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Reviews Written by
Lily Childs (East Sussex, England)

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The Bureau of Them
The Bureau of Them

5.0 out of 5 stars Darker than Ghosts; Closer than Death, 29 Nov. 2015
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Have you ever read something so exquisitely written, so beautiful and cruel that it left you staggering, giddy with the darkness of its concept and delivery? I've just read Cate Gardner's novella, The Bureau of Them in one straight sitting and am reeling with both fear and awe at such skilled storytelling.

I've only read a couple of Cate's pieces before, and they both blew me away (but we're talking Black Static here so you *know* they'll be sublime before you even start) however, The Bureau of Them is something else. Easily the best horror, the best fiction in any genre I've read this year. Highly recommended.


An English Ghost Story
An English Ghost Story
by Kim Newman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A scintillating descent into terror, 8 Feb. 2015
This review is from: An English Ghost Story (Paperback)
The promise of a sparkling new life for Kim Newman's 'dysfunctional British nuclear family' lures the reader in with teases as to what has led the Naremores to occupy The Hollow - far away from the troubles and influences of their past.

I'm not the first reviewer to mention the similarity to James Herbert's The Magic Cottage, and although I read that book back in 1986, An English Ghost Story instantly evoked very similar emotions in me of delight and fear in equal measure.

It's a credit to the author that his writing can entrance the reader for quite some time before the darkness slowly starts to set in. From then on the writing style subtly changes as we progress - from poetic descriptions to a sharper, staccato delivery which matches the tension.

The house is a metaphor for the story itself. It is not just a place occupied by ghosts and more sinister entities, it is home to diverse personalities with banal and extreme human traits, where strengths and weaknesses are tested - to the limit. Newman toys with the psychology of his characters, as does The Hollow, treating them as playthings in this place where memories are warped and misconceived solutions create more problems than they solve.

Overall, I was enraptured by An English Ghost Story and completely drawn in, making the book difficult to put down. The only reason I haven't given it five stars is that the Naremore characters repeat the justification for their actions a little too often and it feels like the reader is being reminded, just in case we might have forgotten what each of them has been through. But I can overlook this.

Highly recommended


Sussex Tales
Sussex Tales
Price: £2.50

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heady scent of Sussex; wonderfully nostalgic., 4 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Sussex Tales (Kindle Edition)
I’m a Sussex gal, through and through – maternal blood from the East – paternal from the West. From the moment I opened the pages of Jan Edwards’ Sussex Tales I was plunged into a state of nostalgia so strong I could taste the honey, smell Autumn’s mulchy wet woods and not least, hear the familiar dialects of old – that lazy Sussex burr of my grandparents and beyond.

The author presents a palette of memories from her childhood, growing up in the farming countryside of the 50s and 60s. Her tales are those of the not-so-fictional Sue – an amalgam of Jan Edwards and ‘others’, her gabardine mac always clammy and damp in the darker months of the year. She speaks of the joys and sadness of the lambing season – of feeding and warming the young while her father attends to the ewes. There are references to old crafts such as using curved needles to stitch halters and important events are included too: the Sussex bonfire tradition, those rebellious parades which continue to this day, the ire in many people’s souls still stoked. Wassail, singing the apples from the trees, giving thanks and pouring libations of juice and of cider. Maypole dancing… twisted ribbons.

We read of characters whose appearance and personalities are so perfectly rendered that we can almost see them approach; Gorgon the furious bull with his blinding lead mask, the wise Shell Man with his scallops and conch shells in which you really can hear the sea. Goody Hurst is a name any respectable 15th century witch might have carried but here she is in 20th century Sussex, wily still.

Sue, her friends and family members seem always on the go, tramping across fields, down lanes, through woods. They gather conkers, play skipping games with old rhymes such as ‘the Knuckers and Farisees’, avoid the Knocking of the harvest when the last triangle of corn (wheat) is ploughed and guns fire indiscriminately at the poor creatures that had taken refuse there.

This book is not only a wonderful reminder of the county’s past and rich heritage, which sets the traditions and language in stone but important too in recording recipes, wines and medicinal uses of plants, leaves, barks and more. These tasty and sometimes strange blends could so easily have become lost in time, forgotten. It’s heartening to see them written down to be kept forever.

Anyone with Sussex connections, an interest in post-war Britain, a love of English mysteries and/or a fascination with flora will surely relish Sussex Tales. I do, and I highly recommend it.


The Weight Of The Ocean
The Weight Of The Ocean
Price: £0.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riding the Tides of Emotion - Highly Recommended, 19 July 2014
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Beautifully written, and painfully honest. The author evokes all the hopes and fears of early relationships, but this tale goes further - detailing every tremor of the heart, every mind-game that plays out during moments of uncertainty. Like the 'weight of the ocean', Paul M. Feeney pulls us down into the narrator's soul, allowing us the privilege of riding the tide of his emotions along with him.

The description of the main character entering the sea is so accurate I genuinely shuddered, breathless with the lapping cold.

A short story so subtly powerful, it felt longer; probably because of the residual feelings that haunted me - haunt me still - after reading the final words. If this is a first effort, then it is a truly accomplished one. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it and look forward to more from Paul M. Feeney.


The Brittle Birds
The Brittle Birds

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisitely Crafted Terror, 5 July 2014
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This review is from: The Brittle Birds (Kindle Edition)
Anthony Cowin’s The Brittle Birds is a beautifully written story, painted with creeping webs of horror and despair. The underlying tale recounts the damaged relationship and lives of two brothers, their unique view of the world and their methods of dealing with its challenges – all stemming from the consequences of a harrowing childhood event. The depiction of this journey in itself is an articulate masterpiece, with Cowin addressing psychoses and trauma in a raw and almost tender way, but the overarching power of this short book is the impact of the brittle birds themselves.

The author compels readers to question myth then forces you to disregard everything you have ever perceived as truth when the terrifying brittle birds take poetic flight across the pages and into our psyches (at the very least).

The brittle birds – you’ll have your own name for them, I'm sure – are dread incarnate. And if you are as affected by the possibility of them as I, then you’ll never see the world in the same way again.

Excellent.


The Cabin In The Woods [DVD]
The Cabin In The Woods [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Hemsworth
Price: £3.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Original but loses the plot, 22 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Cabin In The Woods [DVD] (DVD)
Finally watched 'The Cabin in the Woods' all the way through without dropping off. It was okay, silly in some places but stupid in most. The premise was innovative but it quickly 'lost the plot' as though the writers/directors got bored. The final twenty-minutes are such a lazy acid-fest of clichéd horror it made me yawn, though (spoiler alert) any zombie child axing Sigourney Weaver in the head gets my vote.

Nah...

Two generous stars. Don't bother.


The Awakening (2011) [DVD]
The Awakening (2011) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dominic West
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Insidious tragedy, 21 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Awakening (2011) [DVD] (DVD)
Very enjoyable. Enticing central character in Florence the strong, enigmatic cynic plus a classic premise of a haunted school with a parade of potential protagonists, and... what I like best - a profoundly psychological tragedy which had me in tears. Subtle, but excellent.


The Bones of Avalon (THE JOHN DEE PAPERS Book 1)
The Bones of Avalon (THE JOHN DEE PAPERS Book 1)
Price: £2.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding; a torrent of twists, 2 Sept. 2013
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I read Phil Rickman's The Bones of Avalon (THE JOHN DEE PAPERS) during a week spent holidaying in a timeless Belgian forest. This book reminded me why I love his writing so very much - thrilling, mysterious, magickal - in the true sense of the word, and dangerous. His knowledge of the 'non'-new-age Glastonbury is already well-acknowledged, and his cynicism of the apparent devotees of established religion, and of politics at various levels is heartfelt, evidently well-researched, not to mention refreshing - every time (which I know is a contradiction).

It occurs to me that I was referring to Rickman above, when I could equally have been referring to Dee, and indeed I do possess copies of Dr. Dee's work.

The violence and twists in this good-length book are relentless - and believable. I read it on Kindle; I'll be buying it in print. It's a keeper, and "must needs" be re-read. Excellent.


Devil's Chimney: Chalvington Barnes #1
Devil's Chimney: Chalvington Barnes #1

5.0 out of 5 stars A cliffhanger of crime, corruption and fear., 15 Oct. 2012
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When I first heard about Tin Larrick's crime thriller, Devil's Chimney, set in my home town of Eastbourne I was intrigued. Stories set here tend to be genteel so as a reader that prefers the darker side of fiction I downloaded it with an open mind...

By happy contrast Larrick's novel is gritty, hardboiled and bitingly honest. The author's well-informed descriptions of police procedure add a perfect backdrop to this terrifying tale of organised crime. Murder, abduction, drugs and revenge pepper the pages; every chapter leaves the reader hanging and I was gripped from the outset.

The main character, known by his surname Barnes - even to his beautiful wife Eve - is a bright new star in the Eastbourne police force whose hard work and dedication to the job get him noticed by the powers that be. But there is more than one power in town - and it stinks.

I genuinely couldn't put this book down; superbly-written, expertly researched and thrilling to the bone with a story that twists and turns with such speed it leaves you dizzy, and hungry for more.

Devil's Chimney should be a best-seller; and Tin Larrick is most definitely a name to remember.


The Air Loom Gang
The Air Loom Gang
by Mike Jay
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening, in a most dark and intriguing way., 2 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Air Loom Gang (Paperback)
A fascinating study of lunacy and institutions in relation to socio-political activities and behaviour, not to mention the truly bizarre case of Matthews himself - was he a Revolutionary spy - or wasn't he? Did he really hold the secrets of Prussia, France and Britain's failed peace negotiations of the late 1700s? And was he born insane, did the condition transpire as a result of his alleged experiences - or was he ever truly 'mad' at all?

Enlightening, in a most dark and intriguing way, this history of Bedlam and the ever-evolving understanding of mental health issues up to the present century is clearly presented with well-researched facts and a large dose of drama.


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