‘John McNee’s Doom Cabaret’ – Review

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

***

 

“So… this is the club?” I asked.

“Down,” he insisted, urging me onward. “It’s called the Doom Cabaret.” 

“Catchy.” 

“Its an ancient and noble tradition of the theatre, dating as far back as the Roman Empire. From them to now, the Doom Cabaret has been dedicated to bringing revelry to the darkness, spitting in the face of the apocalypse and providing joy to a niche and dedicated audience.” 

“I see,” I said, though it was hardly the case. In truth, it was becoming difficult to see anything in the fading glow of the lamps. 

 

Synopsis –

This is the stage. These are the players.

A young woman’s sexual appetites prove too powerful to be undone by death. Hedonistic clubbers covet a drug that warps flesh rather than the mind. A wealthy cannibal encounters a meal too beautiful to be eaten. The Lullaby Man ushers another eager victim into his clockwork lair. Here is where such stories are told. Blood and beauty, defilement and deformity, musicians and monsters.

Welcome to the Doom Cabaret.

 

20200521_214840_0000

 

Thoughts –

Being a cabaret fiend myself I couldn’t resist a horror collection with a cover and title like this, and I’m glad I gave into temptation. Doom Cabaret is a set of eight horrific stories ranging from grotesque freak shows that go beyond any freak show you’ve ever seen before in ‘Bebbel‘, to a gruesome mural that  comes to life in ‘Man Holding Razor Blade‘. McNee weaves a tapestry of violence, gore, passion, and revenge shrouded in shadows and as entertaining as it is stomach churning.

McNee’s writing relies heavily on the realistic characters that he creates. There is no such thing as holding back with McNee’s stories, no line that he won’t cross in service of the story.

This collection is bookended by a first and last story of some very different, yet equally hypnotic performances, ‘Bebbel’ and ‘Midnight at Doom Cabaret‘. Hitting you with the hard stuff first, the crunchy middle of the collection ramps down just a little, but always with the shadow in the background of that no holes barred beginning. Horrific performances with horrific stage managers, McNee’s stories are not easily forgotten, and not easy to put down either.

 

52321368._SY475_

 

About the Author –

4150063

John McNee is the writer of numerous strange and disturbing horror stories, published in a variety of strange and disturbing anthologies, as well as the novel ‘Prince of Nightmares’.

He is also the creator of Grudgehaven and the author of ‘Grudge Punk’, a collection of short stories detailing the lives and deaths of its gruesome inhabitants, as well as its sequel, ‘Petroleum Precinct’.

He lives in Scotland, where he is employed as a journalist.

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Bottom Feeders’ by Jerry Roth – Review

*Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

***

Above the crackle of burning wood, a scream rose and curdled the blood within him. The tone of the cry cut into his spine with the precision of a sharpened blade. With his heart in his stomach, Ben ran to his home, trying to understand the reason for his pregnant wife’s screams. Frightened legs refused to move fast enough to satisfy his worried mind. Ben pushed his way into the front door, scraping the frame as he hurried. A sighted destined to scar Ben the rest of his life appeared before his as vibrant as a scene from a movie. Lily stood over their area-rug, knees locked together, and blood pooling under her until the beige colored rug turned an angry shade of crimson. The sight haunted his dreams for years to come without the clarity ever fading. When Ben reached his wife, she was shaking as he guided her onto a nearby chair. Her eyes were wide, filled with terror, and gone was any sense of reality. Ben waved a hand in front of her face and snapped his fingers. 

“Lily can you hear me? Please, Lily, talk to me? She turned her head to him – tears rolled down her cheeks. “What happened Lily?” She looked at the bloody carpet. 

“I was dusting, and it felt like my insides were ripping apart,” Lily said. Ben looked at her swollen belly and began to cry. 

 

Synopsis –

Jenny’s son is acting strange and drawing detailed pictures of bloody murders – she has reason to assume that her ex-husband may be to blame. Her new husband Robert has just taken up a new position as warden at the local prison that holds it’s own dark secrets. Finding a hidden diary that tells the tale of a depraved prisoner thought to be the Devil himself, Robert begins to see and feel supernatural happenings.

Mysteries abound, and chains can’t seem to hold the darkness in Jerry Roth’s Bottom Feeders.

 

20200520_131424_0000

 

Thoughts –

From the first scene that sees a baby being born with no sign of an umbilical cord in sight, you know this novel is not playing nice. Bottom Feeders follows Jenny and her son Zack, along with her new husband Robert and her best friend Liam, as they discover dark secrets with dangerous consequences. Children are disappearing, children that her son is somehow connected with and Jenny has reason to believe it has something to do with her abusive ex-husband. Robert takes up his new post as prison warden only to discover that there is a prisoner living under the jail who should have been sent to the electric chair decades before. Only with the diary of his predecessor found in his enthralling and hypnotic new desk which offers not only old papers, but also new and terrifying visions.

Roth carries the separate story lines well within the book, keeping the reader interested in each thread by creating full and multi-layered characters. As the story progresses it’s clear that few of these characters are likeable but they are believable for the most part.

At times some motivations are not as clear as they could be, serious conversations seemingly erupting forth out of nowhere in otherwise everyday scenarios, yet it is true that each of the characters in this book are very serious themselves. Likewise, Jenny’s ‘evidence’ for her husband being involved in the nefarious goings on are flimsy even for such a deplorable man. But the story as a whole is populated by flawed, passionate characters, who whether you like them or not, you want to find out the end of their stories.

Riddled with twists, turns, and shadows, you will not be able to guess the ending of this novel, the heavy weights that tie all of the threads together. Bottom Feeders hooks you in with what may seem a straight forward path, but the sharps turns it takes you on will leave you shocked.

 

bottom feeders cover

 

Exploring the devil in humanity, and the humanity in Lucifer himself, Bottom Feeders spares few, and redeems even fewer.

 

About the Author –

jerry_04bw

Jerry Roth is a graduate from The Ohio State University where he studied English Literature. He has written for Ohio newspapers and sports articles for the Disc Golf Pro Tour. His fiction career began as a screenwriter. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife Tricia and his three children Jesse, Lea, and Nick. After reading The Stand by Stephen King, he became passionate about creating his own work of fiction. Bottom Feeders is his debut novel.

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

‘Burnt Fur’ Anthology Edited by Ken MacGregor – Review

*This book has a trigger warning for torture and sexual violence*

***

 

‘Phaedra fucking hates ducks.

Once, her Secondary School biology teacher, Miss Esmer Powell, told her that ‘ducks are the most perfect sexual specimens’. Perfectly vile, Phaedra thought. It was about the one thing she’d disagreed on with Miss Powell. She was a wonderful teacher, if a little on the edge sometimes of what was appropriate for students aged nine to ten. She got away with it because she was as charismatic as she was authoritative. As pretty as she was tactful. And her knowledge of wildlife, flora and fauna, species of animal, was frankly mind-blowing. Phaedra had been amazed to discover she didn’t have a PhD. It was part of the reason Phaedra was on a mission to get one herself.’ (‘Mallard’s Maze’ by Joseph Sale)

 

Synopsis –

There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.

Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.

20200512_084307_0000

Thoughts –

Burnt Fur is an anthology for the animal in you. Rife with sexual exploits, gorey violence, and questionable characters. Burnt Fur takes you on a journey through the worst of humanities fantasies, vengeance spurred on by supernatural forces, men with pig faces, opossums who want men’s faces, beasts that masquerade as humans, and humans that masquerade as beasts.

Taking the horror we feel for beasts that we don’t understand or can’t control and blending it perfectly with the horror we feel for the beasts we are ourselves, this anthology crawls under your skin and stays there. Starting off on one of the more somber and non-erotic stories, ‘The Moon in Her Eyes‘ by Sarah Hans eases you in with an unusual take on a usual trope. Next up is ‘Mallard’s Maze‘ by Joseph Sale brings the first toe dip into the horrors of beastiality, and more importantly, how terrifying ducks are.

From there the series escalates in theme and tests just how strong the readers stomach is, but I never found the violence or erotic scenes gratuitous. The writing of each story has its own voice and there isn’t a story in this collection that felt phoned in – the writing is impeccable. There is violence though it serves the story, sexual deviancies though they aren’t excuses for cheap thrills, there are chilling and thrilling stories and every one of them with characters both sympathetic, utterly disgusting, and deranged. Read at your own discretion.

 

Burnt-Fur-Pic-1

 

Whatever you’re into, this anthology will certainly get under your skin… or fur.

 

About the Editor –

Ken MacGregor’s short stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines and podcasts. One of his stories was nominated for the Micro Award. Ken is a member in good standing of The Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and an Affiliate member of HWA. He lives in Michigan with his family.He can be found on Facebook (Ken MacGregor – Author), Amazon and at ken-macgregor.com.

 

Contributing Authors –

Sarah Hans (The Moon in Her Eyes)

Joseph Sale (Mallard’s Maze)

Theodore Deadrat (Salivation)

N. Rose (The Hamford Pigs)

Paul Allih (The Willingness of Prey)

Rachel Lee Weist (6 Dicks)

C.M. Saunders (The Others)

Elliot Arthur Cross (Randall Rabbit)

Rue K. Poe (A Concubine for the Hive)

Thurston Howl (Five Nights With Teddy)

Matt Scott (Oh Piggy, My Piggy)

Stephanie Park (Ware the Deep)

Michelle F. Goddard (Molt of a Diminishing Light)

James L. Steele (The Victims)

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

‘Butchers’ by Todd Sullivan – Review

*Trigger Warning (the book, not this review): vivid descriptions of violence, torture, and sexual violence*

 

Tonight, Min Gun brought his butchering tools.

He clung to the surface of a rough brick wall five stories up. A bone saw attached to his belt by a thin chain swayed gently in the autumn breeze. He had sheathed his machete on his back beneath a rolled rubber body bag. He gazed into the dark room across from him. Cheol Yu, the target, hadn’t left the building since he’d met Sey-Mi, a high school student wearing a plaid skirt and short sleeved white shirt. Somewhere, behind the opaque windows of the apartment, Cheol Yu was with her, alone. 

Min Gun’s superior, Jun Young, clung to the wall beside him. A wood-handled axe dangled in a leather sling at his side, his machete strapped to his waist. Where Min Gun carried a body bag, Jun Young had a leather weapon case strapped to his back. The company had tasked the two with arresting the suspect. Min Gun hoped Cheol Yu resisted enough so that he would be forced to kill him, saving him from months of torture. 

That would be his noble deed of the day. 

 

Synopsis –

Kidnapped, turned, and locked away in a concrete basement, high school student Sey-Mi is taught the ways of the damned. Her captors, beautiful and malignant, cruel and insane, torture her until she pledges allegiance to the Gwanlyo, a secret organization of vampires now obsessed with bringing her into their ranks. But has Sey-Mi really sworn loyalty to such an obscenely cruel organisation? Or will she side with the rogue agents hell-bent on bringing the Gwanlyo to their knees?

 

20200506_211214_0000

 

Thoughts –

Set in the urban city of Seoul, South Korea, Butchers lives up to it’s harsh and violent name. Following Sey-Mi as her life is thrown into disarray Sullivan weaves a tale of brutality, power, and control. A seventeen year old girl chosen to join the ranks of the Gwanlyo, an ancient vampiric organisation that expects compliance to their rules and will employ the harshest of punishments for anyone foolish enough to cross them, fights to see her family again.

Sey-Mi is dragged into an immortal life that she never asked for and now has to serve a tyrannical organisation set on breaking her mind and making it there own. But if there’s one thing a teenage girl doesn’t like, it’s being told what to do. And Sey-Mi is not alone in her thoughts. There are other agents of the Gwanlyo that are sick of their rules and their torture. Sullivan brings us on a story of resilience, savagery, and deception.

There is no question that Butchers has a lot of violence, some of which could be characterised as gratuitous, or unnecessary, though the story and characters are strong enough to balance out the blood-shed. Sullivan’s writing flows well enough that the flashes of sadism do not overwhelm the plot – and you end up hating the Gwanlyo just as much as their victims.

 

9781733548274

 

Butchers is an apt name for a novella chocked full of torture and tyranny, but behind the pain and the cruelty are those determined to stop it once and for all.

 

About the Author –

165128

Todd Sullivan took his first serious writing class in 1995 and has been writing ever since. In the early 2000’s Sullivan moved to Jeju, South Korea, where he taught English in the public school system for five years. He currently lives in Seoul, and is studying the Korean language at Yonsei University. He is also working on a speculative fiction/urban horror novel that takes place in Korea.

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Black Bubbles’ by Kelli Owen – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given this book for free in exchange for an honest review*

***

In the waning light of day, shadows, invaded the cemetery. A large pine, several rows over, cast its mark along the ground and reached for her. The shapes of nearby statues bled across the grass, distorting as they stretched. Taller markers grew longer still as their inky mirror images oozed past the plot lines. And inside the bag, the shadows swallowed all but the tiniest bit of light. That light glinted from its contents, rejecting the darkness around it.

Lucy sighed a held breath, reached into the bag, and pulled her hand back out with memories. And secrets. (‘The Tin Box)

 

Synopsis –

Horror is pessimism at its bleakest. Worst-case scenario. The darker side of reality. The glass half-empty. The situation unfathomable. In Black Bubbles, Kelli Owen presents classic genre tropes—ghosts, murderers, zombies, what you’d expect (sans sharks)—but it’s the characters, rather than the tropes, that experience the story, speak of the horrors, and sometimes survive the inevitable.

Sometimes.

An decades-old crime shocks a family as evidence points to one of their own… An ancient evil hitchhikes its way to freedom… A child has an unusual fascination with decay… A woman excuses premeditation… Death takes a holiday… Science and good intentions make horrific bedfellows… A man hides from nightmares that invade his waking world…

 

20200506_165916_0000

 

Thoughts –

Black Bubbles by Kellie Owen covers a vast array of characters and a wide spectrum of horrific ideas. Her straight forward prose lays out each story with clarity and allows the reader to become fully enveloped in the actions and events the characters struggle through; no flowery language or hyperbole needed to state the terrors that lie within these stories.

Each tale is accompanied by a short paragraph of notes explaining where the concept came from which is fascinating for both readers and writers alike. For instance ‘The Tin Box’ which was birthed from the glimpse of a small trinket in an elderly relatives belongings that grows into a full blown story of dark secrets and violent ends, these notes give an extra layer to the collection that I certainly appreciated.

The titular story that rounds off this collection, as stated by the opening introduction from Thomas F. Monteleone, is indeed unique and unsettling. An idea I haven’t heard the likes of before and that you can glimpse a hint of on the cover for this edition though that hint does nothing to prepare you for the frightening end that this collection has.

Black Bubbles eBook

 

Black Bubbles is a rich and intriguing collection that takes the usual tropes and looks at them from a new angle, a new perspective and with the trustworthy voice of Owen.

 

About the Author –

4027040

“The author of more than a dozen books—my fiction spans the genres from thriller and psychological horror, to an occasional bloodbath, and the even rarer happy ending.

I was an editor and reviewer for over a decade, and have attended countless writing conventions, participated on dozens of panels, and spoken at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, VA regarding both my writing and the field in general.”

Born and raised in Wisconsin, she now lives in Destination, Pennsylvania.

For more information you can visit her website at kelliowen.com

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Double Barrel Horror Vol. 3’ Edited by Matthew Weber – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

“Someone would always be ‘keeping an eye on you,’ and I suppose it was meant to be reassuring but it always struck me as a threat.” (Eye See You by Christine Morgan)

 

Synopsis –

Brace yourself for another two-barrel blast of unrelenting horror and suspense. Volume 3 of the ‘Double Barrel Horror’ anthology series delivers two chilling tales from each of six talented authors for a 12-story onslaught that will blow you out of your sneakers.

 

“These images filled Scottie’s mind, tattoed there by the baritone drawl of the man sitting behind him. It must have been two hours of video, but felt like two minutes. When it was over, the man sitting behind Scottie – the narrator made flesh – stood before the coffin. He ejected the video and pushed another into the VCR.” (Fuel for the King of Death by Robert Essig)

 

20200504_001344_0000

 

“She smiled deep into him, gazing into his insides until she could read his secret thoughts. He needed to pull away but couldn’t.” (Wicked Smart Carnie by Mark Matthews)

 

Thoughts –

Brought to you by six adept horror writers, Double Barrel Volume 3 has the reader enthralled by prose, captivated by the visceral horror described, and yet still hopeful for the unlucky characters behind the words.

From the otherworldly revenge of ‘The House on Mayflower Street‘ by Glenn Rolfe to the run of the mill ravenous ethereal monsters of ‘Highway Hunger‘ by Calvin Demmer, this collection spans a wide range of concepts and horrifying events, yet each author manages to capture the essence of their characters, the anchor to any story. Not without a hint of humour you also have ‘From Unclean Spells‘ by Robert Essig which turns childhood giggles into mortal fear. Or if you are looking for a story that makes you thoroughly nauseous, uncomfortable yet unable to look away, might I suggest ‘Wicked Smart Carnie‘ by Mark Matthews – a story that will be lodged in my brain for years to come I fear. The reader is also treated to the folkloric horror of ‘Homecoming‘ by Theresa Braun and ancient terror from ‘Sharp Obsidian‘ by Christine Morgan.

Double Barrel Horror Volume 3 is a collection for the strong stomached, the empathetic, and any horror fans looking for a story to keep them up at night.

 

“Her distorted legs restrain me with superhuman strength, while I try to conjure a desperate notion to roll away or break free. But that time never comes.” (Homecoming by Theresa Braun)

 

52668177._SY475_

“Dudley, transfixed, couldn’t move. He couldn’t even turn to face his coworker, as his head felt stuck in place. The guilt ate at him, severing his ability to move. He needed to escape the feeling’s claim for control. He wasn’t the driver, but even if he had been, there as nothing that could’ve altered the accident. It had gone down too fast.” (Highway Hunger by Calvin Demmer)

 

This collection will leave your insides cold, make your skin crawl, and give a new weight to those shadows in the corner of your bedroom.

 

“Davis stood on his good foot, tasting the blood from his lip mashing against the wall. 

‘This isn’t fucking funny. Who’s up there?'” (The House on Mayflower Street by Glenn Rolfe)

 

About the Editor –

Edited by Mark Weber who can be found on Goodreads.

 

Contributing Authors –

Christine Morgan (Eye See You, Sharp Obsidian)

Robert Essig (From Unclean Spells, Fuel for the King of Death)

Mark Matthews (Wicked Smart Carnie, Goodwin)

Theresa Braun (Stillborn, Homecoming)

Calvin Demmer (Highway Hunger, Motel Madness)

Glenn Rolfe (The Guide, The House on Mayflower Street)

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

‘The Girl Who Found the Sun’ by Matthew S. Cox – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

****

 

It started with the insects. Whole species died off one after the next. No one cared. Maybe if they had, we’d remember what the sun looked like. – Ellis Wilder

Confining walls closed in around Raven, shrinking more and more the deeper she crawled into the wiring conduit. Already stale air thickened, leaving the taste of dust and melting plastic on her tongue. Other maintenance tunnels had enough room to let her walk hunched over, but this one barely allowed her up on all fours. The feeble crank light hanging from her shoulder tossed a wobbly nimbus of yellowish light around ancient concrete walls, long ago stained various shades of green and rust. 

(…)

Raven grumbled under her breath as she dragged herself forward. Every wake cycle, she hoped for a lull to shorten her work period so she could read or spend time with her daughter, Tinsley. However, the Arc had other plans. Of the seven people in the engineering group, she had the dubious distinction of being the smallest – hence whenever one of the power lines crapped out or something looked wonky with the voltage levels, Ben, her boss, sent her to do the repair. Shaw would probably do more damage to wires trying to squeeze himself down here. If not for Trenton, she’d also be the youngest, even if she only had him by one year. Neither of them had any real seniority despite her having done the job since age seventeen. 

 

Synopsis –

Part of a small group who found shelter in an underground refuge called ‘Arc’ when the Great Death threatened to end humanity, Raven Wilder has lived her life believing that the surface of the Earth is dangerous, toxic, filled with ravaging mutants, and that the only way to survive is to stay underground. But her six year old daughter is getting sick. Her job fixing anything that needs it tells her that their oxygen filters are failing, their hydroponic farms are leaking chemicals, and their running out of materials to repair them. But she is the daughter of Ellis Wilder, the man who went ‘topside’ and survived… until he never came back.

Can she find a way to save her daughter, and in turn, save what’s left of the human race?

 

Thoughts –

An enthralling post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, The Girl Who Found the Sun is intelligent, charming, and at times chilling in it’s possible predictions of our future. Following the ‘wake’ cycles of sharp minded and stubborn Raven as she tries to keep oxygen flowing in the underground haven the Arc, the reader is taken on a harrowing journey of discovery that unearths secrets, confirms suspicions, and turns Raven and her daughter Tinsley’s lives inside out.

Cox wastes no time patronising the reader and the complicated engineering feats that Raven must pull off only serve to further deepen the layers of the story and the layers of the world that he has built for us. Weaving the story of a community struggling to survive underground amid very real fears of the outside world, Cox presents the dangers and possibilities of this novel with skill and characters that make you yearn for a happy ending.

Raven Wilder as a main character is fierce, loving, and unafraid to speak her mind. In agreeing to bear a child at the tender age of sixteen for the betterment of humanity she shows her commitment to continuing the human race, and in sticking by her child when so many others discarded theirs, she proves herself to be an unshakable mother. Tinsley as her trusty side kick lends a softer tone to the story and gives hope that, with the right teachers, the kids will be all right.

 

51abFBVRwmL

 

The Girl Who Found the Sun is a story of speaking truth to power and the necessity of upsetting the status quo. With a fearless protagonist, and stark warnings against a similar future, Cox gives us a novel to find ourselves in.

 

 

About the Author –

MCox_02_Light_wb2

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey. You can find out more about his work through his website matthewcoxbooks.com

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com