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Cutting Heads Blog Tour

It has been a while since I posted any book reviews, and it’s not for want of trying. The last couple of months (how is it almost June already?) have been quite trying on many fronts, but as with many things in life, they pass on. Along with my desire to continue “horrifying” my blog, with the occasional splash of sci-fi and fantasy to cure the nightmares, the next few books up on review will be dedicated to horror.

One of these is an upcoming book from author D.A Watson.

Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music.

Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother.

Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar.

They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast.

When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder.

Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?


Cuttin’ Heads by D.A. Watson

Genre: Horror

Tour Dates: 11th – 20th June 2018

Publication Date: 15th April 2018

Formats available: Mobi, Epub or PDF

Estimated Page Count: 361

Standalone Novel

Purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2K02I4X


I have already started diving into this book and I must admit I’m really enjoying it. I’ll be part of the Cuttin’ Heads blog tour and this is just my shout out to Nicky Stephens, my editor over at Chasing Dreams Publishing, who told me about the book, and to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources, who generously provided a copy.

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The Shining/Doctor Sleep – Stephen King #BookRecommendation

 

The Shining

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

Doctor Sleep

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.


I loved both these books, and are few of Stephen King’s novels that really hit on the “horror” aspect of his writing. At the same time the character progression is palpable and real, with both Jack and Dan Torrance having to face more than just their own demons. A brilliant series and must read for King fans.

Shrike – Joe Donnelly #BookRecommendation #Horror

Blurb

When old spiritualist Marta Herkik gathers together a group of lost souls, each hopes for a change of luck that will help them. But during the séance, the old woman taps into something dark, something with a hunger.

Policeman Jack Fallon, investigating a series of killings, can find no logical reason behind the violence that has visited his town. The killer seems to like high, dark places, but it leaves no clues. The investigation leads him to Lorna Breck, a young highland woman who is gifted, or cursed, with a kind of second sight. She seems to know what is happening, and often knows before it even happens. Only she can unlock the mystery, and only she can lead Jack Fallon to the Shrike.

But the thing brought into the world in a séance gone wrong, is waiting for them.


Joe Donnelly is the author of eight horror chillers and the Jack Flint trilogy for young readers.  Joe was born in Glasgow, in Scotland, close to the River Clyde, but at a very young age he came to live in Dumbarton, which is some miles from the city and close to Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and the Scottish Highlands. At the age of 18, he decided to become a journalist and found a job in the Helensburgh Advertiser, a local paper in a neighbouring town where he learned the first essential of writing: how to type. Quickly.

During his career he won several awards for newspaper work including Reporter of the Year, Campaigning Journalist and Consumer Journalist. It was while working in newspapers that he wrote his first novel, Bane, an adult chiller, which was followed by eight other novels, mostly set in and around the West of Scotland and loosely based on Celtic Mythology.

Recently he completed the Jack Flint trilogy for children, although he says his books are aimed at “young people of all ages…those with some adventure in their soul.”

The Store by Bentley Little #TBR

In a small Arizona town, a man counts his blessings: a loving wife, two teenage daughters, and a job that allows him to work at home. Then “The Store” announces plans to open a local outlet, which will surely finish off the small downtown shops. His concerns grow when “The Store’s” builders ignore all the town’s zoning laws during its construction. Then dead animals are found on “The Store’s” grounds. Inside, customers are hounded by obnoxious sales people, and strange products appear on the shelves. Before long the town’s remaining small shop owners disappear, and “The Store” spreads its influence to the city council and the police force, taking over the town! It’s up to one man to confront “The Store’s” mysterious owner and to save his community, his family, and his life!


A shout out to Lionel Green for giving me a heads up about this author. I’ve been looking for new horror authors and books and his article mentioned quite a lot of horror authors. Which means I have more books to buy and read. At this rate I’m going to need to move into a library…

Also, this particular book reminded me of Needful Things by Stephen King. Of a random shop owner showing up and causing havoc. I read the book and watched the movie so The Store is right up there on my next TBR list.

Bentley Little is an American author of numerous horror novels. He was discovered by Dean Koontz.

Little was born one month after his mother attended the world premiere of Psycho. He published his first novel, The Revelation, with St. Martin’s Press in 1990. After reading it, Stephen King became a vocal fan of Little’s work, and Little won the Bram Stoker Award for “Best First Novel” in 1990. He moved to New American Library for his next two novels, but was dropped from the company after he refused to write a police procedural as his next novel. He eventually returned to New American Library, with whom he continues to publish his novels.

Little has stated on several occasions that he considers himself a horror novelist, and that he writes in the horror genre, not the “suspense” or “dark fantasy” genres. He is an unabashed supporter of horror fiction and has been described as a disciple of Stephen King.

The Final Empire (Mistborn Trilogy 1) #BookReview

Title:
The Final Empire – The Mistborn Book One

Authors:
Brandon Sanderson

Genre:
Fantasy

Book procurement:
I was at Exclusive Books – Greenstone and saw the entire trilogy boxset on the shelf. So I did what an self-respecting book lover with some money did – impulsively buy it. No regrets.

Rating:

A heart-wrenching 5 out of 5

Synopsis:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage— Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

First Thoughts

I loved the magic system. I loved the characters. I loved the unexpected twists and turns and internal battles I fought with myself as I tried to figure out what would happen next and getting joyfully frustrated when that didn’t happen.

The book was recommended to me for so long that when the opportunity arose I took it up. I have no regrets. It begins slowly and begins to build and build and the come crashing down on you. I was looking at the last few pages and wondering how the story could be tied up with so few pages left and it was done so well. Really a great example of Sanderson’s story telling ability and one of his online classes come to life.

The Story

The story follows two distinct characters throughout the book. Kelsier, the leader of an infamous thieving crew who has escaped from hell to inact a very elaborate and impossible plan. Vin is a street urchin who discovers something amazing about herself and moves from the streets to Kelsier’s crew.

Around them is The Final Empire, a land where ash falls continuously around the city and mysterious mists swirl about at night. At its head is the immortal and powerful Lord Ruler who has established himself as god for centuries, the dark lord who rules with iron fist and nonchalance. Around the city and within are the citizens of The Final Empire; Skaa who are  fearful, low-spirited workers treated as nothing more than lowest of the low in society, and the Noblemen and Noblewomen who rule the Skaa, while living lavish lifestyles and protected by the Lord Ruler.

It’s a story of survival. Of love and friendship. Of overcoming odds and believing in something greater. It is at its core, a story of hope.

Writing

The writing is simple yet elegant and powerful. It moves you along between characters and perspectives, giving you different sides of the story as is necessary without giving away too much.

The characters are each distinct and easily identifiable. I loved all of them. Kelsier’s charismatic persona filled the perfect role of rebel leader who is a caring mentor with a scarred past (if you’ve read the book, see what I did there). We see the kind of man he is, flawed yet determined.

Vin is clearly a smart girl, and quite adept in her abilities. We see her grow from street urchin to quite a notable member of the crew. We are with her in her thoughts and deliberations, her emotions and actions, all of which build her up as a character that by the end of the book you understand why (even when its frustrating!) she does what she does.

Clubs, Ham, and Dockson may be minor characters but they have major roles in the entire story. Not only in their abilities and characteristics, but how they also show different sides of Kelsier and Vin.

Sazed was perfect as the caring and knowledgeable steward. His Feurchemist abilities make him distinct but it’s his well captured persona that truly makes him a valuable friend and partner to both Vin and Kelsier.

The fighting is so imaginative and well written that you can imagine the scene playing out. The whole Allomancy “magic” system (using metals to fuel a specific ability) are unique and masterfully captured. Sometimes the repetition seems too much but it also works as a reminder of how each ability works. The Pulling and Pushing, Soothing and Rioting, Smoking and Seeing. How weight and power affects each one differently and the thought of using a coin to push off the ground to jump higher – so awesome!

The Inquisitors send shivers down my spine, with metal rods in their eyes, super-healing and just general inhuman strength, like what the hell!

Final Thoughts

This was a fantastic book. Filled with adventure, magic, friendship, death, love, and so many twists and turns and frustrations and joys and so many good things. The world building was done really well, each character consistent and unique, the story flowing well between each scene and tying up really well. Even the little notes between each scene or chapter ties into the whole story, with a major twist right at the end that even I did not predict.

All in all I loved The Final Empire and am looking forward to the next two books. I think there’s a lot I could have said but that would include spoilers and I don’t want to do that. Great work Mr. Sanderson.


The Final Empire was published July 25th 2006.

Did you know: Brandon Sanderson offers lectures on writing? I’ve watched a few and some of the topics he covers I’ve seen implemented in Mistborn. You can find them here: 2016 Sanderson Lectures.

Slaughterhouse-Five: Kurt Vonnegut #TBR

Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don’t let the ease of reading fool you – Vonnegut’s isn’t a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut’s most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author’s experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut’s other works, but the book’s basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy – and humor.


I don’t remember who actually recommended this book to me, or where I saw it. I think the words “Slaughterhouse” stood out to me more than anything haha being a horror lover and all. Not necessarily that kind of horror, but one that is said to strike home in various ways. Looking forward to reading this book.

image of Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, Junior was an American novelist, satirist, and most recently, graphic artist. He was recognized as New York State Author for 2001-2003.

He was born in Indianapolis, later the setting for many of his novels. He attended Cornell University from 1941 to 1943, where he wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Vonnegut trained as a chemist and worked as a journalist before joining the U.S. Army and serving in World War II.

Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana’s own Eugene V. Debs) and a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The novelist is known for works blending satire, black comedy and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat’s Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973)

The Priests of Psi – Frank Herbert #BookRecommendation #SciFi

book cover: the priests of psi by Frank Herbert

Blurb

A psychic parasite who hijacks personalities.

A couple who discovers the house of their dreams … in the wrong dimension.

The priests of Psi, custodians of a forgotten wisdom which may exalt or damn mankind completely.

Five dazzling stories from one of science fiction’s masters


Frank Herbert is best known for his iconic desert-centered novels (and TV Series) Dune. This time he moves beyond Arrakis and into new dimensions. I look forward to reading this anthology from one of the masters himself.

Frank Herbert was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author.

He is best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, dealt with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics, and power, and is widely considered to be among the classics in the field of science fiction.

He was the father of fellow author Brian Herbert.

The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury #BookRecommendation

The Illustrated Man is classic Bradbury – a collection of tales that breathe and move, animated by sharp, intaken breath and flexing muscle. Here are eighteen startling visions of humankind’s destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin – visions as keen as the tattooist’s needle and as colorful as the inks that indelibly stain the body. The images, ideas, sounds and scents that abound in this phantasmagoric sideshow are provocative and powerful: the mournful cries of celestial travelers cast out cruelly into a vast, empty space of stars and blackness…the sight of gray dust selling over a forgotten outpost on a road that leads nowhere…the pungent odor of Jupiter on a returning father’s clothing. Here living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, Martian invasions are foiled by the good life and the glad hand, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the Grandmaster’s premier accomplishments: as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.


Last week sometime I found myself in a recognizable yet not quite familiar mall. It was tall rather than wide. And not in the best of conditions. I was to meet my good friend Ole (Of Ole’s Truth) and another fellow writer Elliot. P. McGee for some good clean fun bowling, and later pool/snooker.

The traffic surprised me with its clarity and I was uncharacteristically early for our meeting. Which led me to a heavily chained, second-hand book store run by an elderly man with shocking white hair. His suspicion was momentary as I explained I was looking for books, specifically fantasy. The bushy eyebrows raised a fraction and he hobbled forward to unlock the great chains protecting his store. Oh the smell of old books. The endless shelves. How I adored that place, and even more the two gems I found within it. One was a collection of short stories by renowned authors Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke among others. The other was another anthology but solely written by Frank Herbert. The stories were a combination of horror, science fiction, and science fantasy. How I fell in love.

I don’t know why it took so long to actually read Ray Bradbury’s books. I am enthralled by his writing and the worlds he creates. A masterful writer! I need more!

Author Ray Bradbury

American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.

His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden.

On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, “The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you’ll come along.”

The King in Yellow – Robert W. Chambers #BookReview

Title:
The King in Yellow and Other Stories

Author:
Robert W. Chambers

Genre:
Horror/Weird Fiction

Book procurement:
Obtained a copy from The Project Gutenberg

Rating:

A pleasant 3 out of 5

Synopsis:

“Every story of The King in Yellow has something riveting about it … so perfectly realized, they became the model for much of twentieth-century horror/fantasy.” — New York Press
One of the most important works of American supernatural fiction since those of Poe, The King in Yellow was among the first attempts to establish the horror of the nameless and the unimaginable. A treasured source used by almost all the significant writers in the American pulp tradition — H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and many others — it endures as a work of remarkable power and one of the most chillingly original books in the genre.
This collection reprints all the supernatural stories from The King in Yellow, including the grisly “Yellow Sign,” the disquieting “Repairer of Reputations,” the tender “Demoiselle d’Ys,” and others. Robert W. Chambers’ finest stories from other sources have also been added, such as the thrilling “Maker of Moons” and “The Messenger.” In addition, an unusual pleasure awaits those who know Chambers only by his horror stories: three of his finest early biological science-fiction fantasies from In Search of the Unknown appear here as well.

First Thoughts

I’m a Stephen King fan. I’ve read my share of Edgar Allen Poe. Fawned over H.P. Lovecraft. All of them influenced in some way by Robert W. Chambers from Stephen King’s Crimson King in The Dark Tower series to mention of the Yellow Sign in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in the Darkness. Once I learned of these correlations, it is obvious I would read the very man who influenced the writers who influenced me.

So I was expecting something of profound darkness and fear and instead  was greeted by a good dose of weird fiction. The title of this book is also the name of the book appearing in most of the short stories contained within the anthology; a fictional play called The King in Yellow. It reminds me of the “Necronomicon” where madness proceeds those that either read through it or research its contents. The first few stories had me begging for more while the remaining stories moved from the weird and into character development.

This book (the Necronomicon) was also the inspiration for my Wattpad horror novella Faux.

The Story

The Repairer of Reputations

A fascinating story to kick off the weirdness in the collection. A man is drawn towards a recluse whose business is repairing the reputation of those in society. While there is much scorn for this Repairer, out protagonist Constance finds much fascination in the man and the journal he keeps. One that causes deep paranoia and abject egotism in Constance, all of which relate to The King. Yes, that king.

The Mask

The story begins with an excerpt from the play The King in Yellow Act I, Scene 2. From then we delve into the lives of Alec, Boris, and Geneviève where Alex and Boris are artists (sculptors). Boris finds a peculiar substance that can transform live objects into pure, detailed marble works. At the same time there is romance and art revolving around the three. Beautiful and mesmerising.

In The Court of the Dragon

Ah this was one of my favourite stories. A man is in a church and spots a perculiar organist who begins to haunt him. He fears the man is after his soul. You get a sense of fear and paranoia as he seeks to escape what he feels is certain fate.

The Yellow Sign

Another one that prickled my sense of paranoia (are you getting the theme yet?) where an artist (this too) finds himself haunted by vivid dreams and a sinister, bizarre churchyard watchman who resembles a maggot. There is also some romance involved.

The Demoiselle D’YS

Yeah… So I had to translate a lot of words from French to English to understand some of the words being used here but a lot of the story can be read without needing to fully understand the romantic language. The story also contains a lot of references to The King in Yellow although no actual reference to the book is used. Romance builds very quickly in what I can only describe as a ghost story.

The Prophets’ Paradise

Beautifully written short prose pieces that speak of love and death and beauty, all drawn from a quote within the King in Yellow.

The Street of the Four Winds

This was a unique story that did not involve art (but an artist) or romance but a cat. Yes a feline stops at the door of Severn and he seeks to take care of it while looking for its owner. The end takes an interesting morbid twist.

The Street of the First Shell

A poignant tale set in Paris during the Paris Seige of 1870 as bombs drop and a poverty stricken city do what they can to survive. Protagonist Jack cares for his sickly wife who worries dearly about him leaving the house at night while bombs drop from the sky. Nothing weird or horrific in this tale in terms of the supernatural, but only of the horrors of romance.

The Street of Our Lady of the Fields / Rue Barrèe

More sentimental, moving stories of love and romance set in Paris and among artists coming from America to be art students in the city. A story with an assortment of fascinating characters and a bohemian lifestyle. Gorgeous setting and character development.

Writing

Beyond the weird and the paranoia and assortment of artists practicing their art in Paris, the writing itself is vivid and descriptive. Enough to give form to each character you meet and delving into each of their personas with clarity. Allowing you to feel their heartbreaks, their paranoia and all the emotions they experience. Chamber’s writing style flows eloquently and at the same time almost disjointed. Reflecting the very way  people speak and think despite what our contemporaries might deem grammatically incorrect.

Deep reflective writing if I have read any.

Final Thoughts

While the content of the short stories were not exactly what I was expecting, there is no denying the beauty of Chamber’s writing style and ability to create such well detailed characters. As though he himself were observing these very people and writing of them in their presence. I glean some of that Stephen King character development style, understanding the influence may extend beyond the embodiment of evil known as the Crimson King.

I won’t say I enjoyed the book for its horror, but the ideas were unique and wide spread and the writing masterful.


The King in Yellow was published in 1895/1970.

Did you know: Lovecraft borrowed Chambers’ method of only vaguely referring to supernatural events, entities, and places, thereby allowing his readers to imagine the horror for themselves. The play The King in Yellow effectively became another piece of occult literature in the Cthulhu Mythos alongside the Necronomicon and others.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea #BookRecommendation

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (French: Vingt mille lieues sous les mers) is a classic science fiction novel by French writer Jules Verne, published in 1870. It is about the fictional Captain Nemo and his submarine, Nautilus, as seen by one of his passengers, Professor Pierre Aronnax.


This is one of those classics I have yet to read and have heard great things about. From Jules Verne, the man who wrote “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “Journey to the Center of the Earth” he is obviously on my to read list and should be on yours too.

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French author who pioneered the genre of science-fiction. Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. He is the third most translated author of all time, behind Disney Productions and Agatha Christie. His prominent novels have been made into films. Verne, along with H. G. Wells, is often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction”.

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