Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley is a bestselling author in multiple countries and so definitely doesn't need my review. However, I do like to turn people on to good books, so I'm going to do a review anyway.
I read her book The Winter Sea first and I will probably get around to reviewing it as well (I'll just say here that it was fantastic), but then I read several others by her and The Splendour Falls is the most recently read.

Synopis: Emily Braden has stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings. When her fascinating but unreliable cousin Harry invites her on a holiday to explore the legendary own of Chinon, and promptly disappears—well, that's Harry for you.

As Emily makes the acquaintance of Chinon and its people, she begins to uncover dark secrets beneath the charm. Legend has it that during a thirteenth-century siege of the castle that looms over the city, Queen Isabelle, child bride of King John, hid a "treasure of great price." And in the last days of the German occupation during World War II, another Isabelle living in Chinon, a girl whose love for an enemy soldier went tragically awry.

As the dangers of the past become disastrously real, Emily is drawn ever more deeply into a labyrinth of mystery as twisted as the streets and tunnels of the ancient town itself.

First of all, let me just say that I'm dying to go to Chinon, France now. Not only am I a sucker for a castle, but Susanna Kearsley makes the whole town come alive. I especially enjoyed the camaraderie between the travelers at the Hotel. It's something you experience in Europe, but rarely while on vacation in the US.

The book is well written, the tension taut, the mystery compelling. And while I did figure out who the murderer was before the end, it's one of the few times I didn't flip to the back to check to see if I was right. I didn't want to possibly see anything that might change the book for me. The conclusion is satisfying and wraps everything up. I like that in a book, I hate having loose ends blowing in the wind.

The book is a mystery, it's not exactly supernatural, but there are a few hints of the paranormal. It also relies heavily on historical accents, and includes a bit of romance. If you're a fan of Barbara Erskine, I think you'd really love it.

I recommend it. It's a much quicker read than The Winter Sea, but still satisfying. I, myself, plan to read all of Mrs. Kearsley's works.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sacrifice by Lisa C. Hinsley

I was given Sacrifice as a free read, but more for suggestions than a review. But I liked it so much I decided to review it as well. I also interviewed the author over at my author blog, you can read the interview here. Go on, I'll wait.

Okay, now that you've had an introduction to the author, here's a little about the book. The synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Plague: Part one of the Sulham Close series.

Pete rubs his hands together and waits for midnight. Neil tightens the noose around his neck and jumps from a stool. Kellie collapses to her knees, making the sign of the cross, even though God no longer listens. Sean and Amelia hold each other and wait for the screams. Harold pins Eloise to the kitchen floor as she shrieks her warnings. And so another August passes.

The residents of Sulham Close are cursed. Each year they must provide a sacrifice or suffer the wrath of a goblin-like creature called the ellyllon. Pete finds the victims, vagrants, junkies. People no one will miss.

He lures homeless Mark to Sulham Close with promises of getting him off drugs and giving him an education, installs him in the sacrifice cottage and leaves him to his fate. But Mark has a secret, a girlfriend Pete didn’t see. Heavily pregnant Louisa arrives late in the evening. Unsure whether to believe Pete or clear the house out of valuables, they decide to go exploring. They find a noose and then a man in a tub full of blood, one hand hanging by a sliver of skin at the wrist.

Nothing is worth getting caught up in a murder, so the pair make a run for it, but the gates are locked and there’s no way out of the close. Time has nearly run out. There are noises coming from a cupboard in the cottage and as midnight arrives, the handle turns from the inside…


The idea calls to mind stories like "The Lottery," where residents of a particular place are tasked to provide human sacrifices in order to maintain their lifestyles. But that would be where the similarity ends. As you're never quite sure who the townspeople of "The Lottery" are offering their sacrifice too, or if it's accepted even, you're given quite a close of view of the recipient(s) in Sacrifice. And they're a terrifying bit of welsh folklore. I'm not sure where Mrs. Hinsley drew her inspiration from, but I don't want to visit there late at night.

While Sacrifice is short, 113 pages, the characters are well developed and thought out. I easily sympathized with Mark and his girlfriend, disliked Peter immensely, and got a good feel for the other residents of the close, and their characters.

What I didn't know when I read Sacrifice was that it was going to be a series, this explains a lot of the questions I had and a few themes I felt were underdeveloped. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and finding out more about the curse and it's victims.

I'd recommend the book to anyone who enjoys supernatural horror. But I'd lock my cupboards before reading, if I were you.

You can find more about Lisa C. Hinsley's books at:

 

Happy Reading,
♥Spot

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Taste by Allison M. Dickson

I'll be honest--I had a hard time deciding which of Allison M. Dickson's works to review. So I'm going to do three of the short stories. I haven't dived into the novels yet, I'm savoring the anticipation. You know, like when you're waiting for a particularly good movie to come out and you keep watching the trailers until you just can't wait for the movie to release? What? I can't be the only one who does that... I interviewed Allison over at The Author Spot. If you'd like to read that first, go ahead, I'll wait. No, not patiently. Duh. Back? Okay, great, moving on. I downloaded a few of Ms. Dickson's short stories a while back while they were free (several of them still are. Start here and download till your heart's content).

I decided to go with Taste because it was the first of her stories I'd read. And can I just say it gobsmacked me? I thought I'd read everything; I was jaded, nothing new to shock me. And yet, it did. The idea was just so blatantly weird and repulsive. But it stuck with me. And I thought, if one short story has this kind of power--what are the others like? I was not let down.

Next, I read A Debacle of Donuts. Why? Because what could be scary about donuts? And let me just say  I was indeed, almost terrified something would be scary about donuts, thus ruining one of my favorite treats. After that first story, I wasn't putting anything past Allison. Luckily, it's not the donuts themselves that are scary in this story. What is scary is how far we'll go to achieve what we want without having to work for it. The idea behind the story was clever, and intriguing. But what really grabbed me, was how Allison got inside my head. Yep, I could totally picture myself in the main character, no problem. And there were some hard truths pointed out. I finished the story a little shell shocked and deep in thought.

And then I read Liar's Tongue. I'm pretty sure it should be passed out to anyone thinking of running for office in the future. We might weed a few out with this one. At least those with enough sense to heed the warning. Again, the story was fresh and interesting and I eagerly turned pages. After three stories, I was hooked. I'm an Allison M. Dickson fan for life.

The good news for me? She's got a new novel coming out soon. Along with the few things of hers I haven't read yet. The good news for some of you? You still have all of her work to discover. Go forth and enjoy. I know I will. And then I'll continue thinking about her stories, long after I'm done reading. That, my friends, is the greatest compliment I can give any writer.

Happy Reading,
♥Spot

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Afterbirth by Belinda Frisch

Having read the first book in The Strandville Zombie series, Cure, I was more than anxious to crack open a copy of the sequel, second book in the series, Afterbirth. So when Belinda offered me a copy as a Beta reader, I was thrilled. And then I was amazed. All too often, a sequel doesn't live up to the original. But that was not the case with Afterbirth.

Afterbirth picks up months after Cure left off, but with no feeling of having missed something. And perhaps that's because the author drops us right into the action. We understand that due to events in the first book, the zombie apocalypse is a reality. And we figure our characters have been too busy trying to survive to have done anything significant. But now, they're getting used to dealing with zombies, and must go back to fighting a more pervasive evil--man, one man in particular--Dr. Nixon. Knowing there is still a good possibility his experiments worked with Miranda, and that her baby could offer a cure for not only the zombie plague, but cancer, he's searching for her. And so is Reid, the number one henchman who fell from Nixon's good graces by letting Miranda get away. (Not that he meant too, mind you.)

Miranda and husband Scott are trying to survive both the apocalypse, Miranda's pregnancy, and the imminent delivery. In desperation, they turn to their ex friend and doctor--Michael Waters. Events take place which gather everyone once more at the Nixon Medical Center and a thrilling climax ensues. And lest you wonder about other characters from the first book, many of them are present in the sequel (some only briefly): Allison, Zach, Foster, Carlene, Penny, John, and Frank.

I don't generally read zombie fiction. I like zombies, don't get me wrong, I love zombie movies, love The Walking Dead, like teasing about the imminent zombie apocalypse, but I'm not necessarily a fan of zombie literature. The reason being it's pretty rare to come across something original in the field. Zombies happen, people fight them, and more of the same. The reason I like this series so much is because the idea behind the zombie plague is different, and the story isn't so much about the zombies; sure, they're in there and they ramp up the danger, but the story is really about the characters. And that's what makes it come alive for me. I care about these people. And I'd care about them in any situation, not just when they're fighting zombies and hiding from crazed scientists.

So, even if zombies aren't your thing, give this series a try. Afterbirth is well written, fast paced, character rich, plot driven, and action packed. Really, what more can you ask for in a book?

You can read my review of the first Strandville Zombie book, Cure, here.

You can purchase the book at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. It's available in all eBook formats and will soon be coming to print.

Visit Belinda's Amazon author page here. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Happy Reading,
♥Spot

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales

I met Fran Friel at KillerCon in Vegas this year. And she's a very special person. She's also a fantastic author. If you'd like to learn more about her, you can head over to The Author Spot and check out the interview I did with her for today's post.

But let's get right to the book. Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales is Fran's first short story collection. Mama's Boy was originally published as a novella. The collection made it to the final ballot for The Bram Stoker Awards in 2008. The original novella was a finalist in 2006. Those of you who are horror fans will know what an amazing accomplishment that is!

Synopsis: Nothing good comes of the closest ties in Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales, the new collection from Fran Friel and Apex Publications. Things can go especially awry when the tie in question is the one binding mother and son. This collection contains 14 tales, including the Stoker Award nominated novella "Mama's Boy."

The synopsis is short and sweet and doesn't give away anything good. And there's a whole lot of good in this collection. My personal favorite is probably the darkest story in the book: "Special Prayers." This story is about Mama, from "Mama's Boy." And gives us a glimpse into how she got to be the way she is. It's everything a horror story should be; shocking, dark, horrific and yet encapsulated into only four pages.

My second favorite story was "Fine Print." It's a longer story, and maybe a little slow moving for some, but for me, the pace was just right. There were a lot of details to soak up and I enjoyed having the time to do so, with no rush to the conclusion of the story. The story paints a picture of a world where clairvoyant dreamers are used to a very bad end.

The book is filled with other stories, some very short, and poems, plus the novella which lends the book its name. There's not a single story or poem I didn't enjoy. And many of them left me rolling the idea around in my head for days afterward. "Don't look under the dryer." "How glad am I that I don't have a Siamese twin?" "Potatoes!"And many other strange thoughts that you'll only appreciate after you read the book. Which I highly recommend you do.

The introduction is written by Gary A. Braunbeck and captures the essence of Fran and the book very well. If you enjoy short stories, if you aren't afraid of the dark, and if you've ever wondered what lives under your dryer, look up Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales by Fran Friel. Then read at your own risk. You can purchase the book here.

This blog is not technically part of the Coffin Hop. But since I'm feeling generous today, any comments left on this post will get you an entry into my contests over at The Author Spot.

Happy Reading,
♥Spot

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cure by Belinda Frisch

It's not often that I read zombie fiction, even though I'm a die hard fan of AMC's The Walking Dead. I love to talk about zombies and the impending apocalypse. But it's so hard to find zombie fiction that doesn't fall flat or suffer from "same zombie s**t, different day." You know what I mean? But when Belinda posted a bit of her novel on her website, I checked it out. And I was hooked. So I was more than happy to read it and do a review. You can find the book, Cure, at Amazon.com. It's also available in print.

Synopsis:
Welcome to the Nixon Healing and Research Center, playground for the maniacal Dr. Howard Nixon whose cancer research has him dabbling in the undead. When he kidnaps the wrong test subject, Miranda Penton, a rescue team releases more than the captive women. It unleashes a lethal infection which turns its victims into mindless, flesh-hungry mob. Inseminated with a zombie fetus, Miranda wrestles with an uncertain fate while trying to get away with her life.

The virus is spreading and must be contained. The center is going into lock-down. The group's get away is threatened by a homicidal security guard and a raging storm. The town of Strandville is ground zero for the zombie apocalypse and Miranda must escape because the fate of humanity lies with her unborn child.

What happens when you inject zombie sperm into healthy women of child bearing age? (And who would do that?! Dr. Nixon must be a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein) Well, the results are as disturbing, horrifying, and disastrous as you imagined. Add in an interesting cast of characters: likable good guys, a strong female heroine, and some vicious and deranged villains and you've got yourself one hell of a novel.

The novel starts out with a bang--we jump right into the action--and it never relents. I read this book in one sitting because I couldn't stop saying to myself, "just one more page." The next thing you know I'm resembling a zombie myself the next morning. This book is very well written, fast paced, and complexly plotted, with excellently developed characters. Combine that with a cliffhanger ending, and you'll be asking when the next book in the series comes out.

I would recommend this book to any fan of zombie fiction, zombie movies, or anyone who likes a fast paced read with just enough scientific explanation to make you wonder, "what if?"

You can read an interview with Belinda Frisch over at The Author Spot.

♥Spot

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dark Reality by Billie Sue Mosiman

I met Billie Sue through-- wait for it, you know it's coming-- Facebook. And let me just tell you that she is a dear, sweet woman. And even though she's been writing horror for 30 years, won multiple awards, and then launched a successful self publishing career, she remains friendly and approachable, eager to help her fellow authors. And that is why I wanted to read and review one of her many works. I also interviewed her and you can read that over at The Author Spot. Make sure you do stop by over there so that you can soak up some of Billie's wisdom.

It happens to be Billie's birthday tomorrow, but instead of waiting for us to shower her with gifts, she decided to gift us instead. She has a large variety of books, novels, shorts, and collections available for kindle for free until June 5th. Why yes, I will wait while you go get you some! Back? Good. I decided to read and review Dark Reality, a short story. On with the review~

Book Synopsis:

From the mind that gave you Edgar nominated Night Cruising and Banished, comes a tale of terror where an alternate reality keeps intruding.

Have you ever walked into a room and felt you had left something in one place, but now it is in another? Have you driven down a street or road you know well where houses and buildings and stores seem a little different from your memory of them? Have you ever felt reality slipping...just a little bit?

In Dark Reality, Lane believes his brother died in Iraq as a Marine, but one day he's back again and several things about the world are different. Buildings in town are changed. The woman his brother was married to is now Lane's girlfriend. And there's a gun in a cabinet that before never existed--neither the cabinet nor the gun. Lane needs to stop his world from shifting reality around him. And he needs, desperately, to keep his brother alive now that reality has given him a second chance...

My Review:

Honestly, I loved this story. The concept of alternate realities is by no means new, but the idea that you could just shift, without any warning, is new. And that's what happens to Lane. Subtle things begin to change-- a missing beer bottle here, a new cabinet there-- and Lane's the only one who knows that things are wrong. But he takes it in stride (what choice does he have, really?) and tries to save the life of the brother, who in his original reality is dead. But can you change the course of fate? Is fate universal to all realities? Interesting questions posed by the story.

I wish the story had been longer. That would be my one complaint. Maybe we could have answered those questions, instead of leaving me to ponder them, kind of obsessively. But then again, I always think the mark of a good book is if I'm still thinking about it days later. And I am.

So I'm giving this one five stars. I really enjoyed it. And I wish Billie Sue a happy birthday tomorrow and many more to come. And I recommend you grab this story while it's free and then collect the others.

♥Spot