‘The Thing in The Lake’ by Conor Metz – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

The fog on the windshield expanded with every passing second, leaving the defroster locked in a losing battle. Murphy started to wonder if Evans could even see where he was driving. The storm that night was one for the books. The past few months had been relatively dry for Puget Sound and now all that buildup had unleased the wrath of the clouds. Rain splashed against the truck with such fury that Murphy might have thought Evans had wandered through a car wash, had he not known better. He did wonder why they had been ordered to travel so far from the freeway. There was the fact that it provided a lot of visibility and therefore increased chance of exposure, but taking the scenic route presented its own set of problems – especially in the current weather conditions. Some roads were already starting to flood as water built up along the sides and spilled over onto the pavement.

Murphy was bothered less by the weather and more by their cargo, yet he tried to keep his mind focused on the road ahead and off what was safely secured in the back of the truck. Things had been quiet since they left the facility and that’s the way he liked it. Quiet meant safe, safe meant he didn’t need to worry about what could happen if it escaped.

What could happen to him.

Synopsis –

Billy McGregor just wants to enjoy his summer before high school, but a creature lurks within his lake and seems to be picking off the residents one at a time. As a horror-buff, he’s quick to pick up on this and with nobody else seeming to notice, it’s up to him and his friends to take matters into their own hands.

But they aren’t the only ones after the creature.

A local cop realizes the several deaths are linked and an organization called SID is trying to cover it up. They have their own plans for the creature, but if they don’t capture it quickly, things could spiral out of control due to a potential for infection. A single bite or scratch will turn any person it injures into another one of its kind.

It’s a race for who can deal with the creature first, but will any of them be successful against a genetically engineered killing machine?

Thoughts –

The Thing In The Lake is exactly what you expect – it’s about a thing, in a lake. With a nostalgic feel of spending summers watching movies with friends and imagining yourself as the hero that saves the day, this is a novel that really puts it’s characters to the test. When a genetically engineered government experiment is let loose on a small lakeside town, four teenage boys and horror film addicts, take it upon themselves to first prove that the monster is real and stop the feds from covering it up, and to kill the monster themselves. These characters are written well and easily distinguishable, they have a great group dynamic and for the most part are realistic teenage boys.

The novel deals with multiple failed attempts from all side to capture or kill the monster. At times this did seem a little repetitive for the reader and there were certainly some ill advised decisions made, not just by the naive adolescents, but also by the more experienced and trained adults. There’s a familiar feel to the story with the trope of small town against big government and federal agents having terrible plans for a monster they created, but there is a certain unique aspect to the amalgamation of the creature and it’s many impossible traits and characteristics.

The Thing In The Lake is a monster story that delves into what happens when things don’t go to plan, the casualties that can happen when secrecy is more important than innocent lives, and the strength and determination of a group of teenage boys who think they’ve seen it all.

The Thing In The Lake is a monster story that pits a killing machine against the hearts and courage of a town and a group of four, determined, teenagers.

About the Author –

CONOR METZ was born in Renton, Washington in 1984. His early years exposed him to a variety of outlandish films, novels, and comics books, which have shaped him into the writer he is today. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

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‘A Song for the End’ by Kit Power – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

“Did we get it?” Paul was anxious, hands clasping the top of his guitar. He looked over at Michael checking the MP3 player, a guitar slung over his shoulder.

There was a moment then, when it was hanging in the air. I remember thinking about the times we’d missed recordings because the battery had died or the mic cable had slipped out. Thinking we could always do it again, but also thinking it had been a pretty hot first take and really hoping…

“It’s there! It’s there,” Michael said with a smile, one earbud dangling down the side of his face.

“Plug it into the PA. I want to hear it again,” Paul said.

So intense, I remember thinking that. Thinking, too, that he was probably worried about his solo, as per. Thinking that for my money, it had sounded pretty good; loose and powerful, but knowing that he’d be hyper-critical, already straining for another shot, wanting it to be perfect. Reflecting on what a dumb word that was to apply to music, especially our kind of music…

And then the song came back on and we all grew still.

We stood in a loose circle surrounding the small PA mixing desk the MP3 recorder was plugged in to. Behind us, the amps and drum kit sat on the carpeted floor of the community hall that’d been our rehearsal space and impromptu demo recording since we’d formed.

I don’t know what the others were doing, but I was transported, I’d never felt that way about a song we’d done before. It was like hearing something on the radio and falling in love. It was fantastic.

You can also watch my video review of this book on my BookTube channel here.

Synopsis –

Becoming an overnight sensation was supposed to be a good thing. Not for Bill Cutter, supply teacher and weekend rock star. His band, The Fallen, have just released their latest tune on social media, and it’s blowing up.

So is the body count.

Now Bill faces a frantic race against time to stop the spread of the song, before the horrific effects can no longer be contained.

Thoughts –

A Song For The End by Kit Power is a short but hard hitting, action packed novella. Following a song that forces it’s listeners to tell the absolute truth for any question they are asked, poses an interesting and frightening dilemma? How often do you lie? How often do you think you lie? Even the most innocuous fibs in this novella will cause the fibber to bleed explosively from the brain. It really makes you think twice about what the truth really means.

With flawed and morally grey characters, characters who lie for the sake of their loved one, and characters who lie to save their own skin, Power takes an unbelievable story and makes it believable by the motivations and actions of it’s characters. An unfortunate series of events that happens just at the worst time for the city of London, A Song For The End is a novella filled with anxiety, blood pumping anger, and may make you rethink the phrase ‘all publicity is good publicity’.

A punchy pulp novella that gets the pacing right, keeps you engaged with the characters, and is one not soon forgotten.

About the Author –

Kit Power lives in Milton Keynes and writes mainly about what scares him – typically to a background of screaming guitars. His fiction work includes novel GodBomb, novella The Finite, and collections Breaking Point, Voices, and A WARNING ABOUT YOUR FUTURE ENSLAVEMENT THAT YOU WILL DISMISS AS A COLLECTION OF SHORT FICTION AND ESSAYS BY KIT POWER. His short fiction has also appeared in many anthologies. His non fiction work includes a book on the Ken Russell/The Who movie Tommy, and My Life in Horror Volume One – an autobiography via the medium of pop culture artifacts (but fun, he promises).

He also blogs for Gingernuts Of Horror, podcasts widely, and tweets too damn much about politics @KitGonzo. Oh, and he has a Patreon, where subscribers get new material from him every single week – find out more here.

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‘The Ethereal Transit Society’ by Thomas Vaughn – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

I always make it a priority to check out the shithouse prophets when I find myself in a new place. It seems like the worse the town is, the more profound their insights. I scan the graffiti on the bathroom stall, filtering out the scatological limericks and requests for ten-inch dicks. The piss vapors sting my eyes. The racist epitaphs remind me I’m in the South – way out in the sticks. The I see what I’m looking for. The prophecy takes the form of a Eucharistic call and response.

What will we do with all of these little brown babys?

The misspelled question is scrawled in black magic marker. Right below, in a steadier hand, comes the riposte.

We will baptise them in the waters of death before they drink the blood of our daughters.

“Amen, brothers,” I chuckle. We’re in the right place. There’s no doubt about that. Something has these hillbillies on edge. They’re scare and they don’t know why. Even after Quint’s death he still has the ability to freak people out. But that’s the way it is with a good messiah. They just won’t stay dead and buried.

You can also watch my video BookTube review of this book here.

Synopsis –

Not all cults are wrong about the end of the world…

Believing their late mentor is calling them from the grave, the last surviving members of a modern doomsday cult travel across the country to reclaim his body in preparation for the end-times he preached about. Tracing their leader’s echo through a cosmic signal known to them as the Transit Frequency brings them to the rural outback of Arkansas, where its presence has drastic and dangerous effects on anything living. Time, though, is running out for the last of the remnants of the Ethereal Transit Society as they attempt to track down his final resting place and unlock the mysteries of the coming apocalypse before they become victims of it.

The Ethereal Transit Society is the debut novella from Arkansas writer Thomas Vaughn, and brings readers a tense and authentic dive into the philosophies of modern doomsday and UFO cults while delivering a strong dose of cosmic horror fiction.

Thoughts –

The Ethereal Transit society is a short novella packed full of nuanced characters and messed up people. Exploring cult members task to locate and retrieve their late messiah’s body, in order no less to explain the secrets of the end of the world, this is a novella that sits in the mind long after you turn the last page.

Vaughn’s writing is engaging and shaped by the characters we share the story with. A mixture of sci-fi and cosmic horror, the story delves into universal themes of loneliness, existential pain, and the human drive to find meaning in life and the suffering we are inevitably subjected to. As well as this, there are some gruesome things done to corpses and glow in the dark goo that I personally would not be touching, but each to their own.

The Ethereal Transit Society is a new angle on the familiar idea of cults, where not only are we diving in after the end is over and these characters have been left behind, but also dealing with a cult that might not be as delusion as they seem.

A rich and well written novella that will make you rethink the next time your ears start inexplicably ringing.

About the Author –

Thomas Vaughn is a fiction writer whose work encompasses dark magical realism. He is a byproduct of the debris field of rural Arkansas, a place he calls the archive of pain. When he is not writing fiction he poses as a college professor whose research focuses on apocalyptic rhetoric and doomsday cults. He views the writing of fiction as integral to the struggle for higher awareness. Feel free to visit him at brokentransmitter.com.

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‘Truth of the Shadows’ by Slade Templeton – Book Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

The frost melted into the air above the damp ground, creating a shimmering fog that seeped into the moonlight. At the edge of the forest’s dark fringe stood a meadow with mud huts sprinkled throughout, covered in blackened sod. The howls of the wolves seemed to hold longer than usual into the night.

The smell of burning wood cut through the cold air, and a thick plume of smoke rose over the treetops near the deep ravine. Hidden behind the tree line was a tall, thin man with toughened, leathery skin. Ash covered his hands, which hung from his arms like pendulums of soot and flesh. Fatigued and on the cusp of death, he wore nothing but a long dirty loincloth held to his fragile body with drayed twine. A glimmer of firelight touched his painted cheek, the reflection of flames danced in his dark eyes.

His head filled with pain and suffering, he gazed toward the fire pit in the small clearing while his tribe chanted ancient songs. As the drums grew louder, so did their voices, and they circled the fire with stomping feet. The man quietly worked his way deeper into the forest and along the path, hanging his head low, regret haunting his face. In the distance, the chanting rose to crescendo, then fell into a low-level hum before tapering off into silence. He knew the sacrifice had been made.

You can also watch my video review of this book for my BookTube channel here.

Synopsis –

A DARKNESS IS IN ALL OF US
Cottage Grove Oregon is a sleepy little town, but in the surrounding forests, an ancient nightmare is growing stronger. Dr. Joseph Hoffman, head psychiatrist at Cottage Grove Hospital, wants to believe he has all the answers to his patients’ problems, but there is a darkness within him that always lurks beneath the thin veneer of his competence. That veneer is about to crack.

In his Victorian home at the edge of the forest, his troubled memories hide in untouched rooms under a thick blanket of dust. He thinks he has them under his control, but as he delves into his patients’ twisted stories, the shadows of their insanity begin to follow him home. In order to see what is happening to him, Joseph must turn everything he knows about his past, and his reality, upside down.

As he gets closer to discovering the source of the malevolence that surrounds him, he feels his sanity slipping away. Joseph must uncover the truth before it consumes him. Something terrible is taking over, and he may be the only one who can figure out why.

Thoughts –

Following the increasingly stressful daily life of Dr. Joseph Hoffman, as he struggles to suppress the painful memories of his late wife and tries to help his patients deal with their own troubled minds, Truth of the Shadows paints a picture of a world where everyone is dealing with various degrees of insanity. Often, Dr. Hoffman finds his patients stuck in a look of their own pasts, reliving the same delusions again and again, and to prove the point that doctors make the worst patients, he is unable to see his own unfortunate loop.

The darkness and dread in the story is well built. There is a rich background to the origin of the evil that is tormenting Dr. Hoffman and his patients. At times, the repetition of his daily routine did become a bit of a drag, however the pace quickly ramps up when he finally begins to believe what his patients are telling him. Truth of the Shadows by itself is an enjoyable book to read, but it is a reading experience for the 21st Century. Including an online virtual reality experience with every paperback copy wherein readers can go on to read Dr. Hoffman’s own medical notes and patients evaluations, as well as personal received and sent emails – lending a truth to this fictional story that was not expected and promising more from the story of Cottage Grove. As well as this, for the lucky few who have the limited edition hardback copy, they also have access to a dramatic musical score to accompany the book composed by the author, Slade Templeton, himself.

One point I did like about this book is the underlying message of hope for those in the throes of grief or depression. The novel ends on a hopeful note that leaves the characters with a better understanding of their own minds and hopefully the tools to break their unhealthy loops.

All in all Truth of the Shadows is a dark, paranormal novel that ends on a note of fiction, and thanks to the ingenious extras, continues off the page.

About the Author –

Slade Templeton is a Switzerland-based, American-born musician, record producer, and published fiction author, living and working in Bern. Since a very young age, he has had a passion for anything dark, including art, music, and film. As he often produced piano concerts and recitals for his family at the age of five, titling the pieces “The Storm” and “Nighttime Fairytale,” to name a few, it was destined that his world of music and storytelling eventually intertwined. Having written stories with grandiose plots and twists since a young age, he planned to write novels one day.
Truth of the Shadows became his first.

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‘Tales of the Lost – Volume 2 – Tales to Get Lost In – A Charity Anthology for Covid-19 Relief’ – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

***

For all the essential workers who were on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic, for those lost during this horrible time: You are not forgotten.

-Dedication

You can also watch my Booktube video review of this anthology here.

Synopsis –

With stories from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and Tim Lebbon, Tales of the Lost is a charity anthology with some bitter sweet dark stories in it. With also proceeds going to a Covid19 relief fund, this collection runs with the theme of things that are lost, from time to loved ones, memories to innocence.

Thoughts –

Not only is ‘Tales of the Lost: Volume 2’ donating all it’s proceeds to a good cause (a COVID-19 relief fund) but it is also a stellar collection. Including stories from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and Tim Lebbon, this anthology explores the theme of loss. Lost time, lost memories, and even loss of self. Thoroughly enjoyed the stories in this, as well as the few poems scattered throughout. Heart-breaking, bittersweet, and at times chilling, would definitely recommend.

A couple of favourite were ‘Cracks’ by Chris Mason; the story of a young boy who enlists the help of a mysterious stranger to find the hours he lost when his brother went missing a fantastical and bitter story. ‘Mr. Forget Me Not’ by Alex Kirkpatrick follows a young woman story of love, marriage, and children and the dark figure that only she can see who knows more than she does, a heartbreaking tale of lost memories. And also ‘The Case of the Wendigo’ by Tracy Cross; a Wendigo’ stalked a small black community, forcing the local children to go on the hunt – funny, modern, and brutal.

Tales of the Lost: Volume Two is an anthology that encompasses the grief and horror of losing something. The stories in this anthology are a fitting tribute to everyone affected by this pandemic and will hopefully bring some temporary distraction from these current times.

About the Editors –

Eugene Johnson is a Bram Stoker Award winner, a bestselling editor, author and columnist. He has written as well as edited various genres, and created anthologies such as Fantastic Tales of Terror, Drive in Creature Feature with Charles Day, the Bram Stoker Award nominated non-fiction anthology Where Nightmares Come From: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre and many more. He has had stories published by award winning publishers such as Apex Publishing, Crystal Lake Publishing and Things In The Well Press to name a few. He is currently an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Steve Dillon wears the face the face behind the mask at Things In The Well. As a writer, editor, and publisher of more than 20 anthologies and single-author collections, he considers himself fortunate to have worked with some of the biggest names in horror including Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, Christopher Golden, and many more, as well as dozens of emerging and award-winning writers. He has published two collections of his own short stories and poetry and is working on a third. He’s also very active in too many Facebook communities and is a former president of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association.

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