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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.


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