‘Dream Reaper’ by Alistair Cross – Review

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

***

The seal looked to be holding and, under the advisement of the skies, Madison headed for the ladder. Stepping down the slo9ped roof, her shoes lost traction and her feet shot out from under her. The caulking gun flew as she windmilled for balance. The gravelly asphalt raked her elbows as she cam down hard on her tailbone. A sickening thunk! resounded and a flash of white blinded her as the back of her head smacked the brick chimney. Pain bit her, crippled her, and she rolled down the slope, a tattered rag doll. Though barely conscious, she felt the roof disappear beneath her. Then she was freefalling.

Help me! she thought, unable to scream, to speak.

In the dream-like instant of her descent, the sky flashed – not lightning, but a shooting star streaking toward earth.

She plummeted into the koi pond below.

Icicle-cold, the water stole her breath. She panicked, tried fighting, but body and mind had parted company. She sank, paralyzed as blurred ribbons of blood rose and eddied around her. Like a failing bulb, her vision flickered and went out.

She was not aware of any time having passed. As if waking suddenly from a nightmare, she shot from the water, gurgling and choking, her lungs starved of oxygen. Splashing, writhing, her nails bit into bare shoulders and with the sound of rusty brakes, she sucked in a deep lungful of air. The black world resolved, and she glimpsed the face of a man, a stranger – no, not a stranger, not exactly. I know you, don’t I?

Synopsis –

Angel or Demon?
Naive and heart-stoppingly handsome, he calls himself Alejandro, and Madison O’Riley has no clue what to do with him. As they set out to recover his lost identity, Madison realizes the mysterious man who saved her life harbors deep, otherworldly secrets that will put her in grave danger.

The Devil is in the Details
Gremory Jones has something for everyone, and for a price, he’s willing to make a deal. Walking the streets in top hat and trench coat, he tempts the citizens with mysterious wares from his shiny black briefcase. But buyer beware: All sales are final – and fatal.

A Scorching New Terror Has Come to Town
The townspeople are changing in appalling ways and it’s up to Madison – with the help of a psychic, a local priest, and the new chief of police – to help Alejandro unlock his forgotten powers before an unspeakable evil tears apart the fabric of existence … and costs them their very souls …

Thoughts –

Dream Reaper is a raunchy, satanic adventure that will leave you wanting more. With many likeable characters, as well as deplorable, easily corruptible, and downright evil, there’s something in this book for every taste. Whether you crave violence, lust for physical touch, or just want to screw over someone’s day, there are temptations abound in Cross’s novel.

The clueless and beautiful Alejandro is at the centre of this story, helped along by the warm hearted and strong Madison. Their budding romance adds an element of sweetness to this otherwise bitter, and saucy tale. Gremory Jones, a ‘Needful Things’ wannabe adds some spice to the tale with his equally seductive manner and his irresistible deals – the object you most desire for a confession of your life’s dream. Seems perfectly reasonable until the only thing that brings you joy is spitting in someone else’s coffee.

The landscape of ‘Dream Reaper’ is vast and Cross builds a world rich in texture and begging for another dive into the this town and it’s inhabitants. If you like a delectable demon, an altruistic angel, and some petty town rivalries turned dangerously sour, you will like ‘Dream Reaper’.

A horror novel about good, evil, and everyone in between.

About the Author –

Alistair Cross’ debut novel, The Crimson Corset, a vampiric tale of terror and seduction, was an immediate bestseller earning praise from veteran vampire-lit author, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and New York Times bestseller, Jay Bonansinga, author of The Walking Dead series. In 2012, Alistair joined forces with international bestseller, Tamara Thorne, and as Thorne & Cross, they write – among other things – the successful Gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their debut collaboration, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was a bestseller. They are currently at work on their next solo novels and a new collaborative project.

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‘They All Died Screaming’ by Kristopher Triana – Review

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

***

“I’m too drunk to fig this god-damned grave.”

Still holding the bottle, the man cleared sweat from his brow with his forearm. In his other hand was the shovel he’d barely made a dent in the earth with. The hole was no bigger than a fish tank. The boy gazed into the grainy abyss, frowning. He knew what was coming.

The shovel was tossed to him.

The man snorted. “Best get started while there’s still some light.”

There was no sunshine here, just the muted glow of another overcast day. They were beneath concrete heavens, toiling in a hell of weeds, poison ivy, and fruitless bramble. The stench of pig feces dominated every other odor, cancelling the fresh, spring scent of the woodland on the edge of the farm.

Blowing out a snot-rocket, the man stumbled to a tree stump and sat down slowly, holding his lower back. His vertebrae cracked like Jiffy Pop. The boy used to love popcorn. He missed it. He missed lots of things. Settled, the man took another pull on the whiskey. Some trickled down his chin and his tongue darted out to lick it up, a frog after a fly. The boy watched him with tired eyes before turning back to the hole where a single worm wiggled as its newfound freedom. He wondered if the man would have killed it if he’d seen it. if the creature was worthy of the man’s mercy, if it met the criteria of his aberrant morality.

Pushing the shovel into the dirt, the boy raised a small clump containing the worm, tossing it aside so it could live. On the ground beside it, the mildewed army bag was a grim reminder of those creatures who’d been far less fortunate.

Synopsis –

It’s called The Scream…

Once you get it, you simply cannot stop screaming.

You can’t eat or sleep. It drives you more and more insane until you can’t stand to be alive a second longer.

When the phenomenon hits Chuck’s city, the chronically unemployed pervert joins a band of misfits to make his final stand.

Can Chuck, a bitter bartender, a dockside prostitute, a conspiracy theorist, and a homeless man find a way out of the apocalypse…

Or will they all die screaming?

Thoughts –

A bleak and harrowing look at a world gone mad, They All Died Screaming is a splatterpunk novel that comes with the usual trigger warnings; gore, violence, sexual assault, and bodily fluids appearing in places they have no right to be. Yet the fiction of this novel is all too close to reality. Depicting the world’s descent into a virus of pandemic proportions through the eyes of a group of self proclaimed deadbeats, alcoholics, perverts, and those damaged beyond repair, Triana does not hold back in displaying the dark inner workings of the human mind and the actions that often follow.

They All Died Screaming has two plotlines that eventually coalesce, the first being the low maintenance life of Chuck the alcoholic who fancies ever increasingly younger women and his attempts to find some kind of worthwhile human interaction, before all human life is snuffed out by ‘The Scream’. One the other side of the page, we have the sickening story of a young boy kidnapped by a pig farmer who refuses to sell his pigs as meat – but there’s another delicacy on the menu that the boy needs to get used to fast.

Behind all the blood, vomit, violence, and despicable viewpoints of most of the characters, there are plenty of truths in this novel. Reflecting a society that treats its children, particularly young girls as meat, as a nuisance to use and get rid of at will, as well as one that pushes the downtrodden and in need to the margins where their situations can only get worse, They All Died Screaming‘s true horror is how close it is to reality. Triana’s writing is impeccable and his storytelling unforgettable.

A novel that will haunt your waking nightmares, and make you wonder where your meat is really coming from.

About the Author –

Kristopher Triana is the author of Full Brutal, Gone to See the River Man, Shepherd of the Black Sheep, The Ruin Season, Toxic Love and more.

His fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies and has been translated into multiple languages, drawing praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Cemetery Dance, Rue Morgue, Scream, The Ginger Nuts of Horror and others.

Full Brutal won the Splatterpunk Award for Best Horror Novel of 2018.

He lives in Connecticut.

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‘The Suicide Lake’ by Michael Penning – Review

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

***

Abigail Jacobs had only moments to spare before the man across the room shot the young boy. How many seconds remained before he pulled the trigger? Ten? Five? Even fewer?

“Lower your pistol, Mr. Tunstall,” she cautioned. “I assure you it will do no good.”

Robert Tunstall didn’t lower the pistol. Instead, he cocked the hammer and squeezed the trigger.

Abigail shouted and lunged for the flintlock even as the eight-inch iron barrel erupted with a blinding flash and a deafening roar.

The lead bullet rocketed harmlessly through the boy’s forehead like a stone hurled through smoke. The peculiar child remained unscathed as he glared at Tunstall from the center of the fire-lit parlor.

Synopsis –

Deep in the mountains, the deadliest demons are your own.

Abigail Jacobs is a ghost-hunting witch. Haunted by a tragic past, she also drinks, swears, and has questionable relationships with unsavory men. For years she has maintained her secret, living a double-life as a schoolteacher in a posh 19th-century Boston neighborhood. But when her estranged sister arrives on her doorstep begging for help, Abigail must make a perilous journey into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains where a malevolent force is driving the residents of a remote logging town to take their own lives.

Determined to vanquish the terrible evil preying on the village before its influence spreads, Abigail finds herself pitted against her most dangerous adversary yet. Drawn into an unlikely partnership with a roguish lumberjack, an ex-lover, and a young pastor, she uncovers a dark secret that could be the key to the village’s salvation. But the superstitious villagers don’t take well to Abigail’s unusual methods. Time is running short, and if she doesn’t work quickly, she could very well be hanged by the same people she is trying to save.

Thoughts –

The Suicide Lake, a fitting sequel to All Hallows Eve, brings us to the adult life of Abigail – the wanted child in the first book. Abigail is now a kick ass witch battling demons, spirits and all manner of paranormal and supernatural challenges. She takes no shit from no man, and will bed who she likes, decorum be damned. But she is also a teacher to young children, a staunch believer in helping whoever she can, and longs for a companion that won’t get hurt just by being near her. As a protagonist she is invigorating and engrossing, and a woman I am happy to follow.

Set in a mountainside logging town, isolated and superstitious, there are echoes of the first book here too, though The Suicide Lake brings in native American myths and folklore, as well as Catholic superstitions from the immigrant Irish and Scottish inhabitants of the town. Offering a bleak and claustrophobic atmosphere, Volume II of Book of Shadows, gives a stark look at the desperation that comes with being separated from larger society and the lengths that people will go to when faced with frightening occurrences that they cannot understand.

The Suicide Lake is a riveting read showcasing again Penning storytelling skills. He manages to stay true to the times the story is set in, and still give us a modern woman with her own ideas and goals to fall in with.

Filled with secrets, mysteries, and ulterior motives, this is a novel you won’t want to put down.

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. 

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‘All Hallows Eve’ by Michael Penning – Review

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

***

Alice Jacob stood at the edge of the wharf and stared at the sea in horror. Thousands of bones were washing ashore. The great expanse of Salem Sound was flooded with skulls and spines and fragments of skeleton that rolled and tumbled in the frothing green surf. An eerie clattering filled the salty air as wave after wave heaped bones of all shapes and sizes upon the rocky coastline. Sheltered in the calmer waters of Salem Harbor, the merchant fleet was inundated by a floating mass of skeletal remains swept in by the tide. Their horrifying numbers swelled by the minute as they bobbed and collected between the timber hulls of the ships.

Alice’s young daughter, Abigail, sidled up to her side and slipped her tiny hand into Alice’s palm. “Where are they all coming from?” she asked in a voice that was small and uneasy.

“I can’t say that I know, Abigail,” Alice replied. A flutter crept into her stomach as she gazed at the macabre panorama. Not for the first time since they had left Boston, she wished her husband was there with her. Samuel, would know what to say; his were the words that always seemed to comfort their little girl, not Alice’s.

Synopsis –

She didn’t believe in ghosts… until her daughter was taken by one.

When Alice Jacobs’ husband disappears while investigating a series of strange and terrible incidents in the bustling seaport of Salem, she is forced to bring her young daughter, Abigail, along from Boston while she takes up the search. But she soon learns of a terrible curse that has the entire town bracing for nightfall: one hundred years after the infamous witch trials, the vengeful spirit of a woman hanged for witchcraft will rise from hell to claim the souls of Salem’s children.

Alice dismisses the old legend as foolish superstition… until Abigail is snatched from her bed by a sinister woman made of smoke and mist.

Desperate to find her daughter before the sun rises and she is lost forever, Alice races against time on a spine-chilling adventure that takes her from forgotten dungeons and gloomy cemeteries to the haunted forests of Gallows Hill. Along with a roguish sailor searching for his own missing child, she battles deadly supernatural forces and uncovers a dark secret that may be the key to saving Abigail’s soul… if only she can survive the most terrifying night of her life.

Thoughts –

All Hallows Eve is set in the town of Salem and even after a century, this town is still plagued by the sins committed there. Innocent women and men were slain with no evidence, and in this story one of these women takes her revenge in the afterlife by becoming exactly what they accused her to be. Abound by superstition and unfair judgement, this is a book that is filled with rich characters, mysterious twists and turns, and secrets steeped in blood.

Our protagonist Alice is a young woman and mother who has brought her daughter along on the quest to find her missing husband, on the worst night of the year she could have possibly chosen. Strong willed and not about to give up on either member of her small family, she pulls the reader through the story on her bloody feet to discover the truth behind this towns rumours and to bring back her daughter before it is too late.

All Hallows Eve is an atmospheric and superbly written novel that holds echoes of the Salem witch trials, cautions against being too quick to judge, and has a frightening paranormal element to it as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would recommend to any witch, ghost, and dark mystery fans out there.

All Hallows Eve tells the story of a night that refuses to be forgotten.

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.

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‘Catch Lili Too’ by Sophie Whittemore – Review

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

***

The first killing had been easy. A little girl wandering the woods with a storybook under her arm. She hardly looked up; why would she? There were no tales of the killer in the wood.

Not unless you count fairy tales, that is. And who believes in those until it is too late?

She had books about fantastical heroes who go on quests to fight Evil that had a very purposeful capital E. She had colored in the pages of the black-and-white line drawings with pencils, with sweeping trains and glittering scales of armor. The pencils scattered on the ground, pages torn up and trampled underfoot. A halo around her perfect, little angelic head.

For that alone the killer decided she had to die. She was too good for this world. She would never have made it anyway. It was a mercy.

Synopsis –

Lili is a Mesopotamian siren, and life as an immortal being is hard enough as it is. She’s asexual (which is incredibly difficult to reconcile if your entire point as a mythical being is to seduce people to death). She’s also struggling with depression from being alive for so long.

Lili is an absolutely shoddy improv-detective trying to track down a serial killer so ruthless that it makes even her murderous soul uneasy. However, there’s something larger at work than just one serial killer. A small town is hiding an even deadlier, global-scale secret. Forget Area 51 conspiracies. This one beats them all. With magic.

So, what better way to spice up her eternal life than being hired as a vigilante detective to stop a serial killer? Anything, literally anything. She’d trade her left lung to get out of this. Or, perhaps, somebody else’s.

Thoughts –

Catch Lili Too is a dark fantasy horror story with as many monsters as it has twists and turns. With a sympathetic and flawed protagonist, just human enough to engage with, but with clear supernatural abilities and appetites, the reader is drawn into an emotional story filled with philosophical and moral ambiguities. The ingenuity of an asexual siren and the complications that that would entail makes for a striking premise and one that keeps you turning the page until you are lost in the character of Lili herself.

Filled with diverse and queer characters, Catch Lili Too is very much a modern story that caters to a modern and diverse audience. A book like this brings ancient histories and creatures into the twenty first century and Whittemore does so with skill and creativity. My only qualm with the book is that there are ordinary mortals throughout with no special abilities, but they are very rarely seen. Some interactions between the ordinary townsfolk and the monsters and humans with extra abilities, would have been a great contrast to see within the story. However, Catch Lili Too is an entertaining and thought provoking book, with plenty of dark magic, hidden mysteries, and unshakeable friendships.

Catch Lili Too is a modern book steeped in history and mythology with a monster for every type of reader.

About the Author –

Sophie Whittemore is a Dartmouth Film/Digital Arts major with a mom from Indonesia and a dad from Minnesota. They’re known for their Legends of Rahasia series, specifically, the viral publication Priestess for the Blind God, and newest LGBT+ paranormal thriller “CATCH LILI TOO” with NineStar Press. Their writing career kicked off with the whimsical Impetus Rising collection, published at age 17. They grew up in Chicago and live a life of thoroughly unexpected adventures and a dash of mayhem: whether that’s making video games or short films, scripting for a webcomic, or writing about all the punk-rock antiheroes we should give another chance (and subsequently blogging about them).

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