‘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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‘Howls from the Dark Ages: A Medieval Horror Anthology – Review

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

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There’s something delicious about medieval images of Hell too, isn’t there? None of this existential Hell is other people hooey. When you come to medieval Hell, you’re in for torture, devils, fire, and seas of the damned that are nauseating in their scope. Medieval Catholicism didn’t fuck around. It was in a fight to the death, not only with Islam, secularism, and much older indigenous religions; it was amputating and burning mutations in the DNA of its own teachings. You would not only go to Hell for murder; you’d go for heresy. You’d go for believing Christ was only spirit and never had a body. You’d go for not believing the bread you at at Mass was Christ’s body.

So Hell had to be really good at being really bad.

It had to be worse than the short, overworked, oppressed, shame-filled, opiate free life of war, famine and plague its underfed population lived from day to day and season to season.

And you know what?

It almost was.

Come and see, come and see.

– Foreword extract by Christopher Buehlman

Synopsis –

HOWL Society Press presents Howls From the Dark Ages, a horror anthology with 18 thrilling tales of medieval macabre and a foreword by Christopher Buehlman, author of Between Two Fires.

Thoughts –

With a range of ideas, cultures, and curiosities, Howls from the Dark Ages takes the reader back through time and puts the real DARK in dark ages. Accompanying each story is an equally curious and intriguing illustration of an object from that story, tying the whole anthology together as a fanciful tour through an ominous museum.

Ranging from the expected medieval age of England where monks find themselves confined to monasteries where devils disguise themselves as angels and forbidden loves are struck down by mysterious glowing mushrooms, to Irish mercenaries accepting a well earned drink at a feast that may lead to even more bloodshed, and an arranged marriage haunted by the ghost of a jilted lover. Each story is more dark and mysterious than the last and there is something for every horror reader, whether you enjoy ghosts, monsters, or just plain murder.

It was also refreshing to see great queer representation in this collection, as well as having a look at the medieval time period in different countries and cultures around the world.

Howls from the Dark Ages is an entertaining and frightening read, and the inclusion of the museum tour guide and the dark illustrations ties everything together beautifully.

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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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