Monday 30 September 2019


Doomsday is here and the earth is suffering with each breath she takes. Whether it’s from the nuclear meltdown, the wrath of the Four Horsemen, a war with technology, or a consequence of our relationship with the planet, humanity is left buried and hiding, our bones exposed, our hearts beating somewhere in our freshly slit throats. 

This is a collection that strips away civilization and throws readers into the lives of its survivors. The poems inside are undelivered letters, tear-soaked whispers, and unanswered prayers. They are every worry you’ve had when your electricity went out, and every pit that grew in your stomach watching the news at night. They are tragedy and trauma, but they are also grief and fear, fear of who—or what—lives inside us once everything is taken away. 

These pages hold the teeth of monsters against the faded photographs of family and friends, and here, Wytovich is both plague doctor and midwife, both judge and jury, forever searching through severed limbs and exposed wires as she straddles the line evaluating what’s moral versus what’s necessary to survive. 

What’s clear though, is that the world is burning and we don’t remember who we are. 

So tell me: who will you become when it’s over?

I was really excited when I received a paperback copy of this really nice book last week and couldn't wait to read it. I mean, look at that creepy/pretty cover, and the title.

So, as soon as I finished The Institute, I got stuck into it.

There are 90 amazing poems included in this collection. They come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing they all share is a surreal and very traumatic quality that sends your mind floating in a river of blood and ash, littered with the bones of the suffering.

I felt the pain and loss in every word. Saw the devastation with every line. And couldn't turn away. The more I read, the more I craved.

The way each poem painted a terrifying picture glowing with radioactive brightness, was only enhanced by the bleak clips that were playing inside my head. I felt like I was inside each poem, so scared of getting trapped, yet not wanting to escape because so much of the destruction was layered with beauty.

The macabre and the lovely twisted together in a way that still haunts me after reading the last word.

Usually, when I read a short story and/or poetry collection, I single out my favourites. I'm not going to do that with this book because, to me, every poem fits together in its own unique way. 

The sequence was perfect, and although I know they were individually written and self-contained, my mind totally perceived every end of days fragment as one brilliant masterpiece.

I think horror poetry is definitely something I need to read more of. Not to mention more of Stephanie M. Wytovich's work.

Apocalyptic Mannequin is as disturbing as it is elegant. It made me feel like I was lost in one of my own personal nightmares about the world dying after careless, greedy men choose to destroy the planet rather than admit they were wrong. I felt like I was a kid back in the 80s, constantly scared about the threat of nuclear war becoming our horrid reality. And just like I did then, when I read and watched as many doomsday stories as I could even though my distress was as deep as it was strong, I devoured every bit of this collection with raw terror beating inside my chest.

This truly feels like falling into a nightmare full of awful images told through beautiful words. A nightmare with a broken landscape full of death and ruin, dripping with dreamy and stunning imagery.

I'd like to thank Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi and Raw Dog Screaming Press for sending me a copy of this book. It's one I will cherish and add to my Keeper Shelf.

Saturday 28 September 2019

End of September WIP Thoughts

Hey! How are you today?

Well, the last week of the month is here and it's time to post an update. 😀

At the beginning of this week, my head was crowded with so much story stuff--including the ending--that I knew I was close to the finish line. It was just a matter of getting there.

So, after 4k-word days on Monday & Tuesday, I did reach the end. But not The End. That happened on Thursday, after I re-read my frenzied words and added another 1k:

That's right. The first draft of my gothic horror WIP is DONE at 50,263 words.

It turned to be a creepy, nightmarish haunted house story with a twist. It's bleak and features two characters that surprised me at every turn. Also, I really enjoyed writing this little tale of spooky goodness.

From the beginning (back in April, before life got in the way) I wasn't sure how long this story would be, so I gave up guessing. That turned out to be the best thing to do, because writing the whole story is all that matters. And this one was eating my brain, demanding to be told even when I wasn't ready because of stuff.

Anyway, I'm so excited to have finished this draft.

As you might have noticed, Wednesday was a missed day, and there's a reason for that. It was our 20th Wedding Anniversary. 🎉

So hubby took the day off and we spent it doing some of our favourite stuff: hanging out, thrifting and bargain hunting. It was such an AWESOME day. 😍

Asides from that, I read THE INSTITUTE by Stephen King and it was amazing. It's shocking and sad and a total page-turning event. Some of the characters wormed their way into my heart, others I loathed. But this is definitely worth reading.

If you want to read more, my review is HERE.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm going to enjoy the weekend and hope you do too! 😁

Friday 27 September 2019

THE INSTITUTE by Stephen King

Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a dark state facility where kids, abducted from across the United States, are incarcerated. In the Institute they are subjected to a series of tests and procedures meant to combine their exceptional gifts - telepathy, telekinesis - for concentrated effect. 

Luke Ellis is the latest recruit. He's just a regular 12-year-old, except he's not just smart, he's super-smart. And he has another gift which the Institute wants to use... 

Far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson has taken a job working for the local sheriff. He's basically just walking the beat. But he's about to take on the biggest case of his career. 

Back in the Institute's downtrodden playground and corridors where posters advertise 'just another day in paradise', Luke, his friend Kalisha and the other kids are in no doubt that they are prisoners, not guests. And there is no hope of escape. 

But great events can turn on small hinges and Luke is about to team up with a new, even younger recruit, Avery Dixon, whose ability to read minds is off the scale. While the Institute may want to harness their powers for covert ends, the combined intelligence of Luke and Avery is beyond anything that even those who run the experiments - even the infamous Mrs Sigsby - suspect.

I always get excited when a new Stephen King book comes out, and push it to the top of my TBR pile. Yes, I am a Constant Reader.

Tim Jamieson is just minding his own business when he makes a decision that changes the path of his life, and takes him to a small town. Luke Ellis is a highly intelligent kid who loves to learn and is on his way to college, but there's something else about him that attracts the attention of a secret facility.

The Institute is in the middle of the woods. It's where unique kids are held against their will and have the capacity of their young minds pushed to the edge. 

But they didn't count on Luke, the determination of the kids they mistreat, or how Tim fits into everything...

Wow. Just wow.

This book hooked me in from the very beginning. So deeply, I felt like the story kept creeping under my skin and the infection wouldn't stop until I reached the end.

Every time I sat down to read, I was nervous, but I couldn't stop. Didn't want to stop because I felt so bad for these poor kids, and really needed to find out if they were going to be okay. 

Stephen King has a knack for writing stories full of characters that are so wonderful you love them to pieces, and others that are so despicable you hate their guts, but all of them keep you turning the page. For very different reasons.

It's not just the characters, though. The story captivated me so much, I loved how everything unravelled. The pacing is as perfect as the multiple POVs. The way all the chapters thread around each other keeps the action moving perfectly, and kept me on the edge of my seat.  

I don't think there's any need for me to mention the outstanding writing. But I will, because every time I read a King story, I'm in awe of his storytelling skills. He's got such a wonderful way of stitching real life, pseudo-science and the supernatural together in a way that keeps the reader guessing and the suspense rising to breaking point. 

The Institute is such an amazing book, an action-packed, page-turning adventure that deals with the worst of humanity, as well as the best. Even though a lot of horrible things happen, even though the characters broke my heart, even though every new page was more nerve-wracking than the one before, I still enjoyed the hell out of this disturbing and sometimes dreadful story.

This book goes to some very dark places and has several characters with no redeeming qualities, but you do get to meet an awesome group of kids. I'll never forget Luke, Kalisha, Avery, Nick, Helen, George or Iris.

Also, make sure you read the Author's Note.

I absolutely LOVED this!

The Institute, September 2019, ISBN 9781529355406, Hodder & Stoughton

Saturday 21 September 2019

IN THE TALL GRASS by Stephen King & Joe Hill

In the Tall GrassIn the Tall Grass by Stephen King 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After watching the trailer for the Netflix movie adaptation of this story, I knew I’d have to read it first.

So, I picked up a copy for my Paperwhite and got stuck into it as soon as I could.

When two siblings travelling across the country stop for a while near a patch of grass and a church, all they wanted to do was take a break. Instead, they find themselves answering a call for help from a kid who seems lost.

As soon as they step into the tall grass, the world shifts, and they get lost in a way neither could have ever imagined...

Well, this story is certainly something. It’s a true horror treat. If you’re looking for a short tale about a brother and sister who are so close, they’ll even venture into hell together then you’ve come to the right place.

I honestly didn’t know what would happen when I walked into the grass with these guys, but I didn’t expect all of THAT. If you’re squeamish, you’re probably better off staying away from this patch of land because a lot of what happens is quite horrific. And there’s plenty of gross to add to the mix.

The imagery is so vivid, I could see every gruesome detail play out inside my mind very sharply. I can’t wait to see how the movie measures up.

One of my favourite things about King’s stories—and Hill shares the knack for this—is how everything always starts out so normal. Two young people with real lives and a familiar problem go on a road trip with a destination in mind. There’s nothing weird about this. Until a split-second decision throws these two headfirst into the worst of situations, and every step they take strips a little more of the normal away. And then, everything we thought we recognised and would turn out a certain way, becomes the darkest of nightmares.

I especially felt bad for Becky. As if her predicament wasn’t bad enough, what she has to deal with is truly horrendous. 😞

That’s another thing, there’s an atmosphere of dread that keeps building from the start, and as the story reveals its inner darkness, the surreal quality of what’s going on really amps up this feverish dream. To the point of no return.

If you’re looking for a HEA or even a smidge of hope, I don’t think you should be reading this because it’s bleak. Very bleak.

But hey, I really enjoyed this creepy collaboration by Stephen King and Joe Hill, and look forward to reading more of their joint torments.

Friday 20 September 2019

More WIP Thoughts...


How was your week? As far as writing, reading and spending time with hubby went, it was great. The weather was really crappy, though. It rained most of the week, and you know I can't stand more than a few days of shitty rain. 😒

Personally, I don't find rainy days inspirational. I'd much rather have sunny days all week, but I didn't let that stop me from adding new words to my WIP.

The story's really coming along, so every time I sat down with my laptop, I typed up quite a storm. And that's why I once again gave myself the day off today. Not only does it seem to be working for the story, it's also great for my motivation and thinking things through.

So, the total word count is now: 40,203.

A lot of nightmarish and creepy things are happening to the girls in my story, and I'm really enjoying the adventure. There's a lot of dark stuff going on, and now that the ending is clear in my head, it's only a matter of getting there.

And I suspect that's not too far away. Everything's going downhill from here. 😁

Asides from the writing, I also read an awesome YA book. It's called THE DEATHLESS GIRLS by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and is a re-imagining of the Brides of Dracula before they became the creepy vampires haunting his castle. And I loved it! It's SO good.

If you want to read more, my review is HERE.

After all the writing and reading, I enjoyed spending downtime with hubby every evening. Going for walks was a bit of a pain with all the rain, but we managed.

Well, since last week's super crazy thrifting finds, we're giving it a break. Not for long, of course. Just enough so there's time for new stock to arrive. LOL. And... I'm very proud to say that we didn't go anywhere near our usual haunts all week. I can't believe it! 😂

There you go, that's my update for now.

Hope you all have an awesome weekend!

THE DEATHLESS GIRLS by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness - they must sate it. Even with their own kin. 

On the eve of her divining, the day she'll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community. 

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn't understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts. 

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate... 

Earlier this year, I read and absolutely LOVED Bram Stoker's Dracula. There were many things I enjoyed about this classic, but I was especially intrigued by the Brides of Dracula. I found them fascinating and wanted to know more. IMO, they just didn't get enough page time.

So, when I found out this book featured the Brides, of course I wanted to read it.

Lil and Kizzy are twin sisters who enjoy their peaceful and free lives as Travellers. But on the eve of their divining--when they'll have their futures read by the camp's Seer--their group is attacked by soldiers.

All the kids are taken to Boyar Valcar's castle, where their lives and dignity are stolen away. The twins are forced into a life of slavery in the castle's kitchen.

They might have taken their freedom, but they can't stop their thoughts or determination. They won't take their ability to love, and will never break their sisterly bond...

Wow. The first two chapters of this book are heavy. They really got me! Everything starts out lovely and serene, in a wonderful place that shows just how close the twins are to each other and nature, how peaceful their lives are, and how much they love everyone around them.

Then it burns all that happiness to the ground. 😞

After that, I couldn't put this book down. I knew I was going to love it. Lil's voice is strong and kind. She's selfless and determined to stay calm for her sister. Yet, she doesn't see any of that, doesn't realise her own strength in the face of adversity.

All of the characters in this story shine. Asides from Lil, my other favourites were Mira and Fen. Both tough in their own way and devoted to the ones they love. Hell, even the horrible ones leap off the page. They made me so angry and frustrated, I couldn't wait for them to pay. LOL.

For an origin story about the creepy vampire women living in Dracula's castle, there's a melancholy innocence throughout this tale of heartbreak and sisterhood. All Lil and Kizzy ever wanted was to find their own place in the world and be left alone, but find themselves fighting off constant unwanted attention.

I also have to mention how well the sense of location is portayed in this book. I could feel everywhere the characters went. From the overdone wealthy castles to the derelict villages, and especially the Traveller's connection to the land.

The Deathless Girls is an intriguing re-imagining about the girls who became the Brides of Dracula. It's beautifully written, dripping with atmosphere, and hooked me instantly. As the story slowly unravels and the stakes (pardon the pun) are heightened, I lost myself in the dangerous and violent world.

Although I already knew where this would end up, I still enjoyed getting there. I loved every minute of it.

Also, the cover is so pretty. The little details all represent something important in the story. Very nice!

The Deathless Girls, September 2019, ISBN 9781510106918, Orion Children's Books

Friday 13 September 2019

My September WIP Thoughts

Hey! You know what I just realised? That I haven't posted anything about my current WIP yet.

Why? Well, to be honest, I just kept forgetting because I was too busy writing. 😃 

So, let's change that.

Last week, I decided it was time to get back into the gothic horror story I started writing earlier this year. It started speaking to me again last month, and when that happens it's not a good idea to ignore it.

I already had 6k words written, so the first thing I had to do was go back to the beginning and re-read what I already had. I couldn't move forward until I did that. It took a few days but, I'm glad that's where I started because once that was done, I was able to get back into the swing of the story.

This time around, I wanted to add words as often as I could and at the same time, squeeze in other things. Some days I added heaps, while others I didn't add much. Actually, I kinda took both Fridays off so I could finish reading books, proofread blog posts and reviews, plus sort out my ever-growing pile of books.

Every WIP is different, and this year I'm finding that every story I've written has dictated its own process.

It's funny, because I used to have a certain way of tackling first drafts and keeping track of word counts, but this year hasn't gone according to plan. But that's fine. As long as I'm writing and the stories are coming together, it's cool.

I do have targets, though. By the end of this week, I wanted to reach 20k and I'm happy to say that I did. Yay.

Total word count is now: 21,596.

I'm really enjoying this tale. It's dark and creepy, has a nightmarish feel that turns everything upside down. There are a bunch of different bits and pieces coming together in the back of my mind. All exciting and spooky things that confuse everything for my poor girls.

I still don't know how many words this draft will end up being, but I'm not too concerned about it. I just want to get everything out of my head because this particular story, and the characters living inside it, are crowding my brain.

Well, that's all I wanted to say. Just thought an update was overdue. 😁

Happy Friday the 13th and have a great weekend!

Wednesday 11 September 2019

IT by Stephen King

You can now read my review of the ravenous monster that is IT here:

Friday 6 September 2019


Girls with Sharp Sticks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that caught my eye a few weeks ago. First I noticed the cover, then the title, and by the time I'd read the blurb, I knew it was something I would be interested in.

I'm a sucker for dystopian books about girls written by women because, although these kind of tales are bleak, the characters turn the narrative into strength and love. The fear lights a fire within them, one that puts them in motion until they end up risking everything for the freedom to be what every girl and woman deserves: the ability to be themselves and be recognised as a person.

So when I found it on the shelves during the new library opening last weekend, I had to borrow it. I'm really glad I did because it's amazing.

Mena attends an exclusive all-girl private school in the middle of nowhere. It's far from town and hidden near the picturesque mountains.

Innovations Academy is run by an all-male staff, all very eager to teach these students how to be better, proper girls for their investors. The girls are happy and willing to please, until dark secrets about the school start to surface...

OMFG. This book is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! It's as disturbing as it is interesting. As infuriating as it is intriguing. And Mena's POV, as well as the writing style, hooked me in and kept me glued to the pages.

I seriously couldn't put it down. Didn't want to.

As soon as I started reading, the air of malice surrounding these poor girls is obvious and filled me with fear, for them. Shortly followed by rage, because the more I read, the more I started figuring out what was going on. And all I wanted was to see these girls succeed in finding themselves and being able to find their own path.

This story raises a lot of other issues because it doesn't just deal with the obvious imprisonment and control of girls. But I can't go into that without giving away the shocking secrets that are better found out while reading this very cool book.

I loved the characters in this book. Especially the girls. Their sense of sisterhood, and the way they love and support each other is so awesome I loved every minute of their interactions. The way they trust one another and are willing to do whatever it takes to stay together just solidified my appreciation for this story.

There are a lot of other unexpected things that happen. For starters, it's quite violent. And very bloody. Not to mention that all of these kinds of books are horror tales of the worst kind.

I've seen this book compared to a lot of obvious titles I agree with--The Handmaid's Tale, Never Let Me Go, Westworld--but I'm going to add another one: Frankenstein. Doesn't it always come back to man's desire to control everyone? 😒

Anyway, I'm so glad I read this very disturbing, but empowering book. Can't wait to read the next one.

Monday 2 September 2019

More Kendall Reviews News

Hey, how are you today? 

I hope you all had a nice weekend, and that September is treating you well. I'm excited because spring is finally here. 🌞

Anyway, I've got a bit of an announcement.

Remember my post from the other day? The one where I mentioned I stopped by Kendall Reviews a few times?

Well, I joined the Kendall Reviews Team!

That's right, if you check out the Meet the Team page, you'll see me listed on there. Yay.

So, what does that mean? I'll be popping in several times a month, and you'll be able to read some of my reviews and other posts over there. Plus, I'll be part of a group full of really cool horror-lovin' guys who love to promote horror. 

It's going to be fun. 😃

Hope to see you over there!

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