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‘The Miracle Sin’ by Marcus Hawke – Review

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

***

Father Abbott was a man of God.

His earliest memory was of seeing the crucifix above the altar during First Communion when he was seven years old. He knew even then that he wanted to be ordained. To serve the Lord. When the priest placed the wafer on his tongue and said the blessing, he felt an overwhelming calm. Peace. He knew in his heart that his life belonged to Him.

But now, more than sixty years later, as precious drops of his blood dripped away on the filthy floor, Father Abbott desperately wondered where he was.

Bitter pain coursed through his whole body. His wavy gray hair clung to the sides of his unshaven face with sweat. Several of his teeth were loose and where others had been were now raw, bloody gaps. Though his hands were bound behind the back of his chair so tight that they had lost feeling, he was sure a finger was missing. Perhaps two. With each labored breath his broken ribs stung; with each breath he silently prayed for death. The flesh around his left eye had swollen to the size of a fist. All he could see through it was a narrow slit of light.

Through that narrow slit, a silhouette appeared.

“Do you think me evil?” Even with his shallow pulse thundering in his ears, the serpentine tickle of the words sickened him.

“Yes,” Abbott said weakly.

The creature smiled. “Good.”

“You didn’t have to do all this.”

A shrug. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Synopsis –

Have you ever wondered if there’s more to life? If we are destined for something great, part of a divine plan rather than just subjects of random chaos? Mason Cole has wondered these things. And he has the answer…

No.

How could that be when his parents were killed in an earthquake that destroyed the city of Jerusalem, yet he alone survived? How could he be destined for great things when he’s stuck in a town-shaped reststop where nothing he does makes a difference? And why would God do this to him in the first place?

Then one day a stranger passes through town, bringing with him a unique explanation of his past, one he never could have imagined, and wishes he could forget. It sounds like something from one of his books, only this time it’s happening to him, and it becomes clear that not every miracle is a blessing. Now, with a red-haired devil hell bent on possessing him for his own sinister gains, Mason must discover the answers to these questions if he ever hopes to survive in a world where the dark no longer hides that which dwells within.

Thoughts –

Young Mason Cole has had some tragedy in his life and it is only about to get worse for him. The Miracle Sin is the story of Mason’s righteous fight against unutterable evil, a path that he didn’t choose, but was chosen for him, and now he has to decide whether he stays on that path, or abandons it entirely.

A story of epic proportions that deals with the monumental battle of good and evil, The Miracle Sin is a rich tapestry of themes including religion, philosophy, faith, fate, and loss. Born of a miracle, that definitely doesn’t feel one, Mason Cole is an average teenager who just wants to get out of his small town and maybe ask his friend on a proper date. But he soon wishes that he never wished that, and is pulled into an underground Catholic Church offshoot that have been tasked with defending the world from evil for centuries, and they want him to join their team. No longer average, and imbued with the Holy Spirit itself, Mason takes in the familiar position of the chosen one who must train to fight the evil that started his journey and protect his new found family as well.

Hawke writes knowledgably about the growing pains of a teenager, about the crisis of faith that trauma and grief can bring, and even about this fictional team of Holy assassin’s keeping the darkness at bay. His writing is witty and at times poignant, and gives The Miracle Sin the grand scope that the story needed to be told.

This is a story of paradoxes, oxymorons, and vicious monsters that fans of the likes of Constantine will definitely enjoy.

About the Author –

Marcus Hawke is a writer primarily of horror and dark fiction, some fantasy and sci-fi, and a few things that defy categorization. He was born in Toronto, moved around quite a bit during the dreaded formative years, and finally settled in Calgary where he studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

After years worth of rejections, he finally had a short story called “Bump in the Night” published in Jitter magazine in 2016 and recently finished his first full-length novel THE MIRACLE SIN which will be released soon. He lives with his feline overlord in an apartment building haunted by the type of neighbors that make a person wish a ghost would come to visit in the cold, often gloomy great white North.

​In his spare time he reads, draws, paints, plays Dungeons & Dragons, and rambles in third person while writing website bios. 

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‘Terror of Breakspear Hall’ by F.R. Jameson – Review

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

***

“Who’s next, darling?” asked Simone.

Robin grinned at her across their surprisingly small, twin hotel room. He was knowing and confident, having already worked it out. Probably he’d have liked more space to pontificate, but happily – as well as they were doing – they weren’t going to pay the premium rates in this hotel. Each of them had a double bed, there was a wardrobe which would suit their needs and the bathroom wasn’t as cramped as she’d have imagined. What more did they really need?

As little children they’d shared a bedroom. That had stopped though as she went through puberty (she was eighteen months and six days older than him), but it had started again when she nursed him after his accident and it had never stopped. Unless they were with someone they were intimate with, then they never went to sleep in different rooms to the other. They took comfort from it. She knew it must appear odd to outsiders for two siblings to be sharing a room, but she had gone beyond the point where she cared.

Actually, when they checked in, she’d had other ideas in her mind. The receptionist had been gorgeous. Blonde, chic – with her hair in a beehive transported straight from the 1960s – and a purring French accent to die for. A sparkle in her eyes, Simone had leant on the reception desk and given this Parisian Venus her most flirtatious smile. The lady had smiled back professionally, but also a tad uncomfortable. They chatted for a minute, but Simone didn’t push for anything further. Maybe if the two of them got together and shared a bottle of wine then something may have happened, but Simone had grown past the point of where she provided straight girls with a racy anecdote they could share later.

Besides which, although it was early days yet, Simone may have met someone.

Synopsis –

What excruciating tortures await them within Breakspear Hall?

Simone and her brother are con-artists. They target the rich and corrupt, making them pay for their crimes. One night, after pursuing a mark to a casino, Simone is attacked on the street. In the aftermath, the two siblings find themselves spirited towards Breakspear Hall. A gothic mansion whose master has tried everything to keep visitors out.

From her first glance of this dark, foreboding building, Simone knows it could spell doom for both of them…

Within the walls is a history of demonic rituals and human sacrifice. Yet, if the house welcomes you, it’s a home which can offer your greatest desires and ensure every darkest craving can be sated. Although as it does, it elicits a terrible price. One which will drain away your soul and leave you a broken husk.

However, it’s when you try to leave that it inflicts its most appalling punishment.

Trapped inside, Simone knows she has to save herself and her brother. But what can she possibly do against the unspeakable evil of Breakspear Hall?

Thoughts –

Revolving around a pair of sibling con artists, Terror of Breakspear Hall is a story of deception, illusions, and shame. Brother and sister, Simone and Robin have made a living stealing the hearts, and eventually the money of rich but deplorable people. Careful only to target those they know are using their money immorally, they feel righteous in their less than righteous methods. But when the pair’s charms seem to have no effect on the reclusive and filthy rich Montagu Breakspear, they become entranced. They find themselves in Breakspear Hall – and soon one of them is unable to leave.

Terror of Breakspear Hall utilisises psychological horror and the siblings unbreakable loyalty to drive the plot. With characters that are flawed, and even some who are downright insane, there’s plenty of action and movement throughout the story.

With the hall being the title of the novel, and having such a tight hold on these characters, it would have been more satisfying to spend more time within it’s haunting and fetid walls, exploring more of what the ghosts and entities trapped their were capable of and getting a better understanding of the evil and its origins. While Simone is a great character, one who is strong and fragile at the same time, a caretaker and yet unable to take care of herself, the time spent with her fell flat when combined with the sparse experiences within the walls of Breakspear Hall.

That being said, this is a enjoyable novel with enticing characters, exciting events, a lustfully dark undertone, and strong character driven story telling from F.R. Jameson.

About the Author –

F.R. Jameson was born in Wales, but now lives in London with his wife and young daughter. He writes both historical thrillers and supernatural thrillers.

His books are, at the moment, mostly sorted into two different – but complimentary – series. The first, ‘Screen Siren Noir’, currently comprises of three novels: ‘Diana Christmas’, ‘Eden St. Michel’ and ‘Alice Rackham’. All of which tell the stories of beautiful British film stars caught up in Noir tales of blackmail, obsession, scandal and death. He is currently working on both the fourth and fifth books in the series.

The second series is more disturbing and scary, and lives under the moniker: ‘Ghostly Shadows’. Right now there is only one book published, a tale of supernatural revenge – ‘Death at the Shadows’. However, 2019 will bring four more entries to terrify and intrigue.

His blog – https://frjameson.com/ – is regularly updated with information about his writing, as well as film and book reviews. You can follow him @frjameson on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and you can find him on Facebook.

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‘Dark Hilarity’ by Joseph Sale – Review

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

***

The cretin took in by boxy grandeur of the Rockefeller building, the broadsword blade of the Empire State, piercing the clouds, and the twin monolithic towers of the World Trade Centre, like chromed slabs of ancient stone stolen from Celtic moorland and dumped amidst the architecture of modernity. It was the last time he would look at them for a while, so he wanted to savour their shape and colour, and above all, the sheer arrogant bravado of their design. Clearly, the men and women that had constructed these modern ziggurats had never heard of the Tower of Babel, and the moral lesson of overreaching. He smiled at the thought. His lips were so thin they were virtually nonexistent, making his mouth look like a wound in his face, pregnant with white teeth. Despite its ugliness, there were men and women who would kill to kiss that mouth, would kill to feel one touch from him.

Synopsis –

Tara Dufrain and Nicola Morgan are eleven year old girls growing up in the ‘90s, obsessed by Valentine Killshot, a metal screamo band. In particular, they’re enamoured by the lead singer, the mysterious yet charismatic Jed Maine who bears the epithet “The Cretin”. In Jed’s lyrics, he describes a world beyond the Dark Stars that he hopes one day to reach. The girls think it’s all just make-believe they share together, until a freak, traumatic incident makes this world very real.

As adults, Tara and Nicola try to come to terms with the devastating catastrophe that changed their lives growing up, but to do so they will have to step once more into Jed Maine’s world, and confront the man who took everything from them.

Dark Hilarity is My Best Friend’s Exorcism meets The Never-Ending Story, a fantasy that explores addiction, depression, and the healing power of friendship.

Thoughts –

Dark Hilarity is a black as night fantasy novel that explores fate, evil, the long standing effects of grief, and the unshakable friendship of two young girls. Set in a 90’s UK setting that quickly morphs into a fantasy land called Dae’shta, this is a novel that blends reality with unreality, good with bad, and the obscene with the precious.

Sale’s depiction of two adolescent girls on their first unsure steps into a timeless friendship is flawless. The strength of their friendship carries the plot forward and strengthens the other themes present in the book. While there are fantastical characters like the Laughing God, the wolf-people of Wolf Town, and giant telepathic crabs hellbent on avenging their fallen brethren, Dark Hilarity grounds the reader in a reality fraught with grief, addiction, and fears that we can all relate to, carried from unstable childhood, to even more unstable adulthood.

Dark Hilarity is a fantasy tale that mixes in plenty of horror and hardship, a novel that explores the strains of friendship, of loss, and a god with a permanent smile.

About the Author –

Joseph Sale is an editor, novelist, writing coach and co-host of Monaghan & The Mindflayer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He currently writes and is published with The Writing Collective. He has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his love-letter to fantasy: Save Game. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.

He edits non-fiction and fiction, helping fledgling authors to realise their potential. He has edited some of the best new voices in speculative fiction including Ross Jeffery, Emily Harrison, Christa Wojciechowski, and more. His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy). In 2017 he was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ prize.

He is obsessed with Attack on Titan and Community.

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‘Corpsing’ by Kayleigh Marie Edwards – Review

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

***

Brian crinkled his nose in disgust of the information he now regretted receiving, and quickly checked the labels on the boxes. He squinted, realising he’d left his glasses in his car, but they both seemed to spell the same thing. He grabbed a vial and a syringe and fled from the infirmary before he heard something else he didn’t want to.

By the time he got back to the ward all hell had broken loose. A chorus of howls was reaching fever pitch in a battle against an opposing symphony of terrified screams. Rice was peering out of his window, silent and appearing to enjoy the madness he’d created. Brian ran into Bachman’s room, fiddling with the syringe wrapper as he went.

Janet was trying to force Bachman down onto his bed. Brian handed the sedative and syringe to her and took over. He managed, though with difficulty, to overpower the little old guy and get him lying down.

  • ‘Bitey Bachman’

Synopsis –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards has been entertaining and chilling audiences with her own eclectic mix of horror and comedy. Now, for the first time, this popular author has collected her works together, reviewing and revising each one to bring you the definitive versions of her unique tales.

From murderous children to nightmarish trips to an ill-fated zombie apocalypse, Corpsing will send you running for the light switch, but smiling as you do it.

Featuring the stories: Bitey Bachman, Bits and Bobs, Siren, Now You See Them, Skin, ‘S’ Day, Barry’s Last Day & ’Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Thoughts –

Exploring themes of adolescence, monsters, and humour, Kayleigh Marie Edwards new collection, Corpsing is a set of eight dark tales that will keep you hooked to the last page.

While no story in this collection could be seen as a ‘miss’, my favourites would include the story ‘Skin’ which tells the tale of a young girl’s painful loss of innocence through a seemingly innocuous spider bite and a knuckle head boyfriend. Another gem had the air of a Douglas Adams piece – ‘S Day’ tells the story of a global and unique pestilence wrought on the world by an annoying child. Aptly sticking to the title of the collection, each of these stories has a combination of dark terror and humorous antics woven into them, accompanied by compelling characters and writing that flows from Edwards fingers like an inky river.

Corpsing is a horror collection that lets a crack of light into the darkness of it’s pages, and marks Kayleigh Marie Edwards as a dark fiction writer to watch in the future.

You’ll laugh, you might cry, but you will keep turning those pages.

About the Author –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards is a writer of fiction, reviews, articles, and theatre plays. Finding that horror and comedy tend to go hand-in-hand, she exclusively writes in these genres, and enjoys combining them. She believes that there’s no problem in life that can’t be solved with a good laugh, or a good scare.

She can be found listing horror movie facts at spookyisles.com, and has a page called ‘Challenge Kayleigh’ at gingernutsofhorror.com, in which horror fans challenge her to positively review the very ‘worst’ movies that the genre has to offer. She lives alone in her house of horrors with her cat. She she’s fine with it.

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‘Shelter for the Damned’ by Mike Thorn – Review

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

***

Mark had been half-listening to his friends, but he said nothing. Adam paced and readjusted his hood. He shot a glance at Scott that said, Stop being such a baby.

Scott flattened his shirt with the palms of his hands, then stood still. He tried to look aloof, but looked scared shitless instead.

Mark continued staring at the place, all frayed splinters of wood and flat, desiccated walls. He would almost feel its texture, simply by looking at it.

“Who the fuck would live there?” Adam directed the question at no on in particular.

It looked impossibly weathered, transformed by age. Mark couldn’t help but notice that, by some unexplainable stroke of luck or happenstance, it was untouched by late-night prowlers and graffiti artists. It wore no evidence of vandalism, no etchings or street tags.

Synopsis –

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Thoughts –

Shelter for the Damned is a tale of violence, adolescence, and the price of being silenced. Following three young boys as they try their damndest to navigate their complicated lives while grappling with father’s who are violent, arrogant, controlling, and alcoholic, trying to find their own sense of identity and masculinity, Thorn creates a tale that is bitter, heart-wrenching, and disturbing.

The discovery of an abandoned shack, seemingly untouched by any other’s hands, the boys each experience their own feelings about it. Scott and Adam are wary of the place, uncertain about coming back even for a place to smoke in peace. But Mark is drawn to it like an addict to their drug of choice. For him it is a place where he feels at peace, where he can escape the constant threat of violence at home, the feeling of being unheard, the feeling of being an outcast. For Mark, he will do anything to get back to the shack, and the shack will ask just that of him.

Dealing with themes of familial tension, coming of age growing pains, and an otherworldly darkness creeping into ‘safe’ suburban lives, Thorn shows his skill as a story teller, a character builder, and an adept horror writer.

A young boy soon learns that you can take the boy out of the shack, but you can’t take the shack out of the boy.

About the Author –

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours and the novel Shelter for the Damned (coming soon from JournalStone). His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including VastarienDark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify.

His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film StageSeventh Row and Vague Visages.

Visit his website. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

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