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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-16 22:04
The Moor by Sam Haysom
The Moor - John Haysom

The Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taking part in a school trip, five teenagers and their teacher set out on a long walk across Rutmoor, thinking it to be a fun experience with friends. What they don’t expect is odd noises in the dead of night, and dead animals placed outside their tents. When tensions and tempers arise, the group soon begins to fall apart, until a dramatic turn leads them to fear for their very lives.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I never thought as I started reading this one, that I’d get so much enjoyment out of it. It took me by surprise; one of those moments that make this hobby so worth it. It all began with clippings from newspapers, written in a way that suggested they were merely pieces of a puzzle. Indeed, that set my mind ablaze with theories that wouldn’t subside throughout the entire book. I loved how it gave me a new perspective over the characters, how they interacted with each other, and in general how they were presented. Haysom was clever enough to give enough of a tease that pulled me in, made me want to know more, and I very much appreciated it. As I believe it, this is a debut novel, yet I wouldn’t have guessed. Many of the pitfalls new authors fall into - such as a lack of sufficient editing and typical horror tropes that are almost painfully overused at this point - were largely absent, giving an almost fresh take.

The atmosphere of Rutmoor, of how utterly miserable and arduous the travel became, it created vivid imagery in my head, and induced a very strong aversion to hiking. I can now say it's not something I want to do ever, in my lifetime. Honestly, the dynamic of the hiking group was a highlight; it had that pinch of realism to it. Each individual offered something unique with their personality, and like any real life circle, they all differed and even clashed together. Sometimes it was ugly, other times sweet, but most of all, their friendships were authentic. My favourite had to be Tom; undoubtedly the most sensible of the lot, followed by Matt and James. Even despite the young age of each, I was still able to relate. Yes, there was some immaturity - pretty much what you'd expect from teens, but it wasn't to the extreme.

The format of the plot struck me as quite different, in that rather than waiting until the end to reveal the big twist, it was just after fifty percent that it came into play. I can’t say it was unexpected - in fact, I had my suspicions much earlier, but I adored it regardless. You see, I much prefer when the direction of the story changes so drastically from my initial assumptions. If it’s done well, like it so wonderfully was in this case, then I feel like I’m kept on my toes, like I don’t have time to even look away. The question of survival played a significant part, as due to the parallel running chapters of present day (2015 to be precise), those that endured the horrors of the moor were made known, thus it was not the matter of who’s going to survive, but how do they survive.

The only thing that I found quite awkward, was the continual switch of past / present tense in the style of writing, however I understand it was used as a tool - to obviously convey the period of time, and perhaps even to alleviate confusion. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a challenge to get used to it.

In conclusion: I considered it a great story, and to be completely truthful, it soared above my expectations. With a slow beginning of character and atmosphere building, the story exploded into a creepfest that kept my attention. My applause goes to Haysom, and his impressive debut novel.

Notable Scene:

The rabbit's body was a mangled pulp of flesh, bone and hair. Its eyeless, earless face stared up at him from the grass. Patches of drying blood lay on the grass around it.
From somewhere behind Gary, a tree branch snapped.


© Red Lace 2018


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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/16/the-moor-by-sam-haysom
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-15 19:16
Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish
Wrath of the Ancients - Catherine Cavendish

Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The year is 1913 and Adeline Ogilvy makes her way to Vienna, after accepting a career opportunity to transcribe the memoirs of the late Emeryk Quintillus. Rather than being able to settle down and do her work however, strange occurrences draw Adeline's attention, and soon she finds herself caught in a wicked scheme that involves the wrath of a God.

(WARNING: This review contains MAJOR spoilers.)

I purchased this one after I noticed the monthly Horror Aficionados group read, and even though it's not the latest installment of this series, what’s better than starting at the beginning? I’ve always found Egyptian history interesting; it seems to be depicted as glamorous, mystical, but also somewhat scary, what with all that mummifying shenanigans. It’s a perfect setup for horror, obviously, yet before I delved into Cavendish’s cleverly researched work, I hadn’t seen much of the theme. Perhaps it’s not as sought after as the more typical haunted houses and zombies, yet either way, I was ready for some Cleopatra goodness. What followed was a relatively light read that rhythmically drew me in and pushed me away.

The first part of the story revolved solely around Adeline, whereupon she temporarily relocated to Vienna for work. This is where I found myself impressed with the writing, and how quickly I was pulled into the mystery surrounding the Quintillus household. As Adeline explored the darkest recesses of the manor, I was thrilled to join her in each new, chilling discovery. I thus believed that this had set the scene for the entire book, but was heavily disappointed when that wasn’t actually the case. The much enjoyed “one character against the world” was turned upside down when another was introduced, that being Professor Jakob Mayer. I have no issue in admitting that I thought he possessed an ulterior motive throughout, as he didn’t seem quite right - he’s the one that offered all the answers, that had Adeline follow him around as he took charge with an unusually calm demeanour. Upon progressing through the story, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing nefarious about him, and that somehow felt wrong to me, as if he was merely shoehorned in to move along the plot at a much quicker pace. There’s no question that I would have remained invested had Adeline been left to figure it all out on her own, without being guided so obnoxiously.

When part one (by far the longest section) ended and I was thrust into the lives of strangers, I lost interest to a certain degree. It was jarring, to say the least, that I had to leave behind the woman I became so fond of, but I understand the intention of the plot was to span decades. It’s always a risk, to implement such long jumps of time and have a flawless transition, and in this case it just didn’t work for me. I felt disconnected, and, suffice it to say, I was glad when Adeline eventually reappeared.

The supernatural aspect, that was more to do with the effects of a curse than anything else, proved to be entertaining, but certainly nothing even remotely scary. Let me explain when a horror becomes less and less impactful for me personally - it's the matter of showing too much, to the point where I'm desensitised. I experienced no sense of dread and not a modicum of tension after that green light surfaced for the tenth time; sometimes less is more, and I firmly believe a lot of books would benefit had the author kept this in mind. There's also the issue that danger wasn't sufficiently conveyed - sure, there were a few deaths, but at no time did I worry for the well-being of the main character.

In conclusion: I really thought I was going to love this one, but the story went in a direction that failed to maintain my interest. To put in bluntly, I would have preferred the focus remaining upon Adeline, of whom I liked very much. Straying away from her, and bringing in a character that overshadowed her, just didn't appeal. That said, it wasn't all bad, hence the average rating I decided upon. Will I pick up the next one though? I'm really not sure.

Notable Scene:

Adeline forced herself to admit something she had suppressed for over fifty years. Those terrifying weeks in Vienna had left an indelible impression on her. For weeks, months, even years afterward, she would wake screaming in the night. She would see Emeryk Quintillus's mummified skin and eyeless face.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/15/wrath-of-the-ancients-by-catherine-cavendish
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-06-08 02:07
The Sadist's Bible by Nicole Cushing
The Sadist's Bible - Nicole Cushing

The Sadist's Bible by Nicole Cushing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lori and Ellie have never met, but they both yearn for the touch of a woman and the sweet release of death. Eager to take their online correspondence to the next level, they strike an agreement and plan a getaway to a remote hotel. Their intentions? To succumb to their desires and finish with a deadly climax.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

There’s nothing like discovering a well-hidden gem, and that’s exactly what happened when I originally spied a review from Morgan K Tanner's blog. The book in question seemed intriguing; a mix of suicidal intentions and grim religion - right up my street. What followed was a quick read, yet despite its short length, its execution was no less impactful. Cushing was able to portray two very mentally ill individuals; their helplessness apparent when they decide the best course of action is a joint suicide. Amongst the fantasies of death, is a very prominent emphasis on homosexuality, whereupon the women visualise their passing as a deeply erotic affair, and thus a statement to society. Certainly morbid, but in that darkly fascinating sort of way that I can appreciate if done well. Of course this wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, especially when it comes to Christianity, as the He is painted in a very harsh light - which isn't as far-fetched as one might believe. If anything, I'd consider Him more alike his Old Testament representation, but that’s neither here nor there.

One thing that occurred to me early on was that, whilst Lori’s situation was significantly more dour, Ellie’s was a lot more closer to reality. Unable to express her true self, Ellie was ruled by fear, and to some extent, shame. It was a very genuine example of what a lot of people go through every day of their lives, and I felt that the coupling of real life issues and celestial intervention worked well together. Honestly though, I didn't find these two characters entirely likeable on a personal level, however my sympathy lay more with Lori, as I believed her to be a victim of the most horrendous acts possible. The connection between these two women could've been explored further, although it was easy enough to discern their relationship formed out of desperation.

The plot itself was able to keep up a decent pace, probably because it didn’t have time to add any unnecessary fluff. The last half of the book is where things took a turn, and I guess I didn’t expect things to get so crazy, but they did. The running theme of sex and violence only magnified, and it was unquestionably shoved to the forefront throughout the end. Vivid, graphic scenes delved into totortuous acts of depravity, where Cushing had no qualms about detailing the sadistic pleasures of a heavenly orgy. I use the term "heavenly" very loosely, as those creatures more resembled beings of nightmare.

That's the thing here - this is a bleak story, where a saviour, in the typical sense of the word, doesn't exist.

In conclusion: Torture intermingles with sex in this novella, and those of a religious nature would be likely best to avoid this one altogether. I considered it a very entertaining read, and it certainly put Cushing on my radar.

Notable Quote:

The arc of the universe is long, but bends towards degeneracy.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/06/08/the-sadists-bible-by-nicole-cushing
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review 2018-05-08 23:30
EVIL BUGS!
Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella - Michael Patrick Hicks

“He could only watch as a pasty arm jabbed at his face. His back arched as he screamed, the spiked forelimb spearing his eye. Warm jelly oozed down his face as the orb exploded…”

 

BROKEN SHELLS (High Fever Books, 2017), the latest by author, Michael Patrick Hicks (REVOLVER, MASS HYSTERIA), is a wild underground creature-feature. The story follows Antoine DeWitt, a man that is slugging his way through a paycheck-to-paycheck life. Antoine has a screaming, crying baby at home with his lady, and is tired of it all. He's just been fired from work when he receives a Money Carlo winning ticket promising him $5, 000, he reluctantly decides to check out the to-good-to-be-true deal. The dealership has something for Mr. DeWitt, but it’s not exactly what he was expecting. 

 

This is a fun and nasty little novella from Hicks. He shows his love for creatures-features, brings the gore and the terror, and his show-stealing creations (the Ba’is) are fantastic. Joe Dangle, the owner of the dealership, and his family have been responsible for keeping the creatures locked away, feeding them (bodies, of course), and keeping it all secret. Evil bugs with sharp claws that will poke your eyes out or rip your mouth apart, the Ba’is rule this story. 


“Her lips stretched, her skin blanching under the strain, and then the corners of her mouth split, the flesh unzipping into a gruesome and jagged smile as her cheeks ripped apart.”

Personally, I disliked both DeWitt (who numerous times considers walking away from the stress of his wife and kid) and Dangle (car salesman + murderer =cretin), but LOVED the Ba’is and all the carnage they unleash throughout.


If you’re a big creature-feature fan (digging on works like Adam Cesare’s VIDEO NIGHT or Hunter Shea’s THEY RISE) you’re going to love this book.


I give BROKEN SHELLS 3.5! What a ride.

 

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review 2018-02-06 00:00
Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella
Broken Shells: A Subterranean Horror Novella - Michael Patrick Hicks Nothing is going right for Antoine. He lives in a dilapidated apartment, he just lost his job and he has a wife and baby to support. As he arrives home his wife shows him a winning Money Carlo ticket from an auto dealership saying he has won $5,000. Antoine thinks it’s a scam but what choice does he have but to go and try to get his money.

Antoine takes a bus to the dealership which is out on the edge of town. When he arrives he meets Jon Dangle the dealership owner and man who issued the winning ticket. Jon has a dark secret beneath his dealership and he needs someone like Antoine to act as a sacrifice to keep it hidden. Antoine has walked into a nightmare that no one has ever escaped from. He’s now trapped in an underground cavern and something is hunting him. Will he ever see his wife and child again?

Broken Shells by Michael Patrick Hicks is a fast paced gore fest in a subterranean Hell. The concept of this book was what drew me in. I love the idea of a man down on his luck thinking he got a big break but finding that what he really got was something far worse than his original problem. Antoine is a great character, you feel sorry for him but at the same time you see that he is not necessarily a good person. In the beginning we see he has a temper that gets him in trouble, he starts to change when he realizes what’s important to him but his anger still causes him problems. I loved how he remembers how he wanted to abandon his family but when he fears for his life his main motivation is to see them one more time.

Joe is another character in the book who has a lot of depth to him. In the beginning you see him as the villain and you hate him for what he did to Antoine. Then you get into his background and realize that he’s doing what he feels he has to do. He’s still a bad person but you understand him You can sympathize with him as you see how his family has put a burden on him and you hear about how his life didn’t turn out for him or his wife. Joe’s main motivation is to keep the family secret and he’s willing to do anything to keep it, even if it means harming what he sees as people who won’t be missed.

My only issue with Broken Shells was the ending, I don’t want to give anything away because until that point it was a great ride. The last part seemed like your standard horror ending and it was a depressing way to end it. That being said the way the story progresses I couldn’t see it ending any other way. This book is well worth your time and its the perfect length. It’s never boring, the violence is described in vivid detail and the action is non-stop. You get all this and Michael Patrick Hicks still manages to add information on Indian mythology along with complex characters and great detail on how what lies beneath lives. What more can you ask for in a horror story?
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