Friday, 17 January 2020

Last Meal in Osaka & Other Stories by Gary Buller

Last Meal In Osaka & Other Stories (Short Sharp Shocks! Book 44)

Swashbuckle Cove:
Swashbuckle Cove is a closed-for-repair boat ride in a dying seaside resort. Harry Bootle and his brother climb aboard for one last ride, but little do they know what lies beneath the surface.
Or how hungry it is.

Last Meal in Osaka:
Influential billionaire Curtis Makin, bored of the finer things in life, books a table at the secretive and exclusive restaurant 'Ouroboros.' Will the experience be as good as he hoped?
Or will 'Ouroboros' claim its pound of flesh?

Rise of the Chiggy-Pigs:
“Don’t touch, whatever you do,” dad said. “If you do, you might just turn into one.” They live at the bottom of the garden, in the cold damp, feasting silently on decay, but someone is about to disturb them...
...and learn a very important lesson.

Writing about Last Meal In Osaka & Other Stories Gary Buller said: “We have three completely different protagonists in this collection, from the innocent all the way through to unexpectedly nasty. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end very well for any of them...I had to dig deep [when writing the stories] recalling how I felt when similar experiences happened to me. I wouldn’t say this was difficult, but it did bring back memories, not all of them pleasant.”

I've read a lot of Gary Buller's tales over the years and was really excited to see he had a mini collection out with Demain Publishing. The bar has been set really high here! One striking thing about Gary's work is that it is really dark horror that stays with you long after you stop reading! This is a really great little collection which gets darker the more you read on! 

The first tale is Swashbuckle Cove of two brothers holidaying in what was once a luxurious holiday resort but has now fallen into ruin. Sneaking off from their parents they sneak onto a unsupervised ride around Swashbuckle Cove. They think they're alone but they're not! I really liked this tale of childhood innocence coming to an end. The atmosphere is foreboding right from the get go. I loved the build up to the tale there's a great atmosphere and I could really imagine myself being on the lake with them.

Second is Last Meal in Osaka Curtis Makin is determined to go out in style and dines at a luxurious restaurant where his every whim is being catered to. However what he really wants is off menu... This was  really dark and I loved it. I don't want to say too much and give spoilers but its really dark!

I really liked all these tales but I have to say Rise of the Chiggy-Pigs was my favourite. You'll never look at insects in the same way again after reading this one. A young boy's life is forever altered on the fateful day he helps his father in their back garden. Little does he know how everyone around him  is going to be affected.  The ending is amazing!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Crowded House

I'm so thrilled to be starting 2020 with a brand new batch of horror stories. Crowded House and other stories will be released 31st January from Demain publishing.

Containing the stories: UNTIL I GO – Selina longs to be free from her mother’s hatred. They haven’t spoken in years until Selina is asked to visit her dying mother in hospital one final time. This is it. Soon Selina will be free but will their last goodbye go smoothly? CROWDED HOUSE – A young woman finds out she is the sole heir of her Uncle’s estate after he vanishes. She comes to Canterbury for a new life but the house is not what she was hoping for. It has been left in a terrible state and holds many secrets she must confront if she is to take control of it before it takes control of her. A BUBBLE OF FRIENDSHIP WILL KEEP US – On the cusp of adolescence, Ella fears for her best friend Jade who is turning her back on their childhood friendship and the mysterious forest beyond their homes. Jade wants to grow up but the fairies want Ella to put a stop to it.”

Crowded House will be released along with some other great works; The Birthday Girl and Other Stories by Christopher Beck, Dark Corners by David Charlesworth and Moonlight, Gun Shot, Mallet, Flame by Alicia Hilton.

These great tales are only 99p each. I can't decide which one I want to read first so I guess I'll just buy them all!

So far there have been 50 epic tales in the series such as An Invitation to Darkness by Hailey Piper, Cinders of a Blind Man who Could See by Kev Harrison, The Forest is Hungry by Christopher Stanley and The Town that Feared Dusk by Calvin Demmer  plus many many more you need to check out.

Writing about the stories contained in his Short Sharp Shocks! entry, author Christopher Beck said: “MISSING CHILD is based upon my life. I was once married and my ex-wife had a little girl with whom I developed a great relationship. After the marriage failed, things between the ex and I were sour which left my relationship with her daughter uncertain. MISSING CHILD was written as an attempt to deal with that uncertainty. Though it was tough at the time, I’m happy to say that now, years later, I have a wonderful relationship with the kiddo. [I would say of my second story] THE BIRTHDAY GIRL, you know sometimes in life terrible things happen and sometimes there aren’t happy endings. Stories like this aren’t easy to tell but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be told. [My final story in this mini-collection is] THE TRASH CAN. In my opinion, the great thing about short stories is that they don’t have to explain everything, they can just be pulpy fun. I used to live with my brother and he had a dog that raided the trash constantly. He bought a trash can which was basically dog proof. Soon after our roommate threw a paper towel into it and the lid slammed down way too hard and I had an instant story!”

Hand to Mouth by Deborah Sheldon, 

When the truth doesn’t satisfy, people make up stories.” An imprisoned man writes letters to his son, trying to explain the bizarre circumstances that led to his incarceration. But can his son believe him? Award-winning author Deborah Sheldon keeps you guessing with this novelette of secrets, lies, conspiracies and paranoia.

Moonlight,Gunshot,Mallet by Flame by Alicia Hilton

Writing about her Short Sharp Shocks! author Alicia Hilton said: “These are stories about dangerous women who confront supernatural forces. When the moon is full passion simmers and demons strike. Who will survive? ” Of MOONLIGHT, GUNSHOT, MALLET, FLAME, Alicia summed up her tale, thus: “Laura is a hitwoman who murdered men to avenge and protect innocent victims, but her violent past catches up to her after she kills her nephew.  Are Laura’s terrifying visions hallucinations, or real? “ And of her second story, A LITTLE DEATH: “An Internet date unites two monsters. Descended from flesh-eating witches, Darla must choose whether to embrace her magical powers and kill, or risk her own destruction for love.”

 Dark Corners by David Charlesworth

Horror can take a lot of shapes and sizes. For some, it appears in the form of Patrick as he steps out from the shadows, Stanley blade in hand. For Patrick, however, the only thing he fears is not shooting up. So he finds himself scouring the darkest corners of the world for his next hit. Exploring those lost and desolate places that no man should disturb.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

An Invitation To Darkness by Hailey Piper

In ‘Invitation To Darkness’ sea captain Jamie Thames meets wealthy heiress Elizabeth Leavenworth and the two women quickly fall in love. Of course, it’s never that simple in a Gothic story. Leavenworth Manor is haunted, but ghosts are the least of the lovers’ troubles.

This is one of the best gothic tales I've ever read! Dark atmosphere and brooding chilling suspense this is a tale that reels you in from the first sentence.

Captain Jamie Thames returns from a long and successful career upon the seven seas but after having made her fortune she wants to settle down. Arriving in Lucre Shores  a small town that is quiet and still by the sea she finds an old abandoned home, Leavenworth Manor, ravaged by the sea and decides she must have it.

The house is in fact owned by Lord Leavenworth a man in considerable decline and his young daughter, Elizabeth, who hides a terrible secret...

There's a lot packed into this really gripping tale. I was sad it ended so quickly and immediately read it again after finishing. Despite its length the atmosphere is really quickly established as a forlorn seaside town lingering on the edge of civilisation. A town where dark forces are at play.
I loved Captain Jamie, she was really kick ass,funny and really clever. I liked her a lot and would love to see more of her via a follow up of this tale or a prequel of her adventures at sea. Elizabeth is really intriguing as a young woman left alone to care for her sick father. Why hasn't she left along with all the servants that long ago abandoned their posts?

Invitation to Darkness is a really quirky tale, form the very start the plot moves really rapidly in ways you won't expect. Its a really thrilling ride whilst also being really creepy and dark. The threat of evil in this tale feels very real and really adds to the tension of this tale. I really loved it form beginning to end.  This is a short tale so its hard to go into too much detail without giving the plot away and spoiling it for those yet to read but I really loved it and can't wait to read more by Hailey Piper!
An Invitation to Darkness is out now via Demain Publishing.

The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish

Ghosts have always walked there. Now they’re not alone…

In the depths of Edinburgh, an evil presence is released.

Hannah and her colleagues are tour guides who lead their visitors along the spooky, derelict Henderson Close, thrilling them with tales of spectres and murder. For Hannah it is her dream job, but not for long. Who is the mysterious figure that disappears around a corner? What is happening in the old print shop? And who is the little girl with no face?

The legends of Henderson Close are becoming all too real. The Auld De’il is out – and even the spirits are afraid.

I had a great time reading this tale. I loved the setting which is based on St Mary King's Close in Edinburgh. Hidden underneath the Royal Mile it is a warren of narrow streets where the city's poorest worked, lived and died. 

Hannah has just moved to Edinburgh after a painful divorce and seeing her only child move to Australia. After being made redundant from her successful but finished career as a drama teacher she rents a flat and takes a job as a tour guide for Henderson Close. 

Henderson Close is a tourist attraction famed for its spooky residents and macabre history such as the murder of a local woman, Miss Carmichael, which was never solved.

At first Hannah settles in well, finds new friends and starts to enjoy her life until....

She soon feels like she is being watched looking out from her flat window she sees a strange shadow. Strange incidents begin to happen at work after the builders turn up for renovation work culminating in her friend, Mairead completely disappearing whilst going in to Henderson Close alone.

Hannah thinks its a ghost responsible for all the drama but in reality its something much worse...

This was a really fun read, I do love a spooky ghost tale. The setting was brilliant and Catherine Cavendish had an amazing with with writing the Scottish dialect. I once lived just outside Edinburgh and it is spot on. The pacing of the tale is fast paced and the atmosphere is fully immersive. I now want to go to Edinburgh just to visit St Mary King's Close.

The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish was released by Flame Tree who are a fairly new horror publishers. To date I have read quite a few of these titles and have loved them all. I was sent a few to review but since them I have been buying them as although their titles are really diverse the quality of horror is really high. You know you'll be getting a great tale from them.

Friday, 20 December 2019

The Mind's Plague and Other Bites of Brutality by Morgan K. Tanner

Three friends search for an infamous internet video of an urban legend with devastating consequences; a passionate drummer joins the band of his dreams, or perhaps his nightmares; a man tries to find fame in a world where the mundane call the shots; and a grieving father loses his grip on reality.

These ten stories delve into a world of darkness and suffering, where the terrors are more vivid than they may appear. Blood is spilt, minds are destroyed, as madness ultimately reigns victorious.

I always look forward to reading a Morgan K Tanner tale. Over the years I've read a fair few and all of them brilliant. It really struck me whilst reading through The Mind's Plague that he has gone on to develop his own really unique style of writing. Morgan K.Tanners knows how to bring the darkness to his stories!

Tanner's slice of horror is extra dark, there's a smithereen of supernatural horror in here but mostly he concentrates on the horror that is inside all of us. I've always thought that the real monsters roaming our planet are not nightly supernatural creatures but us; humans. It seems that Morgan K. Tanner also shares this opinion.

These stories are all the more scary as they can happen in real life and maybe they are.

The stories speak of the horror we inflict on each other, of dreams turning to living nightmares, hearts broken beyond repair and people slipping down beneath the cracks of society. Inside you'll find stalkers losing their last shred of humanity, jealousy taking hold, and loved ones turning on each other with utmost brutality.

There are ten stories in this volume and I enjoyed every single one of them. There's a great range of stories in here, each one very different in their own right.

My favourites included; Conflagration Desecration, Reluctant Bloodlust, Thieves and of course Room 405.

Conflagration Desecration is a tale about a young drummer looking for a new metal band to join. Craving excitement and the passion of playing live again he answers a strange ad from a band seeking a new drummer. This band is really something else. I loved the bleak darkness of this tale. I though the ending was brilliant.

I'm also currently reading Appalachian Undead from Apex with is a Zombie themed anthology and this tale, Reluctant Bloodlust, from Morgan K Tanner delivers a fresh take on a much visited trope. I really enjoyed this and if you thought Conflagration Desecration was dark, this is much darker.

Thieves was a great tale of two young men breaking into the home of a disabled man. There is a great build up of dread and terror. I knew something really bad was going to happen but it was impossible to guess how it was going to unfold. 

Alongside Conflagration Desecration, Room 405 is my favourite tale from this superb anthology allowing Tanner to sign off leaving the reader wanting more. I loved this tale from beginning to end it was really creepy and mysterious and the ending was brilliant. I felt this was a short story that could very easily be expanded into something longer.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Tales from the Shadow Booth Vol 4 edited by Dan Coxon

It's as Peter begins to wade into the tarn that he spies the strange canvas structure at the edge of the trees. It looks like an abandoned Punch & Judy booth, he thinks, but dirty and tired, stained black with mould. Ignoring the water licking cold about his ankles, he squints to read the crimson scrawl on the plank propped against it. Enter the Shadow Booth, it says, and you will never be the same again.

The Shadow Booth is an international journal of weird and eerie fiction, publishing emerging and established writers of the strange. Drawing its inspiration from the likes of Thomas Ligotti and Robert Aickman, The Shadow Booth explores that dark, murky hinterland between mainstream horror and literary fiction.

Volume 4 includes new weird and uncanny fiction by: Gary Budden, Jay Caselberg, Tim Cooke, James Everington, Lucie McKnight Hardy, Giselle Leeb, Polis Loizou, James Machin, Andrew McDonnell, Jane Roberts, Ashley Stokes, Anna Vaught, Charles Wilkinson and Marian Womack.

Tales from the Shadow Booth is one of those rare anthologies that has an incredible mix of genres united in that they are all dark and creepy but all equally enjoyable to read. It comes as no surprise to me that a lot of the stories of previous volumes have ended up in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year collection. 

These are stories that are rich in atmosphere and cold dread, some take a while to build whilst others are dark from the opening line. I really enjoyed all these stories the quality of work in here is incredibly high. 

The Devil of Timanfaya by Lucie McKnight Hardy is a tale of domestic discontent. Tessa and her family are on holiday in Lanzarote but its not quite the break she was hoping for. She just can't seem to relax and enjoy herself when there is a strange burnt out house just a few doors away from her holiday home.  Something terrible happened there and it's not finished. One of my faves this tale builds into a brutal finale.

The Tribute by James Machin is a tale that reminds me of Susan Hill's ethereal style of horror.  A  family are holidaying in the south of France, the parents announce they are stopping by to visit an old artist friend. Recounted by the young boy who remembers clearly his imaginary friend being by his side one minute and gone the next.

The Salt Marsh Lambs by Jane Roberts  is a brilliant folk horror tale of city folks trying to claim dominion over rural wild lands steeped in ancient folklore. Beware the Salt Marsh Lambs!

The Box of Knowledge by Tim Cooke is a haunting tale of misspent youth and isolation. A group of teens find an abandoned container to hang out and do drugs in. Tim Cooke creates this incredible atmosphere and when I'd finished reading I was left wondering if IT had really happened or whether I had just imagined it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The House by the Cemetery by John Everson

As a fully fledged bookoholic I'm really struggling right now, and its all because of Flame Tree Press...

This is the sixth title I've read and each title has blown me away. Each author is unique but they all know how to weave an amazing horror tale. They're really raising the bar of what defines amazing horror.

Rumor has it that the abandoned house by the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a witch. But rumors won’t stop carpenter Mike Kostner from rehabbing the place as a haunted house attraction. Soon he’ll learn that fresh wood and nails can’t keep decades of rumors down. There are noises in the walls, and fresh blood on the floor: secrets that would be better not to discover. And behind the rumors is a real ghost who will do whatever it takes to ensure the house reopens. She needs people to fill her house on Halloween. There’s a dark, horrible ritual to fulfill. Because while the witch may have been dead... she doesn’t intend to stay that way.

This was a really fun read that doesn't take itself too seriously, all story and gory! It's a novel take on the much loved Haunted House trope. 

The story starts with Mike, a carpenter, being drafted in by his long time mate, Perry, to refurbish an abandoned haunted house that's garnered a sinister reputation throughout the years. Their plan is to do it up int he they style of a haunted house and open it up to the public for a killing.

Whatever reservations Mike puts aside, immediately when he starts. There's a strange atmosphere of something being of kilter. The house doesn't feel right to him and gives him the creeps. He thinks only trouble will follow if this house is disturbed,  but ever since his wife left him he needs the money and a big project to take her off his mind. Soon he starts finding bones hidden int he walls and sealed off secret rooms and passageways but is determined to finish his job and land a big fat pay check.

Strange occurrences at the house continue, Mike hates being there all alone . Of course  it is situated in the middle of nowhere, by a cemetery. His fears are assuaged when he is joined by two girls, Katie and Emery. One is beautiful and breathtaking, the other is quite and off putting.  They are all too eager to help Mike transform the old haunted house. He doesn't question where they came from or their motives.

There's a whole bunch of other characters too. The story focuses on other members of the team who are getting the house ready for the public. There's a team of make-up artists and set designers all united in their love of horror. 

I liked the slow build up to this book, you could just sense something big was going to happen. Let me tell you it was BIG. I had to admit the twists in this tale were fairly predictable but its still a great read, a gripping page turner. I stayed up late one night to be able to finish it. There's no way I was going to get any sleep without knowing the ending and it was worth spending the next day being really tired. 

I find it strange I have never heard of this author before but will definitely be looking out for his other books in the future.

Spoiler Ahead!

What I found really satisfying about this tale was that the wicked witch won in the end. In so many films and books the wicked witch is ultimately taken down at the end, but in this tale she's just getting started!