Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters

“Once upon a time there was a monster. This is how they tell you the story starts. This is a lie.”

Sometimes things are not what they appear to be. DNA doesn’t define us, gravity doesn’t hold us, a home doesn’t mean we belong. From circus tents to space stations, Damien Angelica Walters creates stories that are both achingly familiar and chillingly surreal. Within her second short story collection, she questions who the real monsters are, rips families apart and stiches them back together, and turns a cell phone into the sharpest of weapons.

Cry Your Way Home brings together seventeen stories that delve deep into human sorrow and loss, weaving pain, fear, and ultimately resilience into beautiful tales that are sure to haunt you long after you finish the collection.

Cry Your Way Home is a fitting title for a tome so heavily steeped in grief and despair. It touches on loss of a child in more than one way and in more than one story. Loss of a spouse, the pain of watching your husband forget you because of Alzheimer's, bullying, and more. Endless suffering can be found here.
Luckily for me I picked this up at a time when I have had enough sappy happy holiday cheer. There is some general dark fiction, and stories that straddled the line between fantasy and horror, occasionally dipping a toe in each. I hate to use the word "Enjoyed" in this case so I will just say there is mighty fine writing here.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

What Remains True by Janis Thomas

In this mesmerizing drama, one life-altering event catapults a family into turmoil, revealing secrets that may leave them fractured forever . . . or bind them together tighter than ever before.
From the outside, the Davenports look like any other family living a completely ordinary life—until that devastating day when five-year-old Jonah is killed, and the family is torn apart. As the fury of guilt engulfs them, the Davenports slowly start to unravel, one by one.
Losing her son forces Rachel to withdraw into a frayed, fuzzy reality. Her husband, Sam, tries to remain stoic, but he’s consumed by regret with the choices he’s made. Eden mourns her brother, while desperately fighting to regain a sense of normalcy. And Aunt Ruth, Rachel’s sister, works too hard to care for the family, even as her own personal issues haunt her.
Told from multiple points of view—including Jonah’s—the family struggles to cope with unthinkable loss. But as they face their own dark secrets about that terrible day, they have a choice: to be swallowed up in sadness forever, or begin the raw, arduous ascent back to living.

What Remains True is a novel that drops you into the middle of a family in crisis. It is told from multiple points of view, even including the family dog, and the poor little boy who lost his life far too soon. Normally I would say too many cooks spoil the pot but in this case I think it was a brilliant way to express what every family member went through after Jonah's death. The only thing I really didn't care for was the therapist's point of view. It felt like a break in the real story, which I didn't want to be distracted from. It was hard to care about her personal life since I was so wrapped up in what was happening with the grieving family that I didn't want to be interrupted.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Unkillable Kitty O'Kane by Colin Falconer

When fiery and idealistic Kitty O’Kane escapes the crushing poverty of Dublin’s tenements, she’s determined that no one should ever suffer like she did. As she sets out to save the world, she finds herself at the forefront of events that shaped the early twentieth century. While working as a maid, she survives the sinking of the Titanic. As a suffragette in New York’s Greenwich Village, she’s jailed for breaking storefront windows. And traveling war-torn Europe as a journalist, she’s at the Winter Palace when it’s stormed by the Bolsheviks. Ultimately she returns to her homeland to serve as a nurse in the Irish Civil War.

During Kitty’s remarkable journey, she reunites with her childhood sweetheart, Tom Doyle, but Tom doesn’t know everything about her past—a past that continues to haunt her. Will Kitty accept that before she can save everyone else, she needs to find a way to save herself? Or will the sins of her past stop her from pursuing her own happiness?

"Kitty O'Kane dreamed of a kind husband and a just life; what she had was haddock water for supper and a dribble of her own blood, seen at close quarters, on the toe of her father's scuffed boot"

Heartbreaking stuff am I right? It pulled me in and  had such high hopes for Kitty, but somewhere around the halfway point it all fell apart for me. From a bright, poverty stricken  Irish girl with a simple dream that she could have easily achieved Kitty changed into someone I just didn't like very much. After surviving the sinking of the Titanic it seemed as if Kitty more let herself be manipulated into wanting to become a journalist than actually following her own dreams. Somehow even though she was the girl who wanted to fight for women's rights she let herself be dependent upon and manipulated by men.
I did enjoy the historical references but I had different expectations of this book.

3 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review

Friday, December 8, 2017

Brain Damage by J.A. St. Thomas

"I open my eyes and I’m close enough to kiss a dead girl."

Three years ago, sixteen year old Desmond Linc almost died in the car accident that killed his brother. Now he's all but forgotten the damage, a dead space in his brain physicians swore would never awaken.

But it has.

Terrified he's losing his mind, Des comes face to face with the tortured ghosts of his hometown. The black hole in his head is a doorway to the afterlife and the dead come telling secrets and lies and wielding accusations like scythes.

They tell the truth about one thing though, a killer has come to Northwood.

Des is still grieving the loss of his older brother, and has blamed himself for that death. Des feels he is the reason they were on the road that day and sometimes wishes he had been the one who had died.. except maybe for a few minutes he did, and being so close to death has gifted (or cursed) him with the ability to see and hear spirits. When a teen is murdered in town somehow Des knows it even before his police officer dad hears it on the scanner. At first He thinks he's losing his mind, but as these visions become more frequent He enlists his best friend Merit and a wannabe ghost buster to help him get to the truth. Part coming of age tale, part mystery ghost adventure, this haunting YA novel had me captivated from start to finish.
5 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

"Riveting, chilling, and page-turning. Be prepared to stay up all night." -- New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

For fans of dark and twisty psychological thrillers, Watch Me is a riveting novel of suspense about how far obsession can go.
Kate Youngblood is disappearing. Muddling through her late 30s as a creative writing professor at Blackwood college, she’s dangerously close to never being noticed again. The follow-up novel to her successful debut tanked. Her husband left her for a woman ten years younger. She’s always been bright, beautiful, independent and a little wild, but now her glow is starting to vanish. She’s heading into an age where her eyes are less blue, her charm worn out, and soon no one will ever truly look at her, want to know her, again.

Except one.

Sam Grist is Kate’s most promising student. An unflinching writer with razor-sharp clarity who gravitates towards dark themes and twisted plots, his raw talent is something Kate wants to nurture into literary success. But he’s not there solely to be the best writer. He’s been watching her. Wanting her. Working his way to her for years.

As Sam slowly makes his way into Kate’s life, they enter a deadly web of dangerous lies and forbidden desire. But how far will his fixation go? And how far will she allow it?

A gripping novel exploring intense obsession and illicit attraction, Jody Gehrman introduces a world where what you desire most may be the most dangerous thing of all.
This was just an ok read for me. The storyline was promising but much of the "action" was going on in Sam's head, and that was just not a place I wanted to be.
I don't mind novels that are written from multiple points of view, but I found Sam's narration in secondary present first person to be a distraction. Maybe it's just me, and others will enjoy this story more than I did. There really wasn't much of anything "dark and twisty" as promised in the description. I mean yes a psycho stalker is dark, but as far as twisty goes you could pretty much see the path the story was taking, which was slow and straight ahead. 
I received an advance copy for review.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Painted Darkness by Brian James Freeman

When Henry was a child, something terrible happened in the woods behind his home, something so shocking he could only express his grief by drawing pictures of what he had witnessed. Eventually Henry's mind blocked out the bad memories, but he continued to draw, often at night by the light of the moon.

Twenty years later, Henry makes his living by painting his disturbing works of art. He loves his wife and his son and life couldn't be better... except there's something not quite right about the old stone farmhouse his family now calls home. There's something strange living in the cramped cellar, in the maze of pipes that feed the ancient steam boiler.

A winter storm is brewing and soon Henry will learn the true nature of the monster waiting for him down in the darkness. He will battle this demon and, in the process, he may discover what really happened when he was a child and why, in times of trouble, he thinks: I paint against the darkness.

But will Henry learn the truth in time to avoid the terrible fate awaiting him... or will the thing in the cellar get him and his family first?

Written as both a meditation on the art of creation and as an examination of the secret fears we all share, The Painted Darkness is a terrifying look at the true cost we pay when we run from our grief--and what happens when we're finally forced to confront the monsters we know all too well.

This one has been tucked in my kindle for years, since before I had ever read anything else by this author. I finally got a chance to read it last night. It's a short and creepy tale, told along 2 timelines. It goes back and forth from present day Henry, and childhood Henry, an artist who is currently on his own after a fight with his wife caused her to take their child and stay at her parents. I found the childhood Henry to be more intriguing, and enjoyed the suspense leading up to the discovery of what Henry had witnessed as a child that forever shaped the man he is today.
4 out of 5 stars from me.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Doll House by Edward Lee

The Doll House

It’s a horror house, a slaughter house, a devil house. And it’s something else, too:

A doll house.

Reginald Lympton collects doll houses, and now that he’s acquired the rare Patten Doll House, he can boast the most preeminent collection in the world. But after visions too abominable to reckon, and nightmares blacker than the most bottomless abyss, he discovers in short order that his acquisition is not a prized collector’s item at all but a diabolical thoroughfare designed to serve the darkest indulgences of the King of Terrors.

Now, Edward Lee, the master of hardcore horror, has penned this audacious homage to the master of the Victorian ghost story, M.R. James.

The Doll House by Edward Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am an Edward Lee fan but this was not his usual style and it just wasn't for me. Maybe because I am not an M.R. James fan and have not read his work. This was a disappointment to me. I expect an Edward Lee to test my gag reflex but this one just gave me a headache.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brass by Xhenet Aliu

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel and dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now, it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when Bashkim learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where his heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told from two alternating points of view two decades apart this is the story of Elsie, the single mom who started out with high hopes and good intentions when she fell in love with a married man.

"It was 1996, the middle of March, a brutal part of the year when spring was supposed to hit but didn't, when I'd given up on ever being warm again."

Elsie's only daughter Luljeta both loves and hates her mother, never quite feeling like she fits in anywhere. She has been told very little about her father and now that she is growing from child to young woman decides to find out the truth for herself.

Part love story, part coming of age tale, part family drama but without being sappy this bittersweet novel touched my heart and hit my funny bone with sarcastic wit.

4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead. That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

I nearly passed up the chance to read this book. With it's simple unassuming cover, written by an author I had never heard of... I nearly passed it by without a second glance. Especially as it claimed to be "The Must Read" of 2018. So many make that claim. Too many make that claim. I nearly passed it by. What a loss that would have been. What a flaming pile of Buckaroo indeed that would have been on my part to miss out on reading this novel. I just this minute finished it. I'm still stunned. Pardon me if it shows. I began this book a day or so before Thanksgiving. I kicked myself over that repeatedly. So much to do and so little time to read. It took me more than a week to finish it. I thought about it day and night when I wasn't reading. All through the holiday preparations I could not wait to get back to this book. Looking at that claim now "The must read thriller" I am nodding my head in approval. I'm applauding. Heck I'm cheering out loud. This was an incredible read. 5 out of 5 stars from me, and if I could I'd give it 10.

I received an advance copy for review.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Killer Choice by Tom Hunt

The electrifying debut thriller that asks the question: To save the one you love, is there any price you wouldn’t pay?

His wife is sick.
He needs $200,000 to save her.
A mysterious man offers to give him the money with just one catch: He has to murder someone to get it.

Gary Foster’s life is finally heading in the right direction. After years of trying, his wife, Beth, is pregnant, and he recently opened a business with his brother. But one phone call changes everything....

After collapsing suddenly, Beth has been rushed to the hospital. Tests reveal a devastating diagnosis: an inoperable brain tumor. Their only hope is an expensive experimental treatment available abroad, with a cost that’s out of their reach. And Beth’s time is running out....

Then a strange man approaches Gary and offers the money he needs, on one condition: that he kill someone, no questions asked. End one life to save another.

In this nail-biting debut novel of domestic suspense, one man makes a choice that forces him to confront the darkest reaches of his soul and betray those closest to him. As he’s swept up in a nightmare of escalating violence, he must question his own morality—and determine just how far he’s willing to go to save the woman he loves.

Gary and Beth are happily married and happily pregnant after having tried so long for a baby that they had nearly given up hope. All seems to be going well until suddenly and unexpectedly Beth collapses. After a trip to the emergency room they are given devastating news. Beth has an inoperable tumor and may have less than a year to live. Her only hope of survival is a costly experimental treatment that they can not afford.

Meanwhile a shady character named Otto has caught the eye of a crooked cop and wants to be rid of him permanently. He hatches a plan to have the cop murdered by someone who has no connection to him so that he will never be a suspect. When Otto sees an article about Gary and Beth's dire situation he decides to take advantage of their desperate need for money.

This was a fast paced, suspenseful, action packed thriller with a lot of heart. There were a couple of things that irked me, having to do with police procedure and cash that I won't go into so as not to spoil the story but overall I enjoyed it.
3.75 out of 5 stars rounded up to 4

I received an advance copy for review.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Green by Sam Graham Felsen

A novel of race and privilege in America that you haven't seen before: a coming-of-age story about a life-changing friendship, propelled by an exuberant, unforgettable voice.

"This isn't some Jedi bull****; the force I'm talking about is real, and its energies are everywhere, working on everyone."

Boston, 1992. David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King Middle School. Everybody clowns him, girls ignore him, and his hippie parents won't even buy him a pair of Nikes, let alone transfer him to a private school. Unless he tests into the city's best public high school--which, if practice tests are any indication, isn't likely--he'll be friendless for the foreseeable future.

Nobody's more surprised than Dave when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him in the school cafeteria. Mar's a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave's own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave's assumptions about black culture: He's nerdy and neurotic, a Celtics obsessive whose favorite player is the gawky, white Larry Bird. Together, the two boys are able to resist the contradictory personas forced on them by the outside world, and before long, Mar's coming over to Dave's house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar's. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he's been given--and that Mar has not.

Infectiously funny about the highs and lows of adolescence, and sharply honest in the face of injustice, Sam Graham-Felsen's debut is a wildly original take on the struggle to rise in America.

This coming of age story is set in the 1990s and centers around the friendship of David and Marlon, two very different kids who find they have a lot in common.
David is one of the only white kids at Martin Luther King Middle School in Boston. He's a target for bullies and hates that his parents won't send him to a private school like his little brother Benno.
Marlon is being raised by his grandmother because of his mother's instability. When Marlon sticks up for David one day when he's getting bullied the 2 strike up a friendship. They find they are both basketball fans and both hoping to attend Harvard someday. Marlon is embarrassed by his mother, while David is embarrassed by his Grandfather. Although they share much in common their friendship is repeatedly tested.
While I enjoyed the story I felt there were quite a few aspects of Marlon's character that could have been better developed and that were deserving of a more in depth exploration other than just being the black kid with big dreams and an unstable mother.

I received an advance copy for review.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Lerewood by Andrea Churchill

Legends speak of a place called Lerewood, an isolated little village set in the middle of an immeasurable, ghostly wood. The townspeople suffer from severe poverty and filth, living more like savage animals than a cultured civilization. However, despite the town’s inhuman conditions, the townspeople never seem to die from disease or starvation, and their numbers only seem to grow with each generation. No one knows the truth of how Lerewood came to be, but many secrets seem to revolve around an ancient, legendary creature that lives in the surrounding forest. They say she’ll hunt anyone who dares trespass onto her land; those who enter the forest never come back.

One middle aged man, Uallas, depressed and tired of abuse from his monstrous wife, decides to commit suicide by entering the wood. But when he steps foot into the mythical dark forest, Uallas finds that everything he ever knew about the town, and himself, were lies. These new discoveries only lead to more questions, where the truth can only be found in the mysterious, undiscovered world.

The Lerewood introduces the topics of natural evil, identity, and judgment, all while moving the reader with detailed personification. It is a tale of darkness, and will appeal to many readers with its rich, moody descriptions of the eerie, mythological forest.

 Most of the people of Lerewood seem to accept their fate, that they can never leave, and that there is no other way of life out there. To venture into the woods would mean certain death, for those who have tried it have never returned. It's easy for the townspeople to believe there is nothing else out there since they are taught this from the time they are children. Legend has it that many years ago two outsiders did make their way into the village and that is what is possibly behind the curse that leaves these people trapped in poverty and despair. One man will find out the truth when he is driven out of his home by his abusive wife. The Lerewood is a dark and magical tale that I found most intriguing.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Expulsion by Angel Gelique

This book contains extremely gory, depraved, disturbingly graphic material that many may find offensive, including a descriptive scene of a self-performed abortion. Adult readers only!


Perhaps you're ready to give it a try despite the warning---maybe even in spite of it. But be fully warned, this story is truly revolting. Imagine seeing a child get struck by a truck. In his last moments of fear and agony, he feebly lifts his head off the ground, leaving the right side of his face upon the pavement. No doubt you feel terribly for the poor child. But does morbid curiosity compel you to watch? Or do you turn to flee, emptying your stomach along the way?
Please only read this book if you are able to tolerate extremely vile situations.

You have been warned.


Elizabeth thought that she got rid of her unwanted baby.
She was wrong….

On a stormy Sunday afternoon, twenty-four-year-old Elizabeth Cotton has a bizarre encounter with a stranger dressed in black, which leads to an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy. In an act of desperation, Elizabeth aborts her unborn child, savagely expelling the fetus from her womb.

Years later, she is happily married to Martin Howe and in her second trimester of pregnancy. Plagued by horrific nightmares, Elizabeth has a dreadful feeling that something is terribly wrong.

When she gives birth, it is immediately clear that the baby is not a typical newborn. Elizabeth believes that she is being punished for her past—for deplorably terminating her unborn child’s life. But she isn’t the only one tormented by the aberrant infant.

Evil has been unleashed and mankind will face its ultimate challenge.

First off definitely heed the warning. This book is extremely hard core horror. Revolting, disgusting, stomach turning, graphic gore. If you can't handle that, this is not the book for you. If you can, well you will meet a child by the name of William who makes Damien from the Omen look like a mild mannered lovable tot. William reeks of death and disease and has unholy powers that no one can escape. As he grows so do his powers and it won't be long before he no longer needs his parents, especially considering the special diet he prefers.
3.75 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy with no obligation to review.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love. When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

Discover the next blockbuster novel of suspense, and get ready for the read of your life.
Then.. Vanessa was a young carefree woman, teaching preschool, loving her life, loving her work, loving the man of her dreams. Sure he seemed at times to be a bit of a control freak but what woman in love won't look past a few flaws when she feels like the luckiest woman alive about to marry her soul mate?
Now.. Vanessa is not so young, not so carefree, has lost touch with her friends, works to survive, has lost everything she ever was and spends most of her time stalking her "replacement" Emma, the beautiful young woman who is engaged to marry Vanessa's husband. I can't say much more without giving away the intricately woven twisting turning plot. One thing for certain, I sure didn't see the end coming until it held me by the throat. What really went wrong in Vanessa's marriage? You'll be shocked by the answers.
I received an advance copy for review.
Pre-order your copy, get more info, or see the teaser trailer by clicking here

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bongo Fury 2 Holiday for Skins by Simon Maltman

Sequel to the bestselling 'Bongo Fury' novella. Follow Jimmy as he gets into much deeper trouble in this black humoured, Northern Irish noir. Previous Press: “The mood is cynical, the wisecracks are plentiful, and the alcohol pours generously… an engaging and unique tale of crime and corruption.” The High Window “A mystery noir with a twist ending worthy of Dennis Lehane.” The Big Thrill

In this second installment Jimmy Black, owner of the Bongo Fury music shop, family man, amateur private eye, and part time drug dealer gets swept up into a murder investigation when the killer hits close to home. A bit darker than the first Bongo Fury. A quick and enjoyable read.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas


At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, lies the Finch House. For years it has perched empty, abandoned, and overgrown--but soon the door will be opened for the first time in many decades. But something waits, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests.
When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country's most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won't be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt soon becomes a fight for survival--the entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek

Four horror writers receive an invitation to participate in a 2 day interview in an old abandoned house at Halloween which will be posted on the internet. They are promised it will go viral, and they could all use the publicity.
Each writer has their own particular style, each has their own particular secrets.What could possibly go wrong? It's just a house right? This started as a slow burning subtle kind of horror. The type that gradually pulls you in deeper and never lets go. I love haunted house stories and I highly recommend this one if you do too! 5 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bongo Fury by Simon Maltman

From the Bestselling author of A Chaser on the Rocks and More Faces, comes the noir novella series: Bongo Fury. Follow Maltman’s new protagonist as he tries to balance a music shop, his paramilitary family, a newborn, a little drug dealing and a spot of private detection. A black comedy from the fresh new voice in Northern Irish Crime Fiction. Previous press: “A flair for adrenalin-packed action and unpredictable characters.” Murder, Mayhem and More “The mood is cynical, the wisecracks are plentiful.” The High Window “You hit the ground running and it’s a sprint finish.” Crime Book Junkie

A short story/novella that centers around  Jimmy Black, owner of the Bongo Fury music shop, family man, amateur private eye, and part time drug dealer. When Jimmy tries to help out a friend who is short on the cash he owes to some unsavory characters he ends up in a bit of trouble himself.
This is not my usual type of story but I did find it to be a quick and engaging read, sprinkled with humor here and there.  3.5 stars from me.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Deceptions By Dana Mansfield

Jack Petrov, lead singer of a successful rock band, is spending the Thanksgiving weekend with his wife and children in the Poconos. He has been out of the limelight for two years after a terrible car accident that resulted in the deaths of two of his children. Traveling with the family is the children’s nanny, Penny Shepherd. Penny and Jack have been best friends since their days at Princeton. After a verbal fight with his wife, Jack orders Penny to drive him after he gets buzzed in the lodge’s bar. Before they can return, they are abducted by kidnappers hired by someone called the Employer. Although treated okay at the beginning, their treatment worsens as the Employer demands information from Penny. After the truth is revealed, the Employer leaves after a final goodbye and Penny and Jack are left to try and survive, still as captives.


I have to start by saying I did not realize when I picked up this book that it was part of a Trilogy, so I was a bit surprised to be left hanging. If you are searching for this title on amazon this particular version is now listed as unavailable, but it can now be found under the title Deceptions (Deceptions Trilogy Book 1) with a less appealing cover.
There is definitely a lot going on in this story. Sometimes too much. Maybe that is why it is being continued as a trilogy. Jack and Penny met years ago at university. Penny was instantly charmed by the way Jack was caring for his little sister. They became the best of friends and apparently that friendship continued as Jack became a rock star and  fathered several children with his wife Crystal, none of whom Crystal seemed to particularly want to mother. Jack was not the typical rock and roll type, he loves his children above all else and is a good and decent family man. His wife is the partier in the family and she often takes off for long stretches of time leaving her children in the care of their father and Penny who has become their nanny. Penny has come from a dysfunctional family and having nothing to do with her own relatives she comes to love Jack's children as her own. Penny suffers depression and bouts of anorexia which she tries to hide from Jack along with another darker secret. While spending the Thanksgiving holiday together, Crystal and Jack have a fight and he demands Penny drive him home during a snow storm. On their way they are kidnapped by a strange group who claim that although Jack is the real target they are taking Penny along as well. Someone they call "The Employer" wants information from her.
They soon learn no ransom will be asked for them, and they are to be held prisoner for however long it pleases the employer. Because of the brutal was  Penny was treated by the kidnappers considering she was supposedly not even meant to be kidnapped I thought it was a bit too easy to figure out who this mysterious employer was. Still it did hold my interest even if it did seem to be trying too hard to incorporate too many dramas at once into one plot line.
3 out of 5 stars
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Bayou Strangler by Fred Rosen


Ronald Dominique  was a Patti LaBelle impersonator, meter reader, pizza delivery guy, rapist, and serial killer. This is a look at his crimes, his confession and his sentencing.
When I read true crime I prefer a more matter of fact and less sensationalized approach. I would have liked to know more about his family and what drove him to these crimes and less about his "pulsating" slang for male sex organ. Not much of his family life was disclosed other than he may have been molested by a priest or he may have lied about it, and that his relatives made fun of him for being gay. Out of respect for the dead I would have liked to know more about his victims, other than some of them were gay and some of them were straight, and that most of them were seedy characters. I never felt fully engaged in the story due to the strange writing style. It seemed a bit awkward and clumsy.
3 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dark Screams: Volume Nine


Friday, October 13, 2017

Human Waste by C.M. Saunders

A Short Splatterpunk Story.
Dan Pallister is a survivalist and prepper. Much to the annoyance of the people around him, he has been surviving and prepping since childhood. He just didn’t know what for. When he wakes up one morning to find the world overrun with bloodthirsty zombies it all becomes clear, and despite the fall of civilisation, he can’t wait to get started. He just needs to stock up on supplies from the local supermarket first.

But is everything what it seems?

Bonus Content:

Til death do us Part (short story)
No Man’s Land: Horror in the Trenches (exclusive extract)

WARNING: This book contains descriptions of graphic violence and/or sex, and is not suitable for children.
Dan Pallister woke up one morning to find the world had gone to hell over night. The zombie apocalypse has arrived without warning. He doesn't know what caused it, whether it's something in the air, something in the water, or even whether or not he is already infected. Dan knows one thing, survival. He's been preparing all his life for just such an occasion. Forgoing sports, friendships, childhood fun. He's always been preparing and he's ready for whatever happens. If only it hadn't happened right before his regular shopping day. Luckily there's a supermarket near by so Dan makes his move to stock up on supplies while he plots his next course of action. But wait.. there is something odd about these zombies. Why do some of them seem to be going about their usual human habits? Oh well, Dan doesn't have time to ponder all the gruesome details!
This was a quick and creepy read.
Freakier still was the bonus story Til Death Do Us Part
"He was going to have to eat Margaret soon. That much was obvious."
Ronald and Margaret have had 40 years of wedded bliss, but it's no longer safe to go outside and the cupboards are bare. What's a starving man to do?
I would recommend it to all fans of horror and dark fiction.
4 out of 5 freaky stars from me.
I received a complimentary copy for review 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Angel of the Underground by David Andreas

"David Andreas was a super-talented contributor to Fangoria during its glory gory days. His fiction debut bodes well for readers of unique and scary horror."
--Tony Timpone, former editor, Fangoria magazineWhen three children in a Catholic group home are brutally murdered, the survivors are hurried into separate foster homes across Long Island. Robin Hills, a fifteen-year-old who has spent the past several years under religious care, is thrust into a new, dysfunctional family with no spiritual beliefs. No longer protected by the religion and the nun she had come to love, Robin is completely alone and enveloped in fear.As the murders continue and Robin fears she may become the next victim, her faith increasingly falters. However, she finds solace in a budding friendship with Dennis, a boy her age living in her new foster home. Dennis’s kindness, his acceptance of Robin, and his bravery in the face of evil--born of his passion for horror movies--combine to reassure her that she'll survive the killings.Armed with this new friendship and fueled by a rage she finally discovers within herself, Robin finds the courage and self-reliance to confront the darkest aspects of human depravity.
Murders in the group home have forced out the last few children for "safe keeping" to separate foster homes. Robin is sent to live with a creepy family where the mom seems to hate her, the obese and repulsive father is a groper, and one brother apparently worships the devil and is an all around scumbag. Robin is alone and miserable except for the only member of this odd family who seems normal, a boy named Dennis who she grows to trust and confide in. As the murders continue and the police seem to have no leads it may be up to Robin to unravel the mystery and put an end to the killings, if she can survive! This was a quick and creepy read, that held my attention and had me rooting for Robin to find a happy home. I would recommend it to young adult horror fans.
4 out of 5 stars from me.
I received an advance copy for review.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright


Monday, October 2, 2017

Poison by Galt Niederhoffer

Poison is a literary psychological thriller about a marriage that follows minor betrayal into a bubbling stew of lies, cruelty, manipulation, and danger.

Cass and Ryan Connor have achieved family nirvana. With three kids between them, a cat and a yard, a home they built and feathered, they seem to have the Modern Family dream. Their family, including Cass' two children from previous relationships, has recently moved to Portland —a new start for their new lives. Cass and Ryan have stable, successful careers, and they are happy. But trouble begins almost imperceptibly. First with small omissions and white lies that happen daily in any marital bedroom. They seem insignificant, but they are quickly followed by a series of denials and feints that mushroom and then cyclone in menace.

With life-or-death stakes and irreversible consequences, Poison is a chilling and irresistible reminder that the closest bond designed to protect and provide for each other and for children can change in a minute.

I really enjoyed the first half of this book. Cass presented as a strong and intelligent woman who had faced some tragedy in her life but been able to move on. She had little to no emotional support from either of her parents yet still grew into a compassionate and capable woman and mother.
The problems in her marriage, although supposedly subtle at first seemed glaringly obvious to me. There was  a lack of respect from her husband that to me seemed apparent from the start. He gave off a general feeling of ill will and derisiveness. An  insult said with a smile is still insulting, Overriding of a woman's parental authority done with an air of fun, is still disrespectful.
Towards the halfway point of the story and beyond I just found that it strained believability. I can't say much without giving away the plot but I just found it hard to believe a woman of her intelligence would make such choices, or give out personal information so easily to people she had no reason to trust. There were also some medical and safety issues with the children that if faced with in reality a person would seek immediate help. Since Cass was a journalist I would have expected her to have better sense.

I received an advance copy for review.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Clown Moon by Alex Jameson

Author Alex Jameson is going to make you scream.

Former Marine sniper Sam Asher enjoys his casual civilian life. He’s content with his mundane job, steady girlfriend, and halfway decent apartment, until tragedy strikes too close to home, in a manner that appears to be related to a nationwide epidemic of creepy clown sightings.

Bent on vengeance, Sam hits the road to track down a deranged killer. Accompanied by his brother Jake, and pursued by an overly ambitious Homeland Security Agent, Sam will need to use every resource, every skill, and every friend he’s ever had to find the madman.

As the “clown crisis” ramps up, receiving constant coverage from the media and keeping regular folks hiding in their homes, a rash of murders takes Sam halfway across the country on his quest for justice. The battle-tested Marine will be sucked into a vortex of madness at the hands of a psychopath, engaging in a battle of will and wits that will test his heart, mind and loyalty.

So honestly this is not usually the type of book that attracts my attention. I'm not a fan of detective stories, or government agents and snipers etc. But I had some extra time and the cover really caught my eye. Homeland Security is not the star of this show at all. Neither are detectives, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself totally immersed in this story.
Some people fear clowns, maybe even more so after several creepy clown sightings across the nation. One man in particular has reason to both fear and hate clowns. Something horrible happened when he was a child, but he's not a kid anymore. Now he's a serial killer, and he's hyper focused on clowns.

Meanwhile a group of kids think it would be fun to join in the craze of dressing as creepy clowns to scare people. Little do they know they have attracted the attention of a psychopath. When one of them is killed Sam is willing to risk everything to catch the murderer in this action packed thriller.

4 out of 5 stars from me.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Year They Burned the Books by Nancy Garden

By the author of Annie on My MindWhen Wilson High Telegraph editor Jamie Crawford writes an opinion piece in support of the new sex-ed curriculum, which includes making condoms available to high school students, she has no idea that a huge controversy is brewing. Lisa Buel, a school board member, is trying to get rid of the health program, which she considers morally flawed, from its textbooks to its recommendations for outside reading. The newspaper staff find themselves in the center of the storm, and things are complicated by the fact that Jamie is in the process of coming to terms with being gay, and her best friend, Terry, also gay, has fallen in love with a boy whose parents are anti-homosexual. As Jamie's and Terry's sexual orientation becomes more obvious to other studetns, it looks as if the paper they're fighting to keep alive and honest is going to be taken away from them. Nancy Garden has depicted a contemporary battleground in a novel that probes deep into issues of censorship, prejudice, and ethics.

A coming of age story that deals with accepting one's own sexuality in a world in which it's not always safe or comfortable to be yourself. In other words the world we all live in right now.
Jamie, the editor of the school paper, and her best friend both feel they might probably be possibly maybe gay (I believe that is how they put it.)
The school has recently adopted a free condom Friday policy which has upset some of the parents, and particularly those who believe sex is sinful. Things escalate as books are removed from the library and some want to adopt an abstinence only policy for sex education.
It was an enjoyable although simplistic story that I don't feel quite grasped all the complexities of the subject matter but keeping in mind it is intended for a YA audience I am rounding up my 3 and a half stars to 4.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 Edited by Brian James Freeman.

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong—and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t—nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar—and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think . . . before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets—secrets best left buried in the past.

In this last installment of the 5 part Halloween Carnival anthology there are some real winners and a couple of clunkers. I was hoping the final volume would end with a bang. Instead it just kind of fizzled out.

I like Peter Straub a lot but I am just not a big fan of Pork Pie Hat. I know someone must really love it, since it's been published so many times, but that somebody is just not me.

For me,  only 2 stories  really made this  anthology worth reading. DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar in which an ordinary school teacher gets wrapped up in murder and mayhem on a windblown Friday, the night before Halloween.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle was another 5 star read for me. Two old friends, each of them a grandma now, who haven't seen each other in many years happen to bump into each other on Halloween. Their granddaughters hit it off immediately. What seems like a happy reunion soon turns into a nightmare. I loved this story.

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 4 Edited by Brian James Freeman





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

For Better, or For Worse: Eight Stories by Josh Craven


In For Better, or For Worse, Josh Craven offers up eight unsettling stories of the macabre, the supernatural, and the worst of human nature.

•"For Better or for Worse" - When Jacob’s world is derailed by a tragic accident, the hot-shot young attorney finds practicing law is easy compared to practicing his new life.
•"Tongue Lashing" - Two junior-high boys alone in an East Texas pasture on a broiling hot afternoon. What could go wrong?
•"The Hungry House" - In an effort to get his life straight, Davy takes a road trip to put the past behind him for good. But he finds his childhood home has been waiting for his return.
•"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" - Having to go in to the office on a Saturday is bad enough, but commuting on the public rail system can be… well, murder.
•"Attrition" - When looking for a job in the brutally competitive world of big law firms, John Nichols finds that getting through the hiring process can be survival of the most desperate.
•"Cake and Smokes" - A young couple buys the perfect starter home, but they find the elderly prior owner wasn’t quite ready to leave the house behind.
•"The Past Never Dies" - Through the daily entries in Barney’s grief journal, a terrible secret from his past is revealed.
•"The Last Photographer" - First her parents, then her husband—Kat has trouble letting go of those she loves, but she soon finds there are fates much worse than death.

For Better or For Worse is a curious collection of bizarre tales, that range in nature from Sci-Fi in the title story, to psychological thriller, to horror. The first few were just not for me but the last 5 more than made up for that. In "Attrition" several job applicants show up to interview at a law firm that has but a single job to offer. Times are tough and they all desperately need this opportunity. Desperation can be a dangerous thing! I loved this one.

In "Cake and Smokes" an elderly woman puts her house on the market but tries her damnedest to not get put out of her home. This one was super creepy.

"The Past Never Dies" was my absolute favorite. It's about love and loss and grief. Barney has recently lost his wife, and begins a daily journal to deal with his emotions and to tell his wife all the things he can no longer say. Strange things begin to happen as Barney is haunted not by his wife but by his own past.

"The Last Photographer" also touches on grief as Kat tries to face the fact that her husband is losing his battle with cancer. When she tries to both hold on and let him go she learns that some things are far worse than death.

All in all a good solid collection. 4 out of 5 stars from me.
I received a complimentary copy for review

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 3 Edited by Brian James Freeman

Kelley Armstrong, Kate Maruyama, Michael McBride, Taylor Grant, and Greg Chapman unleash the unsettled spirits of the past in five frightening stories collected by celebrated editor, author, and horror guru Brian James Freeman.

THE WAY LOST by Kelley Armstrong
The kids in Franklin don’t ask questions. Each Halloween, one of them disappears into the forest. Dale promised his mother he’d never go into the woods alone. But the kids in Franklin also lie.

LA CALAVERA by Kate Maruyama
The Día de los Muertos Festival at the Hollywood Cemetery used to be ours. Now, without Jasmine, it’s only right that I go one last time in her honor—before I let her go for good. . . .

THE DEVIL’S DUE by Michael McBride
Pine Springs, Colorado, has prospered for generations by honoring its traditions and its promises. Then one man refuses to do his civic duty—and the price he must pay is fatally steep.

Samhainophobia: an irrational fear of Halloween. Phasmophobia: an irrational fear of ghosts. For Anne, these terrors are more rational than she knows.

Every year, one little boy wearing a grotesque Frankenstein mask comes knocking at Gerald’s door. Gerald has always managed to avoid him . . . until this year.

"Every Halloween, one child in Franklin lost his way and never came home."
These words began my dark and delightful foray into Halloween Carnival 3. I was looking for scares and I certainly got them. Volume 1 and 2 were good but this is the best so far of this 5 part anthology series that will be released in time for Halloween.
Oh my gruesome goodness! Every one of these tales was amazing. I would not even be able to choose a favorite as I normally do with short stories because every single one gave me chills. From ghosts to demons to twisted psychological terror this anthology is a horror lover's dream.
5 out of 5 fright filled stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Halloween Carnival Volume 2 Edited by Brian James Freeman

Available for pre-order at Amazon

Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, and Al Sarrantonio bring the ghouls of the most haunted night of the year to life in a chilling collection of stories curated by master of horror Brian James Freeman.

MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg
Halloween is more than just a holiday in Clarkson, Montana; it’s a tradition passed down through generations. Only this year, the ghosts of the past may just be a little closer than usual.

When David was young, he believed in magic. In fact, he wanted to become a magician himself. But meddling in the forces of the mind has consequences beyond what an eleven-year-old can see.

MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein
Cabbage Night, Goose Night, Devil’s Night—they’re all the same. Before the treats come the tricks. It’s all in good fun . . . until someone gets hurt.

When people need to disappear, I make them vanish. The catch? I’ve always got to be on guard—because that knock at the door may not just be a little monster looking for candy.

THE PUMPKIN BOY by Al Sarrantonio
When boys start going missing, Detective Len Schneider is determined to make it right. But his partner knows that there are worse things out there than a dead kid.

This is the second in a series of five anthologies that will be released next month, in time for Halloween.
Like the first volume it contains 5 short stories which are perfect for Halloween reading or any time of year when you'd like to enjoy a little bite of horror and dark fiction. My absolute favorites were the first 3. Not that the others weren't good but I have previously read all of Al Sarrantonio's Orangefield books (so should you!) and this one is just not dearest in my heart.
The Ghostmaker by Del James was just not my type.

Living in a small town where local legends abound (I live in the same town as the real Conjuring house) my favorite story had to be MR. DARK’S CARNIVAL by Glen Hirshberg in which everyone has heard of the infamous carnival that is rumored to appear only on Halloween but none of them has ever attended. Stories about it abound, but there are no first hand accounts of what really goes on there. Perhaps it is just a myth and doesn't really exist. This year Professor David Roemer is about to find out.
THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MY SISTER by Lee Thomas was more of a psychological/mystery/suspense
Something horrible has happened to David's estranged sister. We don't know what, only that he is called to rush to the hospital, where slowly we learn how events from childhood led to the suffering of today.
MISCHIEF NIGHT by Holly Newstein When a man in an alcoholic stupor goes to investigate a noise in his basement what could possibly go wrong?
A solid 5 stars to each of those 3 stories and highly recommended for all fans of dark fiction.

I received an advance copy for review.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Blanky by Kealan Patrick Burke

In the wake of his infant daughter's tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.

Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter's old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers...except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.

Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer...

Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling "BABY CLOSE" at a discount.

The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter's room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve's shattered world.

Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.

A new novella from the Bram Stoker Award-Winning author of SOUR CANDY and KIN.

Another brilliant tale from the dark and twisted imagination of Kealan Patrick Burke.
It is told from the point of view of Steve Brannigan who has recently lost his only child.

"I loved her. One rainy night I put her to bed and when I woke up, she was dead. That was the beginning of the end of my world. This is the rest of it."

Mired in grief, and without the comfort of his wife, Steve spends his time with the TV,  a bottle, and his agonizing loneliness. When he discovers his daughter's "Blanky" in what should be her empty room it seems at first to bring about a way to reconnect with his wife. Until at last Steve remembers where Blanky has been, and that his baby daughter's death was not from natural causes.

5 out of 5 stars from me. This is a must read!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Dark Screams: Volume Eight- Edited by Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar


Available to preorder now at  Amazon ahead of the Halloween publication date!