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.

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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.

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

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Dead Rage (Book Review)

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Dead-Rage-coverDead Rage: A Zombie Apocalypse is the third book from Nicholas Ryan and it sees him building on the zombie stories he has written so far. Ryan has been compared to writers such as Max Brooks and many of his readers appreciate his descriptive style. His choice of genre is definitely daring, given it has been used by so many authors over the last couple of years. But after the first two books it seems like Ryan has become somewhat of a zombie guru and he doesn’t have a problem keeping readers entertained.

It all starts with a fishing boat called Mandrake, making its way back to the small town of Grey Stone. On the boat is a group of fishermen under the command of Steve Bannon and their return is fueled by his suspicions that something is not right back at home. After losing complete communication with Grey Stone harbor he doesn’t want to take any chances. Not all the crew members agree with his decision, but follow his orders nonetheless.

As Grey Stone comes into view Bannon realizes his suspicions were correct and after taking a closer look with his binoculars he sees the town burning. However, his true fear is whether he is going to find his wife alive. What Bannon doesn’t suspect is that he and the rest of his crew will be stepping into a war zone filled with flesh eating zombies. Apart from just finding his wife, Bannon has to stay alive and endure unforeseen betrayal. As fate would have it Bannon ends up in a military camp where he receives help on his search, but is there something he doesn’t know about his new found helpers?

After the first page it’s obvious why other readers are raving about Ryan’s descriptive style. He likes to go into detail about small things, which helps to give him a tone of authority about what he is writing. It’s more like reading a witness account instead of just a fictional book. It also helps the reader to create a very vivid picture, but it can get a bit much at some points. I couldn’t help feeling that it really slowed down the pace of the book unnecessarily at times. However, some readers might really enjoy this aspect.

In terms of the plot there are several incidents that will leave the reader shocked. Even though a lot of gore and terror come from the undead roaming the streets, the real suspense can be found within the living characters. The characters might not always be relatable, but their development is very realistic. Ryan knew the purpose of each character and he placed them strategically.

For a genre that has been reinvented so many times Ryan still manages to bring something fresh to the table. He has really mastered the approach he uses to bring the undead to life and one can only guess where he will be going from here. His research regarding military operations and the life of a fisherman really added some depth, but some readers might find the originality of the book lacking. For horror and zombies fans this is definitely a must read. For readers looking for something completely different and out of this world then this might not be the book for you.

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

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The Ripper (Book Review)

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the-ripper-coverL.A. Maldonado is the voice behind the new short horror novel entitled “The Ripper”. It is a fast-paced story filled with interesting characters and an enemy that cannot be destroyed by conventional means. Based on the historic events surrounding the murders of Jack the Ripper, Maldonado uses a mixture of fiction and fact to grab the attention of the reader. Even though his story is fictional, the actions of Jack the Ripper are part of a reality that still baffles the world.

The areas of London that saw the murders of Jack the Ripper occur have become great tourist attractions and the locals have no problem implementing these into their businesses, especially pubs and restaurants. But all of a sudden a murder occurs, more specifically, the type of murder Jack the Ripper would’ve done. Chelsea, a well-known writer and “Ripperologist” knew this would happen and even though she is in America at the time of the killing, she tries to stop it.

When Chelsea was a student at college she was the victim of a horrific attack, which she barely survived and it left her face scarred forever. Her father is Matthew Reid, a private detective in London and a descendent of the detective who initially investigated the original Ripper murders. As the copycat murders occur they are both drawn into the dangerous situation. Thanks to her visions, Chelsea cannot avoid her involvement. As for Matthew, he is approached by a local newspaper in search of a sensational story while providing substantial compensation.

Unfortunately they aren’t dealing with just another copycat killer. Instead they face an entity that is much more powerful and a lot more deadly. As their conclusions reach the reality of the situation their fear to survive becomes greater than their passion to simply catch a serial killer.

LA-Maldanado

Author L.A. Maldanado

Maldonado doesn’t waste any time getting into the story. Within the first chapter readers are introduced to a gruesome murder in true Ripper style. However, he is careful not to divulge too much information. At one point you think you are in the mind of the killer, but instead you find yourself more puzzled. Like mentioned before, the story is fast-paced in the sense that Maldonado places great emphasis on the characters instead of the surroundings. He provides just enough detail for the reader to know where the story is taking place and the rest is left for the characters.

Several stories from different characters were used to add some variety and they all have some kind of connection with the Ripper, whether it’s reading the books from childhood or it’s part of their occupation. The complex relationship between Chelsea and Matthew is also brought under the microscope, especially their difficulty with coming to terms regarding her attack. The attacker was never brought to justice and Matthew’s determination to catch him places a distance between him and his daughter.

Overall Maldonado shows great control over the way the story plays out and he does a great job when it comes to the emotions of the killer. Even though the motive is hard to grasp, the satisfaction and experience is very graphic. There are more than enough bone chilling descriptions to make you lose your appetite, in other words, Maldonado justifies the place “The Ripper” takes in the horror genre. It’s very entertaining and for Jack the Ripper fans this is a definite must read.

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

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Creepy Stories Creepy Stories
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Dark Shadows of Babylon (Book Review)

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dark-shadow-of-babolyn-coverDark Shadows of Babylon is a paranormal/horror book written by Julian Speed. The cover is a clear indication that readers will encounter a series of gruesome events, but there is also a great adventure awaiting. The first chapters look at the origin of the evil that creeps into modern times and Speed adds a nice touch regarding his characters, despite the big time difference. Mystery and suspense only play a moderate part as Speed doesn’t really focus on keeping the reader in the dark, but prefers to create a clear picture in order to promote a sense of enjoyment.

The Roman invasion of Britannia in 61 AD marks the starting point of the story. Two notable characters, namely Frederick and Antonio are introduced along with their fearless commander Proverus. The latter is the source of pain for several Celtic tribes and his last onslaught against the druids seals his fate. A strange entity called Thaddeus comes to warn the druids of their impending death and offers his help in exchange for using their power source. The leader of the druids, Andringael, rejects the offer but allows another druid and a desperate queen with nothing to lose to show him the way. These three end up trapped after destroying the Roman army.

In modern times we see Frederick again, but not as a Roman soldier. Instead he is a college student that unknowingly opens the tomb of Thaddeus along with his professor. This leads to several freakish deaths at the excavation site. The deaths follow Frederic as he returns to the States. Ultimately he is confronted by a gypsy called Eva and he is forced to involve his sister Mira along with his childhood friend Antonio. But this time there is a secret society with a mysterious mission involved in addition to the vindictive spirit causing all the havoc.

Revenge is the order of the day for the dark entities while personal gain fuels the secret society. With the combination of enemies and danger Frederic and his companions face there is an added sense of excitement. There is also no lack of graphical detail regarding the death of the characters. Speed does a great job at elevating the emotions of those who are staring death in the face. He doesn’t need to stretch out the experience for it to be more gruesome. The selected words he uses to describe fatal scenarios are very effective in leaving the reader somewhat unnerved.

Another compliment has to be extended to Speed for his choice of time periods. Whereas most horror writers prefer to stay within this century simply because it’s much easier, Speed was a little more daring. Travelling back so far opens a door for critique even if the book is fictional. He was careful of the speech used by the characters and he described the setting with authority and confidence.

The characters are colorful and exciting, the perfect combination for a good story. Frederic and his sometimes indifferent, playful traits help to bring some lightheartedness to an otherwise dark situation. The overall pace of the book is somewhat slow, but this is neither a good nor a bad thing as it will mostly depend on the preference of the reader. Speed took his time to produce an authentic style which many readers will appreciate.

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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules

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

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Punch (Book Review)

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punch-coverJ. R. Park is the author of “Punch”, a short novel that definitely justifies the title. Unlike his previous book “Terror Byte”, the focus isn’t so much on mystery as it is character relation. In fact, “Punch” is proof that Park is progressing as a writer in many ways. Where “Terror Byte” had some aspects and sections that didn’t seem necessarily relevant to the story, “Punch” has been slimmed down. Even though I enjoyed both books, the latter is my definite favorite.

It starts with a man called Martin, who is returning to his hometown after being away for 10 years. At the age of 50 he still feels like an excited child upon seeing all the old sites. However, a sense of fear accompanies his excitement. On his first day back he befriends Polly, a newcomer to the town and the woman he falls in love with. But he also bumps into some familiar faces, more specifically, Pippa and Jo. The last time Martin saw them they were 9 years old and they are the reason he was gone in the first place.

Unfortunately, Martin’s return is filled with horror instead of happiness. Long ago he used to be the beloved puppeteer who entertained families with shows that were based on everyone’s favorite character, Mr. Punch. Now he is shunned and ostracized because of what happened ten years ago. As the story unfolds Martin has to deal with numerous problems within the community, and no matter how hard he tries to conceal his identity, everyone recognizes him. Apart from the nightmares that haunt him, he loses his new found friends in addition to everything that he owns thanks to two little girls. Ultimately he breaks down and goes on a rampage the town of Stanswick Sands will never forget.

Author: J.R. Park

Author: J.R. Park

This is somewhat of a difficult book to review, because the slightest detail can be considered a “spoiler”. But at the same time it’s a great book to write about given the progression. The small amount of mystery that surrounds Martin and the two girls doesn’t take long to come to light, showing that Park decided to build the story on emotion. Anyone who reads the book shouldn’t be surprised if they feel torn between what they believe is fundamentally right and sympathy for Martin. His rather graphical nightmares effectively place the reader in an uneasy position for some time, or at least until the truth comes out.

Once I reached clarity regarding Martin’s situation, it was difficult not to feel his anger and frustration. One can even say that his actions that followed were completely natural. Halfway into the book I found myself wondering whether it actually falls into the horror genre, but these thoughts were quickly put to bed as Martin picked up his bat and lost his sanity.

Parks did an all-round great job with this book. His timing was precise and he even addressed a scenario that holds many bias views. Apart from the unnerving violence and graphical descriptions regarding busted heads, the reader will definitely think about the way in which a society functions, especially when it comes to small town communities. During a large part of Martin’s killing spree I found myself almost justifying his actions.

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Pray for Darkness (Book Review)

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Pray-for-darkness-cover“Pray for Darkness” is the fifth book by James Michael Rice and he doesn’t disappoint. His personal experience regarding the setting of the story is evident and it adds to the dimension in which he describes it. In addition, his choice of surroundings really contributes to the thrill of the story. Out of place and under-equipped, a group of friends take on an adventure they can’t handle.

Ben, Auggie and Cooper decide to go to one of the most dangerous places in the world, the Amazon. It has been referred to as the “Green Hell” by those who have been there before and with good reason. With such a vast section of the jungle that hasn’t been explored yet, the trio embraces the chance to make exciting memories. The vacation starts in the safety of a tour lodge, but it’s not long before they go in search of something a little more dangerous.

Unfortunately, fate has something else planned. With their guide, Ernesto, and two students they met at the lodge, Janie and Brooke, they charter a boat that is set to take them to a remote camp where safety cannot be guaranteed. All the while they are being watched by a mysterious group. Even though they each have a degree of fear, they use it as motivation to continue. It’s almost as if the fear is pointing them in the direction of true adventure.

The group that kept such a keen eye on the visitors turns out to be living corpses, but the trio only comes to terms with the danger when their boat disappears and the captain winds up dead. This is also when their “adventure” really begins.

Given the exotic location, it’s the perfect place to implement a zombie origin story. While the characters, especially Ben, focus on the dangers that are hidden in the jungle, it’s the unexpected threats that place them in danger. An aspect I really liked about the book is the tiny ironies that play out. For example, Ben is very excited about documenting the trip. He is intent on remembering as much as possible is great and the author makes a point to show this to the reader. In the end it turns out to be a journey Ben would most likely want to forget.

Another great aspect of the book speaks through the death of the characters. Typically, it’s easy to spot who will most likely survive, but in this case there are many surprises. The fact that the adventure seekers are in a place that is already stricken with loads of danger and they have no real knowledge of their surroundings gives the momentary climaxes more edge.

One of the things I appreciate from a good writer is when they use the correct pace, which is what Rice did. He took his time to familiarize the reader with the characters and the story expanded with clever little detail. If there is one thing I didn’t like, although it’s not a major issue, would be the originality of the characters. They didn’t really “pop” in my opinion, but the rest of the story made up for this.


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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.
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Also by James Michael Rice:

The Still The Still
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The Frozen Man (Book Review)

featured-reviews-smal The-frozen-man-coverFrom the author, Lex Sinclair, comes a story that is compelling and unnervingly vivid. “The Frozen Man” isn’t just another book about a sinister entity that leaves behind a trail of bodies, but truly exploits the human condition. He shows us that we are only human and sometimes it’s our judgment that brings us into trouble. More importantly, trouble that could’ve been avoided. By using a very comfortable style of writing, the reader is systematically dragged into a reality from which there is no return. The story isn’t just about a series of events that lead toward an unending nightmare, but the consequences that accommodate bad choices.

Tom and Kate, a married couple looking to rekindle their love, decide to go camping for the weekend in North Wales. Even though they’ve only been married 3 years and dated for 4, their relationship is dwindling. The fact that Kate can’t get pregnant and Tom trying to comfort her in all the wrong ways only makes it worse. As fate would have it their trip is interrupted by heavy snowfall and they are forced to sleep at the nearest bar with a bunch of strangers. Among the strangers is a man named Charles, and after the power to the bar is cut off, they all sit around the fireplace while Charles shares one of his fantastic stories.

His story is one he heard from his father, about a young man who was known as Nathan. Shortly after the Second World War Nathan gave hope to a village by performing strange miracles. The end of story sees Nathan brutally murdered by a jealous war-hero called Dennis. According to Dennis, Nathan stole the girl he was supposed to have and therefore he had to die. This could possibly be the price Nathan paid for falling in love, because he wasn’t allowed to get so close with mortals. Nathan’s body was found hanging from an oak tree in the forest by a chord of silver hair. When the hair was cut the body was frozen solid. This resulted in the nickname “The Frozen Man”.

Eventually the snow clears and the married couple stumbles upon a frozen body hanging from a tree in the forest. Against Tom’s better judgment they take the body down and store it in the boot of their car. With no real plan they go home and hide the body in their loft. However, a phone call from Charles out of the blue gives Tom and Kate the idea to revisit the choices they made. They tell Charles what they found and more research on Charles’s part revealed that bodies such as this shouldn’t be tampered with. They all decide to get the body back to where it was, but it’s not there anymore. This discovery leads to horrific events and consequences the couple never anticipated.Lex-Sinclair-the-frozen-man

The Sinclair sets a rather warm and comforting mood for a story that turns out to be pure evil. By using the emotion of his characters, especially those of Kate and her hope to conceive a child, he is able to bring a different twist into how the characters got themselves into trouble. He is particularly adept with painting the natural scenery and giving the reader a vivid picture of the surroundings. It’s almost as if he is testing the true love between two people and how far they will go to keep each other happy.

In this case Kate and Tom passed the test, but with dire consequences. Without spoiling the end, it has to be said that Sinclair did a superb job. It is original as it is shocking, making it the perfect climax to a finely paced story. The manner in which he details the suspense and emotion is impeccable, drawing the reader into the book with every page. In a single sentence, “The Frozen Man” is definitely a book that will be filed under my “Favorite” collection.

 


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Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.
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Also by Lex Sinclair:
The Goat’s Head
Nobody Goes There
The Lord of Darkness
Killer Spiders

Class Three (Book Review)

Class-Three-CoverDuncan P. Bradshaw is the author of the new book entitled “Class Three” and he delivers somewhat of a different spin on a zombie apocalypse. With rather colorful characters the reader is thrown into a world where a typical day turns into something nobody expected, except for one particularly eager character called Phillip.

Bradshaw starts the story with a chapter/intro that introduces villains that are in fact human. Unlike many writers who prefer to use an intro as a way to capture the attention of the reader and leave it as it is, Bradshaw’s intro is linked to two important sections which the reader will discover later in the book. The second chapter introduces Jim, Sophie and Phillip. Fourteen hours before the “apocalypse” takes place, Sophie leaves Jim at a restaurant after deciding that their long term relationship is a dead end. Depressed and hurt Jim goes to the pub next door and drinks until he is unable to stand up properly. In turn he calls his older brother Phillip to come and pick him up.

When Jim wakes up the next morning he is greeted with a series of strange and horrific events. Luckily Phillip was prepared for a zombie apocalypse and after picking up Jim they decide to make their way to their parents. For most of the people the zombie attack is scary and gruesome, but not for Phillip. He seems to find a sense of excitement, because he did expect it at some point or another. On their journey they meet other survivors, but also discover something that leaves them emotionally broken. Ultimately they decide to follow the trail of Sophie and her mother.

Bradshaw brings another dimension to the book by including the story of two particular zombies and their trail of destruction. However, one of these zombies can make things very complicated as the story unfolds. The other threat apart from the zombies is a religious cult that regards the apocalypse as the rapture. Part of their mission is to kill people so that they can come back as the hideous creatures and join their goddess in all her glory. In essence, everyone is infected and only by death can the zombies rise.

Instead of writing a book that is completely bound in horror, thrills and graphic death, Bradshaw implements a level of humor. This is mostly visible in Phillip, and Bradshaw manages to find a nice balance between gore and comic relief. Whereas Jim is the cautious character that prefers to think before he acts, Phillip is the one that prefers to take charge before thinking. The combination of the two gives the story a great entertainment value in addition to holding the interest of the reader.

Make no mistake; there is a fair share of chilling and disturbing moments. Bradshaw was definitely careful about the amount of humor he used and where he placed it. Nothing is taken away from the emotionally challenging sections and neither does Bradshaw leave a lot for the imagination. Together the separate stories of the characters reach a very interesting climax that doesn’t disappoint.

“Class Three” is definitely the type of book that can be converted to film and it won’t need many changes. Bradshaw’s connection with his characters is in my personal opinion the best part of the book. It’s not easy coming up with an original zombie theme and Bradshaw incorporated an element which sets it aside from all the rest.

 


Average Rating:
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Damnetha-Jules-Horror-Palace-Review
Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha  is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.
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