A sequel I couldn’t put down!

In fall 2016 Suzanne Robb released Dead by Midnight, a clever supernatural mystery set in a town where supernatural beings live with otherwise normal citizens. Robb uses humorous snips from reporter Lucy Lane’s articles at the beginning her chapters to introduce readers to the various locations and people in the town. These are very tongue-in-cheek, and absolutely well written. (They are part of what helped to make Lucy one of my personal favorites.)

If you haven’t read Dead by Midnight, I urge you to stop reading this post. You’re going to spoil a great mystery with fantastic characters. Go and purchase the book (available on Kindle and traditional paperback) and start there. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

Since you’re still reading, I’m going to assume you’ve read book 1, and are now ready for the sequel.

I really envy you!

Reading a book for the first time is a special experience. Even more so when it deals with a really strange murder mystery. In Apocalypse by Midnight, Chief Elliot Jorgensen, Lucy, Zach, and Buddy are trying their best to get back to a normal life after catching the serial killer in book 1. Zach and Lucy are dating, Sheriff Elliott is drinking heavily and trying to avoid any meetings with the mysterious mayor, and Buddy is enjoying life as an undercover house pet.

Bodies start showing up in strange places around town, and it has the mayor worried. These aren’t just any citizens, they’ve all got ties to the elusive and reclusive Private Acres. Elliot and Zach have to find a way to solve the crime without letting tenacious Lucy get too close. Despite her best efforts, Lucy still isn’t in the inner circle of people who know about Fantasy Land, and those who stumble onto the knowledge have a way of meeting a mysterious end. Unfortunately, neither Elliott nor Zach are any good at lying, and Lucy finds her way into the case despite their best efforts.

As if this weren’t enough chaos, Zach’s friend Riley comes back from a trip as an unconventional vampire. He can’t stand rain or molasses, and even though he’s dating the woman of his dreams, he has certain…physical setbacks. Lucky for him Gretel doesn’t seem to mind. What she does mind is Lucy – whose curiosity is mistaken for an interest in hurting Riley. Zach and Riley are trying to get their friendship back on track, but that’s hard to do when Zach realizes goofy Riley may just be the killer.

Gretel’s brother, Hans, works security for Private Acres, but he’s not overly fond of nosy girlfriends, half-assed vampires, or witches. In fact, the only things he seems to care for are his sister, and anything sugary.

As the mystery of the bodies is unraveled, Zach, Elliot, and Lucy find themselves in a race against the clock. This isn’t any regular serial killer mystery – it’s only the beginning of a plot that will cause the apocalypse. As if that weren’t hair-raising enough, just when the group needs each other the most they begin to splinter off into factions, driven by an unnatural paranoia.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading Apocalypse by Midnight, wondering if the group would get it together in time to solve the mystery, or if the apocalypse was all but unavoidable. Not to mention – just what kind of monster leaves such a strange crime scene?! I thought I knew the habits of every kind of monster out there, but Robb has one again created a delightful surprise for the reader.

If you had asked me a couple of years ago if I was into mysteries, I would have told you no. That’s no longer the case. The By Midnight series is, in large part, what has changed my views. I’ve started branching out into other mystery books, even when there is no supernatural element. I can think of no greater compliment for an author than that reading their books has opened up new avenues for the reader. Getting me to turn from supernatural and horror stories is no small feat, but Suzanne Robb has accomplished just that. The mystery elements and plot twists in her story were so satisfying that I didn’t want the story to end, and I am pleased that she is keeping the series open to more titles in the future. (On a side note, if, like me, you can’t get enough of wily Lucy Lane after reading the series, you can follow her adventures in between books at All Things Strange and Unusual.)

 

 

More Bite than Sparkle

Before I start this review, there’s a little bit of a disclaimer I need to go into first. Part one is that when Stephen was writing Hunter of the Dead, he crowd-sourced names off Facebook through a random draw on a post. I figured what the hell, and did it. I was one of the people picked. Therefore, should you take my sage advice and read this book, I’m one of the characters. When I was chosen, he contacted me, and asked if I had any requests. As I recall, I told him not to make the character suck (as if that were ever a remote possibility!)

The second part of the disclaimer is that I was approached to write a review, and gifted a copy. The price, was that I had to write an honest review. That’s always a piece of cake with Stephen, because his books are fantastic.

All of that being said, I had no idea where the story was going when I started. I was pretty sure it was about vampires, and an elite vampire killer. But the story started off with what I thought were zombies. As it turns out, zombies are what people become if they can’t stand the change to a vampire, or if their sire screws up the process. You see, vampires in Stephen’s world don’t need to drink blood after they get to a certain level of badass. They are able to draw the life source directly out of their victims. The zombies are the cleanup crew. As in, they come in and devour the remains of the meals. It’s a mess, but there’s always a bottom feeder, isn’t there?

The reader follows several main characters throughout the story. Cicatrice is the most powerful vampire, he rules House Cicatrice, one of the 13 vampire houses. Otto Signari is his rival, the leader of House Signari. Topan is Cicatrice’s get, but he is dishonored in favor of Idi Han. Idi Han was sired by Topan, and he to gain acclaim and respect by siring such a powerful get. Idi Han, for her part, doesn’t want to be a pawn in anyone’s game.

Just as there are vampires, there are also Inquistors, or vampire hunters. Bonaparte believes that the Inquisitors should centralize and put their strength together. Carter Price believes that it’s better to go rogue, because then nobody can rat anyone else out if they’re caught. When a vicious vampire attack at the convenience store where he works blows his cover, he’s forced to take his shift manager, Nico, on as an apprentice. Disillusioned with the direction the Inquisitors are heading, Price bears this burden with no small amount of sass.

Amidst all of this turmoil, vampires start dying in rather large numbers. Too large for the Inquisitors to be involved, according to Cicatrice. He believes the legendary Hunter of the Dead has come back, but he’s not sure why.

I really wish that I could say more about the book’s plot, but I fear that I’ve given away too much already! There is intrigue, romance, mystery, and outright horror awaiting any reader brave enough to open Hunter of the Dead. When you’re done, I highly suggest checking out his other novels. They’re always fun, fast-paced, and well worth the read.

Wowza!

I was familiar with Suzanne before I was familiar with her writing. We met because we had several mutual friends on Facebook, and both of our profile lokipictures featured our Boston Terriers. (On the right, you’ll find a picture of Loki, Suzanne’s Boston, serving as her PR manager.) That got us talking, and that’s how I found out she was a talented author, and she found out I was a voracious reader with a penchant for reviewing.

Suzanne is quite the writer. I’ve read different series by her, as well as stories she’s published in anthologies. If pressed, it would be hard to come up with a favorite. That is, until she sent me a copy of Dead by Midnight. In the interest of being fair, I did receive a reviewer copy, but it was with the understanding that my review would be honest. Whether scathing or glowing.

I can honestly say that Dead by Midnight is now my favorite of her titles. I first came across the zygote of the story in Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh My! She took what she started, and drew it out not only to full length, but is planning a series. (Amazon already has Dead by Midnight listed as Volume 1.)

The story is rich and the plot is involved. Elliot is the new Chief and detective in Logansville. He partners up with tenacious paranormal reporter Lucy Lane in order to crack the case of a serial killer that’s been sending body parts in jars to the police department. Lucy names the serial killer The Moonlight Killer, because he kills during the full moon, and the body parts arrive afterward.

dead-by-midnightAlso tangled up in the plot is Zach Harris, who is a student living with a weirdo and a clingy, gold-digging girlfriend. When he’s not studying, or buying things for his ungrateful girlfriend, he’s working as a shot boy at Shakers, the local gay bar. Even though he’s straight, it’s good money, and the employees all think he’s the bee’s knees. As if Zach weren’t living life on the edge as is, one night he’s bitten by a werewolf. During the attack, he bites a chunk out of the werewolf’s ear. From there, it gets weird.

When the moon is full, Zach becomes a werewolf, while the wolf becomes a man. (Were-man?) During the rest of the time, the wolf follows him around as his pet dog, Buddy. At first Lucy believes a werewolf is the killer, but when she deduces that Zach is a werewolf, she changes her mind. Elliot has enough trouble believing Zach is a werewolf, let alone that the mayor is a vampire, and the whole town is steeped in the paranormal in one way or another.

The race is on – for Zach to clear his name, Elliot to find and stop the killer, and Lucy to find out why Zach has been acting so weird, and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the serial killer. Time is running out, every day closer to the full moon is a day closer to the killer striking again!

Dead by Midnight is an engrossing read. The plot is complex, but not to the point of losing the reader. The characters are multi-dimensional and extremely interesting. The supporting characters are just quirky or interesting enough to be remembered, but not to the point of outshining the principal characters. (Suzanne – bring back Ramon and the rest of the Shakers gang in the next books, please!) There are a few red herrings as to who the killer is, but that’s good. I don’t like reading books where the plot is so thin you see every twist and turn as its happening. Even though I read the zygote story before, it was still a surprise for me when I discovered who the killer was. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting that character!

I’m also eternally grateful that Suzanne didn’t just end the story after the climactic fight between the good guys and the serial killer. (That’s right – no spoilers!) Sometimes books do that – they just drop off and don’t go anywhere. Suzanne followed up with the characters and set the stage for the next book. I can’t wait to see where she goes from there!

In the meantime, if you’re wanting to keep up with the adventures of Lucy Lane, reporter, follow her at her blog, All Things Strange and Unusual. If you’re looking to find out more about Suzanne, head to her blog here. When you’re on her blog, don’t forget to sign up, during which you’ll receive a complimentary short story pack including the story that would become Dead by Midnight. (I read it when it first came out, the stories are awesome!)

Once you’ve read Dead by Midnight, be sure to head on over to Amazon.com and leave a review. Reviews help writers keep doing what they love best!

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

Tonight is my night off – and I’m spending it in the nerdiest way possible. I’m working on crocheting a temperature blanket and watching horror movies.  (For those that don’t know, a temperature blanket is a year-long project, where every day the highest or lowest temperature is recorded, and a row is added to the blanket with a color corresponding to the temperature.) I haven’t watched any movie recommendations from my brother lately, so tonight I decided on Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. To be honest, it was an arbitrary pick. I don’t remember him specifically recommending it, but it’s on a list of movies he has watched, so I figured what the hell. Anyways, it’s always good to discuss old horror with Dipper, who is very knowledgeable.

dr terrorI was immediately pleased to see that Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Donald Sutherland were in it. (Kid you not – Donald Sutherland looks just like his son, Keifer, in this movie!) I’m sure there’s other actors that I’ll recognize, but none by name.

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors is an anthology movie, or rather, it’s composed of several stories woven together by a central theme. The mysterious Dr. Schreck tells the fortunes of five strangers on a train. Each fortune is a story about their future, and the horrors that will befall them. In the first one, “Werewolf“, Jim goes to his former home to make alterations for the family that lives there. While there, he finds the coffin of Count Cosmo Valdemar, and hears a legend that the Count turns into a werewolf hellbent on killing the widow living in the house. The truth, he will find out, is much more terrifying.

Creeping Vine” is the second fortune, and in it, Bill returns with his family from vacation to their home. Bill’s wife asks him to get rid of the vine that has sprung up seemingly out of nowhere, fearing it will overpower the hydrangeas. Instead of overpowering the other plants in the garden, the creeping vine has higher aspirations. Soon the family is trapped in the house, with a homicidal vine covering every window. It becomes a fight for survival between the plant and the family, with only one victor.

Voodoo” is adapted from a story by Cornell Woolrich called “Papa Benjamin”. Biff is playing a jazz gig in the West Indies, where he overhears a voodoo ceremony. Enthralled by the music, he decides to sample one of the songs in the ceremony. He ignores a warning not to steal the song, which belongs to the devotees of the god Damballah, who is portrayed as fierce and not taken to sharing his rituals with nonbelievers for the purpose of entertainment. Biff more than ignores the warning, even incorporating the high priest’s mask into the background for his performance stage.

In “Disembodied Hand“, Christopher Lee plays Franklin Marsh, a scathing art critic. He publicly humilates artist Eric Landor during a heated exchange at a gallery. Marsh, not to be outdone, hits Landor with his car. Landor loses his hand, and with it the ability to paint. He then kills himself. His disembodied hand seeks revenge.

Vampire“, features Donald Sutherland as a doctor returning to the United States with his French wife. They no sooner settle down when there begin a rash of strange killings. He enlists the help of his friend Dr. Blake, who helps him discover the true identity of the vampire. But that’s not the end of Sutherland’s problems, as he is soon betrayed by his friend.

I’m incredibly sorry that most of these descriptions are sparse at best. Despite the film’s small running time of 98 minutes, each story is absolutely packed with great acting, fast-paced storytelling, and quirky twist endings. That’s why I can’t divulge the last story, “Epilogue“, which is the wrap-around tale for the film. Suffice to say, it’s absolutely brilliant.

I had never heard of this film until I saw it in my brother’s collection, but I will say this much: this is exactly why I listen to all of his recommendations. I’m also pleased that I’m expanding my horizons when it comes to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who until I started watching the old horror movies, were known to me only in their later careers. I’m not going to lie, films like this also cause a certain degree of melancholy. At the risk of sounding cliche, they just don’t make horror films like these anymore. Straight-up storytelling with no gimmicks. Well acted. Decent production value. And well-written tales. I’m already sorry for the day I’ve seen all the older horror films I can, because it really is an experience to watch them for the first time with fresh eyes.

Platonic Valentine’s Day

This year, Dipper and I celebrated Platonic Valentine’s Day. We got each other
cards, he got me a candy bar (it was DIVINE! Chocolate and crystalized ginger…be still my beating heart!) I can’t tell you what I got him just yet, as it hasn’t arrived. midnight blueBut he had apparently been searching high and low for a particular book to give to me. It’s called Midnight Blue, by Nancy Collins.

There’s a couple reasons why this is such a noteworthy gift, not the least of which is that he described it was one of the two most important books he’d ever read. (The first, Norwegian Wood, was my Christmas present. And it’s going to get it’s own post. When I’m over the extreme trauma of reading it. I’m not even kidding. If you ever want to have your heart torn out, slowly, surely, and page by page, that’s the book for you.) The next is that he found me the omnibus edition. I’m a completist. If I start a series, I like to be able to read all of them. With this particular edition, I don’t have to hunt down all the volumes. It contains Sunglasses After Dark, In the Blood, and Paint It Black.

I’m on a big werewolf kick at the moment, but I am deeply intrigued by the title and the character. Apparently she’s a vampire vampire slayer. No, that wasn’t a typo. And she’s badass. I’m going to try and chew through the few books I’m working on now and then start this. CANNOT. WAIT.

My New Favorite Movie

All apologies in advance to Dipper, who is going to read this post soon after publication. (I can see the eye roll in my mind’s eye.) Why the apologies, you ask? Because he rues the day he showed me this film. You see, Dipper and I bonded over horror movies and paraphernalia. It quickly became clear that I was not as up to date on all the horror movies that I should be. (Which will be the subject of subsequent posts – of which this will be the first.) what we do in the shadows

I have been absolutely positively stuck on What We Do in the Shadows since November/December. By “stuck on”, I mean Dipper and I can’t have a conversation with another human being where we recommend movies without it coming up. “Stuck on” as in my poor husband is sitting at his computer watching it with me on our TV while I write this post. It’s really getting to be quite a thing. “Stuck on” as in we had a guest in from Kuwait and I flat out insisted on showing him this film. (Poor Pickells – though he did enjoy it immensely.)

That isn’t necessarily unwarranted though. I’ve just burned them out on this movie. I will be counting for hours if I count all the ways that I adore this movie! It’s a send-up of everything vampire. Nosferatu. The Lost Boys. Everything and anything vampire. The catch is that they’re all really out of date, and each one is a caricature of a popular vampire stereotype. Petyr lives in an upright sarcophagus in the basement (he’s Nosferatu-based) and they pass him chickens through the opening. Viago is my favorite. He’s a dandy, based on Anne Rice’s characters in Interview with the Vampire. Deacon is a Nazi Vampire, and if he is based on anything, it’s nothing I’m aware of. That being said, he likes to knit and is very petty. Vladislaw is the Vlad the Impaler/Dracula mix. He thinks he’s ultra sexy, and favors lap dancing.

It’s also a send-up of housemate comedies, as the vampires are living together in a sort of vampire frathouse. The movie is a faux documentary, in which an unseen documentary crew follows the vampires as they go about their business. They hold flatmate meetings, have victims over for dinner parties, and attempt to go out on the town. No matter what they’re doing, it’s always one step away from a total disaster. There is not one competent vampire in the whole bunch. Despite a lifespan of several hundred years, they are not able to easily kill and drain their victims. They have “batfights” (a send-up of cat fights). And in general fail at everything they try.

Yes, I can almost hear what you’re thinking. Trust me – this movie is worth it in every sense. It’s by the people who ares responsible for Flight of the Conchords, and it’s very reminiscent of Shawn of the Dead. They’re lovable in their incompetence.

What We Do in the Shadows is a movie that bears watching multiple times. Each time you’ll find a subtlety that you missed the first time, and that only adds to the experience. It’s also a nice compromise for people who love horror, but have friends who aren’t exactly into it. There’s just enough general humor that anyone can appreciate it. (Unless their favorite movie is The Notebook – in which case there may be no hope for them.) My husband has seen this movie about four times and he’s still laughing as I’m writing this post. It holds up to multiple viewings, and it’s pretty much the greatest movie ever.

Make way for the Temptress!

It’s been quite some time since I’ve read any poetry, or written any.  To be honest, aside from the tongue-in-cheek holiday poetry books at Barnes & Noble, I didn’t even know that there was horror poetry available.  Thankfully, my ignorance was corrected earlier this year when I met Ladyaslan.   I met the remarkably intuitive poet in quite an unremarkable way.  We followed the same page on Facebook, and gradually began messaging.  I told her I ran a blog, she told me she wrote, and the rest is history.

The cover art of Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights alludes to the mysteries in the pages that follow.  While reading herladyaslan1 poetry, I couldn’t help but marvel at her boundless versatility.  Some of the poems are from the point of view of the hapless victims, sucked into the arms of the shadows of the night.  Other poems are voiced by the huntress, stalking the unaware who have only minutes of innocence left to them.  Still others are dark musings under moonlit skies.  You’ll meet vampires and revenants, and if you’re keen enough, you might pick out a succubus or two.  There are poems of regret and loss, poems of love and warning.  Ladyaslan moves deftly from emotion to emotion, all the while making it look easier than breathing.

By far, my favorite entry was entitled Gothix, which is a an opium and absinthe-soaked nightmare.  All of my favorite elements were in attendance: great atmosphere, graveyard charm, and fantastical monsters.  I have to confess that after I finished it, I had to read it again!  The second time was even better, because I picked up on nuances that I had missed the first time.

When you pick up your copy of Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights, make sure you set aside a long block for reading.  Once you start, you’re not going to want to stop.  Before you begin, make sure your tea is ready, your chores are done, and your phone is turned off.  You’ll want to give her your full attention.  Extra points if you’re reading this in a dimly lit room on a dark and stormy night, wrapped in your favorite lace shawl (gentlemen – feel free to substitute your favorite robe for shawl!)

If you’re wondering where you can purchase your own copy, have no fear!  Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights is available in every format you could want – electronic, paperback, and hardcover.  You can purchase it on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and directly from her publisher, Xlibris.  In short, there’s no reason you don’t own this book right now.

The End of the Sparkly Vampire

Jack Hamlyn has officially returned the vampire to it’s rightful place in vampirushorror.  The tyranny of the sparkly vampire has come to an end.  Hamlyn’s new tale, Vampirus, goes back to the roots of the creature.  His vampires don’t drive stylish cars and make friends with the local mortals.  They die in delirious agony, and come back for their loved ones at night.  They come to the windows, speaking lovingly, all the while scratching at the windows with their clawed hands.  Hamlyn’s vampires are disease vectors, who use bites to spread it others.

I couldn’t put this book down.  It was almost too much to bear – watching one man struggle nightly against the reanimated body of his wife and daughter.  Hamlyn kept the story moving along at a brisk pace, which is not an easy feat considering during the majority of the book, the protagonist was searching for his vampire family.  Hamlyn created the perfect antagonist as well.  He took a community member, dear to the protagonist, and turned her against him.  Hamlyn made her the embodiment of evil, a ruthless predator toying with our hero every step of the way.

Vampirus is a fascinating book, and I highly suggest that everyone go to amazon.com and pick it up.  It’s a quick and engaging read, and features vampires with some bite to them!

 

 

Scary crochet patterns…

Homemade Cthulhu, adapted from pattern in Cree...

Image via Wikipedia

This post does not include the many patterns you can find for free online.  I don’t want to post those just yet, because I want to make sure that I give proper credit to those brave men and women who came up with them.  Again, links to amazon.com are provided.

Not too many of these types of books out there yet, but let’s hope!

Romantic zombies?

Jacques Torres chocolates...mmmm

Image via Wikipedia Valentine's Day - and zombies !?

Now, I’m going to be very clear about something – I do not read paranormal romance novels.  Or any romance novels, for that matter.  However, a friend found this book for me at a library sale and bought it for 25 cents, based on the fact that its a zombie novel.  I’m currently reading it because it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I figured that now would be a good time to post something about this quirky book.

“My Zombie Valentine” is divided into four mini-novels, each by a different woman.  I started (and finished) the first one today.  It’s called “Bring Out Your Dead” and was written by Katie MacAlister.  Far from being an annoying story, I thought it was interesting and boasted a rich cast of characters.  The central character, Ysabelle (or Belle, for short) is a double-souled counselor of revenants (you and I know them as zombies).  She is aided by a crazy spirit guide named Sally, who seems to think a bad mix of French and English makes her cultured.  Sebastian is the Dark One (vampire) in need of salvation from our dual-souled heroine.  There winds up being a love triangle (trust me – you’ll want to read this story – so I’m not going to spoil all the fun for you!) And let’s not forget my favorite peanut gallery – led by Tim the revenant (zombie) and William (who lost all of his body but his head in a rather unfortunate accident involving a demon lord, some imps, a child, and a whole lot of hellfire.)

Rather than being bogged down by all the heady romance, “Bring Out Your Dead” is built solidly on plot twists and interesting facts.  The story doesn’t stall an get boring, but rather gives tidbits of information as necessary while maintaining an interesting pace.  The characters are easy to like, and make the book a joy to read.  I think William may be my favorite, since he falls off the no-meat wagon and starts trying to eat his own body complaining that he’s just a “little peckish” and that if anyone isn’t using their toes or fingers could he please help himself.

If the rest of the stories in “My Zombie Valentine” are half as good as “Bring Out Your Dead”, then I am certainly in for a good read !  You would do well to pick the book up yourself, although I might add that the book is geared heavily towards the female persuasion.  Men be warned !  While a good book, you may not like the romance side.  (Which is just fine with me – most zombie books are without a romantic side anyway…)