Lazy Saturday Review: Under My Skin by Juno Dawson #HO17 #BookReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: Under My Skin
Author: Juno Dawson
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 302 pages
Publication Details: March 5th 2015 by Hot Key Books
Genre(s): YA; Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads 

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Meet Molly Sue. Once she’s under your skin there’s no getting rid of her…

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change.

Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling.

Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’.

Review

This was such a fun book. Juno, (previously known as James in case you’re confused) has a great ability to make unrealistic scenarios (such as a possessed tattoo – kind of), plausible. She also manages to portray teenagers in a very real, and often edgy way.

This book flew by. The main character Sally was just the right amount of innocent school girl and teen angst time-bomb waiting to happen. Sometimes I find these types of characters annoying but I didn’t here.

Granted, the moving, talking tattoo was a bit far-fetched but there was a decent back-story to it, and as always, Juno threw in a swoon-worthy guy or two to distract us.

If you’re a fan of high school reads with a slightly darker edge, you should definitely give this one a try.

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Horror October Guest Post: Paperback Lost by PG Bloodhouse #HO17

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PG Bloodhouse is a fellow vintage bookseller and horror lover. I would buy everything in his shop if I could, so I was delighted when he agreed to share with me his two favourite, most creepiest horror paperback finds.

Paperback Lost by PG Bloodhouse

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Robert Aickman is a terribly underrated writer, whose 48 ‘strange stories’ were belatedly reissued in four lovely editions by Faber & Faber in 2014. With the boost in popularity, earlier editions were suddenly very scarce.

I have only seen this 1968 edition of ‘Powers of Darkness’ once and have held on to it with dear life. As lovely as the recent reissues are, modern book covers just cannot achieve that sense of uneasiness that 60s and 70s design could.

This cover particularly reflects Aickman’s style. His stories are unsettling and Aickman has no intention of making things easy for the reader. Often the scene is mundane, with just a sense that there is something wrong.

This subtlety was overshadowed in late 70s and 80s by the novels of more blatant British horror mongers Clive Barker and James Herbert. Their work often spelt out the horror; told you what you should be scared of.

Aickman dropped you in a peculiar place and left you to it. Alone.

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I am hard pushed to think of anything more terrifying than a little girl in an old-man mask, ascending a stately home staircase towards me. This atrocity pretty much sums up what I love about 70s book cover design.

I have always thought that horror is best served in small doses. The short story gives you little time to get accustomed with the characters and surroundings. Less chance to get comfortable.

It also means more is left to the imagination – something very few horror writers can achieve over the course of a novel. Shirley Jackson being one notable exception.

More Tales of Unease, from 1969, was the second of a trilogy of anthologies edited by John Burke, more famous for his novelisations and TV writing. This collection of stories was adapted for TV in 1970, most episodes of which were subsequently lost.

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PG Bloodhouse started selling books online this earlier this year. Accidentally stumbling into book trading in an attempt to stem (justify) his own spending….

He is currently trading on etsy at pgbloodhouse.etsy.com with a new website on the way at www.pgbloodhouse.co.uk.

You can also find him and his wonderfully creepy covers on Instagram (which is where I discovered him)!

 

Halloween sale now on, so go check out his shop!

Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #4 #HO17

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Welcome to the second annual flash fiction battle in which four brilliant independent horror authors will battle it out to be crowned the King or Queen of Horror, (well, Horror October at least). 

For the past few weeks, four horror writers have been creating an original short story based on the theme you chose.

The winning theme was ‘Master of Cemeteries’.

The vote will open tomorrow at 09:00 (GMT) for you to pick your favourite, so look out for my post. I will crown the winner on Halloween!

Without further ado, here is the final entry…

Please do let us know what you think in the comments below. Will this story get your vote?

Puppets

by Gabino Iglesias

“You look a little pale, Daniel,” said Frantz in his deep, rumbling voice. “This new task has you scared, man? If you wanna roll with us, you’re gonna see some weird stuff. And you’re gonna see a lot of blood. Either one bothers you, walk away now. I might forget about your face if you’re lucky.”

Daniel shook his head. Becoming a member of Zoe Pound was all he’d thought about since his older brother, Samuel, joined them at the age of fifteen. He wanted the money and the respect that came with being a member of the gang. He craved the brotherhood of other Haitians and Haitian-Americans. He dreamed about the power and women that would come his way if he didn’t mess up and did what he was told like a good soldier.

“I’m good, Frantz,” said Daniel, quickly making his way to the door. “Meeting the guy in a mausoleum is weird, but I’ve been in the streets long enough to see weirder. I’ll get you a new puppet tonight.”

Puppets. That’s what Frantz called the disposable bodies the bokor, the dark voodoo priest, got him for suicide missions. Daniel knew that getting a new one entailed killing a man and getting him into the hands of the bokor within a day. What he didn’t know was why he was getting this special task assigned to him after he’d botched a drug deal the previous week. Frantz had called it a rookie mistake, but the look in his eyes did not match the smile he shot at Daniel when he said id. In any case, Daniel was going to get in done. That would be a good start in terms of getting back on Frantz good side.

The victim had already been picked. The man was as predictable, loved his routine, and lived alone. Those were good things. They were also the things that were going to get him killed. Daniel knew he liked to park his car behind a local pizzeria before hitting the trails at a nearby park for his nightly run. It was a matter of waiting for him to show up. When he did, Daniel stepped out from behind a Dumpster, pressed his gun against the man’s temple, and made him get in the car and drive to Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Brownsville, a huge, neglected place that also happened to be Florida’s most important primarily African-American graveyard.

There was a lot of shaking and offering on the drive there, but Daniel ignored all of it. This was a mission he would not screw up. The man at the wheel was already dead to him, nothing more than a throwaway sack of meat and bones.

The explanation Frantz had given Daniel was incredibly accurate. The newbie gangbanger kept his gun in his hoodie and made the man walk to mausoleum near the woods that backed up against the cemetery on the far left side without an issue other than the annoying crying and pleading the man was doing, not to mention he kept snorting snot into the back of his skull like a hog with the flu.

Waiting at the threshold of the dilapidated mausoleum was a wiry, light-skinned man wearing a sleeveless white shirt. His hands, arms, chest, and neck were covered in tattoos.

“You must be Daniel,” said the man.

“Yeah, you the bokor?”

“That’d be me, young blood.”

Daniel realized the man looked anywhere between 38 and 78 years old. His face sported lines that spoke of years under the sun, of hard living and strange nights, but his body looked young and powerful, almost like that of a swimmer or lightweight boxer.

“This the puppet?” the bokor asked, jutting his jaw at the sobbing man.

“Yeah,” replied Daniel.

“Get him inside and shoot him.”

The man screamed some unintelligible promises and supplications. Daniel grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushed him into the cool, moist, smelly darkness of the mausoleum.

Two bullets went into the man’s body, both close to where Daniel thought his heart should be. He dropped down and twitched twice.

“Nice work,” said the bokor from somewhere behind Daniel.

The cold, hard blade pressed against Daniel’s neck from the back.

“The ritual works better if you start it as the person is dying. It’s easier to trap their souls in their bodies for a while that way.”

Confusion and fear kept Daniel frozen. The sound the blade made as it sliced across his neck was as unexpected as the whole situation. It was somewhat of a crunch. The taste of his own blood came quickly, the warm liquid flowing down his chest.

Daniel turned around, lifted his gun, and shot the bokor in the chest, right below his right clavicle. A dark hole appeared where the bullet disappeared into his body, but no blood came. Daniel squeezed the trigger again, aiming higher this time. A second hole opened up in the bokor’s left cheek. The wound remained as dry as the one in his chest.

“Be happy Daniel, you accomplished your task tonight. In fact, you brought Frantz two puppets instead of one. I’m sure he will appreciate the gesture.”

The bokor’s laugh echoed inside the dark mausoleum as Daniel dropped to his knees, his muscles starting to lose their strength.

“Don’t despair, Daniel,” said the bokor. “Your brother asked me to make sure you could cross over as soon as your next job is done.”

Daniel couldn’t reply with a severed throat, so he closed his eyes and felt the tears roll down his face as cold darkness embraced him.

 The End

(938 words)

Meet the Author

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Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX.

He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS, HUNGRY DARKNESS, and GUTMOUTH. He is the book reviews editor for PANK Magazine, the TV/film editor for Entropy Magazine, and a columnist for LitReactor and CLASH Media. His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, and many other print and online venues.

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Gabino’s latest release is an anthology of crime stories inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash.

Amazon // Goodreads // Twitter

Check out the other entries:

Entry #1: Holding On by Sean Seebach

Entry #2: The Master of Cemeteries by Justin Bienvenue

Entry #3: In That Sleep of Death by Stephen Kozeniewski

 

The vote opens tomorrow!

30 Days of Horror #26: Doctor Sleep #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

Tonight’s horror book choice is one that I was pleasantly surprised by. I’ve liked most of the Stephen King books I’ve read but perhaps not as much as some people. I didn’t know what to expect from a Shining sequel though, especially so many years after the first was published. But I thought Doctor Sleep was a great effort. And well worth revisiting.

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Available in all formats incl audio, 531 pages

Published September 24th 2013 by Scribner

 

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

 

Goodreads // My Review

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Read this? What did you think?

Don’t forget to vote in the flash fiction battle!


30 Days of Horror #25: The Hollow Girl #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

My choice for day 25 is a book I’ve only just come across, and mannnn it looks pretty creepy. Want!

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Available in hardback and ebook, 272 pages

Published October 10th 2017 by Delacorte Press

Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.

Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.

One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.

She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.

 

Goodreads // NOT My Review

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Already read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Flash Fiction Battle: The vote opens!

 

Horror October: This Week in Books 25.10.17 #TWIB #HO17

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Throughout October, I’ll be doing the short version of this post where I will simply share what I’m reading now, then and next. Because quite frankly, there’s enough going on around here.

I’m afraid my answers are the same this week as I got no reading time at all this week. But I’m hoping for a quiet weekend so fingers crossed I can get the last Horror October book read and catch up on reviews and things!

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week…

Now: Alone ~ Cyn Balog

I’ve barely started this, so nothing to report yet.

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

Then: I Am Behind You  ~ John Ajvide Lindqvist

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was so creepy and weird! My review will be up ASAP.

Next: ??? The Passion of Cleopatra ~ Anne Rice.

It’s the last of my Horror October ARCs. Whoop!

Ramses the Great, former pharaoh of Egypt, is reawakened by the elixir of life in Edwardian England. Now immortal with his bride-to-be, he is swept up in a fierce and deadly battle of wills and psyches against the once-great Queen Cleopatra.

Ramses has reawakened Cleopatra with the same perilous elixir whose unworldly force brings the dead back to life. But as these ancient rulers defy one another in their quest to understand the powers of the strange elixir, they are haunted by a mysterious presence even older and more powerful than they, a figure drawn forth from the mists of history who possesses spectacular magical potions and tonics eight millennia old.

This is a figure who ruled over an ancient kingdom stretching from the once-fertile earth of the Sahara to the far corners of the world, a queen with a supreme knowledge of the deepest origins of the elixir of life.

She may be the only one who can make known to Ramses and Cleopatra the key to their immortality—and the secrets of the miraculous, unknowable, endless expanse of the universe.

Up Next on Horror October:

Flash Fiction Battle: Entry #4 and how to vote!

30 Days of Horror #24: There’s Someone Inside Your House #HO17

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

We’re on the homestretch, guys! My choice for day 24 is another YA book. I haven’t got my hands on a copy of this yet but it’s at the top of my wishlist. It’s a bit of a departure for the author, too, which intrigues me.

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Available in all formats incl audio, 287 pages

Published September 26th 2017 by Dutton Books for Young Readers

 

Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

 

Goodreads // NOT My Review

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Read this? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

This Week in Books