Book Review: The Trees Grew Because I Bled There by Eric LaRocca

Title: The Trees Grew Bexcause I Bled There
Author: Eric LaRocca
Genre: Horror, Anthology, Dark Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon

A beautifully crafted, devastating short fiction collection from the Bram-Stoker finalist and author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes. Includes an introduction from acclaimed bestselling author Chuck Wendig.

Eight stories of dark fiction from a master storyteller. Exploring the shadow side of love, these are tales of grief, obsession, control. Intricate examinations of trauma and tragedy in raw, poetic prose. A woman imagines horrific scenarios whilst caring for her infant niece; on-line posts chronicle a cancer diagnosis; a couple in the park with their small child encounter a stranger with horrific consequences; a toxic relationship reaches a terrifying resolution…

A beautifully crafted, devastating short fiction collection from the Bram Stoker Awards® finalist and author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes.

The Trees Grew Because I Bled There is a collection of dark fiction / horror stories by Eric LaRocca, the author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We First Spoke. I enjoyed Things Have Gotten Worse Since We First Spoke, so when I saw Eric LaRocca had another upcoming collection, I jumped at the chance.

The book is quite short, or maybe it just felt that way because it’s just so enthralling to read LaRocca’s lyrical prose sketching horrors on the pages. He manages to describe the most horrific scenes in such exquisite detail, using such luxurious prose that the reader can’t help but feel fascinated and disgusted at the same time–and that’s a real skill, as an author.

The stories are also unique, each offering a fresh perspective or an interesting twist I didn’t see coming. Some stories start out familiar – or you think you’re in a familiar tale, a classic trope you’ve come to know quite well after devouring countless horror books – only to find yourself in an altogether different story. The characters breathe life on the pages, each of them complete, three-dimensional beings with desires, aspirations and most importantly: flaws.

For me personally, the most unsettling story of the collection was Bodies Are for Burning. Mostly because I’ve recently become a mother (my sweetie just four months old now), and the thoughts the main character has toward children here, are just plain disturbing. Very well written, though, and an excellent investigation of what thoughts can do to a person, and how we’re sometimes forced to fight our own most disturbing thoughts.

One of my favorite stories was The Trees Grew Because I Bled There – gods, that was disturbing but for whole other reasons. Relationships should be balanced, but here, eh, not so much. In fact, if you really picture what is happening in this story, it’s quite sickening.

If you enjoy dark fiction, then don’t hesitate. Read this collection. The prose is haunting, the stories offer twists that will leave you surprised even after you’ve finished reading them, and well, it’s just downright brilliant. Recommended to just about everyone who enjoys darker stories.

Mini-Review: Babylon Terminal, Nausea, The Darkest Corners


Time for some mini-reviews! What are mini-reviews, you ask? As the title suggests, these are short reviews, consisting of one paragraph tops, about a book. It’s a way to catch up on the books I’ve read a while ago, but never got around to reviewing.

Babylon Terminal

Tite: Babylon Terminal

Author: Greg F. Gifune

Genre: Horror

Rating: 3,5 stars

In a nightmare world of darkness and violence lies a city that is home to those who inhabit the dreams of the living, those who sleep in daylight and struggle to survive the night.

But there are some who break the rules, who believe there may be something better out there beyond their city of dreams, those who run in search of a promised land of sunshine and peace.

Enter the Dreamcatchers, an elite law enforcement unit assigned to hunt down runners and bring them back, dead or alive. Monk is one of the best, a dark and brooding, by-the-book Dreamcatcher with a reputation for extreme violence. But when his enigmatic wife Julia runs, Monk must break the rules himself, and find her before fate or his fellow Dreamcatchers do.

In a hallucinatory quest for redemption, Monk chases the woman he loves across a city of nightmares and into the wastelands, where unimaginable horrors and wonders await them both, and soon learns there are realities far deadlier than their prison of darkness, his love for Julia or a life together in the light.

This is the world of darkness, of endless night and doomed dreams. This is the beginning and the end.

This is Babylon Terminal.

Review: Another dark, thrilling horror novel by Greg F. Gifune. The writing is stellar, and the characters are so realistic they might as well crawl out from the pages. The only downside was that the plot was hard to follow at times, with the “dream within a dream” quality of the plot, and it was hard to know what was real and what wasn’t. I would’ve liked to know a bit more about what was truly going on, though.


Title: Nausea

Author: Ed Kurtz

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Dark Fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Since the night he made an ill-advised decision to commit a pair of revenge killings, Nick has made his living as a professional murderer. Early on, he dispensed with guilt or emotion. But after a routine hit gets messy, Nick gets sick and the conscience he thought he’d killed, along with dozens of other marks, comes creeping back into his brain.

Now Nick’s profession and life are on the line, and he has begun stalking a perfectly innocent couple to see if he can snuff them out without the slightest hint of remorse…or if the humanity he worked so hard to suppress is making up for lost time.

A dark noir novel about human connection and repentance, Nausea is the story of a sociopathic killer in a war with himself, a war in which the lives of an uninvolved couple hang in the balance.

Review: Nick is a cold, professional killer for hire who feels no remorse. His latest job does make him feel something, though. Reluctant to think he losing his ability, he starts tracking a young couple to kill, just because he wants to know if he can. When the past creeps up on him, Nick will have to face some demons. Nick was an intriguing, well-crafted character, and the author did an amazing job of making me feel for him even if he was a deranged killer. The writing was impeccable. however, the time slips were slightly confusing, hence why no five stars.

The Darkest Corners

Title: The Darkest Corners

Author: Kara Thomas

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Review: A slow start, but gradually grows into a thrilling, suspenseful read. The character dynamics were very intriguing, and the character themselves were complex and engaging. The story had some amazing twists. Also loved the focus on the girl’s friendship rather than romance for once. However, the ending was a bit of a let down.

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 Dark Screams: Volume Five

Dark Screams Vol 5Title: Dark Screams: Volume Five
Editors: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar
Writers: J. Kenner, Bentley Little, and Mick Garris
Genre: Horror / Paranormal Fantasy / Paranormal Romance
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 4 stars

Mick Garris, J. Kenner, Kealan Patrick Burke, Del James, and Bentley Little pry open a sarcophagus of horror and dread in Dark Screams: Volume Five, from Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar of the esteemed Cemetery Dance Publications.

It was supposed to be the night of his life: a celebration of his one hit slasher flick. But the price of admission is higher than this has-been filmmaker ever could have imagined.

When he was seven, Will Underwood’s nanny told him she had the Sight. Years later, a broken heart sends him to New Orleans . . . but it’s fate that leads him to Madame Darkling’s Voodoo Emporium.

THE LAND OF SUNSHINE by Kealan Patrick Burke
Although she was mute long before the affair that nearly wrecked their marriage, her silence has tortured her husband ever since. Now he will seek out what he has lost—or be driven mad by remorse.

Arnold loves his ’68 Camaro almost as much as he loves his wife, and he’s willing to do anything to protect them both—especially after hearing strange noises coming from his garage.

THE PLAYHOUSE by Bentley Little
A real-estate agent is drawn into a children’s playhouse behind an abandoned property she’s trying to sell—and finds herself strangely reluctant to leave.

I loved Dark Screams: Volume Five. It’s an eclectic collection of stories by talented authors showcasing great writing and some delicious terror. The first story, “Everything You’ve Always Wanted” was definitely amusing, and a little over the top, but in a good way. “The One and Only” was a nice ghost story, but a little predictable.

“The Land of Sunshine” was amazing. It was my second favorite story in the collection. I especially liked the imagery.

“Mechanical Gratitude” was another great story, reminding me of Stephen King’s “Christine”. My favorite though was “The Playhouse”. I really loved that one, and it gave me chills. Best story of the collection, if you ask me.

Overall, an interesting collection with some amazing stories for horror fans.

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: 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: 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.

Book Review: Dark Avenging Angel by Catherine Cavendish

25491740Title: Dark Avenging Angel

Author: Catherine Cavendish

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction, Supernatural

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Don’t hurt Jane. You may live to regret it.
Bullied by her abusive father, Jane always felt different. Then the lonely child found a friend in a mysterious dark lady who offers her protection—a lady she calls her “angel”. But that protection carries a terrible price, one to be paid with the souls of those Jane chooses to suffer a hideous and eternal fate.
When Jane refuses to name another victim, the angel reveals her most terrifying side. Payment must be made in full—one way or the other.

I’ve read several books by Catherine Cavendish so far and Dark Avenging Angel, while not being my favorite of the bunch, was a good addition my growing collection of reads by this author.

Jane has a horrible life. Her Dad is a filthy, mean, evil man who likes to hurt her mother and occasionally her too. He wants her to be the very best at everything but instead of providing support, he provides criticism. Then an angel shows up, at least Jane thinks she’s an angel, and she promises to take revenge on her father, on Jane’s behalf. All she needs is Jane’s permission to writes her father’s name in her ledger. Jane refuses at first, but the more her father torments her, the more she wants to give in. And when she does, she has no idea of the terrible things she’s unleashed. She must choose three names total. Three names of people who will suffer at the hands of her dark avenging angel.

The premise was original and entertaining, so I was looking forward to diving in and enjoying the story. It is quite enjoyable too, although the book seemed to rush a little fast through Jane’s life. On top of that, despite everything that happened, I couldn’t feel that sympathetic toward Jane. I’ve no idea why. I mean, she goes through hell during her childhood and when she grows up, life doesn’t threat her much better, but yet I had trouble emphatizing with her.

The writing is good, the plot is fast-paced, and ultimately it’s a solid dark revenge story. Whatever you do, you better not mess with Jane.