Review: Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Jonathan Maberry, Editor

Don’t Turn Out the LightsDon’t Turn Out the Lights by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don’t Turn Out the Lights is a Middle Grade Horror anthology curated by bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry, as a tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

The collection is comprised of 35-scary stories penned by an impressive list of authors!

I know what some of you may be thinking, Middle Grade though?

I can assure you, quite of few of these stories legit creeped me out. They’re quick, fun and each one left me wanting to continue reading.

There really is something for everyone in this collection.

No matter what your fears are, you will find a story that works for you. Some things you may not even know you are afraid of until you read this book, like toys, for example.

Although I have always been afraid of certain toys, but I digress. There were a lot of stories in here that I really loved.

The standouts for me were: The Carved Bear by Brendan Reichs, The Golden Peacock by Alethea Kontis, Tag, You’re It by NR Lambert, The Cries of the Cat by Josh Malerman, The Umbrella Man by Gary A. Braunbeck, Brain Spiders by Luis Alberto Urrea and Rosario Urrea, and Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board by Margaret Stohl.

I did listen to the audiobook and highly recommend that medium. There are two narrators and they both did a fantastic job bringing every story to life.

Overall, this is a very solid collection with plenty of chills and thrills for readers of all ages. If you like to give yourself the heebie-jeebies, you should definitely pick this one up!

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Review: The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson

The LoopThe Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Turner Falls, Oregon, is a small town with a big problem.

A local biotech company’s experiments seem to have gone terribly wrong, but when local misfit teens start to notice, who is going to believe them.

Y’all, The Loop was a bloody, gritty, gruesome, good time!

Our main protagonist, Lucy, was so well-imagined. I loved reading from her perspective. Smart, witty, and slightly jaded, she found a strength within herself she didn’t even realize was there.

Along with her two friends, Brewer and Bucket, Lucy and the boys come face-to-face with the bioengineering gone wrong.

It has gone very wrong indeed. Make no mistake, Johnson does not shy away from gore and general stomach-churning details. We stan.

There is also a conspiracy podcast element which I absolutely adored. It was an exceptional device for tying in biting social commentary.

The podcast host was entirely realistic and I thought he was an excellent addition to the cast of characters. I can’t imagine the story without him.

The comparison to Stranger Things is understandable, although these kids seem much more mature than the original pack from ST. I mean, obviously there is a big age difference.

However, the overall vibe, is there.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, smart, evil corporation horror thriller…wait, is that a thing?

Yes. It is now and I want more of it.

I had a ton of fun with this. I am excited to read more from this author. I think he made really great choices with how this story unfolded. It was humorous and horrifying, which are two things that go so well together.

Like peanut butter and chocolate. Do not disagree with that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate it so much and urge any horror lover to give it a shot.

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Review: The Ritual by Adam Nevill

The RitualThe Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Luke, Dom, Phil and Hutch have been friends since college. Over the years, however, they have drifted apart a bit; particularly Luke, who is the only one among them still single and without a stable career.

The men decide to travel from their homes in the UK, to the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle for a backpacking adventure. A reunion of sorts.

Unfortunately, the camaraderie of the group isn’t very strong. Dom and Phil seem condescending to Luke. Treating him like a child, or worse.

Hutch is the happy one. The bond that seems to tie them all together. His positive energy is half the reason they decided to take this trip in the first place.

Adding additional stress for the group is the fact that Dom and Phil are ill-prepared for this type of holiday. As in, they’re out of shape AF.

The group is not making the mileage they need to be making per day to reach their goals. Because of this, Hutch suggests they take an off piste short cut.

As a frequent hiker of the rugged mountains of Maine, this is a nightmare scenario for me.

Just the thought…

The men agree to Hutch’s plan, although they are definitely nervous and skeptical; particularly Luke.

The forest is so dark and thick, the rain not giving them a moment’s break. They are exhausted, they are physically no match for the rough terrain. They see things. Everything starts to go really badly.

Forced to take shelter for a night in what clearly is a haunted cabin, the men are finally pushed to their breaking points by what lay inside.

Y’all, these hiking scenes chilled me to the bone. I loved Nevill’s descriptions of being in the forest. How it swallows you, completely cutting you off from the modern world and returning your senses to their more primal nature.

I thought he captured that fear that the wilderness can evoke in us so freaking well. I absolutely loved the first half of this.

The second half does take a twist that shifts the feeling more from fear to anger, as the narrative directs focus from the devil we don’t know, to the devil we do.

I had jaw dropping, stomach-turning moments right up to the very end. The final scene was so intense. Overall, I think this is an extremely well done survival Horror story; especially depending on what your fears are.

My only negative would be that I felt certain sections dragged on a bit. Particularly some of the interactions between the men, although I do understand the author’s choice with those moments.

I definitely will be thinking of this one for a long time to come, especially on my next hiking trip!

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Review: Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

Sour CandySour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved reading this book, which feels weird to say because of the content.

It is horrifying, grisly, stomach-churning, haunting, and I loved every minute of it.

I mean, what can I say, it’s what I like.

Sour Candy was my Halloween night read. I lit a pumpkin scented candle, grabbed an adult beverage, snuggled into my bed and read it from start to finish.

Coming in under 100-pages, this novella packs a lot in.

Phil Pendleton has his head in the clouds, straight off a hot night with his lady, as he enters his local Wal-Mart looking to buy them chocolates.

As he stands in the candy aisle making his choices, he hears a blood-curdling scream.

Glancing over he notices an ill-behaved child, pitching a fit, as often occurs in Wal-Mart, and a bedraggled mother who looks to be at the end of her rope.

When a manager intervenes, the situation, if anything, escalates.

Phil tries to assist, but as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished. That’s the last moment of normalcy Phil will have.

Certain aspects of that moment, and the debilitating health effects that followed, reminded me a bit of Thinner. I love Thinner, so comparing these is absolutely a compliment from me.

I also loved how Burke built the intensity in this. The story gets more strange as it goes along, and with that, the horrific nature builds and builds.

Playing off the classic creepy kid trope, this story took that to the next level. I was horrified for Phil.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a quick and memorable horror story!

You know who you are.

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Review: Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton

Tinfoil ButterflyTinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tinfoil Butterfly is strange, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

Meshing real life horrors with subtle fantastical elements, there’s a lot to unpack for such a short novel.

Emma is hitchhiking across the United States, trying to reach the Badlands of South Dakota.

Along the way she gets picked up by a man named, Lowell. It doesn’t end well.

Fleeing for her life, Emma comes across an abandoned diner where she seeks refuge from an oncoming storm.

This is where she meets, Earl, a little boy whose face is hidden behind an odd tinfoil mask.

Earl ends up stealing Emma’s loaded gun and implores her to help him get rid of George.

Emma is stranded. Earl is her only contact and she gets pulled into his bizarre and dangerous world as the snow begins to fall.

This entire novel is steeped in an ominous atmosphere. As the reader, you go along with Emma as she tries to drag information out of Earl.

It turns out, he has lived a torturous life, the truth is hiding just under the surface, but you can’t quite get to it. Regardless of the past, Earl is scared to leave it behind.

Earl isn’t the only one with a dark past. Emma is on the run from her own. Damaged and broken, she is forced, while in the clutches of a crisis, to revisit each painful moment of it.

The truth of Emma’s past is admittedly difficult to read. Trigger warnings for: (view spoiler).

I loved the bond formed by Emma and Earl.

I though the evolution of that relationship over the course of the story was very special. It brought the humanity of the characters to life in a way that filled my heart with empathy for them both.

Paired with the beauty of their relationship, however, is equal amounts of horror. We’re talking horrific, realistic, painful content.

There were times I felt sick to my stomach, but honestly, the story is worth it.

The feelings of violence and fear boiling just under the surface really never let up, making this a tense read.

With this being said, it also feels quiet and subtle at times. I have no idea if I am explaining this accurately.

It’s almost something that you just need to experience for yourself.

I do recommend this for people who enjoy darker contemporary stories, or slow burns with equal parts violence and beauty.

You know who you are. Pick it up!

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Review: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending ThingsI’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Wow. WOW. Wooooow. Wwwoooowww. Wow. WOW. Wow. Wow. Wooooowwww. Woooow. Wow. wOW. WOW.

I first heard of this book when Kayla, from BooksandLala, read it and mentioned it on her YouTube channel. From her reaction to her experience reading it, I knew I wanted to pick it up.

Since that time, I have successfully avoided all spoilers, reviews and honestly, even the synopsis.

On a whim, I decided to start the audiobook on Saturday.

First, let me just say, the audiobook was amazing, and in my estimation, absolutely the best way to experience this story.

I am not going to say a thing about the content of this book. I wouldn’t want to spoil one single sentence for anyone who hasn’t read it, but wants to.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is unconventional, it’s weird, it’s dark and it shook me. When the reveal happens in audio, I was out walking my dog and was so chilled, I had to stop walking.

I genuinely thought this was brilliant.

Regardless of the final outcome of this novel, throughout the entire story I was creeped out.

It’s such an odd experience, because there is nothing overtly scary happening, but the feeling of dread that I had the entire time I was listening to it was pretty epic.

Overall, I think this audiobook is an amazing experience. If you are looking to be played and have everything you thought you knew flipped on its head, pick it up.

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Review: Double Barrel Horror: Highway Horror / Motel Madness

Double Barrel Horror: Highway Hunger / Motel MadnessDouble Barrel Horror: Highway Hunger / Motel Madness by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Double Barrel Horror: Highway Hunger / Motel Madness is a pairing of two short-stories penned by the enormously talented, Calvin Demmer.

Earlier this year, these two stories were included in a Horror Anthology, but have since been released on their own for your Spooky Season pleasure!

As you are soaking up all things Halloween, why not grab a super-short, super-intense, super-creepy, short-read.

Perfect for all those readathons y’all know you’re taking part in this month.

Demmer has an uncanny ability to illicit true dread within an extraordinarily short number of pages. I have never seen anyone do it better.

The first story has a modern Lovecraftian vibe, while the second made me desperately want to rewatch Beetlejuice.

Take from that what you will. With all this being said, not only do I recommend this double dose of horror, I also highly recommend you check out his other works.

I absolutely loved both The Sea Was a Fair Master and Dark Celebrations and I think you will too!!!

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Review: Revival by Stephen King

RevivalRevival by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1962, while playing in his yard, 6-year old, Jamie Morton, suddenly has a shadow fall upon him. He looks up to find a statuesque man in church garb standing over him.

The man introduces himself as Charles Jacobs, he’s the new reverend, just arrived in town.

Jacobs, the Rev, is young, vibrant and successful at filling pews; breathing life back into the somewhat stale local church.

He also develops strong relationships with a lot of the young people, Jamie included, who actually is a favorite of sorts for Jacobs.

After an unexpected tragedy strikes, Jacobs is prompted to move on. That’s not the last time Jamie will come across him however; not by a long shot.

From there the narrative progresses with a classic coming-of-age feel and ultimately, ends up spanning five decades.

We follow Jamie as he discovers his gift for music, finds first love, moves from home, struggles with addiction and encounters Jacobs again and again.

Jacobs is the shadow that falls over his entire life.

I didn’t come up with that. That’s from the book, but definitely captures Jacobs presence in this story.

I loved the way King built this one up and progressed the narrative. As Jamie begins to realize the depths to which Jacobs has gone with his electrical obsession, and subsequent pursuit of its potential healing powers, the intensity continues to grow and grow and grow.

The interactions between Jamie and Jacobs begin to feel more dangerous every time they meet.

Jacobs electrical work and experiments were so interesting, but most interesting of all to me, were his healings. The revival-tent displays of power. It had a real mad scientist energy that had me more charged than Frankenstein’s monster.

Revival is a stunning example of King’s status as master storyteller.

From beginning to end, I was entranced. There is so much substance to be found within these pages; so many lines I wish I could recall at will. It’s exceptional. I feel like I will carry this story with me for a long time to come.

The ending is horrifying. Emotionally, philosophically, theologically; there’s a lot to unpack.

We’re talking full blown existential crisis upon reading the last 40-or so pages. I would love to read this again and annotate it. I definitely think it is worthy of that care.

Thank you to all my Constant Reader friends who finally pushed me to pick this one up. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

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Review: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

The TommyknockersThe Tommyknockers by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Okay, I know, I know. This isn’t a perfect book.

Luckily, I am not a critical reader. Therefore a book doesn’t need to be entirely perfect in order for me to love it.

I rate books based upon my reading experience and I absolutely loved my time rereading The Tommyknockers.

This SciFi-Horror novel, first published in 1987, is set in the small town of Haven, Maine.

One day while walking in the woods of her rather large property, local woman, Bobbi Anderson, quite literally stumbles upon a mysterious metal object protruding from the ground.

Unable to understand what she is seeing, Bobbi quickly becomes obsessed with freeing the object.

The longer she’s around it however, the more she begins to notice certain disturbing side effects suffered by both herself and her old dog, Peter.

Regardless of any strange happenings, Bobbi continues to feel the pull of the object in the woods.

Around the time Bobbi has developed this new obsession, her old friend, Jim Gardener, known as Gard, finds himself in the depths of a true alcoholic bender.

On a morning where he is moments from ending it all, Gard experiences an overwhelming feeling that Bobbi is in real danger; he needs to call her.

Unable to get through, he does what anyone would do. He hitchhikes to her house.

He finds Bobbi in a state of, shall we say, disrepair.

Bobbi gives Gard, her trusted friend, a run-down of all she has been up to; including showing him the object.

She enlists his help in her mission to free it. Although he has reservations, Gard loves Bobbi in his own way, and ultimately does decide to stick around and help her out.

From there, we meet the town of Haven. The other locals who have begun to feel the effects of the object’s greater exposure.

The fallout seems to be having an effect on the health and wellness of the entire town. Incidentally, it also has a significant effect on anyone passing through.

Written towards the end of the Cold War, at a time when discussions of nuclear weapons, power and nonproliferation evoked a lot of passion amongst people, that influence can be felt here.

The fact that I am using the word fallout, as an apt way to describe what was happening to the citizens of Haven, exemplifies that.

In addition to the social commentary, which I feel King is genuinely good at weaving into his stories, he also incorporates various other elements he seems to enjoy exploring.

There’s author protagonists, both Bobbi and Gard are writers, alcoholism, mental telepathy, revivalist preachers, dolls, rats, bats, creepy kids and a fantastic array of body horror. It really has it all.

Also, as usual, this story is full of witty humor and characters that are so well-developed you feel like you’ve known them your whole life.

As a Maine native, I can tell you this story is full of Mainerism, as well!

Overall, I had such a fun time sinking my teeth into this one again. I had forgotten so much.

Additionally, I picked up so many more connections to the great Kingverse than the first time around; having an additional 20-years to read his stories.

I think this one is underrated. Not just underrated, it gets a solidly bad rap.

However, I humbly disagree. I think if you love King, and love SciFi, you can love this book as well.

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Review: The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

The Hollow PlacesThe Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hollow Places is super WEIRD and extremely well written. I just adore Kingfisher’s style.

I think it’s really hard to nail weird, yet she does it.

The humor and heart she is able to bring to her stories is absolutely top notch.

If you haven’t read anything by Kingfisher yet, this is a great place to start.

Okay, with the low-key fangirling out of the way, let’s get into the story, shall we?

Recently divorced, Kara, known as Carrot by her family and friends, returns to her beloved Uncle Earl’s Museum of Wonders to live, lick her wounds and help him out.

The museum, think smaller version of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, is her Uncle’s pride and joy.

He has spent years curating the various items, including a vast collection of taxidermy, and tends to it all with care and dedication.

Carrot’s favorite piece is an elk head, known as Prince, which her Uncle has now placed in her room above the bed to make her comfortable.

With Carrot around to help, Uncle Earl finally plans to have the knee surgeries he has been in desperate need of.

As he heads off to hospital, Carrot falls into a groove of running the museum on her own. Along with her cat, Beau, it begins to feel like a home.

She even kindles a friendship with the barista at the coffee shop next door, Simon.

After a tourist knocks a hole in the wall of the second floor of the museum, Carrot, definitely lacking the skills to repair such damage, enlists Simon’s help.

As they peer through the hole, Carrot and Simon discover more than they ever could have bargained for. A portal to another world.

As anyone would, they explore.

Narnia from hell. That’s what they find, Narnia from HELL!!!

Let’s call it the Willow World, scenes from which chilled me to the bone.

I refuse to tell you more, you will have to pick this one up and discover for yourself.

Kingfisher’s writing is so much fun. Her characters are hilarious. As frightening as this got, there were still many, many times when I laughed out loud.

One of my favorite things about her writing is how real her characters seem; and how likable. They also don’t magically turn into superheroes who can overcome all obstacles with grace and without breaking a sweat.

Carrot and Simon, although not helpless, were bumbling around trying to figure this out just like you or I would.

I mean, unless you know how to defeat mysterious monsters and close the portal to hell before it swallows your entire town.

Maybe you do, who am I to judge?

In summation, as you can clearly tell, I want you to read this book.

I loved this book and if you are into weird and scary things, I think you will too!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it didn’t disappoint for a second. I will read ANYTHING Kingfisher writes.

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