She Will Rise – Calvin Demmer

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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.

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Spring Outbreak – Calvin Demmer

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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.

The Calling – Louise White

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Portal travel can lead you down a dangerous road…

I always love finding a good fantasy book that is different and really stands out, it is quite hard as there are so many books out there that follow similar story lines which can get quite repetitive and predicable. The Calling is not one of those books, it’s such a refreshing narrative and story that really draws you in and gives you hours of escaping your own reality and following the life of Carolyn our strong willed female protagonist. I had no issues getting into this book and got taken on a journey that crosses realms, encounters demons and involves a romantic twist, a little bit of everything you’d need to enjoy a fantasy novel!

The story follows our female heroine Carolyn, who has lost her mother and brother to another realm and spends years in the unknown about her new found ‘magical’ powers. Being drawn to the gateways to complete tasks of killing demons she becomes ‘The Destroyer’ without having much insight into why she does this ‘job’. The book itself is quite confusing to begin with, especially as it flicks between the present/past and Carolyn’s internal thoughts but once you’ve sussed out what section your reading it does flow quite nicely. The story is full of amazing detail that really brings the story to life and creates the perfect balance of realism and fantasy!

The characters are something that really stood out for me, we see a lot of Carolyn and her strong feminine attitude which gets broken down somewhat by the demon Note who unexpectedly takes our protagonists heart (romantically of course) but the character development is brilliant! You really feel connected to each character you meet and understand their purpose in this book to the full, blending the bonds of friendship and love with some key characters along the way (Ethan) you really get a wide variety of people and each one stood out on their own, connecting with you on a personal level.

Mystery and confusion are two things that spring to mind when I thought about describing this book, the mystery side of it is due to never truly knowing what will happen next (always on your toes) but also being slightly sceptical of some characters and their motives, wondering if a character is actually right for our main lead and judging people before we truly understand them. All of these aspects make you so hooked to this book it’s unreal, I never wanted to put it down as I was always hoping to get more information on the next page! Confusion is another description due to this being the first novel in the series I’m hoping some of my questions will be answered, especially how the book ended I am desperate to find out more!

Overall I would say if you are a fan of fantasy I would highly recommend this book as Louise G. White has created a world (or two) that you can get lost in! This book has a bit of everything for everyone and is so well written I cannot wait to read the next novel in the Gateway series! The story line is flawless and really grabs your attention straight away, you won’t be putting this book down at any point until you’ve finished it!

Until next time…

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

Bio: Louise G. White
The scenic west coast of Scotland is where she lives with her family. She didn’t set out to write Fantasy, but when she sat with her laptop to begin The Calling, It became apparent that she still believed in Bogey Men, the Monster in the cupboard and of course, the Faeries at the bottom of our garden. Suddenly she found that she was writing a story of heroes who could be found both on our doorsteps and in the realms that lie beyond.

Spells & Persuasions – S.J.Budd

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Dark, twisted and extremely believable…

Now this review will be slightly different to my usual book reviews, as this collection features 9 short stories in the dark fantasy genre but I will try to review them as a whole and pick out some highlights from each. Before we begin I would not suggest reading these before bedtime as they have such an element of realism, making you think about situations in your own life that these events could occur as well as giving you twists to leave you shocked!

As mentioned before this collection has 9 short stories in, I actually read this book twice! Not only because it was such a well written book but because I wanted to make the experience of reading it last longer and really take in each story as a whole (letting the twists and turns really sink in). Each story draws you in straight away, not needing a long build up to realise what is happening. By doing this you are already engaged with the characters situation and follow the story word by word.

The style of each story varies from modern day to fantasy (witches and spells) but all have an underlying theme that is ‘relationships’ whether this be in the form of mother and son, husband and wife or teenage crushes. Each story delves deeper into these relationships and shows the darkness behind them, even the most innocent of characters are not as they seem (A Most Devoted Son, The Little Orphan Girl & Hold Me Tight). These stories really make you think about your own experiences (especially Spells and Persuasions) where teenage crushes can turn into something horrific, especially when magic is involved.

Now the genre of all these stories is dark fantasy and as it is a genre I most enjoy reading, I must say I wasn’t disappointed. Each story took me down a route that I thought I would suss out the ending but always shocked me and left me wanting more answers when the plot twists came out of the woodwork! The writing is so well done that you turn each page with ease, completely engrossed with the story that S. J. Budd has provided. The darkness within these stories is done in a way that makes you want to keep reading but part of you knows that something frightening is yet to come.

Just to pick out some of the stories that I enjoyed the most (honestly I wish I could write a whole review for each one) – ‘The Mound’ was one story that felt very close to being a real life event, yes it had magic and ghosts but the underlying theme of adultery made it full of possible realism. Not to give away any spoilers but let’s just say that if your husband is cheating on you and you find out, be careful what you wish for!

Another one that I enjoyed thoroughly was ‘The Little Orphan Girl‘ this story was one that wasn’t set in the modern world but in a world that had witches. The reason for picking this was the fact it really creeped me out! Normally I don’t like little girls in anything remotely scary (films or books) but this story really showed that innocence can be misleading. Again not giving away any spoilers but this twist really had me, I kept trying to work out what would happen as I was reading but I would have never guessed that ending.

In all honestly I would highly recommend this collection as it does have a little something for everyone (even if you’re not a huge horror/ dark fantasy fan) as the story lines are very well thought out and the twists will leave you speechless. I will definitely be looking forward to any future works of S. J. Budd as her writing is spectacular (and scary!).

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Spells and Persuasions’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: S. J. Budd
Originally born in Cornwall, south west England, her childhood was surrounded by myths and legends and she has always been fascinated by anything out of the ordinary. It was in this strange and ancient land where she developed a passion for writing.
S.J.Budd loves writing short stories exploring dark fictional worlds and its mysterious inhabitants, and is currently working on her first novel. Her day job involves working as journalist for http://www.findahood.com and she also blogs on her site http://www.sjbudd.co.uk
Her work has appeared in Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins , Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Morpheus Tales and Freedom Fiction. Twitter @sjbuddj

Frost on my Pillow – Leah Hamrick

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A book that you wouldn’t give the ‘cold shoulder’…

Whenever I go away on holiday I always bring a book with me (or two!) to escape reality even when I’m on the other side of the world. This was exactly what I did with ‘Frost on my Pillow’ by Leah Hamrick! I got lost in this book so much that I couldn’t put it down, the genre is one I truly enjoy and the story itself was breathtaking! I am glad this was the book I had taken with me on my holiday and now two weeks later I can write my review…

Firstly the genre of the book is one that is in my top favourites (paranormal, romance and NA) so I had no issue getting stuck in! The book really shows these elements in a clear and creative way, whether that be the love triangle Lyla has that is full of passion and lust or the magic within the characters (even those that don’t know it!) – Firebringer, Icebringer and Demons are some of the paranormals you can find within this book. Safe to say the story has something for everyone, I couldn’t wait to turn the next page and continue the journey Leah Hamrick had given me.

The characters themselves were a treat to discover, from the protagonist Lyla who isn’t just an ordinary girl, she is a Firebringer (can control fire!) – she shows herself as a strong minded girl that goes for what she wants, but everyone has their weaknesses. The character development is very well done and you can relate to each of them in your own way, or better yet aspire to be like them (personally I would love to control fire). Rylan is also a great example of an epic character, everyone loves a bad boy! Swaying Lyla away from a monogamous relationship with Ethan showing the reality of teenage lust and hormones!

This book has been written in such a way that you can honestly imagine some of the scenes playing out in your head, it is a story that takes twists and turns keeping you on your toes. The creativity of this story makes you feel as if you are going along Lyla’s journey with her, feeling the way she does and creating a bond with the characters. The way this is written really highlights the teenage qualities without losing an adult audience. Another plus is that the chapters move smoothly with this page turner of a book and quite frankly I didn’t want it to end, it does leave you wanting to know more (hopefully the next book will answer my questions!).

For my first blog post back after my holiday I am glad that it was ‘Frost on my Pillow’ – It is always easy to write a review about a good book and my words probably can’t do it justice but it had me captivated from the beginning! I can’t wait to see what Leah Hamrick has in store next as her writing style is something special!

Until next time…

If you want to read ‘Frost on my Pillow’ yourself you can purchase it on Amazon by following the link here.

Bio: Leah Hamrick
Leah Hamrick lives in Michigan with her partner in crime husband Jon, young daughter Khloey, and plethora of reptiles, fish, and a tree frog named Sticky. She can always be found with her nose in a YA book, daydreaming and thinking up new ideas for a story, and trying to figure out how to make a character’s chemistry clash with one another’s. She is a fan of romance, and anything paranormal. She gets the inspiration for her stories from things that have happened in her real life—except the paranormal/fantasy aspect… She wishes she were that awesome! She enjoys listening to heavy metal music, traveling, watching bad reality TV, and everything pink. She hopes that one day she can be become a well known author, and to keep writing stories for everyone to enjoy for years to come.