Review: Misfits by Hunter Shea

MisfitsMisfits by Hunter Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

In this gruesome tale, set in 1990s-Milbury, Connecticut, five teens, Mick, Marnie, Vent, Chuck and Heidi, discover some urban legends are very real and very deadly.

The friends are misfits, stoners, living on the edge of society, but luckily, they have learned to rely on one another and actually have a super tight-knit group.

One night, Heidi and Marnie decide to head to a local bar that is known to serve minors. They have no idea that one choice will forever change the course of their lives.

They’re just looking to have a few drinks, listen to music, blow off some steam and maybe flirt with some guys. When Marnie sees her ex-boyfriend’s father there, she doesn’t think too much of it.

It’s strange he goes to a place frequented by people so young, but he’s harmless, or so she believes.

When he follows her out to the alley, she quickly realizes how wrong she is. He brutally beats, rapes her and leaves her bleeding out on the ground like a piece of trash.

By the time Heidi discovers her and what has happened, Marnie is barely alive. Heidi manages to get her out of there and to their friends for help.

Marnie refuses to tell authorities, or seek treatment, even though it is clear she is severely injured. The rest of the group agrees to go along with Marnie’s wishes. The last thing they want is for her to have to tell what happened to her if she is not comfortable doing so.

They know who did it. Marnie remembers and told them. She wants him to pay, as does everyone else in the group.

They are sick of taking everyone’s shit. It’s time for some vengeance. Even in her weakened state, Marnie is beyond ready to fight back.

The group hatches a plan to use the Melon Heads, a terrifying local legend, to make the rapist-POS pay. Mick insists he knows of a way to find the group of mutant cannibals, but is it legit?

From there stuff really gets crazy, but truly, this entire book is intense and I’ll say it, gross.

There were so many moments when I literally exclaimed, ewww, while reading. I can’t even tell you how many times.

Gruesome, disgusting descriptions and imagery pepper these pages. It was so fun!

I loved the way Shea formed the entire story around a local legend. Those scary stories we all hear as kids, how many of them are actually real?

There was a lot of action here as well, but some things were tough to read. I would definitely tread with caution if rape, sexual assault, or severe violence on page is triggering for you.

For me, although certain scenes were uncomfortable, they made sense in the overall narrative. It’s gory, fierce, violent as hell; in short, a complete bloody mess.

That’s what we’re here for. If you are looking for a brutal way to enter the spooky season, look no further. Misfits is it!

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

I had such a fun time reading this. I was on the edge of my seat the whole way. Now Melon Heads are a new personal terror. Add them to the list!

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Review: Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Clown in a CornfieldClown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quinn Maybrook moves to Kettle Springs, Missouri, after her father accepts a position as the town’s General Practitioner.

He didn’t really ask for her opinion on the matter, but due to everything they have been through recently, Quinn is willing to forgive him. She just wants to see her Dad happy again.

And to be honest, Quinn is ready to leave Philadelphia as well. Since her Mom died, it’s just too tough to be there, to deal with everyone’s pitying looks.

When they arrive at their new home, the same home as the previous town doctor, they discover a dilapidated old farmhouse. Quinn can’t say she’s surprised. It’s even pretty much in the middle of a cornfield.

Cue the eerie atmosphere. Does anyone else find cornfields to be hella creepy?

No, just me?

Unpacking in her new room, Quinn gazes out over the expanse of fields surrounding them. She notices an abandoned factory in the distance.

There’s a mural painted on the side. It’s a giant clown face and the pervy skeeve seems to be staring right into her window.

She can’t believe this is her life now. It’s all surreal. This town seems like something straight out of a movie.

Attending school the following day, Quinn begins to get acquainted with the local kids. An over-the-top teacher having a temper tantrum, even kicks her out of his classroom on her first day. It’s a lot to process.

Because of this event, she ends up hanging out with some of the more popular kids in the school. They seem a little wild, but not all bad.

They end up inviting her to a party Founder’s Day weekend. What could go wrong?

Y’all, I had so much fun reading this. Clown in a Cornfield was EVERYTHING I was hoping it would be!

Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. It is the perfect book to read to transition into spooky season. It has all the Fall vibes and I was living for it!!!

Is this a perfect book? No, it’s not, but was it the perfect book for me?

Abso-freakin-lutely!!

Those of you who know me, you know that clowns are my biggest fear. I actually have never read a book with clowns in it.

Not even It.

It’s true. I knew after seeing this around and reading the synopsis, that I wanted to give it a try.

I am so happy I went outside my comfort zone and picked this one up. It truly had everything I love in a Teen Scream, which incidentally is one of my favorite subgenres of Horror.

Clown in a Cornfield features the new girl trope, the final girl trope, kids behaving badly, corrupt town officials, an ominous atmosphere, a huge teen party, biting social commentary, a cleverly positioned ending, and plenty of jumps along the way!

This is just pure fun on the page. It’s a must read for the Fall!!! Don’t miss out, Frendo will be mad if you do.

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Review: The House That Fell From the Sky by Patrick Delaney

The House That Fell From The SkyThe House That Fell From The Sky by Patrick R. Delaney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Scarlett Vantassel is at a crossroads.

At 29-years old, after a recent break-up, she has returned to her hometown, moved in with her father and brother and resumed working at a dead-end job.

Needless to say, for a girl who once dreamed of greatness, things are not going as planned.

Even her popular YouTube channel, has lost its glow for her. Sinister Scarlett’s spark is gone.

On the night that she is set to film her farewell vlog, something truly insane happens, which interrupts her filming.

Just as she starts recording her swan song, there is a grand disturbance in Winterview City, where she lives.

It affects the power and can be felt in the air. Immediately setting off to investigate, Scarlett never does return to filming.

Once the dust settles, the city discovers an enormous gothic mansion has suddenly appeared in the downtown area. No one can explain it. Where did it come from?

The media dubs it, The House that Fell from the Sky.

Eventually a mysterious organization, Crow Corp, is somehow allowed to take ownership of the property.

And as you do, when you gain a creepy gothic mansion, you host a horrifying contest. If someone can survive one night in the house, which is clearly haunted, they win a million dollars.

Also, as you do, you select your contestants via lottery. I mean, it worked for Willy Wonka.

Before you get to all that however, there is a lot of build-up.

We follow Scarlett, her brother, Tommy, his ex-girlfriend, Hannah, and Scarlett’s best friend, Jackson, as they contemplate their lives, their friendships and the secret of the house.

We get the history of their relationships, what has caused them to be strained now and their own personal desires to discover the truth behind The House that Fell from the Sky.

The character with the biggest drive to get into the house is Hannah. She believes the house holds the secret to life after death, and even that she may be able to find her recently deceased mother within the walls.

Coming in at over 500-pages, this novel really leaves no stone unturned.

While I believe it could have been edited down, and certain areas tightened up, I did find the premise behind this extremely intriguing.

If I had my way, I would have had either Tommy or Jackson be the main protagonist and I also would have had the entire friend group be around the age of 21. That’s the age they seemed, although their stated ages were closer to 30.

I also found both Tommy and Jackson more believable heroes than Scarlett, and don’t get me started on Hannah. Frankly, I’m not sure why anyone was friends with her.

Their time in the house was intriguing. It was sort of a Lovecraftian-Overlook Hotel, run by Willy Wonka on acid.

If that doesn’t have you lifting your brows, I don’t know what will!?

One of the aspects I enjoyed the most about the friend’s time in the mansion was the cyclical nature of it. They would experience a bunch of horrifying things, then it was like someone hit a reset button and they would start all over again.

This thought of a never-ending trap makes me extremely agitated; like a hallway that never ends. That really freaks me out.

And while they were stuck, with no sense of time, the events and surroundings were actually continually changing. They continued to face new monsters and challenges while their sanity was pushed to the brink.

Even though I had fun reading these sections, I did feel like it was a bit more fever dream quality than I would have preferred. There was so much, it was almost too much.

With all of this being said, this is a good book and an ambitious debut.

The author, Patrick Delaney, is clearly wildly creative and I know as his career progresses, his material will continue to get stronger and stronger.

I for one, will be along for the journey. Looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Oblivion Publishing, as well as the author, Patrick Delaney, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly appreciate it!!

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Review: Dark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer

Dark CelebrationsDark Celebrations by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark Celebrations includes 12-short stories from one of my favorite Horror authors, Calvin Demmer.

Each of these tales is centered around a particular celebration or holiday around the world, which I felt was such a creative way to structure a short-story collection.

This book absolutely has something for everyone. Moving through, I couldn’t help but think this was a pure monster mash at its finest!

You have everything in here: zombies and vampires and mummies…

No matter what your favorite creature feature, you will find something to sink your teeth into.

Demmer’s writing is hella dark and quirky. The way he can set a tone and pack a punch within such a short number of pages just astounds me.

And, good news, after you pick up this stellar collection, you can then dive into The Sea Was a Fair Master, my favorite collection of 2018.

Basically, you have a lot of good reading ahead of you!

Thank you so much to the author, Calvin Demmer, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. If you know me, you know this has in no way swayed my review.

Demmer is so fire. That’s all there is too it. I look forward to picking up anything he writes!

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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican GothicMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

When Neomi Taboada’s father asks her to go check on her recently married cousin, Catalina, she really doesn’t want to. Why her? She’s got so much going on in the city.

Catalina currently resides at a remote manor home, known as High Place, with her husband, Virgil’s, family.

As posh as that sounds, according to Catalina’s desperate letters, the home is a desolate wasteland where she is currently very unwell, or else is in incredible danger.

Neomi’s father urges her to go and check on Catalina’s health and living conditions. When urging doesn’t work, he bribes her.

Neomi wants nothing more than to attend University, so that’s exactly the carrot he dangles in front of her.

Before you know it, Neomi is packing her bag and heading to High Place.

Once there, Neomi immediately feels at odds with Virgil’s stuffy, overly proper family. She is a modern, society-girl, who is used to having her own way, or at least being able to have a conversation over dinner.

In addition to the regimented, claustrophobic feel of the house itself, Neomi begins feeling spooked out by her surroundings and dreaming frightening things. Something is definitely going on here.

Her interactions with Virgil and his family get more disturbing as the days go by, until Neomi doesn’t fear just for Catalina’s well-being, but also her own.

Y’all, I was highly anticipating this novel. I have really enjoyed previous works from Moreno-Garcia and the gothic vibes of this are totally my jam.

While there is no denying that Moreno-Garcia’s writing is lush and captivating, something about the pace of this was off for me.

The premise is super intriguing, the atmosphere was top notch, but for me, the characters were not as well developed as I would of liked. I feel like I should have been attached to Neomi, but I just wasn’t.

The horror elements were interesting. I found the ideas behind that aspect intriguing for sure.

There were also scenes that legit grossed me out. I may even have gagged once or twice. I am telling you, Uncle Howard. The descriptions. I had to take a shower after.

Overall, this is a good book, bordering on really good for me. I think if this pace wasn’t so variant from lull to extreme intensity, I could have enjoyed it more.

I hope that Moreno-Garcia continues in this lane though. This gothic horror is fantastic for her writing style. I’m on board for anything else she writes, believe that.

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Review: Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Night of the MannequinsNight of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightfully brutal and mentally horrific.

Jumping into this Stephen Graham Jones novella, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

To be honest, I never even read the synopsis. I see his name and immediately pick books up. It’s a compulsion.

Night of the Mannequins follows Sawyer and his group of childhood friends when a prank goes horribly wrong.

Disguising a discarded mall mannequin as a patron at the local movie theater seemed like the perfect way to get back at the stuffy assistant manager, who happened to recently punish the friend group for sneaking into a movie unpaid.

What starts off as a fairly innocent prank, however, turns more deadly than this group of teens could have ever imagined and it seems Sawyer is the only one with a plan to limit the destruction.

First, let me just swoon for a bit over how much I love SGJ’s writing. I promise not to let it go on for too long.

The style is edgy AF, yet feels like classic horror all the same. I love the humor and witty dialogue that he is able to bring to such dark tales.

Also, his books always go there, all the way to the deepest, darkest crevices of the human mind. It’s weird. It’s powerful. It’s freaking disturbing.

With this being said, I was really into this novella, loving everything about it until about the 70% mark.

Then I started feeling lost. While I understand the ending, some of the choices of events leading up to the ending didn’t seem to fit. It made the ending seem a little abrupt and disjointed for me.

Overall though, this novella is fantastic. You cannot deny the level of creativity it takes to write a story like this.

One that leads you in one direction, flips that on its head and then smacks you in the face with a healthy dose of depressing reality.

Sawyer is a very special protagonist. One whose inner thoughts will stick with me for a while.

I would highly recommend this to any horror fan or any person who just enjoys a bizarre tale.

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

I was really looking forward to more SGJ and this did NOT disappoint!

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Review: The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good IndiansThe Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brutal. Haunting. Visceral.

Ten years ago, Lewis, Ricky, Gabe and Cass, did something on the last day of hunting season that they will ultimately live to regret.

They knew it was technically wrong, felt it at the time, but spurred on by each other and the adrenaline of the hunt, went against their better judgement anyway.

Close to the ten year anniversary of the event that came to be known as the Thanksgiving Classic, Lewis, now living far from the reservation, begins to be haunted by images of that day.

When a new work colleague, a Crow woman, reaches out to him and a loose friendship begins, Lewis confides in her, thinking she’ll understand.

From there, sh*t hits the proverbial haunted ceiling fan pretty quickly.

This is my first novel by Stephen Graham Jones and to say I was impressed would be putting it very mildly.

His writing has such a texture and grit. Oftentimes you are waiting for a novel to take it all the way and it never does. This one goes the distance.

It is bloody, brutal, fast-paced, genuine and horrifying. The nature of the storytelling feels so classic and traditional whilst also being cutting edge.

The only issue I had while reading it, which is completely a personal taste issue and nothing to do with the quality of the writing or story, was a lot of the animal content was hard for me to make it through.

While this is a personal taste issue, I still rate books I read based upon my reading experience and I had to be honest that those scenes did bother me.

With this being said, I will mention that I do not think in anyway that the author threw those scenes in recklessly. They definitely served a purpose in the narrative. I get it.

Overall, I think this is a purposeful, creative and engaging horror story. I will absolutely be picking up anything else SGJ writes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Gallery / Saga Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. It will haunt me for a long time to come!

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Review: Wonderland by Zoje Stage

WonderlandWonderland by Zoje Stage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Upon her retirement from a professional ballet company in New York City, Orla is ready to settle in to care for her two sensitive children, Eleanor Queen and Tycho, while her artist husband gets his chance to focus on his work.

Her husband, Shaw, has handled most of the child-rearing up to this point, as Orla’s career required long hours outside of the home.

The couple decide to move to Northern New York, an area closer to where Shaw grew up.

They are thinking the open space and slower lifestyle will be good for the children. Plus, the beauty of nature is really what Shaw wants to encapsulate with his art.

They decide on a beautiful old farmhouse with plenty of acreage, far from neighbors, or even a town. It’s already the holiday season and snow covers the ground, giving the children something exciting to focus on.

It seems to be exactly what they wanted, until it’s not.

The seclusion quickly gets to them and mysterious events start occurring on the property, like the appearance of the Aurora Borealis, 10-feet of snow falling in one night, and the trees seem to be creeping closer to the house.

Additionally, Shaw and Eleanor Queen both seem to be channeling some sort energy from the woods. It’s all a bit overwhelming.

When things turn dangerous, Orla must do whatever she can to protect her family from the entity trying to trap them.

Dark and dangerous, this book explores some weighty and thought-provoking subjects.

Wonderland is a slow burn and one that you need some time to think about. I think the longer I sit with this, the more I will grow to appreciate it.

The quality of Stage’s writing, cannot be denied. I love it, but also realize this book will not be for everyone.

I do feel the end dragged on a bit more than it needed too and began to feel monotonous because of that.

Overall though, I think this is a wildly creative and thoughtful story. I will keep coming back for anything she writes.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Mulholland Books, for providing me a copy to read and review. I genuinely appreciate it!

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Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Home Before DarkHome Before Dark by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

RILEY SAGER!!!

He has done it again, and actually, I think this is his best work yet!!!

Loved. Loved. Loved.

Perhaps I should throw together some coherent thoughts? Yeah, let’s try.

Upon the death of her father, Maggie Holt, is shocked to discover she has just inherited Baneberry Hall, the allegedly haunted mansion her and her parents abandoned some 25-years earlier.

Quite literally fleeing in the middle of the night, her parents refused to ever return to the property. Her father then published a best-selling non-fiction account of their time there. As you do.

For Maggie’s part, she remembers nothing of her time at Baneberry. Of course, she was just 5-years old and apparently her little mind wiped the slate clean after they departed.

She has read her father’s book, House of Horrors, numerous times, but doesn’t believe a word of it. Her parents, whose relationship didn’t survive the Book, wouldn’t tell her anything, even though she pleaded with them frequently to do so.

Returning all these years later, Maggie hopes to piece together a bit of the truth while she is renovating the home for sale.

As soon as she steps foot on the Baneberry property, however, she’s knows it is not going to be as easy as she had hoped.

Alternating between Maggie’s current perspective and full chapters from House of Horrors was an absolutely delightful way to read this story. I loved how Sager set that up.

The pacing was perfection!

I was so engaged with this throughout. It got into my mind.

I was racing towards the conclusion trying to discover how much of House of Horrors was the truth.

Baneberry Hall was such a presence in the story. It was ominous and creepy AF.

I can’t imagine being Maggie and actually staying there on my own!

Home Before Dark is without a doubt going to be on my top books of the year list!

If you haven’t read anything by Sager yet and are wondering where to start, I highly recommend giving this one a shot. I think it is a perfect example of his style.

If you have read Sager before, and are a fan, what are you waiting for!?

I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next!

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Review: Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Survivor SongSurvivor Song by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

THERE WILL NEVER, EVER, EVER BE A BETTER TIME TO READ THIS BOOK.

After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is hit by a super contagious strain of a rabies-like virus, the entire state goes into lockdown.

Hospitals are overrun, public resources drained, people are ordered to go into quarantine and it is literally dangerous to go outside.

Dr. Ramola ‘Rams’ Sherman receives frantic news from her best friend, Natalie, who is currently 8-months pregnant with her first child.

Apparently, Natalie’s husband has just been killed after an infected neighbor broke into their home and attacked them. Making matters worse, if that’s even possible, Natalie was bitten by the infected man during the attack.

Due to the very rapid rate of progression for the virus, the clock is ticking for Natalie. She needs to get medical care right away and calls the one person she knows will help her, Rams.

Natalie makes her way to Rams and the two women set out together to try to make it to the closest hospital. Even though the hospitals are at max capacity, the fact that Ramola is employed there as a pediatrician, makes them think that they will be able to receive care.

The rest of the novel takes place over just a matter of hours, as the two women race against time to try to save Natalie and her unborn child.

This book is compact and extremely intense. Following Rams and Natalie on their journey was so incredibly vivid. I could completely imagine what they were seeing, hearing and feeling.

Picking up Survivor Song in the midst of a global pandemic, I will say, is a surreal experience.

Within the first 20-pages, I’m thinking, is Paul Tremblay clarivoyant? How the heck did he release this book at just the right moment?

I think reading this, hot on the heels of the beginning of the pandemic, when we were first coming under quarantine, for the first time in my life, made this soul-shattering story even more impactful.

While this is a horror story that, in concept is as frightening as hell, to me the most important aspect of the story, the aspect that effected me the most, was the relationship between Rams and Nats.

Their relationship reminded me so much of my own relationship with my best friend, Nichole. Just imagining going through what these women were going through, the choices they had to make, it tore my heart out.

I’ll admit it, I cried. It was very much one of those, there but for the grace of God, go I-moments for me. It was hard to read.

I texted her a few times throughout the ending of the story and of course she was sympathetic.

She knows how I get with my stories!

There was one scene that I did have to skip over, but I don’t think editing that out for myself diminished any of the story for me.

For those curious, (view spoiler) in an ignorant attempt to halt the spread of the virus.

I’m too sensitive on that topic to subject myself to that, so I just flipped on through.

With that being said, this is an great story. One that will haunt me for years to come and isn’t that really what Horror it is all about?

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

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and as I expected, Tremblay does not disappoint! Get your hands on this as soon as you can, I know a lot of people are going to be talking about it!

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