Get Ready for #SciFiMonth 2019!

You may have noticed the hashtag #SciFiMonth and its related images popping up all over the book blogosphere lately. That’s because November is right around the corner, which means it’s that time of the year again! Yep, it’s Sci-Fi Month. The BiblioSanctum has had such a great time being a part of this event in previous years that we’re participating again in 2018. This year, the hosts are Lisa of Dear Geek Place and Imyril of One More.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be joining other bloggers, authors, and readers in a month-long celebration of everything science fiction. That doesn’t mean we’ll stop covering all our other favorite speculative fiction genres though! You will most definitely continue to see our usual fantasy reviews, weekly memes and features, spotlights, and all that other fun stuff. The only difference is, some of our reviews and posts will branch off from the usual to encompass the various mediums of science fiction.

The great thing about Sci-Fi Month is that it’s a casual, low-pressure event. It has no deadlines, no specific challenges or quotas to meet–just a month of fun to enjoy, discuss, and share everything science fiction. Sci-Fi Month is whatever you make it, and you are welcome to join anytime. The organizers have also arranged for some pretty exciting features like giveaways, readalongs, and a whole lot of other fun activities including prompt challenges and sci-fi themed Top Tens. So if this is something you’re interested in taking part of, head on over to the Google form to sign up.

After that, grab the banner and button, and dive right in! Everyone is welcome! Be sure to also follow the hashtag #SciFiMonth and follow the event on Twitter @SciFiMonth so you won’t miss a thing!

Here at The BiblioSanctum, simply look for posts tagged with “SciFi November” or those that contain the SciFi Month images and hashtags to see how we’re getting involved. Come explore the wonders of science fiction with us, and to kick off the discussion, feel free to let us know:

How long have you been a fan of science fiction?

Why do you like sci-fi and what is your favorite thing about it?

What are your favorite books/games/films/TV shows in the genre?

What are your plans for Sci-Fi Month?

As for me, I haven’t been on the ball with regards to planning, so once again I’ll be playing things mostly by ear. That being said, I do have a few books I’ve been saving up for November, and I also plan on using this opportunity to catch up with a few science fiction titles I missed reading earlier in the year. Below you’ll find a preview of some of the books I hope to read next month. As you can see, I’m aiming for a good variety, including some humor, some romance, plenty of aliens, a bit of weirdness, a healthy dose of good old fashioned space opera, and of course, some Star Wars!

Waiting on Wednesday 10/30/19

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim (July 7th 2020 by Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Spin the Dawn was such a nice surprise, and that’s definitely not something I take for granted when it comes to YA these days. I’m hoping the sequel will be just as wonderful, but at least we know the cover is all kinds of stunning!

“The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.”

Top Ten Tuesday Halloween Freebie: Favorite Female-Authored Horror

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow book lovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!

This week’s topic: Top Ten Favorite Female-Authored Horror

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is actually a Halloween freebie – I think my topic is pretty self-explanatory!

Mogsy’s Picks

The Poison Thread by Laura Purcell

I loved this book! Told in a format that alternates between two central viewpoints, the story is set in the Victorian era and follows Dorothea Truelove, a wealthy young heiress who visits women in prisons as part of her charity work, as well as Ruth Butterham, a sixteen-year-old inmate awaiting trial for murder. As you can imagine, the two women couldn’t be any more different. Raised in high society, Dorothea never wanted for anything growing up. Having long held a fascination for phrenology, Dorothea has been independently studying the relationship between head shape and morality, using her visits to the Oakgate Prison for women as research trips to gather measurement data and personal stories from the inmates. It is there that she meets Ruth, a young maid accused of callously murdering her mistress by deliberate and slow degrees. Unlike Dorothea, Ruth grew up in poverty as the daughter of an alcoholic artist and an overworked seamstress. From her mother she learned the art of sewing, and as it turned out, she was extraordinarily gifted at it. However, Ruth is convinced that her talent goes beyond mere skill, believing that she has the power to channel her thoughts and emotions into each and every stitch, so that the garments she makes are cursed items that bring bad things and death to those who wear them. In my opinion, The Poison Thread was damn near perfect. Fans of Gothic horror, do yourselves a favor and check out the work of Laura Purcell, who has now solidified her status as one of my favorite writers in the genre. (Read the full review…)

The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor

Since C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was a straight-up suspense-thriller, the horror/fantastical element in The Hiding Place might turn out to be a deal breaker for some, but as a speculative fiction reader by nature and habit, I welcomed it with open arms. The story follows Joe Thorne, a middle-aged school teacher who returns to his home town of Arnhill in order to settle an old score. It’s not what he wants—but it is what he must do. After hearing about a shocking murder-suicide involving a mother who brutally killed her teenage son before shooting herself, Joe fears what happened to him all those years ago is happening again. So he gets a job at the high school he used to attend, replacing the very same woman who committed the crime, and also starts renting an abandoned and dilapidated cottage in town, living in the very same house where the horror took place. All these decisions are calculated moves on Joe’s part. He has a plan, and it requires integrating himself back into the community so that he can track down a few old “friends” still living in Arnhill—those who were there on that day so long ago, when something terrible and strange happened to Joe’s beloved younger sister Annie. While the setup may require a bit of patience, I loved the measured way with which C.J. Tudor revealed information. I can see her becoming my new go-to author for thriller-suspense mysteries, especially if I’m looking for something with a good dose of creep factor. (Read the full review…)

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The tragedy of the Donner Party is retold with a supernatural twist in The Hunger, a dark mix of historical fiction and horror. For context, in the May of 1846 a wagon train led by George Donner and James Reed set out from Independence, Missouri like so many other pioneer families hoping to settle a new life in California. Instead of following the typical route, however, the Donner Party opted to travel the new Hastings Cutoff, encountering poor terrain and other difficulties that slowed them down considerably, until they became trapped in heavy snowfall somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Many of the party died, and some of the survivors allegedly resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. Alma Katsu’s re-imagining of this journey—while staying true to many of the real-life people, places, and events—also plays to the mystery surrounding the terrible fate of the Donner Party, injecting a speculative element in the form of supernatural horror. While one could argue that the facts are already horrific enough, the author takes the suffering, terror, and dread even further still in this Oregon Trail story from hell that makes dysentery seem like a cakewalk. The Hunger would be perfect for fans of dark historical fiction, especially if you are drawn to the period of American history which saw a great number of families leave their homes in the east for the west coast. Alma Katsu does not shy away from the details of hardship and sacrifice while on the trail, and readers with a taste for horror will probably enjoy this even more. (Read the full review…)

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three is about four plane crashes that changed the world. They all happened within hours, on the same day, on four different continents. Terrorism and environmental factors are ruled out. In three out of the four catastrophic incidents, a single child survivor is found in amidst the wreckage. Reeling from the news of the disasters, the world struggles to come to terms with this. It shouldn’t be possible. No one could have survived those terrible crashes. People are calling “The Three” a miracle, while others are also coming up with all kinds of conspiracy theories. Some fanatical rapture cults are even calling this the End of Days, claiming that the children represent three out of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Reports of the children’s behavior becoming increasingly disturbing aren’t helping matters, nor are the rumors of strange things happening around them. In addition to being an epistolary novel, The Three is also a book within a book, called “From Crash to Conspiracy” authored by the fictional investigative journalist Elspeth Martins. As its title indicates, Elspeth’s book documents the series of tumultuous events over the period of several months following the day of the four air disasters. The format proved remarkably ideal for this novel, considering the number of character perspectives involved on an international scale. (Read the full review…)

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

Don’t you just love it whenever a horror novel lives up to its promise? I actually had to stop reading this book at night because it got too disturbing for me. In the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon lives a ten-year-old boy named Stevie Clark. Ostracized by the other kids at school because of his speech impediment and the missing fingers on one of his hands, Stevie has no friends except for his cousin Jude Brighton. Then one day, Jude goes missing. The entire town mobilizes to try to find the boy, but after his bloody sweatshirt is found, the whole mood seems to shift. To Stevie’s frustration, no one seems to think they’ll find his cousin alive anymore. After all, the search has already been going on for three days with no luck, and the locals all know the story about Max Larsen, another boy who met a gruesome end in these woods years ago, after disappearing under similar circumstances. That story doesn’t get talked about much though, not unlike the reports going back for years about the dogs and cats that go missing from their owners’ yards. There’s a good reason why there are no veterinarians in Deer Valley. The Devil Crept In as a novel of three parts. Ahlborn uses the first to establish our main character, a boy who lives a troubled life. She follows up with a second part that brings on the full-on creeps. The third and final part brings everything all together, and the results are eerily satisfying. For a straight-up entertaining and chill-you-to-your-bones good read, I really can’t recommend this book enough. (Read the full review…)

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

I’ve always been drawn to stories about haunted houses, and the entire premise of The Family Plot is built around the subject. We begin with an introduction to Chuck Dutton, owner of a company that specializes in the stripping of old properties and then reselling the valuable pieces. When the stately Augusta Withrow walks through his office door offering him salvage rights to her sizeable historic family estate, Chuck decides to send a skeleton crew headed by his daughter Dahlia to undertake the project. Dahlia and her team all make the drive out together to the old house nestled in the backwoods of Chattanooga, Tennessee…and arrive to a veritable goldmine. With only a few days to complete the job, the four of them get down to stripping the place right away. Still, while the splendor of the Withrow estate is certainly everything that was promised, the crew soon uncovers a few surprises. For one thing, Augusta had failed to mention the small graveyard on the property, tucked away among the overgrown trees. To save time and money, the team has also decided to forgo hotels and spend the nights at the house, but strange things are happening and they only seem to get worse when darkness falls. Imagine HGTV’s Salvage Dogs meets Paranormal Activity and you have a pretty good idea of what The Family Plot is about. The book managed to hit every one of my buttons and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. (Read the full review…)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

An atmosphere of gloom and despair settles like a shroud over this novel, which takes place in the economically hard hit city of Detroit. We follow the events of the investigation through the eyes of a handful of characters – the hardened and experienced Detective Gabriella Versado who has the role of lead investigator on the murder case morbidly codenamed “Bambi”; her daughter Layla, a precocious teenager who nonetheless finds herself tangled in different kinds of trouble while her mother spends most of her time on police work; Jonno, a journalist desperately trying to make a name for himself and getting lucky by stumbling upon the case while covering the underground art scene in Detroit; Thomas Keen AKA T.K., a vagrant with a good heart who just wants to forget his checkered past and stay clean going forward. And of course, every now and then we also get glimpses into the mind of the killer himself, and those snippets sure aren’t pretty. I really like these kinds of psychological thrillers, the ones that seek not to bombard you with blood and gore. Even though there are some graphic scenes in Broken Monsters, they are not gratuitous. Instead, the story worms its way down to unsettle the reader at a deeper level, stirring up a sense of dread that doesn’t go away as you’re reading. If you’re looking for a horror-thriller that’s a bit different, I would highly recommend this book. Characters, setting and themes all came together very nicely to deliver one hell of an experience. (Read the full review…)

Murder by Sarah Pinborough

Murder is the follow-up to Mayhem, the chilling paranormal horror novel by Sarah Pinborough that is sort-of-but-not-really about Jack the Ripper which cleverly combines historical fact and fiction intermixed with supernatural elements, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone. Following the life of Dr. Thomas Bond, a real figure in the British crime history best known for his work as the police surgeon on a lot of the Whitechapel murder investigations between 1887-1891, the story succeeds in bringing life and depth to the character. A lot of the gruesome events described in this novel also actually happened, even the line in the description about bodies of children being pulled from the Thames. Pinborough doesn’t hold anything back, flawlessly weaving a thread of supernatural into the tale. Clearly she knew what needed to happen, and she carried out the plot with a cold eye and sees it all through mercilessly. And honestly, it made for an amazing book, with some truly unexpected turns in the plot. At times, I couldn’t even believe it. You’ll be appalled and filled with hatred. Your heart will break. And you’ll also marvel at the amazing things accomplished here. Dark, disturbing, and full of tension — just the way I like my horror. (Read the full review…)

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

The Twisted Ones was a fun novel featuring the perfect blend of humor and horror. It follows protagonist Mouse, who rolls up to her late grandmother’s house at the behest of her father who wanted to see if anything could be salvaged from the property. One look, however, was enough to tell Mouse the answer. The place is filled from top to bottom with useless junk, but being the dutiful daughter, Mouse decides to stick around and help clean it out. Together with her loyal coonhound Bongo, the two get ready to settle in for the long haul. But soon, during her walks in the woods with Bongo, Mouse starts coming across impossible things, like a grassy hill where none was supposed to be, or odd stones carved with unnerving pictures and symbols. And then came the most frightening discovery of all—a gruesome effigy made of animal bone and body parts, hanging from a tree. Mouse knows she shouldn’t let her imagination get away from her, and yet she can’t help but feel the thing might have been alive—watching and waiting. Be sure not to let the cheery, affable nature and tone of the narrator fool you into thinking this is a light and airy novel, because this one was downright CREEPY.  But to be sure, finding this balance between fright and fun was the best surprise, and what I loved most about The Twisted Ones. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a spine-chilling read this season that’s also tremendously entertaining. (Read the full review…)

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

Little Darlings is the story of Lauren Tranter, a new mom to twin boys Morgan and Riley. The birth was difficult with complications, further adding to her exhaustion and frazzled nerves. One night, in the maternity ward, Lauren is convinced that a strange woman was trying to get into her room and take her babies, even though everyone thinks the experience was all in her mind, a symptom of her over-tiredness and trauma. But Lauren knows what she saw, and the memory of the event has made her so anxious, she is afraid to leave the house or let her boys out of her sight for a second. Finally, her husband Patrick has had enough, persuading Lauren that she has to start going out and seeing people again. Lauren takes his advice and takes the now six-week old twins out in their stroller for a walk—a miscalculation that she ends up regretting forever. All it took was a moment of distraction, a few minutes where Lauren’s attention was elsewhere and suddenly, Morgan and Riley were gone. Thankfully, the police quickly found the twins by the river before anything could happen, and a person of interest was arrested. But rather than the joy of being reunited with her babies, Lauren feels instead a terror when she looks down into the twins’ faces. She knows with a mother’s instincts and every fiber of her being that these are NOT her sons. Little Darlings was chilling and addictive, a fantastic thriller if you want both a touch of horror and some mystery in one neat package. Great characterization, atmosphere and writing in this one! (Read the full review…)

The Violent Fae: The Ordshaw Vignettes by Phil Williams

Today, The BiblioSanctum is pleased to welcome back Phil Williams, author of the Sunken City books Under Orshaw and Blue Angel, in a very special tour to celebrate the release of The Violent Fae, the closing chapter of the trilogy! For this event, he is sharing 12 short stories from the city of Ordshaw, the setting for the series. These Ordshaw Vignettes are tiny insights into the UK’s worst-behaved city, each with a self-contained mystery.

You can read today’s story below. For the full collection, visit all the wonderful blogs in the tour!

About Ordshaw and The Violent Fae

The Ordshaw series are urban fantasy thrillers set in a modern UK city with more than a few terrible secrets. The Violent Fae completes a story that began with Under Ordshaw and its sequel Blue Angel – following poker player Pax Kuranes’ journey into the Ordshaw underworld. Over the space of one week, Pax unravels mysteries that warp reality and threaten the entire city.

The Violent Fae will be available from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback from November 5th 2019.

And if you’d like the start the journey, you’re in luck! Under Ordshaw, the first book in the trilogy, is actually on sale on Kindle in the US and UK starting TODAY until November 1st, for only $0.99/£0.99 – a perfect opportunity to dive into the series before the third book’s release.

Now without further ado, here’s the story Phil wrote for us!

The Chemist 

Bo Kilter had an eye for detail, that’s how he noticed the blue crystal in Doc’s box of goodies. Hidden under bagged powder and pills. “Where you get that, Doc?”

“Get what?” Doc closed the lid right fast.

“You been cooking? Didn’t think you cooked no more.”

“I don’t,” Doc insisted, moving to end their meeting in the unlit shop. Bo put a hand on the tin, with a chink from his signet ring. Doc swallowed. “It’s nothing. I’m just holding onto it for a friend.”

“Doc,” Bo said, no nonsense. Doc had been around a long time, a valuable guy, but he looked caught well and truly out. With his tatty woollen sweaters and little specs, frail as a librarian, you wouldn’t know him for cutting the best narcotics in Ordshaw. “You know the demand for good crystal, Doc. Give us a chance to compete with that Ashford lot.”

“I know, and I’ve told Jack –”

“Can’t cook, won’t cook,” Bo recalled. “Too dangerous.” He held up the bag they’d just exchanged. Boring old X. “Jack don’t mind this arrangement. But if you’re moonlighting –”

“It’s for personal use,” Doc blurted out. “Not for a dealer, not in these quantities – I would’ve told you, but –”

Bo held up a hand, grimacing at how awkward this was about to get. “Explain from the top. Make it good.”

“It’s an individual. She called me –”

She?

Doc cleared his throat. “Yes, a woman. Not Norma, before you ask – no one I’m familiar with. She called a month after I quit cooking. Saying my product was the best, that I had to keep going. I said no, I tried –”

“Don’t matter what you tried,” Bo said. “Only what you did.”

“Well. She delivered ingredients, equipment. Very small quantities, untraceable amounts – I’ve no idea where from. You can’t –”

“Then what?”

“Then I cooked. Next to nothing, not more than fifty grams a fortnight.”

“All on some anonymous bitch’s say so?”

“Yes,” Doc admitted. “Drop offs and pick ups without a trace. I set up cameras, tried to track the calls, but I never saw her, not even footprints in the dust. Bo, I never –”

“She scares you more than me? More than Jack?”

Doc’s terrified hesitation said yes. “She left a dead rat in my bed.”

“A dead rat?”

“The apartment was locked, windows closed, I have no idea how she got in!”

“Think I won’t do worse?” Bo snapped. “Give me that tin, you bloody coward.”

“Oh no, oh no –” Doc cringed but he was looking over Bo’s shoulder. And the room was suddenly lit from outside. Bo spun and swore. Across the lot, a flame lapped over the Land Rover from underneath, spreading by the second.

Bo shouted, “You son of a –”

“You’ll make it worse!” Doc held up the tin defensively, backing into empty shelves. Bo’s fist was up, but the truck burst with fresh fury. The shop window cracked and something grazed Bo’s forehead, debris flung from the fire. He winced, one hand going to that, the other to the revolver stuffed deep in his belt. Again, the flaming car popped, another crack in the window and Bo’s palm was hit, making him drop the pistol.

“What in hell!” he roared, diving into the shadows.

The chemist shook with terror, clutching the drugs tin like a shield. “Please, she’ll leave if we keep quiet – it’s a small job – no one needs know –”

“That’s my bloody motor!” Bo yelled, eyes on the pillar of fire. “Jack’s gonna freak!”

“She’ll kill you!” Doc cried desperately. He was more afraid of this ghost woman than of them. Must’ve seen things worse than a dead rat. Bo touched his own forehead – a warm tickle of blood. His hand was bleeding, too. Gun on the floor. Were these wounds deliberate?

“She got you,” Doc read his mind. “You just don’t know it. For the love of God, it’s a tiny baggie, let it go!”

“Now she’s done my ride –”

Bo jumped at another pop, the wall erupting next to him. An impossible angle for debris flung from the fire. He glared at the flames. Back at the pistol on the floor. Without knowing who this woman was or how she’d got the drop on him, he saw well enough she had him pinned. If he pushed any further, he wouldn’t walk away. And Doc’s fearful eyes confirmed the necessary trade-off. His life for keeping that little bag secret.

Bo had an eye for details like that.

We hope you enjoyed “The Chemist”, the vignette for today! For more Ordshaw shorts, you can check out the previous story, The Crane Driver which appeared yesterday on Brainfluff. The next story will The Neighbours, available on Paper Plane Reviews tomorrow on October 29th.

Be sure to stop by all the other stops on the tour, and for more information about The Violent Fae and the books in the Ordshaw sequence, check out the links below!

Under Ordshaw: Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Blue Angel: Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
The Violent Fae: Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil Williams writes contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction and non-fiction grammar guides. His novels include the interconnected Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers, the post-apocalyptic Estalia saga and the action-packed Faergrowe series. He also runs the website English Lessons Brighton, and writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English.

Phil lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and now spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

You can visit him at his website at http://phil-williams.co.uk or on Twitter at @fantasticphil.

YA Weekend Audio: The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Hachette Audio (September 24, 2019)

Length: 9 hrs and 9 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Moira Quirk

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones is perfectly suited for the fall season, blending horror and historical fiction elements to create something that’s fun, exciting, mysterious, and more than a little badass.

The story follows seventeen-year-old Aderyn—Ryn for short—who lives in the remote village of Colbren with her younger brother and sister at the edge of the woods. Their mother had died shortly after the disappearance of their father, who walked into the forest years ago on a job and never returned. To make ends meet, as well as to pay off the debts of her drunken uncle, Ryn works as a gravedigger for the town. However, with the recent spate of cases involving the rising dead, business has been significantly impacted, to say the least. The result is that our protagonist’s role has evolved into something of a hunter, patrolling among the trees after dark to clear of area of the reanimated dead, or bone houses, before gathering their remains to be burned.

But one night, Ryn ends up saving the life of a young mapmaker named Ellis, who has come to Colbren to map the nearby mountains for the prince. But Ellis also has his own personal reasons to be here. An orphan, he was found as a child wandering these woods alone before he was rescued and brought to the city to be raised. Fifteen years later, it is his hope to find some trace of his true parents, so he offers to hire Ryn to guide him through the treacherous wilderness. Desperate for work, Ryn sees this as a perfect opportunity to make some extra coin and agrees.

Unfortunately, before they can set off, Colbren is attacked by a horde of bone houses, leaving the town ruined and devastated. Something has changed the behavior of the dead, making them rise with more frequency and increasing their aggression. Legend tells of a mythical cauldron in the forest, said to be the source of magic that drives the bone houses. To save her village and her family and friends, Ryn decides to team up with Ellis, the two of them embarking on a dangerous quest to end the curse once and for all.

What I loved most about this book is that it felt like a haunted fairy tale. Because of this, I didn’t mind so much that the story itself was relatively predictable. Traditional folklore features strongly in the plot, and I enjoyed the fascinating mix of eeriness and magic. The ending twist also brought it all together in a way that was satisfying and emotionally significant.

And most of all, I loved Ryn and the dynamic she had with Ellis. That a romance would result between the two was not unexpected, but I was surprised at how well it was written. The two were first and foremost partners in their quest, establishing a relationship of trust and cooperation well before they realized their feelings for each other. It helped that they were both strong and independent characters. Ryn especially was a force to be reckoned with. She’s confident, clever and resourceful, able to stand toe-to-toe with everything from bone houses to nasty landlords without coming off as too catty or obnoxious. Dutiful, courageous Ellis was a good match for her, and I admired his tenacity as well as the dignified way he persevered through his chronic pain from an old shoulder injury. The best part was that Lloyd-Jones chose not to play up the romance, allowing the chemistry between Ryn and Ellis to develop naturally instead. The two of them were absolutely adorable, providing a warm little bubble of light in this dark and spooky tale.

And speaking of things light and adorable, there’s also a very special goat, but that’s all I’ll say on the topic. I think it’s best to let prospective readers discover that bit of awesomeness for themselves!

Bottom line, if you’re looking for something steeped in a magical, fairy-tale atmosphere that is also threaded with horror, The Bone Houses may be your answer. The mystery and suspense will keep you riveted, while the delightful team of Ryn and Ellis will have you cheering them on every step of the way. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced such enthusiasm for a YA novel, but this one is the real deal and I would highly recommend it.

YA Weekend Audio: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Dystopian, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Wednesday Books (October 8, 2019)

Length: 416 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Emily Shaffer

Well, this certainly didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. Maybe it’s because there was so much going on, or that all the parts just didn’t fit together as well as they should, but quite a few things came together in way that kept me from enjoying this book. And to be honest, a lot of the themes rubbed me the wrong way.

Billed as a speculative thriller in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale, throw in a bit of The Crucible, The Hunger Games, and Lord of the Flies and you’ll have something resembling The Grace Year. The story follows Tierney James who is preparing for a rite of passage that every young woman in the village must go through once they reach age sixteen. In her home of Garner County, it is believed that girl has the magic to seduce a man, to drive other women to jealousy, and this power is in their very bones, their blood, and on their skin. To cleanse them of this poisonous curse before marriage, girls are sent off into the wild for a “grace year”, where they can release their magic before returning to the village purified.

But in the wilderness, there are many dangers. The young women on their grace year are expected to fend for themselves against the elements, resource shortages, and, of course, each other. Then, there are the hunters who live in the woods, called poachers because they believe the magic of the girls’ body parts can fetch high prices on the black market. Every year, a few young women fall victim to these killers and don’t make it home. Tierney, however, is determined to survive her grace year. Though she has no plans to marry even when she returns, she has her younger sisters to think about, who would be at the village’s mercy if she dies.

But right before her grace year, Tierney’s best friend Michael paints a target on her back by presenting her with a veil—signifying his intent to marry her. This causes Kiersten, the mean-spirited girl whom everyone thought was his intended, to become even more nasty and vindictive than ever. And now, Tierney must go into the wilderness with her, along with more than thirty other girls. Already the tribal lines have been drawn, and they grow ever deeper as Kiersten uses her manipulation to gain more support to her side.

So, I think I know where Kim Liggett was trying to go with The Grace Year. The feminist undertones came through loud and clear, as did the messages about women fighting back against a male-dominated society and female oppression. Unfortunately though, the execution was well off the mark and in some ways even more degrading than the toxic patriarchal attitudes this story was meant to take apart, and I blame it all on the pandering to YA genre conventions. YA books these days, especially those starring female protagonists, tend to play too much emphasis on romance and not enough on female friendships. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to associate the “strong female character” with a young woman who stands alone, and worse, she’s always inevitably the one who all the men in the story are interested in, and her most significant relationship by the end of the book always turns out to be one with–you guessed it—a guy.

This is pretty much Tierney. On the surface, she makes an appealing protagonist—independent, determined, and resourceful. And yet, she is vulnerable and delicate in her isolation. At the end of the day, she still had to be saved by Ryker, a poacher. After which, queue one of the worst insta-love romances I’ve ever read in my life, so that’s saying something. I actually let out a “What the hell?” when they just decided to jump into bed. Worse, Tierney’s “awakening” to her feelings towards Ryker seemed to have come soon after the part where he verbally claims her in front of his friend Anders, so make of that how you will.

Finally, this book touches upon one of my biggest pet peeves—a story which is supposed to celebrate women coming together and supporting each other to fight against the obstacles placed against them, except the biggest conflicts somehow wind up coming down to the women tearing each other down. The two strongest women in this book were Tierney and Kiersten, and sadly, they were pitted against each other. The rest of the girls were either complete nobodies or mindless sheep, led by the nose by either character. Tierney also spends much of this book walking around with an infuriatingly self-righteous “forgive them, for they know not what they do” attitude, and her relationship with Gertie, the closest thing to a friendship she has among the grace year girls, feels more like an opportunity to exercise her savior complex rather than something truly genuine.

So what The Grace Year boils down to is a book that feels like it wants to convey a good message, but regrettable, that message—along with the ways the author tried to convey it—came across as extremely messy or simply misguided. Then there was that awkward romance which threw a wrench into the whole thing. Clearly though, I have my own biases against the certain YA genre tropes and this story just so happened the contain a few that really annoy me, so you might do better with it. I was a huge fan of Lim Liggett’s The Last Harvest, but this and her last book The Unfortunates didn’t work for me, so while I’ll still probably check out her future work, next time I’ll keep expectations in check.

Audiobook Comments: Despite my issues with some of the story elements of The Grace Year, the book was actually pretty good in audio, though for about the first hour or so I thought the main character’s name was “Tyranny” based on the way the narrator said it. I also enjoyed the interview between Kim Liggett and Emily Shaffer at the end of book, giving some great insights into the novel’s inspiration.

Friday Face-Off: Scary Freebie!

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Any scary you like!”
~
 HALLOWEEN FREEBIE

Mogsy’s Pick:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Halloween is almost here! To celebrate, I’ll be featuring the classics on Friday Face-Off for the full month of October. This week, we’re closing off the month’s spooktacular covers with one of the scariest books of all. Two years before it gave rise to the hit film adaptation, The Exorcist novel was published in 1971 by William Peter Blatty (who also ended up writing and producing the movie) after he was inspired by the events of a 1949 case involving the exorcism of a 14-year-old boy who was alleged under demonic possession. Here are some of the covers:

From left to right:
Harper & Row (1971) – HarperTorch (1994) – Harper Paperbacks (2011)

Bantam (1984) – Corgi Books (1999) – Faber & Faber (2000)

Italian Edition (1974) – German Edition A (2001) – German Edition B (2019)

Bulgarian Edition (2012) – Lithuanian Edition (2017) – French Edition (2016)

Spanish Edition A (1972) – Spanish Edition B (2007) – Georgian Edition (2017)

Polish Edition (2017) – Russian Edition A (2016) – Russian Edition B (2017)

Portuguese Edition A (2017) – Portuguese Edition B (2016) – Finnish Edition (1988)

Winner:

There was one cover that immediately grabbed my attention, and that was the Georgian edition. There were many disturbing scenes in the movie, but the upside down crab walk that was cut from the original but added back into the extended 2000 version always gets to me.

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

 

Audiobook Review: The Possession by Michael Rutger

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Possession by Michael Rutger

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Book 2 of The Anomaly Files

Publisher: Hachette Audio (July 23, 2019)

Length: 10 hrs and 38 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Wayne Pyle

With the tease of ghostly possession as its premise, I thought this follow-up to The Anomaly would provide a creepier experience. But in fact, what we get is a more mysterious than scary scenario involving an isolated small town, its curious network of low stone walls that twist and turn across its wooded landscape, and a missing teenager. While The Possession lacks a lot of the intensity and body horror that made the first book such a chilling read, it did have its moments.

Also, in case you’re wondering, The Possession can be read as a standalone. Very few references are made to The Anomaly even though this book takes place not long after those events, following protagonist Nolan Moore and his team as they investigate another possible lead for their YouTube documentary series, The Anomaly Files. Of course, one major change we see in this novel is the addition of Kristy, Nolan’s ex-wife, who gains a prominent voice as a POV character. The story actually opens with her arrival in Birchlake, a quaint little village nestled in the hills of northern California. A journalist working on a piece about bullying, Kristy has come searching for more information on the disappearance of 14-year-old Alaina Hixon, whose social media accounts show signs that the girl may have a victim of harassment. One of her photos on Instagram has several comments calling her a witch, including a particularly threatening one telling Alaina that it was time for her to join her mother, who died in a car accident not too long ago.

But to Kristy’s frustration, her questions around town seem to lead nowhere, and worse, strange things suddenly start happening around her. Queue Nolan and The Anomaly Files crew, who come to Birchlake hoping to find an interesting angle to revive the falling ratings of their show, and the miles of mysterious stone walls in the region appear to fit the bill. For one thing, their unknown origins are certain to spawn some wild theories and speculation, and for another, at least this assignment should be a lot less deadly than their last one—or so they thought.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t find The Possession to be as good as The Anomaly, but to be fair, the first book had a lot going for it that this sequel didn’t, such as the claustrophobia of being below ground, a gruesome infection that can tear your body apart, or monsters in the dark that can strike at any second. Instead, what we have here is a more mundane scenario. After all, as far as mystery and thriller premises go, there’s certainly no shortage of small-town settings or missing person cases when it comes to this genre. In fact, the paranormal elements of the story did not emerge until much later, and the middle sections of the book were also plagued by several lulls which I thought made The Possession a lot slower and a lot less exciting and frightening.

So, if you’re going into this one expecting a horror thrill ride, like in The Anomaly, I think you’ll be disappointed. There’s not much here that would invoke the kind of visceral response and bone-deep fear I got from the first book. Instead, I found the tone of The Possession to be quite different in that it places more emphasis on the atmosphere of intrigue and mystery, and the vibes you get are more unsettling and confusing than outright scary.

I also wasn’t sure what to make of the extra POVs in this book. Aside from Kristy, we get bits of the story from a few additional perspectives, making Nolan’s role in this feel far less important. I didn’t feel there was sufficient development into his character, mainly because we spent the bulk of the time with Kristy, whose voice wasn’t as engaging, and in truth, I felt a little annoyed that we switched tack in this book to focus so much on her.

Still, things picked up in the second half. Not coincidentally, this was also when more of the speculative elements came into play. Admittedly, the story takes a baffling turn and becomes a lot more complicated at this point, but this was one of those rare cases where I thought the ambiguity actually helped. Not everything needs to be explained, and I felt that the vagueness added a dash of intrigue to the ending, though I know it’s probably not going to work for everyone.

Bottom line, if you enjoyed The Anomaly, you definitely owe it to yourself to give The Possession a try, keeping in mind the tone won’t be the same, and you also have a much less scary plot and setting. But if you don’t mind the change of pace, this could be well worth your time.

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Anomaly (Book 1)

Waiting on Wednesday 10/23/19

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell (May 5, 2020 by Gallery/Saga Press)

I’m loving everything about this, from the description to the title and cover! Crossing my fingers it will be everything I hope it to be.

“In this brilliant debut fantasy, a story of secrets, rebellion, and murder are shattering the Hollows, where magic costs memory to use, and only the son of the kingdom’s despised traitor holds the truth.

Michael is branded a traitor as a child because of the murder of the king’s nine-year-old son, by his father David Kingman. Ten years later on Michael lives a hardscrabble life, with his sister Gwen, performing crimes with his friends against minor royals in a weak attempt at striking back at the world that rejects him and his family.

In a world where memory is the coin that pays for magic, Michael knows something is there in the hot white emptiness of his mind. So when the opportunity arrives to get folded back into court, via the most politically dangerous member of the kingdom’s royal council, Michael takes it, desperate to find a way back to his past. He discovers a royal family that is spiraling into a self-serving dictatorship as gun-wielding rebels clash against magically trained militia.

What the truth holds is a set of shocking revelations that will completely change the Hollows, if Michael and his friends and family can survive long enough to see it.”

Book Review: Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Orbit (October 22, 2019)

Length: 496 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Like many readers who came to this novel, I am a huge fan of Jason Arnopp’s The Last Days of Jack Sparks so needless to say I could hardly wait to get my hands on Ghoster. Some of the early mixed reviews had me nervous though, so I went into it with my expectations in check. In some ways, I’m glad I did, because the book did not turn out the way I thought at all, and that was both a good and bad thing.

At the center of Ghoster is protagonist Kate Collins, a somewhat self-doubting paramedic who has an addiction to social media. Recently, she has made a conscious effort to put some distance between herself and her phone, and around the same time, she also started going out with a man named Scott Palmer. Sweet, charming, and handsome, he seemed like the perfect guy, except for the fact he hardly talks about himself and can be quite guarded about his life. Still, when Scott asks her to move in after just a short period of dating, Kate is ecstatic and agrees immediately, quitting her job, packing up all her belongings, and driving straight to Brighton where her new life awaited her.

But upon her arrival, she is surprised to find an empty house. No furniture, no electricity, no boyfriend. Scott also hasn’t been answering her calls or her texts. Soon, she discovers the reason why, as he appeared to have left behind his battered but still working cell phone, the only sign of him left in the entire place. Refusing to believe she has been ghosted, Kate convinces herself that something must have happened to Scott, and decides to unlock his phone and start digging into his life to find some answers. What she discovers, however, is devastating. Everything she thought she knew about the man she loved was a lie. Worse, the shock accompanying these new revelations is compounded by the strange atmosphere Kate has been getting from Scott’s apartment.

With all the lies and half-truths being flung around social media these days, one of the main takeaway messages from Ghoster is, just how do you know if a person is really who they say they are online? This book definitely a cautionary tale against the overuse of electronic devices and the danger of being too connected. However, I also think it serves as a great guide as to what not to do when you’re in a relationship! It’s simple, really—just do the opposite of everything Kate does. When a guy refuses to tell you important details about himself or talk about his family, warning signs should be blaring in your head. Also, out of all the movies in the world, he names as his favorite the one that just happens to be your favorite as well? And you’re really naive enough to buy that? Don’t even get me started about the part where she throws her whole life, her brains, and all her self-respect out the window the moment Scott asks her to move in. And when she finds the place empty, she just decides to settle in anyway like everything is normal? Any average person would have drawn the logical conclusion that they’ve been dumped, and move on. But oh no, not Kate. She continues to pine and obsess even though every sign is telling her to pull her head out of her ass and get out of that place.

I suppose that was the main issue I had with the novel. Kate is a horrible protagonist, one I couldn’t sympathize with no matter how hard I tried because everything she did seemed at odds with what common sense would dictate. There’s really no nice way to say this, so what the heck: she’s an airhead. What else would you call a person who actively creates problems for herself by making staggeringly dumb choices, and worse, never learning from those lessons and repeating the same mistakes? On some level, I understood that Arnopp wanted to make an example of her, but I didn’t like how everything about her personality was so off-putting. After all, Jack Sparks was unlikeable in the author’s last novel, but the character was at least funny, interesting, and displayed some semblance of intelligence.

But now on to the good parts, to the elements I really enjoyed about Ghoster, and I have to say most of them have to do with the actual story itself. Overall, the plot presents a good mystery, if you can ignore all the protagonist’s questionable choices to make it possible. There’s a thrill, for example, every time Kate discovered some new clue or disturbing little tidbit in Scott’s phone which would lead to more puzzles and secrets. And there were plenty of scenes that were genuinely creepy, especially those ghostly nighttime moments at Scott’s apartment, as well as the chilling twists revealed towards the end.

Overall, if only I could have gotten over my intense dislike of the protagonist, I think I could have found Ghoster immensely enjoyable. Of course, there were other minor issues, like some disjointed pacing and several situations that strained my ability to suspend my disbelief or were just downright bizarre, but Kate presented the biggest struggle. Still, in deciding how to rate this book, I chose to believe everything about her character was by design and ultimately went with my gut instinct based on how much I liked the novel. And by that measure, I found it quite entertaining. This book was not nearly as awesome as I wanted it to be, but I had fun with it nonetheless, and I will be looking forward to more by Jason Arnopp.