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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LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S. A. Corey

January 21, 2016
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The invention of the Epstein Drive made it possible for humanity to spread beyond Earth. Now there are stations and colonies stretching from our planet to Mars. Joe Miller is a cop on Ceres, one of the stations that houses the Belters, workers born off world and recognized by their lanky forms and unique dialects. Miller has been hired to find a girl whose last known address was Ceres itself until she seemingly vanished, ignoring all attempts at contact from her lunar-based parents. The job is an easy one, an off-books one too. But when the investigation changes from a simple wayward young adult to one Miller suspects has deeper ramifications, he’s told to back off.

At the same time, an ice hauler about to return from its latest job answers a distress beacon that turns out to be something much more menacing. Jim Holden, XO of the Canterbury, leads the rescue attempt and barely manages to escape with his ship and team intact when the Cant is destroyed. Holden and his team’s discovery on the abandoned Scopuli and witness to the Canterbury’s destruction make them prime targets for those responsible but revealing what they know could lead to all out war between Earth and Mars.

This first in The Expanse series is a whopper of a read, one that crosses genre borders and boundaries with ease. A science fiction epic and first in what George R. R. Martin calls a “…kickass space opera…” Leviathan Wakes is also part noir mystery and part horror.

Miller, a cop with a definite chip on his shoulder, bucks authority and bends the rules at will. He becomes obsessed with finding this girl, imagining that through his investigation he’s gotten to know her and has built a connection with her that’s more intimate than any he shares with his colleagues or acquaintances. Of course when told to back off he’s going to ignore it, he’s stubborn and bullheaded just like all of his noir detective predecessors.

In Holden, the authors have built a character who is in many ways the polar opposite of Miller. The rules are there for a reason, justice and right will prevail, and Holden will do anything he can to ensure this remains the case. As narrators go, they provide the reader with two very different views of the world of The Expanse. Miller is a Belter through and through. Holden is military and was born on Earth. The only piece missing so far is Mars.

I have to say, I am absolutely loving the series and the current Syfy TV adaptation as well.

1/16 Becky LeJeune

LEVIATHAN WAKES by James S. A. Corey. Orbit; First Edition edition (June 15, 2011).  ISBN 978-0316129084 592p.


DARK TIDES by Chris Ewan

December 9, 2015

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On the Isle of Man, the Manx celebrate their version of Halloween every October 31st, a dark tradition called Hop-tu-naa.

Claire Cooper is eight years old when her mother takes her out in her handmade costume for the holiday. Their final stop is at her mother’s employer, a creepy old man who frightens Claire. The next morning her mother disappears, with ramifications that affect the rest of her life.

As a teenager, Claire is lonely and a bit odd. An acquaintance invites her to join her group of friends, and it turns out that they perform a game of dares every Hop-tu-naa, eventually with devastating results. Fast forward a little more and Claire has become a cop, investigating a deadly car accident on Hop-tu-naa. It turns out the victim was one of her teen friends, and then another of the group dies, and Claire realizes she may be next.

There are dark and stormy nights, children playing in a dark wood, and more of the usual horror tropes that work to create a really sinister atmosphere. Ewan explores the darker side of Manx folklore that spans twenty years of October 31sts in this chilling page turner that is more horror than thriller.
Copyright ©2015 Booklist, a division of the American Library Association.

12/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DARK TIDES by Chris Ewan. Minotaur Books (December 8, 2015).  ISBN 978-1250074423. 448p.

 


CATACOMB by Madeleine Roux

September 24, 2015
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Asylum (Book 3)

Dan, Abby, and Jordan have survived Brookline Asylum and Warden Crawford and his henchmen twice now and are due some downtime. Plus, they’ll all be headed off to college soon – or at least Dan and Jordan will, Abby is still undecided. So when Jordan packs up to move to New Orleans where he’ll be living with his more accepting uncle, the three decide it’s a great opportunity for a road trip. What they don’t know and can’t even begin to suspect, is that they are still yet to be free of the shadow of Brookline Asylum.

This third title in the series finally answers some of the questions Dan and the readers have had about his parentage. And what better place to set that tale than one of the most mysterious cities in the United States?

I loved the fact that the book brought the trio to New Orleans, but I honestly expected something of a different story. We already knew that there was a character in Sanctum connected to Louisiana and that character does ultimately play a hefty role in this third story just not in the way I’d expected (meaning I kind of expected some of the plantation stuff hinted at in Sactum). That aside, it was definitely a welcome return to Dan and his friends.

The story does loosely connect to Brookline Asylum, but is less asylum and experiments and more voodoo and conjuring (appropriate for the setting). And of course we do have more of my favorite aspect of the series – the weird photos to set the tone of the story. While this third installment didn’t take the exact route I thought it would, it was a nice surprise in terms of the change of direction in keeping the series going.

9/15 Becky LeJeune

CATACOMB by Madeleine Roux. HarperCollins (September 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062364050.  336p.

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SANCTUM by Madeleine Roux

September 23, 2015
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Asylum (Book 2)

After surviving the horrors of their summer at New Hampshire College, Dan and his friends are looking forward to a bit of normalcy. But someone has other plans for the trio. Dan agrees to visit their old classmate – the one locked up for killing a fellow student – and is given a message that forces him to return to New Hampshire College. His hope is that he can finally bring the whole nightmare to a close, but when he reveals his plan to Abby and Jordan he finds that they too have received messages.

Now all three have returned, under the guise of a student campus visit, to once again face the horrors of Brookline Asylum.

This follow up to Asylum picks up just a few months after Dan, Abby, and Jordan narrowly escaped the summer college prep program at New Hampshire College. All three have returned home to their own high schools, but Dan has a hard time letting go. Part of this is of course thanks to the revelations about his own shocking connection to Brookline Asylum.

This time around, Dan and his friends are sent on a bizarre scavenger hunt throughout the town of Brookline, all the while trying to evade their student hosts and a weird secret society while Dan also tries to muddle through the meaning of a series of visions he’s been having about Warden Crawford.

As with Asylum Roux again uses creepy and gritty imagery to ratchet up the chill factor of Sanctum. It was great to return to Brookline – a town I’d definitely NEVER want to live in – and get more of the Warden and the asylum’s story, though there were still a few loose ends left by the end. Overall it’s a great mix of horror and suspense, the perfect kind for a one-sitting read on a dark and stormy night.

9/15 Becky LeJeune

SANCTUM by Madeleine Roux. HarperCollins; Reprint edition (September 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062221001.  368p.

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ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux

September 22, 2015
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Dan Crawford couldn’t be more excited to have been accepted to the New Hampshire College College Prep Program. Not only does this mean his first taste of college and the real world, it means a summer away from his parents. Freedom.

Dan arrives on campus to find that his dorm is actually an old asylum, something that at first intrigues. But that’s before the strange things start to happen. A student is killed and Dan begins having bouts of missing time and that’s only the start. As the tension increases on campus, Dan and his friends explore more of the old Brookline Asylum in an attempt to unravel the mystery. What they find is truly terrifying and could mean certain danger for each and every student in the program.

Using “vintage” images in the style of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Roux builds a chilling and intriguing tale filled with ominous locked rooms, hints of strange experiments and dark insane asylum history, and an uber creepy serial killer who may just have returned from the past to hunt down and murder teens.

In other words, Asylum is super fun.

9/15 Becky LeJeune

ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux. HarperCollins; Reprint edition (August 26, 2014).  ISBN 978-0062220974.  336p.

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THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, ed. by Ellen Datlow

September 5, 2015
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Volume 7

Once again Ellen Datlow has culled through the past year’s mass of horror shorts and novellas to put together a collection of some of the best highlights for genre fans.

Datlow not only has great taste, but with these “best of” anthologies she’s essentially offering readers a snapshot of the year’s releases. The chosen tales are narrowed down from multi-author anthologies, single author collections, magazines, online publications, and any other place that might have featured horror shorts for the previous year. What’s more, Datlow also takes the time to list additional readings of note including shorts that didn’t quite make the cut (because there are such a plethora to have to choose from), genre novels, award winners, etc from the calendar year.

This year’s twenty-two tale selection runs the gamut of horror with tales inspired by Lovecraft (Brian Evenson’s “Past Reno” and Livia Llewellyn’s “Allochton” were both originally part of the Letters to Lovecraft anthology edited by Jesse Bullington), a sin eater (Genevieve Valentine’s “A Dweller in Amenty”), vengeance from beyond the grave (Laird Barron’s “The Worms Crawl In”), and of course a couple of tales of the apocalypse as well, just to mention a few.

Some of my own favorites this time around include Garth Nix’s “Shay Corsham Worsted” and Keris McDonald’s “The Coat Off His Back,” both of which center around some quite historic criminals, the abovementioned “Past Reno,” and Angela Slatter’s revenge tale “Winter Children.”

Here’s the full table of contents:

The Atlas of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud

Winter Children by Angela Slatter

A Dweller in Amenty by Genevieve Valentine

Outside Heavenly by Rio Youers

Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix

Allochton by Livia Llewllyn

Chapter Six by Stephen Graham Jones

This is Not for You by Gemma Files

Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Culvert by Dale Bailey

Past Reno by Brian Evenson

The Coat off His Back by Keris McDonald

The Worms Crawl In by Laird Barron

The Dog’s Home by Alison Littlewood

Tread Upon the Brittle Shell by Rhoads Brazos

Persistence of Vision by Orrin Grey

It Flows From the Mouth by Robert Shearman

Wingless Beasts by Lucy Taylor

Departures by Carole Johnstone

Ymir by John Langan

Plink by Kurt Dinan

Nigredo by Cody Goodfellow

 

9/15 Becky LeJeune

THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR 7, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Night Shade Books (August 18, 2015).  ISBN 978-1597808293.  368p.

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