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Uncomfortably Dark Book Reviews

Now taking review requests for May-August.  Books will be scheduled in the order they are requested.  Acceptance of a book is NOT a guarantee of a review. Reviews are still subject to our policy.

*UDH posts limited reviews from Nov. 15 - Jan.15 for personal time for the team. 

We do not read or review romance or erotica of any kind.  We do not read or review any explicit content depicting graphic child rape and/or sexual abuse. 

Email requests to cnola.author@gmail.com.

Rating System:

3 = Good Solid Read

4 = Great Read, Excellent Writing

5 = Superior to most other reads

 

Godless Book Reviews

Short Reviews for Shocking Tales

This section will contain our short reviews for the many short but shocking stories on Godless.com. They will not show book covers or contain links for each one. The direct link to Godless.com is below.

05/14/2022 The Buried King

by Thomas K. S. Wake

THE BURIED KING is a story about, well…an ancient burial ground? Just not in the way you would think. 
The natives know what is buried down there. They know that It must never get the opportunity to rise again, because nobody will be able to control It. And then some developers want to build a hotel there. What do you think happens from there?

This short story was well-written – it had to be, because D&T has a good reputation for quality publications. The biggest drawback was the fact that there were so many POV shifts without warning the reader, but it is something that might be fixable with a little formatting and shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

And for 50c it is a bargain!

4 STARS 
*Reviewed by Mort Stone

05-07-2022 Watched

by Iain Anderson

Watched is a darkly erotic and brutal tale that follows a couple, Alison and Frank, as they embark on a spa vacation for a much-needed break from their horrid reality. Life for the pair had been turned upside down after a spiteful ex-boyfriend posts an explicit video of Alison online, shattering her life. A long trial put an end to the public viewings but did nothing to help Alison’s internal struggle.  The spa is just as beautiful as they had hoped and Alison and Frank both promise to try to relax, unwind, and reconnect. Things turn sinister when Alison finds herself succumbing to a much darker temptation that resides in the spa.  Pros: well-written, relatable characters and emotions.  Cons: Felt a bit rushed in the end, would have liked more detail about the presence at the spa. 
3.5 stars 

05-07-2022 Zoo

by Joe Scipione

Zoo is an interesting collection of well-written and highly visual short stories that focus on animals and insects of all kinds. Each one simmers with a quiet skin-crawling horror as the tale unfolds. This would be a sufficiently creepy book to take camping or hiking, to read around a campfire as your skin begins to prickle with goosebumps from the chill in the air or possibly from the stories you are reading.  A couple favorites for me were Herring Run, Hunting with Pepper, and Obsession. 
4 stars 

 

05/21/2022
Wicked Appalachia

by Tony Evans

Tony Evans offers up 8 bone-chilling folk horror stories from the dense Appalachia Mountains. Each story is full of rich depictions, authentic characters, and a healthy serving of country folk horror. He gives you just enough to get into the story and find something to relate to before ripping the mountains and valleys out from under the once stable ground to reveal the darkness beneath. I read these in one night, enthralled by each story and the folk horror within the pages.

Many of the legends that linger here, I had not heard of, and for me, that was refreshing. I love the standard horror fare, monsters, vampires, and werewolves, but Tony brings a whole host of new horrors to the surface.  While there is not a bad story in the bunch, a few favorites of mine were “Your Notches Are Like My Tattoos”, “Darkness”, and “The Bone Lady.”

4 stars for a fun collection full of darkness.

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05/07/2022
Do Not Weep For Me

By Tony Tremblay

Brief Overview:

Goffstown, New Hampshire has seen its share of supernatural mayhem, murder, and monsters. With the banishment of the demon James Moore, some in the town believed their bloody past was behind them. The devil knows better.

Review:
Do Not Weep For Me is one of those stories that keeps you on the edge of your seat, rocketing through emotions, as Tremblay pulls you into an abyss of terror so deep, you’ll be lost there for days. There is a war being waged in these pages, a bid for the destruction of humanity by demonic forces beyond comprehension.  

Horror, fear, grief, shock, dismay, and bone-chilling terror wait for these characters as they are pulled into a quest for power that is beyond their control. It’s an emotional read, as the author keeps you rooted, fully invested in the story, and its incredible cast of unique characters.

The visuals in this book will haunt you every bit as much as the outcome will astound you. This has one of the most original plot twists that I have seen done in a story of this nature. I’ve been a huge fan of demonic stories for most of my life and Do Not Weep For Me is the best one that I’ve read in recent years.

5 Demonic stars.

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4/30/2022
9 Horror Stories: The Sequel

By Josh Darling

9 Horror Stories contains exactly that; 9 gruesome, gory, and shocking stories meant to put a bit of darkness in your sunshine filled world. Death, decay, gore and more await you between the covers of this excellent collection from Josh Darling.  


Do not assume gentle or cozy horror with Darling as his last name; this author is serious about his craft and the words fired off on each page will make you flinch. He pulls no punches as he unleashes his horrors onto the world. Some of the stories are raw and brutal, clearly in your face horror, while others are more subtle and psychological, but they all bring the pain. 


A few favorites are:
Cake Eats Dog-absolutely not what the clever title implies. This tale is horrific and gruesome. 


Best Vacation Ever-I enjoyed this one a great deal, wonderful twist, and wryly amusing. 


Entry of the Gladiators-again, not at all what you might think.  I had to read this one twice as the first time, I was amused by the overall concept but the second time, I was more intrigued by the underlying storyline. This one was the most multi-layered story in my opinion and showcases Darling’s impeccable range. 


4 solid stars for this collection. It’s well worth space on your shelf. 

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4/30/2022
The Clown Hunt

by Judith Sonnet

The Clown Hunt is a violent gore-filled romp through urbanite paranoia and insanity. A group of neighbors have taken it upon to themselves to form a neighborhood watch group of sorts and decide to take matters into their own hands after a series of weird attacks happen by people dressed as clowns. 


One evening the group rounds up several people, all of whom are dressed as clowns, and take them to a wooded area. Given only a brief head start, the clown hunt begins. What follows next is a hellish chase through the trees as clowns and crazed urbanite villains hunt them down. The array of violent deaths in this book is astounding and brutal, each scene more visceral than the last. 


This book is not just blood and gore, there is a solid and tragic storyline, and the events play out perfectly, bringing the story to a satisfying but sad close. I only wish the hunted clowns could say the same! 


This was a solid 4 star read for me and I look forward to more from Judith. 

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4/16/2022
Try Again

By Wesley Southard

Book Synopsis:
After an exhausting day at work and a run-in with an obnoxious loudmouth at the gym, all Robin Bellamy wants is to go home and unwind with her father. But when she reaches their house, she discovers something is very wrong. Several armed men appear to be waiting inside, and they’re threatening her father’s life. However, there’s a bigger problem:

The house itself won’t let her in.

After trying numerous times, Robin realizes there may only be one right way into her own home. Can she uncover the correct route in and through the house before the trespassers even know she’s there? Or will she be doomed to repeat the tedious process over and over and over again…

Review:
Wesley Southard offers up a new twist in this highly original tale. For me, this read like an adult “choose your doom” book, only you don’t get to make the choice.  The main character is Robin Bellamy and after a long and frustrating day, all she wants to do is get home and make dinner for herself and her ailing father. But when she arrives, she knows something is wrong; there are men inside yelling at her father. Scared for him and pissed off, she tries to get inside, but the house will not let her. Every attempt lands her back in her car, still driving home.

 
As she struggles to understand what is going on while still outside the house, her father’s situation is becoming more desperate inside.  I loved the fast pace and tension that drove this book. Wesley pulls you right into chaos and slowly lets you unravel the clues along with Robin.  


This was very well-written, a quick read with a lot of action. 
It was great to read a strong female character willing to risk all for her father while not backing down from any danger.  Kudos to Wesley for such a strong and fun story. 

4 Solid Stars

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4/09/2022
Hacked in Two

by Daemon Manx & James Carlson
Published by Gloom House Publishing

I am going to start this by saying that I know both James Carlson and Daemon Manx very well. I consider them both friends, not just my peers; I find them to be highly talented authors. I say all of this, only to say that no matter how well you know someone, or think you do, or how familiar you believe yourself to be with their work, art, or skill, there comes a time when they prove you wrong.

Hacked In Two showcases just how strong these two authors truly are. Their writing is clean, the pacing is superb, and the twists are unbelievable. I could never have predicted the ending to either story in this book.

Carlson’s Red Falls takes us on a pleasant weekend trip to a Wine Tasting festival in small town USA. June and Ezra are a lovely couple, aware of their environment, vegans, eco-friendly; just trying to be the best people they can be. Upon arriving in Red Falls, they are disappointed to learn that the wine festival no longer exists, but they decide to make the best of it. While at dinner that night, they meet another couple, also there for the defunct festival, Marcus, and Nigel. They decide together to make the most of the weekend and agree to join Marcus and Nigel for a hike the next morning. What unfolds after this is one very unexpected journey to hell for our wayward travelers.

The twist just blindsides you.  4.5 stars for this story alone.

Manx’s offering of Deacon, is another superb story with a twist. This is unlike anything I have ever read by Daemon. I hesitate to reveal too much of this story as I want you to experience it for yourself, fully. Deacon is one hell of a badass character that wreaks havoc with a purpose. Saying more will ruin the many delights hidden in this story. Please read it for yourselves.  Again, 4.5 stars for Deacon.

Together, this book is worth adding to your collection and reading more than once just for the sheer joy of being exposed to these stories once again.  I am beyond surprised and proud of both authors for expanding their range, and their voice, so far beyond what I was used to.

Together, 5 stars for raising their own bars to new levels.

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04/09/2022
Soup

by Kate DeJonge

Kate reached out to me recently and offered me an ARC for her new novella, SOUP. I quickly accepted as the cover, and the title alone, intrigued me. I am very happy that I accepted the offer.

Soup follows a trauma-ridden young woman as she carries out her now-content life as a morgue assistant. Ashley had a very abusive father, which led to a nightmarish childhood and teen existence, as you might imagine. However, she quickly discovers her gift for art and uses it as a means of escape, both literally and figuratively.  After college, she lands a job as a morgue assistant with dreams of opening her own funeral parlor. As you might imagine, Ashley is a bit obsessed with death, or rather, the death of abusers.  The morgue she works for is near a prison, which keeps her well-supplied with the men she despises.

The story unfolds at a solid pace, revealing Ashley’s childhood, her obsession, and how a simple online activity puts Ashley right in the middle of a dubious plan, that could help her or quite possibly, hurt her. I will leave the rest for you to read and savor as I did.

Soup is a delight for anyone that loves a good revenge story or may need some gleeful cathartic reading.

4.5 Stars.

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03/26/2022
Under Her Skin

Published by Black Spot Books

Edited by Lindy Ryan & Toni Miller

Releases April 5!

Overview:

Edited by Lindy Ryan and Toni Miller, Under Her Skin celebrates women in horror from cover to cover. In addition to poems contributed by seventy poets, the collection also features a foreword penned by Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) Grand Master and recipient of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Lifetime Achievement Award, Linda D. Addison; interior illustrations by Science Fiction & Fantasy (SF&F) Poetry Association Grand Master and recipient of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Lifetime Achievement Award, Marge Simon; and cover art by noted horror artist Lynne Hansen.


The collection has been selected by distributor IPG as a Spring 2022 Top Shelf Pick and is the first in an annual women-in-horror poetry series from Black Spot Books. The second installment, planned for October 2023, will focus on domestic horror, with proceeds donated to The Pixel Project, a global nonprofit that works to end violence against women worldwide.


Review:

Under Her Skin is an astounding collection of poetry written by a stellar line-up of authors. The poems are haunting, dark, deeply layered, and emotional. Rage, fury, sadness, hurt, devastation, and rejection fill the pages with the highly personal scars of the authors that bled across every page within. I have never read a more intense collection of words, clawed from the depths of raw emotion, than this one.

I cannot choose a favorite as each one resonated somewhere in my soul, as my scars were made just a little lighter with each shared within. I have felt all these things, and I carry my pain deep in my heart like many of these authors. You will have many favorites here, as each one finds one of your scars and makes it ache just a little less.

Besides the poetry within, the book is beautifully designed, both inside and out. This is one for the shelves, to be read, and read again, to be shared and to be admired.  

5 Stars.

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03/26/2022
The Eater of Gods

by Dan Franklin

Brief Synopsis:

In the dying village of Al Tarfuk, long among the war-stained dunes of eastern Libya, Professor Norman Haas learns the location of the tomb that had been his wife’s life pursuit. The final resting place of Kiya, the lost queen of Akhenaten, whose history had been etched from the stone analogues of history for her heresies against the long absent pantheon of Egyptian Gods.

Dan Franklin’s debut supernatural thriller is a tale of grief, of loneliness, and of an ageless, hungry fury that waits with ready tooth and claw beneath the sand.


Review:

I loved everything about this story. I was fascinated with ancient Egypt when I was a child, so the history and the details in this book really struck a chord with me. This read like a thrilling treasure hunt adventure dipped in darkness. The trip to the village is woven with hints of tension, glimpses of danger at every turn but once they discover the tomb, the pace and the adrenaline ramps up as you are taken through an underground maze of terror.

Franklin penned an intricate story with heavy layers of intrigue, history, danger, fear, and loss. I will be re-reading this at some point, just to experience it all over again.

4.5 stars.

Releases May 2022!

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03/26/2022
Cracked Sky

by Ben Eads

Brief Synopsis:

Reeling from the loss of their only child, Stephen and Shelley Morrison take a harrowing journey through a world beyond the crack in the sky, where their daughter's spirit is trapped with The Lost Ones. They must stop her murderer before it fulfills its goals: Terrorize. Consume. Destroy.


Review:

I went into this story blind and I’m so glad I did.  Ben Eads takes you on a journey through the dark side of grief and recovery, the dark place you find yourself in, the toll it can take on a marriage, on your spirit. When Stephen realizes his little girl is trapped somewhere in a world beyond this one, with the one that took her, he risks everything to free her. This is a short but devastatingly emotional read, have tissues ready.

4 solid stars.

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2/26/2022
Sadness of the Siren

by Samantha Underhill

Sadness of the Siren is a beautiful book of poetry that conveys the deepest emotions that lie buried inside the heart of the siren that wrote them.

Poems of love and loss, lyrical verses of passion and heartbreak, myth and lore, honor and duty, and sadness, and betrayal. The range pulls from all ends of the emotional spectrum as the author shares her pain across the pages, allowing the ink to weep for her as tears run freely down her cheeks.

The beauty between these pages lies in the pure simple truth of the heartache that is being shared, the raw hurt and pain pouring from within, nothing held back or hidden. The siren is there, vulnerable, and naked, on every page.

4.5 stars.

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2/26/2022
Beyond the Creek

by Nico Bell

Nico Bell penned a dark and disturbing tale for her debut novel, Beyond the Creek. Alex Foster is alone, tired, scared, and pregnant. Running from past bad decisions, she is hoping to find a new start in a small town, somewhere safe to raise her baby.

She seeks employment at the Nox estate as a caretaker for Mr. Nox, who is recovering from a stroke. His wife Dottie is a stern woman that runs a strict household and is also raising her granddaughter, Callie. Alex is hired, much to her relief, but she is also given a warning to never venture outside beyond the creek.

Alex is befriended by Helen, the real estate agent who shows Alex the house that she has chosen to rent. Helen and her wife quickly welcome Alex to the small town with open arms and friendship. Things seem perfect until events at the Nox house begin to spiral into madness.

Soon, Alex finds herself caught up in a web of secrets and danger as the story unfolds to its disturbing end.

This story was very well-written and easily captures the attention of the reader. I found myself thoroughly intrigued as I read, hoping to learn the secrets of the Nox house for myself. Once I reached the conclusion, I almost wished I hadn’t as this book involves one of my biggest fears! This was a great read and a solid debut by Nico Bell.

Four Solid Stars.

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2/26/2022
Milk Teeth

by Andrew Post

Despite the synopsis, I had no real idea what I was getting into with this book. I was surprised with a fun read about a backwoods family who faces some struggles in obtaining the milk of their choice.
Add in a prolonged pregnancy, a domineering mother, a grandmother that knows things she shouldn’t and a weird God of some unknown lore and you’re in for a disturbing ride into the unknown.
This story was equal parts amusing and disturbing while being stuffed full of horrific details. Milk Teeth is not a story about baby teeth…or is it?

3.5 Curious Stars.

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02/12/2022
Winterset Hollow

by Jonathan Edward Durham

Impeccable is the first word that comes to mind when I try to put this story into words. Instant classic is another phrase that I want to use. Beautifully written, like any other fairy tale full of wonder and awe, but this fairy tale is NOT for your children.  It is a deeply complex tale that beckons the reader right back to their own childhood and a beloved book. It invites you to remember what you most loved about your favorite story, what troubles did it help you escape, what courage did it give you, what adventures did you have in-between those pages.  


The story reads like a classic fairytale, but the horror is disturbing and dark, savage in its unfolding. It feels like childhood, and home; like reading in a sunbeam, until page after page darkens along with your sunbeam as the weather turns gray, and bleak as the rain begins to pour. This story pulls you from reality and transports you directly into the journey of Eamon and his friends as they travel to pay homage to their favorite author or rather to visit his estate, where he wrote their beloved book, Winterset Hollow. 


This is an astonishing debut novel by Jonathan Edward Durham and he has set the bar for his next book extremely high. I cannot wait to see what he brings to the table next.

5 stars.

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02/12/2022
Drawn & Quartered

Daemon Manx & Diana Olney

Daemon Manx and Diana Olney have created a remarkable collection with their offering of 4 short stories sure to delight and disturb you.

The first story was my favorite one by Manx, titled “The Party” as it had a twist that I did not predict and quite thoroughly pleased me. I also liked that it was set on Halloween, because, well, Halloween.


His second story, “The World Turned Red” was also a disturbing tale that I enjoyed due to the nature of the strong female character and her will to survive horrors that women should not need to endure. I enjoyed the set-up of this story and action-movie type scenes that unfolded.


Olney’s first story, “Maneater” is beautifully written and will speak to the heart of any woman that has been left broken-hearted. It’s sad, emotional, and viciously amusing.


“She Devil” is the second story by Olney and I adored it. A bit sexy, a bit disturbing, and very dark, it checked all the boxes for me to be a good short story with just the right amount of horror.


Four Dark Stars for Drawn and Quartered.

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01/22/2022
Serial

by Justin Boote

Serial will grab you by the balls and yank you along by the short and curly’s on an adrenaline-fueled psychotic roller coaster of death, mayhem, and murder.
Robert Mackenzie and Jeremy Gomez are scientists investigating what triggers psychotic behavior and if they can cause the same behavior in a “normal person“ using a drug cocktail they created.  They are testing their compound on humans to time and study their reactions, and then would apply an antidote, to reverse the effects of their drug once they conclude their study.   The results were better than they expected, and the Nobel prize was sure to be theirs. After all, more than 10 percent of all prisoners in England had been diagnosed as psychotics, far more than in America even and Dr. Mackenzie had visions of reducing this number and the crime rate by drastic proportions. Imagine a cure to psychosis!
When young Ann Wilson shows up looking for a quick payout to buy some proper clothes for job interviews, she feels odd during the experiment but does not relay any of this information to the doctors, thinking she will not get the money she needs.  They let her leave without giving her the antidote, thinking Ann was the exception to the rule, or rather, the exception to their drug. The doctors have no idea what they just unleashed.
The way this story unfolds will leave your jaw on the floor and the amount of carnage in this book is nothing short of incredible. You may think you know how this will play out, but I promise you, you do not.
4.5 stars for Serial

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01/15/2022
Monochrome Noir

by Jack Wells

New author Jack Wells has hit the scene running with his take on a detective story with a twist. Giving us an alternate world to traverse and a supernatural element to add to its intrigue, he delivers a gripping private eye story as told through the eyes of grumpy gumshoe Henry Hardcastle. As Hardcastle attempts to unravel the mystery unfolding in Angel City, Charlie Grant is just trying to deal with her own hardships but finds herself set on a different path.  That path happens to be leading to the deadliest person in town.  
Wells creates an interesting story, within a unique setting, that makes use of dynamic and relatable characters in a perfect noir mystery that would rival any of the original detective stories out there.  I am anxious to see the next installment in this series, as I happen to know that more are planned which will bring more to this unfolding story. 4 stars for this highly original tale.

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01/15/2022
Left to You

Daniel Volpe

Volpe continues to raise the bar with every book he puts out, his writing is clean and tight, delivering each story with machine gun precision. Filler words do not find homes within his pages. The characters are your brothers and sisters, your grandpa, and the lady next door, perfectly relatable, and acceptably mysterious as only our elders and our acquaintances can be.


Left To You brings us Robert, a young man doing his part to take care of his mom as she is dying from cancer. He works two jobs to keep the bills paid and spends his evenings taking care of his very sick mother after the nurse leaves.  He is torn apart from his grief, a tangible thing, that has settled deep in his bones as he watches her waste away, a little bit more gone, every day. But he puts on the mask that we all wear and tells her that he is fine, that things will be fine. He can’t let her see his pain, not when she suffers so much.


A kind old man from the store has taken a liking to Robert and often spends time there chatting with him as he shops.  Robert also sees him at the diner for his evening meals. Josef may be old, but he has good stories to tell. Josef has seen many cruel and unusual things, he knows suffering like no other, having been a Holocaust survivor. He is also nearing the end of his life, but he has one more task to handle. Something he wants to leave for Robert, something to help him.


When Robert finds out what has been left to him, it is up to him to decide what to do. What would you do to save the only family you have left?  What would you give up?


Left to You reads like a roller coaster carrying you through a tidal wave of emotion. This book will tear you apart and make you angry. It will hurt you and make you cry. It will make you suffer because this is what has been left to You.  


5 Golden Souls Left to Daniel Volpe, and one broken heart.

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01/08/2022
Piece by Piece

by Daemon Manx
Published by Last Waltz Publishing

Piece by Piece is an interesting tale that looks at that age-old question “would you want to know when you die?”  However, you pose the question to someone, you always get interesting questions back.  “Well, Do I know what year I die or just a month and day?  Is there a time involved?  Do I get to know how I die, and can I avoid it?” On and on, etc. You can formulate some of the responses for yourselves.  I’m sure many of us have had this question asked of us or have asked it ourselves.

Bobby Canfield is told at a very young age when he is going to die. An experience with three little neighbor girls and their Ouija board reveals a bit more than Bobby had bargained for, so much so that he blocks it out for years, decades even as he goes about his life.  Bobby is a good kid, a good son, a good student.  He leaves for college, meets the love of his life, Carolyn and begins building a life a with her.

A sudden injury and a visit to his parents brings back a long-forgotten memory and Bobby begins putting the pieces back together. Slowly, he begins to understand what his message from so long ago was and what he must do.

Daemon delivers another superior short story with a very emotional undertone. While this story still fits the horror genre theme, being bone-chilling and haunting, the heart of it speaks directly to yours. 

At the risk of spoilers, I will leave this as it stands.

Simple, haunting, and beautifully written, 4 stars for Piece by Piece.

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01/08/2022
Verum Malum

by Michael R. Collins
Published by Gloom House Publishing

First review for Gloom House Publishing, guaranteed not to be the last.  Author Michael R. Collins takes us on a ride for the ultimate horror story.  This story checks all the boxes, a crazed cult, close friends, a man with a dark past, a deep love, demons that will not be tamed, and a person, that is ready to sacrifice all.

Brief Overview:

What would you do to save the soul of the only person that ever mattered to you?  Newlywed partners Ben and Noah have nothing but time ahead of them. Time to live, love, and grow into a life that they both want, with each other and for each other.  Ben has a dark past that he spent years healing from and hiding from, but he knew one day it would come crashing down.

Noah loves Ben with emotions that are so deep, he can forgive him his secrets.  When a close party with friends brings a man from Ben’s past straight to his doorstep, Ben knows he cannot hide any longer.  He tells Noah and their close friend, Jackie, everything.

Crazed cult leader, Marius, let Ben run away years ago, willing to bid his time. Now that he is ready to complete his quest to find the Verum Malum and to know its secrets, he needs Ben back. He believes Ben is the key to what he has been seeking.

As the cult forces Ben to do their bidding, Noah, and Jackie race against time to find him and to save him, even if saving him, means sacrificing themselves and their very souls.

Review:

This story is a gut-wrenching, tragically horrifying tale of a young man trying to overcome his past and not being allowed to do so. It shows us the lengths that we are willing to go to for our friends, our family, for those that we hold most dear.  It is a most gruesome tour of a landscape our minds are not prepared for and a quest that we cannot hope to return from, but Noah is willing to do it anyway.

Ben is worth that and more.  Short, but nerve-wracking, I loved this story in its entirety. The characters were well-written, the pacing is on point, and the descriptions vivid enough to paint full scenes in your mind, scenes that you may not want to remember after.

This is a great first read for me from author Michael R. Collins and Gloom House Publishing and I look forward to more.

4 stars for Verum Malum.

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The Best of Indie Horror
Christmas Edition

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! 

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Of Witches

by Steve Stred

Brief Overview:

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.


My Review:
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.

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Beneath A Pale Sky

Philip Fracassi

Book Synopsis:

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.”


My Review:

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.

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Gone to See The River Man

Kristopher Triana

Book Synopsis:

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.


My Review:

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

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They All Died Screaming

Kristopher Triana

Book Synopsis:

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.


My Review:

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.

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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. 

 
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In Somino
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”.  

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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. 

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October Nights

by Kevin Lucia

Book Synopsis:


This Halloween…

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.


Review:

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. 

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Starlight Drive

by John Palisano

Brief Synopsis:

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. 


Review:

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. 

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The End of Halloween

by Greg Chapman

Brief Synopsis:

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. 


Review:

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.  

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The Smell of Cedar

By River Dixon

Brief Synopsis:

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. 


Review:

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. 

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H/ARMED

Dustin LaValley

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. 

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Slattery Falls

by Brennan LaFaro

Book Synopsis:

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.


Book Review:

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. 

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Tent Revival

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. 

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Tales From The Parkland

by Ronald McGillvray

Brief Synopsis:

11 short stories and one novella of horror for late at night. Welcome to the many “What If?” scenarios of Ronald McGillvray’s imagination.