Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal

Playing With Fire by Derek Landy (Audio & Book Thoughts)

Whewww I am getting burned out on writing reviews this month, thankfully I’m almost caught up!

As a “fun for all ages” middle grade read I like the Skulduggery Pleasant series quite a bit. Playing With Fire is a fast paced, snarky sequel that I jumped into right after finishing the first book.

Let’s get into it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Playing With Fire
  • Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #2
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, May 2008
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of the first book! *Not a standalone*

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Skulduggery and Valkyrie are facing a new enemy: Baron Vengeous, who is determined to bring back the terrifying Faceless Ones and is crafting an army of evil to help him. Added to that, Vengeous is about to enlist a new ally (if he can raise it from the dead): the horrible Grotesquery, a very unlikable monster of legend.

Once Vengeous is on the loose, dead bodies and vampires start showing up all over Ireland. Now pretty much everybody is out to kill Valkyrie, and the daring detective duo faces its biggest challenge yet.

But what if the greatest threat to Valkyrie is just a little closer to home?

I have to admit the book became a bit repetitive after reading the first two back to back.  The audio was once again entertaining – and Rupert Degas said hi on Instagram so that was cool – but again, the music is also getting slightly less fun after hearing it so many times in short succession.

I want to keep reading but I’m going to space the next book or two out a bit.

Not to say it’s bad though. Playing With Fire had more one liners and banter and wit, plus we got a little more motivation from the individual “good guy” characters.  I liked seeing a little more of what keeps Skulduggery going, and how Valkyrie is regretting her time spent away from home too.

There were quite a few bad guys and henchmen in this one. I  couldn’t keep their names, abilities, affiliations straight, and that’s totally on me.  It didn’t detract too much and I loved the Billy Ray jokes.

The evil also felt a lot more cartoonish in this one, even for a middle-grade series. I did like the continuing theme of good vs bad vs gray zone though as the team navigated shifting alliances.

Overall: age appropriate, action packed, funny, and seriously grim at times. I can see these books being fun for all ages. There are a few gory horror elements but a strong middle grader would have no problem with these books.

I stuck with the audio as my Libby only has that available. Rupert Degas continues to delight and I’d definitely recommend that route if it is available.


Lastly, here are a few favorite quotes:

If you don’t see me in five minutes, then I’ve probably died a very brave and heroic death. Oh and don’t touch the radio–I’ve got it tuned right where I want it and I don’t want you messing that up.


‘Only a heathen would bring a gun to a sword fight
‘And only a moron would bring a sword to a gunfight’


Bravery, after all, isn’t the absence of fear. Bravery is the acknowledgement and the conquering of fear

My Reviews of the series so far:

  1. Skulduggery Pleasant
  2. Playing With Fire
Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal Young Adult

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy (Audio & Book Thoughts)

When I polled my friends for their favorite books, one of my bookstagram buddies  responded that her whole family loves Skulduggery Pleasant!

It sounded a little silly. A middle grade novel with fantasy/horror/humor elements about a snarky skeletal detective. I have seen it recommended before and said ok why not, I could use a laugh!

The audiobook didn’t disappoint.  I absolutely loved it enough to put holds on the next few books.  I’m told that the series goes downhill and gets PC/political later on so I am a little bit wary, but plan on enjoying the books until it gets to that point!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Skulduggery Pleasant
  • Series: Skulduggery Pleasant #1
  • Author: Derek Landy
  • Publisher & Release: HarperCollins, April 2007
  • Length: 400 pages:
  • Rate & Recommend: 4.5⭐  for fans of middle grade-YA. (Remember that I rate these books mainly off of age appropriateness and overall enjoyment)

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant

Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor–tongued Wit
Crackerjack Sorcerer and
Walking, Talking, Fire-throwing Skeleton

—as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.

These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.

The end of the world?

Over his dead body.

There are a lot of books bridging the Middlegrade to YA reading gap and this is one of them.  A mature 10 year old could read or listen to this, or an adult could find a few things to laugh at too.

It’s funny, very funny, and I think the narrator brought out the banter and personalities of the characters really well.  Some of the dialogue is clunky but for a debut novel I really liked the characters.

Stephanie didn’t seem to have a lot to be upset with in her life, but she is seeking adventure and finds it after her uncle dies and a skeleton in disguise shows up at the reading of his will.

Between Stephanie’s adventure sense and Skulduggery’s one liners and absolute lack of any idea of how to handle a 12 year old, they make quite a pair. I say again how much I love the banter and how awkward Skul could be

The book moves at an appropriately fast pace for middle grade fantasy. The fighting got a bit repetitive but the story moved quickly and I was absolutely not bored at all.  I think that 10-16 age group would devour this book

The biggest thing I noted that set this one apart from it’s genre peers is how dark it got at times.  Age appropriately dark, but still dark.  Where other books in this genre stay fairly light on tough themes, this went into grief and torture, betrayal and madness, among other things scattered between the jokes and lighter content.

I liked it for that contrast of light and dark, highlighting the gray zones and debating who the “good guys” are.  

Here are a small few of my favorite quotes:

I’m placing you under arrest for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and, I don’t know, possibly littering


A living skeleton isn’t enough for you, is it? What does it take to impress young people these days?


To betray is to act against, I just haven’t acted at all


Content wise – there’s very little language, I think he says “damn” once. There is no romantic content and the dark content stays pretty age appropriate which I love and find necessary in order to rate these books!  Any one liners targeted at adults are going to go straight over the little one’s heads, even I hardly caught them.

Overall: I would definitely recommend this as a fun, fast paced read or listen for anyone interested in middle grade/ early YA books

A quick note on the audio: approximately 7 hours, narrated by Rupert Degas.  I loved his accent so much and found it perfect for the text, characters, banter, etc. There’s music at the end of each chapter that set the mood for the next chapter, corny but fun. 100% going to listen to a few of these because I need a laugh in my life and if nothing else, I was laughing out loud for sure 😂

Categories
audiobooks Fiction Paranormal

Elevation (+ Laurie) by Stephen King – Book & Audio Thoughts

I needed a Novella for the SFF Oasis book bingo this month and listened to Elevation (and Laurie) written and narrated by Stephen King!

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about these novellas so here is a pair of mini reviews:

Elevation 🌲🌲🌲

I thought this novella was kind of ridiculous. It had an interesting premise but was more about the town of Castle Rock getting woke than the sci-fi element, which was never explored or explained at all.  I liked the characters, character development, and storyline well enough.

What lacked was that I expected King to explore the gravity loss idea and sci-fi element a lot more than he did. As he did not, I found the whole thing lacking. I won’t spoil the ending but found it, just, utterly stupid.  Ok, bye Scott

Laurie 🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶

This seems very un-King-like but I loved Laurie! A man who lost his wife is being nagged by his sister, who brings a puppy to his house. Obviously he gripes and complains and the puppy going to pee on the rug and he hates her, etc etc, but then all cuteness ensues. There’s even a thrilling event at the end.

I need more animal cuteness from King, who usually makes his animals terrifying

He is a pretty good narrator too, he should read more of his own books!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Elevation
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, October 2018
  • Length: 160 pages
  • See ratings above

A quick note on the audio: about 3:46 long from Simon & Schuster audio, released at the above date and narrated by the author

Here’s the synopsis:

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face—including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Paranormal

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (My Experience)

Go then, there are other worlds than these

Now that I’ve read a few Stephen King books I am aware of a couple of things. He has gone through some significant and very different life stages, and depending on which stage he was in when he wrote a book, it’s going to be a very different reading experience.  His thoughts on this book began in college …..

The Dark Tower series gets a vast amount of praise from readers across all genres and I figured it was about time I check it out.  Number one, The Gunslinger, is short and felt rocky at times, which can be explained by the fact that it was originally 5 short stories!

There are ideas, there are flashbacks, there’s action in the present day, and there’s certainly a lot of room for King to move forward. My main impression is that I don’t think he knew it was going to turn into a giant epic series when he first wrote The Gunslinger. After doing some research I found that after the other books were written King went back and did some serious revising to the first to make it more consistent with the other books, and this is the version I have.  It’s interesting though because you can see where the five stories are and while each has its own individual flavor, they mostly fit well when pieced together to create Roland’s adventures.

And there you have it from Wikipedia. So what are my impressions of the book? I had no idea if I was reading fantasy or dystopia or what.  They should have left the Whelan cover to make it clear at first! You’ve got lowkey demons, a sharpshooter, a talking raven, throwbacks to something like Arthurian times in a castle court, with guns, and an overarching Old West feel.

It’s bizarre and brilliant and I’m keenly interested. I have so many questions about how the world’s fit together, how Jake ended up in this wasteland, how 10 years can pass in a moment, and so many other things! 

If nothing else King has me hooked lined and sunk as far as continuing to read on because I want all the answers. 

I don’t know where this thought fits into the rest of my thoughts but there’s this whole over current of weird hormones and sexy situations haha I think King had some issues to work through at some point, as also indicated by the Bill Hodges trilogy and “honeyboy”🤣

It’s also no secret that Roland is considered a hugely iconic character, so let me look at him quickly.  He’s obviously a badass sharp shooter on one level, but when he talks about his past he seems ancient. How did he get from a beautiful green world of castles and courts to a dystopian desert chasing the Man in Black?  His interactions with Jake Chambers shows that he has never heard of our Earth, even though his world mirrors Earth in many ways.  Roland isn’t fearless, he has deep feelings where the boy is concerned, but he’s also quite singleminded in purpose at this point in the series. 

And if that spiel on time and size at the end doesn’t blow your mind, nothing will 😂

One penultimate note is that Michael Whelan did the original cover! That makes it a legitimate fantasy as far as I’m concerned

Screenshot_20220621-100659

And the last note – it was recommended to me to try the audiobooks because the narrator adds a lot of fantastic personality to the text and I couldn’t agree more.  Most of my King reading has been on audio because of Will Patton narrating quite a few books, but George Guidall   is absolutely phenomenal as well.  Would highly recommend to fans of thrillers and fantasy.

Here’s the Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gunslinger
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #1
  • Author: Stephen King, narrated by George Guidall
  • Release: Originally 1982, there are so many versions this is confusing to me now
  • Length: approx 7 hours audio, around 280 on page
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ heck yeah to thriller and fantasy, weird western fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Paranormal

Where Blood Runs Gold by A.C. Cross (Book Review)

I was telling Red, my chestnut mare, about this book and specifically how A.C. Cross called a Chestnut horse a sweetheart, and the other horse a Cee-U-Next-Tuesday! We had a good laugh over this as we all know how Chestnut mares are the true evils of the horse world

Joking aside, mostly, Where Blood Runs Gold is (to me) a unique book that I am pegging as the Wild West meets The Walking Dead. I’m a bit at a loss of how to describe or categorize the book because I’ve never read a fantasy/western before!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Where Blood Runs Gold
  • Series: N/A (room for a sequel)
  • Author: A.C. Cross
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, January 2022
  • Length: 494 pages (fast read)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I would if it sounds up your alley, for 18+ readers

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon!

Sheriff Errol Thorpe’s life is chaotic, brutal, and above all, solitary. After an unimaginable loss years ago, all he feels is the compulsion to seek vengeance. But when a vulnerable family arrives in town, facing an ugly future, he is pulled headfirst into a web of violence, secrets, and things he never imagined. In search of truth and answers, Thorpe finds himself battling deadly flesh-eating Dust, acidic golden blood, and the political designs of powerful people – all the while learning how to be a person again. When Dust rises in San Dios, people hide indoors. When Sheriff Thorpe arrives, people run.

The author spins the legend of Sherriff Errol Thorpe, aka The Judge, as he fights gangs, robbers, sin, corruption, his own demons, and a greater evil too.  There are stories offered in flashback format that I love, as they help build the man’s life and legend.

Gettin’ damn near tired out of bein’ told when I can or can’t die. I’ll die when I’m damn well ready {Sheriff}

The sheriff is a good example of a morally gray character. He 100% does what he thinks is right and sometimes gets carried away while bringing the pain. Watching him wrestle with his strict code and trying not to be soft made him memorable too. He has had a tough life and I liked him a lot by the end.  The young girl he rescues and a lady that sort of becomes his partner seem realistic and create some good banter, although my favorite side character was an easily exasperated captain of the army named Josie

Language wise, the slang and dialect are consistent, smart, and to quote the author – “gloriously profane” at times.

It’s dark as a crow’s dick out here

Or my personal favorite –

Great green fucks on a hill, son

I say smart because Cross consistently writes language and dialect that is realistic to the old West, without breaking character at all, and I found that consistency impressive. One note on the editing too – I read this as a Kindle Unlimited and was very happily surprised to find only one typo in the entire novel. This is an extremely well presented indie work

Where westerns don’t tend to world build a lot, he makes up for that in atmosphere, setting and tone

Here’s where I docked the star: I wanted a little more from the “big picture” side of things. How did the entire world fit together? It seemed to be civil war era (brief mentions of Union and Confederate) but that never really played into the plot. There also wasn’t a history of the big bad evil given, it just kind of appeared and then the book ended without explaining what it was (or how it got into that cave)?

The horror elements aren’t too bad but I am solidly recommending this book for 18+ readers.

If you like Westerns, adventure, weird, legends and stories, check this one out! The book is out now!

DON’T MISS THE SUNDAY BRUNCH REBOOT ON 4/17, FEATURING A.C. CROSS!!

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Young Adult

Edgewood (ARC Review) by Kristen Cicarelli – plus words for the publisher

Hey Wednesday Books… thank you for the review copy of Edgewood! All opinions are my own. (I do briefly review the book below, in a bold paragraph.  Bookish quick facts and synopsis below that).

I love y’all truly but we need to have a chat: this is this second pretty obviously “new adult” or at least “upper YA” book that I’ve read from Wednesday coming out this year and I’m having a moral conflict

I am over seeing these books advertised for the 13-18 age group. I strongly believe Amazon is heavily at fault for not having more specific age options for books – AND – I get that the “new adult” market is fuzzy.  The thing with these books though is that these characters are out of the house already, leaving home for careers and coming back home, and EVERY SINGLE BOOK I’ve read from you guys this year is pushing sex on that YA age group. I get that it’s a “crossover” imprint but still still STILL what message are you and the authors trying to send to young teens?  That is something the editors/publishers/authors can control and frankly as far as I’m concerned it comes down to integrity

I’m not ok with y’all trying to attract adults to these books too.  Send these books to the adult imprint. Edgewood would have had a market with the adult fae/fantasy romance crowd with a bit more spice.  With the two sexy scenes deleted it would have been at least suitable for teen/YA readers, if the themes weren’t still targeting that 18-22 crowd 

In a world where 16 and pregnant is a real TV show I know content is a moot point, but you wouldn’t believe how many people agree that this isn’t what teens need to be reading in Every 👏 Single 👏 Book👏. Heck I’ve got TEENS messaging me to say they agree and don’t want to feel that pressure.  

⭐⭐This isn’t a bad review, this is me having a conflict.  I think Edgewood is a great book. I love magical forests and mischievous fae and the theme of keeping the grandfather with memory issues safe.  Found family, remembering, dealing with dementia – all wonderful themes. Being your true self is beautiful.  I liked Emeline and Sable, Rooke and Hawthorne especially.  The book has great characters with real and very personal struggles.  There are darker themes too like curses and entrapment. With a little more spice Edgewood would have fit right in with that adult/NA fae romance genre. With 2-3 scenes deleted it would have been a YA masterpiece. There are some great themes for that 18-25 age group. Like really, I enjoyed the book immensely. I read it in 3 sittings. A lot of her similes read a little YA (x like y, x like y, x like y, sometimes more than one in the same sentence – otherwise I like the author’s style.) That said, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO RATE IT AS A YA book when y’all are killing me content wise?⭐⭐

 I’m asking Wednesday to find a way to do better as a ‘crossover’ imprint and stop selling sex in every single book to young teens.  I know they aren’t the only publishers doing it but honestly – it’s most consistent that I’ve seen.

For now – I’m out on the YA reviews.  If I keep reading and buying YA books, fine, but I am not obligated to rate something I purchase with my own money and this stress will go away

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Edgewood
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Kristen Cicarelli
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, 03/01/22
  • Length: 400 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: for the 18-25 group sure, and I did enjoy it.  

Here’s the synopsis:

Edgewood has everything I love in a Kristen Ciccarelli book: lyrical prose, a romance that will hurt, and themes rooted in raw and intimate questions, making for a timeless tale.” – Joan He, New York Times bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Can love survive the dark?

No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions.

When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching.

Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal―her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar.

With the help of Hawthorne―an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day―Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice.

Haunting and romantic, Kristen Ciccarelli’s Edgewood is an exciting novel from a bold, unforgettable voice in fantasy.

“Darkly gorgeous and moving, Edgewood is full of curses and fae magic that will capture your heart and wrap it in thorns before setting you free again, forever changed. I devoured Edgewood whole and couldn’t put it down.” – Evelyn Skye, New York Times bestselling author of The Crown’s Game

Synopsis from Amazon.  I included the two plugs too because yes – honestly it’s a great read.  My issue isn’t with the book at all 

Pardon my rant as part of the review, do check out the book and let me know what you think!

Categories
Fantasy Literary Fiction Paranormal

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (all the things I learned) by Salman Rushdie

The only thing I knew about Rushdie going into this read was that 1) his eyebrows are terrifying and 2) about 30 years ago he really, really pissed off the Ayatollah enough to receive a death warrant. I knew that he was known for magical realism and I thought a book about Djinn would be a fun place to start – plus Ursula LeGuin plugged the book, and it pays tons of homage to Scheherezade and the 1001 nights (see title).

I expected a stuffy old idealist, which meant that while reading I was shocked by the humor and strangeness mixed in with the idealism and colorful characters, sex and profanity, giggles and terrible acts and general ridiculousness found on the same page as much more serious themes and topics.

I watched a talk and Q&A that Rushdie did, mostly about his new book at the time called Quichotte, and he is HILARIOUS.  Brilliant clearly but also giggling about not wanting certain presidents in his fucking book, and he actually joked that thirty years later, only one of the two men (Rushdie vs. the Ayatollah) are alive, so things must have worked out.  I was laughing truly, he is a delight to listen to.

So what did I learn? Don’t assume an author is a stuffy old dude until you read something they write and hear their thoughts on their work.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Salman Rushdie
  • Publisher & Release: Random House, September 2015
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ ⚡ I don’t think I would tell people to read this book of his first

Here’s the synopsis:

In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.

Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

I think the last line of the synopsis says everything.  The main issue for me is that the book was set another 1000 years in the future, so the first and last parts of it read like a historical textbook on the Djinn and an old war.  Not that this is a bad thing, but it caused me to switch over to the audio as that kind of literature gets into my brain easier when someone else is telling the story.

After a history of the Djinn, we meet Dunia, and then generations later we meet the descendants of her children. Many of these are described in the synopsis.  This was the highlight for me as things got quite strange.  For example – how does someone floating higher and higher off the ground take a crap once things start getting too splashy? Is a gardener capable of being a hero? Will the power destroy or drive mad or save it’s recipients when their Djinn blood is awakened?

“Bawdy and satirical” is an understatement an overall I liked those parts.  I didn’t love how he made religion the scapegoat of the dark Djinn, he pretty much dismissed a ton of people as sheep and clowns, but there were also some interesting ideas about God so who knows where he is really coming from.

The 1001 night war was a good idea, and I liked that he kept circling back to the storytellers.  Other themes obviously included repressed idealism, common heroes, how good and bad can originate much from the same place, and … right at the end there is a great piece on how history chooses it’s heroes and writes them accordingly

He also echoed a sentiment I have been feeling recently where people are so focused on immediate results (including in stories) that longer books and journeys aren’t appreciated so much anymore

One quick note on the narration – I love Indian accents, and Robert G. Slade did an awesome job.  The cackling comic book Djinn roughly quoted as saying “come get me mothafuckaaa” was one of the many, many things I thought he did well.  A large portion of the book also took place in America, and I think he has a great range of accents and voices to offer.  It was a no-frills audio and I think it was the right move for me to switch over

Overall: I think everyone should read at least one Rushdie book at some point, but the historical text parts of this one were a lot less interesting than the present tense chapters.  I would not recommend starting with this book.  I am personally going to try Quichotte next, but Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses (the one the sparked the Fatwa) I believe are his two most popular.

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Horror Paranormal

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Beronika Keres!

Thank you for joining us on the Sunday Brunch Series this week!

Episode 18 features fantasy and horror author Beronika Keres! We originally ‘met’ when her debut novel Cracked Coffins was considered too thematically intense for a book tour! Luckily I was able to have a read anyway because dark vampire thrillers are everything and it was definitely a thriller!

The second novel Binding Blood released on December 7th. There are purchase links below if anyone has not checked these books out yet!

That said – I am glad that we finally got to chat about challenging content, favorite vampires, obviously brunch, and more!

Here it is!


🥞Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your literary life?

🎤Hello! I’m Beronika, and I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to read and write. So far, I’ve published Cracked Coffins and Binding Blood, the first two books in The Cracked Coffins Series. I have a bunch of stories in various stages of production and am so antsy to get them out.

When I’m not writing, I’m usually studying for university, consuming copious amounts of caffeine, and listening to my favorite gothic rock or punk songs on repeat.

🥞Could you tell everyone a bit about your publishing journey?

🎤My publishing journey has been long, so it’s a dream that I was able to release my first book in 2020. I think I was eight or nine when I first tried to get something published. I wrote a little story, found a major publishing house’s address on the copyright page of some book, and sent it in. It came back with a return to sender stamp—of course—but I didn’t let that deter me. I tried many times to write a full book and did so successfully at twelve. I had some success with short stories over the years, but I was really focused on being a published novelist. This was way back when many viewed indie publishing in a negative light, so I was convinced traditional publishing was the only way. Yet when that view shifted, and I realized the control indie publishing would grant me, I pursued that instead. Two books in and I’m happy with that decision.

🥞Congratulations on the second novel! What do you think was the biggest point of growth for you as an author between the two books?

🎤Thank you! My biggest point of growth is probably my writing. I worked with an awesome editor for Cracked Coffins who taught me so much!

🥞Seeing as we just got through the holiday season, what would Marianna’s favorite holiday be? What about Denendrius?

🎤Holidays would be a sore spot for Marianna, given her situation, but she’d yearn to experience a normal Christmas the most. I can see Denendrius periodically liking Valentine’s Day under certain conditions. He also would have celebrated Saturnalia when he was a human during his time, so I imagine he would shift to celebrating a non-religious version of Christmas, providing he has a reason (like Marianna) to care about celebrating.

🥞Cracked Coffins is a perfectly dark story so far! Did you start off knowing that it was going to be a dark fantasy? Did it get less or more dark as you started writing?

🎤I actually first wrote Cracked Coffins as a young teen during the last vampire craze. Denendrius as a character existed before I completely knew the plot for the novels, so I knew any story including him would be grim. The first apartment scene and the following forest scene were the first parts written and were based off dreams, and I’ve been told the latter is one of the darker scenes in the book. Some parts of the series are darker than other parts, though there are lighter areas. Yet overall, the dark themes are fairly consistent.

🥞I love that vampires are making a comeback! Do you have any favorite fictional vampires or vampire related literature?  

🎤I love that they’re making a comeback too! Yes, of course! I love Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. I just absolutely adore Lestat, Louis, and Claudia for so many different reasons. I also really liked Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. I think about that book from time to time, though the ending was bittersweet to me. 

🥞How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite brunch foods?

🎤I love brunch even though I don’t eat it very often. Bacon, waffles, and cinnamon rolls are my favorite!

🥞Marianna went through the ringer in Cracked Coffins, (drugs, death, domestic abuse, etc), is it emotionally difficult or otherwise challenging to put your characters through hell?

🎤It can be hard sometimes. Some themes and topics in Cracked Coffins are personal to me, so it can be interesting to wade through those feelings again to write. I always feel equipped to handle the topics, at least. Doing research can be difficult as well, especially stumbling upon real-life stories of people’s personal experiences (whether it be from those suffering from addiction or recovering, abuse survivors, or from those who were in the foster care system), or articles about abusive victims who weren’t able to escape.

But I also find it therapeutic to visit these sorts of situations with a fictionalized and supernatural approach. Including vampirism in a kidnapping/domestic violence story adds a whole new dynamic to explore. I thought the mortal/immortal power imbalance was a good way to portray some of the helplessness and hopelessness that can be felt in that sort of entrapment. Of course, adding violent creatures makes everything darker, but the supernatural also creates different avenues for hope that don’t exist in the real world.

🥞After two books, what’s the most valuable thing you have learned going forward into the next?

🎤How to adapt, be flexible, and try new techniques! Indie publishing makes this easy, which is why I love it so much.

🥞Here is the quick round of rapid-fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite literary character of all time? Favorite book that your always recommend? Favorite author?

🎤It’s so hard to pick a favorite author since there’s so many that I love. John Saul, R.L. Stine, Stephen King, and Scott Westerfeld, to name a few.

One of my favorite literary characters is Janie Johnson from The Face on the Milk Carton (one of my favorite books since childhood) by Caroline B. Cooney. I always recommend that book and the subsequent ones.

A couple more of my favorite books that I’m always quick to recommend are Lighthouse Nights by Jake Vander Ark and Room by Emma Donoghue!

🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there’s anything else you’d like to add, say, or feature, add it here!

🎤Thank you! It’s been a pleasure. I’m currently hard at work on the third book in the series and can’t wait to share more information about it!


Meet the author – from  https://www.beronikakeres.com/

Beronika Keres is a fantasy, thriller, and horror writer. After deciding in the second grade that she was destined to be an author, she has spent her life honing her craft and pursuing her dream. Fueled by coffee, she can often be found chasing plot bunnies and writing books.

When she isn’t writing, she can be found spending time with her family and enjoying the forests, mountains, and lakes of where she resides in British Columbia, Canada.

Cracked Coffins is her debut novel


Social Media and Book Links!

https://www.beronikakeres.com/

https://www.instagram.com/beronikakeres/

https://books2read.com/CrackedCoffins

https://books2read.com/Binding-Blood-2

Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Fiction Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Wake the bones (ARC Review) by Eilizabeth Kilcoyne

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate.  I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.

With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wake the Bones
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
  • Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it

Here’s the synopsis:

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.

Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their  future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.

That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction

It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations.  The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death.  From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier.  It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.

The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains.  Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her.  Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area.  One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.

So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings.  Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.

All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting.  Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.

Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?

Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes.  I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she.  Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting

I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.

OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too.  Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.

The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers

For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17.  I will not rate it for YA

Categories
audiobooks Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

End of Watch (book & audio thoughts) by Stephen King

I know there’s not much that I can add to the King review canon, but here are my thoughts on End of Watch! I fully recommend this series and book to anyone looking for unlikely heroes, great character arcs, and low-key creepy vibes that increase in this final book.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: End of Watch
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2016
  • Pages: 448
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yess for thriller and mystery, paranormal fans

Here’s the synopsis:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times best-selling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers

2017 Audie Award Finalist for Fiction and Best Male Narrator

In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney – the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him in the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend, Jerome Robinson, and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding supernatural suspense that has been his best-selling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

This is a really satisfying end to the trilogy.  It can stand on it’s own but I highly recommend reading them all, and in order, or the audio books are absolutely phenomenal as well (but you all know I just LOVE Will Patton).

Brady Hartsfield is back, and King finally found a way to weave the supernatural / paranormal into this one.  He does so in an utterly creepy way too, with Brady developing telekinesis due to experimental drugs and using it to orchestrate mayhem and suicide through handheld game consuls.  Brady really isn’t as smart as he thinks he is though, some of his mishaps had me laughing.

The title tells the reader what’s coming at the end, and it’s revealed pretty early on. That storyline is definitely sad as hell but it also lets Holly and Jerome shine on a new level.  One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy has been these unlikely heroes with their unlikely friendship, and Bill Hodges being the elderly, unlikely hero that holds them together.  All three had the chance to shine in this King left us no doubt that Holly’s gonna be ok.

Exciting, tense, sad, hopeful, fast paced – are all good describing words for this one.  I liked the pacing and how it kept connecting back to prior books.  King wrote a lovely authors note at the end about suicide prevention too that would lift anyone’s spirits after the ending.  I have also enjoyed the picnic scenes at the end of each book and was glad that End of Watch included one as well.  It gave the characters some final emotional closure

What I really want is a Holly and Pete spinoff book or series – I know that If It Bleeds is at least a short story but I hope he writes more.

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes: 

Things can get better, and if you give them a chance, they usually do.

One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel

It’s about how some people carelessly squander what others would sell their souls to have: a healthy, pain-free body. And why? Because they’re too blind, too emotionally scarred, or too self-involved to see past the earth’s dark curve to the next sunrise. Which always comes, if one continues to draw breath

And the funniest one …. “Darker than a woodchuck’s asshole”

I definitely highly recommend this series on both book or audio format if you are looking for a great detective, suspense, thriller series.  Will Patton, as always, adds something special to the narration and will creep you out even harder singing the fishing hole song!