Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Blue Labyrinth

Authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: November 11, 2014

Source: NetGalley

Book Description (from Goodreads):

Special Agent Pendergast-one of the most original, compelling characters in all of contemporary fiction-returns in Preston and Child’s new exhilarating novel
BLUE LABYRINTH
A long-buried family secret has come back to haunt Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast.
It begins with murder. One of Pendergast’s most implacable, most feared enemies is found on his doorstep, dead. Pendergast has no idea who is responsible for the killing, or why the body was brought to his home. The mystery has all the hallmarks of the perfect crime, save for an enigmatic clue: a piece of turquoise lodged in the stomach of the deceased.
The gem leads Pendergast to an abandoned mine on the shore of California’s Salton Sea, which in turn propels him on a journey of discovery deep into his own family’s sinister past. But Pendergast learns there is more at work than a ghastly episode of family history: he is being stalked by a subtle killer bent on vengeance over an ancient transgression. And he soon becomes caught in a wickedly clever plot, which leaves him stricken in mind and body, and propels him toward a reckoning beyond anything he could ever have imagined…

In a single word, WOW.  I have been reading the Pendergast series for several years now and eagerly await each installment.  I must admit the last few, (Cold Vengeance and Two Graves) while good, just didn’t engross me like Brimstone and the rest of the Diogenes trilogy.  Things picked up with White Fire, but Blue Labyrinth…. well, it was the Pendergast book I had been waiting for.

We get to see some familiar faces, Vincent D’Agosta, Margo Green, and my favorite, Pendergast’s ward, Constance Greene.  One of the best things about this book is that Constance is front and center in the action.

We get to see Pendergast in a new light, he is completely outwitted, and for the first time he has encountered a problem that he is unable to solve solely by himself.  Seeing Pendergast vulnerable made me realize that while his skills are formidable, he is still only human. Sometimes we need to see our heroes brought low before we can truly appreciate them.

There is a lot of Pendergast history spread throughout this book, particularly about a long buried family secret.  With each book we get snippets of what his family was like and Pendergast’s history is just as odd and mysterious as he is.

The pace is non stop with the chapters moving from character to character.  Toward the end each chapter seemed to leave me on a mini cliffhanger and kept me turning page after page to find out what was happening to the characters.  This is the 14th Pendergast book and the dynamic duo of Preston and Child still keep things fresh and exciting for their readers.  I think Blue Labyrinth may have nudged The Cabinet of Curiosities out of the way as my favorite in the Pendergast series.

Blue Labyrinth goes on sale November 11, 2014 and is a must read for fans of the Pendergast series.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Ghostman by Roger Hobbs

Ghostman

Author: Roger Hobbs

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: February 12, 2013

Format: eBook (also available in Hardcover, Paperback, and Audio)

Source: Local Library

327 Pages

Book Description(from Goodreads)

Stunningly dark, hugely intelligent and thoroughly addictive, Ghostman announces the arrival of an exciting and highly distinctive novelist.

When a casino robbery in Atlantic City goes horribly awry, the man who orchestrated it is obliged to call in a favor from someone who’s occasionally called Jack. While it’s doubtful that anyone knows his actual name or anything at all about his true identity, or even if he’s still alive, he’s in his mid-thirties and lives completely off the grid, a criminal’s criminal who does entirely as he pleases and is almost impossible to get in touch with. But within hours a private jet is flying this exceptionally experienced fixer and cleaner-upper from Seattle to New Jersey and right into a spectacular mess: one heister dead in the parking lot, another winged but on the run, the shooter a complete mystery, the $1.2 million in freshly printed bills god knows where and the FBI already waiting for Jack at the airport, to be joined shortly by other extremely interested and elusive parties. He has only forty-eight hours until the twice-stolen cash literally explodes, taking with it the wider, byzantine ambitions behind the theft. To contend with all this will require every gram of his skill, ingenuity and self-protective instincts, especially when offense and defense soon become meaningless terms. And as he maneuvers these exceedingly slippery slopes, he relives the botched bank robbery in Kuala Lumpur five years earlier that has now landed him this unwanted new assignment.

As you can see from many of my previous reviews I read mainly fantasy and (recently) horror.  A few weeks ago I started watching The Blacklist and quickly became addicted to it.  Being the reader that I am, I wondered if there were any books out there similar to it.  A quick Google search brought up Ghostman several times. I do not read many thrillers but since I was so intrigued by The Blacklist I checked out Ghostman from my public library’s Overdrive catalog and decided to give it a try.

I liked the concept of the “ghostman”, someone who for all intents and purposes does not exist.  We do not even know his real name.  He uses the name “Jack”, one he last used five years ago in a foreign bank job that went bad.  That job has come back to haunt him as his old “jugmarker” has asked him to repay a favor and give him the opportunity to wipe the slate clean by cleaning up a casino robbery gone bad.

The level of detail in this book is outstanding.  I work in the technology sector and I appreciate detail.  Some readers do not like loads of detail but I am just the opposite, I love to “get in the weeds” so to speak and wallow in the details.  I was really able to immerse myself in the story with the detailed descriptions of the inner working of banks, armored car deliveries, guns, and the different identities that “Jack” created.

I am not sure if this section is in the hardcover addition but my favorite part of the book was the “Autobiography of the Ghostman”.  That brief section was almost as good as the entire book.

I really enjoyed Ghostman and I think I am going to broaden my reading horizons and read more thrillers, especially if I can find more like this.  Hopefully we will see more of this character in future books by Roger Hobbs.

 

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Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley

“Run, Star Girl.”

BRYONY ADAMS IS DESTINED TO BE MURDERED, but fortunately Fate has terrible marksmanship. In order to survive, she must run as far and as fast as she can. After arriving in Seattle, Bryony befriends a tortured musician, a market fish-thrower, and a starry-eyed hero who is secretly a serial killer bent on fulfilling Bryony’s dark destiny. (Book description from Goodreads.)

I can say without hesitation that this was one of the best books I have read this year. Some books entertain you, some educate you, but some CHANGE you.  Pretty Little Dead Girls changed me in ways that words just can’t express. It was magical, tragic, and inspiring. It made me look at my relationships with family and friends in a whole new light.

“Bryony Adams was the type of girl who got murdered.” This is the opening line in the book and sets the tone of the story.  Bryony Adams, this sweet, wonderful girl, is destined to die, and to add insult to injury (please excuse the pun), to die in a most horrible fashion.  She is such well written character and I immediately fell in love with her. You fell the urge to grab her and keep her safe.  Why, or why should a creature as lovely Bryony have to die? When I read, a full picture of the characters pop into my head and once visualized are set in stone.  The first person that popped into my head after looking at the gorgeous  cover and reading the first few chapters was Claire Danes in her role as Yvaine in Stardust.  I thought it fit perfectly.

I love fairy tales and when I first heard about Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley (published by the wonderful folks at Ragnarok Publications) I couldn’t wait to read it. The novel is billed as “a dark, lovely fairy tale with lyrical language and a high body count”.  The hook was set with “a dark, lovely fairy tale” and the gorgeous cover by Galen Dara. I had been in a bit of a reading rut and was looking for something different.  It was a classic case of “what do you want for dinner?  I have no idea, but I am STARVING”. As readers I am sure you have all been there before. This book was a five course meal that more than satisfied my hunger.

I am not going to go into detail around the plot as the book description gives you enough to go on and I do not want to spoil the experience for other readers. Pretty Little Dead Girls had a wonderful lyrical quality to it.  The prose flowed off the page like a song, beautiful and heartbreaking.  Here are some of my favorite lines from the book.

“She stood as tall as she could, but something was already breaking inside, and Teddy could almost hear it.  The gears of her soul grinding to a halt.  The bright metal filings of it struck and shone like stars.”

“It was a song about making the choice to love when you knew that in the end you would only have empty hands.”

“…now he realized completely how his life would be like without her.  How dark, how empty of magic.” 

“You must know this: there are not always happy endings.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful is this was true?”

“But life was not meant to be fair, it was meant to be lived.”

Like all good fairy tales, Pretty Little Dead Girls has a moral and that moral is life is meant to be lived, regardless of your situation.  Mercedes weaves a dark and magical tale, but as dark as the story is there is an undertone of joy to it all.  I think that is what I loved so much about this book, the beautiful dichotomy of joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy.

I highly recommend Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes M. Yardley.  It goes on sale September 29 and is available for purchase at Ragnarok Publications in ebook, paperback, and a signed hardcover editions (limited time only).

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Press Release: Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy by Mercedes M. Yardley

Elegant Murder and Tragic Prose are in the Stars This Fall

Mercedes M. Yardley’s New Release is Nothing Short of Beautiful

Monday, September 8th—Crestview Hills, KY—“Murder and whimsy.” These things may sound incompatible, but dark fantasy author Mercedes M. Yardley’s latest novel manages to entwine the two concepts with lyrical language, beautiful imagery—and a high body count.

Ragnarok Publications is proud to announce the release of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, coming on September 29th. A dark but lovely fairy tale, this is Yardley at her finest: a tapestry of lush imagery, poetic prose, and beautiful violence about a woman destined to be murdered and her flight from Fate’s inevitable—yet seemingly terrible—marksmanship.

Yardley’s fans are no strangers to her lovely, tragic style. She is also the author of the acclaimed novella “Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love”, winner of the 2013 Reddit Stabby Award for Best Short Fiction, and the novel Nameless: The Darkness Comes, the first of The Bone Angel trilogy.

The creation of Pretty Little Dead Girls was something special for Yardley, however: “Pretty Little Dead Girls was created out of sheer joy,” Yardley says. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. This novel was written in three weeks. It bled from my pores, it was so intense. But so joyful.”

Hugo award-winning artist Galen Dara was commissioned to create a cover image that would capture the idea of lovely murder. The result, coupled with the design skills of J.M. Martin, is absolutely stunning. So stunning, in fact, that Ragnarok Publications has decided to release a special, limited hardcover edition of the book. Only one hundred of these signed hardcovers will be available, and preorders have already begun.

Also included in the package for the preordered hardcovers is a signed print from artist Orion Zangara, renowned for creating fairy tales with his lavish pen and ink drawings. Dark and evocative, this stunning image by Zangara was made with a particular scene from Pretty Little Dead Girls in mind.

Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy is not just a novel; with the poignant words of Mercedes M. Yardley, and the haunting images of both Dara and Zangara, it is, without a doubt, a work of art.

The special signed hardcover edition of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy, along with the Orion Zangara print, is NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER. http://www.ragnarokpub.com/#!apocmon-boneangel/c234g

Contact Ragnarok’s Publicity Coordinator, Melanie R. Meadors, with questions and/or requests.

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Chelsea Avenue by Armand Rosamilia

On July 8th 1987, in Long Branch, New Jersey, The Haunted House Pier and Murphy’s Law club fires destroyed not only local landmarks, but everything Manny Santiago found dear.

And it isn’t over.

The entity responsible for killing Manny’s family and wreaking devastation in the small seaside community has reappeared. Again. As it has every year since. And is growing in power.

Every July 8th it returns, as survivors of the fires, including Manny, are mysteriously led back to the now-vacant seaside lot on Chelsea Avenue, where the entity intends to finish what it started in 1987 once and for all. (Book description from Goodreads.)

If you had asked me two years  ago if I were a horror fan I would have probably told you no, but over the course of those two years I have been reading more and more horror fiction.  When I had to the opportunity to review a new horror novel from Ragnarok Publications, purveyor of all things dark and fantastic, I jumped at the chance.  I was certainly not disappointed.

Manny Santiago lost his parents on July 8th, 1987, his birthday,  in a fire that destroyed his parents club, Murphy’s Law, on Chelsea Avenue. The fire claimed many lives and the town of  Long Branch is never the same.  The survivors of the fire are not safe as they have been “marked” and return to the site each year on the anniversary of the fire only to meet their doom.

Armand Rosamilia weaves a dark, and horrific tale.  I enjoyed the way the book was written, each chapter representing a year and set on the July 8th, the date of the fire.  After a few chapters the hook was really set and each subsequent chapter pulled me further and further into the story. Watching Manny’s slow decline year by year filled me with dread, as much so as the terrifying entity that was drawing people to their death each year. Rosamilia captures the essence of what a true horror story is to me, ancient and evil forces are at work and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.  That feeling of helplessness is what really scares me and that feeling is prevalent throughout the entire book.  The reader is inexorably pulled along with Manny and the survivors of that fateful night to a horrific climax.

I really enjoyed Chelsea Avenue and Rosamilia brings the landscape to life.  I could smell the salty air and the stink of stagnant water.  I would visualize the desolate ruin of the strip of land where Murphy’s Law once stood.  These wonderful visual effects added extra punch to the story and held me fast, turning page after page late into the night.  The icing on the cake was the amazing cover art by the talented Shawn King.  I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good horror story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Ragnarok Publications, in return for an honest review.

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Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber

 

Swords and Deviltry, the first book of Leiber’s landmark series, introduces us to a strange world where our two strangers find the familiar in themselves and discover the icy power of female magic. Three master-magician femme-fatales and a sprightly lad illuminate the bonds between father and son, the relationship between the bravado of the imagination, and the courage of fools. A hedge wizard explains the cold war between the sexes. Mouse and Fafhrd meet again and learn the truth of how Mouse became the Gray Mouser. Together they traverse the smoke and mirrors of Lankhmar learning more and more of the foggy world in which they live, mapping the sinister silent symptoms of the never-ending night-smog. They follow the night-smog’s relation to the region’s longing for larceny and the hazy opiate of vanity. Last but certainly not least, they experience the pleasures and pains of the City of Sevenscore Thousand Smokers that will lead them to countless more adventures and misadventures. (Book description taken from Goodreads.)

Fritz Leiber has been on my reading list for years because many of my favorite authors cite him as inspiration for their writing. I first heard the name Fritz Leiber from the appendix of my 2nd edition Dungeon Masters Guide under “recommended reading”. I knew who Fafrd and the Gray Mouser were but never knew their stories. I am glad that I have finally taken the time to read them and consider it time well spend with an author that is said to have coined the term “swords and sorcery”.

Swords and Deviltry is made up of the first three stories of the famous (or should I say infamous) duo. The first is The Snow Women and is Fafrhd’s tale of how he escaped his home and came to be in Lankhmar. The second, The Unholy Grail is Gray Mouser’s story. The third, Ill Met in Lankhmar tells the tale of how the two met and the tragedy that formed their friendship.

I enjoyed the first two stories more than the third. I enjoy origin stories and it was entertaining to read how these two icons of fantasy came to be. The first two stories had a much more serious tone to them and did not have the levity of the third when Fafrd and the Gray Mouser meet for the first time. The third story is well named and certainly the darkest of the three.

I really enjoyed this book and am planning on reading the rest of the series.

This book is from my personal library.

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Talulla Rising by Glen Duncan

 

When I change, I change fast. The moon drags the whatever-it-is up from the earth, and it goes through me with crazy wriggling impatience . . . I’m twisted, torn, churned, throttled—then rushed through a blind chicane into ludicrous power . . . A heel settles. A last canine hurries through. A shoulder blade pops. The woman is a werewolf.  (Book description from Goodreads)

Warning is post contains spoilers if you have not read The Last Werewolf.

Tallula Rising is the sequel to The Last Werewolf.  As the title indicates this book focuses on Talulla, who was introduced near the end of The Last Werewolf.  Jake Marlow is dead, killed by WCOP (World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomena) the same people who are hunting her.  They are going to have to stand in line because the vampires are after her too.  Sound cliche?  Sound like every other werewolf/vampire book you have read?  While the theme may sound familiar, the execution is far from it.  Duncan creates a world where the classic monsters are real but does so in a way that kept me turning the pages.  Talulla is a monster, something she freely admits, but here is where Duncan deviates from the typical self loathing monster trope.  Talulla accepts what she is.  While this does not mean that she is not remorseful about killing and feeding on humans once a month, she understands and accepts it.  I really liked this aspect of the book.  Duncan created a monster that I wanted to befriend knowing all the while she would probably kill me.  Having  monsters that were not killing for the sake of killing and at the same not wallowing in self-pity at their monstrous appetites made room for an engaging story with very interesting characters.

The premise is straightforward, Talulla is pregnant with Jake Marlow’s child and moments after the birth of her son he is kidnapped (not going to give any spoilers here but another unexpected twist occurs as well) by vampires to be used a ritual to raise the oldest living vampire to power.  At first blush this sounded like the plot of the next Blade movie, but it was the characters that really did it for me.  I was so focused on what Talulla and company were thinking and feeling that the whole “vampire ritual” theme took a backseat. 

I liked the way the story unfolded, Talulla struggling with the loss of her child and wondering what kind of mother a werewolf would make, legends of the oldest living vampire, Remshi, and then there was the constant pull of the monster inside her.  I will say that this book is rather graphic and not for the squeamish.  There are graphic depictions of werewolves killing and having sex (occasionally at the same time) but Duncan does it in a way that works.  The sex and violence, both a prominent occurrence in the book, doesn’t get in the way of the overall story.

I really enjoyed Tallula Rising and am looking forward to the third book in the series, By Blood We Live

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