Book Review: Buffy, Return to Chaos by Craig Shaw Gardner

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Return to Chaos
Reviewed by Sebastian Grimm

Buffy fans out there who are craving more Buffy, this will be a fair read. Not a masterpiece, but a good tale that flowed okay.

In Buffy universe context: No Spike, no Angel. Oz and Willow are together, as are Zander and Cordelia. Willow is the nerdy, giggly Willow we remember, so that is fun. Giles is Giles.

It seems like a normal time in Sunnydale when Willow and Giles come up with some weird computer program that can spit out possible dangers based upon what I’m not sure. It seems like they feed in past situations and magic book content and get a printout of what evil is coming. Sort of a much-less cooler Weird Science scenario. No Barbie, no missile. A printout. But the printout seems to confuse matters more than help. Meanwhile, an old Druid and his three young nephews, also Druids, come into town.

The three young guys are interesting and provide the Scooby gang with some playmates. Oz is interested in them because they may be able to cure or at least tame his werewolf nature. Zander likes them because they treat him like one of the cool guys he always wants to be. Buffy even gets to experience a little romantic chemistry with one of them. However, I tend to think of all of the guys as one entity. None of them really stood out as his own person. They came as a package deal. Three for the price of one sort of thing. 

The Druids coming to town was an interesting concept. There was never really anything like this in the show. The new vampire “Eric” was interesting but we didn’t see him too much. I wished there was more of him. I found the older Druid uninteresting. He was trying to do this top-secret mission and captures Willow and all, but his whole concept seemed out-dated and rudimentary. 

A side plot where Cordelia is under a vampire’s spell was weird and maybe not needed. Her ex-boyfriend, an undead quarterback who she affectionately refers to as a “muck monster” was odd and had no real resolution. An annoying cheerleader-turned-vamp was so annoying, I almost put the book down a few times. The vampire controlling the vampire (yes, it’s that confusing) could have been also combined with the annoying cheer girl because they were so similar.

There were a few interesting parts when the gang was together, doing what they do and making plans. I also enjoyed a particular spell occurring in the graveyard where Buffy is attacked by growing vines.

Overall, I missed Spike in this book because he could’ve added some much-needed comedy and coolness to the book. 

This is a 3 ☆☆☆ on the scale. For hungry Buffy fans, it will be a watered-down snack between the rewatching of the series. 

Sebastian Grimm signing off.

 

Book Review : The Pale White by Chad Lutzke

Review by Marie RavenSoul
Spoiler alert: Some details may be revealed.

The Pale White, by Chad Lutzke

The story is told by Stacia, a seventeen-year-old girl held captive by a degenerate named Doc. Beautiful to the eye, his house is like a Victorian mansion, but something sinister lurks behind closed doors- the sex trafficking of young girls. 

She is not alone. 

There is nine-year-old Kammie, who loves plants and draws flowers on everything. Since the horrible night that Doc took her innocence, she has never spoken a word. 

The toughest of all three of them is Alex. She dresses in leather, fishnets, and short black skirts, giving her a goth-punk appearance. She believes she is a vampire and avoids light, even when it means her freedom.

As punishment, Doc starves them. This last time it was because Alex bit a client. She decides that it is time to follow through with their plan, which will bring them the freedom that they have wanted for so long.  

When they can finally leave their prison, the girls realize that they will no longer be together. So, instead, they make sandwiches as they try to obtain a sense of normalcy. It is quickly taken from them when there is a knock at the door. 

What happens next is terrifying. It seems as if the violence surrounding the girls will never end.

Flashbacks of previous traumatic events reveal clues as to why they behave the way they do. Alex’s viciousness is justified, and the reader can’t help but feel empathy towards the girls for the abuse they endured.

My favourite character is Stacia. She is compassionate, despite the horrible things she has been through. Before she was taken, she lived with an alcoholic mother and her lowlife boyfriend, and she questions whether she should go home or start a new life elsewhere. 

I like how the author used description to create a twisted atmosphere and induce emotion, but more detail throughout the story would have made it more powerful. The subject matter of the book makes it difficult to read in places as it deals with rape, violence, and psychological torture.

The ending came as a shock. I thought it was abrupt and had some unresolved issues. I am hoping a sequel will follow.

If you are a fan of dark tales with a lot of twists and turns, The Pale White is a book that you will want to crack open on a cold, wintery night. 

Chad Lutzke is the author of numerous books including The Same Deep Water as You, Wallflower, and Skullface Boy. He has written for various magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Rue Morgue, and Scream, and he has contributed articles, reviews, and artwork to the music and film scene. He lives in Battle Creek, Michigan with his wife and children.


Marie RavenSoul is a freelance writer and is the owner of the website In Satan’s Honour- Satanism and Demon Worship. She is the author of ‘At Satan’s Altar- A Collection of Prayers, Chants, Affirmations, Hymns, and Rituals.’

She is currently studying Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Her other interests include painting, reading, photography, haunted dolls, The Tarot, and music.

Book Review: The Night Weaver by Monique Snyman

Review by Stephanie Ellis

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

‘SHADOW GROVE IS A PERFECTLY PLEASANT TOWN …

Shadow Grove isn’t a typical town. Bad things happen here. Children disappear, one after the other, and nobody is doing anything about it. Parents don’t grieve, missing posters don’t line the streets, and the sheriff seems unconcerned.

Seventeen-year-old Rachel Cleary lives on the outskirts of Shadow Grove, next to the creepy forest everyone pretends doesn’t exist. Usually, the forest is filled with an eerie calm, an unmistakable graveyard solemnity. But the trees have started whispering, forgotten creatures are stirring, and the nights feel darker than ever.

Something is stalking the residents of Shadow Grove, changing them into brain-dead caricatures of themselves. It’s up to Rachel to stop the devouring of her hometown before all is destroyed and everyone she loves is forever lost.’

When the nights begin to draw in early, a spooky read is a must and The Night Weaver does not disappoint. The main character, Rachel, is a terrific role model for young female readers, someone who is different but is strong enough to go her own way and pretty much not care what the ‘popular’ crowd say or do. No stranger to loss with the death of her best friend some years before and then the loss of her father, she has become fiercely independent, although sadly much of this is due to the emotional distance that has grown between Rachel and her mother as a result of the latter’s difficulty in dealing with her grief.

Whilst the rest of the town is strangely reluctant to explore the forest, Rachel is convinced that is where the children have gone. With the support of her neighbour’s grandson, the two cross the border into the woods and experience the ‘other world’ of the Fae. As Rachel fights to rescue the children, she becomes involved both with a Fae prince and with the very human Greg Pearson. The pacing is good and whilst it discusses Rachel’s relationship with her mother and her own memories of her father, it does not become mawkish and allows the magic of the story to keep the pages turning.

As someone who tends to avoid books featuring the Fae (usually because the author has made them too ‘sparkly’ or twee for me), I found this was a hugely entertaining YA romp with Snyman keeping the balance between darkness and romance perfectly. As a secondary school librarian, this is a book that may yet find its way onto my workplace shelves.

Chilling Chat with Best in Blood Winner Tara Vanflower

chillingchat

Tara Vanflower is a vocalist whose music has been described as ambient, experimental, and darkwave. In October 1994 she became a vocalist for darkwave outfit Lycia. She married fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet.

Her debut solo album, This Womb Like Liquid Honey, was released in 1999. This was binb2018followed in 2005 with My Little Fire-Filled Heart. Vanflower appeared on the Type O Negative song “Halloween in Heaven” off their 2007 album, Dead Again.
She has also appeared with side projects Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra and numerous collaborations including Oneiroid Psychosis, Dirge, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You and Methadrone.

The majority of her creative energy is spent these days writing. She is the author of Lives of Ilya, and Violent Violet and its sequels.

NTK: Welcome back to Chilling Chat, Tara! Thank you for joining me today. How does it feel to be named “Best in Blood?”

TV: Honestly, it’s bizarre to me. I’m so isolated as far as the “writing world” goes so I don’t know much about what goes on with anything. I was blown away when I got the call because I’m so not used to getting any attention for writing.

NTK: Violent Violet is pretty awesome. Could you tell the Addicts more about it and what made it so special?

TV: I think for me it’s because Violet’s world is so relatable. I think we’ve all either had friends like her and her friends, or we are her and her friends. At least those of us who grew up on the fringe. I do my best to describe her world in detail so the reader can see it in their mind like a movie. The characters are real to me so I just let them map their own course and I do my best to describe where they go and where they’re feeling. Despite the fact that the supernatural is involved I try to show realistic reactions to the sometimes outlandish situations she finds herself in. I try to show the humor, the fears, sorrow, lusts etc. One thing that always bothered me about any type of supernatural book, film, etc. is people don’t ask the questions I think most of us would ask. A lot of times there’s no personal struggle with accepting things or realistic responses to trauma and abuse and I tried to be real about that. I think these characters are real enough that you don’t want to stop hanging out with them when their bookends, which is exactly why I have continued to write their stories and have added more characters and a broader scope as the books continue. What started out as a girl and her small group of friends in a small town is now a catalog of characters and alt dimensions.

NTK: Are you currently working on the sequel? Or has it already been completed?

TV: I just released the 5th book “Violet Blood.” There is so much more to do with her next book that I kind of need to redirect myself elsewhere for a bit to let her work things out. I’m currently working on a wolf book with some new wolves, as well as some returning friends.

NTK: Wow! I didn’t realize the series had moved so far along! Do you find it easier to write sequels or more difficult? It sounds like you won’t be running out of ideas anytime soon.

TV: I legit just kind of shocked myself the other day by counting how many books I’ve actually released at this point. I’m so chill about the whole process that I don’t really think a ton about it. I don’t know if it’s because of years of releasing music and being used to releasing things or what, but yeah, It’s bizarre.

I absolutely love the recurring cast of characters. When they show up in books I don’t even plan for them to show up in it always brings a smile to my face because I actually miss these people when I don’t get to spend time with them. Writing Violet books is difficult because now I have to line up timelines with all the various characters and there’s so many storylines going on simultaneously that it’s a bit like putting a puzzle together. I put off writing Violet Blood for so long for just that reason… knowing where it was going in a vague way I knew it was daunting. The next Violet book is going to be even more challenging because the characters are all going to be in one place at the same time and that’s just a lot to map out to do it properly. I will probably end up having to break the story up in order to do each person justice. I’m excited about it though. My problem is lack of writing time. If only I could do away with my pesky day job or get adopted by the Kardashians.

NTK: (Laughs.) Tell us about this new wolf book. Who are the main characters and when do you expect it to come out?

TV: I’m actually almost done with this book for the first go through, but I put it off recently because I felt like I needed to let them figure out what the hell is going on in their life. (Laughs.) It’s called Black Wolf Manor, at least for the time being, and it’s related to The Wulric which I released a while back. It’s basically about a woman who is getting older and she’s alone and focused on her work and an acquaintance from her childhood shows back up in town whom she becomes friends with and shenanigans ensue. I’m terrible at giving outlines.

I also always drag my feet towards the end of a book because I think I subconsciously don’t want to stop hanging out with the characters.

Oh, and the main characters names are Olive and Devin. (Laughs.)

NTK: Sounds exciting! Thank you for chatting with me! You’re a wonderful guest as always!

TV: Thanks so much for caring about my writing and THANK YOU SO MUCH for the honor of Best in Blood!!!!

Addicts, you can find Tara on Instagram.

Also, see her Chilling Chat Interview and listen to her feature episode, HorrorAddicts.net Episode 151.

 

 

Guest Blog : Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt directly from the author, C.A. Verstraete to introduce her writings.

What if everything you heard about the Lizzie Borden story isn’t true … that is, it isn’t complete?

Could it be that the spinster Sunday school teacher picked up an axe that horrific August day in 1892 to fight off an unexpected horror? 

In Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete, Lizzie Borden does the unthinkable for the most unexpected of reasons… her parents have become zombies. Now Lizzie must not only help save her sister, Emma but try to protect her hometown and even the neighbors who view her as nothing but a murderess, from this deadly scourge.


        Excerpt:

Chapter One

Q: You saw his face covered with blood?

A: Yes sir.

Q: Did you see his eyeball hanging out?

A: No sir.

Q: Did you see the gashes where his face was laid open?

A: No sir.

—Lizzie Borden at inquest, August 9-11, 1892, Fall River Courtroom

August 4, 1892

Lizzie Borden drained the rest of her tea, set down her cup, and listened to the sound of furniture moving upstairs. My, my, for only ten o’clock in the morning my stepmother is certainly energetic. Housecleaning, already?

THUMP.

For a moment, Lizzie forgot her plans to go shopping downtown. THUMP. There it went again. It sounded like her stepmother was rearranging the whole room. She paused at the bottom stair, her concern growing, when she heard another thump and then, the oddest of sounds—a moan. Uh-oh. What was that? Did she hurt herself?

“Mrs. Borden?” Lizzie called. “Are you all right?”

No answer.

She wondered if her stepmother had taken ill, yet the shuffling, moving, and other unusual noises continued. Lizzie hurried up the stairs and paused outside the partially opened door. The strange moans coming from the room sent a shiver up her back.

Lizzie pushed the door open wider and stared. Mrs. Abby Durfee Borden stood in front of the bureau mirror, clawing at her reflected image. And what a horrid image it was. The sixty-seven-year-old woman’s hair looked like it had never been combed and stuck out like porcupine quills. Her usually spotless housedress appeared wrinkled and torn. Yet, that wasn’t the worst. Dark red spots—Blood, Lizzie’s mind whispered—dotted the floor and streaked the sides of the older woman’s dress and sleeves.

Lizzie gazed about the room in alarm. The tips of Father’s slippers peeking out from beneath the bed also glistened with the same viscous red liquid. All that blood! What happened here? What happened?

She gasped, which got the attention of Mrs. Borden, who jerked her head and growled. Lizzie choked back a cry of alarm. Abby’s square, plain face now appeared twisted and ashen gray. Her eyes, once bright with interest, stared from under a milky covering as if she had cataracts. She resembled a female version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Another growl and a moan, and the older woman lunged, arms rigid, her stubby hands held out like claws.

“Mrs. Borden, Abby!” Lizzie yelled and stumbled backward as fast as she could. “Abby, do you hear me?”

Her stepmother shuffled forward, her steps slow but steady. She showed no emotion or sense of recognition. The only utterances she made were those strange low moans.

Lizzie moved back even further, trying to keep some distance between her and Mrs. Borden’s grasping fingers. Then her foot hit something. Lizzie quickly glanced down at the silver hairbrush that had fallen to the floor. Too late, she realized her error.


Another Side to the Tale:

But even as Lizzie Borden fights her own battles in court and off, another story begged to be told—that of her long time neighbor and family physician, Dr. Seabury Bowen. He suddenly found his life turned upside down after being the first professional to witness the unexpectedly brutal murder scene firsthand.

Dr. Bowen was a doctor, of course, a man of science used to life and death. But what could prepare him for the scene that awaited him at the Borden household? Would he, and his life, ever be the same?

In The Haunting of Dr. Bowen by C.A. Verstraete, the doctor finds his life changed, even haunted, by what he witnessed that morning. Dare he find the truth and find peace? Will the love of his precious wife, Phoebe, help heal his shattered heart? 

This is a tale of everlasting change… and everlasting love among the darkest of shadows.

Prologue:

“Never did I say to anyone that she had died of fright.

My first thought, when I was standing in the door, was that she had fainted.”

                                      —Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

“Why won’t anyone believe me? Why, Phoebe, why?”

Dr. Seabury Bowen shoved back the shock of white hair hanging over his forehead and wiped a wrinkled hand across his stubbled chin.

His appearance, like his surroundings, could stand a bit of major housekeeping, not that he cared a whit. 

“Here, it’s here somewhere,” he mumbled.

The old man rummaged among the giant pile of documents, books, and what-not littering the large walnut desk in his study. Several minutes later, and after the search through dozens of loose papers, he saw the faded red book lying beneath a tottering pile. He pulled at it, sending the rest of the stack falling like so much unwanted garbage.

The good doctor, but a shadow of his once-robust self, flipped the pages. He stared at the offending journal entry before setting the book aside with a heartrending sob. 

Chapter One

“I saw the form of Mr. Borden lying on the lounge at the left of the sitting-room door. His face was very badly cut, apparently with a sharp instrument; his face was covered with blood.”

—Testimony of Dr. Seabury W. Bowen, Trial of Lizzie Borden, June 8, 1893

The man reached toward him with long, lean fingers. Dr. Seabury Bowen blinked and tried to make out the features of the unknown figure standing in the corner. The unexpected visitor had a broad, dark face and what looked like a band across his forehead. Bowen stretched out his arm in turn and jumped when their fingers touched, the jolt surging through him like the electricity he knew would soon replace all the gas lights.

“Seabury, dear, are you all right?” His wife, Phoebe, sounded concerned. “What’s wrong?”

Bowen breathed hard. He bolted upright and held a hand on his chest, trying to catch his breath. Still stunned, he gazed about the room, disturbed at the odd shapes until he recognized familiar things… the bureau, the armoire, the paintings on his bedroom walls. He swallowed and nodded.

 “Ye-yes. I-I’m fine. A bad dream, that’s all it was. Just a dream.”

“A bad dream? Dear, you’re breathing so hard, your heart must be pounding like a drum in Mr. Sousa’s band! Are you sure you’re fine?”

The doctor took his wife’s hand and kissed it, relieved to feel his heartbeat return to normal. He had to admit his reaction worried him for a minute, too. “I’m fine now, Phoebe. Really, it’s all right. Go back to sleep. I’m too wrought up to rest. I think I’ll go downstairs and read awhile.”

He gave her a loving smile before he rose, and slipped on his robe, his thoughts in a whirl. To tell the truth, these dreams or hallucinations or whatever they were, appeared to be getting stronger and more frequent.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

BIO: (C.A.) Christine Verstraete has had fiction published in various anthologies including 100 Word Horrors 3 and upcoming in 100 Word Zombie Bites. She is the author of the Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter series and The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, plus other books. Learn more at her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com or visit her website, https://www.cverstraete.com for more details.

Book Review: Thrones of Blood Volume #4: Savagery of the Rebel King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: Savagery of the Rebel King contains graphic depictions of rape, abuse, and torture.

Savagery of the Rebel King is the fourth book in the Thrones of Blood series by Nancy Kilpatrick. You can see my reviews of the first three books here:

Revenge of the Vampir King

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess

Abduction of Two Rulers

Centuries ago, King Necros learned that he could trust no one but himself. Opening his heart to love would only leave it vulnerable to assassins. He rules his vampir stronghold with iron determination. Mistrust, treachery, and betrayal are his constant companions. It keeps Necros alive and in power, but is a grim way to live through his undead eternity.

Queen Guin’s kingdom has a problem: there are no children. For years, the women of the city have been unable to conceive. Desperate, she seeks the help of King Necros and the vampirii.

Necros is fascinated by the tenacious Sapiens Queen but he will not allow himself to trust her. He lashes out in anger, subjecting her to the most horrible kinds of abuse. Things go from bad to worse when Guin’s rule is overthrown and she is left to die. Necros takes her in—though not even he understands his motivation.

They struggle to trust each other, but with mounting threats across all the kingdoms, their lives and those of their subjects depend on their cooperation.

The stakes are higher than ever in Kilpatrick’s fourth Thrones of Blood novel. In Savagery of the Rebel King, we see the complex web of intrigue deepen even further. Kilpatrick weaves in threads from previous novels while also creating compelling stories that stand on their own.

With Guin and Necros, Kilpatrick explores depths of emotion that she hasn’t previously touched. The extremes of the character’s personalities make for a wild adventure.

Guin is a firebrand of a woman (more so than even the previous female protagonists) and will not let herself be overrun. She maintains her sense of self throughout, even using her apparent submission as a weapon.

Necros is so damaged by previous betrayals that he can hardly tell which direction is up. His softening toward others is a delight to watch and his setbacks on the road to betterment are heart-rending.

As the world of Thrones of Blood grows (now encompassing four Vampir strongholds and three Sapien kingdoms), Kilpatrick still keeps each new setting vibrant and original. The motivations and challenges of each are unique, which gives the stories more flavor and authenticity. Though she works with a niche concept, she doesn’t allow that to create narrow storytelling.

Kilpatrick’s unfussy writing makes way for the reader to get immersed in the story. Her vivid descriptions bring both characters and settings to life without detracting from the flow of the narrative.

The Thrones of Blood series is not for the faint of heart. Far from a typical romance story, it blurs the lines of violence and romance in ways that may make some readers uncomfortable. However, if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, then you will love Savagery of the Rebel King. It will leave you anxiously waiting for the next.

Book Review: The Line Between by Tosca Lee

The Line Between by Tosca Lee

Reviewed by Stephanie Ellis

4/5 stars

“In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author and master storyteller Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost and causes madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.”

I jumped at the chance to read this book because of the word ‘apocalyptic’. I love doomsday type scenarios and as it was described as a thriller, it was something I felt I’d naturally go for. As I read on, however, I got the strongest sense that in truth this was really a YA romance set against an apocalyptic backdrop. Initially disappointed in that respect, I continued to read and make my judgment on it firstly as a story, and then as a YA book (as a librarian in a secondary school I read a lot of YA).

The cult of New Earth is a truly chilling place to be, where the leader, Magnus, appears to manipulate his followers with ease. Disposing of a first wife for Wynter’s sister, and then preparing to take Wynter herself as a second spouse, he appears cruel and even perverted. Wynter’s escape, or expulsion, is manipulated by her sister and initially, she is safe in the house of an old friend of her late mother’s. The growing dementia epidemic however soon undermines that feeling and she discovers Magnus had no small part to play in that. Lee paces the story well, interweaving present day with flashbacks but without confusing the reader. She brings out the angst and anxiety of a young woman undergoing extreme mental stress in a thoughtful manner without turning her into a lunatic. The twists and turns, of finding, and losing, friends and helpers on her journey to save the world, keep you turning the page. The ending is somewhat unsatisfactory as it is clearly set up for the follow-up, A Single Light. Having read the blurb for that, it appears to be more of the apocalyptic book I so wanted this to be. I look forward to reading this sequel.