Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: “Hidden Pictures”

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Book: “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak

Publishing Info: Flatiron Books, May 2022

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: From Jason Rekulak, Edgar-nominated author of The Impossible Fortress, comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a creepy and warm-hearted mystery about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets.

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house. With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

Review: Thank you so much to Maris Tasaka of Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book and for including our blog on the Blog Tour of this book!

I’m the person on here who reads and reviews the graphic novels for the blog, so books with visual components are pretty common in terms of me coming across them. But I always like seeing novels that use the occasional visual component to add to the story. I think of books like “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, or the more recent (and recently reviewed on here) “Secret Identity”, which use photos or illustrations in regards to what a character may be seeing in the story. Which is why when Flatiron Press reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in participating in a Blog Tour of “Hidden Pictures” by Jason Rekulak I jumped at the chance. I already love a ghost story. But I’m even more interested by a ghost story that has creepy drawings that tie into the ghost story!

In terms of plot, “Hidden Pictures” is straight forward and moves at a fast clip. It’s a relatively long book (almost four hundred pages) but I was basically able to devour it in two evening’s time because it is such a quick read. It’s told through Mallory’s eyes, a new babysitter to a precocious little boy named Teddy who is newly clean off hard drugs and desperate for a second chance. Teddy’s parents have very high standards for his care, and while they are seemingly supportive Mallory feels a little judged by them due to her past and their very elite lifestyle. So when Teddy starts drawing strange pictures and talking about his imaginary friend Anya, and things start to escalate, Mallory has to worry about keeping Teddy safe from a potential unseen force, and not overstepping boundaries that could destroy the progress of a new life she’s made. I liked how Rekulak sets up many good reasons for Mallory to be feeling pretty alone in this as she worries more and more about Teddy, and I liked how she slowly starts to investigate and uncover clues about who could potentially be haunting her charge. The puzzle pieces aren’t overly complicated and they are familiar themes, but they are well placed and timed out. There were a lot of good twists and turns on the way to the ultimate solution, with a lot of really creepy and sometimes downright frightening moments involving a presence whose intentions are not clear. The pacing works really well and I just couldn’t put it down.

In terms of characters, it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. Mallory is probably the most interesting, which isn’t super surprising as she’s our narrator, but Rekulak brings out her layers and her background in ways that made her easy to like and empathize with. I appreciated that Rekulak took care (as far as I could tell? Tell me if I’m wrong please!) to portray her past addiction and the fallouts of that as she rebuilds in a sympathetic light, avoiding stereotypical pitfalls or trying to make a potential relapse a side plot. Her backstory is also treated with care, and it all made sense in how she makes decisions and the actions she takes as the story goes on. In terms of other characters, they were hit or miss. I liked her friend and love interest Adrian, as it was nice having someone in her corner and I liked their chemistry. Teddy was your typical precocious kid who communicates with ghosts, and his parents Caroline and Ted were a right mix of saccharine supportive and perhaps a little untrustworthy (the way they treated Mallory was another well done unease to the story; supportive but conditionally only is one way I’d describe it). Other supporting characters like Mallory’s sponsor, or the ‘eccentric’ (read belligerent and racist, but not really called out enough about it) neighbor next door didn’t work as well. But hey, the strength was Mallory and that’s what you need in this kind of mystery horror story.

And oh boy, let’s talk about the pictures. I loved that Rekulak decided to use both words and images for this book, as while I appreciate using my imagination to create images when I read, I also REALLY love a visual medium that enhances a reading experience. And the pictures in “Hidden Pictures” are awesome, running a full range of realistically five year old aesthetic, to creepy unsettling, to genuinely beautiful and moving. They really added to my enjoyment of the story overall.

With summer just around the corner, you may be looking for a fast and fun read to take on a trip or just to read while hanging around the house. “Hidden Pictures” would be a great choice for such occasions!

Rating 8: A fast and compelling plot, a creepy ghost story, and some truly unsettling artwork make “Hidden Pictures” a fun horror tale just in time for Summer!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hidden Pictures” is included on the Goodreads lists “Anticipated 2022 Horror/Thriller Releases”, and “52 Book Club 2022: A Book With Photographs Inside”.

And as mentioned in the title of this post, I am running a giveaway of the ARC of this novel! So if you think this sounds right up your alley, enter a chance to win! The giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on May 24th.

Enter The Giveaway HERE!

Giveaway: “The City of Dusk”

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Book: “The City of Dusk” by Tara Sim

Publishing Info: Orbit, March 2022

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.

Giveaway Details:

While I’m always a bit skeptical of these books focused on a large cast of characters, they are also a bit unavoidable in fantasy fiction right now. And there are examples of ones done better than others. The fact that this is marketed as an adult fantasy novel does help, I think. Fair or not, I’ve seen more YA fiction struggle to create an interesting cast of characters than adult fantasy fiction. Though, there are exceptions, of course. “All of Us Villains” comes to mind.

I’m curious to see how this fantasy world is laid out. In a lot of ways, it seems a bit familiar with its various realms of magic, each specific to a god and the family who follows that god. But there’s a reason this fantasy trope is found so often: why have just one kind of magic when you can have four? The four main characters we see in this intro all sound interesting, so I’m excited to see how their stories play out and in what ways they intersect and interact with one another.

Per the usual, my review for this book will be up Friday. But don’t wait until then to get in on the chance to win a copy of this book! This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end on April 13.

Enter to win!

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Happy holidays fellow book lovers! And in honor of this time of year when presents  giving is everything, we’re hosting our annual “12 Days of Christmas” Giveaway. But, tricky us, it’s actually two giveaways, each one comprised of six books from our preferred genres. Read on to see what books are included in each prize package and enter for your chance to win! Both giveaways are open to U.S. residents only and end on January 1.

Serena’s Prize Package

“The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” by K.S. Villoso (My Review)

“The Mask of Mirrors” by M. A. Carrick (My Review)

“Blood of the Chosen” by Django Wexler (My Review)

“Wildwood Whispers” by Willa Reece (My Review)

“The Bone Maker” by Sarah Beth Durst (My Review)

“Animorphs Graphix #1: The Invasion” by K.A. Applegate & Michael Grant, Adapted by Chris Grine (My Review)

Click to Enter Here!

Kate’s Prize Package

“All These Bodies” by Kendare Blake (My Review)

“Silence in the Woods” by J.P. Choquette (My Review)

“The Seven Visitations of Sydney Burgess” by Andy Marino (My Review)

“Empire of Wild” by Cherie Dimaline (My Review)

“The Lost Village” by Camilla Sten (My Review)

“The Keeper of Night” by Kylie Lee Baker (My Review)

Click HERE To Enter!

Giveaway: “Jade Legacy”

Book: “Jade Legacy” by Fonda Lee

Publishing Info: Orbit, November 2021

Book Description: Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

Giveaway Details: I’ve really been enjoying this fantasy series by Fonda Lee. It’s such a complicated, interesting world filled with complicated, interesting people. At various points in both of the first books I would be actively disliking a character only to have the entire board be flipped and finding that character to be one of the most compelling.

The story is also vast, tackling big concepts such as globalization, generational change, and the tenuous relationship between history and culture. Between the actual individual conflicts (full of fantasy action that feels nonstop) and the larger conflicts between the various gangs and countries at play, the story is full of tension and escalating consequences as the series has progressed. With this increasingly grand scale in mind, I’m really curious to see where this story is headed. It seems to be setting up a story that will move beyond the generation that we’ve mostly followed in the first two books. My full review is coming out this Friday. But in the mean time, make sure to enter to win a copy! The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends Nov. 17.

Enter to win!

Giveaway: “Blood of the Chosen”

Book: “Blood of the Chosen” by Django Wexler

Publishing Info: Orbit, October 2021

Book Description: Four hundred years ago, a cataclysmic war cracked the world open and exterminated the Elder races. Amid the ashes, their human inheritor, the Dawn Republic, stands guard over lands littered with eldritch relics and cursed by plaguespawn outbreaks. But a new conflict is looming and brother and sister Maya and Gyre have found themselves on opposite sides.

At the age of five, Maya was taken by the Twilight Order and trained to be a centarch, wielding forbidden arcana to enforce the Dawn Republic’s rule. On that day, her brother, Gyre, swore to destroy the Order that stole his sister… whatever the cost.

Twelve years later, brother and sister are two very different people: she is Burningblade, the Twilight Order’s brightest prodigy; he is Silvereye, thief, bandit, revolutionary.

Previously Reviewed: “Ashes of the Sun”

I’ve really enjoyed all of the books by Django Wexler that I’ve read. There are a couple of things I’ve come to expect from him at this point: solid actions scenes, interesting magical systems, and a lovely sapphic romance. “Ashes of the Sun” delivered on all of these fronts and more. I really enjoyed the twist of including a duel POV story that featured two estranged siblings who increasingly find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing civil conflict. I preferred Maya’s story, overall, but Gyre’s situation was left in a more tenuous state at the end of that first book.

Here in the second story, I’m most curious to see what is going to happen with him going forward. I expect Maya and Gyre to clash once more. But will they begin to see more eye-to-eye here? Or is the wedge going to be driven even more deeper in? There are also a lot of mysteries around the big events of the past that shaped the current world. What’s going on with the Chosen? And the ghouls? Are they good or bad? So many questions, so many answers needed!

So in anticipation of this second book in the series, I’m hosting a give away for an ARC copy of “Blood of the Chosen!” The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will run through Oct. 17, 2021.

Enter to win!

Giveaway: Omnium Gatherum Mini Reviews/Prize Package

Hello horror fans! It’s been awhile since I’ve run a giveaway on the blog, and I am coming back to the giveaway game with a very fun prize package! Omnium Gatherum is an indie press that has a focus on horror and dark fantasy stories, and they were kind enough to send me a few titles that have lots of scares and bumps in the night! And not only that, I want to share them with a lucky winner! So let’s talk about the titles for the Omnium Gatherum Prize Package!

Book: “Bergdorf & Associates” by Thomas C. Mavroudis

After a suicide attempt, Abe has been working for Bergdorf & Associates, beings that are otherworldly and similar to djinn. They ask him to retrieve items or to complete tasks, and he doesn’t pry too deeply. But when a fellow contractor named Rayne manipulates him, takes his quarry, and puts him in serious danger, Abe has to find a way to complete his task. So he turns to the help of his twin nieces who seem to be telepathic, and a friend named Cruz who knows a little magic of his own. This novella is unique and strange, but Abe is a fun character to follow and his nieces are both adorable and a little creepy! Also, while Rayne is absolutely an antagonist, she has a very fun personality and at one point wears a delightfully geeky geology shirt that I won’t spoil here. It’s a quick and fun read, and one that dark fantasy fans will probably enjoy.

Book: “Entangled Soul & Other Stories” by Gene O’Neill and Chris Marrs

This is a bit of a hybrid collection, in that it features short stories from authors Gene O’Neill and Chris Marrs, as well as a novella collaboration that is the title piece. My favorite story by O’Neill is “Surfing Is My Life: Fear and Loathing on the Northern California Coast”. A reporter tags along with a surfer girl who is planning on entering a competition, and hopes to write a gonzo column about it for Rolling Stone. But while he has seen a lot of strange things during his writing, nothing can prepare him for what he encounters on this assignment. As someone who LOVES Hunter S. Thompson, this homage to one of my favorite writers is both well done, as well as unsettling in a way that sneaks up on you. For Marrs, I enjoyed “Paper and Pencil Skin and Ink”. A woman in an abusive relationship meets a mysterious man with strange tattoos all over his body, and she realizes that the tattoos aren’t just normal tattoos. The dark fantasy elements with ties to historical mysteries really worked for me, and I thought that it was properly mysterious and strange. And their collaborative novella, “Entangled Soul”, tells the story of a down and out boxer and an agoraphobic woman who are separated in many ways, but realize that their souls and consciousnesses are overlapping. They blend their voices together very well to tell this story, which feels part Sci Fi ‘what if’, and possession tale. I got a good feel for both their styles in this collection, and the collaboration is a nice way to finish it off.

Book: “Night Terrors & Other Tales” by Lisa Morton

This collection of short stories by Stoker Award Winner Lisa Morton span decades in her career, and were personally picked by her. From monsters to medical horror settings to magic, there is a little something for every horror fan. The two stories that really stood out for me were “Sparks Fly Upward”, a dystopian tale of a woman living in a Colony with limited resources. When she finds herself pregnant, she knows that she has to have an abortion, as a second child would tax the community. But when she and a party venture out to the abandoned clinic, zombies of former anti-abortion protestors still roam the property. This story is both a cathartic tale about the lingering obsession of the anti-abortion crowd, but also a bittersweet story about a person who may want another child at some point, but at the moment literally cannot afford to have one. I really, really loved it. The second story that grabbed my attention was “Black Mill Cove”, the tale of a man who goes searching for abalone and other creatures in tide pools, leaving his wife behind. But then he finds a human arm…. And realizes that this isn’t just a hunting ground, but a dumping ground as well, for a different kind of hunter. The tension in this one really builds, and I will definitely say that the end had me saying ‘oh SHIT’. I will say that there are definitely some stories in here that need content warnings, specifically “Poppi’s Monster”, which has depictions of child sexual abuse.

And here is a chance for you to get your hands on these fun books from Omnium Gatherum! It may be a little ways before Halloween season, but these books will give you a lot of spooky material in the mean time! Thanks again to Omnium Gatherum for sending these books my way!

The giveaway is open only to U.S. residents and ends on July 26, 2021.

Enter The Giveaway Here

Giveaway: “For the Wolf”

Book: “For the Wolf” by Hannah Whitten

Publishing Info: Orbit, June 2021

Book Description: As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Giveaway Details: Summer is the season of the wolf! Or so it seems this year, what with three (three on my radar, at least) books coming out with this theme. Fantasy fans will either love this trend or dislike it, but as a fan of fairytale re-tellings, this is definitely one trend I can get behind. Though, of course, when there are trends like this in genres, readers are always left biting their fingernails waiting for the first misstep! Luckily, two books in, I haven’t found it yet!

I really enjoyed “For the Wolf.” I’ll post my full review on Friday, of course, but I can say briefly that this was an even more enjoyable read for me than “The Wolf and the Woodsman” was. It was also a bit of a surprise, as I would say it’s definitely closer to a “Beauty and the Beast” re-telling than any other fairytale. That worked out perfectly for me! And fans of that story should definitely check this one out.

The giveaway is open only to U.S. residents and ends on June 23, 2021.

Enter to win!

Giveaway: “The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng”

Book: “The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng” by K. S. Villoso

Publishing Info: Orbit, May 2021

Book Description: Queen Talyien is finally home, but dangers she never imagined await her in the shadowed halls of her father’s castle.

War is on the horizon. Her son has been stolen from her, her warlords despise her, and across the sea, a cursed prince threatens her nation with invasion in order to win her hand.

Worse yet, her father’s ancient secrets are dangerous enough to bring Jin Sayeng to ruin. Dark magic tears rifts in the sky, preparing to rain down madness, chaos, and the possibility of setting her nation aflame.

Bearing the brunt of the past and uncertain about her future, Talyien will need to decide between fleeing her shadows or embracing them before the whole world becomes an inferno.

Previously Reviewed: “The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” and “The Ikessar Falcon”

Giveaway Details: I’ve been pleased to be able to host giveaways for the first two books in this series, so I was incredibly excited to receive an extra copy to host another one for this last book in the trilogy. Given the building tension and ever-growing stakes in the story, fans of the series will likely be as eager to get their hands on this last installment as I was.

In many ways, this trilogy reads like the story that I wish “Game of Thrones” had allowed Daenerys to have. Women, especially queens who must make the same incredibly tough calls that kings have had to make for ages, balancing the weight of evils and the sacrifices necessary for the greater good, are just as capable of being as ruthless and driven as men without it indicating some sort of madness. I could rant forever about that particular choice, especially as it plays out in the show. But, thankfully, in Talyien we find a queen truly worth rooting for. She is a warrior and a woman and, simply, a person who is flawed, has insecurities, has made poor choices, but also has an inner strength and drive that sees her rising to the challenges before her.

All three books have, in their own way, seen Talyien’s situation become more and more dire. Queen though she may be, she is still vulnerable to the maneuverings of the men that surround her. Worse, in this book, we see the lingering damage that even a dead man, her own father, can wreak on her life. I’m so excited to see how everything plays out. It feels like there are a bunch of moving pieces and many issues coming in to roost.

I’ll post my full review this coming Friday. But in the meantime, make sure to enter to win a paperback copy of “The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng!”

Enter to win!

Giveaway: “The Light of Midnight Stars”

Book: “The Light of Midnight Stars” by Rena Rossner

Publishing Info: Redhook, April 2021

Book Description: Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.

When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.

I really enjoyed Rena Rossner’s first book, “The Sisters of the Winter Wood”, when I read it in 2018. It was a lovely, fairytale-like story featuring two sisters, so pretty much right up my alley! The author also experimented with her style of writing, alternating between the more traditional prose for one sister, and a lyrical, poetic form for the other. Not only did this make the reading experience feel varied and alive, but the choice of each style of writing matched the aspects of each sister: the solid, grounded prose for the sister who can turn into a bear, and the more whimsical, flighty poems for the sister who can turn into a swan.

With that incredible first outing, I was excited to see that the author had another book coming out this spring. And even more excited when I received an ARC in the mail! In many ways this book sounds similar: a Jewish fairytale featuring sisters, this time three. Is this too similar to the first one? Or just more to like? I’ll post my full review this coming Friday. In the meantime, enter to win a copy! This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends on April 28, 2021.

Enter to win!

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

Happy holidays fellow book lovers! And in honor of this time of year when presents  giving is everything, we’re hosting our fourth annual “12 Days of Christmas” Giveaway. But, tricky us, it’s actually two giveaways, each one comprised of six books from our preferred genres. Read on to see what books are included in each prize package and enter for your chance to win! Both giveaways are open to U.S. residents only and end on January 1.

Serena’s Prize Package

“The Wolf in the Whale” (My Review)

“The Affair of the Mysterious Letter”

“The Good Luck Girls”

“The Wolf of Oren-Yaro” (My Review)

“The Ikessar Falcon” (My Review)

“Once Upon a River” (My Review)

Click here to enter!

Kate’s Prize Package

“White Ivy” by Susie Yang (My Review)

“Follow Me” by Kathleen Barber (My Review)

“The Book of Koli” by M.R. Carey (My Review)

“The Night Swim” by Megan Goldin (My Review)

“The Hollow Ones” by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (My Review)

“Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel (My Review)

Click HERE To Enter!

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