‘Ambrosia’ by Madison Wheatley – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

Fat pig. Fat pig. Fat pig.

I let Jace’s ugly words roll around in my head while I try to tear myself away from the bathroom mirror. They echo throughout my mind, waking up feelings of self-hatred and disgust. I feel my soul sinking the longer I stare at the hideous figure in the toothpaste splattered mirror, but I can’t make myself look away.

Can’t seem to shut off the voices from the past.

I came home from work early, only to find someone else’s lithe arms coiled around his chest like a white snake. Upon seeing me in the doorway, her arms slithered off his skin as she sprang off the bed.

He rose, half-dressed. Stood next to her in solidarity. The fear in her eyes was absent from his defiant glare.

Normally, I’m able to weaponize my destructive thoughts, normally able to use them as some sick form of ‘motivation’ to drag myself to the gym every morning.

But today is August 3rd. The Anniversary

Synopsis –

Two words have haunted Crystal for years: fat pig.

So when a handsome and athletic stranger promises that his gym will change her life, how can she say no? With its cutting-edge facilities, beyond-friendly staff, and endless free samples of Ambrosia, their signature energizing sports drink, Mount Olympus seems too perfect to be real—and maybe it is. Crystal needs it all, but is she willing to lose more than just weight?

Thoughts –

Ambrosia is a stark tale of self-hatred, guilt, regret, and body image that follows the story of Crystal, a woman who has long struggled with her weight and loving herself. Predisposed to believe that she deserves to be punished and hurt, Mount Olympus, the new and exotic gym in town that have graciously slashed their prices just for her, is primed to draw her in. As Crystal becomes more and more obsessed with working out, she also starts to see that she is not the only one spending every waking hour in the gym. Having pushed away any family or friends she had, there is no one around to pull her out of her addiction, so when she begins to lose a lot more than bodyweight, she has to pull herself out of this hell hole.

A novel that tackles difficult events and emotions, Ambrosia is a story that I think most can relate to, if not at least most women. The pressure to lose weight, to work harder, to repress unpleasant memories and focus on ‘goals’ on the ‘hussle’ of our new lives is a constant pressure. To always be better, stronger, and more in control. Crystal, our protagonist, falls fast, but it’s a fall we can all recognise. Her past and her struggles are universally tragic as well as the buttons pressed to pull her into this well-crafted business of despair.

Wheatley’s writing is in the moment, it is honest and raw, and gives an urgency to Crystal’s muddled brain that brings a realism to the surreal events that are happening. Wheatley uses her writing to confront the irony of a complete body overhaul, only to find out that your mind is still the same. You can’t wipe away a traumatising past with any amount of treadmill miles.

Using imagined horrors to reflect the true horrors of our daily lives, Ambrosia will have you running a fine tooth comb through every gym membership contract you see.

About the Author –

Madison Wheatley is a poet and speculative young adult/new adult writer from Jackson, TN. Since her graduation from Harding University in 2014, she has been teaching middle school and high school English Language Arts. Her poetry has been published in Seltzer (2014) and Cave Region Review (2014), and she is a contributing author in Seven Deadly Sins, A YA Anthology: Avarice (2018) and Secrets in Our Cities (2018). Her debut novel Ambrosia, a new adult paranormal thriller, was released by Authors 4 Authors Publishing on October 13, 2019. You can find her through her Twitter or Instagram.

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‘Psychic Sisters’ by M. E. Purfield – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

 

***

 

I do not know where I am. Sort of. I am at home. My new home. Mikis condo. I grunt and scream and try to say the words in my head but they will never come out. At least not that way. I cannot speak words. Only write them. So instead I pound the couch. I pound my head. I stomp the floor. I feel my face flush red. Tears run down my cheeks. All these thoughts speed through my brain. All these sensations. But most of all anger. 

Please calm down Miki says. I can hear the fear in her voice. Scared of me or what she might do. 

I cannot calm down. She does not understand that I have no control right now. I go through control all day. I hide. I mask. Try to pass myself off as normal and neurotypical so I do not have to suffer the annoyance and sympathy in peoples voices and faces. 

Maybe this is a way for me to finally let loose and show Miki how I am. Who I am.. She will hate me for it. She appears sad and worried. She must be feeling pain. My explosion is hurting her even though I am not touching her. But does she think I am having fun. Does she think I want to do this. That I want attention and love. I hope not. It is not about that at all. 

 

Synopsis –

Miki and Prudence Radicci. Sisters. One, an adult artist. One, a nonverbal autistic teen. Both with a psychic ability. Both that trouble keeps following.

Life is different now for Miki Radicci. Her long lost sister Prudence lives with her so she’s determined to create a stable life for her. But the world is far from stable. Especially when Miki psychically experience a person’s death and Prudence accesses computers with her brain. Whether they are suffering bizarre visions of pink-eyed albinos of another dimension, saving a neighbor from sexual predators, finding a body on vacation, or getting carjacked, nothing will test the sister’s new bond than a catastrophic event that strikes New York and brings their dreams to life.

 

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Thoughts –

The first in a new series for M. E. Purfield, but a series that carries on a previous one, Psychic Sisters follows young artist Miki and her autistic sister Prudence as they try to navigate their new lives and not get on each others nerves. Their unique psychic abilities lead them to situations that test their bond.

Being autistic himself, it is no surprise that the character of Prudence is an accurate and sympathetic representation of a non-verbal autistic teenager. Prudence has difficulty communicating with others and the fact that she has the ability to manipulate machines – able to text without a phone – is a bitter sweet skill when she must keep it secret from anyone she wishes to befriend. Always aware that she is different to others and coupled with her dark skin treated differently, and often times overwhelming to others, she struggles without her sister to help her. And with a sister like Miki, hellbent on doing right by her sibling, it is heartwarming to see their authentic relationship throughout the story, from petty sibling arguments to an unshakable sisterly love.

Miki as a main protagonist has her own issues though. Feeling the pain of others is not an easy gift to have for anyone, and for an independent eighteen year old artist who must now care for her sister as a parent, the burden on her shoulders is mighty. But she carries it with her head held high. While this is part of a larger story, Psychic Sisters can be read comfortably as a stand alone book but be warned – you will be compelled to grab the next one, and probably the previous series too.

 

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One sister an artist, the other an autist, but both with unique psychic abilities – the Radicci sisters are just trying to live their lives, but the world has other plans for them.

 

About the Author –

M.E. Purfield is the author of the long running and highly rated Miki Radicci series and the sci-noir Blunt Force Kharma series. He has had short stories in Broken Pencil, Unwinnable Magazine, and Norwegian American Weekly. He lives in Jersey City, NJ but you can always find him at on his Instagram here or on his website www.mepurfield.com

 

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‘The Virgin’ by Wol-vriey – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review*

***

She sighed in frustration. A little music would have helped pass the time, helped her to relax. 

But I’m prepared to wager that they don’t want us relaxed: they wanted us all tense and on edge as possible. 

The final piece of furniture in the room was the weapons rack. Hailey had so far avoided paying too much attention to the rack. Instead, her gaze flickered from the jewelry on the dresser (a lot of it was utterly gorgeous and she was certain most were designer pieces), to the fridge (which was filled with protein bars and energy drinks), and the digital clock on the wall beside the giant mirror (which informed her she had twenty minutes to showtime.) 

Showtime. Damn. I must be crazy. I can’t believe that I’m actually here and about to go through with this. What if I don’t survive it? Is this actually worth the risk? Oh, hell yes, it is. 

Synopsis –

THE VIRGIN GAME SHOW:

• 10 million dollars in prize money,
• 1000+ video cameras,
• Lots of deadly weapons,
• 10 Suitors,
• 5 Virgins, and
• 3 Hours . . . to keep your hymen intact.

Hailey Osborne wants to sell her virginity for a hundred thousand dollars. But then she’s made an offer she really can’t refuse: how about competing to win ten million dollars in a no-holds-barred underground game show, where all she has to do is remain a virgin?

There’s just two problems:

1. Four other women also want that prize money.
2. There’s ten suitors all contesting to take Hailey and the other virgins’ precious hymens . . . by any means necessary . . .

But hey, it’s just for 3 hours, right? How hard can it possibly be to hold on to something for that short period of time, something you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get rid of for years?

Hailey Osborne is about to find out.

 

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Thoughts –

The Virgin is not what you expect, and certainly not what I expected. Like the Hunger Games but with less sexual assault, surprisingly, Wol-vriey takes readers on an action packed, tense as a steel string story of a reality TV show like no other. In a world where you can change your social status by selling off your virginity, a lot of young women see it as an opportunity to make some not-exactly-easy money. And the woman who runs the show sees it as a vindication for her own intact ‘virginity’. Playing off the glorification of imagined female virginity and the debauched wants and desires of the voyeuristic upper classes, The Virgin does not try to be a feminist novel, nor does it paint the women of the competition as victims either – they see an opportunity and they are aware of all the risks they are about to take, as well as the violence they are willing to partake in to win. Each of them has made a choice for greed or for the want of a better life, but their each ready to fight for the prize.

With ribald humour and a direct and unflinching prose, Wol-vriey gives a glimpse at a gameshow that is a little to easy to believe in. The reader is taken on a thrilling and sometimes violent trail of a competition where the goal is to keep your hymen intact, a hymen that could be worth ten million dollars. Our main protagonist, Hailey Osborne, is a determined young woman who is not against losing her virginity, but may as well make some money while she has it, right? The Virgin is a sometimes humorous, often violent, and definitely though provoking novel that you won’t soon forget.

 

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The Virgin is a wild ride that does exactly what it says on the tin. An adult Hunger Games that is somehow less disturbing – this book will surprise you.

 

About the Author –

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Wol-vriey is Nigerian and quite tall. He writes horror fiction—for adults only, please. And also some surrealist stuff. To date, he has published over twenty novels in both genres.

His horror novels include: Hell Dancer, Girls Are Not Smiling, and the ‘Brainchew’ Series. On the surrealist side of things, he is the author of Pussy Transmission, the Bud Malone ‘Boston’ Series, Vegan Zombie Apocalypse, Vegan Vampire Vaginas, and the disturbing and unsettling Dr. Orgasm.

 

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‘Eden’ by Tim Lebbon – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

You can also see my video review here.

 

Eden seems like a good place to die. Before arriving she hoped that would be the case, but now she is certain. Even if she wasn’t ready and prepared to embrace the endless sleep, darkness is all that faces her now. After what she has seen and experienced, and what lies before her, there can be no doubt.

The deep forest surrounding her sings unknown songs in voices she cannot understand. She has never been one for courting attention. The exact opposite, in fact, and that is her main reason for coming here. She came to lose herself and find some sort of peace. Instead, something has found her.

Wiping blood from her left eye, she’s surprised at how quickly it’s drying. It forms a crisp, sticky layer. binding her eyelid almost shut. She doesn’t want to confront death with one eye closed. She winces when several eyelashes are pulled out with the coagulated mass. It smears across her fingertips and palm, and forms dark half-moons beneath her nails. She stares at it, sad for all that has come to pass. It’s not her blood.

 

Synopsis –

In a time of global warming and spiralling damage to the environment, the Virgin Zones were established to help combat the change.  Abandoned by humanity and given back to nature, these vast areas in a dozen remote locations across the planet were intended to become the lungs of the world.

But there are always those drawn to such places.  Extreme sports enthusiasts and adventure racing teams target the dangerous, sometimes deadly zones for illicit races.  Only the hardiest and most experienced dare undertake these expeditions. When one such team enters the oldest Zone, Eden, they aren’t prepared for what confronts them.  Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way.  And here, nature is no longer humanity’s friend.

 

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Thoughts –

Set in a not too distant future and one that seems more and more plausible by the day, Eden tells the story of a group of adrenaline hungry adventurers set on traversing the oldest ‘virgin zone’ that the world has to offer. A group headed by veteran traveler Dylan and his tenacious daughter Jenn, the group quickly finds out that there are more motivations between them than simply making it to the other side on time. As secrets come to the forefront, relationships shift, and the strong bonds they would need on any journey are tested because this isn’t any journey; this is the most dangerous hike they’ve ever taken.

Eden is nature in defense mode. Not only are humans absent from the area, but Eden is hell bent on making sure they stay absent. The horror of flora and fauna working together to fight back against this group of humans, no matter how respectful of the environment they seem to think they are, is enough to get any readers adrenaline going. With underlying family issues and emotions in the way, our group of protagonists make frustrating mistakes despite their experience, and the darkness in Eden takes full advantage of these.

 

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Action driven and immersive, Eden is the story of a haunting future that might just be possible, and one where people are not the saviours they wish they were.

 

About the Author –

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Tim Lebbon is a writer from England who loves cake. He’s written many novels, novellas, and short stories including horror, dark fantasy, and tie-in novels. He has written the novelisation of movies such as 30 Days of Night, Alien: Out of the Shadows, and Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi. The movie of his novel The Silence is currently on Netflix and he also has a short story Pay the Ghost that was opted for a movie staring Nicholas Cage. For more information visit his website at http://www.timlebbon.net

 

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‘The Third Corona Book of Horror’ Edited by Lewis Williams – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

 

-Curious, If Anything-

Cold linoleum under his feet, Babafemi stood there. Not frightened but curious, if anything. Pale light of early morning crept through the awning window over the bathtub and chased away the last of the bathroom’s shadows, and it was there in that room of grimy and green chequered tile that, rather than run, Babafemi raised a hand to the tuft of his greying beard, stroking it in contemplation. 

Ghost.

Really?

The dark-skinned body in the bathtub lay there, sightless – and had it been a real dead body, Babafemi most likely would have run. Not because he was scared of dead bodies, but more because he;d be scared that someone had left a dead body in his home, and as a result, it would make sense to leave before the killer came back. Assuming, of course, that the killer had left. All of these thoughts fluttered through Babafemi’s mind in moments, bringing him back to the present. 

The body lying in the bathtub, one leg handing over the side, the head resting against the side of the hot water tap. A body tat he could see through, and despite the darkness of its skin – or at least what would pass for skin – he could still see through it: see the outline of the bathtub, the tiling above the rub. 

Babafemi already knew it was a ghost since the body was see-through. Unlike many other who may have claimed that they had seen a ghost, or at least felt a ghostly presence, Babafemi was sure that he had encountered supernatural phenomena throughout his years. Early childhood long ago in Nigeria had shown him the ugly side of human nature and desensitised him to death. Later life in London led him to flirt with the supernatural, or certainly with those things that would make others uncomfortable. Time spent in a cemetery at night – back when cemeteries were unlocked and desecration was unheard of – yielded shivers from nothing except freezing cold temperatures among the headstones. Nothing went bump in the night then. Later life (and residences) in London, back when life had left him to adapt to the challenges of marriage, children, divorce and more, had provided more encounters: the sense of being watched by someone or something. Certainly nothing malevolent, but more in the way a curious family pet will watch its human masters before going its own way. And likewise, there was nothing to fear. 

But a ghost?

 

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Synopsis –

The Third Corona collection of horror stories picked from over eight hundred submissions. From ghosts to killers, monsters to curses – this collection has a wide variety of horror to disturb, disgust, and delight any horror reader.

 

Thoughts –

This is an independent collection that was picked from over eight hundred submissions, and you can see that in the quality of the writing and the stories held within. Not every one of them is a hit – there are one or two misses – however the overall quality of the collection is a pleasure to read. Stories in particular that stand out are ‘Curious, If Anything’ where the quote from above is taken, the story of a man who finds a ghost in his bathtub but rather than be afraid is curious to find out who the ghost is only to find that he doesn’t like the answer. There also ‘The Haunting of April Heights’ a modern gothic that takes place in a block of English flats, and ‘Murderabilia’ a collector who finds himself with the opportunity to buy evidence from the much to recent murders of an active serial killer.
The perspectives of this collection are unique, they take familiar tales and look at them from an angle not expected, interesting point of views and an array of material from ghosts to curses to AI. Would recommend for new and seasoned readers of horror.

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About the Editor (from Goodreads) –

They say to be a successful author you should pick one genre and stick to it. Lewis Williams hasn’t exactly followed that advice: having written his first book on the singer Scott Walker, he followed that with a serious academic work on social policy, which he then followed with a trilogy of limerick books that were absolutely, categorically nothing remotely like his earlier books. His latest book projects include a revised and updated edition of Scott Walker: The Rhymes of Goodbye (published Plexus, London 2019) and editing all three volumes of the Corona Book of Horror Stories book series, including 2019’s The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories with stories selected from over 800 submissions.

Lewis has two degrees in philosophy (which number might be considered two too many) and worked for a number of years in a number of different roles for Oxford University before his ignominious departure from its employ. You can find out more about him by visiting his website www.lewiswilliams.com

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Do you collect horror anthologies? What’s your favourite collection? Let me know down below!