Review: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bloody brilliant.

When Suzette becomes a new mother, she is excited and anxious, like any new mother would be. She didn’t have the greatest relationship with her own mother and she feels she has to do better than that by her own child.

Suzette and her husband, Alex (p.s. not a fan), work hard to provide their new daughter, Hanna, with a home she can grow and flourish in. However, it becomes apparent overtime that Hanna is no ordinary child.

Due to Hanna being non-communicative, Suzette is forced to keep her home and provide all of her schooling and care. She doesn’t want to do this. She wants Hanna to go to school like the other children. She want her to learn how to play and interact with others. And, yes, let’s be honest, get Hanna out of her hair for a while but Hanna is not having none of that.

What transpired within these pages chilled me to the core. THE CORE. This kid. Mmmmm, she is not messing around. I WANTED to get away from her and she’s a fictional character.

This story is a story you think you know. It’s the classic The Omen evil child trope. I don’t think I am giving anything away by saying that. You can deem that much from reading the synopsis but this book is SO much more than that. It is unnerving in the reality of it. This could happen and probably does. I know there are parents out there who are afraid of their children. This book made ME afraid of their children.

I loved this book. I added it to my favorites shelf and I haven’t done that in LONG time. This disturbed me in such a glorious way. I shall be singing its praises for years to come and you best believe I will be picking up anything else Zoje Stage chooses to write!

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Classic Horror: Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Review

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Back when I was in college, a little film called The Haunting was released. Starring Lily Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson, this supernatural horror flick was essentially a modern-day re-imagining of Shirley Jackson’s, The Haunting of Hill House.

It was released in the summer and my Mom and I went to the theater to see it, where I promptly fell in love. Soon after I was able to buy it on VHS ((I know, right!?!) and commence watching it 2,638,400 times.

At this point, I had never read the original source material. As a matter of fact, this is the first time that I have read this 1959 classic. I finally decided to pick it up spurred on by the celebration of ‘Women in Horror Fiction’ month.

I listened to this on audiobook and was able to get through it very quickly. It is a short book, at just under 200-pages, and the narrator was absolutely fabulous. I was so invested in this story, her voice was mesmerizing and seemed to transport me into that damn house!

I think my early love of the film version, The Haunting really helped me to imagine the whole narrative. They did a great job in casting that film. Seriously. Lily Taylor WAS Nell. I loved Jackson’s creation of her character. The mousy, sheltered girl who finally gains her freedom after what had to be a traumatic experience of years caring for her ailing mother.

I know, I know. Meg, this is supposed to be a book review, but I couldn’t write this review without mentioning that movie, as I know it has impacted my reading experience.

I truly enjoyed this book. The build-up, the atmosphere, the suspense. I thought the supernatural, or alleged supernatural elements, were so well done. I had many spine-chilling, look over your shoulder moments with this and it was great.

The characters interactions with one another were also well fleshed out. I believed their relationships and their connections to one another. Each feeling compelled to participate for their own, very different, reasons. I especially enjoyed the complex relationship between Nell and Theo.

Then we get to the ending.

Things were rolling along, great guns, and then, POOF, we are finished.

A friend of mine explained it as such, it’s like she as writing this great book and then she just got tired of writing it. I agree with that.

Done with this project, drops mic, exits.

Even with this in mind though, I did really enjoy my time with this story. I may even revisit it again someday. This should be appreciated for the great piece of classic horror fiction that it is. It has influenced so many other stories and for that, I doff my cap to Shirley Jackson. A true pioneer in the genre.

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Review: Hell: The Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens by Tom Lewis

Hell:  The Possession and Exorcism of Cassie StevensHell: The Possession and Exorcism of Cassie Stevens by Tom Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

High schooler, Cassie Stevens, is a bit of a loner. Especially after the death of her father, she struggles to connect with people at school, and even her mother. She begins to hang out with a trio of friends, ‘goth kids’, and they start doing goth type things together.

For example, attending ceremonies worshipping Satan.

The main event Cassie attends, Black Mass, is a drug and alcohol fueled orgy to Satan. Unfortunately, Cassie goes home from the Mass with a lot more than a hangover.

Things get really crazy after a car accident leaves Cassie technically ‘dead’ for a few minutes. After that, her fate seems sealed. She now feels a presence around her; a dark and evil presence lurking just in her periphery. She begins to cause noticeable disturbances while at school and at home.

Cassie needs help and it quickly becomes apparent that main-stream medicine is not going to ‘cure’ what ails her.

You guys, this is a really fun possession story that I have no problems recommending to my horror-loving friends. Was it perfect? No. There were a couple of things that I picked up on that I think could have been improved upon; repetitive phrasing, things of that nature, but overall, this was creepy AF and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

For me, it did offer up a unique take on possession. The way it was described, and viewing it through Cassie’s perspective, made it different from your standard tale where you exclusively follow people on the outside. The non-possessed characters. I liked seeing things from Cassie’s perspective. What it felt like for her. What she saw and how confusing and desperate it was for her.

The story really drew me in as well. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it and therefore got through it rather quickly. Lewis excels at building up suspense and there were parts that definitely got under my skin. I tried not to read it directly before bed without a palate cleansing Contemporary or Fantasy to read for a bit after.

Thank you so much to the author, Tom Lewis, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion on a book. I 100% would pick up more books from this author and look forward to doing so!

Original: …”for fans of The Exorcist and Stephen King…”

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Review: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Sawkill GirlsSawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A girl with incredible strength.
A girl who can vanish.
A girl who burns.

There are always three.

When Marion moves with her older sister and mother to the island of Sawkill Rock, she looks at it as a place for them to recover, to move on. After the death of Marion’s father, her world feels empty, yet she is left to hold the family together, a weighty responsibility.

But once on Sawkill, it doesn’t take Marion long to realize this island isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Something ominous lurks here and it feeds on the blood of young women.

Zoey sees Marion as the opportunity to have a new friend who doesn’t suck. Zoey is also a transplant to the island and with her father being a police officer, she is all too familiar with the little problem of disappearing girls plaguing Sawkill. In fact, she lost her best friend to the monster’s clutches and she has never been satisfied with the community’s response. She befriends Marion and together they begin to work on discovering the secrets of Sawkill. When Marion’s older sister, Charlotte, goes missing as well, things really start to heat up.

Val Mortimer. The Queen Bee. The Regina George of Sawkill Rock. She’s beautiful, she’s popular, she’s rich, she’s possibly evil and she’s got her eyes on Marion.

I went into this book with the mistaken belief that this was YA Contemporary with some Magical Realism elements. WRONG. This book is YA Horror. I was so happy. Dark secrets, urban legends, a monster feeding on the blood of girls, a uncoordinated band of kids coming together to defeat evil, a female / female relationship, humor, mystery, danger – seriously – this book has it all!

The atmosphere of this is dark and full. I was completely drawn into the girl’s lives on the rock. As a person who also lives on a small island, 30-miles out to sea, I can say the ‘island life rep’ was strong.

This would be a great book to pick up in October. I am actually a little sad I didn’t get to it then. My one negative is that I would say it was a little too long. I started getting anxious toward the end and just wanted a conclusion already! I think the same story could have been told, and perhaps better served, if about 50-pages had been shaved off. But that is 100% my opinion and it could be completely wrong. What the heck do I know anyway?

I would recommend this to all my horror-loving friends, or even just friends who like a dark, creepy atmosphere. Definitely worth a read!

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Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1908: Sara Harrison Shea’s young daughter has died under tragic circumstances. Wracked with grief, seemingly unable to move forward, what would Sara do to bring her child back to her?

Present Day: Ruthie’s mom has gone missing. One night while Ruthie was out with her boyfriend it seems her mother simply walked out of their house and into the surrounding woods. With no note and no signs of a struggle, Ruthie is forced to care for her odd, little sister whilst investigating what happened to their mother.

What Ruthie doesn’t know is that she is living in the house once occupied by Sara Harrison Shea. When she discovers parts of Sara’s diary in secret hiding places in the old farmhouse, she discovers sometimes the past really can come back to haunt you.

Following both past and present, this haunting tale is filled with an overwhelming feeling of dread. Winter is the absolute perfect time to read this book. When it gets dark early, when it is cold, when the wind blows long and loud into the night. The atmosphere of this story was richly developed and absolutely my favorite part of this story.

I went into this book completely blind, only knowing that quite a few of my book friends have loved this one. I was impressed with McMahon’s writing. She has a very strong horror voice and I definitely look forward to reading more of her works. I actually received a copy of her next book, The Invited, that is being released at the end of April. I feel like with this one now under my belt, I know more what to expect from her, and I’m damned pumped for it.

There were a few issues I had with the story line. Nothing major but just things I wish would have had more information or context. Overall, I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone who wants to be creeped out for a bit. The use of diary entries was super well done and as always, I felt that made me feel more a ‘part’ of the story; like I was investigating it myself. If you like a ghost/monster story with an overriding, ominous atmosphere, you should definitely check this one out! Backlist BUMP!!

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The Troop by Nick Cutter: Revisited

The TroopThe Troop by Nick Cutter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

12/7/18: Continuing my reflection on books I read in 2018, The Troop is going to win my ‘Favorite Book of March’ award.

It was a tight race between this and Wizard & Glass: Book 4 of The Dark Tower. I decided on The Troop because it was my first ever Nick Cutter book and to say I was impressed would be the understatement of the year. This man can write some horror and I am down for that. Now one of my autobuy authors, this book placed him towards the top of my most loved author list. Well played, Mr. Cutter. Well played.

Original: I finished this book back on March 18th and still haven’t written a review. The main reason for this is that I am nervous about being able to adequately express how much I enjoyed it.

This is a horror novel that follows a group of boys who are taken by their Scoutmaster to a island off the coast of Eastern Canada for a weekend camping trip. When a very ill stranger stumbles into their cabin, a horror is unleashed that is beyond all expectation.

The characters were so well drawn and their relationships and inner thoughts so well expressed that in spite of being a horror novel, this can be appreciated as a true character piece. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Lord of the Flies. With this comparison I am thinking of how each character is sort of placed into a stereotypical societal role and then we see how those roles play off one another. Among the group of boys we have the tough guy, alpha male; the nerdy, know-it-all, mother of the group; the golden boy who excels at sports and gets along with everyone; a wiry, cagey little guy with the absentee father and bad temper; and finally the sociopath who’s inner thoughts are a horror story unto themselves!

I was so impressed with the quality of Cutter’s writing and have already purchased another book of his, The Deep, which I plan to read in May. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the incorporation of mixed media sources; I believe I read in the Author’s Note him citing being inspired by Stephen King’s, Carrie, for this which is also very cool. I am so happy to have found a new horror writer that is original and who I can enjoy for years to come!

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Review: The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone

The MansionThe Mansion by Ezekiel Boone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

…there’s no way we’re going to stay here and wait for Nellie to go all redrum on us.

What would happen if HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey were set up to run The Overlook Hotel from The Shining? This book would happen.

Billy Stafford and Shawn Eagle created ‘Nellie’ – a computer system built to serve, better than AI and continually rewriting herself for your ‘happiness’ – and installed her into a creepy old haunted mansion secluded in the woods of upstate New York. Then Billy and his wife go to live in the mansion, during the winter when they could be snowbound there for days at time, in order to work out the kinks. What could go wrong?

Heavy in The Shining feels…I mean REALLY heavy…I appreciated the ubermodern twist it took. The Shining is one of my all time favorite books, and I know some fans who I could possibly see not liking this or calling it a ‘rip-off’, but to me it was a solid doffing of the cap to one of Sai King’s masterpieces ((in my humble Constant Reader opinion)).

To me, this book reads like a techy-scifi with some horror elements sprinkled throughout. There were a few scenes that really raised my anxieties but I suppose it all depends on what you are afraid of. If you’re like me and more than slightly nervous about your Smart Phone, Smart TV or the ever-looming Smart House, this may be a good one for you to pick up. Additionally, I always love a good ‘haunted house’ story and there were definitely some ghosts woven throughout this book…and twins, don’t forget to add some creepy twins in there because regular twins won’t do.

The beginning started out a little slow for me but by the time Billy and Emily arrive at Eagle Mansion I was elbows deep in this horrifying goodness. Overall, I found the storyline very readable and I kept wanting to go back for more. I am happy with the way things turned out although the final scene seem a bit too rushed compared with the extended build-up. It all seemed a little too easy in the end. I would definitely read more books by Boone, this was my first, and have been told to check out his Hatching series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Atria Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really enjoyed this and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

The Cabin at the End of the WorldThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well, this book launched me into the throes of a full-blown existential crisis.

What is life? What is love? What are words? What does anything mean? Did I just read this? What did I just read? Is there anybody out there? Are you there God, it’s me Meg?

Wen and her Daddies, Andrew and Eric, head off on a family vacation to a little cabin in the woods of New Hampshire to unplug from the world for a while. The cutest little family ever to family. I fell in love with them from the very first chapter and knew immediately that this book would crush my soul. It did.

As Wen is outside catching grasshoppers, cataloging and naming them (as you do), a stranger appears. Wen knows she shouldn’t talk to strangers but this man seems nice and eventually gets her to let down her guard. It’s not until his friends appear that Wen realizes something is horribly wrong.

What happens next is too messed up to even summarize for a review. I was so invested in this. I loved the format and really enjoyed how my mind was screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO” pretty much the entire time. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a tense, slightly brutal read. If you are someone who likes everything to be tied up with a nice little bow at the end however, this may not be the book for you. Tremblay likes to make us think. Really well done!

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Review: The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

The Sea Was a Fair MasterThe Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Sea Was a Fair Master was so freaking fun to read!

I have never read a flash fiction collection before and I wonder, are they all like this? Are they all so good? I am guessing probably not. Calvin Demmer is a master at this style! There are 23-stories within these 83-pages and each and every one of them left me with chills. Mostly horror stories, with a sprinkling of scifi and crime fiction, there is something here for everyone. Whether your biggest fear is clowns (MINE), carnivals, the psycho next door, dolls, robots, etc., you will find something in here to make your blood go cold.

I recommend reading it at night, home alone, on your kindle so you can turn all the lights out…that’s how I read it anyway and it worked for me!

If you are someone who is participating in one of the 43,651 readathons in October, you should DEFINITELY pick this one up. Currently only $2.99 for your kindle and with a short page count this is the perfect book for any Spooky Reads challenge!

I really look forward to reading further works from Calvin Demmer. One to watch IMO!

Original: Thrills & Chills aplenty! Loved this. Full review to come…stay tuned!

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Review: Brother by Ania Ahlborn

BrotherBrother by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rebel raised an eyebrow in approval. “Good idea,” he said. “A party ain’t a party without a splash of red.

Brother is my first Ania Ahlborn book. I cannot tell you how much it pleases me to have a new horror writer to obsess over! This book, set in the heart of Appalachia, is deeply disturbing. If you aren’t disturbed in some way by this, I’m not sure we can be friends…for real. One of the most disturbing aspects of this book is, it’s so realistic. At least the writing makes it seem so realistic. Why couldn’t this happen? It could totally happen. It is horrible and dreadful but it could happen. Nothing is scarier than mankind and their capacity to harm one another. At least not to me.

This book follows the Morrow Family, but in particular Michael Morrow, the 2nd son and the one who doesn’t seem to belong. Michael was adopted into this family but he has been well conditioned in their ways; bringing to mind the whole nature versus nurture argument. The skill of Ahlborn’s writing was on full display in the intricacies of the familial relationships. The relationship between Michael and his sister, Misty, was heartbreaking and that between Michael and his brother, Reb, the most disturbing and dysfunctional of all. I loved to watch the evolution of the relationships and the way Michael’s outlook begins to change when he befriends someone from outside the home. Even after this happens though, loyalty to the family remains one of the most important themes in his world.

His conscience wouldn’t let him abandon them. His mind wouldn’t ever let him disconnect.

I really became attached to Michael as a character. As morally grey as he was he seemed like the one shining light in this gloomy, hostile world. I wanted him to be free, to escape from the clutches of his grim reality. I wanted to help him. It’s weird to me how a character, by no means a perfect person, can become so loved, instilling such heavy feelings of empathy in a reader. This to me is a sign of exceptional character writing. I definitely plan to read more of Ahlborn’s books. If you have read any of her books, let me know in the comments what your favorite(s) are because I definitely want to put them on by tbr!

Also, just a side note, loved the references to The Shining in this one! I always love to see King references in other fiction – it makes my heart happy!

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