Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Most Anticipated Reads of 2018

As we head into the final weeks of the year, I wanted to hijack my usual "Waiting On" Wednesday event (originally hosted at Breaking the Spine, and now over at Wishful Endings as Can’t Wait Wednesday) to focus not just on one title, but look ahead to the next year. This is, by no means, meant to be an exhaustive list of all the big releases coming out next year. Instead, it's an exploration of those titles that I most desperately want to read.

JANUARY brings us City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, the latest in the Agent Pendergast saga, one of my favorite literary characters of all time. It's a shame the TV series pitch didn't take off, because I would have loved to see Aloysius on the screen.

Next up is Shroud of Eternity by Terry Goodkind, the second epic fantasy adventure focused on Sister Nicci, a series that rekindled my love for the saga by moving away from prophecy and back into adventure.

Finally, the newcomer of the bunch i Choosing a Master by S. M. Perlow, an exciting new vampire novel that came my way as an ARC last month.

FEBRUARY looks to be a busy month, kicking off with Child of a Mad God, the launch of a new epic fantasy series by R.A. Salvatore. While he will always be known as the father of Drizzt, I have enjoyed his non-Forgotten Realms sagas as well.

One of the most exciting releases of the month is Art of War: Anthology for Charity edited by Petros Triantafyllou. I don't recall the last time I saw a cast of author that excited me this much, with Mark Lawrence, Brian Staveley, Sebastien De Castell, C.T. Phipps, Rob J. Hayes, and Nicholas Eames just a few.

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole is another ARC-in-hand that I'm excited about, the first book in his Sacred Throne epic fantasy trilogy.

Finally, in what has become an annual tradition, Greg Cox brings us The Librarians and the Pot of Gold, the third TV tie-in for one of my favorite genre shows and a follow-up to two fantastic books.

MARCH opens up with Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon, an epic, standalone, dark fantasy novel from two of the most exciting names in the field.

A Veil of Spears comes next, the third book in Song of Shattered Sands by Bradley P. Beaulieu, which promises to be one of the year's top reads.

Closing out the month is a pleasant surprise that I'm sure I will be reading long before March (I got an ARC last week) with Elizabeth Bear taking us back into the world of Karen Memory with Stone Mad,

APRIL seems to be a slower month at the moment, but with a pair of exciting releases, starting with Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence. Even if I had my issues with the first book, this is still a must read, and I have high hopes.

The month also brings us The Forbidden City by Deborah Wolf, the second book the The Dragon's Legacy, and a sequel to a book I really, really need to get off my butt and finish before then.

MAY looks to be a kick-ass month, starting with Dragon Road by Joseph Brassey, the second book of The Drifting Lands. I still need to give the first book a read, but I love the Firefly meets Final Fantasy blurb.

One of my most anticipated books of the year lands in May as well, with Owl and the Tiger Thieves by Kristi Charish, the 4th book of her Indiana Jane adventures.

After what seems like an endless series of rescheduled release dates, Raymond E. Feist finally brings us the long-awaited first book in his post-Riftwar saga with King of Ashes. Even if the date should move again, I already have an ARC, so I'm not worried.

JUNE looks to be pretty busy as well, which means plenty of birthday present ideas (hint, hint), starting with The Empire of Ashes by Anthony Ryan, which I'm hoping can recapture the adventure of the first book.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey has me really excited, both because it's a new Carey novel, and because it sounds like a welcome return to the fantasy days of her Kushiel saga.

Outcasts of Order by L. E. Modesitt, Jr is the latest Recluce novel, and a direct sequel to last year's The Mongrel Mage.

Also out in June is The Skaar Invasion by Terry Brooks, the second book of his epic four-part conclusion to the Shannara series.

JULY doesn't have a lot of titles announced yet, but it does have Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames, the sequel to one of my favorite books of 2017. Seriously, if this is half as fun as the first book, it will be worth waiting for,

Redemption's Blade: After The War by Adrian Tchaikovsky is another book that I'm anxiously awaiting, a new dark fantasy that sounds fantastic.

AUGUST open up with Privateer by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes, the second book of their swashbuckling adventures of the Dragon Corsairs, which sounds like a lot of fun.

I'm embarrassed to say I still have yet to read the first two books in the series, even though they're staring at me from the shelf, but The Dragon Lords: Bad Faith by Jon Hollins offers up more of his Guardians of the Galaxy meets the Hobbit series.

Finally, Ravencry releases in August as well, the second gritty installment of the Raven's Mark series from Ed McDonald. The first book was a genuine surprise, and I'm anxious to see where he takes the story next.

There aren't a lot of titles announced for the rest of the year, at least now yet, but SEPTEMBER does have Poor Relations by Jo Walton on the schedule, one of the few science fiction title to catch my eye, along with the long-awaited Initiates of the Blood by Cecilia Tan, in which ancient magic is accessed through modern BDSM.

NOVEMBER is home to the other science fiction title, with Willful Child: The Search for Spark by Steven Erikson, the third book of his parody/homage to the genre.

*please note, of course, that publication dates can (and often do) change frequently, so please let me know if you spot a title that's shifted down the calendar

Friday, December 22, 2017

Best of 2017: A Year in the Ruins

By the Numbers
This year I read 100 books (down a bit from last year), and abandoned 12 to the DNF pile (which is also down from last year). Among the books that I did not abandon, there were only 6 perfect 5-star reads this year (which, I am sad to say, is about half of last year's total).

At a quick glance, it looks like 42% were shelved as Fantasy and 35% as Horror (which is no great surprise), while a quick look back shows that 19% were written by women, 18% had some sort of LGBT content, and 10% were Canadian (which is pretty cool).

Most Popular Guests
We had the great pleasure of hosting a number different authors for guest posts or interviews this year, with the most read/visited being Gail Z. Martin and Julie Czerneda.

Gail has been a regular visitor the last few Halloweens, but she also makes a point of popping by and refreshing her posts throughout the year. Julie is something of an annual guest as well, and whether it's for her fantasy or her sci-fi, it's always a pleasure.

Most Popular Reviews
Going strictly by traffic to the Ruins, this year's most popular review was a pleasant surprise - Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Green - followed very closely by a book I would have expected - Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb.

Rounding out the top 5 were The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams, The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore, and Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames.

Surprisingly, these titles represent a mix of the good, the bad, and the abandoned.

The Best of 2017
Even with such a small class of stellar books, there are some familiar names amongst this year's 5-star reads, with Sebastien de Castell making it for the third year in a row, and Peter V. Brett and Robin Hobb making return appearances.

Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that 2 of this year's top 6 reads - John Everson and S. Nano - were review contributions to the new WTF Are You Reading blog, where you'll be seeing more of me in the new year. Finally, I strongly suspect we'll see Nicholas Eames become one of those familiar names!

  • The Core by Peter V. Brett was (by far) the greatest book of an already impressive saga.
  • Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames was the most pleasant surprise of the year, a fantastically fun read, from beginning to end
  • Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell  is about as close as epic fantasy gets to the legendary plateau of a truly perfect read.
  • Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb was everything I could have asked of Robin Hobb, an entirely satisfying conclusion to the entire Realms of the Elderlings.
  • NightWhere by John Everson is a work of erotic horror that delivered on both fronts.
  • Mistress Of The Air by S. Nano was a brilliant combination of steampunk adventure, bondage erotica, and pulp humour.

What's Next for 2017
While I had a quiet December in the Ruins, I used that time to rekindle my love of reading with my WTF contributions, so I am feeling better about starting the new year.

I already have a handful of 2018 titles that I'm excited about, with Shroud of Eternity by Terry Goodkind and Fallen Gods by James A. Moore both releasing in January; The Armored Saint by Myke Cole hitting shelves in February; Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon publishing in March; and the long-awaited King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist finally arriving in May.

There are some other big titles coming out next year that I'm very excited about (look for my Most Anticipated post next week), but I am going to be selective, keep the pile under control, and only read what excites me.

Friday, December 1, 2017

WTF Friday . . . Has a New Home!

Historically, WTF Friday has always been the day I turn the Ruins over to those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. The day I focus on books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.

The reason I haven't done so lately is because I have some exciting news to share. It seems I am not the only blogger/reviewer with a taste for such books. A small group of us got to talking, and we decided to take things to the next level. Together, we have launched a new blog . . .

Weird | Taboo | Forbidden

Regular visitors to the Ruins may notice that a few of my WTF Friday reviews have migrated over to the new site (we all contributed a few reviews to get it established), and I'm having fun rifling through my darkest of shelves, reading WTF I want, and not worrying about release dates or review commitments.

Beauty in Ruins isn't going anywhere, but the freedom that the new blog has created for us is fantastic. I'm realizing just how desperately I needed an excuse to enjoy the thrill of reading again, and it's definitely recharging my batteries.

If you're looking for an opportunity to write discreetly/anonymously about books that just don't fit your blog profile or overall reviewer image, we would love to add another few regular reviewers, and we are equally hungry for guest reviews and one-off contributors as well.

So, if anybody has ever raised their eyebrows and asked WTF Are You Reading?, I invite you to pop by and check us out on the Blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, or over at Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Hidden Face by S.C. Flynn

Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another.
That, right there, is an ambitious opening to a cover blurb. It promises BIG things, with a mythology that doesn't just color the world, but which dominates it. It's risky, and I likely would have passed, were it not for the fact that I'd beta read the first 100 pages earlier this year, unencumbered by the blurb.

Having said all that, The Hidden Face (the first book of the Fifth Unmasking) does live up to its blurb. S.C. Flynn has crafted an historical fantasy that is as innovative as it is exciting. He establishes a culture that is just familiar enough to be accessible, but enhanced with a wealth of little details that make it all his own. Similarly, the mythology (and the accompanying history) is absolutely fascinating, so much so that there were times I almost chafed against being drawn back to the story.

At its heart, this is something of a quest fantasy, complete with riddles and puzzles that challenge the reader almost as much as they do the characters. I hate to make the comparison but, yes, this is like a fantasy version of The Da Vinci Code, by way of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, taking us through hidden rooms, mysterious tombs, and forgotten corners of the empire. It's prophecy-heavy stuff, which may turn off some readers, but it doesn't feel cheap or overused here - it's an aspect of the mythology that just fits. It's also a book that's heavy on dialogue and exposition, but that aspect is necessary to the solving of the mysteries. For every reader who might complain there's too much talking through puzzles, I am sure there'd be two more who would complain it all came too easily if we didn't have visibility to those thought processes.

In terms of characters, the rivalry between Dayraven and Astolf is a driving force behind the story, right from the opening pages, but there is a solid backstory to their shared animosity. I took a little longer to warm up to Sunniva, more because it was so clear that she and Dayraven were 'meant' to be together than anything to do with her, but she is a kick-ass heroine who grows as the story races along. The Twister, however, is one of my favorite characters (next to, perhaps, Malombra), and definitely the most intriguing. He is clearly damaged goods (if not outright mad), with a weirdly erotic sort of power fixation on his hump, but he's one of those characters who make you smile every time they step onto the page.

Although there are some dark themes and some violent scenes, The Hidden Face is a fun read that has something new and unique around every corner. I might have liked a little more clarity in the world building, and remain immensely curious about its mythology, but I loved the puzzles, and the characters were what kept me reading.

ebook, First, 350 pages
Published November 25th 2017 by The Hive

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Dagon Reviews The Hidden Face by S. C. Flynn

Today’s post is written by Dagon, head of the Clovian dynasty, who were once emperors of Faustia. Here he is, as first shown in “The Hidden Face”:

Dagon, head of the Clovian dynasty, looked out over the moonlit hills and ran his twisted fingernails over the gold bees stitched into his robe, enjoying the scraping sound. A light breeze ruffled his long hair. His hand rested on a golden bull’s head standing on a table next to him. The world outside was peaceful for now. One day, there would be war again, before a long-lasting peace: the peace of the Second Clovian Empire.

The voices of his ancestors rang in his ears yet again. Always the same questions. When? When? How much longer must we wait?

‘It will not be long now,’ Dagon said. ‘The power that was once yours will soon be ours again.’

So you always say. Yet still we wait. No one deserves the favour of the Sigel more than us.

And here is Dagon’s view on the novel:

Yes, there will be war before our peace, but I, Dagon of the Clovians, must condemn this story.

A book of thieves written by a lover of thieves.

My ancestors are outraged by this book, and rightly so. It focuses almost entirely on the thief emperor Calvo and his followers, with our dynasty given only a minor role.

The Sigel chose us to rule. No one can change this.

As the ancestors say, the sun god chose us centuries ago to rule the Faustian empire. The thief Calvo’s father stole the throne from us, but the Sigel will restore us to our proper place. The next book will no doubt show our return to power, but this one spends too much time on the adventures, love lives and mystery solving of other characters. Some may find all this exciting and intriguing, but we wish only to see the story of our eventual victory.

A book without respect for us and our past.

We also hate the depiction of an ancestor’s tomb for the entertainment of readers. The magical objects, star charts and piles of golden bees are presented to satisfy the curious, without regard for our traditions; to present these things to the masses is desecration.

Our time will come again.

When the throne is ours, the emperor thief Calvo and his supporters will pay the price.


About the Author

S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.

He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.

S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years.

THE HIDDEN FACE is his second novel and the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series.

S. C. Flynn blogs at www.scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook.

Join his email list to receive exclusive advance notice of new releases and offers.


About the Book

by S. C. Flynn

A face without a face - an unmasking that leaves the mask.

Once every few hundred years, the sun god, the Akhen takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal death of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a warrior woman named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

Powerful enemies want the secret as well, including a dynasty of magician-kings who were thought to have died out long before, a mad, murderous hunchback and a beautiful, deadly woman who is never seen. Sunniva and Dayraven fight to survive and to solve the mystery while their own pasts come back to life and the attraction between them deepens.

The Hidden Face is a fantasy mystery drenched in the atmosphere of the Early Middle Ages and in Kabbalistic riddles, and is the first book in the Fifth Unmasking series.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fantasy Review: Helen's Daimones by S.E. Lindberg

The Dyscrasia novels by S.E. Lindberg are deep, intricate reads that harken back to the pulp days of Lovecraft, Howard, and others. They are heavy with words, stories that exist as much in the telling as they do in story. These are reads that are not to be glossed over or skimmed, but carefully digested, and with your full attention. Rush through it, and you'll not only miss the details, but the nuances that define it.

The third book to be released, but the second in the series (chronologically), Helen's Daimones is actually a "gateway novella" that can be read first. There's a trippy kind of logic there, and if you can appreciate it, you'll have no problem with the read.

Lindberg's first two Dyscrasia novels were defined by their ideas, their themes, and the overall mythology. This is no different. The characters, while fascinating, tend to be a little too cold and too harsh to be easily relatable. While the focus on children this time out makes the story a little more accessible, it also makes the story an even more difficult read, especially when the ghosts of murdered children step to the forefront.

What this chapter did for me was breathe real life (no pun intended) into Lord Lysis. He becomes a sympathetic character here, especially in his encounter with a tragic young woman (buried alive so many years ago), the ghosts of her children (hung for their corruption), and their army of dolls (crazy, dangerous dolls). He's still a monster, a fearfully powerful being, but he's also a personality here. As for Doctor Grave, he was already a full-fledged character, but he becomes a little more chilling here as new layers of mystery leave us to question his deeper motives.

Helen's Daimones is weird fantasy, weirdly told, for weird readers. As the strongest of the three stories to date, it makes for a great introduction to Lindberg's world, and creates more than enough interest for a fourth entry.

Paperback, 214 pages
Published September 29th 2017 by IGNIS Publishing LLC

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fantasy Review: Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive, #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Having had a few days to reflect on it and collect my thoughts, I am still of two minds regarding Oathbringer, the 3rd massive tome of Brandon Sanderson's epic Stormlight Archive. There is a significant change of focus here, both in terms of characters and storytelling, and while parts of it worked very well for me - extraordinarily well, in fact - others fell flat or just felt tedious.

For starters, this volume belongs to Dalinar and Shallan, resigning Kaladin (my favorite character from the first two books) to the background. In Dalinar's case, it turned out to be a surprisingly rewarding change, with extended flashback chapters that expose his darker, far more violent past, and which shed new light on his actions and attitudes over the first two books. We come to see him in an entirely new light, with a contrast between personalities so jarring that it's often painful to watch. Part of that is due to the presence of his wife, a woman whose name and face have been a gaping hole in his memories for so long, and part of that hinges on his pursuit of The Thrill, which made something of a monster of the man. Outside those flashbacks, his story is rather slow, full of politics and philosophical discussions that really weigh down the first half of the book, but they do lead us to some incredible revelations regarding the magic and mythology of the Desolation, the Voidbringers, the Heralds, Honorblades, spren, and more.

In Shallan's case, while we get a lot more action and some genuine character development, I found her to be a rather tiresome character. It's a shame, because there is so much potential within her, especially with how her various roles and guises begin to bleed through to one another. Her personality just rubs me the wrong way, and even scenes that should be sweet or amusing come across as bland tripe. It doesn't help that a significant aspect of her character arc is completely undone in this volume, a revelation that I guess we should have seen coming, but which struck me as a cheap way of restoring conflict to her role. It's much-needed conflict, and does make her a little more interesting, but not enough to justify her page count. The only redeeming grace is her spren, Pattern, who never ceases to trigger my amusement and curiosity.

Although it is Dalinar and Shallan who dominate the novel, I would also argue this is a story of minor characters taking on major significance. It's hard to talk about that significance without spoiling any aspects of the story, but characters like Renarin, Moash, and others get a chance to shine, and what happens to or around them is sometimes the most fascinating part of the story. Bridge Four has an important role to play here once again as well, but - for me, at least - their scenes just emphasize how far Kaladin is from the center of the story this time out.

Oathbringer marks a lull in the series, but it's an important lull. As much as we may chafe against the pacing and the character point of views, we finally get answers . . . and we get a lot of them. So much of what was hidden or hinted at in the first two books is exposed here. We get answers, we get mythology, and we finally get some wider sense of world-building. It is here that the story begins to move away from the epic saga of ruling dynasty, and into the epic saga of a world on the brink of extinction. Having said all that, the last arc of the book is vintage Sanderson and well worth sticking around for. All the book's flaws are forgiven as all the threads come together and we realize, in hindsight, just how and why so many little things were significant. The final three-hundred pages (a novel on its own for most authors) are all climax, and they are some of the finest that Sanderson has ever written.

So, not a perfect book, and probably the first time I really noticed the page count in a negative way, but I'm glad I had the time to linger over it, take my time, and digest it along the way. And, of course, I remain just as excited for the next installment.

Hardcover, 1248 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Horror Review: The Rest Will Come by Christina Bergling

A black comedy, with moments of bloody horror, The Rest Will Come is an interesting read. It is really two novels in one, which presents something of a challenge (depending on your reading tastes), but Christina Bergling is a strong enough writer to nudge us from one genre to another.

The story starts out strong with a date gone wrong, an accidental murder, and some authentic post-traumatic panic. We immediately get a sense of Emma as a likable young woman, caught in a bad situation, who reacted in an unfortunate manner.

After that chilling opening, however, the story shifts gears into contemporary romantic drama. We flashback to Emma's wedding, the dissolution of her marriage, the support of her best friend, and the agonies of electronic dating. All of that is well-written, further establishing Emma's character, and setting us up for her impending emotional break, but it takes a long time to play out. A very long time. I'll be honest, I started to lose patience with that aspect of the story, and I really feel the book would be better served by cutting about half of it.

Fortunately, patience is rewarded, and the story kicks into high gear once it finally circles around to reconnect with the opening, taking us through Emma's anxious drive home, the dismemberment of her date, and the disposal of the body. It's bloody, grisly stuff, but as the dates continue, psychological horror gives way to the black humor of the ultimate revenge fantasies. It's a guilty pleasure the rest of the way through, especially when Emma finds a guy foolish enough to hike up a mountain for a first date campout. After far too many easy murders, things finally hit a snag, and that's when we stop wondering about Emma and start worrying.

The prolonged romantic drama at its heart may test some reader's patience, but it is worth sticking around, because (as promised) The Rest Will Come. As for the ending, I suspected something along those lines was coming, but it was just about perfect.

Kindle Edition, 276 pages
Published August 8th 2017 by Limitless Publishing LLC

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Run for It by Christina Bergling (Guest Post)

You need to start running. Now.

I know. I know. I can hear you already. I hate running. I only run if something is chasing me. Running is stupid. Why don’t you go f—

I am not trying to improve your health or lower your blood pressure. I am not concerned with how clogged your arteries are or how many hours you spend stagnant on the couch. I am coming at this from a horror perspective.

In a horror situation, one of two things is happening:

1. You are fleeing a killer.
2. You are becoming the killer.

In both scenarios, you need to be running. How do you think the horror greats like Michael and Jason outwalk their frantic and desperate victims? I guarantee it is not by spending forty hours a week lashed to a chair in front of a computer. These determined killers are hitting the cardio. They are running. And whether you are trying to get away or trying to keep up, you need to be running too.

Now, let’s say you’re a traditionalist, just an innocent person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most likely a randy teenager just trying to explore your base instincts in an opportunistic scenario. Welcome to the victim pool. As potential carnage candy, running is the most important to you.

This killer is motivated. Regardless if you have personally wronged them or not, they are not going to rest until you are no longer breathing, which means neither can you. In fact, your odds of survival increase if you do have a personal relationship with the killer. Final survivors are rarely just bystanders.

So, you say you only run if something is chasing you? I say something is about to be chasing you. You cannot rely on adrenaline alone to spirit you off into survival. You might get a good burst, but in the third and fourth encounter with the killer, those bags of potato chips on the couch will start to betray you.

It is time to be proactive. Run now to live later. Not because it makes you healthy but because it is your only chance at escaping a motivated killer in a horror scenario.

But, wait. No. You’re not the victim type. You are not simply lolling through life, oblivious to the threats all around you. You are the threat. You are a bottomless pit of shapeless rage and angst that grows darker as all the small infractions of the world heap upon you.

You feel like there is only one answer: murder.

Yet you can’t just go around killing people. I mean, who does that? Aside from the moral implications, there is so much surveillance these days. How would you even get away with it? Better to not even tempt fate.

So how to you deal with all this pent-up rage and frustration? How do you cope?

Start running.

Yes, my friends, endorphins are an amazing thing. That miserable death sensation you get as you slug your legs beneath you is only temporary. Once you push yourself to the brink of physical hell, you discover an intoxicating and rolling high on the other side. Run enough and you can alter your very brain chemistry, harness your demons, find a new and “healthy” obsession.

Every time your boss pisses you off at work, do not bash him in the head with a stapler. Go for a run. Every time your spouse fails to appreciate your housework, do not stab him with a kitchen knife. Go for a run. At this rate, you could run yourself into a half marathon by the end of a year.

Run, run, run. Until it becomes therapy. And then until it becomes normal, the effects numbed by familiarity, leaving you back with that nagging urge under your skin.

Who are we kidding? Running is not enough to quench murderous ideation. It surely did not work for Emma in The Rest Will Come, but you had to try. Conveniently, you are already conditioned for chasing those irritating little survivors from all the runs when you tried to outrun your true self.

As an active killer, you have to commit though. Not only do you need to be able to chase down virile teenagers sprinting for their lives, but you have to make it look effortless. You can’t be panting and slobbering and puking while your intended victims are trying to figure out how to cut off your head. Nothing is scary about an assailant bested by cardio.

So, let’s face it. The horror scenario is coming. You are going to be a victim running for your life or a blossoming killer running to stay sane and without trespass who ultimately becomes the killer chasing down victims. All roads lead to running. So, lace up those shoes and get out there.


About the Author

Colorado‐bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade.

In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. It all began with “How to Kill Yourself Slowly.”

With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer.

She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. She continues to write on Fiery  Pen: The Horror Writing of Christina Bergling and Z0mbie Turtle.

In 2015, she published two novellas. She is also featured in the horror collections Collected Christmas Horror Shorts, Collected Easter Horror Shorts, Collected Halloween Horror Shorts, and Demonic Wildlife.

Her latest novel, The Rest Will Come, was released by Limitless Publishing in August 2017. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado Springs. She spends her non‐writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life.


About the Book

The Rest Will Come
by Christina Bergling

Murder can be risky...and not just for the douchebags on the business end of Emma’s power saw.

Men only let Emma down. They cheat, and they lie. They send unsolicited pictures of their genitals. Ready to give up hope, Emma decides to go on one last date. Then it finally happens—she finds the thing she loves most of all.

Killing clueless jerks she finds on the internet.

Lost in a happy haze of hunting her victims, devising increasingly-clever killings, and streamlining her dismemberment process, Emma gets careless.

As her need for her murderous outlet grows, she runs an increasing risk of getting caught...or worse—falling for one of her victims.

Murder might be her one true love...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Hellraiser: The Toll by Mark Alan Miller

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Hellraiser: The Toll by Mark Alan Miller
Expected publication: February 28, 2018 by Subterranean Press

Hellraiser: The Toll tells the story of what happened between Clive Barker’s iconic works The Hellbound Heart and its follow up, The Scarlet Gospels.

Thirty years after Kirsty Cotton escaped from the clutches of the Hell Priest, Pinhead, and lived to fight another day, her life has never been the same. Every few years she fashions a new name, a new identity, and a new home for herself; She is a woman who is running from her past at all costs, which is why it comes as such a surprise when she receives a mysterious letter in the mail, addressed to the woman she’s been running from over half her life.

Answering the letter’s query, she begins a descent down a rabbit hole to the ultimate confrontation. Her actions stir something unnamable in the ether, and throw her into a game where nothing—not even what she sees in front of her very eyes—can be trusted.

With equal parts economy and eloquence, author Mark Alan Miller brings to life the beginning of the end as The Toll expands the Hellraiser universe, and shows that before Harry D’Amour’s adventures in The Scarlet Gospels, there was a first witness to Pinhead’s infernal plan.

Although it's only 96 pages, it's a new Hellraiser novella with a story and illustrations by Barker himself, written by Miller, who has definite history with Barker's works, most recently with Clive Barker's Next Testament: A novel (which I am still pining for).

Monday, October 30, 2017

#Horror Review: Worship Me by Craig Stewart

Just how dark is Worship Me by Craig Stewart? Well, it's about as dark as a dead monster's soul, rotting for eons, trapped inside a black coffin, so deep beneath the Earth that the light of day may as well be a myth. It is so dark, it's brilliant, challenging just about every assumption you have about the genre.

You know that unwritten rule about sticking with your primary POV character? Forget it. Everybody here is expendable. How about that cliché where churches are sanctuaries from evil? Forget that too. St. Paul's United Church is not a refuge, it's a horrifying prison. Oh, and what about the trope of the 'good' child, the one who's special innocence is destined to save the day? Yup, forget that as well. Sure, there are some kids who stand up and try to take on that role, but . . . well, some sacrifices are different than others.

Worship Me is largely populated by unlikeable characters, but that's actually refreshing. They're all ordinarily human, imperfect souls whose only common bond is the church they share. There are a few secrets, but this isn't one of those books where a shattering heart-felt revelation will save the world. Sure, there are a few characters who you suspect might be of significance, but don't get too attached to those suspicions because bad things happen, and they happen fast.

As for what the story is about, it's pretty simple. A missing husband returns to proclaim the worship of an ancient entity, and he gives his fellow parishioners two days to choose which of their children they will sacrifice to it. Just to ensure they know he's serious, he performs a few hellish miracles, before leaving them trapped inside. Attempts at escape don't end well, and it doesn't take long before the good people of St. Paul's United Church begin to turn on one another.

This is a dark tale of supernatural horror, but it is the darkness of the human soul that makes it truly chilling. It's relentless in its terror, and glimpses of light and love are only there to be cruelly quashed. As for the finale - where, so often, horror falls flat for me - Stewart builds a perfect climax, and then layers on not just one, but several twists in the epilog. If you want a story that will give you chills, something to enjoy as you ready for Halloween, Worship Me is a perfect read. Be warned, however, it may have you second-guessing church next weekend.

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by HellBound Books Publishing LLC

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set Release Party

Ivy Granger Box Set Release Party Giveaway

Happy book birthday to the Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set! We're celebrating with cupcakes, a special release week 99 cent sale, and a giveaway.

Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set urban fantasy

Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Box Set (Books 1-3, Bonus Prequel) by E.J. Stevens
Enter an award-winning urban fantasy world where monsters roam the streets and things aren't always what they seem. Demons, ghosts, vampires, and necromancers—Ivy dodges the city's deadliest villains while solving its darkest cases. Will she save the day or die trying?

FROSTBITE (Bonus Prequel: Ivy Granger #0.5)
Everyone knows that there's no such thing as ghosts, but when a client claims that her house is being haunted, Ivy tries to keep her mind open and her weapons handy. If her psychic gifts and recent cases have taught her anything, it's that you're better off arming yourself for the unexpected.

Anything is possible in Harborsmouth.

SHADOW SIGHT (Ivy Granger #1)
Ivy Granger's second sight is finally giving her life purpose. Ivy and her best friend Jinx may not be raking in the dough, but their psychic detective agency pays the bills—most of the time. Their only worry is the boredom of a slow day and the occasional crazy client—until a demon walks through their door.

Demons are never a good sign.

GHOST LIGHT (Ivy Granger #2)
Ivy Granger is back, gathering clues in the darkest shadows of downtown Harborsmouth. With the lives of multiple clients on the line, she's in a race against time. Ivy finally has a lead to the whereabouts of the one person who can help her control her wisp abilities, but will she put the needs of her clients above her own?

If Ivy doesn't find a solution soon, she could wind up a ghost herself.

BURNING BRIGHT (Ivy Granger #3)
Things are not going well at the offices of Private Eye. Jinx is having demon problems, the city is overrun with pyromaniacal imps, and Ivy's wisp powers are burning out of control, attracting the attention of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts. It's the worst possible time for the Green Lady to call in a favor, but Ivy's bound by her deal with the glaistig. Too bad there's no wiggle room in faerie bargains.

Ivy must rid the city of imps, keep Jinx from murdering her one solid link to Hell, and fulfill her bargain with the Green Lady—with sidhe assassins hot on her tail.

Just another day's work for Ivy Granger, psychic detective.


"I absolutely love this series!"
-My Urban Fantasies

"Highly recommended to adult urban fantasy fans."
-Rabid Reads

"The Ivy Granger series is fantastic!"
-Book Bite Reviews


The Ivy Granger Psychic Detective series is known for heart-pounding action, quirky characters, and supernatural horrors. Take a trip to Harborsmouth where you'll encounter bloodsucking vampires, psychotic faeries, sarcastic gargoyles, temperamental witches, and our favorite snarky, kick-butt heroine.

Add to Goodreads.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: October 24, 2019

order Ivy Granger box set 99 cents sale

Order Now For 99 Cents

Regular Price: $9.99
Special Release Party Price: $0.99


This box set is already a steal at $9.99, but if you order now, you can grab the Ivy Granger Box Set for just 99 cents! Spread the word. Tell your friends. This is a great way to dive into this award-winning urban fantasy series.


Ivy Granger Box Set Release Party Giveaway

We are giving away an Ivy Granger Prize Pack, including a $5 Amazon Gift Card and a collectible Passport to the Supernatural World of Ivy Granger signed by the author.

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is international. Giveaway ends October 30th midnight EST.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ghosties, Ghoulies and Long-Leggedy Beasties by Gail Z. Martin

I love ghost stories. In part I blame being obsessed with the TV show Dark Shadows when I was a pre-schooler, and then graduating to Night Gallery, Tales from the Crypt and Twilight Zone. I read my first book of regional ghost stories when I was younger than ten, and re-read it until the cover fell off.

Me ending up as an author of epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk—all with a hefty dose of the paranormal and supernatural—really shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

Whenever I travel, I seek out cemeteries, ghost tours and books about local hauntings. My adult kids now bring me back ghost books when they travel, and the family is resigned to being hauled around major cities at night to hear about haunts, murders and curses.

Unlike a lot of people I know, I’ve never seen a ghost. I believe other people have seen things they can’t explain and that we don’t understand, but it hasn’t happened to me. I’m not sure whether to feel relieved or excluded. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of being in haunted places.

Ghost stories fascinate me as an author because they’re always about unfinished business. Lore holds that there are two basic kinds of haunts: ‘stone-tape recordings’ and sentient spirits. The ‘stone-tape’ or ‘repeater’ hauntings suggest energy patterns on an endless repeating loop but not consciousness. This would be the spirit that’s seen walking through a hotel ballroom and out through the wall, but who never interacts with anyone or changes what happens. The sentient spirits are thought to retain some memory of who they were and why they stayed behind. Usually, it’s to right a wrong or take care of something important—like protecting a loved one, catching a killer, exposing a thief.

I’ve used both kinds of ghosts in my books. A character who is able to see ghosts would likely be able to see both the repeaters and the sentients, but a medium wouldn’t get anything out of a repeater at a seance because there isn’t any consciousness left behind. So when we read stories about spirits sending messages from beyond the grave, Ouija boards, poltergeists and seances, those are the sentient spirits, who have some degree of agency, and may choose to ‘go into the light’ when their task is finished.

Ghost stories are mysteries because there’s usually a secret involved, or a betrayal. A hidden truth lurks in the shadows, and the ghost won’t be free until it’s uncovered. It’s also a testimony to the strength of human will that some people won’t let go of what’s important even after death. And for an author, that’s like catnip.

Which is why with all my ongoing and upcoming series, you can expect to see more ghosts—because good stories don’t have to end with death.


Days of the Death Tour & Giveaway

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here:

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight 2017, back for more with new authors and fantastic new posts! 130+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book Swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

A Rafflecopter giveaway contest—enter for a chance to win a copy of Spells, Salt and Steel!

Read a free excerpt to Scourge here:

Here’s a free excerpt from my friend Jean Marie Ward’s story Cooking Up a Storm from Tales From the Vatican Vaults:


About the Author

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. Vengeance: A Darkhurst novel, is the second in a new epic fantasy series for Solaris (coming April, 2018). Her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC has a new novel, Vendetta, and a new collection, Trifles and Folly. Spells, Salt, and Steel is the first in another new urban fantasy series set in upstate Pennsylvania.

Other work includes the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms series, the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, and Iron & Blood (co-authored with Larry N. Martin)

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday - Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Expected publication: November 14, 2017 by Orbit

The ocean is home to many myths,

But some are deadly...

Seven years ago the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a mockumentary bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a tragedy.

Now a new crew has been assembled. But this time they're not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life's work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

I have to be honest, the Mira Grant zombie bandwagon has largely passed me by, although I have enjoyed several of her Seanan McGuire books. This, though . . . this sounds intense and amazing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Horror Review: Vampire of Blackpool by Catherine Green

Vampires, when they're done right, never get old. I'm not necessarily talking dark and evil, but edgy, supernatural, and without even a hint of sparkles. Vampire of Blackpool is one of those books that does vampires right, a quick read that left me wanting more.

Catherine Green spins a tale of a vampire, a witch, a vampire hunter, and a vampire detective that has five-hundred years of history behind it. Meredith Hanson is an utterly fascinating protagonist, a tired, jaded vampire who has grown deliberately careless, just looking for a confrontation. A beautiful monster, she opens the story by feeding upon a pair of teenage lovers, and then flying out over the ocean to dump their bodies.

Samantha Morris, on the other hand, is the kind of young woman who defines romantic protagonist. She's a cute, innocent little witch, but one with claws and a backbone. Her flirting with Meredith open up the story in several ways, giving Meredith a reason to live again, while she plays referee between her and Ryan James, the vampire hunter. One brings out the worst in the vampire, while other brings out the best, forcing Jack Mason out of the shadows.

A fast-paced read, Vampire of Blackpool has just enough room to build the characters and establish a little world-building, without getting bogged down in details.

Kindle, 178 pages
Published May 27th, 2016

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Horror Review: Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

In hindsight, as much fun as the Bubba Ho-Tep movie was, I realize I enjoyed it more for Bruce Campbell's performance than the story itself. It was fun, but not enough to drive me to seek out Joe R. Lansdale's original story.

Having said that, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers has a lot of things going for it, and was actually quite brilliant in some respects, but it's far too uneven a read for me to recommend it. For every paragraph of blood-sucker horror, we're forced to wade through pages of cosmic weirdness, and for every snappy bit of banter, we're made to sit through one tired Elvis-ism after another.

The concept is fantastic, and I would love to read more about the government's secret monster-hunting unit, just not with Elvis at the helm - or, at least, not with this fat, pill-popping, flatulent, overstayed-his-welcome, embarrassing Elvis.

Read the first 12 pages of drunken Mr. Positive and the screaming balls of human flesh crammed into the cars of the junkyard, and you'll be hungry for more . . . but by the time you get through the next 65 pages of introductions and celebrity banter, and you'll start to get a feel for what kind of balance to expect. Personally, the novelty of the Colonel, Nixon, and all the rest wore off pretty quickly for me, so much so that I was already starting to skim by the 30% mark, which never bodes well for a book

Expected publication: October 31st 2017 by Subterranean Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sci-Fi Review: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

Although I don't read a science fiction anymore, I am still easily hooked by a cool concept and an interesting author. Even still, I nearly gave The Stark Divide as pass, but I'm glad I let my curiosity get the better of me, because J. Scott Coatsworth weaves a fantastic story.

First off, even though this a big story with a lot of world-building behind it, it never info-dump and never feels overwhelming. Coatsworth keeps the story well-balanced and well-paced, using flashbacks and memories to fill in gaps that tantalize rather than frustrate. What we are looking at here is a not-too-distant future where Earth is on the verge of collapse, leaving humanity to take to the stars in 'living' ships.

For a story that deals with a lot of heavy social themes (politics, religion, immigration, capitalism,etc.), it never feels heavy. Instead, this is a story where things just are, where people are allowed to just be, without making a big deal out of it. In fact, you'll come away from it thinking far more about the ship-mind, station-mind, and world-mind than you will the character's gender, sexuality, faith, or politics . . . and that's precisely how it should be.

Like so many of the golden age science fiction authors, Coatsworth tells his story in pieces, separating the book into 3 interconnected stories, each of which moves the overall narrative ahead by decades. It makes for an interesting read, with the character in each segment getting just enough page-time to develop and make themselves memorable, while injecting new life into the story along the way. Where it differs from those golden age authors, though, is in its resigned pessimism regarding humanity. This is not a story of an enlightened people taking the best of themselves to a new Utopia, it is a story of humanity transplanting its struggles to somewhere new, without seeming to have learned anything in the process. Don't get me wrong, there is hope to be found within it, but as a race we're going to have to earn it.

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by DSP Publications

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Yesterday’s Future by J. Scott Coatsworth

Yesterday’s Future
by J. Scott Coatsworth 

I just finished the first draft of my next novel, The Rising Tide. It’s the sequel to The Stark Divide, the book just releasing now and is the first in the Liminal Sky series.

I started writing The Stark Divide in 2014 and completed it in 2016, just as the US elections came to a close and we found out who our new president would be.

What a different world we live in now.

As a sci fi writer, I am tasked with writing both probable and improbable futures, some that are connected to the here and now, and some that are more distant or, in some cases, entirely divorced from Earth and our present day issues.

The Liminal Sky series take place on a future Earth, starting a little more than a hundred years from now, and so the stories in it are strongly influenced and informed by the trends I see happening around me today.

Climate change, human denial, and greed all play a role, as do the bending arcs of justice that our last President was so fond of talking about.

The Stark Divide, while doubtful about the ultimate future of the Earth, had a fairly hopeful tone for humankind as a species.

But as I started writing The Rising Tide, I found that some of my optimism had flagged, and the result is a more complex, sometimes darker story. We live in a world that is changing so rapidly that the future I saw just three years ago now seems much less likely. This sci fi writer has changing future whiplash.

So what am I supposed to do?

On the plus side, I have the chance with each new book to address the future I see at that moment in time. Sometimes it’s hopeful, and sometimes it’s a little more dark and twisty.

If I’m any good at this job, I’ll figure out a way to make it all work together, and create a series that has lasting relevance for many possible futures.

Only time will tell if it all works out, for the series and for the Earth and humanity as a whole.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow’s future will bring.


About the Author

J. Scott Coatsworth spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Ushered into fantasy and sci-fi at the tender age of nine by his mother, he devoured her library of Asimovs, Clarkes, and McCaffreys. But as he grew up, he wondered where the gay people were in speculative fiction.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would write them himself.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently—he sees relationships between things that others miss, and often gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He transforms traditional sci-fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He also runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring LGBTIQA communities together to celebrate fiction that reflects queer life and love.




About the Book

The Stark Divide
Liminal Sky | Book One
J. Scott Coatsworth

Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky