Author Archives: What The Cat Read

The Creation of Divinity – A Guest Post by Michelle L. Johnson

Today we’d like to thank Michelle L. Johnson for visiting us during her Divinity Blog Tour hosted by Spence City. We hope that you all will enjoy her guest post discussing the creation of her book, Divinity. =^.^=

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The Creation of Divinity

by Michelle L. Johnson

Writers are asked all the time where we get our ideas for the stories we tell, how we think up characters, how we come up with plots, and how we create all the other elements that make a story come alive.

The answer is different for each of us, and usually unique to the story itself. In my case, at least for my new novel Divinity, fiction grew out of reality spiced with a simple question, “what if?”

Several years ago, I enrolled in a memoir workshop at The Muse, a successful community writing center in Norfolk, VA. During the first class we talked about the different types of memoir and what we each might write about during the workshop. I was adopted as an infant, so I chose to write about the challenges of meeting and getting to know my biological mother as a 14-year-old.

I knew I had a story to tell, and hoped that others might learn from my experiences, but I also knew that my biological mother would be a compelling character. You see, she lived in her own world inside her head and had some very… interesting… beliefs. One of those beliefs was that she was married to the Archangel Gabriel.

The morning after that first memoir class I was thinking about my memoir project as I showered, searching for words that would adequately describe her, when this line popped into my head: “My mother is a raving lunatic and my father is the Archangel Gabriel. Please pass the potatoes.” As soon as I had that sentence, I pictured a large dining room table, a woman having dinner at her boyfriend’s mother’s house and having that awkward moment when asked “So, what do your parents do?”

I thought, what if it were true, what if her father really was the Archangel Gabriel?

Well, as I often do, I started imagining what a person half-human, half archangel would be like, why they would exist, what challenges they would face, what they might be able to do, the worlds they would know, the life they might lead. And, in keeping with my mega-multi-tasking life, I decided why not write two books? And so I started.

From that dinner table scene, I created Julia, the main character – a woman who has had a difficult life, and who suddenly learns that her father is, in fact, the Archangel Gabriel. A woman who is just beginning to find her way on Earth and who now must suddenly function in two worlds, discovering the power and responsibility that comes with her angel half while living a very human existence.

I started out writing one chapter of the memoir, then one chapter of Divinity.

I learned that writing a memoir is tough work. You have to dig down deep and rip your heart out, and then serve it to the page, and to readers. You are forced to try to see the situation from all points of view, including those you may not have had any empathy for in the past. You’re telling a story that you don’t control, because it’s already been told, and you’re reliving an important and life-altering period in your own life.

At first, writing Divinity gave me a break from the intensity of the writing the memoir. Writing the novel gave me balance at a time when I needed some light in the darkness, balance after writing material that often left me feeling unbalanced.

In time – a fairly short time – Divinity took over. I was having too much fun getting to know Julia, watching her grow as she learned the truth about her family history, as she encountered all the Archangels and learned that each had their own agenda and purpose, as she learned how to use the powers her angel half offered her, and as she faced the unknown threat of the A’nwel.

The memoir sits on a nearby shelf, about two-thirds finished, a project that I keep telling myself I’ll finish soon.

Right now, though, I’m too engrossed in writing the sequel to Divinity, watching as Julia continues to evolve, and to make surprising discoveries about the nature of heaven, Earth, and the forces that would change both.

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About the Book:

Divinity_highPublisher: Spence City

Release Date: September 23, 2014

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When Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she’s left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel. With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart. Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A’nwel and protect the family she never knew she had. What she doesn’t know is that Archangels have secrets too.

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About the Author:

MichelleJohnsonMichelle L. Johnson was born in Ohio and adopted by Canadians. They traveled all over North America, and when they weren’t on the road Michelle could be found with her nose buried deeply in the pages of a book. With all of her travels and adventures, she hopes to bring some of her unique perspective to the pages and to entertain others the way all of her heroes have for her. When she’s not hanging out with her feathered friends, she’s busy being a literary agent with Inklings Literary Agency. She says wherever she hangs her coffee mug is her home, and right now that’s a toasty warm Jacksonville, Florida with her happy Cocker Spaniel and her small family.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Book Blitz: Phantom’s Dance by Lesa Howard

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Yeah, we are suckers for Phantom of the Opera adaptations. This one sounds intriguing and we’re giving serious thought toward reading it at some point, murr! =^.^=

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Publisher: Boot in the Door Publications

Date Released: April 6, 2014

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Christine Dadey’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Houston for her to attend the prestigious Rousseau Academy of Dance. Now, two years later, Christine struggles to compete among the Academy’s finest dancers, her parents are on the brink of divorce, and she’s told no one about her debilitating performance anxiety and what she’s willing to do to cope with it.

Erik was a ballet prodigy, a savant, destined to be a star on the world’s stage, but a suspicious fire left Erik’s face horribly disfigured. Now, a lonely phantom forced to keep his scars hidden, he spends his nights haunting the theater halls, mourning all he’s lost. Then, from behind the curtain he sees the lovely Christine. The moldable, malleable Christine.

Drawn in by Erik’s unwavering confidence, Christine allows herself to believe Erik’s declarations that he can transform her into the dancer she longs to be. But Christine’s hope of achieving her dreams may be her undoing when she learns Erik is not everything he claims. And before long, Erik’s shadowy past jeopardizes Christine’s unstable present as his obsession with her becomes hopelessly entangled with his plans for revenge.

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Excerpt:

I cast about. Was he behind me?

            “Van, are you messing with me?”

            “Your technique is flawless, but you stifle your gift with it.”

            To my left. He was behind the curtain to my left.

            “Who’s there?” The voice had a gravelly edge to it. There was no way it was Van’s high-pitched, juvenile speech.

            Rather than answer me, the guy continued his critique. “You worry too much about your form. You should trust your body to do what it’s trained to do.”

            I trod over and yanked back a curtain. “Who’s there? Are you one of the Diamondbacks?” That of course was ludicrous, because the only formation they knew was on a football field.

            Then it dawned on me. “Oh, you’re a security guard. Well, I was about to leave,” I explained to him. “I was looking for Evander Woodruff, and I—”

            “I’m a dancer.”

            “Pardon?”

            “I’m a dancer.”

            “Oh. A member of the company?”

            “Not this company.”

            “What company are you with?”

            “I’m not.”

            “You’re not making sense. And where are you?” I twisted my head like an owl.

            “Behind the curtains.”

            “Yeah, I got that.” It sounded like he’d moved so I did a one-eighty to follow his path. “But why?”

            He hesitated. “It’s what works for me.”

            “What?”

            “Let’s just say I have my reasons.” His tone was superior and sounded strangely familiar. “But I saw your dancing,” he said. “And your technique really is outstanding, but you’re uptight and it shows.”

            “Excuse me.” I sputtered.

            “Don’t be offended.” He chuckled. “I just think some of your steps were stiff and it needed to be pointed out.”

            “And you think you’re the one to do that.”

            “Well, yeah. It doesn’t seem anyone at this ridiculous school knows how to help you.”

About the Author:

lesa howardI’m not the typical author. I didn’t always enjoy reading or writing. While in school, I found it to be a chore I’d just as soon skip. I would rather have been daydreaming, my favorite past time. It wasn’t until I grew up and didn’t have to, that I realized reading was fun. I soon discovered that reading fueled my daydreaming. So, remembering a short story I’d written in high school, I began imagining expanding that story into a book. Before long I found I had loads of ideas for not just the short story but other books and stories as well. Fast forward a few years, a lot of studying about writing, practicing my writing, studying some more, taking classes from people who knew what they were doing, studying and practicing yet more, and ta-dah, author! In the same way I had learned I loved reading, I learned I loved writing, too. It’s just that writing is a lot harder than reading.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

$10 Gift Card to Amazon, B&N, or Book Depository (Winner’s Choice)! To enter, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/2348b9db321

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Sara’s Review of Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

MaryRating: paw4

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Date Released: September 2, 2014

Series: Blood Mary #1

Goodreads Description:

There is a right way and a wrong way to summon her.

Jess had done the research. Success requires precision: a dark room, a mirror, a candle, salt, and four teenage girls. Each of them–Jess, Shauna, Kitty, and Anna–must link hands, follow the rules . . . and never let go.

A thrilling fear spins around the room the first time Jess calls her name: “Bloody Mary. Bloody Mary. BLOODY MARY.” A ripple of terror follows when a shadowy silhouette emerges through the fog, a specter trapped behind the mirror.

Once is not enough, though–at least not for Jess. Mary is called again. And again. But when their summoning circle is broken, Bloody Mary slips through the glass with a taste for revenge on her lips. As the girls struggle to escape Mary’s wrath, loyalties are questioned, friendships are torn apart, and lives are forever altered.

A haunting trail of clues leads Shauna on a desperate search to uncover the legacy of Mary Worth. What she finds will change everything, but will it be enough to stop Mary–and Jess–before it’s too late?

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Review:

Never let it be said that I’m a scaredy-cat. While I may be feline, it takes a lot to really creep me out. However, this book definitely made my fur stand on end! Reading this in the middle of the night because I couldn’t sleep didn’t help matters any either. I’ve spent the last few nights curled up close to my human because of the creep factor found within the pages of this book. Well done, Monahan, very well done, murr!

Before anyone asks, no, I never played Bloody Mary when I was a kitten. I actually had to talk with my human servant to understand what the appeal was, and I have to admit, you humans are a strange lot. Especially when you take in to account that you feel like this stuff is not real. Rest assured, ghosts are very real…just ask any feline. Those moments where we are staring off over your shoulder? Yup, we are looking at and communing with spirits on the other side. Most of the time though, those spirits are pretty harmless. So the idea of a ghost like Bloody Mary is both thrilling and chilling at the same time. =^.^=

One thing I don’t ever want to experience in all of my nine lives is being tortured by a vengeful ghost. What happens to poor Shauna and her friends in this book kept me turning pages long past the time I should have turned out the light and gone to bed. Course, by the time I was ready to go to sleep I couldn’t because I was too wound up from reading. There’s very little down time between suspenseful moments. Just when you think that Shauna’s caught a break and a moment to breathe, Mary shows up to remind her that her life is never going to be the same. Monahan has done a wonderful job with the pacing, vivid details, and building of these scenes. She really knows how to pull readers in and keep them engrossed in the story. At one point I was so immersed in reading that my fellow feline reviewer, Willow, made me jump 3 feet in the air when she sneezed unexpectedly. Yes, the story is that good, murr!

Shauna is a typical high schooler who never considers the repercussions that may happen as a result of messing in something she shouldn’t. I cheered during those moments when she stood up for herself and went on the offensive rather than wallowed in despair. Other times I was hissing in frustration because she wasn’t fighting enough and letting her fear, or Jess, control her. Course, it’s easy to point out the mistakes when it’s not you who is involved in the events. Still, by the end of the book I had a lot of admiration for her and thought that she was a strong individual. I really liked Kitty and Anna. They are really sweet girls and a great set of friends for Shauna to have. They also are believable characters and I easily connected to both of them because their personalities are much like my own. I felt for them because while Shauna goes through a lot, Kitty and Anna are caught on the sidelines and are put through the wringer as a result. I applaud them for sticking by their friend, but if I’d been in their shoes, I would have run the first chance I had in order to protect myself. And what happens to both Anna and Bronx (Kitty’s boyfriend) is seriously messed up. As for Jess, the one responsible for the entire situation, I wanted to claw her eyes out right from the start! By the end of the book I had no sympathy for her at all, but then that assumes I had any sympathy for her to begin with. Yeah, she may be genuine in her desire to want to save Shauna, but when all is said and done, the only person she really cares about is herself. It will be interesting to see if Monahan will allow her to redeem herself in the next book. Personally I hope she continues to suffer, Bast knows she deserves to.

As for Mary…yeah, remind me to never summon her. She’s beyond creepy. Monahan’s description of her appearance made me want to gag, and at one point I found myself picturing the women from the movies The Ring and The Grudge, but with beetles crawling all over them. ~shudders~ I can’t wait to learn more about her! It’s a shame that we have to wait until next year for the sequel. Sigh.

That being said, I couldn’t help but want more of Mary’s backstory in this book. Monahan touches upon it in the three letters that Mary wrote, but you really only get a brief glimpse of the truth. How does Mary really die? Why is she stuck haunting young girls? And why does it take four girls to summon her? If this was actually answered in the book, I missed it. I believe at one point it was alluded to, but I can’t say for sure if what I read was the answer or not. What will it take to actually lay her to rest? All right, so that last question is more speculative and would negate the need for a sequel if it was answered now, but a feline is permitted to wonder! The point I’m trying to make is that it doesn’t seem fair to have such an enticing character, but not allow readers to really know her. Yes, it maintains an air of mystery about her, but would it have really hurt to give us just a bit more information?

I feel that fans of ghost stories will greatly enjoy this book. For the first of a new series and from a debut author, this story is one that is not to be missed, murr! It’s guaranteed to make your skin crawl. And if I may offer a bit of advice, do not read this in the middle of the night. I will not be responsible for your loss of sleep if you do. Heehee.

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***My thanks to Disney-Hyperion for providing a copy of this book for an honest review***

Willow’s Review of Beauty’s Beast by Amanda Ashley

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Today I’m thrilled to be a part of the virtual book tour for Amanda Ashley’s Beauty’s Beast hosted by Tasty Book Tours! I’d also like to than the publisher, Kensington Books, for providing me a copy of the novel for an honest review. To see the full list of all the bloggers involved, please click on the banner above. =^.^=

Beauty's BeastRating: paw4

Publisher: Kensington – Zebra

Date Released: September 2, 2014

Goodreads Description:

Beauty

Fair of face and figure, Kristine is young, innocent, pure. Yet she has been condemned to the gallows for killing a man. The only one who can save her is a lord so infamous that some say he is the son of the Devil himself…

And the Beast

Erik Trevayne is called the Demon Lord of Hawksbridge Castle, but few know of the curse he lives under. Or the terrifying changes slowly gnawing away at his humanity. When he weds her, all he wants of Kristine is a son. But when he beds her, a wild hope is born—that love that can tame even the most monstrous of beasts…

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Review:

 Here at What the Cat Read, we love a good retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. We also enjoy retellings of The Phantom of the Opera, too. So imagine my joy when I discovered that Ashley’s book has elements of both between its bindings! Yup, I got two for one with this novel, and while there were a few things that kept me from absolutely loving the story, I still enjoyed enough of it to give it four paws. Honestly, Ashley has a great book here which I think fans of paranormal romance, fairy tale retellings, and those just looking for a fun read will enjoy. =^.^=

So first things first, I absolutely loved Ashley’s take on Beauty and the Beast, and mixing in elements of Phantom was a genius move, whether intentional or not. Erik and Kristine…I do so love those names. But it isn’t just names that Ashley took from Phantom, it was also Erik’s mask: black silk which covers one half of his face and a portion of the other side. Yeah, okay, so she’s not a soprano and he’s not a mad genius who kidnaps her into his underground lair, the names and mask were enough to make me happy. Add in the impulse on Kristine’s part of see what is beneath the mask and some dialogue between them which feels like it came from Phantom and I consider it a win. As for the Beauty and Beast spin, placing Erik under a spell which slowly causes him to change into a beast made me even more sympathetic to him than I’ve been to the beast in previous adaptations. And given that he really doesn’t deserve the curse to begin with and that he can’t break it by simply finding someone to love him in return like in the original fairy tale, well, let’s just say that this was definitely a unique way of approaching things.

I liked Kristine. She’s strong, determined, doesn’t hesitate to fight for her safety or her desires, and generally struck me as being easy to relate to. Yeah, she’s seventeen and I can understand those folks who had issues with her being that young, but I do tend to look at age as being a state of mind and once upon a time, seventeen would not have been considered inappropriate for what happens to her in this story. Erik is a brooding, secretive, tortured man who in my opinion didn’t deserve the curse his mother-in-law placed upon him. I felt for him in this book and hated that he didn’t feel like he could turn to anyone for compassion or understanding. On the other paw, I really got tired of his continually bemoaning his fate, and that was more the fault of Ashley rather than Erik. If I were in his shoes I’d probably be upset every time I caught a glimpse of myself and realized how much had changed so quickly. Still, it would have been nice to see more fire in him, more effort on his part to put up a fight rather than just give in and slowly let it happen.

The romance between both characters was interesting. It was slow to develop and I liked that when it truly formed it wasn’t in your face and over the top. Erik’s request that Kristine not touch him lent those moments they were together a sense of mystery and sensuality. Now, I’ll admit that I wasn’t overly thrilled with Erik’s original reason for marrying Kristine, but again, I can overlook it and accept it on grounds that at one point in time stuff like this was common. The fact that they did eventually find love between them also holds true for their type of relationship. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a historical romance, but there are elements of it here and I’m okay with that.

So what didn’t I enjoy about the book? Well first off there was a lot of bouncing between character perspective within scenes. One minute you’d be in Kristine’s head and the next you are looking through Erik’s eyes. I get that this is an acceptable style of writing, but I personally do not enjoy sudden “head hopping.” It makes it hard for me to shift gears when I’m immersed in one character’s point of view only to suddenly find myself in the other…it’s very jarring and I don’t like it.

Another issue that I had was the ending which was way too simple and unsatisfying. I probably would have given this 4 paws and a tail wave of appreciation had it not been for the ending. I don’t want to say what happens because that would be spoiling things, and I really do feel that readers should give this book a try, but I do feel that it is necessary to say that the ending was rather anticlimactic. Ashley does a great job of writing a great many suspenseful scenes, but the moment that that talent really should have shown, it wasn’t there. I’m not saying that I have a problem with Happily Ever After endings, I don’t, but I do have an issue with simple solutions to a problem and antagonistic characters. I got to the end and promptly asked “What the…Did I really just read that?” Sigh, so much potential, and yet such a let down.

The last problem that I had was the werewolves. Seriously, why go to the trouble of introducing a pack of werewolves if you aren’t intending to do anything with them? All the other characters served a purpose in the story, though I still question the need to bring in a white wizard on top of everything else, but the werewolves really didn’t serve a purpose. Okay, you could argue that they are there to comfort Erik and provide him with the knowledge that he doesn’t have to be alone once the curse complete, but given that they are working to find a way to break the spell, I don’t understand why they needed to be included in the first place. Unless there is the hope of a story spinning off from this that involves them later, the book could have been just fine without them.

Regardless of these issues, Beauty’s Beast is an intriguing read and probably one of the most unique retellings of my favorite fairy tale that I’ve read this year. I really do feel that readers would enjoy this book and I’m curious to see if Ashley intends to make a series out of this, either by writing about the various characters in this book or by simply continuing to write fairy tale adaptations set in the world she’s created in this book. She definitely leaves room to go either way if she so desired.

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The rattle of the guard’s keys roused her from a troubled sleep. She bolted upright, fearing that it was morning and they had come to take her to the block. Stomach churning with fear, she stared at the guard, blinking against the light of the lamp.
“That’s her,” the guard said. He stepped into the cell and lifted the lamp higher. “Stand up, girl. His lordship wants to see yer face.”
She had learned long ago to do as she was told, and to do it quickly. Hardly daring to breathe, she scrambled to her feet.
It was then that she saw him, a dark shape that looked like death itself shrouded in a long black woolen cloak. The garment fell in deep folds from his broad shoulders to brush the tops of his black leather boots. The hood of the cloak was pulled low, hiding his face from her view. Black kidskin gloves covered his hands. He stood there, tall, regal, and frightening.
“Her name’s Kristine,” the guard remarked. “Don’t recall her family name.”
The hooded man nodded and made a circling motion with his forefinger.
“Turn around, girl,” the guard demanded brusquely.
She did as the guard asked, her cheeks flushing with shame as she felt the hooded man’s gaze move over her. She was barefoot and filthy. What was left of her hair was dirty and crawling with lice. Her dress, once the color of fresh cream, was badly stained, the hem torn. And worst of all, she smelled bad.
She heard a faint noise, like the rustle of dry paper, and realized the stranger had asked the guard a question.
“Just turned seventeen,” the guard replied with a leer.
She heard the rasp of the hooded man’s voice again and then he turned away, melting into the shadows beyond her cell.
The guard followed him, pausing at the door to look back over his shoulder. “This be yer lucky day, girl. Seems his lordship has taken a fancy to ye.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He just bought yer freedom.”
Kristine staggered back, overcome by a wave of dizzying relief. She wasn’t going to die.
“He’ll be comin’ by to fetch ye tomorrow night.”
Coming for her. Tomorrow night. Relief turned to trepidation. “What…what does he want with me?”
The guard threw back his head and barked a laugh. “He says he’s going ta marry ye.”
“Marry me!” Kristine stared at the guard in shock.
“Aye.”
“But…he doesn’t even know me.”
The guard shrugged. “What does it matter?”
Why would a stranger want to marry her? And why did she care, if it would get her out of this terrible place with her head still on her shoulders? “Can you tell me his name?”
“Why, don’t you know? That’s his lordship, Erik Trevayne.”
Stunned, Kristine stared at the guard. She would rather lose her head that very night than become the wife of the infamous Lord Trevayne. A beheading, at least, would be swiftly and mercifully over. “And he wants to marry me? Are you sure?”
“Aye, girl. It seems a fittin’ match. A murderin’ wench bein’ wed to the Demon Lord of Hawksbridge Castle.”

About the Author:

Amanda AshleyAmanda Ashley is one of those rare birds—a California native. She’s lived in Southern California her whole life and, except for the earthquakes, she loves it. She shares a home with her husband, as well as an adorable Pomeranian named Lady, a wild house sparrow named Tweety, and a tortoise who remains nameless. Amanda and her alter ego, Madeline, have written 60 books. Not bad for someone who started writing just for the fun of it. Her books regularly appear on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

***Giveaway***

Kensington is providing three lucky winners a copy of Beauty’s Beast in paperback! To be entered, simply click on the rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/521ac4c8430/

Can’t Wait for Books of 2014 – September

With so many exciting books coming out this year, the felines thought it would be fun to do a monthly post showcasing titles that they are anxious to get their paws on. Here are their picks for this month. =^-^=

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Sara’s Choice: Maplecroft (The Borden Dispatches #1) by Cherie Priest

Expected publication: September 2nd 2014 by Roc Trade

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Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one….

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.

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Willow’s Choice: The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire

Expected publication: September 2nd 2014 by DAW

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Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.

She was wrong.

It’s time to learn the truth.

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