Top 5: Urban Paranormal Books of 2019

Introducing Amy! My best friend and guest contributor for this article. A great lover of books, especially the genre of Urban Paranormal. Christmas is coming and the end of 2019 so Amy, introduce yourself and give us your Top 5 Urban Paranormal reads of 2019!

SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS ARTICLE!

I didn’t always love to read – at 7 I was diagnosed with Dyslexia. My mum did a lot of work with me in order for me to learn techniques to work with and around my Dyslexia. One of the best things she did was to get me to read on a regular basis; safe to say it wasn’t as easy as giving me a book and telling me to read but she persevered and found something I would read with very little prompting (the Adventure Series by Enid Blyton for those that were wondering) and once I started there was no stopping me! I have been asked to review my top 5 books of 2019 from my favorite genre Urban Paranormal.

5. Electric Curse- Stacy Brutger

Cover Image supplied by Stacey Brutger

I had just happened upon this series one day, and I’d read 3 books in a row before I knew it! I have thoroughly enjoyed this universe and all its characters. This book is the end of the series, which I hadn’t realized until the very end! This book managed to round up the questions that had been brought up in previous books. However, I also feel this book has raised more questions; for me, I would like to know what happened to the super soldiers. Did they join the supernatural community? Did they find a way of fixing what was done to them in the labs and not just slowing it down? Does Raven continue to work with the council in a private-eye capacity or does she take on a larger role? And does she learn more control of the shifting and powers? I feel that the book is a bit open-ended.

I like the introduction of Bear into Raven’s group of main men, but I feel it was a bit rushed to add him as this was the last book and we didn’t really get to see the same dynamic with them as with her other men.

I would love to read any novellas that she may (nudge-nudge) end up writing, as I feel this universe she has created has so much more to offer!

4. Sweep of the Blade – Ilona Andrews

Cover Image from Goodreads

My sister was the one to introduce me to this series. I had seen it pop up in my Kindle’s suggestions and never took the plunge, but once I did I blew through the first 3 books and waited impatiently for the fourth.

I really enjoyed seeing what had happened to Maud and Helen and learning more about the vampire culture and Maud regaining her place in it. The action sequences are detailed and vicious and everything you would want in a fight scene! In this book you also learn more about why Maud and her daughter were exiled, and how this has helped to define both of them, especially Helen as she has demonstrated a few times how ferocious she is, even in comparison to other vampire children. The finale is a great start for the next book, and I can’t wait to delve into this world again. My only complaint is the length of time between each book, though fortunately I’ve not been reading this story for as long as my sister, so I haven’t had to wait nearly as long!

3. Grave Destiny – Kalayna Price

Cover Image from Goodreads

I have thoroughly enjoyed the world Kalayna has created. In this latest book, she shocked me with the death of the main heroine’s nemesis, the Unseelie Queen of the Winter Court, which makes me wonder who is going to become Alex’s opposing force. Is this a build-up to a greater foe or obstacle to overcome? I do miss Death’s presence somewhat though he is understandably backing off, but now that the major block between Alex and Falin is gone I hope we see more of them together and see what dynamic their relationship will take now that Falin is King. I also wonder how Dugan will fit into Alex’s life as he has made it pretty clear he considers her his betrothed. My only gripe is the wait between books – I need to read more about this world!

2. Siren’s Song – Karen Chance

Cover Image supplied by Karen Chance

This is another series I have been with this series since the start, which I began in 2006. There are two things I really enjoyed in this story. The first is that it is told from the point of view of Pritkin, a main character in the storyline. The majority of the books are centered around Cassie Palmer, our main protagonist. The second is that it is a brother-book to Dragon’s Claw (which is told from the point of view of Dory). I loved the different perspectives of the story- it began and finished so differently from Dragon’s Claw it really added to the whole adventure.

This book shows that though Cassie is where the story started and she is vital to the war, there are other strong characters that are just as important. In this story, Cassie was not needed at all to avert disaster (not that she doesn’t get into enough trouble on her own!). I loved seeing two characters who are usually in different storylines interact and bring Cassie’s and Dorina’s storylines together!

1. Storm Cursed – Patrica Briggs

Cover Image from Goodreads

I have been reading this series since it first came out 15 years ago. I have enjoyed every book but this one has given me a few surprises, which I think is hard to do with a long-running series, as you get to know the characters so well, as well as the flow of the story.

In the previous books, we learn a lot about the dynamics and politics of the wolves, vampires and the fey, and although the witches have featured heavily in previous books it has only included one grey witch family, so this is the first time we meet witches outside this family.

Now, this wasn’t the surprise though. The first surprise came when a long-running character died. He had been there since the first book. He was not a main character but someone who was in the background, one of the pack you could picture and know something about, as although you know quite a few of the pack there is an impression in the books that the pack is much larger than just the characters you know, and it was nice to picture him amongst a sea of many and know a few things about him e.g. his dislike of Mercy.

The second surprise is the death of our main witch, who again has been with us since the very first book! These deaths were written in so naturally, I could not conceive the story being any other way.

Author of the Month: November – Faith L. Justice

Authors Photo provided by Faith L. Justice

Faith L. Justice is my Author of the Month for November. This Historical Fiction writer has penned 5 novels and a collection of short stories that if you haven’t read yet, you must! So, without further ado, let’s get to know Justice.

How has your upbringing inspired how you write your books?

I grew up reading historical fiction—much more exciting that the history texts in school. I think a lot of people feel the same way. We can immerse ourselves in a different world with exotic settings, but still see the humanity that binds us, through stories, across time—and learn a little something about history.

As I grew older, I read more straight history and noticed something depressing: nearly all the subjects were men and their accomplishments (usually in battle)! When I started digging, I found all sorts of fascinating women—scientists, generals, pirates, mathematicians, empresses, courtesans, spies, adventurers—too many to write about in one lifetime. I wanted to share their stories with a general audience, so historical fiction was the right fit. It allows me to tell women’s stories—specific and general—from all classes and situations.

What book would you say defines your childhood and which book would you say defines you now?

I from a farm country with a large family, so The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder captures the rural and family dynamic I grew up with. Although we had a few bad snowstorms and our house did catch on fire once, we never experienced the frontier hardships that family had to deal with. However, the sense of community is still the same.

What book defines me now is much harder. I’d like to say Sex in the City by Candace Bushnell because I’ve lived in New York for over thirty years, but you know the old saying, “You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t the country out of the girl.” I’m afraid I live a very staid life. James Thurber’s short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a better fit. I spend my time daydreaming and telling stories—although I’m rarely the hero!

Do you have a favorite season, time of day, etc you like to write in?

Writing is my job, so I treat it like one. I get up, feed the cats and myself, and am at my writing computer by 10 am. I write until 1 pm—sometimes longer if I’m on a roll. Not all writing is on novels. I have short stories, reviews, blog posts, free-lance articles, etc. I’m trying to up my novel writing time, however, because I have so many ideas. I also fiercely protect these three hours—no phones, no internet, no family. Sometimes I write on the weekends if I’m on a deadline or the muse strikes me.

Afternoons are for miscellaneous publishing projects: rewriting, proofing, marketing, interior layout, and research. I try to knock off by six. During nice weather, I spend time digging in the dirt—my garden or volunteer archaeology projects. I just got back from a dig in Tuscany, Italy where we worked on a Roman villa that was occupied from the first through the fifth centuries. We uncovered some lovely mosaics!

What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written?

Oh my! I’ve forgotten so many. The most recent I can remember was a blog post where I talked about “navel battles”—belly button wars! Glad I caught it before I posted it.

Book Cover Image provided by Faith L. Justice

Your latest book and first installment in The Theodosian Women series has become a firm favorite with me. Now, I’m excited I get to interview you on it!

Which historical character in your book would you have loved to have gone back in time and interview for the book?

That one is easy: Placidia. There is so little in the primary sources, I’d love to see what I got right and what I got wrong. Another interesting choice would be her daughter Honoria. There’s a lot of controversy about her life and historians don’t agree on much.

I’m a strong believer in ‘the truth is stranger than fiction’, what is the strangest thing you have had to research for the Twilight Empress?

Doing the research is the most fun part of writing historical fiction for me. I can really go down the research rabbit hole. One of my favorite historical tidbits that I included in the novel was Emperor Honorius’ fondness for his pet chickens. When a messenger told him, “Rome is gone!” (after the Goths took the city in 410), Honorius—referring to one of his favorite roosters named Rome—said something like, “But I fed him from my hand just a few minutes ago!”

Placidia married twice; Ataulf, King of the Visigoths and Constantius III, Roman Emperor, between the two who would be your love?

You’re asking me to choose between the Bad Boy and the Sensitive Guy? Actually, they were quite similar: both were successful and respected generals/leaders, smart and politically astute. Both seemed to have married for love—unusual for the times. My head says go with the more powerful Constantius, but my heart flutters for Ataulf the better horseman!

Placidia keeps going never letting herself truly breakdown though out all of the disasters she goes through.  Why do you think she never broke down?

I think she did break down a couple of times. When her first child died, she went into a deep depression and it took loving friends and St. John’s wort (an herbal anti-depressant) to help her out of it. She has a couple more depressive episodes at key moments in her life. What I tried to portray in her character was a bed-rock sense of duty. She was raised to rule and felt it was her duty to give her life to the Roman Empire even at the expense of her own happiness or the happiness of those she loved.

As a reader, reading the chapter where Placidia’s stepchildren are viciously murdered after her first husband’s death was heart-wrenching.  How did you feel when writing it?

That was hard, even though the deaths took place off-screen and we only see the aftermath. I’m a mother. Writing anything where a child is hurt or suffering makes me cry while writing it and when reading it later. I tear up just writing about writing it! I try to channel those raw feelings and describe them for the reader because that is what normal people feel and I want my characters to reflect real feelings.

Placidia treats her biological children differently from each other, if you could what advice would you give her?

I did give her advice…through other characters! Her niece Pulcheria saw the children’s faults and potential. She tried to help, but Placidia was blind to her own mistakes. From what little I could deduce from the history, I believe Placidia did indulge (and therefore stifle) her son and didn’t train her daughter in the more dangerous art of wielding imperial female power. I consider Placidia’s overprotectiveness of her children, her “tragic flaw.” Pulcheria offered to help, but was rebuffed.

In Placida’s position, how would you have handled Aetius?

That’s a tough one! I’m not sure what I would have done differently. Placidia struggled as a woman to preserve the imperial throne and its power for her minor son. I think she did a credible job of pitting Aetius’ ambition against that of other generals for quite some time. He was not alone in thinking a woman should not have the power that Placidia assumed as Augusta. He was a brilliant general and shrewd politician. Aetius would naturally look down on any female—no matter how talented—and assume he could do better. Nothing other than death or exile would deter him from trying to assume as much power as he could. And both death and exile would have been a disaster because Aetius was the glue that held the frontier together for decades. Without him, Western Rome would have fallen earlier.

Do you think Justa Grata Honoria meant the ring included in her plea letter to Attila to be a proposal of marriage?

Personally, no. I think she wanted to indicate the authenticity of the message. By inviting Attila to “rescue” her, she wanted to use him as she thought her mother had used the Goths throughout her life, as a threat against domestic opposition (in this case, Honoria’s brother Valentinian) or possibly as a last ditch escape from a hated marriage or possibly prison.

Do you think you will ever write Justa Grata Honoria’s story?

I’d like to! I also want to write about Placidia’s daughter-in-law Eudoxia and granddaughters Eudocia and Placidia the Younger who have fascinating stories of their own to tell later during the Vandal invasion and looting of Rome.

Would you call Placidia the ‘She-Wolf’ of Ancient Rome and if so are there any other strong women of her time you would add to the list?

Yes, Placidia was certainly fierce and I gave her the Roman Wolf as her standard when she returned to Ravenna. There were many strong (overlooked) women during that time. I’ve written about two Theodosian women (Placidia and her niece Pulcheria) and have a third novel started about Athenais, wife of Theodosius II. There are four generations of strong Theodosian women to explore—many more than I have time to write about. Outside of royalty, I’d recommend people look at the life of Hypatia, the Lady Philosopher of Alexandria. She was a renowned mathematician, astronomer, and civic leader. Her students held major offices in both the Church and government. It was while researching her life for my first book Selene of Alexandria—in which Hypatia is a major character—that I found Placidia and the rest of her impressive female relatives.

Have you visited the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy?

Yes, I spent days tramping around Ravenna, visiting its various museums and historical sites. The Mausoleum is a beautiful building. Remarkable that it has survived from the fifth century.

FUN FACT: As I mentioned in my author’s note, I used the Mausoleum’s interior as the model for Placidia’s actual tome in Rome. That tomb was torn down to build St. Peter’s. The Mausoleum in Ravenna was most likely a chapel built by her son Valentinian to honor St. Lawrence—considered the patron saint of the Theodosian line. The sarcophagi in the building supposedly used for Placidia, her husband, and her brother are all dated to different and later times. The building was probably rebranded as Placidia’s Mausoleum during Medieval or Renaissance times to attract tourists.

Finally:

What are you currently working on?

So many projects, so little time! My second novel in the Theodosian Women series Dawn Empress about Placidia’s niece Pulcheria, is in final production and will be out in early 2020. I’m in the final editing phase of a prequel novella Twilight Princess about Placidia’s three years in Rome during the Goth sieges. That should also be out next year. The third novel in the series, Athenais’ story (wife of Theodosius II) is outlined and partially written. I’m celebrating the tenth anniversary of publishing my first book Selene of Alexandria with an audio edition and new cover and updated author note for the print and eBook. I’m trying to get back to a second book in my female gladiator series called Song of the Gladiatrix which is outlined and partially written, but I keep getting distracted with the Theodosians. I’m in the beta read phase with my second book in my middle-grade children’s series Adventurous Girls…oh my! It makes me tired just typing this.

Where can we buy your books and keep up to date with all your doing?

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Zoe! To show my appreciation for your readers I’m giving away an eBook short story featuring one of my favorite fictional characters from Twilight Empress, please go to my website at FaithLJustice.com and sign up for “Angel of the Marshes.”

My books are available in print, eBook, and audio at all the usual online places or order from your local bookstore. People can connect with me online at my website or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Happy reading, everyone!

Guy Fawkes and Death Row

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.

By god’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

Its Guy Fawkes Night! Celebrated in the UK to remember the Roman Catholic Gunpowder Plot to blow up King and Parliament. Remembrance of this event is commemorated by bonfires and fireworks as well as tasty treats. Guy Fawkes, the man remembered for the plot was captured with fellow co-conspirators, tried, found guilty and executed. Fawkes was saved till last, witnessing the others dance on the end of a rope. When it was Fawkes’ turn, whether planned or not, he fell from the scaffold breaking his neck. Thus avoiding the same hangman’s dance the others had experienced.

Image supplied by Blink Publishing

Earlier this year, I read Michelle Lyons book, Death Row: The Final Minutes and can’t help linking the two. Guy Fawkes night remembers a man who was brought to the scaffold, what must he have been thinking, feeling, what escape plans must have been running around his head? Lyons worked on death row in America, speaking with the condemned and witnessing their final moments on earth. It was her job as a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The book she has penned is an amazingly rare insight into the capital punishment system, not to mention the condemned and herself. As we read through the book we understand that Lyons is a strong woman to do what she did. In the beginning, she is strong and successful at separating her job from her life. Her job begins to bleed into her personal life, affecting her emotionally and causes her to question her position on the death penalty as well as undermining her confidence. We also learn about inmates in a unique way. Lyons still has her personal notes and she has published some in her book. It is a fascinating read and I personally went on an emotional journey with it, even questioning my own position on the death penalty. If you haven’t read this book yet and are interested in death row, the criminal justice system and its workers, read this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Spooky Booky Pumpkins

Spooky Booky Pumpkins

Time for Pumpkin Carving!…. Let’s do it Book Themed!

Every year I get excited about scooping and carving a pumpkin and every year I forget and relearn how much I hate scooping. Why has no one started a business yet in pre scooped pumpkins? With the added option of with or without the pumpkin meat? Luckily, I have a big sister….and she thought pumpkin carving with her little sister sounded fun. Sorry, Big Sis!

So What Were My Choices of Carvings?

Bronte Pumpkin

If you’ve read my last post, you’ll know I’ve recently finished a novel by Bella Ellis, The Vanished Bride. Due to the murder and atmosphere in the book, I carved a Bronte inspired pumpkin. Here it is! As much as I dreamt of recreating the novels’ beautiful cover image, it turns out I’m not up to the task. Therefore, Charlotte, Emily and Anne get their silhouettes instead, so still similar to the cover image…at a tangent. And because my husband said who’s that supposed to be? They got the word Bronte carved under them. But I don’t care, I like my Bronte pumpkin.

Coraline Pumpkin

Coraline by Neil Gaiman has always been a Halloween-ie feeling book for me so how could I not carve it in a pumpkin? Disclaimer – Coraline and the cat lasted one day. The next morning the weight of them caused both figures to descend into the pumpkin. What makes it worse? The Beldam’s fingers began twisting, giving the image a far better look than I could have created, and no Coraline or the cat to be seen.

Night Circus Pumpkin

Lastly, the book cover for The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. What a magical book this was! And chosen for the love of the book and because the figures and the circus tent are silhouettes, which I learned from Bronte Pumpkin are easier. Hence the lesson of the tale is: a simple silhouette can look amazing and we should all carve more book covers.

And, What Happened to All the Pumpkin Meat?

My Big Sis had pumpkin recipes! For starters, we made Pumpkin and Smoked Maple Bacon Soup

and for dessert…of course Pumpkin Pie!

The Vanished Bride

Image supplied by Hodder & Stoughton

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis is a historical fiction mystery inspired by the famous literary Bronte sisters. The cover of the book is perfect! The silhouettes of the Bronte sisters all huddled together, standing in front of an imposing silhouetted mansion. (An inspiration for my pumpkin carving this year). I’m aware that there is another cover image for the book but the one I’ve described was the first I saw and fell in love with. It invoked images in my head of Wuthering Heights or Thornfield Hall. The cover marks this book as one of those books I would buy regardless of the story just because it is so beautiful.

After falling in love with the cover I read the description. The Bronte sisters turned amateur detectives? What a crazy concept. Could the sisters be Sherlock Holmes? Or more of a Miss Marple, just out for a pleasure walk, holiday or friendly visit and, shock horror, murder! I was compelled to read further to find out which.

The novel is as beautifully compelling as the cover. Like most book lovers, I have read and reread the Brontes’ works, and with authors such as Mary Shelly or Jane Auston, the reality of the author’s life is just as fascinating, if not more than their fiction. Ellis is clever in this novel, it is very much a history of the Brontes’ with a tangent of a murder mystery mixed in. As we travel through the book the fictional story has many characters and events that give head nods to influences that inspired their books, or more likely, a fictional timeline with fictional characters and events that have similarities to their written work. For example, Mr. Chester could easily influence the characters of Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester. Ellis highlights this also in the author’s notes:

The Vanished Bride is a novel written with fondness, warmth, and appreciation for the three legendary and revolutionary authors that have had a lasting impact on my life… I hope its a pretty good yarn too.” Kindle location 3709

It all begins in Charlotte’s later life, being the last sibling standing, reminiscing about the eventful year that all four siblings are reunited under one roof after three return to their father’s house under a cloud of scandal. Not long after, a bride goes missing from her home leaving behind a vast volume of blood that no human would be able to live without. Luckily, for the Brontes’ the governess of the house happens to be an old schoolfriend thus they have their excuss to visit.

The Brontes were introverts and loved the written word. I like how Ellis beautifully weaves this and other aspects of the sister’s personalities into the book and I feel I quite understand the sisters especially in their reflections of having a very small world but within that world having an infinite universe within the mind and that:

“The further the crowded coach carried them…the more appealing the quiet, uneventful hearth of home seemed” Kindle location 1358

Emily has always been my favorite of the sisters and I’m glad her character in this novel is how I think about her personally. Emily, very loving, caring and full of emotion is socially awkward, funny and a warrior. She is able to be her own person and to be confident to like what she likes without caring about what others think.

I’ll have to stop here or I’ll be giving out spoilers. As quirky as this book is it is a gem of a book and a 2019 favorite. I’m glad I came across it and very excited that the sisters will be back again with another mystery.

To end, Ellis has cleverly wrapped this mystery in an enigma. For Bella Ellis is not the real name of the author, rather like the Bronte sisters who published under different names originally. Bella Ellis is the reverse of Ellis Bell, the name Emily Bronte originally published under. Perhaps, a clue which sister is preferred? Who could this mysterious author be… you can either google it or wait for the author to turn up at your publishing house defending their honor.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an electronic ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Halloween Toddler Reads

Halloween Reads

Halloween has been a life long love and now as a mother, my daughter doesn’t have a choice in the matter. I will indocturn her into the seasonal love of Halloween reads. What I’m reading to my toddler this month:

Funnybones by Allan Ahlberg & Andre Amstutz

My dear dear funny bones. Do you remember books? Do you remember the TV show? Do you remember the amazing intro:

“In a dark dark street is a dark dark house and in the dark dark house there is a dark dark cellar and in the dark dark cellar live some…skeletons!”

It’s great getting to know the Funnybones characters all over again: Big, Little and Dog and their crazy adventures. My daughter loves it, once a story is finished she wants it to read again…..which means I get to read the intro again, happy times.

Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski

Meg and Mog, the beloved witch and her stripy black and white cat. My daughter loves staring at all the pages with their bright colors, shapes and sounds mummy makes in weird voices. It really is great for helping her learn her colors and shapes. I’ll be halfway through making a noise before her little pointy finger comes out pointing at a shape or color as she says its name. The book may have been written in the ’70s but it hasn’t aged a day! Dear daughter doesn’t know it was made into a cartoon yet…..

Let me say, as I turn each page the nostalgia is hitting me in the face like a pumpkin pie fight, whats better…..my baby’s loving every word and every picture. Heart cuddles!

Now for the reads, dear daughter chose last year when we went book hunting. They are modern so unfortunately no nostalgia for me but the wee baby might have, with her babies one day!

Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin by Clare Lloyd & Victoria Harvey

Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin is the Halloween festive book from the vast Pop-Up Peekaboo series. Dear daughter has always loved this series as it does what it says on the tin. Each page has a large flap to lift and a Halloween surprise behind each. The story centers around each character looking for the next. I’ve considered buying multiples of this book….its went through a lot and is mostly held together by tape. Either because of my hard work or the bond dear daughter has created to each rip I haven’t been able to part with it yet for a newer copy.

Creak! Squeak! Halloween by Clare Lloyd & Dawn Sirett

Another by Lloyd! This one is very similar to the previous, Pop-Up Peekaboo Pumpkin. A lot of the characters are the same and the characters are still searching for each other behind large flaps. The locations are different and the highlight of the book. It makes noises! Dear daughter loves this! In fact, she loves it so much she imitates the noises…definitely not disturbing at bedtime with the lights off…

Always read to your kid, you rediscover child you and get to see the book again for the first time through their eyes.

Top 5 Newly Released Scary Autumn Read

IT’S OCTOBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love October! Everything is orange and cozy and spooky, its the perfect recipe for snuggling with a book. I’ve just moved house and even though I am surrounded by boxes, all I want to do is make a reading nook den in my living room next to the big patio windows, overlooking the garden changing colours and cozy up with haunted reads to celebrate!

That being said what are my Top 5 Newly Released Scary October Reads I hear you ask. I’m a reviewer for the wonderful, amazing NetGalley and in the months leading up to October, there have been many a scary tale to review. Here are my favorite’s that are out now:

5 – Whickering Place by London Clarke

Image Supplied by London Clarke

Whickering Place by London Clarke is the second book in her Legacy of Darkness Series and published by BooksGoSocial. It is advertised under Horror and Mystery & Thriller but I would also add YA too.

Avery Tullinger, surviving death at a young age now fears the world. She can’t leave her house without panic attacks and this has led her into a life of isolation but is trying to regain a normal life through therapy. When her father dies and leaves her a Historical Mansion in Ashville, North Carolina, Avery faces her fears and moves out there.

The house has a dark history and Avery knows nothing about it. Soon a disconnected phone keeps ringing and shadows move around the house making Avery question her sanity. After finding her fathers journal perhaps Avery isn’t as insane as she thinks. Add into the mixture ritual scarifies, a cult and a love story this book is well worth a read.

Unfortunately, Whickering Place is in the number 5 spot because even though I really enjoyed the book and demons in the house were given a voice. I felt this let the book down as I like my evil to be voiceless, I don’t want to know their motives, I just want a good scare!

Published – 30 July 2019

4 – Asylum by Jack Adams

Asylum by Jack Adams and published by Atlas Productions is billed under Adult General Fiction and Mystery & Thrillers.

Two, ten-year-old best friends make friends with an asylum patient who they talk to through the wire fence of the asylum’s recreational garden. The two boys can’t see that anything is wrong with the man, they don’t understand why he’s in there, he’s just their friend Joe. Joe goes missing and the boys grow up. Now they are partners one working as a psychiatrist and the other a private detective. They both receive a letter asking them to meet up with Joe’s lawyer as Joe has left them an inheritance after being declared dead. From here the best friends return to their youth, determined to either find Joe or his body but most importantly the truth of his disappearance.

I would have to say that this book is curious. I liked the synopsis and the cover as this is the type of book I go for. I enjoyed how easy the book was to read and it did hold my attention. However, I did find there to be cliches and sometimes the characters annoyed me but my curiosity came when I wasn’t reading it. During these times it began to keep popping up in my mind and I am sad now that I’ve had to say goodbye. For all its faults this book has made an impact on me and will stay with me. I think that the reason for this is the sometimes annoying characters. They are so human and are going through their own life-shattering problems, whether it be divorce, loneliness or abandonment issues, etc. They seek company with each other, this little band of misfits who I find myself caring about. I would read this book again and I would recommend it to others, but be warned this book has a power that grows when not reading it

Published 14 July 2019

3 – Violet by Scott Thomas

Image supplied by Inkshares

Violet by Scott Thomas is published by Inkshares.

Violet tells an amazing story of how grief can grow into a rot that can spread across your life and that of others. Kris Barlow first lost her mother to cancer at the tender age of ten and has now lost her husband at 41 years old. Calling to mind a romanticized, nostalgic summer lake house retreat her parents owned, Kris remembers how the house helped her overcome her former grief and therefore decides to return, taking her 8-year-old daughter with her. But the lake house is neglected, the town isn’t thriving anymore, girls have gone missing and her daughter is suddenly laughing and enjoying life with not a care in the world. Furthermore, what is making her so happy is an invisible friend….. Thomas writes this horror story as a slow burner so much so, that I forgot it was a horror as I was so invested in Kris and her daughter’s struggle to survive the recent death. When the horror did hit, it hit hard, because I was so distracted! This ability makes this novel a stand out horror novel for me. At the end of the book, in the acknowledgments, Thomas states that his father had cancer and you can feel the grief of this real-life horror bleeding into the work, because of this, I hope that Thomas found writing this book as therapeutic, as I did reading it.

Published 24 September 2019

2 – One by One by D. W. Gillespie

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One by One by D. W. Gillespie is published by Flame Tree Press.

What a book! After reading this, I am completely certain Hollywood will be knocking on Gillespie’s door wanting to do a movie deal. What a perfect haunted house story! It was a toss-up between this book and the next which would take the number one spot!

How do I explain how amazing this book is without giving out any spoilers? The Eastons have found a new house to live in at a steal. After moving in the youngest of the family discovers a family of stick figures hidden behind wallpaper in the hall. Oddly the stick figure family is almost a stick figure family of the Eastons. Suddenly, they start going missing one, by one and as they go missing a stick figure gets crossed off…

This book is the first novel I’ve read from this author and having finished it, I’ll be going out of my way to read more of Gillespie’s work! I can’t believe it ended! This author had me hooked right from the beginning and turned into one of those books that eat you up and leaves you with a hunger for more when finished. This was a perfect haunted house story with all the right elements

Published 26 September 2019

1 – Bone China by Laura Purcell

Image supplied by Bloomsbury Publishing

And, my number one pick – Bone China by Laura Purcell published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Laura Purcell is becoming the defining author of my twenties as J. K. Rowling is the defining author of my childhood. I truly love her work and each book ticks all my boxes for a great story. So much so, I would camp outside a book store the night before a release to get one of the first copies. Her latest addition continues to cement her growing reputation as the Queen of Gothic Horror. Bone China is set in Cornwall during the Georgian era, where a ladies maid seeks new employment in a house set on the cliffs far from civilization. She is running from her dark past but this same dark past is running after her too. Once she arrives, she is plagued by the superstitions of the staff and a strange mistress with an interesting past involving a tuberculosis experiment conducted on criminals in the cave beneath the house. But what if its not superstition after all and the warning should be heeded? After all, everything can be explained away rationally until it can’t, isn’t perception reality? I can’t possibly say enough good things about this book! Each chapter, each page is alive!

Published 3 October 2019

Once again a big thank you to NetGalley and the publishers who gave me electronic ARC’s of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

October Author of the Month – Christopher C. Fuchs

Image Supplied by Christopher C. Fuchs

The first installment of Christopher C. Fuchs’ epic adventure, Lords of Deception is out today in e-book format. To celebrate, Christopher C. Fuchs is my Author Interview of the Month! Without further ado lets hear from the man himself:

First off, let’s get to know you:

Were you a lover of books from a very early age, which book would you say defines your childhood and what book would you say defines your life now?

My favorite childhood book was The Woodland Folk Meet the Gnomes because it illustrated in great detail a whole little world. But overall I didn’t read a lot on my own as a kid and spent more time outdoors. Only as a sixth grader did I start to take a real interest when I read Hatchet and The Cay, both adventure fiction about wilderness survival. It’s not reading, but videogames on the first Nintendo and the later Final Fantasy series inspired me to start writing and drawing. But what really grabbed me as I got older was nonfiction, mostly history and astronomy, which is what I still read most today. Most genre fiction writers seem to be voracious readers of their own genre, and its encouraged by the experts to “know what’s out there.” I’ve just never been that way as a reader.

If any, have you gone on any literary pilgrimages?

Not intentional pilgrimages, but I have visited places that boast a literary culture, like Edinburgh, Paris, and New Orleans. I love to travel and keep a little notebook in my pocket for ideas, and of course pictures are inspiring. But my photo collection is, I think, atypical. For example, I’ve taken dozens of photos of symbols carved into 17th century crypt slabs in Dutch cathedrals. I draw a lot of inspiration from these little details.

Does writing energise you or do you feel exhausted after a writing session?

Definitely energized. I write slowly and old school: first draft always with pen and notebook. I find a computer distracting and constraining, but a notebook allows me to be more free to let my scenes flow. I can draw big arrows and move stuff around and sketch places or objects on a whim. Pages often look more like engineering schematics or treasure maps than chapters. I enjoy the building of a book like that, especially at the beginning when I have to organize what is often years-worth of notes and random jots to get a feel for the direction of a new novel.

What do you find is the most challenging thing about writing?

Usually the first 10 minutes of sitting down to write is the hardest obstacle. Like many writers, I have to force myself to overcome all the excuses not to write, even though I want to. But I also get a thrill when push through that to find my rhythm each time. I never lack ideas (I have more notes and concepts than I’ll probably ever have time to write) and I’m very skeptical that writer’s block is a real thing. So really it’s just keeping a daily writing routine that is hardest.

Do you have any unpublished or half finished books up your sleeve?

Yes, where do I start? Lords of Deception was actually the third novel I wrote. The first two will be published in December and February as a double-prequel to Lords of Deception. I wanted to take my time before publishing them because I wanted the story arc to be just right. I also intend to diverge from traditional series writing because I think it’s neat for a reader to be able to wander and choose which characters or events to explore further in side novels and half-tales, rather than just a linear trilogy or such. Two of those half-tales were published this year, which you can get for free by subscribing to my site, EarthpillarBooks.com. Two more are ready to be published next year. So there is plenty to explore while I write the true sequel to Lords of Deception.

Now for your new book!

Image Supplied by Christopher C. Fuchs

Lords of Deception is a rabbit hole of plot, intrigue and fleshed out characters, what came to you first the characters or the plot?

If by ‘rabbit hole’ you mean you got completely lost and consumed by a deep, new world where you wanted to stay, then that is success to me! The characters came first, mostly. I wrote most of this book more than a decade ago, but it wasn’t very good. I grew a lot as a writer during that time and completely re-wrote it. So I knew the general plot and roles of the characters, but, as weird as it sounds, the characters made up their own minds on the direction they wanted to go and the plot changed to account for that. I definitely do detailed planning for my novels, but I’m flexible once I get going based on what is (or becomes) natural for the characters.

Reading through the book we can gleam hints of European history that may have inspired you, did you do much research reading through history books? If not then what research did you do for the book and how long did it take?

I read more history than anything else. Not just military or political history, but the history of technology and trade. Certainly Europe has been a big influence, but also Asian and African history. I can’t read a history book without taking lots of notes on how I would use certain details or plots in my writing. Beyond this, I did look up things like the distances traveled in a day by an army, a ship, or a mounted courier, because my novels span continents. I also did a ton of research on things like metals, minerals, plants, and chemistry to build a broad system of alchemy, which I guess is my realist equivalent of magic systems often used in fantasy novels.

You’ve created a vast world and i’ve always wondered if creating a map comes easily to an author and what inspires them to choose the place names that they do, can you shed any light on this?

I do my own cartography and really enjoy it. The map in Lords of Deception is a scaled-down version (only about one-third of one of the continents) of hand-drawn geography with icons and other details added on top digitally with Procreate. I wrote a compendium of a couple dozen cultures within the Earthpillar world, with naming conventions adapted from real-world languages and mash-ups. For example, Donovard names are mostly Franco-German (except for the older Brintilian colonial settlements, which are similar to Scandinavian names). In the novels that will be published in December and February, there are mashups of Sumerian, Welsh, Ethiopian, and Mongolian. I want a reader to eventually know just from the name of a newly-introduced character where they are from, just as other characters in the book might. So I tap into all this when I’m writing about the dynamics between kingdoms and empires across the continents and seas, while striving to show how those strategic machinations impact individual characters and organizations. It may sound complex, but I don’t think any more so than the character roster for epics like Game of Thrones.

Which scene did you find the hardest to write and why?

Chapters 106-117 were hardest. They are shorter than normal and the characters that are followed by the reader are well-tread by then. But this is the climactic part where a lot of action is taking place simultaneously. There were a couple times while writing it that I had to avoid getting ahead of what another character was doing. So I essentially wrote several chapters at the same time on side-by-side sheets of paper. More than once I got it out of order because of some detail that impacted a different character’s stream of action. But keeping everything consistent is vital to avoid distracting the reader. I’m biased, but think it came out well!

I have a soft spot in my heart for Fetzer as I see him as an underdog. Do you have a special soft spot for any of your characters?

I’m fascinated that you chose underdog to describe Fetzer, but I don’t think you’re wrong. Without giving too much away, he certainly has a disadvantaged beginning and is determined to rise up like an underdog would. But he’s also a deviously clever, self-serving, and ruthless person who has lost any moral compass. He is certainly a focus for me in this book (more to come!), but I also have a soft spot for three others. Serdot, the gifted young spy-becomes-counselor (a la Walsingham?). Princess Milisend, for her secret fondness of thievery, but also because I have some idea of where she is headed. And the professor Danleri, who is burdened by the regret of not having taken drastic measures against a friend as a young man, and is torn between hopelessness and finally facing that erstwhile companion later in life.

Lords of Deception is the first book in your epic, did you write one book at a time, jump back and forth between the books or write it all in as one?

Lords of Deception was the first to be written years ago, then later re-written after I had already finished two other novels that serve as prequels. There will also be a proper sequel, which is my next project. But I often have a couple half-tales in progress on the side while I’m working on the novels.

Do you have any hidden secrets in your book that only a few people would know or notice?

It’s too early to give things away, but I have planted seeds or breadcrumbs that I will expand on in the future. I like to link all my novels and half-tales together to stoke those “ah-ha!” or “ohhhh” moments later.

If your epic was ever to become a movie or tv series which actors do you see playing which characters?

I actually do attach photos of real actors to my personal profiles on characters, to help me visualize them. Arthan would be the younger Jim Caviezel in The Count of Monte Cristo. Arasemis would be the bloody-bearded Brendan Gleeson in Kingdom of Heaven. And Milisend would be Katheryn Winnick similar to how she was in Vikings. I do this for minor characters too. For example, Livonier would be the loyal and even-keeled commander played by Tomas Arana in Gladiator.

Do you have anything you would like to say to any readers out there who are about to start reading your book?

I would say thank you for giving my Earthpillar world a try. There is no shortage of book choices, now that new technologies and market changes have lowered the barrier to publishing. I took a third route between traditional and self-publishing by creating my own publishing company and hiring professional freelance editors, proofreaders, and illustrators. With those refinements, I think I offer some good books, so thanks for diving in! And if you like it, tell a friend, which is the biggest complement you can give to indie authors.

And lastly, where can we purchase Lords of Deception and keep up with all your news?

It is available now in e-book from online retailers (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.), and paperbacks and hardbacks will be available by November from the same stores, or order from your favorite bookshop by providing the ISBNs. You can find each format’s ISBN on the website, EarthpillarBooks.com,where you can also subscribe to my mailing list. I send updates infrequently (more time for writing), and you receive discount codes and other exclusive content I’ll be rolling out over the next year. And the double-prequel to Lords of Deception will be released in December and February, so definitely watch for those!

Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction

Image supplied by Tracy Borman

Borman published Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction in August 2013 and after reading a review of it in the Sunday Times during a lunch break I went out and bought it. As this book is about witch trials it is associated in my mind with October and Halloween. When looking out my seasonal books for display this one is always in the mix and always gets me in the mood for harvest.

In the UK we have a few famous witch trial stories, arguably the most famous being the North Berwick Witch Trail which Shakespeare adapted into Macbeth. But what of the Witches of Belvoir? I hadn’t heard much about this but the story is fascinating. The Belvoir Witches were a mother and her two daughters who were accused of using witchcraft to cause the deaths of the 6th Earl of Rutland’s two heirs in 1613, who’s seat is Belvoir Castle. What makes this story so compelling? Apart from the scandal involving a great aristocratic family the accused confessed! Not only did they confess they complained in court that the devil hadn’t come to rescue them. An open and shut case surely? Enter stage right, the Duke of Buckingham – a rascal of a man, the Duke wanted Rutlands daughter as his wife, going so far as to taint her honor. And with Rutland’s heirs dead, that would make the daughter the heir apparent. The Duke of Buckingham theory I believe is Borman’s interpretation. I know that in the 1600’s there was a high rate of infant/child mortality and perhaps the boys were never murdered at all. The first 200 pages of the book is a well-research history of the witch trail craze and I learned a lot I didn’t know before. As to whether I have been convinced that the Duke of Buckingham is the one to blame, my mind changes from day to day. It’s similar to King Richard the III murdering the princes in the tower. In both cases, there was something to gain by the boy’s deaths….. I guess I’ll have to wait for a body in the car park (or under the tower steps), so to speak. Regardless, Borman’s book is a favorite and after writing this, with the wind and rain howling on my living room window, its time for a blanket, Earl Grey and my well-read copy to come down of the bookshelf again!

Tracy Borman knows her stuff and has made a name for herself in the heritage world as she is a joint Cheif Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Cheif Executive of the Heritage Education Trust. She has also published several other books such as Elizabeth’s Women: Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen and The King’s Witch. If you haven’t read her works I highly recommend that you do.