reads, Recent Reads

Rosemary and Rue

Publisher’s Description:

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.


My Review:

I recently read Rosemary and Rue by US author Seanan McGuire, the first instalment in the October Daye urban fantasy series.

The protagonist, October Daye, is a private detective and also a Changeling, the daughter of a high Fae and mortal man. October, also known as Toby, considers herself happily married, has a young daughter and has so-far, kept both her husband and daughter from knowing she is not as mortal as she seems. But Toby is also a knight in a Fae court and, when her liege-lord requests her aid to recover his kidnapped wife and young daughter, she is duty-bound to obey. While on a stake-out, Toby follows her prime suspect, one of the most powerful of the Fae lords but is caught. In punishment, Toby is transformed into a koi and, unbeknown to anyone except the Fae lord who cursed her, is left in a fish pond.

After seven years, the curse breaks and Toby is returned to her human-like form. As her mortal husband never knew she was a Changeling nor the Fae worlds she inhabited, Toby’s sudden reappearance after her presumed death and inability to explain her whereabouts, sees her marriage dissolve and her now-teenage daughter no longer a trusting child. Estranged from her family, Toby begins her life anew, ignoring the Fae worlds, her Changeling roots and trying to eek out a menial existence in San Francisco.

But when Toby’s friend Evening, one of the high Fae, requests in her dying moments that Toby solve her murder, Toby finds herself drawn back into Fae intrigue, politics and power-plays. For Toby, the price of failure is her own death as Evening cursed her in those dying moments, compelling her to uncover Evening’s murderer.

Finding herself without much help to uncover Evening’s murderers, Toby is forced to make unlikely allies with other changelings she had long left behind, a deadly bargain with the Caith-Sidhe, the court of cat lords, and indebting herself to her Liege-Lord again. Soon, Toby uncovers the real reason Evening was murdered, a powerful and deadly secret.

Final Thoughts:

Rosemary and Rue is an intriguing beginning to an urban fantasy series that relies strongly on Irish folklore and, with this solid foundation of lore, provides a detailed world-building and fascinating characters.

My Conclusion?

A great read for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy, Irish folklore, provoking characters and solid world-building. Highly recommended!

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Death House Anthology Release


I am pleased to announce the release of horror anthology Death House published by Raven & Drake Publishing on 20 April , 2021. The anthology is inspired by the haunted houses theme, featuring my dark microfiction “Agnes House” inspired by true crime, horror elements and psychopathy.

If you are interested in purchasing a paperback, limited edition hardback or ebook copy of Death House, more details can be found here.

Recent Reads

The Crossing Places

From the Blurb:

“Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child’s bones are discovered near the site of a prehistoric henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier – or are the bones much older?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth’s expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest. But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…”

My Review:

The Crossing Places (Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries, #1) by UK author Elly Griffiths is a crime thriller with a considerable difference. The protagonist is slightly awkward, overweight, nearing middle-aged female forensic archaeologist, Dr Ruth Galloway who’s primary role is teaching and researching in Archaeology in the new university of North Norfolk, United Kingdom. The discovery of a body ritually displayed on the remote salt marshes near where Ruth lives soon brings local police detective Harry Nelson into Ruth’s sphere of work and life and his desperate search for the body of a child missing ten years, the case he cannot forget nor forgive himself for not solving.

The following events involve a series of archaeological investigations into the ritualised burial and likely sacrifice of the young girl whose remains Ruth discovers are not recent but from an Iron Age civilisation that built hedge sites and other ritual structures in the North Norfolk area during the Iron Age. For detective Harry Nelson, Ruth’s academic excitement in the Iron Age burial only saddens and frustrates him in the callousness of human nature, that centuries before, young girls were being ritually killed on the salt marshes. It seems Ruth and Harry have little in common except an interest to discover the fate of the respective young girls, one more recent, another from the Iron Age. But events quickly escalate with the new discovery of the Iron Age burial linking to a series of antagonistic letters detective Nelson has received over the ten years from the suspected killer, which now begin again in earnest along with another child abduction. When another child burial is found, Harry Nelson recruits Ruth to excavate and to provide her expertise on ritual sacrifices and Iron Age culture near the salt marshes. It is the beginning of a partnership and a case that focuses on the importance of the ‘crossing places’ to Iron Age belief systems, the role of landscapes which are neither shore nor sea, sky nor land.

Final Thoughts:

The Crossing Places was an enjoyable crime mystery, the combination of unlikely but personable characters, the depth of research into archaeological techniques and academic institutions gave the plot a sense of reality. The detailed research into Iron Age belief systems of ‘crossing places’, the importance of these liminal landscapes within our natural landscapes of land and sea contributed to a fascinating read.

My Conclusion?

A highly-recommended read for anyone who enjoys ancient history, crime or mystery, quirky and complex characters and archaeology.

Recent Reads

Ivory’s Story

From the Blurb:

“Long ago, a good man transgressed and was brutally punished, his physical form killed and his soul split asunder. Now, one half of his ancient soul seeks to reunite with its lost twin, a search that leaves murder in its wake…
In the streets of modern day Sydney a killer stalks the night, slaughtering innocents, leaving bodies mutilated. The victims seem unconnected, yet Investigating Officer Ivory Tembo is convinced the killings are anything but random. The case soon leads Ivory into places she never imagined. In order to stop the killings and save the life of the man she loves, she must reach deep into her past, uncover secrets of her heritage, break a demon’s curse, and somehow unify two worlds.”

My Review:

I recently read Ivory’s Story by African-Australian author Eugen Bacon after readings several reviews and the description roused my interest in this unique speculative fiction novella set in Australia.

The protagonist of Ivory’s Story is female detective Ivory Tembo who has the unhappy task leading the failing investigation into a series of grisly murders of high-profile men in sexually explicit ways in Sydney, Australia. Raised as an orphan and without knolwedge of her family, Ivory has only the unusual opal amulet from her mother to link her to true heritage. Determined to solve the killings and discover her identity, Ivory is directed to a seer at Orange Crater in the northern-central Australia.

The long travel to Orange Crater, Ivory finds her mother also visited but finds no trace of any other family ties only a strong affiliation with a cranky medicine woman. Under the guidance of this medicine woman, Ivory learns how to defeat and stop the murders and the reasons behind the gruesome killings. The medicine woman explains a past tragedy involved an exiled son of a medicine man. This son harboured a rare gift of twin-souls but when accused of stealing a Chieftain’s daughter, his execution does not kill him but does separate his souls, causing one to remain forever within his body, the other to always seek to return. For Ivory, she must re-unite the twin souls after centuries and dimensional planes apart if she is to save the man she loves and stop the killings.

Final Thoughts:

A combination of beautifully written prose and vivid descriptions of the Australian and inter-dimensional landscapes, Ivory’s Story also features a cast of well-defined characters and refreshingly strong female characters. Although, there are sections of the novella that seem to drift from the central focus of the story and can detract from its purpose, leaving me wanting more about Ivory’s detective work and development as a seer, the strong weird fiction themes do not make this feel like a true flaw, more like a necessary element of the weird fiction style.

My Conclusion?

Ivory’s Story is recommended for its beautiful prose and strong female characters. Readers will be certain to enjoy a cultural odyssey for those familiar and new to both the weird and speculative fiction genres.

reads, Recent Reads

Corpselight

From the Blurb:

Life in Brisbane is never simple for those who walk between the worlds.

Verity’s all about protecting her city, but right now that’s mostly running surveillance and handling the less exciting cases for the Weyrd Council – after all, it’s hard to chase the bad guys through the streets of Brisbane when you’re really, really pregnant.

An insurance investigation sounds pretty harmless, even if it is for ‘Unusual Happenstance’. That’s not usually a clause Normals use – it covers all-purpose hauntings, angry genii loci, ectoplasmic home invasion, demonic possession, that sort of thing – but Susan Beckett’s claimed three times in three months. Her house keeps getting inundated with mud, but she’s still insisting she doesn’t need or want help . . . until the dry-land drownings begin.

V’s first lead in takes her to Chinatown, where she is confronted by kitsune assassins. But when she suddenly goes into labour, it’s clear the fox spirits are not going to be helpful.

Review:

Corpselight is the second volume in the Verity Fassbinder series by Australian author Angela Slatter. The urban fantasy sequel follows almost directly from the events in Vigil with just over six months seeing protagonist Verity Fassbinder in the later stages of her pregnancy at the beginning of Corpselight.

About to begin maternity leave and already on light duties, Verity finds herself on a case in her role as liaison between the Weyrd and Normal communities of Brisneyland (alternate world of Brisbane). A series of inexplicable and frightening dry-land drownings seem to be striking at random, Normal and Weyrd victims alike and somehow a Normal lawyer’s insurance for an ‘Unusual Happenstance’ clause usually only employed by the Weyrd has Verity’s attention. But the lawyer isn’t interested in solving her repeat magical invasions and random deaths from dry-land drownings keep mounting. Amid the turmoil are a trio of deadly fox assassins sent after Verity and the arrival of someone from her past long thought lost to her.

Verity struggles to discover who is employing magic to murder random strangers with a complex drowning spell and why. In a race to save the lives of strangers while protect her new baby daughter, Verity is forced to make greater sacrifices than she thought possible. Revelations about the series of murders drives Verity to face the complex ties between past and present and the lengths she would go to in order to protect those she loves.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed the first instalment in the Verity Fassbinder series, Vigil was unique and offered such a fresh perspective on urban fantasy genre. I was pleasantly surprised to find Corpselight was just as strong. There was more to be discovered about the alternate Weyrd world of Brisneyland and the detailed foundations of folklore and history that the characters, setting and plot were based allowed expansion. Corpselight still offered the uniqueness of Vigil with the feeling I now had the most basic of understandings in how to navigate this new world.

Conclusion?

Corpselight is a must-read urban fantasy, great world-building, dark humour and strong folklore foundations. Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy!

reads, Recent Reads

The Only Good Indians

From the Blurb:

“Ten years ago, four young men shot some elk then went on with their lives. It happens every year; it’s been happening forever; it’s the way it’s always been. But this time it’s different. Ten years after that fateful hunt, these men are being stalked themselves. Soaked with a powerful gothic atmosphere, the endless expanses of the landscape press down on these men – and their children – as the ferocious spirit comes for them one at a time.

The Only Good Indians, charts Nature’s revenge on a lost generation that maybe never had a chance. Cleaved to their heritage, these parents, husbands, sons and Indians, men live on the fringes of a society that has rejected them, refusing to challenge their exile to limbo.”

Review:

I recently read The Only Good Indians by US author Stephen Graham Jones. It was my first experience of Graham Jones’ gothic fiction and I was drawn to the Native American folklore of Elk-head woman and concept of emotional and physical haunting. What I discovered was a much deeper, complex and more rewarding read than I expected.

The Only Good Indians follows two main characters from a group of four Blackfeet men who in their youth, broke the laws of their reservation trespassing on the hunting grounds reserved for the elders during the last day of hunting. In a deep snow storm, the young men shoot an entire herd of elk including a young pregnant doe who takes several shots to kill. After taking only the hindquarters of the elk which is all the single pickup Ute can carry, the young men are caught by the reservation police and forced to relinquish the meat, unlawfully killed and they are banned from hunting on the reservation ever again. Despite decades passing since that fateful hunt, the four men are each haunted, emotionally and physically by the spectre of an elk-headed woman.

After two of the four die in violent circumstances after trying to leave the reservation, only one man, Lewis, has survived living outside the reservation but he has never left behind the guilt or sorrow from that hunt. Lewis was responsible for killing the young elk and the news of the recent deaths of his other two friends reawakens his guilt. Lewis is certain that the elk he killed in his youth is seeking vengeance and despite attempts to console his conscience and the spirit of the young elk, Lewis’ life spirals into sudden and tragic violence and he joins the fatal tally from that fateful hunting trip. Although Lewis had seemingly escaped the reservation and the bindings of tradition, Gabe has remained living on the reservation. The last of the four, he becomes the final target for Elk-head woman and her vengeance. Gabe has stayed on the reservation but does not have true acceptance either, enduring a borderline tolerance by the Blackfeet community. The last of the four who killed the elk on elder’s hunting ground, Gabe is aware Elk-head woman is hunting him and to protect his own daughter from becoming collateral, he demands Elk-head woman promise not to seek vengeance by killing his daughter despite his responsibility for the elk calf’s untimely death. It is clear that none of the four men ever escaped their identity as Native Americans, never escaped the wrong they committed that night and can never escape the need to find a balance for it.

Final Thoughts:

I had read a few references to folklore of the figure of Elk-head woman and customs surrounding not killing pregnant animals in several Native American cultures not just Stephen Graham Jones’ own Blackfeet heritage. But Graham Jones combined these with a gritty modern reality, an awareness that past wrongs can never be forgotten or out-run, that grief and sorrow are as capable at haunting an individual as any spectral figure. The most enduring aspect of The Only Good Indians was the skilfully constructed atmosphere in every scene, the detailed characters and the effective use of sudden, sharp violence completely shattering scenes and unnerving characters and audience alike.

Conclusion?

The Only Good Indians is an absolute modern classic of gothic folklore and literary fiction. I cannot recommend more highly. A must read!

Recent Reads

Dead Beat

I recently read Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, the seventh novel in the Dresden Files. Harry Dresden is Chicago private detective and professional wizard, struggling to make a living and control the powerful magic he wields. Dead Beat is set three days before Halloween when Märvra, vampire Queen of the Black Court and Harry’s enemy, blackmails him into finding an elusive text by necromancer Kemmler. Racing against time to find Kemmler’s text before the end of Halloween, Harry discovers Kemmler’s followers are intent on performing a rite on Halloween gifting god-like powers over life and death to the one conducting rite. The Dresden Files contain meticulous world-building with Machiavellian power struggles between fairy and vampire courts, the White Council of wizards and many unaffiliated supernatural beings.

Recent Reads

Catching Teller Crow

The YA supernatural mystery, Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina, explores Australian history, indigenous legends and cultural understanding through the characters of three young Aboriginal women.Catching Teller Crow follows Beth Teller, a recently deceased Aboriginal girl who has remained as a ghost, trying to stop the grief consuming her father by urging him to continue his work as a detective. Only seen by her father, Beth convinces him to investigate a recent fire and subsequent murders in a small, rural town in the Australian outback.Early in the investigation into a fire and murder at a children’s home, Beth meets Isobel Catching, a young Aboriginal woman found wandering in the wilderness after the fire. But Catching can also see Beth and soon the mysterious connection between Catching and the children’s home take a dark twist as Catching recounts her strange tale of survival and escape from another dimension inhabited by beings from Australian legend. To endure and survive the strange events, Catching relies on Crow, a shape-shifting young Aboriginal woman. Through hearing Catching’s tale and solving the mystery at the heart of the town, Beth finds the closure she needs to move onto the spirit world and Beth’s father gains the strength he needs to continue living in a world without his daughter.Catching Teller Crow is a magnificent novel combining history, sorrow, hope and culture to craft a unique mystery and ghost story for modern Australia. Highly recommended!

Recent Reads

The Crow Garden

From the Blurb:

“When Nathaniel Kerner takes up his new position as a mad-doctor at Crakethorne Manor, the proprietor, more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than his patients’ minds, hands over the care of his most interesting case.

Mrs Victoria Harleston’s husband accuses her of hysteria and says he will pay any price to see her well. But she accuses him of something far more terrible . . .

Nathaniel becomes increasingly obsessed with Victoria and her condition: is she truly delusional or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered?”

Review:

I read The Crow Garden by UK author Alison Littlewood for my 2017 Halloween Reads.

Set in the bleak Victorian landscape amid asylums and seances houses, The Crow Garden follows Nathaniel, a young male psychiatrist on his posting to the North Yorkshire moors and the crumbling ruins of Crakethorne Manor. There, Nathaniel begins with high aspirations of curing what he considers some of the most-forgotten asylum patients in England. Nathaniel soon discovers the proprietor is more obsessed with the study of skulls, often those of former patients once they have died, than seemingly caring for their minds during life. The eerie garden feared by all the patients with its waiting crows and the seemingly endless supply of skulls alerts Nathaniel to a worrying suspicion of how the proprietor obtains his skull collection. Before Nathaniel can begin to focus on discovering the answer to that worrying question, a new patient is handed into his care. A very beautiful, young wife, Mrs Victoria Harleston is accused of hysteria by her husband. Any treatment and any price is acceptable for her recovery. But Mrs. Harleston accuses her husband of being every type of liar and scoundrel and despite her claims to of fraud and falsehood, she is accused of delusions and confined to Crakethorne Manor. But Nathaniel cannot let her case go so easily. Increasingly obsessed by her claims, Nathaniel walks a fine line between delusion and truth himself and for them both, the ever-present crows wait in the asylum garden, the grave plots slowly increasing in number.

Final Thoughts:

The Crow Garden is a challenging and often confronting tale of the darkness within humanity and the power of the past to haunt the present. The willingness of self-deception to avoid facing reality and the brutal reality for women who did not conform to the ideal social paradigm. A chilling and haunting tale.

My Conclusion?

A recommended read for those who enjoy historical noir, gothic folklore and Victorian gothic horror. Not for the faint-hearted! Modern gothic horror at its best.