Review: Boys In the Valley by Philip Fracassi

Boys In the ValleyBoys In the Valley by Philip Fracassi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boys In the Valley is a classic Horror story; an absolutely delightful scarefest that gripped me from the start.

In the opening scene, we meet a young boy on the night that he loses both of his parents and his home in one bloody tragedy. The violence of this scene aptly sets the tone for the entire story, tense and atmospheric.

From there, we find ourselves at St. Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys, a self-contained parochial orphanage and school set in a remote valley in Pennsylvania.

It’s the early 1900s and being in such a location makes for a dire lifestyle. The boys at the orphanage, under the careful watch of several priests, grow their own food and only ever socialize with one another.

There are occasional supply runs to a distant farm, but only one of the priests, Father Andrew, and one of the older boys, Peter, ever go. For the rest of the boys, the grounds and the orphanage make up their entire world.

On a dark and dreary night, as all the boys lie in their bunks in the dorm, they hear a disturbance below. Someone has come seeking help from the priests.

It’s a group of men, one of whom is badly injured. The injured man is raving, dangerous, he has occult symbols carved all over his body. As the priests attempt to aid him, he dies suddenly, releasing an ancient evil with his last breath.

The boys upstairs aren’t privy to these events, but as the doors to their dorm room suddenly burst open and the cross hanging sentry above their door falls to the ground, many can feel a shift in atmosphere.

Soon a few of the boys begin acting strangely. They’re suspicious and mean, bullying in ways they never attempted before. They begin forming groups and taking sides.

Peter, the oldest and golden boy of the orphanage, an aspiring priest, becomes the unofficial leader of one side, as another boy, Bartholomew, leads the dark side.

As the tension rises, so does the danger and before the innocents can even wrap their minds around it, all hell breaks loose at St. Vincent’s. It’s chaos.

Fracassi transported me with this story. I loved the historical feel and the remote setting was so well done. I felt like I was there in the dark and the cold. I literally felt cold and I read this during one of the hottest weeks of the years.

That’s a damn good story.

It scared me. There were scenes, particularly in the beginning as it begins unfolding, that got my pulse-racing. I was simultaneously horrified and delighted.

This felt like a treat to read. There are no tricks, or gimmicks. It’s just a well-told, well-plotted, well-developed, atmospheric, engaging and creepy tale. A story that could be told just as easily around a campfire, as read in the silence of your own room at night.

It’s got that epic good-versus-evil feel, but stripped down to a fluid Lord of the Flies meets The Exorcist combination.

I would absolutely recommend this to any Horror fan, particularly if you are creeped out by things like religion and kids. If you are, this will play right into your sweet spots.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really excited to pick up more from this author!

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Review: A Death in Door Country (Monster Hunter Mystery #1) by Annelise Ryan

A Death in Door County (Monster Hunter Mystery, #1)A Death in Door County by Annelise Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A Death in Door County is the first book in Annalise Ryan’s creeptastic Monster Hunter Mystery series.

I first learned about this series after I was gifted an ARC of the sequel, Death in the Dark Woods, releasing in December 2023. I was excited to learn about it because it combines two of my favorite things: creepy vibes and cozy mysteries.

This series follows Morgan Carter, a bookstore owner and cryptozoologist, from Door County, Wisconsin. Morgan, like her parents before her, spends her spare time investigating cryptids and that skill is about to come in very handy.

After a few bodies are found along the shores of Lake Michigan with unexplained injuries, Police Chief Jon Flanders asks for Morgan’s help. The injuries look like bites, but not bites from any locally known animal.

Could a rumored lake monster be to blame?

Morgan agrees to help. She’s no stranger to the legends of lake monsters and is more than happy to assist Jon in his on-going investigation.

Y’all, this was really cute. It’s a simple start to a new Cozy Mystery series with a surprising and creative cryptid twist. I definitely enjoyed my time getting to know this main character and a feel for how this series is going to play out.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading more mysterious adventures featuring this plucky-protagonist, Morgan. I also loved how important the presence her dog, Newt, was in the story. You can tell this author is a dog-lover.

It was a little slow for me in the beginning, but I was never not enjoying it. The mystery was fun and I loved how as we got closer to solving it, it started to take on a bit of a Scooby-Doo-type feel.

I was satisfied with the resolution of the mystery and enjoyed the relationship that’s building between Morgan and Jon. I’m looking forward to becoming even more attached to these characters as the series continues.

I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who loves their dark fiction, but also needs a bit of a palate cleanser every once in a while.

In the next installment, we’re tackling a Bigfoot!!

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Review: Welcome to Dead House (Classic Goosebumps #1) by R.L. Stine

Classic Goosebumps: Welcome to Dead HouseClassic Goosebumps: Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Welcome to Dead House is the first installment in R.L. Stine’s Classic Goosebumps series. Originally published in 1992, this story channels all the vibes of the series.

We follow brother and sister, Josh and Amanda, who are moving into a new home in the town of Dark Falls with their parents and the family dog.

From the start, the kids aren’t having a good time. The dog keeps fleeing in terror, Amanda is seeing people who aren’t there and Josh is just grumpy about the move in general.

Their parents think the dog’s and kids’ reactions, are just due to the disruption of their regular life. They’re in a new, strange place and the house is old, it’s gonna have some creaks and groans. They’ll get over it.

They try to settle in the best they can. Josh and Amanda are even able to befriend some local kids, who although a little odd, seem nice overall.

Even with others in the neighborhood accepting their arrival, the siblings can’t quite shake the feeling that something is off. There’s too many eerie things happening and yeah, the other kids are saying weird things and continue acting strangely. What gives?

It turns out, Dark Falls has a dark history with dark secrets, but will Josh and Amanda succumb to its dark aims?!

I have been feeling nostalgic lately for the Middle Grade and YA Horror of my younger years. When I saw that my library had the 2015-audio version of this book available yesterday, on a whim I decided to listen to it.

It was so fun and I easily listened to it in a couple hours.

There’s an overall feeling of menace in this story that legitimately gave me the creeps. I would think that some kids would be scared by this one, but in a fun way. It’s not gory, or overly descriptive in the Horror aspects, but still very compelling.

I would recommend this one to Readers of all ages. It has Stine’s goofy-brand of Dad humor sprinkled throughout. A few times I rolled my eyes, but often I laughed out loud.

Overall, I am super glad I gave this one a listen and plan to pick up more of the Classic Goosebumps series very soon!

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