Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Gal's Top Reads of 2014

It's that time again, y'all.  Time for me to list my favorite reads of this past year.  
            Last year, this was a really easy thing for me to do.  Four books really stood out in my mind at the end of the year.
            This year, it was a lot more difficult.  I began jotting down titles at the beginning of the year and, a few days ago when I looked, there were quite a few there.  I went through the list, weeding out the ones that had not stuck with me, and here is my list:

(Listed alphabetically)

Aquarius Rising 1: In the Tears of God
Brian Burt

Science Fiction
Double Dragon 5.21.2013
243 pages

On an Earth ravaged by global warming, human-dolphin hybrids called Aquariums have build thriving reef colonies among the drowned cities of the coast.  Now their world is under siege from an enemy whose invisible weapon leaves no survivors.  Only Ocypode the Atavism - half-human and half-Aquarian, marooned in the genetic limbo between species - knows why.  Disclosing the reason could be as deadly to Aquarius as the Medusa plague itself.  Ocypode and his comrades must face the perils of flight into the open ocean, a friends's betrayal, a killer storm, a lethal kelp forest haunted by mutant monsters, and a fundamental challenge to their most cherished beliefs if they are to have any hope of saving Aquarius from destruction.  They must enlist allies of the most unexpected sort from the most unlikely of places.  Even then - when confronted by rogue scientists determined to resurrect the land by slaughtering the sea - it may not be enough.

Bad Apples:
5 Slices of Halloween Horror
Evans Light, Adam Light, Edward Lorn, Jason Parent, Gregor Xane

Horror, Halloween, Short Stories
Corpus Press 9.5.2014
227 pages

The five freshest voices in horror will make you reconsider leaving the house on October 31st with these all-new Halloween tales:
  • A brother and sister creep out of the darkness with bags full of deadly tricks in Gregor Xane's The Riggle Twins.
  • A boy with a misshapen skull just wants to be normal in Evans Light's Pumpkinhead Ted.
  • A group of thrill seekers learn that looking for terror is a whole lot more fun than finding it in Adam Light's Ghost Light Road.
  • Two bullies go hunting for trouble but instead find a young boy and his imaginary friend in Jason Parent's Easy Pickings.
  • When a mysterious, Halloween-themed attraction comes to the town of Bay's End, everyone is dying to pay a visit in Edward Lorn's The Scare Rows.

City of Whores
Mark B. Perry

Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Hollywood
Starboard Home Press 9.16.2014
418 pages

Hollywood, New Year's Eve, 1951.  As Tinseltown rings in the twilight of its Golden Age, a gorgeous young man arrives from Texas, hell-bent on exploiting his brooding good-looks and smoldering sex appeal in exchange for his rightful place among the stars of the silver screen - only to become dangerously entangled in the lives of one of the most powerful couples in show business.  As his dream of stardom devolves into a lurid, erotic nightmare, he must choose between fortune and fame or his own sanity and survival in this City of Whores.

Confinement: A Novella of Horror
C. Michael Powers

Horror, Short Story
Christopher Powers 10.2.2014
78 pages

He tried to cut off his own face with a razor blade.  Now, he's here, sleeping in his confinement room and seen only through the small rectangular window in the wall.  For an unarmed Air Force cop stuck guarding this sick and twisted prisoner, this will be the longest night of his life.

A Surly Man's Guide to Midlife
Kelly Crigger

Humor, Aging
Graybeard Books 9.17.2014
174 pages

Discovering who you are is not just for teenagers.  Midlife men must also rediscover the world around them while struggling with their own impending mortality and legacy, especially those who change careers and lifestyles.
            Middle-aged men like me are under siege, beset on all sides by personal ambition, internal expectations, familial pressure, disillusionment, uncertainty, and legacy.  In a constant battle to balance the needs of the self and the needs of others and a struggle to discover which ones really take priority.  Some win this battle and some tragically lose.
            Curmudgeonism is a state of mind, unwavering, unapologetic, and uninterested in what people think.  We are the proverbial old dog that can't be taught new tricks because we know the old tricks are tried and true.  We have firm beliefs that can't be shaken.  Free trade is good.  True leaders are rare.  Happiness is a luxury.  Golf is a waste of time and we don't have enough years left to be unproductive.  We don't apologize for our views because we've spent half a lifetime developing them.  Theory and idealism sounds good in school but only until it becomes cost prohibitive and the real world determines ground truth.  Curmudgeons are uncaring about what people think and have low expectations on the world because it's done little more than disappoint us.  We're middle aged and tired of looking, acting, feeling the way people want us to, so we're breaking out and being who we were meant to be; irascible curs who make the world a better place through brutal honesty.  We see this as our duty and take it seriously.
            Buy the ticket.  Take the ride.

Earthbound Angels 1: Oracle of Philadelphia
Elizabeth Corrigan

Fantasy, Paranormal
Red Adept Publishing 3.20.2013
222 pages

Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel.  But there are some problems that even the best advice can't solve.
            Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid.  He sold his soul to a demon in exchange for his sister's life, but his heart remains pure.
            Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others, and she cannot bear to see another good man damned when it is within her power to prevent it.
            In order to renegotiate his contract, Carrie must travel into the depths of  hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways.  As the cost of her journey arises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.

Earthbound Angels 2: Raising Chaos
Elizabeth Corrigan

Fantasy, Paranormal
Red Adept Publishing 2.4.2014
270 pages

When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge.
            The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful - overindulging in Sri Lanken delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet.  But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there  Bedlam's best friend, Khet - he can't sit idly by.
            Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer's request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ's side at His crucifixion.  Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location.  Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.
            His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel - his angelic ex - and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands.  But to Bedlam, "wrong" is just an arbitrary word, and there's no way he's letting Khet die without a fight.

Mirror Images 2: Sons of Man
C. Michael Powers

Horror, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal
Christopher Powers 8.14.2014
323 pages

Gabe and Lisa have finally made a peaceful life for themselves on the dark side of the mirror, high up in the mountains, where they've settled with a group of friends in search of the same serenity.  With a new baby on the way, a storm brews; evil forces believe there's a great power in controlling the first child born on the dark side, and they'll stop at nothing to get their hands on it.  This love story laced with mirrors, maniacs, and monsters continues as war is waged between good and evil with the survival of both worlds hanging in the balance.

Oasis of the Damned
Greg F. Gifune

Horror, War
DarkFuse 12.9.2014
76 pages

When her helicopter crashes in the middle of the Sahara, Heather Richter, a former Army Captain and veteran of the Iraq War, finds herself at an abandoned WWII military outpost in one of the harshest and deadliest deserts on Earth.  But she soon realizes there is another victim of the dessert in this empty expanse of endless sand.  Owens, a victim of an earlier plane crash, is there as well.  An enigmatic and brooding man, he knows the secrets of the outpost, that it was actually built on top of an oasis and a natural well, the only thing that's kept him alive.  But he also knows the darker secrets of this strange and forgotten patch of desert hell.
            He and Richter are not alone.  And the cruel terrain and relentless sun are the least of their worries, because inhuman things haunt the outpost, hideous and violent things that only come at night.  Ancient, evil creatures hungry for human flesh, and no matter how many Richter and Owens kill, they just keep coming.
            With little hope of rescue, and tortured by her horrific experiences in Iraq years before, as well as the untimely and tragic death of her younger brother, Richter struggles to maintain her sanity amidst the brutal attacks that occur each time night falls, all the while trying to figure out if Owens is truly what he claims, or something more.
            Is anything as it seems, or is there something more profound happening, a shocking wound bleeding deeper than the ancient sands, the dark desert nights and the blistering sun?
            Two lost souls ... a forgotten outpost in a haunted desert ... vicious creatures bent on destruction ...
            The brutal fight for survival has begun.

Purgatory 2: Purgatory Origins:
Powers of Darkness
Darryl Olsen

Science Fiction, Space Marine, War & Military
330 pages

When Professor Harrison Standish, a bookish young archaeologist, inadvertently stumbles upon an ancient burial chamber in Egypt, he is baffled to find symbolism inside that would appear to date from two different historical periods, thousands of years apart.  Suspecting the tomb has been tampered with at some point in the distant past, Professor Standish soon discovers the skeletons of ten half-human/half-canine creatures lying in a far corner of the chamber and his initial bafflement now turns to shock.  What kind of ancient madman would be conducting such a horrific experiment?
            As Dr. Standish endeavors to explain this mystery over the ensuing days, he happens upon news report, suggesting that these same grotesque, half-human/half-canine creatures have come to life in the remote mountains of Wyoming and he is immediately on the next flight.  By the time he arrives in Wyoming, a World War II Nazi bomber has materialized out of the sky and crashed off the coast of France and a Nazi general named Schmitz has stumbled into the 21st century, leaving behind evidence of his presence in Professor Standish's ancient burial chamber back in Egypt, all of which sets the stage for a rollicking, nonstop, modern day fantasy/sci-fi adventure.
            The cast of characters in Purgatory Origins includes Rachael, a pesky, auburn haired New York magazine correspondent, who is known equally for her ability to sink her teeth into a story and her unwillingness to let it go; Jason Kendall, an escaped rapist and killer who falls hard for Rachael when they cross paths and turns out to have a past with our half human creatures; and Harper, the ex-special forces FBI agent, whose primary goal is finding Jason Kendall, getting him back behind bars and keeping him there for the rest of his life, but soon finds himself sucked into this mystery woven of ancient symbolism, old Nazi war criminals and otherworldly creatures.

Shrink Rapt
Freda Hansburg

Crime, Thriller, Medical
Freda Hansburg 10.13.2014
325 pages

Psychologist April Simon finds her career and life on the line after the murderer of her arrogant department chairman.  When four of her patients, all subjects in the late psychiatrist's research, begin to violently unravel, April tries to solve the riddle of their transformation.  Her quest alarms the killer.  Will she be next?  So many of her colleagues, she discovers, had reason to kill the chairman.  Who can she trust, when no one is what they seem?

Tales from the Tudor Court 1:
My Lady Viper
E. (Eliza) Knight

Historical Fiction, Biographical
Knight Media 4.27.2014
415 pages

May, 1536.  The Queen is dead.  Long live the Queen.
            When Anne Boleyn falls to the executioner's ax on a cold spring morning, yet another Anne vows she will survive in the snake-pit court of Henry VIII.  But at what cost?
            Lady Anne Seymour knows her family hangs by a thread.  If her sister-in-law Jane Seymour cannot give the King a son, she will be executed or set aside, and her family with her.  Anne throws herself into the deadly and intoxicating intrigue of the Tudor court, determined at any price to see the new queen's marriage a success and the Seymour family elevated to supreme power.  But Anne's machinations will earn her a reputation as a viper, and she must decide if her family's rise is worth the loss of her soul...

Tales from the Tudor Court 2:
Prisoner of the Queen
E. (Eliza) Queen

Historical Fiction, Biographical
Knight Media 7.19.2014
335 pages

I have served three queens in my life.
            One was my sister.  One was my savior.  And one my bitterest enemy.
            Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court.  After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth's court.  Until she finds love - then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

Tell Me My Name
Mary Fan

Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Glass House Press 10.14.2014
64 pages

In Mary Fan's second novella from Glass House Press, a teen girl was up in an icy hell, alone and frightened.  She has no memory of who she is or how she came to be there.
            She does know that she must get out, at all costs.  And that escape must start with remembering the simple things - her own name.  Her place of origin.  Her possible powers.
            When a group of dark magicians reveal themselves to be her captors, she finds herself in the clutches of those who will stop at nothing to uncover the secrets locked within her lost memories.  With her life fading under their merciless spells, the need to escape becomes dire.
            But can she get out when she doesn't even know who she is?  Can she count on one unlikely ally for help?  Or is it already too late for her, a girl without a name?
            Tell Me My Name introduces the main characters in Mary's new fantasy series, Fated Stars, with the first book, Windborn, due in late 2015.

Amazon ** Goodreads ** Barnes & Noble

The Faithful
S.M. Freedman

Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller, Suspense, Action/Adventure
S.M. Freedman 4.20.2014
365 pages

For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts.  They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick.  Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force.  Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears.  All the children had psychic abilities.  All the cases went cold - with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered.  Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.
            For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies.  The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place.  New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape.  Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey, and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.
            For Sumner, memories have become weapons.  He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders.  He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.
            To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth.  They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale.  If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive.
            Crossing several genres, The Faithful will appeal to anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries; high-tech, edge-of-your-seat suspense flavored with paranormal elements; thrillers, involving psychics, occult and high stakes action/adventure; tied up with a depth and humor usually reserved for works of literary fiction.


Christopher Powers said...

I'm so honored to be on your list, Meghan. Thanks for all you do! And this gives me a new reading list too. I'll definitely check out the others.


Meghan H said...

You definitely deserve to be there Chris!! And that's the same thing you said about last year's list haha.