Book Review and Giveaway When Blood Reigns by Barbara Custer

Title: When Blood Reigns
Author: Barbara Custer
Genre: Horror / Science Fiction
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Marked for death, Alexis accompanies her lover, Yeron, and four survivors of a zombie invasion on a search for the renegades who created a chemical that induces a zombie-like state. On the way, ravenous flesh-eaters attack Alexis’s team; one survivor turns on her. She realizes too late that the renegades have been tracking her every move. When officials capture her, she becomes deathly ill. Can DNA splicing save her? Will Yeron’s attempts at rescue jeopardize all their lives?

I started reading When Blood Reigns right after I finished watching Van Helsing, a tv series about a zombie apocalypse with vampires instead of zombies. Both put me in the same mindset: slightly spooked, slightly paranoid, afraid a zombie might turn up any moment, feeling like I couldn’t trust a single of the characters besides the main character, and that not all survivors might have the best of intentions.
Alexis is an intriguing protagonist, and I particularly liked how she grew and changed throughout the book. The author’s combination of a zombie apocalypse with aliens and science-fiction elements is a huge bonus too. The Kryszka, as the aliens are called in this book, have a hand in the zombie apocalype now infesting earth, and that’s an unique spin. I don’t want to give anymore away about the relationships between the main cast, the zombeies, and the Kryszka, but it’s very compelling and entertaining.
As with all apocalypse survivor stories, you get a sense of hopelessness. Not only is the world getting destroyed, there’s also no one left to trust. Good guys turn into bad guys. People who should rely on each other, betray each other.
The writing is solid, and once I started reading, I kept turning page after page, curious to find out what would happen next to these characters. Not for the faint of heart (it is horror, after all) but definitely an enjoyable, suspenseful read for fans of horror and scifi.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Pretty Wicked by Kelly Charron

31394680Title: Pretty Wicked

Author: Kelly Charron

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating:4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided through Netgalley.

The daughter of a local police detective, fifteen-year-old Ryann has spent most of her life studying how to pull off the most gruesome murders her small Colorado town has ever seen.
But killing is only part of it. Ryann enjoys being the reason the cops are frenzied. The one who makes the neighbors lock their doors and windows on a hot summer’s day. The one everyone fears but no one suspects.
Carving out her own murderous legacy proves harder than she predicted. Mistakes start adding up. And with the police getting closer, and her own father becoming suspicious, Ryann has to prove once and for all that she’s smarter than anyone else—or she’ll pay the ultimate price.
Written in a mature YA voice. Some graphic content.

Let me start by saying that something was up with the formatting of the review copy I got through Netgalley. Some pages appeared twice throughout the book, others simply vanished, making me jump from one paragraph to the other and missing vital info. Maybe because of that I couldn’t give it a five star rating – I did enjoy it, but the missing pages were frustrating, and they made me feel like I missed vital parts of the book.

Either way, back to the story. Ryann is fifteen years old, and she wants to commit a murder. More than wanting to, she actually goes ahead with it. This starts a game of cat and mouse between Ryann and her father, a police detective, and the rest of the police squad. But Ryann has spent most her life studying from the Greats, so she knows how to cover up her tracks, and how to make it difficult for the police to catch her.

This is an unique plot, and the story worked well. Ryann is a believable character, despite her many, many flaws, and I could even understand why she acted the way she did – I would never condone murder, of course, but Ryann didn’t do it out of the blue. She’s an incredibly intriguing protagonist, the kind that haunts you longer after you finished reading. For someone so far removed from what society considers “normal”, it’s creepy how relatable Ryann is.

She did make some fatal flaws, and errors that made her look amateurish – but what can you expect from a fifteen-year-old? I also liked her diverse cast of friends. Interesting to read a slasher book from the POV of the killer.

If you enjoyed a thrilling, creepy YA thriller, I recommend Pretty Wicked.

Book Review: Little Killers A to Z

30618496Title: Little Killers A to Z
Author: Howard Odentz
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Young Adult and up
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Bad things come in small packages . . .
EPIC Award finalist Howard Odentz has penned twenty-six disturbingly fascinating horror stories about the youngest predators among us.
From Andy and Boris to Yuri and Zena, this eclectic anthology is filled, A to Z, with psychopaths, monsters, and murderers!
So turn on the lights and huddle under your blankets because murder isn’t just for grown-ups anymore. Come meet our gallery of little killers.
After all, they’re dying to meet you!
Author and playwright Howard Odentz is a lifelong resident of the gray area between Western Massachusetts and North Central Connecticut. His love of the region is evident in his writing as he often incorporates the foothills of the Berkshires and the small towns of the Bay and Nutmeg states into his work.
5 Stars “a relentless, thrilling ride” – Court Street Literary, on Bloody Bloody Apple.
“Howard Odentz takes this mis-mosh of dysfunctional characters and puts together a wonderful story that is equal parts horror and love.” – Scared Stiff Reviews, on Bloody Bloody Apple.

Little Killers A to Z: An Alphabet of Horror is, as the name suggests, a collection of horror short stories featuring children. Twenty-six tales, most of them very entertaining. As with all collections, I liked some more than others, but the writing quality in all stories is very high, almost lyrical, and the author has a knack for writing entertaining, original stories, and setting the mood in just a few pages.

Some of the stories featured monster-kids, others kids who had turned into murderers, yet others featured veeeeery creepy kids. Some of the stories were creepier than others, but I liked the majority of them, and in general, I found that the quality of storytelling was very high.

I loved this book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark fiction / horror, and short stories.

Book Review: The Incurables by Jon Bassoff

27478754Title: The Incurables

Author: Jon Bassoff

Genre: Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The year is 1953. Disgraced in the psychiatric hospital where he’d practiced for nearly thirty years, Dr. Walter Freeman has taken to traversing the country and proselyting about a very new kind of salvation: the transorbitol lobotomy. With an ice pick and a hammer, Freeman promises to cure depression and catatonia, delusions and psychosis, with a procedure as simple and safe as curing a toothache. When he enters the backwater Oklahoma town of Burnwood, however, his own sanity will be tested. Around him swirls a degenerate and delusional cast of characters-a preacher who believes his son to be the Messiah, a demented and violent young prostitute, and a trio of machete-wielding brothers-all weaved into a grotesque narrative that reveals how blind faith in anything can lead to destruction.

In The Incurables by Jon Bassoff, excellent writing meets with an intriguing set of characters. Dr. Walter Freeman travels the country in 1953 after being fired from a psychiatric hospital. He promises to end depression, catatonia, psychosis, and so on, with nothing but an ice pick and a hammer – lobotomy. But when he enters Burnwood, his own sanity is about to be tested. A delusional, degenerate cast passes by, each of them unique, crazy, and testing his sanity.

The characterization was amazing. Bassoff succeeds in making all his characters, no matter how ridiculous and over the top they sound, feel like real, existing people. The crazier they are, the more he succeeds in bringing them to life. The story is bleak, dark, depressing, but it challenges the reader to question what it means to be sane or insane, and how thin the line between both really is.

Book Review: Mr. Nasty by Leo Darke

25835403Title: Mr. Nasty

Author: Leo Darke

Genre: Horror, Gore, Supernatural Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Cut!Film and TV extras are turning up butchered on set, the only clues being VHS cassettes of infamous, banned “Video Nasties” on the site of each horrific murder. Is a copycat killer at large, inspired by the vile acts depicted in the notorious tapes? Or could the monstrous characters from the nasties themselves be escaping their VHS clamshells to stalk the land?When supporting actor Tommy Wallace finds both his past and the nasties catchingup with him, surely it’s time to press Eject for the last time. Or is this one obsolete format that just refuses to die? Something is thriving on the violence inspired by the tapes, feeding on a diet of Nazi death camp atrocities, axings and mutilation. And the banned play on…

 In Mr. Nasty, we meet with Tommy Wallace, a movie extra who had the nasty habit of watching “Video Nasties”, banned VHS cassettes back in his teen years. When a fellow extra is brutally murdered, Tommy happens to be on site, and he recognizes the “Video Nasty” VHS tape left behind at the crime scene. The detective who investigates the case, Slade, is instantly wary of Tommy and plans to keep a sharp eye on him.

Tommy tries to get rid of his own collection of “Video Nasties”, a task which grows more pressing as he’s once again an extra on set when another murder happens. And when the unthinkable happens and those “Video Nasties” turn out all too real, Slade and Tommy must combine forces to stop them, or die trying, which sounds more and more likely with every passing page.

The book has a great premise. 39 videos got banned in the UK in the 1980s and a killer reenacting murders from those videos and then leaving tapes behind, that’s just plain genius. The writing is solid for the most part, except that it drags a little. The character exposition, which takes up about half of the book, takes entirely too long, especially considering neither of the main characters turns out to be very sympathetic. Slade is arrogant and a jerk, and Tommy is obsessed with woman, falls in love with every woman who risks to give him the time of day, and ultimately I just couldn’t connect with either of them.

The second part is filled with good, old-fashioned gore, and despite being gruesome, it’s also easily the most enjoyable of both parts. Just not for the faint of heart, though.

So all in all, definitely not a bad read, but the characters are hard to sympathize with.

Book Review: The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated) by Ainslie Hogarth

25264711Title: The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated)

Author: Ainslie Hogarth

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal, Magical Realism

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Noelle takes a summer nightshift job at the infamous Boy Meets Girl Inn, even though she’s well aware of the grisly murders that happened there decades ago. That’s why she has a diary—to write down everything she experiences in case things go bump in the night. But the inexplicable freezing drafts, the migrating rotten-flesh smell, and the misplaced personal items don’t really scare her. Noelle has bigger problems: her father’s ailing health, her friend Alfred’s inappropriate crush, and the sore spot on the back of her head that keeps getting worse.
When a party commemorating the anniversary of the original killings ends in a ghoulish bloodbath, Noelle’s diary becomes the key piece of evidence for investigators. But the cryptic and often incoherent entries suggest there is more to the bizarre case than can be rationally explained…

After reading and reviewing The Lonely by Ainslie Hogarth, which I thought was an amazing read, I just had to read her second book. The books aren’t related, nor are they part of the same series, but they do have some of the same qualities. Both books have a magical surrealism theme going on, making the reader question what is real and what is just in the character’s minds. I love those types of books, so naturally, I loved this one too.

The book starts out rather cryptic. Noelle and her best friend Alf take on summer nightshift jobs at the infamous Boy Meets Girl Inn – a place where several decades ago, some grisly murders happened. Murders that included the perp eating people. Yep, they’re that horrific. So Noelle and Alf go to the inn hoping to find signs of a haunting, and of course, to invite all their friends (and the kids from school they just want to impress) to the Anniversary – of the murder, of course. Or of the last murder to be precise. But while some strange things happen, like the bathroom light turning on all by itself, Noelle doesn’t really get scared. She has al ot more to worry about – for instance, the diary she started, and that now seems to have a life of its own. Then there’s her Dad’s illness, which makes it almost impossible for him to go out or take care of himself, and leaves her in the tough position of having to be his personal nurse twenty-four/seven. Then there’s also the sore spot on the back of her head. She’s been touching it for years, sometimes even scratching it, but the last few weeks, the pain has been getting worse, and going into patterned space (which usually helps) doesn’t do the trick anymore….

The book has an unique format. We start out with an introduction to the case – apparently the bodies of Noelle and some of her friends were found after a massacre at the inn, and Noelle’s diary is the only piece of evidence that might explain what happened. A film maker bought the diary from a retired detective, in an effort to turn it into a movie. Then we get Noelle’s diary, and from then on, apart from some annotations (like the title suggests), it’s Noelle doing the talking.

I loved the unique format, and I think that, along with the author’s unique writing style, is what worked for me the most. The story isn’t all that original – a haunted inn, a murder/massacre – but the author adds so many cool and fun elements that it reads unlike anything I’ve read before, making it unique. We get the sore spot on Noelle’s head, and wonder what the connection is. Is Noelle seeing ghosts, or is she going crazy? Then in her diary, Noelle says some pretty intense stuff, and again, the reader is left to wonder. The book has a high level of gore though, but for me, I didn’t really mind, if anything, it made Noelle appear more realistic that she talked about gory stuff too.

If you don’t mind books that’ll have you scratching your head (hopefully not on a sore spot, like Noelle) and leave you baffled at the end, and have a high creep factor and some gore, then you should absolutely, definitely, no doubt in my mind, read The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated). It’s amazing.

Book Review: Darkness Rising by Brian Moreland

25734521Title: Darkness Rising

Author: Brian Moreland

Genre: Horror, Supernatural Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It’s all fun and games until…

Marty Weaver, an emotionally scarred poet, has been bullied his entire life. When he drives out to the lake to tell an old friend that he’s fallen in love with a girl named Jennifer, Marty encounters three sadistic killers who have some twisted games in store for him. But Marty has dark secrets of his own buried deep inside him. And tonight, when all the pain from the past is triggered, when those secrets are revealed, blood will flow and hell will rise.

In Darkness Rising, Marty Weaver has been bullied his entire life, and not just by his peers, but by ust about everyone. His past was filled with tragedy, and the only source of light in his life is his love for Jennifer, the first girl who ever seemed interested in him, and who might even love him back. Second to that is his love for poetry – he’s been writing poems as a way to get rid of the pain he feels over his past and over being bullied. But when he drives to a nearby lake and runs into three sadistic killers who want to kill him, shoot it on camera, and have some sadistic fun while doing so, something dark erupts from within Marty, and the demons of his past have come back with a vengeance. One may ask themselves te question who is more twisted that night at the lake: the killers, or Marty.

For a novella, this book packs a whole lot, and brings an awful lot of depth to its main character, Marty.  He is so realistic one could almost picture him as a real person. In comparison, the killers are too thin, too easily falling back into stereotypes. We’re given little reason as to why they’re doing the killing (well, we are giving a reason, but not what would bring them to do such a thing) and they seem just too evil just for the purpose of being evil, not for any deeper reason.

The plot is original though, I have to credit that, and I didn’t know what to expect half the time. The prose is haunting in a good way, and as a whole, the novella is definitely impressive. If you’re a fan of horror that doesn’t shy away from some gore, then give this book a shot.

Book Review: A Debt to be Paid by Patrick Lacey

25736687Title: A Debt to be Paid

Author: Patrick Lacey

Genre: Horror, Psychological Thriller

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Nowhere to run!

Gillian Foster is desperate. She received a very strange letter in the mail not long ago. Since then, she’s been seeing shadowy figures everywhere. Coming for her. Frantic to find a safe place, she leaves home with her daughter Meg, only to find there is no way to outrun her pursuers.

Twenty years later, Gillian has been admitted to Hawthorne Psychiatric Facility. Meg receives a similar letter and is hunted by an unseen force. Is Meg also mentally ill, or are these creatures real? And if so, was her mother right all those years ago? Is there no place to hide?

In A Debt to be Paid, Gillian Foster has been seeing shadowy figures ever since receiving a strange letter in the mail. In an effort to save her daughter Meg and herself from what these figures have in store for them, she kidnaps her daughter and travels halfway across the country, only to find out shadows are not that easily outrun.

Twenty years later, Gillian is in a psychiatric facility and hasn’t spoken in ages. Meanwhile, Meg is struggling to make a life for herself working in a bank. But when the same shadows turn up after all these years, intent on hurting her, she starts to wonder if her mother was suffering from psychosis all those years ago, or if the shadows were real all along.

Although the story doesn’t sound that original – a woman seeing shadows, everyone thinks it’s mental illness but the shadows turn out to be real – it didn’t bother me that much, since the writing was great and managed to pull me into the story. The character dynamic worked well too, although I didn’t care much for the love interest. It read too much like insta-love and ultimately he didn’t add much to the story. It would’ve been better had the focus stayed on Meg and her relationship with her mother.

The plot is fast-paced and the novella never slows down. It was over before I realized it. A solid read, not the most original story, but the writing and characters make it worthwhile.

Book Review: Goblins by David Bernstein


25602398Title: Goblins

Author: David Bernstein

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

They want the children!

Someone is taking children from their homes on Roanoke Island and gruesomely slaughtering their families.
After a small, hideous-looking creature is discovered at one of the murder scenes, Chief of Police Marcus Hale realizes whatever is responsible for the killings isn’t even human. Hale suspects a bizarre link to the past, to the end of the 16th Century, when the island’s first settlers disappeared, leaving only the word Croatoan carved into a tree.
But something far more sinister than he ever imagined is at work. And if it isn’t stopped soon, the entire island’s population will perish. Just like it did so many centuries ago.

 In Goblins, the horror starts from the first five pages, and from then on, it’s a never-ending, gore-filled ride of creepy twists and turns that, if it doesn’t manage to creep you out, at least manages to make you lose your appetite. What starts with an innocent baseball game soon turns into a murder on a little boy, and to a group of goblin-nasties invading the nearby town. Everyone is on high alert but police is in the dark about what exactly they’re fighting, until one resident realizes the goblins are a blast from the past, and that if they’re not stopped, the whole town’s population will disappear the way they did centuries ago.

Chief Hale, one of the police officers, is the storyteller for most of the time. He’s a no-nonsense type of guy forced into a horrible situation. We don’t get a lot of background on him, but that doesn’t matter much as the focus is on the action and on whatever horrific is going to happen next. However, at times when the character’s background is explained, this often coincides with the action sequences, which doesn’t always work well. Especially toward the end where it’s obvious some characters won’t survive and yet the author still dives into their backstory, it made me skip a few paragraphs, if not pages, to get back to the action.

This book’s main quality isn’t the creep factor, but the gore. Since the horror is immediate, there’s no real fear to be felt, but the gore is described in graphic detail and it works well. The end result is a fun blood fest of a book, featuring goblins.

Book Review: The Doorway by Alan Spencer

25715303Title: The Doorway

Author: Alan Spencer

Genre: Horror, Supernatural Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 1 star

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The dead work in mysterious ways.

Morty Saggs is desperate when his wife, Glenda, turns up missing. But all evidence points to Glenda never having left the house. Soon, odd smells permeate the property, and sometimes the doorway to his bedroom burns a hideous red. Is Morty going crazy, or did the house do something with Glenda? Is there some connection to the house’s previous owner, a vicious murderer named Ted Lindsey? All of Morty’s questions will be answered on the night the burning doorway opens—the night when the trap is sprung.

I struggled to finish The Doorway. It has nothing to do with the premise, which is rather intriguing, but everything to do with the dull dialogue, the unbelievable plot, the telling instead of showing and the head-hopping from one character to another. The writing needs a lot of work, and I doubt that if it hadn’t been the only book I had available at the time, I would’ve made it to the end.

First, the plot. Morty Saggs is desperate when his wife Glenda goes missing. All evidence points to Glenda never having left the house, and the police soon suspect Morty, but his family and friends are convinced he’s innocent. Strange smells permeate the house, and the doorway to Morty’s bedroom burns an eerie red color. He starts to suspect the doorway may have something to do with Glenda’s disappearance, and that it’s somehow connected to the house’s previous owner, a murderer named Ted Lindsey.

The way the doorway worked was the best part of the book, but unfortunately it was just about the only part that was good. The dialogue is stiff and unnatural, with the characters using each other’s names way too often. None of the characters, including Morty, felt real. It was impossible to connect to any of them. The author also had a habit of telling everything that happened rather than showing us, often even jumping into another character’s mind. This even occured in the same paragraph a few times, where the author starts in Morty’s POV but then switches to Morty’s daughter’s POV halfway through.

Also, how many people can disappear thorugh this doorway before someone alerting, I don’t know, the FBI? The killings are way over the top and would’ve been way more effective had only a few people gone through and gotten hurt, rather than at least a dozen.

Despite having an interesting premise, it’s just not worth struggling to page after page of bad writing.