Review: Bleed Through by Adriana Arrington

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Published by Curiosity Quills Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

With his schizophrenia under control, life is looking up for twenty-five-year-old Liam Murphy. Independence looms on his horizon, and he’s under the care of a psychologist who understands him. Then he witnesses a murder at the yacht club. He worries it’s a hallucination and sign of regression, but soon becomes convinced that his meds have given him the paranormal ability to see past events and that the murder actually happened.

Attempting to make sense of his new talent, Liam finds an unlikely confidant in Mai Nguyen, a fellow college student and eternal optimist. Though she helps him navigate the unsettling memories threatening to engulf him, the emotional toll of learning terrible secrets he can’t prove pushes Liam to the brink of lucidity.

Desperate to wrest back control of his life, Liam tosses his pills. He spirals into a relapse and captures the killer’s attention as he bumbles through investigating the crime. Hunted by a possibly imaginary murderer, and haunted by self-doubt, Liam must distinguish between hallucinations and reality. If he doesn’t, he risks losing either his hard-won sanity or his life.


I reached the halfway point of this book and almost couldn’t finish it, and not for the reason you’d expect.

 

This book is excellently written, almost too well. Liam, the main character, suffers from schizophrenia in a way that few literary characters do: realistically.
When on medication, he can mostly differentiate between reality and hallucinations even though he knows that some of the delusions will be with him the rest of his life – like his belief that the neighbour has been replaced by a replicant who is watching his every move.

When medicated, Liam’s situation is more palatable but when he stops taking his medication around halfway through the book… it starts getting hard to read. This is as it should be though, schizophrenia isn’t palatable, it’s hell for sufferers and the people who love them.
As the reader, you have to try to work out for yourself what’s real and what’s a hallucination – Liam is the most unreliable of narrators, which the author masterfully uses in this book.

This is something that’s got under my skin with books before, because it’s something very close to my heart: people not being believed because they suffer from mental illness. Suffering from paranoia and hallucinations doesn’t negate someone’s intelligence or opinions, their completely unique view of the world can sometime hold insights that mentally healthy people don’t have. By the midpoint of this book, I was feeling stomach churningly anxious for the main character and really thought about putting the book down for a little while and trying something else. For me, that demonstrated exactly how well this book was written.

This story will stick with me for a long time, I think – Liam was a lovable character, despite his best efforts. He’s understandably self-centred, having  to spend every ounce of energy analysing his own thoughts to make sure they’re not trying to trick him, but he loves his family and wants them to be happy.
On the path to recovery, now his therapist has found a good combination of medication for him – he starts to want things for himself, such as a friendship with Mai, his open minded fellow student.

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All these things at risk when he starts to see things, despite his encouraging progress with his mental health. His battle against his own mind to figure out what’s real and how to keep the people he loves safe from himself and his visions is the true making of this story.

Another interesting element of this book that I felt added an extra something to proceedings is that it’s set on a military base where Liam is now living with his mother, sister and stepfather – Isaac, the stepfather, is a brilliant character for reasons I won’t divulge and works for the military. This isn’t essential to the story but it just adds something to the story beyond Liam’s health.

I don’t think this book is for everyone, it’s heavy as hell and at times, pretty confusing. But if you’re up to the challenge, you won’t regret it. This is the portrayal of a mentally ill character who doesn’t have their struggle belittled by being magically healed by the end of the book, or by finding out that they’re actually a supernatural creature or some other cliché – this is suspenseful, heart wrenching and very respectful.

Review: Sins of the Flesh by Eve Silver (Sins series book 3)

343945295 stars

Synopsis:

The blood of the Underworld lord of evil runs through soul reaper Malthus Krayl’s veins. Raised to fight for survival and to kill for victory, he can destroy anyone who poses a threat. As he searches for the one responsible for his brother’s murder, he refuses to succumb to any distraction…until his sworn enemy crosses his path and tempts him beyond all reason.

Calliope Kane, a Daughter of Aset, has a personal hatred for soul reapers. Their savage attack against her family still haunts her. But only Malthus can help her find the traitors of her kind, and only she can help him hunt the source of betrayal amongst the reapers. As they unite, the danger grows closer…and the passion between them ignites.


This series is just getting better and better with each installment. Anything that Eve Silver writes from this point on, I’ll read. If she writes ingredient lists for the back of a new breakfast cereal, I will read it. If she writes a full blow-by-blow account of paint drying: I. Will. Read. It.

This time it’s Mal, son of Sutekh that’s finding himself a strong woman to call his very own. Sure, it’s getting a little formulaic that one brooding supernatural male is finding himself a badass woman to give his heart too and that may at some point become boring, but not yet!

The badass woman in this instance is Calliope Kane, mentioned in Sins of the Heart as Roxy Tam’s mentor. I hadn’t considered her as a likely love interest for this series given her hatred for soul reapers, but that’s something that’s actually dealt with in this story. Calliope isn’t my favourite heroine in this series (3rd of 3 as it happens) but Mal may be my favourite of the brothers, he doesn’t have the same anger issues or possessiveness as his brothers but seems to be more practical and reserved when it comes to forming new relationships.

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This book was considerably more plot centric than the last, which not only drew me back into the main conspiracy but also raised the ante for sexual tension. I’m firmly in the camp for delayed gratification when it comes to literary sexy times, it gives the reader more time to get to know the characters and their motivations so that by the time they finally get down to it, it’s just that little bit more satisfying.

In this installment of the Sins series, Eve Silver reminds me how good she is at creating suspense and intrigue. This time round we learn more about the hierarchy of the Sisters of Aset, before all the characters we’ve met thus far are thrown together. I can’t say that the final reveal was completely unexpected, but it was so satisfying that I don’t care.

Again, the most wonderful things about the relationships between the Krayl brothers and their mates is that all the relationships are built on respect, even if they are a little feral when it comes to protecting them from the dangers that come with being connected to Underworld royalty.

I can’t freaking wait to read the next book in the series, which is going to be an unknown quantity now that one side of the conspiracy has been resolved! I’m hoping that the romance side is going to be different this time for the sake of variety, but I know that the action side of things is going to be fantastic.

Review: The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski

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Published by Sinister Grin Press

5 stars

Synopsis:

Doctoral student Paige Ambroziak is a “station bunny” – she’s never set foot off the deep space outpost where she grew up. But when she’s offered a small fortune to join a clandestine salvage mission, she jumps at the chance to leave the cutthroat world of academia behind.

Paige is convinced she’s been enlisted to find the legendary Manifest Destiny, a long-lost colonization vessel from an era before the corporations ruled Earth and its colonies. Whatever she’s looking for, though, rests in the blood-like seas of a planet-sized organism called a fleshworld.

Dangers abound for Paige and her shipmates. Flying outside charted space means competing corporations can shoot them on sight rather than respect their salvage rights. The area is also crawling with pirates like the ghoulish skin-wrappers, known for murdering anyone they can’t extort.

But the greatest threat to Paige’s mission is the nauseating alien parasites which infest the fleshworld. These lamprey-like monstrosities are used to swimming freely in an ocean of blood, and will happily spill a new one from the veins of the outsiders who have tainted their home. In just a few short, bone-chilling hours Paige learns that there are no limits to the depravity and violence of the grotesque nightmares known as…THE HEMATOPHAGES.


Stephen Kozeniewski gives another big ‘fuck you’ to anyone demanding him to settle down and pick a genre, and I couldn’t be happier!

So far, his books have ranged between zombies, vampires, a clone society and dystopian civil war – this one is about evil space leeches.

Kozeniewski adds his usual light touch in the social commentary in his world building – humanity has screwed its way across the cosmos, now populating several planets and space stations. Instead of nations, humanity is now divided by the companies that they work for and everything is done with the bottom-line in mind.

What I love most about this kind of world building is that it sets the scene for the story, but they’re not central to the story they just are. There’s no ranting and raving by the author to make you listen to his world view, he just throws in a few tidbits and then gets on with telling another amazing story. This book manages to be stomach churningly gory, but by stimulating the imagination rather than through graphic description.

Ambroziak is a brutally ambitious scientist who has been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to set the trajectory of her career. She joins a mission to recover the Manifest Destiny,  a vanished ship with all the celebrity of the Titanic , but a couple of things stand in her way. Namely, space pirates and evil leeches.

Space pirates, captained by the best literary character of all time: Nia.
That’s right! There’s finally a ‘Nia’ in an English language book!!
There pirates aren’t your usual swashbucklers, they’re like a combination between Firefly’s Reavers and something even worse. For me, the horror started when the pirates arrived, their physical appearance was nasty enough but their back story is even worse.

Once our intrepid explorers have landed on the blood planet, the story shifts tone and becomes more claustrophobic and genuinely terrifying. I’m a sucker (pun intended) for alien parasites and horror mixed with sci-fi, Kozeniewski managed to gather all of my favourite things, wrap them up in a writing style I adore and advertise it on Facebook at a moment I was looking for a new horror read. I tend not to re-read titles (there are too many books out there in the world) but if this one should be turned into an audiobook, I see that being something I could listen to over and over again.

I couldn’t put the book down a and felt a little nauseous at times, Kozeniewski is getting more twisted as time goes by and I’m both eager and terrified to read whatever he releases next.

Review: Sins of the Heart by Eve Silver (The Sins Series #1)


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Synopsis:

Dagan Krayl, the Underworld’s most powerful soul reaper, is the demigod son of the evil god Sutekh. He’s on a mission to find his murdered brother’s remains and resurrect him, but resurrection means that the secrets carried into death would be released and, with them, a war that could end gods and mankind alike.

Roxy Tam is searching for the same thing, but for completely different reasons. She means to make certain that the remains don’t fall into Sutekh’s hands, and that the soul reapers do not reanimate their fallen comrade. As a Daughter of Aset, Roxy is tasked with the protection of the human race, and if that means thwarting an all powerful soul reaper and making certain his dead brother stays dead, so be it. But when Roxy sees Dagan face-to-face, she realizes that she has met him once before—a meeting that changed her life forever.

Neither Dagan nor Roxy expects to join forces for the sake of mankind. Or to have their loyalties tested as they struggle against treachery, betrayal and the potent desire that threatens to consume them both.


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Ever read a book that just made you say ‘YES’? This is one of those.

This is the second of Eve Silver’s books that I’ve read, but the first in the Sins series. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book just by looking at the cover (we’ve already determined that I’m shallow that way) and I would have missed out massively. Thankfully I already knew that Silver is a genius, so I went ahead and read it anyway.

This book is a fabulous contemporary romance set in a world of ancient Egyptian mythology.

Roxy and Dagan are destined to be enemies but from the moment they meet, they’re drawn to each other. Dagan is a soulreaper and the son of Sutekh, the soul eating god of the underworld.

Roxy is a woman who grew up in the foster system, she wasn’t abused but she suffered the mild emotional neglect being fostered often entails. She’s determined not to put herself into the position to be hurt emotionally again, which means that she wilfully misses out on a lot of experiences in life.

Dagan is a wonderfully complex character too, he has a very unusual family dynamic but his love for his brothers is really moving. Though the brothers have little to no reason to care about each other given how their father has done everything he can to pit them against each other, they seem to have an unbreakable bond.

This book was a very elegant balance between horror, mystery and romance. I was absolutely enraptured by Silver’s writing style and couldn’t bear to miss a single word – the romance between Roxy and Dagan is so intense. I enjoyed knowing that they were certain to get together, it was just a question of when and how hot it was going to be.

The romance isn’t overpowering in this novel, similar to Seduced by a Stranger, the storyline doesn’t unravel once the main characters have seen each other naked. If anything, it ramps it up another notch.

The violence is blood curdling and doesn’t pull a single punch, the darkness is what makes the sex and romance pop. Hearts are torn out, literally and figuratively, and souls fed to demons. This is what I look for in a series and I suspect that soon this series will replace the Anita Blake series in my heart.

I just couldn’t get enough of the political intrigue and conspiracy in this novel, the rest of this series promises so much if the cliff hanger is anything to go by.
This book is the perfect choice for any fans of intense thrillers, mythology and hot and steamy romance.

Review: Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Published by Gollancz

5 stars

Synopsis:

As you probably know by now, I’m not usually a fan of YA but I made exception for this book on the basis of the author, mythology and sexy cover. To be honest, the only thing that even makes this book a YA is the young protagonist and absence of swearing and sex.

Obviously, Harris wouldn’t let me down – so here’s a tough as nails female protagonist with NO ROMANTIC INTERESTS! Nope, Maddy’s too busy saving the worlds from being destroyed for any of that nonsense.

There’s nothing condescending about this book, it complements Norse mythology perfectly and encourages you to go pick up a copy of the Poetic Edda to fill in the gaps. True to the original Norse myths, this isn’t just a story of valour and other typical Gryffindorian traits but also plenty of trickery (well it does have Loki in it!), doublecrossing and manipulation – Maddy is only 14 and new to these kinds of games so she’s on a steep learning curve once she throws her lot in with the gods.

My favourite character in this book, unsurprisingly, was Loki. He really does get the short end of the stick in all things. It’s in his nature to cause mischief and everyone knows it but they still keep him around to help, then they get pissed off when he starts causing mischief. He’s a very self aware character and doesn’t try to act against his nature, but is resentful that everyone else wants to change or kill him (which is fair enough).
This story is very much character driven and you have no idea who to trust, but best of all – there’s very little ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in this book as we know it. Instead, it’s ‘chaos’ and ‘order’, neither of which are inherently good or evil, which is a take that I really enjoy and identify with.

Mythology fans of all ages will love this exceptionally well written book, I can imagine it making a wonderful book to read together as a family if you have teens (or are a teen with parents who should read better books).

Also, go on Pinterest and look up Loki and his children – I’ve been lost in a spiral of amazing fan art for the past hour, the internet really is the best thing ever.

 

Review: Seduced by a Stranger (Dark Gothic book 5) by Eve Silver

 

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Published by Eve Silver

5 stars

Synopsis:

Destitute and desperate, Catherine Weston accepts the summons from her childhood friend Madeline St. Aubyn to attend her at Cairncroft Abbey, a place of secrets, lies and murder. Madeline’s health is in a poor state and she is terrified of her cousin, Gabriel. But Gabriel has quite a different effect on Catherine, stirring longings and desires she believed long buried.

Gabriel St. Aubyn is haunted by the horrors of both his past and his present, horrors he conceals behind a remote, unapproachable facade. He is drawn to Catherine, but is determined to protect her from the tragedies that yet have claws sunk deep in his soul.

Then a young woman is found dead, and Madeline’s ravings point to a link between this horrific crime and Gabriel—and Catherine must decide if he is a man worthy of her love or a sinister stranger determined to make her his next victim.

Note: All books in the Dark Gothic series can be read as stand-alone novels.


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This book was recommended to me by a great friend and I after reading this, I can say that I will be trusting her judgement in all things, for the rest of time.

This book blew my mind and has me fully committed to the gothic romance genre. It had all of my favourite things in a totally absorbing novel  – a gothic setting, Jane Eyre-esque banter between characters and a whole load of family secrets involving suspicious deaths.

Catherine Weston is a woman who like to keep her personal life private, she comes across as cold to most people but she is very compassionate and has a strong sense of integrity in all things. So when her old school-friend, Madeline, who once saved her life asks her to come to her, she heads over without so much as a second thought.

Gabriel St. Aubyn shares a home with his cousin, Madeline, and is instantly intrigued by their new house guest. Both Gabriel and Catherine are deliciously complex characters with even more complex histories and scars that they must overcome, which is where the fun is in any romance!

It’s a book of two halves, the first half focusing on the budding romance and relationships between characters and the second half explodes with a completely unpredictable murder mystery. Eve Silver is a genius when it comes to creating a mystery and giving nothing away, even to us seasoned ‘I can totally guess what’s going on’ spoiler geeks. I had no idea how the story was going to pan out, even three quarters of the way in and I wasn’t disappointed with the ending when it all became clear.

The story is set in the 1800s and is told in an elegant and compelling writing style, Silver has nailed the line between authentic historical language and keeping it interesting for the modern reader. It feels like it’s been too long since I read a book that had the right balance in this regard so it was very welcome, I set up a blanket fort on my living room floor in the evening and sat with my nose in the book until  I was done.

As my friend can attest by the messages I was sending her every 20 minutes or so, I loved everything about this book.

My favourite messages would have to be:

‘34% in, dialogue is jawdropping, I have no idea what’s going on but I know I love it’

 

‘They have done the naughty sexy times! Wooooooooo’

Which brings me on to: The Sex Scene.

If you’ve read this book, you know which one I mean. It’s perfectly written (the word ‘nub’ is never uttered) and has made all of the tension leading up to this point worthwhile, and better yet – the book doesn’t just devolve into constant sex from that point on and give up on the plot, which is a pet hate of mine when a book is marketed as anything other than erotica. The mystery holds strong right up to the end and the tension doesn’t instantly dissolve just because they’ve seen each other naked.

I’m delighted to say that I’ve signed up to review Eve Silver’s Sins series and it appears that she’s an incredibly prolific writer so I’m going to be stocked up on excellent fiction for a long, long time!

Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

Published by Random House UK, Ebury Publishing

5 stars

Synopsis:

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.


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**Thank you NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this title in exchange for an honest review**

YES! So much YES!

This book feels like it picks up at the end of a horror film, the bloodstained heroine survives a terrible ordeal and we join her 10 years later when she’s coming to terms with the fact that she’ll have to spend the rest of her life as a ‘final girl’.
Final girls are doomed to become media fodder every time a similar event crops up and the target of weirdos and fetishists, while they try to recover from the trauma of their past.

In this case, Quincy’s doing a pretty good job. She has an income, a strong relationship with her boyfriend Jeff and a future that doesn’t feature any more horror.

The synopsis of this book tells you what’s going on, so no need for me to add any more here or I’ll spoil the fun. I will, however, say that it’s nothing like anything you’ve ever read before. What I enjoyed the most is how Sager has written very complex and developed characters – everyone has a good and a bad side in this book, they’re capable of anything and that’s what keeps the tension going until the very last page.

Sager builds nail biting tension throughout this book, combining the art of the unreliable narrator and characters with everything to hide. I didn’t have a clue how this book was going to end right up until the final chapter and it was BRILLIANT.

Quincy is very easy to connect to as a main character, she’s understandably a neurotic mess after everything that’s happened but she’s moving forward and trying to keep herself together. She’s not a perfect human being, she’s a little too reliant on Xanax and red wide, and she has a fiery temper but she’s doing the best with what she has.

When Sam sweeps into town and forces her to dredge up the past, things start to get messy. The dynamic between the two characters is fascinating, it’s completely unhealthy from the very start but they’ve both survived the most unimaginable hell at the hands of other people and know that the other can understand them.

There’s not a hell of a lot else I can say about this book really other than that I loved it and hope that this author has more books up her sleeve along the lines of this one! She’s come up with an entirely original concept and, as far as I’m concerned, written the story in the best way possible.

If you’re a horror film, thriller or murder mystery aficionado: this book will rock your world. It’s the ultimate survivor’s story, which left me with that ‘you go girl!’ feeling at the end.