bit to read Generation. It's always a shame to say goodbye to characters you've come to know and love, but I promise you will not be disappointed with Hildenbrand's finale.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, October 16, 2015

Blue Voyage by Diana Renn + a Giveaway

Zan is still trying to live down her recent shoplifting charges. It's an embarrassment both to her politically motivated father and to the teen as well. But her father's aspirations have been hurt by more than Zan's misadventures - he was caught kissing one of his contributors and has since left Zan and her mother. So it's not too surprising when Zan's mother announces a need for a change of scenery. So the two head off to Turkey where they'll accompany Zan's recently widowed aunt on a Blue Voyage cruise of archaeological sites that her late husband was to be leading. Since the family didn't make it out for Berk's funeral, it seems it's time to offer a bit of support especially when Aunt Jackie becomes convinced her husband's accident was murder. 

Their trip begins well enough, but the area is being heavily patrolled by police out to bust a group of smugglers. And Zan soon finds herself caught in the crosshairs! 

I don't know how I've not read Diana Renn before now! In Blue Voyage she's taken a feisty heroine with a penchant for rock climbing, thrown her into an exotic (and TEMPTING!) setting, wrapped it all in a mystery/thriller package, and added more than a dash of Indiana Jones worthy antiquities/archaeology based adventure to boot!

I'll admit that while I'm fascinated by Turkey (and the FOOD!), I know very little about the country and its history. Renn has definitely inspired me to change that. There's a good bit of both history and lore here in Blue Voyage, including the tantalizing tale of a lost treasure and a cursed tomb. But this history provides just one piece of the backdrop for the story. A teen in trouble - but for her father's influence, she would have been spending at least part of her summer in juvie or doing community service -, family drama, and the very real dangers of the current political scene in Turkey are all a part of this tale.

Zan gets just a taste of the potential danger on the docks when they arrive to meet the Gulet Yasemin, but doesn't fully understand the dangers until it's too late. The tension ratchets up exponentially as the story progresses, which makes for quite fun reading.

Blue Voyage is pretty much everything you could ask for in a book - whether you're a teen or an adult.  Renn's writing is wonderful - she's got fantastic character development and an excellent and truly gripping plot. Add to that the fact that Blue Voyage is obviously well researched (Renn even talks about the importance of accuracy in her Author's Note) and you've got a serious win in my book!

Renn, new-to-me at the time I read Blue Voyage, is definitely an author I plan to read more of in the future. Her two previous novels, Tokyo Heist and Latitude Zero, feature some of the same themes as Blue Voyage not the least of which are exotic locales, and I suspect that they are equally as fabulous as Blue Voyage. (You can find out more about Renn and her work on her website at DianaRennBooks.com.)

And now, thanks to Renn's publicist, I'm able to offer up a copy of Blue Voyage to one of you lucky readers! To throw your name in the hat, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 26. (Open US only and no PO boxes please.) Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Charlotte's Story by Laura Benedict + a Giveaway

Guys, by the time October rolls around I want to read pretty much nothing but horror. I know, I probably sound like a broken record. In truth, I want to read it all the time but in October it becomes kind impossible to tamp down. And nothing pleases me more than a great haunted house story. So Laura Benedict's latest Bliss House book hits two perfect marks for me right away - October release (yay!) and it's a guaranteed uber creepy haunted house story.

Charlotte Bliss has everything: a loving husband, two perfect children, and a generations-old house filled with light and space. But everything comes crashing down around Charlotte on the day her daughter dies. 

Charlotte had been alone in the house with the children, sleeping off an afternoon of champagne, when Eva drowned in the bathtub. She knows it was her fault. She knows if she hadn't indulged that afternoon Eva would still be alive. Her husband, Press, says he doesn't blame her but in the days and weeks following Eva's death he begins to change. And as Press changes, Bliss House does as well. 

It begins with Charlotte's glimpse of Olivia on the day of Eva's funeral. Impossible as it seems, her mother-in-law has reached out to her from beyond the grave and now Charlotte believes Eva could be waiting in Bliss House as well. But her dreams of seeing her daughter again soon turn to nightmares as Bliss House begins to reveal its darker secrets. 

Charlotte's Story begins almost innocently. Benedict tricks you into entertaining the idea that Charlotte might just be so distraught over the loss of her daughter that she's slowly spiraling into madness. Almost. If you haven't read any of the Bliss House books you're probably more likely to start out believing this than I was - I have read both Bliss House and Cold Alone, so I know this is one house that's up to no good. But again, things do begin innocently enough.

Poor Charlotte. Her life was pretty idyllic, at least until her mother-in-law passed away. I believe it's not the death of Eva but the death of Olivia that sets things in motion in spite of the fact that Charlotte herself doesn't notice anything truly odd until Eva's funeral. It's like a switch is flipped at that moment, though. Press becomes less loving and more out of tune with Charlotte (Understatement. Of. The. Year.) and the house's ghosts begin to reveal themselves.

Bliss House is the stuff of nightmares. Literally. If you've read the previous installments you know that the house tends to show people exactly what they're most afraid of - the things that will set them right over the edge into crazy land! It would almost have to considering how much pain and suffering it's witnessed and absorbed throughout the years. Like I said, that house is up to no good.

If you're looking for something scary that will sneak up on you, I highly recommend this series. You do not have to read them in any particular order - the order of release is moving in a backwards chronology with Bliss House set present day, Cold Alone set in the 80s, and Charlotte's Story set in 1957. Meeting the various personalities of Bliss House in this manner is, for me, pretty spectacular but that's just my opinion. You can approach the series in any order you like.

Rating: 5/5

Thanks to Laura I'm able to offer up a signed copy of the first Bliss House title - appropriately titled Bliss House - for a giveaway today. To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, October 26. Open US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photo credit: Emily Ellsworth

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Nun's Tale by Candace Robb

Good morning, readers! As promised, today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Candace Robb's Owen Archer tour with The Nun's Tale, book three of the series. As a reminder, there is a tour wide giveaway for this one. If you haven't entered yet, you can do so via the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of this post.

June, 1935: Dame Joanna Calverley has fled St. Clements taking with her one of their holiest relics.  She arrives at the door of Will Longford, intent on selling the relic to fund a search for her brother. Unfortunately, Joanna falls ill and dies just days later. 

May, 1366: Will Longford has disappeared. Given his past associations and his activities, his house is under close watch by a local clerk in the service of King Edward. So it is not unnoticed when the formerly dead and buried Dame Joanna arrives back at Longford's home, worse for wear and babbling about having returned from the grave. 

Archbishop John Thoresby had been curious about Joanna's tale at the time of her death and her return has made him even more so. A trail of bodies seems to follow her wherever she goes, most recently the maid at Longford's home who was murdered just hours after Joanna's so called return from the dead, and the man whose body was found buried in her grave. He sets Owen Archer with the task of finding out more while Joanne is sent to rest at St. Mary's Abbey. Those who have questioned the woman all come away with nonsense and gibberish until Owen's wife, local apothecary Lucie Wilton, speaks to the woman. Owen doesn't want Lucie involved, but he may not have much of a say in the matter. 

The Nun's Tale is quite a captivating tale. Joanna Calverley, we learn, has been abandoned by her family. They paid St. Clements generously to wash their hands of her. She's referred to as being difficult, obsessively religious, and upsetting to those around her. And her story, when she returns from wherever she's been, changes as often as her personality seems to.

Owen, Lucie, and many of the characters we met in The Apothecary Rose return in this third of the series. Chaucer makes an appearance here as well, as a spy!

Robb notes in the Author's Note that both the politics of the time and a very real Joanna of leeds both inspired this entry. That Joanna faked her death in 1318 so, as she notes, by moving the story to the Owen Archer timeline none of the actual historical figures had any hand in the real story, but of course it makes for a more fascinating plot to entangle them in the imaginary one!

I have to say, I am so glad to have discovered this series and to be able to participate in the tour. While Robb may not be, as mentioned in my previous post, completely new to me this particular series is. With nine titles (so far) that gives me quite a backlist to get through (and three as part of the tour are a good head start).

Here is the entire series list in order if you're interested in staring yourself:

The Apothecary Rose
The Lady Chapel
The Nun's Tale
The King's Bishop
The Riddle of St. Leonard's 
A Gift of Sanctuary
A Spy for the Redeemer
The Guilt of Innocents
A Vigil of Spies

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

For more on Candace Robb you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.