The Beautiful Ones: A Review

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest release The Beautiful Ones is a lush tale of betrayal, innocence lost, romantic obsession, and telekinesis. A departure from her prior release, Certain Dark Things, which I reviewed on Graveyard Shift Sisters. Moreno-Garcia’s strength and confidence in moving from the alternate history of struggling vampires in Mexico to the luxurious ballrooms of historic France is enviable.

Synopsis: 

In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.

Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.

The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.

 

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This novel is reminiscent of a sinister Jane Austen work, set several decades later in La Belle Époque, or The Beautiful Era. This brief period of France’s history, from 1871 to 1914, is said to be the last hurrah of the societal elite.

After this time, technology and industry began to advance at speed. The lower classes began to question the status quo of upper class rule. The playing field began to level out, and the influence of the elites began to dwindle. Trapped in their traditions, they ignored the changes in society, instead choosing to bury themselves in elaborate restrictions to differentiate themselves from lower classes.

The Beautiful Ones is set during this last hurrah and the rigors of the society are keenly drawn. Antonina is an ingénue, and not familiar with the rules of the Loisail’s Grand Season. She quickly discovers proper ladies do not have powers, or go to great lengths to hide them. When she meets Hector and sees his firm control of his powers, she asks to be tutored, soon falling in love with the magician.

But even Hector’s newly found wealth doesn’t exempt him from scorn. He is “new money” and looked down upon by Nina’s family and society at large. And he has secrets of his own, that will destroy Nina’s innocence and hope for a future with him.

Nina is a sympathetic character and thankfully, doesn’t fall into the simpering victim category. Society itself is a character, with all the strength of a well-crafted villain. Character progression (or regression in on particular case) pulls the reader along, deeper into the mystique of this world, showing that even with manners, dirty deeds can be accomplished with ease. Deception is hidden behind smiles and promises, as it seems everyone has a say in what Nina’s life should be.

Except Nina.

Moreno-Garcia brings deceit, and first love with a touch of magic power to create a historical romance with power and redemption.

The Beautiful Ones will be released this month. Check Moreno-Garcia’s blog for updates.

 

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Blood of My Blood: A Review

Vampirism as plot can be a tough sell, when the market is awash in tales of bloodsuckers and their effect on humanity.  But, occasionally, I’m lucky enough to find a fresh take on a beloved horror staple.

Awakening of The Spirit is a new three-part, mystery/suspense series about the supernatural criminal world in Washington, D.C.

In Book One titled Blood of My Blood, award-winning writer Montiese McKenzie creates a criminal underworld with supernatural creatures, ancient and powerful. But the government has its own plans to grasp this power for itself.

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Agent Alexander Rubidoux has been working kidnappings for years, but he’s never come across anything like the disappearance of wealthy financier, Paul Kirsch. He’s also never been stirred by woman like he is by Kirsch’s wife Kathryn Spencer, an Afro-Russian who requests his help to locate her husband.

During his investigation, D.C. goes from a town he’s known forever to a hotbed of paranormal creatures and abilities he’s never seen before. And he’s out of his depth. Blood of My Blood brings readers into a battle between darkness and light with a unique focus on actual historical events like The Bolshevik Revolution, the Holocaust, as well as race relations in America incorporated in a modern-day setting.

Kathryn is a multi-layered character. Exactly what we want to see, especially from a Black female protagonist, where in dark fiction the range of our emotions and responses is rarely explored.  She is a vampire, a mother, a reluctant — yet loyal — wife, not always in that order. Her feelings about her vampirism, her Russian heritage, and her abusive relationship all shift with the events of the story.

And Rubidoux finds himself willing to do anything for her.

A fast-paced, well-researched read. Themes of Christianity, spirituality, and eternal life alongside race relations, and violence.

Blood of My Blood is available on Amazon.

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Montiese McKenzie is a lifelong Philadelphia girl, writer, who somehow stumbled into accounting. As a kid if she wasn’t writing stories exploring the human condition, she was stealing her mother’s matches to light things on fire. With a B.A. in both History and Sociology from Bloomsburg University, Montiese combined her love of the human condition, time periods, and writing to survive five years in the boondocks. A cat mom, a sock collector, and lover of MerchantIvory films with too much dialogue, Montiese is about to enter her fourth decade riding high on naps and snickerdoodle cookies.

For more information about her and her work, visit her website, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram pages.

Graveyard Shift Sister: Michele Berger

Horror meets Black hair care.

When I found out about Michele Berger’s latest release, Reenu-You, I knew I had to reach out to her to discuss her inspiration for the book, the strength of sisterhood, and how she’d never before thought of herself as a horror writer.

Well, welcome to the sisterhood, Michele. We’re glad to have you.

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Read the entire review and interview on Graveyard Shift Sisters.

Alice’s Scars: A Release

HorrorAddicts.net launches their Horror Bites series with an Alice-inspired story by Adam L. Bealby.

When he met Alice, he wasn’t prepared to go down the rabbit hole. His love for her pushes him into the uncomfortable realization she might be mad. He wants to keep her safe, but what if that’s not what Alice wants?

“Adam Bealby has written a mini masterpiece that explores mental illness, drug addiction, and real life horror.”      ~David Watson, The All-Night Library

Horror Bites: Alice’s Scars by Adam Bealby is just 99 cents at Amazon.com

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A look inside…

When I first met her she was Katie, soon to be Alice. It was her first day at Uni, my second, and her scars intrigued me. They lined her cheeks like tribal markings and the way she caked her face in foundation, you could tell they were forever on her mind. It helped, of course, that she was a beautiful Goth girl. I wanted to save her, share her pain, kiss her, and fuck her, too. I asked her what she kept in the drawstring purse around her neck.

“Money,” she said dismissively, turning away to talk to someone else at the bar.

She disappeared soon after. I only found out later how drunk she got, how she spent the rest of the night over a toilet bowl with Jackie holding her hair clear of her mouth. Her first and last run-in with alcohol. Alice had too much else going on in her life to get any more screwed up.

I dogged her all through freshers’ week. Instead of dorms, she’d been accommodated in a little house just off campus. A new friend I met lived there too, so it was an easy thing to fall in with her motley crew, drawn together by circumstance as we were. I became a regular in their kitchen, smoking weed and trying too hard—as we all did—to be quirky and cool.

We struck up conversation over a jar of pesto. I didn’t know what it was and she couldn’t believe it. I strung it out, made it appear I was more ignorant than I actually was, and I got her laughing. When I said her pesto looked like rabbit food she blushed, right through all that paint and powder.

“You don’t know the first thing about rabbits,” she said, and she showed me what was in her drawstring purse. It was a tiny white rabbit’s foot. It freaked me out and yet I felt even more attracted to her. It was my in, a secret shared. Looking at the severed foot I felt myself getting hard and I had to sit down for fear she’d notice.

She ran away that evening. We were all stoned and a bit drunk, talking about our parents, being glib, critical, or overly generous. She burst into tears and ran out of the kitchen and into the night, not even bothering to put her shoes on. We made an extravagant show of hunting for her, shouting her name up and down the street. Pete the Poet, as we later christened him, came out to help from next door. The way John shouted Katie’s name in his Irish accent, Pete thought we’d lost a cat. We had a good laugh about that.

But it wasn’t funny when we found Katie. She was hunkered down by the bushes on a bit of common area at the end of the row.

“Katie? What are you looking for?” I asked as we gathered round in a concerned hub.

“He was here,” she muttered. She’d been pawing at the dirt. Her fingers were black. “I saw him, but he got away from me.”

“Who was here, Katie?”

She looked up. The glare from a passing car lent her eyes a lustrous sheen.

“Alice. Call me Alice from now on, okay? Do you know what time it is? The days all seem to blur into one.”

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Adam L. Bealby writes fantasy, horror and weird fiction for both adults and children. His short stories and comic work have been published in numerous anthologies, including Spooked (Bridge House Publishing), Pagan (Zimbell House Publishing), Darkness Abound (Migla Press), Once Upon a Scream (HorrorAddicts.net), Sirens (World Weaver Press), World Unknown Review Vol. 2, rEvolution (MiFiWriters) and Murky Depths magazine. He lives in Worcestershire, UK with his wife and three children, and a harried imagination. Catch up with his latest ravings at @adamskilad.

Also from Horror Addicts:

Once Upon a Scream, featuring “The Other Daughter” by Adam L. Bealby

Once Upon a Scream…there was a tradition of telling tales with elements of the fantastic along with the frightful. Adults and children alike took heed not to go into the deep, dark woods, treat a stranger poorly, or make a deal with someone-or something-without regard for the consequences. Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it. From wish-granting trolls, to plague curses, and evil enchantresses, these tales will have you hiding under the covers in hopes they don’t find you. So lock your doors, shutter your windows, and get ready to SCREAM.

HorrorAddicts.net for Horror Addicts, by Horror Addicts

Listen to the HorrorAddicts.net podcast for the latest in horror news, reviews, music, and fiction.

HorrorAddicts.net Press

www.horroraddicts.net

Emily Knight I Am… – A Review

I don’t know if I’ve ever reviewed a YA novel for this blog before. Not that I’ve specifically excluded them, but …

*shrugs*

Well, now I am. And it’s a wonderful one to start with: Emily Knight I Am… by A. Bello.

I met her in September of last year at the Triskele Literary Festival in London. She was fun and energetic, and her work was so impressive. She was also a finalist for the Great British Entrepreneurship Award in 2016. For more on that and the press she’s started, you can read my interview with her on the Graveyard Shift Sisters website.

When she asked if I would review Emily Knight, I was flattered. Her book has a brand-new cover, more vibrant than the last in my humble opinion.

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Emily Knight is a troubled thirteen year-old girl, who takes her frustration out on the world around her. She fights, she steals, and is unrepentant when caught. She doesn’t need to steal, she’s from one of the wealthiest, most well-known families around. The paparazzi have captured many of her thefts on camera.

But Emily is crying out for attention. Her father hasn’t been home in years, instead he’s searching the planet for her long-lost brother, Lox. Both Emily’s father and brother are famous fighters, with the ability to fly, breathe underwater, command fire. While Emily is struggling to control her power. Surrounded by wealth and privilege, she’s still unhappy.

When Emily gets the chance to go to the Osaki Training School, where her father and brother attended, she’s nervous. She wants to learn, but is worried the other students (and teachers) will expect more from her and she won’t be able to deliver. She’s Thomas Knight’s daughter, after all.

Soon, what everyone else thinks doesn’t matter as an evil older than she is resurfaces, and Emily will have to use her intelligence and cunning to protect everything and everyone she loves.

Emily Knight I Am… is a page-turner, full of magic and dojo-style fights, perfect for any reader that loves to watch an imperfect character grow into a hero.

It’s rare for me to read about a character of color from a wealthy, famous family who is tested and challenged to become something more than she started to be. The teachers as well as the students in the Osaki Training School are of diverse backgrounds, both racially and socio-economically, which makes it feel like a real specialist school. The lessons are fascinating, and I was amazed to find out that there is real danger of injury and pain for the students.

The second book in the series Emily Knight I Am…Awakened will be launched here in the UK on September 28th at Waterstone’s Islington 6:30-8:00pm. If you can’t make it, grab a copy of Bello’s Emily Knight I Am… on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Emily Knight 2 book launch invite

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe: A Review

I love short stories.

I love beautiful, touching horror.

So it stands to reason that I love Gwendolyn Kiste’s work.

I’ve been reading her short stories in various publications for a while now, and I always get this little thrum of anticipation when I see her name as byline. Now, JournalStone has published a full collection of her stories and it is what you need to escape. To delve into another world and lose yourself… just for a while.

One of the things I enjoy about the collection is that it’s horror that’s decidedly pro-woman and girl. In these stories, we have voices and take action — we drive the story forward in these dark and lingering tales.

Head on over to The Horror Review to read the full review of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe.

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The Missing Girl: Pre-Release

Coming from BLACK LAWRENCE PRESS in September 2017, is THE MISSING GIRL, a flash fiction chapbook by Jacqueline Doyle.

In Doyle’s collection of flash fiction tales, The Missing Girl, the voicelessness of the missing is palpable, the girls’ stories whispered into a vacuum or recounted from the point of view of a predator, murderer, or voyeur. Violence lurks below the surface here, haunts the back pages of newspapers, takes up residence in your dreams.

You know a missing girl.

BLURB:

A driver lures a young girl into his car. A woman recalls a not-so-innocent childhood game. A man reveals much more than he’ll ever tell the police. After a high school girl is murdered, everyone has an opinion. A girl wakes beside a dumpster to find slut scrawled on her body. A girl speaks up after a crime—but is she telling the truth? And could you blame her if she’s not?

The Missing Girl is available for pre-order at a discount ($6.95—$2 off the list price) on the Black Lawrence Press website.

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Advance praise:

“In these dark and edgy stories, Jacqueline Doyle has made a dispassionate study of the degradation of girls and the twisted hearts of those who harm them. Most chilling is the ease with which these characters fall prey to violence and how quickly depravity finds its way past the surface of ordinary situations. Prepare to be very disturbed.”

–Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen (National Book Award Finalist 2016)

“Full of sex, lies, and vivid insights into the human compulsion to do the wrong thing, these stories go down easy but hit hard. A powerful and provocative collection.”

–Frances Lefkowitz, author of To Have Not

 

AUTHOR BIO: 

Jacqueline Doyle has published creative nonfiction and fiction in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Her flash has appeared in magazines such as Quarter After Eight, [PANK], Monkeybicycle, Sweet, The Café Irreal, Post Road, The Pinch, and the anthology Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence. She lives with her husband and son in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she teaches at Cal State East Bay.

Find her online at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter.