Thursday, October 31, 2013

*Gizmos Reviews* Book Blitz - The Unseen by J.L.Bryan

Book & Author Details:

The Unseen by J.L. Bryan 
Publication date: October 31st 2013 
Genres: Horror


Cassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.

When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that the unseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.


by J.L. Bryan 

Chapter One

Years later, Cassidy would remember the night of the party as her first encounter with the unseen world.  It began with broken glass, blood, and a homemade Ouija board.
The day after Cassidy’s seventeenth birthday, her mother was away at work for the night, inadvertently giving Cassidy the best possible present: a Saturday night alone at the apartment.  Her younger brother Kieran was staying at a friend’s house for the weekend.  Cassidy’s mother had forbidden her to have any guests except for her best friend, Barb.  Boys, as always, were doubly forbidden while Cassidy’s mother was working the night shift at the hotel.  Her mother called her on the land line to make sure she was home—never Cassidy’s cell, always the land line.
The night started out calmly, with no sign of the horror to come.
Cassidy and Barb stood in the narrow kitchen, spreading sauce and mozzarella on a pre-made Boboli crust. Cassidy opened a jar of olives.
“Seriously?” Barb asked. “Why you are always trying to sneak olives into everything?  You’ve got an olive fetish.”
“Olives are awesome on pizza,” Cassidy said. “Way better than one of your Hawaiian-style travesties.”
“I like things that follow a theme.”
“Even though pineapples and ham actually taste terrible and ruin it?” Cassidy scattered olives on one half of the pizza. “There.  I’m saving you from any olive deliciousness.  Tamila and I can eat this half.”
“You really invited Tamila?” Barb frowned.
“I told you I was.”
“I thought you were kidding.” Barb had never particularly liked Tamila Evans, who was Cassidy’s “old” best friend from middle school. 
Barb was the sort of sixteen-year-old girl who dressed in black lace, corpse-white face powder, purple lipstick, and hair dyed “Black Death,” just one of the colors offered by Barb’s beloved Horror Girl Cosmetics.
Cassidy’s old friend Tamila, by contrast, played trombone in the marching band and had joined groups like Math League to pump up her college application, while Cassidy and Barb spent the football games getting high or drunk under the bleachers.  Cassidy and Barb also struggled to pass Science and Society, a boring remedial class better known as Science for Slackers. 
Cassidy had tried for a couple of years to create a friendship between Tamila and Barb, but neither girl had any real interest in the other.  Cassidy had found herself drifting away from Tamila and closer to Barb, and having both girls to her apartment at the same time could get awkward.
“Reese said she’s coming, too,” Barb said.
“Ugh,” Cassidy said.
“I’m telling you, you’d like her if you just give her a little bit of a chance.”
“What’s to like about Reese?”
“She’s fun,” Barb said.
“Let’s not confuse loud with fun,” Cassidy replied, shaking her head. 
Cassidy couldn’t stand Reese Warwick, but the skinny blond girl was Barb’s latest girl-crush.  Barb was always hunting for a third girl to link into her and Cassidy’s friendship so they’d be a “clique” instead of “just a couple of losers.”
Barb had been hopeful about Reese as a third Musketeer because she was pretty and had a salty tongue, able to cut down the lame preppy kids with a few choice words.  Cassidy thought Reese was a big fake—her blond pageboy-type hair, the golden ring in her nose, the skimpy tops and ultra-short skirts she wore, as though being pretty wasn’t enough and she just had to snag the attention of every male in the room at all times.
Barb herself was chunky, with a low build a bit reminiscent of a bulldog.  Cassidy was tall and gangly, with a hideous number of freckles and long, unmanageable red hair.  Cassidy was five foot eleven and holding, hoping each day she didn’t grow another inch and cross over into six-foot territory.  She already towered over her mom and her brother.
Cassidy’s unusual height had led to her being recruited for the girls’ basketball team as a freshman.  She had sucked at basketball and quit after one season—Cassidy liked the Art Club, she liked painting backdrops for school plays, and she liked getting high in the woods behind the gym.  She did not like chasing a ball and putting it through a hoop like some kind of trained hamster.
Cassidy thought Barb just wanted a hot girl like Reese around to make their small group look more attractive.
The doorbell rang.  Cassidy opened it and hugged Tamila, who gave her an uncertain smile that said everything about the deteriorating state of their friendship.  Tamila was devolving toward a gross preppy look, too.  She wore a blue and white Abercrombie dress with two matching bows in her long, soft black hair.
Tamila’s smile, weak enough to begin with, faltered more when she saw Barb.
“Hi, Barb.” Tamila waved.  Tamila was a shapely, dark-skinned black girl who had grown out of middle-school gawkiness to become a real beauty with large, deep brown eyes.  If Barb wanted a cute girl for their group of friends, Tamila should have been a top pick, but she was too bookish and not wild enough for Barb.
“Tamila!” Barb said with fake friendliness, then turned her attention to sliding the pizza into the hot oven.
“Want some wine?” Cassidy offered.
“Is it a merlot?” Tamila asked.
“It’s a...pinot noir.” Cassidy read the words off the label, pronouncing them peanut no-wire, since she had no idea how else to say it.
“Just a little, thanks. I don’t want to get dizzy,” Tamila said.
“This should be fun, right?” Cassidy asked them, handing Tamila her wine.
“Sure.” Barb refilled her own glass, avoiding eye contact.
The evening was quiet and awkward until Reese arrived, at which point it became loud and awkward.  Barb let Reese in the door while Cassidy and Tamila sliced the finished pizza in the kitchen.
“What’s up, bitches?” Reese announced as she entered, waving a tall vodka bottle like a trophy.  The blond girl staggered into the room, dressed in a transparent mesh shirt with a skimpy bra top underneath, her tight low-rider denim shorts strategically slashed in several places. “So you call this a party, huh?”
“Want some pizza?” Barb offered.
“Um, do I look like I want a giant ass?” Reese unscrewed the vodka bottle and swigged. “So can we have some fucking music up in here?”
 The group moved back to Cassidy’s room to blast Cassidy’s stereo.  Cassidy sat on her daybed, which was lined with cushions, between Tamila and Barb.  Reese was left with the sagging armchair in the corner.
“So what’s for entertainment tonight, ladies?” Reese asked.
“I brought a pack of Uno cards...” Tamila reached into her purse.
“Uno?  Because we’re a bunch of kindergarteners?” Reese snorted. “Let’s play ‘Hot or Not.’”
“What’s that?” Cassidy asked.
“Where we judge the boys at school like the pieces of meat they are,” Reese said. “I’ll start:  Hot or not?  Dexter McKenna.”
“Ew, not,” Tamila said, frowning.
“How is he not?” Reese scowled.
“Because he’s a dick.” Tamila sipped her glass of wine. 
“You don’t like dicks?  You’re a chick-licker, aren’t you?” Reese laughed and stuck out her tongue, pierced with a stud that looked like a black pearl. “A preppy little dyke.”
“I am not!” Tamila snapped.  She gave Cassidy a desperate look, her eyes pleading for rescue.
“Come on, leave her alone.” Cassidy held out her glass to Barb, who had the open wine bottle. “Let’s drink more.”
“What do you think, Cassidy?” Barb poured until Cassidy’s wine glass was dangerously full. “Is Dex hot or not?”
“He’s kind of cute, but Tami’s right.  He’s a dick.” Cassidy drank her wine and fought down the urge to grimace at the bite of the alcohol.  She had a feeling Reese would make fun of her for it.
“I think he’s hot,” Barb said.
“Thank you, Barb!” Reese said. “All guys are dicks, people.  You just have to pick the hot ones.”
“Wisdom from Reese.” Barb toasted her and drank.
“I’m full of it.” Reese lit a Parliament.
“You really are,” Tamila said softly.
“What was that?”
“I’m going to let the smoke out.  It’s getting hard to breathe in here.” Tamila stood and opened the glass door to the balcony, letting in a warm, damp April breeze from the night outside.
Cassidy’s apartment was crappy and small.  The air conditioner smelled like sour rust, the plumbing was unreliable, and she could hear her neighbor’s dog barking day and night on the balcony below hers.  She and her brother shared a small hallway and a bathroom.  Their mother had the master bedroom, all the way across the living room.  The only good things about her apartment were that it was on the top floor of the three-story building and it had the little corner balcony.  Doors opened onto the balcony from both the living room and Cassidy’s room. 
“Does my smoke bother you?” Reese asked, blowing a thick plume toward Tamila.
“It bothers anyone who doesn’t smoke,” Tamila said.
“Can I have a Parliament?” Barb asked.
“Oh, sure!” Reese stuck a cigarette in Barb’s mouth, then held out the open pack to Cassidy. “And you, ma’am?”
“Let’s go outside.” Cassidy took one and led the way out.
The balcony wasn’t large, but Cassidy and her mother had decorated it with outdoor shelves full of small, blooming plants.  It overlooked a broken concrete walkway next to a chain link fence.  Past the fence lay a big sinkhole thick with pine brush and kudzu.  Tires, beer cans, and an old boxspring had accumulated in the weedy sinkhole over the years despite the high fence around it.
“Oh, yeah, we wouldn’t want to bother all the non-smokers here.” Reese just happened to blow a big cloud of smoke into Tamila’s face on her way out. 
Tamila hung back, standing inside Cassidy’s room and watching the three girls stand at the wooden railing.  The railing’s blue paint was faded and peeling, neglected for years by the apartment complex’s cheapskate management.
Cassidy wondered what Reese was secretly thinking about her tiny apartment.  She’d been to Reese’s house for a party once.  Reese had a big princess bed, a flower garden and swimming pool in her back yard, and a pool table and a bar in her finished basement.
“Full moon tonight,” Barb said. “The werewolves will be out.”
“So, Dex McKenna...?” Reese said.
“We already did him,” Cassidy replied.
“I haven’t done him,” Reese snickered. “But I will.  I know he’s kind of a douche, hot.  So, so hot.”
“I’m not sure he deserves the double ‘so hot,’” Barb said. “A single one, maybe.”
“That’s why I invited him over tonight,” Reese told them.
“What?” Cassidy asked.
“It’s cool, he’ll bring some goodies if he comes.” Reese touched the side of her nose. “I was going to let it be a surprise, but...”
“A surprise?  Like a present?” Cassidy asked. “Isn’t a present supposed to be something you actually want?”
“I told him he could bring Kyle Bowers, too.  Kyle’s totally up for grabs.  Who’s calling him?  Barb?  Cassidy?”
“I made out with Kyle at Jerry Krazinksi’s party freshman year.” Barb shuddered. “He tasted like bologna.  It was like sticking my tongue up Oscar Meyer’s crack.”
“I don’t want those guys in my house,” Cassidy said. “Reese, you should have asked me.”
“First of all—‘apartment,’ not ‘house.’  Let’s not mangle the English language.  Second, I’ve been after this guy forever, for like four weeks.  It’s cool if we use your mom’s bed, right?” Reese asked.
“Gross.  Use my little brother’s bed,” Cassidy told her.
“Um, even grosser?  I am not hooking up with Dex on your brother’s snotty-caked little Star Wars sheets.”
“Then go somewhere else.”
“Fine.  The living room couch?”
“Like somewhere not in my apartment,” Cassidy said. “I’m not cleaning up those stains.”
“We’ll use a towel!” Reese offered.
Cassidy shook her head. “I can’t believe you invited them without asking me.”
“They probably won’t even come, okay?” Reese said. “Dex said he was busy.  It was just my fantasy that he would show up anyway, and take me right to the...couch...Cassidy, does your mom’s bathroom have a Jacuzzi tub?”
“Nope,” Cassidy said. “So those boys are not coming?  Right?”
“Almost definitely not.  But maybe.”  Reese shrugged and flicked her cigarette out into the sinkhole, where it landed among dry weeds and brush.
“Watch out!  You could start a fire.” Tamila leaned out to see where it had gone.
“Don’t be such a panty-pisser.  Your friend is boring me, Cassidy.” Reese nudged Tamila aside with her elbow as she returned inside Cassidy’s room.  Tamila gave Cassidy a look of disbelief and shook her head.  She mouthed the word bitch, and Cassidy laughed.
“What’s funny?” Reese looked back, frowning.
“Nothing,” Cassidy said.  She stepped inside and grabbed the vodka bottle from her dresser.  Barb followed her in and closed the balcony door behind them.
When they sat down, Reese stole Tamila’s previous spot at the head of the daybed and Barb sat beside her, leaving Cassidy to sit at the foot of her own bed.  Tamila rolled her eyes and dropped into the sagging old armchair instead.
“So, yeah, probably no boys,” Reese said. “What do we do instead?”
“Vodka shots.  Everybody empty your glass,” Cassidy said.  All four girls turned their glasses up and drained the wine.  Reese poured vodka.
“That’s too much!” Tamila gaped at her wineglass, filled to the lip with clear liquor.
“If you get drunk, maybe you’ll be more fun!” Reese gave her a chipper smile, and Barb laughed. Reese raised her glass. “Here’s to me hooking up with Dex, and to whatever you bitches want for yourselves.”
“Cheers!” Barb replied, clinking her glass against Reese’s.  Vodka sloshed over her fingers. Barb turned to Cassidy and held up her glass. “To whatever us bitches want for ourselves.”
“Cheers.” Cassidy clinked her glass against Barb’s, then leaned and stretched toward Tamila, but it was too far to reach, and neither of them made the effort to stand up and cross the room.
Cassidy, Barb, and Reese downed her entire drinks, but Tamila took a small sip, wrinkled her nose, and coughed.  She waved her hand in front of her mouth and set her mostly-full glass on Cassidy’s dresser, shaking her head.
“What?  How can you wuss-gag on vodka?  It has no taste,” Reese said. “Who wants seconds?”
“We don’t want to waste all of it right away,” Cassidy said.
“It’s not wasted if we drink it.” Reese winked, and Barb laughed.
“You know what we should do?  A full moon is the best time to contact the dead,” Barb said.
“Why would we want to do that?” Reese asked.
“To see what’s on the Other Side,” Barb replied.
“Isn’t that why the chicken crossed the road?” Tamila asked, but only Cassidy laughed at her joke.
“I’m serious, let’s do it,” Barb said. “Let’s talk to the spirits.”
Cassidy bit her lip.  Barb thought death was dark and romantic, but Cassidy didn’t find it romantic at all.  Her own father had died when she was six years old.
“How do you want to contact the dead, Barb?” Cassidy asked. “A séance?”
“Oh, this is all part of your ‘Look at me, I’m so Gothic and mysterious and weird’ thing,” Reese said to Barb.
“It’s better than your ‘Look at me, I’m wearing a see-through shirt’ thing,” Barb countered.
“Bitch!” Reese replied.
Reese gasped and slapped playfully at Barb, who tackled her in return.  Cassidy watched them, drunk and friendly on the bed beside her, and still couldn’t think of a single good reason to ever hang out with Reese again.
“Want to do the séance, Tami?” Cassidy asked.
“That’s not funny,” Tamila said. “Let’s talk about something else.”
“Yeah, a séance!” Reese suddenly seemed interested now that Tamila was clearly uncomfortable.
“We used a Ouija board at my cousin’s house during Christmas,” Barb said. “It really does move by itself, it spells out words.  It was creepy.”
“Those are dangerous,” Tamila said. “We did a study unit on them at church.  Ouija boards, Tarot cards, Satan-worshipers, Wiccans—”
“Hey, Wiccans worship nature,” Barb interrupted, sitting up and looking serious. “Not Satan.  Satanists don’t worship Satan, either.  I read the Satanic Bible.  Well, like three pages of it.”
“Then that’s a rip-off,” Cassidy said. “What are people who worship Satan supposed to call themselves if they can’t use the word ‘Satanist’?”
“They need a name,” Barb said. “They should organize.  They need like a devil-pope, and a whole Satanic bureaucracy—”
“Stop it.” Tamila said. “Stop saying ‘Satan.’”
“Are you fucking serious right now?” Reese asked. “Let’s break out that Ouija board, ladies.”
“No!  They can make people crazy.  There’s demonic possession, ghosts...if you really read up on this, Reese, you’d know.  It’s dangerous,” Tamila said.
Reese and Barb looked at each other, then burst out laughing.
“Dangerous?  They’re made by Parker Brothers,” Reese said.
“I don’t have one here, anyway.  I bought one in middle school, but my mom found it and threw it away before I could use it,” Cassidy said.
“Did she throw it in the sinkhole out back?  Like next to the old homeless-person mattress?” Reese asked, and she and Barb broke down laughing again.
Cassidy felt herself blush—part anger, part embarrassment—and she poured herself more wine.
“We can make one!” Barb, who knew Cassidy’s room as well as Cassidy herself, stumbled across the room and opened the door to Cassidy’s tiny closet. 
The closet door was covered in drawings, as were all the walls in Cassidy’s cluttered room.  Her oldest works were approximate drawings of Oscar and Elmo from Sesame Street, in the medium of Crayola, just above the springy doorstop that had fascinated her as a small child.
From there, the drawings had spread up and out, bats and dragons done in colored pencil and marker, then attempts at portraits of people she knew—her mother, her father, her kindergarten teacher, and some preschool friend whose name she’d long forgotten.  Later works included paintings of trees, spiderwebs, and a homeless one-eyed cat who lived in the parking lot.
“You could draw an awesome spirit board, Cassidy!” Barb carried out poster board and a shoebox with markers, glue, scissors, and bottles of glitter, which Cassidy had used to create the colorful, shimmering flowers on her dresser drawers back in middle school.  “It would be so much better than the store-bought ones, anyway.  You know it would.”
“You want me to make it?” Cassidy smiled, a little excited by the idea of creating something new.  Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered if they might contact her father’s spirit, wherever it was, but she certainly didn’t say it out loud.
“We’d better not,” Tamila said.
“Come on, Tami, it’s something we can all do together.  What goes on a Ouija board?  Just letters and numbers, right?” Cassidy asked.
“You also need a YES and a NO so the spirits can answer questions, and a GOOD-BYE so they can leave when they’re done,” Barb said. “Use the glow-in-the-dark markers.”
“Good idea!” Cassidy replied.  Barb hopped up to light the three scented candles in Cassidy’s room.  Tamila frowned.
Cassidy carefully wrote out the alphabet in three rows of green letters, then added numbers from zero to nine.  She wrote YES and NO in the upper corners and GOOD-BYE at the bottom.
“And maybe a big FUCK YOU in case they get annoyed,” Reese suggested, and Cassidy snickered and added FUCK YOU between the YES and the NO.
“This isn’t a joke,” Tamila said. “I’m not doing this.”
“Blah, blah, blah.” Reese rolled her eyes.
“Now we just need to decorate it,” Barb said. “There’s usually a sun and a moon...”
“We can do better than that.” Cassidy drew a blue moon, a green clover, a red heart, and a purple horseshoe before realizing she was imitating the ingredients of a Lucky Charms box. “Wait, this is stupid.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Tamila said.
“It looks good!” Barb countered.
“Make it more occult-y,” Reese said, with a sharp grin at Tamila.
Cassidy used the nozzle of her Elmer’s Glue bottle to sketch stars in each corner of the poster board.  She dusted them with red glitter and blew off the excess, leaving four sparkling red pentagrams.
“That seems like a bad idea,” Tamila said. “Just take off the pentagrams, okay?”
“The pentagrams are great!” Barb said.
“Hell, yeah, keep them,” Reese nodded.
“What other occult symbols are there?” Cassidy asked.
“Inverted crosses?” Reese suggested, then smirked at Tamila’s shocked look.
“There’s a symbol for each horoscope sign. I’ll sketch them...” Barb drew the symbols on a scrap of notebook paper, and Cassidy copied them in marker around the edges of the posterboard—blue waves for Aquarius, a red bull pictogram for Taurus.
“The symbol for Cancer is a sixty-nine?” Reese snickered, looking over Barb’s shoulder.
“That’s what Cancers like.  I’m a Cancer, so I know,” Barb replied.
“Here it is—the ultimate Ouija board.” Cassidy held up the colorful, glittering poster board. “We should be able to talk to ghosts from all over the world with this thing.”
“Sweet, international ghosts!  Let’s see how it looks in the dark.” Barb turned out the light, leaving the room in the dim glow of three candles.  The letters and numbers glowed an eerie green.  Outside, the trees rustled in the wind and light rain tapped on the balcony.
“Maybe I should go,” Tamila said quietly.
“Maybe you should!” Reese snatched the newly made board from Cassidy’s hands and tugged Barb down to the carpet with her. “Come on, let’s call up some dead people.”
“What do we use as a pointer?” Cassidy asked.
“You mean a planchette?” Barb drained her wine glass, then placed it upside down in the center of the board.  A few droplets of red wine dribbled down and blurred the glowing letters M and N.  Barb and Reese laid their fingertips on the base of the inverted glass.
“Let’s do this!” Reese said.
Cassidy slid down from her bed and sat across from Reese.  She placed her own fingertips on the glass along with the other two girls.
“One spot left,” Cassidy said to Tamila, who had made no move to leave the chair.
“I’m not doing it.”
“Come on, Tami.  It’ll be fun.  Please?” Cassidy resorted to a begging tone, locking eyes with Tamila.  What she wanted to say was: I am desperately trying to make you part of the group here, so please stop acting like such a tromboner tonight. “As a favor to me?”
“It does work better with four people,” Barb added.
Tamila sighed, looked at the board, and reluctantly left her chair to sit next to Cassidy, while offering a shaky, frightened smile to no one in particular.
“Okay.  Let’s get it over with,” Tamila whispered.  She placed her trembling fingers on the base of the upside-down wine glass. “We should say a prayer first.”
Barb and Reese found this hilarious, and Tamila frowned at their peals of drunken laughter.
“Let’s go,” Barb said.  She closed her eyes. “Are there any spirits—”
“Come talk to us, spirits!” Reese interrupted, closing her eyes and also swaying from side to side.  In her best drama-club voice, she projected, “Speak to us, give us messages from the world of the dead...”
The glass trembled under their fingers, and Cassidy gasped.  Everybody leaned in for a closer look, but the glass became still again.
“You should say only good spirits,” Tamila whispered. “Or we could end up talking to demons, or evil ghosts, or dead murderers...”
“Calling all demons, evil ghosts, and dead murderers!” Reese cried out in a slurred voice, then doubled forward, laughing.
“Be serious, Reese,” Barb said.  In a louder, more formal voice, she asked, “Are there any messages from the Other Side?  Like from our spirit guides or totem animals?”
“Totem animals,” Reese snickered.
“We all have one.  Mine’s a frog,” Barb told her, and Reese laughed and shook her head, tossing her blond hair.
“You look like a frog!” Reese said.
“Sh!  It’s moving,” Cassidy told them.
The wine glass shuddered again, and this time it began to slide over the poster board, the lip scraping and smearing a few of the still-wet letters, gathering glowing paint around its rim.
The glass moved across the alphabet to the word YES in the upper left corner of the poster, scraping up glue and glitter from a sparkly red pentagram along the way. 
“Who’s doing that?  Are you doing that?” Reese asked Tamila, who shook her head, her wide eyes fixed on the board.
“Hello?  Are you a spirit?” Barb asked.
The glass slid half an inch, then right back into place.  YES again.
“Who are you?” Barb asked. “I mean, to whom do we have the pleasure of speaking?”
The wineglass lay still for a moment, then vibrated and hummed as if someone had plinked it with a fingernail.  The glass slid over the alphabet.
Cassidy felt her heart racing.  She hadn’t expected it to work at all, and it was starting to freak her out.  She wished they hadn’t turned off the lights.
The wine glass smeared its way across the board, its entire rim glowing green now.  It stopped at the letter N, and didn’t move again until Barb said the letter aloud.  It stopped again on the I.
“N...I...” Barb said.
“Nipple?” Reese suggested.
The glass continued on to the B, then H...A...and then it stopped on Z.
“N-I-B-H-A-Z,” Barb said.
“It’s just nonsense,” Cassidy said.
The wineglass jerked under their fingers, then flew to the word NO, dragging their fingers with it.
“Who’s doing that?” Reese asked. “Is it you, Cassidy?  Barb?  It’s you, isn’t it, Barb?  You big Goth girl.”
“Sh,” Barb said. “Nib...haz?  Is that right?”
The wineglass zipped over to YES.
“What does that mean?” Cassidy asked.
The wineglass spelled out N...A...M...E.
“Your name is Nibhaz?”
“Sounds like a demon’s name to me,” Tamila said in a soft voice.
“Pfft, shut up,” Reese told her. “Like you would know.”
“Do you have a message for someone here, Nibhaz?” Barb asked.
 “For who?” Barb asked.
Cassidy felt her blood turn cold.
“Oh, shit, for Cassidy?” Reese asked.
“Nibhaz, what is your message for Cassidy?” Barb asked.
The four girls watched as the glass crept back and forth along the top row of text.  D...I...E...
“Die?  It’s telling her to die?” Tamila gasped.
“Sh, it’s not done yet,” Barb told her.
“Yeah, it’s not done yet,” Reese echoed, her eyes fixated on the glass.
Cassidy shivered, trying to think of any non-scary word that started with “die.”
“Diesel?” Cassidy asked in a shaky voice.  She expected someone to laugh at her, but nobody did.
The glass moved back to the letter D.
“Died,” Barb said. “He’s saying he died, I think.  He’s a ghost.”
The glass whipped over to the word NO, then returned to the letter D.

“Does it stand for something?” Cassidy guessed, trying not to sound scared.  Her heart was thundering inside her chest.
“Is it somebody’s initials, Nibhaz?” Barb asked.
“He’s telling her to die!  Are you people blind?” Tamila snapped.  She took her fingers off the glass and stood. “I’m gone.  Forget this craziness.”
“You can’t let go until the spirit says GOOD-BYE!” Barb yelled at her. “That’s how people get possessed!”
“Oh, now you believe in demons?” Tamila asked, brushing off her knees.
“Please don’t leave me, Tami,” Cassidy whispered.  She was genuinely scared now. “Not until this is done, okay?”
Tamila looked at her a long moment, then sighed and reluctantly sat on the floor again.
“Make it quick.” Tamila returned her fingers to the glass. “I mean it.”
“Nibhaz, is there more to your message?” Barb asked.
“What?” Cassidy whispered.
The glass flew back to the top row of letters.

It moved faster, back and forth, never leaving the top row.


Cassidy watched in horror, spellbound as the glass raced back and forth, smearing the top row of letters into an illegible green streak, but still sliding back and forth, back and forth, touching the spots where the three letters D, I, and E had been.
She wanted to let go and pull away, but her fingertips felt glued to the wine glass.  The glass became icy, burning cold under her fingertips, a crust of smoking frost forming inside the bowl and along the stem.


The Unseen by J.L. Bryan has a special release price of 99 cents through Halloween.  See his website for details and links:

J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on the English Renaissance and the Romantic period. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He enjoys remixing elements of paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror and science fiction into new kinds of stories.

He is the author of The Paranormals series (starting with Jenny Pox), The Songs of Magic series, Nomad, and other books. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, his son John, and some dogs and cats.

Twitter: @jlbryanbooks

Grand prize giveaway
Prizes (open to US/CAN):
--'spell book' pendant, handbag, and a signed copy of The Unseen 

--Images for the pendant and handbag are attached.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

*Review* A Study in Darkness (The Baskerville Affair #2) by Emma Jane Holloway

A Study in Darkness is the second installment in The Baskerville Affair series by Emma Jane Holloway and takes place between the months of August and November 1888. This is a world where steam barons run the utility companies, the railways, dockyards, and most factories that product weapons of mass destruction. The use of magic is severely punished in the United Kingdom and anyone claiming to use real magic is subjected to jail and execution as well as a stay in her Majesty's labs where they test magic users before determining their fate.

Once again, the story surrounds Evelina Cooper, Sherlock Holmes intrepid niece who understands magic and is able to put Deva's (elementals) into clockwork animals like mouse and bird. Evelina is also an interesting character in that she didn't come from riches, and struggled just for a bit of respectability in society. This time, Evelina finds herself fighting not just for herself, but to keep Jasper Keating away from her uncle after a bomb goes off at his home and she is caught freely kissing Tobias Roth who is to wed Alice Keating. 

Poor Alice. I should just say that I've come to like Alice along with Imogen since they really get put through the wringer. I felt for Alice because she's stuck in the middle between her father and being married to Tobias who obviously still cares for Evelina. I felt for Imogen because there is a huge revelation that you can see coming if you pay attention about what happened to her when she was younger, that makes so much sense, and she really does love Bucky even though her disgusting father doesn't want the union to happen. I can honestly say that the cliffhanger pertaining to Imogen needs to be fixed asap. 

A Study in Darkness is a rather long and drawn out story that surrounds various characters like Niccolo, and even Imogen. Evelina faces a harsh reality mostly because of her silly decisions and actions that lead her into making a deal with the deal himself. There were times I would have liked to strangle Evi for making more problems for herself instead of relying on others like Sherlock, Imogen, or even Nick who many people don't like for some reason or the other. Although Nick left a bad taste in my mouth in the first installment, he more than makes up for them in this installment. Like it or not folks, Nick and Evi belong together.

A Study in Darkness reveals a deeper look into the so called resistance and the Baskervilles. In A Study in Silk, they were briefly mentioned but we didn't know whether or not Sherock or his brother Mycroft were involved. We get introduced to a new character named the Schoolmaster who is obviously someone extremely important to the resistance and needs to be watched closely. The steam barons are also having an interesting tug of war to see who is the most powerful, and this can only lead to an interesting third installment to this series.

Steampunk is often a hit or miss for me, but in The Baskerville Affair series, EJH puts it in the forefront along with magic and the fact that Jack the Ripper might be roaming the streets killing women haphazardly. Readers will groan along with me when they learn there is a really heart stopping cliffhanger ending to this story. Luckily, I don't have to wait until December to find out what happens next since A Study in Ashes in already loaded on my Kindle and read to go!

*Recvd via NetGalley 07/01/2013* Released: October 29th 2013 by Del Rey

Author - Emma Jane Holloway
Title - A Study in Darkness
Publisher - Del Rey
Released - October 29, 2013
Genre - Steampunk

*Cover Reveal* Wasteland by Lindsay Leggett Presented by Xpresso Book Tours


Wasteland by Lindsay Leggett (Flight #2)
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult


Wasteland, the next book in the FLIGHT trilogy, takes place a few months after the ending of book one.

Trapped in a cell and experimented on, Piper Madden’s only hope is remembering Asher. Then, Elder Corp President Rupert Elder gives her new orders: to be a leader in a war against the Harpies. Without a choice, Piper must obey Rupert’s commands or suffer from paralyzing and painful Nanomachines. But the war is just beginning, and Asher has gone missing. The resistance is slowly building, and the upcoming war will be larger and bloodier than anything seen since the Devastation that ruined the earth. Throughout all of this, Piper remembers the time before she ran to Ichton, when David was alive and her hope in Elder Corp was still strong.


Nearly every writer struggles to put together information about themselves, perhaps because we’re so used to detailing the lives and ways of others. For the most part I am a writer, editor, photographer, and all-around artist living in the wilds north of Toronto, Ontario. I thrive on the juxtaposition of beauty and grit, enjoy urban crawls, indie everything, and time well-spent in the woods.

Author Links:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

*Waiting on Wednesday* Featuring Dorothy Must Die

"Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at “Breaking the Spine”, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. 

This weeks choice is----->Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I guess you could say that I have bitten hard into the hype surrounding this book. Ever since I saw it on Tea Time by Epic Reads, and read the synopsis, I am impatient to get my hands on this book. In fact, I have already looked at Harpercollins catalog for Summer 2014, and it's on it!

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

Hardcover432 pages
Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by HarperTeen

Monday, October 28, 2013

*Review* Year of the Demon (Fated Blades, #2) by Steve Bein

Year of the Demon is the sequel to Daughter of the Sword. Once again, Steve Bein takes readers back to Tokyo, Japan and into the life of Mariko Oshiro who has been promoted to Detective Sergeant in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department's Narcotics Unit. Mariko is slowly coming to grips with the fact that she's lost a finger on her right hand and somehow managed to survive being skewed with a Katana. She is also suffering from what her former sensei calls Paralysis through Analysis and continues to read through her former sensei's notes to get a better understanding of her sword that was gifted to her. 

Year of the Demon blends historical fiction with a contemporary setting. Mariko, nicknamed Frodo by her boss Lieutenant Sakaibara because of her short stature, has been teamed up with a new partner in Detective Watanabe aka Han Solo. While dealing with the fact that the Kamaguchi-gumi has put out a death contract for Mariko, she and Han are also forced into dealing with a group known as the Wind and a Devil's mask that seems to make the bearer go a bit insane with evil intentions including the desire to find and hold Mariko's sword while fundamentally changing people's lives with terrorism. 

More than half of Year of the Demon, however, is a transition back to the years 1533, and 1588. If you have read Daughter of the Sword, you will be familiar with 16 year old Daigoro Okuma and the fact that he carries the sword known as Glorious Victory Unsought. You will also be aware that Mariko is the current holder of said sword. Bein apparently has decided that readers need to know more about the sword as well as the Demon Mask that makes its appearance in both the past and the present. The Mask has apparently evolved over the years to the point where it hypnotizes the wearer into doing murderous things. 

I will say that I really like the determination of Daigoro. He's the leader of his clan, and in this installment, he forges a union that ends with him being married while holding off challengers who want nothing more than to see him dead and his sword in another person's hands. Daigoro also the bears the brunt of anger from those who find themselves with the Devil's mask. Apparently the mask craves attention and to be united with the sword.

In yet another universe, a 13 year old named Kaida is introduced. I wasn't exactly sure what the point of Kaida's introduction to this story or world was. I guess it basically was a means to show the power that the mask has over individuals and that the mask can find the sword any where in time. Unfortunately, Kaida's story took up space and time that could have been spent with Mariko and Han and their race to save Tokyo. 

While Year of the Demon is a fitting sequel to Daughter of the Sword, I would have preferred the story focused more on Mariko and her partner Han, than in the past with Daigoro and Kaida. I am hoping that with a third novel, Mariko will be the focus of the story as well as her continued fight with the group known as the Wind who are the current holders of the mask. Unfortunately, Daigoro's fight is still in full swing, and therefore I am sure that Bein will want to wrap up his story as well. 

There was one major inconsistency in this book that was so glaring, I couldn't help but to not comment on it. Book 4 says it is set in 1484 and the character is Kaida, yet Book 8 with the same character, says it's 1533. Too bad this wasn't caught sooner by the editors. Perhaps I received an early copy of the book and this was caught. Guess I will never know. 

Author - Steve Bein
Title - Year of the Demon (Fated Blades # 2)
Publisher - ROC Trade
Published October 1, 2013
Genre - Contemporary/Historical Fiction Mix
Recvd directly from publisher in lieu on honest review

Sunday, October 27, 2013

*Review* United We Spy (Gallagher Girls, #6) by Ally Carter

The Gallagher Girls series exits stage left with one final installment called United We Spy. Cammie Morgan and friends Bex Baxter, Liz Sutton, Macey McHenry, and spy boyfriend Zachary Goode have one last mission to solve before they move on and that is to find the leadership of the Circle of Cavan and put a stop to them before they create a maelstrom of trouble. The most troublesome member of the Circle just happens to be Zach's own mother Catherine but there are a few more secrets yet to be exposed.

Cammie has gone through a series of unexpected challenges and adjustments over the course of this series. She's been kidnapped, tortured, shot, had her memories removed, and learned that her father really is gone. She's had to do a self realization that she can't stay at the Gallagher School forever.

I think United We Spy shows Cammie's awareness that the real world is not just going to sit back and wait for her to make up her mind on what she's going to do in the future. She's also had to find a way to deal with the fact that she's a leader whether she likes it or not and people count on her judgment and her abilities. The one positive aspect that has NEVER changed in this series is the remarkable presence of Cammie's own mother Rachel Morgan in each and every single book and not just a fated presence that eventually dies, or is barely there. She's one of the strongest parental units that I've read about and she carries her own weight as well.

I will say that I am absolutely okay that Carter didn't write Josh back into the storyline for a sense of responsibility to readers. While I liked Josh in the beginning, he's definitely not Zach. I liked also how Carter did a minor mind blowing revelation in regards to Zach and who his real father is. If you have read this series, then you know that there was another possibility that I think Zach was really hoping would prove true.

I will say that the ending speak by Liz was really well done. What is a Gallagher Girl speech had me clutching at my heart because it was perfectly said. I would have liked to see the girls maybe go on on final hurrah together before moving on separately with their own lives and careers. One could presume that Bex and Cammie would remain best friends even though they have their own lives and goals now. 

When it comes to HEA, I would have been absolutely shocked and dismayed had Carter not given Rachel Morgan and Joe Solomon theirs. From the first book onward, you knew this was most likely in the cards, and I didn't raise any objections or read flags especially as time progressed and you just knew that they had chemistry but Rachel holding off for factual verification of Cammie's dad's fate. It is what it is, and there is no changing it. That is the same way I feel about Aunt Abby and Agent Townsend. 

In the end, Gallagher Girls will go down as the series that was read from start to finish over the course of 6 months. It is the first series that I've actually had the opportunity to go to the library and pick up each book and read them. United We Spy is a quick and action filled book that I am sure readers will love.

Author - Ally Carter
Title - United We Spy
Publisher - Disney-Hyperion
Released - September 17, 2013
Genre - Young Adult

Saturday, October 26, 2013

*Cover Loves Saturday 10/26/2013*

Welcome to another edition of Cover Loves!

This is going to be a short and sweet reveal since I really didn't see any others that I either follow, or want to read. I would be grateful if you would share with me upcoming cover releases so that I can ensure they get the proper exposure!

Gameboard of the Gods introduced religious investigator Justin March and Mae Koskinen, the beautiful super soldier assigned to protect him. Together they have been charged with investigating reports of the supernatural and the return of the gods, both inside the Republic of United North America and out. With this highly classified knowledge comes a shocking revelation: Not only are the gods vying for human control, but the Elect—those special humans marked by the divine—are turning against each other in bloody fashion.
Their mission takes a new twist when they are assigned to a diplomatic delegation headed by Lucian Darling, Justin’s old friend and rival, going into Arcadia, the RUNA’s dangerous neighboring country. Here, in a society where women are commodities and religion is intertwined with government, Justin discovers powerful forces at work even as he struggles to come to terms with his own reluctantly acquired deity.
Meanwhile, Mae—grudgingly posing as Justin’s concubine—has a secret mission of her own: finding the illegitimate niece her family smuggled away years ago. But with Justin and Mae resisting the resurgence of the gods in Arcadia, a reporter’s connection with someone close to Justin back home threatens to expose their mission—and with it, the divine forces the government is determined to keep secret.”
Expected publication: May 29th 2014 by Dutton Adult
Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s exciting new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

Their success, however, is short-lived. While Olivia takes refuge in the old, secluded town of Cainsville, Gabriel’s past mistakes have come to light, creating a rift between the pair just when she needs his help the most.

Olivia finds a dead woman in her car, dressed to look like her, but the body vanishes before anyone else sees it. Olivia’s convinced it’s another omen, a sign of impending danger. But then she learns that a troubled young woman went missing just days ago—the same woman Olivia found dead in her car. Someone has gone to great lengths to kill and leave this young woman as a warning. But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?

Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the crosshairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.(less)
Hardcover432 pages
Expected publication: August 19th 2014 by Dutton Adult (first published August 2014)

When the MK virus swept across the planet, a vaccine was created to stop the epidemic, but it came with some unexpected side effects. A small percentage of the population developed superhero-like powers. Seventeen-year-old Ciere Giba has the handy ability to change her appearance at will. She’s what’s known as an illusionist… She’s also a thief.

After a robbery goes awry, Ciere teams up with a group of fellow super-powered criminals on another job that most would consider too reckless. The formula for the vaccine that gave them their abilities was supposedly destroyed years ago. But what if it wasn’t? The lines between good and bad, us and them, freedom and entrapment are blurred as Ciere and the rest of her crew become embroiled in a deadly race against the government that could cost them their lives.(less)
Hardcover416 pages
Expected publication: July 15th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Imagine a city divided…a city readying itself for a war. The vampire Blood and the shape-shifting Beast Kind seek to seize control now that the treaty is broken. Only the humans stand in their way…but they stand without their Fae allies…and they desperately need help....

I chose to stay with the humans when the Fae withdrew from the City. I am a healer, and they need me. I know the odds are against them. I know they need reinforcements. But I never expected them to turn and seek aid from the depths of my past. Asharic is a powerful Fae, exiled by the Veiled Queen thirty years ago. Leaving me behind. But now the queen is dead and the throne is vacant, and Ash is returning to the City—my City—with his mercenary army.

It would be false to deny that there is still a spark between us, but I will not be taken in again. And I’m not the only one disturbed by his return. A Blood lord is poised to conquer the Half-Light City, and other enemies new and old are gathering to eliminate the threat Ash poses. To save the City, we will have to join forces. And pray we’re not the ones who burn…

Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication: May 6th 2014 by Roc 

Some people would give anything to start over. But for Sam, starting over might mean never looking back. A dark, gripping and romantic thriller from #1 New York Times best-selling author Jennifer L. Armentrout.
Some people would give anything to start over. But for Sam, starting over might mean never looking back. A dark, gripping and romantic thriller from #1 New York Times best-selling author Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Expected Publication: April 15, 2014 by Disney Book Group 

Mercy is an angel in exile and is doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new human form each time she does. Now she "wakes" as unhappy teen Lela, a girl caring for her dying mother but never herself.

As Mercy's shattered memory begins to return, she remembers Ryan, the boy she fell in love with in another life, and Luc, the angel haunting her dreams. Will Mercy risk Lela's life to be reunited with her heart's true desire?

An electric combination of angels, mystery, and romance, Exile is the second book in the undeniably mesmerizing Mercy series. 

Expected publication: April 29th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion (first published May 1st 2011)             

The third book in a dazzling angel series praised by New York Times best-selling author Andrea Cremer as "subtly beautiful and utterly intriguing."

The third book in a dazzling angel series praised by New York Times best-selling author Andrea Cremer as "subtly beautiful and utterly intriguing."

Mercy is an angel in exile, and she's doomed to return to Earth, over and over again, each time taking on a new human form. Now she is thrust into the excessive world of fashion, when she awakens in the body of a troubled Russian supermodel, Irina. Hot-tempered and known to dabble in things she shouldn't, Irina is on the verge of a very public breakdown.

Against the glamorous background of Milan, Mercy continues her desperate search for Ryan, while still drawn to Luc, her longtime love. But now, Mercy is aware that her memories and powers are growing stronger-and she begins to doubt Luc as more of her mysterious past is revealed. Are Luc's desires as selfless as her own, or does he want her for a more terrifying purpose?

The grand-scale celestial battle for Mercy's soul builds to an astonishing crescendo in the third book in the enthralling MERCY series, as archangels and demons clash in a cataclysmic showdown that not all will survive.

Expected Publication: May 27, 2014 Disney Book Group 

The thrilling conclusion to the series hailed as a "non-stop thrill ride. Readers won't be able to catch their breath." -RT Book Review

True Earth has returned during a massive snowstorm in Manhattan-and this time they have an army. Rhys, Noble, Sophia, and Peter know they don't stand a chance against the enemy without Miranda. And once they revive her, she's horrified to find her world in flames.

The enemy occupation is brutal, but the director promises to release her hold on the city if Mr. East is turned in, and Miranda and her team are determined to find him. With her grief over the losses she has suffered fueling her spirit, Miranda knows that this time the sacrifices have to be worth it.

Packed with suspense and deception, Dan Krokos brings Miranda's journey to a mind-bending conclusion as she risks losing everything in the fight for her future.

Expected publication: August 19th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion 

There’s just something about Clare. Apart from the ghosts…...

When her eccentric aunt passes away, no-nonsense accountant Clare Cermac inherits more than just a small fortune. She receives the gift of communicating with ghosts. While Clare may not believe in spirits, it’s hard to overlook the shadowy talking dog appearing on her bed or spectral cowboys tipping their hats to her in the streets of Denver. And when she locks eyes with sexy—and living—Zach Slade, there’s certainly no ignoring him either.

A former deputy sheriff, Zach is leaving a painful past behind in Montana for a new life in Denver as a private investigator, a job that has him crossing paths with beautiful Clare. Not that she minds. After the restless ghost of a Wild West gunman demands her assistance, Clare finds herself needing Zach more and more—and not just for help.
Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Berkley