Book Review: We Are Wolves – A Horror Anthology

Once upon a time, there was a woman, and she was tired.

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Release Date: December 4, 2020

Publisher: Burial Day Books

Price: $13.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Tired of pushing. Tired of being pushed. Tired of feeling alone. Tired of so much.

So she gathered together a pack of wolves, a band of mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, partners, friends, lovers, survivors, victors and brilliant, shining things, and she told them to sing.

And sing they did.

Grade: A-

Review:

From the very beginning this anthology packs a punch. Gemma Amor’s introduction is both brutally honest and harrowing but gives the reader insight into what they’re going to expect from the stories found within this anthology. Many new talents from the horror community are found within its pages, and if you follow the new voices, you’ll be pleased by what they have to offer. The stories range from murder, revenge, sci-fi, and body horror, but what they all have in common is the will of the protagonists to rise above their adversaries and take hold of their narrative. I really enjoyed this collection and the proceeds of the sales go to charities involving survivors of sexual assault and abuse, so essentially it’s a win-win situation.

Standouts: The Black Wall Paper by Cynthia Pelayo, Though Your Heart is Breaking by Laurel Hightower, Angel by Gemma Amor, A Key For Any Lock by S.H. Cooper, and Doll House by Red Lagoe.

I recommend picking this book up if you’re a fan of horror and women-driven stories, you won’t be disappointed.

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Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

“Let me tell you something….there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”

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Release Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $15.29 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in. 
 
Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.

Grade: B+

Review:

Vampires are hands down, my favourite undead creature there are. But because they’re my favourite, I also tend to be very picky when it comes to books or films that feature them. If I hadn’t previously read Grady Hendrix before and thoroughly enjoyed his books, I probably wouldn’t have given this one a chance, simply because I am that picky with the vampire genre. However, I am glad that I dove into this vampire novel, as I loved the crazy journey. The horror doesn’t immediately begin, and James Harris is a very enigmatic but handsome vampire. Perhaps it’s because the novel begins in the 80’s but I got a very Fright Night vibe from it. I do like the protagonist Patricia, a housewife and voracious reader of true crime novels. I know a lot of people have complained about the women in the novel being housewives and that Hendrix shouldn’t have written them as though it were the 1950’s. But…having grown up in the 80’s, I can only think of one mother I knew of what worked, all of my other friends’ mothers were housewives as well as my own mother. So for me, that part didn’t seem that far-fetched from reality.

If you’re read other Hendrix novels, then you’ll know he’s got a morbid fetish with rats causing havoc and blood. The book spans many years (it ends in the late 90’s). My only issue with it, is that the vampire per se, isn’t very visible. Sure, the protagonist obsesses about him (she’s convinced he’s a vampire but knows how absurd that notion is to share with her family and friends), but after the initial introduction, we rarely have moments with James Harris, and that’s a shame, because in the very beginning he was charming and interesting and I would’ve liked to have known more about him.

The only downfall the novel had was when the women banded together to take down the vampire. In some regards, the vampire appeared almost a weakling that the reader can’t help but think, if it was THAT easy to take him down, why didn’t they do it before?

Apart from that, the novel provided an interesting take of the genre, but I can’t say it’s my favourite vampire novel.

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Book Review: The Remaking by Clay Chapman

Inspired by a true story, this supernatural thriller for fans of horror and true crime follows a tale as it evolves every twenty years—with terrifying results.

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Release Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $9.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter, Jessica, are shunned by her upper-crust family and the local residents. Privately, desperate characters visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, Ella Louise and Jessica are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.

Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his childhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt.

Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again . . .

Grade: B

Review:

The novel starts off with an exciting premise, two witches, a mother and a daughter duo are burned after a herbal remedy gone wrong and endangers the life of one of the villagers. Now, the town of Pilot’s Creek, Virginia is haunted by the ghosts of these two witches. The novel begins to be very repetitive when it introduces us to Amber Pendleton, the young girl that is going to play Jessica Ford’s ghost in the making of the horror movie, Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave. Initially, I found the repetition annoying, but once I realized that the author was purposely using repetition as a means to express the spiraled cycle that began with the witches and continues with Amber even as an adult, it made artistically sense and I wasn’t as annoyed by it. The author was trying to create the feeling of an ouroboros with the cycle going on and on, without a break.

I really enjoyed the first few chapters when we get to know Ella Louise Ford and Jessica Ford, the two witches. I love urban legends, so a town that is haunted by this legend (whether it’s true or not) was really fascinating. I also enjoyed the social commentary the author made about child stars and actresses in horror films.

Overall, this was a spirally horrific ride that’s just what anyone needs right now for the Halloween season.

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

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Book Excerpt: “Baby Teeth” from Midnight in the Pentagram

“I had to do it,” I say. “I had no choice.” I pick at a hangnail, watch the blood pool beneath my thumb and press it against my mouth to suck on the blood. The taste of copper comforts me as I try to ignore an itch at the center of my palm. I adjust myself on the seat, although the handcuff on my right-hand keeps me tethered to the chair.

“I know you’ve said this before, Melissa. But I’m finding it difficult to understand.” The prison psychiatrist stares at me over her black rim glasses. Her dark hair is pulled back in a tight bun at the base of her neck. She sighs, tapping the pencil against her notebook, reading over the arresting officer’s scribbled notes about me. “It says here that you killed your daughter.”

“You’re not listening to me. I had to do it.” My voice is cold, unfeeling. Ana wasn’t my daughter. At least, not anymore. Something had taken possession of her. Something evil.

***

Excerpt of my short story, “Baby Teeth” out today in Midnight in the Pentagram, out NOW!

The other amazing authors:
Brian Keene
Graham Masterton
Jason Parent
Catherine Cavendish
James Newman
Tim Curran
Allan Leverone
PD Cacek
Todd Keisling
William Meikle
Chad Lutzke
Laurel Hightower
Owl Goingback
Tony Tremblay
Tim Meyer
Shannon Felton
Brian Moreland
Kenneth W. Cain
Armand Rosamilia
Charlotte Platt
Wesley Southard
JG Faherty
John Quick
Edward M Erdelac
Cameron Ulam
Kenneth McKinley
Michael Patrick Hicks
Bob Ford
Mark Towse
Mark Steensland
Amanda Niehaus-Hard

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Coming Soon: Baby Teeth in Midnight in the Pentagram

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2020 has been both the best of times and the worst of times for me. Oddly enough, it’s been a most fortuitous year in regards to my writing. I signed two new contracts for short stories, have a short story coming out in June, and Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology had the best sales ever. The worst of times, of course, refers to all of us having to deal with a global pandemic and all the stress and worry that comes along with that.

Not to dismiss a serious topic aside, I do wish to focus on the positives. And one of the best thing that has happened this year so far is having my short story, Baby Teeth selected for the anthology Midnight in the Pentagram published by Silver Shamrock Publishing. These guys are total badasses when it comes to horror publications so I was over the moon at being selected.

Baby Teeth is the story of a young mother, Melissa, who begins to feel that there’s something seriously amiss with her new baby. I was slightly inspired by Rosemary’s Baby, but I was also fascinated with the notion of, what part is real and what part is merely Melissa suffering from post-partum depression?

It’s one hell of a twisted, scary treat and I’m looking forward to all of you getting a chance to read it soon. As of right now, I don’t have any official release dates, but I’m hoping for a Fall 2020 release as it seems the most appropriate.

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Book Review: Lullabies for the Suffering: Tales of Addiction Horror

suffering

Release Date: January 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Price: $14.95 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Addiction starts like a sweet lullaby sung by a trusted loved one. It washes away the pains of the day and wraps you in the warmness of the womb where nothing hurts and every dream is possible. Yet soon enough, this warm state of bliss becomes a cold shiver, the ecstasy and dreams become nightmares, yet we can’t stop listening to the lullaby. We crave to hear the siren song as it rips us apart.

Six stories: three novellas, three novelettes, written by a powerful list of talent, all featuring the insidious nature of addiction–damaged humans craving for highs and wholeness but finding something more tragic and horrific on the other side.

Grade: B+

Review:

First of all, I’m going to admit that I absolutely LOVE how hauntingly beautiful the cover is. I would’ve noticed this anthology for the cover alone. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of the TV Series YOU, so knowing that Caroline Kepnes contributed to the anthology gave me the extra push I needed to pick it up.

All the stories in this anthology center around addition (something they’re drug-related other times it’s the addiction to something else that’s just as decremental to your health and turns you a slave). Most of the stories written for the anthology aren’t truly short stories but verge on the novella length, which I didn’t mind at all. With any anthology, there were some gems and some misses for me. Unfortunately, the anthology started off truly strong with “Sometimes They See Me,” by Kealan Patrick Burke, which is a tale about two addict and their crazy benders. There’s something truly haunting about it and one that will leave you questioning any painting or wallpaper you ever see again.

“Monsters” by Caroline Krepnes follows the same writing style as YOU (writing in the second person) at least when the story is narrated by a lonely young man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. I really enjoyed the story, but despite the narrator having been wronged, I still feel like he had very much Joe-vibes going on.

My absolute favourite story from the whole anthology was “Lizard” by Mark Matthews. It had everything I looked for in a horror addiction story. It showed the horrors of true addiction but it also had supernatural elements to it that I enjoyed very much. Also, it ends in a very ambiguous way ala “The Lady or the Tiger” where you’re left questioning what decision did the protagonist makes after all?

“The Melting Point of Meat” by John FD Taff started off very strong for me, but kind of took a Clive Barker turn towards the end that I wasn’t a fan of. I would’ve enjoyed this story better if it had another ending.

After that story, the anthology started going downhill for me. I didn’t particularly enjoy “Beyond the Reef” Gabino Iglesias nor “Love is a Crematorium” by Mercedes M. Yardley. I know that addiction usually ends with the addict’s death, however, Yardley’s story was more real-life horror than anything else. It was truly gut-wrenching but I suppose I was still waiting for horror (as in psychological, supernatural, or slasher) to happen. And I had a HUGE issue with the male protagonist Kelly, whom we’re supposed to see as some kind of Romeo, but honestly, he seemed perfectly OKAY allowing Joy (the girl he loved) to prostitute herself for food money. I don’t understand why he never tried to resolve their lack of cash problem or actually be of help rather than just be there but not really doing anything for Joy. I wouldn’t have run away with this dude, he really provided no resource at all, not even emotional support.

I recommend this anthology if you’re into tales of addiction with a dash of darkness.

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Excerpts from: Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology

Strange Girls - High Resolution

In five weeks, Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology will drop just in time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. The stories found within this anthology are very diverse. They range from slasher, psychological horror, sci-fi horror, Gothic, mythological, thriller, and speculative. But the common ground is that the girls presented in the anthology are all uniquely strange in their own ways with elements of horror.

If you’re a reviewer on NetGalley, the book is currently there for you to pick up in exchange for a review. For the rest of you, here’s a small sample of what sort of stories you’re bound to come across in the book:

Excerpt from “Tribal Influence” by Erica Ruhe

“Por favor! You don’t understand,” the terrified mother pleaded in Spanish. “My daughter needs special care. Only I can look after her.”
A guard stood stone-faced on the other side of the open chain link gate.
“Ma’am, the child needs to come with me.” He gestured the girl forward. “Vamos, chica.”
“Mama?” The little girl’s dark brown eyes grew wide. Her father stepped in front of his wife and child.
“No!” he demanded. “My daughter is staying with us.”
The overflowing detainment center hummed with apprehension. Confused conversation and the shuffling of feet hung heavy under the musty weight of acrid sweat and fear.
“Por favor, she is a very special girl,” the mother continued. “You must let me stay with her.”
The guard pulled out his baton.
“Sir, step aside. Ma’am—”
“My daughter needs me.” Tears rolled down the mother’s cheeks. “Por favor, let us stay together!”
“Hey!” An impatient supervisor called across the imprisoned throng of immigrants. “What’s the hold up, Sam? We gotta keep these cattle moving!”
“My daughter is not going anywhere,” the father insisted.
“Listen to me!” The guard pointed his baton at the young Guatemalan family. “Escúchame! Tu hija viene conmigo.”
“No, Mama!” the little girl clutched her mother’s neck. “No, Mama! No, no, no!”
The mother began to shake.
“Shh, shh, my love,” she cooed, suddenly sinking to her knees. A strange vacancy filled her face as the blood drained out of her cheeks.
“Mama!” the girl wept.
“Last warning.” The guard pushed the father aside with his baton. “Mueve tu culo.”
“Mama!”
But the father stepped in again, this time turning to his girls.
“Joaquina?” the father asked, tension in his voice. “Joaquina?”
“Enough dicking around!” the guard shoved the father aside. “C’mon!”
He grabbed the mother’s arm but he faltered and gasped.
“Let her go!” the father cried out. “Let her go!”
“What the hell?” the guard yelled, holding up a shaking hand to his face. “What the fuck is happening?”
The mother looked up from her crying child, tears trembling on the rims of her eyelids. She gazed in to the guard’s eyes with an eerie stillness.
“I can’t stop it,” she whispered.
“Sam?” the supervisor called, concerned.
The guard suddenly spasmed, as if stung. He grabbed his heart. Eyes rolled back. Jaw snapped wide. And in the next instant, his terrified scream consumed him.

Excerpt from “Sideshow” by Jude Reid

His tongue is in her mouth again.

Against her back, she can feel the fabric of the tent, the wet canvas smell mixing with the taste of ketchup and soda and Juicy Fruit gum. Her right hand is closed around a guy-rope; her left, for want of anywhere else to put it, is on Richie’s belt. He has taken hold of her right breast and is squeezing it rhythmically and not especially gently. This is your fault, she thinks to herself, eyes closed and mouth open. You didn’t say no.

The tongue retracts back into his mouth, slick, fat and slug-like. She imagines it leaving a trail of thick mucus behind itself, and her stomach lurches at the thought, sending a tide of acid rushing into her mouth. Her own tongue flicks out and runs across her lower lip, as if it were possible to lick away every trace he had left behind.

Excerpt from “The Girl Who Never Stopped Bleeding” by Sam Lauren

Barb washed her panties in the bathroom sink between classes and the water ran pink. It stained her nails. She scrubbed them with hand soap and course paper towels but they never came clean. Neither did the panties.

It was her first time. Some of us knew how she felt. We didn’t give her advice; we teased her as if we didn’t have folded bits of toilet paper stuffed between our linens and our aching, leaking bodies.

By the fifth day everyone knew. Boys wouldn’t touch her. Girls claimed to smell her from lockers away.

The Bible says a bleeding woman is unclean. We thought it was funny, a myth, a lie told by parents to make kids remain chaste. It didn’t prepare us for Barb.

Two weeks in she killed a plant. We can’t prove it but they both sat by the window, wilting in their own filth. The plant hadn’t changed its dirt. She hadn’t changed her panties. Some say she touched the stem of the flower, turned it toward the light, but others say it died just from being near her.

A month later she was still scrubbing her panties after every bell.

Strange Girls: Women in Horror Anthology drops February 18, 2020 but is available for pre-order!

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Book Review: Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk

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You don’t read the book. It reads you. 

Release Date: March 14, 2019

Purchase on Amazon

Price: $11.91 (paperback)

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

Plot Summary:

Rumors of a deadly book have been floating around the dark corners of the deep web. A disturbing tale about a mysterious figure who preys on those who read the book and subjects them to a world of personalized terror.

Jesse Wheeler―former guitarist of the heavy metal group The Rising Dead―was quick to discount the ominous folklore associated with the book. It takes more than some urban legend to frighten him. Hell, reality is scary enough. Seven years ago his greatest responsibility was the nightly guitar solo. Then one night when Jesse was blackout drunk, he accidentally injured his son, leaving him permanently disabled. Dreams of being a rock star died when he destroyed his son’s future. Now he cuts radio jingles and fights to stay clean.

But Jesse is wrong. The legend is real―and tonight he will become the protagonist in an elaborate scheme specifically tailored to prey on his fears and resurrect the ghosts from his past. Jesse is not the only one in danger, however. By reading the book, you have volunteered to participate in the author’s deadly game, with every page drawing you closer to your own personalized nightmare. The real horror doesn’t begin until you reach the end.

That’s when the evil comes for you.

Grade: A

Review:

Let me start off this review by saying that this book is creepy. But not creepy in the slow burn atmospheric way that The Exorcism of Emily Rose was (or A Head full of Ghosts at its best before the dismal downfall of an ending), but rather it’s creepy in the way that only Rob Zombie and Eli Roth movies know how to be. Meaning, we’re creeped out because we can envision these horrors happening to us, and we squirm and wish that we could do something to save the protagonist. And yet, we’re also kinda worried for our well being, after all the book is about a cursed book, and the cursed book in question is the one you’re holding in your hands right now. Don’t have chills yet?

Now, if you’re not a fan of Rob Zombie films, I can see how this may not be the kind of horror book for you. This book was very much reminiscent of Zombie’s newest film, 31, with its bizarro villains, and the location of being enclosed in one of the creepiest mansions known to man.

I’m not sure why I have a penchant for has-been rock star stories (of any genre), but when it’s combined with a cursed book, it just amps up the interest level for me. This book has you questioning everything and everybody, but mostly it will leave you wondering who are the real monsters, the others? Or yourself?

Must read for those who love strange, gory tales with a writing style of an enraged demon on speed.

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

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My American Nightmare – Giveaway & Book Launch!

My American Nightmare 2

October had me uber busy between Halloween events (I was at a new event every weekend cause I LOVE Halloween) and launching my horror anthology MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY.

This anthology is a bit of a passion project where I selected short stories from a vast amount of entries to bring readers the very best of horror (and all the nuances of the genre) and incredible new voices that I wish to showcase.

For two weeks now the book has been featured on Amazon’s bestselling list in short stories, and I couldn’t be more proud of these ladies that helped my dream of compiling an anthology come true!

So support women writers by purchasing a copy of the book: HERE (or if you have Amazon Kindle Unlimited you can read the book for FREE!).

ALSO: Don’t forget to enter the giveaway I have for my book launch HERE (where you have a chance to win a $15 Amazon Giftcard & amazing book themed swag!)

P.S. For a limited time my book DOLL PARTS: Tales of Twisted Love is being offered FREE HERE!

By: Azzurra Nox

Launching a New Weekly Series & Other News

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Happy October! This is my favourite month of the year!

I’m going to be launching a new weekly series (I’ll still write reviews or tutorials once a week) but in lieu of “Throwback Thursday” I’ve decided to start a series called “My Bad Romance” where I share stories about the people I’ve loved, lusted after, been crushed by, and inspired by. I’m gonna try to keep these stories in chronological order for better clarity.

My first ever giveaway is happening right NOW: So mosey on over to the previous post for more details on how to enter and what amazing beauty products you may have a chance of winning. Did I also mention that this giveaway is WORLDWIDE? Cause it totally is.

I feel as though I don’t follow enough blogs and that’s entirely my fault for lack of time. So please! Share me some of your favourite blogs for me to follow so that I can get to know more of you wonderful people!

Also…..the anthology I edited MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY is coming out OCTOBER 31st! Please check it out and the book trailer!

By: Azzurra Nox