Classic Horror and True Romance

poorthingsA Book Review of Poor Things, by Daniel Barnett

Find it on Amazon HERE.

Anyone who has read my reviews for a while knows that I’m a huge Daniel Barnett fan. I was thrilled to hear that his latest book, Poor Things, might fall into the YA spectrum. Barnett’s writing is pure poetry, and this one is his goriest, grittiest yet. I’d say it rests rather precariously on the young adult line, and it would certainly appeal to adult horrorphiles, because this author never pulls any punches and his hits can be brutal. Poor Things is bloody and frightening, with language not meant for virgin ears. Parents, if you think your little miracle isn’t ready for something along the lines of Stephen King’s scariest tales, this isn’t their book.

For more mature teens: dive in. Poor Things is also beautiful and touching, a poignant coming of age story.

Main character Joel has it coming from the first pages, as the bullying, arrogantly jocular older brother to a wimpy, pimply, book-reading nerd. You’ll know immediately if you can’t handle Poor Things, because Joel loses everything (including that little brother) in a violent car crash before you can even blink. The change in him is swift and soul deep, and we experience this story through his new life as a crippled nobody in a tiny mining town.

This life changing event, this one tragic moment, serves to destroy and create. It’s a common theme with Barnett—tear it all down, build it all back up—and something worth pondering for any young reader, especially in those days before the brain has developed enough to understand consequences. Physically incapacitated by his broken body, Joel’s mind speeds ahead: “Adolescence is an earthquake, one that feels like it will never end while you’re living it, and eventually there comes a choice. You can crawl under your desk and hide, or you can stand up on top of that shaking desk and dance.”

He isn’t the only character I fell in love with, not by far. The heavy metal loving tomboy with a white-blonde buzzcut, Ash, is one of the strongest female supporting characters I’ve met in a long time. She’s cool, she’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s best friends with the biggest dork outcast in school. Ash is all soft underneath, and yes, though Joel is paralyzed from the waist down, there is the possibility of romance. It’s hard to say who is the hero of Poor Things, because throughout most of the book, Ash saves Joel’s derriere again and again. Without her, he could never have…sniff…well, you’ll cry at the end, too.

The town of Honaw itself has enough personality to be thought of as another character–an odd and mildly disturbing one from the beginning. Or, rather, the thing which lies beneath Honaw engineers that creep factor. Okay, that’s it! I can’t say any more or I’ll give it away. Yet, bells and whistles aside, this is a classic monster tale. No monster I’ve ever imagined, however. Only Daniel Barnett could imagine such a strange, sad, dangerous beast from the depths of time, and only this guy could make me love that thing by the end.

This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.

Screenshot 2016-05-13 15.12.10

A Book Review of King of Fools, by BL Pride

eBook King of Fools

(Buy it on Amazon HERE. Visit the author’s website.)

Luke is one of those guys who is dangerous to fall in love with. I always do, invariably. But, I’ve known too many Luke’s too often in my life and he’s the kind of guy that breaks hearts as easily as snuffing out cigarettes. He’s a little lost and a little wounded, made even more alluring by a pretty face, careless hair, and a cool demeanor. He’s cool enough in the beginning as to be the kind of dick you might want to slap in a bar after you’ve just found him with another woman. But that’s okay with me, because since King of Fools is written in Luke’s point of view, I get to be the dick. That’s one of the things I love most about this book—being able to step into the shoes of my favorite kind of guy to love and hate. And the plot thickens from there…

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Luke has experienced an accident that brought him too close to death to ever be the same. Mentally, possibly physically, definitely spiritually. You see, something followed him back from the beyond. Something cold, vaguely needy and slightly terrifying, and from the beginning I’m not sure whether I should be turned on or repulsed by that something. Luke isn’t sure either. In fact, he’s trying very hard to ignore it and pretend that he wasn’t in an accident at all. Luke’s accident is only touched on delicately at first. The author does give us the juicy details later in the book, and they are worth waiting for. Having been in a death defying accident myself, and perhaps crossed over to the beyond for a brief moment like Luke, I love the way that BL Pride handles this life (or death) experience. She nailed it. But we aren’t fully initiated until close to the end.

As soon as Luke arrives in the Farthest Islands, however— a place legendary for the sheer number of hauntings reported and ghostly creatures observed there—I knew that the something that is “always with him” is going to make some kind of move. The thing that followed him back from the beyond and this haunted place have to be related. But this is the beauty of BL Pride’s imagination and the journey she weaves the reader through. Her tales are unique, her stories so finely layered, that I can never tell what the heck she’s up to. And the journey is possibly more beautiful than the desire to know. I don’t like to rush through her books—even though I always finish them in a few days, since I can’t put them down—because her language is so expressive, her emotional landscape so lush, that I enjoy every word. Imagine seductive mixed with haunted, with a side of beautiful horror and you’ve got what BL Pride is best at.

You will find some answers by the end of King of Fools, but at the same time glimpse the iceberg lurking beneath the surface with all its crystalline, relentless power. You will feel satisfied, but left wanting more and sort of scared by what might come next. Kind of like Luke, poor thing. There is something undeniably attractive about seeing the girl who stole his soul twist it too, like rubbernecking at a car crash on the highway, but the aloof cool guy weighs heavy on my heart by the end of this book. I feel his frustration, I know his desire, and I admit I would call myself Queen of Fools in his place, because I probably would’ve done much the same. Oh, Luke. I can’t wait to see what he does next, or more to the point, how he reacts when the next thing—the next ungodly heavenly, ugly gorgeous thing—is thrown at him.

King of Fools Mock up A

Check out BL Pride’s website to learn more about their work and follow their blog. Subscribe to receive a free short story and stay up to date with new releases and special offers. 

novaprofileIt’s quite hard to write something unambiguous about B. L. Pride. She was born in Maribor, Slovenia, went to a particular high school, chose a university that seemed more or less interesting, and now she does completely different things. She’s a teacher and a frelancer. She’s got two different men and four children. She’s full of opposites but has one great passion – books. Confusing? She’s actually an avatar of two best friends and a symbol of their lives’ project.

When the author Barbara Pristovnik finished her first novel that was originally written in Slovene, she never dreamed of sharing her lunacy with the rest of the planet, but the other half of the team Lea Dežman put her foot down and decided to translate it into English. Two absolute beginners were swirled into the overwhelming world of self-publishing and took their Sunday coffee dates to a completely different level. Addiction is the result and at the same time it is merely the beginning. Slovene became secondary, and The Farthest Island series began emerging in English, and a new world was created.

Read BL Pride’s guest post Writing: A Universal Language of Passion.

A Book Review of Ariel, by Fia Essen

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 9.33.50 AM

(Buy it here on Amazon. Visit the author’s website. Find it on Goodreads.)

Ariel Morton has hit rock bottom. Or, is it just her attitude that has? Well, she’s recently lost her dream job, lost her driver license, gotten dumped by the love of her life (who was also her best friend). She lives in a hovel, has no friends, feels outcast from her own family, and is in credit card debt that seems impossible to get out of. She’s made a few mistakes and has told a few lies, but she finds herself trapped in a prison inordinate to the mildness of her foibles. Ah yes, the quarter-life crisis. This is where we enter the story.

On the first page of the book we’re introduced to the mysterious Muse Agency, a private—very private—consulting company reported to have worked miracles in Ariel’s hometown of Singapore. Details are transferred strictly via whisper network and shrouded in something close to legend. This seems to be the plot in store for us: The Muse Agency is going to change Ariel’s life. That’s far from the case.

In fact, her life does swing a hairpin turn by the end of the book, but  only because she finally learns to steer. Very little actually changes for Ariel on the outside. Sure, there is a new love interest (expect something closer to Emma than Fifty Shades of Grey), and that credit card debt is taken care of in a surprising twist. But mostly, the agency forces Ariel to scrutinize her life and make the uncomfortable changes she’s been avoiding for years. We suspect Ariel’s changes must happen from within pretty early on in the novel, but it’s still fun to watch it all play out. Her dry sense of humor and resistance to conformity makes for an entertaining soul journey.

The most interesting part of the book, and one that I thought unique, is Fia Essen’s way of bringing the world of the expat into focus. This is a microcosm of which I had no real understanding and it’s a fascinating life. Essen’s own experiences make Ariel’s life as an expat seem realistic and authentic. I call Singapore her “hometown” in the beginning of this review, but that idea isn’t something she really understands. Born in one country, with heritage in two others, Ariel has globe-trotted for most of her life; first, because of her parents’ careers, but later because constant travel was what she knew. A peek into this lifestyle makes Ariel worth the read on it’s own.

If you’re looking for hardcore realism in which main characters are killed off, x-rated scenes abound, and everyone is generally unhappy, this is not your book. If you believe in that light at the end of the tunnel, and maybe hope there is one at the end of your own road, you’ll enjoy Ariel.

Wicked Blog Tour: Climb Onboard!

Welcome fellow awesome bloggers and thank you for stopping by! Wicked Lover is almost here! Get ready for the tour, July 1-12, 2015.


First of all, a caveat: this is a virtual tour for my new book, but I’m calling for all bloggers, whatever your blogging fancy. Everyone reads–or should.

Now onto the goods…

I’m counting down the days until the launch of my second novel, Catchpenny, on July 1, 2015. Here’s why you want to be involved in the book blog tour I’m organizing:

1. This is a fun, quick read.

I’m celebrating the release of Catchpenny, Part One: Wicked Lover. In it’s entirety, the novel is a four-part serial directed towards new adults and young adults. The story hovers between contemporary romance and coming of age. Translation: it’s definitely got some heat, but it’s not fluffy cheese. Leave that for the soufflés. Part one is only 77 pages, filled with offbeat romance and action. Take a look at the synopsis…

Have you ever wondered about that girl at the edge of the crowd? The one who has dark, bushy hair that hides her eyes while she’s reading, but tight shirts that don’t even try to hide the size of her breasts? You’ve heard the rumors, you know the rude nicknames, and you wonder what she really does when she’s not in school. She never comes to parties and she lives in a neighborhood where nice girls never venture. Everyone tries to ignore her…but there is something about her that’s impossible to ignore. Especially for the star quarterback, apparently. Because he just asked her to the Homecoming dance, after dumping the head cheerleader. 
Catchpenny tells the story from the eyes of “that girl,” and Wicked Lover is just the beginning of this coming of age serial novel. The small town minds of Shirley County have underestimated Meg Shannon for too long. She’s even more fun than she is trouble…but maybe she has finally met her match.


2. I’m providing great content for your blog.

My brand is artist turned author–all my imagery is gorgeous, unique, and original. If you sign up for this tour, I will provide you with the best eye candy to draw people to your blog. Check out some banners that I created for my last virtual book tours…





See Joss Radillo‘s post on Chapter 5 Books that was a mini art show of my character’s (my) paintings and drawings HERE….


I take the time to write thoughtful answers to your interview questions (should you provide them). Read a sample interview with Meglena Ivanova HERE.

And I have other merchandise to sell besides books. The title, “Wicked Lover,” was actually inspired by a song of the same name written by Her Last Boyfriend, the brainchild of my better half. You can link to a free listen on Spotify, and to the song on iTunes. In fact, have a listen now: spotify:track:5QSzzjhxaboo8cJEEPCnM9


I also have cover art T-shirts and tanks, printed on demand by Print Aura, that I think will be hard to resist. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a wicked lover?


Of course I will provide bloggers with books excerpts, a Rafflecopter drawing, and interview material. Here’s the Rafflecopter package I provided for The Tramp’s tour…


3. I’m very into social media and blogging.

I will always blog about your blog if I’m on it! Really, take a look…


And also…


And then I’ll tweet that and your original post to my 12.5K Twitter followers and post it on Facebook (and I promote my FB author page heavily during my tours), Tumblr and Pinterest. I’ll also log your link into HootSuite and schedule regular tweets and posts for several months to come.

Additionally, during a tour I like to participate in blog challenges in order to direct as many new viewers to my site as possible. Last time I did the A to Z Challenge and doubled my followers in the month of April. Check it out HERE


Excited yet? I am!

So, what’s the give and the take?

I am looking for review posts, interview posts, guest posts, promo posts, and anything under the sun that fits YOUR blog. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t restrict my virtual tours to simply book bloggers. Though I love those folks (and I’m one of them), I’m happy with any kind of audience.

For example, on the tour for my last book release, I wrote a guest post for Conscious Companion. It’s a fabulous blog about animal care and has a large, eclectic, very interesting following. I wrote a piece about how my pets always make it into my books, especially my dearly departed Bichon Frise Henri. It’s a good read HERE, but it’s a tear-jerker…


I will do most of the work, with a digital press kit of great imagery, excerpts, author info, merchandise links, and give-aways. What I ask for in return is that you gratuitously dip into that press kit and provide obvious links to my blog, and to where viewers can buy my book on Amazon. The nature of your own blog and the type of post you plan to do will be up to you. Bloggers who decide to do a review of the book will receive a free ebook (format of his or her choosing, like .mobi, .epub, or .pdf) and/or a free print copy of Catchpenny: Wicked Lover.

Let’s sign you up!

Spots open from July 1-12. Email me at with your desired date, your blog URL, and the nature of your intended post.

Thanks so much for reading this far!

Hungry Zombies, Murdering Cultists and Hey, A Little Romance


A Book Review of Class Three, by Duncan P Bradshaw (Buy it here on Amazon.)

A synopsis, Rafflecopter drawing, and author info follow my review.

This whimsical doomsday tale heaps on gratuitous gore and offbeat comedy in equal measure. A zombie apocalypse junkie expecting gnawed fingers, ripped out spleens, weeping limb stubs, and exploding rotten undead heads won’t be disappointed. Such scenes weren’t really disturbing, but instead campy and tongue-in-cheek. I experienced my first belly laugh in the beginning of the second chapter, when author Duncan Bradshaw described an aging bartender with a beer gut, “creating a fabric overhang almost lending an air of mystery, to which his equally stained grey trousers removed. A mop of grey and black hair sat atop his Costa del Sol-tanned head, awkwardly positioned as if it had been put there as a joke.” The guy is cleaning glasses with a filthy bar towel and offering worldly advice to Jim (one of the main characters) who had just been dumped by a girlfriend. I don’t know why I found the scene so funny—maybe because the first chapter was rather sad. The zombies have already been introduced and good people have been murdered by the time you read the bar scene, but Bradshaw takes time for a laugh in the midst of carnage.

The whole novel reads like that—grisly death, then light-hearted laughter, then disgusting spilled offal, then witty pop-culture joke. There is another bar scene towards the end that is hilarious. Drunk people are just funny fighting zombies. There’s more to the story than a clever dichotomy, though. One of the things I liked most was reading the chapters that were from the zombie point of view. I think that was a first for me. And by the end of the book, I realized that Bradshaw had only just peeled back the layers of a more complicated plot in store.

Cultist religious zealots cause nearly as much damage as the multiplying zombies, and a pair of sociopathic serial killers are laying plans for something even more gruesome than the massacre they carried out in Class Three’s climax. Oddly, a love story is woven through the story, and the conclusion comes full circle to reintroduce one of the more interesting characters from the beginning pages. I’m intrigued; I’d read the sequel.

–Sarah Wathen


Hungover, dumped and late for work.

On an ordinary day, one of these would be a bad morning, but today Jim Taylor also has to contend with the zombie apocalypse.

Follow Jim through twenty four hours of Day One, as he and his zombie obsessed brother deal with the undead, a doomsday cult and maniacs in their quest to get to their parents, win his girlfriend back and for them to instigate ‘The Plan’.

Worlds will collide and fall apart in a Class Three outbreak.

Author BioDuncanBradshaw

I live in the simply marvelous county of Wiltshire in England with my wife Debbie and our two cats, Rafa and Pepe.

We wile away the wee hours learning arcane incantations and medieval wind instruments, surviving solely on what our two furry faced fellows bring us. Winter is a bleak time indeed, when the common vole, the staple of our diet slumbers deep within the earth.

I am a little obsessed with the undead, and devour (sorry) with my eyes anything relating to a zombie apocalypse. It means I have to wade through a lot of drivel, but once in a while I happen across something a bit different or so genuinely mental I weep softly as I didn’t think of it first.

I suffer my day job with as good grace as I can muster, looking forward to getting home each day to continue with something creative.

Enter the Rafflecopter drawing to win a free e-copy of Class Three HERE.

Candy Vale Lands Her First Global Art Show

Joss Radillo curates Candy Vale’s first global art show on Chapter 5 Books Blog! Much gratitude, because art is such an integral part of The Tramp. Not only was the book written by a painter (me), and the cover art also created by a painter (me), but art is also the thread that holds the chaotic world of Shirley County together, past and present. My main character Candy Vale paints, draws, and writes poetry. And the way that Joss lays it out on her blog tastes just like Candy to me. Check it out HERE.