October Scary Reads and Other Things that Go Bump in the Night – Narratively Speaking!

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Scary October Books Header

October Scary Reads and Other Things that Go Bump in the Night

Melanie’s Scary Novels and Frightfully Wonderful Storiesskeleton reading books

I’m the first to admit that while I like my vampires and werewolves and ghosts and ghoulies I don’t want my stories to go dark DARK ! Taunt me with details…that make my mind goes horrible places, don’t really give me the specifics.  Go ahead, call me chicken.  I own it.  I do like my angst, suspense,   knuckle biters, eye popping “oh no, you didn’t” scenes and many of the  books, series and authors I’m  going to mention gave me that and so much more.  There’s no order to my list, its more along what popped up in my head…as usual.  Some are old releases, some new, something a little Monstery?

Here they are:

Author Missouri Dalton:

Hanged Man's GhostNightShift185Hellfire Legacy coverVampirism and You cover

 

 

 

 

 

Her Night Wars Series will gut you (dead children and more). I read them out of order. Don’t.

The Hanged Man’s Ghost (The Night Wars, #1)
The Night Shift (The Night Wars #2)
The Hellfire Legacy

Guidebook Series

Vampirism And You! (Guidebook 01) ~ my review here
Necromancy and You (Guidebook 02) ~ my review here

Pretty Monsters coverPeek A Boo coverTriple Feature coverJosh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Author Andrea Speed:

Josh of the Damned Series – humor and the Supernatural -killer combo along with outstanding covers

Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1 (Josh of the Damned #3) by Andrea Speed
Pretty Monsters (Josh of the Damned, #1)
Peek-a-Boo (Josh of the Damned, #2)
Night of the Dust Bunnies (Josh of the Damned, #3.5)
Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #2: The Final Checkout (Josh of the Damned #4)
Merry Christmas, Josh! (Josh of the Damned #4.5)
Josh of the Damned: The Complete Collection

Also don’t miss out on Andrea Speed’s Infected: Prey series…but that’s for another time and reviewer – see Paul’s Paranormal Post this month.

The Devil's Bedpost coverDrawing Dead PF 2015 coverBlinds Man's Bluff coverDiamond Draw cover

Pulp Friction 2015 – Authors Lee Brazil, Havan Fellows ,Parker Williams and Laura Harner

There there is the Hauntingly Marvelous Pulp Friction 2015 Series this years with authors  Parker Williams, Havan Fellows , Lee Brazil and Laura Harner.  There are ghosts, ghost hunters, sexy succubi, werewolves in love with vampires, psychics, demons and so much more all wrapped in interconnected stories and mysteries that pull at your heart strings while making you jump that the evil goings on.  Right  now Round Five is just beginning. The first in each series is listed below.  5 books in each series, 6th book is written by all the authors.  Splendidly frightening, sexy too!

I also love a little elegance with my horror.  That brings up the following stories and authors:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric ArvinMingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men cover

And finally, two short tales of such lyrical elegance and narrative poetry I read them over and over in admiration.   These should be on everyone’s must read list!

Lily CoverLily by Xavier Axelson

Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis HallSand and Gold and Ruin

What are you reading this All Hallows Eve?

 

 

 

Now from some of our other Reviewers:

In A Dark Wood civerKraken coverWinter Kills coverDown cover

BJ:

Now BJ loves her dark stories, just check out her review for Kraken by M. Caspian just last week. Missed it, did you?  I’ve linked it to her creepy recommendations listed below.  She also loves one of my all time favorite author’s, Josh Lanyon, a not to be missed author.

Creepy Halloween M/M Romance Recommendations from BJ

In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon: If you want something scary-creepy to make you cower under the blankets and double-check the doors and windows. Look no further. Who knew Lanyon could rival King, in this I see the making of the Master of M/M horror. And this horror buff wants more of this style of writing from Lanyon please.

Winter: Haunted Heart by Josh Lanyon: For those who want more of haunted-creepy, Lanyon has you covered there as well. Check out this lovely ghostly mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed. The audio version’s narrator is excellent if you’re into audiobooks.

Kraken by M. Caspian: Ready for the creature feature now guys? Then check this one out. It takes creepy to a whole new level. You know the slimy, make-your-skin crawl kind. *shiver*

Down by Ally Blue: Features violence and death trapped seven fathoms below the deep. Creatures with glowing purple eyes and sharp teeth and a horror that could annihilate the human race-EEK! Tantalizing beginning and an ending that circled nicely back to it. The author’s writing style didn’t work well for me personally, but many others loved it and the story is most certainly eerie and quite unique.

 

From Sammy:

Slasherazzi cover

As for favorite scary reads…
Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine

Favorite shifters…
The Tameness of the Wolf series by Kendall McKenna

From Barb the Zany Old Lady:

Hainted coverHainted by Jordan L. Hawk

Spirit by John InmanSpirit cover

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2012

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What a spectacular year for great books in every genre from historical to fantasy! I have read so many wonderful books and series this year that it is hard to even begin to narrow down the list, although I have tried. What makes a book great for me? So many things, that it needs its own list.

The books I listed here are ones that moved me to tears and made me laugh out loud, they took me to places I have never been to see sights fantastic, miraculous, and awe inspiring. I have watched dragons soar and seen twin suns set over alien worlds. Through these wonderful authors I have met people who continue to stay with me through the power of their stories and the connectedness that I feel with each of the characters I have read about. Sometimes the books have taught me something about myself and how I looked at others or just gave me a deeper appreciation for my fellow beings.

I have grieved with men who have lost their soul mates, been with them as they worked through the trauma and loss, and celebrated as they moved forward with their lives. I watched men fall in love, whether it be with shifters, wizards, or just a man they met on the side of the road. Love lost, love found or lovers rediscovering the best about each other…that seems to know no boundaries as far as who you are and what world you inhabit. It doesn’t even matter whether the story is set in the past or goes far into the future. The authors and books listed here are ones that I cherish and return to often to visit with them once more. If you haven’t already read them, I hope you will add them to your list of must reads, as they are surely mine.

Oh, and by the way, this list is not complete. There are some wonderful books still to be released in the last two weeks of December, and there are some that I just missed from my own reviews. So look to see a revised list after the first of the year. Really there is something for everyone here. Happy reading!

Best Historical Book:
All Lessons Learned by Charlie Cochrane (Best Series) review coming in 2013
The Celestial by Barry Brennessel
The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade

Best Short Story

Eight Days by Cardeno C
Fair Puckled by Bella Leone
Lily by Xavier Axelson
Leather Work and Lonely Cowboys, a Roughstock story, by BA Tortuga
Too Careful by Half, a Roughstock story, BA Tortuga

Best Contemporary Romance – Standalone

Fall Into the Sun by Val Kovalin
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black

Fallout by Ariel Tachna

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

Mine by Mary Calmes
Play It Again, Charlie by RC CooperScrap Metal by Harper Fox
Sidecar by Amy Lane

The Cool Part of His Pillow by Rodney Ross

 Best Novels – Part of a Series

A Foreign Range by Andrew Grey
Acceleration by Amelia C. Gormley
But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell
Chase the Stars by Ariel Tachna
Cherish, Faith, Love & Devotion 4 by Tere Michaels
Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino
Full Circle by RJ Scott
Hope by William Neale
Inherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna (Best Series)
Second Hand, a Tucker Springs story by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Stars & Stripes by Abigail Roux (Best Series)
The Journal of Sanctuary One by RJ Scott
The Melody Thief by Shira Anthony (also Best Series)
Who We Are by TJ Klune

Best First Novels
The Cool Park of His Pillow by Rodney Ross
Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander
Inertia by Amelia C. Gormley (Best Series)

Best Supernatural Book:
A Token of Time by Ethan Day
Crucible of Fate by Mary Calmes (Best Series)
Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Ghosts in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe
Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
Infected: Life After Death by Andrea Speed (Best Series)
Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne
The Gravedigger’s Brawl by Abigail Roux

Science Fiction Books:
Emerald Fire by A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
The Trust by Shira Anthony

Best Fantasy Books:
 Black Magic by Megan Derr
Burning Bright by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Chaos (Lost Gods series) by Megan Derr
Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell
Poison by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Treasure by Megan Derr (Lost Gods series)
Best Series – new books this year:
A Change of Heart series by Mary Calmes (supernatural)
Blue Notes series by Shira Anthony (contemporary)
Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane (historical)
Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux (and Madeleine Urban) (Contemporary)
Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels (contemporary)
Infected Series by Andrea Speed (supernatural)
Knitting series by Amy Lane (contemporary)
Lost Gods by Megan Derr (Fantasy)
Sanctuary series by RJ Scott (contemporary)
Sci Regency series by JL Langley (science fiction)

So Many Great Series, here are more of my favorites:

A Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes (contemporary)

Jewel Bonds series by Megan Derr (fantasy)

Superpowered Love series by Katey Hawthorne

Wick series by Megan Derr
Best Anthologies:

Three Fates
Animal Magnetism
Lashings of Sauce
Making Contact

I know that many books are missing but I just did not get to them this year, including JP Barnaby’s Little Boy Lost series, Andrew Grey’s Range series, and so many more.  Look for them in 2013.  Do you have a favorite I should know about?  Write me and let me know.

Review of Velvet by Xavier Axelson

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Rating: 4 stars

Virago is the son of the Royal Tailor and his best friend growing up is Duir, the heir apparent to the throne of King Killian.  When Virago’s father dies in an accident, King Killian appoints Virago to take his father’s place as the Royal Tailor, a  position which will exalt him into near royalty status, making friends with others close to the crown prince. This leaves his blind brother Sylvain to spend his time alone with his animals in their father’s house.  When King Killian is killed in battle, Duir goes about a personality change and becomes a cruel and capricious ruler.  But Virago continues to support Duir no matter the atrocities he commits until he meets a musician and his world turns upside down in the most dangerous  manner.

Seton wants nothing more than to play his lyre for the King’s coronation and he knows that the Royal Tailor has the ear of the future King. He manages a meeting with Virago in order to play for him so he can hear for himself how fine a musician he is. And while he accomplishes his goal, he also finds true love as soon as he lays eyes on Virago.  But  homosexuality is considered a high crime and brings the penalty of death with it.  And Virago does not want to accept the fact that he is falling in love with a man.  As Duir becomes more unstable, he asks Virago to make a coronation outfit unlike any ever seen and a mysterious package containing a material worth a kings ransom appears at Virago’s shop.  These events help catapult Virago’s normally reserved, careful manner into flights of obsessive behavior about the material called velvet that seems to whisper strange things in his head and the musician he can’t get out of his mind.

As the coronation draws near, a malignancy is in the air, bringing with it an edge of madness. His brother warns Virago of a coming plague and tells him that Duir is violent and mad, the kingdom corrupt. So Virago must decide where his loyalties and future lie, with his friend and future King or with his brother and the prospect of forbidden love with Seton the musician.

I always look forward to a new story from Xavier Axelson.  The author’s lyrical language, beautiful imagery and intriguing metaphors contained within Axelson’s tales have been hallmarks of this author’s writing.   All those elements are present in Velvet and are the strength of this unusual story. Axelson always seems to include a mystical component or two within his stories, and the material velvet with its sumptuous qualities  is a perfect vehicle to use to upset a tailor’s mien.  Virago is a complacent, overly amiable sort of a man, one easily self deluded.  He has been that way all his life, blinded to the truth of the man who will be king and the corruption that is the kingdom where he and his brother live.  Virago blithely disregards both his brother’s warnings and the manner in which his “friends” have abused his blind brother all his life.  So  it must take someting momentus to dislodge Virago from his complacency.  First, it comes in the form of Seton, a young lyre player seeking to play for the King to be.  Seton makes Virago think “depraved” thoughts of homosexual passion, and while he tries to suppress his feelings towards the musician, they keep coming back every time he is in Seton’s presence.  The second thing to ignite his passion is a strange, never before seen material that was delivered to his father but the package never opened until now.  The wondrous material calls to him, the sensuality of the cloth and the vibrancy of the colors overwhelm his senses, including common sense.   Both the velvet and Seton become obsessions in Virago’s mind and heart, a wonderful detail by Axelson to mingle the two together for a tailor deeply involved in his craft.

And I can always count in birds and bird imagery to figure large in any Axelson story.  Here is a sample:

“Would I never know peace? Or would memories chase me like the gulls chase one another, endlessly hungry and insistent?”

Or this one,

“Behind my eyes, I saw white peacocks, heard their shrieks, and felt the crawl of disease.”

All powerful images that linger after the book is done.  This is one of the reasons I look forward to each new story from this author.  There is a magic in his touch with his narrative and the flow of his language.

I also admire the way he builds a foreboding feeling of awful events to come.  There is a subplot that swirls around a whore/theatre player  named Therese.  The fact that I figured out early on what her intentions were in no way negates the power of anticipation that builds the closer it gets to the coronation, and yes, there are peacocks involved.  In fact there are so many fine qualities to this story that I wished the main character was worthy of them.  Unfortunately, Virago is not.

In fact I found Virago unworthy of just about everything that occurs.  It would have made more sense if his hubris, his self deception lead to his downfall instead of a voyage to freedom. No spoilers here as this is the opening paragraph and the story is being related from the deck of a ship.  I actually found him to be a despicable person.  Virago let others abuse his brother, ignoring his brother’s torment at the hands of his friends.  He hears and sees the cruel actions of Duir, the murders and the torture and dismisses them as the acts of a grief stricken son even as others tell him that this is Duir’s true nature.  Not until he himself is the victim of a member of the court, does “everything become clear”.  And even then it is not due to the victimization of others but of himself.  To my complete amazement, he continues with bouts of self delusion right to the end, weeping when action is needed, wanting to warn Duir who no longer deserves it and as it imperils his brother and lover.  One happenstance after another just demonstrates what a clod Virago is, instead of the hero he is needed to be. If there is a hero, it is Seton to rises to do what’s necessary when they are threatened or his brother Sylvain, who has lived as the object of scorn and bullying his entire life and yet still has made a life for himself and cares for the animals that he rescues.  I would have preferred this story to be about Sylvain instead of the less appealing brother, the narrator.

And of course, there is the instantaneous love Virago feels for Seton and that Seton returns.  In a story of obsession, where the feelings he has for both Seton and Velvet are comparable, it would have felt more realistic or authentic to leave it as an obsession instead of true love.  I never really understood that Virago was capable of such feelings.  Sexual obsession yes, love not really.

Ruth Marcus stated in her article “Hubris meets high tech“* that “classic tragedy, indeed classic literature, hinges on imperfect knowledge.” and that “ego tends to trump intelligence when sex is involved”.  That describes Virago beautifully as his ignorance and his ego blinded him for years right up until the very end. Had Velvet turned out to be the cautionary tale of Virago’s downfall rather than his successful flight from the disease ridden kingdom, it would have rated 5 stars.  But as a romance between two ill suited lovers? That is one illusion I cannot make myself believe.

*The Washington Post, Nov. 13, 2012

Cover:  Very simple yet elegant.

The Week Ahead and Another Great Chicken Dish To Try

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It’s a blustery rainy day here in Maryland and the storms from the south are scheduled to arrive this afternoon bringing high winds, more rain and perhaps even hail.  So long to my newly blooming roses and irises in the backyard.  Sigh.  From the 80’s back down to the 60’s, our Spring is having a wild time of it this year and so are my gardens.

Today I finished up my review of Ethan Day’s A Token in Time for Joyfully Jay but my lips are sealed until it is published there first.  So what is coming up this week?

Monday       Review of Bully by Carter Wolf as promised

Tuesday       Review of Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson.

Wednesday Review of Levi, Leopards Spots 1 by Bailey Bradford

Thursday     Review of Oscar, Leopards Spots 2 by Bailey Bradford

Friday           Review of Two Tickets To Paradise Anthology by Dreamspinner Press

 

Tonight I am preparing  Chicken in Vinegar, another easy and great tasting chicken dish made from ingredients that most people will have in their pantries.  Again my thanks to Laura Calder (French Cooking At Home) for this easy, great tasting dish with a couple of changes from me.

 

 

 

 

 

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces or equal amounts of chicken thighs, or legs, whatever you have available.

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon butter, plus another tablespoon for finishing
1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or 1  can of diced tomatoes drained
1 bay leaf
1 large fresh thyme sprig
2 good handfuls chopped fresh parsley
DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan and brown the chicken, a few pieces at a time. You’re not cooking the chicken here, just making the skin crisp and giving it color and flavor. Five minutes per side is about right, more so if you have only dark meat. Remove the chicken to a dish.

Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and boil down by half, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, and pour in the stock. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme.  Simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken to a clean dish and keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan, pressing to get all the juices through, and whisk in the last spoonful of butter and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Pour over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

I served this with some Quinoa flavored with garlic and basil before and will do so again.  It works so well together.  So quick and easy you will make this a staple.