Book Review: The Cabin Sessions by Isobel Blackthorn

Review by: Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: Sex, Violence, Incest, Domestic Abuse, Homophobia, Misogyny

Small town secrets, murders, and mysteries that span decades, and a bar in the woods that reeks of rotting flesh… welcome to The Cabin Sessions.

The Cabin Sessions is a dark psychological thriller by Isobel Blackthorn.

On a stormy Christmas Eve, the musicians of the town of Burton gather at The Cabin, a local bar, and take turns sharing their music. But tensions simmer beneath the surface. As the night continues and the storm roils overhead, dark secrets are revealed and old grudges assert themselves.

The Cabin Sessions doesn’t have a traditional plot. The titular Cabin Session is itself largely unimportant, more of a chance for the characters to muse about their own lives and the other townspeople. The real meat of the story is largely told through a series of flashbacks.

Blackthorn balances the major reveals of the story well, keeping dark secrets hidden until the appropriate moment. The Cabin Sessions is a slow burn story with an explosive ending. Blackthorn saved all the action until the very end.

The Cabin Sessions is foremost, a character study. Blackthorn dives into the minds of three Burton residents to tell the twisted story of murder and betrayal.

Adam is an outsider in the town of Burton. A recent transplant from the city, a gay man, and a non-believer, Adam earns the distrust of most residents. Unfamiliar with generations of scandal and gossip, he serves as the perfect vehicle to learn about the town’s shadowed history. Adam comes with his own dark past and a large part of the tension in Cabin Sessions is driven by his anxiety over the return of his abusive ex-boyfriend, Juan. The inevitable violence Juan threatens lingers over the story like the storm in Burton, filling the novel with creeping dread. Blackthorn masterfully writes inside the mind of a survivor of abuse and Adam’s fears are grounded in reality.

Philip is a Burton native, born in the town, raised in the repressive Kinsfolk religion/cult. He is a town pariah turned golden-boy. As a character, he is infuriating. A narcissistic, selfish, misogynistic, man-child. In his own mind, he can do no wrong. Nothing is ever his fault. His actions should have no consequences, and actually, should have consequences for other people. He resents all the other townsfolk, including his own family. He blames them for daring to think that he has done something, even when it was something he actually did. He is frighteningly incapable of introspection. That doesn’t make him unrealistic, however. Everyone has met someone like Philip Stone. It’s actually impressive that Blackthorn managed to get inside the mind of someone so vile without making herself sick. More impressive is the slow burn reveal of just how bad Philip really is.

Eva, Philip’s sister, is odd. Everyone in the town agrees though they don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her. Eva’s obsession with her brother borders on the deranged. Her diary accounts slowly reveal the secrets of the family’s past, including some truly shocking stories. But Eva’s remembrances contradict Philip’s, causing the reader to question which of them is wrong. Blackthorn’s use of the unreliable narrator really stands out and ratchets up the tension of the story as we wait for the reveal.

With a storm raging outside, the occupants are forced into close proximity. The heavy incense that fails to mask the stench of something rotting in the chimney is almost palpable from Blackthorn’s description. The close quarters of The Cabin add a claustrophobic element to the story and serve to heighten the tension among the characters.

The Cabin Sessions is a good fit for readers who like a literary element to their horror stories. If you are looking for excessive gore or jump scares, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you like a slow burn, atmospheric book with surprising twists, pick up a copy of The Cabin Sessions.

Book Review: Belle Vue by C.S. Alleyne

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault and Violence

I’m a big fan of atmospheric horror. And nothing screams atmosphere quite like a haunted asylum. Based on the very real abuses of the British asylum system in the 19th century, Belle Vue explores what happens when the horrors of the past reach into the present.

Belle Vue is a horror novel by C.S. Alleyne, published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Claire thinks that she’d found the deal of a lifetime. Finally, she can own her own place, a flat in the beautifully renovated Belle Vue Mansion. So, what if it is reportedly haunted? No ghost is going to scare her off from her dream home.

But the grisly history of Belle Vue is more than just a ghost story and it certainly hasn’t been left in the past. The gruesome fate of Ellen Grady and her sister Mary in 1869 created ripples that affect the tenants of Belle Vue even now.

Belle Vue tells a twisted tale of madness, murder, Satanists, and sex cults.

Alleyne cleverly weaves the past and present together, telling twin stories while never giving too much away. Parallels between the stories are artful without being predictable. Crucial information is revealed at just the right times. Alleyne is a master of twists, reserving them until they are most unexpected. No character is safe in this story.

Belle Vue stars a cast of characters, rather than having one protagonist. These interactions fuel the intrigue and suspense of the novel. Above all, what Alleyne does well is to create characters that are flawed, but compelling.

Claire’s enthusiasm and lust for life immediately drew me to her. Watching the events of the book unfold (and anticipating what was to come) filled me with dread. The tragedy that surrounds Claire throughout Belle Vue is only made worse with the knowledge of how her circumstances reflect those of the past.

Alex, Claire’s boyfriend, makes for an interesting character study. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, and misogynistic, though he does seem to care for Claire. He is far from perfect and, in fact, his flaws are what stand out about him as a character. The tragedy of Belle Vue affects him profoundly. More than any other, he displays the most growth throughout the plot.

Poor, sweet Ellen doesn’t deserve all that happens to her at Belle Vue. Imprisoned there by her sister in the 1860’s, Ellen suffers horribly at the hands of the staff. Her loving and hopeful nature persists and her spirit haunts Belle Vue in a subtle way from then on.

Sinister in the extreme, Mary makes for an unconscionable antagonist. Mary pulls the strings for the events at Belle Vue, from the 1860’s through the present day. Though she considers herself the product of misuse, her selfishness and greed are the real cause of her suffering. Though her cunning elevates her to supernatural heights, it also damns her.

Belle Vue is itself a character in this story. The stately mansion holds centuries worth of secrets and Alleyne enjoys teasing them out throughout the story. From the manor home of hedonistic sadists, to a horrific asylum, to a renovated apartment complex, the Belle Vue has worn many faces, and hidden the dark truth in the tunnels below.

Belle Vue was a delight to read, especially if you enjoy historical horror. Anyone who likes asylum horror should pick this up.

Book Review: What Hell May Come by Rex Hurst

Content Warnings: Sexual Assault, Animal Cruelty, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse

Before we get started, please note that What Hell May Come is not for everyone. Rex Hurst makes a point to include every taboo and controversial issue he can find (and insult pretty much all parts of the population at the same time), so if you’re a sensitive reader, you probably want to pass.

What Hell May Come is a novel written by Rex Hurst and published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

Jon St. Fond has never liked his family and it seems that the feeling is mutual. Growing up in a house devoid of love, he threw himself instead into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. But when unexplainable things start to happen to him, he suspects that there’s something more sinister going on in his suburban family than just emotional abuse. Soon, Jon finds himself locked in a web of deceit and depravity, with a horrifying destiny that puts all his fantasy games to shame.

The plot of What Hell May Come is fast-paced, moving quickly between one atrocity and the next. Events are presented as a sort of carnival of horror, leaving you staring at the pages in disbelief. Did that really just happen? Yes. Yes, it did. But you’ll forget about it soon enough because something worse is coming next chapter.

I found the characters of What Hell May Come deeply unlikeable, though I suspect that is Hurst’s intention.

Jon is as self-absorbed and reckless as it is possible for a teenager to be. Though he is the protagonist of the story, he does little to elicit the sympathy of the reader. His abominable hatred of women clashes starkly with his obsession with losing his virginity. He decries his family as elitist while displaying the same behaviors he abhors. He hates his father but also emulates him in the most heinous ways possible. By the end of the novel, Jon’s actions have taken him so far that it’s too late for the redemption that Hurst offers. Overall, it’s a realistic look at the mind of a teenaged boy and just how far a worldview can be twisted by selfishness.

The rest of the St. Fond family is almost laughably villainous, as if making them more terrible would somehow redeem the complete boorishness that characterized Jon. While there are few redeeming qualities to be found in a family of Satanists, I would have liked to see more character depth. They seemed almost to be evil for the sake of being evil.

The writing suited the genre and the material. Descriptions were gritty and, at times, violently graphic. There were moments that were almost poetic. Hurst clearly did his background research on the topic and it shows in the details. The small introduction to the Satanic Panic at the beginning of the book was particularly interesting.

I’m sure there is an audience for What Hell May Come, but I wasn’t it. I felt that Hurst had a checklist of outrages he wanted to commit in writing this. To that end, he succeeded. He did push the boundaries of what is acceptable in writing, finding a home in the horror genre that he couldn’t have anywhere else. If you like your literature to challenge the lines of acceptability, then consider reading What Hell May Come.

Fans of edge-pushing horror will also like Freaks, an anthology of dark and gruesome circus stories.

Book Review: Punk Facation ‘Zine

Punk Faction by David Gamage 

Review by VooDo Lynn

Punk Faction was a self-published ‘zine in the 90’s for the hardcore scene in the UK. This book is a compilation of those original ‘zines. Back then, ‘zines were the internet for people, before the internet took off. It provided you with a plethora of important and varied information in your genre, by people who were living it. These books compiled things like reviews of albums and movie directors, letters to the editor, poems, opinion pieces, road journals, and last but not least, articles ranging from vegetarianism, political pieces, the environment, and more.

This publication is from the UK and I am located in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, USA, so there were a lot of bands mentioned that I never heard of, but that’s ok. I enjoyed learning about new music. I read album reviews and interviews with bands ranging from the local Jailcell Recipes, Goober Patrol (which included a recipe for Goober Straws, in case you were interested in the cuisine at the time) and Funbug to the Ramones, Garbage, Mr. T Experience, Rancid, and Green Day.

I read poetry by Steven Jesse Bernstein and “On a Cold Winter’s Morning” by Steve Gamage which painted a very vivid sense of solitude. There were random quotes printed throughout the publication including Milton and Gandhi. Brat Pack director, John Hughes, had a review of his better-known films and Quintin Tarantino had an overview of his success and strategic abandonment of co-creators he left in the wake of said success. There are one-page blurbs on skating, the use of mercury in dentistry, animals in circuses, and my favorite titled one- “I’m Too Sexy for a Job.”

We now come to my favorite part of the book, the articles. Wow, were there some good ones in here. Some of the topics are what you would expect from this type of publication and were not discussed or accepted as it is now, such as cannabis (which isn’t what you would think it’s about), self-publishing, factory farming, and the aforementioned vegetarianism. And then there were the surprises. Topics that were completely unexpected and frankly, those were the things that drew my attention the most.

I read an article on sleeping well and the link (or lack of) between pornography and sexual violence. I learned about hunt saboteurs–something I never even knew existed before now. There was a surprisingly comprehensive and condensed history of the origins of comic books given in an article titled “In Defense of Comic Books.”

My favorite article is “On Dreams.” It starts off on a philosophical note by talking about what dreams are and what their purpose is, if any. The article is well-cited and I read quotes from Cicero, Hildebrandt, and of course, you cannot have a discussion about dreams without mentioning Jung. It then moves into dream interpretation.  I was particularly interested in reading about a scientist that dreamed up an experiment to prove a theory of his, that he then replicated, which ended up working, ultimately winning him a Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, there is no author given, which is sadly the case with many of the articles and blurbs in this book.

I learned a lot from this book. It was kind of fun traveling back in time and reading all this. The only complaint I have is that because of the format of this book–which is basically reproductions of the already photocopied material–I found certain pages to be hard, if not impossible to read. And that’s ok. It is to be expected and what I consider to be an integral part of the ‘zine experience.

Thanks to the internet and YouTube, I was able to enjoy some of the music from previously unknown bands. I read great interviews with bands, including some of the snark I’ve come to expect and appreciate with these types of interviews. I learned some new things about the world and most importantly, I was made to think. This was a great read for me. I love learning about new things, I love art, and I love the DIY attitude and philosophy. If you are feeling like doing a little time travel, you’re into hardcore music, or you are a fan of DIY publications, then this is the book for you.

And remember “…think globally, but act locally…”

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley

Book Review: Arterial Bloom edited by Mercedes M. Yardley
Reviewed by Daphne Strasert

Unthemed anthologies are always a bit of a gamble for the reader. Without a common thread tying the stories together, you can’t be sure that each story will hold your attention the same way. Arterial Bloom, edited by Mercedes M. Yardley and published by Crystal Lake, may be unthemed, but there is still a common core to the stories: quality. The writing in each and every story is lush and literary. The story themes vary from whimsical to harsh realism, but they are each gripping in their own way.

The Stone Door by Jimmy Bernard

This story about three sisters trying to live their lives in the place of an ever-present threat is tense and dark. Bernard uses the terror of the unknown to great effect. The story is better for being underexplained. It’s plenty terrifying as it is. A sense of hopelessness creeps in between the words as the sisters’ fight to survive keeps them from truly living.

Dog (Does Not) Eat Dog by Grant Longstaff

Longstaff uses his story to take a harsh look at interpersonal relationships during the apocalypse. What does it take to survive? Do you really want to survive if it means losing humanity? His exploration of what hardship and hopelessness may bring out in some people is frightening in its realism.

Kudzu Stories by Linda J. Marshall

Marshall turns a short story even shorter, weaving together a series of stories set in the same small town. With the backdrop of the Mississipi river, Kudzu Stories has a distinctly southern feel. Her writing conjures up hot, humid nights and crickets in the dark, with a dash of something more sinister waiting in the dense kudzu. Truly one of my favorites in this anthology.

Dead Letters by Christopher Barzak

With Dead Letters, Barzak creates a unique and heartfelt story about grief and love. I can’t give much detail without spoiler several marvelous twists, but rest assured, it’s a deeply moving and personal story that explores emotions I didn’t even know I had.

The Darker Side of Grief by Naching T Kassa

Kassa is one of my favorite authors to see in any anthology. The Darker Side of Grief is my favorite work from her so far. It’s a dark tale of a boy haunted by the death of his mother that explores the magnitude of childhood bravery. It’s traditionally scary in a way that few other stories in the anthology are.

Welcome to Autumn by Daniel Crow

Crow’s story of a missing artist and the forces working against him is twisty and trippy. His concept is fascinating and something I would love to learn more about. More than that, the small setting he uses allows him to tell the story through characters in a unique and layered way.

Still Life by Kelli Owen

Still Life is a painting made with words. The vivid imagery is nothing like I’ve ever read before. The story itself winds slowly into you with hints of terror that lurk on the sidelines. It’s a beautiful slow burn with a shocking ending.

Three Masks by Armand Rosamilia

Rosamilia tells several stories at once in Three Masks, showcasing the way two people may come to share their lives in infinite ways. Even with parallels running between each possible storyline, he manages to capitalize on shock value. You’re never sure of what will happen. It’s a literary piece that pushes the boundaries of traditional story telling.

Doodlebug by John Boden

Doodlebug tells the story of an arsonist. It’s a slow burn (ha) with a slithering sense of dread as you wait for what horror will happen next. Boden dives into the psyche of the main character, turning her psychology into the true star of the show. It’s a deeply creepy story not for any overt terror, but for the exploration that there could be any sort of monster hiding behind the façade of a human being.

Happy Pills by Todd Keisling

I loved Happy Pills. Keisling’s story presents a man who will try anything if it will ease the absence of feeling inside him. The description of anxiety and depression is hauntingly visceral and so accurate that it hit home for me in a powerful way. The writing is excellent, with vivid descriptions that match the Lovecraftian tone of the piece.

What Remained of Her by Jennifer Loring

What Remained of Her follows a woman’s desperate search for answers in the disappearance of her sister. The build and suspense in this story is great. The ending is nothing like you would suspect. Loring manages to create a gripping mystery worthy of a novel in a short story format.

Blue Was Her Favorite Color by Dino Parenti

Blue was Her Favorite Color honestly made me shudder as I read it. The story follows a father as he watches the grieving process of his young daughter. Parenti took his time in laying the groundwork for a truly horrifying and unexpected reveal. The creeping horror of this tale will be with me for a long time to come.

In the Loop by Ken Liu

Liu’s story is a masterpiece of technological horror. In the Loop tells the story of a woman who programs machines of war. While it could technically be considered science fiction, the truth of his story matter is much closer to the reality of today. In the Loop isn’t traditional horror, relying instead of the horror found in ethical decisions made every day.

The Making of Mary by Steven Pirie

In The Making of Mary, Pirie turns the language of science into a love letter. This story of Gaia guised in mortal flesh is more of a romance than a horror story, but it’s filled with such beautiful imagery and heartfelt characters, that it belongs alongside the rest of the writing in this anthology.

Mouths Filled with Seawater by Jonathan Cosgrove

Mouths Filled with Seawater is a complicated story woven through the mind of unreliable narrator. It’s hard to know exactly what is going on, but the confusion just adds to the concern of just what the narrator is capable of doing. Cosgrove storytelling is unique and perfectly suited to the tortured tale he presented.

Rotten by Carina Bissett

Rotten is a horror tale in a glossy fairy-tale wrapping. The story of a girl coming of age under her mother’s withering guidance is dark and painful. Bissett’s characters are sinister in the best way imaginable. They come to life under the sharp and vivid language. The series of snippets in the character’s life are each the perfect bite.

I was impressed with Arterial Bloom. Each author brought their absolute best to the table and the editor pulled together a collection of wildly different stories into a coherent piece. I recommend it whole-heartedly to fans of both horror and literature.

Looking for more anthologies? Try Tales from the Lake: Volume 5, Monsters of Any Kind, or Lost Highways.

Book Review: Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus by Jonathan Fortin

Review by Daphne Strassert

Content Warnings: depicts graphic violence and sex

In 2017, HorrorAddicts.net ran the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. Over the course of the season, the writers (myself included) submitted horror writing of various types and competed for the top spot and the final prize of a book contract with Crystal Lake Publishing. The winner was Jonathan Fortin and the book was Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus.

I have waited literal years for this book to come out. Jonathan Fortin embodies the heart and soul of what it means to be a horror writer and I’m absolutely privileged to have competed against him. Lilitu shows the countless hours of hard work that he put into crafting his story.

HorrorAddicts.net helped to find a truly gifted author and bring a wonderful work of horror out into the world.

In 1876, Unbeknownst to the masses of Victorian England, humanity is about to change forever. The immortal denizens of the Earth—the vampires, the lilitu, and the necromancers—are tired of hiding in the shadows of the night. They’ve hatched a plot to take the world for themselves.

Maraina never felt as if she belonged with her aristocratic family. She never felt pretty enough or charming enough. She was stifled by a future that held no hope for her. That changes with The Nightfall. When the demons rise to take England, Maraina faces a choice: renounce her humanity and become a succubus, or remain human and die a slave.

She is introduced to the world of demons by Salem, a powerful incubus who is fascinated by Maraina’s strength of mind. But the new society brought about by the immortals is just as cruel and evil as the one that they overthrew. Maraina may have forsaken her own humanity, but she won’t turn her back on it entirely.

Soon she finds herself at odds with Salem, as both he and the world spiral further into darkness. Maraina must find a way to save everyone from evil on all sides, in a way that only a demon can.

Though Lilitu is a long book, it never feels that while reading it. Scenes flow together seamlessly, each action leading to the next in a manner that pulls the reader along. Fortin lays the groundwork for plot twists early without giving too many clues that would reveal them. The result is a gripping story that keeps the reader engaged throughout.

The heart of the story lies with Maraina Blackwood. Maraina is a feminist icon trapped in the Victorian era. Plagued by the restrictive values and burdensome expectations of her time, Maraina is often her own worst enemy. Watching her grow to discover her potential is satisfying. She explores what true humanity means outside of mortality and damnation. Though her understanding of the world is turned on its head, she finds the core of who she really is.

Salem is a fantastic antagonist. At first, he’s sexy and alluring, his dark nature luring Maraina in. As the book progresses, the very things that made Salem appealing begin to lose their shine. Salem changes throughout the book, but it is not a fall from grace, rather a reveal as the scales fall from Maraina’s eyes. Salem becomes more purely himself in all his sinister glory. He becomes a more powerful enemy as Maraina herself comes into her own power.

In Lilitu, Fortin has created a wholly unique and fantastical world. The elements of the Nightfall perfectly highlight the injustices faced in Victorian England (and today). It’s clear that Fortin did his research. The details of Victorian society are seamless, creating the perfect backdrop for the horror elements that are introduced. The mythos of the immortal characters is thorough. Fortin hints at a much deeper world than the one that’s presented in Lilitu, making the reader hope that there will be more to come.

Fortin’s writing is deliciously gruesome. He strikes the perfect balance in his descriptions between the beautiful and horrifying. The emotions of the characters come through clearly and the horror to come creeps up slowly, giving the reader a sense of dread that can’t quite be explained.

The story is a delight to read but provides more substance than a shock-and-awe horror thriller would. Lilitu explores the nature of sexuality, war, and morality. Fortin lays bare themes about prejudice and justice that are just as timely now as they are for the characters.

In Lilitu, Jonathan Fortin has created a horror masterpiece that defies many genre expectations. He weaves together elements of social commentary, coming of age triumphs, and Lovecraftian horror with ease, packaging them neatly in a story that leaves no room to put the book down.

 

Book Review: Thrones of Blood #5: Anguish of the Sapiens Queen by Nancy Kilpatrick

Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: This book contains graphic depictions of violence, sex, and rape.

Anguish of the Sapiens Queen is the fifth book in the Thrones of Blood series by Nancy Kilpatrick. At this point, I would not recommend jumping into the series without reading the preceding volumes. You can see my reviews of the earlier books here:

Revenge of the Vampir King

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess

Abduction of Two Rulers

Savagery of the Rebel King

King Hades has a problem. Relations between the worlds of the vampir and sapiens have always been hostile, but now the existence of both teeter on the edge of oblivion. The sadistic vampir Queen Lamia has poisoned the Sapien populations with a virus that makes all men sterile. Without a cure, sapiens will die out in a generation. Without a source of food, the vampirii will follow soon after.

A compromise must be reached between the sapiens and the vampirii if they are to avert this disaster. Unfortunately, for Hades this means contending with the fierce and willful Queen Liontyne.

In Anguish of the Sapiens Queen, Kilpatrick takes a much more diverse storytelling approach than she has in previous volumes. Characters from the earlier stories still have their own story to tell. Throughout the plot, she balances the many intersecting storylines with ease, weaving them together in a way that not only keeps the reader engaged, but that also intensifies the main storyline, raising tension with the knowledge that the stakes are getting higher and higher, even if the protagonists don’t yet realize it. Kilpatrick certainly ensures that we won’t be going anywhere when the next in the series comes around.

King Hades has always prided himself on being more level headed than the other vampir rulers. Though he has been undead for centuries, he can still sympathize with the powerful emotions that rule the sapiens. Yet his immeasurable patience is put to the test when he goes up against Queen Liontyne.

Liontyne trusts no one. She sealed her heart away a long time ago, ruling through self-preservation rather than any love for her people. Though her temper has never dimmed, the light has long gone out of her life. She lives like a caged version of the fearsome cat she was named for—hopeless but ever ready to lash out.

As always, Kilpatrick’s descriptions are vivid and engaging. She handles personal interactions with ease, portraying an inventive cultural society without losing the impact of raw emotional connection. The world of Thrones of Blood continues to expand, giving us more and more to look forward to.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure with plenty of romance and dark fantasy, consider the Thrones of Blood series. If you’ve enjoyed the books so far, Anguish of the Sapiens Queen certainly won’t disappoint you.

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: Thrones of Blood Volume #3: Abduction of Two Rulers by Nancy Kilpatrick

Content Warnings: This book contains graphic depictions of rape and torture.

I have previously reviewed Thrones of Blood #1 and #2 for HorrorAddicts.net. I wouldn’t recommend jumping into the series at this point without reading the previous volumes.

Continuing in the line of Revenge of the Vampir King and Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess, Abduction of Two Rulers delivers more of Kilpatrick’s unique world.

Abduction of Two Rulers is a paranormal erotica with dark themes.Abduction of Two Rulers (Thrones of Blood Book 3) by [Kilpatrick, Nancy]

After a failed conference to discuss peace between the Vampir and Sapien kingdoms, Vampir King Thanatos and Sapien Queen Blanka find themselves captured by rival forces who are looking to solidify power.

Blanka and Thanatos must escape their captors if they are to keep their kingdoms from plunging into war and falling into the hands of the vicious vampir Queen Lamia.

But escape requires sacrifice and changes both their lives forever. Thanatos and Blanks forge a bond out of mutual suffering and respect. They must use that new bond to save themselves and possibly their two worlds.

Abduction of Two Rulers never lets up on the action. Every sequence leads into another with higher stakes. We are taken deeper into the world of the Vampirii, finding more kingdoms and scarier threats.

Blanka is a level-headed queen. She thinks of the good of her people first. She has a kind heart and wishes to understand others. She is what the Sapien world needs in order to make peace with the Vampirii. The betrayal that leads to her captures turns her world upside down and she needs to rethink the assumptions that made her such a positive ruler.

Thanatos has been dead inside for a very long time. At least, he thinks that he has. He’s a practical and cynical vampir. But Blanka has a light about her that reminds him why he loved life in the first place. She pulls him back from a bleak world.

Queen Lamia quickly becomes the most terrifying and sadistic villain in the series so far.

The world of Thrones of Blood is becoming more intricate with each book in the series. There is clearly more history to be revealed. Each not fragment of information builds a stronger connection with the reader, luring them in to want more.

Kilpatrick, as always, has excellent description. She delves deeper into the visuals of the world in Abduction of Two Rulers. She continues to weave together the stories of the characters that we’ve met so far, creating an intricate series that builds rather than handing off each book with a happy ending. The stakes continue to rise and we can be sure that we will see more of the previous characters in books to come.

Abduction of Two Rulers is my favorite of the Thrones of Blood series so far. The characters are dynamic and driven. The setting is complex and fascinating. If you like dark erotica, consider this series.

Book Review: Thrones of Blood Volume #2: Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess by Nancy Kilpatrick

Thrones of Blood Volume #2: Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess by Nancy Kilpatrick

Content Warning: This book contains explicit descriptions of sex, abuse, torture, rape, and incest.

While you could, theoretically, read Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess without looking at previous works, I would recommend starting with the first book in the series. I have previously reviewed Thrones of Blood #1: Revenge of the Vampir King here at HorrorAddicts.net

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess is a paranormal erotic romance with elements of dark fantasy.

Nearly twenty years after the events of Revenge of the Vampir King, Moarte and Valada—King and Queen of the Vampirii—have since raised a headstrong daughter, Serene. With tensions with the sapiens spiraling out of control, Moarte and Valada must leave the vampire fortress to ensure the safety of their people.

In the meantime, their naïve and selfish daughter cannot be trusted to rule—either herself or the kingdom. Moarte and Valada have come to the conclusion that the only way to ensure the safety of their people and their daughter is to tie her to the vampire warrior Wolfsbane.

Wolfsbane was once Moarte’s second, but has spent the last twenty years in isolation and penance after losing his love and killing his sister. Now he must be tied to a woman whom he does not think he can love. Though Serene and Wolfsbane get off to the rockiest of starts, they soon come to love and appreciate each other.

Moarte and Valada, secure in the knowledge of their kingdom’s safety and their daughter’s happiness, go away to pursue their mission and kill the Sapien King—Valada’s father—who terrorizes the vampirii with endless raids.

But Serene finds out about their mission and runs to pursue them. She believes she can broker a peace between the two kingdoms. Her capture and torture at the hands of the Sapien King sets off a chain of events that could change relations between sapiens and vampirii forever.

Kilpatrick starts right in the middle of the action, immediately introducing the major conflicts. The first portion of the book focuses heavily on the relationship between Wolfsbane and Serene, as they try to navigate each other and the needs that they don’t necessarily know that they have. The latter half of the book is action heavy, bringing in the conflict with the Sapiens King and a fair bit of angst and heartache alongside. If I have any complaint, it’s that the end does not bring closure to everything (so, I’ll have to read book #3, which isn’t a real complaint anyway).

Serene is naïve, selfish, and frustrating. Her choices reflect her tendency to trust her instincts too far, to act before she thinks, and to always assume that she is correct. This is all done to the detriment of those around her. Fortunately, we get to watch her grow throughout the course of the book. Her wilder tendencies are tempered by her time with Wolfsbane and her misfortunes at the hand of the Sapien King.

Wolfsbane is the perfect foil, perhaps too controlled. He long ago gave up on his own happiness. He has been burned before by taking too long to make a decision. Serene brings light and love back into his life. He learns throughout the course of the story that leaping may only work if he hasn’t looked too long.

The world of the vampirii is immersive. Kilpatrick holds nothing back in her world building. The descriptions are vivid and the cultures well thought-through. This is a series with a take on vampires quite unlike anything else on the market.

Kilpatrick has an unfussy writing style that lets the story shine first. Her dialogue is emotional and realistic. Descriptions can be gruesome, so be aware of content warnings.

Overall, Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess is an ambitious work and a welcome addition to the Thrones of Blood series.

Book Review: Monsters of Any Kind , edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti

We see plenty of serial killers and psychopaths here at HorrorAddicts.net. Some call them monsters. Yet, evil though they are, they are still only human. What of the truly monstrous? the grotesque? the abominable? the creatures that defy not only nature but Heaven and Hell as well?

Monsters of Any Kind—published by Independent Legions Publishing and edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti—brings you tales of creatures that slither and writhe and go bump in the night. Whether they’re good, evil, or… otherwise, they’re sure to terrify. Prepare yourself for stories of real monsters.

Monsters of Any Kind presents a diverse collection of stories, each prominently featuring a monster, some from folklore and some the product of pure imagination (terrifying as that must be for the author). Each story takes a different variation on the theme, bringing surprises and delights with each turn of the page.

Perpetual Antimony by Cody Goodfellow – Goodfellow introduces a fascinating concept that explores the limits of human potential and what may drive a person to forsake humanity altogether.

The Thing Too Hideous to Describe by David J. Schow – This tale of a monster and the researcher who wants to study him takes a humorous approach to the theme. Still, this is a horror anthology and the ending is… well, you’ll see.

Silt and Bone by Jess Landry – Jess Landry (a contestant from the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest) is a master of imagery and creates one of the most vivid descriptions in a stand out book. The story is atmospheric and chilling. The horror of natural disaster, personal repercussions, and things beyond this world combine to make this a gripping experience.

Sucklings by Lucy Taylor – This story of grisly small-town murders and a monster that wears many faces explores whether you can truly trust your loved ones.

We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry – Maberry’s noir-style werewolf story is my favorite of the anthology and I can only hope that we will see more of this as a novel or serial.

Brodkin’s Demesne by Michael Gray Baughan – In this story, a couple moves to an isolated country home, where the ever-present drone of cicadas belies something more sinister. Baughan creates a slow build of terror and his violent imagery stuck with me long after reading.

Sealed with a Kiss by Owl Goingback – A man’s car breaks down as the world literally goes to hell around him. Sealed with a Kiss is clever and well written with a tongue in cheek take on horror.

The Other Side of Semicolons by Michael Bailey – A girl explores the twisted dimensions on the other side of a mysterious symbol in her room. Bailey writes a tale of psychological terror that explores what could be. The visions draw you in and create a sense of dread that isn’t easy to shake.

Bad Hair Day by Greg Sisco – What would you do for vanity? Bad Hair Day is an exquisite work of horror edged with science fiction that I would not be surprised to see listed as a classic of the genre.

Midnight Hobo by Ramsey Campbell – A lurking form haunts Roy at home and at work, slowly driving him mad. Campbell has a talent for grounding his horror in the mundane and leaving just the right amount of description to the reader’s imagination.

Noverim Te by Santiago Eximeno – Tourists gather in a small town where a god goes to sleep every year. Eximeno blends ancient superstition with modern behavior in this exquisite concept.

The Dive by Mark Alan Miller – One night, Al finally gets everything he wants, but he’ll be lucky to escape with his life. A fusion of humor, horror, and adventure, The Dive is an excellent piece of fiction that will leave you feeling a little more grateful for what you have.

Mammy and the Flies by Bruce Boston – What happens when neglect and abuse turn someone strange into something horrifying? The small scale and sheer intensity of Mammy and the Flies made this story delightful. Boston’s emotional writing blew me away.

Old Sly by Gregory L. Norris – Norris’ story has a foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House, with a twist that will make you question whether you really want to inherit a fortune from a distant relative.

The Last Wintergirl by Damien Angelica Walters – Mythical Wintergirls fall prey to the boys of the village while they slumber. The boys think nothing of the terrible retribution they’ll face… but they should. The Last Wintergirl is a chilling tale of human evil and monstrous revenge. Walters creates an intricate mythology that would make a great novel.

The City of Sixes by Edward Lee – By far the most graphically grotesque of the collection, Lee’s story of literal Hell is somehow more horrific than you can possibly imagine.

Crisis of Faith by Monica J. O’Rourke – A spiritual seeker finally finds what he’s looking for; a real-life demon. O’Rourke’s description of torture and the psychological effects is incredible.

Cracker Creek by Erinn L. Kemper – A town scandal becomes something more sinister when newly born babies aren’t what they seem. Kemper creates a gripping story, well written and perfectly paced.

Presented along with the text are incredible illustrations by Stefano Cardoselli. The art never gives away the story, but adds to it, especially once you know all the twists and turns.

Whether you enjoy gruesome violence, psychological terror, existential dread, or the humorous side of horror, you’ll find a story to suit your taste among the offerings in Monsters of Any Kind.

THE BIGFOOT FILES| Chapter Two: Dweller

Oddly enough, Bigfoot was not the original creature that author Jeff Strand had in mind for his Bram Stoker Award-nominated horror novel Dweller.

dweller.jpg

“The concept of ‘the story of a lifetime friendship between a boy and a monster’ came to me before the actual monster,” said Strand in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “I’d originally thought it would be a reptilian creature that lived at the bottom of a well. But that was too limiting for a book that covered sixty years, and I wanted the readers to fall in love with Owen, so I switched to Bigfoot. Well, something like Bigfoot. There’s a scene where they watch the Patterson-Gimlin film and try to figure out if Owen is the same type of animal. That gave me the whole forest to play around in and made the monster much more cuddly.”

Of course, since Dweller is a horror novel, Owen the Bigfoot is not as cuddly as Strand would have you believe.

Released in 2010, Dweller is a tragic tale of friendship between one lonely human named Toby and one lonely cryptid that Toby names Owen. What makes Dweller a cut and a slash above the average creature feature is that the novel chronicles a heartfelt relationship between human and beast over a period of six decades, starting with their first encounter in 1953.

Dweller is quite a remarkable feat of storytelling because of the time frame, but also because Strand’s tale is as tender as it is terrifying. Eight-year-old Toby initially encounters the creature (who he later names Owen) in the woods behind his home, but their friendship doesn’t begin until seven years later when Toby is a bullied, socially awkward teenager. Their ensuing encounters spark a relationship that Strand is able to ground in reality.

To me, one of the most poignant aspects of Dweller is why Toby chooses the name Owen for the Bigfoot creature. Strand writes:

“Owen – the human Owen – was the closest Toby had ever come to having a real friend.”

Toby had met a boy named Owen in sixth grade, and for about three months they played together every day until an incident ended their friendship. So, Toby has no friends now. How sad is it that the boy turns to a monster just to have a friend and then names it after the only human friend he ever had?

Owen’s story is even sadder as illustrated in the prologue of Dweller. A runt offspring, Owen is orphaned after watching humans kill his family. Owen runs from the killer humans, and Strand writes:

“When he stopped running, he wept.”

That last line of the prologue always gets to me. Can you imagine a young Bigfoot weeping — not crying, but weeping — after humans kill his family? It’s a heartbreaking moment.

One of the more interesting techniques employed in Dweller is Strand’s use of chapters titled “Glimpses,” which cover years of time in the lives of Toby and Owen in just a few pages. For example, in Chapter Eleven, Strand chronicles 1964 to 1972 in eight pages by describing a moment or two during each year. The glimpses are a surprisingly effective way to show time passing and to develop the characters.

One of my favorite glimpses in the book is when Toby is showing photographs from the iconic Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film to Owen. Toby thinks that Bigfoot shares a resemblance to Owen, but Owen disagrees. It’s such a “real” moment.

Dweller is among my top ten favorite novels of any genre, not just horror. I became an instant fan of Strand after reading it and have followed his eclectic career ever since. Known as a master of blending horror and comedy, Strand has written more than forty books, but Dweller remains my favorite (and probably always will). Strangely, his one mainstream romantic comedy Kumquat is my second favorite of his novels followed by the devastatingly dark Pressure.

Strand.jpg

Jeff Strand

I asked Strand if he believes in Bigfoot.

“I think the overwhelming majority of Bigfoot sightings are hoaxes or just mistakes,” Strand replied. “When I see a shaky video of an indistinct blur viewed through thick forest and the cameraman is saying, ‘That’s Bigfoot! Oh my God, that’s Bigfoot!’ I have to be skeptical. It’s easy to see what you want to see, and it’s easy to fool people, so I believe that very few Bigfoot sightings are legitimate. But ‘overwhelming majority’ doesn’t mean ‘all.’ As with aliens, I don’t believe or disbelieve either way — I’m open to the possibility. But I have not seen anything to make me say, ‘Yes! They exist!’”

I also asked Strand why he thinks Bigfoot continues to remain so prevalent in pop culture today.

“It’s just a fascinating idea, that there’s a creature living out there that may or may not be real,” Strand explained. “It’s mysterious and a little scary. Bigfoot is credible enough that you don’t have to be a complete whack-nut to think, ‘Well, maybe ….’ There’s way freakier stuff living in the oceans. So, he could be out there, and yet nobody has ever caught one or provided conclusive evidence that they exist. Even if you’re a hardcore skeptic, it’s a fun mystery.”

NEXT UP | Chapter Three: Swamp Monster Massacre. I review the horror novel Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea, featuring an exclusive interview with the author about how the Bigfoot legend inspired his story and how the book changed his life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

RELATED LINK:

THE BIGFOOT FILES | Chapter One: The Idea of Bigfoot

 

Book Review: Quoth the Raven, edited by Lyn Worthen

Book Review: Quoth the Raven edited by Lyn Worthen

When I was around ten years old, I came across the story The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe.  That was my introduction to his work, and I loved it.  Over the years, I read more of his stories and eventually his poetry and enjoyed it all.  He’s in my top ten list of favorite authors, and more than one of his stories would be in my list of favorite short fiction.  When I was offered the chance to read and review Quoth the Raven, an anthology of retellings of Poe’s stories by contemporary authors, I responded with a resounding yes.

Quoth the Raven by [Fallon, Amber, Azariah-Kribbs, A.A, Worthen, Lyn, Gorman, Amelia, Bollinger, Aryan, Ellis, Brian, Weaver, Donea, Abela, Chris, Ahern, Edward, Rich, Emerian, Tiffany Michelle Brown, Vicki Weisfeld, Gregory J. Wolos, Sidney Williams, R.C. Scandalis, Karen Robiscoe, Tonia Kalouria, John Kiste , Melanie Cossey, Matthew M. Montelione, Kenneth C. Goldman, Steven R. Southard, Kara Race-Moore, Stephanie L. Harper, Susan McCauley, Sonora Taylor, Lauryn Christopher, Sarah Murtagh, Lawrence Berry, Frank Coffman]This anthology features prose and poetry, mostly modern day reworkings of his stories, but some stand out as original ideas written following his style.  “The Cellphone,” by R.C. Scandalis, for example.  That one is a poem patterned after Poe’s The Raven.  While the new poem is a humorous exploration of someone who has become a slave to his smart phone, it follows the rhythm, meter, and rhyming pattern of The Raven.  It was inventive and it often made me laugh.

Other works by Poe were heavily mined for this anthology.  The Cask of Amontillado, which is my favorite of his stories, is given a contemporary voice in four different tales.  My favorite of the retellings of Cask is “The Montresor Method,” by Hugh J. O’Donnell.  It was a clever take on the classic tale of revenge that uses a physical copy of Poe’s story as a plot device.  O’Donnell did a good job of capturing the feel and essence of Edgar Allen’s voice and I enjoyed reading his story.

My favorite poem by Poe is The Bells, and I was pleased to see that one of the selections used that as a basis for a new work.  “The Tones,” by Amber Fallon follows the pattern of The Bells in an exploration of alarms, ringtones, sirens, and other similar sounds heard frequently in today’s world.  I liked it almost as much as the original it’s patterned after.

Several other of Poe’s more famous works are retold, including The Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Purloined Letter; some appearing more than once.  Aside from the works I mentioned already, one that stood out for me is “My Annabel” by Emerian Rich.  “My Annabel” is a retelling in prose form of the poem Annabel Lee.  I really liked it.  Like O’Donnell, Rich did a great job of capturing the feel of Poe’s voice and style, and it read like something he might write today, were he still alive and (spoiler) a fan of George Romero’s work.

I enjoyed reading Quoth the Raven.  There were definitely selections that stood out more than others, but for me, there wasn’t a single dud in the book.  I would recommend the anthology to anyone who enjoys dark-themed stories.  Those who love the work of Edgar Allen Poe will enjoy seeing how the authors translate his tales into contemporary society.  However, one doesn’t need to be a fan of Poe to like these stories and poems.  Quoth the Raven is a fine collection that any fan of horror fiction should enjoy.  It’s available on Amazon both in paperback and for the Kindle.  Give it a read; you won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer:  I was provided an electronic copy of the book so that I could read and review it.  I received no money for the review, and the opinions stated therein are my own.

Book Review: Revenge of the Vampir King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Book Review: Revenge of the Vampir King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Content Warnings: This book contains graphic descriptions of rape, domestic abuse, and torture.

Revenge of the Vampir King (Thrones of Blood Book 1) by [Kilpatrick, Nancy]In Revenge of the Vampir King, Nancy Kilpatrick blends horror, paranormal fantasy, and erotica to explore the relationship between love, tragedy, revenge, and what it means to be a family.

Through the centuries, an immortal war has raged between the Sapiens and Vampirii. The world is bitterly divided between the two races.

After a successful attack against the Sapiens, the Vampirii return with an unusual prize: Valada, the daughter of the Sapiens King.

Hell-bent on the ultimate revenge, the Vampir King Maorte devises a hellish plan of manipulation—make the princess fall in love with him and betray her father—never suspecting that he will fall into is own trap.

As dark secrets are uncovered, new alliances are formed. Valada and Moarte must learn to trust each other in order to settle old scores, bring about lasting peace, and save their kingdoms and, perhaps, themselves.

The plot is gripping, seamlessly pulling the reader along on a tense journey. The pacing is excellent, with no time to become bored. There are plenty of twists and turns, with shifting allegiances. One thing is for certain, you never know exactly what will happen next. Each new conflict feels enormous, raising the stakes ever higher.

The characters are complex. Each has a multitude of motivations. Flaws and strengths motivate each and motivations are clear and realistic. This gives the book a sense of real-world conflict. Characters aren’t evil for evil’s sake (though some are undeniably evil).

Valada, who has suffered under a lifetime of abuse, struggles to orient herself in her new position, constantly doubting her place with others, but never herself. She’s a strong heroine and saves Moarte every bit as much as he saves her.

Moarte is a man of two worlds. Though he leads the Vampirii, he is half Sapien as well. Reconciling those differences may bring him to conclusions that have profound ramifications for his life and his kingdom.

Kilpatrick forges an ambitious, unique world, fearlessly diving into fantasy world building without looking back. Revenge of the Vampir King is all the better for it. We are thrown right into the world, rather than given a hesitant introduction. The universe is immersive from the start. There is clearly a rich history, leaving plenty to discover throughout the plot and in future installments to come.

Kilpatrick’s writing flows well. There are moments of profound description and lovely prose, particularly with regards to the romance. She accomplishes the difficult feat of getting out of the way of the story itself and leaving the reader to be sucked in, as if they aren’t reading at all.

Filled with dark themes, Revenge of the Vampir King challenges the standards of romance, pushing the limits of love with blood and betrayal. If you’re looking for a book that you can’t put down, this is a sure bet.

Book Reviews: Tales from the Lake Volume 5

Tales from the Lake Volume 5
Review by Daphne Strasert

Once a year, Crystal Lake Publishing releases an anthology of the best stories the horror community has to offer. It is a pleasure each and every year, but has been getting better with time and notoriety. This year’s collection was curated by Kenneth W. Caine, pulling stories from over 750 submissions into a thoughtful and harrowing book of dark desires and hidden horror.

Though the stories in Tales from the Lake Volume 5 are not themed in the traditional sense, they form a cohesive unit. Threads connect each to the others as if the authors had conspired to give the anthology its unique flavor.

Of the many excellent contributions, some stand out to me as spectacular.

“A Dream Most Ancient and Alone” by Allison Pang features an unlikely friendship between a young girl and a mudmaid who lurks in the remnants of a nearby pond. Their relationship deepens despite the chilling nature of the creature. Pang’s novel take on the subject matter and vivid, emotional writing give the story an extra edge to make it stand out in the anthology. The ending that will make you shiver for all the right and wrong reasons.

“Twelve by Noon” by Joanna Parypinski brings true fright to the collection. The tense, terrifying tale of a group of lost teenagers and the sinister farm where their car breaks down packs all the punches of a blockbuster horror film in the short story format. Personally, I’d like to see a whole trilogy of movies based on Parypinski’s fantastic concept, hopefully with all the suspense intact.

In “Starve a Fever” by Jonah Buck, dread builds from the start and drags you along through every backwoods turn. You can’t stop reading, even as you fear you know what will happen. Buck possesses an extraordinary imagination and incredible storytelling ability.

My favorite story in the anthology, and the one that I found personally most chilling, was “The Boy” by Cory Cone. Cone’s description of a mother’s worst nightmare come to life is morose and moving. He takes the reader on a journey of madness and terror as you fear for the woman, the boy, and the outcome that you both hope for and fear. Madness lurks everywhere and love makes monsters of us all.

Tales from the Lake Volume 5 is an exploration of the lost and found. Whether losing someone before their time or keeping a loved one long past theirs, the stories explore the horror of finding what was meant to stay hidden.

Book Review: It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life

It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life
Ed. Joe Myhnardt and Eugene Johnson, Crystal Lake Publishing

4/5 stars

What If? That’s how this collection of essays opens. What if some of the best authors in the business decide to pass on their expertise to those following in their path? Answer: You get this book, an invaluable selection of hints, tips and sometimes, demands on everything from character creation to plotting to submission. For me, as well as the writing tips, I enjoyed the sections dealing with creating and editing anthologies and also how NOT to speak to an editor.

Advice is given and yes, some conflicts as writers have different methods, eg plot v character, one or two drafts or multiple. It’s up to you to take what you want from this – or not, although there is one golden rule that ALL promote – show not tell.

With each essay, it was as if the author(s) were sat in the room with you, chatting about their craft as to an equal. All remember where they came from in writing terms, there is no superiority, no patronising or condescension. They are us and hopefully, those who read this will one day become them.

Book Reviews: Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets

With history, unless you saw it for yourself, you can’t know if a story is strictly true or if it has a darker story lurking in the shadows. History may contain any number of untold mysteries and secrets. Perhaps communist werewolves reached the moon before Apollo 11. Maybe a sinister creature actually caused the Hindenburg disaster. Who is to know? Except… maybe you.

Allow me to introduce Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets, a horror anthology by Crystal Lake Publishing. Inside you’ll find stories of famous events and historical figures told through the grim lens of 23 spectacular horror writers. The anthology includes both established and emerging authors, guaranteeing that you’ll find an old favorite and someone new to love.

The settings extend from the prehistoric to the near-present, subjects from the pioneering inventions to mythic figures, and themes from comedic to disturbing. All, however, are incredible feats of imagination.

Though each piece is worth reading in itself, several stood out as exceptional among the rest.

“Mutter” by Jess Landry (a contestant from the Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) explains the events that led up to the Hindenburg disaster and gives a wondrous origin story for one of America’s most famous cryptids. Lanrdy’s writing, as always, overflows with vivid description and excellent characterization. She hides an amazing twist in the story and brings everything to a thought-provoking close that stuck with me long after I set the book down.

Mort Castle’s story, “Rotoscoping Toodies”, reveals a surprising past for Walt Disney and some of his most successful works. The life-like characters and interesting premise drew me in from the beginning. But the true reason this story stuck with me was the dark ending and horrifying implications.

Lastly, “Sic Olim Tyrannis” by David Wellington was my favorite inclusion. In a market saturated with zombie stories, this was a refreshing take on an old and over worn genre. Vivid descriptions brought the setting to life and Wellington managed to imbue the story with emotion despite using no dialogue.

If you love history, dark tales, or both, Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets is an engaging and worthwhile read.

BOOK REVIEW: Triple Axe by Scott Cole

Triple Axe by Scott Cole is an outrageous grindhouse exploitation novel packed with plucky porn stars, frozen sex toys, and a B-movie vibe straight from the gritty screens of 1970s drive-in theaters.

Triple Axe coverReleased by Grindhouse Press on July 2, Triple Axe is about Jesse Jinx, a porn star who dreams of starting up her own film company, one that treats the actors more fairly and respectfully.

The problem is a killer is on the loose, using an ice-cold sex toy to dispatch porn stars at an alarming rate. The villain’s motive is as equally outrageous as the plot.

Likable leads Jesse and her friends Selina and Foxy Roxoff are survivors, not victims, and decide to protect themselves with, you guessed it, axes.

Triple Axe never takes its plot too seriously and works as a horror-action-comedy. Imagine Uma Thurman’s Bride character from Kill Bill if she were a porn star fighting off serial killers instead of international assassins. Now, multiply Uma by three.

I could tell the author had loads (sorry) of fun creating names for the porn actors.

At 89 pages in length, Triple Axe is a quick read with an over-the-top climax (sorry again) and a feel-good female empowerment theme.

Book Review: This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle

This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle is a fascinating tome of narrative poetry and a cornucopia of dark treats. The author, Frank Coffman, is an accomplished poet, and the tales woven throughout the verse are wondrous.

This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle

Coffman’s work begins with the description of a book, one of great power. It is, like Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, bound in human skin and inked in blood. The difference is, this volume is authored by a sorcerer and augmented through the ages by seven others.

The first part of This Ae Nighte, details the sorcerer’s creation of the book and his quest to cheat the devil. (He aims to keep his soul though it is bound for Hell.) The second part concerns individual stories contained within the book. Here, you’ll find vampires, werewolves, and other horrific monsters familiar to those who enjoy dark fantasy.

 

I also enjoyed “The Killing Man,” “Convert,” and “The Strigoi.” These poems spark the imagination. I could almost see the monsters, the forests, the blood, and the hang rope in my mind’s eye.

I loved this book. Coffman’s verse is beautiful, precise, and captivating. My favorite poems involved the sorcerer’s transformation into a Lich (a creature animated by the soul of a dead sorcerer.) He is all-powerful in this form and in control of terrifying monsters. No one can stop him, save one. And, believe me, this hero isn’t what you’d expect.

Frank Coffman

As a novice poet, I appreciated Coffman’s introduction to each poem. (I didn’t know a sonnet from a strophe until I’d read this book.) For those eager to learn about poetry, he provides a “poem glossary” at the back of the book. For the more advanced reader, he’s supplied a new and interesting style.

I highly recommend This Ae Nighte, Every Nighte and Alle. Not only is it a great read for dark fantasy fans, it will also appeal to the Horror Addict in everyone.

BOOK REVIEW: Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing

Fat Free Nation cover.jpg

Fat Free Nation by Naomi Downing is a compelling indictment of an out-of-control bureaucracy and the unintended consequences of government meddling. It’s also a damn fine dystopian novel every bit as intense as The Hunger Games.

Downing sets the stage of her dystopian world with a quick introduction:

“The year is 2148 and because of the rise of overweight people, our government created a law that everyone must be within a certain weight range. All junk and fast-food has been outlawed but can still be found in the many black markets. All citizens from the age of eight to twenty-nine who are overweight are sent to government-run weight loss camps. Over the age of thirty and overweight is a death sentence. The camps are split into three age groups. Camp One is for anyone ages eight to twelve, Camp Two is ages thirteen to seventeen, and Camp Three is ages eighteen to twenty-nine. If you age out of a camp and are not within the healthy weight range, in other words you can’t go from one camp to another, you die.”

Fat Free Nation is a fast-paced, dialogue-driven story about Jenna, an overweight 17-year-old who along with her twin brother is on the run from the fat police. From the opening, Downing efficiently establishes the relationship between the likable, feisty, book-loving protagonist Jenna and her protector-brother Will.

By the end of the first chapter, the twins are captured in a raid by authorities, including a sadistic bureaucrat named Major, and transported for orientation into a fat camp where failure results in execution.

Jenna enters fat camp weighing 210 pounds, which is 90 pounds over the government’s limit by law for her age. Jenna and Will have been on the run for 10 years, so adjusting to the highly regimented rules of the camp are tough on their free spirits.

The camp reminded me of an extreme amalgam of prison and Army basic training where the instructors enjoy torturing teenagers. Campers are tagged with trackers on their ankles, forced to write truthfully in journals, and given every opportunity to exercise.

I liked how Downing describes Jenna’s attitude when she arrives at her cabin at fat camp.

“The screen door creaked as Jenna walked in, there was no solid door. There were eight beds, four on each wall. As Jenna walked to the one at the end the smell of sweat and blood filled her nose. The door to the bathroom area was open and inside Jenna could see five toilet stalls, a row of sinks, and an open shower area. At the foot of her bed there was a closed door. Jenna dropped her bag onto the bed, wafting the stale odor of dried piss into her nose.

“Charming,” Kasey wrinkled her nose.

“I’ve lived in worse,” Jenna shrugged.

The fat camp boss Major is as cruel of a villain as I’ve encountered in a story. I winced every time Jenna forgot to address Major as “sir” because the omission usually resulted in physical abuse for the heroine. I wondered how much more punishment Jenna could take.

Major is extremely unhinged psychologically. If he finds contraband, he punishes the teens with ten or more lashes of his whip or 24 hours in a sweat box. Disrespect gets a bullet to the face. Escape attempts result in slit throats. Major revels in intimidating and torturing the campers.

My favorite moment in Fat Free Nation is in Chapter 4 when Jenna understands her desire to survive is stronger than she realizes.

“I don’t want to die, Jenna thought, this world sucks but I want to live.”

That’s as raw and honest of a self-assessment as a character can make.

Major’s right-hand woman is Starling, an assistant who follows the sadistic camp leader’s orders to the letter but doesn’t feel any joy about her job performance. Starling shows a surreptitious sympathy for Jenna.

About a third of the way into the story, a tragedy results in a bombshell revelation followed by another stunning disclosure. I’ll stop here to avoid any spoilers, but the rebellious Jenna’s will is tested time and again.

The only issue I had with Fat Free Nation is the final scene — really the final sentence — because I’ve never been a fan of cliffhangers. With that said, the last sentence is a hell of a moment.

Published by J. Ellington Ashton Press and released August 17, Fat Free Nation is a gritty dystopian novella as well as a powerful metaphor for prejudice and government overreach in our own world today.

Perhaps the most telling moment in Fat Free Nation is a scene where rage and vengeance are about to overtake Jenna, but a voice from the past lends her strength.

“I know you’re hurting and want to hurt them, but you can’t. We need to stay the sane ones in this fucked up world.”

That’s not only a powerful reminder to Jenna, but to everybody as we go forward in the highly charged political and socio-economic atmosphere of the 21st century.

Book Review: Lost Highways edited by D. Alexander Ward

Roads are, by design, a space in between — between cities, between the looming wilds on either side of the pavement, or between two versions of oneself. They exist in a perpetual state of flux. Millions of people pass along highways, driving through towns and lives they will never know and through stories stranger than they can imagine.

Lost Highways is an anthology of short stories and artwork edited by D. Alexander Ward and presents 20 stories that you’ll never see from the safety of the passenger seat.

The stories are equal parts entertaining and enlightening. No two ever present the same theme, stretching the anthology’s premise of roads and highways to the limits of connectivity. Each author interpreted the theme in a novel and inspiring way.

Lost Highways was gripping throughout. It presents a wide array of styles within the horror genre: philosophical musings, psychological terror, gruesome violence, and tingling suspense. At no point did I consider a story to be predictable.

Though the anthology is superb from start to finish, several stories stood out to me while reading. “A Life that is not Mine” by Kristi Demeester presented a bleak look at life where the road is both a prison and an escape. Demeester’s writing was haunting and the prose almost lyrical. “The Heart Stops at the end of Laurel Lane” by Jess Landry (an alumni of the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest!) straddled the line between harrowing and heart wrenching and left me reeling through each new revelation. “Outrunning the End” by Cullen Bunn was a trippy experiment in fiction that blurred the lines of reality on the page. These are my favorites, but each story is excellent in its own way and all the contributors should be commended for their work.

Overall, Lost Highways is an expertly curated collection of the best that horror has to offer. I highly recommend taking a look. If you’re especially brave, you might consider making it your companion on a long road trip.

BOOK REVIEW: The Crackhouse in the Desert by Dani Brown

The Crack House in the Desert is a horror novel written by Dani Brown and released by J. Ellington Ashton Press on July 4. Kindle length: 133 pages.

The Plot

In a bleak, dystopian America, a man journeys through the desert to solve the mystery of an apocalyptic event.

The Player

Vict is a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world who’s tapped to help humanity unlock the secrets of the past to save the future.

The Review

Is The Crack House in the Desert a metaphor for humanity’s addiction to self-destructive behaviors that destroy the environment? It could be.

Grim and thought-provoking, Crack House is a viscerally descriptive view of the future of humankind and where it could wind up if it continues along a course of drug addiction, environmental irresponsibility, and living without purpose.

Crack House is the story of a man named Vict and his journey to investigate the past to find hope for the future. Living an impoverished life inside a desert shack, Vict is transported by mutant fish people to an underground facility in the mountains where a human enclave delves into ancient medicine and technology to resurrect the dead and to determine what caused the apocalypse.

Vict is surprised to find he’s an expected guest at the facility. His first meaningful encounter is with a woman named Poppy who says cryptically, “We’ve been watching you, Vict. We sent the fish people to collect you when everything was meant to be ready. We know about your dreams. We sent the storm.”

Vict’s dreams suggest he can resurrect dead bodies, which affords him the chance to discover what destroyed most of humanity and created mutants. However, the knowledge is locked away in his memories, but he knows the answer lies somewhere in a place called Arizona.

The strength of Crack House is Brown’s ability to describe her post-apocalyptic world. It’s a desolate, poisoned world full of death and decay. A world where vomit burns holes in clothing. Humans are covered in oozing, pus-filled blisters. Maggots are considered healthy snacks. Corpses are spit to the surface by rainstorms. And women use their bodies in the most unsavory ways to acquire basics like tarps and buckets from men and mutants.

Some of the most gut-wrenching parts of the book are in the first four chapters when Brown describes Vict’s mother.

“His mother couldn’t do much of anything, except smoke her escape as she pried crust away from the spot between her legs, waiting for an entry that sometimes didn’t come at all. She couldn’t even chew on her meth pipe anymore, not without teeth.”

The Crack House in the Desert is dark and dismal, but Vict’s determination offers enough light to brighten the story to a shadowy dusk.

While the ending – specifically the final two paragraphs – of Crack House confused me, I was not confused about Brown’s ability. Her writing is powerfully descriptive, and her revelation of the cause of the apocalypse is surprising and original.

Book Review: Freaks edited by Toneye Eyenot and Michael Noe

Are you looking for stories that stick in your dreams? Ones about people twisted both inside and out? You might regret what you wish for.

Freaks, a collection of stories and poetry edited by Toneye Eyenot and Michael Noe, contains 19 chilling tales of monsters, murderers, and madmen.

This anthology is not for the faint of heart. The stories inside may vary in style and subject matter, but the collection holds nothing back. Each is gruesome and stretches the limits of what you as a horror addict can stomach. The authors explore the depths of human depravity, then dig down a few more feet just for good measure.

Each author put their own spin on the anthology’s theme of horror in the realm of circuses and carnivals. The stories are a good mix of the supernatural, the speculative, and the frighteningly realistic. There are killer clowns, sure, but what about a man with a killer appetite, or a roadshow zombie attraction, or a carnival ride that is actually alive? Not all freaks are easy to identify and the worst ones are really the ones that are monsters on the inside.

My personal favorite entries are “Two for the Show” by Tina Piney and “Clownbear’s Last Performance” by Brian Glossup. Both authors created compelling characters within a short span, a difficult task when also including spine-tingling imagery and suspense.

If you’re brave enough to chance reading this, I can guarantee that you’ll be looking over your shoulder and sleeping with the lights on. And no way in hell are you going anywhere near a circus. If you feel a little squeamish, I think that’s the point.

Freaks appeals to a certain variety of horror addict. If you love to stretch the limits of what is appropriate to publish, take a look. If you want stories that will make your skin crawl and stomach churn, check this out. If you want to question your sanity and that of the authors and maybe of humanity in general… read Freaks. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Book Review: Dead Stripper Storage by Bryan Smith

Dead Stripper Storage is a horror novel written by Bryan Smith and released by Grindhouse Press on July 20, 2018. Kindle length: 129 pages.

THE PLOT

A socially inept loner wakes up to find a dead stripper on his couch with no idea how she arrived there.

THE PLAYERS

Pete Adler is a milquetoast. He’s the kind of guy you don’t notice left the room, easily forgotten, and who’s never asked to hang out after hours by co-workers.

Mary Wilson is Pete’s ex-girlfriend, who unceremoniously dumped him after a few dates. She’s the first person that Pete encounters after discovering the dead stripper.

Shane Watson is a hot-shot sales executive who tormented and humiliated Pete at work before getting fired.

THE REVIEW

Dead Stripper Storage is what the title suggests – a nihilistic grindhouse tale of manipulation, murder, and mutilation. With the author of DEPRAVED, THE KILLING KIND, and 68 KILL steering the wheel, expect a no-holds-barred ride into the darkest and most depraved pits of the human soul.

Dead Stripper Storage includes genital mutilation, necrophilia, and illegal use of a condiment. As I wrote in my Amazon review, you may never eat mayonnaise again. Beneath the repulsive behavior and acts of violence, Smith manages to create a sympathetic loser in Pete. I wanted to know how Pete escapes his impossible situation.

Of course, if Pete only had to deal with one dead stripper, he might succeed in finding a way out of this mess. However, the body count multiplies, and Pete realizes he’s a helpless pawn in a sociopath’s game with no idea what the rules are or how to play.

Dead Stripper Storage had a Quentin Tarantino vibe to it, particularly PULP FICTION and that film’s scenes where the two mob hitmen are trying to dispose of a body. It didn’t surprise me that Smith acknowledged Tarantino’s influence and that the title is inspired by a phrase in PULP FICTION.

My favorite scene is early in the story when Pete’s ex-girlfriend Mary is knocking at his door. Instead of hiding the dead stripper, he rearranges her body on the couch and covers her with a blanket, so she looks like she’s sleeping.

When Pete’s ex-girlfriend asks about the woman, he lies and says, “Look, can we take this to the kitchen? I don’t want to wake my friend. We had kind of a wild night, maybe drank a bit too much.”

Was it a pathetic attempt by Pete to make his ex-girlfriend jealous? Yes, but it rang true as something a  desperate guy might do to hide the reality of his lonely existence.

And it’s something a talented writer like Smith might do to highlight the melancholy inherent in his flawed protagonist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Book Review: Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

Ben has been searching for his missing brother, Eric, for five years. The three-year-old boy couldn’t have just vanished into thin air in the middle of a grocery store. Eric has to be somewhere. But Ben has run out of rocks to look under and life doesn’t seem to stop no matter what he does. To help support his family, he takes a job at the very store where Eric disappeared.

The night shift plays tricks on Ben’s brain, turning his days into a blur, like the Missing Person posters of Eric that have been copied so many times that the image warped into something that doesn’t even resemble him anymore. Things seem to move when no one is around. Items go missing. Others appear as if from nowhere. The building seems as if it’s trying to tell Ben something if only he could figure out what it is.

The strange occurrences renew Ben’s search, but someone doesn’t want him to find out what really happened to Eric. In small towns, someone always knows more than they say. In this case, everyone has something to hide. Even Ben.

Dathan Auerbach spins a wonderful web of intrigue and suspicion. I sat on edge through the whole book, unsure if I was going to encounter the paranormal or the darkest depths of humanity in each turn of the page.

Bad Man approaches a difficult setting, addressing poverty, abuse, mental illness, and grief in a powerful way. Auerbach doesn’t pull any punches with his descriptions and gives an unflinching account of real-life horror. The characters feel like real people. From Ben’s tenuous grasp on reality to the quiet, sinister nature of the store’s owner, there is depth to every character you meet. No one is safe from the dreadful suspicion in the book. Auerbach masterfully leads readers to conclusion after conclusion, never knowing if they are on the right track.

Bad Man leaves you feeling the way you do in a Walmart at two am. Everything feels overexposed, too brightly lit, too empty, too quiet. It isn’t the darkness that is frightening in Bad Man, it’s the blinding light that reveals that there is nothing there to see.

Auerbach’s prose is a delight to read. He includes masterful descriptions and insights throughout with lingering quotes that you’ll want to remember for yourself. The novel is artfully crafted from cover to cover, each word carefully chosen to draw you in at every turn.

Bad Man may not linger in your nightmares, but the effect is much deeper than that. It deals a slow sort of agony as you face the uncertainty of what happened to Eric and inevitable feeling that there is no happy ending for Ben. Even if Ben gets what he wants, will there ever really be an ending to his torture? The suspense lasts until the last page. It leaves a tingling feeling of dread that claws its way out of your bones and refuses to let you put it down.

Bad Man is a fantastic novel. If you are looking for a dark, atmospheric, gripping book, then make sure to pick up a copy.

Book Review: Her Dark Inheritance Meg Hafdahl

Book Review: Her Dark Inheritance by Meg Hafdahl

Don’t be alone. Not at Night. Not in Willoughby.

Willoughby, Minnesota is an idyllic small town in Middle America. It boasts one café, one motel, and a population of five-hundred-nine. But, there are more than small town secrets hiding in the shadows of the town square. Something lurks just out of sight—and out of mind—from the residents. A bloody history of accidents, violence, and murder plagues Willoughby and threatens the town even in the present.

In July 1982, someone brutally murdered three members of the Bergman family with an ax in their Willoughby home. For decades, town suspicion has fallen on the sole survivor of the bloody massacre: Caroline, the Bergman’s teenage daughter.

But Daphne Forrest knew her mother not as Caroline Bergman, but as Jane Downs-Forrest. It wasn’t until Jane’s death that Daphne found out that her mother was the suspected murderer that newspapers had dubbed The Minnesota Borden.

Daphne visits Willoughby for the first time, looking for answers to questions about the woman she thought she knew. She may not have grown up in Willoughby, but Daphne quickly finds that she shares a connection with the town that not even the residents can fathom. Willoughby wants to show her something, something that can save the town and, maybe, Daphne herself.

Thrust into memories of unfathomable violence and fear, Daphne must face her own mistakes and find a strength that her mother never had. If she wants to get out of Willoughby alive, she must face an evil that has stalked the small town since its founding.

Her Dark Inheritance follows in a glorious tradition of American ax murderers, but it’s far from the typical tale.

Meg Hafdahl creates characters real enough to climb off the page, including a monster that stalks you long after the novel’s last sentence. The town of Willoughby itself is as real as any character. Vividly described, it’s delightful and terrifying in equal measure. It embodies an abusive relationship that traps the residents in a situation where manipulation masquerades as protection and “this is for your own good” can be just as sinister as any threat. The story raises questions that strike to the core of all of us: What does it mean to be evil? What does it mean to be weak?

Hafdahl weaves an intricate tale of betrayal, murder, and small town intrigue. Her brilliant narrative style keeps you guessing from beginning to end about the next shocking twist. Whether it’s the truth about the Bergman murders or Daphne’s ultimate fate, Hafdahl keeps you at her mercy through every page.

I haven’t read a book in one sitting in a long time, but I couldn’t put down  Her Dark Inheritance. ‘One more chapter’ led to ‘one more chapter’ and ‘one more chapter’ after that. The book is labelled for Young Adults, but is just as gripping for adults. I recommend it whole-heartedly, especially for those who like to see the darker side of the American Dream.

Guest Blog : Ungodly Undoing by Essel Pratt Review by Michele Roger

Review of Essel Pratts, UnGodly Undoing

by Michele Roger

It is rare to find a book with a fresh, creative delivery. UnGodly Undoing by Essel Pratts does not disappoint. In essence, a collection of stories but brilliantly presented via alternating chapters. The first chapter sets the stage for an ongoing conversation between a bookish, teenage boy and the local, elderly bookstore owner. The next chapter has the old man as narrator, telling a ‘real life’ story of the small town of Mishawaka. The old man in the bookstore explains that not all great stories are found in books and the stories of Mishawaka are of a town deeply cursed. The chapters continue in kind, in an anthology of a cursed town.

Love Transcends Death,” is a simple story about angst and grief of a local doctor who is mourning the death of his wife. One day, kissing her urn goodbye becomes his undoing. Pratts build up in this particular tale is well timed; revealing an unexpected plot twist.

In the chapter entitled “Damned to Life”, we hear the story of an unlikely step-father and his vampire daughter. Elizabeth is a thirteen-year-old vampire held captive in the basement of her family home. After a vampire raped her mother, Elizabeth was born violently, killing her mother in the process. She lives a life of her father feeding her tainted blood from the local blood bank. Her escape from her prison and the reconciliation between father and daughter keeps the reader guessing until the last moment.

One of my favorite stories is Canopic Servitude. This chapter tells the tale of how the town warehouse contains the preserved remains of cursed, Egyptian royal cats who come back to life. I admit I was reading that chapter with my cat in my lap. By the time I had finished, I obediently went to the kitchen, opened the fridge and made him an offering of vanilla yogurt to my familiar feline. Just in case. 

If UnGodly Undoing has one set back, it’s that the stories are told in present tense. All of them. While, as a reader, I like that the conversations between the bibliophile boy and the old bookstore owner are set in present day, it feels strange to read the town’s chilling past in the same tense. For the narration to feel more authentic, I would have liked the actual stories of the strange incidents in Mishawaka to be told in past tense.

All in all, the book is a page-turner with alternating chapters bringing both closure to the previous chapter and baiting the reader to read just one more story in the chapter to follow. Pratts final story in the book, Silence, My Love is chilling and complex. I think that his ability to write psychological horror shines in this closing story. I would hope that he would consider a whole novel in this particular sub-genre. Fighting the demons of the mind, attempting to decipher between fantasy and reality and the complete undoing of a man due to madness makes for excellent horror reading.

Guest Blog: Arrachnattack by Mark Woods Review

 

Arrachnattack! By Mark Woods was passed to me by HorrorAddicts.net in return for an honest review.

3 out of 5 stars.

In the Norfolk town of Dyreham, strange things are happening. Melvin Dobbs, an obnoxious and thoroughly unlikeable man, is a scientist in a secretive establishment on the outskirts of town. A project he had been working on was closed down due to funding issues but he continued to carry out his highly illegal and dangerous research on spiders in his own home. Using his research as a means of revenge against those who have crossed him, he forgets to protect himself and unfortunately falls victim to his lethal arachnids. From there, the spiders spread across town, and as their victims pile up, they come to the attention of a local reporter Daniel Blake. As he investigates, a shadowy body, The Company, warns him off his story; others who try to help him die or are discretely silenced. And behind all this is a reference to ‘Mr. Skinny Legs’, a supernatural being who appears to be controlling events.

I must admit, I took a strong dislike to Mr. Melvin Dobbs, so at first, it was hard for me to keep going but once he’d been unceremoniously-and deservedly-bumped off, the story really began to draw me in and I’m glad I persevered. In this small town, so much is happening, old mysteries are resurfacing with references to Mr. Skinny Legs and the Lovecraftian Elder Gods, that you can’t help but read on. And not every question is answered. You know something more is coming, but that is the next book. You know something darker than anyone has ever experienced before is hovering on the horizon and you are fed teasing snippets and you want to know more. Again that is the next book. Mark Woods has created a believable world, has developed characters you begin to care about and want to follow on their adventures, and has laid the foundation of what promises to be an entertaining series.

 

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Stephanie Ellis can be found:  http://stephellis.weebly.com/ and herTwitter handle is @el_Stevie

When Stephanie isn’t writing reviews, she is the co-editor at The Infernal Clock http://infernalclock.blogspot.co.uk/ a fledgling publishing venture. And the co-editor at The Horror Tree’s Trembling With Fear online magazine (https://horrortree.com/category/trembling-with-fear/) where they are always open for flash submissions

Book Review — “How a Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse”

Hello Addicts,

As much as I enjoy a good horror story, I will admit that I am a sucker for the occasional oddball or offbeat story in the genre.  “How a Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse” kind of fits that bill, but it wasn’t as humorous of a story as I thought it might be.

The book, written by Steven Bereznai, follows a man named Marty at the start of the zombie apocalypse.  He is engaged to the love of his life, part owner of a gym, and in an otherwise happy place in his life.  All of that changes when he wakes one morning to find his fiancee, Steph, missing.  As he searches the house for her, he finds her eating a dog in the backyard.  She attacks him on sight like a rabid animal, and he is forced to kill her.  That begins his backward cycle to the person he was before meeting Steph, a man with little to no self-esteem.  It is only made worse when he ends he ends up at his business with the ex-girlfriend partially responsible for his self-esteem issues in the first place.  It isn’t long before she begins playing her mind games again.  Add to that the uncertainty of the infections and how it is transmitted, and you have a group of mistrusting survivors who are easily manipulated.

 

I expected this story to be more of a funny take on the zombie apocalypse type of stories.  Even with that in mind, I enjoyed this story a lot.  It was relatively short and paced pretty well, mostly.  You couldn’t help but wonder just how much of what was going on between the survivors was because of the ex-girlfriend, or if Marty read into things based on past experiences.  You couldn’t help but feel for him.  There were times, however, where it felt like things were rushed along a little too quickly when drawing it out might help the story more.  That being said, I did have a hard time putting the book down until I finished the story.  If you are looking for a nice, fun, and quick read, this is definitely a book to check out.

Until next time, Addicts…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review: Resurrection America by Jeff Gunhus

Hello Addicts,

For this month’s book review, I selected Resurrection America by Jeff Gunhus. Let me start by saying that the book isn’t your typical horror story fare. I assure you that there are enough elements by the end of the book for the more discerning horror tastes.

Resurrection is a small, picturesque town in Colorado attempting to rebuild itself after many years of financial hardship. The day before their annual Fall Festival, an event they hope will jumpstart their tourism industry, the sheriff is called out to the mine overlooking the town. A new company has moved into the long dormant mine with plans to reopen it and give a large donation to the town. The sheriff agrees to keep mum about the company’s presence until they are ready to speak with Resurrection’s mayor and council. The actual plans for the town and the mine are far from the happy, hopeful story given. The real hope is for the events in Resurrection, CO, to kick the United States of America out of their post-war stagnation. Needless to say, what is planned for the townspeople is truly horrifying on many levels.

As I said at the beginning, this doesn’t fall easily into the realm of horror. The story as a whole would fall under science-fiction thriller, but there are enough horror elements to whet the casual Addict’s appetite. What is most frightening about the story is the plausibility of something like this possibly happening with the technology available today. If you are a hardcore horror fan, you may not appreciate the story as much. Overall, I think Resurrection America is a fun read.

Until next time, Addicts.

D.J. Pitsiladis

Review: “The Tank” by Nicola Lombardi

Hello Addicts,

Imagine you live in a world where any crime, from murder to having a difference of political opinion, is cause enough for lifetime incarceration?  The governments which come to mind probably are Nazis, communists, and, to some people, the United States’ current political climate.   Dystopian stories are some of the scariest ones you can read.  True, there may not be blood, gore, monsters, or jump scares like the traditional horror stories utilize, but they deal with people as the monsters.  People so desperate for relief from red tape, corruption, and chaos that they are willing to give up freedom to feel safe and in control.

the-tank“The Tank” by Nicola Lombardi tackles the dystopian story very well and in a pretty believable manner.  It is the future, and a military coup has placed the New Moral Order (NMO) in charge.  When is person is convicted of a crime against the NMO, they are delivered to one of nine Tanks for storage.  The Tanks look fundamentally like grain silos, however there are no cells inside.  The “guests”, as the training manual refers to the prisoners, are tossed into the main cylinder of the building and left to suffocate and rot among the other prisoners.  Those who survive the landing struggle to survive as refuse until a quarterly Cleaning, which involves acid, occurs.

Giovanni Corte is named the Keeper of Tank 9, one of the more sought after positions.  For enough money to relocate to an island with no more worries, he sacrifices one year of his life to run the facility.  Spending a year with little to no human interaction, save for the brief daily prisoner deliveries, plays on a person’s mind.  Before long, paranoia begins to rear its ugly head, which only gets worse when he finds a diary possibly left for him by the previous Keeper.  In that are mentions of spirits roaming the halls in revenge for being tossed into the Tank.  Things only get worse for Giovanni as the story progresses.

I thought the story was well told and you got pulled into the story pretty well.  There are a few spots where you notice that the translation from Italian didn’t work out as smoothly, but overall, I really enjoyed this book.  If dystopian stories are your cup of tea, definitely check this one out.

Until next time, Addicts…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Review of Viscera by Jessica B Bell

Review of Viscera by Jessica B Bell

viscera_frontcover_promoJessica B Bell has successfully found scary, turns it nicely and ever so sweet into a bow of nightmares.

This anthology starts out with a nice little joke and moves into a nice little recipe leaving me wanting some munchies. Jessica B Bell has left me impatiently waiting for  Thirty Seven coming out on the 24th of this month… yay!  I read this book out of excitement from one story to the next and when I finished, I instantly wanted a second installment. The stories vary well enough to have diversity but go together in a perfect way to keep boosting your fear and what just happened meter.

I enjoyed a few stories in this book and she will be sharing a couple of them in the next few days. Be sure to read “A Visit to the Doctor”. This is by far my favorite poem. She has a short very short story “The Banshee” and a cute photo to accompany it. The anthology is a great showcase of Jessica B Bell’s talents and ability to scare leaving me wanting more. She will be sharing a couple of her stories in the next few days…. be sure to check them out!

Book Review Car Nex: Demon SQUASH! (A One Hour Special) by Tim Miller

Hello, Addicts!

This week I take a look at the book that takes a not so serious look at one of the few reality television shows I enjoy: Ghost Hunting shows.  This one follows Simon Smoke, the host of one such show named SQUASH!.  On its fifth season, the ratings aren’t doing well at all.  In order to keep the show from being canceled, Simon takes his video crew to the small town of Pleasant Storm, TX on the fiftieth anniversary of a blood bath that decimated the town.  Blamed on the Car Nex, or Carnivore Nextdoor, the team doesn’t hold much hope of seeing a return of the beast.  By the end of the night, they will have wished they were right.car-nex

I found this story to be a fun little tale told in a less than serious manner, which I’m sure the author fully intended.  As a passing the time sort of story, this one delivers pretty solidly.  If you prefer your horror less tongue in cheek and more serious, then this story may not be for you.  All in all, I recommend this story in the Car Nex universe to people looking for a little light horror.

Until next time Addicts,

D.J. Pitsiladis

Guest Review : Michele Roger Reviews Seven Feet Under by Matthew Weber

 Seven Feet Under by Matthew Weber

7feetunder

Horror author, Matthew Weber offers seven stories steeped in the urban legends and ancient superstitions of the Deep South. Each story is unique in its own right, with a weaving of tales who’s connection is of hot summer nights and southern culture at its scariest. Characters are multi-layered and many do not live happily ever after; if they live at all.

Weber has clearly done his research, creating a world where the reader is immersed in the supernatural and the macabre. We are schooled in the hard lesson of dabbling carelessly in Voodoo. Then, we experience the tribulations of teenage angst when combined with a quasi-creative writing-telekinesis. In one of my favorite stories, we as readers are on the run from whatever mutant lurks down at the old fishing hole. His descriptions of southern life and backwater people captivated me as a reader and drew me into the minds of his tortured characters.

If I had one thing to improve upon in Seven Feet Under, I would say it was perspective. Readers who are contemplating reading this short story collection all in one sitting should take note. Some of Weber’s stories are written in first person and some in third person. Changing of one’s internal narrator may be required when ending one story and immediately beginning the next. That weak point for me may be a strong point for others. Each story could be read on a lunch hour or two and even better yet, on a flight to the Big Easy.

Seven Feet Under is listed as general horror, but all of its stories are void of extreme scenes, as well as blatant sexual content. So often, I am asked to recommend horror novels to young adults and those copies are few and far between. Alas, Seven Feet Under is one I can recommend safely while simultaneously singing its praises for scare factor and vivid, concise writing for all readers teenage age and up.

Many authors test their chops by way of short story. Fan bases and readership are made from horror anthologies. It is my sincere hope that Matthew Weber gleans an audience for his back country, home-spun horror tales. If we are lucky, perhaps he will delight his readers with a much longer, full length singular tale that will let us get to know the types of characters that I love; simultaneously flawed and heroic, a mixture of good and evil.

As the days get longer and the nights grow colder, new books call to those who love to read. Whether you take Seven Feet Under with you as you crawl under a pile of blankets or you beat the cold by traveling south, this book is a worthy page turner.

Guest Blog: The Box Jumper Review

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Guest Blog : The Box Jumper Review

by Theresa Braun

Plot: This story takes place in the mind and memory of Leona, Harry Houdini’s onstage assistant, or box jumper. The protagonist’s dreams and memories also jump through the span of the magician’s career in America during the early 20th Century. It is worth mentioning that Mannetti’s thorough research of Houdini and his world is beautifully evident in the narrative.

Hypnotizing images and emotions are expressed by Leona as she recounts her bittersweet connection with Houdini that transcends the conventional relationship. As the novella progresses, I became immersed in the passion that plummets into a haunting possession, and even heart-breaking madness. Without realizing it, I found myself unable to put the story down because I was so emotionally invested in Leona’s journey.

Houdini passionately wants to debunk spiritualists swiftly acquiring notoriety for their outrageous séances. He uncovers all sorts of hidden secrets behind their chicanery, all with Leona’s help. Together, they navigate social scandal to uncover the charlatans in their midst. We are left wondering if he will escape from his enemies as easily as escaping from one of his illusionist stunts. In addition, Leona begins to wonder if there are dark supernatural forces at work, leading to the tale’s shocking conclusion. It was one of the best endings I’ve experienced in a long while.

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My Favorite Character: Although my first reaction would be to reiterate Leona’s likeability as a character, I have to say that Mannetti’s love for Harry Houdini and the compassion for him as a person is wonderfully portrayed through the eyes of Leona. We really get a sense of how complex he was as a person.

Favorite Scene: By far my favorite was the final one. It kind of snuck up on me. I felt like I was following Leona off a cliff. Before I knew it, I was dangling in mid-air, about to drop to my death. And then she was gone. I can’t say anything else without giving it away, but the conclusion delivered.

Best line: “The shadow shot filthy black tendrils that swept the very air aside, sinking downward like corpses hurled into the sea—and, stunned, with my mouth gaping, I felt the stinging vine-shape hurtling down my throat and anchoring deep inside me.”

What did you like best as a reader: Mannetti’s writing is mesmerizing. Her sentences are powerful and gripping. Part of what kept me flipping the page were her descriptions and words choice. She is a must read for that very reason.

What did you like least as a reader: The novella’s narrative construction is not for everyone. It’s told in a stream of consciousness, which always left me asking if it was the past, present, or future. Then, I began to wonder what was real, a dream, or if the memories Leona shared were mere fabrications. That is precisely the author’s intent, since Leona is an unreliable narrator. I will tell you that if you stick with the story and just keep reading, things fall into place. The pieces will make sense. Just be warned that you will be giving your brain a workout.

Rating : 4 out of 5 here. There is definitely a dark tone throughout much of the story, woven into this historical fiction. For me, it’s the descent into madness and the flirtation with the spiritual realm earn this “scare score.” Although the extreme terror doesn’t hit until the final portion of the story, I feel the build-up is definitely worth the wait. It’s a satisfying read that will leave you deliciously disturbed.

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Theresa Braun

Theresa Braun was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and has carried some of that hardiness with her to South Florida where she currently resides. She enjoys delving into creative writing, painting, photography and even bouts of ghost hunting. Perhaps growing up in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota is to blame. Traveling as often as possible is one of her passions—in fact, her latest adventure took her to Romania for a horror writers’ workshop where she followed in the steps of Vlad the Impaler. She writes horror fiction and her latest short story “Shout at the Devil” appears in Under the Bed Magazine.

Contact info: Twitter: @tbraun_author  Facebook

Book Review: The House That Dripped Gore by Dan West

house dripped goreHello Addicts!

While I generally try to not watch reality television, one type has caught my attention when they first debuted about a decade ago, the ghost hunting shows.  I’ll admit that I believe ghosts are around and that I enjoy these shows partly for their findings and partly for their attempts at making compelling television.  When I saw what “The House That Dripped Gore” was about, I couldn’t resist checking it out.

This story follows Stanley Matheson as he is hired to check out Hull House, a haunted home inherited by a rich benefactress.  In Stanley’s research of the home he finds that it was the birthplace of a cult and that all of the problems with the home grew from there.  He wastes little time in putting together a team consisting of an unbelieving skeptic and two mediums, one a buxom curator of a dark objects and other paraphanelia and the other a victim of a possession that ended with his team dead.  Will this ragtag group survive their stay at Hull House, and what secrets will they discover?

I wanted to like this book, I honestly did.  This story plays out in a similar fashion as the “Scary Movie”, “Tales From the Crypt”, and “A Haunted House” horror comedies, which I’m somewhat a fan of, but not a whole lot.  The attempts at humor come across as a bit heavy handed and downright low brow at times.  The twists and turns are what one might expect from this style of horror comedy.  If you are a fan of the aforementioned movies, they you will enjoy this book.

Until next time, Addicts…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Kidnapped Blog: C.A. Milson

by C.A. Milson

http://www.amazon.com

The Students Sold Us Secrets Volume One
by Lee J. Mavin
Genre: Horror

Seven 5 star ratings on Amazon.com

 

Blurb: No one is safe! The school has become a war-zone and the innocent are turning fast!

A brave and nameless teacher has collected some awful and disturbing documents from some ghastly students. These are their stories and they will shock and amaze both teacher and student. But they haven’t been given away for free. This terrified individual has paid a hefty price to get the truth and is paying for it, with his freedom.

 

In his report he states:

If you are considering a career in teaching I would advise against it completely. It has become a profession far more dangerous than a police officer or even an army soldier in open war.’

I’m risking my life giving you this information, but I feel you need to know the truth. On the surface these children appear innocent and well-mannered but it is inside where their darkness dwells.’

The Students Sold Us Secrets Volume 1 is the first collection of short stories from the writer that brought you Reverse the Universe, Lee J Mavin, and will take you down a path you never thought existed. It’s packed with twelve short stories, all equally alarming and unsettling, as well as a secret report written by an undercover teacher.
Amazon Review from Leeroy: The Students Sold Us Secrets Volume One by Lee J Mavin is the first of a series of chilling and disturbing tales. It is focused around the dark thoughts and aspirations of young teenagers living and going to school in Shanghai. It is to be noted that children in Shanghai are usually being raised by their grandparents (spoiled rotten) and never have brothers and sisters. Add to this, the constant pressure and focus from their teachers to perform at a high level and you have a bunch of overworked hot heads.

 

There are twelve short stories in this edition. Each are very different, yet that have some freaky similarities: The narrators are all very driven to get what they want. Some seek respect, overs revenge, but all stop at nothing to get what they want!

 

Go and check this book out now, published by ASJ Publishers is available both on kindle and paperback! Volume two of the madness is rumored to be out this year too!

 

The Students Sold Us Secrets Volume One is available in Print & E-Book from ASJ Publishing, Amazon, and various other online retailers.

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C.A.Milson grew up in Brisbane, Australia. He is the author of 5 books; Indie Film Director/Producer; Publisher; and Marketing Consultant

 The eldest of many siblings, his interest in writing started in 1989, when he lived in a small town in Victoria, Australia. It was not until 2008 when he saw his dream finally come, when his first novel was published by a company in the US.

 His books include; “Rise Of The Darkness”; “Bloodline Of Darkness”; “Pick Up The Phone” (Under his real name of Chris Jackson); Izbranny (Russian version); and “Not So Ordinary Girl” (which he co-wrote with well-known sports entertainment writer, J.D.Rebel).

 “Phantasmalyptic” was released in 2010, which was a graphic comic adaptation of “Rise of The Darkness”. In 2014, “Rise Of The Darkness” was released for the first time as Audiobook and is available on GooglePlay, iTunes and various other online retailers

 His interests include films, foreign culture, traveling, cinema/film, mythology, cooking, Xbox, and spending time on his backyard hobby farm.

 

Portal Arcane 1 Reversion

15821436Horror can be many things, it can be shocking or terrifying but it can also be creepy and atmospheric like Portal Arcane 1 Reversion by J Thorn. The story begins in another world with a man name Samuel who has amnesia and a noose around his neck. He doesn’t have much time to think before a pack of wolves finds him. Samuel escapes into a tree and is saved by a man called Major. He then finds out that the wolves were the least of his worries. The world he’s in is being destroyed by a giant cloud which is preceded by an undead army. Samuel and three others must find a way to escape.

J Thorn does a great job of bringing his story to life by describing everything in great detail. The opening scene is excellent with Samuel waking up and looking around at the forest. He is happy to be alive but the mood changes quickly as he hears the howls in the background. I like how J Thorn doesn’t set up the story right away. He puts his main character in a dire situation and you get to see the tension build. The opening scene was almost like the author was painting a picture. I liked how the wolves stalking Samuel were described along with the terror as he realizes he can’t fight them off forever. At this point you don’t know what is going on, but you see Samuel’s situation and you are forced to root for him.

I also liked the description of  the army of zombies that comes before the cloud and the reason why they are there. The use of flashbacks in the story was well done. You’re not sure what you’re going to get in the beginning of the story, it’s almost like Portal Arcane 1: Reversion starts in the middle.  J Thorn hooks you in with some eerie moments of terror and then delivers a good tale of dark fantasy.

Portal Arcane 1: Reversion is very reminiscent of Stephen King’s Langoliers. The characters aren’t really alive but there not dead either. Little by little you learn why they are here but where is here? Throughout the book there is a feeling of dread and the atmosphere is one of impending doom. Despite the story being very dark, I felt compelled to read on because I liked its theme of redemption and I wanted to see if the characters could make amends  with what brought them here.

If you do decide to read this book pay close attention,  because everything in the story is a metaphor for something, such as the Reversion cloud, personal objects that disappear and reappear and how nothing looks quite like it should.  You could compare this story to a Twilight Zone episode because you have to pay attention to get the most out of it, in fact you might want to read it twice. Things aren’t exactly what they seem and its very much a tail about morality. My only complaint about the story was the way it ended. There are some unresolved questions but I wondered if that was by design. This is the first of a series and the second book is available.  Portal Arcane 1: Reversion is a great read if you like psychological horror.