Mini Review; The Retreat- Sherri Smith

How Well Do You Really Know Your Friends?

Published by Forge

Released 13th August 2019

Page count 352

GoodReads

theretreat sherri smith

Synopsis:

Four women.
Four secrets.
A weekend that will change them forever…if they survive.

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiance invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends–one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship–Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with. Continue reading “Mini Review; The Retreat- Sherri Smith”

The Horror Of Sex In Fiction

I’ve found myself considering one of the biggest differences between my experiences of male and female writers of horror.

SEX…

A little foreword first;
What I want to say by no means encompasses all authors. My own reading choices make up a minuscule selection of the horror genre, I’ll be talking about my own opinion based on my reading experiences.
I’ll briefly reflect on my recent reading history to show you what I’m working from.

*****
This year so far I’ve read 87 books.

31 were horror. (I found this quite surprising actually, I’d expected the number to be above 36%)

10 written by 10 different FEMALE authors

20 written by 17 different MALE authors
(4 of these titles were Jonathan Janz)

1 Co-written

-SUB-GENRES included fantasy, thriller, gothic, supernatural, body horror, sci-fi, survival, post apocalyptic and coming-of-age.

6 of them could be considered YA and 4 of those are marketed as such.

It may also be interesting to note that all were published within the past decade with the exception of two male written horrors first released in the 80s.
*****

As I embark on my 32nd horror novel of 2019, (Jonathan Janz’ The Darkest Lullaby – review here) I’ve found myself considering one of the biggest differences between my experiences of male and female writers of horror.

SEX.

We’ve all seen terrible examples of men writing erotica on twitter. Those snippets of ridiculous, eye-rolling, sometimes nauseating scenes. Almost always throwing about words like cunt, snatch or whatever derogatory term they can think up for vagina.
In horror especially I find this irritating.

It feels like men are trying to disgust you with sex, making it as tawdry or just gross as possible to elicit shock or unease in the reader.
Let me tell you, it doesn’t work! I’m not shocked, I’m not uneasy. I’m just rolling my eyes at the transparent attempt to force emotion. I find it juvenile and it immediately lowers my respect for the writing.

Now I’m by no means prudish. But seriously? A third of the male written horror books I read put serious focus on genitalia. Specifically male genitalia.
There were giant slimy naked monsters with dicks longer than their arms- come on now, that’s just funny! All the effort you put into describing these fearsome beasts and now I’m imagining them tripping over their own penises.
Dicks growing out of a house interior.-Now that was bizarre. Being raped by a ‘hardwood’ floor? Door handles warping into cocks? Consider any suspense obliterated. If I’m not almost-laughing at such childish ideas then I’m definitely annoyed to have shattered.
There’s nothing more wasteful then spending pages, chapters even, building that sense of dread or slow creeping tension to have it culminate in a brawl where someone gets dick-slapped. 

I’ve read about victim being swallowed hole by vampire vaginas and a fountain that pours out cum instead of water- that one was particularly gross actually. My stomach flipped at the thought so I guess maybe that guy got the reaction he wanted. But I can’t say it made me want to keep reading.
I’m not bothered enough by it to put the book down but I read horror to be scared, shocked, tense, thoughtful and many other things that do not count disgusted or a little queasy.

In all the female written horror books I’ve read I have never come across erotica being used to disgust. To scare? Yes, absolutely.
But rather than giant monsters swinging their impossibly big dicks around, (as found in 7 of the 20 male horror novels I’m discussing!) the women creep into your own psyche or put you straight into their characters shoes.
Using sex to frighten readers only has real impact for me when done by women. They bring a subtlety and purpose to the writing that evokes a completely different reaction.
Perhaps this is just because I too am female?
We could easily discuss the societal aspects of this topic but that’s not the point I’m making today.

Some of my favourite horrors are set between 1970 and 1999 so I’m really appreciative of the similarities arising in some of the recent publications I’ve read.
I love the small town, old school vibes I found in many of those 31 books.
But gentleman please, leave the sex-shock trend behind where it belongs would you? I’m bored with it.

Blog Tour Review; The Darkest Lullaby- Jonathan Janz

Page Count 304 / Publication date Aug 2019/ Publisher Flame Tree Press

Good Reads link

darkestlullaby.png

 

Synopsis:

Ellie Crane doesn’t believe in demons or vampires, but she still hates the idea of moving into a creepy old house. But when her husband’s aunt bequeaths them a sprawling forest estate, Ellie finds herself stuck in a setting straight out of a horror movie. Then the real horror begins…

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review; The Darkest Lullaby- Jonathan Janz”

Blog Tour; They Kill – Tim Waggoner

What are you willing to become to save someone you love?

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

Publication Date: July 2019

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Synopsis

What are you willing to do, what are you willing to become, to save someone you love?

On the one-year anniversary of his death in a terrible car accident, Sierra Sowell’s brother Jeffrey is resurrected by a mysterious man known only as Corliss.

Corliss also transforms several people in Sierra’s life into inhuman monsters…

…Each of these people harbor grudges against Sierra, sparks of anger and resentment which Corliss fans into murderous flames…

Sierra and Jeffrey’s boyfriend Marc work to discover the reason for her brother’s return to life while struggling to survive attacks by the monstrous quartet whose only desire is to see her dead…

After the monsters carve a bloody swath through town – and each other – Corliss gives Sierra a chance to make Jeffrey’s resurrection permanent: if she’s willing to make a dreadful bargain.

Can she do what it will take to save her brother, no matter how much blood is shed along the way? Or will she allow him to return to the land of the dead and perhaps join him there?

**********

Review

They Kill has a very fluent pace, written in 3rd person, each character links to the next in either minor or major ways. The length of their own storylines are comparable to their contribution to the story. Some are short chance encounters whilst others are relations, colleagues and neighbours.
The way Waggoner tied all the characters together with one demonic man wreaking havoc in various chaotic scenarios reminded me of King’s Needful Things.

Occasional use of disturbing imagery includes a particularly rancid scene involving a drinking fountain. You’ll get a good stomach churn from the sex scenes too, they were uncomfortable and a little skeevy I felt.

I was never really invested in any particular characters or the story line. Sierra’s devastation over the loss of her brother was mentioned often but never really described in a way that ellicited enough emotion for my liking. It was just a tool to create the scenario and that showed.

The supernatural abilities of Corliss made him much less frightening. For me he was more of a fantasy character, and whilst I do enjoy fantasy it’s not what I expected from a Flame Tree Press title.
As well as being telepathic, Corliss travels by ripping holes in time and space. This along side his blackest black coat, long blonde hair and pointy fingers made him a resounding stereotype of the evil found in 90s entertainment. Unfortunately this robbed me of the tension Waggoner tries to build.

‘The Gyre’ and Corliss’ purpose are semi-explained in passing, I felt this either needed a lot more depth or to be omitted entirely. The same could be said of the monsters- formally acquaintances in Sierra’s life. Aside from Jeffery himself, none of them had a particularly strong bond with Sierra and so it seemed odd that they should all be hell bent on her destruction.

If you like silly horror then this is one for you. I think fans of Janz work would definitely enjoy Waggoner. Unfortunately I didn’t.

TW rape, child abuse, alcoholism.

Roxanne’s Reactions:

I received a copy of this title from Flame Tree Press in exchange for my honest review. Many thanks to Anne Cater.

Blog Tour; Life Ruins- Danuta Kot

How do you find a killer when no one believes there’s a victim?

 

Page Count 480

Publication date 2019/ Publisher Simon & Schuster

Good Reads link

Life Ruins Cover

 

Synopsis

Three very different people, connected by a thread of violence  … and hope. 
Kay, recently widowed and coming to terms with life on her own, feels she has hit rock bottom. For years she and her husband fostered difficult children – including Becca, whom trouble follows like a stray puppy. And now Becca seems to be in the worst trouble of her life. 

A girl has been attacked so savagely she can’t be identified. She’s alive, but only just. Becca, tossed out of university and just let go from her dead-end job, is certain she knows who the victim is. But no one will believe her.

 

Review

Our protagonists Becca and Jared are deeply flawed, realistic characters, each broken by their own history. I liked the angry, defiant edge to them. Whilst Jared’s past is laid out early on we have to dig deeper to piece together Becca’s full story.

Jared’s recollection of his best friend Charlie’s death gave me shivers. I really felt the claustrophobia and the rising fear of inescapable danger. The ensuing hollowness of Jared resonates in Kot’s writing, I connected well with his changing emotional states and loved his development throughout the story arc.

I’d have liked a little more of Becca’s past. The reader can put it together easily enough but whilst we are treated to Jared’s full story Becca’s is not as fleshed out, her character felt a little one dimensional in comparison.

Life Ruins holds on tight to its secrets. There was no guessing ahead for me this time, I was gripped almost the entire way through with absolutely no idea what I was hurtling towards. The antagonists were an enigma making them unpredictable and keeping me on edge throughout the read.

Unfortunately the behaviour of the authorities in Life Ruins was not at all believable. The police characters were stereotyped straight out of a bad movie and their failure to investigate such violent attacks yet waste time searching for an apparent crank phone call made no sense.

For me the final chapters felt a bit rushed. Everything all tied up neatly and made sense but felt like small fry compared to what Kot had been alluding to earlier in the book. I realise that’s very vague but I’m desperately trying not to drop spoilers!
I’m really not a fan of the ‘2 months later…’ style endings either. Using a short summary to suddenly resolve a story that had been at the height of action in it’s previous chapter always feels lazy to me.

Life Ruins bolts out of the gate and races towards an unfortunate stumbling finale. Worth a read but for those as invested in endings as I am this journey outweighs it’s destination.

Roxanne’s Reactions:

 

I received a copy of Life Ruins from Random Things Blog Tours in exchange for my review. Many thanks to Anne Cater and Simon & Schuster.