‘The Wolf Society’ by Michael Penning – Review

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

***

Anna Jacobs was going to kill the man she was dancing with. She wouldn’t do it here, not under the brilliant glow of the reception room chandeliers. And she wouldn’t do it now, surrounded as she was by the cream of Vermont’s genteel society. But within the hour, the beguiling young Southerner with the chestnut curls and whiskey eyes would lie headless at Anna’s feet.

“You truly are an elegant dancer,” the gentleman said. He pressed his palm lightly into the small of Anna’s back and kept her at a decent arm’s length as he led her through the intricate steps of the English country dance. If his hand slipped lower, his wrist would brush against the six-inch blade strapped to Anna’s slender thigh beneath the folds of her silk ball gown.

“How kind of you to say,” Anna replied demurely. “I was raised to be prepared for any situation, including the occasion when a handsome gentleman might ask for the pleasure of a dance.”

“Have there been many such occasions?” The man’s sly grin revealed two rows of pearly teeth.

“Would it pain you to know there have?”

“Not in the least.”

Synopsis –

When the moon is full, there is no place to hide.

Most mothers tell their children there are no such things as monsters. Abigail Jacobs taught her daughter how to kill them. Raised to be a ghost-hunting occultist, Anna Jacobs now wants nothing more than to escape her life of blood and violence before it’s too late. But when women begin disappearing from the bustling lakeside village of Burlington, Vermont, Abigail convinces Anna to help her solve one last mystery.

Together, mother and daughter uncover an unholy secret society and a terrifying plot threatening the lives of the village children. Face-to-face with their most bloodthirsty foe yet, it will take all of their skill and cunning to save the children. But as the deadly night unfolds, Anna is forced to confront the chilling truth that the most dangerous evil she faces might actually lie within her.

Thoughts –

The third installment in the Book of Shadows series, The Wolf Society now takes a look at the infamous Abigail Jacobs’ daughter, Anna, who is well on the way to carving out her own name in the world of the occult. Raised by her mother to not only know, but to fight tooth and nail against the paranormal evils that surround them, Anna is a young woman filled with rage and resentment – and the fighting skills to take it out on anyone who crosses her. But as she tries to pull away from her mother, Abigail only works harder to keep her daughter close. And now that they they find themselves in the midst of a dangerous mystery that only they can solve, they must work together one final time to save the most vulnerable victims – the orphaned children.

A fast paced novel that takes place almost entirely in one nightmarish night, The Wolf Society brings the worst of humanity to the foreground. While Anna feels no remorse beating an abuser to a bloody pulp, she begins to feel a darkness inside of her rise up, one that has always whispered in her ear, but now threatens to engulf her entirely. And Abigail, seeing a bloodlust in her daughter’s eye that she has always tried to curb, is afraid to lose her daughter all together, and will use all of her darkest magical skills to save Anna’s soul, even if it means losing her own.

Once again Penning’s writing is superb, not only has he created a badass character like Abigail Jacobs but in her daughter Anna, we see another side and extension that the effect of being a strong willed woman living in such male dominated times can have on a woman’s mind and soul. But we are also introduced to Mary, a woman who is fighting for her own daughter’s future whatever the cost, and Kitty, an Irish barmaid risks her own life for those around her. In this story there is no shortage of strong and courageous women, whether you agree with their ideologies or not, and otherworldly powers, blood thirsty wolves, and with a bitter fight and high stakes around every corner, you will find it difficult to put this one down before the final page.

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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‘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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‘Parting Shot’ by Daniel L. Naden – Review

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

***

The shoe was on the other foot.

But the foot had become detached and was currently holding the intense interest of the zombie near the shed. Another zombie, one with a rather significant overbite, had wormed his way through the abdominal wall and gotten himself a mouthful of intestines. The overbite, however, kept his teeth from cutting cleanly. Now he was hopelessly tangled in what could only be described as a gutsy web of shit. A different knot of zombies must have, in their living lives, heard all the old leper jokes. Some were doing their deal-level best at trying for a face-off in the corner. Another unfortunate undead dude who lost his poker face was just about ready to throw in his hand. His heart was definitely in the game, but he simply couldn’t keep his head on the task at hand, or the hand at task.

From the depths of the shadows cast by the eaves looming over the backyard deck, I’d watched the undead tuck into Stine where they’d cornered him against the fence. When the first of them pushed into the backyard, I tried to hold him back to keep him from breaking cover. He heard them rattling up against the fence latch, heard the creak of the hinge as they forced their way through the gate, saw them shamble around the corner of the house, and just about shit himself. They got close to us, and Stine lunged away from me. I caught a fistful of his collar, but he twisted and shrugged out of it. Left me with nothing but the shirt off his back, literally, as he tore off across the yard.

I haven’t the slightest idea in hell what he thought he was going to do. Maybe he figured he could bull through them at the gate and escape to the wide-open streets. But he knew, or should have known, that wide open doesn’t exist anymore. There were just too many of these fuckers in the world. So, I dunno what happened. Stine was scared and just panicked, I guess. Maybe after all this time, it finally got to him. The running. The fighting. The hiding. The slow starvation. The loss of friends. The horror of watching the world die one mouthful at a time.

He ran.

Synopsis –

Brian has survived for ten years beyond the end of the world, but he’s not sure why. He’s not even sure if he cares anymore.

When the dead began strolling around and eating people, society was certain to collapse. Brian never realized how lonely a guy could be in a world with six billion hungry zombies hanging around. Or how empty a life of just surviving could be.

Meeting survivors in Brian’s world is dangerous. Living with survivors is almost suicidal. Zombies like large groups of people: the more, the merrier. Caring about people in Brian’s world is insane. How often can someone lose every person they’ve ever known or loved before they just quit trying?

When he hooks up with a new group of survivors, they all find a way to…well…survive together. After so many years, surviving is the easy part. The real challenge: can they find a reason to live? To love? Can they find a reason to hope? Can they remember how to laugh when so much of the world is dark and despairing?

Thoughts –

A short but memorable novella, Parting Shot is a post apocalyptic zombie story with heart. Ten years after the apocalypse and those still left living have figured out how to keep themselves hidden from the undead hordes looking to make a a meal out of them, but they’re beginning to lose the will to keep going at all.

When our protagonist Brian goes against his better judgement and teams up with a small group of friends he begins to gets that feeling again, the feeling that there is something still worth living for. But the monsters are just one step behind and they get closer every minutes. Now, when Brian and his friends actually want to keep living, they might just be the closest they’ve ever been to losing not only their own lives, but the lives of their new family.

Naden chooses his words carefully and in such a small amount of pages paints a poignant and enthralling picture of a world on the edge of annihilation. Through the strength and emotional connections of his characters, Parting Shot is not just any zombie story, it’s a zombie story that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from.

About the Author –

Daniel L. Naden has always been a writer. It’s an affliction, a blessing, a curse… a dominant part of life for as long as he can remember. He has published work in the areas of politics, humor, philosophy, and of course, fiction. Dan’s stories explore the irony in life, through the lens of horror, suspense, and sci-fi. His writing has appeared in great anthologies, like: The Best of Horror Library: Volumes 1-5, The Horror Library: Volume 2, Dark Distortions: Volume 1, and Our Shadow Speak, along with top-notch publications like Dark Recesses Magazine, Vault IX, Astounding Tales, Ragged Edge, and Montage. Dan’s latest novella, Parting Shot is here – from HellBound Books. Dan lives with his wife in Olathe, Kansas.

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‘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. 

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‘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.

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