Reviews via Parajunkee #1

It’s been two weeks since I posted my first review on Parajunkee.  I decided to give you guys and gals links to those reviews in case you’d like to check them out.  You can always use the dropdown menu on the main page to find just my reviews or you can click HERE.  I’ll be updating my sidebar with that link for easy access.  If you’re also subscribed to Parajunkee, then keep an eye out for my banner (shown below) or uber sig.  Whether here or there, I just love that you enjoy reading my reviews.

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No Surrender Soldier by Christine Kohler – YA Historical Fiction

The Troop by Nick Cutter – YA Horror

Delia’s Shadow by Jamie Lee Moyer — Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Genesis by K. L. Kerr — Paranormal, Vampires

no surrender soldierthe troopdelias shadowthe genesis

 

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Book Review: Sun Bleached Winter by D. Robert Grixti

Railway

Sun Bleached Winter by D. Robert Grixti

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Damnation Books

Pages: 116

Published: December 1, 2012

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

They survived the apocalypse…but are they ready for the aftermath?

Lionel Morton and his sister, Claire are alone and in danger in a wasteland frozen in nuclear winter. Somehow, they managed to live through the collapse of human civilization, but the real nightmare is just beginning. Taking shelter in an abandoned bunker, they intercept a radio broadcast that promises salvation in “New City” — the supposed last vestige of humanity. Now Lionel and Claire have to make a difficult decision: do they risk their lives fighting to reach a place that may not exist, or try to survive on their own in the terrible cold?

Before the apocalypse, Lionel wanted to be a writer.  He’s salvaged some paper from the places he’s been to write down his story.  He gives us a little bit of backstory on how it happened, but doesn’t dwell on it.  His focus in life is keeping his little sister alive.  If it wasn’t for her, he’d have pulled the trigger on himself a long time ago.  When he intercepts a radio message about a safe place called New City, suddenly he’s driven with a purpose.  New City will be the solution to all his problems.

By no means am I a happily-ever-after type of reader.  I love my horror.  It’s just that…would it have killed this author to give Lionel (and us readers) one ray of hope for humanity by the end of SUN BLEACHED WINTER? Lionel’s life can be summed up with the punchline from Jeff Foxworthy joke about having a brain surgeon with a country accent:

“No thanks, I’ll just die, okay?”

Because that’s about how I felt after reading about the horrible things that humanity do in SUNBLEACHED WINTER.  I’d like to think that I’m a survivor, but I couldn’t condemn myself or anyone else to the conditions Lionel and Claire experienced in this book.  Out of all the possible scenarios, I think I’d probably join up with the man-eating crew.  Sure, cannibalism is wrong, but at least my family and I will be fed.  I’d keep my kid alive by any means necessary. Plus, if you cook ANY kind of meat long enough, it does taste like chicken, especially to a kid.  Everything is chicken to him, even fish tastes like chicken.

The writing in SUN BLEACHED WINTER is deliriously creepy and depressing.  It would not be a good book to recommend to people if you worked at the suicide prevention hotline (Seriously though: Suicide is no joke.  If you think you might be suicidal, then not only DON’T read this book but also tell someone so you can get help.  We love you!). The plot can be summed up by this: things go wrong, people die, things go wrong, and then more people die.

Overall, this is a brilliant yet short horror novel.  The characters and world felt so lifelike that I didn’t want to leave any of the characters in their ending situations.  They all deserved someone yelling, “Why are you living like this?  You deserve better!”  If I were to recommend an narrator to the audiobook version of SUN BLEACHED WINTER, I would suggest Martin from HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.  His ‘depressed’ voice is so hopeless it’s almost funny.  And that humor is the only way I know how to survive a world as bleak as this one.

B rating

(I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review.)

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Day 13 – A Blogger’s horror story (fiction?)

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{Day 13} SHARE A BLOGGER HORROR STORY.

You did ask for a story.  This is a story.  Wall of text incoming.

Once upon a time there was a blogger.  She was still fairly new and wasn’t sure how to make her name known in the community.  Until now, she’s been doing small stuff, like reviewing novels in Goodreads groups that weren’t remotely ready for publication.  She had big dreams of ARCs and so many author requests that she couldn’t handle the caseload.

One day, she came across a book tour company that would hire inexperienced bloggers like her.  Within a couple days, she’d get countless emails begging her to join the tours.  The covers for these books were lacking, but the blurbs sounded interesting enough.  She agreed to sign on to tour after tour.

She’d do three even four blog review tours a week.  For the most part, the books teetered around the three star mark.  There were a couple that probably deserved two and a half stars (it was close enough not to bother her ethics TOO much), but for the worst books she’d email the book tour company and offer to post a promotional post instead.

One time, she found one of her book tour copies available for free on Amazon.  She downloaded that copy and used the ‘finished’ copy to write her review.  The book tour company was FURIOUS when they read her review.  They had specifically told her to NOT mention formatting errors.  The blogger tried to explain that these formatting errors were still available in the final copy.  Eventually, she caved and deleted that part of her review.  That was her warning, the book tour company said.  Her next mistake would have her removed.

As the blogger gained more experience, she started to despise the work ethics of this blog tour company.  The constant begging, the extended tours because the original hosts wouldn’t slap a three star rating on the crap books, and the negative attitude from the emails for her last minute switches to promo posts or questions in general.  Still naïve to the blogging world, she had taken on too many commitments at once, and even though she did a great job on most of her tour dates, the few that were sub-par were the ones that the book tour company ever responded to.

Many months after she decided to post a promotional post for a book on tour, the blogger decided to give her honest opinion of how craptastic the book was.  She went by her memory of the tour, where most of the other bloggers had decided to do promotional posts instead of reviews.  She didn’t bother to check to see if there was an extended tour to pump out more reviews for the author, who had paid money to get 4 and 5 star reviews.

Well, she posted her one star review and the author decided to follow her back to her blog that night.  He saw that she’d posted something regarding the lack of reviews on the tour.  He exploded.  He demanded that she remove that ‘lie’.  The blogger was humiliated.  She went to the book tour company website and saw that the original 15 review tour had been bumped up to 30 spots.  Shit, she was wrong.  She took down the ‘lie’ and informed the author that she had done so.  She also emailed the book tour company and explained the whole situation.

The next day, the author decided to antagonize her on Goodreads.  He wrote about her on Twitter.  Then, he wrote a post on his blog and said that she deliberately lied and her hatred towards his book was because she wasn’t good enough to publish herself.

The blogger wrote another email to the book tour company.  She asked them how they would like her to handle the situation.  She also asked some of the other bloggers that she’d met over the past year.  What should she do?  Her blogger friends told her to stand up for herself.  The book tour company apologized for the author’s behavior.

The blogger decided to write up a post defending her actions.  She remained as honest as possible.  She admitted her mistake.  She never intended on ‘lying’ about the author.  She’d written over a hundred reviews by this point and this was her first complaint by an author.

Many people came to her defense, including a renown group of trolls.  The author continued to rant about how the blogger had deliberately lied.

The book tour company then emailed the blogger and told her that she should be ashamed of herself.  Apparently, the book tour company didn’t bother to ACTUALLY READ her original post a few days ago that had asked for advice and explained exactly what happened.  Now the book tour company retracted their original support, demanded an immediate apology to the author, and removed her from their list of hosts.

The blogger felt betrayed.  If the book tour company had read her original email to them and asked for her apology on the first day, the blogger would have done so.  But now…the author had slinged her name through so much mud and continued to rant about how worthless of a reviewer and writer that she was.  She tried to withhold her contempt as she told the book tour company how she ‘respected but didn’t agree with their decision’.

However, there was no way she would apologize to the author.  She didn’t deserve to be treated like this by anyone.  And, after the book tour company wrote her that email – if they didn’t fire her, she would have quit.

The author seemed to be enjoying the fifteen minutes of fame and continued posting blog posts about her.  He exposed the fact that she’d been removed as a tour host for her bad behavior.  The blogger had only one option left.  She emailed his publishing company.  It worked.  His publishing company apologized for the author’s behavior.

The next day, it was silent.

The crowds of people looking for drama left her without a second glance.  The author had disappeared entirely.  The blogger did the only thing that she could think of.  She opened a new book and read.

[Disclaimer:  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to real events or people is entirely coincidental…or is it?  Please refer to our fictional blogger as "Cassie" in comments.  We wouldn't want her confused with any other *cough* blogger.  I mean, the scary part about this story is that it could be true...it may have been based on a true story.  Maybe.]

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Anne Rice, my author idol

(This post is much longer than my normal ones.  It’s an honest view of how one author unknowingly helped me through the darkest times in my life.  With one of my parents no longer alive to read this and the other much deserving of my honesty [although I still love her dearly], I decided that I could finally live with the consequences of this post reaching the hands of people I know.  This post is minimally edited, since it’s difficult to objectively critique something so personal, so please forgive any grammar mistakes.)  – yes, there are some spoilers for her old books


Anne Rice will always be my author idol…


Discovery — Interview with a Vampire series

A long time ago, I read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice.

interview with the vampire

Back then, my book purchases could be no more than 10 cents a books.  My father haggled sales like a man with only two quarters to his name.  We purchased our dining room table for ten dollars.  It was an orange monstrosity(looked like it came straight out of Hardees) that he painted blue and for the next ten years spent countless hours yelling at the kids for peeling off the thick blue paint with their fingernails.  Our bikes were bought for a couple dollars each.  I can’t remember how much he paid for that 1970s yellow canoe that my best friend and I spent hours paddling across the shoreline of the bay during the summer, but it was surely less than its value.

I came upon her book by accident.  It was a well-loved book with a crinkled cover that someone decided to throw into the yard sale pile.  My parents didn’t care what kind of books I salvaged from the yard sales, only that I got them for a decent price aka nearly free.  When I showed my dad this book by Anne Rice along with a handful of other books that were more age appropriate for a ten-year-old, I don’t think he understood how graphic the words were within its pages.  Anne Rice didn’t write about vampires.  She wrote about tormented souls, who felt cursed by their own existence.

I discovered Anne Rice’s vampire series at a perfect time in my life.  My parents fought terribly.  I grew up beneath the strict Catholic moral code and felt smothered by it.  I felt like no one understood the internal battle raging inside me…until I read her books.  Although the books were paranormal, the connection I felt was on a spiritual level.  I felt like Louis, when my religion felt false around me.  I felt like Lestat, searching endlessly to discover what my purpose was in life.  I felt like Claudia, having to parent my parents sometimes (especially though the alcoholism)…when I was still too young on the outside for the world to listen to my voice.

Exploration – under the pen name Anne Rampling

A bitter divorce left me with a non-existent relationship with my dad and a turbulent one with my mother.

My mother always had a love for writing, but the stories she shared with me were uplifting and fake.  It wasn’t until I tried to mimic the dark emotions that Anne Rice whispered to me, that I felt an outlet for my own.  While other girls wasted their teenage years on silly crushes and frivolous get-togethers, I stayed inside my house with only my books and writing to let me explore the world around me.  It was only though books that I felt safe enough to act my age and let the harden defenses fall.

Only while reading did I not have to worry about whether the ‘adult’ of the house would remember to bring me home dinner.  That the five dollars I stole from my mom’s wallet wouldn’t be missed – while I ate the bag of potato chips and downed the two-liter of Pepsi that the stolen five dollars purchased.  That I wouldn’t have to spent another chilly night sleeping in the car because my mom kicked me out of the house for hiding her car keys or alcohol.  That I could ignore the piles of garbage and filth inside the house so thick that my sister and I had to create pathways from one room to another.  That I could forget wearing second hand clothes stained by iron-infested water, because my mom was too embarrassed to have a plumber fix our water.

The only time that I felt a connection with my mother was on our trips to the bookstore.  She’d let me slip into the horror section.  My first choice was always Anne Rice.  My problems seemed trivial compared to the boy with the beautiful voice whose balls were chopped off so he’d never hit puberty (Cry to Heaven).  Or the island where people went voluntarily to be sex slaves (Exit to Eden).  Or the forbidden romance between man and girl (Belinda).  The stories were so dark and forbidden in themselves that I never felt tempted to make anything less than a logical decision when it came to my life.   After all, my life could have been much worse.

So, I explored the marshy backyards instead of hanging out with friends that would ask too many questions about my life.  I said goodbye to romance when I left the school bus.  Except for my neighbor/best friend, no one knew what I came home to every night.  No one knew that school was the only highlight of my life and if I missed the bus, I’d sneak into my mother’s car (not announce my presence until after she left the driveway) and plead with her to take me to school.  No one knew of the times that my best friend and I used to knock on our drunken neighbor’s door and ask a 40-year-old single man to drive us to school when everyone else said no.

When my high school days finally came to an end and I resorted to rooming with an asshole co-worker because I had spent the past week living out of my car, there were still more books to look forward to.  I finally read The Witching Hour, which spoke of a legacy of witches haunted by a ghost and restricted by the rules of their inheritance.  The heir had a bittersweet end, when she was able to keep her lover but lost her child.

My own sex life was carefully monitored.  I purposely waited until after my eighteenth birthday to end my virginity, since I wanted neither parent of mine to ever have influence over any child of mine.  The only foolproof way to ensure this was abstinence.  After I turned 18 and knew that I would have 100% control, I was willing to have sex using condoms or birth control.  I also felt like I was corrupt.  I thought that it wasn’t possible for me to ever have a child and NOT continue the cycle of abuse (which in my case was at least never physical).  So, I made sure as best I could to practice the safest sex possible.  If pregnancy happened, I was fully prepared to either adopt or abort.  In my own way, I mourned the fact that I thought I’d grow old without ever having a family of my own.  But, I just couldn’t risk the chance of sentencing a child to the same misery I experienced.

Betrayal — Christ The Lord series

When Anne Rice lost her husband and subsequently wrote Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, I felt betrayed.  That imaginary kinship I had with her over the years was shattered.  There was a void between us now.  It was the same with my best friend, whose teenage pregnancy I couldn’t handle and I left her instead of helping her with diapers and baby daddy drama.

I never once outright said that I didn’t believe in God.  I always did, but I felt like He was never on my side.  I only felt the judgmental rules and saw His hypocritical followers.  I knew that I wanted Heaven, but I wasn’t willing to follow blindly.  I’d rather sacrifice my own morality than condemn someone else’s.  And it hurt that after years of having Anne Rice be an ex-Catholic with me, she decided to sort out her spiritual side with a handful of books about Jesus.

I stopped buying her books, yet I could never fill the void she left in my book obsessed self.  The horror shelves had sadly disappeared from bookstores.  I dove into high fantasy instead, but it wasn’t the same.  The villains were bad and the heroes were good.  From my own life, I had trouble relating.  I knew many people who did bad things to me, yet weren’t evil people.  I only knew of one or two people that acted like Saints regardless of the occasion.  The heroes in the books were nothing like them.

I eventually drifted away from books.  I ventured into video games, always playing the bad side.  It reminded me of the times I played Barbies with my little sister.  I always played the bad guy, since she wanted to be the good one.  But although we called it “good” vs “evil”, in my mind, the bad guys weren’t that bad at all.  They craved power and let their emotions overshadow logic.  They made mistakes and my sister’s good Barbies always won.  Though, I felt like I won because I got her to play with Barbies far past the “cool” age to play them.

Playing the bad guys in video games, it always felt liberating.  I didn’t have a moral code restricting my decisions.  I could be bad or not and the game didn’t care.  People expected the worst and were often surprised when I did the decent thing instead.  It was nice to feel that appreciation when the rest of my life had still not recovered from my teenage years.

And it didn’t for several years.  Not until I decided on a whim to get away from every negative person in my life.  I hopped on a plane and visited a guy I knew only by his online screen name.  I fell in love with freedom and with him.

anne rice

After 15 years, I’m mere feet away from my idol, Anne Rice.

Reunited — The Wolf Gift series

Anne Rice didn’t re-enter my life until she came out with The Wolf Gift in 2012.  It was her grand return into the paranormal.  I was hesitant.  So hesitant that I didn’t buy the book – I borrowed it from the library.  In this book, I fell in love with her writing all over again and yet her main character, Ruben, was someone I didn’t recognize.  He felt calm, comfortable in his own skin.  It wasn’t the hyper-active, bad-boy Lestat that I remembered.  I nearly gave up on her again.

But then, I looked at my own life.

I finally had a family of my own.  I didn’t have to worry about where I’d find my next meal or worry that if I pissed off my housemate that I’d end up back in the street.  Although I have pissed  off my husband (especially during PMS),  we’re both on the lease…so technically neither one can kick the other out.  Thanks to my younger sister, who raised two kids on her own for several years (until she met an awesome guy), I no longer felt like I was cursed to become a bad parent and decided to have a child of my own.

Though The Wolf Gift wasn’t as compelling to read as some of her other work, it felt like Anne Rice had finally made peace with herself.  She’s religious yet an activist for gay rights.  She’s managed to find a perfect balance between what religion tells us we should do and what our heart tells us to do.

And though, I will probably never again receive Communion…I think that I too have found peace.  I believe, but not at the expense of others.  If that means that I won’t get that magic ticket into Heaven, then that’s okay.  At least I made the Earth a slightly better place.

Last month I was finally given the opportunity to meet Anne Rice.  After a two and a half hour wait in line, unfortunately, whatever brilliant speech I had planned to tell her came out in some nonsense babble instead.  I wish I could have told her how much she helped me get through the most difficult times in my life.  I wish that I could tell her that even though I might not like her new books all that much, I still have the upmost respect for her and her writing.  She’s taught me that I can write about anything.  She’s taught me to bend the boundaries of what to expect in a genre.  She’s taught me that it’s okay to rebel and take chances (like what she did when she decided to write religious books instead of paranormal/horror).  And she’s taught me that the most important thing is to discover what will make me at peace with my life.

For that, she will always be my author idol.

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Book Review: The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman (4 stars)

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The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Ace Hardcover

Pages: 410

Published: October 1st, 2013

Links: Amazon |  Goodreads  |  Barnes & Noble

Author Links:  Goodreads  |  Website  |  Twitter

Those Across the River, a “beautifully written…exceedingly clever” (Boston Herald) masterpiece of “genuine terror” (New York Times bestselling author F. Paul Wilson), was hailed by #1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris as “one of the best first novels I’ve ever read.” Now comes Christopher Buehlman’s new novel—one of uncommon horrors hiding behind the walls of the house next door…

“You think you got away with something, don’t you? But your time has run out. We know where you are. And we are coming.”
The man on the screen says this in Russian.
“Who are you?”
The man smiles, but it’s not a pleasant smile.
The image freezes.
The celluloid burns exactly where his mouth is, burns in the nearly flat U of his smile. His eyes burn, too.
The man fades, leaving the burning smiley face smoldering on the screen.
“Oh Christ,” Andrew says.
The television catches fire.

Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang, and a massive library. He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak with the dead through film. His house is a maze of sorcerous booby traps and escape tunnels, as yours might be if you were sitting on a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago. Andrew has long known that magic was a brutal game requiring blood sacrifice and a willingness to confront death, but his many years of peace and comfort have left him soft, more concerned with maintaining false youth than with seeing to his own defense. Now a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him, and frost and death are coming with her.

THE NECROMANCER’S HOUSE is written unlike any other horror novel.  It’s language has a poetic tone to it and flashbacks and tiddbits of information interrupt the story sometimes mid-sentence.  It’s an artistic gamble by author Christopher Buelhman that reaps rewards during the action and horror scenes/sections of the novel.

Unlike many horror novels, THE NECROMANCER’S HOUSE spends chapters developing the characters’ depth, though even the characters with invested in the story aren’t protected from death.  Because the author wants the reader to become attach to the characters and really make it hurt when the characters kick the bucket, this ‘thriller’ does end up lagging in pace through parts of the story.  The scary scenes are scary, yet there are too many scenes that lack the horror pacing to keep the reader suspended in an ugly, terrifying place throughout the entire novel.

The climax is spellbounding, however, and the fight scene continues for chapters.  The climatic scene is possibly the best written action scene I’ve ever read.  This isn’t an author who shies away from showing exactly what happened and not once did I feel disappointed because the novel ‘faded to black’ too early.  Overall, this is a novel that shouldn’t be devoured in one sitting.  Like a fine wine, it needs to be sipped in the beginning, so that you can let the weight of the shit the main character, Andrew Blankenship, created sink into your mind.  But, when you get to the final showdown, though long…you may find yourself staying up late so that you won’t have to stop reading.

B ratingplus rating

(I received a copy of this book from the Sparkpoint Studio in exchange for my honest review.)

about author

Christopher Buehlman is a native Floridian and author of the literary horror novels Those Across the River and Between Two Fires. He won the 2007 Bridport Prize in poetry and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for best novel in 2012 for Those Across The River. He is also the author of several provocative plays, including Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka. Many know him as comedian Christophe the Insultor, something of a cult figure on the renaissance festival circuit. Christopher holds a Bachelor’s degree in French Language from Florida State University, where he minored in History. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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