Sunday, March 31, 2013

Giveaway: The Isis Collar and The Eldritch Conspiracy by Cat Adams (and blog hop)

Fool for books hop image 2013

Welcome to the Fool for Books Giveaway Hop from April 1st to 7th. Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

the isis collar

We have two book up for giveaway The Isis Collar and The Eldritch Conspiracy by Cat Adams. Here is a bit about each book from the publisher:

The Isis Collar: The Blood Singer Novels (Volume 4)

Celia Graves was once an ordinary human, but those days are long gone. Now she strives to maintain her sanity and her soul while juggling both vampire abilities and the powers of a Siren.

Warned of a magical "bomb" at a local elementary school, Celia forces an evacuation. Oddly, the explosion seems to have no effect, puzzling both Celia and the FBI. Two weeks later, a strangely persistent bruise on Celia's leg turns out to be the first sign of a magical zombie plague.

Finding the source of the plague isn't Celia's only concern. Her alcoholic mother has broken out of prison on the Sirens' island; her little sister's ghost has possessed a young girl; and one of Celia's boyfriends, a powerful mage, has disappeared.

Tor Books; March 2012; Trade Paperback; 384 pages.

Eldritch Conspiracy

The Eldritch Conspiracy: The Blood Singer Novels (Volume 5)

Not every bride needs a bridesmaid who can double as a bodyguard. But Celia's cousin Adriana is no ordinary bride: she's a Siren princess, and she's marrying the king of a small but politically important European country. She's getting death threats from fanatics who want to see the whole Siren race wiped out—including Celia herself, who is half Siren.

Luckily, Celia is on duty when a trip to a bridal salon is interrupted by an assassination attempt, so everyone survives. When Adriana returns to the Siren homeland to try to prevent a coup, Celia is free to hunt for the terrorists and the vile mage who is helping them (while keeping her eyes open for the perfect maid-of-honor dress). 

Assuming the bride and groom both live to see their wedding day, this will be one royal wedding no one will ever forget.

Tor Books; January 2013; Trade Paperback; 384 pages.

Both books are available for one US address. Because I will be mailing these out myself you MUST be a follower/reader of the blog to enter this contest.

Ways to “follow”:

  1. Facebook: for updates in your feed -add me as a friend.
  2. Your Email Box
  3. Feed Reader
  4. Twitter (I will follow back, for any of the below media sites.)
  5. Google+
  6. Pinterest
  7. Goodreads (Add me as a friend -no giveaway updates here only reviews.)

Also please fill out the Google form.

Now for the other blogs offering bookish giveaways for this hop:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Giveaway: The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck (and blog hop)

Kassa Gambit

Giveaway for The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck and the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Our giveaway is the recently published science fiction novel where you can read a review by John for The Kassa Gambit and also an interview with M.C. Planck linked to the text.

Publisher’s Description:   Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.

Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can't be trusted by anyone—even himself.

While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack. But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.

Tor Books; January 2013; Hardcover; 288 pages.

hoppy easter

This book is part of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop from March 29th to April 5th. Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Read Now Sleep Later

We have one copy for one US resident. And because this book will be mailed out by me personally you MUST be a reader/follower to enter this contest.

Ways to “follow”:

  1. Facebook: for updates in your feed -add me as a friend.
  2. Your Email Box
  3. Feed Reader
  4. Twitter (I will follow back, for any of the below media sites.)
  5. Google+
  6. Pinterest
  7. Goodreads (Add me as a friend -no giveaway updates here only reviews.)

Please fill out the Google form.

Now for the other blogs offering bookish giveaways for this hop:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

the map of the sky

A review  written by John. And since this is a sequel you may want to take a look at John’s review of The Map of Time.

John’s quick take:   A sort of stand-alone sequel to the impressive The Map of Time, this is an equally complex and original story. Once again featuring H. G. Wells as a central character, this time Palma takes Wells’s The War of the Worlds as a foundation and spins a mind-bending tale of time travel, aliens, adventure, terror and love.

John’s description:    H. G. Wells is not happy. Just a few months after the publication of his book The War of the Worlds, an American hack writer has written a sequel which Wells thinks of poor quality and in poor taste. He finally agrees to meet the writer for lunch, and after a few drinks Wells surprisingly starts to soften to him. After more drinks the American takes Wells to a secret room in the Natural History Museum and shows him an amazing otherworldly exhibit which totally stuns the British author (I will say no more in case I give away too much).

Several decades earlier, an ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic floundered as the ship became locked in the ice. The explorers are trying to make the most of their unhappy lot, when a flying object streaks overhead and crashes into the ice nearby. Their travails become worse when they find the object contained a strange alien beast, and soon they are embroiled in a fierce battle for survival.

Back in present day 1898, New York socialite Emma Harlow is bored of her constant suitors, and especially the egotistical and determined millionaire, Montgomery Gilmore. Eventually Emma agrees to marry Gilmore, but on one condition – first he has to create a reproduction of the Martian invasion scenes featured in The War of the Worlds. Thanks in part to things he achieved during his secret past, Gilmore thinks he can pull this off and starts planning the event.

A short while later in the outskirts of London, Wells is present when Gilmore’s show starts. Strange containers appear but soon it becomes apparent, to everyone’s horror, that a real alien invasion has started. Amazingly, in some ways the invasion mirrors Wells’s recently published novel. Even the might of the British empire can do nothing to stop the aliens, who’ve soon overrun London. Wells, Gilmore, Harlow, a strange detective and a motley crew of associates struggle to escape the onslaught – and Wells finds he has a strange gift which might just help.

the map of time

John’s thoughts:   As with The Map of Time, this is structured around three separate story lines which eventually become interweaved, thanks in part to a bending of the timelines. Also in line with the earlier novel, everything in this book centers around H. G. Wells, an intriguing character who is painted as being super-smart and rather prescient.

It’s an interesting story with a complex plot and many twists and turns. Again one of Wells’s most famous novels features prominently in the story; this time The War of the Worlds provides a foundation and launch pad for Palma’s strange tale. What would happen if a “war of the worlds” actually happened, and what might the famous author be able to do about it?

Palma clearly has a gift for storytelling and a great imagination. He leverages the original master of the science fiction genre, but this is a lot more than an homage to the great H.G. Wells – Palma takes the story into some pretty whacky places.

My quibbles about the book? It is some 600 pages long and I think it could have benefitted by some tight editing and losing 100 of those pages. In places it seems to take a long time to get to where it wants to go. It also builds quite a lot on characters and events from The Map of Time – not a problem for me as I’d read the earlier book, but for those who are reading Palma for the first time, there will be some missing background and character development that will take away from the reading experience.

I do really like the Victorian setting and Palma does a good job of creating a realistic Victorian era background and then mixing in some oddball storylines. Overall I’d rate it 4 stars and as with The Map of Time I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good historical fantasy novel or indeed a good fantasy novel, period. If you are a science fiction fan and a big follower of Victorian fiction, then this is most definitely one for you.

Atria Books | Hardbound | 594 pages | 2012

It looks like the trade paperback version of the book will be out in June of 2013, The Map of Time is now available in mass market paperback, and both books by Felix J. Palma are available in audio format.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

silence of bonaventure arrow

A review written by Shellie.

Shellie’s quick take:

A lyrical, sadly sweet, yet redemptive novel which has magical realism at its heart. It will make most readers shed tears throughout its reading. It did for me.

Shellie’s description:   Set primarily during the late 1940’s through the 50’s in a small Bayou town near New Orleans, the book’s main character, Bonaventure Arrow, his mother and paternal grandmother live in their wealthy home with its own chapel. Bonaventure’s a smart little boy that doesn’t speak a word, but it’s his amazing gift, an ability to hear impossibly subtle things, that in part gives this novel its magical realism quality. 

The heartbreaking part of the story is that the main characters have lost a well-loved family member who, although good natured, is haunting them. Most of these characters are damaged, including the entity himself, who feels responsible for their pain; this is keeping the ghost in his worldly limbo as he tries to direct them. In the end it’s a Creole house-keeper (who has a touch of the sight) and Bonaventure himself who pull the story together, revealing the mysterious reasons for the deeper afflictions of their family and helping with its ultimate healing.

Shellie’s thoughts:    All at once complex, perfectly interwoven and poetic, this is a wonderful novel that I read quickly. I liked that the author broke the text down into short chapters showing the perspective of each of the characters, creating a book that is easy to pick up and read for short periods. I also liked that all the characters are well developed and likeable, except for a multi-layered protagonist that most readers will love to hate - which is exactly as it should be.

Although I enjoyed this easy-to-read novel and mostly got lost in it, I do want to mention a couple of things that may bother some readers. Firstly, the author’s descriptions are nicely done but there are a lot of them, especially when it comes to the  main character’s ability to hear very delicate and impossible things – so I did do some skimming. The second thing that registered for me was that I felt that there was a slight religious agenda imbued in the novel’s pages. However, with that said, Catholic readers will probably enjoy this novel a lot.Rita Leganski

Don’t let my small complaints deter you in reading The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. It’s recommended for women readers who enjoy magical realism, those who like a Southern setting and flavor, those who don’t mind quite a few tears, those wanting a mild religious feel to their reads, and anyone who likes in-depth poetic descriptions in their novels. I give this lyrical and sweet novel a 4 stars.

Harper Paperbacks; (February 26, 2013) 400 pages.

About the author:   Rita Leganski holds an MA in writing and publishing and a BA in literary studies and creative writing from DePaul University. She teaches a writing workshop at DePaul’s School for New Learning and was a recipient of the Arthur Weinberg Memorial Prize for a work of historical fiction. 

You can find more information about her on her Facebook page .

This book is part of a book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more opinions about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow link to the tour’s schedule.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Incoming Books ~ March 18, 2013


It’s our latest ~ Incoming Books for the month.


Goldenland Past Dark by Chandler Klang Smith

A hostile stranger is hunting Dr. Show’s ramshackle travelling circus across 1960s America. His target: the ringmaster himself. Struggling to elude the menace, Dr. Show scraps his ambitious itinerary; ticket sales plummet, and nothing but disaster looms. The troupe’s unraveling hopes fall on their latest and most promising recruit, Webern Bell, a sixteen-year-old hunchbacked midget devoted obsessively to perfecting the surreal clown performances that come to him in his dreams. But as they travel through a landscape of abandoned amusement parks and rural ghost towns, Webern’s bizarre past starts to pursue him, as well.

Along the way, we meet Nepenthe, the seductive Lizard Girl; Brunhilde, a shell-shocked bearded lady; Marzipan, a world-weary chimp; a cabal of drunken, backstabbing clowns; Webern’s uncanny sisters, witchy dogcatchers who speak only in rhymes; and his childhood friend, Wags, who may or may not be imaginary, and whose motives are far more sinister than they seem.

Chizine; Trade Paperback 300 pages March 15, 2013.



Elsewhens (#2 of the Glass Thorns series) by Melanie Rawn

Touchstone, the magical theater troupe, continues to build audiences. But Cayden is increasingly troubled by his “elsewhens,” the uncontrolled moments when he is plunged into visions of the possible futures. He fears that his Fae gift will forever taint his friendships; his friends fear that his increasing distance will destroy him.

But worldly success follows them—an apparent loss in the Trials leads to Touchstone being selected to travel to the Continent with a Royal Embassy to collect Prince Ashgar’s new bride. They are the first theater artists to appear outside Albeyn for at least seventy years—for magic is suspect and forbidden elsewhere, and the Kingdom’s easy race mixing and magic use horrifies the people they are to travel among.

Tor Books; February 2013; Hardcover; 384 pages.


Firebrand Rebel Angel Series (Volume 1 of 4)by Gillian Philip

At the end of the sixteenth century, religious upheaval brings fear, superstition, and doubt to the lives of mortals. Yet unbeknownst to them, another world lies just beyond the Veil: the realm of the Sithe, a fierce and beautiful people for whom a full-mortal life is but the blink of an eye. The Veil protects and hides their world…but it is fraying at the edges, and not all think it should be repaired. 

Discarded by his mother and ignored by his father, sixteen-year-old Seth MacGregor has grown up half wild in his father’s fortress, with only his idolized older brother, Conal, for family. When Conal quarrels with the Sithe queen and is forced into exile in the full-mortal world, Seth volunteers to go with him.

But life beyond the Veil is even more dangerous than they expected, and Seth and Conal soon find themselves embroiled in a witch-hunt—in which they are the quarry. Trapped between the queen’s machinations at home and the superstitious violence of the otherworld, Seth must act before both of them are fed to the witch-hunters’ fires…

Brimming with intrigue and rebellion, Firebrand is the first book in the Rebel Angels series by Gillian Philip, the Carnegie Medal–nominated author of Crossing the Line and multi-award-nominated Bad Faith.

Tor Books; February 2013; Hardcover; 368 pages.

Wide Open

Wide Open (#1) by Deborah Coates

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.
The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to. 

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace.  Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.

Wide Open has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, appeared on Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List for first novels, and was chosen as a Reviewer’s Choice Pick for Favorite Book of the year.

Tor Books; January 2013; Trade Paperback; 320 pages.

Deep Down

Deep Down (#2) by Deborah Coates

Now that she's solved her sister's murder, Hallie Michaels has left the army and isn't sure what to do next. Her relationship with deputy Boyd Davies is tentative, there's still distance between her and her father, and she needs a job. The good news is, she hasn't seen a ghost in weeks.

All that changes when she gets a call asking her to help an elderly neighbor who is being stalked by black dogs, creatures from the underworld that are harbingers of death. When a black dog appears, Hallie learns, a reaper is sure to follow. And if the dark visions she's suddenly receiving are any indication, it looks like the reaper is now following her.

Meanwhile, strange events herald the arrival of ghosts from Boyd's past, ghosts the young deputy isn't ready to face. Refusing Hallie's help, Boyd takes off to deal with the problem on his own, only to find that he's facing something much larger and more frightening than he'd imagined.

Stalked by a reaper and plagued by dark visions, Hallie finds she must face her fears and travel into Death's own realm to save those she most loves.

Deep Down is the chilling sequel to Wide Open.

Tor Books; March 2013; Hardcover; 304 pages.


Quintessence by David Walton

Imagine an Age of Exploration full of alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic. In Europe, the magic is thin, but at the edge of the world, where the stars reach down close to the Earth, wonders abound. This drives the bravest explorers to the alluring Western Ocean. Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares only about one thing: quintessence, a substance he believes will grant magical powers and immortality. And he has a ship.

Tor Books; 3/19/2013; Hardcover; 320 pages.


Pandemonium (#2) by Warren Fahy

Deep beneath the Ural Mountains, in an underground city carved out by slave labor during the darkest hours of the Cold War, ancient caverns hold exotic and dangerous life-forms that have evolved in isolation for countless millennia. Cut off from the surface world, an entire ecosystem of bizarre subterranean species has survived undetected—until now.

Biologists Nell and Geoffrey Binswanger barely survived their last encounter with terrifying, invasive creatures that threatened to engulf the planet. They think the danger is over until a ruthless Russian tycoon lures them to his underground metropolis, where they find themselves confronted by a vicious menagerie of biological horrors from their past—and by entirely new breeds of voracious predators. Now they’re rising up from the bowels of the Earth to consume the world as we know it.

Tor Books; 3/19/2013; Hardcover; 320 pages.

blood's pride

Blood’s Pride (The Shattered Kingdoms - Volume 1) by Evie Manieri

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.

Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising—but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

Tor Books; February 2013; Hardcover; 528 pages.


Misc Publishers and Independent Authors

Necromancer's Grimoire

The Necromancer’s Grimoire (book 2 of the Elysium Texts series) by Annmarie Banks

At the dawn of the Renaissance, a young woman finds herself on the path to great power... but can she control it or will it destroy her?

Nadira has earned her place in the company of adventurers traveling to Istanbul to uncover something the Templar Knights lost 200 years before. She brings with her the knowledge and skills she acquired from reading The Hermetica of Elysium and learns that she is the key the Templars need to unlock their past.

Lord Montrose is impatient with their mission. He is eager to turn his attention to seeking out and punishing his brother's murderers who sail the Mediterranean hunting heretical manuscripts. While another member of their group, the pious Friar William, is in the throes of doubt as his faith is challenged by what he has seen of Nadira's growing powers and the mystical elixirs of the alchemists.

For what they want is for Nadira to read and master the powers of the book of Satan's realm, The Necromancer's Grimoire.

Knox Robinson Publishing; March 6th, 2013.

Read my review for the first book in this series - The Hermetica of Elysium.

Mapmaker's War2

The Mapmaker’s War by Ronlyn Dominigue

This will be the map of your heart, old woman. In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom's mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Attempting to warn them of imminent danger, Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind. She cannot bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her. In this tale -- her autobiography -- Aoife reveals her pain and joy, and ultimately her transformation.

The Mapmaker's War is a mesmerizing, utterly original adventure about love and loss and the redemptive power of the human spirit. Watch for its epic sequel, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, in 2014.

Atria Books; Hardcover: 240 pages; March 5, 2013.

Ordinary Grace

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

Atria Books |  320 pages |  March 2013

shades of a vampire

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

On the evening of Sofia Claremont's seventeenth birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake.

A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains. Sofia's life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince. Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? ...or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?

December 2012


Perverse by Larry Rodness

19 year old Emylene Stipe is a 2nd generation Goth who, like every teenage girl, is trying to find her place in the world. One night she comes upon an old painting in an antique store and is compelled to purchase it.  When she brings it home an image of a young woman appears in the sketch and then magically materializes in her apartment. Emylene nick-names her 'Poinsettia' and they soon become fast friends. But Poinsettia has an ulterior motive for her sudden and strange intrusion into her host's life which causes Emylene to question her whole belief system.

Itoh Press; Jan. 04, 2013



staring into the abyss

Staring into the Abyss by Richard Thomas

As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.” In this collection of short stories Richard Thomas shows us in dark, layered prose the human condition in all of its beauty and dysfunction. A man sits in a high tower making tiny, mechanical birds, longing for the day when he might see the sky again. A couple spends an evening in an underground sex club where jealousy and possession are the means of barter. A woman is victimized as a child, and turns that rage and vengeance into a lifelong mission, only to self-destruct, and become exactly what she battled against. A couple hears the echo of the many reasons they’ve stayed together, and the one reason the finally have to part. And a boy deals with a beast that visits him on a nightly basis, not so much a shadow, as a fixture in his home.

These 20 stories will take you into the darkness, and sometimes bring you back. But now and then there is no getting out, the lights have faded, the pitch black wrapping around you like a festering blanket of lies. What will you do now? It’s eat or be eaten—so bring a strong stomach and a hearty appetite.

Kraken Press; March 1, 2013; 136 pages.

who was dracula

Who Was Dracula? Bram Stoker’s Trail of Blood by Jim Stein Meyer

An acclaimed historian sleuths out literature’s most famous vampire, uncovering the source material – from folklore and history, to personas including Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman – behind Bram Stoker’s bloody creation.

In more than a century of vampires in pop culture, only one lord of the night truly stands out: Dracula. Though the name may conjure up images of Bela Lugosi lurking about in a cape and white pancake makeup in the iconic 1931 film, the character of Dracula—a powerful, evil Transylvanian aristocrat who slaughters repressed Victorians on a trip to London—was created in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name, a work so popular it has spawned limitless reinventions in books and film.

But where did literature’s undead icon come from? What sources inspired Stoker to craft a monster who would continue to haunt our dreams (and desires) for generations? Historian Jim Steinmeyer, who revealed the men behind the myths in The Last Greatest Magician in the World, explores a question that has long fascinated literary scholars and the reading public alike: Was there a real-life inspiration for Stoker’s Count Dracula?

Hunting through archives and letters, literary and theatrical history, and the relationships and events that gave shape to Stoker’s life, Steinmeyer reveals the people and stories behind the Transylvanian legend. In so doing, he shows how Stoker drew on material from the careers of literary contemporaries Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde; reviled personas such as Jack the Ripper and the infamous fifteenth-century prince Vlad Tepes, as well as little-known but significant figures, including Stoker’s onetime boss, British stage star Henry Irving, and Theodore Roosevelt’s uncle, Robert Roosevelt (thought to be a model for Van Helsing).

Along the way, Steinmeyer depicts Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, his development as a writer, involvement with London’s vibrant theater scene, and creation of one of horror’s greatest masterpieces. Combining historical detective work with literary research, Steinmeyer’s eagle eye provides an enthralling tour through Victorian culture and the extraordinary literary monster it produced.

336 pages | 04 Apr 2013 | Tarcher

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Virus Thirteen by Joshua Alan Parry ~ Giveaway and Lucky Leprechaun Hop

virus thirteen

Virus Thirteen by Joshua Alan Parry giveaway and the Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop.

We have one copy for a US or Canadian address.

Virus Thirteen is an irreverent and contagious thriller from debut author Joshua Alan Parry.

Scientists James Logan and his wife, Linda, have their dream careers at the world’s leading biotech company, GeneFirm, Inc. But their happiness is interrupted by a devastating bioterrorist attack: a deadly superflu that quickly becomes a global pandemic. The GeneFirm complex goes into lockdown and Linda’s research team is sent to high-security underground labs to develop a vaccine.

Above ground, James learns that GeneFirm security has been breached and Linda is in danger. To save her he must confront a desperate terrorist, armed government agents, and an invisible killer: Virus Thirteen.

Tor Books; 3/26/2013; Mass Market Paperbound; 320 pages.

Lucky Lep

This book is part of the 3rd Annual Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and co-hosted by Books Complete Me & Author Cindy Thomas  from March 15th – 22nd

You DO NOT need to be a “follower/reader” of Layers of Thought to enter this contest, however you get an extra point if you do. Here are ways to keep up to date:

Ways to “follow”:

  1. Facebook: for updates in your feed -add me as a friend.
  2. Your Email Box
  3. Feed Reader
  4. Twitter (I will follow back, for any of the below media sites.)
  5. Google+
  6. Pinterest
  7. Goodreads (Add me as a friend -no giveaway updates here only reviews.)

This hop and giveaway are now closed. Congratulations to our winner – Josh A!

“Developing Dark Characters” by Nicole Wolverton and Giveaway for: A Trajectory of Dreams


Today we have a giveaway of a signed copy of The Trajectory of Dreams and a snippet called “Developing Dark Characters” from its author Nicole Wolverton.

Let’s welcome Nicole!

Developing Dark Characters ~ by Nicole Wolverton

There’s a stereotype about dark characters that, I think, stems from comic book villains. Many of them are fairly one-dimensional—just some guy with a maniacal laugh, intent on blowing up the hero or the town for no other reason than that they want to. The antagonist in a novel needs a bit more than that, or often they can come off flat.

Lela White, the main character in my novel THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS, is a dark character. She breaks into the homes of astronauts while they sleep. She creeps around their houses, touching their things and standing over their beds. Worse, she’s a threat: if one of them should wake up, she’s prepared to kill. She’s a straight up dangerous stalker. It would have been easy for me to just say, Well, this is just who she is, and she has no hopes and dreams or reasons.The-Trajectory-of-Dreams

Of course, that’s a pretty boring story. Don’t you want to know why she does it? Isn’t a book like THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS made richer, more real, and perhaps spookier if you understand and, dare I say, empathize with Lela just a little?

For me, that’s the key to developing dark characters: to understand a criminal or serial killer and recognize yourself in them in some way is the most frightening thing in the world. Take Dexter, for instance. Now look—I hope you’re not a serial killer in disguise, but we do root for Dexter. We want him to be successful. He’s an incredibly dark character, no question. But he’s also complex and, in his darkness, he works on the side of good on some level, and that’s what makes him so compelling. Lela is cut from the same cloth. Oh sure, her mental disorder puts everyone she comes in contact with in mortal danger, but she thinks her actions serve the greater good. She’s a hero in her own head, and an unsung hero at that. And as you’re reading THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS, you start to wonder if she’s really so crazy, if there might be something to her theories . . . which makes you complicit in her criminal actions.

When I’m writing a dark character, it’s important to include a Save the Cat moment in the plot. It’s a moment where your main character does something unselfish and good, thus making himself seem like a fine, upstanding citizen worthy of admiration and love. Most of the time, it’s the good guy who gets the Save the Cat moment, but it’s just as important for villains in many cases because it complicates the plot and leads to identification with the bad guy. And that’s never a bad thing.

About The Trajectory of Dreams:   Publishers Weekly calls THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (Bitingduck Press) a "skillful mainstream examination of a psychotic woman’s final descent into insanity."

The novel exposes the chaotic inner life of Lela White, a sleep lab technician and mentally ill insomniac who believes she has been tasked with protecting the safety of the revitalized U.S. space shuttle program. She breaks into the homes of astronauts to watch them sleep, and she is prepared to kill to keep those with sleep problems from the shuttle launch. Her delicate grasp on reality becomes more tenuous when annoying co-worker Trina Shook insists on moving into her house and visiting Russian cosmonaut Zory Korchagin inserts himself into Lela's life. Korchagin's increasing interest puts her carefully-constructed world at risk of an explosion as surely as he does his own upcoming launch. Lela's tragic childhood unfolds throughout the novel, revealing the beginnings of her illness and long-buried secrets, and as Lela’s universe unravels, no one is safe.

About the author:   Nicole Wolverton fears many things, chief amongst them that something lurks in the dark. From ghosts to stalkers, her adult and young adult fiction plays on the mundane and not-so-mundane things that frighten us all. THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS is her debut novel. She is a freelance writer and editor and lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband, dog, and two cats.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Eyes to See ~ by Joseph Nassise

eyes to see

A review written by John.

John’s quick take: A very dark urban fantasy about a grieving father who gives up his natural eyesight in order to see things differently.

John’s description:  Once upon a time, Jeremiah Hunt seemed to have everything – a well-respected job that he enjoyed, a beautiful wife with a high-powered career, a nice house and, above all, a daughter that he adored. Then one night his young daughter simply disappeared from his house and all attempts to find her come to nothing. Hunt becomes increasingly obsessed with the search and ceaselessly chases down every clue and piece of information, keeping up the search long after everyone else has given up hope. Eventually his obsession causes him to lose his job, his reputation and eventually his wife; but still Hunt is driven to keep looking.

Then one day he decides to undergo an arcane ritual, causing him to lose his normal sight in exchange for an ability to see “that which is unseen”. Now he can see all manner of ghost and spirits – and to his great shock the world is full of them. He is convinced that somehow his new gift will help him to find his daughter, but his life becomes ever more bizarre. He takes on odd jobs chasing away unwanted spirits that are haranguing the living, and also uses some of his skills to help out the police.

A series of brutal murders that he helps to investigate seem to be somehow linked to his daughter’s disappearance, and soon Hunt is sucked into a battle with an ancient and evil force. What can he find out about his daughter’s fate? Might she still be alive? With a mixture of blindness, special sight and obsession, he is lured towards a dreadful finale.

John’s thoughts:   This was my second dive into the fantasy genre in the last few weeks – a genre that doesn’t normally attract me. While there is much in here that will appeal to fantasy fans, I must admit that my attention was wandering by the time I’d got halfway through the book. I guess I can only take so many ghosts and ghoulies and this story is full of them. Not to mention witches and magick.

It is clear from some other reviews that I saw that many readers do rate this book highly and I can see why. The plot was interesting, the writing was tight and fast-paced, the Hunt character is certainly intriguing and the story is hard boiled and dark in extremes. Throughout it all Hunt’s pain and anguish ooze from the pages. If those things all sound good to you and you like urban fantasy, then you should jump right in. It’s just not quite my cup of tea.

I’d still rate the book three stars, as it is well written and imaginative. (It’s also got a terrific cover).

Eyes to See (The Jeremiah Hunt Chronicle -Volume 1 of 3) by Joseph Nassise

Tor Books; October 2011; Hardcover; 320 pages.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: The Six Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher

Six Gun Tarot

A review written by John:

John’s quick take:   A clever and entertaining mash-up of cowboy Western, mysticism, mythology, urban fantasy, and horror – all set on the edge of the Nevada desert in the late 1860s, in the weirdest little town you can hope to imagine.

John’s description:   After the disappearance of his beloved dad, who is a deeply scarred Civil War veteran, young Jim Negrey’s life turns upside down. With secrets to hide and on the run, he heads out west and eventually finds himself crossing the deadly 40-Mile Desert in Nevada. Out of water and with his horse on the point of dying, Jim is in a desperate situation, but he’s discovered and rescued by a strange outcast Native American Indian, who seems to have an odd affinity with the wild coyotes. The Indian, whose only name is Mutt, is deputy at the nearby wild town of Golgotha, and that is where he takes Jim.

Golgotha turns out to be weird beyond belief – with a host of oddball characters and a history of strange happenings.  One of these characters is the town sheriff, Jon Highfather, who has “the mark of the noose” around his neck and is believed by many to be a dead man whose time has not yet come.  Being a new friend of Mutt, who is deeply trusted by the sheriff, Jim is taken under the wing of Highfather.

Almost immediately that Jim arrives in town, all manner of madness and mayhem breaks out - much of which seems to stem from the old silver mine on the mountainside overlooking the town. With the help of a strange preacher, a primordial evil is stirring deep in the bowels of the earth beneath the silver mine.  With the very fate of Heaven and Earth hanging in the balance, a motley crew of local people seem to be the only ones who can save the world.

Mutt and Highfather may, or may not, be able to rely on the help of the Mormon mayor with his trove of mythical treasures, the leader of the local Chinese tong and a powerful but shady saloon owner whose family has owned the silver mine and surrounding land for many generations. But central to it all is Jim and a strange artifact that used to belong to his father.

John’s thoughts:  Although fantasy and mysticism are not my usual shtick, it’s good to try something different now and then and this seemed like an unusual and interesting story. So I’m glad I gave it a go because The Six-Gun Tarot is a real melting pot of content and themes creating an entertaining read.

At its heart it’s a fantasy thriller set in the wild West, but it includes shades of mysticism, Chinese and Mormon mythology, Native Indian lore, theology, zombie-ism and Frankenstein! Oh, and it’s a coming of age tale. And did I mention the secret order of assassins? Sound intriguing? It definitely was.

What I like most about the story was the characters that Belcher created. The lead characters are complex, well developed and just flat-out interesting. This starts with Jim, Mutt and Highfather, but many of the supporting cast are also three-dimensional with lots of quirks to them. And come to think of it, some of the characters may have more than three dimensions. 

If there was anything I wasn’t crazy about it was some of the religious mythology and underpinning of the tale, but this wasn’t too over the top and didn’t get in the way too much for me – and it did mean that we could have fallen angels added to the mix. One other minor niggle was one key thread to the story’s conclusion which wasn’t explained well (of if it was I missed it).

All in all this was a complex and fun mash-up creating a fast-paced, entertaining story. Although Fantasy really isn’t a big draw for me, I enjoyed this book and I’d rate it four star. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in urban fantasy, steampunk or “weirdo-Westerns”. 

The Six-Gun Tarot ~ by R. S. Belcher; Tor Books; January 2013; Hardcover; 368 pages.

In case you haven’t  read it,  we have a post by R. S. Belcher about how he went about creating the fantastical Western world in his novel, link on this text to read it.

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