Thursday, 26 May 2022

Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

For fans of Mexican Gothic, from three-time Bram Stoker Award–winning author Gwendolyn Kiste comes a novel inspired by the untold stories of forgotten women in classic literature--from Lucy Westenra, a victim of Stoker’s Dracula, and Bertha Mason, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre--as they band together to combat the toxic men bent on destroying their lives, set against the backdrop of the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, 1967.

Reluctant Immortals is a historical horror novel that looks at two men of classic literature, Dracula and Mr. Rochester, and the two women who survived them, Bertha and Lucy, who are now undead immortals residing in Los Angeles in 1967 when Dracula and Rochester make a shocking return in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.

Combining elements of historical and gothic fiction with a modern perspective, in a tale of love and betrayal and coercion, Reluctant Immortals is the lyrical and harrowing journey of two women from classic literature as they bravely claim their own destiny in a man’s world.

In Gwendolyn Kiste's latest epic tale we are taken to Hollywood in 1967,  the city that lures people in looking to make their dreams come true but ultimately never finding what it was they so desperately wanted. Lucy has been living quietly amongst the living with her friend Bee but when the first wolves turn up she knows her quiet existence is about to be ripped apart...

There's something really magical about Kiste's prose that really pulls you in from the first sentence. She always creates this haunted  atmospheric stories dripping in gothic, the characters lives and situations are bleak and desperate but despite that there's a beauty there waiting to be found. If you're not familiar with Kiste's other books, such as Boneset and Feathers, Pretty Marys in a Row and Rust Maidens,  I urge you now to address that!

Kiste picks up from where two tales ended over a hundred years ago yet despite the time difference this is a story which is still so relevant to the modern day. Even today women are still plagued by powerful men. Are we still as trapped as the women who lived before us? Probably. Even in this day victims particularly women still do not have a voice of their won or a way to fight back. 

But Reluctant Immortals has a bite, in this tale the women weakened from centuries of running and hiding decide to fight back. There's something so strong and yet so delicate about the main character, Lucy Westenra. For centuries she has kept the curse of Dracula away from the world of the living but there are always those who will do anything for power. She realises that no one will save her, she has to do it all herself. People don't see the world as she does. When others look at Dracula they don't see a monster but a charming handsome man who promises to make their dreams come true.

I was so excited to receive ad advance reading copy of Reluctant immortals as I'm a huge fan of Gwendolyn Kiste's work. I've loved everything she's written and also Jane Eyre and Dracula are two books that I love to read over and over again. These are such classic tales and yet Kiste has created something really new from them. I loved the idea of Lucy Westenra teaming up with Bee, the mad woman in the attic from Jane Eyre, the first wife of Mr Rochester. This book has really made me look at the novel of Jane Eyre in such a new way that I'm dying to read it again with this new take on it.

I managed to read this so quickly as like I said Kiste's prose really pulls you in from the first sentence and the experience was thrilling. You get to know Lucy so well that you feel like you have known her for years. The world building was really beautiful. I really felt  the contrast with Lucy living in the late 60's summer of love but yet she is so trapped  unable to live her life in the way she dreamed of. 

The pace of this tale picks up and soon becomes impossible to put down. What I love about Kiste's tales is that you can never guess where the story is going to go next as Kiste is a master of ripping up much loved tropes and classic cliches and making something really new out of them. This is definitely a book I will be reading again!

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Paths Best Untrodden by Kev Harrison


The debut collection from Kev Harrison, author of THE BALANCE, this tome brings together tales of ghosts in the machine, folkloric creatures let loose, abandoned places and dystopian nightmares. Containing thirteen stories - three of which are previously unpublished, with three others never before available in print, take your first tentative step onto the PATHS BEST LEFT UNTRODDEN.

Over the years I've read a lot of Kev Harrison's fiction and have loved every word of it. His short stories have been featured in many different magazines and anthologies and he also has some very impressive novellas under his belt. 

So when I found out he was releasing a short story collection I was genuinely so excited, Paths Left Best Untrodden went straight to the top of my TBR mountain (it really is that high) and got stuck in.

The collection starts off strong with Big Game. It's set in the future, but it doesn't feel like it's too far into the future that we won't be experiencing this word for ourselves which gives it a dark edge. It's soon realised that this is no ordinary camping trip.

Supression; this story is every parent's nightmare where children are subjected to inhumane laws which dictate their lives. Of course a loving parent would do anything to help their beloveds. 

I loved The Solstice Kev Harrison is a master of folk horror and this tale did not disappoint. I loved the setting and atmosphere of this tale it felt so real and vivid. As tradition dictates a young boy must do whatever is required of him to protect his village.

Special Order set in a takeaway pizzeria in Woking of all places! This tale really made me chuckle, thoroughly enjoyed this one. When times are hard you must do what it takes to stay afloat!

Snap is a dark body horror offering of things that go bump in the night! 

The Fourth Wall is hands down my favourite! Closely followed by Contaminated. This for me was a really gripping tale, combining mystery with horror. It tells the tale of Valentina, a cam girl who has her life turned upside down by one her loyal customers

Left Behind like Big Game was a eco horror tale set in the near future. The setting is Venice and now this tale has seriously put me off going there! I really liked this one, there's such a build up of foreboding creeping in right from the get go and the ending is truly dark!

There's something about Contaminated that really got to me. This one just felt so real and it feels like this could happen to anyone. This is not a tale for hypochondriacs! It was such an unusual tale which shows that Kev Harrison has such range when it comes to weaving dark tales

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch was  dark dark dark tale! I really loved this one!

I found Muscle Memory although obviously horror also quite sweet. A man wakes up in a hospital ward and must discover who he was before the accident

Reasons For My Abscondence shows Kev Harrison can write in so many different styles. This was in a letter form where a young teacher attempts to explain what really happened at Minsterfield House.

I first read The Waiting Game when it was first published in Fangs from Aphotic Realm. I loved it then and I still love it now. A perfect tale of love and retribution.

Last but not least is Communion. Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets The Silence of the Lambs meets Kev Harrison! Great story!

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Salvation Spring by T.C.Parker


She doesn’t know where she’s been, these last few years, or how she came by the scars that mark her body. She can barely remember who she is, a lot of the time.

But Sasha knows Salvation Spring, the tiny nowhere town out in the middle of the desert that calls to her in dreams and haunts her waking life.

Getting there is hard. But what she’ll find there - and what the place will ask of her - will be much, much harder.

Because the Spring isn’t what it seems - far from it. And neither, for that matter, is Sasha.

Not by a long way.

This is my third read by T.C.Parker and now I'm a huge fan! Each book is so different yet all have that gripping urgency where you want to read the book cover to cover in one sitting.

In this tale, Salvation Spring, we meet Sasha who has braved great hardship fighting her way through the hot lifeless desert. Her only concern is making it back to the mines. A place she has dreamt of many times, it calls to her and she knows she needs to return to find the answers. 

On horseback she comes riding into a small out of the place town that seems very distrustful of outsiders. She desperately needs to get out of the deadly heat and find shelter but the only hotel is unable to take her in. 

Instead she is forced to stay with Jess, another outsider who lives on the edge of town where she is tolerated by the locals. Sasha finds a friend in Jess and soon she is telling her of her dire need to reach the mines to find the answers she is searching for.

T.C Parker is a master at creating intrigue after only a few chapters I was completely enthralled. This is no ordinary town, no one and nothing is who they seem. I don't want to say too much and ruin it for future readers but the tale takes an unexpected turn which illustrates T.C.Parker's exceptional imagination and writing skills.

Monday, 10 May 2021

Mists and Megaliths by Catherine McCarthy


Welcome to Wales, land of mists and megaliths, where mythical creatures and ancient spirits lurk in the strangest of places.

This collection of 10 supernatural stories offers a flurry of folklore, a gathering of ghosts, and even a cosmic cave creature.

Stories include...

Lure: A fisherman who nets the tail fin of a lure becomes obsessed with finding the rest, but what else lies hidden in the ancient lake?

Carreg Samson: A Neolithic burial chamber stares out to sea, remembering times long since past, but when it loses its heart of stone to a young girl the repercussions are hard to bear.

Coblynau: An old man watches the mountain which was once a slag heap of coal. He listens for the knock of the Coblynau, certain they will come for him... soon, just like they did to warn of the Aberfan disaster.

Author Catherine McCarthy’s second collection invites the reader on a regional journey, evoking a sense of quiet horror from the cosmic to the Gothic.

This collection contains ten tales ranging from cosmic horror to unsettled ghosts, foreboding gothic, dark humour and old myths and legends from Wales. I don't think I've ever come across a Welsh themed horror anthology before, but it works so well! 

Catherine McCarthy is an author I have gotten to know when we both appeared in Diabolica Britannica, a charity anthology of British horror. I absolutely fell in love with her tale Carreg Samson, told from the perspective of a rather unusual character, an old standing stone. It was such a powerful tale that starts off so sweet and sentimental and then gets you in the gut in the last minute. When I saw she had released her own collection, I jumped at the chance to read more of her work.

Catherine's writing is just so transportive, you get the sense you really are in Wales. The atmosphere she builds up is brilliant and in this collection she uses many settings and time periods and all of them felt so real. 

These are really emotional stories, which only a great writer can achieve, you just feel so involved. Her writing is also full of charm and charisma which reminds me of Mary Williams who wrote numerous collections of ghosts stories all based in Cornwall drawing upon the old  myths and legends from our Celtic heritage.

Catherine is so passionate about Wales and it really comes through in her stories, I loved this collection and now really want to go there for a holiday! This collection has left me really excited for July when her debut novella Immortelle will be released from Off Limits Press. 

It's really hard to pick a favourite from these tales I genuinely really enjoyed them all. Carreg Samsom remains one of my faves from reading Diabolica Britannica and is still really powerful whenever I read it. I think this tale perfectly shows Catherine McCarthy ability to really tug at your heart strings and then terrify you!

The Ice House was amazing, a gothic horror tale of revenge. Coblynau a tale about an old man struggling with dementia, looking back on his life as he tries to stay afloat, it was just so haunting. These tales are so effective as on the surface they feel very normal like this to could happen to anyone and then slowly the horror trickles in.

I loved Lure, this tale was much darker than the others and was just so evocative of the Welsh landscape. I really felt like I was on the lake with our young fisherman who hides a terrible secret. 

Retribution was a brilliant cosmic horror tale which had some serious Lovecraft vibes! Ysbrid Y Mor was a sweet yule themed tale. Mara and Cragen for me were the scariest tales, I very much enjoyed them both!

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Punishment by Hope by Erik Hofstatter


Nim is a master swimmer floating on waves of wet hope. His penance is to swim and carry, but his heart is held onboard a grieving ship in the aquamarine prison of her eyes.

She is his sentence and he is hers. Will a mysterious humanoid jellyfish reunite the star-crossed lovers?

This book contains graphic sex and violence, and is not suitable for readers under the age of 18.


“Punishment by Hope is a wildly poetic and surreal odyssey through sexual obsession, murder and retribution, set in a bioluminescent Dantesque world of fiery and aquatic horrors.”—Barbie Wilde, Author (The Venus Complex, Voices of the Damned) and Actress (Hellbound: Hellraiser II)

“A dreamlike seascape of desperate wishes, and a nightmarish vision of love’s life and death, this is a powerful, haunting tale.”—Tim Lebbon, Author of Eden

“Punishment by Hope is a vivid and erotic fantasy mystery. Hofstatter weaves a memorable spell.”—James Bennett, Author of Chasing Embers

“Punishment by Hope ebbs and flows in its oceanic imagery, giving you a taste of something you might want before churning in gore or the grotesque and then withdrawing back into its own uncanny depths like some kind of foamy blood tide. And like the vast ocean, the tale it spins is at once visceral, lustrous and literally unfathomable.”—Michael Arnzen, 4 x Bram Stoker Award-winning Horror Author

“Punishment by Hope is an erotic, splattery fever dream of a story. It gets to the core of what makes the very best horror. Underlying both is the sense that the universe isn’t orderly or benign, but rather chaotic and malicious.”—Tim Waggoner, Bram Stoker Award-winning Author of Winter Box

“A dreamlike seascape of desperate wishes, and a nightmarish vision of love’s life and death.”—Tim Lebbon

This is unlike anything I have read before, the first surreal genre story I have read. At first I wasn't sure what to make of it but the imagery is so rich it carried me along. This feels more like a poem than prose. 

Set in a mythical world full of magic we have a dark love story between two lovers who aren't always what they seem.  Nim is a master swimmer and hopelessly in love with Esiteri who is trapped on a ship far out in the ocean. Nim is tormented with her captivity but there is no way to free her without hurting her, but he still lives on hope that one day they will be together again.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Daughters of Darkness by Theresa Derwin, Ruschelle Dillon, Stephanie Ellis and Alyson Faye


A quartet of established female horror writers from both sides of the Atlantic have joined supernatural forces to bring you - Daughters of Darkness - a publication from the women-run indie press Black Angel.

These stories will take you across the centuries, from Whitechapel to New Orleans, from dark humour to Gothic, weaving the weird with the macabre.

Within these pages, meet the myriad monsters these female writers have conjured, letting them loose to roam and cast long shadows.

Beware - this is only the beginning...

Daughters of Darkness was one of those anthologies that I read all too quickly as I couldn't wait to see what the next tale would be about. In these pages we have four female writers all hugely talented but all able to stand out with their tales of darkness.I had so much reaidng this and really hope there will be a Daughters of Darkness 2!!!!!

Theresa Derwin starts off the anthology with her offering of 5 dark tales and poetry - Freaks and Geeks, Whitechapel Transfer, Tummy Bug, Isolation, Something Fishy This Way Comes and And the Giant Said to Jack...

I absolutely loved all these tales and was very excited to discover a new horror author to follow! I loved how the two tales of Whitechapel Transfer and Something Fishy this way Comes intertwined with each other. Whitechapel Transfer is a brand new take on the sinister legend of Jack the Ripper which I loved. Isolation deals with the sudden realisation that things aren't right in your life but you feel powerless when it comes to change. 

My absolute favourite tale from this bunch had to be Tummy Bug which was just so creepy! I don't want to say too much about it and ruin the shocks!

Next up is Ruschelle Dillon, in here you'll find six of her tales; Catatonic, Is That Your Dead Wife or Are You Pleased to See Me? Tim and the Tempest, The Dollhouse, Hair of the Dog ,and Seasons of the Sun. I found these so much fun, all full of horror but laced with dark humour. I really enjoyed Tim and the Tempest where our protagonist makes the trip of a lifetime. Catatonic really gave me the chills too!

Stephanie Ellis offer up two tales; Painted Ladies and Beyond Hope. Beyond Hope really blew me away, Stephanie Ellie is a genius when it comes to folk horror and this tale really hit the mark! Loved it. Painted Ladies was just so dark!

Last but not least is Alyson Faye with her tales; It's In The Walls, Mr Dandy, The Raven's at Bellows Crypt and The Blasted Tree, as well as two poems, A Forest in France 1917 and Under the Corset. It's really hard to pick a favourite out of these as they are so varied in style and setting yet all amazing. The Blasted Tree is such  haunting tale about a family trying to survive against a run of very bad luck. 

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

The Maker's Box by David Barclay


Emily has been obsessed with the occult since her mum died, collecting every pagan curio and oddity she can find. Then on the night of her 16th birthday, her father gives her a piece of real magic; a beating human heart inside a wooden box. If the gift weren't strange enough, his instructions are even stranger; You'll need to feed it to keep it alive. 

The box needs her blood, and in exchange, shows her wondrous and rousing things. Desires she never knew existed. But as Emily's father lapses into addiction, as she grows weak with blood loss she realizes all too late the box has desires of its own. 

The Maker's Box is a contemporary dark fairy tale of magic, obsession and madness.

The Maker's Box by David Barclay is a very dark tale about a dark heart. It is the second novella to be released by Aphotic Realm the home of dark and sinister fiction. I really enjoyed reading Nightcrawler by P.A.Sheppard and knew I was in for something really dark!

On her 16th birthday Emily is given by her father a box. Inside is a heart still beating. Her father trusts her to look after it and tell no one. This is a heart that belongs to someone really special. All she needs to is give it a little blood every now and then.

Soon Emily and the heart form a strange connection. It speaks to her and understands her desires like no one else. The heart must be fed from Emily's own blood and soon inhabits her dreams. 

It doesn't take long for her friends to become concerned about Emily, especially Noah once she tells him of her strange dream about a magic man named Lock. He becomes even more fearful for his friend when he discovers at the library that this man is real.

I really liked this tale, it was unusual and probably one of the darkest tales I have ever read. Emily, the main character is so sweet and innocent and watching her feeding and caring for the heart like most girls her age would care for a cute bunny was just so sinister! You really want someone to step her and save her from the heart and from her father who clearly has secrets he's hiding from his only daughter. 

Emil's family has a very dark history which has been kept hidden from her, can she figure it out before it is too late?