Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Case of the Screaming Beauty by Alison Golden - Book Review

Book: The Case of the Screaming Beauty
Book 1 in the Inspector David Graham Series
Genre: Cozy mystery
Number of pages: 152

"That's the thing about murder, isn't it? They never quite happen as one would prefer. For the most part, they're crimes of passion, committed suddenly and without much planning."

The Case of the Screaming Beauty by Alison Golden is the first book in the Inspector David Graham cozy mystery series.

The series is set in the UK, but the first book is set in Chiddlinghurst – I struggled to pronounce that name throughout the book. The novel opens with a married couple in their sixties, Amelia and Cliff, who have inherited The Lavender, a countryside bed and breakfast (B&B).

The setting is beautiful from the start and you can't help but love the couple, especially Amelia. However, early on Amelia hears one of her guests screaming, only to knock on her door and find the woman, Norah, all smiles. A day later, they discover Norah dead in the bathroom.

"It makes me nervous when there isn't even the whiff of a suspect. Tends to mean that there's a juicy backstory I haven't heard yet."

Enter Detective Inspector David Graham, whom the series is primarily about. Graham has to sort through little evidence and a strange pool of suspects to find out Norah's killer.

The Case of the Screaming Beauty is my first read for Alison Golden, but certainly not my last. I've already downloaded a few of her books in this series because I'm part of her newsletter and she's offering 1 free book a week as part of her #StayHomeReadBooks hashtag on Twitter and Newsletter. So, yes, The Case of the Hidden Flame, here I come.

Unlike other cozy mystery series where there is an amateur sleuth, the main character in The Case of the Screaming Beauty, and later books in the series, is a police officer.
I also liked how Alison Golden sprinkled bits of information on how things are processed like when getting samples.

"Bert drew blood for toxicology screens and requested a full work-up of the lab results, which would show, among other things, whether Norah was pregnant, taking drugs, drunk, or poisoned."

The Inspector David Graham series is indeed a combination of cozy mystery with a CSI-like feel. And I loved it!

And for some reason, I couldn't help but feel that The Case of the Screaming Beauty reminded me of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile. The two are worlds apart but there's that feel.

When I finished reading the book, I learnt that Golden describes Inspector Graham as a kind of Hercule Poirot and I could totally feel that. Also, the ending where all the suspects were gathered for the finale is very Agatha Christie.

Golden describes Graham as "a British detective who is part-Sherlock Holmes, part-Poirot, and, of course, uniquely himself."

The only thing I disliked was the long chapters. The book is divided into 7 chapters, some I think were over 20 pages long. It was a quick read, but it would have been faster if there were more chapters. 

Update: In her newsletter dated 27 May 2020, author Alison Golden said she had included an epilogue to The Case of the Screaming Beauty. In addition, she said: "I also responded to a reader request to shorten the chapters. I did that by splitting each chapter into three."

My overall rating for The Case of the Screaming Beauty by Alison Golden: 4.5 stars.

Note: You can get The Case of the Screaming Beauty for FREE when you subscribe to author Alison Golden's newsletter.

Add the book on Goodreads.

Other book reviews in this series: 

The Case of the Missing Letter

Reviews for Alison Golden's Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series

Connect with Alison Golden via Twitter, Facebook, her Website, where you can sign-up to her Newsletter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng – Book Review

Book: A Collection of Dreamscapes
Author: Christina Sng
Genre: Poetry Collection, Twisted Fairy Tales, Dark Poetry
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
Publication Date: 16 April 2020

Number of pages: 170

A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng is a poetry collection divided into 5 sections and featuring an array of beautifully dark poems.

I particularly enjoyed the rewritten "Fairy Tales" and "Myths and Dreamscapes" sections.

A Collection of Dreamscapes opens with "Allegra," a 5-star stunning and beautiful mythological story within a poem. I absolutely loved this one. I must note though, that the poems in this opening section should be read in order – as I realized – but you will enjoy them nonetheless.

As I said, I loved the "Fairy Tales," where Sng takes on common tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and twists them all. Sng also has several different stories/poems about a single fairy tale, like Rapunzel.

My favorites were: "Little Red," "Snow," "The Girl from the Tower," "Jack and the Giants," and "The Mermaid."

"Snow," the poem on the Snow White and Seven Dwarves tale, is different from anything I've read. Sng introduces ideas such as social media into the story. That said, I felt the poem was a bit long, less poetic in some places, and unbelievable in others. Still, it was definitely a far cry from the prince charming theme known for these types of tales but still Snow White wasn't the strong woman, unlike Sng's version of The Red Riding Hood.  

An interesting take is Sng bringing the modern world into the fairy tales. Interesting but a bit jarring still. You can find this in "Snow" and "Rapunzel."

"Beauty Sleeps for a Century" is a good rewrite of the Cinderella story, however, there was a significant repetition of "but" throughout that, for me, disturbed the flow of the poem.

I also liked how Sng mixed some of the tales together as you'll see in "Cinderella," "Always a Beast" and "Living Well Is the Best Revenge."

I absolutely loved "When There Are Monsters." It’s a dark and powerful piece and easily relatable to the real world, where monsters aren't just confined to books or TV screens.

The poem "The Monsters Within" is one of the more gruesome pieces in A Collection of Dreamscapes. It sent shivers down my spine. Similarly, "Violation" is a dark, gruesome and heartbreaking piece.

"In the Tall Grass" is a full on sci-fi poem. And I've never read a poem like it before. It's interesting, exciting, and definitely different.

I absolutely loved "The Lady of the Lake," with Sng's take on it; dark but brilliant. I wish I can quote it whole.

"The Joy of Sewing" is a creepy and gruesome piece that reminded me of the movie The House of Wax.

One recurring problem for me with A Collection of Dreamscapes is that many of the pieces read as more prose than poetry. An example of this is seen in "The War of the Fall," which has a great story but is not very poetic. I also found the sequence of the poem to be a bit confusing.

I have no problem with free verse, I write in it mostly myself but when writing in free verse there is a fine line between just dividing your sentence and having poetic flow to the piece. At the end of the day, you want people to read your free verse pieces as poems not as a newspaper article.

Other recommended pieces in A Collection of Dreamscapes: "Margritte of Mer," "Concepts," "Lobotomy," "Annalise Wanders the Forest," "Noonwraiths," and "The Tooth Collector."

Overall rating for Christina Sng's A Collection of Dreamscapes: 4 stars

Originally I rated this collection 3 stars, but upon an inspection while writing the review, I think the book deserves 3.75 to 4 stars.

Note: I received an advanced reader's copy (ARC) of A Collection of Dreamscapes by Christina Sng from Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. This review is part of National Poetry Month.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Ship of Death by Nada Adel Sobhi - Poem

Through high wind
And a bloody red sky
The Ship of Death sails
A beast of the seven seas

Traversing perilous waters
Carrying nightmares
From centuries past

Come high water
Come rain, lightning, and thunder
Come bellowing beasts
From the dark depths

Nothing shall stand
Before the Ghost Ship of Death

Written Friday, 10 April 2020 at 02:02 am
Inspired by a painting by J Edward Neill on Twitter

Artwork by J Edward Neill

Follow J Edward Neill on Twitter and Instagram for some amazing dark artwork and books.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts by Tarek Hassan Refaat – English Book Review

Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts is a short story collection by Egyptian author Tarek Hassan Refaat. The 24-story collection, written in Arabic, is about women in general and Egyptian women in particular.

The stories are in the form of snippets of women's lives, which makes them easily relatable, while at the same time highlighting problems within the home and society.

At the end of Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts, Refaat asks the reader to look at women and the world with a view that is different and "free of judgement, free of condescension; to look without feeling better or more important than others; to look at a woman as she is: a person, with their own mind, who is capable of anything and everything." 

He further adds: "Women lack nothing except the need to have others deal with them as a person, an independent person, just like men. All that is stopping us from doing so are ideas and beliefs that are neither related to truth nor religion."

In each story, the main character or protagonist is a woman, although two stories have men as the main characters but they also revolve around women. Stories vary in length from one to three pages at most.

Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts opens with the shortest but most powerful story in the collection. Loosely translated to "A Woman and Her Suitcase," this first story paints vivid pictures in the reader's mind and leaves strong emotions in the reader's heart.

"Gamila and her Coffee" is a relatable story, and anyone who is a fan of romance will enjoy it, while "Sherine and [the] War" is a magnificent piece tackling women's struggles in Egyptian society. Five stars to this one. Here's a short excerpt from the story:

"Sherine stood before the large mirror on the inside of her wardrobe door. Silently, she stared at her face and ran her through her hair, breathing in the end of a day that felt more like a war than a day; a war like those told in stories about World War I, where soldiers run to take over some place, run with all their speed and might, ignoring a hail of bullets and shells fired by armored tanks, only to reach that point where they can stand tall then rest.

But Sherine felt like this war was her everyday struggle. Every day, she had to wage her own war against a hail of criticism, judgements, harassment and more; but worse, she was always blamed and told she was the party who wronged others not the one who was wronged."

Not all the stories in Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts, highlight women's heroics. Some offer criticism about the way some women live, especially in Egypt. "Salma and Other Women" is about that; it tackles how women often compare themselves to other women, try to compete with men, and how many women are often willing to hurt others to rise or to appear better.

Meanwhile, "Amal and the People in Her Building" sheds light on how people in Egypt often look at divorced women, like how men and other married women look at them.

I can't translate this title but the story, transliterated to "Talata Sokkar Nabata," is one of the funniest stories in Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts. Five stars to this one.

I also love "Nada and the Sea" not just because the main character shares my name but because I totally relate to this one. It's as if I'm in the story and it paints a beautiful picture in my mind. It's also how I view the sea; a place I can tell worries and stories. Another five stars are in order.

In "Mona and Beautifying [the] Pain," Refaat tackles the prevalent idea of the strong independent woman, which has forced women to create versions of themselves that appear strong and invincible on the outside. Five stars to this one.

Other recommended stories in Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts include "Emad's Dream," "Hazem and Marwa," "Feryal Wins," and "Farah Writes," among others.

I have a few other comments that pertain to the Arabic short story collection like repeated words and phrases. But should this collection be translated into English, I think this can be easily overcome. Many of the stories don't really involve dialogue, so it would be nice to have some dialogue here and there.

Overall rating for Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts by Tarek Hassan Refaat: 4 stars.

Note 1: This collection is currently available in Arabic, but if you like the review, leave me a comment below and we'll see if we can convince the author to get it translated.

Note 2: The translations provided in this review are my personal translation of the Arabic book.

Add Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts on Goodreads.

About the Author:

Tarek Hassan Refaat is an Egyptian author. Though he works in information technology, he likes to write short stories and novels in both English and Arabic.

His first book was Ruptured in 2011, followed by Ribbons and Heels in 2013 and then Broken Shadows.

Silent Lips, Speaking Hearts is first publication in Arabic, with publishing platform Kotobna. Tarek has also published another Arabic collection called Moments and is currently working on publishing two more short story collections in 2020.

Connect with Tarek Hassan Refaat via Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Sharon Pape Is Back with This Magick Marmot - Spotlight

I'm excited to be featuring author Sharon Pape on my blog again and this time she has a new book in her Abracadabra Mystery series.

Time literally flies! I first discovered Sharon Pape through the first book in this series Magick & Mayhem, a 5-star read! (Can you believe that was 2017?!) This book was one of my top reads for 2017.

I also interviewed Sharon about her series and other books in 2019.

I still plan to pick up more books in this series. Will update this post whenever I read more books for Sharon or the Abracadabra Mystery series.

Book: This Magick Marmot
Book 5 in the Abracadabra Mystery series
Author: Sharon Pape
Genre: Paranormal, Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Publication date: 7 April 2020
Paperback: Pages: 200
ISBN-10: 1516108752
ISBN-13: 978-1516108756
Digital ASIN: B083TXHJLH

A fatal case of school spirit . . .

Kailyn Wilde, owner of the Abracadabra potion shop, feels some dread anticipating her ten-year high school reunion at the new hotel in New Camel—but it turns out even worse than she feared. Running into her very first boyfriend is pleasant enough. 

Chatting with Ashley—who still can’t let go of a tragedy that happened on prom night—is a bit more uncomfortable. But the worst part comes when one of Kailyn’s oldest friends is found dead in the ladies’ room.

Soon this upstate New York town is in an uproar. And with some help from time-traveling wizard Merlin—who has adopted an unusual and alluring creature as his familiar—it’s up to Kailyn to identify the alumnus most likely to commit murder...

About the Author

Sharon Pape describes her writing career as having two stages. Back in the dark ages, before computers were in every household, she had three paranormal books published. The first one was condensed by Redbook Magazine, the first paperback original they had ever condensed. Around the same time, Redbook published her first short story.

Then life brought her an unexpected challenge that went by the name of breast cancer. When her treatment was over, she became a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery Program and went on to be the program’s coordinator for Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Several years later, with the help of her surgical oncologist and two other survivors, she started her own not-for-profit organization to provide information and peer support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.

Once the organization was running smoothly and didn’t require as much of her time, she returned to her first love – writing. During this second stage of her career, she’s been writing cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist and a splash of humor.

Connect with Sharon Pape via her Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


Enter the giveaway for an e-book set of the 5 Abracadabra Mystery books. Use the link or widget below

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Here's a section from my 5-star book review of Magick & Mayhem by Sharon Pape:

A paranormal, fast-paced, hilarious cozy mystery, Magick & Mayhem opens with Kailyn Wilde adjusting to the passing of her mother and grandmother, both witches, and to becoming the only person in charge of their magick shop "Abracadabra".

Narrated from Kailyn's first person perspective, the novel is full of humorous comments, descriptions and events. Set in the small town of New Camel, the mystery is revealed from the beginning when Kailyn and her aunt Tilly go to see their lawyer and find him dead.

"In this town, heavy traffic was five cars lined up at a red light."

One of the funniest and most entertaining aspects about Magick & Mayhem is Merlin's - yes the great wizard Merlin - adjustment to and discovery of the gadgets of the modern world, from the toilet to the iPod to pizza.

"The kettle had gone from whistling to screeching like a banshee, by the time I plucked it off the stove. Merlin stood in the middle of the kitchen, rotating like a clumsy ballerina."

Buy This Magick Marmot by Sharon Pape via Amazon and  B & N

Keep up with the rest of the blog tour featuring spotlights, book reviews, guest posts, and author and character interviews.
April 6 – Elizabeth McKenna - Author – Spotlight & Books a Plenty Book Reviews – Book Review
April 7 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – Spotlight & Laura's Interests – Book Review
April 8 – Christy's Cozy Corners – Guest Post & Brooke Blogs – Spotlight
April 9 – MJB Reviewers & Baroness' Book Trove – Book Reviews
April 10 – Literary Gold – Character Guest Post & I'm All About Books – Spotlight
April 11 – Nadaness In Motion & Ruff Drafts – Spotlights
April 12 – Cozy Up With Kathy & StoreyBook Reviews – Book Reviews
April 13 – ebook addicts – Book Review & Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – Spotlight
April 14 – Ascroft, eh? – Author Interview & I Read What You Write  &  Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book - Book Reviews
April 15 – A Wytch's Book Review Blog – Character Interview &  Rosepoint Publishing – Book Review & Dee-Scoveries – Spotlight

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