‘The Scavenger’ by Aidan Lucid – Review

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

***

The school bell rang to sound the end of science class. Soon the halls of Hopps Town High School thronged with students. Some, like Jared Duval, put books they no longer needed for the day into their lockers. Others just chatted for a few seconds before going to the next class. Jared, 17, African American of medium height and athletic build, turned the key in his locker door to lock it. He idolized the actor Will Smith and sported the same hairstyle that Mr. Smith had in the early nineties.

Jared froze as he heard an all too familiar taunting voice.

“Well, if it isn’t our resident queer,” said Lydia Moran. Lydia, 16, small with cherry red pigtails and purple-framed glasses covering her blue eyes, looked the picture of innocence. Everyone knew she was anything but that. For two years, she tormented Jared, leaving notes shoved in his locker or bag when he wasn’t looking; sending him crude Facebook messages or teasing him in front of her friends. He learned a long time ago the best way to deal with bullies was to ignore them or show no fear, or both.

Synopsis –

Three Separate Wishes. One Twisted Nightmare

Just like Hopps Town, their humble home, Jessica Barlow, Jared Duval, and Adrian Cole are fostering dark secrets. Plagued by loss, cruelty, and physical abuse, these friends are kindred spirits, bound by anguish and elusive dreams. They’re soon to find the key to change, but any happy future will demand they face a haunting past and brave a lethal present.

Deep in the forest on the outskirts of town, aging and nearly forgotten, there stands a well from another time. Happening upon this relic, Adrian goads his companions to join him in making a wish. Soon, difficult though it is to admit, their luckless lives do seem to shift. The only problem is, the changes aren’t at all as they’d imagined. Seemingly, they’ve only left the pan to face the fire.

Should they hope to both survive and thrive, they’ll need to pool their wits and draw on mystic inner-power. Solving Hopps Town’s greatest mystery now means life or death.

Thoughts –

The Scavenger is the familiar story of ‘be careful what you wish for’ with a little added pinch of evil. A YA horror story that takes the lives of three struggling teens and gives them exactly what they want; a loving parent, attention from an unrequited love, and saving from a relentless bully. A simple wish made by the old fashioned throwing of a coin in a well, leads these teens to realise that though their lives are far from perfect, things can be a lot worse.

Jared is a young gay teen struggling with his religious mother and her refusal to accept him as he is, while being bullied daily by a popular girl at school. Jessica lives with an alcoholic and abusive mother, dodging daily beatings and punishments for just existing. And Adrian seems to be the better off of the three, but still has issue with his lone parent father who expects nothing from him but never ending commitment to sport. These three characters are laid out in detail, built up throughout the story, and entice to reader into their unfortunate story.

Lucid has created a modern YA horror tale with traditional roots and evils that any adolescent, or adult for that matter could enjoy. A story that illustrates very real issues in modern teen lives and mixes in plenty of supernatural horror as well.

About the Author –

Aidan Lucid began writing in 2002 after having a religious experience. Since then, his works have appeared in national and international poetry anthologies, magazines, and e-zines. In October 2019, Lucid released his debut fantasy novel, The Lost Son, and book one in The Zargothian Saga trilogy. He plans to release its sequel in summer 2021, and book two of, The Hopps Town Duology in fall of 2021. In his spare time, Aidan likes to read, meditate, listen to music and go to the movies with his wife, Claire. You can find him on Facebook here, Twitter here, and Instagram here.

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‘Chatroom With A View’ by Glenn Maynard – Review

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

***

The wind gusts reached into the woods and sporadically shifted the little log cabin at its base, and the raindrops thumped the structure with a little more vigor when they did. It wasn’t that it was a threatening storm, but it created enough of a commotion to jolt Troy Cullen back into the world in which he was not a very big fan. The gray, sticky afternoon in late July contained enough heat to bring on this afternoon thunderstorm, but much more accompanied the storm beyond the clouds and the thunder and the rain.

Troy looked around the room from the floor of this long structure and with hazy vision saw his father on the hardwood floor across from him. Neither of them moved like the approaching storm. Turning his head to the left, he could see his house through the window. In fact, he could see the window of his bedroom from his current position inside this little cabin in the back yard. He was on the other side looking in not long ago, but a lot had changed since then. In the matter of an hour, his entire world had turned upside down.

Synopsis –

Lizzie Borden took an axe . . . and so goes the song depicting the 1892 axe murders of her father and step-mother. Research indicates that a killer gene could be passed down through generations of family members, and evidence begins with Lizzie’s ancestor who murdered his mother in 1673. Chatroom with a View opens with a bone-chilling episode, and what’s left of Troy Cullen’s dysfunctional family keeps him even further from the normal integration with society. Troy’s life further unravels when his ex-girlfriend, Veronica, announces that she is pregnant. Troy loses control and plots to do unto others as they have done unto him. When Veronica digs into his family’s past, she exposes this killer gene; she must try to balance her obsession for a family with shielding herself and their baby from evil. But Troy has his own agenda, resulting in an epic showdown. 

Thoughts –

Chatroom With a View explores the intersections and interactions of characters that are in dire need of a therapist. Beginning with the young and troubled Troy Cullen, desperate to protect his mother from his violent and abusive father, Troy feels let down by the world and by himself. Now having to work with two women who bullied him in high school and hearing that they are still up to their immoral shenanigans, he decides to take covert action against them, but quickly crosses the line between giving them a taste of their own medicine, and becoming the monster himself.

But as Troy is struggling not to become like his father, and failing miserably, a girl from his past shows up again too inform him that she is pregnant with his child. Not taking no for an answer, Victoria is determined to create her perfect family with the reluctant Troy, no matter what he is hiding in his father’s cabin. Discovering that Troy may have a hereditary disposition for violence, and so might her unborn son, Victoria believe she can nurture this nature out of them.

Chatroom With a View is a roller coaster ride of bad reactions and even worse decisions. Rather than investing in a few well needed, therapy sessions, every character in this story leans into their darkest and most irrational ideas much to the detriment of everyone around them. With small touches on the theory of nature versus nurture when it comes to violence and even murder, as well as the role of family on one’s own mental struggles, this is a novel that attempts to shed some light on the darker motivations that some people have. Representing the self titled victims of the cruelty of women is Troy, and representing the perfect ten women who just seem to be too much for people is Victoria – at no point should these psyche’s meet, but unfortunately they do.

While Maynard’s writing is enjoyable and his character’s solid enough, the decisions made and actions taken by many of the characters in the story felt very rash and unpredictable. It was difficult to get a handle on what Troy’s priorities were and how far he was willing to go to stroke his own ego. Victoria’s mental health issues were more overt, but Troy’s complete disconnect with reality has them on the same level for much of the story. But the story does take an interesting look at the downward spiral of a young man on the outskirts of society with violence in his blood.

About the Author –

Glenn Maynard has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Connecticut as well as a degree in Communications. After spending four years living in Denver, Colorado, he returned home to Connecticut and now resides in Wethersfield. Glenn Maynard is the author of ‘Strapped into an American Dream’ that details the one-year journey through the forty-eight continental states, Canada and Mexico in an RV. At one time he was a correspondent for three newspapers during his travels. To learn more about Glenn, you can visit his website here.

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‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ by Richard Ayre – Review

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

***

The HS 748 began its final approach to Newcastle International airport. The landing gear locked into place with a clunk and the seatbelt lights flickered into life. The few passengers on board stirred thankfully in their seats. It hadn’t been a pleasant flight.

They had been delayed at Dublin for over an hour, the reason for which hadn’t been disclosed until a helpful, if rather naive stewardess, told a nosy passenger that there had been a bomb warning. According to the anonymous caller, the plane they were on would soon be blown out of the sky.

Maybe that wouldn’t have been so bad. After all, to fly, you have to place a certain amount of trust in the company doing the flying that it will do its best to get you to your destination in one piece. They wouldn’t let a plane fly that hadn’t been satisfactorily searched would they. Would they? But to make matters worse they had run into a thunderstorm just after that reassuring fact had been disclosed. Needless to say the rest of the flight had been disclosed. Needless to say the rest of the flight had been, to put it mildly, rather fraught. The panic stricken silence of the passengers was punctuated regularly with the lumpy liquid sounds of people throwing up and the unfortunate aroma of fresh vomit wafted up and down the fuselage, apparently oblivious to the air-conditioning.

While Phil Sturgess would not say he was unaffected by the violent motion of the small prop job, he at least had managed to keep his dinner down.

Synopsis –

Newcastle. 1988….
They say that music is the food of love. Reporter Phil Sturgess would disagree with this. He would argue that some music is the stuff of nightmares. Some music can literally tear out your soul and drag it, kicking and screaming, down to hell itself.
Sturgess loves rock music. He loves it so much he makes a living from it. But when he hears of a band called Minstrel’s Bargain, Sturgess’ life descends into horror. As the city he lives in succumbs to ever more violent and macabre episodes of grisly murders and barbarous acts of self-destruction, Sturgess begins to understand that there is something very wrong with Minstrel’s Bargain. Something very wrong indeed.
With time running out for humanity, Sturgess is threatened with an age old evil. And to stop that evil he is forced to confront the terrifying stranger who has been dogging his footsteps for months. The only question is; will Sturgess do what needs to be done? If not, the souls of millions will be destroyed.
Sturgess has to make a choice. Fight or flight? Heaven or Hell? Live or die? Whatever he chooses, it will be a Devil of a decision.

Thoughts –

‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ is the first in a musical horror trilogy of epic proportions. Spanning lifetimes and generations, the darkness in this story is a legendary and mythological one. Our protagonist Philip, a young music journalist with the world at his feet, becomes embroiled in the fight against this evil when his hometown of Newcastle is overrun with an obsession with a new rock band, and numerous and sporadic violent events. Finding the connection between these two things is the only way for Philip to stop them and save the people around him, but he is loathe to look to deeply into the shadows.

Reminiscent of ‘The Dark’ by James Herbert, ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ is a succession of insanity fueled horrifying incidents, held together by the strange events currently affecting Philip Sturgess’ life. After listening to music of the new sensation that is ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’, a band from the states that has swept the airwaves like a tsunami, listeners may find that they have dark and violent impulses that must be sated – whether it’s their friends, work mates, or even their own mother who draws their eye.

Ayre’s writing is competent and enduring, giving each character just enough life to keep us interested before they are violently ripped from the pages. While cosmic horror-ish elements of the mysterious ‘tramp’ and the world which he inhabits did slow the pace of the book somewhat, overall ‘Minstrel’s Bargain’ is a novel that stretches across time, about an evil that annihilates everyone in it’s path, and the time honoured tradition of a chosen one who must fight it. And who better to take down an evil band than a music critic?

A horror novel about the power of music, and what can happen when that power falls into the wrong hands.

About the Author –

Richard Ayre was born in Northumberland too many years ago to remember, and teaches History for a living. His first novel was Minstrel’s Bargain, and he has also written Point of Contact, a Sci-Fi chiller, and A Life Eternal, a speculative historical novel. He lives in the North East of England where he continues to write whenever he can. When not writing, or putting children on detention, he can be found pottering around the Northumberland landscape on his motorcycle, Tanya.

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‘Corpsing’ by Kayleigh Marie Edwards – Review

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

***

Brian crinkled his nose in disgust of the information he now regretted receiving, and quickly checked the labels on the boxes. He squinted, realising he’d left his glasses in his car, but they both seemed to spell the same thing. He grabbed a vial and a syringe and fled from the infirmary before he heard something else he didn’t want to.

By the time he got back to the ward all hell had broken loose. A chorus of howls was reaching fever pitch in a battle against an opposing symphony of terrified screams. Rice was peering out of his window, silent and appearing to enjoy the madness he’d created. Brian ran into Bachman’s room, fiddling with the syringe wrapper as he went.

Janet was trying to force Bachman down onto his bed. Brian handed the sedative and syringe to her and took over. He managed, though with difficulty, to overpower the little old guy and get him lying down.

  • ‘Bitey Bachman’

Synopsis –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards has been entertaining and chilling audiences with her own eclectic mix of horror and comedy. Now, for the first time, this popular author has collected her works together, reviewing and revising each one to bring you the definitive versions of her unique tales.

From murderous children to nightmarish trips to an ill-fated zombie apocalypse, Corpsing will send you running for the light switch, but smiling as you do it.

Featuring the stories: Bitey Bachman, Bits and Bobs, Siren, Now You See Them, Skin, ‘S’ Day, Barry’s Last Day & ’Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Thoughts –

Exploring themes of adolescence, monsters, and humour, Kayleigh Marie Edwards new collection, Corpsing is a set of eight dark tales that will keep you hooked to the last page.

While no story in this collection could be seen as a ‘miss’, my favourites would include the story ‘Skin’ which tells the tale of a young girl’s painful loss of innocence through a seemingly innocuous spider bite and a knuckle head boyfriend. Another gem had the air of a Douglas Adams piece – ‘S Day’ tells the story of a global and unique pestilence wrought on the world by an annoying child. Aptly sticking to the title of the collection, each of these stories has a combination of dark terror and humorous antics woven into them, accompanied by compelling characters and writing that flows from Edwards fingers like an inky river.

Corpsing is a horror collection that lets a crack of light into the darkness of it’s pages, and marks Kayleigh Marie Edwards as a dark fiction writer to watch in the future.

You’ll laugh, you might cry, but you will keep turning those pages.

About the Author –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards is a writer of fiction, reviews, articles, and theatre plays. Finding that horror and comedy tend to go hand-in-hand, she exclusively writes in these genres, and enjoys combining them. She believes that there’s no problem in life that can’t be solved with a good laugh, or a good scare.

She can be found listing horror movie facts at spookyisles.com, and has a page called ‘Challenge Kayleigh’ at gingernutsofhorror.com, in which horror fans challenge her to positively review the very ‘worst’ movies that the genre has to offer. She lives alone in her house of horrors with her cat. She she’s fine with it.

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‘Shelter for the Damned’ by Mike Thorn – Review

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

***

Mark had been half-listening to his friends, but he said nothing. Adam paced and readjusted his hood. He shot a glance at Scott that said, Stop being such a baby.

Scott flattened his shirt with the palms of his hands, then stood still. He tried to look aloof, but looked scared shitless instead.

Mark continued staring at the place, all frayed splinters of wood and flat, desiccated walls. He would almost feel its texture, simply by looking at it.

“Who the fuck would live there?” Adam directed the question at no on in particular.

It looked impossibly weathered, transformed by age. Mark couldn’t help but notice that, by some unexplainable stroke of luck or happenstance, it was untouched by late-night prowlers and graffiti artists. It wore no evidence of vandalism, no etchings or street tags.

Synopsis –

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Thoughts –

Shelter for the Damned is a tale of violence, adolescence, and the price of being silenced. Following three young boys as they try their damndest to navigate their complicated lives while grappling with father’s who are violent, arrogant, controlling, and alcoholic, trying to find their own sense of identity and masculinity, Thorn creates a tale that is bitter, heart-wrenching, and disturbing.

The discovery of an abandoned shack, seemingly untouched by any other’s hands, the boys each experience their own feelings about it. Scott and Adam are wary of the place, uncertain about coming back even for a place to smoke in peace. But Mark is drawn to it like an addict to their drug of choice. For him it is a place where he feels at peace, where he can escape the constant threat of violence at home, the feeling of being unheard, the feeling of being an outcast. For Mark, he will do anything to get back to the shack, and the shack will ask just that of him.

Dealing with themes of familial tension, coming of age growing pains, and an otherworldly darkness creeping into ‘safe’ suburban lives, Thorn shows his skill as a story teller, a character builder, and an adept horror writer.

A young boy soon learns that you can take the boy out of the shack, but you can’t take the shack out of the boy.

About the Author –

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours and the novel Shelter for the Damned (coming soon from JournalStone). His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including VastarienDark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify.

His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film StageSeventh Row and Vague Visages.

Visit his website. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

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