Book Review: Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke.

Book Review: Dead of Winter by Kealan Patrick Burke.

I was recently introduced to Kealan Patrick Burke by a fellow bookstagrammer and horror enthusiast, the fabulous Sadie Hartmann (aka Mother Horror) and I am so glad I did.  Dead of Winter, a collection of Burke’s short stories and his latest release, felt like a good place to start, plus the cover is epic.

dead winter2The collection starts of with Snowmen, a tale told from the perspective of a young boy haunted by shadowy figures in his backyard.  This story is perfectly creepy, staying with you long after you finish the final word and it is not only the perfect start to this collection but it’s also my personal favourite.  From there, it takes a festive twist and of course, I use that term in an ironic way.  Story number two is Doomsday Father Christmas, a truly depressing take on our consumer driven Christmas and the with that you are dragged further into the cold, dead winter by Burke.  Next up, we have Black Static, a short, sharp punch to the gut from the perspective of a man resentful of having to care for his father through deteriorating mental and physical health.  This is followed by Visitation rights, a story about a divorced father during a resentment filled visitation with his two daughters.  This is one of those stories you end up reading again immediately after finishing because you can’t quite believe what happened.  Home depicts a panicked father, worried when his wife and daughter do not return during a particularly harsh winter’s day.  This one is genuinely emotional and honestly a little heart breaking.  The Quiet depicts a now paraplegic man contemplating his life and the tragic events which led him to that point.  This story really demonstrates Burke’s writing ability and is quite frankly, short story perfection.  It’s another tear jerker, touching on some truly emotive topics.  Last up, They Know and wow, what a finale.  This is horror at its best and you will continue thinking about it long after you close the book.  It’s one of those stories which takes you one way before dragging you screaming the other way.  It reminds me of the movie Phantoms (if you haven’t seen it, watch it immediately) and is just as creepy!

Overall, this is a truly chilling Collection of stories which makes me want to read more of Burke’s writing.  I’m giving this one 4 stars out of 5!!

Interview with the Night Worms.

Interview with the Night Worms.

There are plenty of book subscription boxes available these days.  You can get them to suit any age and any taste, featuring every genre from Fantasy to Young Adult, Crime to Horror.  But every now and then, a box comes along that genuinely causes a buzz and in this case, even starts a whole movement!  The Night Worms started off as a group of Horror enthusiasts, determined to promote and review horror, a social media based book club for true horror enthusiasts, before two of its members decided to kick things up a notch and create their own Horror subscription box.  But the Night Worms don’t do things like every one else.  Instead of seeing the other Horror Book subscription boxes available on the market as merely competition, they decided to corroborate with them and create the #promotehorror movement on Instagram and Twitter.  After two very successful boxes, with a third on the way, I chat with the lovely ladies behind the box to get some insight into its creation as well as what is to come…

1) Tell us about the people behind Night worms.

nightwormThe people behind Night Worms are two female horror lovers, Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann and Ashley Saywers. I review horror for Scream Magazine and Cemetery
Dance Online. I’ve been married for 22 years to my best friend and we have three children. Our whole family recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific North West.

Ashley also lives in Washington with her husband and their son. She loves horror too! Both of us repped for a horror subscription box company and several other bookish companies-developing a really close friendship and working relationship before we ever decided to go into business together.

We love that we live so close to each other and we can travel back and forth to each other’s houses.

2) What inspired you to create the box?

Ashley and I became friends on Instagram through our dedicated #bookstagram accounts. During the course of a few years, our taste in books became more closely aligned. We realized we were reading all the same books. We decided to combine our efforts to read, review and promote horror through a book club with five other horror loving friends of ours. Night Worms was born.

After about eight months or so, Ashley and I decided to expand our Night Worms brand to a book club subscription package so that more people could read, review and promote horror with us. We are different in that we put the primary emphasis on the books and less of a thrust on the promotional merchandise. We find that lots of the bookish merchandise is either extra filler/clutter or sometimes infringing on the author’s intellectual property. Everything we include beyond books is just to promote horror book collecting, a book collector’s lifestyle or an enhancement of their reading experience through a one-time use consumable–that way there’s nothing leftover that needs to be stuck in a drawer somewhere gathering dust. We collect books-not things.

3) What is it about horror that you love so much?  

We love that horror is so diverse and that it’s a niche community of people who are very passionate about it.

4) If readers are new or unsure about the genre, but looking for a book to start off their horror journey with, which one would you recommend? What would your horror book for beginners recommendation be?

A lot of horror authors can write in very different sub-genres so if a reader was unsurenightworms 2 because they didn’t want to be scared, horror author Robert McCammon has a few books that teeter on the edge of horror but never cross over like, BOY’S LIFE or THE LISTENER. Stephen King also transcends the horror genre and wrote books like, 11/22/63 which is not traditional horror but more like a time travel, thriller. I would also recommend his newest release, THE OUTSIDER which is like a crime thriller. Paul Tremblay has a book called, THE DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK which has horror undertones but definitely a bit lighter than his book, A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS which is pretty full-on

Grady Hendrix is also a great place to start with his clever, light and sometimes humorous stories in the horror genre. A book like MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM is a great place to start.

5) How do you pick the books and items you feature in your boxes?

Ashley and I hear about a lot of new releases through authors and publishers and sometimes we see a theme or a common thread between certain books so we build a theme around those releases

 

6) Tell us about the #promotehorror movement?  What inspired you to start it?

nightworms 3Basically, horror is a neglected genre in the grand scheme of things. It’s largely ignored for big literature awards due to the fact that people assume it has to be scary or gory to be good and many people aren’t interested in being scared. Many readers of horror actually do a disservice to horror sometimes by rating quality written books lower than they deserve just because they weren’t “scary”. We promote all aspect of the horror genre to help snuff out some of the stereotypes and misinformation out there about horror so that our favourite genre can continue to see an uptick in success.

7) What’s next for the Night Worms?

We have some BIG months coming up. Our February package sold out and it’s going to be a spectacular offering so we are very excited about the unpackagings to go out on social media. April is our Kealan Patrick Burke exclusive package which is generating a lot of buzz and then we have even more signed books and exciting themes coming up for the whole year!

8) How do readers become a part of the Night worm family?

Simply visit our website and click on the most recent, available listing. Add to cart as a one time purchase or click “full details” to subscribe. Join our horror movement on social media: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Thank you so much to Sadie and Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and agreeing to be featured on my little old blog.  Whilst this box is currently unavailable outside of the US, the team are hoping to expand to an international audience down the line, so fingers crossed people, because I am DYING to get my hands on one!  Go on to their social media and check them out, particularly Instagram, so you can discover some new horror books and authors and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all the latest reviews, collaborations and articles.

 

Halloween Book Review: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge.

Halloween Book Review: Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge.

Happy almost Halloween guys and ghouls! For this blog post, I am reviewing Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge, a book I had never heard of before until it was suggested for a group read along by my fellow Stranger Dream reps.  The chat is usually filled with discussions of all things creepy and scary as we are all avid horror fans, so naturally when we chose a group read for Halloween, it was going to be a horror book…and this one is genuinely the ultimate Halloween read.  Here is the synopsis:

dark harvest picHalloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death.

Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror–and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy . . .

The book is set in a backwards little hick town in the middle of nowhere, run by a very shady bunch of corrupt and evil adults, where every Halloween they hold their own version of the hunger games.  All the young boys are starved for five days and then let loose on Halloween night with weapons, to hunt down and kill the October Boy, essentially a living pumpkin, as a twisted right of passage.  The only way to escape the town is to kill him and be crowned the victor, or so the boys think.

This is one Hell of a ride…with an incredibly fast pace and constant action, it’s a real page turner.  It’s also not a particularly long read so because I literally couldn’t put it down, I had it read in a day!  Partridge perfect describes action sequences and it means they book plays like a really great horror film inside your head.  On that note, if there happens to be any movie producers or Netflix executives out there reading my tiny blog, then please PLEASE turn this into a movie or show…it would be perfect!  It would be epic!

Despite the book not being long, Partridge manages to create a very real world filled with believable, three dimensional characters.  I can picture that town perfectly, with its dusty back roads and a church at its centre, meaningless building to a town full of people who abandoned God long ago, or perhaps a town which God abandoned.  There is the main character, Pete McCormick, an intelligent boy with a rebellious streak, determined to break free of it and there is the local law man, Ricks, a corrupt, cruel and violent man who rules the town with an iron fist and kills easily and gleefully to maintain the status quo.  Even the October Boy himself is portrayed to perfection, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you so I’ll just say this…sometimes the real horrors aren’t the monsters and ghouls, but human beings.

The entire storyline is incredibly original and it isn’t like anything I’ve ever read before.  Partridge is a truly talented writer creating an immersive and enjoyable experience for the reader from start to finish.  Overall, I cannot recommend it enough and I’m giving it five star!! That’s right- full marks!  Grab a copy now…you won’t regret it.

The End of Temperance Dare: A Book Review.

Hello readers!  If you have been following my blog recently, you will see I received a book subscription box by the fabulous people at the Once Upon a Book Club Box.  It’s finally time to review the box’s book The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb and also review the box itself!  First up, the book…So what’s it about?

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When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.
But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows–including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks–she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows–and herself–from sinister forces.

I loved the way the book brought together the past and the present, revealing just enough about both in order to carry the story along, keeping you interested but not revealing too much.  It ticks all of the necessary horror boxes: A large, historical building where lots of people died?  Tick.  Unpredictable weather which cuts off the people within from the outside world?  Tick.  Members of staff which clearly know more than they’re letting on?  Tick.  A group of apparent strangers brought together by unknown forces for nefarious means?  Tick.  It practically writes itself.  Was it scary?  Sadly not, but that may have more to do with my tolerance levels for all things grotesque and horrifying than the writing itself.  I rarely find books scary.  But it certainly is atmospheric, with Webb creating enough suspense to keep you coming back for more.  Certain aspects of it were predictable, and I worked out one of the twists from the start.  But the ending was very original and I genuinely didn’t see it coming.  In fact, she managed one of those rare and awesome writing moments when the reader gets to the ending, is surprised by it, and then finds themselves going over the book in their mind, realising they had missed so many clues.  I respect any writer who can manage that!

I have a few small criticisms.  First, the whole incident is kind of ’rounded off’ at the end, book boxand it feels rushed.  I personally think a few additional chapters would have provided a satisfactory conclusion for the reader without losing them.  I also think that it could have done with a little more carnage.  I don’t want to give many spoilers, but victims are put into a shocked, catatonic state, literally paralysing them with fear, when perhaps, I would have just killed them off.  But again, maybe that’s just me and my love of the dreadful.

Overall, I found this book thoroughly entertaining.  I looked forward to settling into bed with it each night, and at certain points, I genuinely couldn’t put it down.  I definitely recommend it of you fancy something on the spooky side.

photo 1What about the box itself?  In a word: AWESOME!  If you missed my previous posts, the Once Upon a Book Club Box is not your average book subscription box.  Along with a great book, you get a selection of gifts, all of which are individually and lovingly wrapped, and marked with a page number.  Once you reach the right page, you open your gift marked with that particular page number and inside you find a surprise which is tailored to that part of the book.

If you have the box, and haven’t opened all of your gifts yet, stop reading now because there are spoilers ahead!  Obviously, my gifts were tailored to The End of Temperance Dare.  At one moment in the book, the main character takes a long and much needed bath containing bath salts, so when I opened my gift, I found some sweet smelling bath salts just for me!  At another point in the book, the main character finds herself so engrossed in what she is doing, she loses time, and is amazed photo 4to look at the clock and find much more time has passed than she thought.  When I opened my gift, I found a super cute clock!  When the main character opens a letter, I too get my very own copy of that letter.  When makeup is applied within the story, I opened my gift to find my very own set of makeup brushes, and finally, as the main character writes in her diary, I open my own pen, with one of Macbeth’s most memorable lines inscribed on it, ‘By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.’  It’s very obvious how much thought and effort has gone behind each and every gift choice.  Even the way in which they are wrapped and labelled is so beautifully and carefully considered.  I found that each gift helped immerse me in the story, and they became a photo 3little goal for reading, some exciting little surprise to reach before I put down the book for the evening.  It was like a box that kept on giving.  Unlike other subscription boxes, where you open and see everything at once, this one lasts as long as you want it to so you feel like you are really getting value for money.  I know some people can’t resist, and open all of the gifts at once (and I can’t deny I was tempted) but I was glad I kept them all as a surprise because each one genuinely put a smile on my face when I got to open them.  In a nut shell- I loved it!  And I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a bookish subscription box.  If you decide to give it a go, you can get 10% off with my exclusive discount code MARIE10.

 

 

The Walking Dead: The Official Cookbook and Survival Guide review.

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Happy almost Halloween readers!  I love this time of year…pumpkin carving, trick or treating and all things horror!!  And in the spirit of that, tonights blog post is a review of ‘The Walking Dead: the Official Cookbook and Survival Guide.’  That’s right…the people over at AMC and cooking writer extraordinaire Lauren Wilson, have collaborated to bring you the ultimate guide on how to survive a plague of Walkers, along with some recipes to prepare for your fellow survivors!  This book has it all, a how to guide on hunting, fishing and gathering, what essentials you need to keep handy in the event of a zombie apocalypse (or any apocalypse for that matter) and of course recipes inspired by the show and its characters.  But how do those recipes taste?  After all, if it’s the end of the modern world, you need to find home comforts when you can, right?  I decided to try one out for myself and give my official verdict.

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To me, Halloween is synonymous with apple pie.  Every year since I can remember, my mum would make an apple pie, and place coins inside for us to find.  So, when I found the recipe for ‘Maggie’s formless apple pies’ I knew I needed to try them.  The recipe is inspired by season 7, episode ‘Hearts still beating’ when a pregnant Maggie was presented an apple pie by the people of Hilltop as a thank you.  To make it even more apocalypse friendly, this recipe is for ‘forkless’ apple pies, so you can eat them without a fork, say while running from a pack of hungry Walkers.

wd4I am not the most skilled baker in the world; that being said, I found the step by step instructions easy to follow.  In line with the theme of the book, the list of ingredients for this recipe doesn’t involve anything exotic or rare, just things you probably already have knocking about in your cupboards.  I also appreciated that the recipe was done in an almost ‘real time’ way, i.e. as opposed to simply telling you what you needed to mix and how long to cook it for, it told you when to begin each stage, and in what order, to help save on time.

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Once cooked, I taste tested them myself, along with my hubby and our little girl, and it was yummy noises all round…a unanimous ten out of ten and a resounding success (even if I do say so myself).  I don’t normally add any spices to my apple pie (that may shock some people, but I am following my Grandmother’s recipe) but I loved the taste of these, and think the addition of the various spices really added to the moreishness of the flavours.  Overall, I can’t fault it!  It was an easy to read, easy to complete recipe with clear instructions and most importantly, it tasted delicious!  Having a flick through it, there are definitely a bunch more recipes I want to try, and having read the survival guide chapters, I am now tempted to start hoarding bottled water and create my own bug out bag…because you never know, right?  Especially the way the world is going these days!

If you are a fan of the show, then you simply need to own this.  It is the ultimate piece of wd6fan merchandise, and would make a fantastic Christmas present or stocking filler.  It is chock full of recipes, both sweet and savoury, like ‘Dixon’s deer stew,’ ‘Foraged berry cobbler’ and ‘Carl’s biscuits’ and even includes a moonshine and cocktail chapter at the back (because in the event of the dead rising up and trying to eat our flesh, I am pretty sure we would all need a drink).

Halloween is Coming: How to Become Your Favourite Literary Horror Characters.

It’s October guys, and that can only mean one thing…HALLOWEEN!  I adore this time of year.  I love horror movies and dressing up, I love carving pumpkins and scrunching my way through fallen leaves, and I love the change in the weather, as it cools down, the air filling with the sweet smell of peat fires.  What’s not to love?

To celebrate all things Halloween, I will be collaborating with a very talented make up artist and dear friend of mine, Rachel Henry.  Rachel has had a life long obsession with make up, and recently decided to turn that passion into a business.  She completed the foundation makeup course at Ciara Daly’s school, and is currently completing a VTCT level 3 in fashion and photographic make up…in other words, she knows her stuff!  You can check out more of her work on her Instagram.  She plans on doing special effects makeup down the line, so she jumped at the chance to collaborate with me on this project.

Each week in October, we will be bringing you a different makeup look, in the style of your favourite literary horror characters!  And because we love you guys so much, we will include a step by step guide, so you can recreate the looks at home!  So dig those costumes out of storage, and get ready to scare your friends!

IT

it makeup 6There are so many great Horror books, and scary literary characters to choose from, it’s hard to choose which ones to do!  But our first choice was easy.  Stephen King is a staple of literary Horror.  His books, and the subsequent movie adaptations, are a must at Halloween and are enjoyed by people of all ages and all backgrounds.  The most recent adaptation to screen was of course the smash hit ‘IT’ (which I really enjoyed by the way). The clown is an iconic image, and is one which plays on all of our childhood fears.  It is also a look which can be easily recreated at home, by even the most novice make up artist!  Rachel made sure to use things readily available and cheap, so anyone can create this look, so why not give it a try?

We wanted to hide my own eyebrows and also create some big arch style brows for IT, It makeup 4similar to the new movie adaptation.  But how did we do that I hear you ask?  Well, this is going to sound crazy, but we used cotton pads and water soluble PVA glue.  I know what you’re thinking…putting glue on my face?  Are you insane?  But as long as you use the water soluble stuff, you will be fine.  Once it’s dry it peels right off, and it didn’t hurt in any way or remove any hairs, it just came off.  Remember when you were a little kid, and you were given a pot of glue to craft with, but instead you painted it all over your hand and peeled it off again…it’s the same thing!  We cut a round cotton pad in half, the kind you take your makeup off with, and used the glue to attach it over my brows.  Once it was wet with the glue, Rachel was able to mould it into the shape we wanted.  For something so simple and cheap, we think it looks great!

 

It makeup 5Next, using the ordinary white face paints you can buy in stores, paint your face entirely.  We needed two layers of the paint to get it as white as we wanted.  Just be careful when painting around your eyes.

 

 

Once the white paint was dry, Rachel used ordinary black eyeshadow and eyeliner to paint around my eyes, and create that dead eyed stare IT you have seen glaring from the movie posters.  At this point, you resemble a B movie zombie, but trust us!

Rachel also used black eyeliner pencil to draw some ‘cracks’ along my forehead, which she then blended slightly, before using a brush to put a light dust of the same black eyeshadow on certain points on my face…think where you would normally contour, like under the cheekbones and at either side of your nose.  Using the same eyeliner pencil, she drew on my new eyebrows, first tracing it lightly to get the shape she wanted, before thickening it up and blending it slightly to soften the edges.

Finally, it was time for the best part, and IT’s signature…the red paint.

Rachel just usedIt makeup 3 red lipstick and a lip brush to paint my lips and nose.  IT’s lips are quite large, so she over-exagerated the size of mine, painting above and below my natural lip line.  She used a red lip liner pencil to trace out the red lines from my lips, and ‘through’ my eyes, before filling them in with the same lipstick.  Once you reach this stage, you can go ahead and keep adding any little touches you like.  Rachel, for example, used a black eyeliner to outline my lips lightly, to really emphasise their shape, and also lightly dusted the cotton pads with black powder so it got into the cracks and really emphasised those brows.

Finally, I didn’t want to purchase an expensive costume and wig.  The whole point of this was to make it cheap and easy to create, so I bought a cheap red wig from a local store.  Believe it or not, the wig was a long straight one with a fringe…not very clown like, but Rachel back brushed it and pinned it into the shape you see using bobby pins.  The only clown wigs I could find cheap, were those comedy, curly style ones, and let’s face it, those are not even slightly scary and would definitely have ruined the image.  I bought some red ribbon from a haberdashery and we just tied it around my neck and then made bow after bow after bow, to create this ‘ruff’ look.  We pinned the edges up using more bobby pins.

And voila!  I think the finished look is really effective and instantly recognisable…perfect for any Halloween party, or if you just feel like terrifying your neighbours and friends!

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I would just like to thank Rachel for collaborating with me on this project!  You are super talented!  If you guys feel inspired by this and end up recreating any of our looks, I would love it if you tagged us so we can see the results!