THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello

September 23, 2018

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Masello’s forte is the writing of historical novels with a touch of the supernatural included; “The Night Crossing” is no exception. It is set in England during the late 1800s and early 1900s and features the author Bram (Abraham) Stoker.

Stoker contributed more than a few books to the world of literature but is most remembered for “Dracula,” a novel about an undead Vampire living in Transylvania but than migrating to London spreading his horrors there.

This story opens when Mina, an intrepid explorer who is seeking out old ruins working in the Carpathian mountains, discovers a beautiful golden box and brings it back with her to England completely unaware of it’s evil power. She meets Stoker who is working as the manager of a successful theater and attempting part time to establish himself as a major author. Mina and Bram meet while becoming involved in a deadly plot that the wealthy owners of a safe haven for the poor have going for them. It is discovered that what these people who are brother and sister are engaged in is using ancient Egyptian methods in forestalling the aging process while using people staying at their safe haven as objects to utilize in their methods.

The couple own a factory making matches, using the poor as low or no paid workers to do so. The methods involve taking their souls and incorporating them into their own while killing the donor. Stoker and Mina are approached by Lucinda, who is an employee of the factory and mother to one of the children used to harvest the soul. They begin their investigation and in determining what is going on Masello makes the insinuation that in thinking about the possible eternal life gained by the couple and the source of Mina’s find of the golden box Stoker conceives the basic idea of the “Dracula” novel.

One of the coincidences of the period the novel is set in in real life is that Bram Stoker died five days after the headlines of the sinking of the Titanic appeared. Masello takes advantage of this and places Stoker and Mina aboard the doomed Titanic in their pursuit of the non aging couple they have chased for many years. The ship’s fate is chronicled faithfully indicating a good deal of research and an interest in it’s fate by the author. The description and the inclusion of people that actually were present makes for a very well done final setting to an excellent novel and adds to the story rather than steering it in another direction.

The presence of Bram Stoker on the Titanic is literary license- he never set foot upon her.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello. 47North (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1503904118. 448p.

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THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay hi

July 5, 2018
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From the publisher:

The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s  Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.


It seems to me that this story falls somewhere between thriller and horror. It’s suspenseful but not quite at the level of breathlessness I find with a Stephen King novel, but certainly more than most thrillers. The basic story of a home invasion where a young child is involved is pretty much every parent’s nightmare, and this one was well played.

It is a fast read at only 288 pages, and the suspense definitely helps keep the pages turning. I would have liked a bit more character development but for the most part, this is a good read. The terror feels real and so did the ending, and I can’t ask for more than that.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Paul Tremblay. William Morrow (June 26, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062679109.  288p.

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OTHERWORLD CHILLS by Kelley Armstrong

October 9, 2016

otherworld-chills

Kelley Armstrong returns to her beloved Women of the Otherworld series in this latest offering featuring seven “final” tales of the series.

Here’s the full table of contents:

“Brazen” – a werewolf tale mostly from Nick’s point of view

“Chaotic” – Hope and Karl’s first story

“Amityville Horrible” – a Jaime and Jeremy tale

“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” – a vampire tale featuring Zoe

“Off-Duty Angel” – finds Eve on a mission for Kristof

“The Puppy Plan” – a holiday story featuring Logan

“Baby Boom” – a brand spanking new Paige/Lucas story

Considering this collection releases in October, it’s likely many will agree with me when I say “Amityville Horrible” is particularly delightful and appropriately creepy.

The stories are meaty novellas rather than shorts, giving readers a chance to settle in a bit with each tale. Fans of the series likely have seen a few of the selections before – “Chaotic” for example did appear in the Kim Harrison edited anthology Dates From Hell, and introduced Hope to the series, while “Off Duty Angel” appeared in Armstrong’s The Hunter and the Hunted e book/short back in 2012. But one entry, “Baby Boom,” is completely new to the collection. Plus, considering the series wrapped back in 2012 with the release of Thirteen, I’d bet fans have been craving a bit of a return to the characters we all came to know and love over the course of thirteen plus tales.

10/16 Becky LeJeune

OTHERWORLD CHILLS by Kelley Armstrong. Plume (October 4, 2016).  ISBN 978-0452298361. 464p.

 


PRESSURE by Brian Keene

August 26, 2016
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The underwater waterfalls of Mauritius – an effect caused by sand runoff into a deeper underwater rift – have always been a fascination. But when the falls begin to grow rapidly and local marine wildlife begins dying off in droves, environmental activists worldwide become concerned. Carrie Anderson, a well-known free diver and marine biologist, is part of a team investigating the incident. Their hope is to understand exactly what’s causing the massive growth of the falls and determine the ramifications if that growth continues.

When a routine dive results in the death of her diving partner, Carrie is the first to admit that she herself was lucky to have survived. But giving voice to exactly what went wrong is more difficult than it might seem. See, Carrie witnessed and experienced something she can’t quite explain. Something that defies everything she’s ever experienced in her dives before. Something so potentially terrifying that it could mean devastating results for everyone.

But she’ll need proof if she’s to have any hope of getting people to listen.

Unknown terrors from the deepest depths of the ocean… Brian Keene’s latest seemed like it would be the perfect summer horror read. Unfortunately, Pressure doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

The story and characters are quite thin. There’s no science, no development of the plot, and no atmosphere. Nautical-based horror should have tons of atmosphere, in my opinion. And as someone with major fears of open water, I’m pretty easy to satisfy in that regard. As for the characters, most of them get a few lines of backstory and that’s about it. No fleshing out, no emotion, and nothing to connect the reader to them and make us care about what happens.

There is, in spite of all of that, a certain amount of simple fun to Pressure. If you’re willing to forgo rich detail and simply appreciate the fact that it’s short and doesn’t require a whole lot of attention or thought. And that’s fine sometimes. I simply hoped for – and expected – something more from Keene.

8/16 Becky LeJeune

PRESSURE by Brian Keene. Thomas Dunne Books (June 21, 2016).  ISBN: 978-1250071347. 288p.

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MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM by Grady Hendrix

July 25, 2016
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Gretchen has been Abby’s best friend since fourth grade. That was the year that Abby’s classmates decided to go horseback riding instead of attending her birthday and Gretchen, the weird new girl, was the only one to show.

Since then, the two girls have been inseparable. They do everything together, including dabbling with LSD. And sure they’ve heard the rumors about bad trips and other craziness, but neither of them could have predicted the changes that come over Gretchen in the wake of their experimentation. Changes that force everyone to turn their backs on her. Everyone except Abby, that is. Changes that are downright evil.

Fears of Satanism and the devil’s influence were rampant in the eighties, with claims that everything from D&D to heavy metal could lead kids to the dark side. Hendrix successfully plays off of those fears, offering up a great sense of dark nostalgia for horror fans.

Abby and Gretchen are normal teens testing boundaries while still maintaining good GPAs and basically following the rules. So when their night of adventure takes a dark turn, they both immediately blame the drugs. But Abby soon realizes there’s more to it: Gretchen starts seeing things and acting strangely, missing school more and more frequently, even neglecting basic hygiene. She argues with their mutual friends, pushing people further and further away until only Abby steadfastly remains by her side.

At first, Gretchen’s behavior can be chalked up to basic teen angst. She fights with her parents, who Abby knows are overbearing to say the least. Possession is, of course, the furthest thing from Abby’s mind. But Gretchen’s behavior becomes more erratic, forcing Abby to take drastic measures and consider the fact that something much darker must be to blame for what’s happening.

Readers are taken along for the ride as Abby’s friendship is stretched to its limits and beyond in a story that becomes increasingly more creepy and disturbing as it plays out. And it’s oh, so very fun.

7/16 Becky LeJeune

MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM by Grady Hendrix. Quirk Books (May 17, 2016).  ISBN: 978-1594748622. 336p.

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THE HATCHING by Ezekiel Boone

July 9, 2016
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The Hatching Series, Book 1

Boone proves himself a master craftsman in the first book in a series about a hatching and emergence of a species that has lain dormant for hundreds of thousands of years.

Descriptions are posted about the sudden appearance in different areas of the world of a black slithering mass that attacks every living thing it encounters. A tourist in the interior part of Peru is actually eaten by the mass. The Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in a section of their country. Strange seismic activity registers in India.

While the world is shaken by these events, a package is delivered to a laboratory in Washington, D.C with something contained that is definitely trying to get out. The developing of the narrative offers a crescendo of horror that will shake the reader.

Emanating in all probability from a millennium old hibernation period starting in prehistoric times what it is becomes a logical event when the life forms of that period are considered. It is huge, predatory and determined to resurrect its place in nature’s scheme of things.

A brilliantly conceived and developing scenario what it is will just straight out keep the reader up and looking behind him or her while engrossed in the book. This, the first book of the series, sets the stage for what is obviously to develop into a fight for survival by the human race with the cards stacked against it.

7/16 Paul Lane

THE HATCHING by Ezekiel Boone. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (July 5, 2016).  ISBN 978-1501125041. 352p.


HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

June 22, 2016
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For three hundred years, the town of Black Spring has lived under the dark cloud of a curse. And that curse is named Katherine van Wyler, or The Black Rock Witch. Katherine, a Dutch colonist who lived in the village when it was called New Beeck, was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death after villagers claimed she raised her son from the dead. Since then, she’s wandered the town leaving fear and death in her wake.

Today, the townspeople of Black Spring have adapted, they even have a special office tasked with managing the witch and use an app to track her movements. Their goal is to keep Katherine contained and never to allow outsiders to discover her existence. In fact, Black Spring residents have to follow a strict set of rules meant to keep their secret from ever making its way across the town line. This is in part protection and preservation: no one knows what Katherine will do if her precarious peace is disturbed.

But Black Spring has grown lax. When a group of teens tired of the restrictions and rules begins to test Katherine, it sets off a chain reaction that could unleash an evil that will devastate Black Spring.

From the start, Thomas Olde Heuvelt carefully and quietly builds an atmosphere of utter and complete dread. When we meet Black Spring, they’ve grown a bit ambivalent and have started to take Katherine for granted. Some folks fear her, sure, but others mock the witch and flaunt the town’s centuries-old laws concerning her. This is due in part to the fact that no one has really witnessed Katherine’s powers for quite some time: the last real incident was back in the 60s, after all, and though everyone knows of the deaths that occurred then many of them have brushed it off.

It’s clear from the start of Hex that something bad is coming and that tension and suspense escalates fabulously throughout the book, bringing it to an eventual frenzied climax of some of the most awesome horrific imagery ever.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s US debut is exactly the kind of book any horror fan will delight in reading and I absolutely can’t wait to see more from this Dutch author.

6/16 Becky LeJeune

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Tor Books (April 26, 2016).  ISBN: 978-0765378804. 384p.

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INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger

June 7, 2016
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Unger returns to the Hollows, New York, a small town that positively vibrates with supernatural activity. Finley Montgomery is its newest inhabitant, moving in with her grandmother Eloise, a well-known psychic who works with Jones Cooper, the local private investigator.

Several children have gone missing in town, with Abbey the most recent of them. Her parents are distraught and their marriage is on the brink when, in a final attempt at any sort of closure, Abbey’s mother hires Cooper to find her missing daughter.

In this case, Eloise can’t help, but Finley can. Finley has been having visions since she was a small child, driving a massive wedge between her and her mother. But Eloise can help Finley nurture her gift, and that process may lead to finding the missing children.

This engrossing story weaves between these unusual characters and the man who abducted Abbey, building suspense on every page. The tension is palpable, and Unger straddles the fine line between thriller and horror, making this a very exciting and riveting read, sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, including Kay Hooper or Stephen King fans.

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Unger’s consistent appearances on best-seller lists speaks to her ability to draw in devoted readers across genres, and her latest will do the same.

Copyright ©2016 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

3/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger. Touchstone (June 7, 2016).  ISBN 978-1501101649. 352p.

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THE BIRD EATER by Ania Ahlborn

April 2, 2016
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Aaron Holbrook was just a baby when his mother committed suicide. Her own sister happily took him in and raised him as her own, never revealing the truth about his mother’s fate. But then his aunt died, leaving a teen Aaron orphaned and alone.

Years later, Aaron’s life is rocked once again by tragedy and death. The loss of his son has dragged him deep into the depths of despair and drink, breaking up his marriage and causing Aaron to question everything. Determined to prove he can come back, though, he returns to Holbrook House intent on fixing it up. It’s to be his chance to win his wife back and show that he can beat the depression and alcohol that’s been eating away at him. But Aaron is haunted by more than his own tragedy. A boy appears at Holbrook House. A boy Aaron believes is harassing him. A boy no one but Aaron seems to be able to see.

Ania Ahlborn must take great pleasure in freaking out her readers. As the new reigning queen of horror, though, it’s quite appropriate.

The Bird Eater is definitely freaky. As the reader, we’re privy to at least one detail that Aaron himself is not and that’s exactly what happened to his mother. Her own sister has kept it from him, determined that Aaron will live a normal and happy life. And her secret is twofold considering the dead teen (Aaron’s mom) was said to have been pretty unstable. But of course Aaron’s adoptive mother soon learns there was much more to her sister’s ramblings than she ever gave her credit for.

And that’s just what’s revealed in the opening chapter.

Ahlborn keeps a lot hidden even by the time the story has ended. There’s a bit of reading between the lines that’s required, a history behind Holbrook House that’s never delved very deeply into (but would make a fabulous book on its own.). I personally would have loved more of that history and more about Birdie himself. Some might argue that the lack of detail and explanation makes the story more focused and creepy, though. The Bird Eater is Aaron’s story, after all, not Birdie’s or even Aaron’s mother’s. In that sense I actually agree. As stated above, Aaron never learns the truth about his mother. In fact, the little bit the reader learns about her and Holbrook house and Birdie is saved just for us and never revealed to Aaron at all.

Even without a deeper backstory, The Bird Eater is still a quick and satisfyingly creepy haunted house story. It has a killer ending, too.

4/16 Becky LeJeune

THE BIRD EATER by Ania Ahlborn. 47North (April 1, 2014).  ISBN 978-1477817605. 267p.

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RELIC by Gretchen McNeil

March 17, 2016
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Annie Kramer’s post graduation trip to Slaughterhouse Island was supposed to be a fun start to her final months before college. She and a group of friends rented a houseboat, spent their first night camping on the beach with booze, and planned to hike one of the nearby abandoned mines the following day. Everything went basically according to that plan with just two hiccups: the arrival of a couple of cops intent on making sure the group was aware of just how off limits the mines are and a passerby who attacked Annie before running off into the woods.

The mine itself was something of a nightmare for the group. With passages shooting off from the entrance, they split into four pairs to explore. Each pair ended up separated in the maze of tunnels, eventually finding their way back to home base only to discover their radio had been demolished while they were inside. What’s worse, they arrived home in time to hear that a body was discovered just outside the mine that very day. And that was when the horror really began.

Gretchen McNeil’s latest is a fantastic return to horror for the author. Readers may wonder, though, why it’s an ebook release only. Sadly, the book was orphaned with the shuttering of Egmont last year. But fortunately for us all it was rescued by Epic Reads, hence the ebook release.

I would have loved for the book to have been longer (much longer, maybe). More detail of Slaughterhouse Island (where did THAT name come from?.) and time focused on building the setting and ominous tone would have made this book so much more of an intense read, in my opinion.

That said, it’s still fantastic fun. There’s a bit of history around the mine, some creative area folklore, and plenty of murders to make this a worthy successor to McNeil’s previous horror releases, Possess and Ten. There’s even a sample of McNeil’s upcoming I’m Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl to tempt your reading palate as well.

Fans of Gretchen McNeil are sure to be satisfied by this latest and it’ll make a perfect diving in point for new readers too.

3/16 Becky LeJeune

RELIC by Gretchen McNeil. Epic Reads Impulse (March 8, 2016).  ASIN: B00ZP5WPBC 352p.

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