Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hark! the Herald Angels Scream edited by Christopher Golden

Eighteen stories of Christmas horror from bestselling, acclaimed authors including Scott Smith, Seanan McGuire, Josh Malerman, Michael Koryta, Sarah Pinborough, and many more.

That there is darkness at the heart of the Yuletide season should not surprise. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is filled with scenes that are unsettling. Marley untying the bandage that holds his jaws together. The hideous children--Want and Ignorance--beneath the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The heavy ledgers Marley drags by his chains. In the finest versions of this story, the best parts are the terrifying parts.
Bestselling author and editor Christopher Golden shares his love for Christmas horror stories with this anthology of all-new short fiction from some of the most talented and original writers of horror today.

Christmas horror in time for Halloween? Yes please! count me in! What a great way to kick off the holiday season. Not only do the herald angels scream, they bring you tidings of discomfort and fear. I love short horror stories in any season, but I savor them even more this time of year when busy schedules, holiday baking, and decorating the house for hordes of trick or treaters infringe on my reading time. Oh Dear, I didn't mean to sound like scrooge. There is just something so satisfying to me about being able to finish a long day of holiday chores and reward myself by sinking my teeth into a good story (instead of the Halloween candies or Christmas cookies) There are 18 tales in this goodie bag and I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite. I enjoyed most of them very much. In fact the first treat I pulled from this bag "Absinthe and Angels" by Kelly Armstrong was deliciously creepy and set the bar rather high for those that followed. There are stories of down and out husbands in search of the perfect gift to get back in their family's good graces. There's a newly single mom trying to cope with her first Christmas without her husband. There are holiday parties you are better off not invited to attend, a couple's first trip to Barcelona with their new baby in time for Christmas is one I will bet they never forget. A haunted hotel room, a tongue in cheek version of my all time least favorite song The Christmas shoes titled "Good Deeds" by Jeff Strand was a perfect fit for my twisted humor.
All in all this anthology was well worth a read.
4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.
Get a copy

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way


This twisty psychological thriller is told on 2 separate timelines, the present and the 1980s, and even if you figure out what one has to do with the other, the ending hits you like a freight train.
In the present, Clara and Luke have recently set up housekeeping and are madly in love when suddenly he disappears. At first Clara thinks he may have just had a few drinks and is sleeping it off somewhere but it soon becomes apparent that something more sinister is afoot. When Clare reports him missing, she learns some unsettling secrets that she was happier not knowing, and as she takes it upon herself to search for clues in his disappearance she learns some disturbing details that make her question how well she really knows him.
In the 1980s we meet Beth, a woman who longs to be a mother and who is finally blessed with a daughter that she and her husband Doug love more than life itself, even when it becomes apparent that their beautiful little girl doesn't seem to love them back, is unable to make friends, and terrorizes the other tots in daycare. Eventually we learn what these two timelines have in common but even then, this tangled web of lies holds another shocking secret.
5 out of 5 stars
I received an advance copy for review.

Get a copy

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Perfect Prophet by Diane M. Johnson

When atheistic death-metal guitarist Alec is shot on stage by a Satanic fan, his miraculous recovery inspires a change in his beliefs about God. But when he returns to his hometown to make amends with his family, he discovers that his strictly religious and abusive father has dark secrets that involve Alec and his role in a local Satanic cult.

Perfect Prophet is a dark, supernatural thriller where normal people who question the existence of God must choose what roles they will play in a battle over an unlikely savior's soul.

It's been a long time since I've come across a really satisfying Satanists versus the good guys story and that is just what Perfect Prophet delivers. I'm not going to get into the plot too much except to say I wasn't convinced this death metal band was going to interest me much. I was wrong.
 Race With The Devil is mentioned in the book but I was already reminded of it before then. It also has shades of Salem's Lot and Let's Scare Jessica To Death. No there are no vampires but you just never know who you can trust and who is in league with the devil.
5 out of 5 stars

I received an complimentary copy for review.

Get a copy

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson

From National Book Award finalist and the New York Times bestselling author of The Year We Left Home comes a moving family saga about three generations of women who struggle to find freedom and happiness in their small Midwestern college town.

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl is a poignant novel about three generations of the Wise family—Evelyn, Laura, and Grace—as they hunt for contentment amid chaos of their own making.

Evelyn set aside her career to marry, late, and motherhood never became her. Her daughter Laura felt this acutely and wants desperately to marry, but she soon discovers her husband Gabe to be a man who expects too much of everyone in his life, especially his musician son. Grace has moved out from Laura and Gabe’s house, but can’t seem to live up to her potential—whatever that might be.

In A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl we see these women and their trials, small and large: social slights and heartbreaks; marital disappointments and infidelities; familial dysfunction; mortality. Spanning from World War II to the present, Thompson reveals a matrilineal love story that is so perfectly grounded in our time—a story of three women regressing, stalling, and yes, evolving, over decades. One of the burning questions she asks is: by serving her family, is a woman destined to repeat the mistakes of previous generations, or can she transcend the expectations of a place, and a time? Can she truly be free?

Evelyn, Laura, and Grace are the glue that binds their family together. Tethered to their small Midwestern town—by choice or chance—Jean Thompson seamlessly weaves together the stories of the Wise women with humanity and elegance, through their heartbreaks, setbacks, triumphs, and tragedies.

I suppose anyone who is a daughter, or a  mother, or has lost a mother, will be able to find something to relate to in this book. I know I did. It is true that women have always been the glue that holds a family together, sometimes joyfully, other times not so much. This is the story of 3 generations of unhappy, dissatisfied, women who did the best they could with the hand they were dealt, and lived as best they could with the choices they made. It was not exactly a tear jerker although it was depressing at times. I wanted to remind each of these women that life is what you make of it. I wish someone had done that for them.

I received an advance copy for review.

Get a copy

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Let There Be Dark by Tim McWhorter

From an oddities shop looking to expand their macabre collection, to a back roads bridge with a horrifying past, Let There Be Dark is a collection of eight, sinister short stories full of ghostly phantoms, savage beasts, and the most frightening creature of all: humans. This first horror collection from the author of the best-selling novel, Bone White, thrusts you beyond the fringe and reminds us why we should all fear the dark.

As I finish up this collection of 8 short stories I am asking myself how I have never heard of Tim McWhorter. Do I live under a rock? This is not his first book but it is my first time reading this author. How am I the first one to review this? Where are all the horror lovers who should be enjoying the hell out of this and singing it's praises. Tim McWhorter said Let There Be Dark... and there was!

It takes a LOT to scare me. At least when it comes to books. Some of these stories had my heart pounding because they played off my real life fears. Especially "The Dark Side"
With the coming Halloween season my husband and I are preparing (as always) to visit multiple haunted house attractions, but we have never been to one of those black out houses. You know the kind where you walk through in absolute darkness? That is the premise of "The Dark Side" as a young couple prepare to make their way through, even though one of them really doesn't want to participate. Personally my real fear is that I would trip and break a hip in the dark or just plain get lost and never find my way out. I have absolutely no sense of direction. This is also the reason that the story "Growing Cold Together" had me nearly quaking with fear, before the scary parts even started. 2 sisters and a boyfriend are on a road trip on a bitter cold snowy Colorado road. They pull over for a bathroom break, the sister wanders into the woods and doesn't come back. I can easily see myself as the one lost in the woods.. and as the one left behind having no clue which way to go or how to find her. I am the kind of person who can come out of the grocery store and not know where the car is so picturing myself in their shoes gave me that dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach before the real horror even started... and it does get started. Believe me. I'm warning you. "The Bridge" is a chilling ghost story based on urban legend which just about every small town has a version of, though not nearly as compelling as this one. These stories were 5 star reads for me.
I also enjoyed "Rope Burns" about a trip to Salem for research on writing a thesis on how the witch trials influenced the legal system. Historical landmarks may not have been preserved but restless spirits can not be so easily washed away. "Pigs" finds a hapless photographer in need of cheap lodgings getting involved in some disturbing goings on at a pig farm.
In "No Saints Here" a would be lothario has his plans interrupted when he tries to force himself on the wrong woman. "Skull Session" concerns a young man attempting to sell a strange curio he bought online but unfortunately for him the buyer requires something else from him. These were 4 star reads for me. I hate to have to say that I have left out one story.. "The Company You Keep" that just simply was not for me. Others may enjoy it. I only skimmed it. I just can not muster up interest in anything to do with mafia, mobsters or whatever. It's not you, it's just me and I choose not to base my rating on that one story.

4.5 out of 5 stars
I received a complimentary copy for review.
Get a copy

 About the author
Tim McWhorter was born under a waning crescent moon, and while he has no idea what the significance is, he thinks it sounds really cool to say. A graduate of Otterbein College with a BA in Creative Writing, he is the author of the novella SHADOWS REMAIN, the suspense-thrillers, BONE WHITE, and its sequel, BLACKENED, and a collection of short stories titled SWALLOWING THE WORM. Described as "an intelligent thrill ride that presents itself as a love letter to slasher stories," BONE WHITE came in at #11 on HorrorUnderground's Top Books of 2015.

He lives the suburban life just outside of Columbus, OH, with his wife, a handful of children and a few obligatory 'family' pets that have somehow become solely his responsibility. He is currently hard at work on another thriller with just enough horror to keep you up at night. He is available for conversation through Twitter (@Tim_McWhorter), Facebook 
or his website

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Toy Thief by D.W. Gillespie


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The House by the Cemetery by John Everson

Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead... she doesn’t intend to stay that way.

When Mike is offered a job shoring up a ramshackle old house to  make it safe enough to walk through so that it can be turned into a Halloween attraction, he is not overly excited by the idea. For the last 50 years or so, rumors have circulated that this house is haunted. Not having worked steady for quite a while and in need of money he reluctantly agrees. There are strange happenings as soon as he starts working but for some reason a befuddled Mike doesn't quit his job. It kind of bothered me when Mike was not the least bit suspicious when a couple of random girls showed up to hang out at the house with him, and that he didn't seem to find it odd that he could be talking to them one minute and turn around and they were gone. It was just a bit too obvious and predictable for me. Towards the last half of the book there is lots of blood and gore for those of you who like the gross out factor but I just didn't find it to be as frightening as I had hoped.

I received an advance copy for review.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end.

What an intriguing read! When the Montrose family was forced by scandal to uproot their lives and flee the city, I at first thought to myself that surely it could not have been that severe, after all what was not considered scandalous in those days? The scandal itself is a bit of a mystery, and there are hints that it may have been caused by Lydia or by Catherine, but either way I could not wait to find out what it was. Once settled in their new home it seems that gossip has followed them, and sadly a tragedy is not far behind. The relationship between the sisters held me spellbound. For having been raised by the same parents in the same home, they could not have wound up more different from each other. This was a captivating work of historical fiction with a gothic ghost story feel, complete with heroes to cheer for and villains that I took delight in hating.

I received an advance copy for review.