Slenderman (Emma Frost #9) by Willow Rose

237125272 stars

Synopsis:

Ever heard of Slender Man?

They say he is always there. They say he is always watching. A tall guy in a suit and tie, with no face, and arms like tentacles.

Some say he is an online myth; others will go very far to prove he is real, so far that they might even kill for him.

Fanoe Island is busy with the mayoral election coming up, when suddenly, the sitting mayor is found killed. Rumors tell that a faceless man dressed in a suit and tie did it.

In Emma Frost’s house that she inherited from her grandmother, a box of letters is found that tells a story from a long time ago. A terrifying story revealing a painful chapter in the life of her own family half a century ago.


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**Warning:  So. Many. Spoilers.**

I picked this book up because Slenderman fascinates me and I’m ready to learn more about the incredible phenomenon which is the suited monster. Sadly, this book probably wasn’t the best starting point as it isn’t a supernatural thriller at all but a standard murder mystery – even looking at the synopsis after reading this book I think it’s pretty misleading.

This book is a part of the Emma Frost series and does have a character from a previous installment of the series, I’m not sure if the extra context would have helped, but without it the story was ridiculous.

None of the characters in this book are likable, most of them are stereotypes and the rest are just arseholes. The main character has been exposed for hacking into police files and stealing information, and though she whines that she thinks it’s ok because she was doing it to solve crimes – being punished for hacking seems pretty reasonable to me!

What I did enjoy about this book was how it illustrated how little parents know of their children’s online lives and how teenagers can be groomed by strangers who know how to play on their sense of being misunderstood. It’s just a shame that the stranger in question was an entirely unbelievable culprit in both motive and capability.

If the book hadn’t already lost me with it’s stilted dialogue and terrible characters, it was the portrayal of autism that finally pushed me over the edge.
The main character’s son has autism and this apparently automatically gifts him with computer genius despite never having touched a computer before, he is also able to apparently read the dog’s mind. I think this bothers me most because she couldn’t just let him be a little boy with autism, she had to ‘compensate’ him with special abilities.

This wouldn’t have bothered me as much before, but I recently saw these videos on Facebook which got me thinking:

Her second big boo-boo that sealed the deal for me was that she made the main villain autistic following a head injury (statistically VERY unlikely) and also gifted him with amazing computing abilities. Sorry, but that’s just silly.

Some of the ideas in this book were really good, but I think the writing style and dialogue didn’t do it any justice. Then again, maybe I’m just biased because I was hoping for a book with a brutal supernatural killer…

I’m Sorry But I Hate Your Book

I’ve definitely turned a corner over the past few months when it comes to writing up negative reviews.

I read an obscene number of books and gaining perspective on what it is that I do and don’t enjoy –  I’m rapidly gaining confidence in slapping a low star rating on the titles I don’t enjoy reading.

I’ve considered doing ratings for different areas of my reads – storyline, writing style, characters etc. but in all honesty, I can’t be fucked.
I take great enjoyment out of writing my blog and seeing as it’s a labour of love, I see no reason to make it harder on myself.

I’m not obliged to like every book I pick up and given that I read 111 books in 2016, there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to enjoy all of them. A lot of the books that I read are self published, passed on to me directly from the author and that presents its own problem: the book hasn’t got the endorsement of a known publisher and if you don’t like it, you have the dubious honour of telling the author directly that you think their work is sub-par.

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I’m pretty good at picking books I know I’m going to enjoy, so my reviews are most 4-5 stars but this year I’ve resolved to broaden my horizons and read things I wouldn’t normally pick up but the odds are high that I’ll be finding as many thinks that I dislike as well as like.

As a reviewer, it’s nice to be able to publicly announce ‘I loved this book that an author dedicated years of their life to writing’ and share it with the world but sometimes you just have to be brutal.

Writing  reviews has to be entertaining, you can’t cut out all the fun and somberly pin one star to your review with a ‘better luck next time’ just because a book was embarassingly awful. So, be brutal – just remember to reference at least one positive thing in the book if you can, no matter how small.

In 2016, there were actually two books (one print, one audio) that I actually gave up on halfway through and refused to review on moral grounds. One was so horrendously racist it made me cringe, it was trying to be a satire but failed and the other…. dear god.
The synopsis bragged about how ‘outrageous’ and ‘horrifying’ it was, daring you to listen the whole way through if you dared – obviously that drew me straight in, I love outrageous horror! What made me sick to my stomach though, and I mean physically sick, was that this book was essentially child pornography. Girls under 10 doing unspeakable things to adults, but the author threw in a ‘but they were possessed by the devil’ as if that made the grotesque fantasies he was writing out acceptable.

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I think this is a far cry from last year and my fear of saying anything negative about other people’s work. As long as your review doesn’t get personal, anything you say is golden.

The one thing I have learnt by reading awful books is to be careful of the channels through which I acquire my review copies – don’t accept a book directly from the author unless you think you’re going to like it. They have your contact details now and have every right to have their feelings hurt by criticism, they are real human beings after all.

 

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


343180185 stars

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!

Guest Post with Sarah Armstrong

Good day ladies and gentlespoons!

I have the pleasure of presenting to you a guest post from Sarah Armstrong, author of the newly released novel The Devil In The Snow.

The thing that stood out to me the most while reading this book was the strong focus on mother and daughter relationships across generations of the same family, so I asked the author if she could tell us a little bit more about this.

 Nia

Mothers and daughters

We think we know how the theme of mothers and daughters should play out. Everyone has an understanding of the way the relationship should be, with the adoring young daughter, resentful teenager and conciliatory adult. In The Devil in the Snow, my mothers and daughters have to navigate their relationships with each other, but under an unusual kind of pressure.

My main character, Shona, is repeating the same pattern of angry resentment with her daughter, Cerys, that was played out between Shona and her mother, Greta. Shona knows that unhealthy habits are being repeated, but can’t seem to break the pattern. Greta can see exactly what is going on, but Shona refuses to believe in the family curse. Who would want to believe that the devil was after their family?

The line, ‘But she hadn’t quite turned out to be that kind of mother, and Cerys wasn’t that kind of daughter,’ was one of those which floated into my head when I was thinking of other things. We have expectations, as reader, as parents, and as daughters, of what an ideal mother-daughter relationship should be like. There is a strong archetype of perfect mother-daughter pairs who go shopping and have lunch, a dynamic of strength in their similarities. Shona wants this with her daughter, but refuses to do the same for her mother. I use the theme of familial repetition in many different ways in the novel.

When we find fault in ourselves, we sometimes look back to see who can be blamed for our large feet or a tendency to stay in bed too long. Genetics link us back through time, way before we can start to follow the threads. However, for Greta, Shona and Cerys, inheritance isn’t just made of physical flaws, but an external and determined threat, chasing them through the centuries.

The idea of a family curse linked to inheritance can be traced, in my own life, to the metabolic illness within my own family and other families I know. Metabolic disorders are inherited and triggered by genes from both the mother and father, causing problems in the way energy is processed. These unknowable, unseen genes sit within our DNA for generations, silently being passed on, waiting for that pair to cause problems. The symbol of the devil becomes a way of looking at the real, physical world, and the threats we can pose to our children without even knowing. Neither Greta nor Shona want to believe the warnings, and so the cycle continues.

The relationship between the mothers and daughters in The Devil in the Snow is complicated by the same thing that complicated the relationship between the sisters in my first novel, The Insect Rosary. Their situations are made problematic by an unwillingness to learn from the past. Everyone is doing their best, but it isn’t until they start listening to each other that they become formidable and can finally face the true enemy.


Sarah Armstrong

Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children. Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies, and she teaches creative writing for the Open University.

Review: The Devil In The Snow by Sarah Armstrong

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Published by Sandstone Press

3 stars

Synopsis:

All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.

 

 


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**Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

I don’t think the synopsis does this book justice – I initially though that this was going to be a humourous book, and that’s the one thing that it was not! This book is very surreal at times and impossible to classify as a genre, but it’s definitely not a comedy.
This book is told from the perspective of Shona and her mother, Greta. It covers the history of the women in their family and the traditions and poor choices which seem to have been passed down through the generations.

I’m sure that a lot of the subtext in this book flew right over my head, I’m a very literal kind of reader and I could tell while I was reading this book that there were hidden meanings to things that I just wasn’t getting. It didn’t really affect my enjoyment, I don’t think, but I would be aware of this when you give this book a read.

My fascination with this book was held by the exploration of relationships between mothers and daughters, Shona has shitty relationships with both her mother and her daughter – she certainly hopes for a better one with her daughter but isn’t prepared to make the effort with her mother. It’s an interesting look at a lack of self-awareness within a family, they resent their mothers’ failed relationships with their fathers and then ignore all warnings to avoid making exactly the same mistakes – this is something that I can certainly relate to in my family, we have a long history of poor decision making and I’m trying to at the very least make different bad choices and crack out of the cycle.

The relationships between characters in this book were very authentic, a narrative of messy lives and how people try to make their best in a bad situation – even if they’re responsible for getting in the situation in the first place.

The beginning of the book was a little surreal and there were moments and characters that made little sense to me (why is there a teenage boy living in the shed?!), but the ending became somehow more grounded and tied up neatly. Well… everything apart from the last chapter.

Armstrong’s writing style is very much in the genre of literary fiction in my mind, adding more than a dash of poetry and subtext for you to dwell on as you go through the book. Her characters are believable and well developed, even though I can’t say I really liked a single one of them – which is a sign of a job well done on the author’s part!

My conclusion is that I would recommend this book to fans of literary fiction, looking for a profound look at the relationships between mothers and daughters rather than the suspenseful thriller I was expecting.

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Side note for my fellow book sniffers – this book smelt amazing and went well with marshmallows