‘The Perfectly Fine House’ by Stephen Kozeniewski & Wile E. Young – Review

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

***

“Yes, smell. Very good, Jane. And who knows the last sense?”

They were so close, and yet so very, very far. The piece of chalk waggled back and forth through the air, desperately seeking an upraised hand. Bonnie scrunched up her brow, racking her memory, but no matter how she tried, she couldn’t come up with the last one.

Ms. McIntosh sighed. She probably didn’t want to stay late any more than the children did.

“Is there anything in the back of the room that jobs anyone’s memory?”

Bonnie looked over her shoulder in unison with her twenty-seven classmates. As they did every day at this time, the kids’ great-grandparents had lined up at the back of the room in preparation of taking them all home. Bonnie’s Gee-Ga waved at her. She smiled and waved back.

To her, Gee-Ga appeared as crisp and clear as a living person, like her teacher. The other great-grandparents were almost see-through, appearing in different shades of ghostly blacks, whites, and grays. Mrs. Anderson, who she knew from spending many afternoons at Jane’s house, was a little clearer, but still not nearly as sharp as her own relative.

“G… ghostsense?” Eric Conners volunteered tentatively.

“Very good, Eric,” Ms. McIntosh said, “but don’t forget to raise your hand.”

You can also check out my video BookTube review of this book here.

Synopsis –

In an alternate reality where ghosts are as commonplace as the weather, the most terrifying thing imaginable is a house not being haunted.

Donna Fitzpatrick runs a surrogacy agency, where ghosts can briefly possess volunteers in order to enjoy carnal pleasures. She’s also working herself into an early grave. But that’s no big deal because death is no worse than puberty. That’s particularly evident in Donna’s twin, Kyle, a self-absorbed roustabout who spends most of his time high on sage. Kyle’s been in arrested development since his motorcycle accident fifteen years ago.

When Donna has a panic attack, Kyle insists she take a vacation at an abandoned mansion. There’s just one small problem: there isn’t a single ghost in Jackson Manor. And while an unhaunted house seems no worse than an oddity at first, soon ghosts go missing, natural disasters consume entire cities, and every afterlife on earth is threatened by the terrible secret behind… The Perfectly Fine House.

Thoughts –

The Perfectly Fine House is set in a world where the scariest thing is an unhaunted house, but not only this, a house that actively swallows whole ghosts and doesn’t spit them back out again. An interesting look at a parallel universe where death is indisputably not the end but only a small inconvenience to get to a much freer ‘existence’, this novel explores what death means to us, how we would treat our ‘lives’ if we knew for certain this wasn’t the end of the line, and even the complexities of falling in love with a ghost.

Led by some engaging and undeniably likeable characters, The Perfectly Fine House takes an enticing concept and explores it through the lives of both the living and the dead alike. Donna and her twin brother Kyle live very different lives and have very different ideas about how they should be spending their ‘existence’, yet the fact that Kyle died years ago has done very little to dampen their sibling relationship. With time stretching into eternity, there is little to push parents to properly raise their children when they will always have more time, and myriad ghostly relatives to do much of the heavy lifting for them. Exorcists and ghosts experts are seen as your average tradesmen who get called around when any unruly ghost is acting a little too poltergeist for any living neighbours. And only the ultra rich feel the need to have graves and markers to their physical bodies.

While the universe set up in The Perfectly Fine House is unique and interesting, and the characters are rich and engaging, the conclusion of this story felt a little lack luster. Without revealing any spoilers; I was looking forward to a slightly more hopeful ending. The story moved along well and the motivations were set out strongly but the ending felt like a bit of a drag – even the story is mostly about the dead. In saying this though, it was enjoyable to explore this other world with Donna, Kyle, and their community and to think outside the box for a little while.

The Perfectly Fine House is a story about a house with not one single ghostly entity in it – and that is utterly terrifying.

About the Author –

Stephen Kozeniewski lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where, due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s is in German.

Wile E. Young is from Texas, where he grew up surrounded by stories of ghosts and monsters. During his writing career he has managed to both have a price put on his head and publish his southern themed horror stories, both terrifying and bizarre. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in History, which provided no advantage or benefit during his years as an aviation specialist and I.T. guru.

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‘Bad Parts’ by Brandon McNulty – Review

*Disclaimer: this book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review*

***

 

No. Please, no.

Mac thought about the past twenty years and what little he’d done with them. He’d traded his kidneys so he could quit dialysis and enjoy life. Instead, he became hostage to the town while his family had left him behind. More recently, when Alzheimer’s had set in, he’d traded his hippocampus to keep from forgetting them. 

Heat rolled through his brain now, as though flaming coals had been dumped down his ear canal. Already the memories were vanishing. He tried to recall his seventieth birthday, but it left him like smoke through an open window. 

Desperately, he clawed after visions of his birthday. He remembered the picnic table where they’d served his red velvet birthday cake. Remembered his wife, his daughter, and the plastic forks they teasingly poked into his sides. Remembered the laughter in his ears. The smell of their herbal shampoos. The smiles on their faces. 

He had them. 

Then he began to lose them. 

 

Synopsis –

When rock guitarist Ash Hudson suffers a career-ending hand injury, she seeks out the only thing that can heal it–her hometown’s darkest secret.

For decades the residents of Hollow Hills, Pennsylvania, have offered their diseased and injured body parts to a creek demon named Snare. In return, Snare rewards its Traders with healthy replacement parts. There’s only one catch: if Traders leave town, their new parts vanish forever.

Ash wants a new hand, but living in Hollow Hills isn’t an option. Not when her band is one gig away from hitting the big time. Desperate, she bargains with Snare, promising to help the demon complete its organ collection in exchange for both a new hand and the freedom for everyone to leave town.

But bargaining with a creek demon can only end badly…

 

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Thoughts –

Bad Parts is a supernatural horror that will tear the heart right out of you – and it won’t offer a replacement. With a town chocked full of back stabbing individuals balanced on a knife edge, it’s not so much Ash Hudson and her anarchist ways that tip them one way or the other, but the strain of holding onto so many secrets for so long. Trading rotten body parts with a mysterious creek demon who ties you to the land for evermore, will do that to you though.

 

Ash Hudson as a main protagonist is a selfish, egotistical, passionate, and driven woman – so your standard rock musician really. Moulded by a tough childhood, she feels that she is nothing without her musical ability and so her motive to regain her hand, and in time for the biggest gig of her bands ( aptly named Bad Parts) career in a few days, is a damn believable one. But as the story drives on, Ash is shown to be a little less selfish and her motives move from just getting onto that stage, to saving everyone she is only now realising she loves. It’s just a shame that almost everyone in Hollow Hills has their own agenda, and will do anything to keep themselves at the top of the food chain. She’s in it for herself – until she isn’t.

 

McNulty’s visceral prose will definitely make you more aware of your internal organs, and with each page, more and more grateful that your lungs are not full of dirty creek water, or that your neighbours are eyeing up your body parts like ravenous zombies. Though the ‘ending’ begins near the middle of the book, the ‘final boss battle’ seeming to twist and turn like a never ending highway, there isn’t a second to catch your breath as more and more casualties pile up. Bad Parts could have benefited from a few more steadfast characters and a more compact ending, it was a novel that I couldn’t even imagine putting down.

 

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Bad Parts is a tumultuous novel where each characters motive is ever shifting and ever more gore inducing. Secrets, lies, and deception abound in the town of Hollow Hills, and they may just be worse than the demon that instigated them.

 

About the Author –

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Brandon McNulty grew up loving monsters, demons, and the thrill of a great scare. Now he writes supernatural thrillers, horror, and other dark fiction. He is a graduate of Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop and a winner of both Pitch Wars and RevPit. He writes from Pennsylvania. You can find him on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub.

 

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‘Bottom Feeders’ by Jerry Roth – Review

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

***

Above the crackle of burning wood, a scream rose and curdled the blood within him. The tone of the cry cut into his spine with the precision of a sharpened blade. With his heart in his stomach, Ben ran to his home, trying to understand the reason for his pregnant wife’s screams. Frightened legs refused to move fast enough to satisfy his worried mind. Ben pushed his way into the front door, scraping the frame as he hurried. A sighted destined to scar Ben the rest of his life appeared before his as vibrant as a scene from a movie. Lily stood over their area-rug, knees locked together, and blood pooling under her until the beige colored rug turned an angry shade of crimson. The sight haunted his dreams for years to come without the clarity ever fading. When Ben reached his wife, she was shaking as he guided her onto a nearby chair. Her eyes were wide, filled with terror, and gone was any sense of reality. Ben waved a hand in front of her face and snapped his fingers. 

“Lily can you hear me? Please, Lily, talk to me? She turned her head to him – tears rolled down her cheeks. “What happened Lily?” She looked at the bloody carpet. 

“I was dusting, and it felt like my insides were ripping apart,” Lily said. Ben looked at her swollen belly and began to cry. 

 

Synopsis –

Jenny’s son is acting strange and drawing detailed pictures of bloody murders – she has reason to assume that her ex-husband may be to blame. Her new husband Robert has just taken up a new position as warden at the local prison that holds it’s own dark secrets. Finding a hidden diary that tells the tale of a depraved prisoner thought to be the Devil himself, Robert begins to see and feel supernatural happenings.

Mysteries abound, and chains can’t seem to hold the darkness in Jerry Roth’s Bottom Feeders.

 

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Thoughts –

From the first scene that sees a baby being born with no sign of an umbilical cord in sight, you know this novel is not playing nice. Bottom Feeders follows Jenny and her son Zack, along with her new husband Robert and her best friend Liam, as they discover dark secrets with dangerous consequences. Children are disappearing, children that her son is somehow connected with and Jenny has reason to believe it has something to do with her abusive ex-husband. Robert takes up his new post as prison warden only to discover that there is a prisoner living under the jail who should have been sent to the electric chair decades before. Only with the diary of his predecessor found in his enthralling and hypnotic new desk which offers not only old papers, but also new and terrifying visions.

Roth carries the separate story lines well within the book, keeping the reader interested in each thread by creating full and multi-layered characters. As the story progresses it’s clear that few of these characters are likeable but they are believable for the most part.

At times some motivations are not as clear as they could be, serious conversations seemingly erupting forth out of nowhere in otherwise everyday scenarios, yet it is true that each of the characters in this book are very serious themselves. Likewise, Jenny’s ‘evidence’ for her husband being involved in the nefarious goings on are flimsy even for such a deplorable man. But the story as a whole is populated by flawed, passionate characters, who whether you like them or not, you want to find out the end of their stories.

Riddled with twists, turns, and shadows, you will not be able to guess the ending of this novel, the heavy weights that tie all of the threads together. Bottom Feeders hooks you in with what may seem a straight forward path, but the sharps turns it takes you on will leave you shocked.

 

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Exploring the devil in humanity, and the humanity in Lucifer himself, Bottom Feeders spares few, and redeems even fewer.

 

About the Author –

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Jerry Roth is a graduate from The Ohio State University where he studied English Literature. He has written for Ohio newspapers and sports articles for the Disc Golf Pro Tour. His fiction career began as a screenwriter. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife Tricia and his three children Jesse, Lea, and Nick. After reading The Stand by Stephen King, he became passionate about creating his own work of fiction. Bottom Feeders is his debut novel.

 

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‘Butchers’ by Todd Sullivan – Review

*Trigger Warning (the book, not this review): vivid descriptions of violence, torture, and sexual violence*

 

Tonight, Min Gun brought his butchering tools.

He clung to the surface of a rough brick wall five stories up. A bone saw attached to his belt by a thin chain swayed gently in the autumn breeze. He had sheathed his machete on his back beneath a rolled rubber body bag. He gazed into the dark room across from him. Cheol Yu, the target, hadn’t left the building since he’d met Sey-Mi, a high school student wearing a plaid skirt and short sleeved white shirt. Somewhere, behind the opaque windows of the apartment, Cheol Yu was with her, alone. 

Min Gun’s superior, Jun Young, clung to the wall beside him. A wood-handled axe dangled in a leather sling at his side, his machete strapped to his waist. Where Min Gun carried a body bag, Jun Young had a leather weapon case strapped to his back. The company had tasked the two with arresting the suspect. Min Gun hoped Cheol Yu resisted enough so that he would be forced to kill him, saving him from months of torture. 

That would be his noble deed of the day. 

 

Synopsis –

Kidnapped, turned, and locked away in a concrete basement, high school student Sey-Mi is taught the ways of the damned. Her captors, beautiful and malignant, cruel and insane, torture her until she pledges allegiance to the Gwanlyo, a secret organization of vampires now obsessed with bringing her into their ranks. But has Sey-Mi really sworn loyalty to such an obscenely cruel organisation? Or will she side with the rogue agents hell-bent on bringing the Gwanlyo to their knees?

 

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Thoughts –

Set in the urban city of Seoul, South Korea, Butchers lives up to it’s harsh and violent name. Following Sey-Mi as her life is thrown into disarray Sullivan weaves a tale of brutality, power, and control. A seventeen year old girl chosen to join the ranks of the Gwanlyo, an ancient vampiric organisation that expects compliance to their rules and will employ the harshest of punishments for anyone foolish enough to cross them, fights to see her family again.

Sey-Mi is dragged into an immortal life that she never asked for and now has to serve a tyrannical organisation set on breaking her mind and making it there own. But if there’s one thing a teenage girl doesn’t like, it’s being told what to do. And Sey-Mi is not alone in her thoughts. There are other agents of the Gwanlyo that are sick of their rules and their torture. Sullivan brings us on a story of resilience, savagery, and deception.

There is no question that Butchers has a lot of violence, some of which could be characterised as gratuitous, or unnecessary, though the story and characters are strong enough to balance out the blood-shed. Sullivan’s writing flows well enough that the flashes of sadism do not overwhelm the plot – and you end up hating the Gwanlyo just as much as their victims.

 

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Butchers is an apt name for a novella chocked full of torture and tyranny, but behind the pain and the cruelty are those determined to stop it once and for all.

 

About the Author –

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Todd Sullivan took his first serious writing class in 1995 and has been writing ever since. In the early 2000’s Sullivan moved to Jeju, South Korea, where he taught English in the public school system for five years. He currently lives in Seoul, and is studying the Korean language at Yonsei University. He is also working on a speculative fiction/urban horror novel that takes place in Korea.

 

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‘Shepard’s Warning’ by Cailyn Lloyd – Review

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

****

 

He froze.

The broad oak floorboards undulated, a low rumbling sound, the same sound he heard earlier, but louder, more pressing. The house shook and trembled as if the ground beneath the foundation were in the grip of an earthquake. It all happened in seconds. Tom stood, gripped by morbid fascination and fear. A dizzy, nauseous feeling swept through him. He bent over, thinking he would throw up. 

Another slamming door jolted Tom from his trance. He had to get the hell out of here! Jesus! The floorboards were clattering like a mad drum brigade. He turned and ran down the hall, toward the stairs. Ahead, door at the end of the long hallway pushed ajar – just an inch or two. Bright sunlight spilled through that crack and the keyhole, down the dark hallway, a surreal contrast between the sudden calamity indoors and the serene July afternoon outside. Cheerful birdsong, from beyond that door perhaps, completed the insanity. 

Drawn to the doorway like a moth to a lamp, he felt powerless to resist the attraction of whatever lay beyond the threshold. Light emanating from the room grew brighter and warmer. He drifted down the hallway, clenching his fists for a moment, trying to shake the anxiety, trying to regain his composure. The floorboards rattled beneath his feet, the ominous rumbling continued, danger lurked around him – but not beyond the door. He just knew it. 

He took a deep breath. 

Reached for the knob. Hesitated. 

Pulled the door open – 

 

 

Synopsis –

For years the abandoned MacKenzie mansion remained hidden in rural Wisconsin. Rumors and stories of apparitions, odd noises, accidents, and strange deaths in or near the property were enough to convince the townsfolk it was haunted and they stayed away.

Lucas MacKenzie and his brother Nate know nothing of this when they inherit the property and decide to bring their families to Wisconsin for a major renovation project with HGTV stardom in mind. As they tear out old fixtures and open shuttered windows, the house begins to reveal secrets of a terrible past and it soon becomes clear the MacKenzies are in grave danger. In the end, only one person can save them.

 

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Thoughts –

In Shepard’s Warning Lloyd crafts a story of tension mystery and more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Switching from multiple points of view the novel builds to a dizzying conclusion that satisfies the reader without playing into their expectations. Laura, the most frequented point of view in the book, carries the story through believable loneliness, seclusion, and disbelief towards the frightening and supernatural things that are happening to her, and perhaps through her.

With so many other characters however, at times some can seem more important than they actually are and there are loose ends and questions unanswered by the curtain close. But with the main characters and plot largely resolved, Shepard’s Warning delivers on its promise of a dark and intriguing story.

 

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With ancient magic, cautionary ghosts, generations of mysterious deaths, and a family crumbling, Shepard’s Warning delivers a dark story meaty enough to keep you hooked to the very end.

 

 

About the Author –

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In addition to writing, Cailyn Lloyd is an accomplished weather photographer and her work has appeared in several publications including Life Magazine and Time Magazine. She is also a composer and musician with three album releases to her credit. Cailyn lives near the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin and when she’s not writing spooky stories, loves hiking with her children and dogs.

 

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What’s your favourite ancient ghost story? Would you like to see more generational curses in your horror content? Let me know down below!