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review 2017-08-16 19:06
The Well by Marie Sexton
The Well - Marie Sexton

The Well is a perfectly creepy, atmospheric little read for those of you who don’t like their horror all up in your face. I’m not going to say it scared me, because books rarely do, but it did build up a dastardly little mystery that did make my skin crawl a time or two.

It’s told in two timelines.

 

Twelve years ago Haven is goaded into staying the night at a rumored haunted house by his cousin Elise. It didn’t take a lot of goading though because Haven’s crush, Pierce, was also attending. He knew nothing was likely to happen either ghostly-wise or with Pierce but off he goes with Elise, Pierce and a few other teens for a night of spooky fun. When Elise decides to throw a séance things take a sinister turn and later Elise disappears.

 

The other timeline is set in the present day. Since that fateful night, Haven has been haunted by the loss of his favorite cousin Elise and spent most of his youth believing one of the teens present that night committed murder and has distanced himself from them. He’s become a horror writer to excise those demons but hasn’t kept in touch with his old group of friends – until now. Pierce, now a tv ghost hunter, has returned to town to do a segment on the vacant house and he wants Haven to participate. Old lusts are reignited as well as old suspicions . . .

 

There is a little romance here so if you don’t like that sort of thing invading your horror fiction you have been warned. Mostly this book is a slow burning murder-mystery with a side helping of ghostliness. I enjoyed watching it all unfold and especially loved the ghost-busting segment where scary sh*t actually happened! It kept me guessing and had just the right mix of thrills, atmosphere and engaging characters.

 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley courtesy of author Marie Sexton.

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review 2017-08-14 19:27
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Dark Matter - Blake Crouch,Jon Lindstrom

I was afraid to start this, truth be told, because I read many reviews that said it was very mind-bending, confusing, and scientific. I was really afraid it would break my brain.  I am happy to report that now that I’ve finished my brain is no more broken than it was before I began Dark Matter. So if you’ve been hesitant to read this based on those on rumors, have no worries. It is not in any way shape or form a horror novel however so if you’re expecting that you will be disappointed. It’s more of a character based thriller and a pretty awesome one at that.

 

I will not go so far as to say that I understood the mechanics behind everything, especially at the turn of mind-boggling events in the last act, but I can say that it never slowed down the book for me or left me hopelessly lost in a sea of scientific jibber-jabber. I wanted to keep going because it was exciting and captivating and all of those delicious things and mostly because I grew to care about the characters so much.

 

I’m not saying anything about the plot because everyone else has done that already but also because I am lazy and you will enjoy this most going in cold, if you still can.  Just read it. It’s good stuff!

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review 2017-08-08 20:04
Dark Water by K.L. White
Dark Water - K.L. White

Benjamin has had enough of this cruel, cruel world. Blind and battered and suffering from PTSD after returning from service in the military, he visits the beach where he and his now dead best friend Rez shared many good times. He intends to drown himself but before he can do that he hears horse hooves and then, strangely enough, he hears Rez’s voice.

Rez is not only alive but he claims he is a kelpie arisen from the sea and must take a human sacrifice to appease and keep the bloodthirst of his band of kelpies at bay. Because he touched the water with death in his thoughts, Benjamin is marked for death and Rez is charged with bringing it. Uh oh.

So, what’s a kelpie, you may ask? According to this book and google legend, a kelpie is a shapeshifting water horse that watches over and saves hapless humans from drowning and shark attacks but twice a year they must sacrifice a villain or willing victim (and eat them!) or the bloodlust may overcome them. 



Don’t you love it? So beautiful yet so very sinister. 

Anyhow, once Rez realizes it’s his buddy that is marked for death, he seeks advice to remove the mark. This is where things get a wee bit wonky for me. The only way he can remove it is by having sexy times with Benjamin and making him his mate for life. Rez likes men but Benjamin is straight. Or at least he thought so . . . 

I’ll say nothing more about the plot but I will say that the brevity of this story was definitely a deterrent to my falling in love with it. I don’t mind a good gay for you love story but this one didn’t work because there was no time for things to develop naturally. It was rushed and, in the end, I felt the relationship was based more on lust, comfort and outside pressures than any true love match. Add another hundred pages to this novella and it could’ve been an emotional angst-fest that I would’ve adored. As written it was just a strange little tale of lust. Not horrible but not all that memorable either.

 

I received a copy of this ARC from Netgalley and Carina Press.

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review 2017-08-04 19:35
Behold! Oddities, Curiosities & Undefinable Wonders edited by Doug Murano
Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders - Doug Murano

I took one look at the cover and decided I had to read this. I wrongly assumed it was about the carny life and ever since reading Geek Love I’ve been drawn to those types of books. These stories aren’t about sideshow freaks and pop-up carnivals but they’re mostly pretty good despite that. 

The book is broken up into three sections. Oddities, Curiosities & Undefinable Wonders. I enjoyed more of the stories in the first two categories and started to feel a little fatigued by the end. This is typical of me and short story collections (see my review for Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror) and likely says nothing about the collection but there it is.

Let’s start with the ODDITIES.

Larue’s Dime Museum by Lisa Morton Julia is intrigued by two old photos she discovers at an antique shop and brings them home. Soon her life has turned into a creepy Twilight Zone episode. This tale sets just the right tone for this collection.

Wildflower, Cactus by Rose Brian Kirk The price of beauty and the ugliness of human nature leads two women down the path of body modification and helps them find their power. 

"The world is a mirror. What do you want to see?"

I wish this story had been a bit longer but I truly enjoyed what was there.

The Baker of Millepoix by Hal Bodner A heartbroken man buys a bakery and gives it his all (and that’s all I’m saying!). Before long, miracles start to happen. I do believe this was my favorite story in the collection. It has it all. There is a great setup, character building, fabulous storytelling and even a little humor. You must read it. 

Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament by Clive Barker I've read this one twice before in Clive Barker’s Books of Blood Vol. 2 . I nearly skipped it this time around but am glad I didn’t.

Jacqueline discovers she has a grisly talent that terrifies her a little. It would terrify me too. It’s a pretty dastardly power. But once she realizes what a rush of power it brings, she develops a new lust for life. She perfects her talent and wields it to exact revenge and rid herself of pesky men. It’s dark, bloody, visceral, horribly humorous (if you’re warped) and classic Clive Barker. Even on this, my third reading, I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. 

An Exhibition of Mother and Monster by Stephanie M. Wytovich This is a damning poem on those who glee in the sideshow freaks. Now I almost feel bad for my little fetish.

Next up: CURIOSITIES

I love shops filled with old treasures. The creepier the better.

Madame Painte: For Sale by John Langan Intrigued by a "must be kept outside" sign accompanying a strangely painted garden gnome, “you” decide to bring it inside and learn more about its story. And it's a horrible story, indeed! It's devilishly evil and I adored it. How come the old crap I bring home never has such a sinister secret life?!

Chivalry by Neil Gaiman Gaiman’s dry wit is on full display as he tells this tale about a stubborn old bitty who stumbles upon the Holy Grail and refuses to part with it! Sir Galaad brings her all sorts of gifts in order to get it back but she is not at all impressed. If I had the ability to laugh out loud while reading, this would’ve been the story to make me to do it. Simply charming.

 

VERY IMPT. BONUS NOTES: I just discovered that Levar Burton reads this in episode 7 of his new podcast! Drop everything and go listen!!

Fully Boarded by Ramsey Campbell I know Ramsey Campbell is a legend in horrorland but his writing has never quite worked for me. The same goes here. This story is about a travel reviewer, a wristband and some truly terrible hospitality. I’d give this a three. It was ok, slightly on the “meh” side of the scale and not my favorite here. 

In Amelia’s Wake by Erinn L. Kemper This story is slathered all over with grief. It’s about a group of brother’s who are watching over Amelia Earhart's plane and about a slithery thing that hides in the shadows. I thought it was slightly eerie but slow and it ended too suddenly.

A Ware That Will Not Keep by John F.D. Taff A dying man shares a terrible story from his past. Now this one was took my breath away. It’s a creative and haunting little tale and that ending? Damn, that will be hard to forget.

Earl Pruitt’s Smoker by Patrick Freivald A bee keeper’s old smoker brings one woman the freedom and excitement she so desperately craves but it also brings out the worst in her. This is such an imaginative and chilling little story that smacks you in the face with the consequences of your darker side. 

As a Guest at the Telekinetic Tea Party Stephanie M. Wytovich A whimsical poem that takes a dark turn. This one, at least, didn’t leave me with the guilts!

Hazelnuts and Yummy Mummies Lucy A. Snyder This tale lures you in with the funny but then takes a sad turn as a woman faces the one moment she wishes she could redo. 

And, finally, we have UNDEFINABLE WONDERS. This is the part of the collection where my attention began to wane. I only found one of the stories exceptional and completely engaging. The rest were a little bit of a struggle for me to finish.

The Shiny Fruit of Our Tomorrows by Brian Hodge This story follows a bunch of down on their luck train hoppers as they attempt to find a tree that is rumored to have magical powers that may lead them down a better path. It’s strikingly real but maintains a sense of wonder but was missing a little certain something for me.

The Wakeful Kristi DeMeester This is a weird story about a teacher, a bad relationship, a strange little girl and a terrible garden. Is it a tale of madness or something else? I am left unsure but it I do know that it left me feeling unsettled.

Knitter by Christopher Coake My favorite of the undefinable wonders. The author creates a dark vision of another world where people are trying to live their lives while attempting to avoid ever seeing a creature they call "knitters" who have a devastating power that they use at will. It has a fairytale like feel with a pitch black undertone, hypnotizing prose and an ending that hurts.

Through Gravel by Sarah Read There is a society living underground who call themselves “The Kindred”. As time goes by, their numbers shrink but a newbie arrives with new ideas that will invigorate their group but The Kindred’s greed may be their downfall. This story didn’t do it for me. I cannot explain the reasons. 

Hiraeth by Richard Thomas I may have been out of steam by the time I arrived at this story because I didn’t understand it. It could be my lack of brain cells that caused me to miss nuanced symbolism or whatnot but honestly I’m too tired to think and don’t want to work this hard to comprehend a short story. It’s about a poor farmer’s son who has a hole running through is body, a prickly tree with forbidden fruit and the pain the hapless boy brings upon himself – I think. It was weird, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I’m beat and that’s all I have. There is some wondrous storytelling within these pages and, even though some of the stories weren’t meant for me, it’s most definitely a collection worth checking out!

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review 2017-08-01 19:25
Conjesero by Carl Alves (Audio Review)
Conjesero - Carl Alves,Carl Alves,Steve Rausch,Steve Rausch

Conjesero is about a homicide detective whose latest case involves a murderous monster of the non-human kind. Kevin is at the top of his career, having just caught a murdering rapist, when his friend is mauled by something he claims resembles a werewolf. This isn’t just some large man in need of a haircut and shave, says his friend, it was a genuine monster.

And he’s not lying.

This is a monster/police procedural thriller that has a high death count and a monster who isn’t afraid to kill children so be warned! It features a little something for everyone who likes these sorts of books and the writing reminds me a little of Dean Koontz, at least the version of Koontz who isn’t being preachy, speechy and long-winded! It moves at a fast clip, the characters are relatable and there’s even a little romance a-brewing.

Two things did leave me perplexed, however. One is the age of one of the kids. Unless I was hearing things wrong, which is entirely possible, there’s a boy in the story who is described as being in the third grade and going to an elementary school but he and his friends speak and behave more like kids in high school or, at the very least, middle school. Their plot line just didn’t jibe with the age and it niggled at me. The other perplexing moment comes near the last act when Kevin decides to enlist the help of untrained civilians (one of them is his love interest, FFS!) to assist in catching this supernatural bad guy instead of putting together some armed SWAT team or something. It was a really dumb turn of events for such an accomplished detective and even I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that far to go along with his hapless plan.


I listened to this as an unabridged audiobook and recommend doing it that way if you enjoy audiobooks. Steve Rausch has a commanding voice and does a very good job voicing Kevin and the men though, I cannot lie, he is a little cringy when it comes to the women and children but that’s usually the case when there’s one narrator and he has to voice varied characters that aren’t in his range. He keeps a good pace and kept me tuned in which is more than many narrations tend to do.

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