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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.


THE MERMAID'S VOICE RETURNS IN THIS ONE by Amanda Lovelace

The Mermaid's Voice Returns in This One
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third book in the Women Are Some Kind of Magic poetry series. Although I loved the first two because of their raw emotion and sense of empowerment, I found this one to be a disappointment.

It's just not as deep as the others. Most of the poems in this collection are super short, and there's a lot of repetition. I'm not talking about theme or style, I'm talking about the same poem with a few changed words.

I hate to say it, but this book started to get on my nerves after a while, but I kept reading until I reached the end. I also didn't really feel the additions made by others. For some reason, I didn't think they enhanced the experience. Actually, they lessened it.

There's just something about this collection that didn't mesh with me. Kept me at a distance, instead of totally drawing me in like the first two.

I was going to give this a 2-star rating, but pushed it up to 3 because the handful of poems I did like were really good.

Anyway, I really wanted to love this book because I like this poet's style, but sadly didn't. Oh well.


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

MRS. CALIBAN by Rachel Ingalls

Mrs. Caliban
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this lovely novella for a few months, and since I'm loving my new Paperwhite (Gen 10) I decided to check it out today.

Well, the intention was to get a taste, but I was hooked instantly and had to read it right away. I couldn't put it down!

Dorothy is a bored woman in a loveless marriage. Her husband is always working and when he's not working, he's out and about. Also, he's a total douche. I mean, I know some awful stuff happened that affected both of them in different (negative) ways, but Fred is totally gross.

Shortly after Dorothy hears about an aquatic creature escaping a facility on the radio, the frog-man invites himself into the house. Instead of being scared or outraged, she welcomes Larry into her home and starts sleeping with him...

Yeah, the premise of this novella is a strange one but the execution is so outstanding that it TOTALLY works. It's so well written, and is full of witty feminist dialogue that cracked me up.

As soon as Dorothy meets Larry, she's drawn to him. In spite of him being a tall, muscled green man who looks like a frog, she's never disgusted. She does everything she can to feed, protect and hide him from everyone--including her husband. Who is so aloof he doesn't even see what's going on inside his house.

Larry becomes her companion around the house. He helps with housework (which he enjoys), makes her feel comfortable walking around the house in a bathrobe (a look he likes), and they go on night walks together. Not to mention their conversations, the long drives, sitting together to watch TV and their, uh, sexy times.

He ignites Dorothy's passion in a way that thrills her, makes her feel alive and gives her a purpose. She feels happy about her little secret and becomes determined to help Larry get back home to the sea before the authorities find him.

This book is many things. It's a really sweet love story. It's intriguing and kept me guessing. And the ending totally blew my mind. I certainly didn't expect THAT. I thought we were in The Shape of Water territory here, but nope.

Also, another cool thing is that although Dorothy and Larry's tale is at the core of everything, there's a lot going on. See, Dotty has a best friend called Estelle. Estelle likes to play the field because after her divorce she's not interested in getting into one-man situations. Except, as the plot unravels some really disturbing and terrible secrets are revealed that turn everyone's lives upside down.

I have many favourite things in fiction, but one of my most fave is when everyday tasks are written into the story and don't feel like padding because every detail is essential to the plot. And this is a great example of why I love reading about characters getting on with their day.

I LOVED THIS STORY!

It was such a lovely surprise. 🐸


Monday, 6 May 2019

THE WITCH DOESN'T BURN IN THIS ONE by Amanda Lovelace

The Witch Doesn't Burn in This One (Women Are Some Kind of Magic, #2)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Women Are Some Kind of Magic poetry series, and just like the first one, this is actually my daughter's book. She encouraged me to read it because she knows how I feel about feminism, the mistreatment of women throughout history, and witches.

As soon as I started this book, I was hooked. I find reading poetry collections to be such a soothing experience. I love reading one poem, taking a breath and getting stuck into another... and before I realise it, I'm reading the last poem. It's nice.

The poetry in this book is angry and raw, gets straight to the core of what it's like to be a woman living in the world of patriarchy rule. Or a woman in the past who didn't survive the confines of such a construct. As well as the ones labelled witches and burned for their desire to exist as a person. Not to mention the innovative women buried by their male counterparts until we can't even find them in the history books.

I like how the simplicity of this poet's work soon becomes something so deep it takes you by surprise. Like the first collection, this one deals with abuse and sexism and how badly girls and women are treated. But it's also about reclaiming words and actions, taking what's been used to hurt women and wielding it as a weapon.

Also, I love how the text inside this book is red. The symbolism was not lost on me. ☺

I find Amanda Lovelace's poems to be very empowering, so I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.


BODY OF CHRIST by Mark Matthews

Body of Christ
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay. That was weird!

What can I say about this novella? Well, I suppose I can start by saying that it's TOTALLY messed up. And add that reading this felt like being stuck in a really gross, bad dream I couln't wake up from. 😵

So, this story is about two kids suffering through their separate traumas. Traumas that are so serious and so dark, their confused minds twist faith, loss and grief into grotesque monsters slowly consuming them.

It's also a study about the effect strong and pushy religious beliefs can have on young, impressionable minds. How, when kids are forced to listen to the crazy shit their fanatic parents spew, the insanity of it all is capable of warping their minds. To the point of affecting their mental health.

Faith watches her mother wither away on a hospital bed after an accident and is there when the machines are turned off. That's when she starts hearing voices, and when she decides she's not going to let anything else die.

After remembering a ridiculous line her mother told her about menstruation. One that affects her way too deeply.

Keagan watches his injured father wither away and is there when he decides to give up on life. That's when he resorts to spending even more time hidden in his dark closet, and when he decides to use the 'Body of Christ' for a deeper purpose.

After never forgetting he promised his father he wouldn't take the holy communion. A promise that leads to a morbid occurrence a year later.

Yeah, this is quite a disturbing little novella that ventures into some pretty bleak and very surreal territory. It's ghastly and awful, like a raw patch of flesh that's gross because it's infected, and stings like hell.

It's also very well written, moves at a good pace, and deals with some pretty heavy issues. Child abuse, to begin with. I mean, what Keagan's mother says and does to this boy is awful. And Faith's father surrendering to his own grief to the point of pretending his daughter isn't even there is terrible.

And all of this, before I even get to the blasphemous nature of this horrific tale.

I mean, that's what some might consider it to be. Not me, though. I was born a Catholic but am not even remotely religious. I despise the hypocrisy of organised religion and have often found the most devoted fanatics to be the least moral people. So, I personally enjoyed this aspect of the story.

Whatever your belief system, this is quite the disturbing trip. And I reckon it's worth taking.


Saturday, 4 May 2019

Back to It

Hey! 

I hope you all had a nice week. Mine was a bit weird. 

After two (awesome) weeks of staying up late, sleeping in and going on adventures with hubby, getting back into the swing of things was a little challenging. 

It's not so much the getting up super early again. I'm cool with starting the day before sunrise, which means I'm back to walking the river path while most people are still asleep. It's more about changing gears in my brain. 

My head was all over the place this week. 

I knew it would be, so I didn't plan any real goals. Instead, I got stuck into stuff that didn't require too much thought. I sorted through the (many) bargain books we bought during our break, organised some stuff, squeezed in quite a bit of review reading, and even snuck in some file updates.

Asides from that, I formatted the story I started writing a few weeks ago. I'm not sure when I'll go back to adding more words, but I'm very excited because it'll be my first Victorian gothic ghost story with a twist. AND, the main character's voice is so strong I keep getting snippets.

Writing is such a strange and exciting monster.

Funny thing is that even though we're back into it, the thrifting hasn't stopped. I found a great pile of books this week, and even scored some free ones. For example, I found a free copy of MATILDA by Roald Dahl outside a thrift store (been meaning to get a copy for ages) & THE BLIND ASSASSIN by Margaret Atwood in one of our Street Libraries (always interested in any Atwood books)! Very cool.

As you can see, my book addiction is a never-ending obsession. No matter how many books I have to read, I'm always open to getting ARCs, review copies, thrift finds, Kindle bargains and specials from any/every bookstore I visit.

So, to make the transition from break to work, I decided to throw myself into writing thoughts, books, reading and walking. 

I don't have any definite plans for the coming week, but I'm planning to put some time aside to make writing plans for the next few months. 😁

Hope you have an awesome week!

Friday, 3 May 2019

HOUSE OF SKIN by Jonathan Janz

Myles Carver is dead. But his estate, Watermere, lives on, waiting for a new Carver to move in. Myles’s wife, Annabel, is dead too, but she is also waiting, lying in her grave in the woods. For nearly half a century she was responsible for a nightmarish reign of terror, and she’s not prepared to stop now. She is hungry to live again…and her unsuspecting nephew, Paul, will be the key.

Julia Merrow has a secret almost as dark as Watermere’s. But when she and Paul fall in love they think their problems might be over. How can they know what Fate—and Annabel—have in store for them? Who could imagine that what was once a moldering corpse in a forest grave is growing stronger every day, eager to take her rightful place amongst the horrors of Watermere?


Thanks to Flame Tree Press, it's time to review another Jonathan Janz ARC. 😊

Paul Carver is headed to his new home, a large Victorian mansion he inherited from an uncle he didn't even know. He's leaving Memphis behind, which includes a controlling girlfriend and a family who doesn't respect him. He's ready to start a new life, and hopefully write the book he's convinced he has inside him.

Julia Merrow is a librarian. She loves poetry and playing the piano. She also happens to be beautiful and constantly catches the eye of creepers desperate to possess her body. All she wants to do is get on with her life, but these men won't let her.

When Paul and Julia meet, their mutual attraction sparks instantly. But them coming together awakens an evil lurking in their family's past, and starts a chain reaction full of lust, violence and murder...

OMGosh. What can I say about this book? Except that I was once again hooked into another Janz horror novel and wasn't disappointed.

On the surface, this sounds like your basic haunted house story: guy inherits a rundown mansion, moves in with the intention to fix it, hopes to write a novel, starts hearing noises behind the walls, meets a beautiful girl, and then finds himself in a lot of trouble.

But, there's SO much more. A lot of darkness bubbling below the surface. And that's before getting to the murder of victims who deserve what they get. Well, until something happens to someone who definitely doesn't deserve it. But I wasn't surprised when it did because this book starts normal and doesn't take long to dive headfirst into total insanity.

There are no boundaries here. There's a lot of violence, the creepiness is amped to an impossible degree, it ventures into uncomfortable asshole territory, it's full of eerie imagery, and is packed with plenty of freaky shit. There's also some pretty icky relationship stuff, but nothing that put me off the story.

The book is written in the POV of multiple characters--all intimately involved in what's going on in the house--as well as several of the hideous and very perverted past residents of Watermere. The time jumps also work really well, because the revelations from the past tie everything together.

I really liked the main characters, especially Julia and Sheriff Barlow. Even the characters I didn't like--Annabel, Myles, Barbara--were well written and kept me glued to the page.

House of Skin is a disturbing story about an evil so terrible, she spans through history and either manipulates or destroys everyone in her path. It's an interesting take on the haunted house trope, with an added corrupt twist that leads to a shocking end. 😵

This is another great book by this author. I'm glad I have one more of his ARCs left to read.

Monday, 29 April 2019

MARY VENTURA AND THE NINTH KINGDOM by Sylvia Plath

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my second Plath book--but first story--and I absolutely loved it.

This is definitely one of those stories that will stay with me for a long, long time. Not just because it's so well written, but because it's multi-layered, open to interpretation, contains peculiar characters (loved Mary's innocence and the knitting lady's knowledge), and really makes you think.

When Mary Ventura gets on the train, it seems like her parents are really eager for her to go on this trip. They're quite pushy about it, even cold about their determination to get their daughter to leave. It's not until the train starts moving and the imagery surfaces all around Mary that I realised just how morbid the beginning was.

I mean, once you realise what's going on, their behaviour is nothing but disturbing. Actually, the whole story is like a fever-dream that throws the reader into as much confusion as the poor main character.

On a subconscious level, I knew instantly what this train symbolised and what the trip would lead to, but the story is written in such a clever way that it's easy to ignore the obvious until it's glaring you in the face. And boy is it a heavy thing to deal with, especially if you know anything about Plath's tragic life.

I'm glad I read this in one sitting. (Even if it was peppered with breaks to discuss things with my daughter. After all, this is her recommendation and her book.)

I seriously LOVED this story and can't believe it was ever rejected, because it's a classic work of art. It truly is.


PALACE OF GHOSTS by Thomas S. Flowers

Four veterans of the Iraq War seeking a cure for Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder arrive at a notoriously haunted house in the bogs of Galveston Island called Amon Palace. 

Samantha Green, a friendless former Army K-9 handler looking for a way to put her loss behind her. 

Brad Myers, a lighthearted former Military Police Officer severally wounded in war wanting nothing more than a good night’s sleep. 

Andy Lovejoy, an overweight light spoken drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become. 

Marcus Pangborn, a headstrong Marine who desperately wants a dead friend’s forgiveness.

The group joins Doctor Frederick Peters, an experimental psychologist looking to prove his exposure theory hypothesis, and his two assistants, Tiffany Burgess and Dexter Reid. 

At first, their stay seems to conjure nothing more than spooky encounters with inexplicable phenomena. But Amon Palace is gathering its powers—and soon it will reveal that these veterans are not who they seem.


I was lucky enough to receive an eBook copy of this book after having a Twitter conversation with Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. Erin is an author, editor, and great at marketing. So, when she offered me a copy of this book by Thomas S. Flowers, of course I said yes. 😊

Besides, have you seen that creepy, colourful cover?

Doctor Frederick Peters is an experimental psychologist who invites four veterans to Amon Palace because he thinks being inside a rumoured haunted house will help cure their PTSD. He wants each of them to confront their fears and memories in a strange environment he believes will help overcome their trauma.

Things start off well enough, with the four veterans attending group therapy together, and listening to the doctor's instructions. The only problem is that the house has other plans for the new occupants...

I really enjoyed this! The creepy vibes never stop coming, and I was happy to be there for every second.

As soon as I started, I was sucked into this haunted house adventure, and really liked all the characters. Not to mention that the book starts after something has obviously gone wrong, which serves as a total tease and certainly dragged me deeper.

Another thing I enjoyed was the horror element because it was so unexpected, and there's no holding back. Things are moving along at a good pace, the characters are introduced, their personal problems exposed, and then: BAM! Horror strikes.

The imagery is vivid and totally wicked.

The characterisation is also great. There are quite a few POVs included in this book, but each one is portrayed so well and moves the story along at such a great pace that the freaky tapestry of war veterans trying to overcome their PTSD starts to unravel. For different reasons, I felt so bad for Samantha, Brad, Andy and Marcus. 

And what the house does to them is even worse. Yikes!

I also have to mention the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, because they change and grow with the story.

Palace of Ghosts turned out to be an atmospheric, freaky story featuring a bunch of sympathetic and likeable characters. I instantly connected with the veterans, and felt so sad for the mental scars they're left with after serving in war.

And that's another awesome thing about this book. Not only is it a horror tale that totally gripped me at every step, but it's also a very raw study of how the human psyche deals with trauma, and how it can be used against you. Even by someone who is honestly trying to help.




Words from Thomas – For those looking for something in the vein of Jacob’s Ladder meets The Haunting of Hill House (with touches of Lovecraft), I think Palace of Ghosts may be a story up your alley. Palace of Ghosts is a story that addresses my own ghosts. I wanted to explore the question of what would happen if traumatic memory could take physical form and terrorize and haunt the host.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Second Week Packed with More Stuff

Hey! How's your week going? We're having a great time. I'm enjoying hubby's annual leave break SO MUCH, I don't want it to end. Nope.

I'm glad we got all of the doctor-type stuff out of the way last week because this one contained two public holidays. So it was easy to slow things down a bit and enjoy a very relaxing Monday. 

On Tuesday, we went for another thrifting, walking adventure. Well, we actually had to pick up my new Kindle Paperwhite. This time it's the Generation 10. That's the one with a smooth screen. It's also water resistant, and looks lovely. Now that my (kitty) cover has arrived, I can't wait to use it. 😁

That night we re-watched AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, to prepare for Wednesday. Which was THE day. You know what I'm talking about, right? We went to watch AVENGERS: ENDGAME nice and early. The cinema was packed and the audience was very reactive, which was great.

I'm not going to say anything specific about this most brilliant 3-hour adventure because I don't want to spoil it. But, I will say that this is much more than a movie, it's an experience. It's the brilliant conclusion of a roller-coaster ride that began 11 years ago and has led to this most bittersweet conclusion.

It's sad. It's funny. It's a totally immersive entertaining experience. It's also very overwhelming, and so damn emotional. My feelings were all over the place. The only thing I can guarantee is that you will be wrecked by this Endgame.

By Thursday--another public holiday--we were ready to slow things down. On Friday, we went for another long walk and picked up a few new tops.

When Saturday arrived, hubby & I woke up nice and early because we went back to the cinema to watch AVENGERS: ENDGAME. again. Yep.

My gosh! It was just as brilliant as the first time. Actually, it was even better because we picked up on things we didn't the first time. Not to mention that this time, my bladder didn't get in the way of me watching the most wonderful scene. 😍

Man, I think the Avengers hangover will last for a long while.

Anyway, asides from THAT, I also got a bit of reading done this week. Plus added more words to the story I started last week, and thought about it a lot.

The ol' writer brain never stops thinking. 💭

This two-week break with hubby has been SO amazing. We had such an awesome time together! The only bad thing is that the break has to eventually come to an end. 😢

Have a great week!


Thursday, 25 April 2019

ARIEL by Sylvia Plath

Ariel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy throwing a bit of poetry into my reading routine, and my daughter (who studied Plath during her HSC) recommended this one.

The thing about poetry is how well words are used to paint an honest picture able to capture the heart of the emotions the poet feels at the time. Or how different situations and experiences have affected them. It might start out fine and simple, before devolving into a rage-filled experience, one drenched with misery, or even steeped in love.

Whatever the emotion, a poet is able to use words and phrases in such a way that the inner meaning gets across.

Every poem in this collection does just that.

Although this is my first Sylvia Plath book (I have The Bell Jar on my Paperwhite), I know quite a bit about her. And it sounds like Plath had a lot of problems in her life. She seemed to be at odds with what was expected of women, and what she personally wanted to be. She also obviously struggled with her feelings towards the men in her life: her father and husband. She definitely harboured some animosity towards both, and didn't seem to be much of a fan of marriage either.

All the poems paint clear imagery, and most venture into their own dark places. My favouries were: Sheep in Fog, Lady Lazarus, Cut, Ariel, The Hanging Man, Contusion, and of course, Words--which is the perfect way to end the collection.

Also, her obsession with suicide definitely comes across, which makes every word so much sadder.

I found this to be a confronting and raw book, full of the problems and truths a very complicated woman suffered through during her life. Also, how hard she found it to deal with being a daughter, wife and mother.

Putting mental health aside for just a moment, it always makes me sad (and angry) when I think about how awful women have been treated throughout history. Always trying to push their worth aside, making them feel as if their hopes, dreams and aspirations didn't matter as much as serving the bullshit position the patriarchy created for them. For us.

Yep. Society has always made it very hard for the women who tried to fit into the confines forced on them and struggled because they wanted to be so much more. Then forced them to become victims of their own strength. Tragic.

I really enjoyed this poetry collection.


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

SCHOOLGIRL by Osamu Dazai

Schoolgirl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first Dazai story. My daughter has read a few of his books, and when she decided to thin out her bookshelves, I took this one.

I was curious, but wasn't sure if I would like it because the author's style and life sounded so bleak. That's why I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading and couldn't put it down.

The writing is so nice, and although this story was written and set during the first half of the 20th century, so much of what happens still resonates today. For that alone, I thought this was great.

This is a line that really stood out to me: "A mere smile can determine a woman's fate." because it captures so much of what it means to be a woman.

Essentially, this novella is the stream of consciousness of one schoolgirl's day. From the moment she wakes up, her mind is full of contradictory thoughts. As she gets on with her day, we become passengers and share every strange, weird, wonderful and hateful thought that enters her mind. We experience what she does, and read along as she examines everything that fills her mind, judges everyone she crosses paths with, and works through how she feels about life in general.

She's still suffering through the grief of losing her father, and mourns the woman her mother has become since he died. Not to mention how she struggles with growing up. She hates her body for betraying her, for changing without her being able to stop it. Her childhood is full of nice and comfortable memories, therefore she wishes she could remain a child forever, because getting older means she's losing control of her outer self. She even mentions how her body doesn't match her mind.

I have to admit that she can be a total bitch at times, exhibits some typical internalised-misogynistic qualities that got on my nerves, and I hated how she treated her dogs... but this is another reason why this novella is simply brilliant. The whole story is filled with the many random thoughts we all face and work through every single day. There are the ones we vocalise, the ones we keep to ourselves, and the wicked things we pretend never entered our minds.

On the surface, this novella might be about one girl's day--from beginning to end--but what really matters is the unfiltered thoughts and moods she goes through and how she deals with them. At the end of the day she wants everyone to think she's a good girl, but internally she's the complete opposite. She judges everyone she meets, is super critical and has a real problem with her self image.

This is such a clever story. Not just because of the way it was written. Not just because it was written by a man who is able to portray a girl so well. But because an endless flow of thoughts is something we can all understand and totally relate to. It's one of the things that makes us human.

And that leads me to this very cool quote:

"The present moment is interesting to me. Now, now, now--even while you try to pin down an instant, it flies off into the distance, and a new 'now' arrives."


Monday, 22 April 2019

THE CUNDY by R.H. Dixon

When 13-year-old Sullivan Carter and his younger brother, Colton, are forced to hide from school bullies in the cundy (a water conduit in Castle Eden Dene), they are attacked by a terrifying creature which goes on to haunt their dreams. 

Rumour has it that some older teens have been performing strange rituals at the cundy. As such, Sullivan is convinced that he and Colton are now being hunted by an ancient creature that’s been unleashed from its dark lair. A creature that’s been lurking since the time Scula the Danish Viking warlord ruled the area in the 900s. 

When Colton begins to hear voices which draw him back to the cundy, he tells Sullivan he believes one of them belongs to their dead mother. 

Sullivan must reach beyond his own profound grief in order to defend Colton and himself against the wily creature. 

Does he have what it takes to defeat it? Or will he need to sacrifice himself in order to save his little brother?
  

I received an eBook review copy of this book from the author. And I was happy to because after reading the blurb, I was intrigued.

Sullivan Carter is being hassled by bullies, and while trying to get away from them he's forced to hide in the cundy with his younger brother. That's when they're attacked by a scary creature who starts to haunt them. 

At the same time, things at home are complicated with their dad and Sullivan's starting a new friendship with a girl. But things get worse when the dreams come and the voices start whispering... 

Okay. I was really excited about this book. I love coming of age stories, especially featuring siblings. But I have to admit, I started reading this a few weeks ago but... couldn't get into it. 

There was something keeping me from connecting with the characters and the story. And I'm not sure why. I mean, both Sullivan and Colton were interesting in their own way, and I felt bad for Sullivan getting bullied by asshole kids. Plus the writing was good, it really was. 

But I just wasn't hooked. Still, I kept reading until the end.

One thing I did enjoy was the sense of atmosphere and location in this story. The dark and dreary days added to the damp and grey feel of the place, and the sadness of what was going on. It was bleak, but not as frightening as I was expecting. 

It's a shame that I wasn't captivated by this book, because that's what I was hoping would happen.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

A Break Packed with Stuff

So, is a break packed with stuff really a break? It is when you can sleep past 4am every morning and do the stuff you want.

The first week of hubby's two-week annual leave is almost over, and there's only one word I can use to describe it. That's right, it's awesome! 😁

We did so much this week. All things we planned but slotted in better than we thought they would. For example, first thing Monday we walked to the doctor on empty stomachs to get our annual blood tests done. And by Thursday afternoon, we went back for the results. Everything is good, and most importantly, both hubby and I are immune to measles and chickenpox.

Yeah, who would've thought that adults in the 21st century would have to do this? But with these selfish idiots who refuse to vaccinate their kids growing in numbers, you just have to make sure. Ugh.

We also got the flu shot so we'll be covered for winter.

And we finished watching Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I adore this show! It's quirky and cute, yet dark and wicked. It's not afraid to venture into the darkest witchy and demonic themes. Loved it.

On Tuesday, we went for a long walk to one of our local (bigger) thrift stores and I found a bunch of cool books. Then we stopped by Ikea to check out couches and ended up having lunch at Harry's Cafe de Wheels. When we got home, we took a nap. This resulted in the start of a new story. It came out of nowhere! That night I wrote the first 400 words and have since added another 1k+.

Wednesday was HELLBOY day. We took off early and went to several bookstores, where I picked up more bargains. Oh, and let me tell you, I absolutely LOVED the movie. I don't know why everyone hates it because we all thought it was a gory, action-packed UF gem with so many cool creatures. It was so much FUN!

On Thursday, we went on another adventure. We took a new bus route to an out-of-the-way shopping centre to pick up the Captain Marvel tees hubby ordered for me. Plus we found another one in the girl's department, so that makes three.

See, I didn't lie when I said we packed the week full of stuff! So by Friday it was time to settle back a bit and enjoy a nice walk, some Rock Band and finishing up the book I was reading.

Now we have a new week to look forward to!

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 by Kate Saunders

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.



Tuesday, 9 April 2019

SAVAGE SPECIES by Jonathan Janz

Jesse thinks he’s caught a break when he, Emma (the girl of his dreams), and her friend are assigned by their newspaper to cover the opening weekend of a sprawling new state park. But the construction of the park has stirred an evil that has lain dormant for nearly a hundred years, and the three young people—as well as every man, woman, and child unlucky enough to be attending the Algonquin Falls grand opening—are about to encounter the most horrific creatures to ever walk the earth.


This book is a Flame Tree Press ARC I've been meaning to read for ages, but just didn't find the right time. Until now. 

Jesse, Emma and Colleen are heading into the new state park to cover the opening weekend for their newspaper. Jesse sees this as a great opportunity to get closer to his co-worker, Emma. But when the park is overrun by hideous creatures, the trio is going to be lucky to escape with their lives.

Charly is married to an arrogant man who's more concerned with bedding his assistants than taking care of his kids. When her baby is taken by a creature, Sam the builder is the only one she can depend on.

As the monsters spread their violence all over the state park and the survivors are forced into rocky caves, it gets harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel...

O.M.F.G. Seriously. Wow. Yikes!

After finishing this insane ride, I need a moment to take a few deep breaths and clear my head. 😳

This is a creature feature at its best. Not only are the Children and Night Flyers gross, terrifying and unstoppable, but the action is exactly the same: terrifying and unstoppable.

I started the book slowly, trying to take my time so I could enjoy the full experience one crazy scene at a time. But once I reached the halfway mark, I couldn't stop. I wanted to keep going, wanted to race to the end so I could find out how everything was going to turn out. 

And boy, am I glad I surrendered myself fully to it because I was not disappointed.

The story is told in multiple POVs that really give the reader the full scope of everyone and shows how everything unfolds. It really gets into the heart and mind of all the characters, their motivations, inner thoughts and deepest desires. It's also a great combination of relationship drama--a marriage falling apart and the resulting love triangle, an impossible co-worker crush that will surely go nowhere--and outrageous violence. The creatures are horrid and don't stop. Not to mention how awesome the portrayal of human endurance, strength and strangers coming together comes across.

Asides from the amazing horror, this story is so well written. It would've been so easy to just focus on the merciless killing and bloodshed, to shock the reader at every step. Wait a second... THAT'S exactly how it goes. LOL. BUT, in spite of that this book has so much heart. 

It's filled with characters that are fully fleshed out and have real lives with shitty everyday problems. They have their own personalities and quirks, but are also very likeable. So when the casualties start adding up, you really feel the losses.

Well, for most of them because there are a few gross guys in the bunch that deserved what they got. 😮

Savage Species is an action-packed, violent, gruesome and absolutely awesome horror story. The monsters are relentless and grotesque. The characters are flawed and interesting. The story is intriguing and moves at the perfect pace. I was hooked from the beginning and couldn't put it down because the tension kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through. Oh, plus I was enjoying the hell out of it.

This book is balls to wall action, violence and excitement. I was ADDICTED! It's a total gorefest, packed with so much more. But, it's definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

Jonathan Janz has done it again. I loved this so much and thought this story was so excellent, I'm not sure this review will do this book justice.





 
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