Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thriller Review: The Revelation Code by Andy McDermott

While the Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase novels may not exactly be great literature, and are in no great danger is winning Andy McDermott a Pulitzer Prize, they are fantastic escapism adventures. Combining a little bit of Jack Bauer, Indiana Jones, and Dirk Pitt, they're globetrotting treasure hunts with the fate of the world at stake.

The Revelation Code is actually the 11th installment in the series, but they're all written with enough background detail to make them work as stand-alone adventures. As this point in their careers, Nina and Eddie are enjoying early retirement, awaiting the birth of their first child, and generally just trying to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble has a knack of finding them, and they soon find themselves kidnapped by a religious cult leader and a disgraced US President.

McDermott invests an impressive amount of effort in taking mythological stories and artifacts, creating a plausible history for them, and allowing the reader to get involved in the thrill of the chase without having to believe in the stories surrounding it. He never entirely discounts the possibility of faith, but I will say that his portrayal of Cross and his End of Days cult is the harshest condemnation of organized religion that we've come across in the series. These guys are scary, and their plans for the world are almost - I say, almost - as despicable as those of the ex-President.

There are plenty of big set pieces here, taking us around the world in the search for the angels (statues) of Revelation. True to form, there are also some big action sequences, with epic gunfights, helicopter attacks, and even a climactic encounter with a massive blimp. My only complaint about the book is that the climax is so clearly foreshadowed and so heavily teased in the opening chapters, although the execution of it is still a lot of fun.

The Revelation Code is a fun, frantic read that moves along at a breakneck pace, even through heavy scenes of torture, religious insanity, and political posturing. It's not the best in the series - Nina's pregnancy puts some unfortunate restraints on the story - but it's still big time popcorn adventure fun, complete with a dose of history and humor.

Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Dell

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fantasy Review: The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley

Falling somewhere between King's The Dark Tower saga and Brooks' Shannara series, as seen through the achingly vibrant lens of Discovery's Life After People, The Emperor's Railroad is a remarkably unique approach to post-apocalyptic fantasy. While I felt the choice of a 12-year-old narrator put some unfortunate constraints on the tale, and held it back from realizing its true potential, I am genuinely excited to see where Guy Haley goes with his Dreaming Cities series.

Here we find some of the best post-apocalyptic world building I have come across in quite some time. Every step of the journey reminds us of what's been lost, and what remains of our 'modern' civilization. It's not just window dressing, either - in addition to the visual scenery we have a cultural shift in society, a very different sort of political era, and a whole new world of monsters and mythologies. There's so much depth to it that you almost feel the series could continue on indefinitely.

As much as I would have preferred to experience the tale through the eyes of Quinn, Knight of the Dreaming City of Atlantis, the narration itself is my own quibble with young Abney. He is, in fact, a very well developed young man, in a story that captures his fears just as well as his sense of wonder. His relationship with his mother rings true, and it's through her that we really get a sense of just how much the world has shifted in terms of culture and society. Yes, there is a sentimental aspect to the tale, but it's an honest one, and it helps ground the sense of the fantastic that surrounds Quinn. He's a quiet man, confident and self-assured, with a clear purpose in life, but not so focused on the epic quest that he cannot lend himself to a mother and her child.

The story starts out slowly, allowing us to become comfortable in the vast concept that is the Dreaming Cities, but quickly begins to pick up pace once we get moving along The Emperor's Railroad. It's a story that has a tarnished sort of faery tale feel to it, with architectural ruins, mechanical monstrosities, swords, guns, zombies, angels, knights, and dragons. Yes, dragons. Clearly, there's a much larger story being told her, but this chapter is a complete story in and of itself, entirely satisfying, with real closure for Abney and his mother. With The Ghoul King coming this summer, and introducing a little more sci-fi to the mix, the Dreaming Cities is a series to get hooked on now.

Published April 19th 2016 by Tor.com

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Waiting On Wednesday: The Devil's Evidence by Simon Kurt Unsworth

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Devil's Evidence by Simon Kurt Unsworth
Expected publication: July 5th 2016 by Doubleday

A new case of unsolvable murders brings Hell to Heaven in the explosive sequel to The Devil's Detective. 

Hell is burning out of control. Thomas Fool, Hell's first Information Man tasked with investigating the endless stream of violence in Hell, has been promoted to the head of the newly expanded Information Office. Now in command of a legion of Information Men, his new position finds him hated by demons and almost revered by humans. He alone has survived the wrath of demon and angel alike, but he stands alone and at the center of a brewing crisis. New on the scene is the Evidence, a shadowy department whose officers do not investigate; they punish and spread fear. And its leader, Mr. Tap, is gunning for Fool.

Fool is ordered to accompany a political delegation to Heaven, and his arrival coincides with an impossible—and sinister—discovery. A dead body. Murder in Heaven. Violence, corruption, and fear are the currency of Hell, and how does one investigate a crime where these concepts are paradoxes? As the bodies pile up, Fool sees disturbing connections between Heaven and Hell. He must follow clues in a strange land where nothing is as it seems and danger can present itself in any form.

What follows is a phantasmagoric, mind-bending thriller as exciting and unsettling as anything in recent fiction. The Devil's Evidence is an electrifying, provocative novel filled with stunning set pieces and characters who will live on in your deepest nightmares.


The Devil's Detective was a WTF Friday read for me early last year that I called "a fascinating study of Hell and humanity." I never expected to see a follow-up, but I'm curious to see what else Unsworth can do with the premise.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fact vs Myth: Docta Bones by Melissa Robinson (Southern Haunts 3)

Fact vs Myth: Docta Bones
by Melissa Robinson

Little is known about the man known as “Doctor Bones”, his name given by the legend of a dark ritual sacrifice of his daughter. I could find no written history of the man, not even his given name. The only thing I could find was the story, passed down to Vicksburg locals. The actual legend said he was a dark voodoo priest, he sacrificed his daughter in a ritual to gain more power, and he then used her skeleton as a wind chime. This earned him the name of Doctor Bones. Allegedly, he grew up in Vicksburg, MS and lived there until the day he died.

That ends the knowledge I had of the man and the legend. I decided to flesh out the legend with details and people. I wanted to show he held no love for his daughter. The shadow people were nowhere in the original legend, but it felt right to add them. The same went for his sister, the workers, and everyone else I added to the story. Each character and scenario added a different element to the climax of the story, the sacrifice scene.

The scene where the girl is almost raped was a particularly difficult scene to write. Statistically 1 in 5 women will be the victim of a sexual assault. On top of that, 70% of women know their attackers beforehand. I took that scene, and the following one, to show that he was not a loving father protecting his daughter. He was only protecting his property. The death of her innocence would've rendered her useless in his ritual, and that to him was worth taking a life. To my mind, she was nothing more than a means to an end. I believe, despite this, she still loved him. Her innocence was her downfall. I intentionally made her older in the story than she was in the legend.  Despite my views on writing horror, I do have a few limits.

For the purpose of the story, I wrote her as a preteen, a young girl of around twelve years. From what I remember of the legend, she was approximately five or six. A girl that young breaks even my few rules about violence against children. I am aware and trying to bring awareness to the fact that children that young and younger are abused on a daily basis. Because of this, I took several liberties with the original legend. I wanted a reaction to the violence of the senseless killing of several people. I believe, as a society, we've become numb to most violence. It's why this legend spoke to me. One of the few buttons we have left are children. To see a parent killing their own child is one of the cruelest things most of us can think of. The true legend and the story captured a man tormented by his own demons so completely, he was willing to kill his child to be rid of them.

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About the Editors

Alexander S. Brown is a Mississippi author who was published in 2008 with his first book Traumatized. Reviews for this short story collection were so favorable that it has been released as a special edition by Pro Se Press. Brown is currently one of the co-editors/coordinators with the Southern Haunts Anthologies published by Seventh Star Press. His horror novel Syrenthia Falls is represented by Dark Oak Press.

He is also the author of multiple young adult steampunk stories found in the Dreams of Steam Anthologies, Capes and Clockwork Anthologies, and the anthology Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. His more extreme works can be found in the anthologies Luna’s Children published by Dark Oak Press and State of Horror: Louisiana Vol 1 published by Charon Coin Press.

Visit Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com to download his monthly short stories known as Single Shots. These are represented by Pro Se Press and they are known as stories that will be featured in the upcoming book The Night the Jack O’Lantern Went Out.

Louise Myers was born in New Orleans and during her teenage years was uprooted from everything she knew and was replanted in Mississippi. Though the transition was difficult, she is very glad to have the opportunity to have both worlds under her belt. She says this because she knows from living in both places, they are both a world all to their own. She is the wife of a wonderful husband and mother of three beautiful children, as well as the proud parent of a spoiled mutt.

She was assistant editor of Southern Haunts: Spirits That Walk Among Us, co-editor of Southern Haunts 2: Devils in the Darkness, and co-editor of Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight.

She is a beta reader, book doctor, editor, and author. Though this is her second story in print, she has been weaving tales for many years for pleasure. She has many thoughts on several topics she’d like to write, mostly surrounding ghost stories.


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About the Book

Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight
edited by Alexander S. Brown and Louise Myers

Deep within the South, read about the magickal folk who haunt the woods, the cemeteries, and the cities. Within this grim anthology, eighteen authors will spellbind you with tales of hoodoo, voodoo, and witchcraft.

From this cauldron mix, readers will explore the many dangers lurking upon the Natchez Trace and in the Mississippi Delta. They will encounter a bewitched doll named Robert from the Florida Keys, and a cursed trunk that is better left closed. In the backstreets of New Orleans, they will become acquainted with scorned persons who will stop at nothing to exact their revenge.

These hair raising tales and more await you in Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight. Read if you dare.

Authors:

Alexander S. Brown
Angela Lucius
H. David Blalock
C G Bush
Della West
Diane Ward
Elizabeth Allen
Greg McWhorter
John Hesselberg
Jonnie Sorrow
Kalila Smith
Linda DeLeon
Louise Myers
Melissa Robinson
Melodie Romeo
J L Mulvihill
Robert McGough
Tom Lucas

Southern Haunts: Magick Beneath the Moonlight is the third title in the Southern Haunts Anthology Collection.

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Tour Schedule and Activities

5/2/2016         Book in the Bag    Review
5/3/2016         SwillBlog  Review
5/3/2016         Beauty in Ruins   Guest Post
5/4/2016         Connie P    Guest Post
5/5/2016         Jorie Loves A Story  Review
5/6/2016         Sheila's Guests and Reviews   Guest Post
5/6/2016         L. Andrew Cooper's Horrific Scribblings   Review
5/7/2016         Sapphyria's Book Reviews  Top Ten’s List
5/8/2016         Come Selahway With Me    Interview
5/8/2016         Deal Sharing Aunt    Interview

Monday, May 2, 2016

Gothic or Go Home by Bob Freeman (author of Keepers of the Dead)

Gothic or Go Home
by Bob Freeman

goth•ic - Pronunciation: 'gä-thik - Date: 1591
: (often not capitalized) of or relating to a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents 

ro•mance - Pronunciation: rO-'man(t)s - Date: 14th century
(1) : a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural (2) : a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious (3) : a love story b : a class of such literature 

When cornered and asked what genre my Cairnwood Manor Saga falls under I sometimes pause, to call them “horror” is far too broad a term I think. On occasion I will puff out my chest and declare they are “Gothic Romance with testosterone”. This is usually followed by a scoffing noise or some other off-putting remark from the questioner.

I’ve never understood the disdain most people feel for the Gothic Romance sub-genre. It has been the redheaded stepchild of horror since before I was born. Truth be told, some of the greatest horror novels I’ve ever read fall under the Gothic Romance umbrella… The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a prime example.

I was a voracious reader as a child and I plowed through fare such as The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and The Three Investigators in short order. Always hungry for more words to devour, I stumbled upon a tattered paperback in the Leave One/Take One box at the library. It had a delightfully sinister cover, with two terrified women in the fore — one very matronly, the other a more vivacious blonde — and a nude man and stone altar in the background. The book was The Little Wax Doll by Norah Lofts and I was consumed.

I soon was tracking down other works by Norah Lofts, as well as stories by Victoria Holt, Anya Seton, and my personal favorite, Mary Stewart, among near countless others.

I had been introduced to the gothic romance and I was enchanted.

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the forerunner of the type, which included the works of Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Charles R. Maturin, not to mention the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. These works usually concerned themselves with spirited young women, either governesses or new brides, who go to live in large gloomy mansions populated by peculiar servants and precocious children and presided over by darkly handsome men with mysterious pasts, but one need look no further than Bram Stoker’s Dracula and its decidedly gothic overtones on how the themes could be explored with even more vigor…

Dan Curtis, arguably my most important influence, explored the genre in the late-sixties and seventies, and was quite successful with it, in television. Dark Shadows and his masterful retelling of Dracula, with the spectacular Jack Palance as the cursed Prince Vlad, were cornerstones of what Gothic Romance could be.

What really sold me though was the remarkable cover art that accompanied these slim novels featuring young women in distress, with sinister fog all around, and in the distance a foreboding manor house looming like some form of sentient undead menace.

My Cairnwood Manor Saga is a direct descendant of those weathered paperbacks I read as a child. The gothic is, first and foremost, steeped in atmosphere and I would like to think Cairnwood Manor is equally enshrouded…

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About the Author

Bob Freeman is an author, artist, and paranormal adventurer who’s most recent novel is Keepers of the Dead, published by Seventh Star Press.

A lifelong student of mythology, folklore, magic, and religion, Freeman has written numerous short stories, articles, and reviews for various online and print publications and is a respected lecturer on the occult and paranormal phenomena.

He lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor.

Mr. Freeman can be found online at his website: occultdetective.com, as well as on social media at twitter.com/occultdetective and facebook.com/authorbobfreeman.


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About the Book

Keepers of the Dead
(The Cairnwood Manor Series Book 2)
by Bob Freeman

THE VAMPIRE MACGREGOR LIVES...

"Foolish pup," MacGregor chided the werewolf, "you don't get it. Laddie, if water were evil I'd be but a drop. What lurks below is an ocean."

From the haunted halls of Cairnwood Manor to the bowels of Rosslyn Chapel, Bob Freeman hurls you into the very heart of the eternal conflict between the forces of darkness and the forces of light.

It's fang versus claw, spell versus steel, and love versus death in an epic battle of blood and thunder.

When a sinister cabal converges to unleash the ultimate evil against an unsuspecting world, only the combined strength of the Wolves of Cairnwood Manor and the Circle of Nine Skulls offers up a glimmer of hope as werewolves, vampires, witches, immortal warriors, and an army of the undead collide in a battle of epic bloodshed.

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Tour Schedule and Activities
5/2/2016          Shell's Interviews    Review
5/2/2016          Beauty in Ruins  Guest Post
5/3/2016          Sheila's Guests and Reviews  Interview
5/4/2016          MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape   Interview
5/6/2016          Sapphyria's Book Reviews  Guest Post
5/6/2016          Hunting Monsters   Guest Post
5/7/2016          I Smell Sheep    Top Ten’s List
5/8/2016          SwillBlog  Review

5/8/2016          Deal Sharing Aunt  Interview

Saturday, April 30, 2016

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


Shoguns, Action Missiles, and Cartoons in Korea guest post by Kane Gilmour 

Fantasy Review of Saint's Blood by Sebastien de Castell

On World-Building guest post by Fox Lancet


Coming up next week, I've got a pair of guest posts from the gang over at Tomorrow Comes Media; our usual Waiting on Wednesday post; and reviews of The Emperor's Railroad and The Revelation Code.

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Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

For Review:

An interesting batch of review titles this week, including one from my Aurora Awards voting packet, and a UK title that we're finally getting a look at in North America.


Cursed: Black Swan by Ryan T. McFadden
Published October 7th 2015 by Dragon Moon Press

“Let’s get one thing straight—I’m a fixer. You need someone murdered? Then hire an assassin. You need something stolen? Call a thief. But if there’s something no one else can do, or a job that no one else wants, then you talk to me.”

Nathaniel specializes in the strange, the weird, and the dangerous. But no matter how far he runs, he can’t leave behind his bloody past, nor the ghosts that chase him.

His latest job was supposed to be simple—recover the sword Black Swan. Except there’s no such thing as a simple job. When the operation goes bad, the Crucifiers, the Crooked Hand, assassins, and Crusaders are all hot on Nathaniel’s trail...for a sword he doesn’t even have. All he has to do to get it back and set his world right is to find the woman of his dreams... and kill her.


The Copper Egg by Catherine Friend
Expected publication: May 17th 2016 by Bold Strokes Books

The ancient Chimú believed their people came from three eggs: the rulers from a gold egg, their wives from a silver, and the workers from a copper egg.

Archeologist Claire Adams receives a mysterious package that lures her to Peru in search of a treasure-filled tomb. She must find the tomb before looters do. She’s helped in her quest by old friends and by a strange connection to an ancient copper egg. Claire’s ex, Sochi Castillo, has her own plans for the tomb. She has two jobs—one within the law , one considerably outside it. If Claire finds the treasure first, Sochi is going to steal it. As Claire and Sochi are drawn into a web of intrigue, betrayal, and greed, they discover that love complicates everything.


The Copper Promise by Jen Williams 
Expected publication: July 5th 2016 by Angry Robot 

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.


Champions of Aetaltis edited by by Marc Tassin and John Helfers
Published April 12th 2016 by Mechanical Muse

More than three hundred years have passed since the fall of the Atlan Alliance, and the people of Aetaltis have finally brought order to their fractured world. Fledgling nations have grown into powerful kingdoms, thriving merchant states have re-established old trade routes, and the priests of the Enaros have rebuilt their great temples.

But in this time of hope, the shadow of an ancient evil has emerged from the darkness to threaten the world once again.

Discover a new world of adventure in this collection of pulse-pounding stories written by some of the greatest fantasy authors alive. From the vine enshrouded ruins of a lost jungle temple to the seedy back alleys of the villainous city of Port Vale, experience the thrill of heroic fantasy with these gripping tales of action and adventure.


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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With my beta-read all wrapped up, it's time to dive deep into the stacks and catch up on my reading. Right now I'm juggling a few titles for review over the next 2 weeks:

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt [April 26th 2016]
I was sitting on this ARC for a while, but the finished hardcover arrived last week and I just can't resist the concept of a cursed town that nobody can leave, haunted by a 17th century witch whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut.

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay [May 10th 2016]
It's taken every ounce of self-control I possess to hold off on this one, but I'm ridiculously excited to be diving into a new GGK title. One to savor, not devour.

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish [May 10th 2016]
I'm already a fan of Kristi's work, so I'm really curious to see how she transitions to a new character, new series, and new setting. I got a paperback of this to replace my digital ARC, which just had me even more excited.


What's topping your shelves this week?