Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The Intruder &The Unbeliever by Morgan K.Tanner




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The Unbeliever
The joyful surroundings of a magical theme park should fill everyone with a feeling of warmth and happiness. But Mike isn't really feeling the love. After his derisory comments to his family about the 'out of work actors' in animal suits he enrages these cute and cuddly creatures. Mike soon learns that he probably should have kept his mouth shut. Especially when the blood begins to spill.


The Intruder
Having a newborn baby in the house is certainly hard work. Those nights of broken sleep bring on a zombie-like existence for most of the day. Toby is certainly feeling exhausted. But when one evening his home is invaded by an intruder, he decides his lack of sleep could work to his advantage. Without ever questioning his actions he begins a sadistic revenge on this would-be burglar. His tiredness however, could ultimately prove his undoing.




I had no idea when I first started reading these Short Sharp Shocks just how addictive they are! The bar has been set pretty high and this time I delved into The Unbeliever &The Intruder by Morgan K.Tanner.
I’ve read a few works form Morgan over the years, The Mind’s Plague &Other Stories comes highly recommended as is Army of Skin so I knew I would be in for a thrilling experience. Morgan K.Tanner has an incredible imagination coupled with a heart of horror and a really fun sense of humour and these tales showcase his great writing talent.
In The Unbeliever I think we can all relate to Mike, especially if you have kids. He’s been forced to go on holiday to an overpriced, over-rated theme park and made to pretend he’s having the time of his life. However he’s too tired, too hungover and cranky to play an act for the sake of his family. He just wants to sit somewhere quiet and sleep off his hangover.
This resort is just too sugary sweet, or is it?
I love reading tales by Morgan K.Tanner you just never know how they are going to pan out other than its going to get very grisly and dark! I had great fun reading this and it is very well executed.

The Intruder
Again, this is a story that any parent can relate to. The terrors of sleep deprivation when you have a new-born really is the stuff of horror. I look back to when my kids were younger and honestly don’t know how I managed to stay sane throughout the months of sleepless night!
Toby, our main character is juggling a very demanding family life alongside starting a new business. He finds a few quiet moments in the middle of the night to sort out his tax return when he realises there is an intruder in his home.
He will do anything to protect his family…
This tale really felt like a nightmare, very dark and disturbing but really well written!

The One That Knows No Fear by Steve Stred

The One That Knows No Fear


The One That Knows No Fear: stuntman extraordinaire. For young Timmy Wilson, this stuntman is his only reason for living. Every Saturday he watches as The One That Knows No Fear cheats death. Now, the stunt show is coming to his hometown and Timmy can't wait to watch him perform in person.

A coming-of-age, cosmic horror story set in the 1970s, The One That Knows No Fear will keep your heart pounding long after the stunt has finished.

Writing about The One That Knows No Fear, author Steve Stred said of his protagonist Timmy Wilson: “The story really focuses on him. This is a boy who wishes for a father figure to be in his life and because it’s not there, he attaches to this specific Daredevil, the one they call ‘The One That Knows No Fear.’ Timmy really is an innocent kid who just wants to believe that adults are saints, which we all know is far from the truth.”

This is the latest title I've read from Demain publishing and although each story is unique I've loved them all. So far I've read; The Town That Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer, The Forest is Hungry by Christopher Stanley, Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See by Kev Harrison, An Invitation to Darkness  by Hailey Piper,and Last Meal in Osaka by Gary Buller. And they're all great!

So I did have high expectations for this, and wasn't disappointed! 

Despite being a short story this tale had real emotional depth, in places it was really touching  between Timmy and his stepfather with a good helping of 1970's cosmic horror!

The tale centres around a young boy, Timmy, who never really knew his father and desperately wants to connect with his step-father who has absolutely no interest in him at all. Timmy doesn't give up and they form an unlikely bond whilst watching a stunt show every Saturday evening. They are both captivated by the One Who Knows No Fear as he attempts the most dangerous stunts in the world. 

When it is announced the stunt show will be touring the United States including their home town, Timmy's step father buys them tickets. It's their first father/son day out. Timmy is beyond excited for what will surely be an amazing day. He really feels like he is gaining a father.

However this is a horror tale. When it is unleashed it really takes you by surprise. It's easy to forget that something bad will happen as the first half of the story is incredibly heart felt and touching which makes the second half that much more brutal and terrifying. 

I don't want to give away spoilers but I loved the horror element. It's a really fun and original tale to read. Can't wait to read more from Steve Stred!

Monday, 16 March 2020

Dark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer

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Each year, people all over the world celebrate special festivals and days, shining light on what they wish to remember and revere. But sometimes, inhabitants of the dark arrive with the desire to disturb proceedings. Dark Celebrations is a collection of twelve short stories. And the holidays will never be the same.


Dark Celebrations is a collection of 12 dark horror tales from Calvin Demmer, the author of The Sea is a Fair Master which has become a classic! It was a joy to read all these great tales again which have been re-released in one collection!  

Calvin Demmer has a great imagination when you set off you never know where the tale will take you. Each tale is a dark journey. Are you ready fir it? You'll never look at holidays in the same way again. 


It's so hard to pick out favourites in this collection but I'd say Hungry Ghosts and Unidentified Fatherly Object were my faves!







Hungry Ghosts




Ten Tips For Surviving The Hungry Ghost Festival.

1.Do not interfere with any offerings. If done by accident, immediately apologise aloud
2.Do not open an umbrella indoors as ti may invite ghosts.
3.Do not marry, start a new business,or move home during ghost month.
4. Do not wander after midnight.
5.Chopsticks placed upright are a direct invitation for ghosts to partake in your meal.
6.Do not sleep facing a mirror or reflective surface. This may guide ghosts to you.
7.Do  not pat anyone's shoulder or forehead. It brings them bad luck and puts them at risk of being possessed.
8. Do not swim. Drowned evil ghosts seek victims for their rebirth.
9. Do not take photos,selfies or videos. Ghosts may appear.

10. Do not turn around if a voice calls you from behind.



Lara and Ray have just reach their hotel in China, their first holiday abroad. The trip of a lifetime and beyond! They have arrived during the Hungry Ghost Festival. The streets are adorned with lights and offerings to the dead who are both loved and revered. Upon reading the ten tips for survival Lara realises that Ray has already broken the first rule. 

In this action packed tale which takes you on a creepy and gruesome path Lara and her boyfriend, Ray, have gone on a once in a lifetime holiday to China. It's make or break. But instead of feeling madly in love she feels empty, wanting more than what Ray can give. After one argument too many Lara decides to take a walk into the wilderness at dusk. She's determined to enjoy herself and make the best of things. 


Secretly she is trying to make up her mind over whether they should stay together, she's looking for a way out and if she carries on, up that path she might find it. A cool little tale that warns of not taking local traditions seriously and how you should never act on impulse!



Labor Day Hunt

In this short tale Jared Rogers is already in trouble and has no idea of the downward spiral he's about to get himself into when he accepts the offer of two hundred dollars for just two hours work. That's a lot of money to anyone but to him it's a lifeline.

Orphaned when he was just twelve after his parents died in a car crash Jared was raised by his doting and loyal aunt and uncle, helping run their electrical hardware shop which is dying a slow death. After the tragic passing of his uncle he realises his aunt is on the verge of bankruptcy and answers the ad as a way of providing her with some means for survival.

And he too has dreams of his own, despite graduating from university he has never made it out of the small dead end town he grew up in and the chance to earn a bit of money to help him escape is too tempting...

In search of cash plucky Jared arranges to meet the mysterious Tim Lewis who put out the ad in an abandoned warehouse where he is doomed to find himself in the company of the Silverfields Nightlight Society- what could possibly go wrong?




Trick or Death

Barry Steiner s a young man who is desperate for popularity and will do anything to increase the number of subscribers on his youtube channel. He thinks he's come up with a brilliant idea; pranking. Except the joke is on him, he's blind to everything that goes on around him with devastating consequences.He has everything he wants in life, he just has to look past his nose, but sometimes these realisations come much too late.

A great little tale that blends humour with terror, full of tension and foreboding doom and of course there's a nice little twist at the end.



Thanks Sinning

"It all started with a glass shattering..."

Deshawn Williams sits in a dingy bar contemplating how his life took a wrong turn. The only source of excitement in his life was watching a heated exchange take place between a barmaid and customer.

The barmaid accused of being a homewrecker looks like trouble, one to be avoided but when she approaches Deshawn stuck in hs quiet life he is powerless to resist the danger that surrounds her. He's supposed to be going home to his mum for dinner for Thanks Giving. She takes him away and promises him a night of passion if he can do one thing for her.

But what she asks of him goes against everything he believes in. He takes a second look at her and realise she's not all she seems but can he show her that sin doesn't always win.

I really enjoyed reading this great little tale, highly original and a great ending. Did Deshawn conquer evil? Or has he just set it free. I loved the little touches in this tale such as the name of the bar maid!





Three Dead Men 

A young woman, Maiko Hayashi is left puzzled by the sudden disappearance of her beloved uncle, a highly respected professor who's dedicated his life to collecting strange and wonderful artefacts.

Despite it being Christmas Eve she is feeling alone and rather lost. She feels like she has no place in the world. Despite going off to college she is lonely finding it hard to make even friends, finding a boyfriend seems impossibly hard. Often she comes round to visit her uncle as a means to escape from her parents resentment and bitter disappointment in her. She wonders if she had been born a boy they might have felt differently towards her.

However when she arrives at her uncle's house on the very edge of town, all is dark and there is no sign of him. On closer inspection Maiko finds his car parked in the garage and inside someone has recently been bring lavender incense. She decides to go looking for him in his secret shed down at the bottom of the garden.

Unfortunately Maiko finds not just her uncle in terrible danger, but her too. Can Maiko, a mere girl, in her parents eyes rise to the challenge of saving herself and her uncle?

Despite the horror and gore this is a sweet uplifting story about female empowerment and how we all have the power to take control of our lives.



Happy Dark Year

Cody Wheeler has had one stressful year and wants nothing more than to relax, forget about his problems, meet up with his buddies  for a beer or two. He can't wait to wave out  the old year and welcome in the new.

However all his problems seem to be following him, such as his long term girlfriend Kendall Simpson, things haven't been right lately, he just can't put his finger on where it's all going wrong. He tries his best to be the perfect boyfriend but everything he does winds her up. He's beginning to question whether she's worth all the effort and against his better judgement after one argument too many he decides to leave her at the roadside and go to the party alone...

This tale by Calvin Demmer is a great dark story guaranteed to counter-act the sweetness of the festive season for all you horror fans out there. In this, Calvin Demmer takes something very old and makes it new for the 21st century.


Dying Valentine

It's Valentine's Night and this is a n extra special one for Daniel, he's meeting Julia's parents for the first time tonight and he's anxious for it to go well. He's been seeing his girlfriend for six months but he really loves her and wants to be accepted into the family fold.

However he forgets the roses and chocolates in his haste to get there on time and decides he must return to his house for them. He can not arrive empty handed even if he arrives late.

But then in his panic he revs up his speed and knocks over a mysterious young woman with long black hair in a deathly pale dress. She puts him in an impossible situation in which he has no choice but to help her, even at his own cost as he's a nice guy. Long live the nice guys!

All Daniel wants to do is to get round to his girlfriend's house and enjoy this special night with the woman he loves.




Spring Outbreak

Gwen has her whole life ahead of her, she's done brilliantly in her first year at college yet all she can think about is her most recent heartbreak. Her friend Haley suggests getting away for Spring Break and takes her off on an extraordinary adventure to Mexico. Even her parents reluctantly agree it is a good idea.

Yet Gwen is still finding it hard to forget and move on and look forwards to the next chapter in her life. Haley drags her to the beach for a sun-blessed day but that's when her problems really start.

After a nap she wakes up only to find her friend disappeared.

I really enjoyed this tale. I really felt I was inside Gwen's head and the characterisation was really good. There was a lot of depth despite it being a short story. There was a lot of twists and turns which really keep hold of you throughout.


She Will Rise

In this tale we are introduced to Luna Mendes who has returned home for Easter to care for her sick mother.

Luna is tortured with loneliness, death has not been a stranger to her but she is determined to make the best of things by living her life by Isabella's five tips for a kick-ass life.

She soon diverts attention form her own suffering to that of her mother, Selma whilst trying to avoid her alcoholic step-father who is beyond useless. She soon suspects that he is keeping secrets and as she follows Isabella's five tips she gets to the truth with horrifying consequences.

Can Luna save not just her mother, but herself? Will she ever find out the fifth and final tip for everlasting happiness?

A surprisingly touching tale not often found in horror, I really like I had gone on a emotional journey with Luna and I really felt myself rooting for her.




Prom Screams

In Prom Screams we follow the tale of William Carson who has recently been dumped and heartbroken by his girlfriend just days before the biggest night of his life - Prom Night. He wants to prove to his ex love and all his best friends that he's not the loser they all think him to be and what better way than to hire a beautiful girl to hang on his arms and he waves good-bye to adolescence and hello to the rest of his life.

Except that the beautiful girl he's hired isn't available, he starts to panic he's paid a lot of money and has so much to prove not just to his peers but to himself. Instead he is given Fay a girl so unimaginably beautiful and enchanting. 

A dark tale that screams with the desperation of heartbreak and youth. I really enjoyed this little tale, it kept me guessing  til the end and I'll never look at redheads in the same way again!

But he must treat her well in the manner she is accustomed to and she must be returned by midnight. Will this be a night to remember and cherish forever? Will he be able to get her back in time?


Unidentified Fatherly Object

In Unidentified Fatherly Object we meet Fred Garcia a young man in the throes of bereavement but what he needs most are answers. His father passed away in mysterious circumstances, an accident at work in a top secret military bunker.

His aunt and uncle tell him to leave it alone, to accept what has happened and move on with his life, surely that's what his father would have wanted for him?

But Fred just can't let things lie, he has to know, he has suspicions that just won't go away. One night he decides to go out into the desert and see for himself the strictly prohibited  area in which his father died. Will he find his answers? Will he be able to handle the truth?

Another great story from Calvin Demmer. I don't want to give too much away but the ending is particularly gruesome. Calvin has a unique ability to make his readers squirm with dread. I'm so happy I'm not one of his characters! There's a some very clever references to his past tales included within which I thought was a great touch. 



Independence Denied

We're introduced to Brad Marshall, just another regular guy looking forward to celebrating Independence Day.

But suddenly all hell breaks loose, there's multiple reports of earthquakes, tsunami's striking all four corners of the world. Brad Marshall just wants to bury his head in the sand than watch of the devastating news reports. Instead he focuses on work, on helping his boss, Professor Masterson studying shark behaviour, but that doesn't help matters.

He uncovers a vital piece of information which sheds light on recent events. How can he use it? Who can he trust?

Monday, 24 February 2020

Forest Underground by Lydian Faust

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Luna was lost. Hospitalized following an incident in a local grocery store, she finds herself volunteered for treatment by the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr Sizemore.

As the doctor’s interest in her new patient grows, Luna reveals shocking details of her past. Ailing grandmothers, seductive strangers and a blood-soaked childhood are only the tip of the iceberg as her revelations paint a picture more akin to a twisted and nightmare-fuelled fairy-tale.

Detailing this case for the publication of a book, Dr Sizemore’s fascination reveals a dark history of her own. One that continues to haunt her to the present day. The pair take a journey, twisting and turning through the labyrinths of their psyches. Through lands, fertile with anguish and dread.

Join them if you dare, to a place where glowing eyes are forever watching, lurking in the shadows of this internal woodland; of this forest underground.


Wow! This is a hard review to write as I think not knowing too much about the story makes Forest Underground even more thrilling and disturbing. These are one of those rare books that I read in one sitting as it was so gripping.

This is a tale about Luna a troubled young women who was been written off from conventional therapy. As a last resort for treatment she is sent to Dr Sizemore where we learn more of her story. 

With encouragement from Dr Sizemore Luna relieves the trauma that brought her here, it's no ordinary upbringing that's traumatised her yet it's oddly familiar. However Dr Sizemore also has secrets from her upbringing...

Despite this being a novella there is a lot going on in this tale which is very cleverly written. It's a really fun take on a lot of horror tropes which form something really original. 

At times this is a really brutal tale of trauma and its effects. The tale goes to some really dark places that leaves you breathless. I can't say too much without giving spoilers except that it is an exquisite tale I can't wait to read again. 

Friday, 7 February 2020

The Invention of Ghosts by Gwendolyn Kiste




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"From the Nightscape Press Charitable Chapbooks line. One third of all sales of this chapbook will go to support the National Aviary.

It starts with rapping in the ceiling and spirit boards that know them a little too well.

Everly and her best friend aren’t your typical college students. Instead of raucous Saturday night parties, they spend their weekends conjuring up things from the beyond. Ectoplasm, levitation, death photography---you name it, and Everly knows all about it. But while this obsession with the supernatural is only supposed to be in good fun, the girls soon discover themselves drifting deeper into magic and further from each other. Then when one evening ends with an inadvertently broken promise, everything they’ve ever known is shattered in an instant, sending them spiraling into a surreal haunting. Now Everly must learn how to control the spectral forces she’s unleashed if she wants any chance of escaping a ghost more dangerous than all the witchcraft she can summon.

A tale of the occult, unlikely phantoms, and complicated friendships, The Invention of Ghosts is the latest strange vision from the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rust Maidens."


I loved this so much I read it in one sitting and then immediately read it again.

The Invention of Ghosts is one of a series of charitable limited edition chapbooks available from Nightscape Press. However for those of you like me who live of the other side of the Atlantic these books will be made available as e-books once the paperbacks have sold out.

I was so thrilled to be given a chance to read this. Gwendolyn Kiste is one of my favourite authors who defies genre, one of those rare writers who turns horror into something both scary and sublime at the same time. Many people describe her work as strange and beautiful and this story is no exception.

This is a tale about two friends who share their whole life. They grew up together and now they are both studying at the same university, even sharing the same room. Locking themselves in away from the crowds they indulge themselves in the secrets of the occult. It's not long until they are able to perform tricks by tapping into the supernatural forces around them.

These are girls with strange powers, rejected long ago from the outside world they break away. In this state they are happy, for a time.

I was hooked by the first paragraph alone when Everly, one of the two young women, is asked by her best friend what sort of witch does she want to be?

These two girls have grown up with magic, casting it around them in protection. They've forged a strange friendship so intense and claustrophobic that its hard to remember their lives away from one another.

The Invention of Ghosts has a really unusual narrative which works really well pulling you into the story and making you feel a part of it.

The story builds into a really dramatic ending, what starts of a sweet story of friendship soon takes you into a choke-hold of horror. The story touches on many themes of friendship, loss, loneliness, being haunted by your past. This is unlike any witch story you have ever read.

 (I love stories featuring witches, if you do, you must check out HexLife: Wicked New Tales of Witchery, it's amazing.)  

One concept from the Invention of Ghosts that I found really interesting was that each of us have many different lifetimes within our life. We constantly change from one person to the next. Throughout our journey we don't stay the same, experiences and people forge us into different people.

I loved the ending which I can't really go into without giving out spoilers other than say it was amazing!

On a side note, there's also some amazing reading recommendations dropped throughout the tale for those interested in the occult and mysteries of life.



Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Celestial Assignment by Theresa Braun

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After a sudden death, Will, a misguided angel, is tasked with protecting a baby girl. Watching over her as she grows up and navigates the world appears a harsh punishment for his past failings. Can he redeem himself, or will he fall further from grace?



Theresa is a really interesting writer with great range, she is able to write really scary spooky stories such as her debut novel, Fountain Dead (Unnerving) as well as tender touching stories as The Celestial Assignment.

Will, is our very unlikely hero. At the beginning of the story I couldn't stand him but grew to really like him over the course of the story. Theresa does a great job of really bringing him to life with such great humour!

This is a really cool take on guardian angels and where they come from. I love the idea in this tale that there is someone looking out for us even when we feel really alone. 

After his death, Will is sent back down from heaven to watch over the life of a young girl, Celeste. Present since her birth he's there to witness all her poignant moments whilst searching for her soul-mate. This tale really makes you realise the need to be kind because our actions can have really for reaching consequences. 

Of course life is never simple or easy and despite himself Will learns a lot about true love and also himself. Fortunately for him in The Celestial Assignment, people can have a second chance.




Monday, 3 February 2020

Remains by Andrew Cull


Grief is a black house.

How far would you go? What horrors would you endure if it meant you might see the son you thought you'd lost forever?

Driven to a breakdown by the brutal murder of her young son, Lucy Campbell had locked herself away, fallen deep inside herself, become a ghost haunting room 23b of the William Tuke Psychiatric Hospital.

There she'd remained, until the whispering pulled her back, until she found herself once more sitting in her car, calling to the son she had lost, staring into the black panes of the now abandoned house where Alex had died.

Tonight, someone is watching her back.


I think this may be my favourite book of 2019. The most emotionally charged book I have ever read. This is a book so dark that I often had to take breaks whilst reading it and actually had nightmares over it. Read with caution if you have kids, or ever lost a loved one. This is a brutal book on grief.  This is a heart wrenching tale drenched in horror.

Remains starts off as a slow burner, we are introduced to the main character of Lucy, a bereaved mother struggling to adapt to life without her son. I had to admit at the beginning I didn't think much of her but as the book progressed I began to identify more with her.  Initially I thought this was just going to be a really sad tale on the nature of grief but it is so much more a true horror novel.

Remains is a book that won't let you go, there's no respite to the darkness as we follows Lucy's journey of recovery after the death of her only child after she checks out of a psychiatric ward. She's looking for closure, living the nightmare each day everyday. There's people on hand to help her but how can you comfort a grieving mother? How can you make things right? She refuses everyone's help, shuts everyone out. She's a mother on a mission.
Unlike everyone else,  she just can't leave her son behind, even if he has passed on. She won't forget him and move on like everyone else. She's still his mum. The urge to be with him is too strong to resist and she finds herself going back to where her son was killed.

Andrew Cull is an amazing writer. It's hard to believe this is his debut novel as it so accomplished. He creates a really intense threat of horror from the first page. There's very few books that can scare me, but this is one of them. The house, 1428 Montgomery, is terrifying. Andrew Cull conjures up a real presence of evil within its walls. If you like haunted house stories this is definitely up your street.