Friday, 30 September 2016

Review: Rowan Oakwing: A London Fairy Tale by E. J. Clarke

Rowan Oakwing: A London Fairy Tale - E. J. Clarke

Rowan Oakwing by E. J. Clarke

My Rating:

I received a free copy of Rowan Oakwing from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Rowan Oakwing is a modern day fairytale that will set children's imaginations on fire. The story is set in the world as we know it today and is packed full of adventure, magic, and imagery that really draw you in. There are some great characters within the story, my favourite being Harold the robin. They're all well written and their adventures full of excitement, wonder, and danger.

My daughter would have loved this book when she was younger, her bookshelf was filled to the brim with traditional fairytale books but this book brings fairies to life in a way that most fairytales don't. Rowan Oakwing isn't a once upon a time in a faraway land tale, it brings fairies into the real world, a world that children know and can relate to, and turns make-believe into reality.

I would suggest that if you plan on reading it to a child under the age of 8 or 9 that you read it first to see if it would be suitable. It's an exciting and magical story but it's tinged with sadness and touches on topics such as the loss of a parent and bullying.

Rowan Oakwing was such a fun and imaginative read. I had a smile on my face almost the whole time I was reading.

Definitely one I would recommend!

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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Monday, 26 September 2016

Review: Bad Apples 3: Seven Slices of Halloween Horror

Bad Apples 3: Seven Slices of Halloween Horror - Edward Lorn, Adam   Light, Gregor Xane, Jason  Parent, Evans Light, John McNee, Craig  Saunders, Mark Matthews

Bad Apples 3: Seven Slices of Halloween Horror

My Rating:

I received a free copy of Bad Apples 3 in return for an honest review.

The Halloween season would not be complete without the Bad Apples short story collection. I usually save it to read on Halloween night but this year there are a few new contributors so my curiosity got the better of me.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed every story in the collection. Each story was unique and every horror fan can be guaranteed to find something they will enjoy. I restrained from reading them all in one sitting and instead made a point to read one a night, saving them for bedtime so I could read them in the dark and enjoy each individually.

I do have a couple of favourites from the collection but John McNee's Chocolate Covered Eyeball really stood out the most for me. Mostly because the story was very good but also because it brought back fond memories of an old Scottish song that everyone here in Scotland has had sung to them many times as a child. My parents sang it to me and I to my own children. It's been stuck in my head since I first read his story 2 weeks ago and has even wormed it's way into my daughters head. I'm not going to name the song or give away the reference, I'm going to leave that for other readers to discover for themselves. I do find myself cursing John McNee every time it pops into my head now. Once it's in there there's no escape, so readers beware!

Definitely one I would recommend. I've read individual books published by all the authors in this collection so having them all together in this collection makes it a must read for me.

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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Review: All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

All Things Cease to Appear: A novel - Elizabeth Brundage

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage

My Rating:

I received a free hardback copy of All Things Cease to Appear from the publisher in return for an honest review. Thank you, Quercus!

I don't know where to start with my review for this one. I found the book to be a slow burner and very frustrating to read at times, but I also found that I was drawn into the story enough that I wanted to finish it.

What I liked about the book: At its heart it's a mystery book. The story revolves around several characters and slowly reveals each character's history and relationship with the victim, and with each other. There is also a very subtle underlying ghost story within the pages, It's not a ghost story in the traditional sense, it's not scary and there are no bumps in the night, it's more akin to fading memories encroaching upon the living. It's very atmospheric in places and the ghost story is very subtle, melancholy, and haunting. At times the writing was beautiful and I found myself really being drawn in and could easily visualise and feel for the characters.

That being said, there was a lot that I didn't like. The storyline jumped around a lot and it's not always clear where in the timeline events are occurring.

There are no quotation marks used in the book. It got so confusing. Not only is it hard to understand what is dialogue and what is story text, but the character dialogue also often ran into internal thoughts. As if that's not confusing enough, a lot of the time it's not always clear who the dialogue actually belongs to. I spent a lot of time rereading parts to try to understand who was speaking and what they were actually saying. Following conversations became such a chore and it drew me completely out of the story. I really don't get the whole stylistic appeal of omitting quotation marks, it's messy and confusing and really ruined the whole reading experience.

The story has a lot of characters, and to be honest many of them were really unnecessary and didn't add anything to the story. I did enjoy the three main female characters, Ella, Catherine and Franny, and Cole of course, poor sweet Cole but I detested George. I get that he was supposed to be disliked and I do enjoy a well written mean character, a love to hate kind of character, but his was a different kind of unlikeable. He was just utterly detestable and was so boring, judgemental, and self-centred. There was no love to hate thing going on here, I wanted nothing to do with him. And don't even get me started on all his *yawn* art talk and inner dialogue.

There were many inconsistencies and general nonsensical things. Here's just a few of many that I marked in the book:

- June, minutes after her neighbour arriving at her door, with a sobbing toddler in his arms, having just found his wife is dead, goes off into an inner dialogue about how the sheriff fancies her. Who does that? Why is it even a thing? It adds nothing.

- June, during more inner dialogue, acknowledges the sheriff's kindness towards her neighbour (the one who just found his wife dead). The sheriff entered the house, said "George" (insert some inner dialogue here) "Let's go take a look." That's kindness?

- The Hale farmhouse was rented out many times during the 25 years after the murder. In all that time are you telling me that not one renter cleared out a drawer or shelf? Or ditched an old box that had been in clear view and collecting dust for a quarter of a century? I find it very hard to believe that everything just lay there all that time, or that the police missed them during the initial investigation.

There were a few things that really ticked me off:

- How George was scared of the "deep-black skin of the employees.."

What was the point? Why even put that in there? There was no reason or context given, it was totally random and unneeded.

- Something about her strikes me as rather dykish.
  Why? Because she doesn't shave her legs?
  For starters, yeah.

Because you know, not shaving your legs means you're a lesbian.

- There were two librarians. Dagmar, a tall blonde of German descent, built like a transvestite...


- Morning, he says to the driver, getting into the back. The cab smells of pineapple and some sort of hair oil. All the cabbies are Jamaican these days.

There's more.

This one's a corker...

- They were talking about how in high school he'd idolised his cousin Henri, who turned out to be a first-class homo, and they didn't know what had been worse for his parents, the fact that he'd drowned or that he was gay.

     That's just a few examples, you don't want to know how many
     sticky tabs I used while reading this book!

Moving on... Whodunnit? It's pretty obvious throughout the book who the guilty party is, but there is no clear picture given of the actual crime itself. The reader is left to read between the lines, to pick up on subtle hints and clues to fill in the gaps. Some of the hints were just ridiculous and very easy to miss. Especially considering how much concentration had to go into interpreting the dialogue.

I have let this book stew in my head for a good few days before writing this review. I wanted to let it all settle and really think about it before reviewing it, because despite all of the above, I still wanted to finish it and I did enjoy much of the book. I can overlook the nonsensical bits and the small inconsistencies, but I don't know that I can overlook the utter confusion caused by the lack of quotation marks or the racism and homophobia that occurs.

I enjoyed it enough that I would give the author another chance, but if I found the same problems in her next book then that would be it for me. I wouldn't read any more.

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Review: The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer - Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

My Rating:

I received a free copy of The Devil's Prayer via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The first thing I did on opening this ebook was to change the publisher's font. I hate when a book force changes my default preferred font to that of the publisher. The publisher's font was very small and very faint and not pleasant at all to read. Please don't do that!

There were both positive and negative aspects to this book. I did enjoy it but at times I found my attention wandering. The plot was good and appealed very much to my tastes, but there were sections that I thought rather tedious and I found myself starting to skim what felt like unnecessary heavy info dumps. The author went into so much detail at times in regards to religious practices, scripts, history etc that I got bored. Especially nearer the end of the book where it began to feel more religious history textbook than fiction.

The writing style took some getting used to. In the beginning it felt very abrupt and factual, telling instead of showing, and it had a non-fiction feel to it. The writing and dialogue did improve and started to flow better once it moved to the nun's story.

I can't say that I could relate to Siobhan's character at all. According to the blurb, she's the main character but she has no depth or substance, and I found her character very flat and unappealing. She makes very small minor appearances between the larger sections that tell her mother's story. In fact, her telling her mother's story is the only reason she's in the book at all. I preferred her mother's story, it was much more pleasant to read, nicer written, had a better flow, and the dialogue was a lot more natural. The mother's character was way more fleshed out and detailed and she stood out more as a main character than the actual main character herself. In fact, I would have enjoyed the book a lot more without Siobhan's character interrupting the flow and enjoyment of her mother's story.

I also felt that certain things were very repetitive. In the opening chapters, the author seemed insistent in reminding me way too often that the city was called Zamora. I stopped highlighting at a count of 19. There were also little niggly things that stood out to me. For instance:

- A wake is not a wake when there is no body, it's a memorial service.

- Paramedics after resuscitating a girl who's heart stopped for a
  prolonged period due to drowning do not just pack up and leave, they take her
  straight to a hospital to get checked out.

- Policemen are not permitted or qualified, under any circumstances, to perform any
  kind of medical tests on someone.

- All the different places had such long names and similar to the above example of the
  overuse of Zamora, they too seemed to be overused. For instance, the convent was
  called Cistercia Monasterio de Santa Maria de Moreruela and there were parts like

  "The hotel receptionist handed her a small pamphlet that referred her to a small minibus, which ran twice daily to the ruins of the old Cistercia Monasterio de Santa Maria de Moreruela, some four kilometres from the small town of Grabja Moreruela. Siobhan read in the pamphlet that the origins of the Cistercia Monasterio de Santa Maria de Moreruela were obscure.."

I have to admit I got fed up reading these long names constantly. We know it's a convent, the author tells us so, so why not just tell us the name once and then just substitute the name with convent. Especially when using it so close together.

I'm assuming there is going to be another book to follow this one as there is no conclusion to the story. Why is Siobhan being pursued by the monks? What exactly is the devil's prayer? And what, if anything, is Siobhan expected to do with this knowledge she's learned? There has to be more because the book stops mid-story without any answers to these questions, and there has to be a reason for Siobhan being present in the book other than just reading her mother's story.

Despite the problems and niggles mentioned above, the actual premise and the bare bones of the story were good and I did really enjoy the nun's story. I would probably read more should there be another book in order to get some answers for the questions I'm left with.

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Review: Bread or Death by Milton Mendel Kleinberg

Bread or Death: Memories of My Childhood During and After the Holocaust - Milton Mendel Kleinberg

Bread or Death: Memories of My Childhood During and After the Holocaust by Milton Mendel Kleinberg

My Rating:

I received a free copy of Bread or Death from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Bread or Death was not what I was expecting it to be. I think I had prepared myself for something more along the lines of the horrors of the concentration camps so I was expecting something completely different.

There are some awful events that took place during this time and although the author's experience was something that you wouldn't wish anyone to have to go through, his experience was a lot different than that of many others. His family took a chance and were among those fortunate enough to escape and thus avoided the worst of the Nazi horrors that took place but it doesn't make their story any less important.

The hardship and loss experienced by his family is heartbreaking and at times hard to read. I can't imagine having lived through such awful conditions and treatment. His is an important story, one that more should be aware of and one that we should learn from in order to avoid such atrocities occurring in the future.

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Review: The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Dan Micklethwaite

The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote - Dan Micklethwaite

The Less Than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote by Dan Micklethwaite

My Rating:

I received a free paperback copy of The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote from the publisher in return for an honest review. Thank you Bluemoose Books!

Donna Crick-Oakley walks on six inches of stories every day. She may live on the top floor of a tower block but she still pads her walls and floor with books to shut the real world further out. Or do they only shut her in?

I enjoyed this book, at its hearts it's a story about a girl who lives in books because she can't find her place in the world. She doesn't know how to live in the real world, how to relate to real people and wakes up one day and decides that she's going to venture out of the pages and into the world. But, she's not really sure how to do this and the real world isn't full of knights and princesses like her books. And so begins Donna's journey, looking to the characters in her stories, finding courage from fiction, she takes that first step.

Books are more than just objects, they are living, breathing, thriving worlds that allow you to escape the stress of everyday life and venture into other worlds, and I loved that someone else got that. I could relate to Donna Creosote in so many ways. Her love of books, for the touch, the feel, and the smell of the pages. Her ability to get lost in a story and shut the rest of the world out. Her need to be surrounded by books, to reach out to the familiar friends that live within the pages. All these are so familiar and something any avid reader will be able to relate to in one form or another.

There were many book related passages and sentences in this book that had me smiling and thinking to myself, see, it's not just me. She does it too!

"If it had been read and re-read and re-read until tattered, then it was more likely to be worth her reading as well..."

The buying of second-hand books was, for Donna, somewhat akin to pet rescue…. such was her compassion for afflicted creatures that, upon noticing the book there on the charity shop shelf... she’d been unable to leave the premises without it.

"The fact was, when given a choice between real life and books, Donna Crick-Oakley chose books every time... She chose books because they never left her lonely... Because company was often nothing of the kind, whereas a good book always was.

However, I wasn't a fan of the way in which the dialogue was formatted. There were no quotation marks used to make the dialogue clear. The conversations between the characters differed enough that I could follow, Donna's was normal text and Sammy's was in italics, but there were times during the larger conversational sections where there were normal story sentences included between the dialogue and I found myself having to pay more attention to the text in order to keep the conversation and story separate, rather than just enjoying what I was reading.

There are times that Donna gets lost inside her own head, fantasising and reliving stories, picturing herself as the character in different fictional worlds. I enjoyed this but, one of these daydreams went on for quite a few pages and I found myself getting bored and my attention wandering.

The above two reasons are why I am giving this 4 stars and not 5 as I feel it had a negative impact on my enjoyment.

The Less than Perfect Legend of Donna Creosote is one that I would recommend. It reads very much like a modern fairytale. It's sweet and humorous but at the same time sad and melancholy. I really enjoyed it and kept being drawn back to it because I saw so much of myself in Donna.

Also, there's no such thing as "too" many books, just saying!

Reviews also posted to my blog: Scarlet's Web
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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Review: A Living Grave by Robert E. Dunn

A Living Grave - E. Robert Dunn

A Living Grave by Robert E. Dunn

My Rating:

I received a free copy of A Living Grave from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. I'm also participating in the publicity tour run by the lovely Erin over at Oh, for the Hook of a Book.  If you are interested in following the tour you can do so with the following hashtag: #ALivingGrave

I picked A Living Grave up in the wee small hours of the morning, it's now the wee small hours of the following morning and I haven't been able to put it down for any length of time. I kept being pulled back to it and picking it up every chance I had.

What really stood out in this book for me was the MC Katrina. I totally love her character, she's a smart, strong and feisty female that's not to be messed with but at the same time she's insecure, damaged and hurting on the inside. She's been to hell and back and is fighting to keep hell in her rear-view mirror and forget the demons of her past. She's not just words on a page, she's solid and fleshed out, she feels like a real person and is a character that I will remember many books down the line. All too often in books being a strong female means being portrayed as: a bitch, a man hater, jealous of the power/position a man holds, a damsel in distress with men falling at her feet, gets tons attention because she's pretty and they all secretly want to bed her, or makes a complete turn around and goes against everything she stands for just because she falls in love with a buff supporting male character who knows best... I could go on all day giving examples of overused female stereotypes in fiction. Thankfully, you won't find those cliche stereotypes here! It's very rare to find a good, well written strong female protagonist like Katrina. Bravo Mr Dunn.

I particularly enjoyed the way the story went back and forth, revealing Katrina's history bit by bit. I found myself so wrapped up in her backstory eager to know what was coming next and I'd flip the page to a new chapter only to find myself taken back to the present storyline and cursing in frustration. I wanted to go back, to stay on that one story and learn more. Then before I knew it I found myself totally engrossed in the present, and so forth. This style really drew me in and kept me engaged and eager to read on. I was totally at the mercy of the author's storytelling.

I wasn't a fan of the whole love at first sight thing going on, especially given Katrina's history. I feel that it happened a bit too quickly and easily, it felt out of character but I can see the reasoning behind it, it was needed for the story and drawing it out more would have ruined the pacing and made the book far too long. The dynamics and progression of the relationship was very well written and the feels were all too real at times but I still found myself struggling with how fast things developed between them.

I do feel that I need to point out that the storyline contains the topic of rape, a sensitive subject for some, so please be aware of that beforehand. I really hope there will be more from Katrina in the future, She really appealed to me and is a character that will not be forgotten easily. I feel like I got to know her as I would a real life person and I don't want to lose touch with her.

Definitely one I would recommend.

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A Living Grave, Synopsis

  • Print Length: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Lyrical Underground
  • Publication Date: September 13, 2016


Katrina Williams left the Army ten years ago disillusioned and damaged. Now a sheriff’s detective at home in the Missouri Ozarks, Katrina is living her life one case at a time—between mandated therapy sessions—until she learns that she’s a suspect in a military investigation with ties to her painful past.

The disappearance of a local girl is far from the routine distraction, however. Brutally murdered, the girl’s corpse is found by a bootlegger whose information leads Katrina into a tangled web of teenagers, moonshiners, motorcycle clubs, and a fellow veteran battling illness and his own personal demons. Unravelling each thread will take time Katrina might not have, as the Army investigator turns his searchlight on the devastating incident that ended her military career. Now Katrina will need to dig deep for the truth—before she’s found buried…



Robert Dunn was an Army brat born in Alabama and
 finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury
College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.

An award-winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.

A writer of blogs, novels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book-length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novels Behind the Darkness and The Red Highway.

Mr Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.


Praise for Robert Dunn and A Living Grave

“The Red Highway is not one of the best books that I’ve read so far this year, or that I’ve read in a long time…it’s one of the best books that I’ve ever read! It was an incredible read, one that has so many layers that I was completely enthralled with the story. 5+++ stars!” - 2 Book Lovers Reviews

“This is hardboiled fiction at its best. We're talking Elmore Leonard territory. A fantastic read and I hope there's more to come.”– Hunter Shea, Author of Tortures of the Damned and The Dover Demon on A Living Grave

“Dunn's lyrical descriptions of Katrina's inner struggles and demons read almost like poetry as he weaves an intricate and deadly plot of motorcycle gangs, the MOB, cancer survival, and child abuse into a novel so rife with complex feelings and life situations, you are compelled to read it slowly, so you don't miss a nuance of the gut-wrenching emotions he elicits from his characters.” - Peggy Jaeger, Author of The Voices of Angels

“Parts of this book moved me to tears while others made me want to cheer out loud at Katrina's kick-ass-attitude. The twists and turns in the story kept me on the edge of my seat until the entirely satisfying ending. I'm so happy that this is just the start of what promises to be a totally addictive series! I highly recommend this phenomenal 5-star read.” - Horror Maiden’s Book Reviews


Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.  
Media, information and graphics provided by Erin Al-Mehairi from Hook of a Book Media & Publicity

Want to feature this book/author?
If you are a blogger, author, or member of the media and you would like to feature A Living Grave in a review or interview, please contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at Thanks!

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