‘Diaries of the Damned’ by Ivan Radev – Review

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

***

Foreword (Extract)

This is a book of fears. Manifesting themselves as malicious monsters, my mind’s maladies formed crooked, misshapen phrases. Thus, they merged with reality. This release fully intends to give nightmares, shed tears, carve gentle scars into the soul of the reader. It is evil.

“Diaries of the Damned” is a work of fiction, but the feelings it expresses and evokes are all too real. There’s rampaging existential dread, psychological pain, loneliness, angst, and absolute, abominable horror. It is a hand that grips at the neck with no remorse, no compassion, nothing but the desire to blacken everything it touches.

However, I wish it also brings hope. After all, only light can cast shadows. The splendor of the stars, the magnificence of the mountains, the vastness of the universe are all beautiful things that make our existence seem small and meaningless. We are all too human: our lives are short, and death is the great validation that we ever lived.

Synopsis –

This anthology is not for the faint of heart and easily disturbed. All eleven narrators suffer from mental affliction, excruciating existential dread, or terminal despair. This book is evil. It is absolutely capable of inducing nightmares and scarring the mind. The characters within are ruthlessly relatable; they are normal people who drew the short straw. They got sick or old or just lost it all.

Beware the Damned! They are trapped inside wailing, waiting for a willing victim, a witness to their tales and tears.

Thoughts –

Diaries of the Damned from Ivan Radev is a collection of eleven stories told in some form by a narrator. Whether through diary style entries, interview transcripts, or online blog posts, the stories in this collection are all linked by one common thread – each narrator has an overwhelming and universal fear that is exposed through the telling of their story. This was a five star collection for me because not a single one of these stories was a miss, every single one was a hit. From the slow building tension and Lovecraftian horror of ‘The Transcript of Timothy Parker’s Interrogation, Deep Dive (Unsaved)’, to the dark and modern humour of ‘The Incident At the Toilet Paper Aisle’, Radev shows his considerable scope with pacing, language, voice, and strong and relatable characters.

Among some of the themes and fears explored in this collection are the fear of loneliness, of losing the person that you love the most, as well as the inevitability of time marching inexorably forward, and death itself. On the other hand, there are some narrators that embody the thing that is to be feared. Each story is told from a first person perspective in some way, thus the ‘diaries’ theme, but this never felt repetitive or overplayed, he did well in bringing variety into the collection.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and will definitely be perusing these stories again at some point.

About the Author –

Ivan Radev is a literary horror writer with an obsession for the arts, the absurd, the existential, the eclectic. His stories range from the naively romantic to the dreadfully deranged. One can find equal measures psychological pain and philosophical peace in his content. His writing might appeal to readers of Albert Camus, Edgar Allan Poe, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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‘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.

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‘Shells’ by Joshua Radburn – Review

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

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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…

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‘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.

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‘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.

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