Review: Stick and Stones

Imogen has lived her life under the control of her husband, Phillip, from the first day she met him. Even after her left her and their son for a younger woman, their shared past has meant she’s never been able to be truly free of him. But when he suddenly demands she move out her house in two weeks, it start of a series of events that brings Imogen together with Phillip’s first wife and new girlfriend. Together they learn that through Phillip they share a bond no one else can understand, and decide that they will finally no longer allow him to control them.

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Sticks and Stones (Or Exes Revenge in America) is an amazing debut novel, and an astounding piece of domestic noir. Opening with the Phillip’s funeral, we’re then taken back over the previous two weeks – and the years preceding –  to discover exactly what happened that led to his death.

The story is expertly put together. It manages to twist and turn without ever feeling gimmicky or predictable. At no point do you get bored or feel anything is being padded out. Jakeman’s writing is lean and slick, leaving in nothing unnecessary. She perfectly keeps the mystery going without resorting to cheap tricks or cliches, throwing in red herrings and distractions that made it impossible to guess where we’re heading. At times I thought I’d guessed incoming reveals onto to discover I was completely wrong.

But as good as the story is, it’s the characters that really make this book. The concept of the mentally abusive husband and dominated wife finally seeking revenge is one that could easily become two dimensional, but Jakeman has created a cast of characters who all feel fleshed out and real. You really feel for Imogen, who never comes across as either comically weak or impossibly resolved. When she changes it’s because her character development brought here there, not because the plot required it to move forward. She comes across as a real person doing her best to avoid conflict with an ex-husband she knows can control her but can do nothing about, all the while fighting to protect her son over everything else. Phillip, too, is never a pantomime villain. He may be a monster, but he’s a monster of the type we all know is so very real. The kind who hides behind a reputation and knows exactly what they are doing.

Sticks and Stones isn’t any easy read. There are trigger warnings for all aspects of domestic abuse here. But all of it is packaged in an impossibly hard to put down story of one woman discovering how far she is prepared to go to defend her child and get revenge on a man determined to ruin her life.

Halloween Countdown: 3 Days

It’s 3 days to go in the Halloween Countdown. It’s also a Saturday, so you should really settle in and devote ten minutes of your day to watching the absolutely beautiful Geist from Giant Animation Studios.

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This is the first fully animated short on this list, but just a couple of minutes into it and I knew it had to be included. Aside from the animation being beautiful, the tragic story it tells is just so well sculpted. Washed up on the shore in a storm after barely surviving the wreck of his ship, a fisherman seeks refuge in a nearby house. While at first, it appears to be deserted, quickly he finds that something appears to be there with him.

The thing about this film is its atmosphere. The use of light and sound is pitch perfect, selling the entire thing with almost no dialogue at all. While there are scares, in Geist these are merely part of the entire thing rather than the punchline or only mechanic.

Oh, but don’t expect a happy ending…

And don’t forget, if you’ve not done so already head over to Amazon to download your free ebook of The Serpent’s Eye. This offer’s only open until Halloween, get make sure you get yours soon.