My Bookish Ways

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

howtobeagoodwifeHow To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 2013)-Marta Bjornstad has been married to her husband Hector for almost 25 years. He’s a respected and well liked teacher, and Marta took great joy in raising their son, Kylan. But Kylan is grown now, and Marta is starting to feel as if her carefully constructed existence is beginning to crumble. She’s having strange visions of a young girl, and things around the house seem out of place. Could it be because she’s experiencing what every parent experiences when their children leave home? Could it be the stagnation of a long marriage? Or could it be something else? How to Be a Good Wife is told in first person by Marta, and she intersperses her narrative with quotes from “How to Be a Good Wife”, given to her early in her marriage by Hector’s intimidating and overbearing mother. Passages like “Make your home a place of peace and order.”, and “Let your husband take care of the correspondence and finances of the household. Make it your job to be pretty and gay.” You get the picture. Hopelessness and melancholy seem to surround Marta from the beginning, and every time Hector makes an appearance, there’s a definite sense of foreboding, although in the beginning, he never quite does anything to invite suspicion. Somehow the author manages to make every day occurrences seem anything but banal, but you can’t help but wonder if Marta is a reliable narrator. However, the unfolding events give light to something quite sinister and ultimately devastating.

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The Three by Sarah Lotz

thethreeThe Three by Sarah Lotz (Little, Brown, May 20th, 2014)-Four planes crash in different places throughout the world. Three children, one from each of three sites, are the only survivors, although there are pervasive rumors of a fourth. An American woman (the only one on a Japanese flight), Pamela May Donald, supposedly survives long enough after one of the crashes to leave a cryptic message on her phone, directed at a certain Pastor Len, that alludes to a boy and “the dead people.” This leads Pastor Len to believe that the children may be three of the four horsemen, and that the end times are approaching. That sounds more simplistic than it really is, though. There is a progression, not only of events, but of certain ideas, that lead to such apocalyptic talk, and a rather odd fervor is created. But, a little should be said about the survivors. All are of a certain age (under 10) and come from fairly different backgrounds, two boys and a girl. Jess Craddock is sent to live with her gay uncle Paul, little Bobby’s grandparents, including a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s, takes him in, and little Hiro Yanagida, the son of a brilliant Japanese robot expert, is left with his aunt and cousin. The boy, in fact, communicates only through a lifelike robot that his father has created in his image. If you think that sounds creepy, you’d be right. The story of these three unusual kids is told in book-inside-a-book form, called Black Thursday: From Crash to Conspiracy by Elspeth Martins, and each tale is laid out in quite different ways. Paul and Jess’s tale plays out via Paul’s confessional style voice recordings, Bobby’s by way of interviews of his grandmother and neighbors, and Hiro’s in the form of his teen cousin Chiyoko’s instant messages to a lonely young man, Ryu, that longs to be with her. There’s also a search going on for “Kenneth”, the rumored survivor of the Africa crash. Also in the mix is testimony from the crash investigators and a few others. It makes for a potent brew.

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Interview: Nik Korpon, author of “His Footsteps Are Made of Soot” (The New Black)

Please welcome Nik Korpon to the blog as part of my series with authors from The New Black anthology! He kindly answered a few of my questions about his story “His Footsteps Are Made of Soot.”

staygodsweetangelWill you tell us a bit about your story in The New Black and what inspired you to write it?
“His Footsteps are Made of Soot” is about old ghosts and home surgery, specifically home surgery gone wrong. Henry, the protagonist, works for Marcel, who performs surgery in his basement. He’s kind of a Robin Hood surgeon, who began working out of his house after becoming tired of insurance companies and whatnot. Henry takes care of his mother, who was injured when his absent father set the house on fire when he was on a heroin nod. Henry has been dealing with the ghosts of his father for years and finally decides to take action.

This is the third version of the story. Something about the story really stuck with me, what the story was really about, and made me come back to it over the years. I wrote the first version seven years ago, and it had something to do with the Jersey Shore and the kid liking corndogs. Much more upbeat than this one. The second version, I can’t really remember much, other than it was terrible. I think this hit the tone and ambiance of what the story in my head was.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve written for a long time but never thought of myself as a writer. I grew up playing in punk rock bands and somehow managed to be the singer in most of them, so I wrote a ton of lyrics. I found the Beats after college and churned out a bunch of terrible poetry to impress girls with how hip I was (see previous poems). I found Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs when I was backpacking through Europe, and that was the first book that made me think I could actually write something book length. Cue a ton more bad poems and aborted novels, then creative writing grad school, then me finding The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain and Demaphoria by Craig Clevenger—both of which really set my hair on fire and made me take writing seriously—and here I am now. Wherever I am.

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The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian

devilsworkshopThe Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian (Putnam, May 20th, 2014)-Note: No spoilers for this one, but may be some minor spoilers of the two previous novels(The Yard, The Black Country)-The Devil’s Workshop is another fantastic novel in Alex Grecian’s superb Scotland Yard Murder Squad series. HM Prison Bridewell has just suffered an unfortunate breach in the form of a runaway locomotive, setting loose a handful of brutal killers from their prison cells. The police are mobilized immediately to find the escaped killers, and Murder Squad Detectives Walter Day and Nevil Hammersmith are among that group. In addition, Adrian March, retired detective and mentor to Day is also called forth to participate in the manhunt. The trail soon leads March and Day into the underground catacombs of 1890s London, and what they discover there will change the entire nature of their investigation.

One thing that Alex Grecian is really good at is creating all of these little threads, dangling them in front of his readers, then bringing them together beautifully at the book’s conclusion. Thread is actually a pretty good metaphor for this book, come to think of it, because…well, you’ll see. Anyway, two of my favorite detectives, Day and Hammersmith, are hot on the trail of some of the nastiest killers that London has ever scene, and among them is a man that Day and Hammersmith only recently put into jail. And he knows where Day lives. And Day’s wife Claire is very pregnant and due to give birth any day now. You can see how they might have an even bigger problem on their capable hands, yes?

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Giveaway: House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter

I happen to have a copy of House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter to give away to one lucky winner, so check out the book and the giveaway details, and good luck!

houseoftherisingsunAbout HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN:
Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.

But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia’s been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It’s time for revenge — and to take up the mantle of the city’s Guardian.

Then Olivia’s estranged daughter, Harlow, arrives. She hates being fae, but her powers are exactly what Augustine needs to catch the vampires. Can he convince her to help him in time? Or will the sparks between them send her running again?

Giveaway details:

1.) You MUST fill out the form below (if you’ve signed into Rafflecopter before, it will remember you!)
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy of HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN by Kristen Painter

3.) Giveaway is open to all those with US mailing addresses (please enter your mailing address into the Rafflecopter widget)
4.) You must enter on or before 5/24/14
5.) Book courtesy of Orbit
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

birdboxBird Box by Josh Malerman (Ecco, May 13th, 2014)-When Malorie discovers that she’s pregnant, it’s also the start of something else, something big, something terrible. Online people are calling it “the Problem”, and it starts when people see something, but no one knows what it is. No one lives to tell. People are going mad and committing suicide in horrible ways, even attacking others. Malorie and her sister, Shannon, think for sure that whatever it is will be contained, but soon they start doing what everyone else does, tacking blankets and wood over their windows to shut themselves of from outside, where something is causing such chaos. When Shannon finally succumbs to the unknown threat, Malorie is suddenly, terrifyingly alone. When she sees classified ad of survivors welcoming strangers into their home, Malorie decides to try to make it there, and she does. When she arrives she meets the enigmatic Tom and the rest of his small group, who do their very best to make her feel welcome, and as she gets closer and closer to the birth of her child, she begins to care for this little group who she now calls her friends. However, the status quo eventually changes, and what’s outside may not be the thing that they should fear the most.

Good grief, this book. Ok, so, there’s something outside that is causing people to go mad and commit suicide. Because of this, our intrepid little group has to develop ways to do just about everything that requires going outside blindfolded. This means getting back and forth to and from the well, food runs (they’ve got enough food for a while, but it won’t last forever), you get the picture. I’ll tell you, never has a short trip to and from a damn well been so terrifying. The narrative goes back and forth from Malorie’s time with Tim and the group, until her child’s birth, and to four years later, when she attempts to make a long trip down a nearby river for a chance at sanctuary. BLINDFOLDED. I mentioned that, right?

What Josh Malerman does here can’t be easy. He manages to take this idea of a thing, and make it the scariest thing going. Seriously, this is one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of the scaries. The author relies on your imagination to fill in the blanks, and it’s very, very effective. It’s like the thing you think you see, or think you see, out of the corner of your eye, but it darts back into the shadows as soon as you try to face it head on. There is a pervasive sense of pure dread that pretty much spans the whole of this book, and Malorie’s determination to survive, and not only survive, but teach her kids to survive, is nothing short of miraculous. As dark as things get, though, and they do get pretty dark, there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel, if Malorie can only survive long enough to get there. I read this in one sitting, and can’t recommend it highly enough. What a wonderful, horrifying debut. I can’t wait to see what this author gives us next.

Interview (& Giveaway): Ari Marmell, author of Hot Lead, Cold Iron

Please give a warm welcome to Ari Marmell, whose new book, HOT LEAD, COLD IRON, is definitely on my Must Read list (seriously, I loved it.) He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about it, and more!

Also, thanks to the lovely folks at Titan, I’ve got 2 copies to give away to 2 lucky winners, so be sure to check out the giveaway details (US only)!

arimarmellCongrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about HOT LEAD, COLD IRON and what inspired you to write it?
HOT LEAD, COLD IRON is Gangland Fantasy. Sam Spade meets Harry Dresden, sort of. A detective who also happens to be an exiled aes sidhe of the Seelie Court of the fey, Mick Oberon’s been keeping his head down for years, passing as human. In HLCI, he’s dragged back into the affairs of the supernatural when the wife of a mobster hires him to find her daughter–who was replaced sixteen years ago by a changeling. It’s action and investigation and deception, magic wands vs. Tommy guns. Fantasy noir, in a way.

As for inspiration… Mick was a “shower idea.” By which I mean, he popped almost fully formed into my head in the shower one day, and I knew I had to write something about the character. After that, it was just a matter of figuring out his story and reading up on the period and the mythology.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve always been a storyteller of some sort. It took the form of role-playing games and idle scribblings throughout childhood. I decided I wanted to make writing my vocation in my sophomore year of college. As college sometimes feels like it was so long ago that at least one of my professors was quite possibly a velociraptor, I suppose that qualifies as “always.”

My background is… not especially interesting, really. Born in New York, grew up in Houston, TX, now live in Austin, also TX. Spent most of my school career studying Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy novels, which may have prepared for me what I do now, but didn’t do my grades a whole lot of good. Degree in creative writing, married, have a cat, and very fortunate that I’ve had some success with the writing, because I’m utterly unequipped to do anything else.

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Interview: Richard Lange, author of “Fuzzyland” (The New Black)

Please welcome Richard Lange (Angel Baby) as part of my series with The New Black anthology authors! He stopped by to talk about his story “Fuzzyland”, and more!

richardlangeWill you tell us a bit about your story in The New Black and what inspired you to write it?
“Fuzzyland” is from my first collection, Dead Boys. I’m not sure what, in particular, inspired it. I wanted to write about Tijuana, I wanted to write about a fire, and I wanted to write about where my sister and my nieces lived in San Diego. I put all of that together, and “Fuzzyland” came out. For the record, my sister is an upstanding citizen and great mother who has never smuggled drugs across the border. The title is the name of a long-gone Tijuana whorehouse I once stumbled into.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’ve always been a writer, but I didn’t start getting paid for being one until a few years ago. After graduating from USC film school, I dicked around with screenplays and a novel that I couldn’t even get an agent for. At a certain point I put all that aside and started over, writing short stories. I did that for years and years, getting rejected again and again. I got my first story published when I was 34. Ten years later my first collection was published. I worked in magazine publishing before I started writing full-time. I hope I don’t ever have to go back to it.

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June 2014 Must Reads in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction

Whew!! June is a heckuva month for suspense! Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for June (click on the covers to pre-order)! Note I took out the Top 10, because I never (ever) can keep it to just 10. These are in no particular order. 

thosewhowishmedeadThose Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta (Little, Brown-June 3rd)

Synopsis (all synopsis are from Amazon or B&N)-When 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him.

Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind.
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Interview: Stephen Graham Jones, author of “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit” (The New Black)

Stephen Graham Jones’s story “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit” is the first story in The New Black anthology, and it’ll horrify you and break your heart. Stephen was kind enough to stop by and talk about it, and more. Please give him a warm welcome.

stephengrahamjonesWill you tell us a bit about your story in The New Black and what inspired you to write it?
Aside from having a son and daughter and suspecting what-all I’d do for them, or trying to figure if there’s anything I wouldn’t, the kind of tactile part of this story, it comes from me being stupid enough to have relied on a digital compass once, hunting on the reservation. I was way back in this dead-tree place, where the root pans were all vertical and there were wolf and bear tracks all up and down everywhere, and I’d been lost for an hour or two but not really worried about it either, as I had that stupid compass, and technology would never fail me. So, when I decided that night was going to catch me and I had to get back to the truck or else freeze or become food, I started following my compass north, which was where the truck was. Only, I kept seeing this same upturned root pan again and again. It was about twice as tall as I was, and the tree it belonged to hadn’t been blown over for all that long. Finally I put my boot track under that rootpan just to be sure, and yep: an hour later, there was my bootprint, crisp like I’d just stepped away. And it was getting cold, and dark, and there was this white rabbit that kept following me. Every time I’d look around, there it’d be, peeking over a log, or not really hiding very well behind a tree. Kind of creeped me out, so I shot it. With an elk rifle. But I got it in the head, so there was still some meat. You don’t shoot things you don’t mean to eat. I dressed it out a bit—rabbits don’t take much—tied it to my belt and kept on with this being lost thing. Only, now, I was lost in thick country, with bear and wolf sign all around. Grizzly sign, I mean. Some places you’re walking on their tracks, their scat will be all berries, and that always makes me not as scared, as I’m not made of berries. This bear, though, its scat was all wound with hair.

Finally I got to a place where I could walkie-talkie over to who I was hunting with. My dad. He told me to come north, even shot his rifle three times so I could zero in on it. I started that direction again, dragging that bleeding rabbit, and of course I lost the walkie like ten steps later—show me a handheld radio I can’t lose inside of five minutes—and then I saw that stupid boot print under the root pan again, so I went the most opposite way I could, since nothing I was doing was coming close to working, and this time where I ended up was in the wolf’s den, in a low place out of the wind and the sun. Their smell was there, and there was a big hole they’d half-dug out, and there was a moose antler I guess the pups had been chewing on. I took the moose antler, so now I had that, a dead rabbit, my rifle, no walkie, and, as it turned out, a digital compass that, unless you’ve read the directions and know to press a certain button to refresh it every once and again, will tell you that every direction you’re going is north. I finally stumbled out of the woods a couple of hours later, half-frozen, holding that rabbit by the hind legs in case I needed to drop it fast. What I’d lucked onto was a logging road, with its ruts all frozen solid. I followed it downhill, found my dad’s headlights after a while, through the trees, and then, a few months later, I wrote “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit.”

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