Blog Tour: The Devil's Apprentice (The Great Devil War 1) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Good evening all and welcome to The Write Reads blog tour for The Devils Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen!

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

If there is one thing I love is good, old fashioned devil tale. As a figure of mythology and a commonly used figure of evil in popular culture, the devil’s greatest trick has been making us all so obsessed with him. I’m a massive fan of Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer from the Sandman comics, Angelheart is one of my favourite films and my dream is to have a cat named after him. Yep. A bit of a thing here.

So obviously this a is a far cry from the Lucifer comics and neither does it have Mickey Rourke but this book is wonderful. I really enjoyed the entire premise of the devil choosing a new successor but somehow choosing the wrong one. There is a sense of irony throughout the story such as Philip’s second name being a play on the word angel, the method of how he arrives in hell and a couple of other’s that are genuinely funny. It’s so hard to find good fantasy books with humor these days and this one is just that.

We obviously spend pretty much the entire book in Hell. It’s a Hell we know with condemned souls being tortured for all eternity but this is a Hell you also have never seen before. This is a far more mundane Hell. I mean that entirely as a compliment. There are teenage devils, devils that are part of a family unit, there’s festivals, people have jobs. It’s just a Hell that makes a lot more sense to any of us who work, go to school and lead everyday lives.

Philip is eternally wonderful and is a precious sweet lad who Lucifer intends to corrupt no matter what it takes. His gentle nature makes for a hilarious contrast with those who surround him. Lucifer especially in his weakened state reminded me of Rasputin from the Anastasia movie which I know shows my age but only made me enjoy it more. Any of the scenes between them both are highly entertaining and bring to mind the strangest jedi/padawan type relationship that I thought really improved the plot.

There were some tiny pacing issues for me, but then again the ending of the story does work to explain this but in places I did feel the plot could be a little inconsistent. The overall story is very readable and I found it so easy to get wrapped up in the whole world of the book and the every day (or should I say night) we get to see of Hell. I would like to have spent more time with Grumblebeard but that might just be me as a person.

I would like to thank Dave from The Write Reads for offering me a place on this fantastic blog tour and providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend this book for any fans of what I’ve discussed above and anyone who is in need of a fun fantasy with an fun twist on a typical story.

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill

Good evening dear readers and welcome to stop on the ever fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill!

She’s fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save
herself?
Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt in loss and rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.
As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.
Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself
for who you really are.

This kind of book is not usually my cup of tea but I still wanted to give it a try and unfortunately, I was correct that this was not to my tastes. BUT that does not mean I didn’t admire the writing of this book and the raw story woven with it.

The book is written almost in a stream of consciousness, patterned with Lydia’s thoughts and memories throughout the course of the story. Lydia is at a very low point in her life that I think we can all empathise with. The very honest discussion of miscarriages and how it affects both mothers to be and their relationships is an aspect I thought was particularly important. Too long the suffering of women has been ignored and hidden due to ‘shame’ and social norms that are nothing but harmful and old fashioned.

The plot can be difficult to follow in places due to Lydia’s point of view being affected by several factors. At one stage at the start of the novel she is taking MD at a fetish club and its very easy to lose track of what is happening. However it works very well for this book since Lydia as a character is intended to be a flawed, broken character on the very edge of discovering the self she truly is.

Something that I really took from the book was a story Lydia tells is that of a ballet class of when she was young and how she ended up playing a mushroom instead of a fairy in the big performance. All in all I could feel that sense of awkwardness and being the biggest misfit among girls my age come rushing back when I was that age. One quote stuck with me:

That’s what it’s like, when you’re a mushroom girl. You have to be grateful for the role life has handed you, because it is a pivotal role.

This is something I struggled with when I was younger, that you should be grateful and not complain about what you have been given in life. Fuck that. There is no need to ever settle for unhappiness, and Lydia does exactly this. She breaks out from her mould and embraces a side of herself that in doing things that may be harmful or excessive, she figures out her own pace and embraces her traumatic past to rescue herself.

A bold tale of rescue that even though it takes confronting the darkest corner of yourself to embrace what you truly are. Like I said, these kind of books are way outside my comfort zone but I felt deeply for Lydia and moments of the book have really stuck with me.

★★★.5/5

About the author:

Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artist and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon, to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages and, thank goodness, has never seen the light of day.
She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hands down to the publishing industry’s gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path.
She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.

Thank you very much to both Anne and Retreat West for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! Unprotected comes out today, November 28th.

Blog Tour: Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on the fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee.

‘Mike wanted to talk about the waking nightmare at the loch, of the child’s laughter had heard at night and the stag he felt in the room with him when they’d all gone to bed.’

Mike Carter and his girlfriend Helen,along with their friends Alex and Kay,
travel to a remote loch side cottage for a post-graduation holiday. . But their celebrations are short-lived when they hit and kill a stag on the road. Alex s sister Meggie awaits them in the cottage, adding to the tension when her dog, Oscar, goes missing. Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, and is hunted by threatening figures in the highland fog. Reeling from a shock revelation, Mike begins to lose his grip on his sanity. When
Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, the bonds
of friendship are tested as he must uncover the terrifying truth dwelling
within the walls of Hearthstone Cottage.

I have such a strange feeling after finishing this book. What I thought I was getting in to was nothing like what I actually read and that is something I don’t get to experience much in modern horror writing. Frazer Lee has written a trippy tale of isolation set in the Scottish countryside that really takes the reader off guard.

The setting is a refreshing change to ‘cabin in the woods’. Something I especially liked was how Lee took what is supposed to be the cozy safety of a cottage and turned it on its head. What we see instead is a nightmarish landscape we see through the eyes of Mike as he loses his grip on reality. Something that did impress me was the discussion of rural flight and how it affects smaller areas of Scotland.

We have a limited cast of characters that I do wish I could have gotten to know a bit better in places. Helen and Kay especially were 2 that I wish we had either a perspective or more time with them on the page interacting with Mike. Mike as a main character can be equally frustrating and refreshing in equal measure. I found him to be irritating at times but the ending of the story completes his arc quite well.

Mike also has a sense of realism to him in that I was as unsure of my future after college as he is. There are moments throughout the story where I was ready to shout at the page and tell Mike to basically cop himself on a bit. Then I thought back to how I acted in college and I’m reminded of some of the stupid things I said and did and suddenly, Mike is not as bad as I thought.

Storywise I got a perfect mix of Evil Dead, The Ritual and general Samhain feels from this book. There are some genuinely unsettling moments that do catch you off guard. Some of my favourite moments were when Mike was truly starting to lose his grip and there are things happening that are very hard to figure out and understand as he begins to disassociate from reality and his friends.

Hearthstone Cottage is a book I enjoyed for its discussion of post college life and the isolation that can come from graduating. Mike struggles with his possession of what is happening around him as the haunting grows gradually worse and maintaining the carefree world of his undergrad. A must read for fans of the Evil Dead and The Ritual.

★★★★/5

About the author:

Frazer Lee is a novelist, screen writer and filmmaker. His screenplay credits include the acclaimed horror/thriller feature Panic Button,and multi-award winning short films On
Edge, Red Lines, Simone and The Stay. Frazer’s screenwriting and story consultant engagements have included commissions for Movie Mogul, The Asylum, Mediente, eMotion,and Vanquish Alliance Entertainment.
His film and television directing credits include the multi award-winning shorts On Edge and Red Lines,and the promo campaign for the Discovery Channel series True Horror With Anthony Head. His new short film The Stay had its World Premiere at World Horror Con Atlanta USA 2015. Frazer was named one of the Top 12 UK directors in MySpace.com’s Movie Mash-up contest by a panel including representatives from 20th Century Fox, Vertigo Films and Film Four.
Frazer’s novel The Lamplighters was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’. Frazer is Head of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. His guest speaking engagements have included The London Screenwriters Festival and The Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass. Frazer Lee lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.

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: 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.