Hellcrafter by Eve Harms

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I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the next instalment of the Demonic Diaries, I’d say book two but if you read the last one and joined the newsletter like I suggested you do.. you’ll know there’s a little bit of something in it for you so….. if you didn’t, go get the book and read it, join the newsletter then come back!

If you’re still here and didn’t do as you were told, don’t worry, you can pick up from here as there’s a little bit of a nod to the first book in it so you won’t be lost as to what’s going on. You will however be missing out on a good first story so please consider it.

This book picks up about 6 months after the end of The Secret Name, there’s some good ups and downs and it’s a more in depth read than the first, although it’s still in a super easy to read diary format so I still devoured it in one sitting!

The imagery in this book is fantastic, you’re right back there like a fly on the wall indulging from a safe distance in someone else’s diary. Someone else’s woes and traumas and it’s brilliant!

I really like the Demonic Diaries, I think Eve is on to something with these and I’m excited to keep reading. They’re not a huge commitment but they’re every bit as good as one and I think that’s important. Manageable chunks of something that’s otherwise probably a really heavy subject matter, all be it with it’s own mix of humour thrown in.

If you haven’t read anything by Eve Harms and are looking for somewhere to start, these books are the perfect introduction. Dive in!

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BLOG TOUR: The Estate by Liza Costello

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I was recently approached to take part in the blog tour for The Estate by Liza Costello, and, as some of my readers had expressed a desire to read about more audiobooks I accepted the opportunity.

I have mixed feelings about this book. This will absolutely be many people’s taste, however there were a few reasons I struggled with it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I absolutely did but that wasn’t a constant for me for a couple of reasons which I’ll note.

The book is based from the point of view of the main character, Beth. After finding herself shunned by friends and heading down a route of heavy drinking, she meets a man, a man in whom she sees a fresh start and a happy future. As she attempts to keep their dreams alive single handedly.. things start to take a turn..

The premise of the book is very good, it’s well written and nicely presented, however it also jumps from past to present and for me as a listener, I found that difficult. I have no doubt that this would absolutely have worked had a read it from a book, but trying to concentrate on it left me confused until I got used to it.

Once I got used to that, I was happily sucked into the story and immersed myself in the difficult situations presented to Beth, but it did take some time for me to really engage. I feel that had the book focussed on the tale at hand I’d have enjoyed it a lot more as a listener.

For the most part the narration was very good, clearly read and nice to listen to, it felt like someone telling me a story of their own past, and the accent helped with that too. The only thing was as the book continued there were parts where the voice was easy to ignore, that may be an attention span thing more than a narration issue.

I would definitely try Liza Costello’s work again, and as I’ve said it’s probably a personal thing rather than anything you wouldn’t like if you picked it up, but I’d be tempted to pick up a book instead of the audio to see if I get on with it better.

Definitely check out this author, especially if you like slow burning psychological crime novels, there are other bloggers doing this same book as part of the blog tour, so please check out each blog with an open mind and go from there before deciding if you’d want to try it out.

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The Technician by Paul B Morris

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To say this book surprised me would be an understatement, to say it impressed me would be entirely truthful.

I’ve read a fair amount of extreme horror and most of it doesn’t impress me at all. I think part of that is the psychological effect of writing “extreme” on the cover of your book. Extreme is one of those words which means a different thing to each person. Now, for me personally, my imagination is much more extreme than that of a lot of my friends. I’ve been known for dark humour for a long time. So when I see extreme, much of the time it’s disappointing.

The nice thing about this book is that nowhere on it does it claim to be extreme, I had no idea of what I was about to wade into, but I very much enjoyed it! Unlike a lot of books these days, Morris has managed to combine dark and twisted and I’m sure in many people’s minds.. extreme, with skilled, adult writing.

The imagery in this book is on point, the characters well thought out and relatable, I think some authors can lose those things – even if they’re very good in other genres – to trying too hard to incorporate the shock factor. Morris, on the other hand, flows through the story throwing all kinds of terrible things at his audience whilst still proving himself a skilled writer.

My first instinct when I’d finished this book was to search for my next Paul B Morris read. I haven’t bought anything just yet but suffice to say I’ve got my eye on it. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody who likes a strong horror theme. If you’ve ever enjoyed a book with “extreme” written on it, you’ll enjoy this.

The cover above is for the paperback, the kindle edition being slightly different;

Whatever the format, grab it and give it a whirl.

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Stitches and Threads by Mark Cassell

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Stitches and Threads is a short story collection by Mark Cassell, author of The Shadow Fabric (which I’ll be reviewing next month!).

The stories are easily stand alone but if you read the book through you’ll notice certain links, this is because they all link into The Shadow Fabric. It’s the first time I’ve read a short story collection which links together – but does so so subtly that it doesn’t matter if you know the subject matter or what order you read them in. This surely takes a true artist!

The stories are each compelling in their own way and what’s nice about them is you’ll notice little hints within them that have been noticing in other stories. The fact you can think “ooh that’s this and it is was in this story” is really incredibly enjoyable. Although in the same vain, you read them and you could pick it up whenever and just read a random story without feeling lost or like you’re missing anything.

I’ve praised Mark Cassell before for his imagery and the fact he is very respectful with subject matter whilst also pushing the boundaries. I’d stand by that 100% with this book, Cassell’s writing is perfect for those who want the weird and wonderful, delivered in a serious way,

My favourite stories in this collection have been the following;

  • Pile of Dirt – I really enjoyed this one, it was odd in the best way. The Halloween theme works perfectly and Cassell’s imagery really put me into the fly on the wall situation,
  • The Rebirth – Bit of a cheat choosing this one, it’s actually my favourite Cassell story but if you see it in a collection or anthology (it’s also in the Collected Easter Shorts collection I reviewed last year) you should pick that book up. This story is brilliant.
  • Dust Devils – This one I really enjoyed, it’s weird, gruesome and compelling all at the same time. On top of that I imagined my aunt’s house and garden whilst reading it and that added a bit of nostalgia for me
  • A Demon’s Thead – I loved this, the opening line “Demons tell campfire stories, too” tells you everything you need to know about why, go check this one out.
  • Meeting Mum – This is a nice but nasty tale, perfect in terms of imagery.

Honestly I could sit here and simply write out the contents, every story has it’s own merits and there are so many I loved that I missed off this list. Check it out! Check out anything you see by this author, you won’t regret it!

Please take care when picking up this book as some scenes may be difficult for some readers. The book does contain scenes of violence and self injury.

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January: Book of the Month

It is my intention this year to do a closing article for each month detailing my favourite reads. It won’t be an especially long article but it’ll just be an overview and run down of my favourite reads. So here goes the first one. Let me know if you like it or don’t like it. There’s little point in me blathering away if you’re not interested in the articles, after all, this content is for you!

I read more books than I expected in January. I’ve had a bit of a difficult year in 2019 for concentration so I thought promising reviews of four books might be biting off more than I could chew! Actually though, I managed no less than 6 reviews in January in the end! So I was able to include some bonus content after all.

I haven’t read a thing that I didn’t enjoy during the month, everything has been brilliant.

So let’s have a look at what we explored;

  • Whistle and I’ll Come to You by M R James – This is actually a collection of stories, I really enjoyed them and they’re darkly enjoyable. I’ll be checking out more by this author and you should too. Especially if you never have before.
  • The Burdizzo Mixtape Vol 1 – I loved this one, it’s a collection of short stories based on the favourite songs of Em Dehaney and Matt Cash of Burdizzo Books. None of those stories are bad and I was gutted I’d limited myself to 8 stories to talk about but it’s a definite recommendation to check out.
  • Benny Rose The Cannibal King by Hailey Piper – I had so much fun reading this book! It’s every bit of Slasher nostalgia you could want in a story and it’s not a massive book either so for those worried about a time investment, I read this in only a couple of sittings. I figured I’d check it out and the next thing I knew I was 60% through it!
  • Last Meal in Osaka and other Stories by Gary Buller – Another short story collection, January has been rather a themed month hasn’t it? These are mini stories and you can sit down for a coffee and read one if you just want a little read. They’re great and it’s surprising how much imagery he weaves into these, especially for the length of them. I’ll be checking out more!
  • The Searcher of the Thames by Em Dehaney – This one was Em’s Debut novel and what a novel it was! I enjoyed this so much, and I was left hoping there’d be a sequel coming, definitely a strong contender in the Magic realms!
  • The Secret Name by Eve Harms – Eve asked me to review her upcoming book Hellcrafter, which will be on the blog next month, so I decided to check this one out first since it’s book one of the Demonic Diaries series. They’re suprisingly easy reading as they’re set out in diary form and I enjoyed the simplistic yet dark and heavy subject matter. There are even some funny bits!

I think January’s Book of the Month has to have been The Searcher of The Thames by Em Dehaney, I was so intrigued by it that the next time I looked up it had gone dark! I couldn’t put it down and all I wanted to do was find what happened next. I never really thought I was particularly interested in fantasy but this really gripped me and I want more!

There was some really strong competition this month but Em just snagged it by releasing hers! Keep an eye out for more great reads throughout Februrary!

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The Secret Name by Eve Harms

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This book surprised me by how easy it was to read. I’ve read a lot of quite full on stories lately and I was expecting the same from this but it’s actually written like a blog (I know right, how’d I miss the word “diaries” on the front cover? Some reason I was still expecting to see a wall of text) it was a really refreshing change and acted like a kind of palatte cleanser between reads.

The characters in the book are nicely written, you can imagine the relationships being real and it does feel a bit like you’re really reading along with someone’s diary.

Before long it had dragged me into the realm of Kendra Temples and suddenly I’d finished the book, it’s a brilliant read, nicely done in a simplistic way that makes you think “one more entry won’t hurt” it’s the perfect way to insert the reader as a fly on the wall and I don’t know why it isn’t done more often. The last time I read a novel in this format it was The Princess Diaries when I was a young teen. And yes, your dark little reviewer who’s hooked on horror was once hooked on The Princess Diaries – go figure.

I actually enjoyed this one so much that I completed it in a single sitting AND dived into another Eve Harms book as soon as I got home!

It’s not a long read but the content isn’t that light either, so be ready for an adventure! I’d grab this book fast if I were you because book 2 is out soon and it’s scheduled for next month!

Also, at the end of the book you’ll be invited to join a newsletter, do this, because you’ll get a free story out of it. My lips are sealed as to what it is because I don’t want to give out spoilers, but it’s worth checking out!

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Interview with Em Dehaney

Em Dehaney is not only known for her writing but also for her part in Burdizzo Books, a small press which gives a platform to new faces within the Writing Community. Burdizzo Books also give large portions of their takings to charity, having put out several charity anthologies.

Em resides in Kent with her husband and two children, enjoys writing, reading and all things horror and is a very active and social part of the community both on and offline.

So Em, your debut novel recently came out, The Searcher of the Thames, how do you think this has been received?

I am absolutely overwhelmed with the feedback I have been getting. I started writing this novel almost 5 years ago, and it’s been a long journey filled with plenty of ups and downs, rejections and re-writes, and I had got to the point where I was almost sick of it, so to have it out there in the world and people telling me how much they have enjoyed reading it makes all those years working on it worthwhile.

What was your inspiration for the novel?

My hometown of Gravesend, where the novel is set. I love local history and once you start digging around in the library archives you find out the strangest things have happened here, some known internationally, some not even known locally. Everything in the book is inspired in some way by real places, people and stories. Truth is often stranger than fiction. The Searcher Of The Thames was a real, royally appointed role, and I just found the title so mysterious and magical that I created a whole hidden world based around it.

Out of all of the characters in this novel, which would you say you relate to most, and which would you say you had most fun writing?

There is probably a small part of me in all of the younger characters; our “hero” Tommy, his ex-girlfriend Linda and her sister Suze. The novel is set in 1997, when I was 17 and spending all my time in Gravesend, so the things the characters do and where they go, the music they listen to and the clothes they wear are all based around my teenage experiences. But there are so many characters in this book that are complete flights of fancy, that were enormous fun to write. I think my favourite is Ethel Tilley, the 400 year-old prostitute, plying her trade in Gravesend since the late 1500s. She is not just old, as are many of the magical “Shade” community in the book, she is ancient but still playful and cheeky. And she makes a mean lemon drizzle cake!

What inspired you to become a writer? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Ever since I was small, the only thing I ever wanted to be was an author. I was a voracious reader as a kid, I would read anything I could get my hands on, and would create diaries for fictional characters. I wrote terrible poetry at university, but then who doesn’t? I would start the first chapter of a hundred different things and then abandon them. But I never really took my writing seriously until my son was born in 2014, when I was introduced to the Kent NaNoWrimo (National Novel Writing Month) Group, by my lovely friend the crime writer Elizabeth Haynes. I wrote prolifically while I was on maternity leave, I wrote the first draft of Searcher, as well as honing my craft as a short story writer.

Your stories can vary wildly in style and genre, this one being an example, which has been your favourite to write and why?

I love to write short stories, I feel it is a completely different challenge to novel writing, but no less tricky to get right just because you have less to write. I also don’t like to be pinned down by one genre. Although I write a lot of horror, I don’t see myself exclusively as a horror writer. Searcher is urban historic fiction, if there is such a thing! My writing always features elements of the supernatural and the weird. I don’t think I could write a “straight” crime or romance novel, it would always take a turn for the strange.

One of my favourites to write was story called The Mermaid’s Purse, from my debut collection Food Of The Gods. It is the story of a young boy called Mikey who doesn’t have the greatest life with his abusive mother, but he makes a friend in a baby shark, a friendship that has dark consequences. I feel a great love for Mikey as a character, and I would like to revisit him later in his life at some point.

Will there be more books added to the tale of The Searcher of The Thames?

Yes, I always envisioned this as the first in a series and I am currently half way through writing the sequel, called The Lady Of The Dead. There is enough crazy history in Gravesend to inspire a hundred Searcher novels.

You clearly have a great love for the town of Gravesend as it shows in the story, is there anything significant in the book which links back to a memory for you?

There are many pubs mentioned in the book that have long since closed down, and I have fond memories of watching different friend’s and boyfriend’s bands playing at The Prince of Wales and The Globe. The town has changed so much in the almost 25 years since the book was set, it really is a love-letter to the Gravesend of my youth.

What’s your favourite part of the story?

The scene at The Mermaid Tavern, the brothel that Ethel Tilley worked and lived in back in the 1500 and 1600s. There are a few slips back in time during the novel, but this is by far my favourite. We meet the character of Mattie, who is hugely charismatic, and find out more about not only Ethel’s backstory, but Tommy’s family history as well.

There are elements within this book which put me in mind of Harry Potter (not that it’s actually all that similar) is that intentional?

It has been described as Harry Potter meets Martina Cole, and also EastEnders with magic, and I think both are pretty spot on! I have always been a fan of the Harry Potter books, they got me through some tough times, when they were the only thing I could manage to read. I never went out of my way to write something that emulated Harry Potter, but they say write the novel you want to read, and this is what I like to read; plot driven, gritty, magical, funny, easy to read, gripping and packed full of strange characters that you get to know and love.

For you, what is the most important aspect of a book?

Despite all the magic and drugs and death and mystery, The Searcher Of The Thames is at heart a book about family. Family is important to me, and not just the family we are born into but the families we make as we go through life.

Do you have a favourite author?

If I had to pick one, it would be Neil Gaiman. Everything he writes is just perfection.

If you could work with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?

At Burdizzo we are huge fans of Priya Sharma, her debut collection All The Fabulous Beasts just blew us away, and we would love to have Priya write a story for one of our future anthologies.

Is there a particular author you draw inspiration from?

Lost Souls and Drawing Blood, the Poppy Z. Brite novels by Billy Martin, had a huge impact on me and have definitely influenced my writing – the lovingly detailed descriptions of people and places, the reference to popular culture and music, the use of drugs as gateways to other dimensions or spiritual planes. His writing is so rich and dense and luxurious and decadent.

You have a strong love of music, was there any artist, track or album which inspired or perhaps helped you focus during the writing of this book?

Music is a huge inspiration to me and my writing, and Burdizzo Books have recently released an anthology called The Mix-Tape Vol.1 which is all short stories based around our favourite songs. I think the best short story I have ever written is actually Caravan Of Love from The Mix-Tape. There is a lot of music and mention of different songs and bands in Searcher, but here is one song that I feel captures the whole mood of the book and that is The Riverboat Song by Ocean Colour Scene. If there were ever to be a film made of this novel, this song would be on the opening credits. I even made a playlist of all the songs that are in or have inspired this book (it’s The Searcher Of The Thames on Spotify, if you fancy a listen.)

Would you like to take a moment to speak about the illustrator behind your cover art?

Winya is an amazing digital artist from Thailand who creates the most beautiful dark and twisted designs. I can’t remember where I first saw his art, but I fell in love instantly. His style is so unique and fresh and fun, and I cannot describe how grateful I am that he brought the character of Tommy to life for the cover of The Searcher. I think he has captured the tone of the book perfectly, as it is comical as well as dark and magical.

Please go and check out his Facebook page or buy some of his designs from Redbubble.

Is there anything you’d like to add, or anybody you think our readers should be aware of that you’d like to give a shout out to?

It has to be my partner-in-grime at Burdizzo Books, Matty-Bob Cash. Burdizzo is his baby. He brought me on board in 2016 and we haven’t looked back since. Also, our whole Burdizzo Family, which is what we call our authors and readers. We are a small gang but getting bigger all the time!

Book links:

The Searcher Of The Thames http://hyperurl.co/nxsiud

Food Of The Gods http://hyperurl.co/oc1tjo

Burdizzo Mix Tape Vol.1 http://hyperurl.co/gqe53l

Social media links:

Burdizzo Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BurdizzoBooks

Em Dehaney Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emdehaney

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emdehaney

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