Friday 30 December 2022

Books Read in 2022



GAME ON: TEMPTING TWENTY-EIGHT
(Stephanie Plum #28):
Janet Evanovich

CROSSROADS:
Laurel Hightower

WHEN DARKNESS LOVES US
(Paperbacks from Hell):
Elizabeth Engstrom

MY LIFE HAD STOOD A LOADED GUN:
Emily Dickinson

THE WOODS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING:
Stephanie Perkins

PARTUM: E.V. Knight

THE CUCKOO'S CRY:
Caroline Overington

COCKBLOCK:
C.V. Hunt

SEASONS OF THE WITCH Samhain Oracle:
Lorriane Anderson & Juliet Diaz

CABIN TERROR:
Sarah Jane Huntington

AND HER SMILE WILL UNTETHER THE UNIVERSE:
Gwendolyn Kiste

THE MAKER'S BOX:
David Barclay

THE TRIVIA NIGHT:
Ali Lowe

THE UNSUITABLE:
Molly Pohlig

A FAR WILDER MAGIC:
Allison Saft

A PUPPET SCORNED:
Jamie Kort

THE EYES BENEATH MY FATHER'S HOUSE:
Tyler Bell

KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE:
Eiko Kadono

CURSED OBJECTS
Strange but True Stories of the World's Most Infamous Items:
J.W. Ocker

IN THE ARTIC SUN:
Rowan Hill

DEAD TO HER:
Sarah Pinborough

BOTTLED:
Stephanie Ellis

BENNY ROSE, THE CANNIBAL KING:
Hailey Piper

THE SMALL HAND:
Susan Hill

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Tarot Deck & Guidebook:
Minerva Siegel & Abigail Larsen

THE GHOST THAT ATE US: 
Daniel Kraus

YOU LOVE ME
(You #3):
Caroline Kepnes

GWENDY'S MAGIC FEATHER
(The Button Box #2):
Richard Chizmar & Stephen King

SAGA, Issue #55:
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

SAGA, Issue #56:
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

SAGA, Issue #57:
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

ANATOMY A Love Story:
Dana Schwartz

BLOOD SUGAR:
Sascha Rothchild

SAGA, Issue #58:
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples 

HARLEY QUINN Breaking Glass:
Mariko Tamaki & Steve Pugh

Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

THE RED ROOM:
HG Wells

HP Lovecraft

THE SURVIVORS:
T.C. Weber 

MY EVIL MOTHER:
Margaret Atwood

GALATEA:
Madeline Miller

GWENDY'S FINAL TASK
(The Button Box #3):
Richard Chizmar & Stephen King 

SAGA, Issue #59:
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples 

GIRLS FROM THE COUNTY:
Donna Lynch

THE BROKER OF NIGHTMARES:
Jon Padgett

PORTFOLIO OF THE 100 BEST HARD CASE CRIME COVERS:
Various

BLOOD MOUNTAIN:
Brenda S. Tolian

STONE MATTRESS:
Margaret Atwood

BELOW:
Laurel Hightower

THE SOUND OF SILENCE:
Sarah Jane Huntington

HARDCORE KELLI:
Wrath James White

SHE CAME FROM THE SWAMP:
Darva Green 

THE CREEK:
Rayne King 

THE MIDNIGHT CLUB:
Christopher Pike

SAGA, Issue #60:
Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

FORTUNATELY, THE MILK:
Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

THE ORACLE TAROT:
Lucy Cavendish & Melinda Pearson

YOURS CRUELLY, ELVIRA:
Cassandra Peterson

DISNEY VILLAINS TAROT DECK:
Minerva Siegel & Ellie Goldwine 

Stephen Graham Jones

WAIT FOR NIGHT:
Stephen Graham Jones 

REVENGE OF THE LIVING DUMMY
(Goosebumps Horrorland #1):
R.L. Stine

CREEP FROM THE DEEP
(Goosebumps Horrorland #2):
R.L. Stine

THE SCREAM OF THE HAUNTED MASK
(Goosebumps Horrorland #4):
R.L. Stine

DR. MANIAC VS. ROBBY SCHWARTZ
(Goosebumps Horrorland #5):
R.L. Stine 

WHO'S YOUR MUMMY?
(Goosebumps Horrorland #6):
R.L. Stine

MY FRIENDS CALL ME MONSTER
(Goosebumps Horrorland #7):
R.L. Stine

SAY CHEESE—AND DIE SCREAMING
(Goosebumps Horrorland #8):
R.L. Stine

HELP! WE HAVE STRANGE POWERS!
(Goosebumps Horrorland #10):
R.L. Stine

ESCAPE FROM HORRORLAND
(Goosebumps Horrorland #11):
R.L. Stine WHEN 

THE GHOST DOG HOWLS
(Goosebumps Horrorland #13):
R.L. Stine

THE LITERARY WITCHES ORACLE:
Taisia Kitaiskaia & Katy Horan

Michael Buxton

THE WILD UNKNOWN TAROT DECK:
Kim Krans

THE TAROT DECK:
Deck of Marseilles Tarot Cards

THE LENORMAND FORTUNE-TELLING CARDS:
Harald Josten

CRIME SCENE:
Cynthia Pelayo

BONESET & FEATHERS:
Gwendolyn Kiste

PERFECT BLUE:
Yoshikazu Takeuchi

FAIRY TALE:
Stephen King

A DOWRY OF BLOOD:
S. T. Gibson

HIDDEN PICTURES:
Jason Rekulak

TIM BURTON'S NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS:
Disney

DEMON IN THE WOOD
(Grishaverse #0):
Leigh Bardugo & Dani Pendergast 

THE HELLBOUND HEART:
Clive Barker

THE LOST BOYS Volume 1:
Tim Seeley

THE LADY ASTRONAUT OF MARS:
Mary Robinette Kowal

FOR WANT OF A NAIL:
Mary Robinette Kowal

ROCKET'S RED:
Mary Robinette Kowal

THE NIGHT CYCLIST:
Stephen Graham Jones

LONG LIVE THE PUMPKIN QUEEN:
Shea Ernshaw

AFTER
The Graphic Novel:
Anna Todd

MY KILLER VACATION:
Tessa Bailey

THE WIZARD OF OOZE
(Goosebumps Horrorland #17):
R.L. Stine

A NIGHTMARE ON CLOWN STREET
(Goosebumps Most Wanted #7):
R.L. Stine

Francesca May

THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU:
Silvia Moreno-Garcia

THE BOOK OF THE MOST PRECIOUS SUBSTANCE:
Sara Gran

DRACULA DAILY:
Bram Stoker

GAME ON: RISE AND SHINE TWENTY-NINE (Stephanie Plum #29):
Janet Evanovich

Dennis Fairchild & Julie Paschkis

WHITE IBIS:
Wendy Dalrymple

VENUS FALLING:
Sarah Jane Huntington

THE EROTIC MODERN LIFE OF MALINALLI THE VAMPIRE:
V. Castro

FAMILY BUSINESS:
Jonathan Sims

Kelly Andrew

WILD PLACE:
Christian White 

HOUSE OF HOLLOW:
Krystal Sutherland

ELEKTRA: (DNF)
Jennifer Saint

CITY OF NIGHTMARES:
Rebecca Schaeffer

WRITING POETRY IN THE DARK:
Stephanie M. Wytovich

Megan Bannen

THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET:
Catriona Ward

LOST SOULS
(Cainsville #3.6):
Kelley Armstrong

THE HOUSE IN THE PINES:
Ana Reyes

Suzanne Wright

THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD:
Paul Tremblay






Books Read in 2022: 117/110

(Number of DNF books: 5)

----------------------------------


Number of books read to catch up on series/duology/trilogy: 26
  1. GAME ON (Stephanie Plum #28)
  2. WHEN DARKNESS LOVES US (Paperbacks from Hell)
  3. YOU LOVE ME (You #3)
  4. GWENDY'S MAGIC FEATHER (The Button Box #2)
  5. SAGA, Issue #55
  6. SAGA, Issue #56
  7. SAGA, Issue #57
  8. SAGA, Issue #58
  9. GWENDY'S FINAL TASK (The Button Box #3)
  10. SAGA, Issue #59
  11. SAGA, Issue #60
  12. REVENGE OF THE LIVING DUMMY (Goosebumps Horrorland #1)
  13. CREEP FROM THE DEEP (Goosebumps Horrorland #2)
  14. THE SCREAM OF THE HAUNTED MASK (Goosebumps Horrorland #4)
  15. DR. MANIAC VS. ROBBY SCHWARTZ (Goosebumps Horrorland #5)
  16. WHO'S YOUR MUMMY? (Goosebumps Horrorland #6
  17. MY FRIENDS CALL ME MONSTER (Goosebumps Horrorland #7)
  18. SAY CHEESE—AND DIE SCREAMING (Goosebumps Horrorland #8)
  19. HELP! WE HAVE STRANGE POWERS (Goosebumps Horrorland #10)
  20. ESCAPE FROM HORRORLAND (Goosebumps Horrorland #11)
  21. WHEN THE GHOST DOG HOWLS (Goosebumps Horrorland #13)
  22. DEMON IN THE WOOD (Grishaverse #0)
  23. THE WIZARD OF OOZE (Goosebumps Horrorland #17)
  24. A NIGHTMARE ON CLOWN STREET (Goosebumps Most Wanted #7)
  25. GAME ON: RISE AND SHINE TWENTY-NINE (Stephanie Plum #29)
  26. LOST SOULS (Cainsville #3.6)







Thursday 29 December 2022

2022 Goals

Well, here we are again.

We've almost reached the end of another year. And boy did 2022 turn out to be quite a weird, and often shitty, year.

I thought 2021 was bad, but things are not getting better. Nope.

I'm not sure what's happening to the cosmic order of things, but it feels like the ridiculous is slowly taking over the world. We're shifting towards a world where cruelty and bigotry is rewarded, but empathy and inclusion is belittled. I mean, how else can every pathetic thing that's happened so far be explained? The fact we're still in the middle of a pandemic, and most people choose to act like it's over, is only the tip of the iceberg.

There's a whole lot of WTFuckery? going around. 😐

Just take a look at what's happening to Twitter. A social media platform that didn't need to be made worse. But a spoilt man-baby decided he wanted to spend someone else's money to buy it and is slowly destroy it. Ugh. People are just rotten, I suppose.

Some good things did happen in this silly world. Our daughter came back to Oz. The LNP were voted out earlier this year. 

Anyway, let's get to my personal goals. 😁

Here's how they turned out:
  • Go for two daily walks: THIS IS SOMETHING WE DID THE WHOLE YEAR BECAUSE HUBBY CURRENTLY WORKS WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE. I REALLY ENJOY THE TWO-DAILY-WALKS ROUTINE & ONE-DAILY-LONG-SUBURBAN WALK ON THE WEEKEND.
  • Keep doing yoga workouts two/three times a week: WE CONTINUED DOING YOGA WORKOUTS DURING THE YEAR BUT, UNFORTUNATELY, DIDN'T MAINTAIN THE THREE-WORKOUTS/WEEK ROUTINE WE WANTED. STILL, SOME YOGA IS BETTER THAN NO YOGA.
  • Write between 100-200k words: ENDED UP WRITING 159,020 words & EDITING A WHOPPING 3,843 pages. πŸ‘€
  • Read 100 books: READ 117 BOOKS. (5 DNFs.)
  • Revise/finalise the rest of the (5) novel first drafts sitting on my hard drive: I ACTUALLY FINISHED DOING THIS IN SEPTEMBER & COMPLETED 5 REVISION PROJECTS (Cosmic, Madness, Summer, Neon, Stuck), 1 FULL EDIT (Possess) + ABANDONED 1 YA WIP AFTER FINISHING THE SECOND DRAFT (Urban). I ALSO CUT A TOTAL OF 104,423 words!
  • Write a novel: I WROTE ONE NOVEL DURING NANO (87,682w).
  • Write a novella: I BRAINSTORMED, RESEARCHED & STARTED WRITING THREE NOVELLAS BUT DIDN'T FINISH ANY OF THEM. 😬
  • Take part in NaNoWriMoI  TOOK PART & GOT MY 16th WIN! (This time I wrote another horror story about a family with too many secrets, a place with too many ghosts & an old mystery that resurfaces.)
  • Clear book clutter/piles: WHILE I DID CONTINUE TO GO THROUGH MY SECONDHAND/REVIEW BOOK STACKS, THE NEW BOOK PILES ARE STILL OUT OF CONTROL. 🫀
  • Continue playing Animal Crossing: I'VE NOW BEEN PLAYING ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS (ON MY SWITCH LITE) EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR OVER A YEAR.

Well, that's my list of completed goals!

As far as having stories published, 2022 was a total shocker. I did sign a new contract with Otranto House for my second YA horror novel, and my Creepypasta story will be published in an upcoming Cemetery Gates Media anthology next year, but as far as actual new releases go, there was only one:


SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED: An Anthology of Horror, collected and edited by Jennifer Bernardini was a great opportunity. I was lucky enough to get an invite from the awesome Wayne Fenlon. The anthology involved picking a writing prompt from Jennifer Bernardini's very inspiring, Something Bad Happened: A Horror Journal, and writing a short story. My contribution was a dark tale about a hellish roadtrip that doesn't end well for the narrator. 

On a side note, since writing this tale, I've actually written two more short stories that either mention or feature a distasteful character in The Loaded Trunk. She just keeps popping up. LOL.

Another very cool thing was having a piece I wrote, posted at Ginger Nuts of Horror. It was inspired by the very disturbing movie, Fresh, and is called, Not So Fresh.

Well, there you have it. The focus for 2022 was getting through the outstanding Revision Plan I set for myself last year. While that turned out to be a long and tiring endeavour, it was also very rewarding. And now, it's DONE! πŸŽ‰

2022 Summary

Now I'll need to come up with a 2023 Goals List...

Wednesday 28 December 2022

THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay

 

The Cabin at the End of the WorldThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this turned out to be a big disappointment. 🫀

I was really looking forward to reading this book because the premise sounded very intriguing. An end-of-the-world scenario that puts a family in the middle of a terrible situation. And I actually enjoyed the first half of this book. A lot. But the second half became such a slog.

Everything keeps going round in circles. It's all conversation after conversation that leads nowhere. The small amount of action wasn't enough to keep my attention. And even when the tragic incident happened, the emotional impact was zero.

Not to mention that ending. I think that a story teasing such a severe apocalyptic situation needs a definite answer at the end. Not the vague mess presented here.

Such a shame but, sadly, this book didn't work for me.



View all my reviews

Wednesday 21 December 2022

THE HOUSE IN THE PINES by Ana Reyes

 

This is the story of a house.

The cabin lies deep in the woods, where the trees are so dense it's easy to miss. On the outside it might look like it's crumbling, crawling with weeds, but on the inside it's warm and cosy. A fire crackles in the fireplace. Dinner simmers on the stove.

Maya once saw this cabin as an idyllic place, like a cottage from a fairy tale, but now she knows the danger that lurks beneath. The summer she visited the cabin was the summer her best friend Aubrey died.

Now, another woman from Maya's hometown has died in the same strange, unexplained way, and Maya believes only she can save the next innocent girl.

Guided by her fractured memory and a mysterious, unfinished book by her late father, Maya returns home to face the house in the pines and the man who waits there - the man she's tried so hard to forget . . .



The premise of this book sounded so intriguing, I had to check it out. I mean, it ticks several boxes guaranteed to hook me in: a psychological thriller, a cabin in the woods, and a dark secret from the past coming back to haunt the troubled narrator.

Of course I was interested.

Maya has been hiding her addiction for a while. An addiction that started shortly after her best friend died. The friend she's convinced was mysteriously killed by a man from her past, but no one believed her. Now he's back and he's taken another life. Will anyone believe her this time? The only way to be sure is to return to her hometown to face the truth...

I really enjoyed this creepy thriller. From the start, both the storytelling style and Maya's voice sets an almost foggy stage for everything that she went through when she was seventeen, and what she's going through as an adult.

Maya is an interesting character who suffered an awful ordeal when she was a teenager and even seven years later, still doubts herself. She also, constantly, makes a bunch of bad decisions that get her deeper into trouble. Even if she keeps convincing herself she's doing the opposite. That she drowns her sorrows with alcohol to clear her head doesn't help. But sure adds to the disorienting atmosphere this story takes.

I loved how her father's unfinished manuscript and her Guatemalan roots tied into everything—both past and present.

The House in the Pines is as imaginative and clever, as it is disturbing. The mystery of what really happened the afternoon Maya's friend died kept me glued to the pages until I found out the truth. Not to mention that as difficult as it was to agree with so many of Maya's decisions, she was easy to sympathise with. She was one of those characters that is trying so hard to do the right thing and has good intentions, but goes about things in a very unconventional way.

One final note: I'm also one of those people who has to know how the story ends. 😬

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book.


The House in the Pines, January 2023, ISBN 9781408717691, Constable

Friday 16 December 2022

LOST SOULS by Kelley Armstrong

 

Lost Souls (Cainsville #3.6)Lost Souls by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Cainsville series, so I always look forward to checking out short stories/novellas set in this world.

The disappearing hitchhiker is an urban legend that's been around for years, but when Patrick brings the case to Gabriel, it takes an unexpected faerie twist...

I really enjoyed the mystery at the core of this awesome installment. Not just because urban legends never fail to intrigue me, but also because this provides a unique twist to a familiar tale. Adding Gabriel and Olivia to the mix made everything even better. Gabriel is so awkward he borders on cringe. And Olivia might be upset with him, but she still manages to make everything better.

Love these characters. Don't think I'll ever get sick of this fantastic series! 😍


View all my reviews

Tuesday 13 December 2022

THE LAST HOUSE ON NEEDLESS STREET by Catriona Ward

 

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my TBR pile for a while, and I certainly shouldn't have waited so long to get to it because it turned out to be amazing.

The last house on Needless Street holds as many secrets as the woods behind it. But nothing is really as it seems...

Wow. What an outstanding story this turned out to be.

This book is many things: creepy, intriguing, shocking, interesting, surprising, riveting, clever, and so sad. But mostly, it's an intricate tale with many moving parts that ultimately fit together in the most messed up way possible.

It also features several POVs, and all of them kept me glued to the page because the mystery at the core of this story is definitely something worth unravelling.

I loved this book for many reasons, but mainly because it's such an amazing example of how to spin a very unique twist on several familiar concepts.

I'm glad I went in not knowing much else but what the description stated. It's the best way to approach this book.

Thursday 8 December 2022

WRITING POETRY IN THE DARK by Stephanie M. Wytovich

Writing Poetry in the Dark brings together some of the most successful contemporary genre poets to discuss topics related to creating dark and fantastical poetry.

While there are countless books available for the aspiring poet, there is a lack of resources specifically for and on speculative poetry, and with the market thriving, publishers who previously did not put out poetry are now adding it to their catalogs, requesting it for their anthologies, and seeking it for their magazines. Given these factors, it seemed like the perfect time to put together a guide for dark poets that addresses some of the unique challenges they face, such as creating monsters out of white space, writing the hybrid poem, or subverting folklore in the retelling of a classic tale.

Included in Writing Poetry in the Dark are recommendations on how to bring fear to the page, write from the wound, let violence loose, channel the weird, and tackle the dark side of daily life. There are also practical suggestions for exploring different poetic forms and topics ranging from building worlds, writing from different points of view, and exploring gender and sexuality on the page. This book will bring something different to every speculative writer who is interested in exploring poetry with a genre twist, and it is our hope that this book will help poetry itself continue to evolve, grow, and redefine itself in the market for many years to come.
 


Firstly, I want to thank Erin Al-Mehairi and Raw Dog Screaming Press for sending me a copy of this very cool book.

Back in 2020, I read Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner and really enjoyed the workbook/textbook approach to writing horror. In this edition, a similar approach is taken by Stephanie M. Wytovich. But for poetry, and in the form of very helpful essays.

Although I love reading poetry and have appreciated this lyrical way of capturing emotion and experience for years, my personal interaction with poetry was mainly in my teens. Back then, I wrote a lot of angst-ridden, haunting poems, but stopped writing them after I finished high school. Not sure why, but I think it might be because somewhere along the way, I found the prospect of writing poetry intimidating. Too hard.

Well, this is just the guide book I needed!

After a very interesting introduction by both Tim Waggoner and Stephanie M. Wytovich, the book takes the eager reader on an adventure of the written word via the beautiful art that is poetry. 

The topics covered include horror, haiku, sci-fi, fairy tales, expression of sexuality and gender, historical, and so much more. All explained very well by both familiar and new-to-me poets. Every one of these writers delivers an interesting and helpful essay—as well as examples—about the many facets, genres and styles of poetry. What every one of these contributions shares is the ability to open the reader's mind and gain a new understanding about how to attempt your own piece/s.

I enjoyed this crafty book because it's packed full of great information. Like the edition before it, I'll be adding this to my Keeper Shelf. And will probably grab it many times for future reference.

If you're like me and love poetry but feel like you're not good enough to write any, you should grab yourself a copy and soak up all the great information.

CITY OF NIGHTMARES by Rebecca Schaeffer

Face your fear . . . or become your nightmare.

Ever since her sister became a man-eating spider and slaughtered her way through town, nineteen-year-old Ness has been terrified - terrified of some other Nightmare murdering her, and terrified of ending up like her sister. Because in Newham, the city that never sleeps, dreaming means waking up as your worst fear.

Whether that means becoming a Nightmare that's monstrous only in appearance, or transforming into a twisted, unrecognizable creature that terrorizes the city, no one is safe. Ness will do anything to avoid becoming another victim, even if that means lying low among the Friends of the Restful Soul, a questionable organization that may or may not be a cult.

But being a member of this maybe-cult has a price. In order to prove herself, Ness cons her way into what's supposed to be a simple job for the organization - only for it to blow up in her face. Literally. Tangled up in the aftermath of an explosive assassination, now Ness and the only other survivor - a Nightmare boy who Ness suspects is planning to eat her - must find their way back to Newham and uncover the sinister truth behind the attack, even as the horrors of her past loom ominously near.
 

When I spotted this book in the Hachette catalogue, I was intriguing by the concept and dazzled by the striking cover. Besides, I'm a sucker for stories featuring dark cities with corrupt citizens and monsters.

Ness lives in Newham, a dangerous city where nightmares roam the streets after distorting those who dare to dream while asleep. She's a member of the Friends of the Restful Soul cult and finds sanctuary within its walls, as well as the unconditional protection her best friend offers. But while doing a delivery on a luxury boat, it explodes and she suddenly finds herself involved with a guy who is exactly what she tries to avoid...

Wow! I absolutely loved this unique and darkly imagined cityscape, where danger lurks around every corner and the humans are as bad as the nightmares they're so afraid of.

Let me start with the intricate worldbuilding that introduces a world where everyone's nightmares can come to life through them. Warping, morphing and changing average people into giant bugs, dragons, reptiles, vampires, and anything else that haunts their dreams. There's even an organisation that takes out these pests.

There are also plenty of crooked cops and many scam artists. This is not a nice place to live, yet I enjoyed every exciting minute I spent in Newham and would definitely go back. Definitely.

Ness is our cowardly narrator who is scared of everything and everyone, because of what happened to her sister. She should be annoying and frustrating, but instead her paranoia and anxiety come across as very real. Her vulnerability and attitude are totally relatable in a city where nightmares come to life.

I thought she was as awesome as Cy and Priya.

City of Nightmares is as whimsical as it is terrifying. The main characters are endearing, interesting, their personal growth is amazing, and everything evolves so naturally that you can't help but be swept away by the monstrous things threatening this unstable world. Not to mention that there are twists and turns every step of the way.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book. πŸ™‚


City of Nightmares, January 2023, ISBN 9781399712118, Gollancz

Tuesday 6 December 2022

HOUSE OF HOLLOW by Krystal Sutherland

 

House of HollowHouse of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've wanted to read this book for a while, but for one reason or another, it kept slipping away from me. So, I decided to get stuck into it first thing Monday morning. And fell into it instantly.

Iris and her two older sisters disappeared when they were kids and returned a month later. After that, the family fell apart, the girls developed an insatiable hunger, their hair and eyes changed colour, and they became inseparable. Until the other two left Iris behind to chase their dreams of stardom. But now, Grey has gone missing and they're all about to find out the terrible truth...

Wow. This is such a fantastic book!

Like I said above, I was captivated by this story as soon as I started reading. It's a contemporary fairy tale of the darkest kind. Everything about these sisters is mysterious, absolutely enthralling. I couldn't put the book down for long because I wanted to know what was waiting around the corner.

The imagery is beautiful, in a very macabre way. Every detail is described so vividly, I could smell all the sharp scents Iris experienced. Not to mention that the mystery about where these three sisters went, what power they hold, and why they came back, was enough to keep me turning the pages.

It's packed with characters that are interesting, have individual personalities, and share a lot of awesome interactions together. And Iris is such an intriguing narrator.

I absolutely LOVED everything about this fairy tale, and when the truth is revealed... yikes. This also features some freaky body horror.

I'm not surprised that I enjoyed this so very much, because I adored the previous two books this author released. She writes lyrical, addictive tales with darkness creeping in around the edges.

Saturday 3 December 2022

WILD PLACE by Christian White

 

Wild PlaceWild Place by Christian White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yesterday I decided to go through some of the books I've found in local Street Libraries, to see what did and didn't grab my attention. By the time I got to this one, I stopped because I couldn't put it down.

It's December 1989 and in the small town of Camp Hill, a teenage girl has gone missing. As the weeks go by, her parents suspect everyone. Did she run away? Was she taken? Maybe there's something more sinister stirring in the shadows...

Well, I was pretty much hooked as soon as I read the Prologue. I found the story to be interesting and once everyone on the street is slowly introduced, I was intrigued by the inquisitive nature of humans. And how quick they are to form judgement without really knowing/understanding what's going on.

I think the way the Satanic Panic was captured, in the middle of an Australian town just before 1990 kicked in, is so well done that I couldn't turn away. The easy way adults on this street convince themselves they know who took this young girl and why—just because someone is a little different, likes heavy metal and knows what a pentagram is—was truly atrocious. Also confirms how quickly the wave of condemnation can spread if left unchecked.

This book features several POVs. One of these is Tom. A married, middle-aged high school English teacher who finds himself drawn into the mystery of who took Tracie. He wants to help, goes out of his way to find clues, and inadvertently fans the flames of suspicion against someone who is different without any evidence. He's a good man with good intentions (well, that's the image he tries to sell to others), but because of him, everything gets turned upside down and once the target is placed, it's hard to contain the mob. Or a parent suffering the worst kind of loss.

I really enjoyed this book. The story is intricate and told through several different angles. Not just in POVs, but also in the bad deeds, secrets and lies that are slowly revealed about these seemingly average characters. And the worst most awful, also frustrating reveal, is the twists that lead to the truth about what happened to Tracie Reed.

Great book. Very intriguing thriller with a captivating mystery that'll keep you guessing until the end. And then, will definitely upset and frustrate you when you know everything. In a good way.

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Final NaNoWriMo 2022 Thoughts

As November winds down, I thought I'd post my final thoughts about this year's NaNoWriMo WIP and my personal experience with this annual event.

Anyone who's been reading my blog the last few years knows that I spent most of 2021/22 working on revising the backlog of first drafts I'd written, and kinda forgot about, from 2017-2020. These revisions—and in some cases, total rewrites—were time-consuming, but mostly it was very rewarding. And if you've been reading my blog even longer, then you know I love participating in NaNo every year. It's something I always look forward to, but during these last two years, getting the chance to write something new and fresh gave me a break from the tedious slog I put myself through.

A slog of my own doing, by the way. A task I'm very happy I got stuck into and completed.

So, when I was doing NaNoPrep this year, I was surprised to find myself connecting the novel I wrote last year, STUCK, with the one I wrote this year, TUESDAY. This year's story takes place five years earlier, but it answered some of the lingering (behind the scenes) questions I had about several characters in STUCK. While introducing a whole new cast and a completely different location.

It was fun.

I'm also very excited about the first draft ending up in the 87k-mark. It's been a while since I've written anything longer than 65k. In many ways, telling this story confirmed how ready my writer brain was/is to embark on new adventures. While maybe throwing in a past character or two into the future mix. 😁

Now that it's done, I'm putting this draft aside until next year. I'm not going to leave WIPs on my hard drive for years at a time anymore. Nope. I reckon two months is enough distance. So, February sounds like a good time to tackle the second draft.

Now, I'm going to spend the rest of the year thinking/plotting new stories. My head is full of ideas that need attention and I intend to give every single one a chance. While squeezing in plenty of reading.

Well, that's it. These are my final NaNoWriMo thoughts for another year.

Have a great week!

 

FAMILY BUSINESS by Jonathan Sims

JUST ANOTHER DEAD-END JOB.

DEATH. IT'S A DIRTY BUSINESS.

When Diya Burman's best friend Angie dies, it feels like her own life is falling apart. Wanting a fresh start, she joins Slough & Sons - a family firm that cleans up after the recently deceased.

Old love letters. Porcelain dolls. Broken trinkets. Clearing away the remnants of other people's lives, Diya begins to see things. Horrible things. Things that get harder and harder to write off as merely her grieving imagination. All is not as it seems with the Slough family. Why won't they speak about their own recent loss? And who is the strange man that keeps turning up at their jobs?

If Diya's not careful, she might just end up getting buried under the family tree. . .
 

This book caught my eye because the concept sounded intriguing, and the cover is so creepy.

Diya recently lost her best friend/roommate and is having a hard time getting over the loss. So when she gets a new job with a clean-up crew, she's not sure if it's a good idea to be surrounded by so much death. Or if it's just what she needs to get over her grief. The job introduces her to new people, keeps her mind focused and physically active. But the unexpected visions are even harder to deal with than the forgotten they're cleaning after...

Fantastic story, with the right amount of interesting characters, a real sense of disorientation, and a slow burn that crescendos in the most horrifying way.

Right from the start, I knew this was going to be a book that would drag me in and not let go. I was invested as soon as Diya starts her first day at a family cleaning business. There's definitely something strange going on with the man running this gig. As well as how and why Diya got this job in the first place, when she's clearly not qualified.

As she becomes more familiar with the work and the effect it's having on her, things start unraveling in the creepiest of ways. There are some really freaky scenes that got under my skin. Some of that imagery is so damn creepy. And I loved every minute of it!

Family Business is an addictive psychological horror story that takes the reader on a seriously strange ride, and leads to a very satisfying, but gruesome, conclusion. The sense of dread builds gradually, until there's no escaping the disturbing truth.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.


Family Business, November 2022, ISBN 9781473228788, Gollancz

Sunday 27 November 2022

THE EROTIC MODERN LIFE OF MALINALLI THE VAMPIRE by V. Castro

 

The Erotic Modern Life of Malinalli The VampireThe Erotic Modern Life of Malinalli The Vampire by V. Castro
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've spent this weekend reading some really cool novellas, and this one is another to add to the list.

Malinalli is in Dublin for business, but when she stops into a pub along the way, she spots a man who captivates her. A man she must have, no matter what...

Well, this is a sexy and super sizzling story featuring such an interesting main character. Malinalli carries a lot of history in her veins and is a confident woman who knows what she wants, but also has an edge of vulnerability that is endearing. Her passion for Colin is instant and scorching, and when it becomes clear that it's mutual... Yikes! πŸ”₯

I enjoyed how well the initial lust quickly evolves into so much more. The erotic and romantic is perfectly mixed up with her vampiric side. I also really liked Colin. He's a cool guy with an excellent bookstore. Plus, he's a horror writer. 😊

This is a such a fun story!


VENUS FALLING by Sarah Jane Huntington

 

Venus FallingVenus Falling by Sarah Jane Huntington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading Sarah's stories because they always feature memorable characters, interesting settings, and creepy situations. And this one was another hit.

When The Venus stumbles on a strange colourful swirling close to Titan, the small crew don't let it stop their mission. The ship needs repairs and Captain Lydia Ramirez dreams of a better, safer life but after landing, things get a bit complicated...

What a trippy, turbulent ride this turned out to be. I enjoyed the dialogue and camaraderie between Lydia, Jonesy (pilot) and Melody (engineer). Fluffy was cute, because every spaceship needs a cat. And HIVE, the AI has quite the attitude.

Take all of the above, add a bizarre twist featuring time and space, plus a dose of creepy, and this becomes such an intriguing tale. The SF element and worldbuilding was interesting. Plus there are definitely Event Horizon vibes, and I loved that movie!

Really enjoyed this! The cover's eye catching, too. πŸš€✨🐈

Saturday 26 November 2022

WHITE IBIS by Wendy Dalrymple

 

White IbisWhite Ibis by Wendy Dalrymple
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Firstly, I have to mention how much I love this cover. It's beautiful. Secondly, although a lot of people don't like them, I like ibises. I think they're lovely birds. We have a lot of them where I live, and although most like to call them bin chickens and say they're pests, I think they're just trying to co-exist with the humans who pushed them into the suburbs.

Yes, I love birds. ☺️ So I've been meaning to read this novella for a while.

Chelsea is a snob who's always looking for the next best thing. That used to be her boyfriend Brendan, but now he's boring and soft. Not as exciting as her new gorgeous best friend. Meeting Damaris instantly inspires her to achieve bigger and better things...

Wow. I enjoyed this SO MUCH, I read it in two sittings because I was as addicted to this story as Chelsea was to Damaris. πŸ˜…

Some of my favourite stories start out with normal people doing normal things, before everything gets turned upside down. And this was the perfect example of that. Just a girl meeting a new friend during yoga class, becoming instant BFFs, and going away for a weekend. Until this wicked little tale, featuring a bunch of shitty people I couldn't turn away from, becomes something very different.

The mundane slowly turns into confusion before becoming downright horrific.

Also, the sense of location was very well established. I could feel the heat and the storms, and see all those lovely birds. All of them.

This is a terrific story. Loved it!


View all my reviews

Friday 25 November 2022

GOING ROGUE by Janet Evanovich


Monday mornings aren't supposed to be fun, but they should be predictable. However, on this particular Monday, Stephanie Plum knows that something is amiss when she turns up for work at Vinnie's Bail Bonds to find that longtime office manager Connie Rosolli, who is as reliable as the tides in Atlantic City, hasn't shown up.

Stephanie's worst fears are confirmed when she gets a call from Connie's abductor. He says he will only release her in exchange for a mysterious coin that a recently murdered man left as collateral for his bail. Unfortunately, this coin, which should be in the office--just like Connie--is nowhere to be found. 

The quest to discover the coin, learn its value, and save Connie will require the help of Stephanie's Grandma Mazur, her best pal Lula, her boyfriend Morelli, and hunky security expert Ranger. As they get closer to unravelling the reasons behind Connie's kidnapping, Connie's captor grows more threatening, and soon Stephanie has no choice but to throw caution to the wind, follow her instincts, and go rogue. She is more shocked by the results than anyone.


This is one of my favourite series. Not just because these books are a lot of fun, but also because the mystery is always intriguing and after almost thirty books, the characters have pretty much become old friends.

Connie is the backbone of Vinnie's bail bonds office. She's the receptionist, has the power to authorise bonds, and is the reason why his business stays afloat. So, the morning Stephanie and Lula arrive at the office and she isn't there, they both know something is very wrong...

Yikes! Stephanie's latest installment really throws you into the action from the start.

We quickly get stuck into the mystery of Connie being MIA, and meet a handful of bizarre FTAs determined to make Stephanie's life harder than it needs to be. And all because of a mysterious coin that really doesn't look very valuable. At least Lula gets the chance to be the temporary office manager, with hilarious results. We also get the chance to spend some time with Bella, Morelli's scary grandmother.

This one moves pretty quickly, but in the usual Plum way, all of the dread and danger is balanced out by two very sexy men, Grandma Mazur's hilarious ways, Lula's sassy attitude, and Stephanie second guessing herself. Even though she's a lot smarter, tougher and capable than she realises.

Going Rogue is another very entertaining addition to this fantastic series. Like every previous book before it, I was hooked from the beginning and couldn't put it down because I had to know what was going to happen next. And it didn't disappointing.

Also, when I finished reading, I was strangely craving cake. πŸ˜…

Looking forward to finding out what's next for Steph & Co.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy.


Going Rogue, November 2022, ISBN 9781035401932, Headline Review

Tuesday 22 November 2022

NaNoWriMo: Week Four

Hey! It feels like I posted my latest writing update only a few days ago...

Wait a sec. I did! πŸ˜…

Thats what happens when you get so close to The End that it's the only thing you can think about. Seriously, this story consumed my brain SO MUCH, I had to get it finished. ASAP.

So, this past weekend I did something I don't usually do. I went back to my story while hubby was playing God of War RagnarΓΆk and tackled what was left. And what was that? Well, firstly I needed to take care of the long list of things I had to check/change/add. Then, I added two new chapters. Before going back to re-read the last four chapters I wrote on Thursday/Friday. And of course, I ended up rewriting the beginning of one, adding to another. Deleting the epilogue, and writing a completely new ending!

Anyway, here's the word count:
  • Sunday: 83,869w (added 3,799w)
  • Sunday: 85,707w (added 1,838w)
  • Monday: 86,681w (added 974w)
  • Monday: 87,173w / 232pgs (added 492w)
Yep. There were multiple writing sessions both days. One of them even included starting the session on Saturday night and ending on Sunday morning. Oooops.

So, the first draft of Tuesday is now DONE. Yay! πŸ˜πŸŽ‰ And it's a lot longer than I expected.


This is the 16th time I've won NaNoWriMo!

I'm very happy with how this story turned out. I got the original idea for this one several years ago but it just wasn't ready to be told. Not until I decided that this tale was better suited as an adult story, not the YA I initially planned for. Also, while there is a ghost story aspect, the real monsters are human.

Another awesome thing that happened is that while I was writing this, I discovered it was loosely connected to Stuck. Which is my NaNoWriMo project from last year. The one I revised/completed earlier this year.

Okay. Now that this is done, I'm going to take a mental break. I've got some sorting to do and lots of reading to catch up on.

Have an awesome week!!


Friday 18 November 2022

NaNoWriMo: Week Three

Hello again! How are you today? I hope you're doing well during these truly weird times. 😳

As the title of this post states, this is the third week of NaNoWriMo. Although I technically reached my 50k goal last Friday, the story wasn't over. So, I kept writing until I reached the end of this first draft.

I have to admit that this story has evolved into something a lot more involved than when I started taking notes during NaNoPrep. It's become twisted, delves much deeper into the depths of human monsters than I intended, has introduced some really screwed up relationships, and even stranger family ties.

Yeah, I'm really enjoying this one. πŸ˜…

Writing this tale about one woman's haunting is turning out to be more about the whole town than I initially imagined. And actually contains a bunch of social commentary. Which is very cool.
 
Anyway, here's this week's word count
  • Monday: 55,376w (added 4,185w)
  • Tuesday: 62,469w (added 7,093w)
  • Wednesday: 66,198w (added 3,729w)
  • Thursday: 74,354w (added 8,156w)
  • Friday: 80,070w (added 5,716w)
Although I reached the end of the story today, I'm not calling it done yet.

The reason is that the last two days were pretty much a blur of words. I spent hours typing, purging everything that was left in a total frenzy, without looking back. When that happens, I like to re-read those chapters one more time. And then I'll call the draft done.

But first, I need to go over my notes and update my last-minute add/check list. Not to mention that I'm lukewarm about the final chapter. I think that needs a bit of work, but that's fine. The bulk of the book is now on the page.

I can't believe it ended up being 80k. Not bad. Not bad at all. 😊

Have an awesome weekend!!

Saturday 12 November 2022

DRACULA DAILY by Bram Stoker

 

Dracula DailyDracula Daily by Bram Stoker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, I finished reading this today and enjoyed it as much as the first time. This is a great vampire story, but it's also a terrific story about friendship, loyalty, and how far someone who cares/loves you is willing to go.

I also love the bravery of every character. The creepiness and dread that Dracula adds to this story. And the epistolary format works really well at revealing the overall story via different POVs.

I'm going to miss getting these emails because it was definitely a fun and different way of reading a novel.


View all my reviews

Friday 11 November 2022

NaNoWriMo: Week Two

Hey! How are ya?

The world is such a weird place at the moment. A new wave of Covid has hit Oz, but everyone's still pretending it's over. Ugh. And there's another useless rich asshole trying to ruin something that didn't need his meddling bullshit. Yes, I'm talking about what's happening on Twitter.

I've been there since 2009 and it's the only social media I have. I'd fucking hate it if this prick ruined it because he doesn't understand the concept of Twitter. Seriously, that's what the main problem is. He just doesn't get it. 😐

I hope Twitter survives this crap because I fucking despise FB. And IG is owned by FB. Mastodon sounds like it's too rigid to deal with. I'm not interested in TikTok. So, yeah, that doesn't leave much.

But THIS BLOG!

My website and blog will still continue to exist. Glad I kept this going. LOL.

Anyway, let's change the subject to something much better.

The second week of NaNoWriMo is now over. And I'm really happy with the progress. Not just because of the total word count, but also because the story's turning out to be a lot darker—and a little different—than I imagined.

That's a great thing, btw!

Oh, and guess what? During today's writing session, I passed the 50k-word target. And that means that I've completed my 16th NaNoWriMo. Yay!! πŸ˜ƒπŸŽ‰

That doesn't mean the story is done, though. Nope. I've got quite a few more words to write.

Here's how the word count turned out:

  • Monday: 28,107w (added 5757w)
  • Tuesday: 33,575w (added 5468w)
  • Wednesday: 39,187w (added 5612w)
  • Thursday: 45,327w (added 6140w)
  • Friday: 51,191w (added 5864w)
At this stage, I'm not sure how much more is left to write. It could be another 15k, 20k, even 30k. I'm not sure yet. But I'll keep writing this first draft until I get to the end.

I'm enjoying this tale because the words are coming pretty fast. And so much of it is terrible. The last chapter I wrote today was particularly hard. I knew this was going to happen to this particular character for a while, but it didn't make it any easier. 😭

Now, I'll be taking the weekend off with hubby. So I'm looking forward to taking a mental break.

Have a good one!


Friday 4 November 2022

NaNoWriMo: Week One

Hey! How are you?

I can't believe it's NaNoWriMo time again. But after all the revision I completed this year, I was looking forward to getting stuck into something new.

I spent a good chunk of last month thinking about, taking notes, and adding to my inspirational/research pics folder. So, I was totally ready to start Tuesday on Tuesday. πŸ˜…

This is how the daily word count turned out:
  • Tuesday: 6,482w
  • Wednesday: 12,195w (added 5713w)
  • Thursday: 17,948w (added 5753w)
  • Friday: 22,350w (added (4402w)
I'm very excited about adding this many words during the first week of NaNo. Yay.

The story I'm writing is turning out to be a lot more twisted than I originally planned. There's some really messed-up stuff going on. Yeah, some of the horror in this WIP is definitely supernatural, but most of it is actually about the shitty/violent crap humans do to each other.
 
Secrets, mysteries, complicated relationships, and disturbing family connections are all over the place in this one. And it's not all good.

The funny thing is, that somewhere beneath all of the above, there's also going to be a love story that's as wholesome as it is heartbreaking.

As far as the 50k target goes, I'm amazed to have made it so far already. I'm not sure how long the actual first draft is going to be. I'm thinking maybe 60-70k, but I'm not sure yet. It's too early to tell. For all I know, maybe it'll be 50k, after all.

Who knows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But I can't wait to write more. Well, next week because I'm taking the weekend off.

Have a good one! 


Friday 28 October 2022

THE BOOK OF THE MOST PRECIOUS SUBSTANCE by Sara Gran

 

The Book of the Most Precious SubstanceThe Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had my eye on this book for a while and couldn't wait to check it out.

Once upon a time, Lily published a successful and well received book. But after her husband got sick, she lost the spark. To live and to write. Now, she's a book dealer and has become part of a seller's circle that leads her to an unexpected adventure to hunt down a very dangerous, magical book...

Fantastic, addictive and intriguing. I seriously couldn't put this down. I started yesterday and finished today because I was enthralled by this dark and mystical book.

There's a LOT of great stuff packed into the pages of this book: so many rare books, amazing locations, delicious food, enticing characters, the endless lure of sex. And I enjoyed every exciting and unpredictable moment.

Lily displays plenty of morally corrupt qualities, and we're never really sure if they're her own desires or those of the wicked book. Either way, she's a real, flawed, and interesting character. She's also very sympathetic. No matter what she did, I felt sorry for her misfortune and admired her tenacity to continue on even at the bleakest of times.

I also liked Lucas, who was seemingly the complete opposite of Lily, yet is so similar to her. And Awe really stood out to me. He didn't take up much narrative space, but still made a huge impact on the overall story. If not for this saintly carer, Lily wouldn't have been able to follow the clues all around the world with the charming Lucas.

The actual search for this rare book of dark magic was exciting and seductive. An erotic ride filled with so many unexpected circumstances. I like how it pushed Lily's boundaries to so many new experiences that awakened her physically and mentally.

Lastly, I love Sara Gran's writing style. And that ending is so bittersweet.


View all my reviews

Thursday 27 October 2022

NaNoWriMo is almost here...

Since I've already signed up, it's time to write my annual National Novel Writing Month blog post. πŸ˜… 

The first time I took part in NaNoWriMo was all the way back in 2006. 😯 Since then, it's become a tradition for me. I only skipped it once (because of editing). 

And now that my Revision Plan is finished, this will be my first new WIP in a while. I'm really excited! 

Here's my history:
  • 2006: UF (Angie)
  • 2007: SFR (Shade of Grey)
  • 2008: SFR (Shade of Blue)
  • 2009: Horror (Sinful)
  • 2010: Futuristic (Embracing Sunlight)
  • 2011: N/A
  • 2012: UF (Torn from the Shadows)
  • 2013: SFR (Dash)
  • 2014: UF (Willow)
  • 2015: YA Historical (MixedTape)
  • 2016: YA Horror (Haunted)
  • 2017: YA SF Thriller (Cosmic Girl)
  • 2018: YA Horror (Madness)
  • 2019: SF Historical Horror (Neon)
  • 2020: Horror UF (Destiny)
  • 2021: Horror (Stuck)
This year, I'll be working on another horror story that has been bubbling inside my head for a few years but didn't have enough time to work on. It's about a family with many secrets, a place with too many ghosts, and an old mystery that bubbles to the surface. 

Looking forward to starting to Tuesday.

Have a great day! ☺️


PS. If you wanna be buddies, I'm YolandaS. 😁
 

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