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.


Review: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin

The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.’

I am a die hard Le Guin fan for over a year now. Starting my experience of reading her works with ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, I very quickly fell in love and this is now one of my favourite books of all time. I have only read Le Guin’s science fiction and this is my first read of her fantasy epic Earthsea.

‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ begins the story of both Earthsea and Ged who is the greatest sorcerer of Earthsea. Known as Sparrowhawk during his youth, we meet Ged as he grows from boy, to made apprentice to wizard. Along the way we watch him as he learns to confront his own mistakes and learns truly what balance means as bot ha made and a young man.

I LOVED this so much. I read it on my commute mostly and honestly was annoyed when I had to get off the bus and actually go to work (RUDE). I was aware going into this, despite my love of Le Guin’s writing that this was a classic fantasy with a male lead and my have all the tropes that I am sick of. Nope. Not. At. ALL.

For a start, I can picture Earthsea as a place so perfectly in my head. It’s always a huge indicator of my enjoyment of a world built by an author when I can see, smell and hear the world within the first few pages. This is the same distinct feeling I get from some of my favourites like Discworld, Hogwarts and Tortall. I get the distinct impression that this world as a structure mattered so much more to Le Guin as she began writing first. And apparently, this is correct as she began by drawing the map before she wrote the book.

Something else that never gets talked about definitely due to white washung within the publishing industry is that Ged, Sparrowhawk, the main protagonist, is not white. Neither is most of the wide cast of characters we encounter on his journey across Earthsea. This is another thing Le Guin spoke about at length and what prevented her from allowing illustrated versions of the books happening.

Ged is honestly one of my new favourite characters in fantasy. He is incredibly developed throughout this book. He learns so much and he still makes huge mistakes. He is flawed but in the end is a very kind and caring soul with a strong moral compass. He values those around him very dearly while also growing with the knowledge that people are at the end of the day entitled to be both good and bad at the same time.

I found there were so many notable quotes in this book aswell. There is a whole discussion between Ged and his mentor, Ogion, that I quote at the start of my review. The discussion that there is light and dark in all of us. There is this strong lesson that we are incredibly flawed beings (whether magically gifted or not) and we need to embrace that side of ourselves and we will in turn become more powerful. Ged is not like other fantasy protagonists in that he had to work to become this legendary wizard, he had to take journeys, perilous pilgrimages and risks to get where he is. He also has to learn to embrace that side of himself to learn these things.

The plot is not one we have not seen before, magical wizard travelling alone and taking on tasks. It’s even the basic plot of The Witcher TV series (which I did love). Yet, in the hands of Le Guin and her ability to craft such warm, tender stories with rich expansive worlds, it’s a story of vulnerability. It’s a story of learning to reclaim the power within with rich diverse characters that is more relevant today than ever. It is actually a story for teens so it is technically one of the YA books that came before the eruption of the YA genre if that interests you.

I’ll be very quickly continuing this series out of both a need to know what happens to Ged as well as my intention to read the rest of the Le Guin books I own (it’s a lot okay?). I would honestly recommend this to anyone who loves classic fantasy or wants to ease their way into Le Guin’s bibliography. Do tell me if you have read this, if not then please do! Happy reading all!

★★★★★/5

Blog Tour: A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on Random Things Tours blog tour for A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone!

The Skelfs are a well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators. When patriarch Jim dies, it ’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events. Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another women, suggesting that Jim wasn’t the husband she thought he was. Hannah’s best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.
As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything…

I have a deep fascination with the death industry. I regularly watch Ask A Mortician on YouTube, I have also read her books about the subject and one of my dreams is to visit the catacombs in Paris. Like my previous review, this is more of an assurance of my sanity and serves as background for what elements I liked from this book.

This book was fascinating and very engaging. One concern of the book is very much routed in the processes of handling the dead and arranging for the treatment of them. The other is routed in the lives of these 3 different generations of the Skelf women. We spend time with all three as they struggle and process their various traumas.

Our changing perspectives between Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah allows a view into each of their lives. There is a focus on the evil of men and the change of climate in the modern day attitude towards women. Johnstone has a fantastic ability to not only write realistic female characters but also allows them to be flawed, almost unlikable. This is something I do actually look for actively in my own reading of all books and this book is the best example I have seen of it outside of SFF.

We have Dorothy, a new widow with a funeral business to run also has to cope with her forever longing to return to her youth in Pismo Beach, CA, while also grappling with the possibility her husband was hiding his own sins. Jenny, mother to Hannah, is a bitter, middle aged divorcee who is struggling with life in general and her own feeling towards men overall. And of course we have Hannah, a queer physics student who is determined to discover the story behind her friend’s disappearance but has to try an maintain her own mental wellness through all the chaos.

The characters were the true bonus for me. I feel like we get a captivating glance at the lives of these three women and how they interact with each other. The death of Jim Skelf truly opens up many wormholes for them all. We see them argue with each other, they all do questionable things but in the end they are the standout of A Dark Matter.

The plot at first had me wondering where it was going to go. There are so many events that pop up within the greater events of the plot and I was wondering how and if they would all be answered. Luckily, they were and in a spectacular fashion. The ending dawned on me seconds before the big reveal happen but that did nothing to prevent my shock and glee at getting such a satisfactory conclusion.

Overall this was a true revelation for me, scattered with some wonderful insights into the death industry and a portrait of a family trying to handle the mess a sudden death will leave. This is a condensed, clever story with a very plain discussion of misogyny over time.

I want to thank Orenda Books and Anne of Random Things Tours for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

★★★★★/5

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer
in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Review: Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

‘That is a truth I feel deep in my bones. Bones that plead for me to turn around, that I don’t belong here,that this place has no love for a child of Dinetah. But I do my best to ignore the cold dread that warns me to turn back.’

Good evening fellow readers. I feel this is a very interesting way to bookend the reading year. The first book I read in 2019 was Trail of Lightning and the last book I have now read in 2019 is the sequel., Storm of Locusts. And honestly, this is one of the best series I have read this year.

Four weeks after the deadly incident at Black Mesa, Maggie is trying to gather the scattered strands of her life while learning how to move on. But things are far from over as the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, goes missing with Kai, a mission with the Thirsty Boys goes horribly wrong and a cult leader has emerged known only as the White Locust. Maggie will be led outside the walls of Dinetah and beyond in order to keep what small family she has left and possibly save the world from ending again.

This was one of the bunch of sequels I was determined to read by the end of 2019 and I am so glad I got to it. This is possibly the best sequel I read all year if not one of the best sequels I have ever read. Roanhorse again displays a unique approach to the Urban Fantasy genre and brings Native culture to the forefront once again.

Without spoiling the first book in the series, Trail of Lightning, this world is already established very well especially for the sprawling journey we take across it. This book expands the world further adding to the world that lives outside Dinetah. Life beyond the wall is just as unpredictable and dangerous, if not more violent than the world of Dinetah.

We see the return of many characters, one of my favourites being the return of the Gods that now freely roam the earth. We do meet those that were present in Trail of Lightning along with some newer, trickier Gods. One particular scene involving one of my favourite tropes, a game between a mortal and a God where the human has to win a game to succeed against the God.

Urban fantasy is not a genre best known for character development but Roanhorse honestly writes the best developed characters I have seen in the past decade. Maggie undergoes such a wonderful change,both processing her feelings as a result of the previous books finale while also trying to learn and grow among her friends. The introduction of Ben, Hastiin’s niece, and her sudden presence in Maggie’s life allows for some very touching moments and a strong emphasis on growth and family in the book.

Ben is a wonderful addition to the story. There is no shortage of strong women in the story for Maggie to bounce off, especially in her more hostile moments. Ben is a young woman that is on top of being openly queer, trying to find her own place within this lawless world. Like Maggie, Ben has clan powers that gift her with being a supernatural tracker but also like Maggie, the clan powers are received as a result of a traumatic experience. There is such a strong mentor/mentee development while also learning the lesson that being hard in a world like Dinetah can sometimes kill you faster.

Honestly this plot never releases you from it’s grasp. Just like the first one the book delivers a high octane plot with a seamless set of characters within a mythology we never really get tot see in SFF. The exposure to Native American culture is something I am very grateful for and actively want to seek out after reading this. Roanhorse has crafted a ruthless world that has been handed back to the Gods and people who lived in it first and in the end, were the only ones who were ready for it.

There are very little details available at the moment for the next sequel in the series but you can be guaranteed that when it is confirmed and released it will move straight to the top of my TBR. I can’t recommend this series enough especially for fans of Buffy. Have you read this series yet? Do tell me if you have. Happy reading!

★★★★★/

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.