Thursday, 11 May 2017

Review: Dark Asylum by E. S. Thomson





Dark Asylum by E. S. Thomson

My Rating:


I would like to thank Little Brown Books and Constable for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.

For a good few years I have avoided historical fiction, it's a genre that I used to read a lot of but found myself losing interest in. There was plenty of it out there but I just wasn't feeling it - they were all starting to run into each other, none stood out and I felt that they all read much the same. That is, until I came across E.S. Thomson's debut novel Beloved Poison and was blown away by how fantastic the book was. So fantastic, in fact, that it was my top read of 2016 and I have been recommending it to everyone ever since.

I was like a child on Christmas morning when Dark Asylum landed on my doorstep, but I have to admit I was a little apprehensive at first because I was scared it wouldn't live up to the first book. I needn't have worried, I loved it every bit as much as Beloved Poison.

It was such a joy to be with Jem and Will again and to be back on the streets of Victorian London. The sights, the sounds, the streets, the smells, the mood, the atmosphere, all so vivid that I was transported easily to another time and place. Like with Beloved Poison, the world around me ceased to exist while this book was in my hands.

The author's knowledge of medicine and of the time period is clear to see in the historical detail within the story. It's also clear that she enjoys what she does and has put a lot of love and dedication into the book.

And can I just point out that cover! This is one of the rare occasions where you can safely judge a book by its gorgeous cover and know that the story inside is every bit as amazing.

E.S. Thomson has made me fall in love with historical fiction all over again.

Highly recommended. One of my favourite reads of 2017 so far!




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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Review: Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley






Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley

My Rating:


I received a copy of Beautiful Sorrow through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

I don't often read short story collections and when I do I tend to read them one story at a time in-between reading other books, but in this case, I was so captivated by the individual stories that I read them one after the other. They were all enjoyable but my favourite has to be The Boy Who Hung the Stars.

Beautiful Sorrows is the first of Mercedes M. Yardley that I have read and I have to say her writing is truly beautiful. It has a wonderful peculiar and ethereal quality to it. In fact, many words came to mind while reading: poetic, haunting, mystical, melancholy, surreal, to name a few. Her style truly is unique. I've never read anything quite like it before. Not only were her stories beautiful but they were also heartbreaking, chilling, and dark, all at the same time.

Reading Beautiful Sorrows was like experiencing the wonder and beauty of fairytales for the first time as a child, but in grown up form.



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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review: Skitter (The Hatching #2) by Ezekiel Boone





Skitter (The Hatching #2) by Ezekiel Boone

My Rating:


I would like to thank Atria Books for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.

Skitter is book two in The Hatching trilogy. Having read and loved book one I was keen to make a start on book two. I enjoyed the first book but hated that it finished on a huge cliffhanger so you can imagine how disappointing it was to discover that the author leaves the reader hanging on the edge of yet another cliff at the end of the second book. I hate cliffhangers, they are annoying and frustrating and put me off reading more of the series because I feel like the author is trying to manipulate me into buying their next book- want to know what happens next? Yes? Great! Come back in a year and give me X amount of pounds and maybe I'll tell you more, and if you're lucky I might throw in yet another cliffhanger just for shits and giggles so you'll buy the next one after that. If your book is good, that alone is enough to make readers want to pick up the next one.

Skitter suffers from middle book syndrome. It wasn't as engaging or as fast paced and it also lacked the action and danger that was prevalent in the first book. It didn't have the same effect as the first book, I wasn't anywhere near as creeped out by it. It only progresses the storyline a few steps forward and you learn a little more about the spiders, but a little, and a few steps are not enough. It hardly progresses at all and nothing is resolved. It felt like a placeholder, something to keep the wolves from the door until the final book is released. There was nothing to get my teeth into, nothing to make it stand out on its own. It read more like an extension of The Hatching rather than an individual book. It picks up from where The Hatching left off and slowly ambles along for most of the book, the pace does pick up very near the end but very quickly leaves the reader hanging onto yet another stinking cliffhanger.

I have to say, I feel rather disappointed and let down by Skitter. It was OK but I expected more. I will still read the next one, it's the last in the trilogy so surely there won't be a cliffhanger, right? I hope so!



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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review: Jackals by Stuart R Brogan





Jackals by Stuart R Brogan

My Rating:


I have to say, I'm kind of fed up with a lot of the horror books lately. A large proportion of the horror released of late has been either the same old stories told in a slightly different way or are labelled as "extreme horror" and are full of violence and gore thrown in for nothing more than shock value with no real plot to speak of. But, I'm glad to say that that wasn't the case with Jackals.

How far would you go to protect the ones you love? Who can you trust when the seeds of corruption and violence have wormed their way into every crack?

Jackals was one heck of a wild and gory ride. It's most definitely not a book for the faint of heart. The action kicks off in great gory detail almost immediately and keeps you on the edge of your seat to the very end. The author takes the reader on an action-packed adrenaline ride to the deepest darkest depths of depravity and exposes the sadistic, twisted, and primitive side of human nature.

"They are without doubt some of the most dangerous people out there and the worrying thing is that ninety-nine percent of the population doesn't even know they exist..."

Nobody is what they seem. Take nothing, and no one, for granted. Heroes and villains emerge in the most unlikely of places. There is no safe place for the reader or the characters. The twists and turns keep you on your toes, they mess with your head, you're never quite sure what's around the corner or who's going to turn on you next.

Definitely one I would recommend.



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Jackals, Synopsis


From the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station, two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall, in blood.

A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power, making the policeman himself the next target.

As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence, but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society, it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.


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Stuart R Brogan, Biography

Stuart R Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and unwaveringly proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people’s minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people’s brains out with fast paced, gut wrenching, thrilling horrors.

Harley lover, extreme metal drummer and avid movie nerd, Stuart has never followed the crowd but instead carved his own path and danced to his own tune. Since his early years, Stuart found escapism in both the written word and the silver screen. A huge fan of 80’s Action / Horror movies such as The Thing, Aliens, Predator & Die Hard and literary heroes such as Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, Richard Layman and Brian Lumley, Stuart endeavours to bring an unapologetic cinematic eye to his fiction in the hopes of rekindling his childhood sense of wonder, all whilst blowing through vast amounts of ammunition down his local shooting range.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog “Poppy” where he co-owns a kick ass Viking / Asatru shop, fiercely named “Shield Maiden”





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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Thrills of Writing Horror by Stuart R Brogan


A question I find myself asking more and more these days, is when does a thriller novel stray into the realms of horror? Is there a definitive line in which an author has to cross before one genre wholeheartedly turns into another or is it just semantics and personal opinion?

As an author I obviously have my own preconceived ideas of what horror is with regards to my own work, yet whilst having discussions with not only other authors but friends, it has become apparent that we all have our own personal line to cross and that line varies widely. Personally, when I write, I like to keep it as realistic as possible, that’s not to say some may view my work as a little far-fetched, but to me realism is at the very heart of horror. I have said many times before in interviews that I prefer the impact of social conditioning and human emotions as opposed to the supernatural element, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t explore such topics in later works. At present though, I feel a deep seeded need to at least try to keep the horror grounded.

The old saying of “Horses for courses” is apt when we explore our reading habits within the horror genre. Some authors are superb in weaving a vast supernatural yarn that keeps the reader firmly in the books grip, causing us to hide beneath the duvet for fear of antagonising some deity baying for blood. I myself have a very fast paced and kinetic style, I aim to keep the reader turning the page either through sheer fear or the constant adrenaline rush. Some may dislike my style yet others love it, again it depends on the reader. Even as an author there are some other writers that I personally can’t get into, that’s not to say I don’t rate them or their work, but I just can’t get into their style or “voice”. Maybe I am trying to over analyse the whole question, maybe I seek to find an answer that needs not be found or maybe I’m just losing the plot and should just get back to writing!

Within the horror genre there are many sub categories. From the ghostly supernatural tales to the extreme horrors from realms unknown, all of which have their advocates and their objectors. Regardless of the sub-genre there are plenty of authors plying their trade and reaching excellent sales figures, not to mention thrilling fans from around the world. These warriors of the written word appear to be dancing to their own tune and loving every minute, and quite rightly so. The level of effort and dedication it takes to weave such stories is immense.

Horror can come from anywhere; it can be the monster lurking in the closet, or the ardent serial killer next door. As authors, we aim to thrust our protagonists into life or death situations, thus taking the reader on a rollercoaster ride through a vast array of emotions, the need to make the reader gasp with excitement or terror driving us forward to push boundaries and delve ever deeper into what terrifies us.

When I was writing my first novel, Jackals, I can honestly say that I didn’t pigeon hole the style. I knew of course the level of brutality and violence would cause some to label it extreme but to me, it was just the story I “needed” to write. Each scene had to push the story forward. Of course, that’s not to say my future works may not be as gory or violent but rest assured they will always be intense and contain the visceral intensity I am rapidly gaining a name for. Fast forward to the present time and I am happy that people are calling it action / horror because I am a huge fan of both, not just in the written word but on the silver screen. It would seem I am fortunate to have found my place within the horror realm and my sole aim is to improve with each new book I release. Be it horror, or thriller, it will not diminish the rush the reader feels when they delve into the book.

The bottom line is that the lines are becoming ever more blurred when it comes to modern horror. A Thriller can easily give way to horror if pushed a little and vice versa. Some may argue that a thriller is the “threat” of something bad happening yet “horror” is the actual thing taking place and to some degree, I would agree with such a statement but when all is said and done who really cares? As long as the reader is taken on one hell of a ride and they are able to escape the modern world for a few hours then what does it matter what label is placed upon it? My idea of personal horror would be stuck in a room watching boy bands on repeat!

If you are an author then just write! Forget about labels and genres and write what speaks to you. If you are a fan, then explore what’s out there, don’t limit yourself to just a handful of authors, be brave and take a punt on that unknown who has just released their first novel. Share with your friends and spread the word because we authors couldn’t do what we do without you, the reader. There are so many excellent story tellers out there that you are literary spoilt for choice.

Thriller or horror? As long as it captures our imagination and forces us to sleep with one eye open then it matters not. Forget the label and get reading unless of course you are too scared.

Until next time…


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 Stuart R Brogan, Biography


Stuart R Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and unwaveringly proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people’s minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people’s brains out with fast paced, gut wrenching, thrilling horrors.

Harley lover, extreme metal drummer and avid movie nerd, Stuart has never followed the crowd but instead carved his own path and danced to his own tune. Since his early years, Stuart found escapism in both the written word and the silver screen. A huge fan of 80’s Action / Horror movies such as The Thing, Aliens, Predator & Die Hard and literary heroes such as Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, Richard Layman and Brian Lumley, Stuart endeavours to bring an unapologetic cinematic eye to his fiction in the hopes of rekindling his childhood sense of wonder, all whilst blowing through vast amounts of ammunition down his local shooting range.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog “Poppy” where he co-owns a kick ass Viking / Asatru shop, fiercely named “Shield Maiden”





Monday, 24 April 2017

Review: The Girl Who Beat ISIS: Farida's Story




The Girl Who Beat ISIS: Farida's Story


My Rating:


I would like to thank Square Peg for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.
"This is the story of what happened to Farida after she was captured: the beatings, the rapes, the markets where ISIS sold women like cattle, and Farida's realisation that the more resistant she became, the harder it was for her captors to continue their atrocities against her. So she struggled, she bit, she kicked, she accused her captors of going against their religion, until, one day, the door to her room was left unlocked. She took her chance and, with five younger girls in her charge, fled into the Syrian desert..."

I honestly don't know what to say about this book, or even where to start with reviewing it. It feels wrong to try and break it down and comment on writing style, star rating, etc.

This book really brings home how easily your life can change. One day you're enjoying the long hot summer days and the next you and your family are fleeing for your lives. Farada could be your daughter, your sister, your niece, she deserves to be safe, to live without fear just like everyone else. The suffering she endured was atrocious, yet she never gave up. Her story is a remarkable story of hope, faith, courage, and strength. It's not an easy read, but it is important that experiences like Farada's are told. It is important that the world is made aware of the atrocities that are occurring in order to better understand the horrors that refugees are running from.

The Girl Who Beat ISIS is a book that everyone should read.



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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Review: The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown





The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown

My Rating:


I would like to thank Penguin Books for providing me with an advanced reading copy of this book.

The Witch Finder's Sister is a fictional tale based on the life of Matthew Hopkins - a witch hunter believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 300 women between the years 1644 and 1646. The story is told through the eyes of his sister Alice who experiences his obsession first hand and recounts the tale to the reader.

Initially, when I first started reading the book I thought I was going to love it. The writing style appealed to me, it felt like Alice was talking directly to me and I was excited to read more. But, unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations. It concentrated too much on Alice's emotions, inner thoughts, and memories. She was a bystander lost within her own past and present, looking in rather than looking out at the horror of what was actually taking place. There were so many missed opportunities to escalate the storyline and to ramp up the tension, but they were missed because of the way the storyline advanced in regards to Alice's character.

As a reader, I only got little peeks into the true horrors of what Matthew was doing. Right before the witch hunts approached their worst, just when things were starting to get interesting and were really about to kick off, the author decided to lock Alice in the attic, which of course resulted in the reader being locked in that attic alongside Alice.

What happened in that dark attic? Not much at all - meanwhile, Matthew and his witch trials are causing chaos. The trials are approaching their worst, hundreds of women are being killed, months of mayhem and murder are taking place, and the reader is sat in the dark with Alice. There was so much going on outside that attic that the reader was excluded from, all the chaos and horrors that would have made this a book to remember, and instead we're given a just few pages of Alice in the dark. What a let down that was.

The book is categorised by the publisher as being adult general fiction, mystery, and thriller, but to be honest there wasn't much mystery or thrills to be found. The pacing was very slow, there wasn't enough action, and characters were hard to connect with. The ending, in particular, had me rolling my eyes.

Not one I would recommend. The blurb and the cover quotes promised much and delivered little.



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