Thanks for reading and visiting during the year. May the next year be healthy, happy and full of better things for everyone!
Come back later for more reviews, books and whatever else I can think up!
The Bartered Brides, Mercedes Lackey - (Book 13 in a magical alternate history series.) The writer stuck with me for years after I read one of her books, (I don't remember which, but the cover to the first book in the series, The Serpent's Shadow seems familiar), but it wasn't until now that I read one again. I picked up this book and realized why I enjoyed her writing, and wonder why I waited so long?!
The book is so smooth, interesting characters, unique paranormal elements. The combination of classic characters like Sherlock Holmes and the Watsons with magic skills and paranormal spirits was totally believable and added some unique elements to the book. There are some strange but intriguing moments in this book. I love the birds, too!
I was looking for another series to read and can't wait to make my way through the other books. The latest, Jolene, (book 15) is next, so I hope it's as good and then I can go back to the earlier books.
(Somehow I skipped over book 14, The Case of the Spellbound Child, which sounds interesting. The opening line makes you wonder: Alf grinned as he pushed open the whorehouse door into the damp London night. This one also involves Holmes and the Watsons, and children missing in the Dartmoor bog.)
About The Bartered Brides:
Even as they mourn the loss of their colleague, Sherlock Holmes, psychic Nan Killian, medium Sarah Lyon-White, and Elemental Masters John and Mary Watson must be vigilant, for members of Moriarty’s network are still at large. And their troubles are far from over: in a matter of weeks, two headless bodies of young brides wash up in major waterways. A couple who fears for their own recently-wedded daughter hires the group to investigate, but with each new body, the mystery only deepens.
The more bodies emerge, the more the gang suspects that there is dangerous magic at work, and that Moriarty’s associates are somehow involved. But as they race against the clock to uncover the killer, it will take all their talents, Magic, and Psychic Powers—and perhaps some help from a dearly departed friend—to bring the murderer to justice.
Been seeing some neat books lately so figured I'd put together a Black Friday and Thanksgiving Reading List. It's always fun to discover new books and authors I wouldn't know about, too, except for others' recommendations. Enjoy some great deals!! Have a great holiday and be safe!
Peace, Love and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by Songs of the '60s - This is a fun concept if you like '60s music! Twenty-three stories by assorted authors,including "It Ain't Me Babe" by Terrie Farley Moran and "Suspicious Minds" by John M. Floyd. Peace, love, and harmony were the goals. Meditation, mysticism, and psychedelic drugs were the way to enlightenment. Peace, love, and crime were often the result, sometimes humorous, sometimes deadly.
* Black Friday - 99 cent specials: *
Black Friday & Thanksgiving specials! Nov. 24-31.
* All genres, Black Friday Book Blast!
Black Friday - Cyber Monday sale to 12/1.
Fantasy & Sci Fi
The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, A Mystery in Lizzie's Borden's Fall River, C. A. Verstraete (On sale, 99 cts.!) - A ghostly mystery/love story companion novella to Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter from the viewpoint of Lizzie's doctor and neighbor, Dr. Seabury Bowen. Bowen was the first official on the horrific axe murder scene in 1892 of Borden's father and stepmother. 143 pgs.
Murder Machinery & Snowflakes, A Trio of Festive Terror, Mark Cassell - Three holiday-themed short stories that put the red in your Christmas stocking. (Great title!)
Sci-Fi and Horror Specials through Dec. 25
Ink , Jonathan Maberry - Tattoo-artist Patty Cakes has her dead daughter’s face tattooed on the back of her hand. Day by day it begins to fade, taking with it all of Patty’s memories of her daughter. All she’s left with is the certain knowledge she has forgotten her lost child. The awareness of that loss is tearing her apart. Something is out there. Something cruel and evil is feeding on the memories, erasing them from the hearts and minds of people like Patty and Monk and others.
Pestilence, Breathe If You Dare, Brian L. Porter - English countryside, 1958. The idyllic village of Olney St. Mary has stood in its peaceful location for over 900 years. Until one day, when two teenage boys are struck by a mysterious illness. The newly arrived Doctor Hilary Newton suspects a common flu to be the cause of their malady. Before long, the doctor and residents of Olney St. Mary are plunged into a nightmare, as the disease ravages the local population. Despite the doctors employing the latest medicine available, the death toll keeps rising. Someone in the village knows the reason behind the pestilence that has struck at the heart of the village, but can the medics learn the truth before it’s too late, or will they join the growing list of names that appear on the death roll in Olney St. Mary?
The Good House: A Novel, Tananarive Due - The house Angela Toussaint's late grandmother owned is so beloved that townspeople in Sacajawea, Washington, call it the Good House. But is it? Angela hoped her grandmother's famous "healing magic" could save her failing marriage while she and her family lived in the old house the summer of 2001. Instead, an unexpected tragedy ripped Angela's family apart. With the help of Myles Fisher, her high school boyfriend, and clues from beyond the grave, Angela races to solve a deadly puzzle that has followed her family for generations. She must summon her own hidden gifts to face the timeless adversary stalking her in her grandmother's house -- and in the Washington woods.
The Water Shed, Suzanne Madron -After receiving an impossible phone call, Sam returns to old stomping grounds to discover who - or what - is calling from beyond the confines of an old property. (Short fiction, 42 pgs.)
Defying Gravity, Jack Wallen - Wil Jackson's dream is about to come true. Broadway. Playing the Emcee in "Cabaret". Willkommen to the world of professional theater, where the blinding lights of the stage transcend time and give life new meaning. When the soul-healing joy of creation breaks the bonds of reality, nothing is what it seems.
No Good Deed, Victoria Pitts Caine - Jessa Fisher grew up in the small mountain community of Montaña Verde, but when she and her fellow detective, Eric Lane, are assigned to a murder case she begins to question what she knows about the town’s inhabitants. Is her current case linked to multiple deaths spanning decades? What are the connections, and who holds the answers? As she unravels these secrets, she’s inspired to look into the mysterious disappearance of her great-grandmother.
The Haunting of Bechdel Mansion, Roger Hayden - A young couple move into their dream home only to find a dark presence lurking from within. For Curtis and Mary, the small town of Redwood, Indiana seems too good to be true. Everything is perfect, including the Victorian mansion they purchased at a great price. But they soon experience terrifying supernatural encounters tied to the deadly secrets of an unsolved mass murder. Can they solve the mystery in time? Or will they face the same doomed fate as the tenants who came before them?
The Highway, CJ Box - Watchng the TV series. Pretty good though I see the book is different, which isn't a surprise but then makes it worth reading. Private investigators search for two missing girls and a killer in Montana.
Deceiving Elvera, Peg Herring - (Pre-Order, releases Dec. 4) A tale of friendship, love, loss ,and the transformative power of helping others spanning the decades from the 1960s to the present. A ship's steward on a cruise in Thailand vows to succeed in helping the difficult Elvera where others have failed. The more steward Michael learns of Miss E’s past, the more he suspects that she harbors a host of secrets, (including people smuggling) even in her seventh decade and despite functional limitations and constant pain. Getting to know Miss E brings Michael to a reckoning with his own past, which brings them both to a suspenseful situation and a shocking conclusion.
Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, C.A. Verstraete - Think you know the Lizzie Borden story? You know... Lizzie Borden took an axe.... She was acquitted but... what if she did kill her father and stepmother for a good reason? They'd turned into.... zombies! Follows the real-life events of the trial with some twists!
Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall, C.A. Verstraete - The story continues past the trial. Now Lizzie and the citizens of Fall River must battle a new surge of flesh-eaters, this time with a heartbreaking twist: the infected creatures are friends and family, hidden away by their grief-stricken caregivers. When her sister Emma becomes a pawn in the growing war against the undead, Lizzie has no choice but to pick up her axe again. With the help of her charming self-defense instructor, Pierre, she vows to end the horrific zombie menace, once and for all. But can she overcome her personal demons and the rampaging monsters, no matter the cost? NOTE: There are spoilers if you haven't read book 1.
The Underclass, Dan Weatherer - In a world where the rules of death suddenly no longer apply, thirty-something Lee Callows, prepares for the greatest day of his largely uneventful life: promotion to the first rung of middle management. However, his (after) life takes an unexpected turn when he is involved in a fatal road traffic accident on his way to work. Yet his death is the least of his problems!
Zombie Jig and Jive, Karla Brading - For fun, a children's book with seven "blood-curdling" short stories of ghosts on the moon, to zombie best friends and more!
Zombie Mermaids from the Deep, Chris B - In 2113., nations under the control of GlobalCore nations have united to feed the masses and protect the elites inside gated cities from the undead virus, dubbed Zbola. Outside the walls, those who are able-body seek safety against raging weather and changing landscape. When destiny meets prophecy, a band of Outsiders clash with a group of Insiders on their way to the coast where they find worse creatures crawling ashore turning tropical dreams into a biting nightmare.
The Rose, PD Alleva - (99 cents, limited time sale!) A masterful, dystopian science fiction thriller of telepathic evil greys, mysterious rebellion, martial arts, and Alien Vampires.
Sandy Cox believed WW3 was over. But for those Alien Vampires, war has just begun.Forty-eight hours after a World War 3 treaty is signed Sandy Cox awakens in an underground compound unable to move. Tied to machines, she screams for help but no one answers. At least no one human. And they’ve taken her unborn child.
Phil is a rebel freedom fighter who has had more than his share of Alien Vampires. Armed with The Blades, a sacred alien martial arts weapon, he enters the compound on a mission to find Sandy. But as he battles through the compound, Phil discovers Sandy has her own agenda. Finding her stolen child is all that matters. But the Vampires have their own plan and Sandy’s baby is at the heart of their diabolical plot.
Joined by a crew of rogue soldiers, they must navigate the underground compound, combating genetically mutated humans, aliens, and monsters. When battling Alien Vampires, one thing is certain…Get Ready To Bleed!
“It’s in the blood, dear,” said Ellen, one of the women Sandy shared time and space with, her skin worn by age, hard labor, and days spent under the sun. Blotches, liver spots and creases led the observer to the eyes. One dark, the other a cataract milky white and she always wore a dark shawl draped over the head and shoulders. Sandy was afraid of Ellen, she reminded Sandy of a gypsy or witch from a fairy-tale.
“Come again?” said Sandy, her eyes shifting from soldier to Ellen to soldier then back to Ellen.
Ellen had cut herself transferring a wood bucket filled with rice to add to an already large trough of buckets. A thick wood splinter pinned in the bottom of her palm dripping with a thick stream of blood. She turned to Sandy raising the bloodied palm and caught a drop of blood in her unwounded hand. “The blood dear,” said Ellen. “All magic comes from the blood.”
Sandy cringed at the sight; she’d always been squeamish. Her stomach bumped, blood curled. Magic, Sandy thought. If only magic was real. How wonderful would that be? Sandy understood she was naïve, the result of an isolated childhood and her parents’ death when she was ten years old. Not that they had taught the young Sandy about the world she lived in either. They’d kept her under lock and key, never so much as offering a glimpse or advice on the outside world. They were always so cryptic with their explanations, living in an abundant and overgrown mansion as if luxury were a The Rose by PD Alleva – Press kit childhood friend. Sure there were plenty of rooms for a child to explore but as time went by those rooms seemed more like a prison than a home.
Years of neglect, isolation and secrets were as torturous as physical suffering. And she was tired of secrets. She wanted to know truth. Truth was like a blanket that keeps you warm in the coldest winter.
“The blood, Sandy,” said Ellen who clenched her fist around those crimson droplets, shaking her hand in front of her face. “All is in the blood.” Excerpt 2: Dr. Blum escorted an alien vampire, a Drac, down the pristine hallway.
* Contest: Enter the Rafflecopter here for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.
How about a perfect read for Friday the 13th?
What's better than a creepy hotel? How about a haunted one?
When Chris, a master thief, and Riley, a contract waitress, get mysterious invites to an exclusive party at the haunted Gallagher Hotel, they discover more at play than simple celebrations. Hidden truths are revealed, and all hell breaks loose. But the "party" has just begun. Now, Chris and Riley face their demons as they fight to survive a hellish nightmare full of spoiled secrets, carnage, and vengeful spirits lost to the hotel dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Will they survive the night? Or will their souls be devoured by the most haunted building in Michigan?
Contact the author:
Teaser Excerpt: (Read the rest at her website here.)
Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die, Michael Largo - According to death certificates, in 1700 there were less than 100 causes of death. Today there are 3,000. With each advance of technology, people find new ways to become deceased, often causing trends that peak in the first year. People are now killed by everything, from cell phones, washing machines, lawn mowers and toothpicks, to the boundless catalog of man—made medicines. In Final Exits the causes of death—bizarre or common—are alphabetically arranged and include actual accounts of people, both famous and ordinary, who unfortunately died that way. (Ants, bad words, Bingo, bean bag chairs, flying cows, frozen toilets, hiccups, lipstick, moray eels, road kill, starfish, and toupees are only some of the more unusual causes.)
Something unique with a little snark, some romance, zombies and a Day of the Dead influence.
See the contests below.
About the Book:
Go on a cruise, they said. Learn about other cultures, they said. It’ll be fun,
Yeah, I thought my birthday cruise would be all sexy pool boys with fruity drinks and me working on my epic summer tan. Instead, I sacrificed my favorite Jimmy Choos and my gorgeous Coach handbag to some awful earthquake while shopping in a crappy Mexican port. That place is getting zero stars.
Oh yeah, and I sacrificed my life. Lucky for me this totally hunky (but nerdy) anthropologist, Jon, hauled my hot corpse in to the nearby ancient Mayan or whatever temple and performed some sort of creepy voodoo ritual on me.
Forget all the garbage from Hollywood about shuffling, brain-obsessed, homicidal corpses. Maybe that's how it was in the 70's but those misguided souls also thought polyester was a good fashion statement. What the movies got right is that someone always wants to kill off the undead, and I'm no different. I'm too young and too hot to leave the party this soon. I've got a second chance, but Jon and I need to know what's going on with my post-life situation before someone finishes me off for good.
Excerpt of Juan of the Dead:
Through teary eyes, I looked over the side of the tub and managed to find the towel. I wiped my face with the towel, but the tears continued to flow. I gave up. I let the tears come, quietly sobbing. Something snapped inside of me with the release of the tears. I sat in the tub, hair dripping, crying until I could cry no more. I cried for the loss of my purse and my belongings on the ship. I cried for the loss of identification, making it hard to function in the world. I cried for the loss of my life, robbed from me at such an early age.
I cried for the life I’d never known I wanted and now never would. I was living on borrowed time and something inside of me knew that more than just a slower heart and fantastic eyesight changed inside of me. I somehow knew that the things I’d avoided in an attempt to remain young, footloose, and fancy free were no longer options.
BONUS Contest! (In addition to the RC below, comment to be entered to win an ebook copy of Juan of the Dead. (If you can't comment, email me at the website. Subject: Juan.)
I've got a short flash story up at Spreading the Writer's Word as part of the Ladies of Horror project -
Everyone is given a photo to write about... be sure to check out the other stories, too.
Mine is The Old Deserted House
About the Book:Strange things are happening...
Interview with the author:
What inspired Dr. Cushing?
Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors was inspired by the classic Universal and Hammer horror films from the 1930s to the early’70s. About the time that Universal was talking about doing a shared universe of monster movies (the failed Dark Universe project), many friends and I were talking online about the fact that though DU seemed a good idea, they were really unlikely to make it in a way that would satisfy Monster Kids. Looking at that, I decided there really weren’t many books out there written to appeal to fans of those old films. So, I decided to write one myself. Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors is the result.
As to Dr. Cushing himself… With the name Leigh Cushing, he’s obviously inspired by Hammer stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. And the name of the book is inspired by the film Dr. Terror’sHouse of Horrors, an antholgy film from Amicus (1965), staring Peter Cushing.
The whole thing was fun to write. I approached it as individual stories that then wove together, and that made the writing a unique experience—and very challenging (and a longer book than I usually write). But I guess that the most fun writing was the story’s climax, which is probably true for most books, because you’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting the story to the point where all the threads and characters come together in the final conflict. And in this case, that happens to be a huge monster battle. Huge monster battles are always fun to write.
I have loved monsters literally as long as I can remember, probably starting with dinosaurs, but quickly moving into any other strange and possibly terrifying creatures. In fourth grade, I wrote a story about a race of half-fish half-lizards that lived under the sea and worshiped their own weird god/idol. Looking back, it was a very Lovecraftian idea, though it was many years later that I actually read my first Lovecraft story. That story got a gold star—or maybe even a gold seal—from the teacher. I guess maybe that started all this, though there may have been something earlier, too.
That brings me to The Wolf Man (1941, Universal) starring Lon Chaney, Jr. It’s as perfect a classic supernatural monster film as you can ask for, and its sequels became the first Monster Rally films (movies where there’s more than one monster, usually pitted against each other). The writing is brilliant, too, and invented much of the werewolf mythology that we take for granted today. Besides, what teenager hasn’t felt like a werewolf at least a couple of times in his or her life!
With a character named Vincent Duprix, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a bit of a fan of Vincent Price and his many horror movies as well. (Duprix is French for “price.”) Since I decided to have a wax museum as well as a Chamber of Horrors, having a character as tribute to Price seemed natural—he starred in House of Wax (1953), after all. His wife, Victoria, is named after the (dead) wife of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), another Price role.
So, if you like any of Vincent Price’s horror movies, chances are you’ll like this book, too.
I started collecting films as soon as DVRs were cheap enough to own. Of course, all those old tapes are out of date and useless to me, now. Most everything I collected then has been replaced in my collection with DVDs or Blu-Rays. I estimate that I have over 5000 movies in my collection; I haven’t gotten around to cataloging them all yet.
I have not watched every movie I own, but I also don’t own every movie I’ve ever seen, so it’s certainly possible that I’ve seen over 5000 movies in my lifetime, counting re-watches, because who doesn’t re-watch favorite films? Four years ago, I started keeping track of how many films I was watching every year, and I was pretty surprised at the numbers.
In 2017, I watched 567 films. Holy cats, that was a LOT. We had a lot of family stuff going on in 2018 and 2019, so the numbers fell off in those years—475 films and 393 films and seasons, respectively. (I added full seasons of TV shows and movie-style TV shows to my count in 2019.) This year, 2020, because of being shut at home with the pandemic and my friend Derek at Monster Kid Radio doing movie streams twice a week, my movie/show watching has skyrocketed again. I may have broken my 2017 record by the time you read this… And I’ve still got November and December to go!
If you look across my career, back to my days working on Dungeons & Dragons, to my work on CHILL, to the comic books I’ve written, to my Dragonlance novels, and even the teen detective books I ghost-wrote (one of which had a giant ape in it), it’s pretty clear that what I love to write is MONSTERS.
Sure, my Tournament of Death books are epic fantasy in scope, but they’re also filled with monsters! And with things like White Zombie, Manos the Hands of Fate, and the current Frost Harrow series and, of course, Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors, it’s pretty clear that monsters are where it’s at for me.
Of course, all those monsters would be pretty boring without some human characters to interact with. So, I try to make the heroes of my stories interesting and involving as well, whether they’re battling giant monsters in Daikaiju Attack or supernatural menaces in Frost Harrow and Dr. Cushing If you don’t have people for the readers to like and identify with in your stories, I’m pretty sure nobody will read the tales. And a bit of romance or sex never hurts, either.
The original Night Stalker TV show used to be really good at that. They’d sketch in an expendable character in Kolchak’s reporting voice-over only to have the monster murder them in some gruesome manner before the end of the scene. I probalby do that more in Frost Harrow than Dr. Cushing, though Cushing has its share of hapless victims as well.
Hopefully, once you’ve had the monsters dispatch some characters like that, readers will become worried about your main characters as well. Keeping up the suspense, and making readers worry about characters they like, is a huge key to writing scary.
It helps too if you can build a creepy atmosphere for what’s going on. Anything that adds to the suspense is fair game. Obviously you want to go for honest scares, and not cheap tricks, though certainly a “cat scare” can work as well in a book as in a movie.
A Tarot Reading from Chapter 1
The sign in front of the building read “Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors,” but it more accurately could have read “Daughters Cushing & Father’s Chamber of Horrors” since the twins ran the exhibition most of the time, while their sole parent was traveling, seeking the latest attractions for his macabre museum.
The chamber was a walk-down storefront in the basement of an aging Victorian manse on the outskirts of London, at 1951 Fisher St., next to the wooded end of Olde Kennington Park. It shared the building with the Duprix Waxworks, run by Vincent and Victoria Duprix, the landlords who lived in the grand quarters on the second floor. The Cushings rented the basement for their attraction, and the third floor—with its eccentric nooks and crannies and gabled ceilings—for their residence.
The waxworks occupied most of the mansion’s first floor, though the building was strangely shaped, so that the waxworks and the Chamber of Horrors abutted each other in the middle, with only a short flight of stairs, a pair of frosted glass doors, and, (when those doors were open for ventilation), a red velvet rope separating the two attractions. Most of the time, customers did not pass from one exhibit to the other, though, with a little work on the part of the Cushings and Duprixes, that would have been possible.
But, Victoria—Madame Duprix—spent most of her time running the waxworks or taking tea with her friends, while Vincent labored endlessly in his second-floor studio loft, which vaulted up into the space that otherwise would have been occupied by the third story. (He was a sculptor—and quite a good one.) The house also contained servant’s quarters with a separate entrance in the back of the building, near the seldom-used kitchens.
Perhaps the Duprixes had once employed domestics, but Topaz and Opal had never seen any staff since they and their father had moved in. And if there had been any servants there recently, the twins would have noticed some indication. The girls—often alone for the last ten years—had plenty of time to look around and discover all of the old house’s secrets.
But the secrets of other human beings and the world outside…! Those remained largely a mystery to both girls. Though lately, there had been a boy or two…
“All right,” Topaz said to her sister, “if you’re so good at absent readings… What do the cards say?”
Opal flipped up the first card on the right. “The distant past… I’d rather skip this and just look for the future…” she said.
“But that’s not the way it works,” Topaz agreed. “Assuming you can get it to work at all.”
Opal stuck out her tongue at her twin.
The picture on the pasteboard showed a woman in an elaborate robe wearing a crown topped by an orb.
“The High Priestess,” Topaz noted.
“Our father’s past, surrounded by mysteries and hidden influences,” Opal read.
“Which only makes sense, since he’s been collecting occult artifacts all of our lives.”
“And before we were born as well,” Opal noted. She flipped the second card; it showed a trio of swords piercing a stylized heart. “Three of Swords, inverted.”
“Father’s more recent past,” Topaz said. “The loss of something dear to you—I mean, to Father. I’m guessing that would be Mother.”
Opal grinned at her sister. “Who said you weren’t any good at this?”
Topaz tried, unsuccessfully, to fight down a blush. Her sister was so good at nettling her! But then, Opal undoubtedly felt the same way about Topaz.
Opal turned the next card—the one in the center of the reading. “The present…”
Topaz nodded. “The key card.”
The illustration showed the face of a bright moon beaming down upon two animals, a dog on the left and a wolf upon the right. The beasts were flanked by two solid-looking watch towers.
“The Moon,” Opal intoned, “a time of loved ones in peril and tricky choices. Choose your companions well, or they may betray you.”
About the Author: