Blackbird Vol. 1 by by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel (Artist)

About

Nina Rodriguez knows a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals is hiding in Los Angeles. When a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. Don’t miss the first collection of the smash-hit neo-noir fantasy series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL (Mighty Thor)!

Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback
  • 168 pages
  • Expected publication: May 14th 2019 by Image Comics
  • ISBN1534312595 (ISBN13: 9781534312593)
  • Edition Language English
  • SeriesBlackbird #1-6

My Thoughts

Blackbird Vol. 1 was a decent comic. It is visually well put together. The story is interesting but I felt it was rough and flat in sections. More detail could be added to flush out the characters and back stories. Substance abuse was represented in the story, but that did not feel authentic. “I need my pills. I need my pills.” Then now what? It felt as if it was a side note, and not a major part of the characters life. As the issues progressed, the story and writing became better and more coherent.

The visuals were very well put together. Often when looking at the page it seemed like the colors would pop out at you and start blinking like a neon sign would. The character design and aesthetics had a manga vibe for me which was interesting. Over the top and over saturated. I will be looking into the next issues to see what happens with the characters if I happen upon the books. Otherwise I might give future reading a pass.


Procurement

I received an electronic copy of this via Edelweiss+ and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

Sam Humphries is a comic artist living in Los Angeles.

Review of Cryptofauna by Patrick Canning

Jim held a stern look on Oz. This was insane. Even for your-crazy-is-our-normal St. Militrude’s, this was insane.

Synopsis

A young janitor working at an insane asylum is about to commit suicide when he’s rudely interrupted by one of the residents and recruited to play in a game called Cryptofauna—a bizarre competition of worldwide meddling and mischief that might actually give the blue custodian a reason to live, assuming he survives the dangerous world of the game.


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Edition
  • 289 pages
  • Published December 7th 2018

So Jim’s glass was half full 98% of the time. Now though, he risked wandering into that realm of healthier milk, the 2%.

My Thoughts

Aside from his steak-and-cherry-only diet, Oz practiced another ritual that might have been considered strange were it performed outside the context of St. Mili’s. Months ago, the persuasive giant had used his slick cajolery to secure one of the only rooms in the facility equipped with its own bathtub. A man of seemingly endless skill, Oz had jerry-rigged St. Mili’s behemoth water heater to produce water at two hundred and eleven degrees Fahrenheit, just a notch below boiling point. Every night he’d fill his tub with the scalding water, add a sprinkling of a homemade spice mix (comprised principally of garlic and gunpowder), and slide his body in to cook.

Cryptofauna is a crazy batshit insane book. But in a good way. It is almost impossible to describe the plot to you, and If I even tried you would look at me like I lost my damn mind. Imagine writing a bunch of randomly selected nouns on papers, tossing them in a hat and producing a great story out of them. That is what Patrick Canning did.

Nouns include a Job at an insane asylum, cilantro, a bag of ash, the color blue, a dog, a Belgian, being marooned, leprous long living French monks, a body press made of mint, and shape-shifting animals.

That is just the start. It is a fantastically strange book where you completely fall in love with the characters and cheer Jim and his cohorts on in the grand competition. You want Jim to win, and you want to keep reading to see what else Canning can pull out of a hat. It is a great adventure, well worth checking out. You will not believe the Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy/Alice in Wonderland type journey the author will take you on. Give it a try.


Procurement

I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author – Patrick Canning

Patrick was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Illinois, and now lives in California with his dog, HANK.

Review of Middlegame by Seanan Mcguire

“The universe operates according to several basic principles”

Middlegame by Seanan Mcguire

About

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come quickly to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realize it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Kindle Edition
  • 528 pages
  • Expected publication: May 7th 2019 by Tor.com Publishing ASINB07HF2ZK75
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

“Words can be whispered bullet-quick when no one’s looking, and words don’t leave blood or bruises behind. Words disappear without a trace. That’s what makes them so powerful. That’s what makes them so important.

That’s what makes them hurt so much.”

I am sitting in stunned silence. I finished dashing through the last thirty pages of Middlegame about 5 mins ago’ I now have the most unsettling feeling of, “Now what? Please story; don’t end.” Alas, it did as it would have to. And I am sitting here twiddling my thumbs and wishing for so much more. I miss Roger and Dodger already.

Middlegame is as it is purported to be, it is a middle, the midway, the equidistant point between the beginning and the end. The term middlegame refers to space between the opening and endgame in chess. A space that often blends into both the opening and the endgame where there is not a sharply seen divide. It is an interesting play on definitions. The middle of a story, the middle of a chess game, and the story in its entirety is an elaborate chess game.

The middle is the most crucial part of most stories. Openings are but a fleeting moment that sends the characters on their path while endings are the explosion like a volcano after many years. Endings are the outcome. But the middle is the actual story. Middlegame is written about all the points in between for Roger and Dodger. Their tales are not done, although I have the sneaking suspicion that this story is a single book, not planned for a series.

I could tell you that this story is about twins, but so what. There are a million stories about twins. I could tell you it is about alchemy. Again, so what. It doesn’t do any of it justice. So how about this, “Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come quickly to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.” More so Rodger understands that naming something gives it power. Language in all its forms has power. “Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.” Math is in every movement of a bird, thing of beauty; math is sunsets, waterfalls and the first cry from a newborn. Math is a creation. But Roger’s powers of language allow him to solidify creations through words. They work together.

The intertwoven, multi-decade story is about the intertwining of to opposite forces whose lives, and love meshes together like the roots of a gnarled old oak tree. Rodge and Dodge need each other, and through McGuire’s excellent writing we can see that need coalesce into a yearning and a struggle. Sometimes the intertwining to the two of them feels like iron band banded around them, other times the intertwining is a hug from a long departed loved one in arms you never want to let go again. All of this is under the watchful eye of Reed, an alchemist, whose plans to exploit them for his own game have been the spiderweb the twins have lived in their whole lives.

But love, curiosity, leadership –

those are equally important,

or they wouldn’t exist. Nature

abhors a vacuum.

Nothing without purpose

has been made.

I can’t tell you many details from the plot save for Rodger, and Dodger have been pulled apart and pushed together most of their lives. In the pulling and pushing they have figured out mostly who they want to be, but only when the other is around can they obtain their full potential.

First, let’s talk about the magnificent. Seanan McGuire is damned good at story creation only to be bested by her ability of character creation. The writing of this story is sumptuous, atmospheric, and thick with meaning. While most other writers are thin soup, Mcguires writing is thick dark chocolate pudding. To be poured over and savored mouthful by mouthful. The only small quibble that led me to drop the rating by one star was the pacing. The story felt very uneven in terms of speed. Some section dragged on like molasses, others over in a flash.

Also, thank you, McGuire, for writing a math-driven girl as to be something celebrated and not something to be ashamed of. So many stories take female characters and say that their love of math is cute or silly and something that should embarrass them. But, not so in this story. Dodgers love for math goes deep into her bones. It is who she is. There is nothing to feel shame for. I love that, and it is wonderfully refreshing to read. Go STEM!

I will miss this story, and I have fleeting hope that she will continue to write this series. But if she decides not to, thank you Mcguire for the beautiful book. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Procurement

I received an ARC of this from Tor.com in exchange for my open and honest review.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and RueA Local HabitationAn Artificial NightLate Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).

Swine Hill is full of the Dead in Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • Hardcover
  • 304 pages
  • Expected publication: February 5th, 2019 by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

About

“[T]his novel is extraordinary . . . It is Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, mixed with H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, set in the creepiest screwed-up town since ’Salem’s Lot . . . [A] major achievement.” — Adam-Troy Castro, Sci-Fi magazine

Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms . . . They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.

Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.

When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.


My Thoughts

“They could hurt

you. Worse,

they could

change you.”

Swine hill is a place that will hurt your body, wrack your soul at the altar of human selfishness, and destroy you. Imagine living in this place. Imagine working at the store or a packing plant here. Imagine having to share part of your soul with the undead. Hick’s characters do, and for a short time, we readers also do.  Hick’s has invented a story that is so rife with pain, imagination, and horrors that if you could take the spawn of Dr. Moreau and The Haunting of Hill House you would have something close to this. Haunt is unsettling in ways that made me uncomfortable deep down in my bones.

Hicks explores the premise of a haunted family in a haunted town. It centers around the protagonists Jane and Henry. Brother and sister trapped with the souls of unsettled ghosts inside them. In Jane’s case, it is the soul of a woman who thrives on conflict and secrets. The spirit silently whispers to jane the horrible thoughts and intentions of those around her. Henry has the ghost of a mad inventor inside him seeking to create incredible and awful machines whose purpose is sometimes unknown. The pair is also influenced by their mother and father, both haunted. Her mother is haunted by a person so craving affection that her body physically radiates heat. Enough to burn and scar. Jane is the heart of the family. Silently she pounds away at life and looks after her family as best as she can within the circumstances.

The crux of the story rests around Henry and how his mad ghost creates things. This time Henry invents pig people. Upright human-like animals that are built to self-slaughter and could eventually render the town and by extension humans obsolete. Henry creates many, but individually we meet Hog Boss and his kind son Dennis. Both are good-natured and thoughtful people set at deliberate juxtaposition to the rest of the “human” inhabitants of the town. Enter the fearful townsfolk, frightened of the unknown, in both the pig people and the loss of their livelihood. What happens next can only be described as an explosive clash between the old ways and the new all within the context of Jane attempting to save people.

“Her mother’s ghost

made the house

a suffocating place.

She didn’t touch Jane

often for fear

that she would burn

her.”

The setting in the story is unrestrainedly unworldly. The writing drips darkness and moisture from every page and sometimes, I could swear my kindle was fogging up from the cold. Hicks absolutely has created a world where you should be very afraid that ghosts will settle in your bones.

The underlying theme of this story is relationships: sister to brother, mother to son, lover to lover. In this, it is the immense power of links that can drive a person to the unthinkable or the extraordinary. What would I do for the person I love? What would I do to the person I hate? Person to person a spiderweb of narrative and relationships is created. This web holds the town together and eventually culminating in it blasting apart. 

It is poignantly cruel that these characters, so afflicted, must also contend with the worst problems we see in our own world. Hicks will unflinchingly show you the horrific visage of ghosts and nightmares pulled from the headlines of our own world, leaving you to wonder whether one lot is truly fundamentally worse than the other. And yet, perhaps it is true that they who would grow must first be made to suffer. Certainly, the growth we see in these characters is the result of a purposefully built set of trials and woes; it is not an easy journey for us to follow but it rewards us as only a master-crafted tale can.

Things get harsh and really painful for the characters in this story. I know I have alluded to it vaguely, but I don’t want to give away the cleverness of the story. It is scary, mystical, and bittersweet. It absolutely deserves all of the forthcoming awards that are going to be thrown at it. If you are a fan of the horror/bizarro genre, look no further than this book, but even more so if you are a fan of the written word and the power it can wield, this is a worthy read.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for a free copy of this ebook in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication.

About the Author

Micah Dean Hicks is the author of the novel Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones. He is also the author of Electricity and Other Dreams, a collection of dark fairy tales and bizarre fables. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Hicks grew up in rural southwest Arkansas and now lives in Orlando. He teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida.

Review of American Gods, Volume 2: My Ainsel by Neil Gaiman, and P Craig Russell

About

The bizarre road trip across America continues as our heroes gather reinforcements for the imminent god war!

Shadow and Wednesday leave the House on the Rock and continue their journey across the country where they set up aliases, meet new gods, and prepare for war. 

The Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, and Nebula award-winning novel and hit Starz television series by Neil Gaiman is adapted as a graphic novel!

Collects issues #1-9 of American Gods: My Ainsel.

image via nerdist

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 232 pages
  • Expected publication: April 23rd 2019 by Dark Horse Books

My Thoughts

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

American Gods, Vol 2 My Ainsel has the dubious task of portraying the middle of a book. Often when reading a story, the center is the boring part. The part that is not the exciting beginning or the escalating and profound conclusion. No. The middle is the part where the characters walk. If you are reading Lord of the Rings, odds are they are walking. It is significant but taken as a slice of the bigger narrative pie; the walking is boring.

Not so much with My Ainsel.

Don’t get me wrong; this slice of the narrative is not as exciting as the first American Gods Vol. 1. Or, dare say, will it be as impressive as the not-yet-written Vol. 3 as the denouement of the American Gods book plays out. But, this story was an exciting and faithful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s much-beloved novel. Oddly enough, instead of walking, this is the story of a long road trip. It is a vital part of the narrative, a needed pause. The characters, mainly Shadow and Wednesday, circle the wagons and gather the forces. The story also chronicles Shadow’s time in Lakeside and touches on the parallel dimension that is accessible to gods. Because the narrative is pausing, the artwork has to do the heavy lifting to progress the story forward and create compelling visuals. I think that this is where the volume shines. The artwork is beautiful. I am a fan of Gaiman’s comic style, expressive, artistic, and a touch wonky. It isn’t perfect. Some of the character renderings are a bit off. For example, the young girls Shadow interacts with on a bus ride look much older than their 14 years. It can throw the reader out of the story. I did appreciate the depictions of Las Vegas as they were colorful and otherworldly. They are what someone thinks Vegas should look like, and in that way are useful. Although, as someone from Vegas I always find depictions of Vegas as some kaleidoscope adult dream world a description that lacks in imagination. But, in terms of the story, I liked the scene quite a bit.

Overall, this adaptation was excellent. It wasn’t perfect; it had slight pacing, art, and story issues. But as far as a middle goes, it excelled. It did the original story justice, and undoubtedly will bring more American Gods fans into the fold.

I am looking forward to the third volume to see the artwork and how it further adapts the source material. If you are new to the series, congratulations, stay awhile. American Gods is a treat.

As a side note and a bit of cleverness on Neil Gaiman’s part, My Ainsel is a Northumbrian folk tale and means My own self. I doubt that was a coincidence.


Procurement

I received a copy of this from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

Neil Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book

Happy Publication Day! Kristy Fairlamb’s Lucid

Lucid, Kristy Fairlamb’s Story comes out Tomorrow!


Glowing Reviews!!

“Lucid was a real page-turner for me – it gripped me from the start with strong imagery coupled with perfect pacing.”

Rachael Mazurczak via Goodreads

I wish I didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything once I started this as I was captivated right from the beginning. I love that I truly felt I was on the journey with Lucy, completely immersed in her experiences and life.

Sarah-Jayne Burgemeistervia Goodreads

Synopsis

A terrifying power. A horrifying curse.

Lucy Piper lives a lonely existence on the precipice between life and death. She possesses the horrifying ability to resurrect real-life tragic events in her nightmares, reliving over and over, as if she were there, the last few moments before the victim takes their final breath. Car accidents, drownings, plane crashes – Lucy has seen it all. No one understands what it’s like living death by night and fearing sleep by day.

When Tyler Sims and his family move to town to escape past traumas, Lucy is drawn to him. The two of them are linked through their dreams, and with Tyler’s trust and friendship, hope for a brighter future returns to Lucy’s world. But Tyler’s presence awakens something else in Lucy, and with this new knowledge, she will be forced to make impossible decisions. Decisions that will change history, and the future.

Chilling, haunting and compelling, this novel is the first in a two-part series for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Hidden Memory of Objects that will leave you breathless for days.


Where to Purchase

Amazon

Stats

  • ebook
  • Expected publication: April 23rd 2019 by Lakewater Press
  • ISBN139780648347262
  • Edition Language English

About the Author

Kristy Fairlamb is an Australian author of the Young Adult Lucid series coming out in 2019.
She spends her days drinking coffee and torturing her characters with loads of tension – both love related and the nail biting kind.
Long before her days of writing began she spent half her childhood in a make believe world; daydreaming about growing up, falling in love, and travelling the world.
She’s worked as a nanny in country England, a junior matron in a boy’s boarding school south of London, a governess in East Timor, and made coffees and cleared tables in the New South Wales snow fields.
She lives with her husband, teenage daughter, and two sons in the beautiful Adelaide Hills where they’re lucky enough to get occasional visits from the local koalas. 
She’s terrible at gardening, likes her bookshelves sorted by colour, and recently checked off a lifelong dream of jumping from a plane. 
When she’s not writing or daydreaming about her stories you’ll find her reading, cooking for her family, or doing anything to avoid the housework.

Review of the Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Schaefer

The sky had gone full dark, starless and azure, and the city ignited with a million points of shimmering light.

About

Irresistibly drawn to mysteries, if only to debunk them, reporter Lionel Page exposes supernatural frauds, swindlers, and charlatans. His latest case is an obsession—at least for an ancient and wealthy heiress: verify the authenticity of a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript circulating through New York City’s literary underworld. But the shrewd Regina Dunkle offers more than money. It’s a pact. Fulfill her request, and Lionel’s own notorious buried past, one he’s been running from since he was a child, will remain hidden.

As Lionel’s quest begins, so do the warnings. And where rare books go, murder follows. It’s only when Lionel meets enigmatic stranger Madison Hannah, his personal usher into the city’s secret history, that he realizes he’s being guided by a force more powerful than logic…and that he isn’t just following a story. He is the story.

Now that the true purpose of his mission is revealing itself in the most terrifying ways, it may finally be time for Lionel to believe in the unbelievable.

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 427 pages
  • Published April 9th 2019 by 47North
  • Original Title Ghosts of Gotham
  • ASIN B07GZGXP13
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

Nothing gory or shocking about the pictures, not a drop of blood, but the animals were dead. One charcoal sketch depicted a pair of rabbits and some kind of bird on their backs, eyes shut, a hunter’s fresh catch. Another captured a single spread-winged pheasant, neck bent in eternal slumber.

Would you like a story that has ghosts, witches ghouls – and a crime noir style plot with an intrepid reporter. Have I got the story for you.

Ghosts of Gotham is about Lionel Page, referred to as little lion occasionally, a thirty something investigative journalist. Lionel is given an investigation by a mysterious woman, Regina Dunkle. Is she just a wealthy reclusive heiress with a fascination for all things old or is she more? What follows is a well-written adventure into the world of antiques, the Poe Manuscript, mythology and lore. Instead of going the way of some crime books, with a “who done it?” Schaffer has involved all sorts of creatures of myth and lore that are dealt out to you slowly like receiving cards while playing poker. He expertly and slowing brings the “things that go bump in the night” into the narrative that by the end of it you realize had you followed the clues the whole story you would have realized they were there all along waiting for you in the wings.

These days I prefer to interact with humanity through books, as exclusively as possible. The pages, the type, they’re like…the glass walls of a zoo enclosure. I can watch the wild animals all evening long, safe on my side of the window.

I haven’t read any of Schaffer’s books, something I plan on rectifying, but I found this book to be a very well formed story. Plot and pacing were perfect for me, dialog was some of the best I have read, and it was simply a very fun read. The story could go on to more in a series or be an excellent stand-alone story and a great place to start reading his work. This story was a great introduction to me of Schaffers works, and I am looking forward to diving into his other series. Check it out.

This story was released on April 9th, and is now available for purchase.


Procurement

I received a copy of this from Netgalley. Thank you for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

Craig Schaefer’s books have taken readers to the seamy edge of a criminal underworld drenched in shadow (the Daniel Faust series), to a world torn by war, poison and witchcraft (the Revanche Cycle), and across a modern America mired in occult mysteries and a conspiracy of lies (the Harmony Black series).

Despite this, people say he’s strangely normal. Suspiciously normal, in fact. His home on the Web is www.craigschaeferbooks.com.