Saturday, March 25, 2017

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

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.



Just the one new review title this week - a long-anticipated book that I requested way back in December:

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Weaving deftly between 1980 and the present day, and told in an unforgettable voice, Long Black Veil is an intensely atmospheric thriller that explores the meaning of identity, loyalty, and love


I did, however, pick up a pair of new titles for the WTF Friday stacks:

The Haunted Halls by Glenn Rolfe
Part Laymon, part King, complete Rolfe, this is a book that any horror fan needs to read

Onikymn Crystal by RR Morris
A spellbinding work of imaginative science fiction, RR Morris’ novel will impress readers with its command of historical epochs and alien intrigue



αωαωαωαωαωαωαω


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.

A fresh start this week, with Jennifer Finney Boylan's Long Black Veil automatically becoming my physical read of choice, and Michael Crichton's Dragon Teeth finally topping the e-reader stacks (I can wait no longer!).


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

#Horror Review: The Tower of Zhaal by C.T. Phipps

Whereas Cthulhu Armageddon was comprised of equal parts horror, science fiction, and weird western, The Tower of Zhaal pushes the first two to the margins, thrusting us head-first into the depths of Lovecraftian horror.

I thought the first book was dark, but C.T. Phipps may as well have stamped "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" on the cover here and left it that. I mean, this is a book that starts with Booth and Mercury discussing when to kill him (before he turns into a monster); quickly has the party they're guarding slaughtered by cultists (for the sole purpose of getting Booth's attention); and then proceeds to have one of the Old Ones themselves reveal they've already witnessed humanity's end (but, if we're good, we might earn a false paradise in dreamland). At that point, most heroes would say, "Fuck it," throw their arms up in the air, and walk off the nearest cliff. Fortunately, Booth is too stubborn, too angry, and too rebellious to simply accept the fate that the Old One's decree.

If he can't prevent the end of the world, he'll at least ensure we face it on our own terms.

The twist here, compared to the first book, is that it's not just an insanely powerful madman standing in his way, but a heap of Cosmic Horrors as well. The stakes are raised, right from the start, and the sense of doom weighs heavily upon the story. In fact, Phipps introduces a whole new cast of supporting characters here, some of whom are just as memorable as Richard (my favorite supporting character from the first book), and most of whom die just as quickly and unceremoniously a death. He also broadens the world, taking us farther and faster than was previously possible, thanks to time/space warping "technology of the mind" developed under the oversight of the Old Ones at Miskatonic University.

Not surprisingly, this is a story that delves as deep into ethics as it does magic, often questioning whether the end justifies the means, whether the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and at what cost is survival no longer worth it? Nowhere, though, do those questions weigh more heavily than when Booth and crew pass from the ruins of Insmaw into the subterranean paradise of Shak’ta’hadron . . . and come across Booth's ex-wife. It's not necessarily the most important or exciting part of the story, but it's very much at the heart of what makes such a doom-laden story, fronted by such a gloomy protagonist, still so utterly compelling.

The climax at The Tower of Zhaal is not necessarily bigger than that of the first book, but it is certainly more significant, especially when it involves the words, "We have to summon Cthulhu." I will say no more on that front, but rest assured Phipps isn't merely content to play with the fringes of the Lovecraftian mythos, he's plunging right into its heart.

Kindle Edition, 264 pages
Published January 22nd 2017 by Crossroad Press

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, March 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

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

Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish
Expected publication: May 8th 2017 by Simon & Schuster

The third exciting novel starring the unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. From the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish (Owl and the Japanese Circus) and for fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and fantasy lovers everywhere.

The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural under wraps. They’re also responsible for ruining the promising archaeology career of Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl.

Needless to say, Owl’s still a little sore about that.

Just to keep Owl’s life lively, the IAA has opened a bounty on the two designers of World Quest, the online RPG that is much, much more than it seems. Owl needs to locate the notorious gaming duo before the other mercenaries do. But finding the gamers won’t be easy since every clue points to them hiding out in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La. Not to mention that the last time Owl and the game designers spoke, their conversation didn’t exactly end on the best note…

Meanwhile, undercurrents of supernatural politics are running amok in Tokyo, dragging Owl and her friends into a deadly game of wits with an opponent who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The cost of losing? All-out civil war between two powerful supernatural factions.

All in all, just another great day on the job.


Technically, I am no longer waiting, since I nabbed an electronic ARC last week, but I have been looking forward to this. It's such a fun series, mixing urban fantasy with archaeological adventures, and Owl is a fantastic heroine.

Monday, March 20, 2017

#Thriller Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

The Only Child is . . . well, it's a lot of things, and I think that might be the problem. Andrew Pyper weaves what could have been an entirely satisfying gothic horror story, but then dilutes it with the trappings of a contemporary psychological thriller, drags it down with a 'hunter' subplot that's as weak as it is unwanted, and ties it all to a protagonist who loses all appeal after the first few chapters.

Dr. Lily Dominick is introduced as a smart, strong, independent young woman who chooses to confront and catalogue the monsters around us. There's a glimmer of humanity beneath her cool, clinical exterior that engages the reader and draws us is, but it's all too quickly extinguished. Instead, she's reduced to the role of victim, an emotionless pawn who forces the story forward, but about whose fate it's really hard to care.

Michael, the madman and monster at the heart of the tale, is really the only reason to keep reading, but even he wears thin after a while. His backstory is utterly fascinating, a tragic tale of gothic horror that ensnares Shelley, Stevenson, and Stoker, but it's only a small part of the story. Unfortunately, the bulk of the story involves his pursuit of Lily, and while there are some interesting questions there to drive the suspense, his threatening taunts and incestuous sexual innuendo are so over-the-top that he becomes a mockery of the genre. Even worse, their contrived cat-and-mouse game will have you mentally calculating the odds of continually being in the right place, at the right time, to see/hear/find the right thing.

The whole 'gothic' thing is played very well for about the first half of the novel, before it's almost completely forgotten. There are some great set pieces, such as the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center and the abandoned asylum in Budapest, but too much of the story takes place in airports, hotels, and tile-floor bathrooms. Similarly, Michael's diaries and journals are utterly fascinating, and really serve to bring the story to life, but then they just disappear. As for the hunter subplot, the story could have done very well without it. Aside from introducing a lame romantic subplot and orchestrating a violent climax that feels out of place for the genre, it never really serves a purpose. It never feels as if Lily is truly threatened by the hunters; we're not given enough detail to ever question (or care) whether they are good or bad; and their pursuit of Michael adds absolutely nothing to his story.

There's a really good gothic horror story buried in The Only Child - unfortunately, it's overwhelmed by a boring contemporary psychological drama and a clichéd procedural thriller. The twist ending (which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one) redeems it somewhat, but by that point it's too little too late.

I won't be so crass as to suggest The Only Child should have been aborted, but it's probably for the best that it doesn't have any siblings.

Paperback, Canadian Export, 304 pages
Expected publication: May 23rd 2017 by Simon & Schuster Canada

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.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

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

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.



I'm still trying keep a tight reign on the review pile, knowing that we have a lot of work ahead of us with the move to another city, but I did give in to one request, snagged a sequel I'd been looking forward to, and grabbed a new release (in a new genre) from a fave indie author:

The End Is All We See by by M.F. Wahl & A.J. Brown
Two horrific tales of struggle and loss - a crash landing on an uninhabited planet, and a world where an ice age has driven life underground

Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish [May 8th]
The third exciting novel starring the unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world


The Brothers Three by Layton Green
Three charmed brothers, three magical talismans, an alternate wizard-ruled New Orleans, an alluring but deadly adventuress, and an evil wizard who can raise legions of the undead


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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.

This week's paperback read is The Only Child by Andrew Pyper, while my dueling e-book reads are once again Mythos Christos by Edwin Herbert and The Tower of Zhaal by C.T. Phipps.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, March 17, 2017

WTF Friday: Dinosaurs and Drag Queens

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.




When your story opens with a baby triceratops being birthed from the grotesque, ingrown chest hair of a bingo-calling drag queen, you know you're in for a wild ride. Drag Queen Dino Fighters is exactly what I look for in the bizarro genre, a weird tale, well-told, that allows the story to be surreal, as opposed to forcing it to be strange simply for the sake of being strange.

MP Johnson throws a lot into the mix here - drag queens, dinosaurs, aliens, firemen, skeletons, mad scientists, and more - but does it all within the context of an unusual family drama. It's that family element at the heart of the story that pulls it all together, with Steven juggling a home life with his boyfriend, his son, his ex-wife, and her father. The baby triceratops may just be his ticket to drag queen stardom, but it may come at the cost of everyone who loves him.

There are so many little moments here that I loved, not the least of which is the way Ivanna's drag queen rivals continue to read each other, despite having the flesh dissolved from their bones, their heads removed from their bodies, or their eyes harvested. I thought Ivanna's crawl through a drag king's subterranean lair might be the height of absurdity, but the final dance-off between Ivanna and Dragosaurus Rex makes for an epic finale.

Of course, Drag Queen Dino Fighters isn't just a sci-fi flavored slice of bizarro, it's also a story about love, family, and finding one's self. It's not a heavy-handed message, but it's part of what makes the story work.

Paperback
Expected publication: May 1st 2017 by Eraserhead Press


As much as I enjoyed the first two episodes of Futanari Dino Riders of the Apocalypse, Jada's Basement Sex Show is the story I was waiting for. Not only do we get more dinos - and a flying Quetzalcoatlus at that! - but we also get a good dose of world building, with a glimpse of ruined skyscrapers, talk of nanobombs, rumors of a spaceship in New Mexico, and the introduction of a strangely beautiful woman who I suspect may be an android.

The Magpie gets shunted aside somewhat in this episode, leaving Xenia to carry the world building and plot development, but she certainly plays a role in the climax. It takes a while to learn just how Jada plans to collect her payment, but Bryce Calderwood manages to top the already over-the-top erotic elements of the first two episodes. It's wild, it's dangerous, it's messy, it's extreme, and it's exhibitionistic, but it's a whole lot of futa fun.

Not only did Jada's Basement Sex Show satisfy my curiosity, but it's got me stoked to see what's next.

Kindle Edition
Published March 10th 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#Horror Review: Honger by Terry M. West

Hunger knows no friend but its feeder…
That is a great line, and one that perfectly exemplifies this short tale from the bloody, gore-strewn pen of Terry M. West. Honger is a sad, violent tale, an otherwise simple story of monstrous cannibalism, but with a solid backstory and well-developed mythology.

Although he's been a monster for over 300 years, Willem Tenner never loses his humanity, making him a surprisingly sympathetic character. Sure, he murders a few people every season, devouring everything but their bones, but he takes no pleasure in it. When the Honger comes on, he is simply powerless to resist. In many ways, this quiet loner reminded me of Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk, wandering from life to life, minus the post-transformation shame and guilt.

When another monster arrives on the scene, a man who knows William's darkest most secrets, it's time to walk away from another life - but not before dealing with a few things first. After a slow build of character and mythology, the final third of the story races along, only becoming darker, bloodier, and even more chilling with each development. As for the climax, West always nails his endings, and this is no exception.

Kindle Edition
Published March 1st 2017

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Queen of Storm and Shadow by Jenna Rhodes

"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 Queen of Storm and Shadow by Jenna Rhodes
Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 by Daw Books

The Queen of Storm and Shadow is the fourth and final novel in the spellbinding fantasy epic, The Elven Ways.   

The world of Kerith has reached a pivotal moment in its history, as rival factions are forced to band together against both known enemies and an unexpected invasion force.

Life, Death, and the elemental Gods have awakened in the lands of Kerith after a cataclysmic collision with Trevalka, home of Vaelinar ambition, lies, and magic. Only a handful of the bravest and most foolhardy left standing dare to face the consequences of these two worlds meeting. Unwillingly thrust through space and time, the Vaelinars have made the most of their exile and woven the threads of their magic deep into the fabric of Kerith. Makers and masters of the Elven Ways, now they, and the Gods, must choose their final paths.

Rivergrace and her partner Sevryn have no choice but to cross the treacherous divide between worlds in pursuit of Quendius and his army of Undead. They are determined to risk everything to prevent the Death Master from joining forces with the queen of lost Trevalka, a tyrant who has risen to power by draining the energies of those around her. Cut off from all their allies and friends, Rivergrace and Sevryn may have to sacrifice their magic, their love, and their very existence to save the world they left behind.

Back on Kerith, the Warrior Queen Lariel awakens from an assassination attempt to find her people on the brink of civil war. Lariel's heirs—Nutmeg Farbranch's children—have been kidnapped, and Nutmeg will risk anything for their safe return. As primal forces rise in judgment, Dwellers, Kernans, Galdarkans, and Vaelinars alike must pick allies carefully if any of them are to survive.


I've had a copy of The Four Forges sitting on my shelf for ages now, but knowing that a final volume is imminent definitely has me a little more inclined to get reading!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#Fantasy Review: The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

I had the great pleasure of meeting Ben Galley through Mark Lawrence's inaugural Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off contest. While the coming-of-age element in Bloodrush didn't work for me, there was enough imagination and narrative flair that I was definitely open to reading more of his work. So, when he offered me an early glance of his latest work, I was happy to give it a read.

The Heart of Stone is a much darker, more mature story than my introduction to Ben's world, and that's precisely what I was looking for. Task is a stone golem, built for war hundreds of years ago, and bought-and-sold like any other weapon over those violent centuries. I wondered myself just how engaging a golem could possibly be as a protagonist, but he did not disappoint. Here we have a weapon of war who is tired of war . . . a monster without a soul who is more man than those who own him. There's a heaviness to him (no pun intended) that somehow elevates each scene, rather than dragging us down into the blood and the mud.

Make no mistake, this is a novel of the grimdark subgenre, a violent fantasy that doesn't glorify war or paint its world in bright shades and pretty trappings. It's a book with very little in the way or love or laughter, but still a lot of heart. There are some good people with whom Trask surrounds himself - including a kick-ass young woman, a proud old knight, and a wheelchair enabled general - and they help him to grow into the redemption he has sought for so many years. The villains are almost too evil, but somehow they stop shy of becoming over-the-top caricatures. In fact, within the context of the ugliness of civil war, they're actually somewhat fitting.

While I suspect some readers may have an issue with the pacing, it worked for me. The first half of the novel is largely character development and world-building, which is perfectly fine when you have such an unusual protagonist whose moral dilemma is at the heart of the tale. Once the heart of the story kicks in, it's far easier to appreciate what's going on, knowing who (and what) is at stake. There is a conversation somewhere around the 70% mark, where Trask interrogates Lord Lash about the nature of the civil war, questioning everything from why the church takes sides to what each side has to lose, that really serves as the transition into epic storytelling.


Kindle Edition, 488 pages
Expected publication: March 30th 2017 by BenGalley.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.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

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

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.



I'm still trying keep a tight reign on the review pile, knowing that we have a lot of work ahead of us with the move to another city, but I did request a pair of summer/autumn releases:

Soul of the World by David Mealing [June 27th]
A brilliant debut epic fantasy with a unique magic system and unforgettable characters . . . Three lines of magic must be mastered in order to usher in a new age, and three heroes must emerge

Blackwing by Ed McDonald [July 20th UK | October 3 NA]
A post-apocalyptic frontier, a long dead sorcerer's legacy, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it, and a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic


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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.

This week's paperback read is The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley, while my dueling e-book reads are The Tower of Zhaal by C.T. Phipps and Mythos Christos by Edwin Herbert.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

#Fantasy Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Skullsworn is a story about the Annurian Empire's most sacred league of assassins, a group of men and women dedicated to the God of Death . . . except it's really a story that's more about life than death.

Brian Staveley's newest addition is everything readers could ask for, a worthy addition to a familiar world, and a stunning prequel that actually lives up to the original trilogy's legacy. What's more, in addition to fleshing out the story of Pyrre, it also introduces a small cast of new characters, any one of whom I'd be happy to read more about. In fact, I'd go so far as to declare Ela to be one of the best characters he's ever written.

Skullsworn is a story about the final trial of Pyrre Lakatur, a sacred charge to kill ten people in ten days, including someone she loves . . . except it's really a story that's more about learning to live than kill.

A story of personal conflicts, this is (quite naturally) a story of relationships. There's Pyrre and her quest for love with Ruc Lan Lac, a rekindling an old friendship, old lusts, and old secrets. It's a complex relationship, an affair that began just as it's destined to end - in violence. There's also Kossal and Ela, priest and priestess of Ananshael, Witnesses to Pyrre's trial, and dueling lovers who dance around one another as well as they do those who they aim to kill. Finally, there's Chua, an old woman caught between families and faiths, as doomed as she is by the death of her husband as she is tied to the delta because of him.

Skullsworn is a story about a long-prophesized rebellion, a religious-and-civil uprising against a land's conquerors and oppressors . . . except it's all based on deliberate lies and tragic misunderstandings.

Where the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne was an epic fantasy, this is more a pulp adventure tale, complete with daring escapes, killer snakes, killers spiders, killer crocs, and . . . well, killers. It's a violent, action-packed story, but it's also a rather intimate tale, with its focus on love and death playing well against the sarcasm, dark humor, and razor-edged pillow talk. It's a story of layers, where every scene having a dual meaning, with what's said and what's done not always matching up in the way you'd expect. For a story that's wading towards a foregone conclusion, Staveley still manages to keep the reader in suspense, even as he engages our emotions along the way.

Skullsworn is an attempt to flesh out the world of the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, an attempt to provide backstory for one of its most memorable characters . . . except . . . well, there's no exception here.

Whether you're already a fan or a newcomer to the world of Brian Staveley, this is a story that's guaranteed to please. It works as well as a standalone story as it does a prequel, expanding the world and the mythology, without spoiling anything to come. Staveley has already proven himself to be a master of world-building, character development, and sheer storytelling, and what he's done with Pyrre (and all the rest) just adds to that legacy.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Tor Books

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, March 8, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

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

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 by Broadway Books

Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do—and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And—perhaps most daunting of all—finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.


I've had a review copy of this on hand for a few weeks now, and I'm definitely excited about a Sigrud-centered tale, but I'm trying to be patient and wait a little closer to the release date.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories by A.C. Wise

Advertised as a collection of the fantastical, the weird, the queer and the poignant, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories is all those things and more. A.C. Wise weaves a variety of styles, genres, and sexualities through her tales, foregoing the gleeful camp of The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again in favor of a darker, more contemplative faery-tale feel. It took a few stories for the collection to take hold of my imagination, but the writing is so polished, so crisp, and so elegant, that it's easy to be patient.

It was with The Pornographer's Assistant that Wise got my imagination firing, and with For The Removal of Unwanted Guests that she hooked me. As witchcraft fables go, the story, the dialogue, and the final twist are all perfect. A Mouse Ran Up The Clock takes the collection down a darker path, a clockwork tale of politics, ethics, and humanity.

Sisters of the Blessed Diving Order of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew and The Kissing Booth Girl were both beautifully weird stories, just on the edge of unreality, tied together with human thoughts and emotions.

The Last Survivor of the Great Sexbot Revolution was probably one of my favorites in the collection, a tale that's as much about the story as the telling. The element of uncertainty . . . of unreliability . . . is what makes the story so intriguing. We don't know the truth of the story or the history, and while I usually find such literary tricks tiresome, it worked here.

The language of The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories is as powerful as its imagery, a narrative style that extends across the genres, linking them together into a fluid whole.

Paperback, 254 pages
Published October 2016 by Lethe Press

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

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

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.



No new review titles this week, but I did add a few titles to the WTF Friday shelves . . .

Brainchew by Wol-vriey
something eXXXtremely horrible is buried in the Pleasant Street Cemetery

Sweet Home by Joseph Zuko
a prison bus crash allows four homicidal and terminally ill convicts to escape

  

What Price Gory? by Terry M. West
Monsters and demons dwell in these tales

Lake Lurkers by MP Johnson
The Land of 10,000 Lakes is about to become the Land of 10,000 Deaths!

  

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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.

I'm thoroughly enjoying my paperback read of Brian Staveley's Skullsworn, and will be moving on to The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley next. On the e-book front, I'm just diving into The Tower of Zhaal by C.T. Phipps and The Angel Alejandro by Alistair Cross.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thriller Review: Something Violent by Kristopher Rufty

Although it suffers from some softness in the middle, Something Violent is a crazy-ass thriller with a killer shock of an opening, a brilliantly twisted climax, and a darkly satisfying conclusion. Kristopher Rufty weaves a tale that takes its inspiration from a number of sources, but which outdoes them all in terms of sheer audacity.

Ron McClure is a marriage counselor to the stars, a celebrity in his own right, complete with talk show appearances and a book deal. When he spots a beautiful woman sobbing in a liquor store parking lot, he has no idea where a well-intentioned conversation will end - but he certainly doesn't expect to be tasered, kidnapped, and tied up in a serial killer's basement. Despite what seems like his own impending death, he can't help but be drawn into the story of a serial killer couple who've lost their lust for killing together. In between thoughts of escape, he actually starts listening to their respective stories, compelled to solve them as he has so many others.

Jody and Seth are an interesting couple, creepy as hell and twice as frightening. The story of how they met is worthy of a book all its own, and theirs is a story that just gets darker and more complicated as their confessions go on. The tricky thing is, they're an almost likable couple, making it all too easy to get drawn into their tale of terror, torture, murder, and mayhem. There's almost something of a Natural Born Killers vibe to it, but without the silly, surreal, satiric element. This reads more like an uncensored early season episode of Criminal Minds. The real hook here, though, is Something Violent itself - a darknet, subscription-based website for serial killers and their most twisted fans. I won't get into too much detail, but it ties into both how Seth and Jody met and how they drifted apart, with another serial killer couple involved in it all.

Like I said, there were a few soft spots in the middle that I think could have been tightened up, but it's so well-told, with such fantastic characters, and just the right amount of violence, that its flaws are easy to excuse. There are some definite shocks along the way, and a key tipping point where our fascination turns to horror, but the pay-off is one of the best I've come across in the genre in ages.

Paperback
Expected publication: March 28th 2017 by DarkFuse

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, March 1, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Drag Queen Dino Fighters by MP Johnson

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

Drag Queen Dino Fighters by MP Johnson
Expected publication: May 1st 2017 by Eraserhead Press

From the author of Dungeons & Drag Queens comes a fierce bizarro tale of dinosaur-riding realness.

Ivanna Deflower’s chance at drag superstardom passed her by long ago. She has resigned herself to a normal life raising her son with her ex-wife while occasionally hosting Sunday morning drag queen bingo. And she’s fine with that. She really is.

Until her life is turned upside down by the one thing that’s guaranteed to give a past-her-prime drag queen another shot at the big time: a baby triceratops that can out-dance even the youngest and most sickening divas in Los Angeles.

But the climb to the top isn’t going to be easy. Not only does she have to contend with her shade-throwing former friends, there’s a certain big game-hunting drag king with a vendetta and access to cybernetic technology. And what about all those bright lights in the sky and the shaking ground? Even if she can sashay around all of these obstacles, what is she going to do about her own family?

Drag Queen Dino Fighters is a fun and fabulous high-heeled adventure story that further proves why Wonderland Book Award winner MP Johnson is considered one of the most exciting rising stars in the bizarro fiction genre


Come on, seriously, how can you look at that cover and not feel a burning desire to read this? I've been both a fan and a friend of MP's for a few years now, and I am ridiculously excited for more bizarro drag queen adventure.

#IWSG: Reworked Stories

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a once-monthly blog hop aimed at sharing our doubts and concerns, while encouraging one another with assistance and guidance. As the lighthouse image suggests, it’s a beacon in the dark and a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

This month's IWSG Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out? 

Yes, and it worked out extremely well. Metamorphic Mutilation was a story I originally wrote for a themed anthology, and pretty much cast aside in despair when it didn't make the cut. At some point I decided to dust it off, take a look, and see what I could make of it. All it took was one tiny change, one minor shift in motivation, and suddenly the entire story opened up. It meant pouring more of myself into it, and really digging into the emotions, but it's a far better story than the one I originally submitted.
Not much else to say this month. In between having to get out for viewings of our house, and spending our evenings viewing other houses, I've barely had time to sit down, much less write. Hopefully that will change now that we've got half the job done, with our house sold, but it's been a physically and emotionally exhausting process.