‘The Scavenger’ by Aidan Lucid – Review

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

***

The school bell rang to sound the end of science class. Soon the halls of Hopps Town High School thronged with students. Some, like Jared Duval, put books they no longer needed for the day into their lockers. Others just chatted for a few seconds before going to the next class. Jared, 17, African American of medium height and athletic build, turned the key in his locker door to lock it. He idolized the actor Will Smith and sported the same hairstyle that Mr. Smith had in the early nineties.

Jared froze as he heard an all too familiar taunting voice.

“Well, if it isn’t our resident queer,” said Lydia Moran. Lydia, 16, small with cherry red pigtails and purple-framed glasses covering her blue eyes, looked the picture of innocence. Everyone knew she was anything but that. For two years, she tormented Jared, leaving notes shoved in his locker or bag when he wasn’t looking; sending him crude Facebook messages or teasing him in front of her friends. He learned a long time ago the best way to deal with bullies was to ignore them or show no fear, or both.

Synopsis –

Three Separate Wishes. One Twisted Nightmare

Just like Hopps Town, their humble home, Jessica Barlow, Jared Duval, and Adrian Cole are fostering dark secrets. Plagued by loss, cruelty, and physical abuse, these friends are kindred spirits, bound by anguish and elusive dreams. They’re soon to find the key to change, but any happy future will demand they face a haunting past and brave a lethal present.

Deep in the forest on the outskirts of town, aging and nearly forgotten, there stands a well from another time. Happening upon this relic, Adrian goads his companions to join him in making a wish. Soon, difficult though it is to admit, their luckless lives do seem to shift. The only problem is, the changes aren’t at all as they’d imagined. Seemingly, they’ve only left the pan to face the fire.

Should they hope to both survive and thrive, they’ll need to pool their wits and draw on mystic inner-power. Solving Hopps Town’s greatest mystery now means life or death.

Thoughts –

The Scavenger is the familiar story of ‘be careful what you wish for’ with a little added pinch of evil. A YA horror story that takes the lives of three struggling teens and gives them exactly what they want; a loving parent, attention from an unrequited love, and saving from a relentless bully. A simple wish made by the old fashioned throwing of a coin in a well, leads these teens to realise that though their lives are far from perfect, things can be a lot worse.

Jared is a young gay teen struggling with his religious mother and her refusal to accept him as he is, while being bullied daily by a popular girl at school. Jessica lives with an alcoholic and abusive mother, dodging daily beatings and punishments for just existing. And Adrian seems to be the better off of the three, but still has issue with his lone parent father who expects nothing from him but never ending commitment to sport. These three characters are laid out in detail, built up throughout the story, and entice to reader into their unfortunate story.

Lucid has created a modern YA horror tale with traditional roots and evils that any adolescent, or adult for that matter could enjoy. A story that illustrates very real issues in modern teen lives and mixes in plenty of supernatural horror as well.

About the Author –

Aidan Lucid began writing in 2002 after having a religious experience. Since then, his works have appeared in national and international poetry anthologies, magazines, and e-zines. In October 2019, Lucid released his debut fantasy novel, The Lost Son, and book one in The Zargothian Saga trilogy. He plans to release its sequel in summer 2021, and book two of, The Hopps Town Duology in fall of 2021. In his spare time, Aidan likes to read, meditate, listen to music and go to the movies with his wife, Claire. You can find him on Facebook here, Twitter here, and Instagram here.

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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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‘Terror of Breakspear Hall’ by F.R. Jameson – Review

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

***

“Who’s next, darling?” asked Simone.

Robin grinned at her across their surprisingly small, twin hotel room. He was knowing and confident, having already worked it out. Probably he’d have liked more space to pontificate, but happily – as well as they were doing – they weren’t going to pay the premium rates in this hotel. Each of them had a double bed, there was a wardrobe which would suit their needs and the bathroom wasn’t as cramped as she’d have imagined. What more did they really need?

As little children they’d shared a bedroom. That had stopped though as she went through puberty (she was eighteen months and six days older than him), but it had started again when she nursed him after his accident and it had never stopped. Unless they were with someone they were intimate with, then they never went to sleep in different rooms to the other. They took comfort from it. She knew it must appear odd to outsiders for two siblings to be sharing a room, but she had gone beyond the point where she cared.

Actually, when they checked in, she’d had other ideas in her mind. The receptionist had been gorgeous. Blonde, chic – with her hair in a beehive transported straight from the 1960s – and a purring French accent to die for. A sparkle in her eyes, Simone had leant on the reception desk and given this Parisian Venus her most flirtatious smile. The lady had smiled back professionally, but also a tad uncomfortable. They chatted for a minute, but Simone didn’t push for anything further. Maybe if the two of them got together and shared a bottle of wine then something may have happened, but Simone had grown past the point of where she provided straight girls with a racy anecdote they could share later.

Besides which, although it was early days yet, Simone may have met someone.

Synopsis –

What excruciating tortures await them within Breakspear Hall?

Simone and her brother are con-artists. They target the rich and corrupt, making them pay for their crimes. One night, after pursuing a mark to a casino, Simone is attacked on the street. In the aftermath, the two siblings find themselves spirited towards Breakspear Hall. A gothic mansion whose master has tried everything to keep visitors out.

From her first glance of this dark, foreboding building, Simone knows it could spell doom for both of them…

Within the walls is a history of demonic rituals and human sacrifice. Yet, if the house welcomes you, it’s a home which can offer your greatest desires and ensure every darkest craving can be sated. Although as it does, it elicits a terrible price. One which will drain away your soul and leave you a broken husk.

However, it’s when you try to leave that it inflicts its most appalling punishment.

Trapped inside, Simone knows she has to save herself and her brother. But what can she possibly do against the unspeakable evil of Breakspear Hall?

Thoughts –

Revolving around a pair of sibling con artists, Terror of Breakspear Hall is a story of deception, illusions, and shame. Brother and sister, Simone and Robin have made a living stealing the hearts, and eventually the money of rich but deplorable people. Careful only to target those they know are using their money immorally, they feel righteous in their less than righteous methods. But when the pair’s charms seem to have no effect on the reclusive and filthy rich Montagu Breakspear, they become entranced. They find themselves in Breakspear Hall – and soon one of them is unable to leave.

Terror of Breakspear Hall utilisises psychological horror and the siblings unbreakable loyalty to drive the plot. With characters that are flawed, and even some who are downright insane, there’s plenty of action and movement throughout the story.

With the hall being the title of the novel, and having such a tight hold on these characters, it would have been more satisfying to spend more time within it’s haunting and fetid walls, exploring more of what the ghosts and entities trapped their were capable of and getting a better understanding of the evil and its origins. While Simone is a great character, one who is strong and fragile at the same time, a caretaker and yet unable to take care of herself, the time spent with her fell flat when combined with the sparse experiences within the walls of Breakspear Hall.

That being said, this is a enjoyable novel with enticing characters, exciting events, a lustfully dark undertone, and strong character driven story telling from F.R. Jameson.

About the Author –

F.R. Jameson was born in Wales, but now lives in London with his wife and young daughter. He writes both historical thrillers and supernatural thrillers.

His books are, at the moment, mostly sorted into two different – but complimentary – series. The first, ‘Screen Siren Noir’, currently comprises of three novels: ‘Diana Christmas’, ‘Eden St. Michel’ and ‘Alice Rackham’. All of which tell the stories of beautiful British film stars caught up in Noir tales of blackmail, obsession, scandal and death. He is currently working on both the fourth and fifth books in the series.

The second series is more disturbing and scary, and lives under the moniker: ‘Ghostly Shadows’. Right now there is only one book published, a tale of supernatural revenge – ‘Death at the Shadows’. However, 2019 will bring four more entries to terrify and intrigue.

His blog – https://frjameson.com/ – is regularly updated with information about his writing, as well as film and book reviews. You can follow him @frjameson on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and you can find him on Facebook.

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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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‘The Mirror’ by Hash Black – Review

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

***

Agatha grabbed her ears, frantically struggling to block out the deafening squeal that stabbed through them. She fell to the ground, writhing in pain as she waited for her eardrums to pop.

Then it stopped.

She opened her eyes. Everything was a blur The room seemed to revolve around her. A ringing wound chimed in her ear. And a throbbing ache pounded in her head.

She pressed her temples as she trailed her gaze back to the mirror.

It was intact.

But a message was scribed into it.

A LIFE FOR A LIFE

I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE

YOUR TWENTY FOUR HOURS STARTS NOW

Synopsis –

Jared Carson is gone, leaving a ravaged home behind for her wife Beth and baby daughter Lily. With her guardian angel gone, Lily’s horrid fears fester. The unseen monsters beneath her bed grow malevolent and stronger. It’s up to Beth to fill her husband’s shoes. She hugs Lily tight in her arms with teary eyes and makes a vow,

“You will never be alone, baby. Mommy will always be here to protect you.”

But…

The forces of evil watch quietly in the shroud of darkness. They thirst for anguish. They thirst for blood. They thirst for REVENGE!

And Lily is their prime target.

Thoughts –

The Mirror is a novella that follows a grieving widow as she moves into a new house, and hopefully a new life with her young daughter. Unfortunately, this new house has a dark past and an even darker entity inhabiting it and it’s reflective surfaces. Drawing on themes of painful secrets that refuse to be forgotten, repressed evils, and a mother’s love for her daughter, the story deals with heavy subject matters.

Unfortunately the pacing of the story is off. The entire work spans only a couple of days, and yet it seems only in the first hour or so of our main protagonist moving to this new town and still grieving the loss of her husband, she has no qualms falling in love with a brand new doctor who quite literally falls into her yard. Not only does this short span of time make some of the events feel unreal, but the backstory of the ghostly haunting going on was very difficult to fully believe as well – without any spoilers, the events of the town’s past just didn’t make sense and so the tragedy and darkness there didn’t have the impact that it should have. I did have to read the story twice to get the events straight in my head.

There are some good scares and descriptive passages of the dark entities that have stolen our main characters daughter. The psychological aspects of the scares were a plus for me.

The Mirror is a fast paced paranormal horror that just needed more space for the story to breath.

About the Author –

Hash Black is an author with a flair for writing horror fiction. Ironically, his educational background is rooted in marine biology, and has an innate love for coral reefs. However, he has always enjoyed writing his heart out as he grew up. R. L. Stine was a major influence during those days, with Goosebumps and Fear Street series getting lots of traction among his peers. Finally, at the age of 30, Hash gave in to his passion for writing.

The Mirror is his first novella.

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