City of Ghosts – J.H. Moncrieff

Do you believe in ghosts? On spooky nights, many children and perhaps some adults ask this question. If you watch shows like Ghost Hunters, you might be more concerned with the answer. I am of the belief anything is possible. I do not actively believe, but if you tell me a house is haunted, I step with a wary foot.

City of Ghosts is a story shockingly enough, about ghosts! And one unlucky immature man. The story was well-written and engaging. A compelling tale that zipped along. A tale that plants you deep into China. I could tell the author had done her research, as she made sure to tell the tale from a tourist perspective. Well researched and planned out, the story was good, but not perfect.

I had one main issue with the story and keep in mind this was my experience. An experience that tends to be the minority of the readers. The main character, Jackson, an African-American, Jackass loving, childish man in his late 20’s (from what I can tell), decides to stay behind on a trip to a Chinese city. My issue here is the character. While not unlikable, he is annoying in a little brother when are you going to grow up kind-of way. It might not have nagged me so much, except he barely grows. He just is forced to deal with the situations he is in and reacts. As a reader, it would have been better if his age was 16 and it was a school trip, then all my qualms with his characterization would be null. I’m not saying I’ve never met an immature 20-something year old, I just don’t want to read about them. It was a disconnect for me.

Regardless of the character issue, the tale was spooky and a promising example of what else Moncrieff can do. I believe many people will enjoy this tale, especially if you love ghost stories.

You can find the tale on Amazon for 99 cents in Kindle format and $16.99 in paperback.

Synopsis:

On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.

Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.

Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.

As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.

THE GIRL BEHIND THE STORY

J.H. Moncrieff’s work has been described as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure.

She won Harlequin’s search for “the next Gillian Flynn” in 2016. Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, go to http://bit.ly/MoncrieffLibrary.

 

CONNECT WITH J.H.

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OWL Rating:

3 1/2 OWLS due to disconnect with main character.

*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

The Bitches of Enchantment: A Dark Princess Fairy Tale – #2 – Barbra Annino

The sequel to the first, Bitches of Everafter, picked up right where it left off with tongue lashing quibs and crazy magical ladies. It was a playful return to an easy and fun read.

There is nothing negative to say about this story. The only caution I suggest is this is a dark twist on the classic fairytales, and with that twist comes colorful language.

Other than the language, it is a tickling treat to read such a colorful and different take on the classic fairytales. It is fun, it is clever, it is wild and original. Everyone who has a sense of humor should check this story out.

The best part of the story is that it evolves. The characters are constantly changing. Red Riding Hood, the first villain of the tale, changes in ways I never expected. It keeps the characters present and lively.

If you are in the mood for some sassy spirit you can find the book on Amazon in Kindle for $3.99.

Synopsis: An evil curse designed to destroy an entire realm. A queen who just took her last breath. A ruthless villain on the brink of madness. And a dwarf mafia who would kill for some homemade lasagna.

For the five princesses in Everafter, time is running out. If they don’t discover who is behind the curse that banished them to a land far, far away, they will lose their loves, their crowns and their kingdoms–forever. 

And one of them will lose her life. Now, there’s just one way to save them. Magic. Except the only one who can wield it doesn’t believe.

What’s worse than being trapped inside a nightmare? Waking up.

*This is the second book in the Everafter trilogy and should be enjoyed chronologically. 

OWL Rating:

 

 

Short Stories – Calvin Demmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calvin Demmer is a rapid writer when it comes to short stories. The ideas just fly out of his head. In addition to being a fast writer, he has a wonderful taste in book covers. I’m a judge-er, and proud to admit I won’t buy a book unless I like the cover. I believe the cover can reveal much about an author. It can tell me how artistic or compatible I am with the story. I have never read a story I liked that did not have an artsy cover that appealed to my taste buds. Some may argue that authors don’t always have full control over the cover. This is true and something I try to be mindful of. But so far, if it’s an ugly cover, the story usually needs work and leaves me disappointed. So to be safe, if you want people like me to buy your story, take care with the cover the best that you can. Show that you care about the visual representation.


Dying Valentine was the first of the lot I cracked open. A fitting tale for the Valentine’s Day lover or hater depending on your perspective. Demmer has a theme of writing stories around the holidays and this was another festive special. A dark time for many to be sure. Dying Valentine started off feeling like a Supernatural story-line. I thought initially it was the makings of a repeated theme. A dark road and a woman in white, we’ve all heard that one before. But Demmer has his own version that is not quite what I expected. For a twisty end you will have to read it yourself. I wasn’t invested in this story as much because I expected a cliché, and even though it ended on a different note, I never truly embraced the tale.

For this story I give  OWLS

Synopsis: Daniel Hill was on edge. He was meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and they had to go and make Valentine’s Day evening the date. Who did that? Wasn’t Valentine’s Day for couples and not families? Then the girl in the white dress wandered in front of his vehicle. At that moment, Daniel knew his night was going to take a wrong turn…

If only he knew the new course would lead him down a dark one-way path.


She Will Rise was much more captivating. A domestic situation that goes batty. I felt drawn in by the ill mother and daughter relationship from the beginning. My only wish is that it had been longer in order to establish the twist that occurs in the end. It felt a bit rushed, and I felt that the protagonist needed more time to feel her rage. In addition, I would have benefited from some kind of explanation for the events that unfolded. I felt there was too much unexplained. Therefore, great beginning and solid middle, but the ending needed more.

For this story I give OWLS

Synopsis: Luna Mendes has come home from college for Easter. She finds her mother bedridden, far more ill than she feared. Her stepfather hasn’t changed, though. And that is a problem. Before the weekend is out, something will rise against the darkness that has haunted her family.


Spring Outbreak flowed the smoothest and was the most enrapturing of the stories from this horde. There was a better lead up to the crazy that follows. I enjoyed this story the best because I felt the emotions of fear the most. The isolation was the most compelling of all the emotions and I believe Demmer captured it well. Demmer’s endings can be somewhat abrupt at times, but this time it did not bother me. It felt appropriate. Demmer has great ideas, I look forward to when he expands on them into a longer length tale.

For this story I give OWLS

Synopsis: Gwen Montgomery has come to Mexico during spring break to clear her mind. It seems like the perfect solution after a difficult breakup. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be more wrong. When she wakes after falling asleep on the beach, the horrific scene she finds sends her running. But she can’t run forever.


THE MAN BEHIND THE STORIES:

Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. He has had over thirty stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

CONNECT WITH CALVIN

Website

Goodreads

 

 

Purchase the stories in Kindle format from Amazon for $0.99 cents:

Dying Valentine

She Will Rise

Spring Outbreak

*I received a free copy of each story in exchange for an honest review

From Ice to Ashes – Rhett C. Bruno

(I apologize for my slacking ways. My reading list has been growing longer as I have not been as diligent in my reading the past couple months due to life).

I was pleased to be offered an ARC copy of this new title by Rhett C. Bruno. An ever-growing favorite of mine, Bruno really outdid himself with this novel.

Bruno comes into this novel with a different voice from his other pieces of work — a subtler tone that invades the overall story. This voice resonated with me on a different level. I felt drawn in, in ways his other works hadn’t quite captured. I was a hooked fish. This story truly shows Bruno’s evolution as a storyteller.

I felt there was deeper character development than I had seen before with Bruno. I really felt entrenched in the story and the events that unfolded. I loved so much of the scenery that was painted for my imagination. One of my favorite scenes is when the characters enter the atmosphere wearing sky wings that allow them to soar like birds. I could feel the characters soaring through space, the atmosphere whipping their synthetic wings violently. What a great scene that remains with me even now.

It made me finally download Mass Effect, not because they are related, but because I needed another Sci-fi fix.

I was excited to be back in the Titan universe, and my love of Bruno’s work continues on with this latest installment. Kale Drayton’s (protagonist) story is an exceptional rebirth story, a criminal to hero tale. This is a dystopian novel, where the oppressed rise up when the chips are finally bloody enough.

If you are looking for a tale of unlikely and complicated heroes, then check this story out.

You can find the book on Amazon in Kindle format for $4.99.

Synopsis: Kale Drayton knows his place. As a Ringer, he’s used to keeping his head down and his mouth shut—no matter how much the Earthers abuse him or his own kind berate him. So when he’s caught stealing from a wealthy merchant, he’s lucky to be sentenced to low-paying maintenance work on a gas-harvesting ship instead of life in a cell . . . or worse.

But when his mother is quarantined, Kale finds himself backed into a corner. To pay for her medicine, he needs money—the kind of money he’ll never make sweeping floors and cleaning ships. So when he receives a mysterious offer asking him to do a simple job in exchange for his mother’s treatment, Kale takes a chance once more. All he has to do is upload a program onto his employer’s ship and all of his problems will disappear.

What starts as a straightforward smuggling gig soon reveals its shattering repercussions. The people who hired Kale are more dangerous than he suspected—and he’s more important to them than he ever could have imagined.

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORY:

Rhett is a Sci-fi/Fantasy author currently living in Stamford, Connecticut. He is represented by Dystel & Goderich out of NYC and his published works include books in the Amazon Bestselling CIRCUIT SERIES (Published by Diversion Books) and TITANBORN (Random House Hydra).

Rhett has been writing since he can remember, scribbling down what he thought were epic short stories when he was young to show to his friends and family. When he reached high school he decided to take that a step further and write his first novel. After the encouragement of his favorite English teacher, he decided to self-publish the “Isinda Trilogy” so that the people closest to him could enjoy his early work.

While studying architecture at Syracuse University, he continued to write as much as he could, but finding the time during the brutal curriculum proved difficult. It wasn’t until he was a senior that he decided to finally pursue his passion for Science Fiction. After rededicating himself to reading works of the Science Fiction authors he always loved, (Frank Herbert, Timothy Zahn, Heinlein, etc.) he began writing “The Circuit: Executor Rising”, the first part of a space opera series.

Since then he’s been hired by an Architecture firm in South Norwalk, CT. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to work on all of the countless stories bouncing around in his head. He’s also recently earned  a Certificate in Screenwriting from the New School in NYC, in the hopes of one day writing for TV or Video Games.

CONNECT WITH RHETT

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Goodreads

OWL Rating:

*I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review

The Changeling – Victor LaValle

victor-lavalleI seem to be on a roll with my Netgalley picks lately. The past three I have been granted have been thoroughly enjoyable, this strange trollish tale included.

Lavalle was new to me, but I like the concept of the story. For many children, a common story they may have heard growing up was Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak, first published 1981. This tale tells the story of a baby that gets snatched by goblins and is replaced with an imposter. I remember this story from my own childhood. It always drew me in and at the same time creeped me out. The Changeling is a re-imagined version of this, a story about mythical baby snatchers in our everyday world.

The story starts off slow, but never boring. You get to know the characters intimately. You have a deep sense of who they are before the horror and adventure begins. At first, I thought the beginning was too drawn out, but I disagree with myself now. I enjoyed the backstory and the beginning, it allowed me to care for Apollo (the protagonist) and his desperate journey to understand his current chaos.

If you have a fond memory of Sendak’s tales, or even if you just enjoy a good mystical mystery, this story is deep and enchanting. I very much enjoyed this read and hope to explore more of Lavalle’s work later on.

The book is yet to be published, but I recommend adding it to your to read pile on Goodreads. Expected publication is June 13, 2017.

outside-over-there

Synopsis:

One man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgivable act of violence, from the award-winning author of the The Devil in Silver and Big Machine.

“If the literary gods mixed together Haruki Murakami and Ralph Ellison…the result would be Victor LaValle.”—Anthony Doerr

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air. Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.

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*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Dead Over Heels – Theresa Braun – Novelette

33115353I seem to be reading crime/horror more and more these days. In truth, I never thought that I would enjoy the crime/horror genre. But whenever I get asked to read a new genre, I like to take a chance. I wonder, will I be surprised and enjoy something outside my comfort zone? Due to taking those chances, I now can say that I do like the crime/horror genre, which was a shock to me. In the end, it’s all about the quality of the story.

I should state that Dead Over Heels is not really horror, it’s more paranormal with a pinch of violence. I had no idea where this story would lead me. It started off innocent and sweet. However, as the story unraveled I was hooked with each page turn. This was a nicely crafted novelette. And yet, it was full bodied in its shortness. Braun is a good writer, I was drawn in for the ride and never saw the twists coming. It was a fulfilling read. I was left feeling I had read an entire novel (in a good way). I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. I highly recommend readers take a chance on this tale. If you don’t mind a little domestic drama, this will pleasantly surprise you.

You can find the story in Kindle format on Amazon for $3.99.

Synopsis: Veronica’s first date with Sebastian not only stirs up a powerful attraction, but also a series of supernatural events that will tear them apart.

After countless hours of dead end online dating, Veronica meets up with Sebastian at a reportedly haunted restaurant, since he knows she has a fascination with the paranormal. While enjoying their meals and each other’s company, they share a shocking supernatural experience. Their romantic connection is overshadowed by the ghosts of their own pasts that threaten to destroy their budding relationship. Veronica decides she must return to the restaurant to face her past and dig up more answers. Unfortunately, she realizes she must go back, this time with a reluctant Sebastian. In the end, they join forces against the evil that stands between them, but will they make it out alive?

THE GIRL BEHIND THE STORY:

16508830_1164735616909490_414877931341401351_nTheresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides with her two fur babies, who are her creative sidekicks. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Traveling is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and the occasional romance. Oh, and she likes to guest blog about writing, television shows, movies, and books, mostly in the horror genre. Her short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in Hindered Souls, and “Dead over Heels” is soon to be published by Frith Books.

 
 

CONNECT WITH THERESA

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OWL Rating: owl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white background

*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

The Backstagers Vol. 1 – James Tynion IV (Author), Rian Sygh (Illustrations)

32898210I have always had a love for graphic novels, but I have to enjoy the art style. Even if the story is amazing, it won’t hook me unless the pictures speak to my creative soul.

I liked the looks of this graphic novel from the start. It was colorful and had a teenage quality that fit the synopsis. It revolves around a new kid at school named Jory. The story follows him on his first day as he tries to find a place he can fit in. What I liked most about this story is that it took an awkward, self-conscious teen and gave him a home with the stage crew kids that are often overlooked. It reminded me of my own high school years and the different places kids gravitated towards.

This is a story written for the geeky kids, the kids who are maybe not the most popular, the ones who find families in friends that are a bit awkward like themselves.

The story was vibrant and magical and catered to the often overshadowed kids. I thought it was a truly beautiful little tale.

You can buy volume 1 of 8 on Amazon for $1.99.

Synopsis: All the world’s a stage . . . but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic literally!
When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he s taken in by the only ones who don t treat him like a new kid, the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Not only does he gain great, lifetime friends, Jory is also introduced to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain. With the unpredictable twists and turns of the underground world, the Backstagers venture into the unknown, determined to put together the best play their high school has ever seen.
James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) teams up with artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) for an incredibly earnest story that explores what it means to find a place to fit in when you’re kinda an outcast.”

OWL Rating: owl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white background

*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Ocean’s Three – Elena Kincaid

ek-oceans-three-mih-printI had the pleasure of creating the book trailer for Ocean’s Three by Elena Kincaid. This marks the second in the Made in Heaven series. If you love romance and otherworldly experiences, this is the story for you!

I had tons of fun creating this video for her. I hope you will enjoy it!

You can buy the book from Bookstrand.com in various e-formats for $4.05.

Check out Kincaid’s Goodreads page, Website and Facebook profile.

Synopsis: Get ready to set sail…

Cameron Pompeo has always seen things, felt things, he could not explain, the biggest of which is a young girl named Jocelyn, who appears nightly in his dreams. When his cousin Reed Pompeo suddenly shows up in his dream, Cameron realizes that not only does Jocelyn exist, but she will be important to them both.

After a tragic accident kills her mother, Jocelyn Parker struggles with her guilt. She pushes away the two most important people in her life as a form of self-punishment and tries to convince herself that she made them up, despite the fact that a sense in the very depths of her soul tells her that they’re real.

A cruise to the Mediterranean finally brings the three of them together. There, they make real memories and promises to each other, but what happens when the cruise is over? Will their love be strong enough to survive the outside forces that threaten to destroy their happiness?

Check out the trailer below!

Ensnared – Rita Stradling

ensnared

Who doesn’t love fairytale remakes? Not this girl! One of my favorite Disney stories is Beauty and the Beast, so you can imagine my excitement when I found an alternative version of this in science fiction form.

This story has all my feels. A romance story between a broken and disfigured man and a loving and damaged heroine. I couldn’t put it down, often growing irritated with people who continued to interrupt my story dwelling.

My only wish is that the buildup lasted longer. Don’t get me wrong, the buildup was sufficient for the story. I just love buildup and could read entire stories where the buildup is the entirety of the tale.

The characters were likable and compelling to follow. The robots were real characters in their own right with their lovable cuddle-bug personalities  or their villainous ways.

I was ensnared by the story and I think romance loving, science fiction geeks like me, will enjoy it as well. If you’re a sucker for the emo boys, then this will hit the spot.

The book is not published yet, but I recommend you check it out on Goodreads, or if you are a blogger/reviewer check it out on Netgalley.com.

Synopsis: Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

 

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*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Three Dead Men & Happy Dark Year – Calvin Demmer (Short Stories)

3355660433551313Recently, another set of short stories by Demmer graced my desk. What I find most interesting about Demmer is the variation in his little stories. Each time I receive a new one, I find they become more original and intriguing than the last.

Happy Dark Year was my favorite of this set. Demmer enjoys creating unfavorable male characters and watching them burn. I have to say I enjoy when these characters get what I feel is coming to them. A surprising twist to this tail. A fantastical, dark story that shows the power of a woman scorned. Definitely, worth the read. A creepy story to send you off to bed.

Three Dead Men ventures back to a Japanese world, a place Demmer has an inclination to revisit. But aside from the people being Japanese, the threat itself is non-Japanese.  Instead, Egyptian seems to be on the menu. This was less enjoyable for me, just because I didn’t really feel the fear. Nevertheless, it was still an original creation, just needed more emotion.

You can find these stories on Amazon in Kindle format.

Synopsis:

Happy Dark Year – Cody Wheeler wants to enjoy New Year’s Eve. He wants to catch up with friends he hasn’t seen since going off to college. But his girlfriend, Kendall, is back to throwing fits and nagging him, ruining his break at home. He decides she needs to be taught a lesson. Nothing serious, just a little reminder that she should act her age. Cody, however, gets carried away and doesn’t foresee the horror that awaits him at her favorite spot by the lake.

Three Dead Men – When college student Maiko Hayashi goes to pick her uncle up for Christmas Eve dinner, she isn’t expecting a silent house with no lights on, and she definitely isn’t expecting the terrifying scenario she’s about to walk into.

THE MAN BEHIND THE STORIES

9815686Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. He has had over thirty stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

CONNECT WITH CALVIN

Website

Goodreads

 
 
 

OWL Rating for Happy Dark Year: owl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white background

OWL Rating for Three Dead Men: owl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white backgroundowl isolated on white background