Countdown to 2023 – Day 18 ‘Christmas Cards’ (13 days remaining)


Today is day 18 of my countdown to 2023.  Today’s prompt is ‘Christmas Cards’.  The prompts can be found here if you want to join in.  I’m hoping to use mostly books read this year.  Let’s begin:

CHRISTMAS CARDS (A book with a hidden message)

I’m running a slight cheat with this one because I’m actually using two books instead of one.  Basically, these are both recent reads, both about immortals, both rely on classic stories and both definitely contain a message, and yet, both are so very different in style and content.  A Dowry of Blood by ST Gibson and Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste.

Tomorrow: Christmas Carols – a book with musicians, song or instruments


Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

My Five Word TL:DR Review : The forgotten females fight back


From the outset I will say that I really enjoyed this in more ways than one. On the one hand this is a cinematic style story, fast paced and, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the horror, fun, entertaining and easy to get on with.  On the other it’s like an ode to women. Kiste has taken a look at two forgotten females and rewritten their endings bringing a freshness to their stories effectively giving them a second chance whilst delivering a strong feminist message.

A quick overview of what’s taking place here.  Lucy Westenra and Bertha Mason are the two main characters and the story is narrated by Lucy.  We meet them as they houseshare in Los Angeles during the 60s, the Summer of Love – I must say that this is an inspired era to write this story, firstly, it feeds into the, well, for want of a better word, plausibility.  All these young people, desperately experimenting and in search of new experiences – they would certainly make easy pickings for the true villain of this narrative who would undoubtedly find it much easier to go unnoticed during all the partying.  And, then of course – could you be more ironic? Setting this particular tale of horror during the Summer of Love. Anway, I digress.  Lucy and Bertha (Bee) are characters from Dracula and Jane Eyre.  They’re the females who have been forgotten.  Lucy was yet one more victim of Dracula in his pursuit of Mina and Bee was the wife that Rochester hid in the attic as he pursued Jane.  Now, if you’re familiar with either of these two stories you may be aware that (slight spoiler alert) both characters died during the course of the original works. However, both have been cursed with immortality and the ability to return again and again.  Both, during the course of the years discovered each other and became friends and both now spend their existence trying to keep Dracula and Rochester at bay.

So, what did I like about this book.  Firstly, I was unaware that I needed a little feminist horror in my life but apparently I do – who knew. Secondly, I enjoyed both the characters Lucy and Bee, they both struggle with their own demons but they are consistent in their friendship to each other and adamant about their dislike for the controlling men from their lives.  Thirdly, the writing is really good.  Kiste is one of those authors who makes everything seem simple somehow. Her writing is smooth, her dialogue is completely relatable, she doesn’t overegg the pudding, there are no long winded descriptions or purple prose and just the right amount of backstory to give you a real flavour and she manages to bring some new elements to both stories, but in particular to the vampire myth.  I would say that I don’t think it’s necessary to have read both the classics used to recreate this story, although it’s easy for me to say I suppose being familiar with both.  And I enjoyed all the little nods here – but, seriously I think it’s not necessary to have read those novels (I do recommend them of course).

Reimaginings, retellings or taking a well established story and continuing it in a new light are very popular at the moment and I can totally understand why.  Not only does this give an author a chance to revisit already established places and characters but it gives them the opportunity to look at the other side of the coin.  Of course this does come with the risk of already well established fans getting huffy but in this case I think the author succeeds in not only giving two lesser known characters a new chance in the spotlight but also making them into the heroes of this story.

Now, in terms of criticisms. I’m not totally sure what I was expecting when I picked this up and I must admit that at one point I wondered where the story was going, but Kiste has a plan.  She steadily ramps up the tension and the blood letting.  She throws in well known characters and some very surreal ‘afterlife waiting room’ scenes and she manages to bring in some real life issues particularly in relation to women not only in terms of standing up for themselves but also standing up for others – so regardless of my sight early reservation I found myself becoming totally immersed.

Come for the characters and the promise of some vampire horror.  Stay for the crazy scenarios, the races, the scrapes with death and the forming (and keeping) of friendships along the way.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing so but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Books read this week:

I’ve managed to read two of my books this week and also read about 30% of my first SPFBO book.  The Winter Killer by Alex Pines which is a cosy thriller and Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste which I enjoyed.  I also posted three reviews this week, now I just need to catch up with visiting everyone and stacking up all the books I desperately want on my TBR.

Next Week’s Reads:

Reviews Posted since my last Sunday Post:

Friday Face Off : Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?


Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

I’ve added themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

This week’s theme:

Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?

Do you have a favourite.  Have you read either of these books yet – what do you think?


October – Horror/Dark
14th Witches/warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or series

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste


“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to. 

This week my book is: Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste.


Los Angeles, 1967. Lucy Westenra and Bertha Mason – the forgotten women in Dracula and Jane Eyre – have been existing as undead immortals for centuries, unable to die and still tormented by the monsters that made them.

Lucy has long fought against Dracula’s intoxicating thrall, refusing his charismatic darkness and her ensuing appetite for blood. Bertha Mason, the madwoman in the attic, is still pursued from afar by Mr Rochester, who wants to add her to his collection of devoted female followers.

Then Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return in San Francisco. To finally write their own story, Lucy and Bertha must boldly reclaim their stories from the men who tried to erase them in this harrowing gothic tale of love, betrayal and coercion.

Expected publication : November 2022