Book Review – Dolly by Susan Hill

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Suspense / Horror
Publication Date: October 5th, 2012
Publisher: Profile Books

“All, all of it I remember. Then I relived, my heart pounding again as I stood at the window and through the fog-blanketed darkness heard the sound again. Deep under the earth, inside its cardboard coffin, shrouded with the layers of white paper, the china doll with the jagged, open crevasse in its skull was crying.”

The atmosphere in Dolly is so heavy and intense that it’s almost its own character, perfectly at home in its loneliness. Dolly recalls pieces of Burnett’s The Secret Garden, but twisted. It’s like the marshy underside of the Secret Garden, where you would expect fairytale things to be waiting in the bog.

After the death of his aunt, a man, Edward, recalls his childhood staying at Iyot Lock, her manor house decaying out in the middle of the moor. The house is straight out of a gothic novel and nobody much enjoys being there save for the aunt, and especially not Edward’s cousin, Leonora. He tries to get along with Leonora desperately, but sometimes she just turns into an evil stranger with no warning or transition, and Edward becomes afraid of her. The aunt buys Leonora a baby doll that she breaks, and afterward the doll becomes kind of… vocal, but only late in the night when it’s only Edward there to hear it.

I really appreciate the oddness of the characters. Edward and Leonora have a weird dynamic – they start off like you’d expect they’re going to end up being best of friends. They hate each other on a subtle level from square one, even for the moments they get along. I think that they had always enjoyed seeing each other miserable, and that’s probably why, even though Edward wasn’t insufferable as Leonora was, they are both doomed to be bound to each other through horrible occurrences that they can’t explain to anybody else. Their relationship is surprisingly bleak for being children through most of the story. Continue reading “Book Review – Dolly by Susan Hill”

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Book Review – Love is Hell by Melissa Marr

★★★ 3 Stars

Genre: Romance / Dark Fantasy
Publication Date: November 25th, 2008
Publisher: HarperTeen

” ‘There are two types of people in this world: those who believe in love and those who don’t. I believe in love.’ She closes the book. Indeed, it’s not her thing.”

(Un)happy Valentine’s Day. Here I present the fitting title Love is Hell, a romance anthology that, despite the name, is not that infernal. Like the Valentine’s holiday, it’s neat but also easily forgettable.
Love is Hell dips its toes into the border of dark fantasy with the caution of someone who would be humiliated to be seen playing around in such territory. This collection tries on a patchwork flesh of genres, unsure about which it’s supposed to be. However, it does at least succeed at coming across as a romance book. If ho-hum about its paranormal side, I believe that paranormal romance fans are who it would probably appeal to most. I’m not grand on paranormal – not a species of book I have a positive history with. So you might want to break out your salt-shaker for my opinions here.

Love is Hell was a slog for me. The authors are all talented people, no doubt, but there is more aggravation than captivation about this, as well as zero consistency. It’s not fair to expect an anthology to be consistent as far as the writers’ styles, but there’s nothing threading them together. The shorts are at odds with each other rather than bleeding into a theme. One of which there isn’t, not that I could tell. Does this book even make the statement that love is, in fact, equal to eternal torment? Let’s break that down, shall we?

“Sleeping With the Spirit” by Laurie Faria Stolarz – ★★★
Hell-O-Meter: Low

The tragedy of a human who falls in love with a handsome ghost that was murdered in her house. Of course, this only happens after he drove her into severe insomnia because she was initially horrified by him. I found it creepier not that the boy was a phantom but that he was constantly watching her in her room. The apex of romance, that.
This story is alright, though. The plot is a little clichéd but the writing and pacing make for decent intrigue, and the ending is sweet. Continue reading “Book Review – Love is Hell by Melissa Marr”

Bleak Feminine – Rebooting Blood Ballet

Oh, Blood Ballet. You… I really don’t like you, Blood Ballet. But we’re going to remedy this. The anodyne for this chapbook being, well, kind of terrible, is completely redoing it in the way I should’ve done it initially.
The Blood Ballet that is available as part of Absolute Heaven is more what I wanted it to be, but still not exactly. I wanted it to portray a “feminine gruesomeness” with a horror-movie aesthetic. This go around with the full book, I want it to be somewhat more feminist. Not in an overbearing way, just through dealing with more women’s issues. That’s what it was supposed to be but ended up being like, gross-out junk and surrealist nonsense.

Without going into a tangent, and believe me it would be the god emperor of tangents, I think that just the female experience in general lends itself to a lot of horror – biological, psychological, you name it. Yet rather than mollify unpleasant experiences by discussing them openly, many would rather put up a very thin façade that all women are happy all the time, no matter the circumstance.
I actually received that message, more or less, with a rejection letter for a poem once that works revolving around the problems of women should only be more “empowering” or “inspirational”, that what I wanted to say was too dark for mainstream consumption. They could’ve just said “your writing straight-up sucks” and it would’ve been less offensive than that.

I don’t even care about the poem but I will never let that comment go, because that is not reality. You cannot keep only the good and snuff out the negative if you want someone’s real experiences in a book. Continue reading “Bleak Feminine – Rebooting Blood Ballet”

My Picks For Women in Horror Month

As you’ve probably figured if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, my favourite months for thematic reading are the ones that will actually allow the “creep” of the literary genres into the house. Thaaaaat’s riiiiight, it’s time to get horrific!

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February being a month to celebrate women working in horror is a relatively new thing. True, you could argue that horror is, even from a historical standpoint, one of the most inclusive genres of both genders. Many of its innovators are women – Mary Shelley, Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson – but people are under this impression that has been incredibly to hard to shake off that horror is a hostile genre towards women, or at least obscures its female creators.
Admittedly… this is still something of a problem with horror films and visual media, and every now and then a genuinely misogynistic horror novel pops up, much to the dismay of us who have been trying to destroy that stereotype, but I feel like writing horror is quite a welcoming and lucrative area for women authors.

Before I derail off-topic, however, I’d like to tell you what I have in store for Women in Horror Month. I have some horror creations of my own, which of course you’ll see on here and my other social media.
The 20th anniversary of my all-time horror favourite series, Silent Hill, is coming up at the very tail-end of January, for one thing – a series I will always recommend for its innovation and high quality in its writing of female characters for its medium.

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/silent/images/f/f5/Heatherinsubway.png/revision/latest?cb=20101229054647

I’ve written a few brief pieces on that. A sad irony about this series is that the strength and often poetic beauty of the female characters in the original series and even the film adaptation to some degree… does not carry into the spin-off books. There’s something very wrong about that, but that argument is for another day. Continue reading “My Picks For Women in Horror Month”

Upcoming Reviews and Art

I realize I’ve strayed a bit from reviews lately. I haven’t had and suspect I won’t have much time to read for awhile. I’ve been sprucing up some older ones to bring them up to quality and finish some NetGalley ARCs and abandoned reviews, but it’s not my highest priority in the face of larger projects, so maybe if you’re here for the reviews you’ll forgive me. 😉
It may look otherwise but I’m not actually that fast of a reader, I prefer to spend time with a book and take my time dissecting it. Piecing together a book of my own has really been my focus, so it’s been easier on me to post poetry and little articles.

February will bring a few more reviews, specifically for the events Women in Horror, and Black History Month, which both begin February 1st. There may be some unrelated books scattered in, but the main focus will be on darker fiction by women authors and books by African-American authors.

I am becoming more active on Twitter and DeviantArt after being dormant on most of my social media due to finally recovering from a long, drawn-out illness that kept me from wanting to bother. What else is there to do, really? I will also be redoing the gallery here. Eventually.
You can follow me on Twitter, if you want, though I can’t post some drawings there due to their content, so those will have to be on DA. I become very strange on Twitter though. Fair warning.
I will also be revealing an ambitious project, Haunt Me To Sleep, on there, which is a combination ghost story, poetry and horror fiction compilation, along with some other future shenanigans you might enjoy. It’s on Goodreads, too.

I never announced it formally, but horror-fantasy monstrosity Absolute Heaven has been available on Kindle for awhile. It had some mild problems that I haven’t been well enough to deal with, I don’t know if and when it will come to paperback. The Kindle version looks fine, though. For some reason, it’s never shown up on my author page. Absolute Heaven’s nature as a B-side to Loverboy has caused me never to warm to it, though I think it turned out quite solid if you enjoy experimental, fantastical and dark poetry. It’s only like 2 bucks for a lot of poems, so if you want, check it out. A fellow author wrote a very wonderful review for it that is worth reading if you might be interested.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07M5P3LRV