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‘The Vermilion Book of the Macabre’ by Joe Pawlowski – Review

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

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We erect temples and tell tales of golden beyonds to assuage our fears. We hold tight to hopes of spectral reunions in an ever-crowded afterlife. Perhaps the tales are true. Who knows?

The sojourner reads about all this in her Vermilion Book, learns about those who came before and those who are yet to come. The selfless and the needful, the wicked and the kind, those who stagger under life’s burdens, those who offer shoulders to help others lift their loads. In the end, it appears we were made for the passage, not the destination.

Closing the book, she lies still, lost in dreamy thought, awash in the moonlight.

Synopsis –

From the author of The Watchful Dead and Dark House of Dreams, comes this highly anticipated collection of 16 spellbinding tales of supernatural suspense. All of the people involved lived average lives, until one day they found their realities turned upside down, and recorded by a demonic scribe in an ancient tome known as The Vermilion Book of the Macabre.

Thoughts –

The Vermilion Book of the Macabre is a set of dark fantasy stories set in the same world and linked through the prologue of a young girl reading these stories in an ominous book that she has found – The Vermilion Book. Ranging from stories of evil curses, unfortunate circumstances, and harrowing monsters Pawlowski unravels a narrative where the characters are the anchor point, the setting is undisputed, and the darkness of these stories settles uncomfortably in the mind of the reader. From a manual worker who gradual finds his clumsiness to be more and more constricting in ‘Etched in Stone’ to a woman who has her wishes granted by an unsettling painting that finds its way to her house, wishes that she later regrets in ‘Likeness of the Divine’. We are taken on the harrowing and painful journey of a merchant stolen away by ‘The Craftsmen’ and the terror of a lost identity in ‘Who He Wasn’t’. Each of these stories plays on the fears of a reality shattered, our carefully laid plans torn to ribbons by fate, and our own inner monsters.

The dialogue for the collection was very colloquial and comfortable to read – I may have been projecting here, but I was reading a lot of it in an Irish accent with some of the phrasing that was used. This may not have been intentional but it gave the dialogue for the characters a much more natural feel. Pawlowski’s writing is very accessible, it fits the tone and the setting of each story perfectly, and brings you straight in there with the characters and their surroundings – nothing felt out of place. This would indeed be a blood chilling collection to find as the girl in the prologue has.

Pawlowski interweaves a collection of dark fantasy that brings a chill to the bone.

About the Author –

Joe Pawlowski is a retired journalist living in the Twin Cities area with his wife, Debbie, and rescue dog, Lucy. He is a U.S. Army veteran, a secular Buddhist, a major Beatles fan, a vegan, and a lifelong student of classic horror and supernatural literature. Besides reading and writing, he enjoys music, movies and socializing with his many friends.

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‘Nocturnal Farm’ by Villimey Mist – Review

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

You can also see my video review of books 1 & 2 in the series on my BookTube channel here or read the review of Book One, ‘Nocturnal Blood’ here.

 

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***

My hands shake from holding the gun. Holding it brings back memories. The last time I held one, I shot a man in the thigh. I helped kill him.. It’s the same heaviness, the same stench of gunpowder in the air. There’s also the disgust at countless other people having touched this one with their dirty hands.

“You know you don’t have to do this,” Dad says.

I grip the handle tighter. “Yes, I do. I have to be prepared for anything.”

I hear a scream. My eyes dart around, but there are only my concerned father, with his hand stretched toward me, and my annoyed little brother, who has his arms crossed against the bitter cold. No one screamed. It was just a wraith from my haunting memories.

“You sound like one of those doomsday preppers,” Nathan says. “You know that, right? Are you gonna build a bunker in the woods?”

I shake my head and adjust my focus to the red-and-white circle fifteen feet away from me. They don’t know what I’ve been through. I have to be ready. Mom, Dad, and Nathan were safe because Sophie and I left Anchorage, but what if vampires come after more of my family? What if those nocturnal creatures ignore the pact? I can’t take that chance. I can’t tell my family what happened to me, but I can be prepared if all hell breaks loose.

Synopsis –

Leia Walker has been training to protect her family from vampires ever since her best friend died six months ago. That humans are disappearing all over Europe is a distant worry — Until her little brother goes to Amsterdam, meets a Sangue — a vampire familiar — and disappears.

Leia knows she can’t save him alone. To bring him home, she must take up arms with the Owls, a group of vampire hunters, without her vampire protectors or the Owls becoming aware of each other. Under Amsterdam’s streets, she discovers dark secrets, a vampire who is immune to sunlight, and a threat that turns humankind and vampires alike into feral killers.

Can Leia hold on to her belief that everybody can be saved while she fights to bring her brother home — Or will she end up as a human blood bag on the farms?

 

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Thoughts –

Nocturnal Farm, Book 2 in the Nocturnal Series by Villimey Mist, brings the story of Leia and her vampiric associates from Anchorage, Alaska, to the historic city of Amsterdam. Book 2 follows Leia as she attempts to find her brother, missing on a school trip to Europe, and she is convinced that he has somehow gotten himself involved with the vampires she was too afraid to tell him about, or possible kidnapped by a Sangue – a vampire familiar.

While the first book in the series was about the unshakable friendship between Leia and Sophie, book two gives a wider view of the vampire world, the myriad factions across the globe that fight for power, control, and to keep their citizens in check for the protection of the species. Leia’s love for her brother and her family is still present, but she is often distracted by the strangeness of this new city, and the increased opportunity to get herself in trouble. She seems to be breaking free from some of her anxious habits, but is still taken aback when a young vampire hunter actually starts to flirt with her. Could it be the start of a romance or is their world far too dangerous for that?

While the driving force of Sophie and Leia’s friendship was missing from this novel, it was still action packed. Travelling now with an immeasurably wealthy vampire elder and her vampire friend Kenji, there’s a lot more luxury as opposed to the bitter journey taken in the first book. The vampire universe of the Nocturnal series is expanded, and with it, the dangers and threats to the human race as well.

 

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It seems the more Leia learns, the more she has to fear, and with the bombshell ending of this book, book 3 is sure to be another whirlwind of emotion, blood, and shocking twists.

 

About the Author – 

Villimey

Villimey has always been fascinated by vampires and horror, ever since she watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula when she was a little, curious girl.
She loves to read and create stories that pop into her head unannounced.
She lives in Iceland with her husband and two cats, Skuggi and RoboCop, and is often busy drawing or watching the latest shows on Netflix.
You can find her on her Twitter or her Instagram.

 

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‘Nocturnal Blood’ by Villimey Mist – Review

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

You can also see my video review of books 1 & 2 in the series on my BookTube channel here or read the review of Book One, ‘Nocturnal Blood’ here.

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***

 

Violence doesn’t worry me anymore. It happens all around and I know there’s nothing I can do to stop it. In my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, news about another war or another violent shooting has become part of the daily routine. We have the highest crime rate in the country, with 813 violent crimes per 100,000 residents – hearing there’s been another murder or that another person has gone missing doesn’t surprise me anymore. I’ve seen those acts of violence happen to others. They’ve happened to me as well. 

Maybe I had it coming. I think I’m a pretty clear target. I might as well draw a big, red circle on my forehead. Anyone could take advantage of meek little me. 

 

Synopsis –

Anchorage, Alaska. A place where people don’t care if someone goes missing. A place where Leia Walker tries her hardest to hide from the world, wanting a normal life without anxiety and OCD.

But Leia’s bubble pops when an old friend is back in town and twists Leia’s reality . A bloody event proves what Leia is scared to learn—Sophie Gardner, her old high school friend and saviour from the bullies, is a vampire.

Forced to run away with Sophie, Leia’s life takes a terrifying turn when vampires and hunters come after them.

The only thing preventing them from losing themselves is their friendship..

But will it be enough to escape the inevitable blood bath?

 

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Nocturnal Blood, the first book in the Nocturnal series by Villimey Mist, is a vampire YA novel that doesn’t hold back. Filled with blood, guts, tears, and a friendship that goes beyond the simple ties of right place, right time, Nocturnal Blood is the story of a journey of two friends, thrust into a violent and unrelenting world that wants both of them dead. If you’re squeamish about blood, I’d perhaps sit this one out.

Our protagonist Leia (yes, named after THAT Leia) is a reclusive young adult dealing with myriad psychological issues, including anxiety. I can’t to her other diagnosis, but I can say that Leia’s experience of anxiety and it’s symptoms were very close to my own. felt reflected in her difficulties and worries around other people, yet her strength to keep going when the odds were stacked against her rings true as well – the irrationality of the disorder is presented brilliantly here. Still clinging to the friendship she had with Sophie, the girl who saved her from her bullies and took her OCD tics as just another part of her, Leia is overjoyed and traumatised when Sophie reappears after four years to save her yet again – though this time with fatal consequences.

On the other side, Sophie’s character is cool and tough, but just under the surface of that hard exterior is a girl who had to fight tooth and nail to survive as a monster she never wanted to be. Kidnapped and turned vampire as a teenager, she never got the guidance she needed, the protection she deserved, and as reckless as it may seem, she has now pulled her best friend Leia into the midst of a world gone mad, determined to cling onto the last vestiges of humanity she has left.

As far as friendship goes, this story is built on the unshakable bond of these two girls, the devotion they have for each other, and the lengths they will go to protect one another. Neither can make the journey that needs to be made alone, and for readers, despite knowing that you would be first on the lunch menu if you ran into these two, you want to root for them anyway, because they deserve a nice warm meal.

With a twist and an ending that was unexpected, Nocturnal Blood is a hard hitter for the first book in a series, and makes it all the more difficult not to immediately pick up book two.

 

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Nocturnal Blood is a vampire novel that takes the genre back to it’s bloody beginnings. An unstoppable thirst for blood, an unshakable friendship between two young women, and a fight to save both of their lives. Not for the squeamish!

 

About the Author – 

Villimey

Villimey has always been fascinated by vampires and horror, ever since she watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula when she was a little, curious girl.
She loves to read and create stories that pop into her head unannounced.
She lives in Iceland with her husband and two cats, Skuggi and RoboCop, and is often busy drawing or watching the latest shows on Netflix.
You can find her on her Twitter or her Instagram.

 

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‘Dead Woman Scorned’ by Michael Clark – Review

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

***

 

As strange as it sounds, Mildred Wells committed suicide in an attempt to reconcile with her son. 

Her thinking was that if they were kindred spirits, the healing could begin… or at least that was the idea.

The horrible truth that she wanted to ignore, however, was that any sort of reconciliation with Elmer would not be easy. He did not want her. Every time he saw her, he ran away. He was rightfully afraid of Mildred, but even so, she hoped deep down he could someday forgive her. 

 

Synopsis –

She’s back, and they’ll regret what they’ve done. Mildred Wells had a miserable life that carried over to a lonesome death. In the end, they betrayed her–played her the fool. She was the last to know, but there’s still time to catch up. She’ll formulate her painful plan as they live their lives in blissful ignorance. With no more family, only vengeance drives her; in fact, it’s all she has anymore. She would rather have rested in peace, but for Mildred, dying isn’t so easy.

 

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Thoughts –

Dead Woman Scorned is the second in Michael Clark’s series and a step up from the first book. Maybe I just need to appreciate a romance more, but book two focused less on Holly and Tim’s burning love life and more on how Mildred Well’s came to be the infamous Mildred Well’s, which was a much more compelling and unsettling story for me.

Set directly after the first book as new homeowner Tim is busy redecorating and trying to forget the dangerous and dead woman who refuses to leave him alone, or stop throwing hatchets at him. Dead Woman Scorned takes the reader back to the young life of Mary, and her mother and sister, as she starts on a path that will eventually lead her to become a walking corpse that violently haunts a small New Hampshire property. A series of unfortunate and tragic events in her early life plant the seed of darkness and rage in her young heart, the knowledge of otherworldly magic cultivating this seed into a seething mass of roots that over time rot and infect her soul.

A terrifying and mysterious figure in Book One (you can find my review of book one here) Dead Woman Scorned manages to clear away some of the flies that swarm around Mildred and somehow make her even more terrifying. Tim and Hollie do make an appearance in this book, lulled into a sense of security in thinking that Mildred is finally gone, they soon realise that not only is she still stalking the property, but it seems like everyone in town is now learning her name and eager to get a look at the house of this local legend.

 

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A solid addition to the series, this one will wet your appetite for the darkness to come in Book 3.

 

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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‘Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams’ by Jay Slayton-Joslin – Review

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

***

My book Kicking Prose was a collection of sad poems about girls and growing up and not knowing how, it is about how we are falling apart and making it seem like we have it together. This book, I think, is a continuation of that theme— how through everything as creators, we continue and create.

 

Synopsis –

In the back alley of HOLLYWOOD lies SEQUELLAND, where directors and creatives get the chance to do what they love, not necessarily in the conditions that they love. Jay Slayton-Joslin, a writer and horror fan, experiencing his own existential crisis takes a direct approach exploring his childhood filled with direct to DVD horror sequels, interviewing those who created the sequels to iconic franchises feel upon looking back on them. The story of people who tried to do what they loved, filled with pride, regret, and resolution.It’s… SEQUELLAND: A STORY OF DREAMS AND SCREAMS.

 

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Thoughts –

Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams takes a dive into the murky waters of horror movie sequels. Whether you hate them or love them, they aren’t going anywhere and between the movie makers who bend over backwards to please fans or the movie executives who go through script writers like toilet paper for one extra buck, there’s a lot more than fictional struggles to learn from here.

Slayton-Joslin asks pointed questions of the directors of sequels from Saw to The Leprechaun, from Carrie to Bloodrayne, delving into the unglamourous side of the movie making business. He speaks to directors who were pulled in after another director was kicked off a project, and directors who fought to get a title because they were such avid fans of the franchise themselves. Unlike with a fresh idea and screenplay, making a sequel has the added pressure of a lower budget, a higher expectation of return, a lore that must be abided by, giving the fans what they expect and yet still surprising them – the list goes on and so does the list of sequels that just don’t cut the mark.
Interspersed between these interviews, Slayton-Joslin takes a look at his own foray into a writing career. He examines his own expectations of what a story-telling career should look like and where he already feels like he has failed even before he’s fully started. There are writers and directors of all kinds who work on one project and stop there, and there are also those pigeon-holed into only making sequels, or unable to break into other genres because of the stigma of horror.
Slayton-Joslin ends the book on a hopeful note for all creative types – that there are as many paths as you are able to imagine in your story-telling mind, and there is no set track pulling you towards validation – you decide when you have succeeded and you decide what direction you want to go in if and when you do.

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Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams is a non-fiction horror book that gives insight into the opportunities and pitfalls of horror movie sequels – and how all creatives can learn from those who make them.

 

About the Author –

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Jay Slayton-Joslin is the author of Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams (Clash Books, 2020) and Kicking Prose (KUBOA, 2014). Jay graduated with a BA in American Literature with Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Surrey. He lives in Leeds, England.

Twitter: twitter.com/jaythecool
Instagram: instagram.com/50shadesofjaysj

 

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