Class Four: Those Who Survive (Book Review)

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Class Four CoverClass Four: Those Who Survive is the latest novel by Duncan P. Bradshaw in a continuous apocalyptic story. It picks up where Class Three left off and it explores several different storylines, but the main focus comes down to a man and his mission to find safety for the boy within his care. With a great handle on expression and tone, the Bradshaw introduces the reader to a new world where the only thing that makes sense is surviving.

The story unfolds in the aftermath of a deadly virus, which left the whole planet on its knees. Modern society has been pushed back to the primitive ways of the world and simply surviving deserves great recognition. Francis, who was also a character from the previous book, along with 8 year old Nathan are the first characters to be introduced. The reader meets them while they are already on their journey to safety. Through all the death and destruction that has already occurred there is a small sanctuary they need to find.

Unfortunately, their journey is filled with danger, as the dead are now in charge of empowering a different kind of justice. The reader will also be introduced to an array of colorful characters who are doing their best to work through the trauma. Within the walls of a factory and under the leadership of The Gaffer, they participate in group therapy sessions while trying to rebuild what is left.

The controversial side of the story comes in the form of Devin and his right-hand man, Malky. Together they serve a female entity as they scheme and torture their way to ruling the communities that still manage to function.

Just summarizing this book is rather challenging, because there is so much going on. The list of characters, their multiple points of interest, the twists and turns, everything flows perfectly into one big story. To top it off, Bradshaw didn’t spare any mental expense when he created the people who play out the scenarios. Each one of them have such distinct features and backstories, whether it’s a cannibal who eats the dead before they can return or a butch female police officer with temper issues, the degree of depth is very explicit.

Another aspect readers will enjoy is the comic relief that creeps in from time to time. Don’t be surprised if you burst out laughing shortly after reading about a gruesome and cruel death, because Bradshaw has perfect comedic timing. He’ll paint a very graphic picture that includes body parts, death and buckets of blood, but he’ll still find a way to break the tension without losing credibility.

In terms of Bradshaw’s style, it’s very professional. Where several authors need to use multiple sentences to describe one specific thought, Bradshaw only needs one. His choice of words along with his creative expressions results in a powerful combination, which makes for a very vivid, engaging, and entertaining story.

For those who haven’t read Class Three it might be a little harder to get into the swing of things, but it’s worth it.  And there sure is nothing wrong with reading Class Three first to get the full impact.

Bradshaw is more than capable of making the reader comfortable regardless if they are accustomed to his voice. Overall, Class Four: Those Who Survive is another great installment in this ever evolving series.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

Also by Duncan P. Bradshaw:

Class Three Review

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Hell’s Shadows (Book Review)

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hells-shadows-coverThe first thing to notice about Hell’s Shadows is the sophisticated style translated through a simplistic choice of words. Dean Klein, the author, has no intentions of confusing his readers. Instead, he wants to tell them a tale of horror, within a fashion that will leave them bound till the end. Klein really got the tone right from the start by keeping it clean, yet effective. What could have been just another story based on a haunted house is now a vivid depiction that causes strange chills.

It follows the lives of Gil and Robin Turner, a happily married couple. She comes from money and he is used to the middle class lifestyle. Despite their differences the relationship is very deep and loving. Gil’s new job as the plant manager in Carson Creek, NC, sees them buying a house that is known for its horrific history. Against the advice from their realtor they go through with the purchase. The reason they bought the house was because something within Parsons Knoll had strangely ‘called’ to Robin while she and Gil were returning to the realtor’s office, causing her to nearly faint. Robin has no idea what just happened to her or why. She is a sensitive person who feels the emotions and pains of others…and in this case she unconsciously feels a cry for help – to come to the house – to stay – from something undead in the house though she is consciously unaware of this as well. The bond between the spirit and Robin is strong, particularly at first, so much so she strangely insists to Gil she must have the house. Gil does not understand at all this obsession with the old house, especially given its derelict condition, never mind its reputation.

From the get-go strange things begin to happen as they enter the property, but Robin is convincingly content on moving in. All the while Gil harbors a constant fear of why his wife is so determined. To make matters worse, the house is only the center of a wide circle. It has fed from the ground and the surrounding area since the 19th century, the site of a shocking ghastly evil. After making a horrific discovery in the well situated in the backyard, Gil starts to believe that Robin was meant to be there.

It’s easy to see why this book has received critical acclaim and five star reviews so far. As mentioned earlier, it’s the combination of sophistication and simplicity that speaks to a great audience. The overall pace is relatively comfortable, but the plot doesn’t take long to unfold. There is also an obvious professional touch in Klein’s style with a somewhat old-school feel. From a personal point of view, the experience of reading the book closely resembles the atmosphere of watching a movie like Children of the Corn.

One of the most interesting aspects has to be Klein’s choice to reveal a lot of information and clues so early in the story. Unfortunately, these can’t be mentioned without spoiling the plot a little, but readers will quickly recognize bits and pieces that are typically saved for the end. Even though it initiates some concern regarding future twists and turns, the reader will still be pleasantly surprised. The sheer depth of the story brings about other chills, which make up for the low-key sense of mystery in the beginning.  The keen reader will pick up on Klein’s insertion of some mystery with the description of the house as provided by the Turner’s realtor to Gil and Robin.

In terms of taste, it’s not going to be every horror fan’s dream.  In fact, Klein admits Hell’s Shadows was written for a female audience.  Make no mistake, the book has all the characteristics of a talented writer with many creative ideas, but it is obvious that a female audience will find it more interesting.  This is definitely a credit to Klein who managed to successfully tap into an area of horror rarely explored.  It is obviously further demonstrated by the tone, style and pace that is more suited for patient readers who love small detail. There is a steady build up with several small climaxes so-to-speak, although some of the vivid information Klein shares may sometimes seem unnecessary to some readers. For example, the way Robin makes tea. But noting that this book was written with women in mind can justify the level of detail.

Ultimately it comes down to personal opinion, but from an objective perspective, Klein has done a great job focusing in on his target audience.  That being said, men should not shy away from Hell’s Shadows as a lot of thinking went into giving new life to an old concept and there is no questioning his ability to pen down his vision.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

ALSO BY DEAN KLEIN

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Slow Burn Infected (Book Review)

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slow-burn-infected-cover“Slow Burn: Infected book 2,” written by Bobby Adair, is the sequel to the author’s first book in the Slow Burn horror series called “Slow Burn Zero Day.”  Continuing the story of Zed, Murphy and Jerome, “Slow Burn Infected 2” brings the reader to a place where the three main characters are infected and living in a community full of others more severely infected than they.  This book is extremely well written; typos are virtually non-existent and Adair does an excellent job of telling the story.  However, for a horror book, the actual terrifying and gruesome content seems relatively limited throughout the book and in particular at the beginning.

“Slow Burn Infected 2” continues the story of Zed, Murphy and Jerome, all of which are now infected but not to the same extent as those around them who have turned into wild cannibals.  They set out on a mission to find Murphy’s family, taking them through numerous dangerous adventures along the way including terrifying encounters with both infected and uninfected people.  One challenge with the plotline in this book is that it does not offer much insight into what happened to the characters in the previous book, leaving new readers of the series a little confused if they have chosen not to read the books in their proper order.

Throughout the novel, Adair does an exceptional job of writing the book and conveying the story in a way that is fitting to the plotline.  There are very few typos and the ones that are present are extremely minor, making them barely noticeable if the reader is not watching vigilantly for them.  Furthermore, the author uses suitable tone and descriptions in each scene of the story, making his writing style pair effortlessly with the pace of the book and the feelings of the characters.

One thing that I think could be improved upon in this book is the pace and the quantity of horror type content.  There are many parts throughout the book that feel slow or lacking excitement and action.  While not every part of a novel needs to have a reader’s mind racing, there were many areas of the book, such as in the beginning, where it felt as though a certain scene or part was dragging on with little contribution to the story.  Also, there were quite a few large sections of the book that seemed to lack any significant horror content; gruesome images were few and frightful scenes scarce.  Lastly, as was aforementioned, the plot lacked any detailed reference to the first book in the series, leaving readers who do not choose to read in order or read the full series a little bit lost in terms of where the characters have been and why they are in the situation they are currently in.

Overall, “Slow Burn Infected 2,” written by Bobby Adair, is a good sequel to “Slow Burn Zero Day” if you have read it.  The novel is well-written and has a fairly interesting plotline.  However, I would not recommend this book for those who have not read the first book in the series.  This book’s story is not set up to prepare readers with enough information about what has happened to the characters in the past, making it hard for a new reader to care about or fully understand the plot’s depth.  Lastly, this book does not have the sheer quantity of horrific content that I have come to expect from a horror novel.  While the scarcity of terrifying happenings does not bother me, it does make this book deviate in some parts from what a strong horror novel typically looks like.

Jezelle-McLeod-Horror-Palace-reviewReviewed by Jezelle McLeod
Jezelle is a staff writer and horror book critic.
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Also by Bobby Adiar:

Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson (Horror Book Review)

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Paranoia-coverWhen an author makes a dedication to Anton LaVey, among other famous figures, it definitely sparks curiosity. The book is a collection of short stories entitled Paranoia: More Dark Tales from the Mind of G.R. Wilson and his inspirational sources can definitely be seen within the pages. With a rather distinct style and a peculiar choice of words Wilson takes the reader on a diverse journey filled with werewolves, ghosts, the occult and even vindictive furniture.

The introductory tale called The Full Moon’s Hunt sets the pace for the stories that follow. It’s a personal account of an isolated occult author and an invitation he receives to meet with a potential publisher. However, the meeting is shrouded in mystery from the start and the author ends up becoming a human target. But Wilson takes a sudden shift with the second story, The White Lady, which comes as a nice surprise. It’s much shorter and only tells the tale of a lady, her dogs and the castle she shared with her daughter, whom she kept isolated.

As the stories continue they become more eccentric and creative, for example An Old Bed. The title practically exposes the murderous culprit before the story starts, but the reader is still not expecting it to unfold the way it does. Compared to the first story there is a great contrast in tone and style. One might say that it’s an overall evolution from simplicity and familiarity to daring and surreal.

After reading the dedication list, which includes names such as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, it’s very interesting to note the subtle influences. In certain stories I expected to find more profound distinctions, but this never happened. When I reached Wing and Chelicerae the story played heavily into an atmosphere and plot that resonates the work of Lovecraft due to the scientific aspect, but the other authors were all still present so-to-speak. It’s almost as if Wilson channels his different inspirations with every paragraph.

There is no question that Wilson has a very creative mind and the dark parts only make it more interesting. He experiments with several different approaches, which is a quality many readers will appreciate. In other words, some of the stories are more driven by psychological fear while others have their fair share of horrific details. The best part is that there is never really a dull moment, because you don’t really know what to expect in the upcoming tale.

If this collection had to be summed up in one word it would be “versatile”. In terms of literary excellence, there are some bits and pieces that could be enhanced. But then again, Wilson is obviously still in an experimental phase and when he finds his true style he’ll most likely produce material worthy of “best-seller” status. At this point it’s Wilson’s imagination that is going to help him build a steady following of readers.

Thanks to the diverse nature of the stories most horror fans are going to enjoy the book. They might not enjoy every story, but they won’t be disappointed either.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

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Also by G.R. Wilson:

Right Behind You Horror Book Review

Spinner (Book Review)

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spinner coverSpinner is the title for the young adult novel written by Michael J. Bowler. His experience as a teacher, writer and mentor definitely shines through as he tells the tale of a special boy inside a very unpleasant situation. The opening pages are wonderfully graphic and they set the right tone for the story that follows. Keeping in mind that Bowler’s target audience is young, it doesn’t take anything away from the “entertainment” factor. Even more sophisticated readers will find some inspiration at the end.

Alex is only 15 and he’s already well accustomed to the social service system. He has been in and out of foster homes more times than he cares to remember and now he is stuck with a guardian that is dead set on exploiting his “spinning” ability. Even though he is bound to a wheelchair he has something else that legs will never be able to provide, which is why his life is constantly in danger. His best friend Roy is pretty much the only person he can trust completely, although he does manage to find a little romance through all the nightmares.

Unfortunately Alex’s situation takes a turn for the worst as one of his teachers end up dead. As the beautiful substitute makes an appearance along with two detectives who ask a lot of questions, Alex becomes the center of attention. However, the attention he gets doesn’t come from loving foster parents. Instead, the conspiracy surrounding his ability forces him to make a choice that nobody should be making.

There is no questioning Bowler’s ability to write. He has a great sincerity in his tone and young audiences especially will appreciate this quality. The plot line doesn’t just hit where it hurts, but also draws the reader deeper. By stacking the odds squarely against the main character, Bowler builds up towards a very rewarding end.

In terms of horror, it’s definitely a good read for teenagers. The author doesn’t hold back when it comes to the bloody details just because his audience is slightly younger, but he still keeps it controlled. Thanks to Bowler’s obvious focus on overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles, not much attention is paid to the horrific side. It’s the type of horror story that comes with a happy ending.

Overall it’s the perfect book for teenage horror fans to read. Unlike adult novels where the end is much better if it’s drenched in the guts of the main character, this story is aimed to inspire. For this purpose alone Spinner is worth reading. An adult audience will probably find a lack in that sense of darkness typically associated with other books in this genre, but then again, it’s not meant to be scary as much as it is meant to inspire.

The characters are daring and quickly come to life inside the reader’s mind, so there is nothing negative to say about their development. Bowler took a risk when choosing the characteristics for his main character, but his risk has paid off. The end product is no doubt going to enlarge the platform of readers he already has.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

About The Author

Michael-J-BowlerMichael J. Bowler is an award-winning author of eight novels––A Boy and His Dragon, A Matter of Time (Silver Medalist from Reader’s Favorite), and The Knight Cycle, comprised of five books: Children of the Knight (Gold Award Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards), Running Through A Dark Place, There Is No Fear, And The Children Shall Lead, Once Upon A Time In America, and Spinner.

His horror screenplay, “Healer,” was a Semi-Finalist, and his urban fantasy script, “Like A Hero,” was a Finalist in the Shriekfest Film Festival and Screenplay Competition.

He grew up in San Rafael, California, and majored in English and Theatre at Santa Clara University. He went on to earn a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and another master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills.

He partnered with two friends as producer, writer, and/or director on several ultra-low-budget horror films, including “Fatal Images,” “Club Dead,” and “Things II,” the reviews of which are much more fun than the actual movies.

He taught high school in Hawthorne, California for twenty-five years, both in general education and to students with learning disabilities, in subjects ranging from English and Strength Training to Algebra, Biology, and Yearbook.
He has also been a volunteer Big Brother to eight different boys with the Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a thirty-year volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles.

He has been honored as Probation Volunteer of the Year, YMCA Volunteer of the Year, California Big Brother of the Year, and 2000 National Big Brother of the Year. The “National” honor allowed him and three of his Little Brothers to visit the White House and meet the president in the Oval Office.

His goal as a YA author is for teens to experience empowerment and hope; to see themselves in his diverse characters; to read about kids who face real-life challenges; and to see how kids like them can remain decent people in an indecent world.

He is currently working on the sequel to Spinner.

More on Michael J. Bowler:
MichaelJBowler.com
FB: michaeljbowlerauthor
Twitter: BradleyWallaceM
Blog: sirlancesays.wordpress.com
tumblr:http://michaeljbowler.tumblr.com/
Pinterest:http://www.pinterest.com/michaelbowler/the-knight-cycle/
Freado:http://www.freado.com/book/16160/children-of-the-knight
Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6938109.Michael_J_Bowler
Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Michael-J.-Bowler/e/B0075ML4M4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1417379614&sr=1-1

Also by Michael J. Bowler:

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Dead! Dead! Dead! (Book Review)

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dead-coverFrom the collaborative efforts of Paul Mannering and Bill Ball comes the zombie novel entitled “Dead! Dead! Dead!” Given the popularity of the genre it’s not the easiest challenge to come up with something that is truly original. But it has to be said that Mannering and Ball have delivered a solid story with enough creativity to capture the imagination of the reader. By providing interesting origins for the outbreak and colorful characters they have written something that is entertaining and definitely worth reading.

Minty is a member of the Locusts Biker Gang and for the last 20 years he has served as the right hand for the leader, Jethro. Along with 3 other members and a newbie, who they refer to as Freak, Minty is sent by Jethro to claim high quality cocaine and a substantial amount of money from a rival dealer. Instead, they come across people who have turned into zombies. After losing one member and another one getting infected they return to Jethro. This is also where they discover why people are turning into zombies.

Within hours the city is overrun with infected people and while trying to escape, Minty and Freak end up saving Callie, the doctor that treated their infected friend. The fight for survival continues to get more dangerous as they make it past the city limits, but as hope shines down on them they run into a much bigger problem.

Mannering and Ball chose a good starting point for the novel. The reader is quickly, but effectively, eased into a situation that has been unfolding for a while. The other plus point is the action that starts relatively early. Even before the gang confronts the horror inside the “empty” house the reader has a solid profile of Minty and the type of person he is.

With a novel such as this it’s important to focus on the descriptions that matter, especially if the pace of the story is fast, and this is exactly what the writers have accomplished beautifully. There is a constant flow of action and tension, but it doesn’t come at the expense of creativity. Throughout the story the reader always has a clear picture of what is happening and how it influences the characters emotionally.

The characters are well thought out and projected, although the zombies can be compared to the typical stereotype in terms of movement and nature. On the downside, there are some points of logic that don’t really add up, such as the city turning from calm to chaos within a very short time even though the infections have been occurring for some time. Other than this the novel is thoroughly entertaining.

Zombie and horror fans will all find some measure of delight in the book. It has the graphic depictions one would expect, from smashing in zombie heads to the nasty effects of getting infected. There is also a very nice twist at the end, which the reader most likely won’t see coming.

Although it’s not the type of novel that will win literary awards or change the course of horror novels, Mannering and Ball did a fantastic job. There is more than enough action and very little time to get bored. For those who get their zombie horror fix from the intimacy that books can provide, then this is a must read.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

Authors:

paul manneringPaul Mannering is an award winning writer living in Wellington, New Zealand,
Author of the Tankbread series, published by Permuted Press and, The Drakeforth Trilogy, including book 1 “Engines of Empathy” are published by Paper Road Press
Visit Paul’s website and blog at www.manneringbooks.com

 

bill ballBill Ball is a US Army and National Guard veteran, Dead! Dead! Dead! is his first novel.

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HouseBroken (Book Review)

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house-broken-coverFrom the author simply known as The Behrg comes the twisted tale entitled “Housebroken”, and it is sadistic as it is haunting. Horror and thriller fans that pick up this book will have to ready themselves for an experience that will affect them mentally and physically. Even though it’s not the most original plot, it has rarely been used with such creativity. The Behrg has successfully taken a situation that is usually considered as traumatic and turned it into different types of hell.

Blake is a successful consultant and software developer who takes the biggest risk of his career. This risk involves uprooting his wife, Jenna, and their son, Adam. The story starts with Blake sitting in the cage he uses to train their dog, wondering how he is possibly going to get out of the mess they are in. Six days earlier their home was invaded by two men who don’t want money or ransom. All they want is to observe the way Blake and his family lives.

Unfortunately things get out of hand as Blake’s neighbor mysteriously disappears, which draws the attention of the police. Meanwhile, Blake and his family undergo torture they will never be able to forget. With dead bodies in the house and in the trunk of Blake’s car the situation only escalates into a disaster that doesn’t have any silver linings.

The author is clearly focused on creating believable and relatable characters, because a lot of time is spent on introducing the situation between Blake and his family. Before anything happens the reader is well aware of the tension and problems within the family unit. In other words, The Behrg takes a very patient approach.

Another element that reinforces the character focus is the detailed experiences, especially for Blake. Every nervous, awkward and scary moment is shared with the reader, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the reader’s preference. From a personal point of view it definitely added to the substance of the plot. Whereas most writers will simply love to exploit the physical torment, The Behrg really drives down the invasion of privacy on an emotional level.

In terms of graphic horror and suspense, there is more than enough to go around. The sadistic personalities of the invaders provide a steady foundation for making the reader very uneasy, and in some cases just plain angry. Something that really stands out, which can be seen from the moment the invasion starts, is the tiny moments of hope that come through. But as quickly as they arrive they transform the situation into something worse.

Last but not least, the story is filled with twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing until the very end. This was a very nice touch from the author, because what appears to be a rather straightforward scenario at face value becomes a very complex maze where anything can happen.

For most readers who love tales with a fair share of twisted ideas and plot lines, put Housebroken on the list of must read horror novels. Even if it doesn’t fall into the style or taste that you like, you will definitely gain respect for the author.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

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Also by The Behrg:

The Voivod (Book Review)

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Voivod_Cover_SmallIf you’ve haven’t had the pleasure of reading a short ghost story by Dominic Selwood, then start with The Voivod. It is nothing short of amazing in terms of substance, literary quality and engagement. One might even say that the story embodies what sophisticated ghost stories should be like, atmospheric and psychological. Selwood goes above and beyond, making sure that each line either paints a picture or plays a crucial part to the overall flow.

The date is January 27, 1897, and the narrator immediately expresses his concerns after reading a letter from his good friend, Sir Oberon Worsley. In his unsettled state he conveys how he believes to be in danger and fears the act of telling anyone about it. He also shares with the reader the contents of the letter, or more specifically, the experiences of his good friend Worsley.

Worsley had just finished his long career as Bodley’s librarian, a post at Oxford he cherished dearly, but before he left he acquired an early occult diary for which he needed translation. After contracting a friend and expert in the field to help make sense of the book the dire consequences of reading it becomes quite clear.

One prominent element that can be seen in Selwood’s writing is consistency. From the opening sentence to the last word, Selwood practices a great control and balance. There are never moments where the reader can get mad because the author wasn’t descriptive enough, or lingers too long. Along with his rather large vocabulary and descriptive choice of words the combination is very impressive.

But what is really impressive is the style of the story. It sounds more than just authentically convincing, but also accurate. In fact, the reader is taken back more than 100 years with great ease. Then there is the matter of research that goes into the story. For somebody who isn’t educated in literary history it will be a daunting task to separate fact from fiction, which is also probably why the story is so convincing.

However, the audience the story speaks to is lovers of traditional English. It doesn’t contain gory details about severed heads and blood covering the walls. Instead Selwood uses a more human approach. In other words, readers who prefer bloody thrills will most likely appreciate something more in the line of Stephen King.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a level of thrill or excitement. It has many dark aspects and haunting descriptions that will leave the reader dwelling on what has just been read. It is also the haunting quality that makes the story really worth reading, whether you prefer lighter reading or the highest standards of English, it’s just something every horror fan should read within a lifetime.

The Voivod is definitely a recommended short story that belongs in the valuable section of literary horror, because it’s more like witnessing a moving art piece rather than reading a story. Selwood has successfully added another gem to his collection and his reputation as a writer will most likely get more renowned due to this particular short story.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

Also by Dominic Selwood:

Suffer The Children Review

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Suffer the Children (Book Review)

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Suffer_Cover_Small-hpDominic Selwood is the author of the short story entitled “Suffer the Children”. As a modern writer Selwood has a very traditional style, not something that is often seen. Nevertheless, it still makes for some interesting reading. The word that comes to mind when looking at his work is “rich”, and if this isn’t a natural gift then it requires a lot of time and effort to achieve perfectly.

The story takes place in the early 1900’s and the narrator is an Oxford teacher, who is getting ready to spend his vacation in Norfolk to work on a project. A fellow colleague by the name of Drower invites him to board at his house during his stay there, which he gladly accepts. However, he is forced to spend his first day indoors due to the bad weather.

The narrator decides to do some reading in the library of the house when he comes across a notebook that was written by Drower’s late father. It tells of his journey to Naples and the friendship he formed with a local priest called Don Anselmo. Dining together became a habit for them, seeing as none of them had any family in the area. One night the Anselmo fails to show up and when Drower goes to his house to see if everything is alright he discovers a terrible curse on the town.

Even though the whole story unfolds within only 19 pages, it feels a lot longer. The reason for this is in Selwood’s style. He has a very good sense of providing detailed and colorful information in the right places, while leaving out sections that won’t really add value. For short story writers this is a very challenging task, because less is more and you have to know exactly where to make the cuts.

It’s definitely a short story that cannot be categorized under the “easy reading” section. Selwood’s turn of phrase and use of vocabulary is quite extensive, much like a classic, traditional English novel. He obviously loves the English language very much, because he handles it with great respect. Compared to most modern short stories it takes longer to read, but it is well worth it. Selwood has the most beautiful way of describing the most mundane thing, which says a lot about his ability to capture the reader’s attention immediately.

It seems that a great deal of attraction to modern stories is the casual tone along with graphic details. So for the more casual reader who likes a gory thrill it’s probably not the most entertaining choice.

Ultimately, Selwood has written what can only be described as a perfect short story.  Any reader who loves a high quality work of fiction will definitely appreciate this short story, because the research alone is fascinating – it is rich with interesting information and references, but it also captures a pleasantly dark mood. There is nothing predictable about the story and the only way to know what is going to happen next is by reading the next page.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

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Sacra Obscurum (Book Review)

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Sacra-Obscurum-CoverSacra Obscurum is the debut novel by Todd Allen.  He has a very comfortable style that really captures the imagination of the reader.  Beyond a somewhat slow start, Sacra Obscurum has some very compelling elements.

The story follows a clinical psychiatrist called Matt Dawson. His life and career gets turned upside down the day his father dies, leaving him to pick up the loose ends. Matt makes the trip back to his relatively small hometown in order to bury Stanley Dawson, but he also has to handle the practice his father left behind. Suspecting the whole scenario to be simple and quick, Matt realizes that his stay won’t be as short lived as he anticipated.

Among the patients his father treated is an alleged killer by the name of Morris Dykeman. For the most part Dykeman was kept under heavy sedation and the longer Matt stays the creepier things get. It doesn’t take long for matt to discover his father’s obsession with the occult and his connection with the slaughter that took place for which Dykeman was accused. Unfortunately his father wasn’t the only connection. While Matt struggles to uncover the truth and to find the book that can supposedly bring everything to light there are certain individuals standing in his way.

Starting with the good aspects of the book, Allen shows great control and flow over the story. Even though the story is told from a third person point-of-view the reader always feels connected to the main character in some way. Another great thing about Allen’s style is the clarity of the tone and progression. He doesn’t leave any room for the reader to be confused or unsure and he didn’t forget to include the tiny details that make the characters human.

On the more critical side, the overall plot isn’t the most original. The distant relationship between father and son, combined with the son’s return to his hometown for the funeral of his father will probably remind the reader of several other movies and books. Even though it is written very well the cliché makes the rest of the plot somewhat predictable. In terms of the characters, some lack depth while Matt’s persona fails to create a unique edge that makes him stand out.

Regardless of these critical aspects Allen still does a good job for a debut novel. He manages to keep the interest of his readers and he induces a manner of curiosity towards how the story is going to unfold. For readers in search of a horror novel that isn’t filled with graphic scenes and foul language then this book is perfect. Allen’s version of what the occult and Satanism entails is very interesting, although it probably won’t lead to any nightmares. For hardcore horror fans it might not be the most exciting story.

Overall it’s a very well written book and many readers will appreciate the approach Allen used. I believe if he can utilize his comfortable style with more dramatic inter play his next book will be a great progression for a new writer.

Sacra Obscurum Sacra Obscurum
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Todd lives on the East Coast of Canada with two beautiful ladies—his wife Michelle, and daughter, Maya. A lifelong fan of all things horror, Todd has thrown his hat into the literary ring with his debut novel, Sacra Obscurum.

Influenced by the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, and raised on the ever-present Stephen King and Peter Straub, Todd aims to deliver his own brand of creeping, cerebral horror.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

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O.P. #7 – Horrors of War (Book Review)

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O.P.-#7---adam-fenner---coverO.P.#7 – Horrors of War by Adam Fenner is a military themed horror novel based in Afghanistan. His experience in the military is evident in his style and especially the details that go into making the story realistic. His personal experience adds more depth into personal situations, which may have been hard for an inexperienced writer on the subject. Writing about a military setting and keeping the attention of the reader are elements that don’t always walk hand in hand, but Fenner held a nice balance throughout the story.  This is definitely one of the reasons why the book is worth reading.

The first chapter opens with a crew of 10 soldiers, known as the Reapers, on their way to replace the previous company that occupied the combat outpost called Najil. Everything is bizarre about the outpost, but the true bizarre element is all the casualties the previous company had taken even though they hadn’t seen combat for the 6 months since they were there.

Although Fenner introduces a strong cast, he places more emphasis on two specific people, namely Sgt. Stone and Ulrich. As they lead the platoon to secure more ground and “build up relations” they quickly discover why the former marines, or at least those that survived, looked the way they did before they left. They also realize that the enemy they have to fight doesn’t fear their military weapons as the platoon gets picked off one by one in classic horror fashion.

Fenner isn’t really in a rush to present the evil that awaits Stone and his men. He prefers to build his characters and sell the scenery first. There are some strange events that occur, but they disappear as quickly as they appear. Just like the characters in the story, the reader will notice, but won’t pay too much attention until they become more substantial and lethal. In fact, the characters are dumbfounded for a great deal of the book, but this is where Fenner’s experience comes in.

A marine is wired with logical situations and arguments, which is why the excitement of the book is enhanced. Fenner knows how an experienced marine would approach the situation and he uses it to create more controversy. He also likes to implement “dream state” moments where the characters wake up to find they still have all their limbs. This technique keeps readers on the edge of their seats, but he may have used it just a little too much.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the fact that the characters are trained to fight. Where typical horror stories prefer embracing characters who tend to be weaker and not exactly fighting material, this story is filled with people who know how to fight and handle fear.

Fenner is very casual in his graphic descriptions and readers partial to animals will definitely find themselves a little unnerved at moments. He also doesn’t spare the imagination any gruesome details making the overall progression of the characters very good. The military nature of the story makes it a fresh read and less predictable than a more typical approached horror novel, howeverr experience horror readers will find a couple obvious twists and turns.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

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Ancient Shadows (Book Review)

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ancient-shadows-coverJoanne Pence, award-winning, USA Today best-selling author, will have her latest book Ancient Shadows released on March 18, 2015.  Her reputation aside, Pence has a very disciplined manner of writing, which is quite rare. Her tone is clear and concise while she creatively blends in descriptions that are very important for the imagination of the reader.

For those familiar with Pence’s previous novel, Ancient Echoes, will note that Ancient Shadows has the same protagonist, however it is a standalone novel in its own right.

One by one, a horror film director, a judge, and a newspaper publisher meet brutal deaths. A link exists between them, and the deaths have only begun…

The story follows a middle-aged, ex-archeologist called Michael Rempart and his rather secluded life in Florence. After a dying priest pays him a visit and gives him what Michael later finds to be a philosopher’s stone, his peaceful existence gets severely disrupted. While he attempts to come to terms with his fate, several other strange things start to occur. The stone, which holds tremendous power, is the only way to end the strange onslaughts.

Following the instructions from the priest, Michael makes his way to The Old Silk Road where the stone has to be replaced in order stop the work of ancient demons. Given his connection with a long line of alchemists, Michael is caught unprepared to face a danger he never anticipated. Ultimately he has to fight a history that doesn’t just involve his own demons, but also those sent from pure evil.

Ancient Shadows is a very creative mixture between suspense, horror and a little drama. The research, logic and authority the book was written with never leaves the reader in any doubt. For those who aren’t history fanatics it‘s going to be challenging to make a distinction between fact and fiction. From the first page through to the last, Pence shows a confidence in her ability and her story.

Readers who like more suspense and action rather than blood and gore will love Ancient Shadows. Pence has a very clean style and in some cases it might be too clean for hardcore horror fans. Everything is prim and proper regarding vocabulary and precision. Even though her “surprise plot” deliveries are perfectly done, the overall feel leans more towards Danielle Steele as opposed to Stephen King.

Some readers might find the tone a little cold and disconnected, but this is just a matter of personal taste and doesn’t really speak to the writer. This is usually a natural result when such technical gift is involved. From a personal point of view, it’s nice that Pence didn’t hesitate to get into the story too quickly. Despite the fact that the book is somewhat mid-paced the story unfolds rather quickly. There is no point where the author seemed rushed due to the need to finish the book, and once again it shows the great control she has.

Anybody who can appreciate a more traditional approach to writing rather than an artistic style should find Ancient Shadows very entertaining. It’s pure quality from start to finish. The hero might be a little too clean-cut and the story lightly touches Hollywood melodrama, but that is what makes the book so inviting for an array of readers. On the horror scale it falls a little short, but it’s definitely worth reading.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

Joanne PenceJoanne Pence is an award-winning and USA Today best-selling author of mysteries, historical fiction, romance, fantasy, and most recently, horror. Born and raised in San Francisco, she has been a journalist, analyst for the Federal government, taught school in Japan, and now makes her home in the foothills north of Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two dogs, four cats, and a peacock who showed up one day and refuses to leave. www.joannepence.com

Also by Joanne Pence:

Ancient Echoes Ancient Echoes
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Ascendance (Book Review)

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Ascendance-coverC. Jones makes her debut with the short story entitled “Ascendance”, and what a debut it is. It’s graphical and dark nature is enough to make veterans like Stephen King take another look at true horror. Within the pages of this book is a story that is very difficult to read. Not because it doesn’t make sense or the writing is awful, but because it’s just so horrific. Reading the book in one setting will take nerves of steel.

Landon is a ten year old boy that grew up in very difficult circumstances. Being the object of torture for his parents all his life, his situation finally reaches a very painful climax. After being beaten to death and buried in the backyard he lands in purgatory where a keeper called Ramiel comforts him. Landon is also told that in order to go to heaven he has to get rid of all the vengeance and hatred in his heart. Unfortunately the devil isn’t going to make things easy for Landon, seeing as Landon’s soul holds the key to something much bigger.

Meanwhile, his mother Lisa is planning her big escape from her abusive husband Garret. His obsession with Lisa has led to ten years of hell. Where Lisa once cared about her child, she has lost all emotional attachment. However, everything starts to escalate as Garret comes home to find Lisa cheating on him. This of course is the trigger to several bad things.

The first thing that should be noted about the book is that readers shouldn’t expect too many moments of happiness and if those moments occur they are short lived. It was written from a very dark place and it’s not surprising to read about how Jones had to take constant breaks in order to finish it (About Author). With the great levels the horror genre has reached thus far, Jones has managed to come up with a level of her own.

From the start the reader is thrown into a nightmare where there doesn’t seem to be an end to the violence and grotesqueness. For readers that are sensitive this book will be a challenge to finish, due to the graphic build-up. Jones doesn’t spare any mercy for her characters as she takes them through a life-changing journey without them having to leave the house.

As for the narrative voice and the overall tone of the writing, the author does a brilliant job. Although her characters might not be colorful, their representation of what is wrong with this world shines through in more ways than one. She digs into a very dangerous state of mind where there is creative torture tactics that really manage to unnerve the reader.

Horror fans that love deep, dark and very disturbing stories probably won’t be able to stop reading. Instead of just focusing on the typical violence and horror, the story speaks to the value we place on revenge. More specifically, how revenge can bite you in the backside if you are a religious person. Apart from some scenarios that don’t always make sense it’s a very intense short novel that shows great potential from a debut writer.

Ascendance Ascendance
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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.

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