‘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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‘The Edgewood Nightmare’ by Conor Metz – Review

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

***

Jumping up onto her bed, she made a second leap onto her brother’s. His bed wasn’t quite a bunk bed on top of hers – it was adjacent, but elevated about two feet above hers to allow a small fort space underneath where they could hang out and hide stuff. Of course, the benefits of it were mostly lost on Kurt who was plagued by nightmares in his younger years that a troll or some such creature lurked below while he slept, just waiting for the right time to strike and gobble him up.

Maddie thought such stuff was ridiculous. She was never afraid of much, mainly because she knew monsters didn’t exist. She was more scared of things that seemed possible to her like ghosts, witches, and serial killers. The last was something her parents were always warning her about. Don’t take candy from strangers, don’t get into vans with older men, don’t wander off while in public places. When she was younger, most of these warnings were lost on her, but she was smart enough these days to take their advice. There were too many kids that seemed to disappear and this sort of thing did manage to put some fear in her, but for the most part their neighborhood was safe. The one thing she did need to watch out for was the other kids nearby.

They had problems.

Synopsis –

Maddie Durant is trying to enjoy a snow day in December when she finds herself suddenly trapped in a world of endless, inescapable nightmares. Unfortunately for the small community of Edgewood, she’s not the only one. As four other young girls go missing in the span of a few hours, the Wakefield Police have their hands full trying to find out who took them.

And things aren’t looking good.

The lone detective on the police force has few clues and little hope of locating the girls, but Maddie’s brother thinks he may know where she’s hidden. With the help of her best friend, the pair aren’t going to let their parents or the police stop them from finding the missing girls.

Meanwhile, the girls will have to work together and summon their courage if they hope to escape a horrible fate. But without any answers to who took them and why, it’s anyone’s guess who will make their way out of the Edgewood nightmare.

Thoughts –

The Edgewood Nightmare is the latest YA story from Conor Metz. In this alluring and mysterious tale, a small town is afflicted with young girls disappearing within hours of each other. As their families and the local police detective scramble to find any clue as to where they may be or who may have taken them, the girls wake up in a living nightmare. A dreamscape that seems to look into the darkest corners of their minds and recreates their worst nightmares. Only be learning to harness their imaginations and master their fears will they ever manage to escape this hellscape and discover who did this to them.

The Edgewood Nightmare will have you on the edge of your seat, rooting for this rag tag group of young girls using their knowledge of movies and video games to save each other. Not to mention their family and friends on the outside who are not about to give up looking for them. Metz gives the reader an undeniable feeling of camaraderie and reflects the strength and bonds of such young friends perfectly. As the adults deal with the real world logic and rules, the kids fight fear itself and create their own logic and rules to do it. The Edgewood Nightmare is dark, mysterious, and an entertaining read. With a 90’s nostalgic feel and reminiscent at times of the haunting Freddie Krueger and his Nightmare on Elm Street, this is a great one to read if you’re having trouble sleeping…

About the Author –

CONOR METZ was born in Renton, Washington in 1984. His early years exposed him to a variety of outlandish films, novels, and comics books, which have shaped him into the writer he is today. He currently lives in Bellevue, Washington.

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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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‘Chatroom With A View’ by Glenn Maynard – Review

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

***

The wind gusts reached into the woods and sporadically shifted the little log cabin at its base, and the raindrops thumped the structure with a little more vigor when they did. It wasn’t that it was a threatening storm, but it created enough of a commotion to jolt Troy Cullen back into the world in which he was not a very big fan. The gray, sticky afternoon in late July contained enough heat to bring on this afternoon thunderstorm, but much more accompanied the storm beyond the clouds and the thunder and the rain.

Troy looked around the room from the floor of this long structure and with hazy vision saw his father on the hardwood floor across from him. Neither of them moved like the approaching storm. Turning his head to the left, he could see his house through the window. In fact, he could see the window of his bedroom from his current position inside this little cabin in the back yard. He was on the other side looking in not long ago, but a lot had changed since then. In the matter of an hour, his entire world had turned upside down.

Synopsis –

Lizzie Borden took an axe . . . and so goes the song depicting the 1892 axe murders of her father and step-mother. Research indicates that a killer gene could be passed down through generations of family members, and evidence begins with Lizzie’s ancestor who murdered his mother in 1673. Chatroom with a View opens with a bone-chilling episode, and what’s left of Troy Cullen’s dysfunctional family keeps him even further from the normal integration with society. Troy’s life further unravels when his ex-girlfriend, Veronica, announces that she is pregnant. Troy loses control and plots to do unto others as they have done unto him. When Veronica digs into his family’s past, she exposes this killer gene; she must try to balance her obsession for a family with shielding herself and their baby from evil. But Troy has his own agenda, resulting in an epic showdown. 

Thoughts –

Chatroom With a View explores the intersections and interactions of characters that are in dire need of a therapist. Beginning with the young and troubled Troy Cullen, desperate to protect his mother from his violent and abusive father, Troy feels let down by the world and by himself. Now having to work with two women who bullied him in high school and hearing that they are still up to their immoral shenanigans, he decides to take covert action against them, but quickly crosses the line between giving them a taste of their own medicine, and becoming the monster himself.

But as Troy is struggling not to become like his father, and failing miserably, a girl from his past shows up again too inform him that she is pregnant with his child. Not taking no for an answer, Victoria is determined to create her perfect family with the reluctant Troy, no matter what he is hiding in his father’s cabin. Discovering that Troy may have a hereditary disposition for violence, and so might her unborn son, Victoria believe she can nurture this nature out of them.

Chatroom With a View is a roller coaster ride of bad reactions and even worse decisions. Rather than investing in a few well needed, therapy sessions, every character in this story leans into their darkest and most irrational ideas much to the detriment of everyone around them. With small touches on the theory of nature versus nurture when it comes to violence and even murder, as well as the role of family on one’s own mental struggles, this is a novel that attempts to shed some light on the darker motivations that some people have. Representing the self titled victims of the cruelty of women is Troy, and representing the perfect ten women who just seem to be too much for people is Victoria – at no point should these psyche’s meet, but unfortunately they do.

While Maynard’s writing is enjoyable and his character’s solid enough, the decisions made and actions taken by many of the characters in the story felt very rash and unpredictable. It was difficult to get a handle on what Troy’s priorities were and how far he was willing to go to stroke his own ego. Victoria’s mental health issues were more overt, but Troy’s complete disconnect with reality has them on the same level for much of the story. But the story does take an interesting look at the downward spiral of a young man on the outskirts of society with violence in his blood.

About the Author –

Glenn Maynard has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Connecticut as well as a degree in Communications. After spending four years living in Denver, Colorado, he returned home to Connecticut and now resides in Wethersfield. Glenn Maynard is the author of ‘Strapped into an American Dream’ that details the one-year journey through the forty-eight continental states, Canada and Mexico in an RV. At one time he was a correspondent for three newspapers during his travels. To learn more about Glenn, you can visit his website here.

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‘Dark Hilarity’ by Joseph Sale – Review

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

***

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

Synopsis –

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

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

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

Thoughts –

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

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

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

About the Author –

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

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

He is obsessed with Attack on Titan and Community.

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