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Blog Tour, Excerpt, and Review: Grimm Woods

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Blurbgrimm

A remote summer camp becomes a lurid crime scene when the bodies of two teenagers are found in a bloody, real-life rendering of a classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Trapped in the wilderness, the remaining counsellors must follow a trail of dark children’s fables in order to outwit a psychopath and save the dwindling survivors before falling prey to their own gruesome endings.

Drawing on the grisly, uncensored details of history’s most famous fairy tales, Grimm Woods is a heart-pounding thriller about a deranged killer who uses traditional children’s stories as tropes in elaborate murders. Set against the backdrop of modern-day Michigan, it’s a journey through the mind of a dangerous zealot and a shocking glimpse into the bedtime stories you thought you knew.

 

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Exclusive to AMAZON

 

About D. Melhoff

D. Melhoff was born in a prairie ghost town that few people have heard of and

even fewer have visited. While most of his stories are for adults, he also enjoys terrifying younger audiences from time to time, as seen in his series of twisted picture books for children. He credits King, Poe, Hitchcock, Harris, Stoker, and his second grade school teacher, Mrs. Lake, for turning him to horror. For more information, visit grimmwoods.com.

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Follow the Grimm Woods tour HERE

Excerpt:

July 7th, 5:44 a.m.

One hacksaw. One hammer, six boxes of nails. Twelve Mason jars, four hunting knives, two pairs of handcuffs. Fifteen gallons of gasoline divided evenly among three dented jerry cans.

It’s time.

A work glove hovered over the table where the objects were laid out side by side and began ticking the air as though marking off an invisible checklist. The chamber reeked of mildew, and the walls had no windows or electrical sockets—no lamps, no wires, no switch covers. A single red candle provided the only light, its crimson wax dripping down its shaft like blood.

The hand picked up a piece of paper from the table and slipped it into a blank envelope. Below, a beetle scuttled across the floorboards. The insect—its gangly antennae tuned to some foul frequency in the gloom—raced past the sole

of a giant boot just as a drop of liquid fell through the air and struck it dead center, engulfing its body in a hot, gelatinous blob that filled its orifices and burned it from the inside out. Another droplet tumbled from the candle, plopping onto the envelope this time, and then a brass stamp came down and pressed the wax into a hardened seal.

Drawing in heavier, raspier breaths, the figure held the envelope up to a corkboard that was bolted to the wall. More than a dozen pictures of young men and women were tacked to the panel by their throats and foreheads, smiling in the shadows.

The figure pinned the envelope to the board and stepped back to take in the room again.

The table and the switchblade.

The book of matches.

The iron rods, the hatchet, the .22 Smith & Wesson.

The smiling faces.

Now, the figure mused, watching the photographs flicker in the bloodred light. Who’s the nicest, who’s the worst, who wants to hear a story first?


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4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: well-rounded, complex, shady snark characters; SO MUCH BLOOD AND GORE I loved it!; horror that was actually horrifying; mix in a side of fairy tales for an interesting, unique tale; plot-focused novel that still manages to round out everything else; this read was intense!

Huge thanks to D. Melhoff, Bellwoods Publishing, and Worldwind Virtual Book Tours for sending me a free ecopy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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OH. MY. PENGUINS. If you’d told me, last week, that I’d be reading a book that mixed horror and fairy tales into one gruesome mess–and done so in an entertaining and awesome way–I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I’ve read a few books pegged as “horror” recently and overall been vastly disappointed, so when I picked up this book, I didn’t let my hopes get TOO high. But GOOOOOODNESS, I underestimated this read!

So let’s talk plot first this time, because oh my, this book is TOTALLY plot-centric and I absolutely adooooored that! It’s not often you find a book that’s focused on plot yet still manages to implement and introduce complex, well-rounded, awesome characters…but this book?! This book manages to make everything seamless. The plot is action-packed and SUPER intense, to boot. Like seriously, penguins–I was clenching my fists, sitting on the edge of my seat, terrified about what was still to come. And that doesn’t happen to me often these days–usually I can see where things are going and puzzle out what the major “plot twists” are. D. Melhoff? You caught me totally by surprise, SEVERAL times, and I love that you did!

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Like I said, these characters are well-rounded and complex. I really enjoyed that we also get different varying perspectives from them (the better to watch you DIE, my dear!) It brought a fun and unique twist to the story, and helped to keep the air of mystery and drama at SUPER INTENSE instead of just chugging along like some other horror novels I’ve read. I really enjoyed the way this comes full-circle in a sense, too–and that ending! That ending will just…gah. It’s bound to haunt me, just as I’m sure it’s bound to haunt that specific character. GAAAAH! GAH! I need more horror novels like THIS, okay?! So…someone recommend me some maybe?

In the end, this was a super entertaining, gruesome, intensely satisfying read and I cannot wait to see what D. Melhoff does in the future! The plot is action-packed and blood-soaked, the characters are like balls of shady snark, and the read was SO so worth it! I recommend this to lovers of horror, murder mysteries, and varying points of view. If characters actually bled, this book would be dripping red–be sure to wear an apron while reading, and remember, even fairy tales have a dark side.

Tour Brought to You By:

Worldwind Virtual Book Tours

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8

Blog Tour, Press Release, Spotlight and Review: Smoke Sky

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The DARK SKY Series:

Amber Sky (#0.25) — See my review HERE!
Smoke Sky (#0.5) — Review to follow below
Crimson Sky (#1) — See my review HERE!
Midnight Sky (#2) — See my review HERE!


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SMOKE SKY is the second prequel novella preceding the adventurous steampunk horror tale CRIMSON SKY and centering around a young thief named Gemma––not yet a member of the Dauntless Wanderer crew––as she was forced to choose between freedom from a twisted family, and forsaking the only people who have ever shown her kindness…

Buy it here:
Kindle | Kobo | Smashwords | Goodreads

To survive in a horrific world overseen by bloodthirsty monsters, young thief Gemma will do whatever she must to see another day. Even though that means working for a damaged man convinced to make her a permanent member of this thuggish family.

So when her employer tells her that he’ll release her from his clutches, Gemma is obviously skeptical. Especially since the job is easy enough– recruit the two marauders that the gang has been spying on to take her place.

But as Gemma lies to Nash and Sawyer, she commits the greatest mistake a spy can make–– she begins to see them as friends, and perhaps more. Soon, she will have to choose: Sacrifice two strangers to ensure freedom from a brutal future, or risk her life
to save them…

Set two years before the events of CRIMSON SKY, this prequel novella tells the story of how Gemma met Nash and Sawyer, and what prompted her to chose their safety over her own. While best enjoyed before reading CRIMSON SKY, this bonus story can be read at any time or enjoyed as a standalone.

Press Release:

SMOKE SKY is set two years before the first novel in the DARK SKY series, CRIMSON SKY, and takes place shortly after Captain Sawyer Kendric and his first mate Nash meet AMBER SKY. The story is told from the perspective of Gemma, the future master gunner and rigger of the Dauntless Wanderer. Before she became a marauder, Gemma was a thief working for a sadistic and morally damaged man named Fletcher, who formed a “family” with three young men named Boyd, Tyler, and Morris. She longs to escape their horrible plans for her future, but to do so, she must take one last job: Trade her life for the lives of two young marauders named Sawyer and Nash to take her place in their family. But when
Gemma integrates with them, she realizes they are good men and develops strong feelings for them, especially charming, kind-hearted Nash. Soon she is torn between sacrificing her freedom, and her morals and sanity.

Of all the novellas I’ve written to date, Smoke Sky is one of my favorites. Gemma and Nash have a relationship that I love––they are two characters who could hardly be more opposite, but who fit together so beautifully––and I couldn’t let their story go untold. This is likely the most romantic story in the Dark Sky series and features one of my favorite romance moments, so I hope a lot of readers enjoy it.

Gemma’s past is hinted at in Crimson Sky when Gemma has a conversation with the main series heroine, Claire Abernathy, but at the time, it was something I just threw in there for context. I didn’t really plan anything beyond moving Crimson Sky forward. But when I decided I wanted to do some novellas, I thought it would only make sense to go back to that moment when she was explaining pieces of her past to Claire, and extrapolate from there.

I started Smoke Sky shortly after completing its predecessor, Amber Sky. Because it’s so short, less than 40,000 words, I decided to write it as an ebook only, though it will be included in the Dark Sky Box Set releasing in April 2017. The whole story was a lot of fun to write, but I have to say that my favorite part was building the relationship between Gemma and Nash. Their personalities are so contrasting––she’s brash and fiery, he’s gentler and relaxed––that it was fun just to have them flirt and grow close to each other, while Sawyer grudgingly accepts that he enjoys the challenge of her company, as she’s not afraid to challenge him.

After hard weeks of writing, editing, and gushing over the cover created by Deranged Doctor Design, I worked on setting up my own promotions with Google Forms and contacted book reviewers, bloggers, and bookstagrammers who have helped me with previous releases. They are all fantastic, friendly, wonderful people, and if they’re taking the time to read this, know that I appreciate all your hard work more than I can say.

Though I’m very happy to have the release of Smoke Sky––one of my favorite written novellas to date–– out in the world, I’m eager to get back to working on the final novel in the Dark Sky series, Obsidian Sky. I love hearing feedback from everyone I work with (I really couldn’t have done it without you) and everyone I share my books with, and would love to hear thoughts on this novella and upcoming work.


Q & A: Amy Braun and Smoke Sky– MINOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Q: What inspired you to write Smoke Sky and two prequel novellas?
A: Gemma is one of those characters who you know has a story to tell as soon as you meet her in Crimson Sky. What pushed her to become a thief? Why is she so fiercely attached to Nash? Is it just her personality that causes her to clash with Sawyer more often than not? I love Gemma––she’s exactly the kind of heroine I like reading about and after mentioning a snippet of her story in Crimson Sky, I knew I had to find out more about her. As with Nash, I wanted to tell her story and learn more about the world of Westraven and Aon. I just had no idea that there would be so much to tell!

Q: Why did you choose to tell the story from Gemma’s perspective?
A: For a thief, Gemma is a noticeable character. She’s not quiet and not afraid to speak her mind to anyone challenging her––including her captain. Since I love writing characters who snark and question authority as much as they breathe, it was really a no-brainer to tell the story in her own sarcastic, quickwitted words. Plus, delving into the true depth of the emotions she feels for Nash, feelings she never considered she might have, add another layer to her character and give her an almost vulnerable appeal, something Gemma would never let show if she could avoid it.

Q: Which was more challenging to write: Amber Sky or Smoke Sky?
A: Both of them had their challenges, but if I had to choose, I would say Smoke Sky was harder. There were more settings to construct, a more complex challenge for the characters to overcome, and more world building to do. I also had to answer certain questions about the Dauntless Wanderer and how it was able to be transported to its final location, which was no easy feat. But I also think that because of those challenges the story is stronger. Don’t get me wrong––I love and am very proud of Amber Sky, but there’s more going on in Smoke Sky and that makes it engaging and exciting.

Q: Gemma’s relationship with Nash and Sawyer are vastly different. Which did you enjoy writing more?
A: While I had a great time pitting Gemma against Sawyer and loved writing their barbs and teasing, I liked writing the moments between Gemma and Nash more. I’m a sucker for sweet romances, and Nash is nothing if not a teddy bear. Considering I wanted to tie in events from Amber Sky with Smoke Sky, I thought their scenes flowed wonderfully. Nash is smitten early on but Gemma is a little more hesitant, and watching her test those barriers between them was amazing. There is one particular scene in the middle of the novella that I’m very proud of and sums up their relationship tenderly and beautifully, so I look forward to hearing feedback from readers and reviewers on it.

Q: What can you tell us about the final novel in the Dark Sky series?
A: Obsidian Sky will be the last of the last in the Dark Sky books. I’m currently editing it, and it will be slated for release on February 7, 2017, with a cover reveal happening January 2. The story is told from both Sawyer and Claire’s perspectives, will be full of action, and will vastly expand the world by going way beyond the borders of Westraven. I have some surprises and a lot of excitement planned for this final book, and couldn’t be more excited to share it. I’ll be doing a lot of promotions around social media and my website, but newsletter subscribers will get first peeks at the cover and notifications on the big giveaway I’ll be doing. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

Amy BraunAmy is a Canadian urban fantasy and horror author. Her work revolves around monsters, magic, mythology, and mayhem. She started writing in her early teens, and never stopped. She loves building unique worlds filled with fun characters and intense action. She is the recipient of April Moon Books Editor Award for “author voice, world-building and general bad-assery,” and the One Book Two Standout Award in 2015 for her Cursed trilogy. She has been featured on various author blogs and publishing websites, and is an active member of the Writing GIAM and Weekend Writing Warrior communities. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, watching movies, taking photos, gaming, and struggling with chocoholism and ice cream addiction.

Her short stories published by independent houses like Mocha Memoirs Press and April Moon Books, and she has independently published a collection of standalone and series novels including Storm Born, Path of the Horseman, and the Cursed and Dark Sky series. Many of her short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Amok!, Avast, Ye Airships!, and That Hoodoo, Voodoo, That You Do, and Stomping Grounds.

More From Amy Braun
CURSED
DEMON’S DAUGHTER | DARK DIVINITY | DAMNATION’S DOOR | TRILOGY BOX SET

DARK SKY
CRIMSON SKY | MIDNIGHT SKY | AMBER SKY

ENGINEERED DECEIT (In GHOSTS GEARS
AND GRIMOIRES)

STANDALONE NOVELS AND NOVELLAS
STORM BORN
PATH OF THE HORSEMAN
NEEDFIRE

Social Media Links
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon


bookreview

4Penguins
Quick Reasons: awesome action/adventure; Gemma is so snarky and strong-willed, I adore her; YAY to the Sawyer and Nash I fell in love with in Crimson Sky; fast-paced, quick read that starts you off in the middle of the action; I really enjoyed this novella

Huge thanks to Amy Braun for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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So I’m sure you all remember, I read a different novella from this world– Amber Sky –several months back, and felt overall disappointed in it. I am super excited to say, THIS novella?! set me back on track with this world, and made me fall back in love with Amy Braun.

These are much closer to the characters I grew to know and fall in love with in the two full novels in this series so far. In fact, this novella helped me fall back in love with Nash and Sawyer–their snark, their gentle caring, pretty much their everything shines through so beautifully in this read. Gemma, also, came to life for me–her snark and strong-willed character permeated every page. I really enjoyed watching her react to and change from the shift in the people she surrounded herself with. She makes some admittedly poor decisions…but she carries herself with such sass and strength, I found myself giggling through several very tense moments. Her inner voice is unique and well-crafted; I felt like I was literally seeing through her eyes.

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The plot is fast-paced and full of action and adventure. There are plenty of fight scenes, heart-pounding moments, and Hellion battles. While there are still missing words, missing letters, and weirdly written sentences, I was so captivated by the story being woven around me that I was able to ignore the majority of these–they in no way hindered or slowed my reading progress. Amy Braun knows how to write detailed, finely-oiled action…and she did beautifully in this novella, holding me hostage until the very end. While this IS part of a larger arc, this can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone–so if you’re not sure you’re ready to commit to such a wide-arcing story, maybe consider picking this up and getting a taste of the world first?

I am LOVING this series, and cannot wait for the third full-length novel to be released. I mean, it helps that these covers are SO super stunning–the steampunk theme is carried into the world-building. And who could possibly say no to pirates vs. vampires?! That’s such a tempting pairing, I can’t imagine any reader who’d snub their noses at these reads. I definitely recommend to lovers of science fiction/fantasy, steampunk, and creeptastic vampire/mosquito hybrids. Trust me–these books are a blast!

1

The Spot on the Wall: There’s Nothing “Sexy” About these Sex Scenes

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The spot on the Wall

A UNIQUE erotic paranormal horror story which centers on Ron, whose sexual obsession with Laura leads him to murder the recluse owner of the house she HAS to have. After Ron secretly hides the corpse in the cellar, the couple moves in. In time, however, a strange spot begins appearing on their dining room wall.

Horror/Paranormal/Erotica
338 Pages
What-If Productions
Publication Date: August 15th, 2016
Get a copy here!

2.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: there wasn’t anything horrifying about this read; I really disliked the amount of graphic, detailed sex fantasies we got from Ron’s POV; I wouldn’t even call this an “erotic” read, there was nothing sexy about it; an interesting look into obsession and the ways it changes us; random ghosts?

Huge thanks to Rob Santana, What-If Productions, and the crew at Booktasters for sending me a copy of this title free in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

It is safe to say I did not particularly enjoy or appreciate this book, for several huge reasons. So let’s start at the beginning. I found the look into obsession and greed, and the ways these things change us or alter our behavior toward others, interesting and thought-provoking. When I first picked up this book, I was SUPER intrigued–I was excited about the idea of an erotic horror story and kept having flashbacks to that scene in American Horror Story: Murder House. If you’ve seen the show, I’m sure you know which scene I’m talking about–it involves a rubber suit? This was not at all what I got from this book, though.

For one….nothing about this book horrified me. I was hoping for fear. I was hoping this book would give me nightmares. I was HOPING I’d be kept awake at night, searching the shadows, fearing the things that go “bump.” None of this happened. Even the scenes that should have been scary, fell flat–and I’m not sure if that’s because of my personal dislike for the book, or the way the scenes were written.

Ron stood up and approached the smudge. Without disturbing Helena, he reached for a hand towel, then dabbed at the spot.

It was gone.

Just a normal, everyday blemish.

I don’t feel like the characters went through much personal growth or discovery. Ron, throughout the read, remains a whiny, sex-crazed guy. Seriously, the dude thought of literally NOTHING ELSE–every other page was smeared with graphic, detailed sex fantasies. He was judgmental, insulting, and obsessive. All of these things, while perhaps calling for an interesting character….put me off. The rest of the characters were just as 1-dimensional; I couldn’t–and didn’t really want to–connect with any of them. Which is depressing, as it made for a very long, very frustrating read.

There were a few moments at the beginning that piqued my interest enough to keep me reading, but…this quickly devolved into the rambling thoughts of a man obsessed with sex and intent on doing ANYTHING to get it. Ron claims to “love” Laura throughout….but when presented with other opportunities to find pleasure in other women, suddenly it’s all “No, I don’t think she really cares for me, what would it matter if I cheated?” Had this been written in a different manner…with less emphasis on sex/the “erotic”…it might have been scary. It might have been more entertaining. I might have actually enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, with everything I detailed above, this just wasn’t the right fit for me personally. While I don’t mind sex in my books, I want there to be an actual plot outside of the bedroom–and while there IS a plot going on here, it’s muddled. It gets lost in Ron’s obsession. I think the emphasis might have been better had it lied upon the ghost story, and not the erotic. Still, the small insight into obsession and greed–and the ways they warp and change us–was interesting. I’m disappointed…but maybe you’ll like this book better than I did. Just because I’m disappointed, doesn’t mean YOU will be–so if you think it sounds interesting, pick it up!

4

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Darkly Haunting, Wildly Abstract

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

Fantasy/Horror/Magical Realism
178 Pages
William Morrow Books
Publication Date: June 18th, 2013
Get a copy here!

4.25Penguins
Quick Reasons: Doctor Who meets Stephen King; this book is SO abstract and poetic and gorgeous; disturbing and beautifully haunting in a way only Neil Gaiman can manage; a complex, well-rounded examination of childhood, stories, and the truth about truths

I honestly don’t know why it took me SO LONG to crack this book open, penguins. I really have no excuse, and will therefore not attempt to make or fabricate any. This book has, at the end of it all, created something akin to what might happen if Doctor Who met Stephen King in a dark alleyway after midnight. Neil Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, and this is a poignant, heart-wrenching examination of the ways childhood shapes us all.

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The characters are, as one should ALWAYS expect from the imagination of Neil Gaiman, both enchantingly vibrant and disturbingly horrific in turn. The poetic, lyrical prose is also haunting and creeptastic–both enthralling readers, and still pushing them away. I particularly loved the relationships born between Lettie, her grandparents, and our main character–they were so intricate, and hinged on something deeper than affection–something I couldn’t put a name to even if I tried.

Also, the main character? It wasn’t until just now, as I was attempting to write my review, that I realized we never ONCE are given a name for him. The book is written in first person POV (his POV, in point of fact)…and the rest of the world only ever refers to him as “him” or “he” or “the boy”…or some such other vague descriptor. AND OH MY PENGUINS, guys, I’m pretty sure I now understand exactly why this is, but Neil Gaiman is such a sly genius, I read the entire book before I even realized, before I even put it together. GAH! Neil Gaiman, you are just… you astound me. Sorry, I know that’s so super vague, but MAJOR spoilers afoot there–I can’t tell you, don’t even think to ask!

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Okay, okay. So moving right along. The prose is gorgeous–haunting, lyrical, with just a hint of something dark and otherworldly creeping through. (What is it with me and dark books lately, guys? I sense a growing trend here…) The plot itself is pretty abstract, though–sometimes the descriptions are vague and slip through your fingers like silk, other times they creep up on you only to tackle you HARD.

But it’s the subject matter that hits hardest, for me at least. There’s a poignant, startling examination of childhood going on throughout this book–a deeper look at the ways our experiences shape us, mold us, haunt us throughout our years. The question of, “who am I, and whose fault is it?” pervades the entirety of this journey. There’s also an experimentation with memories–how they change in time, how they shift and fade and rearrange–that had me pondering my own memories, looking back on them in reflection. This book makes you think, abstract as it is at times. This book makes you reexamine everything you think you know about yourself.

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This is a haunting, abstract read, and I am SO glad I finally found the time to pick it up. Neil Gaiman is a sly literary genius; this book took me places I wasn’t expecting, and had me questioning myself throughout the entire journey. I definitely recommend to lovers of lyrical prose, darkly abstract journeys, and close examinations of human nature/the human psyche. This may be my favorite Neil Gaiman book so far!

4

Rise of the Chosen: A Fresh, Inventive Take on “Zombie”

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Rise of the Chosen (Lifeblood, #1)

In Sam’s world there are two rules. Rule #1: Nobody dies. Protect the living at all costs. Rule #2: Everybody dies. At least once.

The Waking was a global event in which a force called the Lifeblood invaded all humans who died. The few strong enough to control it came back as powerful immortals. The rest let the bloodlust take over and awoke with one goal – to kill.

Newly appointed Watch Guard Samantha Shields has a legacy to uphold. Her father died a hero defending their city and now she wants to follow in his footsteps. Except for the dying part, of course. Unfortunately, fate has other plans as she discovers deep dark secrets that make her choose between her loyalties and the lives of everyone in her city. Both rules are in play as Sam is forced to make hard decisions that could cost her everything – including the person she cares about most.

Lifeblood #1
YA/Horror/Science Fiction
210 Pages
Blue Moon Publishers
Expected Publication Date: October 4th, 2016
Get a copy here!

4Penguins

Quick Reasons: zombies with a twist and a few new names; great dystopian setting/world-building; a few weird/awkward character motivations/plot holes; special snowflake in our MC, Sam; unique and inventive take on the “undead”; a promising start to a new series!

Huge thanks to Anna Kopp, Blue Moon Publishers, and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Going into this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m sure you know how it is with zombie lore these days: the undead are everywhere, which means the same tired cliches are revisited again and again and again. You can never be sure, when picking up a new book, if you’ll be getting something unique…or just more of the same. Imagine my surprised delight when, from the very first page, this book let me know in no uncertain terms it was breaking away from cliche and striking out on its own! It’s possible I celebrated with some awkward wing flapping and penguin-toed shuffling. I mean, do you blame me?!

Of course, the world-building isn’t completely perfect. There are some missing plot points that, while not fundamental to my grasp or enjoyment of the novel, I find myself now wishing I had answers for. For instance: why are certain of the Chosen also granted special extra abilities? Is this a random occurrence or something else? Why are some people “Chosen” and some “Woken”? (I understand a lot of this comes down to the internal struggle of the one being changed, but is that ALL it is–the choice of whether to fight or die?)

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Some of the character motivations seemed a little wishy-washy and questionable to me in the grand scheme of things. David, for instance, seems almost immediately drawn to Sam…and cares more for her quicker than makes sense realistically. Sam also has some weird emotional motivation shifts, especially in regard to her father. Overall, though, the characters are well-developed and nicely rounded out. I particularly adored the relationship between Sam and Lena–it was cute and endearing, though I’m a bit nervous how it’ll play out in the coming sequels.

I had a ton of fun exploring this world! The prose is fast-paced and action-packed, sure to keep even the most bloodthirsty readers engaged and entertained. The twist on zombies was refreshing and inventive, and the characters are vibrant and well-rounded. I recommend this to lovers of dystopians, zombie apocalypses, and creative plots. I can’t wait to see where the next book leads–I’m SUPER intrigued!

1

The Grove: Can We Just Talk About that Ending for a Second?!

The Grove

Book #1
340 Pages

Paranormal/Fantasy
ZB Publications
Publication Date: July 12th, 2016
Get a copy here!

 

Sitka’s Quay appears to be like every other coastal tourist town on Highway 101, but lurking below its southern grove of ancient spruce are three sleeping primordial gods. For an eon, their bloodthirsty dreams have radiated into the ground and restore anyone who walks within the Grove. The Keeper, Dayla Fischer, must remain in control of her magical abilities or fall into sickening madness, but lives a relatively quiet life with her husband, Oliver.

That is, until the delusional, but charming Jonah Leifson comes to town with a plan to awaken the Three. Soon, children begin disappearing. With powerful suggestion spells and mind reading abilities, Jonah wins over other sorcerers, meth users, the police, and eventually even her husband. Though no one believes her and she doubts her own sanity, she must stop Jonah, before he wakes the Three and brings about the end of the world.

3.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: marked as ‘horror’ but I wasn’t really horrified at any point; interesting look into manipulation and emotional abuse; great world-building; the implementation of magic in this world was creative and well-done; I don’t generally like witches/sorcerers in books…but this one was imaginative and, while not horrifying, at least somewhat creepy; just a little bit of a dragging plot

HUGE thank you to Elizabeth Guizzetti and ZB Publications for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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This was, overall, an interesting–if slightly dragging–read. I felt, at moments, that the writing was so inundated with descriptors and abstract language, it became a bit difficult to track the actual action. Several times I found myself simply skimming paragraphs I didn’t feel were important to the plot, and having to go back to read them over again when I realized I’d missed an important detail in the blather. This, fortunately, didn’t happen often, and while the plot dragged in a few crucial instances, I was intrigued and enthralled regardless.

 

I don’t, however, know if I necessarily felt scared by this read. I’m not one for books about witches or sorcerers–I blame this entirely on my love for the world of Harry Potter, honestly. Nothing else ever QUITE matches up, I guess. I mean, how could anything be expected to?! BUT–I went into this book hoping to be scared out of my skull. The blurb sounded promising. I got a sort of Sinner feel almost immediately, despite the difference in worlds and premise. But…instead, I was sort of let down. There were a few cringe-worthy, creeptastic moments…but overall, the plot felt a bit 1-dimensional and unchallenged.

I really enjoyed how Elizabeth Guizzetti experimented with manipulation and emotional “abuse” in this novel (abuse in quotations because it’s not QUITE the right word for what happens throughout this read). Jonah is a very driven, obsessive character on a dark mission. I got a few “Voldemort and the Horcruxes” feel throughout, especially given the fact Jonah essentially split himself (and another character, later on) into two separate entities. The rest of the characters also go through their own transformations, psychotic breaks, and intriguing struggles. The fact that Jonah uses manipulation to break and mold the ENTIRE town (save, of course, our “heroine”) made this an even better descent into pure chaos and insanity. No character was overlooked or cast aside–every single person who came into contact with Jonah and his plight, was touched and changed irreversibly. This was both well-done and supremely creepy.

 

And that ending! The ending is probably the most horrifying part of the entire read–and I mean the ACTUAL ending, not the few pages prior to it. There’s a huge plot twist within the very last few sentences that entirely changed my ideas on the Gods portrayed in this read…and took me by complete surprise. Of course, this also means the ending is basically a huge cliffhanger…but honestly, I don’t feel as if I was let down by this in any way. After all, the big “story” for this first novel was completed and put to bed… The cliffhanger is, effectively, just leading readers into the next big story line.

 

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While I was slightly disappointed overall by the lack of horror in this read (at least, for me personally–it might be scary to others, even if it wasn’t for me!), I had a great time learning about this world and the way magic works within it. The plot does drag in a few moments, and some of the prose gets a bit tedious with descriptors and abstract language… but overall, this was an entertaining and creepy look into magic and manipulation. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for book two in the future–I can’t wait to see what the big cliffhanger at the end means for our characters! I recommend this to lovers of obsessive characters, magical realism, and creepy villains!

10

A Review of Flawed, by Cecelia Ahern

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The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent in this thoughtful and thrilling novel by bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.

She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything.

– – – – –
4.75 Stars
Quick Reasons: heavy, hard-hitting story; (mostly) redeemable, engaging characters…except that one villain guy, who’s another President Snow in the making; realistic, terrifying dystopian; well-written, heart-wrenching prose; this entire story is FEELS from start to finish

Huge thanks to Cecelia Ahern, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Netgalley for a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review!  This in no way altered my opinions or review of this read.

OH MY good golly gee willickers, I can’t even with the feels right now.

No, really. You guys think I’m joking. I can hear you all now, sitting there in your chairs, faces drawn in mild amusement (and perhaps a bit of exasperation, because HELLO, I freak out about books all. the. time, so this is nothing new) But trust me—this book? You’re going to want to read it. You’re going to want to drop everything the day it’s published and pick it up.

I’d go so far as to say this is The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) meets The Scarred Letter (Val Muller) meets The Fire Sermon (Francesca Haig)–but don’t let this scare you, or talk you out of reading! Seriously, you do NOT want to miss this book!

Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is often a responsibility nobody wants.

I think I sputtered and spewed incoherently for a good five minutes after finishing this, so forgive me if my thoughts are just a bit scattered. From the very start of this read, Cecelia Ahern thrusts readers into the midst of the world she’s created, immediately introducing our main protagonist…and the biggest topic of the book.

That topic is heavy. And heart breaking. And gut-roiling, churning, fiery passion-inducing acidic OUCH. This book is intense, and filled with feels, and you will not be able to set it aside once you pick it up, so you might want to make sure you have plenty of time to spare on reading it. I’d recommend, therefore, not starting it just before you go to bed, or in the morning before a huge meeting, or on your daily commute to work. Trust me, this would be a huge mistake.

It’s the branding that does that, and I know it. It dehumanizes me in a way to others. I’m to be stared at and talked about as if I’m not here.

While I admit the prose is, at times, a bit awkward and stilted, you’ll be so wrapped up in the plot you probably won’t even notice it. Because the plot? It’s intense. From the get-go, this read is fast-paced, action-packed, and disgustingly REAL. And I say that meaning it in the best way possible—although also in the, “I was so angry at this book!” way. This book will make you mad. That’s its biggest triumph: it will make you mad, and you will come out of this read a different person for it.

The characters are engaging, mostly redeemable (save a very President Snow -esque villain), and entertaining. You’ll be rooting for our main character before you even really get to know her. Cecelia Ahern put her heart and soul into crafting this debut novel…and she came out a winner in my book. The plot, the characters, the gut-roiling frustration… it all comes together so brilliantly, you’ll find yourself needing the second book ASAP—not because of the cliff-hanger (yes, unfortunately, there is one, but I’m overlooking it because my gosh this book!) but because you care about what happens next.

Crevan’s red robe is the same color as the scar on my hand, and I’m guessing as my foot, chest, and temple. My blood is on his robe. He did this to me. Him. I feel nothing but disgust for him. I used to think that I couldn’t be afraid of someone so human, now I realize it is his humanity that scares me most, because despite having all those traits, having shared the moments we’ve shared, he could still do this to me.

This is not your fluffy, romantic, every day read. There are some heavy subjects happening in these pages, and there are some pretty tough moments to read, so if you’re triggered by torture be warned: one scene in particular is difficult to stomach. But if you’re willing, this book will change you—as a person AND a reader. I’d definitely recommend to lovers of dystopian, human nature, and societal struggles. And now…I’m off to cry in my corner, and wait impatiently for more people to hop on this emotional roller coaster…and for the release of book two (which, you know, is going to be a while.)

4

A Review of Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll

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‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

– – – – –

Rating: 5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: this is not your average bed time tale; gorgeous, creepy artwork with gorgeous, creepy writing; an examination of the things you find in—and the things that follow you home from—the woods; if these five spine-tingling stories do not warn you away from the woods, I don’t know what will

GUYS, I got this from the husband for Christmas (among many other books I’ve been dying to read! I’m so excited!) But more importantly: this book is breath-taking! Thank you, husband, for being awesome and consistently enabling my bookish addiction!

The artwork in this graphic novel is gorgeous. It’s obvious Emily Carroll poured her heart and soul into crafting this read (or, perhaps, sacrificed a few annoying relatives? given the contents, this wouldn’t surprise me) Either way, there is a fine blend between artwork and poetry/prose that Emily Carroll treads in this book—and it’s blended beautifully. The pages are filled with dark shadows, moody lines, and blinding white space. The craftsmanship could almost tell the story by itself; the writing is just the cherry on top of a very large, very sweet sundae.

These tales are DARK, and serve as a warning—don’t go into the woods. You never know who you’ll meet…or what will follow you home. The contrasts are staggering: gorgeous, melodic writing against a backdrop of nightmares and horror. I’m not sure I could pick a favorite story—they all stand so well on their own, together they create a melody of fear and haunts. That being said…they ARE dark, and probably not suitable for reading to young children before bedtime. I mean…unless you want them sleeping with you for the rest of their lives, in which case, have at it.

The five stories are quick, striking reads—I picked the book up just to read the first few pages and found myself, some thirty minutes or so later, closing the last page. This book sucks you in—between the gorgeous artwork and the melodic writing, you’ll find it very difficult to set aside once you pick it up, so make sure you have time to finish it in one sitting!

I LOVED this book, and have immediately found it a home on my shelves in full beautiful glory. I’d recommend to lovers of horror, “fairy tales,” and The Brothers Grimm. For myself? I have a feeling I’m going to need to look into more of Emily Carroll’s work.

4

A Review of World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2), by Susan Ee

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In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what’s left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn’s sister Paige, thinking she’s a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels’ secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can’t rejoin the angels, can’t take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?

– – – – –

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: makes-your-skin-crawl, horrifying monsters; kick ass main characters; flawed, yet somehow forgivable (?) villain; awesome plot twists; lots of action; edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting plot; snarky humor and witty banter; great read all around

I read Angelfall in April; going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wasn’t expecting what I found. Having just finished this second book in the series, I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for the final installment. It’s waiting patiently for me on my Kindle—waiting patiently to smash what little’s left of my heart into bits and spit on the mess, I have a feeling.

It’s amazing how many times we have to go against our survival instincts to survive.

Susan Ee has a MORBID imagination, guys. In a fit of procrastination (the climax was quickly approaching and I wasn’t sure my heart could handle it!) I described some of the monsters to my husband. His response? “Okay. So…someone took an acid hit and then went straight to bed.” The creativity here is astounding; I’ve never read anything quite like what Susan Ee has created for us here, and that’s both an awesome and a disturbing thing. Awesome because it makes for one hell of a gut-wrenching read. Disturbing because I have more than enough nightmares already, thank you very much! Honestly, though—I applaud and bow down to the author for her creative genius with these books. I’m never going to sleep the same again.

The writing is also edgy in its own right—humorous, snarky, and almost unbearably descriptive, it’s far too easy to lose yourself in this world and let your own life fade into background noise. These books force you to focus on them. They snatch you out of reality and forge the battle around you. Your heart will pace, prance, and leap with the characters through their varying trials and tribulations. There is no escaping the intensity; you’ll be edge-of-your-seat, biting your nails, muscles clenched to fight or flee deep before you realize you’ve even begun.

I offered the enemy pain relief but never considered it for my own sister. Why?

Because she looked like a monster, that’s why. And it never occurred to me that monsters might feel pain.

It’s interesting, going into this second book, to see how the characters have progressed. Penryn and Raffe both go through some poignant and heavy changes. The fact that we only catch glimpses of Raffe here and there throughout until the very end, when they’re reunited, makes Penryn’s journey more awe-inspiring. We don’t see, until the end, that glimmer of snark and hostility that made me fall in love with her character. It’s apparent that despite their vast differences, Penryn was impacted and touched in multiple ways by the angel.

Susan Ee is also a genius at creative and out-of-left-field plot twists. Not ONCE did I see where any of the foreshadowings, hints, or outcomes were headed. Usually, I can at the very least guess at a couple. For these books? No. I go in and remain blind until the reveals are finished and the resolution is in sight. I’m not sure where the ending for this is leading me…but I can’t wait to dive into the final book of this series! At the same time, though… I’m terrified. Because it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt a lot, I’m betting.

“You’re probably right. The unruliness of the women in your family must go back for generations. You’re like a plague upon the land.”

“So long as we’re also a plague upon angels, I’m sure everyone else will forgive us.”

Once again, Susan Ee surprised me—she might just become a favorite author for me before this series is through! I’d definitely recommend to lovers of “angel” stories, dystopian worlds, or the paranormal and horrifying. This is one trilogy that doesn’t follow the rules—and THAT is what makes it epic!

0

A Review of Grimm Diaries Prequels (#1-6), by Cameron Jace

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What if all you knew about fairy tales was wrong?

Warning: these Grimm Prequels are like snap shots of a magical land you’re about to visit soon. I like to think of them as poisoned apples. Once you taste them, you will never see fairy tales in the same light again.

The Grimm Diaries Prequels are short books in the form of epistolary diary entries. They are teasers for The Grimm Diaries. The 6 diaries are told by The Evil Queen, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, the Devil, Prince Charming, and Alice Grimm.

Grimm Diaries Prequels:

1. Snow White Blood Red (narrated by The Snow White Queen)
2. Ashes to Ashes and Cinder to Cinder (narrated by Alice Grimm)
3. Beauty Never Dies (narrated by Peter Pan)
4. Ladle Rotten Rat Hut (narrated by Little Red Riding Hood)
5. Mary Mary Quite Contrary
6. Blood Apples (narrated by Prince Charming)
7 . Jawigi (narrated by sandman Grimm)

– – – – –

Rating: 2.25/5 Stars
Quick Reasons: LOVE the creative, unique spins on the old, well-known tales; love the “twisted” end reveals; not so in love with the choppy world-building, awkward dialoge, and often confusing plots; disappointed overall with writing quality

I was worried, going in to this read, that I might not be as blown away with it as I was expecting. The blurb sounds AMAZING, the idea of these retellings being told from the POV of rather unexpected characters was exciting… I deliberated for several days before deciding to at the very least give this first collection of “prequels” a shot before choosing to either continue with the stories or put them aside.

After reading this… I’m leaning, sadly, toward putting them aside.

I wondered why you didn’t burn the original scripts, instead of rewriting them. You must have figured out that sooner or later, someone would dig up the truth and expose you. Altering the stories was the smarter solution. You let children believe that vampire bites were resurrecting kisses, and that glass coffins were made for sleeping beauties, waiting for a prince to come and kiss them awake.

So, I was SUPER impressed with the “prologue” and the first prequel story. They seemed well-put-together, the prose was poetic and lyrical… I LOVED the Queen of Sorrow’s story, the ideas thrown around about Snow White and her true nature. It was all so beautifully crafted, I was enthralled—and while I knew the writing was a BIT shoddy around the edges, I ignored it for the captivating words being woven around me. The first two sections? Really worked for me. I was really excited about continuing on… until I started the second prequel.

Because somewhere between the end of book one and the beginning of book two, something shifted in Cameron Jace’s writing style. Dialogue was awkward and realistic at times: the characters repeated the same things over and over, or spoke in ways I couldn’t understand. I get they’re fairy tale characters, but…they should be able to hold a conversation like normal people? So why don’t they? The plots became wildly “spontaneous”–and by this, I mean they were all over the place. There was often little explanation and answers weren’t easily grasped by readers. The writing became rushed, instead of prolific and poetic. It began to fall flat.

“I thought so,” I said under my breath as I walked out. “Every child’s dream is to push a button and kill imaginary friends.”

I enjoyed the creativity Cameron Jace showed here. There were many times I found myself going… “Huh. Why hadn’t I thought of that?!” Which, if we’re being honest, is ALWAYS a good thing in a piece of writing. I had fun reading the many different alterations and experiments Cameron Jace used throughout the stories—there were a lot of “secrets” waiting to be uncovered or stumbled upon.

I feel, though, these prequels MIGHT have too many characters to focus on. There are so many different voices, so many different individual stories being woven here—I feel like Cameron Jace’s attention was unfairly and unequally divided. It’s easy to tell at times which characters/stories were more invested in, and which got the short end of the stick in the end. This made reading these first six prequels difficult and frustrating for me. I just wish, I guess, that there were less characters and more STORY, if that makes sense? Of course, they’re teasers, I get that…but that doesn’t mean the quality has to fall short.

A while later, we held hands. I liked it, still gripping my scythe in the other hand. Like the wolf boy said, maybe that was how relationships worked. A girl had to have her scythe behind her back, and a boy had his moments of uncontrollable hunger.

So… I enjoyed these for their creativity and unique ideas, but I was frustrated with them at the same time. I don’t think I’m going to be continuing on with this series—at least not at this time in my life. Maybe in the future I’ll give them a second shot, but for now, it’s time to move along to something else. I’d still recommend to lovers of fairy tale retellings, unique and inventive “twists,” and dark/edgy story telling. Just because thiswasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it’s not for you!