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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-21 16:01
Immortown by Lily Markova (2015 Review)
Immortown - Lily Markova

ImmortownImmortown by Lily Markova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Famous actress Freya Auror suddenly finds herself in a very odd town where the townsfolk spend all their time consuming powerful substances and killing themselves. She soon discovers she's trapped, yet not all hope is lost. Maybe there's a way out for her, a way to escape the clutches of Immortown. Or just maybe she'll remain there until she fades...

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. My thanks goes to Lily Markova for giving me the opportunity!

In truth, I'm not a believer in life after death or anything like that, but Immortown definitely left me thinking and probably will continue to do so for a while to come. I didn't know what to expect and from what initially started off as serious confusion, turned to fascination as the story progressed and events were explained. I've never read anything quite like it before so, for me, it was certainly unique. Markova clearly has a lot of talent, from the way she writes to the overall tone of her work; the latter being how well she implemented the dark, disturbing feel yet could pull off the occasional humour. Despite that, I feel it took me a lot of effort to read it - I had to pay the utmost attention or I feared I'd miss something relevant; even minor distractions forced me to go over passages more than once. It was easy to lose place of what was happening amongst the lengthy narrative which whilst oftentimes beautiful, also dragged on in other areas. I struggled to rate it, but after some consideration I decided firmly upon the four stars; I really think it deserves such, given my overall enjoyment and the unmistakable thought that's been put into it.

Freya Auror was, in short, a troubled character. I know what it's like to lose someone extremely important and feel like letting go, so I could somewhat relate to her in the way that she lost herself to what she enjoyed doing; for her, it was the acting and the roles she played, such as Astra. She was also a woman enthralled by art, which in itself is characteristically attractive as it's so rare this day and age. I didn't particularly understand her connection to Kai, but I think she was the only one to truly see he wasn't the supposed villain everyone thought he was. Yes, perhaps he was a selfish man, but the burning of Immer wasn't exactly intentional. I actually really liked him, even though he wasn't perfect; quite the opposite in fact. He held an air of mystery and attitude that I found appealing. The childish India, her husband Remy and Chace were also good characters and of course, "Dude", who added some comic relief yet still succeeded to be a haunting figure. I wasn't fond of Kristle, but I suppose that was the whole point.

Indeed, the entire book was about death and suicide, but it was an intriguing take on things. It wasn't just a typical, simple purgatory tale, but something I found original. As I've already mentioned, the beginning had me scratching my head several times, but I'm glad I didn't let it scare me away. Eventually, it all clicked and that, when you sit back and realise all the ties are coming together and making sense, is a great and satisfying thing to experience. The two PoV's complimented and fit together nicely and the plot itself, whilst not action-packed, still greatly entertained.

In conclusion: A very deep and thoughtful read; one I found myself impressed with. I can't help but wonder about the aftermath of Immortown. Will there be a sequel? It surely looks like it could be continued, so fingers crossed! I'd be very interested in reading more just like this.

Notable Quote:

"You know, when people lose someone, they are horrendously hypocritical. They don't pity the ones gone; they mourn themselves for being left without something familiar or loved."

© Red Lace 2015


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/21/immortown-by-lily-markova-2015-review
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-16 22:04
The Moor by Sam Haysom
The Moor - Sam Haysom

The Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taking part in a school trip, five teenagers and their teacher set out on a long walk across Rutmoor, thinking it to be a fun experience with friends. What they don’t expect is odd noises in the dead of night, and dead animals placed outside their tents. When tensions and tempers arise, the group soon begins to fall apart, until a dramatic turn leads them to fear for their very lives.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I never thought as I started reading this one, that I’d get so much enjoyment out of it. It took me by surprise; one of those moments that make this hobby so worth it. It all began with clippings from newspapers, written in a way that suggested they were merely pieces of a puzzle. Indeed, that set my mind ablaze with theories that wouldn’t subside throughout the entire book. I loved how it gave me a new perspective over the characters, how they interacted with each other, and in general how they were presented. Haysom was clever enough to give enough of a tease that pulled me in, made me want to know more, and I very much appreciated it. As I believe it, this is a debut novel, yet I wouldn’t have guessed. Many of the pitfalls new authors fall into - such as a lack of sufficient editing and typical horror tropes that are almost painfully overused at this point - were largely absent, giving an almost fresh take.

The atmosphere of Rutmoor, of how utterly miserable and arduous the travel became, it created vivid imagery in my head, and induced a very strong aversion to hiking. I can now say it's not something I want to do ever, in my lifetime. Honestly, the dynamic of the hiking group was a highlight; it had that pinch of realism to it. Each individual offered something unique with their personality, and like any real life circle, they all differed and even clashed together. Sometimes it was ugly, other times sweet, but most of all, their friendships were authentic. My favourite had to be Tom; undoubtedly the most sensible of the lot, followed by Matt and James. Even despite the young age of each, I was still able to relate. Yes, there was some immaturity - pretty much what you'd expect from teens, but it wasn't to the extreme.

The format of the plot struck me as quite different, in that rather than waiting until the end to reveal the big twist, it was just after fifty percent that it came into play. I can’t say it was unexpected - in fact, I had my suspicions much earlier, but I adored it regardless. You see, I much prefer when the direction of the story changes so drastically from my initial assumptions. If it’s done well, like it so wonderfully was in this case, then I feel like I’m kept on my toes, like I don’t have time to even look away. The question of survival played a significant part, as due to the parallel running chapters of present day (2015 to be precise), those that endured the horrors of the moor were made known, thus it was not the matter of who’s going to survive, but how do they survive.

The only thing that I found quite awkward, was the continual switch of past / present tense in the style of writing, however I understand it was used as a tool - to obviously convey the period of time, and perhaps even to alleviate confusion. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a challenge to get used to it.

In conclusion: I considered it a great story, and to be completely truthful, it soared above my expectations. With a slow beginning of character and atmosphere building, the story exploded into a creepfest that kept my attention. My applause goes to Haysom, and his impressive debut novel.

Notable Scene:

The rabbit's body was a mangled pulp of flesh, bone and hair. Its eyeless, earless face stared up at him from the grass. Patches of drying blood lay on the grass around it.
From somewhere behind Gary, a tree branch snapped.


© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/16/the-moor-by-sam-haysom
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-15 19:16
Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish
Wrath of the Ancients - Catherine Cavendish

Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The year is 1913 and Adeline Ogilvy makes her way to Vienna, after accepting a career opportunity to transcribe the memoirs of the late Emeryk Quintillus. Rather than being able to settle down and do her work however, strange occurrences draw Adeline's attention, and soon she finds herself caught in a wicked scheme that involves the wrath of a God.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

I purchased this one after I noticed the monthly Horror Aficionados group read, and even though it's not the latest installment of this series, what’s better than starting at the beginning? I’ve always found Egyptian history interesting; it seems to be depicted as glamorous, mystical, but also somewhat scary, what with all that mummifying shenanigans. It’s a perfect setup for horror, obviously, yet before I delved into Cavendish’s cleverly researched work, I hadn’t seen much of the theme. Perhaps it’s not as sought after as the more typical haunted houses and zombies, yet either way, I was ready for some Cleopatra goodness. What followed was a relatively light read that rhythmically drew me in and pushed me away.

The first part of the story revolved solely around Adeline, whereupon she temporarily relocated to Vienna for work. This is where I found myself impressed with the writing, and how quickly I was pulled into the mystery surrounding the Quintillus household. As Adeline explored the darkest recesses of the manor, I was thrilled to join her in each new, chilling discovery. I thus believed that this had set the scene for the entire book, but was heavily disappointed when that wasn’t actually the case. The much enjoyed “one character against the world” was turned upside down when another was introduced, that being Professor Jakob Mayer. I have no issue in admitting that I thought he possessed an ulterior motive throughout, as he didn’t seem quite right - he’s the one that offered all the answers, that had Adeline follow him around as he took charge with an unusually calm demeanour. Upon progressing through the story, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing nefarious about him, and that somehow felt wrong to me, as if he was merely shoehorned in to move along the plot at a much quicker pace. There’s no question that I would have remained invested had Adeline been left to figure it all out on her own, without being guided so obnoxiously.

When part one (by far the longest section) ended and I was thrust into the lives of strangers, I lost interest to a certain degree. It was jarring, to say the least, that I had to leave behind the woman I became so fond of, but I understand the intention of the plot was to span decades. It’s always a risk, to implement such long jumps of time and have a flawless transition, and in this case it just didn’t work for me. I felt disconnected, and, suffice it to say, I was glad when Adeline eventually reappeared.

The supernatural aspect, that was more to do with the effects of a curse than anything else, proved to be entertaining, but certainly nothing even remotely scary. Let me explain when a horror becomes less and less impactful for me personally - it's the matter of showing too much, to the point where I'm desensitised. I experienced no sense of dread and not a modicum of tension after that green light surfaced for the tenth time; sometimes less is more, and I firmly believe a lot of books would benefit had the author kept this in mind. There's also the issue that danger wasn't sufficiently conveyed - sure, there were a few deaths, but at no time did I worry for the well-being of the main character.

In conclusion: I really thought I was going to love this one, but the story went in a direction that failed to maintain my interest. To put in bluntly, I would have preferred the focus remaining upon Adeline, of whom I liked very much. Straying away from her, and bringing in a character that overshadowed her, just didn't appeal. That said, it wasn't all bad, hence the average rating I decided upon. Will I pick up the next one though? I'm really not sure.

Notable Scene:

Adeline forced herself to admit something she had suppressed for over fifty years. Those terrifying weeks in Vienna had left an indelible impression on her. For weeks, months, even years afterward, she would wake screaming in the night. She would see Emeryk Quintillus's mummified skin and eyeless face.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/15/wrath-of-the-ancients-by-catherine-cavendish
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-08 02:07
The Sadist's Bible by Nicole Cushing
The Sadist's Bible - Nicole Cushing

The Sadist's Bible by Nicole Cushing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lori and Ellie have never met, but they both yearn for the touch of a woman and the sweet release of death. Eager to take their online correspondence to the next level, they strike an agreement and plan a getaway to a remote hotel. Their intentions? To succumb to their desires and finish with a deadly climax.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

There’s nothing like discovering a well-hidden gem, and that’s exactly what happened when I originally spied a review from Morgan K Tanner's blog. The book in question seemed intriguing; a mix of suicidal intentions and grim religion - right up my street. What followed was a quick read, yet despite its short length, its execution was no less impactful. Cushing was able to portray two very mentally ill individuals; their helplessness apparent when they decide the best course of action is a joint suicide. Amongst the fantasies of death, is a very prominent emphasis on homosexuality, whereupon the women visualise their passing as a deeply erotic affair, and thus a statement to society. Certainly morbid, but in that darkly fascinating sort of way that I can appreciate if done well. Of course this wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, especially when it comes to Christianity, as the He is painted in a very harsh light - which isn't as far-fetched as one might believe. If anything, I'd consider Him more alike his Old Testament representation, but that’s neither here nor there.

One thing that occurred to me early on was that, whilst Lori’s situation was significantly more dour, Ellie’s was a lot more closer to reality. Unable to express her true self, Ellie was ruled by fear, and to some extent, shame. It was a very genuine example of what a lot of people go through every day of their lives, and I felt that the coupling of real life issues and celestial intervention worked well together. Honestly though, I didn't find these two characters entirely likeable on a personal level, however my sympathy lay more with Lori, as I believed her to be a victim of the most horrendous acts possible. The connection between these two women could've been explored further, although it was easy enough to discern their relationship formed out of desperation.

The plot itself was able to keep up a decent pace, probably because it didn’t have time to add any unnecessary fluff. The last half of the book is where things took a turn, and I guess I didn’t expect things to get so crazy, but they did. The running theme of sex and violence only magnified, and it was unquestionably shoved to the forefront throughout the end. Vivid, graphic scenes delved into totortuous acts of depravity, where Cushing had no qualms about detailing the sadistic pleasures of a heavenly orgy. I use the term "heavenly" very loosely, as those creatures more resembled beings of nightmare.

That's the thing here - this is a bleak story, where a saviour, in the typical sense of the word, doesn't exist.

In conclusion: Torture intermingles with sex in this novella, and those of a religious nature would be likely best to avoid this one altogether. I considered it a very entertaining read, and it certainly put Cushing on my radar.

Notable Quote:

The arc of the universe is long, but bends towards degeneracy.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/08/the-sadists-bible-by-nicole-cushing
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-05-22 17:13
Erinyes by George Saoulidis (2016 Review)
Erinyes - George Saoulidis

Erinyes by George Saoulidis
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Egotistical Mahi is beyond ecstatic when she's presented with a new phone by her father; it's top of the line and a new model, one that offers tech never yet seen before. However unbeknownst to the selfie-loving youth, there's more to the phone than meets the eye.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

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

Initially the synopsis caught my eye when I was first directed to this novella; it sounded like just what I wanted at the time - a creepy tale, something to pull me in and keep me entertained. In this case, it was of a frightening Greek deity stalking her victim through phone selfies (of all things, but why not?), perhaps even escalating to increasingly terrifying events, or at least that's what I expected. I was optimistic, very much so, however the execution proved less than thrilling and failed to induce the desired effects; irritation rather than fear, boredom rather than interest. I'm being brutally honest here, in that I didn't consider it a finished work, but rather a draft piece that could've been largely improved upon.

Indeed technology has become a very significant aspect of life, and I'm sure it'll continue to evolve and play a major role in everything we do, but due to the main characters obsessive and downright unhealthy attitude toward social media, I found it difficult to read her narrative. I even questioned; are the adolescents of today really like this, or is this merely an exaggeration? Do underage girls continuously post pictures of themselves for the attention of older men, and depend upon "likes" for their happiness?

It's sad, because I know the answer. All I have to do is take a look at Facebook, or some other similar website.

Mahi was such a dislikeable person. Utterly childish, painfully narcissistic and ridiculously naive, I didn't come to care for her at all. I'm all for teenagers as main protagonists, but when they're portrayed in such a way that makes me want to gouge my eyes out, then I know there's very little that can save the book in terms of my enjoyment. As for the few other characters (her two friends, mostly), they left little impression and ultimately added very little overall.

I feel that with some proper editing and development upon the storytelling, then perhaps this could've been a decent read. As it was, it lacked the build-up of tension and anything remotely eerie. The plot and ending could've been more fleshed out; the ending itself was abrupt and offered no closure. I can't say, even if I had of liked the story, that I would've been satisfied with the conclusion. No questions were answered (what did the phone have to do with anything?), and all in all, it was disappointing.

In conclusion: Like many indie works I read these days, it suffers from grammatical errors and has an unfinished feel to it. I deeply disliked the main character and I feel she had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It could've been improved greatly with a little TLC, but otherwise I consider this not my type of book.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/05/22/erinyes-by-george-saoulidis-2016-review
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