Review: Knee Deep in Little Devils by Various

kneedeepinlittledevilsKnee Deep in Little Devils by Various

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 20th, 2018

Publisher: WorD Publishing-pgh

Pages: 84 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: In a restless suburb of Pittsburgh PA, there dwells an odd writing and critique group called Write or Die. Celebrating a mysterious annual rite, the authors disclose secret and sometimes tragic circumstances; evident only to those who have experienced the incidents . . . until now.

The stories in this collection will take you for perilous jaunts on All Hallows Eve, send you sprinting down a beach at midnight, drown your soul in inky waters, soak you in the blood of wizards and dump you down the rabbit hole of insanity.

Whether these are parables that predict or tales to instruct, prepare yourself to be,  

This is the first WorD (Write or Die) Halloween-themed anthology. The short stories contained herein were all written for, and read, during the first three annual Halloween reading events. 

These stories range from wonderfully frightening to frightfully preposterous. Sometimes shocking and unpredictable, this disquieting collection will keep you guessing at the sanity of the authors who write these tales.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I absolutely love short story collections and I have just recently begun to journey into the flash fiction category. Flash fiction is quite new to me, but I can tell how incredibly difficult it must be to write and I have a tremendous amount of respect for authors who can accomplish this well. This particular collection is quite mixed, as were my opinions on the stories. While these writers have a great deal of talent and that remains clear throughout, I personally felt that not all of these stories worked well in this abbreviated format. Topic-wise, each one was unique and creative but definitely quite hit-or-miss.

This collection begins with an extremely inventive forward which is a fantastic hook. It is a humorous and entertaining take on the creation of the Write or Die (WorD) writing group—the writing group that has brought us this work. This story combines fictional events with background information on the origins of WorD. All the other stories are interspersed with creepy haikus written by author Vincent Baverso as well as darkly stylized pen drawings. Both are wonderfully imaginative and fit extremely well with the overall theme of the collection.

For the rest of this review, I will go into some more specific—and still spoiler-free—details about each of the individual stories themselves as well as my thoughts on them.

A Check-Up for Mr. Bangles by Michael A. Amzen (4.5/5)

In this first story, a daughter asks her father to check on her doll because she believes it is dying. The father, of course, plays along and begins the check-up, finding most things normal—until he begins to feel around the stomach. This story was definitely one of my favorites from the collection. Amzen’s characterization was fantastic and he used a great amount of detail that truly carried the tone of the story. He established solid characters with a realistic child-parent relationship as well as a convincing setup to the story. It was very short but was still extremely creepy, and Amzen builds suspense well within such a small period of time.

A Walk in the Park by Frank Oreto (3.5/5)

In this story, we follow a middle-aged man who decides to take a walk down a dark path through a seemingly empty park one night. It is near Halloween and he wants to feel scared in a way he has not since he was a teenager. Initially, he is met with disappointment as his plan does not produce the desired reaction. Then, he passes parents and a child who all seem normal at first—that is, until he notices the overly large heads and sharp teeth.

I found Oreto’s detail and world-building to be absolutely fantastic. The story had a very distinctively eerie tone and atmosphere. It was very short of course and was somewhat predictable. There was not much time to build up too much suspense, but it was still quite enjoyable overall.

A Storybook Halloween by Kevin M. Hayes (3/5)

A man named Dimitri is out volunteering for the Neighborhood Watch on Halloween and finds a young girl named Lucy standing in front of one of the houses on his street. Lucy is dressed as Little Red-Riding-Hood and appears to be lost. She tells him she has been followed by a wolf all night, and soon one appears from the bushes and begins chasing them down.

Like all the other stories so far, the writing and descriptions were great. The atmosphere of being out trick-or-treating was present at the start, but I felt that it was lost by the end. It was as if the entire neighborhood ceased to exist when the wolf entered into the story. Nonetheless, the wolf’s pursuit itself was still intense and harrowing. In my opinion, the ending was a bit too full of twists that took place within a few sentences of each other. It was unexpected but maybe a bit much and too confusing for the story’s length.

From the Deep by Larry Ivkovich (1/5)

It is All Hallows’ Eve and Alanalla Steadman tells us that she has experienced a dream state that has allowed her to realize what she truly is and where she comes from. She grew up in a normal human family, adopted when she was young, but her life has been built completely on lies. Now, she sees images of treasures, ship-wrecks, an undersea civilization, and the race that she belongs to. This night, Alanalla is going to embrace her destiny and rejoin her people.

This was definitely my least favorite story within the collection. The writing is detailed but incredibly flowery and a bit over-the-top. I could see this potentially fitting the character’s voice and personality to some extent, but it is taken a little too far and sounds too pompous. Personally, I was just not a fan of the plot itself. The length was definitely not sufficient enough to tell it and it felt far too rushed. It also was not overly creepy or spooky and it did not feel like a horror or Halloween story in any way.

Dead Dog Gone by Katie Pugh (5/5)

Nancy is really good at three things: making pancakes, necromancy, and getting rid of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She loves Halloween and always prepares early in the month. On Halloween, she leaves one of her cleaned-out cauldrons outside her door filled candy for the kids and then sits inside to wait for Death. Death is one of few people who she ever lets into her house, mainly due to her collection of curious wares and potions.

Nancy dresses up as if for a date night since it is their tradition to get together on Halloween. However, this year things change when a small puppy with two horns appears in her cauldron among the candy, frightening all the trick-or-treating kids away. She takes an immediate liking to it and decides to keep the puppy despite the dangers brewing as Death tells her that hellhounds have escaped into the world.

I would have to say that this was one of my absolute favorite stories from the collection. The start is very strong and extremely attention-grabbing—it definitely pulled me right in. I loved the character of Nancy and the way Death was depicted. The characterization was phenomenal. The writing was quirky and charming, and Pugh created the perfect atmosphere and tone for the story that she told. This one was more light-hearted and silly and I loved it.

The Author by Karen Yun-Lurz (4/5)

This story was written in verse, which was a unique and interesting change to mix in with the regular short stories. It was a rewriting of “The Raven” and focused on this author’s experience trying to come up with a new piece of work for the Write or Die (WorD) group. It tells of the struggles to begin a piece of writing and the process as ideas form in one’s mind. Then, she moves on to the editing, rewording, and perfectionism that inevitably follows.

This was such a creative take on the original poem and matched up with it very well. This poem was humorous and over-dramatized, which I loved. Yun-Lurz did a great job of blending in the theme of being a writer at work while staying faithful to the classic. The way she personified aspects of the writing process—like writer’s block into an imp that came to pester her—was very clever.

Coney Hijinx by Joe Coluccio (3.5/5)

A man named Rufus sees someone dressed as a rabbit walk into his local tavern and, as this is, of course, a very curious sight, he decides to follow and talk with him. The rabbit-man insists that he is not in a costume and Rufus notes that he speaks with a cartoonish voice. When Rufus asks what he is, the rabbit-man’s name sounds like a bunch of odd letters and clicking sounds, but he then says he just goes by Claude. Rufus follows Claude and gets in a car with him for a very strange journey down a rabbit hole and into another civilization entirely.

This was yet another extremely quirky story which I definitely liked. I will say, it felt very random and left me with quite a lot of questions. I would have liked a little more detail and set up but, as this is flash fiction, I understand why it was not in the story. The writing was light and clear and the characterization was solid. The author did a decent job creating this story in the constrictions of the short length. Overall, it was really weird and I enjoyed it.

Halloween Haiku by Douglas Gwilym (5/5)

The format changes here from short stories/flash fiction to haikus, which I absolutely loved. Having this poetry interspersed with the full stories worked extremely well in this collection. The work found here is a series of creepy and dark haikus that are perfect for Halloween. Gwilym conveys an eerie atmosphere and conjures up detailed images in such a small number of words. This section was a nice change of pace and served to enhance the atmosphere of the book as a whole.

In His Own Blood by Jon Carroll Thomas (3/5)

In this story, our narrator is summoned through a book and into an ancient artifact. He is arriving to meet his new master—a necromancer—but things do not go as planned. This is about all I can give in terms of a synopsis for this one. It is by far the shortest of the stories as it is only a few paragraphs in length. However, the author does a great job of establishing the tone and voice of the narrator very quickly. The writing is very strong and uses a lot of detail. It is hard to judge something this short, but it definitely left me wishing there was more. And the last few sentences were gruesome and really packed a punch.

To Bridge the Night by Brandon Ketchum (3.5/5)

While stumbling drunkenly along Betsy Ross Bridge, Tyler comes across a woman dressed in a Victorian outfit. He starts to talk with her and finds that her manner of speaking is very old-fashioned and out-of-place. The lady asks where he goes to university and their talk turns quickly to the bridge they are standing on, as well as the new parking lot of the school, both of which have recently been completed. They were both built on land that previously consisted of cemeteries and, mid-conversation, Tyler finds the woman suddenly becoming quite angry.

I personally thought that the characterization was very good, particularly with Tyler. Ketchum definitely captured his drunken attempts at flirting and generally how a guy Tyler’s age might act decently well. I also quite liked his writing and storytelling style. The story was a bit predictable but still engrossing and I think that Ketchum did a good job making a complete story within the small amount of space he had. It still felt rushed, but it was a solid story overall.

A Sandbox Singular by Thomas Sweterlisch (2/5)

This story begins with a guy named Reggie who has just woken up and is stretching in preparation for a run along with a number of other runners. Immediately we get the sense that this is not the world we know, as Reggie refers to other people as “organics” and speaks about how everyone is not only running naked but that they all have visible burns on their skin from acid rain. It is established that runners who accumulate the most laps win the day and that this is some sort of task he and the others have been assigned to do. The curiousness of the situation hits its peak when the point-of-view of “the Mother” is worked in—a mysterious, omniscient being that wipes away all motivations and pleasures from those she watches over.

The descriptions of the characters and most of the environment were very detailed, but I was not a huge fan of this story. There were way too many questions left in the end and not in a good way. Rather than leave me imagining the possibilities, it felt incomplete. I understood parts but, since it was so short, there were a lot of things that never made sense and never got explained. It was mysterious, but some aspects of it did not seem to fit with others. I could comprehend what was literally happening within each moment. However, it really did not make much sense overall and I lost interest. I love weird stories, but this was a bit much for the short length.

Etymology of WorD by Diane Turnshek (3/5)

In this final story, one of the founders of the Write or Die group describes how all the participants came together and helped each other for many years with writing critiques. She speaks about how it began with her hosting a gathering for anyone interested in joining a critique group and that many more people showed up than she had expected. They remained a group that was open to the public and had very few but strict rules to focus themselves.

They welcomed all writers and supported each other through everything, whether it was the publishing process or work just written for fun. By 2011, many members had left due to moving from the area or because of various other commitments and it was disbanded in June of that year. It sounds like it was an absolutely wonderful group that did so much to bring like-minded individuals together and provide the strength and support that they all truly needed.

Overall, I had some varied feelings about this collection, but it made for a fun, quick read that I did enjoy for the most part, especially as a pre-Halloween read. Short stories are always nice to have around to mix in amongst a long list of full-length novels. As I said before, I believe these particular stories would be classified as flash fiction, so the collection as a whole is extremely short. While I do not think that all of the ideas present here worked as well as they could have if they had been fleshed out into longer stories, the great amount of talent and creativity housed within these pages is very recognizable.

3.0 TARDISes

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Top Ten Tuesday – April 18th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten things that will make you instantly want to read a book. It was a little tough thinking up ten things that turn me on to a book, which is odd considering I will read just about anything I can get my hands on. I guess that goes to show that I will give any book a try, but I somewhat rarely feel that need to instantly pick up a novel. However, there are a few cases where this is true.

Time Travel or Parallel Universes – Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely addicted to books about time travel and/or parallel universes. Honestly, this is one of the only cases where there is practically no hesitation on my part. I will literally read anything I find that involves either time travel, parallel worlds, or (preferably) both!

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Books About Books – I think many book lovers out there can relate to this one! I love reading books in which reading and literature plays a huge part. This can come in the form of the characters being book nerds like myself, the setting being somewhere like a bookstore or library, or a storyline that is shaped around either a real or fictional book within the book.

Recommendations – I’m not one who typically gives into major hype about books—I have been disappointed many times when I get sucked into that. However, if a friend that I trust and share a similar reading taste with highly recommends something, I will pick it up straight away. People like my best friend Lizzie, and my awesome blogger besties Heather and Anna, are to blame for much of my ever increasing TBR pile!

Retellings – I am a complete sucker for retellings. Whether it’s a retelling of a classic novel, folklore, or fairytale, that’s pretty much all I need to know before I pick it up. This can occasionally amount to me reading a really crappy version of a story I love. But many times I have discovered some absolutely wonderfully crafted retellings with their own unique twist.

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Interesting Magic System – I love love love fantasy novels! This is the primary genre that I read, but I do get a bit picky with them, at least in recent years. There are a lot of novels that deal with the same subjects over and over again, and those don’t make for the best reading experience. However, any fantasy novel with a unique-sounding magic system will instantly pique my interest.

Modern Fairytale – As I mentioned, I love fairytales and folklore, and I love present-day novels that give off that fairytale or folklore feeling. I find those types of stories to be absolutely beautiful and captivating. I really hope I can write a story like that one day.

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Highly Praised Classic – I am a huge fan of classic literature—I was always that weird kid in English class that loved almost every book they made us read! So if a classic is highly praised, either by people I know or just in general, I will most likely pick it up. I won’t say I always like them, but I’ll at least give them a try!

Little to No Romance – I’ve talked about this many times before, that, despite being a hopeless romantic, I actually really do not like reading about romance in novels. Sometimes a little bit is nice, bit I find that there are so many instances where it completely overshadows the actual plot. So if a novel boasts little to no romance, that’s definitely a plus for me.

Noir or Gothic – I love noir and gothic everything! Books, movies—you name it, I love it! So of course, these are major turn-ons for me when it comes to finding books. If it has a noir or gothic setting, I’m getting my read on! 😛

Sounds Like Sherlock Holmes – And finally, the most embarrassing book turn-on I have to admit. I typically don’t go for books that are compared to other books I love because ninety percent of the time, I end up feeling disappointed in a book that may have been great if I weren’t holding it to the highest possible standard. However, the one thing that gets me every time is when a novel (or a character in a novel) is compared to Sherlock Holmes…or Doctor Who (hence my love of the Jackaby series!).

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Honorable Mentions

Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, Victoria Schwab – …Enough said… 🙂

What are some things that make you instantly want to read a book? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for next Tuesday when I talk about my book turn-offs!

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March 2017 TBR

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Hey everyone!

First off, I would like to take a minute to thank all of you for all the love, support, and positivity you have been giving me since my last post! I am so thankful for each and every one of you, and I feel so blessed to be a part of such an incredible community of genuinely kindhearted people. You all give me so much strength and keep a smile on my face. You are all absolutely amazing! 🙂 ❤

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been going through the biggest reading slump I’ve ever had. I’ve had a difficult time focusing while reading, as well as just getting motivated enough to pick up a book. I DEFINITELY want to change this! I haven’t made a TBR in quite some time, but I think organizing my reading list a bit and setting some solid goals for myself would really help right now. So let’s give it a try (even though I’m super late this month!). I’ll also be posting some other TBR goals for this year in the coming weeks.

Right now, I mainly need to catch up on some of my ARCs and review copies, so most of my list will fall into this category.

March TBR

Doctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

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I was recently sent a few books by the lovely Sarah from Smith Publicity for review (thank you, Sarah!), and I absolutely can’t wait to pick them up! This first one is a collection of Doctor Who short stories, and I plan to read them throughout the course of the month.

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

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This was another of the books that I was sent for review. It is the first novel of a very exciting-sounding mystery series, which is definitely right up my alley. I am reading and reviewing an ARC of the second book in the series—which is being released later this month—so of course, I have to get going on this first one!

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

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The last book I was sent is, of course, the ARC of the second book in this mystery series. This is another one of my priority reads!

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

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I just recently discovered Sarah Andersen’s work, so as soon as I saw this on Netgalley, I knew I had to request a copy! It looks like a really quick fun and hilarious read. I’m really looking forward to it!

A Soul to Take by Emily Taylor

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I was contacted recently about participating in a blog tour for a few upcoming releases, and the first one on the list is this YA paranormal/dystopian novel. My date for review is March 23rd, so I’ve definitely got to get going on this one!

Proof of Lies by Diana Rodriguez Wallach

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This is another novel I was recently sent by the publisher—the first book in a new YA mystery series. It sounds like it is going to be full of fast-paced action, intrigue, and spies, and definitely promises to be an exciting read.

The Outs by E.S. Wesley

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One more novel that I was sent for review recently was The Outs by E.S. Wesley. This is another new dystopian YA novel, and we already know how much I love them! So I thought this would be a good one to pick up this month, if I have the time.

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

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This is a novel I totally should have read back during Halloween, but horror/thriller novels are great at any time of the year! This particular book was recommended to me by my good friend, and fellow blogger, Heather from The Sassy Book Geek. Heather and I have extremely similar tastes in novels, so I think I’m really going to enjoy this read quite a lot. Also, Heather wrote a wonderful review of The Girl from the Well, so make sure to head over to her blog and check that out!

This list is probably a bit ambitious considering the amount of March we have left, but I’m hoping to get through a decent chunk of it! What have you guys been reading this month? Let me know down in the comments. 🙂

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Update + Writing

Hey Everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a general update post, so I figured it was about time! Also I’m sorry in advance if this ends up being rambley and all over the place!

First of all…I officially hit 300 followers the other day!! 😀

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A year ago when I first started this blog, I never imagined it growing into what it has! And that is all thanks to you amazing and wonderful people! I am completely shocked, and I feel so honored to have such an incredible community of book lovers coming by and reading my bookish ramblings. I absolutely adore chatting with all of you and meeting people from all over the world through our common interests. That is the coolest thing ever! 

Thank you all so much for following my little blog, and for all of your love and support. I know that my posting has been quite spotty and inconsistent in recent months, and you guys still stand by me even while I go through this tough time in my life. That means more to me than I could ever express. Each and every single one of you are awesome! ❤

Second, I wanted to give you guys a bit of a general life/blog update!

Though I have been getting back on track with posting/commenting/replying, I know I have really been inconsistent lately, and I apologize. I’ve let some life stress and sadness get to me, and that has caused me to go through the biggest reading and blogging slump I’ve ever been through.

Not only have I been behind on reviewing, but I have been terrible at replying to your comments in a timely manner. I promise, I always read (and appreciate!) every comment you guys leave, even if it takes me forever to respond! I’ve also been awful at leaving comments on your posts, but rest assured, I am always checking out your blogs and keeping up with your posts every day. ❤

Some of my goals going forward:

  • I will be catching up on reading/reviewing, and eventually trying to get to a point where I’m posting at least one to two reviews each week.
  • I would like to be getting at least three to four posts up per week.
  • I’ll be much quicker about replying to all of your comments!!
  • I’ll be better at keeping up with all of YOUR posts and much more consistent with commenting on them as well.

Thank you all again for sticking with me through this, and I promise, things will be improving around here! 🙂

And lastly, I’ve made some new changes and additions to the site!

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve gone and added some new graphics to the blog. Finally, I’ve created a header (took me long enough!), and some general new designs for my pages. I’m hoping to do a bit more with the site in terms of the design, but it’s not my strongest area so it may take some time!

Also, I have done something I have been debating for quite some time which is add a section for my personal, creative writing to this blog. I haven’t had a place to share my creative writing for quite some time, so I figured, why not put some on here! I’ll be updating it more in the future, but for now I have a short story, some excerpts from full stories, and a few poems to start off. So, just in case anyone’s interested… 🙂

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And here’s an example of what you’ll find there:

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Prologue

Many faces passed up and down Westminster Road each day, all respectively bearing a distinct expression. Every person possessed a detailed and utterly singular mask, crafted by every moment experienced within his or her lifetime and continuously changing as the seconds ticked by. Some were fresh and eager, others timeworn and wise, but all were important. No two were—nor ever could be—the same.

The road was rich in history, full of marvel and intrigue. It had seen change, felt every footstep, heard every sound made and word uttered. It had been the sole witness to the drama of human life that unceasingly played out. A million stories flooded the streets, tumbled from the eaves of houses and the signs of shops, and danced on the wind among discussions and shouts.

However, life would not pause to observe, time would not stop to catch its breath, and the faces bled together into a mass of chaos and bustling traffic. These stories remained untold, trampled into the dusty ground of the old town where they were never bothered again. Secrets melted into the spaces between cobblestones and the cracks in walls. The days hurried on, the nights slept peacefully, and nothing in particular was noticed. This was the first mistake.

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I know a number of you guys are writers as well, so I’m also really hoping that some of you will share your writing with me! I would absolutely love to read some of your work! Always feel free to send me links to your writing, either in the comments here or in the writing section of my blog!

Anyway, that’s all for now! Hope you are all doing well, and I’ll talk to you in my next post! 😀 ❤

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April 2016 TBR

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Happy April, everyone! I am quite late with my TBR and wrap-up this month—and it’s definitely going to be a bit of a shorter one than usual—but it’s finally here. If you read my update post last week, you’ll know that I had a bit of a difficult March. However, I am back and as quirky (and nerdy) as ever! Things are finally beginning to get back on track, and I am aiming to catch up on reading and blogging as much as possible in April. Thank you guys for all the love and support. Hopefully this month will be much better than the last! 🙂 ❤

April TBR

1. The Masterpiecers by Olivia Wildenstein

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This is one of the books I have received for review, and it is what I am currently reading. I’m not too far into it yet, but at this point I’m enjoying it quite a bit. The writing style flows very well and the mystery in the premise has me very interested to see where the story goes. Dark, mysteries are a definite favorite of mine to read, so I’m hoping this plot will continue to remain strong.

2. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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This is one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I am beyond excited to read it. I’ve been hearing some mixed reviews, but that has not got me any less eager to dive into this novel!

3. The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

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This is another book that I was sent for review (thank you, David!). It is a retelling—or a continuation, rather—and a darker sounding one at that, which we all know is one of my favorite types of stories. I’m quite intrigued by the premise and I am really looking forward to seeing where he takes the idea. This should hopefully be my next read, in fact.

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I will also be continuing to read The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror by Joyce Carol Oates and The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Read in March

Not surprisingly, this was a bit of a rough reading month, but I did manage to get a few books finished.

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1. Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick – This was my first experience with Matthew Quick’s work and I’ll say it was definitely a solid one. It was a pretty enjoyable read overall, and it’s got me looking forward to reading his other novels. Full review coming soon!

2. The Haters by Jesse Andrews – I’m running a bit behind on my review for this book because I’m still trying to get my thoughts about it in order. It’s one of those books where I’m still not entirely sure how I felt about it and I need to let my brain do a bit more processing. Full review coming soon!

Anticipated Releases of April

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  1. Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell by Liane Shaw (April 5th, 2016)
  2. Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey (April 19th, 2016)

What books do you want to read in April? Are you looking forward to any new releases this month? Let me know in the comments! 😀

-Ariana

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Review: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

thememoirsofsherlockholmesThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Sherlock Holmes #4

Date Published: July 24th, 2012 (first published in 1894)

Publisher: BBC Books

Pages: 340 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is the second collection of short stories Arthur Conan Doyle wrote chronicling the various cases that Sherlock Holmes works on accompanied by Dr. John Watson, the narrator of the tales. Originally, there were twelve stories that were each individually published in The Strand Magazine prior to being released together as a whole novel in 1894. However, for unclear reasons, only eleven of these stories were put into the first London edition and subsequent U.S. editions of this collection. The omitted story was later published in the fourth collection of short stories, His Last Bow.

Arthur Conan Doyle creates literary magic once again, continuing the adventures of his great detective. I was equally as absorbed by these new mysteries as I was by those in the previous novel. I found myself falling in love all over again with these iconic characters and Doyle’s extraordinary storytelling style. There were more surprising twists and turns, and each case kept me on my toes in the way I so enjoy.

This is the collection that contains some of the most iconic stories and characters of the Sherlock Holmes series, including Holmes’s brother, Mycroft. We also finally see him face off against his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, arguably one of the most famous characters from the novels.

Not only do we get new cases, but we are also given a glimpse into Holmes’s past. We see how he got his start, how he became the master of deduction. We are also treated to what I felt was a more thorough depiction of Holmes’s more human side; no matter how astounding he is, Doyle never lets us lose sight of that aspect of his character.

Doyle goes more in-depth in his intriguing juxtaposing of Holmes and Watson, further demonstrating Holmes’s remarkable abilities while allowing the highly intelligent doctor to hold his own. I felt there was even more of an equal display of their individual talents throughout these stories than in the first collection. Watson is given many an opportunity to show off his invaluable medical skills during a number of cases.

I loved every story in this novel, though I did feel like my opinions of each of them were a bit more varied than my opinions of the stories in the collection preceding this. There were a few stories that did not resonate with me quite as much as others. Despite this, the stories were overall enjoyable and enthralling, and I devoured them as enthusiastically as ever. This was a spectacular read and a welcome new addition to my list of all-time favorite novels.

I’ll very briefly go more in-depth with a summary of each of the individual stories in the collection. Note: These are spoiler-free descriptions.

My favorite stories from this collection were Silver Blaze, The Adventure of the Yellow Face, The Final Problem, The Adventure of the Resident Patient, and The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter.

  1. Silver Blaze

In this story, Holmes is called in to investigate the disappearance of a famously talented racehorse right before an important race, as well as the coinciding murder of the horse’s trainer. I was completely absorbed in this horse’s tale, and loved the many bewildering events in and layers of the storyline; like many of the tales, it was not at all a straightforward plot. In my opinion, there was also a particularly good depiction of both Holmes’s and Watson’s individual talents. Silver Blaze was by far my favorite story in this particular collection.

  1. The Adventure of the Yellow Face

In this case, a man hires Holmes to discover, by any means necessary, why his wife keeps secretly and frequently visiting a nearby cottage. I enjoyed this because I found the themes that it dealt with to be uncharacteristic of the stories thus far and, delightfully, dealt with in a very open-minded way that was surprising for the time period this was published in. This was another one of my favorites; it was quite a unique story and had a very touching ending. It is also one of the few cases that Holmes does not solve correctly, and contains one of my favorite quotes: “Watson, if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper ‘Norbury’ in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you.”

  1. The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk

In The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk, a young man by the name of Hall Pycroft comes to Holmes about a suspiciously well-paying job that he has just been offered. He had recently gotten a good job as a clerk with a company in London, after having lost his previous job at another stockbroker’s, when a man named Arthur Pinner approached him about yet another job. This job was a position at a hardware company and had nothing to do with stockbroking; it was a much better offer so he had quickly taken it. However, things soon started to feel off about this new position when Pinner asked that Pycroft not resign from the other job.

  1. The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

This story breaks from the traditional format, as Holmes takes over as narrator and relates this tale of his past to Watson. Holmes tells Watson about one of the first cases he ever worked on: helping out a friend from university, Victor Trevor, whose father received a seemingly insignificant letter that induced a stroke. I was very torn in my feelings about this story. I felt as though this was one of the weaker ones, and the actual mystery itself fell a bit flat for me. However, this story also shows Holmes in his early years, when he was only just becoming the incredible detective we all know him to be. It is one of the first looks we get into his past, and we are shown a new and fascinating side of him in his interactions with his schoolmate.

  1. The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual

This is another story where Holmes takes over as narrator and recounts one of his earliest cases to Watson. After going into business as a consulting detective, he receives a visit from Reginald Musgrave, a university acquaintance. Musgrave has come to him after two members of his staff, the maid and the butler, have gone missing. He had recently fired the butler after catching him reading a centuries old family document, the Musgrave Ritual. Musgrave gave the butler a week to leave, but he disappeared after a few days, leaving behind all of his belongings. The maid was found to be hysterical over the disappearance, and she herself suddenly went missing only nights later.

  1. The Adventure of the Reigate Squire

In this story, Holmes has just finished up with a rather stressful case and Watson, worried for his health, takes him to a friend’s estate for a rest. However, when they arrive, Holmes finds out that his detective skills are needed there. A burglary has recently occurred at the Acton estate nearby, where the thieves only took a very random assortment of items that were not very valuable. Then, a few mornings after they arrive, Holmes and Watson are informed of a second burglary at the Cunninghams’, yet another nearby estate; however, this time, the coachman at the estate has been murdered. The only physical clue found in the murder case is a small piece of paper in the man’s hand with a few mysterious words written on it. This was one of my favorite cases that Holmes worked on in this collection, and also contains what I thought was one of the most hilarious scenes that I have read in these stories so far.

  1. The Adventure of the Crooked Man

In this case, Holmes visits Watson’s practice and asks if he would like to join him in the final stage of his investigation. Holmes has been investigating the apparent murder of Colonel James Barclay. His wife Nancy is the prime suspect, though acquaintances said that they appeared to have a happy marriage. However, on the night of his death, the servants heard the couple have a terrible argument, during which Nancy called her husband by a different name. Everything suddenly went quiet and the servants were unable to gain access to the locked room. When they finally did, James Barclay lay dead and his wife remained passed out nearby, having supposedly used the Colonel’s club to commit the crime. Of course, there is much more to this case than meets the eye, as Holmes soon finds out.

  1. The Adventure of the Resident Patient

In The Adventure of the Resident Patient, Holmes is approached by Dr. Percy Trevelyan, who has found himself in a rather unusual working situation. Though he had done well in medical school, Trevelyan did not come from a wealthy background and therefore had been unable to begin a practice for himself; however, he had eventually been contacted by a benefactor by the name of Blessington, who gave him the money he needed in order to build this practice. The two men had worked out a deal where Blessington would receive three-quarters of the practice’s daily profits and, suffering from various illnesses himself, would become Trevelyan’s resident patient. Things worked out well until a week before Trevelyan comes to Holmes, when Blessington had become increasingly nervous about the security at the practice. Then two men had come to be treated by Trevelyan, and it later appeared that one of them had searched through Blessington’s room. This mystery was absolutely fascinating and was another one of my personal favorite cases in this collection.

  1. The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter

This is the first story that introduces us to Holmes’s brother, Mycroft. He not only has the same deductive and observational powers as Holmes himself but also, as Holmes states, Mycroft surpasses him in these areas. Mycroft presents him with the case of a Greek interpreter named Mr. Melas. Melas was visited one night by a man who needed his translation abilities for a business matter. This man took Melas to the location of the transaction in a coach with blacked out windows to prevent him from knowing where they were headed. The man also produced a weapon that he held by his side and told Melas that if he let anyone know of the events of this evening, he would be dealt with. When they arrive at their destination, he was brought into a house to speak with a man who, having a taped over mouth, was forced to write down his responses. A young woman who appeared to know this man interrupted their meeting and, as the two were being separated, Melas was rushed back out of the house and into the carriage. This was a very unique and intriguing case, and this story ended up being another one of my favorites from the collection.

  1. The Adventure of the Naval Treaty

In this story, Watson brings Holmes a case that an old classmate of his, Percy Phelps, has just written him about. Phelps has been suffering from a “brain fever” for a number of weeks following an incident at his workplace involving a document of international importance. He was given the task of copying this top-secret naval treaty, a task which caused him to have to stay quite late at the office one evening in order to finish. Phelps had rung for coffee from the commissioner at the office, but when it did not turn up, he went looking for him. At the same time as he found the commissioner asleep at his desk, Phelps heard the bell that indicated that someone was ringing from his office. He rushed back upstairs to find that the room was empty and the naval treaty was missing.

  1. The Final Problem

This is the first story to introduce another iconic character: Holmes’s arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. It is also the first story to make me cry. A criminal mastermind with an intellect on par with his own, Moriarty was Holmes’s greatest adversary. The pair matches wits as Holmes attempts to bring him and his organization to justice, but neither can best the other. This causes a stalemate, which ends in the famed fight at the Reichenbach Falls. The Final Problem was definitely one of my favorites from this collection. It is one of the most well known Sherlock Holmes stories so, going in, I was prepared for the concluding events. However, I must admit, those final couple of pages still made me tear up.

5.0 TARDISes

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Top 5 Wednesday – October 28th, 2015

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is your top five Halloween book recommendations. Since this list is for Halloween, I was trying to think up some good ghost stories to put on here. However, as I was picking books for this topic, I was shocked to realize that I haven’t actually read all that many ghost/monster stories. This is insane because I absolutely love a good, creepy and otherworldly tale. So, since I am severely lacking in the ghost story department, I simply picked five generally creepy novels or stories that I’ve read.

I am a huge thriller/horror fan. I have read a lot of mysteries and psychological thrillers, and I love watching any spooky or thriller type movies. Many of the stories I write usually fall somewhere in the realm of horror as well. I’ve never really gotten scared by any books or movies so far, however, these are all novels that definitely sent a shiver down my spine! Though the books on this list do not all involve a supernatural storyline, they are all still perfect for this spooky time of year.

5. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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I read this graphic novel around this time last year and enjoyed it so much. It is a collection of five eerie and enthralling horror stories. Emily Carroll has crafted a wonderful collection of ghostly tales that feel sort of likes myths or legends that people might pass around. The artwork, matching the tone of the stories perfectly, is hauntingly beautiful; out of all the graphic novels I’ve read, this had one of my favorite art styles. Through the Woods was such an enjoyable read, and I would highly recommend giving it a try. These dark and chilling tales will definitely put you in the Halloween mood.

4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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I tried to change things up and pick novels for this list that weren’t on my list yesterday, but this is one that I just had to mention again. It is a classic thriller novel, one of the best for all time in my opinion, and is bone-chilling without the use of ghosts and monsters. In fact, stories like this one, where the true monster is human, can make for the most compelling and frightening reads of all.

3. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe

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Basically anything by Edgar Allan Poe makes for a perfect Halloween read. Poe is a master at crafting beautifully written and thoroughly haunting tales that will stay with you long after you read them. My personal favorite stories of his are The Cask of Amontillado, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Tell-Tale Heart.

2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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Back when Coraline first came out, a family member of mine gave it to me as a gift. My mom read it before I did, and it creeped her out so much that she actually hid the book from me. And of course, me being me, I subsequently snuck into her room, found it, and read it anyway without my parents knowing…but that’s beside the point! This is one of the most disturbing and unique books I have ever read, and I absolutely adore it. It is the book that first made me a fan of Neil Gaiman, who has been a huge inspiration to me in my own writing. His stories are quite strange and they are probably not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think that they are just fantastic and definitely perfect for Halloween!

1. The Shining by Stephen King

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What Halloween reads list would be complete without one of the best horror novels of all time? This hair-raising and unsettling horror classic, written by one of the masters of the genre, is an absolute must-read. The Shining is genuinely terrifying, by far the scariest book that I’ve ever read, and it is one of my long-time favorites. I cannot recommend it highly enough! Though I do enjoy the original film as well, I would highly suggest, if you want to watch a production of this novel, watching the miniseries version from the 90’s with Steven Weber. Stephen King played a much bigger role in the making of this adaptation, so it is a lot closer to the actual novel itself.

What are your top favorite Halloween reads? Do you have any scary/spooky novels or short stories that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments!

-Ariana

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