The Devouring Gray (The Devouring Gray #1) by Christine Lynn Herman #bookreview #YA #fantasy

On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?

When I saw the cover of this novel, I wanted to read it without even seeing the description.  Comp titles like The Raven Cycle and Stranger Things are the equivalent of leaving a trail of chocolate to lure me in.

What a dark, atmospheric story this is, with spine-tingling moments, complex, flawed, fully-realized characters, and layered secrets intermingled with lies.  Small towns always hold the most secrets and lies.  Occasionally when I read, I’m skimming the pages and getting the gist of the story.  With this book, I was completely absorbed from page one, and read every single captivating word.

These characters – oof.  Complicated relationships, a diverse cast, and a few different POVs.  All of them are compelling, but with a tragic, mysterious past, Isaac is the character that most intrigued me, and it looks like more about his past will be revealed in the next book.

The Devouring Gray is an enticing blend of YA fantasy and horror.  It’s not a fast-paced story, but more of a slow burn – and what a tantalizing burn it is, with all those secrets and lies slowly coming to light.  The second book in this duology will be on my wishlist for next year.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

Call Drops by John F. Leonard #BookReview #shortstory #RBRT #horror #TuesdayBookBlog

Vincent likes nothing more than rootling round second-hand shops in search of the interesting and unusual. Items that are lost and forgotten. 
Why not? He needs the diversion. Time on his hands and money to burn. His life is affluent and empty. Little on the horizon and memories tinged bittersweet. 
That’s all about to change. He’s about to find something that is perhaps better left unfound. 

CALL DROPS is a darkly swirling mix of horror and mystery that will stay with you long after the reading is done. It’ll maybe make you think twice about impulse buying, those moments when you simply must have something, even though you don’t need it. 
It might cause you to look again at the apparently mundane and everyday …and possibly, just possibly, wonder at what twisted marvels lurk within your mobile phone. 

Call Drops is a short (ish) horror story, the first in a series of sinister tales from the Dead Boxes Archive. 
Some objects are scary things. Dead Boxes definitely fall into that category. 
They can be easily overlooked. They’re ordinary on the surface. At first glance anyway. 
If you look a little closer, you’ll see something unique. 
You could have one and not know it. 
Be careful. 
They hold miracle and mystery. Horror and salvation. 
None are the same. Except in one regard. 
You don’t need one. 
You might think you do, but you really don’t. 
Believe me. 

A Short Horror Story 
From the Dead Boxes Archive.

This is one grim, twisty, short story that filled this horror fan’s heart with glee.  It’s been a while since I’ve read short stories, and I’d forgotten what a pleasure it can be to immediately get down to the business of storytelling  – and this author does it well.  He takes the reader by the hand and gradually reveals Vincent’s life, both in present day and through flashbacks.  All the while, you just know something sinister might be waiting around the corner.  And trust me, it is – you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t expect blood and gore horror – this is more about the dark side of human nature, and what people are capable of doing to each other.  The only negative for me, and this is my personal preference, is the cover – if I saw this book on the shelf, it isn’t something that would immediately grab my attention.  But the contents inside surely did.  Call Drops has a Twilight Zone/Black Mirror feel, and can easily be read in one sitting.

I received a copy of this book from the author through Rosie’s Book Review Team.

 

Inspection by Josh Malerman #bookreview #horror #TuesdayBookBlog

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.

J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know.

But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.

This is my third Malerman book, and I’ve decided his books should come with a guarantee – the plot will be entirely original, and unlike anything you’ve read.

It’s a fascinating premise – raise children from infancy, seclude them from the outside world, educate them at an advanced rate, and control everything in their lives to include what they wear, read, eat, and do in their leisure time.  All while making sure they’re unaware of the opposite sex.  You can’t deny it’s thought-provoking, and would certainly inspire some fascinating book club discussions.  But what happens when the children learn they’ve been lied to their entire lives?  Especially considering their advanced education, maturity, and thought processes?

Even though the childrens’ world is limited, learning it takes a bit of time – it’s bizarre on one level, but practical on another.  Malerman elevates common terminology to sinister levels – ‘the Corner’ and ‘spoiled rotten’ – and the inspections are just downright creepy and disturbing.

D.A.D. and M.O.M. are psychologically demented and unbelievably narcissistic, and the reader is given insight as to how this inhumane experiment came to be.  Some of their scenes are cringe-worthy and profoundly unsettling.

Inspection is more of a slow burn horror novel, then jumps into light speed near the end – and this is an ending you don’t want to miss.  This novel is scheduled for publication April 23rd, 2019.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.

 

Craven Manor by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror

Daniel is desperate for a job. When someone slides a note under his door offering him the groundskeeper’s position at an old estate, it seems too good to be true.

Alarm bells start ringing when he arrives at Craven Manor. The mansion’s front door hangs open, and leaves and cobwebs coat the marble foyer. It’s clear no one has lived there in a long time.

But an envelope waits for him inside the doorway. It contains money, and promises more.

Daniel is desperate. Against his better judgement, he moves into the groundskeeper’s cottage behind the crypt. He’s determined to ignore the strange occurrences that plague the estate.

But when a candle flickers to life in the abandoned tower window, Daniel realises Craven Manor is hiding a terrible secret… one that threatens to bury him with it.

I’ve seen Darcy Coates books all over Amazon and Goodreads, and her eerie covers always catch my eye, but I’d never read any of her work.  After Craven Manor was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in the horror category, I knew it was time to change that.

My heart immediately went out to Daniel.  He’s down on his luck, with barely a penny to his name, but is so generous to others.  Maybe he’s a bit naive, but I awarded him bonus points for being an animal lover.  This author definitely knows how to set a tense, haunting scene – the imagery is wonderfully vivid, and the neglected grounds of the manor are easy to visualize.

The final battle, although furious, seems to stretch on for bit, but it leads to a satisfying ending.  I also found the relationship between Daniel and his cousin, Kyle, kind of weird, and never really understood it.

Overall, I enjoyed Craven Manor, and I’m sure it won’t be the last book I read by this author.

Dark Visions: an anthology of 34 horror stories #bookreview #horror #TuesdayBookBlog

From the creators of the #1 bestseller The Box Under The Bed horror anthology comes Dark Visions, 34 horror stories from 27 authors. Tag along on a con man’s New Orleans vacation where he gets more than he bargained for from a mysterious voodoo shop. A collection of family photos reveals an eerie secret about a beloved grandmother’s true nature. A child’s horrifying memories haunt her into adulthood. A new camp counselor learns that the camp has secrets she might not live to reveal. Edited and compiled by Amazon bestselling author Dan Alatorre, this anthology of horror brings together the minds and pens of more than two dozen amazing authors. Dark Visions will take you into the realm of the eerie and macabre, with thrills and chills from: bestselling author Dan Alatorre (The Navigators) bestselling author Jenifer Ruff (Everett), bestselling author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant), bestselling author J. A. Allen, award-winning author MD Walker, award-winning author Juliet Nubel, award-winning author Dabney Farmer, award-winning author Sharon E. Cathcart, award-winning author Heather Kindt, award-winning author Bonnie Lyons, award-winning author Sharon Connell, award-winning author Geoff LePard, award-winning author Anne Marie Andrus, award-winning author Christine Valentor, award-winning author BA Helberg, Ernesto San Giacomo, Alana Turner, Nick Vossen, award-winning author Robbie Cheadle, Betty Valentine, award-winning author Frank Parker, award-winning author Bonnie Lyons, award-winning author Lori Micken, Chuck Jackson, Ellen Best, Victoria Clapton, Perfect for Halloween or any time, these stories will make you think twice before spending the night alone, planting a tree in your garden, or even visiting your mother. Consider yourselves warned. 

If you’re looking for quick reads to enjoy during a break in your day, Dark Visions offers some eerie, creepy, and unsettling short stories that are perfect for this time of year.  Although I can’t review each individually, I’ll mention those I was still thinking about days after finishing.

If you’re a parent, The Storm by J.A. Allen will rip your heart out.  Pictures showing people who were absent when the picture was taken is disturbing and haunting – which is why The Stranger by Allison Maruska is a freaky little tale.  The Willow Tree by Robbie Cheadle is dark and twisted, but what makes it even more frightening is that it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.  It’s easy to imagine hearing about something like this in the news.

Dark Visions offers a nice variety of stories that may have you looking over your shoulder and double-checking the locks on your doors.

I received an ARC from one of the authors.

 

 

The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone #bookreview #horror #scifi

After two years of living on cheap beer and little else in a bitterly cold tiny cabin outside an abandoned, crumbling mansion, young programmers Shawn Eagle and Billy Stafford have created something that could make them rich: a revolutionary computer they name Eagle Logic.

But the hard work and escalating tension have not been kind to their once solid friendship—Shawn’s girlfriend Emily has left him for Billy, and a third partner has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. While Billy walks away with Emily, Shawn takes Eagle Logic, which he uses to build a multi-billion-dollar company that eventually outshines Apple, Google, and Microsoft combined.

Years later, Billy is a failure, beset by poverty and addiction, and Shawn is the most famous man in the world. Unable to let the past be forgotten, Shawn decides to resurrect his and Billy’s biggest failure: a next-generation computer program named Nellie that can control a house’s every function. He decides to set it up in the abandoned mansion they worked near all those years ago. But something about Nellie isn’t right—and the reconstruction of the mansion is plagued by accidental deaths. Shawn is forced to bring Billy back, despite their longstanding mutual hatred, to discover and destroy the evil that lurks in the source code.

I read The Hatching series by this author, which I enjoyed, and after seeing the cover of this one – I needed it immediately.  And AI books fascinate me.

After reading this, you may think twice about having a smart home.  The thought of a computer program becoming sentient and deciding independently to control the lives of its creators is freaky scary.  It made me think about how my Alexa speaks at random times – even when no one is in the room with her.  Nellie is dark and dangerous – and she really shines the last 20% of the book during some intense situations – but I wish she would have gotten more page time.  It’s mentioned in the blurb that Shawn, Billy, and Emily had a love triangle back in college, but the drama surrounding that and flashbacks from their respective pasts make up a larger portion of this story.

Not that the plot of The Mansion is anything like The Shining but, being a King fan, I noticed some parallels – a secluded mansion/resort in the middle of winter, an alcoholic sleeping very little and consumed with his work, a character named Wendy, and young creepy sisters – but these are twins with an unusual connection, not ghosts.

I wouldn’t classify this book as horror scary, but more disturbing and unnerving.  It’s a long read at over 400 pages, and contains a good bit of repetition which can be difficult to get past, but I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to both sci-fi and horror fans.  With this being an ARC, the word count may change before publication.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

 

#BadMoonRising: Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery by Steve Stred #horror #occult #giveaway

The winner of an ebook of Frostbitten is Hugh Roberts!  Congrats to Hugh and thanks to all who commented to enter.

Happy Halloween, and welcome to the last day of Bad Moon Rising!  As a treat (I promise it’s not a trick), today’s author will give away an e-book copy of his book to a random commenter determined by random.org.  We end this fourth year of Bad Moon with yet another testimony about evil Ouija boards.  If any of you kids (or adults) are thinking about picking one up, just read these interviews, and I promise you’ll rethink that decision.  Welcome Steve Stred!

You’re in a horror movie.  Are you the final person, the first to die, the comic relief, the skeptic, the smart one, or the killer?

I am both the final person but also the comic relief. I am a pretty sarcastic person and I spend a lot of time making little comments and quips.  Just ask my family.  I find them hilarious at least!  I would also do whatever it took to live.  So last man standing.  I can always entertain myself.

Vampires, ghosts, werewolves, or zombies – which would you least want to meet in a dark alley?

100% I would not want to meet werewolves. Other than fog, nothing scares me more in the world than werewolves.  If a werewolf was stalking me through a foggy alley, even worse.  I mean vampires are scary and sure ghosts and zombies suck in general but werewolves are freaking werewolves.  Giant wolf-men/women who want to rip you apart and can run really fast, jump really far and are really strong.  And your only defense is hoping you have silver or silver bullets around?  Not a chance.

Have you ever played with a Ouija board?

I actually have. I won’t get into too many details as I don’t want anyone identified who was there and who wouldn’t want this experience shared, but a group of us played with a Ouija board.  I was laying on my stomach, on the couch, half playing around, half admiring someone, when something happened in the room.  I was pinned to the couch by a really strong force and began to cry uncontrollably.  Incredibly unsettling and weird experience that I can’t explain.  I was in my early teens when it happened.

How do you develop your plots and characters?

I develop my plot/characters through my draft process. I typically have a fully thought out short story/novella/novel which I then point form on a word doc.  A lot of my stuff I write my first draft using the old trusty pen and paper approach.  Then I transfer to the computer and evolve as I go.  Ultimately I usually have thought about it so many times that it is just regurgitating what is in my brain to the paper.  I will normally have the title worked out when I start writing and I very rarely change the title once I get going.  I will get some feedback from my beta readers and street team and adapt as needed.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love spending time with my wife, my son and our dog. My son recently turned 2 so it’s a very exciting time filled with many tests of patience and frustrations ha-ha!  So it’s amazing watching him grow and develop.  I also spend a lot of time reading both with my son but also on my kindle.  I was a staunch advocate of physical books for many years, but since our son arrived the only way I can read is on my kindle so I have softened my beliefs.  It fills me with so much joy that he loves books so much, so I hope one day (even if he doesn’t like what I write) he is proud that I have books released.

What are you working on now?

I am always working on a bajillion things! Currently working on my second full length novel The Stranger, as well as a third novel, untitled as of now.  I am also working on my third collection of short stories, tentatively called The Night Crept In.  I have a neat compilation/novella on the go with two other writers, which I hope will see the light of day, two more of my own novellas, and another novella with another writer.  And to top it all off, I write kids-action adventure on the side for my nieces and nephews, so will be releasing some more of those things.  I haven’t officially announced it yet, but those will now be released under a pen name to reduce any confusion for readers.

Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery repackages Author Steve Stred’s first two releases, here for you, in one easy to digest offering.  Taking his first short story (For Balder Walks) and his first short story anthology (The Fence: and Other Sordid Tales), and combining them, Steve has delivered a devastating mix of styles to truly work its way into your psyche.

12 Hymns of Misery is built in a similar manner to your favourite music album.

From the intricate, haunting openers of For Balder Walks and Jim, to the bridge section of creepy, action filled stories such as The Fence and Time Out Noose, coming-of-age tales like Edge of the Woods and Virtues of the Beast, culminating with the crescendo of the tortured closers; Old Man and the Alley, the reader will find themselves transported to a dozen nightmare filled landscapes, all sure to haunt the reader for years to come.

“Edge of the Woods is a dark little coming-of-age tale, bringing me right back to my childhood days on the playground.  Just the right amount of creepy, this one will leave you wanting more!”

Justin M. Woodward, Author of TAMER ANIMALS & Candy

“Time Out Noose is DAMN good!”

J.Z. Foster, Author of The Wicked Ones & Mind Wreck

Buy Link

https://www.amazon.com/Frostbitten-Hymns-Misery-Steve-Stred-ebook/dp/B07GLBGWPT/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1536870670&sr=8-6&keywords=steve+stred

Author Bio

Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark Horror author.  Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick.

Steve also has a number of works on the go and enjoys all this horror, occult, supernatural and paranormal.

Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog Oj.

Social Media

Website: stevestredauthor.wordpress.com
Facebook: facebook.com/stevestredauthor
Instagram: /stevestred
Twitter: twitter.com/stevestred