‘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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‘Diaries of the Damned’ by Ivan Radev – Review

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

***

Foreword (Extract)

This is a book of fears. Manifesting themselves as malicious monsters, my mind’s maladies formed crooked, misshapen phrases. Thus, they merged with reality. This release fully intends to give nightmares, shed tears, carve gentle scars into the soul of the reader. It is evil.

“Diaries of the Damned” is a work of fiction, but the feelings it expresses and evokes are all too real. There’s rampaging existential dread, psychological pain, loneliness, angst, and absolute, abominable horror. It is a hand that grips at the neck with no remorse, no compassion, nothing but the desire to blacken everything it touches.

However, I wish it also brings hope. After all, only light can cast shadows. The splendor of the stars, the magnificence of the mountains, the vastness of the universe are all beautiful things that make our existence seem small and meaningless. We are all too human: our lives are short, and death is the great validation that we ever lived.

Synopsis –

This anthology is not for the faint of heart and easily disturbed. All eleven narrators suffer from mental affliction, excruciating existential dread, or terminal despair. This book is evil. It is absolutely capable of inducing nightmares and scarring the mind. The characters within are ruthlessly relatable; they are normal people who drew the short straw. They got sick or old or just lost it all.

Beware the Damned! They are trapped inside wailing, waiting for a willing victim, a witness to their tales and tears.

Thoughts –

Diaries of the Damned from Ivan Radev is a collection of eleven stories told in some form by a narrator. Whether through diary style entries, interview transcripts, or online blog posts, the stories in this collection are all linked by one common thread – each narrator has an overwhelming and universal fear that is exposed through the telling of their story. This was a five star collection for me because not a single one of these stories was a miss, every single one was a hit. From the slow building tension and Lovecraftian horror of ‘The Transcript of Timothy Parker’s Interrogation, Deep Dive (Unsaved)’, to the dark and modern humour of ‘The Incident At the Toilet Paper Aisle’, Radev shows his considerable scope with pacing, language, voice, and strong and relatable characters.

Among some of the themes and fears explored in this collection are the fear of loneliness, of losing the person that you love the most, as well as the inevitability of time marching inexorably forward, and death itself. On the other hand, there are some narrators that embody the thing that is to be feared. Each story is told from a first person perspective in some way, thus the ‘diaries’ theme, but this never felt repetitive or overplayed, he did well in bringing variety into the collection.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and will definitely be perusing these stories again at some point.

About the Author –

Ivan Radev is a literary horror writer with an obsession for the arts, the absurd, the existential, the eclectic. His stories range from the naively romantic to the dreadfully deranged. One can find equal measures psychological pain and philosophical peace in his content. His writing might appeal to readers of Albert Camus, Edgar Allan Poe, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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‘Nocturnal Salvation’ by Villimey Mist – Review

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

***

The crooked cabin bathroom mirror presents me a nightmare. The rhythmic hums of a heartbeat echo in my ears and they serenade my hunger. My breathing is ragged and fast, yet my heartbeat doesn’t rise. My teeth ache.

My long, sharp, canine teeth.

“This can’t be happening,” I mutter to myself over and over again. “It’s a dream. It must be.”

I cover my face with trembling hands, refusing to look at my reflection. Shuddering breaths escape my lips. I don’t feel warm. Not cold, either. I’m somewhere in between, and it terrifies me. I sway to the side. It’s like there’s a rock in my throat; no matter how many times I gulp, nothing comes out.

“I’m afraid it’s pretty real.”

I freeze. It’s a voice I’ve yearned to hear for almost a year. A voce that shouldn’t be here.

I spread my fingers and peek through. My heart finally beats faster and replaces the rock in my throat.

“You’re dead.” My voice is a hoarse whisper as I look at my late sister, Sophie, sitting on the bathroom counter.

“Am I?” she teases.

I grip the glass pendant around my neck. “This is made from your ashes. I watched you die. How are you here?”

Sophie shrugs. “Dunno.”

In the mirror, Sophie grins at me. Bile rises in my throat. I grip the side of the sink as my legs don’t feel sturdy anymore.

“You can’t be a ghost. They’re not real.”

“Ah, you thought the same with vampires, though.” Sophie wags a finger.

“So, are you a ghost?”

Sophie shrugs again. “Dunno.”

Synopsis –

Leia Walker has become the monster she feared.
Turned into a vampire against her will, she struggles to adjust while protecting her younger brother.

Across the world, humans and vampires are becoming bloodthirsty—feral beasts spawned by Adam Levant, a dangerous, sun-immune vampire. The people of Europe don’t know their fate hinges on a young woman and her group of vampires and vampire hunters. Time is ticking, and Leia must find a cure for Adam’s deadly blood. Her search leads to a reluctant alliance between her vampire guardians and the Owls, the hunters. Together, they venture to Atlanta to find a toxicologist from Adam’s past.

Caught between chasing a cure and holding on to her sanity, can Leia find a way to control her Hunger and stop Adam for good… or will she doom her fellow vampires and the rest of the world?

Thoughts –

The third instalment in the Nocturnal series from Villimey Mist, Nocturnal Salvation sees our protagonist Leia Walker becoming the thing she hates the most. Turned into a vampire after narrowly saving her brother, she now has to use her new found powers to defeat Adam – the rogue experiment gone wrong who is hell-bent on destroying humanity and vampires alike. His plan to infect the world with his own blood, which causes anyone exposed to it, to become a mindless and violent ghoul, must be stopped at all costs. Once again Leia’s vampire friends and the vampire hunters must team up to put an end to this global threat.

Throughout the story Leia is plagued not only by the hunger that she can barely control, afraid even to hurt the brother that she just saved, but also by the ghost of her dead sister who pulled her into this world of blood thirsty beasts in the first place. Finding the courage and self-discipline to use her new strengths for good, is complicated even further by the ever feuding vampires and vampire hunters. This third book shows Leia’s progression and growth as a young woman from the naïve and anxiety riddled girl in the first book, to the a confident leader and compassionate fighter willing to do what it takes to keep others safe. She is a protagonist that it is impossible not to root for.

As the book moves from Europe, back to America, we are introduced to even more vampire sects, alliances and grudges, and just how deep the rabbit hole of vampiric reach goes. A well-paced and action packed novel, this is a vampire series for those readers who are looking for more than just romance. With the Nocturnal series you will get strong familial and platonic bonds, deep friendships, conflicting motives, and of course – plenty of blood shed.

And what’s more – I thought this would be the end of the series, and despite the author themselves assuming this on starting the book, it looks like there may be another part to Leia’s story. So, stay tuned for that.

About the Author –

Villimey has always been fascinated by vampires and horror, ever since she watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula when she was a little, curious girl.
She loves to read and create stories that pop into her head unannounced.
She lives in Iceland with her husband and two cats, Skuggi and RoboCop, and is often busy drawing or watching the latest shows on Netflix.

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‘Grim Fate’ by Nicho Young – Review

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

***

The autumn leaves slowly tumbled to the ground in a graceful dance that reminded the man of a dream he had once upon a time. In the dream there were men and women whirling in ceremonial dress around a child who was lying on the ground, completely silent. Everything was in slow motion, and while it could have been a peaceful scene, there was something wrong about it. It struck the man as more of a warning and less of a dream; almost as if there were clues he was supposed to follow in order to understand the basic nature of the scene playing out before him.

The child, an infant, was watching the procession with understanding in its eyes, as if it already knew what the dance was for, and why it was being performed. There was something ritualistic to the movements; an appeasement dance perhaps, or a dance to ward off some unseen evil spirit. An itch at the back of the man’s head told him there was something familiar with the scene, something more than simply a dream, but then he had awakened. It had happened as soon as he was noticed as a bystander of the dance. And, as dreams most often do, the details had begun to fade the moment the man’s eyes adjusted to the darkness in his room. Most dreams of this nature drifted out of the head completely, and this one was no exception, until the man watched the swirling autumn leaves gracefully descend to the earth below.

Synopsis –

Marcus Grimm is a paranormal investigator who has made a living determining if supernatural events are occurring. Although he has a special intuition and connection to the Otherworld, he remains a skeptic, which allows him to figure out if there is a genuine event or if a family is trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame.

When Marcus meets John Billings and his children at their house, he has a sense that the events John describes are very real. As Marcus explores the house for signs of supernatural activity he not only learns more about himself, but uncovers truths that will change his life forever.

And he discovers that sometimes accepting invitations can have dire consequences.

Thoughts –

Grim Fate follows a paranormal investigator called to a house by the father of two young children. His wife has just died and he is concerned about some strange activities that are happening in the home that may be affecting his children. Our protagonist, Marcus, has been in a situation before where it was the parent harming the children so he is wary of any red flags when investigating the house, but little does he know, there’s a lot more going on here than even that.

Soon he is interviewing the children and discovering that there certainly are otherworldly forces at play in this house, both manipulative, both relentless, and both set to change the course of Marcus’s life forever. Through his supernatural abilities, the reader gets to know more about Marcus’s own life as well as the life of the family and the children he is trying to protect from this dark and dangerous entity in their home. And it is not clear which side the children’s father is really on.

While there is an interesting premise and good writing in Grim Fate, you are thrown in very much at the deep end. I would have liked to have spent a little more time with the family and the children in the ‘here and now’, instead of immediately delving into past experiences and memories. It gave the story a bit of an unstable feeling and made the climax in the real shared reality feel brittle to the touch. In saying that though, the story itself has its own unique layers and will interest any reader who is into ghosts, demons, and paranormal horror.

About the Author –

Nicho Young grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in the state of Washington with his wife and 3 (soon-to-be 4) children. When he is not writing he can be found playing with his kids, live streaming online, and watching shows and movies with his wife.

Writing has always been a passion of his and he is excited to be able to share his storytelling with the world. Grim Fate is his debut novel, and he plans on continuing to write and bring stories to everyone for decades to come.

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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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