Review: Howls From Hell, a collection edited by HOWL Society

Howls From HellHowls From Hell by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Howls From Hell is an entertaining Horror Anthology packed full of over-the-top, toe-cringing content!!

Prior to reading, I discovered that this well-rounded collection was collectively edited by, HOWL Society, which if I understand correctly, is an online group for Horror Readers and Writers.

I think this is fascinating and such a great example of the camaraderie that can be found within the Horror Fiction community.

Yes, I know we have our problems, but the whole essence of this collection is what it should be all about. Supporting one another in this genre we all feel so passionately about.

In addition to its compelling origin, this is a wildly varied and engrossing collection. It’s absolutely worth the read.

I looked forward to starting each new story, as I never knew what to expect. Each author brought their own unique style and voice.

If I were to select my three favorite stories of the collection, they would be: Gooseberry Bramble by Solomon Forse, It Gets In Your Eyes by Joseph Andre Thomas and Junco Creek by S.E. Denton.

Overall, the entire collection is great though. The Foreward by Grady Hendrix brought me to the brink of tears; oh, the nostalgia.

I think of the 16-stories included, only two didn’t resonate with me.

With this being said, I definitely think there is something in this anthology for every Horror Reader.

If you consider yourself a fan of the genre, give it a go, support your community and have a fun time doing it!

Howls From Hell will be releasing next Tuesday, May 18th!!

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Review: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Harrow LakeHarrow Lake by Kat Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes the truth is scarier than the nightmare.

When Lola Nox was just 5-years old, her Mom ran off, abandoning Lola to be raised by her famous, Horror movie director father, Nolan.

They have a strange, strained relationship. Lola often feels like a bird in a cage; a pet, for Nolan to trot out to impress industry people and the press.

As Lola becomes a teenager, she begins to battle more against Nolan’s strict control over her life.

Their relationship is contentious, but when Lola returns to their NYC apartment one evening and finds Nolan bleeding out after a brutal attack, she is devastated.

She needs him to be okay. He’s all she has. Adding to her stress, Larry, her Father’s long-time assistant tells her it would be best for her to go stay with her maternal grandmother while Nolan is in the hospital recovering.

Lola can’t believe it. She’s never even met her Grandmother; she doesn’t want to go stay with her, but Larry is insistent that it is what Nolan would want. And Nolan gets what he wants.

Thus, Lola is shipped off to Harrow Lake, her Mom, Lorelei’s, hometown.

It also happens to be the town where her parents met. The town where her father shot his most iconic slasher film, Nightjar, in which her Mom played the starring role of Littlebird.

Immediately upon arrival at her Grandmother’s, the story transforms in vibe into an atmospheric, suspenseful and eerie tale.

I was constantly on edge, waiting for the truth of Harrow Lake and Lorelei to be revealed.

This felt like a classic-80s Horror flick. It had one of my favorite tropes, with the main character ending up in a small town where everyone is acting strangely and they are stuck there.

The town lore and traditions were super messed up, but nobody but Lola seemed to notice. Even the friends she made there seemed untrustworthy.

But is Lola trustworthy? I was scratching my head the entire way, definitely anxious for the conclusion.

I liked this a lot. It was fun and had some pulse-pounding, creepy as heck moments. I can see that this story won’t be for everyone, but I think die hard fans of this genre will have a good time with it.

I definitely plan to pick up more books by Kat Ellis! Well done.

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Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The FiremanThe Fireman by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally got around to picking this up along with my friend, Shannon, for a buddy read.

Considering everything the world has been through over the course of the past year, it was an excellent choice. We certainly had a lot to discuss!

Following a group of characters, after a worldwide pandemic decimates the population, The Fireman is a chilling example of society stripped bare of its conventions.

The plague itself is spread by a highly contagious spore, physically representing itself on the human body as scaly skin discolorations and sores that come to be known as, Dragonscale.

Obviously, in my head I pictured, Greyscale, from Game of Thrones.

The most interesting aspect of this disease is the cause of death: spontaneous combustion.

Fires are erupting everywhere. There’s no advanced warning. Anyone could blow at any time. There’s no cure. Can you imagine the stress!?

Harper Grayson is a nurse in New Hampshire, who continues working long after the plague begins, in spite of great personal risk to herself.

As many other frontline workers, she feels compelled to help people as long as she can. Unfortunately, her husband Jakob isn’t crazy about her choice.

The couple make a pact, that if they become infected, they’ll take matters into their own hands. They’ll decide when they die, but when Harper finds signs on her skin that she has contracted the disease, she doesn’t want to follow through with it. She wants to live.

She’s pregnant and believes she can give her baby a fighting chance. In the hospital, she watched infected mothers give birth to healthy babies. She knows it’s possible.

When Harper expresses this to Jakob, he loses it. He comes completely unhinged, revealing a side to himself he previously kept hidden.

He believes Harper has gotten him sick, even though he has no symptoms yet. Jakob turns on her, blaming her for everything and ends up abandoning her.

With vigilantes, known as Cremation Squads, out hunting those infected with Dragonscale, Harper knows it is unsafe for her to stay alone.

Luckily, she is approached by some friendly infecteds, who offer her a place to stay within their survivor’s camp.

I found this to be an incredibly riveting story. To me, it feels sort of like The Stand-2.0. I did notice a few nods to that classic; my favorite book of all time.

The Stand was written in the late-1970s; The Fireman was published in 2016. A lot has changed in our society since then, but simultaneously, not much has changed at all.

As the rules and norms of society are broken down, people are returned to their more primal instincts in order to survive. It’s interesting to think about how people would arrange and conduct themselves following an apocalyptic event.

While this wasn’t as impactful or compelling for me as The Stand is, I still think it is a great post-apocalyptic story. Hill definitely has a narrative style that keeps me engaged and wanting more.

I also appreciated how layered this story was. You could deep dive into it and analyze so many different aspects.

Shannon noticed a lot of feminist themes woven throughout and that definitely fueled some of our more vibrant discussions.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this and do recommend it to those who enjoy a long-form, post-apocalyptic story!

I’m really looking forward to seeing what Hill comes up with next. He’s definitely an autobuy author for me.

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Review: Later by Stephen King

LaterLater by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stephen King’s writing is like coming home for me. I absolutely adored Jamie Conklin’s story.

Later is a coming of age tale with a supernatural twist, following a boy, Jamie, and his struggling single mother, Tia.

Jamie first discovered his ability when he was really young. He can see things others can’t and sometimes it can be really scary.

But it is an unchangeable part of himself and he learns the rules of it, as well as how best to live with it.

His mother knows what he can do, but she doesn’t like to talk about it. It scares her too and she urges Jamie to keep it a secret from everybody.

However, when she is backed against a wall, Tia asks Jamie to use his ability to help her. This event exposes Jamie’s gift to Tia’s police officer girlfriend, Liz.

After their relationship sours and the women call it quits, Liz continues to circle Jamie like a shark. She knows what he can do and eventually plans to use him for her own gain; legalities be damned!

Since this is Stephen King, it does go a lot darker than I am making out here, but it’s a short story; one best discovered for yourself.

I loved Jamie so much. The narrative is like you are sitting down with him, having a cup of coffee, or a whiskey, and he is telling you his story. It’s natural, heart-warming, occasionally frightening, funny and whip-smart.

I also really appreciated the depth of Jamie’s relationship with his mother. It was beautifully explored in my opinion. King excels at complicated familial relationships and this is no exception.

He also is a master at writing from the perspective of children and young adults. Great character work overall, but I always love his kid characters.

I absolutely recommend this to anyone who loves a Horror-based coming of age story.

Chef’s kiss for days!!!

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Review: A House at the Bottom of the Lake by Josh Malerman

A House at the Bottom of a LakeA House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

During the summer they are seventeen, James and Amelia, go on their first date. They are both nervous, but decide to take a risk.

They take a canoe out on a local lake, with some sandwiches and beer; making a day of it. James has spent some time on the busy lake and knows a passageway to a connecting lake that sees less traffic; they can be alone.

It’s romantic, it’s adventurous and the two really hit if off.

As they are exploring the second lake they come across another waterway; a tunnel actually, that the canoe will fit into. They’re having so much fun, and not wanting to disappoint one another, they figure why not explore more.

Things get a little hairy for a bit, but ultimately they pop out in a third lake. It seems completely unoccupied. They paddle around marveling at their find and then they discover more.

Looking down into the water they spy the top of a house. A house actually submerged under the surface of the lake.

They take turns diving down and cannot believe what they find. A two-story house with an open door and multiple furnished rooms to explore.

It defies all logic. How can this be? The two are absolutely mesmerized by their discovery.

After that first date they begin to spend more and more time at the house. It has altered their lives, but not all is well in their home below the waves.

This is an interesting novella. I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me loves the speculative side of it, that allows the Reader to imagine the outcome and essential meaning. But another equal sized part of me wants more explanation.

Even James and Amelia are confused by it all. How the heck am I supposed to know what is going on?

I did find the writing intriguing. I liked James and Amelia taking a chance on one another and finding and sharing this obsession together. I think they both felt like there was nothing special about themselves and finding this house, and each other, made them special. It gave them meaning.

To me, the house was ominous. It felt like a predator fish that lurks in the deepest parts of the ocean. The one that has a light on its head to attract all the little innocent fishes. By the time they realize they are in danger, it’s too late.

You know the one, right?

Overall, A House at the Bottom of a Lake is a very interesting story. I think I got a good handle on Malerman’s style from reading this. I’m definitely interested in picking up more of his work. Personally, I would love to see a continuation of this story.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate you!

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Review: When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

When No One is WatchingWhen No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Needing a distraction from her life, Sydney Green, decides to take one of the over-priced historic walking tours of her Brooklyn neighborhood.

She’s a history buff and is curious to find out what the tour guide will cover. While on the tour she quickly realizes that the community she has lived in her whole life isn’t being represented.

It’s hard to understand the history of a place while simultaneously ignoring the people who have lived there for generations.

Sydney decides to create her own, truly historic, walking tour of the neighborhood. With encouragement from her neighbors and friends, she begins to research the events and people she would like to cover.

It’s a big task, however, and she can’t do it all alone. Help comes in the form of a most unlikely source. A new neighbor, Theo, who just moved into the brownstone across from Sydney’s offers to be her assistant.

She’s hesitant to accept help from Theo at first. She doesn’t really trust him, or understand what his motives may be. As Sydney sees it, him and his Lululemon-loving live-in girlfriend are part of the problem.

Gentrification, they call it. Wealthy people swooping in and taking over urban neighborhoods; raising home prices, tax assessments and rents for all, thus displacing the long-term residents in the process.

Sydney can see it happening around her, changing everything. Theo’s persistent though and in a sort of dorky, yet charming way, he works his way through Sydney’s defenses and into her life.

Before she knows it, the two of them are working together on a daily basis. Also, as it turns out, the girl Sydney assumed to be Theo’s girlfriend, is actually his ex; it’s complicated.

As they dive into their research, events in the neighborhood are beginning to snowball. People are disappearing and both Sydney and Theo encounter strange things happening in the night.

It appears that something more sinister is going on than Sydney initially assumed, but who is going to believe her? Is she just paranoid, or is someone, or something, actually behind her neighbors mysterious disappearances?

I loved this story! I started out reading the paperback, but ended up switching to the audiobook and loved the narrators.

When No One is Watching has a lot of layers. It is a rare type of Thriller that I would actually read again.

I’ve noticed the reviews are mixed and I totally get that. The narrative heads in a direction that won’t be for everyone.

It definitely toes the line of Horror. I would comp this to Get Out meets Lock Every Door. If you loved either of those, I think you will enjoy this just as much!

Additionally, this story played to one of my biggest fears; knowing the truth about something and having no one believe you.

I guess it boils down to a feeling of helplessness. I love how Sydney fought back and how Theo supported her. Their relationship was great to read.

Overall, I found this to be a fast-paced, mind-reeling, horrifying modern-day Thriller and I loved every minute of it. Crossing my fingers this gets adapted into a film. It would be fantastic!!

Highly recommend!

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Review: Whisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch

Whisper IslandWhisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars **

Riley doesn’t have any close friends until she meets Scarlett. The fellow art student is vibrant and sweeps Riley under her wing almost immediately upon meeting her.

Riley really isn’t sure why, but she’s not going to protest. Riley is now part of a group. The rest of Scarlett’s inner circle includes the most talented girl at school, Mia, and her long-time best friend, Sammy.

With the school year coming to a close, the girls discuss possibly traveling together. They want to get out of Tennessee and focus on their art; a real adventure.

When Sammy presents them with the opportunity to go stay on a private island off the coast of Alaska, how can they say no?

They would get to stay for three months and it won’t cost them a thing. The island belongs to the family of one of Sammy’s brother’s close friends. His family isn’t using it, so it is open for the taking.

Some of the girls require more convincing than others, but ultimately they decide to do it. To live in the moment and go on the ultimate adventure.

Upon arrival on Whisper Island, the girls are in for a surprise. Sammy’s unreliable brother, Rob, and his new girlfriend, Opal, are already there, when they weren’t suppose to arrive for another day.

Let the uncomfortable fun begin. Rob and Mia are ex’s and it did not end well. Mia was beyond miffed when she learned, at the airport, that Sammy had invited her brother along.

But none of them had any clue Opal would be there. Who even is she?

As they start to explore the island and settle in, they make a haunting discovery. After that a lot of disturbing events take place, leaving the group wondering if they are actually alone on the island.

Once the bodies start dropping, they know they need to get to the bottom of the mystery of Whisper Island, or risk never leaving again.

This was a fun little book. It reads just like a campy Slasher film; something I personally really enjoy.

It’s not perfect. Some of the interactions are cheesy and I definitely had some eye roll moments, but overall it’s a fun escape from the world.

It kept me entertained. I had some theories and one of them definitely panned out, but that didn’t deplete my enjoyment level at all.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes Teen Slashers, remote locations, locked-room mysteries and/or toxic friend groups.

Thank you so much to the publisher, One More Chapter, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I definitely had fun with it!

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Review: We Hear Voices by Evie Green

We Hear VoicesWe Hear Voices by Evie Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

During a mysterious flu pandemic, Rachel’s son, Billy, lies close to death. Rachel is so distraught. He is just a little boy, how could this happen?

Defying all odds, Billy fights through and survives, but he brings a friend back with him from the brink. An imaginary friend who he calls, Delfy.

Rachel knows that many children develop imaginary friends to help them cope through difficult times, so she’s not too concerned about it.

From what Billy is telling her, Delfy is encouraging him to get stronger and that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

But when Billy’s behavior takes a frightening turn, Rachel knows Delfy is to blame.

Billy’s older sister, Nina, also thinks Delfy’s influence is harmful, and she is determined to get to the bottom of it. Her theory is that the flu is the root of the issue and she believes other children may be experiencing the same phenomenon.

There’s a lot going on in this novel; some of the subplots being more interesting that others. One of my favorite aspects was reading about the pandemic, obviously made more eerie due to everything happening in our world.

This novel follows multiple perspectives as it builds out the dreary post-apocalyptic atmosphere. We follow Rachel, a struggling mother, Billy’s sister, Nina, who is part of a space program for teens, and a doctor, whose name I can’t recall, who treats children hearing voices post-flu.

While many of the aspects of this were interesting to me, once they were mushed together, it became a bit much. It was like the plot suffered a little because there was almost too much going on.

The pacing was off because of this as well, with me much preferring particular perspectives to others. Frankly, I could have done with just Rachel and Nina’s points of view.

Even though this is pitched as Horror, I would categorize it more as a Sci-Fi Thriller.

In spite of the tiny criticisms mentioned above, I still found this be to an engaging story and Green’s writing style to be quite pleasing. I would definitely pick up future work from this author.

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

On the heels of 2020, now is the perfect time to pick this one up! You’ll know what I mean once you read it.

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Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

The Bazaar of Bad DreamsThe Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams turned out to be a really superb collection. I absolutely loved my time spent reading this.

Honestly though, am I surprised?

Included are 20-short stories, most never published before, that span a wide gamut of topics and provide plenty of food for thought.

I really enjoyed how varied the stories in this collection were. Going from one to the next, I was always surprised with where I ended up.

I found it to be unpredictable in the best way. One moment you are reading about savage cars, the next, names written in the sand, dueling fireworks shows, all the way to the literal end.

My favorite aspect of this book, however, was the short introductions, where King would give insight into his inspirations or personal connections to each story.

Those sections really helped to set the tone going into each story and for me, I think I took a lot more from each one because of that.

I highly recommend this collection, particularly if you are already a King fan and are familiar with his style and humor.

Even if you are new to King, however, I think you will really enjoy this one. It’s just a darn good time!

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Review: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

American PsychoAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wow, okay. American Psycho wasn’t what I expected. I honestly thought, going in, that I would end up loving it.

I know quite a few people who would include this on their favorites list, but after my experience with it, I don’t see why?

I just did not enjoy my time with this. It was so gut-wrenchingly boring for almost the entire book.

It wasn’t the content. I read a lot of brutal, gory stuff; frankly, I thought it could have used some more of that.

Although any scene involving a dog? Yeah, you know I skipped that sh*t.

It was just brain-drainingly repetitive. I get it. Moving on. Happy to have checked this one off of my TBR, now I know.

Thank you so much to my dear friend, Shannon for gifting me an audiobook copy of this.

I never would have made it through otherwise!

I could eventually have some more thoughts on this, but for right now, I’m over it.

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