Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Angry Ghost and Other Stories by Peter Spokes

A collection of spooky ghost stories and dark tales based on the classic style of horror/supernatural writing, The Angry Ghost and Other Stories introduces a return to classic form with a fresh perspective. A man journeying to Cornwall seeking a Ghost - and flowers, an obnoxious bully being welcomed to spend the evening at an old museum, and an author of fictional horror unable to take his friend seriously when he’s told of the Werewolf roaming around his village are just three of a collection that will have you reading with every light on.

The stories have a chilling undertone, a sense of unease without outright horror which is matched by its cast of characters that run the gamut from the ordinary to the undead. These characters share the same fate, a confrontation with something unearthly and should not exist - that is, except in a world where creatures of darkness can still, occasionally, break through. The book also features a mix of voices, from first person to third, and from past to present tense which keeps the pace fast, exciting and varied. With descriptive language, the tales bring with them an atmosphere not easily shrugged off.

“Ultimately, the storyteller weaves his tale of dark possibilities to coax out and into the light creatures that may occasionally intrude upon the living, but never encroach upon or breach the shield of safety of the listener. For the listener is always safe from ghosts…almost always.”
A Note From the Publisher
Born in 1961, Peter Spokes has dedicated his working life to a career in the servicing of electronic test equipment. His love of literature - particularly classical horror and supernatural authors - has inspired him towards the creation of tales that he hopes are of a similar ilk

This collection had a very old fashioned vibe to it (which for me was not a bad thing.) It felt more like a screen play and in my mind I could picture the roles that Vincent Price and  Boris Karloff  would have been pleased to portray..
It is overflowing with beautifully crafted tales, a few of which were reminiscent of Poe.
There is a little suspense and a lot of sorrow here. Tales of ghosts and those who mourn for them, and tales of the dead who mourn for the living. Some had more modern touches of humor (wait until you meet Tommy the Tumor)
Not all are ghost stories. There are some monsters, and stories that venture into fantasy (I have a new appreciation for Seagulls now.)  A few were just not my cup of tea but that is the joy of short stories, there is something for everyone so take what you like and leave the rest.
4.5 out of 5 stars from me

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Better Off Dead by Michael Fleeman

Better Off Dead: A Sordid True Story Of Sex, Sin and Murder

A frustrated, unhappy wife. Her much younger, attentive lover. A husband who degrades and ignores her. The stage is set for a love-triangle murder that shatters family illusions and lays bare a quiet family community's seedy secret world of sex, sin and swinging.

BETTER OFF DEAD, the latest true crime book from New York Times bestselling author Michael Fleeman, strips away the pleasant veneer of the Silver Lakes neighborhood in California's high desert to tell a shocking story about a headline-grabbing crime.

Sabrina Limon, a vivacious blond mother of two and part-time "sample girl" at Costco, is handing out free food samples one day when in walks handsome young firefighter Jonathan Hearn shopping for the station.

Their conversation leads to a flirtation that leads to a steamy affair that has them hooking up once and twice a week at her home, his home, and out in hidden spots in the vast Mojave.

Sabrina finds in Jonathan's embrace the love and understanding she lacks at home. To the outside world, husband Robert is a big tattooed teddy bear of a man, a hard-working railroad mechanic, loved by all. This gregarious couple seemed matched by their love of family, friends and good times.
But the partying had gotten out of control for Sabrina. There was boozing and wife-swapping and group sex. Once a turn-on, it now left Sabrina feeling debased, dehumanized, spiritually adrift. Robert won't talk about it, consumed by his work, boat, truck and porn.

With Jonathan showering Sabrina with poetry, gifts, religious insights and, of course, illicit sex, a devious plan is hatched; one hot August night Robert Limon is found dead of two gunshots in a pool of blood
False leads send police into dead-ends until a tip arrives from a most unexpected place. For Sabrina, it's a stunning betrayal that hurtles the case back to a perfect little place in the desert. With informants, undercover cops and wiretaps, investigators discover a romance fueled by lies and dangerous fantasies.
But are Sabrina and Jonathan merely covering up an affair? Or are they hiding a conspiracy that led to murder?

You may or may not recall this trial, it was not that many years ago. I do remember hearing a bit about it myself in the news. Happy family man Robert Limon was killed in cold blood while at work one day. His poor wife devastated, and left to raise their two young children on her own. But was she as lost and alone without her husband as she wanted to appear? Gradually the story spilled out, of the church going but hard partying couple who liked to get drunk and swap sexual partners on their weekend getaways. When Sabrina Limon went from stay at home mom to part time Costco sample girl she wasn't plotting to kill her husband. But sometime shortly after beginning a flirtatious relationship with a young fireman she met there, their ponderings on how nice it would be to have her husband out of the way transformed from fantasy to cold blooded murder. This was a fascinating fact based account of the events before and during the murder trial.
4 out of 5 stars
I received a complimentary copy for review

Friday, February 23, 2018

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Gone Girl meets The Omen....a twisty, delirious read that will constantly question your sympathies for the two characters as their bond continues to crumble.” —Entertainment Weekly

"A pulse-spiking thriller." —PopSugar

“Unnerving and unputdownable, Baby Teeth will get under your skin and keep you trapped in its chilling grip until the shocking conclusion.” —New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline

Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

Alex and Suzette are madly in love, the perfect couple, a match made in heaven. What a blessing a baby could be to this union. How lucky a child would be to have such loving and devoted parents. Suzette is especially determined to be a better parent than she had, to be the mother she wished she had instead of the neglectful and uncaring mother who was too wrapped up in herself to even notice that Suzette needed medical care. Sadly, no amount of love and attention seems to please Hanna unless it comes from her father. Suzette's days are spent taking Hanna to appointment after appointment in search of a reason for her lack of speech. Home schooling Hanna as best she can since she can't fit in at school, and being the object of Hanna's hatred. When Alex is home Hanna is all smiles. the perfect little silent angel. But Alex can't always be there, and when he is he prefers to bury his head in the sand. Meanwhile Hanna's hatred for her mother is escalating into something dangerous. Does Hanna have reason to hate her mother or is she just a born psycho? You be the judge.
4 out of 5 stars from me.

I received an advance copy for review

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Final Season: A Lovecraftian Quartet by Wahabah Hadia Al Mu'id

Truth and fiction meet in this collection of unnerving tales that merge Lovecraft with actual paranormal experiences, current events and conspiracy.

The only positive thing I can offer about this collection of 4 short stories is that when the second story began with 
"I should have known that something was up when the cat brought in a mouse she’d caught and I absently took it from her and ate it."

I knew this would likely remain as one of the top 10 most memorable opening lines to any short story I have ever read. It was also the only story out of the 4 that I came close to enjoying. I like stories that I can get lost in. I like stories that make me feel something. These were more like reading a lecture with no suspense and nobody to care about.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Forsaken: Stories of Abandoned Places

We’ve all seen them.
The abandoned gas station, its pumps gone to rust. The once popular diner, now boarded up, its bright colors fading. A luxury yacht, adrift and alluring. An amusement park, once filled with the laughter of children, now a place of eerie silence.
A church, a factory, a drive-in. Once hives of activity, now they stand mute, each one containing its share of memories…and secrets.
In this collection, editors Joe McKinney and Mark Onspaugh select twenty-two guides who take you to those places of barely glimpsed phantoms and uneasy mysteries, including contributions by Deborah LeBlanc, Harvey Jacobs, Gene O'Neill, Piers Anthony, Lisa Morton, and many others!

I love short horror stories and these 22 dark tales  will make you wonder whether abandoned places are really as empty as they appear.
My favorites were The Storybook Forest by Norman Prentiss in which a small group of friends gather in an abandoned children's theme park for a few beers and a night of terror. Along that same theme was Lullaby Land by Mark Onspaugh. A once crowded theme park long since closed after a tragedy... but children still manage to find their way there as kidnappers Mitch and Del are about to discover. The Theater by Dennis Copelan finds Leonard Brown, taking a bittersweet final walk through of  his movie theater before signing the final sale papers.
Drive-In of the Damned by Michael Arruda was another of my favorites. Three paranormal investigators stake out a haunted drive in hoping to gain enough popularity on their YouTube channel to get a tv show. Bodies Without Souls by L.L. Soares finds Michael about to give a beach party while his parents are away, when an empty yacht mysteriously floats into easy reach. What's the worst that could happen if he turns his beach party into a boat party?  Emily by JW Schnarr is the story of a missing girl and what happens to two friends who joined her search party in the woods.
High Desert by Lisa Morton finds Kara seeking shelter from the heat when Tadd goes off for help after they have car trouble in the desert while checking out an area where a religious cult mysteriously disappeared. Dream Home by D.L. Snell  is not exactly about a haunted house, but a house that will haunt you. The Pressboard Factory by Peter N. Dudar was my absolute favorite. Billy and Ryan grew up together, but were not much alike. Ryan was picked on, belittled and bullied not just at school but abused at home right up until the day he just couldn't take it anymore.
All of the above, for me were the 5 star stories in this collection.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Defiant Souls by Kathleen Chadwick

When Kyle Chase accepted his Aunt Cindy’s invitation to spend his summer vacation with her, he thought they would be exploring old caves, looking for arrow heads, and honing his skills as a young Archeologist. He never dreamed the fate of the world would rest on his small shoulders. Kyle, his aunt and a small group of travelers have been imprisoned by a mad-man.
Man’s arrogance has opened a doorway of evil and it’s up to Kyle to close it. He will need to trust in his sixth sense, strength, and intellect to escape and find the one man who can help him destroy the evil that holds them captive.
First off look at this gorgeous cover! That is what first caught my eye before I even read the description.
Kyle's vacation pretty much goes off the rails as he is thrust into a battle of good against evil when he and his aunt are hijacked on the road by an otherworldly being. It was a pretty creative story and although I read a lot of horror I was surprised by some of the gruesome events and language since this was categorized under the teen and YA section. It didn't bother me, but it may bother some who are expecting something a little more tame.
I received a complimentary copy for review.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Final Goodbyes by Signe Christensen

Sophie Weeks is trying to come to terms with the horrifying murders of her brother and his family. In an attempt to find closure Sophie moves in to her brother's old home. Little did she expect the nightly horrors she is about to encounter.

Sophie is devastated to hear that her brother and his family have been found dead. What's worse is that her sister-in-law and 5 year old niece have been brutally murdered and the police believe her brother is their killer and that he took his own life to escape the consequences of his crimes.
Sophie feels strongly that the killer is still out there and she will not rest until she uncovers the truth with or without the help of police.
This was a suspenseful mystery/thriller. I enjoyed it although I felt the dialogue could benefit from a bit of editing and an occasional use of contractions to make it more natural sounding.

I received a complimentary copy for review.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sinner by Christopher Graves

As a direct descendant of the 19th century vigilante gang, the Bald Knobbers, Ezekiel Woods, Jr. has been indoctrinated into a world ruled by violence and a literal interpretation of the bible his entire life. Now, over a hundred years later, Zeke continues his ancestors’ crusade, spending his days camouflaged as an aloof middle-aged grocery store sacker and his nights in a farmhouse cellar, preparing captives’ souls for their ultimate destiny: redemption or death. His latest abductee, an indomitable Texan working her way through a third-life crisis, chooses another option: escape. Zeke must recapture this lost sheep or face a consequence far worse than any worldly fate: that God has forsaken him.
Available for pre-order

Zeke is a religious fanatic from a long line of murderous child abusing nut jobs who seem to think they are on a mission from God to dole out retribution. With an affinity for torture and murder that could  only be surpassed by Leatherface, Zeke is racking up the body count as he rids the world of "sinners" who of course are women. Not all women are so easily dispatched as Zeke finds out the hard way when one in particular refuses to be his victim in a highly suspenseful heart stopping conclusion.
4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review

About the Author:
Christopher Graves is an actor, filmmaker and award-winning screenwriter based in New York City.
Some of his performance credits include Sneaky Pete, Divorce, The Blacklist, Shades of Blue, Nurse Jackie, as well as many network on-camera and voice-over commercials for national brands.
He is the creator and writer of the comedic web series, With Friends Like These and the feature-length screenplay, Sinner, which was named Best Psychological Thriller Script by the New Hope International Film Festival.
Born in the hills of Mt. Vernon, Missouri, his introduction to the thriller genre started early. At five years old, his mother abducted him along with his younger siblings and fled across the country. They were given new names, a new home and a new beginning–until they were discovered and had to move again.
By the time he accepted his high school diploma (from the tenth school he had attended), Christopher had developed an intense affection for the terrifying plots of authors like Thomas Harris, David Lozell Martin, and James Patterson. Identifying with the grittiness in many of those stories, he had grown fond of the adrenaline surges that come with running and hiding.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two judgmental Siberian cats.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Lost and Lonely by Brian James Freeman

This new collection by Brian James Freeman features characters who are haunted by horrors they think are out of their control, but perhaps the source of their greatest terrors is closer to home than they ever feared possible.

In "Losing Everything Defines You," a bestselling author's family mysteriously vanished three months ago, yet if they're really missing, why is he hearing footsteps in the hallway outside his bedroom every night?

Patty knows that everyone makes mistakes in life and when it comes to "Loving Roger," she wants to fix the errors of her ways and make everything right again.

William Carver and his family fled the colonies to escape a monster stalking their community, but the western plains might not be the safe haven they had hoped for once they hear "How The Wind Lies."

When Melissa was a little girl, her father told her that all children were like "Perfect Little Snowflakes," each was different and unique in conception, but you never knew where they would land once they hit the ground.

And finally, a mother doesn't remember when the coldness began to fester inside her and now she's terrified for her baby as she suffers from "The Plague of Sadness."

These five thought-provoking stories show why Stewart O'Nan has said Freeman's writing has "great velocity and impact," and why Publishers Weekly has called his work "highly readable."

This exquisite collection of short stories by Brian James Freeman will be released next month from Cemetery Dance Publications. Each story is a delicious bite sized morsel of horror, heart-ache, and loss. From loss of a relationship, to loss of a child, the common thread woven through each story is emotional trauma, each one leaving me more unsettled than before.
5 out of 5 stars
I received an advance copy for review