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.

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I thought this would be a good way for us to comment and then share the post to see who is still here to make sure we are all following each other. I only bring this up because I see some people posting and I appear to be the only one following their reviews.


I have gotten some comments from bots though which is another reason why I wanted us all to take this Friday to comment and share this post so we can all find each other. 


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The Bone Weaver's Orchard by Sarah Read

The Bone Weaver's Orchard - Sarah Read

"Ghosts don’t bleed."

This book was a debut? Wow, I am super impressed. It was creepy, polished and the main character was a sweetheart of a kid who loves his buggy friends.

Charley is sent off to boarding school with his collection of exotic creatures. At school he encounters meanies and cruelties and adults who do not seem to give a good goddamn that kids are going missing. Charlie takes it upon himself to investigate the catacombs of the school and finds some horrifying, sinister and rattling secrets but I am NOT going to tell you what any of them were. You should read the book.

Charley is a fantastic character. He makes you feel for him from the very first time you meet him. I think you will love Charlie, even if you're not into all of the creepy crawlies. He is a kind, strong soul and an admirable little person. But if you do dig the creepy crawlies this book has them. I was surprised by some of the gruesome turns in the final section, yikes! Prepare thyself.

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

The Governess Game - Tessa Dare

I loved The Duchess Deal, book one in this series, so much I did something I almost never do and immediately requested book #2 from Overdrive on audio. I am seriously the worst at following a series.

The Governess Game was a decent read but I didn't fall in love with it as much as I'd hoped. The characters are fun, their banter decently amusing but it didn't have the certain thing that I cannot describe that makes me want to keep listening even when I should probably be doing other things.

What it did have was some pain in the butt misunderstandings/miscommunications/doubts/insecurities/separations and some "I'm not worthies" to top it all off. Those things aren't really my favorite. But the humor was good. Major points for the humor. It also featured two morbid little girls and I loved them. I don't typically (ok like NEVER) enjoy kids in a book but these two were little darklings and I couldn't help but enjoy their scenes. And that's about all I've got to say about this one.

"I don’t care if you’re gently bred, roughly bred or a loaf of brown bread with butter."

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

The Duchess Deal - Tessa Dare
I read a lot of horror but I'm also a fan of an amusing romance. I realize the two do not go together and many people can't wrap their heads around this but I do not care. Romances help me clear my head when I can't seem to focus on anything else and The Duchess Deal was the perfect book for me at this particular moment in time. It is getting all the stars because it amused me and made me happy and it also made me laugh a few times and most of us probably need to do a little more of that.

Ash is horribly disfigured from a war injury and was dumped by his feckless fiancee who couldn't handle his scars (and they do sound terrible - this isn't a little scratch on the face, this poor man is maimed and missing some chunks of himself but none of the important ones, haha) and one day decides he needs an heir, like right now. When a seamstress shows up at his door demanding he pay her in full for the ugly ass wedding dress she created for his former fiancee, he decides she'd be alright to marry and he proposes on the spot. How weird is this? She knows it's strange but, well, it's a decent deal for her and she's no dummy. Her only demand is that he allow her a cat - even though she doesn't even have one yet, lol.

Hey, call me crazy (you wouldn't be the first), but this setup was so ridiculous that I couldn't help but keep reading to see where else it would go. Sometimes you just need some ridiculousness in your life. If this is you, this is your book!

But even I can't live on ridiculousness alone. I need characters who have chemistry and joy and humor and lust and love and all of those good things and these two had it from their first insane exchange. They are SO funny together and I wasn't expecting that. Usually beauty and the beast type books feature a rough and grumbly hero with a super bad attitude. And this dude has one but he also tolerates the teasing and the silliest of pet names and he isn't a jerk. Soon enough he learns to love it. It is all so very lovely.

I want all books to be this charming even the cannibalistic serial killer ones! Just kidding. Sort of.

"Being imperfect is better than being distant."


Find Me by Andre Aciman

Find Me - André Aciman

Welp, all I have to say is that I am very grateful that I didn't cave in to my impulse to "buy it right this second" and use up my last Audible credit on this book. I impatiently waited for my number to be called via Overdrive and it really wasn't worth the wait.

I wasn't expecting another "Call Me By Your Name" but I was expecting something, anything, that would rip me to shreds emotionally because I know the author has that capability but I didn't get that here. I pretty much felt nothing at all even when Elio and later Oliver finally make an appearance. It had some beautiful moments but they were hidden in a lot of tedium and rather pretentious conversations that bored me to death - or maybe I simply lack class (yeah, that might be it). I don't know people who talk that way and it distanced me from everything. Also the insta-marriage section in the first half of the book seemed manic instead of lovely. Meh. I'm so sad about my experience with this book. I had high hopes that my heart would get broken but I felt mostly nothing at all. I finished it but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a struggle from beginning to end.

River of Souls by T.L. Bodine

River of Souls - T.L. Bodine

I, probably like many of you, have OD’d on zombies a little. Not so much in fiction, for me, but in movies and tv and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little wary of them. Sure, I’ll stick with The Walking Dead as it stumbles to its slow, cruel death because I am a glutton for punishment but I don’t seek out zombie novels to read in my spare time unless they’re funny or super disturbing or promise to bring me some new twist.

This one offers the new twist. So I read it. But I read it not really expecting all that much because honestly, how many books promise you the world and fail to deliver? Far too many, if you are asking jaded me. The blurbs, oh how they can lie and be deceptive creatures! No worries here though, I will always give you nothing but the brutal truth even when it gets me in trouble. And I have good news! River of Souls does have a somewhat unique storyline (unless you’ve watched IZombie) and I liked it a lot because it also has great characters.

In this world people who die continue to walk the earth but society has found a way to integrate them back into society with a drug called “Lazarus” which tames their worst impulses and allows them to function without eating people and being too disgusting. But it’s not working out too great for most people because dear old dead dad is now a walking vegetable that needs constant care and a daily dose of drugs and he’s not terribly thrilled with getting poked each day. This is asking a lot of citizens. Especially teenager Davin who is left alone to fend for undead dad and his younger sister (who has not been zombified, thank goodness, because she is full of sass and I love her). When Davin is invited to enroll dad into a new but secretive treatment program, who can blame him for wanting to relieve himself of some of his burdens? Not I. This poor kid has way too much on his shoulders.

Davin’s life takes a strange turn shortly after visiting the facility and I won’t spoil it for you because I’m not a complete jerk. But I wasn’t expecting the turn and the things that followed and I loved that. There are good characters here and I can always get behind a well written brother-sister bond and this writer does a fabulous job with their relationship. These are people you want to care about. People you want to win or at least people you hope can catch a break.

There are also a few side characters who are interesting too, namely Randy who is my favorite. He is fun, flirty, and colorful. Just full of life which is a weird thing to say in a book about the undead but there it is. There is adventure and, more importantly, some humor here and I’m always there for some humor. It’s a little gross and a lot of goodness and I can easily recommend it to you even if you are sick to death of zombies.I hope there will be a sequel because I want some more of these characters and their adventures, and that’s not something I say often because I already own a zillion books!

Ritualistic Human Sacrifice by C.V. Hunt

Ritualistic Human Sacrifice - C.V. Hunt

A shitty man is about to surprise his shitty wife with an “I want a divorce” pronouncement but she foils his plans with an announcement of her own and this sets into motion a strange series of events that escalates into an all out disgusting display of over the top sexual nastiness and other grossities.

If this is your thing you will have fun. I suppose fun might be the wrong word choice but if you picked up a book called Ritualistic Human Sacrifice I think you'll get what I’m trying to say here.

The story is told from Nick’s POV and, excuse my bluntness, Nick is a prick. He is a germaphobe and he is revolted by everything that isn’t young and perfect, and perfectly clean and fresh smelling. You will despise Nick, most likely. His wife isn’t a whole helluva lot better either. They’re both selfish and passive-aggressive and kind of deserve each other, if you’re asking me. Midway through the book I caught some clues that Nick was too dense to notice because he was too busy scrubbing his hands and thinking ugly thoughts about everyone. I anxiously listened and couldn't wait for some terrible things to befall some of these terrible people.

The terrible things take quite a while to happen. Much of the book is spent listening to Nick bitch about everything and silently put down everyone around him. He’s a gross person. I don’t know if I made that clear enough already, haha. But the fun of this book is the anticipation. I knew something strange was going on and something horrible was going to happen and I could NOT wait for it to begin! I mean, if you are dumb enough to buy a house that smells of death and of poo simply to spite your wife then you probably deserve whatever hell is hiding behind the black door.

I was not let down. This is an extreme horror novel and it is VERY porny. Trust me. Please tread lightly here if you don’t want to read graphic sexual violence. It over floweth in the final chapters. This is not a gentle warning. Also take a good long look at that cover. It gives you clues as to what might be in store for you. I’ve been reading gross things since I was a kid and I can stomach a lot but some of this was a bit much even for me. Fortunately there were moments of sick humor here to lighten up the mood and keep things readable. You’ll either want to read this madness or you won’t. Personally, I thought it was gross (oh yes) and ridiculously over the top but seeing Nick have to deal with it all was worth it to me.

I knocked off a star because it took too long to get going and my pesky brain couldn’t make sense of some of the plot turns. I also wish it had been even more brutal in the end for one particular person but there may be something wrong with me.

Narration Notes: I think narrator Anderson Prunty did a fantastic job with the voices. The tone fit the characters and his female voices didn’t make me cringe. Major points for that. The straight up narration bits felt a wee bit underplayed at times but it might’ve been a good choice considering how insane the story got near the end.

The Twisted ones by T. Kingfisher

The Twisted Ones - T. Kingfisher

I knew I was going to read this book someday so I avoided all of my friends reviews and went into it blind. I was expecting it to be good but I wasn’t expecting it to be such a perfect book for me! One of the main characters is a redbone coonhound which is same breed as my pup, the plot is genuinely unnerving and some scenes are chill-you-to-the-bone and seep-into-your-soul scary but the best surprise was the humor. I was not expecting humor and I appreciated the humor so much. So many books I read are deadly serious, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but some of them could benefit from a little snark and/or comic relief to help you relate better to a character or break up the tension and/or relentless impending doom! This one does it right. The humor is organic and part of the character development and it never felt forced.

I’d like you to go in blind with this one as well so you can cherish all of its unsettling turns so I’m not going to hit you with a plot dump. I’m also feeling meh and a little lazy, so there’s that too. This book is folk horror which is a little hot after the release of Midsommar and The VVitch. I’ll be honest here and tell you that I had no clue what folk horror actually was until very recently. I always thought it was retelling stories rooted in those dark old fairy tales where the wolf eats grandma and feeds some of her parts to LIttle Red but it goes much deeper than that and now I want to read it all.

I was smitten with Bongo the not-so-bright dog mentioned above but also with the conversational writing style.Your mileage may vary on this but I felt as if a friend were telling me her story and it was perfect. The only snag I hit was the old journal bits in the book. They were super boring, if you’re asking me, and I had to do a little skim-read of them because my brain just didn’t want to take it in.

This is an interesting story filled with a unique plot, fun characters, tension, humor and genuine creeps and if you stumble with the journal segments as I did just give them a skim and keep on going. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

The Apocalyptic Mannequin

The Apocalytic Mannequin - Stephanie M. Wytovich

I haven’t read a lot of poetry in my life. Back in high school my best friend foisted a book of romantic poems on me and all I can remember is that they made me want to cry and it scared me away from poetry for a long while. They were so depressing and sad and they made me hate love for a little bit. Back in the mid 00’s I read a horror poetry chapbook and remember thinking it was okay (but not really my thing) and that’s about as far my knowledge goes. If you’re looking for a poetry expert, I am not your person. But I do know what scares me and this book contained some amazing imagery that will give me nightmares for a long time to come.

Wytovich creates a bleak world devastated by plague, chemicals, ruination and all of the painful truths about humanity that are likely to occur when life as we know it is over forever. It contains beautifully written and frightening visions of an apocalyptic future. Each poem is a little glimpse into a bleak nightmare world.

If I had to pick my favorite line, it would be this one.

“I pray to Lucifer that whatever Hell he’s building, he
Finishes it soon.”

In so few words she gets right to the pain and needless suffering of it all. Love it.

And this one is a close second.:

I am made solely of teeth.

I simply love that imagery.

I refuse to pick a favorite poem because I honestly found something haunting in all of them.

This collection basically scared the shit out of me because I am terrified for the future of the planet we continue to poison and this book didn’t help ease my fears, haha! If you are worried about the state of our world this collection might not make you feel better about that end of it but it may comfort you to know that you are not alone!

Sociopaths In Love by Andersen Prunty

Sociopaths In Love - Andersen Prunty

I don’t know why I pick up books like these. It’s some strange compulsion that I cannot ignore. Some are better than others. This one falls right about in the middle but scores all the points for the gross-out.


An unhinged man enters the home of a young lady caring for her ill granny. He’s not there to make friends and have some tea either! He’s a dude who takes what he wants and walks away. He can do this because he has some sort of power that allows him to remain unseen once he walks away from the scene of his atrocities. I can’t fully wrap my head around that concept but I kept reading to find anyhow. So you can probably guess he is there for rapiness but he ends up finding more. Erica figures she’s not going to fight this guy because it will only be worse for her and she’s a little intrigued by the excitement of it all. After some extremely dubious con sex occurs, Walt realizes she shares his super power and they head off into the sunset and live happily ever after doing whatever the heck they want without consequence.


Well, not really.


Love isn’t exactly easy when you’re a murderous sociopath who likes to eat people and glory in your own filth.


What follows is a horribly gross, murderous and twisted road trip filled with wicked turns and cruel acts that were nearly too much even for me. I’m talking poop covered mattresses, a poop filled room, poop piles tinged with blood. There is poop. There is too much poop!  Poop isn’t something I like very much. I see enough poop. I raised two kids and currently have five pets. I need no more poop in my life. 


Anyhow, what this book is really about is a narcissistic psycho who gets increasingly more depraved page by page. To be honest, I found it a little boring in spots. There was much debauchery but spending time in these peoples heads was sometimes tedious. They weren’t very interesting to me and I’m not quite sure what compelled me to finish so please don’t ask. I do not know what is wrong with me but I do feel like I need my brain scrubbed right now.


If you’re a similar weirdo and think you might want to push your limits this book will mostly likely do that for you!


The copy I listened to was narrated by the author who reads this tale of deviant deeds in a dead tone that suits the monsters inhabiting the story.

Sorry for all of the reviews today.

My apologies for the review dump today. The new year has been kicking my butt a bit and I am so behind.


Here's a picture of Patrick to make up for it.


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House - Leigh Bardugo

I don’t think this was a book for me. And I can’t recommend listening to it on audio the first time around because during the first third I found myself really confused. So confused I was tempted to start the thing over but I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm. I felt as if I had been tossed into a world after all the interesting stuff had already happened and that everyone knew what was going on except for me.


I don’t enjoy that feeling much at all because I am super nosy and felt left out but I especially do not like when that feeling lingers for hundreds of pages (or in my case what felt like hundreds of hours) and then I get hit with the dreaded nfo dumps.


There are some interesting plot threads here. I loved the bits about the “surgery” (and that’s all I’m saying) and the magical weirdness and the dark past of our main character but none of it ever gelled for me in the way I was hoping it might. To be honest, sticking with this story was a bit of a chore from beginning to end with a few moments in-between where it would catch my attention and then lose it again..


The main issue for me, besides the confusion, was the fact that I felt as if much of the story was being told to me. I like to live and breathe inside a story. I never felt that way with this one.


I am so sad about this one. I was expecting to love it but I didn’t even like it.


The Dead Girls Club

The Dead Girls Club - Damien Angelica Walters

I love secretive thrillers almost as much as I love horror novels so I was excited when I heard about The Dead Girls Club because it promised a bit of both. In the end it was more of a thriller with a horror threat/thread running throughout. Those bits were creepy as heck though!


I don’t like to say too much about thrillers/mysteries/suspense novels (or whatever you like to call them) because it is far too easy to say too much so I’m going to keep this brief. Basically it is a tale told in two timelines. There is the Then and there is the Now. Heather features in both timelines because this is her story. Things start out weird when a grown up Heather receives an unwanted surprise. Someone has left an envelope in her office, tucked inside is a necklace that was last seen on a dead girl. This sends Heather into a spiral as her past comes back to haunt her.


I’ll get this out of the way first. Adult Heather is a MESS. She remains a mess and she becomes a bigger mess as more of her story is revealed in the Now. She is a professional woman with a very difficult job but you’d never know it based on some of the decisions she makes in this story. She allows her past to consume her and she acts irrationally. With all of that said, it makes sense. I mean, this woman is hiding some serious shit that would send the sanest person into a panicked spiral so I get it and these aren’t complaints. Not from me, anyway. I like imperfect characters and Heather is most definitely one of those.


“I have done a monstrous thing, but I’m not a monster. I’m not.”


In the THEN section we meet Heather and her closest friends when they’re about 12 or so. They have an obsession with true crime and all things spooky and call their little group the “Dead Girls Club”. They hang out at an abandoned house and tell each other creepy tales. The most compelling one is the story of the Red Lady. They work each other up into a frenzy with that one and it is totally believable. One of the girls is experiencing trauma at home and they attempt to summon the Red Lady and things, as they do, go awry.


I loved the backstory and the entire mythos around the Red Lady. It was goosebump inducing. It's easy to imagine how a group of young girls could become consumed with the appeal of it all. The coming of age story of these girls was a breath of fresh air. We typically get stories featuring boys and their spooky childhoods. This was a very genuine tale about girls. From the talk of periods to the petty jealousy and daily worries and easily bruised friendships, it was all very real and I enjoyed the THEN segments more than I can say. They were painful and authentic to the experience of growing up female. I would like more of this kind of fiction, please!


The Dead Girls Club may not be what I’d consider a perfect story and it has a very wispy thread of horror, but it IS super creepy and mysterious and highly readable – just the way I like my thrillers and I recommend it if anything I’ve said above intrigues you.

I received my copy for review consideration from Netgalley.

Sleep In The Dust of the Earth by Anthony Hains

Sleep In The Dust Of The Earth - Anthony Hains

Sleep In The Dust of the Earth is a disturbingly fun little novella that caught me off guard in the best of ways.


It tells the story of Ace whose mother-in-law, Gretchen, has recently passed away. His family and his in-laws and their two creepy kids have gathered at Gretchen’s enormous and possibly haunted Victorian mansion to settle up affairs and say a final goodbye. And then things get mighty strange indeed!

Gretchen, who was reputed to have a fascination with the occult in her final years, was apparently passing on her learning to her two weird grandkids. When grannie’s cremains go missing and Ace and his wife Runa catch the kids doing some - uh, odd things, they start poking around and that’s when the disturbing fun I promised you begins! And that’s all I am going to say about the plot because this book is only 99 pages long and you need to read it for yourself.


For such a slight story I thought it was very well constructed and did its characters justice. The atmosphere was also excellently put down on the page. The enormous mansion was described as a place I’d love to live. A place, “where you could go days without seeing another family member if that’s what you wanted.“ Because, honestly, sometimes we want that, right? Or is it just me? Haha. Anyhow, the descriptions are perfect and not overly done. There’s just enough written here to set the tone. As a bonus, I found parts of the story darkly comedic and horrifying all at the same time. That’s a hard thing to pull off but it worked for me.


If you like a well written, grisly creepy kid story that doesn’t take itself super seriously this one is for you! It doesn’t sugar-coat the creepy kid things either so be warned. It also doesn’t pretty things up. There’s one scene that hurt my heart but I will not spoil. 


 It takes some crazy and unexpected turns and put a few images in my head that I desperately wish I could forget. It is a truly freaking unsettling little read and I LOVED it.


The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn

The Cult Called Freedom House - Stephanie Evelyn

This is a gory little tale about a crazy cult and the young girl and tortured policewoman who get caught up in the culty madness. This book is a debut from author Evelyn and the first in what appears to be a series. It moves at a quick pace and I would've preferred to have things slow down a little bit in order to get to know the characters better. There was also a big reveal made in the opening chapter that ruined some of the suspense for me. But that's just me. I like a slower roll out of the grossest of secrets. There are some nasty little surprises here so be warned but the worst of the worst happens behind closed doors.

Violet by Scott Thomas

Violet - Scott Thomas

Violet is a great follow up to Kill Creek but it is a very different book and I think that is a beautiful thing. Kill Creek featured many characters creating all sorts of chaos and mayhem while Violet is much more of an intimate read about grief, trauma and the danger of burying memories so far inside that they begin to leak out in the most dangerous of ways.

You’re going to have to be in a certain frame of mind to read this one. It is a slow burning, atmospheric read, very detailed, character oriented read and it takes its own sweet time building up the scenes and the characters and slowly revealing all of its secrets. This worked well for me because I had some time on my hands and I was ready for some creeping dread and Violet delivers.

After a life-altering, trauma causing event, Kris returns to her childhood lake house hoping to help her daughter heal emotionally and find her way back to being a happy child again. Kris has only fond memories of the summer home that helped her family through her mother’s losing bout with cancer. But memories are tricky things . . . The house in serious disarray when they arrive because it has been left to rot. There’s a reason for this, of course, but I am not going to tell you what it is. Kris begins to restore things to their previous glory, keeping herself and her daughter busy, but as she starts chatting up the locals, she soon learns that something very unsettling has been happening in the idyllic town and she realizes that bringing her daughter here wasn’t such a great idea.

“The house looked like a crumbling headstone on a forgotten grave.”

If I had one word to describe this story it would have to be unnervingly-heartbreaking. Okay that’s two words connected by a dash but it’s my review and I will always do what I want, haha. Eerie moments fill this book and create a sense of unease that builds and builds until you just might be seeing dark things in the corner of your room, under your bed or in the closet. Seriously, read this with all the lights on because it creeped me out in a way that most things don’t. I think it was because of the slow, slow build and the tiny terrible moments that kept occurring in-between the daily grind of refinishing a home. It gets under your skin after a while.

If you’re in the mood for a character driven, spooky story and have some hours free, give it a go. It has a little mystery, a lot of emotion, characters that feel like real people and some very haunting imagery.

4 1/2 Stars

Content warning behind the spoiler tag:

CW: Be warned there are some very terrible, gut-wrenching things that happen here. Both to children and an animal. I was pre-warned before going in and I am THANKFUL for that because I would not want to stumble on that stuff unawares.

(show spoiler)


Source: Book received for review consideration.

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