Uncomfortably Dark Book Reviews

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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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Mr. Salina's Seven Scary Stories

Matthew P. S. Salinas

Overview:

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. 


Review:

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. 

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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.


Review:

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. 

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The Woman Shrouded in Flies

by Nick Gray

Brief Synopsis:

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. 


Review:

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. 

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Rock & Roll Nightmares
70's Edition

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!

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Stolen Tongues

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.

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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.

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Abigail

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.

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Empty Walls

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. 

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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.


Review:

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. 

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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.

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Hope Wharf

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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! 

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Gory Days

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! 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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chains

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. 

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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.   

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The Twelve

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. 

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Petrified Woman

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.

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Legion Machine

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.

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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.” 

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Underworld Dreams

Daniel Braum

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. 

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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. 

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The Samaritan

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.

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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. 

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Wormwood

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. 

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Darkest Hours

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.   Five stars. 

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Castle Heights

An Anthology by Red Cape Publishing

Castle Heights is a deeply creative anthology of tales that all take place within the same creepy high rise apartment building known as Castle Heights. Every city probably has one, what used to be a fancy hotel or posh apartments is now just a bit more run-down than it should be, has a few more moldy walls, dripping pipes and broken lifts than most places like it along with an odd fellow at reception desk, that always seems to be there, day or night. 


Each story was penned by a different author, about a different apartment in the building and what goes on there over the course of the same dark night.  The anthology starts out with “A Hole in One” by David Chaudoir who pens a tale of an old detective who becomes obsessed with a mystery in one particular apartment in the building when a series of old diaries is dropped off to him by a colleague.  The diaries detail a series of haunting events that take place while a professor is on sabbatical to write a book. He decides to investigate it himself, with unexpected results. 


“Apartment 10”  by Anna Dixon tells us about Scarlet, newly single and in a new place of her own trying to adjust to her break-up. Having caught her boyfriend, Charlie, cheating, she finally took steps to move out, with the help of her close friend, Justin. As she begins to settle in for the night, she hears a frantic banging on her door but no one is there. This happens a few more times before she locks herself in the bathroom and calls Justin for help. No one is there when Justin arrives and Scarlet has him go back to work, feeling silly and overly jumpy. She did have a drink after all, but then the knocking came back. 


“The Demon of Apartment 13” penned by Jason White details a light-hearted seance gone terribly wrong for teen Danny and his younger sister, Georgia. They thought they summoned their dead father, but that is not dear old dad at the door oozing out of the smoking Ouija board. 


One of my favorite stories was “ The Noises Outside Room 50” by MJ Dixon. Office Supervisor Matthew arrives home to set up a small work party when he sees that first, someone had spilled something foul, red and chunky all the way down the hallway and second, management had gifted everyone with new doormats. The spill was par for the course for the old building, but the doormats were weird and out of place, seeing as how management had not painted a wall or repaired a pipe in decades.  He shrugs off both and goes inside to prepare for his party. As the night progresses, a variety of screams and noises are heard right outside his door. Only one workmate has shown up, his office crush, Kelsey and they both try to make the best of it as the night gets weirder and weirder. What he eventually discovers is shocking and unexpected. 


I enjoyed each story in Castle Heights and really enjoyed the overall concept of the book. The stories were well-written, each one chilling, disturbing or all-out scary, full length concepts packed into tight little bits. 4.5 stars for Castle Heights. 

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Spiffing

Tim Mendees

Spiffing turned out to be one wild ride, far from the expectations I had at the beginning of the book. The book starts out a bit slow, describing a party being thrown by an overly wealthy man, Bertie Lexington-Brown, with his whole circle of friends, living it up 1920’s style.  I was a bit confused by the set-up until it was made clear later on, that these folks were at a “period party” and thus, were dressed, speaking and acting as if it really were 1920. 


A few unexplained slang terms were quite liberally sprinkled through the first few chapters, which almost took me completely out of the immersive feel of the story. I had to stop every few minutes to look up yet another slang term that I was not familiar with, so this bothered me a bit as I had to get back “into” story mode. 


Another layer of confusion came about when it was revealed that the guests were to be enacting a murder mystery as well, for the entertainment of their host. When the fellow is declared dead by his wife, chaos ensues when they can’t find the body. Of course, several of the guests then go into character for the murder mystery portion of the night, while the others realize that this was not how it was planned out. As reality sets in revealing that something much more sinister is going on, more chaos and a fair dose of hilarity breaks out, as the drunken and fairly high party guests set about trying to solve the real mystery. 


This is where the story truly begins to unfold as a series of ancient Egyptian artifacts are discovered, including a sarcophagus for a priest to a dark god, which was rumored to have only been a myth. As Bertie’s friend, Professor Jane Penrose, an accomplished archaeologist and Egyptologist, begins piecing together the legend of Nephren-ka, the others begin dropping off, one by one, in the large mansion that seems to have transformed into a giant labyrinth of hidden rooms and secret doorways.


The guests soon find themselves in more danger than they could have ever imagined, as the manor itself seems to become almost as evil as the entity that has been set loose among them. I was not prepared for how this ended and I fully appreciated the humor that was peppered throughout. Four stars for Spiffing, for a humorous but haunting tale of things that shouldn’t be messed with. 

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3:33 a.m.

by Luke Hindmarsh

Saffron is an exhausted nurse, headed home after another long night shift, when the absolute unthinkable happens. One small distraction, one wrong move and a massive deadly car crash ensues. Waking in the hospital, injured but alive, she is overcome by guilt and grief and hides the truth from the investigators. A  few rooms away, Jack watches his twin brother, Eddie, succumb to his injuries and grief pours through him, in an all-consuming rage. 


The following months, that should be bringing her healing and relief from her pain and her guilt is doing anything but. As the days drag on, her guilt deepens, her mind begins desperately looking for relief, for answers of any kind, anything to help relieve her of this burden. Her friend, Lucy, in tune with things of a more spiritual nature, is there to help guide her down a path of self-hypnosis and astral projection. 


Meanwhile, across town, Jack is dealing with his own loss and grief, struggling to get his life back on track. The crash not only took his brother, but his bandmates and his life-long dream of making it big in a rock band, with his brother as the front man. Jack is also trying to help take care of his mother, who has become more frail and sickly, cancer slowly consuming her. Jack spends much of his time trying to understand the occult rituals that Eddie was into, emptying out his flat brought more to light than dirty clothes and cupboards full of old tea and sugar. 


A chance meeting, a deep connection to the occult and a woman consumed by guilt. This story was a slow burn of guilt, deception, madness and horror as things beyond their control threaten to destroy them both. Will Jack or Saffron survive the aftermath of 3:33 a.m.?


3.8 stars from Uncomfortably Dark for a well-written novel, complex and chilling to the core. 

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A New Death:
Director's Cut

by Josh Vasquez

A New Death by Josh Vasquez is published by Valhalla Books, owned and operated by Adam Messer.  If you are looking for a fun read and love zombies, look no further. Josh has done a terrific job with his character driven series about a zombie apocalypse as it unfolds in Savannah, Georgia. He adds a fresh take on his approach with origin and zombie types as he introduces relatable characters, emotional storylines and tons of fast-paced action. 


A myriad of personality types really helps to carry the story along as they face the crisis at hand but also, still deal with normal relationship issues, family matters, grief and trauma. The savageness of some action scenes will make you cringe at the blood and gore while other scenes unfold that are just brilliant. 


There is also a religious theme running through the series as several characters begin to question their faith, or lack of it, depending on how they felt prior to the apocalypse. Essentially, the question of God’s existence is called upon a few times as the characters struggle to come to terms with the world as it now is and a God that would allow such a thing to happen. 


There are some places where the story gets a bit confusing and hard to follow, which did bring me out of total immersion mode just a bit. However, the story is fun, intense, and very fast-paced with an amazing cast of characters.  I am giving this 3.8 stars and I look forward to reading the last installment in the series. 

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Talia

by Daniel Volpe

Daniel Volpe has outdone himself with Talia and simultaneously set the bar even higher for those in his league. The story of Talia, the iconic character from Volpe’s “Billy Silver”, is crafted with the surgical precision of a neurosurgeon wielding his sharpest blade. This origin story, of a young woman with big dreams, a young woman that becomes something more than even she would realize, delivers a twisted tale of gruesome gore, and greed, with absolutely no punches pulled.


Like a champion boxer, dancing around the ring, Volpe delivers Talia’s story through carefully planned uppercuts, gut punches and a jaw-dropping TKO, that will leave readers shook and weak in the knees. I loved every round, every word, every earth-shattering blow.


I honestly don’t know if I’m to be more impressed with the author or the editor, seeing as how the editing was every bit as precise as the story was. Zero filler words exist in this story, zero fluff, just grit, grime, and gore in a sublime tail that pulled me right in and kept me, enthralled and cringing, until the very end.


Talia, is beyond uncomfortably dark, she is a work of art. Five seriously sick stars.

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ABC's of Terror-Vol.3

D&T Publishing

D&T Publishing has released their third volume of alphabetic fun, ABC’s of Terror is another gleeful glide through gruesome gore as you make your way through those beloved literary letters, the ABC’s. 26 tales sure to tantalize your terror taste buds. Naturally, I cannot give you the specifics of all 26 short gorie’s, um, stories, but I have selected a few favorites, amongst the many outstanding offerings of this volume’s voices. 


In no particular order, M. Ennenbach terrifies readers in his tale of a terrible typewriter in “T is for Typewriter”. A poor soul is given a box of goods from an estate sale and discovers a mint condition typewriter amongst the knick-knacks and calls his old friend, excited about his haul. A struggling writer, he is now thrilled to have a tool of the trade on his lonely table. His joy is short-lived, however, as his friend soon finds out. “T is for Typewriter” is a must read. 


“P is for Potato” is another one that made me gruesomely giggle in sordid shame. Patrick C. Harrison, III or PC3 as we love to call him, pens a tale of delicious disgust as a medical assistant has had enough of a patient's disturbing bodily functions. I was appalled and enthralled as this story grew roots in my mind. Another well-penned, gruesome gorey, ahem, story. 


Another fun tale by Victor J. Beowulf, kicked off the collection with “A is for Aqua-Net”, with a title like that, how could I not love it?  Big hair, big rock, big 80’s vibes, nothing like nostalgia to get the brain going except this tale was not what I expected. Poor Fernando is just a lonely guy with three oddly specific things to live for, writing horror, prostitutes and serial killer items. When a can of Aqua-Net arrives at his doorstep, he is overjoyed and inspired to use it that very night. It belonged to a former rock legend, Andy Asp, who was arrested for the murder of quite a few groupies, amongst other crimes.  Fernando could not have guessed the ending to this story, had he written it himself. 


Last but in no way least, “F is for F*cking Stupid Monkey Paw.” Great title, I laughed. And yes, it's exactly what you think. Lucky charm gone wrong, horribly wrong for the poor sucker that just bought it for $50 quid. Too short to say much, but be careful what you wish for when you suddenly find yourself the owner of a charmed monkey paw. 


4 fun stars for another great collection by D&T Publishing.

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Rehab

by Ryder Kinlay

“Rehab” is a gritty, violent journey through an Australian detox facility as Summer tries to overcome her battle with alcoholism, with some other unfortunate souls,  including several ex-cons, a fresh from prison patient, named Chris, who is crass, vulgar, and violent, and young, bubbly Kate, who befriends Summer the moment she arrives. 


Sam is the senior peer who is “in-charge” of the other patients and is entrusted to lead meetings, handle disputes, and otherwise, keep things orderly when staff is not readily available. Summer is young, beautiful and is struggling to maintain her sobriety and keep her family intact, for the love of her young son, Robbie.  


An instant connection to Sam is just the start of Summer’s problems, even as she begins to feel stronger and heal from her drinking issues.  Other issues arise as a result of her burgeoning relationship with Sam and jealousy from Chris, who relentlessly pursues her and Kate both for sexual relationships. Weeks and months pass as relationships and bonds strengthen between Summer and Kate, Sam and Summer and even Sam and Summer’s sons, as they begin a friendship while visiting their parents on guest weekends. 


When violence inevitably ensues, chaos rips through the facility as answers are sought and investigations are underway, but no one is prepared for the wrath of the innocent as this case unfolds. This is a very intense story, full of violence and gritty characters straight from the Australian underground.  I give this 4 solid stars for a riveting debut by Ryder Kinlay. 

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The Hard Goodbye

by Chris Miller

Chris Miller is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine and this story is no exception. The Hard Goodbye tells the story of a crew of thugs that have finally ripped off the wrong bad guy. John Savage and his crew, including one member that has a very bad monkey on his back,  have been doing jobs for a long time and have always been careful but when Tony joins their team, things take a turn for the worse. A corrupt cop is one thing but when he gets greedy, well, things go down the drain pretty damn quick. 


No sooner than they get clear with the money, and begin to celebrate another clean score, their victim is hot on their trail. Their vick was not just some guy. He was definitely the wrong guy to mess with, the last guy that anyone, ever, should have messed with. This story is intensely gritty, dirty, fast and dangerous with more bad guys than Pulp Fiction. There are cops, there is a deranged monkey, there is blood, and there is pain, a lot of pain. These guys bring the pain like no other. This is not technically a horror story but it fits horrifying, down to the last word. 


I need to give this five stars, the level of grit in this, is dangerous. 

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The Nightstockers

By Kristopher Triana and Ryan Harding

Welcome to the shitshow, folks!  I mean that in the best way possible. Freshway Grocery store is about to be put out of business by the meanest grocery store around! Devils Food, a chain that is literally being run from the bowels of Hell, is willing and able to do more than cut the competition. The group of Satanists that run it, are cruel, depraved, perverted and lusting for blood, and fresh meat. Trust me, Karen, you do not want to speak to this manager! 


Freshway quickly becomes a bloody battleground as the Devil’s Food employees quickly lay waste to their defenses. It’s a fight to the death for the next employee of the month, in this frenzied fury of bloodlust and hilarious overkills. 4 stars for sick, gory, fun. 

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Wild Hunters

Stuart Brogan

What a ride! So much is happening in this story, I barely know where to begin or what to mention first. Monsters, Marines and Mayhem, Galore! 


Deep in Somerset, during a wild rainstorm that is flooding the town, a group of Royal Marines are sent in to help evacuate the town, a town that is being overrun by more than flood waters. A nightmarish platoon of trolls, dwarves, dead Vikings and river monsters are taking over the countryside, led by something not quite human and definitely not a fairy-tale princess. 


Add in a few civilians, a very brave little girl and her massive dog and a group of hired mercs that have been sent in to control the otherworldly platoon and you best settle in for a long night. It’s going to be a wild one! I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. I’m a sucker for military movies and lots of action, toss in some monsters and a kid to boot and I was hooked. This was a fast-paced and fun read. I am giving it 4 solid stars for creative and creature-filled kills. 

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Six

by Mark Cassell

“Six” is exactly what you’d think. Six creepy short stories from the twisted mind of Mark Cassell. This will be a short review and it is a short book, a quick read but it does not skimp on quality. The quality of these stories is top-notch and full of terror, and chills. “Skin” completely creeped me out as I read about Gloria’s discovery in the basement, in her frantic search for her husband, after hearing a scream rise up from below. In a marriage plagued with troubles, she is still caring and compassionate and wastes no time in going to her husband's aid.  She was not the least bit prepared for what she found. 
Dinner at Grandma’s will never feel the same for me after reading “All in the Eyes.” Young Bobby was not comfortable around his grandma, never comfortable in her presence, especially when she stared at him with her deep, black eyes. He always felt like she was trying to see into his soul, and he never felt the same after. After reading this tale, I recalled receiving a few of those stares myself, from my own grandmother and broke out in chills. 
“In Loving Memory” takes us on a walk down memory lane as a man recalls his childhood friend and a terrible accident that had happened. How far would you go for a friend, especially when they call on you after twenty years, of being in the ground? 
“The Space Between the Spaces” was naturally my favorite as it tells a cleverly creepy tale about my idol, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe and his neighbor as the neighbor answers the questions set to him by the Insector, after Poe’s untimely demise.  The writing was spot on, exactly as I imagine one might have spoken around that time and the tale was every bit as creepy and tense as “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Very well-done, Mr. Cassell. You have my continued admiration for this story, alone. 
“On Set with North” is a story about disaster striking a movie set as a new actor and his driving instructor appear on location, to get North ready for his make-up and into costume. The instructor, solely along for the ride in hopes to get an autograph for his wife, finds himself pulled into the chaos that is unfolding on set, chaos that was definitely NOT in the script.
The last story tells us about a pair of siblings, Anna and Mick, going through their parents' things, at their childhood home, after the death of their mom, while the world is in the throes of a slow demise as a result of a virus. “Don’t Swear In Mum’s House” takes a creepy turn for the worse when an old friend shows up to play. 
Four solid stars for a short but satisfyingly creepy collection.

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The Virus

by Damien Lee

“The Virus” is a refreshing take on the classic zombie outbreak tale. A deadly virus swarms the  countryside as the Sunnymoor hospital is overwhelmed with patients. What is thought to be a deadly case of food poisoning soon turns into something more, as patients die and then, come back, no longer dead, starving for fresh blood. 
Young Amy is a nurse at Sunnymoor, recently transferred and on her second shift as chaos ensues within the hospital. They are overrun with patients that are bleeding profusely, and then going into cardiac arrest. There are not enough doctors to contend with everyone and the nurses are already short-staffed.  When a sick janitor begins to attack a doctor, Amy knows something is terribly wrong and runs for help. Ben, a guard, is just arriving to work and rushes to her aid when she flags him down. 
Meanwhile, over at the HMP Harrodale prison, inmate Frank Lee is well on his way to winning yet another illicit fighting match for fellow inmate and crime boss Gus Razor, a fighting ring that even the corrupt guards place bets on.  Frank owes a debt to Gus, a debt which Gus fully intends to collect on. As the fight is over and bets are collected, the guards approach Frank with a proposition to throw the next fight, and give him 24 hours to sleep on it, before escorting him to the medical ward. By the next evening however, none of that matters as a new guard attempts to evacuate the men as the virus sweeps the prison, turning inmates faster than before. 
The story follows the fates of Amy, Ben, Frank as they make their way from the overrun hospital, prison and the nearby towns, seeking out safety somewhere in the countryside. Gus and his new cronie head for a nearby military base, which has been left empty, hoping to bunker down there.  The fates of the four and their companions they pick up along the way, soon turn out to be more connected than any of them realize. 
This story is extremely fast-paced and intense, with a full measure of blood and gore thrown in. The action is non-stop and the tension seems to build and build even as you root for the survivors in their endeavors. Damien Lee does an excellent job at keeping the story focused and moving ahead, all while creating complex characters that you immediately love or hate. I loved this story, from beginning to end and I am giving it 5 stars for renewing my hope for the zombie tale.

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New Year's Day

by Robert Best

What to say, about “New Year’s Day”, other than, what a fun ride! The New Year can be a fun time for friends and family, often sharing food, fun and memories and many take time to reflect on past mistakes and often vow to make resolutions to change for the better in the upcoming year. 
This holds true for Emily and her father, who has made many mistakes and vows to Emily over the weeks leading up New Year’s Day, that he will get better. That he will stop drinking, stop the madness and be a better father, and he gives himself until New Year’s Day to get his shit together.  He swears. Emily, dealing with more and more of his drunkenness, simply has heard enough and does not really believe it, but she still hopes. It’s hard enough being in her last year of high school and taking care of him all the time. 
Meanwhile, something awful has been happening around town, animal attacks that have people scared to come out at night. Some type of big dog or wolf has been ripping people apart during the full moon and Emily has seen it, had it stare her down, twice. Or has it? She has picked up her fathers drinking habit and has been using it to cope with her own issues, the newest being her cheating boyfriend and now the aftermath of the animal attacks. 
When school friend, Darrin, approaches her about the wolf attacks, with his theory, a wild theory involving her father, she doesn't believe it, simply cannot believe it, can she?  She was drunk when she thought she saw it. Sure it was big, but it could have been a dog.  Sure, she was positive that her dad was drunk at home, passed out as normal, wasn't he?  As more clues seem to point to home, she becomes determined to prove to everyone, once and for all, what he was. 
This was a fast paced, creative take on a werewolf story but there were a few things that I felt could have been improved upon.  The connections that were being made were a little too hasty without being explained further, which I think could have helped the story unfold a bit better. More evidence coming from Darrin or being found by Emily would also have been helpful.   While there is a brilliant ending that I didn't see coming, I feel like the last third of the story was rushed a bit more than it had to be.  Overall, it’s a solid story and I’m giving this 3.8 stars for a fun read.

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In The Beginning

By Reed Alexander

“In The Beginning” follows the story of Joan, a gritty, down to earth, private detective on yet another case of marital doom and betrayal when her routine afternoon is ruined by the sudden appearance of what seems to be a meth-head out to steal a car, her car, from the looks of things. When she approaches him to give him a reason to think twice about his actions, she realizes that he has been badly injured and is terribly scared of someone following him. 


She, regrettably, shoves him into her room before he can make a scene and treats his stab wound while trying to get some answers from the badly shaken young man. He frantically tells her that his name is Dustin and that they need to get away, far away. That she is involved now and she cannot go to the cops. That these people have the cops in their pocket. 


Joan snorts in doubt, there is very little that she cannot handle and stoned meth-heads are not a challenge for her. She is determined to stitch him up and take him to the nearest hospital or police station and be done with him. However, before the blood can even dry on the fresh stitches, there is a sudden pounding on her door and a very large man forces his way inside her cheap motel room where she had been on stake-out. With a bit of fast thinking on her part, she manages to blind him with bear mace, evade him and get Dustin out of the room to her car. 


She takes them to a diner a few miles away for some food and some time to think and Dustin tries to explain further about being held captive on a farm, experiments, mutant people that cannot be killed and the whole thing sounds like a meth fever dream, until the man from her motel room suddenly shows up outside the diner, along with a dozen men just like him. As a Wild West shoot-out ensues, Joan finally realizes that maybe the meth head isn’t as high as she thought as her life goes from boring but good, to an all out roller coaster ride for survival. 


Reed Alexander takes a routine scenario, throws in a wild card and lets you loose on the ride of your life with this very fast-paced cosmic horror that breaks all the rules of what you think cosmic horror is or is meant to be. I had no idea where this ride was going to end up but I am sure glad that I bought a ticket. Giving this 5 stars for one intense tale of terror.  

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The Pope Lick Massacre

By Eric Butler

Jefferson County has a legend, some believe it, some only know the legend.


Since the death of their mom, Sam has been the sole caretaker of her brother, Kenny. Kenny and his scout troop are now missing somewhere in the woods around Pope Lick. Now Sam, Officer Tom Keene and several others gather to search the woods around Pope Lick, hoping to find the boys before nightfall.


As the rescue party sets out, someone else is also interested in what is going on in the woods that surround the small town. Someone that is more than what they appear to be and someone that has been betting on the local legend to keep people away from the woods and its secrets, real or imagined. 


But something wicked also lives in the woods around Pope Lick, something few ever live to tell about. Sam and her rescue group are about to find out that some small town tales are true. 


This story was one intense ride, pure fun, unexpected twists, complex characters and a great blend of small town drama, local lore and one savage creature stalking the woods. My only complaint is that I would have liked it to be a bit longer, with some more backstory about the creature in the woods, more of its origin story. Overall, fun read and gruesomely gory. I am giving this 4.5 stars. 

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The Miracle Sin

by Marcus Hawke

Marcus Hawke is a new-to-me author and I first heard about “The Miracle Sin” on Instagram. I was drawn to the book cover, simple but dramatic, a skull with a cross engraved on it. Basic black and white cover, elegant in its design, with a nod to the gothic.
The story follows Mason Cole, barely eighteen and about to graduate from high school, to begin a future that he is not looking forward to, especially as his friends Dale and Julie begin to discuss college plans.
Mason lives with his grandma, Rose, after a devastating earthquake in Jerusalem made him an orphan. Six-year old Mason was the lone survivor of the earthquake that killed 22,000 including both of his parents. His survival set off a chain of events that took years to manifest and now, a fun evening with friends is about to take a sudden and drastic turn for the worse.
As Mason’s world is turned upside down, he finds himself rescued by a member of the Militia Dei; a religious organization with particular views regarding the Messiah. Captain Grimshaw is their leader and is tasked with explaining how Mason is a part of their mission. What Grim reveals to Mason will make him question his entire existence.
This is exactly the kind of story that I live for; something deep enough to get lost in, a world created and unveiled for me to explore, to find wonder and horror alike. A story that makes me think, makes me ask questions and makes me wonder at what else this world may hold.
This story is meant to be read slowly, for the reader to become fully immersed in, for the reader to feel as if they are part of the story, not just reading it.
The writing is excellent. The characters are complex and full of emotions. The storyline is packed with tension and continuously pulls the reader in, keeping you entranced in it’s telling. I have not read a book like this one, in a long time, and I applaud Mr. Hawke on a job well-done. I will be back for more. Five stars.

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The Exercise

by Mark West

I loved everything about this novella by Mark West. This story takes place in 1943, in East Anglia and follows a group of soldiers taking part in an exercise. A squad of 5 men, led by a Corporal and a Lance Corporal are dropped off in a random location, given coordinates and have 22 hours to make it to the location without being seen, caught or otherwise compromised. This is a routine military exercise and for Corporal Ray Ward, he expects to carry it out without incident. 
His men are well-suited to this task and he knew that each man on his squad brought his own unique skill set to the team, especially navigator, Arthur “Gracie” Fields, who could find any location with a map and a compass and his Lance Corporal, Joe Kelly, who brought 20 years of experience with him. Alan “Porky” James was the radio operator and was built strong and stocky enough to shoulder the heavy pack without complaint and last but not least, was Danny Price, otherwise known as “Half.” 
The squad is brought to their starting point, given their set of coordinates and set off through the fields, towards an orchard. Once there, they consult their map, set their course and head out after a brief break. Their route takes them close to a river, almost hidden in the fields and Porky inadvertently falls into it, not realizing how close he was standing to a sharp drop-off right at the edge of the bank. They scramble to get him out of the water and to save the radio but Half ends up falling next and steps in a trap, a man-trap, a device that seems to be made almost like a bear-trap.  He ends up severely wounded and not able to walk. 
Not long after Corporal Ward sends two men after help, a car arrives and offers to take them to “Sinclair House '', which is an old estate being used as a rehabilitation unit for soldiers with shell-shock syndrome.  The soldiers arrive quickly and Half is escorted away for medical treatment while the others are assigned rooms for the night. Appreciative of the reprieve and in good spirits now that Half is being treated, the other soldiers begin to dry out the radio and take a look around the grounds. Soon enough, Corporal Ward discovers that something doesn’t quite feel right about the Sinclair House, and Lance Corporal Kelly agrees. By nightfall, the small squad is in for the fight of their lives and nothing has prepared them for this battle. Nothing could have ever prepared them for the horrors hidden at Sinclair House. 
I am giving this 5 stars for a fast-paced, well-written, story that pulls no punches.

 

Blue Hell

By Greg Gifune and Sandy DeLuca

“Blue Hell” is a wildly disturbing collection of short stories that unfold in a lonely rundown apartment building where the less fortunate seem to dwell. The first story centers around a homeless man that cannot remember what has happened to him after waking up in a hospital bed. The only thing he can recall are awful nightmares that seem too real to be just dreams. 


The second one follows a pregnant woman convicted of drunk driving, who is sent to a halfway house after being released from the hospital. Drug problems of her own and a haunting vision of something horrible on the road the night of her crash, continue to haunt her as she steps into the fresh hell of the halfway house and what awaits her there. 


The final story is about a young man that just lost his job and agrees to an afternoon of drinking with an older man that  used to work in the same mall. As day turns to night, he finds himself at the older man's apartment for more drinks as a storm ravages the night. The more he drinks, the more the behavior of the older man begins to worry him, and then downright scares him as he is forced to realize the truth behind his nature and the others that were there before him. 


Reading this left me disturbed and somewhat confused, until I finished it. Each story is expertly crafted with a chilling tale to tell, each will scare you and will make you look over your shoulder and each central character will also pull at your heart as they try to make sense of what is happening to them. The final moments will tie everything together but until then, you are left wondering what the hell is going on, right along with characters.  Not many stories can pull off such a feat and have it make sense so neatly at the end. I am giving this 4 out of 5 stars. 

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Behemoth

By HP Newquist

There is so much to say about this story that I barely know where to begin. Let’s start with “Holy Hell, what a ride!” I am a huge fan of creature features and this delivered in so many glorious ways.  HP Newquist is a new to me writer, with a large background in non-fiction. “Behemoth” is his first novel and it’s one hell of a debut!


Finely crafted characters, a richly detailed small town, a large dose of history and some religious scriptures all combine to make one chiling tale of the “Behemoth.” A creature that God has made along with Man. It ranks first among God’s works...Nothing on earth is its equal-a creature without fear. The Book of Job, 40:15.


This happens to be the opening lines of the book which sets up the entire tale, from start to end. Do you believe it?  Is it real? Does it exist? Is it even possible that something so big, so monstrous could still be walking amongst men, even now?  All of those questions and more are raised in this story, which reads as part mystery and all horror, as Robert Garrahan, editor-at-large of the New York Globe, is pulled into the biggest story of his life.  


Robert spends his days off and many weekends at  his house up in Ashford, where he is supposed to be working on a novel. Ashford is only a town away from Morris, but today, Garrahan needs to stop off in Morris to fill up his gas tank, someplace that he’s not been before. 


A young girl, Abby,  comes out to greet him at the old-fashioned gas station and she fills up his tank while making pleasant small talk with him.  He is a bit amused and charmed by her and by the small town, which looks like it hasn’t progressed at all in the last several decades. Before he pulls off, she asks him about the radio station he is listening to so he writes the call letters down on one of his business cards and gives it to her, smiling. 


Meanwhile, in Morris, a few days prior to Garrahan meeting Abby, a carload of drunk teens crash into a marker just outside of town and are found dead the next day. In Ashford, Billy McGrath suddenly disappears in the middle of the night. The following week, another woman is snatched from her bed. Something is stalking and killing people, snatching them directly from their homes. 


Two more weeks pass before Garrahan makes his way back to Morris, hoping to see the town better. Of course, he stops by the gas station and this time he meets Abby’s father, Bruce Donahue, as Abby fills his tank. Small talk is made and connections are formed, but Garrahan does not know the role that his small visits will soon play. 


A few weeks later, Bruce shows up in New York City seeking Garrahan out for help. He tells him that something is wrong in Morris, that Abby is in danger. That Garrahan is the only person outside of Morris that they’ve ever met. He desperately needs his help and the story Bruce tells Garrahan is more far-fetched than any he’s ever heard. In a cruel twist of fate, Bruce is killed by a car as he is leaving Garrahan’s office, with Robert Garrahan being the only person alive to know where Abby is and that something is very wrong. 


Being a decent man, he knows he cannot leave her stranded in a hotel in the middle of New York City, so he goes to get her and takes her back to his apartment so he can try to figure things out from there. Abby backs up her father’s wild tale, leaving Robert Garrahan no choice but to investigate and to get Abby back to her mother, in Morris. Robert Garrahan has no idea what is really going on in Morris but he is determined to find out. 


This is just the opening set-up for this horrifying tale as HP Newquist weaves his elaborate tale of terror through the small villages of Morris and Ashford and creates a cast of characters that are richly detailed, highly relatable and all come together to form one complex, chilling tale of chaos, murder and mystery as Robert tries to understand the history behind the “Behemoth.”


While this story does have some slow moments, it is well-worth the wait as the story unfolds. It is full of details, and old history that must be explained and pieced together in order to understand the entirety of events that are happening. This was such a well-written story with a very frightening creature, the likes of which I have not ever heard of before in any story. 

I am giving this 4 solid stars out of five and I hope to see more horror from HP Newquist very soon. 

 
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Song of the Death God

By William Holloway

In the second installment of the Singularity Cycle, William Holloway shows us the origins of Carsten Ernst, also known as Liche.  Ernst is in the first book, “The Immortal Body” but more as a behind the scenes character.  There was not much really said about him or his origins but this book delves into exactly that. Holloway shows us where Ernst’s obsession with the unexplained began, with our origins and our own mortality. 


The deeper Ernst dives into his quest for knowledge and understanding, the more undone he becomes. Not only is he seeking to understand these things, but he is seeking the power behind it, the power he wishes to understand and control.  Ernst is driven by nothing more than pure need to understand the things that mankind has not been able to understand thus far. He despises his family, and does not understand why they deign to be the filthy creatures that he considers them to be when there are far better pursuits of your time. 


One by one, they too, become pawns in his elaborate chess game with the universe and what lies beyond.  The beautiful Ava, maid and daughter of the cook, is deeply devoted to Carsten, but she too falls prey to his obsession and becomes no more than a stepping stone in his journey.  The darkness quickly begins to take over Carsten’s mind, the further he explores the occult and its many secrets. 


Holloway has been compared to Lovecraft with his love of cosmic horror but Holloway is quickly crafting something more, something beyond Lovecraft. He is creating his  own cosmic horror, defying what came before and daring to forge his own mythos out of the darkness. I am a big fan of Holloways work and cannot wait to see what the next installment brings.  This is a Five star read. 

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Raised by a Killer

By Sea Caummisar

This short novella by Sea Caummisar does not disappoint. It is exactly what you would expect it to be, a story about a child being raised by a killer, a child who is only 4 years old as the story begins. Little Deicide already understands that her Pops is very strict and that there are certain rules that she must follow at all times. Her punishments are severe when she makes mistakes but the closet is the worst punishment. She doesn’t like the closet, especially at night. 


Pops takes her to the park to make friends and to pick out women that he likes. She knows how to go to them and cry as if she is lost, she knows not to tell them what Pops is really like. Pops teaches Deicide lessons too, lessons in how to treat the women after he is done with them, and lessons on what will happen to her new puppy, if she does not follow the rules. 


She tries really hard to be a good girl but Pops can be scary and mean. She likes going to Grams’ house though Grams is nicer than Pops most of the time. But Pops has Grams teach her lessons too, the same lessons that Grams taught Pops when he was young. There are a lot of secrets that need to be kept, especially kept from outsiders. 


This is not a fun story, nor is it a light read. It is a short novella about the experiences of a young child that is being raised by a monster. It is about what happens to her on a daily basis and what her life is like. There is abuse, there is some sexual content, there is animal abuse.  Consider this a trigger warning. There will be a series of these as Deicide grows up and becomes her own person and the books will continue to be told from her point of view. I believe the author did a really good job with this novella and I am curious to see how the series turns out.  I am giving this 4 out of 5 stars.

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Good Southern Witches

Published by Curious Blue Press

Good Southern Witches is a massive collection of tales about witches, witches of all kinds, and origins, from Southern lore and beyond. Who doesn’t love a good witch story?  I remember dressing up as a witch countless times for Halloween, wishing I was a witch later on as an angsty teen and loving the lore and legends surrounding them. 


Magic, potions, hats and broomsticks, crystals, chanting and dan