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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-15 09:52
Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge (2017 Review)
Look Behind You - Sibel Hodge

Look Behind You by Sibel Hodge
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Waking up and surrounded by an eerie darkness, Chloe Benson soon discovers she's trapped underground in what appears to be someone's tomb. Desperate to avoid the same fate as the skeleton in her midst, she musters all the strength she can to escape, however emerging back into her ordinary life proves to be just as dangerous. Someone wants her dead, yet due to issues with her memory, she just can't recall who.

(WARNING: this review contains minor spoilers.)

I finished this book last year, October (2016) to be specific, and didn't feel overly eager to voice my thoughts upon its completion, so suffice it to say; it's been a long time coming in that regard. You might wonder how I could possibly still remember the finer details, and indeed; my memory's not exactly fresh, however I can still recall what irked and disappointed me, as well as what stemmed the little amount of enjoyment. That being said, I had wanted to read something a little different than my usual flavours, and this one was ready and waiting in my library. What did I expect? Well, a mystery, of course - something that kept me guessing, kept the wheels of my mind turning. It was unfortunate that it promptly fell short, and the conundrum didn't require much thought at all; the identity of the "villain" was clear pretty much immediately. There were several moments I questioned; "Could it be this obvious?" and lo and behold, it was exactly that.

Admittedly though, the beginning drew me in, and I sincerely believed the rest would've thus followed its strong onset. A woman, trapped underground in complete darkness; the narrative truly expressed her helplessness and her will to survive. From there, it morphed into something not-so-thrilling, and it felt much like a long wait for it (or rather, Chloe) to reach the conclusion I already knew was coming. Thankfully the book wasn't that long, so I was able to force myself through the boredom without it becoming too much of a chore.

The character of Chloe was rather unmemorable, as despite how hard I try, I can't say much about her. I always like to take the time to analyse the main protagonist, but the sheer lack of impression was even worse than disliking her, because at least then she would've made me feel something. The same goes for the rest of them - the domineering husband, the too-perfect other man; none of them had much personality, besides being convenient to the plot. One thing that I did find outrageous however, was the general attitudes of the authorities. Both the police and hospital staff were unrealistic, in that they were outright rude to a patient they believed to be mentally ill. At least in the real word, such cold treatment has the possibility to distress the patient further, thus I highly doubt the "shut up, you're crazy" tactic is actually applied.

In conclusion: Have I mentioned how utterly apparent the "twist" was? Well, I'm saying it again - a mystery should have mystery. It should keep you guessing until the truth's finally unveiled. This was largely a disappointing read for me.

Notable Quote:

Why does anyone stay in a relationship that deep down they know isn’t right? You don’t know why until it happens to you. It’s easy to fool yourself. To stuff things under the surface where they can’t hurt you. To persuade yourself it’s all just normal. Make excuses. There’s a fine line between craziness and love.

© Red Lace 2017

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/15/look-behind-you-by-sibel-hodge-2017-review
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-14 01:04
Preta's Realm: The Haunting by J. Thorn
Preta's Realm: The Haunting - J. Thorn

Preta's Realm: The Haunting by J. Thorn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When certain people in his life start disappearing, Drew Green struggles to keep his mind and family intact. Something whispers to him at night; a voice of a person no longer living. It tells him of a time long past, and a curse set to haunt the bloodline. As events eventually spin out of control, Drew finds himself at the mercy of a creature that should only reside within nightmares.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

After about a year or more of having this on my kindle and eventually forgetting about its existence, it finally caught my eye once again. What followed was a last minute read of the month - it's a short book, which I was later thankful for. Initially I didn't know what to expect, but the words akin to "disgusting" and the likes on other reviews piqued my interest. Just how bad could it be? At this point I'd say I'm pretty used to the extreme use of gore and other similar themes, so my curiosity got the better of me. My concluding opinion is that whilst involving some nasty and sensitive elements, it was largely poor in regards to story. I found myself confused most of the time, not only questioning certain plot decisions, but also of how it was paced. A scene would suddenly jump in time without it being properly conveyed, yet I'm not sure if that was supposed to be intentional or not. Either way, it came across as not entirely thought out - like Thorn rushed through the process.

I can't say I particularly liked any of the characters, nor did I understand their actions. I found Drew to be dislikeable as a person; how he treated his family was a large part of that. It was hinted throughout that he suffered from something in the past, perhaps some form of mental illness, yet it was never explained, and thus I settled into a state of aforementioned confusion whilst trying to garner what I could of the backstory. I know Ravna was a decent man in the grand scheme of things, but I didn't get a good first impression of him and unfortunately that stuck. His introduction consisted of him fantasising about a younger waitress, which I honestly found to be offputting. He referred to her as his "gothic princess", and the moment he noticed her in a colour other than black, the fantasy was apparently ruined. Clearly this information wasn't relevant in any way, shape, or form, yet it was still relayed like it was somehow crucial. The others? I don't have much to say about them, other than they lacked memorable presence.

"Preta" and "Gaki" essentially mean the same thing - "hungry ghost" - and is a supernatural being present in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese and Vietnamese folk religion. I can't say I was familiar with the lore of this creature until I did some homework. It's a good concept - I always like when authors include their on take on weird and wonderful monsters. I did find some discomfort in Thorn's representation, but I was simply too distracted by other elements to really appreciate the depravity. The accounts of the past, told through the spirit of Drew's grandfather, honestly bored me enough that I wanted to skim over; the narrative was written in such a way that didn't pull me in, or make me care for what was happening.

If I were to detail how this could've been a better read for me, then it would go like this; the focus solely upon Drew or Ravna, with either one being fleshed out instead of the back and forth. Drew was supposed to be a devoted family man, yet I didn't see that. Ravna was supposed to be some sort of hunter, yet I felt I was merely given a brief glimpse. Of course, this is my personal opinion; plenty of others thoroughly enjoyed it as it is.

In conclusion: I originally rated this three stars, however I've retracted one to better fit my thoughts. It was a definite miss for me - I didn't like much about it other than the somewhat disturbing scenes of "Gaki".

Notable Quote:

"The 'cesspool' you mention is humanity itself. The 'gateway' is the greed, lust and insatiable suffering of humankind. You can no more rid the universe of Gaki than you can of air or water."

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/14/pretas-realm-the-haunting-by-j-thorn
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-10 22:50
Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn
Darkest Hours - Mike Thorn

Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With monsters that hunger for flesh, ghosts that lie in wait, and brutality at the hands of humanity - this collection certainly has it all. Delving into the satirical, chilling and downright disgusting, this is a must read for those that like a bit of horror in their lives.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Mike Thorn for giving me the opportunity!

This anthology has sixteen individual stories, each offering varying degrees of horror in different forms; bizarro, quiet and psychological are just a few of the sub-genres that are incorporated. Chances are you'll find something that tickles your fancy within the wide spectrum that is Thorn's imagination, just as I did. I do, however, feel the need to mention the reoccurring themes that present themselves throughout the majority of the book. Despite each short being unrelated and diverse in form, there were certain factors that kept resurfacing; the heavy metal, the smoking (specifically marijuana and Camel cigarettes), and lastly, academia. It just didn't work for me all that much - instead of characters blending together, I would've preferred differentiating attributes.

I always find it difficult to review these type of books, for the sole reason that I feel there's so much to write - I can get carried away with my thoughts and write paragraph upon paragraph. For my own sanity I've decided to forgo a ten-page essay detailing each and every short, and instead highlight the the top three that I enjoyed the most.

A New Kind of Drug
This is the first story that really piqued my interest, primarily due to the fact I've never read anything quite like it before, and it caused me to think of how we, as a species, are awfully enticed by substances that alter the state of consciousness. It's said that we're always looking for the next big thing, the next high that will affect us in new and oftentimes dangerous ways. I liked how Thorn took that aspect, and spun something that didn't seem so far-fetched in regards to human cruelty. Whether the creature was a demon, an alien, or whatever else, I felt pity for it and thus viewed the people themselves as the monsters. The added possibility of there being another plane of existence only interested me further.

And maybe I was screaming too, I don't know, but I'm quite sure I would've done something to stop this awful spectacle if I'd had the time, or the will, or even just a modicum of bravery.

Economy These days
Clearly the ugliness of humanity's a personal favourite of mine; the type of horror that's closer to home and more real than any supernatural beast. This particular short reminded me of the film Hostel, with the concept that people pay money to hurt a stranger. The difference was, in this case, both parties acted upon a consensual basis, where rules and regulations were strictly set in place. I have no doubt that something like this exists today, and whilst I don't consider it terrifying in the traditional sense, it's immensely thought-provoking.

But in this moment, money seemed like some grotesque abstraction; these terrible means dwarfed the process of reaching agreeable ends.

Lucio Schluter
Yet another example of human savagery, yet in an entirely different manner. Appreciating art as much as I do, I couldn't help but feel fascinated by Schluter's work and the way in which Thorn truly captured its disturbing essence. To turn actual people into such ghastly pieces of craftsmanship, it's delightfully macabre. The artist himself was a character I favoured because of the unnerving, yet obvious way he felt strongly for his victims - perhaps even a sort of love for them.

To really look at one of Schluter's subjects was like seeing a reflection of yourself ten years from now, somehow locked in a stasis of fear and eternal nakedness.

Other honourable mentions are The Auteur, Long Man, Sabbatical and Fusion.

Of course, due to the differing of story-types, there were some I didn't care for, and some I outright disliked. With Mired, Fear and Grace, and Speaking of Ghosts, my attention considerably waned until I just wanted them to end as quickly as possible.

In conclusion - A well-written concoction of the dark and twisted. My interest fluctuated depending upon the concept, but it's clear that Thorn has talent. An author to keep an eye on, for sure.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/10/darkest-hours-by-mike-thorn
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-08 09:08
Star Trek: Typhon Pact: Brinkmanship by Una McCormack
Brinkmanship (Star Trek: Typhon Pack, #8) - Una McCormack

While Crusher and Picard attend a conference over the offer by the Venetans to the Tzenkethi to use some of their starbases (those close to Federation, Cardassian and Ferengi space respectively), Dax is joined by SI commander Peter Alden, visiting one of the starbases in question and trying to determine the Tzenkethi motive.


I think the red thread holding this book together is distrust - distrust of enemies in a cold war, distrust of old friends who might have changed too far, distrust of new allies etc. And in the end, a part of the solution which returns a threatening outbreak of open warfare to the cold war situation, is to sow distrust into a people who are blunt and not used to subterfuge and lies. The Tzenkethi are a fascinating people and McCormack spends some time introducing their culture and the makeup of their society. And quite frankly, open slavery and subjugation is one thing, but genetic engineering and "(re)conditioning" so that everybody is happy with the small place that they're granted and not willing and/or able to look beyond is quite the devious scheme.


This book also introduces Peter Alden, a high-strung intelligence officer on the verge of a breakdown, and Corazame, one of said naive Tzenkethi who gets pulled into a spy-extraction plot. We'll see both of them again in "The Missing" and "Enigma Tales" (only Alden).


Overall, an entertaining novel, which unfortunately takes a bit of time to really get going. But once it does, it's hard to put it down... And I said it before: I like Alden, he's an interesting, multi-layered character that I wouldn't mind reading much more of.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-08 01:15
Hidden by Benedict Jacka
Hidden - Benedict Jacka

Hidden by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whilst rumours of his master's return circulates throughout the mage community, Alex Verus, Diviner and known "outsider", chooses to ignore the gossip and focus on something else entirely, such as rebuilding damaged friendships. An interruption comes in the form of abduction when Anne, his once housemate and valued companion, disappears in her home. Taking it upon himself, Alex doesn't hesitate to stage a rescue mission, which just so happens to lead to a shadow realm, belonging to the one and only Dark mage, Sagash.

(WARNING: This reviews contains spoilers.)

I started reading this series (Alex Verus is nine instalments long), in 2014, as it was one of the few in the genre that had a male protagonist. Being largely into Urban Fantasy at that time, it didn't take a genius to notice the staggering amount of females that dominated. Alex's trouble-making was thus refreshing, yet always struck me as having some issues that I just couldn't ignore. For one, the plot-lines primarily consisted of Alex saving women - not that I have a problem with the odd damsel in distress; I'm not a fragile flower that gets offended by a man coming to the rescue of a lady, but with the amount it happened it got repetitive pretty quickly. The fourth book, Chosen, turned the tables, and Alex was the one in need of saving by the strong females he surrounds himself with. I appreciated that instalment considerably more than the rest, hence my rating of four stars. This one, however, seems to have returned to its roots - the rinse and repeat of Alex being good at everything in full force.

The events that transpired in this one, whilst interesting to an extent, were very clearly filler. However I admit, I actually liked the concept of a shadow realm; the very personal domain of a Dark mage, where their deepest, most sinister creations can take form. In general, I find the darker side of mage society to be far more interesting in comparison to the lighter side. This isn't to say Light mages are dull - on the contrary, there's a lot of shady stuff going on there, but they strike me as far, far too political, at least for my tastes.

There's a part of me wishes the overall tone of the series was more adult, for the simple reason as to allow the malevolence of the Dark to shine through on a much more heinous level. As it was, I felt a little underwhelmed by Anne's recollection of her past - which consisted of her being forced to kill others in an arena. Yes, murder is ugly, but it just didn't shock me as much as I'd like, especially when it's been stated that Sagash was twisted and, most definitely, bad on all counts.

It's at this point that readers are very much aware of Richard, and his impending and much anticipated return. Richard's been a very prominent character from the beginning - Alex has never missed an opportunity to ramble on about his past trauma as his unwilling apprentice. I was hoping there would finally be some sort of reunion or confrontation, and whilst it did happen, it certainly wasn't as explosive as I wanted it to be. Despite being all together anticlimactic, it nevertheless set the foundation for what I assume to be the next book.

As for the characters themselves; Alex still had his obvious faults, but he remained likeable in personality. I'd most assuredly have him as a friend if I could, even if he'd probably get me killed. I've always been fond of Anne, though I considered her a little bit over-dramatic here. Arachne wasn't in it as much as I'd like, but I was thankful for Luna being absent for a large portion. The character I disliked the most was Sonder - he was the definition of annoying, clearly stealing Luna's spotlight in that regard. The introduction of the blink fox was, of course, the most memorable aspect - I hope it returns as a permanent ally! Goodness knows Alex will need it.

Veiled is the next instalment of this series and it was first published in 2015. It's currently on my reading list.

In conclusion - Yet another addition which I considered average, at best, and more than definitely filler. Hopefully the next will be more relevant and include dear ol' Richard!

Notable Scene:

It didn't make me any happier. My crude ability to see the future didn't make me any friends - the opposite, if anything. I had knowledge, but there wasn't anything I could do with it. I was left just as isolated, hating the people who'd ostracised me. Until one cold autumn day when Richard had stepped onto the schoolyard where I was standing, promising me everything I'd secretly wanted if I'd follow him and call him master. And I'd said yes.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/08/hidden-by-benedict-jacka
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