Author Archives: wedbriefsfic

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by SIlvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic   

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: Del Rey

American release date:  June 30, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Gothic/Historical Fantasy/320 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

Noemi is a pretty girl who likes to party and to socialize, happy to show off her extensive wardrobe of beautiful clothes. She’s attracted many suitors, but isn’t serious about any of them, including her latest, Hugo Duarte. She’s as fickle with her studies, having changed majors a few times, unsure what she wants to do. But when her father requests that she check on her recently wed cousin, Catalina, after receiving a disturbing letter from her, she reluctantly agrees to go. Catalina’s marriage was both shockingly sudden and secretive, and no one has even met the groom, Virgil Doyle. And now Catalina appears to be in distress, so what else can Noemi do?

Noemi travels by train to the home of her cousin and her new family. Known as High Place, it’s in a remote location, far from Mexico City. The house is huge, and at one time perhaps elegant, but now it is dark and forbidding and decaying. Besides Catalina and her husband, the other residents of the house are Virgil’s father, Howard Doyle, and Virgil’s aunt, Florence and her son, Francis.

Florence is buttoned-up and strict, and doesn’t hesitate to spell out the rules to Noemi, many of which seem ridiculous. No hot baths, only cold? No smoking? No using the car or leaving the house without permission or alone? Limited access to Catalina, who apparently sleeps a lot – doctor’s orders.  Is this a home or a prison?

Noemi tries to make sense of what is happening with Catalina, and thinks she may need psychiatric assistance. Not to mention a different physician, or at least a second opinion. The things her cousin says about the walls talking to her, and seeing things… this could be serious, beyond the ken of the family doctor, whom she doesn’t trust.

The house is dark and gloomy, a condition exacerbated by a dearth of light bulbs. But the inhabitants seem not to notice. The only person Noemi feels able to talk to, outside of Catalina, is Francis. But he’s so pale and weak, especially when compared to Catalina’s husband, Virgil, who is exceptionally good-looking. But there is something about Virgil that isn’t quite right either.

Can Noemi solve the mystery of High Place… or will it claim her and Catalina both?

Set in 1950 Mexico, this tale is both original and familiar. It kept me constantly guessing from beginning to end, wondering what was going on in this horrible place. And in the end, I wasn’t even close. Noemi might be a somewhat entitled heroine, and far from perfect, but she is engaging, and has spirit enough to match any traditional gothic heroine. I liked her as much as I disliked most of the inhabitants of High Place.

I will definitely have to read more of this author’s works, this is an amazing novel. I kept thinking it would make a great movie or series, and then I read that it is in development as a Hulu series, so keep your eye out for that. I know I will!

This is a must-read for those who love gothic novels and horror stories and appreciate twists. A definite page-turner.

Wednesday Briefs: December 2, 2020

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Ancalagon: Chapter Sixteen by Cia Nordwell
 

I was tempted to irk Garjah by testing the material around Bouncer’s feet. It was molded to his feet like a second skin. I’d seen the same thing holding liquid in the front of the hold, and it was flexible. I had to assume it was to prevent any of the poison they said was in his claws from coming out. Or did he inject it. The curiosity almost made me pick up his front leg and press on the pad, but Garjah’s hovering prevented it.  

Besides, what if his claws punctured it. I tilted my head… but then what

 

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Wednesday Briefs: November 25, 2020

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Mates Come First: Chapter 2B by Carol Pedroso

Mr. Mosely huffed and the glow dissipated. “Do you know what he looked like when I found him? He had a glamour on, but it was no trouble for me to see through it.” An image shimmered in the air over the counter, and suddenly Mica was looking at a revolving image of Owen’s head. He gasped at the black bruises around both Owen’s eyes. His cheek was sunken in—it could have been broken. The image panned down, and Mica saw Owen’s arm was at a wrong angle and one of his fingers was so swollen Mica doubted Owen would have been able to use it.

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Book Review: Ring Shout by P. Djèli Clark

Ring Shout   

Author: P. Djèli Clark

Publisher: Tordotcom

American release date:  October 13, 2020

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/Historical Fantasy/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

1920s Macon Georgia is a time filled with prejudice and hate… and filled with the evil that is the Ku Klux Klan. But there is something not right about these Ku Kluxers, other than the obvious. Some of them are not what they seem, demons in human form, inhuman incarnations of hate. But Maryse Boudreaux can see them for what they are. And she has a sword that can whup them real good. And lots of friends who feel the same way and want nothing more than to send these misbegotten demons back to where they came, if not worse.

Now they’re about to re-release that damned movie, that Birth of a Nation, that stirred up so much trouble, so much hate, and so much violence, the first time it saw the light of day. There’s trouble brewing in the air, and Maryse isn’t about to sit back and let it be… she’s going to do something about it, no matter what the cost… and no matter how terrified she is of what’s coming.

I literally drank in this book in just a couple of days, a fascinating, brilliant tale that combines history with fantasy, and introduces us to some damn memorable characters. I cried at the end. Was it relief or sorrow? Read the book and find out for yourself.

This is my first book by this author, but it won’t be the last. He writes with a rich colorful language that sings, much like Maryse’s sword, and it’s filled with people you won’t soon forget. Even hateful ones, like Butcher Clyde. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Book Review: In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

In the Miso Soup   

Author: Ryu Murakami

Publisher: Penguin Books

American release date:  March 28, 2006

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Psychological Fuctuib/224 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Twenty-year-old Kenji works as a guide for tourists who come to Tokyo and wish to enjoy the seamier side of the city. He knows the “best” places to go to get the most bang for your buck and which places to avoid, no matter what it is you’re looking for. He knows what women do what for how much, and he is also a translator, speaking English pretty well.  But there’s something about this tourist, the American named Frank, that is frankly off-putting, although Kenji can’t put his finger on just what it is. On the surface, he seems like a regular guy. But then, at times, there is… the Face.

Frank is… for lack of a better word, different.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but Kenji has been reading about the recent deaths of young women. A serial killer is on the loose. Could Frank be the guy they’re looking for? And is Kenji in more danger than he’s ever been in before?

This is one heck of a ride, a great read from beginning to end. I was never sure how this one was going to turn out until the very end. Murakami is great at digging into his characters’ very souls, and making us question what is normal and what is not. Horror does not have to be in the form of a chainsaw-wielding maniac or a guy in a strange mask carrying an axe or knife. Horror can look like an average Joe. And it’s all the scarier for it.

I am really enjoying getting to know this author’s works and look forward to more. I recommend this to anyone who appreciates a good horror story.

Wednesday Briefs: November 18, 2020

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Phases of Moon: Part 50 by J. Alan Veerkamp

awyer decided to avoid commenting on Jimmy not needing directions to his home. His safe, sensible car waited for him next to Jada’s SUV as Jimmy’s truck pulled into the driveway. The modest ranch kept its tidy appearance with short evergreen shrubs this deep into fall, and he noted there were more leaves to rake, marking the coming end of the yard-care season he loved so much. The white pine sapling he’d planted the week after they bought the house seven years ago had grown into a child-sized Christmas tree. Given time, it would dwarf the house, reaching into the sky.
 

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 26 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 26   

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 3, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/2106 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

While communicating with the Soul Society from Kakura Town, Captain Hitsugaya is surprised to see Hinamori up and about. She apologizes to him for having doubted him, of having accused him of murdering Captain Aizen, since obviously that didn’t happen. Her only request is that he not kill Aizen now.

Renji is frustrated with Uruhara, who more or less tricked him into training Chad, but the training is not going smoothly. Ichigo is still training with the Visoreds when Orihime suddenly appears, much to their surprise. How did she even know how to find them when their location is so off the grid, and how did she slip through Hachi’s barrier? Orihime delivers to Ichigo the important message regarding Aizen’s plan, which includes the destruction of Kakura Town for his own nefarious ends (when are his ends not nefarious?) Uyru’s training with his father is not going very well either, and the man is pushing him to his limits.

When Kiskue calls for Orihime to come to the training grounds, she assumes that she is to train also. But his message is quite different—he tells her that she is stay out of this battle. Orihime understands, but is crushed, nonetheless. Rukia finds her and promised she will help her find a way to grow stronger.

In Hueco Mundo, Yammy has received a new arm, but Grimmjow hasn’t, which means he is no longer an Espada. Ulquiorra and Yammy are called by Aizen and told to carry out the order given by him a month before. They are also to take along the new Arrancar, Wonderweiss. In the Seireitei, Ukitake and Hisagi watch Rukia and Orihime train. Ukitake is pleased to see them together, as Rukia has few friends and finds it hard to let people in.

When the Arrancars drop from the sky, they are met by the Soul Reapers. Ichigo tells the Visoreds he has to go, against their better judgment. While they are thus engaged, Ulquiorra carries out his missions…

In this volume of Bleach, we get a little more insight into what the despicable Aizen has planned. I can’t believe Hinamori still defends him, in spite of what he did to her. She has a rude awakening ahead of her. Training for all our heroes is difficult, but no pain, no gain, right? The Visoreds are running out of patience with Ichicgo, especially as he keeps interrupting his training to step into the fray. Wait until he finds out what Aizen has done now. Or rather what he has sent his minions to do. Ichigo will lose his mind. He will not less this pass.

A lot going on in this volume, all a prelude to something that will be some time in the making and has just barely begun. Another great volume, can’t wait for 28!

Book Review: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

The Ballad of Black Tom     

Author: Victor LaValle

Publisher: Tordotcom

American release date: February 16, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/dark fantasy/160 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Tommy Tester is a dutiful son. He works hard to take care of his dying father, to provide them both with a place to live, food to eat… just the basics. But life is hard in Jazz Age New York, especially for a black man. There are places where he isn’t meant to go, things he can’t do. People who look down on him because of the color of his skin. But with survival the name of the game, sometimes you do things that are necessary. Even if they’re a little dark.

Take for instance the book that Tommy delivers to the white lady in Queens. He’s not stupid. He knows what kind of book that is, and what she is, and what someone like her will use it for. But that’s okay, he’s fixed it so she won’t be able to, and he’ll still get paid.

And then a strange white man calling himself Robert Suydam offers Tommy $500 to play at his home. Now Tommy plays the guitar, and  hesings, but he knows he isn’t all that, not like his dad, so what’s up with this offer? Still, that’s a whole lot of money, and he and his dad can live comfortably for a long time. His decision is a no-brainer. So he agrees to play, and receives $100 as a down payment.

Suddenly, he’s on someone’s radar—a cop and a private detective, who shake him down and want to know what his business is with Robert Suydam. He tells them what he knows, which isn’t much, and they take his money. Okay, now he’ll still get $400, and that is worth it. He spends a few days practicing his limited repertoire, and his dad teaches him a new song. And then the night comes and he goes to the mansion and plays…

This story is engaging from beginning to end, as you tear through it, trying to figure out what’s going to happen, and what’s going on. It’s told from two different perspectives, between Tommy Tester and Malone, the private detective. Nothing is what it seems, and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming. This is an old school horror story, harking back to writers such as HP Lovecraft.

Well-written and well-told, I truly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to those who like to read horror stories, especially if you like HP Lovecraft.

Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, VOl 4: Love and Peace

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 4: Love and Peace   

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 18, 2009

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

A man from Japan who lives in Bangkok, Thailand, and goes by the name of Shogun, is being sought by a dangerous element. Mostly because he helps girls in slippery situations out of those situations and sends them home, thus putting himself on the radar of some very bad people. But there is more to his being wanted than just that, as a business associate tells him, it has to do with the drugs he destroyed. A valuable new street drug called Rainbow Kid. The associate has a new job for Shogun. He’s to go to a hotel and remove some low-life drug user before he dies and ruins the reputation of the place. Shogun goes to the room, and the druggie tells him a story involving the police, and the military, and cabinet members… and he’s a cop himself. Nothing is making sense. Friends? What friends? And then Shogun finds a pin, a symbol long forgotten from his childhood….

Shogun learns the last girl he saved has been captured again, and so of course he goes to free her.  Once they get out of the place she is being held, she asks him why he is helping her, and Shogun replies, “ (because) I wasn’t there when my own kid died.” On the verge of being attacked, Shogun and the girl are assisted by a group of men, the leader of which introduces himself as a member of the house of representatives, and a member of the FDP—the Friendship and Democracy Party.

Shogun takes the girl to safety then returns to his business associate at the travel agency. But the girl suddenly turns up, much the worse for wear, with an important message about the politician they just met, where she’s seen him before. And an unexpected phone call from an old friend in Japan brings Shogun to the realization that it’s time to go back to Japan. But first, there’s something he’s gotta do…

This volume of Twentieth Century Boys is primarily about Shogun, a character we’ve been long awaiting to take his place on this particular stage. In filling in the blanks of his life, past and present, we get a more cohesive picture of our heroes, and what they’re about, and what they are capable of.

Some time has passed, with Kenji in hiding, blamed for the death of the homeless man. But he’s managed to eluded capture and fly under the rader, and his niece, Kanna, is now three, and cute as can be. Kenji, his mom, and Kanna, have all found shelter with the group of homeless men who insist they need his help, that he is the one who will save the world. Not that Kenji believes that, but at this point, he has few options.

Having learned in the previous volume who the baby daddy is, it’s not hard to extrapolate that at some point, Kanna will become a target for his group. Things are really happening. I love all the back story, as more and more things begin to make sense, and we get a lot of omg and wtf moments.  From the beginning of the series, we know that a group of men saves the world, and we can kindof guess who they are, but how they do it definitely remains to be seen. One can surmise that the how involves music in some way, but against this growing group of crazies who are hell-bent on achieving the destruction of the world, that doesn’t seem like a very strong defense.

With every volume, I think I love this series more and more. Can’t wait for the next one!

Wednesday Briefs: November 11, 2020

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Ancalagon: Chapter Thirteen by Cia Nordwell
 

Garjah pressed a spot on the straps and they retracted smoothly. What had he pushed? I didn’t see any button but I could have been free that easy? Not that there was anywhere to go. I didn’t see a way to open the door from the inside either, and the room was small.  

I sat up immediately and hissed as my feet touched the floor. They were bare and the pulse of an engine vibrating through the metal disturbed me. “Are we still moving?”  

“Yes, but you are awake now so Timok wants me to take you for a meal.”  

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