‘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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‘Shelter for the Damned’ by Mike Thorn – Review

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

***

Mark had been half-listening to his friends, but he said nothing. Adam paced and readjusted his hood. He shot a glance at Scott that said, Stop being such a baby.

Scott flattened his shirt with the palms of his hands, then stood still. He tried to look aloof, but looked scared shitless instead.

Mark continued staring at the place, all frayed splinters of wood and flat, desiccated walls. He would almost feel its texture, simply by looking at it.

“Who the fuck would live there?” Adam directed the question at no on in particular.

It looked impossibly weathered, transformed by age. Mark couldn’t help but notice that, by some unexplainable stroke of luck or happenstance, it was untouched by late-night prowlers and graffiti artists. It wore no evidence of vandalism, no etchings or street tags.

Synopsis –

While looking for a secret place to smoke cigarettes with his two best friends, troubled teenager Mark discovers a mysterious shack in a suburban field. Alienated from his parents and peers, Mark finds within the shack an escape greater than anything he has ever experienced.

But it isn’t long before the place begins revealing its strange, powerful sentience. And it wants something in exchange for the shelter it provides.

Shelter for the Damned is not only a scary, fast-paced horror novel, but also an unflinching study of suburban violence, masculine conditioning, and adolescent rage.

Thoughts –

Shelter for the Damned is a tale of violence, adolescence, and the price of being silenced. Following three young boys as they try their damndest to navigate their complicated lives while grappling with father’s who are violent, arrogant, controlling, and alcoholic, trying to find their own sense of identity and masculinity, Thorn creates a tale that is bitter, heart-wrenching, and disturbing.

The discovery of an abandoned shack, seemingly untouched by any other’s hands, the boys each experience their own feelings about it. Scott and Adam are wary of the place, uncertain about coming back even for a place to smoke in peace. But Mark is drawn to it like an addict to their drug of choice. For him it is a place where he feels at peace, where he can escape the constant threat of violence at home, the feeling of being unheard, the feeling of being an outcast. For Mark, he will do anything to get back to the shack, and the shack will ask just that of him.

Dealing with themes of familial tension, coming of age growing pains, and an otherworldly darkness creeping into ‘safe’ suburban lives, Thorn shows his skill as a story teller, a character builder, and an adept horror writer.

A young boy soon learns that you can take the boy out of the shack, but you can’t take the shack out of the boy.

About the Author –

Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours and the novel Shelter for the Damned (coming soon from JournalStone). His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including VastarienDark Moon DigestThe NoSleep Podcast and Tales to Terrify.

His film criticism has been published in MUBI NotebookThe Film StageSeventh Row and Vague Visages.

Visit his website. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.

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‘They All Died Screaming’ by Kristopher Triana – Review

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

***

“I’m too drunk to fig this god-damned grave.”

Still holding the bottle, the man cleared sweat from his brow with his forearm. In his other hand was the shovel he’d barely made a dent in the earth with. The hole was no bigger than a fish tank. The boy gazed into the grainy abyss, frowning. He knew what was coming.

The shovel was tossed to him.

The man snorted. “Best get started while there’s still some light.”

There was no sunshine here, just the muted glow of another overcast day. They were beneath concrete heavens, toiling in a hell of weeds, poison ivy, and fruitless bramble. The stench of pig feces dominated every other odor, cancelling the fresh, spring scent of the woodland on the edge of the farm.

Blowing out a snot-rocket, the man stumbled to a tree stump and sat down slowly, holding his lower back. His vertebrae cracked like Jiffy Pop. The boy used to love popcorn. He missed it. He missed lots of things. Settled, the man took another pull on the whiskey. Some trickled down his chin and his tongue darted out to lick it up, a frog after a fly. The boy watched him with tired eyes before turning back to the hole where a single worm wiggled as its newfound freedom. He wondered if the man would have killed it if he’d seen it. if the creature was worthy of the man’s mercy, if it met the criteria of his aberrant morality.

Pushing the shovel into the dirt, the boy raised a small clump containing the worm, tossing it aside so it could live. On the ground beside it, the mildewed army bag was a grim reminder of those creatures who’d been far less fortunate.

Synopsis –

It’s called The Scream…

Once you get it, you simply cannot stop screaming.

You can’t eat or sleep. It drives you more and more insane until you can’t stand to be alive a second longer.

When the phenomenon hits Chuck’s city, the chronically unemployed pervert joins a band of misfits to make his final stand.

Can Chuck, a bitter bartender, a dockside prostitute, a conspiracy theorist, and a homeless man find a way out of the apocalypse…

Or will they all die screaming?

Thoughts –

A bleak and harrowing look at a world gone mad, They All Died Screaming is a splatterpunk novel that comes with the usual trigger warnings; gore, violence, sexual assault, and bodily fluids appearing in places they have no right to be. Yet the fiction of this novel is all too close to reality. Depicting the world’s descent into a virus of pandemic proportions through the eyes of a group of self proclaimed deadbeats, alcoholics, perverts, and those damaged beyond repair, Triana does not hold back in displaying the dark inner workings of the human mind and the actions that often follow.

They All Died Screaming has two plotlines that eventually coalesce, the first being the low maintenance life of Chuck the alcoholic who fancies ever increasingly younger women and his attempts to find some kind of worthwhile human interaction, before all human life is snuffed out by ‘The Scream’. One the other side of the page, we have the sickening story of a young boy kidnapped by a pig farmer who refuses to sell his pigs as meat – but there’s another delicacy on the menu that the boy needs to get used to fast.

Behind all the blood, vomit, violence, and despicable viewpoints of most of the characters, there are plenty of truths in this novel. Reflecting a society that treats its children, particularly young girls as meat, as a nuisance to use and get rid of at will, as well as one that pushes the downtrodden and in need to the margins where their situations can only get worse, They All Died Screaming‘s true horror is how close it is to reality. Triana’s writing is impeccable and his storytelling unforgettable.

A novel that will haunt your waking nightmares, and make you wonder where your meat is really coming from.

About the Author –

Kristopher Triana is the author of Full Brutal, Gone to See the River Man, Shepherd of the Black Sheep, The Ruin Season, Toxic Love and more.

His fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies and has been translated into multiple languages, drawing praise from Publisher’s Weekly, Cemetery Dance, Rue Morgue, Scream, The Ginger Nuts of Horror and others.

Full Brutal won the Splatterpunk Award for Best Horror Novel of 2018.

He lives in Connecticut.

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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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