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!

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!

My Favourite Stephen King Books

“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”

Last week I made a post on my Instagram about Stephen King for his 72nd birthday. All of a sudden I realised from looking at my collection that I never talk about him and yet he’s been one of my favourite authors. Everyone has their story for how they first started reading Stephen King. Mine is a bit sentimental since it was my Dad that originally got me reading King’s books and we still discuss them now. I was twelve and I bought a cheap copy of ‘Carrie’ in a local newsagent and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve read a good chunk of King’s work and collected just as much over the years (I won’t part with ANY of my King library) so my favourites are always in flux. Also this list could have been super long so this is the most concise I have. So here we go, the closest I’ll get to a concrete favourites list.

(Please note I would usually give The Dark Tower it’s own breathing room but the one book I have here is a literal work of art.)

  • ‘Carrie’: Where it all began, this is the story of Carrie White. Carrie White is a social misfit hated among her peers and abused by an over religious mother. Carrie discovers that she has telekinetic powers. An invite to Prom leads Carrie and the reader to discover her true potential. I really identified with Carrie at the age I was (minus the powers and the over zealous mother) when I read the book and honestly I still share no pity for her bullies. Also that Pop in the picture is utterly adorable.
  • ‘Pet Sematary’: The Creed family move from Chicago to the town of Ludlow in order for Louis Creed to get a job at the University of Maine. The house sits beside a road that is used heavily by large trucks. After the death of a pet in the family Louis learns of a piece of land that can reanimate the dead and begins to wonder what else it can do. This is different to the others since it holds the top spot for all time favourite. It regularly swaps with ‘The Shining’ but has held first place for a long time. Another rec from my Dad that still chills me to the bone.
  • ‘Misery’: Annie Wilkes is Paul Sheldon’s biggest fan. His biggest all time fan. Such a big fan that when she rescues him from a car crash she has to help him. Paul has just killed Misery Chastain, Annie’s favourite character. He will have to decide is Misery’s life worth his. King discussed in ‘On Writing’ how Annie Wilkes is the personifcation of his own addictions and struggles with substance abuse and that makes her even more frightening. This is one of those few books where the movie is it’s equal but there is definitely some incidents between Paul and Annie that never made it to screen. Thankfully. This is also one of the few King books with no supernatural influence within the story so it’s perfect for anyone who wants to read King but not anything too paranormal.
  • ‘Insomnia’: A recent widower, seventy year old Ralph Roberts finds himself waking up earlier and earlier each day. Eventually Ralph begins to notice small figures moving around in the night. This coupled with bizzare behaviour from one of his neighbours Ralph decides to investigate these strange happenings. This one is also set in Derry, Maine and is one of the only books I have read that takes place through the perspective of an elderly character. This book has unique discussions about getting older and just describes what it’s like to suffer with insomnia. Maybe give this one a miss if you haven’t read The Dark Tower.
  • ‘Doctor Sleep’: Danny Torrance is now a fully grown man. Never truly free from the legacy of the Overlook Hotel Danny works in a hospice trying to recover from his alcoholism and his past. Then Dan Meets Abra Stone, who shines brighter than them all. Abra has drawn some nasty people to her door and Dan is going to have to do all he can to fight them. This is obviously the sequel to The Shining and honestly it is a great sequel. I was wary about it at first but this is definitely a fantastic story. The movie also looks promising and I can’t wait to see Ewan McGregor as Dan.
  • ‘On Writing’: Part memoir, part how to guide, this is a book written by King for both writers and readers alike. A work of non fiction, we learn more about King’s life, his method, his advice and a list of reading recommendations. This needs no further explanation, you don’t need to have read his work before (spoilers there may be though) and it’s very easy to read if you are not into non fiction usually.
  • ‘The Drawing of the Three’: This is the second book in the Dark Tower series and takes place directly after the conclusion of ‘The Gunslinger’. In this installment we follow Roland Deschain as he crosses through the doors and enters our world to gather allies and knowledge about the Tower. Again I said it earlier but this series needs its own post. But this is honestly genius how it weaves between plot, characters and uses different tropes. The way it uses the portal fantasy is absolutely wonderful.

So there you have it! I plan to do more posts on King in the future so keep tuned. Anyone else love the books listed? Or maybe love a lesser known work? Tell me! I’d love to hear. Thanks for reading guys!

Audiobook Recommendations for Newbies

I only got into audio books last year when I worked a hectic job and found no other time to read. My history with audio books wasn’t great prior to then. I distinctly remember being bored to total tears in primary school when our teacher put on a tape (yes. tape) audio book of The Hobbit. It was AWFUL.

So to counteract that terrible start to audio books in my life I’ve made a list of the absolute best I have read so far.

  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin: This was the book that started it all, for both Le Guin and audio books overall. This book was so good this has gone on to be one of my favourite books of all time. 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. This is quite obviously a sci fi book and it stole my heart. It is full cast which suits such a broad spectrum of characters. The cast also are wonderful at handling the voicing of chracters that don’t display obvious gender attributes. Overall it really sets a cold, winter vibe that this book really benefits from.
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: Out of all Neil Gaiman’s books this was my least favourite. Then I listened to the BBC radio 4 production. The book follows Fat Charlie Nancy as her learns of the death of his father Anansi, the spider god, and of the existence of his brother, Spider. Charlies life takes a sudden turn after both of these things happen and he suddenly has to make a decision that incurs the wrath of the Gods themselves. This book is so funny it actually makes me smile to think about it but it paints such an amazing set of characters due in part to the casting. Lenny Henry is perfect as Anansi. This is also a full cast production (you will see a trend). One thing I really loved while reading this was you felt like you were in the places of the book. London sounded like London, the Caribbean sounded like a sunny place, anywhere else just felt and sounded so real it felt like I was actually there. If you struggled reading the book physically, definitely try the audio.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff: Mia Corvere wants to avenge her father, who she witnessed being executed as a child. Mia wants to be an assassin to achieve her vengeance. She must journey to the Red Church and become an acolyte of the goddess Niah in order to complete her training. That is of course if she survives. If you somehow haven’t heard of this series, fair play now read it. Honestly I read this on audio for the simple reason being I was busy and wanted to read it at last. The audio is perfect for both those reasons, the narrator Holter Graham does a fantastic job for all the voices particularly Mia and Mercurio. His voice for Mia took a while to get used to but by the time I listened to the sequel, ‘Godsgrave’, it had either improved or I embraced it. Either way I highly recommend it on audio especially if you don’t have time to sit down and read the actual book. You also get to avoid the footnotes.
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King: The Creed family move from Chicago to the town of Ludlow in order for Louis Creed to get a job at the University of Maine. The house sits beside a road that is used heavily by large trucks. After the death of a pet in the family Louis learns of a piece of land that can reanimate the dead and begins to wonder what else it can do. This is my favourite Stephen King book for many years and listening to it on audio hasn’t changed that. The book is narrated by Michael C.Hall from the TV show Dexter and oh my god is his voice chilling. I knew what was coming but still dreaded every second as the story went on. Also, bonus if you are a Dexter fan!
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman: Yes this is also on the list. I’m sorry. Shadow Moon has just gotten out of jail. Shadow Moon has also just found out his wife is dead. Then he meets Mr Wednesday who offers him a job as a body guard. Shadow has no idea what he has let himself in for. This is my favourite book of all time and yet I had never read it on audio before this June. There are 2 versions, the full cast production and a single narrated version. Definitely check out the full cast (surprise) version, simply for Neil Gaiman’s narration of the Coming to America stories.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling: Based on the Harry Potter in verse text book of the same name details the discoveries of Newt Scamander and his discoveries about different beasts and advice on how to handle them. Obviously the movie is loosely based on this book but the audio is narrated by Eddie Redmayne who plays Scamander and its so lovely. He puts every bit of the soft loveliness he has on screen into the book. There are even background effects for each creature, the dragons being my favourite. I did hear from a friend of mine that he thought this one was pointless if you’re not into Harry Potter so maybe heed his advice if you’re not a fan. Or ignore him and listen to the lovely man talk about pretty creatures.

I hope this list is helpful to anyone sitting on the audio book fence. I honestly think audio books are very subjective, based totally on the readers taste and experience but narrators and cast vs no cast does make a huge difference I feel. Spotify, Borrowbox (for Irish readers) and Scribd are other options to Audible as well if you want to try audio books while still being cautious. Until next time guys, take care!