Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or Treat! by Suzy Witten author of The Afflicted Girls

It’s one of the best days of the year today, and we have a guest post from author Suzy Witten titled Trick or Treat!

Suzy’s the author of a favorite book of mine that’s perfect for fall – The Afflicted Girls. It’s a novel set around the Salem witch trials with an unexpected twist. You can read my review for The Afflicted Girls by linking on this text. And read on as Suzy tells us a bit about the history of witches and their association with Halloween.

Trick or Treat!

Ask a child: who rides a broom on Halloween night? Of course, she’ll know.

Then ask: but why are witches associated with Halloween? You’ll get a shrug.

Because she’d have to look back thousands of years... to when on Yule night in Norway, goddess Reisarova and her witch hordes mounted their black steeds with eyes of shining ember, and during the wild ride would cast down saddles onto roofs, foretelling death for the occupant.

Or when the troll witch giantess Hyrrokin rode through her Swedish skies on a wolf bridled with snakes.


Or when on Lithuania’s midsummer night, all magicians and witches flew to the top of Mt. Szatria to revel with their mighty sorceress Jauterita.

Or when in the Scottish highlands at summer’s end, with a wand of power in her hand, grey-cloaked crone Nicnevin led her witch fairies and goblins astride animal spirits in a great celebratory Parade. Or when in Ireland, the beings and souls of the Otherworld—some of them human who’d been turned into cats for evil deeds—assembled at the sacrificial bonfire of the Druids among the people to honor the dying natural world in the presence of the aged Crone, the Hag, the Cailleach... all knew would re-emerge in spring as a beautiful, powerful maiden. For it was on Samhain night that the barrier between the worlds was so thin, spirits who were homesick could re-enter this mortal world and commune with and visit their loved ones.

In the German-speaking countries of Eastern Europe, the Old Goddess might appear at harvest’s end as an ugly, long-nosed spinster. On this Ember Night, she’d bring treats or play tricks: spindles of finished thread for industrious girls, dirtying or tangling the unspun
flax of lazy spinners. Sometimes she’d sport a tooth or nose of iron, or carry live coals in her pitcher for burning their distaffs. Her job was to reward and punish children. Often she took the form of a pig.


In time, she became a myth... as did her namesakes.

“At the end of the middle ages an international myth of the Old Goddess stretched from the Slavic east to the Celtic west and from Italy to Scandanavia. People said that a vibrant, powerful crone flew in the midst of a cavalcade of spirits dead and unborn, joined by witches of all lands. On the eves of pagan holy days the spirit hosts set out for high mountaintops or other sacred places. At these animist sanctuaries the witches dance, play music and games, feast and celebrate their mysteries.The divine “Mistress of the Night” presides over the gathering, giving cures and revealing the future. Often she miraculously revives the animals the witches have been feasting on.” (The Tregenda of the Old Goddess, Witches, and Spirits; Max Dashu (2000))

In these seemingly unrelated populations of pre-Roman, pre-Christian times, the Old Goddess’ names and manifestations were many. She was secure in her recurring reverence... until in the 1st Century B.C, the Romans invaded Northern Europe and brought their own festivals and goddesses with them.

Over the next four centuries, old and new customs merged, until by the 4th Century A.D., Roman Emperor Constantine declared Christianity everyone’s lawful religion and launched a holy war against Paganism and its symbols. The old practices were “Christianized,” and the old names, rites, meanings, symbols were recast.The Afflicted Girls - Suzy Witten

By the 8th Century A.D., the Pagan holy day of Samhaim was celebrated as Hallowmas: a triple Christian holiday comprised of All Hallow’s Eve or Hallowe’en (October 31), All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (November 1), and All Souls Day (November 2). This was still the time of year to remember the dead... but now the dead included martyrs and saints, and all faithful departed Christians.

As for the rest of us, it is the night when witches ride brooms, ghosts come a’haunting, and skeletons rise from graves... to shout in every doorway: “Trick or treat!”

Suzy Witten's career spans 20 years in the entertainment industry: as a filmmaker, screenwriter, story analyst, and editor for film and television. A graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts, she was nominated for a Women In Film filmmaking award for her theatrical film Runaway Eden about teenage runaways in Hollywood, and was a Walt Disney Studios Fellowship finalist for her original screenplay about the Salem witch hunt of 1692. She is in the process of finishing a new Young Adult book, and also works intermittently as a Media Relations Specialist during disasters for the U. S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She resides in Los Angeles. Her debut novel, The Afflicted Girls, won the 2010 Independent Publisher (IPPY) silver medal for historical fiction.

You can find Suzy Witten on Goodreads and her website.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: The Way Inn by Will Wiles

The Way Inn - Will Wiles

Review by John for The Way Inn by Will Wiles (Advance Readers Copy).

John’s quick take:   Intriguingly different novel – a surrealistic nightmare in the most mundane of settings.

John’s description:   Neil Double has an unusual job. He is a conference surrogate, attending industry conferences on behalf of his clients so that they don’t have to. He attends events for them, picks up all of the relevant material, talks to people they should have talked to, and reports back to them on things that they should have learned - all the while hiding the fact that he is a surrogate. He spends his life travelling and staying at mid-range hotels located in business parks and exhibition centers. In particular he ends up spending an inordinate amount of time in Way Inns, a huge hotel chain with locations all around the world.

While attending a conference for conference organizers at the recently erected MetaCentre exhibition complex, he stays in a brand new Way Inn hotel situated next door to the complex in the middle of what is essentially a series of large building sites. While things start out as they normally do for Double, in short order things start to go awry. He once again meets a woman that he met in very unusual circumstances at a previous event. He is then “outed” by one of the conference organizers who hates the fact that conference surrogates are eating into his business and enabling potential attendees to stay away. He then finds himself banned from the event and unable to get away from the Way Inn.

Then the rather strange woman starts to hint at something weird and astonishing about the mundane hotel chain. In turns attracted, puzzled, bemused and scared, Double finds himself increasingly drawn into the Way Inn. But he also comes to realize that there may be no way out.

John’s thoughts:   This was a bit of a slow starter but then really drew me in – a pacing and style which I suspect was intended. First you get to learn about a professional conference attendee who is attending a conference about the conference business, which is being held at the aptly named MetaCentre. But this is not quite as dull as it may sound, as Wiles writing has a nice sly humor to it and some of his observations are sharp.

After a while the story gradually starts to twist and turn, then develops some nicely surreal aspects before descending into a sinister nightmare. Imagine the movie Up In the Air mixed with the song by the Eagles Hotel California and a liberal sprinkling of H.P. Lovecraft – stir the three together and you end up somewhere near to The Way Inn.

I have to say that it was a combination that I liked. It did feel just a tad too slow in places, but the surprises and novelty of the story kept me engaged. Who’d have thought – a surrealistic horror story about the conference business? It worked for me. I’d rate this four stars and recommend it to anyone who likes stylish and subtle horror stories or who likes to try something a bit different. And have you had the “pleasure” of attending a lot of business conferences? If so, you may find this an entertaining read.

ARC | Harper Perennial | 09/16/2014 | Pages: 352


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Giveaway: The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe

The Penguin Book of Witches - ed. Katherine Howe

We have a giveaway for The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe. Penguin is offering one copy for a US or Canadian address. It’s perfect for fall and Halloween!

Please fill out the Google form to enter the contest.

Chilling real-life accounts of witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America, compiled by the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and Conversion.

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

Paperback | 320 Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Penguin Classics | Adult


Friday, October 24, 2014

Monster Love by Robert Dunbar, editor of Dark Forest


We have a seasonal post from Robert Dunbar that celebrates the upcoming holiday. Yes boys and girls, it’s almost Halloween.

And don’t we all love something a bit spooky this time of year? But some of us have a hankering for a bit more and Robert Dunbar is one of those special people.

Here he shares with us his imaginings in this post. It’s aptly called Monster Love!

Forget your favorite movie star or sports figure. What monster did you identify with as a child? Maybe we need a stronger word than “identify.”

What monster suggested your secret other self?

Go on. You can tell us. No one will judge. (Well, if it’s The Blob, some of us might get a little judgy.) Choices like this can prove so revealing. Growing up, we all invested countless hours in watching old horror movies on television, despite how much our parents complained. It’s only natural that we felt more affinity with some creatures than others, only natural that they flapped and crawled and howled through our dreams. Half the little boys I knew wanted to be Dracula when they grew up, mostly so they could bite girls, but quite a few seemed instead to go through a Frankenstein stage in their teens, lumbering about and appalling everyone. A Wolfman phase could be even more problematical. (“I can’t remember a thing about last night.” Oh please.) I can’t imagine what little girls fixated on. Surely no one truly yearned to be The Astounding She-Creature or Bride of the Gorilla.

And it wasn’t just movies. As a kid, I could never warm to any of those wholesome novels grownups were forever trying to foist on me. So irritating. (“Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar” was my childhood mantra, I swear.) Remember those books? The ones they approved of?

Dark Forest edited by Robert Dunbar


They always seemed to involve a courageous pony, or the character-building hardship of life on the tundra, or plucky drummer boys who save the platoon. Even then, I could barely conceal my contempt.

I knew what I wanted. Where were the monsters? Where was the gloom? (Okay, so I thought of it as gloomth.) I missed the considerations of mortality and suffering, loneliness and decay. So I might not have been the most cheerful of children – I doubt I was the only one around who preferred moonlight to sunshine. Maybe we’re a different breed of people, the monster lovers. Perhaps we’re somehow innately perverse. Maybe we’re just braver.

“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.” ~ Werner Herzog

So many of us still yearn for things that cry on the moors. Such devotion. Over the years, how many other romances have endured this way? Not that we approved of them, all those bloodthirsty fiends, but we understood them. They were in us. Even as adults, we continue to adore our abominations, the cherished fears, the intimate horrors. Admit it. We need them, need our monsters. I believe it’s about control… or at least about the promise of control. The world can be a terrifying place. Complicated. Dangerous. And it only grows more so as our understanding of it deepens. Even now, isn’t it comforting to imagine that the forces of evil could be thwarted with a handful of wolfsbane? We require that illusion of safety. There is comfort in the thought. And we need comforting.

Never forget that personal demons may have as much to do with secret desires as with secret fears. All those things we’re not supposed to want…

“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.” ~ Francisco de Goya

So we cling to our phobic passions. Monolithic corporations may be bent on destroying the planet, but at least we know how to combat vampires and witches. Because we all need to believe that virtue can redeem us, that the world could be saved by courage and love. How else can we carry on?

There’s nothing radical in this: know the enemy constitutes ancient wisdom. Horror has always played a vital part in our inner lives, especially in that it enables us to explore the deepest and least understood parts of ourselves, a process Carl Jung referred to as “owning your shadow.” Such a delicious phrase. As though by assigning a name to the beast, we gain some measure of power over it.

“Where there is a monster, there is a miracle.” ~ Ogden Nash

This is what writers do. We create myths. We try to make sense of life (and death). We reassure. And legends give us strength, even new ones.

They were all new once.

Consider the classics of the genre. Doctor Frankenstein – the ultimate deadbeat dad – abandoned his noble yet inhuman creation, dooming it to darkness. The monster groped, lonely and unloved, struggling to find some light in its own soul. How many of us could relate too well? And Dracula – that corrupting foreign influence – had to be stopped at the border at all costs. Surely the women characters were better off beheaded than awakened to that hideous lust. (Or so the male characters believed.) Those are the two main icons of course: Frankenstein and Dracula. It’s difficult even to imagine books that have had as much impact on our culture. I sometimes think that what seethes in those novels is nothing less than all of life and history and philosophy. And, yes, a case could be made for including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which brings sociology and psychology into the mix.

It’s a rich brew, horror.

Here, let me fill your glass.

(Feel anything yet?)

So support your local monsters. They provide an important service. Who would we be without them?

Robert Dunbar is a playwright, has written for radio, television and theater and is the author of the novels The Pines, The Shore, Willy and Wood, as well as a short story collection Martyrs & Monsters. He is also the editor at Uninvited Books and has edited several classic collections. The most recent collection of classic short stories edited by him is Dark Forest (you can link on the book’s title or the cover above for more information about the collection.)

But most importantly, in his spare time he likes to imagine himself as a professional ice skater, or possibly a trainer of tarantulas for jungle pictures. You can find out more about him on his website and blog, Goodreads (as well as his wonderful and accessible group there – Literary Horror), Twitter and Facebook.

I’ve read three of Robert’s books, which says a lot. He writes tasteful horror that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a literary aspect to their scary reads. To see my reviews of each link on the book’s title below.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

Review by Shellie for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Shellie’s quick take:  A concise little novel with mystical and horror elements for the adult and older teen reader. It’s a perfect book for discussion since it’s layered as well.

Shellie’s description:  An Englishman relives a traumatic youthful event with dark fairytale-like happenings which have colored his memories and his life.

Shellie’s thoughts:  This is my second Neil Gaiman book. The first was The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Yoshitak Amano (text links to my review) and like the first book it has a distinct, clear and simply articulated style. I like this aspect of his writing - a lot.

It’s a great book for the Anglophile with its English setting, as the reader gets to take a trip down memory lane during a time in the not-so-distant past. There’s the sights, sounds, and tastes (yes tastes - Gaimen uses a variety of foods to illustrate the time) that many readers will love - those that have lived it and those who wish to visit it vicariously.

It has a touch of the mystical, which makes me wonder if Mr. Gaiman has been mining some of the more esoteric sciences and mysticism, since there appears to be a speckling of these ideas throughout the more mind-bending parts of the book. Certainly the disciplines contain elements that are conducive to transcending reality which this book of course does. Conversely, there is a firm grounding in a very relatable world at first, which helps to create my favorite kind of speculative story. It takes off from reality, moving into dark and weird territory which I find makes a book accessible.

There are lots of things that go into making a great book, and there are several things I loved about the trade paperback edition that I read. It contains some extras which make the book even nicer to read and handle - its cover; an informative interview with the author which includes a recipe for crepe-like pancakes with lemon and sugar on them; the copy has those lovely flaps on the front and back cover that you can use to mark your place; and best yet are the questions to consider when doing group discussions. The trade paperback is perfect for book groups. And because most book groups are generally women, elements in the story like the characters that represent women as the maiden, mother, and crone may facilitate more in-depth discussions.

Definitely, a dark book - it’s a book for adults that I think it would appeal to older teens. It’s one of my favorite books this year with so many of my favorite techniques and features; it’s a 4 star for me. Highly recommended.

William Morrow Paperbacks | 06/03/2014 | Paperback | Pages: 208


Monday, October 20, 2014

Excerpt: Sleep in Peace Tonight by James MacManus

Sleep in Peace Tonight - James MacManus

We have an excerpt for SLEEP IN PEACE TONIGHT by James MacManus.

It’s a historical romance set during WWII.

Chapter 1 Excerpt

In spite of the whisky and the long journey, Hopkins found sleep difficult that night. He had been shocked by the earsplitting cacophony of guns, bombs, and sirens during the raid. News reports from London all talked of civilian deaths, the destruction of homes, the plight of the homeless, food shortages, rationing, queues, but none mentioned the deafening nightly thunder of the Blitz. He wondered how anyone got any sleep.

The next morning, as his car drove down Park Lane to 10 Downing Street, he realized that sleep was probably a dimly remembered luxury for most Londoners. Despite the cold, he wound the window down and caught the acrid smell of smoke and burning. He saw pale faces pinched with cold waiting patiently at bus stops, trying to get to work. People stamped their feet and rubbed gloved hands against the cold, craning around the queue hoping to see their bus. Others gave up the wait and trudged past still- burning buildings, heads down, hands clasping handbags or briefcases, all wondering on that freezing morning whether there would be transport home that night. They looked exhausted, hollowed out, half people.

Red double- decker buses lumbered over still- smoldering rubble strewn across the roads, weaving past piles of shattered brick and occasional geysers of water as they went from bus stop to bus stop scooping up passengers from long, orderly queues.

As they passed Hyde Park Hopkins saw the antiaircraft crews cleaning and servicing the guns for the night ahead. Piles of expended shell cases were stacked neatly in brass pyramids under the plane trees. Elderly men and women walked dogs around the gun emplacements as if it were normal to find batteries of long- barreled 3.7- inch antiaircraft guns in the middle of a city park.

That’s the point, Hopkins realized. This is normal. The Blitz had been going on for four months. Twenty- eight thousand people had been killed in London alone and forty thousand homes destroyed, leaving almost half a million people displaced. And yet here on the streets on a bitter January morning people were queuing for the bus and trudging to work over the debris from the latest raid. The chargé d’affaires had been right. No one in Washington had any idea of what was happening in London.

Hopkins opened his briefcase and pulled out his letter of authorization from President Roosevelt:

Reposing special faith and confidence in you, I am asking you to proceed at your earliest convenience to Great Britain, there to act as my personal representative. I am also asking you to convey a communication in this sense to His Majesty George VI. You will of course communicate to this government any matters which may come to your attention in the performance of your mission which you may feel will serve the best interests of the United States.

With all best wishes for the success of your mission I am,

Sincerely yours

Franklin D. Roosevelt

SLEEP IN PEACE TO NIGHT. Copyright © 2014 by James MacManus. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

St. Martin's Press/ Thomas Dunne Books | October 2014 | Hardcover | 368 pages

About the book and the author:  It’s 1941 and a madman named Adolf Hitler is on a mission to invade Great Britain. The constant sound of bomb blasts followed by the stench of flaming homes and buildings are a part of everyday life in London during the Blitz. The threat that the Nazi’s next stop will be on American soil hangs in the sooty air.

SLEEP IN PEACE TONIGHT is author James MacManus’ newest historic novel set in war-torn London. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dispatches his most trusted advisor, a tall, gaunt man named Harry Hopkins, to London to meet with Winston Churchill. There, Hopkins must assess the growing crisis in Britain. The White House is conflicted and many of FDR’s advisors oppose America joining forces with Britain. During his many meetings with the Prime Minister, Hopkins is bombarded by Churchill’s dramatic rhetoric and constant drinking. Churchill knows the only way to save Britain is with help from the United States. During a dinner in Glasgow, Scotland Churchill implores Hopkins to tell FDR to “give us the tools and we will finish the job.”

In his latest novel, MacManus paints a stunning portrait of a battered London with larger-than-life personalities from history and a mysterious love interest that work together to change the course of history. During his travels in Great Britain, Hopkins is assigned a beautiful young driver named Leonora Finch. The two find consolation in each other’s arms from the threat of war. Hopkins falls deeply in love and the couple’s passion artfully unfolds on the pages. While in London, Harry and Leonora befriend veteran CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow who frequents a secret nightclub named the Black Cat Club that features an unusual mix of colorful characters.

As Harry and Lenora grow closer, she confides that she’s a member of a secret British spy agency. Leonora craves wartime action and will stop at nothing to prove she should be on the front lines, even if it means risking her life.

SLEEP IN PEACE TONIGHT takes readers on an exciting and heartbreaking adventure as they follow two star-crossed lovers on an epic journey. MacManus brings to life an expertly researched and tragic tale of courage, loyalty and passion and spotlights the sacrifices they make in the name of love and loyalty.

JAMES MACMANUS is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Ocean Devil, which was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. His other novels include The Language of the Sea and Black Venus.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Incoming Books: October 17, 2014

Proxima - Stephen Baxter

We have our incoming books feature for October 17, 2014.

Proxima by Stephen Baxter

Lauded as “the natural heir to the hard-sci-fi crown of Arthur C. Clarke” (The Daily Telegraph, UK), Stephen Baxter delivers an unforgettable novel of an extraordinary world—and its untamed landscape….

Mankind’s future in this galaxy could be all but infinite….

There are hundreds of billions of red dwarf stars, lasting trillions of years—and their planets can be habitable for humans. Such is the world of Proxima Centauri. And its promise could mean the never-ending existence of humanity.

But first it must be colonized, and no one wants to be a settler. There is no glamor that accompanies it, like being the first man on the moon, nor is there the ease of becoming a citizen of an already-tamed world. There is only hardship…loneliness…emptiness.
But that’s where Yuri comes in. Because sometimes exploration isn’t voluntary. It must be coerced….

ARC | 480  Pages | 4 Nov 2014 | NAL/Penguin | Adult

Empire of Dust - Jacey Bedford

Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford

Mega corporations, more powerful than any one planetary government, use their agents to race each other for resources across the galaxy. The agents, or psi-techs, are implanted with telepath technology. The psi-techs are bound to the mega-corps — that is, if they want to retain their sanity.

Cara Carlinni is an impossible thing – a runaway psi-tech. She knows Alphacorp can find its implant-augmented telepaths, anywhere, anytime, mind-to-mind. So even though it’s driving her half-crazy, she’s powered down and has been surviving on tranqs and willpower. So far, so good. It’s been almost a year, and her mind is still her own.

She’s on the run from Ari van Blaiden, a powerful executive, after discovering massive corruption in Alphacorp. Cara barely escapes his forces, yet again, on a backwater planet, and gets out just in time due to the help of straight-laced Ben Benjamin, a psi-tech Navigator for Alphacorp’s biggest company rival.

Cara and Ben struggle to survive a star-spanning manhunt, black-ops raids, and fleets of resource-hungry raiders. Betrayal follows betrayal, and friends become enemies. Suddenly the most important skill is knowing whom to trust.

Mass Market Paperback | 544  Pages | 4 Nov 2014 | DAW/Penguin | Adult

Starhawk - Jack McDevitt

Starhawk by Jack McDevitt

Priscilla Hutchins has been through many experiences. This is the story of her first unforgettable adventure…

Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins has finally completed a nerve-bending qualification flight for her pilot’s license. But faster-than-light travel is still a new reality, and the World Space Authority is still learning how to manage long-range missions safely. To make matters worse, efforts to prepare two planets for colonization are killing off native life-forms, outraging people on Earth.

With low demand for space pilots, Priscilla finds a job on the bridge of an interstellar ship, working for the corporation that is responsible for the terraforming. Her work conditions include bomb threats, sabotage, clashes with her employers—and a mission to a world, adrift between the stars, that harbors a life-form unlike anything humanity has ever seen…

Mass Market Paperback | 400  Pages | 28 Oct 2014 | Ace/Penguin | Adult

The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

Mass Market Paperback | 368  Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Ace/Penguin | Adult

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories - Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving

The timeless collection that introduced Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane, and the Headless Horseman.

Perhaps the marker of a true mythos is when the stories themselves overshadow their creator. Originally published under a pseudonym as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories gave America its own haunted mythology. This collection of larger-than-life tales contains Washington Irving’s best-known literary inventions—Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman, and Rip Van Winkle—that continue to capture our imaginations today.

Paperback | 400 Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Penguin Classics | Adult

The Penguin Book of Witches - ed. Katherine Howe

The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe

Chilling real-life accounts of witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America, compiled by the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and Conversion.

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

Paperback | 320 Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Penguin Classics | Adult

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

You can read my review for Bitter Greens by linking on this text.

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens...

After Margherita’s father steals parsley from the walled garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, he is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife relinquish their precious little girl. Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512 and still inspiring him at the time of his death. She is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition.

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

Award-winning author Kate Forsyth braids together the stories of Margherita, Selena, and Charlotte-Rose, the woman who penned Rapunzel as we now know it, to create what is a sumptuous historical novel, an enchanting fairy tale retelling, and a loving tribute to the imagination of one remarkable woman.

September 23, 2014 | Thomas Dunne Books for St. Martin’s Press | Hardcover | 496 pages

An Iranian Metamorphasis - Mana Neyestani

An Iranian Metamorphosis by Mana Neyestani

Can a cartoon cause riots? It seems unbelievable but for Mana Neyestani it's true. One of his cartoons sparked riots, shuttered the newspaper Neyestani worked for, and landed the cartoonist his editor in solitary confinement inside of Iran's notorious prison system. Mana Neyestani story, which can only be described as Kafkaesque, is vividly brought to life in An Iranian Metamophosis.

Mana Neyestani (born 1973, in Tehran) is an Iranian cartoonist and illustrator for economic, intellectual, political, cultural, and professional magazines. He is particularly known for his work for the newspaper Zan and Persian language Radio Zamaneh. He is the recipient of the Cartoonists Rights Network International award for courage in editorial cartooning, 2010. He now lives in France.

See excerpt on Words Without Borders.

Softcover | 200 pages | Uncivilized Books | October 2014

Chained by Night - Larissa Ione

Chained by Night (Book #2 of Moonbound Clan Vampires) by Larissa Ione

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Larissa Ione sets the night on fire with a thrilling new novel of irresistible hungers and immortal enemies in a world as sensual and dark as her Demonica series…


Leader of the vampire clan MoonBound, Hunter will do what he must to save his people from extinction—or worse, a torturous eternity as vampire slaves and subjects of human experimentation. To keep his enemies at bay, he has agreed to mate a rival clan leader’s daughter in return for peace between the clans and an ally in the looming war with the humans.


But survival comes at a price. First, Hunter must break an ancient curse by successfully negotiating three deadly tests. Then he must resist the searing passions of the gorgeous vampire warrior he despises but is bound to mate. Will Hunter stay true to his word? Or will he risk everything for the woman he really loves: the vampire seductress’s identical twin sister?

Pocket Books/ Simon & Schuster |  416 pages |  September 2014 | Mass Market Paperback

The Beauty - Aliya Whitely

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

Somewhere away from the cities and towns, a group of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their stories in the Valley of the Rocks. For when the women are all gone the rest of your life is all there is for everyone. The men are waiting to pass into the night.

The story shall be told to preserve the past. History has gone back to its aural roots and the power of words is strong. Meet Nate, the storyteller, and the new secrets he brings back from the woods. William rules the group with youth and strength, but how long can that last? And what about Uncle Ted, who spends so much time out in the woods?

Hear the tales, watch a myth be formed. For what can man hope to achieve in a world without women? When the past is only grief how long should you hold on to it? What secrets can the forest offer to change it all? 

Discover the Beauty.

ebook | August 1st 2014 | Unsung Stories | 104 pages

While the Gods Were Sleeping - Elizabeth Enslin

While the Gods Were Sleeping by Elizabeth Enslin

Love and marriage brought American anthropologist Elizabeth Enslin to a world she never planned to make her own: a life among Brahman in-laws in a remote village in the plains of Nepal. As she faced the challenges of married life, birth, and childrearing in a foreign culture, she discovered as much about human resilience, and the capacity for courage, as she did about herself.

While the Gods Were Sleeping: A Journey Through Love and Rebellion in Nepal tells a compelling story of a woman transformed in intimate and unexpected ways. Set against the backdrop of increasing political turmoil in Nepal, Enslin's story takes us deep into the lives of local women as they claim their rightful place in society -- and make their voices heard.

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to the Rural Health Education Service Trust (RHEST) for projects dedicated to improving women’s reproductive health in rural Nepal.

Seal Press | Paperback | 304 pages | September 23, 2014

Sleep in Peace Tonight - James MacManus

Sleep in Peace Tonight by James MacManus

It’s January 1941, and the Blitz is devastating England. Food supplies are low, Tube stations in London have become bomb shelters, and U-boats have hampered any hope of easy victory. Though the United States maintains its isolationist position, Churchill knows that England is finished without the aid of its powerful ally.

Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s most trusted adviser, is sent to London as his emissary, and there he falls under the spell of Churchill’s commanding rhetoric---and legendary drinking habits. As he experiences life in a country under attack, Hopkins questions the United States’ silence in the war. But back home FDR is paranoid about the isolationist lobby, and even Hopkins is having trouble convincing him to support the war.
As Hopkins grapples with his mission and personal loyalties, he also revels in secret clubs with newsman Edward R. Murrow and has an affair with his younger driver. Except Hopkins doesn’t know that his driver is a British intelligence agent. She craves wartime action and will go to any lengths to prove she should be on the front line. This is London under fire, and it’s only when the night descends and the bombs fall that people’s inner darkness comes to light.

In Sleep in Peace Tonight, a tale of courage, loyalty, and love, and the sacrifices one will make in the name of each, James MacManus brings to life not only Blitz-era London and the tortuous politics of the White House but also the poignant characters and personalities that shaped the course of world history.

St. Martin's Press/ Thomas Dunne Books | October 2014 | Hardcover | 368 pages

Shake - Eric Prum & Josh Williams

Shake by Eric Prum and Josh Williams

An artisinal cocktail book by two best friends and the entrepreneurs who invented the The Mason Shaker cocktail shaker and whose mission is to bring cocktail crafting out of the bar and into the home.

Design, cocktail, and culinary enthusiasts Eric Prum and Josh Williams realized that while cocktail bars have sprouted up just about everywhere, good drinks still couldn't be found in the one place where they always mixed them: at home with friends.

So, from their Brooklyn workshop, where they designed, created, and launched The Mason Shaker, a now-iconic invention that transformed a  Mason jar into a  cocktail shaker, they also created  Shake.  One part instructional recipe book and one part photo journey through their year of cocktail crafting, the book is a simple and inspirational expression of their seasonal, straightforward approach to drinks and entertaining: Mixing cocktails should be simple, social, and above all, fun.

Each recipe is presented visually, in four color photos, as well as in written recipes, making Shake both an arresting gift and a practical guidebook to simple, elegant cocktails.

July 08, 2014 | Pages: 168 | Trade Paperback | Random House

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Giveaway: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories - Washington Irving

Giveaway for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving. We have one copy for a US or Canadian address. And we also have The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop attached at the bottom for those of you interested in other bookish giveaway offers.

Although several of the stories within The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories are perfect for the season, many of the stories are not spooky at all but serve to offer glimpses into another time during the past.

Here’s the publisher’s description of this short story collection:

The timeless collection that introduced Rip Van Winkle, Ichabod Crane, and the Headless Horseman.

Perhaps the marker of a true mythos is when the stories themselves overshadow their creator. Originally published under a pseudonym as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories gave America its own haunted mythology. This collection of larger-than-life tales contains Washington Irving’s best-known literary inventions—Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman, and Rip Van Winkle—that continue to capture our imaginations today.

Paperback | 400  Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Penguin Classics | Adult


This giveaway is part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop which is hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer. At the end of this post you will find a link up of other blogs that you can visit to enter and win other bookish stuff.

Please be a follower/reader of this blog to enter the giveaway. See the ways you can follow below.

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Completely fill out the Google form to enter the contest:

Now for the other blogs offering bookish giveaways.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth

Review by Shellie for Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth.

Shellie’s quick take:  A wonderful women’s historical fiction story set in Renaissance Italy and France, layered with the fairytale of Rapunzel and a slight touch of dark magic.

Shellie’s description:  It’s France, June of 1666 (note all the 6’s) and Charlotte-Rose de la Force, an actual person and writer, has been banished from the court of King Louis XIV due to scandalous behavior. The king has forced her to live in a secluded convent where she serendipitously hears the story of Rapunzel from an old nun.

But it’s more complicated than that, with it’s layered and convoluted storylines. There are a bunch of things which add to its complexity - in front of each section are poems about Rapunzel written by other writers; the author has included operatic titles for each section of the book and the way the story builds has an operatic feel to it; and each of the key characters’ stories are told within the story of the others. Charlotte-Rose tells her story in first person, while Soeur Seraphina tells the fairytale to Charlotte-Rose, Margherita is the child that has been banished to a secluded tower, and Selena Leonelli (La Strega Bella) is the gorgeous witch. We get an involved tale about each of these key characters, all mixed up and blended together nicely.

Shellie’s thoughts:   Bitter Greens is well written and drew me in, with just enough historical details to give it depth and cultural context. And despite the complexity of the format for the story it is mostly easy to read and follow. I believe I was only confused once or twice when reading the trials of one of the many characters. I liked that the author takes the reader into 17th century France and 16th century Italy and that the character Charlotte-Rose was a real person. It was interesting to find out more about the court of King Louis XIV and the role that women played in society at the time. Also intriguing were the histories around the religious strife that occurred during his reign, as well as the complexities of Italian life and living in the time of the Black Death in Venice during the 1500’s.

Since I love to read and like the feel of real books, I want to mention that the lovely hardbound version of the book is easy to handle and well organized. It contains its operatic storyline sections listed in the first part of the book, there are also chapter titles and dates included for each of the sections, and poems are listed in front of the chapters. I liked that the chapters are typically short and that there are sometimes shorter sections broken down within the chapters, so that it is easy to dip in and out of the book. 

All in all a terrific book that will appeal to women readers who like fairytale retellings, enjoy a touch of the magical in their reads, like strong and dark female characters, and love historical fiction. It is definitely a woman’s book. I also loved how the story ended which, importantly for me, is not one of those fantastical happily-ever-after conclusions. 4.5 stars for this page turning historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. It was a complete pleasure to read.

September 23, 2014 | Thomas Dunne Books for St. Martin’s Press | Hardcover | 496 pages

HFVBT - Bitter Greens Tour

This review is part of a tour. You can link to our host’s website and the book’s tour page by linking on the above badge which will give you more links to other reviews and more for the book.

If you are interested in a little bit more information on the two key historical characters in this book, link on their names in the top paragraph to visit their Wikipedia pages.

Also we are hosting a giveaway for Bitter Greens. You can enter the contest by clicking on the previous text.

Giveaway: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens - Kate Forsyth

Giveaway for Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. We have one copy for a US address.

You can read my review for the fabulous Bitter Greens by linking on the book’s title.

Here’s the publisher’s description for the book:

The first known version of the Rapunzel fairy tale was ‘Petrosinella’ (‘Little Parsley’), by the Italian writer Giambattista Basile. Sixty-four years later, in 1698, it was retold under the name ‘Persinette’ by the French writer Charlotte-Rose de la Force, written while she was locked away in a nunnery as punishment for her scandalous life. Kate Forsyth’s spellbinding rendition, BITTER GREENS, pays long-overdue homage to this familiar fairy tale, masterfully uniting the true life story of de la Force with “palace intrigue, dark magic, romance, and lush, evocative descriptions,” thus rescuing de la Force from obscurity, illuminating the fairy tale and returning it to its original power.

Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King,
Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. She is comforted by an old nun, Soeur
Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her
parents for a handful of bitter greens…

After stealing from the garden of the courtesan Selena Leonelli, Alessandro is threatened with having both hands cut off, unless he and his wife give away their little girl, Margherita…
Selena is the famous red-haired muse of the artist Tiziano, first painted by him in 1512. Selena is at the center of Renaissance life in Venice, a world of beauty and danger, seduction and betrayal, love and superstition…

Locked away in a tower, Margherita sings in the hope that someone will hear her. One day, a young man does.

September 23, 2014 | Thomas Dunne Books for St. Martin’s Press | Hardcover | 496 pages

HFVBT - Bitter Greens Tour

This giveaway is part of a virtual tour. You can link to our host’s website and the book’s tour page by clicking on the above badge which will give you more links to other reviews and more for the book.

Kate Forsyth

KATE FORSYTH is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than twenty books, ranging from picture books to poetry to novels for both children and adults, including The Heart of Stars, The Forbidden Land, The Pool of Two Moons, and The Witches of Eileanan. She is the only author to win five Aurealis Awards in a single year and was recently voted one of Australia’s Favourite 25 Novelists. Her books have been published in 17 countries. She recently earned a doctorate in fairytale retellings at the University of Technology in Sydney. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

Author Website | Author Blog | Author Facebook | Author Twitter

To enter please fill out the Google form:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Favorite Weird West and Steampunk Books by R.S. Belcher

rsbelcher (2)

We have a guest-post by R.S. (Rod) Belcher today where he shares his favorite Weird West and Steampunk books.

And since his latest book is from this particular genre, perhaps readers would like to take a look at it. It’s The Shotgun Arcana - where we have a current giveaway on offer for the book (link on the previous text and it will tell you a bit more about this second stand-alone book in the series and you can enter the giveaway). In 2013 John also reviewed the first in the series, The Six-Gun Tarot (read his review by linking on the previous sentence).

In addition we have a previous guest-post where R.S. Belcher shares his thoughts on how and why he created the compelling setting that both The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana have in common (link on the previous text to read his previous post). Let’s welcome Rod!

It's good to be back! I love the wonderful folks at Layers of Thought. Thank you so much for letting me guest blog today. I'll try not to make a mess—but no promises!

My Golgotha novels (The Six-Gun Tarot and the recently released The Shotgun Arcana) are examples of the weird western genre. Weird westerns often “spoon” by the campfire with the steampunk genre since both play with similar eras in history and similar themes. Today Layers of Thought was kind enough to allow me to share some of my favorite Weird West and Steampunk books with you. Here are a few I would highly recommend.

The Shotgun Arcana - R.S. Belcher

1. Maplecroft by Cherie Priest: This new novel is not part of Priest's excellent, and very fun, Clockwork Century series (which I would also very much recommend) but it has historical murderess, Lizzie Bordon, battling against the creeping madness of Lovecraft's mythos. It was good, scary enjoyment.

2. The Thieftaker Chronicles by D.B. Jackson: David Coe, aka D.B. Jackson has created an alternate history of Boston on the eve of the Revolutionary War that feels wondrous and alien, with magic and supernatural doings - somewhat reminiscent to me of Howard's Solomon Kane, while still feeling like we are immersed in true American history. His protagonist, Ethan Kaille, is a remarkable heir and a fresh take on literary gumshoes. Go read these, you'll thank me for the heads-up.

3. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling: I think the steampunk movement owes a great deal to this novel. The plot is very similar to much of the cyberpunk work of Gibson and Sterling—a mysterious MacGuffin draws together desperate characters from many different socioeconomic strata, including street hustlers, criminals, mercenaries and intelligence operatives. It's all fresh though in a world where Babbage's Engine—the world's first historical computer—actually worked and the Information Age happened during the Industrial Revelation.

4. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris: A steampunk mash-up of the X-Files and the Avengers (John Steed, thank you, not the Incredible Hulk...), this series has action, romance, adventure, cheeky humor and very cool protagonists in Agents Braun and Books.

5. The Buntline Special by Mike Resnick: I loved Resnick's space opera western, Santiago (which is another great read that I highly suggest you hunt down and a great example of the western transplanted to very good effect into a different genre). This book is chock-full-o-weirdness— Edison and Ned Buntline as business partners, a tiny desert town full of horseless carriages, desperados and steampunk sex robots. High, weird fun!

6. Territory by Emma Bull: Emma Bull's tale of a mystic Tombstone and a battle between dark magicians set to the machinations of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Some of the period details are exquisite and gave a feeling of solid history married to the fantastic.

7. Joe Lansdale's Jonah Hex comics: Joe Lansdale is king of the weird western. From the freaky surreal Bubba-Ho-Tep novella that became the movie we all love, to my personal favorite novel, Deadman's Road, Lansdale has a mastered the gritty sensibilities of isolation and autonomy that make the western such a great fit for horror and dark fantasy. His work at DC Comics with the character of Jonah Hex, the quintessential weird western gunman, is great stuff! Most of his work with Hex is now in trade paperback graphic novels and I urge you to give them a read if weird western and horror are your cup of sarsaparilla.

R. S. (ROD) BELCHER is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor, reporter, and the author of the highly acclaimed The Six-Gun Tarot and the upcoming The Shotgun Arcana. He has been a freelance writer for over a decade, and has written for local, state and international publications.

Belcher has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book and game store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has done Masters work on a degree in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, as well as worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly’s State Crime Commission.

He was the Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Anthology contest. His short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 9 published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.

His story, “Hollow Moments” is featured in the horror anthology Deep Cuts published by Evil Jester Press in 2013.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review: Elisha Barber by E.C. Ambrose

Elisha Barber - E. C. Ambrose

Review by Shellie for Elisha Barber (Book 1 of The Dark Apostle) by E.C. Ambrose

Shellie’s quick take:  A very readable, thrilling, and lurid historical fantasy set in a dark, medieval world.

Shellie’s description:  Elisha Barber is the main character who carries the title of his profession as his last name. As the title suggest he’s a barber, which during medieval times was a pseudo-doctor of sorts. This immediately brings out horrific and cringe-inducing thoughts; and this book definitely delivers. It is of course gruesome work, but Elisha has the gift of a healer and is not as barbaric as some of the other “doctors” that he is forced to work among.

When the story begins Elisha attempts to assist with the birth of his brother's child. When a tragedy occurs he’s accused of murder and is faced with the choice of working as a surgeon in the King’s war or facing death. When he travels to the battle field, Elisha doesn’t realize that he has powers that are beyond his barbering skills.

Shellie’s thoughts:   First off this book is VERY dark and can be shocking. It has details that can be considered gruesome which may not be to the liking of some readers (so potential readers are forewarned). However, the details are often medical in nature and readers who enjoy medical thrillers may like the book. I definitely did. I was completely engrossed from the first pages till the end, and even more so since it felt like I was reading a guilty pleasure. I liked the author’s writing style with gory situations only adding to the intensity of the story for me.

As a historical fantasy there are of course historical details from the 1400s England where it’s set. So there is an authentic feel to the book, even though the language is modern. However, there is no basis of historical fact for the novel. I was actually a bit disappointed to find that none of the characters are based on real people from the past. There is also a strong romantic thread, but it is certainly not a romance. I did like this aspect of the novel since the romance is twisted, which is another plus for horror and dark fantasy lovers.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy medical thrillers, horror, and especially dark fantasy, since it appears that the fantastical element becomes stronger within the second book. It’s a 3-star rating for this debut novel – I liked it. The second book has already been released in hardcover with the title Elisha Magus. I will be reading it hoping for more of the pure escapist pleasure that this first book in the series delivered.

Mass Market Paperback | 400  Pages | 3 Jun 2014 | DAW

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Guest Post: Brandon Daily author of A Murder Country

Brandon Daily-Murder Country Author Pic

Brandon Daily’s debut novel A MURDER COUNTRY was recently published on September 9, 2014. Here he shares some of  his inspiration and in-depth insight into why he wrote this historical thriller.  Let’s welcome him!

Though my first novel, A Murder Country, is considered a thriller, I tend to think of the book as a philosophical examination of what makes us, as humans, do the things we do. I have always been fascinated by violence within the world: I don’t understand violence, nor do I understand what drives certain people to do violent things. My interest in violence and its effect on humans and society was given a direct focus when I was working on my Master’s Thesis in English Literature. In it, I examined Cormac McCarthy’s literature, studying morality and ethics within the narratives. The characters in McCarthy’s stories are all depraved people, and they give themselves over to a violence that seems more animal than human. That image of a man (or woman) who is broken down from a social individual to something animalistic and raw was and still is fascinating to me.

A Murder Country - Brandon Daily

I had just started writing the beginnings of a novel when I was researching for my thesis. I had the basic outline of the novel in my mind; it would be about a young boy who goes out to revenge the brutal murders of his parents. I wanted the story to take place in the “Western” time period because I loved the lawlessness of the landscape—the setting itself could play into the story as a character. However, the story I had outlined was nothing more than a tale with a standard “revenge-flick” plot. The boy would go out and join the murderer’s gang (in the early drafts, my murderer had a gang and killed only for profit—completely cliché, I know), he would befriend the murderer, and finally, after so much self-questioning, the boy would kill the murderer and ride off into the sunset (a la John Wayne in The Searchers), knowing that he had done the right thing for his parents. That he had avenged their deaths and become a man in the process. There’s no spoiler alert needed for that description because A Murder Country is a completely different story.

I realized, when I was writing down the outline for my novel, that there was something missing. I was recreating a story I had seen and read over and over before. And that was depressing. I wanted something new and fresh. I wanted something original that I could lay claim to, and so I stopped writing the novel and concentrated solely on my thesis. Yet, as I was finishing my thesis, I realized that what I was studying and writing about in McCarthy’s literature was exactly what was missing from my story—I needed to question the characters and have them question their world. What is it that makes someone seek revenge? Will vengeance truly set a person free and fulfill his/her wishes and desires. What does the act of violence do to a person? These questions, along with some of the big existential questions of life, began to swirl in my mind.

After I finished my thesis, I began working on the novel again. I changed the story around so that it was no longer just a standard revenge tale but was now an exploration of human desires and the violence that exists within the world. I used the characters to examine the questions I had of the world, and from them I was able to understand myself and, in a strange way, humanity and the primal violence that drives existence.

Now, with A Murder Country nearing publication, different people come up to me and ask about the novel. They ask what it’s about, and that is a hard question to answer truthfully. I would like to tell them that the book is about us, all of us; that it’s about our world and what drives humans to do the things they do. And all of that surrounds the primary story of a boy seeking vengeance. That boy’s story is simple and straight-forward; but that boy, like all of us, must grow up and face the realities of the world and the repercussions of his actions. It is a story about what it is to be human. A thriller simply because it reflects our world: one comprised of violence and unrest, of questions that have no answers.

Through my studies of literature and the act of writing A Murder Country, I came to understand that humans have the ability to be truly good in nature, but that being good requires a great amount of strength. It is my sincerest hope that we, as a united people group, have the ability to find that strength and make our world a better place. If not, then we will simply be left in a world where violence is the way of life. If not, then we will be left in a murder country.

Brandon Daily was born and raised in Southern California. In 2012, he and his wife moved to Central Georgia, where he now teaches high school English and Literature. He holds an M.A. in American Literature and has worked as an adjunct professor and freelance editor.

Brandon’s short fiction has been published in several online and print magazines, and his one act play “South of Salvation” was performed and won first prize in the CAST Players One Act Play Festival in 2012.

A Murder Country (Knox Robinson, 2014) is his first novel, and tells the story of three violent men living in the late nineteenth century; each man is seeking an understanding of his life and his place within the larger realm of the world. The novel is inspired by Brandon’s fascination with the tension between nature and man as well as the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans.

Brandon is currently working on his second novel and several more short stories.

About A MURDER COUNTRY:  The nineteenth century looms just a few years away, bringing with it the belief in progress and a new world. But for Josiah Fuller, William Corvin, and the Rider in the Appalachian backwoods and small towns of the late nineteenth century, there is nothing but a world where bloodshed is paid for in blood, and violence is the ultimate law of the land.

When seventeen-year-old Josiah Fuller comes home to find his parents hanged and mutilated and the family house burned to the ground, he sets off to find the man responsible for their murders and avenge their deaths. His journey takes him through new towns and wildernesses he has not seen before. He meets people who show him the realities of living in a violent world, forcing Josiah to decide what is most important to him: vengeance or grace.

Years after running away from home as a young boy, William Corvin returns with his new bride to take over the family's coal mining operation. Though he is haunted by the violence of his past, he sets out to live a peaceful life and start a family there. However, Corvin's hopes of peace are challenged when a horrible act of violence causes him to revert back to the man he once was.

After being visited by an angel in a dream years earlier, the Rider has become a man with violence in his blood, believing himself to be appointed by God to collect the souls of sinners. He travels around on his horse, killing whoever he feels is deserving of God's wrath and vengeance. These three men move along their own individual paths, their stories intersecting with one another, continually searching for an understanding of the violent world in which they live and their own actions within that world.

The novel examines the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans, showing how one small act often leads to consequences that reach far beyond anyone's imagining.

September 9, 2014 | 192 pages | Knox Robinson Publishing

Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer

Red Planet Blues - Robert J. Sawyer

Review by John for Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer.

John’s quick take:    Interesting mashup of classic science fiction and hard-boiled noir detective fiction.

John’s description:     New Klondike is a seedy frontier town on Mars that sprang up due to a flood of prospectors. But unlike the original Klondike, the prospectors were not looking for gold. In an age when anything can be synthesized back on Earth, the most valuable artifacts are original alien fossils. Forty years previously two adventurers found a treasure trove of them on Mars and so began the great Martian Fossil Rush. New Klondike became a magnet for adventurers, miners, treasure seekers, scam artists, dodgy businessmen, corrupt administrators and even a few academics. Then of course there are a growing number of transfers – immortal android bodies into which lucky or successful people have uploaded their minds.

Alex Lomax is the only private eye in New Klondike. The cops are mostly corrupt and not too interested in getting their hands dirty, so Lomax makes a living tracking down killers, thieves and kidnappers among the itinerants and rogues.

A transfer asks for Lomax’s help in finding her disappeared husband - and so begins a tale of deception, treachery, conniving and murder. Along the way Lomax discovers clues to the decades-old mystery of the location of the mother lode of Martian fossils, but others are desperately seeking the same treasure and will stop at nothing to find it first.

John’s thoughts:   This was a neat idea and made for a good read. While I’m a huge fan of science fiction, noir most often leaves me a little cold, so this wasn’t necessarily a marriage made in heaven for me. But Sawyer has become a go-to author for me when I want to read something that I’m pretty much guaranteed to like – and indeed I found this story easy and quick to read and there were plenty of plot twists to keep me interested. I also loved the premise of Martian fossils being the cause of a new “gold” rush.

Not surprisingly the bits which didn’t gel quite as much for me were the noir elements and the hard-boiled detective. Stylistically it just feels like I’ve been there before - even though in this case it was transplanted to Mars and embedded in a cool plot. And as with much noir, many of the main characters don’t seem to resonate with me. So overall I did enjoy the read but it didn’t quite grab me like Sawyer’s books usually do.

I’d rate this 3.5 stars and recommend this to fans of Sawyer, those who like noir and those who like experimenting with a mixture of styles.

Mass Market Paperback | 352 pages | 25 Mar 2014 | Ace

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