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Showing posts by: Amber Keller click to see Amber Keller's profile
Mar 24 2017 1:00pm

Review: Baker Street Irregulars, Edited by Michael A. Ventrella & Jonathan Maberry

Baker Street Irregulars, edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Jonathan Maberry, features thirteen authors—including Gail Z. Martin, David Gerrold, and Jonathan Maberry—who come together to pen short stories innovating Sherlock Holmes, adapting and revolutionizing the iconic character.

Baker Street Irregulars is a collection of stories about the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his universe. But these are not your typical Sherlock stories; they have the genius hero in all guises and forms. In one he is a parrot, another he’s an automaton. There’s Sherlock as a reality TV show host, and a dog from outer space. And there’s many more to offer in this anthology edited by Michael A. Ventrella and Jonathan Maberry. I’m going to highlight just a few of the fantastic stories contained within, but I highly recommend grabbing a copy for yourself for a fun evening along with Sherlock and Watson.

In “Identity” by Keith R. A. DeCandido, Sherlock is a young lady, Shirley Holmes, whose aunt is looking for a companion to be with her as her parents are gone. Watson is a medical doctor in training who had previously served in Afghanistan. He’s looking for a cheap housing situation when Holmes’s aunt enters the picture offering free room and board in a swanky Manhattan townhouse in exchange for looking after Shirley.

We quickly learn Shirley doesn’t really need or want a companion, and we also learn that Shirley has frequent clients who come to her for help in solving mysteries. When Watson sits in on a case, he shows that he can be helpful, and a team is born.

Shirley is classic Sherlock with a modern twist, as seen in one of her spills here:

But getting a free room in this house and not having to put up with her bullshit? “I’ll gladly accept, Mrs. Hudson.”

She frowned again. “Don’t be stupid, my name isn’t Ms. Hudson. Aunt Martha is my mother’s sister, and she committed the barbaric act of changing her name to that of her husband when she married, and kept it following his death. That practice derives from an era when women were considered to be the property of their spouses and so subsumed their birth names for that of the husband. That is no longer the case, so I do not comprehend why women continue to engage in the idiotic practice. In any event, I would properly be identified as “Ms. Holmes,” which is my father’s last name—and my mother’s, actually, as she also underwent the barbaric practice. However, you may address me by my first name of Shirley.”

This one was a favorite.

“The Adventure of the Reluctant Detective” by Ryk Spoor is a very, very interesting entry. Written in the vein of the classic Sherlock tales, this is one of the longer entries. I really enjoyed the ambiance and setting, along with the classic relationship between Sherlock and Watson. It is a tale of ghosts and the supernatural, which instantly makes it one to grab my attention. The supernatural shakes Sherlock up when he cannot disprove it.

Holmes regarded me with mild astonishment, but said nothing. Slowly his expression shifted to the contemplative, and—at last—a faint but genuine smile appeared on his lips. “Ah, Watson. Once more you are the unchangeable rock to which I can anchor. If a ghost exists—and I have been given inarguable proof of this, before my own eyes, under conditions that I do not believe admit of any trickery—then it is—must be—natural for it to exist. Things that are real are, by that very fact, natural. They may not be what we desire to be real, but the fact that our desires cannot change them is what shows them to be true and real.”

This is the ultimate mystery for Sherlock.

“A Scandal in the Bloodline” by Hildy Silverman is a really fun story! Sherlock is a vampire, and Watson is a werewolf. Does it get any better than that? When Sherlock is visited by his maker, he and Watson must help her find her husband, the originator of their bloodline, who has been kidnapped and is in danger. If he dies, so would Sherlock and the others in his bloodline. The stakes are high (oh the puns).

Also, there is a great fight scene that really keeps this story moving. Sherlock is having an existential crisis given that he’s lived for so long and seen so many technological advancements.

“When were we even last employed?” He rose and began to pace the length of the dining area in our modest flat. “I swear I can feel my mind atrophying. In this age of world wide webs and CSIs, FBIs, and so forth there is precious little need for a great detective.” He paused in front of me and for a moment looked so downcast my heart ached on his behalf. “This is my true curse, Watson, more than the bloodthirst. I have outlived my usefulness.”

I loved the supernatural element and the lighthearted feel to this one.

“The Scarlet Study” by Jim Avelli reminded me of the current Sherlock TV show, except it's set in a dystopian landscape. Also, the old movie They Live is brought to mind by way of a parallel plot, as the population is being controlled by big pharma through mind-altering chemicals. Everyone is required to take meds that are catered to their positions. These drugs are not questioned, except for by a few conspiracy theorists such as Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft.

When Irene Adler, Sherlock’s ex-wife, is murdered, she leaves Sherlock a note along with a mystery pill labeled “Scarlett.” Sherlock takes it and becomes the sleuthing detective we all know. It’s an interesting premise, having a future where the government controls the populace’s thoughts and actions by way of mandatory medicine. 1984 also comes to mind.

Irene’s personal notes about the project included some information about enhancers in other markets as well. Trivalia was listed as a “strength and endurance booster” for the labor market with “cognition-damping” effects. Roburall, meant for police and private security, was shown to enhance “speed of thought, reaction time, and physical dexterity, while hindering a person’s will to question instructions.” The list that followed was a wide range of scripts that were marketed to employers, all of whom required their workforces to participate. Scarlett, Holmes found, was still in the testing phase. The drug was meant for the use of British intelligence or the GCHQ, American CIA, and intelligence contractors of the big multinationals. “Cognitive and deductive” effects were stitched into a cocktail of other stimulants to form a physical and mental toolkit for the military elite. It had only just been approved for human trials.

Wow, author and editor Jonathan Maberry wrote a wonderful story with “The Hammer of God.” He did not use Sherlock in the more conventional way, like many of the other stories. Instead, the main characters are two nuns, Mother Frey and Sister Miri. They are a part of the Office of Miracles. Mother Frey, the elder of the two, is teaching Miri her ways in the art of deduction to solve what mysteries other agencies cannot. I couldn’t help noticing the X-Files-vibe to their work in that they are not trying to prove miracles, but instead disprove them—much like Scully was tasked to do in the beginning of the show.

Here, they must figure out the cause of a string of strange deaths that have been attributed to the “hand of god.” This supernatural explanation does not satisfy Mother Frey, and through deduction she comes to a shocking conclusion.

On a side note, another fascinating element in this story is the hand of god itself. It intrigued me so much that I had to look up the evolution of the modern gun. Connecting an ancient fire lance to a cannon to a gun was a fun bit of research.

Is Miri, the narrator, supposed to be Sherlock with her higher education and prior life experience, or is she supposed to be Watson who is following Frey and learning the ways? Or, is it Frey as Sherlock with her obvious gift of deduction as Miri’s mentor? I can’t make up my mind. Either way, this is easily one of the best stories in the anthology.

“Why should priests be afraid of something that targets the wicked? Shouldn’t it be the guilty, the sinners who need fear?”

She looked at me strangely. “That is exactly why the men of power are afraid, my girl.”

“What do you mean?”

“They fear the wrath of the gods. They fear punishment. They believe that this man and the others have been struck down by something beyond the understanding of men. In the report forwarded to the Office by the council of priests they described these murders in an odd and telling way. They said that they believe the victims were struck down by the hammer of god.”

“Which god?”

“No,” she said, “that is not the question we should ask. It is not which god that need concern us. We must ask ourselves which hammer.”

I really enjoyed this collection. Diverse and super creative, they all bring a new spin on the classic Sherlock universe. Fans might like this break from the norm and fresh take on the old.

Read an excerpt from Baker Street Irregulars!


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Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on her Amazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter @akeller9.

Mar 8 2017 2:00pm

Review: The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror by John Llewellyn Probert & Stephen Jones

The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror by John Llewellyn Probert & Stephen Jones is the 1st novel in a new series following the exploits of a secret organization dedicated to battling the eldritch monstrosities given form in H. P. Lovecraft's fevered imagination.

Zombies and Cthulhu—need I say more? This novel takes elements from the Zombie Apocalypse! series and weaves them expertly with elements from the H.P. Lovecraft mythos to bring us an energetic and detailed view of a world teetering on the brink of destruction by way of the eldritch gods.

Written by author John Llewellyn Probert and created by Stephen Jones comes the tale of a secret organization, the Human Protection League, tasked with the monitoring and dealing with of Cthulhu and his accompanying monsters. Bob Chambers—who works for the department inside the HPL titled the Cthulhu Investigation Division, aka The Lovecraft Squad—has been sent abroad to Britain where a suspicious report in a local newspaper has raised some eyebrows. Two mischievous teens stumbled upon some old bones and a mysterious clay pot that happened to be found at the birthplace of author H.G. Wells. The bones had the surprising effect of causing insanity on those who had accessed them. Chambers is called upon to find out the cause, and it quickly spirals from here.

[Read Amber Keller's review of The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallows Horror...]

Feb 10 2017 2:30pm

Review: A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley ArmstrongA Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong is the 2nd book in the Casey Duncan series.

Author Kelley Armstrong delivers a gripping tale of mystery and survival in a harsh, unforgiving environment where a killer is on the loose. In this 2nd installment in the Casey Duncan series, we are back in Rockton—the secret, off-the-grid town made for those on the run from their pasts. Casey, once again, must find a killer in the wilds of Yukon, Canada.

Armstrong keeps the pacing at top speed with short chapters and hooks to pull the reader along. Before I knew it, I was well past the halfway point, although it didn’t feel like I had been reading long at all. I am a fan of short chapters and find that they serve their purpose well here. Armstrong also keeps the story flowing by adding depth and complication to the mystery as it deepens. Add in a compelling cast of characters and you’ve got great storytelling.

Casey is a very intriguing character by herself. She’s strong, petite, and can kick some series ass by way of her martial arts training. But she also has her share of faults and a muddied past. All of these things come together to make her a strong female lead.

[Read Amber Keller's review of A Darkness Absolute...]

Jan 26 2017 2:00pm

Review: Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Amber Keller reviews #36, Calculated in Death.

The 36th book in this series is a complicated whodunit embroiled in the world of big money and even bigger egos. Add in a little Hollywood by way of a much anticipated movie premiere, and you have the perfect formula for an Eve Dallas saga.

Set in a cold, futuristic November in Manhattan, it begins with the truly upsetting murder of a young accountant and, more importantly, mother and wife. The tragedy is only at the surface of what quickly becomes a very complicated plot, and Lieutenant Eve Dallas is determined to find out the how and why.

We have the usual elements in place, including Eve and Roarke’s amazing relationship. She spends many a night and day at her job, but Roarke—being the world’s most understanding spouse that he is—not only obliges, but even helps her occasionally. Eve’s commitment to her job, sometimes at the expense of her relationship, is something she’s aware of, as pointed out by her own thoughts here:

[Read Amber Keller's review of Calculated in Death...]

Jan 16 2017 2:00pm

Review: Promises in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Amber Keller reviews #28, Promises in Death.

In a more solemn entry in the series, book number 28, Promises in Death, sees a fellow cop at the New York Police and Security Department murdered.

Now, Lieutenant Eve Dallas is no stranger to death, or even death that hits close to home, but when it’s one of her own, it changes the game. Amaryllis Coltraine—a recent transfer to the department from Atlanta, Georgia—falls victim to homicide. Her death shakes up the force, and seeing that she is the girlfriend of Dallas’s good friend and fellow co-worker, the Chief Medical Examiner Morris, she makes it her mission to find out who killed her.

The investigation does not come easy, and Dallas struggles to fit the pieces together. Along the way, we have the added benefit of classic scenes involving Dallas and Roarke to carry us through this tragedy as she figures out the killer. Their interactions are always a favorite for me, as they bring a necessary element out of Dallas. She seems so hard-assed and hellbent on solving crimes that it can be easy to forget there’s a loving side to her, as well. We learn more about Dallas during her times with Roarke than we do watching her at her job, which she’s brilliant at. Also, their relationship is truly one for the records. The love they have for each other seems to be endless, and Roarke’s support and even participation in Dallas’s job goes above and beyond.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Promises in Death...]

Jan 6 2017 3:30pm

Dear Mulder & Scully: New Year, New You

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

I've been thinking about making some New Year’s resolutions. Do you guys recommend that I take part in this time honored tradition?


—Auld Lang Syne

[Read Mulder & Scully's advice!]

Jan 3 2017 2:00pm

Review: Visions in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Amber Keller reviews #19, Visions in Death.

The 19th book in the In Death series has Lieutenant Eve Dallas searching for one twisted murderer.

It’s just another day in the life of Eve Dallas when the chaotic monotony is broken by a horrific crime. A woman’s body is found brutally beaten, raped, and missing the eyes. Soon after, another death with the same MO is discovered. The nature of these crimes dredge up terrible memories for Dallas, and she must face them while she hunts for the killer before he can strike again.

Dallas is known for her strength and abilities, all wrapped up in a tiny package. But she’s even stronger than most realize, and she’s got some major demons in her past. She’s almost as well known for her ruthless capabilities as she is for being married to high-society Roarke.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Visions in Death...]

Dec 24 2016 4:00pm

A Donna Andrews Christmas!

Donna Andrews’s first novel, Murder with Peacocks, was published in 1999, beginning her critically acclaimed series of Meg Langslow murder mysteries. The book garnered her the coveted Agatha Award, opening the door for her to expand on Meg’s story—one about an amateur detective that is a blacksmith by day set in Caerphilly, Virginia—and Andrews hasn’t stopped producing. Since then, she’s written more than twenty novels, including the on-going Langslow series, which is a favorite of mine.

But it's her Christmas mysteries that keep me coming back. And on Christmas Eve, what better time to stock up on three perfect Christmas cozies? 

[Have a Merry Meg Langslow Christmas!]

Nov 15 2016 12:00pm

Review: Desolation Flats by Andrew Hunt

Desolation Flats by Andrew HuntDesolation Flats by Andrew Hunt is book #3 in the Art Oveson Mystery series (Available November 15, 2016).

I went into this story not really knowing what to expect. Set in Salt Lake City, Utah and with a Mormon main character, I knew I hadn’t read anything like it before. The idea was equal parts intriguing and completely unknown territory for me. What I would soon find out was that it was something I would thoroughly enjoy—and even want more of.

The year is 1938, and land speed racing is the event. The main character, Art Oveson, is a police detective with the Salt Lake City Police Department Missing Persons Bureau. A devout Mormon, Oveson is a family man with a wife and three children.

His wife, Clara, has been diagnosed with “melancholia” since she gave birth to their last child; a diagnosis she also experienced with a previous pregnancy. Of course, we know this today as probably being a form of postpartum depression, which the author portrays well. Clara might also be dealing with a more general form of depression, too, since she caved in to pressure from family and church members to quit her teaching job, which had provided her with satisfaction and great pleasure.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Desolation Flats...]

Nov 7 2016 1:00pm

Review: The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby

The Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen CrosbyThe Champagne Conspiracy by Ellen Crosby is the 7th book in the Wine Country Mysteries series.

From the first stunning description of a breath-taking, vintage flapper dress, I was hooked. This is the seventh book in the Wine Country Mysteries series. The author, Ellen Crosby, has a fascinating background, having been a reporter for The Washington Post, a Moscow correspondent for ABC News Radio, and an economist at the U.S. Senate. Given her vast experience, it’s no surprise her writing is so polished and elaborate.

This is an impeccable tale, rich with characters, setting, and plot. Even though it is set in modern times, it revolves around modern ties to the Roaring Twenties and the extravagant and exciting lifestyles of many well-to-do individuals—including former president Warren Harding. The story begins with the dress mentioned above and the magic it carries.

[Read Amber Keller's review of The Champagne Conspiracy...]

Nov 4 2016 12:00pm

Dear Mulder & Scully: Someone to Cher Your Life With

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

You are not going to believe what I have to tell you. I’m not sure I believe it myself, but here goes: My close friend, let’s call her Mary, came to me with a wild tale. She had recently moved back to town into her childhood home after her parents died.

Let start with a little backstory on Mary: She’s a loner. She works from her home and doesn’t leave the house, like ever. She’s … eccentric you might say. Also, she’s a virgin. I know, TMI, but it’s relevant to the story. How do I know this? Because I’m her best friend—her only friend. We grew up together. I lived a couple of houses down from her, but I have since moved across town.

When Mary moved back here, she started complaining of these strange dreams she was having—there would be times where she would sleep for days. In these dreams, she would see a misshapen person in her house. These dreams were, well, decidedly more steamy than I care to share with you, but you get the picture. Another strange thing about these dreams is that she said Cher was always playing in the background. Mary doesn’t listen to Cher and never has. 

Besides the excessive sleeping, she started getting sick. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I encouraged her to see a doctor. When she finally did, they discovered she was pregnant. Pregnant! She’s never been with a man. I don’t know a lot about immaculate conception, and barring one of those trashy talk shows like Jerry Springer, I didn’t know who else to go to with this.


Friend of the Virgin Mary

[Read Mulder & Scully's advice!]

Nov 3 2016 12:00pm

Review: Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

Inherit the Bones by Emily LittlejohnInherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn is a debut novel and the 1st book in the Detective Gemma Monroe series.

In her debut novel Inherit the Bones, author Emily Littlejohn brings us a tale of quaint hometown life interspersed with a decades-old murder revisited by way of a new dead body. Detective Gemma Monroe is tasked with solving this fresh homicide, and she quickly figures out that it is tied to an old unsolved case somehow. It’s her job to decipher the clues, all the while keeping herself and her unborn daughter safe at the same time.

The setting is the gorgeous mountains of Colorado during the summer. It really is a beautiful landscape, and Littlejohn does it justice by allowing us a glimpse into this world. When Gemma stumbles upon a skull during a ski trip a few years ago with her boyfriend, it unearths an old unsolved murder that the town had tried to bury. She begins to have prophetic dreams of the two child victims she has found. In these dreams, she also sees a mysterious, ominous figure—the Woodsman, who was believed to have been the murderer. With no clear leads when the two boys went missing almost forty years ago, the case disappeared into old memories. With Gemma’s discovery, it’s all forced back into everyone’s minds once again.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Inherit the Bones...]

Oct 31 2016 1:00pm

Review: Six Scary Stories, Selected & Introduced by Stephen King

Number 1 bestselling writer Stephen King introduces and presents six gripping and chilling stories in this captivating anthology!

I am a sucker for a new Stephen King book, and when I received an email to preorder an upcoming anthology that was filled with six stories picked out by the horror master himself, I didn’t hesitate. Let me first say that I love anthologies—whether they are in book form or horror movie form. This anthology is on the shorter side and didn’t take long at all to finish, making it a perfect read for a rainy day or a cozy evening in.

Six Scary Stories was born out of a short story competition that was to promote Stephen King’s publication, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. The prompt for the stories featured the following lines that King had written in the introduction to The Bazaar:

[Read Amber Keller's review of Six Scary Stories...]

Oct 28 2016 12:00pm

Dear Mulder & Scully: There’s Something in the Woods ... Some—Thing!

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

I recently had to downgrade my apartment because my roommate left. This led me to a not-so-nice area of town, right outside the city. I was able to rent an entire house for next to nothing, which, at the time, I didn’t think much of it because I was too excited for a bargain and in real need of a new place.

Soon after I moved in, I started noticing strange sounds at night. The best I can say is that it sounded like animals but was almost like a man’s voice making them. I chalked it up to the fact that I had previously lived in the city and had just not heard these animals until now. 

But one night, I decided to check out the sounds, and what I saw terrified me. I found a very old house out near the more wooded area at the end of my lane. I thought there was no way someone lived in this thing—it was filthy and falling apart. But I saw something moving around in the yard, and it was making those crazy sounds I had been hearing! 

It was a cloudy night, but just as the moon poked through and lit everything up, I could see that this thing was some kind of a man! It was grotesque—all lumps and bumps and wearing filthy, torn clothing—but there was no denying it was human. The craziest thing is it lifted its nose in the air and I swear it smelled me! 

Right when I thought this thing was going to find me, a raspy voice called out from inside the house. It was calling for the thing, which promptly left me and ran inside. Needless to say, I ran all the way home and didn’t sleep a wink. I didn’t call the cops because nothing had really happened to me, and I didn’t know what else I would say without sounding like a lunatic, so I left it alone.

Two nights have passed and I still hear those crazy sounds. When I sleep, I have nightmares of that things face and of whatever might be in that house. I’m afraid to tell anybody because they’ll probably think I’m making it up or I’m crazy.

What should I do?


—Sleepless in the Woods

[Read Mulder & Scully's advice!]

Sep 6 2016 3:00pm

Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young is a Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist.

I don’t usually pass up a southern gothic novel. With The Gates of Evangeline being just that—along with suspense, a deep and entrenching mystery, and a paranormal twist—I was easily sold. It surprised me that this was a debut novel, as author Hester Young brings beautiful writing and wonderful storytelling to the table with the ease of a seasoned and practiced hand.

The setting is highly effective in carrying the story and paralleling, while subsequently enhancing, the characters’ emotions. The brooding Louisiana swamps along with the spooky and frightening visions that Charlie Cates, our protagonist, begins to have, lead us on an otherworldly pursuit of rescue and closure.

[Read Amber Keller's review of The Gates of Evangeline...]

Sep 2 2016 1:30pm

Dear Mulder & Scully: Advice for the Abducted

This week's guest columnist are FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, who—I want to believe—keep each other “balanced.” 

Dear Mulder and Scully,

On a night two weeks ago, I had just come off a shift at the local PD where I work. It was late, close to midnight, and I was traveling on a rural road. It was very dark and no moon was out, which made it very obvious when a bright light suddenly appeared in the sky. It grew in size as it approached, finally splitting into 3 smaller lights. They flew so erratically that I almost crashed my car trying to keep them in view. I pulled over and got out of my car with my phone to take pictures. I was only able to get a couple, and the next thing I knew, I was lying on my back in a field, at least 100 feet from my car.

As I drove home, I noticed the clock in my car was showing 2 a.m. My watch and phone also said this. There was a strange burn, like a sunburn, on my face. Later, I found a mark in the shape of a triangle on my side that hadn’t been there before.

Given my position, I haven’t told anyone else—instead making up stories about a random sunburn, but it’s been very uncomfortable to shave, so I’ve taken time off under the guise of sickness. I’ve enclosed the photos. Please tell me I’m not crazy.

—One Crazy Night


[Read Mulder and Scully's advice!]

Sep 1 2016 12:00pm

Review: Hell Fire by Karin Fossum

Hell Fire by Karin Fossum is the 12th Inspector Sejer Mystery, following the murder of a mother and her son and the masterfully intertwined parallel story of a separate mother/son relationship.

This was my first time reading an Inspector Sejer Mystery. I’m normally not one to jump into a series midway, but I held my breath and tested the waters. And, I’m glad I did.

Hell Fire is 12th installment of the aforementioned Inspector Sejer series. Author Karin Fossum carries the title of “Norwegian Queen of Crime,” and it’s not hard to see why. This story refused to be put down until it was finished. I started it before bed on a Friday night and found myself on the last page a little after midnight. I had to know how it was going to turn out. Fossum has a genius way of baiting the hook and steadily reeling the reader in, and she does this with amazing ease.

I was a little hesitant when I saw that this book was about the murder of a woman and her child. I’m a mother of three and don’t normally read stories with a premise such as this, but the more I read about the series and Fossum herself, the easier the decision was to take a step out of my comfort zone and give it a try. I really didn’t know what to expect—if I would be able to finish it or not. I was truly surprised by how much I was pulled into the story and how fast I had it read.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Hell Fire...]

Aug 8 2016 4:30pm

Review: Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville

Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville is a debut novel and zombie apocalypse thriller (Available August 9, 2016).

I was intrigued by the title, and once I read the blurb, I knew I had to read this one. I admit, I was expecting something along the lines of the popular 2009 movie, Zombieland. I think it was a mixture of the title font, the blurb, and the title itself. My brain forged a connection somehow. But this book was different. It was something more than your run-of-the-mill, garden-variety zombie tale—and I liked it.

First, let me give you an interesting factoid about how the book came to be. Nerdist, the uber popular machine that serves as both an empire and a nucleus for anything pop culture, put out a call on their website—a contest that would see one lucky person having their sci-fi/fantasy novel published in connection with both Inkshares and Nerdist. Zachary Tyler Linville was the winner, and Welcome to Deadland is that novel.

I am mostly a consumer of the zombie culture. I watch movies, tv shows, and have participated in a zombie run. I’ve even published a short or two in the genre. Despite all of this, I seem to be picky about the zombie stories I read. There’s no real reason—I just am. But, there was something about this book that made me sit up and take notice.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Welcome to Deadland...]

Jun 21 2016 1:00pm

Review: Burn What Will Burn by C.B. McKenzie

Burn What Will Burn by C.B. McKenzie is a gritty, gripping mystery and an enthralling character study of its poet-protagonist (Available today!).

Set in rural Arkansas in the mid-eighties, C.B. McKenzie brings us noir in the base, true-to-form sense, with a setting filled with oppressive southern heat that rises from the pages like the sheen off scalding asphalt, leaving letters dripping and bringing sweat to your brow. It has the sharp, cutting edge and the southern drawl of a fly lazily buzzing on the front porch in the hot afternoon sun, slicing through the humid air with the background drone of its wings.

Bob Reynolds is a flawed character, all the way, and seeing through his eyes is like looking through a veil at a kaleidoscopic Polaroid memory. He’s a widow, a poet with a drinking problem, a loner, and, most importantly, an outsider in the small town of Poe County—but there is more just under the surface. His eccentricities stand out to the Locals, who don’t really need a reason to target him other than he’s a stranger. The local postman won’t even deliver mail to his house because he’s not a relative of the family who owned the house before he bought it.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Burn What Will Burn...]

Jun 20 2016 3:30pm

Review: Pressure by Brian Keene

Pressure by Brian Keene is this summer's hot new thriller from the bestselling author and World Horror Grandmaster Award winner (Available June 21, 2016).

Fast and full of breathless moments, this one is a definite for any summer reading list. To say I really loved this story doesn’t do it justice. I was left wanting more—more about the characters I had come to love, more about the fascinating and terrifying monsters, more and Mauritius. It also had the surprising effect of making me want to go to the beach RIGHT NOW and snorkel and dive and see all of the wondrous things under the water, which is really a surprise for me since I’m pretty much afraid of what lurks under the surface, be it a lake or the ocean.

Brian Keene’s gorgeous descriptions felt so real that I could easily imagine I was right there at Mauritius, in the water. After looking up the real phenomenon, I have to say I am intrigued—an underwater waterfall I had never heard of before.

[Read Amber Keller's review of Pressure...]