Book Review: My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

“Some girls just don’t know how to die….”

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Release Date: August 31, 2021

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press

Price: $17.29 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

Grade: A+

Review:

The book opens with a very dark and creepy prologue – but I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about the two foreign tourists and was happy to meet the actual protagonist, Jade Daniels. Now Jade is everything a horror lover as myself loves, in fact had we been in high school together we would’ve had slasher sleepover parties. Jade is cool in the way that girls that love gore are – meaning her styling choices are questionable, her social skills nonexistent except when she’s spouting slasher speak and slasher trivia – and honestly I ADORE HER FOR IT.

We follow Jade – a recent high school graduate as she slowly begins to believe that a slasher film is unfolding in her very town. This convinces her to see beautiful rich girl Letha Mondragon as a potential final girl – and ultimate savior. For a slasher fan as myself I reveled in the slasher speak and pop culture references. I know many have mentioned this in other reviews, but the only fault this novel has is that it’s a slow burn.

Honestly, if Jade weren’t such a compelling character I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed the journey so much but Jade is a total badass and I know that Jones’ delivers when it comes to horror and gore – so I patiently waited for the bloodbath. To say that Jones’ doesn’t disappoint is an understatement – if this were a movie, Jones’ budget would’ve blown just on the fake blood expense because there is SO MUCH OF IT & I AM HERE FOR IT. I mean, I directed a short where we used almost ten gallons of corn syrup, because I literally wanted to be drenched in it. And by the time you’re finished reading the gory, batshit crazy final pages you’re going to feel like you just waded in ten gallons of blood too.

Don’t walk but RUN to buy this book if you’re a fan of all 70’s & 80’s slasher flicks, cause you will LOVE this. Also, have I mentioned how awesomely badass Jade is? Go on, you know you want to get to know her! This book is fucking brutal and a wild ride.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Gallery/Saga Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Highlight: The Case of the Murderous Mr. Cream by Dean Jobb


“A tour de force of storytelling. One of the best books I’ve read this year. Dean Jobb breathes new life into Cream’s victims—who they were, where and how they lived—all the while blending in thorny issues of policing, of the fictional detectives being created, of the other serial killers on the loose. This book is both chilling and thrilling.” —Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Gamache series


”When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals,” Sherlock Holmes observed during one of his most baffling investigations. “He has nerve and he has knowledge.” In the span of fifteen years, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream murdered as many as ten people in the United States, Britain, and Canada, a death toll with almost no precedent. Poison was his weapon of choice. Largely forgotten today, this villain was as brazen as the notorious Jack the Ripper.

Structured around the doctor’s London murder trial in 1892, when he was finally brought to justice, 
The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream exposes the blind trust given to medical practitioners, as well as the flawed detection methods, bungled investigations, corrupt officials, and stifling morality of Victorian society that allowed Dr. Cream to prey on vulnerable and desperate women, many of whom had turned to him for medical help.

Dean Jobb transports readers to the late nineteenth century as Scotland Yard traces Dr. Cream’s life through Canada and Chicago and finally to London, where new investigative tools called forensics were just coming into use, even as most police departments still scoffed at using science to solve crimes. But then, most investigators could hardly imagine that serial killers existed—the term was unknown. As the Chicago Tribune wrote, Dr. Cream’s crimes marked the emergence of a new breed of killer: one who operated without motive or remorse, who “murdered simply for the sake of murder.” For fans of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, all things Sherlock Holmes, or the podcast  My Favorite MurderThe Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream is an unforgettable true crime story a master of the genre.

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Coming Soon! & Cover Reveal: Vicious Traditions – Tales of Terror and the Grotesque

After focusing my attention on multi-author anthologies for the past few years, I’ve decided to take a break from that and release a collection of my own short stories.

Most of the stories are new, although there may be a couple that have been previously published in other anthologies.

The stories you’ll find in this collection range from various degrees of dark, twisted, and speculative horror.

If you love vampire, witches, ghosts, and werewolves with a new fresh twist on old tropes, then you might enjoy the stories in Vicious Traditions.

VICIOUS TRADITIONS is due February 1, 2022.

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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: 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 Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Some ghosts simply cannot rest….

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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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Book Review: Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

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Release Date: January 26, 2021

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

All Bram wanted was to disappear–from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion.

But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew–and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored.

The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home.

The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll be honest, I was tempted to DNF this book because it was sort of slow moving and it wasn’t really compelling until 40% in the book and then BAM did the novel really shift its gears and started to become unputdownable! I love the book Rebecca and this book was advertised as a retelling of sorts loaded with snowy creepiness and mystery. I must say that I started to like the protagonist Bram way better once we got a chance to really know her better. I really couldn’t tell where the story was going and that’s good! I like the element of surprise and figuring things out alongside the protagonist.

I love that we as readers, just like the protagonist, are wary of all the characters we encounter, because it gives you this feeling that nothing is sacred and you can’t trust anyone. I must say that I really enjoyed this book a lot and am glad that I went against my initial feelings to put it down, and decided to give it a chance.

This book is ideal for readers who love twisty thriller/mysteries or Gothic influenced thrillers with unrealible side characters.

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

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Book Review: Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.

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Release Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Scribner

Price: $14.40 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Grade: A-

Review:

This book had Under the Skin vibes, and that was exactly why I chose to read it. If you can’t handle brutal acts of violence, then this book won’t be for you. But if you love dystopian societies then you may want to check this one out. We’re introduced to Marcos, who’s in the business of slaughtering humans ever since a virus has contaminated all the animals and can no longer provide humans the protein they once did. In fact, in this new world, all animals have been destroyed, and the world is silent. Marcos is still reeling from his son’s death, and only continues to work at the slaughterhouse because it’s what he’s best at, and needs the money to keep his dad who’s afflicted with dementia in a retirement home. But, he’s never consumed the new “special meat” himself. In fact, when he’s gifted a female head (as humans that are raised to be livestock are called), he begins to see her humanity.

This book can be triggering for some people (especially if you hate violence directed towards animals and can’t stomach descriptions of people eating humans). I enjoyed the book (although enjoyed probably isn’t the right term cause that’s going to make me sound like a sociopath), but I did like that the author pushed boundaries and made you question what exactly makes us decide that certain animals are deemed worthy of consuming and which ones are considered worth saving.

This is a brutal book, read it if you can deal with violence and triggering events, or you enjoyed Under the Skin.

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

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Book Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

Welcome to The Unity Project.

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Release Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone. But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Grade: A

Review:

The new publishing trend for 2021 must be cults, as a lot of novels with this theme are going to be released next year. But no one will deliver you a more chilling experience than Courtney Summers. This author is notorious for never having a happy ending and pulling all the punches. When you read a Courtney Summers novel you know you’re going into it with the notion that you will be emotionally wrecked once you get to the end. The Unity Project is much on par on delivering exactly that.

Lo has lost her sister, Bea, to the cult of The Unity Project headed by a very charismatic Lev Warren. Lo lost her parents due to a car accident, in which she was also a passenger in. Bea is convinced that Lev brought Lo back to life, and this begins her fascination and loyalty to the man and his visions. Lo, blames Lev for taking her sister away from her when she needed her most, and is hellbent on exposing The Unity Project for what they really are. But what if Lo is wrong?

This novel will have you question whether Lev is really the evil mastermind that Lo is convinced he is, mostly because from the moment we meet him, he’s described with very Jesus-like qualities of acceptance and compassion. But this being a Courtney Summers novel, we know that the horror will come, and when it will, it’ll be brutal. Without being spoiler-y, this novel is an emotional rollercoaster where you begin to question who to trust. If you’re going to read one book about cults, make it this one, as it had everything I’ve wanted and expected from a book about cults, a charismatic leader and some very disturbing scenes, but also perfectly depicting how anyone, even intelligent people can get sucked into cults.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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