Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review | The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Dark Game is a horror novel by Jonathan Janz.

Ten writers are selected for a summer-long writing retreat with the most celebrated and reclusive author in the world. Their host is the legendary Roderick Wells. Handsome, enigmatic, and fiendishly talented, Wells promises to teach his pupils about writing, about magic, about the untapped potential that each of them possesses. Most of all, he plans to teach them about the darkness in their hearts. The writers think they are signing up for a chance at riches and literary prestige. But they are really entering the twisted imagination of a deranged genius, a lethal contest pitting them against one another in a struggle for their sanity and their lives. They have entered into Roderick Wells's most brilliant and horrible creation. The Dark Game.

"Once a reader holds a book, the story belongs to her." - Jonathan Janz, The Dark Game

This is one of those moments as a reviewer where I don't have the words to adequately describe my connection with a book.

On the surface, The Dark Game is a great read. It's Jonathan Janz! The characters are over the top, the horror is fun, the reader has no idea what's coming next.

Under the surface, though, it's something much more. There is so much of a writer's heart in this one. We are given insights into a writer's process, thoughts, fears, and struggles, references to Janz's personal work, a beautiful scene featuring Jack Ketchum...

I'm currently celebrating the year of the Janz. Not only is Flame Tree Press reprinting Janz's previous releases, but we've been gifted with a brand new release with The Dark Game!

Hopefully you will connect with The Dark Game like I did. If not, it's still a wickedly fun read.


Review copy provided by publisher


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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | April 14

I forgot to mention last week the readalong schedule has been posted for The Winter People over at Ladies of Horror Fiction. I know a few of you were interested in reading it with us next month.

The Winter People Readalong

Posted Last Week

Book Review | The Last by Hanna Jameson

Finished Reading

The Last by Hanna Jameson Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Last by Hanna Jameson ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - (Loved it!) You can read my review here.

Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell ⭐⭐⭐★★ - I needed a bit of a break from fiction, and I'm in the writing book mood right now. This "midpoint" concept wasn't enough to warrant a full book, though.

The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ - I enjoyed this book on multiple levels. Stay tuned for a review this week!

Currently Reading

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon 2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon - This is a buddy read with the LOHF team. I'm just starting it, and I'm really looking forward to this one.

2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron - This is a fascinating look into Rachel Aaron's writing process.

Recent Acquisitions

I found a few gems at 2nd and Charles this weekend:

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson The Magician King by Lev Grossman Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

I got to spend Friday night in the company of the amazing Mr. Joe Lansdale.

Joe Lansdale and The Bottoms Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale

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

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Book Review | The Last by Hanna Jameson

The Last is a mystery novel from Hanna Jameson.

For fans of high-concept thrillers such as Annihilation and The Girl with All the Gifts, this breathtaking dystopian psychological thriller follows an American academic stranded at a Swiss hotel as the world descends into nuclear war—along with twenty other survivors—who becomes obsessed with identifying a murderer in their midst after the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?

I was not expecting such a post-apocalyptic novel!

What intrigued me the most before reading The Last was the "Agatha Christie meets Stephen King" quote. There was just no way I was going to pass that up. First of all, I didn't find Agatha Christie or Stephen King in the pages, but it's a cool quote. The Last is a mishmash of mystery and apocalyptic fiction, though.

I want to be clear - I loved this book. I do feel like it wasn't sure what it wanted to be most of the time. I know what I wanted it to be - a pure post-apocalypse. I loved the world of The Last, and I could have stayed there much, much longer. There were so many aspects that could have been expanded and explored. The framework of the novel was a mystery, though, and the apocalypse was one hell of a setting!

This was my first experience with Hanna Jameson's work, and it definitely won't be my last. She crafted something really great not just with the setting but with the characters as well. More than anything, The Last was about the characters and the relationships they built while the world was ending.

In the end, I'm giving The Last four stars instead of five simply due to the unexplored/unexplained aspects, but I still highly recommend reading this one.


Review copy provided by publisher


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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Recent Updates and Currently Reading | April 7

I skipped posting an update last weekend because I finally managed to spend some time down at the beach. 💙🌴🍹☀️🌊 The weather was wonderful on Saturday. On Sunday it turned really cold and rainy. I was just as happy to stay inside and read, though! Today's update is going to look extra heavy because I'm including the week before as well.

Posted Last Week(s)

Look at all those stars. 🤩

Finished Reading

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben ⭐⭐⭐⭐★ {review}

Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky - I'm still mulling over my thoughts, but I may land in the middle with this one. ⭐⭐⭐★★

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ {review}

Finder by Suzanne Palmer ⭐⭐⭐★★ {review}

Currently Reading

The Last by Hanna Jameson - This is post-apocalyptic, and I'm loving it.

The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz - This one is a lot of fun, too.

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson - Yikes! I'm taking part in a group read of this on Instagram. I'm actually enjoying the language a lot more than I thought I would, but I have no idea what's going on in this book.

Recent Acquisitions

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson - I bought this on audio during Audible's $5 sale and then I ran into a print copy at the thrift store so I grabbed that one, too! I will totally conquer this book.

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin - This is another book I grabbed during the Audible sale. Lilyn and I are going to buddy read it later this year if you'd like to join us.

Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1) by Nicholas Eames - Another Audible grab. I was mad that I missed the recent Kindle sale so I was happy to be able to grab the audio.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I've heard so many amazing things about this book so I grabbed this one during the Audible sale as well. It's outside of my normal genres so I'm hoping I can make some room for it!

Nod by Adrian Barnes - I discovered this book while watching a "favorite fantasy books" YouTube video. It turns out it's more horror than fantasy so yay! I can't wait to read it.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson - I order Elantris because I just really want to read it!

So what about you? Let me know what you're reading this week or leave me some links!

This post is being shared as part of Book Date's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Caffeinated Book Reviewer's The Sunday Post.


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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Book Review | Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Finder is a science fiction novel by Suzanne Palmer.

From Hugo Award-winning debut author Suzanne Palmer comes an action-packed sci-fi caper starring Fergus Ferguson, interstellar repo man and professional finder.

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia's Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He'll slip in, decode the ship's compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a gas-giant-harvesting colony called Cernee. But Fergus' arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger's enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly--and inconveniently--invested in the lives of the locals.

It doesn't help that a dangerous alien species thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following Fergus around.

Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he's called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.

Hmm. I'm sad I didn't connect to this one like other reviewers seem to have connected with it.

Fergus Ferguson is a bit of an Indiana Jones type character, but he's having his action adventure in space. Fergus is a repo man, and he's on a mission to steal back a spaceship.

I think my issue lies in how action heavy Finder turned out to be. I love action, but this book was pretty full throttle the whole way through. When I started Finder, I thought "Yes! This is going to be so much fun!", but the level of fun kept going and the character-action scale tipped too far down on the action for me.

If you love nonstop action, though, without getting to know who you are rooting for, this might be a really great pick for you.


Review copy provided by publisher


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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

On My Wishlist {19}

On My Wishlist is where I share a few books that have recently made it onto my wishlist. These are the books that have recently caught my eye:

A Penny For Your Thoughts by Robert Ford and Matt Hayward
Expected publication: June 1st 2019 by Poltergeist Press

Fresh from a stretch in prison, Joe Openshaw is living at home with his father and trying to get his life together again. He has let go of old habits, especially the ones that turned him into an addict and helped land him in prison.

On a hike along the Lowback Trail, Joe stumbles on one of the town's oldest secrets--buried long ago, if not forgotten.

It's an unusual but safe enough treasure--a jar of old pennies. What interests Joe isn't the pennies themselves, but the pieces of paper taped to every coin--a child's handwritten wish on each one.

When the first few wishes come true, they are simple things. Fun. Harmless.

Except as time goes on, Joe realizes they aren't really wishes at all...they're exchanges, and the bill was racking up.

Nothing is free in life.

Sooner or later, you always pay.

Many thanks to Tracy for putting this one on my radar. She loved it, and I have a feeling I will, too!

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
Expected publication: October 1st 2019 by Grand Central Publishing

Christopher is seven years old. Christopher is the new kid in town. Christopher has an imaginary friend. The epic work of literary horror from the #1 bestselling author of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

We can swallow our fear or let our fear swallow us.

Single mother Kate Reese is on the run. Determined to improve life for her and her son, Christopher, she flees an abusive relationship in the middle of the night with Christopher at her side. Together, they find themselves drawn to the tight-knit community of Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. It's as far off the beaten track as they can get. Just one highway in, one highway out.

At first, it seems like the perfect place to finally settle down. Then Christopher vanishes. For six awful days, no one can find him. Until Christopher emerges from the woods at the edge of town, unharmed but not unchanged. He returns with a voice in his head only he can hear, with a mission only he can complete: Build a tree house in the woods by Christmas, or his mother and everyone in the town will never be the same again.

Soon Kate and Christopher find themselves in the fight of their lives, caught in the middle of a war playing out between good and evil, with their small town as the battleground.

Literary horror!! This sounds amazing, and I need it.

The Institute by Stephen King
Expected publication: September 10th 2019 by Scribner

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.

Well, it's a Stephen King book... It gets an automatic direct pass to my wishlist.

Are you planning to read any of these new or upcoming releases? What books have recently made it onto your wishlist?


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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Book Review | The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

The Luminous Dead is a scifi/horror novel by Caitlin Starling.

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, her control giving way to paranoia and anger, Gyre severs her connection with Em and the outside world. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

I absolutely loved The Luminous Dead. It's so rare for me to pick up a book, be immediately hooked, and stay that way through the entirety of the novel. The Luminous Dead is 432 pages, and I would have had no problem reading it in one sitting if life wasn't in the way. Even with life I was able to knock it out in 2 days. I did not want to put it down.

The Luminous Dead is Caitlin Starling's debut novel. Caitlin Starling is now on my autobuy list. The Luminous Dead only had two characters and one setting for the entire book, and yet I was riveted.

The cave setting was the perfect setup for psychological suspense. It wasn't as horror heavy as I was expecting it to be, but I loved the constant sense of dread.

The Luminous Dead is one of my favorite reads so far this year, and I highly recommend it!


Review copy provided by publisher


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