Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards

It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realizes she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorizing his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.

But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.

Happiness…and death.

The Lucky Ones is the terrifying new thriller from the #1 bestselling author of Follow You Home.

This is a brilliant thriller, told mainly from two different perspectives. On one hand we have the viewpoint of Ben, a soon to be divorced father trying to put his life back together. On the other hand we have a twisted serial killer with a warped philosophical sense of making people happy forever, by ending their lives when they are at their happiest. If he believes someone is a good person, worthy of happiness, they become a target. He skillfully manipulates their lives and the lives of those around them in order to make them happy. Ben, unfortunately is indeed a good man and the killer finds him deserving of happiness.
I was totally immersed in this fast paced story from page one. The action starts right away and never lets up. The suspense was nearly unbearable and made even more so by the fact that I cared about these characters. 5 out of 5 stars from me.

I received a complimentary copy for review

Friday, June 23, 2017

Bone White by Ronald Malfi


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth by Ray Garton

First time in a digital format for this long sold-out limited edition novella!

Previously released as a special limited edition for Cemetery Dance Collectors Club members and long out-of-print, this collection features Ray Garton's most controversial religious horror stories that are sure to get him in trouble with someone. Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth is too over-the-top for a mass market publisher, but now is being made available by Ray for the ebook market. Be warned: This book is not for everyone, particularly the easily offended.

This volume will differ slightly from the Cemetery Dance edition in that two different stories are contained within. One of them, “Graven Image” has previously been released as a very limited chapbook from Cemetery Dance in 2007, with a print run of only 457 copies.

The stories contained within are:

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth
Graven Image
God's Work

I have been a Ray Garton  fan for decades, ever since my mother lent me her copy of "Live Girls." Since then I have devoured every novel he has published, at least the titles I was able to get ahold of, sometimes having to buy used copies of out of print titles but loving every word.
I was delighted to find this collection of stories available on kindle. Normally when reviewing short stories I would at this point discuss my favorites. I am unable to do that here. I am unable to choose any favorites, since every story is well worth 5 stars.
Now as far as the warning included, while this book is not for everyone, I can't really see any horror lover having a problem with it. Yes due to the central theme being organized religion and the hypocrisy sometimes involved, it will not be for everyone. You don't need to be an atheist to read this book, you just need a love of horror, a desire to be entertained, and an understanding that Ray's childhood experience in the Seventh Day Adventist Church did not leave him with happy memories.

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth tells the story of a good Christian woman, who raised a murderous son.
Graven Image brings to mind an old made for tv movie Trilogy of Terror.. but this time it's not an evil zuni doll, it's Christ on a cross purchased in a curio shop.
In God's Work a young Pastor tries to steer his congregation towards a less vengeful path.
Choices finds a happy family preparing to protest outside a women's health clinic the morning after a violent storm.
In Monsters a young man who has been harassed and ostracized  for not abiding the teachings of the church returns home.
Sinema  Is about a young boy being raised by his grandparents who suddenly finds himself getting extra special attention from Mr. Moser after finding the remains of a body in the woods.
In Punishments, a man returns to his home town after reading about the murder of the church organist whom he had not seen in 10 years.

5 out of 5 stars from me.


Friday, June 16, 2017

The Crooked Boy by Moses Barraza

A group of apparently close-knit friends venture to an abandoned hospital for a scare, but when things go wrong - terribly wrong - as soon as the night begins, the kids receive more than what they asked for, and when one of the teenagers is murdered, they put into motion a domino effect of supernatural horror, led by an evil older than humankind itself...a sleeping evil that was put to sleep for a reason. Its name: the Lord of the Flies.

A group of teens are heading to an abandoned institution ready to film any strange happenings. On the way they are in a car accident which they don't want to report, accosted by police, and attacked by birds, all before they get to their destination. Inside  they discover a room where someone has left a dire message scrawled across the walls in blood "He is coming he is here we can't escape even death can not free us God is dead"

I have some mixed feelings on this one. It has a fast pace and large volume of downright scary scenes. It's a good story that could have been great if it didn't some times take a stumble through a strange turn of phrase or odd choice of word which made it somewhat difficult to follow. There were parts that evoked chills, for example "Crows and crows and crows. Thousands of them swarmed her like flies. She swatted at the group of winged beasts, to no avail. She felt razors cut through her, sheering her skin like rice paper. She couldn't escape. There was no left or right in the tornado of demon birds. There was only black and red. Feathers and blood, feathers and blood."
Yet there were also parts that left me scratching my head. "She laughed a smile" for example.
Worth a read but I think it could benefit from a little cleaning up
3 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Come As You Are A Short Novel and Nine Stories by Steven Ramirez


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar


The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told... until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: "Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me."

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat...

Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!

First I have to say I looked forward to the release of this book for what felt like forever. I preordered in advance the minute I knew of it's future existence. I couldn't wait to read it and yet when it finally arrived I had too much else going on to start it right away. I did take notice of reviews piling up, most of them positive.. Sometimes when books are hyped to high heaven the reality ends up being a let down because after building it up in your mind so much it can rarely measure up to the expectation. That is NOT the case here.
Gwendy Peterson is a likable 12 year old girl who one day encounters the man in black as she is doing her damnedest to lose some weight as well as rid herself of a nasty nickname before the start of the new school year. She is naturally wary of the stranger, and equally wary of accepting his offering of the mysterious button box, and the secrets and power it holds....
This was such a fun read!  If I have any complaints, they would be only some minor historical inaccuracies, and that I wish it had been longer. It spans an entire decade in Gwendy's life and could have been a full novel instead of novella length.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back...

One night five years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Emma and Cass never knew from one day to the next whether their mother would be in one of her phony affectionate moods or in a rage at some imagined injustice. She always ran hot and cold depending on who her audience was, who was watching, and the purpose for which she wanted to manipulate them.. When the sisters suddenly go missing one night their mother plays the part of devastated parent but as the years go by the investigation grows cold. Few people know the truth of what happened the night Cass and Emma disappeared but when Cass returns years later without her sister, and with a strange story to tell, investigators will have to take a fresh look. I was deeply engaged in most of the story as told by Cass though I found it to drag a bit during the parts told from the psychiatrist Abby's point of view.
This was a suspenseful, twisty, dramatic look into the lives of a dysfunctional family.

I received an advance copy for review

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Cruelty by Edward Lorn

On a lonely stretch of deserted Texas highway, Will Longmire breaks down. But he's not alone.

In the dead of night, Innis Blake hits someone - or something - with her car. The figure should not be getting up. But it is.

An unstoppable force is after Will and Innis. And before the night is over, both strangers will know the face of Cruelty.

Forgiveness is only a few miles down the road, but safety is nowhere in sight.

Every monster has its origins.  

I have made a promise to myself that I will find the time to read some of my book purchases. So in addition to reviewing books that are soon to be published I am finally getting down to those that have waited unread on my kindle.
I have wanted to read this for quite some time, and before starting it I did not even know from the description or other reviews that it had anything at all to do with the "Dastardly Bastard" (another of my favorite Edward Lorn books) so that was a most welcome surprise.
It begins with a meth head hooker and a blind man which the author points out sounds a bit like a dirty joke, and then all hell breaks loose.
 Cruelty, Regret, Forgiveness, Penance, none were what I expected, and I can't begin to describe them to you. There weren't many characters I could sympathize with but Merlo the dog stole my heart.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two Shades of Vice by Dewey B. Reynolds


If The Creek Don't Rise by Leah Weiss


Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Ushers by Edward Lee

THE USHERS is the author's long-awaited first collection of short fiction and features some of his most disturbing and provacative horror stories, including "Goddess of the New Dark Age", "The Seeker", The Wrong Guy", the 1994 Bram Stoker award nominee "Mr. Torso," plus more over-the-top classics, along with seven brand new stories appearing here for the first time.

If you're ready for horror fiction that takes you well past the edge, Edward Lee is happy to be your tour guide.

I have read and loved a few of Edward Lee's novels but these short stories were pretty hit or miss.
There were only a couple that I really liked a lot, one of which previously appeared in Cemetery Dance Magazine and had a more main stream horror feel to it.

The thing about Edward Lee is that he likes to write about vomit, urine and feces, and forcing people to swallow waste. He likes to write about rape, sexual deviants, and after a while though the titles of the stories change the subject never seems to.

In "Almost Never" a young girl is being stalked by would be kidnappers who mean to sell her but they don't know she is not as easy a target as they expect her to be.
In "Please Let Me Out" Joyce Lipnick is a woman scorned, who will make sure she gets and keeps her man. These two stories were the best of the bunch.

The rest of the stories? meh.
The have all blended together in my mind. I can't tell you which story had someone vomiting into someone else's mouth, or raping a corpse (oops that may have actually been the same story.) but it seemed to me that only the names of the characters changed and bled into the same acts in the same stories over and over.

3 out of 5 stars only because of the 2 stories that I enjoyed so much.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mean Little People by Paige Dearth

Seven year old Tony has two choices to live or to die.

Tony Bruno just wants to fit in, but the bullies at his school are cruel and relentless. At home, he leans on his mother Teresa for strength and comfort, but she’s no match for his father, Carmen. His father, a fighter and bully himself, hates Tony. He is embarrassed by the child for not fighting back and wishes that Tony was never born.

Then as a teen, in one act of blind courage, Tony fights back shifting the balance of power with his peers. Even after Tony sets things straight with the neighborhood boys, his father continues to terrorize him.

At school, Tony is now respected by his classmates. One day he stands up for a bullied kid named, Salvatore, and the boys become friends. One night, Salvatore commits a horrific crime and Tony suffers the consequences of his friends’ actions. Tony’s punishment changes the course of his life.

All alone and nowhere to call home, Tony sets out to find the life he longs for, one filled with love and acceptance. But nothing comes easily for him, and he is forced to draw upon strength from deep within to survive.

From the dark world he lives in, Tony does unimaginable things to leave his unwanted life behind.

Mean Little People is a haunting story of one bullied child deprived of love and taunted by corrupt individuals along his journey. Tony’s story will make you question the balance between good and evil.
This story begins when Tony Bruno is 7 years old and follows him through young adulthood. It is bleak, brutal, and at times shocking. Life for Tony is nothing but pain. He is taunted, beaten and bullied nearly to death by his classmates, belittled and beaten at home by his good for nothing father, friendless and alone in his misery. He is subjected to every abuse imaginable. Physical, emotional, and later sexually assaulted, which was quite difficult to read...I had to put this book down twice and walk away for a bit.
At 13 he is tossed out of his home with nowhere to turn. Tony ends up in a gang and later in the mob. There are few friendly faces amidst all this turmoil. He meets a kindly older woman and her grand daughter who become his surrogate family, and a girl he falls in love with, but his gangster lifestyle attracts danger to those closest to him. This was an emotional read, that at times had me enraged, disgusted, and sometimes in tears.
4 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

"From the New York Times bestselling author of She’s Not There, a new novel about a woman whose family and identity are threatened by the secrets of her past.

Long Black Veil is the story of Judith Carrigan, whose past is dredged up when the body of her college friend Wailer is discovered 20 years after her disappearance in Philadelphia’s notorious and abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. Judith is the only witness who can testify to the innocence of her friend Casey, who had married Wailer only days before her death.

The only problem is that on that fateful night at the prison, Judith was a very different person from the woman she is today. In order to defend her old friend and uncover the truth of Wailer’s death, Judith must confront long-held and hard-won secrets that could cause her to lose the idyllic life she’s built for herself and her family."

The above is the description taken from Goodreads.
However as fitting as that is, it is not the description from the cover, and I feel a bit let down. I was expecting this book to be more of a thriller, and I guess I was expecting it to be.... thrilling. I suppose it is more a mystery, and it's aftermath. When the reason for Wailer's disappearance was revealed I was let down again, and even more so at the ridiculous ending.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Where Wolves Run by Jason Parent


The dense Bavarian forest outside the town of Rattenberg has long been rumored to harbor something sinister, something wild — mythical beasts that vanish into the shadowy woods after each attack, leaving carnage as the only evidence of their existence. Many villagers turn a blind eye to what is happening, but those who believe tremble at the mere whisper of the word: werewolf.
There are those who stand and fight, however. Konrad is one such boy. Too poor to live in the village, he and his mother fend for themselves in their forest hovel alone for months at a time, his father preoccupied with mysterious business abroad.
After a vicious assault on their homestead, Konrad finds himself buried beneath his mother’s mutilated body, escaping death only due to his father's chance return. Alive, but taking no comfort in the presence of the man who had left him and his mother to face death on their own, Konrad soon discovers that his father’s work has followed him home…

…and it's hungry.

Konrad has never had much of a relationship with his father. He's always off somewhere, rarely returning home. "Mostly he and his mother lived alone, happy."
When Konrad's mother is murdered he finally learns what Father is up to. Werewolf hunting! But does Father always know best? Konrad is not sure whether he should trust Father's ability to discern werewolves from men, or who should be put to death.  
This was a short read, less than 100 pages. There was nothing really remarkable about it other than "Father" never being named and only referred to as "Father" even when not with his son, which seemed odd.
I did like the ending.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Boulevard Monster by Jeremy Hepler


You say that I am a madman. You say that I am dangerous. You say that I am the one who has been abducting women, slaughtering them, and burying their corpses all around this city for years. You are wrong, because only part of that statement is true…


I know that you probably won’t believe me. Not now. Not after all that has happened, but I need to tell my side of the story. You need to know how this all began. You need to hear about the birds, but most of all, you need to understand…


Seth Fowler was near the end of an ordinary day when it all started. There would be no more ordinary days for Seth. When his long time friend and coworker Randy stops by with a 6 pack and a brand new truck that he shouldn't have been able to afford Seth is understandably a little jealous and maybe a little suspicious but he doesn't notice the birds just yet. What he does notice, when Randy goes in the house to use the bathroom.. is the dead body in the back of the truck. When Randy leaves, Seth calls the cops, but soon he is met by Luther, an otherworldly  stranger who makes him an offer he can't refuse. Literally, there is no way to refuse Luther, so Seth will do what it takes to protect his girlfriend, his adopted daughter and his elderly father from harm, but the police and his brother-in-law are getting suspicious and meanwhile the bodies are piling up.

I can't tell you this wasn't a bit of a crazy story, or that I wouldn't have liked some sort of explanation of what and why Luther is whatever he is, but damned if I didn't enjoy it anyway. It's suspenseful, and creepy, and Seth is just plain likable. I was rooting for him, I wanted those pesky cops to leave him alone. I wanted his brother-in-law to mind his own business, and now I think the birds are spying on me!
4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Child by Fiona Barton


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dark Screams: Volume Seven Edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar


Friday, May 5, 2017

Little One by Timothy G. Huguenin


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Just Add Water by Hunter Shea


Monday, May 1, 2017

The Party A Novel by Robyn Harding


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Entropy in Bloom: Stories by Jeremy Robert Johnson


For more than a decade, Jeremy Robert Johnson has been bubbling under the surface of both literary and genre fiction. His short stories present a brilliantly dark and audaciously weird realm where cosmic nightmares collide with all-too-human characters and apocalypses of all shapes and sizes loom ominously. In “Persistence Hunting,” a lonely distance runner is seduced into a brutal life of crime with an ever-narrowing path for escape. In “When Susurrus Stirs,” an unlucky pacifist must stop a horrifying parasite from turning his body into a sentient hive. Running through all of Johnson’s work is a hallucinatory vision and deeply-felt empathy, earning the author a reputation as one of today’s most daring and thrilling writers.

Featuring the best of his previously independently-published short fiction, as well as an exclusive, never-before-published novella “The Sleep of Judges”—where a father’s fight against the denizens of a drug den becomes a mind-bending suburban nightmare—Entropy in Bloom is a perfect compendium for avid fans and an ideal entry point for adventurous readers seeking the humor, heartbreak, and terror of JRJ’s strange new worlds.

There is something for every horror fan here whether you enjoy dark satire, straight up gross out horror, or psychological terror. Beginning with The "League of Zeroes" which takes the art of body modification to blood curdling extremes and ending with the novella "The Sleep Of Judges" which was an unsettling tale of the aftermath of a burglary. In between is a wild ride of love, desperation and how to survive the end of the world just like the cockroaches will. This was my first time reading anything by Jeremy Robert Johnson, who in my humble opinion is a master story teller. This was an incredible collection of dark fiction/horror stories. 5 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Horror Library, Volume 6 Eric J. Guignard (Editor)

The multiple Bram Stoker Award® nominated Horror Library anthology series is back!

Authors - Garrett Quinn, Jackson Kuhl, Stephanie Bedwell Grime, Connor De Bruler, Tom Johnstone, Bentley Little, Kathryn E. McGee, Josh Rountree, Jeffrey Ford, John M. Floyd, Raymond Little, Rebecca J. Allred, Darren O. Godfrey, Sean Eads, David Tallerman, Marc E. Fitch, Vitor Abdala, JG Faherty, Dean H. Wild, Jayani C. Senanayake, Lucas Pederson, C. Michael Cook, Thomas P. Balázs, Jay Caselberg, Ahna Wayne Aposhian, Edward M. Erdelac, Carole Johnstone

Shepherded by new editor Eric J. Guignard -- himself a past Stoker winner -- Horror Library Volume 6 is imbued with a new level of literary energy and purpose. It features 27 brand new horror short stories, written by 27 different authors, including well-known pros and up-and-coming new talents.

As always, if you'd like a snapshot of where modern literary horror fiction is headed, you've found the right book.

Don't miss Horror Library Volume 6! The Librarian is waiting for YOU.

I love short horror stories so this was a huge treat for me. It was a great way to discover some new authors and also read some of my all time favorites. (My heart skipped a beat when I saw Bentley Little.)
This book contains 27 dark and delicious stories sure to fill you with dread. Now a few of them did end too abruptly for my taste and I would have preferred a more definitive ending. I am not against leaving things to the readers imagination or leaving an end that could be open to interpretation but a non-ending is just not my favorite way to leave a story.
All were good but my absolute favorites (in no particular order) were "The Plumber" by Bentley Little, probably because he is just so good at taking a mundane every day normal occurrence and turning it into something terrifying. Or perhaps because my shower is actually dripping as I write this yet I think I will just live with it a while rather than have to call someone to fix it.

"We Were Monsters" by Lucas Pederson was quite clever but it's hard for me to say too much without giving it away.

"The Creek Keepers' Lodge" by Kathryn E. McGee reminded me of that old saying you can't go home again. Or maybe it's that you just plain shouldn't go back if you managed to escape.

"The Night Crier" by C. Michael Cook was simply brilliant. I had never heard of this author before but this story just blew me away.

"Kalu Kumaraya" by Jayani C Senanayake  was another excellent story. If you have ever had a child or grandchild who spoke to an imaginary friend this one will give you chills.

"Five Pointed Spell" by Jeffrey Ford was spectacular. This was my first time reading anything by this author but I think I need to keep an eye out for anything else he writes from now on.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

White Fur A Novel by Jardine Libaire


Friday, April 14, 2017

Penance by Kanae Minato, Philip Gabriel (Translator)


Monday, April 10, 2017

The Fear by Rae Louise

Fear is all in the mind ...

But Mia’s nightmares become a reality when she and her troubled sister, Jamie, inherit their deceased uncle’s house and experience phenomena that extends way beyond a typical haunting. Only Mia’s infant daughter is aware of the sinister presence of a man that roams freely about the house, but it’s Jamie who has become the subject of the entity’s torment.

No one’s secrets stay buried for long, and the psychological abuse that the family are forced to endure soon turns physical, with the demon’s attachment to Jamie taking on a sexually violent nature. When the evil spreads beyond the boundaries of the house and wreaks chaos in the lives of those closest to Mia, she knows that she must uncover the house’s past, along with the identity of its ghostly inhabitant, in order to sever his hold on anyone who enters.

This was a hair raising haunted house tale.
After a fire, Mia and her younger sister Jaimie move into their deceased Uncle Billy's house along with Mia's young daughter Louisa, and their family dog. Right away the dog starts behaving strangely and Louisa begins to see "The Shadow Man" in her room. At first Mia puts this down to stress from the fire, the move, not seeing her father enough, and grandma having to be put into care due to dementia. Unfortunately for Mia, none of these circumstances are the cause of the evil that is infesting the house. There is something unearthly there, and it knows what you are afraid of and how to use it against you.
4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received a complimentary copy for review

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dark Screams: Volume Six by Brian James Freeman (Editor), Richard Chizmar (Editor)

Stephen King, Lisa Morton, Nell Quinn-Gibney, Norman Prentiss, Joyce Carol Oates, and Tim Curran plunge readers into the dark side in this deeply unsettling short-story collection curated by legendary horror editors Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.

Richard Drogan has been spooked ever since he came back from Nam, but he’s no head case, dig? He just knows the old dude needs to die.

Even though she made her name revealing the private lives of the rich and famous, Sara Peck has no idea how deep their secrets really go . . . or the price they’ll pay to get what they desire.

THE MANICURE by Nell Quinn-Gibney
A trip to the nail salon is supposed to be relaxing. But as the demons of the past creep closer with every clip, even the most serene day of pampering can become a nightmare.

It’s a little strange how baby Lydia can only be soothed by her grandfather’s unnatural voice, ravaged by throat cancer. The weirdest part? What he’s saying is more disturbing than how he says it.

THE SITUATIONS by Joyce Carol Oates
There are certain lessons children must learn, rules they must follow, scars they must bear. No lesson is more important than this: Never question Daddy. Or else.

Grave robbers Kierney and Clow keep one step ahead of the law as they ply their ghoulish trade, but there’s no outrunning a far more frightening enemy that hungers for the dead.

For me, the absolute stars of this compilation are "The Rich Are Different" by Lisa Morton in which a writer accepts an invitation to a birthday party from a very wealthy and very different sort of fan.
"The Comforting Voice" by Norman Prentiss offers no comfort at all. In fact it set my teeth on edge and made my skin crawl, in the most delightful ways. Josh and Cheryl are new parents, which under the best of circumstances would be an uncomfortable time to take in a sickly relative. When the new baby has constant fits of inconsolable crying, and the relative is your estranged and abusive father-in-law, it's about as comforting as nails on a chalkboard. This tale had my anxiety levels through the roof and I loved it. These two stories alone are worth more than the cost of admission. 5 stars to both.
"The Corpse King" by Tim Curran is the longest story in this collection. It's a creepy tale of best buddies and grave robbers Kierney and Clow who find that not everything under the ground is lifeless. 4 stars

"The Manicure" by Nell Quinn-Gibney Has me eyeing my nail scissors distrustfully while I consider buying one of those as seen on tv doodads that files them instead. Another solid 4 stars.
"The Situations" by Joyce Carol Oates is one I have read previously in another collection and though I like much of her work this one just didn't quite do it for me then or now. 3 stars
"The Old Dude's Ticker" by Stephen King is a 1970s version of the Tell Tale Heart by Poe. Sometimes the classics are best left alone. It was ok, but not one of King's best efforts. 3 stars.
All in all this is a good collection of sinister stories that are certain to jangle your nerves.

I received an advance copy for review

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond


In this relentlessly paced novel of psychological suspense, New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond crafts an intense and shocking tale that asks: How far would you go to protect your marriage?

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.
And then one of them breaks the rules.
The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.
For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Most people start their marriage expecting it to last forever. That tends to be a given. We stand before God, or at least a state sanctioned judge and make our vows. We promise to love honor and cherish forsaking all others until the end of our days. What if there were consequences for not strictly adhering to the ideals set forth by such a union? Well there already are, divorce for one.. but what if there were actual punishments? prisons? torture tactics? Therein lies "The Pact"
Jake and Alice receive an invitation to join the pact as a wedding gift. It seems silly at first, and then it seems fun, so they decide to join, not realizing how serious the members take this way of life. When Jake begins to suspect this cheery façade of like minded happily married couples is actually something far more sinister it may already be too late!
I enjoyed this thriller, and found it straddled the fence between psychological suspense and horror quite well.

I received an advance copy for review.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fred and Rose The Full Story of the Gloucester House of Horrors by Howard Sounes


Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Graves by Pamela Wechsler


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss


The Halloween Children are watching—they’re always watching in this chilling novel of suburban horror from Bram Stoker Award winner Norman Prentiss and Brian James Freeman of Cemetery Dance Publications.

The accommodations at Stillbrook Apartments aren’t exactly glamorous, but they’re quiet, affordable, and well maintained. The handyman is usually available to help with a leak or a broken bulb, his wife and two adorable kids often tagging along. When occasion dictates, the neighbors gather to wish each other well and spread the requisite holiday cheer. Everything’s very nice. Very normal.

But as Halloween approaches, strange occurrences are happening all around Stillbrook. The children tell disturbing stories, bizarre noises bleed through the walls, and one abandoned unit is found to be inhabited by something sinister—something that’s no longer alive.

For the safety of the tenants, the Halloween party has been canceled. There will be no decorations or masks, no candied apples or witch’s brew. But without treats to divert the Halloween Children, they have no choice but to play some very nasty tricks.

"The Halloween Children are everywhere and they know our fears"

This was a hair raising tale perfect for a Halloween read or any time of year if you love horror like I do.

Lynn and Harris seem like a typical married couple, living with their 2 young children Matt and Amber in an apartment building where Harris is the on site handyman. Lynn is a combination stay at home mom and computer tech support operator for a company that enables her to work from home.

"When did you realize something wasn't right that Halloween night?"
"When I discovered that so many of my neighbors were dead."
Lynn has an obvious propensity to favor her daughter over her son. Harris has the opposite tendency.
The closer we get to Halloween the more strange things get at Stillbrook Apartments culminating in a party you won't want to attend!

4 out of 5 stars from me

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enríquez

An arresting collection of short stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortazar, by an exciting new international talent.

Macabre, disturbing and exhilarating, Things We Lost in the Fire is a collection of twelve short stories that use fear and horror to explore multiple dimensions of life in contemporary Argentina. From women who set themselves on fire in protest of domestic violence to angst-ridden teenage girls, friends until death do they part, to street kids and social workers, young women bored of their husbands or boyfriends, to a nine-year-old serial killer of babies and a girl who pulls out her nails and eyelids in the classroom, to hikikomori, abandoned houses, black magic, northern Argentinean superstition, disappearances, crushes, heartbreak, regret and compassion. This is a strange, surreal and unforgettable collection by an astonishing new talent asking vital questions of the world as we know it.

I am a huge fan of Shirley Jackson so the description of this book called out to me and I had to have it.
The stories are quite dark, but not your usual blood and guts kind of horror. Most of the stories begin with ordinary sounding circumstances which lends them a taste of realism that you don't often get in today's horror. The fear builds slowly and subtly. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, as they were all quite good. I was definitely impressed with the title story which was saved for last. As well as "The Inn"  where two friends sneak into a hotel room that has been host to a violent past. "Adela's House" was a chilling tale of a one armed girl and the night she and her friends would have been better off to avoid an abandoned house. "An Invocation of the Big Eared Runt" is an excellent tale of a happily married man who works the "murder tour" taking tourists along the paths of infamous murders. The more obsessed he becomes with a child murderer the less happy he is with his wife and new baby....
"Spiderweb" by contrast had the main characters in an unhappy marriage. Juan Martin is a know it all who knows nothing, not even that his wife has had just about enough of his complaining and uselessness.
A young woman who has suffered with depression  has some horrific suspicions about what is going on in "The Neighbor's Courtyard."
If you enjoy dark tales of the macabre and malevolent this is the book for you.
4 out of 5 stars from me

I received a complimentary copy for review

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dis Mem Ber and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates


Joyce Carol Oates is renowned for her rare ability to “illuminate the mind’s most disturbing corners” (Seattle Times). That genius is on full display in her new collection of seven feverishly unsettling works, Dis Mem Ber and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense.

In the title story, a precocious eleven-year-old named Jill is in thrall to an older male relative, the mysterious, attractive black sheep of the family. Without telling her parents Jill climbs into his sky-blue Chevy to be driven to an uncertain, and unforgettable, fate. In “The Drowned Girl,” a university transfer student becomes increasingly obsessed with the drowning/murder of another female student, as her own sense of self begins to deteriorate. In “Great Blue Heron,” a recent widow grieves inside the confines of her lakefront home and fantasizes about transforming into that great flying predator—unerring and pitiless in the hunt. And in the final story, “Welcome to Friendly Skies,” a trusting group of bird-watchers is borne to a remote part of the globe, to a harrowing fate.

At the heart of this meticulously crafted, deeply disquieting collection are girls and women confronting the danger around them, and the danger hidden inside their turbulent selves.

This is a collection of previously published stories, that are both dark and delightful. My favorites were as follows.
In my opinion the best was definitely saved for last, as I laughed my way through the final story “Welcome to Friendly Skies” while thinking yes I have flown on this over booked plane, no seat left for you? stuff yourself in the overhead compartment. A dark satire that filled me with dread and giggles.
I also enjoyed the first story "Dismember" though poor Jill should have chosen a better role model.
"Great Blue Heron" was an amazing story of fear and grief culminating in a satisfying twist at the end. "Heartbreak" is what happens when Stephanie's jealousy of her sister gets the best of her.
All in all a good solid collection that is well worth a read.
4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Monday, March 6, 2017

Trailer by Edward Lorn


"The less you know, the better."

Trailer is a short horror story about a woman who is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!
After.. shall we say having extricated herself and her young son from an abusive situation she is on the run in her junky car on a cold winter's night.
As junk cars are prone to do, just when you need them most, hers breaks down in the snow. They seek shelter in an abandoned trailer which is not as empty as it appeared to be.
4 out of 5 stars from me

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris


If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

I was totally swept away by the suspense and mystery of The Break Down. Cass and Matthew have a great life together although she has secretly feared she will end up with dementia like her mother. Things begin to fall apart when Cass realizes that a murdered woman is someone she knew, and that she passed her car on the road in a terrible thunderstorm on her way home the night before. She becomes fearful that the murderer may be after her next. She starts to forget things, minor absent-mindedness at first but then it escalates to the point that she can't remember ordering packages that have been delivered, or how to work her own coffee machine. Is it just the stress? Is it the start of dementia? Or is it something more sinister? Could someone be gas lighting her? Or will she be the next murder victim? Alfred Hitchcock could not have crafted a more electrifying thriller with such a satisfying conclusion. 5 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.