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.

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