Uncomfortably Dark Book Reviews
I am not taking general book review requests at this time due to other projects that need my focus. I will resume again in January of 2022.
Book Reviews by Uncomfortably Dark are are now closed until further notice. Special Requests may be considered at the discretion of the owner. If we have already committed to reviewing your book, it will still be done as soon as possible.
The Best of Indie Horror
Presented by Kevin Kennedy
Kudo's to Kevin Kennedy for yet another fantastic anthology, just in time for Slayin' Season!
I had the honor of reading this anthology early and was blown away by the quality of the stories contained within these pages. Just when I think I could not be any more impressed by the amazing authors that surround me, I receive an anthology like this and am overwhelmed and surprised by the sheer talent that pours from the fingertips of these authors.
Eric Butler nails a truly creepy tale in his story, The Mall Santa, while Steve Stred showers us with plenty of nightmare fuel in Tradition. Lex H. Jones, a new to me author, penned a disturbing tale in a story called Top Floor: Seasonal Furnishings and Christmas Decorations. This one left a shiver going up my spine, while Clitoris Krampus made me cringe in places that I didn’t know I had.
So many good stories here, too difficult to name a favorite, but well worth your time in reading over the wonder winter season. Be sure to pick this one up, it’ll become a favorite Christmas read.
Four Christmas Stars!
by Steve Stred
Steve Stred brings us eight horror tales about witches, right in time for Spooky Season. The collection also includes incredible photography and illustrations by Amanda Crites, as well as a foreword.
What’s not to like? It’s witches. Steve Stred has created a nice blend of witch stories, most short and deeply disturbing, all within just a few pages. The stories all set in a variety of time periods and locations, only lending further credence to Stred’s range as an author. The characters become quickly relatable and believable, expertly done within a few sentences. Most of these, I did not see the disturbing turn of events that lie hidden just around the corner and I applaud Steve for being able to pen so many short stories without making them slightly predictable. The choice of artwork that was used helps to deepen the atmosphere and tone of the overall collection as well as enhancing each reading experience. This a solid collection, well worth a read and including in your yearly October read list.
4 dark stars.
Beneath A Pale Sky
Beneath a Pale Sky is a collection of eight short but dark stories by author Philip Fracassi. Booklist says “This is a collection that articulates the dark emotions of the genre itself-unease, anxiety, and dread-as each tale turns on a dime from slightly unsettling to palpably terrifying, often with a single sentence, and the results are breathtaking.”
I happen to agree completely with the quote from Booklist above. This is an incredible collection of stories by a supremely talented author. Starting with the gorgeously designed book cover that alludes perfectly to what you will find within the pages, to the stories themselves that only get better the further you read. Fracassi captures the atmosphere and the emotions of each story with perfectly penned details, beautifully imagery and descriptions so vivid you can almost smell the air.
I must admit that I read this collection twice, having fallen in love with several of the stories. Harvest and The Wheel both spoke to me with their lush descriptions and near perfection of the stories being told. The Soda Jerk was deeply unsettling, the more I read it, the more it disturbed me, which is exactly what we hope for in our genre. Fracassi has reached perfection in his mastery of the short horror story and each one in this collection delivers.
5 stars from Uncomfortably Dark.
Gone to See The River Man
Super Fans. Groupies. Stalkers.
These people will do anything for the idols they worship, be they rock stars, actors, authors, or even serial killers. Lori’s obsession is with Edmund Cox, who was convicted of butchering more than twenty women. She will do anything to get close to him, so when he gives her a task, she accepts. She has no idea of the horror that awaits her.
Edmund says she must go to his cabin in the woods and retrieve a key to deliver to a mysterious figure known only as the River Man. She brings her sister along and the trip becomes a surreal nightmare, one that digs up Lori’s personal demons, the ones that she feels bonds her to Edmund. Soon she will learn The River Man is not quite fact or folklore, and definitely not human, at least not anymore.
There are not many books that leave me at a loss for words for days after reading it. I still am not sure that this review will even do this book justice. I will let the synopsis above speak to most of it and allow you to find out for yourself the horror that lies on every single page of this book. I can honestly say that this book rocked me to my core and not in a good way. For the first time in many years, I had nightmares for several days after reading this. This book will take you to dark and disturbing places as Lori’s story unfolds.
Exceptionally well-written, brutally raw and devastatingly dark. 5 stars
They All Died Screaming
In A World Full of Monsters, Even Heroes Have Fangs. It’s called The Scream. Once you get it, you simply cannot stop screaming. You can’t eat or sleep. It drives you more and more insane until you can’t stand to be alive a second longer.
They All Died Screaming is a plague novel by Splatterpunk Award-Winning Author Kristopher Triana. It is a pitch-black book about the lowly and downtrodden being the last people on earth.
Triana does it again with another exceptionally written novel full of the most depraved and disturbing images of humanity that have ever been captured in ink. There are really 2 stories in this book that unfold simultaneously, one just as disturbing as the other. Tragic is also a suitable word, deeply tragic stories are contained within these pages. Not only are the characters relatable, but they are deeply complex, full of their own backstory and they all play very full roles within the story being told. You cannot help feeling pity or sympathy for even the foulest of the characters once you see behind the curtain, so to speak. As the tagline insists, even heroes have fangs. The hero of this story will certainly give you pause while you try to decide if the term hero truly fits here.
This is an uncomfortably dark 5 star read.
Giving the Devil His Due
Edited by Rebecca Brewer
A Charity Anthology by The Pixel Project
“Giving the Devil His Due” is a worthy anthology published for a good cause by The Pixel Project. All net proceeds from the anthology will be going to the Pixel Project’s anti-violence against women programs, campaigns and resources. This is for any female that has ever been abused at the hands of a man, the survivors of rape, incest, domestic abuse, and trafficking. Any and all survivors of, this anthology is for you, by authors like you, that hear you and support you.
The authors have penned a relentless collection of stories of anger, loss, grief, justice and revenge, each one carries the same message. Survivors can and will overcome, they will see the sun again, reclaim their identity and their power, they will exact their justice, all in due time. A couple of standouts for me were “Hell on the Homefront too” by Stephen Graham Jones, “Just Us League” by Angela Yuriko Smith, and “The Little Thing” by Christina Henry. These lingered with me well after I finished reading but there is not a disappointing story in the bunch.
I fully support anthologies of this nature and this cause. Five stars for this superb collection for a very worthy cause. Kudo’s to each author for shedding more light on this truly dark topic.
A Collection of Gothic Horror
Edited by Alex Woodroe
Published by Tenebrous Press
“In Somino: a Collection of Gothic Horror,” bring something for everyone with its eclectic mix of modern gothic horror tales. Quietly chilling and disturbing, these tales slowly work their magic as the lush prose creeps into your mind and the small details start a slow chill along your spine.
There are plenty of stories to pick from for a quiet evening at home with biscuits and tea, but some of my favorites were ‘The Blight of Black Creek” by Mary Rajotte,”Wild Thing” by S.E. Zeller, and “Self-Storage” by Barbara A. Bennett. I love reading new anthologies because there are always a variety of authors to discover, and I know that I will be adding several of these authors to my list.
Pick up “In Somino” for yourself and enjoy an evening or two by your fireplace this fall, discovering some great new authors and delighting in the darkness that this anthology brings.
4 dark stars for “In Somino”.
The Bad Book
Published by Bleeding Edge Books
The overall concept of “The Bad Book” pleased me a great deal. I’ve often thought of myself as a rebel against the norm, the accepted, the revered. Cause, why not? I’ve never been one to follow the crowd, religious or otherwise. I was raised in religion, Catholic, been confirmed and all and then nothing. I only attended church because my parents attended church and after I was confirmed, we almost immediately stopped going, except for Easter and Christmas, of course.
But I digress, the concept of “The Bad Book” was meant to be in direct contradiction to that famous Good Book, but is it really? The sheer amount of brutality contained within the pages of the Good Book can give any horror author a run for their money. The authors that took part in this anthology were challenged to take bible stories and turn them into horror, and they delivered. Some of the stories you may recognize for the bible story they were meant to be, others you will not. Each author nailed it, forgive the pun, and offered up a tale of terror sure to rival any offering in the Old Testament. I loved how each section was named for the author that wrote it, rather than giving the actual story name, that was a nice feature to find, that further lends credence to the origin of the book's concept.
I was not able to pick a favorite but I devoured this book much like Eve devoured the forbidden fruit. 4.5 stars for The Bad Book.
New from Night Terror Novels!
This is Not a Horror Story
“This is Not a Horror Story” is not a horror story, but many, set in a giant collection of stories, penned by some of today's newest horror authors. This collection takes the entire list of trigger warnings and applies it to the pages within, there is truly something in every tale that may disturb and unsettle some readers. Please be warned, the trigger warnings are listed for your comfort and sanity, proceed wisely at your discretion. Reading some of these tales sent tendrils of unease down my spine and up into my brain, icy cold tendrils of shock, disbelief, and slow-growing horror as each story unfolded before me, each darker than the last.
Read with the lights on and a fire burning to chase away the chill that will settle deep in your soul, from page one until the very end. The Puppy Farm, not as cozy as the name implies, will haunt you. The Gallery of Discarded Things will make you question your own reality as it ends, moments away from making you feel completely unhinged and uncomfortably in your skin. The horror does not ease up there, keep going until you reach The Fates and Tricks with Antlers and Horns. Try not to shudder as you put the book down, already being bombarded with haunting thoughts and images. A hot shower will not ease that chill in your bones, trust me, I tried.
Five stars for making me question my own sanity.
by Kevin Lucia
On a night when anything seems possible...
We dare you to spend an evening in the small town of Clifton Heights.
October nights here are long and strange, filled with both dread and transformation, and in these four shared-world tales of small-town Halloween horror, you'll encounter things both wondrous and terrifying, in equal measure:
- A priest hears a ghostly confession on Halloween night which will mark him forever.
- A young man is offered a supernatural chance to remake his fortune, at the risk of losing everything.
- A pastor fleeing the death of his daughter comes to Clifton Heights to face his fears, but finds himself living a nightmare instead.
- Two people with supernatural talents face-off with an engine of darkness and pain on Halloween night.
Four connected Halloween tales, evoking echoes of Ray Bradbury and Charles L. Grant, taking place in a town where every day is All Hallow's Eve.
The synopsis sums up this collection perfectly, wherein the last line states “evoking echoes of Ray Bradbury and Charles L. Grant.” This is an excellent collection of hauntingly bone-chilling stories that are perfect for Halloween and any other dark night of the year. Each story woven in and around the town of Clifton Heights, which takes on a personality all its own.
Each story is well-written, with relatable complex characters and an unsettling sense of dread and horror that sneaks up on you as the story unfolds. I read this twice simply because I wanted to enjoy them again.
5 stars for this great collection.
by John Palisano
In “Starlight Drive”, two boys find allies through unexpected friends who help them confront a neighbor from Hell.
“Outlaws of Hill County,” a small town finds themselves terrorized by a creature that only comes on on Halloween.
“Samhainophobia,” a group of college kids still find Halloween terrifying, although for a very different reason than they did growing up.
In “Fantasma,” a young boy searches for his lost cousin during a chilling Dios De La Muertos Celebration.
This is a great collection of chilling tales that are perfect for a fall night. Each one is well-written, highly imaginative, creative, and just disturbing enough to linger for a while, in the back of your mind, making you look over your shoulder as you lock up your house for the night. You might want to check those locks just one more time before you drift off to sleep. Starlight Drive is well worth becoming an annual fall read, 4.5 stars.
The End of Halloween
by Greg Chapman
Five short tales of terror. The death of a twin sister is more than what it seems. A sudden car crash leads an injured man to a very eerie town with a Halloween obsession. A child’s longing to escape an abusive home, leads him down a very dark road. Trick or Treating in Hell, what could go wrong. Cold observances by Death, himself.
This collection of creepy and creative tales are brought to you by Greg Chapman. Each is well-written, with relatable characters and scenarios. I really liked how each one had its own unique plot twist, allowing the story to end in a much different manner than you might predict. I love having the unexpected in a story and this short collection delivers that very well.
4 solid stars for this great fall read.
The Smell of Cedar
By River Dixon
Sarah is already having a bad day when a mysterious package arrives that sends her spiraling into a state of paranoia. Memories of a horrible childhood spent in her grandmother's care haunt her as she tries to piece together the events of the past few months, the events that have led up to today. For Sarah, it becomes a race against time and her descending madness as she tries to figure out who is coming for her.
River Dixon has expertly penned a deeply haunting story that speaks of tragedy upon tragedy as a middle-aged woman experiences a crisis within herself. Paranoia, trauma, and horrific memories set the course as she takes a disturbing walk through her memories and recalls being brought up by her sadistic grandmother. When she learns that her grandmother has passed, she goes back to the old house to set those affairs in order, seeing firsthand the nightmares of her past.
As she returns home, her confused state of mind only deepens as she becomes convinced that someone is stalking her, hunting her and she becomes determined to become the hunter instead, even as her mind slips further from reality.
“The Smell of Cedar” is truly a disturbing read, one that will haunt you for a long time after you read it.
Four stars for a truly uncomfortably dark book.
Back From the Dead
by C.M. Saunders
This collection of dreadfully disturbing tales is by C.M Saunders and it did not disappoint. This would be a great October read for all of you horror fiends out there. Six short stories with loads of zombies, death and gore.
In “Dead of Night”, new couple Nick and Maggie set off on a weekend camping trip. Hoping for time to snuggle, cuddle and copulate in their own bit of paradise. What comes stumbling out of the woods late in the night is much more than they bargained for.
Another creepy tale tells us about “The Plague Pit.” Owen knew there was one up in the mountain behind his house. The plague pits were the mass burial sites for victims of the Bubonic Plague from the 14th century. At 15, Owen was finally going to go see for himself if the pit really existed, once and for all. None of his months of planning would have prepared him for what he finds beneath the old church.
“Human Waste’” is as disturbing as it gets as prepper Dan finally finds himself in the very situation he had spent his whole life planning for, zombies, everywhere. He’s got his weapon and his bug-out bag ready but still needs to grab some supplies. Those zombies outside still seem to be doing human things but Dan dismisses it as routines just ingrained in their DNA, like muscle memory. Dan ventures out, gun in hand, ready to take on the infestation, or is he?
“Til Death Do Us Part” is a cheeky little tale that you’ll need to read to believe. Dark humor at its finest, I enjoyed the chuckle and the humor hidden in this dark little deed. Margaret and Ronald may not agree.
“Roadkill” is a terrifying tale of private ambulances in Brazil and how they make money by carrying victims of accidents and crimes to the hospitals due to lack of social services there. Partners Tito and Jimmy belong to the less than scrupulous of those street cleaners and find a fresh road accident victim to transport. The victim, however, seems to have other plans.
“Dead Men Don’t Bleed” is another intensely dark tale of the dead, or perhaps, the undead. Private investigator Mike Malone is hired by dead man John Maplin to find out who killed him and why. But Malone may have bit off more than he can chew in this mysterious tale of terror.
Strong writing, relatable characters and riveting situations combine to hold your interest until the last page. I highly recommend this book for your October reads. 4.5 stars.
Wow. Just, wow. I went into this with zero expectations but somehow, it still was not what I was expecting.
Premise: Hell in a Cell, in a fully stocked superstore, with only one winner.
Outcome: as you would expect. A bloody, fast-paced, action-packed kill fest by the most unlikely mix of people ever found in a battle.
Reaction: Hell Yea! Followed by a bit of shame, and the need for a shower. The playlist to go with this story was epic. I highly recommend it for an immersive experience. This was more fun than I had expected with an unexpected outcome.
Four stars for a fun, intense, rock-worthy experience.
by Brennan LaFaro
Travis, Elsie, and Josh, college kids with a ghost-hunting habit, scour New England for the most interesting haunted locales. Their journey eventually leads them to Slattery Falls, a small Massachusetts town living in the shadow of the Weeks House. The former home of the town’s most sinister and feared resident sits empty. At least that’s what the citizens say. It’s all in good fun. But after navigating the strange home, they find the residents couldn’t be more wrong. And now the roles are reversed. The hunters have become the hunted. Something evil refuses to release its grip, forcing the trio into one last adventure.
Every so often a book comes along that fully captivates you and swallows you whole, lost between the pages until the very last word has passed through your soul. Slattery Falls is one of those books and it is so much more than a book about ghost hunters. This is a story about the bonds of friendship, about love, and about sacrifice. It's about finding the answers that no one else can and about answering a call that no one else can seem to heed. This tale was the whole package, intrigue, terror, fear, curiosity, coming of age and beyond, love and loss.
LaFaro has penned an excellent tale in his Slattery Falls. Get it for the ghost story, love it for the real story it hides.
Five huge Platinum stars and a standing ovation.
by Edmund Stone
Tent Revival-Book One of the Rebecca Mythos
Tent Revival follows Allen Sutton as he miraculously recovers from a horrible injury after his young wife passes away. His father Sy, goes to see Allen at the hospital, where he had been wasting away for weeks, determined to bring him home and care for him there. Within a day of bringing him home, against medical orders, young nurse Rhonda shows up offering to care for Allen in exchange for room & board. Within 24 hours, Allen is awake, walking and talking as if nothing had happened. Rhonda admits to knowing Allen from before his accident but Sy and Allen’s sister, Sally, are too overjoyed to be suspicious of her sudden appearance or Allen’s sudden recovery.
Meanwhile, the small town of Salt Flat has been preparing for an event, a tent revival of all things, the likes of which the small town has not seen in years. Flyers are everywhere and the whole town is buzzing with gossip of the mysterious magic man known only as “The Sage”.
Sy Sutton and his new friend Patty quickly realize that things are no longer what they seem and become determined to save Allen from an ancient evil intent on claiming him for her own.
Tent Revival is cosmic horror at its best, mixing in fresh concepts with ancient beings, dynamic writing with relatable characters and subtle terror on each page, each more graphic and intense than the last, so expertly done that you no longer remember when you first began holding your breath as you read, page by page. I look forward to the next installment in this series.
4.5 stars for Tent Revival by Edmund Stone.
Mr. Salina's Seven Scary Stories
Matthew P. S. Salinas
This is a debut collection of short stories by Matthew Salinas and it did not disappoint. Seven stories in all, with an introduction by the author, each one is incredibly well-written and as different from the last one as it can possibly be.
Another new-to-me author with an excellent debut collection, I highly recommend picking this up to add to your Fall reads. This is one for campfires, late-nights and thunderstorms. From the haunting story of a young boy trying to complete a dare at the local graveyard, to a young girl trying desperately to complete her quilt before her birthday, to an intriguing lyrical tale about a king and his silver, this collection puts forth an intriguing mix of tales sure to linger with you for long moments after you finish reading.
Short tales, perfect to read with that late night coffee or whiskey by the fire. I found each one to be excellently written, with just the right amount of chilling atmosphere thrown in to make you look over your shoulder a few times while reading.
4 solid stars for Mr. Salina’s Seven Scary Stories.
Tales From The Parkland
by Ronald McGillvray
11 short stories and one novella of horror for late at night. Welcome to the many “What If?” scenarios of Ronald McGillvray’s imagination.
Ronald McGillvray is a “new-to-me” author and I was thoroughly pleased with this collection of stories. Tales From The Parkland brings something for everyone, throwing out its stories with wild abandon upon the table, ripe for the collective to feast upon. There is no theme amongst the pages, no common thread save one, horror. Ripe with terror, each tale takes you through a most disconcerting scenario and throws you headlong down the rabbit hole of McGillvrays mind.
From a town with no way out, where garbage collectors are more than they seem, to the end of days as seen through the eyes of a small child at his daycare, Tales From the Parkland, runs you through the gauntlet of emotions as death, and decay, monsters and chaos leak from the pages.
Pick this one up for yourself and get comfortable, right around midnight, and visit Tales From the Parkland for yourself.
Four Solid Gold Stars.
The Woman Shrouded in Flies
by Nick Gray
Troy is sick of his parents fighting, even while on a supposed vacation, on their camping trip. They are fighting constantly. Troy storms off into the woods to get away from it when he stumbles across something horrifying in the woods. His parents are too wrapped up in their argument to even notice their son is missing.
This is a very short story that creates a great deal of tension in just a few pages. Gray takes that tension and keeps it going throughout, as he tells us about Troy and his parents. Troy finally cannot stand the arguing any longer and storms away from the campsite, hoping to find some peace and quiet. What he eventually finds is much worse.
Troy’s parents are too consumed by their hatred of each other to notice that Troy has gone missing. Too consumed by their own fears, insecurities and guilt to stop arguing long enough to realize that Troy has been gone for hours.
By the time they discover him gone, something else has discovered them.
While there is some room for improvement in overall writing style, Nick Gray can create a tense atmosphere with the best of them. The story is fast-paced, with relatable characters and situations while the horror creeps in slowly, becoming scarier as each page is turned. I look forward to seeing what else this young new author does as he continues his writing career.
3.8 stars for The Woman Shrouded in Flies.
Rock & Roll Nightmares
edited by Stacey Layne Wilson
Another great addition to the Rock & Roll nightmares line-up, the 70’s edition is just as groovy as the 80’s edition was awesome. Full of music titles, song and band references, this anthology delivers on disco, deadheads and death.
I enjoyed every story in this collection but will highlight some of my favorites below:
“Tiny Danger” by Ruthann Jagge follows petite seamstress Bette, and her gal pals to a local concert. While her pals are full blown groupies hoping to score with a band member, Bette has bigger dreams. She has her hopes pinned on getting the lead singer to notice her threads and agree to let her design him a groovy stage outfit. When all hell breaks loose as bikers attempt to settle a debt, she finds herself kidnapped and stitching threads for a whole different group. But her story is far from over and she is now known as Bette Bluewing.
“Long Ghoul Woman in a Black Dress” by Curt Lambert is tons of freakish fun. DJ Johnny Handsome is spinning the late-night LP’s for radio station WFER when a monster of a storm rolls in. Thunder, lightning and a little bit more shake up the late autumn night as the DJ rocks out to his favorite hits and tells his fans to send him a “tall cool woman in a black dress”. Let’s just say he gets a bit more than that on this dark and stormy night.
Staci Layne Wilson conjures up a chilling tale in “While My Guitar Gently Reaps”, about a young man with the desire to learn the blues like nobody’s business and his special guitar. But the cost of fame is much higher than he expected. This chilling tale is sure to please as Leif and his guitar roam the streets.
Don’t miss Hotel Kill-em-for-ya on page 60. You’ll be glad you stopped by!
Five stars for this awesome tribute to the 70’s!
by Felix Blackwell
So, here we have Stolen Tongues, yes, the very one that broke the Internet several weeks ago!
Or at least broke many FB groups that had recently discovered it, with naught but good things to say.
While I did not technically hop on the proverbial bandwagon, as it were, having been familiar with the story from the NoSleep podcast, I still figured a review would be warranted. So, here we are.
Brief Synopsis : romantic cabin getaway for two turns into a hellish weekend caught between a blizzard and a nightmare as voices begin screaming in the night. Felix and Faye are terrified as shadowy beings appear and something begins talking to Faye at night as she sleep talks and sleepwalks. Horrified, Felix realizes she is talking back.
Blackwell takes a normal everyday occurrence, sleepwalking/sleep talking, and turns it on it’s head by combining it with some Native American lore about “imposter spirits” and mixes it with a naturally scary setting, an isolated cabin in the woods. The recipe delivers a deeply disturbing stew of fear and terror on almost every page as each occurrence becomes creepier and more intense.
Escaping from the cabin is just the start of their problems and their story. Felix and Faye find themselves in for the fight of their lives as the Imposter gets ever closer to Faye and the secret she holds.
Five stars for a truly terrifying tale.
We Are Many
by Alan Aspinwall
I recently read “We are Many” by Alan Aspinwall, his follow-up to “Lucy”. This new story follows a group of young ghost hunters in an investigation of the old house used by Derek Kelly to carry out the murders of seven women, before he came to his demise.
Neighbors near the house have been reporting mysterious noises, screaming, and other sounds coming from the house for months after the murders and the borough has finally decided to tear it down.
Young medium and ghost hunter, Jenny, convinces her boyfriend Dan that it’s now or never, to investigate the condemned building. He agrees and they make plans to go, along with his best mate, Brian and his girlfriend, Rachel, who is new to ghost hunting but willing to go along.
None of them are prepared for the events that unfold over the course of their investigation nor are they prepared for who they meet while there.
It’s been a long time since a story had me looking over my shoulder at night and gave me goosebumps. Short but terrifying, pick up “We Are Many” tonight. 4.5 stars.
by Daemon Manx
Abigail is a quick read, a very short novelette, that tells a fascinating story about a highly unusual orphaned child and the man that takes her in. Adrian takes one look at the helpless infant on his porch and proceeds to turn his entire life upside down for her, just hours after meeting the man of his dreams. I’m not a fan of spoilers and it’s too short to say much more but the setup is flawless, and it’s delivery is superb.
I was not prepared for the outcome of this story, which will leave you astounded on several fronts. I found the concept to be creative and original, the story enthralling and the outcome just delightful.
Horror? Not in the traditional sense, but yes, still horror. You’ll have to read it to understand and I hope to see more tales set in Abigail’s world as Manx furthers his career. Four solid gold stars for this debut.
by S. Feaker
Author S. Feaker finishes her Haven Manor trilogy with a home run. You know the kind, all bases loaded, late in the ninth inning, tension running high, game tied 2 for 2 and the crowd is going nuts, the field is deathly still. But then, the pitcher moves into the wind-up, throwing it in as twenty thousand fans inhale. CCRRAAAACCKKK!!!!! The bat connects, the runners are off and it is out of here, folks! Feaker wins the series!!!
There really is no need to say anything else, but since I do like to give full reviews, I’ll say a bit more. As I said when this series first began, I love a good haunted house story and for some reason, there is nothing better than an old haunted mansion! Ms. Feaker did an outstanding job with her debut novel, “Uninvited Others” as she told us the tale of Scarlett and her family as they moved into the manor and its many secrets.
It had been a long time since I had devoured a haunted house story like this one. I loved everything about this story. The details were lush and vivid, the characters real and charismatic, cruel and deliberate, innocent and endearing; they were everything that people are in real life. Full of traits that make them relatable, written with realistic back stories that make you empathize with them, with their mistakes and make you hope for a better future for each of them.
I could not imagine what the second installment would be, although I enjoyed pondering the multiple scenarios that I had come up with while I waited. Being a writer, I know all too well the stress that a second novel in a series brings, the long hours going into the writing, the editing, the creation of something new but familiar, something just as good and better than the first. When I finally received the second book, “Shadow Sleepers,” I read it the same night.
“Shadow Sleepers” pulls you in from the first night and does not relent at any point throughout the book. The Manor is a living breathing entity and it means to rule again, at any cost. Feaker puts the reader through nightmare after nightmare as she drives the story to its conclusion, but the end of this installment is not the end of the story. Ms. Feaker leaves you hanging at a crucial moment in the book and it’s expertly done.
The moment I received “Empty Walls,” I began reading with a smile on my face and butterflies in my stomach. Not only had I been living with anticipation of what the final book would hold but I had been holding my breath for Ms. Feaker, to deliver, once again, an outstanding novel that would conclude her series with the aplomb of which it deserves, and I was not disappointed. I will not leave spoilers here. I will just simply say, “Well done, Ms. Feaker. Kudo’s on an excellent series. Five stars for you, for Haven Manor and for Empty Walls.” I applaud you.
There is No Death, There are No Dead.
Edited by Aaron J. French & Jess Landry
Published by Crystal Lake
Brief Book Synopsis from Publisher:
There Is No Death, There Are No Dead is a horror anthology that tackles all aspects of the spiritualist movement: from the true believers to the nay-sayers, the hoaxes to hauntings, the real mediums to the scam artists. From ghosts to possessions, from profound loss to insurmountable grief, these short stories explore limitless genres (historical fiction, Gaslamp mystery, modern horror, and everything in between) with a diverse cast of characters challenged at every corner.
There is No Death, There are No Dead delivers on its promise of spiritualist stories. Each story is haunting, chilling and macabre in their own way. I enjoyed reading each one, discovering a fresh perspective on ghosts, and possession and all of things that may wander in-between. Each story will stick with you long after it is read and will make you ponder what all may lie in that realm just beyond our own.
My absolute favorite in this was “The Bone Eater” by Lee Murray. I found this story to be tragic, heartbreaking, beautiful and chilling to the bone. No pun intended. It is too short to say much, the title says enough and no, it will not be what you think. It will be more.
Another stand out was “The One Word I Can’t Say,” written by S. P. Miskowski. Grief and ghosts take over the life of one young woman, who only wishes for peace. It all comes down to one word. Haunting, and sad, my heart hoped for her peace even as much as I wondered if she would, or could, obtain it.
“A Feather for Mrs. Edmond” by David Demchuk brings a sad housewife to a talented young boy with psychic gifts. She seeks solace, and more from her loved ones on the other side. The young psychic delivers more than a word, much to the shock of the grieving widow, and his young aunt that serves as his care-taker.
Several others stood out for me, including “The Happy Medium” by Helen Marshall, the Poe-esque “The Marble Lily” by Kathe Koja and “Meeting Katie King” by Lisa Morton.
This is a beautiful anthology to grace your shelf, full of beautifully written stories that deal with death, life, and loss in a wide variety of manners. Four solid gold stars for There is No Death, There are No Dead.
Between A Spider's Eyes
an anthology of the macabre
Published by Potter's Grove Press
Well, this is one deeply disturbing collection of stories. If you love depraved images, disturbing visuals and bloody gore, this is one for you. There is something for everyone in this book from jaw-dropping to humorous to the vile and depraved, grab this and put it on your shelf.
My favorite was Carla's Conundrum by Aron Beauregard. This contained a twist I never saw coming, based on a concept that I wished I had thought of, and it was expertly done. A perfect blend of insanity and sadness. Aron never fails to entertain.
Blobert is hilarious and disturbing. Truly a WTF read if there ever was one. I read this twice, grinning like a lunatic. Picture that. M. Ennenbach takes the reader on a bad acid trip in this highly amusing and visual tale.
Water Revival by River Dixon was poignant and sad, a heartbreaking story at its core, twisted into something horrific at the hands of a master. Another one that I read twice, just because I wasn’t ready for it to end. This was my first story by River and I can promise that it won’t be my last.
Daniel Volpe creates a horrific but heart-wrenching tale in his Just A Friend. The tale of Kaella Reick and her sad situation quickly takes a turn for the worse as she finds herself helpless and assaulted by several peers. An offer of a ride home turns into a chance for justice that Kaella quickly takes, a chance that carries terrible consequences.
Several more tales round out the collection penned by Rayne Havok, Simon McHardy, Regina Watts, and Elizabeth Bedlam. Each story is just as creepy and disturbing as the last. I enjoyed each one of these finely crafted tales, and every skin crawling or goosebump filled moment. Highly recommend this 5 star collection.
by Mark Towse
The synopsis loosely restated says Hope Wharf is an idyllic town surrounded by crystal blue waters and home to roughly 200 locals. Tourists are free to come and go but locals are forbidden to leave. With only one road to get in or out, two young boys decide to test the rumours about Tommy Nicholls for themselves, Tommy was the last local that tried to leave and he was found dead by the side of the road at the town limits with mist coming from every orifice.
Towse creates a perfect seaside town, complete with a heavy mist that rolls in from the water at night, covering the town in a thick haze. The locals love it here, it's quiet and clean and crime does not exist. The kids are safe, the tourist traffic is great and business is booming. Ryan and Zac, best friends from an early age, are bored and tired of town life and both feel as if something is very wrong with the town they call home.
One night, they make a plan to meet late after bedtime and test the limits of the road for themselves. After all, what happened to Tommy Nicholls was just a rumour, wasn’t it? What the boys discovered was not what they had in mind, at all.
Mark Towse creates a high tension story that doesn’t let up in this chilling story of a small beach town called Hope Wharf. The atmosphere is perfectly creepy, the characters are relatable and well-written and the story carries itself along through the eyes of both Ryan and Zac as they set out to discover the secrets of Hope Wharf. I loved this short novella and suggest it as a nice summer evening read, make sure to keep a light on to keep the fog away. Four solid stars.
It Waits On the Top Floor
by Ben Farthing
Ben Farthing is a new to me author and I was pleasantly surprised by this story. First off, the cover is gorgeous, the deep red tones are eye-catching and the overall tone of the image is just downright terrifying. The image also makes it clear that this is a cosmic horror, and I loved everything about it. The cover of a book is so important to me and this one absolutely nailed it. Striking, beautifully made, intriguing and deeply disturbing all at the same time. The story behind the cover would delight me just as much as the cover did, as I soon found out.
The book synopsis, loosely stated, is as follows; Thursday night, it was a dirt lot. Friday morning, it was a 60 story skyscraper. A tech billionaire wants to discover the building's secrets for herself. A curious nine year old believes it holds a treasure to help his father and goes exploring. His father races to find him. From the outside, it looks like a normal office building, but inside, ghostly figures stalk the halls, the walls are hungry and something waits on the top floor.
Chris is having a bad day. His wife, Sherri, tells him she is leaving. His former mentor, Dr. Lance Terry, arrives shortly after with a shady business proposition. Eddie, Chris’s newly adopted son, listens at the window to see how he can be helpful so Chris won’t make him leave. Eddie blames himself for Sherri leaving, believing he wasn’t helpful enough. All of this, early on a Friday morning, while Chris was just standing outside, gaping at the new skyscraper that now sits proudly in the dawn skyline, a skyscraper that was not there the night before.
Chris is heart-broken, angry, broke and distraught but determined to provide a good home for his son. Dr. Terry is the reason why Chris cannot seem to gain any real employment with the architectural firms around the city because he took all of the credit for Chris’s work with him on a project he did as part of his thesis for grad school. Dr. Terry made him out to be a laughing stock in the architectural world. But now, here is he, with the offer of a lifetime, an offer directly related to the skyscraper that they both were staring at from Chris’s driveway.
Eddie listens from the window, distraught that his new mom left and he swears to be helpful to Chris. He hears enough of his dad's conversation with Dr. Terry that convinces him that the new building holds a treasure that could help his dad keep his house and get more jobs; so he takes off for the new building, as helpful as he can be.
Soon Eddie, Chris, Dr. Terry and a few others are caught in an impossible maze of hallways, office floors, sub-basements and elevators that only go up. Elevators that hold numbers for twice as many floors as the building contains. The building itself becomes a menacing entity, looming over their every move as they try to navigate the building, all to discover its secrets for themselves. Eddie, to help his Dad. Chris, to help himself. Dr. Terry to rediscover his fame and possibly repair a past sin. And a billionaire intent on solving the riddle of how the building just appeared overnight. Soon, it becomes evident that the building is herding them to the top floor, where something devastating waits, where discovering the real secret may be more than any of them can bear.
I loved everything about this book. The characters' relationships to one another and how they change throughout the book. The office building itself and how it takes on a role of a character, not just a location and the many hidden secrets of each floor. The creep factor only intensifies with each floor they climb. Find out for yourself what is waiting on the top floor.
Four solid stars for this cosmic horror.
Berserker: Green Hell
by Lee Franklin
Berserker Green Hell is a roller coaster ride through extreme horror as seen through the eyes of a young Aussie soldier in the stifling green hell of Viet Nam. The heat, humidity, and overpowering menace of the jungle and its natural inhabitants are not the only things hiding in this landscape. Pinny and his squadron are sent in after skirmishes to bring back tags and to report on their findings, not quite a clean-up crew and not meant as first contact with the enemy Viet Cong either.
All hell breaks loose as Pinny, Taz, Doc, Snowy, Hammo, Cam, Chook and Wog-boy delve deeper into the jungle, coming upon one small village that shows them nothing but blood and gore, it becomes apparent that something much more than a gunfight happened here. Pinny, a trained tracker, notices footprints in the mud leading the opposite direction, much larger footprints than most soldiers have. They are attacked several times by men much larger than they should have been, only lending more confusion to the chaos.
Fleeing deeper into the jungle, their sense of unease ever growing, they try to make their rendezvous point for extraction but another attack from something overwhelms them, something huge, that stands upright, with massive claws. Soon after, they encounter a squad of US soldiers and a mysterious American base, hidden deep in the jungle, where it should not have been. Rescue at last, or was it? Pinny and his remaining guys have no choice but to follow the American’s into the mysterious base, where they hope to recover and regroup with a new plan for extraction. Things go from bad to worse as new discoveries are made in the depths of that hidden base, things that may cost them not only their humanity but their souls. This novel plays out like a military movie with some of the most horrific scenarios I have ever read.
Four gory gold stars for Berserker: Green Hell.
Dead Man Walking
The Devil Walks in Blood
by David Green
“Dead Man Walking” follows private detective Nick Hollaran, as he navigates his way through his “second” life, having died briefly during an encounter with a bad guy, Wheeler, the villain of his story. Since being brought back, Nick has come to realize two things, that Heaven does exist and Hell is real and is on earth. He can now see, hear and interact with all of those demons of the dark as he goes about his life, and uses his newly discovered resources of the dead and demonic to help him solve a wide variety of cases.
The first story, “Dead Man Walking” is a short, quick read that serves to introduce Nick Holleran and his new take on life. It also serves up his first case and allows the readers to see the glimpse into the Hell that Nick now sees all around him, every day. Several key characters are introduced including a love interest of sorts, Rosa, the woman that saved him the day he died. Ruby, owner of Styx Bar, where both humans and Hell dwellers go, and she seems to be a constant source of information and advice for our doomed detective.
Cyril seems to be a character that we can expect to see again, not that many people want to see a giant demon with an attitude. Suraz, is a Nephilim, described as children of angels and daughters of men, they fall on the Hell Hierarchy just below Lucifer himself. Charon, the ferryman between Earth and Hell dimensions. Then there is Darcy, the ghost of a young girl that inhabits his office.
Green does an excellent job setting up the characters, the details, the setting and paints an elaborate scene of each one so you can visually see them and the events as they unfold. The action is well-written, the details plausible and researched and everything smoothly falls into place as it should.
In the second novella, Green continues the story right where we left off, with Nick picking up a new case from an unlikely source. Darcy, the ghost in his office, enlists his help. Suraz plays a larger role in this new story as rumors are rampant about troubles between Heaven and Hell. Not one for spoilers, I will end this review here, but make sure to pick these quick reads up for yourself.
Green has created an excellent world for his cast of characters to play in and I hope he visits it again and again. I can see a long line of cases coming for Nick Holleran. Four stars each for fun, fast-paced demons and detectives!
Rock & Roll Nightmares: 80’s Edition
Stories by Stacey Layne Wilson
Darren Gordon Smith-Mark Wheaton-V.Castro-
Sean McDonough-Brenda Thatcher
“Gory Days” certainly lives up to its name. Not only do the titles pay homage to some of the great rock songs of this classic era but the stories capture the feel of the 80’s. Nothing like seeing an old cassette tape in your parents basement or a dusty VCR to bring back those memories. Each one of these stories was like calling up an old favorite memory...or nightmare in this case of that time long ago, of roller skates and VHS tapes, charm bracelets and summer camp horror, “Gory Days” delivers.
These are short stories and I will not be breaking down each one due to spoilers, however, there are some favorites, such as Sharp-Dressed Manslaughter. Aside from the great title, and the still-great song (now on repeat in my head) the story itself is far-out. It took me right into a typical 80’s night out, music and attire on point, just a kid having a bad night, that gains some help from a just right dude. I loved this story. Short, sweet, and just creepy enough for those shivers to kiss your spine.
Next up is “Pour Some Sacrificial Blood on Me”. Again, great name. Each title in this collection made me chuckle. The range of classic songs mentioned in this single story took me right back to school dances and hot nights at the summer fair. This one is a classic tale of a young woman hoping to make it big, seizing her one chance, to put her music in the hands of someone that can make a difference. I did not see the end of this story coming and I love a good twist.
“Hip to be Scared” and “Should I Slay or Should I go” are two of the longer stories in the anthology and both deliver on good ‘80’s vibes, slang, and some chilling gore throughout, while the super short “Shivin’ on a Prayer” was deeply chilling in spite of its short read and amusing title. There is not a bad story in the book and I look forward to reading the other editions.
5 groovy stars for Gory Days!
The Dark Has Teeth
by Bob Gunner
The “Dark Has Teeth” is a deeply complex account of a military cover-up coming to light fifty years after the initial incident. I am a fan of creature features and I absolutely loved the creature that was featured in this unsettling tale of military power, arrogant men playing God’s and the price a small town in Texas, named Hoop n’ Holler, had to pay.
While this is not a fast read, it is complex with a lot of moving parts that had to play out, I did enjoy the overall storyline and the concept that ultimately turned into our violent, flesh seeking creature that shows up rather quickly in the book and then intermittently as the story goes on, before the brutal and very fast ending.
There were a few parts that moved a bit slow for me that could have been done differently, such as the deeply detailed scientific explanations that were offered as a series of notes. Those threw me off a little bit as I found them distracting. I would have preferred a footnote directing me to an appendix or a short page of notes prior to the start of the story. Also, the ending two chapters were incredibly dense with a lot of information being shared. While I appreciated the additional scenarios and situations being played out, these could have been sprinkled throughout several prior chapters as well as up through the finale.
Aside from those minor details, the story was very solid, well-detailed and contained a whole host of characters that you began to root for and despise, based on who they were. I enjoyed the story and hope to see more from Mr. Gunner in the future.
4 solid gold stars for this complex tale of genetic research gone horribly wrong.
Twisted Tainted Tales
by Janine Pipe
A number of years ago, I began subscribing to horror magazines such as Nightmare Magazine, and The Dark. I had gotten bored with the meager selection of horror that my local stores offered, tired of watching the same old horror movies on repeat and I missed having a variety of all things odd, macabre, and horrifying. I remember being so pleased by the wide variety of stories available in these magazines, the incredible offering of author voices all on display, for me to read, to devour late at night when the house is quiet.
Twisted Tainted Tales can be one of those magazines, all by itself. I believe that may very well be the highest compliment that I can personally give to this collection. Janine Pipe used a brilliant idea in laying out her collection like an 80’s mix tape. Being a child from the 80’s and 90’s, I greatly appreciated this concept. It was different and unexpected much like the stories in her collection. Not only that, she used the layout to tell a story in itself, that gathered the various tales into one cohesive storyline. Again, brilliant.
The chosen time frame for her mixtape was excellent, taking me back to my beloved classic horror movies, and pulp fictions. The stories were fantastic, each one a miniature masterpiece within the few pages allotted to it and the horror ramped up to max. The settings, the topics, the fear, and tropes within, all fully showcase the range that Janine has at her disposal.
This is a triple-feature at the drive-in, a rare summer occurrence; a music festival for only the most hard-core metal heads with opening acts that will melt your face off, let alone the headliner. Janine Pipe is the opening act, the headliner, the closer and that triple-feature. She is an 80’s classic summer horror festival, all you need is the popcorn.
I am not going to lay out the tracks contained on this mix-tape for you. This is something you will need to experience for yourself because it is an experience. Put the kids to bed, pop some popcorn, turn those lights off and settle in. It’s going to be an epic night.
5 stars for a horror festival told in 17 tracks of gore and solid gold.
The Best of Intentions
by Joshua MacMillan
A New Release from D&T Publishing!
Corey Loflin, home from his recent deployment, is still plagued by nightmares, terrible dreams in which he relives the death of his best friend, over and over, but each time the dream is worse and the bodies of his fellow soldiers morph into the bodies of his loved ones. He refuses to tell his wife that the dreams are getting worse and he continues to try to re-insert himself back into civilian life the best way he can, through work.
He has found work with a security guard company and has worked his way up the chain of command to a management position. This also meant that sometimes he has to work long hours or cover shifts when a man fails to show for his post. When mysterious notes with a countdown and footprints in the snow begin to appear, he finds himself pulled into a game of cat and mouse. As his ever-increasing paranoia deepens, he takes advantage of his working hours and an upcoming birthday party out of town to keep his family safe. He convinces his wife to leave town early for his in-laws, where he knows that she and their son will be safe. He intends to deal with the impending threat on his own.
This story unfolds like more of a thriller than a horror story, at first. The tension begins very high as the mental state of the main character slowly begins to unravel. As his mental state becomes more dire, the tension increases as does his paranoia. His need to protect his family turns into an obsession that does not allow him to let his guard down. I was completely unprepared for the ending and found my own tension increasing the more I read.
4 stars for a tensely terrifying tale.
by m todd
I went into this story blind, having no real idea of what I was about to read. I love a good creature feature and when you add in a healthy dose of history and folklore, I’m all in.
This is not a quick read. Get comfortable, get that pot of tea ready and some biscuits. Do not try to rush this story along as there is a lot to unpack. Let it happen as you read. You will get pulled into the story from page one. You will begin to worry about Max and his girlfriend as their situation becomes more dangerous and you will get lost in the history and brutality of WWII as the backstory unfolds, revealing a heart wrenching link in this wretched family chain.
The story centers around a creature called “The Kludde” which is a sort of demi-god, shapeshifter, trickster type of entity that feeds on fear, but not just any fear. It lives to feed on the best or conversely the worst among us, the hero or the anti-hero. Those that claim to be fearless, or unbreakable. It loves to break them, to feed from their fear, so much more potent than others. Max, happens to come from a long bloodline of a fearless man, an evil man that first met the Kludde in WWII Europe.
The story unfolds in modern times but then takes you back through history, following the cursed bloodline to its origins, tying the links together, before the finale of Max’s story. There is a bit of lull in the action, in the middle of the book when the backstory is unfolding, but there is so much to unfold there that it ultimately adds to Max’s predicament and the final outcome. Four solid stars for this intriguing story.
Haunted and Hungry
Short Stories by A.J. Spencer
A.J. Spencer is a new to me author and I really enjoyed reading this short collection of stories. Every once in a while, it is refreshing to read something off the beaten path, a bit out of your norm, and a little bit on the far side. Each of these short stories hit that mark.
This collection would be appropriate for everyone from young teens just starting out in horror, as each tale delivers a small taste of terror, all the way up to older adults just wanting a quick read by a warm fire. Out of the five stories, Carnivore Train was one of my favorites as I found the subject matter just bizarre enough that I wanted to know more. Another favorite was Walter Whirligig, not only because of the name but the setting, an old Wild West replica town, intrigued me a great deal. I could easily envision the setting and would very much like to see a full story take place here.
There is room for improvement, such as is often the case with any new author. I did notice a few editing errors but not enough to fully detract from the story lines. There could be a bit more detail surrounding the settings or the characters but this can be tricky to do in short stories. Overall, this was a fun read for me. Short, to the point, nicely twisted endings. I look forward to seeing more from this author. 3.5 stars for these short scary stories.
by D. E. McCluskey
The Twelve is part mystery and part ghost story and one hell of a read. John Rydell finds himself the unwilling center of a mystery soon after his wife is murdered, while he was away on business. With no suspects and no leads, he finds himself alone, grieving and looking for answers.
Not long after, an old friend from their university days is murdered. And then another. John becomes more alarmed as he learns that old friends from long ago have met their demise in circumstances similar to his wife’s death. Strange disturbances begin to take place in his home and theirs as something or someone hunts them down, one by one. Each of them begin to experience flashes of long-ago memories as the murders happen again and again, each memory hints at something sinister, something about a number thirteen.
McCluskey weaves a dark and intriguing tale that spans both past and present day as the story unfolds with John Rydell at the center of it. This is a spell-binding tale that will leave you guessing up to the very last pages. Four solid stars for an immersive and detailed read.
by Jeremy Ray
The story follows a young woman in the midst of a new relationship, where everything seems perfect, except her new man loves to play practical jokes, scary jokes. While the jokes are not really her thing, she tries to play along and even tries out a few jokes of her own.
The night of his birthday, she believes she has finally planned the perfect joke and goes to his apartment to set it up.
The problem is, he doesn’t know she made a key. He also doesn’t know she is coming over.
When he suddenly arrives home, with a friend in tow, she panics and hides in a closet, thinking he won’t be there long. What happens next leaves her more than afraid.
I hate to give spoilers so I’ll stop here. You will need to read this one for yourselves. It’s short, shockingly powerful and chilling. Four solid stars for Petrified Woman.
by James Carlson
This is a fast-paced story of revenge and redemption as Angela Graves seeks out the notorious outlaw, Nox, that murdered her partner Rae. In this futuristic world, where humans are more machine than man and bots are more common than humans are, Angels Graves is part-human and part-machine, specially enhanced by her close friend Doc.
She is also a ruthless Merc known as the Angel of Death, fueled on by the loss of her lover, and her hatred for Nox. She will hunt him to the ends of the earth if she has to, to extract her vengeance.
After one brutal showdown, she is left injured in the desert, where scavengers find her and deliver her back to Doc. He patches her up, adds some bad-ass enhancements to her already lethal form and then shows her his secret, his biggest regret, called The Legion Machine, which he entrusts to her care should anything happen to her.
The Legion Machine is a must-read, fast-paced action story hellbent on revenge, by a woman scorned, and as they say, Hell hath no fury…
4 stars for this fascinating foray into the future.
A Gift of Death
By Daniel Volpe
Published by D&T Publishing
Daniel Volpe has written another outstanding story in “A Gift of Death.” This story follows a heavy metal band known as “A Gift of Death” as they tour the small suburban towns of the USA.
The band is fronted by the Sarin, a natural born seductress, and her guitarist, Vee-Exx, taller and model chic, and their drummer, Arsenic or just “Nic”. Nic is not only the drummer of the band but also the driver and caretaker of the two females.
The story unfolds through a series of short stories that introduce new characters and situations as the band continues to tour. Through these stories, you become intimately familiar with Sarin and Vee-Exx and their particular tastes as well as learn how Nic came to join their group. Each chapter leads up to an explosive ending that I honestly didn’t see coming.
I really hate spoilers so I do not want to say much else, except I loved how the chapters read like short stories and wove into each other for a final nerve-wracking scene. The imagery described, the gory details, and the loads of sex all blend together for a face-melting rock worthy story. Each scene is brutal, blunt, and skillfully crafted with the fewest words possible but maintains maximum impact. Not a single word is wasted as Volpe immerses you in a story more intense than a five alarm fire. Five out of Five stars for Daniel Volpe and “A Gift of Death.”
Underworld Dreams is a haunting collection of short stories, each one beautifully written and more emotional than the last. Daniel penned this collection based around his understanding of the concept “as above, so below, as below, so above” which is an aspect of Judaism based on the concept that there is no heaven or hell, that the highest spiritual purpose and achievements are not in an afterlife but here and now.
In “how to stay afloat when drowning” a young man finds himself reliving a personal loss while helping his sister land a large client for their surfboard business. He meets a mysterious woman the night before they plan to take their client on a chartered fishing trip who seems to have a message for him. His memories take him back ten years to the loss of a loved one, to an incident where a shark was hauled in from a fishing line and beaten, and finally to the strange disappearances of his parents, in the midst of running a successful business. He’s a surfer boy that doesn’t surf. This is a sad story about a lonely young man still struggling to find where he fits in the world.
Another story is titled “goodnight kookaburra” that follows a weary traveler as he contemplates life and its meaning while in Australia for work. It’s a very visual story full of beautiful images, and deep emotions but there is more to this story than what the words actually tell you. Braum has purposefully penned these stories for the reader to get more out of them than just the story in black and white. It's the thought behind the pen, or the emotion behind the character that plays out in this one. The sadness and sense of confusion follow this man as he looks for answers, perhaps hidden in the simple laugh of the kookaburra which he never does hear, in spite of his desperation to do so. This story has a haunting quality to it with no actual resolution, as the reader is left with nothing but questions, just like the man listening for the kookaburra’s laugh.
Another one that stuck with me for a while was “the monkey coat”. The tale follows a depressed woman, June, struggling to deal with her recent divorce after her husband took everything of value that they had, except her grandmother's old trunk that still contained an old but beautiful monkey fur coat. June is clearly still in shock from the divorce, trying to regain some of her dignity or lost youth and the coat begins to have some type of hold over her, causing her to act in ways that she normally never would…..or would she.
These are just a few from this astounding collection of beautifully penned stories, that make you question just what was going on, and what happens to the character next, or maybe, to you. What do you feel deep down? What did you see in the story? What did you take with you to hold onto or to ponder over? These were poignant tales with tangible emotions in them, emotions that lingered long after the tale had been told. This is worthy of 5 stars and multiple reads.
The Web of La Sanguinaire & other Arachnid Horrors
By Ronald Kelly
Published by D&T Publishing
Seeing as how this book had Arachnid as part of its name, I should have just said Nope! But being the nice person that I am, and a grown adult capable of at least reading about those icky, creepy, crawly, downright terrifying, beady-eyed, 8-legged monsters; I decided to give it a shot. Again, I should have said NOPE!
It was exactly what I thought it was going to be, Terrifying Tales About Spiders! Yes, my skin crawled. Yes, I woke up several times over the next several nights to see what was crawling on my arm, my shoulder, my face, my ankle, my leg. Dare I go on?
All that being said, this book delivers on the creepiness, and the hee-bee jeebies with aplomb. The title story, “The Web of La Sanguinaire” was by far my favorite as I love stories that take place in the bayou and just being able to picture the swamp, and see the mist rising over the waters, almost being able to feel the webs in my hair just added to the overall creepy tone of this story. Douglas Scott Price is wealthy, entitled and determined to find a rare species of spider known as the striped swamp spider. His guide tells him a local legend connected to the spider that he seeks as they search that Price promptly dismisses. Naturally, he shouldn't have dismissed it so easily. This would be a perfect campfire story.
Another favorite was "Housewarming" which delivered a huge amount of skin-crawling nightmares. I was not a happy camper reading this as my body became more and more itchy with each word. I found myself checking over my shoulder and turning on extra lights the longer I read. Chuck Stuart finds himself the unlikely recipient of his Aunt Millie’s house on Elkins Avenue after she passes away. The house had been boarded up and covered in plastic for several years now after tenants claimed that it was infested with brown recluse spiders. Being in a bit of a tight spot for cash flow, Chuck decides to check the house out for himself but finds nothing, not one spider at all. He moves in, hopeful for a new start and a chance to save a few dollars but soon discovers that the house really had been boarded up for a reason.
For my third favorite fear-filled frenzy, I have chosen “Atomic Arachnid Armageddon!” Ronald Kelly is not without a heart as he thought to include this very fun read in his skin-crawling collection. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, set in 1958, that follows 3 childhood friends as they take a trip to the movies, all set with a dollar each for 2 movies, popcorn, candy and sodas! On the way to town, Jerry’s father, George scoffs at the news of sinkholes popping up nearby, that is currently being broadcast. Before the news can elaborate too much, the boys are at the theater and Jerry’s father drives off with a promise to pick them up later. The boys are in for an afternoon of “Vampire Zombies from Outer Space” and “Atomic Arachnid Armageddon”, an epic double-feature. As the boys leave the theater, they find themselves in their own Arachnid Armageddon as a sinkhole opens up in front of them and huge spiders begin crawling out! This was such a fun story to read and it is the only one that did not make my skin crawl.
Every story in this collection is worthy of a read, each one incredibly vivid, and downright scary in its own way. It’s not often that I lose sleep over a story but this did the trick. 4 stars for a great collection.
by Dave Jeffery
The Samaritan is the third installment in Dave Jeffery’s “A Quiet Apocalypse” series. The entire storyline is a disturbingly realistic take on what our ‘end of days’ might look like. The first two books are both thought provoking portrayals from opposite sides of the fence in this new world that Dave Jeffery has created. The first story, A Quiet Apocalypse, tells the tale of a captive hearing man or HARK as they are now called, that has been enslaved by a newly deaf man living on the outside of Cathedral. The second, Cathedral, shows us life from inside the city, from a newly-deaf female perspective on the city, its function, rules and purpose.
The third takes on yet another perspective, that of one of The Samaritans, that helps to patrol the outside for dangers and Harbingers, or born-deaf people, who are being blamed for the MNG-U virus that killed most of mankind and rendered almost everyone else deaf. As a team of Samaritans set off outside the perimeter of Cathedral for a routine patrol and supply run, they discover a loner living in the Wilderness. He claims to know where a nest of Harbingers are and offers them up to save his own skin. Anyone found living outside the city is immediately taken in for evaluation or is seen as a threat to the city, if they choose to not conform.
During the search, one Samaritan, Nathan, is engaged in a fight with his arrogant and drunken superior, Snelson, whom he kills. Soon after, he is attacked again but knocked unconscious. When Nathan wakes hours later, he discovers he is being held somewhere foreign to him, by a couple who are tending to his wounds and their little girl, Lily, who not only is a Harbinger, being naturally born deaf, but is also using the forbidden sign language. This violates everything he has been taught to his very core, goes against everything the city stands for, what he stands for.
His life is now in their hands and it all harbors on how he reacts to their little girl. He can die or he can learn a new way, here with them, and have a home, a family life, away from patrols, away from Cathedral, away from the constant rules.
He must learn to adapt or he must die. This theme is a constant in this book for this character as he faces monumental decisions in his life that force him to adapt or die. This book will shake you to your core. It will take everything you think you know about human behavior and turn it upside down. It takes all of those platitudes that we tell ourselves on the darkest of nights and obliterates them.
The emotion is raw, the grief is a tangible thing, almost a character in its own right and the sense of loss is more profound than anything I have experienced in a book in recent years. Tears fell from my eyes as I closed my Kindle and I just sat, very quietly, lost in my thoughts, for a very long time. This is the apocalypse and it will shatter you.
Kudos, Mr. Jeffery, Kudos. I award you, once again, Five Utterly Gold Stars.
Fairy Tale Horror Show
Published by Crimson Pinnacle Press
Edited by RJ Roles and Jason Myers
I grew up on fairy tales as I am sure many of you did. I also discovered in my teen years that the fairy tales I grew up on were originally much darker tales than what small children read in their books and see animated on television today. Generally, the tales had a much darker bent to them for children from a much different time period in order to keep them close by at all times. Such tales as Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel were all meant to scare children into listening to their parents, staying close to home, away from strangers and out of the deep woods. This was the only method they really had available back then to keep their kids safe. Listen to the elders or die, or worse.
Welcome to your adult fairy tales. These were not written by the brothers Grimm, and I would love to see their faces if they could see what this group of talented authors has done to their classic and most beloved fairy tales. Grim indeed and then some, some of my favorites are below:
M. Ennenbach takes the tale of the Pied Piper and turns it into something dark, and bleak with his short story aptly named, “Piper.” A beautifully written, powerful tale of revenge, as dealt out by the hand of the Rat King. The rats will follow him anywhere, but will you?
R. Jagge with her “Midnight at the Glass Slipper,” delivers an incredibly fun take on Cinderella with her modern day rags to riches tale of Elly Cynders, who manages The Glass Slipper for her evil step-mother. A mobster-type clientele are her regulars, men named Hamburger Mike, Joey the Rat and Billy Bird, and flamboyant sparkly Ed is like her very own godmother in disguise when things take a turn for the worse. This awesome cast of characters comes together to illustrate that sometimes family is who you chose, not the ones you are related to.
N. Sinclair pens the darkly erotic “Always Time for Tea.” In this unexpected tale, young Alicia is introduced to a new kind of tea during the Red Queen’s infamous monthly tea party. This is not your typical tea party, and whips and chains are not optional.
M. Clarke brought his “A” game with “Pinocchio the Wooden Hoe.” (I’ll wait while you finish laughing.) Aside from the epic title, which I cannot read without laughing out loud, this was a ton of fun to read. The visuals alone made it worth it, when you ponder magical creatures of all sorts, umm... peddling their wares to fuel their addictions. Add in Pinocchio running to aid King Monstro and you damn near have a full blown action movie. I loved everything about this story and yes, it fully tickled my fancy.
If you have not yet picked up your copy, do it today! Fairy Tale Horror Show is a great anthology for your shelf. Not one bad story in the bunch and I really hope for a part two as I can think of many more childhood tales that I would love to see turned upside down. Five stars for creative, creepy fun.
by Chad Lutzke and Tim Meyer
Wormwood is a deeply engrossing coming of age tale that follows the lives of three high school friends. Baker, being the awkward new kid, Seb, his new friend at the local school and the third, Cassie. Cassie is two years older, a free spirit, morbidly and disturbingly so, and becomes the leader of their trio. The boys are fourteen, quickly becoming close friends and are just as enthralled by Cassie as she is by them. They begin hanging out together every chance they get. In spite of the good feelings Baker has over having made new friends, he can’t shake the feeling that something is very wrong, something about Cassie just doesn’t feel like it should.
Cassie's behavior quickly becomes more erratic and bizarre, with each incident disturbing Baker just a little bit more. She steals a pig cadaver from the school and has them take turns cutting it open and pulling out the insides. After Baker gets into a fight with the school bully, Cassie convinces the bully to meet her in the woods where she ties him up, strips him and offers him up to Baker so can get his revenge. This entire scene becomes more disturbing the longer it goes on for Baker and the reader. Days later, Cassie convinces them to break into an empty house on Wormwood Ave which they begin using as their clubhouse.
The young boys are enthralled by the older girl, and both begin to have feelings for her, which they are trying to hide from her and from each other. Cassie begins to play the boys off one another using those feelings to keep the teens doing her bidding. As the situation unfolds, Baker soon finds himself in the middle of a situation that he can no longer control. Wormwood is a suburban nightmare for any teen or parent of one. This is as realistic as it gets, as simple as it can be and as deadly as any outcome that you can imagine. Five stars for a story that had me holding my breath until the final pages were turned.
by Mike Thorn
Darkest Hours was not my first experience with Mike Thorn, having read "Shelter for the Damned," his novella several months ago. This is a short story collection of tales told by Mike, each one different from the last, each one utterly and disturbingly horrifying. From the first page of the first story, I knew that this was something different than his previous work, and I was immediately appalled and intrigued. Simply titled “Hair” it tells the tale of Theodore, who oddly, has an intense obsession with hair. His hair, other people’s hair, curly, wavy, straight hair. Hair pleased him in ways that nothing else ever had or could and this story details what happens when he makes the conscious decision to cater to his obsession.
The next tale creeped me out as much as the first tale disturbed my finer senses. A group of bored teens break into a closed down school and former crime scene to do some urban exploring and a little partying. The school was run by former Principal Paul MacFarland, Paul “Peeler” MacFarland, to be exact. I will let you derive what you will from that name. Needless to say, the group of partiers find out exactly how he received that nickname but that’s not the only secret they discover that night. Having been a bored teen into urban exploring at one point, long ago, this chilled me to the bone. I am glad to say that I have gotten over those particular urges and if I hadn't before reading this, I can promise you, I’m over it now.
Two others also left me feeling haunted and uncomfortably in the dark, “Choo-Choo” and “A New Kind of Drug.” Choo-Choo is shorter than the rest but carries a long-lasting effect as two stoners explore a train yard with terrible results. “A New Kind of Drug” actually left me wanting more and left me turning on more lights than normal as I went about my house last night. My curiosity was in overdrive as I wanted to know more about the ‘drug’ in the story and how they came by it but I also feel as if Mike Thorn could come back at any time and turn this into a full-blown novel.
As if the stories were not enough proof of his skill and writing ability, he closes out the book with a second section of seventeen Criticism and Analytical essays on various works, including Ulmer’s “The Black Cat” wherein he discusses the parallels of that work to Poe’s, 1843 story of the same name. From there, he delves into the films of Tobe Hooper including “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, M. Night Shyamalan’s movies “Signs”, “The Village” and “The Happening”, Rob Zombie’s “House of a 1000 Corpses” and “The Devils Rejects.”
Romero is here too, along with Wes Craven and Martin Scorsese and many others. I really enjoyed some of the perspectives that he shared in these essays and appreciated some of the finer nuances that he mentions from these films that I had not thought of before.
I was already a fan of his work, but the range he displays in this collection for both fiction and non-fiction writing is mind-boggling. I loved every word, and every creepy minute