Season of Wonder – Edited by Paula Guran

season of wonderSeason of Wonder is a winter holiday themed anthology, bringing together fantasy and science fiction stories centred around the darkest months. Christmas isn’t the only holiday contained in these stories, but it is the most prominent. Still, as a whole, I think this is a great festive read.

The stories vary enough to give a little something for everyone, with a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and even some horror elements thrown in. There’s robots caring for the last man on Earth, a post-apocalypse society ruled by religion, a young boy who stands against an evil elf, a young woman who gets caught in the battle between the Holly and Oak king, a woman on a distant planet introduces the inhabitants to Christmas, and a story of mental health, a woman who believes in magic, told through the eyes of her best friend.

The absolute stand out story for me was The Christmas Witch, a story which uses horror and fantasy to do one of my favourite things those genres are capable of; drawing parallels to very real situations, and reflecting issues often faced, especially by younger people. In this story, a young girl grieves the death of her mother, and lashes out in her own way, but the adults all seem to turn a blind eye. Her father tries to help, but not in the best way, and no one actually listens to her. It’s a fantastic read, and one hard to forget.

Pal Of Mine was also particularly good, one of those stories where the fantastical element is in doubt, right until the very end. It was wonderfully written, and very bittersweet.

Home for Christmas is a very sweet story, about a young woman who can talk to objects. It’s wonderfully written, draws you right in with the MC and her unusual ability, and shows how even small acts of kindness can have a lasting impact.

Others I particularly enjoyed, and would have liked to have read more about their worlds, were The Night Things Changed and The Nutcracker Coup. Both wonderful tales with fantastic world building, especially for short stories.

Everytime I think I’ve listed the ones I really liked, more pop into my head. Okay, last one, I swear. Newsletter, the final story in the anthology, is another great read – it’s witty and engaging and had me laughing out loud at the last line. And it’s a really interesting way of telling the story, combined with an uncertainty at the end, leaving the reader with multiple questions, and no answers except for whatever they decide in their head.

I really do recommend this collection. It has interesting portrayals of Christmas and the various aspects associated with the holiday, with more than one take on Santa Claus and the legend of. It was an enjoyable, fun, sometimes downright dark collection, with stories to both warm your heart on these cold winter evenings, and make you snuggle under the covers, glad you’re safe in your bed.

Blogmas #7: Favourite 2019 Books Part 2

Blogmas #7Welcome to the second part of my favourite books of 2019! As explained in Part One, these aren’t books published this year, but books I’ve read this year, with one book picked from each month, and a note of other books I read that month so you can see what it was stacked up against. There will also be links to my reviews, so if any catch your eye, go check them out. As this is July – December, there will also be links to my reviews over at Dead Head Reviews, which if you’re a horror fan, is definitely a website you need to check out.

And onto part two! Enjoy.

July

spin the dawnSpin the Dawn – Elizabeth Lim

My Review

I only read three books this month, but the choice was really difficult, as I read both Spin the Dawn and Circe in July. In the end, I decided to go for Elizabeth Lim’s debut novel, a retelling of Mulan that weaves in some fantastic elements and beautiful imagery, and just absolutely swept me off my feet. This book is fantastic, and I really can’t wait for the sequel. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

Also Read This Month: Circe, Hysteria: The Biography

August

nos4r2.jpgNOS4R2 – Joe Hill

My Review

This is the month where I started reviewing for Dead Head Reviews, and therefore read a lot of horror. But NOS4R2 deserves a mention, because it’s a downright creepy, eerie read, with a creepy antagonist obsessed with Christmas, and a young woman desperately trying to understand her own abilities. It’s almost like X-Men meets Stephen King. That car, the Christmas songs, the way the protagonist questions her own mind and no one around actually believes her, it all adds up to a brilliant, if hefty, read.

Also Read This Month: Rose, The Blade Itself, The Deal Maker, Kakorrhaphiophobia

September

black rainbow.jpgBlack Rainbow – Edited By Scott Savino

My Review

This was a very difficult month, and my choice really came down to this, Midnight in the Graveyard, and Grind Your Bones to Dust, but Black Rainbow was pure gold. An LGBT horror anthology, the stories contained within it are unique and fresh, bringing new voices to the horror genre and giving us some excellent stories. Check it out – you really won’t be disappointed.

Also Read This Month: Carmilla, Mr Deadman Made Me Do It, Dangerous Women Part 1, Grind Your Bones to Dust, The Town That Feared Dusk, Fevre Dream, Midnight in the Graveyard

October

whispersWhispers in the Dark – Laurel Hightower

My Review

Another tough month. Basically, since I started reviewing for Dead Head Reviews, I’ve read some amazing horror novels, but Whispers in the Dark is one of my favourites I’ve read this year, let alone in just October. It’s a fantastic, gripping, haunting read, and I’m keen to see what Laurel Hightower gives readers next.

Also Read This Month: A Parallel Abyss, The Tunnellers, Under My Hat, In the Scrape

November

a curse so darkA Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer

My Review

This was the hardest month yet, as somehow I managed to read nine books. Considering I didn’t read for a few days as I was away, I’m kind of amazed at myself. But not only was it nine books read, the majority of them were really, really good. Still, I’m going to put this at the top of my favourites for this month. Just something about this Beauty and the Beast retelling really captivated me, and it helped me heal after finishing Queen of Nothing. A fantastic book, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Also Read This Month: The Devil’s Apprentice, The Sea Was a Fair Master, A World of Horror, Esme’s Wish, Let It Go, Dear Laura, The Queen of Nothing, Various States of Decay

December

TBD

I’ve only finished two books this month so far, so I won’t make any decisions on December yet. Expect an update post from me later in the month!

 

So there we have it! Twelve favourites across two posts. And you really can tell when I started reviewing for Dead Head Reviews, can’t you? For reading, it’s been a really good year for me so far, with some fantastic books, new-to-me authors, a few old favourites and some debuts that absolutely blew me away. Let’s hope this trend of reading great books continues into 2020!

[Double-Feature – Interview] – S.H. Cooper

Definitely check out this fantastic interview with the amazing S.H. Cooper.

Dead Head Reviews

By Garrett Witt

Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Hello, S.H. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. We are excited to have you here. 

S.H. Cooper (SHC): Thank you! I’m frankly shocked anyone would want to take the time to interview me, but very happy to be here!

DHR: We’re so happy to have you! Congratulations on your release of The Festering Ones. Can you tell us how the response has been so far? 

SHC: It’s been really positive so far! The reviews have started to come in and it’s getting some really great feedback. People seem to be digging some Lovecraftian vibes and the mostly female cast of characters. It’s actually been a huge relief because this is my first long form fiction release and I was very worried it might not hold up against my short stories, which is what I’ve built my little horror corner…

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Blogmas #4: Bookish Naughty or Nice List

Blogmas #4I’ve really been looking forward to this one! And you should check out Jenn’s original list from 2017, too.

  • Received an ARC and not reviewed it  X

I will read them all! I just…got swamped, a little more quickly than I expected. I went from having no ARCs, never having touched an ARC, to having…a lot. It’s great, but yeah, I need time to get through them.

uh oh

  • Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley X

I guess technically, I have 0% on Netgalley, as I’m actually not on there. I’m actually considering doing a post, maybe in the New Year, about why I’m not there. I want to be though.

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  • Rated a book on goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

Nope! Not done this one. I don’t write reviews on Goodreads until I’ve at least put them on the blog or on Deadheads, at which point I’ll add an extract, then link back to the original post.

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  • Folded down the page of a book X

Okay, yeah. Guilty. Sorry! I used to actually do this a lot. It was just how I saved my place. Never to someone else’s books though! And I stopped doing it a long time ago. Now, I have a nice little collection of bookmarks to use.

angry

  • Accidentally spilled on a book

Nope! Not that I can remember, anyway. I don’t actually drink when I’m reading, so that helps a lot in avoiding accidental spills.

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  • DNF a book this year

Nope! I’ve finished all the books I’ve picked up this year. I very rarely – if ever – DNF a book.

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  • Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

Nope! I intend to read every book I buy, and honestly, I just can’t afford to buy books I won’t read right now. Though there are some books I would love to have and probably wouldn’t actually read,  if I could.

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  • Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework) X

Yeah, I probably read when I should be writing, to be honest. But it feeds into one another, right?

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  • Skim read a book

Nope! This is another one that I just don’t tend to do.

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  • Completely missed your Goodreads goal X

Well, 2016 I missed it by 8. 2015 was the first year I started doing it and I’ve hit over my goal since then. I tend to set it low-ish, based on how many books I read the previous year. Otherwise I’d just stress myself out trying to hit it.

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  • Borrowed a book and not returned it X

Errrr yes. A long, long time ago. Let’s not talk about it.

my bad

  • Broke a book buying ban X

Yep! I just can’t help it. I want all the books.

gasp

  • Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

Ha nope. I don’t think so anyway.

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  • Wrote in a book you were reading

Ha NOPE! I WOULD NEVER! I fully believe in a book is yours, to do with what you will, and if someone enjoys writing in them, then fair. But I just couldn’t do it.

faint

  • Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads  X

I might have done this with one or two ARCs I’ve received before they were up on Goodreads.

fed up max

So there we have it. I don’t think I did too bad!

Again, huge thanks to Jenn for introducing me to Blogmas and giving me an awesome list to work from.

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Blogmas #1: Christmas TBR     /     Blogmas #2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year     /     Blogmas #3: Favourite Christmas Reads

Blogmas #3: Christmas Reads

Blogmas #3Day 3. How did we get here so quick? Work’s ramping up, Christmas is looming and now I start panicking about who I haven’t got presents for.

While we’re here, I just want to say a huge thanks to Jenn over at Jennielywho pointed me in the direction of her Blogmas list. Go check out her blog if you haven’t already.

And so we come to the third Blogmas post…

Christmas Reads

I’ve said it before – I’m not great when it comes to seasonal reads! I’d love to read more Christmas themed books, but I’m terrible at getting books with the intention of reading them at a particular time of the year. That said, a book doesn’t HAVE to be Christmas themed to be a good Christmas read. (I still haven’t read A Christmas Carol, either!) Here are some books which I think of when I think of Christmas, books which I actually have read. And as always, if you have any recommendations for me, feel free to throw them my way.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkabanhppoa

Something about the HP books makes me think of autumn and winter – I’m pretty sure I included this on a Blogtober list, too. But anyway. Yeah, Christmas makes me think of PoA, and that scene when Harry and Ron enter the Great Hall, only to find there are currently 11 people seated at the table, with the prediction made that the first to rise will be the first to die. The film, as well, with our first glimpses of Hogsmeade, covered in snow, feels a little more Christmassy than the others. This was also the first HP I got for Christmas – opening it and feeling a tad upset because I hadn’t yet read the second one, thinking my mother must have been confused and got me the wrong one and then I opened the present from my brothers, to find Chamber of Secrets looking up at me from the wrapping paper. Day saved.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

the lion the witch and the wardrobeIs it possible to think of Christmas books without thinking of this classic? Again, another one I got for Christmas – I actually had the whole Chronicles of Narnia box set one year, and I cherished them. I watched the cartoon version of this over and over, tense at the Aslan scene even though I knew full well what was going to happen. Narnia, stuck in a constant winter with no Christmas, seemed like such a magical yet horrid place to me as a kid. Winter…with no Christmas? No lights and celebrations and amazing food and presents? And then, of course, Santa arrives, and things seem much more hopeful. In the middle of winter, when things are at their darkest, I think we could all do with that little touch of hope.

NOS4A2

nos4a2One for the horror fans and yes, I know the cover says R, but I’m British so my version said A.

(EDIT, Dec 4th: Friends, I was wrong. The above is a British cover, I thought it was American – my brain let me down when I was typing this yesterday. NOS4R2 = British, NOS4A2 = American, which makes more sense because the latter totally doesn’t sound like Nosferatu to me.)

This cover was just the one I found that seemed most Christmassy. Although the main events of this novel don’t actually take place at Christmas, the main villain of the story is obsessed with Christmas, in an almost childlike way – the kind of thinking kids have, about how amazing it would be if Christmas took place every single day. The book balances summer and winter, plunging you from July 4th fireworks into a wintery, snowy wonderland, and giving Christmas a really creepy, eerie edge. If you like horror and haven’t checked this out yet, I really can’t recommend it enough, especially for fans of King. Out of the novels from Joe Hill I’ve currently read, this is the one that, to me, reads most like his father’s work, yet unbelievably unique in its own right.

25-Post-Ideas-for-BlogmasBlogmas 1: Christmas TBR     /    Blogmas 2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Blogmas #2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Blogmas #2I love winter. I don’t like getting up in the dark or coming home in the dark, but if there’s no where else to go…

Well, it’s nice to be in a lovely warm house, maybe stretched out on the sofa watching A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, or curled up in bed with an enjoyable book. Winter seems like the ideal time to indulge. It’s cold outside, probably wet – especially if you’re in the UK – and dark. Time to play video games, or watch films, or read books.

And ahead of us is Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the warmth and, yes, the time off work. Christmas Day is also my brother’s birthday, and we’ve celebrated this day together every year except for one, when he was travelling around the world.

I admit, as I’ve got older, my love for Christmas has waned a little. In some ways, it’s become much more stressful. In others, more sad. But mostly, I try to focus now on the positives, the things I love about this season. Have a good reason to treat my family, whether it’s through presents or other gifts.

Winter isn’t always the best time. But for me, it’s a chance to relax over Christmas – I am very lucky in that I’m off over the Christmas period. A rare chance to unwind and hang out with my family, this year in Margate where my brother lives, and see his nephew and niece. Having children around makes a lot of difference!

Even though sometimes I get down, for me winter really is the best season. My birthday is November 12th – often it feels like the cusp of autumn and winter, right as nights really start drawing in and coldness chills the air. And after my birthday, the Christmas lights go on up town, Christmas music starts being played, and Christmas planning hits full swing.

And I try to read as much as I can before the end of the year, taking the chance to indulge in some longer books I may have not got to yet.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer [Review]

a curse so darkI read this book immediately after The Queen of Nothing, hoping it would fill the hole left by Holly Black’s fantastic end to an amazing trilogy. And it did…but after finishing it, that hole now feels twice as big. Luckily, this series is still ongoing, and the sequel is out in January, so seems like I read it at the right time.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely  is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, with a slight modern twist. Prince Rhen is cursed to repeat the same season, over and over, transforming into a beast at the end and slaughtering everyone in his path, unless he can find a girl to fall in love with him. By the time we meet him, he barely knows of anything happening outside his cursed castle, and the only person left at his side is the commander of his Royal Guard, Grey.

After trying to find a woman among his own people, Rhen turns to Grey, and Grey is granted the ability – from the same enchantress who cursed them – to cross to the ‘other side’ at the start of every season.

Mistakes and errors lead Grey to taking Harper from Washington, DC to Emberfall. Harper doesn’t want to be there, she doesn’t want to deal with princes and guards and enchanted instruments – she wants to know her brother and her mother are safe, with her brother working for a loan shark to pay off their father’s debts, and her mother suffering from cancer.

I was completely and utterly gripped by the story, right from the very first page. The world painted is vivid, though it is dark and dangerous there are spots of warmth to be found, even with an eerie, empty castle. The characters are complex and interesting, each with their own issues to work through and trying to cope with the situations they find themselves in.

To me, Harper felt like a really strong character, one determined to do the right thing, even at risk to herself, and as she maneuvers through this world, learning about politics and royalty and other things she’s never had to think about before, she shows herself to be kind and endearing, considerate and strong-willed, and those aspects combined endear her to everyone around her.

There’s a very slight almost love triangle, but it never really grows into anything. There’s the potential of feelings between Harper and Grey, but that aspect is more played on when it comes to Rhen, watching them interact and seeing something deeper than what’s happening before him.

The aspect of Rhen being a beast some of the time, and the beast never being the same twice, was one I really liked – it added tension and uncertainty, as there was never any way to plan for what could happen.

I also really liked the interactions between him and Harper. Although she is kidnapped and forced to remain in Emberfall, so much of what happens between her and Rhen is about trust. There’s no insta-love here, but two wounded, defensive people trying to work around one another, approaching each other slowly and carefully, each as like as the other to take simple words or gestures the wrong way.

Although it is a retelling, there is little too predictable about the book, and it brings together elements of the fairytale well, while also mixing things up so nothing here feels overly familiar or overdone.

I really enjoyed the slow burn aspect to their relationship, and loved the way it unfolded. Overall, this is a really strong novel, one I could barely put down, and definitely worth checking out if you haven’t done so already.

 

Blogmas #1 – Christmas TBR

Blogmas #1.pngSo I thought I’d give Blogmas a go this year, because why not. Although I likely won’t be posting every day, I’ll do my best to post as often as I can and offer up some Christmassy posts for your enjoyment. Jenn, who has an absolutely fantastic blog you really should check out, pointed me in the direction of her Blogmas list, (which you can check out here) so I’ll mostly be using that, with some amendments of my own.

My Christmas TBR, much like my October TBR which I talked about at the start of Blogtober, isn’t really centered around Christmas. Mainly because I have so many books waiting to be read, and with my Goodreads challenge cleared, I want to try and get to some of the bigger ones.

However, there is one book I’ve been waiting a good few months to read, and which I started last night.

season of wonderSeason of Wonder is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories, all centered around winter, Christmas and holiday themes. Edited by Paula Guran, the anthology brings together many names familiar to genre readers, and after reading the first story last night, I’m excited to dig into the rest, and nestle in with these wintery, Christmassy tales.

I tend now to have one book on the go for ‘pleasure’, and another for review. I do review ‘pleasure’ books, but they’re not ones I’ve specifically been asked to review and review books tend to be on my Kindle anyway. Right now, I’m reading Follow Him, by Craig Stewart, reading for a blog tour in Feb. I am really enjoying this one. It’s creepy and eerie, and I’m not really that far into follow himit. But it’s building up to be a tense, exciting read – keep an eye out for my post early next year.

Sticking with review books for now, I also want to try to get to Ritual by Steve Stred. I’ve heard really good things about this on Twitter from the horror community, so I am excited to dig into it. There’s also Cricket Hunters by Jeremy Hepler, which looks like a fantastic horror read.

The other two books I want to try and get to by the end of the year are both 2019 releases, and both sequels to books I’ve absolutely loved. The Testaments arrived with great fanfare, and because I pre-ordered with my local bookshop, and was the testamentsone of the first to do so, I was extremely lucky to get a signed copy. I’m eager to read this – I only read The Handmaid’s Tale this year, shortly before the sequel was announced, and one thing that kept hitting me was how relevant the novel still is. That’s not a good thing, but I think The Testaments is really needed in the current climate.

The last book is The Dragon Republic, which I feel everyone has probably read by now except me. The Poppy War was an amazing novel, and again, if I can get to this by the end of the year I’ll be super happy, especially as these are both fairly big books. We’ll see how it goes.

What about you, friends? What’s on your TBR for this month?

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The Devil’s Apprentice: Kenneth B. Anderson – Write Reads Blog Tour

DA Banner

Welcome to my stop on the Write Reads blog tour for dark YA Fantasy The Devil’s Apprentice. This book is the first volume in The Great Devil War series, drawing the reader into this vivid reimagining of hell.

Review

Philip is a very good boy; he always does his homework ahead of time, is polite to adults, and can’t tell a lie at all. Yet he finds himself in Hell, where he discovers Lucifer is dying, and requires an heir. Philip might be the wrong boy for the job, but with no other choice, Lucifer trains him, working to shape Philip into a devil ready to take over the throne.

the devil's apprentice

The Devil’s Apprentice is an imaginative take on Hell and The Devil, introducing sympathetic demonic beings and a young boy caught in a dark plot against Lucifer. But more than that, the novel shows how easy it is to fall to temptation, the ways in which our emotions can blind us, how even the smallest acts of kindness can have far-reaching effects, and elements of cruelty can cause consequences. Philip’s arc is interesting and engaging, drawing the reader effectively along. He starts off as almost insufferably sweet, a boy who for all his goodness has no friends. But in Hell, he learns about who he is and what he could be, and how sometimes, it’s not completely evil to tell a lie.

The characters are multi-layered and engaging, and Philip is surrounded by an interesting cast, including Lucifax, the Devil’s cat, love interest Satina, enemy Aziel and a Hagrid-like gatekeeper at the entrance to Hell.

There were some really dark moments in the novel, and a couple of times it felt like it was leaning too much into the morality aspects. The exploration of temptation is good, but there was a particular scene I personally felt was a little unnecessary, in terms of the people being punished and what their ‘sin’ was. And some elements of Philip’s character arc, especially towards the end, felt just a little bit rushed.

Overall, however, I did enjoy reading this novel, and would without a doubt continue with the series. It feels fresh and unique, and though it perhaps might not be suitable for the younger end of YA, slightly older teens would probably enjoy reading about the dark, dangerous landscape of Hell and Philip’s journey.

the devil's apprentice cover

Blurb

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?

The Devil’s Apprentice is volume 1 in The Great Devil War-series.

kenneth b andersonThe Author

Kenneth B. Andersen (1976) is an award-winning Danish writer. He has published more than forty books for children and young adults, including both fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and his hit-series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies. A musical adaptation of The Devil’s Apprentice, the first book in The Great Devil War series, opened in the fall 2018 and film rights for the series have been optioned.

Kenneth lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo, and spiders in the basement.

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bookbub

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour, too!

the great devil war series

The BBNYA Reveal!

Writers and bloggers definitely need to check this out!

Servillas Speaks

It has been ten days since we started teasing this project on Twitter (@BBNYA_official) and it has been really fun to see everyone so excited, but also confused and eager to know what is going on.

Well, the time has come to finally reveal what this shady business is about…

We are proud to introduce

The First Annual Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award!

in association with
The Folio Society & The Write Reads

BBNYA, the first annual Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award, is a competition for indie authors (both self-published and published by small indie presses).
The contest will be judged by a large and diverse panel of book bloggers from all around the world. The panel will put the books through several rounds of judging based off a wide set of criteria. As each round goes by, we will have bookbloggers announce the…

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