Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review of The House of Dead Maids by Clare Dunkle

Title: The House of Dead Maids
Author: Clare Dunkle
Pages: 146 pages, hardcover
Genre: Gothic ghost story
Standalone/Series: standalone (written as a prequel to Wuthering Heights)
Release:  Sept. 14, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Received from Blue Slip Media
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: In the clear
GoodReads Blurb: Young Tabby Aykroyd has been brought to the dusty mansion of Seldom House to be nursemaid to a foundling boy. He is a savage little creature, but the Yorkshire moors harbor far worse, as Tabby soon discovers. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby in peace, yet this spirit is only one of many. Why do scores of dead maids and masters haunt Seldom House with a jealous devotion that extends beyond the grave?

As Tabby struggles to escape the evil forces rising out of the land, she watches her young charge choose a different path. He is determined to keep Seldom House as his own. Though Tabby tries to befriend the uncouth urchin, her kindness cannot alter his fate. Long before he reaches the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights, the boy who will become Heathcliff has doomed himself and any who try to befriend him.

This is definitely an atmospheric book from the creepy cover to the dust covered and haunted Seldom House you learn about inside. Though The House of Dead Maids is not the typical type of book I read, I really enjoyed the gothic feel of the book and the stark and dreary ghost story. We start the book with Tabby's journey to Seldom House and the crossroads she takes and a mysterious boat journey which all leads her to a house that seems sinister and uninviting. Little hints are dropped thoughout the beginning of the book that something is not right with her companions or the house she is going to but the truth of what is going on is all the more spine-chilling.

Tabby, the main protagonist in the story, has a no-nonsense way about her and faces her challenges well for an eleven year old. Tabby is based on the Brontë sisters housekeeper whose ghost stories might have inspired the sisters future tales, such as Wuthering Heights. I highly recommend this book for those looking for a good ghost story to read during Halloween.

4 out of 5 stars, a great and goose-bump raising gothic tale.

Don't miss the author's guest post and your chance to win the book here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Post and Giveaway with Author Clare Dunkle - Author of The House of Dead Maids

Today we have Clare Dunkle visiting - the author of The House of Dead Maids - a sufficiently creepy gothic ghost story that is perfect to read on a cold fall night. Stay tuned to the end of the post to find out how to win The House of Dead Maids and check back later today for my review of the book. Enjoy! Also are there places you have visited in your life that fill you with a sense of dread or give you the creeps?

When I wrote my new novel, The House of Dead Maids, I wanted to create an atmosphere that would disturb my readers. I didn’t just want to scare them because scares are temporary, and they often end in a laugh. No, I wanted to make my readers uneasy. I wanted them to feel unsafe. So I thought about places where we humans feel unsafe, and why they make us feel this way.

One of my earliest memories has no words or data attached to it. In essence, it’s nothing more than a snapshot. I see in my memory a small room brightened by a single grimy window. Flyspecks and dirt obscure the window so that I can’t make out a view beyond it. A spindly table stands in the center of the room, but it is cheap, old, and gray with dust and time. I notice a rug on the floor beneath the table, but its pattern is obliterated by dust.

In my memory, I feel wonder. This room is so like other rooms I know but so completely different. I am afraid of who—or what—might be living here.

I have no idea now where this place was, but when I went to college, I learned its name and why it frightened me. My dusty room was a liminal place, and such places awaken in us a feeling verging on instinctive dread. Liminality is a transitional state, emptied of one thing but not yet another, and the deepest, oldest layers of our brains warn us of its danger. Twilight, for instance, is neither day nor night. So is an eclipse. Caves, springs, volcanoes, mountaintops, and shorelines mark places where things change from one state to another. Our ancestors worshiped such places and peopled them with dangerous sprites. Magic rituals focus on liminal places and objects in liminal states. The corpse is such an object—it is, temporarily, neither the loved one we knew, nor is it dust, a part of nature. And the abandoned house is neither a place to live nor a place with another use.  It is a “corpse” house—a place to avoid.

Liminal places seem supercharged with possibility. The normal rules don’t apply there. Anything can happen. These possibilities frighten us because they threaten to overturn our orderly world. The devil waits for us at the crossroads. Closets—small uninhabited rooms—make us uneasy. Monsters hide in the empty darkness under our beds. We feel nervous about long, dark hallways.

My book is a prequel to Emily Brontë’s Victorian novel, Wuthering Heights, and that classic story is all about intruding upon liminal places. Over and over, the text mentions doors, windows, fences, and stairways. Over and over, characters force their way into places where they are unwelcome. The focus of the novel is a woman who has been dead for seventeen years—a liminal figure. The story ends at her grave—a liminal place.

So my novel, too, lingers on liminal places and liminal states. My main character, Tabby, comes to her new house over the ancient pathways of fire, water, earth and air—driven down dirt roads, ferried upriver like a lost soul entering the underworld, and carried in, at the end, with a lighted lantern before her. She finds herself in a place that is not really lived in but not abandoned, a dusty maze of a house where she is the Young Maid, neither a servant nor a person in charge. She discovers that the furthest point inside Seldom House is an empty courtyard, neither inside nor outside. This empty courtyard contains an empty grave. And it isn’t long before she meets the last Young Maid: that most liminal of figures, neither alive nor dead—an empty-eyed, gray-faced ghost.

Special Brontë-themed giveaway!
One Grand Prize winner will receive The House of Dead Maids, a gorgeous Brontë sisters pocket mirror, and the HarperTeen edition of Wuthering Heights! Two lucky runners-up will receive the two books. To enter, send an email to with your name, email address, and shipping address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and email address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on October 31. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on November 1 and notified via email.

The next stop on the tour is Adventures in Children's Publishing at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review of Healer's Choice by Jory Strong

Title: Healer's Choice
Author: Jory Strong
Pages: 384 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic paranormal romance
Standalone/Series: Series (Ghostland World #3)
Release:  September 7th, 2010
Publisher: Berkeley
Received from author for review
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Some spoilers for previous books
GoodReads Blurb: In a post-Apocalyptic world where supernaturals have emerged from hiding, ancient, unseen enemies play a game that began at the dawn of human civilization. War is coming and neutrality isn’t an option. For Were shapeshifters, a healer’s gift holds the key to their survival…
Born into a world of violence and paid-for-sex, Rebekka longs for a family of her own and dreams of freeing those trapped in the shapeshifter brothels of the red zone. A witch’s prophecy claims she’ll one day use her gift to heal the Weres made outcast by their mixed human-animal forms. But Rebekka knows all too well that everything comes at a cost. Made a pawn in a game she can barely glimpse, by beings whose motives she can only guess, she must navigate a dangerous course that might well cost her life. With her gift changed in terrifying ways, a plea to save five children sends her into the arms of Aryck, a Jaguar enforcer—and into territory controlled by pure Weres. It’s a place where humans and outcasts aren’t welcomed. Where dead ancestors watch from the shadowlands and have the power to judge and punish the living. It’s a place where plague threatens and the fate of the Weres hangs in the balance. And where the choices Rebekka and Aryck make are paid for with their hearts…if not their souls.

REVIEW: This post-apocalyptic paranormal romance (say that three times fast) takes you on a dark journey into a world that has been ravaged by catastrophic wars and now is run by Vice lords who deal in human and were (shifter) flesh.  The protagonist of this story, Rebekka, uses her powers of healing to help these abused sex workers and carve a niche for herself in her dark world. This is the third book in the Ghostland series and the first of the series I have read, though I was lost at a few parts, particularly in the beginning, you don’t need to read the previous books to delve into this story. Rebekka really draws you into the story as you try to comprehend the cruel world she lives in and really I don’t know if I could be as strong and compassionate as she is given all she faces. Quickly in the story, Rebekka gets caught up in another dangerous situation when she is called on to go the aid of the Jaguar clan that lives in the hills outside Oakland, her home. Some cubs have become gravely ill and Rebekka is seen as these kids last hope. It turns out that the disease these kids suffer in is a lot more ominous than first believed and hints at someone wanting to unleash germ warfare to systematically destroy all weres. The bad guys in this story are seriously sinister and creepy and once again drive home the brutality of this world. This is definitely a dark book and even though the story is good and engaging after reading I had to medicate with some lighter paranormal romance afterward. 

Rebekka also gets entangled with an enforcer for the Jaguar clan, Aryck. Aryck’s animal soul instantly is attracted to Rebekka but his rational human half knows that nothing good can come of them being together. Aryck is constantly fighting a battle between his animal instincts and his better sense when it comes Rebekka – while ratcheting up the sexual tension it also gets frustrating. Aryck is dark and sensual while Rebekka has remained untouched for fear of what giving herself to someone will do to her magic. She has plenty of reason to stay away from the sexy jaguar enforcer, including her fear of how Aryck will judge her once he finds out more about her upbringing, her mother was a prostitute, and the marks it has put on her body. 

Overall 3 out of 5 stars for me, an interesting tale of a strong and loving healer in a dark and sinister world.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review of Sin Undone by Larissa Ione

Title: Sin Undone
Author: Larissa Ione
Pages: 400 pages, mass market paperback
Genre: paranormal romance
Standalone/Series: Series (Demonica series #5 (last of series))
Release: August 24th, 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Purchased by me
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Small spoilers for previous books, small plot spoilers
As the only female Seminus demon ever born, master assassin Sinead Donnelly is used to being treated like an outcast. She spent decades enslaved, and now vows she’ll die before she’ll relinquish her freedom again. Then Sin’s innate ability to kill her enemies goes awry: She creates a lethal new werewolf virus that sparks a firestorm of panic and violence.

Half-werewolf, half-vampire Conall Dearghul is charged with bringing in Sin to face punishment for the plague. And she’s no stranger: He’s bound to her by blood, and the one sexual encounter they shared has left him hungering for her raw sensuality. Worse, Sin is the underworld’s most wanted and Con soon learns he’s the only one who can help her . . . and that saving her life might mean sacrificing his own.

REVIEW: This is the last entry into the Demonica series and by far one of the best books of the series (though really I love them all). Ms. Ione’s writing is as dark and sexy as the black leather pants her heroine Sin wears. Sin and the Sem brothers are a tough and loyal bunch and the backdrop of Underworld General makes an excellent setting. Sin is the only known female Seminus demon, a hybrid of human and demon genes that shouldn’t exist. Sin’s life has left her with a huge chip on her shoulder and the inability to trust and rely on anyone since everyone she has relied on in the past has left her. She has a hard time with her brothers due to this, her full brother Lore and her half brothers, E, Shade, and Wraith. It also doesn’t help that Sin’s Sem powers let loose a highly contagious plague that affects wargs (weres) that now her brothers are frantically trying to find a cure for before humans start noticing the massive amounts of deaths. Add in a dark and sexy dhampire, Conall, who both wants to destroy Sin for the disease she unleashed and do naughty things to her, and Sin has a lot to handle.

The story does an excellent job of drawing Sin out of her tough and jaded shell as she starts to let go of her hard assassin exterior and remember what it’s like to feel again. Though she retains her sharp wit and even sharper tongue – a characteristic of her I love! It doesn’t hurt that Con is there to help her along this journey in so many ways. And as we learn along the way Con has a dark past and a lot of secrets as well which keep him walled off from most of his friends outside the dhampire community. Con and Sin’s relationship is complicated to say the least and with all the secrets they keep from each other it seems doomed from the start. Though as they dodge the attempts on Sin’s life the action heats up and of course this wouldn’t be a Demonica series book without a lot of action on and off the sheets (they are sex demons so what do you expect..).

The book kept me happy with glimpses of the other Sem brothers and their women as well as an introduction to the Lords of Deliverance – which will be Ms. Ione’s new series based in the Demonica world and comes out early 2011 ( I can’t wait). We also get to see more of Luc – who has been a paramedic at Underworld General since the first book in the series and has generally ended up getting beat down by the world throughout the series. I was happy with his side story and I thought it tied in nicely with Sin and Con’s story though I wish there was a little more Gem in the story since I love the Goth girl half-demon doctor. 

Overall 5 out of 5 stars, sad to see one of my favorite series end!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Early Review of Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews

Title: Bayou Moon
Author: Ilona Andrews
Pages: 480 pages
Genre: Rustic Fantasy or Redneck Romance (according to authors)
Standalone/Series: Series (The Edge #2)
Release:  September 28th, 2010
Publisher: Ace
Received from agent
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: small plot spoilers
GoodReads Blurb: Cerise Mar and her unruly clan are cash poor but land rich, claiming a large swathe of the Mire, the Edge swamplands between the state of Louisiana and the Weird. When her parents vanish, her clan’s long-time rivals are suspect number one. But all is not as it seems. Two nations of the Weird are waging a cold war fought by feint and espionage, and their conflict is about to spill over into the Edge—and Cerise’s life. William, a changeling soldier who left behind the politics of the Weird, has been forced back into service to track down a rival nation’s spymaster. When William’s and Cerise’s missions lead them to cross paths, sparks fly—but they’ll have to work together if they want to succeed ... and survive.

REVIEW: Hands down Ilona Andrews (a husband and wife writing team) is one of my favorite authors, the worlds they build are starkly beautiful knotted messes that you just want to start pulling on the threads to see where they lead. They have the ability to build books that create action sequences that make you forget how to breathe, complicated but ultimately satisfying romance, biting humor, and worlds you would like to see for yourself. Bayou Moon, the latest book by Ilona Andrew, contains all those things I love wrapped up in a great heroine and hero, Cerise and William, and one of the weirdest and most interesting worlds out there – that of the Broken/Edge/Weird. We were first introduced to this world in On the Edge – though you don’t need to read the first book to understand what is going on in Bayou Moon it was another awesome book so why wouldn’t you want to? – Broken is basically our world with no magic and lots of technology; Weird is a world full of magic; and the Edge is what exists between. The Edge has both magic and some technology but is a hard place to live – like some kind of refugee camp for those trying to escape or where exiled from the Weird but have too much magic to survive in the Broken for long. Therefore the Edge is inhabited with a lot of people who will kill to keep their secrets hidden, distrust outsiders to the point of killing them on sight, and like to take care of their problems themselves. And in the Mire – the part of the Edge Cerise is from and where the majority of this book takes place – those Edge attributes take on a more sinister form since the Mire is basically a gigantic prehistoric deadly swamp with gators the size of houses and 15 foot dead eels piloted by necromancers – so being an outsider there is definitely a one-way ticket to deadsville. The outsider in this story, William, is a tough and deadly sort that could do some damage to those gigantic gators and is no stranger to secrets since he has many of his own to hide. William is sent to the Mire to hunt Spider, his nemesis for many years who leads a team of magically altered spies.  This isn’t a pretty alteration either, the spies don’t sparkle in the sunlight or have beautiful wings, no they have tentacles, poison sacs, fangs, scales, and other nastiness. This was definitely a case where I was glad I was reading a book rather than having to see the disturbing images on TV. Unfortunately Cerise and her family become a target for Spider and his team of spies known as the Hand and William works with Cerise and her family to bring them down.

William and Cerise were a great pair from the start – so many hilarious misunderstandings had me giggling throughout the beginning of the book as well as their pet names for each other. The author does an excellent job of conveying that William thinks differently than most people due to his being a changeling and growing up in the equivalent of a harsh military school environment. This difference in the way William thinks led to some great foot-in-mouth moments for him as well. It also gives William a primal edge when it comes to battles and when it comes to what he wants from Cerise as well. Cerise is definitely tough enough and brave enough to attract William’s interest. Her ability to smash things up and to kill are quite the attractive attributes to him. Cerise also has a lot of responsibilities resting on her shoulders as the leader of her family and she has many of the attributes I love in an urban fantasy heroine –strong-willed, non-whiny, sarcastic, witty, deadly, and likes those strong and deadly types of men. 

This book is definitely a 5 out of 5 for me, Cerise and William make up a deadly and awesomely entertaining team!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Winners of Blogfest!

Since there were so many entries to my Blogfest post and many hours spent tabulating entries to figure out winners I decided to do 2 winners!

Winner of the YA prize pack is:


Winner of up to $15 in books at Book Depository is:

Mariska H

Congrats to the winners and you will be receiving an e-mail shortly! Thanks for everyone for entering and telling me which new releases you are most looking forward to - I like to see that I have alot of book choices in common with my readers!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review of Warrior by Zoe Archer - An excellent cross of Tomb Raider and Mummy on the Mongolian Steppes!

Title: Warrior
Author: Zoe Archer
Pages: 354 paperback
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance/Adventure
Standalone/Series: Series (#1 of The Blades of the Rose)
Release:  September 1st, 2010
Publisher: Zebra
Purchased by me *right now on sale at the Kindle store for $4.47 so go get it and pre-order the next three at the same price!
Author info:
Spoiler Alert: Small plot spoilers
GoodReads Blurb: To most people, the realm of magic is the stuff of nursery rhymes and dusty libraries. But for Capt. Gabriel Huntley, it’s become quite real and quite dangerous…

IN HOT PURSUIT…The vicious attack Capt. Gabriel Huntley witnesses in a dark alley sparks a chain of events that will take him to the ends of the Earth and beyond—where what is real and what is imagined become terribly confused. And frankly, Huntley couldn’t be more pleased. Intrigue, danger, and a beautiful woman in distress—just what he needs.

IN HOTTER WATER… Raised thousands of miles from England, Thalia Burgess is no typical Victorian lady. A good thing, because a proper lady would have no hope of recovering the priceless magical artifact Thalia is after. Huntley’s assistance might come in handy, though she has to keep him in the dark. But this distractingly handsome soldier isn’t easy to deceive…

REVIEW: What do you get when you mix Laura Croft from Tomb Raider and Rick O’Connell from Mummy – you get Warrior by Zoe Archer. Though since the story takes place in 19th century England and Mongolia at least where the Laura Croft analogy is concerned there is less technology and other “enhancements”. The book is a great mix of swashbuckling adventure with a dash of paranormal and a very satisfying helping of romance. The protagonists in this story, Gabriel and Thalia, are thrown together as they try to stop the Heirs of Albion from stealing a magical Source. In this story the British Empire is the bad guy as it tries to take over and subjugate the world by finding Sources imbued with magic that if they fall into the wrong hands can be used by the empire to rule the world. The Blades of the Rose, a group that Thalia’s father belongs to, works to stop the Heirs from obtaining the Sources and to return the Sources to their natural protectors, the people or groups that the magic was borne from in the first place to create the Source. Thalia takes up her father’s cause when he becomes too injured to go out on a critical mission and Gabriel comes to her rescue again and again while the attraction that burns between them gets hotter and hotter. Thalia is a great character – she has grown up on the steppes of Mongolia most her life and loves the land and acts and dresses like a Mongol although she was born an English lady. She is no meek English rose to shy away from action or to be outraged at bad language which is good because Gabriel, a former captain in the British Army, has a very filthy mouth. The chemistry between these two was burning hot and made my heart go a-pitter patter as they both fought the passion they felt for each other. And the love scenes Ms. Archer writes are panty scorching hot and fit well in the flow of the story. It was one thing that stuck with me from her Blades of the Rose novella in Half Past Dead (another favorite of mine) is how well balanced the love scenes are with the main story – there is no sacrifice of overall plot to have gratuitous sexy time and the sexy time is just as well written as the action scenes - though it is very descriptive so be warned if you are not a fan of explicit love scenes.

I also loved the setting of the book – I think historical paranormal romance/ action-adventure is becoming a new favorite genre of mine. The settings and descriptions of the Mongolian steppe and Gobi desert were stunning – I found myself looking up pictures of many things described in the book and much of what Ms. Archer described is real. Although I do not have a heightened desire to go riding around on a camel, I now have a new locale added to the places I wish to visit! I’m looking forward to where Ms. Archer takes us in her next books since a new book from the series will be published in the beginning of September/October/November/December. The language of the book is authentic (at least as far as I can tell) and charming as well – now I know how a British soldier might swear or a lady raised on the Mongolian steppes speaks – and it fits the time period of the book and the characters very well. That’s a pet peeve of mine –when the language does not match the character and time period the book is written in – thankfully Ms. Archer’s writing is delightfully British.

Overall a 4.5 out of 5 for me – delightful romance and swashbuckling on the Mongolian steppes!