‘For Rye’ by Gavin Gardiner – Review

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

***

Everywhere, knives; everywhere eyes.

She plunged trembling fingers into her worn leather satchel. Damned thing must be in here somewhere, she thought in the moment before her bag fell to the concrete flooring of Stonemount Central. The ticket collector’s eyes converged with her own upon the sacred square slip, tangled amongst the only other occupant of the fallen satchel: a coil of hemp rope.

They stared at the noose.

The moment lingered like an uninvited ghost. The woman fumbled the rope back into the bag and sprang to her feet, before shoving the ticket into his hand, grabbing her small suitcase, and lurching into the knives, into the eyes.

The crowd knocked past. A flickering departure board passed overhead as she wrestled through the profusion of faces, every eye a poised blade. The stare of a school uniformed boy trailing by his mother’s hand fell upon her, boiling water on her skin. She jerked back, failing to contact a shriek of pain. Swarms of eyes turned to look. The boy sniggered. She pulled her duffle coat tight and pushed onward.

The hordes obscured her line of sight; the exit had to be nearby somewhere through these eyes of agony. She prayed the detective – no, no more praying – she hoped the detective would be waiting outside to drive her, as promised. One last leg of the journey, out of the city of Stonemount and back to her childhood home after nearly thirty years.

Back to Millbury Peak.

Synopsis –

Renata Wakefield, a traumatised novelist on the brink of suicide, is drawn back to her childhood hometown following her mother’s ritualistic murder. Before long, she becomes ensnared in the mysteries of Millbury Peak as one question lies heavy: who killed Sylvia Wakefield?

As the answer draws nearer, as madness continues to envelop the quaint country town, Renata will come to realise that the key to all this insanity lies with one man—the world’s leading writer of horror fiction. His name is Quentin C. Rye, and he will guide her to the revelation that true madness lies within.

Discovering that the darkness of her family’s history runs deeper than she ever could have imagined, Renata Wakefield’s eyes will finally be opened to one single, hideous truth, which will awaken a long-dormant evil.

Thoughts –

For Rye is a dark and twisting mystery story involving a reclusive romance writer, her mother’s bloody and brutal murder, and a famed horror writer whose words were found at the scene of the crime. With layers of secrets and darkness, revenge and avenging, this is not a predictable story. Our protagonist Renata Wakefield, foiled in her attempt to take her own life as her careers wanes, is now staying to fulfil a long held promise to her dear mother; to care for her abusive father on his death bed no matter what. But the appearance of the mysterious writer Rye, the forbidden writer that may just have sparked her love of story writing in first place, may have just given her a new reason to keep living – to find out just what this mysterious romance thing is all about.

Rye himself, the boisterous American among the reserved English, is fascinated with the death of Renata’s mother, staged to look like a scene from one of his own horrifying books. He wants to get to know Renata, to help her find her mother’s killer, to give her new life. Little does he know that Renata’s life is a lot more complicated than he knows, her past darker even than a mind like his could imagine. And when his adult daughter Sandie shows up unannounced and determined to bring Renata’s works to the big screen as her leading lady, the danger surrounding Renata hits a little too close to home.

For Rye pulls you in with shocking events and complicated characters, and holds you within it’s pages with superb writing, a mix of genres, and twist after twist. By the end of this story you will not know who to trust, who to feel sorry for, and just how Gardiner managed it in the first place.

A darkly enjoyable read for any mystery lover’s out there.

About the Author –

Gavin Gardiner’s lifelong love of horror didn’t manifest into his debut horror novel, FOR RYE, until his early thirties. Between its completion and publication, he wrote a novella, several short stories, and a selection of non-fiction articles and analysis pieces. These can be found in various online publications and in print via:

www.gavingardinerhorror.com

Before he threw himself into the writing game, Gavin dedicated much of his teen years and twenties to the pursuit of music. Although the nightmares he’s since committed to the page have garnered more attention than his songs ever did, he hopes to one day return to music. The writing of horror, however, is here to stay.

He’s currently working on his second novel, Witchcraft on Rücken Ridge, and has grand plans for the future of his unique brand of horror. He very much hopes you’ll join him for the ride.

He lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his ever-patient girlfriend and ever-demanding kitten.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk (affiliate link)

Amazon.com

‘The Third Corona Book of Horror’ Edited by Lewis Williams – Review

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

****

 

-Curious, If Anything-

Cold linoleum under his feet, Babafemi stood there. Not frightened but curious, if anything. Pale light of early morning crept through the awning window over the bathtub and chased away the last of the bathroom’s shadows, and it was there in that room of grimy and green chequered tile that, rather than run, Babafemi raised a hand to the tuft of his greying beard, stroking it in contemplation. 

Ghost.

Really?

The dark-skinned body in the bathtub lay there, sightless – and had it been a real dead body, Babafemi most likely would have run. Not because he was scared of dead bodies, but more because he;d be scared that someone had left a dead body in his home, and as a result, it would make sense to leave before the killer came back. Assuming, of course, that the killer had left. All of these thoughts fluttered through Babafemi’s mind in moments, bringing him back to the present. 

The body lying in the bathtub, one leg handing over the side, the head resting against the side of the hot water tap. A body tat he could see through, and despite the darkness of its skin – or at least what would pass for skin – he could still see through it: see the outline of the bathtub, the tiling above the rub. 

Babafemi already knew it was a ghost since the body was see-through. Unlike many other who may have claimed that they had seen a ghost, or at least felt a ghostly presence, Babafemi was sure that he had encountered supernatural phenomena throughout his years. Early childhood long ago in Nigeria had shown him the ugly side of human nature and desensitised him to death. Later life in London led him to flirt with the supernatural, or certainly with those things that would make others uncomfortable. Time spent in a cemetery at night – back when cemeteries were unlocked and desecration was unheard of – yielded shivers from nothing except freezing cold temperatures among the headstones. Nothing went bump in the night then. Later life (and residences) in London, back when life had left him to adapt to the challenges of marriage, children, divorce and more, had provided more encounters: the sense of being watched by someone or something. Certainly nothing malevolent, but more in the way a curious family pet will watch its human masters before going its own way. And likewise, there was nothing to fear. 

But a ghost?

 

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Synopsis –

The Third Corona collection of horror stories picked from over eight hundred submissions. From ghosts to killers, monsters to curses – this collection has a wide variety of horror to disturb, disgust, and delight any horror reader.

 

Thoughts –

This is an independent collection that was picked from over eight hundred submissions, and you can see that in the quality of the writing and the stories held within. Not every one of them is a hit – there are one or two misses – however the overall quality of the collection is a pleasure to read. Stories in particular that stand out are ‘Curious, If Anything’ where the quote from above is taken, the story of a man who finds a ghost in his bathtub but rather than be afraid is curious to find out who the ghost is only to find that he doesn’t like the answer. There also ‘The Haunting of April Heights’ a modern gothic that takes place in a block of English flats, and ‘Murderabilia’ a collector who finds himself with the opportunity to buy evidence from the much to recent murders of an active serial killer.
The perspectives of this collection are unique, they take familiar tales and look at them from an angle not expected, interesting point of views and an array of material from ghosts to curses to AI. Would recommend for new and seasoned readers of horror.

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About the Editor (from Goodreads) –

They say to be a successful author you should pick one genre and stick to it. Lewis Williams hasn’t exactly followed that advice: having written his first book on the singer Scott Walker, he followed that with a serious academic work on social policy, which he then followed with a trilogy of limerick books that were absolutely, categorically nothing remotely like his earlier books. His latest book projects include a revised and updated edition of Scott Walker: The Rhymes of Goodbye (published Plexus, London 2019) and editing all three volumes of the Corona Book of Horror Stories book series, including 2019’s The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories with stories selected from over 800 submissions.

Lewis has two degrees in philosophy (which number might be considered two too many) and worked for a number of years in a number of different roles for Oxford University before his ignominious departure from its employ. You can find out more about him by visiting his website www.lewiswilliams.com

Links to Buy and Review – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

 

Do you collect horror anthologies? What’s your favourite collection? Let me know down below!

‘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.*

****

 

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?

‘Silence in the Woods’ by J.P. Choquette – Review

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

****

 

Paul sank back onto his bed, stared up at the spiderweb cracks in the high ceiling above. Many of the aides and nurses were kind at the hospital. But a handful were not and the night monitor for Ward III  was one of these. Truthfully, it made no difference to Paul whether the other man screamed the night away or not. He hadn’t slept a full night in weeks. When he’d first arrived he’d been in so much pain he hadn’t been lucid. Later, after the medicines wee decreased, he was able to get his bearings… and almost wished for the sweet oblivion the tiny pills had offered. 

But he couldn’t – wouldn’t – allow himself the luxury. Whenever he closed his eyes he saw the horror he’d witnessed deep in the wood again and again. The same images would flicker, an endless loop. The two couples – he and Jane, Allen and Deirdre – in the woods, always dark and twisted, like ghostly photographs from long ago. Then the blood on the ground, a body swinging and stiff at the end of the makeshift noose –

No. 

Paul sat up, putting his feet on the bare, cold floor underneath him. Timmy let out a partial giggle and Paul glanced over. The big man was so large his bulk didn’t fit on the bed. A roll of flesh, soft and white like dough, flopped over the side of his cot. His face was serene, full-mooned, with his lips parted in a smile. Even in sleep, Timmy was happy and blessedly oblivious. Paul envied the big man. His childlike mind meant that he never fully grasped the harsh realities of life. 

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Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads) –

In 1917, four friends and photojournalists set out in the woods looking for answers. Why have so many hikers and hunters gone missing in the area of Shiny Creek Trail?

The two couples anticipate a great adventure, one they’ll tell their kids about someday. No one imagines the evil lurking in a remote cave. A horrifying discovery leaves one person dead and two others missing.

Two months later, Paul, one of the four, returns to the forest to find his wife. But will he find her before someone—or something—finds him?

Silence in the Woods is the long-awaited prequel to Shadow in the Woods and delves into the frightening territory of the supernatural and the human mind

 

Thoughts –

Silence in the Woods starts off with our main character Paul and a high tension escape from the mental asylum he’s been in for the past six weeks, circa 1917. Paul, his wife Jane, and their friends Allan and Deirdre, went hiking in the woods and only Paul managed to get back out again, adamant that some kind of creature killed his friends, but unable to accept the fact that his wife might be dead even after all this time (possibly) alone in the wilderness. Is Paul deranged or is he telling the truth? Is there a creature in the woods and is it the same one that took the hikers they went up there to research? No matter the answers you are now along for the ride with Paul on this treacherous journey mired by shadow, danger and mystery.

The pacing of Silence in the Woods is exemplary. Switching between November Paul and his trek to get back to where he last saw his friends and hopefully find them alive, and September Paul and Co. as they reach the trail and the cave they settle in at the beginning of their journey, both sides of the story unravel together leaving no room for a sagging middle section to this novel. However, exposition and character development aren’t left by the wayside to accommodate the fast pace either. Choquette’s writing is skillful and enthralling, creating believable and sympathetic characters whose motivations are clear when they need to be and ambiguous when it suits. Her switching of point of view and time jumps, which are both difficult devices to get right at times, brings the story to life and gives the novel dimensions that would sorely be missed if this were a linear novel.

The ‘creatures’ in the story representing an inhuman good and evil are not thoroughly explained and can only be judged by how they interact with the small group. A cave with strange markings that infiltrate the mind, a shadow creature that brings out the worst in people, a humanoid with intelligent eyes and a knack for showing up just in the nick of time. Our small group of photojournalists are thrust into the centre of a tug of war they could have never imagined, and their own insecurities are brought to the surface by the monsters they struggle against. Infidelity, inferiority, lies, and love all come to light in the darkness of that cave, and the reader is delicately led through the minds of the group as they unravel and change for better or for worse.

The setting of this story is mostly a cave, and the back sections of that cave that go deeper than the group imagined and this gives the story a timeless and isolating feeling. There’s old stone furniture used at one point giving the impression that the group are only one small link in a chain of darkness and violence that has been going on for possibly centuries. Nature as an immutable force that holds secrets humanity has forgotten, perhaps willingly, is a theme through this story and one that makes the characters of Paul, Jane, Allan, and Deirdre seem like pawns in an unfortunate game that they didn’t sign up for. This story will make you think twice before stepping into the woods again.

Silence In The Woods is a story of relentless perseverance, of human curiosity, and of the strange and unexplained creatures that can warp our minds so easily. Fast paced and carefully written, a prequel that only wets the appetite for the next book in line, Silence In The Woods will leave you shivering, wondering, and eager for the next leg of the journey.

 

About the Author –

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J. P. Choquette is an author of thriller novels from Vermont who enjoys writing about stories that tie in art, nature, and psychology. When not writing she spends time watching Gothic movies, spending time with her family, or visiting old cemeteries. You can find out more about her and her work from her website jpchoquette.me

 

Links to Buy and Review – 

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

Is Bigfoot good or evil in your mind? What’s your favourite scary story set in the woods? Do you find time jumps confusing or intriguing?