Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Haunted Halloween Spooktacular: Warlock Holmes Series, by G.S. Denning

Welcome to the blog tour for
The Warlock Holmes Series,
sponsored by
Bewitching Book Tours!

For my stop, I'm featuring a Guest Post by the author, G.S. Denning!

There's also a tour-wide giveaway!!

What do you think of when someone mentions Sherlock Holmes? The epitome of fictional detectives? A series of stories so timely and so visionary that they revolutionized police-work, the world over? A deerstalker? A pipe? Benedict Cumberbatch’s perfect cheek-bones?

You wouldn’t be wrong.

But in this season of fun-filled frights, let’s take a moment to reflect on one oft-overlooked aspect of the world’s favorite detective:

He’s really creepy.

No. Seriously. Just pleasantly-but-sometimes-right-to-the-edge-of-discomfortingly creepy.

Do you know where the modern tradition of Halloween takes its roots? Dartmoor. Arthur Conan Doyle repeatedly set his adventures out upon the moor in abandoned hallows filled with lethal peat-bogs, fog, reeds and wisp-light. Want to see Holmes and Watson chasing a seemingly-demonic hound across moonlit moor? Well then, it’s no wonder The Hound of the Baskervilles is amongst the most popular of Doyle’s original 60 stories.

Now, if you want to see them chasing an actually-demonic hound across a moonlit moor, you’ll have to check out my second book: The Hell-hound of the Baskervilles. And for those of you who just rolled their eyes at how easy it must have been for me to come up with that angle: yeah, that’s sort of my point. You don’t have to work hard to make Sherlock Holmes macabre. It’s there already.

One of the less-known stories is titled The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire; it features a mother who’s been caught sucking blood out of the neck of her own infant. Even in 1898, not great parenting.

Or how about The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb? It features not just the aforementioned disembodied thumb, but also its owner, trapped in a room-sized hydraulic press, debating if he should stand up, or sit down or lie face up or… Well, just what exactly is the least-painful way to be slowly crushed to death? It’s ironic that the modern detective story is attributed to Edgar Alan Poe, because in moments such as these, Doyle absolutely equals Poe’s famous brand of dark introspection. 

Or maybe you’d just like to see Sherlock murder a dog. Would that be nice? Dog murder, anyone?

Because that’s how he unravels his very first case, A Study in Scarlet. Yep. No lie. To figure out if the pills he’s recovered are poisonous, he steals his neighbor girl’s dog and feeds it half of each pill. 

Guess what? (1887 spoilers follow…) Totally poison. There is something uniquely Halloween-ish about a character who thinks that is acceptable behavior. Oh yeah, and half the people he meets seem to think the only way he could possibly know the things he knows is through dark magic. They’re wrong. 

He’s not magical. But he is probably sociopathic. And he’s definitely not on the ASPA’s top 10 list of great guys.

So if Halloween makes you think about goblins, vampires, demonic possession and soul-binding magic… Well, pick up a copy of my first book, A Study in Brimstone. It’s all in there.

But if you’ve got a little time to kill before All-Hallow’s Eve, and if you’ve got a mind for the classics, here’s what you do:

You pull your favorite chair up to next to a window on a rainy night. You get some fleece pants and a comfy blanket. You brew up a nice cup of tea. Light a couple candles. Then snuggle down and spend a little cozy murder time with the undisputed-number-one-original-king-of-creepy-daddy-detectives, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

A Study in Brimstone
(Warlock Holmes, Book 1)
G.S. Denning
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Titan Books, May 17, 2016
Classics Retelling, Humor, Mystery, Paranormal Fiction, Thrillers, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius who uses the gift of deduction and reason to solve the most vexing of crimes.

Warlock Holmes, however, is an idiot. A good man, perhaps; a font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

An imaginative, irreverent and addictive reimagining of the world’s favourite detective, Warlock Holmes retains the charm, tone and feel of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while finally giving the flat at 221b Baker Street what it’s been missing for all these years: an alchemy table.

Reimagining six stories, this riotous mash-up is a glorious new take on the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes myth, featuring the vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, the ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, and Dr. Watson, the true detective at 221b. And Sherlock. A warlock.

Purchase Links
Amazon US/Amazon UK/Amazon CA

  The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles
(Warlock Holmes, Book 2)
G.S. Denning
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Titan Books, May 16, 2017
Classics Retelling, Humor, Mystery, Paranormal Fiction,
Thrillers, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis:  The game's afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty's gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell-hound, one assumes.

Purchase Links
My Grave Ritual
(Warlock Holmes, Book 3)
G.S. Denning
Trade Paperback, 432 pages
Titan Books, May 15, 2018
Classics Retelling, Humor, Mystery, Paranormal Fiction, Thrillers, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: "If you ever wondered how much better Sherlock would be if people could hurl hellfire at each other, well this one is for you." -- Starburst Magazine on A Study in Brimstone

Warlock Holmes and Dr John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings, and the fact that one of them has goat legs. Christmas brings a goose that doesn't let being cooked slow him down, then they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even tricker than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And naturally Moriarty is hanging around in some fo
rm or other.

Purchase Links
Amazon US/Amazon UK/Amazon CA

G.S. Denning furiously studied reading and math until he could play Dungeons and Dragons. His love of DandD expanded to a passion for all things in the sci-fi and fantasy realm, particularly when spliced with comedy - Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Monty Python, Red Dwarf, Black Adder, Whose Line Is It Anyway, Dr. Who, and the holiest of holies: The Princess Bride.

He learned his story-telling skills on the improv stage as a member of Orlando Theatersports, Seattle Theatersports, Jet City Improv, and as a Disney Performer at Epcot. G.S. also worked for Nintendo and Wizards of the Coast

Finally, after realizing that humanity had not used the pun "Warlock Holmes" yet, he sat down to begin his first novel series: a dark-comic retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes stories. 

G.S. Lives in Las Vegas with The Best Wife and The Best Children.

Amazon Author Page

You can access the complete blog tour schedule by clicking on 
the button below!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Review: Ninth Grade Slays, by Heather Brewer

Ninth Grade Slays
(The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Book 2)
Heather Brewer
Trade Paperback, 278 pages
Speak, January 22, 2009
Humor, Paranormal Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis: Freshman year stinks for Vlad Tod. Bullies still harass him. The photographer from the school newspaper is tailing him. And failing his studies could be deadly. A trip to Siberia gives ?study abroad? a whole new meaning as Vlad connects with other vampires and advances his mind-control abilities, but will he return home with the skills to recognize a vampire slayer when he sees one? In this thrilling sequel to Eighth Grade Bites, Vlad must confront the secrets of the past and battle forces that once again threaten his life.

The humor continues in this second installment of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod. (However, so does the drama!) And he's such a likable kid, too! It's just that he happens to be a vampire. But he doesn't bite people, or kill them for their blood. (Yeah, I don't like it, either, when a vamp drinks blood....but at least Vlad is not biting people. And he can't help being what he is; he was born that way.)

I'm really loving this series! The characters are just SO wonderful! Vlad is, in every other respect, just like any other teen boy entering high school. He has a longtime crush on Meredith, a pretty girl at school, and he has homework to do and tests to take. Of course, he's into violent, gory video games, again, just like most boys his age. What makes him extra special, though, is his sensitive heart. This might sound cheesy to some, but it's precisely what I find so endearing about Vlad. He's still grieving the deaths of his parents three years previously. His dad, whom he greatly admired, was a vampire, and his mom, a human. From details revealed by the author, it's very evident that his parents loved each other very much. Since such unions are forbidden by the vampire society in this series, however, Vlad's dad took a HUGE risk in marrying Vlad's mom.

Vlad has a great best friend, Henry, who is very popular at school, in contrast to Vlad, who is pretty much an outcast. However, the two have a wonderful friendship, and Henry has kept Vlad's secret for as long as they've been friends.

As in most YA novels (the Harry Potter series is a clear example of this), the hero gets bullied, and that's also the case here. Two of Vlad's classmates, Bill and Tom, love to beat him up, disdainfully calling him "Goth Boy". As a vampire, I'm sure Vlad could have easily hurt them even more than they did him, but, of course, he's ethically bound not to hurt humans, or give his secret away. This is another factor that made me like Vlad even more!

In this second novel, a new danger looms for our hero -- there's a vampire slayer on the hunt for him. The reader doesn't get to know just who this person is until almost the end of the novel, but I had a feeling I knew that person's identity, and I was proven right. There was a pretty big clue at one point in the story, and I was able to nail it! This did not make me enjoy the whole story any less, though. 

This book also adds some intrigue to the mix. Is Vlad the "Pravus", a vampire prophesied to rule vampire society worldwide, making slaves out of all humans? This is something that will be developed further as the series moves along, but indications are that such a terrible destiny cannot possibly be in store for Vlad.

Like the first book, this reads like a Middle Grade, although I think there will be a natural progression towards a more YA-type style, as Vlad moves on to higher grades in high school. The style used in these two first books did not dampen my enjoyment of them at all, however. They're just SO much fun! Of course, there's also drama involved, but everything works out in the end. That's why I prefer to read paranormal fiction and urban fantasy, especially at this time of year. No horror novels or movies for me, thank you very much! Just give me some supernatural shenanigans, and I know I'll enjoy the Halloween season! 

Some interesting new characters are introduced in this book, such as Uncle Otis's vampire friend, Vikas, who lives in Siberia. (It turened that Vlad's eccentric teacher, Mr. Otis Otis, in the first book, was really his uncle.) Wait, say what? Yes, that's right -- Siberia, located in Russia. Vlad and his uncle fly there, so that Vikas can coach Vlad on the finer points of telepathy and mind control. Mind control? Yes, indeed, and this is one aspect of the novel that gave me pause, because the vamps in it use this mind control on humans. For what it's worth, though, Otis was not at all happy about Vlad doing this -- especially not with his friends and relatives. 

Another interesting new character is Joss, who is Henry's cousin, and is visiting Vlad's hometown of Bathory for the summer. He and Vlad become good friends, as well, although Joss is not in on Vlad's secret.

Just as in the first novel, the action heats up in the last third of the story, and Vlad has to deal with a very unexpected development. His aunt and uncle become involved, as does Vikas, and things look pretty grim for a while. But again, "all's well that ends well", and Brewer sets things up for the third novel, which I hope to start reading very soon!

This is a highly addictive series! The first book, Eighth Grade Bites, has close to 33,000 ratings, and 2,710 reviews, on Goodreads! This second book doesn't have quite that many ratings and reviews, but is still pretty popular. And so are the rest of the books! I'm adding this series to my collection of favorite vampire (non-Dracula clones, of course) series!

I would highly recommend this book, as well as the others in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, to all paranormal fiction and urban fantasy fans, especially fans of Young Adult Fiction. These books are very entertaining, fun, and full of great characters whom one grows to love and root for. They're very real, as well. I felt totally drawn into Vlad's world, as well as his uncanny, crazy adventures. I will be sorry to come to the last book in the series....But perhaps Brewer will decide to do a spinoff series about these characters at some time in the future. Keeping my fingers crossed! Way to go, Brewer!! 


Heather Brewer is the pseudonym of Zac Brewer. Zac is the NYT bestselling author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, as well as The Slayer Chronicles series, Soulbound, The Cemetery Boys, "The Blood Between Us", and more short stories than he can recall.

Teaser Tuesday No. 6: Tenth Grade Bleeds, by Heather Brewer

Welcome to "Teaser Tuesday"!!

This meme is hosted by  Ambrosia @ The Purple Booker every week, and the rules are very simple.

* Grab you current read.
*Open to a random page.
*Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere
on that page.
(Make sure that what you share doesn't
give too much away! You don't want
to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title and author, too, so that other
TT participants can add the book to their
TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Since I'm a slow reader, I don't have a new book
started every week. I am therefore going
 to bend the rules a little.....
I'll be featuring books I want to read,
that are currently sitting on my shelves. 
I've also made the teasers a bit longer
than stated in the rules above.

Here are my teasers!
Meredith placed her hand on his shoulder, and Vlad shivered as he clasped her free hand in his. He still wasn't sure exactly what to do with his feet, but when he looked into her deep chocolate brown eyes, he realized that it didn't matter whether he could dance or not -- all that mattered was that he was here with her, that they were together, that it was the Snow Ball, and he wasn't alone. He was in the gym with his girlfriend instead of in the belfry with his thoughts.  -- Chapter 13: The Many Faces of Friendship, page 137

The pages began to glow. All of the pages.

And after a moment, flames crawled across the pages that Vlad could see, burning letters, then full words, into the parchment.

Vlad almost forgot completely about the wound in his palm, which had already begun healing closed. He gasped. "What is it?"

"It's your future, Master Pravus. It is your end."D'Ablo met his gaze with the glowing grin of an empowered lunatic.   -- Chapter 22: Hidden In Blood, page 229

Tenth Grade Bleeds
(The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Book 3)
Heather Brewer
Trade Paperback, 292 pages
January 10, 2010
Humor, Paranormal Fiction, Urban Fantasy,
Young Adult Fiction

It's another awful year at Bathory High for Vladimir Tod. The evil vampire D'Ablo is hunting for the ritual that could steal Vlad's powers. His best friend doesn't want to be his drudge anymore. And it's getting harder for Vlad to resist feeding on the people around him. When months go by with no word from Uncle Otis, and D'Ablo shows up demanding Vlad's father's journal, Vlad realizes that having a normal high school year is the least of his concerns. Vlad needs to act fast, and even his status as the Pravus won't save him this time. 

This is the third installment in the Middle Grade/Young Adult vampire series, The Chronicles of Valdimir Tod, and I can't wait to dive in! I bought all five books on EBay recently, on a co-worker's recommendation, and I am SO enjoying them! I will soon be starting on this one!

What do you think of my teasers?
Are you interested in this book?
Please leave a comment, 
along with the link
to your own "Teaser Tuesday" post, 
and let me know!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 265: Firewalker, by Josephine Angelini

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!

***Late Edition***
This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!

Here's my choice for this week!

(Worldwalker, Book 2) 
Josephine Angelini
Hardcover, 352 pages
Feiwel & Friends, First Edition
November 1 , 2015
Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction, 
Young Adult Fiction

My Thoughts About This Cover

This is actually a very simply designed  cover, and yet, it's breathtakingly beautiful! It's all the details that make the difference.

The color gradations are just perfect -- we have lavender and purple flowing into pink and red, with some touches of orange. It looks like a forest fire is going on. However (and hopefully) this might be an illusion, and there's really something happening in the sky. Whatever it is, the effect is totally striking! 

I love that luminous, pearly stone in the middle of the cover! It seems to be on a gossamer chain that then turns into graceful, equally luminous curlicues and flourishes going up into the sky. To reinforce this, there's a sweeping arc cutting through some of the flames, which gives the whole image a cosmic feel. Indeed, this is a cosmic necklace! Just lovely!

The font used for the title is a classic one, but it has been altered a bit. The lower bars on the letters "F" and "E" have been turned into winking stars, while the letter "A" has double bars. This contributes to the total ethereal feel of the whole cover. 

In short, this is a gorgeous, magical cover that makes me want to jump right in!

This cover is a combination of the talents of Eileen Savage, who designed it, and Mandy Pursley, who designed the necklace featured on it. 

Savage is Senior Designer at Penguin/Random House. She graduated from Syracuse University in 2011, with a BFA in Communications Design. She has also worked for Penguin Group USA, Viking Children's Books, and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.

Pursley has her own online shop at Etsy. Based in Oceanside, California, it's called "Forever Faire Designs". However, it's currently on hiatus. 

Online Links

What do you think of 
this week's cover?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Book Blogger Hop No. 148: A Horror Novel for Non-Horror Readers

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
Halloween Edition!!
This event is hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

Recommend one horror novel
for non-horror readers.

(Submitted  by Billy @

Dread Nation
(Dread Nation, Book 1)
Justina Ireland
Hardcover, 464 pages
Balzer + Bray
April 3, 2018
Alternate History, Fantasy, 
Historical Fiction, Horror,  Humor,
Satire, Young Adult Fiction

My Answer

As regular readers of this blog already know, I do not like the horror genre. First-time visitors might be puzzled at this answer, because, after all, I do have a Halloween header on my blog. And, I keep it there all through the month of October. But you will notice that there's nothing even remotely scary about this header. Instead, it's heavy on "the cute factor". Lol. So why have I decided to answer this question? Ah, so, grasshopper! Read on!  :)

Not that long ago, I came across a book with an awesome cover. It's the one shown above. I thought to myself, "Now, here's a kick-butt female protagonist, for sure!" So, I just had to check out the plot. And, well......there were zombies in it..... That made me pause. I detest zombies with every fiber of my being! But, I wanted to know more about Jane McKeene, the kick-butt female protagonist, who is depicted on the cover. Besides, there was something else I found very intriguing about this plot -- it was an alternate history of the U.S., and the Civil War. I find such plots totally fascinating! I mean, what if such-and-such had happened, instead of what actually took place? 

There was one more factor.... a good blogging buddy of mine, Barb @ Booker T's Farm, convinced me to do a buddy read of this novel with her. (She's been trying to get me to read more horror novels, especially those of Stephen King. I have graciously declined.) So I decided to go for it! We each published update posts on our blogs as we went along, too. These posts included questions we asked each other, which we then answered in the following week's post. Oh, it was SO much fun to compare our points of view and opinions on this book!

But, wait! You are probably reminding me right about now that I don't like the horror genre! Right. Would I call this a horror novel, though? Well, there are zombies in it, after all. However, this novel is what I have decided to call "horror lite". I think this might even become a new genre! Lol. The thing is, this novel is really a scathing, satirical condemnation of racism, as well as a tribute to strong women everywhere, especially women of color. The horror aspect of the plot is just a device used by this brilliant author (I am now a lifelong fan!) to expound her views on these two subjects. And, in Jane McKeene, she has found a powerful voice to do just that!

Of course, there were indeed some battles with the fearsome zombies. And it was sad to see that Jane found people she had known in her "normal" life who had actually become these horrible creatures, because they were bitten by other zombies. But Ireland never goes the typical horror route of dwelling on fear and gruesome details. In fact, these two usual ingredients of horror novels are not overwhelmingly present here. Instead, we have a tour-de-force of absolutely brilliant satire, with whip-smart characterizations, as well as an exciting plot that really highlights the actions of our "shero", as well as the evils of the racism of the time. Of course, this all serves as a biting condemnation of the racism still present in our own time. 

Ireland has not only written a beautifully descriptive novel (again, without much fear, blood, or gore), but wonderful dialogues, as well. Her characters literally leap off the page, to use a much-used literary criticism cliche. It is totally true in this case, however. I wanted to be a part of Jane's team! Because her real battle wasn't with the zombies, but with the totally racist, sexist system of the time -- even though this time period was in an alternate historical dimension. I was right there with Jane, joining in all the action! I fought her battles right along with her, and these were battles of social justice, rather than battles with zombies. In fact, I strongly believe that the zombies were a literary metaphor employed to depict those who wanted to keep African-Americans down, in their "place", as well as keep women also in their "place". And these non-existent "places" were those dictated by the dominant group -- white men. 

So I highly recommend this novel to non-horror fans! Remember, I'm in that group myself, which means I know what I'm talking about. This is a novel that, instead of instilling mindless fear and nausea in the reader, will galvanize and inspire them to fight against the real zombies -- racists and misogynists! 

The battle is ongoing, especially at this time in U.S. history. So this is actually a political novel, and a real good one, at that! Read it in order to become part of the Resistance. You won't have any nightmares afterward, I promise! So, if you're not a horror fan, this one is pretty safe for you to read! (It will probably be a real eye-opener for you, as well. You will actually feel what it was like to be trapped in the oppressive system of that time period. You will also feel and experience for yourself just how subversive Jane is.)

You can access my review of this novel HERE.


What are your thoughts on
this topic?
If you're participating in this hop,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!!