‘The Haunted Halls’ by Glenn Rolfe – Review

***

Walking up the pool steps he sensed a presence. Something else was here, and he had the goosebumps to prove it; the room was freezing. Not normally a man so easily spooked, Edward grabbed a towel from the plastic chair he’d left it on, and made for the door.

Stepping into the long empty corridor he could see his own breath. The icy presence had followed him. Even the maroon carpet which ran all the way down to the inns lobby was cool beneath his bare feet. The immense chill permeated every available space around him, freezing every door handle in sight and sparking to light and intense fear in him. He broke into a run looking for the nearest restroom.

Edward reached for the silver lever, his mind two steps away from setting his axis permanently out of whack, and despite the icy cold beneath his palm, shoved the door open. He spun around to the other side, shutting out the cooling hallway of the Bruton Inn. Something followed me. Standing in the men’s room clad in nothing but men’s swim trunks and a tiny pool towel that wouldn’t fit a child, he waited.

He was shivering, his teeth chattering, heart pounding. He could feel the wooden door at his back growing colder by the second. The small pool of water puddled beneath his feet began to freeze before his eyes. He stepped out of the slick space his wet body had created and stood before the mirror face to face with himself, intent on talking some sense into the man looking back at him.

“This isn’t happening. This isn’t fucking happening. Get a hold of yourself you stupid asshole!” he sad through quivering blue lips. A series of cracking noises stole his attention. He gazed back at the door. The floor beneath it began freezing over, the ice reaching out into where he stood.

Synopsis –

The Bruton Inn, located outside of the small Maine city of Hollis Oaks, is home to something special. An icy presence has made its way from a dark past to the present day. Cold spots, shadows, and whispers permeate the halls, and guests are beginning to change.

For two front desk employees, Rhiannon and Jeff, the dark rumors are about to come to light. They call upon Lee Buhl, the urban shaman, and his connection with the spirit world to dig up the truth.

Will they be able to stand against this malevolent force? Or will they come face to face with something beyond even your most frightful dreams. Welcome to the Bruton Inn. The Ice Queen has arrived.

Thoughts –

The Haunted Halls by Glenn Rolfe is a paranormal story set in a terrifying hotel with a dark past. Strange and unexplained things have been happening for some time; dead bodies found floating in the pool, voices and shadows in the empty hallways, and cold spots that can make your bones ache. Rhiannon is a relatively fresh recruit at the Bruton Inn and isn’t yet sure if she believes rumours going around, but she’d about to find out they are more true than she could ever imagine, and her coworker Jeff can’t escape them either.

A smorgasbord of messed up characters, bad decisions, evil intentions, and violence, The Haunted Halls has as many layers as there are rooms at the inn. The only real set back of the novel is the large cast of characters. Between hotel employees, blow in guests, regulars, and those from the haunting past that created it, it was a slippery task trying to keep them all straight in my head. Fortunately, a lot of them do end up shuffling off this mortal coil by the end, so it gets easier as it goes along. But Rolfe still handled the challenge well and the core character have their own time in the spotlight to keep the story going.

A classic haunted hotel story, from a fresh perspective, The Haunted Halls boasts physical and emotional turmoil, somewhat immoral characters redeeming themselves, and definitely immoral characters getting what they deserve. And a few unfortunate people who get caught up in the chaos and mayhem in between.

An exciting read that will keep you on your toes to the very end, this novel is another great read from Glenn Rolfe.

About the Author –

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter from the haunted woods of New England. He studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, and many others. He has three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.

He is the author of August’s Eyes, Until Summer Comes Around, The Window, Becoming, Blood and Rain, The Haunted Halls, Chasing Ghosts, Boom Town, Abram’s Bridge, Things We Fear, Land of Bones, and Slush.

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‘Parting Shot’ by Daniel L. Naden – Review

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

***

The shoe was on the other foot.

But the foot had become detached and was currently holding the intense interest of the zombie near the shed. Another zombie, one with a rather significant overbite, had wormed his way through the abdominal wall and gotten himself a mouthful of intestines. The overbite, however, kept his teeth from cutting cleanly. Now he was hopelessly tangled in what could only be described as a gutsy web of shit. A different knot of zombies must have, in their living lives, heard all the old leper jokes. Some were doing their deal-level best at trying for a face-off in the corner. Another unfortunate undead dude who lost his poker face was just about ready to throw in his hand. His heart was definitely in the game, but he simply couldn’t keep his head on the task at hand, or the hand at task.

From the depths of the shadows cast by the eaves looming over the backyard deck, I’d watched the undead tuck into Stine where they’d cornered him against the fence. When the first of them pushed into the backyard, I tried to hold him back to keep him from breaking cover. He heard them rattling up against the fence latch, heard the creak of the hinge as they forced their way through the gate, saw them shamble around the corner of the house, and just about shit himself. They got close to us, and Stine lunged away from me. I caught a fistful of his collar, but he twisted and shrugged out of it. Left me with nothing but the shirt off his back, literally, as he tore off across the yard.

I haven’t the slightest idea in hell what he thought he was going to do. Maybe he figured he could bull through them at the gate and escape to the wide-open streets. But he knew, or should have known, that wide open doesn’t exist anymore. There were just too many of these fuckers in the world. So, I dunno what happened. Stine was scared and just panicked, I guess. Maybe after all this time, it finally got to him. The running. The fighting. The hiding. The slow starvation. The loss of friends. The horror of watching the world die one mouthful at a time.

He ran.

Synopsis –

Brian has survived for ten years beyond the end of the world, but he’s not sure why. He’s not even sure if he cares anymore.

When the dead began strolling around and eating people, society was certain to collapse. Brian never realized how lonely a guy could be in a world with six billion hungry zombies hanging around. Or how empty a life of just surviving could be.

Meeting survivors in Brian’s world is dangerous. Living with survivors is almost suicidal. Zombies like large groups of people: the more, the merrier. Caring about people in Brian’s world is insane. How often can someone lose every person they’ve ever known or loved before they just quit trying?

When he hooks up with a new group of survivors, they all find a way to…well…survive together. After so many years, surviving is the easy part. The real challenge: can they find a reason to live? To love? Can they find a reason to hope? Can they remember how to laugh when so much of the world is dark and despairing?

Thoughts –

A short but memorable novella, Parting Shot is a post apocalyptic zombie story with heart. Ten years after the apocalypse and those still left living have figured out how to keep themselves hidden from the undead hordes looking to make a a meal out of them, but they’re beginning to lose the will to keep going at all.

When our protagonist Brian goes against his better judgement and teams up with a small group of friends he begins to gets that feeling again, the feeling that there is something still worth living for. But the monsters are just one step behind and they get closer every minutes. Now, when Brian and his friends actually want to keep living, they might just be the closest they’ve ever been to losing not only their own lives, but the lives of their new family.

Naden chooses his words carefully and in such a small amount of pages paints a poignant and enthralling picture of a world on the edge of annihilation. Through the strength and emotional connections of his characters, Parting Shot is not just any zombie story, it’s a zombie story that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from.

About the Author –

Daniel L. Naden has always been a writer. It’s an affliction, a blessing, a curse… a dominant part of life for as long as he can remember. He has published work in the areas of politics, humor, philosophy, and of course, fiction. Dan’s stories explore the irony in life, through the lens of horror, suspense, and sci-fi. His writing has appeared in great anthologies, like: The Best of Horror Library: Volumes 1-5, The Horror Library: Volume 2, Dark Distortions: Volume 1, and Our Shadow Speak, along with top-notch publications like Dark Recesses Magazine, Vault IX, Astounding Tales, Ragged Edge, and Montage. Dan’s latest novella, Parting Shot is here – from HellBound Books. Dan lives with his wife in Olathe, Kansas.

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‘The Caller’ by F. R. Jameson – Review

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

***

Wexler had expected the lanky shit to turn and run. He’d hear the promise of violence in Wexler’s tone and save himself.

Instead the man took his own step forward. The two of them on a collision course. Whatever substance this idiot had consumed tonight, Wexler hoped it was worth it. This bastard was going to be nil by mouth got the next couple of months.

When the man stepped further into the thin light of the alley, it might have given Wexler pause in a calmer mood. However, he was too committed now. The man not only behaved in a clownish fashion, he looked like one. His beanpole frame was clad in a garish, old-fashioned suit, ruffles and all. It was bright red, apart from the brilliant white of those ruffles. Looking absolutely freakish, he genuinely could have been an extra in an old Adam and The Ants video. The man’s face was much the same elongated shape as his body, with his eyes almost triangular at the centre. But it was the hair which caught the attention. It was huge, beyond just spiky; he could have been wearing a crown of daggers. Each point so pronounced it might be used as an offensive weapon. More bizarre, it seemed to be the exact same shade of vivid red as his suit.

Synopsis –

Meeting him will make this the deadliest night of your life!

A series of bizarre, violent murders shocks London. The victims all seemingly unconnected, apart from the brutality of their deaths. Each demise is more gruesome than the last. A card, perfectly red on each side, is discovered with every corpse.

Jenna Driscoll, a young crime blogger, begins to investigate. But what she finds seems beyond comprehension. A supernatural demon summoned from the pages of an old horror novel, who will kill eight people across eight nights in increasingly horrific ways.

Every police officer and crime investigator in the city is drawn into the case, but there seems no way of finding him. Let alone stopping his carnage. However, Jenna is about to discover a far more terrible truth. That if you investigate deep enough, and gain his attention, you can add yourself to his bloody list…

As he is The Caller, and when he visits, it means death!

Thoughts –

Another dark supernatural tale from F. R. Jameson brings to life the story of a mysterious stranger in red, painting the town of London with blood. A series of murders begin, just as our blogger Jenna Driscoll suspects, and she is determined to prove that these seemingly unrelated murders are in fact the work of the April 29th killer.

Our protagonist Jenna is a passionate crime blogger, making a small living from her daily blogging of local crimes. A passionate and determined investigative writer, Jenna devotes her time to collecting sources and information on each crime, confident that the have something to do with the murders occurring every April 29th. So used to evidence and verifiable facts, when the possibility arises that a mysterious book and a fictional character within may also be wreaking supernatural havoc on those around her, Jenna struggles to marry her logical nature with the illogical events going on.

Jameson yet again has the reader gripped from the first paragraph. Captivated by enigmatic characters, and a protagonist that feels as real as the pages turning, the twists and turns of this story are just the icing on the cake. A supernatural murder mystery that will have you wary of any red playing cards you may find, The Caller is a theatrical and terrifying supernatural thriller that you won’t want to put down.

About the Author –

F.R. Jameson was born in Wales, but now lives in London with his wife and young daughter. He writes both historical thrillers and supernatural thrillers.

His books are, at the moment, mostly sorted into two different – but complimentary – series. The first, ‘Screen Siren Noir’, currently comprises of three novels: ‘Diana Christmas’, ‘Eden St. Michel’ and ‘Alice Rackham’. All of which tell the stories of beautiful British film stars caught up in Noir tales of blackmail, obsession, scandal and death. He is currently working on both the fourth and fifth books in the series.

The second series is more disturbing and scary, and lives under the moniker: ‘Ghostly Shadows’. Right now there is only one book published, a tale of supernatural revenge – ‘Death at the Shadows’. However, 2019 will bring four more entries to terrify and intrigue.

His blog – https://frjameson.com/ – is regularly updated with information about his writing, as well as film and book reviews. You can follow him @frjameson on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and you can find him on Facebook.

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‘Rise of One’ by Dixon Reuel – Review

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

***

The outbreak began in springtime rumors.

Then, the airways and cables of the world charted the outbreak and panic, as the disease overwhelmed every population. Bombs and walls of fire tried to contain it. Chemical purges charred cities indiscriminately. In all, Rise counted barely five months from the beginning of the outbreak until everything was stilled, from late spring to mid-autumn. A lone SOS in Morse code was the last they heard from the human race, before Rise and his coven packed away their broadcast equipment, their radio, computers, and TV, putting it all into the depths of the root cellar. He waited a further full month, October. Then, and only then, did Rise leave the house.

Synopsis –

A Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic tale about soulmate MM (male/male) romance with dark, esoteric themes.

Set in a zombie-ridden world packed with myth, vampires, and occult vengeance, Rise of One begins an epic new Paranormal saga, The Blood Brute Series, from award-winning Irish author & poet Dixon Reuel.

After a zombie apocalypse drives humanity to near-extinction, a vampire coven is one of the few peoples left alive, who’ve hidden from humans across all of history.

As Rise explores the world beyond Owl Court’s walls, tensions emerge among his fellow vampires and the rescued humans. A terrible fate unravels, revealing a society of vampires beyond what everybody at Owl Court had ever realized!

Thoughts –

A post apocalypse novel involving the threat of a zombie virus and the enticement of a vampire coven, Rise of One tells a now all too familiar story of isolation and being stuck inside. Set after a zombie apocalypse has over run the world, one small coven of vampires and their one human family member, must take risks to venture outside of their safe walls and attempt to rescue and obtain more human members. But the terrifying legends of old are still prominent in survivors minds and convincing these people to opt for one horror monster over another, is not as easy as they’d hoped.

A fresh take on the modern vampire, Dixon Reuel creates rich and compelling characters in a setting both alien and painfully close to home. Her vampire coven is a symbiotic family filled with love and disfunction, jealousies and betrayal. Dixon’s writing is descriptive and nuanced, and her representation of queer and diverse characters is strong and enticing.

With a twist at the end that I did not see coming, book one of the Blood Brute series is sure to have you waiting impatiently for the next in the series.

About the Author –

Eve is an award-winning author and poet, most notably being runner-up for The Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award & winner of The Arts Council of Ireland’s writing residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre.

Rise of One is a finalist in The Wishing List Indie Book Awards and welcomed great NetGalley and Kirkus reviews. Eve holds a First in History & Early Irish Studies and another First in Creative Writing. She is a lifelong nerd and devoted hobbyist of cosplay, video games, and other surely worthwhile pursuits.

Learn more at dixonreuel.com

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‘The Occultists’ by Polly Schattel – Review

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

***

Later he would retire to his room in the upper floors of the hotel, to wash up and lie in the bed and try to ignore the auguries in the cracks in the ceiling. Maybe some song would be playing faintly through the walls – Fats Waller, or Teddy Wilson – and reluctantly his mind would return to the fires. As the hours ticked on and the hotel went to sleep, his thoughts would shuffle along hallways of loss, down corridors of grief, to his unpaid debt. Sometimes the debt felt like a guillotine above him waiting to fall; sometimes it felt less sinister, like the arrival of one of those clammy-fisted kitchen equipment salesmen who came slumping through the lobby’s front doors, briefcase in hand, silhouetted with the sun at their backs. Always with the sun at their backs. Your couldn’t see their faces, even when they’d come to sell you something rather than take it from you.

Lately he’d begun thinking of writing it all down. He thought it might help shut the door on all those shadowy hallways and lonely corridors. And also he wanted others to know what had happened, to bear witness. Which presented the problem: there were those who wanted to keep things quiet. This wouldn’t stop him from doing it, of course. Their need for obscurity and his need for peace was just the way it was.

It would always be that way. Always.

Synopsis –

Sssshhhhhhhh… For Edwardian-era spiritualists and illusionists, silence is more than a strategy; it’s a way of life. And when Max Grahame, a bullied small-town teen, discovers a secretive world of occultism and séances right under his nose, he can hardly contain his excitement.

But as Max begins his conjurer’s lessons in earnest, his newfound knowledge exposes the group’s dark and deeply sinister designs, leading to a game of supernatural cat and mouse that takes him from the ancient hills of rural Georgia and the mystic plains of the Midwest to fin-de-siècle Manhattan… and beyond.

Thoughts –

The Occultists is a novel that plunges the reader back to early twentieth century America, where spiritualism, mysticism, and illusionists were in their heyday. Meticulously researched and using historic events and real people and occult leaders to lend credence to the story, only makes this fantastical story that much easier to immerse yourself in. From the surgical implantation of goat testicles to spark virility, to levitation and séances, early 1900’s spiritualism is provides the texture and driving force of this novel, immediately setting the reader up for shadows, secrets, and incredible feats.

The unfortunate and challenging events of our young protagonist Max’s life, from an unhappy adolescent home to being thrust into a deadly battle between two ancient conjuring factions, are fraught with secrets and danger, and make for a mesmerising story. Simple things like a teenage crush take on a deeper meaning as Max becomes embroiled in a world he doesn’t understand, yet is somehow integral to. Fleeing to save his own life and the life of his sickly mother, Max must grow up fast and learn to control the power within him. But no one is what they seem and despite making leaps and bounds in this strange new reality, Max is frequently left feeling unmoored and confused.

Schattel’s writing is rich and descriptive, the packing of the story is well laid out and executed, and her characters solid and charismatic. The Occultists is a novel that will greatly interest any reader already drawn to the wonderous world of illusion, power, and magic.

About the Author –

POLLY SCHATTEL is originally from Birmingham, AL, but prefers the hills of Colorado and Western North Carolina. A filmmaker with a host of award-winning feature films under her belt, she returned to the written word when she had the bright idea that maybe she could tell her stories without spending years raising money for them first. She’s taught Film Directing, Film Editing, and Screenwriting in the UNC university system, NYC, and elsewhere. Proudly and passionately transgender, Polly lives in the mountains near Asheville, NC with her wife and three vicious and savage but very adorable animals.

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