SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi 5/5

SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi 5/5

SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi 5/5 Stars and all-around Aces for the work of historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural.

SHILOH plants you in the middle of the mayhem of one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

Philip Fracassi’s cinematic prose practically gives the reader a 4-D experience tossing us aside, book in-hand, even as the characters are blown backward by forest-leveling cannon fire.

The following book review of SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi is SPOILER FREE.

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Two days.

The battle lasted for two days.

In the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee, over twenty thousand Confederate and Union soldiers were killed, tens of thousands more were injured, and thousands more are missing.

That is no spoiler; that is history.

The surprise attack by the Confederacy, and their staunch entrenchment, made for the gargantuan amount of carnage that ensued in the infamous two-day long battle.

Fracassi has a way with words – to say the least – and his main characters Henry and his twin brother William provide the kind of insightful thoughts, brutal actions, and realistic conversation that brings the two Confederate soldiers to life, as they attempt to carry out one of the South’s most bold endeavors.

The setting could not be better written. The feel of the battlefield and of the notion of the risky sneak attack is palpable.

When night hits, it is offset by a magical, effervescent glow of the wounds of numerous soldiers after the first crazy day.

For after a day of fighting, mortal wounds have taken ahold of many, including William, and yet Henry sees something unnatural that leads to that emerald glow.

I never thought I would become invested and feel for two Rebel soldiers from the south in the Civil War, but Fracassi has me transfixed by Henry – his blind hatred of Grant, war, and religion are well-balanced and written in a way that creates strong empathy.

Prepare for incredible detail in the fighting – these men had muskets and bayonets – that leads to vivid gore, as blood and splinters fly.

If you enjoy history, or just thriller and speculative fiction grounded in gritty realism, SHILOH is a must-read!

I read this as an audiobook, and I have to say the narration is fantastic (so keep that in mind, Fictioneers).

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“SHILOH: A NOVELLA OF THE CIVIL WAR by Philip Fracassi 5/5” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

philip fracassi, r.j. huneke, tff, author, boys in the valley, book tour, nyc

Philip Fracassi is on his BOYS IN THE VALLEY Book Tour, and TFF’s own R.J. Huneke will be interviewing Philip Fracassi prior to his stop at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York LIVE on Facebook (the video will be on Youtube the next day), so be sure to tune in!

101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED Is Essential

101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED Is Essential

101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED is essential reading for all of the fictioneers out there that either love speculative fiction, or want a curated introduction to the phenomenal horror fiction that has come out since the year 2000.

As Josh Malerman writes in his foreword to the book: “Welcome to modern horror.”

Sadie Hartmann’s 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED adds urgency to the hunt for new great reading, as the renowned writer of a gargantuan amount of horror book reviews excitedly offers up the very best she has come across in the last 23 years.

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There are horror indie books, self-published titles, and best-selling novels too.

Sadie Hartmann provides accessible literary criticism for the bevy of books in 101 that are clearly near and dear to her heart, even if some of them were so terrifying they made her sleep with the lights on.

My To-Be-Read (TBR) list grew by dozens, as I perused Hartmann’s meticulous work and found exciting insight tailored to my interests.

I could not put 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED, or my Goodreads app, down!

There is a book for everyone in here and the way 101 is organized and explained makes for both fascinating and illuminating reading.

Each book falls under one of five categories: Paranormal, Supernatural, Human Monsters, Natural Order Horror, and Short Story Collections.

Each category is explained thoroughly with wit, knowledge, and relatable candor.

Paranormal is for Hartmann, “freaky shit that defies explanation,” and she is one-hundred percent right.

And then there are subcategories, like Supernatural’s Demons and Possession.

Two brilliant sections are given to each book review and were pivotal for me: the “At A Glance” section to the right of the review and the “Quote” section at the top of the review.

101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU'RE MURDERED, Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann, Sadie Hartmann, Mother Horror , stephen king, philip fracassi, horror, literary criticism

I LOVE quotes, even just one line in a work of literature, be it horror, non-fiction, or poetry; I find they are so revealing as to the book’s voice and the author’s writing.

Hartmann painstakingly searched for not just a good quote, but an impactful one that represented what the work and its author’s writing are about. It is genius.

On top of the Quote, Hartmann gives us the At A Glance map to the novel where you can read about the work’s specific Themes, Tone, Style, Setting, and the Publisher; and all of which I find very helpful when determining what might interest me to delve further into a book or to run shrieking into the night, because there are clown dolls in the tale, combining two of my worst fears.

101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU'RE MURDERED, Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann, Sadie Hartmann, Mother Horror , stephen king, philip fracassi, horror, literary criticism

Readers, authors, horror experts and novices alike will revel in learning so much from Sadie Hartmann’s 101+ horror books.

Wait, did I just say 101+ horror books?! What is with the +?

Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann’s 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED goes above and beyond analyzing the books themselves and hits on the very genres, tropes, triggers, and myriad nuances that give such books so much power to move, thrill, and scare the hell out of us.

And yes, though Hartmann states that this is a book of the modern age of great horror and that she is not reviewing foundational figures such as Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, or Bram Stoker, but, and I mean BUT, you may find a wonderful surprise as you go along and read about each of the 101, because many of the featured authors and genres lend themselves to what these classic authors have done in literature and so, for example, there may be a few mentions of THE EXORCIST by Blatty that slip past Hartmann’s portcullis before the book is closed.

And though the 101 book is limited to 101 reviewed titles, there are also ten author spotlights throughout the book, because all of these authors’ works need to be read (so we have a plethora of great titles), and each of them, from Adam Nevill, Alma Katsu, Ania Ahlborn, Christopher Buehlman, Grady Hendrix, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, Tananarive Due to V. Castro pick their own their three all-time favorite horror books for 101!

There also essays from other exceptional authors in the modern genre that feature their books too: Cassandra Khaw, Hailey Piper, Eric LaRocca, R.J. Joseph, and  Daniel Kraus give their own thoughts on important aspects in horror.

So, what are some examples of the 101 modern horror gems in the book?

I am not telling.

Go and discover what graces the shadowy pages inside 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED for yourselves. Ideally, do it before you’re murdered.

Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann is an author, is the Bram Stoker-nominated editor-in-chief of publisher Dark Hart Books, the owner/publisher of the horror fiction subscription service Night Worms (which is sooo much fun), and she is an epic reviewer of books.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU'RE MURDERED, Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann, Sadie Hartmann, Mother Horror , stephen king, philip fracassi, horror, literary criticism

“101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED Is Essential” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

Catch Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann on her book tour NOW!

101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU'RE MURDERED, Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann, Sadie Hartmann, Mother Horror , stephen king, philip fracassi, horror, literary criticism

Sadie Hartmann was kind enough to give TFF an extra copy of 101 and we are giving it away after we see Philip Fracassi at an upcoming signing in NYC and he signs his own book review in 101! You can enter the GIVEAWAY free on any of TFF’s social media or FB here.

Speaking of Mr. Fracassi’s Book Tour, TFF’s own R.J. Huneke will be interviewing Philip Fracassi prior to his stop at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York LIVE on Facebook (the video will be on Youtube the next day), so be sure to tune in!

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BOYS IN THE VALLEY By Philip Fracassi Is A Chilling Classic

BOYS IN THE VALLEY By Philip Fracassi Is A Chilling Classic

BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi is a chilling classic.

Fracassi’s tale is labeled as horror, but is much more than that: this is a deep, gritty coming-of-age story that delves its own mark on readers.

BOYS IN THE VALLEY, Philip Fracassi, horror, tor nightfire, orbit books, stephen king, Earthling Publications,

In 1905, when the priests at a Catholic orphanage in rural Pennsylvania are brought a possessed man to heal, things go horribly wrong, for the clergy and for the 30 boys in their charge.

From the shocking opening to the pandemonium at the book’s ending, BOYS IN THE VALLEY grabs you and does not let up!

Fracassi has a great writing style that combines vivid imagery, tight-knit prose, and a tense build-up of suspense littered with unexpected action, as he creates an in-depth world filled with memorable characters.

It is because of the many aspects of the characters living within the winter-blasted setting that there are quite a few extremely moving scenes.

The following Book Review of BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi has mild plot Spoilers*

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The book starts with its protagonist, nine-year-old Peter, watching paralyzed as his father returns home drunk and faces scorn from his wife for not bringing the starving family any food.

Peter’s father, Jack, snaps. He murders his wife, he stares down his son, and then he turns the gun on himself.

It is the eerily realistic semblance of the defeated father losing it and the powerless boy that sees this play out, paralyzed and mortified, that captures people’s flaws and their humanity so well, and this knowledge shapes Peter, even as the event itself haunts him.

The way Fracassi writes the scene, you can feel how tired Peter’s father is when he “sits heavily” and takes off his battered hat. You get the feeling the man is, at the least, verbally abusive when he is in an angered state, and like the kettle that whistles in the home as Peter’s mother taunts her husband, Jack Barlow simmers on the page until, once boiled, he blows up.

Are the use of ‘Jack’ and ‘Barlow’ a nod to two of Stephen King’s earliest works?

Seven years later, Peter is among the kinder and older boys of St. Vincent’s Orphanage. He is training to become a priest under his friend and surrogate father figure, Father Andrew, and his insightfulness into the difficulties of life, at the orphanage and in general, makes him an interesting lens to watch the tragic story of BOYS IN THE VALLEY unfold.

Peter, now 16, has fallen in love with a neighboring farmer’s daughter, and he has to come to grips with his knowledge that his mentor, Father Andrew, thinks of him like a son, and that to tell Andrew that Peter will not complete his training and become a priest will likely break the man’s heart.

But Father Andrew is a fantastic character and one who continually reminds Peter, despite the priest’s own hopes, that it is Peter’s choice to make.

This is a beautiful display of affection that shines throughout the book and is not forgotten when Peter does not get to make that choice.

Life at the orphanage means strict adherence to the priests’ rules, daily farm work and meager meals that never fill any of the boys’ bellies.

The 30 boys living together act as brothers will, in both caring for one another, especially Peter looking out for the smaller and younger orphans, in entertaining one another, in ribbing one another, and in picking on one another.

Boys are curious.

But the more they learn of the priests’ attempt to heal a possessed man who is then killed and buried on the church grounds, the more a malevolent mood permeates many of them.

Peter’s best friend, another main character and a good foil that makes an impression, as the gruff, ever-cynical older boy, David, is stalwart throughout the book, a pillar that Peter can count on to show no fear. Until he cannot. And when David is afraid, Peter realizes just how wrong things have gone.

Fracassi writes: “David is not easily knocked off his course. He has walls within walls to keep himself insulated from things of the world . . . Any emotions he may or may not feel . . . are buried deep within him, visible only to his inner self . . . [But] to see him so visibly, dramatically shaken is like . . . the first time I saw my mother cry.” [BOYS IN THE VALLEY, Fracassi, Tor Nightfire, Earthling Publications, Orbit Books]

The entire passage is far more impactful than the condensed quote above, but you will just have to read the book, readers.

There are many more memorable characters, from Brother Johnson, the sadistic, lifelong criminal sentenced to serve the priests and therein is often the twisted enforcer of punishments for the boys, and then to Grace, the sweet love of Peter’s life who lends him a great work of fiction every time he visits her.

As the frosty fields are quickly covered with falling snow and then the fell wind of the incoming storm that grows and grows and, finally, blasts St. Vincent’s, so too does the evil follow in its wake.

The possessed boys carry out the most heinous of acts imaginable against their orphan-brothers.

Only the union of the resistant boys under Peter and David stand in the way of the demons.

Fracassi paints so many shades of black.

Though there are parallels between Blatty’s masterpiece THE EXORCIST, Stephen King’s IT, and BOYS IN THE VALLEY, when I think of this book, I keep coming back to two impactful coming-of-age tales: William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES and Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE.

The latter is a favorite of mine, and I would argue Billy Pilgrim as a young man dropped into WWII Germany grows enough to be a bildungsroman in its own right, just as much as Golding’s tale of boys surviving on their own devices does, if in different ways.

LORD OF THE FLIES pits one group of children against another in a poignant way that is echoed in Fracassi’s boys forming of two opposing sides.

Demonic possession has been depicted throughout culture as an evil being often self-describing itself as ‘many’ or ‘legion’ and in BOYS IN THE VALLEY, the demons that inhabited a child murderer spread, like a disease, so that a horrific army of possessed young boys is formed and bent on further infection of the clergy and their brethren boys and the world, and for any who resist they want only to maliciously harm them.

Dominance and survival are two of the qualities that seep from Golding and from Fracassi.

There are even two orphan boys that are so close in age and friendship, they are called brothers even though they are not related, and these two inseparable characters are pitted against one another in BOYS IN THE VALLEY and it is terrifically terrible.

End of SPOILER Warning*

The horrors of war, the sheer atrocities performed by humans pitted against humans, that Billy Pilgrim is caught in in Dresden, Germany are so harsh as to be revolting, which was the point: the writing is as real as the terrible acts of war were/are.

So too does BOYS IN THE VALLEY invoke violent depictions of its own deeply personal war. But this is also realism and writing at its most effective.

This is how these characters behave.

BOYS IN THE VALLEY sticks with you like a knife in the ribs: it never really goes away.

For horror fans, you may need to read this one in the warm light of the summer sun, because the darkness and the bitter cold stalks the reader, just as it daunts the characters in the book.

Yes, there are some brutal, graphic scenes in BOYS IN THE VALLEY, but they are reflective of the history that the story takes place in, as well as the realistic actions of the characters.

Fracassi’s tale is one you will happily reread even though it still hurts.

BOYS IN THE VALLEY, Philip Fracassi, horror, tor nightfire, orbit books, stephen king, Earthling Publications,

I was fortunate to receive an advanced review copy of this book to do a Preview Review of the Earthling Publications signed limited edition for Halloween 2021 that is a stunner, and I have reread the ARCs provided to me by Tor Nightfire and by Orbit Books to do this review to expound on BOYS IN THE VALLEY for their July 2023 release dates. The book is out NOW.

Philip Fracassi is on the BOYS IN THE VALLEY Signing Tour NOW.

Get your copy NOW, eager readers.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi is a chilling classic” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

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R.J. Huneke will also be conducting a live interview with Philip Fracassi on August 21st in advance of his New York City appearance later in the week. Stay Tuned!

 

 

This is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!

This is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!

THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!

The Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards Winner for best novella, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR represents some of the very best in innovative speculative fiction.

I read this book in a few days and was enamored with it!

The following is a SPOILER-FREE book review of THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone.

The main characters Red and Blue are agents in a time war described best as traversing amongst myriad threats of history and tangled braids of the future.

Red and Blue are women, if not wholly humanoid, well that is for the reader to decide, and are from a distant future.

They are the best at what they do: marking threads, timelines, for destruction and/or control.

The fallout of their actions directly improves or harms entire cords of histories.

Upon becoming aware of one another’s opposition, Red and Blue begin a taunting, spiritual, revealing, and ultimately romantic correspondence through some extremely well-hidden and well-experienced letters (eating and reveling in Sumac seeds for one, savoring a scintillating pot of tea for another).

The prose from both authors is deeply poetic and philosophical, and is layered in quips, in new tech from the future, in new interpretations of past figures and events.

Red and Blue are deeply insightful people, and they challenge each other to grow even as they get to know one another via the letters.

To create this book, Max Gladstone wrote all of Red and Amal El-Mohtar wrote all of Blue’s chapters.

And so a brilliant use of unique personality naturally illuminates each character.

At first Red and Blue seem like they might snare one another.

Later, Red and Blue seem to have betrayed the time war itself.

The result is that each layer of the book unfolds and is more suspenseful, more delicate, more painful, and more invigorating than the last section.

El-Mohtar and Gladstone’s THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR is one of those pivotal works of sci-fi-fantasy, a classic that needs to be reread again and again to be fully realized.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“This is How You Lose the Time War By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

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INSPECTION By Josh Malerman Is An Unremitting Classic

INSPECTION By Josh Malerman Is An Unremitting Classic

INSPECTION by Josh Malerman is an unremitting classic, as is the signed limited edition of the novel by Earthling Publications.

The thing about INSPECTION that is so unnerving is that it is entirely plausible.

inspection, josh malerman, bird box, horror, thriller, Earthling Publications,

The main character J is one of twenty-six twenty-four Alphabet Boys growing up in a school where their adopted father, D.A.D., and his Inspectors and staff have withheld the very existence of the female gender from the boys their entire lives so that they are “undistracted” in pursuit of academic and artistic greatness.

This book is a new favorite of mine! INSPECTION is visceral, poignant, moving, and frightening, and, man oh man, that ending packs a wallop!

The world-building, the characters, the prose could not be woven together better, like a song, or be more impactful.

“Oh, J knew the inspections were for his own good.” [INSPECTION, Josh Malerman, p.86]

That very line sends a shiver up my spine.

If a boy fails a daily inspection to the point where they are dubbed “rotten”, then they will be sent to The Corner, an infamous, hidden place from which two of their brothers have gone but never returned.

That threat is nearly as ingrained as some of the specifics it is wrapped in by D.A.D. – the diseases that disobeying can bring – and therein, the need for Inspections, for every day of their twelve-year-old lives.

The boys are even fed books crafted to them to teach specific lessons and to be devoid of any female terminology.

inspection, josh malerman, bird box, horror, thriller, Earthling Publications,

In a world where so many struggle and generations of youth have to learn history in schools where books are banned and/or censored into incoherence, the brilliant and twisted premise of Malerman’s INSPECTION borders on prescience.

And you will not be able to put this book down.

Earthling Publications’ signed limited edition of INSPECTION by Josh Malerman is an innovative marvel that captures the soul of the book, art reflecting art.

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I imagine Josh Malerman must have felt a thrill jolt through him as he first held the Earthling S/L in his hands.

There is no dust jacket. No word on the book’s cover. And it is all the more stunning because of that.

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The Earthling INSPECTION has every minute facet of the tale highlighted perfectly.

The cover is a “D.A.D. red leather jacket” Skyvertex covering, and there from front to spine to back are the black silhouettes of the Alphabet Boys waiting in line for their inspection.

inspection, josh malerman, bird box, horror, thriller, Earthling Publications,

It such a dramatic display.

The endpapers are the actual notebook pages that Warren Bratt printed with his hand-written story where “the woman” enters.

inspection, josh malerman, bird box, horror, thriller, Earthling Publications,

I mean, wow!

This is powerful, as are the brilliant illustrations of Patrick Arrasmith, the fantastic foreword by Jonathan Maberry, and both of them sign alongside Josh Malerman in this numbered edition of 235 (there was a lettered edition of 15).

inspection, josh malerman, bird box, horror, thriller, Earthling Publications,

The paper is bright, smells delicious, and boldly displays the text on 80# Finch interior papers that are held in a Smyth sewn binding.

Earthling is top-notch, even raising the bar they have set for themselves with INSPECTION.

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“INSPECTION By Josh Malerman Is An Unremitting Classic” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

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A Sleight Of Shadows By Kat Howard Ups The Ante

A Sleight Of Shadows By Kat Howard Ups The Ante

A Sleight Of Shadows By Kat Howard ups the ante, as the fate of magic and the many lives surrounding it are in grave peril.

The magic is fighting back!

A Sleight Of Shadows is the exciting second book in the Unseen World Series and the follow-up to Kat Howard’s Edgar-award winning An Unkindness Of Magicians.

One of the Unseen World’s most powerful magicians, Sydney, finds herself bereft of nearly all magical ability.

She can with the greatest effort just barely light a candle.

Meanwhile, the New York City secret society of magical houses are cracking at the seams, spells are misfiring, and the corruption of the House of Shadows is still intertwined in magic itself.

Sydney thought she had destroyed Shadows, but that magical force is tipping the scales and doing all it can to rebuild.An Unkindness of Magicians, kat howard, a sleight of shadows, unseen world series, fantasy, thriller

The stakes could not be higher, as the Unseen World languishes and its chief defender, in Sydney, is powerless to fight magic with magic.

Regardless, the fantastic character that Howard creates is resolved to end the threat any way she can. She is smart, adept at planning her moves as though she plays a great chess match, and her willfulness is unmatched.

How can you not root for a character like Sydney?

Once again, the world building in the Unseen World is top-notch and delivers the vibrant, realistic, and vivid magical universe to life in A Sleight Of Shadows.

Howard’s prose is brilliant – it scintillates.

Here is a passage I love:

Once they arrived, Dahlia stopped. She took in the place. The slow, inexorable movement of the stones searching for wholeness. The stale, ancient scent of the air and the earth that blanketed so many dead. The electric hum of power vibrated around them. Potential. Waiting. [Howard, Kat, A Sleight Of Shadows, Gallery/Saga, 2023, page 158]

Check out our interview with Kat Howard discussing The Unseen World Series:

Mild SPOILER Warning for A Sleight Of Shadows and An Unkindness Of Magicians

Sydney thought that in sacrificing her own shadow, and all of her magic, that she had fully destroyed the House of Shadows and its evil vines of magic that had gripped the Unseen World using the power of sacrificed children’s bones.

But she was wrong.

The magic in the Unseen World has its own will and its own balance that the last Turning had thrown way off kilter, and the House of Shadows filled a needed void.

Shadows had its own will, to feed and to exist, and its magic fought back.

The island built on bone that Shadows resided on worked to rebuild.

And a new forest of trees with bones at its center, the unremembered and unrevered dead magicians that had died being leached by Shadows, rises up in Central Park moaning for recognition.

Many of the great elements from the first book of the series are expanded upon and explored.

The heart of magic itself, the founding of the first houses, reveals itself to Sydney in the Archives and it is the weavings of ancient spells and the very finger bones of the founders that are the foundation of the Unseen World that is in peril.

Other magicians seek their own easy way to magic, with no cost, that renewing the House of Shadows will bring them.

Despite the cost of sacrificing their own children to Shadows, the ability to freely wield magic appeals to many in the magical world.

The pull is so strong that Dahlia convinces Mia, a teenager, newly brought into the Unseen World to join with Shadows.

The child willingly begins to feed and strengthen Shadows.

And Sydney needs to bring down the house without harming Mia.

A Sleight Of Shadows is chilling and tense, mired in magical darkness.

A couple of beloved characters from the series are lost in the book, as the thrilling page-turner casts an ‘all bets are off’ layer to the plot.

The physical houses of the Unseen World’s families show their personality, which is a lot of fun, and their ability to aid their family magically comes into play and is vital.

The theme of sacrifice, whether to properly cast magic, or to achieve goals in life, in general, is strong and effective.

The only thing I was disappointed about in A Sleight Of Shadows is that it did not have a Turning and any of the medieval magician duels, and then, lo and behold, the sacred hierarchy to reside in and control the Unseen World used mortal contests to settle some outcomes, and a revitalized Sydney is called upon once more to show her magical prowess.

What Sydney does in the duel is surprising, though planned perfectly, and makes the ending a gripping ride with a far-reaching fallout.

It is the perfect conclusion to a phenomenal tale.

 

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“A Sleight Of Shadows By Kat Howard ups the ante” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

 

 

An Unkindness of Magicians By Kat Howard Stands Apart

An Unkindness of Magicians By Kat Howard Stands Apart

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard stands apart, as the first book in The Unseen World series this thrilling journey to the shadowy heart of magic and the magicians who wield such powers in New York City is unparalleled.

The realm of the Unseen World reveals Manhattan’s dark, magical secrets.

But casting magic comes at a price.

There is a balance of power in their world and it is shifting, as the magic itself fades. The protagonist, Sydney, enters the Unseen World, and she is hell-bent on bringing it down.

What Kat Howard has done with An Unkindness of Magicians is extraordinary!

This speculative fiction thriller is so inventive and intriguing.

Howard’s characters are well-rounded, memorable, and all too real in their visceral struggles.

An Unkindness of Magicians, kat howard, a sleight of shadows, unseen world series, fantasy, thriller

The prose is enveloping in its unique style that is moving, impactful, and poetic, at just the right moments, as in the following passage:

She breathed in. Sydney was, all at once, an entire forest. She was root and leaf, dirt and sky. Green and spring were blood in her veins, air in her lungs. She was, between one heartbeat and the next, all of magic.

The world building soars to brilliant heights off of the foundation of the prose, as a vast realm of magic courses through the veins of the great city, and places like New York’s Central Park house hidden facets of the Unseen World that are wholly new and vivid for readers.

There are so many good lines in the book, but this one wrenched on my heartstrings:

It was a terrible thing, having hope again.” [Howard, Kat, An Unkindness of Magicians, Gallery/Saga, 2017, page 163]

Mild SPOILER Warning for An Unkindness of Magicians

Every two decades, sometimes a few years less, sometimes more, there is a Turning of Fate’s wheel, and in the Turning the magical houses enter a medieval-like tournament to vie for power, to establish themselves in the Unseen World, or to settle grudges with duels to the death.

The politics, the disinheritances, the murders, the humor, the conversations over drinks, and the plotting and manipulation carried out by a bevy of memorable characters creates an enthralling atmosphere, not unlike the dramatic woven plots in George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones.

The main character, Sydney, is unknown in the magicians’ circles when she arrives in the city.

But she applies for a job, to be a champion of a potential new magical house, and as she lifts cars in the middle of the Manhattan sky with no one – even those non-magical New Yorkers, the mundanes, in their own cars – the wiser, she wins the job.

In her first duel, she wields such immense power that by forcing all of the magicians present to dance, like puppets, everyone takes immediate note.

A target is planted firmly on her back.

Sydney has been let out of the House of Shadows, a hidden magical house that secretly fuels all of the magicians so that they can cast without paying the painful physical toll that comes with the use of magic.

The reality, Sydney, reveals is that infants are sacrificed by each house and those children are raised by Shadows, who cut into their bodies and their very shadows to withdraw magic to pay the toll for the Unseen World.

Warning! You may not be able to put An Unkindness of Magicians down!

Sydney’s contract with Shadows has nearly been completed, and she wants nothing more than to ruin the House of Shadows and to somehow stop the corrupt wielding of magic.

What she has to endure in her first time in the outside world, from newfound love to seeing snow for the first time, to learning who her family is and that they sacrificed her as a baby is deeply moving.

Readers become very invested in Sydney.

It seems like almost anything is possible in this magical world, but as Sydney comes to find out, the cost could be everything she has.

A Sleight Of Shadows, Book #2 in the Unseen World series, by Kat Howard has just come out on April 25, 2023 and is available now!

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard stands apart” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

An Unkindness of Magicians, kat howard, a sleight of shadows, unseen world series, fantasy, thriller

 

 

An Unkindness of Magicians, kat howard, a sleight of shadows, unseen world series, fantasy, thriller

 

 

The Hunter By Julia Leigh: A Worthwhile Read

The Hunter By Julia Leigh: A Worthwhile Read

The Hunter by Julia Leigh: a worthwhile read.

Okay wow. I loved this book.

This Australian author plows through the gate like a powerful young mare with her debut novel set in the rugged wilderness of Tasmania.

The premise is mysterious and intriguing right off the bat and centers around a search for the last remaining thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger or Tasi tiger) in existence.

The Tasi Tiger was officially declared extinct in 1986 after fifty years with no confirmed sightings in the wild.

However, in the years since its disappearance, this unusual animal, that was neither cat nor dog but in fact a marsupial—who sported a prehistoric jaw structure and pouch-carried it’s young—has borne legendary status in The Land Down Under.

Countless sightings have been claimed by natives of the small island state located 240 km south of the Australian mainland. Though evidence for the thylacine’s extinction is staggering, the powerful force of imagination and hunger for mystery have resurrected the Tasi Tiger to new life.

The Aussie folklore that undergirds the story of M, our fearless and unnamed hunter who enters and slowly becomes a part of the beautiful landscape of the Tasmanian wilderness, injects an electric current that forces the reader to turn page, after page, after page.

It hits that nerve that we all are prey to, that nerve for mystery that grasps onto your ankle with an unshakable grip.

The fact that no one can say for certain that one—or maybe two—of these beautiful creatures haven’t somehow survived all these years in the deep forest, unseen…is just plain exciting.

Life, as Dr. Ian Malcolm so aptly states in Crichton’s Jurassic Park, will find a way. And we certainly hope that it has!

In The Hunter, M has been hired by a large biotech corporation to find the last living thylacine so they can harvest its DNA for some nefarious purpose, and a race is on to find her before the competition does.

Mild Plot Spoilers for The Hunter by Julia Leigh.

To keep this mission secret, M, masquerades as a zoologist from a university in Sydney studying Tasmanian Devils.

A rural property—chosen for its proximity to the escarpment where M embarks on several multi-day trips to conduct his ‘research’—serves as his basecamp where he returns from the wild to resupply and log his progress in between treks.

The ramshackle house, plunked in the middle of what used to be a working farm but has since fallen into disuse, is occupied by the recently widowed, Lucy, and her two small children.

Initially, M only interacts with the children as Lucy remains unseen, secluded to her bedroom in a prescription pill-induced-coma, a move of self-preservation in which she attempts to sleep off the crippling grief of the death of her husband.

Her ascent to putting M up in her home was a decision made out of necessity, the included stipend paramount to keeping what remains of her world from complete collapse.

The older of the children—whom M pegs at about eleven or twelve—has assumed the role of house-manager during Lucy’s chemical absence. She cooks meals, takes care of her brother, and promises to call in the search party if M misses his return date.

They have taken the liberty of assuming new names while they live in this unique interlude from normal life. The older goes by the handle Sass, and her younger brother hails by Bike. These two might just be the hidden gem of the story.

The characters are real, each one unique and lovable. Their flaws define them and give them a tangible humanity, and yet, in such a short story, they also achieve sensible growth and change.

Leigh’s prose is fantastic. [Spoiler Warning Ended]

It’s concise and crisp, not one unnecessary word left in the final manuscript. This author took to heart the axiom that William Strunk Jr. coined over a century ago; omit needless words.

The choice to write the story in the present tense also adds to the urgency of the narrative. It removes that comfort, that feeling that everything must end up okay in the end, had it been written as if M was telling us a story that has already happened.

As we are experiencing the story in real time with the hunter, we share his emotions in real time. This keeps that current at a steady jolt that—like an electric shock—locks your fingers and thumbs together on each side of the open book.

I love the way Leigh effortlessly moves between scenes.

In as few words as possible she gracefully moves the plot without leaving the reader wondering where he is or how he got there.

With a skilled hand, Leigh chooses the perfect details to describe and the perfect ones to leave out. The author writing this review is certainly taking notes.    

Like the thylacine, this book has remained largely unseen. Hidden in libraries and bookstores, a single copy wedged between, and overshadowed by, volumes of Steig Larrson, D.H. Lawrence, and John le Carre.

You will not experience a minute wasted with this little buzzer. It’s a great one to insert into the queue especially after a longer tome, when you’re feeling a little tired out and aren’t quite ready to commit to another thousand-pager.

Thanks for reading. Now go read The Hunter!

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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The Hunter by Julia Leigh, The Hunter, Julia Leigh, Tasmania

“The Hunter By Julia Leigh: A Worthwhile Read” was written by Kyle Helmer.

 

 

Gothic By Philip Fracassi-Beware Of The Madness Within

Gothic By Philip Fracassi-Beware Of The Madness Within

Gothic by Philip Fracassi – beware of the madness within these pages, because it may unravel your soul.

There are few books that come along – and I usually read many books at once – that demand all of my attention, and I cannot put them down, and Gothic by Philip Fracassi was one of these.

The thrilling tale of Gothic’s Tyson Parks and his world, packs a hell of a bite.

The characters are so real you can hear their voices and recall their mannerisms. The writing is fantastically tight and visual, the impacts of violent scenes visceral.

For fans of horror and thrillers that hold back no punches, Gothic is a rare treat.

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Spoiler Alert for Gothic by Philip Fracassi.

The world-building is extremely well done, as Fracassi paints the posh and the dimmer corners of New York City alongside a publishing world that is genuine, down to the minute details, like the contractual obligation to deliver on a novel’s pitch.

And this is entirely necessary to go along with what is almost certainly a haunted desk that hints at being so much more.

Fracassi presents Gothic in such a way that I might have walked past the same swanky antique store on my way home and seen the corner of a mammoth antique desk there and felt its allure before a chill went down my spine and sent me on my way.

The best-selling author, Tyson Parks, who is out of money and time and inspiration is gifted an antique black oak desk, like no other, that immediately becomes a miraculous muse.

As the tragedy of Tyson, who begins to write rampantly and display violent behavior wholly unlike himself, progresses, with more success meeting more hints at madness, Gothic‘s story unfolds bloodily and brilliantly.

There is a steady build-up that grows faster and faster, until the plot’s rollercoaster car flies down from the track’s summit at blistering speed with many exhilarating and scary twists and turns that form an epic conclusion.

The desk is hungry!

The very first writing marathon that Tyson takes at his new desk causes cracks in his fingertips that bleed. And whenever blood touches the desk and its centerpiece, a massive stone surface, it is absorbed and a sacrificial contract of sorts gets underway.

As the time goes on, more and more blood is fed to the desk, and the carved ivy branches lift from the desk’s surface and slip into the author’s veins.

Though Tyson does not remember what he wrote, exactly, his next book becomes a bigger best-seller than he has ever had.

Despite that, his agency begs him to dial down the rampant violence in his next project, The Horror, and to take out the unsavory elements that fly in the face of many 21st century readers’ morals.

Tyson, enthralled by the desk, and incessantly listening to the old blind wizard that speaks to him from it, goes off on his agency and threatens to walk if his written word is ever questioned again.

He is a multimillionaire and god-like among his world.

But as he discovers at the book launch party for his newest book, the text has inspired madness, suicides, violence, and cult-like reverence that he never intended. He does not even remember the parts of the book that are referenced as causing harm.

Even after losing his family to the desk’s murderous influence, losing his own mind, life, and seemingly his own soul, he – or the spirit of the desk, maybe – writes one final manuscript.

Because he is completely in the hold of the desk, and he cannot stop himself from going to it.

That final work of Tyson’s arrives completed at his agent, Harry’s, office, and Harry who has already succumb to alcoholism and drug addiction as a means to cope with Tyson’s work, starts to read the book, titled Gothic; will it fully unravel his mind?

Not since Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness does a character, like Gothic’s Tyson Parks, tragically reach such megalomaniacal heights that the overthrown mind crumbles and the realization of their lost humanity comes only at the moment of their bitter demise.

As Conrad’s Kurtz sees the darkness about him and within him, he can only mutter, The horror. The horror, as he dies. For Fracassi’s Tyson, the irreparable inward degradation is only made fully apparent to him as the literal cause of his fate in the ancient relic – now a desk – kills him, and at that moment a door opens in it to an alternate plane of existence where a leviathan’s jaws emerge to utterly consume his soul.

Want to question your own grip on sanity? On reality? There is a book for you called Gothic by Philip Fracassi.

For those looking to keep themselves up at night, afraid that some artifact in their home, a desk, a table, maybe, might be haunted and hungry and so much worse, Gothic will oblige.

On Gothic’s Limited Edition

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In 2022, Earthling Publications released the first printing of Gothic by Philip Fracassi in a gorgeous signed limited edition.

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Earthling has long held some of the best small press releases in the industry, and this is no exception.

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With the art, from the gorgeous desk on the cover, by Glenn Chadbourne, to the interior layouts and the lavender textured endpapers, to the quality paper and Smyth-sewn binding, this is a work of art encasing a work of art.

Gothic, gothic by philip fracassi, philip fracassi, horror, earthling publications

In 2023, Gothic – with another badass cover – was released en masse and is available by Cemetery Dance for purchase now. Philip Fracassi’s next major release Boys in the Valley will hit shelves in Summer 2023!

Gothic, gothic by philip fracassi, philip fracassi, horror, earthling publications

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“Gothic By Philip Fracassi – Beware Of The Madness Within” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.

 

 

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow by Patrick Reuman Book Review

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow by Patrick Reuman Book Review

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow by Patrick Reuman Book Review: this is the first book in the Creepy Little Nightmares series by Wicked House Publishing. Patrick Reuman, author and founder of Wicked House Publishing, wrote this novel for his son, Aidan, who had been asking his dad to be included in one of his books. Thus, the idea for Creepy Little Nightmares was born!

The Forgotten Fiction received an advanced review copy of this book, and this horror fanatic didn’t even realize that it would fit in YA genre until someone said, “Heck, it does!”

Creepy Little Nightmares is a series of books written by a variety of authors under the same publishing house. Intended to be enjoyed by readers of all ages, Patrick Reuman describes it as,

A series of books that are creepy enough to entertain adults but are appropriate enough in their content that your kids can read them as well. Horror for the whole family!

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow follows 12 year-old Aidan and his group of friends after a boy in their grade disappears from Mulligan’s Hollow Road without a trace on his way home from school. The townspeople of Witherbrook and fellow classmates alike join the search crew, but when another boy goes missing, the town is on lockdown until further notice.

As fear spreads rampant through the town of Witherbrook, Aidan and his friends unite with some unlikely friends to try and solve the mystery of Mulligans Hollow.

Compelling from start to finish, this is indeed a book that the entire family could enjoy.

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow is fantastically written, and certainly safe for young readers and squeamish parents alike.

Additionally, this book was refreshingly free of some of the more common plot holes in horror, and even featured parents who were not criminally negligent for a wild change of pace! This book is highly recommended, and we can’t wait to see what comes next in the Creepy Little Nightmares series!

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow is available for purchase on Bookshop.org.

The Monster on Mulligans Hollow, Patrick Reuman, Book Review, ya fiction, ya, horror, ya horror, Creepy Little Nightmares

The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)


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“The Monster on Mulligans Hollow by Patrick Reuman Book Review” Was Written By Lisa Lebel.