‘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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‘Corpsing’ by Kayleigh Marie Edwards – Review

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

***

Brian crinkled his nose in disgust of the information he now regretted receiving, and quickly checked the labels on the boxes. He squinted, realising he’d left his glasses in his car, but they both seemed to spell the same thing. He grabbed a vial and a syringe and fled from the infirmary before he heard something else he didn’t want to.

By the time he got back to the ward all hell had broken loose. A chorus of howls was reaching fever pitch in a battle against an opposing symphony of terrified screams. Rice was peering out of his window, silent and appearing to enjoy the madness he’d created. Brian ran into Bachman’s room, fiddling with the syringe wrapper as he went.

Janet was trying to force Bachman down onto his bed. Brian handed the sedative and syringe to her and took over. He managed, though with difficulty, to overpower the little old guy and get him lying down.

  • ‘Bitey Bachman’

Synopsis –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards has been entertaining and chilling audiences with her own eclectic mix of horror and comedy. Now, for the first time, this popular author has collected her works together, reviewing and revising each one to bring you the definitive versions of her unique tales.

From murderous children to nightmarish trips to an ill-fated zombie apocalypse, Corpsing will send you running for the light switch, but smiling as you do it.

Featuring the stories: Bitey Bachman, Bits and Bobs, Siren, Now You See Them, Skin, ‘S’ Day, Barry’s Last Day & ’Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Thoughts –

Exploring themes of adolescence, monsters, and humour, Kayleigh Marie Edwards new collection, Corpsing is a set of eight dark tales that will keep you hooked to the last page.

While no story in this collection could be seen as a ‘miss’, my favourites would include the story ‘Skin’ which tells the tale of a young girl’s painful loss of innocence through a seemingly innocuous spider bite and a knuckle head boyfriend. Another gem had the air of a Douglas Adams piece – ‘S Day’ tells the story of a global and unique pestilence wrought on the world by an annoying child. Aptly sticking to the title of the collection, each of these stories has a combination of dark terror and humorous antics woven into them, accompanied by compelling characters and writing that flows from Edwards fingers like an inky river.

Corpsing is a horror collection that lets a crack of light into the darkness of it’s pages, and marks Kayleigh Marie Edwards as a dark fiction writer to watch in the future.

You’ll laugh, you might cry, but you will keep turning those pages.

About the Author –

Kayleigh Marie Edwards is a writer of fiction, reviews, articles, and theatre plays. Finding that horror and comedy tend to go hand-in-hand, she exclusively writes in these genres, and enjoys combining them. She believes that there’s no problem in life that can’t be solved with a good laugh, or a good scare.

She can be found listing horror movie facts at spookyisles.com, and has a page called ‘Challenge Kayleigh’ at gingernutsofhorror.com, in which horror fans challenge her to positively review the very ‘worst’ movies that the genre has to offer. She lives alone in her house of horrors with her cat. She she’s fine with it.

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‘The Suicide Lake’ by Michael Penning – Review

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis –

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

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

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

Thoughts –

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

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

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

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

About the Author –

Michael Penning is an award-winning screenwriter and bestselling author of horror and suspense. He is an avid fan of Halloween, haunted houses, and things that go bump in the night. When he’s not coming up with creative ways to scare the hell out of people, he enjoys travelling, photography, and brewing beer. He lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, and their black lab, Salem. Sign up for Michael’s newsletter at www.michaelpenning.com for free giveaways and new release updates. 

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