Are There Enough Chairs In Heaven – Cullen Spurr

Screenshot_20171001-174521
Memories are the pathway to our souls…

I’d like to start by saying I am delighted to be the first person to review this author’s debut short story, bringing his work into the blogging world is truly an honour, as well as giving him the recognition he fully deserves. Pushing his work into the spotlight and paving the way for his future works to be shown to the world. If his other work is as good as this short story then we are all in for a treat!

Firstly we dive straight into the story with a stream of consciousness as the protagonist starts to describe his surroundings and the confusion in which they bring, already the sense of darkness fills the gaps as we go along the characters journey. Guessing at each turn on who this character is (as no names are given), where he is and what has happened to him, which only increases the mystery.

As we progress through the characters memories we are taken on a trip through his childhood, dipping into his adolescence and falling in love. However don’t let this description fool you, the darkness behind the words slips out as we slowly discover the character’s emotions (feeling numb to the world) with a glimmer of hope when ‘she’ walks into his life. Even when all seems like it could be a ‘happily ever after’ situation his world comes crashing down beneath him.

One of my favourite things about this story was the break of consciousness, snippets of the protagonist swaying from his past recollections and bringing more mystery into his words. The fact that he realises he’s breaking from his trip down memory lane and giving away clues to the reader without them knowing how they piece together.

Another way to know if a story is good usually falls into the lines of wanting to know more, with this story it is open to interpretation on what actually happened with this man. Not giving you a clear black and white ending you find yourself questioning whether the break in consciousness earlier in the story meant that the ending wasn’t all that it seemed.

If you like a bit of darkness, some mystery and a story that pulls you in from the beginning and doesn’t let go then this is a story I would definitely recommend. Cullen Spurr is an unknown author for now, but I have a feeling that his work is going to capture a wide audience and have something special behind every cover.

Until next time…

If you would like to read this yourself it is available for download by viewing the PDF here – Are There Enough Chairs In Heaven – Culln Spurr

Bio: Cullen Spurr
Throughout his school life he was reprimanded for being outspoken and a little different, with the exception of his English teachers, who praised his creative writing and inquisitive mind. He developed a passion for all forms of creative writing early on in his life. This developed through many mediums such as music, poetry and prose. He self-released a short novella through Amazon’s Kindle store in 2013 but then took a step back from writing to pursue music throughout university. After graduating university Cullen rekindled his passion for writing and started working on, what he hopes to be, his debut novel.

Advertisements

Jadeite’s Journey – Lucinda Stein

Screenshot_20170903-173443
Living in a perfect world isn’t as good as it sounds…

Firstly I must say that returning to blogging after such a long break has been worth it thanks to this book, however the break has been very good for me. I’ve been able to get myself settled into my new home, start my new job without distractions and get used to my new surroundings up North (UK). I never wanted to be away from blogging this long but knew that I couldn’t continue with all the drastic changes happening in my life. This break is now over and I’m delighted to return with such a wonderful book ‘Jadeite’s Journey’ – hopefully you’ll agree!

We start off with the illusion of a ‘perfect world’ where everyone is happy and content, thinking that their part of the world is free of disease/illness and where everyone is immortal. However it is a controlled society, there are tests that determine your career, technology for everything (cooking, hobby activities and of course the drone guards) and rules no one must break. Yet everything isn’t as perfect as they are deemed to believe. Jadeite finds out her brother is sick and needs medicine from ‘over the ridge’ where the primitive outcasts live. After taking on her fathers responsibilities of going over the ridge, she has to learn to adapt to two worlds and make sure she doesn’t get caught!

The characters themselves each have a story to tell and the more we learn about them the deeper connection I seemed to get, Jadeite herself proves to be the smart, loving daughter who will do anything for her family which really shows when she starts to try and save her brother’s life and takes her father’s duties of crossing the ridge to protect him. Electra is the quirky best friend who doesn’t quite fit into the way United Society want her to be, she is creative and erratic and a free spirit. She is the first person we see having to bend to the rules ‘or else’ and puts it into perspective how controlling the United Society government are. Mattie I honestly liked in the beginning, he was confident and the teenage romance that blossomed between him and Jadeite did make me smile, until he started to show his true colours and became controlling, manipulative and dangerous. Finally the key character that stood out was Orion (a boy from over the ridge) he showed bravery, loyalty and love which made me root for him and Jadeite even more as he showed her the ‘new world’ she wasn’t accustomed to and kept her safe.

The narrative itself was somewhat hard to follow sometimes, due to it flicking from one section to the other but the story-line had me turning each page with intrigue and kept me wanting to find out what happens next. I loved the contrast between United Society and over the Ridge, it really painted the picture of how corrupt United Society is and how with little technology the people over the Ridge had freedom which meant more to them than living a ‘convenient’ but controlled life. The way that the cracks in United Society slowly unfolded worked brilliantly, it had me questioning whether it was just coincidences or mistakes that Jadeite was uncovering but really built up to how wrong this place was. I did feel myself following Jadeite’s journey with held breath, especially her constant trips over the Ridge and hoping she doesn’t get caught but also her charade whilst in United Society and her fooling Mattie that she was still his and happy in that relationship.

Without giving away any spoilers there were two major twists that had me shocked, one being the Vilàne family and all their secrets. The mother in particular and the secret she kept from not only her own son Mattie but the entire United Society government, I had to re-read the whole section to make sure I wasn’t just imagining the deception. The second twist was with the Journeyman family, particularly Jadeite’s mother and the secret that had been kept from Jadeite and her brother. Two very different twists but both delightfully shocking.

The one downside to this book was the ending, I was happy with the way it seemed to be going and gave me hope that everything would be alright. However it did end rather suddenly without answering some of the questions I had about the Vilàne family, will Mattie ever know the truth about his father? How would Jadeite cope with life outside of United Society? What would her and Orion’s relationship be like? I do hope there will be another book that follows from this as I would be very keen to read it!

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Jadeite’s Journey’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Lucinda Stein
As a former school librarian, Lucinda Stein enjoyed sharing books with students. Jadeite’s Journey is her first YA novel. Her collection of short stories, Sanctuary: Family, Friends, and Strangers, was a 2015 Colorado Book Award finalist. Her story, “Sulfur Springs,” won the 2011 LAURA Short Fiction Award judged by Pam Houston. Lucinda loves reading, anything vintage, camping, and hiking with her shelter-rescue dog, Opie. She also enjoys creating bookstagrams. Follow her on Instagram at lucindastein.

Guess who’s back…

002-break-dribbble2_1x
Blogger break over, ready to start again…

Firstly I just wanted to say that having a break from blogging was not due to my lack of interest, I just happened to have a few big life events that came faster than anticipated and therefore I needed to pause my blogging to focus on that.

I do appreciate the continued support which really makes me thankful for the community of book lovers/authors that have been with me though this journey. I know that I made some promises to authors to review their books and I do intend to keep those promises (it just may have a shift in timelines now).

So, the reasons behind my disappearance are as follows…

  1. I have re-located up north to Leeds (UK) which included finding a new place to live, finding a new job and then actually moving up there (plus getting settled).
  2. As previously mentioned, I got a new job to support my move therefore having to start at a new place, meet new people and learn a WHOLE lot of new things.

As you can imagine these two events have taken up most of my time and regrettably I’ve not had time to focus on The Book Box or had the time to relax and enjoy the wonderful books I have lined up.

However, it is with great pleasure that I announce my return! I am fully settled into my new place and gotten off to a good start at my new job so I will be taking more time to focus on The Book Box again – planning to have a new book review this weekend!

Finally I would like to thank those that have stood by me in my absence and continued to support my love of reading and blogging and I promise that I will return stronger than ever.

Until next time…

She Will Rise – Calvin Demmer

Screenshot_20170611-184159
Five tips to definitely live (or die) by…

Following from last week’s short story ‘Spring Outbreak’ we continue down the road of Calvin Demmer’s Dark Celebrations series with yet another spectacular addition ‘She Will Rise’. If reading is an addiction then I must confess to being completely hooked to these short stories, I cannot get enough! Hoping to continue through the whole collection I am already so engrossed with each individual story and this one is no exception!

This story actually came across rather differently than the others, almost softer and more toned down to what I was expecting. Needless to say this didn’t last long as we are given wonderful twists and taken down a dark path no one can return from. However I really enjoyed the build up of this story, even though most short stories dive straight into the action this one allowed us to feel what the protagonist Luna was feeling (love towards her ill mother, grief for her dead twin sister and hatred for her step-father). By building these relationships and background we are able to mirror those emotions and understand the reasoning behind the actions taken.

We are drawn in straight away by Luna coming home from college for Easter break, knowing her mother is ill she wishes to make this weekend special. Little does she know that this Easter will change her life forever. Building on the relationship that Luna has with her mother really hit home for me, it takes a lot to care for someone but even more so to stand up for them! Luna shows courage and bravery to stand up to Ralph (step-father) and when all hope is lost, an unexpected ‘helper’ arrives.

Darkness is a common theme in Calvin Demmer’s work and sometimes the characters you least expect to have a dark twist emerge and bring with them sinister behavior. Without giving away any spoilers, Luna really surprised me with her characteristics towards the end. Not just the compassionate daughter, there is always more than meets the eye with people. Honestly I didn’t expect the ending (the VERY end sentence) which is why I enjoy these types of books, you never know what you’re going to get.

All the way through I was actually hating Ralph myself, getting that connected to another characters emotions is so hard to achieve but I was thinking about how repulsive he is and how Luna and her mother could do so much better (I think it was the throwing away the VCR tapes that did it for me). The fact that there were so many twists to this story kept me on my toes and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next!

Hopefully I will get the chance to read more of Calvin Demmer’s work (I do aim to read the whole collection) as he always seems to surprise me. Even if you’re not a fan of horror genre you can still appreciate a good plot twist!

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘She Will Rise’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Calvin Demmer
Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. He has had over thirty stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

Cover Reveal – A Wild And Unremarkable Thing

You can judge a book by the cover (just this once)…

This is actually the first time I’ve been involved with a cover reveal and I must admit that I’m glad that A Wild And Unremarkable Thing is my first (hopefully not my last)! It is always nice to show the beauty of books and covers are a big part of whether a book is chosen or not, so without further delay I present to you the magnificent, elegant and wonderful cover…

cover reveal

A WILD & UNREMARKABLE THING” by JEN CASTLEBERRY COVER REVEAL

Blurb:
Fifteen years have passed since a Fire Scale scorched Cayda’s village. Fifteen years of beatings, of bare kitchen cupboards and sloppy swordplay. Fifteen years of biting her lip for her father’s cane while her younger sisters did the same for the grimy patrons of the village brothels. Fifteen years of staring steadfastly after beauty in an increasingly ugly world.

Now, with hair shorn and breast bound, Cayda marches into the Summer Alps as Cody, a hopeful Champion seeking a dragon-slayer’s reward, with the full weight of her family’s survival on her shoulders.

But the road between poverty and prosperity is rife with beasts, betrayals, and baser temptations. Sensible Cayda soon discovers that she is not the only Champion with her eye on the prize, or the only one wearing a disguise.

With monsters, gods, and royalty hot on her heels, Cayda must ask herself if victory is worth sacrificing her identity for – or her life. A Wild and Unremarkable Thing pits girl against dragon in a stunning blend of Greek mythology and medieval lore. Readers will not quickly forget the diverse cast or the thrilling, sexy ride!

Until next time…

Bio: Jen Castleberry
She lives and writes in Virginia Beach. The middle sister of three, she finds herself drawn to stories which celebrate the fierce feminine spirit and the poignantly sympathetic nature of sisterhood. Her background is in Animal Welfare. All of her pets are named after superheroes. To visit her website follow the link here

Pre-Order Links:
Goodreads
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
Scribd
Inktera

Jen is giving away three different Amazon gift cards! One on her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Spring Outbreak – Calvin Demmer

Screenshot_20170604-152257
Never fall asleep at the beach…

As you may have known I’ve reviewed Calvin Demmer’s work before, already accustomed to his style of writing I was very eager to read another addition of his Dark Celebration collection. With short stories you never know what you’re going to get and they have to move in a fast paced situation to get the detail across effectively and this book delivered that completely!

Normally with short stories they jump straight into the action without having much background information on the characters, this however was not one of those books. You get a glimpse into Gwen’s backstory bit by bit, firstly we find out about her recent breakup and how something like that could bring sad memories even in the happiest of scenarios. Secondly we find out that Gwen is not only mourning a past relationship but also the loss of her younger brother Thomas. By having this information the reader is able to really connect with Gwen and understand the pain she must be feeling.

This story really flowed well building on the emotions of the characters, one of the main ones that I really saw was fear. Without giving away the story there are certain levels of fear Gwen goes through. Fear of upsetting her friend who is there to cheer her up and celebrate a great first year of college (spring break in Mexico kind of cheering up). Then there is the fear of being alone, followed by the fear of needing to survive and finally the fear of the unknown. By having such a strong emotional connection with the character you get fully drawn into what might happen next and I feel that this book really delivers that!

Another thing I’ve noticed with short stories, especially the horror genre is that they end in surprising, cliffhanging ways. This book however challenged that way of ending and even though it was still shocking I felt it really fit with the way the book was going, also on a more real note I think that if this book happened in real life the ending may not be as far fetched as you’d think!

Normally with these types of stories I try to guess what will happen (not that all are that predicable) but with this one I struggled, on some levels I did guess what may happen (even the title clicked half way through) but there were times that I must admit stood out to me.

I will be looking out for more of Calvin Demmer’s work (I do have another one of his short stories lined up for next weekend) as I think that his work is very well written and definitely stands out in the horror/ short story genres.

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Spring Outbreak’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Calvin Demmer
Calvin Demmer is a crime, mystery, and speculative fiction author. He has had over thirty stories published in various magazines and anthologies. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

Author Interview – Gary Buller

Gary Buller
Digging deeper into the lives and career of authors…

As promised I’ve done another author interview to highlight and give thanks to the lovely authors that gave me the support and encouragement I needed for my blog to flourish and grow. Hopefully this will give some very well deserved recognition to Gary Buller, an author who gave me a chance and allowed me to start something I’m passionate about, my blog! So without further delay let’s get to know him a little better…

When did you decide to become an author?

Only last year. It came out of the blue to friends and family- even my girlfriend of sixteen years, but was an idea I’d been toying with for a while. I wasn’t very confident initially, but when the story acceptances started to roll in I felt better about my abilities.

Where do you get your story ideas?

I get ideas from things that happen day to day, no matter how mundane. My story ‘Shelf Life’ (Hindered Souls anthology) had origins in supermarket trips with my other half. Pushing the trolley along behind her, bored out of my tree, I wondered what would happen if this experience lasted forever?

Authors are traditionally cast as reclusive loners. Are you?

No, not at all. I’m very sociable but most of all I’d say that I’m a family man. On social media I’m quite cheeky and full of innuendo which I think goes completely against the grain for horror writers. I think some of them balk a little at some of my tweets. I have a good sense of humour and am not easily offended. I find it quite odd when horror writers talk about pushing boundaries in one breath and in the next they’re getting upset over a rude shaped vegetable or something. Writers can take things far too seriously.

Does your writing require research?

Sometimes, especially when it’s about something that I’m not overly familiar with. Google is handy for occasions like that. When I’m writing from experience though I’ll just go with what I know. I have a fairly short attention span when it comes to research, and get bored fairly quickly.

Which authors influence your writing?

I’ve been compared to Stephen King a couple of times which is both flattering and a curse. I think there are too many King wannabes out there. I have read most of his stuff, but don’t intentionally try to ape his style. I do like Joe Hill, Ray Bradbury and Adam Nevill for my horror and speculative fiction fix. I also enjoy the Helen Grace stories by MJ Arlidge.

What part of writing do you find most challenging?

Finding the time is the biggest challenge these days. Also self-editing. It’s one of the reasons why I initially joined a writers workshop and moved on to be part of a writers circle. It’s very difficult to spot faults in your own works.

Do you write the story, or do your characters take over?

The characters always seem to lead the way when I write. They are an extension of me, I suppose, so it makes sense. I’m currently working on some writer-improvement exercises under my Horror Writer Association mentor, Bram Stoker winner Hank Schwaeble, and he’s of the opinion that you have to incorporate at least a little plot development when you sit down to write.

When a reader closes one of your books, what do you hope they’re left with?

I hope that they enjoy it, and want to read more of my stuff. That’s the challenge- to get your name to stand out amongst the thousands and thousands of fledgling writers. If I scare the reader, or give them nightmares then even better.

Do you have any advice for new/ aspiring authors?

Learn that rejection and criticism is not a bad thing. Take that story and work on it some more. Before long you’ll be looking back at drafts of your work from months ago and seeing an improvement. Join an online writer’s group, or circle. Read other aspiring writers work and critique it, then let them do the same to yours.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/spirit animal, why?

My mascot is my six year old daughter, Holly. She’s my inspiration and I love her very much. She has a short piece of flash fiction in my horror collection ‘Mechanisms of Despair’ called ‘Dog of the Dead’ and absolutely delighted in signing the books when they arrived from the printers.

Do you Google yourself?

Occasionally. It’s never anything very interesting though. Just links to my Twitter and Facebook, and the occasional review or Amazon page.

How did you choose the genre you wished to write in?

I think horror chose me. Since the days of secretly watching video nasties when I was too young to do so back in the eighties, I’ve been interested in the macabre. My grandad used to tell a mean ‘true’ ghost story and it used to really freak me out. I’ve attempted writing other stuff but my eyes glaze over just a little. My heart is not in it.

Do you have any new books coming up that you wish to shout about? 

My short story collection ‘Mechanisms of Despair’ is out now and available on ebook and paperback from Amazon. All my proceeds go to Sarcoma UK, a bone and soft tissue cancer charity, and the publishers proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in the USA.

I have a short story coming up in a massive horror anthology with a collection of very talented horror writers including John Palisano, Vice President of the horror writers association. It’s called ‘Monsters Exist’ and features cryptids and legendary beasts local to each author. Published by Deadman’s Tome, it should be available June/July time from Amazon and we expect it to do really well.

I would also be amiss if I didn’t mention a project that I’ve been working on with Unnerving Magazine. Hobo Chapbooks will be available in limited editions of 44 from the 5th June 2017. They feature collaborative mashups where horror writers put their slant on other authors works. They are available to pre order here.

Until next time…

If you want to know more about Gary Buller you can have a look on his website for all sorts of updates. Alternatively follow him on Twitter (@garybuller) for regular content!