My Bookish Ways

Bitter Night (Horngate Witches #1) by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Pocket Books, Oct. 2009)-Bitter Night has been on my shelf for a while. Staring at me. Beckoning to me. So, over the holiday, I picked it up and could have kicked myself for waiting this long to start this series. Max is a Shadowblade Prime, in service to her witch, Giselle. The problem is, Max didn’t choose this job, Giselle tricked her into it 30 years ago when they were best friends in college. One minute Giselle was asking her a series of what-if questions (what if you never got old, etc), the next minute, she was bound to Giselle and undergoing the worst forms of torture. With friends like Giselle, who needs enemies, huh? Max can only be outside at night, because otherwise she’ll melt into a puddle of goo under too much sunlight and a series of very strong compulsion spells tie her to Giselle and brook no thought of getaway. And Max has tried to getaway, boy has she. She always comes back though (those damn compulsion spells), and continues to fight Giselle’s battles. The problem is that Max is rather devoted to the Shadowblades that she commands, whether she wants to admit it or not, and is even fond of her daytime counterparts, the Sunspears.

When Max meets Alexander, the Shadowblade Prime of a rival witch, sparks fly in more ways than one, and when she finds out that their covenstead, Horngate,might soon be under attack, and the entire human race may be in danger, an uneasy truce with Giselle, the witch she hates and lives to someday kill, may be necessary to save those she loves. The Guardians (big, powerful, ancient suckers) have decided that they’re not happy with what humans have done to the earth, and are planning on a cleansing of sorts. They want the most powerful witches to be their lieutenants in the war to come, but Giselle isn’t too keen on this plan, and she’s not the only one. Max is one tough cookie, but soon she’ll be challenged more than she ever has been before, not only with her body, but with her heart.

Max is my new favorite heroine. Yes, she kicks plenty of butt and is super tough, like all heroines are, but she’s also deeply flawed. She’s been so blinded by her hatred of Giselle that it’s taken her a long time to realize that although she gave up her biological family many years ago, she’s made a new family of sorts with her Shadowblades, and when the possibility that she may lose them looks more and more likely, she’s forced to look inside herself a little more and examine the anger that she’s held inside for so long. It doesn’t help that Alexander seems to awaken something in her that’s more than mere lust.

Lest you think this is your usual urban fantasy novel, think again. Yes, there’s plenty of heat between Max and Alexander, but she’s been closed off for so long, it’s near impossible to let anyone in, but boy does he try, and the author teases you with a possible relationship to come. However, it’s not gonna happen in Bitter Night. Most likely, this is part of what’s going to make you rush out to snag Crimson Wind (with a quickness) after reading this one. See what the author did there? Max certainly recognizes her attraction to Alexander, but she’s most focused on saving the convenstead, and yes, even keeping Giselle safe. There’s so much more to this book than initially meets the eye. I don’t think I’ve seen a character take more physical damage than Max in a single book, and there’s more than enough action to satisfy the most discerning UF reader. The author has created a rather unique universe where witches are extremely powerful beings, and angels can be made to do their bidding. You’ll love her angels too, promise (no flowing robes and halos here-they’re distinctly other and beyond fierce.) Bitter Night is not to be missed for not only urban fantasy fans, but I think fantasy fans would also enjoy this unusual and ceaselessly entertaining series starter. Lucky for you, books 1-4 are already out, so you can race through them one after another (which I fully plan to do.)

Inheritance by Joe McKinney

Inheritance by Joe McKinney (Evil Jester Press, Oct. 18th, 2012, review copy via the author)-Paul Henninger had a pretty rough childhood. His father, Martin, was emotionally and physically abusive, and his mother was nothing but a shell that seemed to allow the abuse and was emotionally withdrawn and distant, or so Paul has always thought. Paul is now a rookie cop with the San Antonio police, and he’s eager to get on with his life and his career after the tragedy that made up his childhood. He’s married to a lovely woman, Rachel, who absolutely adores him and he’s determined not to carry the darkness with him that his father was so enmeshed in, and so determined to pass on to his son. When Paul and his partner, Mike, are called to the scene of a massive slaughter, it kicks off a chain of events that will forever alter Paul and could bring about the end of the world.

Martin Henninger is dead, and Paul wants to put the past behind him, but when he actually steps into Martin’s past, and discovers the source of the dark magic that’s causing so much death and destruction, he has no idea how to escape it, and soon, such immense power begins to look more and more attractive to Paul, and the hold that his father has on him becomes almost too much to resist. This power was never meant to be used for evil, but it’s been perverted and twisted, and it holds the promise to command the dead, if only Paul would just let it in.

Joe McKinney has done something wonderful with this book. It takes some pretty terrifying subjects like black magic and undead armies, and wraps all of it up in a very satisfying police procedural. The author knows of what he writes, since he has a police background, the inner workings of the San Antonio Police Department are fascinating, and the camaraderie (and competition) within the department adds a whole new dimension to the novel. As Paul fights his own battles with his father, homicide detectives are following the trail of death and are keen to know exactly how Paul is involved, because it becomes very clear at the outset that he very much is.

Inheritance has pretty much got it all: ghosts, zombies, ritual murder, and much more. It’s written with the sure hand that I’ve come to expect of McKinney and the scares come fast and furious. I really liked Paul as the protagonist, and although he is special, is certainly touched by the supernatural, he just wants to be with Rachel, be a cop, and belong to something normal and good. He’s not immune to the pull of the awesome  power  offered to him, and, in spite of his father’s abuse, he still yearns for his father’s love and acceptance. McKinney didn’t make Rachel a shrinking violet, which I appreciate, and she plays a rather large and important role in the story. I think it’s pretty much a given that cop’s wives must be inherently strong, but Rachel faces some pretty tough battles in order to help save the man she loves so much.

Inheritance is not just a horror story, it’s the portrait of a damaged boy, now a man, who’s desperately trying to stay in the light, and resist the darkness. Martin Henninger doesn’t make this easy, and things get very bad before it seems they may get better, and even that is never certain. Emotional, creepy, and downright scary, Inheritance will take you on a trip you won’t soon forget.

Holiday Giveaway: Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson

Happy Holidays to everyone! Since most folks are usually in a giving mood during this time of the year, I thought it might be a good time for another giveaway! Up for grabs is an advance copy of  Full Blooded by Amanda Carlson (feel free to check out my review). So, check out the details and good luck!!

About FULL BLOODED
It’s not easy being a girl. It’s even harder when you’re the only girl in a family of werewolves. But it’s next to impossible when your very existence spells out the doom of your race… Meet Jessica McClain — she just became part of the pack.

In the vein of Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs, a new urban fantasy that rewrites the werewolf myth…

***GIVEAWAY DETAILS***
1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of FULL BLOODED (arc copy) by Amanda Carlson to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 1/2/13
6. Giveaway book courtesy of Orbit
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Top 10 Must Read Titles of January 2013 (Suspense/Mystery)

A little while back I gave you a list of my Top 10 Must Reads of January 2013 in Scifi/Fantasy/Horror, so with 2013 right around the corner, I’d also like to give you a taste of what’s coming up in Suspense, and the 10 that I just must get my hands on!


American Tropic by Thomas Sanchez (Knopf-Jan. 15th)
Synopsis-The exotic island city of the Florida Keys is being terrorized by horrific murders committed by a mysterious voodoo assassin. With each new kill, it becomes clear that the skeleton-clad executioner has an ecological agenda. The novel propels us through a complex maze populated by rapacious developers, ruthless scammers, and common folk engaged in heroic acts to save their community.

The characters, from the defenders of America’s only continental reef to the destroyers of marine life, are all swept up in this torrent of horrors. Everyone dreads being the killer’s next victim as the clock counts down to the end of hurricane season and the final dramatic explosion of fear and rage.

With canny perception and striking revelations, American Tropic illuminates a world of dark desires, hidden truths, and colliding destinies.


The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly (Atria-Jan. 1st)
Synopsis-In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of a plane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time.

What the wreckage conceals is more important than money. It is power: a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those for whom it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness.

The race to secure the prize draws in private detective Charlie Parker, a man who knows more than most about the nature of the terrible evil that seeks to impose itself on the world, and who fears that his own name may be on the list. It lures others, too: a beautiful, scarred woman with a taste for killing; a silent child who remembers his own death; and a serial killer known as the Collector, who sees in the list new lambs for his slaughter. But as the rival forces descend upon this northern state, the woods prepare to meet them, for the forest depths hide other secrets.

Someone has survived the crash. Something has survived the crash.

And it is waiting. . .


Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Soho Press-Jan. 1st)
Synopsis-Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the years following World War II.

A note from the killers is found on the dead German’s corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favorite commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. The note simply says: “We are coming for you.”

As Albert Ryan digs deeper into the case he discovers a network of former Nazis and collaborators, all presided over by Skorzeny from his country estate outside Dublin. When Ryan closes in on the killers, his loyalty is torn between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? Ryan learns that Skorzeny might be a dangerous ally, but he is a deadly enemy.


Die Easy by Zoë Sharp (Pegasus-Jan. 8th)
Synopsis-Professionally, she’s at the top of her game, but her personal life is in ruins. Her lover, bodyguard Sean Meyer, has woken from a gunshot-induced coma with his memory in tatters. It seems that piercing back together the relationship they shared is proving harder for him than relearning the intricacies of the bodyguard business. Working with Sean again was never going to be easy for Charlie, but a celebrity fundraising event in aid of still-ravaged areas of New Orleans should have been the ideal opportunity for them both to take things nice and slow. Until, that is, they find themselves thrust into the middle of a war zone.

When an ambitious robbery explodes into a deadly hostage situation, the motive may be far more complex than simple greed. Somebody has a major score to settle, and Sean is part of the reason. Only trouble is, he doesn’t remember why. And when Charlie finds herself facing a nightmare from her own past, she realizes she can’t rely on Sean to watch her back. This time, she’s got to fight it out on her own.One thing is for certain, though—no matter how overwhelming the odds stacked against her, or however hopeless the situation may appear—Charlie is never going to die easy.


Rough Men by Aric Davis (Thomas & Mercer-Jan. 22nd)
Synopsis-For his entire adult life, ex-criminal Will Daniels has been running from his past. Now, in the wake of his son’s gruesome death, he’ll turn around and embrace it.

After learning his boy got his head half blown off while helping a couple of punks rob a bank, Will tries — oh, how he tries — to just let the police handle the investigation. But as legal channels fall well short and Will’s helpless fury mounts, it’s only a matter of time before he dishes out a more personal brand of justice.

Armed with a dark past and brutal skills, Will is perfectly equipped to hunt down his son’s killers. Unfortunately, his violent quest for revenge may destroy him and everything he loves before it’s over.


Little Elvises (Junior Bender #2) by Timothy Hallinan (Soho Press-Jan. 29th))
Synopsis-LA burglar Junior Bender has (unfortunately) developed a reputation as a competent private investigator for crooks. The unfortunate part about this is that regardless of whether he solves the crime or not, someone dangerous is going to be unhappy with him, either his suspect or his employer.

Now Junior is being bullied into proving aging music industry mogul Vinnie DiGaudio is innocent of the murder of a nasty tabloid journalist he’d threatened to kill a couple times. It doesn’t help that the dead journalist’s widow is one pretty lady, and she’s trying to get Junior to mix pleasure with business. Just as the investigation is spiraling out of control, Junior’s hard-drinking landlady begs him to solve the disappearance of her daughter, who got involved with a very questionable character. And, worst news of all, both Junior’s ex-wife and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Rina, seem to have new boyfriends. What a mess.


Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman (Soho Press-Jan. 8th)
Synopsis-Set on the Minnesota prairie in the late 1980s during a drought season that’s pushing family farms to the brink, Little Wolves features the intertwining stories of a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor’s wife (and washed-out scholar of early Anglo-Saxon literature) who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town America from the award-winning author of The Night Birds, Little Wolves weaves together elements of folklore and Norse mythology while being driven by a powerful murder mystery; a page-turning literary triumph.


The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton (Picador-Jan. 29th)
Synopsis-Fifty million dollars has disappeared into thin air from the accounts of one of the richest men in the Philippines, Tommy Ordonez. His one hope is Ava Lee—-sleek, capable forensic accountant and sleuth. With the help of her Triad-connected partner, Uncle, Ava follows the money trail from San Francisco to Costa Rica to the casinos and illegal gambling dens of Las Vegas. Meanwhile, a vengeful adversary from Ava’s past has put out a contract on her life, and the shadowy hit man is close at her heels every step of the way. Will Ava recover the stolen cash without stepping into the crosshairs of a growing list of enemies? The first book of an electrifying new series, The Disciple of Las Vegas introduces Ava Lee: a deadly martial artist with a taste for luxury and a mind like a steel trap.


Moon Underfoot by Bobby Cole (Thomas & Mercer-Jan. 15th)
Synopsis-Eighteen months ago, stockbroker Jake Crosby and his daughter Katy narrowly survived a living nightmare at a remote Alabama hunting camp. To save Katy, Jake killed two men — men who were friends and business associates of notorious outlaw and drug-runner Ethan “Moon Pie” Daniels. That night, Moon Pie made a blood promise of revenge. And in Moon Pie’s dark world of violence, such promises are always kept.

Jake Crosby doesn’t regret what he did that night; he knows it was kill or be killed. But he can’t shake the feeling that the horror isn’t over, that Katy and his wife, Morgan, aren’t yet safe — and that retribution is coming. All he knows for sure is that he will do anything — everything — to protect his family. That’s a vow the dangerous Moon Pie will put to the ultimate test on a cold, moonless night deep in the heart of a river swamp.

This riveting follow-up to Bobby Cole’s heart-stopping thriller The Dummy Line deftly explores the perils of revenge…and the profound power of a husband and father’s love.


What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard (Soho Press-Jan. 8th)
Synopsis-Like the yearning, doomed young clones in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, three teenagers with XP (a life-threatening allergy to sunlight) are a species unto themselves. As seen through the eyes of 16-year-old Allie Kim, they roam the silent streets, looking for adventure, while others sleep. When Allie’s best friend introduces the trio to Parkour, the stunt-sport of running and climbing off forest cliffs and tall buildings (risky in daylight and potentially deadly by darkness), they feel truly alive, equal to the “daytimers.”

On a random summer night, while scaling a building like any other, the three happen to peer into an empty apartment and glimpse an older man with what looks like a dead girl. A game of cat-and-mouse ensues that escalates through the underground world of hospital confinement, off-the-grid sports, and forbidden love. Allie, who can never see the light of day, discovers she’s the lone key to stopping a human monster.


EXTRA CREDIT:
Also, coming up on 1/31 is a brand new novella by Joe Lansdale called Dead Aim (Subterranean Press)!

Here’s the write-up (via Subterranean Press): The story begins simply enough when the two agree to provide protection for a woman harassed by her violent, soon-to-be-ex husband. But, as readers of this series will already know, events in the lives of Hap and Leonard rarely stay simple for long. When a protracted stakeout ends in a lethal shooting and a pair of moldering corpses turn up in an otherwise deserted trailer, the nature of this “routine” assignment changes dramatically. The ensuing investigation unearths a complex web of lies, duplicity, and hidden agendas that leads from an upscale Texas law firm to the world of organized crime, culminating in the kind of explosive, anything-can-happen confrontation that only Joe Lansdale could create. Violent, profane, and often raucously funny, Dead Aim is a tautly written, hugely entertaining thriller and a triumph of the storyteller’s art.

The Martian War by Kevin J. Anderson

Synopsis: What if the Martian invasion was not entirely the product of H.G. Wells’s vivid imagination? What if Wells witnessed something that spurred him to write The War of the Worlds as a warning?

From drafty London flats to the steamy Sahara, to the surface of the moon and beyond, The Martian War takes the reader on an exhilarating journey with Wells and his companions.

Review-
What if HG Wells didn’t write about an Invasion from Mars but rather lived through it with a long list of his contemporizes (fictional and not) including the Invisible Man, Dr. Moreau and Percival Lowell (the “discoverer” and mapper of the Martian canals?

Wells has graduated from university and is living with his fiancé, barely making ends meet. If it wasn’t for his little fantasy stories, they probably wouldn’t be getting by at all. Out of nowhere, Wells is invited by his famous mentor, the biologist Thomas Huxley, to come to an exclusive and secret meeting. Wells soon discovers that the meeting is a British government think-tank of weapons development to counter the rising belligerency of Germany. Through enemy sabotage, Wells, Huxley and his fiancé, Jane end up on a journey to the moon and beyond to face and end the Martian threat!

Meanwhile, in another part of the world, Lowell bumps into Moreau, and the two team up to light signal fires as a guide for first contact for the approaching Martian spacecraft. Little do they suspect the harrowing journey which will unfold for them after taking the Martian captive.

What follows then is a series of adventures told in the form of a Victorian adventure novel. An all-star cast of characters, exciting adventures one after the other and an ultimate battle for the fate of man and the Earth is very reminiscent of A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Personally, I had difficulty deciding what the novel was trying to do. Was it a complete re-telling of the War of the Worlds and the “real” War of the Worlds never happens? Was it a case of Wells writing the War of the Worlds as a cautionary tale for the future so therefore based more in reality? Both of these have some serious problems in their self-contained universes so I was never able to give this novel the full suspension of disbelief it required. If you are a fan of Victorian adventure novels, you will probably find this to your liking. I suspect this would work a lot better as a movie as opposed to a book.
Reviewed by Peter

Interview (& Giveaway): Felix Gilman, author of The Rise of Ransom City

Please welcome Felix Gilman to the blog! Felix is the author of Thunderer, Gears of the City, and his newest novels are The Half-Made World and The Rise of Ransom City, which just came out! Felix was kind enough to take a moment to answer my questions and we’ve also got a copy of The Rise of Ransom City up for grabs to one lucky winner!

Your brand new book, The Rise of Ransom City, just came out! Will you give us a teaser?
First thing to say perhaps is that it’s a stand-alone sequel that follows a new character (he had a walk-on in the Half Made World but otherwise new) called Harry Ransom, Professor Harry Ransom if he thinks he can get away with it, the inventor of the Harry Ransom Lightbringing Process, who’s touring the frontier towns drumming up investors in his wondrous Process when he crosses paths with Liv and Creedmoor (who were the protagonists of the last book, and who have a TERRIBLE SECRET) and thereby gets caught up in the events of the Great War, loses his horses and his wagon and a boat, blows some things up, makes his fortune, visits the Big City, sells his soul, falls in love, blows some more things up, and encounters wolves, several deranged gunslingers, and a giant evil train.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your background?
As a small child, I used to hoard school notebooks and fill them with very very long stories that were straight ripoffs of whatever I’d read lately.

At university I talked a lot about being a writer, which isn’t the same thing. And I spent my twenties starting various things and not really finishing anything.

The first thing that I finished was my first book, Thunderer. I wrote it during a six-month period between jobs.

What do you love most about writing fantasy?
Trying to create a mood of strangeness, the uncanny, the weird, the grotesque. Playing around with myths and symbols and trying to make new ones.

What are some of your biggest influences?
Michael Moorcock is a huge influence, for mood and tone. Though I wish I could write as short and fast as he does.
Ursula LeGuin. Susan Cooper. Mervyn Peake. Alan Garner.

These are all things I read as a child, when you’re really susceptible to bone-deep influence.

If you could read one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Wow, I don’t know. Am I allowed to temporarily be twenty-five years younger too?

What have been some of your favorite reads this year?
This question always embarrasses me because I’m always at least a few years behind the times. My favourite fantasy read this year was probably Steph Swainston’s Above the Snowline, which came out a few years ago. I’ve been re-reading Johann Huizinga’s The Waning Of The Middle Ages in connection with a new thing I’m starting now, and remembered what a beautiful, beautiful book it is. It’s an attempt to capture the “medieval mind” and it sort of reads like the very best sort of science fiction.

What are you reading now?
John Mandeville’s Book of Marvels and Travels, a 14th century account of the various marvels and wonders of the world. Mostly bullshit.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
With the baby. Otherwise sleeping.

The New Year is right around the corner! What’s next for you in 2013?
I’ve got a recently-completed manuscript about Victorian occultists astrally projecting themselves to Mars (inspired by an account in Alex Owens’ fascinating history The Place Of Enchantment, another favourite book of the year). Tentative title: The Revolutions. It should come out late next year, touch wood.

I’m working on a new thing inspired by the John Mandeville book, in which a 14th century bookseller and illuminator goes on a long weird journey to France, the Holy Land, India, and the stars.
Keep up with Felix: Website

Bookworm Blues reviews THE RISE OF RANSOM CITY

About THE RISE OF RANSOM CITY
This is the story Harry Ransom. If you know his name it’s most likely as the inventor of the Ransom Process, a stroke of genius that changed the world.

Or you may have read about how he lost the battle of Jasper City, or won it, depending on where you stand in matters of politics.

Friends called him Hal or Harry, or by one of a half-dozen aliases, of which he had more than any honest man should. He often went by Professor Harry Ransom, and though he never had anything you might call a formal education, he definitely earned it.

If you’re reading this in the future, Ransom City must be a great and glittering metropolis by now, with a big bronze statue of Harry Ransom in a park somewhere. You might be standing on its sidewalk and not wonder in the least of how it grew to its current glory. Well, here is its story, full of adventure and intrigue. And it all starts with the day that old Harry Ransom crossed paths with Liv Alverhyusen and John Creedmoor, two fugitives running from the Line, amidst a war with no end.

***GIVEAWAY DETAILS***
1. You MUST fill out the form below
2. Giveaway is for 1 copy of THE RISE OF RANSOM CITY by Felix Gilman to 1 winner.
3. Giveaway is open to US addresses only
4. Must include a valid email address with your entry (no need to leave it in the comments, just include it when you fill out the rafflecopter form)
5. You must enter on or before 12/31/12
6. Giveaway books courtesy of Tor
7. Please see my Giveaway Policy.

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Book News (and other fun stuff!): December 21st, 2012

Here’s my roundup of book news (and other fun stuff) around the web for the week! Sometimes I add stuff throughout the day on Friday, so be sure you check back over the weekend too!

Also, don’t miss my list of gift ideas for book lovers at the bottom of the post. I’ll try to offer up new ideas every week until the end of December.

Interviews, articles, and more:

Excerpts and such:

 

Gift Ideas for Book Lovers (and beyond!)!!

MBW Best Books of 2012 (& Giveaway)

The New Year is right around the corner, so of course, after much angst, I’ve got my Best of 2012 list (Fantasy/Scifi/Horror/UF) ready to go! Now, I know you’re seeing a lot of Top Tens, but I read quite a lot this year and it was impossible to narrow it down that much, so I’m giving you my Top 20 (in no particular order).

***AS A BONUS, I’m offering any book on this list to 2 winners! It’s open INTERNATIONALLY (anywhere The Book Depository ships), and all I’m asking is that you leave a comment telling me what YOUR favorite book of 2012 (this is a must-books published any time count, as long as you read it in 2012!! -by popular demand). Also, don’t forget to fill in the Rafflecopter form, and if you win, you can tell me your prize pick when I contact you!

THE MAN FROM PRIMROSE LANE by James Renner
Synopsis: In West Akron, Ohio, there lived an elderly recluse who always wore mittens, even in July. He had no friends and no family, and was known only as the Man from Primrose Lane. And on a summer day, someone murdered him. Fast-forward four years. David Neff, the bestselling author of a true-crime book about an Ohio serial killer, is broken by his wife’s inexplicable suicide. When an unexpected visit from an old friend introduces him to the strange mystery of “the man with a thousand mittens,” David decides to investigate. But the closer he gets to uncovering the man’s true identity, the more he begins to understand the reality-altering power of his own obsessions—and how they may be connected to the deaths of the old hermit and David’s beloved wife. Deviously plotted and full of dark wit, James Renner’s The Man from Primrose Lane is an audacious page-turner unlike anything you’ve ever read.

MBW-“The Man From Primrose Lane is a genre defying, horrifying, and rewarding read that will surprise you at nearly every turn. James Renner’s imagination is a vast, strange, wonderful, terrifying thing and we’re very lucky he’s willing to share it with us.”


THE BROKEN ONES by Stephen M. Irwin
Synopsis: Without warning, a boy in the middle of a city intersection sends Detective Oscar Mariani’s car careening into a busy sidewalk. The scene is bedlam as every person becomes visited by something no one else can see. We are all haunted. Usually, the apparition is someone known: a lost relative, a lover, an enemy. But not always. For Oscar Mariani, the only secret that matters is the unknown ghost who now shares his every waking moment . . . and why.

The worldwide aftershock of what becomes known as “Gray Wednesday” is immediate and catastrophic, leaving governments barely functioning and economies devastated . . . but some things don’t change. When Detective Mariani discovers the grisly remains of an anonymous murder victim in the city sewage system, his investigation will pit him against a corrupt police department and a murky cabal conspiring for power in the new world order.

MBW-“To pigeonhole The Broken Ones into one genre would be very inaccurate. It’s a combination of supernatural thriller, police procedural, horror, and dystopian…and it works. Oh boy, does it work! Stephen M. Irwin puts his characters through the emotional and physical ringers, and doesn’t spare his reader either. I felt wrung out when I finished this novel, but in the best way, the way you feel like when you’ve finished a wonderful book, and discovered a new to you author that has just blown you away. I can’t help but hope there will be more of Oscar Mariani in future books, but if not, that’ s ok too, because The Broken Ones is a gem and stands perfectly on its own. Very, very highly recommended.”


THE LAST POLICEMAN by Ben H. Winters
Synopsis: What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

MBW-“Ben Winters’ writing is nuanced, lovely, sometimes poignant, and a pure pleasure to read. I hope that The Last Policeman gets the attention that it deserves, because it’s a hell of a book and about as close to perfect as it gets for me. I hear that it will be a trilogy, and I can’t wait for the next one!”


THIS DARK EARTH by John Hornor Jacobs
Synopsis:The land is contaminated, electronics are defunct, the ravenous undead remain, and life has fallen into a nasty and brutish state of nature.

Welcome to Bridge City, in what was once Arkansas: part medieval fortress, part Western outpost, and the precarious last stand for civilization. A ten-year-old prodigy when the world ended, Gus is now a battle-hardened young man. He designed Bridge City to protect the living few from the shamblers eternally at the gates. Now he’s being groomed by his physician mother, Lucy, and the gentle giant Knock-Out to become the next leader of men. But an army of slavers is on its way, and the war they’ll wage for the city’s resources could mean the end of mankind as we know it.

Can Gus become humanity’s savior? And if so, will it mean becoming a dictator, a martyr . . . or maybe something far worse than even the zombies that plague the land?

MBW-“Relentlessly paced, This Dark Earth takes you on a trip through hell and back, and you’ll be better for the journey. If you were wondering if John Hornor Jacobs could capture lightning in a bottle twice (after Southern Gods), no need to wonder anymore. He did.”


WHITE HORSE by Alex Adams
THE WORLD HAS ENDED, BUT HER JOURNEY HAS JUST BEGUN.

Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices. White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places.

MBW-“White Horse moved me on many levels, and is frankly one of the best books that I’ve read this year. Read it, love it, then make it your mission to immediately hug everyone that will hold still, and cherish the ones you love.”


THE TROUPE by Robert Jackson Bennett
Synopsis: Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.

But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change.

Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their lives.

And soon…he is as well.

MBW-“Haunting, terrifying, and achingly beautiful, The Troupe is a book to be savored, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Very highly recommended.”


THE WRONG GOODBYE (The Collector #2) by Chris F. Holm
Synopsis- Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.

Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight and narrow.

Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.

MBW-“This series is urban fantasy at its best with subtle noir undertones and the combo just works. Also, if you’re a fan of the classics in hardboiled noir, the title is especially awesome.”


CITY OF THE LOST by Stephen Blackmoore
Synopsis-Joe Sunday has been a Los Angeles low-life for years, but his life gets a whole lot lower when he is killed by the rival of his crime boss-only to return as a zombie. His only hope is to find and steal a talisman that he learns can grant immortality. But, unfortunately for Joe, every other undead thug and crime boss in Los Angeles is looking for the same thing.

MBW-“If you love the novels of Richard Kadray (Sandman Slim), Hank Schwaeble (Jake Hatcher series), and Steve Niles’ Cal McDonald series, then you’ll LOVE City of the Lost. What a way to start out the new year! This is a 2012 debut you won’t want to miss!”


CANNIBAL REIGN by Thomas Koloniar
Synopsis-First the asteroid would come, slamming into the earth just north of the Montana border, followed by earthquakes, tsunamis, and unending night.

And after that . . . Hell.

Astronomer Marty Chittenden is the first to recognize the approaching doom—a discovery that makes him a marked man.

Green Beret Jack Forrest knows the catastrophe is inevitable, and begins stockpiling an abandoned missile silo with supplies while gathering together a small community of men, women, and children he prays can survive the apocalypse.

Then disaster strikes. In an instant the world they know ends forever, transformed into a nightmare realm of eternal darkness. Soon the few remaining humans are transformed as well, becoming savage things—raping, pillaging, and devouring their own.

And the time is approaching when Forrest and his people will have to leave their underground “Noah’s Ark” to face a shattered world and the unspeakable terrors that dwell there—in desperate pursuit of one slim hope of survival . . . called Hawaii.

MBW-“Cannibal Reign is a scary, nonstop thrill ride into the dark hearts of man, shot through with the souls of those that refuse to surrender to the dark. I loved this book, and fans of post apocalyptic fiction and thrillers should not miss it!”


BREED by Chase Novak
Synopsis-Alex and Leslie Twisden lead charmed lives-fabulous jobs, a luxurious town house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a passionate marriage. What they don’t have is a child, and as they try one infertility treatment after the next, yearning turns into obsession. As a last-ditch attempt to make their dream of parenthood come true, Alex and Leslie travel deep into Slovenia, where they submit to a painful and terrifying procedure that finally gives them what they so fervently desire . . . but with awful consequences.

Ten years later, cosseted and adored but living in a house of secrets, the twins Adam and Alice find themselves locked into their rooms every night, with sounds coming from their parents’ bedroom getting progressively louder, more violent, and more disturbing.

Driven to a desperate search for answers, Adam and Alice set out on a quest to learn the true nature of the man and woman who raised them. Their discovery will upend everything they thought they knew about their parents and will reveal a threat so horrible that it must be escaped, at any cost.

MBW-“At first blush, Breed is pure horror, but it’s the author’s wry observations on elitist society and also Alex and Leslie’s slow loss of humanity that elevates this to something much more. By turns very scary, and heart wrenching, Breed will take you for a ride you’ll never forget, all the way to its shocking conclusion.”


BLOOD AND FEATHERS by Lou Morgan
Synopsis-“What’s the first thing you think of when I say ‘angel’?” asked Mallory. Alice shrugged. “I don’t know… guns?”

Alice isn’t having the best of days. She was late for work, she missed her bus, and now she’s getting rained on. What she doesn’t know is that her day’s about to get worse: the epic, grand-scale kind of worse that comes from the arrival of two angels who claim everything about her life is a lie.

The war between the angels and the Fallen is escalating; the age-old balance is tipping, and innocent civilians are getting caught in the cross-fire. If the balance is to be restored, the angels must act – or risk the Fallen taking control. Forever.

That’s where Alice comes in. Hunted by the Fallen and guided by Mallory – a disgraced angel with a drinking problem and a whole load of secrets – Alice will learn the truth about her own history… and why the angels want to send her to hell.

What do the Fallen want from her? How does Mallory know so much about her past? What is it the angels are hiding – and can she trust either side?

Caught between the power plays of the angels and Lucifer himself, it isn’t just hell’s demons that Alice will have to defeat…

MBW-“Lou Morgan has a gift for visuals, and the final battle with the Fallen is something to behold. She expertly weaves fantasy and horror elements into a creepy, exciting, roller coaster ride of a book. Lou Morgan’s angels aren’t warm, fluffy, and halo’d, either. They’re fiercely beautiful warriors, and distinctly “other.” The angel mythos is fascinating and rich, and the author has laid the groundwork for what promises to be an explosive sequel.”


HIDDEN THINGS by Doyce Testerman
Synopsis-Watch out for the hidden things . . . That’s the last thing Calliope Jenkins’s best friend says to her before ending a two a.m. phone call from Iowa, where he’s working a case she knows little about. Seven hours later, she gets a visit from the police. Josh has been found dead, and foul play is suspected. Calliope is stunned. Especially since Josh left a message on her phone an hour after his body was found. Spurred by grief and suspicion, Calli heads to Iowa herself, accompanied by a stranger who claims to know something about what happened to Josh and who can— maybe—help her get him back. But the road home is not quite the straight shot she imagined . . .

MBW-“Testerman writes with a fluid, sure hand, and your brain will rebel at the thought that this book is a first novel. What a gem of a debut!”


MOCKINGBIRD (Miriam Black #2) by Chuck Wendig
Synopsis-Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

MBW-“Chuck Wendig’s mind is a terrifying, twisted, fascinating thing, and thank goodness he puts this stuff down on paper for the rest of us. Darker than dark, Mockingbird will take you on a journey you won’t soon forget, so fortify your stomach and settle in, because you’re going to want to read this one in one sitting. “


SALSA NOCTURNA: STORIES by Daniel José Older
Synopsis-A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses and his own ghoulish bosses. Gordo, the old Cubano that watches over the graveyards and sleeping children of Brooklyn, stirs and lights another Malagueña. Down the midnight streets of New York, a whole invisible universe churns to life in Daniel José Older s debut collection of ghost noir.

MBW-“Salsa Nocturna broke my heart, captivated me, and elated me in equal turns and my only complaint is that it ended. You’ll savor every word, then you’ll most likely read it again, because it’s flawless. Put this one on your holiday list and buy copies for your friends.”


HORIZON (Aftertime #3) by Sophie Littlefield
Synopsis-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….

MBW-“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.”


BLUE-BLOODED VAMP (Sabina Kane #5) by Jaye Wells
Synopsis-The epic conclusion to the amazing Sabina Kane urban fantasy series by USA Today bestseller Jaye Wells.

Sabina Kane is on the hunt. Her prey: Cain, the father of the vampire race and the one who murdered her family and her friends. Unfortunately, Cain is hunting Sabina, too.

The one man who holds the key to defeating Cain is, of course, Abel. A mage with secrets to spare and, hopefully, the power to match it. Unfortunately, for Sabina, he’s in Rome and may not want to be found.

Sabina sets out for Italy with her friends, Giguhl and Adam Lazarus, to track down the only man who can get her the revenge she hungers for. But will he help her or oppose her? And just who is Abel, really? Worst of all, when Sabina figures out the goddess Lilith has a plan for her-she realizes this trip is getting deadlier by the minute. As they say: when in Rome-SURVIVE.

MBW-“As usual, the action is nonstop and Ms. Wells does a wonderful job of juggling lots of details without ever getting confusing. She’s an ace at it, and you won’t want to put this one down. I promise. Also, be prepared for a trip to the Underworld that you won’t soon forget, and the Best. Ending. Ever. It was totally awesome, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll close the book with a big goofy grin on your face. There may even be a couple of tears in the mix. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Snap this one up, pronto.”


SHADOW OPS: CONTROL POINT by Myke Cole (review to come)
Synopsis-Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.


THE RETURN MAN by VM Zito
Synopsis-The outbreak tore the U.S. in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness. They call it the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who – or what – is watching you.

MBW-“I had absolutely no trouble getting into, and staying immersed in, The Return Man. There is a ton of carnage in this, seriously, the sheer number of zombies that Marco and Wu have to wade through is staggering, and when it comes to zombie killin’, the author doesn’t leave much to the imagination. I enjoyed every terrifying bit of this book, and if you love zombies, good writing, and great storytelling, I think you will too!”


SPELLCROSSED by Barbara Ashford
Synopsis-IT’S NOT EASY LOSING THE MAGIC IN YOUR LIFE…

But when Maggie Graham freed Rowan Mackenzie to return to Faerie, she took the first step toward her new life as director of the Crossroads Theatre. A hectic new season of summer stock leaves her little time to moon over the past. She has to balance the demands of her interfering board president and a company of actors that includes bewildered amateurs, disdainful professionals, a horde of children, and an arthritic dog. And while Maggie yearns to give others the kind of healing she found at the Crossroads, even she recognizes that magic must take a back seat to ticket sales.

But magic is hard to banish from the old white barn. Memories lurk like ghosts in the shadowy wings and the unexpected is as time-honored a tradition as the curtain call. And when the tangled spells of Maggie’s past turn her life upside down, it will take more than faery magic to ensure the happy-ever-after ending she longs for….

MBW-“From an utterly charming production of Annie (including an aging Sandy and a gaggle of orphans) to the ethereal Into the Woods, Faerie magic and the magic of musical theatre intertwine seamlessly to create a read worth savoring, and it’s a summer stock season that you won’t soon forget.”


TRICKED and TRAPPED by Kevin Hearne
I really couldn’t decide which one I liked better, and they were both out in 2012, so they get a tie here! I adore this series!

TRICKED synopsis-
Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert.
But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.

TRAPPED synopsis-
After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O’Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world. But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he’s still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.

Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge—but he’ll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:
BLACKOUT (Newsflesh #3) by Mira Grant-“I promise you’ll be up late with Blackout, and you’ll love the explosive and satisfying ending. This superb series is absolutely not to be missed!”
SEALED WITH A CURSE by Cecy Robson-“This is an exciting and refreshing debut and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this series!”
MONSTER by Dave Zeltserman-If you’re a fan of Frankenstein and the mythos that surrounds it, and love literary horror, this one’s for you. Highly recommended!”

Now, I’m pretty sure that I’ll read some 2012 releases in the near future that should have gone on this list (I suspect Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire will be one of them), and if that’s the case, I’ll do a spotlight post in January, but for now, you’ve got 23 to add to your wishlist! Enjoy!

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Interview: Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of Blood Winter

Please welcome Diana Pharaoh Francis to the blog today! Diana is the author of the Horngate Witches series, and the newest book in the series, BLOOD WINTER, will be out on Dec. 26th. Diana was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series, and about herself as well!

Will you tell us a little about your background? Did you always want to be a writer?
I was always a storyteller and an avid reader, but not a writer. I grew up on a cattle ranch and made up complex, epic stories that my friends and I acted out, usually on horseback. I read everything I could get my hands on. I don’t want to even tell you how young I was when I read Pet Cemetary and Suffer the Children. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing course in college that it really occurred to me I could write. Only then, I just figured maybe short stories. My poetry teacher hated my poetry, no doubt rightly so. And then one day while reading, I thought, I could do this. Couldn’t I? I mean, why couldn’t I? Someone has to write novels—why not me? And then I dug in.

What inspired the Horngate Witches series?
I wanted to write a contemporary fantasy. I wanted to write mythology and witches, but I wanted to bring my epic fantasy background to it, with grand battles and world changing events.

Your brand new Horngate Witches book, Blood Winter, is out this month, and it’s number four in the series! When you started the series, did you already have in mind how many you wanted to write?
Oh no. I didn’t at all. I just had this one idea for the first book. But then as I wrote and as the world developed and I met more characters, I realized where the stories were going. This fourth book wraps a up the series well. It completes things in a way that is really satisfying, especially when it comes to the characters and their relationships. It leaves me room to start up other stories and explore more of the world, but it’s a good, finished ending.

What kind of research do you do for the series?
All kinds. I investigate mythology, survival, cooking, cars, locations . . . really there’s no limit. I read stuff about magic and witches, about Egyptian gypsies, food—really there’s no limit to what I need to look up. It’s always unexpected. I’ll be writing along and think I’m going to write a simple scene, and the next thing I know, I’m searching out some esoteric information that is vital for making the scene work. I like to make things as realistic as possible.

Most people assume an author’s favorite character to write is their main character. Is this the case for you?
I love writing Max and Alexander, but I also love the other characters I write. Magpie is delicious. Oh, and Tutresiel. He’s an angel and he’s got a bad attitude. And in this book, I had so much fun writing . . . Oh, sorry. Can’t reveal that. But I had so much fun with one character. That’s the nice thing. When you have an ensemble cast, you never get bored.

What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I have so many. But Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are two. And writers like Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ilona Andrews, Elizabeth Moon . . . So many more than I can possibly mention.

If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Whew. What a lovely thought. I would say . . . Tigana. I love that novel and it’s so rich and amazing that opening up for the first time again would be tremendous.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a dark book about a serial killer who wants the perfect zombie, so he sets out to make one. It’s very disturbing. It was loaned to me by a friend who’s a psychology professor and teaches a serial killer class. I did some research on psychopaths for a character in Blood Winter and he just passed along some more books. This one was on top.

When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Sleeping. No, but seriously. I like to walk and crochet. I like to geocache and take the doggies (corgis) for a ramble. And play with the kids. I also like to cook and of course read. There’s never enough time in the day for everything.

What’s next for you in 2013?
Well, I’m working on selling my house and moving. I’m hoping the sale happens soon. I’m also working on some new projects that I’m pretty excited about and hopefully I’ll get published. I’m also working on finishing out my Crosspointe Chronicles series.
Keep up with Diana: Website | Twitter

About BLOOD WINTER
Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder. . . .

Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world. . . .

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Their little house in Georgia is crumbling around them, and they’re in desperate need of a new car, but for the most part, family life for Jack Winter and his wife, Aimee, is happy. They have two beautiful little girls, Abby and Charlie, and even if there’s a bit of tension when Jack goes to New Orleans to play gigs with his band, they’ve always gotten through it. Does it really matter that Jack can’t really remember his childhood before the day he ran away from home? Well, it might, because a darkness seems to be seeping into their happy little home. Things seem to start after Jack sees a pair of eyes in the road when driving with his family late at night, and crashes the car. Everyone seems fine, but as you soon see, nothing is really fine at all. They begin to hear a strange scratching in the walls, and their youngest, Charlie, begins seeing things in the room she shares with her sister. When Charlie gets very sick, things abruptly get worse. After a few days, Charlie seems to be feeling better, but she’s not the same little girl that Jack immediately fell in love with when she was born. As events escalate, Aimee becomes increasingly more afraid of her 6 year old, and Jack thinks he might know what’s terrorizing his family, because it’s an evil that has been with him all of his life, and he fears it has come for him again. Eventually Jack has to face his past if he has any hope of saving his family, and that means going back to the home he ran away from so long ago.

I haven’t read any really good horror in a little while, so Seed was quite the experience. I tend to like subtle horror more than more in your face fare (although I enjoy that too!), and the author has a knack for creeping, subtle scares that will cause you to pause every now and then, just to take it all in before continuing. You’ll certainly think of Bad Seed a few times when reading Seed, because Charlie’s behavior is insidious and terrifying, just like the evil that stalks the Winters. She’s just a little girl, but you’ll forget that at times, trust me. Seed is a wonderful study of a family falling apart in the face of a pretty nasty baddie and even though there’s not a lot of gore in this one, Ahlborn doesn’t really pull any punches, so I wouldn’t recommend Seed for the faint of heart. Seed has some of the most downright creepy scenes that I’ve read in a while, and I admit to having to resist keeping a light on at night for a few nights after reading it. If you enjoyed the movie Poltergeist, you’ll most certainly enjoy Seed (the author even references the movie in the book.) The tension is constant and it’s a very quick read, so you’ll surely fly through it like I did! Highly recommended, and a wonderful debut from a rising talent!

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