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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-20 00:34
The Magic Cottage by James Herbert (2017 Review)
The Magic Cottage - James Herbert

The Magic Cottage by James Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top Read 2017 * * * * *

Tired of the hustle and bustle of the city of London, young couple Mike and Midge are determined to find a home that offers them a brighter - and quieter - future. Much to their delight, that perfect home comes in the form of Gramarye; a breathtaking, isolated cottage that appears too good to be true. Eager to move right in and settle down, they soon experience the enchanting wonders Gramarye has to offer, along with the sinister ugliness that lurks just beneath its surface.

(WARNING: this review contains spoilers.)

I genuinely didn't expect to discover such a hidden gem when I selected a book at random from my shelf. Having never picked up a Herbert novel before, I was soon stunned by the sheer beauty of the story, which included the subtle, yet increasingly unnerving horror element that primarily lingered in the background. I could be considered a nick-picky reader, or downright pessimistic; someone who doesn't dish out top ratings all too often because even the tiniest things can impact my enjoyment, so it's a surprise and a special occasion when I find something that ticks all the right boxes. And tick all the boxes it did, and then some. This one will stay with me for several reasons, the foremost being quite personal. I know very well the longing for the perfect home - somewhere that brings happiness and contentment. Gramarye in itself sounded like my dream cottage; it simply fascinated me with its extraordinarily close ties to nature, and the magic that enveloped its walls.

I quickly became attached to Mike and Midge, and rooted for their relationship throughout the entirety of the book. Both had their flaws; Mike could be selfish, whilst Midge infuriatingly stubborn, but I found them to be more relatable due to these faults. When they were on the verge of separation, I actually felt something; a sort of dread that perhaps a happy ending wasn't in store. That's the thing about this genre; happily-ever-afters aren't a certainty, there's just so much potential, and I couldn't stop my mind from racing. Of course, there were the side characters, and each and every one had their part to play. Val, in particular stood out, especially when she displayed such bravery and loyalty to her friends in the end.

The plot itself wasn't non-stop scares or gore, but rather a slow progression of laying down the foundations, and setting the tone, before the explosive finale. I can't say this way of storytelling works for everyone, but I found myself completely immersed, and never did I believe it to be stale. Herbert truly struck me as a writer that favoured the development of his characters, and of making the reader truly care for what's happening. I daresay it's so much better than cheap thrills that ultimately mean very little.

I really do need to mention the descriptive writing, and how it truly conveyed what Herbert wanted it to. There's a particular scene that takes place in the loft of Gramarye, involving Mike and a large number of bats. Don't get me wrong, I adore bats and have no fear of them, but I don't think I've ever been as disturbed when reading before - it almost made me feel a bit sick. Such in-depth detail that worked together extremely well, resulting in the magical moments positively feeling magical, and the eerie moments giving a clear sense of unease. This is what writing's really about.

Lastly, I should probably include that I actually cried at a certain point in this book. I'm usually not such an emotional reader, where I shed tears often, but I really loved that squirrel.

I'll never forget Rumbo.

Notable Scene:

The pink, hunched thing grew in size, frail shape glistening in the light of the torch. The tiny body oozed out, smoothly and wetly, taking form - an unsightly form - discharged from the womb like an oval blob of pink topping squeezed from an icing bag, to plop onto the mother bat's stomach, caught there and suspended by its life-chord. The mother immediately wrapped wings and pouched tail around the newborn, its head striving upwards and tongue flickering out to cleanse the sticky flesh body.

© Red Lace 2017

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/20/the-magic-cottage-by-james-herbert-2017-review
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review 2018-02-18 02:03
The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy
The Dark Net - Benjamin Percy

I knew nothing about this book when a friend recommended it.  In fact, when I opened to the first page, I expected a story steeped in the technological complexities of the dark web with some subtle social commentary on the value of anonymity on the internet and a cyberpunk vibe.  In fact, based on the synopsis, I first tagged it as a “sci fi” read on Goodreads.

 

Instead, I found a creepy horror story set in Portland, Oregon that uses technology as a backdrop for demons who want to open a portal to hell.  Not that technology and the dark web don’t play a part in the story because they do, particularly in the final third of the book.  I can’t imagine anything more ominous than demons who are technologically savvy!

 

Interestingly however, the main character is completely technologically challenged.  A journalist who lives for the story, I found Lela a slightly unlikeable character.  Although I loved her “sidekick” - her dog, Hemingway.  The cast of characters is rounded out with Lela’s blind niece Hannah who is outfitted with a prothesis called “Mirage” that allows her to see in a unique way, a formerly-corrupt televangelist now going by the name of Juniper and a mysterious woman who may (or may not) be immortal.

 

I really enjoyed the first part of the book as we meet all of the characters and start to get a glimpse of the horror to come.  The epilogue is fantastic - I love where the author took the characters.  I also really enjoyed the setting - I’ve had the pleasure of spending enough time in Portland on business that I recognize many of the landmarks, streets and of course, the truly amazing bookstore, Powell’s.  If I have a criticism, it’s that there are a lot of characters to keep up with in a relatively short book (my edition is 253 pages including epilogue).

 

If you enjoyed Andrew Pyper’s The Demonologist or Joe Hill’s NOS4R2, you should consider picking this one up.  It has the same creepy flavour and end of the world overtones, but be prepared for a faster pace and less character development.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-17 01:47
{ARC} Book Review: The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

Forgive the lateness of this review and I hope that it does not give the impression that it’s because I hate the book. As a matter of fact, the Hollow Girl is the best book that I’ve read in 2017. If you know me, I don’t normally read horror stories because it’s not just my genre and you know, nightmares. But after reading the synopsis, I knew that I had to pick it up and told myself that “Let’s try this for once.” And so I did.

 

Oh boy, no regrets so far because after page 1, there was no turning back. The story consumed me, the characters captivated me and the twists shook me. Hillary Monahan really took her time in fleshing out the characters and in weaving the story that it wasn’t cumbersome or convoluted but not simple either. The story centers on a Romani Gypsy, Bethan, who’s being groomed by her grandmother to succeed the latter as the tribe’s green healer. Her life is pretty much alright except for one thing: the tribal leader’s son, Silas, is trying his damnedest to harass Bethan. And then, one night, what Drina (Bethan’s grandmother) and Bethan dreaded happened. Bethan got raped and her friend died protecting her.

 

The incident was the turning point for Bethan. Though she and her grandmother were peace loving individuals, they did not hesitate in deciding that Silas and the boys who played accomplices must pay. So the tale of darkness and revenge began. And it was damn satisfying seeing Bethan and her grandma made corpses out of the boys. Cue evil laugh. Kidding aside, there was more to this book than the killings. Rape is such a delicate subject, even more so the aftermath. The victim traumatized and stigmatized while the suspects go seemingly underpunished. With the Hollow Girl, my heart really cried for Bethan and her grandmother but I literally rejoiced as they sought retribution from Silas and his friends. Happiness that turned into awe and sadness again when the twist was revealed.

 

This book, essentially, has all the things that I love in a story despite it being horror. There’s heart, darkness, revenge, and nuanced characters that will surely make your reading experience a memorable one. Cheers to you, Hillary Monahan.

Source: waywardkitsune.com/2018/02/arc-book-review-hollow-girl-hillary-monahan
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review 2018-02-16 21:49
Not Like Any Wrestling You Know – Wrestle Maniacs Anthology @Adam_G_Howe
Wrestle Maniacs - Duncan P. Bradshaw,Jeff Strand,Werner Leins,Eryk Pruitt,Jason Parent,Gabino Iglesias,Adam Howe,David James Keaton,James R. Newman,Katherine Kurtz

Some of the authors for the Wrestle Maniacs anthology are familiar to me and you may recognize some of them yourself.

 

Amazon  /  Goodreads

 

MY REVIEW

 

If you are a fan of wrestling or like twisted, convoluted tales that will tax your imagination, Wrestle Maniacs is for you. Some of the stories are sad, some are hilarious, and some are down right frightening. Twisted. Horrific. Every punishment you can imagine in the ring and many you never would have dreamt of, are contained herein.

 

Gabino Iglesias had me gagging and trying not to upchuck as I read his brutal, bloody story, El Neubo Sant’s Last Fight.

 

Adam Howe had me laughing my ass off, as Reggie, a shit magnet, finds himself in some of the most hilariously funny, yet dangerous situations in the book, in Rassle Hassle.

 

Gory, gross, disgusting and some seemingly normal stories, along with some horror, scifi, mystery, thrills and chills. Off the wall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of Wrestle Maniacs by Adam Howe & Company.

Animated Animals. Pictures, Images and Photos  5 Stars

 

GOODREADS BLURB

 

A dozen dark fiction masters bring their twisted vision to the world of professional wrestling. Twelve original stories of crime, horror, humor, and taboo. Ohhh, yeahhh! This ain’t no kayfabe, baby. This is hard-hitting wrestling fiction that grips like a Camel Clutch, and pins the reader to the page for the count of one, two…THREE!

 

Includes a confrontational foreword by ring legend ‘Pulverizing’ Pat McCrunch (as told to Jeff Strand)… An all-new story starring Nick ‘The Widowmaker’ Bullman from James Newman’s wrestling noir, “Ugly as Sin”… And ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer Reggie Levine (“Tijuana Donkey Showdown,” “Damn Dirty Apes”) returns for another action-packed misadventure.

 

Original fiction by:
Jeff Strand
Tom Leins
James Newman
Eryk Pruitt
Adam Howe
Ed Kurtz
Hector Acosta
Joseph Hirsch
Duncan P. Bradshaw
David James Keaton
Gabino Iglesias
Patrick Lacey
and Jason Parent

Wooooo!!!

 

MY ADAM HOWE REVIEWS

 

 

MY JASON PARENT REVIEWS

 

 

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Source: www.fundinmental.com/not-like-wrestling-know-wrestle-maniacs-anthology-adam_g_howe
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review 2018-02-16 19:46
Douglas F. Warrick: Plow the Bones
Plow the Bones - Douglas F. Warrick

The "F" in Douglas F. Warrick tells you a lot about how this book is going to read. It was clearly written by someone who goes by Douglas, not Doug, and who would correct you if your forgot to include their middle initial in their name.

 

The prose is arch, affected, and in love with itself. It's impossible to separate reading these stories from feeling like Warwick is reading over one's shoulder with you, excited for you to get to his favourite turns of phrase. I knew I wasn't going to finish this book when I came across this particularly precious paragraph in "Funeral Song for a Ventriloquist":

A confession. This story began with a lie. This story wanted very much to end here. And so it spun a fabrication within its very second sentence. But this is not the end of this story, as ashamed as it may be to admit it. This is the rest of this story, told into the void as all stories are. Until their end. Whether they like it or not.

Godawful. I get that this is a young author, and I hope his style improves in his future work. I liked some of the ideas, especially in "Zen and the Art of Gordon Dratch's Damnation" (OMG that title though). I would bet that as he matures, Warrick will gain some confidence and step away from the wrought prose and let his stories stand on their ideas. I hope.

 

To quote from an Amazon reviewer named August, "The writing is very good. But I personally hated it." Not recommended.

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