The Toy Thief (October 2018) – ***Minor Spoilers***

The Toy Thief

4*

D. W. Gillespie

Flame Tree Press

 

“As a girl, Jack lives with her father and brother after her mother passed away during childbirth. Her father is a well-meaning construction worker who treats her more like a roommate, while her brother, Andy, is an introverted loner prone to violent outbursts, a virtual mirror to his sister who is outspoken to an extreme. The story opens on a sleepover with nine year old Jack and her close friend. While putting on a pretend show, the two girls leave a video camera running, and when Jack replays the tape the next day, she sees her friend’s toy being snatched off the end table and out the back door by a swift, nearly unseen hand. Excited and bewildered, she tries to show the tape to her thirteen year old brother, Andy who is still furious about the spat he and Jack got into the night before. Without another word, he smashes the tape of the intruder. That night, determined to catch the creature she now calls The Toy Thief, Jack sets up a series of traps, all of which fail miserably. Once she awakens in the middle of the night, she finds her friend’s toy has returned, brought back by The Toy Thief, an impossibly tall and rat-like creature with glassy eyes. Just then, Andy steps out of his room, and as The Thief flees in a panic, Andy realizes his sister is telling the truth. The two of them are able to surmise that The Thief most likely travels through a tangled section of woods called The Trails, and they go out in search of it. After returning unsuccessful, Jack awakes the next morning to find Andy missing from his bedroom. As her father informs the police, Jack knows it’s up to her to find him. Jack must venture into the dark place WHERE TOYS GO to get him back. But even if she finds him, will he ever be the same?”

 

It’s the defining moments in our lives that what make us who we are. They shape us, mould us and manipulate us into the person we are today. A lot of those moments happen during childhood, during the period of our lives that we are most malleable, most impressionable, and most innocent.

I particularly liked the format of this book, the storytelling in the shape of a woman recalling a traumatic event from her childhood. One that will have shaped her somewhat, and made her the person she is today. It read really well, flitting between the past and the present. You could have almost been sat across a table in a greasy spoon from her, listening to Jack’s dark tale.

It was more than a story about a lurking monster; it was about family, and the bonds that hold us together as well as drive us apart. The sibling relationship between Jack and Andy was touching, how it ended was heartbreakingly sweet I felt. The family unit was the main focus of the book from my perspective. The challenges of a widowed father, raising two children after his wife has died during childbirth, and the difficult relationship between brother and sister that ensued. Andy had known his mother, Jack had not. That difficult resentment, when you love someone but you struggle to get past something that you know deep down wasn’t their fault. That’s the relationship between Jack and Andy, turbulent and angry, but at the same time a deep loving bond. It was really well thought out and written I felt. I had a real empathy for the whole family.

The Toy Thief itself, the monster, is deliciously creepy in so many wonderful ways. The perfect manifestation of a childhood nightmare, it’s the monster coming to take your most precious toys. It was a darkly creepy creature, hiding in the shadows, just waiting for its moment to strike. I really loved it. It’s that monster under the bed scenario, or in your closet maybe. It’s that underlying fear that something is watching, waiting, and you are afraid to fall asleep in case it gets you in the night. I appreciated the hidden depths too; it was a great touch that made it an even more frightening experience.

This is a great read that plays on our most innocent fears. It hits home in many ways, both good and bad. This is a wonderful scary story, definitely worth a read.

Available for Pre-order from Amazon, The Toy Thief hits the bookshelves 18th October 2018. Check it out.

 

4/5 – very very creepy.

Lesley-Ann (Housewife of Horror)

Siphon (A.A.Medina) – 5* book review

Siphon

Siphon

A.A. Medina

5* review           

Hindered Souls Press

 

“There is an urge inside you”

 


“Dr. Gary Phillips, the resident hematopathologist at Claybrook Medical Center, is a lonely man struggling with the duress of an all work and no play lifestyle.
Burdened with an unhealthy infatuation with his co-worker, a burning disdain for his boss, and an abusive relationship with his grandfather, Gary just can’t catch a break.

That is, until a workplace accident ushers in a bizarre, but empowering experience that evokes a new sense of self, forcing repressed memories to surface while encouraging him to pursue his fantasies with unconventional methods.”

 

Well what can I say? WOW… this is a really great intense story. I got lost within this during my lunch breaks at work. They say everyone finds something different within a story, a different meaning. To me this was a story of neglect, a boy who lost his parents when he was small. He was never told the whole truth on the matter, and was forced to live with his cold unsympathetic grandfather. This is also a story of resentment, a man, trapped in the mundane cycle of day to day life. In a job that he didn’t really want; a hard ass boss always on his case; a turbulent home life; and the unrequited love of a woman. It is also a story of obsession. Gary is infatuated, lustful, completely obsessed with his colleague Wendy. He is obsessed with her to a dangerous level; this obsession becomes his eventual undoing.

I was bearing witness to a descent into madness. This was the steady mental decline of Gary as the tolls of his work, his grandfather and his isolation fed on him, akin to vultures preying on the wounded.

His unquiet mind is silenced by the blood; it felt like this was his comfort, and his release. It presented him with something tangible to focus on during his waking hours. His ‘possession’ by another force was his mind’s way of dealing with the unnatural acts he was participating in. I feel it was also his mind’s way of processing his guilt over the eventual murder of his grandfather. The idea of this split personality, a separate being, a godlike creature, taking over one’s body and doing what he couldn’t do gave him the sense of self he needed. The blood, giving him a new found confidence, as what do they say ‘blood is life’.

 

I highly regard this story; this is a most definite re reader for me. It will be going on my personal favourites shelf. I felt a real sense of connection with Gary. He is just a guy, struggling to find his true way in the world and he lack of self identity, his fear and his repression is his eventual downfall. It’s heartbreaking in its own way.

I cannot recommend this enough. A.A. Medina is one talented writer and I for one cannot wait to read more from him!

 

5/5 – Perfect in every way

Lesley-Ann (Housewife of Horror)

Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach – Book Review ***Spoilers***

Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach

Ramsey Campbell

Flame Tree Press

Publication Date: 6th September 2018

 Book Review

 

 

“They feed so Skiá feeds”

 

I had the pleasure of receiving a copy of this book to review in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press.

 

My fiancé is a huge Ramsey Campbell fan so he was just as excited as me for me to begin. His writing has been a great source of comfort for Andy over the years and he takes every opportunity he can to re read the books he owns. I can see why, the writing is so fluid and detailed, pulling you in one sentence at a time, engulfing you with this feeling that you are there, right in the middle of the unfolding drama. I was dragged in from the start with this book; the increasing tension, the desperation to know just exactly what was happening, I found it hard to put down, only stopping when real life traumas like work got in my way (even then I was reading it on my lunch break, so engrossed that I didn’t hear my colleague trying to talk to me for over 10 minutes).

 

I really appreciated that we were never given the full picture of what was happening until quite near the end. I knew from the start there was something ‘off’ with the Greek Island of Vasilema, there was something unseen and unspoken, a darkness that lingered and terrified. Only the locals seemed to know, but they appeared to ignore it, or at least pretend to.

 

The tone of the story was very much about our mortality and prolonging life. The focus of the book surrounded Ray and Sandra, as well as their children and grandchildren. We are aware from the beginning that something is wrong with Sandra, we can feel the concern and protectiveness that Ray has for her, confirmed when he proceeds to put on a facade of normality for the rest of the family. He doesn’t want to ruin the family vacation. The descriptiveness of how frail Sandra was, the writing was both delicate and yet intense, fully encompassing just how brittle she appeared to be, and how she was deteriorating before Ray. The way she was then invigorated, seemingly from a bite, or the island, or a combination, gathering her strength back very slowly over the two weeks, was beautiful to read yet unnerving all the same.

I found all the subtle references throughout the book relating to mortality, and the curse of immortality I felt, very well thought out and very well placed. The driving force of the story, the family, their relationships, and their coming to terms with Sandra’s illness, was so well integrated with the underlying tension of darkness. It was claustrophobic in parts, this all encompassing, all controlling darkness; it seemed to be the all powerful force on the island. Even the buses wouldn’t stop after dark.

After the initial night, Sandra had been bitten by some kind of insect after falling asleep on the balcony outside their room. While Ray and Sandra awaited the rest of the family at a local taverna, Chloe’s Garden, the waitress seemed to be quite disconcerted with Sandra’s bite. Responding with “I pray not” when Ray comments “at least my wife won’t get bitten here”. There were also the seemingly religious women on the bus, blessing Sandra, Tim and Jonquil (the three members of the family in total who had been bitten) every time they boarded; we found near the end of the book that it was only these three family members whom the women had been blessing, and no one else. They appeared to know that they had been tainted in some way by the island. I particularly enjoyed a scene over dinner one evening in Chloe’s Garden, in which birthday greetings of a long life were conveyed, and rebuked, as they are seen to be more than a curse by the locals.

From the start you could feel the underlying oppression, a dark force, something that wanted to feed, that needed to feed. The phrase, “They feed so Skiá feeds” becomes more and more unsettling. Even more unnerving was what felt like captivity in some ways, they just couldn’t leave the island. Boat trips cancelled, the owners of tour boats and fishing boats refusing to take them – ‘them’ referring to Sandra, Tim and Jonquil. There is a notion mentioned several times relating to ‘coming back to find your memories’, rather than to re-live them, I found this to be very unsettling indeed, what happens to you here that you forget after you leave? The story ended with the family leaving on the ferry away from the island, with Sandra, Jonquil and Tim trying to remember the details of their two week vacation. It was ambiguous yet implied that they were beginning to forget.

 

5/5 – If I could give it more I would. This book is beautifully thought out and so amazingly written. It really gets you thinking, and stays with you afterwards.

Lesley-Ann (The Housewife of Horror)

Creature (2018) – ***Spoilers***

Creature

Hunter Shea

Publication date – September 6th 2018

Flame Tree Press

 

“Yep, better it was a figment of her imagination, a bit of spoiled gruel. If the shadow wanted to stay in the kitchen, let it”

creature

What can I say about ‘Creature’……

It’s never a good idea to go to a cabin in the woods now is it.

Amazing book! I was totally enthralled from the start, the characters, the setting, the relationships, and of course, the monster; all wonderfully knitted together in this fantastic book. This was a thrilling read from start to finish. Exciting, emotional, intriguing – The dream sequences especially.

I found myself very involved, I felt like I was there, part of the family. The relationship between Kate and Andrew, Kate with her illness, and Andrew taking care of her, it was really something. It brought up quite a lot of emotion within me, I really felt for them, really cared for them. They are such a beautiful couple.

Andrew wants to do something perfect for his wife Kate, so he surprises her by taking a leave of absence from work and whisking her away on a summer vacation in her ideal lakeside cottage in Maine, surrounded by beautiful woodland and the neighbours a good few miles away. They won’t be disturbed, not by the neighbours anyway.

I really loved that this book wasn’t so much about the horror, and more, a lot more about the characters, specifically Andrew and Kate. The daily struggles of balancing home and work life. Andrew, working a job he hates (we all know that struggle) so much to pay the bills and take care of his wife. And Kate, suffering with a debilitating autoimmune disease (Lupus and Ehlers-Danlos), struggling every second with her pain, not just physically, but emotionally. She has a constant battle with her inner demons as they manifest themselves into her reality.  It was the little things, the tenuous relationship with her mother, who favours her brother Ryker, as well as her close bond with Ryker and his wife Nikki. I loved the little nicknames they have for each other, Andrew referring to Kate as ‘Crip’ was adorable I thought.

I appreciated how deep into their personal lives we were taken, the anger Andrew feels at times towards Kate for being ill, and then at himself for feeling that way. It really hit home how difficult it must be living in a situation like that, how frustrating and crushing it must get. How helpless you must feel sometimes when all you want is for the person you love to be well and happy, and how terribly difficult it must be to see them suffer. And it goes without saying, how much of a waking nightmare at times it must be for the person suffering.

The part of the book I found most disturbing was not the monster and the carnage it created, but Nikki, Kate’s sister in law. For me, she was the most terrifying aspect; her change in personality was truly shocking. The nastiness and hate that came from within her when her husband was killed was horrific. What was even more frightening to me was how true this is, after such a traumatic experience, seeing her husband die in such a way, I could very much understand her anger and resentment of Kate.

I am very grateful I was given the opportunity to read this book prior to its release date. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

5/5 – I’d struggle to give it anything less

Lesley-Ann (Housewife of Horror)