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: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes


19874243Title: Broken Monsters

Author: Lauren Beukes

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies, but this one is unique even by Detroit’s standards: half-boy, half-deer, somehow fused. The cops nickname him “Bambi,” but as stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?
If you’re Detective Versado’s over-achieving teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you are the disgraced journalist, Jonno, you do whatever it takes to investigate what may become the most heinous crime story in memory. If you’re Thomas Keen, you’ll do what you can to keep clean, keep your head down, and try to help the broken and possibly visionary artist obsessed with setting loose The Dream, tearing reality, assembling the city anew.

I’m still struggling to review Broken Monsters and it’s been a few days since I finished it. In truth, the book isn’t bad, and if it were up to writing style alone, it deserved more than three stars. Lauren Beukes is an excellent writer, and knows her craft.

However, books are about more than writing style. There’s also plot, and that’s where the book drops the mark. In theory, the plot is great. A murderer connects the upper half of a boy to the lower part of a deer, and that’s only the first murder he commits. The murders grow increasingly more strange, and one of our main charcter, Gabriella Versado, a detective with the Detroit police department, has to solve the case. In theory, it sounds good. There’s also a connection with the art community, and the city of Detroit is described in great detail, giving the book more credibility and causing a better writing experience.

Then the book warps from a murder mystery into a paranormal thriller, with the mention of doors serving as gateways. Now I’m the first person to admit I love police procedurals that morph into paranormal thrillers, but here it just totally unraveled the plot. No longer were we hunting for the killer, we were trapped in a paranormal nightmare that read more like a bad acid trip. Instead of enhancing the plot, the paranormal aspect weakened it, and the murders suddenly lost most of their importance.

Then there’s the characters. Gabriella is all right. She’s your stereotypical struggling working mom who also happens to be a detective, divorced and unable to have a healthy love relationship with anyone except her daughter. Said daughter, Layla, a teenager, gets a POV too and turns out to be a major part of the plot. Next up is TK, a homeless man who we don’t really learn all that much about, and Jonno a struggling author turned film maker who is a despicable human being and does everything to become famous, even if it means not giving vital evidence to the police. Each of those characters also seemed to have a subplot going on, and that took a lot of the focus away from the main plot. I don’t mind a few subplots, but we just got too much of those here. The many characters made it hard to connect to one. I could connect with Gabriella somewhat, and if the whole book had been from her POV, I probably would’ve liked it more.

If you like paranormal thrillers or just plain strange murder mysteries, I’d recommend to give this one a shot. It’s not bad, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea either.


Book Review: Natural Causes by James Oswald


17694522Title: Natural Causes

Author: James Oswald

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Supernatural

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Short-Listed for the prestigious Crime Writers Association (CWA) Debut Dagger prize, ‘Natural Causes’ is the first of an ongoing series featuring Edinburgh-based Detective Inspector Anthony McLean. In a world where demons are not supposed to exist, he is one of the few unlucky enough to be able to sense their presence.

When Edinburgh police find the killer of a prominent city elder less than twenty-four hours after the crime, they are justifiably pleased. So the murderer has killed himself; that just saves the time and cost of a trial. But a second murder days later bears haunting similarities to the first, even though once more the murderer swiftly confesses and kills himself.

Detective Inspector Anthony McLean is investigating the discovery of a dead girl, walled up in the basement of an old Edinburgh mansion. She has been brutally murdered, her internal organs removed and placed around her in six preserving jars. The evidence suggests this all happened over sixty years ago, an attempt to re-enact an ancient ceremony that by trapping a demon in the dead girl’s body would supposedly confer immortality on the six men who took one of her organs each.

McLean’s grandmother – the woman who raised him after his parents were killed when he was a young boy – dies after months in a coma following a stroke. On top of this he has to investigate a series of unusual, violent suicides and a cat-burglar who targets the homes of the recently dead. But as another prominent Edinburgh businessman is killed, he begins to suspect that there may be a connection between the murders, the suicides and the ritual killing of the girl found in the basement. The same names keep cropping up. He just can’t find a rational explanation as to how that connection works.

As he digs deeper, and as the coincidences stack up, McLean is forced to consider an irrational explanation. Could there really be something evil stalking the city he has sworn to protect? And if so, how on earth can he hope to stop it?

Before writing down my own review of Natural Causes, I browsed through some of the reviews on Goodreads, and noticed that other reviewers complained about the supernatural aspect of the book, claiming it’s used as a deus ex machina. To each their own, but the supernatural tidbits of this book were actually my favorite, and had they not been included, I probably would’ve rated the book a four. Either way, don’t just ditch the book because it mentions the supernatural. Hardly enough police procedurals do this, and do it in a way as convincing as in this book.

On to the plot. Coinciding with the murder of prominent society members, DI Anthony McLean’s police department stumbles upon a cold case in the form of a young girl’s body tied to the basement floor of a dilipidated building with her organs removed and placed into alcoves around her body. That alone had me hooked. From the start there are clues to some kind of devil worship, and it’s up to McLean and his team to find out what’s going on, to connect the dots and solve this young girl’s murder. But on top of that, McLean has to deal with his grandma’s passing, classify some violent suicides that may or may not be linked to the murders, and solve the recent string of murders haunting town.

Tony, or Anthony, is brilliant. He’s the kind of flawed protagonist who manages to walk the line between flawed and too flawed. The entire police department is filled with colorful figures who bring something different to the table. The plot is fast-paced, the writing is solid, and if I didn’t need at least some hours of sleep, I would’ve read this book in one sitting: even if it meant staying up all night. I also loved it when the characters talked Scottish, and when some Scottish customs were discussed and added.

Fans of supernatural thrillers and police procedurals will love this. It’s the kind of book I’ve been waiting ages for, one that successfully merges these two genres.


Book Review: Within by Keith Deininger


25486840Title: Within

Author: Keith Deininger

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Something’s wrong in the eclectic mountain town of Mesa Rapids. Something’s always been wrong. Sometimes its citizens behave in strange ways—sometimes to the point of violence…

When the wealthy and enigmatic art collector Harold Klimt moves into the long dilapidated house known as the Upshaw Mansion, most don’t think twice about it. But when Mr. Klimt begins to throw lavish parties for the town’s elite, Colin Thorne—a young, aspiring artist still grieving over the recent death of his childhood friend—sneaks inside the house to explore, suspicious something’s wrong.

What he finds are the buried secrets of a town with a troubled history and something else…a plane of horror so vast that it threatens to alter reality.

Soon after that, Mr. Klimt offers Colin a job—painting a mural in the basement of the Upshaw Mansion. As Colin becomes more and more obsessed with the dark vision he is creating, the horror begins to bubble to the surface of not only his psyche, but the entire town.

If there was ever a book that deserved to be called a mash-up between Salem’s Lot and The Shining (two of the finest horror books out there, if you ask me), then it would be Within. The book mixes a haunted house trope with the haunted town trope, and it has the same creepy atmosphere of both aforementioned books. Keith Deininger successfully mixes reality with nightmare in a bizarre, twisted book that will haunt you long after.

Mesa Rapids is no ordinary town. THe inhabitants have always known, but things got way worse after the wealthy art collector Harold Klimt moves into the Upshaw Mansion, a house that stayed without occupants for far longer than is normal. When Klimt starts throwing ravish parties in the style of The Great Gatsby. Just like Gatsby, Klimt is a mysterious figure, but he’s of a far more sinister kind.

Colin Thorne is a young, aspiring artist who Klimt offers a job: to paint a mural in the basement of the Upshaw Mansion. But as Colin grows more and more obsessed with the painting, the horror that envelops his psyche transcends into the town.

The author does an admirable job painting the characters. Even Klimt feels like a real person rathe than a character in a book. The town itself is so real it feels like a character too, and its descend into madness is beautifully depicted.

However, the book leaves a lot of questions unanswered and whereas I don’t mind an open ending in horror books, I do like my books to have at least some kind of closure on the most important topics, which was lacking here. Too many issues remained unresolved.

Despite that though, the book delivers a haunting tale of madness and nightmares, which I’d recommend for fans of atmospheric horror.

Book Review: Shadowshift by Peter Giglio


25331467Title: Shadowshift

Author: Peter Giglio

Genre: Thrillers, Supernatural Thrillers

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Chet is a shape-shifter who uses his abilities to burglarize homes…
Hannah is a young girl with strange influences over inanimate objects…
Father and daughter, these supernatural misfits are bound by blood, their unfolding stories separated by time. While Chet follows a grim path, Hannah stands on the fragile precipice of hope: her mother’s faltering happiness with a kind man…the chance at a new family and a stable household…and the promise of freedom from the shadows cast by her father’s misdeeds.
But past and present are ready to collide, ushering hell home.

In Shadowshift, an unsavory figure drops off a child in the home of a couple who are forced to pretend the child is their son. This prologue immediately conjures up several questions. Fast-forward several years to Chet, a cashier who spends his nights robbing hopes by transforming into a cockroach. He has a family, a wife who he likes to beat around and a daughter who suffers a lot from her father abusing her mother.

Hannah, aforementioned daughter, figured out her uncanny abaility to influence inanimate objects some time ago. When she discovers her father has similar powers, she realizes all the signs point toward her following in his footsteps. But that is the last thing Hannah wants to do…

Let me start straight out by saying this book isn’t scary. Not at all. However, it does manage to give the reader an eerie sense of foreboding throughout, and despite Chet not being all that terrifying when reading about him, I’m sure I’d be terrified if I saw him in real life.

The premise, of beings who can shift into other creatures, isn’t all that original, but the way it’s executed here is intriuging enough not to worry about originality. Instantly, the reader feels a connection to most of the characters, including Chet. Despite him being a wicked person and not having much respect for his wife, he does feel some kind of love for his daughter, which humanizes him.

It’s a compelling read and the author has an impressive talent for storytelling.


Book Review: Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl by Tracy Forbes

Title: Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl
Author: Tracy Fobes
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Set on stormy seas during the early nineteenth century, Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl features a unique plot revolving around a classic adventure that quickly becomes supernatural horror.

In Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl, Kit Cabot is being groomed to take over his family’s shipping fortune in 1808 Boston, Massachusetts.  While Kit yearns for the approval of his father, he finds the day-to-day operations of the family business incredibly boring.

Determined to do something more with his life, and attracted to the seafaring life of his uncle, Kit decides to stowaway on his uncle’s ship.  But instead of being swept up in the life of adventure and romance he always imagined, Kit finds himself subjected to harsh 1800’s maritime conditions and another stowaway with a sinister mission of its own.

Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl combines high sea adventure with dark horror, and paints a world filled with both mundane and otherworldly dangers.  It builds a claustrophobic sense of supernatural terror as Kit and his friends are forced to deal with the dangers of nature and an unknown horror possessing the ship.

In Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl, Kit Cabot is a young boy in the early nineteenth century. An injury he suffered as a child left him with a leg that hurts day in day out. Despite that, he finds family business tedious and boring, and he wants nothing more than to join his uncle John on his ship. Life on board of the ship turns out to be unlike anything Kit expected though: his uncle guards a mysterious red pearl, and is jealous whenever someone even comes near it. The pearl  has an eerie attraction to everyone who comes too close. Kit, along with several members of the crew, tries to help uncle John get rid of it. However, the entity living inside the pearl has other plans and will stop at nothing to get what it wants, and soon, everyone on board the ship, including Kit, is in mortal peril.

Kit is an enjoyable character, and despite having a personality suitable for nineteenth century life, he is easy to sympathize with. Sometimes when reading historical fiction, history and time seems to add so many layers between the reader and the characters that they’re impossible to relate to, but Stowaway: Curse of the Red Pearl, doesn’t suffer from that. If anything, the setting is a blessing. Demonic possession is used in literature every now and then, but this is the first time I’ve seen it used on board of a ship in the 1800s.

Mix in an unique setting with good writing, and you get a 110-page long (in my pdf version at least) story that will scare you and entertain you at the same time.

Book Review: Nightmare in Greasepaint by L.L. Soares and G. Daniel Gunn

25396943Title: Nightmare in Greasepaint

Author: L.L. Soares and G. Daniel Gunn

Genre: Horror, Novella

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 3 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Some family legacies are best left buried.
Will Pallasso has brought his wife and young son, Billy, back to his childhood home to settle his late mother’s affairs…and remove all traces of his haunted past. But now hideous memories are coming back to Will, and Billy has started suffering from night terrors. Returning to this house was a big mistake. Some memories should not be disturbed, and some nightmares will not stay buried forever.
Especially nightmares that wear greasepaint spattered with blood.

In honor of Terror Thursday, a new feature on my blog, in which I review a scary book or movie on Thursday (the name is pretty self-explenatory), I present to you the first horror book that’ll be reviewed as part of this new feature: Nightmare in Greasepaint.

Nightmare in Greasepaint is a classic horror story that transports the reader back to their childhood, and matching childhood feares. Will’s mother, Lucy, passes away and he, his wife and teir young son, Billy, travel to his mother’s estate to sort out her affairs and possibly sell the house. For Will, the moment he sets foot inside the house, he’s transported back to his past, and the more time he spends in there, the more he starts to remember things he would’ve preferred to forget. Especially the basement seems to call for him, and hosts a buried secret from his childhood that could destroy him, and his family.

The book starts out well, and takes some time to build suspense and tension, and to set the mood. The story isn’t half bad either, not the most original horror book I’ve read, but it certainly has some original, refreshing elements. However, the book has two major flaws: the ending is flat and unbelievable (well, I don’t mind if it’s over the top in a horror book, and I certainly don’t expect a story that falls within the realm of normal possibilities, but this just wasn’t consistent with everything that happened beforehand) and way too rushed, and the characters are hard to connect to. They’re not real people, especially Will, who is supposed to be our main character. There’s some head-hopping, and I’m not sure if that’s the cause for that, but it certainly didn’t help either.

An okay horror book, not really scary but it does have a fun story and it’s a quick read.