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. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ 

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. ๐Ÿ˜)

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. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Have a nice week!

Friday, 12 April 2019


The Secrets of Wishtide
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

OMGosh. This book is SO charming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OAK AVENUE by Brandi Reeds

Oak Avenue
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, this is the seventh (and last) Dark Corners Collection short story I've read. And I'm very happy to say that I really enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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. ๐Ÿ˜ณ

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. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

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.

Friday, 5 April 2019

ROUGH JUSTICE by Kelley Armstrong

Rough JusticeRough Justice by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Last year I read the last book in the Cainsville series and absolutely loved it. Not just the book, but also how everything was wrapped up.

Still, when I found out this novella was available (because I found it as a Kindle deal), I bought it and couldn't wait to see what else was going to happen to Olivia, Gabriel and Ricky. And I wasn't disappointed.

Six months after the events that finally brought Olivia and Gabriel together, they're still a couple. They're still working together. And keeping secrets from each other.

Olivia is also ready to take part in her first Wild Hunt, taking on the role of Mallt-y-Nos. But when she has doubts about the guilt of the Cลตn Annwn's human target, it leads her straight to a new mystery that she knows will consume her until she figures it out...

I LOVED this novella! It's such a cool addition to one of my favourite series. Not only does it continue the story, but this novella introduces an awesome stand-alone mystery that requires a lot of thought.

I personally love mysteries, so it was a lot of fun to follow Olivia and Gabriel as they piece together all the clues and uncover so many unexpected surprises.

Another thing this story does is continue the Cainsville legacy. The characters are still dealing with the return of Gabriel's mother. Ricky remains in the picture and still has a strong presence in their lives. And of course, Olivia and Gabriel are in a nice relationship, but both continue to tread on shaky ground because they still keep things from each other. Which is why the ending was SO cool. Perfect way to end it.

I love this world because dark myth and fae monsters are mixed together so well, fitting into the human world in such a way that it creates both harmony and discord.

Can't wait to read more.

Oh, and one more thing: I love that cover! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

I AM BELLE by Andrea Posner-Sanchez & Alan Batson

I Am Belle (Disney Beauty and the Beast)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Beauty and the Beast and have very fond memories of Little Golden Books, so when hubby found this adorable gem on a clearance table at Dymocks, of course I HAD to buy it.

This is the story of Belle. A young lady who lives in a small town with her father, a quirky inventor. Every day is pretty much the same, so going to the bookstore makes her happy because she loves to read.

When her father goes missing, she dares to go searching for him in the forest and finds a Beast who turns her life into an adventure...

I loved this! No matter how many times I read this story, I still love it. And I really enjoyed how this version was written in a very simplistic way for kids to totally understand and fall in love with Belle and the Beast.

The artwork is gorgeous-- colourful and so very pretty.

Also, because I'm a fellow bibliophile, I got a kick out of all the book and reading references. And just like Belle, I think the best room in any castle (or house) is the library. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I'm going to add this to my Beauty and the Beast collection.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

ALTAR by Philip Fracassi

AltarAltar by Philip Fracassi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I started reading this story on my Paperwhite last night and was instantly drawn in.

Gary, his sister Abby, and their mother Martha, decide to spend a hot day at the local swimming pool. They might go there together, but each one has their own plans and thoughts. Gary decides to meet up with a school friend while lost in the nostalgia of the location. Abby gets herself involved in some trouble. While Martha is trying not to be bitter about her divorce, or think about how much alcohol would help take the edge off things.

But none of that compares to what happens when the clouds start rolling in...

Yikes. I found this story intriguing and very well written. It hooked me in with the individual character drama, and kept me there because the tension builds slowly and surely with each new word.

I especially like Gary's innocence and the unconditional love he shares with his sister. As well as how excited he is at the beginning of their day. The way his nostalgic happiness turns to dread is quite sad to watch. Especially what happens to Abby, which was fucking horrifying.

Martha's POV was also good because it contained a nightmarish--almost as if she was suffering heatstroke--effect on the events.

Actually, the whole story feels like that. It moves at a good pace, slowly unravelling the mundane, yet problematic lives, of people who soon finds themselves in the middle of a hellish situation. One that'll ensure you never look at swimming pools the same again! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

I like tales that start off perfectly normal with harmless and familiar situations, and then take a macabre, unexpected turn.

Personally, I don't think what happens is an accident. I think the kids and the problems and the underlying violence pretty much summons the trouble, if you know what I mean.

This is a great story. It's not long, but the length captures the story perfectly. And what isn't mentioned in the story, you can pretty much decipher with the creepy cover.

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