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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*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.”

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*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

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Pleasure Model – Christopher Rowley (Netherworld #1)

6851246I had never heard of Heavy Metal Pulp genre until a couple weeks ago. While stumbling around my boyfriend’s book horde, I found this strange novel scattered among the shelves. My excitement increased as I realized it came with pictures!

A short, fast paced story with sex being a main character, but equally partnered with an intriguing detective story that will leave you in suspense.

The pictures were a fun addition and I have to say I enjoyed the story. Rook, the good cop and our hero has a soft spot for the ladies, but he plays a respectable man who respects even the robotic species. He’s a good guy that is easy to like, especially when all his chips are down. This is a fun and sexy crime novel that will be sure to entertain those who enjoy the science fiction side of life. However, my only warning is this story is meant for a more mature audience. The pictures and details in the story are not meant for children.

You can find the book on Amazon in Kindle format for $7.99 and in paperback for $17.99.

P.S. This story is likely to offend some. The women are heavily sexualized. A perfect story for an adolescent boy with raging hormones.

Synopsis: Presenting Heavy Metal Pulp, a new line of novels combining noir fiction with fantastic art featuring the themes, story lines, and graphic styles of Heavy Metal magazine.

In Pleasure Model, the first book in the Netherworld trilogy, down-and out police detective Rook gets a big break when he’s assigned to a bizarre and vicious murder case. The clues are colder than the corpse and the case looks like it’ll remain unsolved—until an eyewitness is discovered. But the witness is a Pleasure Model, an illegal gene-grown human. Plesur’s only purpose is to provide satisfaction to her owner—in any way. When the murderer targets Plesur in order to eliminate the one witness, Rook takes her into hiding to protect her. Thus begins a descent into the dark world of exotic pleasure mods and their illicit buyers and manufacturers. Rook frantically looks for clues, struggling to stay one stop ahead of those looking to kill them both. But is Rook falling under Plesur’s spell….?

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Choice of Robots – Video Game Review

robotsAn entirely text based game, written by a doctor of computer science Kevin Gold, PhD, that will remind you of the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, where every decision you make dramatically affects the outcome. Though in reality, it is really more of a novel than a game. I played through the first time in roughly 5 hours one day and I truly enjoyed myself. It has tons of replay value, if you want to explore every potential path. I personally, only had interest to play twice through. There were some story-lines I was not interested in exploring.

However, for those 5 hours, this was a fun experience. Every now and then it’s nice to play something that is not made to feel like a cinematic movie.

If you like decision based games or books, this story will be a fun afternoon.

You can learn more at the Steam store.

Check out Choice of Games LLC to learn more.

Synopsis: The robots you design will change the world! Will you show them the true meaning of love, or conquer Alaska with your robot army?

Choice of Robots is an epic 300,000-word interactive sci-fi novel by Kevin Gold, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based—without graphics or sound effects—and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

Play out thirty years of your life as a brilliant robot maker, from graduate school near the present day to a future in which your robots have changed everything. Depending on your choices, your robots may be independent or obedient, clumsy or graceful, empathic or cold…and you yourself may live to an old age happily married or alone with only robots to comfort you.

Play as male or female, gay or straight, with nine characters to romance, four alternate climax chapters, and over seventy achievements to unlock.

• Build a unique robot character–you choose everything from its shape to what it calls you
• Instigate or prevent a robotic uprising
• Teach your robots to love humanity, or disdain it
• Build an artificial intelligence suitable to take control of the world’s governments
• Start a war against the United States, and win
• Marry a human or an advanced robot, and start a family 

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King’s Quest – Video Game Review

headerA whimsical and entertaining point & click adventure, where choices you make change the course of your journey. This was a thoroughly well crafted game. For people who enjoy puzzles, this 5 chapter episodic journey will keep your mind active and sharp, especially in chapter 4.

I truly enjoyed the game, until chapter 4. It was puzzle after repetitive puzzle and I just wanted the game to end. The story was fun though, especially the first 3 chapters and I enjoyed the ride throughout that section.

For puzzle lovers who love lighthearted games then this game will be enjoyable. If you like point & click, but prefer light puzzling, you will enjoy this game up until chapter 4. I found YouTube walkthrough cheating was what got me through in the end (when I stopped caring and just wanted it to end).

Regardless, the story was cute and I enjoyed making decisions.

It is available on most major platforms including XBOX One/360, PS4/3, and PC.

Check out the developer website Sierra and learn more about the game.

Reviews located on Steam.

Synopsis: King’s Quest is a collection of five different chapter releases, each focusing on an untold tale in Graham’s past. In each chapter, an aging King Graham reflects on his life of adventure with his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, while players are transported back to influence first-hand the decisions and events that shaped a kingdom. Embark on an extraordinary journey across the world of Daventry.

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Pale Hearts – Emily Eckart – Short Stories

paleheartscoverebook-copy

Short stories are great for when the night is late and you need a quick read. Eckart’s stories have kept me company this past month as the lights were dimmed and the Sandman set in.

Eckart has been published in several major publications, including Potomac Review and Nature. This encouraged my decision when I agreed to read this collection. I have to say that I was glad to have said yes. Her writing is on a different level than the everyday story. It is deeper and more thoughtful. With each ending you are left pondering the events and what they mean. A poetic writer, she captures the darkness of reality. These are not happy tales, they are real tales with consequences that are not always pretty.

I enjoyed this collection, though a bit dark for my overall tastes. I would have preferred an uplifting tale thrown in once in a while to balance the others. But I only complain because I read to escape reality, not bathe in it. And Eckart keeps it real. A gifted writer like Eckart deserves to be heard and her collection will leave you wanting more.

You can find the stories on Amazon in Kindle for $2.99 and in paperback for $14.99.

Synopsis: What happens when a safety app isn’t enough to protect a child? Is there really such a thing as a Grechtzoar? What really is the nature of happiness? How do we quantify it? These questions and more are answered in the pages of breakout author Emily Eckart’s “Pale Hearts,” a collection of short stories. Emily’s writing has something for everyone, and her heartfelt stories leave the reader with a sense of longing for a place and time they may never have known.

THE GIRL BEHIND THE STORIES

6832463Emily Eckart studied music at Harvard University.  Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Nature, Potomac Review, New World Writing, and elsewhere. Besides writing, she is interested in classical music and environmental conservation. She is currently at work on her first novel.

CONNECT WITH EMILY

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