Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds

Blood MoonBlood Moon by Graeme Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top Read 2017 * * * * *

Atrocities committed in the name of war. In this incredibly brutal finale, the world attempts to deal with the fact that werewolves are real, and oh-so-dangerous. Security measures are taken and, on both sides, death is dealt to those undeserving. As the body count increases exponentially, difficult decisions have to be made, and extreme action has to be taken.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

It’s no secret that I absolutely adore this bloodstained trilogy with all my heart – each instalment elicited an abundance of excitement, thrilling me with every character and their often perilous ventures. Blood Moon proved to be one hell of an epic conclusion, even if it left me saddened because I just didn’t want it to end. It’s extremely rare that I consistently rate so high – usually I find highs as well as lows, my overall enjoyment changing, sometimes drastically, throughout a series, but with Graeme’s wolf-tastic world, each addition kept me entranced. Not only did it maintain its strong quality of descriptive writing, it continued to surprise, delight and disturb me. There’s actually something I feel I need to state, because it’s been in my mind and, for me, it holds a lot of significance:

An author doesn’t need to be a best-seller, or have a great deal of recognition to be a great writer. I believe it’s our job, as readers, to discover the hidden gems out there, to bring acknowledgement to the stories that bring us joy.

It pains me to think of deserving authors going unnoticed, and not even given a chance by the wider community, but I digress. Let’s get back to the review, shall we?

There’s a lot of characters to keep track of and, I admit, returning after a year since reading Moonstruck was confusing at first. I found myself trying to remember who was who, but it swiftly returned to me the further I went. I daresay these novels are meant to be read in order; context plays a big part in understanding how the war came to be, not to mention the journey each character had to traverse to reach that point. Marie and John were undoubtedly my favourites, as despite being apart for most of the book, they had time to shine in their own individual ways. Marie had to step-up, become what she never thought she’d become, and John had to endure and overcome a great deal.

Of course, amongst the large cast, others stood out as well – Phil and his desperation to return to his beloved wife, and Daniel, who just wanted the best for the pack. Every single one had their own unique personality, and their own agenda that added a considerable amount of substance.

To tell you the truth, it was at times hard to root for either side. Both the human force and the werewolf pack did terrible, terrible things. Just who was the lesser evil? Well, I’m not sure, both were neck-deep in murky waters – the pack just wanted to survive, but in retaliation of their species being killed and imprisoned, they set upon a whole town of human civilians, either savagely butchering them, or turning them into moonstruck. This included children, so I can’t quite say the pack was at all innocent in the situation. I felt a whole lot of dread right before that High Moor slaughter; I knew it was coming and the anticipation nearly killed me.

The ending I considered to be bittersweet. I understood why it needed to be so, but I still felt rather bad about it. It was, after all, a last resort, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what all those people would lose. I almost had tears it my eyes, and that’s another oddity, as most of the time nothing I read renders me so emotional, and if it does, that in itself makes it special.

One more thing, before this review comes to an end. A paragraph in chapter eighteen piqued my interest, specifically, this one:

On occasion, the she-wolf picked up the scent of fresh death in the air, and when the two of them happened across an old stone mausoleum, the air crackled with an atmosphere of malevolence that raised both wolves’ hackles and forced them to back track to find another path around the place.

Is it possible that was a hint of another monster? Perhaps it was just me, but I got a vampiric vibe that I just couldn’t shake! It’s a little – a mere hint – but it certainly stuck out. Since it was confirmed that other creatures did exist, I kept it in mind to pay extra attention for any teasers, and I believe I may have found one.

In conclusion – I was lucky to discover this trilogy, and honoured to read it. Werewolf horror at its finest, and I hope Reynolds one day returns to this world. I’m sure it has much more to offer.

Notable Scene:

Where Amy’s pretty face had been, there was only a bloodstained skull. The bone had deep gouges carved into it and Amy’s beautiful blue eyes stared out of the gore at nothing. Her friend’s body stood on its own for a second, then fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. Anna couldn’t help herself. She turned to Matty and was met by a visage from the depths of hell. The boy’s eyes were flat, reflective disks in the flicking candlelight. His face is distorted – the bone stretched into a snout filled with row upon row of razor sharp fangs. A mass of bloody flesh and muscle dangled from between those terrible jaws. They crunched once, then swallowed. Matty brought up a clawed hand and wiped his mouth. “Aye, she wasnae wrong. She did have a tasty face.”

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© Red Lace 2018

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The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

The Devil's WorkThe Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sophie Greenwood’s thrilled to have been accepted into Jackdaw Publishing – a job she’s dreamed of ever since childhood. Crushing down the dark memories of the past, she doesn’t hesitate to jump right in; the work itself showing off her exceptional skill and experience. Paradise doesn’t last long, however, as the mystery of her predecessor begins to chip away at her mind, whilst all things business and personal seem to be at risk.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

My first experience with Edwards was with The Magpies, which introduced me to not only his extremely direct writing style of telling rather than showing, but also his ability to create a sense of unease whilst writing about a situation that could be very real – the former I consider a bad thing, and the latter a good thing, thus the overall impression of his work strikes me as rather average. He likes to delve into the ugly side of humanity, which I appreciate, and raise the question of what people are capable of, and how badly we can treat our fellow man. He does it well enough in this one, despite things coming across as a little too far-fetched at times.

The setting was one of familiarity; the mundane, day-to-day routine of work, with a character who started off as optimistic and happy at having landed her dream job, yet over time became increasingly paranoid and troubled. I couldn’t help but share in Sophie Greenwood’s concerns, as after all, I was merely an observer to her side of events. Even I, at the beginning, accused Cassie of being the antagonist. She was the most obvious, yet we all know; the more obvious someone is, the less likely they’re the actual culprit. Cassie became too obvious, yet there was still something about her, something off…

This is where I need to discuss Cassie, and the apparent reason for her dislikeability. I feel a lesson tried to be included, a moral to the story, and I’m honestly not sure it was executed well. To put it bluntly – it seemed ham-fisted in the representation of autism. I know it’s a very serious developmental disability, and it affects how a person communicates with others, but Cassie was so boldly labelled as the villain for the majority of the book. It was heavily insinuated that if she wasn’t the person trying to make Sophie’s life hell, that she was at least a very questionable individual. To suddenly turn it around and say; “Oh, she was autistic, don’t be so quick to judge!”, was to me, rather poor storytelling. Am I supposed to feel bad or guilty about not liking her? This is someone who clearly flirted with Sophie’s husband, and was in contact with him behind her back – not to mention the other things she did throughout. It occurs to me that perhaps I just didn’t get the point, but I hope I’ve divulged my thoughts clearly.

I didn’t suspect the actual perpetrator, the real woman behind it all, until she made her dramatic appearance. It was a twist for sure, but I was unfortunately left unbelieving. It wasn’t rational enough for me – I certainly didn’t click my fingers and have that “Oh!” moment. With such a build-up and from what I understood of Sophie’s past, I expected it to tie together in the end, but it didn’t. The woman’s accomplice – fine, sure, fair enough. But her? I suppose the insignificant should never be ruled out.

I may have a few complaints, but I didn’t hate the book. It was quick and easy, bringing with it simple entertainment. I enjoyed the shift from present to past; the friendship with Jasmine especially interested me, despite it ultimately having little relevance overall. I assume it was meant to serve as nothing more than a distraction. Sophie herself was unremarkable, and whilst I believed her selfish in some regards, I also tried to picture myself in her position. Imagine trying to be your best, yet some unknown presence threatens your attempt at stability. I’m pretty sure I would’ve handled it just as badly.

In conclusion – It passed the time and was easy to get through, however some aspects left me in disbelief. I hope I can give a higher rating to the next Edwards novel I read.

Notable Quote:

But for fifteen years – since she woke on the morning after her lost night, the hours she still kept locked tight in her memory box – she had carried a sadness with her. Sadness and guilt. It was like a splinter, buried so deep in her skin that she would never get it out. The impurity, the flaw, would be in her forever.

© Red Lace 2018

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Stephen by Amy Cross

StephenStephen by Amy Cross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forty years after her traumatic ordeal at Grangehurst, Beryl Seaton is finally ready to relive her past and recollect the events that have haunted her every day since. As a much younger woman, Beryl is accepted to be governess in the household of Doctor Elliot Brooks, her job to help his wife take care of their only son, Stephen. But there’s something terribly wrong with Stephen, and it becomes inevitable that things could only get worse.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

If I ever thought that books could go too far, then I’d more than likely say that about this particular one. It’s one of those stories that heavily relies upon the shock factor; it wants you to ask the question of what-the-hell-did-I-just-read? And I did, in fact, chew over that question myself, especially after the much dreaded, yet highly anticipated chapter twenty-eight. When it comes to this novel, that chapter is rather infamous – all you have to do is glance over reviews to see the affirmed revulsion. If that wasn’t enough, then Beryl’s own words should certainly give you an idea:

“Let me state this, then: I, Beryl Seaton, write the next chapter only because it is a true account of what happened. I take no pleasure in the telling of this tale, nor do I in any way recommend that anybody should read the following chapter. I shall set down the events entirely within a chapter of their own, so that any right-thinking reader can simply skip that chapter and go to the next…”

The entirety of twenty-seven is one big forewarning, but it’s obvious that its intention isn’t to deter us from the next chapter; its intention is to make us want to read it all the more. The whole plot has been leading up to that moment, so what could possibly be so bad, you wonder? Well, I’m not going to include the specifics, and not because it’s a spoiler, but because I simply can’t bring myself to type the words. It’s truly disgusting, and if you’re that curious, just read it for yourself!

As for the character of Beryl, I didn’t find her at all dislikeable, but the writing suffered a great deal due to her personal narrative. I get that it’s a retelling of her life – or the most horrific part of her life – and that at the time of documentation she’s in her seventies. She’s an old woman, and I’m fully aware that the memories of elderly folk just aren’t the same, but the sheer amount of repetition in this book bothered me. Beryl states again and again how her younger self is naive and gullible. Those exact same words are recycled; as if they somehow gave us new insight every time they were written. Perhaps it really was to highlight her old age, or maybe it was merely to make the overall book longer. Either way, it didn’t do any favours, as after all, Beryl’s lack of real-world experience was integral; nothing would’ve happened otherwise.

Despite the faults that irked me, I enjoyed the plot for what it was; definitely eerie, and truthful in the ugliness of the situation. Let’s face it, there’s nothing pleasant about a dead child, and there’s doubtlessly something morbid about treating it as if it were alive and breathing. As unsettling as it is, there’s been cases of it happening in real life. Such a loss can indeed affect the mind, so Severine’s madness was not so far-fetched.

However, I do think that it would’ve been better had some aspects been removed. Beryl’s masochistic tendencies were out of place, and the scene with the apparition added absolutely nothing aside from filler. Anything paranormal played such a minor part, I wondered why it was there to begin with. It’s like Cross tried to cram in too many things, and ultimately they didn’t quite work together. Sometimes being much more simplistic has a greater impact, and I think this one would’ve benefited from it.

The ending also didn’t make much sense to me. Why did she seem so goddamn obsessed with Severine? I understand the need for closure, but her attitude, like she was in love with the other woman, just seemed so out of character.

In conclusion – I found it to be pretty average. I liked the premise of the plot – it was creepy – but there were issues that got in the way. I’ll not be adverse to reading more of this authors work in the future, though!

Notable Quote:

“It is astonishing how one can perform mental gymnastics and persuade oneself that left is right, up is down and so forth.”

© Red Lace 2018

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