‘The Miracle Sin’ by Marcus Hawke – Review

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

***

Father Abbott was a man of God.

His earliest memory was of seeing the crucifix above the altar during First Communion when he was seven years old. He knew even then that he wanted to be ordained. To serve the Lord. When the priest placed the wafer on his tongue and said the blessing, he felt an overwhelming calm. Peace. He knew in his heart that his life belonged to Him.

But now, more than sixty years later, as precious drops of his blood dripped away on the filthy floor, Father Abbott desperately wondered where he was.

Bitter pain coursed through his whole body. His wavy gray hair clung to the sides of his unshaven face with sweat. Several of his teeth were loose and where others had been were now raw, bloody gaps. Though his hands were bound behind the back of his chair so tight that they had lost feeling, he was sure a finger was missing. Perhaps two. With each labored breath his broken ribs stung; with each breath he silently prayed for death. The flesh around his left eye had swollen to the size of a fist. All he could see through it was a narrow slit of light.

Through that narrow slit, a silhouette appeared.

“Do you think me evil?” Even with his shallow pulse thundering in his ears, the serpentine tickle of the words sickened him.

“Yes,” Abbott said weakly.

The creature smiled. “Good.”

“You didn’t have to do all this.”

A shrug. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Synopsis –

Have you ever wondered if there’s more to life? If we are destined for something great, part of a divine plan rather than just subjects of random chaos? Mason Cole has wondered these things. And he has the answer…

No.

How could that be when his parents were killed in an earthquake that destroyed the city of Jerusalem, yet he alone survived? How could he be destined for great things when he’s stuck in a town-shaped reststop where nothing he does makes a difference? And why would God do this to him in the first place?

Then one day a stranger passes through town, bringing with him a unique explanation of his past, one he never could have imagined, and wishes he could forget. It sounds like something from one of his books, only this time it’s happening to him, and it becomes clear that not every miracle is a blessing. Now, with a red-haired devil hell bent on possessing him for his own sinister gains, Mason must discover the answers to these questions if he ever hopes to survive in a world where the dark no longer hides that which dwells within.

Thoughts –

Young Mason Cole has had some tragedy in his life and it is only about to get worse for him. The Miracle Sin is the story of Mason’s righteous fight against unutterable evil, a path that he didn’t choose, but was chosen for him, and now he has to decide whether he stays on that path, or abandons it entirely.

A story of epic proportions that deals with the monumental battle of good and evil, The Miracle Sin is a rich tapestry of themes including religion, philosophy, faith, fate, and loss. Born of a miracle, that definitely doesn’t feel one, Mason Cole is an average teenager who just wants to get out of his small town and maybe ask his friend on a proper date. But he soon wishes that he never wished that, and is pulled into an underground Catholic Church offshoot that have been tasked with defending the world from evil for centuries, and they want him to join their team. No longer average, and imbued with the Holy Spirit itself, Mason takes in the familiar position of the chosen one who must train to fight the evil that started his journey and protect his new found family as well.

Hawke writes knowledgably about the growing pains of a teenager, about the crisis of faith that trauma and grief can bring, and even about this fictional team of Holy assassin’s keeping the darkness at bay. His writing is witty and at times poignant, and gives The Miracle Sin the grand scope that the story needed to be told.

This is a story of paradoxes, oxymorons, and vicious monsters that fans of the likes of Constantine will definitely enjoy.

About the Author –

Marcus Hawke is a writer primarily of horror and dark fiction, some fantasy and sci-fi, and a few things that defy categorization. He was born in Toronto, moved around quite a bit during the dreaded formative years, and finally settled in Calgary where he studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

After years worth of rejections, he finally had a short story called “Bump in the Night” published in Jitter magazine in 2016 and recently finished his first full-length novel THE MIRACLE SIN which will be released soon. He lives with his feline overlord in an apartment building haunted by the type of neighbors that make a person wish a ghost would come to visit in the cold, often gloomy great white North.

​In his spare time he reads, draws, paints, plays Dungeons & Dragons, and rambles in third person while writing website bios. 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Terror of Breakspear Hall’ by F.R. Jameson – Review

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

***

“Who’s next, darling?” asked Simone.

Robin grinned at her across their surprisingly small, twin hotel room. He was knowing and confident, having already worked it out. Probably he’d have liked more space to pontificate, but happily – as well as they were doing – they weren’t going to pay the premium rates in this hotel. Each of them had a double bed, there was a wardrobe which would suit their needs and the bathroom wasn’t as cramped as she’d have imagined. What more did they really need?

As little children they’d shared a bedroom. That had stopped though as she went through puberty (she was eighteen months and six days older than him), but it had started again when she nursed him after his accident and it had never stopped. Unless they were with someone they were intimate with, then they never went to sleep in different rooms to the other. They took comfort from it. She knew it must appear odd to outsiders for two siblings to be sharing a room, but she had gone beyond the point where she cared.

Actually, when they checked in, she’d had other ideas in her mind. The receptionist had been gorgeous. Blonde, chic – with her hair in a beehive transported straight from the 1960s – and a purring French accent to die for. A sparkle in her eyes, Simone had leant on the reception desk and given this Parisian Venus her most flirtatious smile. The lady had smiled back professionally, but also a tad uncomfortable. They chatted for a minute, but Simone didn’t push for anything further. Maybe if the two of them got together and shared a bottle of wine then something may have happened, but Simone had grown past the point of where she provided straight girls with a racy anecdote they could share later.

Besides which, although it was early days yet, Simone may have met someone.

Synopsis –

What excruciating tortures await them within Breakspear Hall?

Simone and her brother are con-artists. They target the rich and corrupt, making them pay for their crimes. One night, after pursuing a mark to a casino, Simone is attacked on the street. In the aftermath, the two siblings find themselves spirited towards Breakspear Hall. A gothic mansion whose master has tried everything to keep visitors out.

From her first glance of this dark, foreboding building, Simone knows it could spell doom for both of them…

Within the walls is a history of demonic rituals and human sacrifice. Yet, if the house welcomes you, it’s a home which can offer your greatest desires and ensure every darkest craving can be sated. Although as it does, it elicits a terrible price. One which will drain away your soul and leave you a broken husk.

However, it’s when you try to leave that it inflicts its most appalling punishment.

Trapped inside, Simone knows she has to save herself and her brother. But what can she possibly do against the unspeakable evil of Breakspear Hall?

Thoughts –

Revolving around a pair of sibling con artists, Terror of Breakspear Hall is a story of deception, illusions, and shame. Brother and sister, Simone and Robin have made a living stealing the hearts, and eventually the money of rich but deplorable people. Careful only to target those they know are using their money immorally, they feel righteous in their less than righteous methods. But when the pair’s charms seem to have no effect on the reclusive and filthy rich Montagu Breakspear, they become entranced. They find themselves in Breakspear Hall – and soon one of them is unable to leave.

Terror of Breakspear Hall utilisises psychological horror and the siblings unbreakable loyalty to drive the plot. With characters that are flawed, and even some who are downright insane, there’s plenty of action and movement throughout the story.

With the hall being the title of the novel, and having such a tight hold on these characters, it would have been more satisfying to spend more time within it’s haunting and fetid walls, exploring more of what the ghosts and entities trapped their were capable of and getting a better understanding of the evil and its origins. While Simone is a great character, one who is strong and fragile at the same time, a caretaker and yet unable to take care of herself, the time spent with her fell flat when combined with the sparse experiences within the walls of Breakspear Hall.

That being said, this is a enjoyable novel with enticing characters, exciting events, a lustfully dark undertone, and strong character driven story telling from F.R. Jameson.

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.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘Dark Hilarity’ by Joseph Sale – Review

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

***

The cretin took in by boxy grandeur of the Rockefeller building, the broadsword blade of the Empire State, piercing the clouds, and the twin monolithic towers of the World Trade Centre, like chromed slabs of ancient stone stolen from Celtic moorland and dumped amidst the architecture of modernity. It was the last time he would look at them for a while, so he wanted to savour their shape and colour, and above all, the sheer arrogant bravado of their design. Clearly, the men and women that had constructed these modern ziggurats had never heard of the Tower of Babel, and the moral lesson of overreaching. He smiled at the thought. His lips were so thin they were virtually nonexistent, making his mouth look like a wound in his face, pregnant with white teeth. Despite its ugliness, there were men and women who would kill to kiss that mouth, would kill to feel one touch from him.

Synopsis –

Tara Dufrain and Nicola Morgan are eleven year old girls growing up in the ‘90s, obsessed by Valentine Killshot, a metal screamo band. In particular, they’re enamoured by the lead singer, the mysterious yet charismatic Jed Maine who bears the epithet “The Cretin”. In Jed’s lyrics, he describes a world beyond the Dark Stars that he hopes one day to reach. The girls think it’s all just make-believe they share together, until a freak, traumatic incident makes this world very real.

As adults, Tara and Nicola try to come to terms with the devastating catastrophe that changed their lives growing up, but to do so they will have to step once more into Jed Maine’s world, and confront the man who took everything from them.

Dark Hilarity is My Best Friend’s Exorcism meets The Never-Ending Story, a fantasy that explores addiction, depression, and the healing power of friendship.

Thoughts –

Dark Hilarity is a black as night fantasy novel that explores fate, evil, the long standing effects of grief, and the unshakable friendship of two young girls. Set in a 90’s UK setting that quickly morphs into a fantasy land called Dae’shta, this is a novel that blends reality with unreality, good with bad, and the obscene with the precious.

Sale’s depiction of two adolescent girls on their first unsure steps into a timeless friendship is flawless. The strength of their friendship carries the plot forward and strengthens the other themes present in the book. While there are fantastical characters like the Laughing God, the wolf-people of Wolf Town, and giant telepathic crabs hellbent on avenging their fallen brethren, Dark Hilarity grounds the reader in a reality fraught with grief, addiction, and fears that we can all relate to, carried from unstable childhood, to even more unstable adulthood.

Dark Hilarity is a fantasy tale that mixes in plenty of horror and hardship, a novel that explores the strains of friendship, of loss, and a god with a permanent smile.

About the Author –

Joseph Sale is an editor, novelist, writing coach and co-host of Monaghan & The Mindflayer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He currently writes and is published with The Writing Collective. He has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his love-letter to fantasy: Save Game. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.

He edits non-fiction and fiction, helping fledgling authors to realise their potential. He has edited some of the best new voices in speculative fiction including Ross Jeffery, Emily Harrison, Christa Wojciechowski, and more. His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy). In 2017 he was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ prize.

He is obsessed with Attack on Titan and Community.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘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.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

‘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.

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com