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Thursday, 16 August 2018

CREATURE by Hunter Shea

The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal. But they are not alone. Something is in the woods.


As I've mentioned before, I was lucky enough to get ARC copies of several Flame Tree Press books coming out next month. This is the second one I've read, and I enjoyed it as much as the first.

I love this cover, btw. The colours, the trees and those eyes all capture so much about the story.

Kate and Andrew Woodson are a married couple who have been through a lot.

Kate suffers from an autoimmune disease that has robbed her of a normal life. She's always at home, mostly bedridden and takes a cocktail of medication that knocks her out for hours at a time. At least she has her trusty companion by her side, a beagle called Buttons.

Andrew isn't just her carer, he's also the one who has no choice but to go to work so they can afford her ongoing treatments. But he's a very angry guy, and his anger has already gotten him into plenty of trouble with strangers. At least he has his running to help fight back some of the simmering rage.

When Andrew has enough after Kate undergoes a particularly hard treatment, he surprises her by renting a house in Maine. They'll get to spend a summer by the lake, and enjoy each other's company without the shadows inside their house or the responsibility of work.

But it doesn't take long for the couple to realise there's something in the woods, and it's not going to let them leave...

Wow. I enjoyed this book so much! As soon as I started, it was easy to get comfortable with Kate's voice. I knew I was going to get hooked. And when Andrew's POV was added, I found it hard to put the ARC down.

There's certainly plenty of gory horror, the unfolding mystery begs to be solved, and the slow-burn suspense kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. But at the very core of everything is the love story between an ill wife who wants to offer her husband so much more than her body lets her, and a husband whose devotion knows no bounds.

This is a beautiful, tragic love story with some pretty horrific consequences.

I absolutely adored Kate, Andrew and Buttons. They made such a loving and wonderful family together. So nice that my heart ached for them way before the horror manifests itself. Their banter was one of my favourite things. I loved how they still poked fun and teased each other regardless of all the pain they constantly faced.

It's always refreshing to read a story about a married couple who truly love each other, no matter the obstacles placed before them. Because there's plenty of things trying to get in the way, so much that should've torn them apart but instead made them stronger.

There's just SO much to love about this book, and one of those things is Hunter Shea's writing style. His POVs were engrossing and different from one another, giving the narrative the multiple angles needed for the reader to get the whole story.

Creature is an amazing story about the strength of the human spirit. It's also about survival. But for me, it's mostly a heartbreaking love story between two passionate people who are forced to face some of the worst betrayals life can provide. Ultimately, it's a tale of true sacrifice that made me teary.

I'm glad I already have a few Shea books on my Paperwhite.

Plus, I'm really into the Flame Tree Press books. Bring on the next ARC! 😉



Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Clutter, everywhere!


Yep. That's right.

There's so much clutter. 
Everywhere!

And it's not just one thing.

Here's a list of stuff: stacks of books, piles of notebooks, pens all over the place, homeless toys... 

I'm sure you get the picture.

I posted this on Twitter a few weeks ago:


It might not be as bad now as it was when I posted this, but I'm slowly accepting that for someone who reads and writes as much as I do, there's always going to be a certain level of clutter around.

The key is to make sure it's organised clutter. 😁

The real problem I've been having lately is that my clutter situation has extended to my brain. Not only am I surrounded by stuff--all things that I absolutely love--but my head is full too.

Well, scattered more like it.

Whether it's because of school holidays, the excitement of adventures with hubby while he's on annual leave, wanting to read all the books, the unstable cycle of querying, or TOO many possible ideas, I haven't been able to focus on just one project for several months.

It feels like my brain wants to write ALL of the ideas I have at the same time. And it's driving me crazy!

What I really need to do is to sit down with a notebook & pen to brainstorm. If I pick the loudest story ideas and let my mind wander, run away with the many possibilities, I might (just) be able to settle on some sort of sequence.

I mean, with NaNoWriMo closing in, I could zero-in on a few projects. I could enjoy planning several stories at the same time, and THEN figure out what to concentrate on and when.

At this stage, I'm going to HAVE to do something drastic because I'm totally itching to write. 

Yeah, that sounds like the best option/s.

I'll let you know how I go...

Friday, 10 August 2018

TEN by Gretchen McNeil

Ten
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Usually, I pick a book to start on Monday and give myself the week to finish it. Sometimes I can fit in two, but as long as I finish one, all is right with my reading world. :)

This week I started with a short story, and then didn't know what to read next. So I randomly chose this one because I've had it on my Kindle TBR pile for ages. Plus I'm always in the mood for a teen slasherfest!

Meg and Minnie are best friends, and they're on their way to a house party with the popular kids. The girls want to have some fun, relax for a bit, and Meg wants to forget about the guy she's fallen for. Which is pretty hard when he's right there on the island.

Henry Island is isolated from the mainland, but the fridge is stocked, the house is heated, and the electricity is on.

At first, everything seems cosy and awesome. But when the group find a strange DVD with a creepy enigmatic message, the vibe in the house starts to change.

The next morning, the weather has changed to dark and threatening, and to make things worse, the body count has dropped by one. If they don't work out what's happening, the same will happen to each one of them...

This turned out to be such an addictive read!

I mean, like I said, I'm a sucker for a slasherfest and everything about this book satisfied that craving. Not to mention the mystery at the core of the story: who is the killer and why? Plus the setting is perfect! An idyllic island becomes a nightmarish location when a storm begins overnight.

Seriously, I could feel the cold and rain bouncing right off the screen! I really should stop reading books that make me even colder in the middle of winter. LOL.

Anyway, back to the story.

Another thing I enjoyed was the teenage drama and how well it was threaded into the whodunnit plot. It was a nice surprise to not have guessed the killer. I picked up on the clues along the way, but didn't fully connect it. I love that!

The characters were good too. Some we only meet for a while, but that played in perfectly with the confusion and paranoia. I especially liked Meg and TJ, and not just because they're the main characters. I just liked them as individuals, and together they made a great team. The romantic complications only strengthened how much I liked this couple.

So, I'm really glad I finally read this book. It's everything I hoped it would be. A bit dramatic, somewhat claustrophobic, dipped in one of my fave horror tropes, provided a cool mystery, and definitely had thriller vibes throughout.

Now I can watch the movie...


Monday, 6 August 2018

THE 13TH WARNING by R.L. Stine

The 13th WarningThe 13th Warning by R.L. Stine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up for my Paperwhite the other day and decided to sneak it in this morning, and finished it on one sitting..

Everyone calls Joe Lucky because luck is always on his side. He's also surrounded by the number thirteen. But when two strange old people and a black cat from the Superstition Society come knocking a day before his birthday, and warn him about what will happen if he gets thirteen thirteens by midnight, everything changes...

This was such a fun short story! But it was also creepy as hell, and keeps you on your toes. Poor Lucky goes through a lot on the day he should be the happiest. After all, turning thirteen for someone who loves the number should be an awesome thing.

I liked Lucky's voice. And also liked his sister Lindy, as well as their dog Barker.

Yeah, this was a very creative, fast-paced short story that'll take you by surprise when you reach the end.

And the cover is really cool! :)


Friday, 3 August 2018

THE SIREN AND THE SPECTRE by Jonathan Janz

When David Caine, a celebrated skeptic of the supernatural, is invited by an old friend to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia,” he believes the case will be like any other. But the Alexander House is different, plagued by shadows of the past. And David is haunted too, by the woman he loved, before she took life in sorrow.


I was lucky enough to get an ARC copy of this very awesome book from Flame Tree Press. And since the day I received it, I couldn't wait to get started.

I mean, look at that creepy, lovely cover.

David Caine is a writer. He's also a big skeptic of anything supernatural. He's stayed in some of the most known haunted places, and published books that debunk the ghostly legends.

When an old friend invites him to spend a month in “the most haunted house in Virginia”, he accepts. He's keen to do what he does best. But Alexander House isn't like all the other houses. From the very first night, weird things start to happen, his neighbours aren't the friendliest lot, and when some of the weirdness seems to tie back to his own past, David will find himself in a very strange position...

Wow. This book is certainly something. Something awesome, that is.

I was hooked from the beginning. Not just because I'm a sucker for haunted houses. Not just because I love stories featuring ghosts. But because I got caught up in the intoxicating atmosphere and the building tension. Plus David is one of those characters that really gets under your skin.

Even though the other characters were quick to point out his (many) faults and shitty habits, I found myself liking him more with every chapter. What others seemed to see didn't match the voice telling this super creepy story. David was smart, charming, and cares way too much about others to come across as the selfish person everyone paints him to be.

It soon becomes very obvious that he's not the careless man he used to be. Even choosing to avoid commitment doesn't make him a bad person. It's his choice. 

Yeah, I'm a David fan. :)

I also liked how no matter what he saw and felt, he still tried to convince himself there was another explanation that didn't involve the supernatural. Stubborn skeptic to the end. LOL.

But he's not the only interesting character. I was intrigued by the memory of Anna. Sheriff Harkless was sassy, strong as hell and very likeable. Ralph was a nice old man I didn't trust. Jessica was such a great character, too. She gave David a hard time and had ulterior motives that totally intrigued me. Oh, and Mike Jr. made me laugh.

Don't even get me started on the unsavoury people who inhabit this story. Let's just say that all the good stuff I mentioned above is balanced out by the shittier ones. I mean, I seriously despised the Shelbys.

The Siren and the Spectre is an excellent horror story with a lot of heart. There might be gross and depraved scenes all over the place, but underneath all of the vivid imagery and spooky location, there's a different kind of haunting going on. The kind of haunting that comes with painful memories and forgiveness.

I absolutely loved this suspenseful haunted house story packed with so much more.

After enjoying this one so much, I'm looking forward to checking out the other five ARCs. 😀


Q&A with Kayte Nunn


Welcome!

Today I have a guest on my blog. 

Kayte Nunn is the author of contemporary fiction, and her latest novel also delves into an intriguing historical adventure.

THE BOTANIST'S DAUGHTER is a wonderful mystery story about family, secrets, promises and love. 


The concept for The Botanist's Daughter sounds intriguing, how did the idea develop into a book?

I was walking with my young daughter in the Sydney Botanic Gardens one hot, sultry January afternoon and we came upon the herb garden, where there is a beautiful bronze sundial with carvings of herbs all around it. I put my hand on the warm metal and immediately, as if a bolt of lightning went through me, I had a vision of a young woman in a walled English garden where a similar sundial stood. I walked around the rest of the day in a daze, wondering what this might mean. Over the following months I began to piece her story together.


What made you decide to tell the story in two different POVs during different centuries?

There were a couple of reasons: firstly I love stories that interweave, with their connection only fully known at the end, a mystery from the past is finally solved in the present.

I also love the way tangible objects can really bring history alive. The thought that someone several hundred years ago would have created and used an object that still exists in the present day brings the past to life for me in a way that reading about battles or treaties doesn’t.

I also liked the idea of having two strong female protagonists who would almost have been better suited to each other’s time – one is headstrong and flouts convention, and the other is quieter and more introverted. The book became about courage, and I wanted to depict an obvious, bold act such as a perilous sea voyage to an unknown country, with smaller, but no less valid, actions.


Who came first: Elizabeth or Anna?

Elizabeth – she was the young woman I pictured in the garden, but Anna followed closely behind. However, I chose to write each narrative separately, as I wanted each to be a fully realised story capable of standing on its own.


I love the cover. It's so pretty! Do you feel it represents the story well?

Thank you – I love it too! Yes, I think it tells the reader that it is about a particular flower, and the typeface indicates an earlier era, but the overall effect is still fresh and modern. It looks to me like the kind of book you would love to receive (or give) as a gift.


What's next for your readers?

I am deep in the copyedits for a novel set in the 1950s and the present day, an impossible love story about a forgotten cache of unsent love letters found on a remote British island.


Thank you so much for answering all of my questions. I look forward to reading more of your books.

---

I hope you enjoyed reading the Q&A as much as I did. 

I'd like to thank Kayte for stopping by today and answering all my questions. And a huge thank you goes to Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this lovely book. :)




Thanks for reading!

THE BOTANIST'S DAUGHTER by Kayte Nunn

Discovery. Desire. Deception. A wondrously imagined tale of two female botanists, separated by more than a century, in a race to discover a life-saving flower . . . 

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father's quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family. 

 In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed 'Spring 1886' and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons. 

 In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips . . .



There was something about this blurb that grabbed my attention as soon as I read it. So when Hachette Australia sent me a copy, I got started right away.

Elizabeth lives in Cornwall with her botanist father. Like him, she's very interested in plants and spends a lot of her time drawing and painting them. So when on his deathbed, her father leaves her with a secret mission to locate a botanical wonder, she promises to fulfill it.

To do that, Elizabeth will travel to South America and encounter some of the happiest times of her life. As well as the most dangerous.

Anna recently inherited her grandmother's house, and while renovations are being done the workmen discover a box and sketchbook hidden behind a bookshelf. When she starts delving into the contents, she finds herself enthralled, and wants to solve the mystery of why and who these items belonged to.

To do that, Anna will travel to England and will encounter a lot more than she bargained for...

This is such a great book! As soon as I started, both Anna's and Elizabeth's voices hooked me in. And when I realised they were each headed into their own personal quests, I couldn't stop reading.

Told in the alternating POVs of Elizabeth and Anna, their stories weave around each other perfectly. They might be completely different women living during completely different times, but their sense of adventure is the same.

Elizabeth wants to desperately fulfill the promise she made to her dying father, and goes to great lengths to do it. She's strong, determined, and I loved how she found so many unexpected things during her travels.

Anna is a very lonely woman. She has a gardening business and keeps busy, but a dark event from her past keeps her from pursuing happiness. She's loyal, hardworking and doesn't give herself the chance she deserves. Until a family mystery takes over her every waking moment.

These two characters and stories complement each other in a way that made it very hard to put the book down.

I also really enjoyed how nicely the plant descriptions and botanical terms are naturally written into the narrative. The details help bring an already interesting book to life and enhance the many lush settings.

The Botanist's Daughter is an intriguing story about the strength of women who, for their own reasons, are willing to travel halfway across the world and end up with the same goal. It's also a family mystery that slowly reveals its secrets, just like a blooming flower.

I found myself totally immersed in everything that happened to these characters, and went through so many emotions.

This book was a delightful treat and has found a well-deserved spot on my Keeper Shelf.


The Botanist's Daughter, August 2018, ISBN 9780733639388, Hachette Australia

 
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