Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27 | Currently Reading

With Halloween fast approaching, my reading and blogging just has not been happening! We had our annual Halloween party Saturday night which is where most of my time has been devoted. Then a neighbor had a pumpkin carving party yesterday:

In case you missed it, I'm giving away a copy of Jamie Schultz's Premonitions. Go read his great guest post on flawed characters and enter to win a print copy.

My week wasn't totally without reading. I did finish Girl of Nightmares. There were a few really great scenes in that one.

I started reading Lord Dunsany's The Curse of the Wise Woman. The beginning was so good. I'm hoping I will be able to devote just a little bit of time to it this week.

I hope you guys have an awesome Halloween week! We are planning to have all of the kids over for a hayride/trick-or-treating party on Friday. Then it will be November, and I will cry.

Let me know what you are reading this week! Leave me a comment or post a link.

This post is being shared as part of Book Journey's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway | Flawed Characters and the Arc of Redemption

Flawed Characters and the Arc of Redemption by Jamie Schultz

I like my fictional characters flawed. And by “flawed,” I don’t mean they’re a little clumsy, or a little socially inept in some humorous but harmless way, or that they have any of a dozen other cute, quirky flaws that ultimately have no bearing on the outcome of a story—I mean flawed in almost a Greek tragedy sense. They have a single, pervasive, possibly catastrophic flaw that they struggle with throughout the story, a flaw that will ultimately prove their undoing if they don’t address it.

When I say “flawed,” what I mean is that they make bad decisions, almost always as a result of some single, specific character problem. Caul Shivers, in Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold is one of my favorite examples. He can’t stay away from violence, even when he wants to try to be a better man, and as a result he signs on as muscle for somebody else’s revenge trip, even though he knows better. Unsurprisingly, he ends up paying a heavy price for it. Jack Torrance in The Shining is another good example—his ego and his focus on himself ends up opening the door to all kinds of badness, ultimately turning him into a puppet operated by the Overlook Hotel. Another great example is Walter White, from TV’s Breaking Bad. “I am in the empire-building business,” he says, his chest all puffed out, and, well—look how that worked out for him.

Those are all interesting stories to me, but you’ll notice one common thread: All these characters are destroyed, or nearly so, as a result of their flaw. That’s a valid, interesting, and often heartbreaking arc, and I get a lot from those stories. However, there’s a propensity for them to turn very cynical, and while I don’t mind a little cynicism from time to time, I don’t want to wallow in it.

The flipside of those stories is the story in which the character overcomes his or her flaw. Going back to Stephen King, I was always partial to Larry Underwood from The Stand, who chronically uses up everybody around him and then throws them away when he gets what he needs. Through the course of the story, he makes a conscious decision to move away from that, partly as a result of some pretty traumatic failures in that department early on. I’ve read the book maybe a dozen times, and still, every time I get to the part where he turns away from Nadine, I breathe a sigh of relief.

Those are the stories that really resonate with me. Let’s face it, we all fuck up. We do things we wish we hadn’t, and often we do them knowing at the time that we’re making a bad decision, but we go ahead and do them anyway (anybody who’s had regrettable post-breakup sex with an ex can now hang their heads in shame with me). These stories give me a little hope that people really can change, that I can become a better person, and I feel a little swell in my heart, a sense of triumph at humanity’s better side when I can vicariously live that experience through a great character.

When I wrote Premonitions (arguably, when I write anything), I had that very much in mind. The characters in the story are virtually all criminals, some with better reasons than others, but there are a lot of flaws to go around. The main protagonist, Karyn Ames, struggles with a bizarre condition in which she hallucinates the future—handy in a pinch, but when dozens of possibilities, some presented metaphorically, start crowding her perception, the real world can get swamped in a hurry. The only control over it is an expensive black market drug, and Karyn has gone into a life of crime, basically shoveling money down the hole of her treatment as fast as she can make it.

At the story’s outset, Karyn and her crew are offered a ludicrous sum of money to steal an object of occult significance for a notorious crime lord. For Karyn, who has lived in desperation for all of her adult life, it looks like a way out. That desperation, understandable as it may be, leads her to turn a blind eye to some very ominous developments—and, as we all know, no heist story would be complete if everything went according to plan.

Other characters in the story struggle with their own demons—sometimes in a very literal sense—and most of them are working toward either redemption or simply escaping the consequences.

I can’t say that all the characters find happy endings, and I can’t promise that all of them find the resolution—or escape—they seek, but I can say that I tried hard not to let the story become cynical. It’s a dark story, make no mistake, but redemption (or at least the possibility) is there, and I find that that holds the door open enough to let some light in.

You can find out more information about Jamie at his website:

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Jamie is offering one lucky Book Den reader a print copy of Premonitions. US only.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On My Wishlist {6}

This was another light wishlist week for me. These are the two books (both ghost stories!) that made it on the list this week:

The Year of the Ladybird by Graham Joyce

Critically acclaimed author Graham Joyce returns with a sexy, suspenseful,and slightly supernatural novel set 1976 England during the hottest summer in living memory, in a seaside resort where the past still haunts the present.

David, a college student, takes a summer job at a run-down family resort in a dying English resort town. This is against the wishes of his family…because it was at this resort where David's biological father disappeared fifteen years earlier. But something undeniable has called David there.

A deeper otherworldliness lies beneath the surface of what we see. The characters have a suspicious edge to them…David is haunted by eerie visions of a mysterious man carrying a rope, walking hand-in-hand with a small child…and the resort is under siege by a plague of ladybugs. Something different is happening in this town.

When David gets embroiled in a fiercely torrid love triangle, the stakes turn more and more menacing. And through it all, David feels as though he is getting closer to the secrets of his own past.

This is a darkly magic and sexy book that has a strong suspense line running through it. It's destined to continue to pull in a wider circle of readers for the exceptionally talented Graham Joyce.

The Year of the Ladybird was added to my wishlist as a direct result of Mark West's review. It sounds like a book I would really love.

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

A dark, distinctive and addictively compelling novel set in fin-de-si├Ęcle Vienna and Nazi Germany—with a dizzying final twist.

Vienna, 1899. Josef Breuer—celebrated psychoanalyst—is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings—to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people,’ so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed. . . .

Eliza Granville has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich.

If you tell me a book has creepy ghosts, I will want to read it.

Are any of these books on your wishlist? Have you read them? I'd love to hear your thoughts and/or recommendations.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

October 13 | Currently Reading

Are you guys reading anything spooky for October? We are going to have really bad weather here today, and it's supposed to cool things down a bit. I'm hoping it will feel a bit like fall this month. I'm having to read all of the spooky things while it feels like summer out.

In case you missed it last week, I posted my review of Gone Girl.

I'm in the middle of a couple of anthologies: Widowmakers and Vampires Don't Sparkle. I'm also reading Kendare Blake's Girl of Nightmares.

I'm not sure what I have lined up next. I've been in a pretty weird reading mood lately.

I'd love to hear what you're reading this week. Be sure to let me know in the comments or leave me a link!

This post is being shared as part of Book Journey's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book Review | Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl is a mystery novel from Gillian Flynn.

Book Description

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

I'm not sure I've had another reading experience quite like this book.

On one hand, I hated the characters. All of them. The entire time. When I met Amy on the pages, I thought "Please let this be the girl who is gone".

On the other hand, I couldn't stop compulsively reading the thing. I've never been so glued to a book I hated so much.

Gillian Flynn is a fantastic writer.

I've been going back and forth on how I want to rate Gone Girl, and the ending is my deciding factor. If the ending had lived up to my compulsive reading to get there, I'd be all over recommending this book to the page turning masses, but in the end I'm going with a solid 3 stars.

Gone Girl is a good pick if you are in the mood for some compulsive reading or have a deep love for twisty plots. It will keep you guessing (and guessing). You'll hate it, but you might also really love it.

6/10: Good Read


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Monday, October 6, 2014

October 6 | Currently Reading

October! I kicked off October with a review of The Shunned House. It's a perfect book for October. I also posted my September wrap up and the books that made it on to my wishlist last week.

After reading The Shunned House, I started reading Gone Girl. I am almost to the very end. This is one messed up book! I also started reading Widowmakers which is great so far.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read next. I'm thinking I might finally pick up Girl of Nightmares. We'll see.

I'd love to hear what you're reading this week. Be sure to let me know in the comments or leave me a link!

This post is being shared as part of Book Journey's It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book Review | The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft

The Shunned House is a novella from H.P. Lovecraft.

Book Description

Most of them died! Almost all who lived in that house passed away after becoming sick. This has been going for over one hundred years. Dr. Whipple decided to find out why and spend a night with his uncle in that house. What will happen is left up for you to explore and enjoy the story of this house, the shunned house!

If you are looking for a book to read this October, The Shunned House is an excellent choice. I could not have kicked off this month any better.

"We never - even in our wildest Halloween moods - visited this cellar by night."

The Shunned House is a house on Benefit Street where a large number of people passed away. Due to the smells, the humid environment, and the amount of fungus present in the house, it was declared to simply have "unhealthy" conditions. At worst, the house was deemed "unlucky". No one (with the exception of the narrator's uncle) suspected anything supernatural was going on.

Once the narrator learned of his uncle's suspicions, they decided to investigate the house.

I really, really enjoyed The Shunned House. I could read spooky house stories all day, every day, but there were some great stand out moments that will stick with me.

If you love literary horror and you haven't read this yet, put The Shunned House on your list. It's one you will want to read. At 48 pages, it also makes a great atmospheric read for those who are just looking to up their spookiness level around Halloween.

8/10: Great Read


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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On My Wishlist {5}

These are all of the books that made it on to my wishlist this week:

Widowmakers: An Anthology of Dark Fiction edited by Pete Kahle

widowmaker [wid-oh-may-ker]
1. A thing with the potential to kill men.
2. A dead branch caught precariously high in a tree which may fall on a person below.
3. A dark fiction anthology of prodigious size; large enough to use as a doorstop... or crush a man's skull.

A few months ago one of our own, James Newman, was severely injured in a freak accident. He's known universally in the horror fiction community as a truly great guy, and, when the news broke of the incident there was no shortage of people who wanted to help. Inside the pages of this collection, you will find tales that are lighthearted mixed in with stories that will fuel your nightmares, each one with the potential to be a WIDOWMAKER.

The following 47 fellow authors and poets have contributed their words to this benefit anthology and 100% of the proceeds will go to help the Newman family. Enjoy this massive collection and thank you for your aid.

(You can see the impressive list of authors here.) This time of year is perfect for horror anthologies. I plan to read Widowmakers throughout the month of October.

Hunting Monsters by S.L. Huang

“Happy birthday, child. Careful not to shoot any grundwirgen.”

Ever since she was a small girl, she has learned to be careful on the hunt, to recognize the signs that separate regular animals from human-cursed grundwirgen. To harm a grundwirgen is a crime punishable by death by the King's decree - a fatal mistake that her Auntie Rosa and mother have carefully prepared her to avoid.

On her fifteenth birthday, when her mother is arrested and made to stand trial for grundwirgen murder, everything she thought she knew about her family and her past comes crashing down.

Auntie Rosa has always warned her about monsters. Now, she must find and confront them to save her mother, no matter the cost.

This is the first short story being published by The Book Smugglers. I can't wait to check it out.

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke

From “America’s best novelist” (The Denver Post): A sprawling thriller drenched with atmosphere and intrigue that takes a young boy from a chance encounter with Bonnie and Clyde to the trenches of World War II and the oil fields along the Texas-Louisiana coast.

It is 1934 and the Depression is bearing down when sixteen-year-old Weldon Avery Holland happens upon infamous criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow after one of their notorious armed robberies. A confrontation with the outlaws ends as Weldon puts a bullet through the rear window of Clyde’s stolen automobile.

Ten years later, Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland and his sergeant, Hershel Pine, escape certain death in the Battle of the Bulge and encounter a beautiful young woman named Rosita Lowenstein hiding in a deserted extermination camp. Eventually, Weldon and Rosita fall in love and marry and, with Hershel, return to Texas to seek their fortunes.

There, they enter the domain of jackals known as the oil business. They meet Roy Wiseheart—a former Marine aviator haunted with guilt for deserting his squadron leader over the South Pacific—and Roy’s wife Clara, a vicious anti-Semite who is determined to make Weldon and Rosita’s life a nightmare. It will be the frontier justice upheld by Weldon’s grandfather, Texas lawman Hackberry Holland, and the legendary antics of Bonnie and Clyde that shape Weldon’s plans for saving his family from the evil forces that lurk in peacetime America and threaten to destroy them all.

Burke is making it onto my wishlist a lot lately. The reviews for this are great, and frankly I'm drawn to books that are set in my backyard.

One Pot: 120+ Easy Meals from Your Skillet, Slow Cooker, Stockpot, and More by Martha Stewart

The editors of Martha Stewart Living take 30-minute meals and everyday food to the next level with one-pot meals; more than 120 innovative, comfort-food recipes make use of just a pot, a sheet pan, a skillet, a slow cooker, or a pressure cooker for meals that are delicious, satisfying, and quick to clean up, too.

MSLO's latest cookbook features something everyone wants more of: all-in-one meals. Packed with 120 gorgeous images and recipes for one-pot wonders (including their food hack for One-Pan Pasta that went viral over the summer), this cookbook helps you get in and out of the kitchen with only one vessel to clean. From chicken and vegetables that roast on the same sheet pan to skillet lasagna, baked risotto, soups, and down-home casseroles, this is the volume that gives you the biggest flavor payoff with the smallest efforts. Here, too, are a dozen recipes for one-bowl desserts that can be ready when you are.

A girl's gotta eat!

The Rule Of Thoughts (The Mortality Doctrine #2) by James Dashner

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Maze Runner series comes The Rule of Thoughts, the exciting sequel to The Eye of Minds. Fans of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and The Hunger Games will love the new Mortality Doctrine series.

Michael completed the Path. What he found at the end turned everything he'd ever known about his life completely upside down.

He barely survived. But it was the only way VirtNet Security could track down the cyber-terrorist Kaine - and to make the Sleep safe for gamers once again. And, the truth Michael discovered about Kaine is more terrifying than even the worst of their fears.

Kaine is a tangent, a computer program that has become sentient (come alive?). And Michael's completing the Path was the first stage in turning Kaine's master plan, the Mortality Doctrine, into a reality.

And the takeover has already begun.

I had no idea this book was released until I came across it on Goodreads yesterday. I really enjoyed the first book in this series. It reminded me of Ready Player One.

The Black by Paul Elard Cooley

Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Leaguer has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it's about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.

"The Black" is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers' hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same."

UNDERWATER HORROR! My wishlist is so happy lately! The Black sounds down right PERFECT. I need this book. Now.

Are any of these books on your wishlist? Have you read them? I'd love to hear your thoughts and/or recommendations.


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