Book review: Them by James Watts

Continuing my run of horror novel reviews, I am delighted to share my review of Them by James Watts.

“Ray Sanders returns home from Florida to bury his mother.
Soon, the supernatural evidence behind his mother’s demise begins to surface in the form of dreams and mysterious happenings.

During all of the madness, Sanders must face his destiny and vanquish the generations-old evil that has plagued his family since the 1800’s…

In 1854, Louis Sanders, with the help of Elias Atkins, dug a well to provide water to the family farm. What they did not anticipate was the water to be infested with Odomulites – ancient sins. These malevolent beings – were trapped in our world on their way to the spirit world – formed a pact of protection with both Sanders and Atkins; the families would serve as guardians of the Odomulite nests and in return, a blind eye would be cast when the Odomulites took host bodies to inhabit and feed upon.

It was this pact, which in 2016 would propel Sanders and Julie Fontaine – a young woman with a special connection to the Spirit World – into the heart of the last active nest to rid the town of its insidious Odomulite population.”

My thoughts:

It is impossible not to be hooked by this story; dread underscores every page, thanks to a gripping prologue. Watts has penned what I would describe a straight-ahead horror novel reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand. Fast paced, emotionally real and raw at times, at others almost wistful, Watts fills his pages with close observances and small details that bring his cast of characters alive and builds a warm, down-home wholesome feel that is juxtaposed with the menace lurking all around.

The prose is vernacular and pleasant to read with satisfying descriptions of a grotesque evil that haunts and taunts those dwelling in Maple Grove, Alabama. Watts’ characters are gritty, many have attitude and the setting of Maple Grove is vividly portrayed. I could smell the air and hear the characters speak.

Watts gives his readers what they want, solid, four to the floor horror that never misses the mark. Told from multiple points of view, the plot is peppered with little twists and turns, the pace kept fast as the story flits from character to character. Adding texture to the narrative, Them brims with 1970s popular cultural references, which I found charming.

As for the menace that pervades Maple Grove, I thought the way ‘they’ invade the characters’ dreams was clever.  Them contains an interesting mix of supernatural possession and creature horror, which I found Watts handled well, especially when he offers the reader a full explanation.

Gruesome and terrifying, Them is not a book to read in a basement.

Advertisements

The Legacy of Old Gran Parks’ Book Tour wrap up

First, I would like to thank Faye Rogers for her efforts in organising this book tour and all those book bloggers who read my book and wrote some fabulous reviews. The tour has had its highs and lows. Here are my reflections:

When a new book comes out, it is the job of authors and publishers to go on the hunt for reviews. The more the better and the one place we want them all to end up is on Amazon, because Amazon counts reviews and based on the number (not the quality) it will activate its own internal promotion of your book. We need 20-25, or better still 50, to be taken seriously. Less than 10 looks sad. To make matters even harder, Amazon splits the reviews up, so a review posted on the UK site or the AU site does not appear on the US site. Dedicated book reviewers will take the trouble to post on all three Amazon sites, cos that’s what it takes these days, and every book blogger worth their salt knows this.

In the past, when I’ve had a new book coming out, I have written hundreds of individual emails to book bloggers soliciting reviews. I’ve trawled the internet on the hunt for reviewers, joined Facebook groups and kept my eye on Twitter. It’s exhausting and the average take up rate is about 5-10%. On the blogging side, book bloggers are swamped, the good ones especially.

To take the pressure off authors and publicists, some bloggers have set themselves up as book tour organisers and for a fee they will organise a tour. When I started to investigate these service providers I was hesitant, but I began to see it as the only way forward. I would still solicit reviews, but at least some of the strain would be off my shoulders.

I had no idea what to expect when I hired a book tour organiser to set up a 14-stop review-only tour. I wasn’t prepared for the disappointment. Despite the organiser’s best efforts, out of 14 bloggers, 2 chose to post an extract and 4 chose to do nothing at all. That has left me with 8 reviews and out of that 8, only 6 have so far shared their review on one of the Amazon sites.

However, all is not bad news. Those reviewers who did read my book wrote honest reviews and there are many delightful comments peppered throughout their paragraphs. I’m grateful to each and every one of these bloggers, and to the tour organiser, who cannot be held responsible for the actions of those book bloggers who agreed to be part of the tour and then failed to follow through. Here are some of the highlights:

“This was my first time visiting the mind of Isobel Blackthorn, and it certainly wasn’t boring! The dark humour, gritty scenes and unusual characters all combine to make an entertaining read….Like the recently successful Jane Harper (author of The Dry and Force of Nature), Blackthorn knows how to convey the sinister nature of the Australian setting, making blistering heat tangible, the seaside seem lethal, and the all-encompassing forests claustrophobic….Overall, this is a darkly humorous tale expressed through brilliant prose and intriguing characters!”

Get Litty – https://www.getlitty.co.uk/single-post/2018/04/18/BLOG-TOUR-The-Legacy-of-Old-Gran-Perks

“This is the first book I have read from Isobel Blackthorn and it won’t be my last. It is such a well written book that I was gripped from the first few pages.The strapline of the book is ‘A Dark Comedy to Tickle Your Spine…’ and it lives up to your expectation.”

Helen Loves – http://helenloves.co.uk/blog-tour-review-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks has a wonderfully dark, nasty feel to it…The legacy of Gran Parks is a legacy of fighting back against abuse, and taking responsibility for dealing out your own style of justice.”

Liam of Book-worm-hole – http://book-worm-hole.blogspot.com.au/2018/04/review-legacy-of-old-gran-parks.html

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a very unique, very fascinating but ultimately savage and dark read that I very much enjoyed. If you are a fan of Tarantino movies, you are more than likely going to enjoy this book which starts out a little bit eerie and odd and then turns violent and dark. It was a book unlike any I have read before but I actually really loved it.”

Faye of Big Little Books – http://www.bigbooklittlebook.com/2018/04/legacy-old-gran-parks/

“showed me an insiders view of rural Australia which I easily pictured even though I’ve never been.”

Parchment and Quill – https://parchmentandquillchronicle.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/blog-tour-book-review-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“The Legacy of Old Gran parks—is one of the rarest piece of story I ever read. It was unique and got an eerie exotic feel. A truly remarkable, and an unforgettable piece. Highly recommended to everyone.”

Bibliophile Angel – https://bibliophileangelblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/blog-tour-the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by-isobel-blackthorn/

“I really enjoyed the writing and plot ”

Read Between the Scenes – http://www.readbetweenthescenes.com/2018/04/blog-tour-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-by.html

“a marvellous read and I’d recommend it to anyone who asks.”

Infinite Pages – https://infinitepagesbookreviews.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/the-legacy-of-old-gran-parks-blog-tour/

If you want to review any of my books, I will give you a free electronic copy.

If you want to buy any of my books, visit my bookstore for links to external sites. https://isobelblackthorn.com/bookstore/

Blog Tour + Review : The Legacy of Old Gran Parks by Isobel Blackthorn

A fabulous review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks!

Bibliophile Angel Book Review Blog

SynopsisThe Legacy of Old Gran Parks

Set in Cann River in Australia’s rugged southern wilderness, The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is a tale of a remote town haunted by a legacy, a legacy with ominous consequences.

It’s a warm evening in the autumn of 1983 when Miriam Forster rolls into town in her broken down car.

Frankie the deer hunter, is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Old Pearl the fisherwoman sits on her front deck down by the lagoon with her whiskey and her dog. And Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse.

All is not well. There’s a hoon doing donuts at the crossroads and screaming down the fire trails in the woods; a suspicious-looking city-slicker with two small children, squatting in Fred’s shack down by the lake; a beanie-headed gaunt guy convalescing at the lighthouse; and an acne festooned creature in the hotel room next…

View original post 650 more words

Book review: The Amnesia Girl by Gerri R. Gray

The horror genre is vast and catches comedy in its net. Gerri Gray’s The Amnesia Girl is a shining example of top-class comedy-horror.

“Filled with copious amounts of black humor, Gerri R. Gray’s first published novel is an offbeat adventure story that could be described as One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Thelma and Louise.

Flashback to 1974. Farika is a lovely young woman who wakes up one day to find herself a patient in a bizarre New York City psychiatric asylum. She has no idea who she is, and possesses no memories of where she came from nor how she got there.

Fearing for her life after being attacked by a berserk girl with over one hundred personalities and a vicious nurse with sadistic intentions, the frightened amnesiac teams up with an audacious lesbian with a comically unbalanced mind, and together they attempt a daring escape.

But little do they know that a long strange journey into an even more insane world filled with a multitude of perilous predicaments and off-kilter individuals waiting for them on the outside. Farika’s weird reality crumbles when she finally discovers who, and what, she really is!”

My thoughts:

The Amnesia Girl is a witty, vivid, off the wall read that grips the reader from the first. The narration is so good, two paragraphs in and I had to set my kindle aside and pace the floor, waiting for my excitement to settle. An early reference to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar sets the tone, although Gray’s rendition is the earlier work’s alter ego, the antidote to all the suffering and injustice mental patients are forced to endure. A whacky and terrifying array of mental patients in the asylum is trumped by the even whackier and sinister psychiatric nurse and doctor.

Farika has no memory of who she is:

“But whatever memories her brain might have retained of her now-forgotten past were as grayish-white opaque as the smokestack clouds that rose high into the air with the promise of forming into something substantial, only to dissipate into nothingness.”

To my mind, such writing is gold, pure gold.

Thankfully, Farika and her friend, Mara, manage to escape, and they embark on a wild ride from New York to San Francisco, encountering many bizarre characters along the way, from prostitutes to religious fruit loops to radical extremists; everyone’s a nut job, no one can be trusted and the macabre is ever present. At times I was thinking Tarantino or the Coen brothers, others of Rocky Horror, and yes of course, Thelma and Louise. Above all, Gray has captured a slice of vintage USA with a hilarity that charms and a narration that glows. There are plenty of twists and turns as the plot drives forward, heading towards a satisfying ending when things come together and wrap themselves up in a tight knot.

I don’t want to have to defend horror, but I suspect if you want to find out where all the literary fiction authors are hanging out after being rejected time and again by publishers, it’s leaning against a graffitied wall of some dark alley, conjuring dread and revulsion. The Amnesia Girl is another demonstration of the places women writers of horror take the genre. An absolute delight!

Grab your copy here

Find Gerri R Gray here

Review: Captor by Anita Waller

I’ve had a short detour into the realm of thrillers with Anita Waller’s smashing read, Captor.

 

“Liz Chambers is a devoted mother who works for a successful law firm. She has two children, a husband and a blossoming career. But behind closed doors, Liz is harbouring a secret that could destroy her life.

Then the unthinkable happens, and in a frenzied attack, her young son is snatched from the home of the childminder charged with looking after him.

As Liz’s life unfolds, it becomes clear that someone is out for revenge.

Desperate to get her baby boy back, Liz must work out who is responsible for his kidnap, and why.

But as the body count begins to mount, Liz’s concern grows for the safety of her child.

Who has taken her baby?

And why is Captor so determined on revenge?”

My thoughts:

What makes a good thriller? Relatable characters, a relatable plot, and a fast pace with plenty of twists along the way are all essential elements of a good thriller. Deviate from the strictures and the author will risk alienating thriller readers who don’t want detailed backstory, long paragraphs of reflection or thick descriptions. Thrillers have to create an edge of seat tension in the mind of the reader and they absolutely must not falter or meander in any way. Reading Anita Waller’s novel, it is plain she has mastered every element of the thriller genre with finesse.

Captor does not miss a beat. The twists come at just the right moment and drive the plot forward at breakneck speed. The protagonist, Liz Chambers, is sufficiently complex and flawed to make her likeable if selfish and blinkered, and Waller leaves it to her readers to judge Liz’s past and present deeds. Indeed, it is Liz’s questionable acts and decisions that provoke the reader to think and ponder what they might do, or not do in a similar situation.

The story unfolds rapidly once Liz’s baby son is taken, and from then on Captor is laced with a satisfying mix of mystery and complexity. The parallel narrative works well too, in keeping the reader informed and building up tension. I defy any reader to put this book down before they get to the end!

I thoroughly enjoyed Captor, and look forward to reading more from the author.

 

You can find the author here: http://www.bloodhoundbooks.com/anita-waller/

And grab your copy here