Bark 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.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

This is such a beautifully told story and I feared it was going to break my heart because books like this usually do. It didn’t and I’m glad for that. It gets all five stars because it never let me down.

 

Kya is just a child when her mother, older sisters and eventually her abusive father abandon her in the marsh. She has no education and must use her wits to survive and despite all of the odds she does. She’s strong, smart and resourceful and even though the church going townsfolk cruelly call her “Swamp Trash” and other unsavory names, as they hold their beautifully clean children close, she doesn’t let it get her down and finds help and friendship in the most unexpected of places.

 

I adored this book so much and think everyone should read it. It’s uplifting and gorgeous and also very gritty and down to earth. Kya is my kind of kid who grows into a woman who doesn’t abide any crap from the people and the men who continually let her down. At one point she calls one a “Chickenshit Asshole” and I wanted to hug her as I laughed because she was so right and I was thinking the same thing for pages and pages on end.

 

It’s a lovely read about the strength of spirit, the mistakes of youth, of friendship and kindness, resilience, prejudice and forgiveness and also the strange alluring beauty of the swamp and all that surrounds it. I recommend it with all that’s left of my heart.

Pitiful November Wrap Up

At least the month started out well . . .

 

 
November 2018
 
Reviews Posted
(clicking on cover will bring you to my review @ my Blogger blog)
 
                
 
 
Our Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Community Wide Readalong is over at Ladies of Horror Fiction and we all had so much fun reading together and raving and ranting about things. You can read all of the posts at the Ladies of Horror Fiction website. We have another community-wide read planned for February and will be announcing the book very soon. I hope some of you will join us!
 


 New Purchases

I was pretty good about not blowing the budget this month (as much as it kills me) but I did purchase the Night Worms package and I'm so glad. Look at all of this Christmas horror goodness!


 
Oops, maybe I did blow the budget after all. I forgot I splurged on the Twitterstone box too . . .  and it was pretty excellent. 
 
 
And I just want to say that I am so very happy that these two good things arose from the flames left behind by the mess made by Nocturnal Reader's Box!
 
    
So, what are you all up to?

So Amazon finally got back to me & cleared everything up *eyeroll*

Lizzie Borden Zombie Hunter by C.A. Verstraete

Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter - C.A. Verstraete

This is a fast paced zombie/ghoul slaying tale that answers the question you never knew you had about the Lizzie Borden case. What if a zombie plague were the reason Lizzie Borden wacked her parents with an ax?

 

I LOVED this set up and that it jumps right into the grisly murders. And they are grisly. Unfortunately, for me at least, I had a little trouble with the aftermath of it all. The story follows the Borden trial and tries to stay true to events that happened in real life all while a zombie plague is brewing in the town. Lizzie stays mute about the truth and this is where I had trouble shutting off my brain because I felt she should’ve been screaming the truth from the rooftops in order to prove her innocence. That’s what I would’ve done instead of sitting in jail and having the town turn against me and thinking I was a murderess of innocents. I suppose I’m selfish like that. Worse though was that she was covering up for some fickle man and a secret ghoul slaying society and that irritated the heck out of me.

 

So, because of this, I found the book a little bit of a struggle for me personally. Lizzie’s motivation and strange romances didn’t sit right with me either. With that said, it was certainly gruesome and action-packed and there was a nice ghastly twist at the end that made me cringe and there isn’t much that makes me cringe these days.

Kilty As Charged by Amy Vansant

Kilty As Charged - Amy Vansant

I read this book for my local reading group. There are seven of us. Three of us finished this book and none of us are reading the sequel.

Now I’ll be fair here. This is a book featuring a time-travelling, kilt wearing Scottish Highlander who says things like, “Dinnae ye want to see mah wizard’s wand?”and I bored of these suckers about a decade ago. I didn’t have good thoughts going in but once I was in I decided to stick with it because it was only mildly irritating and, at times, slightly entertaining and I thought I was going to have to converse about its plot intricacies or lack thereof (turns out the other 2 had nothing at all to say).

Catriona is a “fixer” for wealthy movie people. She’s used to dealing with odd requests and weirdos so when she discovers a man wearing a kilt on set, with nothing on underneath, she gives that naked bum a smack to get it and his “twigs and berries”moving. 

Well, wouldn’t you?

Catriona thinks, “She made it a point to know everyone on the lot who was someone. This guy was no one.”

Ugh.

Turns out he isn’t your average, everyday nobody, of course. He’s a time-travelling Scottish mercenary and they have an adventure to go on. Or something like that.

There is a lot of time spent ogling his bod but there’s some other stuff happening too. Just don’t ask me what it is because I read this last week and the details have already fled in terror from my head. I do remember that there is a villain and his two inept sidekicks who belong in a remake of Home Alone instead of inside a novel written in 2016. 

To wrap this up, silliness happens, sexual encounters almost happen, and they insult each other and pretend they don’t find each other attractive and there’s tons of awkward dialogue there to stumble over. I honestly believe that I am too grouchy for this book. I am totally, 100% the wrong audience and will not deny that. I found it contrived and not funny. I think it tried way too hard to be cutesy and ended up annoying the heck out of me. But even more annoying was the fact that NONE of my questions were answered when I turned the last page because there is a sequel. There is no real character depth or relationship development either but if you’re looking for a read so light and free of substance that it may fly away, this might be the thing for you.

 

But don't trust me as the final word. Apparently, I am in the minority, as usual.

Amazon Update

Amazon never responded to my inquiries about my 18 years worth of missing reviews and their removing my ability to review on the site but today both returned. I am extremely wary of them now and will no longer review there, nor will I add in any links on my blog pointing to them.  I'm glad the reviews are back but I think it only happened because of my big mouth on social media. A friend of mine has had no such luck and I am very angry for her.

 

They are gonna get nothing but the ol' side eye from me from here on out.

 

 

So, this shit happened.

Because the last few months haven't been shitty enough, I went over to Amazon to post my review of Carmilla and this happened:

 

 
 
Apparently Amazon decided to delete 18 years of my reviews from their website with no notice, no warning and absolutely no reason.They also revoked my reviewing priveledges and dropped my ranking from 1,500-something to #55,806,921 over night. You can see my sad, sad profile here. They left up reviews from the year 2000 and older and I haven't a clue why they're still there but I'm guessing they'll disappear soon too. Why'd this happen? I don't write false reviews, I don't inflate review ratings and I don't even know any authors personally unless you count a book signing  I recently went to where I was too shy to speak to any of them!

 

 
I've been told by others who have had the ban hammer of Amazon dropped upon them that it is because someone either flagged my reviews for whatever reason and/or it is because they think I'm having "relationships" with authors. I guess they're so stuck in their own little bubble at Amazon-land that they assume following an author on Twitter and Facebook means you're married. If an author sends you a book to review it must mean you are surely tainted and none of your reviews can be trusted. Apparently, they couldn't be bothered to actually read the text of my reviews because I don't care who you are, if I don't like something in your book, I am telling everyone. Even if you're one of my author wives and husbands and side flings.

 



I have unsuccessfully attempted to get them restored. I sent an email as instructed and received this message well over 48 hours ago:

 

 
Apparently their "should hear back from them" really means never because it's nearly 3 days now and I've heard nothing. Their Twitterhelp desk keeps instructing me to call but I have no fucks left to give and don't want to waste any more of my life talking to any of them. Honestly, after their treatment of me, I no longer want to submit my reviews to them.  18+ year as a loyal customer and free reviewer and they treat me like this? As a result, I will no longer provide Amazon links on any of my reviews going forward on my blog and will instead point people to buying books anywhere EXCEPT Amazon. Small publishers treat you much better anyway adding in extra perks like bookmarks and stickers, at least in my experience. 


So Amazon,

 
 

 

Exorcist Falls by Jonathan Janz, Narrated by Matt Godfrey Review

Exorcist Falls: Includes the novella Exorcist Road - Jonathan Janz, Matt Godfrey

This unabridged audio contains two excellent connected stories of demonic possession. One is a novella that sets the scene for the novel to follow. You’ll want to read/listen to them back to back because they’re both horrifyingly hard to put down.

EXORCIST ROAD sets everything up and is a pretty complete story on its own about a young teen being savaged by a demon and who is suspected of being a murderer. Is it all an act or is a true case of demon possession? Two priests are called in to investigate and perform an exorcism. The younger, inexperienced priest discovers some horrifying secrets about the family and nearly everyone soon becomes a suspect in the Sweet Sixteen Killings.

EXORCIST FALLS continues the story of the young priest who has been shaken but not destroyed by all he has experienced. He is now very haunted and conflicted but I can’t tell you why. The search for the Sweet Sixteen Killer continues and it’s pretty much non-stop action from here on out. There’s a little side of lust and a budding romance brought over from EXORCIST ROAD that I felt completely out of place in both storylines considering the trauma the woman recently experienced. Her character is woefully underdeveloped which probably explains my disbelief of her “romance” storyline. The last thing I’d be looking for after all of that was some love from a new guy. The reader is continually told that she is amazing but I didn’t feel her amazingness was ever shown which is kind of a shame. All of the men are very well developed though and she’s a bit player so it’s a minor nitpick, really. I loved the Jason Crowder character so much. A tormented priest with a horrible backstory and a demon ready to exploit all of his human weaknesses? Yep, you’ve got my attention.

Both stories are pitch black and ghoulish and very graphic. Terrible things are said and terrible deeds are done and I loved it but it may not be for everyone as the scenes are so realistically described you can pretty much picture it all going on very clearly. Maybe a little too clearly in some cases!

I can easily recommend the audiobook narrated by Matt Godfrey who has such a down to earth, calming voice he makes even the evilest of deeds go down a little easier. He does an excellent sinister demon voice too! Don’t miss it if you love this kind of story. 

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla - Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

This was my first reading of this classic tale of dark secrets written in 1872. 1872?! That fact stuns me after finally giving this a novella read. There is a quite a surprising amount of sexuality for such an ancient tome or did the world get ever more prudish as the years went by? There were lesbian kisses and touches and I think I even detected a wee bit of some non-consensual touchy-feely too! But, man, is it ever flowery in its telling.  The purple prose is oh-so-strong but it really does throw one back in time and allow the atmosphere to drip off the page so I’m not complaining. Just prepare yourself for some unrestrained writing. There are trembling embraces and languid and burning eyes and so much more to behold here.

 

Basically this a story about a sheltered young lady whose father takes in a strange, beautiful young lady named Carmilla  after her mother inexplicably leaves her for three months to take care of some business or another. Carmilla is ailing from what appears to me to be nothing more than a case of the vapors but mom dashes off anyway, saying she cannot take the poor ailing thing along with her. Hmmm, I don’t know about the rest of you but that would make me mighty suspicious!

 

Carmilla is ailing from something a bit more sinister than the vapors and mom’s dump and drop makes a lot of sense when everything is eventually revealed. I won’t reveal the whole thing because it’s short and I think you should read it for yourself. Just know that it was enjoyable and beautifully atmospheric and if you’re a fan of Dracula and all of his offspring and offshoots, you should give this a read.

FREE SHIPPING (US AND UK) NOW THROUGH DEC. 31

Reblogged from Valancourt Books:

Now through Dec. 31, we are offering free US & UK shipping on all orders placed on the Valancourt Books website, with no minimum purchase. UK orders will ship from the UK. Grab some holiday gifts early!

 

Flight or Fright

Flight or Fright - Stephen King,  Arthur Conan Doyle, Richard Matheson, Dan Simmons

I listened to the unabridged audiobook. I have to thank my library and Overdrive for saving me some cash, especially since too many of the stories here were a little meh for my liking.

This anthology features stories about the fear of flying and the terrible things the imagination and reality can cook up to speed up your demise. If you’re afraid of flying, this book isn’t going to help you out with that. There are coffins in the back and monsters on the wing!

I’m not going to go into the details of every story because I will lose the will to live and if you want to read this there is no point in me ruining it for you. I didn’t take notes because sometimes you just want to listen to a book without turning it into a homework assignment. Sorry. Sometimes you get a real review from me, other times you get this. There’s a decent mix here of old decrepit stories and newer ones. Many of them I had read already read so, yeah, glad I didn’t spend money on this. All of the writers are males because women aren’t afraid of flying, I guess. We are built of sterner stuff, lol. Anyhow, the results are mixed. 

Stephen King writes a kick butt introduction, as always and his story here is one of the better ones. I only wish it had been a wee bit longer because I’m greedy. Still, that man knows how to write a short story. Now on to (some of) the others. CARGO starts things off and it is a good creeping dread tale but was so based in reality that it was more sad than scary for me, especially having just seen the Jonestown documentary. Then there’s NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET. You know that story made famous by Captain Kirk and that creepy-ass Twilight Zone episode? Yep, this is the source material and, because I was a creepy kid, I watched it a million times growing up so I knew how it all went down. One of the stories here had tentacles but don’t ask me which one because my brain is full. The tentacles were a nice little bonus in an otherwise bland story. Joe Hill’s contribution was a frightening read because, well, it could happen! It could happen any damned, cursed moment. You’ll know what I mean when you read it and especially if you live in the USA. There’s a tale about a dude who finds a time travelling ring and can’t keep his murderous hands to himself. He totally gets what is coming to him and what’s coming to him isn’t pleasant! I think I enjoyed DIABLITOS the most. It’s a sinister little tale about a guy who steals something from the wrong lady. The ending completely caught me off guard and created an image in my head that still lingers. Loved it. I also thought AIR RAID was fantastic and nailed the whole Twilight Zone vibe. MURDER IN THE AIR was a decent little murder mystery but not at all a horror story.

The problem with this collection is that many of the stories weren’t all that interesting to me personally. There are so very many boring war time stories and those don’t do it for me. Most are incredibly depressing or about guys agonizing about imminent death and I didn’t find them very gripping. In fact, my thoughts while listening to many of these stories wasn’t one of sympathy but more along the lines of “stop your whining and embrace your fate”. But I’m a jerk like that

Reading progress update: I've read 75%.

Kilty As Charged - Amy Vansant

This book is 100% silliness but I'm okay with that today.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied - Riley Sager

Hmmm, I have to say that this book was a wee bit disappointing. The reviews are stellar, for the most part, and my hopes were high but all I can summon up when I try to write a review is “meh”.


I guess I’m broken again. Or maybe I’ve read too many of these but, boo hoo hoo, I was hoping for something sinister, something blacker and meaner than what was written upon all of these pages. I also guessed the present day villain and I am not at all good at this game, trust me. The past one got me though so points for that.

 

Three friends go missing at a summer camp and the surviving girl, Emma, carries the burden of surviving and also of pointing the finger of guilt at her first love Theo. The camp is closed for obvious reasons but fifteen years later Emma is contacted by the owner and asked to return for reasons that make NO SENSE to me but don’t think about that because I am a nitpicker and without those lame reasons there would be no book.

 

Alas, Theo returns too and he is as handsome as ever so there’s some lusting and confusion going on there as Emma attempts to determine exactly what the heck happened to her camp friends so many years earlier and Theo isn’t entirely in the clear.
This book was too damned long for its own good. It seemed to go on forever. There was so much mean girl drama that even I got tired of it and I always enjoy some mean girl dramatics. I think it boils down to the fact that I didn’t find Emma very interesting, sympathetic or engaging so thusly the mystery of it all wasn’t enough to hold my attention.

 

I think I need to rewatch Sleepaway Camp to put the good, gory, summer camp vibes back in my head.

October Wrap-Up Post

 

 
October 2018
 
Reviews Posted
(clicking on cover will bring you to my review)
 
 
           
 
                       
New Purchases
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
And these are all of the reasons that I am broke right now. The first pile was purchased at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Fair. They are all signed! I met two fellow blogging friends, Char of Char's Horror Corner and Andi of Andreya's Asylum and it was so great to meet them in person. Next year I hope I can overcome my shyness a little better. It didn't stop me from spending all of my money in about ten minutes though! 
 
NEWS & REMINDERS: We continue to be busy little bees over at the Ladies of Horror Fiction website. We have new reviews, guest posts, interviews and episode #2 of the podcast was released on Tuesday. You can listen to it hereToni talks about the history of Halloween, urban legends featuring women, new releases, current reads and a whole lot more. 

 

Our Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier Community Wide Readalong starts November 4th. Are you ready?  Click on the pic below for all of the details.

 

 

 

    
So, what are you all up to?

Rabid Heart by Jeremy Wagner

Rabid Heart - Jeremy Wagner

People say they’re sick of zombies or werewolves or vampires or demons or gawdforbid tentacles and I get it but I am not one of those people. I will read everything and anything if the writing is engaging. This is why one day my piles of books shall be the death of me. I don’t really care if the monster has been done to death because it can always be given new life by a new voice and that is most definitely the case with this book RABID HEART. It is a book about a world in the midst of a zombie apocalypse caused by warmongers who manufactured a rabies outbreak which went all kinds of wrong. The virus kills the host and turns them into flesh eating cujos! And words cannot express how much I love the fact that they’re called cujos throughout this entire story. 

Rhonda is a young 20-something who was happily living her life before the outbreak. She was engaged to the love of her life and working as a hairstylist. Now she’s stuck on a military-type base with her dad and spends her free time finding supplies and killing cujos. Everything she loved is gone and her relationship with her dad is complicated. In a cruel twist of fate, she runs across Brad , her cujo-fied fiancée, and he recognizes her. Not only that, he protects her. She impulsively decides to take him back to camp but the folks there are not at all thrilled with that idea. Understandably . . . he may be tame but he’s still a smelly flesh eating undead cujo. This forces Rhonda to make a series of choices that land her on a road trip through hell where she finds an important reason to carry on.

This is a fast paced story with an engaging writing style that grabbed me from the beginning. Rhonda is snarky and angry and heartbroken so her choices, crazy as they may be, are 100% understandable. The story is filled with gore and dark humor and a disgusting wet dream that made my black heart really freaking happy and it won’t rip out your soul like that damned Walking Dead show! I recommend it to anyone looking for a fun horror novel.

4 ½ stars

House of Fallen Trees by Gina Ranalli

House of Fallen Trees - Gina Ranalli

Well, I am sad to say that this book didn't work for me. I was very excited to start it and LOVED the gorgeous cover but I didn't enjoy this story. It was very dream-like and that's fine if I am invested in the main character but Karen didn't come alive for me. She was very bland and slightly annoying and though she tried to come across as a bad ass bitch she ran screaming to the menfolk whenever something scary occurred and that was annoying. Many people love and adore this story but I had some issues that I cannot ignore. Here are a few of them:

*An unclear timeline. Someone's lover dies (goes missing?) 6 months previous and this someone later says he's been trying to have sexy times with another guy for the past 6 months. WTF? That makes you a creepy jerk with no loyalty or feelings!

*Unrealistic and sometimes cringy dialogue. "Don't flatter yourself bi-boy" #NoJustNo

*Inconsistent characterization. One character is described as the quickest to laugh and 4 pages later he's a "gloomy Gus". Make Up Your Mind.

*It wasn't scary (to me).

*There was too much tedious telling and not enough showing.

*A lack of well done atmosphere. I should've felt a chill but I didn't.

*A character states animals do not have feelings. Screw you, Rory! Animals do too have feelings #SorryNotSorry

I'm giving it two stars because the dog Dusty lives. And you can yell at me for revealing that but if you are a dog person you NEED to know!

I wish I could write a positive review but I have to be honest.

Currently reading

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Sally Beauman
The Listener by Robert R. McCammon
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix