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Halloween Carnival, Volume Two - Brian James Freeman

Halloween Carnival Volume 2 - Glen Hirshberg, Lee Thomas, Holly Newstein, Del James, Brian James Freeman

With Halloween right around the corner, let's get right into this collection.

 

 

Mr. Dark's Carnival - Glen Hirshberg

 

 

A Montana ghost story thats got some nice creepiness. David is a college professor that teaches a class that explores folklore and his favorite part of the course is the folk tale of Mr. Dark's Carnival. For many years, it has been rumored that the mysterious carnival pops up in a rural setting and only a few select people get chosen to attend. David has never met anyone that has personally been to the carnival and doesn't believe it truly exists until he gets his ticket. A great ghost story that has a murky ending.

 

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

 


The Facts in the Case of My Sister - Lee Thomas

 

 

David's estranged sister, Joyce, is in the hospital from an "accident". The prognosis isn't good and David has doubts that her injuries were from an accident. When Joyce and he were kids, David taught himself how to do magic tricks from a book he got. Joyce was always his willing audience and participant. Now, David pulls out a trick from his past to learn what really happened to Joyce.

 

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

 


Mischief Night - Holly Newstein

 

 

Willard had a good life, a loving family and wife, and looked forward to his retirement. He was never a drinker after growing up with a nasty old drunk for a father. In what seemed like a harmless way to celebrate his retirement, the bottle grabs ahold of Willard and doesn't let go. On Mischief Night, Willard meets a troubled teen that stumbles into his basement. Can one man's bad decisions help alter the path the youngster is headed down?

 

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

 


The Ghost Maker - Del James

 

 

Halloween has it's own set of scares when you're a mob hit man. You have to be on your toes, even if you're the grim reaper. Great voice that makes for a fun read.

 

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

 


The Pumpkin Boy - Al Sarrantonio

 

 

Jody is a latchkey kid for half an hour every afternoon until his mom gets home. He knows he's not supposed to be outside and he follows that rule. Until, one day, he sees the Pumpkin Boy walking past his window and he can't believe his eyes. For police detective, Len Schneider, Jody's disappearance is bringing back old, haunted memories that he's been trying to lock away for 18 years. What started out as a promising novella, fell flat for me with the ending.

 

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

 


Overall, a nice little collection with mostly hits than misses. Well worth the time.

 

 

4 out of 5 stars

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak - Brian Lumley

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak - Brian Lumley

Harry Keogh has returned from Starside/Sunside and he's been stripped of his power to converse with the dead, or deadspeak. He also isn't able to travel via the Möbius Continuum. His wamphryii son disabled his ability while on Starside. For four years, Harry has been unable to use his former ability to speak with the dead, except while he is sleeping. Unfortunately, he can not remember his conversations with them once he has awakened. He is still employed with E-Branch, just in case his abilities are restored and for his knowledge of wamphryii. Fortunately, there are no more...or is there? High up in the Balkan mountains, where Faethor Ferenczy's castle ruins remain, there is another wamphryii plotting his return. This vampire is Faethor's son, Janos. Janos is a vampire and an expert at black magic, but not a full wamphryii. What powers he doesn't possess, he looks to steal, including those that are locked in the head of the former necroscope. Will Harry ever gain his abilities back and defeat the vampire scourge or will Janos steal everything that is precious in Harry's life?

 

 

Necroscope IV: Deadspeak jumps right back in where III left off, giving us more enlightenment into Lumley's vampiric mythos while also delivering more of the same ingredients you'd expect from a Necroscope book. Harry's character is still a tormented soul trying to cope with the huge responsibilities he feels resting on his shoulders, now made infinitely more difficult with the loss of his abilities. Janos is a worthy villain that you want to see get his. Lumley even throws some Cthulhu Mythos Yog-Sothoth in there. He has always been influenced by Lovecraft and I love seeing those influences make their way into a series that it helped create. Necroscope is kind of like a James Bond story or an AC/DC album. Each one is slightly different, expands slightly from the original, but still delivers the goods as you'd expect. Looking forward to Part 5.

 

 

 

4 1/2 Dead Body Salts out of 5

 


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The Devil's Woods - Brian Moreland

The Devil's Woods - Brian Moreland

Brian Moreland is simply money in the bank. I have yet to read anything of his that I didn't love and The Devil's Woods is his best yet. Kyle and his brother and sister, Eric and Shawna, grew up on the Cree reservation until their mother divorced their father. Eric and Shawna have grown distant from their father, a university archeology professor and an alcoholic, but Kyle has still kept in touch with him through the years. When the siblings receive a call from their uncle Ray inviting them back to the reservation for a visit, Kyle thinks this may be a good way for all of them to reconnect after all these years. Unfortunately, when they arrive, they learn that their father is missing. Kyle attempts to piece together his father's last whereabouts with what he was investigating. What he learns is that their idyllic Canadian hideaway in the woods has an evil buried deep within where things are not as they would seem.

 

 

You can tell that Moreland did his research for The Devil's Woods. Its all in the details and his writing is spot on. You get invested in the siblings. Kyle is still mourning from the loss of his wife and you root for him to find happiness. Shawna is the free spirit rebellious type that shows her immaturity from time to time. Eric is the obnoxious womanizer that you want to see get what he has coming to him, yet there are times when he shows his human side and you almost sympathize with him. All of Moreland's characters have depth, no two dimensional cardboard stereotypes here. He also brings the Canadian woods to your doorstep. It feels like you're crunching over leaves, swatting the occasional mosquito and seeing that shadow disappear behind a tree trunk out of the corner of your eye. He really immerses you in his story. He also has done his homework to get the Cree culture and Canadian landscape just right. Moreland delivers another fantastic read and I can't wait for the next one.

 

 

5 Float Planes out of 5

 

 

 

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For Fear of the Night - Charles L. Grant

For Fear of the Night - Charles L. Grant

The term "quiet horror" gets thrown around everytime you read any review of a Charles Grant story. What exactly is quiet horror. Simply put, its a moniker created by Charlie himself, as a way to describe his writing style. Quiet horror is a slow crescendo of dread that builds in the story. It's subtle, not in your face. Its a creepy feeling that something isn't right. It's also not for the person who has the attention span of a highly caffeinated squirrel with ADD. You're not going to find blood spattered on every page of a Grant story. Nor will you find non-stop action. This isn't a Marvel comic. Grant's stories are all about the ride and not necessarily the destination. Patience is key. If you have it, chances are you'll see what he's trying to create and you'll enjoy it. Now, is every one of his stories a hit? No. But, there is always a certain level of quality in every Grant tale. For Fear of the Night is no exception. Is it his best? No, again.

 

 

As Labor Day nears, a group of teenagers are preoccupied with the big changes that have already shaped their lives and the ones that are about to. Going off to college looms in around the corner. Couples are about to become apart and wonder whats in store for them. Career decisions have to be made. Their friend, Julie, was recently killed in a fire that happened in a building near the pier. Devin, the groups older photography friend, receives a message on his answering machine from their dead friend. Was it really her? Is it some sick prank? He doesn't know, but it sparks off the mystery of what really happened to Julie.

 

 

For Fear of the Night is not Grant's strongest story. Very little action happens for the first 100 pages. It's his typical slow burn. The storytelling and atmosphere are still there. The ending strikes me as a bit muddied and leaves more questions than answers. If I were looking to read Grant for the first time, this wouldn't be the one I'd start with. But, if you're looking for that quiet horror that he specializes in, you could do a lot worse.

 

 


3 Popped Balloons out of 5

 

 


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Savage Woods - Mary SanGiovanni

Savage Woods - Mary SanGiovanni

The woods are alive. At least that's what Mary SanGiovanni would like you to believe in her latest offering, Savage Woods. The Nilhollow section of New Jersey's Pine Barrens has had its history of weird happenings. People tend to go missing here. Think of it as New Jersey's answer to the Bermuda Triangle. This has dated back tens of thousands of years. The Native Americans knew this and avoided this area like the plague. But what causes it? SanGiovanni attempts to explain it by introducing us to a chasm in Nilhollow that is allowing the bad mojo to escape it and pollute the wood spirits like a plague. This causes the woods to constantly shift and trap anyone who enters and then the wood spirits form these little tree creatures to off their victims. If you suddenly went "Huh?", you're not alone. Savage Woods has a few good ideas surrounded by an absolute mess and that's the most frustrating part for me. SanGiovanni can write. I've read so-called authors who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. She is not one of them. Unfortunately, the two stories of hers that I've read, she tries to take amazingly unrealistic material and breathe life into them. Instead, we get a laughable plot, uninteresting characters and pacing that makes a snail look like a top-fuel dragster. The possessed trees and vines in the Evil Dead. Now that was scary. Not so here. The tree creatures come off as hokie. Native American folklore can make for a great storyline, much like Brian Moreland did in The Devil's Woods and Dead of Winter. Again, not so here. She does throw in quite a bit of the red stuff, but you're beyond caring at this point and that makes the characters nothing more than cannon fodder. I simply found myself yawning through the whole thing eagerly anticipating the ending to come and put me out of my misery.

 

 

2 Killer Oaks out of 5

 

 

* this ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 


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Covenant - Allan Leverone

Covenant - Allan Leverone

Lindie and Justin relocate from North Carolina to the small town of Covenant, New Hampshire to start their new jobs. They purchase a "fixer-upper" and immediately get to work remodeling. One afternoon, Justin goes to get them something to drink. After too much time had passed, Lindie goes looking for Justin and finds him at the bottom of the basement stairs in a pool of blood with a pair of hedge trimmers protruding from his body. In the aftermath of the "freak accident", Lindie is badgered by a persistent detective that can't buy her explanation and can't go out in public without hearing the stinging whispers of small town New England gossip. By chance, she begins to learn of the history of her "fixer upper" and it's not a pretty story. Edward Collins, the recluse tycoon had the house built to some peculiar specifications. Those specifications helped him with his favorite past time - the torture and murder of prostitutes. Edward has been dead for over a hundred years, but it's hard to keep evil at bay forever.

 

 

Covenant is a fun haunted house tale and my first read from Leverone. He commands the story well and you begin to feel for Lindie. At it's best, Covenant has shades of Amityville Horror in it. There are times that the dialogue feels a little forced and the introduction of a meth-head killer on the run in the middle of the story seemed awkward. It does tie together nicely at the end. All in all, a decent read from Leverone.

 

 

3 1/2 Floating Steak Knives out of 5

 


This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 


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Children of Chaos - Greg F. Gifune

Children of Chaos - Greg F. Gifune

Philip, Jamie, and Martin are young teenagers when they stumble upon the mysterious stranger in the rain. The encounter ends with the stranger mumbling odd ramblings about destinies and then, before their very eyes, the children see the scars that line his back move and change shapes. In an act of self defense, the boys murder the stranger. Their lives were never the same again. Fast forward to the present. Philip has failed at his marriage, is failing as a writer, and is worried that he'll fail as a father to his teenage daughter. The only thing he seems to succeed at is being a full-blow alcoholic. Jamie has failed as a priest due to his inner demons with girls that aren't of age. And Martin? Well, let's just say that Martin is not of his right mind. His last destination was at the end of a lonely stretch of road called the Corridor of Demons. It's because of Martin and his cult of followers that the road gained it's nickname, and reputation. Martin's ailing mother back home pays Philip to bring her mentally ill boy back to her. Is this a suicide mission or something more?

 

 

The description of Children of Chaos is that it's an homage to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I've never read Heart of Darkeness, so I wouldn't be able to tell one way or another. (Put your pitchforks away, literature snobs) One thing that I do know is that Children of Chaos is Gifune clicking on all cylinders. It has the trademark shadowiness, for which I have come to know him. It has disturbed and flawed characters with layers and layers of depth within them. It has a story that slowly unfurls itself and makes you turn the page to see what's on the other side, not quite figuring it out until the last act. It makes you ask the question, What are we? Are we the masters of our own destiny or simply pawns in a game played by higher powers? Is everything chaotic and random or preordained? These are question I've often pondered in my own life, as I'm sure many of you have as well. The ending kind of ties things up with a neat little bow, maybe a little too conveniently for some, but I still enjoyed it. For myself, I pulled bits and pieces of Mystic River and Angel Heart from the story. This is one that will stick with me for a while and that's the sign of a good one.

 

 


4 1/2 Cult of Personalities out of 5

 


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Optical Delusion - Hunter Shea

Optical Delusion - Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea has tapped into our childhood for his latest offering of fear. Remember those ads in the backs of comic books? Muscles like Charles Atlas. Sea monkeys. Joy buzzers. Fake ice cubes with a fly in the middle. Gum that turns your mouth black. Oh, and the ever popular, X-ray glasses. I certainly remember them. More specifically, I remember wanting them and my mom saying "absolutely not". Well, what would happen if she did allow me to get those x-ray glasses and after 10 minutes of making my eyes hurt, I tossed them aside only to have my dad pick them up and put them on. And, what if, in between the fuzzy-eyed headache it produced, he saw a glimpse of a girl's panties she had on underneath her clothing? And what if, in desperate attempts to get more than a glimpse or two of what the females looked like under their winter clothing, it caused something else? Something more hideous, more macabre, and it wouldn't let you turn away?

 

Optical Delusion was a fun ride into every boy that grew up in the 1970s and 80s past and warped it with a Twilight Zone twist and an EC Comic turn. My last couple of reads from Shea have been my favorites. He's honed his chops the last few years and is churning out nothing but quality lately. So much so, that he's quickly become one of my go to writers that can't miss.

 

 


5 Victoria's Secrets out of 5

 


* This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 


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World Between My Teeth - Tim Meyer

Worlds Between My Teeth - Tim Meyer

Another short story collection from a new-to-me author, Tim Meyer. Let's jump right in and break each story down one by one.

 

 

The Dream Eaters - It's all a dream. Nothing can hurt you in a dream, right? Some familiar elements with a twist or two.

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

 

The Lemures - A brother and sister running from a crime boss who made a deal with the devil and can summon dead spirits. The story has a nice voice, if not the most satisfying ending.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

The Cherry Collectors - Being a player can come back and haunt you.

 

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

 

Worlds Between My Teeth - The night just keeps getting stranger and stranger for a mall security guard. Shades of King's The Drawing of Three and The Twilight Zone. Good stuff.

 

5 out of 5 stars

 


Gingerbread Death Machine - Revenge doesn't always taste sweet. A macabre Christmas tale that seems familiar but doesn't work as well as it could.

 

3 out of 5 stars

 


Under New Skies - A high school boy writes about love and the world becoming Jurassic Park overnight. I liked the uneasiness in this one.

 

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 


The Ice King - Emmett is sure that his wife, Gertie, is slipping him an extra pill in his daily stash, trying to kill him. When he sees something humongous under the ice while fishing, he becomes convinced. Lovecraft meets Grumpy Old Men. This was a fun one.

 

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 


Box Game - Yikes! That's some game!

 

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

 


Armala's Hunt - Armala's sister has been abducted by an unknown assailant. She recruits her world's best tracker for hire. They follow their trail to a cave where the grisly realization of why he kidnapped Armala's sister unveils itself. A nice tale of fantasy that feels like it's the start of a story rather than the whole tale.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 


The Old Church - Umm?!? Am I missing something here? What seems like a fragment of a setup to a story.

 

1 out of 5 stars

 


The Pumpkin Tree Giveth, The Pumpkin Tree Taketh Away - The pumpkin tree has been rumored to grant wishes. For 10-year-old Jeffie, he better watch what he wishes for. Again, it feels like a scene instead of a story.

 

3 out of 5 stars

 


The Man Who Never Frowned - A used car salesman, who is down on his luck, is about to have a really bad day.


4 out of 5 stars

 


The Organ Harvest (An October John novella) - In 2052, a plague has hit the world and decimated 95% of the population. Detective Callahan is breaking in a rookie partner while investigating a strange case of murders. The victims bodies are barely recognizable save for one distinguishing feature, a tattoo of a white rabbit on their ass cheek. Every clue runs into a dead end and with nowhere else to turn, Detective Callahan is forced to turn Johnny Webster (aka October John), a down-on-his-luck bum that has a knack for this kind of work. You see, 12 years ago, Johnny used to be Callahan's partner.

A fun novella that introduces us to some interesting characters with October John being right up at the top. Think of Riggs from Lethal Weapon.

 

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 


All in all, a very solid collection of shorts and a novella. Meyer has an easy writing style with some good characters and plots. There were a couple that were too short for me to really get into, but that's my preference and not necessarily a dig on Meyer's writing. Definitely worthy of space on any horror fan's bookcase. Meyer looks like he has the chops to make a real name for himself in the horror community.

 


Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

 


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Wrath of the Ancients - Catherine Cavendish

Wrath of the Ancients - Catherine Cavendish

Adeline Ogilvy, a young widow from Wimbledon, has accepted a job in Vienna. Her assignment is to employ her skills as a typist and transcribe the memoirs of the late Dr. Emeryk Quintillus, an archeologist with a most peculiar hidden history. When she begins her recording the doctor's notes, she learns that, five years earlier, he claims to discover the tomb of Cleopatra. Even more astonishing, it seems that he has brought more than secrets back from Egypt. Strange occurrences begin to happen at the mansion. Is what Adeline seeing before her eyes real or a hallucination?

 

 

This is my first read of Cavendish and I love the slow burn in this Gothic chiller. I also like how blends an archelogical curiosity and characters with her own original take on what happened all those thousands of years ago. As the story unfurls, I can't help be reminded of the quiet horror writing style of Charles L. Grant. The characters are interesting and I'm drawn to keep turning the pages to see where they go in the story. If I have any criticism it's that there are parts where the pacing seems off. In one instance, things are doing a nice slow burn and then it closes in way too much of a flurry. But, it's a small blemish in an overall fun story. If you haven't had the pleasure to stumble upon Cavendish, Wrath of the Ancients is a great one to introduce yourself.

 

 

 

4 1/2 Green Glowing Apparations out of 5

 


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Corpse Rider - Tim Curran

Corpse Rider - Tim Curran

Christina was visiting her mother's grave when a nearby headstone surrounded by weeds caught her eye. It saddened her that it wasn't taken care of and kept up like all the others. She decided to clear the weeds and tidy it up. It all seemed so innocent. A good deed, really. But there was more to that grave site than the surname of CHARLES SLICK overgrown by foliage. The Slick family isn't known in these parts by many anymore. Except Frank, the cemetary's custodian. He knows about the family and the dirty secrets they harbor, even after all these years. Poor Christina. All she was doing was a good deed for a family she didn't know. Too bad that good deed would unleash the Slick's family secret on her and her life would never be the same.

 

 

Corpse Rider is a fun, fast-paced tale that keeps the pages turning at a blinding speed. Curran weaves a bit of gothic horror mixed with 1980's B-horror movie fun. The obvious comparisons to the early 80's movie, Basket Case, permeate the story. However, it is not a soulless derivative. Curran constructs a great story mixed with some memorable characters that breathes new life into an old classic. Very much worth your time.

 

 


5 Belials out of 5

 

 


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Fungoid - William Meikle

Fungoid - William Meikle

There's a fungus among us. When the oily rain starts pouring down, what follow brings mankind to it's knees. A fast growing fungus starts spreading and wiping out the vast majority of the population. Is it from outer space? Was it an experiment gone wrong? Does it really matter? The speed at which these deadly spores wreak havoc on the world is astonishing and it's decimating everything in it's path. We're left with only a few characters that have hung onto life by the skin of their teeth. One is a scientist that specializes in fungus and stumbles onto a possible solution. Will it work and, if it does, will it work in time or is this Mother Nature's answer to it's human problem?

 

 

Meikle's Fungoid is a fast-paced read that will have you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out what will happen next and how will our heroes get out of this predicament. The characters are realistic. The situation is plausible. The suspense can be cut with a knife. I really don't have much for criticism for this one. Meikle was a scientist in a previous life and you can tell he knows his way around the fungus. What's amazing to me is that he makes it interesting. Funguses aren't that exciting to the vast majority of the population and I'll be damned if he doesn't make me eat my words. Good show, Willie!

 

 


4 1/2 Blue Hills out of 5

 


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Highwayman - Craig Saunders

Highwayman - Craig  Saunders

I admit it. When it comes to my reading, I'm a completionist. For better or for worse, I finish what I start. I can't remember the last time that my little idiosyncrasy has bitten me in the butt as hard as it did when I read Craig Saunder's Highwayman. So many times I wanted to quit this mismashed bore of a story. But no. I trudged on through the mud of staccato bursts of sentences, multiple points of view storytelling that seemed to lead to nowhere, and a hazy plot that was about as entertaining as watching metal rust. Was it all bad? Not totally, but close. There were, indeed, parts where he'd get the ball rolling and I'd start to get into it only to come to a screeching halt and a new chapter of mundane happenings would be in front of me. I'm sure there's a decent story somewhere in Highwayman. Maybe I don't get what Saunders was trying to create. But, what I read a tedious lesson in patience with no payout for my troubles. Sorry, but I can't recommend Highwayman to anyone.

 

 

 

2 Talking Deer out of 5

 

 


This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 


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Dwelling - Thomas Flowers

Dwelling (Subdue Book 1) - Thomas S Flowers

The Suicide Squad is the name a group of adolescents from the 90's gave themselves after getting their hands on the comic book of the same name. Ricky, Maggie, Bobby, Jonathan, and Jake's lives were changed forever that September morning when terrorists rammed their jetliners into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Ignited by patriotic fever, the boy's enlisted to go fight in the desert. Their lives would never be the same. Ricky is killed in combat, leaving his now wife, Maggie, all alone. Jonathan lost a leg in the same attack that killed Ricky and suffers from PTSD and guilt for not being able to save his friend. Heavy drinking doesn't seem to help the PTSD or the haunting vision of the dark creature he saw just before rocket was fired at their Humvee. Bobby is now a homeless vet that brought back more than haunting memories, and it rears its ugly head when the moon is full. Jake is a minister that has lost his faith due to the nightmares that followed him back from Iraq. The war has shattered all of their lives and they can't seem to deal with it on their own. But the remaining members of the Suicide Squad are being called back to a mysterious house on a remote Texas prairie in the small town of Jotham. Do the answers they seek to rid themselves of their nightmares reside in the house, or are their current nightmares just the tip of the iceberg to whats about to come?

 

 

First and foremost, Dwelling is Book One of a trilogy and it reads as such. If you're trying to decide whether or not to give Dwelling a try based off of reviews like this one, keep that little nugget in mind. I've read a handful of reviews from people bitching that the writing was good but nothing was solved or wrapped up by the end of the book, therefore they hate the story. People, people. Do a little research. Yes, Dwelling is open ended. Yes, you'll have to continue to read the rest of the series to find out what happens. That's why they call it a trilogy. Why am I ranting here? Because, I think that Flower's has received some very unfair (and very silly) criticism for the way he wrote Dwelling. Look. It's a very good book. The writing and pacing is amazingly mature for a newer author. The characters are well fleshed out and their problems that center around PTSD and loss from the war makes for a compelling read. The fact that Flowers is a vet himself comes through nicely in his writing. It adds that dose of realism that many authors lack when they write about a place that they've never been to. Dwelling is shadowy and haunting that feels all to real when you're reading it. Yeah, there's some shades of Stephen King's It permeating through the story, but show me a chilling, coming-of-age tale that you can't compare to It? There's definitely a nod to King, but Dwelling is definitely it's own monster. I'm looking forward to jumping into Book 2 - Emerging - and continuing the saga of The Suicide Squad. Won't you join me?

 

 


4 1/2 Rocket Launchers out of 5

 


I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

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Among Prey - Alan Ryker

Among Prey - Alan Ryker

Character development, character development, character development. What Ryker is able to do in only 65 pages, most authors can't accomplish in 265 pages. Among Prey is told from multiple character's POV and you'd think that it would be distracting to the story. Au contraire, it adds richness and depth here, another testament to Ryker's storytelling prowess.

 

 

In Among Prey, we have Amber, a pill-popping worker at a build-a-doll store that meets Bobby, the 7-foot mentally handicapped behemoth that comes in one slow Wednesday morning. Where many people would be terrified at the silent hulking man, Amber takes a shine to him. That is until the day she realizes that the dolls Bobby has been building in her store look amazingly like the little girls that have been kidnapped in the area the past few months. The story wraps around itself nicely as we're introduced to Carol, Bobby's caregiving nurse and then Bobby's POV. This one is a pageturner, folks. The ending may be a bit abrupt for some, but it left me satisfied that I had read a well-crafted thriller. Loved it.

 

 

 

5 Bruised Doll Heads out of 5

 


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Dream Woods - Patrick Lacey

Dream Woods - Patrick Lacey

Vince and Audra's marriage is more than on the rocks, it's on life support. Audra has already left Vince once in the middle of the night and then couldn't go through with leaving her twin boy's, one of which is diabetic, and her husband all alone and returned. Vince is looking for anything that can save their marriage. He turns to a mysterious billboard that he sees on his way to work one morning. Its advertising Dream Woods, an old amusement park that burned to the ground when he was a kid. Apparently, it's opened back up and Vince is encapsulated with excitement at the prospect of being able to share the awesome experience he had as a kid with his family. But is Dream Woods really open for business? Especially, after what all happened so many years ago?

 

 

Have you ever woke up from a dream that seemed so realistic while you were sleeping that you're left in a fog when you awake, half in reality and half stuck in the dream, and it takes you a little bit to clear the fog out of your head? At first, the dream feels so realistic and then, after a while, you realize how silly it was and you can't believe that you ever thought it was real. That's kind of how you feel when you start reading Dream Woods. You have to be ready for it. Lacey's latest isn't a straight forward story told in the realistic here and now, and that's what tripped me up for the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it. It should be read as a messed up fairy tale. Think of it as if C.S. Lewis wrote about an old, Disney World-esque theme park in rural Massachusetts and then Clive Barker and Bentley Little got a hold of the first draft while tripping on acid and made some revisions. As you can imagine, you have to let your imagination go and have fun with it. It's not meant to suspend your disbelief. It's meant to steer you into an almost comic book/nightmare type of world. If you can get past that, you'll enjoy Dream Woods. Lacey's story is energetic and well written. But it's kind of stuck in the middle. It's not straight forward enough to be taken seriously and it's not so over-the-top that it's a pure fantasy, and maybe that's what Lacey intended. The characters are well rounded for a novella length story. But, Audra comes across as more annoyingly ungrateful than a lost soul trying to find herself and that makes it hard to root for her. The gore is poured on by the bucketful, but the people that are being offed are the extras on the set. You don't get to know any of them and it becomes kind of numbing when faceless people are killed by the trainload. I go back and forth on this book. There were parts that I could really get into and then there were paths that Lacey took that I wish he would've went a different direction. That doesn't mean that I think it's bad. Not at all. But, it's kind of like being in the mood for a traditional pizza and then getting some version with broccoli, goat cheese and pine nuts on it. While that may not be a bad thing, it's not what you had in mind when your taste buds were all primed for pepperoni and mushrooms.

 

 

 

3 Blood Stained Mascots out of 5

 


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