Charles Stross, "Overtime"


Tuesday, April 28, 2020


5+ Spooky Stars
The revelation we've awaited throughout this Series arrives...at least in part..leaving protagonist Dan Tate, sufferer of PTSD and OCD,  worse than before,  physically as well as emotionally and psychologically. Perhaps though, now that he's had the underpinnings of his current status destroyed, he will become more determined than ever to discover the remaining truths about the deaths and destruction in his tiny home community of Anger, New Hampshire, lately very aptly named. Shane Ryan continues to be an important player in this Series,  now more so than ever. I only regret the waiting between installments; once the Series completed, I plan to binge-read the Series in consecutive order.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Review: HIGH CROSS by Paul Melhuish

5 Spooky Stars

HIGH CROSS caught my attention immediately and what's more, maintained it throughout.  Never a "ho-hum" moment here. Really intrigued by the premise [without spoiling: I refer to the medieval historical background] and the working out of that premise. Always left with that "what is she really?" question,  but that never detracted from the story, for me. I must caution: there's tons of extreme violence included, and forbidden taboos are violated, so take heed, readers with high sensitivity or touchy stomach. Good bit of obscenity too. For those who don't mind these aspects, or will not be fazed by same, go for it. Definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Review: NIGHT OF THE MANNEQUINS by Stephen Graham Jones

5 Stars

Stephen Graham Jones has been a must-read author for a while now. I read THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS in February and was delighted in April to discover NIGHT OF THE MANNEQUINS  (July Release). Wow--I'm left at a loss for words. I want to call this coming-of-age: certainly it's loss-of-innocence, moral integrity vs. pragmatic expediency,  save the many vs. protect the few.... Underneath an amazingly self-analytical adolescent brain and attitude and self-deprecatory humor is an incredibly Kafkaesque metamorphosis of the Psyche, only in this case not into a cockroach,  but into a pragmatic instrument-of-protection, of destroying in order to effect salvation.  My mind shall be spinning on this one for quite a long time. 

Monday, April 20, 2020


4 Stars 

Unsettling and Spooky; I'm not sure I agree with the outcome.  That is, the story was going in one direction and working very well at it. Then an enormous twist, which made the story a psychological thriller rather than a Supernatural or Paranormal one. I thought it was better with the Paranormal approach and was intrigued to follow that.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Review: LEVIATHAN by Sara Clancy (Bell Witch #5)

3 Spooky Stars 

The survivors of The Harvest orchestrated by the entity known as The Bell Witch are experiencing hallucinations and worse, dangerous unidentifiable entities.  For Mina, history is unfolding,  an arcane and esoteric history. As each learns of individual unexpected abilities,  they must bond and develop an effective defense...or lose their lives and sanity. 


5 + Spooky Stars!
YARC 2020
I find in Japanese Horror and Mysteries, two genres I quite admire, a certain delicacy of approach, which may be cultural. I've not tried to identify a particular story as Japanese based on this delicacy of approach [although that would be intriguing: reading a story without knowledge of its authorship to see if I could identify its culture]. Nonetheless,  that "delicacy" and "order" is clearly apparent in this delightful supernatural horror. 

"The Graveyard Apartment " is exactly as it sounds: a brand-new eight-story apartment complex,  constructed with staggered balconies overlooking the dormant cemetery overseen by a Buddhist temple.  Quiet and parklike, the cemetery is suffused with cherry blossoms and a multiplicity of flowering plants,  providing a secure and peaceful nook apart from Tokyo's overcrowded urbanity.

Or so it should be: but then why are the condo apartments selling so inexpensively? Why are so many empty, and the current inhabitants moving out? And what is going on in the Basement? It's not natural....and what about the long-ago plans, long since defunct, for an underground shopping complex at the rail station? The new family are about to discover....

Subtle Horror creeps like little cat feet, all the more terrifying for being invisible: an excellently written exercise in Quiet Horror [think, as comparisons to Western Horror,  Henry James' "Turn of the Screw," Susan Hill's "The Woman In Black."] Subtle Horror, in the end, is so much more effectively nightmare-inducing.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Review: THE BRIGHT LANDS by John Fram

Release July 7

5+ Spooky Stars!

Oh my! This debut novel hit it out of the ballpark! Or considering the focus sport: threw a touchdown into the End Zone. I read with excitement, enthrallment--and a whole lot of trepidation,  because I just KNEW something terrible was about to happen--and of course,  something did, and has, and will. Little, economically-depressed, Bentley, Texas--the town under the shadow of empty, unowned Flatlands [could there be a location in America where the property is not owned by "someone"?], the town that gives an entirely new Sinister meaning to the overworked phrase "Friday night lights," is not a town where any sane person should live. Nor anyone in any way divergent. Just reading about this town brings out the screams, the shudders, and the nightmares.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Review: THE WISE FRIEND by Ramsey Campbell

5 Spooky Stars

Beautifully infused with lyricism as only this Master can, THE WISE FRIEND builds its Horror subtly from a seemingly mundane foundation.  Chills abide as academic Patrick and his adolescent son invest in unraveling the Mystery of Patrick's Aunt Thelma, a noted and acclaimed painter with an untimely end,  whose life and art took unexpected and inexplicable twists. Attentive reading encompasses the strong if not quite identifiable perception that one is not alone--a perception which Mr. Campbell delivers exquisitely as always. 

My suggestion: definitely read, but don't read at night. And if you live anywhere surrounded by woods, as do I, close your curtains first, and don't glance outside. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020


4 Stars

I gave this horror novel 4 Stars because it offers some really terrifying Scares; in fact, in terms of Frights, this novel "keeps on keeping on." I enjoyed it, but I  didn't give 5 because something in the story progression just felt a little "uneven " to me. For example, early on the protagonist tells her unwanted psychiatrist what a "good " man is protagonist 's husband; but the story doesn't bear that out, even before the character devolution later on. And why is she seeing a psychiatrist she considers of no use (she constantly harps on "thirty pounds a session!") both at the  beginning and for one final roundup after the conclusion. That didn't ring true for me. ["Thirty pounds a session!" paid by a protagonist without employment?]


5 Stars
"End Game" by David Longhorn: Classic British Gothic horror, with history fraught with danger and destruction, a cursed lineage, a bumbling American newcomer. Finely tuned story.

"Hush" by Taylor Charendoff: Although I could summon absolutely no empathy for the foolish protagonist, I did find his comeuppance both surprising and very pertinent. An unusual and intriguing approach.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Review: SEVEN CLEOPATRA HILL by Justin Holley

12 Stars!

12 Stars!!

Fascinating! First I've read from this author. I enjoyed the plotting, the creative premise, the interweaving of history (Native American), the characterizations.  I liked the gentle,  subtle,  handling of the LGBT subplot. I admired how several of the characters demonstrated moral integrity, courage,  devotion.  This was a plot in which there was much opportunity to "make the right choices" or to fail miserably,  many points along the plot line when characters had to be stand-up and righteous,  or succumb to fear, despair, or even evil. My only objections [other than the recurrent obscenity, which actually was understandable in terms of one of the several subplots,  a version of demonic Tourette's] was a crying need for proofreading for spelling errors [especially "vile" for "vial": there's a plethora of "vile" situations and entities,  but  the container is "vial."]

Monday, April 13, 2020

Review: THE BOY IN THE BOX by Marc Fitch

5 Stars!

Super cool horror novel in which the "coming of age" trope is applied, not to boys of 13 or 10, but to adult males, lifelong friends and neighbors, who really ought to "know better," but instead are overruled by their Ids, by their cultural expectations, and very possibly by a Supernatural force beyond their comprehension or control.

My only complaint about this very engrossing story is that off and on there is an excess of "Woe is me" and reiteration of the guilt, the pressure,  the stress, especially concerning protagonist Jonathan. Yet that was no more than a mild critical note as my intrigue continued unabated. 

Friday, April 10, 2020


5 Stars 

Not once has a Grady Hendrix novel disappointed me. This author manages to interweave the Deep Issues with a keen grasp of psychology and human relationships,  strumming in Paranormal elements while suspending disbelief in readers [who proceed to gleefully gobble it all up]. As I recall from HORRORSTOR and MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM, Mr. Hendrix is also a Past [and Present] Master at bringing the A-Game when it comes to Setting--and Setting.  Another DON'T MISS!

Review: PLAGUE PIT by Marc Alexander

3 Stars

Totally apropos to the current global situation [and shiver-producing] is this 1981 horror novel, republished in 2016. Once germs from a City of London accidentally-excavated "plague pit," initially filled during the Bubonic Plague of 1666, alight on a crew of greedy, treasure-hogging construction workers, the same epidemic is set loose to decimate unprotected modern populations. 

I appreciate the comparisons of unprepared health agencies and the speed with which the Pandemic expands with today's conditions.  However,  the initial occurrence, caused by a not-so-intelligent, angry, antisocial,  heavy equipment operator, acting out his aggression, was a little too "staged" to be readily believable,  as was the conclusion.  Though probably,  if Younger Me had originally read this in the 1980's, I might have more likely accepted the premises. After all, in 1980's Horror,  "anything went" and a lot of readers ate it up, no matter what  form "it" took.

Review: DEAD END by Chris Dileo

5 Woodsy Stars
DEAD END is a Horror novel that is both disturbing and perturbing,  and rampantly unsettling.  I foresee nightmares for a lot of us. It's not only the potential for Supernatural interplay that's terrifying,  it's the "what is wrong with these people??!" inspired by and surrounding so many of the humans. I really urge it not be read at night, nor if you live alone, in the country....near the woods, the dark, impenetrable,  waiting,  Woods...

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Review: SHORT HORROR STORIES VOL. 17 by Scare Street

5 + Spooky Stars

"Early Medicine " by Ron Ripley: what a tremendously twisted plotline,  and what a great interweaving of History with the contemporary setting! Enjoyed the character delineations also. 

"Ex Machina " by Ron Ripley: WOW. I'm left speechless with this one. There're some great lines here I'd really like to share, but would spoil your pleasure in finding those for yourself. 
Just a reminder: All that glitters is not gold; and DO look a gift horse in the mouth--then DON'T buy it!

"Dueling Frogs" by David Longhorn: There ARE Swamp dangers worse than what happened in "Deliverance": and They're Not From Around Here!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Review: BURNING BONES by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala

5 Stars!

BURNING BONES is #7 in the delightfully intriguing and satisfying BODY OF EVIDENCE Series by Christopher Golden and the late Rick Hautala. Jenna Blake, Massachusetts university student, is very intelligent as well as insightful. In her part-time employment with the Chief Medical Examiner,  Jenna has encountered much and also proved quite helpful.  The current series of fatalities is a riddle wrapped in puzzles interwoven into an enigma. People suddenly ignite, with no trace of an accelerant or any logical cause. Detectives must discover the Who and the How to prevent any more disasters. They are facing a clever, arrogant,  and very capable villain.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Review: HALLOWDALE by James Colton

5+ Spooky Stars

Wildly imaginative, yet founded firmly in traditional ghost tropes, HALLOWDALE is lyrical in imagery, poetic. I often found myself pausing to reread a sentence or phrase. Set in a tiny, nearly abandoned, forest village, the main character is the ruined mansion atop the hill, the source and consequence of all the village's ills. Stumbling in inadvertently are a newlywed pair, plus an older man who hunts the evil, intending to destroy it for eternity.

Non-stop enjoyment!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: DEATH WATCH by L. V. Pires

4 Spooky Stars 

DEATH WATCH is Book 3 in the WAITING MORTUARY SERIES.  Quite possibly,  the series increases in gore and shock value as it continues. A seasoned but troubled newspaper reporter (print) is assigned a story on the infamous local funeral home, which has boasted at least two serial killers and a torture chamber.  This indefatigable reporter will uncover far more shocks than only past history, and will suffer unbearably for the discoveries.

Review: COLERIDGE by Tom Deady

4 Spooky Stars

COLERIDGE  (which has gorgeous cover art by Kealan Patrick Burke) has an explosive reader's hook and in fact, blew me away up to about 68%. Repeating diary entries (after the protagonist read them the first time) was distracting.  Actually once the climactic moment is reached, on a very "dark and stormy night," in a windy blizzard,  outdoors [endeavouring to avoid spoilers!] (79%) I wanted the story to end there. I thought that all that came after might have been in a different story.  I don't want a happy ending in a story with this kind of power, horror, and terror,  with implacable villains and a house like "Coleridge." I want to be overwhelmed with the horror, as I was with author Tom Deady 's earlier WEEKEND GETAWAY, an amazing novella. I also, regrettably, failed to discern the rationale for the character Zadie's final decision. So my thoughts on COLERIDGE remain mixed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Review: HE COMES IN THE NIGHT by Ricky Fry

4 Stars

An engaging and creatively imagined dual tale, in which past funnels toward the present,  surface fails to equal substance, nobody is as they seem, and life is facade. Distinctly not your ordinary vampire tale.