Review: My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

My Heart Is a ChainsawMy Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is Stephen Graham Jones most recent, brilliant, love letter to the Slasher genre. It’s also one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint.

I actually finished this on September 2nd. Subsequently, I wrote a full review, which if I do say so myself, was pretty darn good.

Then due to major stupidity on my part, my laptop got inadvertently shutdown and all of my efforts were erased.

Normally, I would try to find another person within striking distance to blame, but unfortunately, there was just me, my dog and a potentially haunted ceiling fan.

But I digress…

Jade Daniels is a social outcast in her small, lakeside town of Proofrock, Idaho. A half-Indian girl, forced to live with her abusive father, Jade changes her hair color often and views the world through a prism of her vast knowledge of the Horror genre.

As her high school career comes to a close, there’s not much on the horizon for Jade. She works as a janitor for the local public school system, and it seems she may be doing so into the future. That in and of itself is fine. If she could just stay away from her Dad and his pervy friend, it would be okay.

When mysterious events around town start mirroring the plot structure of her favorite genre, however, Jade knows it’s finally happening. She’s excited by the prospect.

Proofrock has a slasher on their hands!

Therefore, she does what any logical Horror aficionado would do and tracks down the most logical choice for final girl, so she may teach her how to save herself and the town.

Sure, there will be a high body count, it’s almost time for the annual 4th of July celebration, after all. We all know Slashers cannot resist events like that, but the final girl should still be able to stop him. Eventually.

I’m always amazed by how much Jones can pack into a story. Each page feels like a Master Class in the Horror genre; full of references and rules that make my heart soar.

In addition to that though, he always doses us full of hard-hitting real world issues as well. There are many layers here, as there are in other novels of his that I have read.

This story was so much fun to read. It’s intricate, gritty, bloody, gory, smart, sarcastic, biting and fierce. The writing is top-notch and it’s going to remain in my mind for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Saga Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am sure there are a lot of things I am forgetting to mention about this, but what can I say? I’m silenced by greatness!

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Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In a quiet town, at the end of a typical neighborhood street sits a well-worn home with boarded-up windows. In the house lives an eccentric man named, Ted.

Ted has a daughter named, Lauren, who sometimes visits. Although never seen playing outside, the neighbors can hear her sounds of joy and sometimes discontent, well enough, ringing through the walls. Also, residing in the home, is Ted’s little furry companion, Olivia the cat.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Ted, Olivia and a neighborhood woman who just moved to the street, their intertwining tales of horror begin to unfold and their connections are laid bare.

It’s clear Ted’s musings may be unreliable. Can you trust what he is thinking? The way he wants you to see the story? What about Olivia? She’s just a cat. Could she possibly understand the intricacies of the human mind?

And what of the neighbor woman? She seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Ted, but is she correct about what he is?

Y’all, this is definitely one of those books that it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. I listened to the audiobook and feel it’s an excellent way to take in this story. I was pulled in from the very start.

The writing style is quirky and a perfect fit for this story. In my experience, it added to the overall sense of unease, because it took my mind a couple of seconds after each sentence, or statement, to string it all together.

That sounds like a negative, but it’s not. It’s like my mind was clicking through all it had heard, trying to figure out the truth, but couldn’t.

You know intensely from the start that all is not as it appears to be. It’s not cut and dry.

It’s a headscratcher and beyond compelling. There are clever misdirections, shocking revelations and soul crushing snaps back to reality. It’s a dark and heavy tale that breaths sinister unknown out of every pore.

Overall, I found this to be a satisfyingly unique and stirring Horror novel. It’s 100% memorable and will stick with me for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was an ideal way to kick off my Spooky Season reading!!!

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Horrid by Katrina Leno

HorridHorrid by Katrina Leno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her Father’s unexpected death, Jane and her Mother, Ruth, are forced to leave California behind and move to the distant state of Maine.

Due to money troubles, Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep them in their family home, however, she fairly recently inherited the home she grew up in. Problem solved, off they go.

While it’s not ideal, Jane seems to be handling it all fairly well. Maybe it is due to the numbness she feels about her Dad’s passing. It’s like she’s seeing the world through a haze; it’s surreal.

Arriving at North Manor, they find it in quite a state of disrepair. Add it to the list of unpleasant circumstances lately, but regardless, they know they can make it work.

As Fall, the most perfect season of the year arrives, Jane begins to settle into life in their new town. While she makes a couple of good friends, she also seems to draw the attention of the local bully, Melanie.

Melanie seems to have a particular distaste for Jane; it’s a little strange considering they only just met. It’s like Melanie’s holding a grudge against her, but why?

It’s not just Melanie though. There’s something about the house itself that’s off. Jane feels unsettled there and she’s experiencing things she can’t explain.

Her Mother also seems to be spiraling back in her childhood home. Jane suddenly feels the need to learn why Ruth left all those years ago, and why did she never choose to return?

Horrid is an another fabulous example of Katrina Leno’s unique style. Leno’s writing is beautiful, introspective and always seems to tackle fairly heavy topics with grace.

In this one, as the truth behind North Manor, and all that occurred there, was slowly revealed, I was completely drawn in. I could picture it all playing out extremely vividly.

The Horror imagery was well done in my opinion and I enjoyed how Leno structured the reveals. It kept me engaged throughout. I needed answers!

As always, I appreciated how much substance Leno brought to the table with this. Jane is a character struggling with grief, loss and self-doubt; all while outwardly projecting that she is okay. I think masking one’s negative emotions behind a cloak of, I’m fine, is something a lot of Readers will be able to relate to.

Additionally, Jane finds comfort in books and there was quite a few references to Dame Agatha Christie and her works. It’s hard not to find that endearing.

I will mention a trigger warning for self-soothing via (view spoiler)

Overall, I felt this was really well done and I enjoyed my time with it. It included a lot of tropes I tend to enjoy, such as long-buried family secrets, returning to a hometown and haunted houses.

I am also a big fan of Leno’s writing and this only served to reinforce that fact.

Now that we are in the midst of Spooky Season, y’all know it starts September 1st, I encourage you to give this one a go. It’s wickedly entertaining!!

**Please note, I picked this up as part of Bookoplathon ((my favorite Readathon ever)) as a Poll Pick. This was the winner of a poll I ran on Twitter. I am so happy with it. Thank you to all on Twitter who voted!!

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Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Certain Dark Things was originally published in October 2016, but is now being rereleased, by Tor Nightfire, with this splendid new cover!!

With vampire fiction making a bit of a resurgance and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, justly, gaining in popularity, I believe it was a smart decision. I knew the second I saw this cover that I would read it.

This noir-style story takes place in an alternate version of Mexico City, where vampires are real and everyone knows it. Please note, we’re talking dangerous, brutal vampires versus the sparkling romantic ones.

We love to see it.

Domingo is a street-kid who collects garbage to make ends meet. When he spies Atl, the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, he is immediately drawn to her.

As much as she tries to resist, Atl eventually succumbs to Domingo’s charm. Atl is on the run. She has many dangerous people looking for her and Domingo insists on helping; even though he is clueless to the ins-and-outs of the vampire world. He’d do anything to stay with Atl though.

There’s a gritty texture to this entire story. It’s violent and dangerous. I really enjoyed the overall idea and the setting; particularly, how humans and vampires live side-by-side.

For me, I feel like I needed it to be built out more to become fully invested however. It felt quite surface-level, which is fine. It’s a good story. A solid world creation, but for me, I would need a little more substance before I could say that I really enjoyed it.

With this being said, it is a quick, fun read, quite atmopsheric and I think a lot of Readers will have fun with it. I do think it is a very solid example of Moreno-Garcia’s style. I’m a fan!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate it!

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Review: The Apartment by S.L. Grey

The ApartmentThe Apartment by S.L. Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

After masked men break into their Cape Town home in the middle of the night, and subsequently terrorize them as they ransack the place, married couple, Mark and Steph are understandably traumatized.

Although they, as well as their 2-year old daughter, weren’t physically harmed, the emotional scars run deep. They are having an extremely difficult time returning to life as normal in the aftermath.

Troubles sleeping, paranoia about leaving the house unlocked, feeling like someone has been inside; all classic PTSD-home invasion symptoms.

Confiding in a friend one evening over dinner and drinks, she suggests to them that they may need some time away to heal and regroup; a house swap site is mentioned and Steph’s interest is piqued.

While they really aren’t in a financial position to take a trip, if they participated in a house swap, they just might be able to pull it off.

Mark doesn’t seem as into the idea, so Steph, naturally, creates a profile behind his back and begins the search.

Finding a match, Steph ends up convincing Mark to take the leap. Paris here they come!!

Arriving in Paris, Steph and Mark quickly discover the apartment is not quite as advertised. Not by a long shot. They fear there has been some sort of mistake, but gradually come to accept that they have been had.

It’s dirty, creepy, terribly furnished and under-provisioned. There’s even mold. Plus, don’t even ask what’s in the closet.

Unfortunately, for the couple, circumstances are actually much worse than they appear. Not long after settling in, strange things begin to happen in the apartment building and their minds.

I picked this audiobook up after a friend of mine had listened to it and really enjoyed it.

She seemed so excited about it and I wanted to be able to discuss it with her. I hadn’t really heard any hype for it, so was pretty jazzed once I read the synopsis and realized it was just my kind of story. Creepy and weird.

The audiobook was fantastic. The narrators did a wonderful job of believably protraying Mark and Steph’s sides of the story; which you alternate between.

There was a constant feeling of dread, even when nothing overtly scary was happening. I always enjoy that type of narrative. When I am just waiting for the dark truth to unfold.

I felt Grey did a solid job steadily building tension throughout. With this being said, the story actually disturbed me from the very start; it had a great tone.

It was like when you are watching a slightly scary movie and the cinematography is very dark, or sepia-toned, and you’re just kind of squinting the whole time, anticipating what is going to be coming next. What’s just outside the lense that you can’t see. I love that.

In addition to the many real-world issues Mark and Steph were struggling with, I enjoyed the darker supernatural elements to this story as well. The ending was satisfying to me and I can definitely picture this being adapted into a movie.

The Apartment certainly may not be for every Reader, but I really liked it. It was especially fun to read with a friend and discuss the different disturbing and crazy occurences plaguing Mark and Steph.

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Review: The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relauch #5) by R.L. Stine

The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relaunch, #5)The Dead Boyfriend by R.L. Stine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

The Dead Boyfriend tells a story of teenage love infatuation gone terribly wrong.

Caitlin falls for Blade, the mysterious new boy, at first sight. She can’t believe her luck when he seems to be into her too. Like really, really into her.

They fall hard and fast, like many first loves do. Caitlin couldn’t be happier. That is until the night Blade cancels a date with her and she catches him out with another girl.

Caitlin confronts him, but he acts like she means nothing to him. She can’t believe it. How can he do this to her!?

Unable to let it go, she heads to his house to wait for him to return at the end of the night. When Blade arrives, he is acting completely normally, like nothing happened. It’s like their blowout didn’t affect him at all.

Caitlin sees red. Literally, on her hands. Blood. Blade is dead and she’s to blame.

Told mostly through a quasi-epistolary format, with the majority of the novel being presented as Caitlin’s diary entries, this story gets real wild.

In addition to the craziness with Blade, who make no mistake, doesn’t stop bother Caitlin just because he dies, there’s also her bizarre interactions with Deena Fear, of the infamous Fear family.

While I didn’t enjoy this story quite as much as I enjoyed, The Lost Girl, it is still a fun Teen Scream.

Brittany Pressley is the absolute PERFECT person to narrate these new Relaunch audiobooks. She is so believable as these characters; I am really caught up by her voice.

Overall, this is a solid YA-Horror; exactly what you would expect from a Fear Street book. The nostalgia is real!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to listen to. I had so much fun hearing Caitlin’s story and am looking forward to more Fear Street Relaunch audiobooks!!!

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Review: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support GroupThe Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Final Girl Support Group, Grady Hendrix’s newest, inventive Horror story, revolves around the idea that final girls are real.

The classic Slasher films we all grew up on, and have come to love, are based on the real-life horror stories these women survived. We’re talking movies such as Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, Leprechaun and Black Christmas.

Twenty-two years ago, Lynnette Tarkington, survived a massacare in her home. She is a real-life final girl.

Since that time she has developed some unhealthy habits trying to stay safe. She’s a bit paranoid and has trouble letting people in.

The only people she trusts are the five other women, and their therapist, in the Final Girls Support Group.

This mixed-bag of trauma surivors have been meeting every month for more than a decade. They don’t always get along, but they need one another. Their therapist does a fairly good job keeping them on track and seems to really care about their well-being.

When one of the women misses group, without explanation, Lynne fears the worst. It turns out, her fears are valid.

A monster is back and he’s come to pick off the final girls one-by-one. Lynne immediately jumps into action. She’s been anticipating this for years and has a solid survival plan in place, but will she be the last final girl?

I found this story to have a completely unique premise and loved the use of mixed media sprinkled throughout that built-out the lore behind these final girls.

As I have come to expect with Hendrix’s novels, it is also full of his quick wit and dry humor. It’s over-the-top, wild plotlines kept me completely engaged. Nostalgia for days!

I thought this book was extremely clever. The ending was insanity. So much fun. I am actually thinking about listening to the audiobook this Fall; maybe around Halloween.

It’s definitely a story I wouldn’t mind revisiting!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me a copy to read and review.

It was one of my most anticipated books of the year and Hendrix didn’t disappoint!

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Blog Tour: The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support Group by one of my favorite Horror authors, Grady Hendrix, is set to release on Tuesday, July 13th, 2021.

It’s described by the publisher as: A fast-paced, thrilling Horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times¬†bestselling author of¬†The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

I was over the moon excited when the publisher reached out ot me and asked if I would be interested in receiving an early copy to read and review; as well as participate in the Blog Tour. This was one of my most anticipated titles of 2021; of course!!

I’m currently halfway through the novel and so happy to report that I am LOVING it! Hendrix has such a distinctive voice. You can tell right away when you pick up one of his books. The ease with which he pairs humor, satire and wit with genuine horror elements, is such a joy to read.

I also always enjoy his nods to the classic Horror of my youth. The only other author I can think of, also one of my favorites, who also pulls off this style so smoothly is Stephen Graham Jones.

This novel works off the premise that final girls, a very common theme in Horror movies, are real. In fact, the classic Slasher films that really created the genre, are based on their lives and experiences. We’re talking films like Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leprechaun, and even newer releases like, Scream.

Supposing the final girls from these films went on to live their lives, they may need some support. After all, they had experienced a trauma that almost no one else has lived through; no one else but each other.

Because of that they form a support group. They meet once a month and when our story begins, they have been meeting for the past 16-years. We learn early on how differently each of them has dealt with their trauma.

Lynne, our main character, is obsessed with safety; constantly scanning her environment and being prepared for all threats. The other women have each dealt in different ways, showing that there is no one true path to healing, if such a thing is even truly possible in their cases.

When it appears that someone is targeting the final girls once again, hoping to pick them off one by one, Lynne sets out to find the monster and stop him before it is too late.

As I mentioned about Hendrix somehow manages to mix the perfect amount humor into his stories. I love how I can literally be laughing out loud one moment and then having my heart-racing another. It makes for such a well-rounded reading experience; just so fun.

Lynne has such a dry personality. Being in her mind as she navigates the potential dangers in the world is a real trip. I’m really interested to see where the story is going to go. I have no idea who is after the final girls; it’s a real mystery at this point.

I am hoping to finish this up over the weekend and will post my full review before release on Tuesday. If you grew up like me, watching all the slashers, you have to check this one out. There are some real connections to those movies and I always love seeing that. It’s so nostalgic.

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

Full review to come…stay tuned!!!

 

 

Review: Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Near the BoneNear the Bone by Christina Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As far as Mattie can remember, she has always lived in a cabin, on an otherwise uninhabited mountain, with her overbearing husband, William.

William is brutal in his treatment of Mattie, saying it’s his job to make her a dutiful wife. She is terrified of him and feels hopeless. There is no way out for her.

Let’s pause for a moment, shall we.

Trigger Warning for abuse; pretty much any kind of abuse you can imagine. If this is a topic that is at all sensitive for you, please proceed with caution.

When Mattie discovers a mutilated fox near their cabin, everything begins to change. It doesn’t look like the victim of an animal attack, or even a human.

There’s something else in the woods. Mattie can sense it. They’re no longer alone.

Sure enough, strangers soon appear on the mountain searching for the mysterious creature.

Mattie is desperate for them to leave. William will get so angry that they’re there and bad things happen when William gets angry.

Near the Bone is one of those delicious Horror novels that it is best to start reading knowing as little as possible.

Going into this, I had only read the publisher’s synopsis, which they kept incredibly vague. Kudos on that.

After the first, say 20-pages, I thought it was one thing. Then there was one line, one little hint, where I perked up and thought, this isn’t going to be what I thought at all.

I love those little trickeries. Perhaps it wasn’t even intentional, but it flipped everything I assumed about the story on its head and left me with an anguished need to know more.

The rest of the story unfolding was well-crafted. Particularly, the pace at which the truth behind Mattie’s relationship with William is revealed. I would definitely classify this as Survival Horror, a subgenre I tend to really enjoy.

Certain aspects of this reminded me of the themes in Adam Nevill’s The Ritual; a book I also enjoyed quite a bit. That whole examination of the idea of ‘better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t’. Additionally, a bit of Mattie’s character arc made me think of dear, Rosie Daniels.

It was an intense, bloody mess at times. My toes were curling, my heart was racing and I appreciated how Henry wrapped it up.

There were a couple of little things where I felt like I may have wanted a bit more out of the narrative, but overall, this is a great freaking story!

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

I love the way Christina Henry’s mind works. She’s brilliant and I will continue to pick up everything she writes until the end of time.

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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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