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Monday, 15 July 2019

I have some news!

Hey!

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw my Saturday tweet featuring a very cool announcement and a new cover.

That's right, I've signed a contract with Demain Publishing for my novelette, BREAKING THE HABIT. I'm SO excited about this upcoming release for several reasons.

This is my first new release in quite a while. Several years, actually. So it's awesome to get the opportunity to have a new story out in the wild for a new audience. So I want to thank Dean M. Drinkel for giving me the chance to share my horror story with the world.

What makes this even more exciting is that this story is going to be a part of the very cool series of stories called Short Sharp Shocks! A series that includes stories written by Barbie Wilde and Calvin Demmer, to name a few.

My story is #27. And it's SO EXCITING!

These are the books that are already available:




The other day, I received the awesome cover, made by Adrian Baldwin. Not only does it match the others in the series, but it also features something that is central to the story.

Here it is:


Isn't this creepy and cool? I love it!

As soon as I have more information--blurb, pre-order link, etc--I'll be sure to post about it here. But for now, I'm super excited and had to write a little something to share this awesome news.

Thanks for checking in.

Have a great week! 🌞

Friday, 5 July 2019

ESIO TROT by Roald Dahl

Esio Trot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last week, hubby surprised me with a Roald Dahl box set and this was one of the books included. The cover's cute, the blurb intrigued me and it's quite short, so I picked it up today and read it in one sitting.

Mr Hoppy is a lonely man who lives in a concrete building above the widow Mrs Silver. He's secretly in love with her but she's only got eyes for her pet tortoise, Alfie.

The day Mrs Silver mentions to him that she wishes Alfie would grow bigger, a nefarious plan takes shape in Mr Hoppy's mind...

OMG. This book is pretty much an allegory for loneliness, and what an obsessed man is willing to do to get what he wants. It's not a nice thing and it's a shame he didn't get busted, but sometimes good people do shitty things. Sometimes, even the simplest of manipulations are harmful. And this guy, he wanted a particular someone so badly he was prepared to be terrible.

Mr Hoppy's plan to make Mrs Silver recite a magic spell of sorts so he can replace Alfie with one of the many tortoises he purchases is truly awful. It's conniving and mean.

Not to mention how shitty it is that Mrs Silver doesn't even notice poor Alfie's gone. BTW, I loved Alfie. He was adorable! During the whole time, I couldn't wait to find out what happened to him, and I was glad to see he had his own ending.

I also think it's important to read the Author's Note at the very beginning because after finishing the story, it puts everything into perspective.

This book might not be full of loveable characters, but I still enjoyed it. It's clever, in a very twisted way. Seriously, it's quite messed up when you think about it...



Thursday, 4 July 2019

GLOW #1 by Tini Howard & Hannah Templer

GLOW #1GLOW #1 by Tini Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Netflix show GLOW, so when I found out there was a comic book series, I had to check out the first issue.

The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling think they've got a weekend off, but Sam ruins their plans by announcing he's signed them up for the Reseda Wrestlefest. And now, they all have to come up with creative ways to fund the trip...

Like the show, this was a lot of fun. Actually, it pretty much focuses on the lighter and fun aspects, instead of the deeper underlining serious and dramatic stories the show does so well. And hey, I'm totally okay with that.

The main story focuses on getting the girls to the actual event, while Carmen freaks out at the thought of not being taken seriously by other wrestlers. But once they get there, the ladies find out they've got something else to worry about--unexpected competition.

I also thought the artwork perfectly captured the characters, their personalities and the colours are all 80s, baby. It's all so pretty and bright.

This is really cool, and I definitely want to read more. Also, I can't wait for the third season!


Wednesday, 3 July 2019

THE MIND'S PLAGUE & OTHER BITES OF BRUTALITY by Morgan K Tanner

Three friends search for an infamous internet video of an urban legend with devastating consequences; a passionate drummer joins the band of his dreams, or perhaps his nightmares; a man tries to find fame in a world where the mundane call the shots; and a grieving father loses his grip on reality. 

 These ten stories delve into a world of darkness and suffering, where the terrors are more vivid than they may appear. Blood is spilt, minds are destroyed, as madness ultimately reigns victorious


Earlier this year I received a copy of An Army of Skin from this great author, and I loved it. So when he sent me an eARC of his short story collection, I couldn't wait to get stuck into it. 

I mean, as soon as I saw the old-school horror cover and read the title, I knew whatever awaited me within these pages would not be for the weak of stomach or heart. 

And I was totally ready!


THE MIND'S PLAGUE:

Three friends get together during a rare day off from school hoping to have a bit of fun. Instead, they find a boring DVD stash and start drinking beer. When one of them suggests they try to find a creepy video online, another starts feeling weird... 

I really enjoyed this messed up little tale. I'm a sucker for urban legends, so one that deals with something this creepy was right up my alley. 


AN ADHORRENT ART:

A weird man walks along the streets of the town he claims to have created using human bodies... 

Yikes. This was quite macabre and certainly not for anyone with a weak stomach. The descriptions of the corruptive bodily creations are so vivid the scenes featuring streets and buildings played inside my head like a horrendous movie. 


FOR DAVID:

A celebrity stalker shadows every move of the actor David Brannigan, but can't seem to catch him anywhere... 

OMFG. 

This story takes the stalker trope to a whole new level of fucked up. And by that I mean that it seems like a straightforward, maybe even familiar, situation about an obsessed fan. Until it isn't. Until the trippy narrative washes over you and makes you very aware of what's really going on. 

And then, everything you just read clicks into horrid place. 

It's SO very twisted and the writing in this is outstanding.


CONFLAGRATION DESECRATION:

Steve is a drummer looking for a band to join. He can't believe his luck when he gets an instant audition... 

That's all I'm going to say about this story because I don't want to spoil anything. Seriously, the less you know the more you'll enjoy it. 

Because seriously, this story blew me away. Not just because I liked the main character. Not just because the plot is so disturbing it's brilliant, but because the writing was outstanding. So crisp in the description, that the words made music play in my ears. 

I seriously LOVED this one! 


THE PRICE OF FAME:

All he wants is to have his own corner of fame in this very crowded online market. But he doesn't want it handed to him. He's going to earn it, with the flesh of the fake celebrity...

This was a clever story about the easy come, easy go nature of fame in the 21st century. Portrayed in the most brutal way possible, it examines how shallow and flimsy our celebrity society has become. 

Although this is definitely not for the squeamish, I enjoyed the very dark humorous undertones about the whole thing. It almost serves as a gory tale with a moral at the end, a PSA announcement for the sheep mentality we see WAY too often nowadays. The way people are 'devoted' to these online personalities not because they like or respect them, but in hopes of being noticed themselves. 

It's a silly endless cycle perfectly captured in this cunning allegory. 

Man, that narrator was really something! His reaction to the way his every grotesque action got the exact opposite response he wanted, totally cracked me up. I'm still chuckling. 


RELUCTANT BLOODLUST:

Ugh isn't having a good day. After all, he's now a zombie, can't remember his former life and hates the leader of his group... 

What a cool and interesting zombie tale with a gruesome and melancholy twist ending. This story was short and sweet, as well as gross and fun. Hit all the right zombie notes. 

I like me a nice slice of zombie pie every now and then.


THIEVES:

Two guys hoping for an easy score inside the home of a disabled man get much more than they bargained for... 

Ha! This one was definitely a case of you get what you deserve if you break into someone's house hoping to take advantage of them. Of course, these situations aren't usually met with this kind of horror, but it was well worth reading! 


GRIEVING:

A grieving father's guilt after losing his daughter drives him to do the unthinkable. Except, what Gary actually ends up doing is worse than what he leads you to believe... 

Yikes. What starts out as a tormented father who simply can't let go of his daughter after she dies, slowly becomes so much worse. 

This guy's such an unreliable narrator, but mostly because of his delusions. And the twist doesn't come until The End. 

Well played.


AS GOOD AS DEAD:

When Peter wakes up next to his wife, he's got a headache and doesn't remember a damn thing about the night before. So he gets on with his day, and when he realises what really happened, he'll wish he was still asleep... 

Short and gross is probably the best way to describe this one. It's like a really bad headache personified and a man's worst nightmare all rolled into one uncomfortable situation. 😳


ROOM 405:

Philip's nightmare is full of demons chasing him, and he soon finds out that chanting isn't the only thing that follows him out once he wakes up... 

Oh, I really liked this one! After all, it features one of my fave ghost story tropes. The confusion and tension carries forth from beginning to end, adding some next-level creepiness to the experience. 

This one's a super spooky story.


Well, what can I say about these ten fantastic stories? I can tell you that although I had different levels of appreciation for each one, I enjoyed the hell out of ALL of them.

If you enjoy horror dripping with dark humour, characters with some pretty heavy baggage, real-life situations twisted into the grotesque until they barely resemble anything coherent and are as gross as they are brilliant, then you'll love these.

I sure did. I was totally in the mood for this book of weird and wondrous brutalities.

Asides from the actual characters and the variety of plots and twisty tropes, the writing is SO good. Strong and bloody imagery like the ones contained within these pages just wouldn't work if the words piecing all the fragments together wasn't vivid and awesome.

I've got nothing but good things to say about the horrors threatening to bleed out of this book. Can't wait to see what the author comes up with next.

This wicked short story collection will be available in August, and I reckon you should definitely check it out!


Friday, 28 June 2019

LOCAL GIRLS by Alice Hoffman

Local Girls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yesterday afternoon, I grabbed this book from my thrift-store-finds-TBR pile with the intention of getting a sample. But Alice Hoffman's writing is so lovely and magical that I instantly got swept away in the story.

By the time I put the book down, I'd read over 70 pages. And this morning, I sat down to read a bit more and ended up finishing the rest.

Gretel Samuelson lives in Franconia with her family. Her absent father is always arguing with her unappreciated mother. Her older brother is so intelligent all he cares about is school. But when her father eventually leaves, her mother gets depressed and eventually becomes ill, and her brother stops caring about anything.

At least Gretel has her best friend Jill by her side, but as time moves along even that dynamic changes. And eventually everything in Gretel's life starts crumbling around her...

Wow. What a story!

It's fast-paced and emotional, starts when Gretel is a kid and takes her through her teen years and beyond. It's the kind of story that is grounded in real life because it focuses on the hardship of people's everyday lives, while throwing a little magic realism into the mix.

And it's done so effortlessly that once you start, you can't put the book down because you have to find out where it's going, where it's going to lead, and how it's going to end.

The issues Gretel's tale deals with are heavy: divorce, depression, cancer, mental illness, teen pregnancy, addiction and death. It's a total tragedy, because the awful things Gretel and her family deal with are dark and real. Stuff people suffer through every single day of their lives. Just like in real life, there's no cheating here, the consequences are real and devastating.

Yet, it's still such a wonderful book to read. In spite--or maybe because--of the trials Gretel goes through, that she manages to hold onto her strength means so much more in the end.

This is a lovely, but often sad, story about family, love, friendship and the way different people deal with hardships.

Also, there are several POV shifts that had the potential to be jarring, but totally worked at showing what other characters were going through.

Alice Hoffman is an amazing author, and the way she strings words together takes the reader on an emotional and unstable ride that will break your heart, make you cry and smile all at the same time.

I loved this!


Tuesday, 25 June 2019

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not joking when I say it's about time I FINALLY read this book.

It's hard to believe that someone who loves vampires as much as I do still hadn't read DRACULA until now. But it's true, this was my first time.

I've had a paperback copy of this book since I first read FRANKENSTEIN back in high school. Yet, I kept putting it off. Or forgot about it. Or assumed the movie was enough. But I was wrong.

As great as the movie was, you have to read the book to really learn why Bram Stoker's tale is so amazing that we're still talking about it now.

I don't think I need to go into too much detail about the plot since we all know how the simple tale of Count Dracula hosting a young solicitor's clerk, who is to help him with some business affairs in London, leads Jonathan Harker to a super creepy castle in Transylvania and starts a chain reaction filled with innocence lost, lots of blood, and an oddball team determined to end an ancient evil...

Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, there's SO MUCH story here. So many weird and wonderful things. The tense atmosphere shadows the narrative all the way through. A bunch of very likeable characters. True friendships forged easily and honestly. And a lot of intelligence, too. Some which comes from the woman who finds herself caught in the middle of everything.

Mina Harker is a character I liked from the moment she appeared on the page. Her voice is gentle and lady-like, yet raw and honest. She's happy in her roles as friend to Lucy and wife to Jonathan, yet is full of ideas and has a logical mind that is hard to ignore. Even when the men try to keep her out of the trouble they're all facing--because they want to protect her--it soon becomes obvious that they need her.

I really liked ALL the characters: Jonathan because he's nice, hard-working, reasonable and truly loves Mina. Dr. John Seward because he's an interesting fellow who runs an asylum, yet doesn't seem to conduct cruel experiments. Professor Abraham Van Helsing because he's so  clever, open-minded and gives the best monologues. Arthur Holmwood (aka Lord Goldalming) because his devotion to Lucy continues even after her death. Quincey Morris because he's an interesting American and a valued member of an unlikely team.

And what I liked best about all these men is how they stay friends even after being in direct competition. There's no toxic masculinity here, or the need for pissing contests. It's so cool how they're not afraid to show emotion and comfort each other without a second thought. And how strong their group is because of their determination to defeat a common foe.

I found the unity between these characters to be so refreshing. No one was fighting, or trying to make someone else look bad. These male characters were SO GOOD! So human.

The way the story is told totally worked for me. There are journal entries, letters and telegrams, from a bunch of different POVs. And everyone shows their diaries so freely, to help put all the clues together!

As for Dracula, I'm glad he was a malicious shape-shifting monster with only one thing on his mind. He was mysterious and awful, sneaky and a bitch to defeat. Not to mention that I thought the three Brides were creepy af.

I would love to read stories about what these freaky ladies got up to while the Count was away chasing other girls--cough--I mean, other business ventures.

Oh, and after everything that happened, I loved that ending note.

It might have taken me a while to get to this book, but as they say: better late than never. And I'm so glad I finally read it because I LOVED every minute of this long and detailed book.



Monday, 17 June 2019

MATILDA by Roald Dahl

Matilda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book was a pleasure I must repeat some other time in the future. I love Roald Dahl, and this book is TOTALLY amazing in the quirkiest most magical way.

Matilda Wormwood is a little girl with a family that doesn't deserve her. Her father is a shonky car salesman and her mother is a self-involved fool. Her brother is pretty much invisible. None of them have time for the tiny girl and treat her so badly she prefers to spend time alone.

Did I mention that she's a genius? Yep. She teaches herself how to read by going to the library, and even learns maths on her own. So, by the time she starts school, she's already ahead of the other kids. And that's when Miss Honey takes notice of her brilliance.

But Headmistress Trunchbull won't hear of it. She's a tough meanie who hates kids and constantly insults and abuses them. Everyone is scared of the beast of a woman.

She didn't count on Matilda, though...

Like I said above, this book is something special. Not only is it funny and an interesting story I was totally into, but I adored Matilda. She's so cute and in spite of her terrible parents, she's smart and kind and thoughtful. A wonderful character to read about.

And she loves reading!

I seriously LOVED every minute of this book.

Of course I knew I would, Roald Dahl was an amazing storyteller who could spin excellent stories featuring some truly vile characters, but always balanced them out with terrific ones you find yourself cheering on. And there's always just a hint of magic that enhances the plot.

Plus it was super fun and features some cool Matilda pranks. 😄

The illustrations throughout the book are so simple, but perfect in every way. They really enhance the book and remind me of the Dahl books I read when I was kid.

I LOVE THIS BOOK!


Sunday, 16 June 2019

Random Reading Thoughts

Hey, how are you today?

It's been a while since I posted anything, so I thought I might talk about the recent change in my reading habits.

For the first time in years, I don't have any ARCs or review books left on my TBR pile.

This might not sound like a big thing but for the last ten years, I've been reviewing books for several publishers. And because of that, I kept pushing review books to the top of my TBR pile.

Getting the chance to read books before they're released is an amazing opportunity and I loved doing it. The downside is that all my other books took a backseat. I mean, there's only so many hours in the day. 😵

Being a HUGE reader and a bibliophile means that I buy books all the time. A LOT OF BOOKS. From online stores, bookstores, Kindle store, Kobo store and a variety of thrift stores. And I buy them because I want to read them, but I kept running out of time.

Now, I find myself in a strange--yet freeing--place. I can finally read whatever I want, whenever I want. And I've been taking full advantage of this. I'm digging back into my Paperwhite and starting to go through my many thrift store finds. And it's GREAT!

Another unexpected thing is that I'm also more relaxed about when I read. As well as not feeling as bad about DNFing books. 

Maybe now I'll also get the chance to catch up on my fave series and finish off the ones that are complete.

BUT, don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean I won't review books for authors and publishers in the future. Of course I will. It just means that I won't be as swamped as I was before.

Happy reading! 😁📚


Thursday, 13 June 2019

MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust

Money Shot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I've had my eye on for a while, so I was really excited when it was included in the Hard Case Crime Humble Bundle.

Angel Dare is a former porn star with an attitude and a self-critical eye. She also runs her own agency, taking care of younger girls in the industry. The day one of her oldest friends asks her to make one last movie with the hottest male adult star at the moment, she reluctantly agrees.

But when she gets to the location, Angel finds herself in a bad situation. One that nearly gets her killed, and forces her to become a fugitive...

Wow. This book really kicks you where it hurts. It's raw and gritty, violent and fast. It's also full of awful untrustworthy characters with vile intentions.

Angel is not one of those. I loved her attitude! Enjoyed the hell out of spending time with her as she goes from almost-dead to determined to get revenge, before becoming a total kick-ass vigilante.

The way she presents the hardcore and often ugly world of adult entertainment is interesting. When she finds herself falling down the disgusting world of sex trafficking and slaves, things get uncomfortable. The deeper she digs while trying to find out who tried to kill her and why, the darker things get.

And that's another awesome thing I liked about this story. Angel wants revenge, and when she gets the chance she doesn't back down. She doesn't chicken out, follows through with her plan and is quite creative with her actions.

Faust's writing style was very cool. Angel's voice is clear, intriguing and provided such a riveting story that when I got to the end, I wanted there to be more.

This is a great action-packed book that at times made me feel dirty and appalled, but kept me glued all the way through. It's too bad about Malloy, I liked him because he was handy.

I really need to read the next one.


Wednesday, 5 June 2019

DOGGEM by John F Leonard

Doggem: A Tale of Toy Dogs and Dark Deeds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few months ago I read a very creepy short story written by this author, so I was looking forward to checking this one out too.

Doggem is the class toy. A stuffed dog that gets passed around the class so the teacher can assess the kids in her class, as well as the parent involvement.

When George gets to take Doggem home for the holidays, his parents don't seem to care. They're too wrapped up in the visit they're planning to Grandma's house. And when they get there, something awful looms in the woods around the cottage...

That was such a great story!

I have to admit, when I first started reading, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it because the main character was wandering all over the place. But, of course he would--he's a toy!

Anyway, it didn't take long for me to get sucked into the story because Doggem's voice became virtually impossible to shake. The story he witnesses while in the care of George was quite unexpected. Wow! Didn't expect it to go there. Didn't think this toy would experience something so... dark.

Trust me, I'm not just talking about the end to George's family drama, I'm also talking about where Doggem ends up. It's almost like two endings in one story, which totally fits because the plushie is like a fly on the wall watching everything unfold.

Yep. I really enjoyed this! And it also reminded me of the time my daughter actually did this at school. A strange experiment, but one that seems to work. LOL.

This is a shortie worth reading.


Tuesday, 4 June 2019

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK by Joan Lindsay

Picnic at Hanging Rock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock is an Australian classic I've wanted to read for ages. After watching the TV show last year and picking up three different editions of the book, I decided it was time to FINALLY read this beauty.

It's Valentine's Day, in the year 1900, when a group of girls attending the Appleyard College for Young Ladies go on an excursion to the nearby Hanging Rock. Hanging Rock is a rock formation found deep in the Victorian bush, and seems like the perfect spot to visit on this lovely summer day.

When four of the girls go for a walk and only one returns in hysterics, a teacher vanishes too. The mystery of what happened on that day becomes the only thing anyone can talk about.

And then another returns...

I'm SO glad I finally read this eerie little book.

Not only is the mystery at the core of the story super addictive and kept me glued to the pages, but the whole experience felt like walking through a surreal nightmare. Every word adds to the unsettling suspense, spreading a cloud of darkness that keeps expanding.

That's why I found the writing style perfect for this story. It's told in third-person omniscient POV, taking the reader from one character to another very quickly, as well as revealing past and present tidbits along the way. Telling the story in this way usually bugs me, but not this time. Dealing with the narrative in this way helped keep the intrigue going, as well as include the many characters featured in order to get the full scope of the story. It also made the setting and surroundings feel as strong and important as the characters.

Although the girls who disappeared were popular seniors, the actual plot revolves around what happens to everyone else--teachers, students, staff--at the boarding school they attended. It spans to include the last guy to see them that day, and how his life is affected. And even the policemen conducting the investigation.

Sarah's story is so sad. I felt bad for her because her life is affected in the worst way possible. There were so many things she didn't know, especially the people who actually cared about her and were willing to help. Instead, she gets stuck with the awful headmistress. The flower imagery surrounding this poor child was tragically beautiful.

The French teacher, Mademoiselle de Poitiers, was another character I really liked. I was totally invested in her journey and her part in everything was great.

There are so many things to love about this story, and one of my most favourite things was the gothic atmosphere that drips off every page. Not to mention how well the author captured the bush, the climate and how harsh Australia's landscape can be. I felt like I was there with the characters, every step of the way.

As for the ambiguous ending, it TOTALLY worked for me. Not just because it was a clever way to end the tale, but also because I already had my own theory and was hppy with what I read.

Oh, and after finishing the book I went back to the foreword, which was full of spoilery stuff. Plus I also found out about the original Chp 18, which explained what happened to the girls. I thought it was cool.

Either way, I enjoyed this a lot.


Sunday, 2 June 2019

THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT by Kayte Nunn

1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther's prison but soon becomes her refuge. 

2018. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient. 

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.


Last year I read and really enjoyed The Botanist's Daughter, so of course I was interested in checking out this author's latest release.

The location might confuse her, but Esther Durrant thinks she's heading out for a nice holiday with her husband. After the heartache she's been through, she's glad for the break. But soon after arriving at the isolated island, she realises something isn't right.

Rachel Parker is an Australian marine scientist who travels all over the world. She doesn't like spending too much time in one place and doesn't do attachments, so her job is perfect. When her latest assignment leads her to an island off the Cornish coast, she discovers a lot more than clams.

Eve lives in London with her grandmother and is helping to take care of her after a bad fall that puts the otherwise strong and independent elderly woman on bedrest. But she's also helping her write a book about her old mountaineering days.

When Rachel finds some letters written by Esther, they lead her to Eve... 

Well, that was a nice, well-written novel. 

Told in the alternating POV of Esther--as she suffers through a traumatic ordeal--Rachel--as she finds herself in new cold and wet surroundings--and Eve--as she focuses on helping her grandmother while struggling to find her own place in the world. Each woman's story unfolds at their own pace, but complements one another until all the seemingly unconnected pieces fall into place.

My favourite story was Esther's. She was a woman suffering through a terrible loss during a time in history when women were expected to be a certain way no matter what. Even after having the best of intentions, the man she trusted most in her life betrayed her with his secrets and lies. And inadvertently introduces Esther to a passion she wouldn't have discovered otherwise. Or the heartbreak that led her to.

While I mostly enjoyed Rachel's POV because of her independence and peculiar profession, I felt that Eve's and Richard's somewhat pulled me out of the story, and I looked forward to going back to Esther. To be honest, the excess in POVs kept me from fully immersing myself into the story as deeply as I'd hoped.

I have to admit, that while I did enjoy this book overall, I personally didn't feel the same connection and wasn't charmed in the same intoxicating way I was by The Botanist's Daughter. But that's okay, because this is an entirely different story.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is an interesting tale about the effect women's lives have on the generations that follow. About how their legacies echo into the future, and what happens when secrets rise to the surface. 

It also showcases the differences between modern women and the ones who came before. The ones treated like property, and the impossible, heartbreaking choices they had to make just to keep the peace.

These stories are important, and should be shared.


The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant, June 2019, ISBN 9780733639401, Hachette Australia

Thursday, 30 May 2019

CHOP SHOP by Andrew Post

 
Amber Hawthorne and Jolene Morris, roommates and business partners at the Hawthorne Funeral Home, are drowning in debt. Because both young women have trouble keeping their partying habits in line, they start selling body parts on the black market to keep their business alive – and their new buyers seem friendly and trustworthy enough at first. That is until the dead gangster they've recently parted up turns out to have been full of disease. Now Amber and Jolene's buyers want something else to make up for lost profits, leaving the two undertakers to learn sometimes running your own business can cost you an arm and a leg. Literally.


This is the last Flame Tree Press ARC left on my pile, so I was really looking foward to checking it out. As soon as I started, I was dragged right into the insane activity.

Frank used to be a doctor before he spent time in jail. Now he's still a doctor, but works out of his shabby home and patches up people skirting the more dangerous underbelly of society.

Jolene and Amber run a funeral home, but between their partying and loose business practices, they're struggling to keep the business afloat. So, as soon as a nefarious offer comes their way, they take a chance.

After the doctor and the undertakers cross paths, their lives take an awful turn that can only lead to a whole bunch of bloody trouble...

Oh my. This book! Where do I start? There's so much to unpack. So much to process. I know this is a story I will think about quite a bit in the future. It's got that sticky kind of effect that leaves residue behind that's impossible to wash away.

Most of this felt like a twisted comedy of errors. It's like a cross between the Tarantino violence level and the hilarity of Stephanie Plum, with a good dose of Jerry Springer. On steroids. There's a LOT of violence, balanced out with plenty of dark humour and a bunch of screwed up over the top situations. 

So many insane things happen in this story and escalate so quickly, I almost got whiplash a few times.

One of my favourite aspects was how many times this story full of criminals and worst kind of misfits--dealers, mobsters, traffickers--crossed into the black comedy of errors territory. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse or crazier, they totally did.

Yet, no matter how bizarre or out of control everything got, it all worked. And I think that's because this story was so well written. I mean, the characters in this tale of depravity are all awful, but I was engrossed in their wretched lives, and wanted to follow them to the end.

Chop Shop turned out to be an interesting, hilarious crime novel guaranteed to please anyone interested in a fast-paced story full of fumbling characters with a good dose of despicable. It's gory, focuses on heavy adult content, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. Not to mention that every chapter raises the stakes, and leads to a morbid, hopeless, yet strangely satisfying ending that fits perfectly.

I seriously enjoyed the hell out of every moment I spent reading this crazy little violent book.

You should check it out!



Monday, 27 May 2019

Restless, but Mindful

That's right. 

As a result of my (totally) cluttered brain, this month has been one big ball of restless-minded energy. Yet, I've still managed to concentrate long enough to read quite a bit and haven't stopped thinking about my future WIPs.

But first, how has this May be treating you? Are you focused, or is your mind wandering as well? Did you get much done?

We went to watch the latest JOHN WICK movie, and it was a lot of violent fun. What's there not to like in a world full of assassins that keeps expanding, has plenty of adorable doggies and Keanu Reeves? I know it's cool to like him now, but I've been a Keanu fan since I was a teenager. LOL. Oh, and how could I not mention the brutal scene in the library?!

THAT alone is worth the price of admission. I've always thought big, heavy tomes could be used as weapons... but John Wick takes this concept to the next level! It's almost poetic. 😯

So, I mentioned reading. These are the stories I've lost myself in during the last few weeks:

I'm currently reading my last Flame Tree Press ARC, which also happens to be the final review book left on my TBR pile. 😲

I have to admit that I'm actually looking forward to getting back the freedom to read whatever the hell I want, whenever I feel like it. Don't get me wrong, I love reading review books and am super grateful for getting the chance to do so, but sometimes you just need a break, you know?

I have a lot of thoughts on the subject. Maybe this is something I'll blog more about another time. Yeah. I think I will.

Anyway, we've been doing plenty of thrifting, bargain hunting and walking. Of course! It's been a month full of stuff and feels like it's going way too fast.

Things are changing in our lives at the moment. For starters, our daughter is leaving the country soon. So, yeah, there are some pretty heavy changes going on around here right now.

Feels like we're moving into a new phase.

Well, that's it for now.

Have a great week! 😃

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

STIRRING THE SHEETS by Chad Lutzke

Stirring the Sheets
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While sorting through my Paperwhite the other night, I stumbled upon this novella and decided to check it out. I mean, it sounded interesting, the cover is super creepy, and I've heard great things about this author.

Emmett works in a funeral home, so he's no stranger to death. However, when he loses his wife of almost 50 years, he finds himself drowning in grief, loneliness and an endless reel of memories.

The day the body of a random woman that reminds him of a younger version of his dead wife crosses his path, he does the unthinkable...

I wasn't sure what to expect from this novella. I thought it might turn out to be a twisted, bloody mess. Or turn into some sort of necro-loving nightmare. Instead, it was a melancholy story about a man who has helped others move on after death, trying to come to terms with his own loss. And failing at every step.

It's about how the human mind and spirit betrays him when he's trying to find his way out of the dark. And how the combination of doing something totally insane--and let's be honest, immoral--and finally opening up to the real show of friendship being offered to him, might be the perfect formula to, maybe not cure him, but lead him in the right direction towards living again.

This is such a well-written story that dragged me in deep, until I felt every single emotion Emmett did. His pain bounces off the pages, and his daily routine of nothingness only adds to the sombre experience. Yet, this wasn't a depressing or bleak read, it was cathartic.

It was also a quiet horror tale that I'm glad I finally read. Oh, and I will definitely have to read more of Lutzke's books.


Sunday, 19 May 2019

GHOST MINE by Hunter Shea

Deep in a Wyoming mine, hell awaits. Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can't refuse by President Teddy Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla abound. The only problem - those who go seeking their fortune never return. Along with his constant companion, Teta, a hired gun with a thirst for adventure, Nat travels to a barren land where even animals dare not tread. Black-eyed children, strange lights and ferocious wild men venture from the deep, dark ghost mine...as well as a sinister force hungry for fresh souls.


When I picked up this Flame Tree Press ARC a few days ago, I was instantly hooked and didn't want to put it down. But really, I shouldn't be surprised because last year I absolutely LOVED Hunter Shea's book, Creature.

Anyway, let's talk about this one.

When President Roosevelt calls on his friend to solve a mystery of what happened to his men in the middle of nowhere, Nat agrees to take on the case. With his good friend Teta by his side, they board a train and leave New York.

Together, these tough guys travel halfway across the country to investigate what happened in Hecla, a mining town that's now become a ghost town. A place that feels wrong, turns out to be creepy as hell, and is hiding a very deep and dark secret inside the abandoned mines...

Wow. This is one awesome and totally addictive book! It was hard to put down because everything that happened was totally unexpected.

I also thought it was such a well-written book, full of sympathetic and interesting characters that I had a blast following across the rough terrain of a changing world. I really enjoyed how in this story, the Wild West was slowly being overshadowed by trains, automobiles and a changing landscape.

Not only is Nat's voice compelling and totally engrossing, but Teta (his name cracked me up every single time!) was also such a cool, kick-ass character. A sidekick with as much personality as the main character. Their past together provided an excellent background, and their strong friendship was even better. As for Selma, well, she's got enough spunk and attitude to match both of them. I really liked her.

I also didn't expect to like Matthias and Angus as much as I did. They added to the very dark mythology our trio find themselves drowning in.

I'm not kidding when I say I enjoyed the hell out of every moment I spent reading this fantastic book. Just like Dust Devils, I don't think I've ever had this much fun reading about cowboys. I think horror westerns really work for me. 🤠

Ghost Mine turned out to be an incredibly insane, super creepy and amazingly fun horror adventure with some really menacing creatures. The action kept coming almost as quickly as the weird. The supernatural mystery at the heart of the story is enough to keep anyone who dares start this book glued to the pages, and you'll never guess where it's going because it's so unpredictable.

There's a certain surreal and nightmarish atmosphere in this story that I thought was outstanding, and kept everything under an eerie blanket of WTF. There's SO MUCH thrown into this book and every single outlandish piece fits together to keep the story well-oiled and moving right along.

I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to anyone and everyone who enjoys a quirky, action-packed tale full of memorable characters you'll miss after finishing the last page.

Seriously, check it out!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

RED AS BLOOD AND WHITE AS BONE by Theodora Goss

Red as Blood and White as Bone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this story online yesterday and because the title is so cool and the cover is beautiful, today I decided to read it.

Klara is a young girl who works in the kitchen of a castle. She's also obsessed with fairy tales and is convinced she's going to someday stumble into one. Not as the main player, but one who is in the background.

When a naked woman stumbles into the kitchen one rainy day, Klara's convinced this stranger is a princess. So she decides to help her, with surprising results...

That's about as much as I'll reveal about the plot, because this is a story worth reading. It's a fairy tale in its own right. It's the story of a girl considered so unimportant she's virtually invisible, and shows how this revelation shapes her life and turns her into a courageous woman.

I loved Klara. She was so pure and even though her days were filled with endless chores, she was so full of life. And the way she adored fairy tales was absolutely charming. It was almost as if she expected to find one around every corner.

Oh, and you know what was absolutely awesome too? That this story takes place before WWII and beyond. It's so refreshing to read such a magical fairy tale set in 20th-century Europe. Loved that!

The ending was also very cool, because it leads right back to one of my fave creatures of myth.

BTW, you can read this awesome story for free right HERE.


GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Good Omens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to reading this book before the show hits, so finding an old paperback copy in a local thrift store was perfect. And when I started reading, I was drawn into the story right away.

Crowley and Aziraphale are an interesting pair. A demon who likes to speed down city roads. An angel who loves old, rare books. Together, they decide to stop Armageddon. After all, they did have a part in the Antichrist mix-up. 😬

Eleven years later, the Antichrist who is supposed to bring on the End of Times might not be the kid they've been keeping tabs on...

Okay. Where do I start with this book? Sadly, I didn't love it. I liked it and found some situations amusing, but I didn't think it was hilarious. Actually, I hardly laughed.

I also thought there were too many irrelevant POVs sprinkled with the already HUGE cast of characters. And unfortunately, after reaching the halfway mark, I found myself doing quite a bit of skimming. Without missing out on anything important. 😧

I don't know what happened but once I reached the halfway mark, the pace started to slow. Suddenly, there were too many unnecessary details and I started getting sleepy whenever I sat down to read.

And OMG, the footnotes were driving me nuts! I'm not crazy about footnotes in fiction. Actually, it's a pet peeve of mine. I can't stand them. A few are okay, but some of these were half a page long and continued onto the next page. That's a nope from me. They pull me out of the story, ruin the flow of my reading enjoyment.

So, this didn't help.

Now the good stuff: the story is quirky and highly imaginative, the characters are oddballs, and I enjoyed the clever way religious tales are incorporated into a 20th century setting. I also liked the way witches and witch hunters are added to the mix.

My favourite character was Crowley. Every time he was on the page, the story brightened. He was by far the most interesting guy in the book. And the way he got along with Aziraphale was realy cool, too.

There's a lot of cool stuff thrown into the book, but overall it didn't sweep me away. And that's the other thing, parts of this book were absolutely wonderful, while others were a bore and a total slog to get through.

Still looking forward to checking out the show. I reckon David Tennant will make a wicked Crowley.


Sunday, 12 May 2019

DUST DEVILS by Jonathan Janz

When traveling actors recruited his wife for a plum role, Cody Wilson had no idea they would murder her. Twelve-year-old Willet Black was just as devastated the night the fiends slaughtered everyone he loved. Now Cody and Willet are bent on revenge, but neither of them suspects what they’re really up against. 

 For the actors are vampires. Their thirst for human blood is insatiable. Even if word of their atrocities were to spread, it would take an army to oppose them. But it is 1885 in the wilds of New Mexico, and there is no help for Cody and Willet. The two must battle the vampires—alone—or die trying.


So, this is my fifth Jonathan Janz book this year. You'd think that I would be over reading his books, but you'd be wrong. I like how he tackles different horror subgenres, and this time we're stepping in vampire territory.

After finishing this one, I don't have any Flame Tree Press ARCs by Janz left in my pile. Actually, there's only one of his new releases I haven't read--his take on werewolves. I'll have to get myself a copy of WOLF LAND one of these days.

Anyway, let's talk about this Wild West vamp romp.

Cody Wilson is a simple guy who wanted to live a comfortable life on the ranch with his lovely wife. But Angela always wanted more. When a mysterious troupe of actors storms into town and offer her a role in their play, she accepts instantly.

And so begins the start of Cody's humiliation. His descent into madness. The demise of his simple life, as everything slowly crumbles because he becomes hellbent on bloody revenge...

Yikes! This story starts in the middle of the action, moves quickly and doesn't stop. I really liked the pacing. There's barely time to take a breath between the serious shit Cody gets himself into.

Ah, Cody Wilson. A man who likes to stay out of trouble and wants to be left alone to live his life. He's convinced he's a coward, even though he treks across the dirt after a group of seemingly invincible bloodsuckers. Even though he's not prepared to apologise for what he believes. Even though he goes out of his wat to help a kid he doesn't even know.

I reckon all of the above requires a strong character, because he refuses to stay down and keeps getting up. No matter what.

Actually, I think his biggest mistake was falling for a woman who wanted so much more than he could give, and resented him when all he wanted was a quiet, content life. Like his father said, his greatest weakness was pretty, shiny things. LOL.

Another character I thought was great was Marguerite. She's such a strong and sassy woman who after making the mistake of marrying an abusive ass, refuses to take shit from other men. She's smart and knows how to handle herself, and charms the reader as much as she did Cody.

Dust Devils is a relentless western full of dirty cretins. It's also a vampire story featuring a group of vile, despicable vamps masquerading as actors. I mean, let's get real, their show is pretty much crappy porn with the women they compel. This story is a gritty tale that captured the grossest parts of the Wild West so well, the atmosphere wrapped itself around me so tightly, it left me feeling a little dusty.

Also, I loved how the fast pace of this book kept me glued to the page and filled me with hatred towards the villains, yet led to a very satisfying conclusion.

If you like vampire stories with horrendous bite, you'll love this. If you're like me and are enjoying the many Jonathan Janz re-releases, you'll definitely love this. Hell, if you like adventure with a bit of filth and plenty of blood, do yourself a favour and read this. Now!

Friday, 10 May 2019

Restless Mind Leads to Much Reading...

That's right. I had one of those weeks where although my head was FULL OF STORY STUFF, I couldn't focus on ONE thing. 😵

There's a lot of mind clutter for me to sift through and it's keeping me from committing to the many projects I'm excited about getting stuck into. I even posted a tweet about it:


This is always a peculiar place to be. Although I'm super excited about the new ideas, first drafts, started stories and those that are nothing more than tiny bubbles, it gets so hard to grab only one. 

I want to tackle all of them. At the same time!

It could be that my mind's still in break-mode. But my two awesome weeks with hubby ended a few weeks ago. Or it could be that I don't want to get stuck into anything until our daughter moves out (to Canada) at the end of the month.

Maybe it's just a combination of everything going on around me.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A restless mind means that I spent most of the week going through the piles (and piles) of paperbacks I've acquired recently. Or going through the multitude of Kindle books on my Paperwhite/s. And THAT, of course, leads to getting a taste of these books... which leads to reading whatever book I start because they hook me in. LOL.

So, yeah, I did a lot of reading this week:

Not bad, huh? The coolest thing about all this reading is clearing titles off my TBR pile. Besides, I love how much reading sparks my imagination and fills me with inspiration.

Looks like I'm going to have to grab my notebook and start jotting my jumbled thoughts down. This'll hopefully help me sort through all the clutter so I can decide what project to tackle next.

We also went to watch DETECTIVE PIKACHU last night, which was SO MUCH FUN! It combined two things I enjoy--Pikachu and detective noir. The world they created in this movie was super cool. And Ryan Reynolds totally nailed the cheeky Pikachu voice. Only prob is that I now want a Pika of my own! 😂

Well, that's about it for now. May is turning out to be a big reading month, but I'm not going to complain. I don't even feel bad about it, because reading and writing are definitely connected.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

WEB by John Wyndham

Web
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This slim book was sitting in a basket marked FREE outside a local thrift store, with a bunch of other random titles. It also seems to have lived as a high school library book in its former life, and has now become another book I've read and thoroughly enjoyed.

When a millionaire English lord buys a remote Pacific island with the hopes of forming a new, utopian society, an assorted group of people is chosen to set sail and get things started.

But the island of Tanakuatua might not be as uninhabited as first assumed, and any plans to start a new kind of society quickly becomes impossible when they discover the eight-legged population...

With a name like Web, of course this was going to be about spiders. Dangerous spiders. A multitude of them. Yeah, if you have arachnophobia this is probably not the best book for you to read.

Anyway, the story isn't too long but it's a nice and detailed one. The narrator, Arnold Delgrange, has recently gone through a family tragedy, so he decides to sign up for this interesting expedition. It gives him something to do, and he has the chance to meet other people.

I really enjoyed the way he tells the story. Arnold (social historian) has a strong and interesting voice that drew me in and kept me reading. Every detail he reveals is relevant to the overall plot and is dripping with a sense of doom. Of course you know right away that something bad happens.

I mean, it's just like a couple of rich white guys to buy an uninhabited island they believe THEY can turn into some fantastical utopian society. Without considering there could be natives. Never once checking to see what animals or creepy-crawlies are about. Simply turn up with equipment to clear land, build on it and take ownership. 😒

It was interesting to read about the underlining social commentary that is (unfortunately) still relevant today.

Another character I really liked was Camilla Cogent (biologist), who is first described as "a lonely figure—there, but not with us" and soon becomes one of the smartest people in the group. There's a reason why she always seems lost in thought. I loved the observations she makes when they arrive on the dreaded island.

I enjoyed this little adventure tale about a group of people silly enough to think they can create and shape a new world order without first researching who lives on the island they're so keen to invade. It was fun!

Oh, and this edition even has full-page illustrations.


 
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