February 28, 2014

Erotica Versus Aliterates: a review of "Book Lovers" edited by Shawna Kenney

Book Lovers

edited by Shawna Kenney

Seal Press (2014)

256 pages

ISBN13: 9781580055291

I figured there was no better time of year to review a genre that's out of my usual comfort zone, that being erotica, than the month that plays host to Valentine's Day. Well, Cupid's big day has come and gone, but that's no reason not to shine a light on some more naughty fiction. I read a little bit of everything, so when I saw this new anthology dedicated to--you guessed it--book lovers, I figured I should check it out.

"A to Z" by Kristina Wright started off the book really well, with a love affair between two women who meet in a library, their affair intensifying with each book they read together, going alphabetically through various authors from A to Z. I thought it did a great job in encapsulating the whole theme of the anthology, and setting the bar quite high for the rest of the stories that would follow.

Stories about book lovers weren't relegated strictly to libraries though, as the anthology sees characters getting up to all kinds of hanky-panky in small Irish villages--even the Playboy Mansion in Izabella St. James' "Playmates at Play." Some stories wound up being like erotic homages to famous authors like Edgar Allen Poe and Junot Diaz. As a matter of fact, the anthology lends itself to references with countless winks and nods to several authors.

That said, as varied in style as the stories are, they vary in enjoyment as well, as some were just a little too saturated in their inspiration. Almost like they were trying to hard to emulate and pay tribute to, rather than focus on the story itself.

All in all, a book of erotic fiction that aims a wee bit higher than Twilight fan-fic, Book Lovers offers quite the heated blend of stories that all show a deep and abiding love of the written word. Call it smut if you like, but you can't say it doesn't have heart.

February 25, 2014

Boy Scouts, Body Horror, and Baby Names: an interview with Nick Cutter, author of "The Troop"

Yesterday, I posted my review of Nick Cutter's breathtakingly visceral horror novel, The Troop. To delve just a wee bit deeper into the subject matter, reactions to it, and what lies ahead, I had the good fortune to ask Nick a few questions as Simon & Schuster gears up the marketing machine on an honest-to-god horror novel. Good for them. Keep 'em coming, ladies and gents.

Gef: The Troop has the distinction of being the scariest novel since Anne of Green Gables to be set in Prince Edward Island. What was the initial attraction to that region for this story?

Nick: I’ve spent a lot of time in the Maritimes, over 5 years, so I love that part of the country. PEI has its own distinction within that: bucolic, lovely, quaint. So turning that on its head a little was fun. And I wanted to keep it Canadian, as a Canuck myself.

Gef: Body horror is one thing, but when it's backed up by some kind of science, the severity is amplified so much. It is in this novel, at any rate. I can imagine you need a pretty strong stomach to do the research necessary on this one. Am I right?

Nick: Yeah, there was the definite body horror aspect. I was actually at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and they had an exhibit on WATER. How we use it as a species, how it’s used around the world … and the things that live in it. There was a tiny little area set off one side of the sprawling exhibit, a dark little room with a video tape running on a loop. A doctor talking about the little creatures who take the villain role in this book … one of those roles, anyway. I was fascinated. That was where the research started. Totally accidental, which is how I imagine a lot of books get started.

Gef: Given the premise for the novel and the teenage characters, I've seen early reviews liken The Troop to stories like Lord of the Flies, The Ruins, and even the Eli Roth film, Cabin Fever. When writing, were you conscious of the potential to get those titles thrown your way, and if so is it something you want to embrace, avoid, or just ignore?

Nick: Oh, I think it’s unavoidable. I’ve always worn my influences on my sleeve, and the horror genre is one of conventions. It’s not that there aren’t books that stand outside of that, the odd HOUSE OF LEAVES, but to my reading there are tropes and character types that predominate. And I like that. It’s the comfy sweater aspect of it: you know what you’re slipping on. And The Troop is really meant to be just a straight-ahead, hard-charging, fireballing horror book. No pulled punches, no pretensions (not that I think other horror writers traffic in pretension). So yeah, if readers spot similarities to other books or films, that’s fair. But within that framework, I think there are aspects that are totally my own.

Gef: I haven't found all that many negative reviews of The Troop, but the couple I did see on Goodreads were based on a scene involving the death of an animal. I've always found that odd, how some object to imaginary animals suffering untimely fates in stories, while seemingly content with the imaginary people dropping like flies. Was that a reaction for which you were prepared? Conversely, is there anything you can't tolerate in the fiction you read?

Nick: Yeah, it was interesting. While writing it, my main concern, in all honesty, was: These are kids. They’re not toddlers, not first graders, but still essentially kids. Will readers put up with that? Well, the early returns indicate that yes, readers will put up with that. Animals getting hurt, however, they won’t abide. And I get that. The scenes are there, perhaps strangely in some reader’s eyes, because I love animals. I grew up around them and want my own son to grow up around them. And when my son, who is 18 months old, pulls our cat’s tail, he gets admonished. He will grow up with a love of animals, as I have. So, like most things I write, there was a distinct reason why those scenes unfold as they do. To candy-coat or fake the funk would be disingenuous to me, even within a work of fiction. But those scenes are going to test, or exceed, the tolerance of some readers. I guess what bugs me is the subsurface sense, in some of these reviews, that I as a writer must be some kind of sicko, an animal abuser, to have even come up with this. That’s a little absurd and insulting. But again, it comes with the territory. Certainly every horror writer has had to deal with that reaction from time to time.

Gef: Nick Cutter is a pretty good pen name, but the first name is a nod to your infant son, Nick. Um, you pinning some hopes of a successor to your burgeoning horror empire? Fixing on enrolling him in the Boy Scouts when he's older, by any chance?

Nick: Hah! Well, really, coming up with the pen name was fun. It’s a little honorific to my son, though we’ll see if he ends up feeling the same way when he’s a teenager—but by then he’ll think everything I do is lame, so it won’t make a difference.

Gef: Any idea what's next for Nick Cutter? Is there something already in the works, or must you wait in line while that Craig Davidson fella is writing?

Nick: Craig Davidson? Never heard of that scoundrel. Nick Cutter’s next book is set in Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in our world’s oceans, 8 miles down in the deeps.

And if you, by any chance, want to learn a little more about The Troop, you can head on over to Simon& Schuster's book section. Or even visit http://www.thetroopbook.com/

February 24, 2014

How to Earn a Merit Badge for Horror: a review of Nick Cutter's "The Troop"

The Troop
by Nick Cutter
Simon & Schuster Canada (2014)
368 pages
ISBN 1476717710 (ISBN13: 9781476717715)

Prince Edward Island is not a place I would consider synonymous with horror ... until now. Nick Cutter has crafted a terrifying thriller here that takes a tiny island just off the coast of the picturesque province and turns it into a prison for a troop of teen boys and their scoutmaster.

The novel itself kind of came out of nowhere, an advance review copy that appeared in my mailbox late in the summer. I had never heard of Nick Cutter before, so I had no idea what to expect from it, and then I found out Nick Cutter was a pseudonym for an author whose work I had read and reviewed in the past, and that's when my interest rose considerably.

On paper, the premise sounds familiar enough. A group of teens are trapped with a ravenous creature that seems bent on devouring them all. That's a bit misleading, though not by much. It's the characters, or rather the interaction between the characters, that carry the story, along with an interesting interspersing of news articles and investigative interviews set after the events that take place on the small island. There's a strong sense of dread just from reading along as Scoutmaster Tim, a small-town doctor, and his six teen charges are met by a disheveled, starving man who washes up on shore. But it's the interludes that confirm things are only going to get worse for everyone without explicitly saying what that really hammers home the horror.

Granted, this novel is not for the weak-stomached. I've been squeamish about body horror ever since I was a little boy, and honestly, my stomach will still churn when things get especially graphic--even with a novel where my imagination is putting all the gruesomeness on display. Look, I don't think I'm spoiling much by saying the stranger who arrives at the island camp has something parasitic in his belly, but I would be spoiling things to say just how gross things get when that parasite makes its presence known.

There are moments, particularly in the beginning, when the boys feel like archetype portrayals and little more, and maybe that's what Cutter was going for (the jock, the loner, the fatty, the coward, etc.), but the novel steers away from becoming a gory version of Lord of the Flies. Oh, it gets gory in spots, and the William Golding references can easily be made, but Nick Cutter has worked very hard for his stranded boys to stand on their own merits.

The Troop is an easy read that's hard to stomach. You'll get a lot out of it, but it just might get a lot out of you, too.

Available via Amazon.com and other fine bookstores.

February 20, 2014

Badges, Blood, and ... Bigfoot?: an interview with Justin Gustainis, author of "Known Devil"

Earlier today, I had the chance to review the first novel in Justin Gustainis' Occult Crimes Unit trilogy, Hard Spell. Before I dove into the next two novels, the most recent of which, Known Devil, hit shelves very recently, I managed to ask Justin a few questions about the series and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: Three novels in and now your supernaturally enhanced version of Scranton, New Jersey is facing a turf war between gangs with supernatural abilities. While I'm not exactly expecting a cross between Tony Soprano and Voldomort in this new novel, what kind of approach did you want to take with regards to organized crime and magic?

Justin: Although magic is common in my “alternate” universe, the gangs in Known Devil involve magic only in the broadest sense – their members are (almost) all vampires. As I describe it, these were originally human Mafia “families” whose members decided that virtual immortality sounded like a good idea. Or maybe the Godfather of each family told the members, “Get undead, or get lost.” Of course, immortality comes to a crashing halt (literally) if some other “fangster” puts a silver bullet in your brain.

Gef: Despite the protestations of readers and writers alike who are sick of vampires, they persist. Same with zombies. And I've even heard the occasional grumblings about urban fantasy as a whole. What's your take on the genre these days? Still thriving? Still pushing against its boundaries? Or are things getting a little penned in by expectations and orthodoxy?

Justin: The urban fantasy market may have become saturated (just as horror did in the 1980s). My agent, whose agency represents a number of urban fantasy authors besides me, says that they are not taking on any new urban fantasy writers these days, unless something extraordinary comes along. Actually, I think part of the marketing problem comes from a common conflation between urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The two are similar in some ways, since they both put supernatural elements into a modern setting. But my definition of urban fantasy is “paranormal romance without all the mush.” Needless to say, it is a definition not accepted by everybody. I think the paranormal romance end of the continuum is definitely over-saturated. But the people writing good-quality, gritty urban fantasy you could count on two hands and still have a few fingers left over.

Gef: While I didn't see anything about involvement in law enforcement as I glanced your bio, I did see something about you reaching the rank of Lieutenant in the Army. Any chance of seeing a military UF novel to complement your Quincey Morris and Occult Crimes Unit series?

Justin: Military UF – interesting concept. I’m familiar with military SF (although I’m not a fan, personally), but military UF is something I haven’t encountered, unless we count the vast literature that’s apparently based on role-playing games, and maybe we should. Hmm… vampire armies battling werewolves by the light of the full moon. Could be fun, but it’s not for me. I only revisit my military days unwillingly – in nightmares.

Gef: Considering the hubbub about Governor Christie and the whole bridge scandal, any chance another novel is in the works that offers a political slant? I can just imagine the kind of havoc Christie's staff could wreak with some magic on tap.

Justin: I take it this means you’re rejecting the “demonic possession” defense that has been raised by some of the governor’s supporters. I think it’s worth considering, myself. But in any case, I’ve already written a book which has the relationship between politics and (black) magic as one of its major themes. Sympathy for the Devil is part of my other series, which features occult investigator Quincey Morris (a descendant of the Texan who helped Van Helsing kill Dracula) and his associate, “white” witch Libby Chastain. The book is about a demonically-possessed presidential candidate – and any resemblance to actual presidential candidates, either living, dead, or undead, is coincidental and unintended. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Gef: Markowski lives in a world that feels like a well-balanced mashup of urban fantasy and police procedural, two genres that seem remarkably well suited for each other--at least in this case. Are there any other genre mashups that you're a fan of?

Justin: There’s one I stumbled upon recently that I get an immense kick out of. It’s a genre that combines crypto-zoology and, um, porn. One of my favorite titles (although I haven’t read it) is Bigfoot Did Me from Behind, and I Liked It. Seriously – you can buy it on Amazon. I think this particular kind of mashup is the future of genre fiction – and if it isn’t, it should be.

Thanks, Justin. As for the rest of you, you can visit his website at www.justingustainis.com/ or you can check out his Author Page on Amazon.com.

Dracula Meets Dragnet: a review of Justin Gustainis' "Hard Spell"

Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation: Book 1)
by Justin Gustainis
Angry Robot Books (2011)
400 pages
ISBN 0857661159

I've read a few police procedurals over the years and it's just not a genre I've found much enjoyment in. When story gets taken up with a lot of the minutia of the protagonist's given trade, whether that be detective, surgeon, lawyer, or intelligence agent, I tend to zone out. I guess the missing ingredient was the supernatural, because Justin Gustainis' Hard Spell turned out to be quite an enjoyable novel.

Set in Scranton, New Jersey, magic and the supernatural became known in the world early on in the 20th century. And Scranton, it turns out, happens to sit on the meetings of ley lines, making it a magnet for vampires, werewolves, witches, and wizards, and just about anything else that used to be categorized as "no such thing." To keep the supernatural in check, the already strained police force has a Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit, and this novel features the exploits of two detectives, Stan Markowski, the grizzled vet, and his new, hot-shot partner, Karl Renfer.

Things can get pretty wild when chasing down criminals with one supernatural ability or another, but they have a pretty good handle on things, busting up kids trying to summon a demon just to see if they can do it, or some witch slinging charms on the black market, but when a horrific murder takes place and the victim winds up being one of the supernatural, Markowski and Renfer suspect things have turned up a notch in Scranton. The victim was a wizard, and judging by the way he was tortured, whatever the murderer stole from the safe still stuffed with cash, must have been pretty darned important. Before long, Markowski and Renfer are working every angle they can to find the killer and piece together what his/her endgame is before anymore of Scranton's supernatural citizens wind up dead--or deader than they already are.

If this had been a straight-up murder mystery, I probably would have checked out. The minutia of police work--any work for that matter--is a little taxing for me as a reader who wants to see some action. Thankfully, Gustainis crafted quite the little web of lies and red herrings for this mystery, and a really ingenious use of magic and vampirism through the novel. The fact that these detectives approach each astonishing case of the supernatural with a "been there, done that" attitude, helps bring those fantastical elements into the real world and make them seem plausible. It also helps that the magic system isn't just some wave-your-wand nonsense, but shows a lot of elbow grease and heavy consequences for tinkering with the different kinds of spell and wards they either run up against or use themselves.

Markowski and Renfer have a great little dynamic going on, too. There's a fair bit of backstory peppered all through the novel, can feel a little bit tedious at times, especially when raring for the next revelation or action sequence, but it's balanced with some great dialogue between the two detectives as well as with the colorful cast of characters they run across through their investigation.

It seems Angry Robot knows just the kind of urban fantasy I like, publishing this series along with Chuck Wendig's Myriam Black series and Chris F. Holm's Collector trilogy. Hard Spell couples some hard-boiled aspects with some hellacious ones to make for a very good mystery with a paranormal bent. And with two more books in the series, Known Devil being the most recent published this winter, I should be well entertained through spring.

February 18, 2014

The Monster Can't Be Hated: an interview with Mary SanGiovanni, author of "The Fading Place"

I had the good fortune to read Mary SanGiovanni's thriller, The Fading Place, recently. The review appeared on the blog yesterday, and as an added treated, I got the chance to ask Mary a few questions about the novella and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: With DarkFuse, the novella has really been afforded a place to shine, especially with the rise of ebooks I feel, and The Fading Place wound up being another strong example of what a good, taut thriller should look like. Was this story designed to be a novella from the outset or was that just how it turned out once you had a draft finished?

Mary: Thank you! Yes – writing it, I knew that the best length for making this kind of story work would be a novella. A short story would have made it feel too rushed and the characters too underdeveloped; a novel would have drawn out the tension maybe too long to keep it sustained. A novella seemed like the right form to tell the story at the pace and level of development I wanted to achieve.

Gef: Simone feels like a villain that is a special kind of crazy. It's like even she is aghast by her own mania during certain moments. Was she a character that came to you fully formed or did her rather tenuous grip on reality and dire need to be close to little Haley develop over the course of drafting the story?

Mary: She developed into a more human, more layered person, I think, as the story developed. I had originally considered the focus of the horror on the idea that this deranged woman wanted to take away the most precious thing a mother has. As I was writing it, though, and exploring Simone's motivation for wanting the baby, I realized that what I had was a woman that you wanted to hate because you could both sympathize and completely abhor her. To me, the real horror in people like Simone is that they aren't alien types boogeymen so far removed from us that we know we could never identify with them; rather, the idea that she is just as human as Charlie, and but for the misfortune of some chemical imbalances, once on the same trajectory of life as Charlie. That the monster can't be hated and safely distanced from oneself because it is not so much different than we are is frightening to me.

Gef: With the "mother and child trapped in a car" scenes, I couldn't help but pick up a Cujo vibe. Granted, the threat is inside the car for The Fading Place. I don't suppose there was wink-and-nod to Stephen King, was there, or was I just reading too much with that?

Mary: You know, I never thought of that, but it's an interesting point, now that you mention it. I always did find the concept of the car as both prison and protection in that story very unsettling, especially given the overriding and conflicted maternal need for a mother to protect her child, so it could have been a subconscious influence.

Gef: You've been in the trenches for several years now, right in the thick of the morphing landscape of publishing and a horror genre that has been challenged and bolstered by the e-book marketplace. Along with honing your craft as a writer, have you noticed much of an evolution in the business of writing or is it just the same lovely grind with a few more bells and whistles?

Mary: I think some of the basic ideas are the same – you still need to write a good story, you still need to get it into the hands of readers, and you still need to be prolific. However, while the principles might be the same, I think the basic tools of the trade have changed. For example, I think e-books will (and have already begun to) replace mass market paperbacks as the quick reading fix, the airport impulse buy or beach read. I think it's important for writers to include e-book versions of their books as well as print. Also, I think the brick-and-mortar bookstores are essentially being replaced by online stores; therefore, the hand-sell by staff that used to move so many copies of an author's books – that word-of-mouth viral marketing – is being replaced by reviews by online bloggers and e-zines. I think the writer has to take a much bigger role in his/her own self promotion than in the past, which is a whole topic in and of itself to cover, but basically, social media and the internet are new tools to master in terms of self-promotion and marketing. They have their upsides and downsides.

Gef: Despite what a few troglodytes might think, there is no shortage of quality horror fiction written by those of the female persuasion. So, since February is Women in Horror Month, how about some book recommendations? I'll go first and recommend Sandy DeLuca's Hell's Door (another offering from DarkFuse).

Mary: I agree. ;) There are a number of great reads by women horror writers out there. A few off the top of my head: Sarah Langan's AUDREY'S DOOR, Shirley Jackson's HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE or WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, Charlotte Gilman Perkin's THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, Kelli Owen's WAITING OUT WINTER. I also think V.C. Andrews' FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC and MY SWEET AUDRINA are scary books.

Gef: And once folks get their fill of The Fading Place, what more can they expect from you in 2014?

Mary: I am currently working on a new novel (a kind of ghost story), a number of short stories, and a new supernatural novella, to all hopefully be completed and published this year. Details as they are made available to the public can be found on my website (http://www.marysangiovanni.com). I also do semi-regular blog postings for Apex Publishing's blogs.

February 17, 2014

Faded Genes and Desperate Means: a review of Mary SanGiovanni's "The Fading Place"

The Fading Place
by Mary SanGiovanni
DarkFuse (2014)
ISBN13: 9781949544229

They say never to get in the car with someone trying to abduct you. Run for your life. But what do they say to do when you're already in the car with armed-and-crazy? And running at the earliest opportunity is pretty hard to do when your infant daughter is in the car, too.

Charlie, a single mother, on the road with her infant daughter, Haley, just doing her usual errands around town. A completely normal, random day. That is until she meets Simone, an emotionally unstable woman who takes her hostage and forces her to drive to an unannounced location, all while Simone sits in the backseat with little Haley. And if Charlie doesn't do as she's told, Simone promising to kill Haley, and Charlie is inclined to believe her because Simone shows an unnerving disregard for her own well-being, along with that of Charlie and her daughter.

There's nothing fancy about this novella. It's just pure terror reflecting a parent's worst nightmare. And Charlie is as much trapped in the maelstrom of potential outcomes whirling in her mind as she's trapped in the car with a madwoman. And the further along the road they travel, the more evident it is that Simone's psyche is all but shattered, and it becomes a balancing act for Charlie to keep things from spiraling even more out of control.

The Fading Place taps into that same kind of terror as Stephen King's Cujo, but with a shorter page count in which to work. In one sense, the story feels abrupt, but on the other hand it doesn't mince words and doesn't slow down. It certainly served as a strong introduction to SanGiovanni's work and I will be keeping my eye out for more. She has a novel out from a couple years back called Thrall that I may have to look up, so there's that.

February 14, 2014

Jessie Shimmer's Afterglow: a review of Lucy A. Snyder's "Orchid Carousals"

Orchid Carousals
by Lucy A. Snyder (with Kaysee Renee Robichaud)
Creative Guy Publishing (2013)
166 pages
ISBN13 9781894953689

I first discovered Lucy A. Snyder's writing through her urban fantasy series, which features Jessie Shimmer, a young and rebellious wielder of magic. A pretty sexy character, but I don't recall Jessie Shimmer getting so unabashedly down and dirty as she does in the first story of Orchid Carousals. This isn't your grandmother's urban fantasy, folks. This is some seriously erotic fantasy, and if your grandma is into that, then she must have been really fun at parties back in the old days.

Orchid Carousals is a collection that works as a bit of an after-hours glimpse into the worlds of Snyder's imagination. "At the Royal Orchide" is a two-parter, starting off as an exploration of two friends becoming way more than that, then transitioning into an exploration of a different sort among three friends. There's as much humor as there is hot, steamy sex with that story, which suits Jessie Shimmer just fine.

"Biscuit", co-authored with Kaysee Renee Robichaud, goes a different route with a little more romance, and even more magic, as a young man picks up a beautiful mage shortly after a botched heist. The former roommate of Jessie winds up not just having a wild ride with the woman, but her magical talents give him a literal out-of-body experience.

Then things switch into a more sci-fi vibe with "Fall of Darkness" and "In the Wilderness." After that though, the stories become much shorter, almost aperitifs more than anything else. A couple poems and the rest being flash fiction that is little less explicit and more brief than I would have liked. That said, it's the first two-thirds of the book that really carry the reading experience and make Orchid Carousals worth reading.

I'm not done reading all of the Jessie Shimmer novels, so I have a hunch that I'll see a stark difference in just how hot and heavy things get in those novels compared to what's inside this book's pages. I don't remember any demons doing it in the first novel, Spellbent. But, with Snyder the one doing the writing, I'll know it'll be entertaining all the same.

February 12, 2014

A Woman with the Morals of a Man: a review of Selena Kitt's "Hussy"


by Selena Kitt

Excessica Publishing (2013)

176 pages


"Don't worry, dear--a hussy is just a woman with the morals of a man."

With the words of her grandmother ringing in her ears, Lindsey shows no shame with her attitude towards sex. "Hussy" is a bit of an old-fashioned word, but it's Lindsey's favorite and she plays it to the hilt. And if you don't believe me, just read the first chapter of this Selena Kitt novella.

Lindsey is introduced to us as she leaves her house for the night, lying to her parents about her true destination: a treehouse full of male classmates. What starts out as a drunken romp turns into a pretty intense sex scene with multiple partners, and it doesn't appear to be all that consensual. A gang-rape scene, to put it bluntly. Only it's a sex game, we find out when everyone is spent, orchestrated by Lindsey who revels in the experience after she gets back home.

And that's Lindsey's life apparently, until she meets a young army lietenant named Zachary Davis. Unlike the other men in her life, Zachary actually treats her with respect and develops genuine emotions for her, which throws Lindsey for a loop, because she soon develops feelings for him too that go beyond a primal lust. But as she explores this new relationship with Zachary, old habits die hard, and a bit of a reckoning ensues with Lindsey's life, both sexual and personal.

After the whole bru-ha-ha that happened last fall with self-published erotica authors, I figured I ought to try a book out and see where the controversy was coming from. Hussy doesn't strike me as the run-of-the-mill erotica book, taking what is apparently a longheld sexual fantasy and almost deconstructing it while simultaneously putting it on full display for the reader. For as much titillation, there is also a disturbing undercurrent. I think if someone picked up this book purely for the salaciousness of reading about a promiscuous young woman and her extreme sexual appetite, that reader would have their escapism thrown right back in their face.

Extremes is what this book is all about, though. Lindsey and Zachary start out as such polar opposites that their mutual attraction is nearly as unbelievable as their personalities. Amid the sex and the violence, there is a romance at its heart, which I think is the real draw for the book. It just doesn't resonate quite as well as I think the author intended.

February 10, 2014

Chasing Tale [2/10/14]: All These Boxes Can Eff Off

Chasing Tale is a regular look at the books that I recently added to my to-be-read pile. Some are advance review copies, some I bought from one store or another, and others are freebies from promotional offers that caught my eye.

I just realized that with the prospect of moving, there is a very real chance of getting a hernia or popping a vertebrae trying to carry out the goddamn pile of books I have laying around. The bed, the dresser, the fridge, whatever. I already know they'll be a chore to move. But the books ... oh my lord, the books. I'm not the bookworm equivalent to a cat lady, and I know there are some of you out there who are buried under an even larger pile of books, but I really get the appeal of e-readers. For as many books as I've loaded onto my Kindle--and there are hundreds--the thing is only half full and still as light as it was as the day I got it.

Lemme tell ya, if I wake up some morning surrounded by fire, you can forget the photo albums, forget the clothes, even forget the cat, and you can damn sure forget about the books. The very first thing I'm grabbing before the flames start tickling the hairs on my ass is my Kindle. Done.

Okay, that silly tirade is over. Here's another big effing pile of books to wind up on my TBR pile in recent weeks. Almost all of which are on my Kindle. See how easy that is?

Candy by Lawrence Block (as Sheldon Lord) - This is a book I found on the Kindle Store, but not without considerable effort in digging through Amazon's search engine. Amazon, for some reason, wouldn't just give me a direct link to its product page when I searched the Kindle Store. I had to find it in the Audible listings, then click on the Kindle edition link on the audiobook's product page. Weird.

Guns of Brixton by Paul D. Brazill - A jewelry heist in drag? Oh, I think I might enjoy that. Another crime novella from Brazill just went on my TBR pile.
Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness - As if living in Wisconsin isn't bad enough, try it as a vampire.

The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark - Okay, so Christmas was a couple months ago. So what? Spectral Press put out a new collection in time for the holidays, this time highlighting short stories by M.R. James and the BBC adaptations by Lawrence Gordon Clark, with a slew of photographs and other information to complement it. At first glance, the book looks amazing and I can't wait to dive into it and get back in the Christmas spirit.

Fight by Brent Coffey - A short novel involving a criminal prosecutor up against the Mafia. Not usually into legal thrillers, but this one sounds like it might spend more time on the streets than in the courtroom.

The Wrong Quarry by Max Allan Collins - Audiobooks are something I've kind of warmed up to ever since I started listening to podcasts. Well, because I need something to listen to while I'm peddling my chubby little butt off on my stationary bike, audiobooks have become a nice distraction. This latest in Collins' Quarry series came out in January through Audible, Inc. and since I haven't read a Quarry novel yet, I thought this might be a cool way to get my toes wet.

Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled 2 edited by David Cramner & Scott D. Parker - I read the first Hardboiled anthology last year and really enjoyed it, then I saw there was a second anthology when it popped up on my eReaderIQ alerts a while ago. Eric Beetner, Jedidiah Ayres, and Edward A. Grainger are a few of the contributing authors, plus a bunch more who I look forwarding to discovering.

Frankenstorm: Severe Risk by Ray Garton - This is the first installment in Garton's serial novel with a natural disaster of Roland Emerich proportions. Garton's good, and with a title like Frankenstorm, how can I not take this one for a test drive?

Hard Spell and Evil Dark by Justin Gustainis - I recently added the third Occult Crimes novel, Known Devil, to my TBR pile. Not long after that, Justin actually contacted me about reviewing all three of the novels in the series, after he read my review of Chris F. Holm's Dead Harvest. He'll actually be stopping by the blog on February 21st for an interview too, so watch out for that.

Miami Purity by Vicki Hendricks - A modern take on The Postman Always Rings Twice? Alright. Hey, I just need to know Vicki Hendricks wrote it and Megan Abbott sings its praises. It was on sale recently too, so that was the last bit of incentive to hit the buy button.
The Body Project by Kameron Hurley - This is a novelette set in Hurley's Nyx & Co. universe. She had it offered for free online, but I saw it was only 99 cents on the Kindle Store, and since I previously received the first two novels from that series as freebies from her former publisher, shelling out a mere buck is literally the least I could do.

Path of Needles by Alison Littlewood - I won a copy of this thriller from the fine folks at Worlds Without End. I like the idea of this murder mystery incorporating fairy tale elements as part of the murders. If it's been done before, I've never heard of it. Pretty neat twist on the genre, I figure.

The Gentling Box and Deathwatch by Lisa Mannetti - Both of these books have been re-released through Nightscape Press. The Gentling Box is one of my favorite novels from the last five years (or is six by now?), and Deathwatch is a pair of gothic horror novellas that will absolutely make your skin crawl.
Maze by J.M. McDermott - This new novel coming out through Apex Books sounds like a real mind-bender. I can't recall ever reading McDermott's work before, but he has a bit of buzz in his wake with a bunch of short story publications and a debut novel that received some not-so-feint praise. It sounds like it involves a maze that acts as a temporal spiderweb that has ensnared a number of humans left to scratch and claw for survival. Yikes. Oh, and you can check out Joe's guest post by clicking here.
Stork by Shane McKenzie - Here's a novella about a psychologically damaged young woman brainwashed by her grandmother that she has no soul, and tries to start a family of her own. Not exactly sounding like "chick lit" now, is it.

Reality Engineers by Anthony J. Rapino - A new audiobook came out recently via In Ear Entertainment, the same crew that released Exquisite Deaths, which I reviewed last year. It's novella length, so it'll be a relatively quick listen, and given Anthony's track record, it'll be a wild and weird one, too.
Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood - This nerdy little gem was on sale in January and I just couldn't help myself. Had to get it, especially since I have the sequel, Celebromancy, on my Kindle already.

Noir Nation No. 3: The India Issue edited by Alex Vega - How about a whole slew of noir-themed short stories, but with the added twist that the stories are either set in India or penned by Indian authors? I guess there is a thriving marketplace for crime fiction over there, which is very cool to know, because I just can't sit through a Bollywood film, but I bet I'll find some enjoyable crime stories in this batch.

Conjure by Mark West - I was window shopping the Kindle Store one day and saw this novella by Mark West. Mark wrote a really good novella called The Mill that I reviewed on the blog, so I imagine I'll enjoy this one, too.

A Pale Horse by Adam Wolf -This is actually being released as a serial novel. The link will take you to the first installment.

Nameless: The Darkness Comes by Mercedes M. Yardley - Here's a brand new urban fantasy novel, the first of a trilogy, from a writer who is about ready to break out big, at least in my opinion. She's good and the unholy army that is Ragnarok Publications knows it, and it was extra cool they put it on sale during its first week on the Kindle Store for a mere 99 cents.

Eight the Hard Way by various authors - "Eight thrilling stories from eight masters of suspense." It looks like a diverse mix of mysteries and thrillers, so it should prove interesting.

The Ultimate Supernatural Horror Box Set - Six novels for the price of one. That ain't not bad. This collection includes F. Paul Wilson's Virgin, Jeff Strand's Wolf Hunt, J.A. Konrath's Haunted House, Blake Crouch & Jordan Crouch's Eerie, Scott Nicholson's Speed Dating with the Dead, and Iain Rob Wright's The Final Winter. I already bought four of these, but still: six novels from this bunch on the cheap? Easy.

Not long after I got the first Hiram Grange ebook for free from Shroud Publishing, they promoted the rest of the series as limited-time freebies. I remember listening to an episode of The Funky Werepig where Greg Hall put this series over as some really good, pulpy stuff. A blend of Lovecraft and Fleming? Fantastic. Well, I got 'em all now.