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Sunday, 16 June 2019

Random Reading Thoughts

Hey, how are you today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading! 😁📚


Thursday, 13 June 2019

MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust

Money Shot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really need to read the next one.


Wednesday, 5 June 2019

DOGGEM by John F Leonard

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

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

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

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

That was such a great story!

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

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

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

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

This is a shortie worth reading.


Tuesday, 4 June 2019

PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK by Joan Lindsay

Picnic at Hanging Rock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

And then another returns...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Either way, I enjoyed this a lot.


Sunday, 2 June 2019

THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT by Kayte Nunn

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These stories are important, and should be shared.


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

Thursday, 30 May 2019

CHOP SHOP by Andrew Post

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You should check it out!



Monday, 27 May 2019

Restless, but Mindful

That's right. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feels like we're moving into a new phase.

Well, that's it for now.

Have a great week! 😃

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

STIRRING THE SHEETS by Chad Lutzke

Stirring the Sheets
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 19 May 2019

GHOST MINE by Hunter Shea

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


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

Anyway, let's talk about this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously, check it out!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

RED AS BLOOD AND WHITE AS BONE by Theodora Goss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Good Omens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, this didn't help.

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

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

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

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


Sunday, 12 May 2019

DUST DEVILS by Jonathan Janz

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 10 May 2019

Restless Mind Leads to Much Reading...

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

WEB by John Wyndham

Web
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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!


 
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