Monthly Archives: October 2015
Welcome to a special Halloween edition of Saturday Shorts, where we feature short stories and novellas. Woo Hoo! Halloween! I LOVE Halloween! And for Halloween, we need a good ghost story!
Publisher’s Description: Who will protect the children?
Fourteen-year-old James has seen his family wiped out by tuberculosis in the England of the 1960s. When he is sent to the country to convalesce with his Uncle Thomas it seems a welcome respite. But his uncle is strange, and clearly has a dark secret. The huge house is secretive too, with whispers and cries in the night. Gradually James meets other children, some real, some apparently ghosts, but all of whom have been hurt by the uncle. Will James be next?
In an eerie novella of repressed depravity, Maynard Sims conjures nightmares from the fears of childhood.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
One of my favorite childhood books is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Convalescence starts out similar to that story — a young child survives a severe illness that kills his parents. He’s sent to live with a distant relative in a huge manor in the English countryside.
That is about where the similarity in the stories end. In Convalescence, James isn’t sure who to trust in this strange house, especially after meeting the ghost of a young boy who appears to be asking him for help.
Though there are sick and sad things hinted at in this novella, James and his friend, Amy, get to fight evil and win. That has to be self-esteem building for two young orphans alone in the world. Justice always feels good, I think, particularly justice for the dead. If you like traditional ghost stories and want to see the good guys win, you’ll be pleased with Convalescence.
I absolutely love this time of the year, and Halloween is definitely my favorite. I like horror stories anytime of the year but this season makes me crave them. I was excited to begin Convalescence by Maynard Sims. What could be scarier than a huge old mansion where you never can tell what will go bump in the night?
I loved the characters. They were well written and jumped off the page at you. I could feel James’s grief and worry. I loved how Amy presented sweet yet strong, and I knew that Mrs. Rogers was evil from the moment she stepped into the story. I loved the buildup of the story and the fun, scary shivers I would get down my back when I found out another creepy secret.
My disappointment can in the last quarter of the story. The author had did such a marvelous job creating the characters and the story that the quick rushed ending left me in a little bit of shock. I wish the author had taken more time to tie up all the loose end. I felt like we were slowly going up the hill to the climax of the story and once we reach the top, it dropped off like a cliff and the story ended. I felt the characters deserved more than that.
Overall, I would recommend Convalescence. It is a deliciously scary short story that makes Halloween extra fun. Just be prepared that while the ending does effectively answer many questions, it may leave you wanting more.
Though this book comes out just shortly after Halloween, it’s still worth picking up if you like ghost stories. Have a wonderful and safe Halloween!
A “fake” psychic helps a real ghost get justice.
Publisher’s Description: A fake psychic medium’s world is torn apart when he unwittingly opens a very real door into the supernatural.
Supernatural swindler, Nathen Turner, cons believers out of thousands by pretending to have psychic powers. From the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, to the Gothic town of Whitby, Turner claims he can talk to the dead and predict the future.
But when the ghostly voice of a young girl calls out to him during a sham séance, Turner is afraid. Something, or someone, is trying to make contact. Unwittingly the fake psychic medium has opened a very real door into the supernatural.
Now the dead are talking back and the only thing on their mind is revenge…
Set in Las Vegas, Whitby and Japan, Mirror on the Soul is an entertaining supernatural thriller that peeps behind the veil of fraudulent psychic mediums.
The author, Andrew Langley, is giving away one signed paperback copy of Mirror On The Soul via One Book Two. Enter via the Rafflecopter link or from our Facebook Giveaway Page. The winner will be announced on November 13!
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
I failed miserably. Yep, you heard me. Blew it. Bombed. Had my schedule blow up in my face. I want to send out a huge apology to author Andrew Langley because I did not get his book read in time to publish a review. I’m about 19% done. This is a book that I had been really interested in reading, but things didn’t go my way. With the knowledge of how far I read, I want to tell you what I thought about the little I did read.
It is well written. I enjoyed the characters and the development of the protagonist was very good. I especially enjoyed getting the inside scoop on how fake psychics can pull a person in and hold them captive with a few well placed words that the person who is being read would want to hear. The tricks are very easy to interpret once I knew what to look for. I am not saying I could be a fake psychic – no – I would have to practice for years in order to get as good as Nathen. I can tell you that 19% is about the spot that the plot really starts taking itself seriously. Just as I was about to embark on the journey, my time ran out.
I cannot, in good conscience, even give you a rating. I apologize for my lack of time management.
I kinda like stories about “fake” psychics and the “real” supernatural. Jamie Vegas is one of my favorite characters in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, and I always wanted a sequel to the movie Ghost about Whoopie Goldberg’s character dealing with her newfound ability to talk to the dead (I loved Mentalist, too, but no supernatural there).
So Mirror on the Soul, by Andrew Langley, seemed right up my alley! Mirror starts out in Las Vegas where Nathan Turner is attending a psychic convention. He does a few readings while he’s there, so the reader gets to learn about the tricks Nathan uses to “read” his customers. This is the part about fake psychics I like; I want to know how they can dupe people so well–partly because the psychology is so interesting and partly to better educate myself on how not to be duped. Not that I see psychics a lot, but still. Forewarned is forearmed, right?
After leaving Las Vegas, with its bright lights and blatant commercialism, Nathan returns home to Whitby in England, a beautiful gothic town on the coast – the town where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, actually. A town in which it would be very easy to believe in the supernatural. Easier than in Vegas, anyway. Any supernatural activity in Vegas is focused solely on parting you from your money, I’m sure.
In Whitby, the “real” supernatural comes calling for Nathan, and from this point on, it’s a classic vengeance ghost story with a slight Japanese twist. Yay for vengeance!
Mirror on the Soul is available tomorrow–Halloween!–on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble, and it will be available from other retailers soon. It’s a perfect Halloween pick for fans of ghost stories, so don’t miss it!
Andrew Langley started writing professionally over thirty years ago to accompany his work as a photojournalist. In a wide-ranging career that has seen him travel the world, his work has featured in national newspapers/magazines and on television. With the onset of multiple sclerosis, Andrew now lives a more sedentary lifestyle, creating his new adventures on paper. Mirror on the Soul is his first Nathen Turner novel. The second novel featuring Nathen Turner, Dark Nights of the Soul, is due for release in 2016.
If you like this book…
…you might like Kelley Armstrong’s No Humans Involved and the short story, Amityville Horrible. Though these are part of the Women of the Otherworld series, they can be read alone. For tales of a not-so-fake psychic, try Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series or maybe Amanda Stevens’s Graveyard Queen series.
Trolls, hidden desires, and the beginning of a wild adventure, oh my! A great start to a new young adult series.
Publisher’s Description: At the age of sixteen, Abby is undergoing major household changes. Her mom is getting ready to remarry and her new step-brother is driving her insane. She is just trying to keep herself busy with school and her part-time job when a most deliciously handsome stranger moves to her little seaside town and won’t leave her alone.
New arrival Wilhelm is unlike any other student at Abby’s school. His emerald eyes and tattooed body don’t truly reveal what he really is: a creature emerged from thousands of miles underground, seeking revenge, treasure, and a key that once belonged to an old enemy – a key Abby wears suspended from a chain around her neck. Why she has it is a mystery that Wilhelm will need to solve, and fast, in order to defeat a powerful mortal adversary.
As an attraction between Abby and Wilhelm develops, more creatures like Wilhelm are drawn from beneath the ground to Abby’s town; wreaking havoc as they offer Abby’s classmates the fulfillment of their deepest desires. Will Abby and her new family survive as a game of magical warfare is unleashed? Her ability to reverse Wilhelm’s bargain depends on it.
Possible spoilers beyond this point!
Luna Lovebooks says…
I want to get my little dislikes out of the way before we get to the good stuff. First of all there were some parts that left me a little bewildered; there is a chapter where Abby is magically transported from an art show back to her hometown school by a magical dimension-traveling lion. I am hoping this lion will be made clear in the following books because at this point he seems like a random character. The only other thing I really didn’t like (but some readers may) was the major cliff hanger ending! Normally these types of endings don’t bother me, but I felt with Troll that I was left with far more questions than answers. This being Book One in a series I am sure these will be answered by the end of the series.
That being said Harris does a wonderful job of making her characters come to life. There is the barest hint of setting but it works for this story because you are so wrapped up in the adventures of Abby, the Trolls and the Knights. Abby and Wilhelm play off each other and awaken each other’s potential to become heroes while at the same time trying to avoid each other. This is another high point because Wilhelm can’t quite figure out why he feels this growing attraction to Abby, especially after he just lost his mate. We get the hint that the villains known as the Knights were once a good entity but have since become corrupted, killing even innocent children that fall for the Trolls bargains. While this is normally a bad thing it sets the stage for Abby to discover who she really is and possibly bring the Knights back to their good standing with the help of Wilhelm, who is both Troll and Knight. If you like fantasy elements, female leads, and potential love plots then this book is a good read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and give it a four.
If you like this book…
…you should also check out Ashley Harris’s other series Shock Me. You should also check out the Troll Trilogy by Katherine Langrish. If you like stand alone books try Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo.
Don’t forget to check out today’s earlier post for information on the giveaway!
Don’t mess with a Fury. She’ll go all vengeance on your ass.
Publisher’s Description: Tara Walker dreams of more excitement than slinging plates of seafood for Cape Cod tourists, but as she learns when she is attacked and forced to fight for her life, fate sometimes has a funny way of giving you exactly what you wish for. Faced with strange new powers and embroiled in a murder investigation, Tara must now race to uncover the secrets of the ancient Fury that has woken inside of her – and of the evil that stalks her.
As if Tara’s life hasn’t gotten complicated enough, she is forced to ally herself with Jackson Byrne, witness to her assault and uncle to a pint-sized oracle whose fate is intertwined with hers. Skeptical, stubborn, and oh-so-sexy, Jackson wrestles with demons of his own. He is determined to ignore the attraction rising between them even faster than the body count, but like it or not, he and Tara need each other if they are to unravel the mysteries that surround them.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
This is not the book I was expecting. Well, Nell, didn’t you read the description, you ask? Yeah….kind of. If ya’ll know anything, it’s that I look at the cover first, description second. The cover looked like an urban fantasy with romance thrown in. Uh….sort of. It is a fantasy, set in an urban area, but it’s a lust-mance, not a romance. For those of you who don’t mind a wham, bam, thank you ma’am – here you go. The story was a good story, a good premise, but the relationship between Tara and Jackson was weird. It wasn’t romantic – it was “OMG, let’s do it right here because I can’t control myself and Oh, by the way, I hate you.” So, it wasn’t a real hate, it was self preservation on Tara’s part because of Jackson’s contempt for her. His contempt and disapproval is a shallow ploy at his own self preservation, bad memories and experiences. Ok, that describes their relationship. Now, on to the story.
Tara saves herself from a probable rape by turning “Furious” and slowly, but surely Alecto, the Fury, makes her appearance. A Fury is heavy into vengeance and needs it to survive. When they come across someone that is deserving, they suck the life out of them. Kind of a payback of sorts for doing bad things. Alecto and Tara have to work together if they are going to combat the bad stuff that is always on the horizon. It’s not easy working with a Fury, they are really into blood, gore and revenge. There is a little Greek mythology worked into this story, which is interesting. Well, one thing leads to another and Tara discovers a plot to kill her because…..well….if I tell you, it’d ruin everything, however, I will tell you that it’s a happily ever after ending – which I like.
I’m gonna say this: I liked the story and the characters, but they weren’t very deep. The story made me feel like a marble in a pin ball machine – bouncing around to this and then to that. It’s a story that I would describe as pure candy. I didn’t have to think much, and there really wasn’t much of a plot. Just read and get lost in the book. It wasn’t boring, but it also didn’t make me swoon. It was ok.
What I Liked: Furies! I love Furies! No, not Furries, Furies! As in Greek goddesses of vengeance? Get your mind out of the gutter. 🙂
I love the idea of the Greek Furies coming back into the world, along with oracles, Hecate, and other Greek gods and demigods as yet unknown. I think it’s fun when any book brings old world mythology into the modern world.
I also really enjoyed the characters, particularly Ruby, the little oracle everyone is trying to protect, and Mrs. Hadley, the elderly neighbor who is surprisingly “in-the-know.”
What Didn’t Work For Me: I will admit that I was so excited by a Fury story that I didn’t read all the information about this book when I picked it on NetGalley. Fury’s Kiss is a paranormal romance, and I’m not so much into the romances. I don’t mind romance and relationships and implied sex in my paranormal stories, but I don’t care for the explicit sex scenes. However, I know a lot of people do, so if that’s your thing, there are a couple of hot scenes will satisfy.
I’m also not a fan of the “I hate you/let’s screw” method of building a relationship. Tara and Jackson spend most of the book terribly antagonistic toward each other, both before and after the screwing. Yes, I know there are reasons for it—probably some backstory on Jackson’s part we don’t know and a lot of Tara’s self-doubt. It’s just not a storytelling technique I care for.
Finally, there is an element to the writing that I have a hard time describing, not being a writer myself. Things in the story happen too easily or too fast, crazy things are easily accepted, fate is easily accepted. The storytelling seems simplified or lacking some depth. It’s something I know when I experience it, but I don’t know how to articulate it.
Here’s an example, but it’s a bit spoilery, so be warned! After the whole book has focused on Tara and her Fury, Alecto, her two friends, Rachel and Alex, suddenly become sister furies right at the end of the book and jump in to save her just when they are needed. Now, since Furies usually come in threes and Alecto talked a few times about how much she missed her sisters, it’s not like Rachel and Alex becoming furies was a surprise. But it just happened. It’s kind of a big deal to have a Greek demigod take up residence in your brain, but it just happened, all of a sudden, and Rachel and Alex had no troubles adjusting and jumping into the fray at the most convenient time.
Also, Jackson proposes to Tara at the end of the book. After knowing her for just a few days, during most of which he was being mean to her. And with a 10 year age difference between them. I know a proposal or declaration of love is de rigueur for a romance, but it just seems too ridiculous and unrealistic to me (as if Furies living in your head isn’t, right?). Guess that’s why I don’t usually read romances.
Conclusion: Overall, I had hoped for a lot more vengeance and a lot less erotica from this book, but that was my fault for not reading the description carefully. There was a lot about this book I did like. I don’t think I’ll continue with the series, but if the author ever came out with an Urban Fantasy book, I’d certainly check it out.
If you like this book…
…you might try
Will Angel go back to her life of drug addiction or stay on the straight and narrow? I’ve been waiting for what feels like a long time to find out!
Publisher’s Description: Angel Crawford has buried her loser past and is cruising along in undead high gear—that is, until a murder-by-decapitation sends her on a hazardous detour. As Angel hunts for the killer, she uncovers a scheme that would expose zombies to the public and destroy the life she’s built, and she’s determined not to rest until she finds out who’s behind it.
Soon she’s neck-deep in lies, redneck intrigue, zombie hunters, and rot-sniffing cadaver dogs. It’s up to her to unravel the truth and snuff out the conspiracy before the existence of zombies makes headline news and she’s outed as a monster.
But Angel hasn’t quite escaped the pill-popping ghosts of her past—not with an illicit zombie pharmaceutical at her fingertips. Good thing she’s absolutely sure she can handle the drug’s unpredictable side effects and still take down the bad guys…or maybe she’s only one bad choice away from being dead meat—for real this time.
Angel knows a thing or two about kicking ass, but now the ass she needs to kick might be her own.
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. BE WARNED.
For fifteen months, I have been incredibly anxious about the fate of Angel Crawford. When we last saw Angel, she was in her car shooting up with a zombie combat mod–a drug to enhance performance in combat–she had left over from the rescue mission in New York.
Angel has worked so hard to get free of drugs and get a life she feels is worth living. She has a good job, supportive friends, is going to school, is getting along great with her dad… and yeah, zombie, but it’s manageable. I was SOOOOOOO worried that she’d start slipping back into a drug habit and lose all she’s been working toward.
And she does screw up pretty badly. In an attempt to keep herself supplied with the drug, she puts Phillip, her zombie-baby with a damaged parasite, at great risk, along with her relationship with the Clan, the lab, the morgue, and her dad. Though I’m not typically a nervous reader (that’s Nell’s job), I will tell you that though she screws up, Angel gets it right in the end and I am so relieved!
In addition to dealing with her backslide into addiction, Angel also has to deal with being hunted, of course. The evil Dr. Kristi Charish is once again trying to get Angel captured or killed for her own nefarious purposes. And all of this is happening during a huge Zombie-fest celebrating the launch of the movie that was being filmed in Angel’s hometown two books ago–High School Zombie Apocalypse!!!. I really like that Rowland brought the movie back around into the story; it’s a nice bit of continuity.
I have to say, Allison McLemore does an amazing job narrating this series. I love her voices for Angel, her dad, Nick, and all the others. She does a great job of making each character a unique voice so I can keep them straight in my head. I really need to find out what else she narrates.
If you’re a frequenter of this site, the name Kristi Charish might ring a bell with you. The *real* Dr. Kristi Charish is not evil at all (well, maybe just a little). She is, in fact, the author of Owl & the Japanese Circus and Owl and the City of Angels—books Nell and I just reviewed a while ago. Kristi consulted with Diana on some of the sciencey-zombie stuff in series (see, just a *little* evil), and so made her way into the White Trash Zombie novels as a character.
Speaking of things related to White Trash Zombie books (at least in my head), I have to take just a minute to mention the TV show iZombie. Have you watched it? It’s a great, great show, and I recommend it just as highly as I recommend the White Trash Zombie series. It is also about a white-haired female zombie who works in a morgue to get brains; but the story is significantly different. I will admit, I was SUPER indignant on Diana’s behalf when advertisements for this show first appeared… until I did my homework. iZOMBIE is actually a comic book started in 2010 (prior to Angel’s first book), and then adapted for the small screen in 2014. However, the protagonist in the original comic was a grave digger, not a morgue tech, so I still have to wonder who influenced whom.
If you like this book…
…you might try the rest of the series, of course. And iZombie. I haven’t read many other zombie protagonist stories, but I know there are some out there, like the Amanda Feral series by Mark Henry, the Hessian Mann series by Stephen Petrucha, the Dan Shamble series by Kevin J. Anderson, or Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski. Vahn will be reviewing Braineater Jones next week, so stay tuned!