Book Review: The Cure by JG Faherty

the-cureTitle: The Cure
Author: J.G. Faherty
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

She was born with the power to cure. Now she’s developed the power to kill.Leah DeGarmo has the power to cure with just a touch. But with her gift comes adark side: Whatever she takes in she has to pass on, or suffer it herself. Now a sadistic criminal has discovered what she can do and he’ll stop at nothing to control her. He makesa mistake, though, when he kills the man she loves, triggering a rage inside her that releasesa new power she didn’t know she had: the ability to kill. Transformed into a demon of retribution, Leah resurrects her lover and embarks on a mission to destroy her enemies. The only question is, does she control her power or does it control her?

The Cure started out with a blast, then grabbed an interesting concept and made it even more interesting and then…ruined all that by offering one chase scene after the next, descending into a non-stop rollercoaster of events so unbelievable they seemed laughable. Leah DeGarmo, our main character, is a veterinarian with the power to cure. She routinely cures animals from illnesses like cancer, or from car accident injuries and the likes. The downside is though that she has to transfer the illness she took into someone or something else – another person or animal, or else it destroys her from inside out. She keeps cages with terminally-ill, old animals just for that purpose.

But when she stops at a local McDonalds and ends up in the middle of a robbery, she has to use her powers to cure a police officer, and to transfer his lethal injury to the gunman. The gunman dies, the officer lives, but Leah has a lot of explaining to do. Worse, the officer isn’t the only one who knows her secret. Leonard Marsh, a powerful man suffering from an incurable illness, and his henchmen, have discovered her secret as well, and want to use it for their own gain. Within days, several different factions are on the lookout for Leah and want to use her powers for different purposes, from elliminating their enemies to prolonging their own life. Meanwhile, they threaten her that if she doesn’t comply they’ll hurt the officer she saved, a man she finds herself falling for rapidly. Will Leah be able to escape the clutches of the people who want to control her? And can she do so without succumbing to the dark side of her power?

I have no trouble believing Leah has supernatural powers – after all, that’s the premise of the book, and in fiction, pretty much anything is possible. But with this set up, the consequences have to be believable too, and they just aren’t. Within days of Leah’s secret being exposed to a handful of people, just about everyone on that side of the planet is trying to capture her. That made the story not only very repetitive, but also extremely unbelievable. As for the repetitiveness, the same things happened over and over again: Leah gets captured, they threaten to hurt someone to make her comply, she narrowly escapes, and repeat.

The book should be a horror novel, but it’s not really scary at all. The main character is unique though, and has some interesting abilities – which is a definite plus – but there’s nothing scary about her, or about the people out to hurt her.

So in short, I liked the premise and the start, but lost most of my interest halfway through. I did finish the book though, but more for completion’s sake than anything else.

Book Review: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

22609323Title: Within These Walls
Author: Ania Ahlborn
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Adult (but can be read by YA and older)
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From indie horror author and bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn, this brand-new supernatural thriller questions: how far would you go for success, and what would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?
With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

Within These Walls is my first read by Ania Ahlborn, apparently a bestselling sensation (which I didn’t know when I picked up this book – I did that solely based on the description) but I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last. The book offers enough interesting twists, and the characters are intriguing enough to warrant reading another book by this author.

Lucas Graham, our main character, is a true crime writer who’s been struggling for years. First, with his career. He wrote a major bestseller decades ago, but ever since, he hasn’t quite reached that fame. His marriage is as good as over, with his wife even having an affair with another man. His daughter is angry about her parents breaking up, and about him moving her from New York to a small, beach-side village in Washington State. But Lucas has no choice: he got an offer he simply couldn’t refuse. An offer that could turn his nightmare of a life back into a beautiful dream, that could repair his career, mend his relationship with his wife, and basically, change everything.

Jeffrey Halcomb, leader of a cult popular in the seventies, agreed to do an interview. Halcomb has never allowed anyone to interview him before, so if Lucas gets to do the interviews and writes a book about it, he’s guaranteed a spot on the bestselling list. There’s only one catch. Lucas has to move into the property Halcomb and his followers lived in, before they committed suicide and Halcomb killed a girl and her unborn baby. Right in the living room of the house Lucas and his teenage daughter are about to live in.

The book combines psychological and supernatural terror, and does so rather well. The author takes a long time to set the scene, almost too long. I don’t mind giving the reader ample time to get to know the characters, but here the plot almost dragged on, especially toward the end when I just wanted to know what would happen and when the big climax would be. The book also has several flashbacks, which gave an interesting perspective on the events that unfolded with Halcomb and his followers thirty-something years ago.

If it wasn’t for the pacing being so slow, I probably would’ve enjoyed this more. Also, when the horror hits, somehow it never reaches the level of terror I’d anticipated and hoped for. It’s all rather bland at the end. Jeffrey Halcomb is by far the most interesting of all characters, yet he doesn’t get a POV, although Lucas and his teen daughter, Vee, do. The ending had a few surprises though, and I ended up with a rather pleasant feeling about this read. I wasn’t scared – not in the slightest – but it was entertaining and offered nice twists on some common tropes (like the Satanic cult, enigmatic cult leader, Satanic rituals, house haunted by crimes of the past, and so on).

If you like horror that combines the psychological and supernatural, and you don’t mind a slow pace, I’d recommend this one. The plot and characters make for an entertaining read, but you might struggle through some of the 400+ pages.

Book Review: Monster by Keith Ferrario

24617775Title: Monster

Author: Keith Ferrario

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

They’re the only humans. But they’re not alone.
Adam Hayes pilots a small team to a remote Antarctic research station. Their mission: to investigate the loss of communications. Once there, the group of five find the station deserted, the radio smashed, and several strange piles of empty clothing. Forced to stay the night by a blinding snowstorm, they set out to solve the mystery of the missing crew. Eventually they will learn the horrifying truth—the station is not empty after all, and something unimaginable, dug up from the deep ice, roams the complex. Now they must fight for their lives against a cunning, thinking monster—and those who would unleash this terror on the rest of the world.

Monster is a disjointed collection of two stories with a faint connection between them. While the first part of the book holds high hopes, the second doesn’t deliver at all.

When they lose contact with an Antarctic research station, Adam Hayes pilots a small team to the station, to check out what happened, and why communication with the station was lost. But the five find something horrifying instead, with the station deserted and the radio smashed. A snowstorm forces them to spend the night, and while searching through the compound, they start finding what remains of the researchers that once inhabited the station. They learn that something terrible roams the complex, and now the monster is out to get them.

The book is long, probably too long. The first half of it focuses on the research station and on Adam trying to survive. The POV switches often from one character to another, leaving little time to actually get to know them, or care for them. Then halfway through, we make a twelve year time jump and are introduced to a whole new set of characters. It’s annoying, and it drags on the plot, while I wouldn’t have minded if it ended after the first part. It means a lot of build up, having to meet a new cast of characters two times, and in general, it doesn’t work too well. If the book had stopped after the first part, I would’ve given it a higher rating. The second part was too dull, and too much of a struggle to get through. The story do overlap eventually, but it’s not enough to warrant the latter half. It feels like two books sloppily glued together.

As for the first part, it is good and definitely has some merits. The writing is enjoyable for the most part, and we do get a suspenseful build up. I liked the monster – it was original, and rather scary. While I didn’t feel much of a connection to the characters, I did enjoy the plot.

 

Book Review: Factory Town by Jon Bassoff

22880243Title: Factory Town

Author: Jon Bassoff

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.

Russell Carver, an enigmatic and tortured man in search of a young girl gone missing, has come to Factory Town, a post-industrial wasteland of abandoned buildings, crumbling asphalt, deadly characters, hidden secrets and unspeakable depravity. Wandering deeper and deeper into the dangerous, dream-like and darkly mysterious labyrinths in town, Russell stumbles upon clues that not only lead him closer to the missing girl, but to his own troubled past as well. Because in Factory Town nothing is what it seems, no one is safe, and there’s no such thing as a clean escape.
From Jon Bassoff, author of Corrosion, comes a dark, gritty and surreal novel that is at once a compelling mystery and an exploration into the darkest recesses of the human soul. Welcome to the haunting, frightening and disturbing experience that is Russell Carver’s search for the truth…
Welcome to FACTORY TOWN.

Factory Town is a strange, eerie, surrealistic voyage into a town unlike any other. Protagonist Russell Carver is searching for a young girl who has gone missing, Alana. His quest brings him to Factory Town, a post-industrial, withering town with – as you guessed it – a factory. The town’s inhabitants are depraved, most of them hide secrets, others are more than willing to kill. It would be near impossible to ever come up with a more haunting and infested town than Factory Town. Everything there is dead or dying, from the characters locked up inside, to the buildings and factory. The farther Russell makes it into the labyrinth of town, the more clues he find that lead him to the missing girl, and to his own troubled past. Is Factory Town real, or a figment of Russell’s own depraved imagination?

The book is hard to rate. Overall, the writing is excellent. As can be said about most (if not all) of DarkFuse’s titles, they know talent when they see it, and all their authors are talented writers. Now, I don’t mind a little surrealism in books, but at least I have to have a general sense of where the story is leading. Alas, with Factory Town, no such luck. The story seems to go in circles, the surreal moments seemingly so random that even though I occasionally paused and tried to wrap my mind around what was happening, what was real and what wasn’t, I couldn’t. The book was too random, too chaotic, and after a while, I stopped caring about the characters because I had no clue what was going on with them anyway. I had a general idea of the storyline, sure, but the surreal scenes were just too many and kind of ruined it.

If you like surrealism, this book might be your cup of tea. The premise is a clever one, and the characters are interesting, particularly the protagonist. But if you want to have at least a general sense of what’s real and what isn’t, you’ll probably be as frustrated by this book as I am.

 

Book Review: Probably Monsters by Ray Cluley

23228995Title: Probably Monsters

Author: Ray Cluley

Genre: Short Stories, Dark Fiction, Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

From British Fantasy Award-winning author Ray Cluley comes Probably Monsters-a collection of dark, weird, literary horror stories. Sometimes the monsters are bloodsucking fiends with fleshy wings. Sometimes they’re shambling dead things that won’t rest, or simply creatures red in tooth and claw. But often they’re worse than any of these. They’re the things that make us howl in the darkness, hoping no one hears. These are the monsters we make ourselves, and they can find us anywhere. . . .

Probably Monsters is a delightful collection of spine-chilling horror and dark fiction stories by author Ray Cluley. I read a lot of short story collections in the horror genre, and I have to be honest: this is one of the best collections I’ve ever read. So if you want to crawl under a blanket and enjoy a chilling night, I would highly recommend this book.

The first story, “All Change” reminded me of classics like Poe’s stories. The protagonists finds himself battling more monsters than he wanted to take on. While a delightful read, it didn’t quite have the same amount of horror as other stories in the collection. However, it set the town nicely, and already displayed to the reader that author Ray Cluley is a master of words, and knows how to create an eerie atmosphere. The second story, “I Have Heard The Mermaids Sing” is scarier than the first, and relies heavily on atmosphere to get the horror punch across. At the same time, the story also focuses on some very real issues, and manages to describe another culture. Although a short story, by the end of it, I felt like I’d known the protagonist half my life. One needs to be a master at writing in order to achieve such a thing.

Next up was “The Festering”, and oh my, how I loved this one. It’s about a girl who has a drawer where she pours all her secrets in, and more I won’t say, but it was creepy, yucky, and intriguing at the same time. “At Night, When The Demons Come” is a tough story to read – it’s just so raw, so dark, so bleak, but at the same time it packs a powerful message, and it shows the author’s almost limitless creatviity. This was one of my favorite stories from the collection.

“Night Fishing” is a sad story more than anything, dark fiction rather than horror, and it is simple yet powerful. “Knock Knock” turns your usual ghost story upside down, providing an interesting perspective on the matter. I liked the twist toward the end. Once again, the characters came across as very realistic, like real people. “The Death Drive of Rita, Nee Carina” was wow. Just wow. I have no other way to describe it. It’s a horrible story, dark and twisting, yet the way the author tells it, one feels almost sympathetic toward the protagonist. The end seemed weird, almost too strange, but from the POV of the character, it made perfect sense.

“The Man Who Was” is haunting. Of all the stories, I think this one will stick to me the most, because at the end, well it’s just gut-wreching really. The kind of scene that stays with you longer after reading, the kind of pain and terror that crawls into your skin and doesn’t let you go. “Shark! Shark!” was a welcome reprieve after the more emotionally-loaded stories I’d just mentioned. It’s basically a story about people shooting a shark film, and the narrator is hilarious. It’s still dark, but it made me laugh out loud, so it’s not bleak or depressing, instead it’s a fun, wicked story.

“Bloodcloth” offered so much originality that my mouth hung open the entire time I read it. Seriously, I’d never read anything like it, especially with the “bloodcloth” (I won’t explain what it is, just read the story for that). Tanya, the protagonist, was a delightful character, and I was sad to see the story over. “The Tilt” is about Carcassonne, which I’ve wanted to visit since forever, so naturally, I enjoyed it too. It’s a bit more mainsteam than the other stories, but I liked it nevertheless. I’m not sure if it’s the originality of these stories, or the author’s flawless writing style, but I have trouble finding one story I didn’t like.

Next up, “Bones of Crow”. I liked the metaphores here, how the story remains vague, having an open interpretation. Had it been more straightforward, I probably wouldn’t have liked it so much, but now I could interpret it in different ways, and I always enjoy that. “Pins and Needles” was creepy because of how ordinary the story is. The way it started out, it could’ve happened to just about anyone, and that’s what really brought chills to my spine. But the ending, well, I still have nightmares about that. The creep factor is high n this one.

“Gator Moon” was all right, but again, more traditional. I didn’t find it as inspiring and scary as the other stories. “Where The Salmon Run” was another solid story, and managed to add in some cultural perspectives too, about the Kamchatka track, about the lives of people who look for salmon. It wasn’t scary as much as it was dark and depressing, but stil enjoyable.  “Indian Giver” was another scary read though, and I liked the way the story was told (a story retold from one man to another, rather than the reader actually witnessing it happening). It was a nice change, and allowed for the main character’s thoughts to be analyzed too. Next up, a short one, “Mother’s Blood”. Now, this one might’ve been a bit close to home. I can understand the perspective from the main character so well that it almost scares me. Luckily, these thoughts remain in stories, not real life, and I’m certain most people, once they think it through, will be able to relate to what the protagonist is going through.

“The Travellers Stay” was an all right read. It was slightly familiar (everyone knows a horror story about a motel, I’m sure) but still, the author managed to pack enough character development and original twists to make it entertaining. “No More West” was a bit vague, and I had to read it twice to fully understand what had happened. A more traditional story, but still good. The book ends on a high note, with “Beachcombing,” one of my favorites from the collection, and while not scary, certainly leaves one in a thoughtful, dark mood.

The collection as a whole is intriguing and powerful, and it features so many different protagonists – other collections sometimes offer more generic protagonists, the standard stereotypes, but here you’ve got a whole cast passing by, from people struggling with their sexuality, to little children, to girls who want to grow up too soon, to people who have gone through terrible ordeals. The writing is excellent, and I would recommend it to just about everyone who likes horror.

Book Review: Castle by the Sea by J.G. Faherty

21952035Title: Castle by the Sea
Author: J.G. Faherty
Genre: Dark Fiction, Horror, Novella
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

How did they get here? Will they ever get out?

Jason and Erika are having a wonderful time at the Halloween carnival…until their swan boat in the Tunnel of Love capsizes amid heavy waves and blaring, maniacal laughter. When they come to they are no longer in a carnival in Ohio, but standing at the edge of a sea in a raging storm. In the distance, atop a high, barren hill, looms an enormous castle.

Instead of answers, Jason and Erika find only more impossibilities within the stone walls. The lavish rooms are lit only by torches and fireplaces, the decorations and furniture are a century out of date, and the mysterious host claims to not own one of those newfangled telephone inventions. Outside, in the storm and the dense mist, lurk strange, threatening figures. Inside, another couple seeking refuge think it must all be a nightmare. Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it’s something much, much worse.

In Castle by the Sea, young couple Jason and Erika go to a Halloween carnival, and seemingly have a blast. Until they decide to go into the Tunnel of Love, their swan boat capsizes, and they end up at sea during a storm. An enormous castle looms over them, and they make their way to the castle, hoping to be save there – although they have no clue what’s going on, and things seem to grow stranger by the minute. The castle host welcomes them, and turns out they’re not the only couple stranded there. But the other couple isn’t from the same time era as Jason and Erika. The castle’s owner, an eccentric man who seems to hide a lot of secrets, is less than forthcoming, and his timid maid won’t be of much help either. How can Jason and Erika escape from this castle by the sea? Is it all a nightmare, or something much worse?

The book starts out with a bang – we’re at the carnival, and boom, Jason and Erika disappear and end up near the castle. There’s not a lot of build up, so there’s not an awful lot of suspense either, at least not until we get past the halfway mark. Although the book is meant to be horror, it never really manages to be scary. It all seems a little over the top, with the characters just up and disappearing. I much preferred the parts of the book that actually took place at the castle, rather than the parts at the carnival. At least at the castle there was a genuine mystery going on, of who roamed the halls at night, why people disappeared, and what their host was upto. I found this easily the best part of the book, and very enjoyable.

The writing is entertaining, and the plot manages to surprise a few times, but the characters aren’t very likeable. I couldn’t connect to Jason and Erika, so I didn’t really feel for them as they tried to escape the castle and the nightmare unfolding around them. Had the characters been more likeable, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more. As it stands, it’s a fun read for fans of gothic horror, but it doesn’t pack much more than that.

Book Review: Doll Face by Tim Curran

24486813Title: Doll Face
Author: Tim Curran
Genre: Dark Fiction, Horror
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 2 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Six friends are returning home from a night out when they end up in a town called Stokes. They discover they are trapped there, as Stokes does not really exist. The actual town had burned to the ground more than fifty years ago. The Stokes they are in is a nightmare version of the former town, engineered by a deranged and undead mind, a supernatural machine of wrath that will destroy them one by one….unless they submit to its dominance and become living dolls.

In Doll Face, after going out one night, six friends return home and when one of them decides to take a shortcut, they end up in a town called Stokes. The driver, Chazz, accidentally runs someone over, and an argument ensues – will they drive forward, or will they stop to help? Eventually they get out of the car, and check how the man is doing – except, he’s not a man at all. He’s not human, but a mannequin, a doll that walked just seconds ago. They call an ambulance, but the operator says no town named Stokes even exist. Or well, it existed, but completely burned down in the 1960s. Soon, the six of them realize they’re trapped in a grotesque version of 1960s Stokes, a village inhabited by dolls and mannequins, and the Spider-Moth, a despicable creature with hundreds of doll legs and faces that chases them through town. All of it seems centured around the factory just out of town, but will they ever reach it? With Stokes turning into a maze, and each road leading to the same road, and while being chased by murderous dolls, not all of them might make it out alive.

So, the premise for this book, is you just read my summary above, is amazing, right? Well, it certainly sounded amazing to me. Abandoned town? Check. Creepy dolls? Check. I was thinking this would be like Silent Hill, but with creepy dolls rather than Pyramid Head. And the book did start out with a bang. We’re introduced to our group of six. The cast isn’t that diverse – they all seem like they’re losers or at least regard themselves that way. But we’ve got Chazz, who is a controlling idiot, and who always wants to be in charge, yet doesn’t know how to take responsibility. Then we’ve got Ramona, Chazz’s girlfriend. Although she might have what it takes to be the brave heroine this book so desperately needs, she has one major character flaw: she’s too self-critical, always blaming herself for what the men she loves do wrong. If Chazz acts rude toward her, it must be her fault somehow. If he cheats on her, she must’ve done something wrong. She does gradually shed this part of her as the book progresses, but it’s hard to like a character who is that self-critical.

Next up, we’ve got Lex and So-Lee. They’re the first ones who felt the weird vibes of Stokes, and the first to break through an illusion, but apart from that, the reader doesn’t know much about them – who were they before they ended up in Stokes? What did they do? – and it’s hard to connect with them. We’ve also got Danielle, who is so shallow and useless she doesn’t even get a POV, so connecting with her is next to impossible. And then there’s Creep, who has moments when a reader might feel sympathetic toward him. He’s a loser too, or at least sees himself that way, and he’s not very brave, but he comes across as the most realistic of all the characters, and sometimes, I sympathized with him. Not a lot though.

The trouble with this book, first and foremost, is the lack of sympathy one feels to the characters. They all seemed like the different shades of the same color. All slightly different, yet at their core, remarkably the same. Ramona and Creep at least had some moments where the reader could connect with them, the other characters didn’t. As such, I didn’t much care what happened to any of the characters.

The writing is haunting and atmospheric, and the image of the Spider-Mother won’t leave my mind soon. But the writing is also repetitive. The characters split up, and each of them faces off against a different cast of mannequin dolls – but still, each scene plays out the same way. Characters runs into monster, then runs away from it, and narrowly manages to escape. Repeat. It’s boring and gets repetitive, and this book could’ve easily been turned into a novella if some of the repetitive scenes got axed.

Now, the good parts of the book, becaause it has a few. As I said, the writing is good, and the descriptions are pure gold. The atmosphere is creepy, and the town of Stokes feels very claustrophobic. But because the creep-factor rises to the highest level almost right away, the suspense dies out quickly. If it had more build up, the book might’ve been better, but it was as if all monsters got unleashed all at once, and rather than terror rising, it just stays at the same level throughout. But because we grow accustomed to this level, the suspense dies out. Toward the end, I had to force myself to continue reading.

Doll Face isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t call it good either. The concept and premise are great, and the writing works too. It’s just that it’s too long, too repetitive, and none of the characters are easy to sympathize with. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but other horror fans might enjoy it.

Book Review: Bootleg Cove by Devin Govaere

20977672Title: Bootleg Cove
Author: Devin Govaere
Genre: Horror, Ghost Story, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Who knows the secret of Bootleg Cove? ”
Young widow Willie Douglas recently moved to remote, isolated Bootleg Cove on the Chesapeake Bay with her four-year-old son. Her plan to renovate and re-open an abandoned restaurant. Almost as soon as she arrived, a handyman showed up out of the blue, offering to help. Then Amanda and Sam, two apparently orphaned teenagers, came to her door in need of help and a place to stay.
But it s not just the sweltering heat that s wearing on Willie s already fragile emotions. Her mysterious handyman seems to know more than he s willing to say, Amanda and Sam are acting very strangely indeed, and Willie s beginning to realize that all three of her houseguests have more history with Bootleg Cove than she could ever have imagined. Willie is seeing too many things that she either can t explain or refuses to believe. But the most shocking revelation about Bootleg Cove is still to come “

In Bootleg Cove, young widow Willie Douglas moved to the remote Bootleg Cove with her four-year-old son. She wants to get a fresh start, and to renovate and open up an old restaurant abandoned years ago. But the moment Willie arrives, strange things start happening. Her son befriends a wayward teenager, Sam, who has a disability, doesn’t say anything, and showed up out of the blue. Then hours later, he’s followed by his sister, Amanda, who is arrives at Bootleg Cove soaking wet. A handyman appears too, offering to help her even though she never advertised for help.

The residents of the nearby town warn her for strange happenings on Bootleg Cove. Willie blames it on superstition at first, but then the children start acting up, her handyman knows more than he’s willing to let on, and then an unexpected and unwanted guest turns up on her doorstep. What’s going on in Bootleg Cove?

The book is a standard ghost story, with a nice twist at the end. I saw it coming, but I’m pretty sure people less used to reading ghost stories probaly won’t expect it. The book sometimes tries to take on too ambitious storylines, and focuses heavily on some subplots that don’t really add up to much in the end. It probably would’ve worked better as a full-length novel. At it stands now, it’s definitely not a bad read though. It’s a fast and engaging story.

 

Book Review: Blood Red Roses by Russell James

21562717Title: Blood Red Roses

Author: Russell James

Genre: Ghost Stories, Horror, Dark Fiction, Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

“The spirits of the dead cry for justice. ”
In the waning days of the Civil War, orphaned teen Jebediah Abernathy has been indentured to one of the most notorious plantations in Mississippi, Beechwood. Ramses, the sadistic overseer, rules completely, unchecked by owners driven mad by the loss of their only son. Cruelty and torture are commonplace. And slave boys are mysteriously vanishing. But Jebediah is not completely alone. The ghost of his father and an escaped slave sorceress will lead him to the horrific truth about the disappearances a knowledge that will probably cost him his life. “

Blood Red Roses is an entertaining ghost story set during the Civil War era. Jebediah Abernathy is left an orphan by the war, and then his family sells him to the owners of the Beechwood plantation, where he’s to work as a stable boy. Jebediah only knows little about horses, but he does the best he can. Treatment for slaves is tough, and even though he’s not a slave as such, that doesn’t seem to warrant a better treatment either. Ramses, the sadistic overseer, likes to crack the whip around at every chance he gets. And with the owners still blinded by the loss of their son during the war, Ramses’ rule is unchallenged.

Then Jebediah discovers that men have gone missing from the plantation. They’re slaves, so their disappearance goes mostly unnoticed except by the other slaves. Jebediah grows worried that one day he might be next, especially when he finds out a secret connected to the plantation. With the aid of an escape sorceress and the ghost of his father, Jebediah might stand a chance against the dark powers at work.

The author doesn’t shy away from making the characters go through horrible ordeals. A lot of emphasis is put on the harsh treatment of slaves, and on the way tragedy can cripple people and change them forever. The addition of ghosts and a sorceress was a nice though. Overall, the book is an enjoyable read, and the setting worked well. Jebediah is a solemn, grief-struck character, yet he’s also a fighter, and it’s easy to root for him.

 

Book Review: Haunted (The Arnaud Legacy #1) by Lynn Carthage

22449393Title: Haunted (The Arnaud Legacy #1)

Author: Lynn Carthage

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Ghosts

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Sixteen-year-old Phoebe Irving has traded life in San Francisco for her stepfather’s ancestral mansion in rural England. It’s supposed to be the new start her family needs. But from the moment she crosses the threshold into the ancient estate, Phoebe senses something ominous. Then again, she’s a little sensitive lately—not surprising when her parents are oblivious to her, her old life is six thousand miles away, and the only guy around is completely gorgeous but giving her mixed messages.
But at least Miles doesn’t laugh at Phoebe’s growing fears. And she can trust him…maybe. The locals whisper about the manor’s infamous original owner, Madame Arnaud, and tell grim stories of missing children and vengeful spirits. Phoebe is determined to protect her loved ones—especially her little sister, Tabby. But even amidst the manor’s dark shadows, the deepest mysteries may involve Phoebe herself…

Haunted (The Arnaud Legacy #1) tries to give an original twist to probably the most well-known ghost story plot in the world (protagonist moves into large home that turns out to be haunted) and up to some degree, it succeeds.

Phoebe Irving is sixteen years old when her parents decide to move from San Francisco all the way to rural England. She knows it must be because she did something bad, something she can’t remember. But she tries to adapt to her new surroundings as well as she can. They live in a smaller appartment next door a collossal mansion that is the family house of her stepfather. But soon enough, Phoebe discovers the mansion is haunted by an organ-playing ghost – and not just some ghost. Madame Arnaud, who used to drink blood of children to stay alive forever. And now this evil presence has set her eyes on Tabby, Phoebe’s kid sister. It’s up to Phoebe, and her new friend Miles, to save her.

The descriptions are atmospheric and haunting, and they set a good mood for the book. The book offers gothic horror, with some graphic descriptions of Madame Arnaud, but apart from that, the horror is more of the spine-chilling kind than the gorey type. It’s a solid read in the genre, and our heroine, Phoebe, is a strong and intriguing character. She doesn’t back down from a challenge, but instead faces it head on – a rare quality.

Unfortunately, while the plot had some original elements (which I will not spoil here), it was also fairly predictable. I knew how it would end by the time I hit the halfway mark. Still entertaining, just less intriguing. On top of that, the ending left some things unanswered, and I would’ve preferred everything to wrap up nicely. I don’t mind sequels, but you need to tie up loose ends.

All in all, it’s an enjoyable read, and the author holds a lot of promise – she writes descriptions well, and knows how to create a tense atmosphere.