Blog Tour: Those Who Came Before by J.H Moncrieff

Good evening internet and welcome to my stop on the Random Things Tours blog tour for Those Who Came Before by J.H Moncrieff!

An idyllic weekend camping trip is cut short when Reese Wallace’s friends
are brutally murdered. As the group’s only survivor, Reese is the prime
suspect,and his story doesn’t make much sense. A disembodied voice
warning him to leave the campground the night before? A strange,
blackened tree that gave him an electric shock when he cut it down for
firewood?
Detective Greyeyes isn’t having any of it—until she hears the voice herself
and finds an arrowhead at the crime scene—an arrowhead she can’t get rid
of. Troubling visions of a doomed Native American tribe who once called
the campground home,and rumors of cursed land and a mythical beast
plague the strangest murdercase she’s ever been a part of.
People are dying at Strong Lake, and the worst is yet to come

I am LIVING for all these wonderful new horror books. First off I want to say, this book always had me double guessing, not always in a good way but, still it kept me on my toes during while following the plot. The second thing I want to say, I am relieved to have finally read a horror book where the Native American perspective is “cursed burial ground white people build houses on”.

This story is not waiting to hold your hand, it kicks off right away with the massacre happening in the first few pages and the mystery then unfolds from there. The plot is definitely a quicker paced book, I read the majority of it in one sitting but I did find the ending kind of ran at me a little bit. There is also a switch from first to third person between both Reece and Maria which jarred me a bit. Outside of that, this book was a wonderful mix of police procedural and horror story of a violent and brutal past the Native’s have experienced.

Maria Greyeyes functions as our main anchor in both of these worlds, being half Native herself and being the main detective on the case. She is my favourite character of the story by far and as she experiences visions of the Mescenaki Nation we are experiencing first hand her own confrontation of her peoples history as well as ours. Reece Wallace unfortunately for me was eclipsed by the enigmatic Chief Kinew whenever he was on the page.

This is a subtle, well written horror story with a strong root in reality, both historically and in modern day. The horror itself does to tend to lean more towards gore and body horror but the true horror is having to face on the page what true struggles the Native American people experience still to this day. Police brutality, alcoholism, sexual and institutional abuse are just some of the topics covered in the book and are presented very graphically. Moncrieff is definitely not allowing the reader to look away and ignore these very relevant issues that are an everyday problem that we as a white audience, would usually try to ignore.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, especially the topics it discussed and I enjoyed the ending despite the little pacing issues I discovered. If anyone is curious as to the relationship that the Irish and the Native people of America share to this day I do beg you to click here and read for yourself.

★★★★/5

About the author:

J.H. Moncrieff J.H. Moncrieff’s City of Ghosts won the 2018 Kindle Book Review Award for best Horror/Suspense. Reviewers have described her work as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure. She won Harlequin’s search for “the next Gillian Flynn” in 2016. Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.
When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class.

Thank you as always to Anne and Flame Tree Press for sending me a free copy of this book to review in my own words and thank you also for reading!

Blog Tour: The Influence by Ramsey Campbell

Today I’m kicking off the RandomThingsTour blog tour for The Influence by Ramsey Campbell.

‘The wall felt chill and gritty, yet it made her think of softened flesh. She recoiled before she had time to gasp, but the sensations clung to her, swarmed through her.’

Synopsis: Queenie is the ageing matriarch of the Faraday family,and even death can’t break her hold over her eleven-year-old granddaughter Rowan. She’s buried with a locket that contains a lock of Rowan’s hair and by the time anyone sees what effect the ghostly influence on Rowan is having, it may be too late for her.

This was one creepy read. I have never read any of Ramsey Campbell’s work prior to this and I’m very intrigued now. The writing is haunting while managing to create a disctinct atmosphere that makes me feel like I’ve actually been to Wales.

As mentioned, the book moves between Wales and Liverpool but the most distinct locations are the Wales and the house the novel takes place in. Queenie is such a bitter malevolent person that her spirit has infected the house. I’m referring to when she is alive by the way. The house is riddled with damp and rot with barely functioning electricity. I honestly hated every second of being in it, it reminded me of a mildewy house left to die while still having someone live there.

I am still in awe of the atmosphere that Campbell has created. When we are in Wales during the course of the novel its described so well I felt like I was there. Especially when Campbell is describing the damp weather and the rain that seems to cling to everything. There are so many creepy moments that take place in the dark in drizzly, wet conditions during the winter months and that is the weather at the moment in Ireland so it felt very real.

Queenie is a prime example of how age and time are nothing against the sheer iron will of someone who refuses to be triumphed by anything or anyone. In this case it’s literal death. I think everyone knows a woman who would remind them of Queenie, I know I did while reading and honestly put me in the same position of Rowan. I felt a very personal connection to what Rowan was going through with trying to figure out where she fit between her parents, her aunt Hermione and Queenie. I was very like Rowan at her age so I felt very protective of her during the whole book.

Something I felt that was an indication of the strength of Campbell’s writing was if the haunting was taken away, I would still find this book very creepy. Between the atmosphere, the unsettling house and just the sheer tension within this family I would still be very unsettled reading this.

Outside of the supernatural, Campbell brings up some very scary real life things that also add to the dread. There is a relative who is a paedophile , moments of claustrophobia and children with terminal ilnesses. Campbell manages to hold up a mirror to our society so we can see the true dangers out there for children. Legacy is a big theme in this novel and its influence (see what I did there?).

I highly recommend this book to any horror fans. This book was originally published in 1989 and won several awards back when it was first published and now has been adapted for Netflix in Spanish.

★★★★/5

About the Auhor:

Ramsey Campbell was born in Liverpool in 1946 and still lives on Merseyside. The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes him as “Britain’s most respected living horror
writer”. He has been given more awards than any other writer in the field, including the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association, the Living Legend Award of the International Horror
Guild and the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thank you once again to Anne and Flame Tree Press for this fantastic opportunity and for sending me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: Slash by Hunter Shea

Good evening and welcome to my stop on RandomThingsTours blog tour for Slash by Hunter Shea. This is so exciting as this is my first blog tour and I have a second today also!

‘He felt like a character in a Scooby Doo cartoon where their legs spin and spin before actually propelling them forward.
We’re not some meddling kids and that’s not an angry old man in a mask, he thought.’

Synopsis: The Wraith is back.

Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith.

With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains. What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims. The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.

I’m so happy I got to read this book in October. What a perfect time of year for a good old fashioned slasher tale. I stayed up late to finish this and that is always a joyous experience for me that a book will keep me from sleeping.

The location of the Hayden Resort was very suspenseful and set up perfectly for this isolated tale of people trying to survive against a faceless killer. The scale of the resort made the story even more tense since the Wraith could literally be anywhere on the resort, from the ice rink to the bungalows people used to stay in when on the resort. It also presents a fantastic opportunity for some gruesome scenes between the Wraith and it’s victims. I also found there to be echoes back to the Overlook Hotel in places but that might be totally personal.

Shea writes very realistic characters which I feel helped this book in a huge way. The book gives us very little time with Ashley however so when her tragic suicide happens we don’t get much time to develop attachment to her. Todd is understandably trying to cling to every details of Ashley’s essence which leads him to make some questionable decisions. There is a moment however where he goes on a podcast that I feel would be something I would do in his place.

The other characters are reassuringly intelligent and very varied. I think one of the most infuriating things that happens in horror movies are because people who up to a point make very normal decisions suddenly throw caution to the wind and just do stupid stuff. They also all have very distinct personalities, especially Sharon, who is a total badass.

I can’t not talk about the Wraith. As a villain, he is quite frightening and you can’t feel safe at any time. He does have a quality that some famous horror movie icons where he seems unstoppable without reason and just keeps on coming. I felt like we got some good background about him as well as a killer who was satisfying. The Wraith is ruthless and some of the deaths he gives some of the characters are quite brutal and gory. I loved it.

However one of the things I liked most about this book was it’s awareness of the Final Girl trope and how damaging it would be in reality. I strongly recommend if you are interested in horror reading the source book and the writer who coined the term ‘Final Girl’ so you understand the roots of the name. The idea of the Final Girl is empowering in terms of film theory and discussion. If in a world of social media as Todd mentions, people who glamourise serial killers can do more harm than good.

Thank you very much to Anne and Flame Tree press for providing me with this opportunity and a copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for reading!

★★★★/4

About the Author:

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn t just write about the paranormal he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. He s the author of over 25 books, including The Jersey Devil (Pinnacle) and We Are Always Watching (Sinister Grin). Hunter s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. The Montauk Monster was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publishers Weekly. He was selected to be part of the launch of Samhain Publishing s new horror line in 2011 alongside legendary author Ramsey Campbell. He s an avid podcaster and can be heard and seen on Monster Men and Final Guys every week. Living with his crazy and supportive family and two cats, he s happy to be close enough to New York City to see the skyline without having to pay New York rent. You can follow his travails at www.huntershea.com.

Sequels I Need to Read this Year

I think the thing that we readers can all mostly agree that we forget to do or leave slip a lot are sequels to books we have read. Sequels can be either the most daunting or the most exciting thing to read. I have been both people, where I ran to the book shop the night after I finished a book (looking at you Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children and Red Rising) or have not touched the next book despite loving the first.

I managed to narrow the list down to the following but trust me it is larger;

  • The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera: The sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, The Tiger’s Daughter, I ordered this 2 days after publication. The last book in the trilogy has since been published and I haven’t even read this. I devoured The Tiger’s Daughter in 3 sittings and have yet to read this. I’m not sure if it’s fear of the next step for these characters or I’ll be disappointed in the outcome.
  • The Invasion by Peadar Ó’Guilín: I have no doubt I will love this since I loved the first book so very much but this boils down to more of a time issue than a fear of what awaits me. Don’t get me wrong, I am scared, but not for the quality of the writing or story but of the fact these Sidhe are literally coming back. I have owned this since a big snow storm we had last year and will definitely read before the year ends.
  • The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan: I hope to review the first book in this world, The Gracekeepers, hopefully someday on this blog but I want to get to this first. This is the sequel to a literary fantasy that has a very atmospheric setting, selkies, mermaids and water based people who look after the dead and I’m fairly sure it’s also a prequel. This is perfect for November reading so this is high on the list.
  • Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: I read the first book in this Hugo nominated series in January and holy shit did I become obsessed. Native American culture, monster hunting gals who take no shit and a Mad Max style world that has the old God’s coming back? Fuck. Yes. The book ends on a mild cliffhanger but I honestly was intending to read this before World Con but Roanhorse had to cancel last minute which changed by priorities a bit. This is a fast paced world so hopefully I can book end the year with this.
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I feel like this book needs no introduction considering the win it gained but I have kept this next to my bed since I collected my pre order and I have not picked it up once. I’m hoping to get to it this year since it is a a sequel of a definitive classic and an author I do love but who knows, I am saying that for all of these.

So that is my list of dreaded sequels that I hope to read this year, mind you I will probably prioritise a few of them over others. Do you have a sequel you are avoiding? Join me in my procrastination! Seriously, I’m lonely over here.

Locke and Key: Volumes 1&2 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez Review

Joe Hill is one of my favourite authors of all time and his work in comics is no different to the wonderful writing of his novels. I was lucky enough to meet him at World Con this year and I felt it high time I read Locke and Key again.

Locke and Key takes place across 6 main volumes whole following the Locke family living in Keyhouse. After the sudden death of their father, the Locke family find themselves moving to the town of Lovecraft. What should be the fresh start they need is replaced with some mysterious keys, a monster in a well and a

Both the first and second volume of this series set up the town of Lovecraft and Keyhouse for us. Lovecraft is your typical small town with an undisclosed past that we are currently only given glimpses of through various characters. Keyhouse however is very present on the page with it’s many unraveling mysteries. First off the house has a well house, that’s your first red flag. Among other things there’s a door that with the right key you can become a ghost when you unlock it.

The keys are the true highlight alongside the 3 Locke children; Bode, Kinsey and Tyler. By the end of Volume 2:Head Games we know that names and functions of 5 keys, with the mention of another. I intend to review 2 volumes at a time with this series so I will expand on them all once I finish the series. As mentioned the real standout is the Locke family themselves. I do think that the keys are tied to young people somehow since there are flashbacks of the previous lives of the parents of the Locke children and their peers but I will have to wait and see.

Dodge however is my favourite character so far. Dodge is the villian of the series so far. Introduced as a woman who lives in the wellhouse (I did warn you) who only talks to Bode, the youngest Locke child, then later is freed and changes both gender and identity and befriends Tyler, the eldest. Dodge has a few identities and changes gender with one of the keys to suit his/her agenda. Dodge also comes back to settle some kind of score with the previous generation of Lovecraft and I can’t wait to see what he/she has in store.

Hill and Rodriguez have a unique pairing that I have only seen once or twice in comics, where the art is made real by the writing and the writing is useless without the art. Hill is a fantastic novelist with a gift for pacing and the horrific but honestly this wouldn’t work without the unique way it is brought to life by Rodriguez and his unique style.

Thank you for reading, have you read Locke and Key? Have you read the whole series? Tell me below as I continue to unravel the mystery of Keyhouse.

  • Locke and Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft -★★★★/5
  • Locke and Key Vol 2: Head Games – ★★★★.5/5

Book Chat: Changing Reading Tastes with Adult and YA Books

Good evening everyone. So to begin right away I feel like I should give a bit of background to explain why I chose to write this post. By the way before I do get started, I do still read certain YA books. I’m not throwing shade or criticising the genre, this is just a discussion of changing reading tastes.

I have always been a huge reader. I have always tended to read more sci fi and fantasy (SFF) but do also read a lot of comics, horror, literary fiction and non fiction. I even once read a slew of books on the Tudors (another day). However when I got my first paying job in college I started to obviously buy more books. The ratio of these tended to be 70:30 YA to adult.

I like everyone else, read all the vampire titles that flooded the market post Twilight. I then dipped my toes into the dystopian books that were post Hunger Games (and hated most of it after reading Ray Bradbury’s ‘Faranheit 451’). I did my time, we all did.

I had continued reading at this ratio and I didn’t notice any changes until last year, so about February 2018. I did two things, I bought a copy of ‘The Belles’ by Dhonelle Clayton and I started reading the first book in the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, ‘Shadow and Bone’.

Since I finished Shadow and Bone I’ll talk about that one first. One of the first things that I really didn’t love about this book is the emphasis on the romance and the characterisation. The book spends a good amount of time dissecting Alina’s feelings towards Mal. I have found that more recent YA fantasies do have more emphasis on romance which isn’t one of my favourite plot devices. But I had read YA with a strong romance before, why now had this changed?

I also mentioned the characters were another issue I discovered. Now I haven’t actually continued the series so I don’t know if this changes but I found Alina’s character to be very weak as well as Mal. Both are very one dimensional, especially Alina with an emphasis on her low self esteem. Characters like that are always good to see especially in the YA bracket but I felt the way it was portrayed through Alina came aross as whiny and selfish.

I have very few criticisms with The Belles just that the writing and characters again were not really for me. I have tried 3 times to read this book and each time I can’t get past the first few chapters. The difference I noted in the writing style is very hard to put into words but I knew right away this was definitely a YA book. This is when I definitely knew that my tastes had changed.

Another thing I saw my opinion changing about was YA series and how they played out. One such series I loved was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I legitmately inhale read the first book and was fully obsessed with the series to the point I bought the next book the following day. The second book in the series as pictured above was much slower than the first and in my opinion didn’t deliver on the suspense of the first. Granted, it was now revealed who was the antagonist, the twist revealed etc but I still think that the series continued to lag after that.

I found this to be something I noticed in other YA series as well. Now I see it in adult series too, second book syndrome is alive and well (talking about you Red Rising) but there is a distinct thread through many of the YA SFF series I have read having an issue maintaining momentum over a series. I’m currently making my way through Tamora Pierce’s works of Tortall and the publication timeline of these runs from the 1980’s to now. The most recent book being published in 2018. These books were YA before the term was even coined and used but I find that the content of these books, as well as books such as Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, have a better pace and a writing pace that is more to my tastes.

That is to say, I have not stopped reading YA, or buying it. A good chunk of the books on my TBR are YA. Some examples include Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan and Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kauffman among so many more. I think it’s honestly the best thing I have learned about my reading tastes in years and its refreshing to know I can recognise this and grow as a reader.

I am now reading a ration of what is approximately 85:15, adult to YA. There was no book that drastically changed my opinion. I haven’t read all the hyped books such as A Court of Thorns and Roses or Simon vs the Homo-sapiens agenda either. This happened as a subtle change over a year or so. I honestly see nothing wrong with it since I think our reading tastes change over time naturally and to see this happen organically makes me think I could change my mind again and go back to reading mostly YA.

Do you think your reading tastes have changed over the years? If so what made you realise it had changed? I’d love to discuss this with you guys, thank you for reading.

Sci Fi Books Written by Women Authors that I Loved

In case you are new here, hi I’m Hedwig and I’m a lady that loves scifi and fantasy. I have also read an eclectic amount of both scifi, fantasy and horror written buy some wonderful women. I feel like sometimes I have read books that very few people seem to talk about that would make great books for discussions about various aspects of scifi.

So here I am with another list of some of these books that are firm favourites of mine that I’d love to be able to discuss with others at some stage. Just a not that I didn’t include Margaret Atwood since she is pretty well known. These are also just very good books you should check out anyway;

  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse: You have no idea how quickly I voted for this in the Hugo awards. This book follows Maggie Hoskie, a monster hunter of the Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation). The world we know has ended, destroyed by climate change and overrun with monsters, Gods and other entities. Maggie is then tasked with finding a missing girl and uncovers a much bigger threat to the entire tribe that she alone can fight. This book is AMAZING. Native culture is wonderful and not ever publicised enough in literature. All of the supernatural figures are not your usual greek or roman creatures which makes for a much more interesting book.
  • Kindred by Octavia E.Butler: Yes she may be known as Dame Octavia but noone is talking about her half as much as they should. This is the story of Dana who while moving into her new home with her husband, falls down nauseous and dizzy and wakes up in a river in 19th century Maryland which is a dangerous place for a black woman. Dana and her husband have to figure out why she is time travelling back to the antebellum South and how she can stay alive while she is there. This book is a hard but fantastic read. You are literally praying for Dana’s safety anytime she jumps back, you can’t put it down and the scenes are very raw descriptions of the tortures endured by people of colour during this time of slavery. Also a good introduction to Butler as an author.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin: No. I won’t shut up about this book. This books details the mission of human male Genly Ai. Ai is an agent for the Ekumen, an intergalactic counsel and has been tasked of convincing the planet Gethen (or Winter) to join the council. Gethenians have no gender, choosing to be male or female once a month during a period known as ‘kemmer’ and we follow Ai on his mission to both learn and navigate his way on Gethen. Never has this book been more relevant with its questions of gender, sexuality and the nature of war. This a powerful, quick read that mixes political machination with growing a relationship with someone from a world you know nothing of.
  • The Beauty by Aaliah Whiteley: A short but powerful story that is firmly within the New Weird category, within this world all the women are dead. Taken by a sickness, the men that are now left are living with the Group in the Valley of the Rocks. Nate is the storyteller of the group and relives memories of days past each night with the Group. How will they continue in a world without women? I won’t say anymore and will firmly remind you this is a book within the New Weird so it is WEIRD. It’s so well written and has a very very different outcome to what you may consider could be in the book. There are some very relevant questions in this book about societal structures, politics and gender roles in society. Definitely worth a read.
  • Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill: One of Cork’s own writers, this is a young adult book that hits very hard. In a future world, girls are created in labs, made for men and educated for their pleasures. All girls are numbered, rated and punished when not ‘suitable’. This book follows Freida as she and her closest friend, Isabel, approach their final year. Then Isabel starts putting on weight. Then she disappears briefly. Then the boys arrive and Frieda may have to do the unthinkable to survive. I read this book in a night and cried for ages after finishing. O’Neill has written other books that push subjects that need to be discussed such as date rape, love and bodily autonomy but nothing will haunt you as much as this future that remakes The Handmaids Tale into something scarier.
  • The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor: Phoenix is a 2 year old woman with the body and mins of an adult and a product of New York’s Tower 7. Phoenix lives in the tower with other ‘accelerated humans’ and questions nothing about her life. Until her partner, Saeed, commits suicide at a result of seeing something horrible Phoenix then begins to realise her home is prison and she will soon discover her true power and how she will change humanity forever. I love Nnedi Okorafor’s book and this is no execption. The world building ,the characters and the writing are so vibrant with a very powerful presence on the page. This book moves from America to Africa and is a prequel to Okorafor’s other novel Who Fears Death. Phoenix is an angry, powerful character who questions everything around her and stands by her decisions and her mistakes.

So theres my list, I’ll be making one for my fantasy recs as well as horror but I think that there is something in here for everyone.

Do you have any books that are less hyped scifi? Do you have any favourites? I’d love to hear your recommendations. Thanks for reading guys!