Tag Archives: 2016

Varied Nightmares

nightmares_datlowThings that go bump in the night? Sure, but so much more than that. The stories are varied and run the gamut from horrifying to creepy to don’t turn your lights off scary. There was even a retelling of sorts of Hansel and Gretel. And don’t forget the zombies.

Ellen Datlow is an excellent editor. I believe she is a sort of expert in short story quality and in horror from her many years of editing the Best Horror of the Year series among other things. Authors included in the anthology are (in order of appearance): Mark Samuels, Gene Wolfe, Brian Hodge, Kaaron Warren, Lisa Tuttle, Gemma Files, Simon Bestwick, Nicholas Royle, Margo Lanagan, Steve Duffy, Laird Barron, Stephen Graham Jones, Reggie Oliver, Ray Cluely, M. Rickert, John Langan, Anna Taborska, Livia Llewellyn, Dan Chaon, Robert Shearman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Garth Nix, Nathan Ballingrud, and Richard Kadrey.

As with most anthologies, I didn’t like all the stories equally. Some were better than others for me. A few I was puzzled as to why they were included. There was one story that used incest as an important part of the story. That one I could have done without entirely. It just wasn’t for me.

My favorites were: How We Escaped Our Certain Fate by Don Chaon, and the last 3 stories in the anthology. It was almost as though the best were saved for last, but the stories were arranged chronologically in order of year of publication. Datlow says of the stories included: “Consider them a guide to some of the best short story writers currently working in the field of horror fiction. And in this volume specifically, a good representation of the excellent horror that was published between 2005 and 2015.”

Overall, enough of the stories were satisfying for me to give the anthology a 4 out of 5 stars rating.

Nightmares: a New Decade of Modern Horror was released November 1, 2016 by Tachyon Publications.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Killer Clown

send_in_clownsSpending an evening or even a few hours at a haunted house venue is not Ellison Russell’s idea of fun. But, her daughter has broken curfew and in the 1970s neither one has a cell phone for tracking her down. Her last known whereabouts were at the haunted house. So, Ellison goes in and gets the surprise of her life when a clown collapses dead on her and another one seems to be fleeing the murder scene. Ellison muses, “I’m not sure what it says about me that I have a homicide detective’s home number memorized…”as she calls Anarchy Jones for assistance.Who killed the clown? What was the motive? Ellison finds herself drawn into the case further and further in spite of her best attempts not to do so.

Ellison has a good sense of humor that is evident in her thoughts and conversations with other characters in the mystery. She feels that Mr. Coffee and her father are the only two men who haven’t let her down. And still, she finds herself in a little bit of a love triangle. At one point her date is hauled off for questioning in the case by the Detective Anarchy Jones. Both men would like to see her stay out of the mess, but she keeps getting drawn back in.

Romance is more of a subplot to the murder. Ellison’s best friend is also dating someone new. And there is a further subplot of someone stealing and selling antiques.

It might sound like there is a lot going on. Honestly, though, it’s really the right amount. The author pulls it all together seamlessly. I really enjoyed the book and all of its parts. I especially enjoyed Ellison’s sense of humor and independence.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. The mystery is well written and well paced. You can guess along with the rest of them who did it before the revealing. There is just the right amount of romance and subplot. And Ellison has a good relationship with her daughter that reminds me a little of the relationship Claire Malloy has with her daughter in the Joan Hess books. This novel can be read and enjoyed as a standalone, even though it is the fourth book in the series. I did go out and buy the first book when I finished this one. Send in the Clowns became available October 25, 2016 from Henery Press.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Well, bless her heart!

deader_homesWell, bless her heart! Verity Long is stuck with Frankie, the ghost of a 1920s gangster and is trying to make the best of it by becoming a paranormal investigator. Neighbors have been dropping by with casseroles and to gawk at her ever since this became public knowledge.

Now, Verity is desperately in need of funds for basics and to fix up the house where she and Frankie live. She agrees to take on a case at the oldest mansion in town, Rock Fall. Frankie is miffed at first that she agreed to it without consulting him. Then once he cases the joint, he gets scared and refuses to go inside.

The case ends up being twofold. What happened to the family that was living there – was it really a curse? And where did the Egyptian treasure go that was in the house? Her boyfriend Ellis, a deputy sheriff is anxious about her going into the home especially after she has a frightening experience there. Will Verity be able to solve the mysteries and help the ghosts to find peace? Will Frankie help her or be a hindrance? Will Ellis ever pick out curtains from among Verity’s choices?

This is a good, paranormal mystery. It’s well written, especially the characters of Verity and Frankie. The pace is good. There is just a touch of romance. I enjoyed the humor in the story. And there are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Deader Homes and Gardens by Angie Fox is #4 in the Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery series. It became available October 11, 2016.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

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Quickie Review of Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays

choose_misery_holidaysYou were going to skip Christmas by going to a resort with a friend from college, but a hurricane has made quick work of those plans. What will you do now? Spend Christmas with your girlfriend and her family? Try and book yourself a flight to another beach location? Pick one and follow the plotline to the next set of choices. Rinse and repeat.

If you’ve ever read the Choose Your Own Adventure Books, you are familiar with the set up of this book even though it comes from a different publisher. The authors have previously released Choose Your Own Misery: The Office. Now they up their game by tackling the holidays and the infinite number of things that can go wrong.

This is a fun book. It does have a lot of dark humor to it. The format is well suited for the Kindle. Click on your choice and it takes you to the next plot point.

I enjoyed playing with this book and the choices following them to my ultimate misery. It’s a fun, interactive read. Definitely a humor book. Definitely a parody of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays by Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon is expected to be available October 18, 2016 from Diversion Books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Discreet Retrieval Agency takes on new cases

teetotaledLola Woodby and her faithful companion and detective partner Berta are in desperate need of funds. They are living in Lola’s deceased husband’s love nest, but the rent will be due soon. They have placed an advertisement in the newspaper and agree they  must take the first job offered to their Discreet Retrieval Agency. Lucky for them along comes Grace Whiddle’s mother who wants to get a hold of Grace’s diary.

Lola and Berta go to a health farm to try and obtain the diary. Lola’s former brother-in-law is on staff there. They try everything they can think of to get the diary without getting caught including climbing in and out of windows like a monkey. The same night they are after the diary, Grace’s future mother-in-law is murdered at the health farm. Mrs. Whiddle fires Lola and Berta, but soon they have another case. They are hired to solve the murder by the husband of the victim. While it’s more dangerous than they would like, Lola and Berta agree they need the money desperately. Adventures follow as they work to solve the mystery.

Teetotaled is a good period piece cozy mystery. It takes place in the 1920s. There is a lot of humor and a touch of romance to go with the dangerous situations the women find themselves in. The plot moves along at a good rate.

Berta and Lola are fully realized characters. Many of the others are developed to a lesser degree, but their page time is shorter. Ralph is also back in this mystery providing most of the romantic interactions, but not all.

I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a well written historical cozy. It’s good light reading. I enjoyed watching Lola and Berta as they work to solve the mysteries that cross their paths. This is the second book in the Discreet Retrieval Agency series. It was released October 4, 2016 from Minotaur Books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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May the Circle Become Broken…

After the incidents in Bitter Bite (Elemental Assassin #14), Finn finds out that he has unraveledinherited a wild west theme park complete with a luxury hotel. He talks Bria, Owen, and Gin into accompanying him for a vacation. Considering her last vacation was a little disastrous, Gin is skeptical about going, but gives in. She has her own motives for the trip: finding out more about her mother and the Circle – a group that is supposed to secretly control all the illegal goings-on in Ashland.

It’s not long before they find out there is more to the park than expected. Mainly that Hugh Tucker, a supposed member of the Circle, is present and has personnel in key positions in the park. One thing leads to another and the bullets and knives start to fly.

Jennifer Estep mixes things up a bit this time around in a couple of ways. The setting is outside the usual Ashland. The supporting characters are a slightly different group. And there is an interesting dwarf named Ira who has been working in the park for a long time. Also, the bad guys are relatively new and different as Gin looks into the mysterious Circle. I think the Circle as her nemesis will continue into the next book and perhaps beyond.

I liked that Gin remembers more about her mother and her past in this book. And the cast of characters worked well together – both the white hats (Gin and her friends) and the black hats (Hugh and his henchmen).

It was fast paced as all the other books in the series that I’ve read have been. And Estep makes  you want to know what will happen next. I ended up reading it in just 3 days which is pretty quick for me.

If you like urban fantasy with plenty of action, then you will like this series. There is also a little romance and character development. You could probably read it on its own, but you would enjoy it more if you’ve read a few of the other books in the series. I give Unraveled 4 stars out of 5.

Unraveled by Jennifer Estep is due out August 30, 2016 from Pocket Books. An excerpt can be read on her website.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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A Necessary Lie?

Jane’s life is something of a lie. She is genuine in what she feels and thinks, but not who she really is. Of course, if you were worried about being in the public eye, you might The_Liechange your name and where you lived as well.

Five years earlier, Emma and her friends had taken a trip to Nepal to help Al get her mind off of her recent breakup among other reasons. Someone among them really had ulterior motives. Motives that don’t become clear for a while.

Things don’t really go as planned. At first, that’s okay, but things get weirder and weirder. There are secrets and lies both in the past and the present. Some of these are deadly.

We find out early on that while 4 of them go to Nepal, only 2 return. It takes a while for the events to unfold to this point. The book alternates between the present Jane Hughes life and 5 years ago – the lives of Emma, Leeanne, Al, and Daisy.

Becoming aware of what happened in the past ratchets up the tension in the present. Who besides Al knew what happened back then? Who else was alive to tell the tale? Why won’t they leave Jane alone? In fact, they really seem to have it in for her.

The book moves along swiftly. There is more going on in the past than in the present. It becomes quite the page turner as the book progresses. I found that it was really hard to put down.

Jane isn’t initially as fleshed out as I would have liked, but you come to care what would happen to her early on between her bonds to the animals at the sanctuary and the bonds she has with her boyfriend Will and his daughter Chloe.

The book manages the jump between the present and five years ago really well as it alternates. If you like suspense fiction, then this would be a good choice for you. I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 because it really did keep me turning the pages to see what would happen next.

The Lie was released June 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

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