Book Review: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run by Matthew S Cox

 

Here’s my slot on The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run Blackthorn Book Tour.

 

About The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

A move to the small town of Spring Falls, New York, is the perfect cure for Mia Gartner’s horrid commute. However, her new home isn’t quite empty.

She adored working in fine art restoration, but a two-hour ride each way got old fast. When her husband found a house for sale at a suspiciously low price, they jumped at it. Mia expected chemical contamination, a fixer-upper, or termites, so when the problem turned out to be persistent rumors of haunting, she set aside her worries. Adam hoped the place would propel his parapsychology hobby into a career.

Upon first sight, the innocuous suburban house filled Mia with dread. Adam had long maintained she had a psychic gift, but if she believed him, that would mean something terrible and dark once happened there.

Soon after their arrival, unexplained events prove the rumors are more than wild stories. A childlike spirit attaches itself to Mia, seeming harmless and so very lonely.

Alas, she fears the ghost may not be as innocent as it seems.

 

My Thoughts

This straight ahead haunted house novel opens with Adam and Mia heading to their new home on Minstrel Run. Adam is an academic taking up a new posting at Syracuse in the psychology faculty. Mia is a painting restorer with a spooky past. Adam has a special interest in the paranormal and believes Mia has special psychic abilities she’s in denial of. He knows Six Minstrel Run is haunted and buys the house no one else wants as a kind of twisted experiment. He is as keen as mustard. Mia is, from the very first moment, terrified, even as she battles with her fear and summons enough courage to get on with the normal routines of domestic life. Yet even before she crosses the threshold and enters the house, she is consumed by dread. It is Mia’s terror that permeates the narrative and makes this novel utterly convincing and really very spooky. Throw in a local clergyman who comes knocking on their door offering his assistance and protection from the truly evil spirits lurking in their new home and you have the perfect set up.

I enjoyed the steady plotting, the twist, and the unfolding of the characters, their interesting lives, thoughts and motives, the plethora of scary scenes rising in intensity and escalating to a heart-pounding climax. Mia is a strong female lead, intelligent, resilient, courageous. The narrative has a strong forward drive, not overly weighed down by back story and exposition, the reader given just enough explanatory detail to provide context and setting. In all, The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run is a well written, traditional supernatural horror novel for those who want to be truly terrified. Not to be read alone in the dark in a big old house with creaky doors and attics and cellars. Cox has penned a classic.

About the Author

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

Links:

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Runhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MY8GDHC

Twitter: @Mscox_Fiction / https://twitter.com/mscox_fiction

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MatthewSCoxAuthor

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/mscox

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/matthewcox10420/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7712730.Matthew_S_Cox

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mscox.author/

 

Isobel Blackthorn is the author of a Canary Islands Mystery series, including A Matter of LatitudeClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the SunThe Drago Tree serves as a prequel. Find her author page and easy access to her writing here author.to/IsobelBlackthorn

Book Review – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow by Carlos Colon

About Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow

The harrowing saga of Nicky Negron’s tortured soul continues as the inner and outer demons shadowing Newark, New Jersey’s undead vigilante have no intention of letting him rest in peace. Knowing his paranormal existence can only lead to complications, Nicky tries not to draw too much attention to himself. This becomes difficult as he learns that he has captured the interest of an unrelenting federal agent. Suspected of being an assassin for a South American drug cartel, Nicky finds himself dealing with the exact kind of scrutiny he’s been trying to avoid since he was turned almost thirty years ago. It complicates matters even more when Nicky is confronted with another undead presence that is threatening to commit atrocities to the children of a friend Nicky had sworn to protect. This pits the foul-mouthed night stalker, Nicky Negron, against the most horrifying monsters – both the human and non-human variety. An absolute rollercoaster of a novel, Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow delivers even more suspense, insight, laughs, and emotional wallop than its predecessor. Nicky is back! See you on the other side…

My Thoughts

After a newspaper clipping relating a spate of beheadings in Brooklyn, including a drug dealer and a domestic abuse suspect – the reporter noting a new trend in gangland murders across the USA – Sangre: The wrong side of tomorrow opens with a scene on a public bus in New York on a hot August day in the 1960s as a young Nicky Negrón observes his surroundings and reflects on his life. Nicky is off to Alexander’s department store; he’s missing his little sister, Dani, and his relationship with his mother in the protracted aftermath of Dani’s death.

Skip forward to Nicky as he is now, as his genetically resistant undead self, having battled the evil vampire, Simone, in the first Sangre novel (if you have not read Sangre: The Color of Dying do so now because you are missing out on a terrific read. Although Sangre 2 can be read as a standalone) Nicky finds himself having vivid memories that could only belong to Simone, who he believes he had slayed. Apparently not. Terrified she is out to take full possession of him, he seeks the help of Dr Gunder, an epidemiologist turned vampire researcher and investigator, a doctor seeking to avenge the death of her son. What unfolds is so thoroughly entertaining it can be read in one sitting.

The story jumps back from time to time to Nicky’s past, providing a rich insight into the motivations and depth of his character. A deft catch up of Sangre 1 and Colon dives straight into the action. The attention to fine detail and small observances – the sweat, the smells, the settings – while never overplayed evoke in the imagination a gritty, urban vibe of working class life, especially for the Hispanic community: Nicky’s family are from Puerto Rico. The pace is fast in a four-to-the-floor read, slowed only by the reflections of the main character as he wrestles with his one inner nature and attempts to justify his less noble actions. I really enjoyed Colon’s utilitarian take on morality – the greatest happiness for the greatest number, or in this case, the least harm to the least number – as Nicky is compelled to feed on the blood of others. The author’s empathy for Hispanic culture shines through, as does his understanding that good and bad is never clearly defined, that life is filled with compromises, that sometimes a purely good choice is not an option and that forgiveness is possible. The novel is enriched by the theme of mothers and their bond with their offspring. A theme that plays out through the juxtaposition of Nicky’s own mother and her attitude to him, with the other mothers in the story.

In all, a thoroughly pleasurable and intelligent read with broad appeal that reaches beyond the confines of the horror genre. Highly recommended.

Find you copy of Sangre: The Wrong Side of Tomorrow on Amazon

A Time For Violence Anthology Podcast with T Fox Dunham

A Time For Violence

What Are You Afraid Of? – Podcast with T Fox Dunham and David Walton

NEW EPISODE 115 – CURSE OF THE BLACKTHORN

“Author T. Fox Dunham interviews Australia’s noir and horror writer, Isobel Blackthorn. Isobel answers questions about her writing, the state of women authors in the industry, her thoughts on crafting and shares some insights for new authors. In addition to her interview, she sent the show a haunting tale of an aggressive entity that haunted her in the Cockatoo house, narrated by David Walton. Fox also plays an excerpt from her noir fiction, “Lacquer”, which is featured in the anthology A Time For Violence: Stories with an Edge, available on May 1st from Close to the Bone. It is an anthology of noir and horror stories featuring the best in the industry for 2019.” 

Listen to the Podcast:

What Are You Afraid Of?

What Are You Afraid Of?

Clarissa’s Warning Book Tour Round Up

Book Tour Reflections

Is a book tour worth the effort and the expense? This is a question on the minds of many authors as we think about ways to promote a new release. I have nine novels and a short-story collection under my belt so far, and after struggling for years to find reviewers, I am turning more and more to Book Tour service providers.

It is not uncommon for me to send out two hundred individual email requests for one title. Each of these reviewers I source using online databases and then scrutinise to see if they are available and a fit.  Usually, I get a 10-15% take up rate and half of those do not follow through. It is a risky process too, because you may end up with some poor reviews and even one or two  DFNs – Did Not Finish – from book reviewers who simply did not like your book, or worse, have no qualms trashing your creative output.

When it comes to Amazon, the idea is that customers leave reviews, but how many readers will do that? Many or most will not be all that confident leaving a book review, even in this age when everyone has an opinion and every company wants your views on their product or service. Only verified purchase reviews count in the algorithm, but all reviews count towards Social Proof that your book is worth buying. This is why us authors are always on the hunt for more reviews. Authors please note not all book bloggers are able or willing to share their reviews on Amazon. If you are looking exclusively for Amazon reviews, you might think twice about a book tour. 

I can happily say Rachels Random Resources takes the pressure off tired authors. Her service is excellent, she is highly professional and her reviewers are gracious. I am so impressed, have signed up as one of her reviewers. Below is a list of review highlights from the Clarissa’s Warning book tour. (copy and paste the urls to view the whole review)

 

Fuerteventura

Highlights from the Clarissa’s Warning Book Tour

“It’s nice to see the gothic genre given a more modern take. Gothic fiction combines mystery, horror, death and romance, traditionally in the setting of a building of Gothic architecture i.e. medieval, but any old, large imposing building will do. The heroine is generally unassuming, naïve but no sissy, and likeable. Claire Bennet from Colchester fits the bill perfectly. She’s had a lottery win and is using that money to buy a wonderful old building on the island of Fuerteventura which she’s admired every year during her summer holidays. It is probably a foolish thing to do, as the house needs a lot of work and it’s a huge leap for an ex bank-employee to take, but Claire is game. She’s even prepared to ignore a warning from Aunt Clarissa who informs her that the astrological and other psychic signs aren’t favourable to this rash venture. However, her warning comes too late. Claire is committed and so ignores anything she doesn’t want to hear.

She embarks on her plans, encountering some pleasant locals and some less so, and slowly her house becomes habitable. She’s forced to move in a little sooner than intended, and some inexplicable happenings began to occur. Claire is rattled, but she’s made of stern stuff and begins to investigate what might be behind it all. She’ll make some alarming discoveries, but also encounter true love.

This book is rich with description and thus we can conjure up the appearance and atmosphere of Fuerteventura in vivid detail in our minds. We quickly get to know Claire by sharing her wry humour and down-to-earth approach as we share her space, mental and physical. Aunt Clarissa is a colourful, eccentric figure but something of a cornerstone in this book, and Paco is another.

It’s an enchanting, exciting read and definitely has you considering whether there’s more than meets the eye in this world of ours.”

http://www.booksarecool.com/2019/clarissas-blackthorn-enchanting/

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

“Isobel Blackthorn stole my heart, after she made it drop to my stomach. Her capability of amalgamating horror, romance, mystery and travel had me floored.

The language and presentation of the plot has all the makings of excellent story telling.

I am not saying that it is a story unlike any other. Most haunted house tales do follow a certain line of story development. Despite that ‘Clarissa’s Warning’ is not predictable. The suspense was steadily built throughout the book and the ending was completely out of the blue.”

https://trailsoftales620253622.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/blog-tour-clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn/

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“This is a suspense filled, spooky story with legends, rumours, danger and romance all playing an integral part in events. If you’ve never been to Fuerteventura, you’ll probably feel like you have after reading this and if, like me, you’ve already visited, you’ll have memories of visits rekindled whilst reading it. The whole community and Claire’s integration into it are shared, as her friendships and even a romance develop alongside the restoration of the property. It is an engaging read that you’re never quite sure just who will survive to the end! The research into the previous occupants of the house, the steps taken to protect herself and the peril she faces make this a story that I enjoyed reading and have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who enjoys a suspense filled paranormal mystery and romance.”

https://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com/2019/03/21/clarissas-warning/

Cofete
Photo by JF Olivares

“I liked Claire’s character and was really pleased when she wins the lottery and becomes a woman of great means!!  I loved the way that despite not having to watch the pennies, she still does!  I also felt quite sorry for her at times as she had no belief in what her Aunt Clarissa had told her, but the local tradesmen obviously knew all about the old ruin and this meant she had great difficulty in getting anyone to work on it without really knowing why!

The story built up slow and steady, giving you plenty of time to take in the other parts of the story, such as Claire’s difficult relationship with her father and her relationship with her Aunt Clarissa.  The supernatural part of the storyline was done really well and I did enjoy the spooky things which were happening.  I loved the setting of this book, having been to two of the Canary Islands but never to Fuerteventura.  The history behind the ruin and the local opinions were really interesting also.  A suitably spooky story which was enough to make my hair stand on end and I did love the ending, although I won’t tell you what it is because it will definitely spoil the whole book!  Would recommend!!”

https://stardustbookreviews.wordpress.com/2019/03/13/isobel-blackthorn-clarissas-warning/

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“The backdrop of Fuerteventura for this story was just exquisite, with the local cafes, the volcano and the heat. All descriptions adding to this story building a wider picture of where Claire is and the history. To mix it in with the supernatural too was just delicious and cleverly done and adds a lot of tension in the book because it was so contrasting….This is my first read of Ms Blackthorn, but after reading this, getting a taste of her writing, I can safely say it will not be my last outing!”

http://zooloosbookdiary.co.uk/bookreview-of-clarissas-warning-rararesources

Fuerteventura
Photo by JF Olivares

“I really found myself falling in love with pretty much everything and was completely sucked into the descriptions, it was like a little mini holiday in my head.” https://nzfnmblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/15/book-review-clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn-rararesources/

“This is the first book that I have read by Isobel Blackthorn and I must say that I found her writing to be particularly impressive. There is a great sense of location throughout and the fact that this was set on one of the Canary Islands was something that brought a unique factor.” https://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.com/2019/03/blogtour-clarissas-warning-by-isobel.html

“All in all, Clarissa’s Warning will be a great read for anyone who enjoys a good self-discovery novel, with enough spooky happenings for mystery lovers as well.” http://www.vainradical.co.uk/blogs/clarissas-warning-blog-tour/

“This is a fantastic paranormal thriller. You are kept guessing at the person out to get Claire and the haunting.” jbronderbookreviews.com/2019/03/20/clarissas-warning/

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

“Apart from possibly the ghosts this read like a beautiful love letter to Fuerteventura. I could capture so much of the island reading this even though I’ve never been. I now want to.  There is so much attention to detail in this book, not just with the island but the history of the house being renovated and the people linked to it. Also though the renovations themselves. You could really imagine the restoration as it happened over the time period in the book. Everything is just so beautifully written.

It’s a slow burner which isn’t something I normally enjoy but I think possibly because it’s so descriptive I found it easy to follow and allowed myself to be swept along with the story rather than wishing it would hurry up and get to the action. Again credit goes back to the writing to be able to keep my poor attention span involved in the book.”

https://kirk72.wordpress.com/2019/03/14/clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn-rararesources-iblackthorn/

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“I recommend checking this intriguing story out!” – Jessica Rachow book blogger

“While this is a slow paced read, it has depth and detail and triggers imagination. It is vividly descriptive….If you have any interest in history you will appreciate this book.” – Dog’s Mom Visits book blog

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“The author had a way of bringing even the smallest character to life, the picturesque detail lets you easily imagine the locals and you get to find out as much about Gloria who run the local café as you do about Claire…This is a gentle slow-paced mystery, which I read fairly quickly. With its mixture of genres, this has got something for a lot of readers. This is the 1st book I have read by this author and checking my kindle I am glad to say I have some more of their books to read.” –

http://terror-tree.co.uk/2019/03/clarissas-warning-by-isobel-blackthorn/

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“This was a fun and easy read. It’s not particularly a scary book, and there is nothing that will make you jump. However there is an underlying menace throughout the story that gradually builds up as the tale progresses and Claire becomes in more and more danger… You got a sense of how isolating it would be to move to a strange country all on your own and try to complete a project like this.

Within the novel I especially liked the way the story mixed up descriptions of the island with some history and some supernatural events yet kept things grounded with the detailed paragraphs about the restoration work. By the end you felt as invested in wanting it all to work as Claire did.

All in all this was an easy and enjoyable story that almost needs a category of its own of ‘Cosy Ghost Stories to read by the fire on a cold winters night’ Even if the story doesn’t make you jump the descriptions of the Island will certainly warm you up!”

Book Review: Fading (The Fading Series Book 1) by Cindy Cipriano

Fading

About Fading

Living in a small town like Woodvine, North Carolina, means everyone knows everything about everybody. The same goes for seventeen-year-old Leath Elliott who can’t seem to escape her tragic past and the loss of her father. Her only break from reality is through recurring dreams where she’s spent a lifetime growing up with a boy she’s never met.

When a stranger shows up in the form of James Turner – a mysterious boy with a dark past – Leath begins to wonder if her dreams might be coming true. Literally.

Things get complicated when Leath finds out that James’ sudden appearance in her small town is anything but a coincidence. Demanding answers, Leath confronts James, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth he tells her.

Now, the future she once saw in her dreams and the boy she’s falling for is fading fast and Leath must make the ultimate decision between giving up her freedom or giving up her heart.

My thoughts

Fading is a charming story of teenage love and longing narrated with much warmth and sparkle. Leath, a seventeen-year-old high school student, has fallen out of love, if she ever has been in love, with Victor, a Spanish boy and longterm friend devoted to her. Leath is searching for fulfilment, in whatever form that comes. Then a new boy, James, starts at the school and Leath falls in love. James has lost both his parents, Leath has lost her father. United at first by a shared grief and a deep attraction, as Leath gets to know James more and more, all is not as it seems. Meanwhile, Leath is torn between her love for gorgeous and mysterious James and her lingering attachment to soft and reliable Victor.

As the story unfolds and the mystery of James is revealed, the story slips into the paranormal, building to fascinating otherworldly revelations.

Fading is very well written with good pacing and excellent characterisation. Cipriano gets under the skin of her protagonist, right to the heart of her fantasies, dreams and feelings, her confusion and sensitivities and hurt as she searches for real love. Enchanting, sad, touching, and evocative of all the fine feelings of youth, Fading is very hard to put down.

Book review: The Unknown by Phil Price

About The Unknown

It happens every year. A select few disappear, never to return.

From The Falkland Islands to the Himalayas, Puerto Rico to England – people are vanishing without trace or explanation. A young man who’s lost everything stumbles across an ancient secret.

Can he unlock the mystery? Will he find those who need him?

…can he escape the Unknown?

My Thoughts

I rarely read fantasy/horror, but when I stumbled on The Unknown I decided to try it out. I was surprisingly entertained and even didn’t mind the vampires, which is a real credit to Price as I would normally stop reading the moment they appear. Writing with exceptional imagination, Price has a knack for luring his readers into his story world.

There can be no doubt Price ticks all the boxes of the genre. Strange and spooky happenings in far flung lands. A preternatural child with glowing yellow eyes. Vampires. Doors into other worlds. A looming sense of dread. And a black cross edged with silver on a black rope chain. The scene is set for a seriously creepy read.

Good characterisation, and Price is at pains to endear his protagonists to his readers. Effective world building is critical in the genre and Price has crafted a realm that is at once enchanting and menacing and convincing. I certainly lost myself in it.

After an engaging set up, The Unknown is filled with dramatic tension, with new plot lines and twists and plenty going on to hold the attention. Very well thought out, The Unknown is a visual feast and a gripping read. I would recommend to all who enjoy dark fantasy.