Book Reviews July & August. A late catch-up.

For Rye-Gavin Gardiner

For Rye: A dark psychological horror of violence, insanity, and revengeFor Rye: A dark psychological horror of violence, insanity, and revenge by Gavin Gardiner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This stuck with me. When you think there’s a shred of hope it gets darker and grittier.
I thought this was going to be a slow read, but no matter how harrowing things got I kept turning the pages drawn in by the compelling mystery Renata needs to solve.
The ending is haunting.
(view spoiler)

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The Others-Sarah Blau

The OthersThe Others by Sarah Blau
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had expected a horror with some supernatural twist to the disturbing murders.
This story turned out instead to be a thriller but I was not disappointed.
Sheila’s snarky perspective adds some fun, but did leave me worried she was courting danger at times as she attempts to unravel who is killing her friends. I loved the Jewish mythology woven throughout which permeates the women’s lives, and the insight into the culture of Tel Aviv and the conflict between modern life and tradition. I wasn’t sure who the murderer was right up until the reveal.

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The Big Quit-Anniki Sommerville

The Big QuitThe Big Quit by Anniki Sommerville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this guide to ditching the hamster-wheel job and finding the job you love, or at least hate the least.

Some chapters are more a collection of quotes from personal improvement gurus and motivational coaches about the particular topic. Which I found useful as I really don’t want to plough through the plethora of self-help books out there.

However, I loved Anniki’s own anecdotes about her own work life and her advice which is always given with her self depreciating and candid sense of humour.

Nothing ground-breaking about the advice, but unique in the delivery of it.

An entertaining read.

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June Book Reviews

Burton on Burton-Tim Burton

Burton on BurtonBurton on Burton by Tim Burton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A must for any Burton fan.
I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look into his creations from movie industry process, inspiration, and life experiences.
The forwards by Johnny Depp were cool too. A lovely insight into their director/ actor relationship, and how characters like Edward Scissorhands and Willy Wonka evolve.

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A Night on the Moor & Other Tales of Dread-Murray Gilchrist

This book took me back to my teenage love of gothic prose.

Haha- made me imagine Richmond from the IT Crowd dramatically speaking this with a sweep of his arms, hand raised to his brow while looking off into the distance.

‘The air was warm and heavy, but ever anon the light wind touched the tree-tops and bowed them, so that pollen sank in golden veils to the ground’

A Night on the Moor & Other Tales of DreadA Night on the Moor & Other Tales of Dread by R. Murray Gilchrist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gothic and florid language but not too purple-prose.
Haunting and atmospheric tales of dread, despair and lost love.
A classic Gothic gem.

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Hardcore Kelli-Wrath White

Kelli kicks ass! I raced through this fun and gruesome novel.
Hard-core Kellie is murderous, and highly probably insane but I’ve got to love her kickassness. Though she is morally dubious, I loved her vigilante ideals as she kills the creepos while imagining herself a superhero. I was worried about her little sister -why did she not freak out and call police after seeing her sister brutally murder someone. Like her, I should be horrified, but can relate.

Book Reviews for May

Price Manor: The House That Bleeds-Jamie Stewart

Price Manor: The House That BleedsPrice Manor: The House That Bleeds by Jamie Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another fun and gore packed installment of the Price Manor series.
This time there’s more of a gothic theme, in this historical Russian setting. I loved the twists and turns as the town’s priest has his faith tested against the evil within and without, a surreal time-travelling act of revenge or is it an attempt at redemption?
I’ve added more of Jamie Stewart’s books to my to-be-read list.
As always, I can wait for the next in this series.

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Hell’s Angel-Ralph Barger, Keith & Kent Zimmerman

Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle ClubHell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club by Ralph Barger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real insight into both the Hell’s Angel’s and society at the time. An interesting and eye-brow raising inside account of Hell’s Angel’s life. Transcripts of recordings from Sonny Barger’s dealings bring these outlaw voices to life.
It seems a certain fictional TV series about a biker gang are very close to the truth!

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Go Big or Go Home-Kat Von D

Go Big or Go Home: Taking Risks in Life, Love, and TattooingGo Big or Go Home: Taking Risks in Life, Love, and Tattooing by Kat Von D.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

score edited from 3 stars to 4 stars on this re-read some years later (2022).

First time round I found this lacking compared to her previous two books, with more focus on her own life, rather than the art.
Now it’s grown on me. As ever, this is filled full of beautiful tattoos, exquisite artwork, and flowing script.

(view spoiler)

My favourite part are still the fascinating personal stories behind each piece of art.
I do like that each chapter focuses on a personal value.
Part journal, with a real heart-wrenching account of her house fire.

While I thought some of the stories were sullied by my knowing the drama that was to come in Kat’s relationships her now former friends, I think this adds another layer to this book. It’s as autobiographical as it is, advice on life, and a study on the art of tattooing.
It was well worth a second read, and is pretty enough as a coffee table book to flip through the art and photography.

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BOOK REVIEW-Served Cold-R. Saint Claire (Editor)

Served Cold: A HorrorTube AnthologyServed Cold: A HorrorTube Anthology by R. Saint Claire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A cool mix of pretty much everything horror.
Cosy hauntings, gory slasher, occult demon summonings, cryptids, folktale, and cosmic horror.
The black humour of the final story made me chuckle.
I may have added a few more horrortubers to my subscribe list too!
Another good anthology from editor R. Saint Claire.

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BOOK REVIEW-Desert Runner-Dawn Chapman

Desert Runner (Puatera Online #1)Desert Runner by Dawn Chapman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, I’m in love! I haven’t read much litRPG but I’m hooked on this. This is like roleplaying the main character Maddie.
The setting is grimy sci-fi (think Firefly) with corrupt officials, rogues and mercenaries, but with some DnD type monsters and fantasy roleplay elements.
I especially enjoyed how the game mechanics are woven into her world, with Maddie going on missions, having to make money to buy healing potions, and battling against the very fabric of the plot supposedly mapped out. I’ve got the box sets, so think I will be marathoning the rest.

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BOOK REVIEW-The Hay Bale-Priscilla Bettis

The Hay BaleThe Hay Bale by Priscilla Bettis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is so evocative in its setting. The ramshackle cottage, and fertile countryside. At once I thought this was a classic haunting ghost story, but soon things took a more sinister twist. I adored the ending, at which things got very bizarre and disturbing. (view spoiler)

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Camp NaNoWrimo & a Watercolour Study

April CampNaNoWriMo Diary

Day 1. I’m not sure what I did but it warranted an exclamation mark, or perhaps I’d put that in to remind myself to start writing. Feeling way too tired to do the midnight start/ kick-off even if our region had one planned. Calling it middle-age. I may try to make more of an effort for November and start strong, with some strong coffee of course.

Day 2 Using this for a final push to complete Inktober stories. I have some ideas and story outlines, not much more completed due to getting back to the office. Oh, for full-time work from home. those were the days. Getting Ollie settled in with dog walker and doggy daycare, my anxiety around people is better (well, as it ever was) but hate all the germs and coughs and colds. Think no one’s immune system is what it used to be before The Plague. I sit next to a window in work, which is good-fresh air, bird song (when monster seagulls not screeching), sunshine, view of a pond and courtyard.

Day 3 A little story idea-Swamp Witch

Day 4. A Morning’s Consternation.

Day 6-My Insta Life-has a Matrix/ Trueman show type theme.

Day 8-slowly planning and plotting stories. I’m missing that stream of consciousness/ flow of words, when I’m immersed in the world of my stories and almost an unconscious tapping into another world, carried by my muse. Everything feels too logical, too right-brained?

Day 11- Ouija

Day 13-Argh! Got inspiration, but not for an existing Inktober story. I did try to twist it to see if it could go towards my Camp word-count, but it wasn’t working. Late Night Construction, inspired by last night’s drive home along the dark motorway. I saw a luminous ghostly figure as a worker walked along a bridge, but all I could see was their glowing/ luminescent high-vis jacket, making them look like a spectre floating across above me. I’ve decided to focus on writing, & decorating dining room. Am parking the guitar practice for now. Getting into the routine of hybrid working, hectic with house- boiler engineer out for the 7th time, not much more they can replace (May update- now have new boiler )

Day 19-Compass/ Witch Bottle. Possibly inspired by instagram chat with author Marie McWilliams about her trinket bottles for her beach combing and other finds.

Day 21 (discord) . I totally blame being back in the office (well, 2 days a week). Only 1.2k written so far, mainly outlines for most of the 20+ short stories/ flash fiction.

Day 24-Tangle-Fish I’ve written more often this month. Most days, though not for a long time. I miss the immersion of getting lost in my stories and feeling they’re real.

Day 25-Rabbit Stew. now have outlines and ideas for all 31 short stories, and titles for most. Now to finish writing them all.

Day 26-Unravelled (another story now titled)

(on region discord) Woohoo! Under-achiever celebration. I reached 1667 words yesterday. That’s my wordcount for 25 days, not 1 🤣 . Celebrating the minute win. I’ve written most days this month, even if only for 10-15 minutes.

Also in April

Totally unrelated to CampNaNo, but kinda writing. I did a watercolour for one of my penpals from Writerly Witterers group . I think it didn’t turn out bad, considering it was my first attempt using Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks and my first watercolour since about 1986. I was at Primary school and about 10 years old. It was a study of Wicken fen windmill after a day-trip there.

I’m setting myself a deadline of June to complete the Inktober stories, so I can start something new or start rewrites of an older project for July’s CampNaNo.

Let me know if you’ve done CampNaNoWriMo and how you did. Or if you’ve gone back to an old hobby and how it went.

Book Review-Nothing but Blackened Teeth-Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened TeethNothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What got me about this first was the beautiful literary prose, which embellished every sentence. After a while this got over-flowery, and at the cost of clarity which often drew me out of the story.
The setting of the old mansion is perfectly creepy, even more so when we learn its history.
What I didn’t like were the characters. All of the characters are unlikable, with no redeeming features I could empathise with making it impossible to be scared for them, no matter what horrible things happened. By the end I felt as if nothing had changed in them, despite the trauma they had gone through. The ghastly bride was so scary, I was very afraid, and felt like running away from her myself. The poetic language was not so prominent towards the end, which helped quicken the pace and immerse me in the terrifying setting.
A flawed, but unique and terrifying haunted house tale with pretty language.

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BOOK REVIEW-Blood of the Innocents-MICHAEL JECKS

Blood of the Innocents (The Vintener Trilogy Book 3)Blood of the Innocents by Michael Jecks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The finale to this trilogy doesn’t pull any blows. The reader is marched through victorious battle, and then plunged into grief. There are some body blows with beloved characters in the body count – As always Jecks captured the trudge and drudge of war, alongside the exciting action with expert execution of swordplay and battle. I’m no fighter but felt I was right there amidst the action.
A very satisfying ending with – (view spoiler)
As is the way, kings and those in power move on only to gain more power, waging more wars at other’s cost.
This is bittersweet as I got book grief at leaving Berenger & his crew (view spoiler)

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Book Review-Blood on the Sand-Michael Jecks

Blood on the Sand (The Vintener Trilogy Book 2)Blood on the Sand by Michael Jecks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another exciting and bloody account full of action from the battlegrounds.
I loved the mystery too, with threats from within the ranks. Those on opposing side are not all enemies, & those close to home not all friends. The sense of mistrust and danger is always present. Jeck’s vividly shows the tumults of war , while also giving us a mystery to unravel. I look forward to reading the final installment of this trilogy.

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