Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review: Siege Line by Myke Cole


Siege Line
Author:  Myke Cole
Series:  Shadow Ops: Gemini Cell 3
Publisher:  Ace, October 31, 2017
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print and eBook)
ISBN:  9780425269664 (print); 9781101636770 (eBook)

In Myke Cole’s latest high-octane, action-packed military fantasy, the fate of undead Navy SEAL James Schweitzer will be decided—one way or another…

The Gemini Cell took everything from Jim Schweitzer: his family, his career as a Navy SEAL, even his life. Hounded across the country, Schweitzer knows the only way he can ever stop running, the only way his son can ever be safe, is to take the fight to the enemy and annihilate the Cell once and for all.

But the Cell won’t be easily destroyed. Out of control and fighting a secret war with the government it once served, it has dispatched its shadowy Director to the far reaches of the subarctic in search of a secret magic that could tip the balance of power in its favor. Schweitzer must join with the elite warriors of both America and Canada in a desperate bid to get there first—and avert a disaster that could put the Cell in control.



Qwill's Thoughts

Siege Line by Myke Cole is the 3rd and final novel in the Gemini Cell trilogy, a prequel series to the Shadow-Ops military fantasy series. Siege Line completes the story of Jim Schweitzer, former Navy Seal. The novel picks up immediately after the events of Javelin Rain.

The Great Reawakening (the return of magic to the world) has not yet happened (read the Shadow-Ops trilogy for more on that). Magic is being used by the Gemini Cell to create 'zombies' - dead animated by the souls of powerful and evil jinns pulled from the soul storm by a sorcerer. Jim is one of those animated by magic. He is superhuman with a body that is part metal part flesh. He has magical abilities - super strength, extremely acute hearing and sight, and more. Jim has decided that the Gemini Cell and its Director must be eliminated and he will go to any lengths to assure that.

Much of the action in Siege Line takes place in the Northwest Territory of Canada in around the very small village of Fort Resolution. Cole's description of Fort Resolution and the surrounding frigid and snow swept area is vivid. He has more than done his homework when it comes to the area and the people who live there.

Cole introduces many of the residents of Fort Resolution. I am particularly taken with Wilma "Mankiller" Plante, an Afghanistan veteran and the sheriff of Fort Resolution, and one of her deputies Joe Yakecan. Both are pivotal to the novel especially Mankiller who more or less steals the show. Mankiller is of great interest to the Director of Gemini Cell, which means that Jim will do anything to help her.

This is Cole's most emotionally complex novel. Schweitzer's desire to hold on to his humanity, to be with his son again, and to set things right regardless of the cost to himself is palpable throughout the story. Cole delves into the emotions of many of his characters as they face finding out about magic in the world and about devastating loss. Mankiller is deeply developed and her background and motivations are clear. We learn much more about the Director of Gemini Cell and what makes him tick.

There is a very big reveal that is both heartbreaking and makes perfect sense after I got over the shock. I definitely had a "wow" moment followed by an "of course!" moment. Kudos for Cole for both startling me and making so many pieces fall into place with that reveal.

Cole has matured as a novelist throughout the Shadow-Ops and Gemini Cell trilogies. Siege Line is beautifully written with near perfect pacing. It is action packed with nailbiting fight sequences, close escapes, and terrible losses. The cast of characters is exceptionally well drawn.

Am I sad that this was the last novel in the Shadow-Ops world? Incredibly. Cole ends the series on such a high note with so much hope that it's hard to stay sad for long. Siege Line is a wonderful novel full of believable characters, exhilarating action, heroes to cheer for, and so much heart.





Previously

Gemini Cell
Shadow Ops: Gemini Cell 1
Ace, January 27, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with an all-new epic adventure in his highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe—set in the early days of the Great Reawakening, when magic first returns to the world and order begins to unravel…

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself—and his family—in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

That should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty—as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark—especially about the fates of his wife and son…


See Qwill's Review here.



Javelin Rain
Shadow Ops: Gemini Cell 2
Ace, March 29, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 352 pages

The fast-paced, adrenaline-filled sequel to Gemini Cell, set in the same magical and militaristic world of the acclaimed Shadow Ops series.

Javelin: A code denoting the loss of a national security asset with strategic impact.

Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions.

Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost…

Being a US Navy SEAL was Jim Schweitzer’s life right up until the day he was killed. Now, his escape from the government who raised him from the dead has been coded “Javelin Rain.” Schweitzer and his family are on the run from his former unit, the Gemini Cell, and while he may be immortal, his wife and son are not.

Jim must use all of his strength to keep his family safe, while convincing his wife he’s still the same man she once loved. But what his former allies have planned to bring him down could mean disaster not only for Jim and his family, but for the entire nation…


See Qwill's Review here.





The Shadow-Ops Trilogy

Control Point
Shadow Ops 1
Ace, January 31, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Lieutenant Oscar Britton of the Supernatural Operations Corps has been trained to hunt down and take out people possessing magical powers. But when he starts manifesting powers of his own, the SOC revokes Oscar's government agent status to declare him public enemy number one.

















Fortress Frontier
Shadow Ops 2
Ace, January 29, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one…




Breach Zone
Shadow Ops 3
Ace, January 28, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil…
















When Writing Takes You Home by Gail Z. Martin


Please welcome Gail Z. Martin to The Qwillery as part of the Days of the Dead Blog Tour!






When Writing Takes You Home

By Gail Z. Martin

What happens when your muse takes you back to places you’ve lived, or grown up in, as the setting for stories?

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. The epic fantasy is set in imagined medieval worlds, similar in technology and overall physical appearance to our own, but different in history, gods, magic, and supernatural creatures. My first urban fantasy series, Deadly Curiosities, is set in modern-day Charleston, SC. I love Charleston, but I’ve never lived there.

The first series that took me home was Iron & Blood, which is co-written with my husband and writing partner, Larry N. Martin. Iron & Blood is set in an alternate history 1898 Pittsburgh, with plenty of airships and clockworks and explosions. We lived in Pittsburgh for ten years, and it’s an awesome city, but it’s also the logical epicenter of American steampunk, with all the steam-driven factories at that time. The Storm and Fury Adventures, which are ‘extra episodes’ in the Iron & Blood world, also take place in and around Pittsburgh.

One of those Storm and Fury stories, Rogue, heads north and the action takes place in Butler, Meadville and Cambridge Springs, PA. I’m from Meadville, so it was fun setting the story there (including a battle with werewolves in the cemetery where my parents are buried). I learned a lot about local history, and gained a new appreciation of my hometown’s somewhat forgotten Victorian architecture and importance. (That section of PA was more important back in 1898 than it’s been since WWII.)

Our new Spells, Salt, and Steel comedic horror series (also co-written with Larry), is set in Northwestern PA, that corner of Pennsylvania up by Lake Erie. Mark Wojcik, our monster hunter/mechanic is based just outside of Conneaut Lake, and in the first novella, he hunts a Japanese fish-eating monster in Linesville, the ghost of a Nazi sniper at an abandoned TNT plant in Geneva, a Mafia warlock in Meadville, and a weresquonk near Kane. (First line of the novella: “When all else fails, the ass end of a carp makes a damn fine weapon.”)

I’ve got a dark urban fantasy series also planned for modern-day Pittsburgh and environs, as well as a horror novel set in central Pennsylvania, near where I went to grad school at Penn State. A couple other new series will have incidents that take the characters into the wilds of PA (and if you’ve driven across I-80, there’s a lot of PA that is definitely wild).

It’s fun incorporating familiar landmarks in my stories, and weaving in some tidbits of overlooked history. Writing books in a setting is also a great excuse for road trips to that area, or extending visits to the family to incorporate scouting locations. While I grew up there, I’ve been gone a long time, and it’s nice to go and see something that is half-remembered from long ago, to make sure I get the details right.

Of course many of the locations that we use in the steampunk stories aren’t there anymore, or aren’t in their original condition. In that case, internet archives and historical associations become a fascinating resource (and time-sink). I’m often amazed at what I find, since just because you grew up in a place doesn’t mean you know everything about it. For example, I had forgotten Meadville’s role in the Underground Railroad, or that John Brown (of Harper’s Ferry fame) lived near there for many years. That got rolled into Rogue, albeit in an alternate history kind of way!

It’s also fun to have the chance to introduce readers to one of my favorite areas of the country and bring them in on the places, foods, expressions, history and landscape that means so much to me. If you’re from that area or familiar with it, I hope you’ll sense the authenticity. And if you’re new to the area, my hope is that the setting becomes an intrinsic part of the story, because I try to write the location as a character, a tale that couldn’t happen the same way anyplace else.


My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/2017/10/25/its-my-days-of-the-dead-blog-a-palooza/

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight 2017, back for more with new authors and fantastic new posts! 130+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com


Book Swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

Rafflecopter giveaway—enter for a chance to win a copy of Spells, Salt and Steel! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9751c0426/?

An excerpt from Rogue, from our Storm and Fury Adventures:
http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/the-storm-and-fury-adventures/rogue/excerpt-from-rogue/

An excerpt from my friend JD Blackwell’s The Tragic Tale of Abby Campbell here:
http://www.slipperywords.com/2017/10/the-tragic-tale-of-abby-campbell-part-1-for-the-october-frights-blog-hop/





Iron & Blood
A Jake Desmet Adventure 1
Solaris, July 7, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Adventure in New Pittsburgh...

New Pittsburgh, 1898 – a crucible of invention and intrigue. Born from the ashes of devastating fire, flood and earthquake, the city is ruled by the shadow government of The Oligarchy. In the swarming streets, people of a hundred nations drudge to feed the engines of progress, while in the abandoned tunnels beneath the city, supernatural creatures hide from the light, emerging only to feed.

Jake Desmet and Rick Brand travel the world to secure treasures and unusual items for the collections of wealthy patrons, accompanied by Jake’s cousin, Veronique LeClerque. But when their latest commission leads to Jake’s father’s murder, the three friends are drawn into a conspiracy where dark magic, industrial sabotage and the monsters that prey on the night will ultimately threaten not just New Pittsburgh, but the whole world.





Rogue
A Storm and Fury Adventure
DreamSpinner Communications, March 30, 2016
eBook, 107 pages

A Steampunk novella set in the world of Iron & Blood: A Jake Desmet Adventure. Werewolves and a dark witch are leaving a wake of chaos, and Department of Supernatural Investigation agents Mitch Storm, Jacob Drangosavich, and Anna Corbett are sent to investigate. When the trail leads to a dangerous lost artifact, Mitch, Jacob and Anna know that the witch and his werewolf minions have a much bigger plan in mind, one which endangers New Pittsburgh and the world.





Spells, Salt, & Steel
A New Templars Novells
Falstaff Books, October 3, 2017
eBook, 116 pages

When all else fails, the ass end of a carp makes a damn fine weapon.

No, that didn't come from the lips of Bubba the Monster Hunter, but it sure could have! That sentence right there kinda encapsulates the life of Mark Wojcik, Monster Hunter. A blue-collar mechanic from the wilds of PA, Mark likes his beer cold, his poker games private, and his monsters…well, he doesn’t like them at all. So when he finds himself dueling a Japanese mythical monster in the Linesville Spillway in the wee hours of the night, he has to use every available weapon to survive and vanquish the ningen.

Even if it means beating the damn thing to death with a carp.

If interloping Japanese fish-monsters weren’t bad enough, there’s a Nazi ghost terrorizing the community. Somebody needs to gank the ghostie, and Mark is the man for the job.

He hopes.

They are the first line of defense against the things that go bump in the night.
They are the keepers of a centuries-old legacy of The Church defending the world against the forces of darkness.
They are a bunch of highly armed rednecks, internet video celebrities, soccer moms, and assorted broken nutjobs.
They are the new Templars, and things are about to get weird.

The New Templars novella series is a new series of short novels, similar to BookShots. Spells, Salt, & Steel is the first in the series by popular steampunk, epic, and urban fantasy duo Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin.





A Haven Harbor Halloween
Jeanne P Adams/Golden Gryphon Press, September 26, 2017
eBook, 538 pages

Welcome to Haven Harbor, Massachusetts where the real witches live! Founded witches who escaped the Salem Trials, Haven Harbor's modern facade still shields modern day witches. Sometimes Halloween ends up being scarier than Trick or Treat! Join us for a Haven Harbor Halloween! Four Stories of the Spookiest Season in Haven Harbor!

NYTimes Bestselling author Tawny Weber’s West Coast Karma Café meets East Coast’s Haven Harbor in Decadent Desires…
Bedtime bliss is on the menu when a guy used to fighting dragons has to awaken a beauty to the magic of sensual delights before the Halloween Ball. But can she accept the repercussions of magic and her duty to family? Or would it be easier to return to the sweet bliss of sleepy obliviousness where life is simple, love is a myth and magic is reserved for fairy tales?

USA Today Bestselling author Barbara Devlin returns to Haven Harbor with A Taste of Magick…
A starry-eyed girl, a cocky football jock, and peer pressure converge on one fateful night, leaving behind two broken hearts. Three years later, Russell Lee McBride returns to Haven Harbor, intent on righting the wrongs of his youth and winning pretty Cindy Parker. Can the two young sweethearts overcome the pain of the past to find true love?

Award winning author Gail Z. Martin presents Keepsakes, a fabulous new story in her Deadly Curiosities series…
When a surge in thefts of heirlooms with magical properties accompanies a sudden outbreak of violent attacks, Cassidy, Teag and Sorren race a dodgy stranger to discover the truth and tracethe missing keepsakes to a killer.

Jeanne Adams’ Haven Harbor series continues with After Midnight…
Too many tricks, not enough treats! Someone’s tracking Keira Danby and her deadly secrets have come to roost in Haven Harbor at Halloween. They’ve tampered with her car, tried to steal her briefcase and nearly ruined her business relationships in Haven Harbor. Now, sexy Jim Stansfield tells her she’s got water magic, and it’s dangerous. She doesn’t dare ask what else could go wrong…





About Gail

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. Vengeance: A Darkhurst novel, is the second in a new epic fantasy series for Solaris (coming April, 2018). Her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC has a new novel, Vendetta, and a new collection, Trifles and Folly. Spells, Salt, and Steel is the first in another new urban fantasy series set in upstate Pennsylvania.

Other work includes the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms series, the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, and Iron & Blood (co-authored with Larry N. Martin)

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin.

Interview with R.E. Stearns, author of Barbary Station


Please welcome R.E. Stearns to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Barbary Station is published on October 31st by Saga Press.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing R.E. a very Happy Publication Day!







TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

R.E.:  I've been writing short stories for as long as I can remember. I write to think, and because I have a terrible memory. When I discovered NaNoWrimo in 2008, I started writing novels.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

R.E.:  I rely on enormous, color-coded plot outlines and accompanying color-coded timelines.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

R.E.:  Emotional scenes are challenging, because I am not an emotional person. I have to set my writing mood with music and pictures, and it's stressful and melodramatic. Then my agent or editor reads those supposedly melodramatic scenes and says "That's a pretty chill reaction for what just happened," and I do it all over again.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

R.E.:  Real-life space exploration is very exciting! In fiction, the Expanse series (James S. A. Corey, 2012), Neuromancer (William Gibson, 1984), Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), and Firefly (Joss Whedon, 2002) all contributed to the foundation of this novel.



TQDescribe Barbary Station in 140 characters or less.

R.E.:  Two join a pirate crew, two engineers take on a security AI which has trapped the crew, and our heroines, on an abandoned space station.



TQTell us something about Barbary Station that is not found in the book description.

Adda and Iridian are romantic partners, not just professional ones.



TQWhat inspired you to write Barbary Station? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?

R.E.:  SpaceX was just beginning to have success with its Grasshopper rocket when I was writing up ideas for Barbary Station. That got me thinking about what it would be like if modern corporations were given absolute freedom in scientific development and resource exploitation simultaneously, perhaps in the aftermath of a colonial war for independence. That's all a solid sci fi setting, but it wasn't anything like a novel until Iridian and Adda came together as characters. Sci fi is appealing because our present is always changing, which means the future is always changing in big ways. There are fewer locked-in expectations in sci fi than in fantasy.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Barbary Station?

R.E.:  I am conveniently married to a computer engineer, so I pestered him with questions like "Does this sound plausible?" and "Is this how you'd say that?" I also spent a lot of time reading on the NASA website, and downloading articles in college libraries. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (2010) was a great resource, too. It's full of expert observations on the logistics of life in space, and it was so funny and disturbing that I kept having to remind myself to take notes.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Barbary Station?

R.E.:  That cover is amazing, isn't it? That is Martin Deschambault's beautiful rendering of Barbary Station itself. I love that you can see the station's ring shape on the edges. The planets were necessary for lighting purposes but aren't present in the narrative, so in story terms, this is what Adda might see if she put the station exterior into her hallucinographic workspace.



TQIn Barbary Station who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

R.E.:  Adda and I have a lot in common, so she was the easiest. We're about the same size, we obsess over projects we're working on, and we are similarly disconnected from most people around us. The main antagonist, the security AI, was toughest. It's hard for experts (which I am not) to predict what will go right and wrong with the learning algorithms we have today, let alone the monstrously complex stuff I'd expect to be developed 400 years from now. I had to make, and then keep track of, a lot of assumptions.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Barbary Station.

R.E.:  That was Earther thinking, as if air, light, humidity, temperature, pressure, and gravity were unrelated forces outside human control. It would’ve been enough to say the enviro wasn’t healthy.



TQWhat's next?

R.E.:  I'm working on the sequel to Barbary Station!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Barbary Station
Saga Press, October 31, 2017
Trade Paperback, Hardcover, and eBook, 448 pages

Two engineers hijack a spaceship to join some space pirates—only to discover the pirates are hiding from a malevolent AI. Now they have to outwit the AI if they want to join the pirate crew—and survive long enough to enjoy it.

Adda and Iridian are newly minted engineers, but aren’t able to find any work in a solar system ruined by economic collapse after an interplanetary war. Desperate for employment, they hijack a colony ship and plan to join a famed pirate crew living in luxury at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive there, nothing is as expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury—they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents and shooting down any ship that attempts to leave—so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the AI met an untimely end, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if only they can survive long enough.





About R.E. Stearns

Photography by Carlos Romero
R.E. Stearns wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. She went on to annoy all of her teachers by reading books while they lectured. Eventually she read and wrote enough to earn a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. She is hoping for an honorary doctorate. When not writing or working, R.E. Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references Internet memes in meatspace. She lives near Orlando, FL with her husband/computer engineer and a cat.

Website  ~  Twitter @re_stearns  ~  Facebook

Monday, October 30, 2017

Reviews: The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2


Please welcome Mitchell W. Maknis to The Qwillery with reviews of two games that are great for Halloween (or anytime) if you like to be scared! 




The Evil Within

It’s rare to find a horror game that actually invokes fear steadily throughout the gameplay, but The Evil Within by developer Tango Gameworks and publisher Bethesda Softworks delivers a genuinely scary experience. Shinji Mikami, the Director of Resident Evil, unleashes his psychological survival horror game for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows platforms.

The player assumes the role of police detective Sebastian Castellanos, voiced by Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels) in a third person perspective. Mount’s deep, gritty voice, coupled with a satisfying script really propels the action and fuels the experience. In the game’s opening, Sebastian and his partners Joseph Oda, (Yuri Lowenthal) and Juli Kidman (Jennifer Carpenter) are called in to investigate a grotesque murder scene. The player is immediately immersed in Mikami’s macabre vision during the first moments in Beacon Mental Hospital.

Upon entering the institution, they find themselves surrounded by a sea of corpses who were once the hospital’s occupants. Sebastian gets separated from his team and discovers he is lost in the bowels of the hospital, with only a lantern to guide his path, in this gruesome supernatural world. Sebastian must survive the swarms of various demonic creatures that lead up to difficult boss battles. I enjoyed the fact that these battles are as scary and creepy as they are intense.

The primary antagonist, Ruvik, voiced by Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, Dark Shadows, A Nightmare on Elm Street) has a presence that is delightfully dark, cruel, and demeaning. I really enjoyed Haley's performance as the psychotic madman because I feel it is executed to perfection and I liked the way it drives the story into a deeper and darker plotline.

This game provides a unique experience in that the player must use skill to sneak rather than shoot through its fearsome enemies. Throughout the game the player may find firearms, ranging from pistols and shotguns to a multipurpose agony crossbow. Beware, even with these tools some creatures won’t stay dead and will resurrect themselves for a chance to tear the player apart. The player can use matches to burn the corpses, but should use them with caution, because like ammunition, matches are scarce. Also, while hunting for supplies, the player should look for medical kits and green gel which can be used to purchase upgrades for weapons, health, and other personal attributes used to customize gameplay.

The campaign is compiled in fifteen chapters, all with spectacular visuals and gruesome environments with new threats introduced at nearly every section. The cut scenes are masterfully implemented and are just as bone chilling as the actual game. Adding to the intensity of the story arc is Sebastian's fight against his own demons in an attempt to suppress the evil within him or be eternally lost in the madhouse of horror.

The Evil Within is rated M for blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. This game has a highly entertaining combination of fear and fun, laced with the perfect amount of depravity. The Evil Within bombards the player with nerve-wracking and suspenseful gameplay that makes it a superior horror game.






The Evil Within 2

With The Evil Within, Shinji Mikami director of the original Resident Evil, re-established himself as a master of the survival horror game genre. Mikami’s executive producer role in The Evil Within 2 may be smaller, but visual effects designer and director of The Evil Within’s downloadable content: The Assignment and The Consequence, John Johanas, takes the director’s chair in a sequel that sets itself apart from the first game as a new and terrifying horror experience. The latest installment in the franchise offers a deeper look into series protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, revealing aspects about his character that were only known through The Evil Within’s DLC missions. For Sebastian, this is no longer just a story of survival; this is a story of redemption. Three years after the incident at Beacon Mental Hospital, Sebastian is left with more questions than answers as he searches for the truth about the elusive Mobius. He is reunited with former associate Juli Kidman and discovers the truth about his daughter who he thought to be dead but is now the core of the system that still tortures him. He is given the opportunity to see his daughter again and save her life, but only by returning to the place that has plagued his mind with terror. This is a story of how a broken man will go to severe lengths to save what was taken from him.

The game has a third person point of view which gives the player more of a sense of the uncomfortable and ever-changing world of STEM. For fans of the original game, it may be unsettling to hear different actors portray already defined characters. While the new actors do a good job, it was initially difficult for me to immerse myself back in the world that had stuck with me since the original’s release in 2014. As the story progresses, the world draws the player back and the voices become an afterthought; the player’s focus becomes their need for survival.

From the first moment, as you start a new game, The Evil Within 2 takes a cinematic approach. In some sections this aspect worked wonders, especially during the introduction as the player is re-submerged into the world of STEM, but in other sections I feel it was misplaced, taking away opportunities to be scared.

This game, while retaining many of the same mechanics from the previous game, sets itself apart by having more variety, as the first game had a linear path to follow. The sequel, while not being open world, still gives the player a vast environment to explore in each chapter. It’s different from the first and I like it, but having an almost open world isn’t as scary as traveling one path where you have no options. Running from enemies to reach your safe haven is still on the edge of your seat nerve-wracking. The safe house takes the form of Sebastian’s office in the Krimson City Police Department. It’s more vibrant and not as eerie as the original safe haven, but still provides a sense of ease. As a fan of the first game, seeing references of characters and objects provided welcome nostalgia, and also reminded me that the originals horrors from the first game are still a lingering subconscious fear.

Once again, the player has the choice to use stealth and sneak past new and terrifying enemies, or to utilize the variety of weapons at their disposal A word of caution, use your ammunition sparingly as bullets are limited and the hordes of enemies often give the feeling they will overwhelm you. If you prefer to shoot your way through each chapter be warned: there are cleverly implemented sections where stealth is vital for completion.

The Evil Within 2 not only proves to be one of the best game sequels that isn’t just a carbon copy of the first game, but also establishes itself as its own definitive horror experience. While it may lack the grotesque eeriness from its predecessor, the story has twists and turns much like the manipulating environment of STEM that players are thrust into. The gameplay provides the player more to do, including engrossing side missions filled with uncontrollable events to navigate. The Evil Within 2 provides players with a thought-provoking and chilling experience with an emotional climax that will appeal to fans of both the franchise and horror games. The Evil Within 2: you won’t stop playing until the nightmare ends.

The Evil Within 2 was released on October 13, 2017 and is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows platforms and is rated M for blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, and strong language.

The View From Monday - October 30, 2017


Happy last Monday in October and Happy Halloween Eve! We had a very windy and wet storm yesterday into this morning. It's still raining but the wind has died down some. School was cancelled here due to power outages and impassible roads. We've had some terrible storms around Halloween including an early Nor'easter that left the area without power for a week. I'm thankful for just a one day wind/rain event and hope everyone's power is back on soon. Obviously this nothing like what our friends in the Caribbean and other areas are going through. If you are so inclined you can head over to Charity Navigator and check out ways to donate to Relief for Puerto Rico and Areas Impacted by Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Harvey Relief, and Hurricane Irma Relief.


Please note that I am not including November titles in this post. A full list of November books, etc. will be posted on November 1st.


There are two debuts this week:

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns;

and

The Astonishing Thing by Sandi Ward.

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



From formerly featured DAC Authors:

Malice of Crows (The Shadow 3) by Lila Bowen;

Siege Line (Shadow Ops: Gemini Cell 3) by Myke Cole;

New Pompeii (New Pompeii 1) by Daniel Godfrey is out in Mass Market Paperback;

The Trouble With The Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson 12) by Darynda Jones;

A Darker Shade of Magic Collector's Edition (Shades of Magic 1) by V. E. Schwab;

and

Eagle and Empire (The Clash of Eagles Trilogy 3) by Alan Smale is out in Mass Market Paperback.

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






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

October 31, 2017
TITLEAUTHORSERIES
Time After Time Karl Alexander SF/TT/SP/Th
Shattered Memories V.C. Andrews Gothic - The Mirror Sisters Series 3
How Fear Departed the Long Gallery: A Ghost Story for Christmas E. F. Benson GH/LF/SupTh - Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories
The Empty House: A Ghost Story for Christmas Algernon Blackwood GH/LF/SupTh - Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories
Malice of Crows Lila Bowen F - The Shadow 3
The Golden Gate (h2mm) Robert Buettner SF
The Fall of Dragons Miles Cameron F - The Traitor Son Cycle 5
Dawn in Damnation Clark Casey H
Siege Line Myke Cole MF - Shadow Ops: Gemini Cell 3
Vacation Matthew Costello H
The Official Supernatural Coloring Book: Monsters, Demons, and Spirits Insight Editions CB
1636: The Ottoman Onslaught (h2mm) Eric Flint AH - Ring of Fire 21
The Final Day (h2mm) William R. Forstchen Th/SF/AP/PA - John Matherson 3
The Rift Frequency Amy S. Foster SF - The Rift Uprising Trilogy 2
Halloween Carnival Volume 5 (e) Brian James Freeman (Ed) H - Anthology
Dark Screams: Volume Eight Brian James Freeman (Ed)
Richard Chizmar (Ed)
H - Dark Screams 8
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier Mark Frost SupTh/MTI - Twin Peaks
New Pompeii (tp2mm) Daniel Godfrey SF - New Pompeii 1
The Silent War (tp2mm) Laurie Goulding (Ed) SF - The Horus Heresy 37
Shadows in the Night & Never Sleep with Strangers Heather Graham R/Gothic/PsyTh
Dead Man Walking: A country house murder mystery with a supernatural twist (h2tp) Simon Green SupM/Occ - An Ishmael Jones Mystery 2
Extinction Biome: Dispersal Addison Gunn SF
The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death (h2mm) Kim Harrison UF - The Hollows
The Toll House: A Ghost Story for Christmas W. W. Jacobs GH/LF/SupTh - Seth's Christmas Ghost Stories
The Trouble with Twelfth Grave Darynda Jones PM - Charley Davidson 12
The Mongrel Mage L. E. Modesitt Jr. F - Saga of Recluce 19
The Parafaith War L. E. Modesitt Jr. SF
Gwendy's Button Box: A Novella Stephen King
Richard Chizmar
SupTh
Nightmares & Dreamscapes Stephen King H - Collection
Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers Joe R. Lansdale H
Dispatch Bentley Little H
The Association Bentley Little H
The Burning Bentley Little H
Joe Ledger: Unstoppable Jonathan Maberry (Ed)
Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Ed)
Th/H - Anthology
Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker Gregory Maguire LF
Subhuman Michael McBride SupTh/SF/AC/H - A Unit 51 Novel 1
Tales from Greystone Bay Robert McCammon H
Hasty for the Dark: Selected Horrors Adam L. G. Nevill SpecFic/Sup/H - Collection
When Parallel Lines Meet Mike Resnick
Lezli Robyn
Larry Hodges
SF
Cold Spectrum Craig Schaefer DF - Harmony Black 4
A Darker Shade of Magic Collector's Edition V. E. Schwab HistF - Shades of Magic 1
Heroes and Villains Lewis Shiner SF - Collection
First-Person Singularities: Stories Robert Silverberg SF - Collection
Eagle and Empire (h2mm) Alan Smale F/HistF/AH - The Clash of Eagles Trilogy 3
Extinction Aftermath Nicholas Sansbury Smith SF/AP/PA - The Extinction Cycle 6
Barbary Station (D) R. E. Stearns SF
Kill Creek Scott Thomas GH/SupTh/H
The Astonishing Thing (D) Sandi Ward FL/CW/LF
Hard Breaker: A Beauty and Beast Novel Christine Warren PNR - Gargoyles Series 6
At the Sign of Triumph (h2mm) David Weber SF - Safehold 9
Booke of the Hidden Jeri Westerson UF/F/PNR - Booke of the Hidden 1
The Sea King C. L. Wilson FR - Mystral 2
Last Year (h2tp) Robert Charles Wilson SF/TT/AH



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



AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternate History
AP - Apocalyptic
CB - Coloring Book
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CoA - Coming of Age
CW - Contemporary Women
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
Fem - Feminist
FL - Family Life
Folklore - Folklore
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
Gothic - Gothic
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HU - Humor
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legends and Mythology
M - Mystery
MF - Military Fantasy
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
Noir - Noir
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PerfArts - Performing Arts
PCM - Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Phil - Philosophy
PM - Paranormal Mystery
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Psy - Psychological
PsyTh - Psychological Thriller
R - Romance
Sc - Science
SH -Superheroes
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SO - Space Opera
SocHis - Social History
SpecFic - Speculative Fiction
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
TechTh - Technological Thriller
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
UF - Urban Fantasy
UFR - Urban Fantasy Romance
VM - Visionary and Metaphysical

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Melanie's Week in Review - October 29, 2017




Well, I am back in the UK again after almost 2 week in Canada. If you read my post last week you would know I was hoping to see some lovely fall colours. I was quite disappointed as the leaves were very dull this year.  It was like someone took a brown wash and painted over top what should have been bright reds, deep oranges and sunny yellows. This was probably the best display of colours I saw the whole week I was there. I took this photo at Lion's Head lake in Ontario, near Georgian bay.  The water was soo blue but not what I would exactly say is warm even though the weather was fantastic. If you live in Ontario or ever travel there I highly recommend going up to that area or around Tobermory. It is a beautiful part of the country.

Although as much as I am sure you are fascinated about my holiday I am certain you are more interested in what I read while on hols.


The first book I am going to tell you about is Starborn by Lucy Hounsom. This is the first in the Worldmaker series and I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I have to admit I actually started reading this book a few months ago, stopped to read something else then forgot I had it. Oops!

Kyndra has just come of age and looking forward to participating in the ancient naming ceremony that will allow her to find her true path. Unfortunately, for Kyndra the vessel used in the ceremony breaks when she is about to find out her true name and she is blamed for disrupting the ceremony and all the tragic events that follow. Its not long before she finds herself on the run with two sorcerers who take her to the secret citadel of Naris. There she is plagued with visions from the past, through the eyes of man thought to be long dead. Caught in the middle of the rebels and the fanatics within the hidden chambers of the citadel Kyndra is cruelly tested in a bid to unlock her magic.  All the while the visions show her a past no one knew existed. Kyndra doesn't have much time to find out who she truly is, save her new friends in the citadel and the family she was forced to leave behind.

Starborn is rather standard fantasy aimed at a younger reader although not too young as there is a rather dark theme, mainly towards one of the female characters, that might not be suitable for anyone under the age of 18. I thought that Kyndra was realistically portrayed for her age - neither too brave or too cowardly. Several chapters in the later half of the book were told from the POV of two of Kyndra's companions which was a bit jarring as this wasn't the format of the story throughout and I wish it had been as it really worked. I think that Hounsom could have done a bit more to build the world in which the characters were set. There was fairly little description of the landscape, society or different races throughout Kyndra's travels. Within Naris it was more descriptive but I thought that was more to set the scene rather than to create a realistic world for the characters to interact with.  Overall, it was an OK read but I am not completely sure I wan to invest more time with Kyndra. I used to really enjoy young fantasy but think I have a bit of burn out from reading too much of it that wasn't that exceptional in the last few years.


The second book I would like to tell you about is the novella Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I was mainly drawn to this book by the cover (yes, I am a cover snob!) and the fact that this book was a limited edition (not sure why that impressed me but it did!).

The world is at war and the scions are always the winners. The sons of the great corporate families always survive all thanks to their 'ironclads' which is power armour that can protect them against almost any attack. When one goes missing, which is almost unheard of, Sergeant Ted Reagan is sent to Europe to bring to find his ironclad and bring them both home. Reagan and a selection of the more disenfranchised soldiers are sent behind enemy lines, out manned and out gunned to find out what happened and bring back the suit....if they survive that is.

If you are a fan of science fiction and / or military based fiction then this is a must read. I am not a fan of the latter and like some, but not all, science fiction however, I really enjoyed Tchaikovsky's tale. Reagan and his men are believable and combined with the backstory of the war, the scions and the ironclads gives this story depth. Given the fact that this is a novella there is quite a bit of detail and it seemed much longer because of this. I never knew what was going to happen next and there seems to be a suggestion at the end that there could be future books, which I would happily read.


That is it for me this week. I hope to have a few more books to tell you about next week if jetlag doesn't prevail so until then Happy Reading.





Starborn
The Worldmaker Trilogy 1
Pan Macmillan, January 1, 2018
     Trade Paperback, 512 pages
Pan Macmillan, April 23, 2015
     eBook, 513 pages

Death and destruction will bar her way. . .

Kyndra's fate holds betrayal and salvation, but the journey starts in her small village. On the day she comes of age, she accidentally disrupts an ancient ceremony, ending centuries of tradition. So when an unnatural storm targets her superstitious community, Kyndra is blamed. She fears for her life until two strangers save her, by wielding powers not seen for an age - powers fuelled by the sun and the moon.

Together, they flee to the hidden citadel of Naris. And here, Kyndra experiences disturbing visions of the past, showing war and one man's terrifying response. She'll learn more in the city's subterranean chambers, amongst fanatics and rebels. But first Kyndra will be brutally tested in a bid to unlock her own magic.

If she survives the ordeal, she'll discover a force greater than she could ever have imagined. But could it create as well as destroy? And can she control it, to right an ancient wrong?





Ironclads
Solaris, November 7, 2017
Limited Edition Hardcover and eBook, 200 pages

Special limited edition science fiction hardcover novella by the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author. Only 1000 copies.

Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear.

Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong.

Now Regan and his men, ill equipped and demoralised, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad-killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Interview with Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades


Please welcome Michael Shou-Yung Shum to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Queen of Spades was published on October 10th by Forest Avenue Press.







TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Michael:  I have been composing my own stories since I was a young child. I guess I've always felt compelled to write, although it is impossible to say why!



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Michael:  I definitely write by the seat of my pants. It comes from composing stories as a child, where you would begin a story and have no idea where it would lead.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Michael:  Coming up with an attractive form that interests me.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Michael:  Great writing and ideas by other writers--especially living with a great writer like Jaclyn Watterson to bounce ideas off.



TQDescribe Queen of Spades in 140 characters or less.

Michael:  The story behind the Strangest Hand Ever Dealt.



TQTell us something about Queen of Spades that is not found in the book description.

Michael:  It was originally started as a long short story or novelette, and not a novel.



TQWhat inspired you to write Queen of Spades? What appealed to you about Pushkin's Queen of Spades?

Michael:  Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades" is one of my favorite short stories--and one of the few stories that elevate gambling to a high art.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Queen of Spades?

Michael:  Although I didn't know it was research at the time, I spent over two years working as a poker dealer in a small cardroom in Lake Stevens, Washington, learning the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for Queen of Spades?

Michael:  The cover was designed by Forest Avenue's brilliant in-house designer, Gigi Little. She really hit it out of the park with this one!



TQIn Queen of Spades who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Michael:  The easiest was Barbara because she was the most fun to follow. The hardest was Chan because in many ways he began as a blank slate that I had to fill in along the way--even still, he remains something of a mystery to me.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Queen of Spades?

Michael:  I intentionally made all the traditional "power roles" filled by women. It might seem like a small thing, but it's a start to reconditioning (or deconditioning) our gender expectations.



TQWhich question about Queen of Spades do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Michael:  How would you like readers to be transformed by reading the novel? First, I hope the novel offers readers some consolation in very challenging and difficult times. Second, I hope readers become better persons in some small but not insignificant way. Finally, I hope reading the novel makes readers want to take some risks as a means of improving their life.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Queen of Spades.

Michael:  Everything coheres with what comes before--and what comes after.



TQWhat's next?

Michael:  I am working on a novel-in-stories tentatively entitled Portmanteau.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





Queen of Spades
Forest Avenue Press, October 10, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages

Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michael Shou-Yung Shum’s debut novel delivers the thrilling highs and lows that come when we cede control of our futures to the roll of the dice and the turn of a card.





About Michael

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Shou-Yung Shum eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his spouse and three cats. Queen of Spades is his first novel.


Website  ~  Twitter @dr_shum