‘Preserved’ by Fiona Sherlock – Review

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

***

January Quail swirled her bright green liqueur, washing the last vestiges of the mint drink through the crushed ice. Anyone could pop in for a drink or two on her own, accompanied by the paper or a good book. A third créme de menthe solo was a line she did not cross. However, getting all but sacked seemed like a reasonable excuse.

Two raised fingers summoned a double. Her role as Features Editor could be terminated at the end of the month, if she didn’t up her act. Alf had announced a number of drastic editorial changes as part of the newspaper’s bit to remain profitable. She could reinterview for another, more junior, reporter jobs in a few weeks, if she could demonstrate her ability to drive traffic to the website in the interim. The whole thing seemed barely legal. She blinked in rapid succession to push back the tears attempting to break through. Don’t think about it, she chastised herself.

Synopsis –

When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a bog body in Ardee, the world’s historians are keen to explore the secrets of the life and grisly death of the victim.

Antique journalist January Quail is fighting to keep her newspaper job and uncovers far more than she bargained for. The victim is actually a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to the publican, everyone is a suspect, but when the Gardai can’t find the killer, can January?

Once she sets down the liqueur glass, January gains the confidence of the lead garda investigator. Within days, the case unravels into a much more dangerous situation with a killer on the loose.

Despite the risk, January is electrified that this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. January relinquishes her old ways to fight for survival, abandoning her antiques column and vintage corsets to solve a cryptic crime that has the experts puzzled. This woman who longs to lives in the past must now fight for her life in the present.

Thoughts –

A uniquely Irish murder mystery, Preserved takes the reader on a journey through a modern Ireland still clasping on tightly to its past, and who better than to hold our hand, than the eccentric January Quail. A woman of particular tastes including chewing tobacco and creme de menthe, January is a journalist who specializes in antiques of both the homeware and human kind – namely bog bodies. And when not one, but two bodies are found not far from where she grew up in a lavish Protestant estate, January is on the case discovering that perhaps these bodies are not as old as they look.

Sherlock’s writing is adept and interweaving. She captures the idiosyncrasies of rural Ireland on the page perfectly, from nonsensical nicknames, to the ever more intricate relationships that can do nothing more than obscure and confuse a murder investigation. The character of January Quail is certainly unique. A luddite struggling in a career that won’t survive with just a paper and pen, January does not make things easy for herself either in her work, or in her non-existent love life. Not only is she holding onto the past through her vintage attire and interests, she is also struggling to let go of the painful memories of her childhood and adolescence.

Preserved is a novel about the past and the future merging, about our inability to fully escape from the mistakes and pains of our pasts, and a seedy underbelly of individuals who long for infamy in the most horrific of ways. This is a murder mystery that will have you clinging on to the very last page.

Preserved will have you reaching for the creme de menthe, and wondering darkly about every bog you see.

About the Author –

Fiona Sherlock is a crime writer from Bective, in Ireland. Her murder mystery games are played across the world. She also writes poetry and prose but cannot stay away from a good murder. After spending a decade in Dublin working in public relations and journalism, she moved to the country for midday fires and elderflower champagne. You can find her through her website here or on Twitter and Instagram @fionasherlock

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘All Hallows Eve’ by Michael Penning – Review

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

***

Alice Jacob stood at the edge of the wharf and stared at the sea in horror. Thousands of bones were washing ashore. The great expanse of Salem Sound was flooded with skulls and spines and fragments of skeleton that rolled and tumbled in the frothing green surf. An eerie clattering filled the salty air as wave after wave heaped bones of all shapes and sizes upon the rocky coastline. Sheltered in the calmer waters of Salem Harbor, the merchant fleet was inundated by a floating mass of skeletal remains swept in by the tide. Their horrifying numbers swelled by the minute as they bobbed and collected between the timber hulls of the ships.

Alice’s young daughter, Abigail, sidled up to her side and slipped her tiny hand into Alice’s palm. “Where are they all coming from?” she asked in a voice that was small and uneasy.

“I can’t say that I know, Abigail,” Alice replied. A flutter crept into her stomach as she gazed at the macabre panorama. Not for the first time since they had left Boston, she wished her husband was there with her. Samuel, would know what to say; his were the words that always seemed to comfort their little girl, not Alice’s.

Synopsis –

She didn’t believe in ghosts… until her daughter was taken by one.

When Alice Jacobs’ husband disappears while investigating a series of strange and terrible incidents in the bustling seaport of Salem, she is forced to bring her young daughter, Abigail, along from Boston while she takes up the search. But she soon learns of a terrible curse that has the entire town bracing for nightfall: one hundred years after the infamous witch trials, the vengeful spirit of a woman hanged for witchcraft will rise from hell to claim the souls of Salem’s children.

Alice dismisses the old legend as foolish superstition… until Abigail is snatched from her bed by a sinister woman made of smoke and mist.

Desperate to find her daughter before the sun rises and she is lost forever, Alice races against time on a spine-chilling adventure that takes her from forgotten dungeons and gloomy cemeteries to the haunted forests of Gallows Hill. Along with a roguish sailor searching for his own missing child, she battles deadly supernatural forces and uncovers a dark secret that may be the key to saving Abigail’s soul… if only she can survive the most terrifying night of her life.

Thoughts –

All Hallows Eve is set in the town of Salem and even after a century, this town is still plagued by the sins committed there. Innocent women and men were slain with no evidence, and in this story one of these women takes her revenge in the afterlife by becoming exactly what they accused her to be. Abound by superstition and unfair judgement, this is a book that is filled with rich characters, mysterious twists and turns, and secrets steeped in blood.

Our protagonist Alice is a young woman and mother who has brought her daughter along on the quest to find her missing husband, on the worst night of the year she could have possibly chosen. Strong willed and not about to give up on either member of her small family, she pulls the reader through the story on her bloody feet to discover the truth behind this towns rumours and to bring back her daughter before it is too late.

All Hallows Eve is an atmospheric and superbly written novel that holds echoes of the Salem witch trials, cautions against being too quick to judge, and has a frightening paranormal element to it as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would recommend to any witch, ghost, and dark mystery fans out there.

All Hallows Eve tells the story of a night that refuses to be forgotten.

About the Author –

Michael Penning is an award-winning screenwriter and bestselling author of horror and suspense. He is an avid fan of Halloween, haunted houses, and things that go bump in the night. When he’s not coming up with creative ways to scare the hell out of people, he enjoys travelling, photography, and brewing beer. He lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, and their black lab, Salem. Sign up for Michael’s newsletter at www.michaelpenning.com for free giveaways and new release updates.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘A Song for the End’ by Kit Power – Review

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

***

“Did we get it?” Paul was anxious, hands clasping the top of his guitar. He looked over at Michael checking the MP3 player, a guitar slung over his shoulder.

There was a moment then, when it was hanging in the air. I remember thinking about the times we’d missed recordings because the battery had died or the mic cable had slipped out. Thinking we could always do it again, but also thinking it had been a pretty hot first take and really hoping…

“It’s there! It’s there,” Michael said with a smile, one earbud dangling down the side of his face.

“Plug it into the PA. I want to hear it again,” Paul said.

So intense, I remember thinking that. Thinking, too, that he was probably worried about his solo, as per. Thinking that for my money, it had sounded pretty good; loose and powerful, but knowing that he’d be hyper-critical, already straining for another shot, wanting it to be perfect. Reflecting on what a dumb word that was to apply to music, especially our kind of music…

And then the song came back on and we all grew still.

We stood in a loose circle surrounding the small PA mixing desk the MP3 recorder was plugged in to. Behind us, the amps and drum kit sat on the carpeted floor of the community hall that’d been our rehearsal space and impromptu demo recording since we’d formed.

I don’t know what the others were doing, but I was transported, I’d never felt that way about a song we’d done before. It was like hearing something on the radio and falling in love. It was fantastic.

You can also watch my video review of this book on my BookTube channel here.

Synopsis –

Becoming an overnight sensation was supposed to be a good thing. Not for Bill Cutter, supply teacher and weekend rock star. His band, The Fallen, have just released their latest tune on social media, and it’s blowing up.

So is the body count.

Now Bill faces a frantic race against time to stop the spread of the song, before the horrific effects can no longer be contained.

Thoughts –

A Song For The End by Kit Power is a short but hard hitting, action packed novella. Following a song that forces it’s listeners to tell the absolute truth for any question they are asked, poses an interesting and frightening dilemma? How often do you lie? How often do you think you lie? Even the most innocuous fibs in this novella will cause the fibber to bleed explosively from the brain. It really makes you think twice about what the truth really means.

With flawed and morally grey characters, characters who lie for the sake of their loved one, and characters who lie to save their own skin, Power takes an unbelievable story and makes it believable by the motivations and actions of it’s characters. An unfortunate series of events that happens just at the worst time for the city of London, A Song For The End is a novella filled with anxiety, blood pumping anger, and may make you rethink the phrase ‘all publicity is good publicity’.

A punchy pulp novella that gets the pacing right, keeps you engaged with the characters, and is one not soon forgotten.

About the Author –

Kit Power lives in Milton Keynes and writes mainly about what scares him – typically to a background of screaming guitars. His fiction work includes novel GodBomb, novella The Finite, and collections Breaking Point, Voices, and A WARNING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE ENSLAVEMENT THAT YOU WILL DISMISS AS A COLLECTION OF SHORT FICTION AND ESSAYS BY KIT POWER. His short fiction has also appeared in many anthologies. His non fiction work includes a book on the Ken Russell/The Who movie Tommy, and My Life in Horror Volume One – an autobiography via the medium of pop culture artifacts (but fun, he promises).

He also blogs for Gingernuts Of Horror, podcasts widely, and tweets too damn much about politics @KitGonzo. Oh, and he has a Patreon, where subscribers get new material from him every single week – find out more here.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Truth of the Shadows’ by Slade Templeton – Book Review

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

***

The frost melted into the air above the damp ground, creating a shimmering fog that seeped into the moonlight. At the edge of the forest’s dark fringe stood a meadow with mud huts sprinkled throughout, covered in blackened sod. The howls of the wolves seemed to hold longer than usual into the night.

The smell of burning wood cut through the cold air, and a thick plume of smoke rose over the treetops near the deep ravine. Hidden behind the tree line was a tall, thin man with toughened, leathery skin. Ash covered his hands, which hung from his arms like pendulums of soot and flesh. Fatigued and on the cusp of death, he wore nothing but a long dirty loincloth held to his fragile body with drayed twine. A glimmer of firelight touched his painted cheek, the reflection of flames danced in his dark eyes.

His head filled with pain and suffering, he gazed toward the fire pit in the small clearing while his tribe chanted ancient songs. As the drums grew louder, so did their voices, and they circled the fire with stomping feet. The man quietly worked his way deeper into the forest and along the path, hanging his head low, regret haunting his face. In the distance, the chanting rose to crescendo, then fell into a low-level hum before tapering off into silence. He knew the sacrifice had been made.

You can also watch my video review of this book for my BookTube channel here.

Synopsis –

A DARKNESS IS IN ALL OF US
Cottage Grove Oregon is a sleepy little town, but in the surrounding forests, an ancient nightmare is growing stronger. Dr. Joseph Hoffman, head psychiatrist at Cottage Grove Hospital, wants to believe he has all the answers to his patients’ problems, but there is a darkness within him that always lurks beneath the thin veneer of his competence. That veneer is about to crack.

In his Victorian home at the edge of the forest, his troubled memories hide in untouched rooms under a thick blanket of dust. He thinks he has them under his control, but as he delves into his patients’ twisted stories, the shadows of their insanity begin to follow him home. In order to see what is happening to him, Joseph must turn everything he knows about his past, and his reality, upside down.

As he gets closer to discovering the source of the malevolence that surrounds him, he feels his sanity slipping away. Joseph must uncover the truth before it consumes him. Something terrible is taking over, and he may be the only one who can figure out why.

Thoughts –

Following the increasingly stressful daily life of Dr. Joseph Hoffman, as he struggles to suppress the painful memories of his late wife and tries to help his patients deal with their own troubled minds, Truth of the Shadows paints a picture of a world where everyone is dealing with various degrees of insanity. Often, Dr. Hoffman finds his patients stuck in a look of their own pasts, reliving the same delusions again and again, and to prove the point that doctors make the worst patients, he is unable to see his own unfortunate loop.

The darkness and dread in the story is well built. There is a rich background to the origin of the evil that is tormenting Dr. Hoffman and his patients. At times, the repetition of his daily routine did become a bit of a drag, however the pace quickly ramps up when he finally begins to believe what his patients are telling him. Truth of the Shadows by itself is an enjoyable book to read, but it is a reading experience for the 21st Century. Including an online virtual reality experience with every paperback copy wherein readers can go on to read Dr. Hoffman’s own medical notes and patients evaluations, as well as personal received and sent emails – lending a truth to this fictional story that was not expected and promising more from the story of Cottage Grove. As well as this, for the lucky few who have the limited edition hardback copy, they also have access to a dramatic musical score to accompany the book composed by the author, Slade Templeton, himself.

One point I did like about this book is the underlying message of hope for those in the throes of grief or depression. The novel ends on a hopeful note that leaves the characters with a better understanding of their own minds and hopefully the tools to break their unhealthy loops.

All in all Truth of the Shadows is a dark, paranormal novel that ends on a note of fiction, and thanks to the ingenious extras, continues off the page.

About the Author –

Slade Templeton is a Switzerland-based, American-born musician, record producer, and published fiction author, living and working in Bern. Since a very young age, he has had a passion for anything dark, including art, music, and film. As he often produced piano concerts and recitals for his family at the age of five, titling the pieces “The Storm” and “Nighttime Fairytale,” to name a few, it was destined that his world of music and storytelling eventually intertwined. Having written stories with grandiose plots and twists since a young age, he planned to write novels one day.
Truth of the Shadows became his first.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘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.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com