Organized by state, Chasing American Monsters is a fine introduction to monsters found next door and across the United States.
With more than 250 monsters listed, this book is sure to have something to interest every monster fan. I didn’t know that the state I live in, California, has both evil gnomes and giant (six and a half feet long) cockroaches so expect some surprises.
While I liked the brief stories about the monsters, I didn’t see the value of the state overviews. Do I really need to know which state was the last to join the union or has the largest population? Also, I wish there were drawings of each monster rather than just one per state. Overall, Chasing American Monsters delivers on its promise to provide a brief overview of the most famous or unusual monsters in each state. However, fans of particular monsters will want to pick up more detailed books. 3 stars!
Thanks to Llewellyn Publications and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: Mar 8 2019, monsters
Miraculum is a carnival with a big top, a midway, and freak show in 1922. It is also the setting for a battle of good against evil.
After the suicide of the carnival’s chicken biting geek, a mysterious well-dressed man applies for the job. Despite a lack of experience, he is hired for the job. Ruby, the daughter of the owner of the Miraculum, is a heavily tattooed snake charmer. As soon as she sees the new geek, Daniel, she feels something is off about him. As more tragedy befalls the troupe, Ruby tries to discover if Daniel is behind them.
Miraculum is a great gothic tale of good fighting evil in the picturesque 1920s carnival setting. There is a substantial paranormal aspect to the tale and it isn’t really a mystery or thriller. However, I enjoy magical realism so I relished it. It appears to be a beginning of a series so I am looking forward to another installment of Ruby and Daniel’s story.
This book is an excellent choice for fans of Neil Gaiman. 4 stars!
Thanks to Polis Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: circus, Jan 22 2019
Charley Davidson, the Grim Reaper, and her husband, Reyes, former demon and son of Satan, have one more hellish situation to fix in Summoned to Thirteenth Grave.
Charley is finally released from her purgatory from the last book. While she was gone, a new hell dimension has opened in Albuquerque. A flu from within is turning people homocidal and eventually suicidal. And the hell dimension is getting larger. To say more will spoil the surprises.
I hate when book series end. However, this is a great conclusion to a great series. The “army” is all here: Uncle Bob, Cookie, Quentin, Donovan, Osh plus plenty more. The story is an action-packed corker of a finale.
If you have read this series before, even just one book, you have to read Summoned to Thirteenth Grave. I’m sure there will be a spin-off so we may see Charley and Reyes again. 5 stars!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal Tagged with: Jan 8 2019, series
Séances are for Suckers is a humorous take on old school romantic mysteries like The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart.
Ellie is the youngest of a set of triplets. On her eighteenth birthday, her mother is killed and her sister descends into a vegetative state. Her brother is an elementary school gym teacher. To earn the money for her sister’s long-term care, Ellie works as a fake medium. Ridding families of their ghosts frequently means more psychological than psychic assistance.
When Nicholas approaches Ellie with a project, she can’t resist even though Nicholas knows she is a fake. He wants Ellie to prove to his elderly mother that her ghost, Xavier, is someone’s childish game.
Once at the family’s ancient estate, Ellie suspects everyone including Nicholas of causing the ghostly events. It doesn’t help that Nicholas is devilishly handsome and apparently rich too. Plus there is the man-of-all-work, Thomas, who is equally handsome but so much less complicated than Nicholas. When Ellie literally stumbles over a corpse who is gone before she returns with help, Ellie begins to believe that this particular ghost may be real.
I actually liked the romance more than the mystery. Like Ellie, I started to feel like part of the family and really wanted it not to be an intentional fake haunting for profit. Séances are for Suckers is a very enjoyable romantic read perfect for a cozy night in with only your cat (or dog, if you are one of those people) for company. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: family drama, Oct 30 2018, series
Medallion of Murder is another excellent entry in the young adult mystery series, Nefertari Hughes.
Terry, a female high school senior, has many balls in the air. She is still getting used to her leg prosthesis, deciding what to make her career after high school, and dealing with her widowed father’s romance with the mother of her best friend, Maude. Oh, and she has superpowers that she uses to fight crime at night.
Awad is a friend of Terry’s that works by day as a hieroglyph translator and by night as a member of the Illuminati. While looking for a cursed medallion, he disappears. Terry and her friends Maude and Fraser take on the medallion search while also looking for Awad.
I started reading the series with Medallion of Murder and wished I hadn’t. I think the spoilers in this book will make reading the others later a pointless exercise. Plus there was a large number of characters’ backstories to memorize in the first tenth of the book. However, the breakneck speed of the action makes this a fun young adult mystery. The book’s characters compare their earlier adventures to Scooby Doo. I agree. It’s just pure light-hearted fun. Here is one secret you won’t have to search for—this is a great read for adults too. 4 stars!
Thanks to Xpresso Book Tours and the author for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
There is a blog tour giveaway for the entire series including this book plus a $25 Amazon gift card. It closes on October 11, 2018.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Posted in Giveaways, Kindle Unlimited, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: blog tour
Kamo and Shokola are once again helping demon Crimson in Kamo: Pact with the Spirit World Vol 2.
Kamo makes a deal with demon Crimson. To be permanently cured of his deadly heart condition, he must capture twelve spirits to allow Crimson to become human again. In volume 1 (reviewed here), Kamo captures four. In this volume, Shokola leads a seance with Kamo that goes horribly wrong.
Kamo: Pact with the Spirit World Vol 2 relies on strong character development of both Crimson and Shokola. The seance aftermath sends shock waves through Shokola’s family. Kamo ups his demon fighting technique. Some new inventive spirits are found. There is a shocking twist at the end that should not be missed. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Toykopop, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Paranormal Tagged with: Manga, Oct 2 2018
“Your eyes are bigger than a hooch hound at a hop joint” says Jack in the Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller. That perfectly describes my feelings when I saw this delightful series return after a ten year long Big Sleep.
Penelope runs a bookstore with her aunt Sadie in Quindicott, Rhode Island. A widow, after her husband’s suicide, Penelope returns to her hometown with her eleven year old son. While renovating the bookstore, she disturbs Jack, the ghost of a 1940s hard-boiled detective. Jack offers Penelope much unsolicited advice in the patois of his time.
At the bookstore, new customer, Emma, sees an author photo on a steamy novel that disturbs her. While the author’s name is not familiar, the author’s photo is. It’s Emma herself! Without paying, Emma races out with the book in hand.
Penelope uncovers Emma’s address and goes there after work to recover the book. She finds the door unlocked, rare books everywhere and Emma dead of an apparent suicide. When incompetent Chief Ciders refuses to look into the case as a suspicious death, Penelope and Jack investigate.
I read most of this series as they were published in the 2000s. I always enjoyed the gentle joshing of Sam Spade type detectives. The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller carries on seamlessly in this tradition. Despite his language and tough guy attitude, Jack seems like a real and caring person. Emma is an excellent amateur detective who rarely makes a wrong move—mostly because of Jack’s help.
The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller is highly recommended for cozy mystery readers looking for something a bit different. There are plenty of suspects and deaths to keep armchair detectives busy. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal Tagged with: cozy mystery, Sep 25 2018
A pregnant Brazilian lands in an airport in Switzerland. She calls the police because an assassin is hunting her. When the police fail to stop the killer, a young girl appears saying she just wants the lady’s fetus. So begins Undead Messiah 1, an exciting thriller wrapped within a horror manga.
Who hasn’t been entranced by a video game, movie or book and after it’s over you still feel like it has leached into your real life? Tim loves ZAC, a zombie video game, and the Walking Dead television show. He begins to see zombie threats everywhere. However, just because he’s paranoid, doesn’t mean there aren’t zombies running amok.
I loved the innovative plot. Unfortunately, I can’t describe my favorite part since it will spoil the surprise. As a huge fan of the Walking Dead comics, I thought this book would be perfect for me. And it was. Nerdy gamer thinks he can kill real zombies until he meets one. If only there was a wireless controller for real life (heavy sigh…). The art, especially the chapter titles, perfectly set the mood and clearly illustrated the plot.
Undead Messiah 1 has elements of horror, mystery, fantasy, post-apocalyptic thriller and even romance. I can’t wait for the second volume, which comes out November 6, 2018. It is highly recommended for all manga fans looking for something different. 4 stars!
Thanks to ToykoPop and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jul 19 2018, Manga
If Welcome to Nightvale and the Hunger Games were mixed into a smoothie, it would taste like the Silliest Stories Out of Bustleburg.
With a royal family in addition to a mayor, the town of Bustleburg is not your typical town. Run by major polluters Dellaflame safety services and Toxaco, Bustleburg outlaws ovens, trees and libraries as fire risks. Birds and museums are also outlawed. There is a five-tiered caste system with the rich living the good life in Privilege Pond where the forbidden items are still allowed.
Containing 21 connected stories, this book is an interesting dive into an intriguing world. It would be a good choice for fantasy fans. 3 stars!
Thanks to JMS Books LLC and NetGalley for a copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Paranormal Tagged with: Jul 7 2018
Intriguing photographs showcase Justice Howard’s Voodoo traditions.
A beginner’s guide to voodoo that includes the reason behind many of the rituals. It also compares and contrasts voodoo to other religions and myths. Be aware that the photos contain full frontal female nudity, preserved human hand and real human bones as props.
This book will do well in New Orleans gift shops. It is not a deep dive into voodoo but rather a get-your-feet-wet level of knowledge. Within the text, the author’s personal experience with self-portrait was thought-provoking. However, the pictures are definitely the star. The tattoos are beautiful. There is one picture of a female wearing a bone headdress caressing a live snake. On her elbow, you could see a nice tattoo portrait of a Chihuahua. Perhaps a childhood pet? It was an interesting juxtaposition. I was also surprised to see F/X’s Face-off judge Glenn Hedrick as one of the models. 3 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., and NetGalley for a copy.
Check it out!
Posted in Non-fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: May 28 2018, photography, tattoos
Meh…Providence is not a place I enjoyed visiting.
While a junior in high school in Providence Rhode Island, Jon is kidnapped. His best friend and possible love of his life, Chloe, is heartbroken. However, she and his parents eventually assume he is dead and move on with their lives.
Four years later, Jon wakes up. His only clue to what happened is a note from his former substitute teacher and captor, Mr. Blair, in a beaten-up paperback copy of The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft. The note states.
“You were in a medically induced coma. You are free. […] You have power. […] We did good work down here, Jon, and it will be interesting to see the way things play out. You’re welcome, Jon.”
Six years later, Eggs is a Providence police detective looking for the cause of a rash of heart attack deaths in young adults. His department believes they were natural deaths but Eggs is obsessed. Eggs and his wife, Lo, have an institutionalized son, Chuckie.
Providence is a fantasy in the vain of the 2012 film Chronicle and perhaps Stephen King’s Carrie. While it contains the love story of Jon and Chloe, it is not strictly a romance like the author’s most popular book, You. I didn’t read You so I had no previously conceived ideas for this novel. Judging by other reviews, if you loved You, you will not like Providence much.
My biggest issue with Providence is with the characters. None are sympathetic. Poor Jon had all his problems thrust upon him but as a reader I truly didn’t care what happened to him. Chloe is so indecisive that I felt like slapping her. Her high school friends after Jon’s disappearance feel like 80s movie stereotypes (the popular girl, the jock, the art girl). Eggs’ feeling toward his son do not seem genuine but are obviously a plot device.
Another issue is the plot slows to a crawl in the middle of the book. If I wasn’t reading a review copy, I would have put it down or at best skipped to the ending.
Some readers seemed to enjoy this book. To me, it seemed derivative, slow, and populated solely with unsympathetic characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it except to hardcore Lovecraft fans. 2 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Random House-Lenny Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jun 19 2018
Kamo, a sixteen-year-old boy, is dying from a defective heart. Crimson from the underworld offers him a deal. Trap twelve spirit souls that will allow Crimson to live again and Crimson will repair Kamo’s heart permanently.
Despite a non-Japanese author, the artwork has an authentic manga feel. The ambience is very international. The setting is Bern, Switzerland. The female lead is a Spanish immigrant who occasionally uses Spanish phrases. The plot, based on Goethe’s Faust, is just different enough to be enjoyable without throwing off the manga vibe. 4 stars!
Thanks to ToykoPop and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, Paranormal Tagged with: Manga, May 2 2018
Southern paranormal cozy mystery with ghosts, witches and a murder or two.
Hope, Faith and Charity plan to open a Wiccan school and white witches’ potion shop in rural Sunflower County Mississippi. Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner in the Delaney Detective Agency, Tinkie Richmond, are paid to dig up some dirt on the three newcomers. The witches cast a spell to make Tinkie pregnant and Sarah Booth hook up with the hunky Sheriff Coleman. Soon, someone is killed. Was the victim scared to death by the mysterious force in the apple orchard?
Charmed Bones is #18 in the series but it reads fine as a standalone. Reading the synopsis above, the plot sounds overblown but it is totally believable while immersed in the book. I found the quirky Southern characters were the best part of Charmed Bones. By the end of the book, all seemed like genuine friends that I wanted to spend more time with. Now I just have to decide to continue the series from here or start at #1. This entry deserves 4 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: ghosts, May 15 2018
An eerie ambience suffuses The Broken Girls. It is a mystery wrapped in a ghost story or perhaps the other way around. “Ghosts and dead babies and murdered girls. What next?”
Roberta, Katie, Cece and Sonia were all dumped at Idlewild Hall, an all-girl boarding school in 1950 Vermont. Roberta is a victim of a traumatic family event. Katie was a troublemaker. Cece was born on the wrong side of the blanket to her rich father’s maid. Sonia has nightmares about her childhood during WWII. Along with indifferent teachers, the roommates have to deal with Mary Hand, who haunts the school by bringing up each girl’s worst nightmare.
In 2014, reporter Fiona is still shell shocked by her sister’s murder on the abandoned Idlewild grounds 20 years before. When a mysterious elderly woman begins to restore the school, Fiona decided to investigate.
There are many plots running concurrently. There are the 1950 roommates, the 1994 sister, the 2014 investigation and the ghost story shown in alternating chapters. It sounds confusing but it works seamlessly together.
The Broken Girls works as a “Northern Gothic” but also as a straight mystery. It is highly recommended for fans of mysteries with paranormal twists. I did not see the end coming at all, which is great! 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkley, and Edelweiss for a copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal Tagged with: ghosts, Mar 20 2018
Lydie is a short tear-jerker that rewards readers with beautiful artwork and a compelling plot.
Set in a French cul-de-sac in an unnamed French town, Lydie tells the story of a set of neighbors that band together to help Camille, a mentally impaired French girl, in a very unusual way. The street is nicknamed mustachioed baby court due to a graffitied baby on a soap billboard at the end of the street. There are many points-of-view depicted in Lydie including from a statue of the Virgin Mary located on one of the buildings.
Set in 1932, life was both harsher and more neighborly than it is today. Camille loses her baby named Lydie during childbirth. A few months later, Camille believes that angels have brought back her child from heaven. First her father and then all her neighbors support Camille’s fantasy. By speaking to an invisible child who grows increasing older as the novel continues, the neighbors help Camille deal with her grief of her dead child. The end of this novel is the best part of all.
Since this graphic novel vividly depicts life in all its harshness, it is recommended only for adults. While it is ultimately a feel-good plot, it is also a true tearjerker. The artwork is very good too. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Europe Comics, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Paranormal Tagged with: ghosts, Mar 21 2018
Have you ever thought, “Every plot has already been used so what’s the point in reading (or writing) another”? If so, Smoke City is going to surprise you. No book or movie is anywhere near its plot for imagination and creativity.
Smoke City is a captivating genre-smashing novel. Here are the major genres that are colliding like atoms within this novel:
- Historical fiction (Joan of Arc’s death)
- Horror (ghost story)
- Tragedy (predestination during reincarnation)
- Adventure (adult male bonding during a road trip)
- Literary fiction (famous artist hits the skids)
- Magical realism (see above)
It sounds like it would be a huge mess. But somehow it works!
Half-visible wraiths nicknamed smokes are appearing in Southern California and northern Mexico. Mike Vale, a washed up previously famous artist is desperately trying to get to a funeral in Los Angeles.
Mike picks up Marvin Deitz after Marvin is unceremoniously kicked out of his record store’s lease by his shady, possibly mob-connected, landlord. Marvin is convinced that he will die violently before his 57th birthday in a few days. Why? Throughout his multitude of reincarnations, he never lives to 57. Marvin is convinced he is being punished for executing Joan of Arc in 1431. His therapist thinks it is just a delusion. Convinced he has seen the current incarnation of Joan of Arc on a talk show, Marvin is going to Los Angeles in the hopes of finding forgiveness from a woman he has never met–at least in this lifetime.
On the way to LA, the pair pick up a stowaway, Casper. The plot continues to get curiouser and curiouser from there.
Deciding to read this book takes a leap of faith. There is no comparable book or movie to say it resembles. Smoke City was written by a relatively unknown writer and published by a small press. However, take this reviewer’s advice and read this book. It is truly fantastic and totally different from any other book you will read this year! Kirkus Reviews gushed (for them) that it was “strangely satisfying”. It is worth 5+ stars!
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Horror, Literary Fiction, Paranormal Tagged with: Historical fiction, Jan 23 2018, magical realism