Provided for Review: The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror

This book was provided for review by the kind people of Nosetouch Press. Thank you!

Two young men working as a team supply a vicious drug dealer with a potent and difficult to come by drug. When one of them tries to go back on the straight and narrow path, his former boss is determined to find him and bring him back.

Every year the people of the town are summoned to harvest the fruit at Genesis Farms. They do not know what kind of fruit it is they are gathering, nor do they know where it eventually goes. All any one knows is that they must go; and not for the money but because they are obligated to.

An unfaithful wife returns from the grave and to her husband’s side. The only issue is that she is missing her head as her husband had sliced it off the night before.

These are but three of the stories included in The Fiends in the Furrows: An Anthology of Folk Horror. Each of the nine stories seems stranger than the last and each touches on a variety of themes. From the paranoia that sometimes arises from rural isolation to the monstrous rituals and arcane ceremonies that are handed down generation to generation.

Personally, I love a good horror and the ones featured in The Fiends in the Furrows were right up my alley. While there is a bit of violence, the stories tend to rely more on psychological horror than physical horror. In this way they remind me of many a foreign horror film. Most (but certainly not all) American horror films rely on blood and gore, on jump scares and other visual signs to try and scare the audience. Foreign horror films on the other hand (again, not all), tend to rely on the psychological. They play with your mind, showing only hints and shadows, making one wonder what is was exactly that they saw.

So it is with the stories in this book. Very little is laid out concrete for the reader. Instead, most things are hinted at, leaving the reader to fill in the details with their own imagination. Leaving them to finish the story and decide what exactly happens next.

I was not familiar with any of the authors features in this collection but that does not mean I did not enjoy them. Each brought their own unique flavor of storytelling and was able to add to the tapestry that is this enthralling book. Reading who love a good page turner and who enjoy thinking about what happens next will surely devour this book just as I have done.

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Provided for Review: The Plotters by Un-su Kim (Translated by Sora Kim-Russell)

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at Netgalley. Thank you!

The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin.

Until he breaks the rules. That’s when he meets a trio of young women—a convenience store worker, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed obsessive knitter—with an extraordinary plot of their own.

The Plotters is one of those novels that doesn’t quite fit in to any one genre. On the one hand you have a dark novel filled with violence and a game of cat and mouse that keeps one guessing up to the last pages. On the other hand, you have an almost slice-of-life type of story with the main character, Reseng, simply trying to get through another day. It is an interesting mixture and a dichotomy that shouldn’t work yet somehow does.

Now I will not lie to you dear reader, there is a good deal of violence in this book. Not surprising considering this is a book about assassins. People shoot at each other, have knife fights, so forth and so on; and while the fight scenes don’t go in to too much detail, there is still the potential that some readers could find it triggering.

While The Plotters was an enjoyable read, it did start at a kind of slow pace. For the majority of the first half of the book we are following Reseng as he goes about his business as an assassin. It isn’t until over halfway through the book that we meet the three women who challenge his views of the underworld in which he resides. Perhaps if he had met these women earlier, the book would have taken a different turn from what it did.

On the whole, I liked reading The Plotters. While I am quite sure some of the nuances were lost in the translation from Korean to English, it was still enough to keep me interested and reading. Readers who enjoy darker, film noir type stories will likely enjoy this one as well.

Provided for review: After Hope Dies by Lilly Haraden

This book was provided for review by the folks at NetGalley

This is what happens after America dies: the monsters take over.

A young prostitute’s reanimated soul prowls the streets, seeking revenge against her killers. The reclusive nerd who lives next door suffers from a serious problem that goes far beyond the time-bending demon infesting his body. And across town, an occult guide owns a brothel where you can buy a child for cheap.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this dark literary fantasy debut examines life for the most disadvantaged who call post-prosperity America home.

Author/Publisher/Reviewers Note: This book deals with darker themes including racist content, depictions of rape, and strong themes of child sexualization/exploitation. If ANY of these subjects make you uncomfortable, then this is not the story for you.

My dearest reader, if the above paragraph in bold as well as the brief description above has not already convinced you, let me state it AGAIN – this book contains disturbing imagery. It is NOT for the faint of heart or easily offended. There are numerous passages that require the reader to have a strong constitution. Several of the reviews I have seen, the person reading it did not take the warning seriously and sadly suffered for it.

All of that aside: After Hope Dies is an excellent book. It provides a truly scary “What if…?” that once the reader finishes the book – including the epilogue – will leave them wondering just how much could potentially occur.

In three short stories, After Hope Dies, follows several individuals in a not to distant future. The city they are in could be anywhere in the United States and the persons the overall story centers on live in one of the poorest sections. Drug use as well as vices of other kinds run rampant and all of the characters are affected in one way or another.

While each individual story has its own main character, they also cross over in to the other stories. The child prostitute in the first story is the next door neighbor of the game playing introvert of the second story, and she goes to school with the younger sister who features in the third story. The introvert runs in the same gaming circles as the older sister in the third story. And between them all is the brothel owner and his assistant. They all play off of one another, acting and reacting to events as they occur.

Each person has their own story and Haraden does an admirable job of delving in to each one. It is certainly not an easy task, some of the jobs that these characters take on could be described as distasteful, yet they all do what they must. They make deals with demons with the intent of living another day.

Haraden’s writing is smooth and strong. As disturbing as some scenes are, they are penned in a way that is not difficult to imagine. The stories are easy to follow and the characters can be related to by most. As someone who is whiter than the proverbial sour cream, I will never be able to fully relate to the discrimination (both internal and external) faced by many. Reading After Hope Dies however, gave me a tiny inkling and takes me one step closer to understanding.

At times hard to read and hard to stomach, it is an engrossing book and one I simply must recommend.

Provided for Review: A Prayer for the Necromancer (The Shinigami Tomes #1) by C. Wain

This book was provided for review by the kind folks at Netgalley

Blood… Fear… Death… Love…

The legends of old tell of a primordial Creator. Merciful and lonely he was when he breathed new life into the barren womb of Oar, the everlasting universe. The Creator’s very essence and mana stood silently for stability and life.

Amidst gods and mages, the warming darkness of a mysterious man enshrouds the life of a young village girl. What happens when common beliefs hide the true evil in light? What happens when a rogue and despised necromancer sacrifices his own flesh for the sake of others?

A Prayer for the Necromancer is the story of Kaze Niss. A necromancer living in disgrace, feared and hated by many. He is on a dark path, searching for a way to avenge the wrongful death of his father. Travelling this path has so far led to death and destruction, but it has done little to deter Kaze. He will have his revenge.

Personally, I found A Prayer for the Necromancer to be one of those books that has an interesting premise but fails in the execution. Kaze is supposed to be the kind of character that has a gray morality, yet I found him to be quite unlikable. He is selfish and even when we are meant to be rooting for him, it was difficult for me to do so.

Wain’s style of writing was also troublesome. Many of the same words and phrases are used continuously throughout the story. One particular word that Wain seems to like to use is “giggle”. From young female characters to older male characters, they all giggle. Personally, I found this a bit off putting since no man I know giggles. Chuckles? Yes. Laughs out loud? Sure. Giggles? No.

For me, A Prayer for the Necromancer is very much a diamond in the rough. The overall premise and world building is interesting and given some more work via editors and such, it could be a must read. In time it could do well, it just needs a bit more polish.

Provided for Review – The Lady in the Cellar: Murder, Scandal, and Insanity in Victorian Bloomsbury by Sinclair McKay

Number 4, Euston Square was a home like many in Victorian London. A boarding house, it was respectable, well-kept, and hospitable to those staying there. Yet beneath that veneer there seemed to be a darkness lurking.

In early May 1879, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the coal cellar. An investigation discovers she is an elderly woman named Matilda Hacker, a former resident of the boarding house. Questions are immediately raised. How did she die? How did she come to be buried in the coal cellar? And most importantly, who could have killed her?

In the investigation that followed, every resident of the home was scrutinized and more than a few secrets were brought to light. Someone in that house had killed Matilda Hacker and someone knew the truth.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this ebook in exchange for a review.

The Lady in the Cellar is a true story. In the early summer of 1879, a body was discovered in the coal cellar of a boarding house. Almost every person who was there was a potential suspect. It was a story the newspapers grabbed on to, especially once more and more details started to come to light. And in a time when the so called ‘middle class’ were coming in to their own and the lines between classes were sometimes blurred, there were an abundance of details to titillate and delight.

The case of the murder of Matilda Hacker is a bizarre one. And it is one that the author covers in great detail. At times it feels like McKay is trying to reach a page count with their writing as there are long passages going in to details that nothing to do with the case itself. While it can be interesting to read about some of history about the family that owned the boarding house, with no actual relevancy, it leaves one to wonder why it was included.

Some of the other reviews I have seen where the reader did not finish the book lament the fact that McKay’s writing can be a bit tedious at times. It is an opinion I must agree with. Attention to detail is one thing, but to inundate a reader with information can be a it much. The actual trial and its aftermath take up roughly half of the book. And it is this half of the book that is the most interesting. It is slogging through the first half of the book and getting to the ‘good bits’ however, that can be difficult.

It is very obvious that McKay did a great amount of research in writing The Lady in the Cellar. The book is chock full of information and little details to draw the reader in. And while the actual case of the murder of Ms. Hacker was never solved, McKay gives a plausible ‘what if?’ scenario towards the end.

While I am sure there are those readers who dislike true crime books for one reason or another, I urge my readers to give this one a try when it hits shelves. In a day and age of sensational media such as ours, it is little wonder that the case of the lady in the cellar was so fascinating to the reading public of the day. It is my hope that modern day readers will enjoy it as well.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran

Poor Christina is young and alone. Her every relationship seems cursed, each one slowly turning to poison. The only one that doesn’t seem to have soured is the one with her co-worker.

Christina is also at times kind. When visiting her mother’s grave, she notices a nearby grave left derelict. Thinking she is helping, she pulls the weeds growing around and tidies the tombstone up a bit.

Her simple act of kindness causes someone to notice and Christina realizes she is no longer alone. For what was laid to rest beneath that stone has attached itself to her and to it she will be the perfect wife. And, God help her, the perfect mother.

Corpse Rider by Tim Curran is the perfect creepy story to start off the month of October with. It is a short story – more a novella than a novel – and is therefore a fairly quick read.

This is the first book by Curran that I have read, but judging from his titles on GoodReads, he has a flair for the strange. His books run the gambit and it looks like his readers love them.

Corpse Rider is very much a psychological book. Written in a way that makes the reader wonder just how much is real and how much is in Christina’s mind. Did she really see a figure in black on that hot, sunny day in the cemetery? Was there really a hearse driven by that same figure at her work a few days later? As Christina is the only one seeing these things, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps she is going insane.

At times, it certainly feels that way. Every one around her is skeptical as there simply isn’t any proof. No proof until the very, very end.

I won’t go too far in to what happens next because to do so will ruin the ending for any one who decides to read this. Personally, I recommend it to my readers. Especially to those who like a good, creepy read. So grab your favorite hot drink, a warm fuzzy blanket, and curl up with this great thriller.

 

Provided for Review – Saving Death by R. L. Endean

Two tortured souls. One unthinkable love.

Seventeen year old Ava is nearly drowning in her grief. After the death of her mother in a horrific car accident, she is set to live with her father on his farm. Away from old friends and the home she knew, she must try to start over.

On her first day there, Ava meets Sam – a young man hired by her father to work on his farm. Sam is handsome and seemingly close in age, so it seems only natural that Ava is attracted to him. But Sam seems to have his own secrets and there is more to him than meets the eye.

Getting closer to Sam not only brings a rush of emotions to young Ava’s heart, but also pitches her in to a strange world lurking just beneath the surface. And brings to light truths that might have been better left alone.

Saving Death was provided for review, attained by replying to a Facebook ad.

Saving Death is the story of Ava, a young woman sent to live with her father and attempt to start over with a new life. She meets and makes several new friends at school but she also meets Sam. Sam doesn’t attend school and works on her father’s farm and there is something dark about him that draws Ava in. He tells her not to get close, tries to keep her at arms length, but it is obvious that he too feels an attraction. When Ava meets some of Sam’s friends and eventually learns his secret, she wonders if maybe she has gotten in over her head.

Unless you have been living under a rock or such, then surely one is at least passingly familiar with the Twilight series of novels. Young woman meets mysterious young man and so forth and so on. It was a wildly popular series of books that spawned its own series of movies and other merchandise.

Saving Death is similar to Twilight only in the most basic of premises. It is in fact So Much More.

The titular character Ava is a young woman dealing with serious depression. While this is not stated outright, it is incredibly obvious when one looks at what brings her to her father’s farm and her subsequent actions. She is practically drowning in her grief, doing the most basic of things seems like a chore. When she does go out with her new friends, she either spends the entirety of the time with her mind elsewhere or she delves head first in to the activities in a kind of frenzy to try and feel less numb.

Yes, Ava can be a little irritating at times. However, when one considers her age and her immediate past, some of her actions can be forgiven. And while she doesn’t make a complete recovery by the end of the book, she at least seems to be taking steps in the right direction.

Sam is the other main character in the book. He is the young man that Ava meets her first day on her father’s farm. While I cannot go too much in to Sam’s character lest I spoil the ending, I will say he comes across as a decent guy. While he is standoffish towards Ava at times, when they do start to become close he is respectful of her boundaries. When Ava learns that Sam followed her to a rave, she is understandably upset; and when she tells Sam that she needs time away from him to think, he gives her that time and doesn’t intrude.

The way the book ends – especially with the epilogue – hints at the possibility of more stories set in this particular universe. And oh dear reader, I hope it is true. For this universe has quite a few stories to tell; some looking back and others going forward. Characters that were only briefly introduced, some that we thought we knew – who are they really? Hopefully, time and future stories will tell.

Advertised as a Young Adult gothic romance, Saving Death is that and more. While it will certainly appeal to the older teen crowd, there is also enough to draw the more “mature” readers. Readers who love a good story, one that takes you on a roller coaster of an emotional ride, will likely love this story. It is a good thing I started this book on one of my long weekends because I tore through it in little time. I absolutely recommend this one and cannot wait to see more from the author.

A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

The mystery starts simply enough: a young woman is found in a ditch just outside of a small Arizona border town. The young woman is presumed to be an illegal alien and likely was met with foul play trying to cross the border. Before any clues can be found as to who brought the girl harm, her body disappears from the morgue.

To the young CDC operative called in to consult the local police, it is a bizarre medical mystery. And it is only the tip of the iceberg when more individuals start showing up in local morgues and disappearing overnight. What was seen as isolated cases of a strange virus is soon deduced to be something that no one was ready to take on.

I admit, dear reader, that I was looking forward to reading this book. With its eye catching cover and overall creepy title, I thought I would be in for an exciting thrill ride from page one.

Sadly, that was not the case.

Have you ever read a book and with every page you are just waiting – waiting – for the plot to get good? For what was teased on the cover to happen? To become so engrossed in the story itself that you forget what time it is or that you have other obligations like work and family?

While there have been several books that I have read that have been just like that, A People’s History… is sadly not one of them. There is no vampire uprising, at times there’s barely even a conflict between the humans and the vampires (who prefer to be called “gloamings”). Yes, there are minor conflicts; especially when one decides to run for public office, but on the whole there wasn’t much.

At times, reading this was almost akin to watching paint dry.

Reading about the author, it is no surprise to find that Mr. Villareal is an attorney. There is quite a bit of “lawyer speak” scattered throughout the book and there is an entire chapter devoted to the subject. What it has to do in relation to the subject of the book as a whole, I have no idea.

Unfortunately, I found A People’s History… to be bland and boring. Aside from a handful of actions scenes, there was very little to sink my teeth in to. Pardon the pun. If this is to be made in to a movie, which I have read that the story has been optioned by 20th Century Fox, then I hope they take the title and basic premise and leave the rest behind.

Don’t waste your time with this one dear readers. There are better books out there.

Graveyard Shift by Michael F. Haspil

The discovery of a blood substitute and a monumental Supreme Court ruling were two events that changed the face of the world forever. Due to these two events, vampires and other mythological creatures were able to integrate in to society. There was no longer a need for them to hide as they had done for centuries before.

Alex Menkaure is a mummy and former Egyptian pharaoh; and along with his partner Marcus, a vampire born in ancient Rome, the two once hunted evil vampires for a super-secret arm of the NSA. When the program was dissolved the two became police officers in a special unit where they continue to keep the streets safe from the monsters they hunted once before.

When bottles of tainted artificial blood begin turning up on store shelves, the already tremulous relations between humans and vampires becomes even more fragile. It soon becomes a race against time for the two detectives to find who is behind the tainted blood and what their end game is.

There are times when writing a review is the easiest thing in the world; the words just flow from my fingertips and I am (hopefully) able to get my point across when I say how much I liked or dis-liked a book. There are other times, however, where trying to write even a mediocre review is akin to pulling teeth; the words simply do not want to come and each one is a struggle.

Sadly, it seems that this particular review falls more in to the latter than the former. It has been over a week since I finished reading Graveyard Shift and still I do not know where to begin in reviewing it.

Perhaps I should start with the overall plot. Broken down, it comes across as simple enough. For countless centuries vampires and other creatures have existed behind the scenes. A recent turn of events outs them and their existence is finally able to be acknowledged. While there are many who embrace this new truth, there are those who would see things go back to the way they were; where vampires skulked in shadows and humans were afraid of them. Certainly a plot that has been used before, not just in books but in movies and television shows.

The main characters themselves, however are a completely different story. One is a centuries old vampire while the other is a millennia old mummy; both immortal in their own way. Sadly, we aren’t given much on them aside from the most basic information. Haspil spends too much time focusing on secondary characters and the surrounding events as a whole instead of giving us more with the main characters. If this were the second or even third book in a series, this wouldn’t be a problem as we would already be familiar with the two detectives.

Overall, Graveyard Shift is a fairly good book. Marketed as an urban fantasy meets film noir type of story, it certainly meets that description. Gritty and at times bloody, it might not be for the more feint of heart reader. Otherwise, this is a somewhat decent start to a series and I am curious to see more.

Hater (Hater #1) by David Moody

The world has gone mad.

A strange and sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals has rocked society. The assaults are brutal and extreme; within mere seconds, normally rational people become frenzied killers. They strike without warning and kill all who cross their path. Christened ‘Haters’ by the media, there are no links between those who attack and those who are attacked.

Danny McCoyne is one such man. An average working class man, he must contend with this new world of terror. Eventually, his only choice is seek shelter, secure his family, and watch as the world outside crumbles. But when any person has the potential to become a Hater; when McCoyne locks the door, is he shutting the danger out or locking it in?

Hater is a unique novel with an interesting premise. That, sadly, is about all I can give it.

I am guessing that we, the readers, are supposed to somehow empathize with the main character Danny McCoyne. As the novel is told from his point of view, this would make sense. We connect with him in some way, and through his eyes we see the story unfold. A good idea, if only Danny weren’t such an immensely unlikable individual.

I do not want to mince words, dear reader, so I will be blunt and say Danny McCoyne is a schlub. In his own words he admits to being “a lazy bastard”, and “I know I should try harder but I just can’t be bothered.” He admits to being bounced from department to department in the three and a half years he has been with his job. He refers to his supervisor as “…sour-faced, slave-driving, unforgiving bitch…”. He either yells at or ignores his children, at times he ignores his wife. In general he is a very self centered man, caring only about himself and how unfolding events affect him.

Looking past the main character, which admittedly is difficult to do, the actual premise is an interesting one. An unknown illness, passed from person to person by unknown means, is turning ordinary people in to rampaging killers. The afflicted person suddenly and without warning becomes ultra violent, attacking whomever is near – be they a stranger or a loved one. Those who are not accosted by the ill individual describe the person’s expression as one of great fear. This is a likely explanation for the suddenness of the attacks; if the person is struck by an overwhelming fear then they are likely to lash out.

Throughout the story small hints as to the illness’ origin are dropped. Some believe it to be a kind of government experiment gone awry and the few clues given seem to point in that direction. We are of course not given the answer just yet as this is only the first part of the story. I am sure the cause behind the epidemic will be revealed in subsequent books.

As I said above, Hater is a book with a unique take on the whole “zombie” epidemic. The execution however is poor. If one can get over how irritating the main character is, they could very well enjoy this book. Pick this one up with that in mind if you feel brave.