‘The Wolf Society’ by Michael Penning – Review

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

***

Anna Jacobs was going to kill the man she was dancing with. She wouldn’t do it here, not under the brilliant glow of the reception room chandeliers. And she wouldn’t do it now, surrounded as she was by the cream of Vermont’s genteel society. But within the hour, the beguiling young Southerner with the chestnut curls and whiskey eyes would lie headless at Anna’s feet.

“You truly are an elegant dancer,” the gentleman said. He pressed his palm lightly into the small of Anna’s back and kept her at a decent arm’s length as he led her through the intricate steps of the English country dance. If his hand slipped lower, his wrist would brush against the six-inch blade strapped to Anna’s slender thigh beneath the folds of her silk ball gown.

“How kind of you to say,” Anna replied demurely. “I was raised to be prepared for any situation, including the occasion when a handsome gentleman might ask for the pleasure of a dance.”

“Have there been many such occasions?” The man’s sly grin revealed two rows of pearly teeth.

“Would it pain you to know there have?”

“Not in the least.”

Synopsis –

When the moon is full, there is no place to hide.

Most mothers tell their children there are no such things as monsters. Abigail Jacobs taught her daughter how to kill them. Raised to be a ghost-hunting occultist, Anna Jacobs now wants nothing more than to escape her life of blood and violence before it’s too late. But when women begin disappearing from the bustling lakeside village of Burlington, Vermont, Abigail convinces Anna to help her solve one last mystery.

Together, mother and daughter uncover an unholy secret society and a terrifying plot threatening the lives of the village children. Face-to-face with their most bloodthirsty foe yet, it will take all of their skill and cunning to save the children. But as the deadly night unfolds, Anna is forced to confront the chilling truth that the most dangerous evil she faces might actually lie within her.

Thoughts –

The third installment in the Book of Shadows series, The Wolf Society now takes a look at the infamous Abigail Jacobs’ daughter, Anna, who is well on the way to carving out her own name in the world of the occult. Raised by her mother to not only know, but to fight tooth and nail against the paranormal evils that surround them, Anna is a young woman filled with rage and resentment – and the fighting skills to take it out on anyone who crosses her. But as she tries to pull away from her mother, Abigail only works harder to keep her daughter close. And now that they they find themselves in the midst of a dangerous mystery that only they can solve, they must work together one final time to save the most vulnerable victims – the orphaned children.

A fast paced novel that takes place almost entirely in one nightmarish night, The Wolf Society brings the worst of humanity to the foreground. While Anna feels no remorse beating an abuser to a bloody pulp, she begins to feel a darkness inside of her rise up, one that has always whispered in her ear, but now threatens to engulf her entirely. And Abigail, seeing a bloodlust in her daughter’s eye that she has always tried to curb, is afraid to lose her daughter all together, and will use all of her darkest magical skills to save Anna’s soul, even if it means losing her own.

Once again Penning’s writing is superb, not only has he created a badass character like Abigail Jacobs but in her daughter Anna, we see another side and extension that the effect of being a strong willed woman living in such male dominated times can have on a woman’s mind and soul. But we are also introduced to Mary, a woman who is fighting for her own daughter’s future whatever the cost, and Kitty, an Irish barmaid risks her own life for those around her. In this story there is no shortage of strong and courageous women, whether you agree with their ideologies or not, and otherworldly powers, blood thirsty wolves, and with a bitter fight and high stakes around every corner, you will find it difficult to put this one down before the final page.

About the Author –

Michael Penning is an award-winning screenwriter and bestselling author of horror and suspense. He is an avid fan of Halloween, haunted houses, and things that go bump in the night. When he’s not coming up with creative ways to scare the hell out of people, he enjoys travelling, photography, and brewing beer. He lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, and their black lab, Salem. Sign up for Michael’s newsletter at www.michaelpenning.com for free giveaways and new release updates.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Howls from the Dark Ages: A Medieval Horror Anthology – Review

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

***

There’s something delicious about medieval images of Hell too, isn’t there? None of this existential Hell is other people hooey. When you come to medieval Hell, you’re in for torture, devils, fire, and seas of the damned that are nauseating in their scope. Medieval Catholicism didn’t fuck around. It was in a fight to the death, not only with Islam, secularism, and much older indigenous religions; it was amputating and burning mutations in the DNA of its own teachings. You would not only go to Hell for murder; you’d go for heresy. You’d go for believing Christ was only spirit and never had a body. You’d go for not believing the bread you at at Mass was Christ’s body.

So Hell had to be really good at being really bad.

It had to be worse than the short, overworked, oppressed, shame-filled, opiate free life of war, famine and plague its underfed population lived from day to day and season to season.

And you know what?

It almost was.

Come and see, come and see.

– Foreword extract by Christopher Buehlman

Synopsis –

HOWL Society Press presents Howls From the Dark Ages, a horror anthology with 18 thrilling tales of medieval macabre and a foreword by Christopher Buehlman, author of Between Two Fires.

Thoughts –

With a range of ideas, cultures, and curiosities, Howls from the Dark Ages takes the reader back through time and puts the real DARK in dark ages. Accompanying each story is an equally curious and intriguing illustration of an object from that story, tying the whole anthology together as a fanciful tour through an ominous museum.

Ranging from the expected medieval age of England where monks find themselves confined to monasteries where devils disguise themselves as angels and forbidden loves are struck down by mysterious glowing mushrooms, to Irish mercenaries accepting a well earned drink at a feast that may lead to even more bloodshed, and an arranged marriage haunted by the ghost of a jilted lover. Each story is more dark and mysterious than the last and there is something for every horror reader, whether you enjoy ghosts, monsters, or just plain murder.

It was also refreshing to see great queer representation in this collection, as well as having a look at the medieval time period in different countries and cultures around the world.

Howls from the Dark Ages is an entertaining and frightening read, and the inclusion of the museum tour guide and the dark illustrations ties everything together beautifully.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Nocturnal Salvation’ by Villimey Mist – Review

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

***

The crooked cabin bathroom mirror presents me a nightmare. The rhythmic hums of a heartbeat echo in my ears and they serenade my hunger. My breathing is ragged and fast, yet my heartbeat doesn’t rise. My teeth ache.

My long, sharp, canine teeth.

“This can’t be happening,” I mutter to myself over and over again. “It’s a dream. It must be.”

I cover my face with trembling hands, refusing to look at my reflection. Shuddering breaths escape my lips. I don’t feel warm. Not cold, either. I’m somewhere in between, and it terrifies me. I sway to the side. It’s like there’s a rock in my throat; no matter how many times I gulp, nothing comes out.

“I’m afraid it’s pretty real.”

I freeze. It’s a voice I’ve yearned to hear for almost a year. A voce that shouldn’t be here.

I spread my fingers and peek through. My heart finally beats faster and replaces the rock in my throat.

“You’re dead.” My voice is a hoarse whisper as I look at my late sister, Sophie, sitting on the bathroom counter.

“Am I?” she teases.

I grip the glass pendant around my neck. “This is made from your ashes. I watched you die. How are you here?”

Sophie shrugs. “Dunno.”

In the mirror, Sophie grins at me. Bile rises in my throat. I grip the side of the sink as my legs don’t feel sturdy anymore.

“You can’t be a ghost. They’re not real.”

“Ah, you thought the same with vampires, though.” Sophie wags a finger.

“So, are you a ghost?”

Sophie shrugs again. “Dunno.”

Synopsis –

Leia Walker has become the monster she feared.
Turned into a vampire against her will, she struggles to adjust while protecting her younger brother.

Across the world, humans and vampires are becoming bloodthirsty—feral beasts spawned by Adam Levant, a dangerous, sun-immune vampire. The people of Europe don’t know their fate hinges on a young woman and her group of vampires and vampire hunters. Time is ticking, and Leia must find a cure for Adam’s deadly blood. Her search leads to a reluctant alliance between her vampire guardians and the Owls, the hunters. Together, they venture to Atlanta to find a toxicologist from Adam’s past.

Caught between chasing a cure and holding on to her sanity, can Leia find a way to control her Hunger and stop Adam for good… or will she doom her fellow vampires and the rest of the world?

Thoughts –

The third instalment in the Nocturnal series from Villimey Mist, Nocturnal Salvation sees our protagonist Leia Walker becoming the thing she hates the most. Turned into a vampire after narrowly saving her brother, she now has to use her new found powers to defeat Adam – the rogue experiment gone wrong who is hell-bent on destroying humanity and vampires alike. His plan to infect the world with his own blood, which causes anyone exposed to it, to become a mindless and violent ghoul, must be stopped at all costs. Once again Leia’s vampire friends and the vampire hunters must team up to put an end to this global threat.

Throughout the story Leia is plagued not only by the hunger that she can barely control, afraid even to hurt the brother that she just saved, but also by the ghost of her dead sister who pulled her into this world of blood thirsty beasts in the first place. Finding the courage and self-discipline to use her new strengths for good, is complicated even further by the ever feuding vampires and vampire hunters. This third book shows Leia’s progression and growth as a young woman from the naïve and anxiety riddled girl in the first book, to the a confident leader and compassionate fighter willing to do what it takes to keep others safe. She is a protagonist that it is impossible not to root for.

As the book moves from Europe, back to America, we are introduced to even more vampire sects, alliances and grudges, and just how deep the rabbit hole of vampiric reach goes. A well-paced and action packed novel, this is a vampire series for those readers who are looking for more than just romance. With the Nocturnal series you will get strong familial and platonic bonds, deep friendships, conflicting motives, and of course – plenty of blood shed.

And what’s more – I thought this would be the end of the series, and despite the author themselves assuming this on starting the book, it looks like there may be another part to Leia’s story. So, stay tuned for that.

About the Author –

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.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Shells’ by Joshua Radburn – Review

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

***

October 1971

Clive hopped out of the biting mid-night rain into a growling BMW. He was such a broad, thug of a man it almost toppled over when he slammed the door shut and shifted in his leather seat. He was not happy.

“I don’t know if I can do this, Mick,” he huffed, fiddling with the window winder.

Shut up,” Mick growled back, with a cockney twang so sharp it threatened to crack the windows. “One plug and it’s over.”

Mick was half Clive’s size but had dark eyes that were twice as menacing. He sat statuesque under a trilby hat with skinny arms folded. Gaze locked on the Eastern side of a large Victorian house. The storm leapt out of the surrounding woodlands and buffeted it with murky waves of air and water, and its white paint work absorbed the storm’s aggression. The resulting rot and black mould fortified its foundations.

Clive laughed. “Oh? One plug and it’s over? That’s all, is it? It’ll take more than that to butter Charlie fucking Blue, mate.”

Mick scowled at him and Clive turned up his trench coat collar. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Then grow up. Or you too busy entertaining the painters?”

Clive could barely look at the house, sat centre stage in its decrepit forest clearing, overrun with weeds. The rain cut over the car’s headlights and cast it in a downy glow. After the week they’d had, Clive sympathised with it. The house mirrored his face, which was struggling to heal from a week’s worth of violence.

“Well, this ain’t a regular job, is it,” Clive said. “Otherwise we’d be in that house by now, either killing him or him killing us.”

Synopsis

Set in 1971 London, Shells follows the story of Joe, a grumbling cockney detective tasked with recapturing a prolific mass murderer who – quite incomprehensibly – has escaped from police custody. Haunted by the death of his partner a year prior and unwilling to let old vendettas die, Joe brings his past with him, muddying a case that veers into the ostensibly supernatural. At its core, Shells is also a love letter to three of Radburn’s favourite cinematic tropes: Film Noir, Shocking Cinema/Video Nasties, and the Nouvelle Vague.

Thoughts –

Shells is a gritty and dark crime novel that does not hold back on the gore or the ambiguity of it’s killer, the infamous Charlie Blue. Is he a demon possessed superhuman? Or has his blood soaked and mythical reputation simply created an image where incredible occurrences are easily believed when he is involved? As well as this masked psychopath, we have our down trodden hero, the drunk and bedraggled detective Joe, who’s nursing a shredded heart and still recovering from the death of his partner, the guilt of which is heavier than Charlie Blue’s claw hammer. But Shells is not all doom and gloom. To cut through the dark tension we also have some witty henchmen in the form of Mick and Clive who open the novel by wrestling over a packet of crisps while on a dangerous stakeout. And the religious fanatical warrior who also joins the search for Charlie Blue simply to prove his own might against him.

Shells, a multi layered novel where Radburn easily melds together the dark and seedy underbelly of corrupt city cops, drugs dealers, and gangsters, with the bone chilling threat of an evil serial killer, one who few have encountered and lived to tell the tale. A whopping 600 pages, but one that manages the pacing well and keeps the reader on their toes with just enough enigmatic characters and enticingly mysterious threads, to keep the pages turning.

As Radburn states in his introduction, Shells was inspired by his love for Film Noir, Video Nasties, and Nouvelle Vague, and began life as a set of screenplays. This comes across clearly in the visual descriptions and quick witted dialogue of the novel, not to mention the grey and rain soaked setting of a bleak 1970’s London. An intriguing novel that blends genres, and keeps you guessing, Shells is well worth the word count and one whose characters will stay with you long after the cover is closed.

About the Author –

Joshua Radburn is an independent author of Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. He studied Computer Animation Arts at Bournemouth University and has had stints as a graphic designer, teacher, and personal trainer. He lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire with his wife and daughter.

With nowhere else to go, his wife and daughter graciously suffer the intrinsic quirks found in those who struggle with the monotony of day to day life, as Joshua pursues the intangible riches of creation…

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Dial M For Mutants!’ by Mat Thorne – Review

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

***

Her office smelled like the bathroom of a seedy bar. The endless cycle of cigarettes. That urinal cake perfume. A headache was already forming somewhere deep in Buck’s skull and one whiff of her office was just enough to set it alight. He slumped into the old floral sofa across from her desk and sighed.

She watched him a long, silent moment, then returned to the open tabloid on her desk. She clicked her tongue and scratched notes all across the page. Buck sat too low in the sofa to see what she wrote. He didn’t need to. Her expression told him everything he needed to know.

“Have a smoke,” she said, nodding to the pack of Viceroys on the table.

Buck sat up and took one.

“Why the hell not,” he said. “Just why the hell not.”

He tapped the cigarette on the desk and hesitated. The chaos of the newsroom sounded through the open door. Phones ringing, voices arguing, the occasional burst of laughter.

“You want me to close that?” Buck said.

“Leave it open.”

Buck pressed the cold cigarette to his lips and held it there. “That’s what I thought,” he mumbled.

She sat the paper down and flattened out the creases with her knobby hands. Just skin and bones and a glitter of cocktail rings moving slowly, tenderly, over the edges. She made a real show of it. She even squared it to the edge of the table and patted it like a puppy.

“This is trash, hun,” she said.

Buck lit his cigarette and smiled. “You’re the publisher.”

She smiled back. Red lipstick smeared across her teeth.

“Not the paper,” she said. “The Midnight Extra is an award winning publication.” She thumbed toward the wall of gilded plaques behind her desk, then raised her voice to be heard well beyond the office. “Award winning!” she shouted. Then to Buck: “It’s your section dear. It’s trash.”

Synopsis –

Welcome to 1994. Bill Clinton is the president, Twitter doesn’t exist, and The Midnight Extra is staring at you from every checkout lane and ratty newsstand along the East Coast. Hollywood scandals, wild gossip, and the occasional UFO. You just can’t miss it. You might want to, but you can’t.

The Midnight Extra isn’t much of a tabloid, but that’s never really bothered Buck Vincent. He isn’t much of a reporter. And in a paper notorious for Elvis sightings and celebrity sex gossip, Buck’s Can You Believe It?! section feels right at home. For twenty-nine years, he’s dreamt up stories about Bigfoot, aliens, ghouls, and monsters of every stripe, usually after a whiskey. Or four.

Problem is, Buck didn’t dream up his latest story. He’s seen the blood. And he’s met the strange, smiling woman haunted by something beastly in the night. Hell, he’s seen the damn thing himself.

Good thing he’s teamed up with rookie photographer Betty Roy. She may be a loose cannon, but she’s got more spine than Buck ever had. Gumption too. And together they’ll chase a story that might just be chasing them back. Something with teeth. Let’s just hope the story is worth all the trouble. Things are getting a little spooky.

Thoughts –

Set in the 90’s around a magazine publication specializing in the paranormal, supernatural, and esoteric, Dial M for Mutants! is a novel that perfectly encapsulates the smoke and mirrors of such a workplace. The setting and atmosphere of the book is immersive, and is only made even more enticing by the visceral and frightening events and images in the book.

Our reporter Buck Vincent is used to creating a spin on things, and for the last three decades of his career he hasn’t been above just totally making things up. But when he and the new photographer for the magazine, Betty Roy, find themselves in the middle of a story that appears to have real blood, real mystery, and real danger, Buck finds his taste for a good story hasn’t left him just yet.

Dial M For Mutants! has a nostalgic feel to it without overwhelming the reader. Thorne’s writing is a gritty fast paced story that does not hold back on the old school monster visuals and the macabre mad scientist angle. With characters you want to root for, and a mystery that is too delicious not to keep you hooked to the last page, this is a book that you will likely finish in one sitting.

A breathtaking cover to match the horrifying story within.

About the Author –

Mat Thorne is a writer, designer, and photographer from West Virginia. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, daughter, and two strange cats. He enjoys monster movies, fantasy miniatures, baseball, and dumplings. “Dial M for Mutants!” is his first novel.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk (affiliate link)

Amazon.com