Mandy Norton loves her dolls. Every day, she likes to play with them in her yard. She names them and serves them tea. Mandy is in her own world–and she is being watched. From just beyond the bushes and out of her line of sight, she is being studied, and her every move is being noted. A man she cannot see is planning to take her from her yard and away from her family. He will use one of her favorite things to bring his plan to fruition–a doll. After carefully selecting a doll that matches her taste, he makes his move, and Mandy’s life and the lives of her family will never be the same.
Not Dead, by Anita Dickason, is the harrowing tale of the abduction of young Mandy Norton and the efforts made to bring her home. Mandy’s aunt, Ashely Logan, becomes involved from the moment she hears that her niece is missing. Ashley, also the editor of the local newspaper, deems herself an investigator and questions the local police department’s ability to handle her niece’s case. As the hours quickly begin to pass, Ashley forges her own path through the town from one suspect to another.
Dickason has managed to provide readers with a tale of horror–every parent’s nightmare. As the story progresses, readers are given more insight into the frustrating and heartbreaking process of trusting law enforcement to bring their daughter home safely. The introduction of Ashley, Mandy’s aunt, is more than helpful in driving home exactly how difficult the process of searching for a suspect can actually be. Ashley is the reader’s guide into the investigation process.
The insight the author gives into the mind of little Mandy’s abductor is chilling. I can’t accurately describe the terror I felt as I read how Mandy’s abductor targeted her and methodically planned her kidnapping. What was even more terrifying was the background information readers are given at the outset–this man is a repeat offender and has honed these skills over time.
Not Dead, though fiction, provides a thorough look into police procedures and the rigorous work that takes place when a child has disappeared. The bulk of Dickason’s work in this book is focused on the investigation itself and Ashley’s part in that process. As a reader, I would have liked to have seen more of the experience from Mandy’s point of view. From one chapter to the next, readers watch the clues multiply, the suspects narrow, and the case grow closer to a conclusion, but we aren’t as privy to the life to which Mandy is subjected while she waits to be rescued.
Readers who seek a mystery with rich characters and prefer frighteningly realistic plots will be more than satisfied with Dickason’s work. Dickason’s characters are highly-developed and memorable. The twist ending is an added bonus to Dickason’s meticulously crafted mystery. I highly recommend Not Dead to any mystery fan looking for a new author to follow.
Pages: 238 | ASIN: B07ZMHYMDB
Pale Face and the Raven by Stacey Dighton is a terrifying murder mystery meets a horror story. It starts with a string of rape cases and murders taking place in the town of Westhampton. Luke Raven, a detective inspector and long-time alcoholic is assigned to the case. Unable to cope with his alcoholism and an inability to form long-lasting connections with other people, he is dragged down by the weight of his own past and present. On the other hand, there is a struggling author, Tony Richards. His life isn’t turning out as he had planned, and his flailing desperation leads him down a dark path. His own sordid past and tattered familial relationships are slowly unraveled throughout the story. It is a race against time and personal struggles as these men and the people in their lives are dragged into the horrific events taking place.
Throughout the novel, I was surprised to find myself sympathetic to the murderer’s motives. Not supportive of them, of course, but Stacey Dighton managed to build his character in a manner such that his motives and actions were entirely believable.
It would seem that the alcoholic detective and struggling author are overdone cliches. But that did not make the story any less compelling. They were well-fleshed out and so human that they managed to escape the common murder mystery tropes. Similarly, all of the other characters were plagued with their own flaws. Addiction, cowardice, dependency, all these traits were laid out realistically.
The interlinking of all the characters added depth and complexity to the narrative, but was myopic at times. It was as if the five to six main characters were the only people who lived in
Westhampton and the other people clearly lacked dimension. Although this aspect did intensify the plot, it turned it into a bit of a guessing game. Sort of like Big Little Lies. However, it was without a doubt a thrilling read, kind of like a Jack Reacher novel but with more interesting characters. Perfect reading for a long weekend.
Pages: 373 | ASIN: B07ZBPFBWK
A self declared angel of balance seeks to help a group of like minded people grow and hone their abilities. Preston Blake has hunted some of the most notorious serial killers. He will get them together by choice or intimidation. They will make each other better. If anyone falls out of line a Dreadnaught kind of fate will befall them. Preston, despite his demeanor as an alpha seems to have one weakness. Young, pure and entranced Grace Bennet. They are brought together by a force neither of them understands. Will Grace fall into Preston’s arms? Will the group serve its purpose? Is Detective Gabe Bastien a threat to the group or a potential?
Right from the get go, this book is disturbing to say the least. There is something dark and scary about the tone and feel of it. As soon as you begin to read it, you feel scared and vulnerable. Your skin crawls and you get an urge to either be very quiet or scream your lungs out. As you should when you are among serial killers. This is how vivid and in depth Wesley Boydd Thompson goes with this book. He leaves nothing to the imagination for the reader. He lets you go through every moment of it. You never forget Bethany’s screams and quick breaths no matter how far through the book you get. Perhaps it is the unabashed relay of frightening detail. Perhaps it is the blatant display of evil. Perhaps it is the chilling introduction to darkness.
The character development is really quite brilliant. Not in a way that makes you like them but in a way that puts you right inside their minds. It is like getting a front seat into the mind of a demented human being. The salaciously dark thought processes that occur even when they are not actively practicing their craft. For a minute there, you will think of it as a craft. You will be terrified by Preston’s evil confidence and charmed by Grace’s naïve innocence. You will be interested by Russel’s dark eagerness. The characters are multi-dimensional.
The book does have some grammar and spelling mistakes though. In some cases they can be distracting from the story however in some cases the reader will be way too engrossed and sufficiently freaked out to notice. I felt like some information was left out. Questions remain unanswered and some backstories are missing. Whether to be impressed by the cliff-hanger or exasperated will be a personal choice. The story feels unfinished and left me with more anxiety than satisfaction.
Serial Killer Support Group is a unique story with seemingly apt portrayal of serial killers. It is interesting and gripping. It is anticipatory and may leave you unable to close your eyes for a night but then most good stories will. Maybe refrain from reading if you are about to walk outside by yourself?
Pages: 37 | ISBN: 169945065X
A small-town Texas cop who is haunted by his past.
A reporter who risks it all, even her life.
A kidnapping that crosses into an unearthly realm.
Focused on the abduction of four-year-old Mandy Norton, Chad Bishop, Meridian’s Police Chief, ignores the twinges of foreboding triggered by an eerie fog that shrouds his town. What he can’t ignore is the editor of the Tribune.
When Ashley Logan becomes embroiled in the search, nothing stops the hard-hitting, investigative reporter, including Chad’s threats to throw her in jail. She’s Mandy’s aunt.
As the mystery of Mandy’s disappearance deepens, unnerving details emerge. Chad refuses to believe they’re connected to his past until the case turns deadly. He’s forced to face the terror that haunts him. It’s waiting in the shadowy depths of the unearthly fog.
This time, it could cost Chad more than his sanity.
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Hotel Pennsylvania (The DreamCatchers Book One) by M.G. Pappas is a children’s fantasy fiction book about a group of young teenagers who go on a vacation with their families to a hotel in Pennsylvania. It seems like a normal trip until they are looking at pictures at the end of the weekend and notice an unknown boy in one of the images. Who is he? Why didn’t they see him when they were taking the picture? The group returns to the same hotel the next weekend to try to discover the boy’s identity. But the truth about Keanu is almost impossible to believe.
The book was a quick read, and it had an interesting premise. I enjoyed the supernatural element in the story with several of the kids having various abilities. The story didn’t go the way I was anticipating. After the mention of the hotel’s age and Nicole thinking that it might be haunted when they first arrived, I thought that Keanu would turn out to be a ghost. It was surprising to learn the truth, and I liked that the author took the story in an unexpected direction. I also liked how the kids worked together to solve the mystery of Keanu’s identity.
The crossword puzzle at the end of the book was fun to complete, with answers that were learned by reading the story.
I enjoyed this book immensely but I felt that there was room for improvement. There was a big focus on social media in the beginning, which was realistic, but not interesting to read about. The narrative sometimes jumped between past and present tense, the story felt rushed in places I would have like more detail, and the kids dialogue seemed a bit stilted at times.
This book is a good example of how interesting characters can really make a story. Put them in interesting situations and you have my undivided attention.
In Book One, Keanu can teleport to other places anywhere in the world, and this is different from the other books in the Dreamcatchers series. Book Two, Cruise to the Past, has the kids traveling back in time, and Book Three, A Chase Through Time, is a story featuring time travel to the future. I like that each book in the series has a unique element to it.
Pages: 118 | ASIN: B078MPTLQY
Albert Morris was turned into a Vampire by the one and only Jack the Ripper. follow him as he hunts for food amongst the criminals of Victorian London, all while hunting for true love. read as he finds love and loss, throughout the years, finally, he ends up in new york, and has to once again fight for his life and love.
The Dream Defenders follows Nolan as he navigates dreams that are becoming increasingly more real and deadly. What was the inspiration for the setup to this unique novel?
I have always enjoyed stories where the main character discovers the world around him is not what it seems, whether that’s by finding out he’s a wizard, learning of the existence of Gods and Goddesses, or discovering a portal to a different world in a closet. Secret organizations fall perfectly into this sort of magical realism, and I thought dreams would be a fascinating topic to explore and have a group that governs them. Once I got the ball rolling with that idea, I had to make sure that actions in the dream world had real life consequences otherwise the stakes were too low. And that’s how deadly nightmares came to fruition.
Nolan is an interesting and well developed character. What were some obstacles you felt were important to his character development?
Nolan is a pretty headstrong kid, and I thought it was important for him to learn that his actions have consequences, both good and bad. And not only do those consequences affect him, but those around him as well. When his family and new friends are placed in danger because of things he’s done, he understands this and works hard to rectify the situation. Because of this he goes from wanting nothing to do with his new baby brother, to stepping up to protect him when no one else will.
The dreamscapes were my favorite part of the novel and were wildly imaginative. What was your process like for bringing these worlds to life?
This is a fun process for me because I’m not bound by any sort of limitations. I can create any dreamscape I want, and there’s nothing that says it even needs to make sense. That said, most do make sense and are have some realistic elements woven into them, but often times I’ll insert an odd character to a regular situation, or change one or two things in a dreamscape to make it discernably different from real life. I may have missed the chance to thematically link them to the overarching theme of the novel, but above all else I just wanted most of them to be fun and provide an interesting backdrop to the story.
What is the next novel that you are writing and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the sequel to the Dream Defenders. I’ll send it to my editor in less than a month (yikes!) and I’m shooting for publication in early December
When fourteen-year-old Nolan Erling wakes up with a headache for the fourth straight day, he suspects the likely culprit to be any number of things—from his annoying baby brother, to vehicular crashes with his elderly neighbor, or even his questionable late-night food choices—not his dreams.
Aeryn Sandman knows the true cause, though. She is a junior agent with the DREAM Institute, a secret organization tasked with protecting the world’s population while they sleep, and she’s on her first assignment.
Her mission: infiltrate Nolan’s life—and his dreams—and keep him safe, all while persuading him to join their protective force.
But recruitment missions are no walk in the park, and Aeryn’s goes horribly wrong when Nolan’s powers unwittingly unleash two dream creatures locked away in a restricted area of the dream world. While Aeryn and Nolan search for ways to contain the escaped beings, they uncover a much greater conspiracy.
For these dreams can kill, and someone is orchestrating their actions in the dream world. If Aeryn and Nolan can’t figure out who is behind it, no dreamer will be safe, and neither will the organization that defends them.
Blooodfest follows an elite squad of soldiers investigating an island when the dead come to life and they must battle death itself. What were some sources of inspiration that helped you write this book?
Bloodfest started as a home made stop motion film, and we – as a team of budding film makers – were definitely inspired by horror movies and video games. As far as writing inspiration goes, I was a fan of Roald Dahl as a child. Then it was Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman as I got older. A lot of these authors often combined dark subjects and comedy, which I really influenced by twisted sense of humour. Bloodfest certainly isn’t shy about being concurrently disgusting and funny.
What was the collaboration like with author James Maddison on this book?
This is a collaboration about twenty two years in the making! I met James at high school. We developed Bloodfest as a stop motion film, using modelling clay to build the characters and my parent’s video camera to film it. I still have fond memories of those characters and events, and I decided to revive Bloodfest as a book series starting with Call of the Conjurer, released in 2014. After I novelised Bloodfest, I gave a first draft to James before doing anything else. He gave his blessing and was equally delighted by the memories.
You write a lot of paranormal fantasy novels. What did you want to do in this book that was different from your other books?
Call of the Conjurer and Typhoon of Fire were both set up as prequels to the inevitable release of Bloodfest, at least in my mind. I wrote them as a means of naturally establishing the characters and their world, with an end goal in mind. While Call of the Conjurer and Typhoon of Fire are subdued, Bloodfest is completely unfettered. The book treads a thin line between fantasy ridiculouness and genuine drama. The characters often react with a sense of tongue-in-cheek self awareness to the nonsense happening all around them. They readily accept it, because it’s the world they live in. The story and the situations are allowed to be convoluted in a way that fantasy / sci fi can get away with.
At the same time, this is a story about death. I’m one to believe that if you want to make an impact on your audience, entertain them at first; let them enjoy the story with a smile, and then strike with the pathos. It leaves a bigger impression. When characters die in Bloodfest, it is always meaningful.
What is the next novel that you are writing and when will you publish it?
After we made the first stop motion film in 1997, we went on to make a Bloodfest 2…
There is definitely a sequel on the way. I’m about 80% through the first draft with a clear intention in mind. The scenario for Bloodfest 2 is very exciting, and oddly prescient with current world events, considering that the source material is over twenty years old. The old gang will be joined by some great new character who I simply cannot leave in the limbo of unfinished novels.
Pacoven, an isolated island chain hidden in the Pacific Ocean. Far from the public eye and carefully monitored by a secretive government order. A place where they can conduct social experiments to influence the rest of mankind.
On Pacoven, unexpected events are usually encouraged for the sake of analysis, but now the dead are coming back to life, and things are getting out of hand.
An elite squad of soldiers armed with extraordinary rare abilities – the gift of magic – head out to investigate the islands. Specially trained for such strange situations, captain Ace Mcdagger and his team must gather survivors and face hordes of zombies, demi-gods, and man-made monsters to discover the cause of the mess before it goes global.
But maybe there is no resolution. Maybe the Grim Reaper – the very nature of Death itself – is their enemy.
The Bloodfest begins.
Son of the Serpent by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is a fantasy novel of vengeance and revenge told from the dual perspective of Dracul, the Son of the serpent, and Lillith, his mother.
Dracul arises in a cave and discovers that he’s encased in a demonic body. He’s filled with agony and confusion as he pieces together his memories to determine how he arrived there. In a painful and shocking epiphany, he realizes that he is the son of Lilith, and that Lilith had tried to kill him. He vows to find out what happened and avenge himself. On this bloodthirsty journey, he faces death, destruction, and betrayal. People, encounters, and events further cement his determination for revenge. The author breathes new life into a host of fantastical characters, often from Biblical settings. Their lives and stories are familiar, yet enshrouded in darkness.
What I found most striking about the book was the depth of its darkness and morbidity. Vivid, gory scenes of slaughter left me uncomfortable, but totally engrossed. Lilith’s sections were almost unbearable. Scenes of Lilith’s cruelty towards others was always accompanied by a fascinating glimpse into her psyche. There’s a lot going on in her and just a surface glimpse was enough to leave me mesmerized. It’s been a while since I encountered such a well-portrayed and dislikable antagonist.
Dracul was just as well-written. His struggle to be good in the face of his own destiny was oddly inspiring. To fight where he came from, to whom he belongs, and the core of his being- his pain and loneliness were palpable. The ending was unexpected, but upon consideration, entirely perfect. Maybe it’s not inherent to him, but it’s clear that Dracul is a good creature.
The Biblical settings and references provided a whole new perspective on the worn-out stories. From angels to Cain and Abel, the otherworldly features heavily in this book- and not always in a favorable light. The Biblical events portrayed from a first-person and real-time perspective were super imaginative. I think it would be difficult to assign a genre to this book. Although it is set primarily in a fantasy world, the dashes of horror, romance, and the occult would make it an interesting read for nearly anyone. The world created by Vashti Quiroz-Vega is totally immersive. I was glad for the escape from reality and I would definitely visit again.
Pages: 303 | ASIN: B07HS4C3B7
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