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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

THE LAST WISH by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #0.5)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After watching and LOVING the hell out of The Witcher on Netflix, I decided I wanted to read this book of short stories in 2020.

THE VOICE OF REASON:

Well, that was a short and very well-written introduction to the world of the witcher's easy seduction.

THE WITCHER:

When Geralt, witcher of Rivia arrives in Wyzim, things take a violent turn. But he's there for a reason that involves King Foltest and the striga terrorising his land...

I really enjoyed this story about a cursed princess, the father determined to believe she can be saved, and the witcher who might be able to help them both.

Loved how on the surface, this story seemed so simple but introduced the shitty prejudices against Geralt, the undermining of a clever king, and how many shadowmen are willing to exert their shifty ways into the mix.

THE VOICE OF REASON 2:

Oh! The interlude that started with The Voice of Reason continues to reveal Geralt is inside a temple (after his encounter with the striga) with an old wise friend immune to his charm.

A GRAIN OF TRUTH:

While Geralt and Roach are travelling through the forest, they stumble on a few corpses, a beast and a very mysterious woman...

This was such an excellent story! I love how Geralt and Roach have wonderful conversations when they're alone together. It was also awesome how this is a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a wicked twist I wasn't expecting.

THE VOICE OF REASON 2:

Looks like the interludes just took a violent turn with the introduction of the obnoxious Knights of the Rose entering the temple of Melitele in Ellander with threats and warnings. But Nenneke's relentless nature keeps them at bay and pushes them towards trouble.

I have no doubt about that.

THE LESSER EVIL:

When Geralt arrives in Blaviken it's to a warm reception from an old friend. But as he discovers a wizard is also in town, things take a turn for the worst...

Loved this one too! It was just like watching the show, but with an awesome addition of Snow White. Renfri was just as dangerous, clever and ruthless as she was on-screen, but I got a deeper attachment to her plight. It was a shame that she was poisoned from such a young age, but it made for an amazing tale.

THE VOICE OF REASON 3:

A very clever interlude where Geralt talks freely about his past, how he became a witcher, and how talking it through helps him feel better. Not to mention, he teases about the child and Yennefer. 😳

A QUESTION OF PRICE:

During a banquet hosted by Queen Calanthe of Cintra, where she's meeting possible husbands for her young daughter, things take a strange turn when her use for a witcher twists their destinies together...

This was quite action-packed and full of devious political turns that get shattered by an unexpected voice. It's so much like the scene in the show, yet has several differences. Some, which strengthen and further explain why destiny is so important to Geralt the witcher.

THE VOICE OF REASON 4:

An awesome way of meeting the cheeky poet and bard, Dandilion. And a great way for Geralt to ponder about the ever-changing world and his refusal to kill anything that isn't an actual monster.

THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

While travelling with Dandilion looking for work, Geralt stumbles on a beautiful field that is being tormented by what the locals call a devil. But there's a lot more hiding in the flowers...

I loved this story, and Dandilion is a great companion. He's annoying and foul-mouthed, doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut, but he's also a very loyal friend. And I enjoy their banter so much. Plus, adding a member to this group is very cool.

Not to mention that I'm intrigued by the elves, and especially Lille.

THE VOICE OF REASON 5:

Another interlude consisting of Nenneke and Geralt. This time they're in a beautiful cave full of flora and are discussing what a bad idea it is for him to leave the temple before he's fully healed. Oh, and then the mysterious Yennefer becomes the focus of their uneasy exchange.

She's finally taking shape as a real person and the importance of her in Geralt's life. Can't wait to meet her.

THE LAST WISH:

While trying to do a spot of fishing, Geralt and Dandilion stumble on a djinn that gets them into so much trouble they end up crossing paths with a powerful sorceress who has some very wicked plans...

Yennefer! We finally meet Yennefer in this crazy story, and she doesn't disappoint. This is one powerful and wicked woman who does what she wants, even if that involves holding an entire town hostage. Yikes.

Personally, I think Yennefer and Geralt are totally meant for each. They're so different, yet so alike. Two very powerful beings warped by magic and living their lives by their own rules who don't really fit anywhere... Yeah, soulmates. 😍

THE VOICE OF REASON 6:

Ah, the Knights of the Rose are waiting for Geralt to leave the temple and things don't go the way these morons expected.

Great way to end the book!


Wow. This short story collection is something else. It's an incredible introduction to a magical and dangerous world full of monsters. The people who live in it lead complicated lives, the creatures are dwindling away, and the royals are too busy trying to get the upperhand.

I loved how the interludes happen in a different timeline to the main short stories, yet complement each other. Not to mention how well the fairy tales we all know are interlaced into this world, but have a bloody twist of their own.

Oh! And the writing was outstanding. I'm really fussy with fantasy stories and that's usually because I get bored with the stilted writing style. That didn't happen here! The storytelling is smooth, modern, and reveals all the relevant information via very cool dialogue.

And Geralt. I love Geralt. He's one of those misunderstood characters who's just trying to live his life under the shadow of labels other people put on him. He doesn't need to explain who he really is because he shows them with his actions. He's awesome and I can't wait to find out more about him.

I LOVED this book as much as the show. The differences are small and varied, but also shed a brighter light on the important stuff.

I'll DEFINITELY be reading more books in this world. Definitely.



ADDITIONAL NOTES:


In December, we decided to watch a fantasy show on Netflix called The Witcher.

I wasn't expecting much because fantasy stories often disappoint and I didn't know much about the games. Still, we decided to give it a go and were hooked instantly. We loved it so much we ended up watching the whole season over the weekend.

There was so much to love about the show: awesome characters, interesting monsters, complicated relationships, the magical and dangerous world of the Continent. It was AWESOME!

So awesome that I wanted to read the short story collection it was based on. And, now that I have, I want to read more. 😁

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

About my story...

On Monday, I announced that the UNDER HER BLACK WINGS: 2020 Women of Horror Anthology was released.

I'm very excited about this publication and love the shiny-freaky-lovely cover.

So I wanted to talk a bit about my short story. It's called Somewhere to Belong and is a tale I enjoyed writing because it was in my head for a long while before I finally sat down to write it. 

I got the idea on a rainy day. While walking past the playground near the river, I remember thinking: there's nothing sadder than a playground without kids. I was the only person on the path, and couldn't help but wonder if the imprint of children playing might always remain in a place made especially for them.

This is the playground:


The river:


And here's the blurb for my story:

A lonely woman finds a home among a group of lost-and-found souls, all cared for by a tentacled sea-creature called Mother.

I think it captures the essence of the story perfectly. 

When it came to giving the story a title, there was a song that stood out. Linkin Park's Somewhere I Belong fit perfectly. Except, I substituted I with to, because of obvious reasons.

I'm very proud of the story that started with a simple idea during a rainy day and turned into something much darker.

It's also awesome to have a story in an anthology alongside so many awesome Women of Horror.


The anthology is now available: 

Paperback | Kindle | Kobo | Nook Apple



   

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

ZOMBIES HATE STUFF by Greg Stones

Zombies Hate Stuff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that hubby found last week in a thrift store. It's a bit of a jokey pick that we HAD to buy because as soon as he showed me, I laughed. A lot.

I just finished reading a pretty intense and awesome book, so this was the best read to follow it up with. 😁

So, there's really not much to this book. It's broken up into three sections featuring what Zombies Hate, what Zombies Don't Mind, what Zombies Really Hate, and you might even find out if they actually love anything/anyone.

I enjoyed this because it made me chuckle. I also liked the artwork, and even felt sorry for Zombie a few times. He sure gets himself into some sticky situations. And I couldn't help but wonder why he didn't like several things. 😂

This picture book is a lighthearted and fun look at the dreaded zombie. Even though I laughed a lot, there's also an underlining disturbing air about the whole thing.

Because, you know, zombies! 🧟‍♀️




ADDITIONAL NOTES:

The thing about this book is that although it might be a hilarious and fun read without many words, it reminded me that I'm still a big zombie fan.

Unfortunately, the zombie market became inundated a few years ago so people started to switch off. But the truth is, I'm still a zombie fan. And I think it's been too long since I read a brain-eating undead tale.

I want to thank this book for the very cool reminder.


Monday, 13 January 2020

UNDER HER BLACK WINGS: 2020 Women of Horror Anthology is now available!


I'm super excited to announce that my short story, Somewhere to Belong, has been published in an awesome anthology featuring women of horror...



UNDER HER BLACK WINGS:
2020 WOMEN OF HORROR ANTHOLOGY
Kandisha Press

- A glamorous actress whose very flesh is reanimated by a beloved Hollywood icon
- A Boy Scout Troupe encounters a frightening mythological creature in an American forest
- A lonely woman finds a home among a group of lost-and-found souls, all cared for by a tentacled sea-creature called Mother
- A Faceless Woman attacks like a virus and takes on the identities of her victims
- A post-apocalyptic battle for survival rages between human and insect
- A Shadow Woman leads the spirits of the murdered to take revenge in the desert

These are just some of the stories nineteen women came up with when tasked with creating their own Women Monsters. Step inside and experience tales of bloodsucking entities in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Cuban river goddesses, an Aztec bruja, werewolves, mermaids, soul-stealers, obsessive lovers, furious spurned wives, bloody murder in Gothic manors and on Southern plantations... and so much more...

With Foreword by Brandon Scott (Author of Vodou and Sleight, Devil Dog Press)

Featuring:
Christy Aldridge
Carmen Baca
Somer Canon
Andrea Dawn
Dawn DeBraal
Michelle Garza
Sharon Frame Gay
Alys Hobbs
Tina Isaacs
Stevie Kopas
Marie Lanza
Melissa Lason
Malena Salazar Macía
Charlotte Munro
Lydia Prime
Paula R.C. Readman
Copper Rose
Yolanda Sfetsos

With cover art by Corinne Halbert

 
  It's now available from Amazon:
   



Sunday, 12 January 2020

GEEK LOVE by Katherine Dunn

Geek Love
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I've been wanting to read since I found a copy during one of our (many) thrift store adventures last year.

And I'm so glad I decided to pick it up this week.

The Binewski clan are a family of carnival folk who travel across the country performing for a large audience. They consist of the parents Al and Lil, who purposely experimented with a bunch of pseudo-science treatments and ended up having a bunch of 'extraordinary' children: Arty the Aqua Boy, Iphy and Elly the musically-talented Siamese twins, Oly is a dwarf albino with a hunchback, and Chick the norm with telekinetic tendencies.

As the kids get older and the carnival grows in popularity, so does the insanity...

Wow. What a story! I was often frustrated, intrigued, disturbed, even disgusted. But the one common thread was this: I couldn't stop reading.

I was hooked all the way through. It's such an addictive story that no matter how depraved things got, all I wanted to do was turn the page. When I reached the end of a chapter I told myself I'd read one more and instead ended up reading until the next part.

The story is told in two different timelines by Oly. Everything starts in the now and weaves back into the very twisted past of the most dysfunctional family ever. They were like a freaky version of The Partridge Family and an even darker The Addams Family, with a bloody twist of Cronenberg.

I kid you not. There's nothing I could say that would capture the true and very horrific essence of this epic tale without delving into a bunch of spoilers. And I certainly don't want to do that because the less you know about the more shocking bits about this book, the better you'll be when you find yourself totally off-balance by what you're reading. 😳

One of my favourite things about this story is the characters. Oly's the main narrator and her voice is strong if not foolhardy. Some of the things she does and condones are awful, and are all because of her blind devotion to her older brother. But her heart is in the right place. And Arty. This fucking douche was aggravating and so vile. He made me so angry I wanted to scream. Ugh.

Another very cool thing was how being normal is treated like the real disability. This family wasn't just happy with their freakiness, they looked down on others if they were norms. It was such a strange and refreshing take.

Geek Love is one of the most horrible stories I've read. It's bizarre and drops you down the abyss of weirdo so far and fast you never quite get your footing. Or know what to expect. It's unpredictable, shocking, gross, cruel and definitely one of the best books I've ever read.

I seriously loved every single minute I spent reading this book. I'm a sucker for oddities, so this was right up my alley.

This one's a keeper!


View all my reviews


ADDITIONAL NOTES:

Geek Love is a book that I kept hearing about last year. So I assumed it was released in 2019.

When I found a copy in one of our fave thrift stores, I was so excited.

It wasn't until late December, when I was picking out a pile of books to read in January, that I realised it was an older book. One that was published in 1989! This just added to the allure because I knew that a story about freaks written in the 70s or 80s would not hold back. And I was right. Yikes!

This book dares to go to some pretty horrid and dark places. Pushes the boundaries in every way, and manages to turn the world as we know it upside down.

I enjoyed every minute of it, which was the best bit. No matter how screwed up things got, or how fucked up the characters were, I couldn't look away! Refused to stop reading.

And when I wasn't reading, I was checking out the cool artwork and different covers made for this book.

Also, it made me miss Oddities. That was one cool show!

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

CINDERELLA: The Graphic Novel by Beth Bracken & Jeffrey Stewart Timmins

Cinderella: The Graphic Novel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We all know the story of Cinderella, so I'm very familiar with it. Yet, I can't stop reading new updated versions or retellings, so of course I picked this up when hubby found it during one of our (many) thrift store adventures.

Ella is very sad when she loses her mother and can't shake the sadness.

When her father remarries, her stepmother and two stepsisters move in and take over the house. Leaving Ella to become their housekeeper.

But when a ball is announced and her stepmother refuses to let her go, Ella finds a way...

This was a dark and lovely retelling of a very familiar story. I especially liked that her name was Ella, and that much of the story focused on the grief the poor girl goes through after losing her mother. She tries so hard to be strong, but can't stop visiting her mother's gravesite and cries all the time.

Yet, no one notices but the animals.

The essence of the original fairy tale is captured not only through the darker and subtle additions to the narrative, but also through the eerie illustrations. There's something Burton-esque about this graphic novel and I LOVED it.

The style of character drawings and even the colour palette are quite drab, yet so pretty. I enjoy all kinds of artwork in graphic novels and comic books, but the weirder the better.

At the end of the book there's also an interesting history about the true origins of this fairy tale, a few discussion questions and even writing prompts.

This book is going right to my Keeper Shelf.


View all my reviews


ADDITIONAL NOTES:

This lovely book included three discussion questions at the end, so I thought I'd answer them. 😁

1). The prince didn't care about Ella being dusty and dirty because he wasn't shallow and mean like her stepmother. He was a good person willing to give everyone a shot. Plus, he wanted all the girls to try on the glass slipper.

2). I love the panel with Ella standing at her mother's gravesite after the tree grows. It was beautiful, very emotional and magical.

3). Being a fan of fairy tales means that I've heard, read and watched a bunch of Cinderella versions. This one is different because there's a darker edge to the story potrayed through the artwork. Not to mention the deeper addition to Ella's struggle with grief.

That was fun!


Monday, 6 January 2020

WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

Wilder Girls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this weird and wonderful book on my TBR pile for a while, but I'm glad I decided to make it my first read for 2020.

Firstly, I have to comment on the cover because it's beautiful. And eerie and oh-so creepy. Not to mention absolutely perfect for the story.

For eighteen months, the surviving students at Raxter School for Girls have been under quarantine on what's become a dangerous and wild island. The Tox has changed everyone, infected them in a way that has transformed their bodies.

Hetty, Byatt and Reese are close friends who don't always agree on things. But when one of them goes missing, the other two are determined to find her...

Wow. This book is really something special.

I was hooked from the beginning. This story is full of intriguing characters and a savage landscape. These young girls are forced to do some pretty feral things to survive.

Hetty's voice is strong and interesting. She reveals the relevant information at a good pace. Sometimes, we discover new things at the same time. But I really enjoyed getting to know the strange place she's forced to live in, how complicated her connection with her friends is, and learn how she deals with the physical changes that make everything harder.

The horror in this book is awesome. Raw and grisly, awful and beautiful in its parasitic way. The descriptions were done so well that every detail bloomed vividly inside my mind, and I could see everything playing out perfectly.

Even though it's very different, so much about what was going on reminded me of Annihilation. In the best way possible. And just like Annihilation, I loved how some of the answers unfold, eventually revealing themselves. BUT at the same time, many more questions arise and are never answered.

I'll never understand why anyone has any problem with YA horror. Some of the grittiest and best horror I've read has been YA horror.

And I have so many more on my TBR pile... 😈


View all my reviews


ADDITIONAL NOTES:

I LOVE this cover so much I took a bunch of photos of the book the other day.

I'm really glad that I finally read this fantastic book as part of the #LadiesFirst20 Challenge hosted by Ladies Of Horror Fiction

It was the best way to start my 2020 Reading. 😊


Sunday, 5 January 2020

My New Planner


If you've been reading my blog during the last few years, then you know that a New Year means a New Planner. 

Last year I went with a very cool denim design:


And this year I picked this one...


This particular Moleskine is my favourite format. It has One Page for a week with Opposite Blank Page on the other side. I love being able to keep a record of everything I do daily on the left (calendar side), and then take more detailed notes on the right (lined page). 

Now I'm ready to fill my planner with important dates, stickers, washi tape and most importantly, my goals. 😊

What about you? 

Do you use a planner? 

If you do...
Happy planning!

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Tracking Words & Pages


For several years now, I've posted a screenshot of my Tracking Sheets for the previous year. 

These are my 2019 stats:

Total words written: 263,580. 
Total pages revised 841.

Although 2019 was a year full of life changes, I still managed to write several novels and short stories. Luckily, the ideas didn't stop coming, so I took advantage of that very cool fact. 😀

BTW, if you're wondering where I got this very handy spreadsheet that helped me keep track of these words and pages, it's something Sidney Bristol used to share on her blog annually. Although this side of her blog hasn't been updated for a while, you can still get your hands on the basic spreadsheet HERE. All you have to do is update the year. 

Either way, I wanted to give her the credit she deserves because I LOVE using this spreadsheet. It helps me keep track of my daily, monthly and yearly productivity. ☺ 

This post is purely about word and page counts but, if you're interested, the other day I posted a detailed breakdown of how I did with my 2019 Goals

I've already set up my spreadsheet for 2020 and look forward to adding all my progress.  

Here's to another productive year!



Friday, 3 January 2020

Some Kind of Goals

Welcome to my 2020 Goals post. 😊 

As you might (or might not) know, I don't like making New Year's resolutions because they don't work. Instead, I like to put together a list of goals. 

Although I post my yearly goals list here on my blog, I also make smaller lists on a daily, weekly, monthly and even quarterly basis in my notebook. It helps to streamline what I want to achieve as well as any unexpected projects that pop up.

Anyway, these are the things I'd like to achieve this year: 
  • Continue the awesome habit of going for two daily walks 
  • Try to get back into doing two yoga workouts a week 
  • Write between 100-200k words 
  • Read 100 books 
  • Finalise at least two horror novel first drafts 
  • Write two new novels 
  • Finally write at least one novella 
  • Keep writing short stories & sub
  • Take part in NaNoWriMo 
  • Keep spring cleaning/sorting clutter all year
  • Actually play games on my 2DS & Switch Lite

So, there you go! 

This is my list for 2020.

Are you making any goals this year?


Thursday, 2 January 2020

Reading 2020


HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

A new year means a new Goodreads Reading Challenge...


That's right. I'm setting my usual 100 Books Reading Challenge.


These are the mini-challenges I like to squeeze into the overall challenge:
  • Find a good balance between reading books for review, books from my personal bookshelves, thrift store books, Kindle, Kobo and tablet. 
  • Stop putting off highly-anticipated books and read them whenever the mood strikes. 
  • Continue to catch up on series books I've fallen behind on. 
  • Finish trilogies, duologies and series. 
  • Read more author short story collections and short story/novella anthologies. 
  • Although I hate DNFing books--and feel bad doing it--I MUST keep doing it for books that don't grab me.

My main Reading Goal for this year is to read whatever book I feel like reading whenever I feel like reading it.


Anyway, you can keep up with my progress on My Reading Page or at Goodreads

So, how many books do YOU plan to read this year? 

Here's to another awesome year full of awesome reading!



Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year!


Wow! I can't believe it's 2020 and we still haven't got flying cars. Then again, the way things are shaping up in the world, that's probably a good thing because humanity can't be trusted with anything. 😃 

Regardless, it's time to get stuck into a new year. Time to make new goals and plans. 

Let's hope this is the year the world gets back on track, because I think we're over the ridiculous political crap. Then again, I wished this would happen last year and things got worse. 😒

Anyway, have an awesome, productive, healthy and exciting year!

 
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