Posted in 2021, eric j guignard, Non-Fiction, Ramsey Campbell, Review Copy

Exploring Dark Short Fiction #6: A Primer to Ramsey Campbell

Hailed by The Oxford Companion to English Literature as “Britain’s most respected living horror writer,” Ramsey Campbell has authored an astounding body of work for over half a century that embodies the weird, the supernatural, and the subtle, much of which is widely considered classics of dark fiction today. He has been given more awards than any other writer in the field, including being made an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University for outstanding services to literature.

Dark Moon Books and editor Eric J. Guignard bring you this introduction to his work, the sixth in a series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction. Herein is a chance to discover-or learn more of-the remarkable voice of Ramsey Campbell, as beautifully illustrated by artist Michelle Prebich.

Included within these pages are:

  • Six short stories, one written exclusively for this book
  • Author interview
  • Biography and bibliography
  • Academic commentary by Michael Arnzen, PhD (former humanities chair and professor of the year, Seton Hill University)
  • and more!

Enter this doorway to the vast and fantastic: Get to know Ramsey Campbell.

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WHEN I THINK BACK on reading Ramsey Campbell, there’s an impression that he has always been there, part of the horror genre backdrop.

INTRODUCTION

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(@DarkMoonBooks, 7 September 2021, ebook, 196 pages, copy from @ericjguignard and voluntarily reviewed)

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AMAZON

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I’ve enjoyed other entries in the Exploring Dark Short Fiction series so decided to give this homage to Ramsey Campbell a read, despite not being a huge fan of the author. I sparsely read Ramsey Campbell’s work many years ago, as a teenager, his earlier, more Lovecraft inspired work and didn’t really like it. However, that was years ago. I’m a different person and my tastes have changed. I’ve even taken part in a couple of blog tours for his recent books. I enjoyed the six stories included here, none of which were familiar to me. They are all different and show his range as a writer. I loved the darkness running through them. I found the essays and interesting as well but the stories are what I enjoyed the most.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, jane badrock, Novel, Review Copy, thriller

The Ice Maiden by @janebadrock

Who is Maddie?

If she doesn’t find out…she’ll die.

Tormented by visions of a woman’s death, maths student Maddie’s search for answers leads her to question her own origins and puts her life in danger.

Who’s trying to kill her?

Why?

It’s the most critical problem she’ll ever have to solve…

And she’s only got three weeks.

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Dearest Maddie, the burden of guilt and sadness has taken its toll and I believe that I do not have time to live.

WRITTEN IN LATE OCTOBER 2015

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(@QuestionPress, 29 July 2021, ebook, 256 pages, copy from the author and voluntarily reviewed)

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I’ve read and enjoyed other books by the author so was really looking forward to The Ice Maiden. I thought this was a terrific thriller. The blurb really doesn’t do the book justice. I read a lot of thrillers and it takes a lot to impress me. I thought this was a terrific read, well-written, engaging, full of twists and turns with compelling characters. This is the kind of book that keeps you guessing, furiously flicking the pages and wondering what the hell is going on. I thought it was terrific.

Posted in 2021, amazon vine, Contemporary Fiction, Novel, Review Copy, Tahereh Mafi, YA Fiction

An Emotion Of Great Delight by Tahereh Mafi

From bestselling author of the Shatter Me series and the National Book Award-nominated A Very Large Expanse of Sea, Tahereh Mafi, comes a stunning novel about love and loneliness, navigating dual-identity as a Muslim teenager in America, and reclaiming your right to joy.

It’s 2003. It’s been several months since the US officially declared war on Iraq, and the political world has evolved. Shadi, who wears hijab (a visible allegiance to Islam) keeps her head down. Hate crimes are spiking. Undercover FBI agents are infiltrating mosques and interrogating members of the congregation, and the local Muslim community is beginning to fracture. Shadi hears the fights after services, the arguments between families about what it means to be Muslim, about what they should be doing and saying as a community but she does not engage.

She’s too busy drowning in her own troubles to find the time to deal with bigots.

Shadi is named for joy, but she’s haunted by sorrow. Her brother is dead, her father is dying, her mother is falling apart, and her best friend has mysteriously dropped out of her life. And then, of course, there’s the small matter of her heart. It’s broken. Shadi has tried to navigate the remains of her quickly-shattering world by soldiering through, saying nothing, until finally, one day, everything changes.

She explodes.

Perfect for fans of the Shatter Me series as well as Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also A Star.

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The sunlight was heavy today; fingers of heat forming sweaty hands that braced my face, dared me to flinch.

ONE

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(@EMTeenFiction, 10 June 2021, paperback, 256 pages, copy from the publisher via @AmazonUK, #AmazonVine)

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I enjoyed another title from the author, A Very Large Expanse of Sea which I also got from Amazon Vine so I was looking forward to reading An Emotion of Great Delight. I thought this was a terrific book, set just after the US declares war on Iraq. The book explores how life becomes unsettled in the US for Muslims who finds themselves having to justify their existence and prove they deserve to be in the country they have always called home. The book tackles big issues and is uncomfortable to read at times. I found Shadi’s story incredibly sad as she has to cope with abuse and hatred while wondering why strangers blame her for 9/11, why her best friend has cut her out of her life and why she’s feel impassive about the possibility her father might die. This is a heart-breaking book.  

Posted in 2021, Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, Novel, Review Copy, thriller

#GirlsWhoLie by @evaaegisdottir

When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, everyone assumes that she’s taken her own life … until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?

Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to a shocking tragedy.

Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the number of suspects grows and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…

Breathtakingly chilling and tantalisingly twisty, Girls Who Lie is at once a startling, tense psychological thriller and a sophisticated police procedural, marking Eva Björg Ægisdottir as one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

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The white sheets remind me of paper.

THE BIRTH

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(@OrendaBooks, 22 May 2021, 324 pages, ebook, copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 13 July 2021)

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I enjoyed the first book in the series so was really looking forward to Girls Who Lie. This is a terrific thriller. The chapters set in present times investigating Maríanna’s murder are alternated by chapters, undated but clearly set in the past focusing on an unnamed mother and her struggles to bond with her daughter. I assumed these were one thing and gradually learned I was completely wrong and the truth turned everything I thought I knew about the book on it’s head. I loved the way the author slowly reveals the links between the past and present. Like all thrillers the book is fast paced, has great characters and plenty of twists and turns. I thought this was a terrific thriller.

Posted in 2020, edelweiss+, First Read, phoebe stucke, Poetry, Review Copy, Top Books

Platinum Blonde by @phoebestucke

Platinum Blonde is Phoebe Stuckes’ debut collection. Whether wildly or wryly funny, each poem presents an episode in the up-and-down life of the wise-cracking party girl. On the surface, this is a world of dance floors and bathrooms, glitter and girls, love and disappointment, but beneath the laughter and antics these are self-questioning poems. Poems about self-belief, self-image, vulnerability and insecurity, loneliness, trauma and survival. Phoebe Stuckes has been a winner of the Foyle Young Poets award four times and is a former Barbican Young Poet and Ledbury Poetry Festival young poet in residence. Her debut pamphlet, Gin & Tonic, was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award in 2017, and she won an Eric Gregory Award in 2019.

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I liked blonde but it was too powerful,

I had to grow it out,

my head was a hot white coal

in the night.

BLEACH

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(@BloodaxeBooks, 21 May 2020, ebook, 64 pages, copy from publisher via @edelweiss_squad)

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This is the poet’s debut. It’s a terrific collection and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. The poems are quite short, most well under a page so a lot is packed into this collection. Bloodaxe are one of my favourite poetry publishers and they’ve outdone themselves here. These are fierce poems about fierce women in a fierce world. Stuckes’ writes about familiar subjects such as self-belief, self-image, feminism and trauma in a way that feels fresh and brand new. The women in Stuckes’ poetry are bad-ass, aware of their own power and vulnerability and aren’t afraid of speaking out. I loved all of the poems but my favourites include Bleach, Ba Girls Club, Hell Is a Bus Full of Men I’ve Unsuccessfully Tried To Date, Blood, Gold Hoop Earrings and Wolfish.

Posted in 2020, Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, literary fiction, Lynne Mcvernon, Novella, Review Copy

#JigsawIsland by @lynnemcvernon

Know who your friends are…

On a holiday escape to the Greek islands, Annie Buchanan discovers what – and then who – is missing from her life.

When single mother, Annie, and son Jude take a break away from Scotland to stay with her brother and friends on Symi, they find the warmth and support they need. As they relax into the familiar rhythm of island life, old and new acquaintances change the course of their vacation. Whether it’s for better or worse, Annie will discover when she visits the island of Leros. There she may be able to put together some of the missing pieces in her life and learn who her friends really are. But she cannot be prepared for some uncomfortable truths about the past and the dramatic way in which they will change the present for her… and Jude.

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‘You broke my nose, Jude’.

ONE – ANNIE, HARKIN CROFT, KILACHLAN, SCOTLAND

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(Independently Published, 26 June 2020, 283 pages, ebook, copy from the author and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 30 July via @RandomTTours)

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I’d never heard of the author before but agreed to take part in the tour because I wanted something a little different. I’d love to visit Greece so the setting appealed to me, plus the fact the characters are from Scotland, my home tuft which was doubly appealing even though Annie also lives in London for a period of time. The structure of this short book takes a few chapters to get used to, a variation of stream-of-consciousness which I don’t always get on with but I soon settled into the rhythm. I would have struggled more with a longer book. The book is quirky, well written and entertaining. The book tackles a lot in such a short space of time including Annie’s struggles as a single parent of a bi-racial son. The last third of the book veers off in a direction I didn’t see coming and becomes a psychological thriller. To be honest, I thought the book was too short and the dramatic events the book closes with were not signposted well enough and too rushed. I would have liked to spend more time on Jigsaw Island with these interesting characters.

Posted in 2020, ARC, Blog Tour, historical fiction, literary fiction, Novel, Rachel Joyce, Review Copy, Top Books

#MissBensonsBeetle by Rachel Joyce

Margery Benson’s life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery’s expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries.

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WHEN MARGERY WAS ten, she fell in love with a beetle.

1 – THE GOLDEN BETTLE OF NEW CALEDONIA, 1914

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(@TransworldBooks, 23 July 2020, 304 pages, e-book, #ARC from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 25 July via @RandomTTours)

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I was excited to be part of the blog tour because Rachel Joyce is one of my favourite writers. I’ve read and loved all of her books. It took a few chapters for me to fall under the spell of this book. Margery is a brilliant character, she’s seems so shy and uncertain at first, very sad and the kind of person it would be easy to take advantage of. I love how she develops across the course of the book. I wanted to hug her and make her tea and jam scones for some reason. Her passion about beetles and her knowledge is well research and presented. Enid is another kettle of fish entirely. The two women couldn’t be different. End is brash and careless and hiding dark secrets that put them both in danger. And who is the strange man following them and what’s his connection to Margery? I laughed and cried so much reading this.

Posted in 2020, Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Frances Cha, literary fiction, Novel, Review Copy, Top Books

#IfIHadYourFace by @Frances_H_Cha

A glitteringly dark and unsettling debut novel about four young women struggling to survive in South Korea


If I Had Your Face plunges us into the mesmerizing world of contemporary Seoul – a place where extreme plastic surgery is as routine as getting a haircut, where women compete for spots in secret ‘room salons’ to entertain wealthy businessmen after hours, where K-Pop stars are the object of all-consuming obsession, and ruthless social hierarchies dictate your every move.


Navigating this hyper-competitive city are four young women balancing on the razor-edge of survival: Kyuri, an exquisitely beautiful woman whose hard-won status at an exclusive ‘room salon’ is threatened by an impulsive mistake with a client; her flatmate Miho, an orphan who wins a scholarship to a prestigious art school in New York, where her life becomes tragically enmeshed with the super-wealthy offspring of the Korean elite; Wonna, their neighbour, pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they will afford to raise in a fiercely competitive economy; and Ara, a hair stylist living down the hall, whose infatuation with a fresh-faced K-Pop star drives her to violent extremes. 

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Sujin is hell-bent on becoming a room salon girl.

ARA

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(@VikingBooks, 23 April 2020, 252 pages, paperback, copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 25 July)

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I couldn’t make up my mind if this book was supposed to be set now or in some future time because society’s obsession with beauty and plastic surgery felt so unrealistic to me. Surely the book is set in some image-obsessed dystopian world? Anyway, I digress. I loved the book. I enjoyed it so much I devoured it one sitting because I absolutely did not want to put it down. It’s very different than books I tend to read which made me enjoy it even more. It can be good to try something outside your comfort zone. I loved the setting. Cha brings Seoul to vivid, memorable life. I felt I really understand the society occupied by the four women in the book. The chapters alternate between the POV of each women and this works really well. The women are different and they all struggle with the roles gives to them and what they really want. I loved them all. This is a great book, very different than anything I’ve read in a while.

Posted in 2020, ARC, Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Novel, thriller, Top Books, Will Carver

Hinton Hollow Death Trip by @will_carver

Five days in the history of a small rural town, visited and infected by darkness, are recounted by Evil itself. A stunning high-concept thriller from the author of Good Samaritans.

It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.

Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.

Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow.

Because something was coming.

Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.

  • Making them cheat.
  • Making them steal.
  • Making them kill.

Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.

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You can leave now, if you want.

PROLOGUE

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(@OrendaBooks, 12 June 2020, 399 pages, ebook, copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 24 July)

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This must be the craziest book I’ve ever read. I loved it. It reminds me of The Book Thief but simply because they both have a very unusual narrator. In this case, the narrator is Evil, discussing how he sets about turning the residents of this small town against each other while giving lectures on how none of this is really evil’s fault, human have Evil in their nature and Evil is drawn to the dark corners and dark desires of humanity. I’ve never read anything like this before. I loved every word, every second of this book. It was very dark at times but somehow fun as well, a devious, dark treat. This is well worth getting lost in if you want something that will completely surprise you.

Posted in 2020, Amy Kean, Blog Tour, children's fiction, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, Picture Book, Review Copy

#LittleGirlWho by @keano81

This is the story of a brave young girl, Elodie-Rose, who one day decides to change the world and keep all her fucks in her basket. Wait a minute. You’re confused. What are fucks, you ask? It’s quite simple, really. Fucks are her self-esteem; all the happy, sad and wonderful thoughts that sit in her basket. That sits in every girl’s basket! And every girl must give these fucks away every time someone asks. One day Elodie-Rose decides to break rank and find out what happens if those fucks stay where they are.

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[Some days, the world was meant to change]

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(@Unbound_Digital, 1 November 2018, 89 pages, ebook, copy from the author and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 23 July via @RandomTTours)

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I thought this was an amazing book. I didn’t know what to think at first, can a book be classed as appropriate children’s fiction when it has the word fuck and fucks scattered throughout? By concerns soon melted away. First off, this is a gorgeous, brightly illustrated and colourful book. Every page was pleasure to read. I read a digital copy off my PC screen as the book just didn’t look right on my kindle. This would be even better in hardback. I cannot compliment the gorgeous artwork enough. The author uses poetry throughout, mostly rhyming couplets to tell Elodie-Rose’s story. This is a book about friendship and self-esteem and feminism and love. This is a brilliant book.