Book Review: Aberrancy bu Su Halfwerk

AberrancyTitle: Aberrancy

Author: Su Halfwerk

Genre: Horror

Age Group: Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Smashwords  |  B&N

Review copy provided by Enchanted Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Robert Williamson, esteemed judge, adoring husband, and doting father, has his flawless life snatched away, leaving him damaged beyond repair—damaged by a witch whose taunting presence spells his destruction.

Before exacting his revenge, Robert is hell-bent on digging out explanations.

His demands are wild, his interrogation method peculiar, and what he seeks most might well cost him what remains of his sanity—and he knows it.

Despite horrible odds, Robert refuses to give in.

Aberrancy is a gripping dark tale of lives lost…to a different kind of evil.

In Aberrancy, Robert Williamson used to have it all. He was a doting father, had a loving wife, he worked as a judge and enjoyed his job. But then, all of those things are taken away from him, one by one, leaving him alone, a man destroyed, a man willing to do whatever it takes to get his vengeance. What little sanity he has left, he’ll use to receive his vengeance, whatever tools at his disposal, he’ll make use of them. He’ll do whatever it takes to destroy that what almost cost him his life.

I won’t get into detail as to what or who caused him this much damage, but it’s made clear early on in the book who he suspects is behind it. Aberrancy, at first, reads like a psychological horror, if you rely on the blurb, but it’s actually more a mix of psychological and supernatural.

The story has an interesting set ups, with the main narrative jumping back from present to past time, and often interrupted with interludes, mini-stories, woven throughout. It makes for an interesting reading experience, and it allows further view into the mind of the main character.

The novel has quite a few original concepts, and as such, stands out from most of the horror books out there. It’s a quick read (barely reached 80 pages in the pdf format) but it’s not a book you’ll easily forget. The writing is great, and the story has a slow build-up but features plenty of creepy or gorey moments throughout to keep the reader entertained.


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Book Review: A Shrill Keening

23199486Title: A Shrill Keening
Author: Ronald Malfi

Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Carl Thompson spends his days confined to a psychiatric ward for a gruesome murder he can’t remember committing. But his nights are spent elsewhere, patrolling an evacuated stretch of beach for some purpose that is not readily apparent.

During the day, he struggles to decipher which part of his existence is real and which is not. At night, he tries to uncover the mystery to a numbered code, a silver key, and a band of people who have given him his cryptic instructions.
Are these two realities linked? Could the answers to the mysteries in one reality be found within the other? Carl must find out before time runs out, and the sound of a shrill keening threatens to destroy both realities.

In A Shrill Keening, author Ronald Malfi does it again. Using excellent prose, he crafts an interesting Lovecraftian story. Protagonist Carl Thompson spends his days in a psychiatric ward – apparently he killed someone. Except, he doesn’t remember it at all. In the psych ward, he’s been having dreams, strange dreams about standing Watch on a beach, gazing at the sea and waiting for something, only he has no idea what.

The more time he spends trying to uncover the truth of these strange dreams, the farther he drifts from reality. Soon enough, he can’t keep the realities apart anymore, and while something is approaching him in the dream world, he finds it might be linked to something happening in the real world…

As usual, Malfi crafts interesting characters. Carl Thompson is a dynamic character, enigmatic yet strange, and one instantly wants to find out more about him. The lead character carries most of the book, turning a story that, at its core is perhaps not the author’s most original work, into an enjoyable read with a few unpredictable twists.

This story packed a lot, and since it’s only a short novella, somethings happened a little too fast for my liking, especially the end scene. As I’ve come to expect, the author delivers beautiful prose znf a haunting narrative.

Book Review: Scarecrows by Christine Hayton

25234465Title: Scarecrows

Author: Christine Hayton

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

They do more than frighten birds. Much more.
Early one morning in the fall of 1964, Robert searched for his missing six-year-old daughter, Cathy. He found her asleep in a nearby cornfield, covered in blood and holding a small axe. A few feet away lay the mutilated body of her classmate Emily.
Assumed guilty of murder, Cathy lived in a hospital for insane children. She always gave the same account of what happened. She talked of murderous scarecrows that roamed the cornfield on moonlit nights. Her doctors considered her delusional. The police, her neighbors and the press thought she was dangerous. And so she remained incarcerated. No one believed her. That was a mistake.

Scarecrows ia horror novella that, although failing to be terrifying, does make one feel grossed out at times, and does have its scary moments. The book reads much like a murder mystery however, and doesn’t quite reach the scare level I expected it would. That is surprising, considering scarecrows are some of the scariest things out there.

Cathy is barely six years old when she commits murder. At least, that’s what local authorities believe. Cathy was found asleep in a cornfield, covered in blood and holding a small axe, with the mutilated body of her friend Emily only a few feet away. Assumed guilty, Cathy is put into a mental hospital for insane children. But Cathy never stopped telling her story of what really happened: scarecrows did it.

And the Scarecrows aren’t quite finished yet. With doctors slowly believing Cathy wasn’t responsible for the murders, and with other strange things happening around town, the question rises whether Cathy was telling the truth after all.

With a premise like that, it’s tough to see how it could go wrong, yet it does. Part of that is because the characters don’t seem realistic. Even though they found Cathy covered in blood, her parents seem all too eager to accept her guilt. Wouldn’t a parent fight for their kid’s innocence, especially when the kid indicates they didn’t do it and never before portrayed violent behavior? Then, the behavior of the psychiatrists is questionable too. One of them even decides to live on the farm where Cathy lived, dedicating months to this single case without having any real connection to it prior to this. And the original psychiatrist’s storyline goes nowhere, leaving us with a dead end as suddenly we get this new psychiatrist seemingly out of the blue.

Cathy is impossible to connect with. She’s six years old (and eight after being released from the mental institution) but she appears much older. None of the characters are easy to connect with, and the dialogue feels unnatural and stiffed.

The book focuses on the scarecrows mostly in the second part, but still never reaches beyond the level of a murder mystery. It’s not horror since there’s no real suspense. At times, the book is painstakingly slow, and other times, the narrative jumps all over the place.

It’s not a bad story, and as a murder mystery it has an interesting eough angle, but as a horror book, it falls flat, providing no sense of creepiness whatsoever.

Book Review: Facial by Jeff Strand

23353557Title: Facial

Author: Jeff Strand

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction, Dark Humor

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Greg has just killed the man he hired to kill one of his wife’s many lovers. He’s now got a dead body in his office.
Carlton, Greg’s brother, desperately needs a dead body. It’s kind of related to the lion corpse that he found in his basement.
This is the normal part of the story.
From Jeff Strand, the author of Benjamin’s Parasite, The Sinister Mr. Corpse, and Fangboy, comes a tale that’s weird even by his standards.
Facial. It’s not about what you’re thinking. Well, okay, part of it is…

In Facial, Greg killed the man he hired to kill one of his wife’s lovers, which leaves him with a dead body in his office. That comes in handy considering Carlton, Greg’s brother, could really use a dead body. The reason why is related to a lion corpse he found in his basement, and a face that mysterious appeared in his basement floor. The face demands dead people, in particular their heads, and because when a face appears on your floor and starts making insane requests, you better start doing what it says, the brothers start feeding the face. Next thing they know, a new face appears. And another. All those faces, demanding food, demanding dead people.

This book is messed up. The brothers have little qualms about killing people, and they actually start enjoying it. The author has a real talent for mixing the macabre with humor. Making serial killing sound hilarious is a rare talent. The humor is weird and bizarre, and you need to be a special kind of crazy to enjoy this book, but turns out I’m just that.

It’s entertaining even though you don’t want it to be. The writing is excellent, and the plot is definitely original. Fans of bizarro fiction will enjoy this one.

Book Review: Ghosts of Eden by Keith Deininger

23199506Title: Ghosts of Eden

Author: Keith Deininger

Genre: Horror, Dark Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

A neglected and abused little girl…A hopeless drug addict…Horrifying visions of bizarre beings that may or may not be human…A haunted desert refuge that could hold the key to everything…and all of it tied together by a mysterious jar that contains the secrets of good and evil, reality and nightmares, creation and death…and everything in between…

Following a family tragedy, Kayla, a twelve-year-old orphan, and Garty, a college dropout and junkie, are sent to spend the summer with an enigmatic uncle neither of them have ever known, at his palatial desert home in Los Alamos, New Mexico, the birthplace of the Atomic Bomb. While Garty struggles to come to grips with his reckless past, and Kayla attempts to discover her place in the world, their Uncle Xander reveals the true purpose for them being there.

Soon, dark secrets will be revealed. They will be shown things that will change their perceptions of the physical universe, because nothing is as it seems, and no one is safe from the terrifying secrets awaiting them. When the strange jar is opened, otherworldly horrors slip forth with ambitions of dominance, oppression and terror.

Eden will be reborn.

Ghosts of Eden is an interesting take on the orphan ends up in an adventure trope. Kayla’s family passes away, leaving her a twelve-year-old orphan. She and Gary, a college dropout and notorious junkie, get to spend the summer with her uncle Xander, an uncle she’s never known or heard of. Both Kayla and Gary are haunted by nightmares while reality starts to transform and strange things, too strange to be real. Their uncle isn’t who he seems to be, and soon they find themselves in a dark adventure that may chance the way they see the universe, forever.

The author has an amazing imagination, and knows how to tell a story well. Despite the surreal elements, the world of Kayla and Gary felt quite real. It was hard to figure out which was reality and which wasn’t, though, but I thought that added to the surreal qualities of the book. As usual, DarkFuse delivers another excellent story.

Book Review: Angel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz

23343293Title: Angel of the Abyss
Author: Ed Kurtz
Genre: Dark Fiction, Noir, Mystery
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When Graham Woodard is hired to restore part of a previously lost silent horror film—Angel of the Abyss—the last thing he expects is the first in a series of murders clearly meant to keep it lost.

With one-time friend Jake Maitland in tow, the two must now navigate the treacherous enigma that is the lost film, while piecing together the story of the film’s ill-fated starlet, Grace Baron, who vanished in 1926. The closer they get to the truth, the more blood is spilled, and it soon becomes apparent that there is much more to the lost film than anyone expected, as there are still forces that will stop at nothing to keep it and its star buried. The darkness the strange film conjured all those years ago has come alive again with its discovery, and now everyone from Graham’s own estranged ex-wife to the LAPD is getting involved.

And the body count is growing.

From the burgeoning film studios of 1920s Hollywood to the perilous streets and dark underbelly of modern-day Los Angeles, Angel of the Abyss is a dangerous tapestry of cinema, history and murder, at the center of which stand two men with everything to lose.

Angel of the Abyss is a noir mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Graham Woodard is hired to restore part of a lost silent horror film called “Angel of the Abyss”. It was one of the only movies featuring a particular actress, Gracie Baron.

The plot switches between past and present, between Gracie Baron prepping to make the film and making it, and Graham trying to restore it. Gracie Baron went missing after filming “Angel of the Abyss”, so there’s a whole mystery attached to the film already.

As soon as Graham flies to LA to start working on the film, murders start to happen, and someone clearly doesn’t want that film restored. Graham nad his best friend Jake will have to team up to find out who doesn’t want the secrets behind the movie uncovered, and who is willing to kill for that.

The book reads like a modern Hollywood noir. Definitely not a bad book, but the parts in the past were better than the parts set in the present. You can almost feel Grace’s naivité, whereas in the present we just get a cut-and-dry murder mystery.

Book Review: In The Shadows of Children

23199482Title: In The Shadows of Children

Author: Alan Ryker

Genre: Horror

Rating:3 stars


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

Aaron hasn’t been home since his younger brother mysteriously disappeared without a trace from his bedroom fifteen years earlier. He thought he’d moved on with his life.

But when his mother dies suddenly, he finds himself back in his childhood hometown to attend the funeral and see to the estate. Aaron soon finds his hopes of reliving fond childhood memories evaporating as he discovers something in his old closet that shakes not only his beliefs about what happened to his brother, but his grip on reality.
In the hungry darkness, a shadow as old as time itself has been waiting for his return for a long time. And its wait is nearly over…

In The Shadows of Children is a short novella that focuses on childhood fear. Aaron, our main character, hasn’t been home since his younger brother disappeared from his bedroom fifteen years ago. But when his mother dies, he has to go see the estate and decide what to do with it. But there, he finds something in his old closet that turns his world view upside down and makes him question what happened to his kid brother all those years ago.

The book starts out slow to set the scene. The reader spends a lot of time inside Aaron’s mind, and it’s not all candy and butterflies in there. Aaron is hard to sympathize with at first, but the more you spend time with him, the more you can understand why he’s the man he is today. The book nicely blends supernatural and psychological terror.

The writing is decent, and really, my only complaints are the slow start and how the book wasn’t really scary. The book is also quite short and the story is rather straightforward.

Book Review: The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave by J.H. Moncrieff

25118244Title: The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave

Author: J.H. Moncrieff

Genre: Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear.Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant toaccept a well-worn stuffed teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy…and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things begin to happen.Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ effortsrebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth—Edgar will always get even.

The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave brings a pretty basic and familiar plot – a young boy gets a teddy bear and it turns out to be a demonic creature from hell that wants to hurt him – and turns it into an even more twisted version than the original. Familiar, yet with some imaginative new twists, this is a nostalgic horror novel that fans of the genre will definitely enjoy.

Josh Leary is barely ten years old when his life turns upside down. His father passed away, and now he has to deal with his new stepfather. But Michael, his stepfather, is a wicked, cruel man, and Josh’s mother seems blind to the truth. When his stepdad gives him a fuzzy, menacing-looking teddy bear, Josh knows he’s not doing it to be nice. The bear is wicked. At first, Josh suspects his stepdad is behind it when the bear moves on it own, escaping the closet he threw it in, but when more and more strange things start happening, he realizes the bear may have some terrible powers of his own. Meanwhile, Josh’s life spirals out of control as his stepfather grows more dominating and subjects him to harsh punishments, and his relationship with his mother deteriorates. Can he save his family?

While the story of the demonic teddy bear is certainly entertaining, it was the underlying story that really grasped my interest. Josh and his mom have a great relationship at first, but Josh is immediately wary of his stepdad, and time and time again, his mom dismisses his pleas and chooses his stepfather over him, while all along, Josh was right. When Edgar the teddy bear starts destroying things around the house, Michael blames Josh, and although she doesn’t want to, Josh’s mom believes him. Then the punishments starts, and God, sometimes it’s awful to read. That’s the true horror – not the demonic bear, but what Josh’s mom lets this man, this stranger, do to her son. That’s what chilled me to the core.

Josh is an easy character to connect to. For a kid, he’s really mature, and he has the same fears all of us do. Michael is a cruel man, and he’s easy to hate, which was probably the author’s intention too. Josh’s mom is timid and fragile, but at times she shows some bravery. Other times, you just want to shake her and yell at her to choose for her child, to protect little Josh. She was a frustrating character, but again, I believe it was done intentional, and it was done well.

The writing is great, and the plot is entertaining. Only the ending felt a little rushed. A solid read for horror fans.

Book Review: Oasis of the Damned by Greg F. Gifune

23353582Title: Oasis of the Damned

Author: Greg F. Gifune

Genre: Dark Fiction, Horror

Age Group: Adult (18+)

Rating: 3,5 stars

Purchase: Amazon

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

When her helicopter crashes in the middle of the Sahara, Heather Richter, a former Army Captain and veteran of the Iraq War, finds herself at an abandoned WWII military outpost in one of the harshest and deadliest deserts on Earth. But she soon realizes there is another victim of the desert in this empty expanse of endless sand. Owens, a victim of an earlier plane crash, is there as well. An enigmatic and brooding man, he knows the secrets of the outpost, that it was actually built on top of an oasis and a natural well, the only thing that’s kept him alive. But he also knows the darker secrets of this strange and forgotten patch of desert hell.
He and Richter are not alone. And the cruel terrain and relentless sun are the least of their worries, because inhuman things haunt the outpost, hideous and violent things that only come at night. Ancient, evil creatures hungry for human flesh, and no matter how many Richter and Owens kill, they just keep coming.
With little hope of rescue, and tortured by her horrific experiences in Iraq years before, as well as the untimely and tragic death of her younger brother, Richter struggles to maintain her sanity amidst the brutal attacks that occur each time night falls, all the while trying to figure out if Owens is truly what he claims, or something more.
Is anything as it seems, or is there something more profound happening, a shocking wound bleeding deeper than the ancient sands, the dark desert nights and the blistering sun?
Two lost souls…a forgotten outpost in a haunted desert…vicious creatures bent on destruction…
The brutal fight for survival has begun.

In Oasis of the Damned, Heather Richter’s helicopter crashes in the middle of the Sahara. Owens, the victim of an earlier plane crash, is the only human around in miles. But Owens knows things about the outpost they crashed at, and none of it is good. Despite Richter being a tough cookie – she’s a war vet and former Army Captain – what she finds in the middle of the desert may be too tough to beat, even for her. At night, inhuman, ancient creatures hungry for human flesh, appear and wreak havoc, and every night, they come closer and closer to destroying them. The creatures already killed all of Owens’ companions, and they might be next..

The creatures aren’t particularly horrifying. I mean, they’d terrify me if I were out in the desert, sure, but the creep effect never really translates while you’re reading. The most interesting parts were the ones that focused on Richter’s based. These parts make her seem human, real, more than an unlucky person who got stranded in the dessert.

The ending has a nice twist, and overall, the story is a satisfying read. As usual, the writing is superb and the prose is one of the highlights of the book.

Book Review: No One Gets Out Alive by Adam Nevill

22935767Title: No One Gets Out Alive
Author: Adam Nevill
Genre: Horror
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Darkness lives within …Cash-strapped, working for agencies and living in shared accommodation, Stephanie Booth feels she can fall no further. So when she takes a new room at the right price, she believes her luck has finally turned. But 82 Edgware Road is not what it appears to be. It’s not only the eerie atmosphere of the vast, neglected house, or the disturbing attitude of her new landlord, Knacker McGuire, that makes her uneasy – it’s the whispers behind the fireplace, the scratching beneath floors, the footsteps in the dark, and the young women weeping in neighbouring rooms. And when Knacker’s cousin Fergal arrives, the danger goes vertical. But this is merely a beginning, a gateway to horrors beyond Stephanie’s worst nightmares. And in a house where no one listens to the screams, will she ever get out alive?

In No One Gets Out Alive, Stephanie thinks her life can’t get any worse. But this wouldn’t be a horror novel, if things weren’t about to get ten times as bad. She ends up taking a room in a huge, but rambling, old building in desperate need of a make-over. The room is cheap, but she thinks that’s probably due to the bad state of the property. That is, until she starts hearing strange noises, even on her first night there. Ghostly stuff starts to happen: voices when no one’s around, screams in the dead of night, strange noises in the bathroom. Despite her better judgement (seriously, everyone would’ve gotten the hell out of there by then), Stephanie stays to stick it out…and then the true horror begins.

Knacker, her land lord, is a vile excuse for a human being. His cousin Fergal is easily ten times as worse. And their wicked personality is enhanced by the beings festering inside the house, a supernatural force that thrives on blood and control and sin. By then, the tension was so high I almost jumped off my seat every time someone as much as entered the room. The author has a spectacular ability of creating tension, of making the reader feel like they’re right there, alongside the main character, living through the terror too.

At first, I thought Stephanie’s character was weak, because who in their right mind doesn’t run when hell drops open you? But then I got to know her, she grew on me, and I figured she had this inner strength. She’s a lot tougher than we give her credit for. No matter what happens, she always finds the strength to keep on going.

And the house…it’s a character in its own right. You get that a lot with horror books, but no one does it as masterfully as this author. The malice grows slowly, creeping up on you, but after reading this book, you won’t be able to read “82 Edgware Road” without cringing. I guarantee it.

There’s an amazing plot twist toward the end that I didn’t see coming at all. Giving I read hundreds of horror books (not exaggerating, I read over a hundred last year) a year, that’s saying something.

The writing is sublime. The characters are realistic, even the villains. They’re vile and slimy, but they’re still three-dimensional people with hopes and aspirations, and when you look at it from their point of view, their reasoning makes sense. The plot is dark and brutal, and it might shock you, it might thrill you, but it will definitely leave you scared.