Author Archives: Lulu

About Lulu

Thirty-something year old educator based in New York, Lulu loves books, blogging, gaming, and the three cats with whom she shares her life. Book reviews specialize in all kinds of fantasy, some YA, some romance, and some contemporary, especially in the gothic genre.

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

 Ensnared
by Rita Stradling

Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

Rated: ★★★
Publisher: Kindle Press
Publication: May 23, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Sci-fi, Romance
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Even though I’ve been burned in the past by fairytale retellings, I had to give Ensnared by Rita Stradling a chance. I mean, look at that cover! Though now there are two covers, the delightful one I used for this post, but also a sleek blue one, both are fitting and intriguing. Beauty and the Beast with a twist and in the future. That’s what it was marketed as, and that’s what I got. Straight, simple, to the point.

Set in a future full of advanced AI, Alainn is forced to go undercover as a robot ordered by reclusive millionaire Lorccan to keep her father from prison. Though she doesn’t want to, and it definitely wasn’t her plan, she goes along with it. Things proceed exactly as you think it would considering it’s a retelling. What makes it really stand out is the use of AI. It’s truly unsettling and definitely makes you think twice about giving Siri or Alexa access to everything.

This was well-paced, the romance was soft and easy (there is sex so keep that in mind if you’re picking this up). Characters were developed just enough to make you want to continue the story, and the world building enough to sustain the plot. I’m sure if the book were longer, or made into a series, there would be some serious snags, but as is, Ensnared by Rita Stradling is a truly enjoyable sci-fi rendition of Beauty and the Beast that I thoroughly adored.

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

 A God in the Shed
by J-F Dubeau

The village of Saint-Ferdinand has all the trappings of a quiet life: farmhouses stretching from one main street, a small police precinct, a few diners and cafés, and a grocery store. Though if an out-of-towner stopped in, they would notice one unusual thing—a cemetery far too large and much too full for such a small town, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand Killer, who has eluded police for nearly two decades. It’s not until after Inspector Stephen Crowley finally catches the killer that the town discovers even darker forces are at play.

When a dark spirit reveals itself to Venus McKenzie, one of Saint-Ferdinand’s teenage residents, she learns that this creature’s power has a long history with her town—and that the serial murders merely scratch the surface of a past burdened by evil secrets.

Rated: 
Publisher: Inkshares
Publication: June 13, 2017
Genre: Horror
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

A fan of gothic stories set in small towns with worldly terrors, I went into A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau with giddy excitement. While it started strong, ultimately it left me bored.

The prologue started with such promise. It was truly terrifying, well written, and hooked me straightaway. I wondered what would happen now with this cave dwelling god. How will this small town endure?

The answer? Pretty easily. The majority of the book consists of alternating points of view from everyone in this small town all wondering how they can use the god to further their own agendas. There is never any sense of fear or worry until the very end, and even then, it fizzles. We hear that suddenly, the god is finally going to make his move, but nothing happens. The end. Literally, the town is no better or worse than they were at the start. I don’t understand what the purpose was, the driving force of the book because we start at point A, walk around aimlessly, and end at point A.

So, why the two stars? Because it wasn’t necessarily bad, it just didn’t capture me. It simply existed. It was like going on a car ride around the block. Sure, you got out of the house, but did you really accomplish anything in the end? I don’t know, I’ve struggled with writing the review for A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau for weeks now simply because I don’t know what to say. With books I’ve disliked, I try to be constructive and break down what didn’t work, what was problematic. With books I’ve liked, I talk about what worked, what made it stand out from others. With this, I just have nothing.

Feast of Chaos by Christian A Brown

Feast of Chaos by Christian A Brown

 Feast of Chaos
by Christian A Brown

Menos has been destroyed. No corner of the realm of Geadhain is safe from the Black Queen’s hunger. Zionae—or the Great Dreamer, as she has been called in ancient tongues—has a thirst that cannot be quenched until all of Geadhain burns and bleeds. She preys on the minds of weak men and exploits human folly for an unhuman end. She cannot be defeated in her current state, but the answer to her downfall may lie in the land of her past.

It is with this aim that a Daughter of Fate, Morigan, and her brave and true companions venture to the mysterious Pandemonia, the land of chaos itself. Ancient secrets and even older power lurk in its swamps and deserts. Life itself becomes uncertain, but the Hunters of Fate have no choice: Pandemonia must give up its secrets if they want to find the Black Queen’s weakness.

Elsewhere in the realm, alliances form and break. Dead men rise and heroes fall. Eod prepares for war. In hiding, Lila, the bearer of its destruction, will be given a chance to atone and answer for her sins. Will her actions save Eod, or has she damned it with her crimes?

Four Feasts Till Darkness Book 3

Rated: ★★★★
Publication: September 23, 2016
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Feast of Chaos by Christian A Brown

Third book in the Four Feasts Till Darkness series, Feast of Chaos by Christian A Brown continues the delicate dance of progressing the possible destruction of Geadhain with the struggle to save it. Brown continues to excel at balancing the wide cast of characters with ample time and story.

It is a credit to how well Brown has developed his characters over the past two previous books that by the third, they feel like real people, people that you know and care about. So when they make mistakes, they make choices you don’t agree with, there comes an anger. You want to reach into the book, take characters by the shoulders and shake them, beg them to wake up and get real. You feel that very real exasperation you feel when you see real life friends make wrong choices, even though this time, they are just ink on a page. If that isn’t a testament to Brown’s writing ability, I don’t know what is! Especially considering the anger I felt towards said characters never once had me doubting Brown’s ability as a writer or storyteller. Since I have literally talked all about my anger over these characters in the Pages and Pause Screen podcast (spoilers, obvs), I’m going to skip over that and talk about how well the arcs progress for the rest of the cast. Those that once appeared irredeemable suddenly find themselves walking the penitent’s path and it feels real. You feel sorry for him. You feel sorry for most of these characters and the situations they’re in. And then, then you have the villains! At first, I rolled my eyes at the newest addition, the Dreamstalker, but then, THAT ENDING! Brown creates the villain that I never thought I would see. It was fantastic.

The closer we get to the end of the series, the more we see happening. War comes from all fronts and the road for our heroes looks ever bleaker. Still, there is hope that they can win, though it is interwoven with the realization that it will likely come at a great cost. Feast of Chaos by Christian A Brown is yet another great addition to the outstanding Dark Fantasy series Four Feasts Till Darkness, continuing the tradition of strong character driven fantasy.

Tuesday Intros // A God in the Shed

Tuesday Intros: A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau

Hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea, Tuesday Intros shares the first paragraph of a book I’m currently reading, which at the moment, is another horror book, A God in the Shed by J-F Dubeau. So far, it’s really good and I can’t wait to get to the meat of things!

Regrets are the instruments by which we learn. We tend not to repeat the mistakes we truly regret. They may cause us pain, but regrets push us to better our lives. We regret how we treat our first love, but it teaches us to be a better partner. We regret being lazy in school, but it reminds us to apply ourselves in the workplace later. We may be troubled by our regrets, but we don’t carry them with us for the rest of our lives. Instead they become milestones, honor badges that remind us how we’ve grown.

Remorse, however, is a much deeper feeling. What wouldn’t we do to take back the circumstances that birthed those scars?

So, I had to include part of the second paragraph because it’s those two lines that really put into perspective the first paragraph, and I feel, what will be the entire story. The prologue itself had me scared to go to sleep, so imagine how the rest of the book will go! Cannot wait to finish this as it has so much potential!

What do you think? Would this paragraph hook you? What have y’all been reading?

Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

 Greener Pastures
by Michael Wehunt

In his striking debut collection, Greener Pastures, Michael Wehunt shows why he is a powerful new voice in horror and literary weird fiction.

From the round-robin, found-footage nightmare of “October Film Haunt: Under the House” (selected for The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror) to the jazz-soaked “The Devil Under the Maison Blue” (selected for both The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and Year’s Best Weird Fiction), these beautifully crafted, emotionally resonant stories speak of the unknown encroaching upon the familiar, the inscrutable power of grief and desire, and the thinness between all our layers. Where nature rubs against small towns, in mountains and woods and bedrooms, here is strangeness seen through a poet’s eye.

They say there are always greener pastures. These stories consider the cost of that promise.

Rated: ★★★★
Publisher: Apex Book Company
Publication: March 4, 2017
Genre: Horror, New Weird, Southern Gothic
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

This book hit all of my buttons, in the best way possible! Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt is a wonderful collection of short stories that creep their way out of the horror genre and into Southern Gothic and New Weird. Every single story creates and maintains its own sense of unease, while also building upon and blending into the overarching feeling that ties everything together, the visceral and oppressing wilderness.

The very first paragraph from the very first story sets the mood for the remainder of the book. The constant feel of ache and weariness contrasted against the savagery of the environment. From a technical standpoint, it’s amazing how Wehunt manages to construct sentences that are both simple, yet impactful. To go from a character holding a jug of milk, to feeling devoured by the unending vastness of night, Wehunt juxtaposes common day occurrences with a dread and terror that fit seamlessly in. You’re left with a feeling that at any moment, you could find yourself in that very position, that very place. Whether intended or not, Greener Pastures oozes Southern Gothic charm. From unstable characters, the undertone of rebellion and overbearing small-town religion, to the sublime, yet grotesque depictions of nature.

Though themes do seem to be threaded through each story, they are each standalones and different, all in varying degrees of weird. From love lost and its consequences, to a quartet of child stories that are interesting to make sense of as a collection of its own, to life in places better left untouched, each story confronts the inevitable differently, makes use of the environment in its own way. Beside Me Singing in the Wilderness, one of my favorites, has a mountain demanding its return. Greener Pastures, another favorite, a darkness that consumes and demands more.

Whenever it comes to a book of collections, readers are naturally wary; I sure am most of the time. Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt, however, is what short story collections should be. Every story accomplishes its goal of disturbing the reader, inducing horror and unease. Out of the eleven, there are only one or two that I personally didn’t enjoy as much as the others, and yet, they were still good. Definitely pick this up!

Quotes & Excerpts

I’ve come home to this nameless mountain pouring blood from its bowel.
Beside Me Singing in the Wilderness

Eyes black as their feathers, as holes. I stand on the porch. A gallon milk jug sweats against my hand. The crows or ravens are quiet and there are only the bugs dying out in the fall. My arm begins to ache and the night opens its jaws, slow and cool.
Inconsolable

Greener Pastures Playlist

Greener Pastures Playlist

For me, music and books have always gone hand in hand. One enriches the other. So, I thought it would be something nifty if I could start to actually put together playlists inspired by different books and characters.

Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt is a short story collection that touched my very bones. I was swept away by the Southern Gothic horror stories, the eeriness and unease. And so, in an effort to translate that very same feeling into music to keep the book’s feeling alive, I created this small playlist of wilderness and loss.

Full review of the book to come June 19th!

Six Months In

Six Months In…

Being six months into 2017, I thought it’d be a fun thing to take a look back at what my favorite books of the year so far have been. I haven’t read as many as I would have liked, and unfortunately, I’ve read even fewer that I’ve loved. These all just happened to also be new releases, which isn’t something I had in mind when I went through my list. Though they’re all fairly different from each other, I think they’re pretty good representations of what my reading habits have been, and what I’m looking for this year.

Now, in order of release date…


Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louis Gornall // Jan 3, 2017

This book got me SO HARD. It’s a YA contemporary novel that deals with the delicate topic of mental illness, specifically agoraphobia, ocd, and anxiety. At parts, it was hard to read because Gornall gets the illness so right that it almost gets triggering. I have never related so much to a character before, having agoraphobia and multiple forms of anxiety. It’s a great read.

 


Little Heaven by Nick Cutter // Jan 10, 2017

Wow! My first horror book of the year, and the first book by Nick Cutter I’ve picked up and it just shook me to my core. Descriptions are so visceral you can almost feel, smell, taste the things the characters encounter. The plot is amazing with mounting tension that stays with you long after you finish the book. All I want to do now is pick up the rest of Cutter’s work to keep the creep going.

White Rabbit Society pt2 by Brendan Detzner // Feb 1, 2017

This was such a satisfying ending to a unique duology. White Rabbit Society is a magical realism type book featuring a lonely boy, an eldritch monster, and potentially, the end of the world. The pacing is great and the magic feels solid. It’s such a hidden gem, I really, really encourage folks to pick up both part one and two.

 


Gilded Cage by Vic James // Feb 14, 2017

A fantasy YA novel that weaves magic and politics. The worldbuliding is PHENOMENAL. The book is dark and brutal and what truly makes it fantastic is how well James manages to balance the different aspects of the novel. There’s romance, politics, family secrets. It’s only the first in the series, with the second, Tarnished City, set to come out in September, and I just cannot wait to see how the struggles continue.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco // March 7, 2017

Sweet baby Jesus, I so loved this book simply because Tea, TEA! I just want to know how the twist comes about. I mean, it isn’t really a twist, but I want to know how the two Teas, past and present, reconcile. How did Tea end up where she is. We don’t learn it obviously in this book, but we see the groundwork laid and it’s so juicy. There’s interesting magic, generous descriptions, and of course, a kernel of romance. PLEASE GIVE ME MORE!

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan // April 11, 2017

A contemporary thriller, I loved this book for the interpersonal drama. The conflict between who we used to be, and who we’ve become. What really sold me on the book was the BEST ENDING I COULD EVER HAVE IMAGINED because so many books of this nature, with characters like Judith, end up being miserable and horrible and unfair. To see an uplifting ending gives me hope.


So, those were my picks for best of 2017 so far. There are a few honorable mentions: Feast of Dreams by Christian A Brown which is the second book in an amazing series, The Devil’s Bride by Penelope Stratton, and the book I’m currently reading, Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt – a fantasy novel, a romance, and a horror story compilation.

What are some of your faves of 2017 so far?
Lemme know so I can add to my ever growing pile of TBR books!

T5W // Side Ships

T5W: Side Ships!

Top Five Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Lainey and Samantha over on the T5W goodreads group. This week’s prompt was:

Tell us your favorite relationships that don’t involve the protagonist!

So this is a fun topic! I love shipping side characters because oftentimes, I find that I’m so much more attracted to the minor characters than the main ones. In no particular order…

Nesta and Cassian, my precious babies, the only saving grace of the ACOTAR series for me (technically, it’s just Nesta, but I’ll take the package deal). I love the conflict between the two of them. That they’re seeming opposites, but when you take a closer look, you realize they have a lot more in common, only differing in how they have chosen to deal with their situations. Bless the fandom for all of the content they give because I am living off of it.

Magnus and Alec, boy am I happy they’re canon because I have loved them from the beginning. Goes back again to the opposites but not really thing I seem to love. Alec’s all tight-laced and rules, Magnus a bit more loosey-goosey, but in the end, they meld to one another, changing the other for the better, mostly.

THESE BABIES DESERVE ALL THE HAPPINESS! Eowyn and Faramir find in each other a partner that accepts them for who they are and loves them because of it. It’s an easy kind of love and they are too precious for this world. Plus, a bit of role subversion because she’s the wannabe fighter and he’s the peace-keeper. Bless them.

T5W // Jasper and Alice

THE STORIES I WANT BUT NEVER RECEIVED FOR THESE TWO! Yes, yes, Twilight and everything that comes with it, but I don’t care. Jasper and Alice were amazing characters and the fact that they were side characters that never received a spin-off kills me. He yields to her completely and she’s so tiny but terrifying. Their dynamic is the best one of the saga, hands down.

T5W // Mimi and Kingsley

Blast from the past, I haven’t thought about Mimi and Kingsley in ages; not since I finished the Blue Bloods series. That being said, I absolutely loved them as a couple. That finally Mimi could find someone that wanted her just as she was, all the negatives involved with that, I was just beyond ecstatic. They are a love that was chosen, not a love that was fated, which is something so powerful to see, especially in YA fiction. Sometimes, your ‘perfect’ mate isn’t the one for you. Go out there, find your own fate, your own destiny, and don’t settle.


Any of these side ships your faves as well? Have any book recs based on the relationships I love? Let me know!