Blog Tour: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

Good evening fellow readers, and welcome to my stop and the beginning of the Random Things Tours blog tour for We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk!

When a troubled psychiatrist loses funding to perform clinical trials on an experimental cure for schizophrenia, he begins testing it on his asylum’s criminally insane, triggering a series of side effects that opens the mind of his hospital’s most dangerous patient, setting his inner demons free.

So this did not go the way I thought it was going to go. This book on the surface is sold as closed circle narrative where through the fault of the people who care for the mentally ill, they are locked in with the patients. I was thinking Arkham Asylum meets that awesome scene in Watchmen. What we get is an examination of the treatment of mental illness and the horrors of living with trauma

We encounter many characters through differing points of view varying from the staff of Sugar Hill and the patients. Alex, our main protagonist, is not a likable man. Alex has discovered a possible medication that can help those suffering from Schizophrenia return to their former selves. He is however in chronic debt, is corrupt to his very core and a bad husband. Trust me. You don’t wanna marry this guy.

The same can be said about the rest of the characters and this felt very intentional. I’ve said it in the past that I do love a flawed, morally grey character but I think what resonated with me the most was that characters like Alex are very real. There are people working in mental health services who are just as morally corrupt as him. But there is also another conversation that is happening in this book.

The other staff of Sugar Hill are all dealing with their own traumas while working with the mentally ill people who reside there. They are all awful but they all need help. Eli, the head of the facility battles his own PTSD and channels his own bias towards not using medication to treat mental illness into the patients treatment. Angela, a gifted young social worker within the walls of Sugar Hill throws herself into binge drinking and one night stands that she can barely remember every other night to forget what she hears and sees.

The book is a bit slower than I am used to with horror books, especially since I was expecting a totally different story. There is a purposeful build up to the conclusion as we learn what is taking over Sugar Hill. But in the end there is an important discussion to be had here. The use of medication in treatment, the attitude towards people with mental health within society and most importantly the trauma we all carry everyday.

Thank you to both Anne and Flame Tree Press for sending me a copy of We Are Monsters in exchange for review!

★★★/5

Brian Kirk is an author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense. His debut novel, We Are Monsters, was released in July 2015 and was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award®for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. His short fiction has been published in many notable magazines and anthologies. Most recently, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, where his work appears alongside multiple New York Times bestselling authors,and received an
honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year compilation. During the day, Brian works as a freelance marketing and creative consultant. His experience working on large, integrated advertising campaigns for international companies has helped him build an effective author platform, and makes him a strong marketing ally for his publishing partners. In addition, Brian has an eye for emerging media trends and an ability to integrate storytelling into new technologies and platforms.


Sourcery- Terry Pratchett Review

‘ Rincewind rather enjoyed times like this. They convinced him that he wasn’t mad because, if he was mad, that left no word at all to describe some of the people he met.’

Welcome back to my holiday on The Disc! I am very sorry for the lack of updates to the Discworld Project. It has been busy down here on the Hub and boy is it good to be back at the Unseen University with the smell of the Ankh. Oh wait, is that smell you?

This is the seventh book in the publication order of the Discworld novels. This is the third novel following the failed wizard, Rincewind and the happenings at the Unseen University. The unthinkable has happened. A wizard, an eighth son of an eighth son, has had another son. His eighth son. He cannot be a wizard. He is a Sourcerer. And he is coming to the university. Do I want to be left alone? Yes. Do I want a sentient trunk that follows me on many legs and eats crisps?Definitely.

The wit as always within Pratchett’s writing is consistently satirical without being pompous. As often quoted by Neil Gaiman when asked about Practhett, the opposite of funny isn’t serious. It’s just something not being funny. While Discworld relies heavily on humor for its tone and consistence it never fails to be intimate and heartwarming. I honestly needed to read this book at this very moment in time to help make my current situation more bearable.

I listened to this on audio and it was narrated than none other than Baldrick himself, Tony Robinson of Time Team and Blackadder fame. I have often said that the only voice I hear for Rincewind is that of Eric Idle but now it will always be Robinson. Not only does he voice Rincewind to perfection he manages the cast of characters with a fantastic flourish and each is distinct from the other.

In this adventure we meet our recurring and welcome characters such as Death, Luggage and the Librarian. We also get to meet some even more memorable characters such as Conina the Hairdresser, daughter of the famous Cohen, Nijel the eventual barbarian and so much more. I loved listening to each voice they were given by Robinson. Each characters was literally in my head, walking around and trying to drag me on their adventure.

I only have one small critique in with this particular story. The pot jumped from one particular point I was highly enjoying to the climactic drama very quickly. I do feel that is going to be a feature of all the Rincewind books but this one it didn’t work as well as it did in say, ‘The Light Fantastic’, which never stopped once to breathe because something was happening and we had to go there. I feel because this one starts in a more mundane situation that the jump takes a way a small bit from Pratchett’s usually decent pacing.

However in saying all that I deeply enjoyed this book. I have been putting off coming back to the Disc for too long, this was a necessary change and I chose the audio because I was so busy which worked out even better since the audio for this particular story is totally flawless.

Thank you as always for reading, do tell me if you have read this book in the series and what flavour crisps you think the Luggage would prefer.

★★★★.5/5

Blog Tour: You Can Change the World! by Margaret Rooke

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on the RandomThingsTour blog tour for You Can Change the World! by Margaret Rooke with illustrations by Kara McHale.

‘So sometimes you can lose and you can win. And whatever happens, you’ll still know more than you did before.’

Joint Gold Winner of the Moonbeam Multicultural Non-Fiction Award 2019
This inspirational book tells the stories of more than 50 of today’s teenagers who’ve dared to change the world they live in. It’s been written to show other teens they can do the same. Bestselling author Margaret Rooke asks
teens about their experiences of being volunteers, social entrepreneurs and campaigners, online and beyond.
They explain how they have survived in a world often obsessed by celebrity, social media and appearance, by refusing to conform to other’s expectations.
If you want to achieve against the odds and create genuine impact, this book may be the encouragement you need. The interviews cover race, sexuality, violence, grief, neurodiversity, bullying and other issues central to life
today.

This is a bit of a different blog tour for me once again, like my last. This is my first time reading a non fiction book for a very long time and my first time reviewing one. So I’ve decided I won’t be giving this one a star rating.

This is the book I wish that I had when I was a teenager. There are so many wonderful, alarming and empowering tales in this book that it feels like a wake up call that all adults need. There are very real things that teenagers struggle with on a daily basis that we all forget about very quickly once we grow up and get jobs.

The account of Trisha Prabhu and her determination to take a stand against cyber bullying really stuck with me. By using a program coded to prevent someone posting harmful content, Prabhu has made a huge difference. ReThink, the program in question, prompts a window to pop up if the person posting is going to say something nasty and asks them to reconsider, step back and think. This is very powerful tool that has been rolled out to over 5 million people and has led to TED talks, meeting Barack Obama and other wonderful opportunities.

Every single achievement within these pages have been conquered by teenagers. It’s easy to forget how powerful teenagers truly are. A teenage girl invented science fiction don’t forget. One of these teenagers in Margaret Rooke’s book has changed how a major supermarket chain farms eggs. Another is tackling the stigma against periods and is trying to prove that a bodily function is not shameful. Teenagers will save this planet.

I can’t take away from how Rooke has assembled these true accounts into something that feels vital and very relevant. The arrangement of accounts coupled with McHale’s expert illustrations make the text feel accessible without being too simplistic for the subject matter. I think this is the perfect book this Christmas for any teenagers in your life but also for any adults. I think we all need to know what is happening in the lives of teenagers all over the world, and how we can help because this is their world.

I can’t take away from how Rooke has assembled these true accounts into something that feels vital and very relevant. The arrangement of accounts coupled with McHale’s expert illustrations make the text feel accessible without being too simplistic for the subject matter. I think this is the perfect book this Christmas for any teenagers in your life but also for any adults. I think we all need to know what is happening in the lives of teenagers all over the world, and how we can help because this is their world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret is an author and writer with a special interest in listening to people’s memories and getting them down on paper. Her latest book Creative, Successful, Dyslexic includes interviews with Darcey Bussell, David Bailey, Lord Richard Rogers, Zoe Wanamaker and others about their childhoods and beyond. She interviewed countless interesting personalities during her many years of magazine writing and believes everyone has a story to tell. Margaret is especially keen to preserve people’s memories for their children and grandchildren to value and enjoy

Thank you very much to both Anne and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for sneding me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Five of my Favourite Short Stories

Short stories are literally a godsend. I have grown up reading anthologies, short story collections and now that I am a working woman, reading them on Kindle. There’s nothing like cleansing your reading palette with a short story, especially when it is a well written story with a good plot.

I have listed five here which I thought would be an issue (or an issue if they were all Neil Gaiman stories) but I actually could list so many more so if anyone wants to hear me rant about short stories, I’m all here for it.

I also would like to note that short stories are truly where the wide genre of books I read tend to be best displayed. I tend to love literary fiction short stories especially and there is at least one here. Without further ado;

‘…you have no conception of what goes on outside in the dark. In the lonesome places’
  • Title: ‘The Lonesome Place’ (1948)
  • Author: August Derleth
  • Genre: Horror
  • Collection taken from: American Supernatural Tales, Introduction by S. T. Joshi, Edited by S. T. Joshi and Guillermo del Toro

    I loved this story so much I use the term ‘lonesome place’ in everyday life, based my final degree year on it and I genuinely watch out for them. I walk home a lot and it’s easy to spot these places. This story is a bit Bradbury-esque with the narrator detailing the account from his younger years but it is unsettling with a sense of dread you take from the page into your everyday life.
‘And there was indeed something coming down the driveway towards the house. I could see it through the binoculars clear as day.
  • Title: ‘The Price’ (1999)
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Genre: Horror, Fantasy
  • Collection taken from: ‘Smoke and Mirrors’/ ‘M is for Magic’

    This story has stayed with me for years now. I always look at my cats that come home a bit torn up with a strong sideways glance. This is the first ever short story I read by Neil Gaiman and I think it really drove home for me how exceptional his shorter work is. There is no way you will see the ending coming. It is in 2 collections also so it is widely available.
‘There are some stories that my mother does not tell when there are men present, never at dinner. Never at parties’
  • Title: Significant Moments in the Life of my Mother (1987)
  • Author: Margaret Atwood
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
  • Collection taken from: ‘Bluebeard’s Egg and Other Stories’

    I will advise anyone who is not into the literary fiction quality about certain stories that depict humans with a very bleak brush will not like the short fiction of Margaret Atwood. I had a hard time picking one book from this collection but this one was the one that left the kind of deepest impression on me. Atwood writes characters I want to shake sometimes, but I never do forget them
‘She could smell the blood. It coated the inside of her nostrils, infiltrating her lungs.
This was worse than before. This was more’
  • Title: ‘In the Forest Dark and Deep’ (2015)
  • Author: Carrie Ryan
  • Genre: Horror, Young Adult
  • Collection takne from: ‘Slasher Girls & Monster Boys’, stories selected by April Genevieve Tucholke

    This entire collection is YA horror done right and I mean very right. It was hard to pick on as there is a story as well in this collection by Leigh Bardugo that I also really love but this one really took me by surprise. Each tale in this collection is based on another famous horror story and this one in particular is based on Alice in Wonderland. And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
‘I remembered the old custom of burying suicides as cross-roads: “Ah! I see, a suicide. How interesting! ” but for the life of me I could not make out why the horses were frightened.’
  • Title: ‘Dracula’s Guest’ (1914)
  • Author: Bram Stoker
  • Genre: Classics, Horror
  • Collection taken from: ‘Dracula’s Guest and Other Stories’

    I read this for he first time in the depths of winter in a cafe in Dingle. It was November, it was misty and I was 14 years old. I honestly think this story can function as both a mild introduction to Stoker’s magnum opus and also as a nice extra towards the story. There is a strong theory that the character in the story is Jonathan Harker (and it is basically confirmed by Stoker’s wife) but you are totally entitled to think otherwise.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions& Disturbances by Neil Gaiman- Review

Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.’

This will be my first review of a short story collection here on the blog and it makes me happy that it is a Neil Gaiman collection. My first Neil Gaiman book bought with my own money was Smoke and Mirrors and with the announcement of the ultimate collection of Neil Gaiman short stories being published in the next year I felt it was time to read the others again.

Trigger Warning collects a series of tales that include a previously unpublished American Gods novella, Black Dog, a story of a cave that rewards gold at a price, a Doctor Who story following the Doctor and Amy Pond and a tale of 2 colliding fairy tales with a Queen saving a princess. The title itself, discussed by Gaiman in the opening, describes the use of trigger warning sin modern internet usage and how we should or should not have them on books and stories.

So this is going to be a bit of a smaller, more rambling review due to the fact it is a short story collection and it is my first time reviewing one properly. So obviously with collections and anthologies you are going to get stories you liked and those you did not. This book overall I must say had a quite a varied selection of tales that were all mostly enjoyable, bordering the strange gap between horror and fantasy.

One such tale I really enjoyed was ‘Orange’ which from my first read of the book that I never finished in 2016 was one that I remembered very vividly. The story follows a girl making a report of her sister who was very fond of fake tan and the ridiculous level it escalated to. As someone who grew up with a sister who wears fake tan while I utterly HATE the stuff, I found it very entertaining.

Other stories see the return of characters we would know from Gaiman’s other work and figures of popular culture, such as the previously mentioned Doctor, Sherlock Holmes and Shadow Moon. It was so good to read another story set after American Gods and following Shadow. I do love finding out what he is up to. However the Sherlock Holmes story ‘The Case of Death and Honey’ I thought was a bit too long for a Holmes story and it wasn’t really all that interesting come the ending either.

Despite the longer tales feeling like they padded the book slightly, I still enjoyed them most of all particularly The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. Published as a standalone illustrated work, I hadn’t actually read it until this book but it is definitely a stand out tale of vengeance and pain in the Scottish Highlands. I also want Peter Dinklage to play the lead.

As always I warn people, I am a massive Neil Gaiman fan and I will always be biased towards his work but as much as a I enjoyed this volume of short stories I do think it is one of the weaker collections he has released. It is still a great collection of tales but I have preferred others more.

If this review rambles a lot, I do apologise a since I have never reviewed s short story collection before but will be doing far more of in the future. Did you read this?What’s your favourite tale? Do tell me so we can fan-girl over them.

★★★★/5

Sunday Shorts: 3 Mini Reviews (08.12.19)

Good evening all and welcome back to Sunday Shorts! I’ve decided to try and run this section of the blog bi weekly and see how I get on. This week I have another novella, short story and a graphic novel for you all. And before you ask, yes. Neil Gaiman is in this one too.

In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.
Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.
Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.
The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.
Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.
  • Title: Blanky
  • Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
  • Genre: Contemporary horror

    After reading Sour Candy for the last round of Sunday Shorts I thought this would be the best follow up to reading Kealan Patrick Burke. Unfortunately this was a bit meh for me and it was a slog to finish. One aspect of the book is the discussion of grief and particularly the death of an infant. I do think that was handled very well but the story itself was not as good as I expected and the plot lacked in places. I still intend to read more of Burke’s work but this one was not for me.

★★★/5

In this standalone short story by N. K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Season, the winner of this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel, New York City is about to go through a few changes. Like all great metropolises before it, when a city gets big enough, old enough, it must be born; but there are ancient enemies who cannot tolerate new life. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts of a reluctant midwife…and how well he can learn to sing the city’s mighty song
  • Title: The City Born Great
  • Author: N.K Jemisin
  • Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

    This was a nice story and a bit of a different work than what I’m used to from Jemisin. This is set in a modern day as opposed to a further future that we saw in her Broken Earth trilogy for example and it is wonderful. For such a short work there is a great discussion of homelessness ,racism and police brutality towards black men. This is the shorter work that has beget Jemisin’s new novel due out in 2020, The City We Became and I can’t wait to see how she continues it.

★★★★/5

THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS is a comics adaptation of Gaiman’s original prose novella by the same name illustrated by Yoshitako Amano. This graphic novel was illustrated by the legendary P. Craig Russell. A humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons and a Japanese emperor to steal the monk’s life. With the aid of Morpheus, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves.
  • Title: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
  • Authors: Neil Gaiman, P.Craig Russell
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror

    This is an obvious fact by now that The Sandman is my favourite series of all times in terms of comics and this one is the latest I have read in order to have the entire universe read and covered this year. This story, will hurt you. I cried like I did when I read The Kindly Ones and this story isn’t even about Dream. This story focuses on the characters that Morpheus just happens to find in his realm and as usual, what his duties really entail which we all know is making tough decisions.

★★★★★/5

That’s it this week for Sunday Shorts! Maybe next time I may have a few more works since I plan on introducing single issue comics to this too and I have a MASSIVE comics TBR at the moment. Tell me some of the shorter things you have read recently! I’d love to hear what I could read next.

Something Wicked this Way Comes- Ray Bradbury Review

‘Because, sometimes good has weapons and evil none. Sometimes tricks fail. Sometimes people can’t be picked off, led to dead falls. No divide and conquer tonight.’

This is a long overdue read for me. I’ve been dying to get back to my reading of the works of Ray Bradbury. I’ve been slowly getting into his work and I was highly impressed with this particular book. This was also the first book in a while that I just randomly picked up and read on the basis it was interesting. I also was on a long bus journey.

On an October night, the week before Halloween, the carnival arrives. Welcome to Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show! A place of outlandish people, rides and a charismatic ring master who seems to know the darkest desire of anyones heart. For in the town of Green Town, there are two boys who answer the call to the carnival. For Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade, the carnival will show them many wonders and what the price is for the wishes within their hearts.

Now I thought Stephen King was the master of small town dramas, adolescent stories and the idea of the evil that killed the neighborhood. It is very clear where he learned this from. This book is wonderfully crafted and truly does manage to explore the horrors of adulthood while examining the wants of every young teen to be older and able to do as they wish.

We don’t generally see much of Green Town. We generally spend a good chunk of the book running through the town trying to keep up with Jim and Will as they run in every and any direction. The world within the carnival is hard not to be emmersed in, between the sound of calliope music, the churn and clunk of the carousel, the smell of sweat as people perform for so many. And under it all, like any circus or carnival, there is a sense of unease that something about this is not quite right.

There is such an anxiety woven into each character and is presented in a way that you can’t not feel it with the characters. Will is worried that he will lose Jim, somehow along the way as he grows up. Jim is scared and desperate to explore the activities and fancies experienced by adults alone, dying to rush towards his inevitable manhood. Will’s father Charles, his pining for his own youth and for Will’s approval. This all coupled with the villanous Mr Dark, the Illustrated Man lurking around every corner leaves for some very genuinely uneasy moments .

There is a constant sense of both dread and melancholy around this town when the carnival first shows up and it really doesn’t let up until the final pages. There is an underlying feeling that something is about to go very wrong and noone but us the readers know and we cannot warn the 2 boys.

The structure of the plot is very much balanced between both sides, the ‘good’ side of the town (Will and his father), the ‘bad’ who have arrived in town (Mr. Dark mainly) and there is to a certain point an unknowing to who will triumph in the end since anything could tip the scales (Jim and his temptation to go to the carnival, the lightning rod salesman etc). That to me was probably one of the best hooks within the plot to keep the reader engaged.

Bradbury’s writing is breathtaking in places and this comes as no shock to me. The way he can conduct a mood like he does relies totally on his descriptive writing. There are many sentences that have stuck with me but this one really has;

“So in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do, depending on the season and the need.”

I don’t have much else to say about this outside of what has already been said but just that I am so glad I finally read this. It definitely lives up to the hype and is well worth reading since it is not too long and isn’t one of Bradbury’s more fantastical works so its a good place to start.

★★★★★/5