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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Cities of Men: A Novel by William Jensen

In 1987, twelve-year-old Cooper Balsam's mother, Arden, disappears without a trace. Cooper's father, Percy, a Vietnam veteran struggling with PTSD, doesn't seem too concerned. "This isn't the first time. She's done it before." As days pass, Cooper begins to act out and withdraw from the world, and his growing animosity toward his father's ambivalence begins to escalate even as Percy and Cooper begin to actively search for the woman in their lives. From the hills of Southern California, to the deserts of Arizona, and down to the beaches of Mexico, the father and son will look for someone who may not want to be found for reasons they don't yet understand.

Cooper, up until this point has been living an unremarkable life. His parents are neither rich nor poor, his house neither big nor small. His mother Arden seems to long for the finer things, not just for herself but she wants Cooper to want them for himself as well. His dad is a hard worker, and seems to be a good father and husband.
One day 12 year old Cooper and his father Percy come home from a movie to an empty house. Cooper's mom is gone. A note simply stating "good-bye. I've gone off on an adventure" is all she left behind. She didn't even bother to sign it.
Cooper is understandably shaken. He's also angry that his father Percy doesn't seem to share his concern. His attitude is "she's done it before" and he tells Cooper she'll be back.
As the days go by without Arlen's return, Cooper's anger needs an outlet and he begins to act out in inappropriate ways. He has nobody he can really confide in since his mother is the one he always felt able to talk to. He has no close friends, only the neighborhood ne'er-do-well who is a poor choice and a worse influence. The tension builds as Percy and Cooper begin searching for Arlen.
This was a tense but not over emotional read, touching on the subjects of depression, PTSD and parental relationships. It makes you wonder how much you really know about your parents, and how much you would really want to know.
4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Charming Predator by Lee Mackenzie