Red Lace Reviews

SPOILER ALERT!

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder (2016 Review)

Storm Glass  - Maria V. Snyder

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Four years attending the Magician's Keep, and Opal believes she's nothing but a disaster and a disappointment. Instead of being able to learn and practice new powers like other students, her one and only ability is placing a thread of magic within the glass figures she creates, which can then be used as a means for cross-country communication. Definitely not combat related, thus she is shocked to learn the Master Magicians have an assignment for her.

(WARNING: This reviews contains MAJOR spoilers.)

I quickly fell in love with the world of the much conflicted Ixia and Sitia all the way back in Poison Study. Not only was the book a perfect reminder of why I love immersing myself in works of fiction, but it created pleasant excitement for the future instalments penned by Snyder. It was then unfortunate that the following segments of the series only declined, leaving me disappointed and pessimistic. What my gripe essentially stemmed from was the character development of Yelena, and how she evolved drastically into a famous, almighty Soulfinder than could accomplish everything and anything. But whilst Yelena's magic varied to the extreme, Opal's was very limited... At first. It offered zero offensive and defensive capabilities, but it was extremely useful and beneficial to the Sitian council and magicians as a whole. This, after the sheer extent of Yelena's power growth, was refreshing and I welcomed the unique simplicity. Imagine my irritation that as the book progressed, new magical discoveries were made, each more powerful than the last. It's an easy assumption to make that history will repeat itself.

Opal suffered through quite a lot in her ventures, and made more one than one mistake along the way. Her insecurities could've been endearing, but I felt they became a little too much when she continuously refused to accept praise or compliments of any kind. She also displayed a hunger for power, which in itself was slightly off-putting, though to be fair, if I were considered a "one-trick wonder", I'd probably feel sour about it as well. Despite these faults, which definitely threatened her likeability, I thought she was an average protagonist with the potential for improvement. Perhaps if she was given room to breathe and grow into her own person, and not overshadowed by Yelena, which of whom played a part in this book and was mentioned regularly.

Of course the love triangle ticked me off, as they usually do. I just don't understand how they can appeal to anyone. It seemed, at least to me, that Opal settled with Ulrick because Kade didn't reciprocate her interest - it's ALWAYS selfish, in one way or another. It doesn't matter which one I favoured (Kade though), it just becomes unbelievably tedious.

However in regards to the other characters, I believed there to be a satisfactory variety. I actually became a little fond of Leif, whereupon I initially hated his immaturity. Zitora I liked, Pazia was a tad annoying, as was Ulrick. Kade was a delight, and I immediately wished him the love interest. The plot itself was eventful, yet at times confusing as it veered off into different directions. I don't think it needed to be as complicated; sometimes a straightforward story does the job just as well. I very much liked the in-depth look at the Stormdancers in particular, and I would've loved if they were focused on a little longer. Hopefully they make appearances in the next two books of the Glass trilogy.

Speaking of glass, I enjoyed the detailed scenes of craftsmanship found throughout the pages. I never thought I'd find an interest in such a thing, but the writing was very well done and inspired me to perform some additional research. I do appreciate when an author can ignite enthusiasm on a certain subject otherwise ignored.

In conclusion: Looking forward to delving into more Chronicles of Ixia, but let's hope they rise to the standard of the very first. It just strikes me as the protagonists get overly powerful, which takes all the fun out of them struggling for their survival.

Notable Scene:

The roar of the wind and sea ceased the moment the monster wave engulfed me. For one heartbeat, my world filled with gurgling sounds and foamy green light. Then the force of the crashing water slammed me into an unyielding object. The sea grabbed my limp body and tossed it about. Confusion dulled the pain until my forehead smacked into a jagged rock.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/04/14/storm-glass-by-maria-v-snyder-2016-review
SPOILER ALERT!

Violet Eyes by John Everson

Violet Eyes - John Everson

Violet Eyes by John Everson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fresh start was the plan, but for Rachel and her son, Eric, the quiet town near the Everglades proves to be anything but suitable. The news reports of an unknown breed of fly, migrating through the area, but when said species of fly begins to attack people in swarms, things only seem to get progressively worse from there. Black spiders with violet slashes across their backs, appear from seemingly nowhere, making their presence known as they start to take over.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

Who isn't afraid of spiders? Well, me actually, but the way in which arachnids were presented here was no doubt alarming. Instead of the eight-legged critters that want nothing more than to live human-free lives, were abominations hungry for the warmth of living (and dead) flesh. And flesh they got, copious amounts of it, from animals to humans of all ages; everything that breathed appeared to be fair game. The very life cycle of these unnatural creatures made my skin crawl; a bizarre rotation of fly and spider, with bites that could implant eggs, as well as paralysing venom. The greatest and worst biological weapon, their only instinct to wipe out life. Whilst Everson did a good job in capturing the nastiness of their sudden invasion, I found myself wishing the focus back upon Rachel and Eric, as I felt more committed to them in the long run. Most of the other characters introduced had only one sole purpose, and that was to die in the most horrific ways possible, each instance trying to outdo the last. This served as brief entertainment, but as I said, I'd would've preferred more time with the main protagonists.

Let's get into the little irksome details throughout that I just couldn't ignore. For starters, it struck me as unrealistic that almost everyone talked to themselves. This may seem like a nit-picky, largely irrelevant complaint, but it actually affected my immersion. I've no issue whatsoever with inner dialogue; it's something we all do, but to outright speak, out loud, in conversation to ourselves? No, not everyone does that, and it gives the impression that it's for the benefit of the reader - that they're not talking to themselves, but to us. It's a highly personal opinion, of course, and one I had to mention, for my own peace of mind.

The next thing's story related and it involves what you might consider a spoiler, so heed the warning at the beginning. Whilst the incursion spread throughout town, with reports of hostile swarms of flies biting people and houses covered from roof to ground in webbing, Rachel didn't think to leave town? I didn't understand, that for the safety of her child, why it didn't occur to her that it just might not be safe. Again, it brought distraction through its impracticality. I prefer rational thinking that brings the person on the page to life - I very much dislike questionable events that only seem plausible to serve the plot.

Obvious issues aside, I did like the primary characters. I found Rachel's determination to live independently, free from her abusive ex, to be respectful. It was nice that she found romance in someone far better than Anders, of whom was composed in a way that did him absolutely no favours. I couldn't much care for his death - it appeared to be an attempt at redemption, which failed as far as I was concerned. I have to say, I was expecting the ending, but when it came I felt a twinge of sadness. I do appreciate when what I read induces emotion, so I was pleasantly surprised in that regard.

In conclusion: I'm sticking with three stars, however I very nearly settled on two. The spider aspect I enjoyed, but some things (other than the spiders) got under my skin. I just couldn't overlook them.

Notable Quote:

The best things in life were usually killed by ignorance, ambivalence, age, wisdom and sometimes, outright malevolence. Whatever the reasons, the things you loved most always seemed to die long before you were ready to let them go.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/04/12/violet-eyes-by-john-everson

The Ritual by Adam Nevill (2016 Review)

The Ritual - Adam Nevill

The Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The reunion of four University friends not only offers a chance to escape from the stresses of the everyday, but also an opportunity to behold the wonders of the outdoors... Or at least that was the plan. The last thing Hutch, Luke, Phil and Dom needed was to get lost within a virgin forest in a foreign country; a Scandinavian wilderness that just feels wrong. When they bare witness to something hanging up a tree - something dead, everything changes from then on.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

Collecting dust on my bookshelf, amongst the other two hundred unread books (more or less), for a few years now, I finally decided to pick this one up and give it a go. I didn't know what exactly to expect at first, but the whole "man versus nature" aspect appealed to me, and thus I found myself thoroughly impressed with the initial direction of the plot. Even to imagine getting lost in such an ancient maze of untouched forest, where daylight itself refuses to penetrate, definitely makes my skin crawl. Even so, I'm not usually all that affected by horror in general, and even though I didn't feel terrified or frightened, I certainly felt a sense of unease and foreboding. The writing was a main factor in creating such responses; so darkly atmospheric with sentences that conveyed so much, from every stab of fear to every thread of hope. If not for the very drastic change in story in the second half, I'd have rated it five stars.

I didn't even find the characters entirely likeable, but not because they were poorly written - on the contrary, they were painfully realistic. The ones who picked on another out of a jealous attempt to hide their own crumbling lives, the one with obvious commitment issues and lack of purpose, and lastly, the one with the level head. However, even despite Hutch being the one to try and keep everything civil and together, he shared a particular shallowness with Luke in regard to continuously calling the other two "fatties". They had their flaws, as we all do, and as all good fictional characters should. Luke, whom I eventually came to feel sympathy for, was probably the worst, as his views on women were verging on being downright sexist. He clearly had his problems with anger management as well, but what that man experienced, his helplessness - I couldn't help but hope he'd survive the whole ordeal.

As for the complete shift titled "South of Heaven"; I didn't hate it, but admittedly it appeared quite silly at first. Going from the struggles of survival in the wilderness whilst hunted by a mysterious creature, to being held captive by a metal band consisting of face-painted teenagers - it was confusing to say the least, but after a while I settled into the craziness and accepted it for what it was. The trio; Fenris, Loki and Sutr, were void of sanity of any kind (as you can tell from what they called themselves), but even though they were all sorts of ridiculous, the old woman and what dwelled within the attic succeeded in returning the eerie tone. From stitching together the pieces given, the inhabitants of the house were children of the "moder", which added a nice touch. It then begs the question, why did the woman need Luke to do her dirty work in dispatching of the disrespectful teens when she could've called the monster? Well, if you revere something, if you worship something, it stands to reason you don't want to piss it off by expecting it to do pest control.

Still, the rambling on of Christianity, and of how evil they were as Vikings, it got a little tedious after a short time. I'm all for Norse mythology and how religion played a role in the origin of the forest, but I don't need dialogue that seems never-ending to get the point across. I rolled my eyes, I facepalmed, and I missed the simple yet effective quality of the first couple of hundred pages. Again, I state it was close to being a well-deserved favourite, but the last half just wasn't as good.

In conclusion: I'm definitely interested in Nevill's other works now, as I appreciated his ability as a writer. I favoured the first section of this particular novel, but the change in direction jarred me.

Notable Scene:

Luke took three mouthfuls of water from his bottle. It tasted of rubber and of the forest around them: the cloying of damp wood, rotting leaves and cold air. He detested it. He smelled of it too. They were almost a part of it now. Just a few bright colours of the man-made fibres they wore marked them out as any different to the thoughtless, relentless decay of season and nature. It would be so easy now to just sink to the ground and get recycled, to be eaten or rot away. The endlessness of it, the sheer size of the land and their total insignificance within it nearly shut his mind down.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/04/07/the-ritual-by-adam-nevill-2016-review
SPOILER ALERT!

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

The Devil Crept In - Ania Ahlborn

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stevie Clark's one and only best friend goes missing, and the small town of Deer Valley aren't all too keen to find the troublesome youngster. Jude Brighton's known for his temper, but to Stevie, he's the singular person that really understands him. After the first forty-eight hours, the possibility of Jude's safe return is rapidly dwindling, but that doesn't deter Stevie from making his own investigation. He's determined to find his cousin, and get back to their old antics.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I can't say that I was immediately drawn into this book; it started dreadfully slow, with a hundred or so pages of almost nothing happening. Boredom began to make itself known, and I admit, I experienced a slight amount of trepidation. I really didn't want to be disappointed, but I realise my grave mistake of expecting too much too soon. You see, Ahlborn's intention became crystal clear the further I progressed, and by the time I reached the end, I was far from let down. Patience is all I needed before the proverbial hit the fan and things got deliciously dark and creepy. I even talked and theorised about this book at length, my significant other the victim to my incessant chattering, because whilst it offered clues as to what caused certain events to occur, it didn't outright state it. If left my mind racing and that gets a huge amount of appreciation from me.

Two, seemingly separate storylines were thrown together to make up the plot. The very first part is where I questioned the pace, as all it consisted of was the worrying and concern of Stevie, of whom had discovered the disappearance of his cousin. It's not that I didn't like Stevie - consider it the opposite, actually, but I just expected something more to happen in that number of pages. Despite the transition of the second section bringing some confusion, I quickly became totally and completely engrossed in Rosie's tale. It's where things really started to kick off, and Ahlborn's talent hit me square in the face. I loved every moment of it, even when I genuinely felt uncomfortable at a certain point. The horror aspect could be considered subtle to a degree, with the weaving of some rather typical elements that are popular in the genre, but it was done extremely well.

I came to understand how pivotal the character of Stevie was, and whilst Jude may have been a large factor regarding the plot, Stevie was the ultimate vocal point; by all intents and purposes, the unlikely hero. The struggle with his mental state, including the difficulty with something so many of us take for granted - simple communication - was composed in a way that fully expressed the hardships of his condition. Ahlborn clearly had insight into such subjects, to be able to create such a wonderfully complicated child. I don't think I've ever read of a character quite like him before, which raises the question of why individuals with mental health issues aren't more present within literature. Is it because they're generally unreliable as protagonists? Food for thought, I suppose.

Even though I like to get down to specifics, I'll refrain from the huge details that would spoil the entire story. Suffice it to say, I liked the portrayal of "Ras", the somewhat mysterious figure that held the position of villain. He remained primarily in the background, but there was no question as to whom he represented in the grand scheme of things. The ending itself brought with it a sense of sadness, but not because it was badly done. Oh no, it was just... sad.

Who am I kidding? The ending ruined me. It took me days to recover! Why toy with my feelings, dammit?!

In conclusion: After a slow beginning, the creepy factor really set in. This was my first novel by this author, and I was very much surprised at how much I enjoyed it in the end. I very nearly rated it five stars, but the first hundred pages perhaps could have been better.

Notable Quote:

It was like the riddle his teacher had presented at school: If a tree falls in a forest and there's nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer was no. Because without ears, sound didn't exist. Without eyes, light was darkness. And without a body, there was no victim.

© Red Lace 2018


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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/04/05/the-devil-crept-in-by-ania-ahlborn

Moonstruck by Graeme Reynolds (2016 Review)

Moonstruck - Graeme Reynolds

Moonstruck by Graeme Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Best Read 2016

Now in police custody, John Simpson is quickly running out of options. His face is all over the news for the grisly murders of multiple people, and the full moon is vast approaching yet again. If that wasn't bad enough, a squad of professional killers have been sent to take him out. He's a threat, an apparent moonstruck, with no control over his monster - or so the pack believes. John's not the only one in danger however; those that know too much must be silenced, including the law enforcement involved with the High Moor investigation.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

High Moor was my one and only five star book of 2014, with very good reason. It surpassed my expectations and instantly plunged me into an exciting roller-coaster of claws and teeth. Everybody was fair game, every limb at risk of being ripped off - the extreme brutality throughout shocked me as well as thrilled me, but it wasn't just about violence and gore. It was about a man with a terrible beast lurking beneath the surface, and a society determined to remain hidden. This second instalment was no different in terms of pace and edge-of-your-seat excitement. I found myself drawn into the life and death situations of characters old and new, and a few I truly liked from the get-go. There's something about how Reynolds spins a tale, and that coupled with my love for werewolves, is the perfect combination.

The plot largely centred upon the werewolf pack, led by Michael as alpha, and their attempts to cover up the rather messy events that transpired in the previous book. Getting a more in-depth look at their inner workings and at their harsh, yet understandable, methods of taking care of the situation was thoroughly engrossing. Of course they went to great lengths to secure the secrecy of their race; realistically, we (humanity), would outright eradicate them upon the discovery of their existence. Perhaps not at first, but eventually. No matter how much it may be denied, we are a destructive force, and peace would most assuredly be merely an illusion. Because of this, I didn't dislike Oskar and his team for doing what they did out of necessity, but Connie was another matter. She was the heartless villain that enjoyed the cruelty and pain of her victims. She was so consumed by hate. I have to admit, she provided some very tense scenes, like the one with Olivia, which I couldn't read fast enough; I needed to know if the poor woman survived.

John and Marie both returned and their romance took a step further, albeit with an awkward, yet sweet moment. I appreciated that amongst the horrific bloodshed, there was at least a little bloom of love and the potential for quite the power couple. Steven Wilkinson also proved to be deadlier than ever, yet no longer did he desire an allegiance with John, but four unsuspecting policemen. I was quite fond of Phil Fletcher in particular, the older and higher ranked copper, as he seemed the decent sort. Hopefully he reappears in the final book of the trilogy, perhaps as a hunter himself. Considering the ending, there's no doubt things are going to escalate for every character.

Another aspect I favoured was when Marie admitted to there being other types of supernatural creatures; vampires included. This made me smile and wonder of the possibility of more novels being set within the world of High Moor. I'd definitely read them!

In conclusion: Utmost excitement - excellent werewolf savagery. I'll be keeping an eye on Reynolds' future works, as I just love how he spins a tale.

Notable Scene:

If anything, the experience was worse going from wolf to human than it had been from man to beast. The savage fangs pushed their way back through his gums, feeling as if a dentist was drilling all of his teeth at once, without the benefit of anaesthetic. Black talons forced their way under his already forming fingernails, while every bone in his body splintered and reformed, flowing like liquid to their original shape. The worst thing, however, was the itching burn across every inch of his skin, as thousands of coarse black hairs pushed their way into his flesh. He cried out in agony, but his vocal chords were half way between human and werewolf, so all that escaped his lips was a strange combination of howl and scream.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/30/moonstruck-by-graeme-reynolds-2016-review
SPOILER ALERT!

A Dance In Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington (2016 Review)

A Dance In Blood Velvet - Freda Warrington

A Dance In Blood Velvet by Freda Warrington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Black shadows appear within the Crystal Ring, bringing confusion and fear to those who inhabit it. Charlotte Neville and her lover Karl von Wultendorf find themselves, despite being separated by emotional conflict, deeply embedded in the scheme of three mysterious figures that wish to preform a questionable ceremony.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

The first instalment (A Taste of Blood Wine) of this darkly alluring series captured my heart, in that despite the overly dramatic tone relating to the Neville household, I found the writing itself a literary treasure; atmospherically gothic, intense and beautiful; it appealed to my utmost fondness for vampire romance. What I expected from this volume, was more of the same brilliance, yet instead of entertaining family turmoil, relationship jealously saturated every aspect of each character and unfortunately dulled my enjoyment because of such. I'm all for conflicting emotion, of mistakes being made due to overpowering feelings, yet nearly every event that transpired in this book, was more or less due to jealousy in some form - Ben and Lancelyn, Charlotte and Katerina, Karl and Violette. Perhaps I should've appreciated the fact they were realistic, and like normal people plagued by insecurities, but there's a point I began to roll my eyes at the abundance of selfish behaviour.

A happily-ever-after was not in store for Charlotte and Karl, on the contrary, in fact. They spent most of their time apart, as obstacles seemed to rise in every direction and threaten their attempt at eternal love. I didn't mind this, I actually considered it refreshing that they had to continually fight to make it work. I however believed them both mostly to blame for their unhappiness, and Charlotte became especially intolerable. From being jealous of Katerina whilst she, herself, had the audacity to lust after and stalk Violette, well, what happened to the character I actually liked and felt attached to? And when she planned to turn Violette without even asking for her permission, I was ready to throw the book across the room. The same occurred with the rest of the characters, as well; I didn't particularly feel for any of them.

This isn't to say I believed the entire book a disappointment. Some endearing elements were still present, such as the style of writing and the overall elegance of the story, but it definitely lacked some of its original charm. The plot consisted of two, seemingly separate subplots coming together, pretty much revolving around the (re)birth of Lilith. Religion was further contemplated, yet it remained a mystery if God actually existed. The exact origin of the Crystal Ring was also pondered upon yet again, raising the question of if it relates to scientific or spiritual means. I do wonder if answers will ever come to light, or if it'll remain unexplained. At least the discovery of humans accessing the Crystal Ring was revealed, and the presence of a physic human also added to the conundrum that is Warrington's world.

In conclusion: The self-centred actions of the characters brought bouts of annoyance. I'll certainly continue with this series, but I hope I enjoy further instalments more than this one.

Notable Scene:

"How can I be content to bury myself in dead mythology, after living mythology has revealed itself to me? How can I feel anything for Lamia, succubus, incubus, Lilith and her demon children or all the angels of heaven, when I have met a real being who is richer and stranger than anything on the dry page of a book?"

"Do you want to write me into a book, a thesis?"

"It's tempting, but no, no more than I'd put a bird of prey in a glass cage."


© Red Lace 2016

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/24/a-dance-in-blood-velvet-by-freda-warrington-2016-review
SPOILER ALERT!

The Tracker by John Hunt

The Tracker - John Hunt

The Tracker by John Hunt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Taylor's life is in ruins; his face publicly known for crimes so bloody and awful. He does the only thing that could possibly help him in the situation - he walks through the door of a police station and turns himself in. With no resistance and full compliance, Taylor recounts the most horrific time of his life, where a monster haunts his every step - a brutal game, where fear is in full effect.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

This book certainly doesn't mess around; it plunges you neck-deep into the chaotic life of Taylor, a suspected murderer whom swears innocence despite the evidence against him. I found myself instantly drawn in to his situation where I, too, questioned his very sanity, whilst also sympathising with him on some level. Hunt's intention was quite clear from early on - a fast-paced, thrilling concoction, meant to keep you on your toes. The one thing that really impressed me was the twists and turns that genuinely shocked me - all too often I foresee a typical plot direction and it ruins what's supposed to be surprising, but Hunt was able to expertly weave the unexpected and force me to reanalyse what I thought I already knew. I can't give enough credit to tales that make you pause and think; authors can certainly mess with their readers and bring the unpredictable.

At no point did boredom raise its pesky head; too much was happening. What started off as Taylor's recount of his last forty-eight hours of forcibly taking part in a game of hide and seek, turned into a grisly manhunt of murder and mayhem. The aspect of "The Tracker" and how he was able to influence his victim was an interesting one. He didn't seem to have any intention other than to toy with his prey and use their own suppressed hate against them. I really wish more information was offered regarding him, and if he had any other motive than just chaos.

Taylor and Owen, on the other hand, had a brief connection that stood out for me. It might have been highly impersonal for Owen, but for Taylor it was an examination of his life. I felt for him, for the struggle he had endured. Relating to him in a way, I hoped everything would have worked out, but I knew it was ultimately doomed.

Despite my high praise of certain aspects - that being the story itself, I found the writing to be terribly messy at times and it subsequently distracted me more than once. This is more to do with sentence structure and, of course, my own personal taste. I'll however give an example of exactly what I mean:

Owen realizing the paramedic wasn't only mad because he had walked in to find an unconscious man still cuffed to a steel table, he was thinking while flashing his beady accusatory eyes that Owen had something to do with it, had maybe even injured him and Owen tired and grumpy, opened his mouth to say something he'd immediately regret when Earl cut in and said...



I admit, I had to re-read this confusing pile of words about five times, and even then I had a hard time of discerning it. What should have been at least two sentences, were fused together to create something that just didn't work inside my head. Throughout the entire book, the quality reached both highs as well as lows, giving the impression that certain parts were rushed, whilst others more thought through. I believe it could have benefited from more editing to tighten it up, and thus make it overall easier to read.

In conclusion: A good story that kept me guessing, however the format of writing brought its cleverness down. I would consider it unfinished, and in need of further editing.

Notable Scene:

He needed time to process and speak with the other officers monitoring the interview to strategize how best to confront Taylor. Because no matter how much Taylor believed what he had said, it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. Shadow men do not hunt people through the city. There were no shadow men.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/22/the-tracker-by-john-hunt
SPOILER ALERT!

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: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/15/look-behind-you-by-sibel-hodge-2017-review
SPOILER ALERT!

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: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/14/pretas-realm-the-haunting-by-j-thorn
SPOILER ALERT!

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: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/10/darkest-hours-by-mike-thorn
SPOILER ALERT!

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

John Dies at the End by David Wong

John Dies at the End - David Wong

John Dies at the End by David Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Soy sauce" is the name for the mystifying new drug that begins to plague David Wong's life. David Wong isn't actually his real name. Did you know that "Wong" is the most common surname in the world? And "John" is the most common first name in the world? And yet there's not a single person named John Wong! Wait, where was I?

(WARNING: This review doesn't actually have any spoilers, but here's a warning anyway.)

I'll be truthful - I was hesitant to read this one. I actually contemplated altogether skipping the monthly read of HA, as after scanning over some reviews I wasn't left with a great first impression. A plot that many didn't even consider a legitimate plot? Juvenile humour, including penis and... uh, toilet jokes? Suffice it to say, I was severely put off by the amount of criticism. Fortunately I bought it anyway, as I took into account the thoughts of the select few that largely share my literary tastes. They seemed to enjoy it, so surely it wasn't as bad as I thought.

Well, turned out that it was as bad as I thought, but it was also so, so good.

“Every man is blessed with his gifts from the Lord. One of mine happens to be a penis large enough that, if it had a penis of its own, my penis’s penis would be larger than your penis.”



It's hard to adequately describe this book without calling it a steaming hot mess, because that's what it was, and it didn't apologise for it. It revelled in being bizarre, ridiculously far-fetched and downright stupid, yet in amongst the rolling of my eyes, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. In fact, I chuckled so loudly that my partner enquired as to what was so funny, which resulted in me reading some passages aloud. Said partner, who is a man by the way, responded only with a reluctant nod. He simply proved that the assumption that this is a man's book is, quite frankly, inaccurate. It's entirely up to the individual, and plenty of women adored this just as much as I did, just as I'm sure plenty of men hated it.

“You're the kind of man a man wants when a man wants a man.”



Rife with conspiracy theories, pop culture references, outlandish ideology and crude irreverence, I thoroughly succumbed to the entertainment that was Wong's narrative. I admit, it seemed a bit odd, almost like two or three books were stuck together into one volume. It later made sense when I took the time to look into the book's origins, and how Jason Pargin ultimately created the chaotic adventures of Dave and John through webserial episodes on Cracked.com. I'm so very happy he didn't give up after the novel was initially rejected by publishers! I firmly believe the world needed this in it.

“I keep the gun in a hollowed out copy of the Koran. And there the big book was, tossed on the bed, open and gunless. Nothing else disturbed. I mean, they actually checked my Koran to see if there was a gun inside. I knew I was dealing with a sick son of a bitch.”



I didn't even entirely like Dave either; he was so very disrespectful and vulgar to nearly everyone he met - certainly an unorthodox "hero". John, whilst endearing in a man-child sort of way, was hugely self-obsessed (with his genitalia). Amy was the sole character that was truly likeable, well, that's not true. How can I forget the actual star of the show? The lady that brought just as much characterisation, if not more, than her human counterparts?

“And watch out for Molly. See if she does anything unusual. There’s something I don’t trust about the way she exploded and then came back from the dead like that.”



In conclusion: It was difficult to write this review and put into words how my brain regarded this disorganised heap of madness. Give it a try - you'll either love it or hate it.

Notable Quote:

“People die. This is the fact the world desperately hides from us from birth. Long after you find out the truth about sex and Santa Claus, this other myth endures, this one about how you’ll always get rescued at the last second and if not, your death will at least mean something and there’ll be somebody there to hold your hand and cry over you. All of society is built to prop up that lie, the whole world a big, noisy puppet show meant to distract us from the fact that at the end, you’ll die, and you’ll probably be alone.”

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/03/03/john-dies-at-the-end-by-david-wong

February in Review

January in Review

 

(Read: 5 / Reviewed: 6)

 

February sure flew past! I have to say, I had so much fun this month! There was a lot of coffee, wine, and book-related delights! I also had the chance to take part in a Q and A for Booklikes, which really made me feel warm and fuzzy inside! I know it's not that big of a deal, but it's nice to be acknowledged for something you work hard on. See my post about it here!

 

Read

 

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John Dies at the End by David Wong - It's surely becoming a regular enjoyment; taking part in the monthly group reads of Horror Aficionados! I honestly wasn't sure about this one at all - it sounded way too silly for my taste. How wrong I was! What a great start to the month!

 

 

The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson - I was requested to read and review this one by the author. I'm glad I did, as it was a bit different than my usual reads, but in a good way. I promptly consumed it and reviewed it.

 

Hidden by Benedict Jacka - I started this series in 2015, whilst still in my Urban Fantasy phase. What intrigued my about it, was that it had a male protagonist, something that's not all too common in the genre. This series has never been perfect for me, but I still like to see what trouble Alex gets himself into.

 

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk - After being contacted by the lovely author, I quickly accepted his request! Post-apocalypse but on another planet? It certainly piqued my interest. I reviewed it here.

 

Preta's Realm by J. Thorn - A last minute read for the month. Having been on my Kindle for a long time, I decided to finally give it a shot. It was short, and it included some truly disgusting scenes.

 

Reviewed 

 

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Morium by S.J. Hermann

Splatterpunk Fighting Back by MULTIPLE

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson

The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter (WORST READ)

The Magic Cottage by James Herbert (2017 Review) (BEST READ)

The Awesome by Eva Darrows (2017 Review)

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk

 

I strive for two reviews a week, but I had extra space this month, so I included reviews from last year. I think I'll do that - start to post old reviews, just to have them on this blog. On Goodreads I have over a hundred reviews, dating back to 2011! This month also included a trip to Waterstones, and a basket full of books! All horror, of course.

 

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So how did February go for you? Read anything good? Let me know!

 

Red xx

Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/02/28/february-in-review
SPOILER ALERT!

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi - M. Almelk

The Fallen Kind Vol I: Ghosts Of Nunchi by M. Almelk
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The planet has suffered since humanity arrived, and war has run rampant. After an event of near mass extinction, the survivors struggle to do their best in the grim conditions that have befallen them. It's not over yet, however, as a certain individual plans for a world-wide cleansing. He'll stop at nothing to protect the "Promised Land" from the conflict that so closely follows humankind. What he doesn't foresee, are the actions of a select few, and how they threaten everything he's working toward.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

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

I feel I need to be clear right from the beginning - I didn't consider this to be a bad debut novel. In fact, I believe there to be good, solid ideas here that verge on being original. There's been an abundance of post-apocalyptic titles saturating the market lately, and whilst there's nothing at all wrong with that, I admittedly find it difficult to differentiate them all from each other. It's nice to find one that starts off in a new direction, with something that so obviously sets it apart. The planet of Casi immediately piqued my interest and I couldn't help but acknowledge the creativity involved - Almelk included geographical details and information regarding its wildlife that, quite frankly, impressed me. In particular, the way in which animals were presented was a personal highlight; Emba the cat, the Oroculyx spiders - I found enjoyment in their scenes, especially when they displayed their uncanny intelligence.

Despite those positive elements, however, it's unfortunate that from early on, I just couldn't connect to the characters or feel all that invested in the plot. Evan, Beveridge and Reya, whilst decent and likeable enough, remained at a distance as the story constantly jumped around. There were mere glimpses of the friendship and romance between them, and rather than witness their connection first-hand, I was told of it. For instance, Evan and Reya had very little interaction on-page before I was told of their feelings for one another. Even if they had history, and even if their partnership was fated, I always need more substance to feel any semblance of emotion for any romance.

That brings me to my biggest issue - the telling rather than showing. There are certain things that are automatically detrimental to my appreciation of a book, and this is one of them. I much prefer when I can glean the feelings and intentions of a character without them being outright explained to me through the author's narration. Dialogue's an important and essential tool for this, but it wasn't used here, not to its fullest potential. I would've much preferred had there been more quality time with the characters that mattered, with the inclusion of discernible development, instead of trying to fit in a confusing amount of people and relationships. I lost track of everyone that was named in the Nodding Hamlet, and wondered why the story often got side-tracked delving into the history of someone that didn't seem to play a critical role. Of course, switching between multiple perspectives can be done well, but in this instance, it didn't work for me and only caused a great deal of confusion.

If I had to pick a favourite character, excluding the non-human entities, it would be Beveridge, or perhaps even Law. The former gave the impression that he wasn't a normal human being, whilst the latter didn't strike me as a traditional bad guy. I agreed, to an extent, with his belief about humanity - as a species, we truly are destructive. Just think of the damage we'd do if we decided to settle upon another planet that already had an established ecosystem. Not worth thinking about, really! I would've probably liked to see more of Law's magic, or whatever he did to raise people from the dead.

In conclusion: In truth, I believe this is just a case of "this wasn't for me". I didn't hate it, but I couldn't love it either. My complaints lie with how it was written; a large amount of telling, as well as continually leaping around and not giving the main characters enough attention.

Notable Scene:

Emba swished his tail a little in amusement. He truly enjoyed listening to spoken language. Of course, he didn't offer a response. Perhaps he was unable to. Perhaps it was more fun not to. How curious it was that Evan and his kind had developed complex languages for communication, yet they couldn't communicate properly with each other. Their history was littered with conflict, war and atrocity. Some might say that language simply constructed a bigger platform upon which this species displayed its hidden, unshakeable faults.

© Red Lace 2018


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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/02/27/the-fallen-kind-vol-i-ghosts-of-nunchi-by-m-almelk
SPOILER ALERT!

The Awesome by Eva Darrows (2017 Review)

The Awesome - Eva Darrows

The Awesome by Eva Darrows
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Margaret Cunningham isn't your typical teenager. For one, she's well acquainted with the monsters that lurk in the shadows - well, most of them, anyway. Unable to aid her mother in hunting vampires, Maggie goes about rectifying the rather frustrating issue. As it turns out, her virgin blood works against her, its purity potent enough to send the bloodsuckers into a deadly and uncontrolled frenzy, and that's not good for anyone. Problem is, with little friends, and a small amount of social skills, the quest for "The Sex" may be the most difficult job yet.

(WARNING: this review may contain spoilers.)

I admit, the stylised and colourful artwork of the cover is nice to look at and undoubtedly draws the eye. As such, it was a pleasant gift to receive and probably one of the most unique covers in my sizeable collection. Now let's get to the actual review, shall we?

One thing's for sure - I would've enjoyed this one a lot more in my teenage years. For me, on a personal level, my sense of humour has changed considerably in the last decade, and whilst there were moments that brought a smile to my face, I just couldn't fully appreciate the adolescent banter (and the abundance of synonyms for "penis"). Regardless, the book was short enough that it didn't impede or become a chore to pick up, and overall there's one word I would use to describe it as a whole - fun. It didn't require much energy; the writing was quirky, and the plot easy enough to entertain. Certainly not a masterpiece, and nothing that'll stay with me for a long time to come, but it succeeded in filling up a few hours.

A major aspect of the story is the close bond between mother and daughter, however I found it a stretch to call it a normal parent-child relationship, and it struck me more of a friendship than anything else. Maggie referred to her mother by her first name, and Janice even went so far as to push her daughter into losing her virginity as quickly as possible, which seemed completely irresponsible and truthfully, a bit weird. Indeed, sex had a large part to play, and it all came down to Maggie striving to take her hunting apprenticeship to the next level. In Darrows' universe, monsters are public knowledge and often a threat to society, however we learn throughout that they don't necessarily have to be evil. Vampires however, the freshly turned in particular, simply can't resist that virgin allure, and thus we have the general plot - a seventeen year old trying to use sex to get a promotion.

Sounds a tad off, right? Either way, I tried not to overthink that aspect, and instead take it for what it was supposed to be; which was, first and foremost, lighthearted amusement. Maggie's inner monologue didn't irritate me much at all, as I'm generally fond of over-confident, snarky protagonists. Yes, she was immature as all hell, but she wasn't the worst, and by God, I've been infuriated by some main characters before. I digress...

Several events unfolded along the course of the book, and it was by no means boring as the story spiralled in different directions. As characters were introduced, they were likeable, but not lovable. I especially enjoyed the zombie side-plot of Julie, despite feeling it wasn't properly explained or concluded (the living dead need love too). The romance between Maggie and Ian was cute, regardless of the somewhat questionable means by how they originally met. Janice, well, I touched upon her further up. I'm not saying she was a bad mother... Or am I? I'm really not sure. As I said, it was weird.

It occurred to me more than once, that this would've been a decent first instalment of a series, however as of writing this review, I believe Darrows has no plans to continue with Maggie's adventures.

Notable Quote:

She skimmed the tip of her finger around her mouth to capture any unappealing smudges, and then did Duck Face. Duck Face was supposed to be a 'come hither' kissy pucker thing, but it more resembled a genetic deformity. I was pretty sure if I wanted The Sex, Duck Face was not the way to go.

© Red Lace 2017

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Source: http://redlace.reviews/2018/02/23/the-awesome-by-eva-darrows-2017-review
SPOILER ALERT!

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: http://redlace.reviews/2018/02/20/the-magic-cottage-by-james-herbert-2017-review
my read shelf:
Red Lace Reviews's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

A Head Full of Ghosts
Splatterpunk Fighting Back
Dark Space
Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel
Blood Moon
The Devil's Work
Stephen
The Taste of Night
Lockdown
Blood Song
The Magic Cottage
The Awesome
Look Behind You
A Dance In Blood Velvet
Determined to Obey
Moonstruck
The Ritual
Storm Glass
Broken Heart
The Scent of Shadows


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