‘Captivating Flames of Madness’ by Jeff Parsons – Review

*Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.*

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May 24, 1944

The damp air smothered Hans with a slow asphyxiation of hot sweat, carbon dioxide, and diesel fuel. Each breath grew more and more tortured, not so much from the pervasive soggy drip of foul moisture clogging his lungs, but from the thought of what caused the U-292 German submarine to shudder, as if in anticipation. 

The U-boat was cruising along the surface in attack mode with other subs in the wolf pack. They preyed upon the merchant cargo ships that crossed the unforgiving sea from Newfoundland to England. Each time the ship shook, a torpedo was sent away through the frigid North Atlantic Ocean towards its hapless convoy target. 

Hans sat in the narrow toilet stall behind a flimsy curtain screen, leaning forward with his head cradled by his trembling hands, ashamed of his behavior, but unable to control it any more. He carefully eased a photograph from his uniform’s breast pocket. Stroking the portrait of his love, Greta, he wondered yet again how he was going to stay sane – U-boat service extracted a heavy toll upon him. 

He winced yet again… 

Hans thought he could hear the harsh shriek of the enemy vessels tearing apart after each torpedo hit, but he knew that was unlikely, for the submarine’s twin diesel engines were humming along at low throttle inn the nearby bulkhead compartment. 

He had heard that sound before, the dreadful shearing metal sound of sinking ships, and it haunted him. Like being underneath a waterfall, thunderous bubbling accompanied the dying throes of a merchant ship as it cracked open like a fragile egg shell, the deadly water flooding inside and the sailors within… he swore that he could hear the sounds of their lost souls screaming, just like in his nightmares. 

 

Synopsis –

What would you do if fate led you astray into a grim world where you encountered vengeful ghosts, homicidal maniacs, ancient gods, apocalyptic nightmares, dark magic, deadly space aliens, and more?
If you dare, why not find out?

Read for yourself the twenty-two gloriously provocative tales that dwell within this book – but be warned, some of my dear readers have experienced lasting nightmares…

 

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Thoughts –

The Captivating Flames of Madness is an apt name for a collection chock full of twisted and deranged characters. Parsons builds each story on a solid premise, a straight forward tale that the reader can see coming, only to have him pull the rug from under their feet at the last second. There are twists, turns, and surprising endings in these stories, and all of them are darker than you might imagine. Whether it’s a mugging gone wrong in ‘Control‘ where drug addict Chelsea gets more than she bargained for in her search for another hit, or a wish for eternal life turning a hacker’s life upside down in ‘Nothing Personal‘.

Parsons strength in writing is creating a richly layered moment in time, a scene and situation that the reader can instantly step into and forget that they are reading a story – which only serves to make the horror that much more disturbing. Ghosts to Gods, madmen to madwomen, both ancient and modern evils, The Captivating Flames of Madness is a diverse set of stories, circumstances, and characters to lose yourself in.

A collection of over twenty tales of horror, darkness, and disturbed minds, The Captivating Flames of Madness is a generous offering of new and enthralling stories. Jeff Parsons takes you down many paths and turns, and is a writer I’d be happy to follow again.

 

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The Captivating Flames of Madness is a collection best read by candlelight, a darkness best enjoyed by fans of unexpected endings and mysteries in the shadows.

 

About the Author –

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Jeff Parsons is a professional engineer enjoying life in sunny California, USA. He has a long history of technical writing, which oddly enough, often reads like pure fiction. You can find out more about Jeff Parsons and his work on the HellBound Books website here.

 

Read and Review –

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Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

 

‘The Patience of a Dead Man’ by Michael Clark – Review

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

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And there was a smell. 

There are many unpleasant odors on a farm, but Henry recognized this as the smell of something unmistakably dead. Like the time a mouse died inside the wall of their bedroom. It was decay, and it was coming from her. 

She was shaking slightly, as if upset. Henry hesitated while he reassessed. Her shoulders were pulled back, and the flower arrangement she was carrying dropped to the forest floor. The left hand shifted across her body and passed something to the right hand that Henry could not see. Then her right arm turned outward, and the silhouette of Henry’s hatchet became clear.

He looked down around his feet in a panic, knowing he would find his dropped hatchet; she had it now. How the hell…? His hopes sank as he realized the time for talk had passed; this was not a neighbor or even a living person – the smell as not only strong; it was overbearing. This was a being with an agenda he couldn’t pretend to imagine. 

 

Synopsis –

Tim Russell just put his last dollar on a handyman’s dream; a quaint but dilapidated farmhouse in New Hampshire. Newly single after a messy divorce, his plan is to live in the house as he restores it for resale. To his horror, as soon as the papers are signed and his work starts, ghosts begin to appear. A bone-white little boy. A woman covered in flies. Tim can’t afford to leave and lose it all, so he turns to his real estate agent Holly Burns to help him decide whether he has any shot at solving his haunted problem. Can they solve the mystery before he loses his investment…or maybe his life?

 

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Thoughts –

Swift as the drop of an ax, Clark build the dread in The Patience of a Dead Man from the outset, leaving no character safe from the antics of this haunted fixer upper. Following Tim and Holly on their quest to nourish their budding romance while they battle horrifying nightmare memories that are not of their own making, and a crazed, all too solid ghost woman hell bent on hurting someone, anyone, Clark takes the reader through a story of horrific deeds, unfortunate luck, and a century long battle.

While some parts, particularly at the beginning of the novel, were a little repetitive and could have been edited down a touch, the main story is still gripping and the romance that flourishes between recent divorcee Tim and his not so recent divorcee and estate agent Holly, bring a welcome respite from the continued violence of the mysterious woman that stalks the property.

 

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The Patience of a Dead Man is a paranormal romance that plucks at the heart strings and in the same breath, will have your heart in your mouth, fearing the woman with flies on her face.

 

About the Author –

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Michael Clark was raised in New Hampshire and lived in the house The Patience of a Dead Man is based on. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife Josi and his dog Bubba. The Patience of a Dead Man is his first novel, and Dead Woman Scorned is his second. Stay tuned.

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

‘Dark Celebrations’ by Calvin Demmer – Review

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

****

 

These were no ordinary celebrations. The world, devoid of color, embraced a somber gray tone, and no sunlight dared to pierce the clouds overhead. A chill in the air caressed Brad’s skin as he searched within for some hope that this was just a nightmare he would awaken from. Nothing but a void of despair presented itself, and still the people rejoiced. 

No, these weren’t ordinary celebrations. 

They were dark celebrations.

 

Synopsis –

Each year, people all over the world celebrate special festivals and days, shining light on what they wish to remember and revere. But sometimes, inhabitants of the dark arrive with the desire to disturb proceedings. Dark Celebrations is a collection of twelve short stories… and the holidays will never be the same.

 

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Thoughts –

Another collection of stories from Demmer, this one delves into the world of global celebrations. From the American Day of Independence, to The Hungry Ghost Festival of China, the reader is taken across the world and across cultures to explore the darker side of these traditions. You’ll read many a twist in this collection with the usual monster of werewolves and vampires, but expect to be surprised and shocked by some of the less mainstream monsters and creatures in this collection. As with his previous collection ‘The Sea Was a Fair Master‘ Demmer breathes life into his characters, often only to take it away, and the settings pull the reader right into the story.

This collection is a welcome addition to a shelf for anyone who doesn’t find the holidays as cheery as others.

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Dark Celebrations is a collection tied together by twelve holidays of enjoyment from around the world – giving a dark and unexpected twist to each.

 

About the Author –

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Calvin Demmer is the author of The Sea Was a Fair Master and Dark Celebrations. When not writing, he is intrigued by that which goes bump in the night and the sciences of our universe.

 

Read and Review –

Goodreads.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

’13 Dark Tales’ Collection 2 by Mike Martin – Review

*Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, then I couldn’t get the file to work and panicked and bought the kindle so make of that what you will.*

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Connor hadn’t planned his first kill. Self-defence, plain and simple, even though others hadn’t seen it quite that way. He was sixteen and the hapless victim of school bullies: a trio of witless sociopaths. One day, it all got out of hand. 

He was walking home alone, along the edge of the park, when they leapt out of the bushes and rushed him. But Connor was fast on his feet, and only Lenny Barnett stood a chance of keeping up. He’d have outrun him, too, if he hadn’t tripped over that friggin’ tree root. Lenny had a temper, but his face was a mask of pure hate when he fell on Connor, punching and yelling obscenities. Connor bucked and squirmed, tried to fend the blows, but Lenny was bigger and stronger. He’d just about managed to wriggle onto his side when he was the sharp stone. He dragged it from the wet leaves and hurled it wildly at Lenny. By sheer luck, it hit him square on the temple. In an instant, the punching stopped, and he flopped to the ground like a rag doll. Connor grabbed the stone again and slammed it down on Lenny’s head. Dark blood rushed through his wavy hair. Connor rolled him away and got to his feet. But he wasn’t finished. The “fight or flight” instinct had switched to something he’d never felt before: a bloodlust wholly reptilian in its cold intent. But one of Lenny’s mates got there just before he could bring the stone down again. Connor dropped it and fled home, where he blubbed it all to his frantic mum. 

The next few days were a bit of a blur, and he could recall very little of his dealings with the police. Lenny died a week later in hospital. Connor’s father hired a good barrister who argue successfully for manslaughter, but it still meant eighteen months in a youth custody centre. And a life changed forever. 

 

Synopsis –

This is the second collection of dark tales numbering 13 by Michael R. Martin. Ranging from ancient Viking legends, satanic cults, ghosts and serial killers with a few sci-fi stories fit for a Creepy Pasta SCP, this collection has some fresh ideas and an able writer.

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13 Dark Tales Collection Two leaves the gore and violence behind for the most part and asks the reader to do more thinking and look at these tales with a different perspective. Martin tackles the past with skill and shows that there are always more ways to look at a story. From aliens to ghosts, ancient Viking folk tales to modern government conspiracies and murders, there’s plenty for everyone in this collection. Martin is adept at setting up a story and creating compelling characters with interesting back stories.

One issue I had with this collection is the repetition of the structure. Over half the stories in the collection involve one character telling another character a story from their past, often times one that they both already know somehow but this person knows the real story, the truth. The first few times this was fine, but after the fifth or sixth it was too much. Each collection is well written in and of itself, but it could have used a mix up, a few different frameworks for each tale and I think the stories themselves would have evolved within new structures as well. This also meant that there was little actual action happening, and more often than not the endings fell flat as the main story had already happened and it was more a flash of and ending rather than a satisfying conclusion.

13 Dark Tales is worth a read though even if it’s just for the new insights. I would still recommend the book – the fact that I sweep through collections in one go may be a contributing factor to my issue with the repetitive framework. I’ll also be giving Collection 1 a look in the future.

 

About the Author –

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Michael R. Martin is a dark fiction writer from the UK. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and takes inspiration from the likes of Stephen King, Philip K. Dick, and Nigel Kneale. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Links to Buy and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads.com

 

What’s your favourite short story collection? Do you prefer action and gore or less tangible horror? Let me know down below!

‘Slasher Crashers’ by David Nora – Review

*Disclaimer* I was given a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

 

“Nick Roesch, 5:00 a.m.

It started like an ‘80s slasher film. Not John Carpenter’s Halloween, the
classic of suburban horror, but the countless, mostly Canadian copycats that
emulated its simple-but-effective formula of the escaped mental patient
who [choose one: had been burnt in a high school prank, buried in your run-of-the-mill mining accident, and/or mentally abused by Santa Claus] and
picks off a sexy group of no-good teenagers on [a beloved American holiday].

In this crude rip-off, it was Halloween, and Nick Roesch, a massive,
pineapple-shaped teen wearing an oversized gray sweater and blue scrubs,
was running through the vast wooded area surrounding Summer Hill
House, the psychiatric hospital in Hannibal, New York, where he’d spent the
last five years. After a window dive from the hospital’s second floor, he was
following the early-morning light that trickled through the pines, hoping it
would lead him to a house or road.

Eventually, Nick got lucky. After barreling through the maze of trees for
nearly thirty minutes, the eighteen-year-old, pale-faced beast came upon a
long stretch of road and stopped in the middle of it. Gotta get home, he
thought, bending over and heaving a deep breath. Need car.

He stood up and scanned the road, waiting for the next vehicle. Again
he was lucky; a moment later, as a red Volvo wagon popped out of the
horizon, his strained breath eased into its normal inhale-wheeze-exhale
rhythm. Spotting the dingy car racing toward him, he puffed out his chest
like a superhero and walked directly toward it, initiating a horrific version
of chicken. Unfortunately, the driver, a seventy-five-year-old man with the
distant vision of a headless mole, couldn’t see past his headlights and
unwillingly entered the game.

About twenty yards away, the man finally noticed the towering figure in
the road—“Bigfoot!” he screamed—and swerved out of the way. It was too
late, though; he was going too fast to brake and slammed into the guardrail
with a thunderous crack. The car lifted off the ground, spun around, and rolled forward, creating an explosion of smoke and dust. After a couple
seconds, it stopped, the front end twisted into a modern art sculpture. Still,
the left headlight remained intact, shining a yellow beam through the brisk
autumn air, while the engine buzzed with a hint of life.

With a wicked grin, Nick turned around and marched toward the car.
When he reached it, he opened the door and pulled out the white-haired
driver with his large taloned paws. The elderly fellow, his face smeared with
blood, was writhing in pain, mumbling, “No, please,” but the giant didn’t
care. He dropped the old guy onto the road like a wad of bellybutton flint
and climbed into the Volvo.

And then, finally, Nick’s luck ran out. As he reached for the gear selector,
his malicious smile disappeared. The car had a manual transmission!

He let out a growl then punched the busted dashboard with a hairy fist.
How the fuck was he supposed to get home? He couldn’t drive a car with a
stick shift! Dr. Bonesteel had never taught him!”

Synopsis – 

It’s Halloween and there’s tricks and treats a plenty. Betsy wants to go to a party with the popular boy who inexplicably likes her, but she also wants to avoid her ex-best friend Kathleen and hanger on David after the fiasco at her own birthday weeks before. Unbeknownst to any of them, Nick, a psychotic and dangerous killer who’s been locked up since he killed his babysitter’s boyfriend as a child, has escaped and is on his way to their town, ready to kill anyone who gets in his way. Caught in the dramas of teenage ‘frenemies’, Nick gets more than he’s bargained for. Will the teens be able to put aside their differences and fight the unstoppable evil, or will they die mad?

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The love child of ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Halloween’, Slasher Crasher is a modern day, self-aware, bloody romp. Taking the tropes of classic 80’s teenage murder sprees and throwing in the the nihilism and internet fueled intelligence of 21st Century Gen Xer’s, Nora creates an ever so nostalgic and familiar story with queer characters, real conflicts, and more farting than I think I’ve ever read in a novel before. The characters are real, gross, and as unpredictable as teenagers can be, taking the tropes of jocks, nerds, and sluts, and turning them on their heads. Nora leaves the comedy on the surface and dives deep into the lives of these characters, saving them from being flat formulaic caricatures and leading to decisions that make sense, but that you certainly won’t expect.

Slasher Crasher is a world of dick jokes and flatulence that isn’t there to shock or disgust – it’s just the truth of the characters. There’s no sugar coating the reality of a Catholic High School here, you see all the wet dreams, hear all the violent thoughts, and misinformed conclusions. You go beyond liking and disliking Betsy, Kathleen, and David, melding them with your own memories of teenage life and watching it like a fucked up nature documentary.

David Nora is himself gay an this book includes a gay teen (shockingly also called David). Reading a gay character written by a gay writer with lived experiences of navigating a hormonal terrain as an adolescent, was refreshing. David felt like a real person, he wasn’t a stereotype, but he also wasn’t checking boxes to cast off every stereotype there is. David is feminine, close to his mother, and happily the gay best friend, but he experiences and endures homophobia not just from the jocks but from his own friends. He isn’t humiliated to the point of martyrdom but he does see serious bullying. I’ve spoken previously of lesbians in horror, (in particular ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson that you can read here) as well as humour and I definitely don’t see enough of either. So – more please!

The only real nit I can pick in this book are the time stamps at the start of each chapter. I mostly ignored them as they didn’t give me any needed information, but when I did try and keep up with them and the change of P.O.V. I found myself confused by the jumping back and forth. Remove the time stamps, and I’d have pretty much nothing to complain about here – that’s something I’m not used to.

 

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Slasher Crasher is, on the surface, a teen slasher story. But just one dip of the toe into this book and you’ll peel back layers of depth to characters and the relationships between them. The hurt and betrayal of teenage friendships, the struggles of , the brash anti-PC humour of modern teenagers. These kids aren’t cut from cookie cutter molds though sometimes they want to be, they’re equal parts scared, traumatized, and sick of the world’s shit. If you wince at curse words or mentions of puss, I’d give this one a pass, but for everyone else, you’ll have a lot of fun at this party.

 

About the author:

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David Nora is a teach to the blind by day and a writer by night. Harbouring a love of horror since an early age, Nora currently reside in New York with his partner in crime, the stuffed polar bear Po Po. You can find Nora on Twitter and Instagram

 

Links to Buy & Review

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Goodreads

 

Do you think we need more comedy in horror? Can old tropes like teenager slasher’s be re-vamped for a modern audience? Do you have any horror recommendations written by LGBT authors? Let me know down below!