3 Chilling Books to Dive Into This Spring

If like me you’re fully vaccinated and eyeing the upcoming summer months as a means to finally escape the lockdown inferno we’ve all been living in – then you may have been wondering what books you should throw in your beach bag as you head off to the nearest beach or holiday. For horror fans – these three books are a perfect mixture of creepy and chilling. So slather on some sunscreen and pull out of these novels for a thrilling ride.

REDDER DAYS BY SUE RAINSFORD

Twins Anna and Adam live in an abandoned commune in a volatile landscape where they prepare for the world-ending event they believe is imminent. Adam keeps watch by day, Anna by night. They meet at dawn and dusk.

Their only companion is Koan, the commune’s former leader, who still exerts a malignant control over their daily rituals. But when one of the previous inhabitants returns, everything Anna and Adam thought they knew to be true is thrown into question.

THE UNWELCOME BY JACOB STEVEN MOHR

Kait’s volcanic temper has already scared most of her friends away, and a bad breakup with her college boyfriend Lutz has left her crippled by guilt and painful memories. So, when she learns that her best friend Alice is planning a three-day sabbatical in a secluded mountain cabin, Kait jumps at the chance to tag along, convinced that rekindling their fractured friendship is the key to fixing whatever’s breaking down inside of her. She should have known… Lutz would never let her go so easily. After a chance roadside meeting, Kait’s jealous ex-boyfriend pursues her into the foothills, revealing the monster under his skin for the first time: a body-snatching inhuman entity capable of assimilating and adopting the guise of any human host. Lutz is determined to prove his twisted love to Kait, even if it means carving his monument to his devotion in the pilfered flesh of her closest friends. Now, with miles of snow-hushed Appalachia between them and civilization, Kait must unite her friends against this horrifying threat, and learn to embrace her own inner monster, before the shadows of her past swallow up her life for good.

SUMMER SONS BY LEE MANDELA

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.

And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.

Which of these books are you looking forward to read?

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Book Review: My Name Is Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin

“I am a girl. I am a monster, too.”

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Release Date: October 12, 2021

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.

Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.

But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.

Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?

Grade: B-

Review:

Margaret Moore loves her Deck Five girls – every summer she goes to Marshall Naval School and the summer is the only time she feels alive. But something happened the year before with a boy and that has changed the dynamics of the new year. The writing is a lyrical punch in the gut – and ever since I read Foul Is Fair last year I fell instantly in love with Capin’s writing style. However, this novel didn’t keep me as engaged as her previous one. Not because I didn’t enjoy the story or the protagonist, because I did. And there’s a huge twist towards the middle of the novel, and maybe it’s because I anticipated the twist or maybe because the ending happened way too long after the twist that the novel began to feel a tad repetitive.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because once you know the twist, you’ll understand why there’s the repetitiveness to it. And yes, this novel too is filled with ferocious friendships and violent revenge, but I suppose since reading her previous novel that was far bloodier, I was expecting a bit more?

If this is your first time reading Capin, you may love this book more because it’s got a group of friends you will root for, a protagonist that is both relateable and someone you can feel empathy for, and again, the writing is both razor sharp and poetically beautiful. So there is much to love in this novel if you’re a new reader.

I recommend this book if you love feminist revenge stories with strong female friendships.

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Book Review: Snow White’s Shattered Coffin by Cynthia Pelayo

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Price: $17

Plot Summary:

Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery is the resting place of thousands of people, and as many myths and legends. When a little girl attends a funeral at the cemetery she discovers some myths and legends refuse to die, and will remain with you, like an infection, unless you can find an escape.

Grade: A

Review:

My obsession for fairytales began at a very young age (3 or 4) and since I was living in Sardinia as a child, it meant that the fairytale books I was read from weren’t Disney-fied but rather literal translations of the original Brother Grimms. Snow White was one of my faves because in the versions I had, the stepmother is forced to wear shoes with burning coals in her soles – and thus has to dance to keep her feet from burning – ultimately resulting in her dancing herself to death. The image is very horrific and if that weren’t gory enough the book’s artist provided an actual visual. Is it any surprise that I grew up being drawn towards the dark and the macabre?

In this collaboration with It Came From Beyond the Pulp, Cynthia Pelayo returns with another fairytale retelling – and you guessed it – this time she tackles Snow White.

The short story is loosely inspired by the legend surrounding Inez Clark, a young girl that died and is buried at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. The protagonist of the story finds herself becoming the victim of a curse when curiosity draws her towards the glass coffin of Inez. The coffin is littered with lady bugs (folklore stating that they bring good luck, but can also bring bad luck if you kill one). Much to the protagonist’s dismay she accidentally kills fifteen of them. This sparks Inez’s ire to start haunting the protagonist and having her befall horrendous things. The short story slowly builds up to the horror part, creating this suffocating sense of dread that hovers over the reader like a machete ready to strike. And when it strikes, it’s bloodshed.

The drawings that accompany the short story are Gothically horrific and capture the mood and horror found within its pages.

I recommend this book for all of those that love fairytale retellings and for those who love old school horror books that come with terrifying drawings that are just as nightmare-inducing as the story itself.

*Thank you so much to the author and It Came From Beyond the Pulp for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: Later by Stephen King

“Sometimes growing up, means facing your demons.”

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Publisher: Hard Case Crimes

Price: $9.62 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave. 
 
LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel ItLATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

Grade: C

Review:

It’s no secret Stephen King is a veteran when it comes to the craft of writing and being such means that he can spin any tale and make it seem effortless. His newest novel is in the series of Hard Case Crimes. A few years ago I read Joyland and enjoyed it very much. Later was part of the Night Worms Book Club subscription and since it was short I decided to quickly dive in.

The premise is very much The Sixth Sense – a young boy sees dead people and with it comes good and terrible things. King is a master storyteller so he quickly reels you in – but nothing too interesting happens in Later that hasn’t already been seen in previous King novels – along with giving the novel one of the most God-awful endings of all time.

Although not particularly original – the story was entertaining although it references so many of his past works. But what really soured the experience for me was the end. Just terrible. I could go into details but that’s something for another time. Maybe, later.

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Excerpt: “Boys of Summer” by Azzurra Nox

The Lost Boys has been my favourite movie ever since I watched it for the very first time at 8 years old. The film has everything I love – vampires, rock music, and a combo of humour and horror. In light of my adoration for The Lost Boys and the fact that I spent most of 2020 writing so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stresses of a global pandemic – I decided to write a short story inspired by The Lost Boy, entitled, “Boys of Summer.”

My only gripe about The Lost Boys was the fact that the whole movie had only TWO female characters – so in my take – I made women the protagonists while I sidelined the boys into the background.

Here’s an excerpt of that story – it drops today and can be found in Little Demon Digest Volume II. You can pick up a copy HERE.

I was halfway into the cave when the drugs finally hit, and I regretted my decision. The scent of mildew, seawater, and copper hit me smack in the face before I had a chance to see the carnage. Before I had an inkling of what was to become of me too. Bugs pirouetted as I tripped over a bone. The candles scattered throughout the cave gave me tiny glimpses of a world that up to that point I never realized existed. The boys behind me laughed, their teasing casual as though I hadn’t just fallen on the remains of a decaying corpse. I screamed as I tried to move away from the maggot-infested body but unable to because the older boy with the bleached mullet and leather trenchcoat placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

“They’re only worms, Ashley. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He laughed.

The others joined him. They were all in on the sick joke except me.

I blinked and saw that the body was gone and my hands weren’t dirty with blood as I thought. As the cave came into clearer view I realized that it was only seaweed tangled in my fingers and seasnails on a broken piece of surfboard ravaged by time.

The blond offered me his hand with a sheepish grin to remind me that they were just teasing. That I was in good company. That I was safe.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about all the vacant expressions of those girls whose photos were plastered all along the boardwalk. I was haunted by the words in bold hovering over their images, HAVE YOU SEEN ME? Only two weeks ago a crazed fan had shot and killed Rebecca Schaeffer, rising star of the popular sit-com My Sister Sam. Natalie and I would always watch the crazy adventures of Sam and Patti curled on the couch with Doritos and slurping Cherry Coke. A sudden dread overcame me as I saw myself as those boys saw me. Petite, lanky, unable to put up a good fight. My mouth felt dry as the aftertaste of chalk lingered on my tongue.

I know I shouldn’t have followed them there. Isolated from the rest of the world. And an isolated girl was always in danger. But I was aching for adventure. I yearned for a little thrill.

Standing up, I looked up at the blond’s unnaturally pale face.

“You never told me your name,” I whispered.

The other boys laughed and mocked me. “Go ahead, tell her your name.”

But he merely smiled without answering me. Instead, he handed me a jewel-encrusted bottle and said, “Drink.”

I knew that I shouldn’t have. But I was thirsty. Anything to rid myself of that awful taste. So I did as I was told.

The faint notes of Madonna’s hit song echoed in the night like a siren luring me back out into the world. Life is a mystery.

A misstep was made. I was never supposed to survive the night. Yet, I did. Life may be a mystery but there’s no greater mystery than death. Those who defy it are basically divine. Or possibly evil.

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Book Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

 

certaindarkthings

“We are our hunger.”

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Release Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $17.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?

Grade: A

Review:

I understand there was vampire fatigue when this novel was initially published and that’s a shame because Certain Dark Things resuscitates a very dead genre into something exciting and innovative. I love vampires, but I am highly selective when it comes to watching or reading about them.

First of all, I simply loved the fact that there were subspecies of vampires stemming from various cultures and mythologies in this novel.

The protagonist Atl is a vampire that’s descendent of the Aztec goddesses, meaning she’s a vampire that laso has bird-like wings and feeds with a stinger rather than fangs. What I loved about the novel is that although the vampire and human friend, Domingo have feelings for one another, the author never forgets what would truly happen between a vampire and human.

My fave character was a revenant called Bernardino that gives Domingo the best advice ever when it comes to dealing with vampires, “We are our hunger.” Meaning that vampires will kill you even if they love you because their hunger is stronger than their love.

This isn’t your typical vampire story, this book is packed with violence, loyalty, and what it means to truly love someone.

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves the undead and who wants a vampire story that isn’t the same old rehashed a thousand times.

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Book Excerpt: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Chapter Two

‘How long have we got until the tide comes in?’ Henley was facing the river watching the small waves crashing against the derelict pier. She checked her watch. Nearly two hours had passed since the first 999 call.

‘I checked online, and high tide is at 9.55 a.m.’ Ramouter replied as he stepped around a half-submerged car tire, his eyes glazed with anxiety. ‘Low tide was at 3.15. Sunrise was at 6.32. A three-hour window for someone to dump whoever this is and hope that someone would find it before the tide comes in?’

‘Maybe,’ Henley acknowledged. ‘But for all we know it could have been dumped after sunrise or was dumped earlier upstream before being washed up here.’ She inspected the glass façade of the Borthwick Wharf, empty commercial spaces and work units that opened to the terrace and lacked security cameras. Henley doubted that the local council would have extended their own CCTV cameras to this part of the street. They had been neglecting this part of Deptford for as long as she could remember.

‘Has it been touched?’ Henley asked Anthony who had appeared at her side.

‘As far as I’m aware, it’s in situ. It wasn’t touched by the woman who found it. Matei, your builder, said that he hadn’t touched the legs but unhelpfully, it’s covered in his vomit. I had a quick look at the arms that were found downstream before I came here. From the looks of things, the treasure hunters may have prodded around a bit.’

‘There’s always one.’

The wind dropped and the air softly crackled with the electricity generated from the substation nearby.

‘We’re isolating the recovery of evidence to the direct path from the alleyway to the torso,’ said Anthony. ‘I doubt very much that whoever it was sat here and had a coffee afterwards.’

‘They may not have had a coffee, but if we go with Ramouter’s theory and the body parts have been dumped then whoever it was certainly knows the river,’ Henley replied. ‘We’ll let you get on. Ramouter and I are going to take a walk.’

‘Where are we going?’ asked Ramouter.

‘To meet Eastwood.’

‘And you want to walk it?’

Henley did her best to push aside her frustration when Ramouter pulled out his phone. ‘Google maps says that Greenwich pier is almost a mile away,’ he said.

‘Your body-part dumper isn’t the only one who knows the river,’ Anthony shouted out as Henley began to walk determinedly along the riverbank.

The gold scepters on the twin domed roofs of the Old Royal Naval College pierced the cloudless sky. The bare masts of the restored Cutty Sark completed the historical panoramic view that Greenwich was known for. It was a resplendent, whitewashed version of history that contrasted with the sewage that washed ashore. Henley stopped walking when she realized that she could no longer hear the sounds of Ramouter’s leather soles slipping on wet pebbles.

‘Where are you from?’ Henley asked, waiting for Ramouter to take off his jacket and loosen his tie. She moved closer towards the moss-covered river wall as the tide began to encroach.

‘Born in West Bromwich. Moved to Bradford when I was twelve.’ Ramouter tried to brush off the bits of mud that had stuck to his trousers, but they only smeared more. ‘Lots of moors, no rivers. Surely it would have been quicker in the car.’

‘This is quicker. Unless you fancy sitting in traffic for the next half hour while they raise the Creek Road Bridge.’

‘You know this area well?’

Henley ignored the question. She didn’t see the point in telling him that she could have walked this path with her eyes closed. That this small part of South-East London was ingrained in her. ‘Whoever dumped the torso would have taken this route. It doesn’t make any sense to come down here, go back up to the street level and then drive up to Watergate Street. Out of sight, below street level. Lighting would have been minimal.’

‘Body parts are heavy though,’ Ramouter tried to quicken his step to catch up with Henley. ‘The human head weighs at least eight pounds.’

‘I know.’ Henley pulled out her mobile phone, which had started to ring. She saw who it was and ignored the call.

‘Head, torso, arms, legs. That’s at least six individual body parts.’

‘I know that also. So, tell me, what point are you making?’ Henley waited for Ramouter to reach her before maneuvering him towards the river wall as though she was chaperoning a child.

‘I’m just saying that that’s a lot of dead weight to be carrying around at three in morning.’ Ramouter paused and placed his hand against the wall, trying to catch his breath.

Henley didn’t openly express her agreement. She fished out a black hair band from her jacket pocket and pulled her thick black curls into a ponytail. She had forgotten how much energy it took to walk across the gradient slope of the riverbank. Worse, she felt mentally unprepared for the job ahead, with a trainee struggling behind her who had no idea this was her first time as senior investigator in almost a year.

‘It’s a bit grim, isn’t it?’ DC Roxanne Eastwood shouted out as Henley finally reached the first crime scene. ‘Morning, Ramouter. Not a bad gig for your first day.’

Henley had always thought that Eastwood actually looked and carried herself like a detective. Now, Eastwood was poised on the riverbank, the sleeves of her jacket rolled up with her notebook in her hand. She had come prepared for the river and was wearing a pair of jeans and trainers that had seen better days.

‘Morning, Eastie. How does it feel to be out of the office?’ Henley asked, her eyes drifting to a crime scene investigator who was putting an arm into a black bag.

‘I should be asking you that,’ said Eastwood, with a look of concern.

Henley silently appreciated the empathy and placed her hand on Eastwood’s shoulder.

‘But since you asked, it’s bloody terrible. I think I’ve got sunburn.’ Eastwood rubbed a hand over her reddening forehead. ‘Forensics are going to be wrapping up in a bit. Not that there’s much for them to do. Bag it and tag it.’

‘Where’s Mr Thomas?’

‘Ah, our illustrious treasure hunter. Last time I saw him he was heading towards the shops. Said that he needed to get some water for his dog.’ Eastwood shook her head, obviously not believing a word of it. ‘I’ve got an officer keeping an eye on him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d already uploaded pictures of his find onto Instagram.’

‘I want him taken back to the station. Ramouter can take another statement from him.’ Henley said it purposely so that Ramouter would sense she was in control. ‘If he’s like most mudlarkers, he would have been out here first thing this morning waiting for the tide to go out. Where exactly were the arms found?’

‘Just over there.’ Eastwood pulled down her sunglasses and pointed towards the foamed waves created by a passing river bus. The tide had already come in where X had once marked the spot. A sense of urgency filled the air as the river regained its territory.

‘Did he say anything else?’

‘Only that he found the second arm about three feet away from the first.’

‘It’s a sick trail of breadcrumbs,’ said Henley.

‘You’re telling me and before you ask about CCTV, there’re loads of cameras—’

‘But none aimed at this part of the river.’

‘Exactly.’

Henley’s mobile phone began to ring. She pulled it out and answered. After a quick chat, she ended the call.

‘That was Dr Linh Choi. You wouldn’t have met her yet but she’s our go-to forensic pathologist. She’s just arrived,’ Henley explained to Ramouter. She wiped away the sweat from the back of her neck.

‘So, we’ve got two arms, both legs and a torso,’ said Ramouter. ‘Where’s the head?’

Good question. Henley thought of the places between the two locations. A primary school, two nurseries and an adventure playground among the flats and houses. The last thing she needed was to find a head in the kids’ sandpit.

‘Can I have a quick look?’ Henley asked the assistant from Anthony’s CSI team, who had just bagged up the arm and was scribbling in her notebook.

‘Sure.’ The assistant unzipped the bag and pushed the plastic apart.

‘Fuck,’ Henley said under her breath. Her heartbeat quickened, her stomach flipped.

‘Oh,’ said Ramouter as he peered over Henley’s shoulder. One arm was covered with gravel. Slivers of seaweed criss-crossed old scars. The second arm. Slender wrist, the ring finger slightly longer than the index, broken fingernails. Black skin. Henley could hear Pellacia’s words from earlier ringing in her ears.

‘Too early to say if it belongs to the same victim or if it’s more than just one.’

‘Call DSI Pellacia,’ Henley told Ramouter. ‘Tell him that we’ve got two possible murder victims.’

Excerpted from The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson, Copyright © 2021 by Nadine Matheson

Published by Hanover Square Press

PURCHASE BOOK HERE

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Books to Read During Black History Month & Women in Horror Month

Since both Black History Month and Women in Horror Month coincide in February, I thought that I’d incorporate both in this blog post. I’ve decided to focus on these two authors because I haven’t seen them on any recent lists and I’ve made similar posts in the past and don’t wish to repeat myself in recommending the same books over and over.

These two novels in particular (but I totally recommend checking out their other books as well!) showcase creepy dread and extraordinary talent.

WHITE IS FOR WITCHING BY HELEN OYEYEMI

There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies.

DEVIL INSIDE BY KENYA MOSS-DYME

Kenya Moss-Dyme presents a page-turner about a young woman’s harrowing journey through cancer treatment at the hands of a beguiling nurse who gives her more than the normal care. The tormented patient morphs into something unrecognizable, as the mystery unravels and she unleashes a surprise of her own for the twisted nurse upon her return.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE BLACK FEMALE HORROR AUTHORS? LET ME KNOW!

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Book Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Some ghosts simply cannot rest….

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Release Date: October 9, 2021

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $19.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly taking the classic haunted house story and turning it on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions.

Grade: C-

Review:

I was truly anticipating this novella sine it has everything that I simply adore in horror, creepy vengeful ghosts, characters that love the macabre, and it was set in Japan, one of my fave countries. The premise of the novella was also intriguing, a girl Cat, reunites with her friends for a wedding that will take place in a haunted Heian-era mansion. And let’s not forget that with such an incredibly frightening book cover, who wouldn’t be expecting to be scared shitless, right?

Now, my issue with the novella is the excessive purple prose that was interjected throughout the whole novella. Some of the writing was beautiful, but some of it was simply too over the top that a lot of times I had to reread to know exactly what was going on, and therein lies the issue, in a horror novella you want the action to be evident, not up to interpretation!

My second issue with the novella was that all of the characters seemed to have had some past romantic connections to one another, and while that isn’t unusual is a group of young friends, it seemed really odd that every single dude had slept with one girl and so everyone had underlying resentment towards one another.

The ending was very B-rated horror movie and maybe I’d enjoy this novella more if it had been a B-rated horror movie (because I enjoy those as mindless entertainment) but what works as a bad horror movie usually doesn’t work for a book and that’s why I couldn’t enjoy it.

I know many reviewers DID enjoy this book and I’m not discouraging others from checking it out, but I must be honest about how I felt about it and for me it’s a pass.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Excerpt: “Of Guys And Dolls” by Stella B. James From Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology

True to my word, I leave the closet alone. Despite the various hats that fall on me when I move a hanger, or a random photo box that spills out at my feet, I don’t rearrange anything. I tackle under the bed instead.

With my long hair braided to the side to keep it out of the way, I lay flat on my belly to army crawl half way under and pull everything out. Balled up dresses, scraps of torn paper, an old pair of sneakers, and about five shoe boxes full of cards and letters find their way to freedom.

I leave those alone, wondering why she would stash them instead of throwing them away. I find a bigger box last, one meant for boots maybe, and back away to pull it out.

Opening the top reveals a bunch of weird looking homemade dolls. Thirteen of them total. Each of them looks different, but familiar all the same. I run my fingers over their stiff hair and rough bodies, trying to place the name for these things. Turning them over, I notice they have names stitched to them. The red haired one I’m holding is named Carla.

Carla. Carla. Oh, her friend. I find the scrapbook and match each obituary to a doll. Maybe she made these of them? It’s kind of sweet to preserve their memory in this way. Strange, and sad, but sweet. Only one of them doesn’t have a name yet and it also lacks any personal touches.

“I see you found my dolls.” Katy doesn’t look mad, but not too pleased either.

“They match your friends. Did you make them?”

She shrugs, handing me a coffee. “Kind of. I buy them in the French Quarter and finish them up the way I like.”

“Who is this?” I ask, holding up the plain one.

“Not sure yet. Guess it will have to be a surprise.” She sits down beside me, picking up a random doll.

I try to listen to how she fixes up each one, but I can’t stop the cold chill setting in my bones at her last remark.

It’s the last week of July that Katy finds me at the kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle. Something plops on the paper before me, and I recognize it as one of her dolls. It’s wearing a red dress and has long blonde hair, braided to the side. I finger my own braid as I look down at it.

“Is that me?”

“Sure is. I worked on her all week. Figured it would be a nice surprise since you’re heading back to Baton Rouge next week.”

Her sad tone catches me off guard, and I hold the doll to my chest. “You know I have to go back. I have to get my classroom ready and my apartment’s renovations were finished days ago.”

“I know.” She huffs out in frustration and takes the doll back, smoothing out its silky dress. “I’ll just miss you is all. I’ll keep her safe until you leave.”

Ted slams the door upon arriving home, barking out Katy’s name, and I excuse myself for a walk. I’m not in the mood to hear them fight. I don’t think I can stomach the guilt I’ll feel. I wish Katy would just pack up and leave with me.

I like Ted. He’s a good man.

Just not for her.

***

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