Double Dead (Tomes of the Dead) by Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Abaddon/Nov. 2011
Coburn’s been dead now for close to a century, but seeing as how he’s a vampire and all, it doesn’t much bother him. Or at least it didn’t, not until he awoke from a forced five-year slumber to discover that most of human civilization was now dead—but not dead like him, oh no.
See, Coburn likes blood. The rest of the walking dead, they like brains. He’s smart. Them, not so much. But they outnumber him by about a million to one. And the clotted blood of the walking dead cannot sustain him. Now he’s starving. And nocturnal. And more pissed-off than a bee-stung rattlesnake. The vampire not only has to find human survivors (with their sweet, sweet blood), but now he has to transition from predator to protector—after all, a man has to look after his food supply.
So, you’re a dessicated vampire (that’s gone without blood for years, and has been in a kind of stasis) that comes to in the middle of an abandoned theatre with zombies nomming on, well, everything living. What do you do? You need to get blood, right? Our vamp, Coburn, attempts to do just that, but when he bites into one of the zombies, he quickly realizes that zombie blood is bad for his health. Well then, it’s time to find some of the living, yes?
After heading outside and realizing that the world has pretty much gone to hell, and tangling with some of the living dead, he comes across a group of survivors. Food! Not so fast. Key among this group is a 15 year old girl named Kayla, who’s not about to have Coburn feeding off her father and her friends, so she strikes an unlikely deal with the vampire. Coburn protects the group from cannibals (we’ll get to that), and other baddies, and they’ll make sure he gets to feed. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yeah, not so much…
Coburn the vampire is a foul mouthed, hedonistic, arrogant, self-centered son of a bitch, and he knows this, so how the hell he let this kid talk him into this deal, he’s not sure, but he is hungry, and he could use a place to crash, so he hops on board the RV that our little ragtag group has commandeered. What follows is a pretty wild ride through a destroyed American landscape populated with things much, much worse than the walking dead.
Double Dead is a terrifying, violent, American road trip through zombie hell. Wendig throws in a cannibalistic group that brings to mind something right out of Rob Zombie’s worst nightmares, zombies out the wazoo (of course), a military compound taken over by trigger happy yahoos dressed like clowns (I kept picturing Killer Clowns From Outer Space), and some hybrid creatures that will make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The author spares no gruesome detail, but lest the word “gratuitous” start floating around in your mind, it’s really…not. The gore is necessary to the story and it’s tempered with a fair amount of black humor. Aside from the flying body parts and decapitations, it has probably one of the grossest (yet creative) vampire feeding scenes that I think I’ve ever read (seriously, *shudder*.) Double Dead made me laugh and cringe in equal measure, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it does have heart. Yep, this gritty, gross, blood drenched vamp/zombie fest has a heart. I certainly didn’t expect to develop a certain amount of grudging affection for Coburn (and his little dog Creampuff), but I did! There’s also something special about our Kayla, but I’m not going to give away that secret. It’s just part of the awesome that is this book.
The author credits Robert McCammon (one of my all-time fave authors) at the end of the book as inspiration, and I can certainly see shades of Swan Song in Double Dead. Amongst the horror, there are themes of loyalty, redemption, and even love that the author manages to weave in with an expert hand. Chuck Wendig has one sick, twisted imagination, but in his case, it’s a talent, and he poured that talent into this kick ass vampire/zombie apocalypse tale. Crisp writing, bullet fast pacing, and twists that I didn’t see coming make this one a can’t-miss for horror/zombie fans. The damn thing even made me cry. Seriously. If you’re in the mood for something a little different, a little sick (ok, maybe more than a little), a little funny, and a lot awesome, pick up Double Dead, and get your freak on, yeah?
I’ve got my two winners for Don’t Bite the Messenger by Regan Summers! Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone that entered!
Congrats to DeAnna Schultz and reading mind!
*Winners were chosen using Random.org and have been notified. Thanks again to everyone that entered!
I’m so excited to have Claire Ashgrove here today as part of her blog tour for Immortal Hope: Curse of the Templars! Claire was kind enough to answer a few questions, and is also giving away two (2!!) $25 Amazon giftcards to 2 lucky winners! One will be given away during the tour, and another at the end of the tour. All you have to do is comment (and please leave your email address), so be sure to hit all of the tour stops (the more you comment, the bigger your chances of winning!)
Please welcome Claire to the blog!
Claire, you’re the author of more than 10 novels and short stories, and in your bio it says you’ve been writing since your early teens. Did you ever imagine that you’d become a published writer?
Not in a hundred years.
In fact, I didn’t want to be published… because my mother wanted me to be.
When I was in my early twenties, my mother began nudging me to pursue publication. The neighbor was a published romance author, I wrote – mom knew best, right? Well, what began as nudging became pushing. I did speak with the neighbor and learned about RWA, but never followed through. Writing was for me. Nothing else.
Until I was a bored, stay-at-home mom with an infant that slept 18 out of 24 hours a day. Then I sat down to write, really liked what I wrote, and decided… this was it… I was going to do what I never followed through on. I did; joined RWA and three local chapters, and here we are now, four years later.
Your new paranormal romance, Immortal Hope, just came out, and is the first in your Knights Templar series. What made you decide to write a paranormal? Can you tell us a bit about it?
IMMORTAL HOPE is a dark and sexy paranormal about the cursed Knights Templar, demons, and the most unholy Azazel’s ascension to the highest throne. It blends historical fact with a touch of speculative fiction and a whole barrel of steamy romance. In it you’ll find sacred secrets hiding amidst the ancient swordplay and treasured relics. IMMORTAL HOPE is the first book in the series, as you mentioned, and is published by Tor Romance.
What made me decide to write paranormal? I honestly don’t know. I started out in fantasy romance. Had a few agent bites, scored pretty well in the Golden Heart (though not well enough to final), and then it just really ended up not being saleable. Combined with that love is an equally great love for a good medieval historical. And somehow… I ended up weaving history into modern society, twisting legend, and writing paranormal.
You have at least two more books planned for the Knight’s Templar series. Do you hope to write more?
I do hope to write more! The series isn’t projected as a never-ending series, but it does encompass more than three. Fingers crossed the contracts will play out that way.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Goodness… too many to name?
Faulkner and Steinbeck play a huge role in my love of fiction and embedded symbolism. I strive to be able to convey as much as Faulkner did with the singular sentence comprising one chapter: “My mother is a fish.”
More modern, Steve Berry – his speculative fiction and action scenes are awe inspiring! I am a devoted Christopher Paolini fan, as well as an R.A. Salvatore fan.
Within romance Maya Banks, Shayla Black, Karen Tabke, Sylvia Day, Lauren Dane, Meredith Duran, and Johanna Lindsey have all inspired me.
What’s one of your most unusual writing quirks?
Spreadsheets. I was a former project manager. I live by the “critical path”. And dear Lord, I will go INSANE if I don’t have boxes to check off and dates to analyze.
As a mom of two boys, do you find it’s hard to juggle a writing schedule with family life?
Oh yes. Moreso now that my eldest is actually in school, ironically enough. I had to readjust my schedule, and long hours at night were cut. Then evenings were cut as that’s when he now needs / wants Mommy time, where before he had plenty throughout the day and would entertain himself quite well after dinner. With playtime cut in half, the house is no longer quiet when it used to be, and my youngest is reaching the age where he’s challenging rules and boundaries. Fun times! And an often exhausted Mom.
I’ve read that you raise and train horses! Can you tell us a little about that?
Well… that’s presently on the back burner. But yes, that’s my second passion in life. The economy shift however hit the horse world hard, with horses outside of the five and six figure range not being highly marketable or profitable. So breeding is out right now. Which means my current hold is old, and very young.
That said, I started officially learning how to ride at 15, and was sucked in hook, line and sinker. I still own my first horse – he’s 24 this year. And my second, who’s 26. I found though, that I don’t particularly like to “finish” a show horse, and I used to drive my trainer crazy by constantly bringing new horses to lessons and having to start all over with the new mount. I ride dressage primarily, and jump secondarily – both disciplines that really require time and effort to “master”. Taking a completely uneducated horse and bringing it up to novice level was far more fun than working on leg cues, bending, and spiral circles day after day. So when I do train, it’s basic ground work through introductory saddle work and then on to introductory dressage and low-level fences.
Fun! Although that ground gets further away each year. Thankfully, my training approach hasn’t seen me bucked off though. :knocks on wood:
How else do you like to spend your free time?
I haven’t had free time in I don’t know how long. From Aug 31, 2011 to September of 2012, I anticipate fourteen releases. I try to make sure we maintain family game night with the kids, but beyond that? No free time.
Is there any advice that you would give to struggling writers?
Never box yourself in and believe you can only write one thing, one project, or one genre. True, you want to brand yourself in one area, but always keep an open mind because opportunities will present that weren’t anticipated.
I never dreamed I’d have an alternate pen name and write erotic romantic suspense as Tori St. Claire. Romantic suspense, perhaps. Erotic? Hah! I couldn’t write the word “nipple” at one point in my career without turning five shades of red.
It was my agent and my editor who sighted that opportunity. They asked. I agreed. If I hadn’t been open to considering the prospect, or if I’d become locked behind “I cant!”, I wouldn’t be celebrating a second release at the same time as IMMORTAL HOPE.
Other people can see things in your writing that you cannot. The good and the needs improvement. Listen objectively, consider the possible outcomes, before you opt-out of ideas or feedback.
Do you have any news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share?
As I mentioned above, I’m celebrating a secondary release this month. STRIPPED, by Tori St. Claire released January 3rd. It’s a dark, very edgy erotic romantic suspense published through Berkley Heat about covert CIA operatives (The Black Opals) and human trafficking. In conjunction with the IMMORTAL HOPE Book Tour, I toured STRIPPED as well. While that tour ends tomorrow, you can read more about STRIPPED and the companion title coming later this year, LIE TO ME, on my Tori St. Claire website.
Thanks again for having me here today! It’s been a lot of fun!
Don’t forget to comment to enter the $25 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway!!
Immortal Hope: Curse of the Templars by Claire Ashgrove
Kind thanks to Tor for providing a review copy
Centuries ago, Templar knights defied the archangels and unearthed the copper scroll that revealed the locations of the gates to hell. Cursed for their forbidden act, they now roam the earth, protecting mankind from evil. But darkness stalks them, and battles they fight bring them ever closer to eternal damnation. One promise remains to give them salvation—the return of the seraphs.
Embittered by his purpose, Merrick du Loire must honor an ancient pact and bring peace to his cousin’s soul, releasing him from the clutches of their enemy. When he stumbles upon history professor Anne MacPherson, he discovers that she possesses a sacred artifact that marks her as a seraph. Duty demands he set aside his personal quest and locate the knight she’s fated to heal. As Merrick struggles with conflicting oaths, Anne arouses buried hope and sparks forbidden desire that challenges everything he’s sworn to uphold.
Anne has six weeks to complete her thesis on the Knights Templar. When Merrick takes her to the Templar stronghold, he presents her with all she needs—and awakens a soul-deep ache that he alone can soothe. Yet loving Merrick comes with a price. If she admits she is destined for him, her gift of foresight predicts his death.
Anne MacPherson is determined to finish her thesis on the Knights Templar and gain the promotion that she richly deserves, but when a handsome, rather imposing Knight appears in her home and whisks her away to the Templar stronghold, she doesn’t know what to think. One thing she does know is that when Merrick touches her, she sees a terrible vision, one of his death. Anne comes to find out she is a seraph, which is a decendant of Nephilim, and her destiny is to be mated to one of the cursed Knights and save his soul. When the Knights unearthed ancients scrolls almost 900 years ago, instead of finding a devine relic, they inadvertently uncovered scrolls that were the keys to the gates of Hell. Azazel is sending his minions to steal relics that will allow him to gain power, and it is up to the Knights to thwart his plans. The only hope for the Knights, before the cursed darkness claims their souls, is to find their matches in the seraphs and banish the darkness forever. Anne is Merrick’s destined, but she is afraid if the makes that known, it will lead to his death. Makes for some serious drama, yes? You have no idea…
I’ll admit, even after discovering some really good paranormal romance, I still consider myself a reluctant romance reader. However, I’m a sucker for the Crusades, and the premise of Immortal Hope looked very promising. I wasn’t disappointed, not in the least. Seriously, guys, Immortal Hope will hook you from page one. Anne is a smart, feisty heroine, and her acclimation into the Knight’s stronghold had me giggling at times as she encountered the Knight’s chivalrous and outdated habits concerning women. As the darkness comes closer to claiming each Knight, however, not all of the men have good intentions, but don’t worry, Merrick is loathe to let Anne out of his site, a fact that both excites and frightens her. As for Merrick, he’s about as swoonworthy as it gets, girls, and he’s got poor Anne in knots. Merrick starts off cranky and sullen, but Anne’s influence is too much, and that tough veneer slowly begins to crack. The author puts her poor readers through the ringer with Anne and Merrick’s push and pull, as she falls for him, and he tries to resist her, since, for all he knows, she’s meant for another. Delicious tension, seriously. The romance is passionate and tender, but doesn’t overwhelm the story. Ms. Ashgrove weaves in rich history and great characterization (getting to know the Knights was one of my favorite parts), and creates a wonderful fantasy to lose yourself in. Yes, there are sexy parts, but they only serve to highlight the love that develops between Anne and Merrick. And of course, there’s angel and demon lore. How can you pass this one up? The author has a gift for storytelling, and I can’t wait to get to know other Knights, and other seraphs, in future installments!
The wonderful Erin Kelly, author of The Poison Tree, and the upcoming The Dark Rose (Feb. 2nd), was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions. Also, the wonderful folks at Penguin have provided 3 copies of The Dark Rose for giveaway, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Please welcome Erin to the blog!
You’ve written extensively for newspapers and magazines, and your first novel, The Poison Tree, garnered high praise! Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. I could read when I was three and was writing and illustrating my own stories from a year or two after that. I wrote creatively throughout my teens, but when I became a journalist in my early twenties, professional writing meant that fiction took a back seat for a while. Something about producing copy to deadline took the edge off my energy and ambition for a while, and besides, it was fun and distracting: there was always some exciting new job or assignment that stopped me writing that novel I was always talking about.
But the book had other ideas, slowly pushing its way to the front of the queue until I couldn’t ignore it any longer – and when I got pregnant, in 2008, that was the reality check I needed. For six months I wrote fiction all day, doing my freelance journalism in the evenings. At the end of that intense period, I had the novel that would eventually become The Poison Tree.
Your second novel, The Dark Rose, will be out in the US next week! Can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s a contemporary psychological suspense novel but has many elements of Gothic fiction – there’s a seductive, ancient building, dual narrative, doppelgangers and like my first book The Poison Tree, the novel deals with the long shadows cast by past mistakes.
Two characters dominate the novel. Troubled teenager Paul has been led into a life of crime by his best friend and protector, Daniel. One night what started as petty theft escalates fatally, and the authorities send him to ground in a remote garden restoration project until he can testify. There he meets garden designer Louisa, who reacts to him with shock: Paul resembles Adam, with whom she had an intense affair that ended in blood.
The novel alternates between Paul’s point of view and Louisa’s. It’s dominated by the setting of Kelstice Lodge, the ruined Elizabethan hall where they meet but also flashes back to his adolescence in estuary Essex and hers in Kensington. We see them enter into a relationship and confide in each other, but it soon becomes apparent that the past is catching up with one – or both – of them.
What made you decide to write thrillers, as opposed to other genres?
I wasn’t thinking in terms of genre so much as writers my friends and I liked to read, and to talk about. Most of my favourite novels are literary fiction with a thriller or mystery element, like The Secret History by Donna Tartt, or The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
My favourite contemporary novelists are William Boyd, Kate Atkinson and Tana French. I love Ruth Rendell, especially when she writes as Barbara Vine. Going further back, I love Wilkie Collins, LP Hartley, Evelyn Waugh.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
That’s such a good question. I guess it would be Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, because that was the book that changed everything for me. I was about 14 when I read it for the first time, and used to Agatha Christie, who of course delivers perfect plots, but, you know, the writing… so when I read Rebecca I was just delighted to find that suspense fiction with such a perfect plot could be so beautifully written, and so unabashedly romantic. I remember closing it and thinking, ‘I want to do that.’
Have you ever “faked” reading a book, and if so, which one?
Yes, Tristram Shandy by Lawrence Sterne, when I was at University. I read a synopsis and a friend’s essay five minutes before going into the seminar. I think I got away with it. I still haven’t read it.
You can’t fake reading contemporary fiction because the thing with booklovers is they want to talk about the books they’ve read and loved in such minute detail that you’d be found out within seconds.
When you’re not writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
My daughter takes up most of my time. She’s three and the funniest person I know. When I’m not with my family, I like to run, catch live music, practice yoga, cook and eat out.
If someone were to visit you in London, and it was their first time there, where would you take them first?
They’ve got good walking boots, right? I’d take them to the River Thames. We’d start at The Houses of Parliament, get a fix of art in the Tate Modern, then we’d wind our way through the back streets around Borough Market, cross Tower Bridge, find a Hogarthian little pub to start the evening in. Then we’d keep going into the East End and get some Indian food in Brick Lane before retracing our steps in a black cab.
What do you love most about living in London?
That it still holds surprises for me. I’ve lived in and around this city for 35 years and I’m still discovering streets, even entire neighborhoods, that I didn’t know existed.
If you could pack your bags and go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
To a yoga retreat in Kerala, South India. Much as I love my home town, I’m writing this on a freezing, wet January day. Everything outside my window looks grey, even the trees.
Is there any other news of upcoming projects or events that you’d like to share with us?
I’ve just finished my third novel. It’s another stand-alone psychological thriller about a family weekend that turns deadly when the youngest son brings his new girlfriend to stay. As the weekend unfolds, it soon becomes apparent that many of the family’s past problems have a single, terrifying explanation and that the threat is still real and present.
After I’ve edited my third novel I’ll begin working on my fourth. I already know what it’s about. I could tell you, Kristin… but then I’d have to kill you.
The Dark Rose: A Novel by Erin Kelly
Publisher: Penguin/Feb. 2nd, 2012
Kind thanks to Penguin for providing a review copy
“Paul was led into a life of crime by his boyhood protector, a bully named Daniel; but one night, what started as a petty theft turned into a grisly murder. Now, at nineteen, Paul must bear witness against his friend to avoid prison. Louisa’s own dark secrets led her to flee a desperate infatuation gone wrong many years before. Now she spends her days steeped in history, renovating the grounds of a crumbling Elizabethan garden. But her fragile peace is shattered when she meets Paul; he’s the spitting image of the one person she never thought she’d see again.
These two, scarred and solitary, begin a secret affair. Louisa starts to believe she can again find the happiness she had given up on. But neither of them can outrun his violent past.
A garden is being brought back to its Elizabethan splendor by a group of horticulturists, botanists and volunteers in the English countryside, and Louisa Trevelyan loves her days coaxing new growth out of the ground and unearthing old delights from the original garden, but is still haunted by a devastating event nearly 20 years ago. Paul Seaforth is sent to Kelstice Lodge to volunteer in the garden until the murder trial of his childhood friend, where he will serve as the star witness. Louisa is shocked when she sees Paul for the first time, since he is the doppelganger of the man she was obsessed with 20 years ago. Their lives will entwine in ways they never could have imagined, and each of their secrets will lead to shocking revelations.
I advise you to seek out a quiet and comfortable space when you start The Dark Rose, because you won’t be getting up for a while. The novel follows three separate timelines; the present, Louisa’s story, which begins 20 years ago (in 1989), and Paul’s story, which begins when he’s a young boy and comes full circle in present day. In spite of their 20 year age difference, Paul and Louisa are both victims of co-dependent relationships, although for very different reasons. Paul’s childhood friend, Daniel, was his protector against other boys who would have otherwise bullied him relentlessly. Bookish and shy, when Paul discovers Daniel’s weakness, he’s determined to protect him in his own way. Both have lost parents (Daniel’s mother and Paul’s father), and they naturally fall into a friendship. Things begin to escalate, however, when Daniel and his father begin to involve Paul in increasingly criminal activity, which culminates in the murder that Paul witnesses. Louisa’s obsession with rock singer Adam Glasslake is explored to heartbreaking effect. If you’ve ever loved someone just a little more than they love you, you’ll feel Louisa’s pain, even as you cringe at some of the lengths she goes to in order to keep a hold (however tenuous) on the handsome, brooding Adam. The author seamlessly weaves both stories together and I found myself glued to the pages, wanting to know what happened next. The atmospheric writing, taut characterizations, flawless pacing, and an unlikely, yet sweet, romance, will have you riveted, and there are some jaw droppers that I honestly didn’t see coming. Paul and Julia’s pasts, and futures, will come together in a shocking climax that will leave you breathless. Fans of flawless psychological suspense won’t want to pass this one up, and it will also appeal to fans of Tana French. The Dark Rose is absolutely not to be missed!
Horizon (Aftertime #3) by Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: LUNA/Jan. 2012
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a review copy
Cass Dollar is a survivor. She’s overcome the meltdown of civilization, humans turned mindless cannibals, and the many evils of man.
But from beneath the devastated California landscape emerges a tendril of hope. A mysterious traveler arrives at New Eden with knowledge of a passageway North; a final escape from the increasingly cunning Beaters. Clutching this dream, Cass and many others decamp and follow him into the unknown.
Journeying down valleys and over barren hills, Cass remains torn between two men. One—her beloved Smoke—is not so innocent as he once was. The other keeps a primal hold on her that feels like Fate itself. And beneath it all, Cass must confront the worst of what’s inside her dark memories from when she was a Beater herself. But she, and all of the other survivors, will fight to the death for the promise of a new horizon.
Cass Dollar and her young daughter Ruthie have settled into an uneasy existence at New Eden, after the events of Rebirth left her lover, Smoke, in a coma. She continues her affair with Dor, and is dedicated to Ruthie, her garden of new growth, and kaysev, which is essential to the food supply of New Eden.
Soon, the Beaters start to show an unnerving proclivity to learn things such as group hunting (of humans, of course) and even swimming,so the residents of New Eden must flee their home. When another group swoops in on horseback to help, with stories of a safe enclave to the north, the structure of New Eden is threatened, and loyalties are tested as they make their way, hopefully, to safety and a new life.
Cass has been through so, so much, and Horizon is probably the toughest on her. No, it definitely is. Cass is struggling, again, with sobriety, and in this terrifying new world, full of Beaters (the cannibalistic infected) and human dangers, alcohol is a slippery slope; one which Cass will find herself sliding down more and more each day, but she’s determined to pull out of it, not only for Ruthie’s sake, but for her own. Cass, not the warmest and fuzziest of women to begin with, has trouble connecting to others in the camp, and keeps to herself as much as possible. This may have a little bit to do with the fact that she was actually one of the infected once, but recovered, and as a result, is something just a bit more than human. One of the things I loved most about Horizon is that finally, Cass is beginning to actually like herself. Everything has been about her daughter, which is, of course, a good thing, but there’s always been a vein of self loathing in Cass, but that’s finally being replaced by hope and a will to live. The love triangle between Cass, Smoke, and Dor is heart wrenching, especially since Cass can’t seem to let go of the fact that Smoke left her to avenge a past transgression. Has Dor taken his place in her heart? I’ll leave that one for you, but I will say that not only is Horizon Cass’ story, of course, we also get to know Sammi, Dor’s daughter, quite a bit better, which I really enjoyed. There is not one simple character in these novels. They are full of rich and fully developed people as well as an environment thick with hardship and almost constant danger. There are a few jaw droppers in this one, and some mysteries from the past novels are wrapped up, to nice effect. Ms. Littlefield’s writing is as taut, raw, and soul wrenching as always, and she doesn’t flinch from hard truths. She also doesn’t skimp on the action (and yes, that definitely means zombies), and keeps the tension ratcheted up to a deafening scale. If you’ve already discovered this series, you’ll love Horizon just as much as Aftertime and Rebirth, and if you haven’t, I envy you the ability to read the series straight through, because it’s so, so good. The author has captured magic in a bottle with this series, and I highly recommend it!
There’s some great new releases this week, so check ‘em out (most release Jan. 24th)
Horizon (Aftertime Novel) by Sophie Littlefield | REVIEW
Boneyards by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
A Warrior’s Desire (Harlequin Nocturne) by Pamela Palmer
Hitchers by Will McIntosh
Claimed by a Vampire (Harlequin Nocturne) by Rachel Lee
Everything is Broken by John Shirley
Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Burton & Swinburne) by Mark Hodder
Clash: Recast, Book 2 by Yolanda Sfetsos
Tooth and Nail by Jennifer Safrey
The Stubborn Dead by Natasha Hoar
The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories (ebook) Ed. by Amy and Jeff Vandermeer
Darker After Midnight: A Midnight Breed Novel by Lara Adrian
Priestess of the Nile by Veronica Scott
Four Below: A Detective Inspector Liam McLusky Investigation by Peter Helton
Taken by Robert Crais
Forbidden by Syrie James
Centauriad #1: Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
Havoc: A Deviants Novel by Jeff Sampson
Fallen in Love: A Fallen Novel in Stories by Lauren Kate
Diabolical (Tantalize) by Cynthia Leitich Smith
The Rook by Daniel O’ Malley
Publisher: Hachette/Jan. 2012
“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.
She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.
In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.
The Rook was another pleasant surprise for me this year. When I started, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but very quickly became absorbed in Myfanwy’s story. It gets off to a fairly creepy start with Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas coming to, in a park in London, surrounded by a gaggle of dead bodies wearing latex gloves. Intriguing, yes? Oh yes. Soon Myfanwy realizes she’s part of a super secret organization called the Chequy that has been put in place to protect the unsuspecting public from supernatural baddies. Wait, did I mention she’s lost her memory? Good thing her former self, going on premonitions from more than one individual, has left her prepared by way of a rather thorough binder full of info, to notes left in every jacket pocket. This sets up pretty well who Myfanwy Thomas was before she lost her memory: very organized, dependable, and, oh look!, she’s also a Rook. A Rook’s status is important, and she also realizes that she has some very special powers…
The Rook goes back in forth between events as they happen, and the notes and info that Myfanwy left for herself, so you get to know the former Myfanwy, as well as the current Myfanwy, who turns out to be not near as much of a wallflower as she was before. It provides a great contrast, and you’ll find yourself turning pages very quickly, since the author uses this method to tease the reader. Just when something not-so-good is about to happen, the book will go to a bit of related history that Myfanwy has written that’s somehow connected to the ongoing events and we also get to know many of her supporting cast this way. So, we have Myfanwy trying to acclimate herself back into the Chequy, coming to terms with her new self, and also trying to solve the mystery of just who it is that wants her dead. Then there are the Grafters¸ an ancient, evil organization that takes Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments to a whole, other, terrifying new level. The Rook has a bit of everything, from a secret Estate (school) that procures children with special “talents” for inclusion in the Chequy, members with many different and fascinating talents, like the Gestalt, which is four bodies that share one mind (creepy, yes?), Myfanwy’s intrepid secretary, Ingrid, who she would be lost without, Eldritch horrors menacing the public at every turn (tentacles! fungus!), a sexy vampire operative and ever so much more! I could write pages about all the cool, paranormal awesomeness in this book, but that would take away the fun, yes? Dry, wry, British wit is ever present and I found myself chuckling almost as much as I cringed (and you will cringe). The author has built a rich, fascinating world populated with characters that stretched the limits of my imagination in a wonderful way. I found myself sad to see this one end and will keep my fingers crossed for more. Can’t wait to see what else Daniel O’Malley has up his sleeve!
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/June 2011
The tattooed, pot-smoking Claire has just arrived in post-Katrina New Orleans, the city she’s avoided since her mentor, Constance Darling, was murdered there. Claire is investigating the disappearance of Vic Willing, a prosecutor known for winning convictions in a homicide-plagued city. Has an angry criminal enacted revenge on Vic? Or did he use the hurricane as a means to disappear?
I was in the mood for a mystery, and something different, and I got both in Claire DeWitt. Claire is in post Katrina New Orleans after being hired to find a man’s uncle who went missing during the terrible flooding. Claire explains her usual high fees and begins her investigation. As Claire has witnessed time and time again, nothing is ever really what it seems, especially in a missing persons case, and soon Claire realizes that she might have her hands full with this one. Vic Willing, a high profile DA, disappeared about 18 months earlier, and his nephew Leon, feels a duty to hire someone to investigate, especially since his uncle left everything to him. Never particularly close to Vic, Leon is unable to provide many details about his uncle, but that’s ok, because Claire is on the case.
Claire DeWitt is such a quirky little book, and it manages to suck you in pretty quickly (at least it did me). Told in Claire’s wry and world weary voice, we follow her as she navigates the sometimes lawless streets of post Katrina New Orleans, digging up clues, smoking the occasional joint, and generally pestering people until she gets what she wants. Claire thinks pretty highly of her skills, having been a devotee of the famous French detective Jacques Silette, and she’s not one to let people put her off. She’s a complex character, and throughout the investigation, gives us little tidbits of insight into her childhood and past, which have much to do with the person she is today. Sporting the pain of one of her best friend, Tracy’s, disappearance at only 16, and the homemade tattoos of her and their other friend Kelly’s initials on her wrists, as well as the sudden death of her mentor, Constance, Claire is quite a force to be reckoned with. While on the case, she befriends a teenage troublemaker who may or may not have something to do with Willing’s death, is shot at, and is certainly not welcome with open arms by the secretive community.
The devastation of a storm ravaged New Orleans provides the perfect background to the investigation of a man that holds his own secrets, and parts of this story will break your heart. Ms. Gran’s prose is spare, but it certainly gets the job done, and her knowledge, and obvious love for, the fascinating history and heart of New Orleans is on full display. It comes in at a bit under 300 pages, so you’ll zip through it fairly quickly, and the author manages to pack quite an emotional punch in such a thin volume, also expertly weaving just a smidge of the supernatural in for a heady mix. This is the start of a series, so I’m sure that more will be learned about the disappearance of Claire’s childhood friend, Tracy, in future novels. At least I hope so, since it’s such a heavy burden that Claire carries. Nevertheless, Claire DeWitt is a highly entertaining and atmospheric mystery, and I can’t wait for future installments!