Barks at the Ghouls

Stay chill, it's only a silly book review.

I read the good, the awful & all of the "meh" in the middle. Mostly horror & romance of all kinds.

The House by the Cemetery by John Everson

The House by the Cemetery (Fiction Without Frontiers) - John Everson

This is another book I read with a group of book buddies. I recommend reading all books with a buddy. It makes the experience so entertaining!

 

This book is about The House by the Cemetery, if you were wondering. The house is actually abandoned and rumored to be extremely haunted. An entrepreneur with more money than brains, apparently, decides it will be the perfect location to create a Halloween spook house. Yep, nothing could go wrong with that idea, right?

 

“This place is rotting, stinking and creepy. It should be left alone to trot into the earth and disappear.”

 

The story follows a group of makeup artists/designers and a carpenter named Mike as they prepare the house for opening night. Mike spends long hours all alone making the decrepit old house safe for thrill-goers. One day a young, attractive lady named Katie and her not so attractive friend (we know this because it’s mentioned every time she makes an appearance) start lurking around the house. Katie decides she and her friend want to help assist Mike with his work. He’s a sucker for any female attention and agrees to let them pal around and “assist” even though I think OSHA might’ve had some issues with that scenario. But OSHA will be the least of this guy’s worries once strange and terrible things begin happening in and around the house . . .

 

That’s the setup and as you can probably imagine nothing goes to plan. There are secret rooms, bones in the freaking walls, relationship dramas, kinky sexy times on a bed of nails, and something sinister at play behind the scenes. Everything culminates in a spectacular bloodbath that will thrill any gorehound. I LOVED the B-movie-ish bits of this book and the horror film references but I didn’t really love some of the extraneous character scenes. There were a bit too many exchanges that felt like padding and only served to make me dislike a few of the characters rather than feel any sort of compassion for them. But I read an ARC provided by Flame Tree Press so maybe your copy will be different? I also thought Mike was a complete fool. His blindness to reality was something to behold. He was both amusing and annoying in his sex-blindness. I wish there had been less of Mike and more time spent on the character building of a few of the other side-characters.

 

I’d give this story a 3 ½. It was a decently creepy, atmospheric story until probably the last third when it took a predictable turn for the bloody. I liked the bloody, don’t get me wrong, but I could see where it was heading and my need to read began to wane. I know I’ve probably read too many books and seen too many movies like this for my own good but it is what it is.

 

I think THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is a decent choice for the Halloween spooky season if you’re in the mood for some creepy thrills, some foolish characters and a sea of blood.

 

I'm using this one for my slasher stories square in Halloween Bingo 2018.

 

 

 

Squares Called:

09/01/18-"Classic Horror"

09/03/18-"Cryptozoologist"

09/05/18-"Cozy Mystery"

09/07/18-"New Release"

09/09/18- "Southern Gothic"

09/11/18- "Terrifying Women"

09/13/18- "A Grimm Tale"

09/15/18- "Modern Masters of Horror"

09/17/18- "Creepy Carnivals"

 

 

Squares I've Read on My Card that are not called yet:

 

SUPERNATURAL: The Mouth of the Dark

MURDER MOST FOUL:  Big Little Lies

SLASHER STORIES - The House by the Cemetery

Audible Sale

The Bloody Chamber  - Angela Carter,  Emilia Fox, Richard Armitage


 
Do you remember when I said I was searching for a book for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Challenge? I found bins of books I forgot I owned but couldn't find the one book I was tracking down. Well, THAT BOOK WAS THIS ONE AND IT'S $2.95 @ Audible today. And, yes, I am screaming with joy! Go get yours now. The sale ends at midnight tonight.

 

 
Blurbage:
 
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories is a titillating series of dark, sensual and fantastical stories, inspired by well-known fairy tales and folklore. 
 
Dissatisfied with the unrealistic portrayal of women in these legendary fables, Carter turns them on their head, introducing subversively dark, sensual and gothic narratives. 
 
Breathing new and unexpected life into favourite childhood characters such as Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast, Carter shocks, seduces and amuses the listener with her unique, iconic and surrealist reimagining. 
 

Apologies for my absence

It has been a whirlwind of a summer and I'm attempting to balance my blog and other social media along with a brand new project that a group of horror bloggers and I have recently been getting off the ground. Finding balance has been a bit rough but I'll figure it out. 

 

I posted a little peek about the #Ladiesofhorrorfiction Twitter/instagram challenge and thanks to everyone who checked it out and participated.I found so many new horror author's to add to my pile.

 

On September 1st we unveiled our website Ladies of Horror Fiction and ever since we've been hit with an ever growing list of writers to add to our directory. Who knew there were so many women writing horror? Not I. At any rate, that's what I've been focusing on and now that things are getting into a routine, I'll be back here just in time for Halloween Bingo. If you're into horror please check out the site. It is truly a labor of love for all of us and we have such big plans for the future. 

 

 

Halloween Bingo 2018: Murder Most Foul

Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

I had already seen the tv series and spoiled all of the reveals for myself. Note to others: always read the book first! That said, it was easy to picture the characters :) This book was still riveting and hits you hard with its realistic portrayal of life in suburbia and all of the little ugly truths that lie behind the picture perfect Facebook updates. I loved it. It was like hearing some juicy gossip for hours and hours. There's murder but if you haven't seen the tv show you won't know who dies, who did it and why it happened. Getting there is all the fun!

 

I listened to this one at the tail end of August so I'm going to use it as my sneak peek read for the Murder Most Foul Square for Halloween Bingo 2018. 

 

 

BOOKS CALLED:


9/1- Classic Horror 
9/3- Cryptozoologist 
9/5- Cozy Mystery

9/7- New Release

9/9- Southern Gothic

 

Squares I've Read on My Card that are not called yet:

 

SUPERNATURAL: The Mouth of the Dark

MURDER MOST FOUL:  Big Little Lies

Halloween Bingo 2018: The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner

The Mouth of the Dark - Tim Waggoner

Where does one start with a crazy book like this one? I honestly don’t know where to begin so I’ll just start typing and see what happens.

I read this book with a group of blogging buddies and the main theme of our chat seemed to be WTF. Some of us were horrified, some maybe scandalized but I think there were a few who were a little tantalized though they’ll probably never admit it, haha.

At any rate, this is a story about a man named Jayce who realizes his grown daughter has gone missing. He makes it his mission to find her or at least to find out what happened to her. He’s sure something nefarious is up and boy is he ever right. He finds a strange otherworld filled with bizarre sex toys and malformed people and a scary being called The Harvest Man. He isn’t at all prepared for all of the weirdness that assaults him but he takes the hits as they come in a stumbling, hapless sort of way and doesn’t run screaming the other way as most other sane people would do. He heads straight into the madness and grossness and batshit craziness. 

I enjoyed this book for its unpredictable over the top strangeness. It didn’t scare me but it’s not really that kind of book. I loved that it wasn’t afraid to peek into the dark, twisted corners and slam your face into them. That’s a fun time for me. This isn’t a book where you’re going to fall in love or even feel much compassion for the characters. They’re not assholes but there isn’t a lot to like about them either. It’s the storyline that carries you along as the characters are put into one bizarre situation after another. There are a lot of sexual hijinks in this one featuring otherworldly sex toys. I thought that was a nice bonus but be warned if you’re not into reading about weird sex because there’s quite a bit of it here. Also, the main dude has some major mommy issues (which were expertly explained near the end) and some weird thoughts about his daughter and her sexuality that made me feel pretty uncomfortable in a bad way while reading. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a pedophile but he sure does have some pervy thoughts that I think most dads would scrub from their brains as soon as they hit. This guy sits and stews in them for too long. 

The Mouth of the Dark was an imaginative, enjoyable, super pervy story whose pages flew. If you dig weird imagery, some unforgettable sex toys, perfectly placed gore, lots of gross little surprises, gruesome descriptions, dark humor and a finale that wraps everything together you’ll want to read this crazy book. If you don’t like those things, well, you probably wouldn’t be reading my review anyway.



My favorite line: 

“I’m sorry you got a surprise tentacle job from the Pink Devil.” 

And that’s all I’m saying about that!

 

I'm going to throw this in the SUPERNATURAL square. One down, a million to go!

 

Open & Shut by David Rosenfelt

Open and Shut - David Rosenfelt

I requested this book on Overdrive because I read the author's two memoirs about his dogs and I love supporting dog people and was hoping his fictional series would be fun. Someone told me his dog is in all the books and that fact made me request it. However, I am simply not a fan of the legal drama. And this is one of those and I was snoozing through some of the courtroom bits. His dog Tara plays a wee, tiny role and didn't have much character. She puts her head on his lap, he pats her head, takes her for a walk. That was IT. I was soo incredibly disappointed with the lack of doggy thoughts or action! Does that change in later books? At any rate, I'll give this one a 3. It was decent but not my kind of thing. There's some humor, a little of it a bit old-timey and corny and some of the humor is based on old tropes that might insult some people. Andy, the main character, is a huge boob when it comes to his dealings with the ladies too. Ugh. I hope he's figured out some things in the later books or he might just lose his nuts!

That's my "review". Yell at me (but don't be a dick) if the later books get better and maybe I'll try again.

Halloween Bingo 2018: Supernatural Square

The Mouth of the Dark - Tim Waggoner

Supernatural: mystery, suspense or horror books which include elements that defy current understanding of the natural world, including magic, witchcraft and/or crypto-zoological aspects

 

 

 

I'm reading this one with a group of horror friends on Twitter and am going to use it for my supernatural square because this thing is so WEIRD! There are jars that contain essences of dead lovers, sex toys that get a little too rowdy, and so many things that defy the natural world. Dog-eaters, slug-like monsters that, ugh, I can't even say it, things with gray feet and talon like toes and so much more. This book is so crazy that I have no idea how it will end. 

Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

Drawing Blood - Poppy Z. Brite, Matt Godfrey

I always refer to this book as my second most favorite book in the world (Geek Love by Katherine Dunn will always be my #1) but I haven’t read it since it was first released back in 1993 so I approached this recent audio release with equal amounts of joy and dread. Would it still be my almost favorite? Would I find giant flaws and pick it all to hell? Would I tarnish all of those memories of book perfection by reading it now when I’m all jaded and crabby(er)?

Everything I remembered loving about Drawing Blood was still here. Granted those memories were a little fuzzy around the edges but the impressions and the emotions felt left a mark on me and once I started listening, I was immediately transfixed and reminded of all the reasons why I held this book so close to my heart. It’s full of tragedy, dark romance, and real life horrors as well as some out there, woo-woo ones. If you like those things along with a well-drawn sense of place, gorgeously lush writing, flawed characters and you don’t mind explicit sex between two men (and lots and lots of it) you should give this a listen. Or a read. Or maybe both.

This is one of Brite’s (now Billy Martin) earlier works and it has all of the gothic trappings of that era. The characters have sharp edges, are ethereally young and beautiful, the sex is explicit and often and it’s always earthy and descriptive, the characters that populate this world drink and drug copiously, fall in love quickly and deeply as young lovers tend to do and music always plays a huge part in their lives. I’d say this tale is about 50% haunted house/dealing with your past shit and 50% dark and dangerous love story and it’s all beautifully gory and messy. 

Trevor is a young artist who returns to his hometown to face down the demons of his past and his demons are bad ones. Zach is a hacker on the run who lands in Missing Mile. Both have hellish pasts and when they meet everything clicks and feels right. Yes, folks, it is the dreaded insta-love in full bloom. And, yes, I am a big huge hypocrite because I typically knock off points for insta-love because it drives me crazy but in this case I JUST DIDN’T CARE. I loved them both too much to care. They don’t even meet until the book is at least a third of the way through (maybe more) but by then I knew them so well that when they finally meet it was a relief. They were both such broken souls when apart and together they just fit. They talked, they fought, they lived a lifetime of dysfunction in a few days and I will make no more excuses because, yeah, it’s insta-love and it was glorious and nothing anybody says will ever change my mind. 

It’s such an intoxicating read. The love story, the setting, the darkness. All of it. Brite assaults the senses with her prose and everything comes alive right down to the scents and tastes - no matter how gross! This isn’t a book for everyone and I’m not here to pretend that it is but if any of this sounds appealing to you, grab a copy and read that sucker until your eyeballs dry up. I don’t think you’ll regret it. 

If you’re an audio fan, I also highly recommend giving it a listen. Matt Godfrey’s narration is terrific. He creates distinctive voices for the characters. Zach’s voice is deeper and has just the slightest Cajun-esque accent to fit him and where he’s been, while Trevor comes off as more innocent/wide-eyed. How you express that with voice is way beyond me but Godfrey manages to do it. There are quite a few secondary characters that he voices very well too. 

Now I'm off to listen all over again :)

When Dimple Met Rishi Audio Review

When Dimple Met Rishi - Vikas Adam, Sandhya Menon, Sneha Mathan

I listened to this book on audio hoping for a pick-me-up because I’ve been reading a steady diet of darkness this summer and desperately needed a mini-break. This book was the perfect choice.

It’s charming from beginning to end and this is coming from someone who is typically annoyed by young adult fiction. It’s about a young lady named Dimple whose traditional parents expect her to marry a young man of their choosing, the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Unfortunately for them, Dimple has other plans. She’s grown up in the USA and she doesn’t want to abide by family traditions. She wants to go to college to learn, not simply to meet a suitable man. She isn’t ready to settle down and live a boring life. She wants to go to Insomnia-con and win the top prize and when her parents agree she’s pretty damn stunned.

Rishi is a young man who is quite the opposite. He feels a pressing need to do exactly what his parents ask of him because his younger brother is a flake. He’s the oldest son and feels he must become an engineer and leave his artistic passions behind, marry the woman his parents have chosen, have children and take care of his parents in their old age. He is such a good boy that it hurts my heart! He heads to Insomnia-con thinking he’s going to meet his new wife.

And it goes oh-so-hilariously-badly.

That’s all I’m saying. This is a romance. A reluctant one and that was what was so great about it. Dimple has no room in her life for a boy – until she does. It’s sweet and charming and funny and a little maddening and I loved it. I truly loved it all. Well, maybe not that stupid, pointless talent show thing but I adored the bits when Dimple was a bit of a jerk. She felt real and independent and she had this simmering anger that came out in the worst of ways and it all felt so genuine. 

There are dual narrators for this book. Don’t ask me why. It wasn’t necessary and it was jarring until I got used to it. For the first 45 minutes or so, I was thinking, “Wait, no this is not Rishi speaking! Who is this guy? This is not Dimple. Where’d she go?” If the female narrator had been able to read the entire book, this would’ve been a five star production. As is? It’s only a four.

Despite my nitpickery, this book really is adorable. It's thoughtful and sweet and the two main characters are so lovely together that you can’t help but wish them the best. This was such a nice breather of a book and was so refreshing and helped me reset my head and my mood. Now I’m ready to get back to the horror!

The Nightmare Room Audiobook Review

The Nightmare Room - Chris Sorensen

I liked this book so much I read it twice! This time around I listened to the unabridged audiobook read by the author who just so happens to be a professional narrator himself. Since he's a pro and the material is his, his voice hits all the right notes. He's engaging, pleasant and unnervingly menacing when he needs to be and I recommend it highly! 4 1/2 Stars 

Here's my review of the story:

The Nightmare Room lives up to its title. It is a slowly building creepfest fueled by nightmares for the first half then picks up speed in its later half.

Peter and Hannah need a new start after a devastating loss and move back to Peter’s hometown to help with his ailing parents and to heal themselves. They move into a property that Peter’s dad purchased that is huge, old and in disrepair. Hannah loves the idea of the old home but Peter’s not so sure. 

"Hannah had gotten it wrong. This was not the sort of house featured on her home improvement show; this was every house in every horror movie he’d ever seen."

Despite his misgivings, Peter, who is an audiobook narrator, sets up his studio in the dark, dank basement and soon realizes that he may not be alone down there! Is it real or is he starting to lose his marbles?

I just loved some of the descriptions of the house. It makes me long for an old haunted house of my own.

". . . he was facing a narrow, grey door. A basement door. His vision had steadied and the room no longer moved about him. But the door… It’s breathing."

This is a decent little horror tale that has a lot of layers that reach far beyond the haunted house trappings. It deals with aging, grief and past regrets that come back to haunt. The main characters come across as real and imperfect and as a reader who needs decent characterization I really appreciated this. I did want to learn more about Peter’s birth mother because I’m nosy and have so many questions but perhaps that will happen in a prequel or sequel? I can only hope

Darktown by Thomas Mullen

Darktown: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway a very long time ago. I kind of wish I had read it a few years ago when things in the US weren’t quite so openly depressing but alas I read it now and it hurt my heart so much.

 

Dark Town is a mystery and an unflinching look at race relations in the not so long ago past. Even worse, much of it is depressingly still very relevant today. It takes place in the 1940’s when segregation and racism was on full awful display. And if today’s news gets you down, reading this book right now sure won’t help your state of mind. There is so much prejudice and hatefulness in this story that it will make you angry and sad. This is not a book you want to pick up thinking you’ll escape into.

 

A murder occurs and the author delves deep into everyone involved in the situation. What is uncovered is a whole lot of cover ups, corruption, and other assorted ugliness. It’s very well written and the descriptive language is so very excellent.

 

"A harsh word would knock him over"& "He hit the door like it owed him money."

 

You should definitely read it if you enjoy a good gritty historical murder mystery. But I’m warning you, it’s probably going to make your blood boil.

It's almost time to begin my Friday Reading :)

Drawing Blood - Poppy Z. Brite The Nightcrawler - Mick Ridgewell

My Tweet does not feel like embedding correctly today. But this is what I'm reading.

Unidentified by Michael McBride Audio Review

Unidentified - Michael McBride, Joe Hempel

This is a brief little novella that runs a little over 2 hours on audio. It’s narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Joe Hempel, who helps the story leap off the pages. He also never grates on my last nerve like some narrators do. His pace is on the slower side and it draws you into the chilling atmosphere of the story and his performance of the characters sounds natural. If you like audio and scary tales, this is a really good one. 

40 years ago a group of teens stumbled across something terrible in the aftermath of crop circles, missing teens and animal mutilations. They woke without memories of the events that cost them a friend but now that another child has gone missing and one of them writes a chilling email saying only “I remember everything”, they reunite to start digging into the past and end whatever it is from tormenting their hometown once and for all. 

Since this is such a short story I don’t have a lot to say about it. It left me guessing and I loved the bleak threads running throughout it and if you listen to the author notes at the end, and you should, you might be a little terrified of the sky!

 

95% Complete

The Grip of It: A Novel - Jac Jemc

This wasn't an easy book to read but I'm glad I pushed through. I need to know how it ends but worked called. 

 

Here's a pic of my morning reading ritual with my sweet, cuddly, slightly insane boy Patrick.

 

DNF

Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury

This story is beautifully written but after struggling through 50+ pages I am calling it a day. It's not quite what I was expecting and seems to be a series of vignettes and loosely attached memories about summertime. Some of the vignettes were amusing but not amusing enough to hold my attention at this particular moment in time. I may try again when my mind isn't quite so cluttered. Right now I'm craving something darker.

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts - Jennifer Hillier

This book is a few different things and miraculously I loved them all. It’s a mystery, it’s an acclimating to prison life tale, and it’s a love story gone about as wrong as a love story can go! It’s dark and it’s addictive and it’s getting all the stars I have to give.

 

Georgina, Angela and Kaiser (Kai) were the best of friends in high school but when Georgina starts seeing an older guy, everything gets all messed up. One of them dies, one later goes to prison and another ends up being the arresting officer. There’s also a recent spate of atrocious serial killings that may be connected to the past murder . . .

 

The big draw here is finding out the why just as much as the who. Why did one of these friends die? What really happened that night? Who is keeping secrets? And, who is killing innocents in the modern day? Also, why is Angela such a bitch? That one is never answered, she just is! None of it makes sense until the very end where it all comes together in a glorious rush of craziness that worked for me in every way.

 

Most of these characters are imperfect and awful, cruel, jealous, vindictive and selfish but I could not, did not want, to stop reading for a moment. This book is so addictive. If you like this stuff, you MUST read it.

 

“Because that smell – of rotting flesh, of rotting soul – is you.”

 

 

Currently reading

Bad Call: A Summer Job on a New York Ambulance by Mike Scardino
Predators by Michaelbrent Collings
Patient Zero by Ray Porter, Jonathan Maberry
The Listener by Robert R. McCammon
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix