Dark Rose Reviews...

Rating System:

3 = Good Solid Read

4 = Great Read, Excellent Writing

5 = Superior to most other reads

 

06/18/2022
Deeper Than Hell

By Joshua Millican

Synopsis:

Drugs. Delirium. Damnation. When Rock-Bottom is just the beginning, you’re bound to end up Deeper than Hell. Fever dreams and conspiracy theories collide in an epic nightmare inspired by William S. Burroughs and Clive Barker. Follow a modern-day Dante and Virgil on a vision quest from the streets of Las Vegas, past subterranean cults and feral colonies, past the military facilities at Wonderland, past any semblance of sanity. There’s life underground!

Review:

Darklings,

 Well, this cements the semi-annual notion of attempting drug use firmly into the 'nuh-uh' category. 


I, Dark Rose, will never become a face eater or heroin user.


This story commences with two pals, Drew & Sonny, who descend into what I can only describe as Dante's Inferno z complete with nefarious levels of suck. The conspiracy theories spouted off by Drew that caused him and his sidekick to attempt a journey into the center of the Earth, while not wholly outlandish, would become my demise. 


The reader meets the literary equivalent of Dr. Szell, the next level holds a sun-deprived techno-cult, a house of pain, cannibals, mutants, and your standard critter fare too. All of this and more happens on the way to the supposed safe underground oasis of Wonderland.


A very enjoyable read.


4 solid paint cans

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06/18/2022
Special Series Review:
The Ravencrest Saga by Thorne & Cross

 

The Ghosts of Ravencrest
Book 1

by Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross

Darklings,


Wow. Just...wow.


One of my favorite aspects of a story is when a character is warned about a house being evil, and skeptical, goes there anyway. Just like our main character, Belinda, who visits this house to see if she can acquire a job. I think she is really searching for freedom from the unwanted sexual attention she receives from just about everybody she comes across & the constant abuse from her mother.


From the beginning, the characters have such personality: Grant - the unruffled butler with a hint of something more, Cordelia Heller - evil head of house/dominatrix galore, and Belinda-the innocent who is more powerful than the rest combined. 


And they are all, in their own ways, completely enjoyable...unlike the very awkward Dr's visit Belinda attends. 

 Even the ghosts have distinct, sometimes terrifying, personalities - talking about you Three Sisters.

 The pacing was decent, slow enough to build the environment, but fast enough to keep the tension and action going.


A very strong 4.5 non-edible persimmons

 

The Witches of Ravencrest
The Ravencrest Saga: Book II

By Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross

Darklings,


I was so smitten with the first of this series that I immediately jumped into the next with reverent fervor.


We follow the same cast of characters as from the first book. The tutor, Belinda, who is an innocent with tremendous power. Grant, her magical tutor/butler to the house. Mrs. Heller who is still an evil witch but now an evil witch who is making fatal mistakes. There's a new threat at Ravencrest and it's up to our favorite heroes and villains to deduce how to stop it before time runs out.


This story has elements of horror, mythos, sci-fi, romance, creatures, serial killers, evil witches, even a little zombie action. And it's oddly not too much crammed into one spot because the pacing is excellently timed and spread.


The writers have fun with gothic elements except they hint and then show the monsters that crowd the visual periphery.  I really liked the way the characters interacted in this story. Grant, Riley, and Belinda work well together. The relationship between Eric and Belinda deepens. And it all adds to the terrifying, multilayered mystique of this house. 


The creatures are interesting, varied, and some of them are downright scary. A solid second book.


4.5 messy tulips 

 

Exorcism
The Ravencrest Saga: Book III

by Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross

Darklings,


The third in the series does what the first two didn't and finally calls in a flippin' exorcist. The ending installment has AHS Season 1 vibes to the extreme and even some streaks of The Shining. There's obviously plenty of weird and scintillating sex, hauntings, helpful and harmful specters, and the mythology is fantastic.


We follow the same loveable and deliciously unlovable cast of characters; the reader learns more about the things that reside at Ravencrest and what it will take for the living to reclaim the house. Belinda is finally growing into and controlling her powers, Grant is the consummate protector and guardian trying his best to mend curses and avoid ghosties, but not even the intimidating Heller witch herself can control what's been unleashed. 


I really like how this book shows some ancestral flaws. The first two books built up the Mannings (estate owners) as demigods but as you read on, you'll see the paint starting to crack and some of these ancestors are monstrous. 


What a way to end this series.


4.5 Greek pool houses

 

The Ravencrest Saga Summary Review

Darklings,


I simply love this series. 


It does a few things well: character development, creating a setting, describing the beauty, grandeur, and history of Ravencrest. The pacing was a minimal problem for me in all three but only because I became so invested in the plot and characters, which is never a bad thing.


The creatures that inhabit and surround Ravencrest are varied, interesting (there were a few entities I hadn't encountered before - hello Harlequin, H. Manning, and three nuns), and lethal. The pacing is perfect, not too fast, and not too slow, throughout the whole series.


The stories center on the people who reside at Ravencrest, an ancestral home. What makes these stories even more fun is how the happenings/what's being awakened at the manor directly influences the people inside the house. We lose quite of few of the characters before the series is done. Outside the house is just as fascinating with the romping scarecrow, zombies, ghosts, and assorted creatures. 


At parts, especially in the beginning, the writing is funny. One of my favorite characters is Belinda's mom because of how she's written, her language, and what is done with her. Frannie Silverstein is another because of her sheer pettiness. These stories have enough elements of horror contained within the pages to lure a broad variety of readers. Highly suggest.


A solid 4.5 endless parties

Note: The fourth book is available now. 

 
 

5/27/2022
Special Series Review:
The Vampires of Crimson Cove

 

The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross

Darklings, 


If you're the kind of person who likes their vampires crazy, sexy, and demented enough to make a corset out of their own mother's bones...this is the story for you.


We start off one with an attack on a librarian and things get more intense quickly. The POV jumps (don't worry it's easy to follow) from the brothers to specific vampires, the sheriff, a junkie, and a stalker, so you get a complete view of the story/town/characters dynamics from all sides.


There's plenty of sex, blood, and enough gore to satiate the seasoned vampire aficionado while being easy enough to follow if you're new to the genre.  


I really liked the characters: the brothers - one a hound dog and one a good guy, the sheriff who knows more than he says, the librarian with a backbone, the shop owners, etc. The vampire characters contain different, varied personalities, and have their own (often disturbing) quirks.


I do like a vamp story that uses the hive dynamic - makes for a more interesting read. And I do enjoy the concept of a vampire with morals - not sure that this story completely pulled off a certain male vampire, but it was an interesting, fast-paced read nonetheless.


Such a fun take on the daylight-challenged, a fantastic commentary on the fickleness of humanity, and how power absolutely causes insanity.


4 white rooms.

 

The Silver Dagger by Alistair Cross

Darklings,


My only contention with Silver Dagger is this: when you have the means and opportunity to permanently sever the undead coil of a psychopathic vampire and their loyal cronies...do it.

This error would be tantamount to not double tapping a zombie.

Any horror fan worth their weight in limbs will concur, click, click, boom, the nefarious evil.


However, said vampire does make for an entertaining story so I'll forgive it this once.


And as if that lesson isn't hard enough to learn...these poor Colter brothers can't seem to stay out of trouble. 


Having the same cast of characters return, after the trauma of the first story, felt bittersweet and more fun the second time around. That being said...be prepared to have your hearts ripped out with this story.


4 silver daggers

 

The Black Wasp

by Alistair Cross

Darklings,


This story kicks off with a very spooky vibe. Not even two paragraphs in and I was slightly terrified due to one of the most well-written characters I've come across, The Black Wasp. Also, I don't like bugs nor having my willpower taken away...just in case that needed to be stated. 


The first two in the series were good but this is one bugged-out way to end. 


The reader follows Cade, who is struggling, and is definitely more than meets the eye. He has possession of a silver dagger that can kill vamps. Unfortunately for him, there's something odd, old, and buzzing interested in him. 


The villains from the previous stories don't seem as villain-y this go-around because the true evil is super creepy and boats an impressive array of powers. And it's after Cade.


The action is moderate, pacing decent, and character development impressive. 


4.5 waspishly stinging old ladies

 

The Vampires of Crimson Cove Series Summary Review

This series is really fun, steeped in just the right amount of vampire & lore. The author even introduced creatures I haven't run across, which is always a fun aspect. It's a pleasing mixture of the sinfulness of an Anne Rice novel combined with the gratification of Harris' True Blood. More emphasis on darkness and fantasy with books 1 & 2 but definitely horrific by 3. 

Book one was tidy, book two will break you, and book three will terrify. 

I really liked how the character development progressed throughout. With Cade specifically, but all the 'good guys' cast of characters, there's a steady loss of innocence and by the third book the depth of personality is what keeps you wanting to see more. Very easy to become invested in the characters. The POV shifts serve the story well to speed up the pace and provide backstory. 

I'd give the entire series 4 symphonies of human suffering. 

 
 

05/07/2022
The Pure World Comes

by Rami Ungar

Releases May 10!! 

Synopsis:
Shirley Dobbins wants nothing more than to live a quiet life and become a head housekeeper at a prestigious house. So, when she is invited to come work for the mysterious baronet Sir Joseph Hunting at his estate, she thinks it is the chance of a lifetime. However, from the moment she arrives things are not what they seem. As she becomes wrapped up in more of the baronet's radical science, she realizes something dark and otherworldly is loose within the estate. And if left unchecked, it'll claim the lives of all she holds dear.

Review:
Darklings,

This story is excellent and has all the trappings of a period piece (which I love). 

We follow a maid, Shirley, who is moving from one place of employment to another after a terrible, life-ending accident. She's such a great character: sharp, smart, has an interesting background, a physical 'disability,' and knows how to command a room. Her inner voice is amazing too.

Shirley isn't the only fantastically written character. All the descriptions are great, pacing perfect for the gothic tone, descriptions balanced well with the action and dialogue. The setting is quaint and fun. During a time where technology was just beginning to exist. There are plenty of amusing incidents but the one I enjoyed the most was where the servants were hesitant to use flush toilets because they never experienced them before. Also, that toilet scene. 

Fascinating blend of philosophy, the supernatural, and science.

4.5 traces of black dust

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05/07/2022
Ride or Die

By James Newman

Synopsis:
Amelia Fletcher is a good girl. She’s a straight-A student, second chair in her middle-school chorus, and she never uses the Lord’s name in vain. But a few days ago, she discovered that her dad has been cheating on her mom.

For the first time in her life, Amelia decides she would like to know what it feels like to be a bad girl. For just one night.

With the help of her BFFs, Cassie and Folline, she plans to teach Dad’s “other woman” a lesson. It's harmless fun, right? An evening of teenage mischief. When all is said and done, the homewrecker will go away and never come back. Only then can Amelia's family begin to repair what has been broken.

However, this was no ordinary affair. And the trio could never expect the horrors that await them inside the house on Callaghan Drive.


Review.

Darklings,

No revenge like that of a teenager getting revenge on her philandering father...or is there?

What starts off as an anything-but-simple revenge tale quickly mutates into something altogether horrible.

The characters are all darkly and grotesquely human. I like the varying degrees of innocence lost. It's one heck of a morbid coming of age...and wishing you didn't. 

Take away: adults are F-ed

4.5 German commands

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4/30/2022
Your Mind Is A Terrible Thing

By Hailey Piper

Releases May 7!

Synopsis:

Communications specialist Alto’s shift aboard the starship M.G. Yellowjacket turns hellish after waking from a tryst to learn every crewmate has vanished. Worse, a sinister presence has crawled aboard the ship. It’s violent, destructive, and it can reach into your thoughts to make you see and feel what it wants.

Anxiety-ridden Alto might be the least-qualified person to face a creature that can hack minds like computers. Only a perilous journey to the ship’s bridge can reunite comms specialist with crew and give them a chance to call for help.

But the intruder only scratches the surface of this crisis and discovering the truth will bring Alto face to face against a nightmare beyond flesh and thought.


Review:

Ever since Firefly aired in 2002, I've had a not-so-secret fascination with all things space.

This novella has turned that fascination into full-blown mania.

And man, oh man, can Hailey Piper write. 

First off, I like and have rarely come across an androgynous character like Alto. The way Piper depicts the consciousness, train of thought, and actions performed by Alto is nothing short of astounding. There are no wasted words; the POV is singularly unique. 


What I liked: the characters

 Zelany offers just the right amount of humor to offset the techno-specificity of environment set-up.

 I liked the ability of Alto to telepathically battle and hurt - that was a neat stance considering.

 The terror that is the Messenger.


4.5 brain beasts

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04/30/2022
Fugue Devil: Resurgence

By Stephen Mark Rainey

Releases May 1!

Synopsis: The story follows a young teen named Mike who moves to a new town. This town has a local legend, The Fugue Devil. Mike, of course, doesn’t believe in such legends and chooses the one night, every 17 years that this entity visits the town, to smoke pot outside, searching for it. Ah, the stupid self-assurance of youth. I got strong Headless Horseman vibes from the Fugue Devil.

Review:

Threnody: an interesting delve into solfeggio frequency/Lovecraftian horror. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea that different frequencies can bring different results. So, this story had me at word one.

The pacing of these stories is damn near perfect – not too slow and not too fast, the author takes a good amount of time setting up his characters and their environments before bringing in the supernatural & it works to connect the reader to both the story and the main character.

Each plot is original; I can’t recall ever reading anything like any of them. I devoured the entirety in one sitting. It was so good.

I liked the flawed family dynamics, the authenticity of character reactions, the dialogue is scalable, and the action interspersed just enough to hook from the very beginning.

4 crystalized multiverses 

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04/30/2022
Donn, TX: The Series

by Eric Butler

Good evening Darklings,


Today, we have a full review of the Donn, TX series by Eric Butler. Eric was recently interviewed by Book Nerds and Horror Nerds FB group owners, Andy and Brandy Carroll. It was a great interview and we wanted to follow it up with a full review of his most recent work, the Donn, TX series. 


Donn TX 2002 -

In case you needed even more of a reason to avoid TX - this would be it.

The story centers on a town, Donn TX, that houses not one but two monsters - The Scarecrow & The Pale Man.
The sheriff of the town & his sister are some of the few residents to try and keep the creatures at bay by offering human sacrifices.  Enter, a rock band who is passing through after a gig.

I liked the rapidity of shifting perspectives. You start with the sheriff, a waitress of the local diner, some members of the band, the shifts are frequent enough to keep the pacing exciting but not too swift as to lose the reader. The author also manages to perfectly depict a range of emotions in a believable and sometimes laughable way. All in all, highly entertaining with some really decent twists.


1952:
Jerry & Debbie stop at a Donn TX inn on their way to visit Debbie's ailing mother. 
Debbie gets attacked by crows immediately.
Crows are evil lil buggers and on the long list of things I will not perish from, birds are now at the top.
I liked this short story because it highlights the intricacies of the Scarecrow's power. 
And it's fun.


1969:
We follow Frank & Jane, along with two teenagers. 
Frank seems to be suffering from Vietnam-inspired PTSD.
A car crash separates the teens from the adults & things get crazier from there.
This story was engrossing because it shows how far the townspeople are willing to be involved to make the 'quota' and it cements the age old horror adage of staying out of the damn corn.
Some really great Texas Chainsaw vibes with this one.
Also, the ending...


1865:
"Run. Run as far as you can, for when The Scarecrow wakes, the harvest of blood begins."
Eli Larkin, on the losing side of the Civil War,  and mad about it.
He comes back home to a massacre surprise & we get one hell of a creation story.
This was my favorite of all the Donn TX tales because we learn how the Scarecrow gets made.
I may have shed actual tears. 


1926:
Starts at the inception of Donn being built.
I'm just going to offer a friendly word of advice...if the creepy scarecrow in the cornfield turns its head to look at you...maybe don't freakin' hang around. RUN! 
The humans are the monsters in this story. I really detest Orville.

The entirety of this story, from all the timeless perspectives, has the charm and nostalgia of an 80s horror movie. 


5 rusty sickles

 
 

4/26/2022
The Eyes Beneath My Father's House

by Tyler Bell

Overview:

In the dusty agave fields of the Guadalajara countryside, a peasant girl cuts a deal with the insidious thing living beneath her father’s house. An industrial accident aboard a space station in humanity’s distant future forces an unappreciated laborer to survive an unpredictable alien menace. A young man recounts his last days as the caretaker of a reclusive elderly woman in her remote - and possibly haunted - mansion. Welcome to the Westside Fairytales, where nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected. A universe of possibility, horror, and madness spanning humanity’s past, present, and future. If you think you’re brave enough, and clever enough, then we entreat you to discover the mysteries of The Eyes Beneath My Father’s House.

Another great collection, Darklings! 

The Umbrella Man: A group of friends encounter an entity that can possess, haunt, dopplegang and psychologically terrorize. Super creepy. Favorite character has to be the male Mary Poppins. Good variation of the crooked man.

Best Roses: tells the story of elderly folk living in a cul-de-sac just waiting for the world to by an ever-encroaching, unstoppable fire. Favorite character: Donna the oxygen- tank-dependent, gun wielding, badass hero.

Mud of The Heart: what a beautiful piece about a hospice nurse who cares for a lady in the last stages of her life. Just enough Gothic and just enough hints at supernatural. All around gorgeous. 

This collection had me missing steps, neglecting sleep, forgetting to feed the kids (I hope someone did). I read this while doing dishes, walking outside in the rain, literally could not put it down. 

4.5 dark hearts

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4/23/2022
SHADOWDAYS

by Polly Schattel

Overview:

Shadowdays details the misadventures of a small-town clinical nurse who is putting her life back together after a devastating mistake killed one of her patients. But when she’s targeted in a mysterious act of brutality, she must make a choice—whether or not to follow her own sinister impulses down a trail of blood, across the backroads and byways of the New South, all the while unraveling the deepest, darkest mystery of all—herself. 

Review:

Darklings, 

This story focuses on Melissa, a nurse who tends to retreat into herself when tragedy occurs. 

Two huge incidents happen (one her fault and the other not) and during the second one the reader gets to experience the degeneration of her mental stability.

Melissa is an entertainingly unreliable narrator. She fulfills the revengeful angel of death archetype. She and this story are full of creepy vibes from a plethora of random people staring at her for extended periods of time to noises that may or may not be real.

I quite enjoyed watching Melissa's moral and mental shift with the accompanying justifications. 

There wasn't much I didn't like about this story. The pacing is a tad on the slower side yet even that lends some flighty depth to the protagonist's already scattered POV. The action is slow burn but commendable. 

3.5 lackadaisical cops

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4/16/2022
The Scholomance

R. Lee Smith

Synopsis:


For centuries, there has been a legend of a hidden school where magic is taught by the demons who dwell there to anyone who seeks them out, but they ask a terrible price: Anyone who reaches the door of the Scholomance may enter, but the Devil takes every tenth student who tries to leave.

A hidden school. Demonic masters. An inescapable fate for one out of every ten graduates. But Connie would do anything to have the magic her best friend was born with.

And Mara would do anything to get Connie back.


Review: 

Darklings,


This one has been on my TBR for a bit. I saw it pop up in BOH as a post one day and thought I'd give it a go. It's quite good.


The story follows 'she of the bitter waters,' a woman who is disaffected and unaffected. Her only friend sends her an SOS after becoming involved with a school run by demons so off, she goes. 


Mara is what Holden Caufield (catcher in the rye) would be but with a kickass power.

The story itself is incomparable but, vastly deduced to bare bones, it's a cross between the decadence and sin of an Anne Rice novel and a darker Magicians. There are elements of Dante's Inferno exampled by many things and most notably an engaging description of what I assume Hell would be like.


Telepathy isn't new but the way she's described using her power is interesting, fresh, and terrifying considering how little she values others/what she's capable of. She has absolutely no qualms with hurting living entities to get what she wants. Draws the line at outright murder though. And the absolute control she has over her power and her mind is astonishing.


I enjoyed how commonplace and every day the author made use of her skill. She needed access past a room, she used her power to hurt her way in. Done. No fuss. No ethical or moral dilemma. 


Mara has something like an impenetrable mind palace. I love how she retreats there and how that translates for her corporeal self.


What works:

A strong female lead who kicks some serious a**


What doesn't: the frequency and duration of this exact sentence: 'thou art mine.' 

 The ending was a bit confusing & anticlimactic. 


Honestly, after reading Nola's Bishop and suffering the most severe of book hangovers, I wasn't anticipating being swept up so soon into another phenomenal story.  


The pacing with Scholomance was decent and character development average. The writing is intellectual and refers to many different literary/theological sources.


An interesting read and quick once you become invested.


4 mindstorms

 
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The Scholomance

By R. Lee Smith

 

04/16/2022
Always Beside You

by Damir Salkovic
Published by Grinning Skull Press

Book Synopsis:
Help her open the door. It wants to come through...
First, the dream. Now this message from the mouth of a stranger. It was too much of a coincidence for Nate Carver and has him dropping everything to help a woman he hasn't even thought about in eight years, not since the overdose that almost took Cathy Deveraux's life.
The prison escape of Thomas Elbert stirs up memories for Detective Alec Palmer, and the man's death raises questions. Why would a catatonic convicted killer suddenly wake up and escape, only to commit suicide days later? Or was it murder? And what connection did he have to Nate Carver, a man on the run with a daughter he never knew he had?


All roads lead to Boston, where, in their search for answers, they will be drawn into the dark world of the occult and mysticism. Of parallel worlds and alternate realities. Of doors that open onto other times and other worlds. Of dreams that won't be denied.


By the time they realize they are merely pawns in a much bigger game, a game where the fate of the world is at stake, will it be too late?

Review:
Darklings,

This story is a goosebump-inducing, Lovecraftian-esque, nightmarish scape of a 'mare.

You're introduced to a Dr guiding his 'patient' through her dreamscape. Normal enough. Until it's not. The patient, Cathy, is theorized to possess the ability of bringing her nightmares to the waking world. 

From there, things just keep getting better and better primarily due to Cathy's abilities.

The way the author uses language is intelligent & made me pause and appreciate in a few spots...ex: 'he was still smiling, but the smile was a caricature, a baring of teeth.'

The vocabulary and pacing are excellent. The author really knows how to ratchet up and diminish tension. In fact, the author barely leaves you room to catch your breath and it's marvelous. Strong King vibes too - Insomnia and a bit like Firestarter but this story stands apart with its own, distinctive technical mastery. 

Difficult to place the genre of this because it jumps, seamlessly, from thriller to sci-fi to horror and back again. 


4 green doors

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04/09/2022
Bloodthirsty

by Fred Wiehe

Brief Overview from the Book Cover:

Do multiverses exist? And if they do, does a duplicate of each of us exist in every reality? These are questions Lieutenant Sean (Mac) McGrath and Sergeant Randy Dexter must come to terms with to solve a murder and stop the widespread use of a new psychotropic drug dubbed Bloodshot. 


Review:

Hey Darklings!

This story is a tight, time-trippin' noir style murder non-mystery. It also includes drugs, heads exploding, generalized slaughter, superhuman strength, suicide, murders, and let's not forget the ever romantic first date cannibalism. If you think that it's too chaotic to have all these things in one story...you're right...and it's beautifully executed.


What would you do if you loved someone so much that you hated them? Not only that but you take it upon yourself to rip the fabric of space & time in order brutally murder them in every single plane of existence. 

Non-stop action, decent pacing and a dash of spontaneous-n-drug fueled antics, super noir feels, an experienced, whiskey-drinkin' police detective and you have the trappings of a massively enjoyable story.


4 psychopathic professors

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04/09/2022
Genocide

By Aaron LeBold
Published by Gloom House

Severe trigger warning with this one, Darklings. Child abuse, child prostitution, domestic abuse...if you can read through those then continue reading this review.


The story follows a boy whose life is made hell by his gang member father & gang leader uncle. It all started on his 8th birthday, that's 8.years.old, when his father consumed too much cocaine, accrued a debt that had to be paid, and he offered up his son to fulfill it.


I wanted to like the mom, but my moral compass (even as a reader) doesn't bend that far. Her naivety, lack of action, and complacency did nothing but infuriate me. 


The pacing is slower than I usually like but I waited it out and am glad for it. At first, I thought the narrative style rudimentary, and it took some getting used to as I attempted to connect to the characters. But after a bit, I think the style was on purpose.  


The story itself isn't exactly horror but it is real-life horrific... for all you Darklings who want your monster of the human variety...you will like this. 


Has strong American gangster/V For Vendetta-revenge vibes but these only add to the story more favorably. 


4 hardware store trips

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03/26/2022
Infested

by C. M. Forest

Brief Overview:

Trigger warnings-mention of sexual and physical abuse, gore, violence, violence to a child.

Something sinister is happening inside the New Leaf apartment building

Olivia wakes on her bedroom floor, head spinning in a pool of vomit. Something isn’t right. The power is off, and her husband is missing.

But the vicious storm outside is nothing compared to the storm raging outside her apartment doors. A parasite has begun invading, possessing, the residents. Transforming them into twisted, murderous versions of their former selves with one thing on their mind. To kill.

Screams echo from the darkened hallway as Olivia, desperate to find her husband, ventures unknowingly into a world of violence and mayhem. Trapped within the New Leaf’s endless corridors, she must face her fears and discover the dark, ancient secret behind the insanity. She must face the Infested.


Review:

Darklings,

It seems that something is amiss at the apartment complex of New Leaf. A woman wakes to a hangover, heat wave, storm, missing husband, and a power failure. She braves leaving the apartment, after a fashion, and runs into an injured neighbor who claims she was hurt by her husband & that said husband took a girl. So (of course?) the protagonist goes looking for him armed with nothing but a wooden cane. 


This story immediately sets a thrilling stage with fine-tuned tension, Sherlockian sleuthing abilities, and an uncompromising rendition of being sauced. I wouldn't want to deal with anything that happens at this place whilst recuperating from the aftereffects of vodka. 


The main character, Olivia, is likeable due to her conveyed authenticity/believability & that kept me engaged. She, also, at the beginning, single-handedly propels the plot along quite fabulously. A proactive lil’ detective and it's fun to see the kinds of thought processes that go into the making of a hero. 


The pacing, action, and character development are all terrific. The one thing I enjoy more than a story that has constant action is a hero who doesn't shy away from the full spectrum of human emotion. Another thing I love about apocalyptic reading is the pervasive sense that no place is a safe place and that's something this story has in spades.


Overall, a fun, fast story with bugged-out body snatcher vibes. 


4 creeping, crawling earwigs

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03/19/2022
Australian Fairy Tales for the 21st Century

Published by the Australian Fairy Tale Society.

Darklings, this isn't horror yet contains some significant head nods to the genre.


I love the cover art for this set of Australian Fairy Tales for the 21st Century.  The intro is anecdotal, cute, interesting and sets up the diversity of culture that you can expect from these authors.


By the third story, I found myself asking, "you're going to have to write a damn review for every single story in this piece, aren't you?" 


And through no fault of my own...that's exactly what I had to stop myself from doing... BECAUSE I LOVE THIS ANTHOLOGY...cough...sorry.  


Carmel Bird kicks us off strong, peppering in local swim safety with just enough scientifically accurate tree names to stay the interest.

 Normally, I find lack of dialogue off-putting but Bird's narration and POV (including what is chosen to draw reader attention) is just quirky/ hilarious enough to dispel it. 

 I don't usually laugh at shark attacks, but it was almost cartoonish. If I wasn't already sold by all this, the author is mindful enough to include some ending proverbs for your perusal.

 3.5 shark...no wolf...bites, nibble nibble.

 

 GPS by Kate Kennedy:

 It 100% didn't have me. 

 Not when the little girl wandered knowingly off with a man she didn't know. 

Not when the perspective switched from that girl to the man. 

Not the ending which made my stomach finally unclench. 

Nope...100% didn't have me.

3.5 grandmas you wouldn't want to piss off.


The Wild Moon Call by Melissa Min Harvey: a woman becomes moonwild, the town ostracizes her. This one cuts to the heart of what it feels like to have your light, your happiness dimmed by others. 

This contains: doing whatever you need to be happy, goosebumps (my own), & the characteristics that embody a thriving, happy soul. (Also, exactly what a hero looks like, cue the woodcutter)

 3 moonwild and dancing feet.


 Scribble Sands by Cindy-Lee Harper: being known, being heard, leading with courage, telling of yourself to the rivers and seas.

3.5 jumbled sparkling stones.


The anthology, as a whole, is cohesive, lyrical, thoughtful, beautiful, powerful, has a certain laid-back beach day quality and deserves every ounce of the 4.5 I've bestowed. 

4.5 dark hearts overall!


Keep me in mind if there's a sequel!

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03/19/2022
Milk Teeth

by Andrew Post

From the Back Cover:


Sephorina Breathland would do anything for her family. She’d even trick men into coming home with her so her kinfolk can kill them and drink their blood. Because the Breathlands are anything but your typical gaggle of podunks. Sephorina’s mama has been pregnant with twins for nine years and is ready to pop. Her daddy lives in the bathtub trying to regrow the arms and legs he lost after the neighbors caught him eviscerating their cattle. And her brother, Hughie, believes that maybe with their pops laid up, it should be him who calls the shots. And while every family has its secrets, none has a secret as dark as theirs. And when Sephorina discovers it, she’s going to call for a family meeting—and bring along a freshly sharpened hatchet. Because the Breathlands might have their problems, but they are getting sorted out tonight.

  

Review of Milk Teeth:

 Content Warning -

Gruesome violence-Coarse Language-Sexual content / innuendo / deceit

Talk of supposed incest-Bodily fluids-Unnatural pregnancy

Talk that could be considered blasphemous and heretical

Mention of a racist man with violent inclinations to match


This is a fantastic combo of What Big Teeth by Szabo meeting The Hills Have Eyes, add in a dash of serial killerism and you have a truly engaging story.


This one is so well-written, fun, and fast paced that I was already finished reading it before realizing that I hadn't made any notes.


The reader follows a girl, let's call her Crystal, who is part of a very monstrous family, she's also a serial killer, oh, and she was kidnapped as a kid. None of that truly matters, though, because her purpose in life is taking care of her two sisters. 


The twins, who ate their mother fresh from the womb.


If you like stories with death, murder, strong female leads, the devil, black magic, regenerating body parts, and a lil bitta hillbilly speak...this is the one for you.


The mythology is also very neat as it shows the results and varying types of deals made with the devil without dwelling on heavy theology. 


4 MeeMaw prison wells.

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03/19/2022
Blackberry Blood

Published by Snow Capped Press

From the back cover:

Blackberry Blood is the debut anthology from LGBTQA+ run publisher Snow-Capped Press, edited by Aiden Merchant (author of Sickness is in Season and Horrific Holidays) and Julia Lewis (Curiosity Bought the Book). It features a dark selection of short stories and poems from writers you need to know in the genre of emotional turmoil and horror. The cover art was done by the brilliant Gemma Amor (author of White Pines and Dear Laura), and the Foreword was written by Mother Horror herself, Sadie Hartmann.

Review:

The series commences with the Trunk by Cole, a pretty good evil curiosity-killed-the-cat type version. Satisfied the anarchist in me who loves seeing an authority figure perish. 


Bird Brother by Wood: once you see him...and more importantly once he sees you...there's no escape. Think Slenderman meets The Birds. Fun lil romp of a thing & moderate creep factor considering the brevity. 


Soul To Keep by Verona: follows Mia Hanning who saves her brother's life by making a deal at a crossroads. She ends up being proclaimed dead for 2 minutes before she can be revived. Her soul is gone but her body is still mobile. An interesting observation about emotion, stunted, what it takes to feel after roaming the earth for so long.


The compilation is an eccentric amalgamation of horror shorts, stories and dark poetry. A quick read too. The writing is decent and the poetry bits each have a few Quotables’s. If you're looking for something you can pick up and put down at any time, this is it.

Sidenote: The writing is solid, tales interesting, poetry decent, editing tight. 


3.5 blood-red tentacles

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03/19/2022
Palimpsest

by Caitlin Marceau

Back Cover:

From one of Canada’s hottest young talents comes this stellar collection of contemporary horror stories and poetry. Caitlin Marceau’s work ranges from the quietly unnerving to the deeply disturbing, taking in post-apocalyptic futures, supernatural forces, psychological terrors and deals with the devil. One thing’s for certain: these stories will linger in your mind for long after you’ve read them.

Review:

Run: about bullying, prey vs predator, getting shat on from all sides, a few ghosties too.


Stuck: a woman is immobile inside her own body, but her mind is active. Got an unpleasant insight into the machinations of funeral prep. 


The Water: a good example of yet another reason, besides the copious amount of horror book warnings, that I will not exercise alone. 


Little Black Book: making those devil deals and meeting quotas. 


I like the variety and span of each story. Enjoyable, quick, nothing too dark or morally questionable, just good ole fashion horror. 


3.5 broken bridges

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03/12//2022
Cerberus Exploitation

A Grindhouse Triple Feature by M. Ennenbach, Patrick C. Harrison, and Chris Miller.
Reviews 2 & 3.

Scroll down to 3/05/2022 to see the first Amazing Review!


Review #2 for Harrison's Vampire Nuns Behind Bars: 


Steamy nuns in prison sounds like the setup of some very X-rated shenanigans and there are some! 


Favorite line: "naked vampires are murdering on D wing."


I desperately need this to be a video game because it sure as nuns reads like one.


This story has sex, machina, biological upgrades, deformities, mutations, experiments, crazy doctor types, robotic wardens, lesbianism, vampirism, jailbreaks, and faith.


The characters are all amazing...even the villains. They each have their own distinct personality: Warden Thorne with her fetishes/perversions, Dr. Oni with his bio experiments, Mother Superior and Bonnie are bada**, etc. 


The story keeps an exciting pace from word one and hooks throughout. 


I just have to say that Mother Superior is one of the most exciting characters I've read in a while. 


If you like your action constant, your protagonists violent, and your cast estrogen-filled...this is the story for you!


4 hydra sex robots with this one!

Review #3 for Miller's Sons of Thunder


First off, Darklings, what a freakin' way to start a book... whew. Blood, guts, maniac with a mission, a surgically augmented bomb. Quite the attention grabber. 


The main character, Declan, has a renegade, vigilante, cybernetic avenger feel about him - and who doesn't love that? He has the 'spirit of a warrior and a heart for justice.'


There is a strong female lead too, Carys, who works well with Declan because they are both out for vengeance. Carys is in it more to save the person she loves & fulfill her mission but also to bring her mother's killer to his end.


I think that humanity is the most terrifying entity that has ever existed and one thing this story does well is set up q corporate vs humanity theme. The Sons (an anti-Corp militia) have a motto that is prevalent throughout: 'equality for all or death for all,' which is the supposed antithesis of the corporate mission but the way they both operate are spookily similar. I do enjoy the vibe of the Sons cult...they give off a violent 'do-not-go-quietly-into-this-good-night' mania & they put up one hell of a fight even as they are eating people.


Human capacity for destruction, even for a good cause, is catastrophic. I like that Miller doesn't shy away from this. 


Last thought about this book as a whole: each story really has something profound to say about corporate control and our reliance on technology. 


All of the authors make you stop to take heed of the very things which can save us or be our downfall. 


Well done to you three. 


4 thundering & cannibalistic appendages




 

3/12/2022
New Era

by Tommy B. Smith

Another one for the ever-expanding TBR shelves, Darklings.

Right away, the author pins down the vagaries of an unhappy marriage. It sets a distracted and somewhat tense feeling from the very first word when we follow Marjorie & Terry as they become accustomed to their new home in the country.


Terry's attention is held almost exclusively by a row of sporadic trees bordering his property. This attentiveness is mirrored by Marjorie too. My focus is on why it's so flippin' awkward between these too. Weird top-of-head kisses abound.


Words of caution: maybe don't sniff the skeletal black flower you find in the middle of a barren field during the night. Also, try not to enrage creepy kids who talk to snakes and keep a chicken for a pet.


The story follows two timelines. The first is of a married couple who just bought a house in the country. The second is a coming-of-evil story about a boy named Raleigh. There are servant-type people, an old entity that finds silver beautiful and controls snakes, poisonous flowers, and murder.


You'll have to read to see who survives but it's a fun and somewhat deep tale about what fear can do to a person. Sometimes changing the path you're on isn't for the best.


3.5 slithering hisses

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03/12/2022
Love & Other Dead Things

by Astrid Addams

Darklings, please, please, please check out Love and Other Dead Things: A Collection by Addams.


I love the first story, Jimmy's Fucked Up, because within the first two sentences I have my secret penchant for expletives met. Also, Jimmy, if your only goals are 'dough, pussy, and drink,' (and being a terrible person/parent) maybe just maybe be stingy with the booze. Saw-like vibes with a supernatural twist at the end.


The Tower: Hannah's job is to visit elderly homes and take care of them. She gets a call one night to visit a woman that needs help at a high-rise where a voodoo serial killer once lived. Creepy. Elements of time-travel.


Each story of this anthology are different and solid reads.


The artwork at the beginning of each tale adds to the general spooky vibe. 


I also liked how most of the stories had an unseen twist.


The writing is engaging and simple. This anthology is something you'd cuddle up with on a stormy day and read happily. It left me feeling nostalgic and fulfilled. Really decent horror.


3.5 vampiric nibbles