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‘The witch doesn’t burn in this one’ Amanda Lovelace

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2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in ‘the witch doesn’t burn in this one’ — the bold second book in her “women are some kind of magic” series. 

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

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Check out my review for the princess saves herself in this one here!

There seems to be this general rule that the second one – be it a movie or book in a series or a band’s second album – is never as good as the first. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule (actually, a lot of exceptions…maybe I made that ‘general rule’ up) and Amanda Lovelace’s second collection is one such exception. Unlike the witch, her creative energy most certainly burns and burns yet brighter in the witch doesn’t burn in this one. 

The thing I adore about Amanda’s work is that I always feel like I’m being addressed directly. There are so many of her poems that just speak to me on a soul level, one such poem being:

say it / with me / now: / “i am a woman. / i am a human. / & i matter with / no conditions / attached / you may not / see my worth / but i do. / i do.”  (page 120)

(and countless others, I’ve folded over so many page corners, forgive me, Amanda)

I think everybody interprets poetry differently and the meaning they derive is the meaning that brings them the most solace. For me, this poem reminded me of the non-relationship I have with my father. I’ve been rejected by him twice as an adult and despite telling myself I’m ‘over’ it, that wound has never quite healed. I ask myself things like “How much am I worth if my own flesh and blood doesn’t want me?” or “If my own father doesn’t like me, what chance do I stand with anyone else?”. In a few lines, Amanda reminded me that as long as I see my worth, fuck what my father thinks or doesn’t think of me. I matter even if I don’t matter to him.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one implores us women to support all of our fellow women, regardless of how they identify, regardless of their skin colour, regardless of their age, regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of their religion, regardless of their education. They are all our sisters.  Some people naively believe that the fight for women’s rights is ‘over’ just because things are okay for them and the women in their inner circle, but Amanda reminds us that globally – and sometimes not even that, sometimes it can be the woman next door or the woman we see everyday on the bus on the way to work – there are women being stripped of their rights; they’re stripped of their bodily autonomy, they’re stripped of their voices and they’re stripped of their dignity. These are the women we must lift “above the flames”. These are the women we must continue to fight for.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps From Hell’s The Fire in Her Eyes 

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This book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-reader format.

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‘New Fears’ edited by Mark Morris

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The horror genre’s greatest living practitioners drag our darkest fears kicking and screaming into the light in this collection of nineteen brand-new stories. In “The Boggle Hole” by Alison Littlewood an ancient folk tale leads to irrevocable loss. In Josh Malerman’s “The House of the Head” a dollhouse becomes the focus for an incident both violent and inexplicable. In “Speaking Still” Ramsey Campbell suggests that beyond death there may be far worse things waiting than we can ever imagine… Numinous, surreal and gut wrenching, New Fears is a vibrant collection showcasing the very best fiction modern horror has to offer.

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Okay, so I initially went into Waterstones hunting for the final installment in Ezekiel Boone’s Hatching trilogy (check out my reviews for the first two books here and here) and came out instead with New Fears. My quest for Zero Day ended in failure (I eventually ordered it and am now happily devouring it), but the cover for New Fears pulled me in simply because it put me in mind of the covers of The Hatching and Skitter. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions in my reviews of Boone’s books that I’m prone to night terrors that revolve solely around bugs so any horror book that has such things adorning its cover is guaranteed to be a book that’ll scare the living crap out of me (metaphorically, of course).

There were a couple of stories within New Fears that genuinely creeped me out, namely The House of the Head, which is unique take on the traditional haunted house story in the respect that it’s about a haunting that takes place inside a dolls house. We witness the events unfolding through the eyes of a young girl, who’s reflecting upon it many years later as a grown woman. The description of the creepy ass doll’s head which seems to be at the epicenter of the haunting genuinely chilled me and don’t even get me started on the scene where the girl can see its reflection in the dolls house bathroom mirror…despite not actually seeing it in the bathroom! Also, somewhat ironically, this story was written by Josh Malerman whose novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake I didn’t get on with overly well.

However, I found a majority of the stories somewhat anticlimactic. The Salter Collection, for example, had a great premise. Imagine having an immense collection of phonograph cylinders dating back to more than a century ago, only to find undiscovered secret cylinders hidden beneath the outer wax coating, cylinders that contain sound recordings of a mysterious language and haunting screams. That’s pretty cool, right? Well, yeah, it would have been if the ending hadn’t fallen so flat. It’s sometimes good to leave the conclusion of a story open ended, but I have to confess and say that I didn’t understand it at all. I don’t know, maybe I’m a bit stupid and not good at reading between the lines. I mean, I don’t need things spoon feeding to me but I just found it didn’t seem to make sense.

An intriguing collection of horror stories nonetheless and well worth a read. Amazon informs me that a second collection is due out later this year!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Song: Eels’ Fresh Blood

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This book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-reader format.

‘Dracula’ Bram Stoker

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Bram Stoker’s peerless tale of desperate battle against a powerful, ancient vampire, the Penguin Classics edition of ‘Dracula’ is edited with notes and an introduction by Maurice Hindle, as well as a preface by Christopher Frayling.

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘master’. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries – led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing – Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

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Does a novel that’s 120 years old really need a spoiler alert notice stamping across its review? Hmm probably not, but I was once famed for my spoilers and I refuse to ruin yet more books for my adoring fans. There are just so many elements of this book that I want to discuss and it would be impossible to do so without letting slip major plot points.

So, Dracula, eh? My last encounter with the titular character was during my reading of a horrifically bad paranormal romance trilogy in which Dracula (or Vlad, c’mon, let’s use first names here, no point in being shy…I mean, I did read a graphic description of his, ahem, manhood), but I had this deep rooted desire to read about the actual Dracula, the original Dracula, the Dracula who has inspired generations of people in everything from music to art, from movies to Halloween costumes.

I will confess; I did try and read this book some years ago but Jonathan Harker’s fifty page account of travelling through the Carpathians proved too much for my 17 year old self (may or may not have exaggerated just slightly there). However, having seen this pretty Penguin English Library edition sitting on a shelf in Waterstones, I felt compelled to give Jonathan one more chance. Just one more single chance, though. Life’s too short for boring books after all.

But Dracula is far from boring. The issue, it seems, lay more with my impatient teenage self, who disliked the lengthy descriptions so often found in Victorian literature. The thing with Victorian literature is this; the readers whose eyes first read the words we’re still reading today didn’t have the likes of Google at the literal tips of their fingers. They didn’t have £40 EasyJet flights into central Europe. They didn’t have Netflix streaming movies from all over the globe. Their world was their home, their street and their town. Places such as Transylvania were far off places of almost mythical proportions. The overly lengthy descriptions were essential. How could a writer immerse their readers in a story if the place in which it was set was unimaginable?

Dracula struck me as a Victorian novel that’s very…well, unVictorian. In a time when a woman’s place was deemed as the kitchen and more than two decades before women won the right to vote (that right with many conditions placed upon it), the character of Mina Murray is a breath of fresh air. Sure, she’s annoyingly dramatic in places (well, I guess most people would be if their best friend had to be beheaded because they’d become a god damned shit sucking vampire), but she’s treated as an equal among the men. Towards the end of the novel, when they’re off gallivanting in hot pursuit of the boxed up Dracula, Mina accompanies them and she’s recognised as the valuable asset asset that she is. She’s brave, intelligent and resourceful.  She’s never treated as a hindrance and her opinion is always, always taken into consideration. Jonathan is initially reluctant for her to travel to Dracula’s castle (for obvious reasons), but he hears her out and eventually understands that it’s her right to exact revenge against Dracula.

In regards to Dracula himself, I initially assumed that I’d been desensitised to horror books. I read The Shining when I was 12 and figured nothing would ever scare or creep me out again in regards to a horror novel…but that moment when Jonathan sees Dracula freaking crawling down the castle walls? Eugh! That’s a scene that had shudders wracking my body! Creeeeeeeepy! My only issues with Dracula himself were a) how little he appears in a book with his name gracing the cover and b) how easily he was defeated. I won’t go into details for those who haven’t read it, but that scene is near enough over and done with in five pages. For such a feared, centuries-old being, it didn’t seem feasible that he’d be taken down so easily.

I can see why this book has endured for as long as it has and, minor faults aside, it’s one that should be read by all horror fans. The book itself is the forefather of modern horror and Dracula is the forefather of the modern vampire.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: HIM’s Vampire Heart (RIP HIM, the first band to ever capture my heart)

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format…and the Kindle version is free!

 

 

‘Wild Embers’ Nikita Gill

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WILD EMBERS explores the fire that lies within every soul, weaving words around ideas of feeling at home in your own skin, allowing yourself to heal and learning to embrace your uniqueness with love from the universe.

Featuring rewritten fairytale heroines, goddess wisdom and poetry that burns with revolution, this collection is an explosion of femininity, empowerment and personal growth.

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First and foremost, I’d like to thank Nikita Gill and her wonderful collection for presenting me with a great opportunity to whip out my adorable panda and kitty page markers that I received over Christmas…

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Asda Living if you’re wanting to get your own space kitty bedding.

I’ve read a lot of poetry over the past year and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said Nikita’s Wild Embers is by far my favourite collection yet.

Compared with a lot of other poetry that I’ve read, I found the poems within this collection to be…simple. ‘Simple’ is a word that carries often negative connotations, but I use the description in this instance in the most positive of ways. I find it’s common for poets – myself included – to use overly fancy metaphors which, while beautiful, can detract from the message that the poet is trying to convey. The focus becomes the cleverness of the metaphor and not the importance of the meaning it carries. Nikita’s poetry is beautifully written but, at the same time, gets straight to the heart of the matter.

One of the running themes throughout Wild Embers is this idea that pain is normal and that we’re allowed to feel it. Very often, well meaning poets write things like “Don’t let anyone bring you down!” and it can almost make you, as a reader, feel weak for allowing negative feelings to attach themselves to you. Nikita assures each of her readers that feeling like this is normal and that it’s okay to feel sad when reflecting on the past, but at the same time she gently encourages us to move forward…to almost thank the pain for what it has taught us and use the strength it has bestowed upon us to move forward. One such example of this can be found within the piece Graveyards and Gardens, in which Nikita talks about the graveyards we harbour inside of us, graveyards which are made up of the people that hurt us and the memories that go along with these people. She talks about us making gardens from these graveyards, using the nutrient-rich ground under which these memories are buried to build afresh. She doesn’t tell us to eradicate those bad memories; she simply tells us to use them as a base upon which to create happier ones.

One of my favourite parts of this collection was the poems dedicated to fairy tale princesses, such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. We’ve all heard retellings of these famed stories, but Nikita puts a completely unique spin on them, writing about how Cinderella’s godmother was, in fact, a lawyer who took her stepmother and stepsisters to court because they had unlawfully evicted her from a house that was legally hers. Taking some of the magic and miracles out of these fairytales and reimagining these women as resourceful, pragmatic individuals is refreshing and each of Nikita’s readers will be able to see a little of themselves in these characters.

I can’t recommend Wild Embers enough!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps from Hell’s Victory 

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

‘Archangel’s Viper’ Nalini Singh

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Once a broken girl known as Sorrow, Holly Chang now prowls the shadowy grey underground of the city for the angels. But it’s not her winged allies who make her a wanted woman – it’s the unknown power coursing through her veins. Brutalised by an insane archangel, she was left with the bloodlust of a vampire, the ability to mesmerise her prey, and a poisonous bite.

Now, someone has put a bounty on her head . . .

Venom is one of the Seven, Archangel Raphael’s private guard, and he’s as infuriating as he is seductive. A centuries-old vampire, his fangs dispense a poison deadlier than Holly’s. But even if Venom can protect Holly from those hunting her, he might not be able to save himself – because the strange, violent power inside Holly is awakening . . .

No one is safe.

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Potential spoilers!

Considering the Guildhunter series is one of my favourites and Archangel’s Viper was released back in September, it has taken me a hell of a long time to get around to reading it…was the wait worth it?

Yes and no. Let me explain.

The Guildhunter series began way back in 2009 and the first book is the book in which we, the readers, first meet Holly. I was a bit of a latecomer to the series, reading Angel’s Blood in 2014, but throughout the next eight books, I always found myself wondering about Holly and Venom. There was just something beneath the taunts that they threw at one another, something other than simple contempt and resignation in being lumped with one another for Holly’s training.

And in Archangel’s Viper, the truth is revealed. These are two people unlike anyone else in the brutal Guildhunter universe. Venom, a vampire with snake-like eyes and impossible speed and agility and Holly, a not-quite-vampire cursed by the tainted essence of Uram, an archangel gone mad (understatement of the year *laughs nervously*)…these are two individuals who both captivate and horrify those around them, but find understanding and acceptance with one another, even if it is begrudgingly prior to this book.

The storyline itself is great. Holly may be a fictional character, but seeing her evolve from the broken, self-named Sorrow into the rainbow-haired, badass woman that she is now has been incredible. Strong female characters are often lacking in paranormal romance fiction, but the Guildhunter series is full of them…from Elena to Honor, from Ashwini to Mahiya, from Michaela (whose a bitch, but is still amazing) to Lijuan (who you can go on a date with here). There isn’t a single woman in these books – mortal, angel or vampire – who isn’t powerful in her own right and what makes these books even better is that the men in this series support them 100% and don’t feel ’emasculated’ by the fact that their female friends and partners can stand their own ground.

However.

The romantic element to Holly and Venom’s relationship was an ember that didn’t get stoked into a raging fire until about 80% of the way through the book (I was reading on Kindle). There was a lot of teasing and a lot of suggestive comments, but Venom didn’t start making her samosas or chai tea from scratch until the near end and while these scenes were touching in all their sweetness and cuteness…it just felt a bit rushed. Venom letting down his defenses and telling Holly about his past and about his Making seemed to come out of nowhere. I just feel that if Archangel’s Viper had been maybe fifty pages longer, I could have believed in their relationship more.

I felt the same about a specific plot element; the bounty on Holly’s head seems to play an integral role in the story as she and Venom prowl the dark underbelly of New York, searching for information regarding the person offering five million for her. They get sidetracked by other things (which I won’t reveal because it’d be a major spoiler), and the whole thing is forgotten about until the end of the book, when it’s quickly explained that it was merely a ‘flunky’ in Charisemnon’s court taking a shine to her because of her connection to Uram. What initially began as a major plot element devolved into nothing and was explained away in the space of two pages.

Archangel’s Viper isn’t my favourite, but it’s a good addition to a fantastic series.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Song: Nine Inch Nails’ Dead Souls (the lyrics just fit perfectly with Holly, plus it’s on the soundtrack of one of my favourite movies)

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This book is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-reader format.

 

‘The Amityville Horror’ Jay Anson

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The classic and terrifying story of one of the most famous supernatural events–the infamous possessed house on Long Island from which the Lutz family fled in 1975.

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SPOILER ALERT!

Okay, so this was meant to be my Halloween special review (you can check out last year’s here), but because I’m shit, I’m 11 days late (doing the review, not that kinda late. Don’t worry, there’ll be no baby Jazzs, thank God). Better late than never, though, right?

So The Amityville Horror was gifted to me on my birthday way back in early October and I was super excited to get stuck in. My favourite kind of horror stories are the kind that are supposedly built upon a foundation of truth (and I use the term ‘favourite’ very loosely here because how can something that scares the metaphorical shit out of me possibly be my favourite? Some mysteries will have to remain unsolved).

The book begins in December 1975, with the Lutz family moving into their new home at 112 Ocean Avenue in the town of Amityville. However, just over one year prior, on 13th November 1974, the spacious family home bore witness to a grisly mass murder at the hands of Ronald DeFeo. The Lutz family aren’t superstitious, though, and while they think the crime tragic and unfortunate, they’re nonetheless excited to move into their new home with their three children.

112 Ocean Avenue was to be their home but for a mere twenty eight days.

What I found chilling about The Amityville Horror is that it doesn’t play out like your stereotypical, run-of-the-mill horror. The events described within it predate horror tropes that began to creep into movies and books of the same genre in much later years (like the green Jel-o type substance seeping down the walls, which instantly put me in mind of Slimer from Ghostbusters, a movie which was released in 1984, seven years after this book). There were also some events – like the black water in the toilets and the front door being violently warped and ripped off its hinges – that I have yet to read of in other books and its the originality of these events that add an air of authenticity to this book. I found myself reading The Amityville Horror and thinking “This sounds pretty convincing” and when you can actually imagine those types of events happening to yourself and your own family, that’s when the chills really begin to seep into your bones.

The horror is a slow-burner. There are multiple occasions when the Lutzs dismiss their experiences as tiredness or their imaginations and what makes for a real edge-of-your-seat horror story is that by the time they realise that something quite other is at play, it’s too late.

What I find most interesting about this story, outside of Jay Anson’s book, is that subsequent owners have reported no such events as the Lutz family described. What do you think? Do you think the Lutz family simply wanted their 15 minutes of fame? Do you think their prior knowledge of the house’s history influenced their perception of otherwise natural occurrences? Did the entities that DeFeo claimed ‘spoke’ to him see something of DeFeo in George Lutz? Let me hear your ideas in the comments below!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Roger Daltrey’s Don’t let the sun go down on me (because who’d want to spend a night in that house?)

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This book is available on Amazon in a shit ton of different formats (okay, like five)

 

 

 

 

‘The Sun and Her Flowers’ Rupi Kaur

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From Rupi Kaur, the bestselling author of Milk and Honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. Illustrated by Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming. It is a celebration of love in all its forms.

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It seems that the world had been eagerly awaiting the publication of Rupi Kaur’s the sun and her flowers in the wake of the New York Time’s bestselling success that was milk & honey (for which you can see the review of here). I thoroughly enjoyed Rupi’s first collection of poetry, finding the combination of simple yet powerful prose alongside equally simple yet powerful illustrations to be something unlike anything I had ever encountered before in poetry.

I wasn’t 100% sure of what I’d think of the sun and her flowers, if I’m really honest. I found that in the wake of milk & honey’s success, a lot of poets, particularly on platforms such as Instagram, were trying to emulate Rupi’s very distinct style. I find being inspired by a person is a wonderful thing; I myself tried my hand at micropoetry and found the challenge of trying to incorporate as much emotion into as few a words as possible to be refreshing. As a writer, it’s always good to experiment with different styles…but as I said, I found a lot of people were trying to emulate Rupi herself. This isn’t a criticism of these people in any way, but I think it’s so important to find your own voice and style too. Being inspired is great, but drawing on that inspiration to forge your own style is even better. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I’ve read so much Rupi-esque poetry following my reading of milk & honey that I was half expecting to be sick of it by now.

But I wasn’t. the sun and her flowers is a thicker volume than milk & honey and it expands upon and adds to the hard-hitting themes explored within its predecessor. There’s themes of abuse, self-neglect, lost love, moving forward, racism, sexism…basically, it’s a collection in which everyone, regardless of their gender, age, sexuality or race, will find a poem or two with which they can relate. In particular, I found the poems regarding Rupi’s parents to be interesting albeit often painful. Their experiences of starting a new life in the USA are experiences that are still relevant today within the current climate, a climate in which immigrants are too often looked upon with scorn and suspicion. It makes for a powerful message.

As with milk & honey, I have no doubt that the sun and her flowers will draw its fair share of criticism. If I stop slurping my tea, I can almost hear the naysayers with their cries of “But it isn’t real poetry!”…but how do we define poetry? Poetry is about the creative expression of thoughts, feelings and ideas and I find it unfair to judge Rupi’s work against the likes of, as I saw in one review, Byron. They’re two completely different people living in vastly different ages. As with everything, poetry has changed vastly over time and while it’s fine to appreciate the works of long-dead poets, it’s also completely fine to appreciate the works of living, up and coming poets.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: David Guetta’s (feat. Sia) Titanium 

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

‘Cleaving Souls’ Chauncey Rogers

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Some dangers you cannot outrun. Some nightmares do not end when you wake.

Something is watching Katherine Harris. She can feel it when she goes out. She can feel it inside her home. She feels it in her bed. Her husband, Alex, wants to blame her anxiety on her pregnancy, but he’s often away for work. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be stuck in a small town, to be trapped in a tiny house on a run-down street, to be alone. Kat does, and the feeling only grows worse. 

Whatever is going on, Kat’s certain that it’s far more serious than pregnancy jitters. When Alex takes Kat on a second honeymoon to get her mind off things, it becomes far more dangerous as well.

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I received a free copy of Cleaving Souls, courtesy of Chauncey, in exchange for an honest review. I reviewed Chauncey’s previous book, Home to Roost, the review of which you can check out here.

When I first heard about Cleaving Souls, it seemed to tick all the right boxes on my list of What makes a great novel. Horror? Check (hey, it is Halloween month after all!) Written by Chauncey Rogers, author of Home to Roost, which is one of my best reads of 2017? Check. Intriguing premise? Double check. I had high hopes for Cleaving Souls and I was eager to delve right in.

It did not disappoint. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Cleaving Souls went above and beyond my already high expectations.

One of the first things I want to highlight is Chauncey’s ability to completely immerse his readers in the events within his novels. My reading of this book began in a drafty launderette, where I had to sit for an hour waiting for my laundry to dry. The launderette is bitterly cold in October and the plastic seat I was sat upon did little to enhance my comfort…but I barely noticed my dismal surroundings. Upon reading the first page, the world around me seemed to melt away and was replaced by the disconcerting town of Peascombe in which the book’s protagonist, Kat, lives with her husband.

Let’s talk about the prologue.

The prologue effectively reels a reader in. It’s a prologue that had me asking a lot of questions, questions which I can’t reveal here without giving away potential spoilers. I will say this, though; the answers to your questions don’t start being revealed until around three quarters of the way through the book, meaning it keeps you guessing. I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoy books that have me theorizing throughout and the great thing about Cleaving Souls is that my various theories regarding the gradually worsening creepy happenings in Kat’s life came nowhere near to the actuality of them. The truth underpinning Kat’s dreams and the voice she keeps hearing is far darker than I could have ever imagined.

Which leads me quite nicely onto the horror elements of this book. A lot of horror these days is blood, guts and gore and while that makes me insanely uncomfortable, it doesn’t outright scare me. It doesn’t keep me awake at night. I just watch a few funny videos on YouTube and bam, I forget about it.

Not with Cleaving Souls, though. The horror within this book is creepy. It’s unsettling. It’s unnerving. It’s the kind of horror that stays with you long after you’ve put the book down (hence why it wasn’t a book that I read before sleep). For me, one of the most unnerving elements of Cleaving Souls is Kat’s initial uncertainty over what is and isn’t real. How terrifying must it be to question your own sanity when (spoiler alert) you see your reflection in the TV screen doing things that you most definitely are not? How unsettling must it be to receive texts that disappear, leaving you (and your spouse) wondering if they were ever there at all?

Cleaving Souls is a fresh, innovative book within its genre and one that will keep you guessing right until its terrifying end. If you’re looking for a creepy book to keep you company on these cold, dark nights leading up to Halloween, Cleaving Souls is the book for you.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Queen’s I’m going slightly mad 

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This book is available  to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

 

‘Dark World’ Zak Bagans

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Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans pulls from his years of experience with paranormal activities and unexplained phenomena to provide an even-handed look at a divisive subject

It’s easy to say ghosts exist or don’t exist. Anyone can do that. Trying to figure out the why or what is a different story. Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans, host of the popular Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures, pulls from his years of experience with paranormal activities and unexplained phenomena to provide an evenhanded look at a divisive subject.

In Dark World, regardless of whether you believe in the afterlife or not, Zak does his best to find and share answers to the phenomena that people encounter. He wants you to experience a haunting through his eyes: to feel what it’s like to be scared, freaked out, pushed, cold, sluggish, whispered-at and touched by an ethereal being or attacked by a demonic spirit. But beyond simply experiencing these events, Zak is looking for the reasons behind them, searching for answers to the unanswered questions.

Addressing all the major issues and theories of the field in an impartial way, Dark World is a must read for paranormal enthusiasts, those who don’t believe and anyone who’s ever wondered about things that go bump in the night.

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So something a little bit different for today’s review and I have to be honest and say I stupidly didn’t start this book for ages because I read mostly at night and was expecting this to be scary…(and the fact that this wasn’t particularly scary is not a criticism. I have enough night terrors and nightmares at it is, sheesh). Anyway, I’ve been interested in the paranormal for yeeeeeeeeeeeeears, though, having had my first unexplained, spooky experience when I was six years old so I really, really wanted to read this book.

Okay, so, my family tease me relentlessly for watching paranormal investigation shows and when I watch the odd episode of Most Haunted…I can totally see why. They run around screaming and whenever stuff happens, it’s always, always conveniently off camera.

But Ghost Adventures is different. Sure, it can be hilariously dramatic sometimes but the GA crew take what they do seriously. If something happens or if something is captured on video or on a digital recorder, they don’t just take it at face value. They go out of their way to try and debunk it before slapping a ‘Paranormal’ label on it.

And this is why I wanted to read Zak Bagans’ book. There’s only so much that they can fit into an hour long episode and I was hoping Dark World would provide me with an opportunity to delve behind the scenes and turn a two dimensional TV viewer’s perspective into something more. 

Dark World did not disappoint.

The book seems to be split into two halves; the first half is an account of Zak’s personal experiences with the paranormal and an in depth discussion of his past investigations with his team, while the second half is an eye opening exploration into the various paranormal theories out there, including some of his own. I’m not gonna lie, some of the theories seem pretty, well, out there but hey, it wasn’t so long ago (well, in terms of human existence anyway) that people thought the notion of the Earth revolving around the sun was pretty cray cray. I particularly enjoyed the first half the book because I enjoy knowing the hows and the whys. When I first began binge watching Ghost Adventures, I will be honest and say I thought Zak was just an over confident, overly bossy guy and having read Dark World, I have to confess that I feel quite bad in that initial assumption because there’s a reason behind it all. If you’re not confident in an investigation, why should anyone (dead or alive) take you seriously? If you don’t take charge of the situation, an investigation becomes somewhat shambolic with people having no idea of what they should be doing.

My only real issue with this book was the dramatic change in tone in the second half the book. It became quite theoretical and while I did find it interesting, I did find it quite heavy going at times because I don’t come from a science background. However, I do appreciate this might say more about me than it does about the book. Having just started an MA, I have been sitting here up the eyeballs in journal papers and textbooks so it’s quite possible that I’m just theoried out. The theories within this book and Zak’s ability to view the paranormal from a range of different perspectives demonstrate both his passion for this subject and his maturity about it. A lot of people just scoff and say “Ha! Ghosts!? Bullfuckingshit.” without actually taking any arguments, research and evidence into consideration. Zak seems to say to his readers, believers and skeptics alike, “I get that this seems pretty weird, but hear me out and keep an open mind about it.”  He understands and appreciates that there are people who are rightfully skeptical, but through this book, he presents his evidence and allows people to make up their own minds. He’s presented evidence that the paranormal does exist in a clear and thoroughly researched manner, so perhaps it’s time that the skeptics presented their evidence that the paranormal doesn’t exist.

This book is relatively old (well, like, 6 or 7 years) and I know Zak has written other books since. It’d be interesting to see how his ideas have changed in the years following this book’s publication.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: Ghostbuster’s theme (believe me, I wanted to find something a bit more deep and meaningful, but it’s the only song that seems to truly fit…honest…)

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This book is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format.

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