Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Most Anticipated Books of April

Jane’s pick:

I’m always on the lookout for a new author to try. The one that caught my attention for this month is The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to conjure up a family ghost by making one of their recipes. Cooking, suspense and magic? This one will definitely be added to my TBR pile. The release date for this book is April 12th.
After the unexpected death of her parents, painfully shy and sheltered 26-year-old Ginny Selvaggio seeks comfort in cooking from family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning (“do no let her…”) before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.
A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister, Amanda, (aka “Demanda”) insists on selling their parents’ house, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from dead people’s recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.

Jen's pick:

I have been waiting for this book since March of 2009, when City of Glass was published. I've preordered this one from B&N because of the extras that come with it. (That'll be a nice box - Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward will be in there too.) I've had the countdown widget at the bottom of this blog for months now. Simon!
City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.”
Also, this one because Holly Black is too good to miss:
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.
When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

City of Fallen Angels and Red Glove will both be out on April 5th. (Why do I always forget this part?)

Review: Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the president. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, Cade has spent more than 140 years in service to the president, battling nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream.
Immediately Zach and Cade receive their first joint assignment: one that uncovers a shadowy government conspiracy and a plot to attack the Unites States with a gruesome new biological weapon. Zach soon learns that the world is far stranger, and far more dangerous, than he ever imagined . . . and that his partner is the least of his problems.. (from

If you are a regular reader of My Book Addiction (thanks, btw), you may be surprised to know that I am a fan of Tom Clancy's books. Vince Flynn, too. (Sadly, I have learned more about the inner workings of our government from their books than I did in my high school civics class.) Sure, they can be a bit dry with the technical details but give me a capable man who has to save the world and I'll be happy. At any rate, when I saw the description of Blood Oath, I knew I had to read it. It sounded like a modern cross between Tom Clancy and Bram Stoker and I was so excited about the premise that I preordered the hardback version. This is not something I do regularly - buy new hardbacks of new authors - but I had such a good feeling about it. My gut told me that this would be a good book and fun read and it was right.

Zach considers himself to be hot stuff. Barely out of college, he works in the White House and has frequent face-to-face meetings with the President. After one little bitty drunken mishap with the President's daughter in the Lincoln bedroom, he finds himself face-to-face with a completely different kind of power, the kind that has nothing to do with politics: a vampire. Suddenly, Zach's world is upside down and he's given a difficult choice - work with Nathaniel Cade, aka the President's Vampire, or else. Working with Cade is a sink or swim mentality; there is no training, just on the job learning. Soon, Zach learns that Cade is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the supernatural and his first job involves chasing after Johann Konrad, aka Dr. Frankenstein (as in the original, the doctor from Shelley's book). A group of middle-easterners are taking terrorism to a new level with Konrad's help and it's Cade's and Zach's job to stop them.

I liked Blood Oath for several reasons. One, Farnsworth made Nathaniel Cade a product of his time; he is dated (to an extent) and uses old phrases like, "no soap" and "twenty-three skidoo". Using these old colloquialisms embarrasses Cade and humanizes him, makes him seem more real and not just a killing machine. Two, this book isn't just about a vampire that deals with "human" problems. Cade travels the globe fighting nasty supernatural threats in today's political climate, not the least of which is Dr. Konrad, who makes Dr. Mengele look like Strawberry Shortcake. There are all sorts of beings in Blood Oath, fantastic and monstrous alike. And three, this is just a well-written, well-plotted book that kept my attention from cover to cover. The sequel, The President's Vampire, will be out on April 28, 2011.

Other reviews:
Ms. Bookish
Jenn's Bookshelves
The Vampire Librarian

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In My Mailbox, Mar 20-Mar 26, 2011 (4)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and is a list of book blogs who want to share the books that came into their home in the past week.

Heart of Darkness by Gena Showalter
Unmasked by C. J. Barry
Unleashed by C. J. Barry
Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione
Chick with a Charm by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Lady of Skye by Patricia Cabot

Library books:
Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann
Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
Black Wings by Christina Henry
The Mediator: Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot
The Mediator: Haunted by Meg Cabot
The Mediator: Reunion by Meg Cabot

No ebooks this week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sarah Wendell is My Hero

Hello book people! I have a confession: I've been thinking about closing up shop here at My Book Addiction. I've been losing interest lately - on blogging, not reading - and I wasn't sure there was a point to this anymore. My brain doesn't seem to want to participate these days and my review output has dwindled to a point where I feel embarrassed. Who is going to want to keep coming to this blog if I don't do anything new every now and then? Am I contributing anything to book awareness on any level? In it's current state, would this be a blog that I would visit on a regular basis? The answers I come up with are depressing and discouraging.

But then, I saw three things today. Three things that make me think that this is not a waste of my time and I wanted to share them with you.

  1. Here is part of a screenshot of one of the traffic counters I use. (Click on it if you can't read the tiny print.) This tells me that several book blogs that I read on a regular basis has links to my blog. Admittedly, some of them are just links provided by a book title search on google, but still. It reminds me other people do like what I have to say.
  2. Kristi, aka The Story Siren, posted a discussion she recently had with an undisclosed author about the impact that book bloggers make on the book industry. I was disappointed to read the outlook many authors/publishers/agents have on book blogs (we are their fans, after all). Now, I am not interested in doing interviews and such but I do participate in a few memes/hops that are almost solely for bumping up follower counts. (Hey, every little bit helps.) And it may be my contrary nature but I didn't like the part about how book blogs don't affect book sales. So, I decided that I'll keep doing my part to make sure the word gets around that books are awesome and totally worth your time and money. I'll also be taking off the Followers widget from my blog. If you want to follow me, follow me, but stats don't lie - My Book Addiction gets more hits than total visitors - so I know people are coming back.
  3. Here's where I mention where I got the title for this post. Earlier today, I read Sarah Wendell's latest column on Kirkus reviews. I check out Smart Bitches, Trashy Books regularly for her savvy insight into the goings on in publishing and her intelligent reviews of romance novels but she caught my eye today on Kirkus because there was a picture of the cover of Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me under her byline (a sure thing to catch my attention). Sarah recently gave the keynote address at SXSW's Kirkus Book Reviews PubCamp conference and it was about why readers are so important to publishing. She cited examples about how the book industry is doing it's hardest to keep us from reading: charging more for books; restricting ebooks using DRMs and not providing diversity in languages; the dwindling number of actual bookstores. The point? We readers love our books and will always love our books no matter what. When I finished reading this article I wanted to stand up and cheer! In my heart, I am a reader, not a writer, but I do want to share my thoughts on the books I read. So thank you, Sarah Wendell. Thank you for reminding me why I'm here. I needed it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Review: Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield

Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Having no idea how many weeks have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished.
And with her, nearly all of civilization.
Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters—people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong.
In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior, and her safety.
For the Beaters are out there.
And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared, and desired, of weapons in a brave new world….

Aftertime by Sophie Littlefield is not just a postapocalyptic novel about a world where humans are turned into zombies, it is about a mother's quest to find her daughter and to atone for her past.

Cass has no idea what day it is or why she's alive. Weeks after zombies known as "beaters" infested California and began roaming around for live flesh, she wakes under a tree with wounds consistent to a beater attack. Then she remembers that the beaters grabbed her less than twenty-four hours after she got her toddler daughter back. The question is: why isn't she now a beater too? "Before," meaning before the world changed, Cass was a recovering alcoholic and had lost custody of her daughter to her estranged mother and current husband. She was sober and trying to reestablish her life by working steadily and staying clean. Now, losing Ruthie a second time has turned Cass into a woman with one goal and Terminator-like determination: find her little girl and get her somewhere safe. Along the way, she sees what civilization turns into when the PTB are no longer around to keep order - groups like the Rebuilders, militia-types who decided that they're the ones who get to reestablish society in their own image or the Convent, a group of zealot nun wannabes who have cloistered themselves in a baseball stadium and worship the zombies (sort of). The silver lining may be found in Smoke, the man who joined her on her quest.

Aftertime is a rather gruesome read. Zombies shuffle around, nibbling on those part of their bodies that they can reach with their mouths. They become a mockery of humanity with some of the random things they would do as if life were normal again like playing with dolls or trying to do yard work. However, they're not the real enemy in this book, humans are. Devious, greedy, and sometimes downright evil, some of the humans in Aftertime are a disgrace. Cass, however, is not. I liked her and I liked Aftertime. The sequel, Rebirth, will be released on July 19, 2011.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In My Mailbox, Mar 13-Mar 19, 2011 (3)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and is a list of book blogs who want to share the books that came into their home in the past week.

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston (from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers)
Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy (from
Alien Tango by Gini Koch (from
Ruthless Game by Christine Feehan (from

Library Books:
Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
Shadowland by Meg Cabot
Ninth Key by Meg Cabot

On the Nook:
Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell

On the Kindle:
Julia Spencer-Fleming's Letters to a Soldier: A Free Preview of One Was a Soldier with letters and a special note from Julia Spencer-Fleming
Turned at Dark: A Bonus Shadow Falls Short Story by C. C. Hunter
Fallen from Grace: A Bonus Dark Mirror Short Story by M. J. Putney
Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell

Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: My One and Only by Kristan Higgins

Divorce attorney Harper James can't catch a break. Bad enough that she runs into her ex-hubby, Nick, at her sister's destination wedding, but now, by a cruel twist of fate, she's being forced to make a cross-country road trip with him. And her almost-fiancĂ© back at home is not likely to be sympathetic. Harper can't help that Nick has come blazing back into her life in all of his frustratingly appealing, gorgeous architect glory. But in Nick's eyes, Harper's always been the one. If they can only get it right this time, forever might be waiting—just around the bend.

With My One and Only, Kristan Higgins has firmly cemented her already solid place among my list of favorite writers. This book had me laughing and crying (when Harper cried, I cried), shaking my fist and my head, and cursing the extra blank pages in my egalley copy since it added extra seconds while I "turned" the pages. Even though I've now read My One and Only, I'll definitely be buying my own copy when it comes out.

Harper James is a mess. Well, her personal life is anyway; she's a successful divorce attorney with a home on Martha's Vineyard. She's been dating a hunky local firefighter for a few years now and even though Dennis doesn't make her heart beat faster, she's decided that it's time for them to settle down. She even buys her own ring and proposes to him (much to his dismay) but is saved by the bell when her baby sister calls with the good news: she's getting married again for the third time! And not to just anybody but Harper's ex-husband's brother! Harper's marriage went down in flames over ten years ago and she hasn't been face-to-face with Nick since. Now she's got to see him at a wedding of all places? Harper's a "realist" when it comes to marriage and likes to quote all the stats that apply to anyone she feels needs to hear them. When she gets trapped at the lodge after the wedding and needs a ride to the airport, how can she say no to Nick when he offers to drive her himself? What could happen?

I loved this book. Harper and Nick are one of the most realistic couples I have seen in a book in quite some time. So much in love with each other but unable to stay together, Harper and Nick are the Queen and King of Misunderstandings. He takes her for granted and she can't figure out how to get his attention, they stay married for six months before something awful happens and they divorce. The thing is, marriage is a partnership, not an arrangement, and while they loved each other they obviously weren't ready to be married. We see their relationship through Harper's eyes and heart but Higgins shows this story from each perspective. She makes everything involving them seem so simple yet so complex and that's what I appreciated most about My One and Only. Ultimately, this a sweet love story about two people finally finding themselves ready to be with each other that is cleverly packaged in a cynical wrapper. 

Kristan Higgins writes some of the best women's fiction out there, she really does. My One and Only is her best yet in this reader's opinion and will be released on March 29, 2011.

Other reviews:
Everybody Needs a Little Romance
Petit Fours and Hot Tamales
Tracy's Place

Sunday, March 13, 2011

In My Mailbox, Mar 6-Mar 12, 2011 (2)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and is a list of book blogs who want to share the books that came into their home in the past week. Here's week two for me. It appears to have been more reasonable than last week.

Hardback books that I bought: (from
Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
River Marked by Patricia Briggs
The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

Paperback books that I bought: (from my local Walmart)
Primal Bonds by Jennifer Ashley

Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr
The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

Burning Bridges by Laura Anne Gilman
A Rake's Guide to Seduction by Caroline Linden

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (from
Grave Illusions (Jess Vandermire, Vampire Hunter) by Lina Gardiner ( via
No Fear by Allie Harrison ( via
Wild Sight by Loucinda McGary ( via

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Review: The Vampire Voss by Colleen Gleason

Voss, also known as Viscount Dewhurst, relishes the sensual pleasures immortality affords. A member of the Dracule—a cabal of powerful, secretive noblemen marked with a talisman that reveals their bartered souls—the mercenary Voss has remained carefully neutral…until Angelica. Angelica Woodmore possesses the Sight, an ability invaluable to both sides of a looming war among the Dracule. Her very scent envelops Voss in a scarlet fog of hunger—for her body and her blood. But he is utterly unprepared for the new desire that overcomes him—to protect her.
Now Voss must battle his very nature to be with Angelica…but this vampire never backs down from a fight.

As a big fan of Colleen Gleason's Gardella Chronicles series, I was superexcited to try out her newest vampire series, The Regency Draculia. The cool part is that this time around the vampires aren't necessarily the bad guys.

Voss lives how he believes a real vampire should: he spends his time seeking pleasure, be it by blood or sex or otherwise. Voss's real business is secrets - collecting and selling them - and is more than a little interested to find out that a vampire hunter and ally named Chas Woodmore has gone AWOL and left his sisters' care to Voss' rival and fellow vampire, Dimitri, Earl of Corvindale. What he's really looking for is the Woodmore sister who has the Sight; Angelica can see, by touching an object belonging to someone, where (but not when) that particular person is going to die. She's been using her ability throughout the ton to make money by foreseeing what will happen to young ladies' marriage prospects. What Voss, in all his arrogance and indifference, doesn't expect to ever happen is that he will come to actually care for Angelica, enough to risk his life for hers.

The vampires of the Regency Draculia are all men who have traded their souls to Lucifer for immortality and all the usual vampire tricks. That naughty boy Lucifer takes advantage of certain men when they are at their most vulnerable (and usually in dreams). Afterward, the vamps discover their "Lucifer's Mark", a physical manifestation of the pact they made with Lucifer for their souls that runs down their necks and along their upper backs. It pains them if they refrain from proper vampire behavior; it is a constant reminder of what they gave up, who they gave it to, and how he wants them to behave. In addition, each vampire has a weakness to something tangible, their own kryptonite, if you will. It's an interesting vulnerability and a source of information that Voss gathers ruthlessly. In a society of equally lethal men, what would be paramount to knowing how to defeat all your enemies?

Colleen Gleason writes vampires in a Regency setting so well that I hope she continues in that vein (ha ha) indefinitely. Despite his tendency to be all about me, me, me, I liked Voss and was happy for him in the end. Angelica was a fairly typical heroine for this genre; her ability is really the only aspect that makes her stand out. The ending neatly wraps up the storyline for this couple with a Buffyverse Whistler-type angel popping up here and there to "guide" Voss on his way to redemption. All-in-all, The Vampire Voss is a satisfying romance and I can't wait to read book two of the Regency Draculia series, The Vampire Dimitri.

The Vampire Voss will be released on March 22, 2011.

Other reviews:
Among the Muses
A Great Read
Reading the Paranormal

Sunday, March 6, 2011

In My Mailbox, Feb 27-Mar 5, 2011 (1)

Here's a new feature that I'll be attempting to make a (hopefully consistent) weekly addition here on My Book Addiction:

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren and is a list of book blogs who want to share the books that came into their home in the past week. I'll be doing this on Sundays and wholly expect to be shocked/surprised/horrified at the volume of books that I get each week. Still, it's something to talk about. (Let's hope the DH doesn't read this.) So...

Paperbacks that I bought (from
How to Flirt With a Naked Werewolf by Molly Harper
Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
Never Again: Wizards of Nevermore by Michele Bardsley
Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire

Paperbacks received from
Touch of Surrender by Rhyannon Byrd
It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas
What a Rogue Desires by Caroline Linden
Killing Rocks by D. D. Barant

Ebooks downloaded:
A Lot Like Love by Julie James (from B&
For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick (from via
Darcy's Voyage by Kara Louise (from B& via
What a Demon Wants by Kathy Love (from B& via

From the library:
The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman
Insatiable by Meg Cabot
Reckless by Cornelia Funke
Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Oh, my.

Review: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.
But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn't believe in them.
Not that Meena isn't familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you're going to die. (Not that you're going to believe her. No one ever does.)
But not even Meena's precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It's a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.
The problem is, Lucien's already dead. Maybe that's why he's the first guy Meena's ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena's always been able to see everyone else's future, she's never been able look into her own.
And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.
Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future…
If she even has one.

First off, can I just say that I think I'm in love with Meg Cabot. I finished Insatiable early yesterday evening and was so caught up in her style of writing that I whipped out Every Boy's Got One and promptly devoured it. I plan on raiding my local public library for her other titles on Monday. Insatiable isn't my first Meg Cabot, you know. I also read and thoroughly enjoyed She Went All the Way awhile back but was slightly discouraged by the proliferation of series YA in her backlist. I saw The Princess Diaries and didn't feel like reading the books. Don't get me wrong - I'm a BIG fan of YA fiction. I just was just in the mood for big girl books at the time.

So. Insatiable has it all: a love triangle, vampires, vampire hunters, a soap opera, and haute couture. I was worried at first as it took me a while to get into it; my life hadn't allowed me much time to read in the past few days since I started Insatiable and I hoped that it was me, not the book. Well, I can tell you that it was, indeed, me, and not the book. Once I sat down with it today, Insatiable grabbed my attention and held on for dear life. (This would explain why we didn't get to eat our dinner last night until 8 pm.)

Is it too cute to pick a name like Meena for the heroine in a vampire novel? Almost, though it did constantly remind me of "Mean-a Irina" from season six (?) of Project Runway. (I was disappointed that she won. Anyway...) Meena isn't mean-a, in fact, she's anything but. She goes out of her way to save people by giving them "advice," thus hoping to help them thwart Death and prolong their lives. It's hard for her to manage her ability most days since people don't generally like it if you try to tell them when they're going to die. It's for this reason that she's drawn to Lucien Antonescu; just as Sookie Stackhouse prefers vampires for their mental silence, that she can't see Lucien's death is relaxing to Meena. Relaxing, that is, until Alaric Wulf, a handsome Palatine Guard Vampire Hunter straight from the Vatican, shows up to lop off the head of the Prince of Darkness, a.k.a. Lucien, and spills the beans on who Lucien really is. This puts Meena right smack in the middle of a vampire war and the aforementioned love triangle for Alaric finds that he's drawn to Meena, even if she is a vampire minion, albeit a pretty one.

The only aspect I could have lived without was Meena's brother, Jon. The victim of corporate layoffs, he mooches off his sister while dreaming of being a cop for the NYPD. He has neither the fortitude nor the athleticism he would need to pull it off and when he hears about what Alaric does for a living, he sets his mind to becoming a vampire hunter with all the enthusiasm of a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Unfortunately, he has no idea what he's doing and generally makes every situation worse. He's critical of Meena without being unkind and she puts up with him. I know he was probably meant for some comic relief but he just got on my nerves.

The story in Insatiable moved along at a good clip; there wasn't any lag in the plot. I was so relieved to find out that this is the first in a series - there wasn't much of a resolution - as I liked this book so very much. It felt more like, That's All for Now, Folks! We'll See You Later! Oh yes, they definitely will. The sequel, Overbite, will be released on July 5, 2011.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review: The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman

When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his grief by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually Henry's mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son and life couldn't be better... except there's something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There's something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him... or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief--and what happens when we're finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

Clocking in at 171 pages with what looks like a fourteen point font, I was underwhelmed at first sight by the length of this book. When I checked it out at the library and the lady handed me this little scrap of a book, I was surprised. This is the shocking and scary book that, if the hype is to be believed, will knock me out of my socks? What is it they say about assumptions?

This is a book all about tension. Henry's past and present is being unfurled - to both the reader and Henry himself - in bits in pieces as each chapter flips back and forth from a day in Henry's childhood to what is happening now. In the chapters involving the past, we all learn about a particular snow day where Henry wandered away from his babysitter's home and into the woods. In the chapters involving the present, Henry is an adult, married and the father of a three-year-old boy. He and his wife get into a fight over his painting which results in her leaving with their son on a trip to her parents'. Henry is alone in the house, painting as usual, when creepy noises emerge from the basement. Each time the chapters flip, the suspense is ratched up another notch; we're left wondering about Henry and his sanity. How much is real and how much is imaginary? Is it feasible that there could actually be a monster in the basement or are the memories of what happened to Henry on that fateful day when he was five manifesting themselves into something best treated with pharmaceuticals and a rubber room?

Comparisons to Stephen King abound for Brian James Freeman and rightfully so. Aspects of The Shining are certainly deserving here though plotwise they're light years apart. In both The Shining and The Painted Darkness, the main characters have activities that turn into fugue states (Jack's writing and here, Henry's painting); they are set in massive snowstorms, thereby limiting or wholly eliminating the possibility of escape and isolating them from the rest of the world; they see and talk to things/people who aren't really there (or are they?); the boiler is practically a character in its own right in both and are instrumental in the climaxes of both books; both Jack and Henry each have wives and a son. I was also reminded of King's short story, "1408" from Everything's Eventual, where a reporter checks into a supposedly haunted hotel room and barely lives to write about it. By the end of "1408" I realized my mouth had been hanging open. By the end of The Painted Darkness, I was confused but rather impressed that Freeman managed to squeeze so much into so few pages but it was really the pace that did it. Fast-paced and frantic, this book moves fast in a relatively short time span.

My only complaint is the illustrations. They didn't do anything for me in that their presence didn't affect my pulse. Monochromatic pictures of too-neatly-written words dripping blood seemed somewhat unrealistic, if that is at all possible. Also, the illustration of Henry as an adult make him look like a kid with a mustache. (I realize that was probably the idea and that they were probably going for the symbolism but I could have lived without it.)

The Painted Darkness is a big meaty punch wrapped in a little book. Is Henry batshit crazy or the owner of a completely overactive imagination that is still punishing him for the guilt he's repressing over his father? I believe it's more like something along these lines: just as with Tootsie Roll Pops and how many licks it would take to get to the center of one, the world may never know.