A Touch of Death – Rebecca Crunden [Books]

a touch of deathCatherine is content in the world she lives in. The daughter of the King’s Hangman, she lives in comfort and safety, oblivious to the real dangers lurking outside her home. She is in love with Thom, but when his brother Nate returns one night, Catherine finds herself accompanying him on a short overnight journey which ends in disaster.

Discovering they are both infected, Catherine and Nate face two options: stay and face whatever awaits them in the hands of the king’s men, or flee.

A Touch of Death is a different take on the dystopian subgenre, with this world so far removed from ours it’s hard to really pinpoint it as our world, but with plenty of hints to show how we could get from this point to there. It’s a world ravaged by disease and pollution, where those in power care more about clinging onto that power than protecting anyone around them.

There are aspects in here familiar to those who have read dystopian novels before – corrupt government, unhappy population ruled by fear, a decaying world – but Crunden really uses these to her advantage, and her characters sparkle with life.

The story is gripping, taking the reader on an adventure across this strange world, leaving them trying to work out who to trust as much as Catherine and Nate do. And through it all, we’re left wondering how things will end, whether the pair will be saved by any miracles.

Crunden has created a dystopia that feels different to those I’ve read before, one where the dangers aren’t as obvious as they first seem, while using some familiar elements to show the stark contrast in those who have grown up with privilege, and those who haven’t.

This was a really interesting dystopian book, tackling a variety of themes and having, at its centre, really engaging characters who change and progress throughout the novel. For me, this is a strong recommendation if you’re looking for something a little different.

Happy Writing – Jenny Alexander [Books]

happy writingI’m a big fan of most (writing) books. I enjoy reading them, I enjoy taking notes on them, and I enjoy glancing back over those notes. A lot of times, these books spark off new ideas, or help me find a way forward on a particularly tricky aspect I’ve come up against. They’ve given me tips not just on writing, but editing too. I think, in many ways, studying these sort of books has definitely helped me become a better writer, and if I think it’s beneficial, I often recommend some to other writers when I give feedback through my beta-reading service.

Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many, or because I’ve been writing for so long, but I didn’t really feel this book added much to the whole conversation.

I definitely think this is a good book to consider if you are starting out with writing, or haven’t really spent much time ‘studying’ the craft as such. There are good tips here, and the glimpses into the writer’s own personal journey are interesting to a point, but overall, I didn’t really come out of this feeling like I’d learnt anything new.

The tips in this book are mainly geared towards helping writers get over the things that might block them, giving advice for what to do when one feels stuck at various stages of a project. The tips are good and interesting, but again, they’re very much ones I’ve read/heard before, and I found myself sort of skimming over most of them.

The best parts about this book were, for me, the extracts from writers about their own struggles, including Alexander’s. They added a really nice touch the whole thing, and it definitely helps to remember that no matter what stage of the ladder you’re on, every writer faces similar struggles.

I recommend this if you’re stuck with your writing, if you haven’t really read much about the craft before, or are considering delving into the world of writing and wondering if you should take that leap.

Follow Him: Craig Stewart – Blackthorn Blog Tour

BLACKTHORN BOOK TOURS PRESENTS (1) (2).pngFirstly, thank you very much to Blackthorn for inviting me onto this book tour, and providing a free ebook of Follow Him. Today is my stop on the tour, and you should definitely check out the other bloggers to see what they’ve said about this novel, too.

Blurb

True love doesn’t die – it devours. Just outside the sleepy town of Dreury, a mysterious cult known as The Shared Heart has planted its stakes. Its followers are numerous. More join every day. Those who are lost and suffering seem to be drawn to it; a home for the broken. When Jacob finds himself in need of such a home, he abandons his dead name and gives himself over to the will of The Great Collector. However, love refuses to let Jacob go so easily; his ex-fiancé, Nina, kidnaps him in the hopes that he can be deprogrammed. As she attempts to return Jacob to the life they once had, a terrible fear creeps in: what if there isn’t enough of her Jacob left? When The Great Collector learns of his missing follower, the true nature of The Shared Heart is unleashed. Nina discovers what Jacob already knows: that hidden behind the warm songs and soaring bonfires is a terrifying and ancient secret; one that lives and breathes and hungers. And it’s coming for them.

Review

Follow Him is a dark, twisted novel with the sort of imagery that would be hard to shake off in a hurry. It’s told through different perspectives, mainly focusing on Jacob and Nina, a young couple, who have very contrasting views about The Shared Heart. After a slight breakdown of their relationship, Jacob seeks comfort in the cult and falls completely for what he’s told. Nina, desperate to locate her missing boyfriend, tracks him down, kidnaps him and takes him back home, where she discovers just how far she’s willing to go to keep him from the clutches of The Great Collector and The First.

And the beauty – and horror – in this book lies in discovery. In the discovery of what, exactly, The Great Collector has been doing to the cult members. In finding out why Jacob really left, and the slow revelations scattered throughout the book.

The gore is really amped up towards the end, as the Harvest approaches and the plans of The Shared Heart start to be revealed. This is not a novel for the faint of heart, with uncomfortable moments scattered throughout the book, and scenes that might just turn a reader’s stomach.

Characters

I don’t always have a section dedicated to characters in a review, but I wanted to have one here, because I feel it’s important. The two main characters of the novel are Jacob and Nina, and both conceal things from the reader and those around them. Nothing that feels forced when revealed, but information that deepens our understanding of both of them.

For Nina, we begin to understand her desperation in getting her boyfriend back, her close relationship with her brother, her fears about what is and isn’t out there, and it all combines to form a strong woman who may not always act in the best way, but who definitely has us, as readers, rooting for her, as she’s lured towards The Shared Heart but constantly pushes herself away from the cliffedge.

Jacob, on the other hand…

I started off rooting for Jacob, not necessarily wanting him to achieve what he wanted, but wanting to see him, in some way, succeed, anyway. That changed – Jacob is not the hero of the story, and by the mid-way point, I was almost wishing for his death. He’s just not a good guy, at all, as much as he pretends otherwise. He’s selfish, and cruel, even before he joined The Shared Heart.

But the way these two characters are put together, then apart, then opposite each other, it works really well, and carried me throughout the novel.

All in all, Follow Him is a twisted, creepy, gory novel, with plenty of tense and stomach-twisting moments, with a fantastic ending. Definitely gets a recommendation from me.

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Author

Craig Stewart is a Canadian author and filmmaker who learned how to count from the rhyme, “One, two Freddy’s coming for you.” He’s a creator and connoisseur of everything horror; never afraid to delve into the dark. His first novel, Worship Me, received the New Apple Literary Award of Excellence for horror in 2018. He has also written and directed several short films that have enjoyed screenings across North America. He currently wanders dark hallways in Toronto, Canada.

Find out more about Blackthorn Book Tours 

A Heart So Fierce and Broken – Brigid Kemmerer [Book Review]

a heart soThe curse is broken. Harper has remained in Emberfall with her brother Jake and his boyfriend, Noah, and with Rhen. With no sign of Grey, rumours of another heir threatening to break the kingdom apart, added to the fact people believe the alliance with ‘Disi’ is a scam, something must be done.

Grey has killed the enchantress Lilith and returned to Emberfall, but with a secret he is unable to share with Rhen, he goes into hiding, taking on the name ‘Hawk’ and working at a tournament ground, staying as hidden as he possibly can.

Look, I’m going to be honest. I was completely and utterly revved up for this book. I don’t often pre-order books, but I did for this one, cause damn was I keen on returning to Emberfall.

Unfortunately, this is one of those sequels that makes you wish the original was a standalone.

I gave this 4*s on Goodreads because Kemmerer’s writing is, in all fairness, fantastic – it’s vivid and beautiful. And the last third of the book had me hooked, but before that…

Well it took a while to get into this one.

The book starts with Harper, then shifts into two POVs which take over for the novel – Grey and Lia Mara, the eldest daughter of Karis Luran but not the heir, that honour going to her sister, instead. And that’s where I felt like the book let me down first. Karis Luran enters Emberfall with her daughters, keen to marry off her heir to Rhen and forge an alliance with Emberfall.

For a lot of the book, I found Lia Mara to be overly whiny and woe-is-me. She’s not helpless, at all, but every other sentence was about how her sister is stronger and how her sister is going to be queen and how she doesn’t match up to her sister and mother. I think a lot of her, especially in earlier chapters, felt forced, too. Like there were moments that felt less relevant to the plot, and there only so we could have some slight reason to like her.

She had some strong moments, but these were overshadowed by the really annoying ones. And then there is Grey. Although I didn’t fully buy into the idea of a love triangle in A Curse So Dark and Lonely, it was evident here, and felt like there was going to be a bit of a build up between Harper and Grey. But nope, we’re quickly whisked away from Harper almost as soon as we get a tiny glimpse of her.

The romance between Grey and Lia Mara, again, felt a little forced. Grey remains one of my favourite characters, but so much of this book was him – and yep, again – whining. Following motions and never really doing much of anything until he was backed into a corner. I liked the way he did react to certain situations, as it’s clear he’s still very much a guardsman, and once more, a lot of the issues I found in the first half disappeared in the second.

Regarding Rhen and Harper now. In A Curse, I absolutely loved the three characters who formed the focus on the book. Harper was a strong, powerful woman who did not put up with anything untoward from either Grey or Rhen. Rhen was troubled and tortured and desperate to do anything to save his kingdom, and throughout the novel it really felt like he grew as a character.

We get none of that growth in this book, none of Harper’s fierceness. Every time we see her, she’s running to greet one of the men in her life or blushing under Grey’s praise. She basically lets Rhen torture people, she sits back while his kingdom is falling to pieces around him because he’s too stubborn to do really consider any option except kill. There are moments near the start of the book where Grey could have actually spoken to Rhen, but they all decide that nope, dying is the best option so let’s just get this over with!

Okay! Things I liked, because I did like a few things. I liked the relationship between Lia Mara and her sister. I liked the additional characters we meet in this novel, and the way the discord among the populace is shown. We also get to see more magic here, used in much better ways, and it works well.

This book isn’t as good as A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which felt more natural in terms of plot progression, character development and the choices made by the characters. Instead, we have two intelligent characters who go around in circles seeming to make life more difficult for themselves, making it feel like everything they do is in service to the plot rather than the world around them. The writing remains beautiful, and Kemmerer clearly has a way with words, but unfortunately the two main characters we follow in this book have less of an impact than both Harper and Rhen, two characters thrust aside for the sequel, whose presence could have made this book that much stronger.

Slay My Love – Lee Colgin [Book Review]

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He couldn’t possibly be this lonely forever

It’s been a while since I read something that could be classed as Paranormal Romance, and Slay My Love was a great way to dip my toes back into the genre.

The new vampire in town is different than any the hunters have seen before, and Franklin is sent to investigate, on behalf of The Scourge. Gianni, a born vampire, realises he’s being followed, and rather than attack the hunter, he talks to him. So begins an unlikely friendship between enemies, forming the basis for a smouldering attraction between the two.

A lot of the paranormal stuff I’ve read in the past, even stuff that focuses on vampires, tended to introduce other creatures into the mix, especially werewolves/shifters and the like. Having the focus on just vampires in Slay My Love works really well, keeping the reader focused on these two characters. And they are great characters to read about, the duel POV used to good effect.

Although we get glimpses into both character’s heads, the tension is effective, some information held back, the writing cutting away from one character when it feels like we’re about to learn something we maybe shouldn’t. The writing itself ensures the reader never feels cheated by this, but more that we really are listening to two men, each with their own agenda, each battling their own inner demons as well as external ones, and each lying not just to each other, but to themselves.

The relationship between the two developed really well, and had me really hoping they would overcome any obstacles and remain together, despite the problems standing in their way. Gianni and Franklin were really enjoyable characters to read about, and their voices carried the story very well.

Colgin creates characters who are intriguing, broken, and lonely, and who manage to find comfort in each other, despite their differences. The story flowed well, the tension worked to keep me reading, and the action involved was gripping. Overall, if you’re a fan of paranormal romance, I really do recommend Slay My Love.

 

Blogmas #6: 2019 Wrap Up & 2020 Goals

Blogmas #6One: I know I skipped day five. Two: This will possibly go up late. Re the first point, I couldn’t think of much for the prompt (gifts) and I said at the start I wasn’t going to push myself to post every day. I’ve been feeling under the weather this week, so I avoided rushing something yesterday, and I won’t rush this to get it out before midnight. But we’ll see how that one goes.

So. 2019.

What a year.

And I mean that in a really good way.

yay.gifSo I started the year off kind of…lonely, I guess. Like, I have my BF, who is amazing, but in terms of networking, and connections to communities, I struggled. I was querying stories, but had very few published, and I didn’t seem to making many connections with the #WritingCommunity on Twitter. I’d see bloggers interacting, getting ARCs, doing blog tours, and had absolutely no idea how to actually be a part of all that.

I had a couple of short stories published at the start of 2019, and I updated the blog more and had a handful of followers, and, as I still do now, I mentally cheered whenever I had a new follower, on Twitter or the blog. It was just constantly amazing to me that someone would be interested in the words I wrote.

thank you.gifJust before the summer, my BF and I talked about going to Disney. Basically, he remembered me saying how much I wished I could spend my 30th birthday in DLP, or at least one birthday, and how it was probably the closest theme park open in the middle of November, and it sucked because theme parks/amusement parks for my birthday were not really a possibility.

See, I love rollercoasters, and on a trip to Blackpool a couple of years ago, we discovered Rich does too, even if he was terrified while we queued for The Big One, the moment we stepped off he turned to me with a grin and said, “Can we do it again?”

emperors new groove.gifWe booked the trip. And shortly after, I decided to try beta reading through freelance website Fiverr. Turns out, that was an absolutely fantastic decision. Through doing this, I have met some fantastic writers, and they’ve now gone on to have stories published or to self-publish books, receiving amazing feedback. It feels great, to be doing something constructive, and to help other writers along their journeys.  Because of this, I am now considering looking at joining The Society for Editors and Proofreaders next year, and maybe taking a couple of courses, as editing is something I really enjoy, and judging from the consistent 5* feedback, apparently something I might actually be good at.

Around the same time, Dead Head Reviews posted asking anyone would be interested in joining their team. Apparently, I was one of the first. And it’s been really exciting. If you”re a horror fan, you should definitely check out the site. Through Dead Head, I’ve been introduced to some amazing indie publishers and authors, and have got to fantastic horror books, from anthologies to novellas to full novels, it really has been amazing.

This year, I also joined TheWriteReads gang, with my mid-year wrap up post being featured as a blog of the day. This has not only increased my views and followers, but also introduced me to some amazing people, allowed me to participate in the blog tour for the fantastic The Devil’s Apprentice, and I am also a panelist for the upcoming BBNYA.

Talking of blog tours, I’ve been invited onto a few now, so look out for them in the New Year! And I’ve started getting a few review requests thanks to my review policy page, and it’s always exciting to see an e-mail come in for that dedicated account.

anna excited.gifWith my own personal writing, things have been a little up and down. I’ve had a couple of short stories published, but many rejected. But I will keep trying and, of course, keep writing.

But one thing this year has taught me is that even though I am in an early stage in my own writing career, that doesn’t mean I can’t help other beginner writers. Whether it’s through the beta-reading/editing work I do, or reviewing books, I feel really happy when I can give another writer feedback to make them smile, and when I do come across a really good book, you can bet I’ll shout about it from the rooftops.

And of course, we went to Disneyland Paris in November. It was amazing and magical and an absolute dream come true – I cried during Illuminations, because I was standing next to my fantastic, wonderful boyfriend, in Disneyland, on my 30th birthday, and it was everything I could have wished for and more. And Illuminations is just…it’s emotional, okay? Here’s hoping we get to go back soon!

mickey and minnie

2020 Goals

So here we are. It’s coming up to the end of the year and we are approaching 2020. I’m not a big fan of setting ‘goals’ as such, as if I don’t hit them, I tend to feel a little bad. But I do try to set myself small, achievable goals. Things I know I can do, and if I exceed them, I can feel really, really good about it.

One thing that happened this year I didn’t mention about was I hit 100 blog followers (and hoted a giveaway to celebrate!). So this year, maybe I can double that. Hitting 200 would be fantastic.

I’ve exceeded my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal (set at 50, currently on 65) and would like to do the same next year. I am definitely reading more, so I’m going to up the amount to 55. Still a small number, but if I can read over 50 in a year, I’m happy.

Have short stories being queried at all times. This year, I set myself to have five out on submission every month, and I’m going to try to keep that up. If I don’t achieve that, it’ll be because I’ve had stuff published, so even if I don’t hit that goal, it’s not a bad thing.

Other than that, I’m going to keep doing what I’m currently doing. Helping writers, whether it’s improving their writing or promoting their books via reviews, updating the blog regularly, and working on my own writing when I can.

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Huge thanks to Jenn for pointing me towards her Blogmas list.

Blogmas #1: Christmas TBR  /  Blogmas #2: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year  /  Blogmas #3: Christmas Reads  /  Blogmas #4: Bookish Naughty or Nice List

Book Reviews

Anyone who follows me on here and on Twitter might be aware I, not that long ago, started reviewing for Dead Head Reviews. The focus on there is horror, but I review a variety of genres here on my blog, too.

More and more recently, I have been contacted directly by publishers and authors with requests to review their work. For me, that is so exciting, and I love having the opportunity to help promote new and indie authors. I’ve also started taking part in blog tours!

Because of this, I have now added a Review Policy to this website, with my contact details for any authors, publishers etc who might be interested in me reviewing one of their books.

It basically outlines the ideal information for requesting reviews, but importantly also has my new review e-mail address, so if you’re trying to promote a book, please feel free to get in touch, either on Twitter (@elleturpitt) or via my new e-mail, elleturpittreviews@gmail.com.

 

Blogtober Day Thirteen: Review – Under My Hat Anthology

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Day One: Spooky TBR    /   Day Two: October Releases    /   Day Three: Bookish Autumn Bucket List    /   Day Four: Perfect Cosy Reading Nook    /   Day Five: Top 5 Disney Villains    /   Day Six: Strong Woman Horror Trope    /   Day Seven: Reading Snacks    /   Day Eight: 5 Autumn Reads    /   Day Nine: Vampires and Werewolves    /   Day Ten: Spooky TBR Update    /   Day Eleven: Witches    /   Day Twelve: Books I Should Have Read

Challenge List – Anniek’s Library 

Under My Hat is an anthology, featuring some of the best known voices in fantasy fiction. The stories are all based off the idea of witches, some with the traditional ideas we know but with a slight twist, others with more varied, unrecognisable characters, and each one a delight to read.

There are elements of fantasy and horror in here, but most lean away from horror, focusing on other aspects of witchcraft. The first (Stray Magic) is a really sweet, endearing story about a dog separated from her master. There’s a story about a young woman who has recently joined a wiccan coven, and is searching for her belief. A tale about a cursed girl takes an interesting twist when her dead grandmother is bought back to life to protect her. And a young man in a forest comes across a woman who seems to be half cat, half human.

The anthology is well written, really well put together, and none of the stories blur into the other. Each has its own voice, and its own unique charm, carrying you from one tale to the next and making the book as a whole quite difficult to put down.

Overall, this is a really strong, interesting collection of stories, one that’s perfect for spooky season, and one that takes what could be seen as a stock character, and adds layers upon layers to it, without making the witches completely unrecognisable.

blogtober

Rose – Rami Ungar – Book Tour

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Welcome to my stop for the Rose book tour, the horror fantasy novel by Rami Ungar, and thanks so much for the invite from Blackthorn Book Tours. See my review below for this gripping novel.

About the Book

Rose wakes in a strange greenhouse, with no idea how she got there, her memories missing, and her body transformed. As she struggles to discover what happened to her, she finds she now has buds sprouting from her, her skin is green, and she has somehow gained roots, requiring her to settle in soil every so often to feed off the nutrients.

Enter Paris, claiming to be her boyfriend, who explains Rose was involved in an accident the night before, and he found a way to bring her back. She’s in his greenhouse, and Paris tells her how completely in love they are, and how he’s going to protect her – she has nothing to worry about.

My Review

The reader is drawn into the situation, gripped by the events happening to Rose, and Ungar does an excellent job of ensuring the reader never quite knows what to think, leading them through twisted corridors and constantly second-guessing everything.

The majority of the novel is set in just Paris’ apartment and his greenhouse, but Ungar does great things with the space, making the reader feel as penned in as Rose, but never losing them with the containment. And when the novel moves, it really moves, dragging the reader along with the characters, increasing the pace and tension with every step.

It’s hard not to feel for Rose, trapped as she is and unable to interact with anyone, as her memories slowly start to come back. And it’s hard to get a handle on Paris, the impression being that perhaps in their previous life together, he wasn’t that great of a boyfriend.

The twists and turns in the novel feel natural rather than jarring, and the tension is kept high throughout, without feeling like its all just too much. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and definitely recommend it to any horror/fantasy fans.

The Author

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Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.

Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.

When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.

Don’t Forget
You can read my previous reviews about Rose on Goodreads and on Dead Head Reviews
Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour, too.
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Hi, How Can I Help You?

There have been a couple things I’ve being doing recently, which could be of help to some writers.

Firstly, prior to publication.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big advocate of getting feedback on writing. I’ve written a post about it in the past, which can be found here, and I have a page on the website all about finding readers for your work. Feedback is crucial to a writer – without it, not only will you not improve, but your work is unlikely to find publication – a beta/proofreader/editor will help identify typos, awkward phrases, plot inconsistencies etc. Every piece of fiction goes through some sort of editing, but if a slush reader sees a story – whether it’s short or long fiction – littered with typos, they’re not going to bother reading it, no matter how good the actual plot and characters are.

So yes, get feedback. How intensive the feedback is, and what you need in particular, are answers only you know. I give a variety of ways of getting it on the page mentioned previously, but it is a service I offer through Fiverr. I pride myself on being fast, honest, and encouraging, giving detailed critique regarding whatever story I’m working on. I have almost 30 five star reviews at this point, a number of repeat customers, and some of the authors I’ve worked with are currently self-publishing their work, have had short stories published, or are working towards querying. You can find out more details through Fiverr or contact me on Twitter (@elleturpitt). If you’re on a budget, just let me know, as I am able to do custom orders, as well.

And, secondly – reviews.

I started this blog to both promote my own work and writing, and others. I’ve done a number of reviews on here, and glancing over them, it’s easy to see how varied my tastes are. But I’ve recently started specifically reviewing horror for Dead Head Reviewswhere I’ve reviewed collections, anthologies, and a couple of novels, as well as my favourite podcast, Calling DarknessIf you are a horror fan, definitely check it out.

These reviews also go up on Goodreads. Though not all my reviews on Unwrapping Words are on there as well, if you want me to review your (non-horror) book for this blog, I’d put the review on Goodreads as well. If you’d like to contact me about reviewing your book, whatever genre, and whether it’s an anthology you’re featured in, your own short story collection, or a novella/novel, again, just DM me on Twitter. Let me know the genre, so I know if it’s for Dead Head or this blog.

Both the service & reviews have allowed me to read some absolutely excellent fiction, and discover new authors – and honestly, especially with the Fiverr service, championing these authors is something I really like doing, helping spread the word about their work and seeing them grow as writers. So why not contact me, and let me do the same for you?