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Tuesday, 30 June 2020

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I've been meaning to read for AGES. I picked up the Kindle version a while ago, and found a gorgeous hardback version during one of our many thrift store adventures last year.

I'm glad I did, because this book is fucking amazing. Amazing, I tell you.

Alex's sister was murdered years ago and it changed her. Hardened her and turned her into a recluse. And she's keeping some dark secrets.

Peekay is the preacher's daughter and is mostly a good girl. She's struggling after her boyfriend dumped her, but finds a new friendship with Alex.

Jack is your typical cocky, horny teenager interested in scoring as many hits with the girls as he can. But he's also smart, and has his eye on Alex.

The connection between these three turns out to be explosive...

Wow. What an emotional ride!

Okay, before I start let me mention that this book is not for everyone. There's a LOT of stuff in this storyline that's bound to make people uncomfortable. There are many triggers. After all, it deals with the harsh reality of rape culture, features some animal cruelty, and doesn't shy away from violence.

But, as I said above: it's AMAZING.

This book is gritty, doesn't shy away from everything and anything that deals with the casual way men/boys are always excused for their sexist actions/words, and how women/girls are judged harshly for just about everything they say/do. And to be honest, I'm not even doing it any justice by saying these things. This is a story that has to be read to truly understand what I'm saying, and experienced at your own pace to see just how utterly brilliant it really is. To see how clever the commentary is, while at the same time telling an intriguing story about a small town and the people who live there.

A story about the only abduction and murder case that still rocks its foundation. About how the sister of the victim turned out, but not for the reasons expected. About a preacher's daughter trying to find her own way while respecting her beliefs. About your average horny teenage boy trying to be better and finding himself in a world of hurt the first time he opens his heart.

This is one heavy book. It also moves fast because the chapters are snappy, to the point, and shared by three very different and interesting POVs. And I loved every second of it.

I seriously can't express just how much I loved this book. Or how badly it broke my heart because these kids got deep inside my head and I felt everything they did.

Not everything about this book is sad or horrifying, though plenty of what happens is. There's also a lot of fun moments, some hilarious conversations, plenty of touching moments, and some of the most beautiful depictions of friendship I've ever read.

The Female of the Species is an outstanding book that deserves all the stars. It's definitely one I won't forget.

I highly recommend this dark gem.


Sunday, 28 June 2020

MEM by Bethany C Morrow

Mem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last night, while going through the books on my Paperwhite, I stumbled on this novella. It's one I've had my eye on for a while, so I started reading.

During the 1920s Dolores Extract #1 is called back to the Vault. After living in the real world, she's not sure why they want her back where she began.

She's an anomaly, and is able to make her own memories, instead of the one extracted memory from her Source. As she waits to find out her fate, several of her own memories rise to the surface...

This story is delightfully strange. Throws you right into the middle of an alternate 1920s Montreal, where the glitz is very much alive with the added ability of having painful memories extracted from people who then become life-sized versions of the original person.

That's wild, right? But the weird stuff doesn't stop there, because as this incredible Mem--Elsie--remembers her experiences on the outside, deeper twisted things are revealed. And the more time I spent with Elsie, the more her intelligence shines through. As well as her ability to form real friendships, emotional attachments, and keep secrets.

I really enjoyed this story because it challenges so much about humanity and what people are willing to do to escape bad memories. Or when other people decide for you. It really gets your mind thinking and questioning the ethics of doing something this drastic. Love that!

Mem is a thought-provoking, weird little tale featuring a lot of pseudo-science and some beautiful imagery.


Saturday, 27 June 2020

THE SILK HOUSE by Kayte Nunn

The Silk House
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Kayte Nunn's first two books, so I was interested in checking this one out too. Especially since I was intrigued by the blurb.

Thea Rust is an Australian history teacher who starts working in an exclusive boarding school in the British countryside, in an old building called Silk House. A place with a mysterious past. 

Rowan Caswell leaves her village in the 1700s to work in the home of an English silk merchant to help care for her brothers. But her talent captures unexpected attention.

Mary-Louise Stephenson lives in London near the weaving trade. She dreams of becoming a silk designer, but this is a job only men have.

The lives of these three women converge in an unexpected way...

I was looking forward to checking this out and while I enjoyed the lush writing style, and the way the different timelines and characters were blended, in the end I wasn't hooked in the way I thought I would be.

There was something keeping me at a distance from what was going on, as well as from the three POVs. I think it was because the haunting part of the story didn't satisfy my personal gothic mystery expectations fully.

So, it could be a case of it's me, not the story syndrome.

Either way, this is an interesting book with some nice imagery, fascinating use of plants, deals with a part of history we don't hear about much, and has a bit of a twist at the end.


Friday, 26 June 2020

THE MERCILESS by Danielle Vega

The Merciless (The Merciless, #1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my Paperwhite for a while and have been tempted to start it many times. This time, I gave into the impulse and I'm SO glad I did.

Sofia Flores is the new kid in a small town where her mother's been stationed. She moves around a lot, so it's hard to make friends. But this time, on her first day, the popular trio--Riley, Grace and Alexis--befriend her.

She has enough to worry about at home with her strict mother and sick grandmother, but getting caught up with these girls leads her down a very dark path that ends with an exorcism...

Yikes! 😳

This book turned out to be an unexpected wicked little tale. A sick and depraved story wrapped in a sugary sweet pink cover. One that deals with the most toxic of friendships between girls hiding behind their belief in God to justify some pretty messed-up stuff.

Everything starts out simple enough. The new girl in school is excited about the attention the popular girls are paying her. Even though something doesn't feel right. Even though she doesn't really see anything wrong with the girl they've decided to target with their malice. BUT, nothing gets in the way of a teenage girl's desire to belong to the cool group and the peer pressure attached to such a friendship.

Of course, we're not dealing with your average teen girls here. They're devout, mysterious, total manipulators and downright creepy. Oh, okay, so this totally describes high school cliques. 🀣

I really enjoyed how this book doesn't take long to go from familiar into full-on horrifying violence. Then quickly tips into WTF? is going on territory. Until the depravity and brutality of what these girls are actually doing hit my horror-loving heart.

Also, I loved how unpredictable it was. I might've had suspicions as the story moved along, but the bloody reality unravelled in a way I wasn't expecting. Oh, and that ending was so cool I can't wait to read the next one.

I need to know how Sofia's story ends.


Thursday, 25 June 2020

Time to write this Thing

Hey! How are you today? How's the world treating you? What's new?

Well, as we all (painfully) know, we're still in the middle of a fucking pandemic. I know people feel safe believing it's over, but it's not. And I especially wish they would pay attention to social distancing, because I'm sick and tired of total strangers getting too close.

I didn't want them close before, and certainly don't want them anywhere near me now. πŸ˜’

Also, I never want to hear about how stupid fictional characters are when they make stupid decisions, because the idiots of the real world keep proving just how fucking dumb humans can be. Ugh.

Enough about all that crap.

Remember that pesky jury duty thing that was making me super anxious? It worked out okay. I was excused because of my concern/fear of Covid-19 and having to be around a large group of people in an enclosed area. Of course, I'll get another summons eventually, but I'll deal with that when I have to.

At least it's out of the way for now.

So, with that distraction out of the way, I spent this week working on the WIP I mentioned a few weeks ago. The one I've been randomly adding words to on my phone.

And this is how I did:
  • Monday: 6,146 (added 956w)
  • Tuesday: 10,104 (added 3958)
  • Wednesday: 13,107 (added 3003w)
  • Thursday: 13,722 (added 615w)

When I started writing this, I wasn't sure how long it was going to be. At first I thought it might be another 20k novella. Then I thought it could turn out to be a 15k novelette. I wasn't sure but it didn't really matter. Length is never a big deal, telling the story is what matters.

This is a horror idea I had a while ago. It's about sibling rivalry of the darkest kind. It deals with the demonic, necromancy, and a whole lot of collateral damage. It might even be a secondary character's prequel story for one of the novellas I wrote earlier this year. Maybe. 😈

Either way, the initial idea was a LOT different to how the story turned out. At the start it was a bit of a horror superhero caper mixed with Norse mythology. But as the story developed, it slowly became something else with bits and pieces taken from a range of mythologies. But mostly, it became its own violent beast.

Love it when that happens!

And as it turns out, the total word count was just below 14k. That's right! I finished the first draft today. Yay. 😁

That means I'll take tomorrow and the weekend off to recharge, and think about when to start on the next draft.

Asides from writing, I caught up on the latest episodes of The 100. This is actually the last season and I'm loving it as much as all the others. I'm going to miss these characters. They've been through a lot of crap, so I hope they get some kind of happiness in the end.🀞

Well, that's about it for now. It's really cold at the moment, which totally sucks because I'm not a fan of winter. But we're staying warm, continue to do yoga and try to go for our afternoon walks in the sun.

Take it easy, stay safe and I hope you're all having a nice week.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

EVERY MOON ATROCIOUS by Emile-Louis Tomas Jouvet

Every Moon Atrocious (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 6)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like sneaking in a quick Short Sharp Shocks! shortie when I'm in-between longer books. And this was my pick for tonight.

In Calais, a young women is kidnapped, held for ransom and killed. As the police investigate the murder of Celestine Theret, some really strange things turn up...

Ooooooh. This was such an interesting story that unravels via messages, recordings, CCTV footage and emails. And not just that, it's also out of order. Which makes everything so much more interesting. It's like a jumbled puzzle that slowly comes together after you've reached the end. That's when the genius really hits you!

I love it when you start reading a story and get so lost that you wonder if you'll enjoy the ride. Only to get totally caught up in what's going on. Until it felt like I was watching a short movie, and I couldn't wait to find out how everything was going to turn out.

This is a very clever story told in an unconventional way. It's twisty and violent and full of horrible people. I really enjoyed it.


THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN by RA Montgomery

The Abominable Snowman (Choose Your Own Adventure)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I was a kid, I used to love reading Choose Your Own Adventure books and borrowed them from my primary school library as well as the public library. I couldn't get enough of them and enjoyed getting multiple endings. LOL.

During our thrift store adventures, we've found quite a few. So I've started a bit of a collection. But this is one hubby found cheap in some store.

So, you love climbing mountains and go on an expedition to the world's highest mountains in Nepal with your friend Carlos. You both want to search for the Yeti, but shortly after arriving, Carlos goes missing...

Oooooh. This was interesting and the artwork is lovely. Also, the very cool thing about these books is that you can reach one ending and then backtrack to the beginning to take another path.

I like to take three different paths per book and this where I ended up:

1). I must have made a few bad choices because it didn't take long for me to wake up from a bad dream. πŸ˜’

2). This wasn't a super long adventure, but I did find my friend and quenched my thirst for knowledge. πŸ™‚

3). I finally found myself in quite the long adventure full of wisdom and some supernatural stuff. Sure, I might have lost track of my friend and ultimately decided to go back, but at least I got to see the Shangri-La. 😁

I enjoyed this very cool ride and will soon have to check out the other adventures.


Sunday, 21 June 2020

SPIRITED by Julie Cohen

Three women carry unspeakable truths in their heart. At what cost will they find their freedom? 

 In Victorian England, Viola is an amateur photographer struggling with the grief of her father's death and the sterile atmosphere of her marriage to her childhood friend, Jonah. When she discovers a talent for capturing ghostly images on camera, Viola comes to the attention of a spirit medium, and a powerful attraction between the two women is sparked... As each woman puts herself at risk, secrets are brought to light that will change their lives forever.


This is a book that I found out about via Hachette Australia, so I want to thank them for sending me a copy. The blurb sounded so intriguing I was really looking forward to checking it out.

When Viola gets married, she's still mourning the loss of her beloved father and feels lost and alone. With her childhood best friend now her husband, they move away to the coast to start their life together. But their marriage isn't going the way she imagined. There's too much distance between them, and she soon finds solace in photography.

Henriette is a well-known spirit medium making her own way in a man's world, and has a keen eye for the obvious. But no matter how far she gets, she's always trying to outrun her secret past.

After Viola and Henriette cross paths, they both find something very unexpected...

I really liked how this book started in such a sad place, which soon leads into a series of interesting, unexpected and wondrous events.

There are a lot of moving parts in this story with multiple characters full of personal thoughts and complicated pasts. While all of these separate components work apart from each other through much of the introduction, everything leads into a very intricate and exciting connection.

Told in several POVs, spanning through different timelines, this amazing tale of love, grief and finding your place in a very unstable world, took me on an interesting historical adventure set during a time we don't read much about in Victorian fiction.

Of course, as expected, there were a lot of things that angered me about the treatment of women and the accepted sexist attitudes of men. But it was wonderful to watch how these women used their own intelligence to overcome these obstacles. Sometimes it takes escaping into a loveless marriage. Other times it entails a bit of cunning manipulation. And even pretending you're someone you're not. But all of the options are a result of how their world, devoid of respect for women, shapes them.

The spiritual medium and spirit photography angle was utterly captivating. These happen to be two topics I've always found fascinating and enjoy reading about. To have them combined in a way that introduced the human condition provided an entertaining, rich and mysterious experience.

Spirited is a thought-provoking historical tale full of rich and deep characters with sympathetic and intriguing qualities. There are plenty of surprises, unexpected turns, unconventional friendships, remarkable love stories, and a sense of wonder that remains after the last page.

I enjoyed every minute I spent with this hauntingly beautiful book.


Spirited, July 2020, ISBN 9781409179887, Orion

Friday, 19 June 2020

SLIMER by Harry Adam Knight

Slimer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for a shorter horror book to read at night, and because I think the cover rocks and the blurb sounded interesting, I got stuck into this last night.

When three couples find themselves on a lifeboat after their yacht sinks, these six drug smugglers stumble upon an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. Except, once they get inside, they find a bunch of labs and piles of clothing. And there's no one around.

Well, except for the black slime...

Man, reading this book was like watching an 80s sci-fi horror movie on VHS. It was full of annoying characters who keep splitting up, girls who take their clothes off at the drop of a hat, the sexist guy who thinks with the wrong head, pseudo-science shit, scientists messing with crap they shouldn't, girls who totally get it but no one listens to, and a creepy monster that refuses to fucking die.

It's graphic in every aspect, and tense as hell. The claustrophobic feel of the corridors inside that oil rig totally set the mood for a creature able to shift its appearance. And the whole drug angle ended up fitting in a bizarre and somewhat comical kind of way.

As far as the characters go, I mostly liked all of them but that shitty Alex. He was an odious being. I hated him more than the actual monster. Paul and Linda (hey, I know a famous couple named Paul and Linda!) were my faves from the beginning. They didn't disappoint, but did surprise me quite a bit.

This story turned out to be quite a fun and fast-paced horror caper that hooked me with the premise, kept me there with the freaky gore, and took me on an unexpected ride.

I really enjoyed this!


Thursday, 18 June 2020

THE GREAT GATSBY by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was in the mood for something shorter, and since I've had this book on my TBR pile for a while, this definitely fit the bill.

Nick Carraway is thinking back to the summer when he found himself the neighbour of the rich and well-known Jay Gatsby. A man who throws lavish parties in his mansion all the time. A man who is surrounded by so many, but is desperately alone...

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Except that it's an American classic, I have multiple thrift-store copies, and never watched the movie because I find DiCaprio very annoying. ☺

But I really enjoyed it. A lot!

The shallowness of these characters was certainly as disturbing as their sharp words, and blatant cruelty. They only care about perception and want to be seen with the right people at the right places at the right time. The way these men treated women was utterly despicable. It's not a surprise because it seems like women of this era--in spite of their pursuit for independence--were treated like pretty dolls to be gawked at and eventually captured.

These men captured a pretty lady of their own, took her home and when they got bored found another to have on the side. Yet, still treated that one like crap too. πŸ˜’

Anyway, back to the book.

I loved Fitzgerald's writing style. He managed to make the most of mundane situations lyrical, and kept my attention glued to the page no matter how annoying the characters were. Or how seemingly boring whatever they happened to be doing at the time was. He certainly had a way with words and provided an expert and intimate commentary about 1920s society.

Wish I could say that the world has grown and become a better and more inclusive place, but we seem to be going round in circles. Different problems, same old attitudes. And of course, I mention this because there were some cringe-worthy word choices and racist attitudes that got on my nerves. That Tom character sure was a piece of shit. On so many levels.

My favourite thing about this story is that I didn't expect it to go from disconnected rich guy who throws parties to fill up his hollow soul, to rich guy is obsessively in love with a married woman and wants her bad, to a hideous accident that becomes a crime. Yikes!

OMG. I wasn't expecting that at all. It's twisted.😯

Actually, I wasn't expecting this book to end up being such a tragic and sad tale about love, loss, desire and shiny people with no substance. Or to be so deep that after I finished, the utter brilliance of everything that happened kept bouncing inside my head. Still is.

Poor, silly Gatsby. Poor disillusioned Carraway.

I'm SO glad I finally read this classic because all the copies I have definitely deserve a place on my Keeper Shelf.


Monday, 15 June 2020

SOMEONE LIKE ME by MR Carey

Someone Like Me
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this chunky book on my TBR pile since last year, but there's a reason why I picked it up now.

Let me start by saying that The Girl With All the Gifts is one of my most favourite books ever. I loved everything about it. But, I DNFd the next three books written by this author. His latest only last week. 😣

So, hubby suggested I give this one a go to see if I ended up in the same place. And I have to admit, I went in expecting to force myself to read a few chapters before giving in to the skimming. But something strange happened: I was hooked right away!

And when a second character's POV started, my interest intensified. I couldn't stop reading. Didn't want to put the book down.

Liz is trying to get on with her own life and enjoy the two kids she loves more than anything. The night her ex-husband attacks her, she fights back. Except, it wasn't her. She's positive someone else temporarily took over her body.

Fran is a teenager who suffered through a traumatic experience when she was a kid, and then lost her mother. She's also prone to hallucinations, when all she wants is to be normal.

Then their worlds collide...

O.M.F.G. Wow. What a book!

This is amazing in so many different ways. Not just because the two main characters are strong women with their own flaws, complications and mental health issues as a result of the scars left by the abusive men in their past. Not just because the concept is intriguing. Not just because the writing is absorbing and the slow burn narrative kept me glued to the page. Nope.

It's all of the above and SO much more.

From the very beginning, the sense of creeping dread and uncertainty clung to every page. It felt like there was a shadow behind every page, waiting to pounce and turn everything upside down. And in a sense, that's exactly what was happening every step of the way. And when the worst thing possible happened, holy hell!

The danger was ramped up to the nth degree. Things started to fall apart and got worse pretty quickly. I couldn't read fast enough because I wanted to find out what was really happening. Yet, at the same time tried to pace myself because I didn't want to miss anything and didn't want to rush the experience.

I need to mention how invested I became in Liz and Fran. Because I liked them so much, everything that happened to them affected me deeply. When Liz's situation falls apart it really upset me. When Fran starts feeling alone all over again, my heart broke for her. I realise that my details are vague and probably won't make sense if you haven't read this book, but that's on purpose because it's the best (and only) way to go into this fantastic story.

The pace isn't that of a fast-paced thriller, yet it's so addictive. This is a psychological thriller with horror and fantastical edges, and it embeds itself so deeply into your brain that you can't get it out of your head.

Seriously, this book is utterly amazing. In every way. I LOVED it to bits. I was hooked until the breathtaking ending. I enjoyed the hell out of this awesome book and it's going on my Most Favourite List, for sure. 😍


Thursday, 11 June 2020

THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES by Agatha Christie

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

During our pre-Covid-19 days, hubby and I used to love going on thrift store adventures. And thanks to this lovely hobby--that we haven't been able to do for months--we picked up a bunch of Agatha Christie books. Then, I went out of my way to pick up quite a few for my Paperwhite to fill in the gaps, and built up quite a collection.

Being the huge reader that I am, it's surprising that although I know quite a bit about Christie, I'd never actually read any of her books. Until now.

I decided to start with the first Poirot story and I'm glad I did.

When Captain Hastings goes to stay in the country manor of his friend, John Cavendish, in Styles he catches up with a few old acquaintances and meets a new host of people.

Things in this seemingly close family are anything but, and when the matriarch dies, Hastings calls on an old friend he's surprised to encounter in the country.

Hercule Poirot is a peculiar but thorough investigator, and when he starts piecing the clues together, he reveals some sinister revelations...

I really enjoyed my first encounter with Poirot as much as my introduction to Agatha Christie, and can't figure out why I waited so long. πŸ˜•

Told in the POV of Hastings, I liked how he recounted everything that happened in Styles. He's got a good eye for detail, but Poirot outdoes everyone on the page. He's peculiar and thorough, but also gets answers easily from those he interviews because of his kind manner, clever wit, and the relevance of his questions.

I love mysteries and this one really captured everything I enjoy about this genre. There was that nice locked-room vibe going on, too. Blend it in with the use of poisons, and it was guaranteed to keep me interested. The setting was also really interesting as it takes place during WWI.

One thing that I always worry about when reading books that were written so long ago is if I'll like the style or if I'll be turned off by the many differences in how much smaller the world and tolerance was back then compared to now. There were a few awkward words peppered throughout that made me cringe, but they were easy to ignore.

I was surprised by the way the story was told because I thought it would be written in the POV of Poirot, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment. Hastings was as peculiar as Poirot. LOL. And the unexpected twists and turns were interesting.

Really looking forward to reading other books in this series.


Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Caught in the Middle of Weird

Hey! How are you today? How's life treating you during these hard times?

Just when you think 2020 can't get any worse, it fucking does. I mean, WTF is going on right now? Is our planet lost in some strange one-way cosmic highway of destruction? It's not enough to have a virus pandemic on the loose, we also have to add asshole racist killers to the mix? Seriously, I really don't know what to expect next.

If an alien invasion suddenly happened, or hordes from hell decided to ascend, I would not be surprised. Ugh.

Personally, I've been spending my days with hubby. Going for walks every day, doing yoga workouts, enjoying nice meals, staying up late, and reading lots while he plays a variety of games. It's fun and helps soothe my wandering mind.

There's a story hounding my brain at the moment and I've been sporadically adding new words to the Word doc on my phone. But I haven't fully committed because there's a pesky thing called jury duty that's like a really dark storm cloud hanging over my head that I can't clear away. It's smack-bang in the middle of the month and this thing's making me so anxious I keep having nightmares about it. 😲

I feel like I can't fully concentrate on my next project until this shitty thing is done.

You know, if this was taking place last year, I would've been fine and dandy with it. But during a pandemic? Not so much. This is screwing with my head and I'm caught between hoping it gets cancelled again and just getting it over and done with so I can fucking move on already.

This shit's been haunting me since February. 😣

At least it hasn't gotten in the way of my reading. As you can see below, I've been busy reading up a storm. Paperbacks, Kindle books, a combination--I'm picking up one book after another.

I even sorted some of the many piles of books I have around the apartment. Which reminded me about all the awesome books I want to read.

Anyway, it's been a few weeks so I thought I'd post an update about my state of mind and what I've been doing.

Hope you're all staying safe. And also, don't forget that people deserve to be treated as equals and with respect, and that Black Lives Matter.

Take care!


Tuesday, 9 June 2020

THE STRAITJACKET IN THE WOODS by Kitty R Kane

The Straitjacket In The Woods (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 41)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading stories from the Short Sharp Shocks! series because they're snappy tales I can read in one sitting. I also like how they all tackle a variety of horror subgenres.

After losing a game during Halloween, Abi and Jay end up deep in the forest that is supposed to be terrorised by the legendary Pendulous Sedge. They're there to collect a trophy, but end up finding so much more...

Yikes! This story is one violent and bloody trip down some very dark paths.

I was instantly hooked by what I thought would be a haunted forest story, and instead turned into one hell of a ride with an unexpected ending.

There's so much packed into this story. A scary forest: check. Creepy-crawlies: check. Cannibals: check. A crazed legend: check. Experimentation: check. Abusive asshole doctors: check. All of the above, plus so much more, rolled into one intriguing and macabre tale that goes where you don't expect it to go every step of the way.

If you're squeamish, this will definitely make you uncomfortable because it doesn't hold back. In any way. This story starts pretty calm and familar, and when you realise what's happening around you, it's too late because you're already too deep into all the strange.

As disturbing as so much of this story is--because trust me, it totally is--there's also a certain moving and uplifting quality about it. The message behind everything that happens, as well as where the characters end up, is quite nice. Do I dare say, charming? Not to mention that all the main characters are very likeable.

I had a great time reading this unpredictable story. 😈


Monday, 8 June 2020

VASSA IN THE NIGHT by Sarah Porter

Vassa in the Night
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my Paperwhite for a while and have been meaning to read it even longer. But this weekend, I decided it was definitely time.

Vassa lives in an apartment in Brooklyn with her stepmother, stepsister and half-sister. They're not your average family, but Vassa isn't an average teenager. For one, she has a pesky magical companion. And the nights seem to last longer all the time.

The night one of her sisters sends her off to buy lightbulbs, she finds herself stuck inside a very dangerous store working for a wicked woman, inside a patch of land that plays by its own freaky rules...

What an awesome & bizarre book this turned out to be. In the best way possible.

I was absolutely enthralled from the beginning, because this story takes the reader on a wild and fantastical adventure through some murky locations and macabre situations.

It's weird and wonderful, dripping with atmosphere and told in a beautiful way. At times, it feels like falling from one nightmare into another, and then waking inside a beautiful dream. Only to once again tumble deep into an abyss where logic doesn't matter and magic is the only answer. Everything feels upside down and like there are pieces missing, because there are. And finding them is only half the fun.

This story is based on the Russian folktale, Vasilisa the Beautiful. I'm a fan of Baba Yaga tales, so of course I enjoyed this version. Those BY's stores were creepy as fuck, and the imagery so perfect that the bright colours in-store totally matched the all-consuming darkness outside, and the horrid poles around the perimeter.

Vassa was such a great character. She seems so immature and her reckless actions get her in trouble. But at the same time, she handles everything thrown in her path with strength, and doesn't question when things get really strange. She's also caring, and someone who is able to win over the most unexpected creatures because of her determination to do the right thing. And to be honest, the grief she's suffering as a result of her parents is truly heartbreaking.

There are a lot of very cool things that happen, and also plenty of bloody stuff. There's no holding back the horror, and I loved it. Babs is especially horrible, and doesn't care about how barbaric she has to get to keep order in her store.

Oh, and I have to mention Erg because she was cheeky, sneaky, snarky and her journey is as important as Vassa's.

I loved this book. It's special in so many amazing ways. It's got a bit of everything packed into a wondrous violent little package. It also captures the true nature of fairy tales because it's wicked to the very core. 😈


Saturday, 6 June 2020

LOCKDOWN by Peter May

A CITY IN QUARANTINE 
London, the epicenter of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. No-one is safe from the deadly virus that has already claimed thousands of victims. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed. 

A MURDERED CHILD 
At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. A remorseless killer has been unleashed on the city; his mission is to take all measures necessary to prevent the bones from being identified. 

A POWERFUL CONSPIRACY 
D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate. His career is in ruins, his marriage over and his own family touched by the virus. Sinister forces are tracking his every move, prepared to kill again to conceal the truth. Which will stop him first - the virus or the killers?



It might sound strange, considering we're currently in the middle of a pandemic, but as soon as I found out about this book, I wanted to read it. So I want to thank Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.

London is the epicenter of a global pandemic and the city is on lockdown. There's looting and violence on the streets, people are dying and there are curfews. Even cops need permission to move around. 

When DI MacNeil is called in to a construction site for a new hospital because bones are found inside a bag, all he wants to do is solve the case. Instead, he ends up stumbling on something much darker...

Wow. What a ride! This book is seriously awesome. As soon as I started, I was hooked.

The Foreword was interesting. The Prologue was creepy and disturbing. And when the bag full of bones is found, the fast-paced storytelling takes off with a bang.

Another thing that struck me as excellent pretty early on was how much I liked the characters. They were all very different and flawed with their own interesting backstories that had me wanting more.

It's told in three different POVs that gave the awful events the multiple angles necessary to complete the entire terrifying plot. Even though he was prickly and had messed up so much in his life, I really liked MacNeil. Amy was my favourite, she was clever and strong, determined and I found her field of expertise fascinating. I also really liked Dr Castelli for her attitude, wit and intelligence.

The events move quickly, so it doesn't take long for this book to become addictive.

This might be a crime thriller, but don't underestimate how terrifying it was, especially since we're currently living through a pandemic. Covid-19 is still a very real threat and thousands of people are dying all over the world, which is scary and sad. Yet, as much of a nightmare as the real thing is, this book reminds us that it can get even worse if we're not careful, act quickly and underestimate corruption. 

Lockdown is a captivating thriller set during a pandemic, which adds a deeper level of bleak despair that took my breath away. It's also a total page-turner, and made my pulse quicken as I raced towards the shocking conclusion.

There's plenty of heartbreak, several grotesque situations, horrific imagery, plus twists and turns. I really enjoyed the way the mystery unravelled.

I seriously loved this book. A lot.


Lockdown, May 2020, ISBN 9781529411690, Riverrun

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

THE POSSESSION OF NATALIE GLASGOW by Hailey Piper

The Possession of Natalie Glasgow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been meaning to read this for ages, and tonight was the perfect time.

When Margaret goes to the Glasgow house to help a desperate mother, she quickly realises they're up against something very dangerous. So she's determined to figure out why this young girl sleeps all day but rises with the strength of a beast and the carnivorous appetite of a wild animal.

And the closer she examines Natalie, the clearer a strange and violent scenario starts taking shape...

That's all I'm going to say about this very awesome story because the less you know beforehand, the more you'll enjoy it.

I was hooked right away, and it's not just because I'm a sucker for possession/haunted tales. It's because the story drew me in right away and I couldn't put it down. I read it in one sitting and enjoyed the hell out of every minute of this mystery.

The novella started in the perfect place, led me down a very dark and awful path, and into an outstanding ending. One that made me cry because it was so sad. 😭

There's a LOT to love about Margaret's quest to help figure out what's happening to Natalie, but one of my favourite things was how the suspense dripped off every page. Everything starts out so claustrophobic and feels stale inside the Glasgow house. So when the narrative shifts outside, it was a shock to the system that threw me off balance.

I loved this atmospheric and super creepy novella so much! Of course, I knew I would because Hailey's a great author.


Tuesday, 2 June 2020

A BLADE SO BLACK by LL McKinney

A Blade So Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While going through my Kindle books the other night, this one caught my eye. So I decided to give it a go and was instantly dragged into the story.

The night Alice suffers a great loss and runs blindly into the night, she encounters a monster in a back alley. When a mysterious guy saves her, he also introduces her into a world full of Nightmares and frequent trips into Wonderland...

Wow. This book really took the original Alice in Wonderland tale, injected it with a huge dose of Buffy, dealt with real-life issues, and turned everything into a fast-paced adventure with a lot of heart.

Not to mention amazing characters who are very familiar (from the classic) but so very different, and a bunch of exciting new ones.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book because I loved Alice. She was clever, strong and brave, but didn't shy away from admitting when she was also scared. And she was so stubborn and determined to protect the people she cared about. Never gave up on them. She was great!

I also really liked the many different portrayals of friendship. Not only does Alice have two friends she loves, but there's also the group she spends so much time with when dealing with the Nightmares of Wonderland. Sometimes it was a bit of a juggling act, but definitely added to the tension.

There's also her unstable relationship with her mother. No matter how hard she tries, saving the world always ensures she disappoints her. I totally got why she couldn't tell her the truth, but I just kept hoping she would because her mother was awesome. And that heartbreaking scene in the garage was so moving.

Although there's a fair share of incredible fantasy, seriously, the worldbuilding is awesome, there's also some heavy real life issues dealt with throughout the story. There's a police shooting that happens off the page, but has a huge effect on Alice. And also hits so close to what's unfortunately still going on in this volatile world of ours.

I love urban fantasy, and this was an excellent kick-ass addition to the genre.


Sunday, 31 May 2020

WE SOLD OUR SOULS by Grady Hendrix

We Sold Our Souls
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grady Hendrix has written two very awesome horror stories that I absolutely adored. My Best Friend's Exorcism is actually one of my all-time favourite books. So I was really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.

Kris used to be the guitarist for a 90s heavy metal band called DΓΌrt WΓΌrk, but they never cracked the big time. Decades later, she has a shitty job, no savings and is going to end up with nowhere to live.

So when she spots a billboard featuring the former lead singer's farewell tour, she decides it's time to confront him. After all, this is the guy who screwed them. But before that, she reaches out to her other bandmates and finds herself in a very dark downward spiral...

This book ticked a lot of boxes for me. The way heavy metal was woven into everything, nefarious dark creatures, action-packed horror moments, twists, secret society shit, weird likeable characters and an amazing heroine.

I loved Kris because she's the epitome of what happens to so many women when their dreams die because they were stolen by an arrogant man, who takes all the fucking credit. Yeah, I totally connected with her undying rage and the need to confront the person who took so much from her and the friends she cared about.

Things start out slow enough, from a place of despair as we find Kris working a job she hates and facing a brother who looks down on her. From then on, she finds herself on a freaky adventure that turns her into a villain in the eyes of the masses, when she's the victim. Not that you'd know, because she's strong as hell and doesn't even realise it.

It was such a wild ride to watch this cool and strong character keep going, moving forward and never give up. Even though she questions her ability and even what's happening in front of her eyes constantly. And that's too real, man. The girl/woman experience resonates through this story at every step.

Women get pushed down and stomped on all the time, treated like jokes even when they're the real deal. Making them question everything, lose faith in themselves. But you know what they always do? Get back up. Every time. Just like that Carol Danvers scene I love so much in Captain Marvel.

Hendrix totally gets this and knows how to flawlessly add it into his horror tales. And writing a woman as the lead guitarist of a 90s metal band rocks!

Another thing that's totally awesome is how the metal music is linked to something so creepy and dangerous. Something that invites evil but is also capable of expelling it.

Aside from all the deep and meaningful stuff, this book is a LOT of horror fun.

I seriously loved this book and can't wait to read more stories written by Hendrix.


Friday, 29 May 2020

A Break After Revision

Hi, how are you today? What's new in your part of the world? Hope you're all staying safe. Can you believe another month is almost over?

As if living through a pandemic isn't fucked up enough, this week has added more disgraceful acts of violence by racist assholes to the unrest. I just don't understand these despicable people who refuse to treat others with respect. Especially when they're supposed to be upholding the law.

This world is so gross sometimes.

As far as the pandemic goes, the rate of infections remains very low in Australia, but Covid-19 is still there. Lurking in the background and waiting to pounce if we're not careful. What pisses me off is seeing how people are acting as if everything's just fine and normal.

It's not. Just because governments are easing restrictions for financial reasons, it doesn't mean we can abandon the health restrictions. 😐

I think everyone needs to be cautious, and embrace the social distancing that must continue. It's really not a hard concept, yet random idiots are still trying to get too fucking close. Ugh.

Anyway, as I always do after a hard and busy revision, I'm taking a bit of time off. Mostly that means having a nice time with hubby enjoying delish meals, long walks, watching stuff and enjoying every day together. And reading, of course.

This week I picked up a classic book I've had on my TBR pile for agesREBECCA by Daphne du Maurier

I took my time with this one, enjoying the hell out of every dark page. Getting lost in the suspense and dread. I was seriously hooked from the first sentence. I have no idea why the hell it's taken me so long to read this! But I'm really glad I finally did because I LOVED it. 😍

Really looking forward to reading more titles by this excellent author.

THIS is what I'm reading next.

Asides from reading, I've been going through my Idea Files. Trying to clean up the folders and decide whether all of the ideas I have are going to develop into more. 

So far, the two I thought I might scrap have started speaking to me. I wrote the beginning for one, and the ending for the other. Gotta love that.

Now I just need to update everything on my laptop. Probably tomorrow. 

Well, that was my week. Getting lots of stuff done, and nothing at all. While trying to minimise our store visits and staying away from everyone. 

Have an awesome weekend!

Thursday, 28 May 2020

REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I've wanted to read for ages. And I'm glad that I finally picked it up.

I was hooked from the first sentence. The lush writing style is lovely and captivated me instantly. I loved the narrator's whimsical look at everything she goes through, and how quickly her thoughts fly away in so many different directions she temporarily loses sight of reality.

She's the young companion of an awful rich woman determined to degrade her every time they have a conversation. But during a trip to Monte Carlo, she meets the mysterious and moody Maximilian de Winter.

Maxim is a widower who sweeps her off her feet. She's convinced she's in love with him, so his marriage proposal is a surprise she accepts. And so begins her new life at Manderley under the shadow of his dead wife Rebecca, and the awful Mrs Danvers...

The atmosphere and suspense in this book is so thick it felt like an actual storm cloud hung over every page. The descriptions of Manderley and its grounds are pretty but shadowed with menace. The house is a character itself.

Actually, the two main characters seemed to be the house and the dead wife. It's like the new Mrs de Winter is an invisible presence in her own home, and everyone around her totally feeds into this. Her inexperience and shyness keeps her from challenging or changing anything.

I loved how Mrs de Winter's story deals with mundane and simple everyday things, but everything is dripping with dread. I kept waiting for the most awful things to happen, and plenty of super creepy stuff does. There are so many terrible secrets that rise to the surface, and I was captivated every step of the way.

The narrator isn't even given a name. Which fits perfectly into how everyone else treats her. She's almost invisible and spoken to like a child. It was frustrating and often made me angry because she didn't stand up for herself, but she has her own strengths. And living in the dark corridors of Manderley certainly helps age her.

Oh, and how awful was that Mrs Danvers? What a cruel and conniving creeper. 😳

This is one of the most addictive books I've ever read. It's also beautifully written. And terrifying on so many levels. It's also interesting as hell and intrigued me all the way through.

That ending was also unexpected, but the only way it could end.

I seriously LOVED Rebecca. The book, not the woman haunting every page.



Monday, 25 May 2020

THE DEFENDERS by Philip K Dick

The Defenders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The concept of this story is SO clever. There's a bit of everything in this post-apocalyptic tale.

Eight years after a nuclear war, humans are still living underground and robots are above fighting their war. Taylor is supposed to have a bit of time off, instead he ends up stumbling on a surprising secret about what's really going on...

Yikes! This was really cool.

I really enjoyed the surprises, twists and turns. Even the ending was totally unexpected. Not to mention how well the social commentary about men and war is captured. And these robots are so interesting. Did I mention that I love stories about robots? 😁

My only problem was the portrayal of Taylor's wife. Mary is so crippled by fear that she's annoying and crabby, not much more. Then again, it makes total sense. I'd be crabby too if I couldn't see the sun and sky and the world was radioactive. 😳

Anyway, this is another great PKD story.


Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Crystal Crypt by Philip K Dick

The Crystal Crypt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe it's because I just finished writing a story about Mars, but I was definitely in the mood for this shortie.

The last flight out of Mars is headed for Terra, and the Leiters stop the ship long enough to check each passenger in search of three saboteurs...

What a cool story!

I enjoyed this a lot, but my favourite thing about this story is how seemingly average the beginning appears, before everything starts taking shape and becomes very clear. And of course, when that happens, I was once again amazed by how clever PKD's stories always turn out to be.

In a story so short and with so much happening, it's easy to assume that character development will fall flat. But it didn't. With just a few details, situations and circumstances, the main characters are quickly fully formed. And the imagery he describes filled my mind with the utter beauty of Mars.

Not to mention that twist ending! PKD did it again. I enjoyed the hell out of this.


Saturday, 23 May 2020

More Revision

Hey! How are you today? What's new with you? Did you have a nice week? Things in Sydney are weird, but we're good.

As I mentioned last week, most states in Australia seem to be in a real hurry to open up and pretend everything's normal. Never mind the pandemic. As long as you tell people to keep doing social distancing--which so many don't--and set patron limits in restaurants, I'm sure everyone will fall in line. πŸ˜’

We took advantage of the kinda proper re-opening at the vet. One person and pet in the consultation room is better than dropping off pet and waiting outside. We couldn't do that with Loki, he would freak out. So we finally booked him in and he got his vaccination. 

Very glad it's done.

Oh, you know what I got in the mail the other day? A freaking jury duty summons. During a pandemic. Ugh. This is really stressing me out, and doesn't fit with our plans to stay away from strangers.

Trying not to think about it too much, but it's messing with my head and I'm having nightmares. It sucks. 😣

Anyway, let's talk about something else...

Here's how my revision went:
  • Monday: 32/54pgs (20,936w) 
  • Tuesday: 54/54pgs (21,063w) 
     THIRD DRAFT DONE
  • Wednesday: Break
  • Thursday: Break
  • Friday: 54/54pgs (20,651w) 
     READ-THRU DONE ON PAPERWHITE
  • Saturday: 54pgs (20,099w)

That's right. I finished my latest novella WIP today and I'm very excited! Not just because I finally reached The End of this story, but because it's one I've had in my head for a while and it finally all came together.

I love stories about robots. I love cyberpunk. And with this novella, I took both of these elements and twisted them into my own Sci-Fi tale. It was a lot of fun.

Love it when an idea becomes so much more! πŸ–€πŸ€–

Speaking of ideas. The other night I was going to trash an Idea Folder from my phone. But while taking one last look at the inspirational pics, the start of the story came to me. Out of nowhere!

So, after 1,400 words, I'm pretty sure this will turn into something. LOL

Hubby and I watched The Outsider. Wow. It was such an awesome show. It took the King novel (which I loved!) and ran with it. The show is different but so similar. The cinematography was gritty and spooky, the performances outstanding, and I liked how everything wrapped up.

Strange coincidence: the only book I read this week is IF IT BLEEDS by Stephen King. Which contains an excellent Holly Gibney novella.

Well, that's in for now. I'm going to enjoy the rest of the weekend and will probably take the next week off to read and recharge.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

IF IT BLEEDS by Stephen King

A collection of four uniquely wonderful long stories, including a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestseller THE OUTSIDER. News people have a saying: 'If it bleeds, it leads'. And a bomb at Albert Macready Middle School is guaranteed to lead any bulletin. 

 Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog - and on her own need to be more assertive - when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realises there is something not quite right about the correspondent who was first on the scene. So begins 'If It Bleeds', a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestselling THE OUTSIDER featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case - and also the riveting title story in Stephen King's brilliant new collection. 

 Dancing alongside are three more wonderful long stories from this 'formidably versatile author' (The Sunday Times) - 'Mr Harrigan's Phone', 'The Life of Chuck' and 'Rat'. All four display the richness of King's storytelling with grace, humour, horror and breathtaking suspense. A fascinating Author's Note gives us a wonderful insight into the origin of each story and the writer's unparalleled imagination.


A new Stephen King book is always a treat, so I couldn't wait to get stuck into these four novellas. 

MR HARRIGAN'S PHONE
Craig is a good, hard-working kid eager to earn a buck. That's how he ends up working for Mr Harrigan. He goes over to his house every afternoon and reads to him, takes care of his plants and befriends the old man. But he also learns from him, and forges a connection that even death can't sever... 

Wow. This was such a great story! The emotional impact of this one is huge. I loved how Craig is such a great and kind guy, and always was. But even good guys give into the temptation to right a wrong. 

Fantastic story. Awesome use of foreshadowing the future and our relationships with phones, technology and the internet. Also loved the portrayal of the father-son relationship. And how King writes true friendship between people of all ages so well.

There's a lot to like about this story. 

THE LIFE OF CHUCK
The world is falling apart and Chuck Krantz had 39 Great Years. No one knows what this means while it's happening, but as the story unravels, the mystery is slowly revealed...

This turned out to be another brilliant story. Everything starts with a bang. The universe is dying and everyone's left in an apocalyptic haze, but we soon find out there's a LOT more to this story. And at the heart of everything is Chuck.

I really enjoyed how the tale unfolds in reverse order and spans across three different acts. On the surface, they each seem to stand on their own, but the eerie connection knocked me off my axis. Amazing.

IF IT BLEEDS
After what happened in Texas, Holly Gibney didn't think she'd ever have to face such a terrifying monster again. Until she catches a detail in a news story that bothers her... 

OMG. I absolutely LOVED this novella. Not just because I adore Holly, but because I really enjoyed the story. I never expected The Outsider to have a sequel, but I'm SO glad it did because this was awesome. 

I was hooked from the beginning and the rising tension was riveting. I could barely tear myself away from this novella. Fantastic!

RAT
When Drew gets an incredible novel idea, he can't wait to get started. But the last time he tried to write a book things didn't turn out well...

This is another fantastic story. I enjoyed following Drew's quest to chase an idea he was sure was different to all the others. I liked how he was willing to put everything on the line to find out, and how when he does, it all leads to more than he bargained for.

And of course, the creepy bit got me.


If It Bleeds is an awesome collection of stories featuring a selection of interesting characters with intriguing tales to tell. Every novella is brilliant in its own way. And the Author's Note was a great way to finish the book. Loved it.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy! 


If It Bleeds, April 2020, ISBN 9781529391541, Hodder & Stoughton

 
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