Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Happy release: Mary Rose by Geoffrey Girard

Mary Rose
by Geoffrey Girard
-Horror, Gothic
Release date: April 17, 2018
Barnes&Noble | Goodreads

Mary Rose Moreland and Simon Blake are the perfect couple: successful young professionals in Philadelphia, attractive, madly in love, and ready to start a life together. When they travel to England for Simon to ask her parents’ permission to marry Mary Rose, he learns an unsettling secret: Mary Rose disappeared when she was a little girl while the family was vacationing on a remote Scottish island. She reappeared mysteriously thirty-three days later in the exact same spot without a scratch on her and no memory of what had happened.

After Simon hears about this disturbing episode in Mary Rose’s childhood, he becomes obsessed with finding out what happened. He proceeds to launch his own investigation and arranges during their honeymoon for them to visit the island where she disappeared. But as Mary Rose’s behavior gets stranger after their engagement, the need for Simon to unlock the truth about her past grows even more urgent. What he uncovers is beyond his most terrifying fears.

Mary Rose is author Geoffrey Girard’s chilling and modern take on a classic ghost story originally written by J. M. Barrie. And for years, master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock attempted to adapt Mary Rose into a film but was never successful. With this novel, Girard taps into the nightmarish fears that inspired both Barrie and Hitchcock, while also bringing the story to the present day with his own unique voice.

Praise for MARY ROSE:

“MARY ROSE is that uncommon thing, an elegant, classic ghost story that is, at once, truly literate and truly scary. Filled with surprises and eerie mystery. Geoffrey Girard is a storyteller at the top of his game.”
- Jacquelyn Mitchard, #1 NY Times Bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN and TWO IF BY SEA

Girard’s eerie descriptions exploit the fear of the unknown and the unnatural, and secretive characters, including the enigmatic island, hide their intentions. This is a nightmarish tale of repressed memories and misdirection."
- Publishers Weekly

"An exceptional gothic thriller.
Girard's literary roots shine through, and the dread rises with every turn of the page. MARY ROSE will send a true chill down your spine. A haunting, scary, and beautifully written novel."
- J.T. Ellison, NYT bestselling author of LIE TO ME


It was another few minutes before Simon also heard the music. Barely, at first. Only a soft indefinable sound carried somewhere deep within the enduring rustle of cool summer wind in the surrounding trees. Fading in and out. Obviously imagined. A trick of sound. Then, more distinct. Deliberate. More melodious.

“That is music,” he agreed, still doubting enough. The island was deserted. There’d been no other boats. “Right? I thought you were kidding.”

Mary Rose continued without remark.

They followed a slender and loose trail, overgrown with scrub, the trees stretching overhead in a heavy canopy that allowed the sun to split through only in well-defined fixed beams, and the sunlight somehow made the copse seem darker, casting blacker shadows than what should be. The musical drone had grown stronger, more real, with each step.

Twice, he’d turned. Convinced they were being followed. They weren’t alone anymore. That someone had stepped onto the path no more than twenty yards behind them, and then jumped back again into the shadows each time he’d turned. The unique prickle of being watched coupled every step they took. “You know where we’re going?” he asked, striding through a wide shard of light.

“I want to show you something,” Mary Rose said. Her voice star- tled him and he took a deep breath to bring his racing imagination back to real life.

“Something you saw as a girl?”

She only nodded.

“Did you ever—”

Movement at the corner of his eye passed between several trees at their far right. Shadows, maybe, in the shifting sunlight. Or someone running. He’d automatically reached out a hand to stay Mary Rose.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, turning.

He held up his other hand for quiet. “Wait . . .” he whispered, listening, and also squinting ahead. The music had become unmistakable words. Chanting, even. And not in English, for sure. Several voices intoning as one relentless drone of those concealed within the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead. It was a sound that somehow evoked the pounding of animal-skin drums and dark primordial shapes swaying in the moonlight before open fire—he could even smell it—and antlered demigods, or maybe just Brodie, “The Druid,” painting bull blood on some virgin’s bare ass.

What a load of shit.

But there was definite movement between those trees. Not an- other swaying birch, but someone. If it was such a “load of shit,” why was he holding his breath? Why did it feel as if his whole body were trembling?

“We should go,” he decided. Had even searched the ground for a fallen limb as some pathetic sort of weapon.

Mary Rose looked at him oddly, puzzled.

He tugged her backward. “Come on. We can’t—”

A terrible scream filled the woods.

A woman, or some animal, maybe, the shriek of something having its throat slit over an ancient stone altar. The horrific echo drifted away between the trees slowly and deliberately.

Simon was frozen, mostly wanting to pull Mary Rose to safety, but knowing someone was—

Mary Rose had made the decision for them both, jerking her hand free and sprinting ahead.

His mind exploded with panic, and anger. “Mary,” his voice hissed in warning, but it was a voice for dogs broken free from their leash or unruly children in public places safe from spankings: a voice with no real control.

She’d gone straight at the sound, and he dashed after her.

Between the trees ahead, straight beyond Mary Rose, he glimpsed tall distorted figures coming directly toward her. And then the unmistakable shine of bare flesh—sinewy, powerful, bronzed and glistening in sweat, a flash of plump pale breasts—the skin and surrounding trees spattered in vibrant dripping blood.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Happy release: Monsterland by Michael Okon

by Michael Okon
-Horror, Paranormal, Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies
Release date: October 13, 2017
Amazon | Goodreads

Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth. Wyatt Baldwin's senior year is not going well. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An ongoing debate with his best friends Melvin and Howard Drucker over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance. But everything changes when Wyatt and his friends are invited to attend the grand opening of Monsterland, a groundbreaking theme park where guests can interact with vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by werewolves on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville. With real werewolves, vampires and zombies as the main attractions, what could possibly go wrong?


Chapter 1
The Everglades

The sky was a sparkling, powder blue, mosquitoes droned lazily over the tepid water, frogs croaked messages while they sunbathed on waxy lily pads. The fire he created burned bright, rabbit roasting on a spit made from hickory, the juices dripping to hiss in the flames. Seven of them lay in scattered repose, enjoying the late afternoon lull—two napped, the others tossed a stuffed fur in the form of a ball around the clearing, hooting with amusement when it rolled into the brush. They traveled in a pack, his group, his makeshift family, foraging together, hiding in plain sight. It had been that way for generations. But the glades were getting smaller, the humans invasive.

The sun started its slow descent into the horizon, hot pink and lilac clouds rippling against the empty canvas of the sky. Their color deepened as the sky filled, the rosy hue morphing into a burnt orange as the sun hid behind the condensation. The air thickened, moisture causing the leaves to lie heavily against the branches. Here and there, fireflies lit the gloom, doing a placid ballet in the humid air. The men moved closer as the sun sank into the western treetops, the fading sky promising another clear day tomorrow in the Everglades despite the moving ceiling of clouds.

A lone hawk cried out, disturbing the peace of the glade. Huge birds answered, flapping their wings, creating a cacophony of swamp sounds. The area became a concerto of animals responding to the disruption of their home—wild screams, squeaks, and complaints of the invasion of their territory.

The lead male stood, his head tilted. He heard it again. It was music, the strange organization of sounds, predictable as well as dangerous. Where those rhythms originated meant only one thing—they were not alone. They all rose, tense and alert, searching the waterway. Billy pointed, his dirty hands silently parting an outcropping of trees to expose a flat-bottom boat with strangers floating slowly toward them. It was filled with people, excitedly searching the banks of the swamp, their expensive khaki bush clothes ringed with sweat. Many held huge cameras. It was obviously a film crew, invasive, nosy individuals looking for something, anything, to enhance their lives. Men’s voices drifted on the turgid air. Billy stood, sniffing, his mates following suit. He glanced at the sky, gauging the time, his eyes opening wide. It was late. The bald top of the moon peeked over the ridge in the south, the sky graying to twilight with each passing second. Night came fast and furious in the swamp, dropping a curtain of darkness, extinguishing all light except for the beacon of the full moon. That chalk-white orb floated upward, indifferent to the consequences of its innocent victims. A halo of lighter blue surrounded the globe, limning the trees silver, the cobwebs in the trees becoming chains of dripping diamonds in the coming night.

What were the interlopers doing here? Billy thought furiously. This was their territory. The humans didn’t belong in the swamp. The moon continued its trip to the heavens, the familiar agony beginning in his chest. Billy fought the demons churning within his body, feeling the pain of metamorphosis. He curled inward, hunching his shoulders, the curse of his nature making his spine pull until his tendons and muscles tore from their human positions to transform into something wicked. A howl erupted from his throat, followed by another, and then another. Grabbing handfuls of dirt, he tried to fight the awful change, but, as the sun dipped to its fiery death, the moon took control of his life, and the unnatural force tore through his unwilling body. Reason fled; his heart raced. Falling on his hands and knees, he let loose a keening cry as his face elongated, his body changing into a canine, fangs filling his mouth. He raced in a circle in a demented dance, knowing his fellow pack members did the same thing. Slowing, he regulated his labored breathing, forcing the icy calmness he needed to keep some semblance of reason. He peered through the dense brush. Lights from the search party bobbed in the distance. The odor, the stench of humanity, filled the clearing.

He turned, digging furiously on the ground, throwing dirt on the flames, hiding their existence. It was no good. Discovery would ruin everything. No one could live with their kind. Humans brought disease, humans brought anger, humans brought hatred. They were there; he could smell them, see their clumsy bodies invading his home. “They’ve found us,” he growled in the special language they used. “Run!” he barked as he turned to his pack, watching his friends’ naked skin transform until it was covered with the same silvered fur. They cried out in unison at the pain, howling with the injustice, and then ran in fear from the interlopers threatening their habitat.

About the author:

Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling is his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Find out more about this book and author:

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lovely Books and Things - 10.14.17

Lovely Books and Things
My Weekly Books and Films Update

Linking up with:
Stacking the Shelves (details)
Sunday Post (details)
Mailbox Monday (details)


The air quality has been poor here in the Bay area this week. Smoke hazed days since Monday has put a damper on outdoor activities and lots of stress, worry and sadness emanates from the fires up north. I am looking forward to being able to take a deep long refreshing breath outside soon.

Uhhh, OK. I am resigned to a slower reading pattern nowadays. With the holiday season kicking in starting with Halloween festivities there is a lot of competition to go out to fun events and parties.

NOTE to self: next year, avoid booking requested book reviews from October to December

Current happy things:

1. Fall Film Challenge (here) - I enjoyed good ones this week. And now, inspired to see more films with or directed by Clint Eastwood.

2. Thick slice of toast topped with honey and peanut butter from Trouble Coffee. The honey and pb combo was a first, yum.

3. Pedicure treatment with a purple color called, Serenity. I treat myself to this once in awhile. So relaxing. It is especially fun to see pretty colored toes while doing certain yoga poses.



Murder Under the Bridge:
A Palestine Mystery

by Kate Jessica Raphael
-Mystery, Thriller
Amazon | Goodreads

PICKED this up for a face-to-face book club that reads foreign mysteries. This is the third club I am trying out this year.

Bookshop in West Portal, San Francisco, CA hosted a panel discussion on the current state of activism featuring:

Kate Harding – Nasty Women Editor
Samhita Mukhopadhyay – Nasty Women Editor
Carolyn Jasik – Director of California Women’s March

Nasty Women:
Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America

edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay
-Essays, Feminism
Release date: October 3, 2017
Amazon | Goodreads

Twenty-Three Leading Feminist Writers on Protest and Solidarity

When 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump and 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, how can women unite in Trump’s America? Nasty Women includes inspiring essays from a diverse group of talented women writers who seek to provide a broad look at how we got here and what we need to do to move forward.

Featuring essays by REBECCA SOLNIT on Trump and his “misogyny army,” CHERYL STRAYED on grappling with the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s loss, SARAH HEPOLA on resisting the urge to drink after the election, NICOLE CHUNG on family and friends who support Trump, KATHA POLLITT on the state of reproductive rights and what we do next, JILL FILIPOVIC on Trump’s policies and the life of a young woman in West Africa, SAMANTHA IRBY on racism and living as a queer black woman in rural America, RANDA JARRAR on traveling across the country as a queer Muslim American, SARAH HOLLENBECK on Trump’s cruelty toward the disabled, MEREDITH TALUSAN on feminism and the transgender community, and SARAH JAFFE on the labor movement and active and effective resistance, among others.

Author event:

Booksmith in San Francisco hosted an event with Celeste Ng to celebrate the release of Little Fires Everywhere. Her inspiration for the book was a place - Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng
-Contemporary, Family
Amazon | Goodreads

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

For Review:

Mary Rose
by Geoffrey Girard
-Horror, Gothic, Ghosts
Release date: April 17, 2018
Amazon | Goodreads

ADDED this to my FrightFall readathon (here).

OTHER things (kinda book-related):

Book Blogger Hop
features a book related question
Sponsored by The Coffee Addicted Writer (details)

This week's prompt: Who is your favorite horror/suspense author and why?
(submitted by Kitty @ Vicarious Bookworm)

Stephen King tops my list for the horror/suspense genre because his stories are meaty even without the horror element.

AND watched: on DVD

This Beautiful Fantastic (2016)
Director/Writer: Simon Aboud
Starring: Jessica Brown Findlay, Jeremy Irvine, Andrew Scott
-Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | imdb | my rating: 5

A young woman who dreams of being a children's author makes an unlikely friendship with a cantankerous, rich old widower.

For Fall Film challenge: about prudence

SWEET feel good film with quirky characters. Sherlock Cumberbatch fans will be treated with a performance by a very un-Moriarty. Inspired me to do some gardening.

The Accountant (2016)
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Writer: Bill Dubuque
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons
-Action, Crime, Drama | imdb | my rating: 4

As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities, and the body count starts to rise.

For Fall Film challenge: released last year and reviewed on slothsandmovies.com (here)

ANOTHER trademark performance from Ben with an interesting autistic take.

The Beguiled (1971)
Director: Don Siegel
Screenplay: Albert Maltz, Irene Kamp, Claude Traverse
Based on book by: Thomas Cullinan
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman
-Drama, Thriller, War | imdb | my rating: 5

While imprisoned in a Confederate girls' boarding school, an injured Union soldier cons his way into each of the lonely women's hearts, causing them to turn on each other, and eventually, on him.

For Fall Film challenge: about envy

CLINT is so charming in this. He also sings in it. I was amused with this jibe "hussy is a hussy." I liked how still photos depict a flash of history during the beginning credits.

Unforgiven (1992)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay: David Webb Peoples
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman
-Drama, Western | imdb | my rating: 5

Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man.

For Fall Film challenge: about wrath

CLINT is charming in his cowboy way. This captures the gritty wild west story with a melancholy vibe.


* comment and TELL me what you have acquired for your shelves recently


Friday, October 13, 2017

Happy Dreams Jia Pingwa

Happy Dreams
by Jia Pingwa
Nicky Harman (Translation)

Find out more about this book and author:

Just released: October 1, 2017
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Genre: Literary, China
Paperback: 492
Rating: 4

First sentence(s):
"Happy Liu."
"It says 'Hawa Liu' on your ID card. What's with this 'Happy Liu?"
"I changed my name. Everyone, calls me Happy Liu now."

From one of China’s foremost authors, Jia Pingwa’s Happy Dreams is a powerful depiction of life in industrializing contemporary China, in all its humor and pathos, as seen through the eyes of Happy Liu, a charming and clever rural laborer who leaves his home for the gritty, harsh streets of Xi’an in search of better life.

After a disastrous end to a relationship, Hawa “Happy” Liu embarks on a quest to find the recipient of his donated kidney and a life that lives up to his self-given moniker. Traveling from his rural home in Freshwind to the city of Xi’an, Happy brings only an eternally positive attitude, his devoted best friend Wufu, and a pair of high-heeled women’s shoes he hopes to fill with the love of his life.

In Xi’an, Happy and Wufu find jobs as trash pickers sorting through the city’s filth, but Happy refuses to be deterred by inauspicious beginnings. In his eyes, dusty birds become phoenixes, the streets become rivers, and life is what you make of it. When he meets the beautiful Yichun, he imagines she is the one to fill the shoes and his Cinderella-esque dream. But when the harsh city conditions and the crush of societal inequalities take the life of his friend and shake Happy to his soul, he’ll need more than just his unrelenting optimism to hold on to the belief that something better is possible.

My two-bits:

The minutiae of life in a city of China as a trash picker. Interesting small adventures in this story.

The topic of friendship with its ups and downs is one I enjoyed from this story.


* review copy courtesy of Wunderkind

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Happy release: The Breathless by Tara Goedjen

The Breathless
by Tara Goedjen
-Mystery, Thriller, YA, Gothic
Release date: October 10, 2017
Amazon | Goodreads

For fans of the dark family secrets of We Were Liars and the page-turning suspense of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, The Breathless is a haunting tale of deeply buried secrets, forbidden love, and how far some will go to bring back what’s long dead.

No one knows what really happened on the beach where Roxanne Cole’s body was found, but her boyfriend, Cage, took off that night and hasn’t been seen since. Until now. One year—almost to the day—from Ro’s death, when he knocks on the door of Blue Gate Manor and asks where she is.

Cage has no memory of the past twelve months. According to him, Ro was alive only the day before. Ro’s sister Mae wouldn’t believe him, except that something’s not right. Nothing’s been right in the house since Ro died.

And then Mae finds the little green book. The one hidden in Ro’s room. It’s filled with secrets—dangerous secrets—about her family, and about Ro. And if what it says is true, then maybe, just maybe, Ro isn’t lost forever.

And maybe there are secrets better left to the dead.


Chapter One

Steam settled over the bathroom mirror. In the candlelight, Mae traced a name on the glass. The more she stared at it, the sicker she felt. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she stepped out of the pile of wet clothes at her feet and eased into the hot bath. A flush shot through her body, all the way to her toes, and she watched the paint streaks running from her hands in faint trails of color.

Mae thought of her sister and shut her eyes, trying to block out everything else. Small waves sloshed against the cracked sides of the tub, and she turned on the faucet so it was dripping, making ripples. There was a slight lift underneath her, that feeling of being raised by the water. She’d read once that you could rid yourself of pain by pretending you were floating outside your body. Or you could breathe into it, make yourself feel the edges of the pain, try to find the end of it.

Inhale, exhale. Inhale. Mae dunked her head and held herself down, needing to know what her sister had felt. She opened her eyes under the water and looked at the dark ceiling, at her hair floating out in wavy strands. Then over at the foggy mirror, the melting white candles by the sink, the rusting tub. That waterline above her—­the surface so close with the promise of air. Her lungs were burning, but she forced herself to stay under, staring at the line of water like a horizon, her chest hot and tight. Ro was found on the shore, the tide at her legs. Her head bloody, with no other sign of struggle. Ro dead and everyone blaming Cage Shaw.

When her lungs were about to burst, Mae finally shot up for air, gulping it in. It was hard to drown yourself, maybe impossible, unless there was something or someone holding you down.

(read more excerpt here)
Imagination Designs
Images from: Lovelytocu