This isn’t a normal review because this isn’t a normal story. I’m saying nothing about the plot or characters. Nothing.
Just read it.
Starve Acre is a book that begs so many questions and creates so many thoughts from start to finish.
Here’s a ‘running commentary’ as it were, of my reading experience..
-oooh hello there beautifully poetic, darkly disturbing writing
-hang on, wait, what’s happening?
-soooo, what happened before then?
-crikey, what’s GOING to happen?
-OMG, WHY is it happening?
-wait, WHAT?! Erm, what on earth did he do?
-WHY did he do it?
-Jeez, why is she like this?
-And why the hell is he like that?
-*Brain explodes* The End.
And all that in under 250 pages!! Unbelievable!
I started off putting post it notes marking notable paragraphs every ten, maybe 15 pages. But really Starve Acre is one big post it note of dark beauty. Every paragraph of every page is post-it note worthy, so I gave up.
Anyway, do yourself a favour, read Starve Acre. I’ve just ordered Hurleys’ other two books, The Loney and Devils Day, because it’s the law.
“What you go searching for and what you find aren’t always the same”.
New Animal piqued my interest as it had a mix of all the dark things I look for in a book. By the time I’d read the first few chapters, I knew that Ella Baxter has quite a way with words.
Set in Australia and Tasmania, a setting that I very much enjoy, I was instantly transported into the life of Amelia and felt I could relate to her in ways that surprised me.
She’s an intelligent woman who instead of dwelling on all the sadness and confusion her life throws at her, she decides to deal with her grief by leaving her job/home/family and crashes straight into the BDSM scene.
Death in the family? Deal with it by going to a fetish club. Why not?! Who says there’s a right or wrong way to do these things.
However, New Animal isn’t a story about the kinky sex life of a woman who’s going off the rails. It’s about coping and not coping. Sometimes it takes a trauma in life to set people off on a journey in order to get their head together.
I flew through this at quite a speed, the writing style had a grip on me more than the story itself. The descriptions were so vivid.
There are definitely scenes in this book that would be triggering for some. It’s crass, violent, and at times, brutal. One scene made me cringe and that is a rarity for me! I love to push the boundaries though, give me all the reading-feels, even the uncomfortable ones!
Overall, New Animal was a dark and very well written story. It won’t be for everyone, but Ella Baxter and her New Animal has given me something to think about.
Recommended for people who can appreciate that human nature can be an off-kilter thing and for those who don’t mind feeling just a tiny bit disgusted by stuff humans do to each other.
Out 17 February 2022
Ella Baxter is a writer and artist living in Melbourne, Australia.
If there’s one horror trope I always make a beeline for, it’s got to be the “Haunted House” one. What initially caught my eye with Beverley’s book was just how frightening the cover art is! I mean, look at it! Dead eyes staring out at the reader, with a sinister knowing….*shivers*.
Good covers really are important, I do judge a book by them, more so within the horror genre for some reason, I just can’t help myself! The House of Little Bones doesn’t have a good cover, it has a GREAT cover. Kudos to the artist/designers for sure!
“David Lansdown, esteemed British horror writer and supernatural sceptic, is used to basking in the glow of the press…
Until a hastily snapped photo hits the headlines and makes his affair with his publisher’s son public. When David finds himself at Bone Hollow, a house with a glass wall overlooking a wild and desolate moor, his only concern is writing his next best seller to bury his misdeeds in the past.
But something stirs beneath the earth…”
Haunted house stories are out there in their tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions! I don’t know! Anyway, there is a load of them! So what makes The House of Little Bones stand out?
Well, from the outset I could tell that Beverley created David, her main character, with careful thought and consideration. He has authenticity, his mannerisms, thought processes, his back story. As other characters were introduced and the story unfolded, I realised that every character in the story felt of high importance in their own right.
I’ve noticed over the years that I enjoy reading about characters who are authors, and how they’re attempting to write their book within the story I’m reading.
The House of Little Bones, became a tempting story very early on, the feelings of mystery and unexplained goings-on were pretty full-on in terms of spook-factor. There’s more to everyone in this story than initially meets the eye, this, in itself hooked me in very quickly.
After 20/30 pages, I felt a bit on edge and had to put the light on. (Only because it was getting dark, not at all because my mind was playing tricks on me, you understand!)
The House of Little Bones is the most perfect story for this time of year. It’s well written, not overly complicated and very creepy. I particularly enjoyed the way Beverley connected the historical aspects of the story in small bursts throughout and then used a chapter at the end to tie everything together.
The relationships between the characters were convincing, the setting on the moor oozed bleak desolation and chilling atmosphere. The build up and the finale had me holding my breath, I was appreciative of the historical round-up to help settle my heart!
The House of Little Bones is designed to pull on the heartstrings, engross and enchant. It’s a beautifully measured Halloween recipe that delivered everything I love about horror fiction.
I look forward to reading more from Beverley Lee, I’ll be recommending her writing based on reading just this one book.
Thank you Beverley for sending me an e-arc, it was a pleasure to read.
Beverley Lee is a writer of dark fiction (dark fantasy/horror/supernatural suspense). Her first book The Making of Gabriel Davenport picked up three 5 star seals when recently reviewed by Readers’ Favorite. It also won the June Go Indie Now! Excellence in Literature Award for her poetic style, outstanding plot, and complex characters.
An immortelle is a long-lasting flower arrangement placed on graves in cemeteries. They were originally made from natural dried flowers or could be made from artificial materials such as china and painted plaster of paris or beads strung on wire arrangements. Unless made of a highly durable material (e.g. china), they would often be enclosed in a glass container (known as globes) to protect them from the weather.
Elinor’s daughter, Rowena, is found poisoned and dead in an animal trough, Elinor is certain the local priest is to blame. Influenced by her late grandmother’s interest in supernatural magic, Elinor crafts an Immortelle for Rowena’s grave in an attempt to capture her daughters spirit.
I’m not telling you anything else about the story. I read very little about it before starting (other than to find out what an ‘Immortelle’ is) and I think this is the best way to read.
Witchcraft, the natural world, mother/daughter relationships, (a firm favourite of mine) gothic tones, alchemy, love, hope, grief, the supernatural, spirituality, revenge, good/evil, it’s all in here. For a 95 page novella, it’s full to the brim of everything I look for in gentle, quiet horror.
We weren’t quite in September when I started, but on reading the first three chapters, I knew I’d made the right choice to kick off my “Spooky Season” reads.
My favourite time of year by far, Autumn is THE time for enjoying books that chill, thrill and creep into my mind. Horror doesn’t have to be all blood and guts and carnage. Horror can be subtle, hidden in the shadows, full of atmosphere and tension, characters created with careful consideration so the story instantly comes to life, an easy invitation to become entranced. Catherine’s novella has all this, and so much more.
Her story telling is mesmerising. It feels as though it’s made of the most sublime ingredients. She has a way with words, a way with pace and timing. Immortelle ticked every box. It is an astonishingly beautiful story. I had many moments with it where I had to stop and think and appreciate.
If you enjoy calm, wistful horror with touches of darkness, I highly recommend Catherine’s writing.
‘I press on, guided by the rhythmic lap of the sea, her breath a sizzle as it caresses the shore and a gasp as she sucks a mouthful back. The slow rhythm steadies my breathing, and the distant beam from the lighthouse, which seems to flash in time with the waves, illuminates the scene in a sweeping arc’.
Meet Molly Gray. 25, lovable, intelligent and rather eccentric. Her mind is as organised as her maids trolley, she’s a stickler for routine, order and cleanliness, so working at the five star Regency Grand Hotel is the perfect job for her.
I’m not one for reading cosy mysteries, they can be a bit ‘twee’ for my tastes, but there is so much more to Molly than meets the eye. I got this feeling from reading just the synopsis. When my request was approved on NetGalley, the prologue reinforced my theory that this Molly character really had quite an edge.
“Have I mentioned how much I detest cheaters? Cheaters deserve to be thrown in quicksand and to suffocate in filth”.
I really enjoyed this closed (hotel!) room style murder mystery. Nita Prose created a dazzling hotel, the descriptions and scene settings were so easy to visualise. Inside the hotel, the array of characters were as colourful and as quirky as the hotel decor itself. From kind, gentle and caring, to acerbic, unlikeable and untrustworthy, The Maid had it all.
Molly lived with her Gran, but sadly she passed away, so Molly is left to deal with life and everything that’s thrown at her by herself. She finds interacting with people a little tricky and prefers to be blending in and doing her job rather than being the centre of attention.
Mollys world is tipped on its head in an instant when she discovers the dead body of hotel guest Mr Black, on the bed in one of the hotel rooms, and so the story takes off from there.
Mollys intelligence and unusual way of thinking things through is tip top entertainment from the word go. She maybe JUST a maid, but she’s not daft. Far from it.
“Cheryl may be my boss, but she’s definitely not my superior. There is a difference, you know”.
I enjoyed how Molly and her Grans relationship and their backstories were subtly weaved in throughout the story giving little nuggets of who they are and how they came to be.
“Where shall we travel tonight?” she (Gran) would ask. “To the Amazon with David Attenborough or to Japan with National Geographic?”
Molly went from delightful, model employee to a deep, dark thinker at the drop of a hat.
“…I fantasised about all the things I would do – spray bleach in her face, strangle her with a bathrobe tie…”
This is the main reason I loved this story as much as I did. Me and my dark heart, lapping up those macabre moments. I had lots of questions dancing around in my mind about what kind of person Molly truly was, and I wasn’t disappointed when things began to fall into place. I was rooting for her from the get-go.
The Maid is thoroughly enjoyable, completely believable and above all, a cracking murder mystery. I read that the film rights have been bought for it and an actor chosen already to play the part of Molly. That, I have got to see!!
Thank you so much to the publishers, Harper Collins, for my advance readers e-copy via the NetGalley platform, it was an absolute pleasure to read.