Book Review: The Ash House

reviewcover-the ash houseTitle: The Ash House

Author: Angharad Walker

Genre: Middle-Grade, Mystery, Horror

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Eleven-year-old Sol arrives at the Ash House, desperate for a cure for his complex pain syndrome, he finds a community of strange children long abandoned by their mysterious Headmaster.

The children at the Ash House want the new boy to love their home as much as they do. They give him a name like theirs. They show him the dorms and tell him about the wonderful oasis that the Headmaster has created for them. But the new boy already has a name. Doesn’t he? At least he did before he walked through those gates…

This was supposed to be a healing refuge for children like him. Something between a school and a summer camp. With kids like him. With pain like his. But no one is allowed to get sick at the Ash House. NO ONE.

And then The Doctor arrives…

Strange things are about to happen at the mysterious Ash House. And the longer Sol spends on the mysterious grounds, the more he begins to forget who he is, the more the other children begin to distrust him, and the worse his pain becomes. But can he hold onto reality long enough to find an escape? And better yet, can he convince the others?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The Ash House by Angharad Walker was a chilling tale of friendship, memory, and terror. The atmosphere of the story was unsettling and eerie in a way that is hard to explain. I’m still not sure I even have a complete grasp of what was going on at Ash House.

The book was extremely well written. The narrative was clear and flowed well, and I only found a few small typos. I loved the characters and the heavy mysteriousness of Ash House and its residents. My only real caution is that even though this is a middle-grade book, it may be a little too dark and confusing for some younger readers.

Overall, I loved the story, and if you enjoy mysteriously spooky stories, I suggest you give this one a try.

Book Review: The Darkest Winter

reviewcover-the darkest winterTitle: The Darkest Winter [Savage North Chronicles 1]

Author: Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Horror

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The Virus spread. Billions died. The Ending began.

A group of orphaned misfits.

The wild lands of the last frontier.

Superhuman abilities, harrowing adventures, and heartbreaking secrets.

Elle – Haunting shadows are nothing new to Elle St. James, she’s been running from them all her life. But since the outbreak spread from the lower forty-eight, new monsters lurk in the darkness. After Elle wakes from The Fever, capable of horrific deeds, she fears she’s one of them. When she stumbles upon four orphans, Elle’s forced to discover what happens when her greatest fear becomes her darkest secret and her only hope of surviving.

Jackson – After the world goes mad and takes his family with it, Jackson decides a bottle of bourbon and the depths of despair are preferable to any semblance of living. But when Jackson wakes from the black hole of oblivion with a gun in his face, he must choose whether he wants to die or fight to find something worth living for.

Brought together under the worst possible circumstances, Elle and Jackson must face the inexplicable realities of the new world. Their past lives are over, and the arctic isn’t all that’s savage anymore.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The Darkest Winter by Lindsey Pogue was an absolutely stunning work of fiction. The author is amazingly skilled at letting the reader feel the urgency and fear of the situations the characters are in throughout the book. I’d endeavor to say that they mastered what it is to be human, and the connections we build with one another.

I absolutely loved the characters – especially little Thea, who was a little ray of sunshine. The writing was flawless and flowed effortlessly. I was drawn in by the characters, the plot, and the extensive world-building, and honestly, I didn’t want it to end.

If you love post-apocalyptic stories that are heavily lead by the characters in them, this is an absolute gem, and I would highly recommend it to you. You don’t have to have read The Ending series to enjoy this book, but if you have, this is certainly another offshoot of the saga, and you’ll run into a lot of similar themes.

Book Review: Hush, Now Forget

reviewcover-hushnowforegetTitle: Hush, Now Forget [Sisters of Bloodcreek 1]

Author: Mary Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

No one will tell Eva and Frost the truth about the Blurred Ones. Not their hunter friend, and definitely not the parentals. Maybe it’s because Frost spent time in a psychiatric ward and Eva never ceases to think with her hormones. So, when the girls see an opportunity to meet Albert Knox, the most infamous Blurred One of all, they lie about their true plans and head out on their field trip to San Antonio.

When the sisters get to town, though, a ghost woman keeps attacking them in their hotel room, and they end up getting one of their classmates killed. Eva thinks she can use her feminine wiles to woo Knox, but he has a couple of more minions than they thought—and she ends up getting tossed through the window. If the sisters and their newfound hottie hunters don’t take down Knox soon, he’ll permanently attach himself to Eva in a binding ritual.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I almost gave Hush, Now Forget by Mary Gray 3 stars. Almost. Here’s the problem, I think the book tried a little too hard, and as a consequence, shot itself in the foot.

The book felt like it started mid-story, which was a bit disorienting. The reader isn’t brought into the heavy world-building gradually, but all at once. As a consequence, I felt like I’d missed something, and it took a while to orient myself to what was going on.

Aside from this, the worldbuilding, while interesting, and a bit familiar in the way of Supernatural, was a bit overdone. It slid so far from “normal” with the egregious amount of small-town-hick references, that it didn’t feel real anymore. Part of this can be attributed to the author’s major problem: they have a penchant for latching onto a point, and then driving that point into the ground with repetition.

I could have pushed further into the book, it wasn’t awful, but honestly, I didn’t want to – not if the rest of the book followed this pattern. At about 5 % in, I got bored. There will be people out there that enjoy this book a lot more than I did, and I encourage you to give it a try because I do think it has an interesting plot- it just wasn’t for me personally.

Book Review: October 32

reviewcover-october 32Title: October 32

Author: Larry Rodness

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Paranormal

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s October 31, and insurance agent Alexander Malefant is sent to picturesque Elora during its annual Halloween festival. No sooner does Alexander arrive than he witnesses the near-drowning of a boy bobbing for apples. Shortly after that, a group of children are attacked by crows. Later that evening, all the children in the village suddenly disappear. Soon, every person becomes a suspect as residents frantically try to discover what happened to the children. Who or what is behind these disappearances, and can they get the children back before it’s too late?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I really wanted to like October 32nd by Larry Rodness. I Found the narrative voice personal and contemplative, and I thought, “this is going great!” But the farther I got into the book, the more the slow pace of the narrative felt like it was dragging. Not that I don’t appreciate the atmosphere, but 22 pages into the story, nothing had happened. I grew bored and started to skim, wondering when the story was going to begin.

And that’s it – the book wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t draw me in. I didn’t care about the main character, and I wasn’t interested in what was happening in the town. I think the book just missed the mark with it’s pacing and I don’t want to have to push myself into reading something I’m bored by. The book just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: Bloodwalker

reviewcover-bloodwalkerTitle: Bloodwalker

Author: L.X. Cain

Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Mystery

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Lightning flashes. Another child disappears…

When Zorka Circus performs, its big top roars with laughter and cheers, but when it moves on, there are fewer children in the European towns it leaves behind.

Circus Security Chief Rurik suspects a killer hides among the international performers, but they close ranks—they’ve always viewed lightning-scarred Rurik as the monster. Nevertheless, he’s determined to find the culprit and stop them before anyone else dies and the only place he can call home is ripped apart by the murders.

Into Zorka Circus comes the Skomori clan, despised as gravediggers and ghoulish bloodwalkers. A one-day truce allows bloodwalker Sylvie to marry. Instead, she finds a body. Alerting others will defy her clan’s strict rules, break the truce, and leave her an outcast.

When more bodies turn up, the killer’s trail becomes impossible to ignore. Rurik and Sylvie must follow the clues—even if they lead to something unimaginable.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have mixed feelings about Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain. I almost feel bad for rating it 3 stars, but not quite enough to do otherwise. The book itself is written well – it flowed easily, had interesting characters, and the narrative voice was clear. The atmosphere was decent, as was the world-building, and the killer clown was downright chilling.

All that said, I just wasn’t drawn into the book. Although I love the horror genre and supernatural mysteries, I felt just so-so about this one. It wasn’t awful by any means, just not my cup of tea. I think there are readers out there that will enjoy this book quite a lot, and I certainly recommend it to readers of horror. I wish I’d liked it better.

Book Review: Dead Silver

reviewcover-dead silverTitle: Dead Silver

Author: Max Florschutz

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Chupacabra hunting. Murder. Vacations aren’t supposed to turn out like this.

When Hawke Decroux gets an invitation from an old friend to come to New Mexico and help track down some chupacabras, it seems like a simple enough request. Hang out with a friend, enjoy some sun, help a few locals out, and maybe, just maybe, catch a live chupacabra and net a sweet fifty thousand dollar reward as the cherry on top of the deal.

But as Hawke arrives, he finds that his friend has turned up missing. The animal attacks are growing more violent and frequent, far more dangerous than any chupacabra attack seen before. Something strange is going on in Silver Dreams, and if Hawke can’t figure out what it is, the entire town might find itself facing a situation far worse than a few missing farm animals … a horror straight from their darkest nightmares.

WARNING  – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Dead Silver by Max Florschutz is a real gem of a contemporary fantasy/mystery story. The book boasts a colorful mix of detective story, adventure, horror, and magic. The narrative is well written and edited, with a clear narrative voice that flows effortlessly. The characters are wonderfully characterized and really drive the story on. I found the book engaging and was drawn into the story. It was easy to connect with the main character, Hawke, with his slow, contemplative way of approaching the events in the story.

I think that anyone who enjoys mystery stories or those of the supernatural will probably find this to be a fun, compelling read.

Book Review: The River Has Teeth

reviewcover-the river has teethTitle: The River Has Teeth

Author: Erica Waters

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Mystery, Horror, LGBTQ+

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Natasha’s sister is missing.

Her car was found abandoned on the edge of a local nature preserve known as the Bend, but as the case goes cold, Natasha’s loss turns to burning anger.

She’ll do anything to find answers.

Della’s family has channeled magic from the Bend for generations, providing spells for the desperate. But when Natasha appears on her doorstep, Della knows it will take more than simple potions to help her.

But Della has her own secrets to hide.

Because Della thinks she knows the beast who’s responsible for the disappearance — her own mother, who was turned into a terrible monster by magic gone wrong.

Natasha is angry. Della has little to lose.

They are each other’s only hope.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

The River Has Teeth by Erica Waters is a chilling mix of Young Adult Romance, Mystery, and Horror. The story feels as if it’s wrapped in a cloak of dark, eerie stillness – much like the nature preserve much of the story takes place in. There’s an underlying grittiness, like a raw wound, as you read… the atmosphere of it is chilling. The characters, particularly Della, are well written and believable and don’t feel like the usual idealized teen you’ll find in most young adult books.

As for the more technical aspects of the book, the writing was engaging, flowed well, and lacked any major grammatical or typographic errors. The major aspects of the plot were well hidden right up until the very end – though I’ll admit, I had a sneaking suspicion about who the killer was almost immediately.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and if you enjoy gritty Young Adult Horror books, you’re more than likely going to enjoy this one – particularly if monsters, witches, and murder spark your interest.

Book Review: Horrid

cover-horridTitle: Horrid

Author: Katrina Leno

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Mystery

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Horrid by Katrina Leno, in my opinion, is an absolute gem of Young Adult Mystery/Horror. The story was well-written from a technical standpoint; it flowed easily, had just enough poetry to the writing to make it colorful and interesting, and it was grammatically correct. All good things.

The characters had depth and were easy to sympathize with — even those I didn’t particularly like as people. The mystery itself kept me captivated from beginning to end, with just enough creepiness to the goings-on at the North Manor to make me question what was really going on, and how much of it was real. I enjoyed every bit of it.

The ending itself was one I didn’t see coming and was definitely left a little open-ended. I’m interested to see where the story goes from here, and I can’t wait to read more!

Book Review: Witch

review-cover-witchTitle: Witch

Author: Jill Benson

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

When children start going missing in three small towns on the outskirts of Kansas City, KBI field agents Rick Holland and Lucy Stuart are assigned the cases. While searching for the first child, the team stumbles across the body of a young woman. The circumstances of her death are eerily similar to a cold case that Agent Holland has been working on for years, a case that holds special significance for him.

Can this 31-year-old unsolved murder have a connection to the missing children? Holland begins to think maybe it does, and he and Stuart enlist the help of Dr. Maggie Fry, a specialist in folklore and oral history, who happens to believe she is the reincarnation of a 17th century witch.

After a series of unexplainable events, the agents must suspend their disbelief and travel into the bizarre and frightening world of witchcraft in order to discover what happened to the children and grapple with their own personal demons.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Witch by Jill Benson wasn’t for me. It sounded interesting, it had some excellent reviews, and for the most part, I was intrigued by the author’s initial description of the witch. I thought, “This will be perfect to read this Halloween season!” But at just 4% in, I DNF’d the book.

I was bored, and couldn’t connect with any of the characters. The book’s initial chapters told one short supernatural scene after another as the myriad of characters encountered the witch… but the narrative was bogged down by over-description of the scenes and characters’ backstories that weren’t necessary. The author’s narrative voice was present for every character and made them all sound the same – which was a particular problem for the two tween boys. They didn’t sound their age.

By the end of the 4th character switch, I was over it. The book and its narrative style didn’t draw me in. It was slow-paced. Someone else may appreciate this more, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I encourage you to try and push past the initial chapters if you can because I’ve heard from other readers that it gets significantly better, I just had no interest in doing so. It shouldn’t take four chapters to get into a story.

Book Review: The Haunted

cover-review-the hauntedTitle: The Haunted [Sleeping With Monsters 1]

Author: Cassie Alexander

Genre: Paranormal, Erotica, BDSM, Romance, Horror

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Daphne Vance’s life is perfect — she’s a beautiful, devoted wife, and her husband has just bought her a vast countryside estate to start their family in.

But when her husband leaves on a business trip, it doesn’t feel like she’s alone in the mansion — she can feel eyes watching her, and hot hands trailing up her thighs. The domineering spirit of the mansion’s former owner is still present — and when she discovers her husband cheating on her, she doesn’t want to resist the Master anymore….

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I quibbled with myself for a little while before I came up with an appropriate rating for The Haunted by Cassie Alexander. Some people aren’t going to like it. It is a niche of dark fantasy erotica that isn’t going to appeal to everyone. It is dark, sexy, terrifying, and at times very graphic. If those things don’t appeal to you, you’re probably going to want to pass this one up.

The story was incredibly steamy, a bit taboo at times, and not always easy to understand. The main character, Daphne, makes a lot of questionable decisions as to her safety and her own happiness. She gives in to a very dark temptation, and it takes her on a lustful journey with an unseen force – and she isn’t always sure what its motives are. Sometimes the ghost that haunts her seems tender and kind. Sometimes it is jealous and possessive. Sometimes it is downright murderous.

All of that aside, and personal tastes aside, the book is well written. The characters show a sense of depth, the author is good at writing in tension, and the book doesn’t hand-hold the reader. The ending is dark and terrifying, but also appropriate to the story – and one of the reasons this book didn’t stray too far into the ridiculous side of erotica. I think the author did a really good job on the story.

As I said, this book isn’t going to be for everyone – but if you’re looking for a dark take on a paranormal erotic story, this is a good one. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.