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Best Reads of 2019

*Some of these books were given to me for review purposes and others I purchased myself, you can check the original review posts for details*

You can also find my Booktube video on these here.

Various States of Decay –

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Various States of Decay is a generously thick volume of stories that explore the nature of fear and what it’s like to have your reality turned absolutely upside down. With universal themes of loss, confusion, and the naïve belief that reality is fixed and immutable, Hayward’s writing brings the reader down inexorable paths to devastating ends. For such a long collection I can’t say that there was a miss in the lot, and I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of this today.You can find my full review here.

 

Urntold Tales –

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Urntold Tales of Horror and Dread is a collection you should absolutely have on your shelf. Whether you are a reader, a writer, or both, this is a concise collection of skillfully crafted stories. Trimmed down to the bare essentials, there’s no fat on the bones of this collection, and those bones are dreadful.You can find my full review here.

 

Slasher Crasher –

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Slasher Crasher is, on the surface, a teen slasher story. But just one dip of the toe into this book and you’ll peel back layers of depth to characters and the relationships between them. The hurt and betrayal of teenage friendships, the struggles of , the brash anti-PC humour of modern teenagers. These kids aren’t cut from cookie cutter molds though sometimes they want to be, they’re equal parts scared, traumatized, and sick of the world’s shit. If you wince at curse words or mentions of puss, I’d give this one a pass, but for everyone else, you’ll have a lot of fun at this party. You can read my full review here.

 

The Last Book You’ll Ever Read –

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This is a short and sweet collection that is not one to be missed. If you are looking for well written and intriguing dark fiction stories to disturb you before bedtime, I would make The Last Book You’ll Ever Read, the last book you read before bedtime at the very least. I only wish there were more than five stories and I’ll be looking out for Scott Hughes name in the future. You can see my full review here.

 

Whispers in the Dark –

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I can’t recommend this book enough. I’ve always been ever so slightly bored by police procedurals and cop stories, though I’m aware that a story with no police involvement would also irk me, but Hightower gets the balance just right. The prose is well written, thought out and I’ve actually taken down a few paragraphs for later review so I can practice her approach in my own writing. I can only dream that my debut novel will be as well written as this (it won’t, but I can dream) and I highly anticipate what’s next for this author. You can find my full review here.

 

Sour Candy –

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I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Sour Candy’ as an anxiety inducing nightmare of the worst proportions. Being stuck with an inter-dimensional child to look after and having no evidence to show they aren’t mine, all with that horrific fuzzy teeth feeling that too much sugar gives you, hits me right where it hurts. Burke manages to keep you enthralled in the story, throwing you right in the deep end with Phil and his inevitable and inescapable new reality. It is a short, sharp read that leaves you feeling incredibly relieved that you are not in fact Phil. An uncomfortable story of insidious and unstoppable creatures outside our realm of imagination. This novella will make you uncomfortable, nauseous, and even claustrophobic. I do recommend. You can find my full review here.

 

Nomad –

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Nomad is an adrenaline fueled  sci-fi horror survival story of a woman trying to piece together her past on an alien spaceship. At a pace that will pull the skin off your skull, you’ll tear through this book. You can find my full review here.

 

Others Words for Smoke –

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Other Words for Smoke is a dark and magical story of two twins in a tumultuous family coming to terms with their own selves and the demons that haunt their wildest summers.

 

Last Ones Left Alive –

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A superb and brutal debut from Davis Goff. This apocalyptic zombie movie set in Ireland with a young female protagonist is a story of courage, determination, and the will to survive.

 

The Fearing Book 1 –

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Book One of The Fearing is a short and immersive read, not a cliff hanger but a promise that there is much more to come in this story. I’ll be investing in books two and three to find out where these characters end up. Taff is a name to look for in horror. You can find my full review here.

 

What were your favourite reads of 2019? Let me know down below!

What were your favourite reads? Are any of these on your TBR? What are you looking forward to reading in 2020?

‘Wild, Dark Times’ by Austin Case – Review

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

****

The night air clung to Eddy. Rain from summer storms had drenched the city earlier that week, leaving a humid pall in their wake. He stood on the sidewalk in front of a single-story house whose brick facade emitted an amber glow. He reached into his coat pocket and took out a crumpled piece of paper; the leaf from the Yellow Pages was limp in his palm from the moisture. Amazing these things are still around, Eddy thought. You’d think the Internet would’ve made them obsolete. One name was circled on the page: Elizabeth Megalos. He looked at the address next to the name and then looked at the numbers on the front of the house. This must be the place. 

Eddy took a quick glance around the neighborhood. The houses were all modest centennial homes, and sodium lamps cast a sickly glow on the street. He didn’t notice anyone inside the nearby windows; the street was empty. No looky-loos. He inched along an alleyway between the house and the home to its left. A window on the side leaked light; underneath rested a wooden crate and some old cardboard boxes. Eddy moved toward the crate and then pressed down firmly on the top. Seems sturdy enough. He climbed up and peeked through the window blinds. 

[…]

Eddy heard a crash come from behind him. He peered over his shoulder and saw some trash cans lying on their side. A tabby cat crawled out from the nearest can, coffee grounds clinging to its brow. He looked back into the window and saw the woman glaring out. Eddy hoped off the crate and moved into the darkness of the alleyway. Shit. As he sat there waiting n the shadows, he whispered an Aramaic phrase while clasping his hands over his face. He heard a door open and saw the woman walking towards the alley. In her hands was a large wooden bat. 

“Hello?” she called. “Is there someone there?” The alleyway was silent. “If there’s a some creep hiding in the alley, I want you to know that I had a .380 batting average on my college softball team.” 

She inched her way towards the alley wither her bat raised then nudged the crate with her bat. The cat slinked forward and let out a tiny meow. Elizabeth leaned down and petted the cat along the length of its back. “Were you the one making all of that noise, kitty?” 

She gave another look around and returned to the front of her house. Eddy heard the door shut, waited a few minutes to be sure, and crept out of the shadows. He reached down and picked up the cat, brushing coffee grounds from his head. 

“That sure was close,” he whispered. 

Eddy looked up at the sky. It had been cloudy for most of the night, but a small patch had recently opened in the heavens. The moon beamed, nearly full. A faint moan came from the alleyway and he knew it wasn’t a cat. 

“It’s almost time,” Eddy said under his breath. “Tomorrow’s the full moon.” 

****

 

 

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Synopsis (From Goodreads)-

It’s the summer of 2012 and Elizabeth Megalos is a disillusioned art-school grad getting by as a bank teller in St. Louis. One evening, she’s attacked by a possessed coworker and saved by a mysterious, wise-cracking sorcerer named Eddy. He drags Elizabeth and Hugh—a skeptical scholar of the occult—to Europe, where he introduces them to his three magical celebrity friends. Once there, Eddy explains the group’s mission: preventing a Demiurge—a creature out of Gnostic Christian mythology—from fulfilling the visions of doom in the Book of Revelation. The Demiurge has been drawing power from the misguided beliefs in the Mayan apocalypse and is set to start the destruction on Dec. 21st, 2012. Through ritual magic and a series of psychedelic experiences, the group learns that Elizabeth is the key to taking down the Demiurge, though she can’t imagine how she will be the one to stop Armageddon.

 

Thoughts –

Wild, Dark Times is a novel about the chillest end of the world apocalypse you’ll ever read. Following ordinary, unmagical Elizabeth as she is whisked all over the world by a witty, flirty, new age wizard, they attempt to decipher visions and clues to stop the end of times from bringing the book of Revelations to life.

Elizabeth is a key to their plans going right, as well as a PhD post-grad Hugh, the sceptic of the group, who studies the occult but doesn’t believe a word of their magical nonsense. The magical group consists of Eddy, the leader, Frager and Veer, the musicians who enable their international travel to coincide with their world wind concert tour, and Albert, a comic book artist. Occasionally fighting off demons and evil spirits intent on stopping them with random incantations and long forgotten languages, the group holes themselves up in various apartments and hotel rooms getting high and discussing art and philosophy that at times can be dense but for the most part works well for the personalities of the characters.

Despite the impending doom that’s barreling towards them, the group is relaxed and chilled out most of the time. There are a few unfortunate deaths in the book but not a moment to mourn before the story plunges forward to more rituals and artistic musings.

The book is enjoyable, funny, and a perfect read on a trip to Amsterdam perhaps, however the ending is not the apocalyptic climax that I expected. The ‘bad guy’ of this book is only briefly thrown in to keep the reader interested and while the end boss battle is gruesome in a lot of ways, it ends rather abruptly. In saying that though, it’s not an unsatisfactory conclusion.

 

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Wild, Dark Times is a story about enjoying life while you have it, discovering your own magic and really loving what you love. A huge theme in the conversations the characters have is to appreciate the art of others, even if it isn’t your favourite thing, never to put other people down for the things they love or how they love them – and that’s something I can get behind. Would recommend for a fun, and interesting occult read.

About the Author –

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Austin Case received a Master’s Degree from the University of Amsterdam in Western Esotericism and Mysticism. His academic knowledge of the occult and other peripheral phenomena has given him a unique take on fantasy and other speculative fiction. You can find him on Twitter here and via his Goodreads page here.

 

Links to Buy and Review – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite occult novel? Do apocalyptic novels always have to be serious, or is there room for humour? Let me know down below!

‘Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real’ by Steve Grogan – Review

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

****

From the beginning of my life, I knew what purpose I would serve. Clarity hit me the second my father’s sperm pierced the shell of my mother’s egg. Yes, that is how immediate and obvious the truth was. 

Mother gave herself to him that night completely. She wanted his hands, his mouth, his entire body to fuse with her so they could become one. As I got older, I was raised to believe that a woman offering herself in this was to a man was a special occasion, but over time I discovered none of my peers held the same belief. They had hollow caves where their hearts should be. Since they had no problem sharing this treasure with whoever happened to be around. Some would use excused for this promiscuity (like constant horniness, alcohol, or drugs), but I was not blind to the truth. Mine was a generation of misfits incapable of loving themselves, more prone to loneliness and alienation than even the Beats. 

I was unique among my peers because I understood love. Ironically, this meant I was lonely as hell because in their minds I was this weirdo who wanted a serious commitment instead of just empty sex. Over time I came to embrace my individuality/ I wore it like a badge of pride. My problem proved to be its own solution. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

As I was saying, the purpose of my life became clear to me very early on. One might be inclined to thin I am exaggerating, but this realization came to me while I was still hovering in the womb. I was meant to fulfill one role: the underdog, the loser, the one who has bad luck or no luck at all. 

This was the trajectory my life was supposed to follow. Someone or something had already chosen it for me. Into the fluid of the life-giving sac I screamed inquiries and profanities of all sorts, lashing out with my feet when the lack of answers frustrated me. 

Months passed. My development was the same as any other embryo. They physical traits, however, were where my similarities to others ended. I had already gained a realization that I would be different. There would be no one quite like me. 

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Synopsis (from Goodreads) –

He was lost, directionless, unable to find his identity.

He thought he found it in her, which was good because he was teetering on the edge of madness.

She had no way of knowing her actions would push him over the edge.

This is a story about the dangers of depending on others to give you a sense of self-worth, taken to the extreme. It is a graphic, dark story not meant for the faint of heart. The graphic content makes up only 15% of the prose, but it is some of the most harrowing writing ever committed to page.

 

Thoughts –

Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is the fantasy of an ‘incel’, and I didn’t enjoy it. It certainly is horrifying the way that some people think, especially men who hate women as much as the main character in this book did, but there needs to be more than a glamorized description of their fantasies from their perspective – men hating women for the fact that they are women isn’t interesting, it’s depressing.

As you can see from the quote above, the book begins by the protagonist describing that he understood society and relationships while he was still in the womb and that can basically describe his entire personality. He constantly monologues about how people treat him so terribly because he’s actually so interesting and intelligent, and how women hate him but yet he has multiple girlfriends who he has loads of sex with and breaks up with amicably – there’s inconsistencies here with his account and obviously he’s an unreliable narrator but he’s much too unreliable for the story to work. And nothing comes along to test this guy, no characters try and hold a mirror up to his character, there’s no actual conflict for him that I read until the bizarre final scenes which should never have happened and to be honest I skipped over most of the gore as I could tell where it was going – rape and torture of a woman who did nothing wrong.

The story ends with a scenario that makes no sense – his girlfriend breaks up with him only to invite him to small gathering where she gets with another guy? Why would she do this? To further the plot of course and lead him on a graphic rape and murder spree, why else.

This isn’t a pleasant story to read, and I know it was never meant to be, but when I read a story I want there to be some character or scene or something to cling on to so that I can still believe humanity is not a complete dumpster fire – I didn’t get anything like that from this book. Hearing from a misogynistic murderer why they hate women and want to kill them isn’t interesting especially as the reason is ‘because they’re women’. Killers are only interesting for the stories of the people trying to fight them off, to get away from them – essentially for the humanity and fight for survival that they bring out in others.

Maybe the Dream Knows What is Real is a short and uncomfortable read that holds a niche audience.

 

About the Author (from Goodreads) –

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Steve Grogan has published several collections of poetry and short stories. This is his first story of extended length to be published.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

How do you feel about horror stories from the killers perspective? Does there need to be some accountability in their stories? Does exorbitant violence turn you away from a book?

‘Daughter of the Storm’ by Tina Callaghan – Review

On the way down the ramp, she read the same notice that held a prominent place on the mainland. 

Ferry operation subject to weather. 

Suddenly feeling an aloneness that was very different to what she had been looking for, Lia sat on a bollard until the ferry eased away from the pier and made its way out to sea, bearing a few new passengers. When it had gone around the Chimneys, she stood up turned towards the village, hitched her rucksack higher and went up the slipway. What else was there to do?

She considered calling to the red door, which she now saw doubled as the name of the shop, to ask for directions but something about the look the two had exchanged made her nervous. She looked around for a likely stranger to ask. 

Down below her, fishermen were working on boats in the small, sheltered harbour, doing whatever fishermen do. They all looked too busy to ask. 

A guy was close by, with a camera raised to his face. She looked to see what he might be photographing, but it all looked the same colour grey to her. Then she raised her gaze and saw two big white-and-yellow birds flying towards the Chimneys. A birdwatcher. Hopefully harmless. 

Lia walked towards where the birdwatcher was standing on a spongy expanse of moss and grass leading to a small cliff. Below him was a beach, part sand, part shingle. It probably looked pretty in the summer. 

“Hi,” she said, still a small distance away, not wanting to startle him. 

He turned sharply, snapping a picture as he did. 

“Oh, did you get me?” Lia said. She was conscious that her hair was a mess and she needed a touch of the lip gloss she had shoved in a pocket of her bag. 

“Think so.” He made no effort to look or to delete it. Instead, he just looked at her. 

****

 

Synopsis (from Goodreads)- 

Lia needs to find out why her father jumped from the cliff onto the Devil’s Teeth rocks below. The only way to understand what happened is to go to the isolated weather-beaten island herself. However, there’s more to the island than cliffs and storms and history. It also has its close-knit people. Like Ed, a young man who’s troubled and almost ready to leave; Lia’s Uncle Harry and his secretive friends; heavily pregnant Becky and her worried parents Rose and Frank.

Everyone is either dreading the violent winter storms to come or, strangely, praying for them. And then there’s the Hall, the crumbling, brooding mansion that has held all of the island’s secrets for centuries. It’s out there, on the edge of the grey sea, and the coming storm will release all that it has hidden. Lia, Ed and the others are trapped on the island by the storm, fighting for more than their survival. They must fight to save their immortal souls.

 

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Thoughts –

Daughter of the Storm is a modern Irish horror with a gothic atmosphere to it. Set on an isolated island on the verge of being entirely cut off from the mainland by a winter storm, this book explores an aging generation, the emigration of younger generations, and the loneliness that such a harsh life can bring.

Lia brings you on her journey to discover why her father killed himself and if in fact he actually did. She grew up in New York, a far cry away from the tiny island where her father grew up battling harsh winters with his brother and the other men of the island. As the novel progresses we realise that the island, with the help of the men, has a dark secret and that it’s not safe to go outside the village after dark.

Callaghan brings the island to life with her descriptions. The land itself as a personality, the sea that surrounds it, shapes, had its own will and the reader is thrown into the story along with the characters to feel the chill of the wind, smell the salt on the air, and marvel at the birds that wheel over the cliff tops. Young Lia and Ed have a relationship that blossoms quickly but believably, two teenagers very much the same in their wants and needs, but worlds apart when it comes to responsibilities and expectations. Lia is expected to leave home and go to college whereas Ed’s father abuses him to try and get him to never leave the island and take over their farm, seeing his interest in photography as ‘soft’. Daughter of the Storm is a book that shows the harsh realities of a way of life that is dying out, and what some men will do to strangle the last drops of life out of it if they have to.

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As her second novel, Daughter of the Storm is a triumph and one that I devoured in less than twenty four hours. With a young protagonist but adult themes and side characters, this horror novel is perfect for teenagers and adults and one that you will want to read again and again. With a twist ending that I certainly didn’t see coming, Daughter of the Storm is a great way to start off a new year of dark fiction.

If you’d like to check out my review of Tina Callaghan’s first book you can find it here. And if you’d like to check out my video review of the book you can find my new Booktube channel here.

 

About the Author –

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Tina Callaghan is a writer of speculative fiction, both for children and adults. Her stories involve elements of history, mythology and the supernatural. Her short stories have appeared alongside horror and science-fiction greats Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury and Robert Bloch. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Links to Read and Review – 

Eason.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

What’s your favourite Irish horror book or author? Do you like horror that has a twist/mystery to solve or not? Do you have any recommendations for me?

 

‘The Red Death’ by Birgitte Margen – Review

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

****

Juan froze when he herd a scuttling sound, he looked behind him as two young men turned down the street at the end of the alley. He had to be cautious at this time of night, it was 4AM, and robberies were rampant in his neighborhood. The sound of sirens was as natural here as the chattering of birds in the trees. 

When he turned back around he noticed a gleam of silver lying next to one of the trash bins. He walked over to the bin and picked it up. Juan stared down at the profile of the man on the coin, the first president George Washington, he remembered from his citizenship test. In the small village he is from, there was a superstition that if you find money, you must pick it up, or you will anger the gods and all of your fortune will be taken. 

There was more clamoring inside the bin next to him, and he jumped back as one of the garbage bags tipped over, leaking its contents onto the ground. All of a sudden a large black rat, the size of a chihuahua thrust its head out of the bag, a piece of tattered meat hanging from ts mouth. It startled him, and he fell backward, landing on his back. 

Chupacabra,” Juan said as he crossed himself. He watched as the rat disappeared back inside the bag. He quickly stood up and wiped his hands on his turquoise scrubs as he stepped away from the bin. 

He continued walking, picking up his pace. One of the street lights above him buzzed softly and blinked on and off as he made his way toward his apartment. Juan rubbed his index finger across the smooth coin as he hummed a tune his mother sand to him as a child. 

 

Synopsis – (Taken from Goodreads)

AN ANCIENT DISEASE re-emerges in the heart of New York City—a deadly bacteria that gave rise to the Black Death. Maggie De Luca, an epidemiologist who is fighting her own demons, works to uncover clues to contain the disease, but is always one step behind—her fate determined by the flip of a coin. Microbiologist Michael Harbinger believes he can make a vaccine that can stop the disease, but to do so would require an elusive plant that only grows in a remote region of the Amazon.

With the help of J.D. Stallings, a paleoanthropologist, and Samantha Boutroux, a bacteriologist, they set out to find the plant that holds the key before the Red Death pandemic grips the world—or has the First Horseman of the Apocalypse, Plague, already opened the gates to our final annihilation?

The mother of all plagues is back . . .
Let the death toll begin . . .

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Thoughts – 

The Red Death is a confused novel. The book starts off being extremely vague as we are introduced to a New York emergency room with ‘bags of clear liquid’ and a ‘bag valve mask’ – anyone who has ever watched a medical show knows about IV drips and oxygen masks. But as the story progresses, the vagueness gives way to far too much information. Chapters are started with present tense, hard to swallow chunks of scientific and geographic information that seem copy and pasted straight from text books, and this is in contrast to the past tense of the plot and narration of the story. Most readers don’t have a background in microbiology unless it’s just me in which case… what the hell? But at times in the lab it felt like I was reading an advanced textbook when I had no basic understanding. It dampened the exciting plot and impending doom and had me skimming large paragraphs just to get back to the characters and the story.

New characters are constantly introduced and we are told, rather than shown their current life only to see them in the very next chapter spewing up more blood than the elevator in The Shining. In between these chapters of death, we meet the main characters who are working to find a source and vaccine for the new virus or plague. Following so many individual cases made the virus seem like it could only go effect one person at a time, and I discovered by the biology lesson on airborne diseases, that that’s not this virus should work. It made the whole novel feel like the disease never gets off the ground and only the handful of people we see are actually affected at all. There’s also a lot of inner monologue from everyone which is basically a rant on what they think society today is. A lot of ‘people are lazy’, ‘we’re on our phones too much’, and a random thought from Maggie De Luca, our hero, that she hates homeless people and there’s a ‘trend’ among young homeless people of drugs and prostitution? That’s not a trend, thats a horrible fact of life that some people have to choose to survive and had nothing to do with what was happening in the story at the time.

Maggie also has a ‘love interest’ or disinterest really.  She’s constantly lamenting the fact that she isn’t interested and even though he knows this he still wanders in to try and flirt when she’s trying to stop an entire city from exsanguinating themselves. It’s jolting, stops the tension of the plot, and she doesn’t in anyway like him so he just ends up being annoying, I wanted to grab him by the shirt and yell at him that people were dying. But that’s nothing to the other female scientist, oh boy.

Maggie is a mostly competent CDC worker who only wants to use her expertise to stop the disease and save people’s lives. Samantha Boutroux is a introduced as a multi-degree bacteriologist who speaks several languages and is brought along on the weird Amazon trip side story for her biology expertise and… is the ditsy, pretty idiot for the misogynistic, ‘the jungle is no place for a woman’ and ‘scientists shouldn’t use technology, they should crawl through the dirt and hope for the best like back in my day’ paleoanthropologist to save. If you replaced her with a sexy lamp, not a single thing would change about the story. Along with an odd story of this guy being livid that a woman he dated for two years TWENTY YEARS AGO has moved on, and the weird cannibal Amazon tribe gimmick, this whole part of the book really annoyed me. I hoped that she would prove him wrong or at least tell him to fuck off, but instead she ends up in his bed at the end serving him wine because of course she does. It really was a slap in the face compared to Maggie’s character or any other female character in the story.

 

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Red Death is a slow burn virus that looks too closely at individual cases and doesn’t grasp the global scale of an actual plague with a bonus random, Indiana Jones style, Amazon adventure complete with a cannibal tribe and a female scientist who left her brain at home. Might recommend to a biology student who could understand the science parts.

 

About the Author – 

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(Taken from Goodreads) Birgitte Märgen began writing stories at the age of nine. Her eclectic style of writing crosses over many genres. An avid thrill-seeker, she can usually be found high above the ground or far below. Her books include the bone-chilling thriller The Red Death and the gothic fairytale, Evie and the Upside-Down World of Nevermore. She lives in the mountains with her family.

 

Links to Buy and Review – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

What’s your favourite pandemic story? Do you prefer to have the technical side kept in or at a minimum? 

‘Vultures’ by Grant Palmquist – Review

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

****

At ten o’clock, Trent Sable grabbed the revolver, shoved it in the back of his pants, slipped on his latex gloves, and took the black balaclava from his duffel bag. He stepped out into the humid June night, and sweat rolled from his pores like wax down a melting candlestick. Mosquitoes buzzed around him. One of them landed on his forearm and sucked at his skin. Trent pulled a Marlboro 100 and chrome lighter with Trent etched into it from his pocket, lit a cigarette, breaking his two-a-day habit, and brought the cherry to the mosquito on his arm. It curled into a dry, dead ball and rolled into oblivion, then Trent made his way down the stairs, the wood creaking beneath each step. He could see the light of the Stop ‘N Shop sign by the moonlight, its fading yellow background flickering off and on.

Almost closing time.

The parking low was empty, and the man who owned the place was probably busy cleaning up inside. Trent looked up and down the street to make sure no cars were coming, and he gripped the balaclava tightly in his clammy hand, ready to draw it over his face. He reached the edge of the parking lot, gravel crunching beneath his feet. The smell of exhaust still hung in the air. Trent spotted puddles of gasoline near the gas pumps and dragged on his cigarette as he passed them, imagining someone drenched in fluid, begging Trent fore help, only to find himself ignited in flames a few seconds later.

Trent laughed to himself.

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Synopsis –

Heath is a family man with a nine to five job, a wife that he loves, and a teenage daughter going through a breakup and the

Trent is a sociopathic killer intent on proving himself a god and uprooting the laws of society. Trent picks Heath and his family as a target and stalks them relentlessly. What happens when chaos targets a middle class family? Can they survive the violence?

Thoughts –

I found a fun thing to do with this book! Here’s a drinking game you can play while reading. Drink when

– eyes are referred to as orbs

– you see the word phantasmagoria

– some ‘gets acclimated’ to sudden light or dark

– a random snake shows up

– Trent seems aroused but then blankly states that he can’t get aroused

– Victoria ignores blatant and immediate danger

– someone is clearly being followed but just shrugs and carries on anyway

– Trent swings ‘up and down’ on the swing

(Please be aware that if you play this game you will die because at least four of these happen in every single chapter)

First of all I would like to say that the general writing of the book is well done, Palmquist has a voice and he uses it and the sentence by sentence structure is well done. It was an easy book to read and if you are interested in synopsis of the book, I would say you should give it a try, however there were a few things that stuck in my teeth like a popcorn kernel, but I wouldn’t say this is a bad book, just possibly a confusing one.

So Vultures sets itself up as some kind of stalker story and I actually got the impression that maybe the family would be held captive in the house by the sociopath and that would be the majority of the novel. I’m not entirely sure where I got this idea from, maybe because Trent wants to destroy their ‘home and family’, so that assumption is on me. However, I did expect more to happen in the actual book than what did.

Without spoilers, there are two deaths pretty early on and this gives the impression that the story will ramp up to something, but the energy fizzles out very quickly after the second woman is brutally killed. I’d like to also point out that Heath the family man with a lovely wife and daughter, doesn’t seem to like women very much. He had a vendetta against Gloria (personally that hurt to read) at work and seems obsessed with hating her, and when he is blackmailed for the murder of another woman who’s body he wakes up beside, he never gives a single thought for the life of that woman. He never even thinks ‘that could be Yvonne or Victoria’, nope, he only cares about his own reputation which doesn’t fit with the character, or at least what we are supposed to believe about the character. Not to mention when Gloria goes missing, it seems more like he’s missing the conflict rather than actually concerned about her well being.

Heath as a character is completely caught up in his own insecurities and anger. Throughout the book he completely leaves his wife in the dark even after it would be far more beneficial to tell her. When it is one hundred percent clear that a verified killer is stalking your family, you tell your wife and daughter, you don’t leave them alone in the house, and you don’t let them leave under any circumstances. Heath just kind of… worries, without telling either of them. And Yvonne, his wife, is characterised as a submissive, loving but unquestioning wife even when her husband disappears for forty eight hours and is acting the weirdest he’s ever acting in their entire marriage. She’s basically not there for the entire story.

Victoria is, for the most part, is an ordinary seventeen year old. Trent tries to seduce her and it’s believable that in her fragile emotional state that she would fall for him, if it weren’t for the fact that he is completely devoid of any charm whatsoever. Serial killers, historically, are known to be very charming but Trent is just boring and mean and Victoria’s obsession with him is unbelievable to me as a reader. There are sermons scattered throughout from the family going to church, the book that I will be honest I mainly skipped because I did my time in church and the first few it wasn’t relevant to the plot of the story. At the end of church one day, for seemingly no reason Victoria declares that her goal in life is to have children. ???? Like, fine if you want to have children, but it was unprompted and told to her father, also at the beginning of the story she says she pledged her virginity to her father (promises her father she won’t have sex until she is married) which is uncomfortable to say the least.

But obviously the family aren’t devout Christians as Heath doesn’t seem to care about the deaths of the women around him. And a main theme in this book is masculinity and what it means. Trent believes he is a true man because he murders, and Heath feels emasculated because he doesn’t? Like you can’t be masculine unless you are violent. And you aren’t truly feminine unless you give birth?

There’s a lot of following but no reacting, there’s a lot of overlapping text conversations that didn’t need to be repeated. What could have been a great standoff between an average man protecting his family and a crazed sociopath hellbent on ruining societal norms, ended up being a strange squaring up that lasted way longer than it needed too, ironically showing two people who are too caught up in stereotypes about masculinity they forget to act out those very violent stereotypes at all.

Vultures is not badly written, but a confused book that is aspiring to greater themes than it displays. There are confused statements about masculinity and femininity and there isn’t as much of a showdown as was promised. Also a lot of ‘society are all zombies who don’t feel anymore’ talk which gets old quick.

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About the Author –

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Grant Palmquist is a writer of dark fiction and horror writer who doesn’t have any bios online that I can find.

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

Do you like serial killer horrors? What’s your favourite stalked family story? How do you feel about blatant societal narratives in horror?

‘Nomad’ by Jamie Nash – Review

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

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I’m drowning in blood. 

My brain screams. My feet sprint beneath me, but I go nowhere. I’m paddling, flailing, in a red stew that burns my eyes like an over-chlorinated YMCA pool. 

Chemicals. Fuck. I’m breathing chemicals. 

My arms slam something hard and cold. I’m inside a box, or a closet, or a cage. It’s curved and smooth. Glass. Thick glass. I’m trapped in a bowl like some stupid tropical fish in an orthodontist’s waiting room. My feet scrape against the floor. It’s grilled. A vent. Or a cheese grater. 

I scream, then gag. Something is lodged deep inside my throat. A long, leathery finger stretches past my tongue and worms deep into my airway. It’s a snake. Shit. There’s a snake in my esophagus. I claw and grab at the thing. It slithers in my hands as its rubbery body worms across my windpipe. Its head hisses and flails deep inside my lungs. I keep pulling, digging. Ten inches of rubbery hose spool out. I fling it away. It dances in the bloody murk, blowing a plume of bubbles from its tip. It’s a tube puffing air, a respirator – the very thing that’s been keeping me alive, and I just tore it out. 

Great work, genius. 

My lungs clench, begging for breath. The crimson liquid floods my mouth, coats my cheeks, clogs my nostrils. The foul liquid burns on my tongue. I wretch. It’s gasoline. I’ve siphoned it before. I remember a cousin getting me to do it. Or was it a brother?

Everything’s fuzzy. My thoughts are like a London fog. My memories…

My memories

Where the hell am I?

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Synopsis –

She wakes up in a tube, encased in liquid, drowning. No name, no memories, and apparently on a spaceship hurtling through space – and there are others too. But escaping the pods was only the beginning and there’s danger around every corner of the spaceship. Our protagonist and her rag tag new friends must survive the next few hours while trying desperately to figure out what is going on and who they can trust. And on top of that there’s someone else on the ship intent on killing them all.

 

Thoughts – 

Waking up with no memories and on a spaceship that you didn’t know could even exist is a fear that most people can relate to. For this novel, Nomad,  it’s a reality for our merry bands of random young people and while there’s definitely horror and violence from the outset, our protagonist has the sense of humour to deal with it.

My one and only peeve for this novel, and I do understand why this was the case and it does help the story, it’s just a pet peeve of mine is – there are no chapter breaks. There are no breaks whatsoever bar one or two little star breaks. I imagine the reason for this is because there are no real time jumps until the sort of epilogue at the end, it’s just a continuous present moment narrative which keeps the pace fast and the action coming and the absence of breaks absolutely works for this, however I personally just like to have clear breaks where I can put the book down for a break particularly as I’ve never been a bookmark person. Works for the book, just not for my tastes.

Jamie Nash is a screenwriter for horror movies and family films, and this definitely comes across in the writing of Nomad, but rather than bring out you out of the novel medium, it keeps the break neck pace of the story. This is an exciting and enjoyable novel to read, but you can also see this working absolutely as a television series or even a movie. Yet, it isn’t all about action and visuals, there’s exposition and character development, there’s mystery and a spotted backstory that helps to merge novel with screenplay perfectly.

Our main character (who at one point christens herself Dorothy) is a funny, awkward, and brave protagonist who brings the reader through the story in her unique perspective. In the few hours of her life that you spend with her, she makes friends, loses friends, realises that not everyone can be a friend and is a likeable and comfortable character to head the story of Nomad. Her dark humour is a great contrast to the very real horrors that are happening around her.

Nomad is an adrenaline fueled  sci-fi horror survival story of a woman trying to piece together her past on an alien spaceship. At a pace that will pull the skin off your skull, you’ll tear through this book.

 

About the Author –

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(Taken from the book) Jamie Nash has written for films like V/H/S/2, Exists, Lovely Molly, and Altered. He’s worked on the Nickelodeon movies Tiny Christmas and Santa Hunters. He’s the author of the middle-grade book The 44 Rules of Amateur Sleuthing and the co-author of Bunk! He Lives in Ellicott City, MD. You can see more of Nash’s work on his website jamienash.net and can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

How do you feel about continuous time in stories? Do you need chapter breaks or some kind of breaks in the writing or are you fine with continuous prose? What is your favourite sci-fi horror story?