Review: Malice House by Megan Shepherd

Malice HouseMalice House by Megan Shepherd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a very successful start, Malice House dropped off a cliff for me around 75% of the way in. It’s unfortunate, I hate to say it, but it happens…

This story follows an artist named Haven Marbury. Haven’s father, a very famous author, has recently passed away. Because of this, Haven travels from her home in New York City to his property on the West Coast. She has inherited his possibly haunted house and everything in it.

Having recently suffered through a very traumatic break-up, with barely two pennies to rub together, the idea of having a place of her own, far from her ex, is actually a blessing.

Once at the house, Haven meets with her father’s 0ld-caregiver, a rather disturbing woman in her own right. A woman that in the past has refused to spend one single night at the property.

Unusual happenings begin pretty much right away. It’s a big house and definitely spooky. Additionally, it’s bringing up a lot of mixed feelings for Haven.

Sifting through her father’s belongings, Haven discovers an unpublished manuscript called Bedtime Stories for Monsters, which is quite different from his previous works.

It’s dark and twisted, right up Haven’s alley. She has an epiphany. She needs money. Her father’s name on a cover will sell any book. She’s an artist. She’ll illustrate this book and pitch it to publishers as a father-daughter posthumous collaboration.

Unfortunately, a local group of bibliophiles that her father was a part of, the Ink Drinkers, start continuously trying to insert themselves into the process of deciding what to do with the unpublished manuscript. Haven probably should have kept that discovery to herself.

After that, things start to get really weird. Haven feels like they’re crazy, she wants them to stay the heck away from her. It’s her father’s work. They have no say over what she does with it, or do they?

There’s an attractive, though suspicious, neighbor. There’s potential poltergeist activity at the house. There are monsters coming to life and attacking. There are crazy locals and a dark, ill-feeling atmosphere.

As mentioned above, I was super intrigued by this in the beginning. I love the idea of fictional stories pulling through into real life. Monsters jumping off the pages and wrecking havoc. Are you kidding?! That’s amazing!

There were a few fun twists and as it began to come together as to what was happening, I lifted an eyebrow. Okay, Megan Shepherd. I see you. You are a Horror Gurlie. Me too!

At some point though, it kept going and went too far. It got so convoluted that it was hard to follow. I’m not sure what could have improved, I’m not claiming to be an author here, but it completely lost me by the conclusion.

I liked Haven as a character and enjoyed watching her discover some fairly significant family secrets. I just wish the pace could have been more even. The monstrous elements did build steadily, but they didn’t stop at a coherent point. It just devolved into chaos.

The more I think about this, as I am writing this review, the more disappointed I get. I am serious when I say, I really enjoyed the beginning. There are so many elements in this to love, especially if you are a fan of darker fiction. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t pulled through to a solid conclusion in my opinion.

With this being said, just because I wasn’t crazy about the ending doesn’t mean you won’t be. If the synopsis sounds intriguing to you, absolutely give it a shot. You could find a new favorite read within these pages.

Thank you to the publisher, Hyperion Avenue, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Even though this one didn’t blow me away, I would definitely pick up more Megan Shepherd novels.

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Review: Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

Tell Me I'm WorthlessTell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tell Me I’m Worthless, originally publisher by Cipher Press in 2021, was rereleased on January 17, 2023 by Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio.

This story mainly follows Alice and Ila, close friends and part-time lovers, who have been estranged after a hallucinatory night spent in a haunted house. Their friend Hannah was there that night too, but she never made it out.

The Reader gets both Alice and Ila’s perspectives, as well as a third perspective that I will let you discover for yourself.

I went into this story expecting it to be a new take on a haunted house story and it is, but I wouldn’t classify it as a haunted house story per se. Rumfitt does creatively use that beloved Horror trope to bring something completely new to the table within these pages.

As a piece of Transgressive Horror, this story definitely gets high marks. For me, although I can appreciate the creativity and gut-punching social commentary, I can’t say this was a highly enjoyable reading experience for me.

Please note, I am not remarking on the skill or creativity of the author when I say that, I just feel like this story wasn’t particularly suited to my reading tastes.

I could have used a bit more of a linear plot and a stronger atmosphere, as that is one of the main things I look for. There was a lot of great character work here and topical commentary, but there were also a lot of fever dream-type, internal monologue rants that sort of lost me.

Additionally, I found some of it a little hard to track. With this being said, I still appreciate all that Rumfitt poured into this story and the stark, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners feel of it all.

I would definitely pick up more of Rumfitt’s work.

Thank you to the publisher, Tor Nightfire and Macmillan Audio, for providing me copies to read and review. I would recommend the audiobook as a medium for this.

They did some really unique sound work for a few of the intense horror scenes. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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Review: The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell

The Face That Must DieThe Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first stumbled across The Face That Must Die in Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction, where Grady Hendrix discusses it on pages 122 – 123.

There was something about the way Hendrix described Campbell’s distinct brand of Urban Horror that called to me. I needed to experience it for myself, so I found this pristine edition and immediately gave it a go.

This story mainly follows John Horridge, a man who you can tell fairly quickly struggles with life. His thoughts are despicable in many respects, but it does set the stage nicely for the ultimate events that play out.

You also get the perspectives of two young women, Fanny and Cathy, who live in flats in the same building, along with a few other young folks mentioned.

The residents of this building, unfortunately, become involved with John Horridge after he becomes obsessed with another man living in the building, we’ll just call him by his surname, Craig.

Murders have been plaguing Liverpool and Horridge suspects that Craig is the culprit, mainly because he is homosexual, Horridge’s word choice, not mine. It’s clear to Horridge that Craig and his sexuality are a threat to the city and Horridge can’t rest until he has flushed him out.

We’re in Horridge’s mind as he considers how vulnerable he is and how he needs to protect himself, all while he is literally stalking and harassing Mr. Craig.

As this novel begins and we are introduced to Horridge, you can tell he is on a collision course with those around him. This can’t end well, but never did I expect just how wild it would get.

In the beginning, we get brief glimpses into his childhood through his musings regarding his overbearing father, the accident that left him with a permanent limp and the bullying he sustained at the hands of his peers.

Sometimes, when you get that sort of a background on a character it can maybe evoke sympathy or understanding for their actions. I can say, not really the case here.

I did really enjoy the stark urban landscape as the backdrop. It enhanced the feelings of our characters, those of desperation, loneliness and isolation, not just for Horridge, but for the young people as well.

Cathy and Peter especially, it was difficult for them. Cathy really wanted to get out, but the money just wasn’t there for them to buy a home. It felt like you were trapped with them. I was frustrated for Cathy, particularly because Peter didn’t seem able to get out of his own way.

Also, Miss Fanny, the artist. I liked her character a lot and her storyline really got to me. She has a run in with Horridge outside the building and even though she describes meeting him as making her feel more uncomfortable than she ever felt in her life, she invites him up to her flat!

She believes he is an investigator looking into one of the murders, but even so. She felt it in her gut, but pushed her thoughts aside so as to be polite, or not to seem disagreeable.

This was interesting to me. A perfect example of how women, not so much anymore, were raised to smile, be polite, help out, even if it meant going against their own instincts.

These are just a couple of examples of what I found so interesting about this story. I was glued to the pages. It was uncomfortable to be in Horridge’s mind, that type of paranoia fiction that makes you feel like you need a very hot shower after.

As the plot progresses, Horridge spirals more and more into his paranoid, repetitive thoughts. There were aspects towards the end that reminded me of Raskolnikov’s descent into, shall we say guilt-fueled madness, in Crime and Punishment.

Overall, I was impressed with how immersed I got in this story. Some aspects felt dated, but it was first published in 1979, over 40-years ago, so that makes sense.

I think in spite of that though, the horror of the story remains as impactful today as it would have been then. I was properly disturbed after this one and can’t wait to read some more from Ramsey Campbell!

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Review: Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Krampus: The Yule LordKrampus: The Yule Lord by Brom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All hail, Krampus, Lord of Yule!

In Krampus: The Yule Lord the Reader is taken on a stunning, horror-fueled holiday journey following Krampus, his Belsnickels, Santa and a low-on-his-luck musician, Jesse Walker, of Boone County, West Virginia.

On Christmas Eve, after Jesse witnesses a battle between Santa Claus and some demon-like entitites, Jesse is left with a lot of questions and Santa’s magical sack. What would seem a boon to many people ends up bringing nothing but bad tidings for poor Jesse.

Krampus wants that sack and now Jesse is in his path, but Jesse has other problems. He’s gotten on the shit list of some seedy men and is dodging threats from every side, including threats to his ex and daughter.

Once he and Krampus are brought together, Jesse can hardly believe what is happening to him. He’s literally been drawn into the quest of the Yule Lord, but is Krampus bad or good?

If you believe the story as Krampus tells it, Santa Claus is an evil fraud who must be stopped. Jesse really could care less, he just wants his estranged-wife, Linda, and daughter, Abigail, to be safe and it seems like Krampus will be able to help him with that.

Y’all, I absolutely adored this story. From the very first chapter, I was completely drawn into this lush, fantastical, emotionally-charged and brutal tale.

I loved getting the opportunity to read from Krampus’s perspective and those scenes were some of my favorite from the entire narrative.

I was blown away by the detailed folkloric elements that Brom included. The idea of Yule, Krampus, Santa and everything surrounding them was fascinating and definitely something I would enjoy reading more about.

We see a bit of the rivalry between Krampus and Santa, which was really fun. At one point, I mentioned in a status update that they felt like an old-bickering couple. We, of course, are treated to Krampus’s side of things, so I was totally behind him.

Another bit I really enjoyed was when Krampus and Jesse were traveling around and Krampus, having been locked up for half a millennium, was seeing the present state of the world for the first time.

It was interesting seeing Krampus be shocked by the horrors that modern man bring about, not just for themselves, but for others and on the Earth. That idea was explored in some detail and I found it sad and beautiful all at the same time. It was so well done.

Lastly, I don’t think I can write a review for this book without mentioning Brom’s illustrations. Are you kidding me? Never have more gorgeous illustrations graced the pages of a book.

Having the stunning depictions of theses characters, and pivotal moments of scenes, laid out in front of me absolutely elevated the reading experience.

I definitely recommend picking up a hard copy if you are planning to read it. I am so happy to have this remarkable book as part of my own collection. I cannot wait to pick up more from Brom.

I now officially have a new favorite go-to Holiday Horror novel!! 10-out-of-10 recommend!! I am kompletely krazy for Krampus!!

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Review: The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert

The Nightmare ManThe Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Ben Bookman is a best-selling Horror novelist in the vein of Stephen King. Ben’s not afraid to get dark and growing up at his family’s spooky estate, known as Blackwood, certainly provided him with plenty of inspiration.

In fact, Ben returned to the estate for a weekend retreat to help him finish his latest book, The Scarecrow.

That weekend is shrouded in mystery. It’s mentioned a few separate times in the narrative, you can tell something fairly serious went down, but it’s unclear what. Even Ben can’t recall what happened there.

Regardless, the freaking book got finished and that’s the most important thing.

Unfortunately, before the book is even officially released, the terrible events from the story begin to occur in real life. It’s as if the story has crawled off the page and taken over Ben’s hometown of New Haven.

New Haven native, Detective Mills and his daughter, Rookie Detective Blue, are tasked with looking into the gruesome murders that become known as the Scarecrow Crimes. Unsurprisingly, Ben is their prime suspect.

How else would anyone know his text that well? It hasn’t even released yet. Perhaps it was a Netgalley Reader…

This story starts out with the first bloody crime scene. An entire family butchered, individually encased in cocoons made of corn husks and hung in their own barn.

Hey, I told you it gets dark. There is oozing blood, flies and let’s not even consider the smell.

Mills and Blue are in for the most startling investigation of their lives. Ben Bloom is just trying to save his family from harm and his reputation. If anyone can get to the bottom of these crimes, it should be the man who wrote them.

The build-up of this had me temporarily fooled. I thought this was going in one direction, a sort of predictable direction, but enjoyably, it was not that. This is actually a unique and twisted tale that definitely kept me engaged.

There are a lot of characters and I’ll admit, at times I lost track a bit. That was sort of a downfall for me. I had to relisten to some parts a few times. It’s the kind of story, if you aren’t 100% paying attention you are going to miss something; particularly towards the end.

Additionally, I felt this was a little drawn out. I think it could have been cut down a bit and it still would have had the same impact.

With this being said, I did really appreciate Markert’s creativity and the Horror imagery was well-presented. This is a big scope kind of story and honestly, I’m not completely sure I picked up on all the different aspects of it.

This was left off nicely though, where I could actually see there being a strong continuation to this story. There are definitely some things that could use further exploration. I’d absolutely be willing to go along for the ride.

I definitely recommend this to Horror fans, or fans of dark, potentially supernatural Thrillers. I think a lot of Readers will really enjoy this one.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am looking forward to more from J.H. Markert!

The Nightmare Man is releasing on Tuesday, January 10th, 2023!! You can preorder now!!

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Review: House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson

House of HungerHouse of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

House of Hunger follows Marion Shaw. Marion has been raised in the slums of the South and her life is pretty bleak.

She works in domestic service for a grumpy old woman. Her parents are dead and she lives on the edge of poverty with her drug-addicted and abusive brother.

She does have a friend though, so that seems to be a highlight. She and this friend frequently get-together on their allotted break from work and read classified ads.

Basically, in their area, men will sometimes advertise when they are looking for a wife. It’s actually a way for some of these girls to climb out of poverty, if they find a man wealthy enough to take care of them.

So, Marion and her friend will sometimes read these ads and joke around about responding to one of them, and the odds of being selected.

On one occasion though, Marion actually sees something that piques her interest; an advert from the notorious House of Hunger, one of the richest houses in the North. It seems they’re in need of a bloodmaid.

Even though she’s practically clueless about life in the wealthy North, she applies for the position. How bad can it be? It certainly has to be better than the meager existence she currently has.

She applies and meets the Taster. A job interviewer of sorts, who tastes her blood and is blown away.

He offers her the position with confidence. The Lady of the House will go batshit-crazy over the delictableness of her blood. It’s a fine vintage, indeed.

The trip North and subsequent introduction to the House of Hunger and their ways is completely off the charts for Marion. It’s all new. She’s like a newborn baby, learning everything from scratch.

The castle is full of debauchery. The Lords and Ladies milling about live hedonistic lives. It’s an odd environment, with Marion and the other bloodmaids simply bearing witness to it all.

One scene, featuring a game called Fox and the Hounds literally gave me chills. These people are nuts. They have no repercussions for the things they do. They can get away with anything. It’s a real precarious position for Marion to be in, but honestly, what are her other options?

Marion discovers the bloodmaids have a bit of a competitive side to them. Apparently, Countess Lisavet, the enthralling Lady of the House, always has a favorite. Her go-to girl, who she’ll spoil with things the other girls don’t get.

As Lisavet begins to show a particular liking for Marion, the old favorite gets ticked. Marion definitely didn’t make a friend there. Additionally, as Marion gets drawn more and more into Lisavet’s inner sanctum, she begins to see that not all is as it appears in the House of Hunger.

This book was absolutely everything I wanted. I fell in love with Henderson’s writing and the vivid Horror imagery, including top-notch Body Horror, she was able to conjure up on the page.

There were some toe-curling scenes, anything involving teeth is gonna get me, soooo, I’m not okay. I was living for this atmosphere.

In fact, I was having so much fun that I gave daily status updates on the plot to my coworkers, and their eyes didn’t even glaze over. That’s how passionate I was about it.

I liked that Marion didn’t know anything about the North, or their customs. It offered up the perfect chance for the Reader to learn about the world through her eyes, without it seeming info dumpy.

I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding the House. As Marion begins to figure out that something is off and then the build-up to the final reveal of what was happening. I thought that was so well done.

Henderson built out the tension perfectly and kept me fully-engaged the entire way through. This narrative is vividly-described and I felt like I could picture everything perfectly. It was dark, gothic, gory and stunning. I loved it!!!

I cannot wait to read more from Henderson. Well done!

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Review: Bad Cree by Jessica Johns

Bad CreeBad Cree by Jessica Johns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After an extremely-vivid dream involving a seemingly-evil murder of crows, Mackenzie wakes with a start to find that she has the severed head of a crow in her hand.

Trying to shake off the fear from the dream, Mackenzie is shocked at what she is seeing. After a few breathless moments, the head is gone. Was it really there, and if so, what does it mean?

Rattled from the dream, Mackenzie is even more shaken the next day when she discovers crows seem to be watching and following her through the city streets. As if the dream itself weren’t disturbing enough.

She confides in her one close friend in the city, hoping they will be able to help her make some sense of what is happening to her. Unfortunately, the nightmares persist. Mackenzie is losing sleep and her health takes a blow. She needs to do something.

She needs to figure this out. She can’t go on like this. She decides she needs to go home. Her gut tells her that the answers are there, but the idea of returning to her rural prairie town fills Mackenzie with apprehension. Having fled home after the death of her beloved kokum, Mackenzie now feels estranged from her close-knit family.

It doesn’t help that when her sister, Sabrina, passed away suddenly, Mackenzie, unable to face it, didn’t even go home for the funeral. She carries a lot of guilt because of that.

Once home, she’s enveloped quickly back into the fray. It’s like a warm, though tentative hug. The reunion goes better than she expected.

Mackenzie finds herself slowly gaining strength from her family, it’s a physical reminder of who she is and where she came from. She has such loving, supportive and wise women in her life. Her Mom and Aunties, even her cousins, surround her with energy.

Her dreams do continue and seem to be escalating, however, she now has someone to share them with. She’s confiding in her family and together it feels like they may be able to actually figure it out.

Mackenzie spends a lot of time with her cousin, Kassidy, and sister, Tracey, trying to decipher the meaning behind the nightmares. It’s clear they’re connected to a night they shared at the lake, where the girls, along with the now deceased, Sabrina, took an ill-fated walk home from a party.

But how can that long-ago night possibly be connected?

‘This is serious. These dreams, the crows. It’s all telling you something. You need to listen.’

Y’all, I fell completely in love with Jessica Johns’ debut novel, Bad Cree. It’s an exceptionally well-constructed, slow burn Supernatural Horror novel, full of inspired imagery and thought-provoking themes.

There’s no way I will be able to adequately explain my love for this, but I’ll give it my best shot.

From the very first pages I was pulled into this story. Johns goes dark and quickly. Mackenzie’s dreams are at the forefront at the start of this novel and I was digging the tone.

I really enjoyed Johns’ style of storytelling. The writing is blunt, to the point and perfectly descriptive without beating it to death. I appreciated how incredible the imagery was without being so flowery that the plot got buried.

I also really enjoyed the mystery at the heart of the story. Trying to find out how the current situation was related to the past was so enthralling.

Additionally, I loved watching Mackenzie’s journey as she reunited with her family and began opening up to them. She really needed to get to a place where she was okay asking for help and that touched me.

I felt everything she was going through. I felt those feelings, hesitations, grief, guilt, etc. It was all so well done. It was super believable and relatable.

Another thing I really appreciated about this story is that there is no romance. This is a story of family and culture, of history and growth, and it didn’t need a pointless romance shoved in to gain popularity points.

It’s also a very female-focused story, which was so refreshing. All the main characters in this story are either female, or nonbinary. To have an entire novel focused on familial relationships, and nothing else, is pretty rare and I loved how it was done here.

I highlighted so many passages in this book. I absolutely adored this from start-to-finish. The family in this story is total life goals. The Indigenous experience and lore weaved throughout made it captivating and eye-opening.

I could seriously go on for many more paragraphs, but at this point, I think you probably get it: I LOVED THIS STORY. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!

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

I am definitely buying a hard copy of this one for my shelves!! Bad Cree is releasing on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. This should be on every Horror Lovers TBR!!

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Review: Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare

Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo LivesClown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives by Adam Cesare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In my opinion, Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives suffered a bit from middle-book syndrome.

Based upon the rumor mill and the way this one left off, I am guessing there is going to be a third book and it’s going to knock this one out of the park.

It’s been a year since the bloodbath in Kettle Springs. Quinn Maybrook finds herself back in Philadelphia, attending college and trying to recover from the horrors she survived.

The public reaction to the Kettle Springs events are mixed. There are factions of online warriors who believe the whole thing was a hoax and some who believe that Quinn and her friends, Cole and Rust, were the actual perpetrators. Frankly, it’s been difficult trying to navigate that atmosphere.

Quinn is a tough egg though, she’s getting by the best she can, just trying to blend in.

Back in Kettle Springs, her father is now the mayor, doing his best to get the damaged town back on track.

The town has become a bit of a tourist attraction for fans of the macabre, general looky-los and unfortunately, a few crazies. All the day in the life of an infamous town.

One weekend when Cole and Rust go to visit Quinn at college, they’re suddenly attacked by a familiar figure. This isn’t their first rodeo, however, and our trio is able to fight off their attackers.

Then Quinn gets the most disturbing call of her life. Something is going down in Kettle Springs and her father seems to be the latest victim. The three must return and seemingly relive the worst night of their life all over again.

Is it a copy-cat? Is it a conspiracy? How were the attacks coordinated? Quinn’s not sure yet, but she definitely intends to find out.

I loved Clown in a Cornfield. I started it on release day, read my hardback copy and enjoyed every moment of my reading experience. It was the exact book I needed to kick off the start of my Spooky Season 2020.

I loved the new girl trope we had happening with Quinn as she first arrived in Kettle Springs. The set-up was fantastic, including details as small as the view from Quinn’s bedroom window. I see you, Frendo.

The social commentary was fantastic as well and the kill scenes were a ton of fun. I marveled at Cesare’s creativity.

While this reading experience was quite different for me, I’m not mad at it.

This time around, I listened to the audiobook, while preparing for and traveling for Thanksgiving. Because of this, I feel like my mind wasn’t 100% committed and had the tendency to wander.

In fact, I listened to the last 40% twice, just trying to determine my opinion on it. One issue was that I found the multiple perspectives difficult to track.

Additionally, I found the build-up to the climax to be a bit muddled. In fact, it was confusion city there for me for a while.

Obviously Quinn’s personality has completely changed as well. At least it felt that way to me. While that’s understandable after all she’s been through, I did find it a little more challenging to connect with her.

While Cole and Rust’s relationship/angle was a bit of a mess for me, I did enjoy the inclusion of a new character in Kettle Springs, Jeri. Meaning new, as in we get her perspective multiple times in this installment.

Jeri lost her sister in the first book and had a very close call with Frendo. I really enjoyed learning more about her and her experience in the aftermath of his sister’s death and the town’s sudden infamy.

Personally, I don’t think the audibook did me any favors either. It’s not like the narration was bad. It really wasn’t. It was great in fact. I just think this could have been a better experience for me if I had read my hard copy.

Regardless, this was still a solid book. The themes involved were well-expressed. Particularly relevant in the aftermath of the Alex Jones / Sandy Hook trial. Cesare did a good job channeling those types of real-life issues into this.

I like that. I always enjoy some social commentary in my Horror. So, while this wasn’t great for me, I’m still enjoying this series and would absolutely pick up a third book!!!

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Review: Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison

Such Sharp TeethSuch Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Such Sharp Teeth follows Rory Morris. Rory is somewhat reluctantly returning to her hometown to support her sister, Scarlett, through her pregnancy. Scarlett is currently estranged from the baby’s father and living alone.

Rory moved away for a reason though and isn’t crazy about being back, but she figures she should suck it up for a bit in order to help her sister. It’s the right thing to do and doesn’t hurt to be a good person once in a while.

Regardless, like many of us who have moved away from our hometowns, to return just feels weird. You’re out of place, life has move on without you. You feel so removed.

In an effort to re-acclimate herself, she heads to a local bar, as you do. Seriously, that would be my first stop. There are faces there she hasn’t seen in years. Some look real good, like the bartender and one time almost-flame, Ian.

Maybe this won’t be so bad after all…

On her way home from the bar that night, as her mind is racing over the surreal nature of her evening, Rory hits something with her car.

Shocked and a bit unsure, she gets out to investigate. Apparently, Rory has never watched a Horror movie before. The next thing she knows, she’s on the ground being viciously attacked.

Awaking in the hospital, Rory doesn’t remember much, just the feeling of tearing flesh and a distinct, gamey odor.

The explanation offered up is that she was attacked by and then fought off a bear. Okay, Rory doesn’t necessarily think that was it, but what her mind is leaning towards is too crazy to even say, no one will believe her.

Recovering from her accident, in the following days, Rory notices some changes within herself. She deals with them alone, again, she doesn’t want everyone to think she is crazier than they already do.

As the full moon arrives, however, it can no longer be ignored. Rory can’t control it. It can’t be denied, Rory has found herself in the midst of a werewolf tale and she’s the star. Ughhh, just her luck.

Such Sharp Teeth was such a delightful surprise. I love Rachel Harrison’s brand of ‘Horror with Heart’ and this one is the perfect example of that style.

Harrison excels at body horror, of which there is plenty within these pages, all while meshing it perfectly with everyday, relatable life issues. Her characters are so well done. I never have a problem connecting with her mains and Rory is no exception.

This story feels contemporary, and it is, but with one horrifying thing happening to Rory, it changes the entire tone. It’s funny, heart-warming, heart-breaking and addicting.

This is easily the most unique werewolf story that I’ve ever read. It was so much fun to go along with Rory as she comes to grips with what is happening to her and tries to find a way to deal with it.

Rory needed to get control of her life before the incident, but the stakes are raised for sure by the attack.

I would definitely recommend this one to anyone who enjoys humorous horror, or body horror. It’s a quick read and completely engaging throughout.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Harrison delivers next!!

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Review: Jackal by Erin E. Adams

JackalJackal by Erin E. Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Even though she is returning to her hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, as a successful adult, Liz Rocher is still filled with trepidation. Her memories of her time there fill her with anxiety.

Growing up a bit of an outcast, the one person she could always rely on was her best friend, Mel. Now Mel is getting married and has asked Liz to be part of her special day.

Mel and Liz have remained close over the years and Liz is even the godmother to Mel’s daughter, Caroline. When it comes to visits though, it’s always them going to see Liz in the city; same with Liz’s Mom.

It’s her turn to show up this time, so she does. It feels strange to be back; doesn’t seem like a lot has changed. Her Mom is certainly full of the critiques straight away.

At the wedding, Liz is discomforted by the woodsy venue. The local woods, the subject of dark legends and a frequent player in Liz’s nightmares, are part of her worst memories from Johnstown.

In spite of the location, Liz is enjoying spending quality time with Caroline. It’s sort of on her to keep an eye on the girl while Mel and her new husband entertain at the reception.

Sometime between dessert, dancing and dodging awkward conversations, Liz loses site of Caroline. She begins searching, asking everyone if they have seen the little girl, but no one has. Starting to panic, Liz enters the edge of the woods. She’s scared.

After finding a frightening bit of evidence, Liz comes to the conclusion that Caroline is gone. She needs help. A full search party is assembled.

Liz is devastated. How could this happen? The incident is reminiscent of another horrible night back when Liz was in high school. A night when another girl went missing in the woods from a party; Keisha Woodson.

Even though she had only planned to stay in town for a couple of days, Liz can’t leave now. She has to stay until Caroline is found. Whatever the outcome, she needs to help. She needs to be here.

In an effort to help find the girl, Liz begins asking around regarding Keisha’s disappearance. Perhaps the two cases are related. What she finds is that Keisha wasn’t the first. She also finds a very distinct pattern, all black girls, missing from the woods, directly around the summer solstice.

Will Liz be able to figure out who, or what, is taking the girls, and find Caroline before it’s too late?

Jackal impressed me. It’s hard to define, it’s quite unique. I would describe it as a thoughtful work of Dark Fiction with heavy Social Horror components. The writing style has a stream of consciousness quality to it, that honestly, I’m not normally crazy about, but it really fit here.

It’s not a super straight-forward story, it does require some effort on the part of the Reader, but I feel like for those who are willing to put in some energy, it will leave a mark.

Liz was a well-developed character. It took time to get to know her, but it would be hard not to feel for her and her experiences. I also felt like her character growth was paced well throughout.

The overall tone reminded me of The Other Black Girl, in that the entire build-up of the story is laced with a certain uneasiness; like you know something sinister is going on just beyond your line of sight.

I love that feeling. The ominous feeling of the developing mystery and the building of tension as the conclusion approaches.

It did sort of lose me a bit towards the end. I’m still a little confused on a couple of things and maybe in those instances would have preferred a more definitive outcome. However, this is 100% personal preference.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys Social Horror, or Dark Fiction in general. The topics explored, the over-arching mystery and compelling main character, all combine to make Jackal a stirring debut.

Thank you to the publisher, Bantam, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really looking forward to reading more from Erin E. Adams!

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