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.

Cold Comforts by Marianne Halbert

Haunted objects. Haunted places. Haunted people.

Creatures otherworldly and places where looming shadows bring dread to your door.

A school bus stops at the home of an isolated family whose unusual children have a unique way to scare off their enemies.

A vacationing couple discovers something deeper than their love resides within wine country.

Objects in the attic of an old farmhouse come to life seeking retribution.

A peculiar girl discovers she has a strange ability.

These thirteen tales will take you from the farms and woods of the heartland, to prison and the south of France. Whether you're crunching through the snow wondering what's moving behind you, or sitting by a campfire listening to a tale of revenge, pull a blanket tight around your shoulders and be prepared for an impending chill to race down your spine.

All you'll find are cold comforts here.

This is an author that just popped out of nowhere and now I'm completely hooked! This is her second collection of short stories, the first is Wake Up and Smell the Creepy. 

Each tale in this collection of dark, creepy and supernatural tales is very different but they are all united by their evocative atmosphere of cold dread. With each tale the tension builds up into a terror of cold dread. As a reader, it is impossible to guess either when, where or how the horror element is going to creep in. But you know its coming.

Of course all the tales in this collection were great, there honestly wasn't one story in here I didn't like which made the task of picking out faves really difficult.

My favourite tale has to be Papa's Wrench and the Wind Chimes, its up there with Adam Nevill's ability to completely terrify his readers and leave them traumatised. It starts off innocently enough with a young child going to school on the school bus but descends into some really dark waters with the Monstrum Kids climb on board. This tale is a perfect example of quiet horror exploding into an amazing finale.

When Betsy Whispers - an amazing tale to start off the collection. Probably one of the most original tales I have ever read, it is truly disturbing and thought provoking with a very unusual protagonist. When I finished this tale i knew this was going to be an amazing anthology.

Housing the Hollygobs starts off a sweet tale about remembering loved ones and silly family traditions soon turning into something much darker. The ending is brilliant!

Another firm favourite is Luxor Decanted and its superb use of imagery. A happily married couple embark to Paris for their once in a lifetime dream vacation. Years in the planning they have finally made it to soak up the arts and culture of one of Europe's finest capitals. The husband becomes drawn to an Obelisk near the Louvre, fascination soon turns to obsession.