Category Archives: Book Reviews

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

Tuesday Intros // Greener Pastures

Tuesday Intros: Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt

Hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea, Tuesday Intros shares the first paragraph of a book I’m currently reading, which at the moment, is Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt, a really great spooky read with really vivid imagery.

Sissa died last year, just shy of our hundred and thirtieth birthday. I ain’t talked much to folks since, excepting Mr. Pearl. Me and Sissa was both childless. But I’ve shook it off and traveled such a long way at my brittle age. I’ve come home to this nameless mountain pouring blood from its bowel.

The second I read this paragraph, I was hooked. It’s so damn visceral with that last line, a mountain pouring blood. The short story this paragraph is from, Beside Me Singing in the Wilderness, is amazing.

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

Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott

Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott

 Silver and Salt
by Elanor Dymott

On the death of the celebrated photographer Max Hollingbourne, his daughter, Ruthie, returns to his villa in Greece after fifteen years in exile. The youngest and estranged member of a once close-knit London family, Ruthie is haunted by a dark secret from her childhood, one that fractured her family and drove her mother to madness.

Still, following her father’s death, she and her older sister, Vinny, manage to build a fragile happiness at the villa where they had spent their summers as girls. But the arrival of an English family at a neighboring cottage, and the presence of one young girl in particular, trigger a chain of events that will plunge both women back into their harrowing pasts with shocking and fatal consequences.

Rated: ★★★
Publisher: WW Norton & Company
Publication: April 4, 2017
Genre: Suspense
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott

While I love fantasy the most as a genre, I have a real strong affinity for all things family drama. Dark family secrets that tear families apart and leave either the reader or a new generation to uncover the twisted past that scarred every generation proceeding. Gothic Americana, a genre I truly hold dear to my heart, yet struggle to find good, recent representation from. Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott, though not American, does succeed at capturing the very feeling I search for.

For those that aren’t fans of a slow moving suspense, Silver and Salt might not be the story for you. This is a very gradual build, but in my opinion, so worth it. It’s this creeping pace that builds the tension, keeping the reader wondering what that horrific end event is. Even after you learn what it is, you’re still vested in learning how. How it happened, even as you already know why.

This is definitely a character driven story. Everything revolves around the Hollingbourne family — the relationship between patriarch Max and wife Sophie, their relationship with daughters Vinny and Ruthie, and the relationship between the sisters themselves. Though the physical settings play a part, influencing and heightening the tension between the family, it seems almost inconsequential to the story because of how intricately detailed and well developed the characters. Max, charismatic photographer better suited for transient life than as a family man. Sophie, a starlet who abandoned everything to start a family that could never happen, Vinny, the elder daughter who just wants to get away to a normal life, and Ruthie, the younger daughter who is a combination of all of her parents’ flaws.

Told through a series of cuts between time, the narrative slowly uncovers the tragedy of what should have been a golden family. Silver and Salt by Elanor Dymott is such a heartbreaking tale of love gone wrong, of love not being nearly enough. Definitely recommended for fans of dysfunctional family dramas and family secrets that end in tragedy.

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence Fallen
by Patricia Briggs

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes—only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

Mercy Thompson series, book 10

Rated: ★★★
Publisher: Ace
Publication: March 7, 2017
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Fae, Paranormal, Supernatural
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

After being mildly disappointed with the previous book, I was hesitant on what I would get with Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, her tenth in the Mercy Thompson series. The beginning did not alleviate my concerns in the slightest. However, I have to admit, by the end, I was entertained. It was an enjoyable experience and did hearken back to the earlier books in the series.

Now, I mentioned I was worried this would be a disappointment in the beginning. Why? That’s easy, because Briggs re-used an opening sequence. The second Mercy had to run to the store to grab something, and started mentioning the car, I knew it. I knew we were going somewhere we’d gone before. Book 7 – Frost Burned, opened with Mercy in a staged car accident. The only difference between the two books is that in Frost Burned, the pack was targeted and in Silence Fallen, Mercy was the target. Reusing that set-up just had me worried that perhaps Briggs had run out of new ideas. Didn’t know where to take the story now that things seemed to calm down in the previous book.

Worries were allayed due to superficial reasons however. Stefan, my darling baby boy vampire finally makes a reappearance and I could not care less if this entire book went sideways, he was back. Thankfully, it didn’t go sideways. It was really interesting to see Briggs try to shake things up from how she normally does this series. Playing with split point-of-views, we get to see the dynamic between Adam and Mercy play out. Diplomacy over action. I’m not sure I’d like to see more of this simply because I’ve grown to used to this being Mercy’s story, but it worked.

Things get muddled with the plot simply as a result of the split POVs. Adam and Bonarata was solid and something I truly enjoyed and appreciated. ESPECIALLY AT THE END WHEN MATT SMITH. Matt Smith made me go back to reread things. But yes, the Bonarata plot was good. It was intricate, but not overly complicated. It made sense, especially given his age and position. Mercy’s plot, however, seemed convoluted. I don’t know if it’s because Briggs is planning on making what she learns part of the next troublesome arc or not, but there were too many elements involved. Vampire witches, ghosts, golems, and Coyote all mixed together in a tiny space fighting for control of the narrative. It felt sloppy and the only thing that kept things afloat was Adam.

Compared to the previous book, Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs is a step up. It’s definitely moving in a better direction and leaves me excited to see where the series goes from here. The cast is definitely bloated and could use with some trimming, which is being hinted at, but we didn’t gain any new characters here. With two possible directions, that I could gather, for where the next big bad will come from, I’m optimistic Briggs still has control over the series.