Friday, 19 April 2019

THE DARK GAME by Jonathan Janz

Ten writers are selected for a summer-long writing retreat with the most celebrated and reclusive author in the world. Their host is the legendary Roderick Wells. Handsome, enigmatic, and fiendishly talented, Wells promises to teach his pupils about writing, about magic, about the untapped potential that each of them possesses. Most of all, he plans to teach them about the darkness in their hearts. 

The writers think they are signing up for a chance at riches and literary prestige. But they are really entering the twisted imagination of a deranged genius, a lethal contest pitting them against one another in a struggle for their sanity and their lives. They have entered into Roderick Wells’s most brilliant and horrible creation.

Not only is this a Flame Tree Press ARC I've been looking forward to reading, but it's also another Jonathan Janz book. 

I'm quickly becoming a fan of this author, so it was awesome to get stuck into his latest release.

Ten writers are invited to a summer writing retreat hosted by the reclusive, yet well-known author, Roderick Wells. Every writer is at a different stage in their careers, so this competition will give them the chance to fulfill their writing dreams.

As well as get expertise feedback from Wells about the horror story he challenges them to write. They'll also get the chance to mingle with fellow like-minded writers and compete against each other.

However, when people start leaving without saying goodbye, and they all start seeing things that stir different traumas from their pasts, the truth soon starts to dawn on the writers who got themselves caught up in a sick game capable of destroying their reputations. Or worse, ending their lives...

Yikes! This book hooked me in right away, but I took my time because there were so many characters and quite a few intertwined threads, so I wanted to capture the experience fully and not miss a thing.  

I'm glad I did, because this story is awesome. 

This year, I've had a few problems with books packing too many POVs into the narrative but this wasn't one of those. Just like I said after reading The Making of Gabriel Davenport by Beverley Lee, THIS is how you juggle a large cast and make every POV count.

Told in the POV of a bunch of characters, every time someone is on the page, we get to see how their personal story unfolds and their secrets are revealed, as the main story unravels. 

I kept up with all the characters and didn't feel lost at all. Of course I connected with some more than others--Lucy, Rick, Will, Sherilyn--so I kept hoping they would survive. While I hoped some wouldn't--Bryan and Anna annoyed the hell out of me.

This book is many things: well written, intense, creepy, interesting and isn't afraid to delve into the darkest corners of the human mind. While also stumbling into gross and unexpected horror paths.

Oh, and I absolutely LOVED how Jonathan Janz managed to squeeze in so many Easter eggs about his other books! I got such a kick out of that. Not to mention all the literary mentions peppered throughout the narrative.

The Dark Game is an intriguing horror story wrapped up in a mysterious thriller shell and an excellent premise. The mansion and surrounding areas establish the perfect gothic setting. The action starts instantly, and the characters are tested as soon as they arrive at the secret location. 

This book isn't afraid to push the limits of storytelling. And that's a great thing about this author. All his stories are different, but so distinctly his.

This is definitely the kind of book horror nerds will get a kick out off.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

First post this month

Hey! I just realised that aside from reviews, I haven't posted an update this month. 😬 

So, how's April treating you? Mine has been pretty busy. There's a lot of real-life stuff going on this month, and no writing. But I did that on purpose. After unexpectedly writing a novel-sized first draft during March, I decided to give myself a few weeks off.

This was for a few reasons:
  • Firstly, it's always good to take some time  off between projects. Trust me, it's been really cool because the demonic tale I wrote keeps circling my brain. And by the looks of it, after all the things I want to add and enhance, I expect the word count to go up quite a bit during revision. 
  • Secondly, hubby is taking a two-week break. So it's always a good idea not to get stuck into any new writing projects before hubby's annual leave.

Instead, I spent the last few weeks sorting my bookshelves (yes, again, because this is a never-ending thing), my new stationery and reading. I spent quite a bit of time sampling books and DNFing a few, but mostly I've enjoyed a nice mix of short stories and novels.

(Check below if you'd like to read my recent reviews. 😁)

We've also been going to the movies to watch these:
  • US was such a disappointment. It had so much potential, but there were too many plots holes. The more I think about this movie, the less I like it. 
  • PET SEMATARY turned out to be such a great movie! It might have taken the source material and twisted it in a different way, but the heart was there. And the creepy vibes too.
  • SHAZAM! was the biggest shock for me because I LOVED it. I know virtually nothing about this character, but this movie had so much heart, went to unexpected dark places, and turned out to be so much FUN!

We're also in the middle of watching the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which is deliciously wicked and dark. It's full of so many of the things I research for my own stories. I'm loving it and can't wait to see where it ends.

Well, there you have it. This is what I've been up to lately. 

I might be immersing myself in lots of reading and watching, but story ideas and thoughts are constantly circling my mind. And I'm excited about my upcoming projects.

But first, I'm looking forward to enjoying a nice break with hubby. 😊

Have a nice week!

Friday, 12 April 2019


The Secrets of Wishtide
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my bookshelf for a few years. It's the kind of book I kept moving from one place to another, until it got lost in the back of a shelf. But this week I was in the mood for a mystery and this nice and bright cover caught my eye.

Mrs. Laetitia Rodd is fifty-two, a widow, and has an eye for solving mysteries. Even though her husband passed away a few years ago, she still misses him terribly. Solving mysteries and sharing a house with her landlady and companion, Mrs. Bentley, keeps her busy.

Her brother is a criminal barrister, so when he needs a bit of help solving a case, Fred calls on Letty. And the latest case involves her going to Wishtide, the home of the Calderstone family in Lincolnshire. She'll pass herself off as a governess to try and find out as much as she can about the son's love interest.

As Letty follows the clues and gets deeper into the lives of the Calderstones, she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous mess when the bodies start adding up...

OMGosh. This book is SO charming.

As soon as I started, I was captivated by Laetitia Rodd's voice. I was instantly drawn to her cozy life with Mrs. Bentley and liked how well they got along. Their companionship is so pure, and the way they bounce ideas and theories off each other was lovely.

There's a lot to like about this book and the mystery was another thing that totally intrigued me. I loved how Letty starts out investigating what seems to be a straightforward case of parents not being happy with their son's choice for a future wife, and quickly becomes a huge unexpected mess. It was so much fun to follow Letty and Fred as they put the case together.

Set during Victorian times, when women were expected to conduct themselves in the most moral and modest ways, I adored how every single character challenged those expectations. There are women living with men without being married, women with their own wealth and influence, women who are determined to pick their own partners, others happy to live their own lives. 

And then there's Laetitia, who is such an awesome character. She's a detective, is highly intelligent and isn't afraid to show it, makes her own living and has so much heart. Not to mention how refreshing it was to read a story about a woman in her fifties.

The secondary characters were also great. So full of life and with their own quirks, enough to make them spring off the page. I have to say that I loved how strong the sibling connection is, and how keen Fred is to involve Letty in cases without hesitation.

Another great thing about this story is how well the weather and locations are captured. Everything comes across so well, the details as vivid as if the reader is right there.

It's always great to read a book that blends danger, mystery and is also SO MUCH fun!

This book is such a delight. I loved every single moment I spent reading it.

OAK AVENUE by Brandi Reeds

Oak Avenue
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, this is the seventh (and last) Dark Corners Collection short story I've read. And I'm very happy to say that I really enjoyed it. 😊

Before this one, out of the seven stories, I'd only liked two: The Sleep Tight Motel and Hannah-Beast. The other four weren't that great, and certainly weren't the kind of dark I was expecting.

Anyway, let's talk about this one.

Ana Clementine, her husband (Edison) and daughter (Sabrina) have moved back to Edison's hometown. The couple purchased a Victorian house she hopes to renovate. But with her husband being away at work for most of the week, and her not knowing anyone, she's constantly alone.

Finding an ornate door buried in their backyard gives her hope that she'll one day be able to make this rundown house into their own. Yet, as soon as the door is inside the house a chill air starts coming from the attic, Ana starts to hear things, and when her husband is home he acts like a violent jerk...

This story was so creeeeeeepy.

I was initially hooked by the lovely writing, the mysterious setting and the main character's voice. The more I read, the creepier the tale became.

It's part ghost story, part creepy town full of people unwilling to help an 'outsider', and full of anguish as one woman tries to overcome the hurdles placed in front of her. The people in town are assholes, and totally sexist. Only wanting to speak to the man of the house, blah, blah, blah. So I liked how she pushed against that, and was willing to do whatever it took to keep her daughter safe.

There are some really freaky, atmospheric scenes in this book, and the ending was great! I really liked how it ended.

This was a great story to finish the collection with.

I MUST read more books by this author.

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