‘Nightmare’ by Chad Nicholas – Review

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

This book is currently on sale until October 6th – you can get two dollars off the ebook version through the link at the bottom of this review!

***

It was hard to breathe inside the grave. The cold touch of the soil surrounded him like a casket, numbing his body as he lay there motionless. Suddenly, he regained consciousness. He tried to breathe, but instead dirt poured into his mouth, gagging him. He opened his eyes, only to see complete and utter darkness. The ground above crashed down on him, causing his bones to crack under the weight.

He tried to fight his way upwards, but with every inch he gained, he could feel himself slipping back into unconsciousness. His lungs began collapsing, causing his chest to burn as if it was filled with hot embers. He could taste the rough, freezing dirt as it poured down into his throat, choking him. Still, he continued to crawl his way upwards, inch by inch.

Finally, he felt the dirt part above him, the chill breeze hitting his hand as it emerged from the dirt. He summoned what little strength he had left to pull himself up out of the ground.

Synopsis –

Had it come back? No, it couldn’t have. He had buried it for good. Or at least that’s what Scott told himself. But what if it had? Was that why the scarecrow now watched him?

But the more Scott tries to ignore it, the more the evidence begins to pile up. So do the bodies. Because sometimes, the dead don’t stay buried. Sometimes the monster survives.

As the bodies mount, and the secrets of his past grow more haunting, Scott must do whatever it takes to save his family. But what if by doing so, they find out what happened all those years ago? What if they realize what he did?

Scott learns that there is no escape from his own past, or the crows that have crawled out of it. He can only watch, as his life is turned into a living nightmare.

Thoughts –

Nightmare is exactly what the title tells you it is. This is a type of novel that you’ll probably want to read more than once, filled with details heavy in importance, but obscured until the very end. The story of a man and his horrific childhood trauma, Nightmare deals with grief, mental anguish, and fear for the ones we love.

The story progresses from the usual day to day of the family, to a darkness growing between husband and wife, slowly seeping out from the repressed memories of his childhood. Something broke off inside him the day he was taken captive and it is something that he still struggles with. As events take a turn for the worst it is unclear whether our protagonist is dreaming, hallucinating, or whether there is someone stalking him and his family.

Nicholas does a great job of juggling the different elements of the story and creating compelling characters. Though, for me, the ending doesn’t have quite the payoff that I was expecting it to, there is a resolution for the characters that makes sense, and overall the story comes together with few loose ends.

Nightmare is sure to live up to it’s name.

About the Author –

Chad Nicholas is an author who enjoys writing mysteries and thrillers. He also has a love for writing horror novels, despite the fact that he has to watch horror movies in the daytime, like a coward, or else he gets nightmares.

Speaking of Nightmares…

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‘Food Fright’ by Nico Bell – Review

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

***

Virginia, 1995

Cassie Adler gnawed her thumbnail until she tasted blood. Crickets chirped as a slight breeze cooled the September night air, cutting through the thick Virginia humidity. She shifted on her feet and looked past the dim streetlights lining the parking lot of Rochelle High School. A truck’s high beams switched to low as it drew closer.

Her chest tightened.

This was a mistake, but she’d come too far to wimp out now. Heather and her friends would never let Cassie hear the end of it if she didn’t follow through with the plan. Besides, this is what she wanted, right?

To be one of them.

Because if she belonged to their group, the teasing would stop.

No more jabs, about her loser father.

No more jokes about Cassie’s skeleton build or frizzy brown hair.

No more mocking her mom, who spent more nights sleeping in the county jail than her own bed back at home.

Cassie just needed to complete this one small task and she’d finally be in their circle, no longer standing on the outside.

Synopsis –

High school junior Cassie Adler just wanted the bullying to stop. She thought gaining a spot on the varsity soccer team would whip up instant friends, but it isn’t until the popular girls need Cassie’s help that they acknowledge her presence. Cassie reluctantly agrees to participate in a prank that turns sour fast. Now with blood on their hands, she and the popular girls race to cover their tracks. But something savage knows what they’ve done, and it’s hungry for revenge. Can Cassie redeem herself before it’s too late, or will her deadly sins ketchup to her?

Thoughts –

Food Fright is a 90’s camp horror that takes the phrase ‘death by chocolate’ quite literally. Nestled among the stress of high school politics, a hierarchy obsessed gang of witches, and one poor girl who just wanted to make friends on the soccer team, this is a story that will have you reaching for the snacks and getting concerned at every gurgle of your stomach thereafter.

Cassie as a main protagonist is a typical down trodden teenager who hates the popular girls almost as much as she wants to be them, desperately trying to make right what she did wrong. Ms Bower is your not quite so average teacher with a dark background, a yearning to belong, and not quite as well put together as her students might seem. With misplaced magic, murderous desserts, and teenage angst, Food Fright is a campy, violent (with fudge in place of blood) story of revenge that will have you laughing, rolling your eyes, and forever suspicious of a croissant that smells just a little too irresistible.

Nico Bell manages the characters well and keeps the tone of the book anxious, thrilling, yet as light as a French pastry much of the time. The reader is pulled into the story from the off with a familiar setting and characters, but a unique method of murder for the poor girl caught up in her own high school tragedy.

A palate cleanser for any horror fan.

About the Author –

Nico was born in New York, in 1983.

Nico started her writing career as a Christian fiction writer under a different name. She was a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer Genesis Contest, a finalist in the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Music City Melody of Love Contest, a finalist in the Splickety and My Book Therapy Flash Fiction contest, and a finalist in the RWA Great Beginnings Contest. Her flash fiction has been featured in Splickety, and Spark.

Her love of psychological thrillers and twisted plots led Nico into the world of horror where she unleashed her unsuspecting characters. Her stories have been published in several collections including The Second Corona Book of Horror Stories, Drabbledark Anthology and her debut novel Food Fright was released on March 26, 2020.

For more, find Nico on her website, twitter or instagram

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‘Grotesque: Monster Stories’ by Lee Murray – Review

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

***

Choking on dust, Walters ran for his life. The stinking horde of living dead swarmed in his wake, their faces slack and their eyes shifting and soulless. They moved fast. Stilted and shuffling, but fast, nonetheless. It didn’t pay to get too complacent. He’d know better next time.

If there was a next time.

Sprinting over the rise, the battered Steyr rifle bouncing at his hip, he leaped over a copse of tundra, and kept running. He had to get somewhere safe: somewhere fortified or, at the very least, hard to get to.

He scanned the horizon. There was fucking nowhere to go. Beneath the mountains, a volcanic wasteland stretched for miles before him. It was like a threadbare hall rug, rucked up in places, and reduced to a few scrubby tufts. What had he expected? It’s not as if a new shopping mall or housing development would have popped up since his last trip through here; the desert region had been lonely and isolated even before the Coming.

Glancing back, Walters took a gander at the mob. Shit shit shit. They were still coming. Just a couple of hundred metres behind now. He’d never known zombies to be so persistent. Why hadn’t they given up? Because he was probably the only live meat in the region, that’s why.

-The New Breed

Synopsis –

Three-time Bram Stoker Award® nominee Lee Murray delivers her debut collection, and it is monstrous. Inspired by the mythology of Europe, China, and her beloved Aotearoa-New Zealand, Murray twists and subverts ancient themes, stitching new creatures from blood and bone, hiding them in soft forest mists and dark subterranean prisons.

Thoughts –

The collection laid out in Grotesque: Monster Stories by Lee Murray, is a deep well of unsettling stories, fascinating characters, and a heavy leaning towards the original mythologies of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Ranging from legendary demi-god creatures, to the darkness inside of man himself, there is a variety of substance and setting in this chilling collection.

Murray has a skill for introducing a story in the most engrossing way possible, steeping the reader in a realism – even when the events and worlds are anything but – that makes it impossible not to dive head first into these characters lives. From the desperate survivors in ‘The New Breed’ that throw morals out the window in order to save their own skin against the zombie hordes that prey on the and yet you are reluctant to cast any blame on them yourself, to the dangerous lives of the tribesmen in ‘Hawaiki’ who must fight for their brothers and sisters – no matter what. Speckled with interesting histories of the Maori people and their scared beliefs, including a glossary of Maori terms to expand your lexicon.

The stories range from flash fiction, to almost novella length, and at times this does leave the reader hungry for more. Some stories do feel as though they are the beginning of a much longer story, even a novel, rather than a complete short story themselves, however these instances are few for the generous number of stories in Grotesque: Monster Stories.

Grotesque: Monster Stories is a rich collection that explores chilling settings, harrowing creatures, and showcases Murray’s skills of drawing the reader in, and holding on tight.

About the Author –

Lee Murray writes fiction for adults and children, for which she has been lucky enough to win some literary prizes. Her novels include A Dash of Reality, Battle of the Birds, and Misplaced. Lee lives with her family in New Zealand.

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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*

***

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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