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‘Who’s There?: A Collection of Stories’ by Dimas Rio – Review

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

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Who’s there, crouching like the moon behind the gray clouds?

Who’s there, writhing like  pouncing thunderbolt?

Crawl out of the darkness, my child!

Called the Jungle, to the restless Hunchback. 

Don’t you know? Darkness is my blood. 

Howled the cursed Hunchback. 

The Jungle cracked a smile, red and ripe. 

They are my beloved. 

 

Synopsis –

Drawing on local folk tales of vengeful banshees, dusk-dwelling monsters, and other forms of the undead, this collection of five short stories will transport readers to the deep, dark abyss where demons forever reside: the human mind.

 

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Thoughts –

‘Who’s There?’ is a collection of five short horror stories from Indonesian writer, Dimas Rio. Translated into English, the themes range from murder to folklore, ghosts to demons, but always with the uniting thread of human darkness to weave them together.

Rio paints modern and relatable characters in horrifying situations. From a man fielding questions about his absent fiancé to a woman overpowered by the urge to cut into her own flesh without her young son seeing, each story has a slow burn beginning that builds the tension and anxiety of the story. Well paced and description, each tale brings the reader close to the characters and the thumping of their overworked hearts.

A particular stand out for me was ‘The Wandering’. It follows a night security guard as he paces his floor, the reader soon learning that Badrun is not the upstanding citizen that he presents to others, including his pregnant wife, and he has made mistakes in his past. Letters from a person who seems familiar but cannot place begin to turn up in the deserted office space and it seems that he is not alone. This story for me encapsulates the overall tone of the collection and the attention to detail in characters that brings the stories to life.

 

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A short collection but one filled with nuance and dread, ‘Who’s There?’ will leave readers wanting more.

 

About the Author –

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Dimas Rio was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. He wrote his first novel in his birth home entitled “Dinner with Saucer” (Katakita, 2006) which was shortlisted in the “Talented Young Writer” category of 2007 Khatulistiwa Literary Award in Indonesia. He went to write a series of short stories for a local teen magazine entitled “Huru-Hara Rako” (Rako’s Chaotic Life) from 2006 to 2008.

Recently he published his second book entitled “Siapa di Situ? (Sebuah Kumpulan Cerita”) which was translated into English under the title of “Who’s There? (A Collection of Stories)”.

When not writing, he has a hobby of being lost. He spends his weekdays being lost in the sea of office paperworks, and spends his weekends being lost in procrastination. But his favorite state is being lost in a good book, an engaging conversation and cultural places that broaden the mind. And also B grade horror movies.

 

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‘The Patience of a Dead Man’ by Michael Clark – Review

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

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And there was a smell. 

There are many unpleasant odors on a farm, but Henry recognized this as the smell of something unmistakably dead. Like the time a mouse died inside the wall of their bedroom. It was decay, and it was coming from her. 

She was shaking slightly, as if upset. Henry hesitated while he reassessed. Her shoulders were pulled back, and the flower arrangement she was carrying dropped to the forest floor. The left hand shifted across her body and passed something to the right hand that Henry could not see. Then her right arm turned outward, and the silhouette of Henry’s hatchet became clear.

He looked down around his feet in a panic, knowing he would find his dropped hatchet; she had it now. How the hell…? His hopes sank as he realized the time for talk had passed; this was not a neighbor or even a living person – the smell as not only strong; it was overbearing. This was a being with an agenda he couldn’t pretend to imagine. 

 

Synopsis –

Tim Russell just put his last dollar on a handyman’s dream; a quaint but dilapidated farmhouse in New Hampshire. Newly single after a messy divorce, his plan is to live in the house as he restores it for resale. To his horror, as soon as the papers are signed and his work starts, ghosts begin to appear. A bone-white little boy. A woman covered in flies. Tim can’t afford to leave and lose it all, so he turns to his real estate agent Holly Burns to help him decide whether he has any shot at solving his haunted problem. Can they solve the mystery before he loses his investment…or maybe his life?

 

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Thoughts –

Swift as the drop of an ax, Clark build the dread in The Patience of a Dead Man from the outset, leaving no character safe from the antics of this haunted fixer upper. Following Tim and Holly on their quest to nourish their budding romance while they battle horrifying nightmare memories that are not of their own making, and a crazed, all too solid ghost woman hell bent on hurting someone, anyone, Clark takes the reader through a story of horrific deeds, unfortunate luck, and a century long battle.

While some parts, particularly at the beginning of the novel, were a little repetitive and could have been edited down a touch, the main story is still gripping and the romance that flourishes between recent divorcee Tim and his not so recent divorcee and estate agent Holly, bring a welcome respite from the continued violence of the mysterious woman that stalks the property.

 

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The Patience of a Dead Man is a paranormal romance that plucks at the heart strings and in the same breath, will have your heart in your mouth, fearing the woman with flies on her face.

 

About the Author –

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Michael Clark was raised in New Hampshire and lived in the house The Patience of a Dead Man is based on. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife Josi and his dog Bubba. The Patience of a Dead Man is his first novel, and Dead Woman Scorned is his second. Stay tuned.

 

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‘White Anvil – Sasquatch Onslaught’ by Matt Betts – Review

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

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The walls of the White Anvil Prison were easily six feet thick and soundproofed, yet sergeant Michael Denton was sure he could still hear the beasts howling inside. Of course, sometimes he could hear them in his sleep when he was off-base. 

Denton walked past the plow train as it was warming up. He checked under the engine out of habit, searching for any sort of explosives or unauthorized passengers. Both this engine and the other train had been examined three times for issues mechanical and man-made; in fact, the protocol was one that Denton himself had developed in his early days with the Army Rangers. 

The other train was much more complicated than the plow with the single engine. This one had seven cars: three for personnel, two for storage, and the last two were delicate. The cars themselves were quite the opposite of delicate; they were built to withstand the rough temperatures and more. They were designed to hold very nasty thing, and, in Denton’s experience, they’d done a great job of that. But that made them delicate, at least as far as security and visibility. Generally, they told passengers without clearance that they were refrigerator cars. But that only got them so far. 

 

Synopsis –

Fleeing an approaching blizzard, a military train carrying prisoners and a handful of citizens derails in the mountains. The survivors fight to stay alive and regroup as the terrible storm buries them in snow. Only then do they discover the train also carried another cargo—two cars loaded with biological experiments—genetically-altered sasquatches conditioned to annihilate anything they find.

Can the few remaining soldiers team with a pair of sisters and a police constable to fight the relentless beasts, icy temperatures, and escaped prisoners long enough for help to arrive?

 

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Thoughts –

White Anvil: Sasquatch Onslaught gives you exactly what it promises on the tin. The tension and dread builds from the first chapter as a recipe for disaster is cooked up and quickly brought to boil by the elements; one part secret creature government experiment, one part maximum security hacker prisoners, and one part oblivious civilians just trying to make it through the storm.

An action packed story of survival and isolation, White Anvil takes the reader along a frigid and desolate story line with characters that have you rooting for them from the get go. Sisters Margo and Reggie have their quibbles but both are desperate to keep the other alive. Adam needs to survive to meet his brand new grandchild already on the way. Not to mention the prisoner fighting for their freedom and the soldiers in the dark about the dangerous cargo they are transporting.

Betts brings the action to the forefront sprinkling the characters backstories throughout with the odd flashback to explain where the creature experiment started. You aren’t overwhelmed with information at any point and the story stays mostly with the characters and their fight for survival. I was on these characters sides till the end.

 

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A cold and brutal story of survival in the face of bad luck, bad timing, and experimental government yetis designed to survive. Yup.

 

 

About the Author –

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Matt Betts is an American writer of many genres with multiple novels and publications under his belt. He loves bad movies, pop culture, and attending writing conventions

 

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‘Dark Celebrations’ by Calvin Demmer – Review

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

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These were no ordinary celebrations. The world, devoid of color, embraced a somber gray tone, and no sunlight dared to pierce the clouds overhead. A chill in the air caressed Brad’s skin as he searched within for some hope that this was just a nightmare he would awaken from. Nothing but a void of despair presented itself, and still the people rejoiced. 

No, these weren’t ordinary celebrations. 

They were dark celebrations.

 

Synopsis –

Each year, people all over the world celebrate special festivals and days, shining light on what they wish to remember and revere. But sometimes, inhabitants of the dark arrive with the desire to disturb proceedings. Dark Celebrations is a collection of twelve short stories… and the holidays will never be the same.

 

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Thoughts –

Another collection of stories from Demmer, this one delves into the world of global celebrations. From the American Day of Independence, to The Hungry Ghost Festival of China, the reader is taken across the world and across cultures to explore the darker side of these traditions. You’ll read many a twist in this collection with the usual monster of werewolves and vampires, but expect to be surprised and shocked by some of the less mainstream monsters and creatures in this collection. As with his previous collection ‘The Sea Was a Fair Master‘ Demmer breathes life into his characters, often only to take it away, and the settings pull the reader right into the story.

This collection is a welcome addition to a shelf for anyone who doesn’t find the holidays as cheery as others.

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Dark Celebrations is a collection tied together by twelve holidays of enjoyment from around the world – giving a dark and unexpected twist to each.

 

About the Author –

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Calvin Demmer is the author of The Sea Was a Fair Master and Dark Celebrations. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

 

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‘Urban Gothic’ by Stephen Coghlan – Review

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

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Every lick of sense Alec had left pleaded with him to keep walking and ignore what he’d seen, and alarm bells rang in his head like the klaxons of some far-way firebase, roaring that this wasn’t his problem; it wasn’t his duty to become involved. The noise fell silent to his conscience. How would he live with himself if he didn’t help this woman?

The voice Alec spoke in was deep and clear; meant to be heard over the chaos of war, over the crack of guns and thunderous explosions. 

“Stop.”

The single word echoed off the concrete asphalt; slowly diffusing as it climbed into the empty sky. 

If I die with my hands by my side

Tell the sarge I died o’ pride.

 

Synopsis –

Burned out and drugged up, Alec LeGuerrier spends his days faking it, barely eking out an existence while living in a haze of confusion and medicated mellowness. That is, until he stops a gang of nightmarish oddities from killing a strange young woman with indigo eyes.

Dragged into the lands of the dreaming, he must come to terms with his brutal past and his grim imagined future in a land his body knows is real, but his mind refuses to acknowledge.

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Thoughts –

Urban Gothic is the fantastical fever nightmare of a veteran soldier learning to dream again. A short, whimsical story stalked by shadows, Urban Gothic is not your usual fantasy story. Following the gallant Alec and the his quest to save the other worldly Valeda, the reader is taken on a journey into a dream filled mirror world to our own where the awake are the ‘creators’ and the dream world versions are imagined versions of them (think the Tethered in ‘Us’) with dire consequences when either is killed or damaged. Alec makes his way through this world finding friends he thought he’d lost, a revolution that has more to do with him than he is aware, and the strength he needs to find himself again.

Perhaps a tad too chivalrous at times, Urban Gothic is nevertheless a novella with great depth that explores many important themes through the use of fantastic imagery and a surrealist world. It’s an enjoyable story with a happy ending for a character clearly deserving. A short and thought provoking read.

 

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A fantasy style story with a valiant prince and a damsel in distress, the layered themes of this book will have you reconsidering everything you see in this magical world and the struggles of soldiers no longer at war.

 

About the Author –

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Hailing from the capital of the Great White North (Canada), Stephen Coghlan spends his days erecting buildings, and his nights reveling in the dreamscape. Since 2017, he has produced a myriad of flash fictions, short stories, novellas, and noels, including, but not limited to, the GENMOS Saga, the Nobilis series, and has had his works read on podcasts and featured in anthologies.

 

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‘Behemoth’ by HP Newquist – Review

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

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Charlie didn’t know how long he’d been asleep. Maybe minutes, maybe hours. It was very dark and so very cold. He awoke with a hazy start, thinking he heard screams – maybe Terry’s, maybe Kevin’s. His eyes fluttered open, and he called out. His voice was a croak, not even a whisper. “Terry? Kevin? Guys?”

No response. 

He’d been dreaming. From where he lay on the seat, Charlie could see stars twinkling through the open window. His brain was foggy from so much beer. He tried not to think of the pain in his arms and legs. 

They would be back soon. They promised. 

Charlie started to black out. As his eyes lids shut, he saw a tremendous hand, like a claw, reach into the car and grab his chest. It must be the paramedics, he thought dreamily. But where were the flashing lights? There were no ambulance lights. No sound. No sirens. 

He could feel his rescuers pulling him out of the car. He looked at them through blurring eyes that couldn’t focus. Their hands felt like talons. Their distorted faces looked like a horror movie monster peering in at him. 

This is going to be a fucked-up dream, Charlie told himself as he slid back towards sleep. 

He let out one last breath as the flesh was torn off his body. 

 

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Synopsis –

An unfortunate car accident involving three teenage boys outside the small and isolated town of Morris sets in motion a chain of events that turns journalist Robert Garrahan’s life upside down. Caught between helping a young girl and her mother in danger, and a religious prophecy that may be more true than he thought possible, Garrahan must find out as much as he can before Morris swallows him whole.

 

Thoughts –

Behemoth is the story of a small town called Morris that takes the phrase ‘living in the past’ to new lows. Starting off with an eerie bang introducing the reader to the dark mystery that is the monster, the Behemoth, a biblical creature that has a town wrapped around it’s talons, the story quickly takes a sharp turn from mystery to violence. Research is expected as the main protagonist of the story is the journalist Garrahan, and for the most part the balance of action and exposition is handled well, however at times, telling is prioritized over showing or simply progressing the story. Though time is constantly of the essence and the structure that so many of the citizens of Morris have lived under for so many decades it in danger of collapsing, our protagonist reads textbooks and diaries, his day to day life a dream of a memory. Given that the story unfolds over the course of a week at most, it felt distracting and pulled the reader away from the fear that should have emanated from the monster, a monster that by the end of the book feels less like a God and more like an unruly dog that no one has bothered to train.

Behemoth explores the infallibility of man and faith, and the lengths zealots will go to hold onto power. Doled out in the same meaty morsels that are fed to the creature in supplication, the story is one of cultish undertones, modern incredulity, and good old fashioned virgin sacrifice.

Suspension of disbelief is difficult to hold onto at times when a town hell bent on keeping their secrets and their unorthodox way of life hidden from the outside world at all costs, asks a newspaper editor wanted for possible murder and kidnap to research their entire history and help them cover up what could be a catastrophe. However the story is still enjoyable, there are scenes that make the skin crawl, that bring the terror of life in Morris to the forefront, though perhaps a few more would not have hurt.

 

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A monster of biblical proportions that brings out the worst in it’s worshipers, Behemoth will make you wonder about that strange town down the road and it’s even stranger inhabitants.

 

About the Author –

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HP Newquist’s books and articles have been published all over the world, and his writing has been translated into languages from kanji to farsi. Newquist’s books cover the same array of topics as his magazine articles, from brain science and space exploration to legendary guitarists and the strangeness of the Internet. To date, he has written over two dozen books. And he’s already committed to writing many more.

 

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Do we need to bring back virgin sacrifice? Do you prefer to see the monster or keep it on the fringes of your vision? Let me know down below!

‘Shepard’s Warning’ by Cailyn Lloyd – Review

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

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He froze.

The broad oak floorboards undulated, a low rumbling sound, the same sound he heard earlier, but louder, more pressing. The house shook and trembled as if the ground beneath the foundation were in the grip of an earthquake. It all happened in seconds. Tom stood, gripped by morbid fascination and fear. A dizzy, nauseous feeling swept through him. He bent over, thinking he would throw up. 

Another slamming door jolted Tom from his trance. He had to get the hell out of here! Jesus! The floorboards were clattering like a mad drum brigade. He turned and ran down the hall, toward the stairs. Ahead, door at the end of the long hallway pushed ajar – just an inch or two. Bright sunlight spilled through that crack and the keyhole, down the dark hallway, a surreal contrast between the sudden calamity indoors and the serene July afternoon outside. Cheerful birdsong, from beyond that door perhaps, completed the insanity. 

Drawn to the doorway like a moth to a lamp, he felt powerless to resist the attraction of whatever lay beyond the threshold. Light emanating from the room grew brighter and warmer. He drifted down the hallway, clenching his fists for a moment, trying to shake the anxiety, trying to regain his composure. The floorboards rattled beneath his feet, the ominous rumbling continued, danger lurked around him – but not beyond the door. He just knew it. 

He took a deep breath. 

Reached for the knob. Hesitated. 

Pulled the door open – 

 

 

Synopsis –

For years the abandoned MacKenzie mansion remained hidden in rural Wisconsin. Rumors and stories of apparitions, odd noises, accidents, and strange deaths in or near the property were enough to convince the townsfolk it was haunted and they stayed away.

Lucas MacKenzie and his brother Nate know nothing of this when they inherit the property and decide to bring their families to Wisconsin for a major renovation project with HGTV stardom in mind. As they tear out old fixtures and open shuttered windows, the house begins to reveal secrets of a terrible past and it soon becomes clear the MacKenzies are in grave danger. In the end, only one person can save them.

 

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Thoughts –

In Shepard’s Warning Lloyd crafts a story of tension mystery and more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Switching from multiple points of view the novel builds to a dizzying conclusion that satisfies the reader without playing into their expectations. Laura, the most frequented point of view in the book, carries the story through believable loneliness, seclusion, and disbelief towards the frightening and supernatural things that are happening to her, and perhaps through her.

With so many other characters however, at times some can seem more important than they actually are and there are loose ends and questions unanswered by the curtain close. But with the main characters and plot largely resolved, Shepard’s Warning delivers on its promise of a dark and intriguing story.

 

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With ancient magic, cautionary ghosts, generations of mysterious deaths, and a family crumbling, Shepard’s Warning delivers a dark story meaty enough to keep you hooked to the very end.

 

 

About the Author –

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In addition to writing, Cailyn Lloyd is an accomplished weather photographer and her work has appeared in several publications including Life Magazine and Time Magazine. She is also a composer and musician with three album releases to her credit. Cailyn lives near the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin and when she’s not writing spooky stories, loves hiking with her children and dogs.

 

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What’s your favourite ancient ghost story? Would you like to see more generational curses in your horror content? Let me know down below!