Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review: Brief Cases by Jim Butcher


Brief Cases
Author:  Jim Butcher
Series:  Dresden Files
Publisher:  Ace, June 5, 2018
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 448 pages
List Price:  USD$28.00 (print); USD$14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780451492104 (print); 9780451492128 (eBook)

An all-new Dresden Files story headlines this urban fantasy short story collection starring the Windy City’s favorite wizard.

The world of Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is rife with intrigue—and creatures of all supernatural stripes. And you’ll make their intimate acquaintance as Harry delves into the dark side of truth, justice, and the American way in this must-have short story collection.

From the Wild West to the bleachers at Wrigley Field, humans, zombies, incubi, and even fey royalty appear, ready to blur the line between friend and foe. In the never-before-published “Zoo Day,” Harry treads new ground as a dad, while fan-favorite characters Molly Carpenter, his onetime apprentice, White Council Warden Anastasia Luccio, and even Bigfoot stalk through the pages of more classic tales.

With twelve stories in all, Brief Cases offers both longtime fans and first-time readers tantalizing glimpses into Harry’s funny, gritty, and unforgettable realm, whetting their appetites for more to come from the wizard with a heart of gold.

The collection includes:

    “Curses,” from Naked City, edited by Ellen Datlow
    “AAAA Wizardry,” from the Dresden Files RPG
    “Even Hand,” from Dark and Stormy Knights, edited by P. N. Elrod
    “B is for Bigfoot,” from Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Republished in Working for Bigfoot.
    “I was a Teenage Bigfoot,” from Blood Lite III: Aftertaste, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Republished in Working for Bigfoot.
    “Bigfoot on Campus,” from Hex Appeal, edited by P. N. Elrod. Republished in Working for Bigfoot.
    “Bombshells,” from Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
    “Jury Duty,” from Unbound, edited by Shawn Speakman
    “Cold Case,” from Shadowed Souls, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie Hughes
    “Day One,” from Unfettered II, edited by Shawn Speakman
    “A Fistful of Warlocks,” from Straight Outta Tombstone, edited by David Boop
    “Zoo Day,” a brand-new novella, original to this collection


Doreen’s Thoughts

It has been a while since a Harry Dresden novel has been published and the next one scheduled, Peace Talks, is still is a long time off. Thankfully, Butcher writes short stories with his main character and others. Better yet, he collects them into a complete anthology like Brief Cases. As a completist, I appreciate that I do not have to purchase multiple other anthologies to ensure that I have every Harry Dresden story, including a new one that has never appeared before.

In his introduction to “B is for Bigfoot,” Butcher explains that he researched monsters from all around the world when he started writing his series, but it was not until after several books, that he thought about America’s Bigfoot. The three related stories actually focus on a Bigfoot’s son, Irwin, and some of the problems he faces as a Bigfoot/human hybrid.

Butcher does not just write about Dresden in his short stories; he also writes about some of his other characters, which not just fleshes them out more fully for character development, but also gives us some different perspectives on Harry himself. Three of the stories are about his apprentice, Molly, both before and after she becomes the fairy queen, Winter.

The last story here, “Zoo Days,” is my favorite in the bunch, not just because it is new, but because it is about Harry and his daughter. Here the story itself is split into thirds, with each main character (Harry, Maggie, and Mouse) taking lead as narrator for a section. As a reader, this is my first introduction into Maggie’s narration, and it is eye-opening. It makes me wonder what Butcher may have in store for the future of his characters.

EXORSISTERS Coming In October


EISNER AWARD-WINNING WRITER IAN BOOTHBY AND ARTIST GISELE LAGACE SUMMON EXORSISTERS

JUST IN TIME FOR HALLOWEEN

PORTLAND, OR, 07/17/2018 — Eisner Award-winning writer Ian Boothby (The Simpsons, MAD Magazine) teams up with artist Gisele Lagace (Ménage à 3, Archie Meets Ramones, Jem & the Holograms, Betty Boop) for an all-new ongoing series—EXORSISTERS—launching from Image Comics this October.

“As a kid, I loved Scooby-Doo. That love for mysteries mixed with the supernatural then got me into shows like Buffy and Supernatural as an adult. If you liked those shows, you'll love ExorSisters,” said Lagace. “It's a universe full of fun and intriguing characters with many stories to tell.”

Did you sign a deal with the Devil? Has your fiancé been dragged to Hell? Then Kate and Cate Harrow should be the first ones you call for timely soul retrieval at a reasonable rate! But why are these identical twins so different? Is there a darker secret? Readers will find out when they pick up EXORSISTERS this fall.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The View From Monday... on Tuesday - July 17, 2018


Happy Tuesday!

There are 2 debuts this week:

The War in the Dark by Nick Setchfield

and

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage.

Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.



From formerly featured DAC Authors:

Spellsinger (Spellslinger 1) by Sebastien de Castell;

Kill the Farm Boy (The Tales of Pell 1) by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne;

Apocalypse Nyx by Kameron Hurley;

and

Skullsworn: A Novel in the World of The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley is out in Trade Paperback.

Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.






Debut novels are highlighted in blue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted in green.

July 16, 2018
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Playing with Fire (e)(ri) Gena Showalter CFR - Tales of an Extraordinary Girl 1



July 17, 2018
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Son of the Night Mark Alder HistF
The Wrong Heaven Amy Bonnaffons SS/HU
Competence Gail Carriger F/Gaslamp/HistF/RF/P - Custard Protocol 3
Spellslinger Sebastien de Castell F/Hu/CoA - Spellslinger 1
The Cloven Brian Catling F/HistF/LF - Vorrh 3
Kill the Farm Boy Delilah S. Dawson
Kevin Hearne
F/HU/FairyT - The Tales of Pell 1
Mystic Dragon Jason Denzel F - The Mystic Trilogy 2
One of Us Craig DiLouie CF/LF/MR
Mad Amos Malone: The Complete Stories (e) Alan Dean Foster F/W - Collection
Maze Master Kathleen O'Neal Gear Th/AP
The Mere Wife Maria Dahvana Headley LF/CF/CW
Dark Paths Markus Heitz F - The Legends of the Alfar 3
The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018 Edition Rich Horton (Ed) SF - Anthology
Apocalypse Nyx Kameron Hurley SF/GenEng/HSF
The Promise of Space and Other Stories James Patrick Kelly SF - Collection
Rose Madder (ri) Stephen King H/Sus
Four Dominions Eric Van Lustbader SupTh - The Testament Series 3
Constance Verity Saves the World A. Lee Martinez CF - Constance Verity 2
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown Seanan McGuire UF/CF - Ghost Roads 2
Slaying It (e) Chloe Neill PNR/UF - Chicagoland Vampires Novella
The War in the Dark (D) Nick Setchfield F/SF/Th
The Hidden World Melinda Snodgrass SF/SO - Imperials 3
Baby Teeth (D) Zoje Stage PsyTh/H/FL
Skullsworn: A Novel in the World of The Emperor's Blades (h2tp) Brian Staveley F - Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne
The Expert System's Brother Adrian Tchaikovsky SF/GenEng
The Wild Dead Carrie Vaughn SF/AP/PA - The Bannerless Saga 2
The Sea of Sorrows (ri) Michelle West F - The Sun Sword 4
The Riven Shield (ri) Michelle West F - The Sun Sword 5
The Sun Sword (ri) Michelle West F - The Sun Sword 6
The Uncrowned King (ri) Michelle West F - The Sun Sword 2
The Broken Crown (ri) Michelle West F - The Sun Sword 1
The Shining Court (ri) Michelle West F - The Sun Sword 3
2001: An Odyssey in Words: Honouring the Centenary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Birth Ian Whates (Ed)
Tom Hunter (Ed)
SF - Anthology
Condomnauts Yoss
David Frye (Tr)
SF/HU



July 19, 2018
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
From the Depths: and Other Strange Tales of the Sea Mike Ashley (Ed) H - Tales of the Weird



D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade Paperback to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator



AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternate History
AP - Apocalyptic
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CoA - Coming of Age
Cr - Crime
CW - Contemporary Woman
CyP - Cyberpunk
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
Fict - Fiction
FL - Family Life
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
Gothic - Gothic
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HSF - Hard Science Fiction
HU - Humor
HuF - Humorous Fantasy
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legend and Mythology
M - Mystery
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
MU - Mash Up
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PI - Private Investigator
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Pol - Political
Psy - Psychological
PsyTh - Psychological Thriller
R - Romance
RF - Romantic Fantasy
RS - Romantic Suspense
SF - Science Fiction
SH - Superheroes
SO - Space Opera
SS - Short Stories
SP - Steampunk
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
Sus - Suspense
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
UF - Urban Fantasy

Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed above.

Monday, July 16, 2018

2018 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - July Debuts




Each month you will be able to vote for your favorite cover from that month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2018 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month in which the novel is published in the US. Cover artist/illustrator/designer information is provided when we have it.

I'm using PollCode for this vote. After you the check the circle next to your favorite, click "Vote" to record your vote. If you'd like to see the real-time results click "View". This will take you to the PollCode site where you may see the results. If you want to come back to The Qwillery click "Back" and you will return to this page. Voting will end sometime on July 31, 2018, unless the vote is extended. If the vote is extended the ending date will be posted.


Vote for your favorite July 2018 Debut Cover!
 
pollcode.com free polls



Cover artwork by Gregory Manchess
Design by Lisa Marie Pompilio










Cover art and design by Julia Lloyd





Cover illustration by Greg Ruth





Cover art by Sam Weber





Cover art by Jackie Niam / Shutterstock.com





Cover art by Larry Rostant





Cover design by Scott Richardson





Cover art is by Sebastien Hue





Cover art by Lee Gibbons










Sunday, July 15, 2018

Prism Stalker, Vol. 1 Coming In September


PRISM STALKER, VOL. 1 LANDS IN STORES THIS SEPTEMBER
Collects issues #1-5

PORTLAND, OR, 07/12/2018 — Sloane Leong (FROM UNDER MOUNTAINS, A Map to the Sun) will release a trade paperback collection of the first five issues of her vivid, psychedelic sci-fi series PRISM STALKER this September.

Far from the border of colonized space, a newly discovered planet teems violently with strange psychic life and puzzling telekinetic ecology. Indentured refugee Vep is taken by a private military firm to assist in settling this new world. What awaits her there will test the limits of her will as she grapples with the strange power the planet exerts over her…

PRISM STALKER, VOL. 1 (ISBN: 978-1-5343-0828-2, Diamond code: JUN180075) hits comics shops on Wednesday, September 5th and bookstores on Tuesday, September 11th. It can be preordered via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, and Indigo

Melanie's Week in Review - July 15, 2018




I cannot believe we are halfway through July already. It doesn't seem very long ago that it was January. The weather doesn't feel like January though. This is by far the hottest summer I have ever experienced in England and I have been here for 24 years. Day after day have been scorchio. It's like being back in Canada. The downside (besides the super douper hot tube trains) is that the hot weather impacts how much I read. I like to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine but I can't always see my Kindle in the bright sun. That's why I missed last week but fear not, I am back now to tell you what I did manage to read.


A hundred years after humanity fled its dying planet to look for a new home in the stars they didn't expect to come across all the species from myth and legend. Fairies, elves and even unicorns live deep in space and rather than try to live together the humans declared war and spent the next decades murdering and enslaving the very creatures that saved them from the brink of death. Gary Cobalt, half human and half unicorn has just been released after spending 10 years in prison for murdering a young woman. He's back and he is on a mission. He wants his family's stone ship back. But standing in his way is Captain Jenny Perata, the very human that kept him captive and brutalized him for a decade. Seems pretty simple - get ship and fly away but nothing is ever that straightforward for Gary. Rather than escaping with his ship he ends up helping Jenny with one last delivery and it could very well be the last thing that Gary ever does. Will the magic run out for this story's half unicorn hero? Don't let me stop you finding out.

Space Unicorn Blues by TJ Berry definitely wasn't what I was expecting it to be. I am not sure what I was expecting from a story about a half human half unicorn named Gary that lives in space. I think I was anticipating that it would be funny when in fact, it was anything but. The backdrop to Gary's story was very dark and the circumstances in which he ends up in prison are brutal. Parallels can be drawn between the enslavement and subjugation of the magical and mythical creatures by the humans and real life events. It wasn't completely dark and moody as there were some scenes to lighten the overall mood.

Berry told the story from different perspectives and chapters flowed from one POV to another - mainly Gary's and Jenny's. This worked well to set context and to explain the background of the various characters as well as past events. I wanted to dislike Jenny for how she treated Gary but like Gary I was oddly drawn to her. This demonstrated Berry's ability to create interesting and compelling characters. It was however Gary that stole the show...or in this case the story. I was really rooting for him as he seemed to lurch from one disaster to another. There was a lot of action in this story and it was very tense in certain parts, especially in the final chapters. I wasn't completely sure whether certain characters would survive. The end has a super, shocker big reveal. I was really surprised and I can hardly wait to find out what happens next. This is a great book for both science fiction and fantasy fans. A must read.


I always feel bad when I am lucky enough to be offered a book from the publisher but don't like it enough to finish it. This is the case, unfortunately with Peril in the Old Country by Sam Hooker. I really wanted to enjoy this story as it sounded silly and fun and I usually always enjoy that type of book. I first started reading this book back in April and then realised it wasn't going to be published until June so I stopped and re-started a few weeks ago. I got approximately 40% of the way through and gave up.

My issue with this story was pace. When I started to struggle to keep reading I read a few reviews and other reviewers commented that it was a slow burn and took a while to get into. Hooker drags out setting up the main characters, mainly Sloot Peril. There were some truly funny lines and characters but the events to setup the main plot were just too drawn out. Quite simply, I got bored. I think this could have been a very funny short story or novella but as a full length book it just didn't work for me.


That is it for me this week. I hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing that the sun is shining on the pages of a great read. Until next week Happy Reading.





Space Unicorn Blues
The Reason 1
Angery Robot, July 3, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

A misfit crew race across the galaxy to prevent the genocide of magical creatures, in this unique science fiction debut.

Humanity joining the intergalactic community has been a disaster for Bala, the magical creatures of the galaxy: they’ve been exploited, enslaved and ground down for parts. Now the Century Summit is approaching, when humans will be judged by godlike aliens.

When Jenny Perata, disabled Maori shuttle captain, is contracted to take a shipment to the summit, she must enlist half-unicorn Gary Cobalt, whose horn powers faster-than-light travel. But he’s just been released from prison, for murdering the wife of Jenny’s co-pilot, Cowboy Jim… When the Reason regime suddenly enact laws making Bala property, Jenny’s ship becomes the last hope for magic.

File Under: Science Fiction [ Rocks in Space | Stand Up to Reason | The Human Experiment | Last Unicorn ]





Peril in the Old Country
Terribly Serious Darkness 1
Black Spot Books, June 5, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 302 pages

What terror lurks in the shadows of the Old Country?

Well, there are the goblins, of course. Then there are the bloodthirsty cannibals from nearby Carpathia, secret societies plotting in whispers, and murder victims found drained of their blood, to name a few. That's to say nothing of the multitude of government ministries, any one of which might haul one off for "questioning" in the middle of the night.

The Old Country is saturated with doom, and Sloot is scarcely able to keep from drowning in it. Each passing moment is certain to be his last, though never did fate seem so grim as the day he was asked to correct the worst report ever written.

Will the events put in motion by this ghastly financial statement end in Sloot's grisly death? Almost definitely. Is that the worst thing that could happen? Almost definitely not.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Covers Revealed - Recent and Upcoming Works By DAC Authors


Here are some of the recent and upcoming works by formerly featured DAC Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.


Gabe Hudson (2017)

Gork, the Teenage Dragon
Vintage, June 26, 2018
Trade Paperback, 416 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 11, 2017

A TODAY Show Summer Pick

“Hilarious. . . . Gork is less Game of Thrones and more The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
Rolling Stone


Gork is the nerdiest dragon at WarWings Military Academy. He has a giant heart and tiny horns. His nickname is Weak Sauce. Today before his high school graduation, he must ask a female dragon to be his queen. The result is a rollicking quest for true love on the most madcap day ever known to a high school senior – dragon or otherwise.

Along the way, Gork gets help from his best friend Fribby, a fierce female robot dragon who is brilliant, snarky, and totally obsessed with death; and Athenos II, his sentient spaceship who carries a shocking secret from his childhood. Ultimately, Gork will have to lock horns with his evil grandfather, Dr. Terrible. Can a quest for true love make a hero out of a dragon?





Brian McClellan (2013)

War Cry
Tor.com, August 28, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 96 pages

Brian McClellan, author of the acclaimed Powder Mage series, introduces a new universe, new armies, and new monsters in War Cry

Teado is a Changer, a shape-shifting military asset trained to win wars. His platoon has been stationed in the Bavares high plains for years, stranded. As they ration supplies and scan the airwaves for news, any news, their numbers dwindle. He's not sure how much time they have left.

Desperate and starving, armed with aging, faulting equipment, the team jumps at the chance for a risky resupply mission, even if it means not all of them might come. What they discover could change the course of the war.


Wrath of Empire
Gods of Blood and Powder 2
Orbit, December 4, 2018
Trade Paperback, 656 pages
Hardcover and eBook, May 15, 2018

War ignites when magic and gunpowder combine in the second book in acclaimed author Brian McClellan’s epic new fantasy series Gods of Blood and Powder.

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.

Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michel may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.

Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.

Continue the pistol-packing fantasy series by the author whose debut novel Brandon Sanderson called “just plain awesome!”

Gods of Blood and Powder
Sins of Empire
Wrath of Empire

For more from Brian McClellan, check out:

Powder Mage
Promise of Blood
The Crimson Campaign
The Autumn Republic





Julie McElwain (2016)

Caught in Time
Kendra Donovan Mysteries 3
Pegasus Books, July 3, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages

Still stranded in 1815, FBI agent Kendra Donovan finds herself on the trail of a vicious murderer with a shocking secret.

October 1815: There is only one place Kendra Donovan wants to travel—back to her own time period in the twenty-first century. But since that’s not happening, she agrees instead to travel with her new guardian, the Duke of Aldridge, to one of his smaller estates in Lancashire. Their journey takes them through Yorkshire, a region whose breathtaking beauty masks a simmering violence brought on by the Industrial Revolution, which pits mill owner against worker.

When Kendra and the Duke encounter a band of Luddites on a lonely, fog-shrouded road, the Duke informs the authorities in the nearby village of East Dingleford that mischief may have been done at the local mill. However, it isn’t just mischief but murder that is discovered, when the body of the mill manager, Mr. Stone, is found brutally bludgeoned to death in his office.

The Constable is certain the radical-minded Luddites committed the murder. One look at the crime scene and Kendra knows they did not, prompting the Duke to shock the locals by volunteering their services to catch the real killer. Joined by lover Alec and Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must sort through the puzzle of Stone’s rather unsavory life, picking apart alibies and dissecting carefully created deceptions from a growing list of suspects.

As a special agent for the FBI, Kendra thought she’d encountered every kind of evil. But when another, even more vicious murder rocks East Dingleford, Kendra realizes that they’re dealing with a stone-cold killer—one who has a shocking secret that he will do anything to protect.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nintendo Download, July 12, 2018: Ready for Adventure!


This week’s Nintendo Download includes the following featured content:
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch
    • Octopath Traveler – Eight travelers. Eight adventures. Eight roles to play in a new world brought to life by SQUARE ENIX. Explore each traveler’s story and use her or his abilities in and out of battle. Will you expand your horizons as the Merchant or track down a traitor as the Warrior? Where will you go? Who will join you? You alone can choose your path. The Octopath Traveler game launches exclusively for the Nintendo Switch system on July 13. A free demo version is also available for download now.
    • Fortnite (Season 5) – WORLDS COLLIDE! Drop into Season 5 of the Fortnite game on the Nintendo Switch system, where we’re introducing all kinds of changes to the map! A Viking ship, desert outpost, and ancient statues have appeared on the island, changing the world of Fortnite as we know it. The all-new Battle Pass can help you level up faster by completing Weekly Challenges, and unlock additional rewards like progressive outfits, sprays and exclusive cosmetics. Play the new Season of Fortnite from anywhere on Nintendo Switch, and be sure to test out the new motion controls.
  • Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS
    • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Captain Toad stars in his own puzzling quest on the Nintendo Switch system and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. Our stubby hero must dodge dangers and track treasures across many trap-filled courses. Survive smoldering volcanoes, hazardous steam engines, haunted houses and even new courses based on the Super Mario Odyssey game. Luckily, in the Nintendo Switch version, a second player can join in to help toss turnips at enemies. The Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker game will be available for both Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS on July 13. A free demo version is also available to download.

Riddle of the Loremaster Coming from Outland Entertainment



A NEW COMIC IS COMING FROM OUTLAND ENTERTAINMENT!
Outland Entertaiment has announced Riddle of the Loremaster, an all new original comic series written by Melanie R. Meadors, with art by Nicolás Giacondino!

Here is a sneak peek at some of the promo art:




Riddle of the Loremaster is a comic for mature readers set in a fantasy world full of adventure and romance, mystery and laughter. Keep your eyes open, it is set to premiere at the beginning of August!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review: The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa


The Garden of Blue Roses
Author:  Michael Barsa
Publisher:  Underland Press, April 17, 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 248 pages
List Price:  US$16.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9781630230616 (print)

A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn't care. For the first time in his life, he's free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.

Or so he thinks.

Milo settles into a quiet routine―constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who's home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There's something odd about him―something eerily reminiscent of their father's most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He's not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family―and the supposed accident that claimed his parents' lives.



Deb's Review

The Garden of Blue Roses, a stylish Gothic debut by Michael Barsa, has a pitch-perfect uneasy atmosphere and is peopled with complex characters whose motivations slowly unfold, like grainy time lapse photography. As one character says over the course of events, the secret to creating fear is planting belief. Seeds of belief are sown in The Garden of Blue Roses, but they are scattered amongst plentiful seeds of doubt. The result is an enigmatic tale, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In the Castle, but with its own strong and unique voice.

Klara and Milo Crane, the adult children of celebrated horror author, John Crane, live on an isolated estate in rural Vermont. As the story opens, their father’s car skids off the road in a suspicious, fatal accident that also claims the life of their alcoholic, mostly-absentee mother. Klara, the older sibling, is left as caretaker of hearth and home, under Milo’s attentive gaze.

The tenuous peace in the house begins to unravel when Klara hires landscape artist Henri Blanc to transform the grounds into an elaborate memorial garden in honor of their parents. Milo doesn’t trust Henri and his vague credentials. He finds the gardener to be slick and manipulative, and thinks Klara, who has long-struggled with relationships, may be willfully overlooking signs that Henri is after more than her flowerbeds.

From the beginning, we share headspace with Milo, a classic but still fresh-feeling unreliable narrator. Milo spends his days constructing painstakingly accurate historical models of military vessels. His encyclopedic knowledge of his father’s most popular character, the monstrous serial killer Keith Sentelle, paints Milo with a dark brush. Everything we experience is run through the filter of Milo’s very precise, somewhat paranoid outlook. Is he protecting his sister, his father’s legacy, and the family home, or is he simply imagining a menace that isn’t there?

All the while, John Crane’s presence hangs over the house, his deep-rooted influence over his children slowly revealing its dark nature. As Henri insinuates himself between Klara and Milo, the story becomes a frantic pas de trois between the siblings and the man who may be just a humble gardener or something far more sinister.

This is a strong debut. Barsa’s skill with metaphor makes the story a very visual one. Klara and Milo come across as authentic, though warped by their very non-traditional upbringing. They both present as decisive and vulnerable, bright and naive. There are unexpected sparks of humor, passages of brilliant and curious introspection, all delivered by an author who clearly loves wordplay. The start was a little slow for me, but this was probably because it isn’t easy to cozy up to Milo at first. Once hooked by the narrative, though, I remained hooked.

I’d recommend The Garden of Blue Roses to fans of unreliable narrator stories, intricately plotted Gothics, and quirky character studies. While the story isn’t a splatter-fest, you should expect some well-telegraphed gore. Enjoyed the story, loved the characters, and felt the conclusion was a very satisfying end to a well-told tale. I occasionally re-read books to appreciate how they’re constructed, and this one has been added to my “to be re-read” list. I’ll definitely be watching for Barsa’s next work.