Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Neighbor by London Clarke

 Claire Vogel is a recently divorced mother of four girls and a successful counselor living in a planned and prestigious community. She knows all her neighbors, and they know her. But Claire has a secret. To cope with hidden, deep-rooted pain, she often participates in risky, reckless behavior.

When the mysterious Steel Nolan moves in next door to Claire, their flirtation quickly develops into a deeper attraction. But soon after, Claire and her children contend with sleepwalking, shadow men, and disembodied voices.

As Claire begins to remember childhood memories and learns more about her new neighbor's past, her concern for her children's safety grows. Is Steel Nolan the man of her dreams … or the stuff of nightmares?

Terrifying and disturbing, The Neighbor explores the thrill of danger, the depths of evil, and the dark and sinister elements that can haunt us for a lifetime.

When I first read the description, and then got into the beginning of the book, I thought this was going to turn into one of those tawdry romance novels and that maybe the handsome hunk next door comes to the rescue of poor damsel in distress Claire. It's been a while since I've been so wrong! Yes Claire is a respected professional by day and a party girl by night if her kids are off with their father, but the new handsome hunk is not coming to anyone's rescue and sometimes you need to believe that pets and children can sense danger better than adults.

After getting involved with the new neighbor, Claire and her daughters begin to experience some very creepy happenings. Soon it becomes apparent that something supernatural is afoot in the entire neighborhood. This is no haunted house that you can just pack up and move away from.
I'm not going to get into the plot more than I have because it is best discovered for yourself. I will tell you it scared me. I read the first half very quickly because I was hooked from the start. Once I got to the halfway mark I kept putting it down. Not because it isn't good, but because it gave me the heebie jeebies. It takes a lot to scare me but The Neighbor did the trick.

5 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Goblin: A Novel in Six Novellas by Josh Malerman


Goblin seems like any other ordinary small town. But with the master storyteller Josh Malerman as your tour guide, you’ll discover the secrets that hide behind its closed doors. These six novellas tell the story of a place where the rain is always falling, nighttime is always near, and your darkest fears and desires await. Welcome to Goblin. . . .

A Man in Slices: A man proves his “legendary love” to his girlfriend with a sacrifice even more daring than Vincent van Gogh’s—and sends her more than his heart.

Kamp: Walter Kamp is afraid of everything, but most afraid of being scared to death. As he sets traps around his home to catch the ghosts that haunt him, he learns that nothing is more terrifying than fear itself.

Happy Birthday, Hunter!: A famed big-game hunter is determined to capture—and kill—the ultimate prey: the mythic Great Owl who lives in Goblin’s dark forests. But this mysterious creature is not the only secret the woods are keeping.

Presto: All Peter wants is to be like his hero, Roman Emperor, the greatest magician in the world. When the famous magician comes to Goblin, Peter discovers that not all magic is just an illusion.

A Mix-Up at the Zoo: The new zookeeper feels a mysterious kinship with the animals in his care . . . and finds that his work is freeing dark forces inside him.

The Hedges: When his wife dies, a man builds a hedge maze so elaborate no one ever solves it—until a little girl resolves to be the first to find the mysteries that wait at its heart.

These six novellas are all connected by the theme of a weird and creepy little town called Goblin. Other than the strange place with a dark history they don't share much else. I had high expectations from the start because I do love home town horror. In Goblin it rains all the time and people are buried standing up. The police force is referenced in a way that made me wonder whether the officers are human, or even alive. I will leave it to you to determine what they are when they play a more prominent role in the last story.  Aside from what is listed above there is also a bonus story told in two parts. It begins as a welcome and ends in an epilogue at the end of the book.

My favorite story was Presto which is about a boy who is obsessed with magic, and his favorite magician who comes to perform a midnight show in Goblin. I found it deliciously dark and creepy, and although I was interested in Peter I was mostly enjoying the back story of the magician who started out as a failure before making a pact that gave him real magic instead of tricks. This story was a 5 star read for me.
My least favorite was Mix Up at the Zoo. It had long passages of dream  scenes and the ending was too obvious from the start. I don't care for dream sequences and they always seem over used. It may just be me but when I see pages of italics and I know it's not happening but a dream of what's happening I get the urge to skim. This was a 2 star read for me.
A Man In Slices was a 4 star read for me. It was mainly about a strained childhood friendship, and letting the guilt one feels when wanting to cut ties with someone  hold you hostage when you are the only friend they have. If anything this story will convince you to make a clean break before it's too late.
The other three stories landed somewhere in the middle for me and if they were separate novellas I would give them 3 stars each. 
I was really enjoying the welcome part of the book and I was so into this story! I was dying to know what this delivery was about. When I finally got to the epilogue where this story continues I was hoping it was somehow going to tie everything together but it mostly stayed in it's own lane. 
All in all it was a decent collection that I would rate 3.25 out of 5 stars.

I received an advance copy for review.

Josh Malerman is the author of BIRD BOX and the singer/songwriter for the band THE HIGH STRUNG.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian


A young Puritan woman--faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul--plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive historical thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant.

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary's hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary--a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony--soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary's garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.

Mary tries to make the best of her marriage to Thomas Deerfield, and is as good a wife as she can possibly be considering that he treats her poorly when he is sober and violently when he is not. An act of increasing brutality is the final straw, and she attempts to escape this marriage. 

 In a time where a man's word is law and a woman's word carries very little weight in her own defense but is thought highly of should she accuse another of witchcraft or even adultery, Mary tries to navigate her way to freedom. Divorce is rare in these days, not for lack of wanting one but for the difficulty in obtaining one when a husband chooses not to allow it.

The author seems to have put in a lot of research hours to make the language of the day and the pervasive superstition and bigotry that blanketed that time period feel authentic.

I'm not sure I would consider this a thriller, but it is a compelling work of historical fiction with realistic characters and a thought provoking plot.

4 out of 5 stars

I received an advance copy for review.

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About the author

Monday, April 5, 2021

Dial M for Mutants! by Mat Thorne

 Welcome to 1994. Bill Clinton is the president, Twitter doesn’t exist, and The Midnight Extra is staring at you from every checkout lane and ratty newsstand along the East Coast. Hollywood scandals, wild gossip, and the occasional UFO. You just can’t miss it. You might want to, but you can’t.

The Midnight Extra isn’t much of a tabloid, but that’s never really bothered Buck Vincent. He isn’t much of a reporter. And in a paper notorious for Elvis sightings and celebrity sex gossip, Buck’s Can You Believe It?! section feels right at home. For twenty-nine years, he’s dreamt up stories about Bigfoot, aliens, ghouls, and monsters of every stripe, usually after a whiskey. Or four.

Problem is, Buck didn’t dream up his latest story. He’s seen the blood. And he’s met the strange, smiling woman haunted by something beastly in the night. Hell, he’s seen the damn thing himself.

Good thing he’s teamed up with rookie photographer Betty Roy. She may be a loose cannon, but she’s got more spine than Buck ever had. Gumption too. And together they’ll chase a story that might just be chasing them back. Something with teeth. Let’s just hope the story is worth all the trouble. Things are getting a little spooky.

Down and out tabloid reporter Buck is close to losing his job. He's been faking his sensationalist stories for years with photos using rubber masks and big foot costumes. His latest story, hell hounds from outer space is a huge flop, but he stumbles on to a real story with his reluctant new partner Betty at The Midnight Extra. 

When a woman calls the tabloid to report that she has seen Buck's hell hound and that it has eaten her husband, Buck and Betty are off to check it out. The unlikely duo discover more than they bargained for and may have uncovered the story of a lifetime, provided they live to see it published.

This was a fast paced wild romp. Sometimes funny, often creepy, always fun, and never a dull moment. Even though it was set firmly in the 90s I could picture Buck and Betty teaming up anywhere from an old film noir to a recent X files reboot. They make a great team.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a complimentary copy for review.

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About the author
Mat Thorne is a writer, designer, and photographer from West Virginia. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, daughter, and two strange cats. He enjoys monster movies, fantasy miniatures, baseball, and dumplings. "Dial M for Mutants!" is his first novel.